Sunday, 30 December 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #346 - Friends, "Manifest!"

Bit disappointed when I got the vinyl that the band has gone for that whole ugly guys at the back/pretty girls at the front look. In fact the whole sighing teen girl pyjama party sleepover vibe I find mildly objectionable. Not sure why; just seems a bit silly. It's such a poseur (or poseuse) version of sex. And I'm assuming none of those involved are still teenagers, skinny as they are.

Musically though, I like it. I think. Indie pop it is, a little ponderous in pace. Plenty of space in the music - to give it a pleasingly amateur edge, perhaps. Several touchstones are set off - Blondie, Madonna: teen poster fodder for both boys and girls. More of this indie romance. My year seems to be closing with these warmer tones when it entered in a blizzard of faded emotion and witch house.

"I'm His Girl" is disturbingly retro (to put it politely): it makes Lana Del Ray come across like Bikini Kill. Or am I reading too much into this pop lark? It's all bike shed sexual politics, am I right?

"Proud/Ashamed" is an interesting title. I don't have time to listen to it closely enough. (This is snatched from the possibility of having to go and feed my infant lad any minute.) The bell tolling gives it a sense of "Do They Know It's Christmas?". There is gang strut to "Va Fan Gor Du" that fits in with the Double Dutch playground attitude that oozes from the record. And a bit of Swedish rarely goes amiss. Double Swedish, mebbes.

"I can't compromise my concept of truth/Just to make myself more comfortable/To hide inside my youth."

Big words, little lady. Big words.

Rating: Teen Bedroom Posters out of Bike Shed Sexual Politics

The 2kDozen 500: #345 - JJ Doom, "Keys to the Kuffs"

I listened to this a couple of times with my brother. It was on vinyl and it was his Christmas present. I wasn't able to make many notes - mental or otherwise. It was disorienting at first, as per usual, until it's own idiosyncratic rhythms start to assert themselves.

It seems a bit weird that he doesn't quite the handle on Cockney right on "Guv'nor", seeing as he lived in London as a kid. Maybe he's looking to integrate himself, as he mentions Cockney again on "Banished" and I don't remember him ever mentioned it before*. The tune has that sense of being scribbled out as a sketch of an idea that many of his tunes do. He seems to make minimum effort to maximum effect.

"Dawg Friendly" dawdles at a dirty pulse.I think "Viberian Sun" was another one that stood out, phased noises and small levels of chaos. "Wash Your Hands" was about germs, perhaps, or trying to get off with a woman in the club - "a sex machine/That makes bacteria...The real enemy is microscopic".

We listened. But there were tiny nephews for us to keep eyes on and my ears wandered. Still, I did listen to it, so I add it to the albums of the year. Thanks.

Rating: Overlistened out of Nephews

* Just found out, he moved to London two years ago. A-ha! He wasn't let back into the US because of having a UK passport and despite living in New York for over forty years.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #344 - Various Artists, "Country Funk 1969 - 1975"

This was chosen by Piccadilly Records as the best compilation album of the year. You can imagine it ticking a lot of boxes amongst the dusty denizens behind a record shop counter. Obscure, of course; genre-splicing, nice; a bit of vintage helps sweeten the process too. My receptors were tickled in similar fashion and I picked it up.

Listening to it got me thinking about country funk. The best example I can think of where the two streams are crossed, Ghostbusters-style, is Parliament's Little Ole Country Boy, which in a further act of genre skipping was then used by De La Soul for Potholes on my Lawn (their debut single, best known in the UK as a track on Three Feet High...). It is maybe not as genuine as the stuff on this album though, more an act of cultural tourism. Unless they were country boys themselves... It's so dizzying! So I guess it should be a fertile border for sweet, sweet music.

In fact, it's a little hard at time to pick the threads apart. I'm not sure in a way why I should feel the need to; but it may be because country music is so white and funk so black, country so rural heartland and funk so urban ghetto. Right? But it's all music made by poor people at the beginning, eh? Before they moved from the Mississippi Delta to Chicago and New York or got their rhinestone stetsons in Los Angeles. Poor people themes are evident - injustice in love, economic migration and harsh lifestyles. Clumsily put, but I'm a clumsy thinker.

