MIX ALBUMS

Ends and Beginnings

Kevin Conaway’s 2021 Mix Album

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Welcome to Mix Album #12!

 

Presented on this mix is a compilation of songs that I thought were significant in one way or another this year. As with previous mixes, there isn’t a theme to this album, but some of the songs relate to events or sentiments felt throughout the year. My only guidelines for these mixes are that the songs have to either be new this year, new to me this year, or have some significance tied to this year; the mix must be arranged in a way so that it feels like a cohesive album (hence the term “mix album”); and I must still adhere to the 80-minute time constraint of a physical CD, which I was forced to abide by when I started making these albums 12 years ago. My only requests from you, as always, are that you give this mix at least one listen in the order I’ve arranged it and that you let me know what you thought of it. Enjoy!

 

01. Gouplove – This Is The End

I love the feel of this song and of this album in whole. This was a different sound from Grouplove. It reminded me a lot of alt rock bands of the 90’s… which is definitely a sweet spot for me. And, I don’t know what it is, but it always feels like the hauntingness (is that a word?) of a song is always increased whenever it features children singing. I originally had placed this song at the end of my mix, for obvious reasons, but ultimately, I just thought it worked better as the opening track. Plus I enjoyed the idea of starting the album with a song called “This Is The End.”

 

02. The Vaccines – Back In Love City

Talk about a great time to have this as your band name! Lots of free publicity! Or maybe it was counter-productive, as theirs probably wasn’t the first site to show up in a Google search. Anyway… I had heard of this band before but wasn’t familiar with their music. That’s the beauty of Spotify and other streaming sites though – it doesn’t cost me any extra to check out something new. I gave this song a listen and was instantly hooked. This album ended up being one of my favorites of the year. It’s full of bangers!

 

03. Biffy Clyro – A Hunger In Your Haunt

Biffy Clyro has been one of my favorite bands for the last decade or so. This is their fifth time appearing on one of my mixes. I’d consider them to be one of the best current bands out there. Sorry for all the cheeky swears if you’re offended by that sort of thing.

 

04. Starbenders – Holy Mother

It took me all the way until the middle of September before I attended my first concert in 2021. In my defense, there weren’t any earlier in the year. Anyway… my concert-going in 2021 did not start off without a hitch. I was planning to see a band called The Sounds at the Grog Shop in Cleveland. Upon arriving at the venue, there was a sign posted on the door stating that The Sounds have cancelled. Shit! I assumed this was covid-related, but it turned out their bus had broken down in PA on their way here. This was definitely upsetting, but probably way more so for my friend who had driven up from Columbus. The opening band on the tour did make it to the Grog Shop though and put on a free set for anyone who wanted to stick around. We hung out at the bar and watched the band, which was Starbenders. I really liked them a lot! They have a cool throw-back glam sound and a look to go along with it. I became a fan that night and listened to this album a lot.

 

05. Bleachers w/Bruce Springsteen - Chinatown

Here’s a nice change of pace after four upbeat songs. Admittedly, I didn’t care much for the album that this song came from. This song definitely struck a chord with me though. I love the feel of it. I found it getting stuck in my head randomly throughout the year even if I hadn’t listened to it in a while. Plus, you can never go wrong having The Boss on your song.

 

06. Barenaked Ladies – New Disaster

It’s been a while since I’ve listened to Barenaked Ladies. Good ol’ Spotify let me know that they had a new single out, so I decided to give it a listen. This song is everything that was ever great about this band. It’s very cleverly written and is super catchy. Plus, it has a potent message about the oversenationalizing (is that a word??) of stories by the media. This ended up being one of the songs that I listened to the most this year.

 

07. Indira & Guppy Jo – Paper Boats

Interestingly enough, this is the second time that Indira & Guppy Jo have appeared on one of my mixes, with the first time being last year, and also at track number 7. I’m sure that’s entertaining only to me. Anyway, Indira and drummer/husband (or… is it husband/drummer?) Andrew lived down the hall from me in my old apartment building in Hudson. We played a few shows together prior to them moving out of state. I’m continually impressed with the quality each time they release new music.

