• Suze Rotolo (November 20, 1943 – February 25, 2011)

    6 mars 2011, 21h17m

    "Right from the start I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She was the most erotic thing I’d ever seen. She was fair skinned and golden haired, full-blood Italian. The air was suddenly filled with banana leaves. We started talking and my head started to spin." - Bob Dylan

    I was so saddened to hear about Suze Rotolo's passing. I have the fondest memories of seeing her in 2009, reading from her book 'A Freewheelin' Time' and sharing stories from her time with Bob Dylan. She captured the feeling of that period in a way I never would have imagined possible. She was a woman whose eyes remained constantly open, always searching to discover something new- her perspectives were fascinating, always laced with a childlike awe. It was this openness that captured the room and that took the evening so far from anyone's expectations of what a book reading or interview should involve. At one point, she called Steve Earle to the front to play a few songs- she greeted him so warmly that her interaction with him was more of an insight than the performance itself.

    If the whole thing quite hauntingly now sounds like a eulogy, then it was a fitting one- an opportunity for Suze herself to relive her most memorable moments. I will remember her as graceful, funny and inspiring, the kind of person whose presence stays with you long after they have left the room. That she was the muse for one of the most important artists of our time is surely telling of how wonderful a character she possessed, but tends to imply an otherworldly quality that we find hard to comprehend. What became obvious that night is the extent to which someone who is profoundly down-to-earth can inspire the transcendental.

  • Records That Changed My Life #2. Cymbals Eat Guitars - Why There Are Mountains

    18 jan. 2011, 14h21m

    From Records That Changed My Life

    It's so obvious that no one ever really says it, but it's a wonderful fact of life: your favourite records pick you. It's that primal energy, that ache in your stomach, it's the fact that no amount of reading bad reviews or hearing dodgy rumours or people picking apart the production or the lyrics or saying they saw a bad show can affect you. If anything, all of that works in your favour. "Ha ha. You guys know nothing." It's superiority, but not really. You might agree with them, but it doesn't matter. It may just be the best feeling. Even whilst everyone else is saying, "Ha ha. You'll get over it."

    You know that pang of jealousy you feel when you see a group of Rush fans totally rocking out -- perfectly air-bassing every solo, singing along to every lyric of any of their hundreds of 20 minute songs -- I feel like I've finally found my Rush in this band. "I'm bear mountain, I'm entering orbit!" I rarely get the chance to scream at the top of my lungs and raise my fist high in the air. The songs I like don't have climaxes like Cymbals Eat Guitars have climaxes. Visceral, grit-your-teeth climaxes. It's enough to make you want to close the door on subtlety. Not to say they can't do subtlety but, oh God, the brass at the end of Indiana!

    And there is no shortage of parts that make me weak at the knees. Indiana's bassline is nothing less than iconic. The solo in Some Trees is nothing less than iconic. The intro to Wind Phoenix, you guessed it, iconic! I will be singing these phrases whilst doing the most mundane of daily activities until I die, and the reason is because this album is under my skin and every nuance is buried so far in my subconscious that I could swear the silences in-between tracks are soundtracking my dreams nowadays.

    "I met the first guy who said, "I'll always remember this night, Jane." When I bought cigarettes home on a whim, it was really him. And all of us other guys who've said it since then, we've been trying to mean it as sincerely as he did." If this is what Joe talks about now when he says his lyrics on this album were infantile, then give me infantile. If capturing all the extremes -- the frustration and innocence and blind ambition and disappointment -- of teenage life is embarrassing, then let's be thankful we live in the internet age and this album did not remain pushed aside under Joe's bed until he could create his magnum opus. The development and struggle of a band is one of the most beautiful things and hearing every new song as it's written fills me with this totally unfounded sense of pride.

    I don't know what it is that people find so hard to like. Focus on the sounds - the Wurlitzer, the tone of the guitar, the scream at 3.38 of 'And the Hazy Sea' or read the lyrics! - "When the police bring me in, tell them this is why we need secrets." I mean, if you can't find something to like here, seriously, it's fine. I gave Rush a chance, it's not for me. But when you see us weeping front row, mouthing every word, hitting each other in the chest, don't be that guy who goes home and listens and realises they've missed their chance to feel immortal for 50 minutes and instead spent that time sitting at the back wishing they could remember the chorus.

    Cymbals Eat Guitars
    Why There are Mountains
  • exhale. check it. it's halftime.

    20 juin 2010, 0h04m

    My overwrought semi-yearly round-up of what might be the best records of the year so far!

    Liars - Sisterworld.

    I have listened to this album somewhere between 20 and 40 times. I cursed at my computer when it was not downloading fast enough. I cradled it in my arms when I bought it, put it on as soon as was humanly possible and lay on my bed and stared at the photographs contained within. I am still discovering something new with every listen. Goodnight Everything has lyrics?

    I mostly find that I'm imagining myself in a black boiler suit with a badge that looks a lot like the front cover of the album, marching behind Angus. Some sort of religion, maybe a cult. I'm not sure what we're about to do. I would be fine with anything. If only, for a second, I could stop finding myself lost (finding myself lost?) then maybe I could work out what it is I like about it, or whether I do like it at all, or whether it's something else completely. What is it I'm supposed to be doing!? I don't know, but I do worry that if I find myself listening to this in the supermarket and somebody gets on the wrong side of me, cuts me off with their trolley or bursts a milk carton nearby, I might lose it. "Kill em all!" Oh man.

