Categories
Playlists

Playlist: New tunes from 2021, part four

Well, we made through another year. It’s New Years’s Eve, a mere handful of hours left of 2021. I would normally be all optimistic for the new year, but I can’t help but question if things will really get better with the turn of the calendar. I saw someone post a meme recently on social media somewheres that gloomily said: “That moment that you realize that 2022 is pronounced twenty twenty too.” I laughed out loud because it rang so true.

Still, traditions must be adhered to. The countdown will go on, resolutions will be made and broken, young lovers will kiss at midnight, sparkling wines will be uncorked and guzzled, and of course, I will post the final instalment of my annual four-part playlist sharing some of the new tunes released during the year. You are welcome to go back and revisit parts one, two, and three, which include songs from the first three quarters of the year. And this final playlist, twenty five songs, much like the previous three, collects the bangers from the last three months. However, since new releases are typically scant at this time of year (the calendar usually being more full of reissues and box sets for Christmas), I bolstered whatever spots remain with the b-sides, or tracks that just missed being included in the previous three parts.

As rough as the year has been personally and for all of us collectively, we’ve at least had some great music being created and released to keep us going. In some areas of the world, things began opening up in the fall and live shows were being held, a sort of tease and taste of how things can be if they ever return to normal, and then, Omricon swept in to remind us that this pandemic isn’t quite beaten yet.

But let’s focus, just for a few minutes, on the joy of music, shall we? Right then.

Highlights of this playlist’s last twenty-five songs include:

    • “Still the same” is infectious synth pop from the latest album by Princess Century, the solo project of Maya Postepski (ex of Austra and TR/ST)
    • Always whimsical and dreamy and mellow rocking, Luna frontman Dean Wareham delivers fun on “The past is our plaything” from his newest solo album
    • On “Dying in LA”, Canadian indie electronic rock band, Gold and Youth, channels OMD and Simple Minds for the soundtrack of the film that John Hughes never made
    • And speaking of 80s revival, Nation of Language do their best impression of New Order on “Across that fine line”
    • It’s almost sickening how Elbow keep continuing to make untouchable and beautiful music each and every album but songs like “Six words” draw me in every time
    • Departure Lounge came out of nowhere earlier this year to release their first album in two decades and songs like the jangly “Australia” show why more people should have missed them
    • And finally, “(We like to) Do it with the lights on” is just one of many reasons I’m glad that Nicholas Thoburn didn’t stop making music as Islands, as he had threatened back in 2016

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, complete with links to YouTube videos:

1. “Pool hopping” Illuminati Hotties (from the album Let me do one more)

2. “Human touch” Pond (from the album 9)

3. “Still the same” Princess Century (from the album s u r r e n d e r)

4. “Mid-century modern” Billy Bragg (from the album The million things that never happened)

5. “The past is our plaything” Dean Wareham (from the album I have nothing to say to the mayor of L.A.)

6. “Aquamarine” Hand Habits (from the album Fun house)

7. “Bessie, did you make it?” Marissa Nadler (from the album The path of the clouds)

8. “Wasted” The War On Drugs (from the album I don’t live here anymore)

9. “Proud home” Lily Konigsberg (from the album Lily we need to talk)

10. “Miss Moon” Penelope Isles (from the album Which way to happy)

11. “Dying in LA” Gold & Youth (from the album Dream baby)

12. “Across that fine line” Nation Of Language (from the album A way forward)

13. “Turning green” Courtney Barnett (from the album Things take time, take time)

14. “It should have been fun” Pip Blom (from the album Welcome break)

15. “Royal morning blue” Damon Albarn (from the album The nearer the fountain, more pure the stream flows)

16. “Six words” Elbow (from the album Flying dream 1)

17. “Tell me tell me tell me” Rinse (from the EP Wherever I am)

18. “Australia” Departure Lounge (from the album Transmeridian)

19. “Too loud” Autogramm (from the album No rules)

20. “(We like to) Do it with the lights on” Islands (from the album Islomania)

21. “When I come around” Nap Eyes (from the EP Nap Eyes)

22. “When it breaks” Quivers (from the album Golden doubt)

23. “The right thing is hard to do” Lightning Bug (from the album A color of the sky)

24. “In the stone” The Goon Sax (from the album Mirror II)

25. “Jaywalker” Andy Shauf (from the album Wilds)

As always, 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.

Categories
Live music galleries

Ten great Ottawa Bluesfest sets: #1 Billy Bragg – Thursday, July 4th, 2012

(This year’s edition of Ottawa Bluesfest has been cancelled, for obvious reasons. In previous years, especially on my old blog, I would share photos and thoughts on some of the live music I was enjoying at the festival throughout the duration. So for the next week and a half, I thought I’d share ten great sets, out of the many I’ve witnessed over the years, one for each day on which music would have be performed. Enjoy.)

