Today’s/Tomorrow’s Top 40: February 16, 2023…Neutral Milk Hotel, Young Fathers, Peter Gabriel, George Ezra, P!nk, Reve

Welcome to the latest edition of Today’s/Tomorrow’s Top 40. In this post I will talk about two new album releases, three songs that are actively climbing the charts, and I will introduce a new feature, too. That something new is box-set vinyl reissues. When I was looking for new album releases to talk about in today’s post, I discovered that there just weren’t that many new albums coming out this week. I haven’t been operating in this new blog format long enough to know the cyclical patterns of record releases, so I am not sure if this is just the post-holiday doldrums we are in or if there just wasn’t much new that was happening. What I did notice was a number of box sets, commemorative reissues and greatest hits packages were out in the musical marketplace, so I opted to share one that I found particularly interesting. I hope that you end up liking it, too.

So, let’s begin, shall we? Here is Today’s/Tomorrow’s Top 40.

Commemorative Box Sets

The Collected Works of Neutral Milk Hotel

Neutral Milk Hotel with Jeff Mangum in the front

It is almost presumptuous to release a commemorative box set when you are a band that has only ever released two albums, but when that band is Neutral Milk Hotel it seems highly appropriate. As many of you may know, Neutral Milk Hotel was an Indie-Alternative band who came to prominence in the mid-1990s. The band was fronted by singer/songwriter Jeff Mangum and promoted a sub-genre of music known as lo-fi. This meant that the band purposefully recorded their music in basic, simple ways and eschewed polished recording techniques and effects. Their debut album didn’t fare that well when it was released, but their second album, In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, is a different story and helped make the band one of the most interesting and important Indie bands of all time. While not completely a concept album, In The Aeroplane Over The Sea was inspired for the most part by the seminal book Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. Singer Jeff Mangum read the book and was profoundly moved by the story it contained. Specifically, he became emotionally overwhelmed at the idea that someone as full of kindness and empathy and the potential for goodness as Anne Frank appeared to be could be taken away from us so cruelly. He postulated that if there was no future for someone as special as Anne Frank, then what hope did any of us have going forward? The songs he wrote while in this state are rough around the edges but possess an earnestness that we rarely see in music today.

When In The Aeroplane Over The Sea was released, opinions were split as to its worth. But, over time, fans and critics alike have come to view the album as being a classic of its kind. I have to tell you that the title track, as well as the song “Holland, 1945” are both songs that are incredibly unique and moving and stay with you long after the last note has been played. This album was released just as the Internet was becoming a thing. Suddenly, Jeff Mangum’s heartfelt thoughts were becoming the fodder for chat room critiques and debates. The weight of being so vulnerable in such a public manner was not what Mangum had intended. Finding himself in that position became distressing, and Mangum simply disappeared for almost a decade. No one knew where he went or even if he was still alive. The manner in which he vanished added an air of mystique to the band’s legacy which, in turn, caused their work to be viewed with greater interest and seriousness. It wouldn’t be entirely incorrect to say that In The Aeroplane Over The Sea became somewhat of a cult classic album. Then, about a decade ago, Jeff Mangum reappeared as if he had never been away. A reunion tour was held but no new music was recorded or released. This new commemorative box set is the first new offering by the band in almost twenty-five years.

If you have never heard Neutral Milk Hotel before then I offer you their two most well known songs. “Holland, 1945” is said to be about Otto Frank, who was Anne Frank’s father and the only member of the Frank family to have survived the Holocaust. The song is about how someone in that situation deals with survivor’s guilt and finds the strength to continue living when all that they have loved is gone. It is actually a peppy, all-over-the-place song that leaves a lasting impression because of the emotional wallop it packs. You can listen to this song here. “In The Aeroplane Over The Sea” is not specifically about Anne Frank and her life, but she certainly helped to inspire it. It is a slightly less jangly song as compared to “Holland, 1945”, but it is uniquely uplifting and passionate at the same time. You can listen to this song here.

