That’s me, myself and I up there. Stephen W. Thomas. Glastonbury. Apologies if I look grumpy, but that is a) my neutral face, so shut the hell up, and b) the result of 72 hours of exhaustion. 2011 was the greatest hits of Glastonbury – the year where the Eavis family brought back some of the most historic acts of the past 41 years. The Spirit of 71 stage presented us with bands who had played the festival forty years ago. The Park Stage relived two of the more legendary Glasto sets of the 90s with their ‘secret’ appearances by Radiohead and Pulp. And the weather provided us with memories of every extreme we’ve ever seen at the festival – the miserable rain, the toffee/fudge mud and the sweltering, sweltering heat. Let’s look back at 2011 through photos, and some stories of our… more interesting experiences.
We’d been wishin’ and a-hopin’ for weeks in the run-up to this year’s Glastonbury, but as the train drew closer to Castle Cary it was painfully obvious what was in store, the rain dragging itself staggered along the glass of the windows. Cue a weekend of lost wellies, over-priced ponchos and over-enthusiastic cheers whenever the sun came out. Which made Sunday very, very noisy.
Some bands, fortunately, are made for the rain – Bright Eyes drew a large crowd for his vaguely emo folk-rock, and angry songs like ‘Lover I Don’t Have To Love’ worked well in the cool drizzle come Friday afternoon. There was a suspicious amount of songs featuring the word ‘rain’ or some deriative scattered across the set. Either Conor Oberst was angling his set in a very specific direction, or he’s a bit of a miserable sod. Not our place to say, mind.
This is a cage. With a disco ball inside. Not that this is remotely evocative of Glastonbury’s stand on dancing – after all Kool and the Gang headlined West Holts on the Sunday. A day earlier Janelle Monaé had dragged a thousand feet from the mud as they stomped and twisted to tracks from her debut album The ArchAndroid and a cover of The Jackson 5′s ‘I Want You Back’ that sounded eerily like the original in many ways.
In fact, the best stage all round for dancing and moving and being a little bit surprised was West Holts. We’ve said it once or twice over the years (including in our mini review earlier in the week), but West Holts is the BBC4 of Glastonbury. The gang above are enjoying a much-welcomed burst of sunshine that came both literally and by way of Fool’s Gold, whose summery tones lightened the moods of everyone in the field on Saturday afternoon.
The biggest treats of Glastonbury often come from the smallest acts. Not the insect circus hiding in the Avalon film, but the unsigned acts making their way in the only way unsigned acts can – by playing bloody everywhere. The Worry Dolls, who we go on about endlessly on here played a storming set on Wednesday afternoon that resulted in an unplanned encore. That’s Zoe sitting above, tuning the ukelele on which she had learnt all of their songs the night before (a banjo had seemed to unwieldy for the festival). Twin Brother played the BBC Introducing stage Friday morning. Emily and the Woods stole some hearts with her humble Acoustic stage set – including a delightful ‘Single Ladies’ cover. Incidentally, catch The Worry Dolls at our Folkroom gig on July 20th. That wasn’t a plug. That was me doing you a favour.
I tell you with some certainty that this isn’t true. I trekked 40 minutes through the mud to Coach Gate A in order to bring you that info, but that’s just what I go through for you guys.
A lesson in festival journalism. It’ll take you just seconds to find shots of this year’s Glasto in which people are stranded in great lakes of mud, or covered in it as though they woke in a great silt lake. Do not be fooled, sofa-festivalists of the world! Though the mud was pervasive across the festival, it was stodgy and sticky mud, not big wet mud. The above shot is one of only three puddles or so on the whole site, and the girls walking through it are doing so purely for the benefit of a camera just out of shot. So, yeah. Class dismissed.
Some refreshing optimism as someone speculates on a special guest in the dance arena.
Laura Marling gets a bit of a bum deal during her set on the Pyramid stage.
Saturday at the festival, and some-time WWL contributor Rob has arrived onsite with a PR colleague also called Rob (who, for sake of ease, shall now be called Mark). The two are down only for the last two days in order to sort out some press for a few acts playing. Mark can’t quite get the pass he needs, so after we drop off their stuff in my tent, where we’ll all be sleeping for the remainder of the festival, he and Rob head off to try and arrange something.
