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LP1

I think I first heard about FKA twigs about a year ago. There was a review of her first full-length album, simply titled LP1, in Bitch magazine. It seemed like a pretty good review, but then so do a lot of the music reviews in Bitch.  I didn’t really think much of it, until I started seeing pictures of her on Tumblr recently. She had this striking look about her, and this certain aesthetic that made me wonder how it reflected in her music. And so I decided to give her a chance and downloaded her album before I drove up to Big Bear Lake for my birthday last week.

I listened to it three times and then some all the way to the top of the mountain. Wow! This isn’t really like anything I’ve heard before. It’s a witchy fusion of chillout, R&B, and trip hop. It’s at some times eerie and other times seductive. It’s a slow burn but it’s hardly boring. It’s very experimental but seems confident it knows what it’s doing. I think it’s probably a really good sex album.

The album opens with a track just called “Preface” (a lot of the songs on here have rather succinct titles) which sounds like something that would be sung by a coven of witches in the woods at night. The lyrics are just this: “I love another and thus I hate myself.” Very short, but repeated like a chant, with ghostly electronic noises that creep into the tiniest crevices of your brain.

Then it goes into a track that placed itself in my favorites pretty much immediately: “Lights On.” The song starts in kind of an unsettling way with more electronic weirdness and sub-bass pulsing and you’re not sure where it’s going until we get FKA twigs’s hypnotic, deliberate vocals. But it’s the chorus that really seals it: “When I trust you we can do it with the lights on.” Both thematically and sonically (it’s those quiet, spooky electronic noises), it reminds me of “Hidden Place” by Björk, another one of my all-time favorite songs, in that it’s about sharing your vulnerability with someone. Well, and your body too, let’s not mince words here. Also, that car alarm at the end should seem jarring and misplaced…but it works.

“Two Weeks” is another seductive track, and it definitely goes all in. It’s got a lot of gusto for a song that sounds so smooth. You just feel it with your whole body. In the video, twigs portrays herself as a goddess in a temple, though that’s not apparent until we’re almost fully zoomed out. It’s the image you want to project when you’re trying to get someone to forget about their ex and realize how good they have it with you.

“Hours” is another stand out track for me on this album. “I could kiss you for hours/And not miss a thing.” Yes, that’s a thing you want to feel! A very good thing! This song has a fuzzy euphoric glow to it that matches those words. It’s pretty straightforward. But I mean it also sounds like it feels like to be in that state. I mean, it just goes to show you how much this album is, if not a sex album, a makeout album at the very least. Seriously, I feel like if you have someone over and things are going well and you put on this album they will start to go VERY well.

Okay, well, maybe some tracks are not so sexy lyrically (but who is listening to the words during makeouts?). Like “Pendulum” for instance, which is about feeling insufficient in your relationship because your partner has basically told you so. The video is gorgeous to watch at least and features some amazing (hair) shibari and suspension. It reminds me a bit of the video for “Pagan Poetry” by Björk but without the nudity and…extreme…body piercing. A different kind of kink then.

“Video Girl” is the creepiest song after the intro track, I’d say. This sounds like a song about a cheating partner (Is she the girl that’s from the video?/Stop, stop lying to me), but it’s really about twigs herself! She started her career as a successful backup dancer in music videos for several big artists (Kylie Minogue, Ed Sheeran, and Jessie J to name a few) and was kind of stuck in this role when she was trying to break off and make a name for herself as an artist (yay! She succeeded!). The video is even more unnerving, and features her watching and dancing on top of a man being put to death by lethal injection, like she’s some hallucination or succubus. There is some more creepy though not quite graphic imagery, like the stuff you see at the edges of your mind when you remember a nightmare you had, so just a heads up about that. (Oh, also also it starts with “Prelude”!)

I really like the track “Numbers” a lot, even though, again, it’s not thematically very sexy. “Was I just a number to you?” I mean, that says it all. But it’s so trip-hoppy and hypnotic, it just pulls you right in. It’s bitter and pining and devastated and seething with barely contained anger. There are also a lot of little creepy noises and whispers. It sounds like there’s a poltergeist in this song at times.

