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Posts Tagged ‘Blur’

Director Wes Anderson chooses great music for his films. They mirror the eccentric, laidback vibe his films are known for. Whether it is composer Mark Mothersbaugh bringing alive Max Fischer’s torment in Rushmore or singer Seu Jorge covering David Bowie classics in The Life Aquatic, music has always been this director’s friend, breathing life into his vision. The Darjeeling Limited, released in 2007, has his most fascinating collection of tunes. The soundtrack uses excerpts from a bunch of Satyajit Ray and Merchant Ivory films from the Seventies, and also features The Kinks in their splendor and a great cover of Champs Elysées by French/Jewish songwriter Joe Dassin; for anyone who has studied in an Indian Catholic school, there is a nostalgic treat in the form of Udaipur Convent School Nuns & Students’ rendition of “Praise Him In The Morning”. The highlight however is the inclusion of the theme song to James Ivory’s Bombay Talkies (composed by Shankarsinh Raghuwanshi and Jaikishan Dayabhai Pankal); a breezy sing-along that carries along with it the casual vibrancy of a decade gone by. Smell the cheap cigarettes, the bell bottoms and socialist dissension of India during the Seventies. Take a long whiff…mmmmmmm good stuff.

*****

Newton Battenberg Faulkner is a singer-songwriter from UK. He has performed at Glastonbury and Lollapalooza, released a “critically acclaimed” album, toured with his anti-thesis John Mayer and James Morrison and has prominently been featured on BBC Radio 2. You probably haven’t heard of him because he is about marketable as soap made from the fat of celebrity animals. There isn’t room left for dreadlocked, guitar-tapping, post-Renaissance hippies in the music industry anymore, I guess. His debut Hand Built by Robots even debuted #3 in the UK Charts, with the single Dream Catch Me raising a few eyebrows in the industry. The real gem however is Newton Faulkner’s cover of Massive Attack’s Teardrop. While the acoustic arrangement is similar to José González’s version it distinctly sounds more engaging, with Newton’s vocals powering the simplicity of its rhythm. For the millionth time, minions, don’t associate popularity with actual talent. Sure, people would rather pay money to see John Mayer picking his nose backstage than see this guy fingerpicking harmonies out of thin air, but that’s just life or art or whatever else you want to call it. Don’t let that stop you from discovering music that doesn’t have a VJ introducing it on TV. You’d be surprised at how often public opinion amounts to little else than utter bullshit.

*****

With Mark Everett going country with his new End Times album, I believe there is a vacancy for the title of King of Pop. Damon Albarn just might be the one. His stellar work lately with bands like Gorillaz and The Good, the Bad and the Queen have given him the right to go grab that crown, especially considering all the great music he has created through his first claim to fame – Blur.  Gorillaz’s latest album Plastic Beach will end up as one of this year’s most precious pop albums. It is infinitely better than anything else Albarn has put out through any incarnation for the past nine years. From the intriguing guest appearances to the treasure cove of catchy hooks, the album not only showcases their maturity but also has them hopping across genres like a frightened rabbit under a falling sky. Hip-hop, dream pop, post-bop, it’s all in there; a sprawling sonic landscape of music that has your feet tapping and your mind skipping to its insane beats. Tracks like “Cloud of Unknowing” featuring Bobby Womack and “Superfast Jellyfish”, with Gruff Rhys (leadsinger of Super Furry Animals and Neon Neon) and De La Soul, drift so far away from what we expect from pop music these days, gently abetting the de-compartmentalization of music and its boundaries. Like Helen Brown, writer for Telegraph, says… “He (Albarn) lovingly salvages the things they’ve left behind, like a hip, 21st century Womble.”

*****

American VI: Ain’t No Grave finds Johnny Cash posthumously giving us the chills. Since these songs were recorded during the American V sessions, in which he bared his soul, cold and sore, there is a general pale of gloom that has found its way into this album. His version of Claude Ely’s Ain’t No Grave chugs along like a funeral march for sad little locomotive engine, as the Man in Black, sounding more broken down ever before, predicts “when you hear that trumpet sound, I’m gonna get up out of the ground”. I guess “there ain’t no grave gonna hold” his spirit down.

