Friday, 6 June 2008

Contagion -- Seven Songs for Seven Days of the Damned Week

So... what have I been while I've been while I've been free of the million daily distractions of the Internet for a month? Don't ask!

But hey -- looks like Sean's Tagged me for a meme:

List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they're not any good, but they must be songs you're really enjoying now, shaping your spring. Post these instructions in your blog along with your 7 songs. Then tag 7 other people to see what they're listening to'.

Ok, sounds like a laugh. Here we go:

(1) Roots Manuva -- 'Witness (1 Hope)'

This sounds like the soundtrack to the most banging computer game of all time, but it's actually a combustible mix of self-deprecation and contemplative force, which is just what you need right now. Keep on jumping those turtles, keep on collecting those rings, keep on doing whatever it is that you find you need to do.

Don't stop, but just remember not to take it too seriously either.

(2) The Long Blondes -- 'Couples'

So is this 'How Soon Is Now?' for attractive, fashionable young women who're somehow convinced they're past it at 26? Yeah, that sounds good. That sounds interesting. That sounds like another complication in the Long Blondes' persona (as outlined perfectly by Miss AMP in this piece).

(3) The Mountain Goats -- 'I Saw The Sign (live)'

I've been a huge Mountain Goats kick this year, and right now I'm stuck on this live Ace of Bass cover. It starts out with a story during which John Darnielle makes light of his affection for the song, stringing the story out over the song's chord progression, making sure every joke hits at just the right time ('...but you can't give enough money to the Ace of Bass, no matter what you do'), and eventually launching into the song itself. At first he still plays with comedy, deflating his own rendition by deadpanning the word 'poetry' between lines. But by the time he's got the whole audience singing the chorus we're well beyond irony and into something way more genuine and less obvious.

And... yeah, I've been thinking about taste and commercialised art and Steven Johnson's Everything Bad Is Good For You and this Backstreet Boys review (also by John Darnielle), and this song feels like an active and engaging part of this argument. It doesn't bother with tired popist/rockist rhetoric, but instead demonstrates its point with a mix of amusement and love, which is pretty perfect if you ask me.

(4) Wiley -- 'My Mistakes (XXXChange Mix)'

The words push past that mopey, self-obsessed cycle of regret and self-admonition, towards a brazen acceptance. The moral is: "Yeah, I messed up, I accept that, it's my fault, but let's keep going." This note plays out in both small details and as a part of the overall theme, but if it doesn't interest you then forget the lyrics and let the sounds bash you about the head a bit. The XXXChange mix makes it all sound that bit more epic and involving, but even on the original cut the strings hit like beats, the beats sigh like strings, and the MCs sound like they never wanna stop.

Is the attitude at the heart of this song still hugely self-regarding? Maybe, but if so it's the kind of self-regard that says 'fuck it, let's keep living' as opposed to 'oh, the pain of it all, it's just to much for me!' kind.

(And no, in case anyone's wondering, I don't always treat UK hip hop tracks like self-help seminars. Just the two on this list!)

(5) Smashing Pumpkins -- '1979'

Of all the moments of odd, clumsy grace that break up the rage and petulance of Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness, this has always been my favourite. Try not to focus on the vertiginous spectacle of a man looking back on a song that looks back on a time before the observer was even born. Focus instead on the chugging, insistent riff, the pseudo-electric backbeat and the way that Billy Corgan's voice creaks as it tries to be beautiful. It's hard to make nostalgic teenage bullshit sound this gorgeous, which is why I've been hooked on this song lately, trying to figure out what it does right in order to rip it off for my own nefarious purposes.

(6) Guided By Voices -- 'Captain's Dead'

Hell, I've not got anything clever to say about this song, but I have to mention it because it is eating my brain right now. What else? Uh... the vocal harmonies are almost rediculously gorgeous and clear; the guitars are almost rediculously scuzzed and murky, and... well, what can I say, I love the contrast!

(7) Marnie Stern -- 'Absorb Those Numbers'

This is my current writing soundtrack, the song most likely to make me actually write, as opposed to the song most likely to make me stare into space in the name of good art. It starts out all frantic and noisy, but then it breaks itself down and starts recombining different song elements till that noise starts to swing. And just when you're breath catches up to where you began, the song switches register again, finding placid melodies in the middle of of what sounds like an explosion in a drum-factory. Marnie Stern's best work feels both quite intellectual and totally energetic and pop to me, which is a combination that hots up my brain like a megaton dose of caffeine.

So there you have it: Marnie Stern = a prog-pop narcotic, and I'm officially due another hit.

Before I go off in search of my fix, I'll gently tag anyone who reads this and wants an excuse to give it a try, to save myself the embarrassment of trying to think of seven untagged people who might read this post!

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