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The Five-Star Tour

The 2014 Round-Up: Tracks Of The Year

Hello, I’m back! Didn’t manage to keep up regular posts here this year but I will be doing a full round-up of the music I enjoyed this year – hoorah!

To kick it all off, here is one of the gems of the year, an irresistible electro-pop tour-de-force from Röyksopp & Robyn, from their mini-album Monument.

I give you Röyksopp & Robyn – Do It Again

Uncommon Time: Five

L. Pierre – Baby Breeze (2005)

Wow. I’ve been listening to (and loving) this track for years but not until a few days ago, when it came on in the car, did I realise it was actually in 5/4. I guess the elongated time signature helps to emphasise the drawn-out orchestral flourishes, which bloom and overlap like celestial clouds. Sorry, got a little poetic there, but I do love this track. Heavenly.

The Five-Star Tour – The Divine Comedy

The Divine Comedy – Our Mutual Friend (2004)

The Divine Comedy‘s Neil Hannon and regular collaborator/orchestrator Joby Talbot have written some gorgeous songs in their time (although Divine Comedy albums have rather too much filler for my tastes, they’re a brilliant ‘best of’ band). This one is really special, in my opinion. Hannon is a great musical storyteller and Talbot’s orchestral backing in this is fabulous, complementing the tale perfectly and building to a final two minutes of sorrowful, cathartic climax. Goose bumps every time!

The Five-Star Tour – Porcupine Tree

Porcupine Tree – The Sound Of Muzak (2002)

If you write a song lamenting the descent of music into demographic-targetted, packaged crap, you’d better make sure it’s a cracking good song. No worries with Porcupine Tree in the driving seat. Musically there’s a great contrast between the muscular 7/4 verse (also meriting inclusion in my Uncommon Time series!) and the sumptuous common-time chorus. I even appreciate the lyrics, which is very unusual for me. Steven Wilson sings clearly and writes to-the-point lyrics, which probably don’t win any awards for poetry but cut to the chase adroitly. For example, ‘The music of rebellion / Makes you wanna rage / But it’s made by millionaires / Who are nearly twice your age‘.

The Five-Star Tour – Lindstrøm & Christabelle

Lindstrøm & Christabelle – Baby Can’t Stop (2010)

Lindstrøm is pretty much the king of the ‘space disco’ sub genre but here, with his collaborator Christabelle, he borrows liberally from Michael Jackson‘s Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ (or maybe I’m being unfair) to create an absolutely storming electro-pop/funk crossover (should-have-been-a) hit.

The Five-Star Tour – Bent

Bent – Sing Me (2004)

Taken from the gorgeous 2004 album Ariels (which may well be one of my favourite albums ever), this is aural ecstasy. Slow, yet somehow upbeat at the same time, there are so many beautiful layers to this arrangement, starting with the fantastic cut-and-decay string chords at the start…

The Five-Star Tour – Plaid

Plaid – At Last (2011)

The closing track from Plaid‘s 2011 album Scintilli, this one’s a beauty (and also fits into my Uncommon Time theme, being in three or six time) – a concise summary of Plaid at their finest.

(although I’m not massively keen on their official video for it…)

The Five-Star Tour – Jon Hopkins

Jon Hopkins – Circle (2004)

Having covered Jon Hopkins‘s latest album, Immunity, in my Albums Of: June round-up, I was reminded of this marvellous track, a distinct highlight on his second album, Contact Note. Beautiful electronic music – I particularly love the way it gradually develops a pulsing accompaniment that really drives everything forwards.

The Five-Star Tour – Banda Black Rio

Banda Black Rio – Mr Funky Samba (1977)

I got this track years ago on an otherwise fairly forgettable compilation and I’ve loved it ever since. It hints at a seam of music that I’ve never quite been able to unearth – so tight and groovy, with the instruments doing all the talking.

Any suggestions of similar stuff to check out would be appreciated!

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