31 December 2021

31 December 2021 - Cœur De Pirate - Oceans Brawl

I usually dedicate the last post of the year to a song by an artist that defined my year or otherwise was a huge song - sometimes an anticipated release.  This year, this was an easy choice, despite what I literally just said.

I started writing this in March, anticipating that this song would be the most significant one of the year for me, and this one was going to be tough to beat. Perséides, the whole album,by the same artist came close to beating it.  Also, this song beat it in significance that I spoke of at length - but it's still significant enough that I'm keeping it here.  

But also, I thought I'd give you a peek behind the curtain of my process.

While researching a post for the song "Toes", by Toronto artist Lights (aka #1000), I listened to that artist's entire Siberia albumS - as she released an acoustic version of the album a year or so after the original.  Doing THAT led me to another song of hers, "Peace Sign", which is the one that is the most dramatically different in its two versions (which I covered well on March 3rd).  The acoustic version, a highlight of Siberia Acoustic, was reimagined as a bilingual duet, with Béatrice Martin, who is also known as Cœur De Pirate, who happens to be from Montreal, doing the French translation.  I was desperate for a couple of Quebec artists for my #MapleLeafMarch that weren't Céline Dion, so I did some listening. 

That discovery changed how I had the whole MONTH laid out, beginning to end.  It also forever changed my Spotify stats, as she quickly became one of my top five listened to artists of all time, and them my MOST listened to artst, in like three weeks. 

A couple of her albums have quickly become favorites of mine, despite me not understanding a word of French.  The 2015 album Roses rises to the top, 1) probably because it's half in English and I can understand English but 2) because the songs on there in both English and French are both lyrically and aurally interesting.  

I posted a song for which there is no official video, and so I start with the original album version of "Oceans Brawl", the best song off the best album.  It is an epic piece, with a 10-second pregnant pause at about the 1:23 mark, so you can listen to the oceans.... brawl.  The song itself builds in desperation to an impassioned crescendo before rolling back with the tide. 

Any doubts about the real passion that goes into writing and performing this song need look no further than the CBC Music festival, where she cannot stay seated at her piano while performing the song.  It is not the type of song to be merely sung.  It is a whole body experience.

This live session was released prior to the release of Roses, which means it's a quieter and unproduced piece, and while it's not as bombastic at its crescendo, it's still a powerful version of the song.  

31 December 2021 - Lights - Don't Go Home Without Me

My last post of 2021, which is the biggest this blog has seen, came down to me trying to choose which artist would go last.  You see, there were two who really bubbled to the top for me, and they both got there in very much the same way.

The little project I did in March - #MapleLeafMarch - gave me a catalyst to give an artist for whom I had a serious blind spot for years.  I spoke about this at length in post #1000.  I don't need to rehash it.  

Well, unlike other artists I discovered this year, whose catalog I just dove into head first, I spent much of my year in the Lights catalog listening to Siberia.  And, about a month ago - even though I had branched out a little bit beyond that, especially to a few collaborations she did with deadmau5 and Felix Cartal, for example - and yes, I know, #1000 was from a different album, too - I realized my blind spot was still there. 

So I branched out more.  I listened to her whole catalog, end to end.  Most of it was pretty great.  A few pieces bubbled to the top.  One of them was the whole Little Machines album, which is a real gem and represents the highest US chart position to date Lights has achieved (#34 on the album chart - but she's still making music, so jury's still out on this one). 

So, what you might be curious about is, from an album that had several videos and singles, why, exactly, did I pick a non-single song that closed the album?  It's an absolutely beautiful love song about a love that lasts a very long time, written by someone who hasn't reached that far yet but knows they will.  Musically, it's unusual and compelling.  Who cares if it was a single?!!   It's a great song.  

If you've been reading all my Lights posts all year, you know that she usually does electronic and then acoustic versions of everything.  While we wait for the acoustic version of "Prodigal Daughter", why don't we just enjoy the quiet beauty of this one?

