Thursday, December 31, 2020

97/100 Video - "Jump" - Van Halen (1984)

While the video for Van Halen's classic hit song "Jump" is a straightforward mock performance, it looked ground-breaking at the time.

But it's the natural chemistry and random stage moves of the entire band that lift this video to the top of the class.

The ever colourful David Lee Roth and guitar legend Eddie Van Halen were born to be in front of the camera. 

We may remember Roth first and foremost as a showman, but he was a pretty good damn singer, too

And then there's Eddie and his guitar magic. This clip also reminds us he was equally adept at playing the synthesizer. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

98/100 Video - "She" - Clan of Xymox (2020)

One of the original darkwave bands from the 80s, Dutch artist Clan of Xymox released "She" in 2020, a throwback to their goth roots. 

The synths are strong and hypnotic, and they work in synch with the lush guitars to create an ominous yet appealing melody. 

At first glance, this video appears gloomy. A girl dancing alone, post-apocalyptic, in what appears to be an old warehouse on the sketchy side of town. 

I find this clip unintentionally captures the zeitgeist of 2020. Like the girl in the video, we learned to dance with the darkness. Connected while apart. Dare I even suggest, we embraced it. And the good news in the end. She woke up from her dream with her tunes, and health, still intact.

This video also reminds me of the sheer fun we had in exploring abandoned buildings as kids. While underage and too young to sneak into the clubs of downtown Halifax, we broke into an abandoned convent instead. On the top floor we found some sort a sitting circle and what appeared to be a recent séance. Cool and creepy stuff.

For a sample of the band's earlier works, check out "A Day" from 1985.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

99/100 Video - "Let’s Dance" – David Bowie (1983)

It would be sacrilegious to make a top 100 countdown without at least one Bowie tune.

"Let’s Dance" by David Bowie debuted in Canada in 1983. The clip was filmed in the Australian outback.

The first time I watched this video I recall asking the room, "who is this cool new artist playing guitar in the corner of some dive bar?"

"That's David Bowie", my dad said. "He was big in the 70s. A good musician but kind of a weirdo".

I shouldn't have been surprised with my father's response, given his preference for 'meat-and-potatoes' rock and roll i.e. Eagles, Gordon Lightfoot, Bob Seger.

But I quite liked this introduction to Bowie, along with the follow up singles and videos for "Modern Love" and "China Girl".

I would later learn that this musician not only had a prolific discography, but he would be cited as a major influence for dozens of new wave groups, many I went on to love. 

IMHO, Bowie's greatest legacy isn't the quality and quantity of music he created, but rather how he made it cool (and acceptable) to be different. 

Monday, December 28, 2020

100/100 Video - "My Girl" - Chilliwack (1981)


One Sunday morning, fall 1981. 

I would have sat directly in front of the living room TV and watched Switchback, a new variety program for kids and teens featuring celebrity interviews, cartoons, comedy and puppets. I was 12.

Hosted by Stan the Man on CBC, he would also introduce two or three music videos during the hour-long show. 

"My Girl" by Chilliwack, a veteran group from Vancouver, British Columbia, played on the TV.

And it was awesome! 

This music video may not be among the most creative of its time, but it was my first, thus automatically claiming a spot in the top 100 purely for nostalgia. 

There is one particular iconic scene that is forever etched in my mind. It's when the three band members snap their fingers over a burning garbage barrel, while the lead singer chants: "Gone, gone, gone, she been gone so long, She been gone, gone, gone so long.

Well, the girl in the video was indeed gone. Gone far away from the vocalist who was longing for her. Gone via limousine. Then gone by a charter airplane, likely headed towards the brighter lights of Toronto.

As for the song itself, the vocal harmonies are outstanding. "My Girl" peaked at #3 in Canada. 

What was the first music video you remember watching?

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Last minute pivot: favourite 100 music videos

I was inspired to inventory my favourite 100 music videos for two main reasons: 

1) the epic nostalgia experienced while currently binging on The Goldbergs (Thanks to Patrick Carr for the heads-up), and 2) Lee Turner's and Richard Cross' top 10 music videos shared on Facebook this past fall.   

