The First Album I Ever Bought…

Posted: October 13, 2014 in Uncategorized

By Ethan.

When I purchased the self titled album by the XX, it was not in a stylish branch of Rough Trade, nor was it with my Homies in downtown LA, I wasn’t wearing a pair of timeless boots that I’ve now decided to keep purely for the sentimental value. I was with a mate in HMV in Gatwick Airport. Hopefully, however, you and I can look past that and put our focus on how stylish and timeless this album is, how musically talented this trio is.

There is something in their tendency to only wear black, the tone of both the male voice of Oliver Sim and female Romy Madley Croft, or even just the fact that the album is made up of a male and a female singing in the harmonising ways that they do, utilising the bass guitar in the way that they do. There is something very dramatic about their style, which may give you, the reader who is yet to check them out idea that they are in fact ‘too much’, or just some superfluous effort. What is sublime, and really epitomises the whole album, is the manner in which that style is met by the engineering of this music.

‘Islands’ is a track that stays with that theme of relationship- but does so in a more metaphorical manner. The track also powerfully, yet subtly, hints towards that theme in the way that the male and female voice combine and harmonise; how the female voice begins with the more heartfelt and explicit lyrics, followed by the male taking over, reciting the lyrics below.

“See what I’ve done
That bridge is on fire
Back to where I’ve been
I’m froze by desire
No need to leave”

His words complement those from female Remy Madley Croft, they both mention satisfaction within each other, or ‘not needing to leave’. Those opening three lines mention a bridge on fire, which could be the reference to a relationship (“our bridges are burning”), and it’s as if Oliver Sim is saying he has ended a relationship in favour of his current one, which he wildly prefers. Those following couple of lines emphasise how much he prefers the current relationship, and that he is completely satisfied with his partner.

The song is paired with a rather wacky, dramatic and even pretentious music video: made up of several dozen short scenes, all a reconstruction of the previous scene, but with a small change, like one person was standing in one place in the last scene, now he’s standing in another. There are many takes you could give on what the whole thing is about, mine would be that it is trying to say, ‘with each stage of a relationship, things change for better or for worse’ (in fact based on this video things only get worse)- but whatever it means, from watching that video alone you can start to pick up the sense of the trio’s tone. That tendency to wear black, the sort of permanently disgusted looks on their faces, how they’re rather arty- like it or not, what is indisputable about their style is that they are consistent and thorough. They do not sport miserable, long faces and wear black in one song and then just later on in that album flounce around in fluorescent costumes singing about the beautiful weather- nor do they change their style musically, it’s pretty much the same instruments playing the same chords throughout.

Shelter, a few tracks later, is about repairing a relationship- and is poignantly sung by only the female voice. She apologises for her wrongdoings, she says she wants to make it better, and says she’ll do anything to do it, which is why I’d consider it the most romantic track of the album. The solo side to the track makes it more of a confession than a poem, a plea rather than an expression. Not that those ballad-like tracks aren’t emotional and about love, more that they do not as much expose negativity within a relationship, more that they talk about how great they are. Shelter is about recognising what’s gone wrong, and willpower to undo that, which gives it that prestigious title.

Another track that I’d like to take a closer look at is Basic Space, track number 8. Out of these three tracks, this one utilises the power of that male-female singers format, both regarding lyric and harmony.

“I’m setting us in stone
Piece by piece before I’m alone
Air tight before we break
Keep it in, keep us safe”

It’s where they team up to talk about unity, and fear of losing each other. They want to be in a fool-proof, indestructible relationship; the song having that focus of what they strive for in each other in their relationships makes it more of a ballad, unlike Shelter where the focus is on what they do not have.

If you have a minute, take a look at the band performing Islands on Later with Jules Holland.

Ethan.

By Ethan

To those confused by the second part of that title: no, I know that we are not in the ‘dawn’ stage of the jazz genre, nor was the release of the record in a dawn of jazz. However, pretentious as it sounds, I feel this record I picked up a few months ago at Rough Trade West has been the mark of my beginning to take a serious interest in the genre.

The ’49 record, cited by Davis in his autobiography as a collector’s item, caught my eye in the store with its effortlessly slick cover work: a black and white still of Davis playing his trumpet, sporting Wayfarer shades- only black, white and red appear on the simple yet striking artwork. To truly seal this purchase as pivotal, it was paired with Coltrane’s A Love Supreme.

