Saturday, December 19, 2009

One more hypothetical mixtape before we go

On to 2010. Well, eventually.

"McGuire In The Ocean", by Ducktails. The best things in life are free, as the Flying Lizards, and many before them, once sang. It may in fact be true. I once read a piece by a gaming "enthusiast" arguing that you didn't need to actually buy computer games because there was enough enjoyment and satisfaction to be had in the freely available "demo" versions that most games offered. Well, we wouldn't know about that (someone in our house is enough of an obsessive that a demo version would never be enough for him; hell, even the full version itself isn't enough for him), but we do no that there is such great music offered up, Free-'n'-Legal, across the whole wide Internet, that you can actually put together a first-class playlist using just those. Try it. Just look for "Norway", by Beach House, for example. That might just be enough to convince you. Ducktails are giving away three "outtakes" from their (i.e. "his") most recent album. At least two of them are crackers. This is one. The guitars are straight out of Vini Reilly via Manuel Gottsching. That's good enough for us.

"Ghost Town", by Zeep. Ooh, a Latin-inflected cover of one of our personal touchstones. Normally we don't like people messin' with the classics, but this is so tasty, so infectious, that we find ourselves falling for the song all over again. Which is a nice surprise. Featuring a liberal helping of piano accordian (this wouldn't always be a selling point).

"Ohayo Mada Yaro", by Yura Yura Teikoku. More free stuff. The return of the reverb. Sometimes I think that rock and roll was invented in order to facilitate the invention of reverb. What more reason do you need?

"Politicians In My Eyes", by Death. One part Led Zeppelin intro, one part proto-punk-rock verses, one part Classic Rock, Big Hair Power Ballad chorus. By the end of the song the three are fused so tightly together you have no idea which is which. (Neatest trick of the week.)

"Time", by Open Mind. Damn me if this doesn't come across as a classic Chills tune hovering on a dreamy psychedelic tip ("Pink Frost", "I Love My Leather Jacket"). It also carries with it echoes of many other songs ("Bela Lugosi's Dead"(?), "A Forest", Joy Division's "A Means To An End", and others that linger just beyond my grasp).

"If I Knew You Were The One", by Richard Twice. A gloriously soaring 1960s psychedelic pop song. They appear to have grown on trees once upon a hazy time ago.

"Too Long", by Jake Holmes. According to the Internet Jake Holmes was responsible for "Dazed and Confused", a song later made kind of famous by Led Zeppelin. According to the tags on my iTunes playlist, he also co-wrote a fabulous Four Seasons song called "Wall Street Village Day", which I may or may not have written about here. Anyway "Too Long" is another fine sixties psych-pop gemstone, this time hewing rather closely, but not in a bad way, to what you might imagine to be a Tim Buckley melancholy template (but sans vocal gymnastics). The words "fragile" and "delicate" cannot help but come to mind.

"The Kids Are Alright", by The Who. Whereas "fragile" and "delicate" aren't words that sit well next to the words "The Who". Until recently I only knew this song through a twee-pop cover version. Oh the gaps in my musical knowledge are long and wide.

"Shadow Falls", by Hello, Blue Roses. And speaking of twee-pop, it is clearly the genre that will never die. (Something that was never in fashion can, by definition, never go out of fashion.) Actually, maybe this song sits close to the tipping point between twee-pop and dream-pop (is there any better place to be?). It is no surprise, perhaps, that a New Pornographer is involved in this.

"Passionate Introverts (Dinosaurs)", by A Sunny Day In Glasgow. This, however, is pure dream-pop. "Shoegaze" be damned.

"First Class Riot (A Touch of Jules and Jim)", by The Tough Alliance. Wherein JJ (who featured in our last hypothetical mixtape) sand off some of the harsher edges of the original (n.b. this is no criticism of the original, which is a fine song in its own right, and one of the better impersonations of OMD going around -- the synths in this remix are more early New Order) and sets it floating off gently into (inner) space.

"Fire", by Codebreaker feat Kathy Diamond. For a long time we were in love with Kathy Diamond, on the strength of the cover photo on "Miss Diamond To You" and her perfect singing on that album. But then it dawned on us that who we were really in love with was Maurice Fulton, its producer, so we dropped the issue pretty quickly. On this song she sings. As perfectly as ever. The song might be a teensy bit dull, but there's no real need to dwell on that, is there?

