Just finished reading Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver. Very good, Kingsolver’s lush portrayals of the land and how the tight-knit rural community of Grace, Arizona and thousands like it depend on nature as the lifeblood of generations of history are so far removed from anything I’ve ever experienced and will be one of those books i recall at will for years to come. I may be trying to read too much into things in an ill-fated stab at some form of reading between the lines but I can’t shake the feeling that Hallie didn’t really exist and was a Fight Club-esque figment of Codi’s imagination, the person she wished she was and when she finally found a sense of belonging in Grace, Hallie died shortly afterwards. In practically the very next paragraph after the chapter dealing with Hallie’s death, Codi even remarks in her narration that Hallie “did not exist” - I suppose it could be taken at face value that Hallie had died and no longer existed but I had cooked up my ‘Hallie is imaginary’ theory long before that potential nod to the truth. Either way, this novel was written in 1990 and for all I know it’s common knowledge by now that my “theory” is correct, I can’t say I’ve read any reviews. Nonetheless, a fantastic read. I am utterly appalling at reviewing literature.
Hey, I just thought I’d write about 5 random songs I think are amazing. I’ll probably do this quite often whenever the feeling takes me.
1. Boards Of Canada - Everything You Do Is A Balloon
The year is 2012, I’m disillusioned and frustrated with metal and heavy rock, I’ve always had a fairly broad taste in music but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a distinct metalhead streak in me. For about 2 years I’d been looking for something else. I did and do still love my metal but I needed a change, too many metal bands had been pumping out albums that sound exactly the same for too long, I was in a rut, I was bored. Then in August of 2010, after watching something on Youtube I noticed that one of my ‘suggested’ videos was the aforementioned song. The still from the video caught my attention, a group of children with chimpanzee masks on riding biycycles - it looked pretty bizarre so I thought I’d give it a listen. Boards Of Canada were one of those bands I’d heard of in passing and for some unknown reason I’d always assumed they were an indie band. Just under 7 minutes later my jaw was on the floor. THIS. THIS right here is what I’d been looking for. The intro (which is completely different from the rest of the song) sounds like something that could have been on one of those cheap 80s public information films that were trotted out for us liberally in primary school in the 90s and then when the song kicks in? Oh my god. Goosebumps. I’m listening to it right now and I still get goosebumps every time that little counter melody kicks in over the drony bass synths. It’s so hard to sum up what’s so good about Boards Of Canada’s music but if you ever need an encapsulated summary of everything that is amazing about them, you’ll find it in this song. The only way I can really describe it is there’s something about me that I don’t quite ‘get’ myself but for some reason, this music ‘gets’ it. That sounds pretentious as fuck but I make no apologies. The band have been quoted as saying that the title of this song is “a realisation I made a long time ago in the forest” - when I heard that I imagined them around a campfire taking LSD and realising that life is like a balloon, the more you live the more you inflate it with experiences, memories, happy times, sad times and everything that goes with life. But no matter how big the balloon gets, no matter how full a life you lead, for everything you pack into the balloon, it becomes one step closer to expiring - it’s powerful stuff and this song is amazing.
2. Opeth - To Bid You Farewell
The year is 2008 and I am stoned out of my mind, lying in my bed trying to sleep and fighting the cannabis-fueled brainstorm I’m attacking, I decide to listen to my friend’s MP3 player and the first song that it shuffles to is this. I love metal and I love ambient music, I love prog rock, I love weird time signatures and I absolutely adore with all of my heart songs that have long-ass musical passages to open the proceedings before the vocals kick in. This song has all of those characteristics in spades. It was unlike anything I’d ever heard from a metal band before, mellow, wonderfully weird, ambient and then the PERFECT heaviness kicking in towards the end of the song. The varying moods this song goes though are a rollercoaster of powerful emotions. The weird bass tone and the way the drums play something so simplistic for most of the piece and traits not often explored by metal bands, the 10+ minute length of the song showing that Opeth will not let convention get in the way of their boyish enthusiasm for music, the way it makes you wait for the ‘jizz moment’ - oh man, just listen to it. Just listen to it.
