Ok, let’s finish this – I know I’ve been milking it this last week.
5. Hercules & Love Affair: Blind
Of my entire 40 (41 – I really meant to include Ting Tings), this track will probably be the least controversial. It’s one of those tracks that pretty much everyone agrees is magnificent. The indie heads will dig it because it’s way cred. The disco bunnies love it because you can shuffle to it. It’s got Antony in it. Frankie Knuckles did an ace remix of it. The album was also pretty decent.
Flawless then, so why isn’t it no 1? Well, it’s that perennial discussion that comes up in musicological/critical circles when we talk about music we love: sometimes the obscurity of the track or artist adds to the appeal. Is some of this appeal lost when the track/artist becomes popular? Now, is this a serious question that examines the complexities of aesthetics or just a case of people like me wanting to be a bit wanky and not choose what everyone else likes?
I think we all know the answer.
4. Kleerup feat. Titiyo: Longing For Lullabies
Andreas Kleerup had a pretty good couple of years lately. His ‘With Every Heartbeat’ with Robyn finally and deservedly got to No 1, he produced one of the better tracks on Cyndi Lauper’s album, and generally his melancholy bleepery became familiar to more ears with his own debut album.
‘Longing For Lullabies’ is another futuristic piece of pop with lots of echoey bits and pulses chiming along in a most pleasing fashion. What takes it past, say, Cyndi’s offering, is the plaintive vocal of Titiyo, a woman who must be well fed up of never being spoken of without the words ‘Neneh’, ‘Cherry’ and ‘half-sister’ attached. She has a slightly odd nasal voice: it’s almost if she could let loose but is constrained by the song, the resignation in the lyrics refusing to let her emote too much. And of course this leads to even more subtle, adult emotion coming through.
All that we leave behind
Longing for lullabies
You live, you learn
You love, you burn
You win, you lose
3. Bon Iver: For Emma
Boy breaks up with girlfriend, goes into a hut or something for six months to get over it and write, comes back with quiet masterpiece on which he wrote, played, produced everything. Top lists all over the place. Result.
Along with Fleet Foxes et al, Bon Iver is one of those acts that sensitive straight boys tend to like. What makes him work for me though is the production. Almost all of my truly favourite albums are examples of the all-too-rare fusion of technology and art. The Avalanches ‘Since I Met You’ is the best example, Paddy McAloon’s ‘I Trawl The MEGAHERTZ’ is another. These albums tell us something about human ambition and creativity, how we can stretch software and computers into new and unreproducible shapes that capture something of ourselves that ‘traditional’ musical arrangements can’t reach.
For Emma is a loping, sad little ditty, made all the sadder knowing that this full sound is just one man and his technology. I don’t know if he can cut it live and I don’t much care. The track and the others on the album are the end products of a tussle with technology to express something that didn’t before have expression. The odd background noises and wispy doubletracked voices every bit as essential in this orchestra as if someone had sat down and scored them.
2. Joe Chester: Maybe This Is Not Love
Google Joe Chester and you’ll probably find something I’ve written praising the man’s music to high heaven. I find that a wee bit sad; shouldn’t far more people know and love this stuff at this stage? Joe’s second album, The Tiny Pieces Left Behind, came out this year and promptly vanished into the meleé of musical nonsense inclusing OTT Leonard Cohen covers and boring old four-piece guitar bands.
The album itself is a worthy successor to the excellent A Murder of Crows. But it’s not quite as amazing. In the first place, we (well, Robin and I) knew how excellent things could be so we had great expectations. Two, the songs overall are not as fabtastic. Or so I thought until I encoded the album at 320kbps and played it through my housemates new Harman Kardon speakers. And then it just sizzled. What at first seemed to be a little flay, suddenly burst out of the air. A tiny guitar lick over here, a synth over there, just below it a snare. It was music in 3D.
And when music in 3D envelops a track with hooks like this one, I simply cannot resist.
(And Robbie Williams still hasn’t covered Anyway (the fool). Maybe we should get it on X Factor?)
1. Empire Of The Sun: We Are The People
Oh, why keep rabbiting on?
I can’t go on when I think you’re gonna leave me, but you know I try.
Are you gonna leave me now?
Why can’t you be believin’ now?
[repeat to fade]
Happy New Year and thanks for reading the blog in 2008!