*****

Peter Gabriel’s musical sensibilities started shifting towards the promised land of placid harmonies ever since the release of his 2002 album Up. It remains his most intense work to date, with its gorgeously haunting tracks – I Grieve and Sky Blue – weighing down on the speakers, spectacularly crushing them with their melancholy. Peter Gabriel’s 2010 album Scratch My Back is far more minimalist in its style and substance, slowly plodding its way into our hearts. Yes, it’s a cover album, but it sidesteps obvious classics and lays to waste any assumption of unoriginality, transforming feisty indie songs by bands such The Magnetic Fields, Elbow, and Arcade Fire into unearthly laments. His cover of Radiohead’s Street Spirit is incredible, mostly because the former Genesis flautist sounds even more tortured than Thom Yorke. When he sings “fade out again” for the third time it really gets to you, with the violins coaxing us to drown further in its sprawling desolation. One of those moments when you wonder if music needs therapy.

Watch/Listen

Shankarsinh & Jaikishan – Bombay Talkies

Udaipur Convent School Nuns & Students – Praise Him

Newton Faulkner – Teardrop

Gorillaz – Cloud Of Unknowing, Superfast Jellyfish

Johnny Cash – Ain’t No Grave

Peter Gabriel – Street Spirit

Buy

The Darjeeling Limited Soundtrack

Newton Faulkner’s Hand Built By Robots

Gorillaz’s Plastic Beach

Johnny Cash’s American VI: Ain’t No Grave

Peter Gabriel’s Scratch My Back

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If sobriety and music are bedmates you don’t cuddle up next to, chances are you’ll get a kick out of the Pittsburgh-based Black Moth Super Rainbow. Their Dandelion Gum album has fragility clinging to its every note, malcontent and mumbling about sleepy summers and lost flowers; agreed not exactly the most breathtaking of concepts, but the music certainly carries it to places very rarely tread even by indie music standards. Hell, Black Moth Super Rainbow is too indie to be called indie; they’re beautiful noisemongers because as discordant as you might think the music is, you’d have to be deaf to miss out on the how gorgeous it sounds. Neon Syrup For The Cemetery Sister, with electronic fuzz washing over it and Untitled Roadside Demo, a space gospel amongst other trippy things, are highlights. In fact I’m yet to find a track of theirs I could do without on a rainy Saturday afternoon; even Rollerdisco gently coaxes my ears despite staying true to the second part of its name. I’m feeling giddy thinking about The House of Apples and Eyeballs (their collaboration with the fantastic pop-tronic band The Octopus Project). Check out Pop Matters’ review too.

*****

Broken Bells has Danger Mouse, uber-producer and one-half of Gnarls Barkley, hooking up with James Mercer, lead singer of indie stalwarts The Shins, creating great music for us to feel the wind in our hair and wag our tongues out of the car window to. No, seriously…this is the stuff that makes road rage a fleeting thought. This is music that sounds feel-good and shockingly also makes you feel good, mostly because it never stoops to down to lows like dipshit happy choruses that rhyme “high” with “why” or fancy guitar solos that never serve any purpose but getting the lead guitarist decent head or better coke. Broken Bell’s debut is scheduled for release in about three weeks (don’t be a dick by downloading the album now) so for now, gorge yourself on the single – the tremendously synth-tastic The High Road.

*****

A British supergroup comprising Damon Albarn (Blur), Paul Simonon (The Clash), Simon Tong (The Verve) and Tony Allen (an Afrobeat legend) released an album called The Good, The Bad And The Queen in 2007 that was very fucking listenable. They decided to remain unnamed as of yet but I doubt it started off as a gimmick considering how lackadaisical each song is towards grabbing our attention. I think that the album remained rather obscure (or maybe I was too busy listening to Anselmo’s side projects in 2007) because it never quite lived up to the reputation of its musicians. While I’m game for musicians letting their legendary status rot in a trophy case rather than stroking it in the recording studio, still a punk icon, two British alternative rock stalwarts and one of the greatest drummers ever could surely have come up with something more than a bunch of dainty, bouncy, and vaguely refreshing melodies neatly packaged as “indie music to look out for in 2007”. The title track however is epic and not because it goes on for seven minutes; it’s a track that puts the spotlight on their collective brilliance. Albarn hurriedly whispers, “It’s the blessed routine, for the good, the bad and the queen, just moving out of dreams with no physical wounds at all” as the rest revisit great Eighties pop briefly with their instruments and then move into a frenzied post-grunge guitar section before calling it a day all hush-hush. Good stuff.

