31 March 2006

field music - "you're not supposed to" (from the field music lp, released april 11, available for preorder here.)
darren hayman - "perfect homes" (from the table for one lp, import available for purchase here.)
les incompetents - "how it all went wrong" (from the how it all went wrong single, import available for purchase here.)
the noisettes - "iwe" (from the iwe single, import available for purchase here.)

four, you say? yes, good reason--keep reading.

starting alphabetically w/ field music. they've typified the sort of band to date whose reviews read to me like the precisely the sort of band i'd love, but that hasn't panned out. until now, natch. "you're not supposed to," a single in the uk and a bonus track on the proper us release of their debut, is like fellow northern england types maximo park and futureheads collaborating, i.e. it's a bit herky-jerky and has marvellous vocals all-around, except it's all set in the distant past, 1967, say, and brian wilson is blowing minds and not just his own.

darren hayman was in hefner; this is from his solo debut. by now, you've probably made your mind up. but if hefner rings no bells, "perfect homes" is a lovely bluegrassy kind of thing, like something off of the stones' flowers, right down to the vocals. it's music to listen to under trees w/ a warm wind blowing through the fields.

les incompetents aren't so unlike the fratellis : one detects the faintest whiff of the libertines (or is that just rock & roll?), but they're doing something interesting w/ themselves. les incompetents sound a bit like the new york dolls, stranded not in the jungle but maybe in a jim steinman theatrical production. to these ears, i should note, this is a v. good thing.

lastly not leastly, the noisettes. i've been sitting on this one for awhile, mostly b/c i've been waiting for it to make sense to me. early pub on it was excellent, but the allure passed me by thorougly--which is historically my reception to what later became my favorite bands (pixies, roxy music, velvet underground, &c.) not ready to put noisettes in such a category quite yet, but they are another triumphant find by transgressive records, home at one point or another to bands that rhyme w/ "ettes" such as the pipettes and the mystery jets--oh, and the rumble strips. "iwe" scratches and screeches and basically has its way w/ you. but you like it that way, don't you.

so i will be taking next week off, which is why i wanted to leave you w/ some things to think over and listen to. i hope you will be back when regular service returns on april 10. enjoy the music, enjoy the weather, where ever you are.

30 March 2006

caetano veloso - "irene" (from the tropicalia : a brazilian revolution in sound lp, released april 4, available for preorder here.)

you'll likely not care that "irene" was the nickname of a revolutionary compatriot's machine gun; no notes of discord are introduced into the record until it's just about too late. whether you should care is something you'll have to tussle w/ alone in the dark.

but, perhaps, you won't be tussling alone in the dark after all. "irene" is the type of song that's like wind through your hair on a spring day; better still are a lover's fingers through the hair and other places. contented relationships, though, don't seem to make for the best revolutionaries. again, how you listen to this record is entirely up to you, but rest assured your decision will say a lot about you.
king biscuit time - "rising son" (from the black gold lp, released may 15, import available for preorder here.)

hi. not much time today, thus late post. this is gorgeous, gorgeous. king biscuit time = steve mason, formerly of beta band. hot shots ii crossed w/ "taking tiger mountain." turn up loud and sit still.

29 March 2006

rahsaan roland kirk - "if i loved you" (from the bright moments lp, available for purchase here.)
perry como - "if i loved you" (from the greatest hits lp, available for purchase here.)

when i was younger, i would get upset w/ myself over the fact that i wasn't as into jazz as i would have preferred to be. it made me feel terribly bourgeois. but as i grew older, and more familiar with both tin pan alley and the great white way, i found my love of jazz grew proportionately. i figured it'd be kind of me, then, to post a version of rodgers & hammerstein's ballad "if i loved you" in its most popular form, perry como's #3 pop hit of july 1945.

this is no kick against perry como. the comparison is not meant to point an accusing finger at perry, saying "he's so square." they are two different songs; two different eras; two different styles. perry's version is outstanding : it hems close to melody, it carries across the lyrics, and the vocal is beautiful, w/ wonderful control and warmth. it is buttoned-down, pensive, and moving.

kirk's version, on the other hand, is something else entirely. until the end, perry plays his hand close to the vest; w/ kirk, though, it's no question of if he loves you : the man is already onto the next step. the sound of his sax is throaty and raw, it begs and pleads and burns so hot that one is amazed he keeps his hands on the keys.

rodgers set up a melodic everest for both singer and saxophonist right at the end, a perfect showstopper. it's thrilling to hear both men scale it; but kirk does so three times. i've heard the song countless times now, yet each time i still wonder if he'll make it and am floored each time that he does. at the end, someone in attendance calls out, "that was mean!" you're damn right it was, as mean as como is sweet, both men taking the song to different places, but always via the same direction : endlessly heavenward.
sunny day sets fire - "brainless" (from the brainless 7", import available for purchase here.)

polyphonic spree fans take note. more so, though, polyphonic spree haters take note.

if you just couldn't get into that band; if you couldn't shake the sense that they were having a go at you; if they were just too damned sweet for you, sunny day sets fire gets the job done w/ only half the sugar. the parping brass, the massed (but not choral) vocals, the thrumming guitars--all are present and accounted for, but w/ a lo-fi sound that gives it a bit of bite.

it's like a great diabetic dessert. (is there such a thing? i hope so, b/c we're well on our way.) and, besides, everything sounds better w/ the onset of warm weather. while sunny day sets fire also reaches for the sun, unlike a similar band, there's something in their sound that suggests that they know too well the sting of sunburn, amongst other things.