As I was researching a Totally Covered post you don't know about yet - but check back in a few hours - I found this beautiful version that was neither acoustic nor electronic.  It's mostly Lights and a piano (there's a bit of a string accompanyment, too).  However, it's one of the most beautiful versions of the song I've heard.

30 December 2021

30 December 2021 - Taylor Swift - All Too Well

Jake Gyllenhaal and Taylor Swift dated for three months.  I'm not sure if you were aware of that.

The original version of this song, which pretty much covers that relationship, was a top 20 Country hit in 2013.  It was from her Red album, which really sparked Taylor's transition from country to pop artist.  

Famously, she's rerecording her Big Machine catalog and retaining control of her catalog.  This version of "All Too Well" TOPPED the POP charts in November 2021.  This ten minute version of the song, which is now the longest #1 song in history, was accompanied by this short film.

It was also accompanied by this SNL performance of the song.  The performance was, in a word, great, and this is coming from someone who is NOT Taylor's biggest fan, like Scott Colvin.  

By the way, we've added Taylor's Version to any past post that has one: here, here, and here so far.  As this and this get rerecorded, we WILL update them.  They're honestly richer and better versions of the songs.

29 December 2021

29 December 2021 - X Ambassadors - Renegades

I was kind of thinking about saving this song for a Western/Central New York week.  It's not common for Western/Central New York bands to have top 20 hits all over the world, but that's exactly what happened with X Ambassadors, from Ithaca NY, in 2015 with this song.  

It's not surprising that this song is a hit.  It's mellow, it's cool, it builds brilliantly, it uses fiddle judiciously. The song is simply great and deserves the acclaim it received.  The band is brilliant!  It's great that they got the attention they did.

Also, #290.  Patting ourselves on the back here.  

28 December 2021

28 December 2021 - of Montreal - it's different for girls

Today's post is a milestone.  

You see, it is post #289 in 2021.   We previously reached 289 posts in a single year in 2012, the year we started this blog.  Back there, two of us were doing the writing.  While Scott has come back to contribute this year, most of the writing belongs to Tony now.  

There are three days left in the year.  Spoiler alert - Friday's writing is already done at this point.  This is going to be the biggest year we have had on Wicked Guilty Pleasures.  

I wanted to make #289 a bit of a blooper.  You see, in March, I did a thing where literally every song was by a Canadian artist.  So, I wanted to represent as many provinces as possible.  So, early on, I was looking for a Quebec artist.

So when I found out that of Montreal were from Athens, GA, I was temporarily disapponted.  Now, I happened to find another artist, thankfully, but I was bummed, because this song was so dark and witty and different.  Clearly, I saved the draft, and I'm posting it today, but, well, now you know my process.  

27 December 2021

27 December 2021 - Charli XCX - Good Ones

I have been dragging my heels posting this song.  I really overdid the Charli XCX back in the dayI mean, seriously, how much could I post?

OK, Scott posted that last one, but do you see my point?  Luckily I don't do that anymore.  

OK, enough schtick.    

I really REALLY like this song.  I wasn't dragging my heels because I didn't like the song. (I probably had a Cœur de Pirate song to post or something.) (OK, NOW enough schtick) Post #288 of 2021 is the new Charli XCX single, and it's a banger that reminds me of the Sucker album.  The core of the song is a throwback synth that sounds like it is suited more for 1987 keytar and less like 2021 pop charts. This song is great musically, and great lyrically.  Give it a go.  

25 December 2021

25 December 2021 - Lights - Deck The Halls

Why exactly are you reading my blog on Christmas morning?!

Well, since you're here, Merry Christmas!  Here's Lights, one of our #MapleLeafMarch highlights, with her take on a Christmas classic.

24 December 2021

24 December 2021 - Cœur de Pirate and Adam Cohen - Silent Night

I have this œ on my clipboard from when I wrote another post you haven't seen yet, so I didn't want to waste that.  

And I decided this should be a Christmas post, because this beautiful bilingual version by two bilingual Canadians is perfect for this very holy night.  

