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.

Playlist: New tunes from 2020, part four

Good morning, good morning. I hope you’ve all had a wonderful holiday weekend and if you celebrate them, a merry Christmas and a fruitful Boxing day… well, as merry and as fruitful as possible, given the circumstances.

We’ve finally nearly reached the end of this crazy year 2020 (give yourselves a congratulatory pat on the back). We’re now just two days removed from New Year’s eve and the unveiling of my favourite album of the year, and here I am unleashing the fourth part of my ‘New tunes of 2020’ playlist series. This is the first time in the past three years of doing these playlist series that I’ve actually managed a fourth part, even though it has always been planned in the past. And this is only partially because of life getting in the way of my blogging and playlist creation fun. In reality, one of the biggest roadblocks to managing a fourth part for the fourth quarter has, in the past, been the lack of quality new releases. I’ve always found that the new music release calendar trails off a bit after November, brand new music giving way to reissues and best of compilations, just in time for Christmas giving.

I was more successful putting together this fourth playlist this year because I accepted these limitations and decided to make this a b-sides compilation of sorts. The first half of these tracks are new tunes that came out in October and the first half of November and the rest are tracks that didn’t make the cut, for one reason or another, for the first three playlists of this year but were still great enough to share. You may want to check out the other three mixes first (here, here, and here) but I think you’ll find this one just as excellent.

So let’s have a look at some of the highlights of this ‘b-side’ playlist:

      • “Hold my hand”, a raucous psych-rock mess by Death Valley Girls, aka a song pulled from the pages of a book called “Why haven’t I heard of this band before?”
      • A heavy-duty, jangly bundle of energy called “Love comes in waves” off the debut solo album by Ride’s Andy Bell
      • “Stay out”, a banjo barn stomper off “Keeper”, the latest album by Canadian alternative country trio Elliott Brood
      • Isobel Campbell’s soft touch cover of Tom Petty’s “Runnin’ down a dream”
      • A super fun, eighties throwback called “On division st.” by Brooklyn indie pop act, Nation of Language
      • “Vibrant colours”, the dreamy single off the debut album by new Canadian artist, Zoon, cheekily coined moccasin-gaze

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. “Hold my hand” Death Valley Girls (from the album Under the spell of joy)
    2. “Trade it” Slow Pulp (from the album Moveys)
    3. “Waving at the window” Travis (from the album 10 songs)
    4. “For sure” Future Islands (from the album As long as you are)
    5. “Impossible weight” Deep Sea Diver with Sharon Van Etten (from the album Impossible weight)
    6. “Worth it” beabadoobee (from the album Fake it flowers)
    7. “Distant axis” Matt Berninger (from the album Serpentine prison)
    8. “Say less” Nothing (from the album The great dismal)
    9. “Love comes in waves” Andy Bell (from the album The view from halfway down)
    10. “Stay out” Elliott Brood (from the album Keeper)
    11. “Weight of the world” 5 Billion In Diamonds (from the album Divine accidents)
    12. “Barcelona” Twin Atlantic (from the album Power)
    13. “Runnin’ down a dream” Isobel Campbell (from the album There is no other…)
    14. “Southwark” Yumi Zouma (from the album Truth or consequence)
    15. “Electric roses” Basia Bulat (from the album Are you in love?)
    16. “I got the hots for Charlie Watts” The Exbats (from the album Kicks, hits and fits)
    17. “What I’ve done to help” Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit (from the album Reunions)
    18. “Can’t get out” Woods (from the album Strange to explain)
    19. “Shake your diamonds” The Rentals (from the album Q36)
    20. “Chaos and confusion” Venus Furs (from the album Venus Furs)
    21. “Party with the kids who wanna party with you” Bad Moves (from the album Untenable)
    22. “The way things are” Porcelain Raft (from the album Come rain)
    23. “On Division st.” Nation Of Language (from the album Introduction, presence)
    24. “Bad girls forever” Pins (from the album Hot slick)
    25. “Vibrant colours” Zoon (from the album Bleached wavves)

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.

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.