Sixty for 60: 25. Lorde

I knew I wouldn’t continue with this series. Enough nominations, enough great music – but time moves on, and the motivation I once drew upon writing about music has been dispersed into singing about music. I am not able however to resist the lure and pull and sheer joy of hearing the new summer-worshipping single from Lorde “I want to be Leonard Cohen. I want to be Joni. Fucking. Mitchell.”

The point that Laura Snapes makes in her Guardian article today is well-founded:

With Solar Power, Lorde both welcomes you into her world and revels in that distance. Produced – as was 2017’s Melodrama – by Jack Antonoff, it might be her most universal song, hippy in sound and spirit, and a world away from its nocturnal predecessors. Its loose percussive gait and acoustic simplicity evoke George Michael (both Faith and Freedom 90), Screamadelica-era Primal Scream and the Stones (Sympathy for the Devil), stirring a summer-of-love mood replete with appropriately cultish intimations (“I’m kind of like a prettier Jesus,” she sings, with knowing silliness).

The point that Laura Snapes makes in her Guardian article today is well-founded but overlooks one fundamental truth. Yeah sure, the comparisons are well-made; and yeah, those moments do evoke summer-of-love moods, almost despite the associations – but ‘Solar Power’ easily transcends all three moments listed above – and for why? Because this is 2021, and this is the summer of 2021.

And for millions upon millions this is the morning of their lives.

So good, it sounds timeless and unique already.

I hate the winter
Can’t stand the cold
I tend to cancel all the plans

Sixty for 60: 24. beabadoobee

To celebrate my 60th birthday, I asked my social media friends to nominate a favourite song from 2021 – 60 to commemorate the fact I am 60. Today I have decided to indulge myself and choose a new song from beabadoobee – Last Day On Earth.

I’ve had occasion to write about beabadoobee before, doubtless noticing her wonderfully seductive vampiric qualities, her ability to plunder some of the finer, slightly more obscure aspects of what once was called ‘indie’ music in the late 80s/early 90s. Last time around, I was more than surprised to hear myself listening to what sounded like Felt on the Radio One Breakfast Show; this time around I am more than happy to be reminded of The Sundays (specifically ‘Here’s Where The Story Ends’) whenever Greg James decided to cast a glance in the direction of beabadoobee – albeit with a little of The Stone Roses’ delectable rhythm section (specifically ‘Waterfall’) thrown in. Maybe it’s the Matt Healy connection? I am rather fond of yr Matt Healy. Maybe it’s the context (much as I enjoy Greg James’ slightly forced banter and love of cricket vaguely charming, I can’t say I am a fan of the lukewarm grey lacklustre singer-songwriter uncle rock his programmers like to populate his programme with). Context is everything.

I listen to beabadoobee now, shorn of the context of bleary Monday mornings and sullen children arguing, and once again think that perhaps she’s a little too cutsie, a little too slick, a little too Urban Outfitters for my taste. A little too landfill indie. Perhaps I am simply way too old.

And then I go back and check the lyrics and I am like, yeah. Whatever.

I want to get fucked up at home
Be naked alone
And turn up my phone
Because this song I wrote
Is just so fucking sick

Frankly, I prefer “People I know/Places I go/Make me feel tongue tied” but maybe subtlety is no longer allowed in the TikTok generation. Either way I know I am gonna love this the next time I tune into Radio One with the kids.

Sixty for 60: 23. Måneskin

To celebrate my 60th birthday, I asked my social media friends to nominate a favourite song from 2021 – 60 to commemorate the fact I am 60.

Absolute fair play to my old friend and “band” mate Sandra Durell. (Check out her former band Twelve Cubic Feet – totally wonderful.) She recommended me Måneskin – I Wanna Be Your Slave a month ago, long before their Eurovision-destroying performance with ‘Zitti E Buoni’ (Shut Up And Behave) last night. And what a glorious evening that was! The best evening’s entertainment I have had since lockdown began, serious. I mean, of course it would have been glorious if the witchy power of the Ukrainian entry had won it or the cute Gokry’s Zygotic Mynci-channelling (with a dash of Pharrell Williams) Icelandic entry but frankly, my Top 3 ran like this and FUCK YEAH! I am STOKED that the Placebo-meets-Suzi Quatro-meets-The Darkness coke-sniffing sleaze ball antics of Italy’s Måneskin crushed the popular vote and shat all over chanson and cute boy pop/shoulder pad convention, favoured by the juries.

Right Said Lithuania would have been fine too, and I’m changing my mind about Germany as I type. What not submit a ukulele-toting spuriously stupid entry that sticks a literal two fingers up to the rest of Europe if you know you’re going to get next to no votes anyway? I wish the U.K. would take note.

Loved the Azerbaijan singer reimagining Ariana Grande, and a shout out to Cyprus (Lady Gaga) and Finland of course (although way too close to Linkin Park or Disturbed for my taste).

