Bloc Party - This Modern Love

“Baby you’ve got to be more discerning/ I’ve never known what’s good for me/ Maybe you’ve got to be more demanding.”

There are some chords which are so achingly evocative that they seem to thread their way into me, cutting a clear path past my defenses and just lingering: a shiver in my ribcage. And from the start, these take hold; plaintive and subdued, yet avoiding a blatant melancholy. Such a subtle insistence, the vocals lending calm sweetness; each soft build and low tone distant with delicious echo.

The thing is, there’s a joy to this. Resigned? Yes. Understated? Yes. But in a way that holds your heart lightly, not dragging you down. The pacing of the chords and rising drums lift delightful crescendo, evocative of the Stills. But not that same. Rhythms reminiscent of the Postal Service. Yet so different.

The hype is justified, (now how often do you get to say that?)


Rachel Stevens - Negotiate With Love

“Now you think you’re in the clear/ Well let me tell you dear/ Soon you’ll realize your mistake/ The case is closed/ I don’t negotiate with love/ You made your choice/ I won’t negotiate with love.”


Rachel doesn’t exist, not in my head anyway. I don’t want a simpering face to undermine the glacial power of this song – no coquettish replies and early morning TV banalities please, for the sake of my saturated sanity. Just give me the track, disembodied and magnificent. Don’t expect me to care about the world behind it, because the air-brushed acquiescence upon which Ms Stevens has built her career with girl-next-door sweetness is a world away from the sparsely chilled delivery here.

This is pop beyond person, proficient and polished in the modern British way for which I am joyful. You see, they discovered the mechanic brilliance of pop gems a while back, and so the line of hits rolls past – Kylie, Girls Aloud et al, emotionally void but oh so irresistible. Because someone knows what they’re doing, to the extent that this feels utterly effortless in the way they languidly hit every requirement for immediate devotion; Electronic base substance. Guitars bubbling. Tightly structured, elegantly understated. Blissful.

But remote and uncompromising, it is the vocals which add such a sheen of perfection. Evoking the superior decisiveness of a girl in the three inch stiletto boots she wears to trample on foolishly careless men, Rachel archly dismisses any feeble protest with a fixed glare. Heart of glass indeed. Yet it is when that detached demeanor falters that the moments of brilliance are attained: the ‘What is it you don’t understand?/ Respect is all that I demand’ section of strained repetition conveys just the wounded desperation needed to underpin the rest of this ice-queen persona. And when that half-beat of breathy despair slips into the main refrain, glimmers of pain resonate with an aching beauty that slices through the song.

No ‘live’ performance, please darling. You act like you don’t know the meaning of these words, all synchronized hip-thrusting and beaming prettiness. And you probably don’t, but leave me with this vision of heartlessness intact.


Stereophonics - Dakota

"Thinking back/ Thinking of you/ I think it was June/ Yeah think it was June."

See, at first I had problems with this: namely me liking a Stereophonics song. Me repeat-playing a Stereophonics song. Surely something was awry with the universe? I was in shock, I was in awe, I generally indulged in a brief period of re-questioning all the values I hold dear to me. Then, thankfully, I got over myself and realized that discriminating against a dirgesome British indie rock band purely on the basis of their dull past output was equivalent to the people who refuse to listen to ‘Since U Been Gone’ simply because it’s a Kelly Clarkson/Max Martin effort. And all they’re achieving in doing so is closing themselves off to a fabulous musical experience. Which is entirely self-defeating.

‘Fabulous’ isn’t the relevant word here, because this is something ambling and understated, and (most importantly) doesn’t sound much like Stereophonics at all. The opening? Electronic and bubbling with a light glee. The chords? Slow build and insistent undertow. They’ve toned his voice back, letting this soaring guitar refrain swoop between verses of blithely repetitious lyrics. Think the Postal Service lounging in the midday sun on a grassy verge with the Stills, musing back to some faded Polaroid romance.

Because the gentle sweetness of an intermittent chord and the way the electric guitar spirals off at the end of each phrase does more to evoke that sleepy nostalgia than any semi-hoarse musing he can achieve. There’s a regret to it, but more than that, a joy too; those notes bringing something full of promise and quiet intensity. And then, when the vastness of this lazy meander seems like it will loop forever, it reins itself back in; the vocals paring down to repetition and those sprawling melodies pulled taut in a shivering string.


MC Lars - iGeneration

”Web-logged our fears, our hopes and dreams/ Individuated by digital means/ Flat mass culture/ The norm that took hold/ I hope I die before I get sold.”

This is for those mornings you wake up with that yen for a little punk rock laptop rap. Obviously.

See, friend of mine says I have to listen to this friend of his, and with the aforementioned ‘laptop rap by a Stanford/Oxford Lit student’ label on the package, I’m dubious to say the least. But then I find this fabulous mix of white boy geek rap, electro and meta that’s so totally disarming, I think I have a new crush.