23 December 2021

23 December 2021 - Cyndi Lauper - I Drove All Night

This song was originally intended for Roy Orbison.  And he recorded it - first!!!!!!!!   So, I guess this should be on Totally Covered?

I didn't put it there.  I put it here.  I did that for two reasons.  

First, this version was released first, by several years.  It was a big hit for Cyndi Lauper in 1989, and it was written by frequent songwriting partners Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg.  

Second, it's so lyrically brilliant that it warrants the higher visibilty that this blog brings.  I know people are going to read this here.  And, it's lyrically brilliant, if I wasn't clear.  Because it illustrates the desperation of love - what someone in love might actually do.  We've all been there.  

22 December 2021

22 December 2021 - The Church - Under The Milky Way

A lot of people think that this song contains a bagpipe solo.  It does not.  A combination of two guitars - one played with an EBow - and its recording on a Synclavier generated that bagpipe-like sound.  

Co-written by Steve Kilbey - yep, two days of him in a row - and Karin Jansson, the song gets its title not from a group of stars, but from an Amsterdam music club.  It was well recevied at the time of its release, and remains their signature song today.

In the absence of the Synclavier, you can hear in this 2011 live recording that those bagpipes are really guitars.  

21 December 2021

21 December 2021 - Hex - Ethereal Message

Steve Kilbey - of The Church - and Donnette Thayer - of Game Theory and an absolutely lovely human being - were Hex, an atmopheric duo.  This song, from their 1989 eponymous self-titled debut, is likely their best known.  

The song, co-written by the duo and produced by Kilbey, featured a sparse keyboard and guitar arrangement with electronic percussion that didn't overpower Thayer's dreamy voice.  It is a work of underappreciated art, and I hope my short description of it gives it just a little more attention.  

20 December 2021

20 December 2021 - Liz Phair - Never Said

Liz Phair's first single, in 1993, was this complete denial.  If you believe the lore, this was the response to The Rolling Stones's song "Tumbling Dice", but really, it was a Girly-Sound rerecording.  If you don't know what Girly-Sound was, go here and read all about it - but it was basically Liz Phair's pre-major label mixtapes).  Originally titled "Clean", it was rewritten to be the fifth track on Exile In Guyville, a track number Phair considered to be the most important.  

The song was about the rumors that travel throughout the music scene, but in a broader sense, it DOES make sense to be the female mirror for "Tumbling Dice", as it is a woman's take on not being accountable - by keeping her mouth shut.  

Actually, what she said verbatim, to Rolling Stone in 2010, was:
“Never Said” was one of those times where I was showing I could be just as unaccountable. “Tumbling Dice” is really about, again, I’m picturing all the guys from Urge Overkill, hey man, you may get to go home with me tonight, you may not. I may show up at the bar and be available, and I might not. You gotta roll me and see how it’s going to roll. I was playing that same game. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, I never said nothing, you can’t pin that on me.” I was playing the female version. 

The song itself is great. It's a fun romp about keeping your damn mouth shut that endures to this day.  

Because I know you're interested, here's the Girly-Sound version.

For a while, Phair performed this song live in this manner  with a key change in the middle of the second verse.  I always loved this version - it kind of amped up the indignation and desperation that the lyrics were trying to capture.

17 December 2021

17 December 2021 - Pink Floyd - Fearless

The fans of the Liverpool Football Club contributed to this recording.  That's them singing "You'll Never Walk Alone", an unofficial anthem of the club, in an on-field recording.  It's the type of thing that could give you goosebumps.  And does, for me, every single time.

The song itself is a great illustration of how innovative and ground-breaking the band actually was.  Nick Mason's ecclectic drumming, Roger Waters's odd guitar tuning, Richard Wright's orchestral piano, and David Gilmour's quiet vocal, with practically Sisyphythian lyrics, all combine for a unique, compelling, and inspiring song.  

Although only released as a B-side, "Fearless" has become a fan favorite song, and is my favorite Pink Floyd song.  It is not, however, a song they performed live - save for some dates by Roger Waters in 2016, nearly 50 years after its release.  