“Closer” makes for a pleasant follow-up track. It’s got this sort of church choir sound to it. Like a hymn or something. It’s definitely full of joy and praise, run through twigs’s trippy chillout stylings. It’s not my favorite track, but it’s a very nice one!

The next track, “Get Up,” is nice too, but it’s sad. You know, with a lot of these songs, I can imagine a unique dance assigned to them. I mean, twigs was a backup dancer after all, and a very good one at that. This one is graceful like a ballet and tragic too. I’m no choreographer, but I can feel my body moving to this one in a very particular way.

“Kicks” is the final track and it seems to answer the thesis set by the intro. Where twigs started hating herself, she now practices self-love. Literally. It seems like she’s hesitant to do so at first, but eventually she justifies it to herself. Because she deserves it, dammit! “When I’m alone/I don’t need you/I love my touch/Know just what to do.”

I’ve been thinking about what kind of person I would recommend this album too. I think if you like Björk, especially Vespertine, you would like this album. If you like iamamiwhoami (haha, how many people would that be again?), especially bounty, then you would probably like this album. I think you have to have a little patience to like LP1 because it’s not an album you jam to. It’s a good background album. It’s a good headphones album too. There are lots of interesting noises going on here, as I’ve mentioned multiple times. Sorry, I just really like music with subtle, interesting noises! It’s one of the reasons Vespertine is one of my favorites, and it’s why I draw so many comparisons between that one and this one. While I don’t think LP1 has quite as much lasting power as Vespertine, I think it’s still worth the listen and I would highly recommend it to anyone who’s interested in the comparisons.

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Demon Days

Gorillaz played a hugely formative role in both my high school and college years. I played the hell out of their self-titled debut album Gorillaz throughout high school. I was fascinated by the smoke and mirrors that surrounded this animated band – it was unlike anything I’d ever seen or heard. I hadn’t grown out of cartoons either (come to think of it, I still haven’t) so that may have been another part of what made the whole package so appealing. I remember seeing Charts of Darkness (their first documentary) on MTV – and I was hooked. Entranced. I couldn’t get enough.

For as much of an impact as they had on me, I lost track of Gorillaz sometime in my college years. I didn’t come back to them until after I had started my junior year of college – that would be fall of 2005. Demon Days came out May 2005. I’m not sure what brought me back to Gorillaz, but I distinctly remember finding their website and realizing I had been missing out. Phase Two was Gorillaz at their best. To this day, Demon Days remains my favorite album of theirs as well as one of my favorite albums in general, so I’m happy to be revisiting it today.

When the album opens, it’s with a spooky atmospheric track that samples from George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. It’s a brief intro that fades into “Last Living Souls,” one of the more underrated tracks on this album, I think! It’s a nice sort-of pop track that contrasts interestingly with Damon Albarn’s nasally voice. (People say nasally in a bad way in most cases, but think of it in a good way. It reminds me of Bob Dylan in a lower register – which could be a bad thing for some people too, actually. All respect to Bob Dylan, I like to think I do a pretty funny impression of him.) “Are we the last living souls?” seems like kind of a hopeless question in this context, but the track sounds so uplifting to me. It sounds like the start to a journey – which is exactly what this album is supposed to depict.

One of the things that sticks out to me about this album is how political it is. It was made in the midst of the Bush years, and though Gorillaz are a British band, the whole world seemed to have strong opinions about Bush at that time. I mean, if you think about the years between Gorillaz (2001) and Demon Days (2005) then, yeah, that makes a lot of sense considering A LOT HAPPENED (9/11, WMDs, the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and the Iraq War itself). It was an extremely volatile time.

That brings me to the next track “Kids With Guns.” Pretty self-explanatory, and yet the lyrics are kind of a point of contention. I don’t think they were ever officially published (at least not in the liner notes) but to me Albarn was always saying “Think of something to suppress it” – though it should be “Think of something to say no to.” They kind of have the same meaning in the context of the song, in the end. The melody has this very pensive, contemplative mood that fits it for such a serious topic as “Kids With Guns,” sung in a staccato tone. It’s a great, great song…

Followed by another great song! “O Green World” has a fantastically weird intro. You’re not sure where it’s going until Albarn starts singing with vocals that are plaintive but so beautiful and expressive too. I think the emotion comes from a place of anxiety, just a bit. The world had changed all of a sudden – it was like we were all on a train with a crazed conductor with a single-minded agenda…which WAS kind of what was happening in the world. So there’s some hand-wringing going on here, but rightfully so. At the time, it was so uncertain where we were going or what would happen next. Albarn sings “O Green World/Don’t desert me now” with just the right amount of feeling. The bell tolls at the end convey a sense of impending doom, of time running out.

