I cannot sleep. Kate Bush is wading a dream. Slow motion worlds falling. Transcending. Love floating. Tears hiding. Memories rising. Future shifting. Softly, softly, feet don’t touch the ground. I close my eyes and I keep falling. Falling with the music drifting. I know all about snow. Stinging my face. Out of the grayness. Coming at me as I spin. And my mother is there, waiting. The music repeats in circles. Stirring undercurrents like engines. Repeating like the heart. I almost catch it…and then lose it again. Then I feel it reverberating. Dimming, fading…gone.
Kate Bush cannot be explained. She defies words. Convention does not apply. Tomorrow she returns live on stage after 35 years. This is what happened to me when I plunged in to “Snowflake”, the opening track on 50 Words for Snow. In the middle of the night, I could not sleep. Then I listened. Your words may not be the same as mine. And there lies the beautiful mystery. She always knows where you want to go.
Internet is the new Jerry Wexler. The traditional A&R man with his aviator shades and Barry Gibb bristle is a dinosaur. (Wexler is the reason we all know Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan and Ray Charles.) The digital age has changed our world and our music, and let’s face it, magic rarely happens on an A&R department’s profit and loss sheet. With the music industry’s increased focus on how to turn mouse clicks into greenbacks, the internet has stepped in as the burning heart of music. Music blogs are the new wall of sound. Get an influential blog like Pitchfork behind you, and you too could become Arcade Fire. (This is not one of those blogs by the way. Sure, I have featured a blog band or two but that has always been after the horse has already bolted, no one could ever accuse me of discovering the new Nirvana.) LA’s Electric Guest are popping up on many a clued-in bloggers’ playlists and twitter feeds with their Danger Mouse produced indie Motown stomper “This Head I Hold”. It’s infectious, it’ll get stuck in your head with its own replay button, make you clap your hands and shake your groove thang no matter who’s watching. There’s no hiding from this song, it’ll hold you hostage for days. Now, if I were Pitchfork, I’d throw some real muscle behind this band. They are going to be huge.
Any interview or article on Charlotte Gainsbourg inescapably starts with her famous father. Serge Gainsbourg was a French ‘enfant terrible’ who loved the most beautiful women on the planet (most notably Brigitte Bardot and Charlotte’s mother Jane Birkin, an iconic 60’s model and the inspiration for the Hermès Birkin Bag) then courted controversy all his life with his provocative songs and excessive lifestyle. He was like the French Frank Sinatra, only more punk. Charlotte has inherited her father’s rebel streak by choosing to sing in English in a country where 40% of radio airplay is required to be in French by law. Maybe it is to escape the long shadow of her father (whose musical legacy is so much part of the national psyche his lyrics are quoted freely even today) or maybe it is to gain more exposure in an anglocentric world. Whatever the case, she has once again teamed up with Beck for her upcoming EP (who also collaborated on her album “IRM”) on a dancey electro pop stomper which all but solidifies her reputation as a sexy indie icon. I admire Charlotte Gainsbourg, not only for being a kick ass rock chick and 40-year old mother of two, but for carving out her own musical identity. In fact, I’d quite like to be Charlotte Gainsbourg when I grow up.
Channel Cairo’s romantic mosaic of a sound is quintessentially London. Much like the city itself, where nothing makes sense so everything makes sense, Elephant Room is grand, enigmatic and hauntingly beautiful in cinematic technicolour. Chanting harmonies and floating pianos create big emotions. I swear I could even hear a whiff of a French chanson buried in there somewhere. The London five piece cut very mysterious figures with their back story of chance meetings under the Waterloo Bridge, predestined club nights and the incidental discovery of their dashing French guitarist, kidnappings in the Egyptian capital and forefathers deciphering hieroglyphs under the belting African sun. Fact or fiction- who knows or cares. If this is the debut, sign me up for the encore.
If you are not from England, you may not be familiar with Margate, the seaside town that Victorians based their mediterranean holiday dreams on and what the Spanish costas deprived Margate of; namely tourists. For centuries, weary Londoners have travelled the easy few hours to the fresh shores of Kent, to partake in that very English past-time of eating fish and chips on the beach. That was until the huddled masses were given proper wages and packed up nan and auntie and buggered off to Benidorm in Southern Spain to…er, east fish and chips on the beach. Whats left of Margate’s glory days is whats evident on local band Two Wounded Birds’s surf-rock video Britannia-style, the beach and one of the last remaining Wimpy’s hamburger restaurants. I like the Birds efficient and no-nonsense sound, you’ve got what you need; the guitars, the drums and a few cool kids (one of them is even called Johnny Danger, how rad is that?!) riding the very British grey clouds and waves. Even the song comes in at a decisive 1 minute and 51 seconds, keeping the fuss to a minimum and the impact to a maximum. Not surprisingly Jacob Graham of The Drums sniffed out this band like some indie pop surf hound before anyone else did and they are now Moshi Moshi label mates and opening gigs for The Drums. Exhilarating stuff.
Mark Foster from LA indie synth rock band Foster The People is a kindred spirit. He scaled three fences at a power plant to crash a Kanye West show after fire marshalls shut it down. I haven’t had to scale any walls, but I would. Seriously. Foster lives in a dilapitated faded glory building somewhere in the middle of Hollywood, next to Superman and Freddie Kruger, and as a day job writes jingles for commercials and TV shows out of his cigarrete smoke filled shady rooms. With his band Foster The People he is riding a bullet after their Coachella debut earlier this month. And thanks to a German music blogger (holla! for all the fellow music bloggers out there) who gave them a rocket by posting Foster’s sexy summer time simmer “Pumped Up Kicks” on her blog and alighted The Hype Machine on fire. Yeah, she’s gotta dinner date lined up with the Fosters after they hit Europe later this year. Their sound is just so feel good and smooth, floating about in a fluffy pop cloud, choruses weightless and lighthearted, hooks addictive and pulsing through my indie rock veins. I’ve heard them being compared to MGMT, only more commercial, as if that would be a bad thing. What is wrong with a bit of eternal summer I say. Sometimes happiness is just simply an outreageously infectious verse and a refrain. Put this band on your radar.