Favourite Songs: Sammus “Mighty Morphing” – that’s a rap!

Right now, Sammus might be the most fun rapper out there. Her music videos are creative low budget gems full of humor, charisma and lovely ideas. Her song “Mighty Morphing” hunts me down every single day because it’s so damn catchy.

Love the “Ironic”-reference in the style of the video but also the song itself. Rapping about how no one needs to be a certain thing to market themselves but can be everything is one of those things that sound so simple but are hardly communicated in pop songs.

Sammus is also one of the few rappers that do gaming themed songs. A thousand mushrooms for that!

You think this is a one-off? Nope, she’s REALLY into gaming. It’s fantastic. I mean, nerdy gamer girls get hardly any representation in Hip Hop, so this is like the holy grail.

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Pop goes: Miley Cyrus ‘Younger now’

I don’t know why but I am again obsessed (like, “loop that 24/7”-obsessed) with a Miley Cyrus song. Her previous single “Malibu” of the upcoming album “Younger Now” was just like the video a pretty little thing with no real meat on its bones. It also gave us a Miley that is not believable anymore (flowery hippy country girl who is everybody’s darling).

However, “Younger Now” is the kind of aesthetic sound-wise and visually that might be the real true Miley that has been peeking out during her wild phase a few years ago (and sadly resulted in a few appropriation- and “why the hell work with Terry Richardson of all people”-issues that are far more problematic than the nudity).

The Miley that plays with gender expectations and somehow is such a professional in the world of pop but at the same time just not quite as caught up in it like, for example, Katy Perry, shows herself in a video that is all Rockabilly but with the nostalgia factor playing the main character. This is not the dream of how it was back then but how it is now. The Grease brigade, creepy puppet play (a typical symbol of 50s children’s tv shows – also in Germany, by the way), the Elvis costumes and the glitz – the video in itself is mesmerizing.

The song is a lovely goodbye (?) to her wild phase (and quite possibly also to the Disney phase, but obviously no one will acknowledge that because so many people think that her twerk/tongue-phase was worse than being stuck in Disney’s fake smile wonderland that messed up so many of our current and past pop stars).

The lyrics are standard pop:

“Feels like I just woke up
Like all this time I’ve been asleep
Even though it’s not who I am
I’m not afraid of who I used to be”

But the sound is quite interesting. We start with frogs and water singing in the background and a lower guitar tune slowly easing us into the song before Miley sings covered in a subtle echo effect. The song slowly turns into the sort of pop that does well on a dancefloor but still feels calm and melancholic. This is actually a song you would rather hear from a popular rock group like Kings of Leon instead of Miley Cyrus but that’s exactly the sound that suits her (kid has still one of the most amazing and unique voices of any white female pop star out there). I really hope that her album delivers more of this and less of “Malibu” but you never know. With stars of her caliber, conceptually tight albums like Beyoncès “Lemonade” are so seldom, so I expect a few other strong singles and a few fillers.

But then again, Miley’s coop with The Flaming Lips and her resulting Her Dead Petz-album was a fantastic and weird piece of pop. I still believe that she could be one of the greats in the long run.

Maccabees-News! Orlando Weeks’ “Gritterman”

OMG, you guys. The Maccabees farewell is only a few months old and suddenly Orlando Weeks has changed his profile pics and he has his own Spotify-Page and there it is, like the north star in the dead of night: a new project.

Orlando Weeks goes back to his days of Young Colossus but has picked up pen and paper himself. There will be an illustrated book and accompanying music and to say that I am excited, delighted and really moved is an understatement. Young Colossus always felt like this one in a lifetime gems that an artist does, this one great thing that is like a secret. It always felt like Kate Bush’s song “Cloudbusting”:

“You’re like my yo-yo
That glowed in the dark
What made it special
Made it dangerous
So I bury it
And forget”

Something that is just so different that it can’t possibly be part of a bigger picture. And then there it is: Gritterman. It seems like a story about loss, dealing with an elderly man who lost his wife but goes on with life as he used to because how else can you go on?

Also: that cat! But also: how clean is that place? My work desk looks like someone dumped their work desk’s trash bin on it.

The Decemberists and Olivia Chaney get folksy with Offa Rex

I got super emotional when the first tunes of “The Queen of Hearts” started. The Decemberists have been a band that led me through many ups and downs and also managed to really drew me into their prosaic world full of heroes and heroines, tragedy and murder. They are lovely despite the murder.

Their new album is a collaboration with singer Olivia Chaney and goes under the moniker Offa Rex. They covered British folk tales and given the Decemberists’ track record with folk material, this is absolutely no surprise.

(And despite NPR writer Jason Heller pretending as if this is the first time that The Decemberists have “dipped their toes” into folk, they did so approximately a thousand times before and they did well.)

I have to admit, not every song hits as hard as “The Queen of Hearts”. I am generally a fan of folk music with a few prog elements, a bit more story telling in the melodies. I am aware that the typical folk aficionado will not find any faults with songs like “The Gardener” and “Flash Company” but for me, they were a little tame (they are really beautiful, though, so this might be just my current mood speaking).

However, this is mainly because The Decemberists have an incredible talent of creating really catchy and engaging melodies (including dramatic arcs), so I am just used a little bit more drama to my folk music. Something to tag me along, grab my hand. I am not really the sit in the grass and let it softly roll over me type of folk listener.

