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Monthly Archives: December 2012

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Offering up soaring swathes of lush, chill electro, London’s collaborative Strong Asian Mothers are very, very good.  “Music to sooth the soul and work the feet” is their self-described aim, and the vibes are certainly thus; all low-key but immersive synths and shuffling beats with mesmerising, whispering vocal harmonies.

The music sways lithely, and often crescendoes into something more majestic and epic than you might first have imagined.  It is intelligently put together music that certainly leaves you wanting more.

Listen to Strong Asian Mothers on their Soundcloud here, and expect a post soon on Khushi – one of the guys who makes up Strong Asian Mothers, who also has some pretty lovely solo material in more of a stripped down acoustic vein. 

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I first saw ‘Is This It’ in Woolworths back in 2001 and recall being transfixed by that cover – I was nine, but it was album artwork that stuck with me in the way that Warhol’s banana cover intrigues you long before you actually hear ‘Sunday Morning’.  My friend and I debated over what it depicted (“It’s too fat to be a knee”, “but why would they put someone’s bum on the front cover?!”).  It seemed a bit weird and seedy, sure – but, frankly, it was nothing on the bizarre Rod Stewart album cover that was placed alongside it.  

Of course, my interest in the album cover left me as soon as it left the shelves and, before I got into garage guitars, my music tastes took me through pop, R&B and a little bit of grunge.  In 2007 I finally purchased all of The Strokes’ albums on a whim; I was getting into guitar music properly, and their name was one that kept coming up.  I remember saving ‘Is This It’ ‘til last, making sure I really wanted to listen to it because, if my growing interest in the music press had taught me anything, it was that this was the album to listen to.  

And I still struggle to articulate exactly what I thought when I first played it – I guess, at the risk of sounding really lame and ridiculous, I feel a little bit like I’m falling in love every time I hear it.  The siren-like beginning heralding in the butterflies-in-stomach-inducing bass lines, the virtuoso sweet melodies of the guitars, the propulsive drums and the beyond seductive vocals of one Julian “man of my dreams” Casablancas.

Perhaps my first inclination at the age of nine that the album looked seedy was correct – there is undeniably something of a heady, tantalising rush to the tracks; something inherently dirty about lyrics like “I wanna steal your innocence…I just want to misbehave/I just want to be your slave”, but that is exactly why there is such a raw, feral magnetism to the album.  Its beauty is in its grit; in its knowing smirk in instances such as belittling the New York police – “New York City cops, they ain’t too smart”.  

Also while I’m waxing lyrical about their lyrics, in that particular song – as well as the “oh…haha…I meant…ahhh” intro, I love the blunt cynicism of “just kill me now ’cause I’ll let you down”.  The beautiful but tragic ‘Alone, Together‘ has the exquisite lines “the world is over, but I don’t care… ’cause I am with you”, and the incredible ‘Trying Your Luck‘ is full of naive romantic optimism: “Well I’ll try my luck with you…believe me this is a chance”.  The weary brilliance of the titular track is wonderful too, with the simple admission: “I can’t think ’cause I’m just way too tired”.

And, of course, there is the excellent romantic, whimsical guitar pop of songs like ‘Last Nite’, ‘Soma’, ‘Someday’, and ‘The Modern Age’ too.  These fit so well between the dark songs, the love songs, the lascivious songs, the sad, bitter songs. All together ‘Is This It’ it is a sweet little album made-up of perfect songs.

If you know me, you’ll know that I love pretty much the entirety of The Strokes’ oeuvre, including the solo projects and the side projects – even this blog is named after a song by drummer Fabrizio Moretti’s other band, and the tagline is from a lesser known Strokes demo track.  I do resent that The Strokes have been pinned down by music critics as having just one fantastic album because they are so much more than that; but, at the same time, there is no denying that ‘Is This It’ is something else.  It’s had so much adulation that you suspect it must be hyperbole, and yet when you actually just listen it’s beyond any superlatives that come to mind.

It’s a perfect album which has soundtracked some perfect moments and, listening to it and the rest of their output for the first time in a long while this morning, I felt the need to express in unnecessarily wordy form that like a son – I adore this like a son.  And for those of you unfamiliar with weird Strokes references; well, it should be embarrassingly apparent that I love this album and this band a strange, obsessive amount.

A friend of mine played this song to a group of us once, a while ago now.  There were maybe four or five of us in the room and, while we’d all been pretty talkative beforehand, we all went silent and just listened when he put this song on.  There is something incredibly captivating and vivid about 20th century French composer Olivier Messiaen’s ‘Quatuor pour la fin du temps’ and with the end of time purportedly approaching on Friday, now seems as good a time as any to share the intensely sublime piece.

It blends together various strange, slow paces, creating a sense of something almost majestic while melodically it interweaves between evocative moments of dissonance and gentle brushes of harmony.  It is truly powerful listening which messes with your perception of time – after playing the section embedded above, my friend asked us how long we thought we’d been listening for.  We all guessed around two to three minutes.  It was around nine minutes long.

William Blake - The Resurrection

Inspired by the Book of Revelation (William Blake’s depiction of which is above), there is certainly a holy magnitude to the piece too, and something somehow intangible.  Indeed, it is an odd sensation listening to it but, in this Quartet as a whole, Messiaen created something stunning and slow and strange and, ultimately, something very, very beautiful.

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I’m not normally one to make predictions about which artists I think are ones to watch for the next year, but I was lucky enough to vote in the Blog Sound of 2013 earlier this month.  Given that only one of the acts I voted for made it into the longlist – which you can, and should, check out at the above link – I felt obliged to share my tips for 2013 with you, in no particular order:

Lovely harmonizations with a sometimes-bluegrass style which transcends most of their “nu-folk” contemporaries.  Mesmerising, gentle and powerful all at once – this is music that is just generally a delight to listen to.
Tribal, fierce and with occasional flourishes of strangely trad stylings, there is something very exciting about the lush, sweet electro-pop of this duo.
I wrote about him recently, but it doesn’t hurt to reiterate that Pete Roe is making intricate folk with an organic sense of warmth that recalls the likes of Nick Drake.
4. Haim:
The one act I voted for that made it to the Blog Sound longlist, and with reason – everyone is talking about Haim.  Propulsive, airy beats and breathy vocals make for an unusually sugary brand of rock and it really works.
If 2012 was Azealia Banks’ year to conquer, then 2013 will surely be Angel Haze’s.  This is dark, wry rap over music that is at once chill yet disarmingly upbeat, and there is something very knowing, aggressive and wonderfully unapologetic about her lyricism.  It’s strange, feral, provocative and enticing.
With all that said, however, some of the best acts of next year are probably ones that I’ve yet to discover.  Do check out the Blog Sound of 2013 shortlist and winner on January 3rd, as it will doubtless provide a very good insight as to who’s music is worth checking out next year.
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