My voting list looked like this:

1. Ukraine!!!
2. Iceland!!
3. Anything but fucking Sweden

Amended to:

1. Ukraine!!!
2. Iceland!!
3. Italy

And of course I laughed my ass off at the U.K getting the famous “nul point” once again.

They make a lot less sense without visuals.

Sixty for 60: 22. Penfriend

To celebrate my 60th birthday, I asked my social media friends to nominate a favourite song from 2021 – 60 to commemorate the fact I am 60. This isn’t one of them, though. This is some downbeat, beautifully introspective bedroom electronica – think Pet Shop Boys, think oh I don’t know Sarah Blasko or the great La Roux with some early 1980s Atari computer noises and recalcitrant drum machines thrown in – a kickback against this impersonalised Zoom World we now find ourselves in, with no seeming way out.

Recommended to me by Dan Thompson on Facebook, who writes “This might appeal. The new album by Penfriend is about 500 sales away from the Top 40. Do it for DIY culture. Please RT too!”

DIY culture. Yeah, I mean I’m into that and everything, and anti-the corporatisation of everything, most especially dance crazes (like dance isn’t the most vital, important, individual human activity ever), but does it have a good title? Yeah, it has a great title. ‘Exotic Monsters’. Love the title. Makes me want to listen to David Bowie or something. Makes me want to dance to the beats of Laura Kidd. Slowly.

As the artist puts it:

Sparked by a throwaway phrase from Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”, “Exotic Monsters” is a laundry list of asynchronous human needs and desires; a reflection of our increasingly confused, disconnected and polarised lives. A timely reminder of the practice of cultivating gratitude through meditation, the song is an attempt to examine our internalised inconsistencies; the “facts” we pile up on our own backs throughout lives bombarded by airbrushed images and ads for the unattainable baubles we’re informed are essential for true happiness.

Yep. All of that. Synth wave. Go on. Treat yourself. Buy a copy of Laura’s album. God knows you deserve it. It comes on green vinyl with a small yellow vinyl supplement and some ace drawings.

Fun fact: “Exotic Monsters” features several Creative Commons drum samples created by the European Space Agency, recorded at their European Space Research and Technology Centre in the Netherlands. Using sounds from space on a song about feeling disconnected from life on earth just felt wildly appropriate.

Love it.

Sixty for 60: 21. Loud Women

To celebrate my 60th birthday, I asked my social media friends to nominate a favourite song from 2021 – 60 to commemorate the fact I am 60. This isn’t one of them, though – this is way more important and vital than that. God, it makes me so happy to witness this. So proud, so passionate, so strong. So beautiful. The sound of myriad voices coming together to protest something that should never have needed protesting in the first place. If ever anyone says to you they don’t understand the need for – and the power of – feminism… play them this. I have no idea why this isn’t already front page news across all the varying cultural media outlets right now. A sweet fuck-you to anyone who doesn’t understand the need for urgent change RIGHT NOW.

It’s not easy as it looks, writing a protest song. I know. I’ve tried – once (reasonably) successfully, once not so successfully. This song is just incredible. An anthem for the non-binary and new feminist generation, put together by London collective Loud Women, ‘Reclaim These Streets’. Feminist Aid.

From the age of 13
I’ve known the fear of dark streets
I’ve known my body’s danger
Can he hear my heart beat?
Every woman’s got a story
Breaks silence with a whisper
Daring to tell her truth
Calling to her sisters

Text me you when get home
Keys between your fingers
Staying close to streetlights
Fear of shadows lingers

Till every woman’s safe from harm in her own home
Till every woman’s safe to live her truth
Till every woman’s safe to walk on every street
Ooo-aah
Reclaim these streets! (Reclaim these streets)
Reclaim these streets! (Reclaim these streets)
Reclaim these streets! (Reclaim these streets)
Ooo-aah

Buy a copy here. All proceeds to Women’s Aid.

Brix Smith: You know, I’d been told that Reclaim These Streets was in some ways a bit similar to Band Aid’s ‘Do You Know It’s Christmas’? When I heard that, I thought, let me call my friend Siobhan [Fahey] from Bananarama and Shakespears Sister. Back in the day, she was one of only four women on that Band Aid single out of everybody in the 1980s. They had only four women. Three of them were Bananas and one was Jody Watley. And I said, wouldn’t it be a wonderful circle to have Siobhan sing on this as well? Siobhan said, absolutely I’ll do it! So we went to her house and recorded there. She’s the last vocal with the last words “texts me when you get home”—the most haunting, throaty, emotional vocal. (Louder Than War)

Sixty for 60: 20. Camille

To celebrate my 60th birthday, I asked my social media friends to nominate a favourite song from 2021 – 60 to…