16 December 2021

16 December 2021 - Alanis Morissette - Head Over Feet

This is a song that was scheduled for Maple Leaf March and got bumped for a lesser known artist.  I still wanted to share it with you, though, so I saved it.  I didn't want it to wait until March.  The song is good on its own, and doesn't need to be Canadian to be good. 

By the time the fifth single from the album Jagged Little Pill, this song, was released, a lot of people thought they knew what to expect from Alanis Morrissette.  

Boy, were people way off base.

The video itself is a closeup of Alanis's face, never changing focus no matter how much she moves.  But, really, given how bankable she was at that point, her face was all MTV needed to make this a huge hit song, hitting #1 on the pop chart in the US and also becoming her first #1 adult contemporary song.  It would also be one of the biggest hits of the year in her native Canada.

The song is considered to be one of the first pop culture uses of the term "friend with benefits".  I don't know about that, but I do consider it to be a sweet - one of the sweetest ever written - soft song that still resonates a quarter century later.

15 December 2021

15 December 2021 - Transvision Vamp - (I Just Wanna) B with U

Transvision Vamp were a huge band in the UK, and this was a huge hit for them.  They did not catch fire stateside as much, but they still had their fans.

Including me. 

This was the lead single from their third and final album, Little Magnets Versus The Bubble of Babble.  I swear, we aren't just stacking up the ridiculous album titles here.  The song itself, co-written by lead vocalist and self-proclaimed loudmouth Wendy James, is a relatively sweet love song that is unexpected from a band known for a fair bit of anger.  It was NOT a song I enjoyed when it came out, but it has grown on me of late.

On a personal note, this album was purchased by me in August 1992 at a little record store in Northampton, MA called Main Street Records.  This was an important place for me in my teen years, as I bought a lot of independent music and import vinyl there - by a lot of bands you've seen me post about frequently.  Main Street Records helped mold me into the music fan I stil am today. I didn't expect that visit in 1992 to be my last one to the place - but it was, as it has since closed.  

14 December 2021

14 December 2021 - Fiona Apple - Paper Bag

This song, the debut single from Fiona Apple's second album, When the Pawn Hits the Conflicts He Thinks Like a King What He Knows Throws the Blows When He Goes to the Fight and He'll Win the Whole Thing 'fore He Enters the Ring There's No Body to Batter When Your Mind Is Your Might So When You Go Solo, You Hold Your Own Hand and Remember That Depth Is the Greatest of Heights and If You Know Where You Stand, Then You Know Where to Land and If You Fall It Won't Matter, Cuz You'll Know That You're Right, is a true story of the artist mistaking a paper bag for a bird.  

You bet I posted this for that album title.

That, and it is a bluesy song in a Beatles vein that shows Apple's true musical depth.  It is quite possibly the coolest song she ever wrote.  

Unfortunately, I wore out my keyboard typing out that album title, so that's all I'm gonna say about this one.

13 December 2021

13 December 2021 - Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five - The Message

When did hip hop turn from being all about which MC was the best and get into political messaging?

I'd argue that this happened with Grandmaster Flash and "The Message", written in response to the state of the group's neighborhood. It is considered to be one of the most important singles of early hip-hop music, as it moved the genre from boasting to social commentary, paving the way for the likes of Public Enemy and Boogie Down Productions. The song also moved the emcee to the front and center, and not the DJ, as had been previously commonplace. 

The song was and is a critical darling, and was also a commercial success. 

10 December 2021

10 December 2021 - Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings - How Long Do I Have To Wait For You?

From the 2005 album Naturally, this is probably the best known song by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings.  Written by Bosco Mann, it has a classic 60s funk/soul feel, but retains a modern sensibility.  

Lyrically, the song is about a woman waiting for her man to come back to her.  Jones sings it with soul and with heart - a true throwback.  Musically, the Dap-Kings bring a huge sound, not unlike the old time Memphis soul.  

