Saturday, November 15, 2014

Hypothetical mixtape: December 2013

December 2013. It all seems so far away.

"I Want To Fly", by Brown Eyed Girls. You can call it K-Pop if you want to. Or you can just call it Pop. But you can't deny the lush seventies strings, or the liquid electric-guitar line that appears around the one minute mark and reappears from time to time thereafter in a rather satisfying manner.

"All You're Waiting For (feat Nancy Whang)", By Classixx. Has there ever been a time when the words "feat Nancy Whang" weren't a 100% selling point? What are you waiting for? Also, there is a new Juan Maclean album out there somewhere (although not, as yet, in Canberra record stores: c'mon guys, you are throwing money away).

"Calls (feat Jill Scott)", by Robert Glasper Experiment. On Blue Note (it says here), if that means anything anymore. Perhaps this is a throwback to nineties "acid jazz". Perhaps it's a nod to Yesterday's New Quintet. Perhaps there's even a tiny bit of Flying Lotus's DNA in here. Whatever: every time I hear that electric piano my heart breaks a little. No, I can't figure that out either.

"Walk With Me", by Memoryhouse. Well, obviously I like this. What I don't get is how it landed on Sub Pop. Mudhoney they ain't. Memoryhouse are a band (if you can call two people a band) (from Canada, no less) who were tossing gorgeous songs onto the Internet three or four years ago. Whatever they had then, they still have.

"Where The River Goes", by Amplifier. There sure is a lot of fine music out there that one is simply not aware of. Turns out Amplifier have been plying their trade since 1999, and yet this is the first I have ever heard of them. The good people at Discogs label it "prog rock". I don't know about that. It is, in large part, straight-forward alt rock, but there is something about it that transcends its genre. I think the seventies harmonies help. (This is a six-minute song. You just know it is going to explode at some point. It does. And when it does, it's a ball-tearer. Actually, if you had to guess which of these songs was on Sub Pop, it wouldn't be the Memoryhouse.)

"The Garden Of Poppies", by Ryuichi Sakamoto featuring Robin Scott. In which we continue the recent tradition of having at least one YMO connection in these playlists. Come for the intriguing drum patterns and tasty synth washes. Stay for the chord change.

"Like A Fool", by Robin Gibb. High Eighties Style at its highest.

"Face Dances, Pt 2", by Pete Townshend. How many hit records can you name that are in 5/4 time? Okay, "Take Five", that's a given. "Living In The Past", by Jethro Tull, a song I can never entirely get out of my head. And this. Also: what is Townshend singing in the chorus? "Face dancing tonight"? "Face into the light"? I'm sure Denis, our resident The Whovian, knows.

"Night Nurse / Version", by Gregory Isaacs. Speaking only for myself, I'm not such a fan of JA music made after about 1979. Something about the higher sound quality and/or digitalisation of the rastaman sound rubs me the wrong way. But of course there are exceptions, and this is such a fine song that it would be mean-spirited of me to quibble with the sound. Notable -- see also "Don't You Want Me" -- for the way the singer writes himself into the song.

"Lightning Flash (Weak Heart Drop)", by Big Youth. This is what I'm talking about. Reggae from 1975. (De)constructed using cardboard, string, elastic bands and sticky tape, and all the better for it.

"All Because (I'm A Foolish One)", by Al Green. Clearly, I don't know enough about Al Green. All I have is received knowledge: smooth soul singer, found God. These pieces of (mis)information didn't prepare me for this: a few more screams and it could be James Brown. Wokka-wokka guitar, nimble organ lines, horns: you know it.

"Hey Joyce", by Lou Courtney. This is actually one of the first songs I found on the Internet all those years ago, once I figured out what the right mouse button was for. But I misplaced it at some stage. So this is like the return of an old friend. (Hi, Phil!) I think they might call this Northern Soul, but what would I know? Maybe it doesn't do a whole lot over its two minutes and forty-five seconds, but I reckon if you heard it on the radio you would have no reason to change the station.

"Dead", by Carolyn Sullivan. Singing as acting. At least, you would hope that Carolyn Sullivan didn't actually feel this way when recording this song: "I wish I was dead". Hoo boy. Meanwhile a Hammond and a saxophone float along underneath, as if the deed was done and they were bearing her mortal soul towards the heaven she no doubt deserves. Kick-started, too, by a drum track that's ripe for the sampling. [Editor's note: these last three songs are from the estimable Clifton's Corner, appearing occasionally on Aquarium Drunkard. Thanks, pal.]

"Introduction 2 Dance", by J.V.C. F.O.R.C.E. Early hip hop is the hip hop for me. Before things got all, you know, nasty and stuff.

"Deutscher Girls", by Adam And The Ants. In which Mr Adam Ant tentatively steps out into the spotlight, in the company of a sprightly tango and is that a triangle? The mystery, to me, is how this turned up on an Editions EG records compilation, in company with such post-punk luminaries (not) as Phil Manzanera, Jon Hassell, Penguin Cafe Orchestra and King Crimson. Was it a misguided shot at contemporary relevance (even though the song was by 1982 already four years old) or a prescient vision of these disparate musics not being differently pigeon-holed in a more enlightened future? (Mind you, there is a song by Eno & Snatch on the same record that more explicitly bridges the presumed unbridgeable gap between the pre- and post-punk worlds. Well, it would be Eno, wouldn't it?

"Human Once Again (Four Tet Remix)", by Grimes. If anyone out there is hankering for a Four Tet song that sounds as if it might be a lost outtake from the burst of creativity that generated "Rounds", look no further. Grimes's wispy vocals are more than just an added bonus.

"Leave That For Memories", by Hoover. A long-haired, moustachioed dude, perched on the edge of a tombstone, staring blankly at, or just past, the camera. It could be Lee Hazlewood, if Lee Hazlewood had an actual singing voice. It could also be, I don't know, Tim Hardin, or Phil Ochs, or the Nilsson of "Everybody's Talkin'". They knew how to make records in those days.

"Caught Away", by Oasis. Aw heck, I don't know. Just listen to it. (It seems to be still available here.) This is not that Oasis.

"Door To Tomorrow", by Beyond The Wizards Sleeve. Those four BTWS EPs left a permanent mark on those who were exposed to them. These guys are inveterate tricksters, and as such it is difficult for outsiders to separate the fact from the fiction. We can tie ourselves up in knots or we can just bask in the richness of the backing vocals and George Martin (with or without the "esque") strings.

"Soft Wind", by Orchestra Gary Pacific. It is probably reasonable to assume that, just by reading the band and song titles, you have a fair idea what this is going to sound like. You might not be entirely correct, though: at the very least, the funky-drummer break sounds like something Hydroplane could have isolated, looped, and worked their own magic around. The rest of the song doesn't sound like that.