December 8, 2008
1. The Cloud Room – Melody, Like Snow
2. Nina Hynes – Twinkle
3. Kill Krinkle Club – Songs Of Noel
4. Bill Baird – Christmas In Jail
5. Idaho – Santa Claus Is Weird
6. Venice Is Sinking – The Grey Line
7. Normandy – Merry Christmas, Blogosphere!
8. The Very Most – This Year, Christmas Came November 4th
9. Remington Super 60 – Here Comes Christmas
10. Jape & David Kitt – I Will Cry This Christmas
11. The Specimen – Wish It Would Snow
12. Nonstop Everything – There Is No Santa, Little Boy
13. My Teenage Stride – Is It Christmastime Already?
14. Dora Flood – Coastal Winter
15. Loxsly – Santa Got The Spins
16. Track A Tiger – Once In The Wine
17. The Winks – Action Figures
There are rules to writing a Christmas song. Firstly, it’s best if you use some form of bells in the accompaniment. Sleigh bells, preferably. Jape and David Kitt, Kill Krinkle Klub and Normandy all oblige nicely. Secondly, perhaps one should reference a Christmas carol if at all possible. Loxsly’s ‘Santa Got The Spins’ resurrects a morose ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ to soundtrack a tale of Santa gone A.W.O.L. and Idaho’s equally bleak ‘Santa Claus is Weird’ ends upon the drum riff from ‘Little Drummer Boy’. Thirdly, never be ambivalent about one’s feelings towards Christmas. Happy or sad are the choices available. A lonely hipster on Christmas Eve (‘Merry Christmas, Blogosphere!) nestles under the Christmas tree beside Jape and David Kitt, who both promise that they too ‘will cry this Christmas’, while, on the other end of the spectrum, My Teenage Stride and Remington Super 60 both celebrate the season of giving, mince pies, and tangled outdoor lights.
However, sometimes songs refuse to follow the ground-rules. ‘Action Figures’ by The Winks is one of the strongest tracks on the record. Child-like vocals whisper excitedly about presents being hidden under the stairs, while a low man’s voice intones ‘I hurt myself making your gift/ Needed three stitches across my ribs’. B.S.S. strings and reverb fade into an answerphone message, melting into a kaleidoscope of sound and wonder. It’s the musical equivalent of lights for a Christmas tree that flash on, and off, and then, suddenly, keep flashing on for fifteen minutes straight. Magical.
September 24, 2008
There’s a difference between a remix, and a remix album. While a remix is essentially, a stand-alone track, a remix album bears the weight of the title ‘album’. It is more than just a collection of tracks beefed up with club beats; it’s a group of songs under the same banner. It is, for all intents and purposes, a new LP. Or is it? Jennifer Lopez made chart history in 2004 when the remix of her J.Lo album (J to tha’ L.O.) became the first remix album to debut at number one in the Billboard 200 albums. The album featured many of Murder Inc.’s heavyweights, like Ja Rule, Fat Joe and P.Diddy. One of the reasons that the album did so well is that unlike records previous, many of the tracks became totally new songs, not just extended club remixes. In 1987, Madonna released You Can Dance, a ‘concept’ remix album. In keeping with the vogue of the time, it was more of a re-edit of some of her tracks for the clubs than anything else. Tracks 1-4 and 5-7 on the album were edited together in order to resemble a DJ’s set, and the album contained one original new track. While the album didn’t fare exceptionally well commercially, it inspired other artists to release remix albums themselves. Ten years later, Michael Jackson’s 1997 record Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix became the best selling remix album of all time. Remix albums remain popular to this day. Super Extra Bonus Party recently announced their plans to remix their debut self-titled album, and Simian Mobile Disco’s Sample and Hold (a remix of Attack Decay Sustain Release) has received rave reviews. However, what are the criteria for a good remix album?
