Vinyl love: Doves “The universal want”

(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)

Artist: Doves
Album Title: The universal want
Year released: 2020
Details: red vinyl

The skinny: A couple of days ago, I wrapped up my end of the year countdown with this, Doves’ “The universal want”, coming in at number one on my list. So yeah, I finished off 2020 with this album and am starting off 2021 the same way.* I jumped on the pre-order for this record the moment it was announced, directly from Doves’ official website, because I wanted a copy of it in the limited edition red vinyl. It was initially delayed and when it finally shipped, took a few weeks to get to me in Canada, all the way from England, but I exercised patience and restraint and refrained from listening to the album until I was able to slip this beauty on to my platter. Of course, it was well worth the wait, both the 11 years between albums and the extra few weeks of travel time. The trio of Jimi Goodwin and brothers Andy and Jez Williams are still one of my favourite bands for the gorgeous, atmospheric rock that they make together. And yes, Geoff, lovely, red vinyl makes it all worthwhile.

Standout track: “Cathedrals of the mind”

*And with this post, I intend to take a few days off to recharge, see you folks next weekend.


Best albums of 2020: #1 Doves “The universal want”

Happy New Year’s Eve everybody!

Yes. We’ve finally made it to the end of the year and on this last day of 2020, I’m wrapping things up on my favourite albums list with my number one for the year. And now that I’ve gotten here, I can look back and see a definite recurring theme to the albums on this list.

Apparently, for me, 2020 was the year of long overdue comebacks. Of the ten albums, seven of these were the first for their respective creators in at least five years and two of those had seen more than a decade pass between releases! This album at number one, “The universal want”, Doves’ fifth record but first in 11 years is one of these (the other was Secret Machines’ “Awake in the brain chamber” at number five). The thing about comeback albums, though, is that they can go either way. There is always the fear of disappointment but luckily for me, there wasn’t a lot of that this year… at least, when it came to these new releases. The fact that this Doves album didn’t disappoint is something of a miracle and is testament to the magic this Manchester trio conjures when they are working together.

I first got into Doves way back in 2002 with their remarkable and magnificent sophomore release, “The last broadcast”. I was pretty much enamoured with their atmospheric and danceable indie rock right from the start. It was completely in line with my tastes up to that point and gave me hope for new music in the early 2000s. Every album they released was pure bliss to my ears and so when they announced a hiatus in 2010 after just four studio LPs, I took the news poorly. The break was never made official but the years passed anyway. A Jimi Goodwin solo album appeared in 2014 and then, the Williams brothers released an album of their own under the moniker Black Rivers. Both releases were good but they weren’t Doves records.

Then, at the end of 2018, just as I was giving up hope that I would ever see one of my favourite bands live, there was word that Doves were going to be doing a handful of live shows. The success of those bred some more. They never did make it to North America for any of these shows but as long as they were still playing shows, there was hope. And of course, the reissue of their first three records on coloured vinyl last year made me very happy. The cherry on the cake, though, was the announcement that work had begun on material for a new album, news that was received with equal excitement and trepidation.

“The universal want” was released as a birthday present to me this year but I didn’t listen to it right away. I waited until I received the record I had preordered so that my first exposure to it could be in the most optimum of circumstances. When the needle hit the wax, it was like home. No matter what else was going on at that moment, “The universal want” was a comfort. And every time I have played it since, the experience has been the same, which is a big part of why the album is my favourite of the year.

All ten tracks are near perfect and you could do worse than choose any of them for your introduction or sampling but these three are my picks for you. I could think of worse ways to spend a few months on this last day of the year.

“Cathedrals of the mind“: My first pick from this excellent album is track number five, a number the band has said was inspired by the loss of David Bowie. “Everyday I see your face. Everywhere I see those eyes. But you’re not there.” Frontman Jimi Goodwin has also called it a ‘prayer to the sonics’, a very spiritual soundscape then. Frittering synth strings over top gentle piano chords, warbling a kaleidoscope, hints of saxophones and harpsichords, everything distorted and adjusted to just beyond recognition. The idea of a Black panther speech sample sounds a bit different for this trio but it feels right in the context of the song, ripped out of time but perfectly of this time. And like all good Doves tracks, it has an expansive sound, voices and beats echoing throughout the cavernous halls. It’s like being looked down upon from the heavens, thought outside of thought.

“Prisoners”: “Just prisoners, we’re just prisoners of this life, though it won’t be for long. We’re just prisoners.” Listening to those lyrics, the second single to be released in advance of this new record feels very much in line with everything going on right now. But it wasn’t this lockdown and this pandemic that Doves were necessarily thinking about when they wrote the words. It’s more about that normal yearning for better times, times that will surely come. Goodwin has said about it: “Just over the horizon, there’s always something better. Sometimes we get trapped by our own behaviour. You can be a prisoner of your own thoughts.” It all begins with a light strumming on the guitar and a sprinkling of sunlight and wisps of haze and then that driving drum beat kicks in and the bopping bassline falls in step not far behind. There’s plenty alien and new, but it’s not strange at all. It’s familiar and comforting and fluid and when the guitar starts a-wailing amidst all the glow, you just have to soak it all in, bask in the glory of it all. And when it ends all so abruptly, the emptiness can easily be refilled by pressing replay or by dropping that needle again, just so.

