I’ve dropped the “The” from the band name, because it appears to be a redundant preposition, and those are the very worst kind. While on the downtempo train, I dove back into Volume 1 (9th January, 2015) deluxe edition again, as it remains a work of stirring emotion and unbridled variety, provided you don’t mind when your electronica gets a bit chiptuney. It’s one of the two Magic Sword tracks that featured in the second game of the Hotline Miami video game series, taking place during a particularly fraught, challenging and tense mission. As you’d expect them, there’s definitely a feel of heroic (if weary) action, as well as a perhaps worrying sense of finality that lends itself to the generally dramatic and cinematic nature of the song. Second album when, fellas? The world needs Volume 2 sooner rather than later, I’d say. I’m also really hanging on for a world tour at some point, the live show sounds amazing and I think I could drag a fair few people along just for the spectacle, not to mention the wondrous music, if it was reasonably priced. One of their songs has been used in a video game already, now it needs to be used in a movie. Anyway, this is one of the more accessible less dark sounding things on the album, so it’s a great starting point if you’ve somehow missed out so far.
Look, I won’t come for you if you don’t like Polaar (the album of the same name, 12th of May, 2017). It manages to expertly combine simplicity and obscurity in a manner that I’m pretty sure that some would find borderline offensive. I can say for certain, however, that it’s going to find up on my top ten albums of the year, as I’ve been listening to it almost non-stop, and find it stunningly beautiful, ans magnificently intense without being at all harsh. It’s an incredible debut from the Frenchwoman, and I’m excited to hear more and listen to it for the foreseeable future. In fact, part of the reason I’ve not made any more headway in catching up the backlog this week is because I’ve been listening to it in favour of new things this week, which is a bit naughty but I genuinely find it that enrapturing. The title song and opening track is broadly representative of the rest of the album, downbeat electronica with big hints of shoegaze and the disco revival thrown in there for good measure, and the result is thoroughly pleasing to the ear whilst being subversive enough to get the imagination firing. The dream like vocals and softened synths definitely help with that meditative quality that is possesses, and if certainly helps me get a darn site closer to inner peace. I’d urge you to try it once, and if you’re intrigued you must give the album a run, because it’s a treat from soup to nuts if you don’t mind the sedate pace.
I didn’t realise when I first put this down on the list for later, but I’ll spoil the suprise for you now, so guess what, it’s another one of those clever chaps from Bombay Bicycle Club sneaking off and doing music in a completely different genre that sounds nothing like the band. Jack Steadmen joins bandmate Ed Nash (as Toothless, with drummer Suren de Saram, lest we forget), in forging his own distinct path, armed with one of the best names for an artist I’ve possibly ever seen. This is one of the singles that he’s put out thus far (I’ve found four such ones), with an album entitled God First (14th July, 2017) forming the current end goal. If you’ve got old boxes loaded with funk and jazz, why not make use of it? This seems to have been the thought process of Mr Steadman, who appears to have decided that ramming in as many soul, jazz and funky groovy samples as possible and surrounding it with some special guests would be a good way to spend some time, which, to be fair, does sound accurate. This track sounds nothing at all like Bombay Bicycle Club, featuring a load of saxophones and a sample from Argentinian jazzist Jorge Lopez Ruiz, as well as a contribution from BJ the Chicargo Kid on vocals, who was apparently the first collaborator on the record as a while. It sounds exciting, for sure, and I’m hype that they’re all doing these individual projects, but I’ve found Toothelss to be slightly more my speed than this so far. Certain people will fall in love with it though, and I’m going to hammer through the album at some point, because funk jazz isn’t something that ever goes out of style, and I’m a big fan of everything about it other than the child-inspired vocals that dominate the first half. It has an absolutely top notch video as well, if you can get a look at it, definitely do so.
Here’s something I’d never heard before or knew anything about until very recently, but I’m very much into it now. Taken from Carl Craig’s highly lauded album More Songs About Food and Revolutionary Art (22 April, 1997, fantastic name), this is one of the highlights in an album that takes minimal techno to new and lofty places. It was remixed and reissued a few years back, hopefully taking it to a new audience, because I feel like the indie Boards of Canada style bizarre electronica revival crowd would really love what is on offer here. The hype track appears to be ‘Televised Green Smoke’, which is great, no doubt, but I prefer the glide of this track myself, call it a personal taste thing. Carl Craig himself is regarded as something of a big name in Detroit’s second generation of techno musicians, which makes it slightly embarrassing I’ve only barely heard of him, but his artistry and subtlety marks him out as pretty distinct sounding from a lot of that crowd anyway, so I’m not going to worry about it too much. If you like your electronic music still techno but somewhat more ethereal and cerebral than quite a lot of the usual fare, then I can heartily recommend this. It manages to make me feel more than “dang, this is a real tasty beat”, although it does make me do that as well, it’s just so…beautiful, in it’s sneaky simplicity. Repetition has it’s critics, and I’ve been one, but here it’s done absolutely perfectly.
