Categories
Playlists

Playlist: New tunes from 2022, part three

If I was still looking at this blog as something that should be scheduled or on schedule or whatever, I might consider this post a couple weeks behind that “s” word. I’ve been trying* to post these quarterly playlist updates a couple of weeks after the end of each quarter but well, the two week vacation I took that spanned the end of August and the beginning of September put me a bit behind.

Yeah. That’s right. I took some vacation. Two weeks! It was the longest period from work that I’d properly taken since before the pandemic. I spent as much of it as I could experiencing nature, sitting by the water, going on hikes, and just generally taking in our province’s natural beauty. It wasn’t exactly restful, per se, but it was definitely good for the soul.

Prior to that, I actually attended several evenings of an honest-to-goodness music festival at the beginning of July. It was an amazing feeling to return to a bit of normalcy, see some bands I’d seen before and some I hadn’t, and seeing people outside of my bubble, all revelling in the ecstasy that is the live music experience. I say again, I t felt great. Then, the day after the festival ended, a friend of mine who I had attended a couple of the dates with texted me to say he had tested positive for COVID. So I tested myself and thankfully came through it clean. But it was definitely a bitter reminder for me that though we may be done with the pandemic, it may not necessarily be done with us.

Otherwise, the summer flew by in a haze and blur of sameness. With all the work, eat, and sleep, I am super thankful of my continued employment, general good health, and that I am continuing to spend my life with my very best friend and love of my life. And of course, there is always the music.

This third part of this annual playlist represents the music that has followed me and kept me going through this third pandemic summer. It is yet another great 25 tunes (for parts one and two, check here and here) representative of the best that’s been released during the last three months. Highlights include:

      • Opening things up with “Rockstar”, this ripping track off the third album by Momma calls to mind 90s rockers, like maybe Babes in Toyland and L7, but most definitely Veruca Salt
      • “Circumference”, a brilliant synth-pop gem by Working Men’s Club ripped right from the heart of the 80s
      • More dream pop beauty from Toronto-based indie pop quartet Tallies, a sweet explosion called “Wound up tight”
      • I’ve not been a fan of Animal Collective, nor Noah Lennox’s solo work as Panda Bear but his recent collaboration with Pete “Sonic Boom” Kember is pure sunshine, “Gettin’ to the point” is just a case in point
      • When I think of Kasabian, I typically think of blistering high energy numbers but this ballad called “The wall” off their latest record is equally full of passion
      • “It’s always the quiet ones” by Suede – that’s right, they’re back and it’s majestic
      • Kristian Mattson, aka The Tallest Man on Earth, covering “Pink rabbits” by The National is like a collision of some of my favourite music from a decade ago
      • Finally, Yeah Yeah Yeahs teamed up with Perfume Genius for “Spitting off the edge of world”, the magnificent first single of their latest album

Here is the entire playlist as I’ve created it:

1. “Rockstar” Momma (from the album Household name)

2. “All comes crashing” Metric (from the album Formentera)

3. “Day 21” Secret Machines (from the EP Day 21)

4. “Fables” Interpol (from the album The other side of make-believe)

5. “Circumference” Working Men’s Club (from the album Fear fear)*

6. “Vanishing point” Julien Baker (from the EP B-sides)

7. “So far for so few” The Sadies (from the album Colder streams)

8. “Eventually” Beach Bunny (from the album Emotional creature)

9. “Wound up tight” Tallies (from the album Patina)

10. “Parasite II” Kiwi Jr. (from the album Chopper)

11. “Gettin’ to the point” Panda Bear & Sonic Boom (from the album Reset)

12. “The wall” Kasabian (from the album The alchemist’s euphoria)

13. “Forever in sunset” Ezra Furman (from the album All of us in flames)

14. “A line of shots” The Afghan Whigs (from the album How do you burn?)

