This week's selection leaves me feeling utterly spoilt, such is the munificence of the delights therein. It is all a bit PRAISE BE - but not in a God way, because that would be dread.
Single of the Week!
tUnE-yArDs – ‘Real Live Flesh’ (4AD)
Last time I reviewed Merrill Garbus I was childishly distracted by the way she chooses to spell her name. And that was wrong, because she deserves better than that. Better than me, in any event; better than some twit who thinks that endless caveats, sideswipes and boat-rocks [just like this one] are in some small way charming. And she deserves someone who can write tautly in sheer, wondrous awe at her; who will say, ‘What-do-you-know, this Merrill is rare, ain’t she?’ And of course, say it in an a non-irksome fashion. And that person might tell you how though the press release mentions R’n’B which is kind of pointless [PLEASE CAN WE STOP USING R’N’B IN PRESS RELEASES ABOUT ‘INDIE’ – AN AALIYAH OOO-TOOB ON YOUR MYSPACE MEANS NOTHING - OH LOOK IT IS THE XX EVERYONE – AND IF IT WORKED LIKE THAT, I COULD CALL MYSELF ’SKOOLY-W’ - SIMPLY BECAUSE I HAPPEN TO OWN THE ODD AGE-INAPPROPRIATE HOODIE].
They might also remark upon how she has taken a phrase associated with women who get paid to forget to put their tops on, and has switched it up so that it actually means something; something fresh. And how this in itself is interesting (if you are interested in That Sort Of Thing – and I am) – because eventually a phrase that has been used to promote pornographic displays does inevitably become rather meaningless, and oddly rather empty. But when you re-appropriate it, and use it to mean actual women of the kind you know and go out with, somehow it becomes much more sexy, and heaps more powerful. I mean, it doesn’t take a genius to work out how Real Live Flesh in your Real Live Life is one hundred times more head-spinning than anything you have to pay for. So here is a record. I think it is about how much better women are in the now - in the here and now; when they are sweaty and ruined. And yet it is not a dry feminist treatise, it is an explosion of playfulness with a drum beat of quite forbidding, frisky portent and a heady minor key applied to the vocals. And when Merrill sings ‘We are not what what you wanted’ / ‘We are not what you asked for’ I just think ‘Exactly. We’re better,’ The greatest lie porn ever told was that it provided a sexual watermark worth aspiring to. When the only watermark you’ll ever really need is in your own head, your own bedroom.
Ben + Vesper – ‘LuvInIdleness’ from LuvInIdleness EP (Sounds Familyre)
Sounds Familyre really are reliable sorts. You know, if Sounds Familyre were your friend, they would be the sort of person you could entrust with a spare set of house keys. Not like some other labels I can think of. Why, they’d be in your knicker drawer before you could scribble a post-it with feed-my-cat on it; putting your best satin undercrackers on they head, doing hilarious pretend licks to the gusset* while a hilarious friend filmed them for their hilarious one-note blog. And this brings us to their latest bit of wonderful – a Ben + Vesper EP called ‘LuvInIdleness’, and though it is a terror to type it is heaven to listen to, with call-and-response vocals you find yourself singing along with before you quite meant to, as if they had you under some sort of choral spell. Also, Ben sure does have a touch of the Jonathan Richmans about him, and it really is heaven to hear a voice so clearly redolent of that sort of bass-addled cheekiness. Brilliant, and moretothebloodypoint, the title song is free, here.
Nice Nice - ‘See Waves’ (Warp)
Aren’t * we * good. We gave Nice Nice SOTW months ago - and here they are again all hopeful, like. I say we – in that awful, fooling-no one way that magazines are so very, very fond of ['We love Power Shoulders!' scream the shiny, slappable ones - as if women are so very dim, they cannot see through the faux nice. AND ANYWAY, if women’s magazines were ever your friend they would be the WORST FRIEND EVER – all bitchy, passive-aggressive asides about how your hair looked ‘better before’ and how you looked really amazing when you ‘tried’]. Sorry about this, everyone. Nice Nice are good at rackets – and not the boring, tennis kind, obviously. This is their second single. It is the dizziest thing you’ll hear all week, it demonstrates how they really, really know what they are doing and its halting, stop-start angular jangle would have won this thing in a less good week.
