Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Wooden Finger Five – July 2014

Well, it has been a long, circuitous route through punk, post-punk, prog rock, Britpop, American indie, Christmas songs, and Eurovision, but the Wooden Finger Depot’s musical ears have finally caught up with the present day again. Note also the numerical order of this month’s five tracks – yes, the order is deliberate; we’re doing a countdown here.

No. 5 Dogs – Sun Kil Moon

47 year old Mark Kozelek’s most recent Sun Kil Moon album, ‘Benji’, talks a bit about death and getting old. ‘Dogs’ however sets its sights backwards, recounting the first girl Kozelek kissed, the first girl he loved, the first girl he fumbled around with, and well … you get the picture. (The ‘Dogs’ title by the way refers to the Pink Floyd track of the same name and Kozelek ‘panting like a dog’ with lust, rather than being any comment on the girls themselves – I think.) Double-tracked vocals are employed fairly regularly throughout ‘Benji’ but they are used to best effect here; like ghosts of past Kozeleks have arisen to help the current day man remember his formative sexual and romantic experiences, and speculate on how they have affected him.

No. 4 Broke – Tom Vek

London’s Tom Vek’s new album ‘Luck’ is OK, but some of the vocals and sounds can seem a little insubstantial at points, as if there was not the budget for some real studio time. Not so on ‘Broke’, on which Vek throws some sizable beats and multiple instruments behind his fullest vocal on the LP. Strangely, it reminds me of Big Black’s ‘Kerosene’ and its memorable ‘dinga-da-dinga’ guitar intro but it is far less harrowing than that track (most things in this world are). I am still not sure what the Middle Eastern-sounding instrument is; in the end I settled on just plain old guitar.

No. 3 Spook – Adult Jazz

Upon first hearing it, I wondered if Adult Jazz’s ‘Spook’ was not a single but an EP, as it seemed to stretch on for 15-20 minutes (it actually goes for ten). The haunting movement of the track (wow, I used the adjective ‘haunting’ to describe a song called ‘Spook’ … lazy) make the lyrics feel like poetry, if that poem was something akin to an early 21st century college version of T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’. Further examination reveals that those lyrics are not quite as profound as ‘April is the cruellest month, breeding’ or ‘I had not thought death had undone so many’; instead they are lines like – I think – ‘spook at the door, I spoke with a whisper’, ‘bow down on me’, ‘and I do not take it lightly’, ‘I was always poking around the suburbs with a heart of glass’ and ‘with your weak words, and your weaker will’. Still what standards am I holding Adult Jazz up to here? This beautiful track is itself a fine achievement.

No. 2 Premonitions – Vaults

Listening to London band Vaults’ first single ‘Premonitions’, you will definitely feel as if you have heard something like it before. That would be the case even if the melody to the line ‘But we never look back’ did not sound very close to that of the line ‘And I’m so down caught in the middle’ from London Grammar’s ‘Strong’.  Nevertheless, even amongst chanteuse-led, bar lounge pop it stands out as something special. For example, ‘Strong’ kept pretty much the same dynamics all the way through, but in ‘Premonitions’ – just  when you think that you have heard all it has to offer – suddenly some strings drift in and seem to boost the tune upwards through its final forty seconds. On a scale of 10pm to 4am, it comes in at about 1.30.

No. 1 Bamboo – Deers

Two young, shaggy-haired brunette girls from Madrid mixing Californian surf rock with the ramshackle fuzz of the Velvet Underground? Dios mio!! it’s hipster heaven! (On your bikes Haim.) Their track ‘Bamboo’ is not just all about cool, cool style though; it is a vocally intriguing song in which the duo bounce hoarse, laconic phrases off each other, each of their voices distinct but blending with the other. Think of a rougher, multitracked version of Best Coast. Here’s hoping las mujeres can chuck together more stuff as appealing as this.

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