Should it pick and choose the best bits of a record, creating a new, entirely stand-alone album? Jay-Z released an a cappella version of his 2003 The Black Album, in order to make remixes and mashups easier. While only one ‘official’ remix album was made- Collision Course which mashed together Linkin Park tracks with Jay-Z’s vocals- the a cappella tracks gave a free reign to producers and aspiring remixers. The first of these unofficial remixes was producer/rapper Kev Brown’s The Brown Album (2004) which refocused Jay-Z’s club-driven vocals into a smoother, mellower direction. Hot on the heels of The Brown Album came uber-producer Dangermouse’s The Grey Album (2004). The Grey Album mixed the vocals of The Black Album with various unauthorized samples from the Beatles’ The White Album. The Grey Album melded together the best of rock and roll, with the best of rap and the best of modern production. Without heavy beats to cover it, Jay-Z’s lyrical dexterity shone through. Out of context, the Beatles’s samples sounded fresh and bang-up-to-date. Dangermouse’s disregard for musical boundaries resulted in the best album of 2004. Not only that, but it opened the door for further (unofficial) remix opportunites for Jay-Z, and others- including Weezer, Prince, and Pavement.
Should it become an alternate version of the album, by an alternate version of the group? Silent Alarm Remixed is still a Bloc Party album, but it’s an album by a different Bloc Party. Silent Alarm Remixed lives in a binary with Silent Alarm. They are polar opposites. The track for track remixes break down, then awkwardly rebuild, what made the original album so satisfying the first time around. In place of consummate professionals, lining up hooks and slick finishes, we find unsure vocals, and minuscule details illuminated. Four Tet’s remix of ‘So Here We Are’ de-layers the track, showcasing the clever structure hidden beneath Paul Epworth’s stereo-sound production. M83’s remix of ‘The Pioneers’ accentuates the glorious crescendo at the end of the track, and in doing so, its latent romanticism.
Should it, like a decent cover version, retain something of the re-mixer, while still paying tribute to the original? Grizzly Bear re-released their 2004 debut album- Horn of Plenty- a year later with an extra cd of remixes by friends, such as Ariel Pink, Simon Bookish and Final Fantasy. Grizzly Bear are known for their pedal notes, brooding lyrics and repetitive, spider-thin melody lines. The remixes not only fleshed out (and in some cases, funked up) the tracks, they sometimes brought them to an entirely different place. Drew Daniel (Soft Pink Truth) said, ‘I prefer to do remixes when I think there’s some kind of interesting tension between my way of working and the song being remixed, and I only remix music I like: so this was hand in glove.’ In fact, while every remix on the album re-arranges the original tracks significantly, the essence of the original remains- only under a different light than before. In keeping with this, Soft Pink Truth’s remix of “A Good Place” throws in bass-orientated rhythms, underwater vocals and horn samples- all the while drawing attention to the song’s “blow by blow” lyric. Simon Bookish’s version of ‘Eavesdropping’ takes the original track and morphs it into one of his own, complete with an added verse. Safety Scissors uncovers Christopher Bear’s ear for a fine pop melody in their remix of ‘La Duchesse Anne’.
(This is a link to the original, btw, I couldn’t find a remix version on Youtube)
In the case of Horn of Plenty, Grizzly Bear win out in the great remix debate. Unlike The Grey Album, all the material is used. Unlike Silent Alarm- Remixed, it’s still very recognisably an album by the same band. Horn of Plenty really is a cornucopia. The original Horn of Plenty and the remixed Horn of Plenty can sit alongside each other, both containing the same songs under a different campfire-light focus, neither one superior nor inferior, just different.
April 29, 2008
Shaznay Lewis (ex-All Saints) guests on the newest Wide Boys Track. I’m incredibly disappointed. I was expecting something like this:
and instead, she cranks out some bog-standard garage. It’s as if garage hasn’t moved on since the late-90’s, early 2000’s- in fact, since All Saints last had a song in the Top Ten. Here’s the question for today, so: Is garage even around anymore? Has it been eclipsed by grime? Or is there something that I’m missing out on?
Below is Daddy O (Wide Boys feat Shaznay Lewis). It’s commercially released on the 5th of May (I thiiiiink). Discuss.