October 2010

I don’t know how I’m meant to conventionally describe Yuck’s ‘Rubber’. I don’t even remember where from or why I downloaded it (a classic problem of the mp3 blog age), but I really, really like it. It’s essentially 7 or so minutes of more-or-less impenetrable overdriven guitar chugging along over what sounds like a strung-out version of the Bear Hands singer but manages to sound like watching storm clouds slowly clearing before a downpour suddenly hits (get you with the imaginative imagery!). There aren’t many songs this loud that could be quite so beautiful, but this certainly succeeds.

Yuck – Rubber (YSI)

When music is described as ‘warped pop’ or ‘alt-pop’ or anything that implies that what I’m about to listen to is some kind of pop music that’s somehow been twisted into a new shape, I get suspicious. Almost every review I’ve read about Deerhunter insists that they’re some kind of pop band, but it’s just not true. Indie or alternative music can possess melody and not become pop music.

So when I finally got round to listening to Sleigh Bells and immediately saw that they’ve been described as ‘noise pop’, the familiar old mistrust came bubbling back up again. How wrong I was. Their album Treats is two things throughout – noisy and poppy. The best example is ‘Crown On The Ground’, a song that sounds like the screaming bastard sister of Gwen Stefani’s (already quite odd) ‘Hollaback Girl’ – all repeated refrains and overbearing drumbeat. This truly is warped pop; catchy, easy to remember songs made absolutely fucking terrifying – the whole album is the sound of a migraine, in a good way.

Sleigh Bells – Crown On The Ground (YSI)
Gwen Stefani – Hollaback Girl (YSI)

Two songs have been pinging about regularly on my iPod for a couple of days that I’ve realised are similar in many ways but sound completely different. Beirut’s ‘My Night With The Prostitute from Marseille’ and Sufjan Steven’s Too Much are both (mainly) electronic tracks from artists better known for a folkier output, so some crossover might be expected, but the results are just completely disparate.

The former is a restrained, vocal-driven track with a brilliantly dancey drumbeat, whilst ‘Too Much’ nearly lives up to its title by starting out sounding like a Nine Inch Nails track, quickly turns into a jerky anthem, falls quiet and then goes completely mental as an entire orchestra unfolds out of the swirling electronics for a ridiculously exhilerating finale.

I think I just love hearing two artists taking a similar path and ending up in very different places but with the same end result: A very happy listener.

Beirut – My Night With The Prostitute From Marseille (YSI)
Sufjan Stevens – Too Much (YSI)

I have just heard the new Kings of Leon album. It’s an unmitigated disappointment from start to finish. There’s a surf-rock song called ‘Beach Side’ and a country-stadium-rock song called ‘Back Down South’ – I’d think it was all a cruel joke if it wasn’t done so convincingly. Let’s listen to what we’ve lost.

Kings of Leon – Slow Night, So Long (YSI)

Here’s a little something I wrote for the Newcastle Courier about the new Deerhunter album:

Bradford Cox, lead singer of Deerhunter, is a bona fide music lover. Four albums in with his band, two with his solo project, Atlas Sound, numerous EPs, contributions to other bands’ work, movie soundtracks – this is a man who just can’t do enough. It seems fitting then that his band’s newest effort reflects that all-encompassing desire to seemingly involve himself fully in music. Halcyon Digest sees the band chew up the myriad sounds of their contemporaries and spit them out, fully formed as one mass of instantly familiar sound that equally remains difficult to pick apart.

The effect is intriguing, leading to whole songs that could be characterised as one thing that then deny that easy identification – ‘Sailing’ takes the swirling, amorphous backgrounds and falsetto laments of Ok Computer but pares them down into an almost acoustic track whilst the throbbing, Arcade Fire rhythm section of ‘Desire Lines’ belies the far more upbeat melody of the chorus. As such, throughout the album, you aren’t just asked to listen to the music, but understand it and involve yourself in the decisions that have been made. It’s a thrilling, changeable experience made by a music lover for music lovers that, I imagine, will only become better with repeated listens.

Deerhunter – Sailing (YSI)

I love the unexpected, completely emotive feeling of realising that you adore a song. That moment of “Fuck me, this is just incredible” seems almost primal, a base wonder that something this perfect could exist. It happens rarely, but that memory doesn’t fade easily. It happened to me yesterday, listening to LCD Soundsystem’s ‘New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down’.

Everything about this track is just unbelievably good; the way it starts as a stately ballad then seemingly veers out of control two thirds of the way through, stutters out of existence before finally righting itself once more, how James Murphy’s voice literally cracks and struggles to hit the high range, how the lyrics make such a specific situation seem somehow universal (But they shuttered your stores / When you opened the doors / To the cops who were bored / Once they’d run out of crime). Even the way the very first line sounds just a tiny little bit like Kermit The Frog.

It seems wise not to ramble too much (I really could though), so let’s extend the subject – what song does/has done this to you?

LCD Soundsystem – New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down (YSI)

You’d think with their particular brand of completely straightforward lo-fi garage rock, Harlem would waste most of their appeal after a couple of listens. Somehow though, their no frills approach improves every time I listen to Hippies – it’s like treating beer as if it were wine, but somehow this does get better with age. Every song attempts much the same thing, with similar lyrical content and a complete lack of professional production, but the boundless exuberance and irreverance of every single one of the sixteen tracks always draws me in. If I didn’t know better, I’d be sure this is impossible to dislike.

Harlem – Gay Human Bones (YSI)