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Playlists

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.

Categories
Tunes

Best tunes of 2012: #17 The Raveonettes “Curse the night”

<< #18    |    #16 >>

My friend Tim was raving to me about The Raveonettes for a few years before I finally got around to listening to them. I think it was their appearance on some late night television show in 2007 that was the gentle nudge I needed. I couldn’t tell you now which show it was because it was so long ago and I likely only landed on it by happenstance while flipping through channels. I distinctly remember that they performed “Dead sound” and finding myself swooning over their dichotomy of harsh and soft tones. I immediately went out in search of the album on which the song appears and found it on the band’s third album, “Lust lust lust”. So started the love affair that continues to this day.

Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo originally got things going as a duo back in 2001 in Copenhagen, Denmark. They had formed a band around themselves for their first handful of albums but had given all that up by the time I caught up with them, realizing that theirs was the only input they truly required. Their dreamy noise created by a mesh of guitars, synths, and drum machines pulls heavily from the wall of sound ethos, triggering thoughts of The Velvet Underground, Sonic Youth, and the usual pack of 90s shoegazers.

“Curse the night” is track three on The Raveonettes’ sixth album, “Observator”, which was conceived by Wagner in the wake of a bender in Venice Beach, California. The album is so named because the songs draw inspiration from his observations of the people and way of life that he was exposed to while there. Our song today was never released as a single but it stuck out for me immediately upon first listen and was apparently important enough for the band to warrant a music video being filmed for it. You can watch this for yourself below. It takes for its backdrops the empty streets of the duo’s home city and the filming of it in black and white certainly fits the song’s atmospheric and lonely mood (though the ending of video is quite the twist that I’ve never quite sorted out).

“Curse the night” is driven by a slow but insistent and unavoidable beat, virtual drummer boys leading the march. The guitars and washes form a fog that gathers and follows in close behind. The words are sung almost as a ghostly lullaby, twin sirens wailing at the night, Wagner and Foo blending seamlessly at the chorus, voices as one, making Foo’s solo on the verses sound all the more frail, childlike, and alone, perhaps a lost youth, abandoned and forgotten, ruing the cold and darkness and quiet of the late night in the city.

“I cry back, I feel the streets say
I’m holding on, someone else escaped“

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2012 list, click here.

Categories
Playlists

Playlist: “Raging Retro” (a mixed tape)


So I was downstairs in the basement a few days ago, looking for something else entirely, when I came across a treasure trove of my old cassette tapes. Yes, you read that right: cassette tapes. And with that clarification, you may be asking yourself why I still have cassette tapes in my possession, especially when I no longer have the appropriate hardware on which to play them. Well… it would be the same reason why I still have piles of old concert tickets, old floppy discs, rough drafts of long forgotten and unfinished short stories, and other random bric-a-brac from my past, all cluttered together in the same roughneck storage bin. The memories attached to these things are priceless and irreplaceable and even though I only ever come across them once or twice a year (while looking for something else), I can’t bring myself to part with them.

It was while sorting through these cassettes, remembering when and for what reason I made each, and reading through the track listings, that I got the brilliant (well, you might not think so) idea to share one or two of these as part of my (Spotify) playlist series. I’m starting off with this one, “Raging retro”, because it’s one of only a handful of those in the box that I didn’t in fact make, but instead, was made for me. Susan, a scenester friend of mine in university (and who I haven’t spoken to in years), actually made a few mixed tapes for me, though this might be the only one that I still have.

As evidenced by the faded but still legible in some places playlist pictured below, the mix was conceived in October 1995. Susan wanted to share a taste of the songs that had been in constant rotation at an eighties night she started attending regularly the previous summer. I feel like this was one of the first times I ever heard the term “retro” being used in regards to music. I was dubious at first because the memories I had of the music from that era were not great but I ended up listening to the tape quite a bit.

