The festive flu has meant that I’ve not been up to a great deal recently, though I did finally manage to catch up with adding some commentary to the last five or six instalments of the 2008 advent countdown. I hope you enjoyed it. It occurs to me that perhaps I should have allowed the last weeks of 2007 into my timescale of permissible tracks. If I do the same thing in 2009, I’ll be certain to include the last half of December 08. There are already some fine contenders:
The demos of Phil Wilson and his new band. I’m confident that Phil will find someone to release some of these numbers in 2009. The songs, and the new band, sound superb, especially on ‘I Own It’. I swear to God, if this makes it out as a single it will be single of the year. No question. It’s almost enough to make me want to start a record label again.
‘Another Version Of Pop Song’. Or, the triumphant return of Rose Elinor Dougall. Former Pipettes chanteuse in magical Pop moment shocker. Except it’s no shock. As expected, it’s sublime.
‘In Praise Of Ski Jumpers’. Or, the triumphant return of The Metric Mile… As already hinted at here. My 7” arrived in the mail the other day. As expected, it’s sublime.
Multiverse by Say. I think this is officially due for release early in 2009, but you can get copies from their website already. It’s well worth checking out too; full of soft pop tinged with sixties west coast harmonies, infected with a mild dose of Brian Wilson psychedelia and a smidgeon of Boo Radleys melodic noise.
And finally, Casador’s self-released The Puritans EP. A solo work that recalls some of the desolate majesty of his friends A Classic Education, it’s apparently a modern view on the story of the sword of Damocles. And very fine it is too. His blog links to a video of The National, and it’s easy to see a shared aesthetic here, though I admit that I have always struggled with The National, and Casador is immeasurably preferable for me if only because his songs seem much less rooted in rock orthodoxy. And with two songs for free download, what have you got to lose?
More cassette fun in the shape of this Christmas present from Mags and Mark - a hand embroidered (by Mags!) tote bag with a cassette tape design. Yum! C got a polaroid camera design. Very, very, cool. This joins my small tote bag collection alongside a Smoosh bag and a Rodchenko bag from the Hayward.
‘London’ – Frida Hyvönen From Silence Is Wild (Secretly Canadian)
If Chris T-T’s Capital was one of the finest two albums of 2008, then Frida Hyvönen’s exquisite Silence Is Wild was easily the other.
I admit that I had not picked up on her before reading Everett’s effusive review in the December edition of Plan B. A double page spread. Captivating illustration. A full page of words with all the right reference points (Laura Nyro, ABBA, Herman Dune, Beat Happening, The Concretes) and ending with the words “Album of the year. No Question.”
It was enough to pique my interest, which in itself is unusual for music journalism these days. Perhaps I am just getting old, falling out of step or something. I don’t know. But no. Wait. Silence Is Wild. Oh yes.
So many delights. Everett has them all covered and does so with eloquence and charm. What’s to add? Well, maybe just that the ABBA angle could be pushed further; or The Concretes one, whichever. The Pop one, anyway. For there could be a temptation to cloak Silence Is Wild in that dreary ‘authentic’ garb. The one that’s all neutral tones, faux-rural infatuations and facial hair misadventures. Frida Hyvönen is too strangely glamorous for that though; too genuinely seductively eccentric in all the best ways. And thankfully incapable of being bearded. One hopes. Instead she reminds me of Cristina or Jayne Casey. Or, to get back to ABBA, that ever so slightly gloomy tinge of the coming night that permeated The Visitors. Know what I mean? And, hmm, to throw in another reference, what about Pearls Before Swine, to whose magical ‘The Jeweller’ I hear nods and winks in the melancholic ‘My Cousin’? Ashes to ashes. And if This Mortal Coil were to make a record in 2009, Frida Hyvönen would be a shoe-in for membership.
And then there is ‘London’. The song that took grip of my December and whirled it around the dancefloor of my mind, coat-tails swishing and swooping as it went. So swiftly embedded as one of the great songs of the city, up there already with Caetano Veloso, Janet Kay and Barbara Ruskin. The phrasing, the words held just so, and ‘London’ itself expressed in that way that only Scandinavian blondes can do; the just so slightly over-balanced and stretched vowels. Such exquisite aches, the delight of the love that loves to love, love.
“The way you hate me is better than love / And I’m head over heels” Oh and I’m head over heels. I am. Oh, I am. How could I not be?
I still remember the first time I heard this. On a District Line train between Earls Court and Olympia, going to the BETT show. A mid January day away from school, up in the capital. A new Chris T-T record on the iPod. It had all sounded great up to this point. Perhaps a little more full-on than expected after the stripped back Nine Red Songs, but still, there’s nothing wrong with letting rip when the focus is right.
And then there was ‘A Box To Hide In’. It took my breath away. Brought a tear to my eye. Made me blink away the emotion. Had me standing outside Oylmpia, surrounded by crowds of teachers milling to and fro clutching handfuls of free pens, pressing my headphones to my ears, replaying the song, desperate to catch each pulse of energy again and again.
I still don’t really understand why Chris is not a household name. Still don’t get why people are not giving him cover spreads in the more intelligent sections of the music press. Capital was far and away one of the best two albums of 2008. Certainly the best ‘rock’ record, for what it’s worth; stuffed full of the kind of intelligent, informed and articulate ‘protest’ songs that any young pretender should give their left (and/or right) arm for.
Perhaps as we lurch towards the realisation that the failure of multi-national, corporate capitalism is as seemingly inevitable as it is welcome, then Chris T-T’s blend of powerfully focused anger and deeply humanist empathy will grow as a rallying point of reference; a jumping off point for considering new ways forward that learn from our histories’ mistakes.
Or maybe everyone will continue as they were, throwing resources into propping up a terminally broken ideology and buying their heroes from X-Factor.