Monday, August 18, 2014

The Wooden Finger Five - August 2014

After finally catching up to almost the present last month, we go back in time again, but only a few months … This is because I have caught up with two of 2014’s best LPs so far, and saw another band that toured their new album here in Melbourne recently.

No. 5 Seasons (Waiting On You) – Future Islands

Yes, this is the entry that is essentially an excuse to comment on a gig I went to. (This review pretty much explains what it was like.) In the middle of said gig I described Future Islands’ singer – Samuel T. Herring – as a ‘vocal savant’. For me, his voice is like a tiki-drinking evangelist situated on the coast of Belize, flanked by three to five women wearing headdresses whom I could swear were providing some sort of backup vocals (they are not). And that Letterman show video of the band performing, if you have not already seen it, really is ace.

No. 4 Heavenly Father – Bon Iver

A prominent, repetitive background noise can propel a piece along, like Johnny Marr’s guitar did on ‘How Soon is Now?’; on the other hand, it can just sound like a bunch of vuvuzelas. Fortunately in the case of Bon Iver’s most recent track, the blipping and buzzing going on is more like the former than the latter. Even more fortuitously, it means that the most recent Bon Iver track I have heard is no longer the godawful ‘Beth/Rest’.

Charles Connor, a drummer for a band that toured with Little Richard once said, “If one of us saw a beautiful lady in the audience … If she had any boyfriends around, they’d figure, ’He’s a sissie. I don’t have to worry about him.’ Then once we’d get these girls alone, we’d be one hundred percent men.” Perfume Genius does not really remind me of Little Richard, but I think of that quote because one of the most effeminate track titles, videos, and haircuts from  a male artist this year also has one of the most manly ‘oomphs’ at its centre. Actually it is that ‘oomph’, along with the guitar that follows it – and maybe the choir – that makes this track for me, perhaps proving again for my wife that I am not that far removed from the ape category.
‘Oh my God New York can talk
Somewhere in all that talk is all the answers
Everybody owns the great ideas
And it feels like there’s a big one round the corner’

Which is mainly to say, as many others have before, that New York is great for inspiration. But it is such an honest, unaffected, Guy Garvey way of saying it, that it still feels like a chorus that only Elbow could come up with. This chorus is repeated so often and is so prominent that, when I first recalled this track, I wondered if these might be the only words in the song. A closer listen revealed that actually quite a lot is said, mainly yet another love letter to New York and living in it. But in all the odes I have heard to the city that never sleeps this is probably one of the few - and one of the nicest and most evocative - I have heard about when you wake up in it.

On the topic of this track I could not remember whose mixed review it was that initially put me off what may actually be Elbow’s best album, but I think it must have been the 6/10 review in NME.  Which would not be the first time that NME has given a 6/10 review to an album that the weight of other critical opinion made look miserly only a few months later.

No. 1 Burning – The War on Drugs

The best track off the War on Drugs’ greatest achievement to date has gotten quite a few comparisons to Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Dancing In The Dark’, mainly because of its yelping and synths. Actually, those aside, the feel of the song is more reminiscent to me of another 1984 song, Don Henley’s ‘The Boys of Summer’. Henley’s song brings to my mind images of the beach, ‘Burning’ brings to mind sparkles in the dark in the front yard of the beach house beside it. It is also refreshing for some of us whose youth was not at all like ‘The Breakfast Club’ to hear a modern ‘80s-tinged song that is not trying to recall memories of movies by John Hughes. The whole album is classic rock done really, really well; other favourites are ‘Under The Pressure’, ‘Red Eyes’, and ‘An Ocean Between The Waves’.

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