Personally, what I will most remember about 2019 from a musical point will be Underworld’s Drift Project.
In 1992 the Wedding Present released a newly recorded single each month, charting 12 times in the process. In 2019 Underworld released freshly recorded music every week, with a free MP3 emailed each Thursday. The project had six phases – effectively mini albums, each phase interspersed with unreleased tracks. Given that each track had an accompanying video and Underworld songs often clock in at 7 minutes or more (one was over 40 minutes), that means Underworld released nearly as much new ‘content’ in 2019 as the rest of their career.
The year culminated in their biggest ever gig at Wembley Arena in front of 20,000 including Roy and myself, at which numerous Drift songs got an outing and went down as well as the classics – a definite career high, driven by creativity and an appreciative audience as opposed to simple nostalgia.
Spoilt for choice, I have eventually steered around the uplifting ‘Listen To Their No’ and the shimmering ‘Border Country’ to arrive at S.T.A.R. After all I have always been a sucker for list songs..
Classic Underworld. How do you choose between 52 of your favourite tunes? My number two is one of two songs, and subsequently bodies of work, found courtesy of Youtube. Canadian folk band The Dead South have been bumping around for about eight years but have been a complete blind spot until I was introduced to them randomly by Google’s algorithm. They have been referred to as Mumford and Son’s Evil Twin which doesn’t really do justice to their eclectic take on blue-grass. A four piece, they include classic instrumentation of cello, banjo, mandolin and guitar but (at least to date) avoid the more common blue-grass elements of fiddle and bass. They have a new album “Sugar & Joy” which was released this year which is now my preferred LP from their catalogue. However, my selected single is their biggest hit so far from an earlier record, “In Hell I’ll be in Good Company”. There are various live versions from the last 12 months, but I think the original video of the song captures the rollicking nature of the band best.
In the 70’s and 80’s political and social disarray spawned young bands and artists agitating and raging against the state of the world – dysfunction begetting creativity. In the latter years of this decade established artists have been front and centre and my final two selections from artists who have been around for 20 years or more, reflect both current societal upheaval and anxieties for what the future holds.
Number 2 – Elbow ‘ White Heat White Noise’