Archive for January, 2009

30
Jan
09

Nelly Furtado’s a Cannibal, But The Queen Prefers Corgis: Welcome to the Music of Tom Rosenthal

Just recently, London-based singer/songwriter frYars sent out a MySpace bulletin urging people to watch a YouTube video by a friend. That friend turned out to be Tom Rosenthal and the video was of a song he wrote called Mark Ronson. After watching and listening to his rather thorough lambasting of Ronson, I had to find out more about him. Much like his friend, frYars, who produces for Rosenthal, he is offbeat, often humourous, and primarily uses piano for his musical narratives. With the wit and whimsy of musical comics like The Mighty Boosh and Flight of the Conchords and the quintessential Britishness and surreality of artists like Eugene MacGuinness and Simon Bookish, Rosenthal is the Oscar Wilde to The Mighty Boosh’s Edward Lear.

The gentle, classical piano provides a fantastic background for the tremulous, earnest voice that recounts literate stories that deal with topics ranging through bizarre dreams, Jeremy Kyle, royalty, religion, nudist colonies, fictional sidekicks and Tesco. The tweeness of the musical compositions lends an air of rambling, childish abandon, like a small, precocious child telling stories as they come to him/her, words tumbling out in a torrent of breathless creativity; however, this style belies a deep-seated sophistication and satirical talent.

The aforementioned song Mark Ronson is everything I was thinking about Ronson set to an understated, rolling piano ballad – watch the video above to see and hear what I mean. Rosenthal takes aim at Nelly Furtado in Nelly is a Maneater, a composition that fuses the original Maneater chorus with a carefully constructed backstory that involves Nelly being raised by wolves and consuming animals and CDs until she progresses to full-fledged cannibalism. Rosenthal tackles another songstress for Song for Regina, which is a passionate ode to Spektor in which the narrator professes his love for her and proclaims that he has listened to Samson countless times, but didn’t understand what Wonder bread is. In Touch My Bum, Rosenthal intelligently mocks Jamie T and other musicians that say nothing through their music; he expresses this vacuity by saying these artists may as well be singing, “This is life/touch my bum.”

In addition to commenting on popular culture figures, Rosenthal has songs about other facets of society. I almost choked on my tongue when Rosenthal completes the first line of his song The Queen: “The Queen sat down for her lunch/she had corgi on toast/because she likes that the most.” The song goes on to describe a royal existence that includes playing charades with Prince Philip and watching MTV (at which point, the Queen asks where Enrique Iglesias’s mole has gone and Prince Philip replies that it’s on an island with Sonny Bono, Elvis Presley and Fred Astaire). I had a similar choke-snorting reaction to a line in the song World’s Greatest Lover when after musing why women don’t like him, the narrator asks, “Is it because I still play hide and seek…with my mother?”

Another favourite song of mine is Giant Bicycle, which layers spoken word over softly rumbling piano as Rosenthal recounts a six minute digressive description of one of the most surreal dreams I’ve ever heard (all I can envision is Rosenthal riding a pennyfarthing in the Tour de France); the only song that I can think of that’s comparable is Noel Fielding’s collaboration with Midfield General. Equally as enchanting is the tripping romp of Away With the Fairies, which takes twee, hippie love to its extreme conclusion: being in love with everyone in the world except Robert Mugabe. It’s William Blake with a short circuit. One of the best put-downs to snot-nosed kids comes in the form of Phones Away, Boys; the narrator compares the delinquent youth to Channel 5, KFC, a weed and a triangle in an orchestra. And 1868 is one of the best songs I’ve ever heard about homophobia (the song culminates in the line, “if Stephen Fry is going to hell, then I want to go with him”).

Because Rosenthal believes most of his music should be available for free, he has put a large chunk of his music up on his Web site for download – I recommend the entire lot. By the looks of it, it seems that Tom Rosenthal is bursting with ideas, so I eagerly await new songs and an album. Rosenthal is one of those rare, but perfect combinations of musical acuity, intellectual agility, and imaginative comedy. Like all good satirists, he will outlast the fads he so eloquently observes and trounces.

Giant Bicycle – Tom Rosenthal

Mark Ronson – Tom Rosenthal

The Queen – Tom Rosenthal

Advertisements
26
Jan
09

They Know Exactly What They’re Doing: Helen Love’s It’s My Club and I’ll Play What I Want To

The question is how did I manage to miss out on the Ramones-obsessed Welsh girl group Helen Love for so long? They’ve been around since 1993 and released four albums prior to the latest one, It’s My Club and I’ll Play What I Want To, which released last year. With a blend of punk, glam, bubblegum pop and electronic elements, Helen Love feel like the predecessors to bands like Robots in Disguise and Chicks on Speed. They don’t take themselves seriously, and they come with some brilliant pop songs. With a pastiche of references from the 60s and 70s, Helen Love fuse the past with the future perfectly. At any rate, I’m going to review their latest album despite the fact it’s come about a year late. They’re that good.

Like Helen Love’s previous work, this album is full of brief, speedy tracks and fantastic little spoken samples that remind me of a Sigue Sigue Sputnik album. The record begins with the title track, which had also been released as a single. It sounds like a Ramones song being played from a bubblegum pink jukebox in a Japanese retro arcade in the year 2050, replete with vocoder and laser sounds. Then the CBGB fantasy Debbie Loves Joey bursts in with guitar-laden pop-punk and cheeky references, including The Stranglers’ Peaches. As its title suggests, the following track, Dance On (Solid Gold), takes its influences from disco, but adds an electro-rock feel while You Better Learn Karate is as crazy as anything Polysics could come up with as it kicks the stuffing out of you with hyperspeed. With its repeated snippet of “Great galloping gumdrops,” The 1910 Fruitgum Company is an homage to the 60s bubblegum pop group of the same name; it has a bouncy compulsion to it that makes me think of Saturday morning cartoons and the abandon of a Kindergarten class.

