During the end of the year, I usually make a list of top concerts of the past twelve months. But I only attended six shows in 2020 before the world changed. Here is a list of music that is helping me get through these dark times:
Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was by Bright Eyes – There is no denying this album is epic. The theme is finding hope out of darkness. For example, the song Hot Car in the Sun – “Made my bed and I brushed my teeth/Didn’t think about dying/Got up to face another day.” The record was recorded nine years after the band’s last album. Lead singer Connor Oberst has been occupied with his solo work and the indie rock duo The Better Oblivion Community Center with Phoebe Bridgers (I am still upset I missed their tour last year). Oberst is back with his old band and brilliantly weirder than ever. The opening track Pageturners Rag has Oberst’s Mother and ex-wife having a chat on hallucinogenic mushrooms. His Mother Nancy states, “I think about how much people need. What they need right now to feel like there’s something to look forward to. We have to hold on.”
Brave Faces Everyone by Spanish Love Songs– It’s the type of music that you listen to while speeding down an abandoned highway with all the windows down. It even works if you even drive a Mazda 3 (trust me). I think the titles of these songs describe the album’s subject matter pretty well: Routine Pain, Self-Destruction (As a Sensible Career Choice), and Optimism (As a Radical Life Choice). According to lead singer Dylan Slocum, it’s about the situations the band experienced touring the country supporting their last album. Remember when bands could tour? (Deep sigh)
I discovered The Accidentals, a multi-instrumental Michigan based trio, while watching an online music festival back in the spring. Their chamber pop style with amazing harmonies made me a fan. Once I started following them on social media, I watched their Daily Breather Sessions (still available on YouTube). The live streams consisted of band members Sav Buist, Katie Larson, and Michael Dause lighting a candle, taking deep breathes, and playing original and cover songs. Dause, the drummer, wore a t-shirt with the day of the week on it for those losing track of time (I don’t know what day it is now). The stories, the calmness and the compassion gave my mind sanity in an insane time. Besides original songs such as Michigan And Again, their covers of Fiona Apple, Norah Jones, and The Alabama Shakes were simply amazing. During the pandemic, the band built a studio and recorded an album entitled Vessel that will be released soon.
… But I’d Rather Be with You by Molly Tuttle – Sidelined from touring, Molly Tuttle made a covers album to rediscover the songs that made her fall in love with music. The Nashville, Tennessee master guitar player recorded tunes from artists that have shaped her musical identity. She taught herself how to record in her home to make this love letter to music. Tuttle put her unique style on songs by The Rolling Stones, Rancid, Harry Styles, and many others. She showcased her beautiful voice and excellent guitar picking especially on Zero by The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Tuttle created a thing of beauty in these ugly times.
Since its release, The Hives at Third Man Records has been my substitute for a live music fix. The legendary Swedish band are known for their energetic performances. They released the first live recording of their thirty-year career in the fall. Lead singer Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist charmed the Nashville, Tennessee audience with sing-a-longs, corny jokes, and rock and roll swagger. The Hives recorded the performance at the intimate Third Man Records’ Blue Room with a capacity of only 200 lucky fans last year. Almqvist stated, “This stage is not nearly big enough for my ego.” The album ends with scream therapy as the crowd shouts along to their hit Tick Tick Boom. The lead singer described the tune as a countdown song for people who can’t count. It ends with Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist calling out in his Swedish accent, “I hope you are happy with our service. Please tip your waiter.”
See you at the next show. Hopefully soon.