Tag Archives: Albums

The Sound of Music – Part 5

Welcome to the fifth and final installment of the Sound of Music – My Top Five Albums Of All Time. 

My “deserted island” list of albums I’d want to have with me if I were stranded is almost complete. Thus far I’ve presented the following (in no particular order): 

As a reminder, I present my main decision-making criteria:

  • Number of songs I like on the album (the fewer songs I skip over, the better)
  • Composition of the album (are the songs arranged in an order I find pleasing)
  • Memories invoked when I hear a song from the album
  • Emotional impact of the album (how does listening to it make me feel?)

Today, we complete the list with an album that literally helped define a generation. By many it is not viewed in the same regard as, say, Nevermind by Nirvana, but in my opinion, this album was more complex, richer experience that touched a much broader audience. 


Without further ado, I present …

Source: Wikipedia
Released 1991
Track Listing: 
  1. “Once”  (9/10)
  2. “Even Flow” (9/10)
  3. “Alive” (10/10)
  4. “Why Go” (9/10)
  5. “Black” (9/10)
  6. “Jeremy”  (10/10)
  7. “Oceans”  (8/10)
  8. “Porch” (8/10)
  9. “Garden”  (8/10)
  10. “Deep” (9/10)
  11. “Release” (10/10)

I like every song on this album. In fact, I’ve liked every song on this album since the moment it was released. If I were to rank each song from one to eleven the songs at the bottom, Oceans, Porch, and Garden end up bouncing around in my head for hours after hearing them.

I completely understand why the producer decided to open with the song “Once”. It’s a powerful song and within the first minute of the song the lyrics, “Once upon a time I could control myself / Once upon a time I could lose myself” tell us that we’re about to embark on a fairytale journey like none other. Followed by “Even Flow” these two tracks make you feel like all you’ve been doing is climbing, then, without warning like the first big drop on a roller coaster we hear “Alive”, a song just as powerful as any of the others but slightly down tempo. Not to have us get lulled into a false sense of security the album hits back with a 1-2 punch with “Why Go” and then “Black” only to follow up with probably the most iconic opening bass line in the band’s catalog on “Jeremy”. The album continues with songs that alternate between laying low a little and jumping right up in your face until we get to the last song on the track. As far as album endings go “Release” is a formidable choice for the end of this wild ride, though I have to admit that it’s just as fitting to have it as a live show opener. All in all, the songs on Ten are perfectly arranged and are a pleasure to listen to on their own, in order as they are on the album, or randomized on an iPod with a thousand other songs. 

This album makes me feel like jumping around and yelling. Occassionally, a song will come on that’s one of the slower ones and instead of jumping around and yelling it will just magnify whatever feeling I am having in that moment. The themes of the album are dark and uncomfortable and complex, and the feelings it invokes are the same. But most of all, it makes me feel like jumping around and yelling. 

There are too many memories involving this album to list them all here. I remember one of my longest standing childhood friends driving us to a party and saying, “I’m feeling kind of grunge tonight” and putting PJ on in the car. I remember countless days and nights “studying” with Riaz; half written physics equations haphazardly scribbled on scrap paper and Riaz with his guitar in hand and Pearl Jam on the CD player. They are the go-to concert for another friend of mine and I’ve had the pleasure of seeing them a couple times with him. I should have seen PJ in New Orleans with him back in 1995 but this girl I worked with wouldn’t switch shifts with me (which was a total jerk move, if you ask me). 

