Sunday, May 25, 2014

Hypothetical mixtape: June 2013

Gosh, it feels like only yesterday that we last had one of these. When, in fact, it must have been ages ago: I was only 49 then ...

"Feel It All Around", by Washed Out. Otherwise known as the theme music from "Portlandia", the show that skewers hipsters from the inside. To borrow a line from Whit Stillman, some of them think it's a documentary.

"Wishing You Were Here", by Chicago. From Portland to Chicago (see what I did there?). The calling card for this song reads: backing vocals by Al Jardine, Carl and Dennis Wilson. The Moog line is a bit weird, and, yes, I know, it's Chicago, but oh, those backing vocals ...

"Dream Captain", by Deerhunter. Deerhunter are no Beach Boys, but you can't deny that Bradford Cox has as fine an ear for melody as any songwriter of the "modern era".

"Gun", by Emiliana Torrini. From the album "Me and Armini", another song from which appeared on an ealier playlist. I am mesmerised by the cavernous largeness of the electric guitar on this song. I should probably just go out and buy the album.

"Tube Stops and Lonely Hearts", by Annie. It's not far from Iceland to Sweden, but the distance from the previous song to this one is like the journey from out of the darkness and into the light. Which might well not be even remotely grammatical. I hope nobody is watching.

"All That Matters", by Kolsch. What happens is, Kompakt keep tossing out these perfectly crafted pop songs in the guise of dancefloor fillers. Don't be fooled.

"Bipp", by Sophie. You can make pop songs out of the most unlikely of materials. This, for example, sounds like what you would get if you had sat down in 2013 to make a sequel to "Warm Leatherette" using most of the same raw materials. It sounds just as harsh as that, and just as in your face, but you can also carry it around in your head for days.

"Would You Believe", by The Hollies. I just mis-typed this as "Wold You Believe". That would make no sense at all, obviously, but wold is one of my favourite words. I wouldn't go so far as to say that this is one of my favourite songs, but it is very good, with its George Martin-esque ever-so-slightly avant garde string arrangement, its Bee Gees-esque vocals, and its Scott Walker-esque sense of drama. That's a lot of esques.

"Take It Easy My Brother Charlie", by Astrud Gilberto. It is always a pleasure to listen to the honeyed vocals of Astrud Gilberto. The song you (probably) know. The version you (possibly) don't. What are you waiting for?

"Besame Mucho", by Apollo 100. This month's WTF moment.

"Girl You Move Me", by Cane and Able. The first couple of minutes of this monster track come on like some serious Funkadelic doolally. Gradually it morphs into the kind of soul/funk thing that wouldn't be out of place on your blacksploitation soundtrack of choice. So it's all things to all people, really.

"Remember to Remember", by Rick Holmes. Actually, maybe this is this month's WTF moment. Who can tell? Nine minutes of slow groove that doesn't once deviate from its chosen path in all of that time, augmented by some very tasty synth noodling, and all the while operating in the service of Rick Holmes's recitation of lines / titles from various notables, from John Coltrane to Stevie Wonder to Sydney Poitier, ending with the plaintive cry of "How long will it take?". Recorded in 1981, it's like the Civil Rights movement never happened. Produced by Roy Ayers, no stranger to blacksploitation soundtracks himself.

"Poor Wayfaring Stranger", by Shelton Kilby. The groove on this might also suggest blacksploitation soundtracks, but don't be fooled: it is actually from an album of gospel music. If church sounded like this, I could, just possibly, be saved. What? What's that? It's too late? Damn. (Oops.)

"Water Wheel", by Steve Gunn. The title of this charming instrumental brings back memories of one of John Elliott's less successful business ventures. ("Wow, that guy's got a big nose", said the 14-year-old recently, on having a glimpse of the great man during a promo for one of those "grumpy old men" television programmes I can no longer watch on account of their being too close to home.) This is, of course, sheer coincidence and of no relevance whatsoever to anything. The appearance of Helena Espvall, of Espers (who have been much too quiet of late), on this album is more to the point, and suggests loosely where this music might be coming from: a generation of kids who grew up listening to John Fahey records, and to the whole psych / rock / folk late-sixties UK axis, but who, unlike recent predecessors bearing the "freak folk" and/or New Weird America tag, have chosen what to my ears is the preferred balance between Pentangle, Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span, on the one hand, and The Incredible String Band, on the other. But what do I know?

"Yuba Reprise", by Date Palms. English music of a particular type from the late sixties and early seventies continues, as this and the previous song illustrate, to provide a rich seam from which young prospectors, from generation to generation, continue to dig up gleaming nuggets. This song draws from a different lode, the same one, perhaps, that Spacemen 3 hit upon in the course of their own excavations 25 years previously. Well, as we say here much too often, "it's all good".

"The Viaduct (Kid Loco Remix)", by The Pastels. No matter how much music you listen to, there will always be vast tracts of arable musical land that you haven't had the chance to harvest. (Seems to be metaphor month around these parts.) Like, I know nothing about The Pastels. There, I said it. And anyway, I suspect they don't sound much like this. A languid 4/4 beat eventually trails off into wispy clouds of, um, bliss. It's a perfect way to finish this thing off.