Tango 3.0

May 2010

I started this blog because 2009 seemed to be the best year for music since 1969. A really wide range of albums topped various polls, all of exceptional quality, many of which I loved. Then at the start of the year Vampire Weekend trumped their 2009 debut with Contra (one of the 250 best albums of all time according to FNAC) and I thought blimey 2010 could be just as great as well! Perhaps not quite yet, but there have been some staggeringly good albums already, if a few disappointments. One group whose blood hasn’t failed me yet is last months poll-winners Gotan Project and they have a new album Tango 3.0 (playlist here) which sounds club-heavy and ready to take on the road. Lunatico is their meisterwerk for me, but I have the rest of the year to learn the 3.0 semantics of La Gloria;

Got to follow that with Gorillaz and Plastic Beach, recommended by gamer-maniac Trevor Horsewood, hey Trev I agree, it’s their best album for me. Mind you I’ve been a bit unconvinced by the first two, but this seems to be more coherent despite the wonderful range of collaborations. Great Collaborators actually, like Bobby Womack who seems to be in fantastic voice for his seventies. And a graphic band has great videos, and free games and other virtual stuff; it’ll be electric. Here’s the Rolf Harris inspired calligraphy of Stylo;

Actually maybe this year will be a good year for singles instead as I have surprisingly heard quite a few I like, such as She Said which Plan B has brought off the the Streets with his Boxtops and performed well on the awesome Later…which seems to be having a classic year. From the Defamation of Strickland Banks album (check the video) here is the finger-snapping She Said;

Actually my favourite single in this election year, when the twitterati (including me fredgarnett) have been tweeting #iblamenickclegg, is Get Better. Things Can Only Get Better was New Labours election anthem in 1997 and currently their motto is Things Can Still Get Better; yeah D:ream on. Agitate, Educate, Organise. What I like in Scroobius’s song is the fact that he names and shames the Daily Mail which the government have spent 13 years being scared of. Better than anything in the manifestos, and with a digital economy vision too. So dont “fail yourself” Get Better!

Despite what I said about the great Contra I think I am moving towards favouring Tunng as my album of the year so far. And Then We Saw Land has the graphic sensibilities of Lemon Jelly and the musical freedom of Ry Cooder, Danny/Richard Thompson, or Toumani Diabete. These guys have jammed with Tinariwen, are a folk band, but seemed to have listened to even more music than me from the last 50 100 years or more. Consequently new sounds and tonalities just emerge in the middle of their songs yet sound wackily inevitable, and the delivery is so calm and relaxed. A beautiful album for a windless dusk feeding ducks. As yet poorly served by videos though. And then we saw Hustle;

The other great folky triumph is Laura Marling and her beautifully breathy enunciation. She shared a wonderful Later… with the terrific Diane Birch improving on Devil’s Spoke live. Again poorly served by videos yet, no dub artists inspired by her out there? Curiously this sounds like Dylan moaning that money doesn’t talk it swears (even before his bank collapsed) and builds in an atypical way back to her usual song structure. Still its gallows-redolent lyric will be loved by Percy Plant and other fans. Led Zep III meets Anthems in Eden; a marshy Devil’s Spoke

Curiously whilst English folk artists are getting all eclectic, and giving Will Hodgkinson more Ballads of Britain to chase down, Midlake, those modern occupantherists, are being inspired by Fairport Convention and all things English Folk-Rock. Well they have a strong Byrds streak as well, and a four square drummer (add Pentangle to the playlist guys) but it is a beautiful ethereal album that Joe Boyd would have been responsible for all those years ago. The Courage of Others in copying Brits like Radiohead hey?

Check all 8’44″ of Long Lankin from the Steeleye Span Remasters for some of this inspiration; ridiculously good and cheap on iTunes. However I think the best American folk-rock track I’ve heard recently is the Cello Song by The Books from the Dark Was The Night project. Beautifully updating Nick Drake’s classic song in style; yet modern and distinctive. (Bit of Nick here) They sound like they have their Tunng in The Books they’ve been reading

So where else can we finish this folk fusion than with Imagined Village and their election year classic Empire and Love. Gorgeous album with long thoughtful tracks mining the same musical lodestone as them Tunngsters. Simon Emmerson’s best album since early Afro-Celt Sound System. Unlike the first concept album/show this is a group album, even including Eliza and Martin Carthy, who gets to recuperate “his” Scarborough Fair arrangement from Paul Simon (and Garfunkel). Beautiful sampler video here which gives you both the gorgeous Space Girl Eliza and then her dad on Scarborough Fair;

