Back last month, I was standing in a crowd at Ottawa Bluesfest, watching 90s alt-rockers, Garbage, take the stage and smiling in spite of myself. And just as they were kicking into their first track, my friend Josh leaned in towards me and yelled over the ensuing ruckus, “That’s Butch Vig on drums, right? The guy that produced “Nevermind” and a bunch of other classic alternative albums?” I nodded, and yelled back, “That’s him.” Then, still smiling, I eased myself into the nostalgia and sang along with Shirley Manson for the next hour or so.
Vig has always been a busy guy in the music biz. He started off in a parade of bands, local to where he went to university in Madison, Wisconsin. He shifted gears and went into music production full time in the early nineties, working on seminal albums by Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth, L7, Crash Vegas, and of course, Nirvana. Then, he decided to get back into making music again, forming the aforementioned Garbage in the mid-90s and with them, released a number of hit singles on three massive records. Between this band* and continuing to produce other artists throughout the new century, you’d think that’d be enough for Vig. But not so.
He formed 5 Billion In Diamonds in 2017 with another producer in Andy Jenks, UK DJ James Grillo, and a host of other friends and collaborators. The idea was to create music as soundtracks to films that didn’t exist. The self-titled debut was a nod to the psych-rock of the 60s and 70s and they returned in 2020 with a sophomore album called “Divine accidents” that mined the indie rock of the 1980s. It doesn’t feel at all like anything Vig has had his fingers in thus far.
“Weight of the world” features The Soundtrack of our Lives’ Ebbot Lundberg on lead vocals. The heavy and pounding synths early on give way to jangly pop and a mid-eighties paisley underground aesthetic and the way Lundberg plays it on the mike, this almost could be a Bernard Sumner led side project. It is vibrations and ripples, concentric circles spreading out into the vastness of the open air and expansive water. It is cool and breezy and feels great all around.
*And another one-off album band back in the early 2010s.
For the rest of the Best tunes of 2020 list, click here.