Playlist: À la mode – Thirty great Depeche Mode tunes

Depeche Mode is likely the band I have been following and listening to the longest out of all the artists that I would consider as part of my all time greats. I first came upon them mid-way through high school and have been listening to them ever since, which if you actually knew how old I am, you’d realized is quite a long time.

Back in 2020, the synth pop icons celebrated their 40th anniversary together as a going concern. The COVID pandemic likely scuttled some of the big plans the band might have had to celebrate the occasion but it thankfully didn’t impact their well-deserved induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. That very same year I dedicated a bunch of words and time writing three posts celebrating some of my very favourite tunes by Depeche Mode in the 1980s and 1990s and everything thereafter. I had mused back then that the group was due for a new album, given that it had already been three years at that point since their last.

When founding member Andrew Fletcher passed away in the spring of 2022, though, I figured that was it for one of my favourite bands. I’d heard that Martin Gore and David Gahan planned to soldier on as a duo but I didn’t believe anything would really come of it. When they announced the impending release of Depeche Mode’s 15th studio album, “Memento mori”, I knew I would give it a listen but never did I suspect it would be my favourite by the band in almost two decades.

Listening to tracks like “Wagging tongue” and “Ghosts again” reminded me of what drew me to them in first place. Indeed, this new album got me reminiscing, once again, on their incredible back catalogue, how it has soundtracked the best and worst times of my life, and has probably done the same for many others. And that thought got me thinking about my favourite tracks by Depeche Mode and I started putting together a playlist of what I’d consider to be the best of their best. A new playlist, I thought, what a novelty!

Usually, I limit these playlists of mine to 25 songs but it just didn’t seem enough for Depeche Mode so I stretched it to 30. And here is the playlist (with some commentary) in all its Youtube glory:

1. Dreaming of me

    • The band’s first ever single is the obvious place to start this playlist. Written by Vince Clarke, its light energy foreshadowed the dance pop material on their debut long player.

2. Just can’t get enough

    • The big single off Depeche Mode’s debut album, “Speak & spell”, is the only other song here written by founding member, Vince Clarke, who shortly afterwards left to form Yazoo with Alison Moyet. He was always concerned more with hooks than lyrics and this one left it all on the dance floor.

3. Everything counts

    • Martin Gore took over the bulk of songwriting duties with Clarke’s departure and he really started to hit his stride on the band’s third album, “Construction time again”. I’ve include an extended version of the first single, a rail against corporate greed and corruption.

4. People are people
5. Blasphemous rumours

    • “Some great reward” was the first album by the band that I purchased for myself on cassette tape, years after the band’s fourth album was released. I remember singing the chorus of the first of these two singles over and over again while delivering papers as a teen and the second one was favourite for turning up loudly in my bedroom when I was feeling low.

6. But not tonight
7. A question of lust
8. Stripped

    • I picked up a used CD copy of “Black celebration”, the fifth album, many years after its original release and a few years after becoming a fan. It marked a further journey into darker and more romantic (or is it just lustful) territory, as evidenced by the latter two of these tracks. The first was a bonus track on my CD that appeared in the 80s rom-com “Modern girls” and for some reason, always got under my skin.

9. Behind the wheel
10. Never let me down again
11. The things you said

    • The sixth album’s title was a tongue-in-cheek play on the group’s place in popular culture and their commercial appeal and ironically, found them finally finding success in North America. These three tracks from “Music for the masses” are Mode at their gloomy best.

12. Black celebration (live)
13. Somebody (live)

    • During their very last (101st) stop on their North American tour in support of the last album, the shows were recorded and collected as a double live album called “101”. It’s one of my favourite live albums of all time and given the playlist, considered by many as almost another ‘best of’ collection. It was my own introduction to much of their incredible back catalogue.

14. Enjoy the silence
15. Personal Jesus
16. Waiting for the night
17. World in my eyes

    • Coming off their most successful tour, the synth pop quartet then recorded what is arguably their best album. “Violator” spawned four incredible and at the time, ubiquitous singles, three of which are represented here. The fourth is one of my favourites of all time by the group, a haunting track that is best listened to with the lights out.

18. Death’s door

    • Depeche Mode contributed this uncharacteristically low-key track to the soundtrack to the 1991 Wim Winders film, “Until the end of the world”. It perfectly fit with the mood and lackadaisical pace of the film and those of us hungry for new music from the group ate it up.

19. I feel you
20. One caress
21. Walking in my shoes

    • Three years seemed an eternity between Mode albums at the time but 1993’s “Songs of faith and devotion” was worth the wait. It was by times more aggressive and rock-oriented than their previous work and at others, had a lot more soul and life. By all accounts, though, its recording was difficult and is the final album on which Alan Wilder appears, given he left the group after its tour cycle.

22. Barrel of a gun
23. It’s no good

    • The remaining trio soldiered on and returned with “Ultra”, their ninth studio album, in 1997. The results for me were a bit uneven. Though I enjoyed a few of its tracks, include the two singles above, this was the first of their albums that I rarely wanted to listen to all the way through.

