Pop tracks fall from above like golden autumn leaves swaying across the brilliant blue canvas of the November sky, their mesmeric colours bracing the soul against the bitter cold of year-end chart compilations, best ofs and novelty Christmas singles.
Yet no sooner have they made landfall than they devolve into foisty brown mush, carpeting the lush green of well-tended soundscapes with unsightly russet shades; transforming routine constitutionals into Krypton Factor-esque assault courses; clogging hitherto unencumbered drains like Lindsay Lohan after quiet midweek drinks.
And yes, we could rake, scrape or otherwise sift through such mulch – clearing aural thoroughfares and retrieving notable samples for pressing between the pages of a Blue Peter annual – but that sounds like an awful lot of work to us; we’d far rather daintily pluck still-falling tracks from the ether, cast bitter aspersions on anything else in earshot and leave the backbreaking labour to… somebody else.
Emmy The Great & Tim Wheeler – Home For The Holidays
Okay, yeah, so we just decried the Christmas novelty single. Big whoop; wanna fight about it? It’s almost Jesus’s birthday, man – time to don a tissue paper hat, knock back a sherry or two and embrace year-end chart compilations, best ofs et al.
Besides, this isn’t your standard yuletide shite. This is Emmy and Tim – Wheeler and The Great, Timemmy The Greeler – and in Home For The Holidays, taken from the forthcoming This Is Christmas LP, they hit the nail on the head: simmering reunions, rekindled passions and garish knitwear all present, correct and accounted for.
“Home for the holidays again / I can’t believe it’s been another year / Did you ever write that book? / Did you ever make it out of here?” the pair belt out, either as ardently interested old flames or slick, sarcastic careerists back to lord it over their underachieving childhood pals. Marvellous.
Bastardgeist – Shift
Expletives will only get you so far – just ask a spluttering James Naughtie after he’s dropped the c-bomb on national radio for the umpteenth time – but in the cool, crazy, cantankerous world of music, so far can be more than far enough: Fucked Up, Holy Fuck, Fuck Buttons, The Fucking Ocean, Shit Robot, Shitdisco, Holy Shit, Psychedelic Horseshit, The Shitty Beatles and, of course, Cliff Richard.
But for Chicago-based pop experimenter Joel Midden, less is more: with his Bastardgeist pseudonym he delivers just a soupon of profanity, cleansing the palette for what reveals itself to be a lush, Cults-esque slab of drone-pop that rides the tracks laid in 2011 by the likes of Washed Out, Memory Tapes and Papercuts. He’s left it late, but it was well worth the wait. Next week: a look at the debut EP of Boston-based five-piece Wazzockplank.
WU LYF – WE BROS
A tribute to the finest pop-dance combo ever to come from Camberley, Surrey, England consisting of three guys called Luke, Matt and Craig with a taste for threadbare denim? What could be more festive or more relevant?
But no. Apparently, as well as being the name of the finest pop-dance combo ever to come from Camberley, Surrey, England consisting of three guys called Luke, Matt and Craig with a taste for threadbare denim, Bros also is a abbreviation of the word brothers. It is astonishing what you learn.
If you’ve heard WU LYF, you’ll sort of know what to expect. Something that starts languidly, a bit like a New Orleans funeral, except slower and more sombre, and with Chewbacca giving the eulogy, which then breaks into a full on tribal wig-out. With Chewbacca being the MC. Nice.
Katy Perry – The One That Got Away
Pink-haired, chart-topping, Russell Brand-marrying irritant Katy Perry has the knack for pop songs that wear down a listener’s well-intentioned resistance; tracks that carry just enough quality to cross the line between annoying and gratifying after only eight or nine dozen repeat plays.
The One That Got Away is a love tragedy in the classic mould – boy meets girl; boy tattoos girl with scant regard for hygiene standards; girl ruins boy’s canvas for no apparent reason; boy drives off in a huff, crashing to his death when distracted by girl’s discarded tutu; girl restores totalled car, returns to crash site many years later to taunt ghost of deceased boy – and, like Perry’s other hits, it’s sure to grow on you like an unsightly fungal infection.
But as for girl Katy Perry and old woman Katy Perry coming face-to-face (and harmonising): wouldn’t that destroy the space-time continuum…?
My Empire Of Sound – Early Morning (A New Beginning)
Alberta Cross weren’t bad at all, but John Alexander Ericson has really struck pay dirt this time in the form of new collaboration (side project?) My Empire Of Sound with Sidsel Marie Søholm.
Like a Swedish-Danish She & Him – a touch of The Concretes here, a smattering of downtrodden Alphabeat there – the pair complement one another adroitly, the evocative Early Morning (A New Beginning) ascending to join this year’s best and brightest as a result.
The Raveonettes Let Me On Out
The overarching feeling that the end-of-year best-of collation tends to leave you with is one of pensive nagging concern. Of the thing you’ve forgotten. It is the music critic equivalent of “Have I left the gas on?”
Which then generally turns into – through either shuffle or scroll or email – full-blown forehead slappingness. Shit. Bollocks. Forgot about (insert name here).
Shit. Bollocks. Forgot about The Raveonettes.
Consider this a small, tiny, tiny gesture of recompense. Let Me On Out, from their oft overlooked Raven In The Grave LP (*AHEM*), is a wonderful piece of dark reverb-heavy noir and roll.
The Maccabees Pelican
The Maccabees and Guillemots can never really be confused one for the other, given one is a large seabird with a circumpolar distribution and one is a Jewish rebel army who took control of Judea in 164BC.
Oh. And they’re both bands. As well. Who don’t particularly sound alike.
But, in terms of distinguishing features, The Maccabees have a new single out. Which you can hear by clicking below. It is jittery and jerky and perhaps it’ll be sufficient enough to ensure they are forever remembered as The Band Who Aren’t Guillemots. Although, honestly, probably not.
Fránçois & The Atlas Mountains – Les Plus Beaux
Trying to teach us French was something of a Sisyphean task, and our Gallic grasp remains as tenuous as it ever was. We can explain our love of phallic meat snacks (“J’aime le saucisson!”) and estimate the number of kids in school (“Je croix qu’il y a mille deux-cent élèves aux collège!”), but anything else is Greek to us.
None of which detracts from Les Plus Beaux, the shimmeringly beautiful second single from Fránçois & The Atlas Mountains’ E Volo Love LP. Its Francophone narrative and tempered African influences rise like a gentle music soufflé; so rewarding that the fact we haven’t the foggiest is neither here nor there. Oui.
Abi Wade Stability
Don’t see many cellos down here. Do you?
Not a common sight. Not a common sound. Which makes Abi Wade not a common artist. She’s the first signing to Daniel Copeman’s (from Esben & the Witch) new label, and you can see why.
As Stability is rather wonderful. Unusual. And beautiful.
Bring more cellos. The world needs ‘em.