I know that Santigold is underrated, because I’ve overlooked her myself enough. Countless times I’ve gone “oh that song sounds great, I should really look into it at some point”, perhaps more than any artist over the last five years, and never properly got around to it. That changes now! This song is sleek as all hell, incredibly easy on the ear, and possess an oddly robot like delivery to the vocals, tapping many of the themes of electronica to make something altogether different. It’s also notable because for a period of about a year it felt like it was used in every single direct line commercial for insurance known to man, as well as a bunch of indeterminate car ads, a sure sign of the total tonal dissonance of our age if there ever was one. It’s from Santigold’s successful and highly regarded second album Master of My Make-Believe (24th April, 2012), which is well worth a listen if you haven’t and like your mid-tempo electronic pop to be as well put together as possible, all for your aural pleasure (‘The Keepers’ is my personal highlight other than this track). She’s subsequently put out a third album which I never got around to, but I may as well properly enjoy the second first. The opening riff to this song is still as enjoyable as my previous sentence was confusing, the whole thing possess a good message, and the melancholy flow of the music is inherently pleasing for a somewhat downcast modern era. It’s all still good, and I suspect you’ll still enjoy it.
This track is really worth it for the intro alone (at least on the youtube version), which is so unbelievably on the nose as a seventies crooning backing music that I’m forced to assume that it was done ironically or else hipster music may have gone to far. This is all very trendy and popular, from start to finish: the band name, the vocals, the lyrics about young love that tug on the ol’ heartstrings, the indie rock downtrodden nature of it all, and it will do well in relevant circles. I like the fact that their an all girl trio making their own quirky, subtle songs with pretty vocals, I’m slightly less keen on the fact that they are using that platform to produce tender, winsome, emotional songs about romance and love, but they can make what music they want and I’m sure lots of people who are not tragic sociopaths will definitely be into it. It’s certainly clever enough; even I (because I am clearly something of a hipster at heart) was connived into a knowing smirk at the album title, which is Earl Grey (23rd June, 2017, so it’s brand new), and is hopefully as pleasing to listen to as it is to say alongside the band name. I’ll give it a crack on one of my less cynical days. Also, their lead singer is called Poppy Hankin (flanked adroitly by Iris McConnell and Sophie Moss), so they’re clearly aware that they have nomenclature on their side and have decided to exploit that sucker for all that it is worth. It’s very nice, it has something of a classic vibe to it, and it’s bassline gets around town like it’s a barhopping northerner, so there’s very much some spark for people to enjoy here.
This is absolutely stunning. Oh, it’s a great piece of source material, sure, and some will bristle at the suggestion that the animals version is not the definitive version, but these people are wrong, and this version is exceptionally strong. The song started out life as a classic folk ballad, (no-one knows who wrote it, although it’s been suggested that it was based on the tradition of broadside ballad, as well as bearing some resemblance to 16th century ballads), and it has been expertly returned to it’s original sad state by Sam Cohen, previously of the band Apollo Sunshine but these days of a variety of interesting and varied music projects. What popular songs can you think of that have more previous than this one? Woody Guthrie, among many numerous others, did a version, as have Joan Baez, Nina Simone, and Bob Dylan, and if that list of names doesn’t scare you then few things will. On top of that, it’s considered the first “folk-rock” hit, due to to aforementioned seminal version of Eric Burdon et al, which is something of a heady prestige. All in all, it’s an obvious classic in the truest sense of the world, and none of that matters to Cohen, who knocks it out the park with this mournful, sorrowful version. IT’s a sad song, after all, and it’s made truly tragic here with a bit of elegance and panache to complete the job. I can’t stop listening to it, and I think a few people are going to love it.
Edit: Alt-J (whose new song is fantastic) have just done a version of this song as well, but it’s not as good as this one.