After the whirlwind of Transistor Radio, the speed slackens for Jet, which features a snippet of the fantastic dialogue from the 60s Brit comedy The Likely Lads: “In the chocolate box of life the top layer’s already gone and someone’s pinched the orange cream from the bottom.” “Bloody hell.” With a springy use of synths, First Boyfriend recalls the ludicrous novelty in the mundanity of a first adolescent romance. A faster, pumping disco beat peppers Rodney’s English Disco, yet another brilliant reference, this time to Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco, a Los Angeles glam club in the 70s. At under two minutes, Honolulu Superstar is the fastest track on the album while Garage Band uses some jazzy piano interludes and surf rock to tell the story of forming your own band after listening to John Peel. The fun continues with Queen of the Disco Beat, which has blasts of brass and more than a passing resemblence to Rockaway Beach. An anthem to the homebound, Staying In has deadpan verses that are dry enough to peel paint. With 60s girl group flourishes, The New Squad Attacking Formation is a quirky track that makes me think of a gang of teenage girls on scooters terrorizing the neighbourhood. Released as a single, Junkshop Discotheque features a great guitar line as all of Helen Love’s musical influences get jammed together very much as the title suggests. The album crashes to its conclusion with Saturday Nite, which surprises with a classical introduction before launching into yet another potential dance anthem.

Now that I’m aware of Helen Love, I eagerly await a new album called Stick It due out this year (it’s preceded by the latest single called Calm Down Dad – a song in line with the theme of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, but with a sarcastic sheen that mocks adolescence cool and with a hilarious piece of White Riot at the end). There’s something old-fashioned and child-like about Helen Love, but they fire obscure and not-so-obscure references on all cylinders, reminding you that they know exactly what they’re doing.

Debbie Loves Joey – Helen Love

1910 Fruitgum Company – Helen Love

Calm Down Dad – Helen Love

25
Jan
09

Everyday is Like Sunday, Except for Blue Monday and Ruby Tuesday, and…Well, Friday I’m in Love: Weekly Mix #50


In honour of the fact this mix is the fiftieth in the series, I decided its theme should be John Peel’s Festive Fifty. Despite having never actually heard Peel’s radio show, its legendary status has been with me and I’ve always respected Peel and what he stood for: namely, playing the music that he loved and championing the bands he loved even if no one else did. As significant as his radio show and Peel Sessions were, his yearly Festive Fifty remains a massive legacy that others copy the world over, and it has been continued in his honour since his passing in 2004 (most recently picked up by Internet radio station Dandylion Radio). In many ways, Peel is the godfather of music blogs.

I tried to take a track from each year’s Festive Fifty from 1976 to 2003, and while running through all these lists, I realized just how much brilliant music Peel championed, and I also noticed how faithful a fan he was. For most years, he had no qualms about picking several tracks from the same bands, and of course, The Fall made the most appearances – that unabashed love of music, in the face of bandwagon jumping, hype machines and arty posing, is something that really connects with me. Not to mention running through all of the Festive Fifty lists is like getting a panoramic snapshot of the music scene through three decades, encompassing punk, post-punk, electronic music, C86, shoegaze, Britpop and even grunge. For the most part, I owned a large chunk of the music featured on each year’s Festive Fifty, but the exceptions came in for the late 90s for some reason and for Peel’s favourite The Fall – I’ve never really taken to The Fall, and thus don’t own any of their albums; regardless, I figured it wouldn’t be a true tribute to John Peel without a track by them, so I included one that I happened to have on a Peel compilation album. Unlike most mixes I make, this one will follow a semi-chronological order rather than be based on some sort of subjective system. As a side note, I’ve included the Unknown Pleasures version of She’s Lost Control as opposed to the later re-released single version. This mix is called Long Live Peel.

Won’t Get Fooled Again – The Who

Complete Control – The Clash

Boredom – Buzzcocks

Are Friends Electric? – Gary Numan and The Tubeway Army

She’s Lost Control – Joy Division

O Superman – Laurie Anderson

Requiem – Killing Joke

Eat Y’self Fitter – The Fall

This Charming Man – The Smiths

Kangaroo – This Mortal Coil

Never Understand – The Jesus and Mary Chain

Frans Hals – McCarthy

Suedehead – Morrissey

Kennedy – The Wedding Present

Therese – The Bodines

Sexuality – Billy Bragg

French Disko – Stereolab

Babies – Pulp

If Fingers Were Xylophones – Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci

Abba on the Jukebox – Trembling Blue Stars

Windowlicker – Aphex Twin

Painting and Kissing – Hefner

Chinese Whispers – Melys

Green Grass of Tunnel – Mùm

22
Jan
09

The 2009 Brit Awards: I Know I Shouldn’t Bother, But I Will Anyway

I already did a fairly comprehensive rant about last year’s Brit Award nominations, and when I first saw the Brit nominations for this year, I just expelled a huge sigh and asked myself, why bother wasting my energy again over a year that clearly mirrors last year’s nominations and many of the preceding disappointing years? Then I had another think, and figured “because it could be funny.” And in these supposedly dark times, I would like to spread a little vitriolic cheer. With the customary practice of giving all the nominations to a select few artists, there’s rarely any hope for variety and/or fairness at the Brit Awards, but that will not stop my commentary. In the spirit of a Jarvis Cocker bum in the air, I will plod through the sodden flotsam and jetsam that has washed up on the shores of this year’s Brits and give it a good go-over with the metal detector (preferably a Bill Wyman brand one) to expose the worth in the detritus and then confirm that those ones won’t win anything.

