by Lucy Cage
Here are some (not six) of this year’s (or not) highlights, picked today over all the others I’ve forgotten at the moment, probably just because it’s sunny out. The clankingindustrialgrindiwannadie column will have to wait for another day.
(And you can take PJ Harvey, Thao & Mirah, Lykke Li, EMA, William D Drake, tUnE-yArDs, Kristin Hersh’s autobiography, Tunabunny, every single fucking song on Everett True’s half-year mix tape and PJ Harvey as read.)
NICOLA ROBERTS – Beat Of My Drum
LADY CHANN – Treble To Your Bass
Well, just listen to them! Aren’t they fantastic? Aren’t they? How much more pop could you squeeze into those two songs? Bursting with the stuff. Nicola’s chanting of “L! O! V! E!” and her sliding moans: aoooh … The ridiculous boingy break in the middle. The fabulously under-glossed, kid-querulous vocals with their precisely slippy attitude to tuning. All ace. And Lady Chann, feistiness personified, clippity-clop hoofbeats behind her, twisty tune unfurling above, drilling the words into the head of anyone who’d dare disagree with the persistence of a small neon woodpecker: irresistible.
PATRICK WOLF – House
It starts like some tune from years ago, a shimmery electropop school disco number, all keyboard skirls and slow growing glory. Wolf’s vocals, dark and glossy and mannered, reminding me of the chanteurs of my childhood, the twinkling Billy, the Orchestral Manoeuverings; you can just see the billowing white shirts, the floodlights, the DRAMA. It heads off into its own thrum, whirling gracefully about the chorus like that unselfconscious arms-wide-open dance you’d do at 15 when your heart was swelling fit to burst with the nowness of it all.
It turns out to be about settling down into domestic bliss, in a lovely house, with Suffolk stone and love all around, delighting in the turning of the seasons and the laying down of roots and even in the certainty of eventual death. Perhaps it takes the recognition of cold oblivion to relish the ordinary warmth of life.
Not very rock’n'roll. But very wonderful.
MECHANICAL BRIDE – Umbrella
How to do a cover version. Make it anew. Change the mood. Give something sassy and pop a chiming melancholia, so the words that emerge through the bells and the piano lines and the strings are those of heartbreak and pleading, drenched with longing for the rain which will come, which will inevitably come. Oh, and be good. Sing like you’re warding off disaster.
I don’t love this more than Rihanna’s version, but I do love it alongside it.
Ella, ella, ella, ay ay ay…
KING CREOSOTE & JON HOPKINS – Bats In The Attic
I know nothing about either of these men. Almost nothing. One is Scots. One is an electro kid. They make this, this gentle folky howl of a song. It’s beautiful. “And no doubt it’s the white flour in my diet, it’s going to be the death of me, sweet drumroll for those embittered big ideas. It’s such a waste of all that we had. It’s such a waste of all that I am,” he sings. It would make granite weep.
SWIMMER ONE’s remix of WITHERED HAND ‘Love In The Time Of Ecstasy’ is not from this year but is so marvellous that you should hear it anyway. It’s another apparently ‘folk’ song given the electro treatment, opening it up and sharpening the edges. This one is deliciously unfolky in its tropes. Which is all to the good.
“Why did Nirvana ever bother to play here?
Hey there, I don’t want to stay here …
And this town, this town is killing me now, I can’t believe I waited so long,
From the shopping trolleys on the riverbed to the sound of the bass bins booming
Can I see your face in this acid light of another suburban evening?
As I roll my eyes up to these dirty skies till I count the days till I am leaving”
Actually, it’s another Scottish folk song. So many good things from Scotland at the moment. The growly feline gorgeousness of Pumajaw (whose forthcoming album will surely get its own moment of glory). The afore-mentioned Swimmer One (pulling influences from Jane Siberry, Kate Bush, the Pet Shop Boys and sounding just like themselves). Those foul-mouthed darlings, Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton, both separately and together, here covering Slow Club. Yup, my heart is yours, you Scots, ‘unfaithful servants of filthy, fucking language’, as Mr Withered Hand says.
And if it’s not Scotland, it’s Canada.