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Thursday, February 12, 2004

CYPRESS HILL - What's Your Number?
Hey, hip-hop is the new indie, except it's actually popular and worth hearing. There's definite hip-hop savvy on this, but the individual components are actually really indie, from the plodding but actually groovy bass, the chorus about trying pathetically to pull and the wonderful crunch accompanying it - ooh, cheap repetitive riffs begging you to love them unironically. The words always sound a pace behind the music, it's laid-back like the best summer anthems but with a hint of energy without trying to be frenzied - even when there are unnecessary wicky-wicky scratching noises, and it's good singalong fun, just like their last single of note, Rock Superstar - you can holler along to the chorus all day. What a month for comeback singles...
# 8:49 PM []
So it seems I'm now being watched by Rock Critics now I'm on their list of links. Better act presentable then, eh? Time for 1000 words on the Walkmen album then. Nah, I'll stick with what I know.

(Actually, I quite like the Walkmen album. It's got tension, which is nice.)
# 5:08 PM []

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

THE DIVINE COMEDY - Come Home Billy Bird
With the exception of the rather beautiful Your Daddy's Car I have never cared for The Divine Comedy, but this song features a chorus sung by one Lauren Laverne, who is extremely good indeed. It's not a fast song, but it whips through its cohort of verses very quickly, there are four, which seems a little unusual given that three is both a common number and a practical maximum today.

It opens, like many rubbish indie singles, with a little bit of strings. It then continues, unlike all rubbish indie singles, with a quickly strummed backing, hooks all through the verses, and a softly cooed chorus vocal from Lauren, then without a moment's pause - there's a lot to be fit in to the four minutes - goes straight ahead without any precious, cloying breaks to break the spell - a good one is saved for the dead centre of the song though. The second verse is instrumentally more ornate, with noises that make me think of the English coast - appropriate for a song about an "international business traveller" coming home.

The transition from simple to complex repeats in the later verses, a little extra backing vocal here (in the third), and then, (and Max Martin would be proud) a sort of second kind of chorus with similar words but a different melody. It fades out, almost apologetically, but not without some pretty harmonies picking at your ears on its way out. The uncomplicated, flowing narrative is also a good match for the simple, curiously affecting melody, making it light and easy to listen to but with a little bit below the surface to come back to.
# 9:47 PM []
EMMA BUNTON - Breathing
Emma's album is out. Now! And you should buy it because there's no guarantee this magnificent song will be a single. All the 60s influences that are on the album are best distilled into this song, and it's interesting to note that Emma sounds at her best when she's singing sweet, weightless numbers with slightly silly lyrics, and the more weight of the song and its content, the more she sounds, well, silly. (Like on Free Me - the exception is No Sign Of Life, reviewed here about two months ago, which as The Lex brilliantly points out, works because Emma doesn't seem to grasp the depth of the emotions she's singing about - or she's doing a very good job of feigning fey.)

A breezier, floatier slice of beauty than this song is hard to imagine. The illusion is perfect from the first string/brass mesh, the slick, polished 60s groove, the flourishes in the background, and even the addiition of a Spice Girl doesn't hurt. No, people have said that a lot of these songs work despite Emma, this one works because of her. Her voice was made for things like this. Her songwriters have crafted something good, her producers know how to make her sound good and she delivers with panache if not raw talent in abundance.

She infuses every line with just the right nuances. The second verse has her musing if she and her lover are going "down the same way, down the same road", and she hits that last word just right. The chorus itself is also a beauty "Constant feeling of pleasure and healing/The sound of our breathing/Why does it feel so cold?" she sings, as if she doesn't know it's the swaying, chilly strings that in lesser writers' hands would have backed a sad ballad, here we have something quite different. She's wide-eyed. And a little unsure about what she's feeling, but sure of what she's doing. And oh yes, she knows that she has to get out of the way of yet another gorgeous instrumental break - reason enough to love this record.

And just when you think it can't get any better, in this instrumental break and through the final chorus, there's a flute and it's just beautiful. Yes, pinch yourself. Emma from the Spice Girl's vocals, doubled, tripled and harmonising gorgeously against each other, sounding so blissfully innocent and happy, and this flute in the background just melting everything around it, including weak-willed pop fans who've tuned in. Maybe it's unfair that a better artist didn't get handed this gem on a plate, but Emma's got it, and she's made it good. Worship her now.
# 5:15 PM []

Sunday, February 08, 2004

McFLY - 5 Colours In Her Hair
"One Busted was plenty" - you'll hear that line being used a few times. Not exactly accurate though. Where Busted fuse some of the mid-90s power pop that had punk aspirations in texture if not structure with ultra-modern, catchy robot-machine pop, this sounds far more influenced by 60s rock-pop, 70s harmonies and 80s hooks - check the "doo doo doo doo" intro and tell me you can't hazard a guess as to where that might have come from.

The backing vocals in the chorus actually do sound rough like Busted's (maybe they are, I'm not sure), but that big selling point actually turns out to be the weak point. I like the brattish charm, the confident hooks, and there are nice harmonies here and there - a fantastic middle eight too, but overall I'm not really convinced - a nifty pastiche, though.
# 12:16 PM []
As I was looking for something to do instead of planning work, I enabled comments. Use them, or I'll have wasted 15 minutes to no avail.
# 12:08 PM []
RAGHAV - Can't Get Enough
The only way I can really describe this is some sort of hybrid of Truth Hurts' Addictive - the punching, grinding swagger of the beat, 112's Dance With Me - the hook that doesn't sound like a hook and the chorus that doesn't sound like a chorus at all, and that track Raghav was on last month that I didn't like much.

Anyway, it's great. It can be maddeningly catchy when one word gets repeated a few times at the end of a line - except when it's obvious padding, and the same applies to changes in the speed of syllables coming in the space of one line, and this has both, and the gimmick - because let's face it, that's what it is, a one-use wonder for any artist - is perfect.

One meaning of a song called "can't get enough" is the more euphoric one used in dance - everything's so good that you just want more - another is "if I get any more of this something bad is going to happen - it's my downfall!". This has the lyrical content of the latter with the swaying glee of the former. It's exquisitely put together, catchy, danceable and at the same time gloriously menacing. I hope it's a massive hit, but it probably won't do that well.
# 12:07 PM []
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