Growing up in the suburbs of Nova Scotia, I was a hopeless music video junkie. Starting in junior high during the early 80s, we watched Switchback with Stan the Man and that cool ASN program on Saturday nights, Atlantic Canada's Choice. On high school weekdays before supper we turned on CBC's Video Hits with Samantha Taylor, and on weekends, Good Rockin' Tonight hosted by Terry David Mulligan and eventually Stu Jeffries. For the night owl, the U.S.-based Friday Night Videos kept us entertained. 

The best part was also the worst: having to wait then hope your favourite song made the cut. Yet all those countless hours binging on video shows as a teen has prepared me for this moment. Now I am ready for a deep dive into the vast reservoir of memorable videos, many forever etched in my psyche.

This exercise will not only feature the usual suspects that you can easily find on a Rolling Stone webpage; I plan to sprinkle in a few cult faves, forgotten classics and hidden gems, too! 

The selection process will be happening over the next couple of weeks, as I watch, mull and organize over 200+ videos into a top 100 format. 

The assembly is a consolidation of many methods:

  • Memory recall
  • Online and magazine lists
  • You Tube rabbit holes
  • Previous lists including my own charts from the 80s
  • My CD + MP3 collections
  • Researching new bands 

Once satisfied with my rankings, I will aim to post one daily, starting with #100. Each post will feature a YouTube link, along with some commentary explaining why it deserves to make the cut. 

Although the 80s may have been the halcyon days of music videos, let's not forget about the passion and the polish from some of those shot during the 90s and 00s. Even a few more recent videos will also make the cut. 

Hope you enjoy the ride!

Monday, December 7, 2020

The sorting is underway...

Over the last few weeks I've been slowly pulling together a list from over 250 tracks for this winter's countdown.

The theme will be my favourite 100 electronic tracks of all time. An equally fun yet even more daunting process than coming up with 100 fave 80s tunes from 2 years ago. My ears and headphones are sure having a blast with this exercise.

It's always a shame that some awesome, dope tunes will miss the cut! As with my previous 'top 100' tune exercises, I struggle with deciding the last two or three songs. Inevitably, I start an endless cycle of switch and replace, to only switch back to my original pick!

But at some point, this madness will need to stop. Hopefully sometime around mid-December I will pull the plug and start the countdown.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

2020 (2 of 2) - "Level of Concern" - twenty one pilots

Candidate 2 of 2. 

Written and recorded during the pandemic, it's a light funk track that takes on the heavy subject matter with a bit of levity. Comfort food for the confused and quarantined.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

2020 (1 of 2) - "Lost in Yesterday" - Tame Impala

Candidate 1 of 2. 

A psychedelic pop masterpiece with a gorgeous bass line, disco melody and infectious choruses that will stay in your head for days. 

Heavy on nostalgia, convincing lyrics and video argue that eventually terrible memories make great ones. Worth a spin for fans of 70s / 80s pop.

Fave lyrics: “so if they call you embrace them, if they hold you erase them.”

Sunday, April 19, 2020

2019 - "Blinding Lights" - The Weeknd

A good intro is critical and this one captivates.

Atmospheric and entrancing, this slightly sinister synth-pop groove is sprinkled with lush hooks reminiscent of A-ha's earlier albums. Pleased to see the 80s continue to inspire millennials.

Nostalgia took over decision-making in the early 2000s, influencing every fave song since 2002, starting with Coldplay (prime U2) and 2003 and Kylie (early Madonna) etc. etc. Guess that's when I stopped listened to the radio and officially became old.

Other favourites from 2019: 

"In the Afternoon" - MGMT 

Friday, April 17, 2020

2018 - "Pink Lemonade" - James Bay

Kinda sounds like The Strokes updated that driving mid-80s tune from Charlie Sexton. 

Oh, and Bowie. 73% of my favourite songs are influenced or can be linked back to David Bowie.

Other favourites from 2018: 

"Me and Michael" - MGMT (2018)

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

2017 - "Decades" - Matthew Good

A haunting, driving guitar riff accompanies Good's trademark passionate vocals and poignant lyrics; his best in many years never fails to move me or make me move.  

I've loved all the albums from this seriously underrated singer and songwriter since 1997.

