Thursday, February 20, 2014

Beck - Morning Phase

"This morning I lost all my defences"; "Please don't leave me on my own"; "Somewhere unforgiven, time will wait for you"; "ISOLAAAAAAAAAATION!"

I'm sensing a theme here.

Beck is a guy I'm aware of but don't really follow. There are only two that have really resonated with me on a deep level. The first was the good time party must-have Odelay which was the soundtrack for much of the 90's. Second was the his divorce record Sea Change, which is probably in my top twenty albums of all time - a grandiose slap in the face, an intimate howl of despair, it towers above everything else Beck has done.

Morning Phase is built on a similar foundation as Sea Change (pretty much every song) but by way of Mutations (Heart is a drum) with a hint of mid period Scott Walker weirdness (Wave). Sure it has that faux 70's psychedelic edge but this record is immaculately produced. It is gorgeous on every level and doesn't feel like a obvious throwback. The lyrical snippets above give you an insight into the mood of the record but it never feels as heavy or desperate as Sea Change. There's a sense of resignation here but without the drama. It's a long sigh of a record but beautiful in every way.

I'm not sure many people I know will get into this record but it is worth it if you like that kind of thing... and when I say that kind of thing, I mean sadness...


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Sun Kil Moon - Benji

Mark Kozelek has mortality on his mind and death is everywhere. Family, friends and strangers alike are under death's sullen influence. While this might sound like a bummer, it allows Kozelek to trip through his memory and ruminate on all those things that we all dwell on - regrets, lost loves, bad moves and the general weirdness of experience. There are a lot of funerals on this record - two songs dwell on the death of his uncle and cousin who die in exactly the same circumstances (burning to death from an exploding aerosol in burning trash - Carissa and Truck Driver), there are equally strange diversions. The plaintive Dogs recounts a sexual history (presumably his) in frank and startlingly detail - the embarrassments, the missteps and weirdness that comes with intimacy. I Watched The Film The Song Remains The Same is essentially a 10 minute recounting of that experience. From being blown away by the psychedelic scenes and regretting picking on a kid in his class, the song sprawls through the hazy recollections of that time. The final song (Ben's My friend) is about Kozelek attending a Postal Service concert and being vaguely annoyed at everything - it's pretty funny.

The central touchstones here seem to be I Can't Live Without My Mother's Love and I Love My Dad. There is a sense that all of this rumination on death has led to him to say things in song he probably can't say in person, those things we all find difficult to say. The song to his mother is fittingly sentimental while the the one to his dad recounts the tough love and awkward attempts at instilling lessons in the young Kozelek. Both are beautiful songs of dedication and love. They sentiment is only rivalled by the darkly angry Pray For Newtown, an track through the pointlessness of gun violence.

Kozelek has largely abandoned the need for choruses and recounts the tales with detail and wit without the need to stick to traditional song structures. That's not to suggest it is unlistenable or melody is absent, the songs present as tales you would hear around the kitchen table - full narratives, rambling and occasionally shambolic. It's largely an extension on the album he did with the Album Leaf (Perils from the Sea) which had similar tales with looser structures - here it feels much more intimate like Kozelek has revealed his heart and soul for all to witness. The album can feel slightly impenetrable on first listen but repeated listens reveal the bruised beauty within. In some ways it is an odd album, it is achingly personal but relatable on every level - it's Mark Kozelek's version of our own fucked up lives, moving and hauntingly human.


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

But there's this...

For the sparkly part of my twenties, Odelay was a constant companion soundtrack. As I got older, I moved onto Se Change which I still adore. Apart from that Beck does little for me but I love, love this song. It's just plainly gorgeous, there's no other word for it.


Monday, February 3, 2014

Some stuff that happened this week...

So the Grammys happened this week which is always sad. So out of touch and weird, Led Zeppelin bagged the best rock album award... LED FUCKING ZEPPELIN! Don't get me wrong, I love a bit of Stairway as much as the next guy but it is 2014. Everyone's had their say on the QOTSA/NIN debacle, was anyone truly surprised? I think nothing summed it up better than the Mackelmore vs Kendrick Lamar tweet:

Ok so the Lamar response was by amazing comedian Aamer Rahman but it gets to the heart of the Grammys, always choosing the safe, non-threatening and lame artist everytime.

Anyhow, I also blagged tickets to the Laneway festival which I found to be fun but also kind of sad. If this was the face of modern alternative, it was all very generic and uninspiring. There is a new traend in alternative in bands like Chvrches, Sky Ferreira and Naked and the Famous which sounds exactly like the 80's and when I say the 80's, I mean the lame 80's. While Chvrches were pretty, my discussions with my friend soon turned to Nik Kershaw, the Thompson Twins and Kim Wilde. The 80's were bad enough the first time, don't make me go back. Indie singer songwriters like Kurt Vile, Vance Joy etc seemed drawn out and samey. The only bands that got any heat were Frightened Rabbit and Savages. I certainly didn't rate Savages before but seeing them live has made me re-think that - their presence and sound was overwhelming and far better than the record - I haven't seen a band with such charisma in a while, the songs sounded raw, urgent and alive. I was converted. By the way, if you have the chance to see Lorde (who I admit to liking), stay home and listen to the record - not much room for improvisation or spontaneity when you play to backing tracks. The saddest thing was I missed Run the jewels by five minutes... damnit.

The highlight of the superbowl was apparently the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. I'm sure that's in revelations as being a sign of the apocalypse.

Finally, U2 released a new single. They're one of those bands I grew up and I felt compelled to listen to it. While not as shit as their last album, let's just say there is no late career for renaissance for the boys. I can commend them on producing something not entirely rubbish I guess. It made me sad to hear the modern production flourishes - aural mutton dressed up as lamb. The expansive intimacy of the Joshua Tree or the playful melancholy of Achtung Baby are a long way behind them. I always think, maybe, maybe I'll hear that thing I loved as a kid but I got old and maybe I should move on from this sickening nostalgia.