In Each Other’s Pockets

I admire those couples who can both live and work together harmoniously. Given there are a swag who can barely coexist, these star twosomes deserve a happy stamp on each hand. It’s even better when the fruit falling from such compatible pairing is in the form of one magical album after another. So who are these rare and envied beings? And do they write songs about who forgot to put the rubbish out?

Here are three very musically diverse couplings: Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas, one half of Montreal band The Besnard Lakes; Win Butler and Regine Chassagne of supergroup Arcade Fire; and Deb Talan and Steve Tannen known collectively as The Weepies.

The Besnard Lakes’s sound has been described as ‘shoegaze’, a form of alternative rock that involves reverberating waves of distorted guitar sound and subdued but melodious vocals. The stance of the shoegaze band member is introverted and downcast, as if examining his or her shoes. The genre may have emerged as an antithesis to the strutty frontman rock of the 70’s and 80’s. Well known shoegaze bands include My Bloody Valentine, The Cocteau Twins and The Jesus and Mary Chain.

Here’s a snap of the Besnard Lakes in which Lasek achieves the impossible – making transition lenses look cool.

If you like your music in the form of great walls of sonic sound wafting over you, this band is for you. This is not background noise, playing while you chat over the dinner table, or radio-friendly hook-driven singalong stuff. It demands the listener’s patience and attention. Each of their four albums is a symphonic composition with its own moody atmospheric feel. Their most recent release, the snappily named Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO is definitely more sombre and dreamy than their breakout album and critics’ favourite, The Besnard Lakes are the Dark Horse. On Dark Horse The Lakes defined their sound, whereas on UFO they have subtly restrained it. You can also hear Lasek’s obsession with the Beach boys on certain tracks on UFO (‘The Specter’ and ‘And her Eyes were Painted Gold’). My personal favourite on the album is ‘People of the Sticks’ with a wonderfully anthemic chorus – one of the few Lakes’s songs that has a traditional verse/chorus/verse structure.

Opening track ’46 Satires’ features an amazing guitar solo from Lasek offset by glassy vocals from Goreas.

Arcade Fire share some similarities with The Besnard Lakes – Montreal locals; two-time nominees of the coveted Polaris music Prize; both indie rockers, yet Arcade Fire have had immense mainstream success, evidenced by their Grammy win and Brit Award for 2010’s The Suburbs (somewhat paradoxically) a bleak, jaded look at modern-day life. And they keep winning prizes and selling records in droves. Have a look at this article from the Guardian.

So, what is their appeal? Why are they so revered by critics and fans alike? I reckon it’s because their music isn’t easy to classify – it is confident and complex and it brings with it moments from artists we’re incredibly nostalgic about – Springsteen, the Stones, Depeche Mode, Radiohead, The Pixies – and it bounces around so there’s something for everyone.  We’re emotionally affected. The band members can each play more non-traditional rock instruments than a nine-piece toss-juggler and this ease sweeps over us as we listen. We’re in good hands. Thematically the band is ahead of its time with lyrics that seem to have seeped out of our brains as if by osmosis. How did they know, we think, as we listen to ‘Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains).’ Similar to The National in this way.

Reflektor is Arcade Fire’s latest release. Before this: Funeral (2004); Neon Bible (2006); and The Suburbs (2010), still the best in my humble opinion. It’s fairly tricky to select just a couple of tracks from their catalogue – this band is deserved of a post of its own – but here we go: ‘Reflektor’ on the same-named album. I picked this for a number of reasons, an utterly ridiculous one being that it’s heartening to see our couple together in the truck – yes I know it’s make-believe – but with the swirling mayhem that must exist around them there can’t be many duo roadie moments. More importantly,  listen out for Bowie doing backing vocals; The second ‘A City With No Children’, simply because I love its central guitar riff.

The Weepies. Well, these guys are nothing like the first two. And you may like them for that. Romance and loveliness abound when listening to Talan and Tannen. This is sunny Sunday morning stuff .

According to their website, Steve Tannen was performing in Boston when, before the show started, he spied a pretty young woman in the front – Deb Talan – a musician he’d been obsessing over… non-stop. Deb Talan, meanwhile, was at the venue to check out a singer/songwriter from New York city – Steve Tannen – a musician she’d been obsessing over…non-stop. Pretty cute huh.

Here are our two singing ‘Painting by Chagall’ from 2006’s ‘Say I Am You’ album:

So four albums and three sons later, here we are. But things have changed. In December last year Deb Talan, of the beguiling smile, dimples and suzanne vega-ish voice, was diagnosed with breast cancer. She fought it and this on their website a few days ago: After 6 months of chemotherapy and surgery, Deb Talan is officially in remission and cancer-free. Thank you for all of your support. Taking a few weeks to heal up, and then we’ll be back at it. Good news indeed.

I know other amazing women who have been battling this bloody awful beast of a disease.

Tracy is one of them, and this song is for you:


Left behind everything I knew
All the colors but bone-white and sky-blue
Hit the continent running
Engines were humming just to break through

Antarctica, my only living relative
Antarctica, I can’t wait anymore

Under ice there’s a world moving slow
Carnelian stars and the bars down below
Serve only vodka and gin
I try to stay drunk so nobody knows

Antarctica, my only living relative
Antarctica, I can’t wait anymore
I can’t wait anymore

And then there’s morning
Each one feels like the first one
Ah, morning, so clean, so pure
Nothing so clear, now that I’m here

When I get back to the city
Everything’s cluttered and pretty
I won’t regret my return
I’ll just remember the wind and the snow
And the howling so loud
That it alone drowns out the inside of me

Antarctica, my only living relative
Antarctica, I can’t wait anymore
I can’t wait anymore
I can’t wait anymore

One thought on “In Each Other’s Pockets

  1. Jonathan Coakley June 23, 2014 / 12:36 am

    Awesome stuff Liz! I haven’t checked out the other Montrealers yet, zut alors! Great to read some more of your writing.


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