2006 music

Jan. 7th, 2007 01:48 pm
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I couldn't let Dan have the last word on the songs of 2006, could I? No, of course not. So here's a CD's-worth of what I was listening to in 2006. A couple of tracks date from 2005 -- a couple are even 2007 songs, technically -- but most of it's music from the last twelve months. Enjoy.

01. Cavalry -- Delays

Delays' second album took a while to grow on me (and to be honest, if I want to listen to a cheery Delays track I still default to "Long Time Coming"), but eventually it got under my skin, odd rhythms and synthesisers and all. This is the album's opening track, with characteristically gymnastic vocals.

02. Hunting For Witches -- Bloc Party

Last year was the year Bloc Party clicked for me, and that's largely because I listened to their second album, A Weekend in the City. Silent Alarm (with a couple of exceptions, notably "This Modern Love") always felt a bit smooth to me, a bit passionless, as though they didn't really mean it. You can't say that about "Hunting For Witches".

03. Panic Attack -- The Sunshine Underground

I know next to nothing about this band, and I can't remember how I encountered them. I rather like them, though, in an indie-rock-dance way.

04. All The Pretty Faces -- The Killers

Why is it that bonus tracks always seem to eclipse what's actually on the album? Sam's Town has, admittedly, grown on me since I first listened to it, but it's still very much a mixed bag ("My List"? "Why Do I Keep Counting"? Oh dear.). This track from the Japanese release, all fuzz and a great thumping riff, is easily my favourite Killers track from 2006.

05. Skip To The End -- The Futureheads

I can thank Truck for introducing me to The Futureheads properly, by booking them as headline act this year. I immediately went out and got hold of both albums. It has to be said that they have a tendency to value noise over melody that means they're unlikely to ever be a favourite of mine, but at their spiky, poppy best -- as here -- you can't get their tunes out of your head.

06. Surrendered -- The Bluetones

The Bluetones' self-titled album is not their finest hour: it sounds too self-conscious, too much like an attempt to sound like themselves. But there are a couple of jangly gems, and this is one of them.

07. Paper Shoes -- Incubus

Much like The Futureheads, there are parts of Incubus' repertoire that are always going to leave me cold. But they have a wider range than you might suspect. This track, which sounds to me not unlike Radiohead meeting Interpol by way of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, is a highlight of their 2006 album Light Grenades.

08. Intervention -- The Arcade Fire

The Arcade Fire: they're bonkers, aren't they? But brilliant.

09. Braille -- Ed Harcourt

Dan's right to say that 2006 was a year of numerous disappointing albums, and that The Beautiful Lie was one of them; but it's still far from being a bad record, and this great bruised ballad is one of the reasons why. It reminds me more than a little of the rich alt-country of Beck's Sea Change, which is no bad thing.

10. Safe In Your Arms -- Beth Orton

You can file Comfort of Strangers under 'disappointing', while you're at it. But keep the album's closing track -- and keep this one, too.

11. Black Swan -- Thom Yorke

On the other hand, there's nothing disappointing about The Eraser, at least not once you've let its skittering bleakness get under your skin. At the very least it's the most coherent album Thom Yorke's been involved in since, ooh, OK Computer, probably; and it's hard to imagine a more perfect soundtrack choice for A Scanner Darkly.

12. The Storm -- Seth Lakeman

Another Truck find, one I liked so much that I went to see him play again a few months later. But I find myself listening to his 2004 (Mercury-nominated) album Kitty Jay more than last year's offering, Freedom Fields; the sound is slightly less polished, the tunes slightly more memorable.

13. It Was Love -- The Elected

Even I balk a little at the tweeness of parts of Sun, Sun, Sun. But the first half-dozen or so tracks, including this one, are pretty much perfect.

14. Eyes -- Rogue Wave

Ah, the obligatory found-via-TV track of the year. Last year, of course, it was the Veronica Mars theme ("We Used to be Friends", Dandy Warhols). This year it's this acoustic gem, brought to you by Heroes.

