As ever, I would like to start with an apology. I was hoping that my next blog post would be ready by today but sadly circumstances have conspired against me. It’s half written but not fully formed enough to be published yet. It should be ready by this time next week, so – as my son would say – sorry to keep you waiting.
In the meantime, I have written another post for Toppermost – it is comparatively short by my standards but then it is about an artist who had quite a short career – Syd Barrett. The link to that Toppermost is here.
As I do from time to time, I might as well say what I’ve been listening to recently. You may be interested, or you may not.
Right, let’s get the controversial part over with. I’ve tried to enjoy Aphex Twin’s music for over twenty years now and I didn’t ‘get it’ then and I still don’t ‘get it’ now. His new album “Syro” sounds much like everything else I’ve ever heard by him. It squelches and squeals, drum machines thump out, there’s some melody and some deliberately dissonant music. And it leaves me stone cold. Everyone else has been in raptures about the new LP and I feel like I’m the only person who isn’t enjoying it. Somewhere out there is an Aphex Twin piece of music which will unlock the music for me – a way into his world. I wonder if I’ll ever find it.
On the other hand, a new LP I’ve found very easy to enjoy has been “Commonwealth” by Sloan. I’m a comparative newcomer to the Canadian band – it was Marcello Carlin’s praise for “Never hear the end of it” at the end of 2006 that intrigued me enough to invest in a copy, and I loved that album – it sounded like a seventy minute radio show playing the best power pop in the world. I worked around Sloan’s other LPs and found some better than others (“Twice Removed” is an unheralded – in the UK – classic) and as I explored I started to recognise traits within the four members’ songs, and often found myself preferring drummer Andrew Scott’s songs – “People of the sky” = genius. So for the new LP Sloan took a different tack – each of the four songwriters were given a side of the LP to create a suite of songs. All four rose to the challenge – each side works as a whole, the songs play off each other and the final side – a seventeen minute suite by Scott entitled “Forty-Eight Portraits” – is magnificent. Starting like a section of Sudden Sway’s “Spacemate” – pots and pans percussion, atonal piano – it builds through numerous snippets of riffs and melodies, a modern equivalent of the “Abbey Road” medley. And it sounds so effortless and right. The final five minutes are absolutely stunning – Scott’s children singing, heartwrenching lyrics, heartstopping chord changes, and a closing homage to the coda of “I want you (she’s so heavy)”. Well it makes me cry anyway.
Those other melodic Canadians The Autumn Stones continued their run of great singles with “In with the out crowd”, issued a few months ago and it got lodged happily in my mind for most of the summer. If “End of faith” channelled Psychedelic Furs through a Wild Swans filter, the new single is influenced by prime “Unisex” era Blueboy and the Monochrome Set, but with its own distinctive sound (those horns again – quite Bowie-esque). Well worth a listen, and definitely a band worth watching out for. And if you think I’m being soft on the Autumn Stones, I must admit their recent singles are a huge leap forward from their debut album which was a bit weak and obvious.
While praising Canadians… Another recent discovery is “Set yourself on fire” by Stars, which was issued around 2005 I think. A few weeks ago Josh Meadows played “Reunion” on his excellent radio show “It’s a jangle out there” and I remembered that I should have bought the LP when it came out. I’ve played it a few times since and it’s lovely orch-pop with words which cut to the quick about relationships, ageing and love. Quite wonderful. I’ll enjoy exploring their other albums too.
Enough Canadians (sorry Canada)
Other music of the summer? Courtney Barnett’s “Avant Gardener” has bounced around my head a lot, the FKA Twigs LP is intriguing, and I’ve been working my way through a collection of Steve Reich’s works (it’s good housework music), and keep getting stuck on “Piano Phase” and “Drumming”. But I still prefer “A rainbow in curved air”….
Anyway, that’s enough for now. I promise there will be a proper blog entry by this time next week featuring fast lanes, semi-detached suburbans and other memories conjured by my parents’ record collection.