It’s hard to believe that after almost five years of these playlists, this is the first time I’ve managed to include a Neil Young song. Strange, but encouraging, as it goes to show how wide-ranging my concept here is, and how much, ongoingly, there is to explore. And yet the internet continues to force us into aural silos based on the reductive “if you like artist A, you’ll like artist B because they sound alike” model of listening. Then of course there’s the equally bankrupt “Listen to this because it’s got 49 million streams” model. Well, not here. As a matter of fact, reviewing this playlist, I realize that 13 of the first 14 tracks are from artists that haven’t had a song featured here previously. Music from the length of rock’n’roll history remains valid; you get nowhere in any pursuit either by acting as if the past doesn’t exist nor by denying the vitality of the present.
Some notes on this month’s mix:
* While I aim not to feature any one artist more than once in a calendar year, I’ve made no policy about songs, and as such, this month, I am featuring a song that was already on a playlist this year, performed by a different artist: that would be the fabulous and ever-relevant George Harrison song “Beware of Darkness.” George’s original landed in EPS 5.05, while here we get Marianne Faithfull’s nearly contemporary cover of the song, dating back to recording sessions she had in 1971, even as the tracks she made at that point didn’t see the light of day until 1985. Faithfull has always had exquisite taste in songs she chooses to cover, dating all the way back to her famous first hit single, “As Tears Go By.”
* If you don’t know Bruce Woolley & The Camera Club and have any fondness for rock’n’roll’s new wave moment, I’d urge you to check out the album. You can thank me later.
* A perceptive few of you may notice that I normally use the playlists to re-visit songs that have been previously reviewed on Fingertips; this month, there’s a batch of them, led by the Fauves marvelous, power-poppy “Dirt-Bike Option,” which was a 2000 EP track that resurfaced in 2007 on a compilation of this prolific Australian band’s B-sides and rarities and such. Another big-time Fingertips favorite is Shiv Hurrah’s “Oh Oh Oh,” a modestly-named tune combining DIY sensibility with one of the most satisfying melodies I’ve yet come across in my 15 years here.
* Gabriel Kahane’s song comes from his deep and touching 2018 album Book of Travelers. As a singer/songwriter who is also a contemporary classical music composer, his songs, however stripped-down instrumentally, employ musical complexities rarely heard in rock’n’roll. And what a fine singing voice he has, too. The album has a singular back story: right after the 2016 election, Kahane boarded a train and traveled nearly 9,000 miles over the course of two weeks, talking to people he encountered along the way, later turning their stories into a series of lovely if complex and often melancholy songs. Check it out via Bandcamp if you get a chance.
Full playlist below the widget.
“English Garden” – Bruce Woolley & The Camera Club (English Garden, 1980)
“Captain of Your Ship” – Reparata & the Delrons (single, 1968)
“Smart” – Nice Try (Nice Try, 2018)
“The Dirt-Bike Option” – The Fauves (Celebrate the Failure EP, 2000)
“Look Out For My Love” – Neil Young (Comes a Time, 1978)
“It Ain’t As Easy As That” – The Elektras (single, 1963)
“Oh Oh Oh” – Shiv Hurrah (Shiv Hurrah, 2010)
“When I Was a Boy” – Dar Williams (The Honesty Room, 1993)
“This Is The Day” – The The (Soul Mining, 1987)
“Body and Soul” – Erroll Garner (Gems. 1951)
“Bit of Tongue” – Mr. Gnome (Madness in Miniature, 2011)
“Window Pane” – The Real People (The Real People, 1991)
“Come Up” – Devics (Push the Heart, 2006)
“Long Away” – Queen (A Day at the Races, 1976)
“Love is Here and Now You’re Gone” – The Supremes (The Supremes Sing Holland-Dozier-Holland, 1967)
“Absolute Beginners” – David Bowie (single, 1986)
“The Trick is to Keep Breathing” – Garbage (Version 2.0, 1998)
“Baltimore” – Gabriel Kahane (Book of Travelers, 2018)
“Beware of Darkness” – Marianne Faithfull (Rich Kid Blues, recorded 1971; released 1985)
“Balloon Maker” – Midlake (Bamnan and Silvercork, 2004)