Best of 2021

Nation of Language, A Way Forward

Every now and again we have a year with a lot of great albums, some immediate personal favorites…but for some reason, little of it resonates to the extent that they’re going to be all-time favorites I’d be listening for years to come. That’s not to say that they’re bad albums, or even forgetful ones! It could be due to Just How Life Has Been As Of Late (after all, this pandemic thing is still putting the kibosh on a lot of uplifting celebration), or it could be a personal thing (my mind has been focusing on numerous things other than my ever-expanding musical tastes).

I spent more time this year listening to KEXP streaming online than actually listening to any of the music I might have acquired during the past year. In a way it felt like those high school days of yore when I went through a spell of listening to WAMH on a daily basis and only listening to albums at night (except that my nights these days are watching TV with A in the living room). And just like that era, I’m (hopefully) making some personal changes to my life in the new year that might necessitate me not listening to John In the Morning every weekday. [Unlike those high school days of yore, KEXP archives their shows for a few days so I should be able to listen in at a later time.]

Next year is a ‘2’ year, which means that I’m expecting some mind-bogglingly stellar albums that will become all-time favorites. I know, I know…it’s only a pet theory of mine, but it hasn’t steered me wrong yet. There have been hints of it in the preview singles being dropped over the last couple of months, and the few new release news bites that have slipped out. Whatever comes, I’m looking forward to it!

That said, here is my list of favorite albums, songs, and other releases in 2021. These are in no particular order this time, other than that my top favorites are in boldface. I highly suggest checking them all out, as they’re all great and worth a listen or five!

TOP ALBUMS
Roosevelt, Polydans
Nation of Language, A Way Forward
Grandbrothers, All the Unknown
Flock of Dimes, Head of Roses
Dry Cleaning, New Long Leg
Hooverphonic, Hidden Stories
Wolf Alice, Blue Weekend
Japanese Breakfast, Jubilee
Quivers, Golden Doubt
CHVRCHES, Screen Violence
Sleigh Bells, Texis
Low, HEY WHAT
Film School, We Weren’t Here
Coldplay, Music of the Spheres
Elbow, Flying Dream 1
Failure, Wild Type Droid
Miss Gritt, Impostor EP
The Beatles, Let It Be [Super Deluxe]
Snoh Aalegra, Temporary Highs in the Violet Skies
Foo Fighters, Medicine at Midnight

TOP SINGLES
Imagine Dragons feat. JID, “Enemy”
The Clockworks, “Throw It All Away”
Miss Grit, “Blonde”
Sleigh Bells, “Locust Laced”
Nation of Language, “Across That Fine Line”
Roosevelt, “Echoes”
Teenage Sequence, “All This Art”
Ambar Lucid, “Space Cowgirl”
CHVRCHES, “Cry Little Sister”
Girlfriends and Boyfriends, “Your Touch”
Dry Cleaning, “Scratchcard Lanyard”
Seatbelts, “TANK! [Flix Mix]”
Wet Leg, “Chaise Longue”
Jose Gonzalez, “El Invento”
Flock of Dimes, “Price of Blue”
Yola, “Stand for Myself”
Parquet Courts, “Walking at a Downtown Pace”
Jack White, “Taking Me Back”
Yard Act, “Dark Days”
Breeze, “Come Around”

…and more Best-Ofs…

Box Sets, Compilations, Reissues and Remasters
The Beatles, Let It Be [Super Deluxe]
George Harrison, All Things Must Pass 50th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition
John Lennon, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (Ultimate Collection)
Various Artists, Bills & Aches & Blues (40 Years of 4AD)
Various Artists, Caught Beneath the Landslide: The Other Side of Britpop and the 90s
Supergrass, In It for the Money [Deluxe Expanded Edition]
POD, Satellite [Expanded Edition]
Death Cab for Cutie, The Photo Album [Deluxe Edition]
Radiohead, KID A MNESIA
Seatbelts, Cowboy Bebop (Soundtrack from the Netflix Series)
David Bowie, Brilliant Adventure (1992-2001)
U2, Achtung Baby [30th Anniversary Edition]

EPs and Singles
Ambar Lucid, Get Lost in the Music EP
Miss Grit, Impostor EP
Thom Yorke, “Creep [Very 2021 RMX]”
Wet Leg, “Chaise Longue”
Working Men’s Club, “X”
Bowling for Soup, “Growing Old Sucks (But Everybody’s Doing It)”
Teenage Sequence, “All This Art”
Imagine Dragons feat. JID, “Enemy””
Big Wreck, Big Wreck 7.1 EP
The Clockworks, “Throw It All Away”

Keepin’ It Local (Bands from My Hood)
The Reds, Pinks & Purples, Uncommon Weather
Chime School, Chime School
The Umbrellas, The Umbrellas
Cindy, 1:2

*

…and that’s it for Walk in Silence for 2021! I’ll be taking the first week of January off just to enjoy the remainder of the holiday season and prep myself for the plans I have for the new year. Here’s to hoping everyone’s 2022 is stellar!

