30 Days of Music

30 Days of Music: #010

day 10 – a song that makes you fall asleep NOTE: I did not choose this song for its title. This is vastly important. I remembered the sounds and some of the words before I worked out what it was called. It is, perhaps, appropriately named. The Postal Service – Sleeping In Unlike, to pick a pointedly relevant example, the music of Owl City, which makes me want to sleep (preferably forever) The Postal Service’s music isn’t boring. It’s soothing. It’s the kind of music that curls your foetal self up in its arms and coo: I know, I know, it’s all alright really. I’ve always had trouble sleeping on my own. I’m sure you know the feeling – my brain, given space to wander, starts overheating. I used to sleep with the TV on, then graduated to podcasts and music. (Nowadays, I use a white noise generator.) The Postal Service’s Give Up was the perfect choice: arresting and enjoyable while I wound down, and then faded into a static layer of snow over my brain. I recently gave it a session of relistening, to discover that I had no recollection of the album’s final two tracks. Which, if nothing else, proves that it did its job perfectly.

30 Days of Music: #011

day 11 – a song from your favorite band We’ve had a little mini-hate week, today it’s all about the love. Except for the bit where I um and ah about my favourite band and arbitrarily pick and then get caught up on it later… Pixies – Gigantic Yeah, so I’m a Gigantic kind of Pixies fan. (And there’s a pun in there, about also being a kind of gigantic Pixies fan. But I’m bigger than that, at least, if not better.) It’s Kim Deal’s projects I’ve followed rather than Frank Black’s. And while the Pixies were, at their best, about the clash of those two personalities, it was with the Pixies that I started to realise: oh, I kind of like the music more when the girl’s singing. Gigantic works in a lot of ways. It comes on all innocent seductress, with those smooth throbbings hidden beneath everything else. Kim Deal’s voice is, as ever, smoky and dirty. But, for the Pixies, it seems pretty restrained and well-behaved. Until you notice the pull-push nature of the chorus, and some of the lyrics start to seem a bit suspect: Gigantic, gigantic, giganticA big big love Lovely legs, they areWhat a big black messWhat a hunk of loveWalk her every day into a shady placeHe’s like the dark, but I’d want him. Still, I guess it is restrained, relatively speaking. But that’s relative to a band who chronicled to my early mind the dark folds of sexuality: keeping underwear for sniffing and their beloved incest. For Pixies, a song about fancying a black guy ‘cus he’s probably well-endowed is, well, girl’s stuff. And that’s why they’re my favourite band.

30 Days of Music: #012

day 12 – a song from a band you hate The last few days have been a real hate-fest. GRR! ARGH! Death In Vegas – Scorpio Rising There should have a perfect one, for this. A band whose entire output I dislike, but for one song. And on that song, all the elements I normally dislike – the singer’s irritating voice, the derivative guitar stuff, the muddled production – came together and, just for that three-and-a-half-minutes, made sense. Like the band had been designed, like those statues that only look right from one angle, for this one song, and at all other angles were ugly, and vulgar. Instead, there’s this. And it’s kind of cheating. See, now, I have nothing against Death In Vegas. But Scorpio Rising has a guest star, a monkey-man marking his territory all over the record. One Liam Gallagher. Now, Oasis… Oasis were the proto-band-I-hate, the model for everything that’s come since. Swaggering, empty masculinity. Based on the antagonistic relationship between two brothers who, to me, have never seemed to have the slightest bit of charisma. A vocal style I find boring singing lyrics that mean nothing. Picking on all the right bands in the NME. Completely misunderstanding what the Pop Music is for. But Scorpio Rising feels so right. It’s an intelligent use of Liam Gallagher’s voice, setting it against a whipping electro-noise that cuts right against the grain of his rough Northern flatness. All that stuff I said about a band coming together perfectly for one song? In an alternative universe, where the Gallaghers sacked everyone in the band including themselves, leaving a couple of tapes of their vocals in a dusty recording studio and hiring some dance-savvy electro-types to do what they wilt with what remained of the band, yes, this would be that song.

30 Days of Music: #013

day 13 – a song that is a guilty pleasure Frankly, I don’t think anything I’ve ever done is wrong… My Chemical Romance – Welcome To The Black Parade …You might disagree. Of all the music I like, this is probably the most incomprehensible. Of all the songs, it’s the one I’ve been genuinely a bit wincey about putting up. It’s just … not very good. But, oh, it is. I disliked MCR from the start, on principle. I loved indie, and they were silly emo, like Fallout Boy and Panic! At The Disco. Their videos were …pretty cool, actually, in a silly, gothy way. Then, something magical happened: I stopped taking My Chemical Romance – that band of obsessive followers, literary pretension and theatrical ambition – seriously. I don’t know how I’d never seen it before: The costumes. The Queen-grave-robbing guitar solos. The face-paint. Gerard freakin’ Way. They were just pure, stupid Pop. They were silly, and on the other side of the looking glass, there was something brilliant about them that way. I don’t love Black Parade, really. I rarely listen to it on my own, more commonly using it as an irritant at parties, or when I find it on the iPod of someone who I know thinks they should know better. But it is a pleasure, even on repeat as I write this. And I feel a little guilty. With lyrics like A world that sends you reeling from decimated dreamsYou’re misery and hate will kill us allSo paint it black and take it backLets shout it loud and clearDefiant to the end we hear the callTo carry on it’s almost definitely for the best that I do. But, in the words of that guy falling off a bridge in the Simpsons: I regret nothing! (…Oop. I think my housemates might’ve heard me listening to this. Best scarper!)

30 Days of Music: #014

day 14 – a song that no one would expect you to love If I’d like this blog-o-journey to have shown anything, it’s that my tastes are rather varied. I’m as comfortable talking about processed girl-pop as I am indie boys whinging with guitars. Which makes this a difficult choice. I’d hope that my friends wouldn’t be surprised by anything I pulled out of this particular bag, especially given that the songs you wouldn’t expect me to like are the ones I’m most likely to covet and push in everyones’ faces. How much you wouldn’t expect me to love this depends on whether you’ve ever been to one of my house’s parties. Gallows – Orchestra of Wolves There’s a tradition: 1am. Alcohol levels at their very premium, just before they start to make you lag. Party in a kind of transitional stage. Familiar guitars make a couple of ears twig, and it’s all AVENGERS ASSEMBLE to the living room/dancefloor. Where the same four or five boys proceed to try and kill each other for 8 minutes (the playtime, generally, of a Gallows track paired with a Rage Against The Machine track.) Shirts are removed, sweaty bodies collide, people are thrown headfirst at sofas… It’s a formula. Always the same two bands, around the same time with more or less the same people. And, for honesty’s sake, it tends to be Gallow’s Abandon Ship rather than . But I prefer Orchestra of Wolves. Okay? Largely because frontman Frank Carter gets to say far more horrible things. Due to the family-friendly rules of this blog, I struggle to even paraphrase the contents of Orchestra of Wolves. Let’s just say that Frank is interested in getting to know girls better. A lot better. Why might people not expect me to like Gallows? Because, genre-wise, it’s hardly in my comfort zone. I don’t like anything particularly similar: it’s telling that Rage get the other spot in our thrashy double-bill, and I don’t particularly like Rage. And, given that I tend music’s more feminine side, the song seems like chest-beating alpha-male material. And yes, that’s exactly why I like it. But there’s a sense that underneath it all is a really pleasant, polite guy (after all, he’s refusing to get girls drunk so he can have sex with them … even if the reasoning for this is, ahem, a little colouful.) It’s as theatrical as Bowie, or Lady Gaga. Also, once, a couple of years ago, it made me jump high enough that I was actually able to get my legs around a housemate’s shoulders before collapsing us both to a sofa. As a frail and clumsy individual, that’s about as powerful as I’ve felt. …Sorry, Ben.