The first few tracks seem to be the stories of boys having to make the move from the Deep South (Georgia, Alabama, err.. Texas) to Los Angeles. It would have been the white hot centre of country rock in this period, Eagles hanging out in desert canyons, drawing in ambitious pickers and jug blowers with heavy gravity. So the tunes packed with this hiraeth sound like country tunes with some funk-tinged, string-boosted backtrack: Johnny Adams' "Georgia Mountain Dew" perhaps stands out the furthest.

Other tracks are more like more straightforward readings of funk with a bit of a country lyrical theme, or maybe just a stab at some homegrown funk with no back country trimmings. Link Wray's "Fire And Brimstone" barely seems to qualify as funk as there is virtually no low end to the music at all. Yet the fast-picking, rattling mass of hoarse screams seems to sneak in under the wire. Mac Davis' "Lucas Was A Redneck" has the swooping strings of Across 110th Street and tight wah-wah loops that you'd expect to be heard on some blaxpliotation flick. But it's a gravelly white Texan singing about a mean, doomed redneck in terms that could be describing some loser mid-Seventies pimp. Blurred, blurred.

The last couple of tracks perhaps point to where funk and country mingle together more regularly, suggesting again that the opposition of line-dancing rednecks and hustling brothers is pretty artificial. Music from Louisiana - Gritz's "Bayou Country" (which has a heavy Clapton feel to these ears) and a cover of Dr John's "I Walk on Gilded Splinters" replete with steel guitar and a drum pattern that sounds like Beck's Loser.

Great sweaty tunes and an excuse for me to crack open the A-level sociology, which never goes amiss, eh?

Rating: Country Funk out of Funky Cunts

Friday, 28 December 2012

The 2kDozen 500 #343 - Lone, "Emerald Fantasy Tracks"

There was an album that I had planned to listen to for a while on my iPhone version of Spotify, but hadn't got round to it. Then I carelessly moved on from that album, and I'm not sure what the album was now. This was possibly it. And whether it wasn't the actual one or not, I'm glad of the chance to hear it. It's a bit like house-ier uptempo Boards of Canada, crackles and pops on every surface.

This album is actually from 2010, but I liked the cover better than the one for Galaxy Garden this year. Perhaps because it also evokes BoC more cleanly. It fits the title too - there's a feel of the sea here. Or the seaside, more specifically. Somewhere between sunrise in Ibiza and family sandwiches on the beach at Trearddur Bay.

"Re-Schooling" shatters along - a glass disco, bouncing from one wall to the other, lurching about in its own Nineties soup. I really like it. It almost rehabilitates that mixed bag of a decade for me. Everything sounds good for fifteen minutes sooner or later, I guess.

"Rissotowe_4" is pushed on by an internal clockwork logic that keeps a simple pattern very interesting. The album is full of fizzing and popping, where in so many other albums there is slump and drift. This might make them a bit wearing to other listeners; but I really like it. At times the motherboards really seize hold and the music fractals off into some very beautiful spaces, dragging me along with it. Like A Guy Called Gerald at his most delirious.

Bless his little woollen hat.

Rating: Sprialling Blasts out of Seaside Pasts

Thursday, 27 December 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #342 - Kendrick Lamar, "good kid, m.A.A.d city"

The age I am, I don't hear about fucking scenes or collectives these days until they're a Sunday Times article away from being on The One Show. So I know nothing of Los Angeles group Black Hippy. I get all hopeful of a Native Tongues of the West Coast with blunted angles. But there are plenty of niggas and bitches strewn everywhere. Is it just me? Or does he sound a bit like Westwood? Also his actual surname is Duckworth, which tickles me alright. Doesn't found very Compton, do it?

However sweet the sounds behind, however much Kendrick positions himself as a "sinner", a lover in the cosmos not a fighter, it's hard to warm to a track title like "Bitch, Don't Kill My Vibe". Sounds a bit like G-Funk, the South Central genome is evident. There are snippets of dialogue and phone messages that could have come straight out of "Killer of Sheep".

"I pray my dick get big as the Eiffel tower/So I can fuck the world for seven-two hours".

