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Favourite Tracks From 2020

There was a lot of good music released in 2020. The Apple Music playlist embedded below has a list of my favourite 20. I was going to cut it down to a top 10. But it was too hard. So it is a top 20!

Interesting Stuff – Week 31 2020

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The Observer had a good series of articles on Facebook and how it influences politics and culture. 

The Guardian reported on proposals to tax over-40’s more to pay for social care in later life. My initial thoughts on this are positive. It seems like a good idea to me. Works in Germany and Japan according to the article. Doesn’t add to burden on younger people, who already have a raw deal with rent and mortgage costs.

Universities have been in silent trouble for a while. COVID-19 may be the tipping point for many. This article in Nature is a good synopsis of the crisis.

Doesn’t look like remote work will end anytime soon in the big tech companies. Google said their staff will be working from home until at least June 2021, as reported by Ars Technica. The same article also outlines long term plans by Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, and Microsoft to extend remote working. Apple followed them this week. As AppleInsider detailed.

This is fabulous. During the lockdown, an amateur woodworker from Belgium built an electric guitar from scratch using a thick wooden shelf he had to hand. This 26-minute video summarises the build. Well worth 26 minutes of your time.


More information about the Twitter security breach came to light this week. Ars Technica reports on how the attackers used spear-phishing techniques to get access. 

But it turns out that the hackers were teenage amateurs, rather than some sophisticated or state-backed outfit. They have all been arrested and charged. Wired has the details.

On the topic of spear-phishing: it often uses social engineering techniques to get access to peoples data. Here is a short video that shows how easy it is for scammers to get your info over the phone.

Following the poor Intel results last week, and the announcement of more delays to their 7 nm fabrication process, the company announced some changes in senior roles. One notable one was the appointment of Irish engineer Ann Kelleher to lead the processor division.


We will probably never know how life started on Earth. Deep time and plate tectonics recycling the Earth’s crust will have destroyed the evidence. But it was likely via pre-biotic self-organising chemical reactions. New research  summarised in Chemistry World last week shows evidence of some self-replicating molecules showing metabolism. Remarkable stuff. 

It’s been a busy few weeks for Mars exploration. NASA successfully launched its Perseverance rover this week. It follows in the trail of missions from both the UAE and China. Hopefully, they will all get into orbit and land successfully.


This is intriguing. Algoriddim djay Pro AI – Neural Mix music app for iPad. It can extract individual vocal, melody or drum tracks from songs. And allow you to mix in different ones from other sones. Using an AI-based algorithm. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work with the DRM protected Apple Music I have. But for non-DRM protected tracks, it is is pretty impressive.

Dea Matrona – so good!

There is a lot of good music coming from many new and upcoming bands and musicians right now. That’s always been the case of course. I don’t buy into the idea you hear that there is no good music “these days”. People who think that aren’t exposing themselves to new music. I discover most new stuff via Twitter or the Apple Music recommendation posts on Instagram stories or weekly email. Some recent examples of new discoveries for me are Yonaka, Alice Merton, Ariana and The Rose, Charly Bliss, Du Blonde, Ina Wroldsen, Klara, Soak, and Wild Rivers. All great.

The latest discovery came via Twitter. Barbara Whearty posted a video of the band Dea Matrona busking a version of the Fleetwood Mac song Go Your Own Way in Belfast city centre at Christmas. Wow! It is so good. The video has since gone viral, and at the time I write this has been viewed over 480,000 times. After seeing this video, I listened to their original music and their other videos on YouTube. Two of their songs from last year made it into my top 10 list.

I love it when a new band or artist comes out of left field for me. Although in this case, the fact that I’d never heard of Dea Matrona before is entirely my fault. They have been playing gigs in Northern Ireland and beyond for a couple of years. As you can see from their videos on YouTube. I might need to get out more!

You can tell when a band is the real deal. And Dea Matrona are the real deal! Their playing is tight, and they have that crystal tone that all good bands have. Their vocals are excellent, with both singers voices having slightly different characteristics that complement each other. Their own songs are terrific, and the mix of classic rock covers they play with them is spot on.