Later on, Rob and I meet up and catch Coldplay’s set (which, much to our mutual surprise, is utterly engaging). Afterwards we head over to Shangri-La with another friend. We wander the sordid streets of the temporary city, jive in a jive bar and at half two we go our separate ways and Rob and I head back to our tent. We reach it around 3am, but Mark isn’t there yet. Fair enough, Glasto kept us out til 3, and the music will keep going til 5am. We fumble our way into our respective sleeping bags and drop asleep in no time at all.
When I awake briefly at 4am the tent is already vaguely lit by the half light of the pre-dawn hour, and I am relieved to see that our tent is filled to capacity, myself and the two other bodies, deep in slumber. I go back to sleep. By Rob’s own account, he woke up at half 5 and saw much the same thing. He fell asleep once more.
We wake around 7, and only Rob and I are in the tent. We reckon Mark must have gone of to do some PR work or something, but just to check if he’s left us a message we both switch on our phones. There is a message on each – the same one, sent as a joint text. It goes roughly like this:
“Guys – couldn’t get the pass I needed and couldn’t find the tent. Am driving back to London.”
We look at the bottom of our messages. 1:30am.
WE SPENT TWO HOURS SHARING A TENT WITH A STRANGE MAN.
I spent the last few days hoping that when I got my Glastonbury photos developed there would be a self-shot of our mystery man leaning of Rob and I, giving a massive thumbs up. He certainly had the chance – when we woke in the morning my camera was lying where he had been. Oh well.
There were rumours rumbling around the site all weekend. Arcade Fire were gonna play! (False) Pulp were gonna play! (True) Radiohead were going to play! (True) Prince was gonna play! (You had me going there, Sam…). My favourite rumour was that Marcus Mumford was the illegitimate son of the above fox. But then, I made that up, so I would like it.
And so that was our Glasto for 2011.
Two years til the next one.
July 2, 2011 2 Comments
We’re watching the skies nervously, hunting in the loft for our air beds and foot pumps, looking to the skies once again, and twitching excitedly every time someone mentions The Wombles and Michael Eavis. It’s Glastonbury once again, and come the end of this week there will be two types of people at train stations across the country: wellie-clad folk with cumbersome tents getting in everybody’s way, and business people who think they are frustrated now, but will be looking back with sweet nostalgia when the same punters return four days later to cause all the same havoc once again – only this time covered in mud and sweat and dust and mud (again).
Needless to say, we’re all rather excited over here at WWL Manor. We were lucky enough to be involved in this year’s Emerging Talent Competition at the festival, and so we’ll be checking out a few of the acts from that and a few folk acts and a few big acts and… you know, there are too many to mention. We’ll whittle it down to a list of our must-see acts at Glastonbury this year, with a few recommendations from some of our very favourites…
1. Emmy the Great (14:00, Oxlyers In West, Friday) - Winner of our inaugeral Hg Music Prize, Emmy the Great’s debut album was an album that flickered between beautiful sounds and stark, sad lyrics. Her second album, Virtue, was released just this month and is in many ways the more thoughtful of the two records – Emma-Lee Moss’ imagery is grand and verging at times on a sort of apocalyptica (though we aren’t sure if she’d necessary agree with that diagnosis). Catch her set in hope of hearing the two dramatic stand-outs from the record – ‘Trellick Tower’ and much-less-like-The-Darkness-than-the-title-suggests ‘Dinosaur Sex’.
Emma-Lee Moss’ Recommendations: “I am looking forward to Wild Beasts, Lykke Li, Summer Camp, Guillemots, Wu Tang Clan and above all my major grown up heroes Suzanne Vega and Billy Bragg.” – Wild Beasts close The Park stage at 23:00 on Saturday, Lykke Li plays The Park at 20:00 on Sunday. Summer Camp and Guillemots sandwich themselves around Emmy the Great on Oxlyers In West on the Friday, and Wu-Tang Clan play the Pyramid Stage at 15:00 on the same day. Moss’ heroes headline their respective stages – Bragg closing Leftfield at 21:00 on Friday and Vega finishing up the Acoustic stage’s festival at 22:30 on the Sunday.
