Spike’s Top Tracks: 2nd March – 9th March 2008
Just a quick note before we get going, from now I’m going to link to relevant stuff, so if you see a link in these articles it is my doing so go ahead and click (I’ve set it to open in new windows).
La Mer by Django Reinhardt
“No Gods, No Masters, Only Man”
We’re going back to Rapture for a moment I’m afraid. When you play BioShock one of the first definitive moments comes early on. After surviving a plane crash and swimming through a sea of fire, you find yourself on the outside of a strange installation. Entering this massive lighthouse you find yourself in a vestibule, a bathysphere pod in the middle and the faint sound of La Mer playing. Whilst the 1960s retooling of the song, Beyond the Sea by Bobby Darin, would become the general theme of BioShock it is this first encounter with the tune which sets the tone for the whole game.
Django Reinhardt is an artist who I’d heard of but never really appreciated properly, I’d hear one of his pieces be used in an advert or in a movie and I’d resolve to research and find out who had recorded it. It was only when I was sent a best of album by an MSN contact that I realised a lot of the songs I’d truly adored were created by a singular artist.
Operating from the late 1920s through to the early 1950s Django would create a vast musical library, fusing his own European style with the flourishing Jazz scene he encountered in the United States. La Mer is a perfect example of Django Reinhardt, employing a wide range of backing musicians whilst allowing his own improvisational guitar playing to take centre stage. There is clarity and elegance to Django’s playing which is still stunning to this day.
The General Specific by Band of Horses
“We’re on an island on the fourth of July….looks like the tide is going home”
From an artist who I spent many months enthralled by, to a group I only heard for the first time this week. I was sent a mix by someone on Monday which contained this song by Band of Horses. At first I was surprised by the folk rock stylings of The General Specific, this is because like an idiot I had got the group confused with Horse The Band who specialised in some truly off the wall stuff. Even when writing this post, with the song playing and LastFM providing a little biography for my convenience I was confusing them with Horse the Band.
Back to The General Specific, one of the first problems I had writing this post was isolating some lyrics to use up top. I’d locate a line I’d like, but the natural cadence of the singer would mean that the lyric would trail off into obscurity before I had something worth using. His vocals actually bring to mind The Flaming Lips, although the group lack the discipline which makes the Flaming Lips so truly great.
There is an antiquated quality to the song, which is led by a simple and repetitious piano melody bolstered by handclaps and heavy drumming. Whilst I wouldn’t go as far as to say the group are truly great, there is something deeply enjoyable and generally chirpy about this song. It is a great song kick the cobwebs out of your head on a Sunday morning, I just wish I could write their name down properly.
The Magic Position by Patrick Wolf
“who is the one who leads me on through….it’s YOU!”
In the coming years the musical elite will determine their authority by insisting they liked Patrick Wolf back when he was miserable. Certainly it is hard to reconcile the sullen nuance of his first two albums (Lycanthropy and Wind in the Wires) with the pomp and grandeur of his last album The Magic Position. Always a consummate multi-instrumentalist his first albums were far more angsty affairs, powered by nervousness and anguish. Some people have been put off by the exuberance of his new album, but even The Magic Position with its swelling strings and overindulgent pop sensibilities has moments of darkness.
What The Magic Position as an album does is sugar coat the bitter pill of his lyrics, and in doing so he allows the message of his songs to worm their way under the skin and into the brain. Titular track The Magic Position swells with strings, horns and handclaps, almost drowning out Wolf’s vocals. Whilst other tracks on the album contain slithers of darkness, The Magic Position is a soaring song about the highs of being in love. But even in this ode to the excess of love he has time for moments of doubt and introspection, and that’
Death to Los Campesinos! by Los Campesinos!
“If you catch me with my hands in the till….I promise…SHUT UP…I wasn’t trying to steal!”
I have an unusual relationship with Los Campesinos, on one hand I hate them on a conceptual level, and on the other hand I hate them on a technical level. Yet I still found myself seeking out their debut album and I’ve listened to the thing far too many times to say that I don’t like the band. Everything about the band just irks me, I think they’re too cute and also too cynical in how they’ve been marketed, but there is something so infectious about their music that I forget my intellectualised grumblings. Essentially I am a scab to my minds picket line against this band.
I probably didn’t have the best introduction to the band; the first thing I ever saw by them was the video to their single ‘The International Tweecore Underground’ the day after seeing Arcade Fire play live at Newcastle. Even the song title is enough to get my spleen all engorged with bile, but the video itself attempts to steal the aesthetics of Arcade Fire and in doing the earned my ire. So what made me change my mind on the band, well people who are far more knowledgeable than me started to get excited by the band and by the album in general. I like to give everything a fair shot so I obtained a copy of the album and a few songs jumped out at me.
Death to Los Campesinos! was always going to capture my attention, simply because of how much I agreed with the title. The track itself is bursting with energy, duelling vocals pitted against a musical backdrop which is so vast and deep that it is actually hard to pick out individual instruments. The song itself is exceptionally infectious simply because of how much energy and urgency it has, the interplay of the male and female vocals combined with shouty chorus and frantic music make it almost impossible to intellectualise It is a song designed to be danced to or drunkenly shouted along to, or to be used in indie films as music for a wacky montage, but it is most certainly not music to be taken seriously.
Out At The Pictures by Hot Chip
“It’s on every street, it’s funky, cheap”
It is almost upsetting that my favourite song off of the new Hot Chip album is an ode to the popular chain of pubs/bars Wetherspoons (check the album inlay if you don’t believe me). When Hot Chip released their breakout album The Warning I didn’t really pay much attention, I could stand listening to them on the radio but I never had a burning desire to own anything by them. It just seemed a little quaint and cute, disposable and meaningless. Then the first single from their new album hit and I had to dramatically reassess my opinion of the London based electronica outfit.
Single Ready for the Floor was a fantastically catchy and really brilliant piece of pop music and it made me realise that the first album was almost a demo tape. A proof of concept rather than a fully formed musical offering. So I obtained the latest album Made in the Dark as quickly as I could and was subsequently shocked by a collection of songs that weren’t just good pop songs, but were great songs in general. Whilst there are still moments of cheesiness which turned me off the bands debut, the album as a whole is lean and powerful and forceful.
It is a completely different beast to what you’d expect and opening track Out at the Pictures is a perfect example of this. Once again it is a song better appreciated on a primal level, designed for reaction rather than review. What it sounds like is a proto rap song, hard edged electronica put to ethereal and minimalist vocals designed to create a reaction and it is just absolutely fantastic.