Into Paradise and Blue in Heaven

Sometimes music has to take a long and winding road before it reaches us. I am listening down that road today, starting at an album called Under The Water by the Irish indie band Into Paradise. Unfortunately, Into Paradise didn’t float them above the water. The next release for the band was Churchtown, and it managed to make some ripples in the press, and it was more commercially successful for the band. I have to admit that Churchtown  was more appealing to me than Under The Water, but they were both excellent listens. Churchtown has the ethos of that era, which is good because they have cited that Joy Division was an influence for them. Also mentioned were Echo & the Bunnymen as another of their influencers. That makes some pretty good pedigree to start a band.

Now that we know more about the band Into Paradise, we can move on to the next round on my listening list today. Blue in Heaven was an Irish musical adventure active in the 80s. They burst out of Ireland with other outfits of that era such as Simple MindsU2 and the Waterboys. They released two full-length albums on Island Records: All the Gods Men (1985) and Explicit Material (1986). They also released several singles and EPs. Last FM has their catalogue for your listening pleasure. I enjoyed listening to their music, and although it has been 35 or so years since these bands were active, the music still sounds fresh to me. I am a magnet for anything post-punk/new wave, so both Into Paradise and Blue in Heaven resonate with me, good music from both bands.

We now transition to why I spent a fair chunk of time talking to you about these two particular bands. David Long was the face of the 1980s band Into Paradise, and Shane O’Neill was front and center in the band Blue In Heaven, and these two gentlemen have gotten together and collaborated on some new material. That is news worth talking about.

Hailing from the same part of Dublin, Long and O’Neill had known each other since they were 6 or 7. They started their musical lives with a trio called amuse that featured David Long on bass and vocals, Shane on guitar, and Dave Clarke (Warren Zevon, now Hothouse Flowers) on drums. After splitting and doing their separate thing, around 1996, they recorded an album as an outfit called Supernaut.

With my penchant for post-punk/new wave, their new songs hit me like a flying mallet. At the start of the first song on this EP, the jangling guitar sent electricity bursting through my whole body. My oh my, this is the start of a good thing—three good things to be accurate. Far From HomeShake Me, I’m Magic and Hand Of Love.The bass line in Shake Me, I’m Magic is incredible. I won’t type out all the lyrics, but there is one line from the song Far From Home that spoke loud and clear to me,

Sometimes hard to remember all I’ve seen,

Sometimes feels like a dream

I’m not a young man any longer, and sometimes it is hard to remember all I’ve seen and sometimes it can feel like walking through a dream where the line that separates reality from the dream fuzzy and shifting back and forth.

“We wanted to make an album that could and should be listened to all the way through. It was an equal collaboration. Shane and myself have known each other so long that there was never a problem editing each other if something didn’t fit with the song. We had no time restrictions, or release dates to go by, so we took our time with this album and thought about every aspect of it, song titles, running order, album cover, album name, and what songs to leave on and leave off. The instrumentals are very important to the album’s story.,” says Dave Long.

“We were always the kind of musicians who couldn’t play other people’s songs properly, barely able to play some of our own songs. We’ve always loved music but didn’t always get some of the community surrounding it. I was trying to use my memories of working with Hannett to help create atmospherics and space behind the guitars and drums (he used to stop the tape and joke it was mixed if the echo was interesting). Dave wanted an early style of guitar I used to play, less bar chords, more angular ringing notes,” says Shane O’Neill.

As of July 16, the ‘Far From Home‘ maxi-single will be available across online platforms such as SpotifyApple Music and Bandcamp. The ‘Moll & Zeis’ album will be released everywhere digitally in September.

Keep up with David Long and Shane O’Neill

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2020

I have gotten into the habit of documenting my listening habits over the spaces of time to seeing if I could glean anything meaningful from those statistics. With over 500 unique albums listened to over the course of 2020 I had some sifting and sorting to do.

So…?

Did I?

Did I find anything worth writing about? I think there are some insights that can be gleaned from these lists. For instance, which albums did I listen to the most based on the year they were originally released?

The top spot in that category was taken by the year 2020 with 96 unique albums listened to. This statistic did not surprise me in the least because I like listening to new music. Second place was 2019 with a significant drop to a mere 19 albums, not as many as 2020 but these were still relatively fresh and deserving of another spin around the turntable.

For third place I took a big jump back to 1971 and 1978 with 18 albums released in each of those years that I listened to. The next three most listened to years are all in the 1970s, which came as no surprise to me. In 1970 I turned 16, got a summer job and bought some records with the money from my first foray into the working world. In 1973 I graduated from high school and two days later got a full-time job with a decent salary that helped feed my appetite for music. After the 1970’s my listening jumped all over the place from 1958 to the present.