Esben and the Witch – ‘Lucia, At The Precipice’ (Too Pure)
The fact that Esben and the Witch have tackled Kylie’s ‘Confide In Me’ wins me over on the straightaway, even though covers are dread, and even though deliberately contrast-y, LOOK AT US, BEING ALL POP AND THAT ones are even more so (I think we should agree this is the last time I make this point). That being my problem, and not Esben’s [no one in this band is called Esben], along with the fact that I have a brain-jam because there are TOO MANY BANDS called 'Something and the Something' (to the point where I found it vaguely amusing to try and wind someone in indie up by confusing this lot with the lot that call themselves Erland and the Carnival. And I thought this was amusing slash offensive because Erland and the Carnival [no one in this band is called Erland] are WELL OLD and also contain members of a band called The Verve). Anyway, as I believe it is customary to at least give some, tiny clue as to what this sounds like, I shall say it is an odd, misty thing, it has the second best title of the week, and although it hasn’t quite given me the giddy jitters like what it appears to have given everyone else around these parts, it does have in its favour some histrionic vocals that have not been allowed to run away with themselves, which means more of Edgar Allen Poe-on-keyboards, wibbly electronics is allowed to come through. It also gets really, really good at the end. And I don't mean 'the end' as in 'when it ends', obviously. More here
Field Music - 'Them That Do Nothing' (Memphis Industries)
Even though it was only last week that we considered the dreadness of the word ‘tight’ when used to describe ANY BAND OR MUSIC EVER, that does not mean we shall not look at it again. And because I am in possession of a God complex that is doing rather well - despite my putting it on the windowsill when the label tells me not to, I propose an outright ban. Let us never say ‘tight’ and if we do, let it only mean dread. Because the best word to apply to Field Music (the more elegant one, at least) would be precision. And not in an uptight, where-is-my-ruler-for-setting-out-the-tidyness-of-my-thank-you-note way, of course. The point is, Field Music take crispiness further than anyone, and the joy of their records is how fiercely they shine the spotlight on every finger strum and letter uttered, and though all is bathed in fluorescence [SORRY ABOUT THE WANK] none of it is found wanting. ‘Them That Do Nothing’ also has - let’s not beat about it - a central tenet about how you don’t get anything out of life if you don’t take risks or goferret, and clearly this is one of the truest things, since things started not being false. Also, the way it is mixed. Now, if I were capable of being embarrassed, I would try to pass off some sort of rudimentary studio knowledge >here< because I did not want to be found out. And I would chuck in a few words like ‘reinforcement’ or ‘compression’ [JUST LOOKED THOSE UP ON WIKIPEDIA] when of course, you don’t need a BTEC in sound design to know that when things ping on a Field Music record, they are pingier than any other pings ever recorded. And when they sing in that oddly staccato and yet deeply warm and embraceable way, it is all crystal, all sharpness, all resonance and making good use of jumping from one ear to the other. Sharp and scuffed all at the same time, how Field Music manage to sound like a hug and a paper cut all-at-once, I shan’t ever know.
M.A.N.D.Y. Vs. Booka Shade – ‘Donut’ (Living The Dream)
Hello, is that dance music? Am I wanting my DVD of the Wire season two back? No, that’s fine, you keep it, but of course, not forever, because that would be wrong. What would you have us listen to this week if we were hoping to appear wivvit? Bearing in mind that we would quite like to lump All Of Youse in ‘dance’ into one, five letter word shoebox and pretend there are no sub-shoeboxes - mainly because we don’t really know / cannot be arsed to check what all of those micro-genres are. And do you know readers, it turns out Mandy and Booka Shade HAVE BRUNG DONUTS. Apropos of nothing, I’ve always thought ‘Booka Shade’ was a cosy, friendly sort of name. But I am prepared to wonder if it actually means ‘your mum smokes cock’ - or something else similarly rude - in street parlance. And I should be none the wiser, being as deliberately naïve as that Mr. Harold Skimpole out of Bleak House. Anyhoo, even though Mandy and Booka’s donuts aren’t anything like as posh, icing-laden or treatsome as the ones Dilla brought in 4 years ago after we finished delivering the spreadsheets on that big IT project, they really are quite tasty. This single doesn’t have any words and it is nice. Like a donut. Just listen to it, okay?
Black Belles – ‘What Can I Do’ / ‘Lies’ (Third Man Records)
I intend to draw your uncharitable eyes tward the promotional photo above. Because if you see what I see, your brain will start whizzing off, and sirens will clang before a cute little plane spells out CLASSICAL BABEZ in cloud-shaped letters in the sky. I mean, I’m not explaining this taybly well but they do appear to have been styled by Elvira after having been commissioned by Simon Cowell for a novelty blues-rock-babez Halloween halbum. Not that it matters [IT DOES MATTER] because ‘Lies’, from their double-A single is marvellously good, and the Black Belles are sort of like a swampy Donnas [<<< LAZY] were Jack White to discover them and put them out on his own label. Which, of course, he did. Anyway, the best thing about ‘Lies’ is that it sounds ‘authentic’ [<<< OH. JUST MADE SELF SICK] but also remembers that getting into the pop charts is not the worst thing in the world - and certainly no worse than having a shit promotional photo. And that, my friends, is what we call FULL CIRCLE. Do go here for more, because they are better than this review.
Zinc ft. Ms Dynamite – ‘WILE OUT’ (Bingo Beats)
I’ll tell you what I think when I listen to WILE OUT [why so shouty, Zinc?] – in fact, I will tell you what I thought because I am not listening to it now, I am typing [a quick bit of behind-the-magic for you there]. It is just that sometimes it strikes you, for no real reason, that musicians are doing what they want. And that is what occurred to me when I listened to this. And that, for all her Brits-endorsed hop-lite of yesteryear (which I imagine the younglings won’t even remember) Ms. D is a proper talent, and now that she sounds like she is doing as she pleases, I think I like her rather more. And am happy for her, if my assumptions are correct. As for the song itself, when it gets going (i.e. after a warm-up of thirty of your seconds that I feel are unnecessarily long and thirty-secondish), it is very, very pleasant indeed, even though I do not know what ‘wile’ means.
Still Flyin' – ‘Runaway Train’ (Moshi Moshi)
This is amazing, but we shall have to come back to Still Flyin’ another week. It really is top larks though, and not in a I-have-promised-the-PR-lady-to-mention-it way - I hactually loved this, but one only has so many mots, doesn't one. More here
Also out this week!
Dignan Porch – ‘On A Ride’ (Captured Tracks)
Beachniks - ‘Beachniks’ (Captured Tracks))
Placebo – ‘Bright Lights’ (Dreambrother Music)
Japanese Voyeurs – ‘That Love Sound’ / ‘Blush’ (Slimeball Records)
teenagersintokyo – ‘Peter Pan’ (Back Yard Recordings)
*Gusset. Gusset, gusset, gusset, gusset, gusset, gusset, gusset, gusset.
Wendy is on Twitter, here. (GUSSET.)