British Male Solo Artist

Ian Brown
James Morrison
Paul Weller
The Streets
Will Young

I wasn’t even aware the Mancunian monkey man had a record out last year – to be honest, I haven’t really followed him since the dissolution of The Stone Roses, and I’m thinking most of the press hasn’t either. I have a feeling the people doing the nominating recognized his name and figured he was old, and thus somehow credible. Then there’s James Morrison, who hails from the same school of bland balladry as James Blunt (maybe he is actually James Blunt – it’s a mere difference of surname and I’ve never seen them together in the same place). The Modfather himself makes an appearance as a nod to his legendary, previously lauded status at the Brits, and frankly, he’s the best on this list. To stay hip with the kids, the Brits nominated The Streets (AKA Mike Skinner) even though no one, including the kids, probably cares anymore about his overwrought, self-pitying rap narratives. And finally, there’s Will Young, the King of All Pop Idols, who seems to have the resilience of a cockroach and even managed an appearance at Glastonbury last year – I have to give him credit for his tenacity even though his music tends to hit me like globs of unsalted oatmeal.

British Female Solo Artist

Adele
Beth Rowley
Duffy
Estelle
MIA

In the event of Amy Winehouse’s incapacitation, Adele and Duffy have valiantly stepped forward as retro Brit darlings for this year. Then there’s more non-descript r&b/pop from Estelle, and what I figure is AOR in the form of Beth Rowley in order to represent the Diana Krall set. The only one out of this pack that I would give a vote to is MIA, but somehow I don’t think she or I would win.

British Breakthrough Act

Adele
Duffy
The Last Shadow Puppets
Scouting for Girls
The Ting Tings

Guess who? More of the dueling Winehouses. And then some indie/mainstream from the frontman of the illustrious Arctic Monkeys (well, if the Arctic Monkeys can’t be nominated for the bazillionth time, they have to find alternatives), and the equally irritating Scouting for Girls and The Ting Tings (I only just realized that Scouting for Girls were the people behind that grating She’s So Lovely song and Elvis is Dead, which gets played on our indie radio station without obviously making any proper impression on me, but enough to make me remember that I hate it).

British Group

Coldplay
Elbow
Girls Aloud
Radiohead
Take That

I’m still trying to work out the wonky rules for who qualifies – I feel like Radiohead’s album came out too long ago to be considered for this year (despite the fact they deserve the accolades more than most on this list). Man-boy-band Take That have seemingly slipped under the wire with a new album (practically sharing a title with Britney Spears’ comeback album), allowing them to be nominated yet again this year; they, too, have something of the cockroach about them. I will admit I did get a kick watching the music video for their lead-off single, Greatest Day, where Gary Barlow sings while the rest merely go “oh oh” and windmill and stomp in the background like they’re having epileptic fits or a very bad case of pins and needles. Elbow is here because the Brits don’t want to be outdone by the Mercury Prize while Coldplay is here (and leading the pack for nominations) because they’ve somehow mesmerized the masses with a whole new level of stadium-ready wallpaper paste complete with pseudo-spiritual fumes (the same kind U2 has been using for the last couple of decades). And last but I don’t even think least, is Girls Aloud, the pop group that it’s okay for hipsters to like. I’m still not a fan of the girl group, but at the very least they could snap Chris Martin in half like a twiglet. And feed him to Gary Barlow.

British Live Act

Coldplay
Elbow
Iron Maiden
Scouting for Girls
The Verve

I haven’t seen any of these bands live, but we get more repetition with the likes of Coldplay, Elbow and Scouting for Girls (I was always of the opinion that I would fall into a deep coma at one of Coldplay’s shows – for me, Chris Martin has the charisma of an inclined plane). Then there’s a slightly bizarre addition of Iron Maiden, who I have a feeling put on a better live show than The Verve.

British Album

Coldplay – Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends
Duffy – Rockferry
Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid
Radiohead – In Rainbows
The Ting Tings – We Started Nothing

No surprises here. While Elbow or Radiohead should get it, I have a feeling Coldplay or Duffy are the main contenders. I would love to be proven wrong, though.

British Single

Adele – Chasing Pavements
Alexandra Burke – Hallelujah
Coldplay – Viva la Vida
Dizzee Rascal/Calvin Harris/Chrome – Dance Wiv Me
Duffy – Mercy
Estelle feat. Kanye West – American Boy
Girls Aloud – The Promise
Leona Lewis – Better in Time
Scouting for Girls – Heartbeat
X-Factor Finalists – Hero

I tried to make a concerted effort to listen to all of these, but after Alexandra Burke and Leona Lewis, you cannot expect me to even attempt a song by X-Factor Finalists, too. I’m only human. Not dancer. Perhaps Adele thought “Snow Patrol did really well with Chasing Cars…hmmm…what goes with cars? Oh yeah, pavement. No wait that should still be plural even though it doesn’t make any sense.” Dance Wiv Me is yet another hip-hop song about female bodies, dancing, sex, etc. augmented by Calvin Harris’s retro electro stylings and deadpan singing – it doesn’t do a ving for me. When I bothered to listen to American Boy, all I can think is that I’ve heard it on an advert somewhere – apparently it did nothing for my recall of either the song itself or the product being sold. Then there’s our favourite nominee Coldplay with their perfect-for-emotional-news-program-montages Viva La Vida (we get it, you like bombastic syncopation). Additionally, there’s Duffy’s version of Rehab. And now I can rest assured that Scouting for Girls is definitely more teenybopper drivel in indie hipster clothing.

