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".