15. Hoppipolla -- Sigur Ros

More pre-2006 music, but this was the year I was introduced to Sigur Ros. And this track was used in the trailer for Children of Men, so it's staying.

16. Together We Will Live Forever -- Clint Mansell

The Fountain isn't even out over here yet, but already I've fallen in love with the soundtrack, which I think I like even more than Mansell's work on Requiem for a Dream. This piano melody is the album's closing track.
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Everyone else is doing it, so I figure I should as well: these are the songs that soundtracked my 2005. iTunes claim they have a running time of 1:19:59, so in theory they'll even fit on a single CD. Just about. Maybe.

20 tracks )

Now, if I could just find the option to export iTunes playlists, I'd be happy. I'm sure I've done it before.
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Music and memory can be closely associated for me. The last time Elbow released an album, for instance, it was the summer of 2003, and I went to see them support PJ Harvey at one of that year's Eden Sessions. The songs from that album, Cast of Thousands--from the opening skitter of 'Ribcage' to, particularly, the rapturous close of 'Grace Under Pressure--always remind me of that trip, and that year.

I don't yet know, obviously, what memories Leaders of the Free World will bring back. Frankly, it could be anything: it's been my constant soundtrack for the past week, and I can't see it leaving rotation any time soon. Like all Elbow's albums, it's taken a few listens to get under my skin, but now it's well and truly wormed in.

If the phrase hadn't already been adopted and corrupted by The Verve, you'd have to call Elbow's music urban hymns. They write songs about city life, particularly British city life. And theirs is a landscape of extremes--shifting between despair and hope, riotous clamour and quiet reflection, night and day--sketched through Guy Garvey's extraordinary, bruised vocals. The songs tend to be gloriously lush (think 'Asleep In The Back', 'Scattered Black And Whites', 'Red') or bitterly robust ('Bitten By The Tailfly', 'Fallen Angel'). On their third album, the latter mode initially seems to dominate. It serves to make the moments of beauty that much more startling.

This is also a more straightforwardly angry album than the first two. As the title suggests, it's more political ('the leaders of the free world / are just little boys throwing stones'), but more blatantly than ever before all the lyrics are uneasy, sometimes ugly, full of social discontent. The clattering, creepy 'Forget Myself'--slated to be the first single!--is dark from the start ('They're pacing Piccadilly in packs again'), but it's in the thumping, Doves-esque chorus that its predatory protagonist makes himself fully apparent: 'No, I know / I won't forget you / But I'll forget myself / if the city will forgive me.' Later, 'Mexican Standoff' builds around a bristling riff (with something of the aggressiveness of Radiohead's 'National Anthem'), and mocks the absurd hollowness of the macho posturing that leads to post closing-time street brawls.

And yet, sometimes, Elbow still find things to cling to. Even as their world falls apart, even if only fleetingly. On 'Station Approach', all Garvey needs is 'to be in the town where they know what I'm like / and don't mind'. On 'The Everthere', a rumbling lulllaby of a song, punctuated by metallic pizzicato, he notes 'all the angels've taken dives / leaving you the only one' (Elbow's idea of a romantic song has always been an idiosyncratic one). And on the almost obnoxiously beautiful 'Great Expectations' he finds solace in the memory of things lost: 'You were the sun in my sunday morning / telling me never to go / so I'll live on the smile / and move down the aisle / of the last bus home'. It's an astonishing, soaring song; and that final chorus is the finest moment of an album full of fine moments.
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TV: OK, so I caved and downloaded 'Dalek'. My need to be part of the consensus fandom experience is too strong. And, well, it was ok. Chris Ecclestone's performance was excellent, the story was tight (if a bit too obviously concerned with addressing all the common jokes about the Daleks: the pepperpot, the plunger, the stairs, etc), and the direction was lightyears more effective than in most of the previous episodes. My problems with the episode basically come down to the fact that I find Daleks inherently ludicrous, no matter how many people they kill; the fact that the setup was pure by-the-numbers; and the fact that the shape of the plot was strongly reminiscent of a particular episode of Angel. I mean, it wasn't quite an alley at the end, and you could argue that the Dalek possibly has a slightly less annoying voice, and it wasn't written by Tim Minear, but other than that ... you know where I'm going with this, right? Still: it was basically a decent piece of television. That sounds like damning with faint praise, but the point is that it shows potential; if they'd come out of the gate with episodes like this, I might have thought the hype had a point.

