Here’s a weird thing: I haven’t written much in the last 6 months but since roughly 3 – 4 months, I listen to more music than I did last year before the wells of blog postings started to dry out. I do blame a new routine in my life which mainly involves the happy life of happy couples, including watching the always kinda disappointing German hit crime show „Tatort“ and arguing about feminism.
But the music is there, so here we go:
Chastity Belt are the kind of band that immediately triggers all the right spots in my brain, they have the melancholy of a British band from the 80s, they have the bored aggressiveness (or the aggressive boredness) of female punk and the slightly surreal atmosphere of a Daniel Clowes-Graphic Novel. Their album „Time to go Home“ does not only have an amazing cover (a bedspread-ghost on a strikingly ugly couch), it also has all the songs you need for this year’s autumn when you feel like wearing black and muted colours again.
The band started as a partyband with jokey lyrics and even though the humor stays (especially the lyrics in contrast to lead singer Julia Shapiro’s dry vocal delivery), the party only stays in the place of early morning tiredness, complete with the headaches of too much alcohol and a slight disappointment you can’t put your finger on.
With a style as reminiscent as Chastity Belt’s (it is so very 80s), it’s only fitting that the musicians don’t try to put a modern edge to it but instead delve into it and add their twists rather in smart songwriting and the kind of melodies you won’t get rid off (and don’t want to) than overly aggressive production details. The result is an album that works equally well in a state of utter despair and utter delight – one of the many advantages of music that is skillfully angsty but not necessarily devoid of irony.
Sallie Ford, formerly known as Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside, has put out a smashing album called „Slap Back“ and it’s just that – a very striking punch, no decoration, no needless sugarwork, just a stunning Rock ‘n’ Roll album that starts with an a capella lovesong and ends with an electronic dream of a surfpopsong. And all this is as classic Rock ‘n’ Roll as it can get, only with the gritted teeth of Joan Jett along the way („Oregon“ does the legacy of Joan proud). The kind of album that chews gum in class and sneers at the teachers and flirts with modern pop and alternative music just to shock the cheerleaders (there’s some fuzzy guitars and even a heat stroke of desert rock just for the spicy aftertaste). And at the end of the day, in a cloud of cigarette smoke, race cars and poodle skirts, it manages to be straightforward, sometimes harsh, sometimes just a little cute but always utterly mesmerizing.
I get incredibly nostalgic when I listen to Duke Evers even though the style of music I associate with their new EP „Handful of Pennies“ is not even close to being considered „classic“. However, their mixture of charming indiepop with gestures of stadium-grandeur reminds me a lot of 2006/2007, when this kind of music had a pretty darn good time (Oh Royworld, how do I miss you).
There is such an airy quality to it, a certain giddy aloofness that is just superduper positive and is the kind of music you’d like to listen to when the first blossoms of spring bloom in front of your window – which basically means that you should listen to them right now.
(given that there is a lion and a bear on their EP with instruments in their hands, I was really hoping for a literal animal band – colour me disappointed, yet again)
I feel kinda horrible because whenever I get my lazy ass up to write something, it’s about one of my all-time favourite bands and therefore not even that hard to do. Take the new single by the Maccabees, you know, that First Love of mine. Their new sounds revels a bit more in their Britpop roots than their previous record but then swirls around and turns a little weird (I am thinking of the stark German cabaret of the 1920s for some reason). This is of course enough reason to be incredibly excited for their new album which hopefully comes soon. Luckily, this is a band you can be excited for, since they are way too hard on themselves to not try something new.
Laura Marling recently released her newest album „Short Movie“ and of course it is brilliant and smart and beautiful and because I don’t really want to write about it just yet (having only listened to it half a dozen of times), I picked this first single which – as some other songs – have a sound that is very much like New York in the late 70s, early 80s and at times has just the right amount of Bruce Springsteen (without merely copying it) and even some harsher postpunk-vibes of feminist heroes of the past (Patti Smith, maybe?).
The song starts with a sober clarity but gets more and more manic as the protagonist realizes how scared she/he is of the loneliness and therefore escapes into a relationship that might or might not be real but definitely is not the solution.
Is it still okay that I don’t know how to be alone?
Would it be okay if I’d just came home tonight?
We stay in the apartment on the upper west side
And my worst problem is I don’t sleep at night
Woman downstairs just lost her mind
And I don’t care how, I surely don’t care why
Why I know false hope
(and maybe that woman downstairs is the protagonist her/himself or a fear of her/him)
The strength in Marling’s voice – when she’s not consciously and rather impressively fluctuating through the stages of despair – is one of her strengths as a musician because to show vulnerable narrators, we don’t need vulnerable, thin and shaky voices. Strong people can falter just as easily and have the same fears (and maybe more) than those flittering vocalists with their breathy, hardly audible sighs of sadness. No, Marling is one of the great songwriters who make all those tender flaws seem so much more powerful by having this very strong, nearly aggressive clarity in which they are presented. There is doubt and there is fear, yes, but the narrator knows this and decides to let them be, to fight or to leave them. These are bright paintings with broad strokes (not a single one seems hesitant) and they carry all the subtleties in the final image which is yet another song and another album to dive into for a while and feel the cold waves of Marling’s voice and the soft rush of her guitar play.
I recently watched „Touchy feely“, a movie about white middle-class people with the kind of problems we’d like to define as „1st world“. And because I am the perfect target group for these kind of movies (well, with limits…), I really appreciated the themes – mainly the want and fear to be close to someone. And because sometimes a good soundtrack is not just a row of pretty songs, Tomo Nakayama’s song in the later half of the movie perfectly captures the entire premise of the movie and yes, there were tears on my behalf.
It’s no wonder, though, because this is the kind of song that feels like it always should be performed and heard in a church (for the acoustics, not for the religious experience).
I also recommend the movie. First of all, it has Ellen Page in it, which is in my case the only reason I need to watch it. But it’s also astoundingly calm in its narrative which those slightly comedic slightly dramatic movies about white people with middle-class-problems hardly ever manage (quite often they have a certain manic pace to them, which I like to refer as the Woody Allen-twitch).
„O Shudder“, the 4th studio album by the British outfit Dutch Uncles starts with the most Kate Bush-ish song we’ve heard in years and easily could have been on one of the mid-80s records the queen of smart pop released back then. I suppose that the quartet used to sound different, given that they cite King Crimson and Talking Heads as influences. Yet, all „O Shudder“ does – and this beautifully so – is an homage to Bush and her soft yet slightly off-putting songs that never ventures far from her musical history.
I am not quite sure yet how much I like the album but it is fascinating, how accurately old-fashioned this album sounds and how clear this influence shines through. I gotta give it to the band for still managing to create beautiful and not redundant songs even if those are as reminiscent of someone else’s legacy as can be.