*****

The Raah Project, where do I start?  clears throat and gets knocked down by a silhouette). Ahem, from Scholar’s The More I Make Revolutions, The More I Want To Make Love, “No matter what kind of what music you dig, I hope you’ll be adventurous and give this joint a listen. It’s a cross-section of so many styles that it would be problematic to faithfully paint a picture with words…just an insanely beautiful piece of music.” Yes good man, YES! I can stop overplaying Cool Calm Pete’s remix of Sharon Jones’ Stranded In Your Love; this, my simians, has the smoothest groove I have heard in a long time.

Watch

Black Moth Super Rainbow – Neon Syrup For The Cemetery Sister, Untitled Roadside Demo

Broken Bells – The High Road

Untitled – The Good, The Bad And The Queen

The Raah Project – All Of Your Things (or download it from Souled On)

Buy

Black Moth Super Rainbow’s Dandelion Gum

The Good, The Bad And The Queen

The Raah Project – Covered Up In Stars

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With the exception of the Revolver album, British pop psychedelia, in typical English whimsy, kept to itself for most part of the Sixties.  The 23rd Turnoff, led by Liverpool songwriter Jimmy Campbell, were just one of those bands way ahead of their time. In fact, most pop psychedelic bands were, with their beautiful distortions of popular music.  The 23rd Turnoff’s Michael Angelo is a perfect example of that evolved sound. Dreamily twirling around Jimmy’s vocal harmonies, it takes us on a kaleidoscopic ride to the future of captivating pop music. I’m telling you…Air’s Moon Safari, Brian Wilson’s Smile, and The Divine Comedy’s Absent Friends …it’s all in there.

*****

Lupe Fiasco is thankfully several shades from going Kanye West on us. He is immensely talented and he knows it. Unlike Georgia’s biggest joke since Jermaine Dupri, he doesn’t fawn over the supposed miracle that he is. Instead he goes delightfully cuckoo on us, rapping about video gamers, cheeseburgers and Third World child soldiers. The music behind his words is what takes Lupe Fiasco’s appeal to another level. Some of the beats in his The Cool album released in 2008 are so futuristic that he probably should visit Childwickbury Manor in Hertfordshire where Stanley Kubrick was buried. A quiet moment between two artists ahead of their times.

*****

Looks like Plan B hasn’t grown up lyrically since I last heard from him. He’s still rapping about the tragedy of being poor and very pissed off. Hard to take him seriously about the poverty bit, considering he was raised in Forest Gate, a residential area in London and had the privilege of a decent education. So rest assured he is just 24 and really really pissed off. For those who are already into the urban British hip hop scene in all its sleazy realism and stark imagery, Plan B could make your heads spin in delight. Alongside Slug, Sage Francis and Mike Skinner, he’s giving whiteboy rappers a good name. In his new mixtape Paint It Blacker he brilliantly uses Radiohead’s eerie piano ballad – Pyramid Song – to lay his rhymes down. I promise, hearing him rap “I aint no stranger to drugs I’ve had my fair share, had my head up in the clouds like a fucking care bear” won’t take away the awesomeness of the Radiohead sample. Like I said, pretty fly for a white guy.

*****

Blur’s Modern Life Is Rubbish and Parklife gave Britpop lovers a reason to feel cool again during the mid-Nineties. Also, you have got to love Blur for helping the world pay less attention to the criminally-overrated Oasis. They had a nice little formula working for them during that period. Damon Albarn did his ‘eccentric wounded chap at the pub’ vocals that wander hither thither, holding on dearly to Graham Coxon’s electric noodling and Alex James’ bassline, with Dave Rowntree’s organic percussions holding the lot together. Their sixth album 13 had them scurrying away from Britpop and becoming notoriously indie, gathering gorgeous gospel and electronic influences along for the ride. Coffee and TV is like nothing I have heard from them before, with its twisted pop hooks and garage-y freakout towards the end, but for me the highlight of 13 is “Tender”. An aching gospel-laden chorus leads the way, singing, “come on come on get through it, come one come on come on, love’s the greatest thing we have” so convincingly that it just might have us skeptics throwing kitchenware to the floor, sulking and muttering “it is, isn’t it?”.

Download

Plan B’s Paint It Blacker mixtape

Lupe Fiasco’s Enemy Of The State mixtape

Watch

The 23 Turnoff – Michael Angelo

Lupe Fiasco – Paris, Tokyo

Plan B & Radiohead – Missing Links

Blur – Tender

Blur – End Of A Century

Buy

The 23rd Turnoff’s The Dream Of Michelangelo

Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool

Plan B’s I Am The Captain, Where We Going?

Blur’s 13

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