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
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
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 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.
Songs That Are Currently on the Charts
“Green Green Grass” by George Ezra (BBC Radio 1, Billboard and Spotify)
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 #1 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.
“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.
“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.
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.
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