I was lucky enough to see them live at their Black Box Belfast Out To Lunch Festival gig last week. They are superb live. Lots of bands simply play music at the audience when performing. Sod that. We can listen to the music anytime. At a show you want a performance, and Dea Matrona deliver. They are colourful and kinetic on stage, and best of all they look like they are having fun playing the new and the classic tracks. They also have good crowd interactions between songs, with anecdotes about how songs got written, and things that happened at other gigs. It is astonishing how much stagecraft and musical ability they have for such a young band. Not forgetting that the two singers also swap lead and bass guitar duties a few times during each gig. Literally handing their instruments to the other. From what I could see this meant that when Molly McGinn was playing bass, she was operating the guitar pedal effects board for Orlaith Forsythe on guitar, as they didn’t change stage positions. Remarkable. I’d bet that drummer Mamie McGinn could probably play guitar or bass as well if required! Of course, we only see the tip of the iceberg (hat tip to Scott Flanigan on this point) and not the thousands of hours of study and practice that all three band members have put in to get this good. Kudos to them as it has really paid off. They are a remarkably good band and they will be huge in the future. Rightly so. They deserve it.

Check out their upcoming Ireland gigs here, and their YouTube channel. And have a look at this cover version of Joan Jett’s song Cherry Bomb to see a band having fun!

Favourite Tracks from 2019

Don't Wait Until Tomorrow album artwork
Bad Company - Yonaka
Live at Troxy cover artwork
Triangle Walks Live - Fever Ray
Away From The Tide EP artwork
Just Wanna Rock - Dea Matrona
Away From The Tide EP artwork
Nobody's Child - Dea Matrona
Supermoon single artwork
Supermoon - Charly Bliss
Where's My Tribe artwork
Where's My Tribe - Charlene Soraia
Mint album cover artwork
Trouble In Paradise - Alice Merton
Love + Fear Acoustic album artwork
Orange Trees (Acoustic) - Marina
Feels Like Love album artwork
Feels Like Love - Chrysta Bell
I Do single artwork
I Do - Wild Rivers

Click on the Apple Music section below to a playlist with these ten songs. Click Play to hear 30 second snippets of them if not subscripbed to Apple Music. 

Favourite Tracks from 2018

Here are my 10 favourite new 2018 released tracks that I discovered. There is an Apple Music Playlist to listen to them here.


Ariana and the Rose – Lonely Star.

52 Hz track artwork

Chrysta Bell – 52 Hz.


Franz Ferdinand – Always Ascending.

Yonaka – Waves.

Yonaka – Fired Up.

Yonaka – Death By Love.

Manic St. Preachers & The Anchoress – Dylan & Caitlin.

Mackenzie Davis & Carrie Coon – Axemen.

KT Tunstall – Human Being.

Ina Wroldsen – Sea.

Favourite albums from 2017

There was a lot of good music released in 2017. Here are my top five albums or EP’s that I discovered. There is an Apple Music Playlist of my top 10 favourite tracks here.


Yonaka – Heavy.


When I Was Young – MØ.


Truth is a Beautiful Thing – London Grammar.


Plunge – Fever Ray.


At The Rainbow – Hawkwind.

Favourite tracks from 2016

Here are my favourite new tracks released in 2016.

Mr David – Laura Doggett. Listen on Apple Music or YouTube.

Scars – Tove Lo. Listen on Apple Music or YouTube.

Interlude: I was Never Here – The Glass Child. Listen on Apple Music or Soundcloud.

Perfect Illusion – Lady Gaga. Listen on Apple Music or YouTube.

Growing Pains – Birdie. Listen on Apple Music or YouTube.

Here is an Apple Music Playlist with the 5 tracks.

Favourite tracks from 2015

Like I did this time last year I’m picking my five favourite new tracks from 2015 rather than an album of the year. I have 301 tracks in my 2015 playlist in iTunes. Here are my picks from that selection. I’m not going to say a lot about them. Just go listen via the links to Apple Music, YouTube or Spotify. I’ve created an Apple Music Playlist for the tracks.

