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.

Best tunes of 2002: #11 Levellers “Wake the world”

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Levellers have already appeared on these pages, care of a post a year and a half ago, in support of their appearance on my Best Tunes of 1991 list at the number nine spot with “One way”. I wrote in that post how I discovered the band and fell in love with their sophomore album, “Levelling the land”, on which appears the aforementioned track. The next album, their self-titled third, was just as a great and I purchased a ticket for their local stop on the ensuing tour but for some reason, their North American leg was cancelled.

Things were not so rosy with me and the five piece from Brighton, England after that. I continued to buy their albums but found them not quite as solid and I considered packing it in after their 2000 release, “Hello pig”, which to this day, is my least favourite by the group. Nonetheless, I was still enthused enough by their back catalogue to drag Victoria to see them play an acoustic set at Lee’s Palace when they finally managed another North American tour in 2001. Of course, it was excellent and when they announced a new studio album in 2002, I couldn’t help but check it out.

“Green blade rising” didn’t return the band to its former status as biggest indie band in Britain but it was still seen as a return to form. Indeed, the album’s title was taken from an earlier song the band had written but renamed. It breathed new life into their folk and granola crunching infused pop/punk rock, raising the fist and calling to arms, and preaching to their already converted choirs.

“Wake the world” wasn’t released as a single from the album but it closed it off perfectly. It’s a quieter number. A humming bass rumble lurks throughout its three and a half minute duration, haunting and sustained piano chords keep time and move it along, and of course, Jonathan Sevink’s plaintive violin pops in to say hello and add to the mood. On top of all that, frontman Mark Chadwick is wistfully railing against indifference and ambivalence to the world’s woes while sitting safely in our own lives.

“Been sitting in silence safe inside four walls
Trying to remember the moment when we changed the rules
Do you take to your bed or do you take the cure
Been getting out of my head lately that’s for sure

So tell me when are we gonna wake the world”

Indeed, Mark, indeed.

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

Best tunes of 1991: #9 Levellers “One way”

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As I’ve already mentioned a million times in posts for this series, I was an avid, perhaps even rabid watcher of MuchMusic’s CityLimits on Friday nights. On one of those nights, the host at the time, Simon Evans, introduced the next video up as one by the Levellers, likening them to The Wonder Stuff, and then, played “One way”. Hearing the comparison to my undisputed favourite band in those days, I got up to press the “Play” and “Record” buttons on the VCR to be able to watch the video again later. And so started my love affair with the Levellers.

On the back of that one video and the countless times I rewound and rewatched it, I went out to purchase “Levelling the land” in short order and that cassette spent a lot more time being shuffled between my Walkman and my bedroom stereo than it did in its case. Little did I know in those days before the internet that this was the group’s second album, that they had formed three years earlier, and that they had already amassed a cult following of ‘travellers’ that travelled (for want of a better verb) with them all across England to attend their shows. Their popularity grew further with this album and the next, 1993’s self-titled full-length, to the point that they were considered the biggest indie band in the country, culminating in a massive headline set at Glastonbury to an audience topping 300,000.

This was all unbeknownst to me, of course. For my part, I later purchased “Levellers” on CD and had procured tickets to see their Toronto stop on the tour in support of it but unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be. Perhaps it was poor ticket sales or perhaps something else, but the show was cancelled and my $10 ticket refunded. I would finally get to see the band a number of years later, a decade after the release of “Levelling the land”, with my wife Victoria, whom I had, of course, indoctrinated to the album’s greatness. It was an acoustic show at Lee’s Palace, a mid-sized club venue and I particularly remember the guy behind me, probably from England, being so shocked at seeing the band play such a small venue, given how huge they were in their native country. That particular show has gone down as one of Victoria’s favourite shows, mostly due to the size, the intimate feel, the band’s energy, and the fact that she knew so many of the songs and could sing along with them.

“There’s only one way of life and that’s your own”

So “One way” was my introduction to the Levellers and to this day is likely still my favourite by the group. Does it sound like The Wonder Stuff? I guess… if I had to stretch things. It has that folk punk thing going for it, more punk than folk on this tune, especially when compared with other songs on the album. It has muscular bass and roaring guitars. It has funky drumming, popular around this time due to the acid house scene. It has screaming fiddles that play throughout, holding court, and pulling things all together. It has Mark Chadwick’s fresh-faced and jaded though hopeful vocals. It has the moral high ground and teen angst. And it has that anthemic chorus line that is filled with conviction and motivation.

Yeah, it’s great. Let’s rewind it and play it again.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1991 list, click here.