Saturday, March 30, 2013

Hypothetical mixtape: April 2012

I listen to stuff. I think about it. Briefly. I type some words. April 2012 wasn't a year ago. Yet.

"Are You Gonna Waste My Time?", by Zeus. If you believed this song was the product of 2012, well, you would believe anything. And yet it's true! A totally unexpected breath of fresh air that squarely hits that unlikely mid-point between Matthew Sweet and Queen. Not to mention a band name that suggests late 1960s Greek prog rock.

"Compare and Contrast", by Matt LeMay. And speaking of Matthew Sweet, there must be something in the ether, because if you had snuck this power-pop gem onto Sweet's "Time Capsule" album while nobody was looking, you would probably have gotten away with it. Which, in nobody's language, is a bad thing.

"How Deep Is Your Love", by The Rapture. This one-sided 12" from 2011 is not quite "Happy House", but it's in the ballpark. It makes me feel the way I felt when I first played the second, crucial DFA "Compilation" set: that here are a bunch of hipsters who have been listening to, and distilling into their own sound, something not unlike my own ideal record collection.

"Night And Day (Daphni Mix)", by Hot Chip. I'm not that much of a fan of Hot Chip. They do one type of song really well (viz., "Over and Over") but they also do a lot of other songs. Man of the moment Daphni takes one such and flips it on its ear. It ends with a minute of free-jazz-style skronk of a kind that you wouldn't expect to hear on a Hot Chip record. The preceding six minutes are pretty surprising, and, in fact, exciting, too.

"Rained the Whole Time (Nicolas Jaar Remix)", by Shlohmo. In the absence of anything new from Jaar himself, it's nice to be able to hear him add his distinctive electro/acoustic tinkerings to someone else's music. I haven't heard the original of this, but there isn't much here that doesn't sound like the work of Jaar. What's not to like?

"Soul Vibrations", by Dorothy Ashby. Not a song that can easily be translated into words. Check it.

"Never Let It Go", by Dolly Mixture. There is a particular type of honesty, of not being afraid to expose your own frailties, that makes much of the music recorded in the aftermath of the "punk rock" eruption a joy to listen to even 32 years later. That, and a knack for an irresistible melody. That particular, brief moment, linked in my own mind with smudged copies of the NME as it was before colour printing allowed them to better affix the text to the page, didn't last long. It probably couldn't have. See also The Marine Girls. *Sigh*.

"Angie La La", by Nora Dean. It is on the Treasure Isle label, but it doesn't bear much resemblance to what your or I would immediately call "reggae". It is certainly exotic -- including, but not only, in the Martin Denny sense. Released, evidently, on the back of a U-Roy seven-inch. Insane! (In an odd kind of way it puts me in mind of Broadcast.)

"There's A Reward", by Joe Higgs. Whereas this is reggae through and through. (Although you don't actually find that out until about 15 seconds in. Wait for it. And while you're at it could somebody please construct a song out of a loop or loops from those first 15 seconds? Thanks.)

"Clouds", by Deep Time. And thus we are thrust back into the present day. I don't mean to be unfair here by latching on to the observation that the singer can't help but be compared to Laetitia Sadier. There is much more to the song than a lazy comparison like that. But hey, it's Saturday afternoon.

"Call Me Maybe", by Carly Rae Jepson. The trouble with being behind in your writing by a year is that a song that you, maybe, recognised as something special while it was still in its embryonic phase, is that, well, by the time you finally get around to putting pen to paper it has been all over everywhere and back again. So that even you probably don't entirely want to hear it again. (At least one of your children threatens to kill you if you don't turn it off.) And yet here it is, and you are surprised, and yet also not, to discover that it can still give you goosebumps. What's with that?

"I'll Be Your Man", by Anna Calvi. We also, sometimes, like a nice twang in our guitar. This would be one of those times. It would appear that Anna Calvi did the twanging herself. Impressive. There is a certain earnestness here, or seriousness of intent, perhaps, that makes me think, "Nineties". There may well be an essay to be written about the lyrics, too. But since when have I taken any notice of lyrics?

"Girl You Need A Change Of Mind", by Eddie Kendricks. It's not only the weirdness quotient, or the ubiquity, of a song that makes it impossible to write about. A song as absolutely perfect in every way as this one resists all efforts to wax lyrical. Again: check it. (Consumer advisory: the full 7.5-minute version is even better.)

"Distillation", by H. Tical. Once upon a time, and I think it was mostly in Europe and to a lesser extent the UK, a bunch of musicians would get together in a studio and spend what by today's standards would be unfeasibly extravagant budgets recording short pieces of music in the hope that some of them would be picked up for use in film or television. Small runs of vinyl albums would be released, not for commercial sales purposes but because, well, it wouldn't make much sense to make these recording and have no way of getting the right people to hear them. Then the world forgot all about them, and these recordings, now known as "library music", grew dusty in a corner somewhere, as movies and television shows came to be populated by music specially written by one of a handful of essentially rote composers (obviously not a blanket statement; you're not going to find me dissing Morricone, for example, or Nino Rota, or Bernard Herrmann, or to be specific Jonny Greenwood's score for "There Will Be Blood" -- oh boy, now there's a doozy), or by pop songs chosen by what seem to be called "music consultants". (That's a gig I wouldn't mind.) Today, as with everything else, people collect these records and share them via the internet. They can be fun to listen to, and the record covers tend to be pretty groovy in a sixties design kind of way, and without their influence Stereolab and Broadcast, to name just a few, would sound (and look) quite different from the way either of them turned out. This is one of those tracks. It has some spirited electric guitar.

"I Only Have Eyes For You", by Beck. Evidently this was generated for an artist's installation project. If, like me, you have been lamenting the recent paucity of recorded Beck, this will remind you of what you have been missing. You might say it is doo-wop filtered through the fevered mindscape of a David Lynch movie. Or you might not.

"I Am Not Waiting Anymore", by Field Report. It may put you in mind of Phil Ochs' "I Ain't Marching Anymore". (The name might be the only reason for this. On the other hand it might not be.) It also puts me in mind of the underheralded Peter Case, which is kind of a nice surprise.

"Mirrorball", by Nisennenmondai. One is inclined to think that if Can had hailed from Japan in the early 21st century they might have sounded something like this. (Perhaps Manuel Gottsching has wandered in to contribute some guitar.) It also builds in a way that suggests they have been listening to LCD Soundsystem, masters of that particular form. After a minute or so you might find yourself screaming "Make it stop!" Five minutes later you will have lost all track of time. And there are still six more minutes to go. Who would ever have thought three Japanese chicks could make such a racket. What's that? Oh. You're right. "Shonen Knife."