Probably the coolest memory I have involves the pop/ska band The English Beat. I was in Ottawa, Ontario, standing a few rows from the stage with my Pearl Jam tour buddy and Pearl Jam launched into their hit song “Betterman”. They extended the ending and out of nowhere started singing the English Beat’s “Save It For Later”. Fast forward five years and I’m in Waterloo, Ontario (a solid six-hour drive from Ottawa) and I’m in a small club watching the English Beat with my wife when right in the middle of their song “Save It For Later” they start playing a few bars of Pearl Jam’s “Betterman”. I figure I was the only person there who had that experience and every time either of those songs come on my iPod I think of those two concert moments. Also, if you’ve never experienced the crowd participation at a Pearl Jam concert, you are truly missing out. I only need to speak two words on this topic: Baba O’Riley. Look it up on YouTube

So there you have it, my top five albums of all time. Next time, I’ll put the songs in order and give you a list of great albums that didn’t quite make the top five cut but are worth checking out nonetheless. 

~ Andrew

The Sound of Music – Part 4

Welcome to the fourth installment of the Sound of Music – My Top Five Albums Of All Time. 

Think of this as a “deserted island” list of albums I’d want to have with me if I were stranded and these were the only albums I had on my iPod at the time (assume a solar charger and necessary waterproofing).

As a reminder, I present my main decision-making criteria:

  • Number of songs I like on the album (the fewer songs I skip over, the better)
  • Composition of the album (are the songs arranged in an order I find pleasing?)
  • Memories invoked when I hear a song from the album
  • Emotional impact of the album (how does listening to it make me feel?)

In no particular order thus far we have:

Today we will add a fourth album to the list:

Source: Wikipedia

Released 1973
Track Listing:

  1. “Speak to Me” – (Intro-Instrumental)
  2. Breathe” (8/10)
  3. “On the Run” (Instrumental, 8/10)
  4. “Time” (8/10)
  5. “The Great Gig in the Sky” (“Instrumental”, 9/10)
  6. “Money” (8/10)
  7. “Us and Them” (8/10)
  8. “Any Colour You Like” (Instrumental, 8/10)
  9. “Brain Damage” (9/10)
  10. “Eclipse” (9/10)

While the sixties were a time of peace, love, music, and marijuana (and acid, and whatever else those crazy kids could get their hands on). If they were giving out awards for whose fans were the highest it’s no secret that Pink Floyd was likely the first band to hold the title across the Atlantic. With the Grateful Dead having formed around the same time they were leading the way by a country mile in the United States.

The only track I’ll skip on this album is the opening instrumental intro. Quite frankly, the composition is nothing short of perfection. Opening with a psychedelic instrumental reminiscent of something Monty Python would have written, the album sets the tone with “Breathe” and then moves seamlessly into an instrumental that finishes with a resounding “boom” before we get a jolt of surprise with the sounding of dozens of alarm clocks in “Time”, one of many instances where Floyd makes use of samples to augment their musical stylings. “The Great Gig in the Sky” was the first song where I noticed and really began to understand that a person’s voice was an instrument. The woman singing on this track doesn’t use a single word from the dictionary as she winds her voice up and down with “ooooohhhhhhh” and “ahhhhhhhhh” and “ooooooooooo” and it’s positively hypnotic. “Money” brings more distinctive sound bites and “Us and Them” sits in a natural spot as track seven, leading into another instrumental. The final two tracks, especially when played back to back without interruption, might be the greatest ending of all the albums in my library.

This album cover is probably one of the most iconic pieces of musical artwork ever created. Every kid who has heard of this album has tried to recreate this effect the first time they got their hands on a prism in science class.

For years growing up in Thornhill, I would drive past the “Becker’s” convenience store on Aileen Road and there was this big green electrical box with the Dark Side of the Moon album cover spray painted in white on the side. The box has long since been replaced and is now obscured by a collection of overgrown trees but thanks to the fine folks at Google Maps and Microsoft Paint I’ve been able to recreate the image forever burned into my memory (that graffiti stayed on the side of that electrical box for years):

Aileen Road Electrical Box with Modified Graffiti Courtesy of Andrew


In 1994, I was fortunate enough to see Pink Floyd play at Exhibition Place with a lifelong friend, Jon, as well as a newly formed friend, Riaz (and a bunch of his buddies). As part of their Division Bell tour, Floyd played the entire Dark Side of the Moon album and to this day that remains one of my most memorable live concert performances. 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OR-iZXNjlSo]


How does hearing this album make me feel? Nostalgic, calm, peaceful, relaxed, poetic, introspective, and blissful. Which, I suspect, is just what Pink Floyd was going for. 

