Top 5 tracks of the last couple o’ years

5. Teleman – Christina

So they’ve succumbed to continental organs and delayed clean palm-muted 1950s electric guitar… so what?! This sound captures the moment quite nicely in many ways, and it’s a sweet song about sweet release.

4. The Foals – My Number

I’m sure you’re seeing a pattern here – all very indie isn’t it? Maybe, but I listen to a lot of 6Music! What do I like about this track? Apart from the delayed muted guitar (which I have a soft spot for) they do parallel 10ths really well. Not like Paul Mealor, who – like many contemporary choral composers – overuses this interval in a very lazy way! It’s also magnificently catchy, and you should never underrate a good tune and a good set of gestures (like the pseudo-oriental high guitar opening riff).

3. Little Dragon – Ritual Union

After years of complete apathy to new music, this little number got me back on track, for which I’m forever grateful. Simplicity done well I really like. As with so many around today, sounding a bit like a 1980s console is in, presumably for reasons of nostalgia. And I’m not immune to this effect. In fact, I’m a complete sucker for it.

2. Major Lazer – Get Free

No other ML track sounds like this. I’m almost scared by the surrealist shanty vibe I get from this track. I get the feeling of Pirates of Dark Water and Monkey Island. (Alright then, I AM a sucker for nostalgia. But I’m getting to that age…) The understated off-beat flutey organ lies in contrast to the intense and sometimes harsh vocals from Amber of The Dirty Projectors (another fine group, I might add). Again, Major Lazer gets a win here for not doing too much. This song is at number 2 because more than any other track it inspired my latest release under my new band Claude Canvas. Here’s a sneak preview for you…

1. David Bowie – Where Are We Now?

Phil, you’re so predictable. Well maybe, but context is everything… And here Bowie’s come back with something amazing – nostalgia (quelle surprise), yearning, and authenticity. This is what people I want to watch and hear are made of. I mean, he wears a t-shirt in it relating to his first love Hermione Farthingale (also the girl with the mousy hair), someone he’s still not really over after more than 40 years. This song is bitter-sweet, persongified [sic]. I did a blog post on the return of Bowie, click me.

Other nominations: Sleigh Bells – Rill Rill, James Blake – Retrograde, Aluna George – Attracting Flies

Note: There are songs I was going to include but couldn’t. Why? Because of their hijacking by advertisement companies. This includes the Intro of XX’s self-titled album and Santigold – Disparate Youth, which will forever be Direct Line.

Click on “follow” (bottom right of screen) to keep up with these blogs and, as ever, thanks for reading…

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Musical Stealing

Does subconscious musical stealing still count as stealing? Or is it just chance?

Everyone who knows me knows I like David Bowie. Love, adore or respect aren’t the right words… maybe ‘hear’ is the right word. I hear David Bowie. Word.

The surprising thing is that I don’t actually know many of his albums. My dad once bought me Hunky Dory which I had along side the two best of CDs, in 2003 I got Reality and that’s about it. So today you are THE JUDGE, and I have a case to put before you after you consider the following evidence…

did I
a) consciously steal Bowie
b) subconsciously steal Bowie
c) it’s just a coincidence or
d) it doesn’t matter.

Here is the evidence, your honour….

When I was 14-17 years old I pretty much only spent my time shooting things, kicking people in (Playstation) or making up things (Pianoforte). That was about it. I spent a long time at the piano because I only ever had extreme crushes on girls at that age. Basically two of them – the first was of course “the one” and then the next one who turned up three years later was “the [other] one”. Stubborn but withdrawn, I would never tell them, but also never let go of the fact that she [they] was [were] the one[s]. It just so happens in one of my many angsty rambles through the infinite landscape of the piano and my imagination I stumbled upon a selection of notes which a mere 10 years later would form the theme of my first proper album. Listen to the first 6 seconds of this to hear it. 

And now, a good 2 years after starting to write this album, I’ve been getting into David Bowie with all this hoo-hah with his new album and all. I listened to a Bowie documentary where the track Lady Stardust was played and I did an Oliver Hardy-style double take (except with my ears, rather than my eyes)… listen to the first 5 seconds of this… 

Pretty similar, eh? Now Bowie only made one song out of it, I made a whole album, but here’s the thing – I’ve never heard this song before… except… there is a possibility that my dad played it to me when I was very young. If this particular A major with flattened 5th chord struck a… chord… with me, might it have lodged into my subconscious until I was older and spent many hours sitting at the keys, and my subconscious mind guided my fingers into the relevant position? Or is it probability? Only 12 notes in a scale after all, and I pretty much stuck to fairly regular chords (assuming A major b5 is regular), so surely sooner or later I would come across it and think “ooo”.

But here’s exhibit B, your worship. When I recently saw the album cover to the Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust I felt a very very vague pang of nostalgia… Very vague, and I certainly don’t remember any other bits of the album that aren’t on the best of….

So, your honour, do you find the defendant guilty or not guilty?

YOU DECIDE!!

Last syllable standing

The year is 2030. The station is Channel 5 which – after the closure of the BBC and the demise of Channel 4 after the scandals of the early 2020s – is now the Republic of Britain’s most watched ichannel. The programme is titled “I remember the tenties”.

An aging Rick Edwards is one of dozens of vox pops remembering the music fad of repeating the end of a word that you’ve just sung on a single note. Edwards comments:

“It all started with the Rhianna song Umbrella, eh, eh eh, and went crazy from there! It’s a great way of extending your song without writing more words.”

