Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Arbitrarily Decided List

As the title suggests, I made a list based solely on how many tracks by that artist I have on my Macbook. I kept it pretty simple - if their name is in the Artist field, or if they did the remix, they're in. Anything else I'll explain on the way.
10) Björk (36 tracks)
I have blogged about her before so I won't say too much more. I've loved her music since a friend gave me her Debut album, and my collection has grown erratically from there. I used to have more of her music, but I lost it in The Great MacBook Breakdown of '08 :(
9) The Dresden Dolls (39 tracks)
Again, I've blogged about these guys before. If I'd added Who Killed Amanda Palmer, the lead singer's solo album (produced by Ben Folds) they would have placed higher in this list. But I didn't.
8) Tom Milsom (39 tracks)
Tom places higher than the Dresden Dolls because I listen to his music more (Last.fm has a frightening 1223 scrobbles at time of writing). His first album, Awkward Ballads For The Easily-Pleased is a delightful collection of ballads and antifolk music, and his website has many of his unreleased antifolk and electronic tracks available for free download. A second album is also on the distant horizon, and I'm very curious to see what it involves, because with Tom you really can't quite tell. :)
7) Justice (42 tracks)
Credited as the guys who single-handedly revived the electro scene, Justice's most interesting recent activity has been in the form of, oddly, the Dior Homme 2009 Summer collection music they made, re-released as Planisphére Parts 1, 2, 3 and Final. Stereogum called it "dark, crunchy, ominous, at times triumphant" and it is all of these things, so altogether not what one would expect from catwalk-music :) They have also recently released A Cross The Universe CD/DVD, which is available through their MySpace and through iTunes.
6) Belle & Sebastian (42 tracks)
Somewhere along the line I collected a lot of Belle & Sebastian. I was first introduced to them through the soundtrack to the film Juno which featured Piazza, New York Catcher (from Dear Catastrophe Waitress) and Expectations (from Tigermilk), still two of my favourite songs by them. So kudos and thanks to the film that brought antifolk and McSweeney's into the mainstream and Belle & Sebastian to me. Their most recent release is The BBC Sessions, available through their website.
5) Johannes Kerkorrel (46 tracks)
Blogged about him before too. Kerkorrel definitely peaked with Eet Kreef! so while the double-disc Best Of album pêrelsvoordieswyne (trans. pearlsbeforetheswine) has some truly mediocre tracks on it, it also has some very lovely ones as well. While not entirely devoid of political satire (Wat 'n Vriend Het Ons In PW, for example), his music also turns to other things in this album.
4) Cloud Cult (48 tracks)
If asked, I'd be hard-pressed to tell you of any artist I definitely like better than Cloud Cult. The music has a strange charm to it I find very hard to pin down to any particular element. After all, the lead singer's vocal talents aren't the greatest and the band as a whole has only received underground regard and success. It might have to do with the integrity of the albums, particularly Advice From The Happy Hippopotamus, but also The Meaning Of 8 and their most recent album Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-Partying Through Tornadoes). I can't decide, so all I can do is ask you to decide for yourself.
3) Rilo Kiley (51 tracks)
I'd be better pleased with this very good band if their last album wasn't so very bad. Whatever musical magic this band conjured through four albums was very catastrophically undone in Under The Blacklight, which has few redeeming features. Only slightly better is the lead singer Jenny Lewis' latest solo album Acid Tongue, though her first solo outing Rabbit Fur Coat (what little I've heard from it) has better content. However I can find little to criticise about their earlier albums, so if you like if you like folky pop-rock I would highly recommend them.
2) Regina Spektor (59 tracks)
What's not to like about Regina Spektor? A singer whose appeal is quirky but universal because of the sheer diversity of her music which, while generally referred to as antifolk, can swing from balladic to jazz to country to blues and even punk or rap. Her lyrics and complex and deep or fun and bemusing and have garnered her much attention - her song Fidelity was used in the trailer for the romantic comedy 27 Dresses and she was asked to write a song for the most recent Narnia film, Prince Caspian, the end-product being The Call. Her music has also been used in several episodes in TV shows. Also: where else can you find an artist who writes an entire song about a pickle or peddling butterflies?
1) The Decemberists (67 tracks)
And finally, The Decemberists, the band who dominate my music library. Late 2007 was a good time for music for me, because I got hold of Björk's Debut, Cloud Cult's Advice and The Meaning Of Eight and The Decemberists' The Crane Wife at the same time, as well as being introduced to Tom Milsom, Rilo Kiley, The Arcade Fire, Deerhoof, and electro music in general. The Crane Wife is still one of my favourite albums of all time and I adore The Decemberists' brand of intellectual ballad-driven indie-rock. In their early days often compared to Neutral Milk Hotel, The Decemberists specialise in an almost steampunk air to their tales told through music, evoking something of William Blake's Songs Of Innocence and Experience in their subject matter and time period. They are at turns whimsical, epic, political, gentle and baroque, and their influences range from traditional Eastern stories to historical events to little picaresques of roguish figures.

