Playlist: À la mode – Thirty great Depeche Mode tunes

Depeche Mode is likely the band I have been following and listening to the longest out of all the artists that I would consider as part of my all time greats. I first came upon them mid-way through high school and have been listening to them ever since, which if you actually knew how old I am, you’d realized is quite a long time.

Back in 2020, the synth pop icons celebrated their 40th anniversary together as a going concern. The COVID pandemic likely scuttled some of the big plans the band might have had to celebrate the occasion but it thankfully didn’t impact their well-deserved induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. That very same year I dedicated a bunch of words and time writing three posts celebrating some of my very favourite tunes by Depeche Mode in the 1980s and 1990s and everything thereafter. I had mused back then that the group was due for a new album, given that it had already been three years at that point since their last.

When founding member Andrew Fletcher passed away in the spring of 2022, though, I figured that was it for one of my favourite bands. I’d heard that Martin Gore and David Gahan planned to soldier on as a duo but I didn’t believe anything would really come of it. When they announced the impending release of Depeche Mode’s 15th studio album, “Memento mori”, I knew I would give it a listen but never did I suspect it would be my favourite by the band in almost two decades.

Listening to tracks like “Wagging tongue” and “Ghosts again” reminded me of what drew me to them in first place. Indeed, this new album got me reminiscing, once again, on their incredible back catalogue, how it has soundtracked the best and worst times of my life, and has probably done the same for many others. And that thought got me thinking about my favourite tracks by Depeche Mode and I started putting together a playlist of what I’d consider to be the best of their best. A new playlist, I thought, what a novelty!

Usually, I limit these playlists of mine to 25 songs but it just didn’t seem enough for Depeche Mode so I stretched it to 30. And here is the playlist (with some commentary) in all its Youtube glory:

1. Dreaming of me

    • The band’s first ever single is the obvious place to start this playlist. Written by Vince Clarke, its light energy foreshadowed the dance pop material on their debut long player.

2. Just can’t get enough

    • The big single off Depeche Mode’s debut album, “Speak & spell”, is the only other song here written by founding member, Vince Clarke, who shortly afterwards left to form Yazoo with Alison Moyet. He was always concerned more with hooks than lyrics and this one left it all on the dance floor.

3. Everything counts

    • Martin Gore took over the bulk of songwriting duties with Clarke’s departure and he really started to hit his stride on the band’s third album, “Construction time again”. I’ve include an extended version of the first single, a rail against corporate greed and corruption.

4. People are people
5. Blasphemous rumours

    • “Some great reward” was the first album by the band that I purchased for myself on cassette tape, years after the band’s fourth album was released. I remember singing the chorus of the first of these two singles over and over again while delivering papers as a teen and the second one was favourite for turning up loudly in my bedroom when I was feeling low.

6. But not tonight
7. A question of lust
8. Stripped

    • I picked up a used CD copy of “Black celebration”, the fifth album, many years after its original release and a few years after becoming a fan. It marked a further journey into darker and more romantic (or is it just lustful) territory, as evidenced by the latter two of these tracks. The first was a bonus track on my CD that appeared in the 80s rom-com “Modern girls” and for some reason, always got under my skin.

9. Behind the wheel
10. Never let me down again
11. The things you said

    • The sixth album’s title was a tongue-in-cheek play on the group’s place in popular culture and their commercial appeal and ironically, found them finally finding success in North America. These three tracks from “Music for the masses” are Mode at their gloomy best.

12. Black celebration (live)
13. Somebody (live)

    • During their very last (101st) stop on their North American tour in support of the last album, the shows were recorded and collected as a double live album called “101”. It’s one of my favourite live albums of all time and given the playlist, considered by many as almost another ‘best of’ collection. It was my own introduction to much of their incredible back catalogue.

14. Enjoy the silence
15. Personal Jesus
16. Waiting for the night
17. World in my eyes

    • Coming off their most successful tour, the synth pop quartet then recorded what is arguably their best album. “Violator” spawned four incredible and at the time, ubiquitous singles, three of which are represented here. The fourth is one of my favourites of all time by the group, a haunting track that is best listened to with the lights out.

18. Death’s door

    • Depeche Mode contributed this uncharacteristically low-key track to the soundtrack to the 1991 Wim Winders film, “Until the end of the world”. It perfectly fit with the mood and lackadaisical pace of the film and those of us hungry for new music from the group ate it up.