Next up comes one of my favorite tracks “Dirty Harry” – honestly, it’s one of the best on this album. There are so many layers of brilliance going on here. This is a track that’s clearly about the Iraq War. (And the cover for the single is obviously a nod to Full Metal Jacket.) It features rapper Bootie Brown spouting lyrics like “Your water’s from a bottle/Mine’s from a canteen” that just give me goosebumps. Then there are topical lines like “I’m the reason why you fill up your Isuzu” and “The war is over/So said the speaker with the flight suit on.” Using children to sing the chorus (“I need a gun to keep myself from harm”) was just a terrific decision. The whole song has this strangely light-hearted feel to it (before you get to the rap) that makes you want to dance – which ironically the song claims is a problem. I once read somewhere that Damon Albarn got the idea for that synthy-keyboard hook from Sesame Street. Sure sounds like it and, wow, does it work. One of their best, from any album.

The music video is a great companion to the song, making it very clear what Gorillaz thought of the Iraq War (the armored vehicle breaks down before it can go even half the length of a football field):

Of course, the most successful song off this album is “Feel Good Inc.” Geez, this song was everywhere. But for good reason – it’s a great song! And while it’s got the same cynical attitude as “Dirty Harry” it’s about something very different. Before embarking on Demon Days, Gorillaz had been working on a movie, an idea that was scrapped very quickly when they realized that Hollywood wanted something very different. It was a classic tale of artistic integrity versus corporate greed, as I understand it. Ridiculously hackneyed but true. Knowing that, this track is clearly a retelling that experience. “A melancholy town where we never smile”? Come on, so very clearly a diss to LA/Hollywood. Anyway, I really dig that bass line. And I think the general listening population did too. It’s still an amazing track ten years later.

“El Mañana,” while a really well done track, is not particularly my favorite. It seems like it’s about love, but it’s hard to discern the lyrics – again leading to variations depending on what website you visit. Anyway, I like the instrumentals and it’s a beautiful song, but it just doesn’t stand out very well. It’s a little too dreary. That isn’t a bad thing, I just don’t care for it here.

The opening guitar to “Every Planet We Reach Is Dead” is fantastic, but I’m afraid this is another one I don’t care too much for! Actually, I tend to skip these two tracks. The instrumentals are nice here too, but I just feel like nothing impressive is being done. They’re just kind of plain and pleasant, even though they’re sad. Well, there is one interesting thing about this song. I think I read that Albarn got the inspiration for it while riding a train across China. He mostly saw a lot of desert and wasteland (and there was something about hotel TVs playing Chinese-dubbed Betty Boop cartoons I think?) and it just gave him this impression of being on another world.

Now, “November Has Come” – I love this song. It’s got this twinge of weirdness to it that I really like, and a nice chorus too. “Well you know November has come/When it’s gone away” is one of those lyrics that makes you stop and listen. Albarn’s vocals sound like they’re coming through the fog. The whole song has this hollow, chilly, dark sound – like most Novembers in most places. I can feel the fall breeze blowing in somewhere between the claps and that bass line. The raps by MF Doom are calculated and perfectly timed and just a pleasure to listen to.

“All Alone” has a lot going on, aurally, but somehow it manages to pull it off – and it makes for another wonderful song. There’s a balancing act going on between Roots Manuva’s stellar, aggressive raps and Martina Topley-Bird’s all-too-brief and dreamy, angelic vocals. This song really picks you up and shakes you around (in such a good way), so having her clear away all the weirdness and noise for that time is a pleasant reprieve before diving back in. I love the contrast here. It’s beautiful.

The track fades into “White Light,” a sort-of alt-rock track that hasn’t got a lot to it, but still sounds super interesting. It’s all these simple sounds and repeated verses coming together that make it work. I think it’s brevity helps too. I can’t see this track working if it went on for too much longer. So it’s perfect at the length it is on the album! Much like the previous track, this one has this moment where it takes a breath in the middle.

