Saturday, December 21, 2013

Wes Anderson short film of the day

"Castello Cavalcanti".

Directed by Wes Anderson. (He has a new film out next year. I am very happy to be typing those words.)

The best Christmas present I could have received this year was to find out that this existed. Who knew?

Go with the full screen option. It's almost as good as being there.

Addendum of the year

"Rival Dealer", by Burial.

It has become necessary for us to tack an additional record onto our recent list of "albums of the year". A couple of days ago a new Burial record appeared out of nowhere (as has also occurred this year with Bowie and Beyonce -- hey, it's the "B" List), the lastest in an astounding sequence of annual thirty-minute "EPs" and if not the best of them (not saying it's not, only that it's too early to tell) certainly the most surprising. The final of its three songs, "Come Down To Us", the title of which may or may not allude to a Christmas story (Jesus or Santa, take your pick), does things that no Burial song has ever done before, while still managing to sound like nobody else.

"Come Down To Us": all thirteen minutes of it; stick it out.

Addams Family Christmas

Charles Addams gets into the spirit of the season. From the New Yorker, December 21, 1946.

(Quality here was limited by the original scan, from the "Complete New Yorker" DVDs. But I hope you can see what is going on. Click to open an enlargeable version. (I think.))

YouTube(s) of the day

"With You There To Help Me", by Jethro Tull.

Having a bit of a Tull obsession at the moment, which, well, is kind of difficult to explain, and not something most people would choose to talk about in public. This may be the difference between you and me.

Notable for its use, in a popular song lyric, of the construction "with whom": clearly, Ian Anderson went to a good school.

Two clips here, both pushing the song out beyond nine minutes, both from 1970. The provenance of one is uncredited but it looks like it's from the telly. (It's the better quality one). One allows you to hear the song; the other captures the insanity. And the hair. You choose.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Song of the day

"I Got A Boy", by Girls' Generation.

OMG it's the K-Pop "Bohemian Rhapsody".

(Thanks to Douglas Wolk for the tip.)

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Obligatory "records of the year" post because the world absolutely needs one more of those

It would appear to be that time of the year.

There were two important albums released in 2013. (There may have been three, but I don't feel qualified to comment on the Bowie album, on account of having largely ignored his output since the early 1980s.) Obviously the Daft Punk is my favourite album of the year. I just love it so much (apologies to the many who don't). But why is it important? I think because it serves as a timely reminder of how a record can be made, and what a record can sound like, and stand for. It's all about the music. (And yet the music is frequently insane, some of it may not even, as Sasha Frere-Jones pointed out when it came out, be any good, but nevertheless the entirety of it is magnificent.)

The other important album this year is the 10th entry in Dylan's "Bootleg Series": important because the armchair Dylanologists (those of us with -- ahem -- some semblance of a life outside of the pursuit of Bob) had long sensed that the "Self Portrait" era could not possibly have been as awful as it seemed to be. And here, 40-some years later, is the proof that in fact Dylan was making music as alive and meaningful as any he had made up to then, and any he would make after. You could listen to this music forever, and dream about what might still be lurking in the archives.

Even in the absence of those two signifiers, though, this has been a bloody good year for recorded music. There is a long list, if only I could remember them all, of albums that have advanced, even if ever so slightly, what music can be. In no particular order:

"Psychic", by Darkside.
"News From Nowhere", by Darkstar.
"Lux", by Brian Eno. (Technically late 2012, but took time to absorb.)
"Immunity", by Jon Hopkins.
"Beautiful Rewind", by Four Tet.
"World Psychedelic Classics 5: Who Is William Onyeabor?", by William Onyeabor.
"Push The Sky Away", by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. (I know I haven't written anything about this record; I'm not sure I have the words to do it justice, also my take on it is even more than usually personal. In short, it's a big one.)
"Four: Acts Of Love", by Mick Harvey. (That colon is important.)
"Chance Of Rain", by Laurel Halo.
"R Plus Seven", by Oneohtrix Point Never.
"Cupid's Head", by The Field.
"m b v", by My Bloody Valentine.
"Seasons Of Your Day", by Mazzy Star.
"Dysnomia", by Dawn Of Midi.
"Pull My Hair Back", by Jessy Lanza.
"Empty Avenues", by John Foxx And The Belbury Circle.
"Engravings", by Forest Swords.
"Nepenthe", by Julianna Barwick.
"The Weighing Of The Heart", by Colleen.
"Roaring Lion", by Lee Perry & His Upsetters.
"Joy One Mile", by Stellar Om Source.
"Open", by The Necks.
"Tomorrow's Harvest", by Boards Of Canada.
"She Beats", by Beaches.
"Box Set, Volume 2", by Cleaners From Venus.
"The Next Day", by David Bowie. (Because, "important" or not, it is still one of the year's best.)
"The Elektrik Karousel", by Focus Group.
"Overgrown", by James Blake.
"Evidence", by John Foxx & The Maths.
"Change The Beat: The Celluloid Records Story 1979-1987".
"Afrobeat Airways, Vol 2: Return Flight To Ghana 1974-1983".
"Sweet Sensation", by Embassy.
"Fade", by Yo La Tengo.
"Berberian Sound Studio", by Broadcast.
"Across Six Leap Years", by Tindersticks. (Old songs done in new ways; wonderful stuff whichever way you cut it.)
"The Skeletal Essences Of Afro Funk, Vol 3 (1969-1980)", by Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou.

Not to mention the countless other I have no doubt forgotten.

That is rather a long list, isn't it? (In almost any other year "Engravings" would loom very large. Actually, it still does.)

And the song of the year? Well, if it wasn't for "Get Lucky", that would be "Love Is Lost (Hello Steve Reich Mix by James Murphy for the DFA)", by David Bowie. 

Monday, December 02, 2013

Hypothetical mixtape: December 2012

1. "Cafe Rock", by Mikis Theodorakis. We begin this month's trudge through the detritus of my hard drive with a slice of fuzz-laden sixties psychedelic soundtrack music. This one is from "Z", a film that was a pretty big thing back when it was a pretty big thing.

2. "Garsore Waa Ilaah", by Dur-Dur Band. Students at Foster High School circa 1978 would have found the name "Dur-Dur Band" the cause of much childish amusement. But the plight of African musicians in that decade was frequently no laughing matter. And while I am not sure of the provenance of Dur-Dur Band (I believe they are from slightly later), I am very confident about the sound they made, even if it is filtered through the lo-fi, uh, "stylings" of what sounds like several generations of cassette dubbing. If you wanted to rob me of all my possessions, I suspect you would just have to sit me in front of African rhythms like these and you would be able to go about your evil business unhindered, as I sat there mesmerised by the sounds going on around me. (The curious thing about this song is how closely the vocals hew to the kind of singing you hear in the kind of pop music played in Chinese restaurants.)

3. "The Ego", by Nicolas Jaar and Theatre Roosevelt. Ah, I see, "Theatre": for a minute there I thought the old fellow had overcome death in the pursuit of one more moment in the spotlight. But, no. It's some other dude. Fans/devotees/worshippers of Nicolas Jaar continue to wait for the follow-up album to "Space Is Only Noise". 2013 has nevertheless been a busy year for him, with the Darkside project coming up not only with one of the albums of the year, but also with one of the maddest projects imaginable, a full-scale deconstruction of "Random Access Memories". Plus a remix of Brian Eno, which must be one of the bravest things a musician working in the (rather large) field of "electronic music" could take on. (I think he got away with it, too.) But this time last year, the pickings were slim -- in terms of quantity, not in terms of quality. This is good.

