Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A song a day: Anthrax - Fueled

Out of the big 4, Anthrax were always the most fun (Metallica have lightened up a little but I can't imagine Slayer releasing I'm the Man - covering Minor Threat was as probably as close as they got to a joke). Even though my favourite album of there's is probably their most serious (Persistence of Time), I always had a soft spot for their much maligned John Bush years. In particular, I love this song because it's just so stupidly rocking and doesn't really make much sense but once that riff starts, I immediately turn the volume up. It's almost as if this song is genetically engineered for dumb rock fans to rock out to and that ain't no bad thing.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A song a day: Songs: Ohia - Defenders

Sadly I can't find any audio for this song but it is part of my ongoing love for Songs: Ohia. About 12 years ago a friend sent me a mix tape with the Hecla and Gripper ep on it. How I loved those songs - mostly Jason Molina and his guitar singing songs about pain, loss and all that sad, sad stuff. I listened to that tape until it went missing in a house move and while I could remember the songs vividly, I could not remember their names or the title of the ep. I think I stumbled across the ep about ten years later and I still listen to it often. Well worth checking out if you're a fan of sad cowboy music. Anyhow, here's the lyrics to the song:

it's unlikely sorrow
will soon pass us by
cause our flesh in dust
will soon be laid
I'm still no one's darling
at least they're saying
got nobody waiting
though i'm pale and i'm young
i'm your leader
the grave of a singer
is it right to sing
of days long since past them
they're pale, they're were young
and your leader

Monday, August 29, 2011

Public Service Annoncement: Wild Flag streaming on NPR

Yes it is and it sounds pretty great. Listen here.


A song a day: Everything but the girl - Missing

I had my iPod on shuffle today and this song came on jolting me out of my casual listenng malaise. Surely one of the greatest lines ever written about losing a lover, the chorus gets me every time - 'I miss you like the deserts miss the rain.' It also marked one of the most unlikely transformations in history with EBTG going from fey folky pop to doyens of dance music. As someone smarter than me once pointed out, like any great dance single dealing with loss, there's only so much room for messy emotions on the dance floor. Now get out of my way while I dance away the pain.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

A song a day: Jay Z and Kanye West - No church in the wild

I don't know when it became the fall back position for hip hop and r'n'b stars to make songs that sound like early 90's eurotrash techno but it seems to be everywhere at the moment. Simply hire David Guetta and instant hit ensues. It looks like Jay Z and Kanye have been looking backward too on this track and I guess the reason I like this song so much is that it reminds me of prime Massive Attack. The dark insistence of the bass coupled with the menacing repetitive riff sounds like a sped up version of something from Blue Lines or Protection. It isn't trip hop by any stretch of the imagination but if we recast the song this way:
Jay Z = 3D/Daddy G
Kanye = Tricky
Frank Ocean = Horace Andy
I think you can understand what I'm saying if you know Massive Attack at all. While like I both these guys I think Kanye has been doing the most consistent and interesting work of the two (sorry Jay, I'm not about to forget that album with Linkin Park). That being said, Jay Z sounds rejuvenated here and the song which essentially explores the Godless hedonism of the hip hop lifestyle is compelling because of it's dark undertow. So far the best song off Watch the Throne for me.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

A song a day: The National - Exile, Vilify

It seems that the National are everywhere I'm not at the moment. Having missed them in Sydney last year, I've just missed them in Europe and found out they'll be playing Sydney again in November while I'll still be traveling. While this is slightly irritating, I have burned a hole through High Violet and am getting steadily impatient for some new music. Happily, they have contributed this song to the Portal 2 (yes, it's a game indie snobs) and you know what? I like it a lot. While it is pretty simple I do love nice word play and the hook of 'does it feel like a trial?' could be read as either an actual or hypothetical trial or a trial through a test of endurance. I'm happy to say, if they're willing to donate a tune like this to a game soundtrack, I think it bodes while for any upcoming albums. Oh yeah, I'm totally getting Portal 2 for my xbox when I get home too...


Friday, August 26, 2011

A song a day: Estelle - 1980

If I'm a sucker for any type of music it's post Lauren Hill symphonic pop. Estelle received international fame when she teamed with Kanye but I think this song is her best. The sample is just heavenly and the lyrics retelling her experience of growing up in the 80's is fun and insightful. I know it's not for everyone but if you like good pop music, it's worth a spin.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

A song a day: Not from there - Sich Offnen

Yeah, if there's nothing weirder than a Brisbane band singing in German, it's a Brisbane band singing in German and being awesome while gaining airplay. I saw Not from there a bunch of times and they were a truly intense and great live band. They suffered a little from what I called the 'Brisbane snare drum' effect which was that there seemed to be only one snare drum in Brisbane and its over processed, tinny sound was used by every single band coming out of there. However, their debut album Sand on Seven is worth tracking down. Sadly, their second record was pretty terrible and they split-up but for one brief minute something truly weird and exceptional happened in Australian indie rock.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A song a day: Oasis - Little by little