    Catch me on a normal day and I might tell you that the guitar on one track is incredible or the bassline blows me away or that the rhythms are great or that their depiction of L.A. is one of the greatest records of city life ever, but mostly I think I will probably just mumble incoherently and jump up and down and bubble at the mouth and pass out. I don't really remember the last time I saw them. I punched a lot and stepped on some guy's foot.

    If I hold my hand up way high, and we say that Sisterworld is where my hand is, everything else this year is shoulder-height and below.

    Gayngs - Relayted

    69bpm across all 11 tracks. Based entirely on 10cc's I'm Not in Love. Justin Vernon rapping. Dessa. P.O.S.. Mike Noyce. If you don't want to listen yet, you probably won't like it. It takes everything I think I might not like and coats it in so much sex appeal that I start to wonder whether I really know myself at all. Is sleazy saxophone really that uncool? No. Did I really hate Careless Whisper that much? I seem to recall now that I really love that song. Autotune? Essential. When do I get to the redeeming features of this album? I don't! That's it! Slap bass. Slap bass!

    Normally I am all about the personal attachment. I want to be able to put songs on themed mixtapes and I want to know every word and be able to play every part. These two records, whilst having great songs, are very much get-lost-in-the-feeling records. Can you even play half the noises they make on this record? They are probably just the sounds that emit from a room when you get people who are far too smooth standing far too close to each other.

    These records have really changed my idea of what an album needs in order to get under my skin, and I love that. Plus they're not indie rock and I don't think there's an acoustic guitar on either of them, which is crazy for me. Close second for my favourite album of this year so far.

    After these two, it's a little less clear cut.

    Joanna Newsom - Have One on Me

    Wow. Some of the songs on this are mindblowing. Like, seriously. I enjoy them for their sound and her voice alone as much as I enjoy most of my favourite songs but then you get the lyric booklet and you read the lyrics and you just can't imagine how some of the stories could ever fit to music. And then you listen and it's effortless. I worry that perhaps it's a little too smart, but that is probably just because I have not yet been able to listen enough times for all two hours and four minutes to sink in. It might take me until 2015 to fully realise how much I love this, but I've got time.

    Quasi - American Gong

    I almost wrote 'Quasi - Little White Horse' then. That's probably enough of a review. Try to find a more playful bassline! Seriously though, it's albums like these that make me remember how great guitars are and how people really do not abuse guitars as much as they should be abused. Needless to say, Janet's powering away as usual, the lyrics are fantastic and the addition of a permanent bassist has given them a real kick. Such a kick. There are times when you need to hear a song like Everything & Nothing at All. Sam Coomes seems to be going through our roughest times constantly, but the feeling you get after listening to this is "It'll be OK. Rock out." And that's not the easiest thing to do.

    CocoRosie - Grey Oceans

    Owen Pallett said something about CocoRosie being really bad for quantitative reviews because they are awful but also essential and awesome (he was far more eloquent.) I have to agree. If you were to put on a song like Hopscotch and start ridiculing me, I would probably freeze up and keep quiet. I think it's one of the ultimate cases of personality being the dealbreaker and really coming through in the music. I doubt there are many people who don't have an opinion on these guys. That aside, this is one of the most downright beautiful and heartbreaking albums I have enjoyed this year. The title track, ohhh. The title track. It gives me a stomach ache. I would probably have said this was another atmosphere-record but seeing it live, the songs really had individual personalities and I kind of cling on to that feeling while I'm listening. But I also just find myself internally passing out and floating on clouds in my head. I just don't know.

    Dessa - A Badly Broken Code

    Dessa speaks to me on a level no other musician does. That's not to say it's on a deeper level or that I think she's the best at anything she does (although she might well be), it's just that she says things so many others don't, or can't. And perhaps that's because it is a rap record and therefore there is a lot more freedom when it comes to lyrical structure (and also number of words!) but maybe it is also because she is a lady and therefore I feel I can ~personally relate~.

    This is a great debut album, but the fact I had to put "debut" in there sort of implies that I think she could do a lot better. The lyrics on this are probably at about 80% on my expectations-of-Dessa scale and the beats, well, I would prefer if they all sounded like 551 from the False Hopes EP. But back to the lyrics. Internal rhyming! "The guilt he'll say is killing him / He's wilted in the middle and / He knows how bad he acted / Knows he can't have you back and the fact is" Running metaphors! Referencing your own band! I love it when people reference their own bands. That bit in Step Aside when Corin's like "Janet! Carrie! Can you feel it!" and in Lift when Thom's like "We've been trying to reach you, Thom." That's why I think Crew is a great song, no matter how tacky it might seem. "Dot net 'cause somebody already had the dot com." Classic. Doomtree dot net.

    Other albums that I have either enjoyed immensely but-not-as-immensely-as-the-albums-above or that I have not yet listened to enough but-definitely-have-potential-for-awesomeness include but are not limited to:

    White Hinterland - Kairos
    Beach House - Teen Dream
    Owen Pallett - Heartland
    Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record
    The New Pornographers - Together
    Frog Eyes - Paul's Tomb: A Triumph
    Four Tet - There Is Love in You
    LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening

    If you find yourself thinking "What about ___?" please let me know.