1668 words on Music
There are so many nice and reasonably good records around that I’ll never get to listen to all of them properly, let alone write some non-trivial comment. But I still like to mention them, both for myself in case I need a back-reference in the future and possibly for your benefit in the unlikely case those bands or records hadn’t crossed your way so far.
Being a great fan of Sigur Rós’ previous albums I was keen to get their newest offering, Takk. While Takk continues their history of pretty and minimal decoration and maintains their special charme it sounds much happier (poppier? commercial?) than the previous albums. You can listen through it without some depression creeping up. That’s new. And possibly exciting. But I quite liked those depressions.
Still, it’s a very enjoyable record for the quieter times. I recommend listening to Hoppípolla and possibly Sæglópur to get an idea of the album. Listening the its final track Heysátan may be best to illustrate the differences to the previous albums. I found that the general sound of that track reminds me of the other albums, but it just seems much smoother.
I like the new Mogwai album Mr Beast better than its predecessor which could be a bit dull in the long run but it can’t match their early records. In parts this album sounds a bit poppier than their older stuff. But in a nice way. Actually I’m quite hooked by Acid Food which is an accumulation of those poppy tendencies.
And while the album may sound quite tame at first, be sure to wait a bit until its daytime or the neighbours are out and then be sure crank up the stereo a bit so the sound can numb you a little. You’ll notice the power then and possibly the fact that some songs end a bit too surprisingly.
My listening recommendation would be I Chose Horses which even contains lyrics. (Lyrics that sound Japanese to me, though.) A song that can be both enjoyed in quiet or blasted out at full volume.
This album is the first Mogwai album where I consider their music to be quite close to Sigur Rós’, whose current album is a bit more mainstream as well. (Interestingly those Sigur Rós with Mogwai songs that quite a few people have seem to be misnamed songs by another band.) Unfortunately I didn’t get round to watching the included ‘making of’ DVD yet.
Sufjan Steven’s albums with U.S. state names have been widely discussed. I mostly ignored that until Dan pointed me to it once more and I got the opportunity to fall asleep to it on the sofa in mid-afternoon right in Dan’s living room during a recent visit. And from that I learnt that it’s very comforting and relaxing music. Not my everyday staple but not to be ignored either. And so I entered the world of short-story-length song names like: They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back From The Dead!! Ahhhh!
Which, incidentally I consider to be quite a good song. But my favourite song on the album remains Chicago.
Somewhere I was pointed towards the British band ¡Forward, Russia! which some people say will be (is already?) the next hottest shit. And fully being my superficial self means that I’ll appreciate them for the inverted exclamation mark in their name and their wonderful strategy of just numbering their songs alone. I’m particularly fond of the Hot Hot Heat-esque semi-cheerful Nine.
I ignored Louis XIV when their album The Best Little Secrets are kept was run through the music press in autumn. Mostly because I considered the tracks I heard to be boring. But then I heard one of their songs again while going out recently, learned that it was by Louis XIV, and they got the proverbial second chance – which meant that one of the previous weeks contained a lot of Louis XIV for me. I enjoyed it. It also included the discussion whether their name should be pronounced in English as Louie fourteen (✘) or in French as Louis quatorze (✔) and the realisation that most people who get to pronounce the band’s name in public err on this one.
Finally I saw them play on telly and thought they looked bit too bored, too old, too fat and too dressed up by their record company. So I’m trying to forget about that and think about the highlights such as A Letter to Dominique or Pledge of Allegiance instead.
When seeing Clap Your Hands Say Yeah play live recently, Dr. Dog were the support band. And me and my friends thought they were a support band worth seeing. While their album contains the same music, it seems quite lame and tame in comparison to their live show. Still nice songs. But a bit lame, a bit tame, a bit of a shame.
Many people seem to love the Infadels. For example my local amazon computer which recommended that I order their album before it had been published even. Or my friend Michi, who was quite enthusiastic about the band rather quickly and played them when we were DJing. Not a bad idea as people love songs like Can’t Get Enough which are solidly on the catchy side.
But in total I don’t like the music too much. Too many 80s sounds in there for my taste.
