Vinyl love: Levellers “Levelling the land”

(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)

Artist: Levellers
Album Title: Levelling the land
Year released: 1991
Year reissued: 2016
Details: 2 x LP, 25th anniversary edition, includes bonus live disc

The skinny: Even if you are a regular on these pages, you could be forgiven for not noticing that I have been counting down my favourite albums of 1991 since midway through January, especially given the lackadaisical pace I am setting. But it’s true and I am enjoying it. In fact, just this past Thursday, I posted album number four and the album of our focus today appeared at number six a month ago. Levellers’ sophomore record, “Levelling the land”, is definitely my favourite by the band and when they announced this 25th anniversary reissue, I jumped all over it. The pressing includes “Fifteen years”, a song that wasn’t on initial pressings but was tacked on to the end of the cassette copy I purchased way back in the day. Also included is a bonus disc that features a live performance by the band of the album in full for its 20th anniversary back in 2011. I’m not typically one for live albums myself but it was a nice surprise nonetheless. It definitely captures the riotous, folk rock energy put forth by the fiddle, the didgeridoo, and an ecstatic crowd singing along with every word. Yeah, I’d be right there with them.

Standout track: “One way”

Best albums of 1991: Albums #10 through #6

Here we are, exactly three weeks into 2021 and this here will mark my sixth post of the year (though I consider the first one a continuation of the themes of 2020). And so far, I’ve been hanging out quite a bit in the early 1990s – happier and simpler times, in this blogger’s humble opinion. I’ve shared a couple of ‘Vinyl love’ posts on treasured pieces of my vinyl collection, albums originally released during a high point in my youth, and a few days ago, I wrapped up my Best tunes of 1992 series with Ride’s amazing “Leave them all behind“. So I thought I’d keep with the era and have another look back thirty years ago to explore my ten favourite albums from 1991.

As I mentioned when I counted down my thirty favourite songs from that year, 1991 was a big year for me in terms of musical exploration and discovery and because of this, it is one of my favourite years for music. To this day, a lot of my favourite albums ever were released in 1991. So as you can imagine, this one was another tough one for me to narrow down. Indeed, when the dust cleared, albums that I thought would be on this list, were not here. (Apparently, there can only be ten albums in a top ten.) Similarly, there are a bunch of iconic and influential albums that many of you might expect to be in this list that didn’t make the cut. Thus, I’ll forewarn you from now and spoil the twist ending in which you won’t find “Achtung baby”, “Nevermind”, nor “Loveless” anywhere in this particular series (though this last just narrowly missed the cut).

If you’ve been around these pages before, you’ll recognize today’s post as the tease, introducing the five albums that round out the latter part of my top ten. However, I’m changing things up with this series from here, and I’m not just talking about dropping the pretence that these first five albums are honourable mentions, though I’ve decided to do that too. Normally, after this one, I would lay out my five favourite albums for the year over the course of the next five Thursdays, one per week, but given that 1991 is one of my favourite years for music, I’ve decided to stretch things out and take my time with it. I will still focus on an album per post, doing my best to the paint each album’s importance to me and to music in general, but instead, will do so every other Thursday and wrap all this up by the beginning of April.

Are you excited? I am. So let’s do this. And of course, as we do, I’d love to hear your thoughts, both on my picks and what your own would be, if you had to rank your top ten albums for 1991, in the comments section provided with each post.


#10 Ned’s Atomic Dustbin “God Fodder”

The debut album by the five-piece from Stourbridge, England was just all kinds of energy and fun. Recorded when a couple of the band’s members were still just teenagers, “God fodder” and its songs are not deep lyrically, focusing instead on flashy and memorable titles and letting the rest just fall into place. Of course, it helped that their tight, Grebo sound that mixed punk thunder with electronic samples and dance floor rushing beats, had enough depth to cover off. The drumming was hectic and complex, the guitars loud, but it was the two bass players that really had Ned’s Atomic Dustbin standing out. I blasted so many of these songs at high volume when I originally purchased this album on CD. “Kill your television” is probably the track that most will remember from the album (it appeared on my Best tunes of 1991 list at #21) but I also really dug the track below.