4. "Please Don't Turn On Me (Disclosure Remix)", by Artful Dodger. These are just names to me, although I believe Disclosure made something of a name for themselves over the course of this year. (I could be confused.) This slips down the throat like warm honey on a summer evening.

5. "Tusk", by The Crystal Ark. Gavin Russom is something of a regular in these lists. Yes, this is the Fleetwood Mac song. No, nothing will ever better the original. But well done Gavin for having a go. In the absence of new material from Black Leotard Front (I know, I know) this will do for now.

6. "I Love It", by Icona Pop. Ah, pop music circa 2012. It was a very good year.

7. "110%", by Jessie Ware. Like, ditto, man.

8. "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)", by Nite Jewel. I used to be able to say I never met a Nite Jewel song I didn't love. That is no longer the case, but her understated, homespun (but in no ways disrespectful or irreverent) take on this Michael Jackson song is certainly easy to like.

9. "When I See You", by Magic Touch and Sapphire Slows. Likewise, I used to be able to say I never met a 100% Silk release I didn't love. That love affair went sour some time ago (hey, it wasn't you, it was me) but I can't say the pilot light doesn't flicker into life whenever I hear this. That piano line must have been used a thousand times, but it never grows old.

10. "The Same Love That Made You Laugh", by Margie Joseph. On the other hand, I never met a Bill Withers song I didn't like, and this is one that has just recently made my aquaintance.

11. "Bad To Me", by Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas. Rolling with a dubious piece of repetition for a bit longer, I never met a Lennon/McCartney song I didn't like. (Well, I'm not so sure about "Good Day Sunshine".) Once upon a time the Dynamic Duo gave away their songs to other people, and this is one of them. It's not hard to imagine it being on "With The Beatles". (Historical note: "Dakotas" turns out to have been an unfortunate name for something concerning John Lennon.)

12. "Pretend You Love Me", by Sonny and the Sunsets. Let’s see now: I never met a Sonny and the Sunsets song I didn’t like -- even if that’s only because I have only ever met this one. Gently rolling proto-West Coast pop with a slight "Astral Weeks" tinge. A winner.

13. "Headsore", by Gramme. Herky-jerky proto-New Wave, of the type that might have been found on an early DFA side. Could perhaps be compared to Factory Floor -- although Gramme's modus operandi seems to be of a much simpler nature than that of those dudes, who frequently do my head in. This doesn't.

14. "That's Siberia", by Blanche Blanche Blanche. Oh, this is clever. I instantly picked it as being the well (or part of the water in the well) from which the previous song drew. But no, it isn't from 1983, it's from 2012. Could have fooled me (read: did).

15. "Corn", by Seiichi Yamamoto. Could soothing-but-not-ambient noodling from Japan be your thing? If so, go here. There is something of a "Tago Mago" vibe going, maybe, and they make it work.

16. "Blue Drive", by Oneohtrix Point Never. Drift off into the sunset with this nine-minute bliss-out (although, this being Daniel Lopatin at work, the bliss is less than pure: these synths have been given the slightest of sharp edges, to catch the unwary). Having bought the original version of "Rifts", I am grateful to Mr Lopatin for throwing this additional track, from the 2012 reissue, in my (and your) direction, gratis. You see, Virginia? There is a Santa Claus. 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Song of the day

"Open", by The Necks.

I am not even going to try to give you a YouTube clip or Soundcloud link for this. First, nobody in their right mind is going to sit in front of a computer or on a phone for 68 minutes listening to a piece of music. Secondly, "Open" is such a lovely package that it deserves to be absorbed as intended: take the disc out of the cardboard sleeve, load it into your high-end audiophile compact disc player, draw the curtains, settle into your comfy chair, close your eyes, and let it wash over you.

For one thing, it's one of the nicest CD covers I have ever seen. The grey and yellow combination is a winner, the simplicity of the design is typical of the Necks' design crew, and as you open the gatefold sleeve you realise that you are revealing, letter by letter, the name of the record. As in: "open" starts to appear as you "open" the disc. (And the "N" on the back cover, as well as being the last letter of "open", is also the first letter of "Necks". See what they did there?)

As for the music, it is notable in a couple of respects: at 68 minutes, it is the longest single piece of music they have released. In addition, in taking a step away from the wall-of-sound elements of their more recent recordings and shows (at least those of my experience), they have in a sense gone back to the basics of their very first record as The Necks, "Sex" (still one of my favourite Necks pieces, and one of the few "non-mainstream" records in my collection that impresses all who listen to it) (which probably negates the idea of it being "non-mainstream"). But rather than just retread that idea (as if they would ever do that), they have infused it with elements of everything they have learnt throughout their long and winding musical adventure together.

The best thing about it for me, though, is how, around the 45-minute mark, it puts me in mind of "1/1", from Brian Eno's "Ambient 1: Music For Airports", one of my all-time favourite pieces of music. The odd thing about this, though, is that I only get that sense if I listen to it all the way through: I tried to recreate it just by playing that passage and, in a nutshell, I got nothin'. I couldn't even tell I was listening to the right section of the track. What's with that? I suppose after 45 minutes of close listening you get in a kind of zone. "Open" is my kind of zone.

It would make an ideal Christmas present.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Jackie oh!

It was time to introduce our children to the world of Jackie Chan. (It was probably past time, actually. But one earlier attempt foundered on the rocks of intimate human relations a few minutes in.)

Limited by both our lack of knowledge and the truncated range available at the local Video Ezy, we have thus far run through an unrepresentative, possibly entirely misguided selection. But at least he is now known in our house as more than just one of the voices in the "Kung Fu Panda" films. And that is an important component of a boy's education.

What have we seen so far?

"Drunkenmaster II". This is comedy martial arts genius. The pure Hong Kong films seem to be more insane than those involving Hollywood: presumably because the "Jackie Chan does his own stunts" ethos doesn't get strapped into an OH&S straightjacket.

"Shanghai Noon". At the opposite end of the spectrum from "Drunkenmaster II": this film is an utter, utter crock, and highly unworthy of Jackie Chan's talent. Also, it pales in comparison Gore Verbinski's "The Lone Ranger" (or even "Rango"). Avoid. What? There's a sequel?? I would rather eat my shoe.

"Rumble In The Bronx". From memory, this was Jackie's first East Meets West venture. It struggles to find its feet for a while, and is heavy on the violence (and reeks of the 1980s: the whole thing could almost be an extended cut of Michael Jackson's "Beat It" video, which is kind of weird seeing it was made in 1995), but is worth sitting through for the unbroken madness of the final 20 minutes. Italian Sports Car vs Hovercraft: what's not to like?

"Rush Hour". In its own way a sequel to "Shanghai Noon" (even referencing the "John Wayne / Chon Wang" gag from that movie) but this time they got the balance right between the comedy and the martial arts.

"Rush Hour 2". More of the same only slightly less so. But the team-up of Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker is a good one. I don't think I would want to sit through the third one, though.

There are two or three more actual Hong Kong Jackie Chan movies (including "First Strike") that we can borrow, but if anyone has some recommendations the email address is over there on the right.

Essay of the day

"Swinging Modern Sounds #44: And Another Day", by Rick Moody.

You read a lot of writing about music. A lot of what you read is hack work; much of it is very good, very readable, very informative, but hack work still. Somebody doing a job (not necessarily a paid job). You think you to yourself, I could do that. You give it a try. You hone your craft on your own little island for ten years. You think you might be getting somewhere. You're not going to get yourself quoted, or talked about, but maybe you have come up with one or two minor insights about the music you listen to. Maybe you have encouraged one or two people to check out something they wouldn't otherwise have investigated. Maybe they even liked what they heard. If nothing else, it has helped you collect your thoughts and impressions in a way that at least forces you to think about what you are listening to.