28 March 2006

i missed 'american idol' tonight, but the internet tells me that the "theme" was "songs of the 21st century." given over six years worth of songs to work w/, here is what the idols performed this evening :

kelly clarkson - "because of you"
sara evans - "suds in the bucket"
train - "drops of jupiter"
ray lamontange - "trouble"
mary mary - "shackles"
creed - "what if"
christina aguilera - "the voice within"
tim mcgraw - "real good man"
beyonce - "work it out"
gavin degraw - "i don't want to be"

obviously, fox isn't going to pay for a u2 or coldplay song. less obvious than i thought : apparently, not many of the contestants thought song recognition was a big factor. keeping this in mind, tonight's selection comes as i try to find the song i would sing if i were on american idol on this particular night.

"nearer than heaven" by the delays would be an excellent choice, esp. if one wants to show off a falsetto. however, i don't think that'd be my chosen self-image; i'd rather emit an aura of mystery and deep sulk w/ glasses and a formidable baritone--alas, roy orbison, for yet another reason, died too soon.

"it's only time" by the magnetic fields, maybe! but no. one of the things i love most about the song is the production; this is something that occurred to me often while perusing my 2000s playlist, i.e. so many of my favorite records of this decade owe their distinction to technology and crafty arranging--precisely the kind of things that don't play to the 'american idol' audience. also : the touching pleas for marriage trend too old. i imagine my greatest appeal would be to teenagers.

so, mystery and deep sulk ... "run" by snow patrol? the kids would lap it up, i think, but it's anthemic; and anthemic rarely plays well when condensed to two minutes. nor do 'ai' contestants do well when they're pitted against either a) backing vocalists or b) orchestras.

also receiving votes : "stupid memory" by sondre lerche and "spit on a stranger" in its nickel creek arrangement. both allow one to do neat things w/ their voice, but ... no and no. the former's fine verse-prechorus-chorus-bridge-chorus structure doesn't edit well. "spit on a stranger" might just confuse people, country twang or no.

the selection?

kings of convenience - "i don't know what i can save you from" (from the quiet is the new loud lp, available for purchase here.)

it is a bit of a risk. it's a quiet song that could fall flat. but, picture it. light spotlight. slightly ruffled appearance. acoustic guitar playing guy seated. the song reveals the whole of itself w/in a minute or so : guitar figure, verse, chorus. if one wants to mix it up, after acoustic intro, one could in classical 'ai' style kick into an uptemo version of the tune, a la the royksopp remix. kids would definitely be on board w/ the lyrics, esp. w/ the chorus repeated to fade. maybe there's an assist from one backing vocalist, until the music drops out to allow for one last a capella repetition of the chorus, w/ a canted look into the camera and an audible sigh.

so either that or "ass & titties."
isobel campbell & mark lanegan - "the false husband" (from the ballad of the broken seas lp, available for purchase here.)

the theme here is unlikeliness, beginning w/ the two names paired off above. it continues : i never followed either of them in their main gigs before, and made out a habit out of skipping isobel's b&s songs, but "the false husband" makes me want to seek out the gentle waves and reacquaint myself w/ screaming trees.

"the false husband" is a magnificent tale--tale is the apposite word more so than song, like some morality play in a 19th century american frontier town. what campbell does for lanegan is obvious--beauty & the beast, &c.--but what lanegan does for campbell is far more beneficial and, i'd have thought, impossible. isobel, through lanegan's interest, becomes mysterious and a figure worth pursuing. that one can barely hear her whisper through the string section only enhances her allure.

to put it another way, nancy got a lot more out of lee, at least musically, than vice versa. if "the false husband" were one of their duets, it'd have the gravitas and strum of "down from dover" w/ the opening strings from "some velvet morning" overlaid. yes, unlikely as it might seem, that good.

27 March 2006

blondie - "x offender (1976 single version)" (from the blondie lp, available for purchase here.)

in brief : blondie's criminally-neglected and, compared w/ today's headlines, quaint debut single.

how times change. in 1976, the record company was too nervous to issue a single w/ the title "sex offender." today, i don't know that we'd think anything of it--as long, of course, as the singer was an attractive woman (and had registered, natch).

"x offender" was produced by richard gottehrer, who along w/ jerry goldstein and bob feldman produced, performed or wrote singles as/for the strangeloves, the angels, the swingin' medallions, the jive five, and the mccoys. basically, it's 1962 all over again, except the only group racy enough to touch this material back then would have been the shangri-las and shadow morton. speaking of the shadow, the same question is raised here as it is w/ morton & the new york dolls : does the song sound as it does b/c of gottehrer, or did they bring in gottehrer b/c they knew how they wanted the record to sound?

no, forget that question. this is what i want to know : what offense is debbie harry guilty of? bassist gary valentine's original lyrics were taken from personal experience : when he turned 18, the parents of his girlfriend, who was still a minor, tried to get him arrested. debbie harry's lyrics, though perhaps vaguer, work better if only b/c of the use of handcuffs. anyway, my guess is prostitution, and she tried to seduce the cop--oh, what innocent times those were, when that was all that was implied by sex offense!

two more questions, in parting : is there a pop band, and i stress "pop" band, brave enough out there to rewrite this, debra lafave-style? or would that just be in bad taste?
the fratellis - "creeping up the backstairs" (from the creeping up the backstairs ep, released april 3, import available for purchase here.)

