Ok, I lied about having the Top 10 ready, so it’s 10-6 this evening pop pickers, and I promise to conclude tomorrow. But now, in all their YouTube glory, it’s the Daddy or Chips 10 -9 – 8 – 7 – 6 of 2006!
10. Mecklenburg – Audrey
Describing Audrey’s music is no easy task. If the group has succeeded in finding a central theme, it’s a balance in the melodies – shimmering, beautiful moments of pop meet dark sadness.
So says Audrey’s bio on their webpage. Like so many other deliciously ‘misery guts’ acts this year, they are from Sweden. I attempted this year to get Andrew into some newer music other than funky house. All was going well; he liked Adem, Divine Comedy and M Ward, but ‘Mecklenburg’ was a step too far. This is music that doesn’t fade unobtrusively into the background. It mopes away for a bit before really letting go in a full-on wallow. And by then it has your utmost attention.
Therefore, it is rather crap make-out music.
09. The Beeching Report – iLIKETRAiNS
And yet more misery. iLIKETRAiNS are an English band who were described by The Guardian as “grand and slightly unapproachable civic music, less to be listened to and more to be visited like a museum or war memorial, and all the more interesting because of it.”
This track chastises Dr Richard Beeching and his colleagues whose controversial reports led to the reducing by a third the national rail’s capacity in the UK in the 1960s. Cue lots of people out of a job and a continuation of the increasing unpopularity of rail as a viable mode of transport in UK.
I think we’ve all learning something today. Hey, this group truly are ‘library rock’.
08. Fugitive (Richard X Extended Mix) – Pet Shop Boys
Ooh, this one got the Petheads in a steam on the forums. Were PSB romanticising terrorists? The lyrics do seem to describe a couple of people about to do something extraordinary and the track itself has a wooshing plane noise once or twice.
Here is Dr Wayne Studer on the track:
Heaven is very much on the mind of the narrator, who utters such lines as “There’s always a new way to heaven,” “It’s always forever in heaven,” and “We’ll all be together in heaven.” He and the person to whom he’s singing stand apart from society as a whole, each of them a “fugitive” of the title. His words indicate both questioning uncertainty and some measure of confidence gained from careful preparation for what lies ahead. (It’s an established fact that Mohamed Ata [sic] and other 9/11 terrorists engaged in ritual cleansing and body-shaving before departing on their fateful mission.)
Where do we stand in this land?
We’re invisible now
Clean and prepared to be led
The narrator is saying goodbye to his “brother” (“I’m really gonna miss you”) while expressing anticipation for the impending event:
I know that it won’t be that long until the hour
Free and released from the world
It feels like power
Going too far? The rest of the Fundamental album (on which this appears on an extra disc entitled Fundamentalism) tackles topics such as identity cards and immigration (Integral) and Bush & Blair’s relationship (I’m With Stupid), so religious fundamentalism is not a huge leap.
That they and Richard X manage it so stylishly and poignantly is a credit to the ability of pop music to reflect really quite complex contemporary issues.
07. A Lady Of A Certain Age – The Divine Comedy
Having gone a bit rock with the previous album, Neil Hannon once again found vehicles to better express his wordplay, gift for observation and ear for melody. A Lady Of A Certain Age tells the tale of an aging It Girl whose physical charms have faded and whose other charms remain undernourished. It’s a sad story, as we follow her from her youth as a cracker to middle age when the wealthy husband traded up for a younger model and the kids are misfits to her twilight years where she is alone and still depending on the kindness of strangers.
There is an ambiguity here in that I cannot tell if the song is meant to provoke pity (which it does) or ridicule; I sometimes get a nasty vibe from it. But it is keenly observed, and the melody and structure are so utterly sublime that I feel it must already be a classic from the 70s in some alternate universe where an aging Hannon puffs on a Gauloise and lechs over Whitney Houston wanting to ‘ferk’ her.
06. Hold On, Hold On – Neko Case
Somtimes it takes a while for the lyrics to catch up with the music.
The music here is a brief whirl of rolling guitars and country touched sadness, reinforced by that hugely expressive voice. But, like the rest of the album, Fox Confessor Brings The Flood, the lyrics are oblique, suggestive and poetic. One is tempted to think of them as mere string together sounds, an additional instrument, but there’s something else going on, and that degree in English literature I have is prompting me to not let Ms Case away without a rigourous assessment.
But this is pop music, not poetry, and I’m not writing a paper on her, so I’m not all that pushed. I’m curious enough to read others’ interpretation though. I love the enthusiasm with which people throw themselves into these things. Popular music matters to them. And me.