Categories
Playlists

Playlist: New tunes from 2022, part one

Happy Monday!* And while we’re at it, happy fifth anniversary to this very blog!

It’s been hard to believe I’ve been at this thing for five years now but really, time has felt a bit weird and out of sorts of late. I’m pretty sure I swore last year that I would try to get my stuff together and put together a proper celebratory post to acknowledge this landmark milestone, but of course, it snuck up on me again. And the best I’ve got is to share part one of my annual, four part playlist of brand new tunes.

“…Best I’ve got..” What am I saying?

These things really are celebrations unto themselves – each truly an exhibition of some of the best music that has passed my ears each year and soundtracked my daily trials and tribulations. If you’ve happened upon this blog at the right time in the past few years, you’d know that each of the parts of these playlists represent twenty-five tunes released during the previous three months and that I have tickled my fancy to some degree.

The year 2022 started off pretty much as the last two years have ended: very much dictated by the tidal waves of this pandemic and the eternal question of when things might return back to whatever normal ever was. Indeed, things for me have been for the most part status quo. I keep working from home, listening to tunes, reading, writing, and spending as much time as I can with my lovely wife. Truly, I do my best to find joy where I can in these crazy times. One thing that has been somewhat different is the amount I’ve spent on the road, travelling between Ottawa and Toronto and back, which means, of course, plenty of car tunes. Spotify and the number of playlists I’ve created thus far have been my saving grace thus far.

More recently, however, I’ve decided to give Apple Music a try. I know a lot of people decided to cut ties with Spotify over the whole Joe Rogan debacle but I don’t really spend a lot of time on the podcasts and have no idea who the guy is so that wasn’t ever a dealbreaker. For me, I’ve always been curious about Apple Music because I am pretty much knee deep in Apple products every where else and have always been happy with the quality and connectivity the company has provided. So far, Apple Music, too, has been as great as expected. The immediate bonus was having my extensive digital music collection available across all my devices. The only downside so far came when I went to create this part one playlist and found out that for some reason, WordPress, that platform upon which this blog is built, doesn’t play nice in the sandbox with Apple Music. So instead of embedding a playlist sampler as I usually do, I’ll include a link to the playlist below. It should work for all you fellow Apple cult initiates and for the rest of you, try out the link and let me know how it works for you. As always, though, if it doesn’t work, I’ve included links to YouTube videos for each of song in the playlist below.

So without further ado, I’ll present twenty five new tunes that have helped keep me going over the first three months of 2022. Highlights include:

      • “Morbid fascination”, a bombastic, statement making playlist intro by Brighton, England-based duo, Blood Red Shoes
      • I’m not always onboard with everything they do, but “Chaos space marine” off their sophomore record has Black Country, New Road reminding me of a certain Montreal band called Arcade Fire circa mid-2000s
      • Glenn Donaldson released my favourite album last year as The Reds, Pinks and Purples and he’s struck gold again with his third long-player, “Summer at land’s end”, this excellent single, “Let’s pretend we’re not in love”, is a prime example
      • I’ve always been a huge fan of Frank Turner‘s songwriting and perhaps because of my age, am drawn to the stripped down tracks that highlight this talent and so when he includes acoustic versions as bonus tracks, like this acoustic version of “Haven’t been doing so well”, I’m sold
      • Britt Daniel and his band Spoon have returned with a new album after five years and this track off it, “Wild”, is triumph epitomized
      • Montreal psych-rockers Elephant Stone have released a new concept EP, their first release completely in French ‘par excellence’, and “M. Lonely” is track one
      • And finally, 90s glam rock/britpop holdouts Placebo have released their first new album in 9 years and “Beautiful James” sounds like they’ve never left us

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

1. “Morbid fascination” Blood Red Shoes (from the album Ghosts on tape)

2. “Giving in to the love” Aurora (from the album The gods we can touch)

3. “The Overload” Yard Act (from the album Yard Act)

4. “Karl Kardel building” Kids On A Crime Spree (from the album Fall in love not in line)

5. “Chaos space marine” Black Country, New Road (from the album Ants from up there)

6. “Let’s pretend we’re not in love” The Reds, Pinks And Purples (from the album Summer at land’s end)

7. “Anybody else inside” The Slow Show (from the album Still life)

8. “Spud infinity” Big Thief (from the album Dragon new warm mountain I believe in you)

9. “Haven’t been doing so well (acoustic)” Frank Turner (from the album FTHC)

10. “Something like love” Andy Bell (from the album Flicker)

11. “Wild” Spoon (from the album Lucifer on the sofa)

12. “Circles” Basement Revolver (from the album Embody)

13. “Am I really going to die” White Lies (from the album As I try not to fall apart)

14. “Blame (feat. Miki Berenyi” Blushing (from the album Possessions)

15. “M. Lonely” Elephant Stone (from the EP Le voyage de M. Lonely dans la lune)

16. “Hurts to love” Beach House (from the album Once twice melody)

17. “In the name of (Garden version)” Basia Bulat (from the album The Garden)

18. “You in everything” Gangs Of Youth (from the album Angel in realtime)

19. “The tipping point” Tears For Fears (from the album The tipping point)

20. “All being fine” King Hannah (from the album I’m not sorry I was just being me)

21. “In need of repair” Band Of Horses (from the album Things are great)

22. “Means to bleed” The Mysterines (from the album Reeling)

23. “Only wanna see u tonight” Young Guv (from the album Guv III)

24. “Jeff Goldblum” Mattiel (from the album Georgia gothic)

25. “Beautiful James” Placebo (from the album Never let me go)

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.

*Whenever I say those words, I automatically start singing the words: “You’re twistin’ my melon man.”

Categories
Vinyl

Vinyl love: The Reds, Pinks & Purples “Uncommon weather”

(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)

Artist: The Reds, Pinks & Purples
Album Title: Uncommon weather
Year released: 2021
Details: Limited edition, pastel blue

The skinny: When I counted down my favourite albums of the year at the end of 2021, the last one standing was “Uncommon weather” by The Reds, Pinks and Purples. I had never even heard of said act prior to last year but following an email blast from Slumberland Records and trip over to Spotify, I was an instant fan. I went on the hunt for a vinyl pressing of what I later learned was Glenn Donaldson’s third album as The Reds, Pinks and Purples and found the pastel blue variant at one of my favourite indie online shops. It’s such a great record, like pretty much everything he’s released over the last few years. And just as I wrote in my end of the year post, “there’s just something addictive in Donaldson’s short bursts of ear-worm pop. Each of the thirteen songs on “Uncommon weather” sounds immediately familiar and welcoming. There’s loads of reverb and silky smooth synths, peppy drumming and jangly guitars, and above it all, Donaldson channels all of our 80s John Hughes heroes: Robert Smith, Ian McCulloch, and Richard Butler.” I really just can’t help myself from gushing to anyone who’ll listen about The Reds, Pinks and Purples.

Standout track: “I hope I never fall in love”

Categories
Albums

Best albums of 2021: Part two (#5 to #1)

Wherever you are in the world and in whatever stage of the Omicron variant restrictions/lockdowns you are under, I still hope you managed to spend the last couple of days with some family and/or friends and find some joy and peace. My wife and I typically celebrate Christmas the traditional way with family, gift exchanges, and a big feast, but this year was different in many ways.

It’s over now, though, it’s in the past and it’s time to get back to my Best albums of 2021 countdown. If you want to go back and read words on albums ten through six on this list, you can click on any one of the hyperlinks below.

#10 Middle Kids “Today we’re the greatest”
#9 Iceage “Seek shelter”
#8 Du Blonde “Homecoming”
#7 Julien Baker “Little oblivions”
#6 Linn Koch-Emmery “Being the girl”

As I mentioned in the introduction to part one, this year’s list is full of surprises, albums beating out albums by bands that I expected to be here. And to be honest, it had nothing to do with these anticipated albums not living up to expectations but more to do with me being blown away by so much new music. The results for me were that I have list of honourable mentions that is perhaps triple that of the length of this top ten list. I can’t and won’t list them all here but will certainly share, in no particular order, a sampling of these other albums that are also worth your time:

  • Elbow “Flying dream 1”
  • Postdata “Twin flames”
  • The Coral “Coral island”
  • Islands “Islomania”
  • New Candys “Vyvyd”
  • James “All the colours of you”
  • The Hold steady “Open door policy”

Great. Now that I’ve gotten through the great albums that are not in my top five for the year, let’s focus on the albums that are. Yes. Let’s do just that.


#5 Goat Girl “On all fours”

It used to be that I would hear the term post-punk and naturally gravitate towards the act upon which the writer bestowed the term. There was so much great music in the 2000s that was heavily inspired by the movement that grew out of the original punk scene in the late seventies and early eighties. But as time wore on, the term wore out its welcome, was being bandied about like crazy, and the bands that flew the banner always seemed to subscribe to just the one facet of the scene, that of angular guitars and stoic and dispassionate vocals. More often than not, these days, I give the new post-punk acts a cursory spin and move on. However, I found Goat Girl to be a different animal altogether (and yes, that pun was not intended). And while I’m on the name, I might never have given the album a chance had I not heard some of the songs before I heard the band name and learned that the band members operated under the pseudonyms Clottie Cream, L.E.D., Holly Hole, and Rosy Bones. Nevertheless, I did hear some magic from the start, and though the term post-punk is applied, it feels here like the dots in a connect-the-dot drawing where the dots remain for the most part unconnected. There’s definitely some heavy and foreboding basslines to be found on “On all fours”, the quartet’s sophomore record, but the spikes are worn down to shiny sparkles with frothing and swirling guitars and abracadabra synths. It is at times garish and loud but taken as a whole, it makes total nonsensical sense.

