Playlist: New tunes from 2021, part one

Happy Thursday everyone!

A treat for you, given that we’ve already made to the halfway mark of April. That’s right, it’s time for the first instalment in my annual four part playlist sharing new tunes released throughout the year.

Last year when I did my first playlist post, we were just one month into this pandemic thing and none of us had any idea what we were really in for. The music on that first list was all recorded and mostly released pre-pandemic when everything was still ‘normal’. I remember wondering what the impacts would be to musicians and recorded music and from what we’ve seen, despite the restrictions on live performances and travelling, tours and festivals are really the only thing we’ve lost. Sure, there’s been hiccups in the supply chain, causing delays in vinyl releases and the cost of records to steadily increase, but we’ve seen no shortage of good music released. In fact, it feels like creativity is at an all time high when it comes to new music.

I’d say that the majority of these here twenty five tunes were recorded under the shadow of COVID-19. In some cases, the artists were able to work together in person and in some, the process was virtual, working like many of us are having to do, in new and inventive ways. And new music being released is something for which I am super thankful. It’s something to which to look forward, something new and different, and as always, it feeds my soul. Now if only we all can get vaccinated and we can get back to enjoying live performances together. Something else to look forward to, I guess…

In the meantime, here are twenty five new tunes that have helped keep me going over the first three months of 2021. Highlights include:

      • From an album of covers by American singer/songwriter Pete Yorn, this take on The Stone Roses’ “Ten storey love song” is way more enjoyable than I ever would have thought possible
      • Margaret Sohn, aka Miss Grit, lays a haunting and shimmering bomb called “Blonde”, the centrepiece of her latest EP
      • “Michelangelo”, the opening track on Cassandra Jenkins‘ sophomore album calls to mind Jenny Lewis’s work on her 2008 album, “Acid tongue”
      • “I woke up with an open heart”, a hip lounge dreamscape built by Simon Raymonde’s latest project, Lost Horizons, with the help of reggae band, The Hempolics
      • For some reason, I never had the urge to check out POSTDATA up to now, but “Kissing” and the rest of the third album by the side project of Wintersleep’s Paul Murphy has me reaching for their back catalogue
      • Similarly, I had never listened to Scottish indie rock duo Arab Strap before but gave their first new album in 16 years a try and was drawn into the dark depths of opening track, “The turn of our bones”
      • And it all wraps up with “I don’t recognize you” by NewDad, a dream pop gem by a young new Irish band that feels like lazing in the park on a sunny day

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. “Alphabet” shame (from the album Drunk tank pink)

2. “Ten storey love song” Pete Yorn (from the album Pete Yorn sings the classics)

3. “Good girls (don’t get used)” Beach Bunny (from the EP Good girls (don’t get used))

4. “The last exit” Still Corners (from the album The last exit)

5. “Undecided voters” Kiwi Jr. (from the album Cooler returns)

6. “Welcome to the endgame” Typhoon (from the album Sympathetic magic)

7. “Sad cowboy” Goat Girl (from the album On all fours)

8. “Our heads, our hearts on fire again” The Besnard Lakes (from the album The Besnard Lakes are the last of the great thunderstorm warnings)

9. “Blonde” Miss Grit (from the EP Impostor)

10. “Hesitating nation” Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (from the album New fragility)

11. “Michelangelo” Cassandra Jenkins (from the album An overview on phenomenal nature)

12. “The wind was like a train” Wild Pink (from the album A billion little lights)

13. “Lanyards” The Hold Steady (from the album Open door policy)

14. “Goodtimes” Flyying Colours (from the album Fantasy country)

15. “I woke up with an open heart (feat. The Hempolics)” Lost Horizons (from the album In quiet moments)

16. “Faith healer” Julien Baker (from the album Little oblivions)

17. “Kissing” POSTDATA (from the album Twin flames)

18. “The balcony” Fruit Bats (from the album The pet parade)

19. “The turning of our bones” Arab Strap (from the album As days get dark)

20. “I like the way you die” Black Honey (from the album Written and directed)

21. “Brighter then” Real Numbers (from the EP Brighter then)

22. “R U 4 me?” Middle Kids (from the album Today we’re the greatest)

23. “In the middle of the way home” Tuns (from the album Duly noted)

24. “Party lines” Anna Fox Rochinski (from the album Cherry)

25. “I don’t recognize you” NewDad (from the EP Waves)

Wherever you are in the world, I hope you are safe, continue to be well, and well, 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.


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.