Next up is another one of my favorite tracks – It’s “Dare”! It’s supposed to be “It’s there” but guest singer Shaun Ryder’s accent made it sound like “It’s dare,” and so the song got its name! This is just a purely fun dance track, happy and upbeat and making you want to get your body up and move it around. Yeah! Sometimes you just need one of those on your album, but it’s not like it’s just been thrown in – it’s really well done and deliberate. The music video is a lot of fun too:

“Fire Coming Out Of The Monkey’s Head” is interesting for the reason that it’s mostly a spoken-word track, featuring Dennis Hopper. The simple background music plays a great role in creating the atmosphere as Hopper tells the story of a peaceful, innocent town destroyed by the thoughtless acts of greedy strangers. It seems like a pretty obvious parable, but this was just one of the many topics that seemed to preoccupy singer Damon Albarn’s mind. And anyway it’s so vividly told. And when Albarn’s dreary vocals come in at the end, it’s just brilliant. (See? Dreary can be good.) I feel like it’s actually a pretty bold decision to put this weird (mostly) spoken word track on this album.

The final two tracks are just amazing (and both feature the London Community Gospel Choir – taking these songs to a whole different level). First we have “Don’t Get Lost In Heaven,” the track that signifies the beginning of the end of our journey. I love the chorus: “Dont’t get lost in heaven/They got locks on the gates.” Heaven is supposed to be a place you want to go, but here it’s a place you don’t want to be, at least not for very long if your curiosity gets the best of you and you DO find yourself there. The heaven here isn’t the religious notion of heaven – it’s the earthly idea of heaven, of having all the pleasures and distractions you could ever desire. It’s the over consumption of pop culture and forgetting who you are and the problems that exist in the world. This has been a major concern throughout Demon Days, and Albarn wants us to remember that here.

Finally, we have the title track “Demon Days.” It’s a wonderful, wonderful closing track. One of the best of any album. It sounds so uplifting and hopeful, but that’s not quite the case: “You can’t even trust the air you breathe/’Cause Mother Earth wants us all to leave/When lies become reality/You numb yourself with drugs and T.V.” But it’s still encouraging: “Pick yourself up it’s a brand new day/So turn yourself ’round.” So there’s hope after all. I can’t think of anymore words to describe this song. It’s just so, so beautiful and perfect as an ending track. I just get lost in it.

Demon Days and Phase Two were Gorillaz at their best and most prolific. They took their public image as a gimmick band and used it to surprise everyone with an amazing album. Meanwhile, the story of the virtual, fantasy aspect band became more developed and tangible. I didn’t even get into that here, but if you like Gorillaz, then their illustrated autobiography Rise of the Ogre is a must-read. During this time, more than ever, Damon Albarn and artist/co-conspirator Jamie Hewlett (also known for Tank Girl) were on the same wavelength and the same mission: to say something important about the state of the world. Give Demon Days a listen if it’s been awhile – or if it’s been never – and really listen to it. It’s an important album and it deserves legendary status.

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Felt Mountain

This past Saturday was Record Store Day! Did you get anything? I did!

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The Neko Case LP is limited edition red vinyl and it’s the first time it’s been released on vinyl in over 5 years! Meanwhile, the Goldfrapp LP I got was so exclusive, it’s the first time it’s EVER been released on vinyl in the US and I got one of 4,000 pressings! I was extremely happy to get both of these.

I’ve already talked about Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, so today I’m going to talk about Felt Mountain! This is Goldfrapp’s first album – and it was my first Goldfrapp album. I mentioned before how I was introduced to it via a college roommate. I was hooked the moment I heard the haunting whistle that introduces “Lovely Head.” It still gives me the chills when I hear it. It’s got a very classic Hollywood noir sound to it, a theme which pretty much describes the entire album, but it’s touched with more modern, alien electronic flavors too. This song remains one of my favorites for its haunting beauty. Allison is channeling Marlene Dietrich for sure, but she becomes distinctly Goldfrapp when she sings through a vocal processor at about 1:15. There’s that alienness I mentioned before.

