Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer
There's really no mountain here, not even a hill. I think if you had to spatially imagine this band it would be more horizontal, more like an ocean I think. Nevermind.
To begin: At Mount Zoomer is cleaved. Whereas, for me at least, it was difficult to tell if it were Boeckner or Krug singing on Apologies to the Queen Mary, each and every song on this album clocks on with full vocalist (and lyricist) details from the outset. And there's this annoying habit of having them one after the other, in this kind of two-man baton pass but I'm not really sure what the baton is or where they're going. Anyway, I think it's clearly an (unintended?) effect of their growing solo careers in Handsome Furs and Sunset Rubdown particularly, who have both released in the interim. They're staking out a territory and putting up flags - sure, fighting over the same general chunk of land, but it's like a Starcraft map with a river separating the two of them. Whereas something like Beast Moans (paging Krug) approached music creation as an antagonistic process of coming together, At Mount Zoomer seems to propose that gaps are inevitable, well, that they at least grow from somewhere and then it's like tectonic plates at the surface, when the road cracks and splits and gapes. I hope I find a bridge.
Thanks to emmy for the opportunity.
"List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your spring. Post these instructions in your blog along with your 7 songs. Then tag 7 other people to see what they’re listening to."
Spring, eh? Anyway, time to get thoroughly autobiographical and live out the contradictions to two posts prior. Indulge me.
Die! Die! Die! - Sideways Here We Come
2008 begins and ends with Promises, Promises (literally, and musically); I'm quite sure that nothing will surpass it for me that I don't think I'll go through that arbitrary and thankless year end list exercise. So I've picked this one from the album because it is the most obvious and continually burrows itself through my consciousness/conscience but truth told I could have picked anything from this album, even Whitehorses. And I do admit that it is very hard to dissect this song, because for real it has become biomechanic - it would be like trying to pick apart your insides - do you know that feeling? But fuck it, let's try. It starts principally with the drums, fuck those drums like pounding pounding pounding, I'm losing articulate abilities here, and it's not the first time. But oh well, to continue... Or why bother, when "Some things are best left blind; darling I'll try make you mine" Oh yeah you're probably snarking to yourself, thinking that's real cute and quite trite almost for how obvious it looks as you scan across those lines. Fucking listen. Fuck you. Okay, sorry. Carried away, once again. I don't think I can really do this right now, so I'll just leave it with an observation from the horse's mouth:
"Sideways Here We Come was actually [written] a day before [recording the album]. Yeah, it was the last song we wrote on the album. What I found really funny was that was the song that was gonna be left off the album because we weren't gonna finish it, and that one - the structure’s actually not kinda finished."Seams, yeah - all the time, it just seems set to come apart and show its guts, and yet it is sutured just by pure force and emotion. This is the dialectic of Die! Die! Die! Nothing can beat this down, except itself.
No Kids - For Halloween
Where's this coming from? It's like harmony groups just found the keys to amazing beats and lyrics and collegiate ennui and they all just partied. It's like, get up to the downbeat, that superflat bass drum that just trips its away all through the paths and summer houses and ends up somewhere where slow, middle, and fast just unite in all their great ways.
Portishead - Silence
There are a lot of things that can and have been said about Third but I'll just leave mine as a little footnote to an already out of control mythos. And mine doesn't go far, well, it can't - Portishead won't let me. For two reasons: this is the first - and best - song on the album, and second, it ends in a way that just cuts you off to everything but it. I'm not sure how to describe this - because it's not like falling off a cliff. You fall off a cliff you know where you're going and usually you're going down and you see the chasm that you fall into and it's all quite a drawn out process actually (it usually takes a good few minutes in movies, at least). Well this is isn't a cliff. It's a ... fuck, what is it? Because it strings you along, literally - rising strings, a beat that just nods your head constantly, pulling over for a brief break before returning to the course and an amazing guitar lick creeps in and then some heavier strings and you're like, wow [4.30], this [4.41] is [4.48] ... 4.59! What?! Where did it go? I'm not sure, maybe it's like being thrown into a void, and it seems like the time they choose at which to throw you was completely arbitrary and yet fully calculated (like, why bother doing it at 4.59? - that is both way too obvious and yet perfect). And it's maybe more like limbo, because there's nowhere left for me to go when I reach this point. What comes after 59? Naught.
Chromatics - Running Up That Hill (cf. Kate Bush)
It's a funny thing, this - how does it all work when a cover is the first thing you hear? In the great 'pop covers' rulebook that is sitting dusty on some shelf up the back of some official building that not many people visit anymore, there's a section about covers having to 'add something' to the original. Well, how does this go when you've never heard the original? When Running Up That Hill you first heard (to complicate things even further) on the Placebo Covers album, fitting the general pattern of what that band was only ever good for - making human relations truly alien - and that was what you took as your template (maybe it fits)? Not the banging, crashing mess of a thing by Bush that you only first heard on vinyl a week or so ago, which, actually, you didn't really like? Well, maybe it's like preposterous history. It's like you only know or care about the original because not only has the cover 'added' to it, it has literally made it. The cover is the original. And the original is great, too, beamed in on a post-urban record player, floating lyrics and metallic puttering basslines bringing it all to its most cinematic fullness.