“Carousels”: The opening track on the album was my first taste of the first new Doves in 11 years and it is probably still my favourite tune on the album. It’s a killer groove altogether, one that’s built around and expands upon a sampled drum beat by Fela Kuti legend Tony Allen. And it’s that rhythm that propels the song’s momentum, ramping up the childhood memory into fast forward and speeding up the merry-go-round to dizzying rotations. Yeah, the opening washes are just a tease, the voices that are just discernible through the haze are like a countdown to lift off. The piano tries to keep things just this side of even keel but everything else is just an explosion of pure joy. The roaring bass and wall scaling guitars just nod happily in agreement. It all plays to the nostalgia that is truly universal. As drummer Andy Williams says: “It’s a reminiscence of the times that we’d go to places like North Wales on holiday as kids. Places where you had your first experience of sound systems and music being played really loud.” It’s definitely a tune that ranks up there with all those great songs that beg to be played loud. If you can, wherever you are right now, turn it up to eleven, press play, and enjoy.

In case you missed them, here are the previous albums in this list:

10. The Strokes “The new abnormal”
9. Venus Furs “Venus Furs”
8. Bright Eyes “Down in the weeds, where the world once was”
7. The Beths “Jump rope gazers”
6. The Rentals “Q36”
5. Secret Machines “Awake in the brain chamber”
4. No Joy “Motherhood”
3 Phoebe Bridgers “Punisher”
2. I Break Horses “Warnings”

You can also check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.


Playlist: New tunes from 2020, part four

Good morning, good morning. I hope you’ve all had a wonderful holiday weekend and if you celebrate them, a merry Christmas and a fruitful Boxing day… well, as merry and as fruitful as possible, given the circumstances.

We’ve finally nearly reached the end of this crazy year 2020 (give yourselves a congratulatory pat on the back). We’re now just two days removed from New Year’s eve and the unveiling of my favourite album of the year, and here I am unleashing the fourth part of my ‘New tunes of 2020’ playlist series. This is the first time in the past three years of doing these playlist series that I’ve actually managed a fourth part, even though it has always been planned in the past. And this is only partially because of life getting in the way of my blogging and playlist creation fun. In reality, one of the biggest roadblocks to managing a fourth part for the fourth quarter has, in the past, been the lack of quality new releases. I’ve always found that the new music release calendar trails off a bit after November, brand new music giving way to reissues and best of compilations, just in time for Christmas giving.

I was more successful putting together this fourth playlist this year because I accepted these limitations and decided to make this a b-sides compilation of sorts. The first half of these tracks are new tunes that came out in October and the first half of November and the rest are tracks that didn’t make the cut, for one reason or another, for the first three playlists of this year but were still great enough to share. You may want to check out the other three mixes first (here, here, and here) but I think you’ll find this one just as excellent.

So let’s have a look at some of the highlights of this ‘b-side’ playlist:

      • “Hold my hand”, a raucous psych-rock mess by Death Valley Girls, aka a song pulled from the pages of a book called “Why haven’t I heard of this band before?”
      • A heavy-duty, jangly bundle of energy called “Love comes in waves” off the debut solo album by Ride’s Andy Bell
      • “Stay out”, a banjo barn stomper off “Keeper”, the latest album by Canadian alternative country trio Elliott Brood
      • Isobel Campbell’s soft touch cover of Tom Petty’s “Runnin’ down a dream”
      • A super fun, eighties throwback called “On division st.” by Brooklyn indie pop act, Nation of Language
      • “Vibrant colours”, the dreamy single off the debut album by new Canadian artist, Zoon, cheekily coined moccasin-gaze

For those who don’t use Spotify or if the embedded playlist below doesn’t work for you, here is the entire playlist as I’ve created it:

    1. “Hold my hand” Death Valley Girls (from the album Under the spell of joy)
    2. “Trade it” Slow Pulp (from the album Moveys)
    3. “Waving at the window” Travis (from the album 10 songs)
    4. “For sure” Future Islands (from the album As long as you are)
    5. “Impossible weight” Deep Sea Diver with Sharon Van Etten (from the album Impossible weight)
    6. “Worth it” beabadoobee (from the album Fake it flowers)
    7. “Distant axis” Matt Berninger (from the album Serpentine prison)
    8. “Say less” Nothing (from the album The great dismal)
    9. “Love comes in waves” Andy Bell (from the album The view from halfway down)
    10. “Stay out” Elliott Brood (from the album Keeper)
    11. “Weight of the world” 5 Billion In Diamonds (from the album Divine accidents)
    12. “Barcelona” Twin Atlantic (from the album Power)
    13. “Runnin’ down a dream” Isobel Campbell (from the album There is no other…)
    14. “Southwark” Yumi Zouma (from the album Truth or consequence)
    15. “Electric roses” Basia Bulat (from the album Are you in love?)
    16. “I got the hots for Charlie Watts” The Exbats (from the album Kicks, hits and fits)
    17. “What I’ve done to help” Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit (from the album Reunions)
    18. “Can’t get out” Woods (from the album Strange to explain)
    19. “Shake your diamonds” The Rentals (from the album Q36)
    20. “Chaos and confusion” Venus Furs (from the album Venus Furs)
    21. “Party with the kids who wanna party with you” Bad Moves (from the album Untenable)
    22. “The way things are” Porcelain Raft (from the album Come rain)
    23. “On Division st.” Nation Of Language (from the album Introduction, presence)
    24. “Bad girls forever” Pins (from the album Hot slick)
    25. “Vibrant colours” Zoon (from the album Bleached wavves)

And as I’ve said before, I’ll say again: Wherever you are in the world, I hope you are safe and continue to be well. Until next time, enjoy the tunes.

If you’re interested in checking out any of the other playlists I’ve created and shared on these pages, you can peruse them here.