Marvelous Middle Eights – Discuss

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Better late than not at all….

 

A spooky thing happened to me last week on my way home from work and when cooking dinner a bit later.  I had a random playlist on in the car (always far too loud so as to distract me from the annoying traffic), for once I was really listening to the music rather than allowing the issues of the day to invade my subconscious and begin to worry me.  A song called Shining Light by Ash came on.  It’s a sweet tune from 2001 with some lovely lyrics you could send to someone in the hope they’d pick up your meaning…it’s not as rocky as Girl from Mars, but still passable commute listening.  As the song progressed, it suddenly changed tempo and key “Ah that’s a lovely little middle eight right there” I thought to myself – I never think of these things generally, so it was a weird thought to have.  End of little anecdote number 1.

Here’s the track as a reminder:

Later I was cooking dinner with a new releases round table discussion on the radio in the background.  They played the new St Vincent release called Los Ageless. (which is a great track btw).  The panel members loved it, but one of the guests (Jimbob from Carter USM) mentioned how brilliant the middle eight was in her track.  How bloody weird!  I’ve never really thought about middle eights and there it was; twice in the space of a couple of hours.

I agree with Jimbob; a good middle eight keeps you interested and moves the track on.   There are loads of great Motown tracks I can think of with very good middle eights – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough as a starter.  The Beatles and The Beach Boys were pretty good at middle eights too.  I love the middle eights in Stevie Nicks’ Edge Of Seventeen and in Justin Timberlake’s Rock Your Body.  Both tracks ramp back up after their middle eight lulls, propelling the tune to its end.

Since last week I have tuned into so many middle eights in the songs I’ve listened to; I notice them even when I’m not really paying attention.  There was a middle eight RR topic back in 2009 and the songs that made the list are all good examples (although I can’t claim to like all the songs – Kaiser Chiefs???).  So, yet again ‘Spillers I come to you to discuss this issue. What do you know about all of this? What are your favourite middle eights?  Or maybe you think they are a waste of time and an attempt by the artist to self indulgently show off?  Discuss.

‘Spillin’ The Beans – “To The Bone” by Steven Wilson

 

This week, I am taking a slightly different approach to ‘Spillin’ The Beans because I am going to discuss an album released by a major artist back in August. That album is Steven Wilson‘s fifth solo release, “To The Bone“. It isn’t really a review, more of a personal reflection upon the music and how it has been received.

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Now, first, a confession. Continue reading

Does an album sound better if there’s a tragic story behind it? – Discuss

A few weeks back I stumbled on a track called “Nothing More to Say” by a band called The Frightnrs. One of my favourite DJs added it to his essential listening list and it immediately caught my attention. If you regularly read these rambling Discuss pieces, you’ve probably already predicted what I did next; dear reader, having never heard of them, I looked them up.

The story of The Frightnrs is a sad one. I read this NPR article with their album on in the background. As I read, the music touched me more. It is undoubtedly an accomplished piece of work; lyrically, musically and vocally. It’s reminiscent of classic, smooth 70s reggae – straight out of New York. Even the album artwork has the style of that era. I listened to the album a few times and although it’s by no means a classic, it’s certainly lovely.

However – and here’s the “discuss” bit – I wonder whether I’d think of it as fondly had it been produced in straightforward and more happy circumstances. The story makes it a remarkable and poignant piece of work, without it, the album is good and would have held my attention for a while, but perhaps no more than that. Does this make me a bit of a hypocrite?

Yet again ‘Spillers I come to you to discuss this issue. What do you know about all of this? Are average albums made better because of a sad back story, or does the back story make the album a much better piece of work?

While you think about it, here’s my favourite song from The Frightnrs album.

Till Then.

‘Spillin’ The Beans – “Trust” by Hanne Hukkelberg

After a week’s sabbatical, Spillin’ The Beans is back and in fine listening fettle. I am looking at a forthcoming album by Norwegian experimental musician Hanne Hukkelberg called “Trust” which is due for release on the 20th October. As this is not yet available, I cannot post any links to the music, apart from one track, IRL which is on YouTube, but The ‘Spill does have a review-only preview.

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The press release says that “the new album explores the duality of human life in the digital age – largely inspired by writers, scientists and philosophers including George Orwell, Zygmunt Bauman, Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Yuval Noah Harari and Simon Sinek, alongside the more pop-cultured forecasts of sci-fi series Westworld and Black Mirror.”, which is all well and good, but for me the question is always “What does it actually sound like?”. This is Ms Hukkelberg’s first album in five years, so she has clearly had a lot of time to ponder these bigs questions. let’s see how she treats them in musical terms.

On a first listening, the first point of reference is R ‘n’ B-influenced electronica, which I have to admit isn’t my first choice as Go To listening. However, the music is a lot more than that. It has a quirky, insistent quality that takes it away from the mundane. I suppose it (sort of) occupies a similar space as the likes of Lorde, Little Boots, FKA Twigs and others working with dance and electronica. In the past, Hukkelberg has sounded pretty different to this, experimental in different ways. I think that this music is most interesting when it moves away from the more “poppy” sound and goes to less definable places, which is what happens as the album progresses. I think that from the sixth track, Raindrops, onwards, the music becomes very interesting and unpredictable. I especially like the following track, Silverhaired, which introduces a male voice to good effect. Having said that, none of the music is dull or predictable.

On subsequent hearings, I found more things to listen to that were adding interesting and sometimes unsettling textures to the music, like the sound of howling wolves or dogs in IRL. In fact, the more you listen, the less like electronic pop the music becomes. You end up concentrating on the weird, which is not to suggest that the music is dominated by weirdness, because it isn’t. It is more the case that your ears stop holding on to the familiar and start finding what is the essentially eccentric and imaginative core of the songs. There are themes of alienation here, but also, I think of spurned love and a fear and distrust of the way that technology swamps us and divides us from human contact. She sings “I don’t wanna be perfect, I wanna be me” in The Whip, which in many ways is a curse of the digital age, where perfection is served up everywhere and us mortals are made to feel inferior. The monetisation of the internet and the howling mobs of armchair warriors on social media are deeply alienating aspects of modern life and I think that this is a major concern for Hanne. It is certainly what I am taking away from this music.

Musically, I suppose that some people might try and make Björk comparisons, but they would be wide of the mark, because she doesn’t really sound like her at all.

Anyway, if you are intrigued by the album, or are a fan from her previous four releases, it is available for pre-order here. Hanne is also available on Facebook, Soundcloud and Spotify.

‘Spillin’ The Beans – A Tighter Knot by Squarewave

‘Spillin’ The Beans is a bit late this week, due to circumstances beyond my control, OK, I had a cold and didn’t fancy listening to stuff over and over, but today the Beans are recharged and back on track. This week’s album is by Squarewave, a band formed by Jeff Jagielo and Pat Connaughty and their album, “A Tighter Knot”,  has emerged from the forests of Winsconsin after a long gestational period of seven, yes seven years and is now available from Artisanal Records, where you can also stream the album. The band also has a page on Facebook, too. Continue reading

‘Spillin’ The Beans – El Ten Eleven x Emile Mosseri “Unusable Love: A Vocal Collaboration”

This weeks; beans are being ‘spilled on the forthcoming EP by El Ten Eleven (featuring Emile Mosseri), entitled “Unusable Love” and described as “A vocal collaboration”.

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Here at the ‘Spill we’ve had a private preview of the music, which is due for release on 18th August and Continue reading