The next stat is for how I listened to all that music. Thanks to Covid-19 and isolating at home I decided to go through our vinyl collection, starting at A and going through the alphabet. I didn’t listen to every album but I did listen to 210 slabs of vinyl. iTunes came in second with 146 albums that I listened to. I only listened to three cassette tapes in 2020 and no 8-track or reel to reel tapes. I should mention that these statistics are all for full albums, I do not keep statistics for single releases or album samples.

The next category is for the most listened to artist in 2020, and the winner is Pink Floyd, with eight albums in 2020 that I listened to. ‘A Momentary Lapse of Reason’ was the only album with two listens, which is interesting to me because I am a huge DSotM fan, 1973 right!

A line of hospital beds stretch into the distance on an overcast beach. A man sits on one bed holding a mirror. The sky is slightly purple.

Second place was Daniel Amos with eight albums and two listens to their album ‘Mr. Buechner’s Dream’. These two come as no surprise to myself or anyone who knows me, the two artists are longstanding favourites for me.

The most listened to album goes to ‘Greatest Hits’ by Various Artists. This happens every year, for some reason I like listening to compilation albums such as this one from K-Tel, which I bought in 1973 from the Hudson’t Bay store in Grande Cache shortly after I graduated from high school, if my memory serves me well there were only about a dozen of us in the grad class.

After that there was a log jam for the most listened to albums of 2020 with these all tying for the top spot:

‘Hermit of Mink Hollow’ by Todd Rundgren

‘Lateralus’ by Tool

‘Shades of Deep Purple’ by Deep Purple

‘Western Swing & Waltzes and Other Punchy Songs’ by Colter Wall

‘The Beatles’ by The Beatles, aka ’The White Album’.

The final observation is for the 2020 album of the year award.

Wait, I don’t do album of the year awards.

What we do have are some of my favourite listens from 2020, with a heavy emphasis on the word some.

Bob Dylan: ‘Rough And Rowdy Ways’. I saw him live in concert in 2017 and that was not a pleasant experience, this album restored Dylan to my good books.

Gwenifer Raymond: ‘Strange Lights Over Garth Mountain’. I had never heard of her before this album came out, and now I can’t stop listening her. An achingly beautiful album.

Colter Wall – ‘Western Swing & Waltzes and Other Punchy Songs’

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Colter Wall came roaring out of Saskatchewan playing honest country and western music and with this, his third release, he builds on what the first two laid down and then upped the ante.

Speaking of good C&W music, Sturgill Simpson – ‘Cuttin’ Grass ‘, entertained me for hours.

Sturgill Simpson is like Colter Wall in that I have been listening to his music since he released his first album back in 2013. His newest, ‘Cuttin’ Grass’ is both a departure and a return. It is different from his last release and similar to his first. I have played this on vinyl, and it sounds incredible.

Lucinda Williams – ‘Good Souls Better Angels’ I am a latecomer to Lucinda Williams’s music but having found it I only want to hear more and this release sounds might fine.

Neil Young – ‘Homegrown’ I have been listening to Neil Young’s music since the day before forever. This is reminiscent of some of his early stuff, more acoustic and folky.

Steve Earle and the Dukes – ‘Ghosts of West Virginia’ All I knew about Steve Earle was his big hits, Guitar Town and Copperhead Road. Until last year, when I started streaming some of his music, and then this album came out and now I have my ear glued to his music.

The Avett Brothers – ‘The Third Gleam’ I keep ‘Emotionalism’ and ‘The Carpenter’ in fairly steady rotation, at least once a year and now this recording will start that round dance with them.

Colter Wall, Sturgill Simpson, Lucinda Williams, Neil Young, Steve Earle and The Avett Brothers are all to the Country and Western music of today in same way that Willie and Waylon and the boys were to the Nashville establishment back in the ”70s. Outlaw country isn’t dead; it’s alive and well in the hands of folks such as these.

Kronos Quartet & Friends – ‘Long Time Passing: Kronos Quartet & Friends Celebrate Pete Seeger’ The Kronos Quartet hasn’t laid down a lousy album, ever. This record is story telling at its finest.

Shabaka and the Ancestors: ‘We Are Sent Here By History’ This album is jazz, new jazz, attention-getting jazz. Smooth and raw and emotional. It is good music, nothing more and nothing less. I also nominate this for album artwork of the year. It is stark but it conveys a message by forcing us to focus on what is shown.

This brought to mind the album cover of ‘Unknown Pleasures’ by Joy Division, stark but striking in the same way. I also listen to ‘Unknown Pleasures’ frequently.

I hope you have enjoyed your 2020 musical experience, if nothing else it provided a soundtrack to the year through the gift of music. Some of these albums created a distraction away from the shit show that 2020 was. Demi Lovato created the best commentary on 2020 with her song ‘Commander In Chief.’ Music also provided more than a few moments of pure pleasure. For each of the artists in this list and to all of the artists that I listened to but who didn’t make the final cut, thank you.

pee.s. this picture disc was number 500 for 2020