in brief : another week, another song to get terribly excited about.

no polka-dot dresses, no theremins, no horn sections here--"creeping up the backstairs" manages to be exceptional, in a sea of libertines clones (and libertines spin-offs), just by being exceptional guitar rock.

ok. perhaps i lied; not about quality, but about the meat-and-potatoes of it all. "creeping" hits one of my major weak spots; it does so w/ an abundance of handclaps.

it starts like a hypertrophied version of benny goodman's "sing, sing, sing," except when one would expect horns, one gets guitars--and handclaps. the claps and the kick drum on the chorus, w/ its tight harmonies, make it all seem somehow conspiratorial. which i guess it is, after all one doesn't creep up backstairs if one doesn't have something to hide, and "creeping" is lyrically traditional fare, all about the things boys and girls do that they don't want mom and dad to know about, but it's all about the thrill of the getaway rather than the freedom of escape. the tempo is appropriately breakneck, then, somewhere between full-on panic and a 33 played at 78, but the listener is in no rush for it all to end.

it's vital stuff and places the scottish three-piece on an increasingly-longer list of new bands to watch.

24 March 2006

envelopes - "sister in love" (from the demon lp, released april 4, available for preorder here.)
candi staton - "his hands" (from the his hands lp, released march 27, import available for preorder here.)

"sister in love" by envelopes, a swedish-french outfit whose debut has been available in europe since august, is something like junior senior if they were brother and sister. instead of paying homage to late 70's disco, though, envelopes are steeped in american indie of the early 90's. as w/ junior senior, they don't seem to be adding to the canon or beholden to those influences; rather, they approach the music w/ the same humor and mania as the danish duo.

sister in no longer in love on candi staton's "his hands," not w/ any man at least--she's had enough of that kind of love. just like solomon burke, howard tate, and bettye lavette, candi staton gets a hand from an admirer--will oldham, in her case--and makes an astonishing record. the understated piano is vintage oldham, a threat at the end of each bar. the looming threat breaks through, both musically and lyrically; loving hands are wrapped around one's throat and the song breaks out into a stunning horn-led climax. it is short-lived and ends abruptly, and anger just as quickly evolves into pity and forgiveness. candi no longer places her faith in human hands. she is instead leaning on the everlasting arms.

23 March 2006

zero 7 feat. jose gonzalez - "futures" (from the futures 7", import available for purchase here.)
the radio dept. - "what you sell" (from the worst taste in music single, released april 10, import available for preorder here.)

zero 7 is an odd choice for me; jose gonzalez, not so much, as regulars will note. but zero 7--yeah, i tend to think of them as dance music for people who have no time for dance music. this collab does both artists v. nicely, though : jose gives zero 7 some structure; zero 7 gives him some color, much-needed color at that since the boy & his guitar thing can only go so far. (i mean, seriously, jose, haven't you heard bryter layter?) perhaps i shouldn't admit this but my favorite part of the song is after jose's finished, when a lovely little keyb blip, a beautiful neon bubble, rises to the surface.

the radio dept is not an odd choice, esp. since "where damage isn't already done" is one of my favorite tracks of the zero-zeros. "what you sell" is somewhat different from past offerings; it could be from any great teenager flick from the 80's. this is the song lane meyer would play for monique on the pitcher's mound at dodgers stadium if he played a casio instead of the sax (b/c girls love the sax; few other people do, though).

both of these songs are colossally springtime, though the same can't be said of the conditions here. forecastfox is calling for a p.m. snow shower on saturday. this is what i get--well, this is what i get for living.

22 March 2006

speaking of my new favorite band forever :

now, i know you hate the ipod--and i'm not saying you're wrong.

but set aside such grievances for now. b/c this really is for your own good.
band of horses - "the funeral" (from the everything all the time lp, available for purchase here.)

in brief : b/c even indie kids want to hold their lighters aloft some of the time.

band of horses is obvious. it's not like, oh, watching chris daughtry singing "i walk the line," poised on the edge of your seat, ready to hit the air-crash-cymbal to signal when the emoting and histrionics should begin--that's bad obvious. band of horses is more like u2 or coldplay being obvious, but when they're at their obvious best.

"the funeral" throughout, moving from valleys to higher and higher peaks, is like opening of "yellow," when the acoustic gives way to that great chugging riff and one inevitably breaks out his or her air-guitar. the emphasis is clearly on guitars here : it's a bit like crazy horse or built to spill w/o the solos, or a shoegazing act w/o the effects pedals. these guitars, too, are immaculately recorded; there isn't a lot more going on apart from chords being struck, but, yes, it is striking.

moving, too. the vocals on the chorus, piercing like perry farrell or early sting (or jim james of my morning jacket if one's sensibilities are offended), go, "on every occasion, i'll be ready for the funeral." it's a good way to go out, if one must, but band of horses has only just begun.
frank sinatra - "embraceable you" (from the best of the columbia years : 1943-1952 boxed set, available for purchase here.)

there's a story that goes along w/ this. there always is, but it's nothing to do w/ frank sinatra or w/ the gershwins--but the more i think about, maybe it does.

the sound is not ideal on this, it's from the 1940's after all. yet, even through the fuzziness and treble, one still hears the indelible mark sinatra left on a record on december 19, 1944, the date of this recording. time has done its level best to efface this performance, but even so one can see sinatra standing to the microphone, close and then closer, singing one gershwin's melody and the other's words. better still, one hears it.

i'm still clearing my head, you see; this might all be jumbled. i think the point is this : memories remain; single moments are ineradicable. even through this v. vague telling, something is expressed; through the dim fog of my grasping for coherence, i feel that something crucial dances about the margins and haunts the hard breaks. maybe one day the tale will be told; for now this smudged fingerprint is all that shows through. and committed to print, hurled out into cyberspace, and unfair as it may be, this, as has been said elsewhere, is the only immortality you and i may share.

