So, after four long, for most part glorious years, the Best Period of My Life So Far has come to a crashing end. Boo hiss. No longer do I live with six of my favourite people, and I’m getting all retrospective. I’ve failed to fulfil a lot of aims, hopes and promises over the years but one stands out: I never shared my music enough. After a first year of playing music loud enough that it bled through my bedroom wall I’ve failed, in my role as The One That Gets A Bit Funny About Music, to act as gatekeeper of the fabled New Music. So, this is for the person who asked me for music most consistently. I don’t intend to miss out on Being The Person Who First Gave You Neutral Milk Hotel ever again. Here’s a mixtape (except not in any way physically a tape, but since when did that matter?) : Hippin’ anna Hoppin’(A Mixtape for Boys named Sam) It was made, like all mixtapes should be, with one person in mind: if you are that person, let this mark the passing of an era, and I’m crossing my fingers hoping you won’t hate it all. But: if someone were to happen upon this selection of tracks, and like them anyway, that would be just fine too. 1. Childish Gambino – Break Let’s start with something semi-familiar. Partially because I’m constantly slipping it into ambient kitchen/BBBQ/pre-party playlists – the passive-aggressive solution to the aforementioned problem – but mostly, That Sample. Something beautiful is done to the sounds, which twists them into something with a genuine hint of tragedy. There’s just a sense of real, personal emotion, and that elevates it from being ‘just’ a great hip-pop song with fun, sharp, fast wordplay and a good sample. 2. The Weeknd – House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls Music that sounds like an arty black-and-white film of a burnt-out car, the final flames flickering as they die out, on an endless loop. And the footage is probably just out of focus. This is another potentially familiar one: I’ve been slipping the album in wherever I could, that monochrome flicker a background to months’ worth of social interactions. Not that House of Balloons (also the album title, available for free online) makes for good ambient soundtrack material. It should be: it’s reasonably quiet and laid-back (so far that it’s on the hard ground, spine aching, wondering how it got there). But it’s just a bit too unsettling for the music to ever settle in the back of your mind. 3. Emmy the Great – A Woman, a Woman, a Century of Sleep Did I mention that Emmy the Great has a new album? It’s a much slower burn than First Love, trading quite heavily on the beauty of Miss Thegreat’s voice, rather than the razor sharp lyrics it’s delivering. But still: a new! Emmy the Great! album! (And one that’s hugely expanded on the sound side, in ways that would make a lesser writer pull out words like ‘mature’.) Century of Sleep is the kind of track that holds your gaze, intensely, meaningfully, and makes you forget you were only really looking into her eyes in the first place because you kind of fancy her. 4. Jai Paul – BTSTU Less a song, more a smoggy exercise in production flexing its muscles: Marvel at how artificial these waves of sound are! Ponder at the interplay between shrill falsetto and thick industrial beats! Take a while to notice how it softly drops the f-bomb! 5. Gil Scott Heron & Jamie XX – NY is Killing Me More late-nite music. BTSTU could have been seeping out under the heavy doors of a club, but this is getting home alone music, awake later than you should be. Again, it’s a producer showing off, twisting something that was a perfectly balanced song (I’m not sure if you’ve heard the original before, but including that just felt like cheating: it’s just too foolproof) and wrapping a cloak of its own noises around itself. There’s a constant shift of attention as the song goes on, from one shiny thing to another: ooh, listen to these jagged icicles of elect… bouncing rubber ball in an empty… chunky wood-block noises! If you’re listening for it, there’s the feeling of a child playing with all the buttons in front of him, but – unlike most of We’re New Here’s remixes – it just about gets away with it. 6. Jim Jones ft. Lloyd & Girl Talk – Believe in Magic (Instrumental) We’re deeply in our atmospheric midsection now. If we’re continuing the night metaphors, this is the hazy 5am of summer, after a house-party, streets abandoned but already starting to warm up. It