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Music Picks

Music 2.0

What do you think has replaced the big, great bands?

By Elaine Corden 17 May 2007 |

Elaine Corden writes a monthly pop culture column and a regular music picks column on The Tyee. She regularly discusses music and media villainousness on her blog, Trifective.

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Is Miracle Fortress a contender? You decide.

Of late, I have been, shall we say, a little down in the dumps about music. In some ways, we're in a golden age for music distribution -- you can troll about MySpace and music blogs and find old Japanese psych, perfectly formed indie rock from San Francisco and from Michigan, a group of weirdo art kids called Bread Machine, who make Kraftwerk-styled electronic covers of songs by 1970s AM radio staple Bread. It's like a push-button La Boheme society for those of us who cannot live without new music.

But in spite of (or perhaps because of) that, I've been a little unimpressed lately. Sure, there's more good music than ever coming out now, but where are the great bands -- albums that change the way you think about life and sound? More of that, please.

This week, a group of friends and I went to see Peter Bjorn and John play at the Commodore, and although they were lovely -- decent pop, romantic and sweet -- we were all underwhelmed and quickly forgot about the show. Ditto Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, who played at Richard's on Richards the same night. Yes, lately all I hear is a heartfelt "meh" towards the musical landscape -- some friends of mine becoming so disillusioned that they don't listen to anything but rap anymore, hip hop being the only genre doing anything truly innovative right now. What gives? Why is it that, every time I want to hear a truly great record, I end up digging out something from at least five years ago? Maybe it's a case of reaching a saturation point for new music, but I keep hoping something will come my way that blows my mind.

This week, "Five Roses" by Miracle Fortress found its way out from under the writer's detritus cluttering my desk, and it made me hopeful again. Ostensibly the solo work of Montréal's Graham Van Pelt, Five Roses is a mix of shoegazer guitars and Brian Wilson harmonies, so summery in its mood that it practically aches to be taken on a road trip. It's definitely not breaking any new ground, but it contains a perfect synthesis of everything that I hold dear about pop music -- orchestral layering, shameless prettiness, and a healthy reverence for past genius. Indeed, Van Pelt is like a curator of all music that is twee and sigh-inducing, digging up the loveliest moments of my favourite records and reminding me how great they are. Think Carl (A.C.) Newman of the New Pornographers, but steeped in that red-wine romanticism that only Montreal possesses.

But enough about me. What was the last new album that blew you away? In a shameless attempt to turn The Tyee's new comments system into a mixed tape, I welcome your input below. C'mon people -- my copy of Fleetwood Mac's Rumours is nearly worn out. Give me something new.

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