The tenties began in earnest with Taylor Swift “you found me-ee-ee-ee” (2:19)

and Justin Bieber’s “eh-eh-eh” (perhaps more a tribute to his Canadian heritage) (0:55)

In 2021 this trend climaxed and imploded in a dramatic end to Bieber’s career with his hit “Hello”: an avant-garde minimalistic work comprising two notes with the following lyrics:

Hello-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-ay-ay-ay

This eight minute track hailed the end of repeating a syllable on the same note at the end of a word, as well as the demise of the BBC, Channel 4 and the overthrow of his Majesty King Charles III.

Fortunately there was a Saviour in the form of President Cameron’s grandson – Cameron Camerson (who had changed his surname so as not to be associated with the legacy of his dictatorial grandfather). Camerson invented a new style of pop vocal – he would sing the first syllable of a word for over a minute before moving on to the next syllable. With hits such as “Shitake mushrooms”, “Country House” and “Dictatorz ‘r’ bad”, Camerson’s effect on Britain was the establishment of BBC 2.1 and restoration the monarchy under Queen Catherine, whose husband had died of premature baldness, although the Queen was implicated in a poisoning plot, a charge which she denied until she was asked unexpectedly, when she accidentally admitted regicide.

Bowie’s Back… and a very attractive back it is, too…

As everyone knows Bowie is back, out of the blue. No one knew, but after 10 years he still surprises the world, from nowhere. All last year everyone was saying “has he retired?” “Is he a recluse?” But no..

He’s come back with a single, Where Are We Now?

What’s good about it? It’s what’s always been good about Bowie, it’s authentic, it’s real, it’s him looking back over his life, about Berlin, bringing back memories of a divided place. But it’s what Bowie hasn’t done which is great – he’s not sold out, he’s not done a snappy number about Twitter to show that he’s hip, he’s not done a protest song about broken Britain, riots, the Olympics, or how bad music is – he’s not even done gun crime in America. He’s looked within himself and expressed it. God knows there aren’t many who can do that. And he’s reinvented himself again. A new image again. The man in the black hat..

2680659-david-bowie-2013-617-409

Perhaps he got it from Breaking Bad. It wouldn’t surprise me, he borrows influences from everywhere as he explains here.breaking-bad-season-finale-01

I always liked Bowie, ever since I was a kid… it all began with hearing Heroes on my dad’s record player at the behest of my mum… I remember feeling something then… it’s the feeling of some unknown energy inside you bursting to get out. I learned to suppress it, of course, but there it was, teased out by the almighty magnificence of that track…

So here’s a top 5 of Bowie tracks, as voted for by me, now… the criteria? Nostalgia, my feeling, my gut and whatever else is churning around inside me (I had a large breakfast…)

5. Let’s Dance

One of those rare treats where you don’t know how much this is parody and commentary and how much he’s become part of it. You can’t hear it though and not go YEEEAAAAHHHHH! Plus there’s an AHHH dominant 7th straight out of Twist and Shout. Listen to the bass line. And that brass hit straight out of The Message. But it’s not a novelty record. It’s Bowie and it’s authentic. This is the paradox of Bowie, a man who lived only in characters and faces and incarnations yet is one of the most authentic artists around…

4. All the Young Dudes

Ah the riff, the riff – when I first heard this I thought “but this riff has always existed, surely”. It’s one of those. It was on a mix tape from my older brother Tom (he brought me one every fortnight) and I listened to it again and again. Pretty soon I knew to the second exactly how far to rewind my tape player to get to the beginning of the track – just by feel… Bruce Dickinson did a cover where he pimped up the riff. That guitar plus Bowie’s singing and it would have been perfect

3. Life on Mars

Isn’t it great? You see those blued-up mysterious eyes looking at you, and hear this inventive, ambiguous pondering, a very quick symphony of ideas, gestures by different instruments going in and out with thought and care. It’s so abstract, and it has the paradoxical gift of bursting forth with personal meaning yet being meaningless at the same time, written, as it was, with cut up pieces of paper.

2. The Man Who Sold the World

Another one with a great cover this time by Nirvana. It’s the riff again. Just three notes – that’s it. It inspired a song a wrote and recorded when I was 17… but that’s not online! It’s the haunting quality of this obsessive riff over these chords which somehow, with an indifferent guiro, conjure up images of magic and mysticism of an ancient and lost pagan folk music. It doesn’t help that he puts this phaser on his voice either to turbo charge the phantasmal quality backed by a creepier haunted theater organ…

1. Heroes

It had to be… it’s where it all began. A riff from Judy in Disguise, a repeating three note guitar wail – the trumpets of heaven in the 1970s. And Bowie’s voice, starting with a reassured presence of absolute power being understated – like God: no need to show your power when you are power itself. And then, half way through, he unleashes the chariots of fire, lightning bolts raining down of celestial omnipotence “hot coals of love” as dear old Jesus used to call it. This track never fails…

You: WHAT?

Where the hell is Ziggy Stardust? Changes? Rebel Rebel? Jean Genie? Starman? Space Oddity?

I know. But look at the criteria… I warned you!

Rock stars used to have the good sense to die in a drugs overdose at 27 (although some still do), but now you get oldies still coming out with great stuff (actually there aren’t that many… Paul Weller just about got away with it, but no one’s got it like Bowie).. so the question is… how long will Bowie keep surprising us, and how can I be more like him…?

Side note: the challenge of writing a blog is finding YouTube videos that don’t have adverts at the beginning.

I’ve clicked here to watch one of the greatest and most influential artists of the last 50 years, I don’t care how squeaky Oral B makes your fucking teeth, Yasmine, now PISS OFF!!!