And then you read something like Jonathan Lethem's book on Talking Heads' "Fear of Music".

Or this stunning essay by Rick Moody on Bowie's "The Next Day".

And you wonder why you bother.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Song of the day

"Marathon", by The Cleaners From Venus.

In the years 1979 to 1981, by which time I was seriously absorbing music from outside the mainstream, it was compulsory for every album coming out of England to contain at least one song that referenced the bourgeoisie. Of course, I had no idea who or what the bourgeoisie was, but attentive reading of the NME gave me an understanding that they, along with Margaret Thatcher, were the hated enemy.

We didn't have much exposure to the Class Struggle at Fish Creek, but watching the Ken Loach documentary "The Spirit of '45" a couple of weeks ago gave me a real sense of why it was a struggle worth fighting for, how it was won, by the Attlee/Bevin Labour government, after the Second World War, and how that victory was stripped away 35 years later under Thatcher. (And yes, I am aware that Loach's film was telling one side of the story, and that an equally cogent, well-constructed narrative could be told from the other side of the barricades; and I am also aware that Britain in the 1970s couldn't be said to have been any sort of Workers' Paradise; but I know where my own sympathies lie.)

"Marathon", by The Cleaners From Venus, was one bourgeoisie-referencing song that got away. Mainly because The Cleaners were one band that got away. Not just from me, I suspect. The Cleaners were the archetypal bedroom band. They put out hand-painted limited-run cassette releases. (This was surely an influence on the likes of Calvin Johnson and The Cannanes, and so in a real sense my world would not have existed without them.) In the beginning, whence this song springs, they were Martin Newell and Lol Elliott. Newell, with and without Elliott, released album after album (he is still doing it) of perfectly crafted English pop songs, psychedelia-tinged but laced with the acrid aftertaste of punk.

Last year Captured Tracks embarked on a Cleaners From Venus reissue campaign, and you can now access facsimiles of the first six albums plus a collection of "outtakes" (hard to know what that even means in this context, as their tapes were never really "available", at least in any quantity, in the first place). It is some of the best music you have never heard. If you could imagine a band with the songwriting genius of XTC combined with the aural aesthetic of Swell Maps you are not far off the mark.

They never sought success, but perhaps, at this late date, success may have found them. Here's hoping.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Song of the day

"Molten Gold", by The Chills.

While we were all looking the other way, Martin Phillipps uploaded a new Chills song onto iTunes. Some of us had, reluctantly, stopped holding our breath for the long- and often-promised "new Chills material" to appear. The Chills have long been a big part of my life, and I have frequently, silently (as well as, I seem to recall, on these pages) wished Phillipps well (even if only for the very selfish reason that I wanted him to keep making music). But nobody can wait forever.

Which makes the appearance of this new song not so much a surprise as the trigger for a sensation like that of having one of your long-dead parents suddenly walk around the corner and stare you in the face. I think the expression may be "cognitive dissonance": this can't be happening, and yet here it is.

Its mere existence, then, is a cause for celebration, and has fanned a long-dormant flame. It would be tempting to hail the song itself, of course, as a masterpiece, a stunning return to form, a song worth waiting nine years for. Whereas in fact (well, in my opinion) what it is is just another Chills song. But before you switch off, think about what that means: in a world where there are too few songs by one of his generation's most gifted songwriters, the addition of even one new song is no small thing. Martin Phillipps, whatever else has been going on in his life, has still got his own particular "it".

"Molten Gold" sounds tentative: there are no real risks being taken (the electric fiddle carrying the main melody line is new -- although it is really doing the same work as the expensive keyboards that were all over the group's records during their major-label phase), he is not pushing any envelopes or making any Major Statements. If you wanted to place it within the Chills' songbook, it is more "Look For The Good In Others" than "Great Escape". It doesn't precisely sound like a demo but there is something underworked, something homespun about it. (It might also be suggestive of someone who has come to terms with the idea that a song that sounds like it came out of Dunedin is a song worth doing; but that might just be me drifting into the field of amateur psychoanalysis.)

And here is where it gets speculative, taking us to a place that all Chills fans will recognise: that place called "What Next?". If "Molten Gold" is the sound of Martin Phillipps figuring out if he can still do this, well, Martin, the resounding answer must be "Yes You Can". If Phillipps, who appears to be surrounded now by a solid group of sympathetic musicians, can draw some momentum from this one song, who knows, we might be on the verge of an unexpected, thoroughly well deserved, and (for me, but I'm sure not only for me) very exciting second act.

On the other hand, if it does turn out to be a one-off, and we are held in suspense for another however many years, well, Martin, whenever that might be, I will still be here waiting for you. And in the meantime we have this song to listen to. So, y'know, uh, thanks.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Hypothetical mixtape: November 2012

It is now November 2013. This list relates to November 2012.

I should probably give up.

And yet ...

Here we go yet again. A month dedicated, as it turns out, to dance.

1. "Hippo Mancy", by Tom Janusch. The entire 1970s disco scene displayed in miniature. Like a snow dome. Groovy.

2. "Contours Sway", by Larry Gus. DFA signing (now with an album out) with the ingenious approach of taking an actual (or fake: who can tell these days?) disco number and chopping and screwing it until it sounds like a song trapped in a blender. (A compliment.)

3. "I'm A Man (full length version)", by Macho. Italo disco. Imagine a mid-point, perhaps, between Earth Wind and Fire and "I Feel Love". Or, y'know, don't. Listen to this instead. You weren't really planning on doing anything else for the next 18 minutes.

4. "I Love America", by Patrick Juvet. One thing about disco is, if you only knew it from the songs they played on the radio, you really did have a skewed and unflattering view of it. They say that size doesn't matter. They are wrong. Twelve inches is disco's true measure. Reducing something like "I Love America" to three or four minutes really negates the point of the song and leaves the young and impressionable listener (viz., me) having strongly negative views of what is, in its 12-inch iteration, as fine a song as the disco era came up with. (Well, almost.) It's like going down a rabbit hole from which you can never escape. For 13 minutes, anyway.

5. "I Wanna Give You Tomorrow (disco version)", by Benny Troy. I don't care who you are, there will always be disco songs that you haven't heard before. Benny Troy comes on as a slightly restless/anxious Barry White. Oh those blessed strings. From 1975, when things were more fresh, new, exciting and (maybe) innocent.

6. "Dreaming A Dream (Goes Dancin)", by Crown Heights Affair.  I think you can probably guess what is going on here.

7. "Stardance", by John Forde. Many of the finest exponents of disco did not hail from England. (I'm not sure where you would place the Bee Gees vis a vis that last statement.) John Forde hailed from England. The word "cosmic" can't help but come to mind: this song seems to have its head in the stratosphere and its feet on the dancefloor. Or: did John Forde invent prog-disco?

8. "Ain't No Time For Tears (Sacred Rhythm Version)", by Ashra. Not disco per se, but this does share the idea of strength through repetition. And rhythm. What we have here is Joe Claussell taking some well schmick Manuel Gottsching guitar triangulations and superimposing them onto a salsa beat. And the result is insane. Hola!

9. "Keep It Together (Factory Floor Remix)", by How To Destroy Angels. As with "Are 'Friends' Electric?", say, this remix, if you put it out on the dance floor, might clear half the patrons, but those who remain will be pogoing their little hearts out. There is something very end-of-the-seventies Sheffield about Factory Floor which I find very appealing. They are, on the face of things, cold and industrial, but it is done with a deft hand that draws you in. As we sit here now, they have an album out. On DFA.