30 Days of Music: #015

day 15 – a song that describes you We’re over the halfway point. To get all Oscars speech, it’s you guys that have made this happen! That’s right, the little people! I’m sorry, there might be tears, especially with the distinctly emo-teen-MySpace to today’s theme. Britney Spears – Circus I’m a put-on-a-show kinda girl. Circus the album is Britney at her most meta. A lot of the tracks are just about bein’ Britney. About not even Britney Spears, real slightly-messed-up-by-showbiz girl, but the public’s perception of BRITNEY, name-in-sparkling-lights icon. And so, mostly, what they’re about is the spotlight, grabbing attention, and putting on a show. I’m no Britney, but can appreciate that. As a ‘song that describes me’, it’s more about the alcohol-fuelled Mr Hyde that is Drunk Alex, dancing, stripping and generally striving for the spotlight. It was standing on a chair one night, gyrating to this song that it all clicked. But I’ve got to admit, it applies to me too. After all, here I am writing this. It’s not that I’m starved of love or histrionic* or anything: sometimes, the attention just feels good. *Though, thanks for that diagnosis Dr Cowley. If you’re reading this… this one’s for you!

30 Days of Music: #016

day 16 – a song that you used to love but now hate Today: A journey back into my generic-indie-kid past. Maximo Park – Apply Some Pressure An initial disclaimer: both ‘love’ and ‘hate’ are used loosely here. Apply Some Pressure was never my favourite Maximo Park song. To be clear, there were some of their songs I really loved. I haven’t listened to Maximo Park for ages, but I’m not ashamed of liking them, the way I might be with other bands I liked around the period: y’know, the likes of ___, ____ and even The ____s! Cringe! I once saw frontman Paul Smith cry at a gig*, which is enough guarantee of authenticity for me. They had enough of The Smiths’ stainless-steal melancholy/wit combo about them (and some of the tortured vocab-testing t Publish Post hat I’d come to treasure as ‘density’ in bands like Los Campesinos!) that means their lyrics hold up. I don’t have to cringe at remembering my teenaged self earnestly emoting to them. Not that I don’t have some embarrassing memories of myself soundtracked to this song, you understand. But that’s my fault, not Maximo Park’s. I realise I’ve spent the majority of this ‘hate’ post defending the song. That’s because I don’t have anything against the song, and I don’t want to deny the music that helped form me, cool or not. The truth is, though, that now the song just doesn’t really do much for me. I can listen to it without thinking or feeling one way or the other. Overexposure, I suppose. Years of clubs and parties and radios playing this song and its lasting legacy is this: I was never very good at it on Singstar. It was always harder to sing than I expected. *An anecdote which, when told to any girls I foolishly thought it might impress, inevitably became heard as ‘I cried at a Maximo Park gig’. This was immediately hastily denied. I’m afraid, readers, that I was once not the sex machine you see before you today.

30 Days of Music: #017

day 17 – a song that you hear often on the radio I’m giving up on my weather commentary. By the time I’ve taken all the typos out and got the video working, it tends to have completely changed. So make your own snappy intro to this (or don’t bother, just turn up the volume, hit play, and marvel at how it’s still not loud enough): Big Boi – Shutterbugg One of those songs I’m surprised by, for no good reason at all, every time I hear it on the radio. Having seen the video to Shutterbugg‘s (perhaps superior) predecessor Fo Yo Sorrows through the hipster-paradise Pitchfork, I think I might’ve forgot just how famous Outkast are. And of course, that ignores the true litmus test: as mentioned yesterday, my target-demographic of a sister. I exposed her to these two songs not expecting much. Within a half-hour, I could hear it blasting under her door. And here we are, and it’s getting pretty wide play on Radio 1. You might not have heard it yet, and the song’s radioplay is admittedly in its infancy, and might not go any further. But I’d be surprised if none of the songs of Big Boi’s forthcoming Sir Luscious Left Foot explode this summer. I admit, this entry is me taking the opportunity to be-there-first on something. And it could explode gloriously in my face. The irony of this choice is: Shutterbugg doesn’t sound that good on the radio. The song is carved out of pure sound, with shattering and stuttering while Big Boi works the bass of whatever you’re playing the music through. A shower radio just ain’t going to cut it. I haven’t tried it in a car yet*, but the couple of radios I’ve heard it on seems like the version being broadcast is missing the bottom layer. This terrible affliction struck Rude Boy too (and Big Boi’s similarly-carved-out-of-pure-sound Outkast song Ghetto Musick), though not as badly, and means that the song is currently being carried by waves of ‘Ooh, they’re playing this?‘ I suggest hooking this laptop up to your best available soundsystem, wandering over to your reputable music source of choice, and getting lost. You won’t be able to avoid it in a month, so get your enjoyment in while you can. *This is the exact kind of thing that the Parsonsmobile was created for.

