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Tuesday, December 30, 2003
  NUMBER FOUR - WILL YOUNG 'LEAVE RIGHT NOW'

will young! just 12 months ago his first album was used to force some of us to get up after a party. horrible. but i guess i was kinda disposed to like him, he's a very nice guy and all so sweet and everything. nice guys win yeah! the video really made this for me: how to use low budget to maximum effect. will's brand of intensity is much more appealing (more human?) than eg bedingfield histrionics. just him staring at a camera - being told to be quiet by the people we can't hear. there is some CLEVER IRONY at play there i'd wager. also obviously this song has the best middle 8 of the year, this is absolutely key, it's great. i like the way the climax is predicted in the first chorus: all that happens each time is the tempo picks up ever so slightly and they add another layer of high-class schmaltz to the arrangement. i haven't heard much said about the new will young stuff - i think NYLPM liked this though. everyone should: it's like brilliant dinner party music for real people. the album has some great stuff on it too, it reminds me of wham! in places.


NUMBER THREE - SCRITTI POLITTI 'A LITTLE KNOWLEDGE'

loved this from the moment it started, it feels familiar and incredibly friendly: every component of every sound in this song is just lovely. sometimes this year i've thought this is the most beautiful sound ever heard - that would make sense because the sound is there to tell the story of the perfect longing: memory of massive happiness existing at exactly the same point as the fall into despair - there is hope of redemption though and maybe this is what gives the whole thing this wonderful buoyant uplifting quality? this song is really an alien thing: it took a while before i felt how strange it really was. it's so poised and so graceful...hardly there at all. ultra-futuristic: you can see all the joins and hear all the workings-out and all this transparency does is reinforce the beautiful simplicity of it all. superhuman restraint is involved: the pace builds so tantalizingly slowly, until the only thing that makes your realize the climax is a quiet, redemptive little piece of guitar that echoes the synth line at the end. and the female vocals of course - the disembodied answer to the poor narrator's longing. you suspect the woman singing here is not the same character he's singing to - rather she is some kind of perfected Female, or even a female voice from within himself perhaps. this isn't a song that demands an answer "not a lot to say now, except i miss you" the self-indulgence is so gorgeous, like slowly sinking into a bath of chocolate. actually the best bit of this song is the piano over the outro, i think it predicts the beta band somehow. not that scritti politti needs the beta band to explain how good they are BUT STILL.
 
Tuesday, December 23, 2003
  NUMBER TWO - THE SHANGRI-LA'S 'TRAIN FROM KANSAS CITY'

another teenage heart-in-the-mouth thrill. this has a chorus that sounds like it's overtaking itself - like a runaway train, the back carriages ploughing through the engine - the perfect knife-edge, again, between pain and joy: something exquisite in the longing of the vocals. the beginning of each verse: "baby, baby...". the mini-breakdown before the final chorus when the snares fall from the sky and reignite everything. the moment of doubt in the narrator's mind - should i really leave him? aren't i risking everything? - is erased by the chorus, as unstoppable as the train in the story. add in train whistles and a rollicking intro with that traintrack rhythm and what more do you want. oh my. TRAINS. 
  ???????????

2 things that are blowing my mind at the moment

- 1: The Byrds 'Younger Than Yesterday' WHAT THE FUCK. WHAT THE FUCK. WHAT THE FUCK.
- 2: Virginia Astley 'From Gardens Where We Feel Secure' a beautiful artefact, the artwork, the song titles are gorgeous poetry ('with my eyes wide open i'm dreaming,' 'out on the lawn i lie in bed,' 'when the fields were on fire,' 'it's too hot to sleep'), a perfect document of rural english beauty/menace. the first 5 minutes: this is a bit twee isn't it. next 10 minutes. this is beautiful and twee but something's not quite right. end of the album: something terrible is about to happen. fear and loathing. make it stop. honestly an extremely unsettling listening experience. the fact that nothing terrible does happen - there is no climax, sonically - accentuates the thick layer of dread under all the balmy meadow-song and early-morning calm. there's something nasty in the woodshed, no doubt, and it's coming for us. this is the kind of fear i love. a weekend away at the relatives', that perfect country cottage with the servants' staircase at the back of the house, with the OCD garden, butterflies and ladybirds everywhere, the fence at the bottom of the lawn that separates the controlled environment (the lawn, the english garden: nature in order. designed by man.) from the Wild Woods - the weeds, the animals, the dirt and the shadows. the threat that feels everywhere. unEasy listening indeed. 
Monday, December 22, 2003
  2(oo)3

2 and 3, powerful numbers no doubt, 23 = michael jordan's number (beckham's 23 at madrid = 2nd hand numerology, no less vaild though, that's not what i'm saying, it would be great if all great athletes selected 23 as their number, like a secret handshake (it wouldn't be secret but still)), the golden ratio too, 2/3 (i'm sure i read somewhere this works in music as well as architecture and whatnot, how could it work musically? two thirds of what?), in maths, it's special. ask bill drummond he knows all about that shit. oh yeah, don't forget 23 SKIDOO!!!

anyway here's to the end of the year 2oo3, and i'm 23, so i should be right in the middle of some powerful stuff! oooh yeah i feel energised, watch out everybody, i'm coming out!!! (*sings*)

--------> happy 2004

not capable of producing a 'proper' list, i just haven't heard enough new music this year, instead here is briefly the 10 songs that have 'meant' the 'most' (to me) since january, and remember folks, please believe, each and every one of these exists in a very special chamber of my heart for all time

