Song Of The Day
Hey, it’s The Mars Volta’s Omar Rodríguez-López’ birthday today, so why not have “The Widow” as our SOTD?
You’ve probably seen that there’s been plenty of noise about someone called Kate Bush doing some gigs in Hammersmith. Chances are you do already know who she is because pretty much everyone has seen her or someone parodying her prancing around and going on about the windy Yorkshire moors on “Wuthering Heights” but might not know much else. To prepare yourself for any conversation with a Kate Bush fanatic so you can come out of it unscathed from the potential wrath you might face because you’ve never listened to The Kick Inside, here are a couple of essential tracks you need to listen to (or just need to listen to because they’re really fucking good!) There are so many tracks I could’ve mentioned here, the list changing every other hour. This is only the tip of the iceberg really but, hopefully, these few tracks will make you want to dive head first into the magical, mystical world of Kate Bush because there really is a lot of amazing stuff to explore.
Every time this delicate little piano ballad kicks in, it always astounds me that this is a song that she wrote at the age of 13. She’s managed to write a song that sounds far wiser than her years at the same age I was just properly starting to discover music on my own. This is, of course, the song that ultimately launched her career after Pink Floyd’s Dave Gilmour heard her play the track and then helped her record it properly when she was 16 to secure her first record deal. It’s undoubtedly the highlight from her first album; a beautiful track pining for a lost love.
The video that, for some completely inexplicable reason, earned Kate Bush plenty of new fans, most of whom happened to be men. Can’t quite think why. Video aside, though, “Babooshka” is pure soap opera distilled into a tidy little pop song. The song follows a woman afraid her husband might be cheating so she begins to write letters to him as a mystery, sexy, younger woman named Babooshka. Her plan begins to unravel, however, when he begins replying to the letters because this woman seems a lot like his wife when she was younger and they arrange to “meet”. Curiously, the song was released a mere year after Rupert Holmes’ "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)" which covers very similar ground, but “Babooshka” layers on the baroque extravagance instead of pop cheese.
This is sort of cheating a little bit because it isn’t just one song, but seven that make up the entirety of the second side of Hounds Of Love. Really, though, it’s a collection of songs that need to be played together (which makes it a great shame that the full suite is not available on YouTube or anywhere to add to this piece). They’re great individually, "Jig Of Life" in particular an utterly fascinating mix of Celtish folk music and the usual Kate Bush mysticism, but together they make up the story of a woman lost at sea trying to keep hold of her sanity and consciousness before she’s rescued. At times it’s frankly terrifying as on Waking The Witch, a song full of jarring and nightmarish cuts and voices in which her rescuers try to resuscitate her while she slowly slips towards death, but it also has the ability to be utterly beautiful; “The Morning Fog” signalling the end of the storm with a little optimism. It’s an unusual addition to Hounds Of Love, given that the first side of the album is packed with chart hits (let’s be fair, Hounds Of Love is a fucking stellar album generally), but that’s why it works, especially since, in the thirty odd years since its creation, it still works as both a piece of music and a captivating story. It is the quintessential Kate Bush moment; a microcosm of her entire career full of wildly different styles.
James Joyce’s epic novel, Ulysses, ends with an enormous soliloquy from Molly Bloom, the wife of the main character Leopold Bloom. It is the source of what was one of the longest English language sentences in English literature at 4,391 words (until 2001 when the final chapter of Jonathan Coe’s The Rotters Club surpassed it with 13,955). In it Molly recounts the story of how she and Leopold feel in love. Bush felt the lyricism of that final passage was perfect for a song but the Joyce estate wouldn’t clear the rights for her to use it so instead she formulated her own composition taking inspiration from the piece as well as William Blake’s "Jerusalem". With a whole host of Irish folk instruments accompanying Bush’s breathy vocals, it is essentially a more mature "Wuthering Heights"; still capturing Bush’s love of literature but now from the viewpoint of someone with much more life experience under their belt.
