Friday, 22 January 2010

Throwing a clanger into the search engines

I've just been reading the Guardian Film & Music (as I do every single Friday without fail). Delighted to see the leader piece about none other than JB favourites Spoon! Tom Ewing was writing about abstract but absorbing lyrics but covers (and nails) Spoon's musical raison d'etre. It's a great piece, please read it

Spoon's new album is out next week and I for one, can't wait. Although Monday's schedule of Laura Veir's July Flame and the Tindersticks new album Falling Down a Mountain is pretty enticing as well. And Laura play's Union Chapel next Wednesday 27th - see you there!

I was also reading Tom Salmon's (always interesting) Click To Download column, in F&M about 'spotiseek' - a new search engine built on both Spotify and's API's. Not another search engine! However, it does sound impressive, so I'm going to give this one a try and report back.

However, I don't know if it will satisfy my current musical curiosity, which can only be described as 'oddly reflective'. I've spent most of January playing my favourites of the decade - as reported last post. But as I've done so, it has occurred to me there are certain patterns in pop music that have always attracted me, as follows:
  1. The lyricist as poet. Guy Garvey, Nick Cave, Jeff Tweedy et al. I do like a bit more from my lyricists. I like abstract too - Britt Daniels and Thom Yorke are both masters ("Yesterday I woke up sucking a lemon", "I spent, the night in the map room/I humanised a vacuum" etc.). But the poets really have my attention and respect, for putting the bloody effort in! Take the Tweedy verse from 'Jesus etc'. "Tall buildings shake/voices escape singing sad sad songs/tuned to chords strung down your cheeks/bitter melodies turning your orbit around". Poetry, no?
  2. The Gibson ES guitar. Spoon, Aimee Mann, Laura Veirs et al. The playing has everything to do with it, but so does the guitar. I love guitars. I own the most amazing Ibanez Les Paul copy from the early 70's I'd never part with it. But it's the sound of the ES, with distortion running through it - played apreggio or solo. It gets me every time I absolutely love it.
  3. The piano/keyboard as rhythm instrument. Have a listen to 'Don't Lose Yourself' by Laura Veirs or of course my classic 'The Ghost of You Lingers' by Spoon. I find the use of the keyboard in driving the main rhythm of a song wonderfully uplifting. Music's great when instruments can be made to do unexpected things.
  4. Sophisticated pop. I like pop songs with a bit of arrangement. Some orchestration. I like a pop song that could almost be classical in a sense. Hence Merz. Any number of Merz's songs features multi-instrumental, time-shifting qualities. Try 'Malcolm' for example, from Moi et Mon Camion. Bill Callahan's new album, or John Vanderslice are also good examples. Elbow are moving in this direction too. Quite wonderful.
  5. The bass as melody. The opposite of point 3 to some extent I know, but it gets me for different reasons. I love the bass. I love the way John Taylor plays bass. But my favourite bass line ever, is by Sting, of all people. In the song 'Spirits In The Material World', the strings are plucked as the rhythm and the bass drives a sophisticated, but thumping, melody. That is possibly my favourite pop song. They don't make singles like that anymore do they?
There's much more, and I wonder what other idiosyncratic themes, patterns other music lovers are attracted to. But what I'd really love to do, is chuck all this is to a search engine that works on that level. But that might never be possible, which is part of the mind-blowing mathematics that make up music, I suppose.

Just a thought, not bad for January though!