19. I feel you
20. One caress
21. Walking in my shoes

    • Three years seemed an eternity between Mode albums at the time but 1993’s “Songs of faith and devotion” was worth the wait. It was by times more aggressive and rock-oriented than their previous work and at others, had a lot more soul and life. By all accounts, though, its recording was difficult and is the final album on which Alan Wilder appears, given he left the group after its tour cycle.

22. Barrel of a gun
23. It’s no good

    • The remaining trio soldiered on and returned with “Ultra”, their ninth studio album, in 1997. The results for me were a bit uneven. Though I enjoyed a few of its tracks, include the two singles above, this was the first of their albums that I rarely wanted to listen to all the way through.

24. Dream on

    • On “Exciter”, the group moved on from synth pop into electronica territory. The album’s first single was “Dream on”, on which Martin Gore set a driving guitar line against rave-ready beat and David Gahan gave it some soul.

25. Precious
26. A pain that I’m used to

    • “Playing the angel” found the group back in familiar Depeche Mode territory. Indeed, the two excellent tracks included here are both sleek, dark, and sexy.

27. Peace

    • The second single released off of Mode’s 12th studio album, 2009’s “Sounds of the universe” is real spiritual. The song is heavy percussive low end synths with high end electronic beats, flittering and frittering digital party streamers, and then, more synth washes give way to breakbeats and other flourishes.

28. Where’s the revolution

    • The group’s last album before the pandemic and before Andy Fletcher’s death whittled them down to a duo was 2017’s “Spirit”. It wasn’t my favourite of their albums but had a couple bright spots, including this twitchy and industrial, political call to arms.

29. Wagging tongue
30. Ghosts again

    • And here we are at the end, or is it a new beginning, only time will tell, but as I hinted at above, tracks like above two from the new album are some of their best in a decade or so.

For the whole playlist on Apple music, click here. 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.


Best albums of 2010: Albums #10 through #6

So it feels like just yesterday that I wrapped up one of these series counting down my favourite albums of a select year, long past. In reality, it was only about a month ago but that one that I did for the year 2000 took almost two years to complete! Given this, you might think I would be reticent to start up another of these series, at least not right away, but not so. It’s almost like it feels like there’s something missing without one of these Best Albums series on the go.

This time around I am jumping ahead a decade to revisit 2010, a year that was actually quite amazing musically. I counted down my thirty favourite tunes of the year on these pages just over five years ago and I already did a similar countdown of my favourite albums for the year on my old music blog a bunch of years before that. Thus, it’s familiar territory we’re treading here (but not too familiar), many of the albums that will grace this list have a place in my vinyl collection, and those that aren’t there already are definitely on my wish list.

If you’ve followed me through one of these series before, you’ll recognize today’s post as the tease, introducing the five albums that round out the latter part of my top ten. From here, I used to out my five favourite albums for the year on a weekly basis and then, I tried stretching that to a bi-weekly basis. For this series, I make no promises but I am aiming to wrap this up in three to four months so maybe we’ll see a post every two to three weeks?

But before we go further, I’d like do a bit of a spoiler and a bit of indulgence and share a handful of albums (in no particular order) that didn’t quite make the list but are still worth your while:

  • Steve Mason “Boys outside” – the solo debut by the ex-Beta Band frontman is all kinds of psychedelic groove
  • Delphic “Acolyte” – another debut, this one the first of only two albums from the enigmatic, alternative dance group from Manchester
  • The Like “Release me” – the all-female quartet led by Z Berg went from alt rock to retro girl group, beach blanket bingo on their sophomore record
  • Frightened Rabbit “The winter of mixed drinks” – with their third record, the Scottish indie rock sextet continued a string of amazing albums that didn’t end until frontman Scott Hutchison’s death in 2018
  • Beach House “Teen dream” – the Baltimore-based dream pop duo found their footing with their third record and never looked back

With those out of the way, let’s delve into my top ten for reals. 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 2010, in the comments section provided with each post.

#10 Diamond Rings “Special affections”

John O’Regan made two records under the moniker Diamond Rings back in the early part of the previous decade. I remember seeing the album cover of the first of these, “Special affections”, for the first time and thinking that the image portrayed by Diamond Rings on it was an amalgam of Morrissey, David Bowie, and David Gahan of Depeche Mode. It’s no surprise, then, that there’s a definite 80s edge to the record. Its ten tracks ran the gamut, creating an expansive play school for O’Regan’s inner frontman to let loose in and laid down a solid base for his astonishing voice. The most obvious comparison point for his vocal work might’ve been Ian Curtis with his deep hued baritone timbre but there was more swagger here, invoking the glam of, say, Jarvis Cocker, Brett Anderson, and yes, David Bowie. For me, “Special affections” was a blast of pure oxygen the first time I listened to it, energizing my every fibre. Oh… and it sounded great on the dance floor.

