[Music] Live Between Us – The Tragically Hip (1997)

Collaboration post! Sarca from Caught Me Gaming and Kevin from Buried On Mars take on The Tragically Hip, Canada’s National band! Each week, we will travel through the history of releases by The Tragically Hip, going through EVERYTHING they’ve ever released in audio and video form – studio album, live show, video releases. So don’t forget to check out Kevin’s blog too!

Need to catch up? Previously:

In May 1997, I was about to embark on big life changes. I was graduating uni, and planning to make the big move to North Bay, Ontario to attend Canadore College to gain some practical skills in the Graphic Design program, and maybe eventually get a job in the field. All I really remember about this time musically is the weekly Spice Girls spotlight marathons on Much Music. I was in my own little world when it came to music, happily listening to RUSH, Tom Petty and the Crowes. By this time, the Hip had faded from my lips…but it continued to be in my ears without even trying.

Traditionally, I never really wanted to bother with concert albums, and through reflection for this blog post, I figure it had a lot to do with whether or not there was an accompanied visual component. In my past, I acquired Duran Duran’s concert album, Arena, in 1985 and INXS’s Live Baby Live when it debuted in 1991, but both have a concert video equivalent, so it felt ok to have the audio. What about the rest? I would take a ‘meh’ attitude. Is it because the album isn’t full of unique material? Is it that the band doesn’t perform as good live as they do on their albums? Is it because I feel I need a visual to feel connected to the performance? Is it jealousy because I wasn’t there in the crowd witnessing the band perform live? Maybe a little of all of it. I can say that with time and maturity, my musical taste for live albums has improved greatly over the years, and I find myself really enjoying them today.

The Tragically Hip’s Live Between Us is a concert album I never acquired until very recently… Although it wasn’t present in my mind, this release was getting daily radio play in the Spring of 1997, and surely still does. Having the reputation in Canada as being the best-selling live album by a Canadian band between 1997 and 2016, several of the songs were aired all the time on radio. According to RPM, Canada’s now defunct weekly music chart publication, Live Between Us began at #1 on the charts its first week (June 2, 1997) and continued to make the charts through that summer. It ended its tenure in the top 100 by late October that year. Springtime in Vienna got the ball rolling, debuting on the charts at #71, May 12, 1997, and topping to #7 in July. Yeah, like it or not, anyone with a radio living in the Great White North heard at least one of the songs off this album.

Critically, Live Between Us is pretty good as a live album. It showcases 14 songs from their November 1996 performance at the Cobo Arena in Detroit, Michigan. The band is tight, and Gord Downie’s voice is strong. Gord goes off on tangents and adds lyrics of other songs to his performances here – as was his way in concert – but in a fashion that fits the context of the song. What I don’t understand, however, is why they chose to only showcase one concert from one venue; perhaps this was the best one from the Trouble at the Henhouse tour?

The only thing left to ponder is the choice of songs on Live Between Us. All five studio albums released thus far are included here. Trouble At the Henhouse, the last studio album to be released before this one, and for which the Hip were out promoting, got four songs. Fully Completely and Day For Night have three songs a piece, while the first two releases, Up To Here and Road Apples have two songs each. I suppose you cram in what you can, but it seems a bit of a sacrilege to not include Locked in the Trunk of a Car or 50 Mission Cap, or Little Bones, instead opting for lesser known tunes like the Wherewithal and the Luxury. One thing I can say is that the lesser known tune, Don’t Wake Daddy, was my favourite performance here. Really, all of the tunes on Live Between Us are perfectly fine. The devil’s advocate says that it’s nice to hear some of the lesser known songs performed live for once! Maybe this album would have been better served as a double? Hmm.

At any rate, it’s pretty good. 4/5

Live Between Us
The Tragically Hip
1997

Thanks for reading! Now check out Kevin’s take!

[Music] Trouble At the Henhouse – The Tragically Hip (1996)

Collaboration post! Sarca from Caught Me Gaming and Kevin from Buried On Mars take on The Tragically Hip, Canada’s National band! Each week, we will travel through the history of releases by The Tragically Hip, going through EVERYTHING they’ve ever released in audio and video form – studio album, live show, video releases. So don’t forget to check out Kevin’s blog too!

Need to catch up? Previously:

I never actually owned a copy of the Tragically Hip’s fifth studio album, Trouble at the Henhouse, until a few years ago. What can I say; as much as I heard it over the summer of 1996 thanks in part to a friend who purchased the album, I never felt the pull to buy my own copy. Back then, the album seemed unbalanced in its offerings. Even now, listening to the album with refreshed ears with several revolutions on the platter this week, I can say that other than a few standout songs, Henhouse still doesn’t speak to me like the Hip’s previous efforts.

