Sunday, March 26, 2017

Tegan and Sara - Arrow & Sentimental Tune


Sentimental Tune:

Of all my favorite bands Tegan and Sara must be the strangest odd one out. I listen to a lot of metal and classic rock, so the indie rock pop style of Tegan and Sara, while enjoyable to all, in theory should not rank that high in my personally admiration, but they do. I suppose it is not that strange when you consider my fondness of indie rock in general. I listen to a lot of Arcade Fire, Metric, Interpol, Bloc Party and several others. I guess it is just I identify more with the rock and rollers of classic rock and metal and a lot less with the hipster variety fare most of us expect from the indie crowd.

But hey man, it’s all about the music.

In 2009 Tegan and Sara released their sixth studio album “Sainthood” and it was a departure from their previously more mellow and emotional indie and folk rock styling and engaged more so into good old rock and roll. Naturally “Sainthood” is my favorite Tegan and Sara album, granted there are a variety of nuances we could discuss, but the broad picture item of this album is by being more rock and roll added to my extra enjoyment.

So, it is highly appropriate that I like “Sainthood” so much, given my natural rock and roll ways, and this apparently puts me in the minority. “Sainthood” was not overly well received by critics and fans who were still madly in love with “The Con,” Tegan and Sara’s previous album, an album that is the apex of their indie rock catalogue. This stronger embrace of rock and roll was the first meaningful change in style Tegan and Sara had ever engaged in, and they would find huge success with their next two albums “Heartthrob,” a very pop rock album, and recently “Love You to Death,” a very eighties inspired album. Those last two albums are probably Tegan and Sara’s best selling albums to date, nonetheless “Sainthood” was the first experiment departing from their indie rock styling, and is now becoming somewhat overlooked.

I am a firm believer that the best albums should start and end strong, and my two favorite tracks from “Sainthood” is the first and second last, which creates a nice journey from beginning to end.

The first track is “Arrow” a short but punchy rock song with a very striking intro that turns into the best, and most rock and roll, rhythm on the album or on any Tegan and Sara song for that matter. I believe it was very wise to make this the first song on the album as it has the greatest energy of any track and brings the listener in. My first two Tegan and Sara concretes I attended both opened with “Arrow” and while not being their most popular song served as a fantastic opening to the show and really got the crowd pumped up.

While “Sainthood” does technically end with “Someday” I find the true end note to be “Sentimental Tune.” Again, as a rock and roll machine, I should, in theory, appreciate “Arrow” as my uppermost favorite in the Tegan and Sara catalogue, but such is the duality of man, I like the mellow and sweet empowering “Sentimental Tune” most. I believe “Sentimental Tune” is about someone refusing to allow someone else to love them, a cynical romantic maybe? This sentimental tune is meant to soften the hard heart of the nervous would be lover who is for reasons unknown refusing to believe in, or allow an embrace of, love. Which is, you know, sweet.

I particularly like the opening line in the chorus “Hard-hearted don’t worry I’m ready for a fight.” While tangential at best, my complete lack of a flight mechanism means I am always ready for a fight, which makes me relate to this song in a completely unintentionally demission.

Long time readers of this blog will know I really like Sara, and perhaps it is not a coincident that both “Arrow” and “Sentimental Tune” are both Sara songs. A strange fact about Tegan and Sara that many do not know is that they never wrote songs together until the album “Heartthrob.” Each would independently write songs and then collaborate when recording. This adds an extra element of personality and a note of interest when digging dipper into their music catalogue and gradually gaining an ear for not only the very slight differences in their voices but also their emotions and expressions. The later of which is actually more distinctive.

There is a weak, but very real connection between “Arrow” and “Sentimental Tune.” In “Arrow” Sara is asking for a very tough love, real assessment of herself from someone she loves and in the hope they will fight for her,

“Would you touch me?
Cling and wage an intimid fight for me?”

