Saturday, November 16, 2019

OBSESSIONS October 2019

Sorry, I know it's a bit late — already halfway through November — but last month I had decided to start making a playlist every month based on what I've been listening to! The criteria is simple: if I've managed to listen to the song on some sort of repeat, then it goes in the list. And then at the end of the month, I'll write up a little commentary!

The whole monthly playlist format, in general, I have graciously stolen borrowed from my dad, who's been doing this sort of thing for decades. Kudos to him. Now it's my turn. OK, let's begin.

Spangle Call Lilli Line — "Cast a Spell on Her"

This is Spotify's fault. Their algorithms introduced me to this Japanese outfit after I was listening to... I can't remember who. It was probably Quruli or some other Japanese pop band. I was on a very long stretch of Japanese post-rock, artsy metal, and similar material, after having seen Mono and Boris live in concert, here in San Francisco!

Anyway, I became obsessed with this beautiful track of theirs, and then... this is embarrassing... I proceeded to listen to virtually the entire Spangle Call Lilli Line (or, lovingly, "SCLL") library. There's something about them that sucks me in and I'm not quite sure what, since even their sound is difficult to put in a single box. Over the years, their style has ranged from unstructured jam sessions, to tight, danceable songs. So, it could be argued that "Cast a Spell on Her" isn't even particularly indicative of their style, considering how relaxed and kicked-back it is, compared to the majority of their output. But there's an intense beauty that I wasn't able to shake off for like half of October. This song in particular has a sense of wide-eyed wonderment that warms the heart. I never knew that a song with those qualities could become such a veritable earworm.

Elbow — "My Trouble"

I've always been a fan of Elbow. I put them in the same category as Babybird, Badly Drawn Boy and other British, orchestral-leaning singer-songwriter types with highly distinctive singing voices.

Elbow's new album, Giants of All Sizes, is very good, and in some ways, Elbow's edgiest offering. But "My Trouble" stands out to me, for its cinematic qualities and melancholy tone. The crescendo towards the end of the track — "Come get me / Guide and check me / Sail and wreck me / Soak me to my skin" — is particularly haunting when sung with Guy Garvey's inimitably soulful voice. Sends chills down the spine.

Battlefield Band — "Whaur Will We Gang?"

The Battlefield Band are special to me because they have a recording of the song that the pipe band played at my graduation from UC Riverside. Scottish/Celtic/etc. folk music, in general, has a particular charm, and sometimes magic, that I enjoy listening to.

Either I was thinking about my college experience (Go Highlanders!) or I was watching too much Limmy's Show, but at one point I was in a particularly Scottish mood, and so I decided to listen to some Battlefield Band I had not listened to before. That's when I came across "Whaur Will We Gang?" which is a very funny, clever and intensely charming song for a duet.
Let's go tae some Polynesian Island 
Where it's never freezin'
Lovers wed there every season
By the coral sea

But I'm a' peely-wally white
And my bikini's gettin' tight
And you are no' a bonny sight
In trunks a size too wee.
You know this couple loves each other. Puts a smile on your face and leaves it there.

Hammock — "Now and Not Yet"

Hammock are doing that thing again where they make an album that really should not be called post-rock. Instead, it should be some sort of movie soundtrack/modern classical/museum piece that ought to be performed at the symphony. (They actually did make a score for a movie, but that's another story.) So, indeed, their 2017 offering Mysterium is quite an emotional ride. And it gets off to an incredible start with its opener, "Now and Not Yet." The combination of magic, melancholy, yearning and introspection is in full force here, mixed with that trademark serenity of watching the stars at night that only Hammock can do. I think this song made me cry the first time I heard it.

Jon Hopkins — "Lost in Thought"

Opalescent is not a new album. It first came out nearly 20 years ago (!) but Jon Hopkins' complete and utter mastery of downtempo, liquid electronica has guaranteed that album still sounds fresh as ever. Jon Hopkins is always recommended for people who like Bonobo, Zero 7, Bent and all the other popular chill artists.

"Lost in Thought" might not be the catchiest song on the album, but I do believe it is among the most sophisticated and nuanced, with very subtle production decisions that are dead easy to appreciate. In particular, I am attracted to the introspective nature of the track. I really wish I had a lossless rendition of the whole album.

Ludwig van Beethoven — "Symphony no. 7 in A Major, Op. 92, II. Allegretto 'Allegrettango'" (arr. Karl Jenkins)

It says "Ludwig van Beethoven" on the cover, but this is hardly Beethoven. In fact, let's forget about Beethoven altogether for the time being. This is Beethoven done on the terms of Karl Jenkins, of Adiemus fame, and this particular track looks, feels, and sounds like an Adiemus song, with those trademark "ethnic" vocals (I really wish I had a better word) that remind me of a Tahitian choir. He tango-izes Symphony no. 7 ("Allegrettango" hahaha get it?) which I have to admit is a fairly genius thing to do. I certainly would not have come up with such an unholy marriage of musical styles and attitudes.

The end result, however, is an insanely catchy and cinematic piece, garnished with a pinch of humor in a few places. The only thing wrong with this song is that it fades out rather than coming up with a melodramatic tango pose for an ending. Ultimately, though, the highlight on the album, by far.

Sunday, October 13, 2019


Hey gang, welcome to my new music blog. I’ve been making lots of Spotify playlists ought it would be cool to show off stuff I’ve been listening to, and just nerd out. See ya soon!