Wednesday, 9 September 2009

The sound of your own heart

Los Campesinos! have released a new track, 'The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future'.

The group are audibly maturing into the kind of band I always thought they were capable of being. Not that I don't adore the yelping, sugar-rush pop of their first record, but it sounded a lot more refined on We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed, with hints of darker sounds as well as a greater focus on Tom and Harriet's songwriting and arrangements. It also started to align with the more complex sounds of some of their primary stated influences.

This is certainly the darkest thing they've done, and possibly the best. I'll be going back to my seaside hometown this weekend, and this shall certainly be on heavy rotation. Download from their equally brilliant website.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Slow it down, the song is sacred

When I saw that Yoni Wolf had covered a Pavement song, my initial reaction was that it was going to be a horrible fucking racket. Don't get me wrong: I love Pavement, and I've got a lot of time for WHY?, Yoni's main musical project. But what can you do with a Pavement song, really? WHY?'s recent single 'This Blackest Purse' should have been a clue, but I never could have imagined that kind of treatment working so well on a Malkmus number. It does though, and transforms 'Shoot The Singer (1 Sick Verse)' from a fairly Pavement-by-numbers EP track into a tremulous piano ballad. Sounds terrible on paper, but I've had it on repeat since I heard it a few hours ago.

MP3: Yoni Wolf - 'Shoot The Singer (1 Sick Verse)'
(via Stereogum, right click & save as)

2009: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

There's still a good sixteen weeks of the year left, I know. Then again, this came out at the start of February, and nothing's quite managed to surpass it since: not Animal Collective's critically adorned breakthrough, not Jeffrey Lewis' most brilliant album to date, and certainly not the overrated Veckatimest. Many will be inclined to disagree, not least because all of those albums are a great deal more inventive and sophisticated than The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. But none of them are as good.

I've already waxed lyrical about this lot a fair bit. Original, they ain't, but to adapt a quote from someone else: 'How are you supposed to know it's a Pastels rip-off if you've never heard the Pastels?' Call it faux-naiveté on their part if you like, but that wall of distorted, powerchord-driven indie-pop remains the perfect template for the lyrical narratives of awkward youth. 'Come Saturday' is, in this respect, the album in miniature: feedback, fuzzy guitars, cooing backing vocals, and a tale of summer love that cares for nothing but the moment: 'I can't see into the sunset / All I know is that you're perfect right now.' Absolutely wonderful.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

2008: Saturdays = Youth

This was the hardest pick by far. Maybe I'd started paying closer attention, but I like to think that 2008 was just a great year for releases. Deerhunter's Microcastle / Weird Era Cont., Wild Beasts' Limbo, Panto and Johnny Foreigner's Waited Up 'Til It Was Light were all serious contenders; there were also corkers from British Sea Power, Okkervil River, Cut Copy, Bon Iver, Elbow and No Age; and two excellent records from my old pals Los Campesinos! saw them rapidly promoted to the indie-pop A-list.

One album captivated me more than any other that year though. If Daft Punk mined a euphoric nostalgia for a lost childhood, their compatriot Anthony Gonzalez casts a more wistful, melancholic glance back at juvenile days, to no less dazzling effect. Torch song 'Kim & Jessie' sounds like a joyous tribute to the 80s film soundtrack - insert your own John Hughes reference here - singing of 'kids outside worlds' who are 'crazy 'bout romance and illusion,' but the chorus evokes a much darker scene: 'Somebody lurks in the shadows, somebody whispers.' It's all the gusto of youth, infused with the accompanying bouts of paranoia, self-doubt, and confusion as to one's place in the world.

It is this classic pop juxtaposition, which characterised the 80s of Gonzalez's youth, of lyrical anxiety set to glorious, often upbeat electronic music, that is realised so perfectly on Saturdays = Youth, and which makes it such a success. 'Graveyard Girl' is another fine example, the guitar-led rush of the chorus breaking for a spoken word part, heralded by a ringing schoolbell: 'I'm gonna jump the walls and run. I wonder if they'll miss me? I won't miss them... I'm fifteen years old, and I already feel like it's too late to live. Don't you?'