Welcome once again to the monthly smorgasbord of musical musings, the rules for which are super simple:
Each month, I’ll pick ten tracks from my current playlist, plus two albums or EPs and one live show video or playlist of live tracks.
That’s literally it, so let’s see what we’ve got this month!
The July Playlist
The individual tracks I’m highlighting this month are:
1. Tom Morello – How Long – I unexpectedly saw Tom Morello, former guitarist of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave, among other things, live when he supported Muse in Bristol back in June. He was absolutely fantastic, and this song from his collaborative album The Atlas Underground was a highlight.
2. Post War Years – All Eyes – another band I saw, and in this case first became aware of, when they were the support act at a gig. (I think this one was Mumford and Sons about seven years ago, if anyone’s interested.) I like this song mainly because the chorus is just the lead singer yelling lyriclessly into a vocoder microphone so that he sounds like a weird synthed guitar or something.
3. Fleetwood Mac – Never Going Back Again – this is probably a controversial choice, but Lindsey Buckingham’s pretty-much-solo contribution to seminal album Rumours is my favourite track of the lot. It’s the precise guitar work along with the simplicity of the vocal line, I think.
4. Dunderpatrullen – Rumble Rangers – a cracking bit of bitpop, this. Dunderpatrullen’s entire Keygeneration album is wonderful, but this track just makes me bop.
5. Demob Happy – Succubus – here’s something weird: I don’t actually like a few things about this song, but the interplay of the steady drums and unbelievably low-mixed bass is incredibly satisfying to me. It made me go and look for more tracks with stupid dirty bass, so that alone makes it worth listening to even if it’s not one I’ll be singing in the shower.
6. Rammstein – Tattoo – one of my favourite tracks off Rammstein’s most recent album, which was one of my highlighted albums in June. This has such a headbanging beat for most of the verse, then becomes unexpectedly melodic in the chorus (if still very banging).
7. Disasterpeace – Memory – from the Fez soundtrack, this piece is made up of just two chords (as 8-Bit Music Theory explains wonderfully here). It’s the ultimate ambient electronic work.
8. The Mars Volta – Cygnus… Vismund Cygnus – although this is the first track on concept album Frances the Mute, which being a concept album sort of demands to be listened to all the way through, it’s one of the ones from that album that I’ll quite happily listen to on its own. Warning: it is a bit weird, but it’s a great jumping-around of rhythms and melodies and languages.
9. The National – Light Years – I’ve just got back into The National after first hearing about them when they contributed the wonderful song Exile Vilify to the Portal 2 soundtrack; I’m only now hearing their work more extensively by listening to their albums. Light Years is a really stunning track that shows off Matt Berninger’s distinctive baritone very nicely.
10. Project Destati – Cavern of Remembrance – it is absolutely no secret that I adore Yoko Shimomura’s original Kingdom Hearts music, and Project Destati regularly do a bang-up job creating awesome new arrangements of her pieces. This slow-building, beautiful tune becomes almost trance-like when it hits the main ostinato, and I love it.
This month’s albums are Oxygène by Jean-Michel Jarre and Schubert’s Winterreise.
Jarre is someone I first heard about because he was doing laser harps, I think, which is just one of the most ridiculously awesome ideas I think I’d ever come across, but Oxygène is a phenomenal album consisting of six tracks simply called Oxygène Part I through VI. I almost think of it as a single piece with six movements. This was the real kicker that got electronic music going, as I understand it, and it’s easy to see how this experimental tour de force opened people’s eyes to the potential of synthesizers.
As for Die Winterreise, the version I’ve linked above is the one with renowned German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (and Gerald Moore very capably accompanying on piano). It’s a very melancholy cycle of songs, but I think it’s really powerful: I’m not a fan of opera, which is perhaps quite close to the effect this gives, but I really enjoy allowing this work to wash over me in its entirety. Der Leiermann, the final song, is a real highlight for me, and I specifically recommend Thomas Quasthoff and Daniel Barenboim’s performance: watch that one performance, and that’ll help you to know whether the Winterreise in its entirety is for you.
And, finally, my recommended live show for the month of August is Snarky Puppy’s We Like It Here (that’s a link to a video playlist including all of the tracks). Lingus, one of the utter joys of the set, was one of my highlighted tracks back in the very first monthly playlist, but this entire thing is just wonderful. The audience are wearing headphones so they can hear everything as it’s supposed to sound, and you can tell that everyone is totally enraptured by the musicianship on display. There are a few great moments where one of the musicians will suddenly let loose on an absolutely ludicrous solo and you’ll just see shots of the audience and the other musicians making this face like ‘that’s outrageous’ (while keeping perfect time themselves, of course!). It’s beautiful to behold.
… and that’s the playlist for August! There’ll be another one in September, so pop back then and we’ll see what weirdness is bouncing around making noises in my brain by then.
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