The Singles 2021

Here we are, as promised — my end of year mixtape! As with the last few years, my listening habits have pretty much been listening to KEXP online or whatever tunage I happened to download. And this time out I’ve created a Spotify playlist out of it for your listening enjoyment!

This past year has been kind of a strange one musically — a lot of records made during lockdown, incomplete sessions rejiggered as EPs and standalone singles, and songs that have been kicking around in the vaults for a bit — so while there may not be as much coherence or intensity behind some of it, the gems that are out there were pretty flippin’ phenomenal. Stay tuned for my best-of-year lists on Thursday!

SIDE A
1. Imagine Dragons feat. JID, “Enemy [from the League of Legends series ‘Arcane’]”
2. Roosevelt, “Echoes”
3. The Clockworks, “Throw It All Away”
4. Girlfriends and Boyfriends, “Your Touch”
5. Miss Grit, “Blonde”
6. Grandbrothers, “What We See”
7. Celeste, “Stop This Flame”
8. Arlo Parks, “Hurt”
9. Flock of Dimes, “Price of Blue”
10. Yola, “Stand for Myself”

SIDE B
1. Yard Act, “Dark Days”
2. Parquet Courts, “Walking at a Downtown Pace”
3. Siamese Youth, “So Far from Home”
4. Flyying Colours, “White Knuckles”
5. Sleigh Bells, “Locust Laced”
6. Dry Cleaning, “Scratchcard Lanyard”
7. K/DA, “Villain”
8. Jungle, “Keep Moving”
9. Wolf Alice, “The Last Man On Earth”
10. Teenage Sequence, “All This Art”
11. Nation of Language, “A Word & a Wave”

SIDE C
1. Seatbelts, “TANK! [Flix Mix]
2. The Beatles, “I’ve Got a Feeling [2021 Mix]”
3. Nation of Language, “Across That Fine Line”
4. Bachelor, “Stay in the Car”
5. Breeze, “Come Around”
6. Coldplay, “Higher Power”
7. CHVRCHES, “Cry Little Sister”
8. Snoh Aalegra, “In Your Eyes”
9. New Candys, “Twin Mime”
10. They Might Be Giants, “Super Cool”
11. Geese, “Low Era”
12. Duran Duran, “Invisible”

SIDE D
1. Goat Girl, “Sad Cowboy”
2. Hooverphonic, “The Wrong Place”
3. Sleaford Mods, “Nudge It”
4. Jack White, “Taking Me Back”
5. Fotoform, “Running”
6. Hatchie, “This Enchanted”
7. Amyl and the Sniffers, “Guided By Angels”
8. Film School, “Superperfection”
9. Public Service Broadcasting, “People, Let’s Dance”
10. ABBA, “I Still Have Faith in You”
11. Ambar Lucid, “Space Cowgirl”

SIDE E
1. Foo Fighters, “Waiting On a War”
2. Bill Janovitz, “Coming Up Close”*
3. Ora the Molecule, “Die to Be a Butterfly”
4. IDLES, “The Beachland Ballroom”
5. Thom Yorke, “Creep [Very 2021 RMX]”
6. Sleaford Mods, “Mork ‘n Mindy”
7. Wet Leg, “Chaise Longue”
8. tUnE-yArDs, “nowhere, man”
9. Grandbrothers, “Silver”
10. Roosevelt, “See You Again”

SIDE F
1. Field Music, “Orion from the Street”
2. Danny Elfman, “True”
3. Ambar Lucid, “Get Lost in the Music”
4. Low, “Days Like These”
5. The Goon Sax, “In the Stone”
6. Makthaverskan, “Maktologen”
7. Anna Schulze, “A New Way”
8. Ghost of Vroom, “Rona Pollona”
9. Shame, “Human, for a Minute”
10. Jane Weaver, “The Revolution of Super Visions”
11. The Verve Pipe, “Forever Reaching”

