vrijdag 13 december 2013
Royals also didn't become a real hit. Lingering at the bottom of charts, not disappearing again and not really rising also. Then I lost notice for a while, until I heard the song again some weeks back. As in really hearing it and not as musical wall paper as the radio to me often is. (I'm not a radio listener, but an album listener. Somebody very close to me is a radio listener.) This time I immediately followed up on hearing the song again. Putting it on my head phone and heard all the intricate ear candy going on.
Royals is what I call a "non song". Almost everything in the making of a traditional song has been stripped away. No instruments, nothing making up the melody of a song, except for the voice(s). There is something substituting a bass guitar and very thin electronic percussion. All through the song finger clicks keep time. Finger clicks with loads of echo in there, as if recorded in a large bath room or empty museum hall. All else is singing.
The credits for the production go to Joel Little, who must have been under a restraining order. The influence of a band like The xx is there, some Lana del Rey but only in atmosphere. Royals itself seems quite unique, although with a little imagination it is possible to fantasise what a singing group like The Supremes could have done with this composition.
The singing is done by one girl, the now 17 year old Ella Maria Lani Yelich-O'Connor from Auckland in New Zealand. All these intricate voices, deeper, higher, playing off and into each other. Playful and oh so serious, all at once. Making the singing a mix of wonder and beauty. Having created all this space in the instrumental part of Royals, there is so much room for Yelich-O'Connor's voice and she fills it up like The Beach Boys of old, in her own special way. Endless overdubs create an intricate field of singing, that begs to sing along with. "I rule, I rule, I rule, I rule". Each a little differently sung, each a little more forceful, convincing, urgent. A single "o-ooh" is enough for a rapturous moment as well.
The lyrics are about the differences in life style from ordinary folks and the super rich or the royals. And the videos of rappers are sort of summed up. All superficial bling bling and status. A little fantasy, "you can call me queen bee". Many things that we do not have and never will have. "No postcode envy" is a nice term. Irony has it that after what the world has done by massively buying the song and album, this lifestyle is within reach of our young singer.
Something else happened in the meantime also. In November and December Royals has gone top 5 and resides in the charts for over 20 weeks. Apparently more people had the slow burn experience with this song like I had. Royals crawls under the skin, not to let go. The making of a true hit that will stand out for a long time.
It makes me wonder what can a singer of 16, that is able to make a song as special as Royals at this age do at a later age? On the other hand Royals has everything spelling out "one hit wonder" all over it. Time will tell what Lorde will bring. It should be more than just Royals. Whatever happens beyond 2013, Royals is one of the most special songs of 2013. No doubt about it.
You can listen to Royals here in the world version or here in the US version of the video.
donderdag 12 december 2013
After Lou Barlow co-resurrected Dinosaur Jr. and came up with the excellent 'I bet on sky' (click here for the review), he resurrected his band Sebadoh in 2013. Leading to the very pleasant Defend yourself. 14 Years after 'The Sebadoh' a new album is released.
Exactly like Dinosaur Jr (with 'Farm') I missed every note before this album of Sebadoh. That allows me to listen to Defend yourself completely fresh, not being hindered in any way by preconceptions and comparisons to what went on before.
Sebadoh consists of Lou Barlow, Jason Loewenstein and Bob D'Amico on "performance and production". The first two being old compadres in Sebadoh, a word that is nonsensical, drummer D'Amico a very recent addition to the band. This three some only has two releases to its name, an EP and Defend yourself.
The album is at heart a rock horse. Guitars, a strong bass and loud drums drive most songs on Defend yourself. Neil Young is a clear reference in the way Barlow sings and in the guitars. There are side steps, like REM in 'Oxygen'. The sound is just a little harsher, certainly the bass is more fiery. The pop feel underneath the more direct sound is very REM, 'Monster' style. There is also some Pearl Jam in Sebadoh. In the way the songs shy away from flowing free and easy, challenging me to listen just a little harder, without resentment building up which usually happens to me listening to Pearl Jam (Eddie Vedders' wining voice). Buffalo Tom, The Lemonheads?, yes, they as well. Bands I haven't listened to for years, I realise.