Billy Bragg live at Bluesfest, 2012

Artist: Billy Bragg
When: Thursday, July 4th, 2012
Where: Blacksheep Stage at 9:15pm
Context: Although I had been to multiple nights of the previous three festival years, 2012 was the first year I bought the full festival pass. On the opening night that year, I parked myself down at the Blacksheep stage for the duration. Though for that year, the Blacksheep stage was moved from its normal spot tucked behind the War Museum (where it was replaced with the short-lived Electro stage) and relocated to a spot not far away, actually, where the main merch tent is now placed. This stage location was one of the victims of stage reduction that took place not longer after to try to combat noise bleed between the stages (more on that in a bit).

I caught three very different but all very good acts that evening but the capper was Billy Bragg striding on to the stage shortly after 9:15pm, just him and his guitar. It was my third time seeing him live but it was the first time in over a decade and I had forgotten how integral his banter was to his live performances. His stories between the songs are almost as important to the Billy Bragg experience (and can be just as entertaining) as the songs themselves.

Tea in hand he cajoled and ranted on subjects like cynicism, government, the economy (if you know Billy, you know where he stands on these subjects) and the fact that he was being drowned at by the “disco” at the next stage where Tiesto was headlining. “You can wear mickey mouse ears all you want, it’s still disco,” he joked. “Come on, I’m fifty-f*cking-four years old!” Fifty-four he may have been, Billy Bragg rocked the set and he did it as he often does. Just him on stage. His set was mixed with songs from his Woody Guthrie repetoire (“Ingrid Bergman”), the classics (“Greetings to the new brunette”, “The milkman of human kindness” “Levi Stubbs’ tears”), and a smattering of new songs. Before one such new track, his anti-cynicism song “Tomorrow’s going to be a better day”, he forewarned of a whistling solo and cracked up when the crowd cheered him in the middle of it.

For his encore, Billy came out with a rendition of “Waiting for the great leap forwards” that had almost a completely re-written set of lyrics, adapted for current events, some of which seemed almost as if they were written that day, even on the spot. He finished his set with a singalong version of “A new England”, including an additional verse for his friend Kirsty MacColl, who famously covered the song in 1984 but died in a tragic boating accident in 2000. He provided the words to the chorus before he began but the crowd knew the words to the whole song and sang with him the whole way. Afterwards, he bowed humbly, threw his tea bag out into the crowd and that was it. Brilliant as usual.

Billy Bragg solo on guitar
Billy Bragg
Billy chatting with the crowd
Billy stopping for some tea

Setlist:
The World Turned Upside Down (Leon Rosselson cover)
To Have and to Have Not
Greetings to the New Brunette
Tomorrow’s Going to Be a Better Day
Help Save the Youth of America
Aginst th’ Law (Woody Guthrie cover)
Ingrid Bergman (Woody Guthrie cover)
All You Fascists Are Bound to Lose (Woody Guthrie cover)
Last Flight to Abu Dhabi
The Milkman of Human Kindness
Levi Stubbs’ Tears
There Is Power in a Union
Encore:
Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards
A New England

Categories
Tunes

Best tunes of 2002: #18 Billy Bragg and the Blokes “Some days I see the point”

<< 19    |    #17 >>

To be honest, Billy Bragg’s eighth album, “England, half English”, is not my favourite out of all of his work.

In fact, it was downright disappointing given that it was his first new album of new material in five years, this after spending some time resurrecting otherwise lost Woody Guthrie material with American alt-rockers Wilco, and gaining a brand new sector of fans in the US. The album’s promise was also predicated on the news that he was working with a full band again and that said band was to include members of the Faces, The Mekons, and Shriekback. I really wanted to like it… but I didn’t. At least, not all of it. There were a few gems in the heap, though, right? Else I wouldn’t be writing this particular post right now.

Songs like “Take down the Union Jack”, “Distant shore”, and this one, “Some days I see the point”, with more understated instrumentation, just seemed to work better with Bragg’s songwriting style. Where the songs get more playful in arrangements elsewhere, he almost sounds silly. (A case in point for me was that when I heard a more stripped-down, acoustic version of the overwrought “NPWA” and I found it almost palatable.) Maybe I am set in my ways but I feel like Bragg should always sound like it’s him busking on the street corner on his soapbox, rather than jamming as just one of the ‘blokes’ and trying to fit his message in.

Indeed, “Some days I see the point” sees Bragg actually questioning his message. With the slow plodding bass backbone, the tapping drums like wet bare feet amidst the lapping of waves on coastal rocks, the breezy sustained organs, and the gentle plucks at the guitar, Billy is escaping to nature to keep it real. It’s like, even with all the fun and noise on the rest of the record, he’s feeling the weight of the all cynicism and apathy, and questioning his existence.

“Gonna follow the path that climbs up through the trees
Walk along the cliff top and gaze out to sea
I feel free when I come up here
And if it’s clear some days I see the point”

It’s human and it’s sad and I can totally identify.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2002 list, click here.