I just want you all to know that this week’s column was written in a massive sulk - because though I am back from my holiday in person, my head is still at the coast. Also, I am cold. And coming down with something. God, there’s nothing worse than other people’s not-even-terribly-debilitating-ailments, is there? Apart from wrong-headed RATM campaigns, of course. Remember readers, they were GROWN MEN when they wrote those lyrics. How very dread and embarrassing it all is.
Oh yes, a quick caveat as usual. If you are immune to the charms of AC, ignore the next bit and whizz straight on down to Late of the Pier, who are this week's second bests.
Single Of The Week!
Animal Collective - ‘Graze’, From ‘Fall Be Kind EP’ (Domino)
Of course, this isn’t a song at all. It’s the opening aria from Disney’s new production of Animal Collective: The Musical, and I can see it in my head as clear as a clear thing. They’ve got that clever dry ice that clings and undulates on the floor before falling off the edge of the stage. There are bunny rabbits wrinkling their dewy noses at the dawn. All the animals are waking, as AC sing ‘Let me begin / Feels good cause it's early / Ease open my eyes / And let light in.‘ And it’s not just me over-imaginin’ an' super-extrapolatin’; this is really what Graze is all about – morning, expectation, the delicious promise of a new day and the idea that ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN if you would just wipe the sleepy dust from your eyes. Quite honestly, it is all a bit:
And of course.2, ['of course point two' – do you see? I mean, do you? Do you really? TRY HARDER PLEASE], the whole point about ‘days’ is that however good-mooded one begins them, whomsoever watches from the clouds has the power to dole out both good and bad. So while it might look like the sun is breaking over the horizon, you may in fact have managed to confuse sunrays with shitclouds. Which is why, as 'Graze' progresses and turns a musical corner without you quite knowing what is round the bend, I start to think of Animal Collective’s masterful tactic of using bleak lyrical sucker punches that contrast so perfectly with their own brand of sonic joy. Because this song is all about contrast, just like ‘Brother Sport’ was. And because the twinkly, wispy day we thought we were getting, is actually rather more:
Hello Appointment With 1973-Vintage GP Regarding Prescription For Mild Depression!
Hello Cluster-Trampled Heart!
Hello Unstarted Novel Slash ‘Creative Project’ That Brings On Daydreams That - Though Mildly Thrilling Because What Could Be More So, Than Imagining One's Booker Speech - Ultimately Leave You Somewhat Dejected, A Little Petit Mort (If You Will) Because It Is Ne’er Going To Happen And You Are Not Going To Write It!
Hello Familiar Breath Stench Of Yesterday's Wine, That Brings On The Old Familiar Booze Guilt!
Hello What Does The Rather Oxymoronic ‘Mild’ Depression Mean, When It Is At Home Having A Sandwich!
‘Graze’ is, when you think about it (and I have quite a bit), basically just a very clever and deliriously swirling prelude to a damnably winning and darling lil' flute sample. They are Romanian flutes - or panpipes, what have been composed by a man called Gheorghe Zamfir. And though some MASSIVE IDIOTS have said this breakdown is wrong, we are not going to waste time arguing the toss with pleasure-allergic tossers today. Because if those flutes are not what joy sounds like – and if, when they are juxtaposed with the bleakness AC have finally conquered and mastered this year - do not bring on a feeling of unrivalled giddiness, and if they are not the sound of kiddiewinks gamboling – you are not hearing what I am hearing and I worry for you. Because THE MASTER STROKE is that they have been cleverly juxtaposed with a day in which ALL HAPPINESS has flown out of the window without so much as a 'Thank you for having me'. You know, even if we are in disagreement about this single and you don't like it and even if this basically makes my brain break so we must never speak again, never mind pash off - at least give AC this. They earn those bloody flutes.
In words and pictures? Oh, alright then. This song is MZN because despite 'Comfort, comfort, why do you run for it? / Why can't you keep doing, what you're supposed to do? / Why do you have to go? / Why do you have to gooooooooo? / I'm in the dark unknown / And you're staying home' - which are (in case you are wondering) - some of the most bleakly simple thoughts ever committed to a five line stave - it sounds like this...