This live performance only serves to amp up the funky soul of the tune.

09 December 2021

9 December 2021 - The Traveling Wilburys - Handle With Care

What happens when five legends of rock get together and write and perform a love song about being hurt in the past and talking about those feelings with a new love?  

You get this song, a classic of modern music and a big hit in 1988.  Initially recorded on acoustic guitars with a drum machine backing, Jeff Lynne and George Harrison produced a masterpiece, primarily written by Harrison and released as a throwaway European B-side.  Clearly, the song became a lot more than that.

08 December 2021

8 December 2021 - Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Maps

Part of the story of this song is absolutely the video.  Singer and principal songwriter Karen O cries during the video, for a song written about her relationship with Angus Andrew from the Liars.  He was supposed to come to the shoot, and was quite late - so when he showed up, it was an emotional moment.  

But really, like all of these songs on this blog, it's about the song.  And this one is a mostly vague, emotional tour de force, with the strong anguish and outpouring declaration of an unequaled love serving as the chorus.

The song's title is a mystery.  Some thing it's an abbreviation for "My Angus Please Stay", and others think it's a allusion to the places they visited on tour.  I don't think it matters.  I think it's a great song.

07 December 2021

7 December 2021 - Nouvelle Vague ft. Julie Delpy - La La La

If you know who Nouvelle Vague are, then you know they're best known for their covers. 

This isn't a cover. It's a collaboration they did with actress Julie Delpy. "La La La" is a sweet song about holding onto a real love - without airs or pretense - and realizing how lucky one is to be in this situation.  Delpy's delivery is deadpan and beautiful in a song that comes off as a slightly gimmicky throwback to an older time.


06 December 2021

6 December 2021 - Plastic Bertrand - Ça Plane Pour Moi

In 1978, Plastic Bertrand - the nom de stage of Belgian personality Roger François Jouret - had a worldwide hit with this nonsensical French language song.  The song is something of a fever dream - it's pseudo punk/early new wave with lyrics that don't match either genre, as they are both disjoined and way too chipper.  

That's it.  That's the post.  Just listen to the song and dance. 

03 December 2021

3 December 2021 - Nirvana - You Know You're Right

Our third HoF inductee was Nirvana.  And this is probably the last Nirvana post we will ever make, because we did such a complete job covering them last year.   

You see, because they were a short-lived band, due to the untimely death of Kurt Cobain.... well, they aren't making any new music.  But this song was released in 2002, eight years after Cobain's death.  It was the last song the band ever recorded, in 1994.  You can hear the anguish in Kurt's voice throughout.

02 December 2021

2 December 2021 - P!nk - Just L!ke F!re

Our 2nd HoF !nductee was P!nk.  And P!nk has been busy.

Th!s song, a 2016 Grammy nom!nee, is P!nk's most recent Top 10 h!t !n the US as of th!s wr!t!ng.  A t!e !n to the D!sney f!lm Al!ce Through The Look!ng Glass, the v!sual !s very Wonderland-y.  

Mus!cally, !t's P!nk.  C'mon now.  Sure, she has a b!t of a breakdown partway through, wh!ch !s atyp!cal for her mus!cally. Lyr!cally, !t's P!nk, wh!ch means you can count on a lot of empowerment throughout.  The song does not d!sappo!nt on that front, br!ng!ng a really pos!t!ve message.  

01 December 2021

1 December 2021 - Katy Perry ft. Juicy J - Dark Horse

Last week, we inducted our fourth Hall of Fame artist - INXS.  For the rest of this week, I figured we could revisit the other three, because each of them had deeper catalogs than this little blog could tap into during just one week.

We start with the original, Katy Perry, who has also been the most active in releasing music.  This song came soon after her HoF induction, in 2013.  Co-written by Ms. Hudson, the song has elements of pop, but also trap and hip-hop.  Lyrically, it's full of clichés - cold, unfeeling, and still full of passion despite the clichés.  

The song ended up being one of her biggest hits - and gave Juicy J his first #1 in the US.