Sunday 9 August 2020

One Year Older

It's that time of year again where by happy coincidence the blog and I share a birthday. It's been a bit of a rollercoaster for the last couple, this year doubly so. But I'm not to wallow in the current state of things (too much), in instead I thought I'd put together a list of tunes from the last 12 months or so that have really meant a lot to me.

Helen Frankenthaler - Yearning (1973)

Starting with back in December / January where I revisited the Everything But The Girl album Walking Wounded, a great album on its own but I had yet to check out the fancy expanded edition put out some time ago that has a second disc of remixes and the like to boot. It's there I would find what quickly shot up the list of my favourite of their works: a demo of what would become Before Today on the final album called Above The Law. I've always loved Tracey Thorn's vocals since I was first introduced to them on Massive Attack's Protection, her delivery is often really powerful and carries so much feeling. I mentioned last time I posted this that track sticks out on the album: being a demo it's got a slightly rough sound in comparison to the super polished smoothness of the rest of Walking Wounded. Which on paper wouldn't be something I'd like, in fact I probably would have argued it as a negative. But after spending a lot of time with this one I think it works perfectly, it twins beautifully with Thorn's impassioned, almost desperate delivery on the choruses.

Keeping it older for now, I put Garoad's soundtracks for VA​-​11 HALL​-​A back in rotation after a long absence, they're delightfully retro in parts. This one in particular could easily be a shared B-Side with Mitch Murder's brand of synthwave-esque stuff. I didn't realise how much I'd missed this kind of melodic slow jam until I had them back in rotation. It makes for very good 'doing stuff' music as is to be expected from the OST of a Visual Novel about bar-tending, I knew when this was one of the first tracks you hear that it was going to definitely be something that was almost designed for me. Garoad's done some other soundtracks and a solo EP that I still desperately need to check out, but like so many other things that I love I'm trying to pace myself and not dive in all at once and get burned. With a sequel to VA​-​11 HALL​-​A on the horizon the equally punnily titled N1RV-Ann-A, here's hoping we get more sweet synths heading our way soon.

And of course I can't write a post about favourites of the last 12 months without mentioning Rei Harakami. I simultaneously can't believe it took me so long to finally get fully immersed in his works but am also very happy that I waited until no because I feel like I appreciate them more now that I would have years ago. And really what is there to say about Harakami's work that I haven't said already? Supremely lush synth work, incredibly smooth productions and an ambient sensibility make for some electronic music that is just an absolute joy to listen to. 2005's Lust is a perfect diving in point, home to some of my favourite 'Harakami in a nutshell' tunes such as the title track. But since I've talked about that one a couple of times already, lets look at Come Here Go There instead. It fits the bill of everything I've mentioned so far, with the addition of a surprisingly intense kick drum being added for the final minute or so. It's just divine, if your taste is at all similar to mine, you absolutely need some Harakami in your collection, perhaps not this album, but go exploring the discography!

It has also taken me a very long time to branch out when it comes to ADULT., partly because I made that mistake of diving headlong into their discography and picking up almost half of it in one go a few years ago so for a long time I didn't feel like I needed more. Enter this year though where I finally got around to looking at their stuff that was newer than what I had. After a couple of tries I settled on The Way Things Fall, which was again almost tailor made for me. It was the punky electro of the ADULT. that I had, but this time with an almost more electropop edge. I'd almost say that this makes this album in particular more approachable than their early work but it's not a huge change. If you like this, there's a high chance you'd also like Anxiety Always for example. The biggest change here is Nicola Kuperus' vocals being more dynamic, as much as I love her stoic monotone on tracks like Hand To Phone I don't think it would have worked as well here so it's a welcome change, her lyricism remains on point; full of visceral imagery and interesting rhythms. Not to overlook Adam Lee Miller's production, the nervous synths throughout this track are perfectly selected and the little bits of 808 that poke through every now and then really lend themselves to that now slightly retro edge that ADULT. have.

And finally, HEALTH's Death Magic. It's not their newest release sure but it's a damn fine album. The whole thing is permeated with this kind of nihilistic outlook that is thematically completely at odds with the thundering instrumentals and I adore it for that. There are lots of little flourishes that make HEALTH even further blur the lines between a traditional band and an electronic act; only after looking up a live version of this track did I even know that what I thought were synth pads backing up the whole thing is actually just a really distorted (or otherwise messed with by pedals) Guitar. I've mentioned before how much I like the more electronic direction they took starting with this album but it bears repeating, it's like they tapped into a sound that I didn't know I needed until I heard it. I've been holding onto Dark Enough for a while now for just such an occasion as I think it perfectly sums up all I've talked about above. Whenever it comes up I cannot help but listen to it in full as soon as I hear that incredibly powerful intro.

I think that'll about do us for today. I didn't cover some stuff I had planned because in hindsight it would have clashed with the overall vibe of this post, but that's OK because it would have been a little long that way too, it'll easily roll over into the next post. As always: Stay safe and enjoy the music all,


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the grind! Happy Bday!