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Tuesday, January 20, 2004
WE ARE MOVING!

After four years with a tilde in my URL I feel I've held it down long enough for the interweb hardcore. As of today the address for NYLPM will be

http://www.freakytrigger.co.uk/nylpm/

If you link to NYLPM it would be nice if you updated your bookmarks. It would be even nicer, if you currently only link to NYLPM, to update them to http://www.freakytrigger.co.uk/ so your readers can get the full range of Freaky Trigger content both readable and (hint hint) audible.

(NB as of writing - evening 20th January - there are still minor propagation problems with the freakytrigger.co.uk switch, so if the links above don't lead anywhere then DON'T WORRY, it's just your connection and they will do soon.)
Tom Ewing (link) (e-mail)
Friday, January 16, 2004
The ILM Rough Guides in easy reference format thanks to a heroic effort by Steve M.
Tom Ewing (link) (e-mail)
Where is Freaky Trigger?: The Great Journey of FT is finally getting underway, with the site setting off to pastures and servers new (though the domain name will stay the same). This means a few days' downtime, starting now, and then no doubt all sorts of fiddly nonsense as we republish. Watch this space for details - NYLPM remains up in skeletal form and may even be updated before it too gets transferred and loses half its readers in a URL change.
Tom Ewing (link) (e-mail)
Wednesday, January 14, 2004
This thread is terrific and useful - well done Matos for the idea, to the power of ten if people actually start making these CDs. The previous set of 700MB Go! threads left me a bit numbed - just too much data - but the less-than-CD-length comps on show here are much more manageable and allow for great intros to big genres/themes and more searching examinations of small ones.
Tom Ewing (link) (e-mail)
Thursday, January 08, 2004
efinK a ekiL stuC: So, in summary -

1) Jim DeRogatis utilizing the "I knew Jack Kennedy" routine to roast Ryan Adams - vaguely amusing, but not impressive. Don't blame the kids, Jim - blame the parents (or the corporate overlords parenting their media decisions). And, hell, even if Adams isn't worthy of even lancing Jeff Tweedy's sabacious cysts, he's a sight better than that awful tart pop & immoral gun-toting hip-hop, yeah? Shyeah - like I need to convince NYLPM of that!

2) Ryan Adams calling DeRogatis on the phone to pitch a bitch about the bad review - vaguely amusing, but not prudent, and unfortunately not unexpected nowadays. Also feeds into the DeRo theorem regarding the Love / Adams similarities. (Damn you critics and your hipster thoughts!) (And damn you hecklers, too!)

3) DeRogatis countering the Adams misstep by playing said message on his radio show so folks like me can be amused by the foibles of misunderstood artistes - vaguely amusing, but just about as classless as the actual message. (I will give Adams credit for hiding the vituperative and vindictive nature of his call with the friendly & casual "just calling to say hi" greeting. Well played, kid.) (MP3 over here for a limited time.)

4) "Ryan Adams" posting on one of "his" fan sites to address the DeRogatis maneuver - oh, Calgon, take me away already. Downplaying the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES as just a "local paper", pulling the 4th Grade Punning for Dummies book off the stacks (cf. Jim Derogatory) (yeah, and may your hair grow inward), the "I write my own songs" argument (as if "what we are up against now" is the Popstar), invoking the names of Dave Matthews and John Mayer as a DEFENSE, and all this because the word of one critic obviously carries more weight than the multitude of fans willing to PAY to see the show, fans willing to write DeRogatis and tell that dull old square who's what, fans that are actually willing to buy 5 of your CDs in one calendar year, never mind quality control, market saturation, creative dry heaves, cholera, grass stains, little bunny foo-foo ... FIVE DOLLARS? getouttahere...

I'm sorry, I had a point in there somewhere.

5) WFMU's Tom Scharpling spending 15 minutes dissecting this bulletin board post - take a guess. (MP3 over here for a limited time. Belated thanks to Fluxblog for their assistance in these trying times.) Oh, wow, jokes about bad grammar and spelling in Internet bulletin board posts - hey, did you hear the one about the chicken and the road? And where the HELL did the Steely Dan hate come from? Reel in those ears, Doctor Wu! I should give this chucklehound a call. Fucking stupid bullshit, man. Fucking stupid bullshit.
David Raposa (link) (e-mail)
Wednesday, January 07, 2004
Hank Williams- I'm so Lonesome, I Could Cry

It is one of those songs that is so perfect that it cannot be talked about, a work of poetry that reminds us of our own mourning and sadness, not only with the plantive lyrics but those instrumental sequences where steel guitars and banjos talk for Mr Hanks when he cannot force the words thru his parsed lips.

sometimes the cannon exists for a reason
Anthony Easton (link) (e-mail)
Spotted!! By a "homie" of this parish near the Wimpy Bar in West Ealing: a bed shop called - and he kids me not - Daniel Bedding Centre. Hilarity! Ensue! Ect!