21 March 2006

sondre lerche - "everyone's rooting for you" (from the duper sessions lp, released today, available for purchase here.)

everyone needs songs to sing when they're winning, and sondre lerche has written a song here expressly for that purpose. everyone also needs to own chet baker sings; but if you have that album already, and would like a jazz vocal album you can listen to in the wee hours and still respect yourself in the morning, again, sondre lerche is happy to oblige.

"everyone's rooting for you," though, is perfect sunday morning music. it moves at a brisk pace, but it's not in a rush; it stretches out and emits a sonorous yawn; plinking pianos strike the listener's ears like a warm preprandial shower, while upright bass helps you pick out your sunday best. the trumpet is missing, but sondre's wise enough to know that there will never be another chet. regardless, this is music that will help you find the silver lining.


today also sees the release of lp's from vs&l favorites like editors (buy!) and the essex green (buy!). also, today is the release date of the new prince album, whose music i know better than to post (buy!).

20 March 2006

the mekons - "where were you?" (from the heaven & hell : the very best of the mekons lp, available for purchase here.)

much like the mekons' career, "where were you?" is all over the place lyrically. it's interrogative and incriminating; it seems to address a particular "you" and a morrissey-ish hypothetical "you"; one moment it's a missed connection ad, the next a bewildering w4m response.

the constant, aside from the beer-stained vocal tone, is the headlong lurch of the band. it moves forward inexorably, possessed of the knowledge that eludes the singer : all human relations will end in tears. the knowledge is slow to come, as evinced by the majestic build-up of the introduction, one of punk rock's most breathtaking moments, but acquiring that knowledge is what makes "where were you?" so thrilling.
portishead - "requiem for anna" (from the monsieur gainsbourg revisited lp, import available for purchase here.)
anna karina - "un jour comme un autre" (from the anna lp, import available for purchase here.)

in brief : but she's not dead! nor, apparently, is portishead ...

"requiem for anna," from a french-released gainsbourg tribute, represents the first new material from portishead in nearly nine years.

so, it's a cover version. one might then think that there are constrictions, there are v. few choices that can be made. oh, sure there is the artistic act of interpretation, but we can learn v. little from this about what the band, should they proceed forward, will sound like in the two-thousand-zero-zeros. certainement pas!

first, there's the song choice. the band digs deep into the gainsbourg oeuvre, somehow finding the only song ever penned in which anna karina could possibly contemplate dying an old spinster, nobody loving her--hard to believe, but true. the "requiem" in the title, added by the band, brings to mind several things : a hello to anna karina, wherever she is; a nod to gainsbourg's "requiem pour un con," the drum pattern utilized here; but most of all a goodbye-to-all-that to portishead's old sound.

cf. "requiem for anna" w/ the anna karina original. the drum pattern, as i said, is from "requiem pour un con," but it could just as easily be from portishead's own "mysterons." the roiling guitars could be from "melody"--or "glory box." "requiem for anna," then, is an ideal crossroads, honoring gainsbourg while effectively conjuring up the band's old trademarks. it leaves the listener wondering what's next, or if there will be a next. after all, my bloody valentine's last release was also a cover, the bond theme "we have all the time in the world," a title more telling that we all thought at the time. hopefully, portishead don't take their own title literally : it'd be a sad state of affairs if the bell really was tolling for them.

17 March 2006

the coup - "my favorite mutiny" (from the pick a bigger weapon lp, released april 25, available for preorder here.)
mystery jets - "purple prose" (from the making dens lp, import available for purchase here.)

socialism never made the big time here in america. jay lovestone told stalin it was down to american exceptionalism; engels himself proffered a number of factors that made the bourgeois condition appear to americans as the "beau idéal."

few bands know this better than the coup. admittedly, naming a record steal this album didn't help, esp. as most young people had never heard of abbie hoffman, nor did kicking off a song w/ the opening couplet : "presto! / read the communist manifesto." but, jesus (yes, yes, opiate), did the coup deserve better.

thirteen years after kill my landlord, the group is signed to epitaph and they've brought along a couple of famous friends--or at least rappers popular w/ the liberal-arts crowd, black thought and talib kweli. they've also incorporated a sung chorus: no, it's not an r&b chorus; this is pure soul, and one would expect nothing less from this most soulful of rap acts. but even if it were, would you begrudge them? revolutionaries need to eat, too, and in "my favorite mutiny" they've produced a record as sumptuous as past offerings like "dig it," "bigga fish," and "me & jesus the pimp."

there's nothing necessarily revolutionary about the mystery jets, but there is a sense of community : like 60's rockers spirit, one of the group's dads is also in the band. the mystery jets do share w/ the coup the spirit of the late 60's, but more w/ singing about astrological signs and, possibly, about the walrus than w/ campus unrest.

they're free here of that baneful late 60's influence, prog-rock; "purple prose" is a bit of a fist-pumper, though taken at a slower tempo than "alas agnes." spindly guitar lines slowly gather strength until they give way to a chorus so strident that its question, "oh, cairo, where did you go?" sounds more like a demand. the mystery jets continue to impress, not the least b/c they give the listener a sense of having covered great expanses w/o leaving a seated position.