...EVEN THOUGH it is actually about this...
...but - crucially - being brave about your sadface. It's about saying 'Come on then world! Fuck me sideways! I don't care! Because I know what that looks like, feels like, smells like and tastes like and it didn't do me in!' And joy, of course, in the face of adversity. Which ULTIMATELY MEANS it is a song about hope, and I identify (don’t hate me for identifying, everyone) and that is why I love it.
[God help you, readers, if this 'lot' keep making records.]
Late Of The Pier - ‘Blueberry’ (Phantasy)
The curiously under-loved LOTP made one of my favourite and best albums last year – and I had a darling little convo on this very subject only days ago. I was saying (let’s not worry about what my companion thought, he can procure his own column for that) that what is goodest about them is their pick’n’mix approach to genre. And that they are just like we civilians in that respect - because they like so many things and don’t want to be restricted to liking just one, because that would be TOO BORING. And so we come to ‘Blueberry’ – which, I am duty bound to point out, would have bagged the top spot in any other week not containing those pesky collectives of animals – ranges off all over the place sounding like Jeff Wayne, The Beatles, OMD, and LOTP themselves - and it is all big synth brushstrokes and space opera before wibbling off on one of their mental guitar solos that in normal circumstances I should have to throttle a band for. God I love them, and that is not just the Christmas spirit (i.e. Baileys) talking.
Patrick Wolf - ‘Damaris’ (Bloody Chamber Music)
'He' has had a funny old year, and ‘Damaris’ - though the title sounds like the name of a eau de parfum kept on the shelf of a dusty medicine cabinet in a bathroom with a puce-coloured suite - and even though Fred died 9 years ago and all Doris has left are memories of dances in ballrooms where the faces of the people are curiously flat; devoid of noses, eyes or mouths. And it’s probably gone a little bit funny - smelling like perfume tends to after it has lost its potency and no longer gets employed in the hope of entrancing someone you adore – like any oddly abandoned bottle you might find under the heaps at a jumble sale. But it still has a glamorous label with a curlicued, super-serifed font and its name still sounds like late nights. So, have I just haccidentally gawn orff awn one and described Patrick’s ‘thing’? I fear I might have - because this is record is - as one might expect, and especially if you spent your teenage years doing meaningful contemporary dance like what I did - lush, full of promise, but ultimately as painfully, frustratingly difficult to bring to 'fruition' as an arthritic old lady’s shame cave. I could do without the stage-based strop-outs, but let’s face it, Mr. Wolf can always be relied upon to be both sad and wonderful, just like this single.
Allo, Darlin’ - ‘The Polaroid Song’ (Fortuna Pop)
By far the cutest and most winsome bit of pop music in this week’s selection, this too could quite comfortably have claimed the first prize rosette in one of this year’s quieter weeks. Not least because hairslidey lyrics like ‘Feel like dancing on my own / To a record that I do not know / In a place I’ve never seen before’ capture my heart with an indie lasso and remind me that for all the dabbling I might do with men from Essex who call themselves Hervé or grown men who choose to call themselves toddlers and not even spell it properly - I am still a middle class girl from the only county with a royal prefix who spent all her teens yearning for a boy with curtains for hair who might pash off with me to Bandwagonesque. Disarmingly pretty - and as poignantly, plaintively sepia as the photographic format they are singing about. Go and listen here or we’ll have to have an ineffectual limp-wristed fight outside, because you don’t like songs about rapes in chalet parks.
Stanley Brinks feat. The Wave Pictures - ‘End Of The World’ (Ciao Ketchup)
Quite pleasing in a shuffly sort of way - but as you can maybe tell, I prefer my doom and gloom wrapped up in overthetop flutes or impossible-to-attain-without-an-added-dollop-of-MDMA-style happiness. Luckily I do realise not everyone is as annoying as me - so do give this a proper swizz. Also, I am awarding some points to Stanley for calling his thing ‘cowboy indie’ - as this sounds both sexy and twee AT THE SAME TIME. Like Sufjan in a big Stetson, imagine that. (And do excuse me while I do, for about fifteen swoony minutes, but it probably won't take that long.) Listen here.