Film: The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy was not, contrary to certain reports, crap. I quite enjoyed it, to be honest. If you're as over-familiar with the radio series as I am then it definitely takes a while to get used to the new cast, but by and large most of the performances are good, and the film's heart is in the right place. Martin Freeman, Alan Rickman and Bill Nighy in particular are excellent, and the only real weak link is Mos Def who never quite seems right (though I wasn't entirely convinced by Fry as the Guide, either). Narratively it's quite different to previous incarnations--as it would have to be, to work. I didn't mind the insertion of a more conventional emotional arc, though it does some damage to Trillian's characterisation in particular. In general, I do think they edited most of the dialogue a bit more than was necessary. Where I give the film big points is in the visuals. The Vogons are outstanding (and Vogsphere in particular has a very Gilliam-esque feel to it), the improbability drive is perfectly rendered (the knitting!), and the trip to Magrathea's factory floor is jaw-droppingly wonderful. Oh, and Neil Hannon is absolutely the perfect singer for the Dolphin Song.

Book: The Portrait of Mrs Charbuque by Jeffrey Ford, read for an OUSFG discussion this coming Wednesday. A curious book, this: the story of a painter in 1890s New York, commissioned to paint the portrait of a women he may never see. Instead, he has to discern her likeness from conversation alone; from the stories she tells. Ford's deceptively simple prose is used to good effect to tell an atmospheric tale about the relationship between creation and obsession. Much of the book has a surreal, slightly hallucinatory quality to it; echoes of Greek myth haunt this New York, and the fantastic lurks in Mrs Charbuque's speeches. There is a slight feeling of self-indulgence about the whole enterprise, though, and I haven't really decided what I think about the ending yet. Worth reading, however.

Music: I have fallen head over heels for the Eels' latest album, Blinking Lights and Other Revelations. Yes, it's a double album so yes, it's baggy in places, and simply by virtue of its size it takes a long time to get to grips with; but I wouldn't begrudge a minute of it. The album picks up where Daisies of the Galaxy left off. Many of the best moments come from the slight cognitive dissonance induced by the contrast between Mark Everett's gruff vocals and the sparklingly beautiful melodies he crafts, from the delicate lament of 'If You See Natalie' to the shuffle of 'Railroad Man' and the bouncy pop of 'Old Shit/New Shit'. Lyrically the songs are as sharp and observant as ever, although it has to be said that some of the titles--'Theme For A Pretty Girl That Makes You Believe God Exists'--are a bit laboured. The surprise, though, is that in amongst the pessimism there are moments of genuine sincerity and hope; the final track finds Everett concluding that 'I have some regrets, but if I had to do it all again/Well, it's something I'd like to do.' It's almost enough to give you warm fuzzies inside. Try this: One of the tracks that's really got under my skin, 'Blinking Lights (For Me)'.

(Other albums getting a lot of play at the moment include: Ambulance Ltd by Ambulance Ltd (think Doves, but with a bit of New York swagger instead of Northern melancholy); Songs For Silverman by Ben Folds (good, and I'll probably write more about it after the gig at the end of the month); and Natalie Imbruglia's latest offering. Yeah, Counting Down The Days is pure Richard-Curtis-movie-soundtrack music but, be honest, who hasn't wanted to pretend they live in a Richard Curtis movie now and then?)