NUMBER ONE - JUNIOR SENIOR 'MOVE YOUR FEET'
don't take the piss, this is the most beautiful music of 2003, nothing else got so close to the knife-edge of mind-erasing euphoria/awareness of mortality, EVERYBODY MOVE YOUR FEET AND FEEL UNITED OH YEAH, this is the sound that escapes from your throat when you try to sing at the apex of your leap in the moshpit, the awareness as you hang in the air that (any second now) you will hit the ground (and then pogo up again of course, but still) - it's the view from the top - it's the tiny corner of your mind (where it all is) that tells you, even at the point in the night from which a return to earth seems most unlikely, that earth is where you'll be tomorrow, and that dance, sex, friendship, love, drugs, some other things, are all only one side of the divide, the side that isn't death, and that everything else is. death that is.
this song makes me so happy i could cry, especially, oh you know this bit, the slight pause before the chorus, everything drops out (your heart, the floor) and those 4 bells chime before it all collapses back into life - that moment there (if i knew anything about music i could describe it properly) is what i'm talking about, it's so true and it's my favourite moment in any music all year...

NUMBER TWO - THE SHANGRI-LA'S 'TRAIN FROM KANSAS CITY'
i'm a bit tired now i might come back later and do some more songs over the next few days phew 
Saturday, December 20, 2003
  But but but...

... what if she IS an unhinged babydoll, pete says.

You can almost see her wink at the camera every time she stamps her little feet and puts on a silly voice, philip says.

Who were we talking about? 
Thursday, December 18, 2003
  Beautiful songs I heard today

At work I have a pimp. Not the usual fur-coated prostitute consorting type, but a thirty-something powerpop pimp. This individual, who shall remain nameless as he doesn't know I'm writing about him tends to loan me about three CDs a day from his frankly brilliant collection. Today I listened to albums by Darin Murphy and Owsley, neither of whom I think I'd ever have come across had it not been for my cartographic compadre... so thanks for that.

The songs in question are 'Boxing Day' by Mr. Murphy, and 'Oh no the radio' by Mr. Owsley. The first is a lilting, gorgeous song. The brother of alt-country type Trish Murphy, unexpectedly-spelled Darin sings about travelling and meeting someone lovely. It's all quite beautiful really, aside from a visceral evocation of being lost in the middle of London, something that resonates well with me. A totally legitimate mp3 of said song can be downloaded from here.

Today's second musical offering is an altogether more troubling affair. It starts off in classic powerpop territory, a repeatedly slashed chord, beautifully buzzed and produced to within a shiny inch of its life. What follows initially is a pretty catchy verse and chorus about how annoying it is to hear songs you don't want to hear on the radio. Kind of like 'Radio Song' but without the underlying collapse of society motif. Anyhow, all fine and dandy until the other chorus breaks in, you know the one... it goes:

Just when I thought I would never
Get over the thought of you leaving
The sky opens up and the sunshine's
Giving me more to believe in
Then I hear it once again
No! No! No!

Its all about memory, see? The insidious way that music becomes totally linked to moments which depending on your perspective when you remember them, are either smilingly wonderful or wretchedly sad. For example, this brilliant lyric (far better delivered with an American accent) demonstrates that duality:

We sang the words into your hairbrush
And gave Donnie and Marie the bum's rush

Its funny, right? Well it is until you get to the rest of the song and think about it all. Probably nice to experience the first time round. Probably awful to have to recall when things have changed.

Anyway, enough of all that. Both songs brought a smile to my face while I was editing a map of Littlehampton, and for that alone I give both a big thumbs-up.



 
Sunday, December 14, 2003
  No lists or apologies

The two albums I enjoyed most in the rapidly diminishing year were: 'Welcome Interstate Managers' by Fountains of Wayne, and 'Rooney' by the band of the same name. Both lovely examples of the kind of music I like best. Highly recommended for admirers of hooks and harmonies. 
Saturday, December 06, 2003
  The world is collapsing around our ears

Inevitably I found myself in agreement with much of what was said here, though I confess, I am still trying to work out why I enjoyed Fame Academy more than I thought I would, yet loathe Pop Idol, and pray for the messy destruction of all involved. Perhaps it is a base prejudice against ITV; perhaps the brazen hackery of it all is so much more starkly revealed on the seamless gleaming icy blue Pop Idol stage.

In the past, I have often found within myself a grudging admiration for ruthless people; the way in which Bill Gates dominates virtually every non-geek computer in the known world being one such example. However, I can find no such charity towards Simon Cowell, and the only reason I can think of for this is that for once I actually care about the subject being debased. Every time Cowell persuades Westlife into yet another Manilow or Bee Gees cover, it is guaranteed that the rolling vomitous wave of Oirish accents will accost me whenever I have the misfortune to be near a radio for at least the next month.

It will be the same with the bloodless (oh for it to become bloody by some stroke of fate) Lennon cover. What price the gunning down of Messrs. Cowell, Waterman and Fuller outside whichever cheekily expensive London restaurant they convene at to blight the mid-length radio spectrum? And does this count as incitement? 
  Quite often when I walk home from work in the evenings, the streets are pretty empty and I sing along to my walkman. Today I was listening to Todd Rundgren and startled a couple I didn't spot standing outside a closed hair-dressers by bursting into the falsetto backing vocals to 'Just One Victory'...

Hold that line, baby, hold that line
Get up boys and hit 'em one more time
We may be losing now but we can't stop trying
So hold that line, baby, hold that line
 
Wednesday, December 03, 2003
  Now I am not usually one to quote from our obscure referrals, but this was just so compelling I had no choice. While lately we've been blessed with many lonely souls searching for video of some lucky gent checking into Paris Hilton, today one wiley punter found his/her way to It's All In Your Mind looking for information on how to play the harmonica with your pussy... 

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