Better Than ThatMarina and The Diamonds. This won’t surprise many people. Marina and The Diamonds are my favourite artist at present. FROOT made the list last year as it was released in 2014. Better Than That came out in March this year I think. It’s stupendous. The vocal in the middle 8 section is the best singing I’ve heard in a long time. It wasn’t part of the live set when I saw them in Belfast. Maybe because that middle 8 section would be too hard on the voice night after night. If you have a chance to see Marina live then take it. [Apple Music link] [YouTube link]

Rey’s ThemeJohn Williams & freelance orchestra. This made a late appearance in the year and went straight on to my favourite tracks. Last years list had two tracks from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 soundtrack. Just the one soundtrack entry this year. From the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens score. I’ve more or less had this on repeat for a week. Loved the film too. The best of all the Star Wars films in my opinion. More about that in a separate post later. [Apple Music link] [YouTube link]

Northern LightsKate Boy. I can’t recall how I discovered this. It may have been a recommendation from Apple Music based on my love of The Knife. I’m glad I did though. I love the sound of Kate Boy. An electronic trio from Sweden and Australia. Very reminiscent of The Knife while also great in their own right and with their own sound. Northern Lights just reaches into my brain and sets it alight. [Apple Music link] [YouTube link]

The Red and The BlackIron Maiden. Still going strong after all these years. They have a formula and they stick to it. Every now and then that formula conjures up an absolute gem in the rock music pantheon. It happened this year with the track The Red and The Black from their new double album. It’s epic. With harmonised vocals, tempo changes and guitar that will melt your head. And just listen those power chords? Classic. [Apple Music link][Spotify link]

Raw HoneyDu Blonde. I got through 50 weeks of 2015, and my life before that, without ever hearing of Du Blonde. But Twitter saved me when Marina Diamandis tweeted that the Welcome Back to Milk album was her favourite of the year. So I had to listen. She was correct. It is a fabulous album. But Raw Honey is the one that grabbed me the most. It has a Red Hot Chilli Peppers vibe to it in my opinion. And that’s a good thing. Interestingly I discover nearly all new music via Twitter now. From recommendations, musicians following me, and Retweets. [Apple Music link] [YouTube link].

Queen music is all over TV these days

Have you noticed? The Queen songs in loads of UK TV advertisements. Almost to the point where you notice advertisements that don’t have a Queen song in them!

I’m sure some people think this is selling out. And that the current Queen & Adam Lambert tour is as well. I don’t. These songs need to be heard. Having them on TV via advertisements keeps the songs in people’s thoughts, and introduces new listeners to the great tracks.

Similarly, the Queen & Adam Lambert tour gives people a chance to hear the songs live. And Queen songs deserve to be heard live by all.


Favourite tracks from 2014

I usually do an album of the year post around this time. Decided to do favourite tracks this year instead. Just to shake things up a bit. So here are the five favourite music tracks from those I’ve bought this year. Not in any order. With links to Spotify and iTunes.

The Hanging Tree – Jennifer Lawrence. This pick won’t be a surprise if you follow me on Twitter. Sung by Jennifer Lawrence within “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1” film. Apparently she doesn’t think she can sing, and cried on set before the filming of the scene the song is in. Tried to get the director to allow her to lip sync to Lorde singing the song. Thankfully he refused. She can sing. [Spotify Link – iTunes Link].

Froot – Marina and The Diamonds  Another one that won’t surprise many. I love Marina Diamandis’s voice. She is in a group of three artists that I’ve specifically gone to England to see live. The other two being Queen and Kate Bush. Good company! The new song Froot is the eponymous track from her forthcoming album. It’s being released a track per month from now until April 2015. With the full album getting a release then. [Spotify Link – iTunes Link].

Long Year – The Anchoress. Self styled as revenge pop, The Anchoress is the new project from Catherine Anne Davies. There have been 2 EP’s this year and an album due in 2015. This years releases have been great, but Long Year is the standout track for me. I love the discordant chaos it builds to. The vocal and guitar are define. I met Catherine at a Kate Bush concert in September. She’s awesome, and going to be huge.  [Spotify Link – iTunes Link].

All Dark Places – CMG & Nina Kinert. There a few musicians from whom I buy new releases unheard. Nina Kinert is one of those musicians. She’s been doing a lot of collaborations recently. Has a new solo album in the works. Earlier this year she collaborated with Carl Malmgren on a six track EP. The eponymous track is my favourite. But the whole EP is good. [Spotify Link – iTunes Link].

Air Raid Drill – James Newton Howard. I love lots of orchestral music. All of the modern music of this type that I get exposed to is from film scores. From the original Star Wars score and onwards. The music for “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1” is fantastic. It’s great as a stand alone piece of music in its own right. The Air Raid Drill track is a joy.  [Spotify Link – iTunes Link].