Another of Bush’s softer but no less impactful tracks, this little piano ballad was originally written for the John Hughes romcom She’s Having A Baby. And it’s absolutely beautiful. Of course, that does mean it has been rinsed a horrible amount on the likes of The X Factor but it still has yet to lose any of its charm thanks to the contemplative lyrics and Bush’s simple but devastating vocals. Though “The Man With The Child In His Eyes” is an impressive achievement given her age at the time, “This Woman’s Work” has such an emotional weight to it that every time I listen to it, it feels like a punch to the gut when it reaches those final few lines.
This is one of those songs based on actual events that works both in and out of context; the context here being the story of Wilhelm Reich who, with his son Peter, spent his time “cloud busting”, in other words, causing rain by pointing a machine at the sky. Wilhelm was later arrested by government officials when Peter was still a young boy and the song is his from Peter’s point of view as Bush sings of the helplessness of being unable to help stop the arrest while also facing the harsh realities of life. It is a hypnotic and driving ode to father-son relationships even without understanding the context behind it. It also led to Utah Saints’ magnificent dance anthem “Something Good”, so we always have that to thank “Cloudbusting” for.
This isn’t technically a Kate Bush track, but I feel it needs including simply because of how absolutely wonderful it is. Bush and Peter Gabriel, whose song this actually is, had already had a bit of history. Gabriel brought Bush on to sing backing vocals on the phenomenal “Games Without Frontiers” and Gabriel’s use of the Fairlight CMI, a sampler that allowed him to throw the oddest sounds into his songs, inspired Bush to take up the instrument too (most notably to make the glass smashing sounds on Babooshka). Don’t Give Up, which features on Peter Gabriel’s So, is a beautifully harrowing yet hopeful tale of a man in the depths of despair before Kate Bush brings in a chorus full of encouragement telling him, “Don’t give up/you’re not beaten yet”. So powerful is this song, Elton John recently said that Kate Bush’s words of hope in the choruses inspired him to finally make the effort to kick his drink and drugs habit.
It’s tough to say anything about Boyhood that hasn’t already been said already. Richard Linklater’s coming-of-age drama is an unprecedented masterpiece; the best film of the year and maybe one of the best of the decade so far. What makes it so special is not just the obvious technological achievements of the production; the set design, the casting, the sheer amount of time put into the whole thing is absolutely astonishing. To think that 236 episodes of Friends were produced in a shorter timespan than it took to make this 164 minute feature. The time and commitment that these actors, crew and Linklater himself put into the film alone is something that deserves our infinite praise. A 12 year production says just how important this film is to Linklater, and it really shows. Putting all of the astonishing facts aside, at the end of the day, the resulting film is an engaging, intimate and pure work of art. It is an incredibly personal movie, made with a lot of care and love; most definitely Linklater’s finest hour, but also a collaboration among the main cast and crew alongside him. It’s a shared experience of great importance to all those involved and more importantly, to all those who watch it.
Boyhood follows six year old Mason (Ellar Coltrane) as he grows up through elementary school all the way to college. Although much of the focus is on this character, it is just just a film about being a boy. Through the terrific main cast (Including Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette and Linklater’s own daughter Lorelei), we see that it is a film for anyone who is or has ever been a mother, a father, a step-parent, a brother, a sister, a step-brother or sister, a friend, a boss, a grandparent, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a husband, a wife, an ex, and just about anyone who’s ever known what it’s like to be a human being. The film throws any typical three-act plot out of the window and instead just focuses on moments. There is no logic to the jumps forward in time and there is no real climax to the film. It is instead like life; unpredictable, non-formulaic and completely in the moment. It never has you starving to see what happens next, but instead focuses on the present and delivers terrifically intimate scenes that completely live in the now. Because of the lack of “plot”, it could be said that the whole thing amounts to nothing more than filler, but you’ll hear very little complaints when the filler is this touching, this funny, this heartbreakingly engaging.