International Album

AC/DC – Black Ice
Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
The Killers – Day and Age
Kings of Leon – Only By the Night
MGMT – Oracular Spectacular

Here we get some elder statesmen of rock with more of the same style all these years later, but who likely strike a nostalgic chord. And what list would be complete without the ubiquitous Fleet Foxes? I would also like those responsible for nominations to know that it is not obligatory that The Killers be nominated every year when they’ve lost their honourary Britishness a long time ago. My pick this time is MGMT, and because of their mainstream crossover appeal, they may have a chance. Then again, Kings of Leon have probably had one of the biggest crossovers of 2008 centred on their hit song Sex On Fire – I can’t speak for the rest of the album since I’ve never listened to it.

International Male Solo Artist

Beck
Neil Diamond
Jay-Z
Kanye West
Seasick Steve

Of course Beck has to be nominated as the token avant-garde guy while Jay-Z and Kanye West have to be nominated to represent hip-hop. Nothing shocking here and nothing worth more commentary. But who is Seasick Steve? Neil Diamond is looking pretty good right about now.

International Female Solo Artist

Beyonce
Gabriella Cilmi
Katy Perry
Pink
Santogold

We get the pop songstress regulars like Beyonce and Pink, along with Katy Perry, who somehow comes across cheaper than the pin-up girls she’s emulating. I had to look up who Gabriella Cilmi is (defying the laws of pronunciation, I still keep seeing her last name as an invitation to murder), and lo and behold, she also sounds like Amy Winehouse, but with some Anastacia as well. If pressed and if it mattered, I would pick Santogold for this category.

International Group

AC/DC
Fleet Foxes
The Killers
Kings of Leon
MGMT

I see. Someone thought, well, we already have a list of International Album nominees – how about we just use the exact same people for this category? No one will notice.

And finally, the Critics Choice Award has already been handed out to Florence and the Machine, who sounds like Kate Nash attempting to do The Long Blondes. I’ve had enough of these acts that look like they stepped out of the NME Cool List. I’m frankly just bored by it all, and I’m close to throwing out all the striped stockings I own.

Admittedly, the hosts for the Brits are better this year (last year, Ozzy had his family practically propping him up with a broom); this year Kylie will be hosting alongside Gavin and Stacey stars James Corden and Matthew Horne as they make further rounds as music awards hosts. And this year at least I’m not offended by the choice for Outstanding Contribution to Music: Pet Shop Boys. In addition to Pet Shop Boys, performers announced so far are U2, Kings of Leon, Duffy, Girls Aloud, Coldplay and Take That. I think U2 and Coldplay should have a pomposity-off, spastically circling each other until they combust in a fiery ball that takes out Third World debt. And I wouldn’t mind seeing if Gary Barlow remains glued to his piano seat while the rest breakdance around him. Or maybe they’ll all just windmill like a human mini-golf course. Well, now that I’ve got all that off my chest, I feel much better. I’m a bit surprised that even the Brits got tired of Kaiser Chiefs, and there’s no mention of Oasis. Maybe there’s a glimmer of hope after all.

Pretty Boring – No and the Maybes

Peggy Moffitt Look-Alikes – Mikrofisch

20
Jan
09

The Soundtrack to Daydreams: Hauschka’s Ferndorf and Snowflakes and Carwrecks

Released last October, Ferndorf, the fourth album by German artist Hauschka (real name: Volker Bertelmann) is a stunning piece of instrumental music, and he is following it up by releasing a new EP entitled Snowflakes and Carwrecks on February 3. Using the idea of “prepared piano” (meaning he often attaches different objects, like beer bottles, leather, guitar strings and phone cords, to the innards of his piano to achieve different sounds), Hauschka recalls the experimental flavour of artists like John Cage and Erik Satie. However, having only listened to this album and EP of his, I don’t feel that Hauschka is particularly inaccessibly experimental; instead, he weaves unexpected tones and sounds into classical piano framework. In a way, he reminds me of a stripped-down, avant-garde version of Bardi Johannsson. This album, a tribute to Hauschka’s home, is an emotionally moving set of classically-based tracks in which the narrator seems to speak through a dialogue between the voice of the piano and voices of the string duo. Then there are times when all the instruments seem to speak at once in a transcendent cacophony. At times urgent and breathless, at other times jubilant and carnivalesque, and at yet other times pensive and brooding, Ferndorf (which translates as “distant village”) is a meditation on Hauschka’s home village in rural Germany. The latest EP is a beautiful extension of Hauschka’s childhood memories, and it becomes evident how difficult it must have been to choose only twelve tracks for the original full album.

Ferndorf begins with Blue Bicycle, a track with insistent piano that mimicks pumping legs on bicycle pedals, complementary strings that slice across like shafts of sunlight, and less readily identifiable sounds that at times sound like gravel beneath tires and a ringing bicycle bell; it’s a fantastically exhilarating song that flies along with as much energy and imagination as Yann Tiersen’s work for Amelie. This is followed by the more sober Morgenrot, which uses the lower register of the cello as a gentle cradle for the higher, lingering tones of the piano as the whole piece sways and tiptoes about like a ballerina dancing at dawn. Rode Null then comes in with a propulsive, percussive bass sound and more unidentifiable clacks and clinks before the violin comes in with a staccato style; soon after, more strings join in until there is a wonderfully intricate interplay between the piano, strings and rhythmic accents, dodging gracefully under and over each other with pastoral precision like the ribbons on a May pole. Freibad, named for the outdoor swimming pools/lakes that are common in Germany, engages the lower register again as an almost grinding patience before the song becomes more urgent and whimiscal with what sounds like muted brass and scurrying scratches of sound – this is no breezy ride as in Blue Bicycle. You can feel the excitement and need of youth in every bar. With its percussive pluckings and scattered plinks, Barfuss Durch Gras is indeed evocative of skipping barefoot through the whistling grass while Heimat soothes ginger footfalls with gentle piano as smooth as cursive writing and a promise of the familiarity of home.

