August 2010

If you require proof beyond my wild, inarticulate rantings as to why Meursault are the best new(ish) band to grace our shores in a very long time, just check out how perfectly they combine the verses of Radiohead’s ‘Bullet Proof… I Wish I Was’ and the chorus of La Roux’s ‘Bulletproof’ to make a jaunty folk tune. The cover came courtesy of a BBC Scotland session, and I sneakily ripped this from the 137th(!) episode of Mr. Toad’s excellent Toadcast podcasts*. These guys are just getting absurdly brilliant now, it’s almost unfair.

Meursault – Bulletproof (Radiohead/La Roux Cover) (YSI)

*Apologies for all the ‘toad’s and ‘cast’s there.

Last year, it was the improbably named Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson and ‘Buriedfed’, but 2010 sees Mike Hadreas, aka Perfume Genius, take the MFAGW prize for the unbelievably-depressing-yet-soul-expandingly-incredible song of the year award for ‘Mr. Peterson’. However, don’t think that I’m just taking in one style of music here as the two songs really couldn’t be more different; Robinson’s a sprawling, crescendoed wail of a track, Hadreas’ a pared down piano lament, eschewing instrumental complexity for incredibly personal and devastating lyrics. There’s a sense that this song could have been far happier in its outlook, a slightly troubling but ultimately fond reverie perhaps, but the events described have warped its perspective, and at under three minutes long, it doesn’t allow for redemption from its heartbreaking climax. Amazing.

Perfume Genius – Mr. Peterson (YSI)

Video game references, gin and tonic and Canada – Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is my kind of movie. But, as you may have guessed, the music is also a huge part of the move for me, and I can’t think of many films with a better musical team, and a more satisfying output. Nigel Godrich (the fucking Radiohead producer, no less) executive produced the OST as well as wrote the score, there are tracks from Broken Social Scene, Metric and Frank Black and freaking Beck wrote the songs for Scott’s band, Sex Bob-omb.

It’s the final point that makes this soundtrack so good, as it spans the line between a ‘jukebox’ soundtrack and a traditional score. These are songs written specifically to fit the movie’s style and mood, but crafted by an established ‘alternative’ artist and played by the cast. It’s a trick that very few movies could pull off without become ridiculous parodies of themselves, but these songs, and the band itself, are pitched absolutely perfectly – youthful, energetic and possibly lacking in talent.

Of course, none of this would matter if Sex Bob-omb weren’t any good, but something tells me that if they were a real band, I’d have a soft spot for them. These are short, sharp shocks of songs, bass-heavy (that being Scott’s instrument, of course) and complemented perfectly by Beck’s ludicrous lyrics. They’re well placed between more esoteric (and genuine) punk cuts like Black Lips’ ‘O Katrina!’ and Blood Red Shoes’ ‘It’s Getting Boring By The Sea’ on the OST and whilst they might all sound the same, well, hey, that’s sort of the point.

This has been a good year for film music, what with Kick Ass‘ shot in the arm for jukebox soundtracks hitting early and the Devil’s own vuvuzelas blasting their way through Inception, but I think Pilgrim takes the top prize so far – it’s genuinely one of the most enjoyable soundtracks (and, whisper it, maybe even general albums) of the year.

Sex Bob-omb – Threshold (YSI)

I’m not able to post it here right now, but I’ve just reviewed Working For A Nuclear Free City’s ridiculously eclectic new double-album (with the second disc taken up by a single half hour track no less). It’s brilliant. Here is a tiny selection of the musical references I wrote down while listening to it:

Thom Yorke – The Clock (YSI)
Dartz! – St. Petersburg (YSI)
Sebastien Tellier – La Ritournelle (YSI) (Removed by request)
Two Door Cinema Club – Undercover Martyn (YSI)

Disparate no?

I am completely undecided on this song, yet everyone else seems to love it unreservedly. On the one hand, the lyrics are fantastic, and I always like Regine’s contributions. On the other, the synth backing seems incredibly contrived, like the band haven’t used it with any other thought than ‘this will really get people talking’ (and, all credit to them, it has). I’m just not sure I can take it completely seriously. Thoughts?

Arcade Fire – Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) (YSI)

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but music really is hugely enjoyable – and for a variety of different reasons! For instance, in our shuffle-dominated age, finding chance connections or the happy intertwining of songs you might not have thought compatible can become a wonderfully fulfilling practice, especially when it happens entirely spontaneously.

I didn’t even want shuffle on today, but through sheer happenstance, ‘Good Vibrations’ was followed by Belle & Sebastian’s ‘Step Into My Office, Baby’ and it immediately became clear that these two songs fit together perfectly. Brian Wilson’s pop symphony is emulated in Stuart Murdoch’s willingness to switch styles and moods within one track, as well as more obvious similarities such as harmonies and twanging surf guitar.

Music’s bloody brilliant – fact. Take that, conventional opinion!

The Beach Boys – Good Vibrations (YSI)
Belle & Sebastian – Step Into My Office, Baby (YSI)

In a fit of excitement, my girlfriend, Cat, tonight made me listen to the new Manic Street Preachers track, ‘(It’s Not War) Just The End Of Love’ as she gauged my reaction over the phone. Of the many wonderful things she has introduced me to (olives, cleanliness, and the work of Simon Armitage to name but a few), the Manics are perhaps one of her greatest gifts. I had simply never bothered to listen to them before, but with the gradual addition of albums and almost yearly live shows, my love continues to grow. I bought her the special edition Journal For Plague Lovers set (which remains my favourite album of last year that I’ve never got round to owning myself), and it’s clear that that album is colouring my view of the new track.

Fellow This Is Fake DIY writer Gareth O’Malley brilliantly characterises the new record, Postcards From A Young Man, as a sequel to Everything Must Go in much the same way as Journal could be considered a successor to The Holy Bible. Tbe difference is, this first single doesn’t sell it in quite the same way – which is not to say that this is a bad thing. ‘Just The End Of Love’ is unashamedly stadium-sized in its approach, with a catchy melody, insistent chorus and a classic rock guitar solo to its name. Where Journal’s first tracks intrigued with their dark, cryptic stylings, this new single eschews any pretence of intricacy; this is a rock ‘n’ roll song about love, and that’s it.

Because of their similar positions as spiritual successors (and relatively quick turnover), the two approaches are bound to be compared, but what becomes immediately clear upon contrasting them is this: The Manics are just about one of the most talented groups in rock music today. To be able to follow a record as bloody-mindedly intense as Journal with a single (and, I imagine, record) this carefree proves their multi-faceted brilliance, whichever you prefer.

But after all of this guff, I think Cat summed it up best: ‘I just smiled – it’s nice to hear them being positive’

Manic Street Preachers – (It’s Not War) Just The End Of Love (YSI) – Removed By Request

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