10.  "We Came To (house mix)", by The Crystal Ark. Did somebody mention DFA? It is disappointing that last year's Crystal Ark album didn't get more traction than it did. Gavin Russom's homemade synths and Viva Ruiz's vocals are a good pairing, and the album is a lot more interesting, and varied, than most people seem to have assumed it would be. This is a different mix of a song from the album. It may not be the long-awaited return of Black Leotard Front, but it's all good.

Mistah Lou, he dead.

I don't really know what to say about the death of Lou Reed, but it might seem a bit weird if I don't say anything at all, so here goes.

As you know, Lou and I didn't always see eye to eye. I don't know what it was about him that rubbed me up the wrong way, but something did, and I am certain that that is exactly how he would have wanted it. That was his particular, uh, charm.

That said, there is a hole in the world as I sit here typing this. The last time I was conscious of feeling like that was when Burroughs died. Both of them were figures that towered, much larger than life, across the (or "a") cultural landscape. Their shadows, already long, continue to lengthen.

In short: if Lou Reed had never been born, I would be living in a world much different from this one, and I can't imagine it would be a world that I would prefer to live in.

No Lou Reed = no Velvet Underground. No Velvet Underground = no Television. No Ramones. No British punk. No Feelies. No Forced Exposure. (Probably no Creem.) No Chills. No Bats. No Clean. No Belle and Sebastian. No Beat Happening. No Black Flag. No Birthday Party. No Spacemen 3. No Jonathan Richman. Not exactly no David Bowie, but a different David Bowie, one who would not have made the Berlin trilogy. No Neu!. (Is it too much of a stretch to say no Kraftwerk?) And if you take all of them out of the picture, it is curious to wonder what today's music might sound like. No Moon Duo. No Real Estate. No Woods. No ...

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Request For Information

So, here's the thing: as a general rule, somewhere between 10 and 20 people read what I have written. Not going to break any bestseller records, but, y'know, I'm pretty comfortable sitting here in my own microclimate.

Then I discover that the number of "hits" (not that kind; no, not that kind, either) on my October 2012 hypothetical mixtape post (scroll down, probably) has passed 400. (Not a typo.)

Statistical anomalies make me nervous.

My self-sleuthing skills are, admittedly, not up to much, but I cannot for the life of me figure out what is going on here. My assumption, of course, is that I must have written something so patently wrong and/or ridiculous that half the internet (well, half of a very small fraction) is getting their LOLs (I believe it's called) at my expense and everybody knows about it except me. (Remember: just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you. Or to make fun of you behind your back.)

Uh, help?

YouTube of the day

"Float On", by The Floaters.

Like Everest: because it's there.

(When I was a boy, a "floater" was something else entirely.)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Song of the day

"Out In The Middle", by The Duckworth Lewis Method.

Junior cricket has commenced for the 2013-14 season, and what better time to acknowledge the most recent contribution by The Duckworth Lewis Method to the gentleman's game. Cricket, as these fellows well know, works as a metaphor for many aspects of life; many of their songs can be read as such, but they are also capable of being played with a straight bat.

This song cruises along gently and charmingly on a soft cushion of FM radio, with essences of, variously, George Harrison, Steely Dan, The Doobie Brothers and, crucially, 10CC. (Who, when they were no longer any good, had a hit with their own song about cricket.) But it is not just a blatant parade of influences; it can (and should) also be enjoyed as a song.

Well played, chaps.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Song of the day

"Livin' Is Easy", by The Embassy.

Bands like The Tough Alliance and JJ may have received more notice around the internet, but as far as Swedish indie-pop bands go, The Embassy got there first, and after a relatively subterranean decade-plus-long career they released their fourth album, "Sweet Sensation", earlier this year. And it is certainly one of the more listenable albums of the year, if seductive pop pleasures are your thing.

The template for a lot of their songs is clearly New Order, which is a difficult thing to pull off given how close to perfect the original was. But with this song, chosen almost at random, they make it look easy. The melody is straight out of the New Order playbook, as is the vocal delivery and even the synth that appears periodically throughout the song, which could almost have been dredged up from the "Movement" sessions. Perhaps what sets it apart, though, is the Postcard (and also the Postcard-on-an-Ibiza-tip) jangle that kicks the song along.

Nice video, too.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Song of the day

"Love Is Lost (Hello Steve Reich Mix by James Murphy)", by David Bowie.

As someone who hasn't listened to a new David Bowie album from start to finish since "Let's Dance", in 1983, I didn't view the unexpected appearance of "The Next Day" earlier this year as a return to past glories so much as just business as usual. I don't think we know how James Murphy viewed it, but we do know, if only from the references that are dotted throughout his own records and influences (they being largely the same thing in Murphy's case), that he has been a deep listener to Bowie's seventies work.

This remix, then, can and should be viewed with some excitement. Not only does it marry together two musical visionaries (yes, I hate that word, but in this case it seems to fit better than anything else I could come up with) with a lot to offer each other, but it also marks the first significant appearance by Murphy on record since he bravely scuttled LCD Soundsystem. Its ten-minute span is typical of Murphy, gradually shifting and tweaking the sound, and the dynamic, so that what you have is not so much a song as a musical journey; meanwhile, Bowie's voice lends it the emotional weight that Murphy himself was, unexpectedly, able to impart in the middle section of "Sound of Silver". In short: this sounds like an LCD Soundsystem track fronted by David Bowie. And if that dampens your trousers, well, I'm not surprised.

There is a nice Kraftwerk reference early on (Bowie and Kraftwerk, of course, had a mutual-appreciation thing going: Kraftwerk name-checked Bowie on "Trans-Europe Express", while Bowie was undoubtedly influenced by their music (see "Low", "'Heroes'" and "Lodger")). Several minutes in, Murphy manages, somehow, to replicate the wonky piano sound from "Ashes to Ashes". (Show-off.) The Steve Reich sample/reference (from "Clapping Music", I think) is something of an inspired musical non-sequitur to start off the show, as you think that what you are listening to is scattered applause, until it coalesces into a rhythmic pattern. I'm sure there are other references that I am not twigging to, but that's why he's James Murphy and I'm Joe Schmoe.

I just can't stop listening to this.

Friday, October 11, 2013

YouTube of the day

"Fred Vom Jupiter", by Die Doraus Und Die Marinas.

It's such a happy song. Why is nobody smiling?

Monday, October 07, 2013

Youtube(s) of the day

For some time now, the best thing on the Internet, if not its sole justification for existing, has been Marcello Carlin's "Then Play Long", in which he has been running through every UK number one album in chronological order, and managing to write intelligently about each one: finding a way to provide some constructive criticism even when it is difficult to say anything positive. In fact it is his big-heartedness, his continuing resistance to the many opportunities to say, in effect, "how did this crap ever get to number one / the record buying public is a bunch of know-nothing morons", that sets this herculean effort apart.

A couple of weeks ago he reached "The Lexicon of Love", by ABC. We can now see (even those of us who can barely see our nose in front of our face) that over the preceding five years, in which Marcello took us from July 1956 to July 1982 (266 number one albums!), he (and let's not forget Lena, too, without whom it very likely would not have happened at all) has been telling the story of how this album came to exist, and to reach number one, and why it is the greatest of number one albums. (The rest of the story will no doubt be, or will at least be capable of being read as, the ramifications of this album.) (Of course, his story has been much more than that; and it may be that "Lexicon" hasn't even been mentioned by name until now. There has been much to think about, not just in terms of pop music but in terms of community, history, technological change, and so on. The most disturbing thought that occurred to me in reflecting on his writings (he suspects that nobody has read every entry; he would be wrong) is that if it hadn't been for Thatcher we would not have had "Dare" or "Lexicon". Ouch.)