The darkness of an evergreen wood creeps in with Nadelwald and its swathes of lower strings and flickering piano like constantly shifting bits of dappled light hitting the forest floor; you can imagine the forest being both a verdant refuge and an unknowable entity. The mood changes again with Schönes Mädchen and its almost Asian flavour of percussive, staccato sounds underneath the unfurling of expansive strings; you can feel a sweet freedom pouring into your lungs and swirling around your limbs like dewy fog. Eltern, which is the first song to be featured in an animated music video triptych by Overture and can be watched here, is a dreamy, mournful piece with a crackling backdrop of miscellaneous rattles and clinks that almost feels like mental static; the song feels both solemn and comforting perhaps in the way all parents do. Alma continues the dreamy atmosphere, but it also features some beautiful slides and hesitant syncopation, which provide an undulating movement to the music like an inquistive child negotiating a natural landscape for the first time. As gentle as the new snow it references, Neuschnee floats on buoyant puffs of violin and soft drifts of piano. The album concludes with Weeks of Rain, a mysterious track with little flourishes that interrupt the piano until erupting into a golden quivering that envelopes and enhances the metallic sound of the keys.


For Snowflakes and Carwrecks, Hauschka is releasing previously unreleased pieces from the Ferndorf sessions, featuring three much longer tracks than anything on Ferndorf. Opening track, Ginsterweg, is more persistent piano that steals your breath away like an overwhelming, heady wind and spins about you like a miniature tornado. Then the light tinkling of Eisblume comes in with its tentative fragility pushing its way from the depths of the cello; you can imagine a delicate mountain bloom unfurling under ice droplets that are as perfectly formed as tears. The staccato style returns with Wonder and its gleeful bobbing and skipping akin to a joyful folk dance leading into the statelier, nine-minute Tanz, which uses harsher strings and metallic vibrations to create an elegant vignette of dignifed beauty before whirling into a jaunty second half of frenzied, complex rhythms appropriate for a gypsy. The energy level comes down again for Kindelsberg, a haunting piece littered with pauses like tantalizing ripened fruit ready to drop from the tree while Hauberg uses more staccato plinking and flowing, romantic strings to weave an exotic fairy tale of a song. The final track, Tagtraum, is a deliciously hazy song featuring small hiccups of sound over a mesmerizing backdrop – it’s like finding yourself in a mirror world, which while reflecting and appearing as the real world, also carries unusual glitches that disturb its tranquil surface.

Visit FatCat Records to purchase Ferndorf and to pre-order Snowflakes and Carwrecks (with stunning cover art like this, physical copies would be a treasure). You can also read a recent Pitchfork interview with Hauschka here. Both Ferndorf and Snowflakes and Carwrecks are stunning musical concepts that wipe the windows of the world with nostalgia, taking bleary-eyed memories and polishing them with the very fabric of dreams. The ebb and flow of distance and immediacy lulls you into a sweet hypnosis of reminiscence. Hauschka’s music is like skipping stones in the pools of your childhood memories, providing the soundtrack to daydreams.

Blue Bicycle – Hauschka

Eltern – Hauschka

Tanz – Hauschka

18
Jan
09

Everyday is Like Sunday, Except for Blue Monday and Ruby Tuesday, and…Well, Friday I’m in Love: Weekly Mix #49


While basing an entire mix on song titles with colours in them may seem like a cop-out, I would like to offer a little more commentary than pointing out that many bands put colours into their band names and song titles. In fact, I’m quite fascinated by the involuntary neurological phenomena of colour synesthesia in which a person can see colours in response to aural stimuli, most often music. I first heard about this phenomena via an episode of QI, and I was a little surprised when I, too, saw the “correct” colour associated with the musical tone provided. I know I likely don’t have the actual condition in which colours involuntarily flash before my eyes while listening to music, but I feel like I may experience some sort of sensory crossover, and you may have noted some of this visual, colourful aspect creeping into my music reviews and descriptions. I, myself, hadn’t thought about it too much, but in looking back, it seems I do insert colour imagery into how I experience music; of course this may also just be part of painting pictures with words, a feature of my writing that has always been there. Or maybe I watched too much Fantasia as a child.

I’ve also always been interested in the idea of colour as both a formative influence and an illusion. As children, we are led to believe that there’s something pretty fundamental about colours – along with shapes, they form much of our first experiences of the world around us. A lot of our first bits of language relate to colour as it becomes one of the most important categories of adjectives as though colour were something concrete. (Useless personal trivia: I was very attached to a particular magenta Crayola crayon as a small child despite it not being my favourite colour…although not as odd as the kid who used to eat crayons and shoelaces only to regurgitate them.) However, what’s more interesting to me is the fact there would be no colour without light nor without the appartus of our own human eyes, and sometimes I like to scare myself a little by thinking of the world as being no particular colour at all.

In fact, in my first year of university, I wrote a short story about a boy who appeared relatively blind most of the time, but upon further investigation, actually saw the world the way bees did – in essence, he saw things in a spectrum humans couldn’t, including ultraviolet and what is called “bee purple,” a mixture of ultraviolet and yellow. While the story itself wasn’t terribly well-crafted, it still interests me as an idea and reminds me of how humans impose their own perceptions on the world around them. I like to marvel about exceptional things like colour blindness and a spectrum extending beyond my own perception; the environment outside my body isn’t absolute, and in many ways, my eyes’ translation of light as colour is the same as my brain’s translation of objects into language. Oddly enough, though we use colour to describe objects, many colours take their name from objects, including coral, plum, ruby, and sepia.