Gateway tune: Wait & see

#9 Bedouin Soundclash “Light the horizon”

Kingston, Ontario-based Bedouin Soundclash’s fourth record, “Light the horizon”, was easily my favourite of the ska/reggae band’s albums. It is a solid ten tracks that leave it all on the floor, as opposed to the previous two albums that had as many forgettable moments as they did memorable ones. From the opening number, “Mountain top”, you can hear a subtle difference in their sound. I had always tended to attribute it to the addition of the incredibly talented Sekou Lumumba on drums here but perhaps it is more than that. There really is plenty of exuberance to go around, in not just with the drumbeats but also in Eon Sinclair’s bass lines, which you can feel dancing up and down your spine. Frontman Jay Malinowski, too, riffs along as if newly inspired and his pseudo edgy vocals keeping things real.

Gateway tune: Brutal hearts (feat. Coeur de Pirate)

#8 LCD Soundsystem “This is happening”

There was very little dispute that LCD Soundsystem’s third album, “This is happening”, belonged on the multiple end of year lists that it appeared on for 2010, given its pretty much universal acclaim and the belief at the time that it would be James Murphy’s final album under that moniker. Of course, hindsight being 20/20, we now know that the group reunited a few years after that “final” 2011 show at Madison Square Garden, released a studio album and another live album and continue to tour these days, but we won’t hold that against “This is happening”. The dance punk album is only nine tracks long but it clocks in at well over an hour, every song save for one is longer than five minutes. It’s like Murphy enjoyed playing with these songs so much that he couldn’t let go of them or perhaps decided that the remixes were much more fun than the original recordings. I, for one, trust his judgement on this point. The songs on “This is happening” end exactly when they should, like perfect guests at the wildest of house parties, they never overstay their welcome.

Gateway tune: I can change

#7 The Drums “The Drums”

The Drums’ self-titled, debut album and their last as a proper four-piece was like an extended ode to all music that is considered retro. If I were to reduce my thoughts on “The Drums” to three words, they would have to be “energy”, “energy”, and “energy”. Each song is bursting with (and pardon the oxymoron here) fresh sounding retro vitality. Channelling and blending the sounds of their influences in the post-punk of the eighties and the free and easy pop of the sixties, The Drums take peppy doowop rhythms, speed them up to double time and blast it all with synthesizer melodies that climb and slide down all kinds of staccato scales. I’ve heard them compared to The Smiths, Joy Division, and The Cure and I’d have to say: “yes, yes, and yes”. So if you’re a fan of these bands, as I am, the chances are good that you might enjoy more than a couple of the twelve tracks on the album.

Gateway tune: Best friend

#6 The New Pornographers “Together”

The fifth album by the supergroup/indie rock collective based out of Vancouver, British Columbia is complex and simple, quiet and bombastic, raw and fey, earthy and alien. And I’m not purposely being contradictory here. A lot of people have bemoaned the fact that The New Pornographers have gotten away from the punchy edge that coursed through their first two or three records but that has never bothered me. Even though I also enjoy their early work, right up until this year’s release, “Challengers” and “Together” were my two favourite New Porno albums. It is here that their sound has grown, either Newman had given in a bit to Bejar’s bizarre ideas or he himself had lost some of his marbles. The band has never sounded typical but on “Together” they felt like they were exploring the periphery of their own boundaries and the results are slightly darker (if that’s possible) and more cohesive but not. I know. Contradictory.

Gateway tune: Crash years

Stay tuned 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 2023, part one

Well folks, it’s that time again. It’s time to share part one and the first twenty-five tracks of my annual multi-part playlist of new songs of the year. The beginning of 2023 in music.

Personally, I didn’t get a great start to 2023. I started to feel under the weather on New Year’s Day and it developed into a real nasty cough. Like most, I’m sure, I hadn’t gotten sick much over the past few years, what with social distancing and other health measures during the pandemic, so this one hit me really hard. The cough was so bad most nights that it kept me from sleeping. The eventual trip to the doctor landed me a chest x-ray appointment to screen out pneumonia (negative, thankfully) and a puffer to help keep the airways clear. Still, the cough stuck with me for almost two months.

