By James Sandham
Well folks, we’ve already got one autumn holiday under our belts – along with several pounds of turkey and a few thick slices of pumpkin pie. But hold on, because the celebrations aren’t over quite yet. You may have thought it was finally safe to put away the decorative gourds, but no, not so fast! You might as well keep ’em out, because it’s time to carve them into demonic semblances of our worst Thanksgiving table guests, which is to say that it’s almost Halloween. Call it the dessert course to Thanksgiving and give these tunes a spin to help get you in the spirit.
BUCK 65 – “ZOMBIE DELIGHT”
Well, well, what do we have here? It’s CBC Radio 2’s Rich Terfry (a.k.a. Buck 65) and a whole lot of zombies – many of whom appear to be played by Terfry himself. As do the zombie killers. As do the generals and news anchors. This tune has taken a turn for the terrifying, indeed!
ROBBIE ROBERTSON – “GHOST DANCE”
We’ve survived the zombies, so how about we check in with Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee Robbie Robertson to see how we do up against the ghosts? This track comes from Robertson’s 1994 album, Music for the Native Americans, which was really his first foray into writing songs inspired specifically by his Mohawk heritage. Suffice it to say that this song isn’t so much about the sort of ghosts that go “boo,” but is more about the historic oppression of indigenous cultures in North America, which is really the more frightening of the two concepts.
WILL SMITH AND DJ JAZZY JEFF – “NIGHTMARE ON MY STREET”
Alright, let’s lighten things up – and what better way to do so than with the musical work of Mr. Will “Big Willie Style” Smith? This track, which bears a striking resemblance to a certain TV theme song, joins a long list of tunes that pay tribute to that king of 1980s horror Freddy Krueger. If you grew up in the ’80s, this will probably still give you the shivers (the vocal presence of Will Smith notwithstanding).
BRUCE COCKBURN – “GET UP JONAH”
Now let’s check back in with our Canadian Music Hall of Fame alumni. This little ditty comes from the CMHF’s 2001 inductee, Bruce Cockburn, and while it’s not exactly “scary” per se (that is, there’s no mention of zombies or ghosts or the suffering of our country’s Aboriginal Peoples), it does have some pretty dark imagery, including these lines: “There’s howling in the factory yard/There’s pounding in my head/I’m swollen up with unshed tears/Bloated like the dead….” And yet Cockburn manages to make it all sound so sweet.
MICHAEL JACKSON – “THRILLER”
Last but not least, what’s a Halloween playlist without Michael Jackson’s macabre mega-hit? “Thriller” is a must-have contemporary classic and it really brings us full circle with our songs: right back to those irrepressible zombies. In fact, I think it’s a safe bet that this song may have been something of an inspiration for Buck 65’s zombie tribute – specifically his line that when it comes to zombies, “there’s very little information and no answers/One weird thing is that they’re excellent dancers.”
Hope these songs get you dancing, too. Happy Halloween!
By James Sandham
Ah, autumn. It’s a strange time, and full of contradictions. It seems that just as some things are gearing up again after summer’s lengthy languor – work, school – others are winding down: the days are getting shorter, the growing season is ending and the unmistakable urge to hunker down, cozy up and prepare ourselves for winter is settling in.
These patterns and cycles are eternal and primeval. Perhaps that’s why the summer’s end and autumn’s beginning are such fecund subjects for our artists: because the contradiction and tension that lie at the heart of this season reflect the same tension that lies at the heart of all creative endeavours. Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that Veles, the Slavic god of autumn, is also the god of musicians. Well let’s pay homage, then, to Veles and to everything that comes with this strange and transitional time of year. And what better way than through music? The following are a few classics we’ve come up with to set the autumn mood.
MILES DAVIS – “AUTUMN LEAVES”
Gil Evans, the Canadian Music Hall of Fame’s 1997 inductee, did a lot of work with Miles Davis. That’s why we’ve chosen Davis’ 1958 recording, “Autumn Leaves,” to start our autumn playlist. Because really, there’s nothing like a little bebop to set the autumn scene: quiet, introspective and tinged with just a hint of melancholy nostalgia.
