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)