Home Taping Is Killing Music #3

20 Nov 2009

the third instalment of fred mikardo-greaves’ ever-enlightening guide to music that’s out there for free sees us pointed in the direction of annie, lupe fiasco, shy child, ooioo and charlotte gainsbourg

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Annie - I Don't Like Your Band

Annie, as some of you may know, can most definitely write a hook. However, unlike some popstars, she's not willing to sacrifice any of her thirst for experimentation or dampen her idiosyncrasies just to perform a smash and grab on the charts. This is what Island found after signing the Norwegian in 2007 on the strength of her first album Anniemal. For some ludicrous reason like poor chart performance (of the straight up fantastic 'I Know UR Girlfriend Hates Me', shame on you Great British Public!) or ownership of rights, it has taken her nearly five years to get round to the release of her second record Don't Stop. However, it's out this month, and by the sounds of it the chaps at Island are pretty much the stupidest, squarest people in the whole industry, because what we've heard thus far is some of the best pop music of the last five years, never mind last five weeks. 'I Don't Like Your Band' at once acts as a perfect summation of Annie's trademark sound - ferocious bass, slightly-too-high-and-breathy vocals, a killer chorus - and a kick-ass jibe at the stymied music scene that seems to relentlessly push pasty boys with guitars and girls with big lungs and no soul. Lyrically, the song centres around an attractive indie boy whose charm is cancelled out by the music he makes - "that stuff/you play/it sounds so passe", with her at one point actually commanding the chap to "buy yourself a sequencer and let the games begin". But unlike some synthpop, Annie has heart here too - in the breakdown, she tries to make amends; "I feel bad", she repeats. It's irrepressible quirks like this that probably led to the sacking from Island, and also leads to the genius of this track. More fool you, Island. More. Fool. You. [DOWNLOAD HERE]

Lupe Fiasco - Fire

The entirety of Lupe Fiasco's last album - conveniently entitled The Cool - dealt with the notion of coolness in the early years of the 21st century, the decade having to act as both postscript to the most turbulent and eventful hundred years in human history and prologue to all that was to follow. Lupe himself, on one track, stated that his third and final album was to be LupEND, which later emerged to be series of three records with the first being released sometime in 2009. However, about a year ago there was a bit of a kerfuffle when Lupe appeared to have begun fronting a mysterious MySpace punk band simply known as Lasers, and this, it turned out, was actually to be the name of a new album scheduled to come out before (or in place of, no-one really knows) LupEND. So yeah, people got a bit pissy, but now all anyone really cares about is how it sounds. Well, from the off Lupe's still got cool on the brain - "I'm about as uncool as your niece's mother's biggest brother" is what seems to be his opening salvo - and over the next four minutes he exhibits the sort of wordplay and ear for rhythm and syntax that made Jay-Z once proclaim him "a breath of fresh air". His vocals are given a real bite by some deliberately sloppy multi-tracking and distortion, and a (probably uncleared) sample sees him take a backseat on the chorus for ol' Jimi Hendrix to give the song a much-needed melodiousness that parts of The Cool lacked. Oh yes, and the backing track is probably the best thing Lupe's ever rapped over (that's probably because it's, y'know, Hendrix), careering all over the place before a subtle shift of rhythm for the chorus sparks the track into a sort of lackadaisical overdrive. Perhaps people won't be missing LupEND that much after all.  [DOWNLOAD HERE]

Shy Child - Criss Cross

Anyone remember Shy Child? They were the one with the keytar from 2006 or thereabouts? Had a track on the first Digital Penetration compilation? Supported Klaxons a couple of times? Well anyway, they were a bit naff a couple of years ago, sounding a bit like cheap nu-rave (if that's possible), and with only two members and live instruments what they could accomplish was somewhat limited. To be honest, when I came across this track I was rather surprised to see that they were still going. I was more surprised, however, when 'Criss Cross' turned out to be a seven and a half minute brooding electro monster. From the first thwack of drums the track locks into an unshakeable mid-tempo groove, and you listen with mild astonishment and major pleasure as the song builds its ebb and flow. For a time, arpeggios throb, and then the song seems to shirk a bit, drawing into itself for a plaintive section of synth washes. But before long, the beat is back, with a sort of hypnotising Gregorian chant going on over the top. This happens a couple of times, with each build of tension and release more compulsive than the last. Then a lady on the phone intrudes, talking about forming bands and 1993 and other things I only have a distant memory of, as the synths slowly grow more menacing and the drums continue to crash relentlessly. Then the beat drops out for a bit before - you guessed it - coming back for one last time, the most colossal it's ever been and guaranteed to terrify and delight in equal measure. I, and I'm sure many others like me, had merely let Shy Child slip altogether from our conscious, not even doing them the courtesy of remembering to forget them. 'Criss Cross' drags them right back in, announcing that the band are here to stand up and be counted. Seriously well done, guys. [DOWNLOAD HERE]

OOIOO - O O I A H

OOIOO were formed by Boredoms drummer/trumpeter Yoshimi P-We. This in itself should be enough to make one sit up and take notice of whatever they do. Twelve years and six albums in, the spirit of invention, progress and madness still appears in rude health on 'O O I A H', a track that crams in playground chants, blues slides, hard rock guitar, a key change and bass that sounds like Bjork doing battle with a theremin - in the first thirty seconds. To be honest, any attempt on my part to describe this track to you is going to be futile, as nothing can quite sum up the bonkers brilliance of the thing. You still won't be able to get your head round it on the tenth listen, as should be the way with the best and most visceral music. All I can offer is that you listen to it post haste, and listen well, because even then you'll still struggle. In a good way. Pretty wacky, pretty great.  [DOWNLOAD HERE]

Charlotte Gainsbourg - IRM

About a year ago, I was sent a Charlotte Gainsbourg single to review by this very website. There it was, neatly packaged, dear Charlotte smouldering in monochrome on the cover. It promised smoke curling from a Gauloises, hushed acoustic guitars, sultry crooning to lull one into bed. I never got round to it though - I probably claimed exam stress, but it was almost certainly the sense of overpowering ennui that pervades every faction of my existence. Ms Gainsbourg has whipped up rather a storm this year with the whole Antichrist lark, and cynics would say that she is looking to capitalise swiftly on a flash of success after disappointing sales of last album 5:55. That may be true, but I would retort that when she is making music as hearty and invigorating as this, who really cares. 'IRM' weaves a web of dark silk that never allows the listener to settle. The instruments are not quite in tune or in sync with one another, piercing synth pedals jarring with a sinister bassline and primal drum patterns. A wall of Gainsbourg confronts you with sombre, dead-pan melodies that obscure slightly daft lyrics ("peering through the crystal onion", indeed), providing the song with a deft touch that never lets it overpower. And then, just as abruptly as it has begun, the affair is over in 158 short seconds. Weird. Cool. Beck loves it. Listen. [DOWNLOAD HERE]

That's your lot, I'm afraid. Next time will be a mixtape special, do stay tuned. As it's the 40th anniversary of the first Sesame Street this week, I'll leave you with this;

 

Ta-ra.

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