24. Dream on

    • On “Exciter”, the group moved on from synth pop into electronica territory. The album’s first single was “Dream on”, on which Martin Gore set a driving guitar line against rave-ready beat and David Gahan gave it some soul.

25. Precious
26. A pain that I’m used to

    • “Playing the angel” found the group back in familiar Depeche Mode territory. Indeed, the two excellent tracks included here are both sleek, dark, and sexy.

27. Peace

    • The second single released off of Mode’s 12th studio album, 2009’s “Sounds of the universe” is real spiritual. The song is heavy percussive low end synths with high end electronic beats, flittering and frittering digital party streamers, and then, more synth washes give way to breakbeats and other flourishes.

28. Where’s the revolution

    • The group’s last album before the pandemic and before Andy Fletcher’s death whittled them down to a duo was 2017’s “Spirit”. It wasn’t my favourite of their albums but had a couple bright spots, including this twitchy and industrial, political call to arms.

29. Wagging tongue
30. Ghosts again

    • And here we are at the end, or is it a new beginning, only time will tell, but as I hinted at above, tracks like above two from the new album are some of their best in a decade or so.

For the whole playlist on Apple music, click here. Enjoy!

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.


Playlist: New tunes from 2023, part one

Well folks, it’s that time again. It’s time to share part one and the first twenty-five tracks of my annual multi-part playlist of new songs of the year. The beginning of 2023 in music.

Personally, I didn’t get a great start to 2023. I started to feel under the weather on New Year’s Day and it developed into a real nasty cough. Like most, I’m sure, I hadn’t gotten sick much over the past few years, what with social distancing and other health measures during the pandemic, so this one hit me really hard. The cough was so bad most nights that it kept me from sleeping. The eventual trip to the doctor landed me a chest x-ray appointment to screen out pneumonia (negative, thankfully) and a puffer to help keep the airways clear. Still, the cough stuck with me for almost two months.

Then, my workplace started returning back to the physical office in March. I know many had returned much earlier so I’m not likely to get much sympathy here but I had been working strictly from home for three years and the return has been a bit of a shock to the system. Packing a lunch and putting aside clothes from the night before, and setting the alarm for 5am have all been a re-learning process and of course, public transit has been more ugly than good. Still, I try to look at the positive side in that it’s only two days a week so far. Just another new normal to get used to.

2023’s not been all bad though. I’ve been in relatively good health since surviving that monster cough and have been eating very well. With the warmer weather, I’ve been getting out for walks in the fresh air as much as possible. I spent a weekend at the cottage with my some old friends that I hadn’t seen in over a year. And with spring arrived and summer on the horizon, here’s looking at more of these.

But let’s get back to the task at hand.

This will mark the fifth year running that I’ve done this exercise and I’ve found it enjoyable to go back every once in a while to see what I was listening to at various points and see which songs have held up and which have not. For the first year or two, I broke the playlist down into three-ish parts and it wasn’t necessarily as structured, but of late, I’ve done one for each quarter of the year and have somehow managed to put together a hundred songs by a hundred different artists for each of the last few years. This first part here is made up of twenty five songs from albums released between January and March and all things being equal, you should see twenty-five more songs from the spring months at some point in late July.

So without further ado, I’ll present the music that has helped keep me going over the first three months of 2023. Highlights include:

      • The near eight minutes of “The golden age” by Molly, which is as dreamy as dreamy can be
      • The debut solo album by Blur drummer Dave Rowntree was a very pleasant surprise and “Downtown” is just a great groove
      • Samia is lovely and brutal and honest on “Kill her freak out” and she might just have you singing along
      • It’s been seven long years since the last album by New Zealand’s The Veils and “No limit of stars” and the rest of the new double album is exactly what we’ve been missing
      • “Colossal waste of light” is the title track off an album by Eyelids, a group of Portland-based indie veterans that I checked out simply because of the involvement The Decemberists’ John Moen and discovered a heck of a lot to like in their brand of jangle pop
      • “Ghosts again” is my favourite track by synth pop legends Depeche Mode since 2005’s “Precious” and this latest record is quite possibly my favourite since 1993’s “Songs of faith and devotion”
      • The highly anticipated and perfectly titled debut full-length by indie supergroup, Boygenius, has joyously lived up to the hype and “$20” is a prime, rocking example of what to expect

Here is the entire playlist as I’ve created it:

1. “When the cynics stare back from the wall (feat. Tracyanne Campbell” Belle & Sebastian (from the album Late developers)

2. “The golden age” Molly (from the album Picturesque)

3. “When you stop” July Talk (from the album Remember never before)

4. “City of angels” Ladytron (from the album Time’s arrow)

5. “Downtown” Dave Rowntree (from the album Radio songs)

6. “Kill her freak out” Samia (from the album Honey)

