Shrine to Domestic Heroes, 2017
Favourite music of 2017
Shrine to Domestic Heroes is a playlist with my personal musical revelations of 2017. Not the best music last year, but the music I personally have cherished the most this past year and has staid put in my subconscious, be that new or old.
Here's the Spotify playlist.
Below, my comments:
"A New Morning Will Come", Polar Bear
I first found out about this band after discovering the drummer was my neighbour back when I lived in East London. Seb Rochford is not hard to miss, what with his outlandih alien haircut. Same goes for his band's brilliant music, Polar Bear. They sound like no other band. Their starting point is jazz, but the end result is so original and forward-looking that I wouldn't dare pin them down under any genre. Lovely, dreamy, fresh tune.
"Quatour pour le fin du Temps: Louange à l'eternité de Jesus", Olivier Messiaen
This is probably my favourite piece of music of all time. Leaves me breathless every time I hear it. First performed in a Nazi prisoner-of-war-camp in occupied France, it really feels like time stops. I never get bored of hearing it.
"The Creed", Choir of Russian Church of the Metropolitan of Paris
I think my choosing this track has as much to do with the song itself (what an understated, beautiful arrangement!) as with the recording itself. It's like peering into a time where things were more simple, not so rushed. You could take it all in...
"Preciso Dizer que te amo", Cazuza & Bebel Gilbe
From cold Russia to a more tropical Brazil. What I love about this recording is the fact that it's live. I can imagine the musicians singing in a room after a heavy feijoada, just enjoying their own playing and company. I personally find Brazilian music to be sometimes sickly-sweet, but not this time. This song as the perfect mix of bittersweet, Portuguese-influenced saudade and tropical, salty, warmth.
"As Long as We're Together", The Lemon Twigs
Two very talented brothers revisit 60s camber pop with the most uplifting, catchiest chorus in the whole wide world. Simple, smart arragnements recorded on tape with wars and all, and great lyrics. Don't miss their hilarious videoclip.
"Zayne Jumma", Group Douehtido
This is the best andidote against the tediums of being stuck in traffic. I have blasted this in my car many a time, to the amusement of fellow drivers. Just begging to be dance to.
"Instrumental Mejwiz", Obeid Al Jum'aa
Same as before, only adding in a bit of Syrian desert drones. Probably the best use of a bass drum pattern I've ever heard. Keeps you always on your feet while picking you up in the air. My favourite track this year.
"Liar", Three Dog Night
The first thing that grabs my attentino is how the main vocal is recorded. Far back in the mix; enough for the cutthroat vocal delivery to be highlighted by the room it's been recorded in. This of course leaves space later for the cymbal-assisted "Liar!" chorus to grab you by the neck seconds later. This is creative mixing serving a song. Unforgettable tune thanks to it.
"Yo te lo digo cantando", El Luis
I present to you El Luis and his mesmerising rumba flamenco. The vocal is to die for and the brooding string arrangement gives the track that power, as well as highlighting the clear Arab influence in Spanish flamenco. It also happens to thicken my blood... Not surprised to learn that El Luis later wrote music for the flamenco-pop duo Las Greacas (worth listening to "Te estoy amando locamente") and Los Chichos.
"Fides Tua", Tigran Hamasayan
Not many songs make me cry, but seeing Tigran play this marvellous piece live in front of the camera makes my heart weep with longing (as well as jealousy). The mix of Armenina folk scales with powerful jazz-induced crunch works beautifully. And let's not forget the sparkling action on the keys. I'm not the only one to think so: Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and Brad Meldhau are fans. That looks great on a CV...
"Pictures on a Screen", Kate Tempestg
I shared the stage with Kate Tempest at a gig back in 2010 and was very taken aback by her talent and her band. I talked to her after the show and thought "this woman is going to be a star". Time proved me right and have cheered her along ever since. This song is best perceived live. It's probably the most interesting live performance of electronic music I've ever seen. It's very hard to see soulful playing of electronic instruments, but this is clearly an exception. Music of the future. Great storytelling.
"He Made a Woman out of Me", Bobbie Gentry
Oh man, I don't know where to start with this track. I love EVERYTHING about it. The rhythm section is flawless, the choir's vocal note-bending stabs are where they should be, the violin is redefined as a funk-worthy instrument (impossible to keep a straight face in 0:40-0:43), the brass arrangement adds to the minimal, gruyere-like arrangements typical of good funk. Bobbie gentry's delivery is world-class, and what on earth is that atonal arrangement on the left channel in 1:42-1:46? Did I mention the recording is only 2:37 long?
"WTF", Missy Elliott
I just love everything Miss Elliott does. I've been dancing to this track regularly this year, if only to momentarily forget about my newfound fatherly duties once in a while. Makes me want to be 21 all over again.
"To Move On", Alex Izenberg
How is this not a hit? The mellow bittersweet opening is misleading. It takes you by the hand to somewhere blue, only to open the curtains and let the sunshine in with a highly effective sudden change in mood. Brightens up my day this tune does. Great way to start anything.
"Kinderszenen Op. 15 No. 7 Träumerei", Robert Schumann. Performed by Ingrid Haebler
This clockwork piece takes me away to a time when distractions were nowhere to be seen. When you could sit in an armchair with a good book and forget about the world for hours. A luddite's fantasy, maybe, but what a soundtrack...
"Maximum Capacity", The All Seeing Hand
A mysterious band from New Zealand whose members perform regularly together under the same elastic bedsheet and whose lineup includes a drummer, a throat-singer and an 8-bit sampler enthusiast. Long live NZ and its end-of-the-world weirdness.
"Tarantula Deadly Cargo", Sleaford Mods
Sleaford Mods is my favourite band. Ever. If a number one fan ever existed, that's me at one of their gigs, jumping off the stage. I find it hard to believe someone could pull off a concept such as theirs. I also understand why nobody came up with it before. If you've seen them live, you'll understand what I mean: Two dudes. One of them presses play on his laptop, hardly moves at all, while he sips at a beer forever in his hands. This goes on unchanged all throughout their set. The other guy spits obscenities and lethal spoken word non-stop into a mic that's probably seen better days. Like a cockney Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. A dangerous band, if there ever was one.
"Lonely Blue", King Krule
Another Brit. King Krule looks like he's just reached puberty, but that voice... Sounds like a weathered blues man on his last days alive. I just love how the track jumps straight into it. No intro. No time to waist. I love that mysterious synth appearing from time to time in between the vocals and the guitar. The vibe is just marveloous. Blue indeed.
Co-produced by Portishead's Adrian Utley, this track hits you like a brick. It's a unique thing to hear: gospel-inspired, bluesy, noise-rave, something I doubt anyone has heard before. Makes me jump from my seat.
"Water", Jonny Greenwood. Performed by the Australian Chamber Orchestra
I think Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood's work for orchestra is an outstanding example of contermporary orchestra writing gone right. This is captivating modern music with a future. In this case, Greenwood follows the lead of his hero Messiaen (second entry on this list) and showcases what you can do with great string arrangements and the octatonic scale (look it up, it's fascinating).
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