Greetings, Earthlings! It’s Valentine’s Day, so we might as well start things off with some music that I love. After the jump there’s new music from Little Anchors, Wilderness of Manitoba and Destroyer.
Giant Sand turned 25 last year, but the celebration of the desert rock combo’s silver jubilee is just getting started. Fire Records has just begun an exhaustive reissue campaign of nearly all of frontman Howe Gelb’s recorded output, including not just the Giant Sand stuff (which tends to be the best), but also Gelb’s solo releases and side projects like the Band of Blacky Ranchette (which featured The Brave & the Bold style team-ups with alt-country & indie rock superstars like Richard Buckner, Neko Case and Chan Marshall) and Arizona Amp & Alternator.
Giant Sand’s output, though prolific, is kinda sketchy. The early stuff (like the first round of reissues, Ballad of a Thin Line Man, Storm, and Valley of Rain) is best approached in retrospect, after listening to Howe Gelb & Giant Sand’s most fully-realized albums, like 2000’s Chore of Enchantment and Gelb’s 2006 collaboration with Jim Bryson and the Voices of Praise gospel choir (both from Ottawa) ‘Sno Angel Like You. From there, you can navigate through Gelb’s previous and later work with an appreciation that a nice, well-produced, clear-sounding track is rarely his goal. Instead, Gelb’s songs are works-in-progress. They show up on numerous albums in numerous forms. They get torn down, chopped up, used as firewood for new songs. Howe Gelb redefines the idea of a working musician. Even with the 30 or so “official” releases he’s racked up over the years, there have always been bootlegs, cover albums, solo piano records, outtake collections and demo releases. It’s a methodology that shines in an era of fast and easy digital distro. Rather than take his output on a song-by-song basis, it’s more rewarding to see Howe Gelb tracks as part of a continuum of work’s telling a much larger story. Just like you might get a few kicks, but little more from reading an individual Silver Age Superman story, when you start to grasp the larger narrative of an ongoing mythology, the minutiae reveals so much more.
None of which is to say that you can’t just enjoy a good Giant Sand song. First up, “Chunk of Coal”, a nice romantic song from Giant Sand’s 2010 album Blurry Blue Mountain. Then a trio of tunes from the first three Giant Sand records.
Giant Sand “Chunk Of Coal” by FIRE RECORDS
mp3: “Valley of Rain” by Giant Sand from the album Valley of Rain (1985)
mp3: “Graveyard” by Giant Sand from the album Ballad of a Thin Line Man (1986)
mp3: “Uneven Light of Day” by Giant Sand from the album Storm (1987)
Wilderness of Manitoba are, like Rural Alberta Advantage, a Toronto band named after a Prairie province. We can only hope that somewhere on the wilder outskirts of Swift Current, a group of teenagers is crafting songs under the name of Kapuskasing or Orillia. To mark the release of an expanded version of their Hymns of Love and Spirits, they’ve leaked this mighty sweet track.
mp3: “Mother Song” by Wilderness of Manitoba
Destroyer has a new album out called Kaputt. It should be noted that we’re not talking about Canada’s premier KISS tribute band. That’s the other Destroyer. Today’s as good a day as any to point out that Vancouver’s Destroyer releases records on the same label (Merge) as Montreal’s Arcade Fire, who won a big Grammy Award last night. That puts it just inside the realm of possibility that Kaputt will win Album of the Year in 2012. Certainly doesn’t hurt the album’s chances. Here’s the video for the title track.
Emmet Matheson is a freelance hobo detective who blogs at A Bulldozer With a Wrecking Ball Attached. You can e-mail him at: bulldozerDOTwreckingballATgmailDOTcom