Most songs remain within certain boundaries. 'Inquiries' does not. A too filled country rocker with guitar notes flying all over the place, but without a lot of coherence to it. Luckily there are not too many others of songs like these on Defend yourself. 'Final days' makes up for the slip. What a delicious rocker this song is. The difference between the band J. Mascis plays first guitar in and Lou Barlow second, also becomes very clear. 'Final days' may be guitar driven, but it is not a huge wall of guitars one has to wade through to get to a song. 'Final days' rocks, but every instrument and voice has its place in the mix. This makes for much more relaxed listening for me.
Lou Barlow's voice is not the most distinguished in rock, but the faintly hoarse sound is proficient enough to carry his songs and has a modest but pleasant ring to it. Towards the end of the album the pace goes down and it is clear enough that his voice suits these songs like a glove. 'Let it out' and 'Listen' stand out and prove that Sebadoh handles slower songs, ballads Sebadoh style?, quite well. Especially 'Listen' belongs to the finer songs on Defend yourself.
Looking at Defend yourself as whole, it is about three songs that keep the album from a perfect score. For the rest this indie rocker is a nice collection of songs that go off the beaten path and shows the gems that lie just beyond it. Sebadoh decided to make a comeback and quite rightly so. Perhaps all its previous records were better, I just don't know. It seems like it is time to find out.
You can listen to 'I will' here.
woensdag 11 december 2013
Ik kijk al een tijdje uit naar het debuut van de Amerikaanse zusjes Lily en Madeleine (Jurkiewicz). Na een paar veelbelovende voorproefjes, waaronder een EP en een aantal akoestische video’s, ligt een paar maanden na het eerste levensteken al het debuut van Lily & Madeleine in de winkel en het is een debuut dat mijn hooggespannen verwachtingen met gemak heeft overtroffen. Lily en Madeleine maken op hun debuut vooral uiterst ingetogen popliedjes. Het zijn popliedjes zonder al te veel tierelantijntjes die het moeten hebben van een mooie en sfeervolle instrumentatie (met afwisselend een hoofdrol voor gitaar en piano) en vooral de prachtige stemmen van de zusjes uit Indianapolis, Indiana. Lily & Madeleine zijn pas 16 en 18, maar zijn hun meeste leeftijdsgenoten vele jaren voor, zowel in vocaal als in muzikaal opzicht. Het debuut van de zusjes laat opvallend tijdloze popmuziek horen. Het is popmuziek die in veel gevallen terug gaat naar de folkmuziek uit de jaren 60 en 70, waarmee de zusjes Jurkiewicz op het Asthmatic Kitty Records label, waarop de plaat is verschenen, een wat vreemde eend in de bijt zijn, al zijn ook Lily & Madeleine niet vies van stokoude Appalachen folk. Lily & Madeleine hebben een voorkeur voor folky popliedjes met een laag tempo en een veelzijdige klankentapijt. De instrumentatie op de plaat is behoorlijk ingetogen, maar zeker niet sober of kil. De mooie warme klanken passen erg goed bij de geweldige stemmen van Lily & Madeleine. Het zijn stemmen die op zichzelf al heel mooi zijn, maar wanneer de stemmen van Lily & Madeleine samenvloeien gebeurt er iets bijzonders. Iets heel bijzonders. De prachtige wijze waarop de stemmen van Lily & Madeleine elkaar versterken doet wel wat denken aan The Webb Sisters (de afgelopen jaren vooral bij Leonard Cohen op het podium te vinden, maar de nieuwe plaat komt echt) en First Aid Kit (ook zusjes). Net als The Webb Sisters en First Aid Kit doen Lily & Madeleine hun uiterste best om hemeltergend mooie vocalen op de band te slingeren, maar de zusjes slagen er ook nog eens in om heel veel gevoel in deze vocalen te leggen. Omdat het tempo laag blijft en de instrumentatie ingetogen en stemmig, was ik bang dat het debuut van Lily & Madeleine na een aantal tracks of anders na een aantal luisterbeurten zou gaan vervelen, maar dat is tot dusver zeker niet het geval. Eigenlijk worden de sfeervolle popliedjes van de Amerikaanse zusjes alleen maar mooier, vooral omdat de stemmen steeds fraaier bij elkaar lijken te kleuren en de subtiel verstopte spanning maar langzaam aan de oppervlakte komt. Het debuut van Lily & Madeleine is door het lage tempo, de donkere klanken en de vaak wat melancholische teksten een plaat die uitstekend past bij de komende seizoenen, maar het debuut van Lily & Madeleine is meer dan een plaat voor de donkere dagen (de wat vrolijkere songs zijn een eerste stap in de richting van de lente). De piepjonge zusjes Jurkiewicz laten meteen op hun debuut horen dat ze mee kunnen met de smaakmakers in het genre, maar gezien de leeftijd van de zusjes kunnen we nog veel meer verwachten. Dat belooft wat voor de toekomst, maar voorlopig ben ik zeer, zeer, tevreden met dit uitstekende debuut.
