Author: Matthew Barlow

Sharon van Etten — Remind Me Tomorrow

Sharon van Etten Remind Me Tomorrow Jagjaguwar This is Sharon van Etten’s fifth professionally released album, but she also put out another five albums by herself, recorded to CD-R back in the day.  But, I don’t think anyone really heard her until 2014’s incandescent, beautiful, and amazing Are We There Yet.  That was a breakup album, which centred around the epic track, ‘Your Love is Killing Me,’ where she threatened to break her legs so she wouldn’t run to her ex-lover, to cut her tongue so she couldn’t talk to him, and so on.  It was an arresting track, her powerful voice beating the listener down, feeling her pain and agony in a nasty breakup.  I remember the first time I heard it, I was driving south from Montréal to Boston, where I lived at the time.  There’s a stretch of I-89 south of Burlington and north of Montpelier, just before you head up into the Green Mountains where you come around a bend in the highway and there is an overpass over the interstate, a river flowing to your right, and the mountains are just there, just out of your reach.  It was a bitterly cold winter day.  I nearly crashed the car. Remind Me Tomorrow is a much happier album, and starts with ‘I Told You Everything,’ which presumably is about meeting her current partner.  This track is...

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From the Vaults: REM — Country Feedback

I went down a YouTube rabbit hole the other night when I was procrastinating.  The suggested videos down the right of the screen were kind of creepy, in that they were basically a list of some of my favourite bands and tracks.  And then there was this surprise, a song I hadn’t thought of in a long time.  ‘Country Feedback,’ by REM.  It’s the second-to-last song on 1991’s Out of Time, the album that took REM from a college rock staple, the gods of the American indie scene, to superstars, largely centred around the massive hit ‘Losing My Religion.’  Whenever they played this song live, Michael Stipe introduced it by saying it was his favourite REM song.  I think it’s mine, too. This song has never failed to move me.  Out Of Time came out in the spring of 1991, my final year of high school.  It was a tumultuous time in my life, to say the least.  Things were coming to a head at home, where my Old Man and I were on the verge of an all out nuclear war and I couldn’t wait to get the fuck out of there and go to university and begin  my life.  So, in other words, I was a North American adolescent of my time and place. All of the spring and summer of 1991, I was transfixed by this song.  Stipe’s lyrics...

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“Visible Minority:” Confronting Race in White North America

Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan wrote about her experiences as a South Asian woman in the United States. She wrote about the exoticism of her name, her hair, her body. And she wrote about understanding race when her little brother kicked the back of a seat on a plane when they were kids, and how her father obsequiously apologized when the angry white man in that seat turned around and yelled at her brother. And she wrote about the de-centring experience of being not white in white North America. Granted, things are changing quickly. Two of Canada’s three largest cities, Toronto and Vancouver, actually have minority white populations. And Montréal, Canada’s second largest city, will hit that mark in the next decade. Something like a third of the population of Canada is comprised of visible minorities, both Canadian- and foreign- born. In the United States, around 44% of the population is comprised of visible minorities, both American- and foreign- born. What’s more, 50% of children under the age of 5 in the US are visible minorities. The times they are a’changing, but they haven’t changed yet. The simple fact of a ‘visible minority’ category presupposes too many things for my tastes, one of which is that the category is homogenous. It isn’t, nor should we expect it to be. Consequently, the majority and dominant culture in both countries remains white: an...

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Swervedriver — Future Ruins

Swervedriver Future Ruins Dangerbird Swervedriver came of age in the great early 90s era of British shoegaze music.  Originally hailing from Oxford, from whence the greatest of the shoegazers, Ride, came, Swervedriver relocated to London early on.  In all honesty, though, they were never really a shoegazer band, rather, they were a rock’n’roll band that had some shoegaze elements, particularly in tracks like ‘Rave Down’ from their 1991 début, Raise, and ‘Duress’ from 1993’s Mezcal Head.  The latter introduced a much harder edge to their music, more grinding and chugging guitars and bass.  And the rest of their 90s output saw the band gently move towards a more basic rock’n’roll sound before they split following 1998’s 99th Dream.  They were burned out from the record/tour/record process, to say nothing of the heavy drug culture that developed around their studio, Bad Earth, in Farringdon, London. Frontman Adam Franklin bounced around here and there, did some solo work, another band called Toshack Highway, and a few other things.  He and the other remaining founding member, guitarist Jimmy Hartridge and bassist Steve George and drummer Jez Hindmarsh (both of whom joined for Mezcal Head) decided to reform in 2008 with a well-received performance at Coachella.  This led to more touring, which led to more touring, which led to being on Fallon, which lead to the first reunion album, 2014’s most excellent I Wasn’t Born to Lose...

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Smells Like Teen Spirit

Sometimes classic rock is so deeply embedded into our consciousness, we forget what it actually sounds like.  We all know ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ but when was the last time anyone actually listened to the song.  It’s hard to do this with something we’ve heard 456,091,149,885 times, and that was just last week.  It gets worse, of course, when you can actually remember when the classic track was new and fresh and mind-blowing.  But we can never return to the first time we heard it. So last week, I was at the gym and was sick of whatever I was listening to,...

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