Pretty soon, I was hearing the term “retro” everywhere, mostly in reference to music from the 1980s, and not necessarily the mainstream music to which I grew up listening . A couple of years later, I found myself going to a Toronto club named “Whiskey Saigon” pretty regularly on Sunday nights. Of course, that was the night the club had an eighties night that was so wildly popular that the radio station, Edge 102, broadcasted live to air every week and the club was constantly filled to capacity, on all three floors. Retro, for a time, almost became like a sub-genre of music all its own, which for some reason even appealed to young hipsters that were too young remember this music when it was originally released.

In 1997, the film “Grosse Point Blank” was released starring John Cusack (incidentally, another 80s icon making a comeback) with a soundtrack featuring a number of eighties songs, including ones by The Clash, The Beat, and The Specials (there were three other Specials songs in the movie that were not on the soundtrack). This movie and the ubiquitous presence on eighties night playlists is how songs like the Violent Femmes’ “Blister in the sun” resurfaced in the nineties, was infinitely more popular than when it was originally released in 1983 and is now considered a classic in popular music.

But I’ve gone off on a tangent, let’s get back to this mixed tape. For me, “Raging retro” was the springboard to regaining an appreciation of the 1980s. So many of those tunes on this tape became favourites of mine. And for those bands of which I wasn’t already a fan, it led me to delve deeper into their catalogues. Such is the magic of a well-executed mixed tape and the main reason why I’ve decided to share it with you all today.

As I mentioned above, some of the tracks in the listing are no longer legible. Apparently, purple ink doesn’t have the staying power against the sun and the passage of time as has black ink. Nonetheless, I was able to piece it all together and laid it out for you below. At least three of the songs were apparently too obscure to be found on Spotify but I at least managed to find YouTube links for those of you who want to know what you are missing as you peruse this delicious Spotify mix.

But before I get right into the playlist itself, here are some highlights that you definitely should check out and incidentally, half of those are ones that Spotify hasn’t made available:

      • “Sinful”, the debut solo single by Pete Wylie, who got his start in punk bands with Julian Cope and Ian McCulloch and led a band in the early 80s with multiple names, all including the word “Wah!”
      • The version of the early The The single, “Perfect”, that appears in the YouTube video linked below is the one that was on my cassette but I’ve never been able to locate a physical copy of it
      • Scottish new wave band Endgames never truly broke through but their single “First last for everything” was a mainstay on Edge 102.1’s 80s shows
      • The Chameleons UK were an English post-punk band that I always meant to explore, mainly on the back the very excellent “Swamp thing”, and I’m happy to say that I finally picked up a copy of “Strange times” this year
      • This a cappella cover of Yazoo’s “Only you” by The Flying Pickets is just as good as the original in my books
      • Canadian new wavers Boys Brigade were pretty obscure everywhere but here at home but their single “Melody” is definitely worth checking out

For those who don’t use Spotify or if the embedded playlist further below doesn’t work for you, here is the entire playlist as it appeared on the original mixed (complete with side titles):

Side one “Trapped in the 80s”:
1. Dexy’s Midnight Runners “Come on Eileen”
2. The Icycle Works “Birds fly (Whisper to a scream)”
3. A Flock of Seagulls “I ran”
4. Pete Wylie “Sinful” (unavailable on Spotify)
5. Naked Eyes “Always something there to remind me”
6. Big Country “In a big country”
7. The The “Perfect”
8. Alphaville “Forever young”
9. Endgames “First, last for everything” (unavailable on Spotify)
10. Chameleons UK “Swamp thing”

Side two “Disgruntled 20 somethings”:
11. New Order “1963”
12. Soft Cell “Tainted love”
13. Talk Talk “It’s my life”
14. R.E.M. “Superman”
15. The Boomtown Rats “I don’t like mondays”
16. Split Enz “I got you”
17. The Jesus And Mary Chain “Head on”
18. Nena “99 luftballons”
19. The Flying Pickets “Only you”
20. Boys Brigade “Melody” (unavailable on Spotify)
21. The Dream Academy “Life in a northern town”
22. The Smiths “Unhappy birthday”

And here is the promised embedded Spotify playlist for your listening pleasure. Get out your Vuarnet sunglasses and neon spandex and 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.