Tuesday, February 15, 2011

In Your Ear-Favorite Sloan Songs

What can I say about this band? Could start with Sloan being the greatest export Canada has ever produced. Discuss. I have seen this band more times that I can remember, and so long ago, high school kids could go across the border with no paperwork and no problem. I actually wrote a letter (remember letters?) to the band and they actually wrote me back. How great is that? And they are the only band I have ever bought a shirt from, which I still have, even though it’s been through the wars.

So I took some time to review their catalog, focusing on studio albums, so apologies to Palais Royale, and A and B sides win. Here we go . . .

Peppermint EP

This bad boy I have on cassette. Chronologically it comes before Smeared but I think I bought this album third, probably after a concert. It has a garagey, raw vibe that is refined on Smeared. Marcus Said and Sugartune don’t change that much and listening to the stripped down version of Underwhelmed is a highlight of the album for me.


From the opening track to the last, this album gets it done, with scattered lyrics backed by yearning vocals and energetic instruments. This album, along with Definitely Maybe from Oasis, Day for Night from Tragically Hip and Superstar Carwash by Goo Goo Dolls, were very influential in my high school and early college years. My favorite tracks on the album are Underwhelmed, Take It In and Sugartune, (with a shout to the last song What’s There To Decide, which is dreamy, ethereal, and hypnotic), with all the tracks setting a foundation for the ground they were to cover over the years.

Twice Removed

The moment I heard Pen Pals, I knew I was going to love this album. As much as I loved Smeared, this album went one better. Initially I was drawn to this album for the tracks Pen Pals and Deeper Than Beauty and Snowsuit Song, but the more I listened to it, the more I found the whole record to be one continuous soundtrack of awesomeness. On previous posts, I have complained about the lack of complete albums; not the case here. The guitar sound continues to grow (I could listen to the guitar riff at the end of Before I Do forever) and the drumming provides a constant, driving backdrop. Eventually my favorite of the song on the album became People Of the Sky, which encapsulates everything I love the band.

One Chord to Another

This is my second least favorite album. (English major, right?) The record starts off great with The Good in Everyone, and there are moments of quality in almost every song, but the songs themselves are not awesome. Example, Autobiography borrows from what sounds like old Aerosmith but the song tends to wander and finally just ends. Another example, the choruses of A Side Wins and Anyone Who’s Anyone are pretty catchy but the verses are just ok. Junior Panthers might be in the bottom five songs from the group for me. The experimentation is ok (piano, minimal production), but it really doesn’t do it for me. G Turns to D is a highlight for me, and I love the trumpets on Everything You’ve Done Wrong. Jay takes center stage on Lines you Amend, and you can’t help but sing along on the chorus from Take the Bench. Again, not saying it’s terrible but if I had to lose one Sloan album in a fire, this might be the one.

Navy Blues

As with the previous album, this songs kicks ass right from the start with She Says What She Means (this song is great live), and Iggy and Angus (favorite of mine), with a bridge of C'mon C'mon (We're Gonna Get It Started). Sinking Ships, Seems So Heavy, and I Wanna Thank You follow the path started on One Chord, with some piano sprinkled in and definitive sounds for the verses and chorus. Keep on Thinkin’ is pure pop; two and a half minutes, in and out, with an audience clapping sequence, which, again, is AWESOME live. All of this leads to Money City Maniacs, a Sloan anthem that has to be experienced. If you don’t like this song, you don’t like rock. I really enjoy Stand By Me, Yeah. Not heavy rock like some of the tracks, the song just moves along and is a great fusion of instruments and vocals from the band. On the Horizon is good as well. If you haven’t gotten the theme, the show I saw for this tour was killer.

Between the Bridges

This album has a special place in my heart, because this is one of the CD’s I gave to my future wife on her year long trip to Taiwan. When I was able to visit her about halfway through, this album played in the background when we would sit her apartment talking and “hang out”. N.S starts the album, a slow, ponderous song, which is a different vibe from the previous opening tracks and is followed by a harder track in Beyond Me. Don’t Believe a Word and A Long Time Coming are not overpowering but great to savor. Friendship and Sensory Deprivation rock out. Losing California is by far my favorite song on the album and the band made a great video to go with it. Imagine if Multiplicity was made in black and white. The album finishes very strong with great tracks in Take Good Care of the Poor Boy and Delivering Maybes. The album is solid and a decent listen from start to finish.