While Day For Night was a grittier, moodier album, Henhouse has seemingly stripped the grime away to get back to acoustic fundamentals. Of note is that Gord Downie’s voice, for the most part, takes centre stage instead of getting drowned out by the rest of the band. We benefit immediately in the first song, Gift Shop, with Gord’s vocals, crisp and clean. The track begins quietly, only to crescendo into a full rock song; a method that has become a Hip staple – seen again in the following song, Springtime in Vienna. Ahead By a Century is next, and is Henhouse‘s magnum opus; it’s pretty much a perfect song musically and lyrically. How can your heart not sing “tonight we smoke them ouuut“? It is certainly no surprise that it was a massive hit for the Hip.

I would be remiss not to mention other decent tunes on Henhouse: the bar room rocker 700 Ft Ceiling, the droning guitar strumming in the chorus of Don’t Wake Daddy (the air guitar comes out for this bad boy), and the dreamy sustained guitar in Sherpa that reminds me a lot of the Black Crowes.

The rest of the album’s songs miss the mark with me; I perceive them to be a string of forgettable unrefined tunes (Butts Wigglin, Let’s Stay Engaged), some with overprocessed vocals (Coconut Cream: Gord sounds tinny) or even icky lyrics (Apartment Song: she hates her ugly feet, and I hate this song). Now, before I start hearing the cats mee-ow from the audience, I am critiquing this with peace and love…and concern since it seems the Hip boys lost steam after writing such greats in Gift Shop and Ahead By a Century. It is almost as though the rest of the album needed to be left in the oven a little while longer to let them rise.

Overall, Trouble at the Henhouse does fare better than the Hip’s EP; it’s certainly better produced. But, one thing is for sure, after many spins, I am still having difficulty reaching the songs… or having the songs reach me on a higher level. Maybe I need to spin it some more?

3/5 for me.

Trouble at the Henhouse
Tragically Hip
1996

Thanks for reading! Make sure to check out Kevin’s take!

[Music] Day For Night – The Tragically Hip (1994)

Collaboration post! Sarca from Caught Me Gaming and Kevin from Buried On Mars take on The Tragically Hip, Canada’s National band! Each week, we will travel through the history of releases by The Tragically Hip, going through EVERYTHING they’ve ever released in audio and video form – studio album, live show, video releases. So don’t forget to check out Kevin’s blog too!

Need to catch up? Previously:

I remember buying the Tragically Hip’s fourth album, Day For Night, shortly after its September 1994 release date. My sis and I had been obsessed with Fully Completely, and couldn’t wait to listen to the new album. Its newest single, Grace, Too, had been making the airwaves, and the song had a different sound than I was used to hearing from the Hip; I was interested in what else they had up their sleeve.

This is around the time that “grunge” as a musical genre had its talons in media, and especially with the death of Kurt Cobain in the spring of 1994, it seemed that sound was definitely not going anywhere. Grunge was so prevalent at this time that I think I was starting to burn out on it. Every band was coming out with a similar sound. The Tragically Hip made some noticable changes in musical style with Day For Night, to a degree critics began lumping their latest effort in with the rest of the grunge shlock.

I did not take an instant liking to Day For Night. In fact, it took thoughtful effort to pull the CD out of the case and give it a listen. It may be that radio was covering what my player wasn’t doing during that period. It could be, too, that at that point of time I had a lot of distractions: I was in my second year of an intense double major program, a part of which kept me in studio 12 hours a week, all compounded by a broken leg that November that did not heal properly (a story for another time). I had a lot of preoccupation! Even so, I felt that Day For Night was just “ok”. It wasn’t until my “Hip” friend Sandra and I hung out during the summer of 1996 that the album saw more frequent spins. It definitely needed more of my ear-time to fully appreciate it for what it wasn’t, which is a grunge record. Now, I can say I like it – not every song appeals to me, but it does have a couple of songs that have become forever favourites.

No doubt, Day For Night is a more brooding album than previous releases. This 59-minute 14-song album showcases a sophisticated and experimental sensibility not seen up until now, and attempts to shed the Hip’s bar room band persona for harder, yet more atmospheric, offerings. No better example of this than with the first song, Grace, Too: a quiet start that escalates into a wall of sound and echo that isn’t fancy, but effective. Gord’s powerful voice singing, “That’s what I’m here for!” can give you chills in the right context. This style of song carries through the entire album, seen in songs like Greasy Jungle, Yawning and Snarling, Fire in the Hole, Nautical Disaster, Thugs, and Impossibilium. Tunes Daredevil, Inevitability of Death and An Inch an Hour, do harken back to the Hip’s toe-tapping bar room days with familiar guitar riffs. Slower, subdued songs, So Hard Done By, Scared, Emergency, Titanic Terrarium smooth out the hard edges effectively.

Still, I have to say not every song is a hit with me. Greasy Jungle has become tiresome, thanks to radio. I never really liked Thugs, and I usually skip Fire in the Hole. I find myself gravitating towards the more unknown songs that never charted, like An Inch An Hour or Impossibilium.