Rave over. Here's the music:

Björk - There's More To Life Than This (From Debut)
The Dresden Dolls - Mandy Goes To Med School (From Yes Virginia...)
Tom Milsom - Watching The Paint Dry (From Awkward Ballads For The Easily-Pleased)
Justice - Planisphére (Final) (From Planisphére)
Belle & Sebastian - Expectations (From Tigermilk)
Johannes Kerkorrel - Hoe Ek Voel (From pêrelsvoordieswyne)
Cloud Cult - Transistor Radio (From Advice From The Happy Hippopotamus)
Rilo Kiley - Portions For Foxes (From More Adventurous)
Regina Spektor - Apres Moi (From Begin To Hope)
The Decemberists - My Mother Was A Chinese Trapeze Artist (From 5 Songs EP)

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Plug It Play It Burn It Rip It Drag It Drop It Zip/Unzip It

For some strange reason I really like tracks which use electronic or distorted vocals. Here's a few tunes that do just that. You probably know at least a couple of them because most of these have a degree of popularity or sheer age attached to them but hey it's my blog, and I won't keep you long :)
Daft Punk's
Technologic... 'nuff said. It's in the title. If you don't recognise it, surf it scroll it pause it click it. The original here for your techno delight.
Two Imogen Heap tunes -
Hide And Seek features aforementioned vocals and Hallelujah is included here more or less because I'm jumping on the blog bandwagon of LET'S EVERYONE BLOG ABOUT FRIGGING HALLELUJAH. And also this is a cool cover.
Laurie Anderson. An oldie this, 'twas released in 1981. Somehow it hit Number 2 in Britain and secured her a 7-album record deal! So here is the very odd but very cool
O Superman. Some of Imogen Heap's vocal work seems clearly influenced by her, though I don't know if this is acknowledged fact.
Now on to some slightly more esoteric tracks. If you've even heard of Cloud Cult I'll be impressed, and if you've listened to their delightful and amazing album Advice From The Happy Hippopotamus I'd be even more so.
Rockwell is not the only spoken-word track on the album, but I hope I motivate you to go and seek out the entirety of the rest of the album, because it's worth it. If you click on the linked album name they offer a couple of tracks for free download on their official website.
Still Alive has reached popularity with geeks the world over. It is the end credits song to the pretty underground but fantastic game Portal (by Valve Corporation), and was written by Jonathan Coulton of Thing A Week fame. I don't actually know who the singer is and whether to attribute it to them if I did since in-game it does appear to be from the viewpoint of the Artificial Intelligence GlaDOS, so that's good enough for me.

Daft Punk -
Imogen Heap - Hide And Seek
Imogen Heap - Hallelujah
Laurie Anderson -
O Superman
Cloud Cult - Rockwell
GlaDOS - Still Alive

Have a good new year!