A mixtape for winter’s end, spring’s stirring, and the reïmagination of rock.
- Marvin Gaye, “I Want You”. All because of the intro on this.
- Hot Chip, “Huarache Lights”. A trickle of synth and a yawning vocoder intones the titular phrase. The drums are capacious and hang, like a thread on a nail, off the beat. There is a sample of an African-American woman who’s got something here, that you don’t ever want to turn down. Later, that same sample is mangled through the vocoder, atop a tinkle of Rhodes piano, to form the bridge. Somehow, what begins as a typically uplifting slice of electro-soul is warped into a cyber-fried house workout.
- James Blake, “200 Press”. The pace is dialed back a little. Christmassy keys, disembodied wails, and pitched-down narration, underpinned by a low-key metronomic beat. Softly, a more menacing arpeggiated pattern invades, and the song temporarily hits the floor. This is just the song’s passing fancy. Quickly, we are transported back to some airport lounge from the future, rather like that depicted here, in the video treatment for Blake’s “Voyeur”.
- Vampire Weekend, “Run”. In February, I work to live, and with my fund (and a bit of sun), it strikes me that I can run. Parping brass, artificial as you like, and Ezra Koenig with his nest-egg-enhanced adventure. This is the sound of the spring awakening.
- Blur, “Go Out”. Britpop couldn’t be bettered, not when it was lairily yelling from the terraces, but when it struck a melancholy pose. This English kind of sadness was a crown conferred upon “This Is A Low” and “Disco 2000”; now, it has a fresh recipient. Squalls of Graham Coxon’s guitar rain down and thrash through Blur’s comeback single. This is no revenant—with an injection of Gorillaz’ high-rise future-shock, this is the real deal.
- Talking Heads, “Animals”. Neurotic and frenetic, like an incessant gadfly; the band repurposing the ingredients of rock music into something more clinical and yet more brash, at once mechanistic and striking a deep blow into the heart.
- Deerhunter, “Desire Lines”. From repurposing to just getting your head down and nailing it. Bradford Cox and co. started out making noisy, damaged art rock, but on their fifth album’s centrepiece, they let their guitars soar out into the night with a beatified, sweetly-struck anthem of rock. The song’s second half spins into an eternity of cyclical figures, with the strut of someone who will never be famous, but can act like they already are—a powerful message on an album about invented anecdotes consuming the mind and coming to represent reality. The young upstart’s counterpart to Spoon’s “I Saw The Light”.
- Faust, “Krautrock”. Synecdoche. The song’s title came to stand in for a broader church, of German experimental music that blew down the door between propulsive, motorik rock, and warped, beatless improvisation. In this song, Faust excel at both.
- Haim, “Days Are Gone”. Out of Ariel Rechtshaid’s thrusting and quivering sonics emerges a clarion call for womanhood and lost youth, propelled by the battling vocals of the Haim sisters. If the rest of pop had this much zeitgeist…
- Clinic, “See Saw II”. Daniel Lopatin remixed what was an early-album collision of blissful woodwind and subdued, almost jazzy backing, utterly lacking in sharks’ teeth. What arose was a thoroughly grimy, nasty concoction; all softness and blurriness ripped out and mangled into harsh edges. In its deranged gutsiness, it evinced the idea that somewhere between Merseyside and Point Never, krautrock survives.
- TV On The Radio, “Wear You Out”. I will never bore of closing out playlists with these seven-odd minutes of freefall. The way its sensuality rolls along a tumbling rhythm, the way Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone let their vocals intertwine and then detach from each other, and the way it climaxes in mineral-like organ and free-jazz woodwind literally wearing out. You submit to it, totally, and your reward is immersion into their unique worldview of love and war.