Colours take on evocative characteristics that are somehow irrational yet innately human, making the majority of people see Monday as blue, loading goth clothing with semantic weight and imbuing rainbows with magic. It’s also the reason that films with hyperreal colours like Amelie and La Double Vie de Veronique actually feel different from films like Metropolis or The Maltese Falcon, and why a film like Wings of Desire can convey the split narrative it does so poignantly. In effect, colours can be music.

At any rate, this mix features songs with connections to colour in their titles – there was definitely plenty to choose from. I would like to add that I’ve included the original version of The Psychedelic Furs’ Pretty in Pink rather than the commercialized version from the John Hughes’ movie of the same name, which completely missed the point of the song. I’ve also included a bonus track that doesn’t quite fit the mix proper, the ever-popular Rainbow Connection by Kermit (a song that I will forever associate with my high school Chemistry teacher, a man with a glass eye and a steely manner, but who one day wordlessly propped up a photo of Kermit with his banjo, began playing Rainbow Connection and launched into a gracefully timed performance in which he transformed chemicals into the various colours of the rainbow and then back to clear again within the parameters of the song – so utterly brilliant that sometimes I think I dreamt it). This one is called Synesthesiac.

Colours – Calvin Harris

She’s a Colour Scientist – Robots in Disguise

Red Paint – The Sound

Turquoise Days – Echo & the Bunnymen

Indigo Eyes – Peter Murphy

Mr. Brown – Puressence

Red Sleeping Beauty – McCarthy

Grey Streets – Felt

Blue – Kicker

Orange Car – Mary Go Round

Silver Sands – Stereolab

Blackout – David Bowie

Tell Me When My Light Turns Green – Dexy’s Midnight Runners

Gold Against the Soul – Manic Street Preachers

Purple Haze – The Jimi Hendrix Experience

Pretty in Pink – The Psychedelic Furs

Black White – The Raveonettes

Start Wearing Purple – Gogol Bordello

The Monochrome Set – The Monochrome Set

Silicone on Sapphire – The Clash

Blue Girls – Pulp

Saffron, Beautiful and Brown-Eyed – Trembling Blue Stars

Rainbow – Boris featuring Michio Kurihara

Bonus Track:

Rainbow Connection – Kermit the Frog

16
Jan
09

Cocooned in a Soft Solitude: Andrew Keese and The Associates’ Desire

Apparently, Australia isn’t all about Nick Cave, The Go-Betweens and Modular anymore – I was sent a debut album entitled Desire by a band called Andrew Keese and The Associates that caught my attention. This four-piece from Melbourne has blended chamber pop with country/folk and added some thoughtful, often poignant, lyrics to splendid effect. As its apt title suggests, this self-released album is full of unfulfilled yearning, sometimes to the point of regret, and these emotions are brought to the foreground by the Morrisseyesque vocals from frontman Keese. At times, Keese’s vocals shift from warm tones to raspy desperation and they often verge on maudlin grandeur. In turn, the poetic lyrics reflect a position that can be fragile, bitter, resigned and sublimely romantic all at once.

Opening track, Mercy, is a short instrumental featuring only the piano and brave pauses, and it sets up the understated album quite nicely. The album then takes a slightly unexpected turn as Little Possessions fills out the sound with hovering Hammond organ and broad strokes of piano, culminating in a folk-tinged lilt complete with a twangy guitar solo. The next track, Transmission, moves a little differently over a tumbling undercurrent of melodic guitars and bubbling vocals while one of my favourite tracks, Blessed Are the Meek, shelters under an arcadian canopy of violins and features the brilliant line “they think it’s a clarion call, but it’s only semaphore.” The lyrics get even more careworn and wistful with The Shadows, a track that rolls along to driving guitars and Keese’s soaring vocals. Then comes another favourite of mine: The Burden of Proof. This melancholy ballad documents a soul-chafing, lonely night in which the narrator laments “there’s nothing left but the words in my mouth” and expresses regret over a relationship somehow misspent, where proving oneself becomes the biggest burden. This is followed by Ameline, a wry ballad that reminds me a bit of Elvis Costello, and which features another fantastic line in which the narrator compares his ex-lover’s words to both vintage wine and alkaline.

The following two tracks, called Singapore and Sertraline Hydrochloride respectively, work like companion pieces and together clock in at twelve minutes, featuring a languid snare to bind them in romantic misfortune. They both burn as slowly and sorrowfully as the embers of the narrator’s cigarette in the former track, and the latter track, named for an anti-depressant, ends up mimicking an increasingly numb struggle beneath heavy limbs and an even heavier heart. The first real spark of vitriol appears in the snide lyrics and sneery vocals of the track Someday in which the narrator derides an ex-lover and promises a karmic comeuppance; however, even with this vengeful tone, the song manages to remain beautifully self-wounding. The record ends with title track, Desire, which picks the mood and tempo back up again with a jauntiness that belies the realistic, albeit cynical, outlook on the limitations of love affairs. After the song builds and builds against the quivering organ, an ever-mounting whirlwind of emotion, it concludes the album back where it started with a solo piano.

The entire album is available for streaming and free download via the band’s Web site, but it is definitely worth purchasing, especially since it includes four bonus tracks not available on the free version. Andrew Keese and The Associates take the gentle cadences of classical elements and marry them to the mournful essence of country/folk to achieve a record of exquisite longing cocooned in a soft solitude, filtering memory like a twilit blindfold.