 

08. Against The Current – lullaby

Against The Current’s newest album was another one that I really loved in the early part of 2021. Every song was passionate, energetic, and catchy. I feel like if this band would’ve been out 10-15 years ago, they would’ve been huge. For now though, I’ll just take more good music.

 

09. CHVRCHES w/Robert Smith – How Not To Drown

I’ve been a fan of CHVRCHES since their 2013 debut. Their new album is easily the most musically mature album in their catalog, and it explores some new elements to their sound while having some lyrical fun with a horror theme. It was a big comeback after a somewhat lackluster third album. The addition of Robert Smith makes this already great song even better. This was the second single released before the album came out, and I was hooked right away. I played the hell out of this song this year. I also finally got to see them live for the first time. They put on a great show!

 

10. Big Wreck – Bombs Away

If you were into Canadian alt rock in the late-90’s like I was (and why wouldn’t you be), then you might remember some of Big Wreck’s hits that got frequent play on MuchMusic. They released a couple singles this year, followed by an EP. If that EP was a full-length album, it easily would’ve been in my top 5 for the year. Every song on it was a banger, with that just-a-little-too-technical-to-be-mainstream quality that I love. I was really torn between whether to put this song on the mix or another stand-alone single of theirs called “Ought To Be.” One of the things I do with these mixes is splice all of the songs together as one file and upload them onto a streaming platform called MixCloud. For that, though, I must download the mp3’s first, and I was unable to find a download for “Ought To Be.” I never thought I’d have that issue in 2021! Anyway, it probably makes more sense for me to include this song, since after hearing it for the first time, I’m pretty sure I texted it to at least 5 other people, saying, “Dude! Check this out!” If you’re curious though, definitely give “Ought To Be” a listen as well. It’s a fun one with a bit of a different sound.  

 

11. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – We’re On Our Way Now

This is Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’ (I feel weird about all the apostrophes) fourth appearance on one of my mix albums. Noel has long been one of my biggest musical influences. I love his songwriting and his guitar playing. You can definitely hear a lot of Noel’s influence in my own writing and playing. This is a beautiful song that was one of my favorites this year. According to Spotify data, this was my second-most played song in 2021. This is followed by…

 

12. Steven Wilson – 12 THINGS I FORGOT

…my most played song in 2021. Steven Wilson is appearing on one of my mixes for the third time. He was the leader of one of my all-time favorite bands, Porcupine Tree (who got back together toward the end of 2021! Yay!!). Steven’s last album took several years to really grow on me. I didn’t love it at first, but I grew to really love it. I think his most recent album is going to have that same effect. This album was really a change in sound for him, taking a much more poppy approach to his songwriting. I think it works well. The songs are really catchy and good, but it’s still Steven Wilson, so there’s some progressive elements in them and a theme that connects all of them. The album gets better each time I listen to it. I wasn’t sure about it when it first came out earlier in the year, but I eventually decided it was among my favorites that year.

 

13. Chez Kane – Defender of the Heart

I’m always looking for new music. One of the methods that I use the most for seeking out new music is a website called AlbumOfTheYear.org. It’s a great site that lists new releases as well as provides links to trending news and reviews. I check the site every Friday to see what new releases came out. I had no idea who Chez Kane was, but the cover design of her album caught my eye so I decided to give it a listen. What a find! The whole album is filled with retro pop/rock songs that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on an 80’s Heart album. I loved every song.