SIDE G
1. RUFUS DU SOL, “Alive”
2. Big Wreck, “Beano”
3. Goat Girl, “Badibaba”
4. Jose Gonzalez, “El Invento”
5. Delvon Lamarr, Organ Trio, “Call Your Mom”
6. Lucy Dacus, “Hot & Heavy”
7. Dropkick Murphys, “Mick Jones Nicked My Pudding”
8. Lost Horizons, “Every Beat That Passed”
9. Pond, “America’s Cup”
10. Porcupine Tree, “Harridan”

SIDE H
1. Garbage, “No Gods No Monsters”
2. Django Django, “Glowing in the Dark”
3. Billy Bragg, “Mid-Century Modern”
4. Nation of Language, “This Fractured Mind”
5. Sneaker Pimps, “Alibis”
6. Matt Nathanson, “Even Better Than the Real Thing”
7. Japanese Breakfast, “Be Sweet”
8. Mr Twin Sister, “Fantasy”
9. Elbow, “Flying Dream 1”
10. CHVRCHES, “How Not to Drown”
11. The Beatles, “Get Back [2021 Mix]”

Mixtape: ‘Does Truth Dance Does Truth Sing: The Singles 1988’

I’ve definitely talked and written a lot about 1988, considering it was a high point in my teen years socially and emotionally, as well as creatively. Everything just fell into place in a positive way. I knew this feeling wouldn’t last, but I chose to embrace it and let it lift me up while it lasted, and I’m glad I did. I used to return to those memories sometimes out of desperation, especially during my mid-90s slump, but nowadays I can return to them with fondness and maybe a bit of amazement. I really did have a lot more personal clarity then than I thought I did, and I sometimes use that as a reminder of how to live in the present.

I’d been making proto-mixtapes for years taping stuff off the radio, but 1988 was when I made the deep dive into the alchemical science of creating personal mixes. And since 1988 had been not just a personal high but a musical high as well, I was determined to celebrate that with a year-end mix. This was my first attempt at a multi-tape (non-radio tape) mix of this kind.

DTDDTS: The Singles 1988 is admittedly not my best mix work, as I was still feeling my way in making these things. It sort of rambles halfway through and drifts to a close with a sigh rather than a cheer…my mistake was overloading the first tape with so many great songs! (Whenever I listened to it I usually stuck with that first tape.) It does kind of redeem itself near the end, though, and in retrospect, I think it mirrors my mood at the time: once my friends left for college, the last couple of months of the year weren’t nearly as exciting or positive for me. Still: I do like this mix, and it contains so many songs that have remained personal favorites for years.

Side Notes:
–Most of these songs were sourced from original albums or singles, but several on Sides E and F were lifted from recent 120 Minutes episodes or taped off WAMH or WMDK. There are a lot of album cuts on this one, which really shows how closely I was listening to a lot of these albums.
–I made several “reissue” versions of this over the years, partly to fix the flow but also to add more songs that I’d left off or replace songs I no longer had in my collection. (I have in fact created digital versions of all of them.) This playlist is the original created 27 December 1988 during Christmas vacation.
–The title comes from the last song on Side B, “A Public Place” by Wire. Years later in 2013 I named a year-end mix ‘We Sing and Dance as We Go: The Singles’ after another Wire then-current lyric. Sort of a personal 25th anniversary thing, I suppose.
–This contains exactly one Flying Bohemians song which is thankfully not on Spotify as it is embarrassing as it is hilarious. Why I didn’t use “Night” or one of our better tracks, I’m not sure. “Nothing Spectacular” was me and Chris fucking around on guitars and making a hash out of a moody 80s riff, with Jim H scratching one of Natan’s Van Halen records while he was in the other room. Chris provides an amazingly torturous guitar solo.
–I put my favorite song ever at the time, The Church’s ‘Under the Milky Way’, on Side A Track 5. When I revived the year-end mixes in the 45-minutes-a-side format in 2013, I also revived that as well. My favorite song of that particular year will always have that spot.