Je kunt hier luisteren naar 'Devil we know'.
Je kunt hier luisteren naar 'Devil we know'.
dinsdag 10 december 2013
Paul McCartney is making records for over 50 years. Now in his early seventies, the ex-Beatle, ex-Wings and longtime solo recording artist is basically doing what he likes to do. Classical, choir, more experimental music under another name (The Firemen), jazz standards, anything is possible. And so it can seem that his solo career is on a slow burner, while in the meantime all sorts of output is presented to the world. If we measure things by a pop record under his own name we have to go back to 2007, six years, to ‘Memory almost full’, an album I did not even bother listening. Reading a review of ‘New’ something told me to listen to Macca’s latest album.
New starts with a sense of urgency. ‘Save us’ is a stark guitar driven song. Paul has found something to say on guitar and lets us know just that. Not all of New is this loud. ‘Early days’ is a slow song, not exactly a ballad, but an acoustic song such as Paul can write them. Title song 'New' is a melancholy pop song. Diversity is one of the treats/feats of New.
Paul McCartneys' voice has clearly aged. Not exactly making it to the high notes in a clear, easy way. To the contrary, but it gives 'Early days' and the theme authenticity. “I lived through those early days”, not unscathed, but healthy and well. It is commendable that McCartney does nothing to get away from these more difficult moments. There are high vocal spots all over New in which he goes to the limits of his current voice.
What surprises me, to be honest, is that I truly like New as a whole. It is 16 years ago that that happened to me with a Paul McCartney record. ‘Flaming pie’ was quite alright, before that I have to go back to 1988s ‘Flowers in the dirt’. And now after the totally rave show in Ahoy, early spring 2012 (click here for the review), Paul comes with another record that I like. At the same time it can’t compete in any way with ‘Band on the run’, Wings’ best album, but New easily surpasses many a record after ‘London town’.
New sounds just a tat more compact than McCartney usually does. This gives the album a sense of urgency and something contemporary. All without sounding strained to be modern. New is a Paul McCartney album, beyond doubt. Simply because of his voice. New is also a more modern record than he has made in decades. This is amendable, as nothing would have stopped him from presenting a bunch of songs that his last record buying fans would have expected to be presented. Instead they are challenged. Most people set in their ways, do not appreciate that, do they?
What is clearly lacking on New is an ultimate McCartney song. Whether it is a 'Paperback writer', a 'Helter skelter' or a 'Hi hi hi'. This is a level that he just doesn't reach any more. Is it fair to compare the McCartney of 2013 with his former self of 40 plus years ago? Of course it is, but on the other hand who in 2013 writes songs that are of the same consistent level of originality and quality as Paul and his colleagues wrote in the 1960s? Not very many. If I look at New from this point of view, this album has many a nice song on it. Pleasant, albeit not dangerous, but circa half of the songs on New possess an urgency that most pensionados do not have any more. New is an excellent addition to an oeuvre that is extremely distinguished.
You can listen to 'Queenie eye' here.
P.S. Rolling Stone voted New the #4 album of 2013, I found out right after posting.
P.S. Rolling Stone voted New the #4 album of 2013, I found out right after posting.