My Musical Cupcakes

musical cupcakes

So today was probably one my worst work days ever – and I’ve been there on a Monday hungover and sleptunder and have also survived the inner turmoil of having to spend the day with spilt soup in my bag wondering how I was going to carry it home when I left (it turned out ok because the bag was sturdy but had gross dry soup covered things inside). Yes, today, as some sort of self-April Fool prank, I forgot my earphones at home. This meant that I had to face a musicless day and endless empty spaces where sound would usually be as both a means of escape and a concentration tool.

Within these zone outs (and sometimes genuinely jarring moments where I realised a lot of my work habits revolve around music) I would fantasize about the songs and albums that I look forward to hearing every day.  I don’t have the kind of internet at home to stream music (Internet Access is a whole n’other post) and at work I get to have days soundtracked by my current favourites with the added bonus of the unabashed use of the repeat button. I decided to call them Musical Cupcakes, because cupcakes are the little happy makers that are like rainbows on a cloudy day and in my mind today was pretty overcast.

MUSICAL CUPCAKES

Sisyphus ‘Rhythm of Devotion’

This is from my current favourite albums by unlikely, genre-question marking trio Sisyphus, which is made up of story-rhyme rapper Serengeti, dreamy indie archetype Sufjan Stevens and alt hip hop producer Son Lux. Sisyphus the album is as mashed-up as that line-up sounds and it’s got the bizarre, the interesting, smatterings of Broken Bells and straight-up good lyrics (like the storyline of two outlaws in ‘Lion’s Share’ and the line “taller than Seth Green” in ‘Flying Ace’). ‘Rhythm of Devotion’ is definitely a standout track mainly because it’s a cool jam with throwback vibes and a pretty sweet sentiment.

James Vincent McMorrow ‘Gold’ 

It was actually difficult to choose which song from James Vincent McMorrow’s early 2014 release Post Tropical to single out because every day I fall in love with a new one and I cannot stop listening to this album. It’s an airy soundscape of a colourful galaxy with beautiful simple details – the light plings of a thin-string guitar in the addictive ‘Cavalier’, the frolicking handclaps in ‘Post Tropical’ or the giant bold bursts of brass in ‘Gold’. I’ve listened to this constantly since it’s come out and when in doubt, I always come here.

Damon Albarn ‘Lonely Press Play’
Sometimes I love the internet because I can accidently stumble on something that can turn an average day into a high-fiver. A few days ago I was on the YouTube homepage looking for something else and saw Blur/Gorillaz-guy Damon Albarn under ‘You Might Like This’. You’re right YouTube. I might like that. ‘Lonely Press Play’ is off Albarn’s soon-to-be released solo album Everyday Robots and it’s a melancholic (something which a lot of his music is, actually) melody with groovy clickety clacks and camera shutter noises to make it a happy listen too. He’s now made it to my official Can Do No Wrong artist list and I can’t wait to hear the whole thing.

 

 

Dear Strangers, Stop Asking This Question

I heart music

This happens to me a lot: I meet new people and they ask me what I do/want do to (I’m at the slash in between) and I tell them that I really love music/want to be a music journalist and they go “oh, what kind of music do you like?” And I’m all, “um well, I like everything? But, uh, indie I guess?” And I feel like it sounds as if I don’t actually have a clue or I’m insincere and I’m saying indie because I’m trying not to sound “mainstream” and be cool. In short, it’s kind of a hellish experience for my awkward paranoid self.

I obviously think of the right thing to say long after the moment has passed, but now that I have the time and am a safe distance from face-to-face human interaction, I think I can express what exactly makes that question problematic for me. I do like everything – some of the album artists I’ve listened to this past week include Mr Little Jeans, James Vincent McMorrow, Courtney Barnett, Kate Nash, Fat Tony, J Dilla, Chromeo, The Beatles and Bonobo; yesterday I had myself a Brit-pop appreciation hour (with Blur, Pulp, Suede and this one song by a band called Space that reminded me of the MTV sing along show “Say What” #whenMTVusedtoplaymusic) and I’d say that two of my all-time favourite songs of all-time are Gladys Knight and the Pips’ “Midnight Train To Georgia” and Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” (even though I don’t agree with the heteronormative marriage ideals pushed in the Romeo & Juliet song it’s just so great to sing).

