Sometimes I listen to a new album and the magic happens: It is as if I would recognise the music as something I know already, as if a chord is struck and my mind goes "oh yeah, here it is again, I remember this".
I've loved the White Stripes for a long time - especially Jack White's voice that screeches and wails or purrs and seduces, and obviously his brilliant guitar riffs. When I read about his new album, Blunderbuss, I just downloaded it without previously listening to it. And here it was: quite a different sound from his older albums like Elephant in 2003, but I instantly recognised it and had the urge to play it over and over again - probably very much to the chagrin of my poor neighbours. The last album I had this feeling was Suck it and See by the Arctic Monkeys, who's excellent concert I saw this January in the Enmore Theatre.
Blunderbuss is quite organic and a bit retro with female background vocals going "ooh ooh" on I'm Shakin' and with distinctive nods to jazz and bluegrass, but not without surprising and fresh turns like Take Me With You When You Go, that starts out leisurely with a swinging waltz (I assure you there is such a thing) and transforms into an urgent, funky guitar-piece. There is blues and rock and a bit of country, which usually puts me right off any song, but works beautifully with White's voice that is anything but sugary sweet.
I should have started this column a long time ago. Remember Nick Hornby's book "High Fidelity"? When I first read this book (only after watching the actually quite entertaining movie with John Cusack, although purists obviously would argue that you just can't take this essentially very British story to Chicago), I was delighted by his idea of creating a top five of... well, basically everything. The central theme of the book is his top five of girlfriends who broke his heart. But he also spends a lot of time thinking about his top five songs, films etc., with sub-categories like best side one tracks of all times (doesn't really work anymore these days, sadly), best Elvis Costello songs, best subtitled films and so on.
I got a bit obsessed with this for a little while and quite creative in inventing my own categories like the five most annoying things my children do, favourite words (this one I actually stole from the magnificent "Mary and Max"), best memories, most disagreeable noises... If you think about it, you can classify almost anything, which probably satisfies the secret nerd in me. But aren't you stunned like me when asked to name your three favourite books or the film that moved you most this year?
So, to cut a very long-winded story short, in this category (here it is again, the pleasing process of putting things into order) I will write down recent discoveries - be it a book, music, a clever quote or a beautiful poem.
This musical prodigy from Brittany, France is probably best known to provide beautiful and whimsical scores to movies such as "Amelie" and "Good bye Lenin!". I've seen Yann Tiersen perform live in London in 2003, where he switched effortlessly between violin, accordeon and piano, sometimes playing two instruments at the same time. He appeared to be quite shy, hardly acknowledging the audience and hiding behind a tousled fringe. But the music! Sometimes yearning, sometimes soaring, but always powerful, raw and packed with emotions.
This time was slightly different. Note to self: For a memorable concert experience, do your homework! Be up to date with new material, download the latest songs of the artist you are going to see. Not only to be able to sing along (see my earlier blog-entry about Elbow), but also to check if you still like what they're doing. Well, all I can say is, I'm still impressed by Tiersen's undoubtable musical skills, but somehow it all failed to move me this time. He has replaced the accordeon with an electric guitar, the piano with a multitude of synthesisers and has created a sound that is complex and has fleeting moments of beauty, but for me lacks the intimacy and authenticity of his earlier work. I liked the venue though - not too big and a bit run down with a beautifully tacky chandelier in the foyer.