Culturedarm’s Songs of the Month (February 2015)

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Let us go then, with a new series capturing some of my most listened to music of the past month. Listening lots does = endorsement.

Joanna Newsom – ‘Only Skin’ (Live at BAM, 1 February, 2008)

At almost seventeen minutes, ‘Only Skin’ is the longest composition on Ys; and it is densest piece on the album, not in terms of its sound palette – that might be ‘Monkey & Bear’ with its tearing climax – but in its shifting structure and the twisting patterns of its lyrics. I’ve been listening to a lot of Joanna Newsom live this month, and was particularly drawn to a bootleg of her performance at the Green Man festival back in 2005, when some of Ys was still in the process of being formed. The video below contains the audio of ‘Only Skin’ from an equally exceptional performance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, with the Brooklyn Philharmonic, in early 2008.

Toe – ‘グッドバイ’ (or ‘Goodbye’)

I first heard this song earlier this week via Tumblr, and reblogged it on one of my Tumblr accounts. It’s such a pleasant, richly meditative seven-minute piece. Toe are a Japanese group whose music is typically described as post-rock or math rock. Their debut album, 2005’s The Book About My Idle Plot on a Vague Anxiety – which I haven’t yet listened to – apparently focuses on the drumming of Kashikura Takashi, and his interplay with the group’s guitarists. On their second full-length, For Long Tomorrow, released in 2009, Toe collaborated with several vocalists to introduce another layer and another texture to their art. With the intricacy of the playing complemented by the light mutability of the vocals, on For Long Tomorrow they sound close to folk music, and to my ears to both múm and Sigur Rós. ‘グッドバイ’ showcases the voice of Asako Toki.

Björk – ‘Black Lake’

I’m continuing to listen to Vulnicura often, and after running through the whole cycle of songs I’m back at the moment on ‘Black Lake’. With Björk’s exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art one week away, and Vulnicura still a couple of weeks away from a physical release, the song isn’t readily accessible yet via the usual – YouTube, SoundCloud, etc. – channels. So here is a trailer for the related sound and video installation which will be part of the MoMA exhibition.

Kanye West – ‘Only One’ 

‘Only One’ was released on 31 December, and the past month has seen Kanye give first airings to ‘Wolves’, which features Sia and Vic Mensa, and emerged during the adidas Originals x Kanye West fashion show in New York City on 12 February before being performed as part of the Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special; and ‘All Day’, which debuted last week at the BRIT Awards. But ‘Only One’ still feels very much of the moment, with Kanye continuing to give touching renditions on talk shows across Europe.

Rihanna – ‘FourFiveSeconds’ (feat. Kanye West and Paul McCartney)

Rihanna inhabits her songs like few others. She has an exceptional voice, and ‘FourFiveSeconds’ is one of her greatest vocal performances, acoustic guitar, organ, and cello complementing her raw expression. Kanye’s verses are also a lot of fun, and everything about this song – including the denim-clad video – has such a fantastic atmosphere.

Kevin Coyne & Dagmar Krause – ‘Come Down Here’

Perhaps my favourite track from 1979’s Babble – which has been extensively covered by Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – sees another remarkable vocal, courtesy of Dagmar Krause. As she whispers and wails and coerces ceaselessly in the background, her voice hurries to exhaustion through brief moments of clarity.

A.T.A – ‘Bars’

Detroit rapper A.T.A (Anthony The Alpha) released ‘Bars’, produced by Yng Vapor, at the start of the month, the song appearing as the second cut on his ‘8 Gates of 808’s’ mix for AMDISCS: Futures Reserve Label.

Tom Waits – ‘Who Are You’

‘Who Are You’ from 1992’s Bone Machine is Waits at his careworn, lilting best.

Drake – ’10 Bands’

As I wrote in the review of Drake’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late which I posted yesterday, I think ’10 Bands’ is one of the strongest tracks on the mixtape, and it is probably the one I’ve played most over the last few weeks. The first half-rhyme after the hook, ‘I can tell you how it happened / I can tell you ’bout them safe house nights out in Calabasas’, is rhythmically perfect with Drake’s casual flow, heightened by the slight emphasis he places on the following line, ‘I can tell you not a rapper’ .

The Sugarcubes – ‘Deus’

With what we know now about heating water, carbon dioxide emissions and their impact upon our environment, perhaps these days Deus would give Einar Örn a hasty shower instead of a bath. But Deus is Deus, and no doubt his hose would still leave Einar squeaking.