 

14. Beast In Black – Broken Survivors

Beast In Black was another find from AlbumOfTheYear.org. Much like the Chez Kane album, the cover design caught my eye, so I decided to give their new album a listen. I didn’t really know how to take the album at first. It was kind of funny, but kind of good at the same time. After realizing that about halfway into the album, I had essentially been dancing at my standing desk while working for the past half hour or so, I decided that – yep, I love it. This was followed by texts to multiple friends of, “Dude! Check out this album! Just hear me out… imagine a cross between Judas Priest and a rave…”

 

15. STARSET - INFECTED

STARSET is a really cool band whose music is always conceptual. Listening to an album kind of feels like the audio equivalent of watching an episode of Black Mirror. I really enjoyed their new album and also saw them live for the forth time this year. Their stage show is worth seeing, as it really fits the conceptual themes of the music. Infected… apropos…

 

16. VOLA – 24 Light-Years

I have a metalhead friend who sends me albums to listen to every now and then. His batting average is pretty low. In fact, there’ve been multiple times where I didn’t make it past the first 30 seconds of whatever album he sent me. Even blind squirrels find nuts now and then though, and a couple years ago he sent me a VOLA album that I liked. I checked out their new album this year and really liked it.

 

17. The Juliana Theory – Into the Dark – Reimagined

“Into The Dark” is actually a song from The Juliana Theory’s 2000 album, Emotion Is Dead, which is among my favorite albums ever. TJT was one of my favorite bands, and among the bands that I’ve seen live the most, but they broke up back in 2006. They got back together a couple years ago and began working on new music. This year, they released an album of toned-down atmospheric reimagined versions of some of their older songs. Admittedly, listening the whole album kind of makes me want to just listen to the original songs, but taken individually, the reimagined versions are really cool. I traveled to Pittsburgh this year to see them live, where they played the Emotion Is Dead album in its entirety. There was so much energy in their set that it felt like twenty years ago. (Holy crap! That was twenty years ago!!)

 

18. Halsey – The Lighthouse

Halsey’s If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power album was my favorite album in 2021. It’s so good! It explores several different styles while feeling cohesive and carrying a theme throughout it. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s production really give the album a unique quality, and Halsey’s songwriting and performance are incredible. It’s an album that I listened to on repeat several times throughout the year. It’s an album that, after it’s done, I have to take a breath following the weight of what I just experienced. I knew of Halsey, but hadn’t heard anything of hers prior to this year. A friend of mine recommended this album to me, stating that he was surprised by how much he loved it. I’m glad I received that recommendation and that I didn’t miss out on hearing this masterpiece. The hardest part for me was picking which song I wanted to put on my mix; I was torn between this one and… all of the others.

 

19. Toad the Wet Sprocket – Starting Now

And here we are… ending with “Starting Now.” I was going to kick off the mix with this song, but this song just felt more like a closing track. Toad the Wet Sprocket, like Noel Gallagher above, has also been a huge musical influence on me over the years. This song has that classic Toad sound and wouldn’t feel out of place on any of their 90’s albums. Glen Phillips is also one of my favorite lyricists, and he’s only gotten better with age. This song is a nice reminder that, if there’s anything that you want to change, it’s not too late. The best time to change was many years ago. Next best thing is starting where we are.

 

 

I enjoyed putting this mix together and I hope you’ve enjoyed listening to it and reading about the music. If you enjoyed this mix but have missed out any previous ones, you can check out MixCloud, where you can stream any of my previous mixes. Also, be sure to check out my friend David Ullman’s mix albums (also on MixCloud) – he’s been doing it since 2004 and was the inspiration behind me creating these. (He’s also the guy that introduced me to that Halsey album… he has good taste.) If you have Spotify, please check out my playlist, “Caught in the Current.” It is a playlist that I keep updated with great new music. Speaking of new music… I’m planning to release some new music 2022, so please keep an eye out for that. You can check out my current discography on Spotify or any other streaming site.

 

Thanks again for reading and listening. Cheers!

-KC

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PREVIOUS MIX ALBUMS:

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The idea for these annual mix albums was borrowed from my good friend and fellow musician David Ullman. Check out his great annual mix albums as well!

-KC