Gord Downie, once again, wrote some significant lyrics in Day For Night, full of story and nuance, forever open to interpretation. Nautical Disaster, one of my all-time favourites, is a masterpiece lyrically. What band can write such an effective song about a disaster at sea that combines beautiful music, yet disturbing lyrics? My favourite song from the album, Emergency, has probably the most meaningful lyrics to me. If one were not to take the literal term of emergency as “urgent situation that needs action,” instead thinking of it in terms of “emerging,” the lyrics that repeat throughout: “emergency without end...” could mean we are ever-changing, and the creators of our own destiny…like a god.

Then Gord ends Emergency with the following line*:

...and your finger starts to wiggle, and landscapes emerge...

Beauty!

I give Day For Night a 4/5. It took me a while to like Day For Night, and got to a 4. I do like the style departure, but some songs don’t hit with me like they probably should. In any case, it doesn’t have as strong an appeal as other Hip albums have. Still, 2 songs are my favourites; that says something!

Day For Night (1994)
The Tragically Hip

*These lyrics are also found in the last song of the album, Impossibilium.

Thanks for reading! Please check out Kevin’s take!

[Music] Fully Completely – The Tragically Hip (1992)

Collaboration post! Sarca from Caught Me Gaming and Kevin from Buried On Mars take on The Tragically Hip, Canada’s National band! Each week, we will travel through the history of releases by The Tragically Hip, going through EVERYTHING they’ve ever released in audio and video form – studio album, live show, video releases. So don’t forget to check out Kevin’s blog too!

Need to catch up? Previously:

Fully Completely, the Tragically Hip’s third studio album, was the first album I was “woke” to the Hip. I was very aware of Courage (For Hugh MacLennan), the first song on the album that began scorching the charts in 1993. Its catchy lyrics of “Courage, my word. It didn’t come, it doesn’t matter,” ear-wormed easily. You could hear people hum along randomly on the street, in restaurants…and it certainly didn’t stop: six singles were released from this album alone, so ear-worms abound!

If the entire Fully Completely album in and of itself is an ear-worm, then it’s one that I never get tired listening to. This is the full Hip package, folks – great rock tracks and some thought-provoking lyrics that touch on Canadian life, news, politics and sports. Gord Downie was obviously well-read. My mom always said that if I learned school subjects as well as I learn song lyrics, I’d be set. I struggled in History as a subject in school (memorizing dates was boring), but I am positive I could sit still and learn in Mr. Downie’s class!

It’s not just the lyrics. The tunes, man, those tunes are nothing but pure rock.

Courage (for Hugh MacLennan) starts us off with that familiar rock sound that only the Hip can muster. Gord Downie’s voice: strong and familiar. Looking For a Place to Happen, and its follow-up, At the Hundredth Meridian keep up the rock pace until the album’s fourth song, my personal favourite, Pigeon Camera; a great road trip song, gentle with its own ear-worm lyrics.

Lionized, a song with a sharper edge roars into gear, beginning with the provocative lyrics, “Cold wind blowing over your private parts”. Track 6 happens to be the actual first single from Fully Completely, a Hip fan favourite, titled Locked in the Trunk of a Car.

We’ll Go Too, a more upbeat tune that I interpret to be about life and death, rounds out at track 7, then the title track, Fully Completely, amps up the vibe of the album. The Bill Barilko-themed Fifty Mission Cap is next, a proud anthem that doesn’t rhyme much but tells an important tale of the Former Maple Leafs hockey player who “disappeared…on a fishing trip…”; another personal favourite. I mean, I’m not a hockey fan at all, but I learned something from this song!

Wheat Kings slows things down respectfully, again pulling from the Canadian headlines of the day, telling the tale of David Milgaard, wrongfully convicted of murder, and later exonerated. Things then jack up with the Wherewithal, only to be slowed down by the final song, Elderado.

I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up the album design: that cover is gorgeous. They say the band wanted something that represented decadence. Yes, there are naked bewbs. But, is it in poor taste? I say no, but, let’s not debate it. Let’s talk about the artistry of it! Artist Lieve Prins created this work of art using a Canon copier! Is the medium the message? I really love the colour scheme and how intricate the image is.

Fully Completely is another 5/5 album for me, in case you were wondering…

Fully Completely (1992)
The Tragically Hip

Thanks for reading! Be sure to check out Kevin’s blog for his take!

[Music] Road Apples – The Tragically Hip (1991)

Collaboration post! Sarca from Caught Me Gaming and Kevin from Buried On Mars take on The Tragically Hip, Canada’s National band! Each week, we will travel through the history of releases by The Tragically Hip, going through EVERYTHING they’ve ever released in audio and video form – studio album, live show, video releases. So don’t forget to check out Kevin’s blog too!

Need to catch up? Previously:

Road Apples, the Tragically Hip’s third studio release, is one of several of their albums I associate with having strong emotions. Every time I listen to this, I take the same trip down memory lane – ultimately a nice trip, with a few “road apples”. It’s a rocking good time for the most part, while there are a couple of the tunes that honestly make me tear up. How can this album get me rocking, but also have me grabbing the kleenex?