And so to Europe and The Knife collaboration on an opera about Charles Darwin “Tomorrow in a Year.”  A performance group who spent 2009 Darwin’s year ignoring Dawkin and working on their music. Proper obsessives and fuelled by herrings. Going to the opera myself so I hope it as good live as it sounds here. Not this Bank Holiday weekend but in “The Height of Summer

But the one genuine out-and-out discovery I have made, as well as buying music for fun, has been Field Music. The new xTc as far as I am concerned; melodic, whimsical, piercingly lyrical sprays from their exile in faraway towns. They have that quintessential sixth-former refusenik weltschmerz; completely pissed-off, but subtly expressed. You can drink cups of tea to this music, before dropping the cup and saucer in dismay. If they haven’t done so already these boys will fail their A-levels, comprehensively heroic. Like most indie bands they are not served well on the corporate behemoth that is YouTube. Playing live around the UK in May (great live Share The Words here) and then hiding away on several festival bills; Will Hodgkinson would approve. Here is the official video of Them That Do Nothing;

It’s been a great time for British jazz and Piano trios. I love Brad Mehldau and e.s.t, but think the best I have seen live were the aggressively Zen Ronin. But to follow-up Mehldau’s recommended Highway Rider Niel Cowley have broken Radio Silence (except when it “blows you out the water”) and entertain us gently here with the Allen-free Box Lily;

I saw Polar Bear live at the London Jazz Festival a few years ago and they were all energy and pyrotechnics but the new album Peepers is more mellow and perfect for listening to at home, or on headphones like I am late at night Waiting For A New Morning To Come. A partly ambient inspired chill-out video helps sustain that mood if you watch the videos as mood wallpaper. The sound is clear and percussively loud for Seb but feels somewhat like a cross between Mehldau and the Cinematics. Not Panda Bear but dancing on melting icefloes here is Polar Bear UK;

Did I mention the Cinematic Orchestra? And their Late Night Tales Chill Out 2010 mix (featuring the afore-mentioned breathy songster Nick Drake)? They are Talking About Freedom in that languid style developed on Ma Fleur. Brilliantly moody these days and like Massive Attack they have rescued a classic singer from the last century Fontella Bass and let her free. The only track by them but a great one;

This aint no disco, this aint no party, this aint no fooling around! Caribou may have started in folk-tronica with FourTet but they are more forceful now and Swim seems to be a wake-up call. Forgive the faders to eleven “radio-friendly” mix on Odessa but these are great beats from a good album. Like Yeasayer I am waiting for it to grow on me, but in the meantime you can’t not dance in this virtual Crimean capital;

I promised to revisit some of the albums recommended earlier, so as well as Laura Marling’s Led Bob-Devil here is the second well Brooklyn razz of a video from the cute Vampire boys. Bit Bjork in inspiration and very Dick Dale meets the Upsetter uptown on a flat-bed truck, surfing the gutter oh lord. A bright and perky household full of kissable Cousins then; go on, let those alley-cats play in the street…

There is a video to match the San Patricio project from the Chieftains with Ry Cooder and various musicians from the region. Trinity College Dublin awarded Paddy Moloney an honorary degree and the San Patricio story emerged from his resulting research into Civil Wars. This is a bright and perky video with, I think, David Hidalgo from Los Lobos down the front working the accordion; definitely a wolf in fancy wool clothing. Cancion Mixteca;

Lila Downs, the Minnesotan Mexican who is part of the San Patricio project, has just released a rather wonderful live album through the auspices of FIP, our competitor internet radio. Just like us only far better. Great live album from Paris featuring energy, passion, humility and a joyous multi-coloured interculturality. Here is a video in the same vein, I would guess the same band, of a live performance in December 2009. Unlike the 4m views of Stylo only 288 people have watched this video but it’s great fun! Cancion en legua maya

But we started with Argentinian tango and club beats so in this post Cafe de los Maestros world of pampas pomp lets hear something live from the emerging, wonderful Orquesta Fernandez Fierro from San Telmo, the oldest neighbourhood in Buenos Aires, playing live in April 2010

We started with the accordion and worked our way back to a Buddha Bar of beats built around their mad Parisian club mixing. Here they take the Argentinian artists Otros Aires and remix in their inimitable cross between restaurant muzak and the fluffing steps we love of the last dance before we flop and just settle for that water with the floating air in it; Coooooool… Amor Que Se Baila

Bonus Track

As a London boy who loves Brasilian music I have to say I love Cibelle’s delicious London, London, with support from Davendra Banhart. More creative faux-Edwardiana in the video too. Abraços;

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