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.

Song of the day

"Victor Trumper", by The Lucksmiths.

To be listened to, preferably, while reading this.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Song of the day

"Mango Walk", by The Chosen Brothers.

This one's for Bart, who has been constantly in my thoughts over the last couple of weeks, but who I haven't actually spoken to, mainly because I don't know what I would say. As an only child, I have no direct experience of my own to draw on as to what it's like to have, and to lose, a brother. Nevertheless, though it be a cliche, I think I can say that I feel your pain.

They say that you can choose your friends, but that you can't choose your family. They may be right; but in this case I suspect that if Bart had been granted the magical power to choose his brother, that power would have been wasted on him; he would have chosen Max.

Hence, the Chosen Brothers:

Bonus beats (just for the heck of it):

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Song of the day

"Man", by Neko Case.

You might think that Neko Case's fifties-via-seventies voice and M. Ward's twenties-via-sixties guitar would be a match made in heaven. You might even be right; but this song probably isn't the result you expected. Ward's contributions are about as far from She & Him as you could find. It's a bit closer to his solo work but, basically, he dirties and spikes things up a bit more than usual, in a way that some of us wish he would do more often.

Lyrically, meanwhile, well, it's probably only coincidence that "Man" rhymes with "Mann", but on this song Case comes across like she got out of the wrong side of the bed this morning and, stumbling around in the dark, managed to put on a pair of Aimee Mann's crankypants.

Listen to Neko Case swear like she means it.

 Or download it from, for example, here.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Song of the day

"Hallogallo", by Neu!.

All roads led to this being a "song of the day". Well, two, anyway.

Road one: I was walking home from the bus stop in the brisk Canberra winter evening, with Stereolab's "Jenny Ondioline" coming through the headphones for warmth. My thoughts (though I should have been concentrating on the road I was crossing) wandered in the direction of how that one song might well be the essence of Stereolab: from Laetitia Sadier's crypto-Marxist lyrics, to Mary Hansen's gorgeous harmony vocals, to the propulsive motorik rhythm that drives the thing along for most of its 18 minutes. That brought me to the notion that "Jenny Ondioline" might be thought of as a remix of Neu!'s "Hallogallo" with added vocals. (The entire early career of Stereolab might well fall under that one umbrella, actually.) This thought was confirmed when I arrived at the four-minute coda, which, it then dawned on me, loosely approximates the tape loop / varispeed shenanigans that take place on side two of Neu!'s second album, "Neu! 2".

Road two: later that very same evening, while catching up on some episodes of "Portlandia", we came upon the one where the parents of the preschool kid (in which Fred Armisen, with his long grey hair, looks not unlike recent photos of Lee Ranaldo), at a meeting of parents, complain about the records that the preschool has available for their children's listening, which, after some fun but perhaps overly knowing references (eg later Clash vs early Clash), culminates in the general horror of everyone present that the preschool teacher has never heard of Neu!. (Ah; hipster comedy.)

So: "Hallogallo".

Friday, July 05, 2013

Song of the day

"Spacer (12" version)", by Sheila & B Devotion.

Now that the entire world is up all night to get lucky (North Korea we're not sure about) it's worth remembering that, although the badge on the front says "Daft Punk", the song would be just a song without the contribution of Nile Rodgers, keeper of the Chic Organization flame.

In what must be the finest cash-in ever, Rhino has released "Up All Night" (see what they did there?), a two-CD collection that pulls together all the disparate strands of the Nile Rodgers / Bernard Edwards story. It's all here: every classic Chic track, songs you know and love by Sister Sledge and Diana Ross, even the Carly Simon 12" I mentioned the other day. In fact I can't think of anything that has been left out. (I'm probably wrong.) All in one place. How can that be wrong?

Possibly my favourite, although not as well known as some of the others (at least in this country, where the internet tells me it peaked at number 95: oh dear), is "Spacer", which is also here, bathed in copious amounts of extended 12" might and power. And joy.

(As an aside, Jules and I last week discovered the ideal listening conditions for "Random Access Memories": driving down the Hume Highway, in a hire car, at night. We got through two and a bit cycles of what is a rather long album anyway, and it just got better the further we went, the darker and later it got, and the sparser the road became. Good Times.)