Other favourites from 2017: 

"Way to Go" - Empire of the Sun

"The Night is Ours" – Alpha 9 

"Tonite" – LCD Soundsystem 

"Slide" – Calvin Harris 

"Little Dark Age" – MGMT 

Monday, April 13, 2020

2016 - "Under the Sun" - DIIV

Hypnotic and driving bass line. Check, check.
Clangly, jangly and swirling guitars. Check, check and check.
Guitars that sound like shimmering synths. Le check. 

Lovin' the sublime intro and all the layers of this dreamy haze, while channeling mid-80s Cure and early 90s Stone Roses for a retro post-punk vibe. 

This is music you play on sunny mornings with the windows open and top down. 

Shout out to high school buddy Patrick Carr for recommending this track. Now I want a fog machine.

Other favourites from 2016: 

"Secrets" - The Weeknd

"Way to Go" - Empire of the Sun

Saturday, April 11, 2020

2015 - "Mountain at My Gates" - Foals

Opens with a delicate melody that builds into a powerful feel-good tune. It's an anthem of sorts, so if you enjoyed U2 around the Rattle and Hum era, you may also appreciate this.

Other favourites from 2015: 

"Leave a Trace" - CHVRCHES

"Restless" – New Order

"The Shade" – Metric

"Hello" – Adele

Thursday, April 9, 2020

2014 - "Meteghan" - Arthur Comeau

Part electro, part hop-hop, this laid-back and très drole track is a sort of homecoming for a talented gars de chez nous. 

Meteghan is home for me too; and you're all invited to visit once this shitstorm passes...

Other favourites from 2014: 

"Fade Out Lines" - The Avener 

"Under the Pressure" - The War on Drugs

"Only Human" – Delphic 

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

2013 - "Get Lucky" - Daft Punk

Pharrell Williams: I'm loving' this retro disco vibe, but this doesn't sound at all like Daft Punk. 
Breakdown: Hold my quarantini.

Maybe not quite "September" groovy, but not bad for 2013.

A fine throwback, instantly catchy and thoroughly funky. 

Other favourites from 2013: 

"The Messenger" – Johnny Marr 

"Reflektor" - Arcade Fire

"Summer Breeze" – Pepper the Crow

"Cool Kids" - Echosmith

Sunday, April 5, 2020

2012 - "Motion Sickness" - Hot Chip

The minute and a half intro spins and stuns, setting the stage for a muscular electro groove. Oscillating synths and throbbing bass build and build and build. Should have been a single and still one of my fave running songs.  

On the London trip where we saw George Michael's (unbeknownst to us) last concert, there were two artists we should have seen that week: Suzanne Vega and Hot Chip.  

Other favourites from 2012: 

"The Page" - Chromatics

"Where Is It Going?" - Orbital

"Take A Walk" – Passion Pit

"Doused" - DIIV

Friday, April 3, 2020

2011 - "Midnight City" - M83

It may be cheesy, but the explosive synth riff in the intro that's also the soaring chorus makes the dopamine overflow. How good is this Gouda? Well, the greatest 80s tune outside the decade very handily makes my desert island six pack o' tracks. 

Shout-out to M83's more subtle, dreamier "Kim & Jessie", a close second from 2008, a shimmering homage to 80s synth-pop and John Hughes' films, dressed up with an indie twist.

I have to give "Helena Beat" a little love here, it would have made it in almost any other year this century. 

Other favourites from 2011: 

"Helena Beat" -  Foster The People 

"Set Fire to the Rain" - Adele

"Called Out in the Dark" – Snow Patrol 

"All you Need is Now" – Duran Duran

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

2010 - "The Suburbs" - Arcade Fire

Montreal wasn't producing many good hockey teams since the turn of the century, but the city made up for it with music, with the likes of Sam Roberts and Arcade Fire.
Who would have thought romanticizing the ennui of the suburbs would sound so damn great? The tune is strummy and cheery, the lyrics and video nostalgic, showing a group of friends riding bicycles without helmets, partaking in hijinx and tomfoolery. A beautiful postcard of yesteryear and every 'burb from Dartmouth to Delta. 

Who hasn't tossed their bike to see how far it would go before crashing?