Ok, I know people hate Oasis but I don't care, I like them. I recently had the weird sensation of hearing Oasis in a Manchester pub and in that context, their aspirational, up for a fight attitude all makes sense. In the break up wash up I'm definitely on Noel's side because let's face it, he wrote the bulk of the tunes and definitely wrote the best ones that's for sure. The first two records are universally great apart from a couple of tracks so I decided to go for a later era song. I actually rate Heathen Chemistry and I think Little by Little is the best song on it. Sung by Noel, it is quite deceptive in that it starts as an Oasis ballad but turns into a rock monster by the time the solo rolls around. I'll be curious to hear the Noel solo stuff but the Beady Eye record is rubbish. Here's hoping Noel has more luck.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A song a day: Smith Westerns - Dye the World

I'm pretty sure this is the greatest song Built to Spill never wrote. From the sprawling riffage to the airy vocals, this has Doug Martsch's DNA all over it but it stands on its own merits. A beautiful driving song for a new millennium.


Monday, August 22, 2011

A song a day: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Into your arms

I know this is my second Nick Cave song in the last little while but there's a special reason to mention this song. We all know how beautiful this song is but little did I know how effective it was in calming children down. I recently went to visit some good friends who have just had their first child. She's a beautiful girl but she was giving her parents grief with her non-stop nuclear crying. Somehow, Into you arms came on the iPod speaker and she stopped crying and stared intently at speakers. She continued to be calm for the entirety of the Boatman's Call album and whenever she can't be consoled, Uncle Nick comes to the rescue. I guess the album is filled with lullabies and ballads but I still find the concept of Nick Cave as music to calm infants as strange but mildly awesome.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

A song a day: Aerosmith - Sweet Emotion

For years I paid out on my friend Claire for liking Aerosmith. No matter how much shit I gave her, she always went back to her central argument 'dude, it's all about Sweet Emotion.' And you know what? She's totally right as this song rocks with a swagger that belies all my reservations about the band. Not even Dude looks like a lady can ruin this... maybe...


Saturday, August 20, 2011

A song a day: Agnes Obel - Just so

I'm only posting this song as I think Danish girly pop has been sadly underrepresented on this site...


Friday, August 19, 2011

A song a day: Trail of Dead - How near how far

I don't know what the hell happened to this band. Source tags and Codes came out and it was everywhere. I saw them supporting Mogwai and it was one of the thrilling live shows I've ever seen. Then they released another album that sucked and they just seemed to disappear into the ether. I bought their most recent record but I'm yet to make it all the way through, my enthusiasm is not what it should be. However, for that brief moment they were an incredible band who produced one great record. How I love this song, the build and release, the drumming and the great guitar lines. Better still is the return after the break down at about 2:20 where they sing 'how near, how far, how lost they are' in a slowly building rage. Great songs are made of moments such as this.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

A song a day: Wire - Please Take

I wrote about the latest Wire record Red Barked Tree earlier in the year and I'm happy to say that it has continued to captivate me since first hearing it. Matt wrote an excellent review of it here but the one song I've listened to more than any other is Please Take. I think that's because at its heart it's a glorious pop song and if I get the chance to see them live, I can't wait to sing along to the chorus 'Fuck off out of my face/You take up too much space.' Wire are on my bucket list of live bands to see before I die - here's hoping it's soon (seeing the band, not my death).


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A song a day: Low - Monkey

I always liked Low but I have a definite love of when they upped the volume and intensity. Nothing speaks more of this than The Great Destroyer record - Monkey tells of this taut drama between the lo-fi aesthetic of the past and growing need to rock the fuck out. That insistent strummed acoustic guitar drives the song until the signature riff explodes post-chorus. Is there a more weirder or threatening chorus than 'Tonight you will be mine/Tonight the monkey dies'? I'm not sure if the being 'being mine' means that you're the monkey but given the tenor of this song, I'm not willing to find out.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A song a day: Mum - Green Grass of Tunnel

There was that moment in time where it seemed like the most interesting music being made was coming from Iceland. Sigur Ros seemed to be all anyone was listening too (I have to admit that first song off () makes me cry every time I hear it) and Mum had their moment too. The music is so strange and otherworldly but undeniably beautiful. You can't relate to the lyrics but the sentiment speaks more than a clever lyric ever could. Sure it's fragile and gurly but I do love this song. I saw them on this tour and much like my experience with Sigur Ros, I found them deathly boring. You can't fault the records though.


A song a day: David Bowie - Life on Mars

Yeah, I know I've put this song up before but I every time I hear it, I can't believe how great it is. Love you David, call me.


