Clearly inspired by Sweet’s 1971 single “Funny Funny”, 70s Singaporean-Chinese pop starlet Lim Ling recorded her own version of the song that same year. Lim was only 13 when she started singing and releasing records, mostly with her backing band The Silverstones. That partnership is reprised in this B-side to her First Love in the Rain EP on Sakura Records, in which she teasingly ruminates on the unfathomable mysteries of love: “Why do I fall in love with you?/What exactly is the rule?“, as the opening lines go. That question is of course never resolved as the song takes a delightfully circular path, twisting the relatively standard pop structure of the English original with a refreshing playfulness unique only to that era. Funny, funny, indeed. - Dan.
It’s February already, so get on with it, you say? Not before a second take …
I don’t know where to start, really. I tried writing my year-end reflection some time back, but was never quite satisfied with how it just failed to capture everything I wanted to say. On this second take, I’ve decided to abandon that ambition and opt for something a little bit more realistic, and hopefully, meaningful – releases last year that have, in some way or another, compelled me to relook their back catalogue or the discographies of others. For me, that sums up what good music should be about, that which leads you to revisit your past loves and to discover new ones.
One of the first albums to grab my attention last year was Colin Stetson’s New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges, released on my favorite Constellation Records. It seemed to come out of nowhere, and no wonder since Stetson has through the years been more (un)known as a sessionist for Tom Waits, David Byrne, Arcade Fire, and most recently, Bon Iver. On Judges, he demonstrates his strength as a solo musician in his own right, with spontaneity and vocal expressiveness driving his already-signature deep baritone sound which you’ll find in generous doses (see “Minnesota, WI” for example) in Bon Iver‘s self-titled album, also released last year. In a way it was nothing I had heard before, but now I can’t help but keep my ears open to how he makes his mark in so much of the music I love.
Listening to Liturgy‘s Aesthetica was quite a different experience. I’m not usually into the genre, but this is surely an album that sounds everything and nothing like metal, and that perverse paradox has kept me fixated. Its brutal intensity, in particular, prompted me to relisten my copy of Mean Man’s Dream by the similarly metal-not-metal band Gore. That 1987 album, re-released a few years ago by FSS (Kranky founder Bruce Adam’s new label), is an enthralling treatise into pure rock aggression, one that burns deep. I’ve also dug up my old 80s Swans records, perhaps subconsciously shaped by the uncanny semblances of their cover art, but perhaps more significantly for their industrial post-punk sound, that majestic swamp that remains not just influential but just as awkwardly confrontational as it must have been in its day.
More than any other genre, I’ve really been into the dub/techno/psychadelia revival that’s made quite a distinctive mark on the shape of music last year, something that’s breathed an organic soul into electronica. Beneath the breakout success of James Blake has been a strong undercurrent of releases ranging from the summertime hedonism of Peaking Lights‘ 936 to the evocative rave of Zomby‘s Dedication, the “blue-wave” electronica of Nicolas Jaar‘s Space is Only Noise, and the haunting Tri-Angle albums by Holy Other and Balam Acab. The standout release for me must be Andy Stott‘s double release on Modern Love, Passed Me By/We Stay Together, which I’ve found the most stunningly impressive of the lot in the degrees of emotional depth, nuance and texture weaved onto the techno template, which Stott has deftly slowed down and stretched out most elegantly. But it’s also made me look up his earlier work, especially the minimal genius of 2006′s Merciless and the experimental breadth captured in Unknown Exceptions, a compilation of his singles output since 2005. Seeing Stott’s development had made me appreciate even greater where he’s at now, since he really takes his time (like us here).
On a more literary note, I’ve enjoyed the songwriting in Destroyer‘s Kaputt and Fleet Foxes‘ Helplessness Blues, but more so, Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat‘s Everything’s Getting Older, a collision of the romantic and the sleazy in the form of Wells’ sweet, understated compositions and Moffat’s sordid narratives and wry, idiosyncratic delivery. Apart from getting me back on the early Arab Strap albums I had only recently discovered anyway, the album’s title (and cover) remind me I’m not as young as I used to be. Sometimes that means not keeping up with the latest trends (which is perfectly fine, really), but sometimes it also means a reluctance to change and a stubborn sentimentality with the music I love, looking back more than looking forward. On these second takes, I’ve found myself viewing the present through shades of my past, but hopefully, without too much resistance to appreciating the new things that’ll be shaping up this year. Cheers. - Dan.