2. Bright Eyes/Fleet Foxes/Mumford & Sons (from 17:35 on The Other Stage, Friday) - Last year our festival hit its folk peak with the double whammy of Laura Marling and Midlake on Saturday night at The Park stage. This year it’s the turn of the Other Stage to folk us all up. With Connor Oberst playing his last festivals as Bright Eyes this summer, it might seem cruel to put him on so early in the evening – but he is followed by two of the poster boys for modern folk. Robin Pecknold’s Fleet Foxes will showcase the best America has to offer, with majestic harmonies and their new albums really-quite-like-Paul-Simon lyrics. Immediately after them Marcus Mumford and his (not actual) Sons take to the stage, in what will best be described as a ‘romp’. Three very different examples of folk, each as good as any other, over the course of four and a half hours. Not to be missed.
3. Stornoway (11:00, Pyramid, Saturday) – Potentially the most exciting thing about Glastonbury this year for us will be seeing two former Six Albums guests playing the festival’s main stage on the Saturday. Rumer makes her appearance at half three, but not before Stornoway. Their debut album, Beachcomber’s Windowsill, was one of our favourite records of last year (our ninth, if we’re keeping count), and if anyone should be given the duty of coaxing the sun out on a Saturday morning, we reckon Stornoway are the boys for the job.
4. Emily and the Woods (16:00, Acoustic, Saturday) – We love Emily Wood. Over the past year she’s been gracious enough to headline our Folkroom gigs on more than one occasion, always using her last performance as a benchmark she has to top. Incredibly versatile, we’ve seen her perform live with a half-band, a full electric set up and – best of all – completely and utterly unplugged, her audience enraptured around her. Though she didn’t win the Emerging Talent Contest this year, we’re ecstatic to see she’s playing the Acoustic stage and will be dragging most everyone we know to see her. And probably a few we don’t know. We will literally be dragging people up from the Theatre Fields to see her. So if you go, and there’s a surprising amount of trolls and stilt-walkers present, you’ll know we’re there too.
Emily Wood’s recommendation: “Beyonce is totally amazing… She has it all. The voice! The tunes! The moves! Wow- I seriously can’t wait.” - Beyonce headlines the festival on the Pyramid Stage, Sunday night at 21:45
5. Elbow (20:15, Pyramid, Saturday) – We’re actually just doing you a favour here. No, really. There isn’t a single band in the world today who know how to use a festival audience better than Elbow. Take their appearance at the Reading festival in 2005, in which they asked the crowd to partake in a ‘Mexican crouch’, and to point at the sky as if they had ‘just seen a massive alien’. Footage of these actions were used in their music video for ‘Leaders Of The Free World’. Almost ten years ago the band recorded thousands of Glastonbury revellers singing ‘We still believe in love, so fuck you’, and used the cast of thousands first as a choir on their song ‘Grace Under Pressure’ and then as the inspiration for their second album title… Cast Of Thousands. The sleevenotes for that album feature credits for anyone and everyone they could get the names of at that performance. Their last appearance at Glasto culminated in a mass string section, formed of ‘anyone we could find’ gathering on stage for the most audacious performance of One Day Like This yet seen. With recent performances with the Halle Orchestra and in the crypt of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Elbow are a band that – in the live arena, at least – are impossible to second guess right now.
6. CocknBullKid (13:00, Oxlyers In West, Sunday) - Anita Blay, aka CocknBullKid, might just have released the most underrated album of 2011 so far. Intelligent and soulful pop music that almost nobody seems to be listening to. She’s only recently been announced for the festival, but anyone catching her at the odd little live-music venue in the heart of the Dance Area will be in for a treat. ‘Hold On To Your Misery’ is potentially the year’s best pop song. If ‘Asthma Attack’ isn’t. Or ‘Yellow’.
Anita Blay’s Recommendation: “Beyonce of course! I’ve been a fan, ever since Destiny’s Child released ‘No, No, No’. I have all her albums and think she’s an incredible live performer. I’m literally dying with anticipation!”
7. Laura Marling (15:00, Pyramid, Sunday) – It’s possible that the festival’s iconic Pyramid Stage has never been as eclectic as it will be on the Sunday of this year’s festival. It’s also quite probable that Laura Marling will never find herself acting as one of Beyonce’s support acts ever again. It’ll be interesting to see how she’ll fare on what could fairly be described as the biggest stage in the world – it will be the biggest crowd Marling has ever played to, and that isn’t including any television audience sitting warm at home. There was a time when Laura Marling was renowned for shuffling quietly offstage mid-performance, such was her shyness. Her set at The Park last year was both commanding and arresting, though, and we’ll be there for what might just be her crowning achievement.