SIDE A:

1. Morrissey, “Will Never Marry”
2. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, “The Mercy Seat”
3. Jane’s Addiction, “Jane Says”
4. Front 242, “Headhunter (Version 1.0)”
5. The Church, “Under the Milky Way”
6. The Primitives, “Crash”
7. The Godfathers, “When Am I Coming Down”
8. The Timelords, “Doctorin’ the Tardis”
9. The Smithereens, “Only a Memory”
10. Peter Murphy, “All Night Long”

SIDE B:

1. Siouxsie & the Banshees, “Peek-a-Boo”
2. The Sugarcubes, “Coldsweat”
3. Cocteau Twins, “Carolyn’s Fingers”
4. ‘Til Tuesday, “(Believed You Were) Lucky”
5. They Might Be Giants, “Ana Ng”
6. Camouflage, “The Great Commandment”
7. Erasure, “Chains of Love”
8. The Art of Noise feat. Tom Jones, “Kiss”
9. Information Society, “Running”
10. Wire, “A Public Place”

SIDE C:

1. Ministry, “Stigmata”
2. Grace Pool, “Out of the Wild”
3. The Jesus and Mary Chain, “Sidewalking”
4. Morrissey, “Everyday Is Like Sunday”
5. Shriekback, “Dust and a Shadow”
6. The Flying Bohemians, “Nothing Spectacular” *
7. A House, “Call Me Blue”
8. Information Society, “What’s On Your Mind (Pure Energy)”
9. REM, “Orange Crush”
10. Cocteau Twins, “Blue Bell Knoll”
11. Pet Shop Boys, “Always On My Mind”

SIDE D:

1. Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, “What I Am”
2. Big Pig, “Breakaway”
3. The Mighty Lemon Drops, “Inside Out” *
4. In-D, “Virgin In-D Sky’s”
5. Peter Murphy, “Time Has Got Nothing to Do with It”
6. The Psychedelic Furs, “All That Money Wants”
7. Midnight Oil, “The Dead Heart”
8. Stump, “Charlton Heston”
9. Dr Calculus, “Full of Love” *
10. Sinéad O’Connor, “Never Get Old”
11. Shriekback, “Go Bang”

SIDE E:

1. Pixies, “Gigantic”
2. Graham Parker, “Get Started, Start a Fire”
3. Camper Van Beethoven, “Turquoise Jewelry” *
4. Crowded House, “Mansion in the Slums”
5. Living Colour, “Cult of Personality”
6. The Godfathers, “Birth, School, Work, Death”
7. Sonic Youth, “Within You, Without You”
8. The Church, “Reptile”
9. Joy Division, “Atmosphere”
10. The Primitives, “I’ll Stick with You”
11. Wire, “Kidney Bingos”

SIDE F:

1. New Order, “Fine Time”
2. Marc Almond, “Tears Run Rings”
3. The Fall, “New Big Prinz”
4. Cowboy Junkies, “Sweet Jane”
5. Lloyd Cole & the Commotions, “My Bag”
6. The Feelies, “Away” *
7. Hunters & Collectors, “Back On the Breadline”
8. Sparks, “So Important”
9. Hugh Cornwell, “Another Kind of Love” *
10. Ministry, “Flashback”
11. Morrissey, “Suedehead”
12. Information Society, “Make It Funky”

* — Not available on Spotify, but I’ve added the YouTube link if it’s available.

Mixtape: Listen in Silence…The Singles II

This one reminds me of Silver Lake Cemetery. In that short summer between graduating high school and entering college, I got a job at my home town’s Public Works department and spent the entire season mowing the several local cemeteries. Silver Lake had always been my favorite because it was the biggest and most varied in landscape and we could take our time with it. We could easily find a quiet spot and hide for an hour if we wanted. It gave me a lot of time to think. I went through cases of AA batteries listening to my Walkman that summer.

I really love this one a lot; I played this one to the point of nearly wearing it out. It’s full of songs then getting airplay on 120 Minutes, WMDK, records picked up at Al Bum’s and Main Street Music, with a few oddities thrown in. I’d started it with the two first tracks on each side, requested from a friend’s music collection, and I built it up from there. The idea was for the first side to be upbeat and/or energetic, with the flipside being downbeat and/or moody. It wasn’t the last complete mixtape of my hometown teen years — the first Untitled gets that honor a few months later, which I’ll post here at a later time — but it does have that feeling of finality, which was deliberate, especially with that Smiths/Joy Division double-punch at the end. I was more than ready to escape this place and head out into the real world.

[Side notes: The Procol Harum song does stick out a bit, but the reason it’s there is because it was used prominently in the movie New York Stories which my friends and I had gone to see that summer. The GnR song sticks out a bit too, and that was because it had originally been added more as an add to my collection rather than an integral part of the mixtape, but it does kind of fit moodwise. The two Love and Rockets songs are in fact the very same song, played in completely different styles, fitting in perfectly with my upbeat/downbeat theme.]