"This Case Is Closed (Johan Agebjorn Remix)", by Friday Bridge. We may also be in love with Johan Agebjorn. Whatever. Is it our imagination, or does the singer here sound faintly, and tantalisingly, like Kate Bush? This may be verging on blasphemy, but we may actually be attracted to this song more than anything on the new Sally Shapiro album. (Although our impression of the latter is still a work in progress.)

"City Of Lights (Prins Thomas Vocal Mix)", by City Reverb. It wouldn't be a hypothetical mixtape without something from either Lindstrom or his buddy Prins Thomas. Hark, is that a melodica I hear?

"Coastal Brake", by Tycho. This is the most recent track on the list. The cover, an airbrushed silhouette of a female form encircled by authentic 1970s colour reproductions (think Australian surfing movies, such as "Morning Of The Earth"; the only thing that's missing is the surfboard that should be tucked under her arm), is as good a guide to the music herein as any writing I could do.

"Dead Man's Tale", by Terje Rypdal. Tell me that's not Jarvis Cocker on vocals. What's that? It's not? I don't believe you. What? It was recorded in 1968? I still don't believe you. (Okay, so Jarvis would have been four years old, but still ... It's him. I swear it ...)

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Song of the day

"Silverwater", by The Necks. A new Necks CD is always accompanied by a sense of expectation, and, partly, anxiety. Generally speaking, with any group of musicians, especially when they have been working together for some time, when buying their latest release you have a sense of what to expect. Sonic Youth? The Clean? Belle and Sebastian? Stereolab? The surprise is no longer in their basic template, but in what variations they may make to it, or whether this one is a "return to form", or in the case of The Clean the fact that it exists at all. Even Yo La Tengo, the masters of the kitchen sink approach to indie rock, have their records freighted with preconceived ideas, which, post-"And Then Everything Turned Itself Inside Out", are never too far from the mark. In one way, you know what you are getting with The Necks, too: one long piece of music involving keyboards, bass, and drums. But, in another sense, you have no idea what you are going to get. And therein lies the anxiety: if you don't like the opening few minutes, you have most likely blown not just one track, but an entire CD.

Thus, the first time you listen to a Necks CD, the pause from when you press "play" until the music starts is like the moments of silence at the start of one of their concerts, when everyone, including the group themselves, are waiting to see what happens: you are on the edge of your seat, tense, nervous, excited, waiting. And then it starts, and there is no turning back.

For this reason, I don't read reviews of a Necks release before listening at least once. A review can't help but give away at least some of the mystery of what may be contained within the grooves. They should be prefaced in big black letters by the words "Spoiler Alert". It's a bit like finding out the sex of your baby before it is born. Or what Santa is going to bring you.

So it would be unfair of me to write anything specific about "Silverwater". It is a new Necks release. It is seventy minutes long. Its name sounds rather romantic until you realise that Silverwater is also the name of a prison. It is the first in a while to be recorded in the studio. This fact opens up the possibilities even more, because they don't always confine themselves in the studio to the piano/bass/drums of a live setting. The only thing I am going to say about the music itself, because this is a good thing (and hopefully doesn't give too much away), is that Chris Abrahams has blown the cobwebs off his trusty Hammond. After that, you are on your own. But if you have followed The Necks this far into their extraordinary career, I have a feeling you will like what you hear. The cover art is gorgeous, too.

YouTube of the day

I might be the last blogger on earth to link to this, but it's better to be safe than sorry: I wouldn't want any of you to miss it.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Song of the day

"Sweet Gingerbread Man", by The Mike Curb Congregation. If anyone offers to play you this song, run, screaming, in the other direction, with your hands over your ears. Hear it once and it will insinuate itself into your brain, appearing when you least want it to: when you have been woken up by the 11-year-old in the middle of the night and just want to get back to sleep; spending some quality time with your favourite person; trying to concentrate on umpiring a game of under-10s cricket; having a serious conversation with the Chief Justice of Australia.

Of course, you can always just give in to it. That's what I do. But beware: as the title suggests, this song is so full of sugar that prolonged exposure will cause all your teeth to fall out.