Soundtrack

Mar. 13th, 2005 10:46 am
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After all the talk about music last night, I figured it was time for a post about what I've been listening to recently.

doves, some cities )

idlewild, warnings/promises )

athlete, tourist )

mercury rev, the secret migration )

bloc party, silent alarm )

josh rouse, nashville )
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If you've ever talked to me (or more likely, if I've ever talked at you) for more than ten minutes or so about Angel, chances are I've mentioned the fact that I quite like the show's music. I'm not talking about the theme tune, although it's certainly a damn fine theme tune; no, I'm talking about the score music, the incidental stuff that nobody apart from me ever seemed to notice. In fact, I'm enough of a geek about this that I can not only talk about how various episodes are enhanced by their respective scores, but I can tell you when and where certain bits of music recur. The tinkling piano music that played over Darla's birth in 'Reunion', for instance, was also used to soundtrack the deeply creepy stalking scenes in 'Billy'--and the mournful chords that marked the end of season three were reprised during the rain of fire in early season four. And I know who wrote it all, or almost all: a guy called Rob Kral.

Wait! Don't run away!

Read more... )
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It was a slightly lacklustre year for me on the music front. I bought, or had bought for me, or at least listened to, about 30 CDs, and many of them were ... not bad, necessarily, but disappointing.

albums, songs, memories, and a best-of-the-year compilation )
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I love my friends page. Geneva reviews Iron Council. Dan champions a cause. Tim writes about who he is. Me, I'm going to go on about music for a bit, but you should read their posts first; they're better.

two albums )

Also this evening, I discovered that I've gone from having a free November to having a half-booked-up November, bemoaned the fact that MSN is not working, and finally finished The Name of the Rose. Now, hopefully sometime this week, for the film. Right now, bed.
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It's amazing how some albums grow on you. Elbow's 'Cast of Thousands,' for instance. First time through and it somehow leaves you cold - but then you try to work out what it was you didn't like, and it's hard. You liked the metallic howls of 'Snooks (Progress Report)'; the clatter of 'Buttons and Zips' is still running through your mind; and you get chills just thinking about the end of 'Grace Under Pressure.' So you listen again, and realise that actually, there's not a bad song on the album - the weakest perhaps being the sketch-like 'I've Got Your Number' - so why are you not grabbed by the whole? And then you listen for the third time and realise, somewhere around the point where the melody of 'Ribcage' finally breaks free of the skittery stumble around it, that you get it. That it makes sense. That this really is one of the best albums you've heard in a long time.

I think too much. About everything, all the time. Music is just about the one thing that can make me stop thinking, and then only now and then, mostly when it's live. That's a big reason why I like going to gigs, and why seeing Elbow and PJ Harvey at the Eden Project last friday was so memorable. You get a venue like that, and it's easy to let the sound wash through you; to feel rather than think of Gus Garvey's anguished howl at the end of 'Newborn' leaving you breathless. At least, that's how I felt. After that, PJ Harvey had to work not to be put in the shade by her support, but she managed it, just about - running through vast reams of her back catalogue and extending to two encores in the process (although, as [livejournal.com profile] wg later pointed out, they missed a trick by not having Garvey sing Thom Yorke's part on 'This Mess We're In').

So that was a good evening. Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] wg, [livejournal.com profile] domh and [livejournal.com profile] danmilburn for going down with me and putting up with my incessant singing for the whole weekend (especially on the way back; functioning on two nights of minimal sleep with a bruised head, I'm not at my most considerate). We did a bunch other things whilst we were there; visited the Lost Gardens of Heligan, ambled along a few miles of the Cornish Coast (which I enjoyed; genes will out, I guess), ate copious amounts of fudge. Before and after (thursday evening and last night) I went to see films with Emilia and Rae (and a varied cast of extras): Koi Mil Gaya on thursday, Pirates of the Caribbean last night. All of these things deserve their own entries, but they'll have to wait because I need to work. Haven't even had the chance to check my friends page yet today: Hope you've all had a good time the past few days, as well.

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