I was doing my first tour of duty in Burlington, Vermont back in 1998. Even though I didn’t have basic cable in my apartment, I was able to pick up Much Music, the Canadian version of MTV. One day I was exposed to this video.
The sirens, the bass line, the guitars – the song was (and still is) perfect. This was the beginning of my love affair with Sloan, or if I was at one of their concerts, “Slooooooooooooan! Slooooooooooooooan!” In honor of their 10th studio album in their 20 year career, the excellent The Double Cross, this will be a journey through the Sloan discography with comments on my favorite songs from some of the albums. Chris Murphy, Patrick Pentland, Jay Ferguson, Andrew Scott – this one is for you!
Smeared (1992) – The full-length debut introduced Sloan as some blend of Beatle-esque harmonies and noise pop (think Sonic Youth around Goo). Basically if you think of Teenage Fanclub around this time, you have a good comparison of what Sloan sounded like. Three of the songs were from their Peppermint EP. Recommended: “Underwhelmed”, “I Am The Cancer”, “Marcus Said” – all Chris Murphy songs.
Twice Removed (1994) – “It’s not the band that I hate, it’s their fans.” The best lyric on one of Sloan’s catchiest songs, “Coax Me”. On their second full length album, Sloan fully embrace their power pop side. I love this album. Sometimes I like to use the term “ear candy.” This album is full of it! I want to recommend this entire album, but here are the biggest highlights (almost all of the album). Recommended: “Penpals” (Chris), “People of the Sky” (Andrew), “Coax Me” (Chris), “Bells On” (Chris), “Loosens” (Patrick), “Worried Now” (Patrick), “Deeper Than Beauty” (Chris), “Snowsuit Sound” (Jay), “I Can Feel It” (Patrick).
One Chord To Another (1996) – This is the second in their best four album run where I would want to recommend the entire album. This follows the same formula as Twice Removed and the gateway album for me, Navy Blues. Do you like well crafted, hooky, guitar based rock? Of course you do, and you should own this album. One of the songs, “Everything You’ve Done Wrong” appears in the movie The Virgin Suicides. Recommended: “The Good in Everyone” (Patrick), “Nothing Left To Make Me Want To Stay” (Chris), “G Turns To D” (Chris), “Everything You’ve Done Wrong” (Patrick), “Anyone Who’s Anyone” (Chris), “The Lines You Amend” (Jay), “Take the Bench” (Chris), “Can’t Face Up” (Patrick).
Navy Blues (1998) – This is where it all started for me. It’s my favorite Sloan album because it was the one that I heard first. Funny how that works that way. The guitars on this album have a nice “crunch” to them. So good. So very, very good. Recommended: “She Says What She Means” (Chris), “Iggy & Angus” (Patrick), “Keep On Thinkin'” (Chris), “Money City Maniacs” (Patrick), “Stand By Me, Yeah” (Patrick), “On The Horizon” (Andrew), “I’m Not Through With You Yet” (Patrick).
Between The Bridges (1999) – The last of their four album run of near perfect pop songs, Between The Bridges runs a lot of the songs together Abbey Road style. The songs don’t have as big of a rock “whallop” as Navy Blues, but you can still feel the 1960’s and 1970’s influence. This album was made for vinyl! Recommended: “The N.S.” (Andrew), “So Beyond Me” (Chris), “Don’t You Believe A Word” (Jay), “Sensory Deprivation” (Andrew), “All By Ourselves” (Chris), “A Long Time Coming” (Patrick), “Losing California” (Patrick), “The Marquee & The Moon” (Chris).
Pretty Together (2001) – After the four album run over seven years, you would expect any band to have a bit of a dip in quality. This album is Sloan’s dip. When I first heard it, I thought Sloan were just going through the motions. On occasion, I will listen to a song or two from the album. It’s still tough for me to sit through the entire album, yet I’m still recommending five songs. Recommended: “If It Feels Good Do It” (Patrick), “In the Movies” (Andrew), “Never Seeing The Ground For The Sky” (Andrew), “It’s In Your Eyes” (Patrick), “I Love a Long Goodbye” (Chris).
Action Pact (2003) – After Pretty Together, Sloan tried to bring back the rock in a pretty enjoyable return to form. Strangely, this was the only Sloan album I do not own in its entirety. Thus, only one song is recommended. Recommended: “Ready For You” (Chris).
Never Hear The End Of It (2006) – In what was a long time for Sloan between albums, they decided to put out an album of 29 songs clocking in around 70 minutes. Songs ran into other songs. It was pretty great. Recommended: “Who Taught You To Live Like That?” (Jay), “Flying High Again” (all four take a verse), “Right Or Wrong” (Jay).
Parallel Play (2008) – The shortest of Sloan’s albums after their longest album. Still, it sounded like they were having fun turning up the guitars again. Live a lot of the songs felt like new anthems. Recommended: “Believe in Me” (Patrick), “All I Am Is All You’re Not” (Chris), “Emergency 911” (Andrew), “Burn For It” (Patrick), “Witch’s Wand” (Jay), “Down in the Basement” (Andrew), “I’m Not A Kid Anymore” (Chris).
The Double Cross (2011) – You’re thinking, finally, this post is almost over. I’m still absorbing this album, so the list of the recommend songs may change later this year. It’s nice to see one of your favorite bands still putting out great music 20 years later. Basically, all I can do is to give a big “Thanks” to the little band from Halifax that could! Recommended: “Follow the Leader” (Chris), “The Answer Is You” (Jay), “Unkind” (Patrick), “Shadow of Love” (Chris), “Green Gardens, Cold Montreal” (Jay), “It’s Plain to See” (Andrew), “I’ve Gotta Know” (Patrick), “Traces” (Andrew), “Laying So Low” (Chris).