Hey, since you’ve read this far if you’re looking to learn how to play guitar like one of the greats, I came across this website that gives you some free tips and tricks. They happen to have a section on none other than David Gilmour. Check it out over at Beginner Guitar HQ.

~ Andrew


Coming Soon: 
The fifth addition to round out the list and then a post where I put them in order, explain why, and list a bunch of honourable mentions.

The Sound of Music – Part 3

My wife has got a wide range of musical tastes and only occasionally will I hear something playing in her car that I don’t enjoy. Certainly, without her extensive pallat of auditory awesomeness  I would not have been exposed to this song by the Magnetic Fields:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jf_l3EGQvL8]

Or this cover of a Magnetic Fields song – and one of my favourite covers of all time – by The Airborne Toxic Event (whom we also saw play live in Toronto a few years ago):

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQUZBi-P6Jw]

Or even this:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QeTPNjPiyJM]

So, whenever she and I enter into a discussion about which album from a band is better than one of their others, it’s common for me to disagree and then after some listening, acquiesce to my wife’s better judgement. Case and point, The Tragically Hip’s Up To Here versus Road Apples. I was always on the side of Up To Here and her on the side of Road Apples, but after a couple listens in the car on the way to work I have flipped sides.

Such is not the case for The Watchmen and their first two albums. McLaren Furnace Room is their first album and is Jodi’s favourite from the band and for a long time I was in agreement with her on it. It’s a killer album and to this day I’m left to wonder why it didn’t vault the band into more rarified air. However, after many, many, many listens of McLaren and their second album, In The Trees, I’ve changed my tune.

Welcome to the third installment of the Sound of Music – My Top Five Albums Of All Time:

In The Trees by The Watchmen

Released 1994

Track Listing:
  1. “34 Dead St.” (9/10)
  2. “Boneyard Tree” (8/10)
  3. “Lusitana” (9/10)
  4. “Wiser” (9/10)
  5. “Calm” (9/10)
  6. “All Uncovered” (10/10)
  7. “In My Mind” (9/10)
  8. “Laugher” (8/10)
  9. “The South” (8/10)
  10. “Born Afire” (8/10)
  11. “Vovo Diva” (7/10)
  12. “Middle East” (9/10)
As a reminder here is the main criteria that went into making my choices:

  • Number of songs I like on the album (i.e. the fewer songs I skip over, the better)
  • Composition of the album (i.e. are the songs arranged in an order I find pleasing?)
  • Memories invoked when I hear a song from the album
  • Emotional impact of the album (i.e. how does listening to it make me feel?)

Looking at my album evaluation criteria seeing this album in my top five shouldn’t come as a surprise. I might occasionally skip over Boneyard Tree and Vovo Diva but even as my least favourite songs on the album I’ll find myself singing along. When listened to end-to-end I find the arrangement of the album to be just about perfect, from the first chords of the hard and heavy 34 Dead St. to the perfect solo bass note played by Ken Tizzard that echoes in your head to end the album, In The Trees, takes me on a journey I never want to end. 

The memories invoked when I hear any song off this album vary, but all begin in first-year university, where in 1993 my friend Riaz introduced me to the band. Naturally, I have oodles and oodles of memories ranging from listening in Riaz’s room to seeing the band play at various clubs and bars around town. Probably the best one, though, is the time Riaz drove me into Toronto to go see them play at The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern.

Legen… wait for it… dary.

If you’ve never been to The Horseshoe, you’re truly missing out on a piece of Toronto history. Renowned for being a bit of a dive, it has been home to some of the most amazing musical talents ever known and their walls are adorned with posters, news articles and ticket stubs from all the acts.