Because meta is my world, and iGeneration is a crazy, wonderful entity. Think a mad middle-class, DSL-dependant, hyper-caffeinated anthem, packed with ridiculously catchy synthetic beats and a chorus that You! Will! Not! Be! Able! To! Resist! I’m serious. This chorus consumes all in its path with sheer joyful, irritatingly simplistic repetition. And when he does his whole “Organization meant optimization and unification/When imagination gave participation/ In creation of culture a manifestation” you can’t help but giggle in awe.

And then there’s ‘Signing Emo’, of which I sadly have no mp3, but who needs the file when the fantastic video is *right here*? See, this guys decides that not only is he going to do his geek rap thing about an A&R man signing all the emo he can muster, but samples the emo-est chorus ever from a band called ‘Hearts That Hate’ to prove his point. All soaring anguish and tuneful alienation, I mean, what could be more emo than “Cry tonight/ My heart is in your hands/ I won’t let you die tonight”? It’s emo by numbers, it’s pre-packaged chart-topping emo that could have been written by somebody satirizing emo by aping the genre’s basic structures and…

You see? You see!
Because ‘Hearts That Hate’ are 'Lars' own creation too! And what’s more, said emo-by-numbers are getting touring requests, adoring fan-mail from choppy-haired indie girls and opening live for him.

Love to Lars here.


Guster - Come Downstairs and Say Hello

“I look straight at what’s coming ahead/ Soon it’s going to change in a new direction/ One more time, as I fall asleep/ These words repeating in my head.”


Because this is a slow start, an ambling lullaby that drifts along in a haze of gentle guitar chords sparingly struck. Slow. Whisper it with lethargy and sweet recognition, resolutions half-formed. Those daydreams in your mind, shifting into shape as sunlight falls in ribbons across your face on the pillow in mid-morning.

It’s the most perfect bridge, you see. The chorus words languidly stretching themselves with new chords rising. Uncurling from the slumber, they reach up towards some tighter form.

And then the beats, extra bass line and all that new energy the lyrics promise kick in. Layers of new sound, fulsome and free. Because there’s purpose and movement, lists made in thin purple felt-tipped pens and a diary slowly filling with things and people. Hypnotic, it repeats until almost a chant…

Tomorrow I start in a new direction.


Hope 7 - Breakthrough

“No-one can keep me out/ Of the sun/ And when the rain starts to come/ I’ll never mind it/ There was never a doubt/ Because I have the power to change my life/ One day at a time.”

There are songs that exist purely for that moment of dizzy dancing – a blur against the world, you’re spinning with sheer joy.

Because tonight you got that call. That call that said, “I adore your manuscript.” That call that says, “I would love to represent you.”

And it doesn’t matter that your head is splitting in agonizing migraine, because now it begins. Eleven months since you first dreamed quietly in bath bubbles, scribbling down those thoughts with cheap biro and fat drops of water. Three months since you finished it, all 110,000 words you pulled from thin air; setting the alarm for 6am to type until lectures and evenings in the library because although that deadline loomed, you still have two essays a week to turn in.

Three days since C got your email and called, wanting to see it. Three days. All she has are the first five chapters and a synopsis, but somehow that’s enough for her.

And you dance.

Because you want the book deal before you turn 20, and now there’s a month to go and you have the agent, and it might well just be possible.

So you dance.


Head Automatica - Beating Heart Baby/ Dance Party Plus

“Baby/ Is this love for real?/ Let me in your arms to feel/ The beating of your heart baby.”
“In and out/ I’m dancing/ In and out/ I’m dancing/ In your head/ I’m in your head.”

I’m back. And I got the good stuff.

Because there was this dude in some hardcore metal band, and obviously he was unfulfilled (because how can hardcore metal possibly be fulfilling to somebody with sparks of pop genius in his veins like these?). But one day he was sulking with those piercings and black clothes when he heard music in his mind like nothing he’d ventured to play before. He tried to push it back and focus on more metallic concerns, like pain and anger and all that jazz, but those chords kept bouncing away, damn well demanding his attention. So finally he listened. And he was changed.

“Wow,” he thought, allowing a smile to finally creep across his face. “Why am I spending all my precious time making bad music, when I could be creating fabulously melodramatic, funk-punk anthems that make people leap around in joy and put me on repeat play?”

No reason at all, I tell you.

The neon of the cover boded well: these are such deliciously bouncing affairs, I actually can’t choose between them. See, ‘Dance Party Plus’ may try to fake you out with chunky opening chords, but wait just a moment and you’ll be rewarded with the most joyfully layered chorus, all swooping insistence and hypnotic repetition. And then oh! That mind-blowing final breakdown with divine chanting and upper harmony. I swoon.

But from the first sweet vocals of ‘Beating Hearts Baby’ and the joyful rawk overlay, with all that jaunty organ effect and frenetic drumming, well, they take me there too. Here it’s all about the verse- skipping along with infectious joy and overdrawn vocals that are almost Alien Ant Farm-esque in drama and tone. But in a good way. Befuddling. And then they go do the ‘Up a key!’ final chorus repetitions! Why would I resist?

No reason at all.
This is energy, vibrant enthusiasm and skilled maneuvering.
Go worship