Sunday, 17 October 2010

I Heart Music

Even cats like playing the piano. If you don't believe me, check out Youtube...

Louis Walsh, that expert of the backhanded compliment (“You are a Soulful. Little. Man.”) has perfectly encapsulated the attitude to music that I find the most foolish and pretentious. 

“Music was my big thing, my escape. It’s my passion. Simon’s not a music man like I am. He probably never listens to Bruce Springsteen . . . probably thinks he’s a painter. I love everything from Bruce to Elvis Costello, and Tammy Wynette to Dusty Springfield. I love Dusty. I’ve got 22,000 songs on my iPod.”

Wow. That is some crazy mixture, Louis. I mean, your taste ranges from, well, one incredibly famous singer to another, doesn’t it? You big doofus.

Actually, I think we're living in a particularly interesting musical era right now. The internet has paved the way for anyone to get themselves heard, with or without a record contract. And who would take on the restrictive shackles offered by a cigar-chomping record company executive, if they can sell directly to their fans and have total artistic freedom? 

There is still a quality divide between the “commercial” crap which gets the most airplay and the “alternative” (eg, good quality) music which is rarely heard outside of BBC Radio 6 (my brother is also nagging me to listen to Craig Charles’ funk and soul show, insisting that the minute I do, I will be kicking myself for not doing it earlier.) However, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at what actually gets airplay these days – the delicate strains of Rumer alongside the folksy Mumford and sons. Quality IS coming back into fashion. 

Anyway, in praise of all the fantastic music that is available today, here is my list of “songs I listen to obsessively.” (And may I also offer a sincere prayer of thanks for Spotify? Best. Invention. Evah.)

  • Trespassers William: Lie in the Sound. Proof, if it were needed, that you don’t need to do any vocal gymnastics to produce a heart-achingly beautiful sound. This gentle song apparently featured in One Tree Hill – I don’t indulge, but maybe I should. (I also find a lot of the music I like appears on the soundtrack albums for Grey’s Anatomy, so maybe I should start watching that too...?)
  • Moxy Fruvous: My Baby Loves a Bunch of Authors. Like Vampire Weekend’s Oxford Comma, this song has the ability to make me smile and possibly jig about a little bit, space allowing. It’s irresistibly tuneful and fun and needs to be heard in full to be appreciated. Anyone who can work a lyric like “Who's a funny fella? – W.P. Kinsella!” into a song which is also musically satisfying is onto a winner.
  • Tuneyards: Lions. I have no idea why I love this song so much, but I do. There is something vaguely hypnotic about the slowly shuffling beat and the nonsensical lyrics. (The chorus is just a repetition of “When you tell the lions that you love them so, you love them so, you love them so ...” ) I also like the way the lyrics veer off course and flow into an entirely different rhythm – strangely, it works. I’m a bit of a sucker for songs which sounds as if they’re expressing something beautiful, but a closer listen to the lyrics reveals a darker heart. (I was once obsessed for a couple of months by the sinister lyrics on the sweetly sung If You Go Breaking My Heart  by the excellent Danish band Hush.
  • Roisin Murphy: Ruby Blue This catchy tune will get stuck in your head forever – so why have I never heard it on a dancefloor? Distorted guitars and handclaps sound simple, but combine to electrifying effect....OK, you just have to hear it for yourself.
  • Wallis Bird: The Sunshine Song – if you can avoid tapping your toes when listening to this, you may be made of stone. It is indeed full of the musical equivalent of sunshine, sparkles and rainbows.
  • She Keeps Bees are a band which sound like The Black Keys, but with a female vocalist who sounds a bit like Sia, if Sia had been raised in the deep South, pouring Bourbon over her cornflakes and spending all her time coming up with interesting  vocal arrangements. The 2009  album is consistently awesome, but I am particularly partial to Gimme.
  • I’m also a little bit obsessed by Sol Seppys entire The Bells of 1 2 album. For me it conjures up slightly spooky images of hillsides sparkling with snow, a starry sky and creatures of myth and fairytale. I also like the way you can hear her London accent in her singing, much like the wonderful, woefully under-publicised VV Brown.
  • Emiliana Torrini: Jungle Drum makes it onto my “obsessive” list – it’s an impossibly infectious, unique track which is guaranteed to lift your spirits. It’s not often somebody actually vocalises the sound of a drum. Listen and you’ll see what I mean... 

Ah, there are many more, and the list grows every day. And the next time an elderly member of your family insists that there is no current music to rival the 1950s/60s/70s, just smile and play them one of these.

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