Recent musical discoveries

March 19, 2007 at 8:17 pm (music, politics)

Jenny Wilson: Love and Youth

I was sitting in the living room of a friend in Sydney with the TV on. A bizarre little music video with black-and-white doodles wandering around the screen came on, with a vaguely lazy post-electroclash sound and a woman singing delightfully strange adolescent lyrics. What made this embarassing was that I had no idea who this person was despite Jenny Wilson having been massively hyped by the Finnish/Nordic press when her album was actually new. And I think she is the author of my favourite sound byte of the past couple of years – I obviously don’t remember it word for word, but the gist of it is that as she was an unemployed single mom while she was working on the material for Love and Youth, she can be thought of as a product of the Nordic welfare system. Which sounded wonderful and a little disturbing.

On one hand, this is what you get from a strong welfare state: exceptional talent comes out and benefits the state (here: probably the Swedish tourism bureau) regardless of economic background. On the other, the government gave her money while she wasn’t even trying to find a job, and just played around with samplers and lyrics and things. I suppose it depends on your political affiliation whether you think this is worthwhile. I’d like to think that it is, but for this kind of a system to be supported, rich people will have to pay lots and lots of money in tax.

Rufus Wainwright: Want (Two)

I don’t even know why I love this album so much. I found Want (One) a teeny bit of a dissapointment despite awesome Ravelian themes in the opening track. The album cover with Mr. Wainwright as Pre-Raphaelite damsel in pink gown complete with spindle probably helps, sad to say. Although the Sir Gawain outfit from Want (One) was mightily cool as well. Somehow the songs are just more to my taste, from the opening “Agnus Dei” to obsessive favourite “Art Teacher” and compulsory mention of “Gay Messiah”. Antony’s cameo on “Old Whore’s Diet” for me raises the level of the entire album a tiny notch. It’s also nice that the songs all tell a story, and the protagonist explicitly changes, also breaking the presumption of narrator=author. And somehow the whole thing has this feeling of guilty indulgence, like eating an entire bag of… jelly beans… in just… one… sitting…. nevermind.

Joanna Newsom: Ys

The jury is still kind of out on this one. I’ve only had time to properly listen through it once, and then bits and pieces here and there on my way to work or somewhere. I do like it much more than I thought I would (got it as a gift), but I think it will take a bit more listening still to really get it. I’m not a fan of the Björk-Kate Bush-little girl squealiness, and often I am looking for something a little more substantial than a harp-violin combo, but the atmosphere is really interesting. Even interesting enough to get me past the pretension. Of course, this is another case of the cool cover art kind of helping, and the fact that it hits my secret early reneissance fixation perfectly isn’t bad either. The heady lyrics work much better than I imagined they would, but they look deeply annoying written down, so no samples here.

Richard Cheese: Tuxicity, Aperetif for Destruction, Sunny Side of the Moon, Silent Nightclub

Let it be known: I am geek. I have loved Weird Al Yankovic since early teenagerdom, and MAD magazine since much before that. Nerd humour is LOVE! So when I was sitting in a cafe and noticed that the cool loungy big band-y background music I’d been listening to with some interest included lyrics like “motherfucker” and “you’re under eighteen, you won’t be doing any time”, I was sold. I ran home, googled “swing covers limp bizkit offspring” and was immediately seduced by the “Baby Got Back” version that started playing the minute I got on the Richard Cheese site. After that it was just a matter of minutes to locate him on emusic, and I was launched on a career of annoying friends with dorky jokes – not for the first time. And the greatest thing about Richard Cheese is that his songs actually work as Las Vegas swing party tunes, and the band sound like real musicians. Interestingly this genre really brings out the lyrics more than many other styles – like, say, nu metal. I want him for my wedding.

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