15. “Slowly” Preoccupations (from the album Arrangements)

16. “Roman candles” Death Cab For Cutie (from the album Asphalt meadows)

17. “Expert in a dying field” The Beths (from the album Expert in a dying field)

18. “It’s always the quiet ones” Suede (from the album Autofiction)

19. “Heart attack” Editors (from the album EBM)

20. “Pink rabbits” The Tallest Man On Earth (from the album Too late for edelweiss)

21. “First high” Nikki Lane (from the album Denim & diamonds)

22. “Backup plan” Maya Hawke (from the album Moss)

23. “Friday night” Beth Orton (from the album Weather alive)

24. “Pagan man” Pixies (from the album Doggerel)

25. “Spitting off the edge of the world (ft Perfume Genius)” Yeah Yeah Yeahs (from the album Cool it down)

Those of you who are on the Apple Music train can click here to sample the above tracks as a whole playlist.

And as always, wherever you are in the world, I hope you are safe and continue to be well. Above all, enjoy the tunes.


*Trying might be a strong word here.

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 1993: #27 Frank Black “Hang onto your ego”

<< #28    |    #26 >>

By the time I started listening to the Pixies, they had already released their fourth and ‘final’ album*, “Trompe le monde”. That album’s second single, “Alec Eiffel”, became my gateway and my friend Tim did the rest, sharing with me the best of their back catalogue. So though I was somewhat saddened by the news of their breakup in 1993, it was short-lived, because almost immediately afterwards, I started hearing bits of new solo work by the band’s ex-frontman, Black Francis, heretofore renamed as Frank Black. Indeed, the first single off his self-titled debut, “Los Angeles”, got a lot of attention right off the bat, plenty of radio air play, and its video hit the regular rotation on MuchMusic.

That a new release from Black came so quickly after the demise of his band was hardly a surprise to anyone. In fact, some critics had facetiously called “Trompe le monde” his first solo album, pointing out the reduced creative input by bassist Kim Deal. The tensions in the band at that time was palpable to all and sundry. Indeed, even while recording that album, he had discussions with the album’s producer about a possible solo album. He didn’t have a lot of new material at the ready to record so Frank Black had originally planned to record an album of covers. By the time he entered the recording studio in 1992, though, he had plenty of material, much of it a continuation of what he had begun with “Trompe le monde”.

“Hang on to your ego” is the only holdover from Black’s original concept, though when I first heard it on a mixed tape a university friend made for me, I had no idea it was a cover. It’s a great one, too, and by all rights should also appear on my 100 best covers series**.

The original was recorded by The Beach Boys for their “Pet sounds” album in 1966. It sounds of a carnival, slightly off-kilter with a janky piano, a tambourine, and a harmonium and very inventive and cool but you can’t forget that it’s the Beach Boys, all harmonies and wholesome, blonde hair and a tan. The original lyrics were re-written before the album’s release to cover up the drug references and it was renamed “I know there’s an answer”. The original recording with the original lyrics later surfaced on the 1990 reissue of “Pet sounds” and this is the version upon which Frank Black’s version is based.

And his cover betrays no hint that it was such, sounding nothing at all like a Beach Boys track, all driving guitars and drums and synths, a screaming guitar solo and instead of the telltale harmonies, Black’s ultra cool vocals are backed up by robots. Pure awesomeness.

*I am using the proverbial air quotes here because as we all know, the Pixies re-formed a decade after their dissolution to much success and further albums became a reality.

**Spoiler alert: I somehow missed including it on that list when creating it but that’s okay it’s here now.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1993 list, click here.

Categories
Albums

Best albums of 1989: #4 Pixies “Doolittle”

Here’s another album that originally came to me via my friend Tim. I feel like his name has come up quite a bit over the past few weeks. I sure hope he’s not reading all these posts lest it go to his head.