I can also honestly say that there’s definitely music that just “isn’t me” and I know I’ll probably never go there. Today I read an album review to see if I should give it a listen and I a) learnt the term sludge rock and b) respectfully decided to play something else. And besides, even with terms as niche as sludge rock, there is also a mega-ton of songs that plain, old defy genre categorisation.

But more than that though, the point for me is that I love everything about music. I love that it has actual physical effects on the human body and we don’t quite know why people need music but know that we definitely do. I love the culture from it – the art, the styles, the identities of listeners – and all the human stories that exist around that. I love the important social conversations it can spark. I love its peopleness and connectivity. I fucking love dancing. And that’s why I can’t answer to what kind of music I like because it’s not about just the music. It’s the whole thing. So I guess that right there is the short answer, though I’m not quite sure whether it actually answers the question or not. Anyhow, I think it’s a dumb question to ask in the first place.

P.S. This is my favourite song for today:

Cover of the Day: Tame Impala ‘Stranger in Moscow’

Here’s the original:

I’m currently reading (and loving) Questlove’s memoir Mo’ Meta Blues and the other day I got to the part where the Roots drummer deals with Michael Jackson’s death and asked the reader where they were when they heard the news. I remember going to bed the night before hearing on the radio that Jackson had gone to hospital and woke up to the news that this was the day the music died. It was also the day of a final journalism exam and I remember someone else saying that we surely couldn’t be expected to write with something like this hanging over our heads.

Anyway, I don’t consider myself as big an MJ fan as much as the real fanatics, but I definitely often feel sad even thinking about him (because every generation from the 70s to the 00s has their Michael Jackson album – I have fond memories of listening to Dangerous on the living room floor on weekend mornings with my brother while paging through the album sleeve and also of watching the video we had for ‘Bad’ over and over again) and today, felt especially moved by Tame Impala’s cover of ‘Stranger in Moscow’. I was like yes! the second I saw the headline announcing their version of this 1996 track on Pitchfork because SiM is one of MJ’s more underrated hits and its got this haunting sadness about it that I knew would translate pretty perfectly with Tame Impala’s dreamy drugged up aesthetic.

All I can say is that the Aussies do the song justice – not taking away the essence of this song written by a man who felt isolated by a world that paid him too much attention – and they also make it sound like something they could have produced themselves, with the trippy guitar effects and woozy waves of whooshing noises and distant, echo-y voice. In short, it made me day and, to quote the band from their Facebook page, “MJ 4 eva”.

Here’s Tame Impala:

Band of the Day: Cults

i heart cults

It’s kind of fitting that Cults’ bandcamp top cover page is of worshippers crumbling in front of some alter because since I’ve been listening to their two albums – the 2011 eponymous debut and the fresh release Static, which I’ve been streaming on the God-send that is NPR First Listen – I’ve been ready to drink whatever punch their serving up.

Static is the kind of record that you end up listening to several times a day just because when it ends you don’t know what else you could possibly listen to that will make you feel the same, so you just press play. In real life, it’s also just a pretty short album clocking in at a brief 35 minutes, but I feel like it may be so because it’s just so well put together that there wasn’t a spare second for a single unnecessary dreamy guitar or floaty vocal or drum thump.

Each of the tracks is catchy in a totally not-bad way because it seems like the New York duo, Brian Oblivion and Madelin Follin, have their formula down. They produce music that’s easy listening and interesting sounding, that is fun (I can’t wait to be able to sing it out loud at places where I won’t get fired and/or thrown out for doing so) and deep grey, it’s a balanced feminine and masculine.

