What is this?
Another year has passed and, as tradition would have it, I’ve collected some tracks for my annual Mixtape. Sixty to be exact.
Significant music from the course of the year is curated into a playlist and shared with friends. Some of it may be new, some old, I might have been to a gig, missed a gig, seen a film, heard something on the radio, or I have a special memory associated with a song. The Mix is always eclectic and although not all of it will be to your taste, you might just find something you like.
I design a cover and annotate each choice of track (coming in a couple days). As with any form of a diary, sometimes it only makes sense to me.
My year of 2019
The start to 2019 was a childhood dream come come true - as fireworks signalled the new year on Easter Island, mysterious heads of the Moai stared back at us.
The last couple months of the half-year of travel culminated with highlights of the trip in Patagonia and then Brazil. Next was brother Lenny and Claire's wedding, leading onto a fabulous five weeks in South Africa. This cushioned the blow of reality - back to normal working life in London, 10kg overweight and unfit (great tan though).
The fast-approaching summer was anything but normal - a crazy jammed-packed schedule of events, leaving no time to dwell. A visit from my Dad and Lenny to the UK, taking in some epic experiences. I had to train hard and long to get back to shape and before I knew it, I was in New York City to settle a score with the Marathon. Success: a safe Boston qualifying time of 3:05:11
Some noteworthy moments of the year:
Easter Island/Rapa Nui, Walking on the Perito Moreno glacier, Hiking with Sophie and Lisa in El Chalten and Torres Del Paine, Iguazu Falls, Sao Paulo, Senta's birthday escape, Salvador, Being mugged violently in Rio, Struan & Claire's wedding, Kruger Park 4/5, Road trip - Joburg to Cape Town, West Coast chill time with Veektor, Graaant & Christa, Cedarberg Khoisan rock art, Back to London and seeing friends on my birthday, Ibiza for Al's stag, Hackney Half, Jarvis at Chats Palace, The Strokes in Viccy Park, Stanley Kubrick exhibition, Crewing the SDW100 for Doc Hanson, Portugal: Al & Charlie's wedding, Dons & Migs' 90th party, Cricket World Cup - SA beating Aus in Manchester with Dad, Brother and MEGA crew, taking Dad to see Bob Dylan & Neil young in Hyde Park, Ireland road trip to Green's wedding, a weekend in Norfolk, Casino Royale secret cinema, Pixies at Ally Pally, Return to SA for my ID book(!), New York City: David Byrne's American Utopia, NYC Marathon, winning the WC Rugby, Spurs vs West Ham for Mourinho's first game, Analogfolk Christmas Party, SOPHIE's 40TH BIRTHDAY!
That's quite a list considering I had to leave so much out. So many moments and experiences had a soundtrack. I hope my collection keeps you company on your life journey in the first year of the next decade.
Don't hold back. Hold your own.
How do I get it?
The mixtape exists as a Spotify playlist (anyone who wants this on Apple Music let me know, I might be able to help)
Get the 2019 Mixtape on Spotify:
01. What’s Love/Joy
The song itself is one of the happiest songs I’ve heard all year but I recently discovered a darker story about the band. One of Uganda’s most popular bands in the 70’s, the band was involved in a tragedy. A band member was killed because of President Idi Amin’s amorous association with his girlfriend.
02. Saw Lightning
Distinctively Beck in it’s catchiness and co-written/produced by Pharrell Williams. It’s also worth seeing the video of the “Freestyle” version where he strips it down to Harmonica alone.
03. Fun for me
January 2nd, Easter Island: It’s 2am and Sophie and I plan to drive across the island to sneak into one of the sites and take photos of the Moai (Giant heads) under the Milky Way. The shoddy rental car can only play radio and the only choice is Radio Rapa Nui. As we set off, this track belts out - setting the scene for dodging potholes and wild horses.
04. I Just Wanna Be Your Prisoner
Skinny Pelember, Hejira
Born in Johannesburg, grew up in Doncaster. He was one of the many impressive artists I saw at Green Man festival in August.
05. Beautiful Strangers
This is the first artist to appear more than once on my playlist this year. It’s not from his most recent album but this featured heavily on the soundtrack of the year. One of my best finds.
06. More News From Nowhere
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
This wonderful oldie found it’s way onto my playlist before Cave released this year's critically acclaimed album.
07. I’m in a Weird Place Now
Within a week of being back in London after travels, I was with Marissa and Jon to see this show. I met the JR Bagopa who sacrificed another big ticket gig to meet and we had an epic night. Fond, but few memories!
08. Harmony Hall
A turn of style on the new album but this uplifting hit single is as catchy as any from the past.
Rapsody, D’Angelo, GZA
“Ibtihaj” is named after Ibtihaj Muhammad, a fencer who won a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics. Muhammad is the first American Olympian ever to compete while wearing a hijab.
Big Red Machine
A musical collaboration between Aaron Dessner of The National and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver can only produce beautiful babies.