No FUCK THAT. My blog, my rules. I have no fucking words right now. I have just rediscovered French singer Camille‘s 2008 album Money Hole and… fuck me. This song is like Robin Thicke meets Whitney Houston meets the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band… and. Fuck me. It’s really fucking irritating on a third listen. The album is so.,. Fuck it. Just for once, I am going to leave it to one of the professionals (the people paid to write about this shit) to try and put across the sense of disorientation Camille causes on her third album. Take it Alexis:

It’s not often that one record can claim to have laid waste to an entire musical genre, but then, it’s not often that anyone releases a record as unmitigatedly wretched as Bobby McFerrin’s novelty hit Don’t Worry, Be Happy. It wiped the collective memory of the glorious musical heights that can be scaled with the human voice alone – the gorgeous old doo-wop singles, the chilling, blood-spattered folk ballads, the Beach Boys’ ethereal Our Prayer – in three minutes of revolting bumper-sticker sentiment and flatly dreadful advice: in the event that your landlord say your rent is late and he may have to litigate, there are several options open, but the one thing you definitely shouldn’t do is follow McFerrin’s suggestion, which seems to involve chuckling at him and saying, “Look at me, I’m ‘appy.” Ever since, acapella pop has been a cordoned-off area. Like one of those game Ukrainan businessmen who organises tourist trips around Chernobyl, Björk had a go with her 2004 album Medúlla, but the public remained deeply wary.

So you have to admire the guts of Camille Dalmais. The 30-year-old Parisian vocalist has set up shop right in the middle of the musical Zone of Alienation that is a cappella pop, apparently without a thought for her own safety. While others still quail at the very memory, she is prepared to confront the genre’s darkest hour head-on: she has not only adapted McFerrin’s infamous body-slapping percussion style, but also covered Don’t Worry Be Happy live. Perhaps her fearlessness has been boosted by her surprising success in her homeland. Every track on 2005’s Le Fil was based around the same single droning note, an avant-garde conceit that didn’t prevent it going gold and winning the French equivalents of both the Mercury prize and a Brit award.

Music Hole dispenses with the drone and offers lyrics in English, but otherwise sticks with its predecessor’s approach. There are odd shadings of piano and electronics and a handful of sound effects – Money Note, a witty satire of the vocal histrionics employed by Mariah Carey, features a rhythm of clattering coins. Otherwise, virtually every sound you hear is made by Dalmais herself.

Well yeah. I’m loathe to share a single song because NONE of them are representative. She sounds like she’s having so much fun, it’s near unbearable. Love the fact she’s got a song called ‘Winter Child’ followed by a song called ‘Winter’s Child’ on her album, and for all I know they’re the same song.

Cabaret for sure.

Sixty for 60: 19. Pom Pom Squad

To celebrate my 60th birthday, I asked my social media friends to nominate a favourite song from 2021 – 60 to commemorate the fact I am 60.

Today, it’s Roddy Thomson‘s chance to blow my mind with Pom Pom Squad. I mean, wow. I think the song he nominated is ‘Lux’, which is hard and bitter and brutally brief and kicks grungy bottom in a way that reminds me of fucken Shannon And The Clams and the God-like FUCKEN GENIUS of Babes In Toyland, only simultaneously like, but I ain’t sure because the last 24 hours has been a rabbit hole that I have found myself disappearing deeper and deeper downwards, barely anticipating the myriad twists and turns and snatches of birdsong, bruised often at the sheer wonder of it all, loving upon loving everything there is to be loved about Mia Berrin and Pom Pom Squad, crushing hard here, crashing hard there, senses alive and tingling from the energy and attitude, just fucken in too deep to find an easy or pleasant way to withdraw, not that I want to. Not that I fucken want to.

Shout out to Agent Ribbons.

I mean, seriously. Any band who so gets Joan Jett’s take on ‘Crimson And Clover’ and takes it in several new disturbing directions, forcing me to confront my own misgivings and failings and sexuality, has gotta be … God. Wow. I don’t know. Fucken incredible. As one comment on the YouTube video stated, “This fucks so hard”. Fucks. And rocks. Or, as Pond magazine puts it, “New York’s Pom Pom Squad, Better Than Your High School Cheer Team”:

Pom Pom Squad, a project fronted by Mia Berrin, is a musical diary entry influenced by the sounds of garage rock and RIOT GRRRL. Originally based out of Orlando, Florida, Mia began recording demos in her teenage bedroom before moving to New York City. Read More ->

Sixty for 60: 18. Bleu Russe

To celebrate my 60th birthday, I asked my social media friends to nominate a favourite song from 2021 – 60 to commemorate the fact I am 60.