30 Days of Music: #018

day 18 – a song that you wish you heard on the radio And summer is back! On the grass with only a barbecue and a radio for company time. And in an alternative universe where I am in charge, this is what would be playing… Emmy The Great – Canopies & Grapes I’ve just never understood why Emmy isn’t bigger. One of the few acts-that-I-think-everyone-would-like that actually tends to pan out that way*, she’s the harder-edged glassy-stare don’t-mess-with-her older cousin of Noah & The Whale and Laura Marling. When she sings about misery – and Emmy the Great being Emmy the Great, all the songs are about misery – you really believe that this small, quite sweet-looking girl**’s been there. It helps that the lyrics are incredibly, edge-of-a-broken-off-bottle sharp. Every simile ever recorded in song form is skewered by Canopies & Grapes‘ beautifully evocative “I feel worse/Than when S Club 7 broke up”. The song meanders from its central them to consider if Friends is what it means to be American, before getting back on-point: she’s dealing with this badly. Could he please get back to me? Given that she doesn’t seem too fond of doing this live, and it’s not included on the album, I can’t escape the feeling that this single could’ve been her albatross. It could’ve been her Creep, her Sex on Fire, with the added bonus of being infinitely better than either… I say that people who’ve heard Emmy tend to love her (and I wonder if you, the reader, will too.) She’s one of the few artists the majority of my house agree on enough for us to have her poster in our living room. She’s one of the few things me and the lovely girlfriend like evenly. My mom and dad, even, have nodded appreciatively when I put the CD on in the car. The why of Emmy’s not being fabulously famous and wealthy comes down to the one person I know who hates it… my sister. Female, mid-teens, with a suspicion of anything with a violin in it… She’s Radio1’s target demographic. It’s not that she has bad taste, it’s just that her prejudices are the prejudices of the nation’s youth, and so what the radio will play, and so are the prejudices of the next generation of teens with disposable income. It’d be easier to curse the damn kids but while we might see that Emmy should’ve been a pop phenomenon, really it’s all a bit Stephen-King’s-Misery … We want to keep Emmy for ourselves. She’s ours, and she will be forever… *See: Kenickie.**And I’m aware that Emmy The Great are a band, but for whatever reason – probably the name – it’s impossible not talk about it as Emmy, the Great.

30 Days of Music: #019

day 19 – a song from your favourite album Ahh, the complex question that is what’s your favourite album… Radiohead – Idioteque I’ve touched on my relationship with Radiohead already in the list, and promised I’d get onto it properly later. They’re a band who made me, as far as my attitude to music is concerned: the walk I took climbing to Cannock’s highest point while listening to The Bends followed by OK Computer is a good summation of certain parts of my approach to music in general, for all its quirks. Kid A‘s the one, though. The story of Radiohead’s metamorphosis from mopey guitarband to mopey sound-manipulators is what cemented my love for them, and started a teenaged me looking for similar patterns in other bands, valuing ‘change’ and ‘growth’ above all in a discography. This is probably best summed up in Idioteque, which is why I picked it. Everything done for a reason, here. It just sounds … alien. The lyrics don’t make much sense, except giving the sound something to weave round, and the odd nuclei of sense helping better evoke the mood. It’s dance music (listen to this in a dark room and marvel at those limbs as they involuntarily jerk, commanded by the song) but it’s not dance music. Not for colourful dance floors but for darkened living rooms. Not dancing to attract mates, but twitching because you can’t help it. The song is an ode to the human body as a failing clockwork machine, slowly winding down. What makes it work where Radiohead v1.0 might’ve seemed adolescent and miserable is that v2.0 make it so your body is a conspirator, nodding along to the song with every jerk and twitch as you dance yourself down to the knees. * * * Checking last.fm for my most-listened-to albums according to their scrobblings provided a baffling picture of my ‘favourite albums’, Kid A being distantly beaten out as my favourite Radiohead album by OK Computer, apparently my second most listened-to album. In fact, Kid A comes in at a pathetic 76th, somewhere behind The Ramones’ Ramones and a Manic Street Preachers greatest hits collection. Last.fm’s weird, and I probably need to write about it at some point…