SONGS TO MAKE YOUR TINY DISC SPIN FASTER
Tim de Lisle, deputy editor of Intelligent Life magazine and rock critic of the Mail on Sunday, introduces a mix of this year's best songs, for downloading--and one golden oldie in memory of Marc Bolan, who died 30 years ago this month ...
from INTELLIGENT LIFE magazine, September 2007
As we relaunch Intelligent Life as a quarterly magazine instead of an annual, we're adding several new features, including a playlist. I’m the magazine’s deputy editor, and I moonlight as a rock critic for the Mail on Sunday (or is the other way round?), so the task of choosing a dozen songs fell to me.
The thinking behind the playlist is this. We suspect most of our readers have iPods, and nearly all of them have long since loaded up their old favourites, but perhaps not so many know where to go to find good new music. In Britain, where we are based, there is a shortage of intelligent, grown-up radio stations. And although there’s an infinite supply of new music out here on the web, it can be hard to know where to begin.
So here's my opening offer: I've chosen 11 songs from this year, plus one golden oldie. The singers range from chart-toppers to relative unknowns. The one firm rule was that the songs had to be good--tuneful, soulful and thoughtful, the kind of songs that become part of the fabric of your life. Of course that’s in the ear of the beholder, but music isn’t a private language and usually if one person likes something, a few others will too.
Plenty of music magazines now come with a free CD, but the price you pay is that the songs you get are the ones the record companies (as well as the magazine) want you to get. This selection is completely independent. I drew up the list, wrote the blurbs, and then handed it to a helpful man at Apple UK, who put it up as an iMix on the British version of iTunes, so readers in Britain can buy the whole lot at one fell swoop. If you’re not in Britain, you can always listen to the 30-second free sample, or go to the singers’myspace pages. Let us know what you think.
Here's the list (links require iTunes software):
And here's my tasting notes:
Arcade Fire: "Black Mirror". A typically impassioned, full-blooded rock song from the Montreal septet who are the best young band of the moment.
The White Stripes: "300mph Torrential Outpour Blues". “Icky Thump” was great, but this is more distinctive. And it pretty much describes itself.
Kaiser Chiefs: "Ruby". Simple, catchy and still not tiresome. It takes a band from Leeds to come up with the family motorway singalong of the year.
Mark Ronson: "Toxic". Britney Spears’best song since “Baby One More Time” takes on swaggering new life in the hands of the man who produces Lily Allen and Amy Winehouse.
Crowded House: "People Are Like Suns". “I don't really like being famous,” Neil Finn said recently. “What I like is a song being famous.” This one isn’t yet, but deserves to be. An unusually subtle pop anthem.
Rickie Lee Jones: "Falling Up". High-class euphoric pop from one of the great voices.
Holly Palmer: "Leaving in Love". She has been a backing vocalist for David Bowie and Gnarls Barkley, but Holly Palmer is at her best singing her own pop-soul songs, which are exceptional. A warm pop melody and some unflinching words add up to a gorgeously thoughtful kiss-off.
Laura Veirs: "Saltbreakers". Missing the sea already? This song will take you back there. As straightforwardly irresistible as a shell.
The Good, the Bad & the Queen: "Northern Whale". Damon Albarn, from Blur and Gorillaz, has formed yet another fine group by joining Paul Simonon of The Clash, Simon Tong of The Verve and the scintillating Nigerian drummer Tony Allen to record an atmospheric set of history songs about London. Very recent history, in this case: it’s a Beatle-ish lament about the whale that turned up in the Thames.
Bjork: "Wanderlust". A great clattering collision of weird noises: could give cacophony a good name.
Poppy and the Jezebels: "Nazi Girls". There are a thousand ramshackle young indie bands out there, but very few of them are all-female. This is Poppy and the Jezebels’signature song, an attack on school bullies set to music that skips along without a care in the world. They are writing about what they know: their average age is 15.
And here's the golden oldie ...
T Rex: "Hot Love". Not new, but topical. September 16th is the 30th anniversary of the sudden demise of Marc Bolan, who has now been dead as long as he was alive. His music--traditional R’n’B, given a terrific twist by his dreamy lyrics and slinky vocals--stands up well. Couplets don’t come sharper than “she’s faster than most / and she lives by the coast”.
To hear extracts from these songs, and to buy them for downloading, click on the links in the image above--or go to iTunes, click on iMix (in the left-hand sidebar), and search for "Intelligent Life".