I hadn’t acquired my CD copy of Road Apples until years after its initial release. However, the album’s songs were not a stranger to me by a long shot. Go to any bar or restaurant in Canada, and you’d likely hear something from Road Apples play over the stereo whilst dining. It is also a great commuter soundtrack: my copy has been a frequent companion over the years, as I journey daily to and from work. Road Apples, musically, is just easy rock. No fancy footwork. But, listen to the lyrics: that’s were the magic is.

Road Apples starts with that familiar guitar riff from Little Bones. We are then thrust into an upbeat rock tune with lyrics that are fully prepared for bar room games and stale beer. Without a break from the rock, Twist My Arm has us tapping our feet, but the lyrics give a hint of Canadian politeness with its “After you, no after me, no I insist please, after me!”

Cordelia, third song on the album, is the top ten single that never was. It’s a gorgeous rock tune, that introduces itself warmly, then kicks the door in; its title immediately reminiscent of King Lear’s forever devoted daughter, but then Gord makes clear that he is “…not Cordelia, I’ll not be there”. One of my Hip favourites.

Road Apples is full of rockers that never made it to radio, but are still greats: Fight, Bring It All Back, and On the Verge all kick butt. I would be remiss if I failed to mention Budweiser’s theme song that never was, Born in the Water… Just kidding! The way that song starts always reminded me of old late 80s – early 90s beer commercials. The mellow tune, The Luxury, and the short and sweet The Last of the Unplucked Gems slow things down respectfully.

Let’s talk about emotional “grab the box of tissues” songs on Road ApplesLong Time Running is a slow dance… and I feel sad listening to it. My heart hurts reading the lyrics back and knowing Gord Downie is no longer with us. The Hip have since used the title Long Time Running in their 2017 documentary release of their last concert tour. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house when the Hip performed it for the last time…Then we have the quiet biographical Fiddler’s Green about a baby boy who died. I can’t help but choke up listening to it. What can I say, I’m a sensitive soul…

Lastly, let’s talk about my pinnacle tune from Road Apples: Three Pistols. The eighth track on the album happens to be one of a handful that I would consider “soundtrack of my life” songs… like, “play this at my funeral” songs. This is one of ’em, and it’s my favourite song on the record. Gord’s strong vocals are gorgeous here (maybe his best?). And me having a lifelong love of art (and formal education in Fine Art) the lyrics regarding Tom Thomson, Canadian painter who drowned before he could ever be considered part of the Group of Seven “paddling by” is an image that sticks with me. It also has one of the best quotable lines:

"I say, bring on the brand new renaissance, 
'cause I think I'm ready. 
And I've been shaking all night long, 
but my hands are steady..." 

Bring it on indeed.

Overall Road Apples is a fantastic and well-rounded rock record that wouldn’t disappoint by any stretch. No “road apples” here!

5/5
Road Apples
Tragically Hip
1991

Thanks for reading! Now head over to Kevin’s blog for his take!

[Music] Up to Here – The Tragically Hip (1989)

Collaboration post! Sarca from Caught Me Gaming and Kevin from Buried On Mars take on The Tragically Hip, Canada’s National band! Each week, we will travel through the history of releases by The Tragically Hip, going through EVERYTHING they’ve ever released in audio and video form – studio album, live show, video releases. So don’t forget to check out Kevin’s blog too!

Need to catch up? Previously:

Reviewing Up to Here, the Tragically Hip’s debut album, is a bit of a relief for me. This album is in my bones – every song familiar to me on an intrinsic level – whereas it took some effort to really dig in and review their EP.

Technically speaking, Up to Here IS the Hip. It’s good ol’ Rock n’ Roll, and offers up at least 4 of the Hip’s most popular tunes (Blow at High Dough, 38 Years Old, New Orleans is Sinking, Boots or Hearts). Up and down the track listing, this album fits nicely into the Hip canon, the songs so well-delivered, they can easily be mistaken for latter-day releases…Ok, I’ll speak for myself here: New Orleans is Sinking and 38 Years Old, in my mind, sound almost too mature or developed to be on a debut release and for some reason I’ve had to keep correcting myself in my thinking they were on their second album, Road Apples! Talk about a Mandela effect!

There is a definite maturation in the lyrics in Up to Here, that bring a very distinctive Canadiana slant to the songs; a major reason for the band’s popularity in Canada. The stories told in them are often a mix of history (38 Years Old, telling the true story of the ’72 Jailbreak at Millhaven Institute in Bath, Ontario), geography (New Orleans is Sinking) and biography in heartbreak (Boots or Hearts, I’ll Believe in You (Or I’ll Be Leaving You Tonight). The tunes are always thought-provoking in an indentifiable way. I find myself thinking about my own life listening to them. For example, Blow At High Dough, the first song on this album talks of filming a big film production in a small town and how both the Big Timer’s and the Average Joe’s worlds collide in interesting ways. From the first line, “They shot a movie once in my hometown…” I am instantly transported to the time over 35 years ago when a local production company filmed a short movie on my street. Sure, it was small potatoes by Hollywood standards, but it was a big deal for a 10-year-old whose mother actually had to sign a waver to have me in the (very blurry) crowd shots!

