It’s time to get up-to-date and look at a few of 2021’s offerings. Two of the highlights this year have each been collabs between two groups/artists that I already love.
Kicking us off with this mini-series is Like I Used To, a charming piece of alt-Country from singer-songwriters Sharon Van Etten and Angel Olsen.
There are relatively few music artists who, when they are interviewed, or they write an article, can be guaranteed to say something smart, interesting, and entertaining.
I’m thinking of the likes of Michael Stipe, or Kristin Hersh.
And also Jessica Dobson, the singer/songwriter fronting Deep Sea Diver.
The Breeders started as a side-project, and the Pacer LP was made as a side-project from that once the Breeders became a full-time thing. Although featuring a different name and line-up, these are still Kim Deal songs sung by Kim Deal, and I consider it to be, in effect, my favourite Breeders record.
I mentioned before that Throwing Muses is my favourite band, but when I reach for Kristin Hersh’s records these days, this EP is usually my first port of call. This is the first in a series of articles covering “side projects”.
The Safari EP marks the transition from the raw Albini-produced early Breeders material, such as their début LP Pod and the more polished (and commercially successful) follow-up The Last Splash.
This is another great track from the year of many gems, 2016. That year marked the 50th Anniversary of the formation of The Monkees, and a project was put together to make a new record by the three surviving members. This is its highlight track.
The fourth and final LP from School of Seven Bells was completed without main songwriter Benjamin Curtis, who sadly died young in 2013. But it’s a fine record, and the opening track, Ablaze, is a highlight from 2016 - a year of many highlights.
This isn’t the first version of Sweet Jane, of course. It’s not even a typical version by Reed solo, or as part of The Velvent Underground. But it is really quite stunning. What really makes this, though, is the intro penned by Steve Hunter - and Hunter’s band, which subsequently went on to back Alice Cooper.
This song was co-written by Jane Wiedlin, rhythm guitarist of The Go-Go’s, and Terry Hall - who was in the process of breaking up from The Specials - and forming Fun Boy Three.
Following Lime Habit by Poliça, here’s another act that (often? always? not sure...) features two drummers live - The Go! Team. This was the lead single from their third LP Rolling Blackouts, with guest vocals from Bethany Cosentino.
If one uses the release date of the album, rather than the pre-release single, this track counts as being from the golden year of 2016 - for me the finest year of releases since 2004. It’s distinctively Poliça, but without the prominent autotune effects that controversially featured in earlier releases.
This EP came out soon after the untitled Throwing Muses début album, and by that time I’m already thinking that they could be, for me, The Best Band In The World. Ever.
They retain that status to this day.
Few acts have gone through as many musical re-inventions as Sparks. This is from one of those changes of direction, 2002’s Lil’ Beethoven LP.
This track comes from 2016, the wonderful year where my annual “best-of” mix tape was one of the greatest I can remember. Paper Thin is by Laura Kidd, who was then using the She Makes War project name, and features Tanya Donelly on BVs.
The first in a trio of “big songs” - long, relatively complex songs that sound like they were the product of putting together separate pieces into one. Jesus Of Suburbia was made exactly that way.
The third in a trio of songs by a pair of my favourite artists of recent years. Following Salt Spring by Anomie Belle, and Gumball Machine Weekend by Yppah, this track sees them working together on Film Burn, one of several collaborations between the pair on the 2012 Yppah record Eighty One.
The second in a trio of songs by a pair of my favourite artists of recent years. Following Salt Spring by Anomie Belle, we have Gumball Machine Weekend by Yppah, from his 2009 LP “They Know What Ghost Know”.
This is the first in a trio of songs by a pair of my favourite artists of recent years. First up is singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Anomie Belle, with Salt Spring from her 2016 LP Flux.
This is the song that actually triggered the idea of doing a songs blog. I declared on ^link(twitter) that this is a song that I felt I could never truly tire of, and that inspired the idea of a “Songs I’ll Never Tire Of” blog. The crap blog name held me back from actually starting something, but eventually I got around to it, renamed it, and here we are.
This tune was released after R.E.M.’s popularity peak, but to me it still stands out as the highlight track from a pretty-decent catalogue.
The first of two “spoken word” songs, this is the tale of Waldo Jeffers, who misses his girlfriend Marsha after she returns home when school ends. He decides to post himself in a box to see her.
It doesn’t end well for Waldo. “That schmuck.”
Another landmark record in terms of production, this is one of those records that still sounds amazing over 40 years on. Like the previous song on this blog, it has a hook whereby the time signature sometimes changes. Golden Brown adds an extra beat here and there, but Heart of Glass skips a beat. Reportedly the result of an editing accident which was kept when it sounded great, the result is an iconic “middle 8” section which sounds wrong when repeated in normal time in an extended version.
Another one from the golden year of 2004, this is another of my all-time favourites. The Wedding Present at this point wasn’t a reformed original line-up, but a renamed and refocussed version of Cinerama.
This is the point at which I introduce you to my all-time favourite band. Some of their finest stuff isn’t that easily accessible - but this is the song I’d use to introduce a new listener. It’s distinctively different to anything else you’ve heard, yet it’s not weird enough to scare people off.
This version of the early-19th Century Christmas carol is mixed with a simulated news bulletin based on events of 3rd August 1966.
No mention, sadly, of England’s World Cup win only five days previous.
An absolute banger from Le Tigre, a punky electronic three-piece featuring Kathleen Hanna, formerly of the legendary Bikini Kill.
After a period as a guitar-based rock band that saw Sparks earn considerable commercial success, they teamed up with Giorgio Moroder to execute a complete change of direction. As it turns out, there would be several more such big changes throughout the band’s career - which is still going strong.
The first single from the fourth (and last until the band later reformed) Pixies album, this is the tale of an alien who picks up transmissions from Earth.
They head over to find the source, the “planet of sound”.
A song by producer Richard X featuring a vocal from Jarvis Cocker and a sample from Mazzy Star’s Fade Into You creates something even greater than the sum of its parts.