The Replacements – Unsatisfied (1984)

January 27, 2019 – Day 218

“Unsatisfied” starts out sounding like a nice acoustic ballad but it’s actually a confessional punk song, a precursor to emo. It’s pretty gut-wrenching, in a Cameron Crowe coming of age kind of way. Paul Westerberg meant it, too. He played some lap steel on this song and Bob Stinson plays some great lead guitar on it. You don’t put a song at the beginning of side 2 unless it means something to you. “Look me in the eye / And tell me that I’m satisfied / Were you satisfied?”

The Men – I Saw Her Face (2013)

January 26, 2019 – Day 217

“I Saw Her Face” was the second single from The Men’s fourth studio album. The band was known for noise up until this point and released this very melodic and reasonably paced song – more of a Neil Young & Crazy Horse tempo than the breakneck speed of some of their previous songs, well, until they speed it up at the end. Old habits die hard. “In the middle of a dream / I saw her face / Somewhere in the dream / The Years Take Her Away”

Tara S’Appart – Kind of Cruel (1998)

January 24, 2020 – Day 215

Tara S’appart was part of the Canadian East Coast music scene. She joined with eventual husband Rick White of Eric’s Trip in his solo recording project Elevator To Hell as it morphed into a new band, Elevator, after the disbanding of Eric’s Trip. Although Tara didn’t contribute much from a songwriting perspective to Elevator, she continued to record her own music and eventually self-released an album called “Faces of the Moon. “Kind of Cruel” is a country-tinged song – a lightly strummed banjo and harmony from Rick and with steel guitar from fellow east coast musician Joel Plaskett who was spending time with Rick and Tara recording his first solo album. “Wonderin’ if when you’re just thinking if I’m ever on your mind / Wonderin’ if your heart is kind of just a kind of cruel.”

Anna St. Louis – Mean Love (2018)

January 23, 2019 – Day 214

An alternate title for “Mean Love” by Anna St. Louis could be “Rise Above.” The lyrics are confrontational towards a “mean lover” but the tables turn, as the song progresses – she sings she has a fire in her, too. As the statements towards the mean lover become more confident, so does the arrangement, which starts with only finger picked guitar and voice but soon adds organ, bass and double tracked vocals. She called for backup. “Well, there’s some things you can’t fight / Though I see that you tried / With no moon to shine / Only darkness inside”

Arbouretum – The Highwayman (2011)

January 22, 2019 – Day 213

Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson started a supergroup named “The Highwaymen”, inspired by Jimmy Webb’s song “Highwayman.” Reincarnation is the story of the song, a man who dies as a highwayman, a sailor, a worker at the Hoover Dam and a Spaceship captain. It’s pretty heady for a country song. Arboretum’s version, sung by Dave Heumann is more reserved and locked into a groove than the big productions from The Highwaymen and Jimmy Webb, and I think the song benefits. Heumann’s deep voice is strong but easy going and this is a good choice of cover songs for his talents. “Perhaps I may become a highwayman again / Or I may simply be a single drop of rain / But I will remain”

Holy Sons – From Now On (2009)

January 21, 2019 – Day 212

Holy Sons is a home recording project of Emil Amos. His LP “Criminal’s Return” opens with “From Now On” which is a table setter of a song, setting the mood of the LP which is dark and moody all the way through. Piano and organ with double tracked vocals give this song a sophistication that home recordings don’t usually have, and Amos is an accomplished drummer in a stoner rock band called Om and he of course brings those talents to these solo recordings as well. Found sounds and sounds of waves from a shoreline are tracked to add to the atmosphere. “It’s your instinct to tease / t’s impossible to please you / cuz you don’t know just what you need”

Lazy Smoke – Come with the Day (1968)

January 20, 2019 – Day 211

Once The Beatles released Sgt Peppers in 1967, poor imitations started showing up everywhere. Lazy Smoke was not a bad imitation, they were actually pretty good but the vocals had a passing resemblance to those of John Lennon’s, so it definitely didn’t help them to stick out. The songwriting was good and there were some songs that could’ve charted with some proper promotion but they faded into obscurity. “Come with the Day” is a highlight from side one. With a sombre vocal and melodic solo guitar accompanyment, it’s a song that could’ve been something, man! It just never got a chance! “Years and years, it takes so long / Years and year I can’t go on / You say that daisys are your favourite flower. Well, just like the daisys, I’m lazy.”

Blue Cheer – Sun Cycle (1968)

January 19, 2019 – Day 210

The first time I heard Blue Cheer, in the mid 90s, I had no idea what was going on and I started laughing. I had no context for 60s garage rock in my head. The 60s to me back then were The Beatles and The Rolling Stones but this was just weird. After a few more listens it sounded less weird and over the years I realized that Blue Cheer kind of helped invent a half dozen genres. Lo-fi, punk and metal all have roots here. On their second album, “Outsideinside” they really started to show some songwriting chops. A standout track is “Sun Cycle” which feels like a rough template for every stoner rock song ever written based on a fantasy novel. Guitarist Leigh Stevens tries to alternate between quiet and loud for dynamics but as the song advances, the drums from Paul Whaley (especially the fills) seems to get wilder and more out of control. Dickie Peterson also starts with a gentle vocal performance but at the end he’s probably just trying to hear himself over the cacophony. Apparently they played so loud that they were kicked out of the studio where they began recording the album and had to record the rest outside. “The lady folded / Her silver hair / Behind her back / With the strings of a veil.”

Eric’s Trip – Listen (1993)

January 18, 2019 – Day 209

Eric’s Trip had a handful of self released cassettes before they were given the opportunity to release an EP on Sloan’s Murderrecords label. Eric’s Trip, lead by Rick White, had self-recorded all of the band’s music up to this point and for the Peter EP, he upgraded the recorded drum sound for the first time. Mark Gaudet wasn’t the first Eric’s Trip drummer and his drumming was a huge upgrade for the band. “Listen” is the second song on the EP and it was the first listen for people who hadn’t seen their live shows at how good they were as a band. Rick White maintains an archive of his music on Bandcamp.com which includes an unreleased cassette EP called “Listen” which includes earlier versions of songs that would end up on “Peter” and other releases. When Rick uploaded the EP to Bandcamp, he revealed that, due to a mastering error, the whole Peter EP was released a little slow, a semitone down in pitch. Rick said it’s always bugged him but I can’t imagine it any other way. Listening to it now I think it probably adds a hazy, stoned quality that enhances the songs a bit. I wouldn’t have it any other way. “Hold my hand, my life / Thinking, quiet down, make me right”