Friday, September 18, 2009

My Friday mix

So this is one of my favourite times in my life: we are in the car driving to Coorparoo to get chips for the kids on a Friday night. They are excited, glad to have finished their week and happy that they will soon be sharing a can of fizzy drink, chips and scallops (potato scallops--they are all three vegetarians).

I play a CD in the car that I made earlier. It's a mix of stuff that is moving me this week or at least felt like it might be nice to play in the car this afternoon and in the next few days.

So I lead off with Plans by Dinosaur Jr. If you like Dinosaur Jr, you're going to like the new album Farm. Many thought previous work Beyond was a return to form, but this is better. It has all the old Dinosaur trademarks: Lou and Murph mesh to make an arsemoving (well, arsetwitching, I don't think anyone actually has ever moved to Dinosaur Jr) rhythm section, J Mascis's languid, intricate guitar sings and he murmurs something or other about something or other. Plans is the standout for me: everything is in its right place and this is more emotional than you'd expect from anything that could even feasibly be described as grunge (we are not talking about the entirely faked emoting of the likes of Pearl Jam; this is genuinely affecting and wonderful music).

I was talking to someone earlier today about why I think this is superior to Pink, who she likes.

The thing is, Pink is fungible.

She has ability but so do thousands of other women like her. She doesn't contribute much to it but looks and the ability to fake the right attitude. I know those things have their value, but it's just an act. It doesn't mean it's not an enjoyable act -- and it's great that you enjoy it.

But Pink could be replaced easily by another Pink. J Mascis is not replaceable. Lots of women pout and dance like Pink. No one plays the guitar like J, and his lazy, touching love songs are deeper than anything anyone would ask Pink to do.

Next up is London belongs to me by St Etienne. This is the sound of good times in my home city (well, where else would be? Here? Don't make me laugh). It is wistful and gorgeous, and with the passing of time, it sounds like a warm memory of youth.

I also put on I'm a lady by Santogold. I'm not sure she's my cup of tea, but I like the mix she did with Diplo to promote the album. Her own work is more indie than the crossover style that the Top ranking mix uses, but I'm a lady works in both idioms. She was much hyped a couple of years back, but I think that she'd need to choose either to go more for the hybrid electropop style that is in vogue recently or more for the coffee-table end of things, if she was to become as big as, say, Pink.

Malcolm Middleton is half of Arab Strap and his own music bears comparison with them. If you know the Strap and are expecting Middleton to indulge in miserable bastid kitchen sink minidramas, you are not going to be disappointed. Solemn thirsty has offkilter martial drums and a sweet guitar lick, plus a guest vocalist (who, I don't know) whose sweet Scottish accent gives me what our American cousins might describe as wood. (Yeah, I know, it doesn't take much; I'm still virile, ladies!)

Equally downbeat, but more tender, is Trashing days by the Notwist. Germans are most renowned in my world for making pumping techo (which they're very good at) and hilariously bad new wave. But this is something quite different: a gentle technopop that blends heart-on-your-sleeve emotion with sweet melodies. Trashing days is a particular favourite of mine: as far as I can tell, it's about the horror of living in a small town when you are a sensitive boy, which I know about all too well. If you like your music lovely and fragile, you may like this.

I included a couple by the XX, who I mentioned a few days ago. They make restrained but soulful pop, which I cannot recommend highly enough. The chick has a huge voice in the Tracey Thorn line and the guy does a smoochy jazz voice, which complements her some. The music is minimal, suggestive but not overwhelming. But that would only make them Everything But the Girl crossed with Young Marble Giants, amirite? Yes, but these components are put to good use in smartly turned little pop masterpieces. Crystallised and Shelter are as good as anything the aforesaid YMG did, and that's high praise, in case you're not aware -- in indie circles, YMG are up there with the Smiths and Gang of Four and bands of that calibre.

So I needed a Beatles track, because I've been enjoying them a lot recently. I could have gone for I feel fine, which is as good an example of "Merseybeat" as was ever made, or Here there everywhere, probably my favourite Beatles song (and perversely a McCartney song, whereas I'm much more of a Lennon man), or perhaps the wonderful A day in the life, or even You've got to hide your love away, which seems apt. But I went for Across the universe, because it seems to be playing in my head all the time. It is the soundtrack of my love story, or some of the good parts of it anyway. And of course it's a brilliant piece of pop, which the Beatles did as much as anyone to create as an expressive and profound form of music.

Having taken it down, you gots to bring it up, and I don't do buildup, I just floor it. Next I have the On the road to Paris version of Pogo by Digitalism. It's an instrumental version of Digitalism's standout electro belter. I could imagine getting down to this, actually, if I had someone I wanted to dance with.

After that is Stockholm syndrome by Yo La Tengo. I'm sure I've mentioned before how much I love this song. It speaks to me in a way few songs do, but I don't know whether it's the lilting melody, the sweet, broken vocals or simply its beautiful lyrics:

No, don't warn me
I know it's wrong, but I swear it won't take long
And I know, you know,
It makes me sigh; I do believe in love

Another season, but the same old feelings
Another reason could be
I'm tired of aching, summer's what you make it
But I'll believe what I want to believe

Which does make me sigh.

Because I have not been able to find Husker Du's version of Ticket to ride, which they did for the NME, and P has not been around much and I can't bug her to get it for me from Soulseek, I plumped for their cover of Love is all around. If you don't know it, it's the Mary Tyler Moore Theme. Yes, really.

Then there is JJ. I went for the sway and drive of the quasi-Balearic My life, my swag, because it is generous and uplifting. There's a whole Scandy thing going on right now, a reinvention of pop, summery and sweet, made by people who have have imbibed dance music, understand it and can use it as part of a pop sensibility that is not dance (but I guess it's danceable) but is not the kind of pap that Hollywood churns out ten to the dozen (sorry Pink fans, but yes, we do mean your favourite's entire output).

So I wrap up with Love by Lennon. Because love is all, and he knew it, and if you know it too, you can sing along and lose yourself in a world that never has existed and never will outside our dreams. But what dreams!

I doubt this (rather dull and too long) post has excited anyone into a massive desire to hear my Friday mix, but you never know. If you do feel so moved, it's available here. (If copyright holders should stumble across this and have a huge problem with me promoting their music to my three readers, contact me at the email addy top right and who knows, maybe I won't just tell you to fuck off.)


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