16 March 2006

mott the hoople - "i wish i was your mother" (from the mott lp, available for purchase here.)

at face value, "i wish i was your mother" seems as odd a come-on line--not to mention as gender-confused--as prince's "if i was your girlfriend." both, though, make a great deal of sense, and while prince's declaration is a bit of an intervention, a plea for communication before time runs out, ian hunter's song is, sadly, a postmortem, an "if only ..."

the mandolins from the start, like "please (x3), let me get what i want" at the end, serve notice that this is a sad song, as do lines from hunter like, "i hate the clothes you're wearin', they're so pretty." the tone changes significantly on the chorus : now the mandolin's are out of a rod stewart romp. it's as if, after having stared wistfully into a snow globe, one now finds his or herself on the inside, w/ all those former troubles left behind outside. the lyrics are beautiful :
i wish i was your mother,
i wish i'd been your father,
then i would have seen you,
would have been you as a child.

i'd have played houses with your sisters,
and wrestled all your brothers
and then who knows,
i might have felt a family for a while.
it's a plea not to go back to how things were, but to how they never were. and likely how they never will be : "is there a happy ending? i don't think so," hunter sings, and a harmonica keens on the fade, like a train leaving the station. it's a breakup ballad nonpareil and a peak for a band known best for its rockers (and peculiar name), and a band not known well enough.
absentee - "something to bang" (from the something to bang single, import available for purchase here.)

in brief : a great song, like this one, makes me want to shout obscenities, and "something to bang" just screams "fuck me."

one of my favorite lines from dr. strangelove, though not the funniest, is when describing the premier, who is apparently at a brothel w/ the world poised on m.a.d., the russian ambassador says, "he is a man of the people, but he is also a man." despite his position of eminence, he retains all of the base desires that come w/ being a man.

for his part, dan michaelson of absentee, in one of the great opening lines of the year, sings, "i'm tired of being a man / there's always something to bang." what makes this even better is the fact that michaelson sounds like latter-day leonard cohen; better still is that absentee is a top-flight rock band w/ a brass section that makes the track, yes, horny. michaelson sounds incredibly put-upon, amusingly so, loath to do what a man's gotta do, but still a prisoner of gender roles. he's not a fool to do your dirty work--it's just that he has no choice. and there really is no choice, dear listener, but to surrender yourself to absentee's charms.

15 March 2006

guillemots - "who left the lights off, baby?" (from the from the cliffs ep, BUY! BUY! BUY!)

a bit unusual, this middle of the day posting of new material, but i can't believe i forgot to mention that the guillemots released an american ep.

yes, vs&l's favorite new band forever #1a, the guillemots, thanks to the eminently lovable people at fantastic plastic records, have released a domestic collection of their work to date, as the world waits for the release of the "we're here" single.

"trains to brazil" has already featured in these pages and those of you here for that probably need no further goading to pick up this release, which at eight tracks and forty minutes of playing time, as long as many lp's, is the v. definition of bargain at $9.99. posted above, though, you'll find "who left the lights off, baby?" which is at the v. least the equal of "trains to brazil," which shares w/ that song a chorus that's like rockets to the moon. oh, and it has the best saxophone solo i've heard since "born to run."

over the moon is where the guillemots take me; no other band right now is is well-placed to make music that can excite me so (still shame about the typography, though). which is precisely why i felt the need to make this emergency posting. basically, run don't walk--better still, drive to the nearest decent record store and pick this up posthaste. okay?
sugababes - "i bet you look good on the dancefloor"(from the red dress single, import available for purchase here.)

the other day i was playing the broken family band album at work. a co-work nattered on about how much they sound like modest mouse, a band i don't truck w/.

"what if this was all a masquerade, and they turned out to be modest mouse?" he asked.

"what if! what if your aunt was your uncle? what if the last four girls i was interested in didn't have boyfriends? what if the sugababes covered 'i bet you look good on the dancefloor'?"

well, what then? i like the sugababes, this is known; "dancefloor" is the b-side to vs&l favorite "red dress." i'm not sure how i feel about this song, though, as w/ "freak like me," it shows the group's willingness to tango w/ whatever is in fashion at the time (although, yes, the arctic monkeys are somewhat less progressive than the mash-up). it's more appropriate in one sense b/c the 'babes are familiar w/ the dancefloor whereas the monkeys remind me of so many of my friends, content to merely stand against the wall and watch the girls on the dancefloor.

it sounds better on the dancefloor, and that has as much to do w/ the production as it does w/ the 'babes' voices. the monkeys take is rigid, v. much like someone doing the robot in 1984; the 'babes by comparison are far more fluid--and also sound like they mean business, more liable to come away w/ either a number or the boy himself.

14 March 2006

simple minds - "someone" (from the life in a day lp, import available for purchase here.)

in brief : and, yes, while you can still sing from memory the song from the breakfast club, i bet you've forgotten all about the first several simple minds albums, if anyone had ever drawn your attention to them in the first place. (truly : the debut is the only place you can find "someone"!)

i don't know if they've started trading on their past yet, but someone somewhere should tell simple minds to; "someone" really is one of the great lp openers of the last twenty-years. it takes the first five or so roxy music singles and the first magazine lp's and speeds through them in three-and-a-half minutes. the emphasis here is on speed, which is the pace, not the drug that helped them accomplish this.

no, love isn't the drug either, nor is heroin. simple minds have always been unfashionable--not for them sexy cover models and fucking on the permafrost--and so it is w/ their drug of choice. "someone" reminds one of nothing so much as a caffeine high, the product of some ill-considered cocktail of jolt cola and mountain dew. none the less, it ends in the most spectacular results, and finishes w/ a steep falling off, the caffeine high over. but, while it lasts, what a rush!

