Monday, 5 January 2009

Detox Your Ears

First day back at work feels rather like the first day back at school. Getting up early, battling the commute and bracing against the arctic wind outside wasn’t really as bad as I had feared. I almost enjoyed myself today (although no need to tell the boss that). I’ve had a lovely break but it’s nice to be back in the bustle of things, engaging my brain – or at least trying to. And for all the corniness of resolutions and fresh starts there is something about a clean slate that’s emboldening somehow, especially when it’s crisp and cold outside.

I’ve been watching Once again (possibly the sweetest, saccharine-free film ever) which in turn has got me to put down my knitting needles and pick up the guitar, whilst re-programming my iPod to a playlist of folky singer-songwriters.

Knitting wise, I’ve just finished the Chunky Lacy Throw, but need to wait for daylight for some decent pictures. I’m onto the final button band for the Martha cardigan so again there’ll be pictures once it’s in shape. And the two remaining Christmas presents are making slow but steady progress. Of course today was the perfect weather for both of them if only they’d been ready, but they’ll just have to wait their turn for now. I’m alternating them with other, smaller things to stop myself going crazy but I’m hoping for a full-on attack this weekend (an evening’s babysitting will be put to good use).

So, rather than the knits, today I thought I’d share a brief playlist of tunes that I’ve been playing over and over lately. An excellent New Year’s detox for the festive over-indulgence of Slade, Cliff Richard and Alexandra bloody Burke.

Bon Iver is the ultimate soundtrack for this kind of weather. Recording most of his album For Emma, Forever Ago in a cabin in Wisconsin in the depths of winter, this is music that seems to be drifting to you through a snowstorm. If the thought of a bloke with a guitar angsting in a wooden shed fills you with horror, be brave and give it a chance. It’s way better than the stereotype. Have a listen of Skinny Love. My personal album of 2008.

Followed very closely by the precocious talent of Laura Marling, who recorded Alas, I Cannot Swim at the age of 17 and was therefore thrown out of one of her own gigs for being underage. So she played on the pavement instead, bless her. Night Terror crawled into my head and won’t budge.

The aforementioned Once, featuring the musical talents of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, who won an Oscar for their efforts. Falling Slowly is the sweet love song that bagged them the statue but there are other tracks with more of a bitter bite.

I’d never heard of Seth Lakeman until I found myself at a gig of his, which turned into some kind of West Country craic by the end of the evening. Lots of fun. Again, if a man with a fiddle isn’t generally your cup of tea, you might be surprised. Watching him play Kitty Jay live is pretty impressive and I find it oddly comforting that people are writing songs about ghosts and shipwrecks and the beast of Bodmin Moor. Makes a nice change from all that post-modern ironic wit flying about.

St. Vincent is another talented lady, often to be found playing with Sufjan Stevens, whose songs vary from waltzes about the French Revolution to marriage proposals to strangers (“We’ll do what Mary and Joseph did. Without the kid”).

And finally, she may have a voice from another planet, but Joanna Newsom (and that bloke from the whiskey advert) show that if you’re not rocking out with a harp then you’re just not trying hard enough. Bridges and Balloons is probably what the Owl and the Pussycat listen to on their travels.

All the hot-tip predictions I’ve heard so far for 2009 have involved electronica/synths/the 80s for some reason, although I’m pleased a lot of them are women, after the recent glut of testosterone-loaded guitar bands. Anyone have any folksome predictions or recommendations?

1 comment:

Woolly Stuff said...

I loved that movie. I saw it at the sunshine movie theatre on houston st in nyc, and it was a breath of fresh air.