Gateway tune: Grey cell green


#9 Spirit of the West “Go figure”

My introduction to the now iconic Canadian folk rock band from North Vancouver came by way of this, their fifth full length record. I caught the video for the song below, “D for democracy”, on the music video show, “Good rockin’ tonite”, and the love affair took off from there. I loved the sound but it was the depth of the lyrics that really hooked me. “Go figure” was a political record. It wasn’t that Spirit of the West didn’t venture here prior or since but there was a definite bent against the Brian Mulroney-led Conservative government at the time. This was also the point in the band’s storied history that they ‘went electric’, toying with rock, and adding drummer (gasp) Vince Ditrich to their official roster. This effectively alienated some of their previous folkie fans but drew in a larger alt-rock audience. For me, though, this is simply eleven unforgettable tunes.

Gateway tune: D for Democracy


#8 Chapterhouse “Whirlpool”

When people talk about the iconic shoegaze albums, the names often bandied about are “Loveless”, “Spooky”, “Souvlaki”, and “Nowhere”. I would humbly posit that “Whirlpool” should be considered as part of this same conversation. Chapterhouse’s debut was, for me, especially at the time, among the best that the genre could offer up. The five-piece from Reading, England collected for their debut nine beautiful tracks that walloped you from the inside. It was reverb-drenched washes of strobe lights, shoegazing with a danceable beat. It was organic but felt electronic, subterfuge and magic, perhaps foreshadowing their next move. But that’s a story for another day. We’ll just leave this near perfect single I’ve reference below for you to chew on.

Gateway tune: Pearl


#7 Blur “Leisure”

It’s funny that this album directly follows Chapterhouse’s “Whirlpool” on this list (and I swear that this wasn’t by design). I’ve mentioned before in these pages that I used to have a C90 cassette back in 1991, upon which these two albums were recorded on either side. So yeah, inextricably linked are these two albums for me. But where Chapterhouse’s debut knew exactly where its feet were planted, Blur’s wasn’t so sure. In the past, frontman Damon Albarn has called “Leisure” a bit of a mess. However, I feel that he’s being a bit hard on the album. Sure, it played both the shoegaze and baggy cards, but it played them well and there were some excellent songs that are still favourites of this big Blur fan today. You can include the one below, “Sing”, which appeared on the “Trainspotting” soundtrack”, and “There’s no other way”, which appeared on my Best tunes of 1991 list at number six.

Gateway tune: She’s so high


#6 Levellers “Levelling the land”

I’ve already told the story on these pages about how I discovered these guys watching MuchMusic’s City Limits when their video for “One way” was played on the show. I bought “Levelling the land” on cassette tape just based on hearing this one song. (We did such things back in those days.) And it became my Sony Walkman’s favourite cassette for a time. The fiddle/mandolin/harmonica/foot-stomping folk punk on the band’s sophomore release was great for walking around my small town, something I did a lot of in those days, because there wasn’t much else to do. It got so that I was singing along under my breath to each and every song and the many upbeat numbers put a hop in my step. Levellers are still a going concern today with many great tunes to their name but this is still quite possibly their high water mark.

Gateway tune: Liberty song


Check back two Thursdays from today for album #5 on this list. In the meantime, you can check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.

Playlist: New tunes from 2020, part three

Well, well, well. Here we are, three quarters of the way through the year and with the end of each quarter brings a new instalment in my playlist project.

You may recall that I was a bit late and a bit slow organizing parts one and two in this series, but they were both great mixes so if you haven’t already done so, go ahead and check them out as well. By comparison, though, I was a lot more on the ball with part three. Perhaps I’m finally getting used to this new reality. Or perhaps I’m sensing an end to this year and I’m subconsciously preparing myself to close things out. Indeed, I had already pretty much wrapped this one up before the end of September and ended up having to make room for the track from Fleet Foxes’ surprise album when it was announced last week. Because, well… how could I not?

