Firstpost Playlist: Quixotic imaginations, musical accompaniment for surrealist art and ballads for unrequited love
This week, give in to breezy tracks by Alt-J and Devendra Banhart. For the bleeding hearts, yearning for lost love, there's Opeth and Dead Man's Bones.
Breezeblocks by Alt-J
Don't you sometimes just want to sit against a soft cushion, stuff those earphones in and just listen to a song which doesn't crave much attention?
I give you Alt-J's Breezeblocks. I am sure you've heard it but this song so easy to listen and has such a different sound than most songs, that it will only make your day only better.
Breezeblocks is the sort of idiosyncratic indie that we'd imagine bands we've never heard such as Swell Maps or Arab Strap would have purveyed, affirming that there are quixotic imaginations at work here. It's very John Peel – the Peel of any time, any decade, since 1978. The instrumentals are hard to compare to any other bands or artists. The bass guitar is repetitive throughout the song, providing a steady sound. It’s easy to tell how creative and confident alt-J is in their music.
It rumbles and it's the best!
To My Soul by Jerry Folk
You know what happens when you slide a slab of butter on a heated pan? It smoothly expands all over the surface area but also crackles in the process. If I had to make a parallel to this phenomenon (because why not?) it would be a song titled, To my soul by Norwegian electronic artist Jerry Folk.
Allow me to elaborate. This is the sort of song that won't let you settle with one pace. Just as you're easing into its soothing melodies, the song amps up its pace and forces you to tap your feet in unison. Basically, if you're a fan of Odesza, you'll love Jerry Folk. (also pro tip: follow him on twitter for some major crushing)
Coil by Opeth
As cheesy or clichéd as this sounds, one of the worst things in life is unrequited love. And the song which exactly describes how heart-breaking, cruel and utterly painful that experience is has to be Coil by Opeth.
The song is a pleasant surprise because far from being an aggressive and cathartic stomp complete with buzzsaw guitars that heavy metal is supposed to sound like, this is a gentle, soothing, acoustic guitar-driven ballad that rises and falls like a gentle wave.
Coil is about love, pain, regret and how difficult it is to come to terms with that pain.
Hum Hain Happy by 6 Pack Band
For a song titled, Hum Hain Happy, the introduction is surprisingly sombre. "The third gender-ignored by most, tolerated by some, misunderstood by all. In India, the hijras are a community almost in exile," Anushka Sharma's voice tells us. The mood changes quickly, though.
The song itself is a celebration, nay, a festival of exuberance, created by 6 Pack Band, described as India's first transgender band. The song defiantly refuses to slip into a tone of gloom or rage, almost as a way of making a point.
A part of the lyrics is the same as the song by Pharrell Williams, while it also features original lyrics in Hindi. While it makes references to some of the unhappy daily lived experiences of the transgender community- the police turning law breakers and politicians displaying apathy — it cocks a snook at them with panache, and asserts, "Zindagi kya ukhaadnewali?"
Taurobolium by Devendra Banhart
Devendra Banhart is an odd artist — his music and creative sensibilities are absurd yet disarming to perhaps even the most resistant listener. The musical arrangement is fairly eccentric and can be described as folk-meet-flamenco-meet-soul-meet-alternative-meet-jazz (almost). Taurobolium is part of his studio album, Mala — it is every bit odd, strange and fantastic.
Listen to more songs by Banhart, and then, look at paintings by the likes of Rene Magritte, Joan Miro and Salvador Dali.
Indian Summer by The Doors
It will not be an exaggeration to call this 46-year-old rock song the most melodious song by The Doors. It's one of those 'cancerous' songs that grow on you the more you listen to them.
Indian Summer is a piece of cogent poetry (with a little jazzy flair) written by the 'Lizard King' himself.
Backed by Ray Manzarek's genius on the keyboard chords, Robby Krieger's insanely beautiful guitar leads and John Densmore's simple drum beats, Jim Morrison's winsome voice takes you on a transcendental trip.
Lanterns by Birds of Tokyo
If you have not heard the work of Birds of Tokyo, the alternative rock band from Australia, then you should start now, and Lanterns is a good song to start with. It has all the elements f a good gateway song – smooth on the ears, smart in the mind and soft on your subconscious.
