The latest edition of my Polaris People column is online over at the Polaris Music Prize website.
For this one we did a little bit of radical narrowing, deciding to only look into the comings and goings of some of the 30 artists who made the 2012 Polaris Long List, but not the subsequent Short List. It turns out that country croonin’ gal Lindi Ortega wants to start creeping on the Stompin Tom demo, Ariane Moffatt finally made her return to Toronto and Coeur de Pirate has made a romantic new video.
I just made an awesome mixed CD which I’ll be leaning on during my Christmas Tour Around Ontario 2011™ over the next few days.
The theme for this disc was “Women Of 2011,” as in a compilation of songs from female-fronted artists I dug this year. Looking over the list, it dawned on me that although many of them are emerging as the voices of this generation, none of them played last year’s dismal Lilith Fair.
Now either these artists were too cool to do Lilith, or they weren’t asked. Either way, what I’m taking from it all is that by dodging that lameness bullet they’re all even more amazing.
Here’s my mix:
PJ Harvey “In The Dark Places”
Lana Del Rey “Blue Jeans”
Florence And The Machine “What The Water Gave Me”
Feist “Undiscovered First”
Cat’s Eyes “Face In The Crowd”
Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi “Season’s Trees”
Austra “The Beast”
Lykke Li “Jerome”
My Brightest Diamond “Feeling Good”
Lindi Ortega “Little Red Boots”
Neko Case “The Pharoahs”
Nicole Atkins & The Black Sea “The Tower”
Anna Calvi “The Devil”
Chelsea Wolfe “PALE ON PALE”
1. Archive You All Look The Same To Me
2. Cooper Temple Clause See This Through And Leave
3. Young And Sexy Stand Up For Your Mother
4. Queens Of The Stone Age Songs For The Deaf
5. Danko Jones Born A Lion
6. The Guthries The Guthries
7. Songs: Ohia Didn’t It Rain
8. Lindi The Taste Of Forbidden Fruit
9. Flaming Lips Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots
10. Burning Brides Fall Of The Plastic Empire
Looking back at my Top 10 albums of 2002 I get an almost inverse feeling about most of them compared to my 2001 list. I look up and down and clinically go, yeah, these are good records, but few of them have actually continued to stick with me. The most damning thing? Only three of the 10 I had bothered to rip into iTunes prior to doing this exercise (Cooper, Danko, S:O).
Putting Archive’s You All Look The Same To Me at #1 is kind of embarrassing to me now. It’s purely a contrarian, better-than-you choice. At the time few people knew who Archive were, and fewer had actually listened to the sprawling Pink Floyd-inspired trance rock of You All Look The Same To Me. In a way, that kind of made them all my own, and that was apparently enough to make them toppers. I don’t hate this album by any means, and it’s still a Top 10, but it’s certainly no longer a #1 in my heart and I never go back to it listening-wise.
Cooper Temple Clause’s See This Through And Leave is another album that I rarely go back to. I must have been in a bit of a new-prog phase with them and Archive topping this list, because they pretty much sound alike.
Cooper Temple Clause “Murder Song.” This is a heavy trip:
I’m reasonably certain I’m the only person in the world who declared Young And Sexy’s Stand Up For Your Mother the third best album of 2002. Almost a decade later I don’t know why I did this. Weakness of character?
Whoo! The Rawk! Now, this album maintains. Queens Of The Stone Age’s Songs For The Deaf continues to be one of the few rare “mainstream” rock records of the last decade that doesn’t utterly suck. I don’t know if that’s the music industry’s fault, some sort of lowered expectations or what, but in my world, a great rock record’s got to at least compare to The Who’s Who’s Next? You don’t have to match it, but you at least have to try. Default records? Godsmack records? Those kinda bands, that’s not trying.
Queens Of The Stone Age “A Song For The Dead”:
I’ve always been a Danko Jones supporter, but on careful consideration I’m more of a single song fan — cherry-picking specific tracks of his that I think rule, rather than digging his albums. I know why I put Born A Lion on this list, it’s because Danko finally had an album out after so many years of dancing around the idea of doing so. Most of these songs are DNA to me, I know them by heart, and I maintain this record is house party gold. Is it #5 of 2002, though? I wasn’t certain, but as of writing this and re-listening to the record, the answer’s yes.
Danko Jones “Word Is Bond.” This shit rips:
At #6 I put The Guthries’ self-titled album. This record’s most notable in Can-rock lore because it features Matt Mays. I never go back to it, though, and hindsight is telling me I put it on the list as a better-than-you pick. I hope I don’t do that anymore.
Now, at #7 I put Songs: Ohia’s Didn’t It Rain. This record has some talking points. If I was to retabulate this list today this would be my undisputed #1 album of 2002, but at the time I was somewhat sheepish about my obvious Jason Molina fandom at the time (nowadays, if I feel “fan-ish” at all over a record I ride that wave like nobody’s business — it’s proof I’m not dead inside).
Anyway, there’s a peculiar flipside to this album. When I first listened to it I didn’t really understand it all that well. See, Didn’t It Rain is close to one of the heaviest, gnarliest, deepest gut-wrenching journeys into depression ever recorded. I missed many of these very obvious themes when I first got this record and it’s only now over the years that I’ve been able to figure it all out.
Which brings me to another point — I rarely listen to this record any more. On purpose. I’ve come to believe it’s got a bit of a mystical hold on me where if I listen to these songs I get in a sympathetic mindframe and I start feeling a little darker in the soul. It’s a subtle, toxic chemical reaction, a dangerous audio drug that one has to be most careful with.
Songs: Ohia “Steve Albini’s Blues.” Consume this at your own risk:
At #8 would be Lindi’s The Taste Of Forbidden Fruit. This would be Lindi Ortega, the now-country singer of (relative) little red boots fame. Back in 2002 she was a smoking hot cabaret minx who did songs with titles like “Naughty Little Thing,” “Lipstick Traces” and “Sweet Jezebel.” I liked this Lindi more than the one who’s taking advice on how to get her albums distributed in Wal-Marts.
I realize now why I’ve never ripped The Flaming Lips’ Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots into iTunes — it’s because it had copy-protection that used to prevent doing so. Shocking how I was able to live without listening to this record for 10 years because of a minor technical inconvenience. That’s why the music industry died.
The Flaming Lips “Do You Realize??”
Filling the last spot on the list was Burning Brides’ Fall Of The Plastic Empire. I distinctly remember being undecided about whether or not to include this on the list, but I can’t remember who the other potential choice was. Which I guess means I made the right decision.