Then, my workplace started returning back to the physical office in March. I know many had returned much earlier so I’m not likely to get much sympathy here but I had been working strictly from home for three years and the return has been a bit of a shock to the system. Packing a lunch and putting aside clothes from the night before, and setting the alarm for 5am have all been a re-learning process and of course, public transit has been more ugly than good. Still, I try to look at the positive side in that it’s only two days a week so far. Just another new normal to get used to.

2023’s not been all bad though. I’ve been in relatively good health since surviving that monster cough and have been eating very well. With the warmer weather, I’ve been getting out for walks in the fresh air as much as possible. I spent a weekend at the cottage with my some old friends that I hadn’t seen in over a year. And with spring arrived and summer on the horizon, here’s looking at more of these.

But let’s get back to the task at hand.

This will mark the fifth year running that I’ve done this exercise and I’ve found it enjoyable to go back every once in a while to see what I was listening to at various points and see which songs have held up and which have not. For the first year or two, I broke the playlist down into three-ish parts and it wasn’t necessarily as structured, but of late, I’ve done one for each quarter of the year and have somehow managed to put together a hundred songs by a hundred different artists for each of the last few years. This first part here is made up of twenty five songs from albums released between January and March and all things being equal, you should see twenty-five more songs from the spring months at some point in late July.

So without further ado, I’ll present the music that has helped keep me going over the first three months of 2023. Highlights include:

      • The near eight minutes of “The golden age” by Molly, which is as dreamy as dreamy can be
      • The debut solo album by Blur drummer Dave Rowntree was a very pleasant surprise and “Downtown” is just a great groove
      • Samia is lovely and brutal and honest on “Kill her freak out” and she might just have you singing along
      • It’s been seven long years since the last album by New Zealand’s The Veils and “No limit of stars” and the rest of the new double album is exactly what we’ve been missing
      • “Colossal waste of light” is the title track off an album by Eyelids, a group of Portland-based indie veterans that I checked out simply because of the involvement The Decemberists’ John Moen and discovered a heck of a lot to like in their brand of jangle pop
      • “Ghosts again” is my favourite track by synth pop legends Depeche Mode since 2005’s “Precious” and this latest record is quite possibly my favourite since 1993’s “Songs of faith and devotion”
      • The highly anticipated and perfectly titled debut full-length by indie supergroup, Boygenius, has joyously lived up to the hype and “$20” is a prime, rocking example of what to expect

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

1. “When the cynics stare back from the wall (feat. Tracyanne Campbell” Belle & Sebastian (from the album Late developers)

2. “The golden age” Molly (from the album Picturesque)

3. “When you stop” July Talk (from the album Remember never before)

4. “City of angels” Ladytron (from the album Time’s arrow)

5. “Downtown” Dave Rowntree (from the album Radio songs)

6. “Kill her freak out” Samia (from the album Honey)

7. “My blood runs through this land” Black Belt Eagle Scout (from the album The land, the water, the sky)

8. “Sinatra Drive breakdown” Yo La Tengo (from the album This stupid world)

9. “Odd to even” Amber Arcades (from the album Barefoot on Diamond Road)

10. “Unglow the” Pearla (from the album Oh glistening onion, the nighttime is coming)

11. “Fingers of steel” Shame (from the album Food for worms)

12. “Magic powers” Death Valley Girls (from the album Islands in the sky)

13. “Oil (feat. Stevie Nicks)” Gorillaz (from the album Cracker Island)

14. “The people say” Steve Mason (from the album Brothers & sisters)

15. “No limit of stars” The Veils (from the album …And out of the void came love)

16. “Colossal waste of light” Eyelids (from the album A colossal waste of light)

17. “Come back” Frankie Rose (from the album Love as projection)

18. “Meshuggah” Unknown Mortal Orchestra (from the album V)

19. “Baby snakes” Death and Vanilla (from the album Flicker)

20. “Cut the cord” Black Honey (from the album A fistful of peaches)

21. “Right here” Emiliana Torrini & the Colorist Orchestra (from the album Racing the storm)

22. “Ghosts again” Depeche Mode (from the album Memento mori)

23. “Too late for an early grave” The Reds, Pinks and Purples (from the album The town that cursed your name)

24. “Sixers” The Hold Steady (from the album The price of progress)

25. “$20” Boygenius (from the album The record)

Apple initiates or lab rats can click here to let me know if this link works 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.

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.