Yes, it’s taken us a while to come up with this. We’re slow that way, you know?
To start this 2011 recap off on a slightly moribund note, the death of Scottish folk singer Bert Jansch (1943-2011) in October rather cast a pall over the past year. Jansch has long been a part of my everyday experiences of listening to music, and the influence of his unhurried acoustic guitar playing can be heard in several other musicians I admire as well (Neil Young and Nick Drake come to mind). I have always loved how his best songs always had this dry and infinitely mysterious quality, a sense of quiet gravitas about them that deepens upon his passing. And as much as one cares to obsess over his music, one comes closer to only disconnect. RIP, Bert Jansch.
The understated electronic pop of James Blake has been ubiquitous for the most part of 2011, more than often as the music swimming in my head when experiencing a case of excessive introspection. Saddled with the expectation that comes with being a well heralded dubstep producer, Blake delivers a fine debut LP that flows mellifluously between layers of carefully constructed electronics and unadulterated piano-and-voice musicianship. (The follow-up Enough Thunder EP has its high points too, including his elegant cover version of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You”.)
One of the year’s most thoughtful pop records is Last Summer by Eleanor Friedberger (better known for fronting the Fiery Furnaces with her brother Matt), a set of wistful summer songs that is a wonderfully paced throwback to the warmth of 70s FM pop. Part of the appeal is the whole sense of spontaneity about the album, its rambling lyrics scanning like placid memories — Last Summer succeeds as an honest mediation on lost love that never feels indulgent.
2011 proved to be another pretty fruitful year for indie-pop connoisseurs, with great new releases from the likes of Comet Gain, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and The Andersen Tapes. On their latest Fading Parade, Papercuts craft widescreen pop nostalgia for the incurably romantic. Veronica Falls bowl me over with their much anticipated self-titled debut, the latest in a long line of bands to have resurrected the shambling sound of C86 — I’m just about glad for their infectious, reverb-laden jangle to slip occasionally into my cracked consciousness.
Which brings me to Wild Beasts, purveyors of dense, darkly euphoric songs that merit comparisons to the outsider English pop of Kate Bush, Robert Wyatt and Talk Talk. Suffused with smoldering decadence, the startling Smother finds these leonine pale kings of unknown pleasures tapping into a more expansive and musically sophisticated vein on their third album. The results are electrifying, and incredibly sensual — Smother opens with “Lion’s Share” and singer Hayden Thorpe’s lascivious foreplay (“I wait until you’re woozy, I wait until you’re lame/ I take you in my mouth like the lion takes its game”) — in its heightened quests for carnal knowledge and intimacy. Elsewhere, “Plaything” quivers with Nabokovian menace (“New squeeze, take off your chemise/And I’ll do as I please”) while the melodic “Reach A Bit Further” shudders with sensuous abandon. With Smother, the ever intransigent Wild Beasts has served up a mesmerizing album of brittle, estranged beauty for the ages. - Keith.
Keith’s Favorite Albums of 2011
1. Wild Beasts: Smother
2. James Blake: James Blake
3. Eleanor Friedberger: Last Summer
4. Veronica Falls: Veronica Falls
5. Drake: Take Care
6. Bill Callahan: Apocalypse
7. Papercuts: Fading Parade
8. Real Estate: Days
9. The Weeknd: House of Balloons
10. Destroyer: Kaputt
I haven’t been this excited in a long while. In fact, I think this is the best thing I’ve heard since 2012 started.
Ekra is an NYC-based husband and wife duo, who make some of the most glorious, noise inspired melodies that reek of certain depravities and sensitivities. All at once, it is a hurtful hiss of lashing snakes backed in a corner, and blissful surrender to the fates that toy with us so.
I’ve been looking for that particular sound, that would drown me in its waves of emotion, asphyxiate me in its splendour, embrace me in its all-encompassing arms, and I think I’ve found it through the magic presented here.
