frustration and fatigue, the banality of everyday life
senselessly juxtaposed against injustice, train wrecks and massacres.
uncontrollable bursts of tears at spurts through the day
unable or unwilling to articulate the complexities and messiness.
dressed in washed out, neutral, old man cardigans
their simple arrangements and familiar harmonies soothe
so far removed from what just happened
but uncannily prescient
in sincere, if stilted, English
they gently ask for an explanation – b.
mp3: Kings of Convenience – Rule My World
It’s All True, the luscious new Junior Boys album (their fourth), doubles as the kind of hauntingly beautiful breakup record made only for the introverted romantics who never quite believed in truly happy endings. While Jeremy Greenspan and Matt Didemus may be drawing from more disparate influences this time round (Orson Welles, Howard Hughes, their experiences in China), the nine new songs on It’s All True still retain that carefully nurtured sense of elegance and poise that have always set Junior Boys apart. On “Playtime”, fluid electronics and downbeat synth-pop melodies channel the familiar refrains of an aborted relationship, the same raptures repeated, the same melancholy dance around the work of time and memory (“It’s over so fast you never know how to feel“). – Keith.
mp3: Junior Boys – Playtime
The excellent It’s All True is available on Domino Records.
SINGAPORE: I’m Waking Up To…
In Each Hand A Cutlass – A Universe Made Of Strings
Outlaws, stargazers and free riders – that’s the sense of freedom apparent in the debut album of In Each Hand A Cutlass. The masterpiece is called A Universe Made Of Strings, and while allusions to string theory and parallel dimensions are in order, no-one can deny the sprawling ambition that the group have laboured to achieve. Swirling with different time signatures, musical styles and rapturous energy, In Each Hand A Cutlass prove that genres are for the common man and that genius lies in the outliers. – Brian.
To download all 32 songs in one file click here. MAP is published on the 15th of every month, featuring a showcase of music handpicked by bloggers from all over the world.
The past few days have slipped me into a nostalgic mood. Not because I’ve been particularly reflective, but the things of old just seemed to creep up on me again, as they tend to do once in a while. I re-read Adrian Tomine’s 32 stories for the first time in years, watched the No Distance Left to Run documentary on Blur’s reunion twice within a fortnight, and listened to a slew of music from the 90s I love(d) so much.
Coincidentally, the song that’s been ringing in my head as I’ve been walking about on my own is something I’ve not heard in years, so I really can’t tell how it re-appeared in my life and why it refused to leave. The Dongs were a 90s Singaporean punk band that I don’t even know very much about, except that their track “Rebel Girl” was on a local compilation Left of the Dial that I was rather fond of, and that their drummer Harold still plays today in noise-rock collective I\D, which we featured sometime back.
On the recording, the production is muddy as typical of most demos of the era, though easily overcome with a louder volume that roars the hazily distorted guitars along with the singlemindedly pounding drums and stubbornly bopping bassline. The vocals are an even foggier blur but for the words “rebel”, “kill”, and “terrible”, which I’m convinced are all I need to know. And maybe that’s what it is – a glorious imperfection that perfectly encapsulates what I grew up listening to and embracing. – Dan.
mp3: The Dongs – Rebel Girl
Over the weekend, Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips played a couple of shows in Asia (Taipei and Hong Kong) in which the pair performed songs from the back catalogue of Galaxie 500, the band fronted by Wareham that came to indie rock prominence during the late eighties. From the moment their Taipei show on Saturday evening kicked off with the arching dream pop of “Flowers”, we knew we were witnessing something quite incredible — this was, after all, the closest we may ever come to the Galaxie 500 reunion we have all been pining for. Dean, looking every bit like the weathered music veteran that he is, was in good spirits and seemed genuinely psyched to be revisiting his former band’s songs with Britta and drummer Anthony LaMarca. All the sediments of memory revolving Galaxie 500 just kept flooding back in that hour and a half — the spacey everything’s-swirling-slow aesthetics and the hallucinatory texture of the music, Dean’s ability to make the most apathetic concerns, such as standing in line outside a convenience store (“Strange”), sound absolutely sublime.
Before he launched into “Fourth of July”, Dean made a wisecrack about being in Taipei on the same day as pop diva Lady Gaga. Galaxie 500 didn’t last long as a band, but it is obvious enough to me that the music of their three near-perfect albums will last well beyond after Lady Gaga goes out of currency, if based on the strengths of “Fourth of July”. Like many Galaxie 500 favorites, “Fourth of July” abounds in tedium and restless mysteries. But there is a sense of uplift that the song invokes rather emphatically, the celebratory music breaking through the topography of loneliness disguised as misanthropic bravado (“I stayed at home on the Fourth of July, and I pulled the shades so I didn’t have to see the sky/ I decided to have a bed-in, but I forgot to invite anybody”).
After closing the main set with “Fourth of July”, Dean and Britta returned to the stage with a beautiful rendition of Bob Dylan’s “I’ll Keep It With Mine”, a cover version they have earlier recorded for the musical score to the 13 Most Beautiful: Songs For Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests DVD. I have always had special associations with this wry little ballad written by Dylan, first hearing the song via Bettie Serveet’s awesome cover on the I Shot Andy Warhol soundtrack when I was a teenager quite some years before I would be exposed to Dylan’s original on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3. “ Back then, I guess I really kinda identified with the flippant attitude towards romance (“I can’t help it if you might think that it’s odd, if I say I don’t love you for what you are but for what you’re not”) in Dylan’s lyrics; now that I’m older, I’m not so sure about that sort of sentiment. Dean & Britta’s lovely version of the song immerses one in a more reflective mood, touched with a more mature ambivalence and a strange hopefulness that indeed, “everybody will help you discover what you set out to find”. – Keith.
mp3: Galaxie 500 – Fourth Of July
mp3: Dean & Britta – I’ll Keep It With Mine
Bon Iver may have expanded the geographical range of his music beyond his reclusive cabin in Wisconsin, but the atmosphere remains wintry to the core. Only it sounds a lot less fragile, even if still resolutely vulnerable. On album opener “Perth”, Justin Vernon raises his signature falsetto in proclaiming he’s “still alive for you“, championed by the biggest and most expanasive sounds he’s ever mustered. With it arrives a newfound boldness that reverberates long after he’s moved on to Minnesota and wherever else he chooses. – Dan.
mp3: Bon Iver – Perth
Bon Iver is out now on Jagjaguwar.