8. PAUL BLOODY SIMON (16:30, Pyramid, Sunday) – The half of Simon and Garfunkel that actually mattered, Paul Simon is the undisputed Once In A Lifetime act of Glastonbury 2011. The same title held by Stevie Wonder last year, or Leonard Cohen back in 2008, Simon has made a name for himself unlike almost any other in the 47 years that have passed since he and Art Garfunkel released Wednesday Morning, 3am – an album widely regarded as being We Write Lists’ fifth favourite Simon and Garfunkel studio album. We are, of course, dreaming of a reunion with Art – but we’ll settle for a mix of S&G hits, tracks from Graceland, and eighteen consecutive performances of ‘Me and Julio Down at the Schoolyard’. Yes, that’ll serve us nicely please.
9. John Grant (18:30, The Park, Sunday) – Every time we see John Grant’s name, we see a flash of warm pride remembering his appearance on Six Albums last year (it’s still one of the most interesting reads the series has seen). You see, back then we heard his debut solo album, Queen of Denmark, and we really liked it. Now though – now we love it. We hold it close to us, both sonically, sentimentally and physically. We can’t sleep unless we’re hugging the vinyl tight to our chest. Intense and witty, Queen of Denmark is an incredibly emotive album that is also surprisingly funny throughout. Better still, his slot on The Park stage come Sunday night is just long enough that, if he wanted, he could perform the whole damn thing in order. (Please do this, John, and we will forever be your bessies).
10. Bellowhead (15:30, West Holts, Sunday and 21:00, Leftfield, Sunday) – Though Bellowhead are playing two sets at the festival this year, it will be their second set that you’ll find WWL at. We’ll be eschewing Beyonce’s headline set for their two-hour headline slot at Leftfield – likely to be the biggest, most unashamedly fun party that the festival has to offer this year. There are hundreds of trad. folk acts across the UK right now, but Bellowhead’s popularity is born out of the sheer zeal of their performances. Nobody has ever left a Bellowhead show with anything less than a massive bloomin’ smile on their mug. And our mugs will never turn down a massive bloomin’ smile.
Pete Flood of Bellowhead’s Recommendation: “Robyn Hitchcock is performing the whole of Captain Beefheart’s brilliant Clear Spot, an album that rocked my teenage years, at the Spirit of 71 tent – I think he’ll be just the man for the job.” Robyn Hitchcock plays the Spirit of 71 stage at 18:45 on Sunday.
There are, of course, dozens of excellent bands playing the festival across the weekend, and these are only some of the acts we’ll be catching. If you’re lucky enough to be going, keep an eye out for The Worry Dolls, The Portraits, B.B. King, Caitlin Rose, Johnny and Jenny, I Am Kloot, Twin Brother, Beth Rowley, Tame Impala, Dry The River, DeVotchKa, Aloe Blacc, Janelle Monae, Thea Gilmore, The Low Anthem, Sea of Bees, Dan Mangan, Cocos Lovers and Eels. Happy festivalling, y’all!
June 20, 2011 No Comments
Three and a half weeks ago we invited Emily and The Woods along to headline our fortnightly gig, The Folkroom. It’s a half hour slot, we said, but if you run a little over we won’t worry about it. An hour after Emily first took to the stage she stepped humbly down, and barely a soul in the venue could believe they had just spent sixty minutes in her company – time flew, and we only wanted more of her beautiful, intelligent and desperately soulful folk. This is how the music of Emily and The Woods plays out – it is engaging and it is honest, a step away from other Female Name and the Noun(s) acts that swamp the scene at the moment. Indeed – it really is Emily and The Woods, the latter being her family name, and her band formed of her father and brother. We urge you here at WWL – implore you, even – to give Emily and The Woods a listen – she’s the best new folk act we’ve heard for quite some time.
Sigur Ros – Takk This album used to make me cry every time I listened to it. In fact I still can’t get over its beauty, which really is so full of emotion. Takk directs your thoughts away from this world; toward something more beautiful, seemingly grander in size and scale. I have felt so inspired listening to Sigur Ros. It’s perfect for plane and train journeys; utterly transporting and all encompassing.The mystery of the arrangements mean that each song stands alone as masterful. Also, I don’t understand the words which I think makes this album seem even more meaningful as you can interpret things just as you feel them!