Upon first listening to the vinyl press, I treated the piece as one of several, not stunningly brilliant relative to the standard set by the latter. Yet, knowing I was leaving the infinitely impressive and substantial Davis on the shelf, it was not long before I would give into the temptation of playing the record for a second time. As I had hoped and expected, I felt a very different and more real effect; the rich yet incredibly warm and sweet melodies of ‘Israel’, ‘Darn That Dream’ and ‘Deception’ (all from side 2) enticing me into listening to the album time and again.

Israel is a fitting answer to when Davis suggests that it was this album that brought success because of its personality and softness. Darn That Dream, the final track and only one to feature any vocals, capitalises on the baritone voice of Gerry Mullian by using traditional sounding lyrics to complete the rich ballade.

My favourite track, Deception, is the only one to be arranged by Davis himself alone, and features what is quite possibly the most beautiful melody. It is outstanding for, rather than being that track you remember for its catchy beat or portraying a particular image in the listener’s mind; it is special for being the epitome, the summary of the general warmth of the album as a whole. In fact like the Strokes album Is This It (pretty much the greatest music ever), my favourite track is, rather than Last Nite or New York City Cops, Alone Together. It does not feature the startlingly mind-blowing tune you’d expect from the best song from the best album ever, but it does remind the listener of what the music is about. As I mature and expand my musical tastes, I see more and more that it is those tracks that feature the most.

Ethan.

You heard me, this post is all about how a myriad of cheesy songs is what makes a Disney film, (and NOT a Disney-Pixar movie, those people have lost touch with the art of a good ol’ ballad right in the middle of a dialogue!) the magical vessels of sunshine and rainbows that they are; fun for all the family. Musicals, I find, are like Marmite; you love them, or you absolutely-can’t-stand-this-my-ears-are-bleeding-why-are-you-doing-this-to-me hate them. I love them; quite frankly I think that when one becomes averse to musicals, the song in your heart has been silenced.

Imagine ‘Frozen’ for example, stripped of all Elsa’s heart-wrenching melodies that communicate her anguish, her loss, and her struggle for self-acceptance, reduced to a film with no moments when Ana and Hans kick up their heels to revel in new found (infantile, but we love it) romance; proclaiming that ‘love is an open door’ to the heavens. Imagine never having your spine tingle when the story’s villain unleashes their skin-crawlingy, delicious but dangerous smoky voice to put us under their evil spell (Doctor Facilier, played by Keith David in the ‘Princess and The Frog’, is an excellent example of this). Sounds quite mediocre if you ask me.

(My sister and I ADORE ‘The Muses’ – 5 fiery women with heavenly voices that narrate ‘Hercules’ through the power of song)

I have a new-found understanding for Disney films, and I enjoy them more now than I ever did when I was an illiterate tot. I watch them in the present, and feel an immense recognition for the protagonists and their difficulties. Disney films, in reality, are coming of age stories, about following your dreams and searching for belonging. It’s comforting for me to watch these as a teenager who feels ready for more responsibility, but is unsure of change, and fears being stranded in the big wide world that lies in wait on my doorstep.

I feel this magic, an excitement bubbling up inside of me whenever the next song intro starts up; it’s like I feel completely safe with all my anxieties, because someone else is going through it too; the songs are my inner monologues set to music. And of course, the story will always have a happy ending – if they can make it, so can I. It’s more than childhood nostalgia; being reminiscent of a time when things were simple and you were sheltered, it’s a way for me to know that I’m not alone. When everything is resolved in the end, and there is cheesiness of an even higher magnitude, I feel the joy for life that I hope I always feel, the lust and the courage to be okay with setbacks, because I have learnt that I can be my own hero.

Roseby.

 Its so hard to find the silent type,
Someone shy who won’t spread the hype,
You’re so cold and you’re in this crowd,
I am on my way now

 

What If

With a month in Israel full of coach journeys ahead of me, I imagined discovering parts of my iPod that I didn’t even know about. I pictured myself getting to know tracks that had lingered amongst the thousands but I had never listened to before the trip, discovering lyrics that were yet to be heard. Yet one week of three and a half in, other than flirting with bands such as Kings of Leon and the Black Keys I had listened to very little besides Bombay Bicycle Club debut album ‘I Had the Blues but I Shook Them Loose’. Had I known I would have listened to almost nothing but one album one loop prior to the trip I would have been disappointed in myself; having not taken the opportunity of widening my musical pallet- yet from that point having listened to only a small selection of tracks felt like a satisfying choice.