The other less-known songs (She Didn’t Know, When the Weight Comes Down, Every Time You Go, Another Midnight, Trickle Down, Opiated) anchor the other hits well. In fact, despite not getting much love or airplay, Another Midnight (a song I interpret to be about financial struggles) is a personal favourite – great harmonies, wonderful lyrics too:

He was a coal miner in the spring
Blinded with its dusty resolutions
Broke his back for higher contributions
Now he'd take anything...

If there was ever anyone who wanted an introduction to the Tragically Hip, I’d hand them a copy of Up to Here. This is one well-produced record, and not a single bad song; a solid debut!

5/5

Up To Here
The Tragically Hip
1989

Thanks for reading! Now head over to Kevin’s blog for his take!

[Music] The Tragically Hip (EP) – The Tragically Hip (1987)

Collaboration post! Sarca from Caught Me Gaming and Kevin from Buried On Mars take on The Tragically Hip, Canada’s National band! Each week, we will travel through the history of releases by The Tragically Hip, going through EVERYTHING they’ve ever released in audio and video form – studio album, live show, video releases. So don’t forget to check out Kevin’s blog too!

I’m late to the Tragically Hip’s 1987 self-titled EP, it being one of the very last albums to add to my collection. It certainly isn’t the first time listening to it, but I think my initial reticence adding it to my collection was that it isn’t as strong an album, and meh, I don’t like any of the songs. Acquiring it was more of a formality.

I’ve been listening to the EP for the better part of a week in preparation for this review and my feelings toward it have warmed up. So far, I feel it is the least polished studio release the Hip have produced, but saying that, I also realize that this IS their first shot out of the gate, so I am careful not to critique it too harshly.

The Hip’s EP is 27 minutes long, eight songs in total (originally 7, but in latter releases on CD and vinyl have an eighth). As tunes go, there is a definite “bar-room band” feel to them, pure rock with a side of Labatt Blue (to pull from the popular beer of 1987). Uptempo beats, typical guitar riffs, and catchy choruses that get their hooks into you after a few listens.

The band doesn’t make strange here: there is little doubt to me that musically, this release sounds like the Hip. Where I initially needed more convincing is understanding that the voice at the mic was in fact Gord Downie. He sounded very different here! In some songs, Gord sounds like he is singing too low for his register; Small Town Bringdown, the first song on the EP, and probably the most known song from this release, is a prime example of this. In others, we can hear some of that good ol’ Gord, like the patriotic tune, Last American Exit or his sad crooning on Killing Time.

Mostly, the song lyrics on the EP revolve around small town life, love and loss in relationships and some shananigans. My favourite song is Cemetary Sideroad for its catchy chorus. The least favourite would probably go to the tune, Evelyn, but overall, there isn’t any particular song that I downright hate. The tune, I’m a Werewolf, Baby did get the ol’ “*skip* Oops did I do that?” from Kevin who obviously finds the song really silly. I find it hilarious:

“I lose control, I just can’t stop
You look so good, like a big pork chop
Ripped my pants, ripped my shirt
Gonna eat your mother for dessert”

Hey, as silly as the lyrics are, i actually really like the tune. Upbeat, catchy, and it has werewolf howls – awoooo!

Of course, there is always a Hip song that hits home for me – Highway Girl reminds me that pre-pandemic, I was once a Highway Girl (and might still be one if COVID ever ends…). There are plenty of us out there who are currently Home Girls, including an unknown colleague and fellow Highway Girl whose Jeep I would silently salute daily in passing in the parking lot at my work adorned with a HIWAYGRL vanity plate and Hip bumper sticker.

All-Canadian Surf Club is the “bonus” track on the EP, and lyrically, it really dredges up the feeling of summers on the beach, with a Canadian flare, especially the “two-four of beer, jean jackets and blonde hair” reference.

It’s always cool to listen to first releases from bands who later achieved massive appeal. In some cases they’re diamonds in the rough; this is how I equate the Tragically Hip’s EP. You can see where they are just getting the “chemistry for greatness” worked out in those early songs. It took a few listens for me to appreciate it, but I’m buying it.

2.5/5
Tragically Hip (EP) – Tragically Hip
1987

Thanks for reading! Now, head over to Kevin’s blog for his take!

[Music] The Tragically Hip – My “Un-plucked” History

Happy Valentine’s Day! Well, the cat’s outta the bag now! I am *once again* embarking on a journey of tandem reviews with my husband, the one and only Kevin from his awesome website Buried On Mars!