NAT KING COLE – “AUTUMN LEAVES”
“Autumn Leaves” was a popular song back in its day and Davis certainly wasn’t the first to record it. It’s got quite a history, in fact, dating back to its inception in 1945, when it was known by its French title, “Les Feuilles Mortes” (“The Dead Leaves”). American songwriter and Capitol Records co-founder Johnny Mercer wrote the English lyrics in 1947, and the song soon made the transition from the jazz world to the popular music sphere. This iteration comes from a 1957 episode of “The Nat King Cole Show,” although Cole had previously recorded it as the title music for the 1956 movie Autumn Leaves, starring Joan Crawford.
DUSTY SPRINGFIELD – “SUMMER IS OVER”
When autumn leaves appear, we know that summer is over. To drive the point home, we dug up this timeless piece by Dusty Springfield, which comes from her 1964 release, Dusty. As far as songs go, this one pretty much summarizes the season.
GARY LEWIS AND THE PLAYBOYS – “WHEN SUMMER IS GONE”
Gary Lewis and the Playboys were an American pop group from the 1960s. They were probably best known for their 1965 single “This Diamond Ring,” but they had a whole slew of good tunes, including this lonesome number from their 1967 album, New Directions. It’s music from a bygone era we’ll never recover again, a sentiment that somehow fits the season perfectly.
DENNIS HARTE – “SUMMER’S OVER”
Finally, we have this little number from Dennis Harte. From what I’ve been able to find online, it appears to be one of those strange, obscure tunes that would have otherwise been lost, but has somehow managed to filter up into popular awareness. Not bad for a random junk store find, which appears to be how the original seven-inch recording of this was found. Digital copies began to show up online around 2010, and since then the song’s gained a certain amount of niche popularity. It’s the perfect hidden gem to end our playlist. Hope you’re enjoying the autumn!
By James Sandham
Is it too early to already be looking forward to the Canada Day weekend? That’s a rhetorical question, obviously; long weekends are what we live for in the summer! And what better way to get in the mood than with some great tunes by some amazing Canadian artists.
Here are five songs to get your Canada Day playlist started. If you’ve got any other suggestions, be sure to tell us what they are in the comments section!
THE TRAGICALLY HIP – “BOBCAYGEON”
So this one’s pretty much a no-brainer. A Canada Day weekend that doesn’t feature at least one rendition of The Tragically Hip’s “Bobcaygeon” would be like a Canada Day weekend without a barbecue, without a case of cold beer, without fireworks – practically inconceivable, in other words. “Bobcaygeon” comes from the Hip’s sixth album, the multi–JUNO Award–winning Phantom Power, and it won the 2000 JUNO Award for Single of Year. The band was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2005.
BRUCE COCKBURN – “LOVERS IN A DANGEROUS TIME”
OK, so now that we’ve got the obligatory playing of “Bobcaygeon” out of the way (and let’s be honest: we’ll probably play it a few more times before the weekend’s over), we can move on to other musical delights. Few are more delightful than this gem from Bruce Cockburn’s 1984 album, Stealing Fire. Back in 2005, CBC Radio named it the 11th greatest Canadian song of all time – and here I was under the impression that it was written by The Barenaked Ladies!
BACHMAN-TURNER OVERDRIVE – “HEY YOU”
Now here’s a bunch of hirsute fellows! That look can’t be comfortable in the summer. Hairy commentary aside though, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, the Canadian Music Hall of Fame’s 2014 inductees, certainly earned their place among the greats, in no small part on the strength of songs like this one. “Hey You” comes from the band’s 1975 album, Four Wheel Drive, and was the record’s biggest hit, reaching No. 1 on the Canadian charts. All these years later, it still sounds great.
APRIL WINE – “ROLLER”
Well, after all that BTO, it seems this playlist’s taking our long weekend in the direction of the 1970s, which is awesome, because that’s where April Wine is. Specifically: this gorgeous track from 1978’s First Glance, the band’s first record to go gold outside of Canada. This just might be the secret ingredient needed to turn your Canada Day barbecue into a smorgasbord of flared-out excellence. Might want to make sure the beer pail’s stocked before this one comes on.