Meanwhile, in what is undoubtedly the world of jazz, Kunto Hartono, 26, has been declared the holder of the Indonesian national record for longest drum-beating after playing non-stop for three days.

WHAT??? I didn't name him....
Sarah C (link) (e-mail)
35. ALAN BRAXE AND FRED FALKE – “Rubicon”

The thing you notice driving into Paris is that you never see the word “Paris”; you just see more and more and bigger buildings with huger adverts glowing from their rooftops; more neon, more glow and gloss; each billboard a little more chic than the last; nothing to say “You Are Here”, just the pulse and surface beauty of a great city gradually overtaking you. Except - of course - the traffic seizes and thickens as you approach, its torpid flow dulling the majesty. But imagine if it was night, and the road was empty save for you?

34. ONE T AND COOL T – “The Magic Key”

This is one of the twee-est records I have ever heard. It is a Euro-rap tune by a small boy who dies too soon on ‘the street’ and then goes to heaven from where he delivers lines like “Had a meeting with my maker / The superhuman baker / He popped me in the oven / And set the dial to lovin’”. It makes “Where Is The Love?” sound like “Shook Ones Part II” and yes I adore it. Not on an emotional level – in fact if I read back my description I feel a bit sick – but just because it’s so, so pretty, a sparkly confection of tweenypop hooks that I find irresistible. “But it’s about somebody DYING!” says Isabel in horror every time I play it – I try and reply but my cheeks are stuffed with marshmallow.

33. CLEARLAKE – “Almost The Same”

The music on this is totally old school indie, Bizarro-style, which obviously I have no complaints about, but the thing with Clearlake is always, always the guy’s absolutely remarkable voice. Lugubrious isn’t quite the word – he has a pureness of tone that stops him sounding precisely miserable but still the overwhelming impression is of damp flannel, leaves clogging drains, comforting cups of tea and resigned shrugs. In its Pooterish way it’s actually quite sensuous.

32. JAMELIA – “Superstar”

One of the very few times someone messaged me on Soulseek it was about Jamelia. “U HAVE TO TAKE ‘SUPERSTAR’ OFF YOUR FOLDER” it said. Wow! I thought, busted for copyright fraud by Jamelia’s street team! Time for a showdown with The Man! “Why?” I answered. “BCOS SHES IN POP AND SHES NOT POP”. Oh, alright then.

Actually though, she’s pop. And as such a little bit hard to write about. If t is the no. of times you want to hear the chorus to “Superstar” in your life and n is the number of times you have heard it then appreciation a is equal to t – n. The result of this equation tells me that “Superstar” is my 32nd favourite song this year. There is something very English, very London about Jamelia, though – not the vibrant bits of London but the ordinary bits like Colliers Wood or Wandsworth High Street, with their Woolies and their Dallas Chickens.

31. GRAFITI – “What Is The Problem”

On this monstrous thread Anthony Miccio wags his finger at conceptual dance records. He would really hate this one, a funny record about a nagging argument which sounds like being jabbed repeatedly in the chest by a fuming keyboard. Nobody online seems sure whether this was a Streets rip-off or side project: as with Mike Skinner, it’s the shabby vocals that make the tune. A touch harder, or a shade whinier, and “What Is The Problem” would have been insufferable – as is, it’s a motion-capture of total frustration.
Tom Ewing (link) (e-mail)
Tuesday, January 06, 2004
Since I have professed my love for the banjo before, it will come as no surprise as to how much I like Nelly Furtado's Powerless. Despite the classic second album "poor ole me lyrics", the other Nelly has managed to strap her trademark slightly annoying vocals to the best pop banjo backing since - er - Sing by Travis. Okay, perhaps I am not selling this to you. Then settle for the nice juxtaposition between Furtado being annoyed at the way her record company has manipulated her image to sell records, and the meaningless, sell records by the bucketloads, chorus where she does indeed "say what she wants". And what she wants to say in the only easily comprehensible part of the song completely ignores the thrust of the rest of the, admittedly great, pop song.
Peter Baran (link) (e-mail)
OK it's the indie bit!

40. BROADCAST – “Colour Me In”

It starts with a lever being thrown on an old calliope machine found in a cave in the middle of an ocean of ice. The frozen gears begin to turn, the painted metal shrieks with stress, rimed lights glow weakly, and a girl sings.

