Beat on the Baton

Normally I’m not one for web memes, but Ed has lobbed the musical one in my direction, and it’s as good a way as any to write a few words about what I’ve been listening to since my month-long reviewing marathon in December. He blames my Neal Stephenson devotion for the extended silence, but I still haven’t even finished Quicksilver; too heavy for the bus, so progress is slow. No, the truth is I’ve been more into ripping and rediscovering old CDs than in finding new stuff. But there have been some exceptions...

1. The person (or persons) who passed the baton to you: Craig Shergold, Claire Swire, the Neiman Marcus Cookie Division, and Ed.

2. Total volume of music files on your computer: Well, they’re all on the external hard disk, which is... let’s see... 22.5 cm x 17 cm x 5.5 cm = 0.002 m3. An insignificant amount, m’lud, I’m sure you’ll agree. And they only fill up a quarter of the drive, so really it’s 0.0005 m3.

3. The title and artist of the last CD you bought: Silent Alarm by Bloc Party. (Thank God I picked that up shortly after Steve Hillage’s Rainbow Dome Musick, or my hipster cred would have been in tatters.) The teasers on their site got my attention, and the album mostly delivers on that promise, although about a third of it sounds like filler. To read the reviews around the web you’d think that they’ve re-invented rock’n’roll, but it sounds like updated post-punk circa 1978-82 to me. Very well done, mind you—a natural progression from the Strokes and Franz Ferdinand.

4. Song playing at the moment of writing: Nothing. [Opens iTunes, selects track, clicks big right-arrow button.] “Twin Cinema” by the New Pornographers. Another great slice of indie Canadiana with echoes of Split Enz circa 1978-82. (Hmm, I detect a pattern.)

5. Five songs you have been listening to of late (or all-time favorites, or particularly personally meaningful songs):

  1. “This Modern Love” by Bloc Party. I overdid “Helicopter” listening to the Guardian’s FreeCD a couple of months back; since getting the album I’ve been gravitating to its mid-point, a track that sounds like the Stone Roses might have if they’d been recording in 1980. Jump right!
  2. “I Predict a Riot” by the Kaiser Chiefs. If I were to choose an album track from Employment I’d go with “Na Na Na Na Naa”, which is every bit as goofy as the title implies, but I can’t resist their first major-label single, which has all the freshness and exuberance of Supergrass’s “Caught by the Fuzz”. The album is another mixed bag, but there’s plenty to enjoy for anyone who misses the golden age of Britpop.
  3. “You to Thank” by Ben Folds. I’ve written enough about Folds not to want to rehash it all by reviewing Songs For Silverman (good stuff, frequently excellent; more serious than usual). “Jesusland” was my favourite for a while—great walking-around-with-headphones music—but now I lean towards this one for its piano-hammering chorus and instrumental break.
  4. “Living in Space” by David Kilgour. I’ve never really mentioned my Kilgour fascination here, but his early ’90s solo debut Here Come the Cars is one of my all-time favourite bargain-bin discoveries, along with Aimee Mann’s I’m With Stupid. Since then I’ve dutifully bought each new solo release and picked up a few by his NZ band the Clean, but none has been as consistently excellent, though they always have some standout tracks. His latest, Frozen Orange, is one of the better ones, but still no Cars. This track, though, captures what I love about the guy—the shimmering guitars over the second half have that “lost summer feeling”.
  5. “I Fought the Angels” by the Delgados. When a friend played this in the car on the way down to the Lakes, I wanted more; a month later I had all but one of their albums, and the band had split up. The older albums have their charms—The Great Eastern is particularly good—but Universal Audio, which opens with this addictive song and follows it with several just as good, is still my favourite.

A few months ago the list would have included a track or two from the Chemical Brothers’ Push the Button (good album, but another where I feel no need to repeat myself), one from L’Avventura by Luna’s Dean and Britta (took me a while to catch up with that), and of course the mighty Lemon Jelly. I’m looking forward to new albums from Röyksopp and Suede the Tears, to a lesser extent Coldplay (the new track sounds like treading water), and to a much lesser extent Oasis (coming soon to a £5 table near you).

6. The five people to whom you will “pass the musical baton”: Break the chain! Break the chain! Oh all right. Bill because he’s a fellow Kilgour and Suede fan; James because he always listens to good stuff; Graham because he’s not Ad Nauseating anymore; Dom because he does shows on radio an’ everything; and Paul because he put me onto Lemon Jelly and is always good for a rant. (One of you three Aussies can tip me off if there’s a new Underground Lovers album out.)

26 May 2005 · Music

I missed out my pick of the bargain bins from this year: not the Hillage album, though it’s pleasant enough background music for two quid, but “Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim”, which as part of a three-for-a-fiver deal cost even less. Now that’s value for money.

Added by Rory on 26 May 2005.

Excellent...lots of new things to follow up on.

I'll pick up the baton a little later today. I have to go home and look at how much music is actually on the hard drive.

Added by BT on 27 May 2005.