So anyway, public congratulations from me, Marcello, on reaching the summit.

One notable piece in the "Lexicon" puzzle that comes out in Marcello's essay is the string of four singles produced by "Lexicon" producer (and hero of this writer) Trevor Horn for seemingly nondescript pop duo Dollar. You can read about the songs in Marcello's piece. All I wanted to do was provide youtube links to each of them, and encourage you to listen to them. Closely. The ingredients of "Lexicon of Love" are all there, should you choose to spot them. (Note in particular "Videotheque", where it all seems to come together, while at the same time opening the door for Propaganda and Art of Noise.)

1. "Hand Held in Black and White".

2. "Mirror, Mirror (Mon Amour)".

3. "Give Me Back My Heart".

4. "Videotheque".

Monday, September 30, 2013

Hypothetical mixtape: October 2012

Oh that's right, there's some music I'm supposed to be writing about.

1. "Resigned", by Blur. I don't spend much time thinking about Britpop because, as you know, the nineties was the decade in which I "retired" from listening to music (because, like, I figured by my late 20s I was too old for Young People's Music; unlike, heh heh, now). I could probably pick an Oasis song in a line-up, and I have always had a soft spot for "Bittersweet Symphony" on account of how they were, uh, "punished" by the corporates for taking a Stones off-cut and turning it into a fine song. But beyond that if I have ever taken to anything it would have to be Pulp. Having said that, I do quite like this (although that may only be because it reminds me of Wire's "Blessed State").
2. "Nagoya Marimba (Hnny Edit)", by Steve Reich. Usually I take my Steve Reich straight (no chaser). I suppose what this does is make concrete the sense of propulsion that is always implied in Reich's work: ie gives at a shot of the actual doof doof. It puts a spring in this piece's step. And if the opening few bars also serve to remind the listener of "Uncertain Smile", by The The, well, that can't be so bad, can it?

3. "Hey Music Lover (The Glass Cut)", by S'Xpress. From one king of minimal to another. There must have been a time, long forgotten now, when Philip Glass's star was well in the ascendant, so much so that he could be invited into the mixing room to have his way with a mere pop song. We might assume that money did some of the talking: money that you can't imagine being there for him (or anybody) now. This is a pretty extraordinary piece of music.  It does, kind of, sound like Philip Glass. (It also, with the voice snippets and fragmentary repetition, can't help but remind one of Steve Reich (see above).) Could it ever have been a hit on the dance floor? I probably could have danced to it (in a particularly dorky kind of way) but would also most likely have been strongly advised not to.

4. "What'd I Say?", by Medeski, Martin & Wood. There are two Atlantic single-disc compilations from a few years back, one that covers the fifties and the other the sixties. "What'd I Say?", by Ray Charles, sits at the end of the first set. And, so situated, it really does signal the gateway from one era of music to the next. As with "Anarchy In The UK", you could hear history being written. This extended, relaxed cover by the now venerable New York jazz trio doesn't work any such ground-breaking tricks, but it is a fine version of an essential piece of music.  Available here.
5. "Hunt For The Wolf", by The Blue Guitars. Here's a tip: if it says "Melodiya" on the label, it's probably worth a listen. From the land that brought you Mr Trololo. On this occasion: Soviet-era jazz. With a big drum solo. What could possibly go wrong?

6. "Parks", by The Paul Bley Synthesiser Show. Play this immediately after the Blue Guitars track and ask yourself: who was less in sync with what was happening in The Western World?

7. "Light My Fire", by Ananda Shankar. From the ridiculously sublime to the sublimely ridiculous. Or is it the other way round? We love ourselves a good Doors cover. This is a good Doors cover. Hence we love this. (Hey, kids! Syllogisms!)

8. "Do It Again", by Deep Heat. Same again, but substituting "Steely Dan" for "Doors". Reissued by Numero Group, so you know it's good.

9. "Hot Coffee", by Tortoise. Proof, if proof were needed, that Tortoise's one-off single-sided seven-inches are better than most groups' regular seven-inches. What we're really saying here is, in our eyes Tortoise can do no wrong, even this long distance into their stellar career.

10. "Workshop", by Freelove Fenner. From a limited-release cassette called "Pineapple Hair". Apparently. Does everything a two-minute pop song should do. I really dig what they do with those guitars.

11. "At The Dark", by Group Rhoda. This carries all sorts of echoes (literally in places) of the spacier end of what you think of as krautrock, enhanced at one point by some early Pink Floyd keyboard sounds. It also reminds me, somehow, of solo Kendra Smith. (Whom I have been thinking about recently, in the wake of the new and unexpected Mazzy Star album.) So, yes, I am hearing a lot of other things in this song, but on the other hand I'm not sure I have quite heard a song exactly like this. (Does that make sense?)

12. "Remember", by Michael Rother. Did somebody mention krautrock? Michael Rother, as you know, was one third of Neu!. From which you may not have expected him to be making music as gorgeous as this in the 21st century. The musical framework of this song suggests that the influence of Eno on all of these guys cannot be underestimated. (And vice versa, self-evidently.) I could easily listen to more of this.

13. "Einzelganger", by Einzelganger. In other words, Giorgio by Moroder. (See what I did there?)

14. "Axus", by Space Art. (Note: may also be called "Axius".) And a little bit more early synthesiser madness, just because we can. Stop complaining.

15. "Dreams", by Streetmark. This is from an album called "Eileen", released on Sky Records, in 1977. It features Wolfgang Riechmann (who was also in a band with Michael Rother in the early days, and who was shot and killed in the street by drunken louts in 1978; think upon that next time you plan to go out on a shooting rampage).

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Voices Inside My Head

Boys and girls, you are about to enter a frightening world: the corner of my brain that injects fragments of lost songs into the centre of my thoughts, and thus drives me to distraction figuring out just what exactly the hell That Song Is.

Today's sample:

1. "Because I Love You", by Master's Apprentices.

Apostrophe horror: the album cover whence this song springs says "Master's Apprentices", so that's what we're going with. Discogs has them as The Master's Apprentices. Their own web site (although who knows who's behind it?) has Masters Apprentices, as does Wikipedia (as of today, anyway), although with a "The" at the front. It's such a worry. (As is the appearance of "It's" at the start of the song title according to the credits produced for the "Rage" clip, embedded above. It, too, doesn't seem to actually be in the name of the song.)

Anyhow the words "Do what you wanna do, be what you wanna be, yeah" have been swimming around in my head. I almost can't believe (except I can, because Stupid happens to be my middle name)  that I struggled to place them in this, probably one of the great Australian rock songs. I figured it was probably The Hollies. (They should take that as a compliment, obviously.)

2. "Rollin' Dany", by The Fall.

In which The Fall do Rockabilly, taking a Gene Vincent song and absolutely killing it. Happy for this to get stuck in my head for days (while "Cruiser's Creek" takes a well-deserved break).

3. "Yon Yonson", by The Dave Howard Singers.

I have absolutely no idea. Wouldn't have heard it in 25 years. God, in 1987 I was on a solid diet of The Cannanes and Beat Happening. Wait, no, that was 1988. 1987 was Sonic Youth, Husker Du, Swans, Neubauten. But certainly not this: Herbie Hancock's "Rockit" (now there's a tune) coupled with a nonsense rhyme that the internet attributes to Kurt Vonnegut. The 12-inch version goes for eight minutes. Eight. Go figure.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Songs of the day - new releases edition

1. "Io", by Dawn of Midi.

So, I was hepped to Dawn of Midi by Sasha Frere-Jones. As usual, he is right on the money.