Today, it is the turn of Benjamin Berton to nominate the quite extraordinary stylings of Bleu Russe – Ça fait du bien. Berton has cheated here, because this is from February 2020 but as this music really is quite extraordinary I will forgive him. Extraordinary inasmuch as this song reminds me of Al Larsen and his primordial expression of love, Some Velvet Sidewalk. (Nirvana occasionally sounded like a slightly inferior version of Some Velvet Sidewalk, which ain’t meant to be a diss on the big KC just a comment on how raw and beautiful SVS were.) Bleu Russe are equally as extraordinary however. Intrigued, I clicked on a couple of their other YouTube songs and they sound nothing like. Nothing at all like. Maybe these are several different bands all going by the same name? Those dozen or so of you who are reading, see what you think. The final clip is revelatory: like Sleaford Mods hit with a lo-fi electronica button and driven to mindless repetition to keep spitting the words “like Jumping Jack Flash” over and over – the rest I do not understand, as I have little to no grasp of French.

The video in itself is quite disturbing, but adding sound really does not help the feeling of disturbance. This music is absolutely to be encouraged.

(That Some Velvet Sidewalk song by the way is one of the GREAT unheard classic rock songs of the early 90s.)

Sixty for 60: 17. Pleasure Venom

To celebrate my 60th birthday, I asked my social media friends to nominate a favourite song from 2021 – 60 to commemorate the fact I am 60. I cannot deny that I have been somewhat swamped by nominations since then, which is brilliant – but also means that I may not be getting round to some of them for a few weeks – months, even – yet. So apologies in advance if I haven’t yet written about your inspired choice.

Today it is the turn of the inspirational musician and activist Cassie Fox to recommend. And she recommends Pleasure Venom‘s brutally apposite ‘We Get What You Deserve’. It’s LOUD! It’s angry. It’s in your face confrontational punk rock, disgusted with injustice and hatred and the imbalance of power. I say punk, but you know what? It ROCKS! Punk like… yeah, I don’t know. Punk like She always wrote it: speed thrills and anger chills. I guess I’m thinking the female side of Crass, ramped up several decades, but you can call it thrash or speed thrash or metal, even if you want. Sure, I fucking love Amyl and the Sniffers, too. – so loud that it broke my fucking speakers three times over, and I’m a little scared to try it again cos, wait… you think there is anything to disagree about here? Fuck right off the fuck out of here.

They say: Pleasure Venom are a a 5-piece experimental punk project based in Austin, TX.

We say: let it ROCK!

Sixty for 60: 16. Nightspell

To celebrate my 60th birthday, I asked my social media friends to nominate a favourite song from 2021 – 60 to commemorate the fact I am 60.

Another sleepless night. Another morning when I wake at 4.30am and wonder just how I am going to fill the blank space in between now and when I next see a human being. Another day of knocking around the inside of my house, wondering if other people have lives, friends, stuff they do which makes them happy to be alive. Folk say you shouldn’t let your workplace or your partner define you, but what have I ever been if not defined by my workplace or relationship? We spend more time in this life alone, whatever happens. It’s grey outside, and these days there is a constant humming in my ears – a little like an old computer or fridge ticking over, but constant. I already know what I need. I need some good old school rock’n’roll as She Herself created, some gold old-fashioned rock’n’roll with shiny metallic skirts and bobbing lights and angel wings, guitars that chug and burr, beautiful underplayed harmonies and buzzing guitars, old school like The Breeders and Scarce and those other names I hold dear but increasingly am starting to wonder whether I dreamt through entire decades of my life, a glorious rock’n’roll-drenched dream and soon, very soon, any day now, I am going to wake and discover that I am in fact what I have long suspected myself of being: not a figure to envy or hate or be aware of, but just plain me – a little shy and a little dull and a whole load mediocre. I struggle against these thought patterns near every day, when I allow them in. I try not to allow them in. I cannot listen to old music (music made by ‘indie’ bands in the 80s and 90s and 00s), it makes me too sad. Why would I do that deliberately? So my artificial high, my Joey Ramoney, my drugs fix needs to restart all over again, needs to come from somewhere… needs to come from moments and series like this. Nightspell – Sea of Thieves. This reminds me of my French crush, the increasingly scary Sugar & Tiger, and … it ticks every box I want ticking. For now. It makes me happy without making me sad, lost in the pureness of the moment for 150 brief seconds. Beautiful, bruising, beautiful. I want to play it FUCKING LOUD, but cannot for fear of waking the neighbours.

So fine.

It’s your turn it’s your turn it’s your turn
Listen listen listen
Time is gone this is all this is it
Do you care? Suck all the air
A sense of love is hardly real
It is my life you want to steal
A pirate thief has come for me
My heart is rich with victory
So please stop talking
It my turn it’s my turn it’s my turn
Listen listen listen
There’s no way it’s ok there’s no way
Do you care suck all the air
Swim away swim away swim away swim away
Take anything that you want
Take anything but me