The astounding thing about this music, is that it’s so very primal. There’s a particular minimalism that strikes as an up-yours to what we already know, or a departure to various progressive sounds we’ve heard of late. It’s amazing what this particular rhythm section has chosen to do, in the realm of deconstruction and then reassembling it all over again into a new whole. - Brian.
sharon van etten:
Lately, I have been obsessed with this band from Montreal called Automelodi. I work at a record label (Ba Da Bing Records) and my boss, Ben, is constantly getting new records in. He knows I have a soft spot for 80s/90s post punk/early electro, vaguely alternative music... and so one day, he put on a Wierd Records compilation. It was a vinyl set of like 4 pieces or something. There were so many good bands on there... however, Automelodi stuck out in my mind as being an authentic, genuine, NON-cheesy version of the 80s I wish I was a part of. The song in particular that gets me going in the morning is called "Schéma Corporel".
mp3: automelodi - schéma corporel
bani haykal from b-quartet:
often enough, it’s the early morning rush which gets me excited about shutting my eyes. and by morning, we’re looking at the 4 a.m. time frame where all you hear is yourself in a foggy blur, thinking if sleep is really all that important because the early few are storming off for work. in all honesty, there is no ipod nor a single earplugging devicetron which i’d attend to. often enough, it’s someone else’s sonic leak i’m getting addressed by. but, i’m listening to Steely Dan’s “Babylon Sisters”. in my head, at least. sanity ‘from the point of no return’, personally. it’s a breath of fresh air. despite its age. everything is beautiful then.
mp3: steely dan - babylon sisters
naomi yang from galaxie 500:
The perfect song to start the day is “A Tonga Da Mironga Do Kabuleté” – the live recording from 1971 by Brazilian artists Vinícius + Bethania + Toquinho. It is like a beautiful sunrise – although I think that the lyrics are actually some sort of political commentary disguised as a Candomble/Afro-Brazilian curse – but whatever! And then you should just leave the CD on, and listen to the rest of the album while you have your coffee. And you will have a great day.
mp3: vinícius + bethania + toquinho – a tonga da mironga do kabuletê (live in buenos aires, 1971)
jamie stewart from xiu xiu:
i have a nico button on my guitar strap and her excess eyeliner has been burning the dirge "janitor of lunacy" into my waking ears as of late, at least 20 times in the last week. until yesterday we have been on tour in scandinavia, russia, poland, austria, germany and czech. these grey locations held hands with her harmonium perfectly.
mp3: nico - janitor of lunacy
justin ringle from horse feathers:
i have been obsessively listening and waking up to this tune by gillian welch called "annabelle". it's a song about a sharecropper in alabama and it is so sad, beautiful and timeless that I can't help but listen more than once in a row. the harmonies in the chorus make my hairs stand up... beautiful song.
mp3: gillian welch - annabelle
tracyanne campbell from camera obscura:
my favourite song at the moment is called 'one in a million' by steve miller. it's really beautiful. his voice is like honey in the sun and it totally melts my heart. the lyrics are quite simple and i guess
corny but it's a great tune and the production is so good it really doesn't matter. i wish i'd written it. in fact i'd love to do a cover version of it. i was recently in stockholm visiting my friend victoria (bergsman) from taken by trees and we were singing it in the flat and talked about recording it. watch this space...
mp3: steve miller band - one in a million
stuart murdoch from belle and sebastian:
every day when i leave the house and walk over the iron bridge and up to the glasshouses, i listen to “what for” by james. i have a habit of dropping back 20 years in my thoughts, and having a parallel soundtrack running in my head so that i may be walking in a street in 2008, but my head is in 1988. i don’t know why that is. this is an up and hopeful song of the period from a band i used to care for deeply.
as we slip into the autumn here, i am prepared to let my new song of obsession become “the game” by echo and the bunnymen.
“everybody’s got their own good reason why their favourite season is their favourite season”.
mp3: james - what for mp3: echo and the bunnymen - the game
alison eales from butcher boy:
I'm waking up to Labi Siffre, and wondering how I managed to stay asleep for so long. His songs are diverse, unpretentious, and performed with tangible joy. I'm literally waking up to him as well - I have 'It Must Be Love' set as my alarm, and it is proving to be a very nutritious musical breakfast.
mp3: labi siffre - it must be love
who we are
i love music, but i can't play it for the life of me, so i might as well try writing instead. hope you like it. i'm from singapore, where there really is good music if you look hard enough. i'd love to hear from you (yes, you): firstname.lastname@example.org
I'm a four stringing minstrel of doom, and hired gun for the odd band or two. Few things excite me more than music, and whiskey soaked vocals are a definite plus, so please be sure to send some my way. When I'm not contributing to I'm Waking Up To and MAP, you should follow my misadventures at http://litford.wordpress.com And yes! I'd love to hear from you too: email@example.com
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