What pulled me to press play each time was the varying use of guitar and maturity the band produced five years back. That range is shown in the difference between the stunning acoustic solo in the last couple of minutes of the song ‘The Giantess’ and the opening of ‘Evening/Morning’. The short intro to Evening/Morning gives us an idea of how much of the album is pieced together. However the Giantess solo brings the album to a grand close; the two contrasting styles displaying the band’s musical talent.

Prior to writing this post, I went through the album thinking of any particular endings or introductions worth mentioning before realising that besides the above two, the album is so full of them that I can’t narrow them down- which is reflected when I put two songs from this album into my post ‘Top Eleven Favourite Intros’. Before I end I think it’s worth mentioning that the band began in UCS, which is right next door to where I went to primary school- and that they are named after the Indian takeaway restaurant nearby. And the album cover? I’m pretty sure that’s taken in Hyde Park. I’ll be seeing BBC as one of the headliners of Latitude festival this weekend.

https://juvenilehearing.com/2013/01/19/my-top-eleven-favourite-intros/

 

 

 

Dear Readers,

By the title I think I’ve made it pretty clear what the subject of this post is to be about. However, if you’ve never experienced the frustration of buying an album on a whim, realizing that the music on it is too poppy, slow, or so teen angst-y, that every verse was practically a dear-diary-why-is-everyone-against-me moment, that you send it into hibernation in your i-tunes library; then I think you should seriously question your inability to be impulsive… and waste money.

If the glee of uncovering this said album months or years later and absolutely savoring every track until the last song dies out and the repeat button has long since malfunctioned, is a feeling you have known, then read on! Here are my top albums that have spent a little too long in the cluttered corners of my CD- collection.

1. Imagine Dragons- Night Visions

When I first got this album, the almost nonsensical lyrics didn’t mesh with me; they didn’t delve deep enough to provoke any emotion, especially in tracks like ‘Amsterdam’ or ‘I Don’t Mind’. I got back into them with a ferocious nature when my sister expressed her interest in the band. Now the album is one of my favorites, some tracks may have rather sad lyrics, but they are accompanied by these wonderful ‘optimistic’ beats – I feel really joyful when I listen to this album, it’s quite happy-go-lucky.  The song writer depicts taking things into your stride and being, well… optimistic! (Which gives way to the lyrics that tend to dance around the subject instead of describe them fully) My favorite songs right now are ‘Selene’, ‘Tiptoe’ and ‘Demons’.

2. Pop Party 5

A look of disdain is probably spreading across your face as you read the title, but I don’t care! They remind me of simpler times, when CDs like these were played at 5th birthday parties and cake was consumed in overwhelming amounts. With (terrifying) future prospects and obligations that fill me with dread being on the horizon; I can tune in, and zone out, wrapped up in the bubblegum pink paper of childish fancy. These songs don’t explain heartbreak in excruciating detail or lament the terrible decisions we have made; they burst in, and order me to laugh, and smile, for anything that made me dance as a child could never be taken seriously now. Besides… they have the greats: Lily Allen, Take That, McFly (this whole McBusted thing is another collaboration that I will love to loath in the future), Mika! Sometimes I just need to listen to these songs, watch a Disney film, and pull my Teddy Bear (his name is  R) out from under my bed… it’s the only way I’ll stay sane!

3. Billy Bragg- Life’s A Riot With Spy Vs Spy

Unfortunately, I can’t get the album cover up on the blog (ah the irritations of technology), but I felt I had to pull out the big guns in order to redeem myself after the 5 year old in me took over to wreak havoc on my (non-existent) musical reputation.

Last but not least, the album that I almost never listened to for a while. Billy Bragg is like the older, more politicized version of another singer I love, called Cosmo Jarvis. When I first acquired this CD, the sum of the tracks I enjoyed were too little to justify my listening of the tracks I couldn’t stand. Those songs didn’t reach me, they commented on society and experiences I am yet to have; it was difficult to identify with the lyrics. Some examples are ‘Fear Is A Man’s Best Friend’, ‘The Cloth’ or ‘The Busy Girl Buys Beauty’. The first song I heard of Bragg’s was ‘A New England’ and I think I wrongly mistook him for a happy-go-lucky singer who would write mostly about early romance and other easily deconstructed topics, and found it difficult to adapt to his way of writing. As I grew older, analyzing his poetry became easier and I realize that his work is passionate and fiery, I couldn’t understand it because I didn’t have a passion of my own. My favorites include ‘The Milkman Of  Human Kindness’ and ‘The Man In The Iron Mask’.