A lot of the lonely, haunted sounds on this album come from the fact that Goldfrapp recorded and produced this album in a bungalow in the English countryside. Allison spent a lot of time alone there, surrounded by mice and spiders. The experience really got under her skin and into her brain, and that’s something that comes through in a way that does the same for you. It’s beautiful but eerie and uneasy too. There’s a touch of danger at times – shadowy figures seen at the edge of your vision, a strange noise in the dark, a light brush against your skin when there’s no one there, a chill running down your spine for no discernible reason.

Being their first album, Felt Mountain isn’t perfect. The next track “Paper Bag,” while nice, is kind of a let down after the amazing track that precedes it. There are some interesting sounds going on, and Allison’s voice is seductive and soothing, but it’s not a stand out track.

“Human” makes up for it. The production on this track is just GREAT. It’s a perfect fusion of classic orchestral sounds and electronic noise. It’s absolutely seductive, even though the lyrics are submissive. It’s begging and full of desire. It’s one of Goldfrapp’s best. I can practically hear it in a Bond film. I’m actually surprised it didn’t make it on their greatest hits album, The Singles, even if they would go on to make better songs.

“Pilots” I think is one of the best of the “quiet” tracks on this album. It’s a very classy and jazzy tune and I like the way that works here. It almost reminds me of a Sinatra song, though I can’t think of which one. There’s another round of singing through the vocal processor that let’s you know it’s definitely Golfrapp. The whole track feels like floating on a cloud – appropriate considering the lyrics and title!

“Deer Stop” is the other great “quiet” track. I can hardly understand the lyrics, but somehow that doesn’t matter here. It’s all about the sound of it. And it sounds like it was recorded in the dark, maybe with a dying flashlight in hand. Maybe you thought you saw the light reflected in pairs of eyes peering out from between the trees, but then they’re gone when you turn back to look for them.

The following two songs are the title track “Felt Mountain” and “Oompa Radar,” both instrumentals with Allison lightly singing nothing over strange noises. The first track is more playful and whimsical. The second is sinister and carnivalesque. Both seem like they could fit into the soundtracks of two very different movies – and yet they fit together on this album wonderfully. The singing is kept to a minimum, which allows you to take them in as aural landscapes. They are cinematic in a way that much of the rest of Felt Mountain is.

Next we come to “Utopia” which is really the one that became the hit off this album. I’ve heard it used in commercials for at least two TV shows in the last several years, so it can be said that it has staying power for sure. It’s the most dramatic track off this album, both in lyrics and in sound. It almost doesn’t belong though. Where the rest of the album has an older, classical sound, “Utopia” seems like it was beamed down by aliens or sent back in time by a future civilization. It’s beautiful, overwhelmingly so, and I think I can see why it’s the one that’s lived the longest. It’s probably the best predictor of the direction Goldfrapp’s sound would head in future endeavors.

The album fades out with “Horse Tears,” which for me is another track that is kind of a let down, seeing as how it follows a much better one. Honestly, “Utopia” could have been the closer, but I guess I can see why they chose this one. It brings the album back full circle to its original lonely, noir themes. Even though it uses a bit of that vocal processor, it just doesn’t do much to save the song. The violin is nice – it punctuates the sadness of this song – but mixed in with everything else going on, it’s all a bit overdone.

Though Felt Mountain has a special place in my heart, it is not a good beginner’s Goldfrapp album! I would not recommend this to a first-time listener! This is one for the more advanced Goldfrapp listener. It’s really great at showing how far they’ve come and seeing what still influences them. Felt Mountain is good, and it even has some SPECTACULAR tracks, but they got so much better. For me, I’m still excited to have this one on vinyl! It’s going to sound great.

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Debut

I recently bought Björk: Archives, which is billed as a “mid-career retrospective.” I didn’t think much of it, until the specificity of the “mid-career retrospective” was pointed out to me. Björk is nearly fifty years old and has been making music since she was a child. She studied classical piano and flute when she was six years old and recorded her first album when she was eleven. That means she’s been making music for about forty years, give or take. Does this mean she’s planning on making music when she’s pushing ninety? I’m sure she is! At least, I hope so!