New Album Releases

Heavy Heavy by Young Fathers

Young Fathers: Alloysious Massaquoi, “G” Hastings and Kayus Bankole

I have a new favourite band. Young Fathers are an absolutely incredible band from Scotland. Heavy Heavy is their fourth album. Two of their first three releases have gone on to be named Scottish Album of the Year. I am not sure why I had never heard of them prior to conducting my research for this post but now that I have found them, I have been binge-listening to their entire catalogue. They are soooooo good live! Young Fathers consists of three singers Alloysious Massaquoi (Liberian), Kayus Bankole (Nigerian), Graham “G” Hastings (Scottish) who perform in what can best be described as Hip Hop Gospel. Their performance style is not Hip Hop as we know it from America. It is a joyful world music style. Completely uplifting and emotionally energizing. I am going to try to bring you up to speed by giving you three videos to watch and listen to!

The first comes from a live in-studio performance at my favourite radio station KEXP-FM in Seattle. They play four older songs live in this set. They are so intense. You will be drained just watching it. So good. The link to that video is here. ***There is no lyric video.

The second video also comes from a live performance of a song called “Only God Knows”. This song was written for inclusion on the soundtrack of the Trainspotting sequel, T2. Again, the intensity of the performance is something else, especially the second half of the song. You can watch this video here. ***Because it is a live performance, there is no lyric video.

The third and final video is a lyric video!!! It is the lyric video for the latest single from their new album, Heavy Heavy, and is simply called “Rice”. It can be found here.

i/o by Peter Gabriel

Peter Gabriel

Peter Gabriel recently celebrated his 73rd birthday by releasing a new album called i/o. Over the course of his long and successful career, Peter Gabriel has released many hit songs such as “Sledgehammer”, “Big Time”, “Don’t Give Up” featuring Kate Bush, “In Your Eyes” featuring Youssou N’Dour, “Shock The Monkey”, “Games Without Frontiers”, “Solsbury Hill”, “Biko” and many more. He has also championed causes such as human rights, as well as protection of the environment.

His new album i/o is his first new album in twenty years. He released the first single from the album, “Panopticom: Bright Side Mix”, on the first full moon of this year. On the second full moon, he released “Panopticom: Dark Side Mix”. Gabriel plans to continue releasing new material as each full moon appears, giving each new song the “bright side/dark side” alternative versions as time goes on. Gabriel claims that the idea of the “Panopticom” is to create a global database of information and ideas that is controlled by ordinary citizens so that we have unfiltered access to the information necessary to understand what is happening to our world and make proper informed decisions accordingly.

You can watch/listen to the videos for “Panopticom: Bright Side Mix” here and “Panopticom: Dark Side Mix” here. ***There are no lyric versions.

Songs That Are Currently on the Charts

“Green Green Grass” by George Ezra (BBC Radio 1, Billboard and Spotify)

George Ezra

George Ezra burst on to the UK music scene in 2014 when he had a big hit with the song “Budapest”. In the time since, he is generally regarded in the same musical peer group as Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith. Ezra has had several hit songs in the UK and was named the Best British Male Solo Artist at The Brit Awards in 2019.

He is presently climbing the Top 40 charts around the world with a song called “Green Green Grass”. The story behind the song is that he was vacationing on the island of St. Lucia with family and friends in 2018. As they were driving around the island they came upon what appeared to be a festival or street party in a small town. When they stopped to enquire as to what the nature of the celebration was, they were informed that it actually was a celebration of life for three different people at the same time. The music was so joyous, the colours so vibrant and the atmosphere so happy that everyone in Ezra’s party came to the conclusion that when their turn came to pass that they definitely wanted a sendoff such as the one they had just witnessed. “Green Green Grass” is about having such a party after you have died. Despite the subject matter, “Green Green Grass” is a peppy, upbeat tune that is a popular hit for a reason.

The link to the video for “Green Green Grass” by George Ezra can be found here. ***The lyrics version is here.

“Never Gonna Not Dance Again” by P!nk (CHUM-FM, Billboard, Spotify)


Despite the double-negative song title, “Never Gonna Not Dance Again” by P!nk is climbing the charts all across North America. This song was inspired by the George Michael and Wham song “Careless Whisper” and the line, “I’m never gonna dance again”. However, P!nk approached the song with the idea that, unlike what happened in the George Michael song, no one was ever going to take away her spirit and her willingness to express herself through music and movement and dance.