If you were to draw a straight line which had The Necks at one end and Battles at the other, you would be able to locate Dawn of Midi fairly precisely at the mid-point of that line. For myself, that is a good line to be on: Battles I am rather fond of, and I have a possibly unhealthy obsession with The Necks (who have a new album out in a matter of days, be still my beating heart). The piano / bass / drums lineup and essence, if not actuality, of improv connects this trio to The Necks, while there is a kinetic intensity to the music that is traceable to Battles.

And yet, while Dawn of Midi, like those bands, use organic instrumentation, the sounds they make are, in their own way, entirely modern; you could also come at this from an appreciation of the kind of music you would expect to emanate from Kompakt, say, or even (see below) Hyperdub.

Of course, they are their own band, and the whole is more than the sum of those (estimable) parts.

Their new album, "Dysnomia", while divided into nine tracks, is clearly designed to be listened to in one sitting (hey kids! old skool!). Here is the first track, because (a) I'm lazy and (b) they start as they mean to go on, so why not?

2. "Kathy Lee", by Jessy Lanza.

Speaking of Hyperdub, Jessy Lanza seems to be their latest finding, and sees them moving not exactly further away, but in different directions, from the dubstep ballpark they started operating in. I first heard her (without knowing it) on Ikonika's excellent "Beach Mode (Keep It Simple)". But what sent me in the direction of her new (and first) album, "Pull My Hair Back", were the words "co-written and co-produced by Jeremy Greenspan". Greenspan, as if you didn't know, is the driving force behind Junior Boys, if push came to shove maybe my favourite exponent of, uh, modern music. And, while this album doesn't exactly sound like Junior Boys with a Chick on Vocals, the similarities are not exactly hidden. The surprise is that it sounds, more than anything, like the very first Junior Boys album, made at a time when they were a very different proposition. (Not better or worse, just different.)

This song was dribbled out as what passes for a "single" in the early years of the 21st century, ie a video clip on YouTube with accompanying write-up on Pitchfork etc: where, typically, I missed it entirely. But it's never too late to get to the party.

The video is worth watching for its own sake. Evidently filmed in Hamilton, Ontario, it shows buildings and shopfronts that might as well have been lifted intact from the pages of one of Seth's comic books.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Song of the day

"Pier No. 5", by Not Drowning, Waving.

Again, not so much a song as an audio fragment. It features the guitar atmospherics of John Phillips, and is from an EP called "The Sing Sing".

The significance of this particular track, which wouldn't have been evident when it was recorded -- wow -- 27 years ago (say it slowly), is that it documents for posterity the Melbourne commuter's call to arms, "Herald final extra!"

Mind you, if the Herald were alive today it would undoubtedly be falling into line with the Murdoch-press diktat to run screaming headlines along the (UK) Sun-like line of "Kick These Bastards Out". But that's a story for another day. Don't forget to vote tomorrow, with whatever vestige of an open mind you can muster. If Abbott wins, which seems inevitable, the world won't end. But remember, "Stop the boats" is not a policy, it's an aspiration -- and, in my opinion, a sadly misguided aspiration, although I would be (and perhaps am!) the first to acknowledge (though such an acknowledgement would seem to be unfashionable today) that reasonable people might argue otherwise. When I start my own political party it will be called the Militant Moderates Party. I think there's room for one of those. (If nobody minds.) End of sermon.

Oh, the song doesn't seem to exist on the internet, but you can listen to it here. (It segues nicely into Bowie's "Sense of Doubt", by the way. I love it when Shuffle does that.)

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Songs about helicopters (slight return)

"Helicopter", by The Chills.

Not so much a song as a hint of an idea for a song. But, as with anything by Martin Phillipps, it bears the indelible mark of his singular way with melody.

This was released about 13 years ago as part of the three-disc "Secret Box" collection of Chills rarities, which existed thanks to the (continuing) good works of the people behind the Soft Bomb website. The set is long unavailable, and the longer we wait for further Chills recordings, the less likely it would appear that there ever will be any. (Insert sad face here.)

Anyway you can listen to this curious fragment here (right click etc; you know the drill by now), and speculate as to what might have been (and what, fate willing, may still be).

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Helicopter songs of the day

Oh, what the heck. Here is every other song I know about helicopters. That I can presently think of.

1. "Helicopters", by Crayon Fields. From their first, and to me the better, album. It's Melbourne indie pop royalty. Sort of. I think you'll like it.

2. "The Helicopter Spies", by The Swell Maps. The album that this is from, which at a best guess is entitled "Swell Maps in 'Jane from Occupied Europe'", takes pride of place in my vinyl collection. It feels, and has always felt, to me to be much more art object than product. I sometimes wonder whether, in 1980, every budding musician in Dunedin was given a copy of this record.

3. "Helicopter", by XTC. This one you know.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Song of the day

"Helicopter", by M. Ward.

She doesn't know this, but when Ms Sarah Knuckey made a copy for me of M Ward's "Transfiguration of Vincent" LP, way back in twenty-zero-whatever, she changed my life. (And now I have my own copy. Ten bucks at the local second-hand music shop.) At that time, I didn't know music like this was still being made. Alongside Iron & Wine and Gillian Welch, M. Ward's music gave me renewed faith in the, uh, redemptive power of music. Or some such.

So, Sarah, if you are out there, this is for you.

Editor's note: it is entirely coincidental that the last two "songs of the day" have been about helicopters. This is not a trend.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Hypothetical mixtape: September 2012

On with the show.

"Torold Le A Konnyeidet!", by Atlas. It starts with a couple of largely atonal blasts, but quickly resolves into a classy piece of lounge music, of the kind that you could easily imagine the Karminsky Organization working into one of their "In-Flight Entertainment" collections. If they had known about it. Which they may well not have, since it hails from Hungary, which was at that time only just starting to walk, blinking into the light, out of many years of Communist oppression. Not that you'd know it from this, which would not at all have been out of place on Eurovision circa, say, 1971.

"Free", by British Electric Foundation. Perhaps not as insanely good as Tindersticks' take on "If You're Looking For A Way Out", from a few years later, but pretty damn good nevertheless. From the second volume of B.E.F.'s "Music of Quality and Distinction" project, which I recall being underwhelmed by at the time. Perhaps I had to grow up a bit more to really appreciate this song. (Perhaps I had to have developed a familiarity with the original.) Billy Mackenzie's voice is always received with a tinge of sadness, firstly because of his fate but also because that's what his voice always conveyed; to me, anyway. (Notwithstanding that "Party Fears Two" and "Club Country" are two of the greatest pop songs, not just "New Pop" songs. I understand that there is now a third volume of "Music of Quality and Distinction", on which Glenn Gregory sings the first of those two songs. That I've gotta hear.) This could also, by the way, almost be sold as a lost outtake from Scritti Politti's "Cupid & Psyche 85".

"Owner Man Skank Version", by Massive Dread. The label on the seven-inch says it all, really: "Produced by: Tapper Zukie"; "(c) 1978"; "Made in Jamaica". What could possibly go wrong?

"Keep On Movin'", by Deodato. In which everyone's favourite Brazilian lounge jazz exponent gets on a disco tip. The groove gets hit from the word go; the listener is allowed to settle in for the long haul. It will be worth it. Pre-dates David Bowie's "Let's Dance" by just enough time for speculators to speculate that Bowie might, just might, have had half an ear to this.

 "Cementerio Club", by Pescado Rabioso. It's a small step from Brazil to Argentina. "Pescado Rabioso" means "rabid fish", apparently. Now that's a band name. Where Deodato borrows from disco, these dudes have an ear on the British blues boom. I'm thinking particularly, though, of those lost-era Fleetwood Mac albums that I referred to a couple of months back.

