Wednesday, May 16, 2007


And I'm back. The flight home was long and dull, relieved only by Greg Bear's 'The Infinity Concerto', and the taxi driver missed my house and dropped me off a few doors down. Still, I managed to lug all my stuff up the street and into my house, then spent a pleasant afternoon unpacking, finding homes for my souvenirs, and doing that most modern of post-travel activities: loading all of the new CDs I bought onto my iPod.

The Music of Melbourne
(CDs acquired while on holiday in Melbourne, featuring no Melburnians whatsoever)

Octopus - The Bees

The Bees are the sort of musical eccentrics who could only come out of Britain. They are devoted to a Beatles-era musical aesthetic, and every track on every one of their albums sounds like a lost recording from a long-forgotten band, laid down on vinyl and left in an attic for 40 years.

I like them more with each successive album. This latest one, released earlier this year, has a new, tangy Tex-Mex flavour. Indeed, the thoroughly groovable riff in ‘Got To Let Go’ could have come from my 70s Latin Funk compilation CD.

But their strong sense of humour hasn’t left them. ‘End of the Street’ is as infectiously silly as the infamous ‘Chicken Payback’.

Beautiful Catastrophe – Khin Myint

Khin Myint sings songs that remind us that even charismatic, sensitive men with exotic good looks and “a talent for getting women to bed” feel pain and loneliness. Which is good, because otherwise the rest of us would have to rise up and murder him.

His songs are sweet and addictive, and full of finely expressed poetry. His ideas are more nuanced than most songwriters, concentrating on subtle aspects of our emotional lives that usually get pushed aside by larger feelings like anger, lust or joy.

My only complaint is that he has a tendency to get a little overdelicate, as if the crush of his high emotions is overwhelming his gossamer sensitivities. He needs to balance these moments with some muscularity – to offer some steak along with the jasmine-scented tea.

Jazz After Dark II – Various artists

This two CD set was released by the good people at Playboy, but fortunately they were tapping into the jet set 1960s era Playboy aesthetic, not the sleazy 1980s one. The first CD is instrumental, full of slow, sensual versions of standards like ‘In A Sentimental Mood’ and ‘Smoke Gets In Your Eyes’, played as the perfect soundtrack for watching a sultry, beehive-hairdo’d beauty slip off her dress in one’s swinging Manhattan bachelor pad.

The second CD contains vocal tracks, which aren’t quite as seductive, but if you play the CDs in order the next time you’re with your Significant Other, by the time Tony Bennett starts to croon ‘My Romance’ you should be well and truly busy with other activities.

Wild Volume 15 – Various artists

Stop looking at me like that. I like Wild compilations. Well, let me rephrase that; I like buying superannuated Wild compilations second-hand. They’re a little time capsule of dance music from bygone years… in this case, 2001. The later versions from the mid-2000s I saw in Dixons were a little too R&B-this and Black Eyed Peas-that, but this turn of the century stuff comes from a time when the phrase “put your hands in the air” still had some conceptual credibility.

(The Best Of) - New Order

How many versions of ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ are there now, anyway? New Order seem to release a new one roughly as often as Lindsay Lohan goes into rehab, and it’s probably the most mashed song of all time. The good thing about New Order tracks is that they always sound fresh, even without the perpetual remixing. That’s pretty impressive given that most of them are more than fifteen years old.

Lost Horizons – Lemon Jelly

This is ambient electronica with a strong acoustic element… which is not the total contradiction in terms that’s you’d think. They use oddball samples – recordings of an American astronaut’s comments during a space walk, old Panormama-style interviews, or twee nursery songs on vintage vinyl – in a way that’s very engaging. They have a tendency to be a little self-consciously whimsical, but that’s not the worst fault a musical act can have. The worst fault a musical act can have is hiring Kevin Federline.


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