7. “My blood runs through this land” Black Belt Eagle Scout (from the album The land, the water, the sky)

8. “Sinatra Drive breakdown” Yo La Tengo (from the album This stupid world)

9. “Odd to even” Amber Arcades (from the album Barefoot on Diamond Road)

10. “Unglow the” Pearla (from the album Oh glistening onion, the nighttime is coming)

11. “Fingers of steel” Shame (from the album Food for worms)

12. “Magic powers” Death Valley Girls (from the album Islands in the sky)

13. “Oil (feat. Stevie Nicks)” Gorillaz (from the album Cracker Island)

14. “The people say” Steve Mason (from the album Brothers & sisters)

15. “No limit of stars” The Veils (from the album …And out of the void came love)

16. “Colossal waste of light” Eyelids (from the album A colossal waste of light)

17. “Come back” Frankie Rose (from the album Love as projection)

18. “Meshuggah” Unknown Mortal Orchestra (from the album V)

19. “Baby snakes” Death and Vanilla (from the album Flicker)

20. “Cut the cord” Black Honey (from the album A fistful of peaches)

21. “Right here” Emiliana Torrini & the Colorist Orchestra (from the album Racing the storm)

22. “Ghosts again” Depeche Mode (from the album Memento mori)

23. “Too late for an early grave” The Reds, Pinks and Purples (from the album The town that cursed your name)

24. “Sixers” The Hold Steady (from the album The price of progress)

25. “$20” Boygenius (from the album The record)

Apple initiates or lab rats can click here to let me know if this link works to sample the above tracks as a whole playlist.

And as always, wherever you are in the world, I hope you are safe and continue to be well. Above all, 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.


Playlist (revisited): EDGE 102.1’s top 1002 of all time (1999 version)

Just over a year ago, I posted a playlist that I didn’t create. I wrote then about how I was doing a bunch of driving, was looking for a good long Spotify playlist to stream in the car, and finally settled on one my friend Tim had made. He created it using a countdown of the “Best 1002 songs of all time” as voted by CFNY (aka EDGE) 102’s alternative rock radio listeners way back in 1999. Then, not long after, well before I managed to get all way through the 900+ songs on the playlist, I switched my streaming service allegiances from Spotify to Apple Music*.

Then, a few months ago, I decided I wanted to finish listening to the playlist and to do so, started building my own version of the playlist on Apple Music. I really got an appreciation for the patience Tim must have had in building the original Spotify playlist because it took me quite a bit of time and searching to find the right versions of all these tunes. Interestingly, Apple Music was only missing 9 of the 1002 songs, whereas Tim’s Spotify version is a good 28 tracks shy, though I am sure Spotify’s catalogue has expanded some in the years since he originally put it together.

Another interesting point: I noticed while compiling this playlist something that didn’t really strike me while listening to the original. This list of the “best songs of all time” really is of its time and place.

The Tragically Hip is the artist with the most songs (22) on the list, outpacing iconic alt rock groups like U2 (19), R.E.M. (16), and Depeche Mode (14). And though The Hip are a pretty great band, pretty much universally loved here in Canada, they are largely unknown everywhere else in the world.

The list is also pretty heavy on the 90s grunge and post-grunge side of alt rock. Bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Smashing Pumpkins all have more songs on the list than The Clash, David Bowie, The Smiths, and New Order.

Nevertheless, it was fun to put this list together and has been fun revisiting it with my earphones over the last month or so. It’s a great selection of alternative/indie rock spanning from the 60s and 70s, through the 80s, and right up to heyday and wane of alternative in the 90s. Plenty of my favourites, as well as songs I don’t get to hear all that often but love, just the same.

If you’re curious, here’s the top 25 songs on the list and the rest can be found here:

1 Nirvana Smells Like Teen Spirit
2 The Smiths How Soon Is Now?
3 Pearl Jam Jeremy
4 U2 Pride (In The Name Of Love)
5 Nine Inch Nails Closer
6 The Tragically Hip New Orleans Is Sinking
7 The Cult She Sells Sanctuary
8 Soft Cell Tainted Love
9 R.E.M. Losing My Religion
10 Pearl Jam Alive
11 U2 With Or Without You
12 The Smashing Pumpkins Today
13 The Tragically Hip Blow At High Dough
14 Stone Temple Pilots Plush
15 Live Lightning Crashes
16 Talking Heads Once In A Lifetime
17 Soundgarden Black Hole Sun
18 U2 I Will Follow
19 Pearl Jam Even Flow
20 Peter Gabriel Games Without Frontiers
21 Tears For Fears Shout
22 New Order Bizarre Love Triangle
23 The Tragically Hip Little Bones
24 The Violent Femmes Add It Up
25 The Smashing Pumpkins Disarm

For you Apple Music users, you can link to my version of the playlist here. If you’re still on the Spotify, you can have a sampling at my original post here.


*I spoke a little bit about the reasons for making this change on one of my other playlist posts from last year.

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