This blog's starting to look pretty video heavy, so I thought it might be time for something written. Last week, the wonderful Emma Swift had me pop into her radio show on FBi (In The Pines) for a chat and a live song. She also asked me to contribute an 'online mixtape' to the In The Pines blog, comprising five contemporary songs that I love. Below is what I wrote. If the words pique your interest, be sure to get on iTunes and download the tracks. What's $1.69 per song after all?
Kid Sam - 'Soft, Grey Rain'
For my money, Kid Sam's self-titled debut was the best Australian album of 2009. The melodies and performances are unique and stirring while the lyrics are vivid, controlled and incredible. When I first heard this song, the record's closing track, I was moved to tears. It seems to tell the story of two lovers driven apart by their separate yearnings and out-of-sync travel desires. And it's got a great Kerouac reference - always a good thing. Someone just needs to convince Kid Sam to bring an acoustic guitar on tour, cos I don't think they play this song or 'The Sunday Bus' live, which are two of the album's towering highlights.
The National - 'Slow Show'
Anyone who thinks that a love song written in our day and age can't offer anything new needs to listen to this. It provides clever turns of phrase ('I leaned on the wall, the wall leaned away') alongside unexpected lyrical detours and brutally honest admissions ('Can I get a minute of not being nervous and not thinking of my dick?'). As a singer, Matt Berninger has been a big influence on me by showing how a restrained baritone can pack an emotional wallop.
The Radio Dept. - 'Domestic Scene'
This Swedish band released what I reckon is the most underrated thing that I've heard this year (underrated in Australia anyway) - an album called 'Clinging to a Scheme'. Three years in the making with awesome dreamy melodies and a wonderful balance between lo-fi production and hi-fi attention to detail (if that even makes sense). The second song on the record, 'Heaven's on Fire', should have been a big radio hit here. I think it'd really appeal to fans of The Avalanches, Ariel Pink et al...
David Byrne - 'Glass, Concrete & Stone'
A remarkable man and a bottomless pit of creativity. 'Stop Making Sense' might be the greatest concert film of all time. My parents tell me that as a child, I used to watch the VHS and mimic David Byrne as he set down the tape recorder prop at the start of the film before performing 'Psycho Killer'. It's an appreciation I've carried with me ever since. His songs are endlessly inventive and uniquely arranged, but almost always anchored by a genius hook.
PJ Harvey - 'The Garden'
PJ Harvey's songwriting is raw, fearless and intensely powerful. I've seen her a few times live and each time was better than the last. 'Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea' is probably my favourite PJ album and 'This Mess We're In' my favourite song. But everyone always says that, so I thought I'd pick something from 'Is This Desire?' cos it's a tremendous and often overlooked record filled with great songs.