It would be a shame for Boyhood to go unnoticed by the Academy when award season comes around. The timing isn’t exactly perfect, but it will surely get a few nods at the very least; Linklater for director and original screenplay, there will be a few production design nods and maybe it’s a long shot, but Hawke deserves some recognition for his supporting role, too. It’s not the sort of film that fishes for awards though, and that’s a good thing. Linklater made the kind of film he wanted to make. So much could’ve potentially gone wrong, but it didn’t. It was a creatively iterative project that oozes originality and passion and is the kind of film that will live long in people’s hearts. If those aren’t the goals you set out to achieve when making a film, then you’re probably in it for the wrong reasons. Boyhood is an extraordinary film about ordinary things. A bonafide masterpiece.
Coming just under a year after 2013’s FREUDIAN EP, Interpretations may be grouped in with the “tumblrwave” tag (which is reductive of nearly every artist who just happens to reside on the blogging site), but it spans almost the entire breadth of hip-hop, in both sound and subject matter, and even further. The braggadocio, the heart, the hedonism, the introspection, matched by the varied beats from Yng Vapor (“WHO”), VOHL (“IRINA”), Mike Labyrinth (“HATIN”) and Bad America (“SOBER”), whilst other topics like slut-shaming and psychology appear on “REMEMBER”. Using a different producer’s beat on each of the EP’s seven tracks could often result on something disjointed and messy, but fortunately Freud is able to tie them all together with a hell of a confident flow and a passion which emanates from each song. Whether it’s going from an ostensibly radio-friendly ode to hot girls like “BARBIE” or the dark frustrations of the narcotic-feeling “GRAVEL”, Freud Jung is one of the most fascinating and talented young rappers coming up, and deserving of a much wider audience.
Cyril Hahn; producer du jour, king of the Majestic Casual-following crowd. The DJ, born in Switzerland and now residing in Canada, is best known for his reworking of other people’s songs, rather than his own creations. Pretty much everyone under the age of 25 has heard and subsequently loved his remixes of Destiny’s Child “Say My Name” and Mariah Carey’s “Touch My Body” along with edits of contemporaries like HAIM, Solange, Jessie Ware and Jeremih. But whether Hahn’s skills for tinkering with other’s music translates to a skill for creating his own originals hasn’t been quite so certain until now.
On the whole, Voices feels a little warmer and relaxed than the shine and sheen of Hahn’s PMR labelmates Disclosure. Whilst everything the Lawrence brothers put out feels engineered for to be a four-to-the-floor chart banger success, Hahn’s arrangements feel looser and less streamlined, more in keeping with dance music’s broadest of broad churches. The three vocalists enlisted to bring the songs to life - Rochelle Jordan on “Slow”, Ryan Ashley on “Open”, and Javeon on “Breaking” - do a fine job, especially Ashley who it’s hard to believe is only 18 years old. It’s the one instrumental track on the EP which shines brightest though; “Getting There” resides somewhere between New Order and those moments where Burial goes house and is genuinely fantastic.
That none of the vocal-led tracks really stand out all too much says something about Hahn’s ability to write pop hooks. There can be no question about his production skills, but here the lyrics and hooks are uninspired and thus the majority of Voices never really rises above “good”. And whilst that’s fine and dandy, it does leave you pining for “Say My Name” a few more times.
You all know Alex Clare. Even if you don’t, you do. His track “Too Close” featured on Microsoft’s adverts for Internet Explorer 9 which were absolutely everywhere in 2012. Its blend of dubstep and blue-eyed soul were admittedly infectious, even to a noted dubstep denier like myself.
Alas even with the electronics and wub-wub-wubs pared back on his second album Three Hearts, it sounds no less like music for adverts. Outside of the brass-assisted pop stomp of opening track “Never Let You Go”, there’s nothing to convince me otherwise that this album isn’t a 40-something minute long soundtrack for a car commercial. Even when switching up styles, as on the bluesy ballad of a title track feels too cold and slick to really elicit any real emotion, and the less said about the woeful cover of Robert Palmer’s “Addicted To Love” tacked on as a last track, the better.
Essentially the electronic elements grafted onto Clare’s sound, whether they’re pronounced or not, mask the fact that at it’s core, Three Hearts is a contemporary Simply Red album. He may have a fantastic voice, but it rings hollow when it’s connected to such glossy, anodyne music.