Track of the Day 511 : Bjork – Cystalline (Omar Souleyman Remix)

I love pretty much everything Bjork does, but even I have to admit that Biophilia wasn’t her absolute strongest album (musically at least, conceptually it was an interesting and innovative as ever). I’ve only recently discovered its’ remix album Bastards, which is fascinating in a way that few remix albums are.

Remixes range from glitch master Alva Noto to experimental hip-hop band Death Grips, but my particular favourite is the version of Crystalline (already Biophilia’s best song) by the Syrian former wedding singer Omar Souleyman. I wasn’t previously familiar with his music, but both riffs and voice are powerfully addictive and make for a surprisingly superb match with Bjork’s electronic ballad.

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Track of the Day 500 : Bjork – Unravel

For my 500th track of the day, one of my favourite tracks of all time, Unravel by Bjork.

Once you’ve been interested in music for any length of time, you soon come to the conclusion that there are no new love songs. If there’s one subject that his been endlessly dissected, described in every single way, it’s love. But Bjork is unlikely any other artist, endlessly innovative, constitutionally incapable of cliche, and Unravel is unlike any love song I’ve heard.

Musically, Unravel lays a gentle bed of organ washes, saxophone and the softest, most distant electronics. Subtly beautiful in their way, but really all about giving space to the vocal, and the lyrics. And what beautiful lyrics they are. Bjork conjures the ingenious metaphor of love as a ball of yarn, slowly unravelling as the couple are apart and having to be put back together each time they return to each other.

Bjork’s vocal performance is masterful also, more restrained than on some of her other songs, yet still conveying every atom of emotion it is possible for the song to convey. It’s those lyrics though that get me every time, one of those rare songs that continues to stir my heart no matter how many times I hear it. When I am away from my wife and family I think of this song often, and my heart does unravel like that ball of yarn.

The first 483 tracks of the day can only be found on my Tumblr. Everything since can be found here. There’s also a Spotify playlist of every single track of the day (or those available on Spotify at least) below:

Albums of the year 2015

I knew that  2015 was going to be a good year for music when Sleater-Kinney, Belle & Sebastian and Bjork had all released albums within weeks of its’ start. Pretty much every artist whose albums I look forward to released one in 2015. The only downside to which is that there were many new (or new to me) artists who released great albums but couldn’t quite squeeze into my top 10. Haiku Salut, Ultimate Painting, Kendrick Lamar, Holly Herndon & Sleaford Mods are all albums well worth checking out. But on to the list (Spotify playlist of all ten albums below)

10. Joanna Newsom – Divers

Joanna Newsom is one of my all time favourite artists, and the person whose song this site is named after, so after waiting  5 and a half years for a new album, expectations were high to say the least. So, for Divers to simply be a very good album was a slight disappointment. It lacks the epic scope of Have One On Me or Ys, and the direct melodies of The Milk Eyed Mender, but is intricate, always interesting and more musically varied than anything she has produced before. Released late in the year, it may have time to grow on me yet. Even a slightly underwhelming Joanna Newsom album is better than most albums released any year.

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My 7 favourite Top of the Pops moments

I mentioned Top of the Pops in a piece I wrote a couple of weeks back, and it got me thinking about my favourite moments from the show. There has been plenty of nostalgia for TOTP, but it mainly concentrates on moments from before my time (Pans People, Dexy’s performing in front of a picture of darts player Jocky Wilson etc.). Most of my memories are from the 90s when TOTP was a fixture in my viewing schedule. Here are 7 of my favourite moments.

Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit (1991)

Don’t really remember seeing this one at the time, only a couple of years later. Top of the Pops had two modes of performance. Either entirely mimed or mimed except for the vocals. Nirvana ignored the conventions of the show with Krist not even pretending to play his bass and Kurt changing the words and singing in a weird monotone. As a teenager I was pretty impressed by what now seems like a pretty tame form of rebellion.

Inspiral Carpets & Mark E Smith – I Want You (1993)

Being a thirteen year old fan of the Inspiral Carpets jaunty organ-led indie, I wasn’t really aware of The Fall so was a bit bamboozled by the grumpy middle aged man performing backing vocals. But even then I respected him very much for reading the lyrics from a bit of paper.

Bjork & Skunk Anansie – Army of Me (1995)

Given the purpose of Top of the Pops was promotion, most bands tried to present themselves in the most commercially friendly way possible, but Bjork was never one for the obvious. Instead of performing the single version of ‘Army of Me’ she went for the b-side version, a duet with labelmates Skunk Anansie, who at the time still seemed pretty angry and terrifying, not having settled into comfortable power ballad territory as they did a few years on.

Lee and Herring present (1995)

As a sarcastic teenager who enjoyed taking the mickey out of pop music (even whilst secretly enjoying some of it), what could be better than your favourite sarcastic comedians presenting top of the pops and taking the mickey put of them. Bonus points to Richard Herring for use of the word ‘wazzock’. Bonus points to Stewart Lee for being, presumably, the only person to both present Top of the Pops and curate All Tomorrow’s Parties.

Bis – Kandy Pop (1996)

By the mid-nineties Top of the Pops was making a bid for indie credibility, eschewing it’s usual policy of just featuring whatever sold the most records, leading to such moments as Heavy Stereo featuring when they weren’t even in the Top 40 (shock, horror!). Bis made history in 1996 by becoming the first unsigned band to appear. I loved them at the time (and still do), but I think this not especially representative track being broadcast to the nation led to them being written off as a novelty act. My metal-loving friends certainly thought they were a terrible joke band, so my love for them remained mainly hidden.

Minty – That’s Nice (1997)

The zenith/nadir of Top of the Pops bid for credibility was when they played the video for Minty’s ‘That’s Nice’ over the closing credits. Minty were more a performance art troupe than a band, and I can only imagine the bafflement of the nation’s living rooms at the weird people in strange costumes shouting “water with oestrogen and lemon, that’s nice” at them.

Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, Part 1 (2002)

I love this song in any case, and did briefly wonder about calling our first child Yoshimi before almost immediately deciding it was a bad idea. But how to improve the performance for Top of the Pops? I know, let’s get Justin Timberlake to play bass whilst dressed in a dolphin outfit. I’m fairly sure I wouldn’t describe myself as a Timberlake fan, but I do enjoy ‘Cry Me a River’, and I do respect him for this particular performance.