39. THE CLIENTELE – “The House Always Wins”

The album (The Violet Hour) won my heart by being comforting late-night background music so picking a track of it seems a bit pointless. (I chose the longest one.) Also listening to “The House Always Wins” I realise I have completely lost whatever powers of description I once had when it comes to this sort of music. Buy the album and leave it in your CD changer is my advice: you may skip it a few times but the moment will come when it is playing and you start noticing the most lovely little melodic turns and moments forming in the fog. Shall I be awful and call it micro-indie?

38. DR. RING-DING – “Bombs Over Baghdad”

Kicking off with a read-through of selected Commandments, this stakes its claim as the year’s most righteous song immediately. It’s also one of the funniest, particularly near the beginning, as Ring-Ding’s deadpan dancehall flow makes the most of lines like “Flicks from the Wild West really fascinate me” and “Everything must be free / Especially the gas”. Every anti-war argument is sardonically and effectively ticked off, and as Jess has pointed out the matter-of-fact contempt is stinging.

(I think in the ‘blogosphere’ it was me who found this song, an obscure German reggae tune. It has really been great to see it in a few end-of-year lists, which shows the power of Interweb word-of-mouth on a small scale, but more pertinently demonstrates once again the miracle and wonder of file-sharing: I did not go looking for “Bombs Over Baghdad”, I plucked it at random from a search on “riddim 2003”)

37. THE STROKES – “The End Has No End”

As usual the best Strokes tune is the one with the most basic beat – a 4/4 thump with a monochrome bassline, steady all the way, leaving Voice Stroke and Guitar Stroke to ring the changes on top with a succession of pretty quiet-loud hooks and that gorgeously exhausted singing. They still could do with being more disco but even that’s becoming more a quibble than a criticism.
ALSO: “What Ever Happened”, “Between Love And Hate”

36. BELLE AND SEBASTIAN – “Stay Loose”

One last spin around the old block, then. When I first fell for Belle And Sebastian – something that happened hesitantly, publically, on this website – something that struck me was Stuart Murdoch’s talent for building a track, spinning his listeners along, making them promises and then keeping them. Really it’s no more than verse-verse-chorus but if you can do that well then your hooks will always sound ten times better than they are. That’s what happens on “Stay Loose”. You accustom yourself to the bass stabs and the organ and the jerky pastiche rhythms; the verse starts, builds; drops out and avoids the chorus; then builds again and finally! “What about me…” – but then another tease! “All I want is to stay – “, and it cuts off, back to the verse, more keyboard this time, and then a proper chorus, and this time the chorus surprises you with the “lights are out” hook and it sounds ACE! And you hum it to yourself later and really, it’s not all that.

I can remember why I used to like B&S lyrics but I don’t like anything here apart from the “play Mother Hen” bit. That doesn’t matter. And nor does the way the song piddles its energy away in the last two minutes. The first four are lovely, a gleaming Chinese Box of a song and a great way of parting company on amicable terms.
Tom Ewing (link) (e-mail)
Monday, January 05, 2004
Sherburne in Chile: photos, worth it for the Jan 4 one alone really!
Tom Ewing (link) (e-mail)
Dave Stelfox’ stuff on music and cultural context got me thinking a lot towards the end of last year – since he’s brought the subject up again lately, time to reply. Stelfox’ basic point – more attention to content and context please – I don’t disagree with: the definitive word on grime is unlikely to come from a middle-class thirtysomething with a blog and a P2P connection. But who wants to claim their words are definitive anyway?

What I don’t buy is the opposition Dave seems to set up between the people who get in there and really understand the cultural context (or come out of it) and the people who distance themselves and just treat it as sound. I don’t think it’s that simple. If you’re going to write about anything critically your first duty is to be honest about your own context and background: do that and you give the reader a fair chance to work out whether what you say is worth reading.

For instance: I’m a 30 year old white bloke, open-eared but musically lacking commitment, fairly comfortably off, married. I know next to nothing about grime: I bought the Dizzee album like everybody else and I have a few MP3s, Toby very kindly did me a CD-R, that's about it. Whose writing about grime do I want to read? Someone who has dug into the context or someone who I can relate to as a listener? Easy – I want both. I want Heronbone and World Of Stelfox AND Woebot and Skykicking. What I don’t want is people pretending they’re the former when they’re really the latter. But on the blogs there’s less of that about than you’d think.

(This is why Simon R is so respected, I reckon – he is both. He’s a polite indie kid who threw himself completely into the ‘ardkore continuum but has never tried to deny or disguise his background and his limits.)

