Saturday, July 18, 2009

all the notes in your heart.

(my cello)

Saturday morning I make my into town, to The Music Practice for my quartet session. I play Cello, my father plays clarinet, tiny little Jan also plays clarinet and Canadian Mike plays Bassoon. Poor Alison has to look after us, and try to make sure that we don't slow down too much, or completely maul whatever it is we're working on. At the moment it's a Mozart Adagio. It was my first week back today because my Cello had a problem with its fingerboard, which made it sound like there was a very enamored bee accompanying me. So my cello, in its sparkly new blue case, was sent of to Edgecliff to be seen to. I'm very pleased to report that it now sounds like the beautiful full blooded beast it is. And it turns out that I own what is called a "ladies" cello, as its not quiet 3/4, not quite full size. It's a beautiful red colour, and its new sound is just begging for me to learn the Bach Cello Suites.

this is my very favourite cellist, Peter Wispelway. There's a recording of him playing these Bach Suites where you can hear him breathing, the clack of his bow and the tap of his fingers all underpinning the incredibly beautiful Bach music. There's something very intimate and personal about it that I love - the cello is a much more intimate instrument than the other strings in my opinion. I played (at knifepoint) for eight years at school, but it's only since I came back from Europe that I've picked it up again, and to my surprise I've turned out to be much better than I thought - and now that I own the sheet music for the Bach, I think it's going to be one of the best things I do this year. I'll let you know how I go, and maybe try to put a recording up if any one's interested?

While we're talking about music, the darling Renate, who is my Norwegian e-pal, asked me what music I'm listening to at the moment. So I thought I'd do a proper music post, so that I can link it to a bunch of forum people and get my hand back in at it. Alot of this will be old stuff that you've probably heard, but I refused to do a Top 10 albums last year, and got yelled at, so consider this a sort of apology.

Voxtrot - Trepanation Party
Voxtrot have kind of always been a band that I like to listen to best on Sundays. Because their music is sort of quietly bouncy, very gentle stuff full of romance and whiskey (they have a song called Whiskey that's just heavenly) but "Trepanation Party" is darker and disco-y-er. It's like the band went so some hipster club in LA one Friday night and spent the entire time sitting in a corner, nursing a drink (because they could only afford one drink because hipster clubs are overpriced) and wondering what the hell they were doing there. And then on Saturday night, instead of going out, they wrote this song. I may be projecting slightly, but that's what this song sounds like. Lead singer Ramesh has such a gentle voice that to hear him sing things like "everyone i know is losing their mind, everyone i know has a really good time" and "how does it feel to be one of the beautiful people" sends a shiver up my spine. I can't wait for their new album.

Orphans and Vandals
- I Am Alive, You Are Dead (album)
I have been curled around this band protectively for over a year now. I saw them supporting Broken Records and the Twilight Sad last year in London, and decided that I didn't want anyone to know about them ever because their words and music is spectacular and epic and intimate. And then their album (which shares a title with my favourite biography ever) came out and I knew that I had to share this with the scant few people who read this thing, because I Am Alive, You Are Dead is the most real thing I've heard in years. It's not rehearsed and there are mistakes and it's all so endearing that it's like the musical equivalent of long conversations with people you love. The songs are primarily odes to Europe, London in particular, and fill me with nostalgia for a city that I found big and overwhelming and unfriendly. My favourite song would have to be '"Mysterious Skin" which was the first song I ever heard from Orphans and Vandals. It's a letter to Arthur Rimbaud, in which singer Al Joshua goes on a quest to Paris, to Charleville where Rimbaud was born. The song is interspersed with observations of modernity, the fickleness of life. At over ten minutes, it's emotionally draining, but beautiful. Other favourites are Terra Firma, because of the casual elegance of the lines "this town is like Jericho, the walls will come down if I tell them to" I don't know, there's just something so very genuine about this band. The gentle strings, the drumming that underpins every song like a heartbeat, and the ease with which mistakes are made and ignored. I love the evilness of "Metropes" which casts a devilish air over "cocktail parties for the rich and influential/walking on my hind legs feels unnatural", adding a cruel undertone to London nights and social circles. That this band choose to sing about sex like it's just sex as opposed to a toll for advancement also endears them to me greatly. This album is diverse and raw and honest and I think you should go listen to them.

- 100 Broken Windows (album)
Is there a post where I haven't mentioned this band? I don't think so. The 100 Broken Windows album was Idlewild's second full length album, and has always held a very special place in my record collection. As much as I love their later folk-ier stuff (and the crazy dance track No Emotion, complete with pinata), I adore the way this album ebbs and flows between teen punk and indie rock and mellowness - it sounds like a band coming into their own and working out who they are without losing their sense of humor. There's energy in this album, semifrantic energy that's even visible in the slower songs, like "Bronze Medal", which always puts me in mind of winter nights. Most of the songs use repetition in such a way that you don't really notice the repetition until Woomble starts singing about it - which may or not have been intentional. But what I love about this album the most is how literary it is, how intelligent. I love Woomble's sneering "i bet you don't know how to sell conviction" in "These Wooden Ideas", which is the only song about post-modernism that has accurately captured the bullshit of postmodernism and mixed it with the fun of po-mo. "Roseability" has probably inspired hundreds of people to read Gertrude Stein (although I still haven't because, well, I'm recidivist like that). This is a gem of an album, perfect for winter walks and an even more perfect soundtrack for trying to write English essays.

