Friday, January 12, 2007

Songs of the year.

"Living in Sin in the USA" - Oakley Hall. It starts with the melancholy in Rachel Cox's voice, and gets better from there. Oakley Hall was one of my favorite discoveries of 06, from an SFJ tip. His offhand reference, and the ready availability of the album at eMusic, allowed me to get to the songs without any further mediation. It's a rare joy to be able to come to music with no real expectations or sound associations, and rarer still to find the music totally winning. This melody just kills me, and when Cox and Patrick Sullivan harmonize, it's that Gram/Emmylou wet dream all over again. It's Richard and Linda after a few strokes with the whetstone. It's John and Exene after a particularly grim whiskey bender. But with uplift; aren't we all living in sin in the USA? Is there any other way? It can be ugly, I guess. Here it is beautiful, and sad. The band name is borrowed from an author, who is himself one of several Oakley Halls. He doesn't seem to mind the association.... [Buy Gypsum Strings at eMusic, CD Universe.]

"Soul Pride" - The James Brown Orchestra. When my son was an infant, he cried bloody murder for months. In my saner moments I could try to reassign the sound, imagine it some kind of Aylerite wail. But it was mostly an insane time, so the cry sounded like itself, and it hurt all of us. Sleep was a blessed reprieve, for him and us, But sleep did not come easily. One method that seemed to work was to dance him into oblivion, particularly for daytime naps. I tried, with him slung over my shoulder, everything: Fela, Sly, Lee Morgan. Sometimes these worked, sometimes they didn't. But this track never failed us. Thinking back, I'd have to say that there was a little violence in the dancing; I think there's a little violence in the music, too. A sublime rhythmic violence. And even though there may be something a little obtuse about remembering JB with a track on which he does not appear (co-writing credit, though), Brown's innovations are all rhythmic to me. His singing, exhortations, movement, drive, music--all in service to rhythm. And that's what I hear here. Jesu, it's glorious. Oblivion, here I come. [Buy Say It Live and Loud at CD Universe; "Soul Pride" is also on the seemingly deleted Polydor instrumentals collection, naturally called Soul Pride--highly recommended.]

Honorable Mention
"The Blues Are Still Blue" - Belle and Sebastian. Because Marc Bolan's estate could probably use the royalties. And because the fact that this kind of thing has been done well before doesn't mean we don't feel the same excitement and happy little vibrations when it's done well again. There is always room--always--for the good choogle. And keep chooglin. [Buy The Life Pursuit at eMusic, CD Universe.]

Apologies to Perpetua for the format swipe.


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