Listening through Love & Happiness, the Al Green best of compilation, you realise how many fantastic songs the man has given the world, but I don't think anything will ever compare with "Let's Stay Together", which manages to stand head and shoulders above an impressive discography.
I'm still waiting for the Justice League film/TV show I have in my head to be made, which features Florence and the Machine's "Kiss With A Fist" sound-tracking Batman and Wonder Woman having a sparring session that turns into a make-out session. Warner Bros, I'm here when you need me.
Because I have no money but a plentiful supply of blank CDs and cardboard, I'm making mix CDs for my two nephews and niece this Christmas. My niece's is a ladies-only mix, ranging from Nina Simone and Taylor Swift to The Breeders and X-Ray Spex. One artist I couldn't fit on there was Kate Nash, but after re-listening to Made Of Bricks, I'm hoping my niece catches the music bug enough to come to me for more recommendations, because this will be high on my list.
An Internal Dialogue
Tim: Eugh, why do you still have The Magic Numbers album, self? It's by-the-numbers folk pop. Walking down this road will only lead you to Mumford & Sons.
Tim: But listen to the vocal harmonies! They're so pretty!
Tim: I don't know how I put up with you.
Tim: *too busy dancing to respond*
I'm very lucky to have wonderful friends who occasionally send me mixes of their own. One I listened to recently was from university friend Tom (who's been mentioned on here before) called Make Sure You Know What An Off-Colour Sea Lion Looks Like (named for a Blue Jam sketch that was included on there), which is a wonderful selection of tunes from artists like Stars, The Hold Steady, Beirut and The National. It also included on of the oddest songs I own, "The Centaur" by Buck 65. It's well worth a listen.
Sitting at my desk at work and listening to Passion Pit's Manners without jumping up and starting a one-person dance party was extremely hard.
One off my all time ultimate party tunes will always be "Sweet Home Country Grammar", a mash-up of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" and Nelly's "Country Grammar" by DJ Mei-Lwun. It hits the perfect balance of laid-back summer cool and hyped-up party starter.
Ssshhhh...apart from "My Girls", I don't actually like Merriweather Post Pavilion that much. Don't tell any of the cool kids, or they'll kick me out of their club.
Midnite Vultures wasn't the most well-received of Beck's albums, with a lot of people dismissing it as a featherweight homage to Prince shot through with Beck's typical genre-fusing madcappery. What people failed to appreciate how goddamn fun it was; a bizarro electric cyclone ripping through a sci-fi orgy. It's a masterpiece of both lyrical gymnastics and musical artistry.
Getting Lost In Space
I wrote last time about my period of finding wonderful new artists through rather circuitous routes, and Aimee Mann was no different. Two of her songs were featured on an episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer (in fact she performed live at The Bronze and mentions that she "hates playing vampire towns") and at around the same time, I saw Magnolia for the first time, my introduction to the work of Paul Thomas Anderson and one of my favourite films. Mann worked extensively with Anderson on the film's soundtrack and the centrepiece of the film's second act sees the cast breaking the fourth wall to perform a version of Mann's "Wise Up".
After this one-two punch of an introduction, I couldn't help but check out one of her albums, and Lost In Space was where I started. It's a hell of an album, a set of perfectly constructed songs written with a novelist's eye for detail, and built around a series of simple but effective melodies that carry the emotional weight of the songs. Mann's voice is wry and intelligent, and can run the gamut from heartbroken to hopeful.
My favourite of Mann's albums, however, is The Forgotten Arm, which I was going to write about at the time I listened to it on this run (a couple of months back, I reckon) but wasn't able to, so we'll talk about it here. The Forgotten Arm is every bit as brilliant as Lost In Space, with the added layer of a story that runs through the album, telling the tale of two star-crossed lovers dealing with addiction and heartbreak.
Mann isn't well known either side of the pond beyond the Magnolia soundtrack, which was over ten years ago now. She's well-connected with the LA comedy scene and has been putting out albums regularly (including a Christmas record of both original songs and classics that's festive without getting treacly) but deserves a much wider audience. I suggest checking out her song "Little Bombs" here - it's one of my favourites and a great introduction to her work.
"Soul Of A Man" by Beck