Sam Giddings is our guest writer this week. He has a blog over here, and can sometimes be found assembling words about games for various sites across this series of tubes. You can follow him on Twitter as @SamdyBrown. Now, it’s over to Sam in all his hobbity glory.
I got my Ipod, I hit “shuffle”. Here are the ten tracks that my iPod threw at me, and why I like them. Or not.
Geto Boys – Damn It Feels Good to be a Gangster
I fell in love with this track after first hearing it in the superb cult comedy Office Space, created by Mike Judge. This is laid back hip hop with a fantastic hook and great rhyming. Every time I hear it, I am reminded not to take my job so seriously, and that it’s okay to rail against the banality of office work. So many quotes come flooding back from the film, and as well as being a great track, it makes me smile and feel all warm inside, like I’ve swallowed a radiator. “Did you get that memo? We’re putting cover sheets on all the TPS reports now.”
Seth Lakeman – Band of Gold
Don’t like this track quite as much as most others on this list, but it isn’t rubbish, either. Devon-born Seth Lakeman, for those of you who may not know him, has a folky sound, and his lyrics touch upon all sorts of British mythologies and Celtic folklore. He’s certainly a refreshing change from the norm, and he was championing folk long before the likes of Fleet Foxes. This is folk music in every way – both lyrically and musically. If this piques your interest, then check out “The White Hare,” one of his best.
Bruce Springsteen – The Rising
Ah, brilliant! One of my favourite tracks by one of my favourite artists. No, I’m not kidding – I love The Boss, I really do. I don’t love him because he’s cheesy, but because so much of his stuff has a gruff honesty and a relevance. The Rising is the title track from his 2002 album, and it’s a reflective response to the attacks on the Twin Towers. It’s bleak, but also hopeful, and Springsteen’s lived-in vocals give it a touching sense of gravity. As a footnote, The Rising was also the rallying call for Obama’s election campaign.
Counting Crows – Mr Jones
Jackpot again. Adam Duritz’s vocals shouldn’t work: they are warbling, unwieldy and utterly unlike any I’ve heard. But they do bloody well work. Raw, vulnerable, and captivating, Adam Duritz is an astounding performer, and this is an astounding track. For my money, August and Everything After remains the best album the Crows have ever released, and this is one of the stand-out tracks on their seminal LP. An up-tempo ode to the pursuit of dreams, it is ultimately heart-wrenching, too, and touches on the emptiness of fame and loneliness in a crowded bar: “She’s perfect for you/ Man there’s got to be somebody for me.” If you don’t already know this song, then correct your ignorance immediately.
Wolfmother – Colossal
I saw the original trio at the Camden Crawl some years back, just before their debut album broke in the UK. Their musicianship was excellent, and the band were an unexpected pleasure on the night, throwing me back to their clear inspirations: all-time greats like Led Zep, Deep Purple, The Who, even Black Sabbath. As I jumped and rolled around in the crowd, pint in hand, I was carried away on a wave of classic, untethered rock, and had no hesitation in shelling out for the album. Unfortunately, in the cold light of day, and with time allowing more perspective, I can’t say that I care too much for Wolfmother these days. They’re by no means bad, but the problem with imitative music is that it reveals itself to be anaemic and contrived when compared to its forebears. For all the plaudits heaped on Wolfmother, I have to confess that the artifice is too strong for my palette these days. Just listen to the originals instead.
Frou Frou – Maddening Shroud
I saw Imogen Heap gigging at a tiny pub in Clapham shortly after Frou Frou split. She was dippy, disorganised, apologetic, and totally endearing. Imogen Heap’s dreamy, ethereal vocals are relaxing and uplifting. Her vocal work for Frou Frou is occasionally a little over-produced for my liking, but Maddening Shroud is just one of many solid tracks from an underrated album.
Sigur Ros – Svohljott
Icelandic band Sigur Ros is my favourite collective of musicians working today, bar none. This is a cracking track from their most accessible (and best) album, Takk. Sigur Ros’s haunting, melodic swells of noise and emotion are perfectly crafted. Every time I listen to Sigur Ros, I am transported to a world of wonder, excitement, majesty and amazement. I cannot state it clearer than this: listen to Takk from start to finish, right now. You owe it to yourself. Takk is one of those perfectly balanced albums, one that works better if you listen to the whole beautiful thing. Taking a track on its own merit doesn’t affect the power of the song, though it does disrupt the almost tidal ebb and flow of an epic album. The sparse lyrical work almost coalesces into words, like something straining to be understood – Sigur Ros even created their own language, Hopelandic. Their film Heima documents the band’s 2005 homecoming tour, played for free at obscure locations all over Iceland. If everyone listened to music as pure and inspirational as this, I guarantee the world would be a nicer place. Who else has a song revelling in the simplicity and beauty of life, fittingly called “Hoppipolla” (meaning “jumping in puddles)? Sigur Ros are quite unique.
Morcheeba – The Sea
Not much to say about this one, really, except that I like it. Soothing, becalming, it washes over me like waves, and it’s a fantastic tune for the summer time.
Biffy Clyro – Machines
Life affirming – that’s the best way to describe this track. One of Biffy Clyro’s quieter efforts, it’s heartfelt and reflective, and it means a lot to me personally, for reasons I don’t wish to explore here. There is absolutely nothing revolutionary about this track whatsoever, and yet it is a great acoustic arrangement, with a solid hook. Simple. Effective. I like.
Florence and the Machine – Dog Days Are Over
People already seem to be going a bit green around the gills with the ubiquity of this red-haired singstress. Which is unfortunate, as Florence’s vocals are clean and crisp, soaring to dazzling effect. Admittedly, the album is patchy, but this is Florence (plus machine) at her very best. From the moment the crashing chorus lands on your head, this feisty pop tune shatters all thoughts that this might be just another slow melody to showcase a great singing talent. Unexpectedly rambunctious, and all the better for it.