Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Play To Z: Remix After All to Shut Up, Dude

Some Observations

No central thesis at the end of this series of observations, in part because this run of albums was so fantastic that narrowing down to one artist would be impossible. That said, there's a common theme that emerges through the observations...

  Return To Cookie Mountain was my introduction to TV On The Radio. Well, I say it was my introduction - my real introduction was seeing them perform live at a one-day festival in Mountain View, California (home of Google). It wasn't the perfect introduction: we were far back from the stage, they were on early in the day, and I think they're one of those bands that are better suited to a venue than a festival (The Shins also played, and their sound was lost in the larger arena). That said, they made enough of an impact with their performance that I went out and bought the album, and it didn't disappoint. Their sound was unlike anything else I was listening to at that time, fusing electro, funk, blues and rock and making something new from them. They're one of those bands that's not afraid to push their sound in new directions, and that's always rewarding.

  Talking of pushing your sound...Revolver. What can I write about Revolver (that hasn't been written already, by people much smarter than me)? It's a truly remarkable album, my favourite of the Beatles' discography, and really shows the band as they transition from their original Merseybeat pop sound to something a lot more experimental.

  And from Revolver, we move on to The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, with Bowie going full blown concept-album space opera and embracing one of his most iconic personas. Again, it sees an artist pushing themselves to create something wholly new but still powered by a pop sensibility.

  And leaping forward in time, we have Robyn, with everyone's favourite batshit insane Swede fusing her pop heritage with electronica and hip-hop and crafting something fierce and angular but still run through with warmth and humour. Robyn is one of those artists who has constantly evolved over time, moving from prepackaged pop starlet to an iconic pop mistress for the new millennium, all while playing entirely by her own rules. We need more pop stars like her.

  "Bust-Out Brigade" by The Go! Team does strange things to my head. It's one of those songs I can listen to 10 times in a row and never grow bored of. It transports me to a different world, one where marching bands move in synchronised patterns around double dutch teams as blaxploitation detectives and kung fu fighters leap from fireballs. It makes me feel invincible.

  And we come to Romance Is Boring, my favourite album by my favourite band, Los Campesinos! If we ignore the EEP released in between, the leap from Hold On Now, Youngster to this album is considerable. Romance... is a much more adult, serious record, leaving behind a lot of the twee conceits of their first album but retaining their incisive observations and lyrical flourishes. Their sound is expanded, adding horns and a richer palette of instruments. It manages to move from rollicking anthems of romantic cynicism to heartbreaking hymns of young death easily. It is a wonder.

  Beck's Sea Change is his most personal record, a heartfelt collection of slow, haunting songs after several albums drenched in ironic distance. It's like mainlining melancholy; a brave choice for a artist most wouldn't have associated with this kind of work before, but it pays off. It shows a whole other side of Beck's songwriting talent, and gives us songs of breath-taking beauty.

  In case you were wondering, the best Bond theme is "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" and there is absolutely no contest.

Rediscovered Gem

"Honeybear" by Yeah Yeah Yeahs

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