P!nk is terrific. She has such a powerful voice and such a charismatic personality. In her career, she has had many hits, such as “There You Go”, “Lady Marmalade”, “Get The Party Started”, “Just Like a Pill”, “So What”, “Sober”, “Bad Influence”, “Raise Your Glass”, “Perfect”, “Try”, “Just Like Fire”, “What About Us” and many more. She has also performed with other artists, such as Eminem, Cher, City and Colour, Keith Urban, as well as appearing at the recent Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert in Los Angeles and singing with the Foo Fighters.

Her latest single is “Never Gonna Not Dance Again”. The link to the video for this song is here. ***The lyrics version can be found here.

“Whitney” by Rêve (Chum-FM, Spotify)


Rêve is the Montreal-based singer who broke onto the music scene this past year with the catchy hit song “Ctrl-Alt-Del”. She is back with a new song called “Whitney”, which, as you may suspect, is inspired by the late, great Whitney Houston. Rêve has stated that this song has two meanings for her. First of all, it is a tip-of-the-hat to Whitney Houston and to all of the other iconic performers who inspired Rêve to follow her own dream of becoming a singer in her own right. She says that having such impactful role models was the key to giving her the confidence to believe that she could write and sing hit songs, too. She also hopes that by being a successful woman who is supporting and applauding other successful women, that maybe, one day, some young aspiring teenage female singer with a dream will look to her as being an inspiration, too. The second point that Rêve is making with the song “Whitney” is that being a successful singer takes more than just talent; it takes a sense of self-confidence that allows you to develop a stage presence that catches the eye of the public. So, this song is Rêve’s way of thanking the likes of Whitney Houston for helping her to develop a sense of style and swagger to her on-stage persona.

The link to the song, “Whitney” by Rêve can be found here. ***The lyrics version is here.

That’s a wrap for this week. I hope that you found some new music to enjoy. I will be back next week with an all-new look at what is trending now, what may be trending in the very near future, as well as celebrating the very best of the past should there be box sets and reissues of note to pass along. Until then, take care. Thanks for reading this post. I appreciate your presence on my blog.

PS: The header photo was taken at the Cultivate Festival in Port Hope, Ontario this past summer. The link to the Festival website can be found here.

***As always, all original content contained within this blog remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post shall be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the express written consent of the author. ©2023

The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #346: Biko by Peter Gabriel (RS)

This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song and going until I reach Song . When you see the song title listed as something like: Song (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #346: Biko by Peter Gabriel.

When I was growing up on Cape Breton Island as a young man, I had no real understanding of the political atmosphere in South Africa. In those pre-Internet days, information was more difficult to come by. What I knew about South Africa came mainly from magazines like National Geographic that came to our house and from what was written in the set of Encyclopedia Britannica that I used for my school work. Conversely, in those pre-Internet days, it wasn’t always easy to get information out to the world if you had something to say. With the mainstream media sources being radio, television and newspapers and, with those sources often owned by companies that factored political considerations into what issues were covered and how, an activist could toil away in anonymity for a lifetime and never be heard outside of their own, immediate area. So, like many, the first time I ever heard the name Steven Biko was when his death at the hands of South African police was announced one evening on the CBC news. There was no follow-up coverage or in-depth probing of his death by reporters. His death was simply noted. The anchorman moved on to the next story and that was it. It wasn’t until I had left Cape Breton and moved to Toronto for university in 1982 that I heard Peter Gabriel sing the haunting song “Biko” for the first time. That’s when I started to understand more about what was happening in South Africa and what had happened, specifically to Steven Biko. That is when I started to grow up.

