27 December 2008

High Places - 'Vision's The First...'

One of the invented traditions of the household is that over the course of the festive period - roughly defined as covering the spell between Christmas Eve and whenever we must depart to bring light to the lives of our adoring relatives in a series of small, drab and not even particularly snowy northern towns - only appropriately seasonal music may be played. Fortunately or otherwise I have over the considerable stretch of my existence acquired a vast quantity of poor grade yuletide indie tuneage by the yard. There’s about a solid day’s worth of such, which each December 24th gets duly transferred to the trusty MP3 player and before New Year’s Eve (and there are, of course, even one or two decent songs about that particular dark night of the soul too) is equally quickly removed to free up some space for further swathes of live Fall bootlegs. The thing is, Christmas tunes can’t be innately bad, because even The Fall have recorded several of them over the long, long years. It’s just, they’re never as good as a band’s proper, non-festive work, are they? Would you choose to listen to even The Fall’s Xmas offerings ahead of their regular stuff? Just like in the real world, in music, no one saves their best for Christmas.

So it will come as some relief on the train north when once again regular listening habits will be resumed. First up will be this tune, from High Places, with which I am thoroughly beguiled. As usual, I am late on this one, and, as is equally customary, I know next to nothing about the band. This surfaced as a single on Upset the Rhythm, who also put on catchable gigs in old London town, and subsequently led me to a CD available from the redoubtable Thrill Jockey label. It’s a mysterious, slight and charming thing, distorted, like an favourite old tune found mangled on a chewed up Memorex tape (and I swear, cassette tapes are about to make a comeback). It’s a jaunty pop number - I hear Rihanna’s immortal Umbrella in this - mingled with and undermined by the shimmering clutter you get in A Sunny Day In Glasgow and the by now customary global village rhythms. It's a fractured kaleidoscope of a song. A smidgen of steel drum I hear at one point, for example. You could dance to this, but you'd probably dislocate something.

This is not the sort of website that offers up top ten lists of the year, but if it was, there's a good chance this would be on it. Once again I note in closing they're from New York. They own us these days.

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