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.

Live music galleries

Ten great Ottawa Bluesfest sets: #5 Future Islands – Tuesday, July 14th, 2015

(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.)

Future Islands live at Ottawa Bluesfest 2015

Artist: Future Islands
When: Tuesday, July 14th, 2015
Where: Bell Stage at 7:00pm
Context: (You may have noticed there wasn’t a ‘great set’ yesterday. This is because Bluesfest normally takes one day off during the festival, a sort of breather in the middle of the marathon, and it is typically the Monday. But now we’re right back to it. Enjoy the homestretch.)

I had been lukewarm on Future Islands since first hearing them back in 2010, really only enjoying a handful of songs and being only slightly more than ambivalent about the rest, but that one live performance I caught back in 2015 changed all that.

Frontman, Samuel T. Herring was quite the showman, all dramatic gestures and dancing all over the stage, and that’s something I wasn’t at all expecting. We all know about that crazy voice of his. It really is one of a kind. Watching him, you have no idea where it comes from, switching from lounge lizard to Tom Waits growl in an instant, much to the appreciation of the crowd. Indeed, he seemed hell-bent determined to connect with each and every audience member while the band behind him, Gerrit Welmers (synths) and William Cashion (guitars) and touring drummer, Michael Lowry, were just there, almost emotionless and motionless, providing a dense, synth pop palette upon which for Herring to work.

I found myself dancing along only three songs in and I wasn’t the only one. It was all a big Future Islands love fest party. And then… the skies opened up. Yes. It was another one of those sets.

Umbrellas and parkas came out and those without were soaked, including those on the stage. Yet to my surprise, they soldiered on, despite the downpour, and when the song they were playing finished, they started right into their popular single, “Seasons (waiting on you)” while the stage crew ran about the stage covering up equipment. The dancing picked up even more (if that can be imagined) and just when I thought the plug was being pulled, the band convinced the festival organizers to allow them to play one more song, “Spirit”, performed with much of the same gusto, Herring slapping emphatically at his chest through his rain drenched shirt. And amazingly, he called all of us warriors, in kind of a pot and kettle sort of way. It was awesome, a set I’m sure to never forget.

The intensity of Samuel T Herring
Gerrit Welmers and Samuel T Herring of Future Islands
Michael Lowry on drums
William Cashion of Future Islands
Gerrit Welmers, Samuel T Herring, and Michael Lowry, just as the rain is beginning
Samuel T Herring singing in the rain… downpour

Back in the Tall Grass
A Dream of You and Me
Walking Through That Door
Long Flight
Before the Bridge
The Chase
A Song for Our Grandfathers
Light House
Seasons (Waiting on You)


Best tunes of 2010: #8 Future Islands “Walking through that door”

<< #9    |    #7 >>

About a month or so ago, I had a discussion with fellow blogger Danica Piche over at Living a Beautiful Life about Bob Dylan in the comment sections of one our posts and she asked me which bands I had gained a better appreciation for after seeing them live. At the time, I mentioned Cake as the first band that came to mind (Don’t laugh. They put on a great show.) but said there were certainly many others. After further reflection, Baltimore-based synthpop trio, Future Islands would be an even better example.

I came upon their work rather haphazardly with their 2010 sophomore album, “in evening air”, finding it a rather fascinating sound. I remember describing it to friends as ‘Tom Waits gone synth pop’. Then, I paid them only mild attention through the release of another album (2011’s “On the water”) before they released their critically acclaimed fourth album, “Singles”, in 2014. But it wasn’t until I saw them perform live a year later at Ottawa Bluesfest that I really ‘got’ them. Frontman, Samuel T Herring really puts everything he has into his performance. It’s all passion and raw energy, as if each show he performed was the one he wanted to be remembered for. And that night, the skies unleashed a torrent of rain during their set but the band refused to concede to it, as long as the crowd was willing to dance. I went home afterwards and immediately put on their album, even before peeling off my soaked clothing, and you can bet it sounded different to me.

“Walking through that door” is one of my first run ins with the band, being the first track off their 2010 album. It was one of the few tracks that has stuck with me from the beginning and was a revelation performed live. The heavy bass drum machine that provides the song’s backbone becomes fireworks at the hands of the touring drummer. The squealing organ synths dances through your soul, never minding any such door. And Herring, whose growl in the recording can be heard just treading water above the synths, is a force when live, the man kneeling and pleading, banging his fists on his chest, urging the listener to stay with him, through sunshine and rain, through happiness and pain. The frontman leaves the stage every night soaked in sweat, voice raw, and exhausted, giving us his all. And if you listen to this song closely enough, I’m sure as hell that you can hear it.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2010 list, click here.