Tuesday, 25 September 2007

He believes in beauty

Bjork's first three albums (four if you include Telegram ) grabbed me as soon as I heard them; Post-Homogenic I kind of lost interest a bit. Sure, the albums were good, but listening to them wasn't terribly enjoyable. Admittedly, I was only 6 when "It's Oh So Quiet" was released, and so when I got Post a few years later I expected it to be more of the same. When it wasn't, I only liked half or so of the album initially. I left it for a while and bought Debut instead. I still love Debut; "Human Behaviour", "Big Time Sensuality", "Come To Me"...virtually every track is near-perfect pop. There are so many different Bjork releases about that it's not really practical to be completist. Today however I managed to get two Debut-era releases at hilariously reasonable prices: the 2-track "Venus As A Boy" US promo and the "Best Mixes From Debut For All The People Who Don't Buy White Labels" EP.

The best remix on the "Debut" EP in my opinion is the Black Dog mix of "Anchor Song". In the best possible way it sound like the original arrangement's horns have got stuck in the CD player,and the saxophones have got a bit scratched. The vocal floats unaltered over what sounds like it should be an aural mess but isn't, until a wonderful a capella section in the middle then everything just....stops. In the final 20 seconds, 4m30s of dissonance resolves itself, leading to a great, mellow ending.

The "VAaB" promo has an edited album version (meh) and the 7" American Dream mix, which I can only describe as beautiful. Twinkly, soothing, yet with funky drums as well...the only problem I have with it is that the sleevenote says it was remixed by Mick Hucknall...the Mick Hucknall? Really? If so, it's the best thing the ginger crooner's ever done.

Anchor Song (Black Dog Mix) (mp3)

Venus As A Boy (7" American Dream Mix) (mp3)

Official Bjork site (link)

Friday, 21 September 2007

Comment vais-je faire? Tu ne reviens pas

Today I finally got hold of Françoise Hardy's 2004 album Tant de Belles Choses, which gives me an excuse to write about my absolute favourite yéyé fille.
Françoise signed with Vogue records in 1961, and released the phenomenally successful "Tous Les Garçons et Les Filles", which sold 2 million copies. She went on to release a number of albums with Vogue before leaving them in 1967. Although my knowledge post-Vogue is a bit patchy (I'm trying to work my way through the later albums), inasmuch as I've heard the odd song but not many complete albums, I would say her early Vogue material is my favourite; there's not a song I don't like pre-68. I got into Françoise in 2004 just before TdBC came out but at that point I didn't know where to find new French CDs in shops, so I'm still playing catch-up.

Tant De Belles Choses is great, a bit soporific at times but the rest makes up for it:

Soir de Gala (mp3)
La Folie Ordinaire (mp3)

Two great Vogue-era tracks:

Si C'est Ça (mp3)
Le Premier Bonheur du Jour (mp3)

official Françoise Hardy website (link)

Thursday, 13 September 2007

We had a promise made; we were in love

Most people will know at least one song by The Knife, since José Gonzalez covered "Heartbeats" a couple of years ago. If you don't, The Knife are a Swedish brother/sister duo, Olof and Karin Dreijer, who make dark, synth-based pop. They tend to shun media attention (hence the masks above). Karin sang on "What Else is There" by Royksopp; the video is another example of media-avoidance. Only on the second or third viewing did I realise it's not Karin performing in the video, but model Marianne Schröder.
I bought the band's last album Deep Cuts on the strength of "Heartbeats" alone. The good songs were really good; some of it I didn't like so much. So when their latest album Silent Shout came out last year I was a bit "meh", especially since the first review I saw was possibly the only bad review given (Q Magazine gave the CD one star. The review can be summarised as "tuneless mess". Q Mag's given some dodgy reviews in its time, and this is an extreme example of them getting it wrong). But then, in July, Brille re-released a "deluxe edition" of Silent Shout. I'm a sucker for bonus discs, and have been hankering after the release for a while. i just got it yesterday and the package is pretty amazing. You get the original album, a live DVD with some amazing visuals and a CD with the audio of the DVD. Also on the DVD is every video the band have ever made plus a short film. Even if you have the Deep Cuts re-issue (which includes a bonus DVD with 5 music videos and the short film) it's worth getting for the other 15.

