Friday, January 03, 2014

Hypothetical mixtape: January 2013

So, I had my chance to -- at last -- construct a 2013 playlist while it was still 2013. Seems like I missed it. Does that make this "nostalgia"? Happy New Year everyone.

"Dans Quelques Minutes", by Les Garcons. G'day Les. No, wait a minute, it's not that kind of Les: this is genuine French post-punk, so it must be something like "The Boys". Once again, I am amazed by how resonant the various guitar sounds of that era remain. I particularly love what this song does at around the 45-second mark, and regularly thereafter. Also notable for its largely instrumental "chorus". You don't hear many of those.

"Tomorrow (DFA Remix)", by Clinic. So this is five years old (and almost sounds as if it could have been 35). I was absorbing everything that bore the stamp of "DFA" at that time, so I don't quite know how this one got away from me. It's never too late, though, and, because DFA productions are an approximation of every record you have ever owned, they never sound dated. Note in particular the unexpected Sgt Pepper strings half way through.

"After You", by Pulp. And speaking of DFA, James Murphy had his hands all over the controls of this one, the welcome but unexpected return of Pulp, the thinking introvert's Britpop combo. At this point I feel the need to mention that Jarvis Cocker is best known in our household for his performance as Petey in Wes Anderson's "Fantastic Mr Fox".

"Second Summer", by YACHT. Our third and final DFA-related track for this month. I haven't ever really been grabbed by YACHT, partly, I must admit, because of the unnecessarily in-your-face ALL CAPITALS of their name, but I quite like this; it's a bit like the best bits of Hot Chip conjoined with a singer who shares the best bits of The Juan Maclean's Nancy Whang. Well, that's what I'm hearing.

"Flutes (A JD Twitch Optimo Remix)", by Hot Chip. In another month this may not have made the cut. But it seems to fit well with those other songs up there (and the one below), it is never less than listenable, and it is a song, or a piece of music, that allows you to nod your head while at the same time, if you focus closely, being impressed by the number of twists and turns it takes while remaining, at all times, manifestly the same song.

"Gun-Shy (Lindstrom Remix)", by Grizzly Bear. So anyway, I don't know anything about Grizzly Bear. But I think I know a bit about Lindstrom (given that he appears here probably two out of every three months). And this fits neatly, albeit in a curious way, into the Lindstrom storyline. Viz., a year or so back he put out an album called "Six Cups of Rebel", which appears to have been almost universally hated by Lindstrom fans. Not quite universally: I thought its combination of "I Feel Space" energy and prog rock excess suited him perfectly, and I still listen to it almost obsessively. (Almost?) He then put out (maybe as apology, maybe it was where he was going anyway) a short album (or long EP) which was mostly hailed as a relief, or a Stunning Return to Form, but which sounded to these ears ever so slightly like a backward step. So it was refreshing to pick up on this remix, which, in its rapid-fire chord changes, should serve as a signal for the haters to return to "Six Cups of Rebel" again: it might be the key that unlocks the mystery. (That there is no mystery.) Also, to the extent that "Six Cups" drew from the lessons of Todd Rundgren (which I think we can assume from the fact that he got Saint Todd to work a remix of one of its tracks), I am sensing a bit of the old Rundgren magic lurking in here, too.

"Everything Is Embarrassing", by Sky Ferreira. This is a fine pop song, structurally and emotionally strong enough to hold up the very heavy synths that might have caused a lesser song to collapse under their weight. The ghost of Lana del Rey (or is that Laura Palmer?) might be hiding in the shadows, but that's no bad thing.

"Closer", by Tegan & Sara. Whereas this one is more in the nature of pure ear candy. Which, of course, is no bad thing; and the chorus will have you doing windmills with your arms.

"In The Wild", by Alpine. Cowbells. Spanish guitars. Piano. A sprightly gait. Some vocal work of the highest order. Pop music can be simple, but it can also be inordinately complex, and just occasionally so complex that the fun is in hearing it all fuse together like an unexpectedly successful science experiment. And look, they're from Melbourne! Bonus points!

"Sleepover", by Hospitality. A pop song can also hit you with an emotional force so overwhelming you are left curled up in the corner, whimpering.

"Belinda", by Eurythmics. It wasn't until their second album, in 1983, that Eurythmics marched into Australia, burning everything in their path (in my head I can hear Gavin Wood on "Countdown" calling them "the Eurythmics", although there was never any "the" there), but their first album, from 1981, is a fascinating listen, with some surprising names in the credits, e.g. one half of Can; Robert Gorl, from DAF. "Belinda" is more straightforward post-U2 guitar pop/rock than, say, "Never Gonna Cry Again", but it has its own charm, which is not a word I would imagine I would ever feel tempted to use in relation to Bono. (Sorry, that slipped out.)

"Any Way That You Want Me", by Evie Sands. Gold-plated 1960s pop from the "Dusty In Memphis" / "Angel of the Morning" school. (Also recorded by The Troggs.) Is it just me, or does the photo on her Discogs page look uncannily like Hope Sandoval?

"Blue Flower", by Slapp Happy. And speaking of Hope Sandoval, general ignorance and specific failure to read and/or absorb liner notes led me to believe, until putting this playlist together, that "Blue Flower" was a Mazzy Star original. Not so. Now I'm not sure if it's only conditioning that leads me to prefer the Mazzy Star version or whether the slightly plodding nature of the original, and the singer's failure to be Hope Sandoval (not her fault!), would otherwise have caused me to give it not a second glance. So what is it doing here? Don't ask me!

"Longanisse", by The Liminanas. (Typography alert: there should be a tilde above the first "n" of "Liminanas".) Serge Gainsbourg's cigarette smoke hangs heavily over this song. On the one hand, that's a pretty brave thing for a French band to do. On the other hand, why the hell not?

"Paradise", by Crystal Syphon. This purports to be a reissue of an obscure record from the late sixties, by a band who otherwise disappeared without trace. But these days, who knows? It's hard to believe that a band with the word "Crystal" in the title could have been formed other than within the most recent band-name cycle. But this certainly sounds true to the Californian dream-psych sound of those long-ago days, so I am inclined to give it the benefit of the doubt. More fool me?

"Sommarlaten", by International Harvester. Swedish psychedelic rock from 1968. The electric guitar and saxophone parts (at least I think it's a saxophone, it's really quite difficult to tell) sound like they were recorded on "vintage" (= "old") equipment set up two rooms away from where they were played, via a echo-y linoleum-covered hallway, or maybe a disused water pipe. Needless to say, I love it. (Also kudos for having named -- technically, renamed -- themselves after a tractor manufacturer.)

"Grand Ma", by Tonic. A re-edit of a Grand Funk Railroad song, with only the best bits left in. Southern guitar boogie DNA.