Blessed Are the Meek – Andrew Keese and The Associates

The Burden of Proof – Andrew Keese and The Associates




The Hype Machine
mp3 blogs
Add to Technorati Favorites

Blog Stats

  • 445,325 hits

Gigs Attended

Arcade Fire w/ Bell Orchestre + Wolf Parade (2005)

Arctic Monkeys w/ Reverend and the Makers (2007)

Austra w/ Young Galaxy + Tasseomancy (2011)

Big Audio Dynamite (2011)

Billy Bragg w/ Ron Hawkins (2009)

Billy Idol w/ Bif Naked (2005)

Bloc Party w/ Hot Hot Heat (2009)

Buzzcocks w/ The Dollyrots (2010)

Damo Suzuki (2012)

David Bowie w/ The Polyphonic Spree (2004)

Diamond Rings w/ PS I Love You + The Cannon Bros. (2011)

Diamond Rings w/ Gold & Youth (2012)

Dragonette w/ Ruby Jean & the Thoughtful Bees (2009)

Frank Turner w/ The Cavaliers (2010)

Frank Turner w/ Into It Over It + Andrew Jackson Jihad (2011)

Franz Ferdinand w/ Think About Life (2009)

Gang of Four w/ Hollerado (2011)

Good Shoes w/ The Moths + The Envelopes (2007)

Hot Hot Heat w/ The Futureheads + Louis XIV (2005)

IAMX w/ closethuman (2007)

IAMX w/ Coma Soft + The Hourly Radio (2007)

Interpol (2007)

Janelle Monae w/ Roman GianArthur (2012)

Joel Plaskett Emergency w/ Frank Turner (2012)

Jonathan Richman (2011)

Keane w/ Lights (2009)

Lou Reed w/ Buke and Gass (2011)

Manic Street Preachers w/ Fear of Music (2007)

Manic Street Preachers w/ Bear Hands (2009)

Manic Street Preachers at Wanaja Festival (2011)

Mother Mother w/ Old Folks Home (2009)

Mother Mother w/ Whale Tooth (2011)

Mother Mother w/ Hannah Georgas (2012)

MSTRKRFT w/ Felix Cartal (2008)

Muse (2004)

Nine Inch Nails w/ Death From Above 1979 + Queens of the Stone Age (2005)

of Montreal w/ Janelle Monae (2010)

Owen Pallett w/ Little Scream (2010)

Patrick Wolf w/ Bishi (2007)

Prince (2011)

Pulp w/ Grace Jones, TV on the Radio, The Hives, The Horrors, Metronomy, Devotcka, Vintage Trouble (2011)

Rufus Wainwright w/ Teddy Thompson (2010)

Snow Patrol w/ Embrace (2005)

Snow Patrol w/ OK Go + Silversun Pickups (2007)

Sons and Daughters w/ Bodies of Water (2008)

Stars w/ Thurston Revival (2006)

Stars w/ The Details (2008)

Stars (2010)

Steven Severin (2010)

Stroszek (2007)

The Antlers w/ Haunter (2012)

The Flaming Lips w/ Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti (2010)

The Jesus and Mary Chain w/ Nightbox (2012)

The Killers w/ Ambulance Ltd (2004)

The New Pornographers w/ Novillero (2008)

The New Pornographers w/ The Mountain Goats (2010)

The Ordinary Boys w/ Young Soul Rebels (2006)

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart w/ Suun (2011)

The Rakes w/ The Young Knives (2006)

The Raveonettes w/ Black Acid (2008)

The Stills w/ Gentleman Reg (2009)

The Subways w/ The Mad Young Darlings (2006)

Tokyo Police Club w/ Smoosh + Attack in Black (2008)

TV on the Radio w/ The Dirty Projectors (2009)

Yann Tiersen w/ Breathe Owl Breathe (2011)

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

The only certain thing that is left about me

There is no part of my body that has not been used

Pity or pain, to show displeasure's shame

Everyone I've loved or hated always seems to leave

Photobucket

So I turned myself to face me

But I've never caught a glimpse

Of how the others must see the faker

I'm much too fast to take that test

The Smiths Queen is Dead

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're happy

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Oh, Keats and Yeats are on your side

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're wanted

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Keats and Yeats are on your side

But you lose 'cause weird lover Wilde is on mine

The Clash London Calling

When they kick at your front door

How you gonna come?

With your hands on your head

Or on the trigger of your gun

Photobucket

Charles Windsor, who's at the door

At such an hour, who's at the door

In the back of an old green Cortina

You're on your way to the guillotine

Here the rabble comes

The kind you hoped were dead

They've come to chop, to chop off your head

Photobucket

Then you came with your breezeblocks

Smashing up my face like a bus-stop

You think you're giving

But you're taking my life away

Photobucket

Won't someone give me more fun?

(and the skin flies all around us)

We kiss in his room to a popular tune

Oh, real drowners

Photobucket

Don't walk away

In silence

See the danger

Always danger

Endless talking

Life rebuilding

Don't walk away

Walk in silence

Don't turn away in silence

Your confusion

My illusion

Worn like a mask of self-hate

Confronts and then dies

Don't walk away

Photobucket

You don't want to hurt me

But see how deep the bullet lies

Unaware I'm tearing you asunder

Oh there is thunder in our hearts

Is there so much hate for the ones we love

Tell me we both matter don't we

The Associates Affectionate

I don't know whether

To over or under estimate you

Whether to over or under estimate you

For when I come over

You then put me under

Personal taste is a matter of gender

Photobucket

I wake at dusk to go alone without a light

To the unknown

I want this night inside of me

I want to feel

I want this speeding

I want that speeding

Photobucket

You'll never live like common people

You'll never do what common people do

You'll never fail like common people

You'll never watch your life slide out of view

And dance and drink and screw

Because there's nothing else to do

Vanilla Swingers

All I have is words, words that don't obtain

And I feel I'm a stain on your horizon

So I stay away - it's easier that way

And there won't be no-one I need to rely on

Is it him, is it me

Or is there something only I can see

How did I get here, why do we blow around like straw dogs on the breeze

I'm a special one, what they used to say

But I've to stay on, finish levels-A

You don't need exams when you've read John Gray

The Indelicates American Demo

And nobody ever comes alive

And the journalists clamour round glamour like flies

And boys who should know better grin and get high

With fat men who once met the MC5

And no one discusses what they don't understand

And no one does anything to harm the brand

And this gift is an illusion, this isn't hard

Absolutely anyone can play the fucking guitar

JAMC Darklands

And we tried so hard

And we looked so good

And we lived our lives in black

Photobucket

Plucked her eyebrows on the way

Shaved her leg and then he was a she

She says, hey babe,

Take a walk on the wild side

Said, hey honey, take a walk on the wild side

Photobucket

Hide on the promenade

Etch a postcard:

