So, obviously I'm on a bit of a Bat for Lashes kick. If you hurry up and snag her new album, you might see why.
She recently made an appearance on BBC Radio 1 and performed two songs; the first, a great laptop version of her single "Daniel" and a surprise cover of the Kings of Leon hit "Use Somebody". I haven't blogged about it, but I dig their album, Only by the Night - It's not typically a genre I'd reach for, but there's something about the quality and integrity with which these dudes from the southern US approach their cock-rock that works for me. It's got swagger, but not the Chad Kroeger kind. Natasha Khan's version is fairly loyal to the original, though interesting to hear it from a female perspective. I like that she's sticking her neck out on something so commercial, so American, and so current - A smart marketing move, if nothing else. Enjoy!
For whatever reason, I've never gotten into Belle and Sebastian. Like books and movies, oh-so-long is the list of music I can't seem to get around to. Stuart Murdoch (of B&S) has put together an amazing project due out in early June on Matador. While running he had a tune in his head he knew wasn't right for his band; it was a vivid wall of doop-woppy girl-group vocals and a 45-piece orchestra. Culling together nine amazing vocalists (most notably, Catherine Ireton who worked with Belle and Sebastian in 2006) he recorded the album that had been ringing in his head for the better part of 5 years. He calls it God Help the Girl andthis YouTube clip tells you all about it.
The first single, "Come Monday Night" starts out sounding like something Snow White might trill amongst the wild flowers. It then kicks into classic old school pop, riffing on the throwback-stylings of M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel's Volume I, though moodier andless California. If the debut has all the perfect pop of the single with just a bit more melancholic Scottishness, I suspect we'll be hearing a lot about God Help the Girl.
The first CD I ever owned was the soundtrack to the hit show Friends. It was the mid-90s, I was in grade eight and it came alongside my very first CD player on my 13th birthday. After breaking the ice with that amazing compilation I came upon Bjork's Post and unknown hours wailing "Hyperballad". In there somewhere I backtracked all over Sinead O'Connor's catalogue and Annie Lennox released Medusa helping me realize an uncontrollable love for the genre I lovingly refer to as 80s Drama Rock. Amid all the music I love so much, this corner might be my favourite, the one that elicits the most shoulder moves and chills down my spine. I'm not sure what it is, I just love it.
I recently posted about Bat for Lashes' new album Two Suns and have been listening like crazy. Pulling together obvious influences (reverential rather than bastardized, I assure you) like those mentioned above, Natasha Khan seems to come by it all so naturally. Born in the late 70s, perhaps she came up like I did - always lying in wait for her parents to leave the house so she could blast Sinead's "Jerusalem" or "Troy" while throwing herself around her bedroom like some kind of disabled modern dancer. Or maybe that was just me. Whatever the case, Khan seems to be soaked in the sounds she employs, never verging on put-on or disingenuous.
A great next-step from her debut, the Mercury-nominated Fur and Gold, her follow-up is rich and fully-realized, ranging from early (and also Choirgirl-era) Tori Amos through to more modern, danceable artists like Roisin Murphy. The through line is a plethora of organic instruments, heavy bass lines and fantastical programming. She and co-producer David Kosten (who also worked on her debut) layer in seemingly endless amounts of atmospheric background sounds, all adding up to anything but a sophomore slump - theatrical, big and dynamic. I don't call it 80s Drama Rock for nothing. But for all the epic songs, there are a few smaller ones too - On "Moon and Moon" it's mainly piano and voice, a beautiful and cryptic song. "Siren Song" starts out meditative and then grows, exploding into a piano-driven timpani-thumper. I live for this.
The album is available on iTunes now - In the meantime check out these, the album-opener "Glass" and the beautiful "Moon and Moon".
Patrick Watson is one of the bands I've discovered in recent years who has made it onto the list. It's ever-growing, but limited to those who really get me good. The ever-growing part excites me, suggesting music is getting better. Or perhaps my tastes are changing and with more genres to pluck from I'm finding more greatness. Whatever the case, it's an amazing time in popular music.
Their follow-up to 2006's Close to Paradise (for which they won the Polaris Prize - Canada's Mercury) continues in a similar direction. No major shifts, really, though it's got its own energy. While Paradise felt like a gigantic opus of grand sounds, Wooden Arms has a few more moments of quietness, smallness. On "Man Like You" it's downright tiny, just vocals and an acoustic guitar, an album high-point, Watson's voice reaching into the highest parts of his limitless upper-range.
While slightly more intimate than their last effort, this one loses none of the manic, driving intensity. If you've ever heard an interview with the guys from the band, their surprisingly easy-going. I would have thought they'd be boorishly intellectual, but no. They are kind of dopey and quirky, actually.
With just enough blips and blops to satisfy my secret love of Space Rock, Wooden Arms moves through a lot of influences - Everything from cinematic orchestral ("Hommage") to plucky country on "Big Bird in a Small Cage" through to circus-dirge on "Traveling Salesman". It's one of those albums that grows with each listen, new sounds heard each time. While not everyone's cup of tea, I'm sure, it's definitely mine and will be on my playlist for many years to come.