I like the number 72, one of my favourites. Even when he says about sending "a lead shower" to those who don't respect his mind, I don't know if I'm fearful of him. "I never was a gangbanger/ I mean, I was never stranger to the folk either" he explains on "The Art of Peer Pressure" over a track that rumbles and clicks on like a brooding locomotive.

"Money Trees" has a beautiful treated background that could've leaked out of a My Bloody Valentine recording session while he spools out more observations about Compton life. "good kid" has an electric, jazzy feel to it - like a version of Kanye that is able to add something to the R&B heroism he samples rather than just trying to give himself some depth. Then "mAAd city" gives the Hitchcock-staccato, grime-infused flipside to the sunnier brass sounds before MC Eiht steps out of the Nineties Compton to lend some historical heft.

"Sing About Me, I'm Dying Of Thirst" sounds like it is a big opus sitting across the album. I can't give it the attention it deserves right now; but there is a Grandma bit at the end about redemption after all the baller stories up to that point. "Compton" closes it off with Kanye brass stabs and an appearance from Dre, a man who's haunted a couple of the tracks anyhow. Kendrick fits in quite neatly.

"Look who's responsible/For taking Compton international!"

Rating: Curved out of Compton

The 2kDozen 500: #341 - Chromatics, "Kill for Love"

A melding of New Order and Jesus and Mary Chain here. They should be called the Chromantics, as they pull all those big shades and emaciated cool shapes across the first few tracks. Right down to a track called "Candy". "The Page" shares roots with "A Forest". There's a murky lurking about in those areas where Hookey's bass looms in the shadows or goth teen heartache mopes about.

As it progresses, there are other more Balearic moves: "These Streets Will Never Look The Same" are drizzled with soft techno rain, traffic hissing past with those radials that Tom Waits likes to mention every now and then. It's nice, it pulses with abandoned style. Sometimes it goes a bit too limp - as with "Running from the Sun" - but then there are some curly guitar noises to send the ears swooping again. On "A Matter of Time" the Balearic bliss gets a scary undertow, as though the coke was catching up and grinding on that weakest of the nerves.

With the fuzzy electronic washes and the pale-skinned gothy musical themes running close to the surface, this feels a very 2012 album. I can hear why it's being doing so well in the end of year charts. It is also pretty good. It sets a terrific mood that could go in almost any direction: wistful, paranoid, blissed, hungry... I can hear a Ibizan version of Bladerunner sprouting from the sounds.

The closing track "The River" brings everything together in a neat, shivering place. Synths burble with romance, guitars slice into the air with notes like baby fingernails. Michael Mann writes a script for a short film.

Looking at the promotional pics, I'm a bit worried it's one of those pretty girl does the singing, ugly dudes in shades do the music situations, which is always a little depressing. But maybe she plays instruments too. It's just that the headshots don't suggest she mucks in on the shopfloor too much.

Rating: Goth Crystals out of Balearic Murk

Monday, 3 December 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #340 - Bat For Lashes, "The Haunted Man"

Something is not quite on-beam about this album. I feel as though I should enjoy it, that there ought to be something in it for me. There are some layers of sophistication, a varnish on the music, that seem to move it away from something vital. "Oh Yeah" is somehow too lush, which is not something I ever expected to imagine - too cold. Too Jools Holland.

The tension within the music seems more resolved, or at least makes more sense on "Laura". Though I'm not entirely sure what it's about. "Your name is tattooed on every boy's skin." The brass is more pleasing and fills in the gaps better than the synths had done. On "Marilyn" her voice soars up into its older form again. But stuff is missing somehow. The warmth or magic or fear that was in the middle. That was present in "Daniel", her opening gambit from the previous album three or so years ago. She seems inspired by people's names.

The self-mythology is still there. I imagine her transmogrified into all manner of beasts and birds. The cover picture would be arresting, but it's a shame she's in the nuddy. All too easy to market the feminine when its tits are out. "Rest Your Head" has a pleasing rattle to it, that propulsion. "Winter Fields" builds up from a chapped flute sound to muscular timpani and ancient-sounding keyboard. Heavy brush strokes of Kate Bush, as she's been coloured by since she first arrived making these lush, bruised noises.

I first heard this, dipping in and out of consciousness whilst feeding my little lad Jasper. Turns out it was released on his birthday, which is a neat turn of events.

Rating: Dipping In And out of Transmogrification