Gateway tune: Sad cowboy


#4 Breeze “Only up”

Back in September, I texted my friend Andrew Rodriguez the Spotify link to the song below and asked him who he thought the song sounded like. Within moments, he texted back the melon emoticon, which is our code for everything Happy Mondays. We both listened to the rest of “Only up” by Breeze in our separate homes and cities and continued to text back and forth to each other our thoughts on the album. By the end, we had hatched this plan to play some tunes off of it for our mutual friend Tim at an upcoming cottage weekend with a view to trying to convince him that Breeze was a group we had grown up listening to in the early 90s but that he had somehow forgotten. We almost had him too and we definitely wouldn’t have blamed him. The album truly is a paean to a specific time and mood of the early 90s, name-checking not only the Mondays but the Madchester baggy scene as a whole, throw in a little Beck, and pretty much anyone else mixing dance beats with rock guitars and basslines and a heavy peppery dose of samples. Toronto producer Josh Korody wrote, recorded, and mixed the album in 8 days with the help of a who’s who of Toronto-based indie artists, including Cadence Weapon, Tess Parks, and members of Orville Peck’s band, Tallies, Zoon, Ducks Ltd., and Broken Social Scene. Perhaps this pick shows my age and my love for the music of that time but I don’t care who knows it: I love this album.

Gateway tune: Come around (feat. Cadence Weapon)


#3 Flyying Colours “Fantasy country”

The first I heard tell of Australian four-piece, Flyying Colours, and their amazing sophomore record, “Fantasy country”, was when one of the many crazy vinyl collectors that I follow, posted about it on Instagram. He is often posting about bands that I also like and when I saw him raving about this as an early favourite of the year, I didn’t hesitate to give it a go on Spotify. Midway through the first track, I decided that his praises weren’t meaningless hyperbole and quickly went on the hunt to purchase a copy of it for my own collection. The group was formed in 2011 by school friends Brodie J Brümmer and Gemma O’Connor, and were rounded out by Melanie Barbaro
and Andy Lloyd-Russell. Their 2016 debut album, “Mindfullness”, was well-received and critically acclaimed but constant touring and then, worldwide pandemic delayed any new material until early this year. The eight tracks on “Fantasy country” are honed and clean and nearly-perfect. Their shoegaze psych-rock feels a lot like the early work of The Besnard Lakes, especially with the hazy, Beach Boy like harmonies, but with a double shot of caffeine and sugar to throttle things up. There’s plenty of drone and atmospherics and layered beauty. It’s great for late nights with red wine.

Gateway tune: Big mess


#2 Big Red Machine “How long do you think it’s gonna last?”

At best, I thought that the self-titled debut by Big Red Machine was an interesting collaborative effort between Aaron Dessner (of The National) and Justin Vernon (of Bon Iver). It had some good songs but I certainly didn’t think of it as a going concern. Indeed, I’ve never been a huge fan of Bon Iver, but I always had time for new material by The National, despite the fact that they were starting to get notice for some work they did with uber singer/songwriter/popstar, Taylor Swift. And I think it was her involvement in this latest Big Red Machine that had this particular blogger hemming and hawing, but most definitely had the indie music and pop music world, in general, abuzz with excitement. But you know? “How long do you think it’s gonna last” really is an excellent album. It’s long – 15 tracks spread over 65 minutes – and yet, it feels short. It doesn’t rock hard, just moves at its own pace, self-aware and self-examining, questioning its own health and safety, working hard to keep anxiety at bay, much like we are all doing right now. Of course, all of the collaborations are great – This is the Kit, Sharon Van Etten, Fleet Foxes, La Force, and yes, even Taylor Swift adds to the brilliance – but I think the real credit rests with Dessner, whose complete vision really carries this piece off and when he actually steps from the shadows to take center stage on a few songs, it is the epitome of poignant.

Gateway tune: Magnolia


#1 The Reds, Pinks and Purples “Uncommon weather”

What can I say? I don’t think I’ve fallen for any band or artist as quickly as I have for The Reds, Pinks and Purples in a very, very long time. The songwriting vehicle for San Francisco-based Glenn Donaldson first came to my attention via an email from Slumberland Records, one of my favourite record labels, advertising the release of “Uncommon weather”. I pulled it up on Spotify and bam, I was sold. Indeed, I don’t know where Mr. Donaldson has been all my life. He’s released an album in each of the last three years under The Reds, Pinks and Purples moniker, each of which I’ve since gobbled up like spaghetti, there’s a new album due out early in 2022, and you can bet that I’ll be all over that as well. There’s just something addictive in his short bursts of ear-worm pop. Each of the thirteen songs on “Uncommon weather” sounds immediately familiar and welcoming. There’s loads of reverb and silky smooth synths, peppy drumming and jangly guitars, and above it all, Donaldson channels all of our 80s John Hughes heroes: Robert Smith, Ian McCulloch, and Richard Butler. Yes, I’m well aware that The Reds, Pinks and Purples might not be to every taste but these songs have touched my soul this year and I feel obligated to pass it along. If you listen to one new album this year, please, let this be it.

Gateway tune: The record player & the damage done