The last collaboration series we embarked on, Kevin and I took on Led Zeppelin, reviewing every studio album released. This trip will see us travel through the history of releases by The Tragically Hip, Canada’s adopted National band. We’ll go through EVERYTHING they’ve ever released in audio and video form – studio album, live show, video releases…We do have a couple of holes in the collection, but we have done our best to even add to our collection recently in prep for this series.

So, stick around! And be sure to follow along with Kevin too!

———————-

The usual question gets posed when starting a series such as this, so let’s begin:

“How did you get into the Tragically Hip?”

Hm.

lol

Truth: I don’t remember -exactly- when the Tragically Hip entered my life.

My older sister was a fan of the Hip before I ever was. A student at the University of Western Ontario living in residence in 1990, she got to experience the Tragically Hip (AND the Barenaked Ladies) live in concert for free during UWO’s O-Week final concert. There was also the wild universe of college radio, and the musical tastes of her peers. I was still living at home six hours North and was cutting my teeth on the eclectic mix of Smiths and Led Zeppelin. I don’t recall the radio playing much Tragically Hip, but then again, we didn’t get a half decent rock radio station up in my hometown of Sudbury, Ontario until the spring of 1990.

Later on, my sis and I would give each other mix tapes, and I’d always be excited what interesting music she’d found for me to listen to. I would go for walks whilst listening to music after dinner; it’s during one of these times when I put my sis’s latest mix into the Walkman, and the Hip’s Blow at High Dough was at the top of the second side. I have a very strong visual memory – I can even remember where I was when I heard it – on Ontario St in Sudbury, rounding the corner onto Martindale. The song was on the radio during this period, but this was the first time I actually HEARD it…

Fast forward to 1993…by then The Hip was a staple on Canadian Radio. So, when my sister suggested we go to Another Roadside Attraction that summer, I jumped at the chance. The Hip were headlining, and it was sure to be a good time. I’m not going to rehash how Sarca became a rug under the mosh pit at that event except to direct you to my write-up here. All I can say is that event made me fall in love with the song Courage (for Hugh MacLennan) from the Fully Completely album. That fall, when I moved in with my sister, her copy of the album didn’t leave the stereo for weeks. I never did see the Hip live again.

Sarca SEEEcret: I never owned a Hip album until after my sister moved out in 1995 and I was forced to buy my own copy of Fully Completely. I did, however, own a Fully Completely t-shirt that I still have…


At this point, it was hard to find anyone who wasn’t a Hip fan or who didn’t know who they were. Day For Night and Up to Here were also added to the collection. I’d hang with my massive Hip Fan friend Sandra, and we’d have Hip Karaoke sessions (*in my mind* our rendition of “Ahead By a Century” was killer!).

Phantom Power was a turning-point album for me. I’ll reserve my review of it, but I’ll start here by saying, it got me through a horrible professional period in my life.

As for the rest, I had a very dry spell when it came to the Hip. A lot of living, a lot of working, busyness, nonsense…There were periods of time when I stopped buying and listening to music altogether, and our music collection embarrassingly lived in a powder blue Rubbermaid container (🛎🛎🛎 Shame!). I had several missing Hip albums, and even lost track of what album was most recent. This is something I have definitely rectified over the last 6 years or so, thanks to sheer collective will (my hubs included in that), and friends who have helped fill in some of the gaps in my collection (thanks, especially Aaron at the KMA!).

The rest is history! Still, I am unfamiliar with some of the Hip’s latter album releases, so my hope is that, like my deep dive into Led Zeppelin’s albums, that I’ll discover more “unplucked gems” in them.

Thanks for reading! Be sure to head over to Kevin’s blog for his take!

[For the Love of ‘Fee] Ninja Coffee 12 Cup Programmable Brewer

“For the Love of ‘Fee” is one coffee-lover’s attempt to machete through the tangle of coffee beans and brews to find an awesome cup of coffee. Juan Valdez follows ME!

If you’ve been reading my blog for a long time, you’d know that I love my ‘fee percolated. So I’m sure some of you are scratching your heads wondering why I am reviewing a drip coffee maker.

With this pandemic, our household has been fortunate to continue to keep working. However, the hubs works shift outside the home, and often rolls out of bed before the crack of dawn to hit the road…it’s a schedule that doesn’t really bode well with stove-top percolation: a brewing method that can take over 20 minutes from start to finish.

So, in early December when the hubs informed me his hours would be changing again to an even earlier start time, way before the Sarca wakes, I knew converting to instant coffee wasn’t going to cut it. Time to pull out our old programmable drip coffee maker from storage!

Well, our memory’s taste buds are definitely short, ’cause the coffee coming from that maker the first week wasn’t great; it vacillated between weak and bitter. To add to injury, the heating element was going, making the coffee stone cold before I got a cup in. On day three of the new schedule, we were talking about finding a replacement coffee maker.

