This month’s edition of Top Tracks brings us to a total of 48 out of a planned 96 songs for the year. I think this playlist has turned out to be one of my favourites so far, at least from a continuity/thematic standpoint.
Melt Yourself Down
“Fix My Life”
From: Melt Yourself Down
Ladies and gentlemen, it looks like we have the debut album of the year so far in my humble opinion. ‘Jazz-rock’ really doesn’t do Melt Yourself Down any justice though. Sure, there’s two saxophones fuelled by heavy percussion and bass, but they have more of a ‘world’ music vibe really. Regardless of what you call it though, this music makes me want to move my body in strange, strange ways.
From: The Sahara Sessions
Given the musical influences of northern Africa on Melt Yourself Down’s debut (e.g. see their Nubian Nightjar Mixtape), it would be remiss if I didn’t follow up with Tishoumaren (i.e. desert blues) band Etran Finatawa. Although there’s enough interesting music on The Sahara Sessions, I feel I should direct newcomers to their excellent 2006 debut Introducing first before exploring this jammy album.
It may be mildly jarring to segue from desert blues into a hybrid of equal parts black metal, screamo, and shoegaze, but oh well. Please don’t let the painful vocals deter you though. They’re almost comical really more than anything else, but they shouldn’t distract from the amazing songwriting on offer. These songs are endlessly dynamic and even approach beauty in some interludes.
Disclosure (ft. Sam Smith)
Genre: UK Garage
Another great debut album was released last month by Disclosure with their excellent Settle. Between the soulful vocals, that infectious “dada” repeated nearly every four bars, and a refrain that grabs me each time, it doesn’t get much better than this. The album might drag a little and fail to offer much variation, but there are still plenty of great singles on offer that are sure to get the hips shaking.
“Song for Lana Weeks”
From: Big Sur
Genre: Chamber Jazz
Highly prolific jazz guitarist Bill Frisell is accompanied by violin, viola, cello, and drums on this almost pastoral collection of songs. Like most other songs on Big Sur, the melody on “Song for Lana Weeks” is simply gorgeous. I assume Ms Weeks must also be a fan of Neil Young, since the equally-lovely duet between lilting guitar and viola on “We All Love Neil Young” shares the same melody.
Boards of Canada
“Reach for the Dead”
From: Tomorrow’s Harvest
Genre: Ambient Techno
I must admit that I was slightly disappointed at first by what has become one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the year. These sparse soundscapes offer little in terms of melody, song structure, or pacing. It is a perfect listen if you can find the right time and place though, like I did on one cold and frosty morning with the sun hanging low in the horizon, much like on the album cover.
As if to acknowledge that their previous album Valtari may have failed to impress as much as some of their earlier works, Sigur Rós opens Kveikur with some huge thumps of distortion that sound like Thor’s hammer smashing down onto the glacial sounds we have now come to expect from the band. The album might not actually be as dark as first hinted, but it’s definitely their best in years.
With its delicate keys and vocals that make it sound almost like a lost track from the aforementioned Valtari, it’s no coincidence that I’ve chased Sigur Rós’ track with this piece. There should be something for everyone on Jon Hopkins’ Immunity. The first half hits quite hard, peaking with the pulsating beats of “Collider”, whereas the second half settles into a mellower mood like this one.
Of course, the biggest release last month was Yeezus by a Mr Kanye West, but don’t even get me started on that one. I tried to give it a fair go, oh lord how I tried, but it was just embarrassing to listen to. I just don’t really care if he’d “rather be a dick than a swallower” or how proficient he is in “Swaghili”. It’s a shame though, because musically it’s actually a really interesting listen. I guess …Like Clockwork by the Queens of the Stone Age is another notable omission from the playlist above, but it just sounded like generic rock to me.
On a brighter note, I did enjoy Austra’s sophomore electropop album Olympia, even if it may have lacked any standout tracks per se. Camera Obscura’s lush chamber pop Desire Lines was also very good, along with Black Sabbath’s surprising 13.
It doesn’t look like there are too many major releases planned for July 2013 at this stage, other than perhaps Slow Focus by electronic band Fuck Buttons set to be released on 22 July. Film director David Lynch is also releasing The Big Dream on 15 July, which looks promising simply for the fact that it’s nearly 20 minutes shorter than his last venture Crazy Clown Time. As with this month’s playlist may suggest though, I’m more excited for the unexpected releases that will drop in the coming weeks.