Monday, August 15, 2011

A song a day: The Gutter Twins - Idle Hands

I have always felt that Mark Lanegan sounds uniquely sinister and on Idle Hands, he sounds genuinely evil. Starting with a low chant, the song is essentially a description of just how fucking bad he can be when the devil takes control. I always loved the idea of Dulli and Lanegan together and this song gets the balance perfect - Lanegan growling the verses while Dulli fights and pleads on the chorus. Whatever was happening on these sessions produced some of the best music of their respective careers - maybe the devil's work is not so bad after all.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

A song a day: Four Tet - Unspoken

This song always amazes me. The major piano motif is so fragile it feels like it could break at any moment while the insistent hip hop drums drive the song further and further into a magical place. It all seems very produced but thrillingly human at the same time.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

A song a day: Def Leppard - Gods of War

When I was a teenager I loved metal - some heavy, some hair. In my defense I was an idiot but I make no attempt to hide my musical past. In my little town, Sonic Youth was probably the follow up to Debbie Gibson's Electric Youth for all I knew. One album I really loved was Def Leppard's Hysteria - big production, big hair, big songs. Anyhow, I recently took a long train trip and decided to listen to the whole album from beginning to end for the first time in about 24 years. My lord was it terrible. I never realized that the first two songs had basically the same chorus - the two syllable attack of 'WO-MAN!' and 'ROCK-ET!' and lord knows what my sexually inexperienced mind made of the lines 'Legs! Thighs! What's that smell!' (actually, I'm still a little non-plussed by that but every line seems to end with an exclamation mark). Most of it is pretty plodding and uninspiring but obviously my teenage self found something to love in this album. The one track I think which still sounds pretty good is the Gods of War mainly because of a pretty memorable riff and some nice vocal work. I don't mind some falsetto in my rock and Def Leppard's vocal harmonies are always pretty strong, particularly on the chorus here. The song itself is the usual 80's cold war paranoia but what is truly chilling is that they have samples of Reagen and Thatcher at the end of the song. They sound truly crazed and it's amazing any of us survived the 80's at all particularly when you had as bad taste in music as I did back then.


Friday, August 12, 2011

A song a day: Beyonce - Run the world (girls)

So who didn't love Crazy in love? Probably Beyonce because she'll probably never top that song. Anyhow, I mention Run the world (girls) more as curio because the chorus goes "who'll run this mother (space) girls" and every time I hear it I immediately insert 'fucker' into that space. What's up B? Too Christian to swear? Come on, why hint? Get the foul language happening, it's liberating and you'll grow to like it, I promise.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

A song a day: System of a Down - Prison song

Prison song is why I always have time for System of a Down because it is simultaneously hilarious, informative and rocking at the same time. For the all the death metal growls and double kick break downs, it highlights the problems of the prison system and the criminalization of minor offences in such an entertaining way that I can't help but love it.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A song a day: Jets to Brazil - Lemon Yellow Black

There is a line in a Jawbreaker song where lead singer Blake Schwarzenbach admits that he feels ashamed because he knows every drum fill to Zeppelin when they're being played at a party. In retrospect, that was probably punk guilt that made him write that line because Jets to Brazil seemed like his opportunity to rock out without being beholden to some bullshit punk ideology. Of the Jets catalogue, I think Lemon Yellow Black is the closest Schwarzenbach gets to the perfect pop song but he remains cutting as ever with lines like:

Daughters of the revolution,
You're freezing in your furs
Well heeled atrocity show,
The finishing school is done.

Yeah, that guy knows how to turn a phrase.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A song a day: Gillian Welch - The way it goes

The Harvest and the Harrow is certainly one of my favourite albums of the year and I particularly love the rollicking The way it goes. The song recounts the tales of various characters and the growing alienation with the narrator. Each chorus ends with a variation of 'there was a time when all of us were friends.' Even in death, Gillian is not safe:

When you lay me down to rest
Leave a pistol in my vest.

Death is a prevalent theme on the album but the connotation that there is something or someone sinister beyond the grave shows that the territory Welch explores is tougher than this Earth. As the song says, that's the way that it goes I guess...


Monday, August 8, 2011

A song a day: Future of the left - I am civil service

In the bitter wash up of Mclusky, the only shining light is how great Future of the left are. There is something unbridled and pure about their music - it attacks, swings and has a sense of humour and always burns with a righteousness anger. I'm not sure who I am civil service is aimed at as it is so personal but it's clear lead singer Andy "Falco" Falkous isn't happy:

If I must play a part in this mess
There are things that I have to know
If I eat what I fuck and I fuck what I eat
Am I worthy?

The song hits a final brutality when falco sings "How does it feel?" leading to these lines:
How does it feel to listen to this song
To wrap your mind around it
To let your senses down

Then announcing he is merely delivering a civil service announcement for the person who has pissed him off. He might not be happy but it's a cracking tune.