"Circles", by Les Fleur de Lys. Hey, it's the sixties big beat sound we all know and love. You may know this song from a band called The Who. This version may not have Keith Moon on the drums, but it does have a blistering guitar solo. Which is some consolation.

"Right On", by Cougars. If you had snuck this onto David Holmes's soundtrack to "Ocean's 11", I doubt that anyone would ever have been any the wiser.

"White Lines", by David Wiffen. This comes across as archetypal West Coast singer-songwriter tunage, so I was surprised to discover that David Wiffen is English, and began his career in music there before moving to Ottawa, whence sprang the album this fine song is from. Hmmm, those seventies Californian songsmiths being outdone by a Canadian: wouldn't be the first time, actually ...

"Hey Man", by Rare Bird. You would have thought the well of hitherto obscure late-sixties / early-seventies gems would have long dried up by now. You might like to think again. How good is THIS? Interesting that it was picked up for reissue by the fabulous El Records, home of Would-Be-Goods and other fine eccentric and/or understated eighties English fare.

"La Isla Bonita", by Jonathan Wilson. If it is the mark of a man that he can record a cover version of a Madonna song such that the innocent listener has no idea that he or she is listening to a Madonna song, then Jonathan Wilson is some kind of man.

"Selfish Boy", by Caribou. Proof, if proof were needed, that Dan Snaith's limited-edition tour CDs are better than most bands' actual CDs. Is that really a Beethoven sonata tucked away in there?

"Bad Street (Lindstrom & Prins Thomas Remix)", by Twin Sister. Not all latter-day L&PT remixes completely hit the mark. This one, I think does: right down to the metaphorical breaking of the storm, at the 6.45 mark. And if the start of the song reminds you of your favourite Swiss band, Yello, well, where's the harm?

"Some Time Alone, Alone", by Melody's Echo Chamber. The music on this song is supplied by Mr Tame Impala. You can kind of tell. What is surprising, though, is the level of debt this song owes to the first couple of Broadcast albums. This is not a criticism: we can never have those days again, so it's nice to get such a poignant reminder of what we will go on missing, for ever.

"Wildest Moments", by Jessie Ware. Pop music, circa 2012. *Sigh*.

"Four Times More", by Elisa Waut. Pop music, circa 1986. You cannot imagine this not having been huge. And yet, it wasn't.

"Year 90-10", by Sam Rosenthal. Instrumental electronic music from 1985; from an album released in an edition of 250 and rereleased in presumably larger numbers last year because, y'know, we are in a 25-year music cycle where everything of a certain age is new and cool again (whereas everything from, say, 2005 nobody wants to know about; but hang on to those, too, because one day they will become valuable "artefacts"; hey, we're not cynical here, not us). Anyway this does sound pretty nice. I would also have embraced it "back in the day" because these are the sounds of my own formative years. Note the pseudo-Pseudo Echo haircut on the record cover. I believe I can say with some honesty that I never had one of those; at least, not for more than a few hours.

"Mon Amour", by Alan Hawkshaw and Brian Bennett. Library music royalty. An electric piano vamps away in the background, while the Moog noodles away over the top. As a friend once said, there are not enough "O"s in "smooth".

Friday, August 23, 2013

Song of the day

"Do The Helicopter", by Frank Savage and the Citizens.

I spent much of yesterday evening helping to shift an unfeasibly large quantity of seven-inch singles from point A to point B.

"Ordinary Persons Rock And Roll", by Frank Savage and the Citizens, wasn't amongst them.

Frank Savage and the Citizens might best be described as a footnote to a footnote to the Melbourne pub rock scene circa 1980. I don't know if they ever released anything other than this one record. I have a copy of it, which for unexplainable reasons makes me feel kind of special. I have a vague notion that Frank Savage himself either hailed from, or spent time in, Toora, which was one of the feeder towns for my high school. There were Savages (savages too, heh heh) at my school but they weren't from Toora. (Of course it may well not even have been his real name.)

I never understood why "Do The Helicopter" was relegated to the B side. It is totally catchy, so much so that it has lived in my head for the last 30-odd years without me having felt the need to actually play the record in the interim.

It seems not to be on the Tube at present, but as we sit here now you can listen and/or download it from here. What are you waiting for?

(Trivia note: Rod Hayward, on guitar, played with Dave Graney in the White Buffaloes and the Coral Snakes.)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Song of the day

"Lucky", by Lusine.

How can a song be, at the same time, both a breath of fresh air and a throwback to the sound of 2000 (Luomo's "Tessio", to be precise)? Like I would know. It just is.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Song of the day

"Ice Machine (Ewan Pearson's Darkroom Scene Remix)", by Royksopp.

When I was thinking about what I might say about this track, the thing I kept coming up with was along the lines of, Pearson has given the original (which appears, as far as I can tell, on Royksopp's recent/forthcoming contribution to the LateNightTales series) a neat but random tweak along the lines of what I would describe, instinctively but probably erroneously, as "Nineties Depeche Mode".

Neat, yes. Random, well, in fact, no. Because I have since learnt that this is a cover of a 1981 Depeche Mode (ie Vince Clarke era) b-side, so the not-quite-subliminal Mode interjections are actually a perfect fit. I'm not entirely sure that the four-square doof-doof substructure that Pearson has constructed suits the Royksopp aesthetic, but nothing here overwhelms the hint of the uncanny that the vocals convey, and which is the thing that Royksopp do well. (I should say, one of the things that Royksopp do well.)

Plus, it's a remix of a cover version. How cool is that?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Song of the day

"Walking In The Rain", by Grace Jones.

When I do not have much spring in my step, I have probably not been listening to enough music. When I get the chance to listen to music, the spring returns. I don't know why this is. I think it has always been this way. It seems like a relatively simple and inexpensive form of therapy, and one that should be inherently manageable; and yet it doesn't always work out that way. Perhaps sometimes I am not actually in the mood for music. Or I cannot find the right way in, the correct path through the seemingly impenetrable forests of hard drive clutter. The silence of the blog tends to coincide with such phases. The takeout lesson: if I am silent here, I am most likely not travelling as well as I would like to be. Because if I am listening to music, words are usually forming in my head. Maybe descriptors. Maybe comparators. Little sentences and paragraphs arrive in my mind, perfectly formed, only to instantly vanish into the ether. But some remain, and I write them down, here, maybe out of vanity, maybe in order to empty them out of my head to make room for more useful content. Actually I don't know why I endeavour to capture and pin them. does there even have to be a reason? The 15-year-old recently asked me why there is always a song of the day, and whether there is actually a song of the day every day. I said there wasn't, that it was just what I called whatever song I was writing about. But I think there is always a song of the day, it just doesn't always (often?) get documented.

What I think I have figured out, though, finally, is why I don't do holidays and weekends well. It's because I don't always get the chance to listen to music, or at least to listen to music in a meaningful and uninterrupted fashion, at home. Because of, uh, "circumstances". Maybe the particular thing I am wanting to listen to is on a laptop that someone else is using. Or I am listening to something on the stereo in the living room when I get Bruce Doulled by the 15-year-old, so he can listen to one of his many video game soundtracks. Or the 13-year-old wanders in and says something harmless, yet damaging, like, "Ew, who is this? They can't even sing." (Jonathan Richman in particular is a frequent victim of this observation, for some reason.) In other words, normal life conspires against me.

But as the rasta man says: Don't think about me; I'm alri i i i i i ...

Because unlike, probably, most of you, I can listen to music practically all day at work (a) without getting into trouble, (b) without annoying anybody and (c) with no noticeable drop-off in productivity or quality, possibly in fact the reverse. So I am actually frequently in a better frame of mind at work than I am at home. No, I am not proud of this. Nor do I understand it. But it might actually be a useful thing for me to have figured out.