reminds me of The Avalanche’s Since I Met You and bedroom dancing with my eyes closed. What more do you need? 7. Guided by Voice – Game of Pricks In case you’re fancying something a little more immediate. GUITARS! SCRATCHY VOCALS! Forget all that talk about production, this is so wobbly you can hear it being recorded. It’s a song that begs to be repeated, or (preferably but somewhat impractically) heard multiple times at once. So you might be pleased to hear that there are two versions. There’s a good hour of lo-fi fun to be had in just playing them back to back. 8. Drake – Over Now we’re getting a little more ballsy, let’s inject an ounce of testosterone to proceedings, shall we? Drake’s got that Weezy-esque drawl, stretched over big macho Mainstream-Hip-Hop bragging (most notably, about what he intends to do to Will Smith’s missus). I suspect, like me, you might have a very definite limit for how much of that is too much. It’s the hook which keeps it just the right side, channelling those uncertainties about lifestyle and where exactly I am, before the verses come in and just cut clean through it all. 9. EL-P – Stepfather Factory There’s 0% […]
My use of magical music infinito-software Spotify has started to change (evolve? devolve? I’m unsure) recently. I remember my confusion, upon initially downloading Spotify, at the sheer wall of music that lay before me, bigger and growing faster than it would ever be possible to listen to. A joyful confusion, to be sure, but nihilistic in its revelation of my ultimate insignifance. So I used it as a Kate Bush listening-machine. After a while, I discovered playlists. I could allow other people to whittle down this impossible amount of music. With this confidence, I discovered Spotify as a request-granting immediate-gratification social DJing tool.ut, finally, its true purpose has been revealed: Spotify is the replacement for the role the NME; MTV2; MySpace and various blogs have served throughout my life. The discovery feed. Without much commitment, I can hear pretty much anything- all I need to know is the name. (Which remains, of course, the big difficulty in discovering music.) There’s a much longer post in me on the nature of discovering music, and the drive behind that so, with no further ado, I recommend the accompanying playlist to Pitchfork’s Top 500 songs of the 21st Century list. And three songs, two that I’ve listened to on repeat and one that inspired me enough to write this post. El-P – Stepfather FactoryI am constantly torn by my love of hip-hop. It’s very limited, to certain acts and specific song and then, I know it all feeds one emotion- this male, chest-beating aggression thing. I know it can be a pretty harmful genre, socially. It’s irresponsible.Then I hear this and it’s genuinely terrifying in the way some of OK Computer was when I first heard it. The nearest comparison I can draw, soundwise, is I Can Ride A Bike With No Handlebars, if you remember that. The ultimate disenfranchised attack on American values, corporations, the family unit… It’d be mockably, teenage-ly, broad if not for its genius idea- the titular Stepfather Factory. And then it bends some of the sounds just right and it’s threatening and depressing and a call to arms.The Honeydrips – (Lack of) Love Will Tear Us ApartI haven’t actually listened to this much yet, but I can spot an obsession when it’s coming. Distant, airy female vocals, clever-clever title, and a beat that sounds like a stretched-out combination of ’90s dance and Christmas jingles. It’s a bit of a pity there has to be a male (pseudo-rapping) voice on the track at all, but it only lasts about 10 seconds.Antony & The Johnsons – Hope There’s SomeoneThis is the big one, the most obsessed I’ve been with a song in months, possibly longer. When he won the Mercury prize from pretty much nowhere in 2005? and got hit by the NME hype-train, I made the mistake of scoffing. I was young and didn’t know better. A musing on loneliness? Sexuality? Death? All of the above? It really doesn’t matter- the strange wavering voice is genuinely touching and actually oddly catchy… I’m trying hard not to fall into my normal journalistic mode of description here. Suffice to say, if you like any kind of emotion in your music, you owe it to yourself to listen to this song. Three listens should give it the time to embed itself in your soul. Sometimes, it’s enough to just be the guy that tells people about nice songs.