Put your hands together for Newcastle
RE | Issue 18 | 2020


As 2020 comes to an end, Sarah Tai, Ciaran Dachtler, Jake Bell and Holly Tunnah in Newcastle have put together a playlist to lift you up, to plunge you back into life.



Tash Sultana

Tash started her career busking on the streets of Melbourne before a video of her singing in her bedroom went viral on the internet. (The video is of her singing another of her songs, ‘Jungle’, which now has 89 million views.) She plays more than twelve instruments and uses loop pedals to create her songs. I love all her songs and really admire how talented she is. Skip to just after three minutes in to hear my favourite part.

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Riverside is a Polish prog rock band, probably my favourite. Right from the start of this track on their 2015 album, Love, Fear and the Time Machine, the music generates a dark and claustrophobic atmosphere. The bass drives the track and is built upon by interjections from the guitar and keyboards, with the verses talking about being trapped by fear and anxiety. That tense, heavy feel is maintained until you get to the chorus. This is when the mood lifts, the sound opens up and the singer urges you, the one doing the listening, to ‘discard your fear’. The tense, minor sound of the majority of the song helps the major choruses shine that much brighter. As someone who frequently allows anxiety to stop me from taking positive action, I find this music uplifting. The bass groove doesn’t hurt either!

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Nile Rodgers and CHIC

On a sweltering Sunday, in a field in Somerset, Nile Rodgers and CHIC brought the disco. In an hour which united the various cliques of Glastonbury Festival in euphoria, their performance was an education in dance. Their set seamlessly transitioned from CHIC classics—Le Freak, Good Times—to Sister Sledge, and a multitude of songs Rodgers has produced, written and performed on throughout his legendary career, in a masterclass of uplifting groove, dance, and feel-good disco. For one hour on that incredible Sunday, their performance was the only thing that mattered. I had been away for a semester in North Carolina, and this performance benchmarked my summer back home. Truthfully, I hadn’t a clue what to expect of this set, other than the fact that we were all going and I was armed with sun-cream and a warm cider. Looking back—flags waving, questionable dancing and surrounded by friends—it was a fitting return home.

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Florence and the Machine

Sometimes, music doesn’t have to be stereotypically uplifting to have an uplifting effect. For me, music which expresses struggle helps to normalise the struggles we all face—whilst taking away the aspect of loneliness which often follows internal conflict. When I listen to a song like this, I feel ready to face my problems, in the knowledge that others have gone before me and plenty more will follow behind. This song, for the writer, expresses the struggles she faced with an eating disorder in her teenage years. She has turned this into a metaphor which becomes universally relatable.We all have something we believe we need, and we live in hope that one day we’ll find it. Struggling through, surviving without, and striving for it. Sometimes we spend a lifetime just figuring out what it is. That’s normal, by the way. Welcome to humanity.

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Sifu Hotman

From prog rock to hip hop, this next track is ‘Matches’ by Sifu Hotman (of Minneapolis), released alongside their 2014 album Embrace the Sun. It’s about hope. It starts with an energetic double bass loop and then stacks a tower of jazz samples on that backbone throughout the track before par-muting it to emphasise the last verse. The two vocalists (Guante and deM atlaS) play off each other well. I find the whole dynamic energising. I've said that the theme is one of hope, but not in a passive way, not in an empty way. It’s more a humanistic belief that people themselves have the tools and drive to improve society by working together, even when the situation is at its bleakest. “There is no light at the end of this tunnel, so it’s a good thing we brought matches.”

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Hannah Cohen

The most uplifting songs are the ones which make us forget ourselves, the ones in which we can get lost. This song does that for me: its hypnotising vocal puts me in a place of strength and clarity. And anyone who knows me, knows that I turn up for a dance any day of the week. During lockdown, the usual party suspects have lifted me in the moment, but have left me feeling deflated afterwards when reality re-emerges and the music fades—missing the moments I would normally hear them. This song gently lifts you up. It allows you to feel as though you are in control. It empowers you to act for yourself, make a plan, and move to execute. This is your life, what is your next move?

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Dire Straits

When I was growing up, my grandparents used to take me and my brother on road trips, mainly to places in Scotland—which meant a lot of time in the car. My grandparents always decided which CDs we would play (no Spotify back then) and the Dire Straits Brothers in Arms album became a favourite. I am so lucky to have had those holidays with my grandparents; even luckier that I managed to inherit their good taste in music. ‘Walk of Life’ takes me right back.

Fun facts: Two of the band members are brothers, Mark and David Knopfler, and were brought up in Newcastle upon Tyne, where I also grew up. After the band split in 1995, Mark Knopfler continued to write music and released ‘Going Home: Theme of the Local Hero’, which is now famously played before every home game of Newcastle United F.C.

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Photograph (Newcastle) by Ivan Maslarov