So today, I’m going back to the start: I’m going to talk about her first solo album (not the one she made when she was 11) Debut. While this album is significant in its own right, it’s probably my least favorite album of hers, next to Biophilia. Björk herself has even said it’s not her best. She’s produced far better albums, which isn’t to say that Debut is a bad album, but it is very dated. You can tell by the sound that it’s an album of the 90’s. It also doesn’t really have a cohesive or unified theme, except that there are a lot of love songs. It’s an album that’s the result of someone taking their first steps into a solo career. Björk had a very quixotic, child-like pixie persona and image at the time, another thing that’s apparent in this album. There’s a lot of playful innocence in the lyrics. Some of the songs had been written years before she recorded it. “Human Behaviour” was written when she was a teenager.

And hey! There’s our first track! I’ve talked briefly about “Human Behaviour” before (here and here). Though Debut is not her best, this song definitely is. Not only is it one of the best, it was the best song to pick as the leading single and first track of this album. It bursts into your ears and rattles around in your brain. It’s weird and uncanny and primal and unrestrained. And it’s unmistakably Björk.

I never really cared much for the next track “Crying.” In fact, I usually skip it. It’s just not very interesting. It’s kind of corny and it’s probably the most dated song on this dated album. Eh, I just don’t really have much to say about it! Let’s move on.

“Venus As A Boy” is a classic. It’s a Bollywood-influenced track that makes a lasting impression with lyrics like “His wicked sense of humour/Suggests exciting sex.” There’s more to the music video than Björk fondling and frying an egg – the imagery was inspired by her favorite book at the time, Story of the Eye. However, the egg was actually supposed to be boiled, not fried. (Read the NSFW Wikipedia plot summary of the book and you’ll see why.) Björk is an absolute angel in “Venus As A Boy,” both vocally and visually, even if she’s a bit of a mischievous one. It works so well.

“There’s More To Life Than This” is still a dated track, but it’s kind of fun! The credits for this song say it was recorded in the bathroom of the Milk Bar, a club in London, where Björk was living at the time. That would explain the sound of stall doors slamming about halfway through the song. I like the idea of sneaking out of a party to go have some real fun. It’s also pretty danceable. It is a dance track, after all!

“Like Someone In Love” is actually a cover of an older song from 1944. The minimalistic sound is nice – and appropriate – here. It’s just Björk and a harp, with incidental background noises and some very light and faint strings toward the end. It makes it sound like she’s walking down the street late at night, pondering and singing about love. It’s one of the best love songs on this album.

I really like “Big Time Sensuality” – the Fluke Minimix version, that is. The one on Debut is okay, but I heard the other one first and got really attached to its big, overwhelming sound. This is just one of those songs where the sound matches the lyrics extraordinarily well. It’s got this feeling of nervous excitement, like the moment right before you plunge down the top of a roller coaster, or the feeling immediately after a first date that’s gone really well. Fun fact: Did you know that this song is about friendship and enjoying life and not sex?

I’m fairly certain that “One Day” is about her son, Sindri. It seems pretty obvious, even if the baby sounds at the beginning don’t quite make sense – Sindri was about 7 when this album was released. Still, it’s a sweet song from a mother to a child. It’s kind of inspiring and motivational. I have a random version of this song called “One Day (Endorphin Mix 52.5 Bpm)” that’s slowed down and actually pretty nice. It makes the song sound a lot more introspective and thoughtful. I think I even like it better.

“Aeroplane” is another song I don’t care too much for. It’s got a weird, quirky sound, but it’s no “Human Behaviour.” It’s a little boring, actually. I like the jungle sounds at the beginning and end, and even the melancholic xylophone at the end, but that’s really about it.

“Come To Me” is hypnotic and seductive. I like this one, but it’s got that dated sound that keeps it from becoming a classic. It wouldn’t make my favorites list, but it’s not one I’d skip right away if it came on and I was in the mood for it. It’s a slow burn of a song that’s satisfying. Again, not her best, but not her worst either, when you consider it in the frame of her earliest work.

“Violently Happy” is one of the other great love songs on this album. Where “Like Someone In Love” was quiet and contemplative, this track is intense and unrestrained. “Violently happy/’Cause I love you” is a pretty accurate way of describing the euphoric feelings of a new relationship. It even gets to a point where it’s dangerous at times – “I’m driving my car/Too fast/With ecstatic music on…” “I’m daring people/To jump off roofs with me.” The beats go well with the lyrics. Even if, again, the sound itself is dated, it’s another great dance track.

