It's been a mightily long time since I spun some finger-tipped wonderment in the form of a learned music-inspired tapestry. Occasionally, or as recent events would have it a lot less than hardly ever, I encounter a new artiste or group of artistes who grapple with my flabby man boobs with their eyes firmly focused on the big prize; ripping through bones, sinew, corpuscles and traces of krypton to the beating heart that guides many of my actions. For want of more inspiring phrasing, my heart has a tendency to guide me to that which is quality of the purest form. Also, I tend to share things of such nature with others in order to advance the cause of individuals with like minded taste in pure quality, hoping that somewhere along the line of existence a mystical connection is made and nurtured through time by generations of equally like minded souls. Whenever I think this way, I always think of Bill Hicks; better known and more respected now than at the peak of his career back when the remarkable man was alive. I could list at least a dozen instances of where this notion of following my heart has been the recipe to a delectable feast, at the height of which would be my irreplaceable wife aka co-pilot through the past decade of my life.
Moving on to the topic at hand, here is another series of music artistes I've come across over the course of the past eighteen months. Whether by fluke, recommendation or inspiration through celluloid, I recommend you sample some, if not all, of them.
<< DAMIEN RICE. I heard The Blower's Daughter during the closing credits to the motion picture Closer; helpless in an instant as emotions were drained from within me in a matter of a few lyrics. I was the puddle to Damien Rice's sponge pudding. To say that this Irish export is a brilliant songwriter is the equivalent of saying that he's an all-right sort of singer; it simply cannot be encased in such common terms as each of his recordings showcase his prowess in sculpting feelings into inspirational musical entities.
REGINA SPEKTOR >>. I think it was Australian radio station Triple J (the one without mind numbing advertisements to promote the place with the best deals on factory-direct Persian rugs or promoting The Sweet's unforgettable classic Ballroom Blitz every few hours) that made me aware of this Soviet-cum-New Yorker's deep-rooted talents. Like Rice, Spektor's strengths lie in her story-telling lyrics and personal involvement in the creation of music; she is a gifted pianist with a voice that could shape glass. Listening for minute traces of her Russian dialect in her songs has become a pastime I won't soon get bored of.
<< THE ARCADE FIRE. This band, the first of two Canadian bands that have rocked every fibre of my psyche, is sensational. In fact, I would label The Arcade Fire as the single most meaningful addition to my catalogue of inspirational artistes were it not for the second of the Canadian bands, about whom I'll voice my approval shortly. I first heard them care of Last.fm, a web site that I've written about elsewhere on this site (long-story-short: a web site/music station where you are able to program the artists you want to hear and then listen to them through a nifty built-in player on your PC). Their album Funeral is one of those rare creations that can be played by mere mortals such as you and me in any order without detracting from each song's individual magic. These guys do their tunes in layers, uniting the sounds of piano, violin, viola, cello, double bass, xylophone, keyboard, French horn, accordion, harp and more in their masterful and intense creations, and demanding that each be licked metaphorically from head to toe. For mine, their most numbing individual creations are Crown of Love, Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels) and Une Année Sans Lumiere. Another facet of the band's sound I appreciate beyond the norm is the combination of male-led and female-led vocals of Win Butler and Régine Chassagne respectively. Class.
STARS >>. It was only about two months ago, just before the birth of my daughter, when I first heard these guys on Last.fm. From memory, I typed a few band names into the search criteria after which their track What the Snowman Learned About Love, a five-minute and fifteen seconds journey through life, popped up and made me all tingly. Within a matter of days I had at least five of their releases on my PC and the highlights on my MP3 playa. Their music has accompanied me to and from work ever since; a daily adventure of now familiar gravitational pull that is slow to lose its adrenalin rush. I rate these guys above The Arcade Fire simply because I've heard more from them, and I think there's a different level of personal involvement in their writing; to an outsider with a tendency to assume the most from that which is implied, I get the impression there's more than a professional connection between vocalists Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan, who has the most arousing voice since Martine (Tricky). Class++
<< THE MICROPHONES. I was a huge fan of lo-fi aka low-fi back in the day aka the '90s. And while every man and his portable AM radio was screaming about something being less dangerous when the lights are on, I went about my lo-fi diet with bands you may have dreamt about only to wake up with a blank screen staring back at you. I thought the term lo-fi was floating in a vat of its own bloodied vomit until I heard The Microphones. Then it squared me up and I realised that this was far from the lo-fi I had encountered all those earth rotations ago; 'twas more heinous and vile, dare one utter it, evil... Yes, it became an instant hit in the Kaufman household and I loved to talk to myself about the obvious clash of lo-fi and pure evil such as I Want Wind to Blow vs the chronological rape and pillage of each of the senses of Drums and about a baker's dozen of others. A band such as The Microphones now probably floats somewhere between alternative and possibly even avant garde. Who the fuck cares what labels are attached? For anyone with an askew take on what has greater benefits to society, something commercially viable or something commercially suicidal, the experimental directions travelled by this artistic ensemble are enough to leave the fittest and the strongest lo-fi dieter covered in bruises.
Here ends The A-Team of artists who have had a positive impact on my life in recent times. The B-Team will be making its presence felt in the not too distant future.