3. Sepal - Dysfunction
Sepal are a Croatian metal band and I discovered them circa 2008, this song is absolutely amazing. If you can get past the death metal growls which put so many people off some fantastic music, you’ll find a beautifully constructed 4:31 of music. The cleanly-sung chorus is the very definition of the word ‘epic’ as it relates to music and the eastern-tinged intro (which is infact an entirely separate song called ‘Ways Of…’) leads beautifully into the main piece. Then, as we get a little over halfway into the song we have what I call a perfect bridge, a bridge that introduces an entirely new slant on the song itself but stays true to the spirit of the composition. The most important function a musical bridge should serve for me is to lead sensationally back into the chorus, in a moment that gives the listener goosebumps, a long buildup followed by a moment where you just lose your shit in musical ecstasy and this delivers in the most brutally beautiful manner before the song ends with another quick nod to the bridge and then a quick blast of the intro again. Amazing, amazing stuff and I wish Sepal were a lot bigger than they are.
4. DJ Shadow - Stem/Long Stem
Hmmm, three of my four songs so far have been from 1996 and yet I didn’t hear of any of them until much later. How I wish I had been a little bit more music savvy as a 12 year old instead of listening to insipid chart pish - but I digress. What can I really say about this masterpiece that hasn’t been said already? It comes from an album rightly sucked-off by music critics the world over. As a musician who has had his own brief flirtations with constructing songs built entirely from samples of other songs, there comes a point when you just have to hold your hands up and say no-one will ever do it as well as DJ Shadow did on his Endtroducing album and Stem/Long Stem is the most amazing cut from this amazing album. Such was the impact this album had on me that I even researched all of the songs he’d sampled and I remember a particularly funny incident which revolved around trying to get two friends of mine to recognise the brilliance of the song Linde Manor by Dennis Linde, from which DJ Shadow took a little string section for Stem/Long Stem. Said little string section is, for me, where the true magic of this song is, it’s all great but when I listen to the Endtroducing album as a whole, I tend to find that it’s the little details I focus on, the smallest pieces of songs that DJ Shadow sampled that just add so much to the overall pieces he constructs. It’s his attention to the smallest detail that just gets me every time, it’s why he’s the absolute master of this ‘genre’ whatever that genre may be.
5. Animals As Leads - CAFO
There should be a club for people who like this song, or any other song like it. A club where we all meet up and just share knowing glances that seem to say “yeah, you, you get it. You know ;)” What do I mean by that? Well, you have to have a pretty good understanding of music to know why this song is as fucking disgustingly good as it is. See anybody who uses a term like “guitar wankery” ? Push them down a flight of stairs. And when they hit the bottom, lay the boot in. If you can listen to this song and not really understand why it’s an absolute masterpiece, well then I’m afraid if there was such a thing as a ‘musical IQ’ you’d be doing well if you made it into a remedial class, mate. Seriously, Tosin Abasi is the greatest guitarist of my generation without question. This song isn’t just good, it’s EVERYTHING that’s good about music, whatever genre you happen to be more swayed towards in terms of your own personal tastes. This level of balls-out joy you can only experience when you’re totally in love with playing music is criminally under-expressed in a music business that still hasn’t quite caught up with modern day thinking. I don’t expect that everyone will listen to this song and love it, hell I don’t even expect everyone to like it. But if you can’t appreciate the sheer beauty of it and have a respect (however grudging it is) for the second-to-none level of musicianship displayed throughout, you’re beyond help.
I’m going to do a good old fashioned ten song shuffle, here’s what came up:
1. Innovate - Stop Me
2. Iron Maiden - Heaven Can Wait
3. The Jacksons - Blame It On The Boogie
4. Amon Amarth - The Fall Through Ginnungagap
5. MDFT - Schoolyard Of My Mind
6. Air - New Star In The Sky
7. Boards Of Canada - Wendy Miller
8. Jakob - Lonesome
9. Dr. Dre - Forgot About Dre
10. Diamond Head - It’s Electric