What follows came to me courtesy of Dan who suspected it may not be exactly my taste. And it isn’t fully my taste. But Joanna Newsom’s album is quite sweet. If you like Emiliana Torrini – which I somehow ended up doing as well – you may also enjoy Joanna Newsom’s singing with a childish voice. I particularly recommend The Book of Right-On.
This album is a strange one. In general, there’s bit too much of Americana in there for my taste. Country-style music in a glossy modern form. Possibly the kind of stuff you wouldn’t be surprised to hear in some Tarantino film (hmm, probably you would be but I still think it would fit in). But it also contains songs like Have Mercy with some solid guitars and drums which seriously reminded me of the White Stripes…
… at which stage Dan pointed out that the album was actually produced by Jack White and thus I wasn’t hallucinating for a change. I also thought High on the Mountain Top sounds quite similar to The White Stripes’ Little Ghost.
The Bravery sound seriously poppy. They sound like they must have been hyped to the charts when they released their album with catchy songs like Unconditional, Public Service Announcement or An Honest Mistake about a year ago. But somehow I completely missed the hype and only came across the band on a long journey in a friend’s car late last year. Nice and catchy but not high-brow brilliant, a bit generic and a bit dull in the long run. I still liked some of their songs and found they make a good addition toward the Indie Ballermann and the mixes that go with it.
Element of Crime are one of the great German bands. Their music is charming and their lyrics tend to be fantastic ever since they started singing in German a decade or so ago. On the depressed side of charming and fantastic that is. And wonderfully so.
I could go on for paragraphs and paragraphs on how great their old albums are. From the eternal wisdom of singing
Ein Salat darf nicht mit Nudeln sein, denn sowas rächt sich bitterlich [
A salad must not be with noodles as that’ll bitterly avenge itself] in Alten Resten eine Chance to the pedant’s favourite Alle vier Minuten which brilliantly starts with
Alle vier Minuten kommt die U-Bahn hier vorbei /
und alle dreieinhalb Minuten kommt ein neues Bier /
und ich sage dir, das ist ungesund. /
Weil es nämlich irreführend und gefährlich ist /
wenn etwas U-Bahn heißt, das über unsren Köpfen rattert, schließlich steht das U für Untergrund.
[Once in four minutes the U-Bahn passes here / and once in three and a half minutes a new beer is coming along / and I tell you this isn’t healthy. / Because it’s misleading and dangerous / if something driving above our heads is called U-Bahn, after all ‘U’ is for Underground.]
The song then goes on to explore the dramatic problems that the reality of public transport causes in terms of abuse of language. Fantastic, I say. Brilliant as well.
While their new album, Mittelpunkt der Welt, sounds more friendly, accessible and simple to begin with it is still charming. If only because it starts with a song called Delmenhorst which is a small town just next to Bremen, where I grew up. In fact, Sven Regener, Element of Crime’s chief lyricist is from Bremen as well (and has published two books, Herr Lehmann and Neue Vahr Süd which are boringly entertaining the reader with the repetitious life of Frank Lehmann who grows up in Neue Vahr Süd, a suburb of Bremen once more and thus experiences a few things close to where I grew up myself).
Err, what was I saying? Well, great band, great Sven, slightly dull books one of which is about my home town and thus great anyway, so-so album. You should learn German just to be able to fully appreciate the band, but the current album may not be the most rewarding one to start with…
Oh and it looks like both Element of Crime and Mogwai are going to play at Haldern this year.
Oh and it looks like both Element of Crime and Mogwai are going to > play at Haldern this year.
So what’s the flavour of the year Mr.Sven? Hurricane or Haldern?
Uh, currently I am strongly tempted to go to both. So many great bands at Hurricane (bands like The Strokes or Adam Green which I’ve seen before and wouldn’t travel to Berlin or whatever for just to see them again but which I definitely would love to see again and most specifically Sigur Rós who I might get to see at last).
And Haldern is just so nice that even those two good bands will be reason enough to go there.
Thanks for the heads up on Louis XIV. I liked the album a lot. I don’t keep up with new music very well, so its good to recommendations.