How I dearly wish I was not here

In the seaside town...that they forgot to bomb

Come, come, come - nuclear bomb

Photobucket

Back when we were kids

We would always know when to stop

And now all the good kids are messing up

Nobody has gained or accomplished anything

Wire Pink Flag

Prices have risen since the government fell

Casualties increase as the enemy shell

The climate's unhealthy, flies and rats thrive

And sooner or later the end will arrive

This is your correspondent, running out of tape

Gunfire's increasing, looting, burning, rape

Photobucket

Well, maybe there's a god above

But all I've ever learned from love

Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you

It's not a cry that you hear at night

It's not somebody who's seen the light

It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah

Photobucket

And what costume shall the poor girl wear

To all tomorrow's parties

For Thursday's child is Sunday's clown

For whom none will go mourning

Photobucket

My body is your body

I won't tell anybody

If you want to use my body

Go for it

Photobucket

Oh it's opening time

Down on Fascination Street

So let's cut the conversation

And get out for a bit

Because I feel it all fading and paling

And I'm begging

To drag you down with me

Mansun Six

And you see, I kind of shivered to conformity

Did you see the way I cowered to authority

You see, my life, it's a series of compromises anyway

It's a sham, and I'm conditioned to accept it all, you see

Japan Gentlemen

Take in the country air, you'll never win

Gentlemen take polaroids

They fall in love, they fall in love

Photobucket

We just want to emote til we're dead

I know we suffer for fashion

Or whatever

We don't want these days to ever end

We just want to emasculate them forever

Forever, forever

Pretty sirens don't go flat

It's not supposed to happen like that

Longpigs The Sun

There's no perfume I can buy

Make me smell like myself

So I put on perfume

To make me smell like someone else

In bed

Calvin Harris I Created Disco

I got love for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's

I've got hugs for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's

Photobucket

Does his makeup in his room

Douse himself with cheap perfume

Eyeholes in a paper bag

Greatest lay I ever had

Kind of guy who mates for life

Gotta help him find a wife

We're a couple, when our bodies double

Simple Minds Sons and Fascination

Summer rains are here

Savaged beauty life

Falling here from grace

Sister feeling call

Cruising land to land

No faith no creed no soul

Half a world away

Beauty sleeps in time

Sound and fury play

Bloc Party Silent Alarm

North to south

Empty

Running on

Bravado

As if to say, as if to say

He doesn't like chocolate

He's born a liar, he'll die a liar

Some things will never be different

Photobucket

LCD Soundsystem

Well Daft Punk is playing at my house, my house

I've waited 7 years and 15 days

There's every kid for miles at my house, my house

And the neighbors can't...call the police

There's a fist fight brewin' at my house, my house

Because the jocks can't...get in the door

Johnny Boy

I just can't help believing

Though believing sees me cursed

Stars Set Yourself

I am trying to say

What I want to say

Without having to say "I love you"

Josef K Entomology

It took 10 years to realise why the angels start to cry

When you go home down the main

Your happy smile

Your funny name

Cocteau Twins Bluebell

Photobucket

Doesn't she look a million with her hairagami set

Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Yes, she's a beautiful brunette angel from heaven with her hairagami set

Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Augment a beautiful brunette

New Order Power Corruption

How does it feel

To treat me like you do

When you've laid your hands upon me

And told me who you are

Photobucket

You must let her go

She's not crying

Photobucket

Baiting

Feeling like I'm waiting

Modern times

Valentines

Hating

Hating to distraction

Just leave them alone

Whipcrack

Girls in the back

Girls in the back

Puressence Don't Forget

They say come back to earth and start getting real, yeah

I say come back to earth and start getting real

I know I can't

Photobucket

So I walk right up to you

And you walk all over me

And I ask you what you want

And you tell me what you need

Photobucket

The problem of leisure

What to do for pleasure

Ideal love a new purchase

A market of the senses

Dream of the perfect life

Economic circumstances

The body is good business

Sell out, maintain the interest

Photobucket

Sitting in my armchair thinking again and again and again

Going round in a circle I can't get out

Then I look around thinking day and night and day

Then you look around - there must be some explanation

And the tension builds

Psychdedelic Furs

India, India

You're my love song

India, you're my love song

In the flowers

You can have me in the flowers

We will dance alone

And live our useless lives

Ladytron Light Magic

They only want you when you're seventeen

When you're twenty-one

You're no fun

They take a polaroid and let you go

Say they'll let you know

Photobucket

No consolation prizes

Spit out your lies and chewing gum

Cut off your hair yeah that's it!

If you look like that I swear I'm gonna love you more

Photobucket

All the neighbors are startin' up a fire

Burning all the old folks, the witches and the liars.

My eyes are covered by the hands of my unborn kids

But my heart keeps watchin' through the skin of my eyelids

Photobucket

Prince charming

Prince charming

Ridicule is nothing to be scared of

Don't you ever, don't you ever

Stop being dandy, showing me you're handsome