I've not got round to watching the whole DVD yet, but a highlight of the live audio is definitely "Heartbeats". The more glittery elements- and the steel drums- of the original have been removed, leaving a dark, shimering song which could easily fit on Silent Shout proper. Of the album tracks, I really like "Forest Families".

"Heartbeats" (live) (mp3)

"Forest Families" (mp3)

Official Knife website (link)

Monday, 3 September 2007

Whatever I got doesn't stay together

Another "lost" band (so far at least): Fried consist of the former Fine Young Cannibals bassist, David Steele, and Jonte Short, a former gospel singer from New Orleans. They released an eponymous album in 2004, but it pretty much sank without trace despite some exposure on TV. They recently re-released the album with a new title (Things Change), new artwork and a tweaked tracklisting, removing a couple from the previous release and adding three new songs. "Whatever I Choose I Lose" is one of the best songs on the album, though most of it is pretty good. Of the songs that didn't make the cut the second time around, I like "Getaway" the most; it has a great bassline and is very groovy.

"Whatever I Choose, I Lose" (mp3)
"Getaway" (mp3)

official (somewhat bare) Fried website (link)

Saturday, 1 September 2007

How do I know you feel it? How do I know it's true?

OK, you're thinking. You know that's Annie Lennox in the top picture, but who the hell are they in the other one, and why are they in the same post?

Basically, because they both recorded one of my favourite songs and they are both fantastic. The band are The Blue Nile, one of Scotland's least-prolific acts and best kept secrets. They have released 4 albums in 23 years: A Walk Across The Rooftops (1984), Hats (1989), Peace At Last (1996) and High(2004).

Hats reached #12 and was their most successful release. The band are something of an enigma: even their official website appears to have disappeared. However, their frontman Paul Buchanan has collaborated with a number of other artists including Annie Lennox. He wrote the song "The Gift" for her 1992 album Diva and she recorded my 2nd-favourite* Blue Nile song, "The Downtown Lights", on her covers album, Medusa. Both versions are as good as the other, though the original does sound distinctly 80s at the beginning. The lyrics are fantastic and the arrangement(s) are very evocative. Buchanan's understated vocals and synthdrums combined create a very atmospheric song.

On a related note, Annie Lennox releases her new single "Dark Road" on the 24th of September, and an album follows on the 1st of October. I bought her last album, but barring two songs which were amazing, the CD was largely disappointing. Since Annie is generally fabulous, I really hope this album will be a return to form.

The Blue Nile- "The Downtown Lights" (mp3)

Annie Lennox-"The Downtown Lights" (mp3)

* favourite is "I Love This Life" their debut single, which until recently was only available on a scarce vinyl, since the original issuers, RSO, disappeared. In 2004 the song and its b-side were made available on the (still pretty scarce) "I Would Never" single, from High. Track down a copy if you can: it's a truly fantastic song.

"I Love This Life" (mp3)

You'll never know all the ways I tried

Robyn is from Sweden, and previously was best known in the UK for the 90s hit "Show Me Love" until recently, when her collaboration with Andreas Kleerup "With Every Heartbeat" got to number one. Back in November '06 she released The Rakamonie EP , which includes the amazing ballad version of "Be Mine!". "Be Mine!" is the best thing on her recent, self-titled album, totally different from the ballad version, and really should be the next single. But it's not going to be: that apparently will be "Handle Me", released in late October.
To benefit from the success of "With Every Heartbeat" the UK version of "Robyn" is being re-released with a bonus track. The original Swedish release featured different artwork and different arrangements of two tracks, "Robotboy" and "Bum Like You". The original BLY is far better, I have no idea why they changed it.

"Be Mine!" (ballad version) (mp3)
"Bum Like You" (original version) (mp3)

official Robyn website (link)

Add to Technorati Favorites