I have come to really loathe the idea that writing on music should always be about knowing more than your readers - not cause knowledge is bad but because the attitude leads people to fake 'authority' out of a kind of fear of being found out, and to dismiss the stuff they have no expertise in. Admit who you are and where you’re coming from and what you don’t know and the rest of criticism is easy. You don’t have to be self-deprecating, you just have to respect the readers and give them the means to figure out whether they can use what you say. Be better-informed if you like, but be honest first.

There's bigger, nastier questions behind all this, too - if there are people who don't have the right to write about a music, are there people who don't have the right to listen to it? Well, maybe, but they're going to anyway.

(Stelfox made another point way back about the way the whole dilettante listening culture is P2P-driven and how the economics of that are particularly harsh on people putting out white labels and 7"s. That one cut a lot deeper and I don't really have an answer for it.)
Tom Ewing (link) (e-mail)
Britney Spears has married Jason Alexander. Wow - there is an unlikely celebrity pairing. Mind you I have seen Seinfeld and it was unclear he would ever get hitched to anyone. He eats stuff out of the bin after all. As long as it isn’t touching anything else.

Any potential connection with eating something out of the bin and marrying Britney Jean Spears is wholly coincidental and was not meant as a sly satirical joke.

Peter Baran (link) (e-mail)
45. PET SHOP BOYS – “Flamboyant”

The only recent PSB tracks I really like are the ones which cast Neil Tennant as a spectre at the celebrity feast; too old, too wise, cursed to observe. “Flamboyant” is one of these – a darker cousin to “Shameless” with the greedy pop joy replaced by a pulsing electro undertow. It has something of the bitterness of ’99 B-Side “The Ghost Of Myself”, too – the late Pet Shop song I reckon, download it right now! Maybe it’s just Neil’s voice but there’s an enormous sadness behind so much of their music and it makes their unambiguous love songs hard to credit: “Flamboyant” is so good because you’re never sure how the singer feels about his target: a friend? A lover? A mirror?

44. OUTKAST – “Ghetto Musick”

So many of my favourite tracks this year have buzzing or droning synths on but rarely as queasily or nastily as they’re used here. “Hey Ya!” is a fine record but I knew Outkast could make good pop songs – I wasn’t prepared for them sounding this uneasy, though. At first it seemed a mess – my first few listens were just rubbernecking – until I heard it loud in a club and it worked. “Ghetto Musick” crackles with stress that the sickly, insincere slow intervals never resolve: I’m not sure I could take a whole album of this but I might like it more than the two I got.
ALSO: “Hey Ya”; “The Rooster”; “Church”

43. LUMIDEE – “Never Leave You (Uh Oh)

I think I’ve nicked this idea from someone else but I like this so much because it sounds incredibly private, like a secret recording of a girl singing to herself. The Diwali underpin gives it a spacey, slightly off quality that suddenly reminds me of the DNA remix of “Tom’s Diner”. You’re laughing now so I’ll stop. PS Lumidee is hott too.

42. DEXY’S MIDNIGHT RUNNERS – “Manhood”

I’m not sure how odd or embarrassing this track sounds to somebody who isn’t at least a little bit in awe of Kevin Rowland. In the starkest terms it’s a string-laced Northern Soul stomper based around a call-and-response between Rowland (hardly singing) and his band. Except Rowland sounds like he’s reading his notes from a therapy session (“I tried to love recently. I found I’m sick emotionally.”) even as the song rises to its many redemptive, grin-bringing peaks. But I hope it’s more than nostalgia or respect that makes me love the song. Rowland is 100% committed, as ever. I wonder if the reason I will follow him and not any of the other guys who mean it just as much is that Dexy’s have always worked on a principle that the most truthful singing has to be matched with the most joyful pop. I have no idea, really. But when the band sings “Are you always feeling guilty?” and Kevin quickly just says “Yes.” I tremble.

41. MYA – “My Love Is Like…Wo”

For ages I thought this was some kind of kiss-off song because the only thing I could remember was the “My ass is like – wo / And you’re kissing it” bit. Most of my liking for it is based on that, frankly, and the chorus still sounds ten times fiercer than the rather floaty verses, but as a gimmick, as a hook, as a bit of craft (that singover on the final chorus!) and as a piece of frill-free modern R&B this is impeccable.
Tom Ewing (link) (e-mail)
50. FABOLOUS feat TAMIA – “Into You”

As I write this I’ve been married two months to a woman I’ve been with for twelve years. There were times when I thought it was going nowhere, when I’d have put money against us ever reaching the altar (not that it was an altar: it was a table). She was ill; I was depressed; we argued; we were distant. I thought we might be keeping it going for the worst reasons – fear of the unknown, wanting to be ‘settled’. Then gradually I realised we’d been doing it for the best reasons. “I can’t explain it – I’m so into you now”.