Listen in Silence…The Singles II, created June 1989

Side A
1. That Petrol Emotion, “Creeping to the Cross”
2. Siouxsie & the Banshees, “The Killing Jar”
3. The Cure, “Babble”
4. The Smiths, “The Queen is Dead”
5. Soul Asylum, “Sometime to Return”
6. Love and Rockets, “Motorcycle”
7. The Cure, “Fascination Street [Extended Remix]”
8. Voice of the Beehive, “Beat of Love”
9. The Smiths, “Shoplifters of the World”
10. Camouflage, “That Smiling Face”

Side B:
1. Guns n’ Roses, “Patience”
2. Talk Talk, “Life’s What You Make It”
3. REM, “The One I Love”
4. Procol Harum, “A Whiter Shade of Pale”
5. Julian Cope, “Charlotte Anne”
6. Ultra Vivid Scene, “Mercy Seat”
7. Love and Rockets, “I Feel Speed”
8. The Cure, “Plainsong”
9. The Smiths, “Reel Around the Fountain”
10. Joy Division, “Atmosphere”

Mixtape: Untitled XII

Early 2002 was definitely a time for personal change. Considering we ended the previous year with a terrorist attack and the reactive political wargasms that inevitably followed, I’d started unplugging a bit and refocusing on what was important to me. Part of that was writing A Division of Souls and beginning The Persistence of Memories. I was reading a hell of a lot more, continuing my comic and cd run, and writing new songs on my guitar. Trying to live life a bit more positively.

Nearly all the songs from Untitled XII come from Newbury Comics runs. A lot of deep cuts with some radio songs sprinkled in between. So where did I hear about them? From CMJ sampler CDs and music magazines, mostly. I’d read the reviews and pick out the ones that sounded like they’d be in my wheelhouse. It worked out great 80-90% of the time, too! It’s also a return to form with my mixtapes, as I’d kind of run out of inspiration from around late 1999 onwards. There are a few good but not great mixes from that time. I’m sure it was partly due to my leaving HMV, partly a change in musical tastes, and other non-musical things (personal and otherwise) affecting me in one way or another. But I remember starting 2002 with the determination that I’d be in a much better place emotionally and mentally, and immersing myself in more great music definitely helped.

Side notes:
–I was introduced to Mistle Thrush by my former HMV manager Tom, who’d become a Newbury Comics manager. The singer was a good friend of his and, as it happens, part of NC’s upper management!
–Cornelius gets three tracks as Point was getting very heavy play in the Belfry. He’s been in the Olympics news lately for acting like an arse some years ago, but I still love this record.
–The Massive Attack song is a bit out of place being four years older than every other track here. Some cosmetics commercial used it as a backing track at the time and got me back into listening to Mezzanine during my writing sessions.

Untitled XII, created 14 February 2002

Side A:
1. Cornelius, “Point of View Point”
2. Massive Attack, “Inertia Creeps”
3. Mistle Thrush, “Enginehead”
4. Pulp, “The Night That Minnie Timperley Died”
5. Rufus Wainwright, “Across the Universe”
6. POD, “Youth of the Nation”
7. Stephin Merritt, “This Little Ukulele”
8. Elbow, “Little Beast”
9. Starsailor, “Tie Up My Hands”
10. Foo Fighters, “The One”
11. Bis, “Two Million”

Side B:
1. Sigur Ros, “Svefn-g-Englar”
2. Turin Brakes, “The Door”
3. Cornelius, “Smoke”
4. Ben and Jason, “The Wild Things”
5. The Strokes, “Last Nite”
6. Puddle of Mudd, “Blurry”
7. The Church, “Radiance”
8. Mistle Thrush, “3 Girls Walking”
9. Cornelius, “Brazil”
10. Stephin Merritt, “Tiny Flying Player Pianos”

Spare Oom Playlist, June 2021 Edition, Part I

Back again with another edition of new tunage popping up on my PC, and this time it’s a two-parter. June was absolutely chock full of fantastic singles and albums. There’s quite the mix here, some recorded pre-pandemic and some post (and some during it all!), and a lot of it feels refreshing, vibrant, and worth the long wait.

CHVRCHES featuring Robert Smith, “How Not to Drown” single, released 4 June. The band itself sounds refreshed, strong and confident. Really looking forward to the rest of this album!

James, All the Colours of You, released 4 June. This feels like a surprisingly cheerful album, more so than some of their previous records. It’s also much quieter than previous as well, but that just adds to a pleasurable listen.