‘High Road’, is one of my über highlights of this album (another one is the 60’s-old-school-girl-group-ish ‘Always Forever’) with it’s The xx-esque coolness and sepia summer toned lightness. In short, Cults has replaced that place in my heart reserved for the love for (and secret dream to be part of) girl-fronted bands a lá No Doubt and Garbage. I now picture myself being part of a he-she duo that gets the best dancing and singing out of all undercover front-chicks and their dudes. We already kind of have a name – it’s Dirty Tee and The Boy.

Anyway. Ladies and gentlemen, your Band of the Day – Cults.

Video of the Day: Unknown Mortal Orchestra ‘So Good At Being In Trouble’

I don’t know, maybe it’s “Release Videos In My Favourite Places” Week because today Unknown Mortal Orchestra unleashed their video for “So Good At Being In Trouble”, parts of which was shot at the Venice beach promenade (and even features a muscle man I once rode the bus with from downtown) — which also brings me back to the point that there obviously needs to be a channel for videos like this one and Solange’s.

In case you haven’t been there yet, NPR does this wonderful thing where they stream full albums before their release dates and that’s where I first listened to Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s second album II and immediately  knew that “So Good At Being In Trouble” was the one.  It’s got this sweet familiar guitar riff taking you from section to section and an oh-so-smooth beat and groove that reflects sunshine and sunglasses. It’s a real get down kind of tune that gets me in the mood for chilled summer days, but that could also just be me, wishing I was frolicking with the weirdos in Venice. Either way, I really kind of dig this song (and this album)(and this band).

Playlist: Nineties Nostalgia

I had THE BEST time jamming to “Smells Like the 90s” on VH1 this morning because it reminds of when the M in MTv stood for music and I could sit for hours watching music videos. And shout out to VH1 for keeping the video hits in their name and making their slogan “Absolutely none of today’s hottest music” which is refreshing and a shame at the same time because some of the great music of our day isn’t getting the attention it deserves. Maybe this shows that there could be a market for a new MTv-like channel to pick up on the kind of youthful freedom and musical expression that the channel started and also use the internet as a tool instead of an enemy.

Anyway this playlist is a highlights package of the 90s groove session I had — from the early years of the decade influenced by the late 80s, to my embarrassing memories of a Spice Girls obsession (don’t worry I still remember the moves from the video) and songs that still hold up like ‘’Creep”.

I want to say something like grab those peddle pushers and bodysuits to enjoy the playlist, but sadly for the 90s, her fashion was nowhere near as cool as her music. So just listen and enjoy the nostalgia and keep those platform sneakers in the closet.

Nineties Nostalgia 

Oasis — Wonderwall

 Deep Blue Something — Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Eternal — The Only One

Bryan Adams & Mel C — When you’re gone

Smashmouth — All Star

Phats & Small — Turn Around

Texas — Say What You Want

Snap — The Power

Spice Girls – Stop

Radiohead – Creep 

Video of the Day: Solange ‘Losing You’

IloveSolange

I know that everyone is talking about the return of Beyonce at the SuperBowl and now the world tour she’s just announced, but after watching the video for “Losing You”, I am IN LOVE with the younger (and more my type of gal) Knowles. It’s not just that the song kind of rocks or that her latest EP, True, had already planted the seed of my girl-crush when it first came out in November last year.

“Losing You” has this old school kind of beat and charm with sepia toned nostalgia and cool-kids pop which is the mood that is captured in the video.  And the video is where I fell because it was shot in Cape Town!  More than that, Solange looks like the kind of girl you want to hang out with just by the way she gets down in the township with the locals and takes a swig out of one of those dark brown beer bottles. I laughed out loud and felt pangs of jealousy (that I wasn’t part of the jam) and basically just jizzed through the video; loving the song, loving the way she captured how FUN South Africans are and absolutely loving her moves (and ‘fro).

Dear Solange, I love you.