Well, I took a short break here. It’s been nearly a month since I posted my 2019 favorites. This year my plans are to change how I do things here a bit. There will still be plenty of new music throughout the year, but I plan on doing some different playlists as well. In this list, I’ll include music from artists we lost in 2019 (and already in 2020), some music that flew beneath my radar in 2019, and some new music from this year. Some looking back, some looking forward.
My all-time favorite band, Pearl Jam, has announced a new album and tour. Their first since 2013’s Lightning Bolt. Over the holidays they released some old Ten Club material. There were several years where the band released Christmas singles that were available only through the fan club. Over the Holidays, they released various of these songs and other rarities. I’ve included the live version of “Gimme Some Truth” and their explosive cover of The Who’s “Love, Reign O’er Me”. The new album, Gigaton, is among my most anticipated. If there’s a time and place for an aggressive Pearl Jam record, then it’s here and now.
Easily my favorite early release of 2020 is Algiers’ There Is No Year. This is a group that, for me, has always had fire to them. It’s an intense politically-conscious post-punk/industrial sound, but with a soul/gospel touch due to the amazing vocals of Franklin James Fisher.
So, when I went to see Star Wars last month, I left the theatre with a need to find a song. It was the Wonder Woman trailer that did it. It featured an amazing orchestral version of New Order’s “Blue Monday”. I found it. I’ve played it a lot lately. DC may have fumbled a lot of their film adaptations, but so far they’ve done well with this Wonder Woman. Whoever made the call to use this song deserves some credit.
Others releasing new music in 2020 are Wolf Parade, Smokey Brights, Son Volt, Andy Shauf, The Weeknd, Dan Deacon, Deserta, and Shopping. Lots to look forward to this year.
Artists who passed in 2019 and early 2020:
Ranking Roger – Roger Charlery holds a unique place in music with The Beat (or The English Beat) connecting ska and two-tone with the late 70’s-early 80’s Punk movement. After The Beat broke up, he and Dave Wakeling would form General Public and continue playing together into the 90’s. Roger had undergone surgery for two brain tumors, and was battling lung cancer when he passed away in March 2019 at 56.
Daniel Johnston – I never had drew direct influence from Johnston in particular, but with his passing I realized how many artists I love were influenced and inspired by him. Johnston is a fascinating person. He struggled throughout his life with multiple mental health issues, and was at times hospitalized due to being a danger to himself and others. His music takes a unique voice and message. Johnston was found dead of a suspected heart attack at his home in September 2019.
Dick Dale – Richard Antony Monsour certainly left his mark on American Music. His songs are instantly recognizable, and truly his alone. His title as the “King of Surf Guitar” is more accurate than other “King of…” titles. He essentially invented this style single-handedly. Dick Dale incorporated Middle Eastern and Eastern European melodies into American rock, and with his breakneck, staccato soloing created something no one else had done or ever would do again. It’s his and his alone. He “shedded” long before “shredding” was a term used in guitar playing. Dale’s parents were immigrants. His father was Lebanese and his mother was Polish. From an early age he was exposed to both of these folk traditions, and it was from this that he created some of the most instantly recognizable songs in all of American Music. Dick Dale continued touring in spite of his battle with cancer due to not being able to afford healthcare without the touring income. He never consumed alcohol or drugs, and gave up red meat in 1972 for health reasons. He passed away of heart and kidney failure at age 81 in March of 2019.
Neil Peart – Peart is a figure of legendary status in rock music. Rush is iconic, and Peart, in particular, is held as one of the greatest drummers of all-time. He was diagnosed with glioblastoma over 3 years ago, but as Rush had officially retired and the members were living private lives it was kept a closely-guarded secret until his passing on January 7th, 2020.
Shawn Smith – In 1993, with Seattle bands making waves all over the world with giants such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice In Chains, a band called Brad released their debut. It was initially a one-off side-project featuring Stone Gossard of Pearl Jam on guitar. This was also the first major release that featured Shawn Smith’s vocals. Brad would become an off-and-on project, and it helped launch Shawn’s other band, Satchel, as well as his very different side-project, Pigeonhed. He would also release several solo records and EPs throughout the 90’s and on until his last EP in 2016. Shawn was a well-known figure in the Seattle scene even though he did not reach the level of recognition that his peers did nationally or globally. He was reportedly working on a new Brad album at the time of his passing in April, 2019. This tribute to Andrew Wood is a song that would be on my list of “songs that make me tear up”.
Daniel Johnston – True Love Will Find You In The End
Dick Dale – Misirlou
The English Beat – Save It For Later
Rush – The Spirit of Radio
Pigeonhed – Battle Flag
Satchel – Trouble Come Down
Brad – The Day Brings
Pronouns – How to Cope With Losing Someone You Barely Know
Pearl Jam – Gimme Some Truth
Pearl Jam – Love, Reign O’er Me
Craig Finn – It’s Never Been A Fair Fight (acoustic)
Andy Shauf – Living Room
Kali Uches – 10%
The Weeknd – Blinding Lights
Dan Deacon – Sat By a Tree
Wolf Parade – Julia, Take Your Man Home
Algiers – Hour of the Furnaces
Deserta – Hide
Shopping – Initiative
The Beat – Rock The Casbah (Live)
Dick Dale – The Wedge
Pigeonhed – Fire’s Coming Down
Satchel – Not Too Late
Brad – Through the Day
Sebastian Bohm – Blue Monday