I’d thought I’d be able to give Bob Dylan’s new album a good long listen and then perhaps write my two bits about it in this instalment of DC. Tempest, Dylan’s 35th album, came out on September 11; I managed to get hold of it a couple of days later but before I could properly listen to it, the deadline of this column was upon me (Brunch goes to press really early in the week and its editor is quite a strict disciplinarian when it comes to deadlines). I don’t know about you but I just can’t casually listen to any of Dylan’s albums, particularly a brand new one from a living legend who is now 71. Dylan’s isn’t by any stretch ambient music. It requires focused listening. Read more
Sometimes when you’re searching for new musicians you need look no further than the record label that publishes their work. Sub Pop is one such label. Set up in Seattle 25 years ago, it was a independent label that made a name when it signed up the vanguards of the Seattle grunge rock movement—Nirvana, of course, but also Mudhoney and Soundgarden. Those three bands may be legendary in rock music’s history but the list of great bands that have worked with the label is impressive—Sonic Youth, Death Cab for Cutie, White Stripes, Modest Mouse, The Shins, Built to Spill, Foals, The Smashing Pumpkins…. It’s a long list of stellar musicians and bands. So, although Sub Pop is not really a kosher indie label any longer (Warner Brothers has a biggish stake in it now), many people trust the label so much as to blindly pick up albums by new artists that it signs on. I tried Wolf Parade, Vetiver, CSS (Cansei der Ser Sexy, a very agreeable Brazilian band) and many other bands that I’ve become a fan of now simply because they have worked with Sub Pop. Read more
Sometime last year, when the Contrast Podcast, a weekly collaborative by a bunch of mp3 bloggers, first became irregular and then disappeared altogether, I felt like an addict who has been denied his fix. Contrast is a podcast that began in 2006 and every week, usually on a Tuesday, bloggers presented a theme which they spoke about and then presented songs relevant to that theme. It could be anything – from a body part (say, the brain) to something like Boiling and Steaming. Read more
My trainer is an ogre and I’m his guinea-pig. Or, his lab rat at the gym. What else could explain the torture he subjects me to every morning? Pull-ups, push-ups, presses of different kinds, squats, deadlifts…. till everything becomes a blurry haze and my body feels as if someone’s put it through a sugarcane juice maker. Of course, I willingly do his bidding—in what you could call a valiant attempt at postponing the sag of age with the help of a quotidian dose of extreme physical discomfort. It would be unfair to blame my trainer for what I go through every morning because the poor chap is only trying to help me do what I’ve signed up for. But it is a tough proposition: he is an insistent coach, firm and no-nonsense, but that alone is not nearly enough to see me through my workouts. For that I have to reach out for music. Read more
“The brashest, ballsiest, most beautiful women to ever step up to the mike,” screamed the strap-line on an article in GQ’s October issue (the US edition) that landed on my desk last week (you can see that I have seriously high-brow reading preferences). So, naturally, I went straight to page 175 to check out the story headlined, The 25 Sexiest Women in Rock. There were few surprises. It had everyone that you could think of. From the astonishing Tina Turner, who is 70 now and yet as sexy as she was 50 years ago, to Alexis Krauss, the tattoo-sleeved fourth grade teacher-turned-lead singer of the contemporary noise pop band, Sleigh Bells. Of course, there were other great women on the list: Marianne Faithfull, whose wild bohemian lifestyle and love-life in the sixties greatly overshadowed her patchy musical career; Cher, about whom there are unbelievable stories involving plastic surgery; Joan Jett, the edgy punk rock star, whose biopic was released this year (Dakota Fanning plays her in the film, by the way); and Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac and one of the reasons why I tolerated the band even after it shed its bluesy past and embraced playing-to-the-gallery pop.
There’s a 1999 three-disc album called Everything Is Nice: The Matador Records 10th Anniversary Anthology. If you like indie, alternative bands, you ought to own that album of 43 excellent tracks by a bunch of super talented bands and musicians. If you’re a die-hard indie fan, I’m sure you probably have the Matador anthology or, at least, have heard of it. If not, here’s a sneak peek at that 12-year-old album. Artists featured on the album include indie star acts like Pavement, Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo, Cat Power and Modest Mouse but also lesser known bands such as Chavez, Bardo Pond, Solex and Khan.
The first Sigur Rós album I heard was Ágætis byrjun, which means ‘an all right start’ in Icelandic. Sigur Rós are an Icelandic band that plays a genre of music that is classified (by those who love to classify such things) as post-rock, minimalist, ethereal music. I found Sigur Rós’s music mainly downtempo and soothing but also sad at times. I heard several of their albums, including the curiously named () (released in 2002), Takk (in 2005) and Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust (2008). That last title translates into ‘with a buzz in our ears we play endlessly’. Nice, isn’t it? I don’t know why, but the band’s music sometimes reminded me of a huge, widescreen film where the camera is static and the visual is of a wide open landscape.
I know we’re barely into the tenth month this year and November and December are still left, but 2009 has thus far been such a hyperactive period for music that I couldn’t help writing about the best that I’ve heard till now. It’s not easy to do a list of the best new albums but let me try.