Saturday, August 6, 2011

A song a day: Alabama 3 - Woke up this morning

Whenever I go to the movies and hear the 20th Century Fox music at the beginning of a movie, my mind immediately thinks that Star Wars is about to start because that music is intractably linked to that film from my childhood. Similarly, whenever I hear that static followed by a clarion call of HBO, my mind immediately imagines that The Sopranoes is about to begin. Regardless of whether it is True Blood, Game of Thrones or Entourage about to begin, my mind is geared to hear the warbling bass of Woke up this morning - every single time. The Sopranoes were big for me, I mean has there anyone so simultaneously charismatic, attractive and repulsive as Tony Soprano? At some point, I downloaded the Alabama 3 track and used to listen to it on my way to work imagining that my life was far more exciting and dangerous than it was. I think it's strange that this bluesy number come from essentially an electronic band from the UK given its tie in the Jersey mob and the American basis of its sound. The original of the song is slightly different from the one featured on the show in that the lyrics are sung in the first person rather than the third person and it seems to miss the grittiness of the remix that is the more famous version. However, if you have Sopranoes-esque fantasies, this needs to be on your iPod.


Friday, August 5, 2011

A song a day: Dirty Three - Authentic Celestial Music

There is some music that needs little explanation. Three musicians create something so epic, so moving and so beyond the norms of beauty that it is indescribable. You either get it or you don't...


Thursday, August 4, 2011

A song a day: The Whitlams - Blow up the pokies

After a recent post about You Am I, it struck me just how parochially Australian a number of the bands I listen to are. Another of these bands is e Whitlams, a band named after the former Labor prime minister and sing songs about life in Sydney's inner west - primary Newtown, a place I lived for a number of years (fun fact: Whitlams mainman used to live on my street in Newtown). I never really had much time for this band until a friend of mine did the string arrangements for the album Love this city. I actually sat down and gave it a listen and found something relatable to my daily existence. Blow up the pokies struck me the most just because it spoke of the problems of Newtown at that time - the replacement of stages where bands could play with an epidemic of poker machines and the uncontrollable gambling addictions that arose out of that. Soon there was no where to see bands locally because the yuppie interlopers complained about the noise which had no doubt attracted them to live there in the first place and the poor looked poorer and poorer while the would of the place was gentrified out of existence. It was sad to witness and the first step was when the publicans realized that they'd make more money and have less hassle by having five pokie machines rather than live bands. Anyhow, I love the sentiment and sentimentality of this song and one day we will blow up the pokies.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A song a day: Mark Lanegan - One Hundred Days

I think I've written on this blog about thousand times that I think Lanegan could be the voice of the apocalypse. If I'm honest, One Hundred Days is my favourite song of his which is a million miles from the end of the world. It's not really ballad but a slow meditation on love lost through the haze of the city's underbelly filled with strung out junkies and prostitutes. What I really love is that there is a gentle optimism to the song that shines through the bleak setting - one day your ship will come in or as he sweetly sings:

There is no morphine, I'm only sleeping
There is no crime to dreams like this
And if you could take something with you
It would be right... something good

Musically, it's a low key, smokey vibe but Lanegan's vocals move from the regular hellfire growl to dulcet yearning that show the exceptional range of his voice. Lanegan is the man....


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A song a day: Sun Kil Moon - Sam Wong Hotel

Mark Kozelek is a man haunted by his past and every part of his repertoire, from his beautiful originals to his obtuse (and often bizarre) cover songs, they all seem to be mired in his experience. The last Sun Kil Moon record was an oddity as Kozelek abandoned his band and played the entire album on a nylon string guitar. The songs were bare with cheesy Spanish guitar flourishes but with a gravity that gave weight to even the strangest musical diversion. More over the album was haunted by the death of his long term muse who was the subject of many of a Red House Painter and solo song. She moves through Sam Wong Hotel like a ghostly apparition

Oh Katherine drifts into my mind
Freezing the time, she visits me still

This is a song of loss, disconnection and moving on - moving forward but not intact, a piece of your heart gone forever to a past that can never be regained. Chinatown is always closing somewhere in the world.


Monday, August 1, 2011

A song a day: Radical Face - Welcome home

I remember the exact moment I first heard this song a few years ago. My housemate Adam was cranking it in the living room and as I came down the stairs all I could say was 'I must have this immediately.' We grabbed some beers and listened to the entire album but there was nothing as compelling or immediate as Welcome Home on it. I was reminded of the song recently when it turned up on some ad and despite it seemingly to be have used in every commercial ever created, the song still sounds great to me. I think some people dismiss the song because of over familiarity but there are some great lyrics on this songs like 'sheets are swaying from an old clothesline like a row of captured ghost over over old dead grass.' However, I think the song captures that moment when you do return home (childhood, parental, your own) after some torment or trauma and experience that bittersweet feeling of safety and that things will never be the same again.