Musical Meowing


May 2013

The Five-Star Tour: Introduction

Short version: I’m going to occasionally feature tracks from my collection that I think are great.*

Long version: So I use iTunes to organise my digital music collection and I’m a little teensy-weensy bit obsessive in how I keep everything on it (and I know I’m not alone in this!). One thing it allows me to do is rate each song between 1 and 5 stars. Why would I bother doing this? Well, since I primarily use it for listening on iPhone/iPod whilst in the car / working / around town etc. (not at home though – I still like to play full albums from actual CDs / LPs …I know; old-fashioned, right?), and I like to listen on random, it helps if the songs that come up are good ones: so I have a smart playlist of all the four- and five-star songs. Now, I probably could have been cleverer in terms of using the star ratings, as basically I’m using a possible five categories to give me just two, but that’s how I started out doing it in 2004 and that’s how I’m going to continue! The rating of the songs is slightly shaded by how good they are out of their album context and in a potentially noisy situation – bus / main street / car etc. Anyway, so I listen to the 4/5-star songs on random, which is basically like having my own personalised AMAZING radio station. I love it. Songs drop off the playlist for a month after being listened to, so nothing comes round too often. The iPhone/iPod gets regularly synced with the master computer so everything stays up to date. Marvellous. And so to the point of this diatribe: five-star songs (rarer than four-star ones, of course) come up here and there at random, and so I thought I could feature them here, as and when I listened to them and felt like writing about them. Enough justification? Meh, it’ll do.

*To kick this off, then, a gorgeous bit of Mercury Rev:

Such a fantastic piece of music – the French horns, the strings, the bassline, the wailing theremin, the trumpet solo towards the end…spine-tingling! I hope you agree…


Albums Of: April

The Knife – Shaking The Habitual

This is an expansive and challenging artistic statement of an album, spread over two discs. It ranges from mechanical, almost tribal techno to droning noise, ambient drifts and grating metallic sounds but the unifying factor seems to be a sense of dissatisfaction at the world, either writ large or lurking in the background. The sound of decaying factories – the raves they might hold at night and their desolation during the day. It’s a difficult listen in parts (and it’s a good thing it’s broken up into two discs, although there is a single disc version without the 20-minute ambient drone track Old Dreams Waiting To Be Realised that closes the first disc) and not one, I suspect, that I’ll sling on the player often, but compelling in its own dark way.

Phoenix – Bankrupt!

And now for something completely different! The polar opposite of The Knife‘s opus, this is concise, bright, shiny and happy. Almost too cloying. In an understandable response to their fresh and unselfconscious break-out album, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, they have tried to one-up the layers of synths and 80s goodness, which has slightly obscured the immediacy of the melodies – however, early days with this yet and I half suspect that the diminished first impression will mean that it reveals its charms more gradually.

Neon Neon – Praxis Makes Perfect

Nice to see a return from this collaborative outfit containing Gruff Rhys (of Super Furry Animals) and Boom Bip (of, er, Boom Bip). Their 2008 concept album, Stainless Style, about playboy car designer John DeLorean (responsible for the fantastic-but-flawed DMC12, made famous in the Back To The Future films) was perfectly pitched and nailed its 80s aesthetic with great tunes and lyrics. Praxis Makes Perfect‘s subject is the rather more obscure Italian publisher and left-wing activist Giangiacomo Feltrinelli. I have not had long to digest this (quite short) album yet, but my initial impressions are that whilst it is good, their subject matter this time does not mesh with their updated 80s style anywhere near as well as in Stainless Style (where lines like “Cause you’ll see my reflection / In Michael Douglas’s mirrored sunglasses” perfectly complemented the mirror-sharp production).

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