Pretty Together

This is my least favorite album, for while there are some good tracks, the album does not grab me from start to finish, lacking the punch of previous works. The first two tracks, If It Feels Good Do It and In the Movies really jam, but then the album trends towards the slower, more melodic tracks, and this vibe works for The Other Man, which has a great video, and Dreaming of You, instead of the power pop, punch you in the mouth tracks usually present. My favorite track is It’s In Your Eyes and is definitely in my Top 10, which again synthesizes the band’s qualities—solid drumming, catchy hooks and wonderful vocals. Listening to it again, I realized how unfamiliar I was with it. I gave it several tries but was less than convinced. You can’t win them all.

Action Pact

Action Pact has to be 1a for favorite albums. There are so many great tracks and the album really hits all the notes—pop, hard rock, ballad. Gimme That gets things started with straight ahead power pop and is followed in the same vein by Live On, which has MORE COWBELL, and Backstabbin’. The band takes it down a notch with The Rest of My Life. The opening tracks are decent but the rest of the album is almost pure gold, highlighted by False Alarm, Hollow Head, I Was Wrong, Reach Out and Fade Away (killer guitar solo halfway through the song). Honestly these songs could be my top 5 and crystallize the band’s sound. If you are new to the band, I highly recommend starting with this album.

Never Hear the End of It

With 30 tracks of varying length and sounds and qualities, it’s hard to zero in on this. I would love to hear a full length cut of the opening track, Flying High Again, which lasts only 1:25 and leads into Who Taught You to Live Like That. I first heard the song at a show at St. Andrew’s and loved it. Other highlights on the record are I’ve Gotta Try (another song with a great video), Listen to the Radio (less aggressive but wonderful vocals), Right or Wrong (with the great lyric—10 years ahead of our time or 1 year behind), Ana Lucia (which grew me on over time), Blackout (could use another 90 seconds on this one), Ill Placed Trust (rockin the house and probably my favorite track on the album), and Another Way I Could Do It (great guitar parts and great way to end the album). I usually skip through to the tracks I like, but if I really take the time to listen to it from start to finish, the experience is worth it for all of the different textures present.

Parallel Play

To be honest, I have not listened to this album all that much. For whatever reason, it slipped through the cracks, but here we go. Believe in Me opens up the album, getting things started with pure power pop. Wrenching guitars, solid drum, and the vocal polish of Patrick. Cheap Champagne comes next and the edge is taken off, but the song moves along and is quite catchy. All I Am is All You’re Not reminds me of a track from One Chord to Another. The chorus has a great hook but the verses are just so so. Burn For It is solid, starting slowly and building towards a pounding finish. Witch’s Wand is pleasant and provides a nice background while driving on a summer day. The Other Side and I’m Not a Kid Anymore are decent. Down in the Basement, has a cool Bob Dylan vibe to it and is worth a listen.

Hit and Run EP

I heard this album for the first time while doing some research for this post and have to say I didn’t really enjoy these couple of songs. Overall, there is a much more subdued vibe for the tracks. The opening track Take It Upon Yourself isn’t too bad, but the next track Midnight Mass is kinda forgettable. It Is Never combines some distorted guitar with melodic piano to create a decent track. Where Are You Now? grabs the sound from Navy Blues and has some fun. Doesn’t hit the heights but is ok. Oh Dear Diary feels like an Eels cover. The lyrics are great with the line “it took me 20 pages to tell” and this song has to be on indie movie soon. Chances are I will not pony up for this album. Might buy It Is Never on iTunes or another source for posterity.

So here they are. My Top 8 Sloan songs (I just couldn’t get it down to 5) . . .


People of the Sky

Iggy and Angus

Losing California

It’s In Your Eyes

I Was Wrong

False Alarm

Ill Placed Trust

I don’t listen to commercial radio anymore, but thank god for 89X in Windsor for introducing me to Sloan and other Canadian bands, and I give me highest possible recommendation for this band. You must give them a try. Over 20 years they have produced some great music that holds up. With the four band members sharing everything, instruments, vocals and writing, you WILL find tracks that you will like. You can listen to their entire catalog for free at: http://www.sloanmusic.com/music

Year Album

1992 Peppermint EP

1992 Smeared

1994 Twice Removed

1996 One Chord to Another

1998 Navy Blues

1999 Between the Bridges

2001 Pretty Together

2003 Action Pact

2006 Never Hear the End of It

2008 Parallel Play

2009 Hit & Run EP

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