Thursday, 25 August 2011

26th August 2011

There are some weeks when a certain event influences the songs in your head. Other times, a news story could trigger a reaction. Or it could even be something someone has said to you.

This week has not been any of those.

I first heard of the Avett Brothers a few months back when it was rumoured they may have been appearing at Glastonbury. That turned out to be a false dawn. However, it did turn me on to a band I'd previously not heard of.

Brothers Seth and Scott Avett have been making music together since childhood. Has there ever been a more pointless sentence? They are brothers, for god's sake. Anyway, that's what greeted me when I wiki'd them. Praise the lord for Wikipedia. But, it did also tell me that were from North Carolina.

When you look at other music acts from North Carolina - Charlie Daniels, Sparklehorse, Whiskeytown, Ryan Adams - you can understand why my eyes lit up. I don't know why I pay such attention to the geographical factors, but suspect it may have something to do with being born in Greater Manchester.

Anyway, back on to the Avett Brothers. The first song that struck me was Murder in the City, on their Gleam II EP. It's a beautiful acoustic track, and an ode to the family unit. From what little I know so far about the Avett Brothers, the theme of family hangs over them. But they do it nicely, and there is certainly a playfullness about it.

But this week's song is Kick Drum Heart. The thing that struck me most about this, is how percussion and piano works in perfect harmony. It's also a much more up-tempo track than Murder in the City, proving that the Avett Brothers are not a one-trick band. To draw comparisons, I'd liken them to a country-rock version of Mumford and Sons, but they somehow seem more real. Oh, and Seth Avett (I think it is...) has a much more likeable voice than Marcus Mumford.

Here's the song, from the album I and Love and You - the cover of which appears to capture Neil Young's audition for Hamlet.

Friday, 19 August 2011

19th August 2011

There we were, in a really dark place at silly o'clock and slightly worse for wear. Relying on my hoofhands to try to find this song on Youtube. Predictive text didn't help. I was trying to convince my friend that this was one of the best pop songs ever written.

It could well be true, too. Certainly those at Eurovision 1965 agreed with me - it finished 1st and gave Luxembourg the win.

However, for those not fond of Eurovision or the little duchy, don't despair (although I can't imagine why you wouldn't be fond of either of those - both are excellent).

The partnership of composer Serge Gainsbourg and quintessential ye-ye singer France Gall was never going to be a happy one. Her, a fresh-faced innocent; him, a hard-smoking older man. Many of the works written by Gainsbourg for Gall featured strong sexual innuendo (Les Sucettes for one). The songs were so innuendo-laden, in fact, that Gall refuses to talk about that time in her career.

This song is one of those tracks. Gainsbourg described it thusly: "
The songs young people turn to for help in their first attempts at discovering what life and love are about, are sung by people too young and inexperienced to be of much help and condemned by their celebrity to find out".

Poupee de Cire, Poupee de Son itself translates as Doll of Wax, Doll of Bran. However, that is just one interpretation as Son also means sound. It is this wordplay that characterises Gainsbourg's writing and causes the innocent Gall to come across as a Lolita-esque seductress. Her blonde bob, contrasting eyebrows and youthful voice lend to that image too, but it is the rollicking music in the background that really elevates this to greatness, in my eyes.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

12th August 2011

Well, this wasn't supposed to be like this, was it?

What a horrible week us Brits have had to suffer. When the news of rioting in north London first came about, my initial thoughts was 'oh god, this is another Rodney King'. It seems I overestimated my fellow countrymen. As has been the case recently in the UK, what started off as a peaceful protest has swiftly been overtaken my mindless yobs, or "feral youth" as they have been called of late.

Up until this evening, I was proud of my home town of Salford. Despite 'riots' happening in London, Bristol, Birmingham, Liverpool and (bizarrely) Nottingham, they hadn't spread to Greater Manchester. The comments on the Manchester Evening News website seemed to share my view: Manchester don't join in, we're better than this. Unfortunately, as the embarrassing events of Tuesday 9th August showed, that didn't last.

Manchester has had its share of troubles in the past: the race-riots in Moss Side in 1981, the drug wars of the late 80s, the Arndale bomb on 1996. Somehow, the city had grown and improved despite these horrible incidents. It had improved so much that, just months before, the Lonely Planet guide had called Manchester 'truly special'.

A side-annoyance to this petty looting was the patheticness of it all. Manchester is renowned for its gang culture and - without condoning rioting or looting - none of this was on show. Instead, it seemed to be 13-year-old kids on bikes breaking in to Bargain Booze. I suppose I should be glad really, it could've have been much worse.

Anyway, back to the music. There are only a few words to describe the looters. They are lowlives, purely out for their own gain. There's nothing political about their actions, no cause to back them up. They want material goods regardless of the damage to the innocent.

Snuff are a north London punk band, apt seeing as that's where the trouble started. Are the looters arseholes, fuckwits, gobshites, farts in a jar? Yes, they are all of these, whereever they are looting.

Thankfully, Snuff have just the song to soundtrack my inner thoughts whenever I watch the news of late.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

5th August 2011

I'm back, it's been a while.

I've decided to regress to my original idea and put up the song I've had in my head all week. It certainly should be easier on me to do it this way - I'll reserve judgement on the impact on you...

So, where to start my new(ish) adventure? Well, as is often the case with the start of topics, this week has been an easy choice.

The album version of Robyn's Be Mine isn't really my thing - it's uptempo pop, and the short stabs of violin remind me of music that was endemic in turn-of-the-century clubs and bars.

However, the stripped down version is beautiful. It takes on a whole new personality. Instead of the forthright angst of the album track, we hear a mournful Robyn. It's this change of attitude that helps Be Mine transcend from Friday night background music to emotionally charged enchanter. The Swede's voice and solo piano really captivate so much more than a drum machine and allow Robyn's words to strike a chord with the listener.

It might not radically change your life, but it'll make you pleased you heard it.