Sunday, December 21, 2008

My Favourite Tunes of 2008

It is once more that time of year, when I find myself compiling a CD of the music from the past year I most enjoyed listening to. I am listing the tracks here for your delectation. As with previous years, a copy of this disc is available to anyone who wants it, though you will have to join a queue that has people ahead of you who are still waiting for their world psych* disc.

One thing to bear in mind – these are all tunes that were new to me over the last year. Some of them are from 2008 or late 2007, but many of them are from much earlier.

Here are the tracks:

1. Chrome Hoof 'Circus 9000'
This is from their 2007 album Pre-emptive False Rapture. Chrome Hoof wear shiny capes and play space rocky music, giving good spectacle live. I suspect that this might not be too everyone's taste, but putting them on first is a good way of separating the sheep from the goats.

2. Tinariwen 'Chet Boghassa'
This is from an album called Amassakoul that came out a couple of years ago. As you know, Tinariwen are these fellows who combine the music of their Tuareg heritage with more modern instrumentation, with their frontman being particularly adept in the use of the electrical guitar. They present quite a sight live, carrying guitars and wearing Tuareg robes, but I think they still do the job on record. You may agree.

3. Moondog 'Enough About Human Rights'
This is quite old; iTunes thinks the record it comes from (The Viking of Sixth Avenue) was released in 1978. Moondog is an odd character. He was blinded at an early age but, if I recall the sleevenotes to the album correctly, he took up music while undergoing rehabiliation and then carved out a singular career for himself. He seems also to have spent time dressing as a Viking and busking on the streets of New York, but there is a focus to his music that makes it impossible to think of him as some kind of weirdo outsider artist. The music itself is very percussive, and sounds like it uses a load of that multi-layering stuff that artists like Fursaxa go for. This track is one of the few on the album that has a vocal.

A while ago I was listening to my iPod on shuffle, and what I thought was a Moondog song started playing. But it turned out to be the opening shuffle of a Fun Boy Three / Bananarama tune. So that, maybe, gives an idea what the Viking of Sixth Avenue might sound like. I recommend him highly, and once more salute Lisa & Brian for giving it to me as a birthday present.

4. Nurse With Wound 'Black Teeth'
This is from Huffin' Rag Blues, an ablum iTunes says unconvincingly was released in 2008. I bought the record after NWW's performance at the Dublin Electronic Arts Festival, and remember this tune well from the concert. Love it or hate it, I can see this having to be surgically removed from people's consciousness. It you have not registered this yet, let me just say that this has a very high What Is This Shite? score. I must listen to it closely enough sometime to see what the lyrics are about.

5. Duncan Browne 'Cherry Blossom Fool'
This is from Early Morning Hush, a recent CD reissue of a compilation of British folk music from the late 60s or early 70s. Early Morning Hush has been on heavy rotation since it came into Panda Mansions. I could easily have burned half the album onto my end of year CD, so Duncan Browne's track here should be taken as standing in for all the others.

6. Selda 'Yaz Gazeteci Yaz'
Selda is a Turkish folk singer. Finders Keepers (a kewl English record label) have reissued Selda's untitled debut album (with a few tracks from her second thrown in as a bonus) as part of their Anatolian Invasion series of Turkish psych releases. This record was originally released in 1976, by which point Selda had been on the musical scene for some time (the accompanying pictures reveal her to be a somewhat dumpy mature lady). On the album her folkie tunes (usually protesting against some of the many things in Turkey there are to protest about) are backed by the leading lights of the Turkish rock scene, with some of the tracks (notably this one) even getting a bit of early electronics stuff thrown in. This should make Selda's album a bit of a dog's dinner, but it all works.

I have acquired a lot of Finders Keepers material on vinyl this year, but I love Selda so much that I bought this on CD as well so that I could put it on my end of year compilation. In some respects, she is standing in here for all the weirdo music I have heard through Finders KeepersWelsh language psych-folk, the big voiced sounds of Sarolta Zalatnay, Ersen (an actual Turkish psych band), and so on. With Finders Keepers you can be pretty certain that anything they release will be worth listening to.

7. Dee Dee Young 'You Haven't Seen Nothing'
This is from Playin' Hard to Get – West Coast Girls, a compilation of music by less well known girl groups from the USA in the 1960s. In this one, Dee Dee Young sings about how you haven't seen nothing till you've seen her new boyfriend. He is really something, unlike that loser she used to go out with.

8. Mahmoud Ahmed 'Mar tèb yelal kafesh'
And this of course comes from Swinging Addis, volume 8 of the Éthiopiques series of music from Ethiopia. I seem to have acquired a lot of discs from that series in 2008, so Mahmoud Ahmed is here standing in for all his fellows. As you know, Addis Ababa had a thriving musical scene in the dying years of the imperial period, largely based on an unusual local iteration of jazz ideas. The scene was shut down by the communist Derg regime that took power in thet mid-1970s, but thanks largely to the efforts of the guy who compiles the Éthiopiques series this music has been rediscovered by a new generation of hipsters.

9. The Kinks 'This Time Tomorrow'
I may be cheating here, in that this tune sounds too good not to have come my way on a compilation previously. This time it came my way on the soundtrack to The Darjeeling Limited, a Wes Anderson film I saw almost exactly a year ago. This song is great, but a lot of its appeal to me is based on its association with that wonderful film.