“Into You” isn’t ‘our song’ – my wife wouldn’t especially like it, plus the Tamia bit is annoyingly supine – but Fabolous’ lyrics and the gently delighted way he delivers them touch something in me. And the groove is as tender and pretty as the song demands.

49. COLDPLAY – “Clocks (Royksopp Remix)”

Three or four encounters with “Clocks” and it was obvious that Coldplay had written i) the song that people who hated Coldplay might like; ii) the ultimate Coldplay song; iii) the most remixable rock track in ages. The things the band do – pretty simplicity and diffused angst – they were doing well, and they’d also hit on an unusual, ear-grabbing rhythm bed of piano triplets and uptight motorik drums. It wasn’t exactly danceable but it could be. And soon enough it was.

I’ve picked the Royksopp mix here but it might as easily be the original (offspring of Joshua Tree and Play defies two wrongs/right maxim!) or the Frenchbloke version (nervy electro cheese). Royksopp wins simply because I’m less familiar with it and because I love all the springy noises he puts in.

48. RUPEE – “Tempted To Touch”

I kept expecting this to be a big ’03 crossover hit. No luck, though. “Maybe it’s just too cheap sounding,” I thought, but then Kevin Lyttle went massive with “Turn Me On”, which is the same song but less propulsive and less wonderfully yearning. Rupee’s theme – he’s in a dance, he’s feeling the beat, and the women all look so good he wants to touch every one of them – is a winner, surely; the track is full of mouth-along lines to bring listeners closer on the floor; the beat is instant. So why isn’t it an anthem? Shows how much I know.

47. CHRISTINA AGUILERA – “Beautiful”

Christina’s writing teams have obviously realised that she is going to do that voice thing on every song she ever does, as much as she likes, because she is a diva and this is what divas do. So this album’s key tunes were all tracks written with that in mind: either the beat outguns the vocal fireworks (“Fighter”, “Dirrty”) or the song tries to be big enough to actually need that extraordinary precision holler. “Beautiful” is so vast it just about copes. We will be hearing “Beautiful” done awfully at karaoke for the next thirty years so it’s probably best to do as I did and give up on disliking it pretty quickly. Submit, puny ants.

46. NATAHLEE – “Tickle Me Fancy”

I can’t exactly remember what Tracer Hand wrote in his NYLPM slating of Soca: it was one of those reviews where you have to nod glumly along with every point and then just end up blurting “B-b-but it’s still REALLY GREAT!”. Yes it’s tinny; yes it’s inane; yes it’s repetitive; it’s the most inauthentic-sounding authentic music on the planet and it makes the Caribbean sound like a lost province of Sweden and I still love almost every song I download. Until the next one comes along. One thing I love about Soca – Natahlee’s track is a great example – is how positive and bawdy it is; so many of the best tunes are women singing about how they like a drink, a dance and a shag. Maximum arse-shaking, minumum attitude. I like vicarious bad-boy stuff as much as the next blogger but it’s good to change the channel sometimes.
Tom Ewing (link) (e-mail)
Freaky Trigger Tracks Of 2003: This was meant to be an article, and was meant to be one of a number of year-end articles going up around this time. Unfortunately we're still in a bit of a limbo vis-a-vis getting our domain name transferred to our lovely new hosts, so here it is as a partwork. It'll be put together as an article - perhaps with an intro piece - later. The same format as last year - tracks I bumped into and think you should hear, except this time you've heard a lot of them already. One change is that I'm only talking about one track per artist, to make things a bit more varied for me. The tracks are in an approximate order. Hope you enjoy it.
Tom Ewing (link) (e-mail)

Track-at-a-time pop music reviews, and music links.

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Tom's Top 12
THE FLIRTS - "Passion (12" Mix)"
KATE RYAN - "Libertine"
THE DARKNESS - "Christmas Time"
LINKIN PARK - "Faint"
LFO - "Freak"
DR ALBAN - "No Coke"
LCD SOUNDSYSTEM - "Yeah"
PET SHOP BOYS - "Left To My Own Devices (Disco Mix)"
WILEY - "Bird Tune"
A-TEENS - "Floorfiller"
SHANKS AND BIGFOOT - "Sweet Like Chocolate"
BRITNEY SPEARS - "Toxic"
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