This third playlist (like the others before it) is very much a retelling of the season by the music from which it came. These particular tunes soundtracked a lost summer. A season of people relaxing things up a little bit (perhaps too much in some cases) but still keeping aware of the risks this pandemic posed. People were trying to get out into the fresh air, to stretch their legs, to meet up with other people (at a safe distance) on patios and such. To catch up, tell stories, to reach out and try to grab on to some normalcy. There wasn’t a lot of options for travel and the weekend trips that my wife and I were used to taking each summer to get away didn’t seem worth the risk. Still, we took the odd day trip, got out on our bikes, and out into the outdoors on hikes. Yeah. It was a weird summer but these twenty five tunes brought the sun and cheer anyway. Damn it all. Thank goodness for music.

On that note, let’s have a look at some of the highlights of this season’s playlist:

      • Dream wife flirts with a bunch of different sounds on their sophomore record and all of it a bit raw but it’s this ear worm single, “Hasta la vista” of which I just can’t get enough
      • I almost took a pass on checking out the first new album in almost thirty years by British new wave rockers Psychedelic Furs and I’m so glad I didn’t, because I would’ve missed out on instant classics like “Wrong train”
      • I honestly never thought I’d have Shania Twain appear in my music collection but thanks to Canadian alternative country outlaw, Orville Peck, she does and I’ve found myself humming “Legends never die” on many an occasion since first hearing it
      • “My own soul’s warning”, the first new track by The Killers that has hooked me since their sophomore album was released back in 2006
      • New tune by Secret Machines, “Everything starts”, marks a welcome return by neo-prog rockers and it feels here like they haven’t missed a beat
      • And speaking of welcome returns, one of my favourite bands ever, Doves are back with new music and “Carousels” is just gorgeous – period, full stop

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. “A reason to celebrate” bdrmm (from the album Bedroom)
    2. “Hasta la vista” Dream Wife (from the album So when you gonna…)
    3. “I’m not getting excited” The Beths (from the album Jump rope gazers)
    4. “That’s how rumors get started” Margo Price (from the album That’s how rumors get started)
    5. “Run it” My Morning Jacket (from the album The waterfall II)
    6. “Must I evolve?” Jarv Is (from the album Beyond the pale)
    7. “Haha” Dehd (from the album Flower of devotion)
    8. “Wrong train” The Psychedelic Furs (from the album Made of rain)
    9. “If I told” Courtney Marie Andrews (from the album Old flowers)
    10. “Sunflower” Dizzy (from the album The sun and her scorch)
    11. “Televised mind” Fontaines D.C. (from the album A hero’s death)
    12. “Legends never die” Orville Peck with Shania Twain (from the EP Show pony)
    13. “Hard on everyone” Kathleen Edwards (from the album Total freedom)
    14. “Our new day” Levellers (from the album Peace)
    15. “Mariana Trench” Bright Eyes (from the album Down in the weeds, where the world once was)
    16. “My own soul’s warning” The Killers (from the album Imploding the mirage)
    17. “Birthmark” No Joy (from the album Motherhood)
    18. “Everything starts” Secret Machines (from the album Awake in the brain chamber)
    19. “Dig in” I Like Trains (from the album Kompromat)
    20. “This is not the indie rock I signed up for” Girl Friday (from the album Androgynous Mary)
    21. “(We are all mirrors)” Angel Olsen (from the album Whole new mess)
    22. “That emotion” Hannah Georgas (from the album All that emotion)
    23. “Carousels” Doves (from the album The universal want)
    24. “Solipsism” Fenne Lily (from the album Breach)
    25. “Can I believe you” Fleet Foxes (from the album Shore)

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.