Which, somehow, if only because I have run out of anything else to type and because "Media Watch" will be on shortly, brings us to Grace Jones. A song of hers, not this one, shuffled up onto my work computer this morning, and reminded me that what I really wanted to listen to was her singing "Walking In The Rain". There is just something about it. Sly and Robbie in the rhythm section. The Compass Point vibe. The glamour of the production, of the sound (and of the singer, obviously). The synthesiser that sounds more 1986 than 1981. The fact that it was written by Harry Vanda and George Young.

Ladies and gentlemen, Miss Grace Jones ...

Sunday, August 04, 2013

YouTube of the day

"Diamond Shine", by The Clean, live in Wellington, during the Rock The Quota campaign.

Admire Hamish Kilgour as he sings and plays the drums: AT THE SAME TIME!

Swoon as David Kilgour demonstrates his seemingly effortless way of extracting the maximum amount of sound -- and melody -- from a guitar.

Stare in disbelief at Robert Scott's fair impersonation of an off-duty middle-level accountant.

Yes, it's The Clean, sounding as good as you would expect. Enjoy. And please, stay for the surprise ending!

(via Doom & Gloom From The Tomb)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Song of the day

"Par Amour", by Stellar OM Source.

Stellar OM Source, then, is the latest in a seemingly endless line of Ladies With Synths. Long may they reign. Is this cutting edge electronic music disguised as a slice of soul diva action, or is it the reverse? And does it matter? A couple of minutes before the end of the song, we get a line that might be "then I feel", and the arpeggiator kicks in. I interpret this to mean, "then 'I Feel Love'". Gets my vote.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Hypothetical mixtape: August 2012

On the other hand, some months seem like Christmas: trying to narrow the choices down to those that would fit on one CD feels like a form of cruel and unusual punishment. (Shed a tear for the ones that got away.)

"She", by Charles Kynard. Kynard is a lesser-known exponent of the Hammond B-3 in a jazz setting. You would probably call this Acid Jazz today, but it wasn't called that in 1971. The back cover photo has him grinning in a manner that reminds us of that other Hero of the Hammond, Barry Morgan

"The Soul of Patrick Lee", by John Cale. In his long solo career, John Cale has produced many records, great swathes of which are, to be diplomatic, "not to my taste". Anyway it just goes to show that you have to keep listening, because there are always gems to be discovered. You might have expected to find this song on "Paris, 1919" (one of his two solo masterpieces, if you ask me) but instead it is buried on the "Church of Anthrax" album, made in collaboration with the original minimalist, Terry Riley, an album which is otherwise largely experimental in outlook. Evidently that is not Cale singing. You could have fooled me.

"Cherokee (Nicolas Jaar Remix)", by Cat Power. I was rather taken by the previous couple of Cat Power albums, but "Sun", from last year, left me largely unexcited. (For which I feel like I should apologise. Um, "sorry".) This Nicolas Jaar remix, however, is another story entirely. It pitches Marshall's voice against a droning, almost ambient bed of sounds, both organic and electronic, formed into a contextually perfect descending chord sequence. I think it is marvellous.

"Elephant (Todd Rundgren Remix)", by Tame Impala. It's nice to see pop all-rounder Todd Rundgren making a second (or fifth?) career as a remixer. He did a number on a Lindstrom track a while back, and now we have him taking whatever it is that makes Tame Impala sound so timeless and tweaking it ever so gently in order to tease out the pop possibilities of the song (no mean feat, given that the original song itself is pretty darned catchy). It may even sound like a seventies idea of a 21st century dancefloor smash, but, if anything, that works in its favour. I particularly like that he picks up the line "here he comes", which appears fleetingly in the middle of the original, and places it front and centre of the remix, as if slyly welcoming himself aboard.

"Satisfaction", by Mountain. Sludge guitars extracted forcibly from the foul-smelling bowels of 1974, and employed in service of this Rolling Stones cover. (The sound of these guitars is not a million miles away from Tame Impala.) On the same album they also cover "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On". I'd like to hear that. Although there's no way it's going to beat Lee Hazlewood.

"We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together (Country Mix)", by Taylor Swift. So sue me. A great pop song is a great pop song. And that never goes out of style. Or fashion. Or your head. Co-written, it won't surprise you, by Max Martin, who seems to know what he is doing.

"Prove To Me", by Seapony. Speaking of never going out of fashion: chiming, jangly guitars paired with dreamy female vocals. There are days when I wouldn't want to listen to anything else.

"Gas on F", by White Denim. In which the rambling -- and prolific -- Texans channel, in their own way, Uncle Neil's "Down By The River". At least, it starts off that way, before morphing into its own gently psychedelic sound field. (That would be a field with contented cows.)

"Ooh-Ah-Ee", by Vern Blair Debate. There is, in fact, no debate whatsoever, Vern. Supremely funky guitars, straight out of Haircut 100, are the order of the day here. Instrumental as anything!

"Hot, Funky and Sweaty", by The Soul Lifters. What it says.

"Take It From A Friend", by Janey and Dennis. Remember songs like "Seabird", by The Alessi Brothers? You will after you have listened to this. Hipsters have given this kind of song the label "sunshine pop", but there is the slightest air of melancholy sitting just underneath the surface to add some substance to the sweetness and light. I imagine it is possible to trace a line from this song, via The Carpenters and, if you're from Australia, The Moir Sisters, to "Trees and Flowers", by Strawberry Switchblade, and thence, heading backwards again in time, to The Roches' "Hammond Song", and maybe even "You Make The Sunshine", by The Temprees.

"Silversong", by Mellow Candle. Oops, I almost wrote, "by Espers". Both parties should take that as a compliment. This is the kind of song that Espers do better than anyone else in recent memory; here's how it was done in 1972.

"I'm A Man", by Cisneros and Garza Group. Actual, certifiably authentic Texas sixties garage rock; and a cover of the Spencer Davis Group classic. What could possibly go wrong? Okay, the flute solo, for one thing ...

"Magic Mirror", by Aphrodite's Child. So you thought Vangelis was responsible for nothing more than the "Blade Runner" soundtrack and windy new age mumbo jumbo assisted by the helium-voiced dude from Yes? That Demis Roussos was nothing more than a facilitator of wet handkerchiefs? Think again.

"Kyenkyen Bi Adi M'awu", by Alhaji K. Frimpong. Music for your back porch on a summer evening. If your back porch was in Africa.

"Still I Love You", by Isaac Tichauer. Australian content alert! Dude has clearly been listening to Dan Snaith (especially in his Daphni guise), Nicolas Jaar, Andy Stott and the like, but has managed to come up with his own sound. And I like it. There's a particularly nice "Tubular Bells" kind of thing that surfaces every now and then.

"Mauve Mood (Gavin Russom remix)", by Alice Cohen. As best as I can figure out, this is the same Alice Cohen that Wikipedia describes as a New York­-based musician and visual artist, active since the late seventies. I'm surprised I haven't run across her before; this is exactly the type of analog synth-based tunesmithery (think, for example, early Nite Jewel) that I fall heavily for every time I hear it. Actually, the analog nature of the remix, not surprisingly, is Russom's own work; the original song is carried along on a 1980s digital synth-pop sheen.

"Sandsings (remixed by Boards of Canada)", by Mira Calix. At the time when we were trawling through the internet in search of the songs that would ultimately form the basis of this hypothetical mixtape, a new Boards of Canada album seemed impossible to even imagine. Thus we were inclined to leap on anything bearing the Boards of Canada name with a haste that perhaps no longer seems entirely dignified.