Tuesday 30 June 2015

Three life-affirming tracks for summer

If you follow this blog, you might have noticed it's been dead for a while now. Perhaps I should have said "brb, finishing my degree" before I left, so you knew where I was. Well, I'm done! And that means I've got plenty of time for music again, so watch this space. For now, I'll leave you with five life-affirming tracks for summer - three newish ones and two old classics to heat up your July.

1. Braids, 'Warm Like Summer'

Braids are a Canadian-based post-rock/shoegaze band whose latest album Deep in the Iris was released in April this year, and it's pretty great. On 'Warm Like Summer', soft, restrained vocals soar over a house beat and electronic samples, developing into a gorgeous soundscape which resolves about half way through the song into a melodious, piano-led lament. If you like this one, also try 'Blondie' off the same album.

2. Grimes, 'REALiTi' (demo)

I started listening to this when Grimes put it out a few months ago. Like Braids, it offers a chilled-out, warm vibe and a dance beat. As always, Grimes delivers her lyrics interestingly, placing the stresses in unusual places, spilling each line across the rhythms and creating something beautiful in the process. The video is a bit of a humble brag - as she sings "when I get up, this is what I see, welcome to reality", it's hard not to be jealous of her crazy lifestyle - and her moves.

3. Desaparecidos, 'Radicalized'

Released literally last week, this album track from Desaparecidos' much-awaited second album sees an awesome return to form. The track does exactly what I like punk to do - it has driving guitars, relentless drums, lyrics sung with abandon, and a short, snarling and noisy solo near the end. It's not my fave Desa song, since in their attempt to be more political than ever on this release, they've come up with a few cringeworthy lyrics - on this one, the chorus of repeated chants of "radicalized" feels forced (though nowhere near as awkward as the unironic chants of "you can't stop us, we are anonymous" later in the album). However, it's great to hear people making a genuinely left-wing gesture in the US.

4. Nick Drake, 'Three Hours'

Now for a golden oldie. I found Nick Drake embarrassingly recently through a podcast called 99percentinvisible, a pretty good (if slightly pretentious) way to get into new things. Nick Drake was an English songwriter creating music in the late 60s and early 70s, until his presumed suicide in 1974. Despite that information (and it's really hard to stop that from colouring how you think about his music), 'Three Hours' from his first album Five Leaves Left is not a depressing song: it's pensive and subtle and warm with a slightly psychedelic edge. The beauty of the song is mostly in its delicate balance between Drake's voice, his finger-picked guitar and the skilfully-played double bass. It reminds me of Roy Harper at his most thoughtful.

5. Paul Weller, 'You Do Something To Me'

One night recently, late, I was watching Vintage TV, an odd little music channel you can get on Freeview. As their name would suggest, Vintage sometimes play dad-rock and Beatles-era pop, but they also have more varied content than other music channels. After midnight, they play a selection of loosely-connected tracks (different each night), amongst which I heard Paul Weller's 'You Do Something To Me', and it... well, it did something to me. I'd forgotten it existed, and the last time I heard it I'd probably never been in love, and so didn't get it. Now I get it. It's one of those near-universal love songs that somehow manages to speak in platitudes and still touch my own experience of love, and of loss.

Also, have you noticed, its opening chords sound kind of like Rachmaninov's 'Prelude'? Weird.

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