Sample the lyrics – “We never carried days on our own, But now it's up to us to know, The weight of being so much more, We will find ourselves on the road, On we march with a midnight song, We will light our way with our lanterns on”
Doesn’t the sentiment feel familiar? The song is three years old, but the melody just doesn't get old and seems fresh every time you give it a listen.
The meaningful words combined with the music makes it a perfect song for the weekend,. It makes you wanna wave 'lanterns' (or mobile phones for our generation' at a music concert, it makes you wanna sway as you travel to work, it makes you want to be calm as sit with your cuppa. Give it a try this weekend and if you like it, check out their similarly poignant alt-rock discography.
My body's a zombie by Dead Man's Bones
Ryan Gosling and his choir children band. I want to stop here (because Ryan Gosling).
But Dead Man's Bones is for anybody who likes a bit of morbidity and understands the feeling of something being creepy yet dreamy.
The song's got a very familiar feeling, something you can’t put your finger on (Ryan Gosling being one of them). The best part about the song though is how imperfect it is — neither Ryan nor his band mate Zach Shields knew how to play any of the instruments used in the song, but they tried to record with as few takes as possible and so it was — mistakes and all! And that's what dead man's bones is all about - wilful clumsiness.
This song is everything that scares us (Zombies and obsessive love) wrapped beautifully in waltzy music and over-excited kids. Basically, take all that’s macabre and sullen inside us and have fun with is — perfect for your soul after a tiring, frustrating day at work with zero energy to do life.
On a side note, Gashlycrumb Tinnies is a perfect children’s alphabet book to go with this song. So in 1963 Edward Gorey, author of the book published this sullen, dark book for children which is obviously very ironic given that the book read something like this:
“I is for IDA who drowned in a lake”
“R is for Rhoda consumed by fire”
“V is for Victor squashed under a train”
But they are stunningly dark illustrations.
See them here!
P.S. Is there anything that Ryan Gosling can't do?
Raga Desh by Ustad Abdul Rashid Khan
This composition is not new. Neither is the performance. It isn't the finest rendition of Raga Desh you will hear. The man who sang it no longer breathes — he died on Thursday. The aural characteristics of the recording are ghastly. And yet what remains is that which you'd expect should not persist: the rip-tide voice of a singer who is over a century old, who gathers and scatters the five notes that constitute this raga with the practised nonchalance of an angler. But these are merely the assertions of an audiophile. There are more compelling, sentimental forces that draw a listener to this rendering. They have to do with the purpose the composition serves: as adornment to a nation's song, one that is not confined by notions of nationalism. Such reasons are far more urgent.
Kings Never Die by Eminem feat. Gwen Stefani
With all the Kanye West shenanigans going on this past week - with regards to the release of his latest album - which even prompted Edward Snowden to tweet "please clap", you surely need to listen to an artist who has redefined rap over the last two decades and always keeps raising the bar. And lets his music do the talking, rather than asking internet companies to fund his startup.
Yes, I am talking about Eminem aka Slimshady aka Marshall Bruce Mathers III. Last year's Jake Gyllenhal-starrer boxing movie 'Southpaw' had in its OST a track by Eminem featuring Gwen Stefani (of No Doubt fame). 'Kings Never Die' is yet another proof of the 'Rap God' status of Eminem. The rhyming patterns in this song, set to a strong guitar chords, talk about how everyone is baying for the blood of a once successful artist and how that artist will continue live on. Thematically speaking it is a throwback to 'Sing for the moment', 'When I'm gone' where Eminem talks about art outliving the artist. It's just wonderful in how he can interpret this theme in multiple ways.
The music video which shows animated lyrics, has a lot of easter eggs in the lyrics - some really smart word play - depending on how you want to consume it. Watch it.
"So before you're leavin' this Earth
You want people to feel the fury of a pure evil cerebral, berserk
Deacon of words, syllable genius at work"
Eminem truly is a syllable genius at work!
Updated Date: Feb 20, 2016 16:29:17 IST