Oh, hello Winter; I didn’t see you there. It’s a shivery clear night, made for huddling under the doona. Earlier I walked from Redfern to Oxford St for yoga round II… With hands shoved into pockets and the New Pornographers’ Together on the ipod, the walk was actually really nice. Though there’s nothing like walking the length of Crown Street on a chilly night to make you wish you had someone to take you out for dinner!
Together is one of those albums you might end up listening to for eternity if you put it on repeat: it’s quick, beautifully paced and sequenced, and not a single track merits skipping. AC Newman’s Canadian supergroup is in fine form on this their fifth release, and with eight members there’s plenty of variety desite the album’s cohesiveness. Newman, Dan Bejar and the inimitable Neko Case take turns on lead vocals, and there’s never any shortage of multi-part harmonies in the very best dum-dum, doo-wup, whoah-oh tradition. It’s clever pop both lyrically – the word “byzantine” is central to “Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk” – and instrumentally, with cellos here, mariachi horns there. I can’t get “Valkyrie In The Roller Disco” out of my head, and “If You Can’t See My Mirrors” is crying out to be included on a road-trip mixtape.
Less immediately adorable, but nonetheless hitting the pleasure centres, is the new Gorillaz album Plastic Beach. As with past outings, Damon Albarn’s outfit offers up an eclectic mix of rap, samples and alterna-pop… There are star-studded collabs with Lou Reed, Mark E Smith and Snoop Dogg; and the De La Soul enhanced faux-jingle of “Superfast Jellyfish” is delicious instant gratification. When you do hear an Albarn vocal, particularly on “Empire Ants”, it’s a stark reminder of his vastly different work back with Blur on albums like 13. For all his mastery of pop Albarn really does have one of the most world-weary, melancholy voices I can think of.
But of course, if you want to get into a conversation about melancholy voices, it’s hard to go past The National‘s Matt Berninger. Their newly released album High Violet is just magnificent, even by the band’s high standards, but uplifting dancefloor filler it ain’t. The beauty and desperation of these songs is that they do what few rock bands can (or even try to): they explore the the anxieties and struggles of just living day to day. Worrying about being a bad parent, about debt and the daily grind and whether your life in progress will ever really mean anything. Pitchfork kinda nailed it in their review: “Six drinks in, tired of your coworkers, wishing you could just go home and laugh at sitcoms with someone? Maybe get laid? The National’s got your back.” All of which sounds terribly negative but really, it’s one of my favourite records of the year. Check it out. Check them all out.