South Africa had been functioning under a government sanctioned set of policies known as Apartheid or “Apart-ness”. These were policies that governed every aspect of life for all citizens of South Africa. The thing about Apartheid was that the policies enacted by the ruling National Party were aimed at helping white South Africans maintain a favoured status within the country. By extension, it meant that all black South Africans (the entirety of the native population) were forced to accept rules that restricted regarding where they could live, where they could work, the amount of political organizing they could do, how much of their culture and history were permitted to be displayed and much, much more. The rules of Apartheid were inherently unfair. That was the whole point of those policies. Needless to say, most black South Africans detested Apartheid and looked for ways to fight back. One of those who tried to affect change was a young student activist named Steven Biko. Biko was a writer, speaker and organizer who worked for an alliance of student groups across South Africa. The ruling government viewed him as a threat to the status quo and sought to silence him by forbidding him to publish his writing, meet with more than one person at a time or to travel beyond the borders of his small, homeland area. Biko refused to be gagged in such a way and continued to speak out. In time he was arrested. In the course of being interrogated, he was beaten and left for dead in his jail cell. Steven Biko died on September 12, 1977.

Like me, Peter Gabriel heard of Steven Biko for the first time when his death was announced. But, unlike me, Peter Gabriel was already a worldly adult when Steven Biko was killed. At that time, Gabriel was preparing to write the songs that would become his third solo album. Previously, Peter Gabriel had been the lead singer of the original incarnation of the band “Genesis”. Gabriel would go on to have a very successful solo career filled with hit songs such as “Solsbury Hill”, “Games Without Frontiers”, “I Don’t Remember”, “Shock the Monkey”, “Sledgehammer”, “In Your Eyes”, “Don’t Give Up (with Kate Bush), “Red Rain” and so on. But it was “Biko” that launched Peter Gabriel into the stratosphere of cultural recognition and political activism.

“Biko” is a musical eulogy that tells the story of Steven Biko’s life and his death at the hands of South African police. It honours his legacy and makes a public vow to not forget who he was and why his work was important. “Biko” begins with a sample of a song sung in the South African language of Xhosa. All throughout the song, there is a sombre, forceful drum beat (heart beat). There also are synthesized bagpipes (of all things) that really act to raise the spirits of those listening, almost as if it was a battle cry. In the course of the song, Gabriel talks about how he has been affected by what he has learned and about how the whole world is now aware of South Africa’s dirty little secret of Apartheid and the injustice and hardship those policies had caused. The song ends with an actual Xhosa song that was sung at Biko’s real funeral.

Because of this song, many people in the world became aware of what was going on in South Africa. Other artists, like Steve Van Zandt (of Bruce Springsteen’s E-Street Band) helped organize a boycott by artists of a Whites-only resort called Sun City. Soon pressure was applied internationally by governments from around the word in the form of economic sanctions against the ruling South African Government. As is often the case, money talks. Not long afterwards, a long-time political prisoner and activist named Nelson Mandela was freed after being imprisoned for 27 years on Robben Island. Free elections were held and Mandela’s Party came to power thus, ending the policy of Apartheid in South Africa. It is probably not correct to credit the song “Biko” with ending Apartheid in South Africa. Life is more nuanced and complicated than that. However, Peter Gabriel’s song did play a significant part in shining a spotlight for the world to see and understand how an entire race or group of people could be legally and systemically oppressed. It also helped many understand our own complicity in propping up such regimes because of our willingness to remain ignorant as to what was really going on. In addition, this song made our continued economic support of such a regime indefensible. I have said it before and I will say it again, in times of darkness it is often the poets and singers and artists of the world that lead the way into the light. Peter Gabriel did that by honouring a brave man who spoke out for those at a time when few were listening. Steven Biko paid for his courage with his life. May he always be remembered as a symbol, not only for South Africans but, also for people everywhere who find themselves under the thumbs of oppressors. In a perfect world, life should be fair and just. #215.

The link to the video for the song “Biko” by Peter Gabriel can be found here. ***The lyrics version can be found here.

The link to the official website for Peter Gabriel can be found here.

The link to the official website for Amnesty International…an organization decimated to advocating for political prisoners all around the world can be found here.

thanks to Rolling Stone Magazine for helping to inspire the writing of this post. The link to their website can be found here.

***As always, all original content contained within this post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post shall be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the express written consent of the author. ©2021

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