Wolf Alice, Blue Weekend, released 4 June. The band returns after a four year wait with an album that sounds so unlike their previous two records…and yet retains their signature powerful sound. At times it’s dark and echoey like a Cocteau Twins album, only to follow up with a gritty, grungey pop anthem or two. It’s weird, it’s moody, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

Crowded House, Dreamers Are Waiting, released 4 June. Neil Finn and Co are back with a new CH album that interestingly sounds a lot like a Split Enz album! While there are many wonderful Aussie pop tunes here that Finn is known for, the record is tempered with a quirkiness that hints at his old 80s band. Still an amazing songwriter after all these years!

Japanese Breakfast, Jubilee, released 4 June. Michelle Zauner has been having a hell of a great summer, what with her memoir Crying in H Mart fast becoming a critic and reader favorite, and dropping her third record as JB right around the same time. It’s full of wonderful catchy pop, and “Be Sweet” has definitely been an earworm here in Spare Oom. Well worth checking out!

New Candys, Vyvyd, released 4 June. A gritty alternative band from Venice, Italy, they channel the groovier parts of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club with their bluesy riffs and echoey vocals and come up with something that’s equal parts gritty and psychedelic. I may have thrown this record on repeat once or twice during my writing sessions, and that doesn’t happen that often!

*

….and that was just the first week!! We’ll return again on Thursday for Part II!

Summertime

Summer Solstice is here! Not that that means anything weatherwise here in San Francisco, as our weather usually stays around the low 60s for the entire season. (In a way I’m glad I’m no longer heading to the East Bay, as the weather fluctuates wildly there: it’ll be low 50s early in the morning and almost 100 by day’s end. Bleh.)

Anyway! Here are some summer songs for you. Hope y’all have a good season!

Unexpected Inspiration

Me: *relaxing with a bit of YouTubing at the end of the day, watching music videos*

Me: *watches K/DA’s “Villain” once again*

Brain: *poke poke* Oh hey…you know what would be a great villain idea for a sequel to In My Blue World?

Me: Oh COME ON —

Brain: I’m picturing a pirate, a woman with the ability to steal magic from multiple worlds —

Me: WILL YOU STOP THAT I’M TOO BUSY ALREA–

Brain: And she’s like, super strong and almost invincible, and Zuze needs Diana’s help in fighting her off —

Me: … *sigh* FINE. *writes 1500-word synopsis*

*

PSA: Listening to music and being inspired to write yet another novel can be hazardous to your health.

Best of 2020 and Singles Mix

Source: cover of ‘Ultra Mono’ by Idles. The image seems to fit this year’s events quite accurately.

What a weirdass year. Yeah? Let’s not do that again. Or if we have to, let’s do it without so much of the drama, okay?

ANYWAY. Here it is, the last day of the year, and I’m squeezing this post in during the last few remaining hours of the day/month/year. I don’t use Spotify that much at all so I don’t have any “this is what you listened to most” (or, to follow the recent meme, the “your playlist sucks because…”). I know I listened to KEXP the most, with the rest of my mp3 collection coming a close second. The station kept me sane, somewhat distracted, and in a calm mood for the most part, for which I thank them, especially morning DJ John Richards and midday DJ Cheryl Waters.

Do I have anything left to say about 2020? Not really. It was a year of difference and change for me and I’ve already talked about it over at Welcome to Bridgetown. Other than that…I just want to keep moving forward.

So! Here’s the top albums, songs, and a few other bits of enjoyment that kept me going this past year. Enjoy! (NOTE: I left off the YouTube links on the mixtape on the second half here, but I may edit them in at a later date.)

TOP ALBUMS:
20. Hum, Inlet
19. PVRIS, Use Me
18. Indigo Girls, Look Long
17. Phish, Sigma Oasis
16. Nation of Language, Introduction, Presence
15. Hayley Williams, Petals for Armor
14. HAIM, Women in Music Pt III
13. Taylor Swift, Folklore/Evermore
12. Sault, Untitled (Rise)
11. Pearl Jam, Gigaton
10. Idles, Ultra Mono
9. Prince, Sign o’ the Times (Super Deluxe Edition)
8. Secret Machines, Awake in the Brain Chamber
7. The Beths, Jump Rope Gazers
6. Bob Moses, Desire EP
5. BRONSON, BRONSON
4. K-DA, All Out EP
3. EoB, Earth
2. Deserta, Black Aura My Sun
1. Doves, The Universal Want

