June 2010 was a tough month for me. The transition between university and real life is surely traumatic for anyone. Luckily, I had one album to help me through: Anathema's "We're Here Because We're Here". A life-affirming collection of enlightenment anthems, a veritable supernova of optimism, and above all, a true beacon of unrepressed, unashamed beauty and emotion.
'Emotion' is definately the word of the month: Tru-popwise, Robyn returned with her cockiest collection of self-assured quirkpop yet, leading with a emotional punch of a confessional lead single, Rihanna came to terms with an unrequited, passionate lesbian crush (not hers of course) and Gaga's video for "Alejandro" finally usurped itself, a high art novella of a short film that made the gay community proud and the Madonna fans outraged.
But without further ado, my tracks of the month are as follows...
Help I'm Alive (Twelves Remix)
A remix from a bonus disk? Wtf right? Well, this probably wouldn't have made it if it weren't for the sheer bizarre experience of hearing the original after this sunburnt skinny-dipper of a remix. "Help I'm Alive" is taken from Metric's 2009 release "Fantasies", rereleased this month, and matches ominous guitars with the fearful vocal lick "You're gonna eat me alive!". But when you add a glittery discoball, a sizzling synth bass and a Calvin Harris swagger, you get this: A shimmering, disturbingly blissed out funkfest that celebrates the previously quoted lyric, as if singing "Always look on the bright side of life" whilst tied to a rotating skewer.
You can tell Kele’s been dying to make a track like this for years. The thudding four-to-the-floor kick and gritty bassline recall a delightfully over-compressed funky house vibe that is sadly lacking from the over-slick club anthems of late...
(Read my full review here: http://www.lastbroadcast.co.uk/music/single-reviews/v/11341-kele-tenderoni.html)
After the gobsmacked overlistening I gave the incredible "Rated R" last fall, that breathless first listen impact of "Te Amo" is dampened whilst writing this article, but rest assured the raw sexual curiosity of this gem continues to burn seductively. That nasal tone that whined "please don't stop the music" now ponders "te amo... don't it mean I love you?" Rihanna has been exposed to the big, bad world out there, the realities, and in a world where only Lady Gaga truly addresses homosexuality in her art, Rihanna shows maturity beyond her years as she huskily tries to let down her would-be-lover down easy. However, the sultry nudge-winks implied in Rihanna's thoughtful tones make it easy to understand how one could be easily led on. Let's hope it just holds up in court though.
The-Dream just has no shame when crafting his lush, exquisite R&B landscapes, and "Yamaha" is full on 80s tribute, one swung beat away from New Jack Swing. Taken from his third record "Love King", only The-Dream can make misogyny sexy and forgivable. "Never seen a girl with an ass so fat" is uttered like a desperate plee for love rather than a leering retort, amongst the stuttering rhythms and sunrise strings. Pushing the boundaries of R&B even further, The-Dream is R&B's one true talent.
Vistor don't have an awful lot to show for themselves other than an euphoric indie dance single that pulled out all the cheesy stops to tug at your heartstrings, but it is its predominantly instrumental 6 minute rave/house b-side that really wets the thirst of the emotional and the romantic.
Fright Night (Nevermore)
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti
My ears are used to hearing modern bands take huge chunks of ideas that can barely pass off as 'influence' from the 70s and 80s, but its a real thrill to hear an artist truly recreate the sound of an era, warts and all. Ariel Pink are 60s psychadelica, 70s prog and 80s horrorpop, and all played through a transistor radio in the corner of a worn down California motel room one summer evening in 1972. There's a killer on the loose, you watch the sunset through your nets curtains, enveloped in cigarette smoke and the smell of cheap whisky. You suddenly hear "knock, knock, knock, on the door, 3 times!", you spin round... TO BE CONTINUED!
No, but in all honesty, it's a tune.
Kelly Rowland & David Guetta
Damn girl. Never has an sassy R&B diva ventured so confidently and defiantly into a rave and demanded attention, without a finger click or urban vibe in sight. "Commander" sounds so deliciously epic and thunderous that one automatically assumes it is a remix. We know Kelly translates to dance music well, see the goliath Joey Negro mix of "Daylight", but it's a delight to find she knows it too. David Guetta may be behind the steering wheel, supplying the lightning flash chords and collision course beats, but Kelly's in total control, and right now she commands you to dance. Do as she says.
The opening notes of "Thin Air" are no strange sound to anyone who's attended an Anathema gig in the last 4 years. The delicate pitter patter of guitar that spirals around Vinny's soft falsetto has been a mainstay of their set for as long as the revered "Everything", and it follows the same glorious build up of said track, as does every perfect number of "We're Here Because We're Here". But whilst the happy-clappy "Everything" was alien to the ears of a great deal of melancholy, wistful Anathema fans, "Thin Air" is every bit the emotional battle the fans are used to, but for the first time ever, the battle is won. There couldn't be a more fitting opener for "WHBWH", and when Vinny breaks out of his falsetto restraints and soars with the line "it feels like we're already flying!" you're soaring through the sky with him.
Dancing on My Own
Robyn isn't anyone's bitch or scapegoat. She doesn't compromise, she doesn't mince her words and she has attitude that could move mountains and bring down governments. But she's also an insecure little girl who desperately wants to be loved. Like "Be Mine" before it, "Dancing on My Own" is brutally honest, euphorically uplifting and yet tenderly bittersweet all at once, a thoroughly intense listening experience and yet with an all too simple message: a broken heart fucking hurts.
Thing is, "Dancing on My Own" is in a resolutely major key, and sports irresistable pulsing rhythms, shiny, tinkly synths and gorgeously warm synth strings; Robyn wants her love interest to see her having a good time without him. But he doesn't see her at all. She's damned if she cries over him, so she dances through her tears, determined to let herself go in the music. But with each thud of the kick, Robyn falls harder and harder. Proof, if ever there was such proof, that Robyn understands the sheer emotional power of a simple pop song.
I rambled a lot about this'n in my Anathema blog, and there's no real need to reitterate how much this song means to me. So I will let Danny Cavanagh speak for himself.
"Suddenly, life has new meaning.
Suddenly, feeling is being.
Suddenly, I don't have to be afraid.
Suddenly, it all falls into place.
And you shine inside,
And love stills my mind like the sunrise
Dreaming light of the sunrise."
You can call it saccharine. You can call it a glorified power ballad. You can call it melodramatic. You can call it a U2 knockoff, a Sigur Ros knockoff, a fucking Coldplay song... you're not listening. LISTEN to Anathema play this song. Remember where they've been, what they've battled with, what they've expressed. Every balladic cliche is more than justified on "Dreaming Light", and it represents the end of one long, hard journey and the beginning of a new, enlightened life, full of hope and promise. If "Judgement" mourned "One Last Goodbye", "We're Here Because We're Here" dreams of light at the end of the tunnel.
"We are not just a moment in time."