Thom Yorke - Black Swan
I know this may seem like I'm stealing, but honestly I'm not, just following the precepts laid down by the almighty meme. And meme directs me to enjoyment (a fuzzy category that only pertains in tangential ways to most of what is on this 'list') - and I must say I quite enjoy this song. And only for one reason - A Scanner Darkly. This song and that movie are like this amazing conjuncture in which two perceived wrongs truly made a right. Because, initially, I was avert to both these works - both were just, well, too schematic? Too obvious. "It should be obvious, but it's not". And then they came together - Darkly pulled a moral and a purpose out of the preceding near-two hours of mess, and Black Swan snapped into focus as the credits rolled and they became perfect partners. I can't quite describe what happened at this exact moment, but suffice to say, I love both. "People get crushed like biscuitcrumbs".
The The - This Is The Day
This is the day
Your life will surely change!
This is the day
Your life will surely change!
Joanna Newsom - Peach, Plum, Pear
I'm really not sure where to start here. Well, I stumbled upon this song one day whilst forcing myself to listen to The Milk-Eyed Mender once again, an album I find I have a very conflicted relationship to, so much that I've never really gotten past Sadie, the fourth track. Well, things have their way and it happened that I made it all the way up until this song, the ninth. And what a time to happen upon this, what a perfect time. It grabbed me and shook me seconds inwards, as the harpischord lights up after the preceding bundle of harp strings, placating and quiet for eight long songs. Drastic, urgent - that doesn't even begin to approach what I'm hearing. Always twice, too, for some reason, even on the very first listen, I am compelled to press rewind, to avoid the saccharine Swansea (well, musically at least - but that's always the first thing we perceive, isn't it?) and hear whatever I do again, often with as much force. Yes I hold to a notion of music coming from without and directing me, I'm not sure if this is idealistic but this is Peach, Plum, Pear, don't you hear it? It bleeds with pathos, things just all seem like they're breaking as they roll on insistent, and then they turn:
This was unlike the story
It was written to be
I was riding its back
When it used to ride me
And yet who is controlling who here? Where does the power in this song lie? Now no now no now no now no now no now; is that what (s)he is saying? "Galloping manic" to a point ahead that seems distant and yet forever imminent, it hits! Dozens of Joannas come out in full-blown force, clipping the edges of the recording and breaking beyond the barriers of what once barely contained it:
And IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII am blue!! [wait...]
I am blue!!! and unwell
Scream it! Or whisper it screaming if you're on the train replacement coach that takes an hour and a half longer. Things break down here, it's like the literary facade propping up this whole ornate (and yet very simple) structure beforehand just gets blown away by this wind. The only moment where a fucking hurting, knowing, feeling human comes out of the pixie forest and makes themselves be known. And it is hard, and harsh, and it cracks and scratches but it is catharsis. And for once that term is fully apt (look it up properly and just watch the connections fire). Because things slow down again, regain their calm ("Now it's done..."), and yet their is an indelible mark, no matter the metaphors that one tries to cover it with:
Peach, plum, pear
Peach, plum, ...
Time to go: garage, incurable, cmg (lol), cassettes, .al, rose, mechanics - hehe hope you haven't been memed yet, apologies, my circle is small.
You know this ad, right? Fucking annoying thing it is, too, I know - along with those godawful Optus ads featuring animals carrying out surveillance in cranky Telstra customer's homes, the telcos have the 'most nerve-wrenching commercials' categories tied up. Anyway, I think the wonderful thing about this ad (viewable here, if you are tricky enough to click 'Small & Medium Business' or 'Enterprise & Government') is how it dramatises the condition of these 'classic' Gold FM ditties. Because no one actually does remember the original lyrics (or artist) of the song it so shamelessly tears apart and rewrites according to its control society telematic narrative - this ad thematises the way in which this sort of music is so completely divorced from any original context and just floats around disanchored in our culture as a little harmony or rhyme or snatched lyric, ready and waiting to be snatched up by some misguided Telstra ad-man. Its lyric-sheet might as well read:
everybody's talking at me
i hear every word they're saying
with my phone and laptop combined
people conference call me
i can see there faces
send them files every time
(btw, it was Harry Nilsson who sang it 'originally')
(btw, how did we ever conduct business without this array of highly useless-looking technologies? The answer, of course, is that we did. Telstra always seem so desperate to concoct practices that never really need practicing)
I think the brilliant thing about M83's Saturdays = Youth is how it imagines teenagehood specifically as some amazingly poetic and romantic and idyllic time when in fact it never was. We live our relationship to our young selves through nothing other than the dioramae of nostalgic popular culture such as this, which sets a scene (full of sultry night air, violent romance and meaning, so much meaning) that never really existed. The album itself never quite gets to this youth it so insistently turns upon, the space it is looking for which is also a time, and that itself is profoundly melancholic and beautiful. I listen to You, Appearing and the rest of it all with bad teenage poetry lyrics and heavy solipsism and I just marvel at the time, the beauty, that becomes mist (and it certainly does after a few listens, losing all of its evocative force when you realise the rickety structure it is built upon - but you still have that initial moment, the youth of this album, which you remember as an idyllic time, and you find yourself looking for it, and on).
Just having a moment here, sorry...
Fuck I am sick of all these new pop stars that have come up grass roots style off social networks and the like. I don't care whether they do it themselves genuinely or if some marketing machine cooks it up, it's just terrible anyway. This whole ground up, 'DIY' thing where they post pictures of themselves with witty captions and blog about their life, I really don't care to know. I like my pop thoroughly adherent to the discursive division between public and private, in which the latter can only sublimate through songs. Here's to well-manufactured, primmed music celebrities whose minders actually hold back from throwing themselves all over the Internet. Get off my Internets!
(talkin' bout this, and this was the archetype)