So that’s it; the songs that really do need a bit of time and space to flourish into wonderful works of art that will capivate you, so you find yourself  listening again and again.

Roseby.

P.S. Not sure of my feelings on the Alice Cooper documentary ‘Super Dooper Alice Cooper’ which has found it’s way to my local cinema. Hopefully I’ll be able to get myself over there and let y’all know what I think!

 

Last Thursday, Ethan and I traveled all the way to KINGSTON UPON THAMES (yeah, I know), to see Metronomy play a gig at McClusky’s, a nightclub that was just as hard to locate with the naked eye as it was with the help of Google maps. I knew the gig would be intimate, but there can’t have been more than 80 people, which I really enjoyed, as I was expecting to be gasping for air as I skirted around a mosh pit. I also knew the gig would be open to all ages, but I still didn’t expect there to be such a range. There were five year olds, high above the crowd and perched upon their parent’s shoulders, teenagers, twenty year olds, thirty year olds, forty plus and I think I even saw an elderly member of the public, headbanging or something. How rock and roll is that?

The band played fan favorites as well as most of their newest ‘Love Letters’ album. Ethan’s more of a Metronomy… nut than I am, but I think that a) the kindly priced tickets and b) the very energetic women in front of us made me exited to follow their future steps.

I really like a performance, as well as good music when it comes to playing live. Although they all put effort into including the crowd and giving a bit of a show, I think that was the only place they faltered. My favorite of the band is the bassist, Olugbenga Adelekan, just watching him bob about as he played his made me smile. My absolute favourite song of the night was the last they played, for different reasons than that, obviously, and it’s called ‘The Most Immaculate Haircut’, I really like the simple things that the writer envies about the man in the song. The grass is always greener on the other side, but having better plant feed wont make you as happy as you imagine.

Um… superb lighting and all that, security guards did a great job (not on the lighting, that would be daft).

Roseby.

Don’t talk about me, let’s talk about you
I know your type, I know exactly what you want to do
And if the money’s right, you think I’ll just agree?
  So sad to see you torn apart by all your selfish greed”

Sell Yourself from Thank You, Happy Birthday

Kentucky based Cage the Elephant arrived onto my music scene with their 2011 album Thank You Happy Birthday, their singles being Shake Me Down, Aberdeen and Around My Head. Bear in mind that Cage the Elephant are one of those bands whose fame doesn’t travel well Transatlantic. It took their biggest song, Shake Me Down, (the Nine-Million-YouTube-Hitter) for the other side of the Atlantic to find out what all the fuss was about. Let’s look at another band that haven’t travelled well transatlantic, but from this side. Two Door Cinema Club, huge in Britain, but as far as I know haven’t made it as big in North America. What is it the link? There isn’t one. That’s the link. We can see the link with there not being one, which is where we notice the huge contrasts: one are a fun Indie pop band that are refreshing to listen to in the summer from Northern Ireland (but feel a bit out of place on the cold bus home in January), and one remind you of the harsh reality that is the selfish and unrelenting human being. In this example, we see simply that it’s the more laid back, seasonal bands that make it big at home in Britain, but in (some parts) of North America it’s the intense group that attract interest.

As we’re on the topic of unrelenting and selfish human beings, I’ll be moving onto the Thank You, Happy Birthday track Sell Yourself (which has a quote in bold italics at the top). This is where we see front man Matt Schulz enter a psychedelic trance that merges the bands’ music with rap. This is the pinpoint moment I imagine fans at a concert, what I like to call, “completely and utterly losing their shit.”

Shake Me Down is Cage the Elephant’s most sought after song, which expresses the suppression and aftershock of loss. It’s this lyric that epitomises what I love about them. This is their niche; they aren’t here to talk about sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, they’re here to analyse something else: loss. Complemented by a melancholy video we see the band telling the tale of a family losing its father.

“In my life, I have seen,
People walk into the sea,
Just to find memories,
Plagued by constant misery,
Their eyes cast down,
Fixed upon the ground,
Their eyes cast down”

The album cover has the words ‘Cage the Elephant’ etched over it in different colours, with the name of the album scribbled into the bottom right hand corner in orange. In the middle of the word ‘Elephant’, there is a mysterious purple blotch and a sort of lemniscates above the band’s name. The band have covered many songs, my favourite being their take on Talking Heads’ ‘Psycho Killer’, which I’ve left a link for below.

Thanks for reading, Ethan.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oIFQVvL-ioE#t=230