Simon & Garfunkel – Sounds of Silence What a classic! These two men taught me pretty much all I know about harmonies, and also a great deal about the construction of simple songs, catchy and timeless songs. ‘Kathy’s Song’ is amazing.
Bob Dylan – Blood on the Tracks If there had been no Blood on the Tracks there would certainly be no Emily and the Woods. I listened to this album and decided to play the guitar so I could set some of my own songs to music. I think that’s pretty much all I can say without filling up a whole page of writing about this record! Blood on the Tracks makes me think of being a teenager and going to school on rainy London mornings… in a good way. Discovering Bob Dylan through this album evoked a passion for the kind of lyrical music that I still love today. ‘You’re a Big Girl’ is one of my favourite songs of all time.
Joni Mitchell – Miles of Aisles I agonised about which Joni Mitchell album to list because a number of them are so significant that I can’t not cite them as favourites! However, this live recording from 1978 has got the most brilliant track list which includes all of my favourite Joni songs. For me her writing and composition are second to none. I used to hate her voice and now I find it to be of unparalleled beauty which works so completely with her song writing; both so poetic and honest at once. This album features fantastic versions of ‘Jericho’, ‘Cactus Tree’ and ‘A Case of You’. The record features her band from the album ‘Court and Spark’, and the ability of these musicians to use jazz influences to support her music whilst revealing the immensity of their own talents is inspiring. I just wish I’d been there when it was recorded!
Erykah Badu - Baduizm I became obsessed with Erykah Badu when I was about 11 or so and carried on listening to her (as well as Jill Scott, Lauryn Hill and Mary J. Blige) into my early teens. Each of those women has enormous vocal range, and in many ways, for me exemplifies female power in music. I am so inspired by Badu’s ability to go almost anywhere with her voice, which is achingly cool, gravely and subject to supreme control and skill. I am sincerely influenced by this woman, even if you wouldn’t guess it by listening to my music, and I think Baduizm was one of my first musical loves.
Bright Eyes – Lifted Or The Story Is In The Soil, Keep Your Ear To The Ground This album, like most of Conor Oberst’s work is imaginative and interestingly produced (‘Don’t Know When But A Day Is Gonna Come’ begins as a sparse and stark song but erupts in a complimentary, but unexpected direction). He uses an array of sounds, effects and instruments which provides either a real contrast, or support, to his distinctive voice and poetic lyrics. I love the mood of this album; it’s downright mixture of themes, ideas and melodies. The songs are dark, and he speaks of bleakness in a modern way with passion and completely pulls it off.
Emily and The Woods are based in London, and are ruddy spectacular. Check out her music and buy her EP over at the Emily and The Woods MySpace page. Then sit back in front of a warm fire with crumpets and tea, and enjoy an evening of cosy music and warm beverages.
November 19, 2010 1 Comment
Hello! I’m Jimmy Vark, and I boss the sinister cupboard of technology that allows We Write Lists to project magical things upon your computerbox. Today I’m holding Stephen to ransom by muttering dark words about how my finger slips on delete keys sometimes if I don’t get time in the spotlight, and as a result he’s let me write a thing. This thing is a list, and it is a list of six great music videos.
I know, I know. “Great music videos” means “oh look a list with Sabotage/All Is Full Of Love/Rabbit In Your Headlights imagine my surprise!” This is understandable (and they’re all great videos, so do watch them if you haven’t yet), but this is a different video list. This is Six Videos You’ve Probably Not Heard Of.
Bright Eyes – Easy/Lucky/Free (Dir. Lauri Faggioni & Lily Thorne)
Annoyingly simple but beautifully executed, the video for Easy/Lucky/Free slipped under the radar along with the majority of its parent album Digital Ash in a Digital Urn due to the galumphing behemoth that was the albums twin, I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning. However, this video is a little gem that harnesses lyrical expression in a unique fashion, all in a single shot. Minus points for Conor not actually writing backwards: the footage was flipped to show the words the correct way around.
Playgroup – Number One (Dir. H5)
This video is my little nod to Chris Cunningham, as I couldn’t put any of his videos in because he’s so damn good everybody knows about them already. But as we all know, Chris Cunningham does robots very well indeed, so here is a video where a neat little CGI robot burns up the dancefloor, and doesn’t it just make you want to dance along too?