Bush Doctors - ‘Rockin’ On A Speaker’ (Bush Doctors Music)
I fear Bush Doctors curiously old-fashioned and (AIIIIEEEEE) Big Beat-y sound has caught me on A Good Day. Or perhaps it is just the sort of record one would dance to at a work disco after too many shots, and you might put its 70s funk and electro flourishes into a playlist for the party - only to discover in the New Year that it was a whole bunch of crap. Rather like suddenly finding Geoff from Accounts impossibly enlivening and then waking up next to him and seeing his crap hair and shit shoes for what they are. I really should hate you Geoff, but when I am shitfaced you sound – sorry, I mean look - quite different.
Mini Viva - ‘I Wish’ (Xenomania) Watchit
Absolutely winning – and do you know, there is something particularly delightful about listening to a song like this when you are trudging about trying to find presents for your parents in the hellhole that is London in December. Especially when your Dad has suddenly come over all Puritan and told you he doesn’t want anything that costs more than five pounds. [If I had time, I would tell you here how my Dad – the hair shirtiest of self-martyring mentals - not only has a running family joke attributed to him about where-is-Dad, oh-he's-just-in-the-garden-crucifying-himself-on-the-oak-tree (this joke naturally comes with an amusing Jesus pose) – is ALSO the person who happens to get more excited about Christmas than anyone else in my house]. Anyway, ‘I Wish’ is so good, I could quite happily spend four hours listening to it in the surging crowds bottlenecking near Oxford Circus station with three of those irritatingly tank-like buggies that also have unfed bairns in them. Or – one for the ladies – 'I Wish' is so perfectly shiny and pretty, that I could spend a whole day in the seventh circle of fashion hell, buying sequined nonsenses from Top Shop and then taking them back to the gels on the Customer Services till - whereupon I would go red as soon as they started checking the garment because I would be worrying they thought I had actually worn it and then brung it back like a pikey. I’m more of an H&M girl, actually. Enjoy it here - because of course, the sky will fall in if you don’t watch it surrounded by adverts for shit, make-your-own 'sexy avatar' websites on YouTube.
Also Out This Week!
eagleowl - ‘Sleep The Winter’ (Kilter)
Delicious bit of ‘lo-fi post folk’ what comes charmingly wrapped in hand-made loveliness. They wrote me a nice email and contributed vocals to last week’s winners Meursault, so naturally this makes them officially Good People. Listen here, it is lovely.
Fucked Up feat. A Host Of Other Indie Brethren - ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ (Matador)
Marvellous charitable endeavour, what you can buy on iTunes here
YACHT - ‘Psychic City’ (DFA / Co-operative Music)
Pleasingly low-slung and yet also strangely dippy. Good shouty, full-stop vocals though.
Midlake - ‘Acts Of Man’ / ‘Rulers, Ruling All Things’ (Bella Union)
Irritatingly limited preview 12” - available at ‘select outlets’ - as mentioned by the lovely Luke, here.
New Young Pony Club - ‘Lost A Girl’ (Free download, here.) - They are back! Minus one of the geezers! Do you even get a second chance these days?
The Crookes 'Chorus Of Fools' - From Their 12 Days Of Crookesmas Giveaway (More here)
Tape The Radio - ‘Stay Inside’ (Too Pure) - Listen and find links to like buy it, here.
Silver Columns - ‘Yes, and dance’ - Listen at their scrummy website, what is here.
Slow Club - ‘Christmas Thanks For Nothing EP’ (Moshi Moshi) - More here
Black Gold - ‘Idols’ (Red Bull Records)
Wendy is on Twitter here. Although WARNING: if you twit at her about 'real' music she will a) do a sick in her mouth and b) do a sick on you. No offence! Happy Christmas! Just a little terraced house for me, nothing too silly!