The stage at The Horseshoe all decked out for their 60th-anniversary celebrations

This one particular night Ri and I were there early, he liked to make sure he had a spot right up front by the guitarist, Joey Serlin, but after enjoying a few beverages waiting for the show to start we found ourself in need of relieving ourselves. Downstairs to the basement washroom we went. Now if you’ve never been to The Horseshoe you’re missing out, but if you’ve never been to the men’s room at The Horseshoe you’re not missing a thing.

Washroom wall wisdom Probably the nicest part of the washroom

We walked into the john and who would we find zipping up just as we were heading in? Danny. Thinking the pisser wasn’t the best place to drum up a conversation we did our business and then wandered out into the hallway, peering into a stairwell on the off chance we could sneak up backstage. Danny was sitting in the stairwell having a smoke. A smoke! (Sorry if I’m exposing a dark secret, Danny). Riaz asked if it was cool if we joined him for a cig, and he said he didn’t mind, so we spent the next cigarette’s worth of time shooting the shit and just enjoying a subdued moment. Three guys having a smoke in a stairwell.

The stairwell. No Danny this time. 

Butting out and stomping on what remained of his Du Maurier, Danny said, “Sorry guys but I gotta get into the moment here before I head out.” Riaz and I nodded and thanked him for the chat and wished him a good show. “Thanks guys. Nice meeting you,” he said as Ri and I headed back upstairs to a now packed floor with a couple hundred folks unaware that we had just had the coolest and most surreal experience of our brief music-loving lives.

The emotional impact of this album is probably stronger than any other. I met my wife sitting in Riaz’s room back in 1993 and even took voice lessons and put a band together to play a Watchmen tune for her for our anniversary a few years ago. I feel so much joy when I hear one of their songs on my iPod (which is often because I have a TON of WM music). On the other end of the spectum, Riaz introduced me to both my wife and The Watchmen’s music and he’s gone now, so hearing many of their songs, even the happy ones, makes me sad. If you listen carefully you can hear In My Mind playing in the background at the beginning of my memorial speech and reading.

So there you have it, the third (in no particular order, yet) of my Top Five Albums of All Time along with some of the reasons why. A dozen great tracks invoking myriad emotions and half a lifetime of memories.

You can find The Watchmen music for sale on iTunes here along with some live show downloads here and some FREE tracks / shows for download here.

~ Andrew

The Sound of Music – Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of the thing where I share my Top 5 albums of all time. Think of this as a “desert island” list. You know, “If you could only have one CD with you while you’re stranded on a desert island which one would it be?” – only instead of one, I’m taking five (if you can only pick one then you need to listen to more music. Hopefully, my list will guide you toward a future Top 5 choice for yourself.

As a reminder here is the main criteria that went into making my choices:

  • Number of songs I like on the album (i.e. the fewer songs I skip over, the better)
  • Composition of the album (i.e. are the songs arranged in an order I find pleasing?)
  • Memories invoked when I hear a song from the album
  • Emotional impact of the album (i.e. how does listening to it make me feel?)

Last time, I shared some thoughts about the Irish pop/rock megaband U2’s fifth (and breakthrough) album The Joshua Tree. This week we’re going in the complete opposite direction and talking about a little-known Canadian indie/folk/rock band whose debut album is heads and butts on top of their entire four-album* catalog (update: 2017’s “Do the Right Now” makes it a five-album catalog and it’s a good listen).