TOP SINGLES
20. Deserta, “Monica”
19. Green Day, “Father of All…”
18. EoB, “Olympik”
17. HAIM, “The Steps”
16. Sault, “I Just Want to Dance”
15. Secret Machines, “3, 4, 5, Let’s Stay Alive”
14. The Psychedelic Furs, “You’ll Be Mine”
13. Sault, “Free”
12. Bombay Bicycle Club, “Everything Else Has Gone Wrong”
11. Bob Mould, “American Crisis”
10. The Weeknd, “Blinding Lights”
9. Hayley Williams, “Simmer”
8. K-DA, “The Baddest”
7. BRONSON, “Dawn”
6. The Beths, “I’m Not Getting Excited”
5. K-DA, “More”
4. Fontaines DC, “Televised Mind”
3. Bob Moses & ZHU, “Desire”
2. Doves, “Carousels”
1. Idles, “Grounds”

….and more Best-Ofs…

Welcome Returns: Bands Reformed/Reactivated and Newly Recorded
Stabbing Westaward, Dead and Gone EP
Stone Temple Pilots, Perdida
The Boomtown Rats, Citizens of Boomtown
X, Alphabetland
Badly Drawn Boy, Banana Skin Shoes
Hum, Inlet
Secret Machines, Awake in the Brain Chamber
Semisonic, You’re Not Alone EP
Michael Penn, “A Revival”
Midnight Oil, The Makarrata Project EP
The Network, Money Money 2020 Pt II: We Told Ya So!

Surviving the Pandemic: What Kept Me Going
Elbow, #elbowrooms videos
Crowded House, Live from Home videos
Seatbelts, Session Starducks videos
KEXP, Live from the Front Yard series

Box Sets, Reissues, and Remasters
Depeche Mode, MODE
Supergrass, The Strange Ones 1994-2008
Porcupine Tree, In Absentia (Deluxe Edition)
The Primitives, Bloom! The Full Syory 1985-1992
Paul McCartney, Flaming Pie (Archive Collection)
Prince, Sign o’ the Times (Super Deluxe Edition)
John Lennon, Gimme Some Truth (Deluxe)

***

THE SINGLES 2020

SIDE A
1. Secret Machines, “3, 4, 5, Let’s Stay Alive”
2. The Beths, “I’m Not Getting Excited”
3. Bob Moses & ZHU, “Desire”
4. Fontaines DC, “Televised Mind”
5. Idles, “Grounds”
6. Bob Mould, “American Crisis”
7. Pearl Jam, “Dance of the Clairvoyants”
8. Bombay Bicycle Club, “Everything Else Has Gone Wrong”
9. K-DA, “More”
10. Deserta, “Monica”
11. Cut Copy, “Love Is All We Share”

SIDE B
1. Doves, “Carousels”
2. The Psychedelic Furs, “You’ll Be Mine”
3. Green Day, “Father of All…”
4. Pet Shop Boys, “Will-O-the-Wisp”
5. Sault, “Free”
6. Hayley Williams, “Simmer”
7. HAIM, “The Steps”
8. Run the Jewels, “Ooh LA LA”
9. Nation of Language, “The Wall & I”
10. BRONSON, “Dawn”

SIDE C
1. Annie, “The Countdown to the End of the World”
2. EoB, “Shangri-La”
3. Hinds, “Good Bad Times”
4. The Weeknd, “Blinding Lights”
5. Green Day, “Oh Yeah!”
6. Semisonic, “You’re Not Alone”
7. beabadoobee, “Worth It”
8. Billie Eilish, “My Future”
9. Bruce Springsteen, “Letter to You”
10. Hum, “Step Into You”
11. Cults, “Spit You Out”
12. Paul McCartney, “Find My Way”

SIDE D
1. BRONSON, “Heart Attack”
2. Secret Machines, “Everything Starts”
3. Pearl Jam, “Superblood Wolfmoon”
4. Gorillaz, “Désolé”
5. GoGo Penguin, “Atomised”
6. Hotels, “Queens (West African Peanut Soup)”
7. Idles, “A Hymn”
8. Phoebe Bridgers, “Kyoto”
9. Working Men’s Club, “John Cooper Clarke”
10. The Avalanches, “Interstellar Love”

