Dot writes: it’s already June. How did that happen and why hasn’t the weather noticed? Anyway, hip and funky Dot has been using the months well to listen to lots of new and semi-new records. Here are some of my favourites so far from this year’s listening.
So incredibly up-to-the-minute am I these days that I’m really into an album that’s not even finished yet. I thoroughly recommend you spend some time browsing through the DNA Project by j.viewz. The website belongs to a New York musician called Jonathan Dagan, who’s documenting the process of making his new album track by track. You can hear all the pieces of the songs as they come together and read/listen/watch as he finds his inspiration through different places, collaborations and sounds; if you subscribe you can also download the component audio tracks and do your own thing with them, if that’s a thing you do. It’s a gorgeously designed website and a fascinating concept and, as a bonus, it turns out I love his music. I took advantage of a free download of his 2011 album rivers and homes (I note he’s not much into capital letters) and it’s full of rich, interesting production – lots of eighties vibes to my mind, but with modern manipulations – coupled to melodic songwriting. Here’s a track I particularly like from that earlier album; I love the Peter Gabriel quality in his singing, the athletic buzzy bass-line that kicks in after the first verse, and the saxophone at the end. The opening notes remind me of the old Thames Television jingle.
Wyles and Simpson
Wyles and Simpson sound as though they should be a law firm or, given what elegant young women they are, perhaps a team of lady detectives in a period drama, but they’re actually an English electronic duo who’ve recently released their debut album (November 2014, according to iTunes). The opening track, Stormy Skies, gives the flavour of Abigail Wyles’s cool, clear voice and Holly Simpson’s moody synth chords and satisfyingly crunchy beats, but the whole album is full of beautiful harmonies and textures.
When Ken and I met, I was the one who owned CDs by Judas Priest, Metallica, Van Halen, and Linkin Park (yes, really) while he was mostly listening to Kraftwerk. However, in recent years he has embraced the rock aspect of my record collection, especially AC/DC, while I’ve been getting increasingly keen on electronica and sample-led music. But I try not to be narrow, and Fain by Wolf People (2013) is the first of two records bought this year that appeal to Rocker Ken. I got onto it through Twitter, where I saw it described as ‘folk music played by Black Sabbath’. The band do indeed draw on the folk and ballad traditions for the lyrics and their sound has a real early seventies feel. There are twin lead guitar lines and some great touches with rhythm, especially in this track, ‘When the Fire is Dead in the Grate’ – try to count out the bars and see what I mean. Great stuff.
So I thought I’d check out Ryan Adams. I have a vague feeling it’s not cool to like Ryan Adams, though probably cooler than liking Bryan Adams. Who cares – I like both of them. Ryan Adams’ self-titled 2014 album is another record with Ken-appeal. We were listening yesterday and talking about all the classic acts his songs remind us of – I heard echoes of Springsteen, Ken thought ‘I Just Might’ recalled ‘I Touch Myself’ by the Divinyls, and a repeated reference point is Tom Petty. (I read an interview in which Ryan Adams talked about how the industry wanted to force him into the wrong boxes, and he protested ‘I’m not Tom Petty’; but Tom Petty is great and insofar as there’s a resemblance it’s definitely a good thing.) Echt American guitar rock. Sing along and sing your heart out. And, watching the clip below, try not to think too hard about why exactly someone decided to illustrate this song with Elvira and her cleavage.
The new Hot Chip album comes in a choice of covers. I bought it in a colour that matches my favourite fleece, which I think sums up my relationship to pop culture pretty well. The video to the single ‘Need You Now’ has a curious time-slip plot with some transitions I don’t quite understand; Ken might not find it philosophically coherent. But it’s a beautiful song.
If anything I’m even keener on the brilliantly funky conjunction of rhythms between the bass and guitar in ‘Easy to Get’, but there are lots of good songs on this album. More electronica, though there’s guitar and other traditional instruments in there too.
To finish up, Ten Love Songs by Susanne Sundfør is a wonderfully big and tuneful album of Norwegian pop that came out in February this year. My friend Mar pointed out that the lyrics aren’t always the greatest, and I certainly agree some of the time. For example, consider ‘Memorial’: ‘You took off my dress / And you never put it on again’. Um? Most of us can dress ourselves, surely? BUT ‘Memorial’ also goes completely bonkers and turns into a piano concerto in the middle, and how could anyone resist that? Recommended.