It has been years since I bought a drip coffee maker (the model we replaced was a raffle prize won and gifted to us by Kevin’s parents). Buying one can also be a depressing experience in Canada, with our choices being cheaply made and cheaply made with a computer. I wanted to up my ‘maker game a bit, maybe get one that will do it all – a portable Starbucks barista if you will. It had been almost a year since I stepped foot into a coffee shop… and I’ve been dying for a flat white… But, in the end I wanted something that had one job and did it well.

Criteria I consider necessary in a coffee maker:

  • Must make 12 cups (less will not do!)
  • Must have a programmable timer.
  • Makes a HOT cup of coffee (um, if it doesn’t, then what’s the point?)
  • Doesn’t have a large counter footprint. (I mean, I’m not running a coffee shop after all…)
  • I don’t need a Master’s degree to use it. (I has dumb sometimes.)

Wish list:

  • Comes in black to hide stains.
  • Easy to keep its guts clean.
  • No big fancy computer inside that wants to think for you.
  • Automatic shut off can be shut off or extended past 2 hours (hard to find one that DOESN’T turn off after two hours…)
  • Choice of brew – bold and regular – hey, a coffee girl can dream.

After some research, I settled on the Ninja Coffee 12 Cup Programmable Brewer (called the Ninja 12-Cup going forward for brevity), ordered off of Amazon. It pretty much ticked all my required boxes, and satisfied most of my wish list. My experience with the Ninja brand comes in the way of a 1000 watt Ninja Professional blender I use every morning to make smoothies. It hasn’t busted in 3 years so there might be something to say for brand power.

The Ninja 12-Cup itself is black with some stainless steel, so it integrates well with the look of my kitchen. It also doesn’t take too much space on the counter, although I had to reconsider my original spot when I discovered its steam vents were located right at the top of the coffee maker, so steam would be released right on the underside of my new cabinets; a move to a different location fixed that.

This coffee maker has one exciting element that piqued my interest immediately: it has a removable water reservoir which you fill and the machine draws from. This is unlike typical makers that have you fill your coffee carafe and pour the water into the maker. I went with the removable reservoir with the hopes of keeping the insides clean, and since I’m not contaminating the water by pouring it into a vessel that has been holding coffee countless times, I’ll avoid that “stale coffee” taste out of the gate.

I wanted this maker to make a HOT cup of coffee, and the Ninja 12-Cup actually boasts a consistent brewing temp of ~201.5 F (~92 C). The maker utilizes a “blooming” method of brew that uses an extra-large “showerhead” that lightly soaks the coffee grounds before dispensing the coffee. This impressed me as other makers I’ve had appeared to have small spray nozzles that just dump the water on the grounds and drain into the carafe.

The carafe itself has an interesting removable lid that locks in place instead of snapping on, and has what Ninja calls “a flavour straw”. Not sure of the point of it, other than maybe it prevents over-flowing. The maker itself uses #4 cone filters, which I’ve never used before (I’ve only ever used the typical basket size). Our model did not come with a reusable coffee filter basket, but models that include one apparently exist (I’m guessing the American model has them).

There are some main programmable features to the Ninja 12-Cup, and a couple that were unexpected. There is the standard digital clock where you set the time, and program the start brew time. Other programmable options include small batch brew (for those times you just want to make 4 cups or less of coffee), as well as your choice of rich or classic brew. Honestly, I didn’t notice much difference using one or other type of brew setting. Rich brew is supposed to hold up its taste when adding cream and sugar, while classic brew is just your average cuppa. There is also a clean setting, where you can add a coffee cleaner solution (or your own vinegar and water mix) to the water reservoir and it will go through a cleaning cycle. I’ve already tried this and not much to say other than it takes about a half hour to run through its cycle…

The Coffee Maker computers want to take over…or Sarca’s a control freak

As much as I like complete control over my own appliances, there is just no escaping the tiny computers manufacturers are compelled to install in them. The Ninja 12-Cup attempts to maintain some control over their human overlords…The maker itself is easy to use and runs quietly – until the brew cycle ends when it announces the coffee is ready by way of 5 short beeps in succession. Unfortunately, you can’t shut that feature off, but at least the beeps aren’t sirens. Now, why would there be an alarm on a coffee maker?? People should just be able to wake up and smell the ‘jo. Ninja Dude, we don’t need your help. Ninja isn’t the only one to adopt beeps at the end of the brewing cycle…my Mother-in-law’s Breville maker does the same thing.  What I’d like to know from coffee maker manufacturers is why so many beeps?? Wouldn’t one do? Why beep at all??

Typical among coffee makers, you can only program one start time with the Ninja 12-Cup, except with this one, If you program the maker and then decide to change anything with the time or type of brew, the maker will blink and beep a dozen times warning warning warning you that a program has already been set! Do not mess with the program! This was one “feature” I did not expect.