SIDE E
1. Gorillaz, “Strange Timez”
2. Billie Joe Armstrong, “Kids in America”
3. Throwing Muses, “Dark Blue”
4. Hayley Williams, “Roses/Lotus/Violet/Iris”
5. Glass Animals, “Your Love (Déjà Vu)”
6. Phantogram, “Ceremony”
7. Doves, “Universal Want””
8. Deserta, “Save Me”
9. EoB, “Olympik”

SIDE F
1. Gerogia, “About Work the Dancefloor”
2. K-DA, “The Baddest”
3. I DONT KNOW HOW BUT THEY FOUND ME, “Leave Me Alone”
4. Holy Fuck, “Luxe”
5. The Naked and Famous, “Recover”
6. Future Islands, “For Sure”
7. Michael Penn, “A Revival”
8. Kestrels, “Don’t Dream”
9. Soccer Mommy, “Yellow Is the Color of Her Eyes”
10. Supercrush, “Be Kind to Me”
11. Wire, “Cactused”

SIDE G
1. I DONT KNOW HOW BUT THEY FOUND ME, “Nobody Likes the Opening Band”
2. Secret Machines, “Everything’s Under”
3. Gorillaz, “Aries”
4. PVRIS, “Use Me”
5. Tunde Adebimpe, “People”
6. Semisonic, “Basement Tapes”
7. Destroyer, “Crimson Tide”
8. Pearl Jam, “Alright”
9. Annie, “The Streets Where I Belong”
10. Ty Segall, “Jump Into the Fire”
11. BRONSON, “Keep Moving”

SIDE H
1. Indigo Girls, “Look Long”
2. Khruangbin & Leon Bridges, “Texas Sun”
3. Hinds, “Spanish Bombs”
4. The Avalanches, “Running Red Lights”
5. Sault, “I Just Want to Dance”
6. Idles, “Mr. Motivator”
7. Bob Mould, “Next Generation”
8. Stone Temple Pilots, “Perdida”
9. Phish, “Leaves”
10. Jónsi & Elizabeth Fraser, “Cannibal”
11. Death Cab for Cutie, “Fall On Me”

***

See ya on the flip side, y’all.

New Obsession: K/DA

First off, I should say that 1) I’m quite the latecomer to K-Pop. I’ve been well aware of it, but never paid all that much attention to it until relatvely recently, and 2) I am so not a gamer, so I have little to no background or interest in League of Legends.

That said, I cannot seem to get enough of the LoL virtual spinoff band K/DA (its name of course being a reference to a player’s kills, deaths and assists), as a part of Riot Games’ plan to include more original music in the LoL universe. It features Miyeon and Soyeon from the k-pop band (G)I-DLE as well as soloists Madison Beer and Jaira Burns playing the in-game characters Ahri, Akali, Evelynn and Kai-Sa respectively.

The 2018 single “Pop/Stars” came to my attention due to a few gifs of featuring a masked Akali (the tomboyish ninja assassin) rapping in a subway car, and after falling down the YouTube rabbit hole, I found the video and was blown away by the creative animation.

Sure, they’re eye candy for the gamer boys, but damn if this song didn’t get stuck in my head on a daily basis! I’d put it on my mp3 player that I brought to the gym and found myself playing it on repeat. It wasn’t just a great video, it was a damn fine pop song with some tight production work. It sounds absolutely amazing in headphones, so I imagine it would sound great on high-end speakers as well. It ended up on my end-of-year mix and I still throw it on now and again. And yes, it got me interested in (G)I-DLE as well!

League of Legends continued to release a few more tunes and videos to coincide with their World Championship event (2019 saw the badass track “GIANTS” by True Damage, and 2020 featured “Take Over” by Worlds 2020), but apparently the K/DA track proved to be so popular that it was announced they would release more music as a virtual band.

In late August of this year they dropped the news that a new EP would be released, and released the lead single “The Baddest” soon after. And wouldn’t you know, this song got stuck in my damn head as well! While it’s merely a lyric video with minimal animation, it’s still a great track and has already gotten over a million watches on YouTube.

The accompanying EP, All Out, was released this past Friday (11/6) and it features the above song as well as the follow-up single “More”, which returns us to another high quality virtual band setting and featuring another LoL in-game character, Seraphine, as a special guest. It’s another visual feast with all kinds of eye candy but also a lot of fun blink-and-you’ll-miss-it drop edits (such as Akali causing Serpahine to bust up laughing near the end). And just like the previous singles, “More” is a hell of a fine earworm. This one’s going on my year-end mix, of course.

The rest of All Out is just as fun and worth checking out if you have the time!