Thursday, 18 April 2013

Play To Z: Shut Up, You F*cking Baby to The Stage Names

Random Observations

"Signs" by Justin Timberlake, Snoop Dogg and Charlie Wilson is one of those perfect party songs. The opening is just spot on, Timberlake's falsetto sliding in before the playful drum beat begins and the horns start to bubble underneath. Plus listening to Snoop Dogg rhyme "Venus and Serena" with "Wimbledon arena" is just a juicy pop pleasure.

  Bloc Party's Silent Alarm and The Knife's Silent Shout make wonderful neighbours,with Bloc Party's spiky, angular, pulsing rock giving way effortlessly to The Knife's vocal-driven, otherworldly electronica. Listening to these two albums back-to-back was a dream.

  If you ever want a group of people of our generation (mid-Eighties to early-Nineties) to drunkenly sing along to something, you could do a lot worse than "Don't Speak" by No Doubt.

  People don't give The Buzzcocks enough love. They were huge influences on the British punk scene (and therefore the British indie scene) from the very beginning of the movement (if you haven't already, go watch 24 Hour Party People) and they produced iconic, masterful, insightful songs, most of which came in under the magic 4 minute mark.

  It's a shame I didn't manage to tackle both of Das Racist's mixtapes, Shut Up, Man and Sit Down, Dude, in one blogging session. I still haven't gotten around to their album, Relax, but frankly the two mixtapes are 37 tracks between them, longer than most full albums. The fact that they won't be making music together anymore is such a shame - there was so much truth and humour in their rhymes, and we need more of that, in music and in life.

  The Social Network soundtrack is a great, atmospheric piece. It matches the tone of the film so perfectly without resorting to any of the cliches of film scoring. There are no sweeping overtures, no hushed variations for emotional scenes. Instead, there are a series of intricate, well-constructed pieces that fit together like elaborate clockwork, a machine designed to build dread and tension.

  Someone To Drive You Home by The Long Blondes is one of those albums that can take over your life. I discovered it at a point in my life when I was particularly open to that kind of infectious worldview and for two or three months, that album owned me. Like a sermon, like a manifesto, it constructs a perspective on life and romance that you can't help but pour yourself into. The characters in the songs are so well drawn, so true to life that you connect with them as well as you might with any protagonist from a novel or hero in a film. Kate Jackson's voice is a siren song, pulling you into the cynical, wearied waters of her world. From that place, all romance is a power game, a maneuvering of players where the men are selfish predators and the women are cruel and tragic. It's a dangerous world, filled with the allure of old films and danger of illicit liaisons. If you let it, it will take you over, and never let you go.

  Eels' Souljacker, like Shootenanny after it, bridges the gap between Daisies of the Galaxy's optimism and Blinking Lights and Other Revelations' ambitious melancholy with a harder, rougher sound. Where earlier records were like an open wound, this is the scab - toughened skin that tells a tale of an earlier injury. Mark Everett steps outside his own head a little, with tales of circus freaks and ghosts, but the evidence of his heartbreak is still there, in the anger of "Bus Stop Boxer" and the bruised vulnerability of "That's Not Really Funny". The ramshackle production matches the tone of the songs perfectly, and like all Eels albums it creates a wonderfully complete package.

  I know I'm meant to be sticking to the whole "each song gets one listen" rule, but I may have cheated a little when it comes to "All My Friends" by LCD Soundsystem. You know why? Because it's the best song this millennium has produced so far. Because it's a perfect cocktail of triumph and loss. Because it makes me want to run from door to door, pulling people out on to the street to scream into the sky. Because it makes me want to see all my friends tonight.

  The Stage Names was one of those albums I mentioned rediscovering in my last post. If you'd have asked me before this listen through what I could remember from it, I would have been able to talk about the spot on homage/sampling of The Beach Boys "Sloop John B" in "John Allyn Smith Sails" and nothing much beyond that. Now, I could talk about the building wail of "Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe", the pulsing thrum of the guitar hook on "Unless It's Kicks" and the oh-so-clever workplay of "Plus Ones" that manages to add, rather than detract, from the song.

  It was about this time in proceedings that I was gifted a selection of music by my friend Georgie, mostly new stuff that I hadn't got my hands on yet. Chief among the pleasures were Haim's Forever EP and Holy Fire, the new album from Foals. Forever is like a delicious slice of cake; sweet, tantalizing and leaves you aching for more. Holy Fire is filled with leap-out-of-speakers energy and brings together so much of Foals' earlier sounds into one cohesive whole.

Rediscovered Gem

"In The Mouth A Desert" by Pavement

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