Perpetually Behind: 5 Great Tracks You Should Hear [June-Sep 2017]
Hello World! Clearly, given its tardiness, the ‘Song of the Week’ category this post sits in is now a mixture of irony, nihilism and defeatism. But hey, to counter this potentially unhealthy concoction, I refitted Season of the Bliss with a brand new layout and feel. I hope you like it. I’m still making a few adjustments so please excuse any teething issues.
And sure, the new layout may not be worth the five month hiatus – the green strips down the sides of the pages aren’t for everyone – but the 5 tracks on offer are, in my opinion, well worth the wait. So sit back, relax and enjoy the music.
Alt-J – 3WW
Alt-J are an enigmatic band. In 2011, ‘Tessellate’ arrived like a breath of fresh air, a killer track that turned them into frontrunners from the crop of next generation bands.
Their brand of art-rock can be so satisfying when done right. But sometimes they fall short. Each album has a couple of standouts. The harmonies on ‘Warm Foothills’ are beautiful. The vocal hooks on ‘Breezeblocks’ are clever. And this track, ‘3WW’, is great. Just when you think it’s a rather aimless folk song, the chorus hits like a clap of thunder: “Oh, these three worn words!”
They’re definitely not the natural followers of Radiohead as some fans like to intonate, nor are they as dire as Pitchfork’s scathing review of their latest album Relaxer would suggest. For now, Alt-J remain on the cusp, not quite here nor there.
Morrissey – That’s Entertainment
It’s not often that YouTube recommends something mind-blowing to me. Most of the time, their recommendations are the digital equivalent of a shrug, consistent but also bland and predictable.
This was one of those rare instances that eschewed convention.
Morrissey is the perfect person to cover Paul Weller’s classic tale about growing up and seeking that scarce commodity – entertainment – amidst the dreary British surrounds of police sirens, pneumatic drills, cold damp flats and “feeding ducks in the park and wishing you were far away.”
The Jam released the song in 1980, and captured the mood of the time perfectly. Morrissey’s interpretation is equally revelatory. Both Weller and Morrissey share a penchant for upbeat music overlaid with bleak, mournful lyrics and here, the twangy, catchy melodies of the original intertwine with Morrissey’s distinct voice to marvelous effect.
The Streets – The Irony of It All
Morrissey and Paul Weller are two of England’s finest street poets, incredibly gifted songwriters capable of depicting the mundane, everyday humdrum to great effect.
In fact, England has a rich history of molding these types; others in their ilk would include Joe Strummer, Ray Davies and Damon Albarn. But in recent times, it’s difficult to think of many luminary English street poets besides Alex Turner. Neither the 90s Trip-hop nor Britpop scenes were characterized by amazing songwriting, and the ’00s indie wave was more about jangly guitars, skinny jeans and peacocking than lyrics.
All of which leads me to Mike Skinner, the mastermind behind The Streets. His first two albums are excellent, witty observations about council estate London, which put him in the same league as Alex Turner and the Sheffield places and characters he eulogises about with the Arctic Monkeys.
Mike Skinner is to music what Andrea Arnold is to British film, a realist who paints vivid pictures of working-class life. In this song, he compares alcohol to weed from the perspectives of a rowdy lager lout and a stoner student. Throughout, the two characters trade verses as Skinner’s humor and political voice shines through.
Television – Marquee Moon
A heady, rambling song with a killer guitar riff, what’s most amazing about Marquee Moon (and much of the Marquee Moon album) is how progressive it sounds. Released in 1977, this song sounds as fresh and modern as any of the New York bands of the early-mid 00s. It was clearly an influence on The Strokes, a band I admire a lot.
Big Thief – Mary
Big Thief’s Mary is quite possibly my favorite song of the year. Listening to Adrienne Lenker sing like a slam poet in full flight and create such evocative images is a sheer delight: “Oh and, heavens, when you looked at me/Your eyes were like machinery/Your hands were making artifacts in the corner of my mind.” Or, “Monastery monochrome/Boom balloon machine and oh/Diamond rings and gutter bones.”
For some reason, the song transports me to a sleepy American town. Perhaps it’s the reference to the marching band or the clever play on words with June bugs, “The marching band/When April ran/May June bugs fly.” Whatever it is, my mind conjures up a Wind In the Willows-style utopian setting where young people dance and giggle spontaneously and roll down hills and are forever merry.
And really, that’s the point isn’t it? Don’t all the best songs transport you to another time or place?