11. Heart of Gold
Back in 2018 when my brother and I found out Neil Young and Bob Dylan were playing Hyde Park in the summer of 2019, we plotted to get our Dad over from South Africa for a 70th birthday present. Neil Young is still a master on the harmonica.
Dawson manages to capture universal struggle from the banality of the ordinary person’s mundane every day existence. (note: he’d need to raise at least £2k to run the London Marathon for the British Red Cross!)
13. All my Happiness is Gone
James North told me about David Berman the week after a Silver Jews track appeared on my Spotify Discover. The artist suffered from depression and produced this album after a quiet ten years - many of the songs reveal his struggles. A month after the album release and a few days before the tour began, he took his own life.
14. Ndife Alendo
Lazarus, The Very Best
Lazarus is a musician and activist who, like many of those in Malawi with the condition, has been persecuted for his albinism in Malawi. He was discovered busking by The Very Best (who have featured on previous Mixtapes) and helped to record an album. "Ndife Alendo" translates as "We Are Strangers" and speaks of hope beyond the cruelties of the world.
15. Ankle Injuries
Fujiya & Miyagi
Al’s stag do was in Ibiza and the highlight for me was sitting around the pool the day after the big night, and Carlos had the most perfect eclectic playlist for the occasion. There are a couple that made this list.
I love the way this cinematic horn fanfare builds in anxiety but never quite reaches a crescendo. Apparently this was used in a scene with Paul Rudd in a Netflix show this year.
17. I Got Friends
A post-punk band from London featuring members from Fat White Family and Paranoid London. I just love the shouty energy and follows on well from the previous track.
18. Dead of Nigh
This beautiful yet haunting song could easily be from an iconic scene in David Lynch film. The Canadian country artist has made a name for himself wearing handmade fringed masks that obscure his face. The video for this is worth a watch
19. The Greatest
Lana Del Rey
Despite being squarely placed on the mainstream category, I do appreciate Del Rey’s sensibility and talent. Consistently rated as one of the best album’s of the year this song captures a sense of gorgeous nostalgia.
20. I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor
Somehow this paired-back folk inspired version of the Arctic Monkeys hit elevates it to another level - allowing the lyrics to take centre stage. Delightful.
21. (Nothing But) Flowers
I’ve become even more of a Talking Heads and David Byrne fan in recent years. This song accompanied me on travels far and wide - perfect for a road trip by car through the Karoo or 36 hours on a bus in the Andes. Interestingly, Johnny Marr plays lead guitar on this recording.
22. Charger (feat. Grace Jones)
Grace Jones provides a great addition to the distinctive Gorrilaz sound.
23. Vossi Bop
He was a Glastonbury headliner this year who won over the crowd with a voice of protest in the political turbulence. F**k Boris.
24. Magic of Meghan
Love this. All the ingredients of great punk sounds and using the monarchy as subject matter. Gutted I missed them at Green Man - instead I was putting up a tent in the in the mud and rain, wondering if I’m too fucking old to be doing this.
25. Name Escape
Carrying on with the genre influence, NYC’s Bodega’s album Endless Scroll has some musical gems. The vocal style of this one reminds me of one of my favourite bands, CAKE.
Black Country, New Road
The confidence and virtuosity of these artists belies their age. At Green Man Jon Dunn recommended seeing these guys. He’d break out into “Leave Kanye out of it…” with much enthusiasm. Fantastic indeed.
The Big Moon
Another highlight of that festival was this awesome London girl band that recalls some of the best of the 90’s brit pop for me. We also got to see lead vocalist Julia’s marriage proposal on stage.
28. Make Me a Song
One half of the rock duo Fiery Furnaces, Freidberger creates a wonderful pop song best played when you need a lift in the morning.
29. True Love Will Find You in the End
This talented yet troubled artist, who suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, featured in the documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston. This song captures his raw honesty in a most beautiful way. It’s worth listening to Beck’s cover of this song as well.
30. Pigs… (in There)
I love how this song conjures such a vivid visualisation.
31. Tastes Good With the Money
Fat White Family
An interesting T-rex undertone to this one, topping off with lovely Baxter Drury feature. The music video is silly homage to Monty Python. I got to see the Fat Whites a couple times this year.
32. Better Than That
The 2018 album Living in Extraordinary Times was played often during travels; this song deals with being stuck in a rut.
33. In the Morning Light
We just managed to catch the Californian duo playing this on the main stage at Green Man on a sublime sunny afternoon.
This grunge folk band impressively released two albums this year. I caught them for the first time at Green Man, the power and passionate delivery of this heart-felt song was incredible. For Oscar.
Her talent, strength, and artistry (not to mention beauty) is on full display in the phenomenal music video for this masterpiece.
Karen O, Danger Mouse
These serial collaborators created this feminist call-to-arms in the wake of Trump’s election. The defiance is palpable in O's compelling voice.
37. On Graveyard Hill
Proving they still have it on the 3rd album since their comeback, On Graveyard Hill packs the Pixies punch. Catching them at Alexandra Palace with Sophie, Jon and Scuba Steve turned into an aptly raucous affair.