BLACK DUB – “RING THE ALARM”
Canada Day is the quintessential holiday of the Canadian summer. I like a good dose of reggae during my summers, and Tenor Saw’s short but excellent catalogue of old-school reggae riddims is often my go-to, which is why I was so intrigued to discover Black Dub’s cover of his hit “Ring the Alarm.” Black Dub is a collaborative project instigated by Daniel Lanois, the Canadian Music Hall of Fame’s 2002 inductee, which also features one of my favourite drummers, Brian Blade. What do you think of their take on this track? They definitely went in a fresh direction with it.
Hope your Canada Day is a happy one!
By James Sandham
So it’s Halloween. But somehow, in the midst of stringing up cobwebs and planting your yard with coffins in preparation for your big party, you’ve overlooked what might actually be the most important element: the music.
It’s always an easy fix to just throw on a recording of spooky sounds – or, perhaps even more predictably, to just put on “Thriller” and “Monster Mash” on repeat – but if you’re looking for something a little more unique, a party mix that incorporates some specifically Canadian spookiness, then maybe these tunes will help get you started.
PAT LEPOIDEVIN – “GHOST OF CARBISDALE CASTLE”
Vancouver-born troubadour Pat LePoidevin brings us this spooky track, along with a video of sprinting and biking sheet-clad spirits that was filmed right in the heart of the great Canadian North – that is, Front Street in Dawson City, Yukon. He recently wrapped up a performance at Halifax Pop Explosion, but you can still catch him later this week at shows in Moncton, New Brunswick, and in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, where he’ll be promoting his latest album, American Fiction.
NEKO CASE – “THINGS THAT SCARE ME”
Neko Case may have been born in Virginia, but we’ll give her honorary placement on this list for the time she put in in Vancouver – first as a student at the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design and then later for her work with Canadian indie rock staples The New Pornographers and The Sadies. This creepy little ditty comes from her 2002 album, Blacklisted.
FEIST – “GRAVEYARD”
This song comes from multi-JUNO Award-winner Leslie Feist’s most recent album, Metals, which itself won the 2012 JUNO Award for Adult Alternative Album of the Year and features fellow Canadian crooner Chilly Gonzales. It’s a mellow track about zombies – OK, well maybe not about zombies per se, but it does reference bringing people back to life in the graveyard, which is practically the same thing. Great music for all you necromancers out there.
BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE – “ROMANCE TO THE GRAVE”
Speaking of both Feist and graves, we couldn’t omit this little number, “Romance to the Grave,” courtesy of her primary collaborative collective, Toronto’s Broken Social Scene. This song comes from the band’s 2010 release, Forgiveness Rock Record, their fourth and final studio album to date. It was a No. 1 chart topper in Canada and , in addition to Feist, also featured guest appearances by Emily Haines and Scott Kannberg of Pavement, among others. This song is sure to add some romance to your spooky night.
MATT MAXWELL – “C’EST L’HALLOWEEN”
Finally, what Canadian Halloween playlist would be complete without a little shout out to our francophone friends? This song may be familiar to those who attended elementary school French classes and was actually written in 1981 by a young teacher named Matt Maxwell. It turned out to be such a hit that he eventually left his teaching job to begin a 15-year career as a children’s performer. Thousands of concerts, six albums and a JUNO Award nomination later, it seems like he made the right career choice.
Have a happy Halloween!
By James Sandham
Well, music lover, a few weeks ago I started a playlist to ring in the Labour Day long weekend, and since then I’ve been keeping up the search, scouring the web for more tunes to fit the ambience of this particular season.
There’s something melancholy and just a little wistful about fall – which I love. It’s like you can feel the frenetic energy of summer gradually draining away and though that’s a little sad, it’s sort of a relief, too. Things are slowing down. Routines start up again. There’s this dual feeling that things are both beginning and ending at the same time. It’s a transitory season, a quiet time, so here are a few more tunes to capture that mood.
Nick Drake – “Place to Be”
Ah, Nick Drake. The master of melancholy. The king of quiet. Nothing suits autumn more than this man’s music and this song in particular. It comes from his final LP, 1972’s Pink Moon, which is pretty much a masterpiece and a terribly beautiful gift to have given this world before leaving it himself, all too soon, unfortunately.