10. Dengue Fever 'Tiger Phone Card'
This is on Dengue Fever's third album, Venus on Earth, from 2007, the first I managed to track down. Dengue Fever were formed by these two American brothers (one of whom has an incredible beard) who became fascinated by the flourishing pop scene in Cambodia that flourished before the communists took over that country. Deciding to form a band to play this music, they recruited a Cambodian woman who had already made a name for herself on the karaoke circuit and then started recording Khmer pop classics and their own compositions. This track, one of the band's first in English, had a certain resonance for me in the period I spent here in Ireland while my beloved was off in Ethiopia.

11. Caribou 'Melody Day'
The (2007) album this comes from is called Andorra, and it would never have come into my awareness had KevLol not dragged me off to see Caribou play live here in Dublin. I think maybe they are better live than on record, but you do get something of a sense of their drum-led sound from this, the album's opener.

12. The Fiery Furnaces 'Ex-Guru'
This surprisingly straightforward tune from the brother-sister combo appears on their (2007) album Widow City. I salute the Furnaces for allowing people like me who buy their album on vinyl to then download a free copy of it.

13. The Auteurs 'Lenny Valentino'
This is the opening track from the Auteurs' second album, 1994's Now I'm A Cowboy. I never need an excuse to listen to the Auteurs (or any other Luke Haines related band), but I have been on a particular Haines/Auteurs kick lately thanks to my reading of Haineser's excellent memoir of the Britpop years. This song is apparently about Lenny Bruce dying of an overdose but briefly going back in time to find himself inhabiting the corpse of Rudolph Valentino at his funeral. Or something. I do not think you need to know this to enjoy this most excellent tune.

14. The Gresham Flyers 'Shiftwork'
Wow, a track by people I know! This is from Sex With Strangers, the 2008 debut album from this exciting band. I find it difficult to judge the artistic endeavours of people I know, but I have become rather fond of the Flyers' album in general and this song in particular. Hence its inclusion here.

15 David Vorhaus, Igor Stravinsky, & the Fairlight 'ORCH5'
I downloaded this from the Internet. ORCH5 is the VOMP! sound you heard on every record released during a certain period of the 1980s. It is a one second pre-set sample supplied with the Fairlight synthesiser, and people from hip hoppers to Kate Bush used it all over the place. David Vorhaus (himself an electronic music pioneer in the 1960s) recorded what became ORCH5 in the late 1970s. The sound is the transitional bit of Igor Stravinsky's Firebird, the moment when the full orchestra come in and do their stuff.

16. SCOOTER 'Jump That Rock!'
Yeah. This is from Jumping All Over The World, Scooter's number one album from 2008. It is easy to laugh at Scooter's nosebleed rave, shameless appropriation of other people's music, and fuckwitted rapping, but that would be rather missing the point. Yeah.

17. Portishead 'Half Day Closing'
This is not from the album Portishead released in 2008 but their largely overlooked and untitled second album from ten or more years back. I originally had that record down as being a bit disappointing, but this track has really grown on me. I am now starting to re-evaluate the band's second album, wondering if it represents a successful attempt to do something new as opposed to a less than successful iteration of what made the first record so good.

18. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds 'The Singer'
This appears on the excellent covers album Kicking Against The Pricks originally released back in 1986. This track seems to have originally been a Johnny Cash composition.

19. Oneida 'Preteen Weaponry Part 2'
This long brooding tune is from Preteen Weaponry, a 2008 album by Oneida.

20. Sajuro 'Sakura: Cherry Blossoms'
This is from a record called Lullaby for the Moon. iTunes thinks it was released in 1997, though it would not surprise me if actually it is earlier. It combines that funny stringed instrument the Japanese have with that flutey thing of theirs. So it is nice, contemplative and restful music.

21. Some random load of Ethiopian clergymen, possibly accompanied by a congregation of worshippers '[Liturgical music from a religious service of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church]'
This comes from the album Music From Ethiopia, which came into Panda Mansions from Claddagh on the same day as the previously mentioned Lullaby for the Moon and Early Morning Hush. iTunes has this as having been released in 1970. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is big into the liturgical chanting, and it is not big on musical instruments. The only ones allowed in church services are a strange rattle thing and a big porker of a drum – not the kind of bongo drum people lazily associate with all African music but something that in sound is more like the big drums our friends in the North like to play (see picture).

I find this recording to be quite evocative of the kind of other worldly states of mind the religious like to aspire too. Ethiopian church services reputedly go on for hours at a time, so I reckon you could get really tripped out by listening to that much of this music. I also reckon that some racist people might not be down with the music of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, so I put it here at the end where it can be easily skipped.

Panda image source

*I have been calling this my world psych disc even though, as has been helpfully pointed out, some of the songs are more like beat music than proper psychedelia.


kvlol said...

I love that Kinks song and also only discovered it thanks to Darjeeling Limited.

OTM re. SCOOTER (though review not all in text speak and capitals so FAIL)

I loved the Psych CD. Don't think I remembered to tell you that it's very good.

ian said...

Good point on Scooter. eh, SCOOTER. I am so FAIL.