Also, Chaney’s voice tends to sound a little too close to singers like Joni Mitchell or basically every country singer ever when she’s not given much to do with the melody. But when she really goes out, her timbre is quite something and she suddenly becomes her own.

All in all, this is a mighty fine album and it’s something to get people into folk music (or get people who already love it something more modern than the usual “Songs of the Irish”-compilations you get for 3 quid at the rest stop).

Broken Social Scene ‘Hug of Thunder’ – the indie band of all indie bands is back!

Disclaimer: even though I danced to Broken Social Scene more times than I can count, I never really listened to an entire album. I know, it’s horrifying. So I listened to their comeback album “Hug of Thunder” with fresh and uneducated ears.

So, I have to say: this is a beautiful album. It sounds nostalgic and new at the same time. As nearly all great Canadian rock bands, you can hear this communal feeling of way too much talent to fit into a recording studio. The way the voices intermingle in the song “Halfway Home” is EVERYTHING. The whole album feels like an actual show in an old-fashioned theatre where everyone gets their time in the spotlight, a time to shine.

And a time for Feist to shine … I mean on a Broken Social Scene-record. Her solo and titular song “Hug of Thunder” is another one of those amazing Springsteen-homages and might replace Ryan Adam’s “I just might” for the award of “best Bruce Springsteen song not written or performed by Bruce Springsteen”. I am in love with this song.

I think the majesty of this album is the way that despite all in all 18 musicians coming together and celebrating the art of music, the whole album feels weirdly intimate and relaxed. At no point, it’s overwhelming or messy. There’s no chaotic energy, you always have the feeling that everyone knows exactly what they are doing and everyone is in synch for the whole show (the closest you can get to jazz without playing jazz, I guess). And even if the songs differ wildly from each other, they’re all cut from the same cloth. This is a band’s band album.

By the way, if anyone knows who is responsible for the album art work, please tell me, it’s lovely.

Favourite Song: Sizarr “Clam” – yes, I miss the Maccabees

Ok ok, I know it’s a little unfair to make such broad comparisons but listening to German trio Sizarr and not thinking of one of the best Britpop bands ever (in the entire world, universe and existence) is simply impossible. Not only because singer Fabian Altstötter sounds a lot like Orlando Weeks (their Wikipedia entry compares him to Jame Blake and Jeff Buckley, which I suspect is a ruse to distract us from the obvious similarities with Weeks). No, the whole vocal style and the use of guitars is heavy into the Maccabees’ 2nd album which was released in 2009 just when Sizarr formed. A coincident? I doubt it.

The only difference: Sizarr love the 80s. As do I, so who am I to judge a band just because the remind me of some other band. Maybe it’s just the grief that makes me hear Weeks in every song, even commercial jingles and street noise.

But! Sizarr’s song “Clam” is such a beauty (also with a little Aha-in-the-80s-vibe) that I let it slide. Especially since the guitar work on that song is more of the 80s The Smiths-variety.  After all, as the two regular readers of this blog might have noticed, I am knee deep in an 80s phase (or “sounds like the 80s-phase”) and therefore all for it. This band, by the way, was suggested by a friend’s friend, so yes, I do get my music from other sources than just Spotify. I have to admit, though, that she recommended this about two years ago … so if you ever recommended something to me or plan to do so you might have to wait a few decades until I finally get to it. THAT’S HOW I ROLL!

One thing, though: the band members have weird artsy pseudonyms which I feel does not work for this kind of music.

Deaf Sty (Fabian Altstötter)
P Monaee (Philipp Hülsenbeck)
Gora Sou (Marc Übel)

This is not the Wu-Tang-Clan, dudes. And if you don’t even put in the effort of wearing abstract masks or outrageous costumes (with glitter!) than why even bother? I don’t get it.

 

Favourite Song: Dream Wife ‘Hey Heartbreaker’ – hey ho let’s go!

Sometimes I go through my old playlists and really miss the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I mean, what kind of band manages to create roughly 3-4 disco club hymns with each of their first three albums? And with the kind of music that really shakes you up. There’s no elegant and timid dancing when dancing to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, I will not have it!

Anyways, Dream Wife pack the same energy into their EP “EP01” with four amazing songs that all will take your arm, like your starry eyed best friend and drag you onto the dancefloor, bouncing and yelling “OMG, this is amazing!”

Dream Wife is a lovely trio from Brighton, London, Reykjavik (the usual, really). They are named after an old romantic comedy. You know, one of those that Hollywood produced in the 1000s back then and if you watched only one of them, you will forever wonder if that’s the one or actually another because there were a lot of people having snappy conversations and looking fabulous but also going through not really interesting story lines.

ANYWAY! The band originally started as a femme version of Spinal Tap, including, supposedly, a mockumentary. But good music parody often leads to actual success and so they decided to follow the money and make this a proper band. The songs are short, melodic and, well, snappy. There’s the hint of Deborah Harry vocals in there occasionally (“Hey Heartbreaker” particularly sounds like a long lost Blondie-A-Side) and this high energy of Karen O. To make it short: I like it!

Quite possibly the first time you see how to eat your spaghetti in a punk way. Rule #1: don’t look at the plate or the fork!