Shakespeare My Butt by The Lowest of the Low

Released 1991
Track Listing:

  1. “4 O’Clock Stop” (7/10)
  2. “So Long Bernie” (7/10)
  3. “Just About ‘The Only’ Blues” (7/10)
  4. “Salesmen, Cheats and Liars” (7/10)
  5. “Rosy and Grey” (9/10)
  6. “Kinda the Lonely One” (8/10)
  7. “Eternal Fatalist” (8/10)
  8. “For the Hand of Magdalena” (8/10)
  9. “Subversives” (9/10)
  10. “Bleed a Little While Tonight” (8/10)
  11. “Bloodline” (8/10)
  12. “St. Brendan’s Way” (8/10)
  13. “Letter from Bilbao” (8/10)
  14. “Under the Carlaw Bridge” (7/10)
  15. “The Taming of Carolyn” (8/10)
  16. “Gossip Talkin’ Blues” (6/10)
  17. “Henry Needs a New Pair of Shoes” (8/10)
The songs are put together quite well with most of the album upbeat folksy stuff. It’s really hard to listen to that album end-to-end and not be in a good mood. As for the number of songs on the album that I like? Well, if you look at the ratings I gave them (in parenthesis above) I pretty mich like all of them and a few are home to some lyrics that I just love to sing out loud: 
  • “Her mother’s worst fears are confirmed / She’s taken off with some musician / (Holy shit!)” (from Taming of Carolyn)
  • “Well, I’ve kissed you in France and I’ve kissed you in Spain / And I’ve kissed you in places I’d better not name / And I’ve seen the sun go down on Sacre Coeur / But I like it much better goin’ down on you / Ah, you know that’s true” (from Rosey and Grey)
  • “And if they had genitalia they’d have frozen their nuts off” (from Henry Needs a New Pair of Shoes)
There a so many memories involving so many of these songs it’s hard to corral them into a single paragraph. For starters, it seemed like this album was on repeat for all of 1994 when I spent a considerable portion of my time at the local on-campus pub, The Bombshelter (or, as it is better known, The Bomber), at the University of Waterloo. I hung out with the folks that would become friends I still see today, and one particular girl who would go on to be my wife. Funny story, she and I would go on to see LotL on my birthday in 2002 and gave our soon-to-be first born child her first taste of good live music. In 2004 while white water rafting just outside of Ottawa a guitarist at the hostel we were camping at played “Rosey and Grey” as part of his set. A bunch of us Bomber alum sang along, giving the bar quite a show and garnering applause from the dude with the guitar. An even funnier story, one of our daughter’s first live concerts (out of the womb this time) came just a few years ago. We took the kids to the Toronto Urban Roots Festival and LotL played a short set on the main stage.   
Quite simply, this album makes me feel happy, and whenever one of the tracks comes on my iPod I turn it up and sing along as loud as I can (and as best as I can considering I’m terrible at remembering lyrics). 
~ Andrew
* Hallucegenia (1994), Nothing Short of a Bullet (live w/ 3 studio tracks, 2001), Sordid Fiction (2004) – an album I didn’t even remember existed until today

The Sound of Music – Part 1

More than five years ago I did a quick little “Top 5” post in homage to the film High Fidelity. The post was a simple 45-word paragraph (including the subheader) that listed my top 5 albums of all time. Well, I’ve decided to update the list and while much of it is the same, there are a couple of changes. You might be wondering what’s happened in the last five years that has led me to change my mind. If you think about it, that list should remain fairly static (I mean, seriously, could an album released in the last five years actually qualify as one of the “best ever”?)

Music is a big part of my family, not that any of us are particularly musically inclined (the kids tried to learn guitar at one point and I have taken voice lessons, but that’s about it). We do listen to it frequently though and everyone has a strong appreciation for it. After my last concussion, I found myself feeling quite thankful for any memory that I was able to recall, and as it turns out, music happens to provide a great “jog” for the ole memory keeper (my long term memory is actually pretty good, but my working memory is complete shite). For me, so many factors go into what makes an album The Best of All Time, and one of those factors is the memories that are invoked when a song from the album comes on the radio or through my iPod when I’m in the car.

Andrew singing as part of the band Speed of Light Lab with Jason Cassidy on guitar,
Joshua Hofstetter on drums, Jason Dykstra on bass, and Robb Farago on cello/harmonica.

