Michael Gordon – ‘Industry’
A greatest hits compilation is an unusual beast within the world of ‘classical’ music, but then the Bang on A Can composers are too. Re-released at the start of the month as mp3 download, the album features seven of the troupe’s best known works, performed of course by the Bang on A Can All-Stars. The aggressive but beautiful “Industry” is perhaps the best example of Michael Gordon’s slightly subversive, always compelling brand of music, characteristically blurring the boundaries between rock and ‘art’.
Ani DiFranco – ‘Untouchable Face’
I seen a few weeks back that Ani DiFranco is making her way to The National Concert Hall for a solo gig on Jan 22nd with support from Jim Moray. So with the Folk column ‘For The Turnstiles’ in mind I fired off an email to ask if I could review the gig for this blog. I’ll be at the gig taking notes and secretly trying to get video clips! Them usher ladies will hang ya if you’re found with a camera! Tickets are €34.40 and are about 70% sold from what I can see on the NCH website!
I first got into Ani’s music around 1998 when I bought the double live CD ‘Living in a Clip’. One of the outstanding tracks from it was ‘Untouchable Face’! Have a listen to the album version here:
Those Dancing Days – ‘I’ll Be Yours’
Sweden is home to so much good female-fronted music at the moment that it can be hard to keep up. Robyn released three albums last year, Niki And The Dove have got hearts all a flutter (well, mine anyway) with ‘Mother Protect’. Meanwhile Lykke Li is slowly but surely creeping back into everyone’s mind, with Wounded Rhymes just on the horizon. But Those Dancing Days have also launched their campaign for second album Daydreams & Nightmares.
You might have already heard and seen ‘Fuckarias’, but for the perfect pop song, just have a listen to ‘I’ll Be Yours’ below. A sublime chorus is surrounded by guitars that show The Drums up for the amateurs they are. The Line OF Best Fit are tipping Those Dancing Days for big things this year, and this song has been on repeat for me for the past day.
Ryan Adams – ‘Wonderwall’
I’ve just finished a re-reading a booked called Ryan Adams & the Cardinals: A View of Other Windows, which is a fascinating collection of intensely personal photographs by The Cardinals’ lead guitarist, Neal Casal, that capture the truly engaging moments of being in a rock band. For this very reason, Ryan Adams is featuring heavily on my iPod this week.
For those of us who grew up in the 90s, Oasis’ “Wonderwall” was one of the anthems of our generation. The extent to which it was played on our radio stations meant that almost all of us knew every single word of it, regardless of whether we were fans of the band or not. Most of us would never expect that anyone could release a finer version of it, especially not a scruffy, alternative country singer-songwriter barely known by your average music fan this side of the water. But Ryan Adams made it work beautifully. Granted hardcore Oasis fans may dismiss this version, but it is interesting to note it comes with Noel Gallagher’s seal of approval: “I never got my head ’round this song until I went to see Ryan Adams play and he did an amazing cover of it.”
Adams’ version is stunning. He took a song most people thought should and could never be covered, stripped it down to its bare bones with just a gentle acoustic guitar and atmospheric synths, and completely made it his own. Oasis made “Wonderwall” a joyous anthem about celebrating love, while Adams moulded it into a tender and sorrowful piece of music heaven. I cannot fault it. The song is full of that comfortable and embracing melancholy at its most powerful, and it remains not only one of my favourite cover versions, but one of my favourite songs of all time.
The Fun Years – ‘Breech on the Bowstring’
According to their website The Fun Years are…
ben recht and isaac sparks. ben plays baritone guitar. isaac plays turntable. [blank] happens.
According to me, the [blank] that happens is utterly fucking transcendent. Never mind Mogwai (currently flapping around like a dying guppie on a sandbank), if you want to hear similar droney music (but better) like, right now, then get on The Fun Years. They wrap up everything that was once great about this type of music into a ball, add some sort of disturbed topping, and then throw it back at you. That pretty much sums them up.
Nobody listens to them, as far as I can see. So go on, give them an extra fan – Breech on the Bowstring: the tune Mogwai wish they wrote last year. (Mogwai wish they wrote lots of tunes, the chancers).
Crystal Castles ft. Robert Smith – ‘Not in Love’
Topshop’s class, isn’t it? Not for clothes, of course not! It’s too expensive and anything they stock is far too avant-garde to be worn by a real person. No, I’m talking about Topshop radio. Not an actual real radio station but the name that I fondly give the songs that are played over the soundsystem, songs that make your shopping [or pointing-and-laughing at the clothes] a hell of a lot easier. Oh, the songs are always very hip and very new. A few times I’ve been grabbed by a song in there, grabbed so strongly that I simply had to take down a line or two of the lyrics on my phone and Google them next time I was at a computer.
This happened again this week. I was entranced by a bleak voice, a cry for help coming from an 80s inspired synth-laden jagged landscape. Googling of the hook “I’m not in love” only led to results pointing me towards 10CC. Further research finally revealed to me that it was Crystal Castles ft. Robert Smith, he of the bleakest, most 80s voice around. Teen years soundtracked by The Cure’s quietly anguished heartbreak came flooding back to me as I listened to the song, made exciting by the rising panic of the synth line in the choruses, panic of the kind that these days only Crystal Castles seem able [or willing] to produce. Listen. Dance. Feel.
John Murphy – ‘Sunshine (Adagio in D Minor)’
Earlier this week I made the mistake of re-watching one of my favourite documentaries – The Boy Whose Skin Fell Off. I don’t know why I look at it because I know, every single fucking time, the end will make me cry. Not just because of Jonny Kennedy’s attitude to live – and, indeed, death – but because of the use of Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ at the end. What a brilliant way to say ‘fuck you life’ from beyond the grave.
Anyway, it got me thinking. I don’t believe in an afterlife or any of that nonsense so the music played at my funeral is important. It’s pretty much the last choice I’ll ever get to make. From the moment I heard John Murphy’s Adagio in D Minor, I, oddly, knew it would be the one for me. There’s something manic in the way the piano builds to a crescendo, crashes, burns and fiercely rises again before coming to a compete and ultimate stop. If that’s not a metaphor for life, I don’t know what is.
It’s also really difficult to find a decent video for it so just hit play, close your eyes and imagine you’re falling into the sun: