Whereas the National’s Trouble Will Find Me found the band ever-so-intently reiterating their trademark dour doom, Beach Fossils’ Clash the Truth felt like a left turn, Dustin Payseur ditching the somnambulism of the band’s eponymous debut, and the pristine precision of the What a Pleasure EP, for the ragged, jagged edges of postpunk.
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According to their label, Mom + Pop Music, Gabriel Winterfield and Jono Ma went about “creating a sound that would capture their love of contemporary electronica and classic American Soul”. The album was recorded last year in an empty farm two hours south of Paris, with an 808 (a low tech drum machine), a Fender Jaguar, a pair of vintage Neve console channels and a laptop.
On “Save the Last Dance for Me”, Harry Nilsson sounds like he’s in bad shape, and he is. The highlight of an 18-month long binge drinking session with producer John Lennon, the album that boasts “Save the Last Dance”, 1974’s Pussy Cats, is rough, gorgeous, both orderly and a serious mess. Yet, somehow, it works. “Save the Last Dance for Me” is a perfect example, as we can actually hear Nilsson’s tequila-laced phlegm, accompanied by Lennon’s sensitive and bizarre string arrangement, and cannot help but be taken in by the sheer honesty and exquisite weirdness of the thing. Nilsson destroyed his vocal cords while recording Pussy Cats, and his confidence as a vocalist would never recover. All of this makes “Save the Last Dance” a bittersweet listening experience for the Harry Nilsson fan. Few other singers could make falling apart sound so beautiful.
I’m glad I don’t belong to those circles because I can’t imagine not appreciating all of the melodic charm, rosewater whimsy and—believe it or not—disguised tension that “Tomorrow” has to offer. Notably more fetching than “Yesterday”, this dreamy, piano-driven cut from 1971’s Wild Life, the debut record by Wings, finds Paul beseeching his dear to stay strong and true as they map out a brighter future together. Backed by airy “ohs” and “ahs” and using an altered vocal that makes him sound younger, Paul projects hope—urgent, infectious hope—even as pain and doubt are plainly evident. “Don’t you let me down tomorrow” doesn’t exactly brim with confidence, and “Holding hands we both abandon sorrow” means there’s sorrow to overcome. And as he sings on my favorite line, “Through the week we beg and steal and borrow / Oh for a chance to get away tomorrow.” It’s a tricky balancing act, cloudy skies and uncertainty mixed with idyllic visions of picnics and “country air”. The glue seems to be those sustained, spacious “ohs” that Paul belts out again and again. They pack both anxiety and optimism. Far from merely twee, “Tomorrow” is fraught emotion made irresistible.
It was the mid ‘90s saturation of alternative rock bands that allowed this record and this band to really stand out. Poking their way into the lives of the few that understood their artistic vision, Failure had built their sound on mid-tempo hard rock, easily accommodating many metal fans along the way, instigated by their modest hit “Stuck on You”, but like most singles, all it did was bring you in. Just before the single’s appearance on the record, “Another Space Song” gripped right in as the absolutely wonderful textures, and ominous melody that have remained a part of my life.
// Moving Pixels
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