Other favourites from 2010: 

"Ready To Go" – Arcade Fire

"Stylo" – Gorillaz 

"Doubt" – Delphic 

"History" – Groove Armada 

"Paradise City" – Massive Attack 

Monday, March 30, 2020

2009 - "Love etc." - Pet Shop Boys

Just another big and bouncy mid-tempo slice of synth-pop to brighten up the world.

Just another brilliant day at the office from the masters of clever pop. 

Other favourites from 2009: 

"Did You See Me Coming?" - Pet Shop Boys

"Gold Guns Girls" - Metric

"Sweet Disposition" - The Temper Trap

"This Momentary" - Delphic

"Fireflies" – Owl City

Saturday, March 28, 2020

2008 - "We Are The People" - Empire of the Sun

That time I almost got thrown out of the house for playing this 15 times on a loop. 

It was like meeting an old friend after years apart. Widescreen and epic, takes us back to the future, fusing 70s psychedelic rock and 80s style and production. Acoustic verses effortlessly blend into a sweeping falsetto chorus. 

The electro-pop dance-rock of Empire of the Sun's "We Are the People" is David Bowie meets Star Wars. But wait, there's two Bowies.

Seriously, this chorus is one of the best I've ever heard. But more importantly and more relevant these day, this is a message about hope. 

I played this track at least 15 times straight with my new girlfriend at the time; and she didn't throw me out. 

Other favourites from 2008: 

"Walking on a Dream" – Empire of the Sun

"I Remember" - Deadmau5 

"Kim & Jessie" - M83

"No Sex for Ben" - The Rapture

"Being Here" - The Stills

"Mirror" - Supreme Beings of Leisure

Thursday, March 26, 2020

2007 - "Someone Great" - LCD Soundsystem

Although initially cold-sounding, this is a very human song and a grower, written about the death of James Murphy’s therapist. The hypnotic synths are offset by the hearts on sleeve lyrics and a bittersweet melody. Best use ever of xylophone in a pop song. 

A throwback to the early 80s, like tossing Bowie, New Order & The Human League in a blender. 

Other favourites from 2007: 

"Shut Up and Drive" – Rihanna

"Rollercoaster" – Major Maker

"North American Scum" - LCD Soundsystem

Monday, March 23, 2020

2006 - "Sorry" - Madonna

Sorry for taking so long to share music from the material girl. I was just too into the groove, then frozen and hung up on which track to pick.

Surprisingly melancholy for such a fast song, Madonna shows off her multilingual skills  expressing that she's sorry.

Other favourites from 2006: 

"Boy From School" – Hot Chip

"When I Go" – Emancipator 

"Acceptable in the 80s" – Calvin Harris 

"When You Were Young" – The Killers 

"Young Folks" – Peter Bjorn and John

Saturday, March 21, 2020

2005 - "Suicidewinder" - Ridley Bent

2005 top track: Ridley Bent's debut album Blam! is a 'hick-hop' masterpiece, the improbable fusion of country and hip-hop. 

Halifax's genre-bending, guitar-slingin' demon takes us along on his benders with the wrong side of the law. "Suicidewinder" is a tour de force of gritty story-telling with a badass singalong chorus. 

Shout-out to Johnny M in North Van (not on FB) for this find. 

Other favourites from 2005: 

"Dayvan Cowboy" – Boards of Canada

"Tribulations" – LCD Soundsystem

"Feel Good Inc." – Gorillaz

"Here It Goes Again" – OK Go

"Another Nite Another Love" - Jay Jay Johanson

Friday, March 20, 2020

2004 - "Somebody Told Me" - The Killers

New wave came back, baby! The most British band that never was, these lads from Las Vegas are the reincarnation of their 80s influences, a veritable blender of Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, New Order and The Cure. 

The urgent "Somebody Told Me" is a juggernaut, a shot of adrenaline with relentless hooks and an unstoppable, runaway chorus.

Other favourites from 2004: 

"Boulevard of Broken Dreams" – Green Day 

"Alert Status Red" - Matthew Good Band

"Smile Like You Mean It" - The Killers

"Sunrise" – Duran Duran 

"She Will Be Loved" – Maroon 5 

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

2003 - "Clocks" - Coldplay

A dazzling piano riff circles and crests. A short and wistful chorus follows reflective verses. I often sing the lyric: "Am I a...part of The Cure, or am I a part of The Police..."