Duke Special – Our Love Goes Deeper Than This
This is a silly video. How silly? Well, for a start it has Neil Hannon in it, and he can be a very silly gentleman if he puts his mind to it. And he certainly put his mind to it in this chirpy little offering from Duke Special (who is fully amazing by the way), as he combines top hat, pipe and shades like noone else could possibly pull off.
He is still not the silliest thing in this video.
Massive Attack – Protection (Dir. Michel Gondry)
SQUEE! IT’S MICHEL GONDRY! Ahem. Sorry. Yes, I have a Bit Of A Thing for Michel Gondry, but that is entirely rational on account of the fact that everything he produces is an utter treat for the viewer. Go and watch Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind right now, it is ace. Like Cunningham, I had a bit of an issue with the Everyone Has Heard Of Him factor, but happily Gondry is much more prolific when it comes to music videos and so I was unable to unearth this from the cupboard under the stairs where it had been sadly forgotten. It is still horribly, horribly good.
Soulsavers – Revival (Dir. Ben Foley)
Mark Lanegan’s voice. The rousing sounds of Soulsavers. The flickerboard imagery of Ben Foley. This video more than any brings home to me why it is utterly pointless of me to try to explain why it amazes, so I’m just going to demand you watch it. So: watch it. There. This is an easy job, isn’t it?
Sigur Rós – Untitled #1 (Vaka) (Dir. Floria Sigismondi)
I’ve saved the best for last, you know. I could probably react in a very similar manner to Floria Sigismondi as I do to Gondry, but in her case it is all down to this one video which carries the impact of the heaviest feather in the world. It’s not easy to marry a short story to a Sigur Rós track that doesn’t even contain any (real) words, but my oh my does Sigismondi pull it off. If a tear is not burrowing its way to freedom by the end then I am afraid I cannot be your friend.
Jimmy Vark is the technical mastermind behind We Write Lists, and the reason for our recent switch to a shiny new domain. He likes Muse, but I don’t, so there’s that.
July 29, 2010 1 Comment
6. Elvis Presley - It’s Now Or Never
One of The King’s most famous songs finds its hook in the Italian classic O Sole Mio. You know the one – alternate versions may include the lyric ‘Just one Cornetto!’ Wally Gold and Aaron Schroeder’s seize-the-day lyrics inspired a generation of people who were far too early for the whole carpe diem thing to become the cliché it is today.
5. Bright Eyes – Road To Joy
The clue to the featured piece of music here is in the title – Bright Eyes’ barn-storming finale to I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning is loosely based around Beethoven’s magnificent Ode to Joy. I say magnificent for two reasons. First, Ode to Joy is the sort of grand and sweeping piece of music that lends itself to the rampaging nature of this song. Second, Ode to Joy features heavily throughout the original Die Hard trilogy, and seeing as my immense and unremitting love for the Die Hard films is just about the only manly thing I have going for me, I try to take joy in anything and everything to do with it. Even non-diegetic odes of that self-same nature.
4. Walter Murphy – A Fifth Of Beethoven
Beethoven features heavily on this list, which speaks volumes for both the quality and versatility of his music. Murphy’s discofied take on the first movement of Mr. B’s fifth symphony is as funky as it is inspired. Probably best known for it’s appearance in the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, A Fifth Of Beethoven is about eighth on my list of Songs I Want To Be Lowered Into My Grave To. Fact.
3. Billy Joel – This Night
It’s been pointed out previously around these parts that I am an unashamed fan of Billy Joel. Though best known for his chirpier, less musically brilliant, songs Joel is in fact both a talented musician and an incredibly clever songwriter. Taken from An Innocent Man, which also featured ‘Uptown Girl’, ‘This Night’ takes a similar feel to the doo-wop of the former, but weaves into the mix the second movement of Beethoven’s Pathétique Sonata. Heartbreaking in the delicacy of Beethoven’s music, Joel’s song takes on a whole other level and demonstrates the oft-underrated musician’s ability to work with any genre and produce something magical.
2. Rufus Wainwright – Oh, What A World
In ‘This Night’ Billy Joel built a song around the chorus, for which he used Beethoven’s own melody. Wainwright does something similar but even more remarkable in ‘Oh, What A World’. Starting from a relatively subdued horn, Wainwright builds the entire song up towards a majestic finale that all of a suddent morphs into Ravel’s Boléro around 2:45. You never see it coming, but when it arrives it feels natural and almost original to the song itself. The grand pomp and circumstance of Wainwright’s music has never felt more direct and to the point as it does in ‘Oh, What A World’.
