A look back at some of the best Fredericton songs of the year.
By Matt Carter
It wouldn’t be right to end the year without at least one recap feature, looking back over the year that was. 2015 has been quite a year for Fredericton music and to not celebrate it in one shape or form would simply be wrong. With that in mind, we thought it best to host a little celebration of our own. Right here. Right now.
Before we get knee deep into things, let’s take a minute to reflect on the many releases that have streamed through our earbuds over the past twelve months and the many forms they have taken. While there certainly has been a few solid albums drop during the past year (Kill Chicago, Off Season, Andy Brown, Keith Hallett & Earthbound Trio to name a few), there have also been a surprising number of digital EPs and singles. Like, a lot. I suppose it’s all part of the urgency that exists these days. Like we’re all living every moment as if it might be our last. Got a song? Get it out there. Who has time to wait?
Whether or not this is actually the case, there is a sense of something in the air. Perseverance? Determination? I suspect it has a lot to do with momentum. That’s right. I’m subtly applying the snowball analogy to the music community’s increased output. In some ways, we’ve come to expect new tunes on the regular. Want to stay current? Feed our ears! That’s one way to explain it. Or maybe Fredericton is just a very inspiring place to live. I’ve always thought so. No matter how you look at it, the music scene here is thriving and we’re all the better for it.
So instead of doing a ‘best albums of 2015’ feature, let’s focus in on single songs – those standout tracks that make us all really proud to call Fredericton home. Here’s ten tracks that I personally feel offer the best sonic representation of Fredericton music’s 2015.
Walk – Grand Theft Bus
This past year, Grand Theft Bus began rolling out a series of new recordings as they counted down the months to what has now become recognized as one of the best live shows of the year – Grand Theft Bus | The Barracks Tent | September 18, 2015 | Harvest Jazz and Blues. It could be argued that of the five new tracks the band dropped this year, Walk best represents what GTB have come to mean to so many New Brunswick live music fans. There is humour, a head nodding groove and the unmistakable sense of melody that has defined their sound since the very beginning. Lyrically, Walk is a poetic trip that builds effortlessly to the hook. Oh man! The hook! It’s both infectious and delivered in an oh-so-clever manner.
If It’s Coming for Me – Keith Hallett
If there was ever a coin minted to commemorate Fredericton music, it would have Keith’s head on it. “Keiths or tails” we’d say, before tossing a coin to decide who has to go buy the next growler. If It’s Coming For Me is classic Hallett. It moves. It swings. And unlike a lot of modern day blues recordings, it’s rough around the edges. The way it should be. No personas or pretentious blues nonsense. Keith is as really as it gets and this song is a great representation of one of our city’s best.
The Fox – Dillon Anthony
Dillon is quickly becoming known as one of the city’s most active sidemen, adding his talents as a multi-instrumentalist to an ever-increasing list of musical acts. But this year marked his first release under his own name. Four Stories is the name of his stunning debut EP, a release that features over 20 guest musicians contributing their talents to his songs. A fitting first release for a man who has probably worked on at least that many projects for other artists over the past few years. The Fox features a beautiful vocal performance by Cedric Noel. Easily one of the year’s most standout tracks.
Slap Happy – David in the Dark
David in the Dark just sort of appeared out of nowhere. At least from where I stand. There was a time when they didn’t exist and then there’s the here and now – and they’re everywhere. A powerful ensemble writing music with a maturity well beyond their years. Their song Slap Happy got so much local airplay when it first surfaced as the single off the band’s debut EP, I figured it would run its course and fade back into the mix. But no. It remains strong and for many of us, is easily one of the most powerful tunes of 2015. Lyrically, it’s great. Musically, even more so. David in the Dark – one the greatest gifts of the year.
Fearsome Places – The Trick
Patrick Reinatrz is The Trick. He has been performing under the moniker for about a decade now. His amazing one-man show took a surprising turn last year when he took things one step further and filled out the ranks with a handful of fine musicians – a move that led to the creation of the three song EP, Fearsome Places. The title track is a mid-tempo, hook-filled beauty that features backing vocals by Motherhood’s Penelope Stevens and what might be the defining guitar solo of the year, delivered by none other than Fredericton’s most outspoken librarian, Mike Nason.
The Grey – Kill Chicago
Again with a title track! Last September Kill Chicago released their much anticipated debut full-length recording. Recently the subject of a new video series created in partnership with The Recordery, KC’s The Grey became hammered into my head during long hours spent editing video footage. I thought I would have grown tired of it after the 20th play but instead, I’ve grown to appreciate it more, specifically, the song’s structure. The underlying reggae groove works so well beneath its rock-based exterior – clever juxtaposition that reflects this band’s accumulative strength and experience. Kill Chicago – more than just pretty faces. OK, that’s a stretch.
Sentiments – Cedric Noel
What can we say about Mr. Noel that hasn’t already been said? A prolific, passionate and diligent artist, Cedric Noel continues to grow with each new release, exploring new sonic territory whenever possible. An example for the rest of us? You betcha. Follow your muse Cedric. We’re forever in your corner.
Philadelphia – Brookside Mall
The award for Biggest Surprise of the Year goes to Brookside Mall. Philadelphia is a timeless, extremely catchy jam. The pitch, the swing, the homerun. The track confidently holds its own space within the city’s musical makeup, distinct enough to avoid comparison. It’s not often a group releases such a strong debut. Expect great things (and new music) in the coming year. One track is just not enough.
Civil War – Off Season
Which came first? The chicken or the egg? As one of two solo projects from New Brunswick music cheerleader JE Sheehy, Off Season kicked off the city’s year with this January release, the first single off his sophomore album, Venus. I love the way he blends both English and French lyrics to create a track that musically reflects our province in more ways than one.
Paris Sky – Andy Brown
This one was a surprise. On Andy Brown’s new album Season (2015), he has taken to exploring new sounds in a very engaging way. What may be the influence of producer Dan Ledwell or simply Brown’s own interest in trying something new, Paris Sky showcases sounds not associated with the bulk of Brown’s musical output. The track begins with a total earworm of an electric guitar lead. Paired with his proven ability to write a tear-jerker love song and a layered arrangement that shines particularly well as the song reaches its high point, Paris Sky is easily one of the best offerings from 2015.
There you have it. The year as I heard it. So many great sounds came out over the past year and so many more to come. Fredericton, you’re doing something right. We thank you.