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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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404-j04001852British Invasion is one of those rare mainstream experiments gone right. Technically, The Beatles kickstarted the genre by simply further expanding on their sensibilities to glue together a triad of the most popular genres – rock, pop and soul. British Invasion was almost England’s answer to Do Wop music; a sort of entry point across the Atlantic for brash youngsters to wield their steel instruments and cockney accents. The flower power ethos of the Sixties let psychedelia slip into the sounds of the Invasion, which previously only focused on song structures that were candy-coated, and almost retarded in its simplicity. By the mid-Sixties, gone were the love songs and lullabies (and I guess we can all quietly thank Bob Dylan for that) with bands such as The Byrds, The Kinks, The Zombies and The Animals flirting with gritty blues and gnarly soundscapes; British Invasion was a different beast altogether.

Suffice to say the beast began wielding a pitchfork and kicking it’s mother in her stomach while giving the middle finger salute to the Queen with the evolution of the Punk scene. We got the dubious distinction of watching to kids sporting bad Mohawks and strumming guitars with bloody fingers. Sort of the Neanderthal stage in the evolution of music where only attitude and nihilism went under the microscope and where emerged an insane vortex in which Sid Vicious was worshipped as a musician.

519os-ddb6lWith New Wave, Synth Pop and Glam Rock dominating the Eighties, it almost seemed that all hope was lost in redeeming the once glorious British Invasion. I guess, only a brave few such as The Smiths, The Stranglers, Talking Heads and Wreckless Eric survived the onslaught perpetuated by Rod Stewart while the others – The Cure, New Order, Depeche Mode – merely conformed to what was popular at that time.

When grunge exploded in Nineties and everyone and his cousin’s milkman were listening to Nirvana, British Invasion was preparing itself for metamorphosis. A few British artists took it upon themselves to ignore whims and fancies of the American industry and more importantly to convince everyone that there was more to life than The Beatles. A lot of people have different opinions regarding the exact moment when this actually happened. Personally, I think that My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless (1991) is birthplace of the new British identity in popular culture. Before Loveless, the shoegazing genre was frowned upon and merely seen as drug-induced stupor and once it was released, for the first time the world stumbled upon what was to be known shoegazing and none could lay a claim to it but the Brits. And it didn’t just stop there as Primal Scream, Happy Monday, Blur, The Brand New Heavies, Massive Attack and a bunch of other bands from England invented new soundscapes and made their into the hearts of thousands who just weren’t impressed with the three-chord mayhem of Nirvana. Also, this was the year when the Greenwood brothers, O’Brien, Selway, and Tom Yorke decided to get together and call themselves Radiohead.

mbvThe second wave continued both in spirit and surprisingly even on the popularity polls well into the new millennium especially, with the rebirth of garage rock and shenanigans of the odd American – Jack White. Muse, Razorlight and Artic Monkeys joined in the festivities, as well, with their re-interpretation of Radiohead and Oasis.

Lately, there has been a lull in original Brit music and with the term ‘shoegazing’ raising more eyebrows than wallets, it is only a matter of time before the second wave is dead and buried. But thankfully, the Poms have made enough good music to keep us occupied for the rest of our lives and probably the Queen’s too. And a special mention to directors Wes Anderson and Guy Ritchie for their impeccable selection of songs in films and to Will Ferrell for a rousing rendition of the best love song of 1978.

Download

The Kinks – Nothing In This World (Rushmore soundtrack)

Wreckless Eric – Whole Wide World (Stranger Than Fiction soundtrack)

The Stranglers – Golden Brown (Snatch soundtrack)

Buy

The British Invasion DVD set

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