38. Every Time a Bell Rings
Half Man Half Biscuit
One of my finds of the year. I didn’t quite realise that these Northerners have wryly been commenting on culture since the 80’s. This scathing critique of hipster gentrification is poignant and hilarious at the same time - most of us will find ourselves vilified by at least a few lines from this cynicism. “Stop analysing Stravaaaaaaaaaa"
39. Like a Rolling Stone
He was on that bucket list that might never be ticked but for my Dad - I don’t think he even contemplated being able to see Dylan in the flesh. But this all came to fruition. Bob's shows have been known to be self indulgent for many years now, but at Hyde Park this July, the magic happened. For Struan and I, seeing how happy Dad was while this played was better than the show itself.
40. My Friend
Another artist with an acclaimed album release that I haven’t chosen a song from. Instead I’ve included this song of 10 years back. I love how he takes a sweet melody and theme of friendship and twists it into menace. "Now I'm not saying we're cut from the same tree, But like two pieces of the gallows"
I’m not a fan of Trap but I really warmed to this track - perhaps because it's more accessible than some.
42. One Leg
I picked up this gem from JR’s Instagram feed. As the lyrics elude to, Mina is a London-based producer and MC Bryte is Ghanaian. The outcome is a sultry banger (and video) with strong flavours of Africa that remind me of home. “When we party we party non stop…"
43. Work It - Soulwax Remix
Marie Davidson, Soulwax
A banging tune that has become a running favourite - it was much needed while fighting through the pain cave in the last couple miles of NYC Marathon.
44. Salted Caramel Ice Cream
The first couple times I heard this on the radio, the pop trashiness offended me. I've given up the fight and embraced it with delight.
45. Left for Denver
There’s always a place for tragic narratives and folk melancholia - Lenny agrees.
Sharon von Etten
If you close your eyes, you can hitch a ride with Sharon to those turbulent teenage years. Seventeen is a tour de force. I’m so glad to have seen her perform from the superb album this year at Green Man. This one’s for Sophie.
47. OMG Rock n Roll
Morby’s second track on this playlist does come from this year’s versatile album. The frenetic energy and many cultural, gospel, and musical references from this track is great to get you tapping your foot and singing along.
48. Boys in the Better Land
The Dublin post-punk band’s debut album has claimed the top spot from the likes of BBC6 Music and Rough Trade. While they hadn’t yet made it to the road trip soundtrack of Mike Green’s Irish wedding road trip it’s a good representation.
49. Last Night
No shit sound system or day-tripper crowd could spoil the moment for me at their show at All Points East this summer. It was like hearing them for the first time at that house party in Stockholm where the record played on repeat all night long.
50. Rocket Fuel (Feat. De La Soul)
DJ Shadow, De La Soul
De la Soul and DJ shadow make sweet beat love. Ladies and gentlemen, are you ready?
51. Buka Dansa
This collective of artists from DRC make their own up-cycled instruments and have an infectious party vibe.
52. Yip Roc Heresy
Slim Gaillard and His Orchestra
This famous American jazz musician apparently could play the piano with his hands facing upward. This strange song sounds like gibberish but it turns out Slim wrote this song about his time living in Detroit when he was taken in by an Armenian woman who often cooked Arabic food for him. The lyrics are almost entirely made up from Arabic food names.
53. Uglykid (feat Elohim)
Hobo Johnson, Elohim
Frank Lopes Jr. was kicked out of his home at 19 and came up with the stage name "Hobo Johnson" while living in his car. He reminds me of a cross between Mr Bingo and Trev.
54. Hold You Now (Feat. Danielle Haim)
Vampire Weekend, Danielle Haim
The title of the new album is taken from these lyrics and has become my favourite track. There’s great chemistry between Ezra and Danielle and I love the choral sample and the way it’s used. For some reason it’s the soundtrack to our trip to New York City.
55. The Capitalist Blues
What sounds like a jazzy vintage classic is a 2019 release from the 34 year old Haitian American singing about the overworked and underpaid.
56. Master Blaster (Jammin’)
Carlos’s perfect Ibiza pool playlist No. 2. Somehow this appeared at the perfect moment to enjoy the utter genius of this classic. You made those colours, Carlos! Jules gives thanks.
57. Final Form
Sampa the Great
One of Lauren Laverne’s favourites that would play while showering in the mornings. The Zambian Australian kills it with with this vibrant song.
The things I love about Beach House are taken to another level here - repeated mantra’s, stark soundscapes, haunting lyrics, adding a 14 piece orchestra for good measure. No wonder Olsen has been heralded by critics all over.
59. Hold Your Own
Lina will like this one. As powerful as any hymn, any motivational audiobook, any therapist’s advice. Take a moment to stop, put everything down and turn this up. Listen to every word from start to finish. You will thank me. You will thank yourself. Hold your own.
60. One Fine Day - Live
David Byrne performed his masterpiece in the Hudson Theatre for me, Struan, Sophie, Bryan and Dale. It was one of the most magnificent shows I’ve seen and has left a place in my soul. I leave you with all the goosebumps.
Get the 2019 Mixtape on Spotify: