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.