Bloc Party - One More Chance // Intimacy (album)
As I'm a cultural studies student at heart, Bloc Party provide me with hours of speculation and interest. They're one of the few bands to tackle the post 9/11-7/7 culture of fear and isolation in both grandiose and intimate ways. Their music is always epic. But "One More Chance" is. Well. A bit flat after too many listens. It's a lovely idea for a song, the desperate lover trying to get back into his partner's good graces, but I'm a little over all the 80s music that's around that moment (hinthint, Lady Gaga and La Roux.) Still. It's probably a good songtoexerciseto, and I suspect that it will grow on me, the way Bloc Party tend to. Kele's voice sounds fantastic on it, and the video is pretty awesome. Until that happens though, I think I'll continue listening to the mad genius that was "Intimacy". From the opening thunderstorm of "Ares" to the operatic "Zepherys" to the vicious "Talons" this album is mad in the best of ways. It's music for the dark streets and rainy nights. It's simultaneously a portrait of global paranoia and a detailed breakup. You know what this album (and Bloc Party in general, probably) is? A perfect example of GLOCALISATION. HA. I think I've just decided to write my thesis on Bloc Party. Oh, I overwhelm myself with my intelligence. But seriously, go listen to this album. It's a rollercoaster of techno beats, ravishing guitars, intertextual imagery overload and e.e. cummings makes an appearance. What more do you want? (Apart from a decent explanation and review of this album, I mean.)

Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (album)
It either takes balls or French finesse to take your album title from one of the greatest composers in history. Seeing as it was French indie band Phoenix, I'm guessing they have oodles of the latter. (And considering they're an all male band, probably the former too, but y'know, 'it takes balls' is very American and I suspect the French would sneer at it). That they also make reference to composer Liszt is cunning yet verging on twee. Happily Phoenix has far too much cool to be twee. The slight hint of French accent adds a jauntiness that conjures up images of ray bands at the Lourve. This is an album you should listen to on sunny days lying in the park with a crisp white wine and a copy of Mozart's biography. I think there's a harpsichord (or a spinet?) involved at some point. "Rome" is a very clever sweet extension of the old "Rome wasn't built in a day" and "Lisztomania" is one of my favourite songs (and videos) of the year so far because of it's summery nature and jangly lyrics. I don't really want to go into massive detail with this album as I know here's been a lot of talk about how this is the *breakthrough* album for these guys, and I don't really see it as such. It's just lovely music that seems like the soundtrack for a movie I haven't seen yet but really want to.

The National - Ashamed of the Story I Told (Polaris cover)
Another band I'm always raving about (I should throw in an Editors song, just to complete the trio) The National continue to surprise me and tear at my little heart strings. This is a cover of a Mark Mulcahy song, part of a tribute album to Mulcahy's late wife (I know nothing about Mulcahy's work - now I'm furiously researching it). Considering The National contributed/put together the AMAZING Dark is the Night compilation earlier this year, I can't wait to hear the entirety of "Ciao My Shining Star" to see who else is contributing. But in the meantime, this is just beautiful, and perfectly suited to The National's style. If you haven't heard them before, go out and buy "Boxer" right now - their songs are portraits of the mundane - and the moments when the mundane becomes magic. There's much drinking, hiding in corners and wondering when it all when so wrong (but how did it go so brilliant). And in "Ashamed of the Story I Told", the strings are so gentle, the piano chords like drips in time, and the drums (which are sort of The National's secret weapon) will beat in time with your heart. And over that all, Matt Berninger sounds like a man quietly, calmly losing his mind. The song ebbs and swells with sadness - like when you know you have to so something that you really don't want to do, even though you know it's bad for you. It's a song about goodbyes, ones that hurt, ones that are one sided. I put this song on repeat yesterday and felt the earth spinning. That's The National for you. Now, when is their new album coming out?????

Editors - A Thousand Pieces
Ok, ok. An Editors song. Part of what annoys alot of people about Editors is the whole Joy Division/Interpol thing. For me, this has never been annoying. I love Editors over the other two bands because the music has always had what the other two lack - a kernel of hope. It's that feeling that even when you've fallen over and don't want to get up, you know you're going to be able to. There's a ferocity to Editors that you only really begin to understand when you see them play live - its in front man Tom Smith's mad scientist dancing, Chris Urbanowicz's commanding guitars, Russell Leetch's body shaking bass, Ed Lay's frantic drumming. This is a band that crept up on me and demanded that I hand myself over. And the song "A Thousand Pieces" is the closest they've come to replicating that live ferocity. This song postively snarls determination - its a sort of war cry for love and loving and wanting to be loved - when Tom howls "don't pick up the pieces" I can feel my whole being burst into a thousand billion pieces. It's about reaching out, it's about trying and it's sort of almost kind of a second "Bullets" for me, which is my favourite song ever. It's the machine gun guitars, the way the song is so anthem-esque that I just want to see them play it live and watch people's faces be filled with wonder. (Sorry, I'm gushing.)

Faux Hoax - Your Friends Will Carry You Home
I don't know anything about this band, except that I love this song and it's James Joyce-like stream of consciousness style. I love the quiet bassline. I love the shoutyspoken lyrics. I love the write up it got on "Said The Gramaphone" which has much better writers on it than I could ever hope to be. But most of all, I love the imagery that this song presents - that of my friends doing what they always do - getting my sorry arse out of trouble.


There, apologies for the gushing and complete lack of musical professionalism that I used to display. I sort of prefer writing about things I love. Which is why the new PATD song is still unlistened and unopened in my inbox, along with a shitload of other stuff by boys with pretentious haircuts.

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