1. The Beach Boys – Lady Lynda
My favourite Beach Boys song is, in many ways, not their own at all. Written by band member Al Jardine, the song is set around a surf-pop version of Bach’s Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desiring. As a result of Bach’s influence, and the fact that Jardine rarely wrote for the band, the song stands quite alone amongst the rest of The Beach Boys’ back-catalogue. Still, the band’s traditional harmonies remain, and the song has always been one of the best examples of an artist using classical music in a way that adds to both the song and the source material.
Enjoy here, if you wish, a mix of all the above songs alongside the pieces that inspired them.
April 19, 2010 No Comments
I’m approximately 90% sure that music was invented to ease the pain of break-ups. In all honesty, the only other possible reason I can come up with is to accompany the general pratfalls of Tom and Jerry. That’s the thing about music; it’s an obvious statement, but when it isn’t making our moods, it’s saving us from them. These are our top twelve break-up songs – maybe they’re here to help you wallow in your misery, maybe they’re here to push you through it. They’re here though. And that’s something, I suppose. – Stephen
1. Bring It On Home To Me – Sam Cooke
The most heartbreaking of all love songs is also the most heartbreaking of all break-up songs. Sam Cooke represents the epitome on mankind, and it’s a gut-wrenchingly accurate portrayal. For a start, Cooke devastingly admits that which we so adamently deny – that we are powerless in love. That we have no control, that our love relies on a woman’s trust, a woman’s willingness to love first. And so, before Cooke can even start his plea he must admit to his ex-lover that everything comes down to an ‘if’ – ‘if you ever change your mind’. Cooke continues in his flawed masculine ways throughout the song – first he admits fault profusely, then he attempts to buy his ex’s love – offers her jewellery. He gets so close, offering utter devotion, until he lets loose those three fatal words… ‘one more thing…’ And here, like so many before him, Cooke falls, backtracking on his words, putting the woman to blame for staying out day and night. It’s a fatal move, but it’s one every man has made. We’re creatures of romance, women, and one day you might realise this, but it won’t be before you realise that we’re creatures of idiocy first. We’re sorry. Take it easy on us?
2. The Last Of The Melting Snow – The Leisure Society
Arguably the most perfect song released this year – nay, this decade – was written by singer-songwriter Nick Hemming on New Year’s Eve 2008. He’d bumped into his ex-girlfriend, who had announced a move to America, quashing his dreams of reigniting what once was. Cue the saddest lyrics of the century thus far: ‘And America is such a long way to go/As we hide ourselves/In the last of the melting snow’. That this song was written in an empty house on New Year’s Eve over a bottle of vodka is proof that a break-up isn’t a moment, it’s a movement.
3. Stay With Me (Baby) – Lorraine Ellison
Falling into the same category as ‘Bring It On Home To Me’, Ellison’s plea comes from the other side of the fence. ‘I gave you so much/And in return I found happiness’ she sings, and where Cooke’s song finds its foundation in a knowledge of what went wrong, Ellison is desperately unaware of the reason for her despair, and this makes her plight all the sadder. Man, we blokes are jerks, aren’t we?
4. The Winner Takes It All – Abba
It’s easy to dismiss Abba as just another pop band, albeit a very distinct and very talented one, but when one comes to song such as ‘The Winner Takes It All’ there is little to do beyond apologise for ever believing the band were anything less than phenomenal. Struck by a break-up based around her partner’s infidelity, our heroine once again still wants him back. But where elsewhere this led to a desperate and almost undignified cry to their exes, here Abba approach the break-up with a mature dignity that suggests maybe Agnetha knows that she’s better off without her fictional partner. Where many other break-up songs simply state ‘it hurts’, ‘The Winner Takes It All’ states ‘it hurts, but it’s for the best’.