(trivia : the roxy music connection extends into their popular period. guess who was originally meant to sing "don't you forget about me"? hint : it wasn't phil manzanera.)
feedle - "this troubles all dust" (from the leave now for adventure lp, album available for about $6 here.)

it starts like some gothic twilight w/ low-slung guitar lines. slowly, voices enter, singing, chanting, reciting incantations. the production begins to sparkle even as it disquiets, the whole effect something like the moonrise : radiant but foreboding. it is a startling evocation of the wonder of this life sublunary.

if you loved four tet's rounds but were left wanting to love everything ecstatic more than you did, this is an album you should buy.
the magnetic fields - "as you turn to go" (live performance from 1999)

in 1999 or thereabouts, stephin merritt began performing w/ the magnetic fields three of what i believe to be his greatest love songs : "he didn't," "movie star," and "as you turn to go." these, however, have not gone on to become merritt standards, namely b/c he gave them away for a 6ths project.

it's often said that merritt's strength is in his songwriting and not his singing--but something strange happened between then and now : merritt has become more like bob dylan. no, he's not all self-referential now, and God remains far from his heaven; merritt, w/ apologies to momus, dominique, and bob mould, instead has turned out to be the best interpreter of his songs.

such a claim is, i think, ably backed up by this live performance. the chinking of glasses, the comings and goings of patrons, and low din of conversation makes it seem all the more poignant. a sad song is only sadder when it seems as if no one is listening; this, then, is amongst the v. saddest.

p.s. i still hate the "mata hari" line, though.

13 March 2006

the essex green - "don't know why (you stay)" (from the cannibal sea lp, released march 21, available for preorder here.)

the essex green here remind me, not for the first time, of the the new pornographers. on "don't know why (you stay)," the reference point is "bleeding heart show" from twin cinema. the sense of community is missing, not to mention the drumming, but "don't know why" also features a magnificent group harmony chorus, and yet it is a call to arms in its own right. no, rather, it's a call for hands to roll down windows and let the wind blow back your hair.

10 March 2006

jim noir - "tower of love" (from the tower of love lp, import available for purchase here.)

FUCK. this is great. "tower of love" was the first song i heard this morning, straight out of bed. i threw my windows open--after dressing, natch--and let the sixty-six degree weather in. all right, it's overcast, but this is music that's not unfamiliar w/ a little rain.

it's a bit like floating down a lazy river, or a moon river for that matter--percy faith meets mancini. there's a calliope and tack piano and an immense orchestra that seems to be emitting one warm, enveloping sound. there's also a bit of a sad undercurrent, like a brian wilson instrumental; one is happy for the moment, but where to next? if this were the 60s, it might be released on a&m records; since it's actually 2006, you might've missed it, and it really is music you'd miss.

09 March 2006

joni mitchell - "you turn me on i'm a radio" (from the for the roses lp, available for purchase here.)

i don't remember liking this song at all.

yes, v. well, but then why post it? i was talking to a friend; the hour was getting late; i had nothing lined up for this evening. i asked her to select a song at random and i would post it. this was what she said. i couldn't say no to the girl. (don't worry, dear, it's all about to get better.)

i've never been a fan of just joni and her guitar. ("i had a king" is a notable exception, as it seems to have been delivered from another world entirely.) i much more prefer the jazz-fusion type shite, which is odd b/c i tend to despise jazz-fusion type shite. this, though, has at least one of the hallmarks of what i consider her best work, viz. her uncanny, unnatural melodicism. it bends, shakes, and stretches out; it finds an unlikely spot and tarries there awhile. those who know this song better than i do are probably thinking of the "wiiiiildflower" line, w/ those wild backing vocals in the left channel, beamed in from an a.m. station on jupiter.

i'd still consider it a minor work--oh, i only said it'd get better; not a lot better. but it is significant for being her first major hit, which cleared the way for so much of the music of hers that i like best. i understand that in interviews she said she was consciously trying for a hit w/ this song. it's a mark, then, of her untrammeled ability that, even at her most commercial, she couldn't help but be herself.
bubba sparxxx - "as the rim spins" (from the charm lp, released april 4, available for preorder here.)

in brief : bubba sparxxx seems to be the ghostface of the south : his music goes place where one wouldn't expect; he's willing to take chances w/ his themes; and after all that it's no surprise when his records don't sell as well as they should.

i'm going to guess that dark days, bright nights didn't sell all that well. the charm, and we all hope the third time proves to be just that, is something of a retrenchment. this is disappointing b/c the best tracks from dark days w/ their fusion of country and hip-hop--"hick hop" long before cowboy troy--seemed to point a new way forward. but a bubba's gotta eat, and we can't begrudge him that. as a result, the charm is the sound of the new south and not the grand ol' opry.

it's hard, though, to be disappointed w/ tracks like "as the rim spins," produced i'm almost positive by organized noize. this sort of track, a flashback to outkast ca. aquemini (bubba is now signed to big boi's label), used to be so ubiquitous, instantly what one thought of when the term "southern rap" was brought up. it's both fresh and clean--w/ scratching no less--and makes one nostalgic for the days before outkast transcended southern rap, leaving crunk to fill the void. let's hope it sells like crunk, too.