The album closes with “The Anchor Song,” which is one of my favorites. The minimal sound fits it so well. Just Björk and a couple of saxophones. It’s got a sort of homesick sound to it – or rather the sound of someone whose homesickness has been relieved by their return to that home. It’s quietly content, like snuggling into your own bed after a long and exhausting trip abroad. I like this one a lot. It’s a good feeling to be reminded of home, wherever you make it.

Debut is not even close to the first album I’d recommend. In fact, it’s probably one of the last I’d recommend. But for a Björk enthusiast, it’s essential listening. It’s fascinating to hear where she started and how far she’s come. It seems like her voice hasn’t really changed that much since this album was released 22 years ago. If anything, it’s gotten richer and she’s gained more control over it. Listening to Debut is like peeking into a time capsule. It’s astounding to hear how much she’s evolved.

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Rockit

Seeing as how it’s awards season and the Golden Globes just aired the other day, I thought it would be appropriate to share this song and accompanying creepy video – “Rockit” by Gorillaz.

The first thing most people ask me when they hear this song is “Is that the ‘Macarena?!'” No, but it’s a pretty neat sleight of hand (ear?), isn’t it?

“Rockit” was the precursor to Phase Two: Celebrity Takedown, which you can think of as the second phase of the Gorillaz’ career. It was the period that spawned what I think was the greatest album of their career, Demon Days. This single was never released on the album, but rather as part of D-Sides, a collection of B-sides and remixes.

(A little side note: If I speak about the Gorillaz in past tense, it’s because they’re on “indefinite hiatus.” They probably won’t get back together again, at least not in the next several years. But that’s a subject for another day.)

What a great transition to their next album. Gorillaz was fun and, when you look at the band’s career overall, pretty lighthearted. But Demon Days came from the moment they realized that people were listening, so why not say something important and make it sound good at the same time?

“Rockit” was one hell of a preamble. The video features the animated band trekking across a barren wasteland toward a statue of the Mesopotamian demon Pazuzu, while tree branches encroach on them and the cartoonish dismembered heads of various celebrities fall from the trees’ blossoms. Meanwhile 2D (vocals of lead singer Damon Albarn) drones on, almost in monotone at times, about drinking too much and falling victim to the sexiness of the world, with a constant refrain of blah blah blah blah blah blah blah’s.

What does it all mean???

To understand a little better, we have to take a look at what was going on at the time. The song was released in December 2004, about three and a half years after their last album. In that time, the music industry saw the brief rise and fall of the U.K.’s Pop Idol, which was imported by the U.S. as American Idol, where, as we all know, it went on to become a huge hit. After that, the U.K. got The X Factor, marking the successful infiltration of the music industry by reality TV culture, where anyone could become a star.

Around that same time period, the Gorillaz almost made a movie, but quickly abandoned it after becoming disenchanted with the harsh reality of Hollywood.

“Rockit” was a reaction to all of that noise. It was the Gorillaz’ pessimistic commentary on the state of the music industry and pop culture in general. In the video, I can easily spot the dismembered heads of Simon Cowell and Britney Spears, the latter of whom had a whirlwind 2004 (remember when she got married and divorced in 55 hours, then remarried 9 months later)? It’s all so much to bear that 2D can’t even bother singing about what he doing or where he’s going. What does it matter anyway? It’s all the same. Blah blah blah.

It’s a pretty angsty song. The only hopeful verse seems to come from the background refrain of “rock it,” reminding us that not all music is lost. Even in the video, the band wearily pushes on through chattering zombie heads as Pazuzu calls out to them (“rock it, rock it”). It’s the light at the end of the tunnel. Finally, we get the message: “REJECT FALSE ICONS.”

The only thing I can’t figure out is what the hell Noodle mouths to the camera toward the end. I read somewhere that you’re not supposed to be able to tell though; it’s supposed to make you wonder. Oh, well.

“Rockit” is a hauntingly beautiful song. Listen to it while watching the video and it’ll haunt you for days.

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