The sort of fighting for someone Sara later expresses in “Sentimental Tune” only this time as the active agent, fighting for the tough love. It is not the strongest connection I admit, but I have always felt there was something there, if not is symbolism or narrative, then at least in Sara’s mind. She wants someone to fight for her, like she would fight for them? A reasonable guess into the mind and heart of Sara Quin I suspect, but also a fair description of most people’s wishes I imagine.

The times I have sat to listen to “Sainthood” in full, I find myself repeating the second final track or starting the album over to start the gambit again with “Arrow. Normally the custom of this music blog to talk about one song, but these rules were made by me, and made to be broken, because why not. I struggle to think of a time in the near future where I might revisit this album or band, so it made sense to discuss the beginning and end of the album all at once. A two-song review; think I’ll have to do that again sometime soon.

Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- King of Braves

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Tea Party - Release

On March 25th I will attend my tenth Tea Party concert. The Tea Party are more than just a band for me, they are like old friends, and while I have never met any of them personally, I have seen them so many times and I know their music so thorough and so well, I have created a stronger connection to them than any other band, probably ever. Everyone has their local flavour of music that they love and most of the world does not nearly appreciate as much as they do; and for me it is The Tea Party. The Tragically Hip may be Canada’s best kept secret but The Tea Party are my dudes, they are the band I constantly go to see, they are the band I love uppermost.

The twenty-fifth of March will be significant for me for the reasons already mentioned, but this concert tour itself is significant. This is the twenty-year anniversary tour of their third studio album “Transmission.” I was a too young to see the original tour for “Transmission” but still I have been going to Tea Party concerts for nearly two decades now and finally I will get to hear all the songs from “Transmission” I have yet to hear live. I have read in interviews how difficult it was to perform songs like “Transmission” and “Babylon” live, and I do not believe I have ever heard less well known tracks that I love like “Emerald,” so this will be a great experience for me. It is all very exciting.

One of the first albums I ever purchased on CD was Tea Party’s “Transmission” and it was the first album that was not released prior to my birth that I purchased on CD. You could probably surmise from the consistency of my Tea Party concert attendance that the “Triptych” tour when it came to Calgary was my first ever live show. Lastly the song that made me buy that “Transmission” CD was “Release.”

I had really enjoyed songs on the radio, because Tea Party used to get played on the radio here in Canada, like “Fire in The Head” and “Temptation.” I had also heard and thoroughly enjoyed their first two albums, but there was something about “Release” that got its hooks into me and made me really want to own that album, plus “Temptation” was on the same album so it seemed like a good purchase.

I was not disappointed; obviously.

“Release” was written in support of the White Ribbon Campaign, a Canadian born global movement to end violence against women, and with even a cursory glance at the lyrics it is clear there is a concern for women and fear of what a man might do. I have always known this, not so much the White Ribbon Campaign connection but I always knew this song was about a man wanting the woman he loves to be safe and free, from him.

It was dark, and it brooding, and contain a self loathing and sadness that I really connected with when I was young. I loved a great many things, but very little loved me back. There was a darkness in my heart comfortable with combat and violence, but there was also a temperament of compassion and devote desire to help. The narrative of a man relinquishing his emotional hold on a woman for her betterment, for her safety and freedom was a story that was swarming around in my head and Tea Party brought it to life in musical form.

While “Release” is clearly a song that is pro women’s’ rights, and that is great, but the focus for me was always on requited love, because of course it was. It would be equally easy to interpret “Release” as a man letting go of the love he desires but will never obtain. All the hurt and ugliness inside this man’s hurt that consumes him will not be allowed to contaminate another, certainly not the one he loves, and;

“I want you to be free,
I want you to be free, from me.”

It is really rather sweet when you look at it from that angle. In this way “Release” contrasts the last review HIM’s “For You” very nicely. One is the stubborn refusal to dismiss a deep deadly love, and the other is salvation from it. Both are unrequited, one is an emotional prison, the other, a release.

Sometimes there is a continuity to these reviews.

The Tea Party’s “Release” is, as have as far as I know, the best song ever written to promote an end to violence against women, but also, in my opinion, one of the best songs in Tea Party fantastic playlist. It is a song so rich in conflicted emotion how could it be anything less?

- King of Braves