Saturday, 30 August 2008

How To Polish A Turd

Here's another incidental post – and as far as you can get from a recommendation of the band in question, for whom my detestation is tempered only by apathy (work that out) ...

So. How do you make a shit, boring band like Oasis attractive and vibrant-seeming?

Answer: Photoshop

Look at this ad for their new album (pinched from the Apple website).

Either these old fogies have all had major facial restructuring via plastic surgery, or somebody's been wiping a decade off each of them with the magic of Photoshop retouch.

Keep scraping that barrel, guys. It makes a better noise than anything you've done for the past ten years.

Rock The Vote
On a separate note: if you haven't yet, please vote in the poll to the right. Only a day-and-a-bit left in which to Make Your Voice Heard ...

Friday, 29 August 2008

Omnibus - and democracy vs dictatorship

Let's round up the week, then.

(For each item of the list below, the first link is to the original blog post and Heavy Soil's comments, the second to the song in question on

Democracy in action
On Sunday, Heavy Soil will decide on our favourite of these five. But we also want to know what you think. Which of the above ditties floats your boat the highest? Please cast your vote in the poll at the top right of the page.

Be the voice of the people! Do it! Now!

Shearwater: sunwarped piano, creaky organicism

Friday brings you a short, sub-3-minute vignette from Shearwater called 'An Accident'. Listen to it on Last FM.

It begins with echoey, warblingly detuned piano notes – as if recorded on a beatup old cassette, then left in the sun for a day or two.

Then we encounter lazy dissonances and – again – some kind of creaky wind-organ. A nice, crisp and weighty double bass. And, later, a glockenspiel makes its chimey appearance. Subtly.

There's a slightly Yorkeish quality to the vocals, and the whole thing has more than a hint of Radiohead about it – but a restrained, folky, creakingly organic and lo-fi Radiohead. No histrionics here.

Rather beautifully minimal, I think. How about you?

Spot the difference (sorry, Ida)

To make one thing absolutely clear: this is not Friday's song of the day. Which is not to devalue it ... but ... well, y'know.

It's Dawn French, spoofing Bjork.

As Bronagh commented, there is a certain eery resemblance between Ida Maria, as featured in Wednesday's post, and Dawn French. Which only serves to further the uneasy impression that the whole of Ida Maria's video might be some kind of tongue-in-cheek wind-up.

I don't think it's meant to be.

But compare the videos. Don't you see the resemblance?

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Alt-rock-madrigal. Booming timpani. Deranged bass ... Mirah

Hoorah! Joanna Newsom isn't, it turns out, the only alt-folky female artist who dares to eschew the sweet-voiced minimalism and quirky-yet-still-predictably-tweendie instrumentation we've come to expect.

If these words bring joy to your heart, take an e-gulp (sorry) of Cold Cold Water by Mirah. The link will take you straight to a freely downloadable mp3 on her press site: legit, guv. No seedy filesharing here. 

What to expect? Booming timpani, chamber-orchestral strings, some kind of pump organ ... Nylon-stringed guitars strummed like the lutes of so many madrigalists – but seamlessly integrated with chunky palm-muted electrics ... Disembodied choirs ... Although, thinking about it, isn't everything pretty much disembodied by default, via the recorded medium? Um ... Anyhow. You get the idea.

... Then brace yourself for a rather deranged bass guitar solo, with pseudo-Muezzin vocals wailing in the background, about a minute from the end. How rare.

The but?
Somehow (even in spite of this), the song doesn't quite climax as I'd like it to ... I find myself waiting for everything to let rip simultaneously - which doesn't happen.

Nevertheless, a fine and intriguing song.

Here's Mirah's page, for good measure. 

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Teeter on the brink with Ida Maria

Today, Ida Maria. Who released her debut album about a month ago (which I have not heard). And whom Cogwheel Dogs, in fact, supported when she was in Oxford.

So – quite a good single with quite a cool video. The song is called, not so immensely surprisingly, 'Oh My God'.

It's interesting to reflect that this whole song is made by the simple fact of that delayed attack in the chorus - a quaver's hesitation before the word "God".

Were it not for this tension-raising hiatus, the song would be somewhat unremarkable, save for its aggressive tempo. With the sudden loss of balance – the sense of teetering on a cliff's brink – it's fresh.

Nevertheless, the song is too long, in my opinion, and wears out this initially effective hook. And – for all its raw energy – I don't find her performance quite intense enough to do battle with the PJ Harveys and Bjorks against whom she is pitted ... though the cigarette-serrated edges to her voice are pretty impressive in the high registers.

Finally: the overtly sexual way in which she is presented as an artist (or in which she chooses to present herself? Who knows?) is rather tiresome and unconvincing. Again, she needs either to take a leaf out of PJ Harvey's book in this respect, or else take a different tack. At the moment, it's not working.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Who'd cover Joanna Newsom?

A San Francisco band called Sholi, it would appear, who have committed to tape their own version of Miss Newsom's Sprout and the Bean.

And I think it's pretty good, in a loose, sparse, indified sort of way. It goes beyond mimickry to reinterpretation – which is good. The mix is not great, it must be said (vocals too low at times). But I applaud, nevertheless.

I guess it does raise a question, though: how wise is it to cover the work of an artist whose sound is so original; whose musicianship so accomplished? This is a good cover – but it simultaneously highlights the fact that Sholi are not of Joanna Newsom's calibre (at the moment, anyhow).

... And, if that's the way you like to do things, have a peek at the Sholi website. Line drawings and all.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Matt-laminated emotional ambiguity: Metric

Metric (myspace, last fm) is a rather interesting band, fronted by Emily Haines (also worth investigating as a solo artist in her own right: here's her last fm page).

Today's song, then, is Metric's Grow Up and Blow Away – which you may download (quite legitimately, it seems, here, or just stream from last fm) ... There is something rather French-sounding about this, isn't there? Think Air. The way in which it flits rather whimsically between major and minor keys, lifting you back up just as you think you're about to sink into melancholia. I enjoy the resultant overall emotional ambiguity.

... And it's well-produced. There's a sort of matt-laminated quality to Metric's sound. Like a nicely-printed flyer for a very high-end restaurant. Smooth, refined – but not glossy.

Best … chord-change?
Happens at 0.41 - takes the progression one step further than you expect. Makes the song.

The second half is a little more bland than the first, and the middle-eight is far less striking than other parts of the song – a bit safe.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Heavy Soil Is Changing

For some time, now, this has been a deserted blog. The soughing saharan winds have whistled over its arid pages. Tumbleweed has tumbled unheeded.

(Poetry. Pure poetry.)

But Heavy Soil is going to become fertile once more. I am drawing up plans. To this end, I have made it look a little less ubiquitous. Even though, I must say, it still looks pretty ubiquitous. But it'll do, until I create something better.

What about content, though?

Heavy Soil will, from next week onwards, offer you this:

Each weekday (Monday to Friday), one recommended song or piece of music, a line or two about why I think it's interesting – and, godwilling, a link to somewhere you can listen to it., most probably.

So. Fire up your feedreaders! It's going to be one heck of a ride.

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