One complaint I generally have about coffee makers is that a lot of them insist on turning off automatically after two hours; I’ve heard the reason is to reduce risk of fire. I have always hated that: “Why can’t I tell you when to turn off?!” Sadly, the Ninja 12-Cup won’t let me turn off that feature either, but, it provides a compromise where I am able to change the shut-off window from 2 to 4 hours. Yay, finally some control!

I am not an expert here, only that the Ninja 12-Cup will now be our 6th drip coffee maker to be carried over our threshold in 22 years (not to mention the PARADE of electric percolators we’ve owned too!). That said, I’m not going to say the Ninja 12-Cup makes the best coffee ever tasted, because it doesn’t. But, between the hubs and I, we both agree it makes a pretty decent cup for what you can get out of a drip maker. The coffee was hot and its warming element maintains heat, but again, it’s still not nearly as hot as we are used to with percolated coffee made on the stove (likely because we are not dealing with boiling water with a drip coffee maker). Something has to be said for the taste though, and the Ninja 12-Cup gives probably the best tasting at-home drip coffee I’ve had in a long while.

So, all things considered, if you are seeking a new drip coffee maker, the Ninja 12-Cup Programmable Brewer gets a nod from me.

[Music] Led Zeppelin Studio Albums – Ranked!

JINX! This is ~the Final~ collaboration post in this series! Sarca from Caught Me Gaming and Kevin from Buried On Mars have taken on Led Zeppelin! We have been reviewing a Led Zeppelin album on our respective blogs for weeks now! But….we’re not quite done yet! So don’t forget to check out Kevin’s blog too!

Inspiration comes when you least expect it. What inspired this whole Led Zeppelin series was when an impromptu Led Zeppelin listening session this summer prompted Kevin to asked me how I’d rank the Led Zeppelin studio albums from worst to best. After I rambled them off to him, he just did a “hmmm.” He then proposed this series to see if, after listening to all of them, I’d change my opinion.

Well, folks, here listed are, in my opinion (however humble), the worst to best Led Zeppelin studio albums. Here we go:

9. Presence

– My thoughts: This is my least favourite Led Zeppelin album. Aside from having terrible album art, Presence’s tracks are decently ok…they just aren’t Led Zeppelin GREATS, or even that memorable. It’s definitely not an album I’d pull off the shelf and listen to on repeat.

– Favourite song: Achilles Last Stand

– My Score: 3/5

8. In Through the Out Door

– My Thoughts: In Through the Door is one album where Led Zeppelin experimented with more styles in the rock realm, and took some risks. The majority of the songs are good, but In Through the Out Door  has I’m Gonna Crawl – my least favourite Led Zeppelin song.

– Favourite song: Carouselambra

– My Score: 3.5/5

7. Led Zeppelin

– My thoughts: A debut album that shows potential of what Led Zeppelin are capable of, but suffers a little from being a tad overworked with the overdubs and effects.

– Favourite song: Dazed and Confused

– My score: 3/5

6. Coda

– My thoughts: The previously unreleased songs chosen to be included in Coda were wise choices in my opinion. They all kick ass in their own right, and fit well together as a song list; really, not a bad one in the bunch. I love how the tunes showcase each band member’s talents well.

– Favourite song: I Can’t Quit You Baby

– My score: 3/5

5. Physical Graffiti

– My Thoughts: For the most part, every song on Physical Graffiti is solid, but this being a double album, there are a few songs that I feel could have been scrapped…a few bumps compared to the other Led Zeppelin albums I’ve reviewed, but I still like it a lot.

– Favourite song: The Wonton Song

– My score: 4/5

4. Led Zeppelin II

– My Thoughts: Led Zeppelin really redeemed themselves with their second album. I found it so good, that if there was ever an album to introduce someone to Led Zeppelin’s music, just say, “here” and hand them a copy of Led Zeppelin II. Top to bottom, this album showcases the hard rock blues that Led Zeppelin is known for.

– Favourite song: Bring It On Home

– My score: 4/5

3. Houses of the Holy

– My thoughts: To quote my review: “Houses certainly delivers more rock and less folk or blues than their previous efforts. there is a brightness or clarity to the songs too – no bleak messaging about the environment, no going to Mordor. The arrangement within the songs seem to have a sophistication not previously seen. The songs’ pacing is just right.”

– Favourite song: Over the Hills and Far Away

– My score: 5/5

2. Led Zeppelin IV

– My thoughts: Led Zeppelin IV has carried me through the thread of my life…A balanced album, musically and lyrically. I love it forever!

– Favourite Song: When the Levee Breaks

– My score: 5/5

1. Led Zeppelin III

– My thoughts: An eclectic mix of blues, hard rock and folk. A damn near perfect Led Zeppelin album…and crowned my favourite.

– Favourite song: That’s the Way

– My score: 5/5

There you have it – my ranking. And to answer the question, no, my opinion didn’t change upon relistening, except Physical Graffiti moved further up the ranks. Let me know what yours are in the comments! Thanks for following this series!

Now go read Kevin’s blog!