08 March 2006

wild swans - "the revolutionary spirit" (from the incandescent lp, import available for purchase here.)

ian mccullough once slagged off u2 (once?), saying that they made music for plumbers and bricklayers. by contrast, the bunnymen were and "oceans and mountains" kind of band. paul simpson and the wild swans probably would've thought that his sights were too low.

this is the original mix of "the revolutionary spirit," the one w/ lots of echo, so to speak. i mention this b/c, unlike the "u.s." mix, it keeps one from hearing the lyrics. lyrics that refer to "blood relations" and saint sebastian and the delta of venus--all of a sudden, oceans and mountains seem pretty small. it's all a bit silly, to be honest, but there's nothing silly about the song, taken as a whole.

john peel knew this, as he knew so many other things : "the revolutionary spirit" at number 10 in his 1982 festive fifty, ahead of such songs as "town called malice," "party fears two," "come on eileen," "pillar to post" and "should i stay or should i go." "the revolutionary spirit" has a momentous sweep that even the likes of u2 and echo could only dream about at the time; one wonders if those bands had a hand in the swans seemingly falling off the face of the earth.

or perhaps they flew from the face of the earth, gravity a force too weak to contain their ambition. here they are, though, at their pinnacle, w/ one of the great fogotten singles of the last twenty-five years. just don't google the lyrics.
i would've sworn that i posted "lonely days" by the future bible heroes last night. to make up for it, here are two new tracks.

be your own pet - "adventure" (from the be your own pet lp, released march 27, import available for preorder here.)
??? - "???" (more mystery, more potential litigation.)

to this point, the appeal of be your own pet has utterly passed me by; they've seemed to me like a band that only the lead singer's boyfriend could like, b/c, you know, he has to. (admittedly, jemima is cute, so he has incentive.) there would seem to be no reason whatsoever for me, then, to like "adventure" which at two-plus minutes is more than twice as long as their usual fare.

but, i do, quite a lot, i have to say. it's pitched somewhere between the yeah yeah yeahs and bikini kill, w/ kathleen in full-on valley girl mode. plus, it brings me nostalgia; the childishness of it, its incredibly naive spirit, whether put on or not, reminds me of games i'd participate in on the playground at my elementary school. memories of forts in one's backyard come flooding back. plus, it rocks w/ great economy.

the other track is from another high-profile release; it's probably the person many of you thought i had posted yesterday. (more mystery? more misery is more like it.) this has proven to me to be the highlight of the album so far.

07 March 2006

? - "???" (from the ??? lp, released soon, will be available in all fine retailers.)

this individual was an icon in the 1980's and a major influence on many of today's musicians but for various reasons he disappeared off the scene. he came back w/ a vengeance recently w/ a highly-regarded new album and this is the follow-up. the track in question has him doing what he does best; the sound is retro but forward-looking at the same time. one might say that he's taking his cue from many of today's hot young artists ... until one realizes that he taught them much of what they know.

this individual is also highly litigious, thus all of the secrecy.

06 March 2006

the sea urchins - "cling flim" (from the stardust lp, out of print, naturally.)

i saw the weather forecast this afternoon. it's calling for temperatures in the low 60's for the weekend. meanwhile, days are noticeably longer. spring is but two weeks away, which is as good a reason as any to break out one's sarah records.

the sea urchins, though, sound as if they're waiting for rain to break out; such weltschmerz is at least half the sarah story. like many of their labelmates, the sea urchins work up an effective jangle. what the listener isn't expecting to break out is a guitar squall, but that's just what happens during the choruses (or the gaps between verses that would normally function as choruses). a distorted line that sounds as if it absconded from a jamc record crackles and strikes, the resultant sound is like the air screaming as its torn apart by a bolt of lightning. this being a sarah record, i suppose i don't have to tell you what of our narrator's is being torn apart (hint: it's not his cling film). his consolation prize is that the rain, like everything else, is nicer in the spring.

(speaking of our narrator, sea urchins singer, james roberts, who formed britpop never-weres delta, released a solo album in the uk this year. it's getting great reviews, i understand; i'd be curious to know what it's like if anyone's heard it.)
stephin merritt (performed by william youmans) - "in the spring, when i was young" (from the showtunes lp, released march 14, available for preorder here.)

"in the spring, when i was young" features on showtunes, a collection of the songs merritt has written in his collaboration w/ theatre director chen shi-zheng. it is taken from chen's staging of the orphan of zhao, adapted from the 13th century chinese play.

how precisely does merritt figure? he calls his work for the plays "country & eastern"; while the instruments he's working w/ are different than his usual, the themes of death, regret, blood, and despair are right up his tin pan alley. "spring" is the most merritt-esque of the songs, the song's pipa not so unlike merritt's preferred uke; it sounds as if could fit in w/ ease at the end of get lost. it's a brief song, if that's the right word, a minute-and-a-half or so of instrumentation before william youman delivers several lines about yesterday, when he was young.

in other words,"hello young lovers" meets "when you're old and lonely," but words don't do justice.

03 March 2006

the dresden dolls - "delilah" (from the yes, virginia lp, released april 18, available for preorder here.)

