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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.

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Tunes

Best tunes of 2002: #4 The Decemberists “The legionnaire’s lament”

<< #5    |    #3 >>

“I’m a legionnaire, camel in disrepair, hoping for a Frigidaire to come passing by.”

And so begins yet another great track off The Decemberists’ debut album, “Castaways and cutouts”*. I got into this album and the following year’s sophomore album simultaneously, perhaps sometime in 2004, after reading about them in my favourite indie music magazine ‘Under the radar’.

I remember being immediately blown away by the songwriting of Colin Meloy. Being a word geek myself, I loved the wordplay and use of archaic terms and thought it hilarious that I found myself reaching for the dictionary when listening to the lyrics of a pop song, indie or not. But it was not just the choice of words that won me over. It was how Meloy employed them, creating worlds and weaving tales, vivid and imaginative and just so much fun. And then there was the music, indie rock with a folk rock flavour, sampling music from around the world, and not just evoking that of today, but from different points in time throughout history.

The Decemberists have gone on to make eight studio albums in total and a handful of EPs, and successfully navigated the jump from indie to the majors without losing an ounce of what made them great. Every one of their songs is an adventure and you would be hard-pressed to tell me that they are one of those bands whose songs all sound the same.

“The legionnaire’s lament”, despite its title, is an upbeat number. It was the song that first hooked my wife Victoria to the group and is one to which we both love to sing along. And though the words can be esoteric and the specific experience unfamiliar – that of a French Foreign Legion soldier stranded in the desert, his plane shot down in battle in a war over a hundred years ago – the sentiment of missing his love and his home is universal and instantly recognizable.

“If only some rain would fall on the houses and the boulevards and the sidewalk bagatelles (it’s like a dream). With the roar of cars and the lolling of the cafe bars and the sweetly sleeping sweeping of the Seine. Lord I don’t know if I’ll ever be back again.”

Our protagonist is faithfully represented by an angry and forceful strum on the acoustic, the mirage of a jaunty drum beat and playful electric guitar lick, but what really places you in the tune and perfects the feeling of homesickness for Paris is the frolicking accordion. So good.

*”July July” from this same album appeared earlier, at number nineteen, on this list.

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

Categories
Tunes

Best tunes of 2012: #15 Metric “Breathing underwater”

<< #16    |    #14 >>

So I’ve mentioned once before in the last month or so that this blog is quickly approaching its fourth anniversary*, and looking back over my posts, I’ve noticed, much to my own surprise, that with the exception of one of my Vinyl Love posts, Canadian indie rockers Metric have yet to have been the focus of a post on any of my lists.

Metric got its start as the duo of James Shaw and Emily Haines back in 1998 in Toronto. Drummer Joules Scott-Key joined on in 2000 and a couple of years later, bassist Joshua Winstead made the group the quartet that we now know and love. As I wrote in that aforementioned Vinyl Love post, I was aware of the group from their early days because of my friend Jez. He saw them a number of times at various intimate clubs when they came to Ottawa in support of their debut album, “Old world underground, where are you?”. After his first time seeing them, Jez tried dragging me along with him and though I was sold on the music of the album he loaned me, I never seemed to have the money to spare.

By the time I finally did see Metric live, it was a number of years and three albums later and their latest, 2009’s “Fantasies”, had garnered them enough success to earn them a spot on Ottawa Bluesfest’s main stage, albeit one at a time slot in the early evening. My wife Victoria was quite a fan of that album and so I was able to convince her to join me on the lawn of the Canadian War Museum (where the festival has been annually held up to last year’s rude COVID-19 interruption) on a warm summer evening in July. Metric’s energy was fun and we both enjoyed singing along with all of our favourites, though Victoria later pointed out that Haines’s dancing was sometimes awkward and her vocals not as strong live as they were on the recordings. My opinion slightly differed than my wife’s – I thoroughly enjoyed finally catching their live experience. I’ve since seen Metric twice more, both times at different festivals, including once in support of their next album, “Synthetica”, from which comes today’s song of focus.

If “Fantasies” broke Metric more into the Canadian mainstream, “Synthetica” finished the job, songs like second single, “Breathing underwater”, gilding the festival stages for the appearances. The intro of synths is like a laser show starting, the whir of exciting machinery, then comes Shaw’s stadium ready, dancing guitar line and the driving drums, regularly punctuated with exciting fills at perfectly opportune moments and Emily Haines can hardly believe that it’s her up on the stage, singing “Is this my life?”. Indeed, the song seems to be a meditation on their good fortunes and success, the achieving of the impossible, and the worry that they are not at all up to the challenge of supporting the weight of being adored by fans around the world. Meanwhile, the video is a collage of clips of their charged live performances and the masses of audiences, including footage from a performance at Lollapalooza the previous year.

Apart from all that, “Breathing underwater” is an incredible and uplifting synth tinged rocker that will have you dancing and singing along every time.

*Now in 11 days to be exact.

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