When I did my favourite albums of 1988 last year, Pixies’ debut long player, “Surfer rosa”, was at the number four spot on that list. And I wrote then how “Doolittle” was the first album by the band to which I was exposed. After Tim broke my will, I let him make me a copy to cassette but it wasn’t long before I bought a used copy on CD for myself. This sophomore album by the quartet from Boston is definitely my favourite by the band and on any other year, it might’ve been a bit higher up on the list. However, as I hinted a few weeks ago and as you’ll see over the next few weeks, 1989 was a loaded year, much like “Doolittle” is a Pixies album loaded with many of their biggest ‘hits’. Indeed, when I saw them in 2011, they were performing “Doolittle” in full, as well as the B-sides from the era, and that show played like a greatest hits set.

Pixies entered the studio at the end of 1988 to record their sophomore record armed with four times the budget that they had the previous time out and also with a different producer. Though the star of “Surfer rosa” was its raw sound and innovative production work by Steve Albini, the head of 4AD pushed Gil Norton on the band for the next one and the result was definitely cleaner and slicker with a greater emphasis on Pixies’ songs. Frank Black has said of the album that there was a battle at play, between the push towards a more mainstream sound and the band pulling back in attempt to keep their aesthetic intact. There are song pop songs here but there is also some racket.

“Doolittle” cracked the UK album charts from the start but only made a small dent in their native country, and this on the back of a couple singles getting airplay on alternative radio. However, it has consistently sold well over the years, eventually hitting platinum status stateside, and is probably their best known album internationally. There’s so much to like here but my three picks below are likely still my favourites on the album.


”Monkey gone to heaven”: The first single to be released off the album was also accompanied by the Pixies’ first ever music video. Lots of firsts here because it was also the first recording on which appeared additional musicians. Yes, Pixies’ three minute ditty about environmentalism was bolstered by a string quartet. Not that they were used in the traditional, symphonic sense, of course. Instead, they added an oomph to Kim Deal’s already muscle-bound bassline and Lovering’s pounding on the drums. Deal also adds harmonies to Frank Black’s crooning and screeching, lyrics he must have had a blast writing, and that crowds to this day, have a blast screaming along to: “The devil is six, the devil is six and if the devil is six. Then God is seven , then God is seven, then God is seven. This monkey’s gone to Heaven.”

”Debaser”: This track was never released as a single off “Doolittle”. That wrong was righted just shy of a decade later when it received a special release to promote the “Death to the Pixies” compilation. A lyric from the track was used to name the well-established 80s alternative and college radio blog/website “Slicing up eyeballs”. The song also inspired the creation of a little music festival called Lollapalooza when its original organizers witnessed 40,000 frenzied screaming the “Debaser” refrain along with Frank Black at the Reading festival in 1990. A more incendiary opening track you will never hear. From the Kim Deal’s rumbling bass line to Santiago’s screaming guitars and Black screeching nonsense about a Luis Buñuel film, which in itself was nonsensical. It all adds up to three minutes of madness and pure joy.

”Here comes your man”: “Outside there’s a box car waiting, outside the family stew, out by the fire breathing, outside we wait ’til face turns blue.” Now here’s a song where producer Gil Norton might’ve gotten the upper hand because this is as close to a pop song as the Pixies ever got. It’s no wonder it got released as “Doolittle”’s second single. Save for the discordant strum that kicks off the song, “Here comes your man” is pretty much blissful jangle pop, peppy drumming, fun little back climbing bass line, and Frank Black and Kim Deal both singing sunshine. And to be perfectly honest, this little gem was my gateway into the Pixies, falling in love with it immediately, the rest fell into place later. I can’t possibly count the number times I freaked out to this on the dancefloor. I’m pretty sure DJ Stephen Rigby played it every Thursday night at The Underground, the main campus pub I frequented while at York University, and every time it came on, there was group of friends I would always find at the centre of the crowd and we would jump around for its entirety.


Check back next Monday for album #3. In the meantime, here are the previous albums in this list:

10. The Jesus And Mary Chain “Automatic”
9. Galaxie 500 “On fire”
8. The Beautiful South  “Welcome to The Beautiful South”
7. The Grapes of Wrath “Now and again”
6. New Model Army “Thunder and consolation”
5. The Wonder Stuff “Hup”

You can also check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.