Because there are no rules for how music affects us, the way we listen can be pretty random. It’s not like we decide to listen to nothing but Canadian indie one week, then nothing but conscious hip hop the next. Instead, it depends more on the way we feel at the time than the style of the music. Sometimes I like nothing more than to put on a Prince record. Other times I just can’t be arsed with the nymphomaniacal glam-funk of ‘the vertically challenged one’. But the point I may or may not be getting to is that musical taste is something that’s constantly changing, from day to day and month to month, just like us. So here are a few tracks that could happily occupy my headphones at this precise moment in time (but not next week of course!)…
Brian Eno/David Byrne – Help Me Somebody
I just finished reading a Talking Heads biography, which turned me on to the underrated Eno/Byrne collaboration My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1981). It’s an astonishing record – ambitious, ethnic, pulsating, haunting, and hugely influential on later dance music in its use of sampling. This track is pure visceral rhythm, sounding more like the green jungle of Africa than the concrete one of its inception.
Best heard: in a dark basement club, or through a bass-heavy PA system in a disused church. Yeah.
Hot Chip – One Pure Thought
From the eagerly-awaited new LP Made in the Dark, this quirky number is one of the best of the batch. It begins with a very un-Hot Chip intro of chilly, ragged guitar, followed by a stormy synth. It then takes a thoroughly unexpected direction when a booty-shaking Jamaican beat kicks in. It may be too stylistically wayward for some people’s tastes, but it is proof if we needed it of the London band’s genre-mangling creativity
Best heard: on a bus, gazing blankly at the rain-soaked streets and dreaming of summer.
The Enemy – You’re Not Alone
I know I know I know. At the risk of holding a lighter and an aerosol can to the last shred of credibility this blog may or may not have, let me state the case for the defence of this much derided, hugely derivative band. When I first saw The Enemy on TV I was not ennamoured. The singer looked like a drowned rat, the average age of their audience was about 14, and their sound is a lawyer’s baw-hair away from The Jam’s Greatest Hits. But then I bought this single on 7″ for 99p (there aren’t many records I won’t buy for that price) and took it home for a quick spin before work. Ok, so it’s basically the same football-terrace, angry-yoof posteuring of primitive lad-rock. But there’s something about that yelled chorus ‘you’re not alone’ that’s also completely valid and thrilling and exciting in its own right. The kids love it, and I can kinda see why. If you’re willing to suspend your chin stroking for three minutes and forty-five seconds, you might too. [If you still hate it, you must explain why you’re right – and I’m wrong – below.] I’ll probably regret its inclusion in a month’s time of course.
Best heard: at one of their gigs, too wasted to care what your peers think of you.
Rob St John – Tipping In EP
I have to apologise to Rob St John for not getting round to this sooner, as he alerted me to his debut EP a month or so back. I don’t know why I haven’t mentioned it already, because this three-track release from the Fife Kills label has been on my MP3 player a lot. The Edinburgh songwriter is a rare talent, his hushed, melancholy songs full of timeless character (especially The Acid Test). With his finger-picking guitar playing, cello/accordian accompaniment and fireside voice, the obvious comparison is James Yorkston. I don’t know if he’s already tiring of this reference point, but it’s a huge compliment in my opinion.
Best heard: lying awake in the wee small hours.
Digitalism – Pogo
Their album Idealism has really grown on me. Their vocoder-led electroclash may be a bit obvious in an age where Daft Punk are the biggest dance act on the planet, but it’s still pretty fucking enjoyable, uplifting music. Pogo is perhaps the most human track – the only one that doesn’t sound like the bastard lovechild of Stephen Hawking and Nintendog.
Best heard: when you’re in dire need of a holiday.