Other factors include:

  • Number of songs I like on the album (i.e. the fewer songs I skip over, the better)
  • Emotional impact of the album (i.e. how does listening to it make me feel?)
  • Composition of the album (i.e. are the songs arranged in an order I find pleasing?)
I’ll list the albums in the proper Top 5 order when I’m done but for now let’s take a more detailed look at one of them in the list. I’ll do this for the next five weeks and end the last post with the ordered list. For now, in no particular order, let’s take a look at one of my Top 5 Albums of All Time:
Released March 9, 1987
Track Listing:
  1. “Where the Streets Have No Name” (8/10)
  2. “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” (8/10)  
  3. “With or Without You” (7/10)
  4. “Bullet the Blue Sky” (6/10)
  5. “Running to Stand Still” (8/10)
  6. “Red Hill Mining Town” (7/10)
  7. “In God’s Country” (7/10)
  8. “Trip Through Your Wires” (6/10)  
  9. “One Tree Hill” (8/10)
  10. “Exit” (6/10)
  11. “Mothers of the Disappeared” (8/10)

I’ve ranked the songs (in parenthesis) so you can see how it stacks up in terms of the “number of songs I like on the album” criteria. Only two of the eleven tracks would rank low on my list and even then I don’t not like them, I just don’t find them as good as the rest of the tracks on the album.

As for the composition of the album I think producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois struck a good balance with the tracks. It has a great flow, with some ups and downs, while still keeping the overall tone of the album constant. The opening track “Where the Streets Have No Name” is, in my opinion, one of the most iconic opening tracks on any album ever and is featured as the opening of the band’s movie Rattle and Hum movie based on their Joshua Tree tour from 1987-1988.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6yzojvZwzQo]

How does the album make me feel? Nostalgic and wistful. Contemplative and concerned. Listening to this album, and most of the individual songs on it makes me feel like I’ve lived a great life but still have great things ahead of me.

As for the memories invoked by listening to this album, well, there are many. I remember stuffing envelopes as a fundraiser for my hockey team and one of the coaches had a company that made binders and other back-to-school type stuff. He was licensed to sell Joshua Tree binders (black with a gold outline of the tree from the album cover on it). The team spent the afternoon listening to that album and stuffing envelopes for 5¢ a piece (or something like that).

I remember in the summer of 1987 I was at summer camp and there was a counsellor named Roop who wore a black Joshua Tree t-shirt. He was one of the coolest counsellors in the place and him wandering around in that t-shirt is burned into my brain. I can even tell you what cabin he was standing in front of the first time I saw him wearing it.

Most of all, I remember the craft hut at camp. The summer of 1988 I was in cabin 12. It’s the cabin that, due to some large trees in the way, was set back from the others in cabin row. Of course, there were lots of stories about why the cabin was set so far back and they were all some variation of a serial killer / monster story set on scaring the pants off you. That didn’t happen, we were all 14 and very little rattled us, but one effect this did have was to give cabin 12 a sense of uniqueness, rebellion, and outcast.

One day I had a free period and everyone went off to the rec hall to do something silly. It was raining and I wasn’t feeling up to shenanigans so I wandered off to the craft hut. I was a scrawny kid with long blond bangs and still quite awkward. I wasn’t exactly Romeo with the ladies and while not un-cool I never exactly achieved full cool status. The craft hut was filled with some girls from cabin 2 (same age as me) and I just walked in and sat down at a table with five or six of them and started working on a gimp bracelet. Didn’t say a word.

The final riff from The Edge’s guitar on the opening track of Joshua Tree was playing and when track two started playing I started to sing along, quietly, as I made my craft. A few of the other girls started to sing as well, and soon it turned into a full blown sing along. We spent the rest of the hour singing along and crafting with that album playing. In fact, I can’t recall a single piece of conversation that happened in the hour I was there. I’m sure there must have been some, but it sure didn’t feel like it. It was just me, ten girls from cabin 2, a couple counsellors, and U2.

For 60 minutes in the summer of 1988, I found what I was looking for.

~ Andrew