Soon after I started running in 2002, the mid-tempo and rhythmic "Clocks" became an instant fave. The epic key change in the bridge always gave me an extra gear. A magnificent track. 

Other favourites from 2003:

"Mr. Brightside" – The Killers 

"Weapon" – Matthew Good 

"Seven Nation Army" - The White Stripes

"We Used to be Friends" – The Dandy Warhols 

"The Truth Is No Words" – The Music 

"The Sound of Muzak" - Porcupine Tree

Monday, March 16, 2020

2002 - "Love At First Sight" - Kylie Minogue

Guilty pleasure alert! Even us new wavers slash old ravers need a piece of bubble gum every now and then. This track is so nostalgic yet futuristic; it's Daft Punk meets the disco. 

After the 9-11 hangover, a lot of us needed a bit of optimism. Despite the throwaway lyrics, "Love at First Sight" tosses a little magic in the air and binges on a pulsating groove. A cozy brand of infectious pop perfection.

The video reinforced my love for excel spreadsheets. Kylie, I can't get you out of my head.  

Other favourites from 2002: 

"Brother Down" – Sam Roberts 

"Here Is Gone" - Goo Goo Dolls

"Easy" - Groove Armada 

"Trains" – Porcupine Tree 

"Hella Good" – No Doubt 

Friday, March 13, 2020

2001 - "Wish You Were Here" - Incubus

The atmospheric intro grabs my attention, the acoustic and electric guitar interplay create texture, the sprinkling of old school scratching a little razzle-dazzle. Add dreamy verses and a dramatic singalong chorus and voilà, repeated plays.

relaxed drum arrangement helps express complete contentment, and the alternating mellow verses provide the yin to the more intense yang that is the yearning in the chorus. 

Other favourites from 2001: 

"Lady" – Modjo

"Imitation of Life" - R.E.M.

"Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" – Daft Punk 

"Short Skirt/Long Jacket" – Cake 

"The Other Man" - Sloan

Thursday, March 12, 2020

2000 - "Everything In Its Right Place" - Radiohead

Radiohead trades in the guitars for synths to kick start the new millennium. Mesmerized by those opening melodic synth chords in the opening scene in the underrated "Vanilla Sky" film, this hypnotic track is still a trip worth taking.

"Everything In Its Right Place" also opened Radiohead's "Kid A" album, signaling their foray into electronica.

This is a headphones kind of tune. A strong, hypnotic melody mixes with a paranoid vocal samples and electric piano; it's the collision of warm and cold.

Everything about this track is amazing. Everything in its right place, indeed!

Other favourites from 2000: 

"In A Beautiful Place Out in the Country" – Boards of Canada

"One More Time" – Daft Punk

"Sour Girl" – Stone Temple Pilots

"Beautiful Day" – U2 

"Porcelain" - Moby

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

1999 - "One Man Army" - Our Lady Peace

Lead singer Raine Wilson shows off his vocal and emotional range as he howls, yodels and utters random utterings (twitch!) all the way through "One Man Army".

While the driving bass hooks and the guitar melody rocks, it's the high energy chorus that makes this track for me. A perpetual running fave, best saved when I need an extra gear to grind through the middle miles. 

Other favourites from 1999: 

"Steal My Sunshine" – Len

"Praise You" – Fatboy Slim

"Learning to Fly" – Foo Fighters

"Les Nuits" – Nightmares on Wax

Sunday, March 8, 2020

1998 - "I Think I'm Paranoid" - Garbage

Grungy electronica me likey. 

Near the top of the list of groups I've always to want to see live, I've been a fan of Garbage since they debuted in 1995. Their trademark fusion of rock and electronica is epitomized on this track with its big production and a fat chorus.

Shirley Manson's versatility and vulnerability are on full display.

Other favourites from 1998: 

"Angel" – Massive Attack

"Frozen" - Madonna

"I Think I'm Paranoid" - Garbage

"Push It" – Garbage

"Ava Adore" – The Smashing Pumpkins

"La Femme d'Argent" – Air

Friday, March 6, 2020

1997 - "Song 2" - Blur

For everlong I went around the world looking for a bittersweet symphony. Wait a min...woo-hoo! Two minutes of glorious mayhem.

