I figure I’m going to need at least one or two staples a week, just to mean I don’t have to come up with unique and interesting ideas every day. Or at least, I do, but I don’t have to put them all up on this here blog; it’d be nice to sell one or two of them, for I’m ever the commercial man. So this is the first of them; every Sunday, I’m going to put together a mixtape of sorts. Mainly because I’ve got a bit of a thing about sharing music, but also because it’s nice to put stuff together sometimes. I’ll pick a theme or something, just so there’s some sort of cohesion each week, but apart from that, just enjoy and listen, I guess.
And here’s the whole thing on Grooveshark, thanks to Oakwise.
Track 1: Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Storm
The opener to end all openers. I’m only going to put in the first part here, because it’s that climactic build that I’m looking for, but the whole song is fantastic. The most jubilant thing that you can do with your ears. It’s a fanfare, but there’s something completely solitary about it, as if a brass band is playing to the abyss. The music swells and swells and swells until you can barely hold on any more, and then finally, it lets you go, and you can just about breathe again.
Track 2: Chequerboard – Skating Couple
There’s a temptation to fill this up with post rock, what with all the quiet bits mixed with louder bits (they make the louder bits rock harder), but that’d be a pretty boring, and extra long, listen, so I’m going to mix it up a little. Chequerboard is a sort of mix between flamenco guitars and electronica, and while that may sound completely incompatible, he makes it work by downplaying the guitar, while keeping it a constant. Or something. I’m not Chequerboard, but I’m sure he knows what he’s doing, because it sounds good.
Track 3: Boards of Canada – Dayvan Cowboy
It’s that moment. The one where the whole thing seems to hang in the silence for a second, waiting for something to happen. And then the guitar arrives, slowly sits down, and makes itself known. That’s the moment, that’s where the whole thing slips into place and sets about sending that chill down your spine. Boards of Canada are pretty brilliant at creating that slightly uncomfortable, relentless pace, making sure you’re unsettled just as they create such compelling music, but Dayvan Cowboy is showing them doing something entirely pleasing, and entirely brilliant.
The reason I picked this particular phrase as the inspiration for this set of songs is that so often, a track will be this beautiful, jubilant, monstrous thing, but there’ll be something in there, wrapped up in the chords and melodies, that makes it all the more compelling. It’s glory tinged with sadness, a sort of melancholy victory. That, near the climax of this song, the refrain ‘I was born on the day the music died’ starts getting repeated, just encapsulates that. And it’s the Books, and you can’t go wrong with the Books.
If you want drama in your song, you just need to add strings. That’s about it. Doesn’t matter that this song is brilliant all on its own; once the strings come in halfway through, that’s all she wrote, the whole thing pushing up onto another planar sphere, rising and falling like a boisterous ocean, just getting the last few safe waves it can before the storm hits.
Frankly, I don’t care if you can’t stand his voice; the voice makes it. It’s all about foolhardy ambition, of trying to reach something so badly, and failing just as hard. It’s music completely overindulged, every little part of it embellished and exaggerated, swirling like a dervish around Efrim Manuck’s vocals, just accentuating how short he falls in concern to the notes. But that doesn’t matter; the fact is he tries, and you can hear that he tries, and that break in his voice, the moment where it can’t quite reach what its aiming for, the Icarus moment; that’s what it’s all about.
Track 7: Jon Brion – Little Person
That melancholy I talked about earlier is all there is here. It’s defeated musings, and I suppose a good deal of why I love it quite so much is because of the film it comes from. Synecdoche, New York is a towering cinematic achievement, and that’s partly due to Jon Brion’s excellent score. But the song works on its own, and it’s still beautiful. Glorious, alone.
Track 8: Ludovico Einaudi – Origine Nascosta
Another impossible climax, holding on far longer than you expect, or want, it holds you in that moment for seconds longer than you anticipate, and that makes the final swell all the more powerful. Everything builds up to that point, and it almost comes as a surprise when it arrives, before the piano just fitters out, wandering everywhichway before it finally falls apart and collapses, letting the song die.
Track 9: Low – Breaker
‘Our bodies break, and the blood just spills and spills,’ I’m not sure why, especially given Low’s trademark dirge, but the way it’s sung, the emphasis on certain words; for an opening line, there have been worse. And it doesn’t hang around long, either, with the vocals giving way to stuttering, wounded guitars that meander all over the place, descending into feedback before they get back up and carry on the fight. Haunting stuff.
Track 10: Eluvium – Repose in Blue
It’s the drums at the end. It’s almost a counterpoint to Storm, in many ways, but it does similar thing. It’s an understated, dignified climax, rather than the desperate jubilation of GSY! BE. When the drums come in, it’s almost due to a welcome nod from the strings section; they’ve done their job, now they can let loose a little. Meticulous, almost sterile, it still manages to achieve that same feeling beauty and power in a vacuum. They’re not playing to anyone but themselves, but in a way, that’s how it should be.
And that’s your list. Maybe if I can be arsed, I’ll figure out how to do a YouTube playlist of next week’s.