Monday, September 19, 2016

The Wooden Finger Five – September 2016

5.Freedun – M.I.A.

M.I.A’s latest album ‘AIM’ – thought to perhaps be her last – has been well-received by some, but not by others. ‘Freedun’ works pretty well though. It has a smooth, relaxing sound, but still has some heavy beats to keep it moving along. The chorus is sung by ZAYN who, since I’m not much of a boy band or ‘The X-Factor’ fan, I’ve literally just learned as I’m writing this that he used to be in One Direction. (I’ve also literally just learned as I’m writing this that One Direction used to be on ‘The X-Factor’.) Given the rest of the album and M.I.A.’s career in general it seems like there might be some political themes on this track, but it’s actually more about her bragging than anything else, particularly the second verse (e.g. ‘Dinosaurs died out and I’m still strong’). Still, give me a nice tune and I don’t mind you telling me how great you are.

4.Skeleton Tree: album – Nick Cave

This is the album following the death of Cave’s son Arthur, who fell off a cliff after taking LSD last year. Not that this tragic event has likely changed the album much: Nick Cave’s albums are well-known for being dark affairs, and he has said that he wrote most of the lyrics before Arthur’s death. Lines like ‘You fell from the sky, crash landed in a field near the river Adur’ – the first line on the album – and ‘I called out, I called out, right across the sea’ from the closing title track are possibly coincidental in their imagery then. And like David Bowie with ‘Blackstar’ Nick Cave’s work is too multi-faceted to be simply reduced to alluding to death.

Reviewers have generally been effusive in their praise of the album so far, and it looks like it may be up there with ‘Blackstar’ (and Radiohead, always Radiohead) on critics’ end-of-year ‘best of’ lists. It hasn’t quite taken a hold of me yet. My favourite song is definitely ‘Distant Sky’, which is a duet with Danish soprano Else Torp. Otherwise it’s just another solid Nick Cave album to me so far. Maybe its power will be revealed with more time, or maybe Cave’s music has always been so powerful that even the most personally harrowing of circumstances doesn’t do much to affect it.

3.Sunlit Youth: album – Local Natives
Now this album has been a pleasant find. Local Natives are an LA indie band who have now released three albums, and their latest – ‘Sunlit Youth’ – doesn’t really have a bad track on it. Yeasayer is the most obvious comparison to me, though opening track ‘Villainy’ reminds me, at least vocally, of the Blue Nile (as does the album cover). If you don’t know what I’m talking about that in itself tells you what corner of the music world Local Natives occupy – pop/rock that its fans will love but won’t be troubling the top of the charts any time soon. Other tracks I like, making it hard to pick just one here, are ‘Fountains of Youth’, ‘Coins’, and ‘Dark Days’, with the Cardigans’ Nina Persson.

2.Power Over Men – Jamie T
The new single from South London’s Jamie T wouldn’t be out of place playing in an Austin Powers movie, making it perhaps one of the more conventional tracks from his excellent album ‘Trick’. But that also means that it is a lot of fun. The track seems to be simply about one of those good-looking women that makes men weak at the knees, just with Jamie T’s more complex vocabulary – the phrase ‘she was never academic’ could be a substitute for ‘dumb blonde’.
The story gets a little more interesting when Jamie suggests that this woman’s power not only makes men drool, but also makes them engage in a bit of under-handed competition to win her affections: ‘She walked in, I could say she looked good, I could she’s just a friend / But that would just be throwing you off the scent … She’s under my skin’. Then Jamie introduces a ‘twist’, which seems to just be the standard plot device that this femme fatale will never fall in love – ‘she can never really kiss’ – although the cause for this, ‘there’s never remiss’, doesn’t quite make sense to me. She never has a ‘lack of attention’? Did he just use the word ‘remiss’ because it sounded good? I’m a little confused.
Then if you watch the video clip the phrase ‘power over men’ takes on a further meaning …
1.Shut Up And Kiss Me – Angel Olsen

Forcefulness and submission – many relationships have both, and they both seem to be present in this strident track from US singer-songwriter Angel Olsen. In part her voice is desperate: ‘This heart still beats for you’ she implores her lover, ‘I’m not going anywhere’. In part she’s damn well up for a fight: ‘I ain’t giving up tonight … Tell me what you think / And don’t delay’. Both sides collide in the chorus, in Olsen yelling ‘Shut up kiss me hold me tight!’ which she delivers in a way that you can’t tell who is grabbing who. She actually sounds to me a little like the singer from 1980s’ US band The Motels (Martha Davis) in this song.
The title of Olsen’s new album is ‘MY WOMAN’, in capitals. Is that meant to contain forcefulness and submission also? (I’m your woman, but I’m also MY WOMAN.) Anyway in a month filled with notable new releases (Cave, M.I.A., Wilco, Teenage Fanclub, Bastille, Okkervil River) Olsen’s and Jamie T’s albums are the two that sit highest on my ‘buy list’.

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