Kings of Convenience – “24-25”
If you’ve read this blog before, you may be aware that I am a huge Kings of Convenience fan. Hailing from Bergen, Norway, the duo builds on the soft, folk-inspired tradition epitomized by artists like Nick Drake. Like Drake’s work, much of KOC’s catalogue is comprised of gentle, guitar-driven melodies. It’s beautiful stuff. This song, from their 2009 album Declaration of Dependence, is one of my favourites.
Belle and Sebastian – “The Loneliness of the Middle Distance Runner”
Another band that has built on the Nick Drake tradition is the Glaswegian indie outfit Belle and Sebastian. Formed in 1996, the group quickly gained critical acclaim through their first two releases, Tigermilk and If You’re Feeling Sinister. This song comes from a little later in their career, from a single, “Jonathan David,” that they released in 2001 – but as you can hear, they’ve still got the magic.
Brian Blade and The Fellowship Band – “Stoner Hill”
Of a different genre, but still true to the mood, is this phenomenal track from jazz percussionist Brian Blade and The Fellowship Band. I just happened to hear this on Jazz.FM91 the other week and it completely blew me away. There’s something about it that is deeply and emotionally resonant. It’s just an all-around beautiful piece of music. It was recorded live in March of this year at the Chicago Music Exchange.
Leonard Cohen – “In My Secret Life”
Finally, what better way to round things off than with a multiple JUNO Award–winner and the 1991 Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee, the ineffable Leonard Cohen? This delectably moody track comes from his 2001 release, Ten New Songs, and was co-written with longtime collaborator and backing vocalist Sharon Robinson. As is par for the course with Cohen’s work, it’s the lyrics that really make it – so give it a listen as you ease into autumn.
By James Sandham
Well, folks, it seems like it’s already that time again: Labour Day is just around the corner, which means another beautiful summer is sadly winding down. On the other hand, this means we’ve got another long weekend to enjoy. As the evenings start to cool and the sun starts to set a little bit sooner, I can’t think of a better time to sit back with some mellow tunes and maybe a glass of wine, and to just wind down with the season. Here are a few tracks to help you set the mood.
Kurt Vile – “Wakin On a Pretty Day”
This was the first track released from Kurt Vile’s latest opus, Wakin On a Pretty Daze, which came out earlier this year, and like almost all of his work, I immediately fell in love with it. He’s got this dreamy, wandering and kind of worn-out quality to his songs that makes them feel so comfortable. It’s like the musical equivalent of putting on your favourite pair of old jeans. Vile really is one of the most under-appreciated current American troubadours. His music is the perfect stuff for closing off the summer.
World Party – “Always”
This is the final track from World Party’s 1997 LP Egyptology (later re-released in 2006), and it doesn’t really sound like anything else on the album. It’s got filtered vocals and a much more introspective feel to it, and it almost sounds like it’s by another band altogether. I really like the weary, sort of pseudo-mystic vibe it’s got going on. Good stuff for some contemplative self-reflection as things wind down.
Blood Orange – “Champagne Coast”
I was introduced to Blood Orange by a friend of mine. It’s one of the many musical projects of Devonté Hynes, a New York City–based composer (formerly from England) who’s worked with groups such as The Chemical Brothers and Florence and the Machine. He’s also known as Lightspeed Champion and is a former member of the now defunct Test Icicles. His work as Blood Orange has a mellow R&B kind of feel to it, and this track in particular seems perfectly suited to an easygoing, early autumn mood.
Lou Reed – “Satellite of Love”
This track comes from Lou Reed’s second album, Transformer, which was released in 1972; although, a more up-tempo version was first demoed by his band, The Velvet Underground, in 1970 (that version was later included on their five-disc box set Peel Slowly and See). It’s one of the many tracks that makes Transformer an epic, awesome album. There’s a sort of threadbare beauty to it, a certain melancholy that’s perfect for the playlist.
The Tragically Hip – “Ahead by a Century”
Last but not least, this is one of my favourite tunes by the Canadian Music Hall of Fame’s 2005 inductees, The Tragically Hip. This was the Hip’s first single from their 1996 album, Trouble at the Henhouse, which won them the 1997 JUNO Award for Album of the Year. It would go five times platinum in Canada (with tracks like this one, it’s not hard to see why). It’s the perfect tune for watching the sun set on your Labour Day weekend. Hope you have a good one.