Friday, 13 January 2012

My Tracks of the year 2011 (part 2)

This is Part 2 where i look at some of the folky and rocky stuff i've been listening to over the last year, for part one and a general explanation of what this is about see:

Alison Kraus and Union Station - Dust Bowl Children

This is some proper ye-ha music. Bluegrass and the sort of pan European folk tradition that this music harks back to is the original dance music. Back in the day before raves they had barn dances, ceilis or whatever it was called in the native language and they got fucked on homemade drink and raved to the fastest danciest shit they could beat out on their acoustic instruments. I actually think that this track and the one following has more in common with the stuff in the next two parts than anything in the first two. I like this track particularly because it has a bit of soul to it and the vocals from Dan “I actually sang all that stuff in O Brother Whereart Thou” Tyminski give it a real bit of depth. I also find it interesting that in the midst of a global economic crisis we’re getting a revival in the musical aesthetic of the great Depression years, something that is explicitly referenced in the lyrics of the verse from the original version of this song that wasn’t used in this one.

Cave Singers – Dancing on Our Graves

A nice stompy marching beat around which everything else builds, then drops and builds again then the lows drop out and come back in etc. You see, this shit was the techno of its day. Hmm, maybe this year i’ll teach myself how to use Ableton just so I can make a whole album of electronic remixes of this stuff just to prove the point. Anyway, I don’t know much about the band, just found this on a random spotify adventure (which is what i call it when i surf through spotify using the related artists tabs in the right hand corner) loved it and a few of their other tracks and its stuck since.

Lightning Dust – Listened On

Ah, what can I say about this lovely smooth bit of psychedelic rock. It’s just so chilled and easy, makes me wish I could still get stoned so I could just spark up, bang this on in a loop and mellow out. It’s so sweet and warm it just takes you away. I love the vocals too, they have a kind of strength to them and carry a lot of emotion very easily. It’s so hazy and evocative I feel like i’m living someone else’s life for a few minutes when I’m listening to it, a strange nostalgia for things that never happened.

Keli Ali – The Savages

Apparently this girl is at the forefront of a gothic neo-folk revival. I should hope so, this is absolutely amazing. Reminds me of pre-modern folk music, but also a little bit of Forever Autumn from The War of the Worlds (which I love btw. I used to rinse it out after I stopped toking and dedicate it to the hashish I could no longer smoke). I know that this is girly as hell but its all so lyrical and dark, there’s a real intelligence in the lyrics and that wee girl has some pipes on her to carry so much in the precise and controlled way she sings. I just like the dissonance between how old it sounds and how modern its sensibilities are. It has the chilled out-edness of the trip hop that Keli Ali comes from (she used to be in Sneaker Pimps) and that dark gothic sound. Nice.

Sebadoh – On Fire (acoustic)
Ah the wonders of the internet, you can catch up with half remembered obscure shit you heard about when you were a kid but never had the connections or the money to pursue back before you had access to literally everything. I vaguely recall reading about Sebadoh in a magazine that my cousin Roisin left in our house when she was a student and I was a mere first or second year at Lagan which was a student’s special and was sort of my awakening to the adult world. More on that issue of DV8 another time maybe, but I recall reading about this band and thinking they sounded class way back in the early 90s when they were going. Something put this into my head recently and I started looking for them online. I found a lot of their stuff and it seems like my nascent musical instincts were right, they were actually quite good, sort of came up through the same rock scene as REM and Dinosaur Jr. but were not quite as big, and definitely didn’t make much of an impact on this side of the Atlantic. I don’t listen to a lot of indie anymore, actually finding these guys and listening to Pulp doing the festivals again this year and still sounding awesome made me wonder if i wasn’t missing out so I went on a trawl through the 90s indie scene on Spotify and I concluded that with the exception of Mercury Rev and a few individual tracks here and there, I was quite right to dismiss the whole thing as shit and that actually Oasis were damn lucky to do as well as they did.

All the rest of it notwithstanding, these guys were genuinely special and this track in particular is fucking cool. They could go from really nice stuff like this to harsh experimental tracks like monochrome set at their most artsy and obtuse. Great stuff but i don’t know why they were never bigger over here but there you go.

RSAG – Stick To Your line
1-02 Stick To Your Line by Rarely Seen Above Ground
I did make it to a few good festivals this year but i didn’t go to any of the big ones. I generally don’t go to any of those ones, I’m way to much of a closet hipster for that shit and it’s expensive as fuck. I probably ought to have gone to Electric Picnic though, from what I saw of this years it looked class, not even for the headliners but for all the other stuff and the small up-coming acts playing you could have had a blast without even seeing any of the big names. I was torturing myself by looking at the line up for this years when it was just about to happen and when i had no hope of getting a ticket when I saw these guys, a new band from down south that happen to sound like Joy Division, Pere Ubu and all that other post-punk new wave-y shit that I like. I actually think I did a double take when I heard this track, it just sounds so much like something from that era. It sounds fresh too, like as I’ve said a few times I don’t listen to a lot of indie but this sounds different to anything else at the minute, as much as it’s a little derivative of some earlier stuff, its all good stuff that he’s riffing off and nobody else right now seems to be tapping that particular seem.

Ice Age – Collapse

I heard about these guys in an article from the magazine of the rouge IS section over in the states. Basically the jist was that all the stuff coming up and being bigged up by Pitchfork was politically suspect and wouldn’t it be nicer if the new music that was emerging during the crisis had a more overtly lefty political content. Personally as a member of the Irish SWP i found the whole thing cringe inducing. You can’t just damn music based on its perceived political content, i hate people on the left getting on like that about music, the first thing I did when i read the article was listen to the two acts they were criticising on Spotify. And as it turns out they were actually quite wrong about Iceage. I can see why they were worried about the band possibly having some far right affiliation, but there is nothing in the actual music or the lyrics of the songs that actually supports such the idea. The worst you could say is that they’re a-political. The lyrics have no real reason to them, they’re just evocative words that frame and support the music with no meaning of their own. The music itself is really good though, it’s all done in a raspy raucous style, kind of libertines rough with harsher stuff coming in and most of the songs come in at under two and a half minutes, as it should be. It has a real energy to it too. No filler, not even on individual tracks, how often can you say that? Really good accomplished stuff considering how young these lads are. As for their political affiliation, one ill advised Death In June tattoo notwithstanding (though i find all that 3rd position queerism stuff too idiosyncratic to be taken seriously), they have toured with some quite serious antifa affiliated punk bands who wouldn’t have them anywhere near them if they truly believed they were crypto-fascists. It’s that sort of detail you want to actually look at when you’re talking about a musical acts politics rather than sifting through their actually meaningless lyrics looking for clues.

Foetus – Time Marches On

Apparently Foetus are supposed to be an industrial band. I dunno, they neither look nor sound that industrial-y to me (depending on how you define what industrial is, which is probably a topic for a different blog) I mean this has pianos, swooping orchestral violins and shit in it. And yet, they get remixed by Ambassador 21 (this actual track come to think of it) and I’ve heard Matt ‘Caustic’ Fanale refer to them as an industrial band and he should know since he’s been near single handedly redefining what industrial is for the last couple of years. It’s really idiosyncratic industrial at least.

Whatever it is this is the very definition of pumpin’. It has so much life and fun in it and it bangs like a shithouse door in a hurricane. You can dance your wee dick off to it. I have done, frequently. Class tune.

Anyway, on that note I’m going to leave it. join me next time when I look at some of the electronic I was listening to this year, seven absolute bangers from a couple of different styles of electronica.

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