5. Cease-fire, or, Mrs. Norman Maine – Franz Nicolay
This stand-out track from Nicolay’s recent debut isn’t a song about a break-up that’s just happened, like Cooke’s or Ellison’s or Abba’s. Nor is it about a break-up from the past still hurting, like The Leisure Society’s was. Rather, ‘Cease-fire’ is about a break-up just starting. Nicolay is starting to realise that his relationship can’t be saved: ‘and it’s possible, even probable that we won’t be lovers again’. Instead of taking the ship down guns blazing, he suggests a cease-fire, a quiet end to their war. If the last lyric doesn’t sting your heart to much, then wait until Nicolay offers his terms. ‘I’ll drop my weapons/If so will you’
6. I Want You Back – The Jackson 5
If there’s an anti-thesis to Cooke’s mournful ballad, it’s The Jackson 5′s upbeat disco romper. Everything Cooke did wrong, the Jackson boys get spot on. The song is so joyful, it’s hard to believe little Michael Jackson is sad – but then, listen to the twinge in his voice whenever he sings about seeing his ex in ‘his’ arms. The hurt is there, but it’s hiding behind an overwhelming optimism. And maybe this is why I’m not putting one of the best songs in the history of everything at the top of the list: Yes, it’s about a break-up, but after this how can the relationship be heading anywhere other than reconciliation?
1. Last Goodbye – Jeff Buckley
This song is heart-breaking. Maybe this is because any song of his is a reminder that he is gone, or maybe because Jeff’s voice was just of that kind; heart-breaking, emotionally charged for sure, so perfect at conveying melancholy. This song is about the acknowledgment that ‘the lasts’ have inevitably come; the feelings delve into pain, acceptance, rejection, doubts, & obsession. But what is so great about this song is that it can make you smile, as if there’s so much beauty in this expression for there to be any sadness left. And that, I believe, makes for a pretty amazing break-up song.
2. Hold Me Down –
2. Hold Me Down –
So their relationship is being brought to an end even though his girlfriend still loves him & is pained to break the news. This is down to him holding her down with his issues. That in itself is quite tragic. From all those things that need to be done following the break-up that just seem so flippant to how she describes what he means to her, it’s definitely saddening. And it’s all in that melancholic repetition of ‘You hold me down’. My advice: don’t drink too much cider and then watch this band play the song ‘cause you might just cry. Not that that’s ever happened to me, of course.
3. Worse Things Happen at Sea – Frank Turner
3. Worse Things Happen at Sea – Frank Turner
The great thing about this song is the bitterness that is underlying but not stated. The whole time Frank is saying something along the lines of: ‘hey, I know it’s over, let’s just be honest here, besides I’m okay because worse things have happened to me, I can handle this’ but his voice tells you otherwise. It’s some sort of attempt to control feelings which doesn’t quite work as the song eerily builds up and grows more frantic. It then becomes quite obvious that it is in fact the worse thing that has happened to him. This portrayal of denial is key to the greatness of this song.
4. Jude Law & a Semester Abroad – Brand New
4. Jude Law & a Semester Abroad – Brand New
What’s a break-up song without bitterness? And this is oh so bitter. ‘I hope the next boy that you kiss has something terribly contagious on his lips’ gives you an idea. Everything in this song is about sheer hatred for this ex-girlfriend with some pretty vicious lines and ideas which are so brilliant I can only tell you to go listen to the song or read the following lyrics:
And even if her plane crashes tonight
she’ll find some way to disappoint me,
by not burning in the wreckage,
or drowning at the bottom of the sea
5. Don’t Leave Me – Blink 182
5. Don’t Leave Me – Blink 182
The world definitely needs songs that make light of the usually more serious matters. And this is where Blink 182 comes in with their short, simple and slightly tongue-in-cheek song about a break-up. ‘I said ‘don’t let your future be destroyed by my past’, she said ‘don’t let my door hit your ass’. It’s so typically Blink 182 & exactly what one might need to put a smile on their face. I’m not saying it is about happy stuff, but that Blink have a way of making things better with their upbeat ‘crappy punk rock’.
6. It’s Cool, We Can Still Be Friends – Bright Eyes
6. It’s Cool, We Can Still Be Friends – Bright Eyes
Just read that title: Ouch, right? In this lo-fi song, Conor & his guitar tell us about how things are different now that the relationship has ended. It’s painful to hear because, well, he sounds pretty hopeless, the poor guy. He still calls her, but he gets her machine. They still go to dinner, but she won’t hold his hand. The list goes on… But then (of course), Conor shows his bitterness and now comes the time to think about getting so drunk that he forgets her face, by the time he wakes up. It’s kind of scary, but enthralling. Just don’t listen to it if you want to keep a positive mood.
September 2, 2009 2 Comments