"girl anachronism" apart, i never "got" the dresden dolls. perhaps it was all too cabaret, too boston, too egregious in their alternative lifestyles--too much, then, like the stereotypical alt.porn model's favorite band ever.

but alt.porn models, amongst their other attributes, turns out can be right on w/ their music, or at least "delilah" suggests that. i probably don't know anyone like the dolls; i probably don't know anyone they sing about; but this, to coin a phrase, crosses boundaries. usu. the dolls move me to unspeakable acts of depravity; w/ "delilah," they just move me, flat out.

so much of what i've heard from the band has been along the lines of "yeah, we've only got a piano, but that fucker can rock." pianos have other uses, too, even beyond lying on them seductively. they can be beautiful, they can be musical, and as square and as establishment as that may be, it's actually a radical move on their part. on the strength of yes, virginia, i'm interested in seeing where they go from here, to see if they loosen up some of the constraints, many self-imposed, others due to expectation. like rules, as any good nonconformist will tell you, expectations are meant after all to be broken.

02 March 2006

nick heyward - "whistle down the wind" (from north of a miracle lp, available for purchase here.)

i've always thought "whistle down the wind" a gorgeous turn-of-phrase, the meaning of which i'd been in the dark about. for too long, i decided, and so before writing this, i looked into the matter and discovered that it has at least several meanings. nick heyward, former lead singer of haircut 100, fuses two of the meanings on this single; "whistle down the wind" is used to express both a quixotic task (getting together w/ an old flame) and a hope that word will spread, that the wind--or perhaps airwaves--will take it up and deliver it where it needs to be. whether heyward has committed catachresis when the results are so exquisite.

there was something about the '80s--many somethings about the '80s, yes, but in particular it was a great decade to be sad ("don't worry be happy" in 1988 was a natural market correction). it was a great time also for sad-sounding records to sound fantastic : never before or since has sadness sounded quite so glorious. poor nick heyward, he's imprisoned in his room, no light but for the candle, looking out of his window as if he were in the tower of london. the music is such, though, that one is, as frank sinatra, glad to be unhappy. abba might have started the jolie-tristesse w/ 1980's "the winner takes it all," but "whistle down the wind" takes it to some kind of peak. produced w/ geoff emerick, who probably just got off imperial bedroom detail, "whistle down the wind" is a soft bed of cascading pianos, fretless bass, and agile orchestration, its power only amplified by heyward's imagery (roses "bloom and breathe," old photos w/ "a freckle and a famous feature") and a chorus so melancholic and sincere you'll want to turn up your collar : "hello, hello, hope you're feeling fine ... "

the one meaning heyward doesn't incorporate now seems to be the standard definition, i.e. to abandon something, to let it go. in that sense, "whistle down the wind," the record, is ironic. as the increasing volume and tempo demonstrate, nick seems anything but resigned to his fate : as his candle whistles, the torch he carries only grows in incandescence. down the many years since its release, the same can be said of "whistle down the wind."
destroyer - "3000 flowers" (from the destroyer's rubies lp, available for purchase here.)

things are portentous as usual in dan bejar's world : the ships have scars where their talons used to be; shadows are abundant, carted around in tumbrels; and rhode island sinks into the ocean.

oh, but all of this bodes well for the listener! "3000 flowers" is one of his greatest guitar anthems, like "'heroes'" for the world of warcraft set. the tune rattles and crunches along w/ fervor, pianos and horns prancing around and then directing clashing w/ destroyer's axe. bejar, for his part, has never been in better voice; coincidentally, he's never sounded more like tom rapp of pearls before swine, either in his tone or in his imagery. plus : the ending thrash gives me the rare opportunity to use one of my favorite adjectives, "skronky."

01 March 2006

dr. buzzard's original savannah band - "i'll play the fool" (from the very best of dr. buzzard's original savannah band, available for purchase here.)

"i'll play the fool" is one of the great love songs, as effective an argument in favor of the emotion as "cherchez la femme" is against it. this might not be immediately noticeable b/c it's so incredibly danceable. consider these lines :
and i'm gonna go to school again, boy, for you / just to get my equivalency diploma

i'll grow a tail or two for you / spend the rest of my days locked up in the zoo

i'll play the fool for you, oh girl / buy you things that i cannot afford
what can't be rendered here quite so easily is the swing time salsoul (and salsa) saunter of the savannah band itself. (there are few bands in the annals of rock that are w/o both predecessors and successors, wholly singular acts, and dr. buzzard's is one of those bands.) even more difficult to transliterate, and more peculiar b/c it's delivered in spoken language, is cory daye's glossolalia near song's end. it is the v. sound of love, a whirl of words and deeds, impossible pledges, deathless devotions that r-r-r-r-rolls right off the tongue and hits the heart dead-on.

and did i mention you can dance to it?
the knife - "neverland" (from the silent shout lp, released march 20, import available for preorder here.)

in brief : "when people think of sweden i think they have the wrong idea," jens lekman sang. "like cliff richard who thought it was just porn and gonorrhea." but maybe sir cliff was a little right?

"neverland" is dirty business.

or maybe it's not; i find karin awfully difficult to understand at times, esp. through all of the effects and filters. it sounds to me that she's sings the words "dancing for dollars for a filthy man." which really sums the song up (or otherwise says more about me than i'd wish to reveal).

the music is like weimar techno; it thumps and thuds and generally assaults the senses, and certain sensibilities. it's also muffled and muted, like music from another room, overheard from behind a closed door. the singer hates what she has to do, but she'd sleep better if she really hated it more.