It is ironic and hilarious that a parody a grunge by a Brit pop group ends up being the song Blur is most recognized for. 

"Song 2" is a blast of adrenaline and one fun tune. The bass guitar shreds while the "woo-hoo" vocal hook ensures a visceral rush and audience participation. This left me wanting more heavier offerings than pop from Blur.

The volume just doesn't go high enough. 

Other favourites from 1997: 

"Everlong" – Foo Fighters 

"Around The World" – Daft Punk

"Bittersweet Symphony" – The Verve 

"Get Busy Child" – The Crystal Method 

"Torn" - Natalie Imbruglia

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

1996 - "1979" - The Smashing Pumpkins

The 80s influences are obvious with the dreamy, spacey atmosphere. Corgan's hushed vocals and nostalgic lyrics evoke carefree and reckless emotions you felt while growing up.  

I massacred those high notes before getting pulled off the stage during karaoke, before even reaching the second chorus. 

A great year in music paying tribute to another great year. This one falls in the top 10 of all time.

Other favourites from 1996: 

"Midnight in A Perfect World" – DJ Shadow

"Where It’s At" – Beck 

"Virtual Insanity" – Jamiroquai 

"Everything You Do is a Balloon" – Boards of Canada

"Fast Love" – George Michael 

"Stupid Girl" - Garbage

"Ready to Go" - Republica

Monday, March 2, 2020

1995 - "Insomnia" - Faithless

Club music exploded in a decade best remembered by the sheer diversity of genres. House, techno and euro dance played incessantly in the clubs.  

"Insomnia" is two tracks for the price of one: the tense atmosphere and paranoia of the first half contrasts with the pulsing sensory rush of the second. Strobe lights flash and joyous exhilaration flood back when the iconic synth arpeggio kicks in at 2:16. 

This is the quintessential club anthem of a decade filled with them.

Other favourites from 1995: 

"Machinehead" – Bush

"Wonderwall" – Oasis 

"Missing" – Everything But The Girl 

"Hand In My Pocket" – Alanis Morissette

"Born Slippy" – Underworld 

Saturday, February 29, 2020

1994 - "Interstate Love Song" - Stone Temple Pilots

Like in the 80s, the middle part of the decade held the most memorable tracks for me.  1994 has been the toughest year to pick just one, with classics from the Counting Crows, Toad the Wet Sprocket and Alice in Chains all vying for the top track.

This is such a powerful yet chill tune. Starting with the epic intro that gives way to that now iconic guitar riff. Add in the soulful chorus delivered with equal parts desperation and devil-may-care vibe and voila, one of the most memorable post-grunge anthems and essential driving tune. 

"Interstate Love Song" reminds me of Billy Idol's road trip bender "Eyes Without a Face" released ten years earlier. Except now in my-20s, I wasn't looking up to cartoon heroes; these artists were from my generation.

Other favourites from 1994: 

"Something's Always Wrong" – Toad the Wet Sprocket

"Which Way Does the River Run" – Lennie Gallant

"Round Here" – Counting Crows

"Mr. Jones" – Counting Crows

"No Excuses" – Alice in Chains

"Sly" - Massive Attack 

"Dark Train" - Underworld

Thursday, February 27, 2020

1993 - "Regret" - New Order

It may lack the innovation of "Blue Monday", the groove of "Bizarre Love Triangle" or the lyrical depth of "True Faith", but "Regret" is arguably New Order's most complete song. 

Their best guitar-led track embodies the New Order sound: understated guitar, shimmering synths, Hooky's signature bass, lush arrangement and melancholic lyrics. A great vocal melody and surprisingly solid vocals from Bernard Sumner. 

"Regret" is also very personal. As the lead track of the Republic album which I bought in Ontario on way home from BC, I have fond memories of driving a rental to PEI en route to my Master's research, with two copies of this CD (what if one started to skip?!). The Habs were on their way to winning an unlikely cup thanks to 10 straight overtime wins. A spring of intense optimism. The Habs haven't won since.

Other favourites from 1993: 

"At the Hundredth Meridian" – Tragically Hip 

"Man On The Moon" – REM 

"World" – New Order