This year has already brought many excellent rock songs. Tim de Lisle picks the best of them ...
From INTELLIGENT LIFE Magazine, Spring 2010
MASSIVE ATTACK SPLITTING THE ATOM (from the album Heligoland)
With “100th Window”, Massive Attack went from elegantly gloomy to downright miserable. Now they’ve bounced back to merely brooding. This song is almost catchy, with deep vocals from Robert del Naja and Grant Marshall and high ones from Horace Andy.
SADE SOLDIER OF LOVE (Soldier of Love)
Never prolific, Sade has now got her productivity down to about four minutes of music a year, but these four minutes are worth it: a clattering electronic spin on a martial beat, dramatic chords and a big simple melody. If you find Sade soporific, this is the song to change your mind.
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VAMPIRE WEEKEND RUN (Contra)
The second album from the Ivy League boys with the African guitars (pictured) is as full of energy and melody as the first, and this song, although it falls back on an overtired title, wins you over with its storming momentum.
LAWRENCE ARABIA LOOK LIKE A FOOL (Chant Darling)
Don’t be put off by the name: Lawrence Arabia is actually a New Zealander called James. This is a bittersweet gem, with music that is romantic, nostalgic, steeped in the Sixties, and words that are bitingly modern, as the singer berates himself for his amorous bumbling.
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG DANDELION (IRM)
Gainsbourg’s third album, named after the MRI scans she required after suffering a brain haemorrhage, is mainly co-written with the Californian singer-songwriter Beck. Even his protean talent struggles to bridge the gap between the French and Anglo-American pop traditions, but this track is a treat—a deliciously casual two-string blues with an intimate vocal.
LAURA VEIRS SUN IS KING (July Flame)
Laura Veirs ought to be better-known than she is. This skewed country song shows off her radiant voice, sharp eye, and a feel for nature that is rare in a business where most people view the world through sunglasses, darkly.
PETER GABRIEL THE BOY IN THE BUBBLE and LISTENING WIND (Scratch My Back)
Both these songs started out as part of classic African-flavoured American albums of the 1980s. Paul Simon’s “Boy in the Bubble” is an exuberant piece of township jive from “Graceland”. Gabriel boldly ditches the exuberance, replacing it with a soulful pensiveness. “Listening Wind”, from Talking Heads’ “Remain in Light” (1980), is a haunting snapshot, looking back at America through third-world eyes. Gabriel tackles both, like all the songs on the album, without guitars or drums, using strings and horns to bring out hidden flavours. His voice, older and rougher now, suits the pin-sharp prescience of both lyrics.
CORINNE BAILEY RAE I WOULD LIKE TO CALL IT BEAUTY (The Sea)
Bailey Rae’s second album, dedicated to her late husband, is a miraculously even piece of work, full of grief but free from its clichés. This song, inspired by a remark from her husband’s brother, is a subtle ballad, beautifully sung.
GORILLAZ STYLO (Plastic Beach)
Damon Albarn’s virtual band are back, five years after the scintillating “Demon Days”. “Stylo” sounds like that but different, with a fat synthesised bassline that could be Heaven 17, a cheery disco chorus that could be Sister Sledge, and a scorching guest vocal that could be, and is, Bobby Womack.
Picture Credit: Bee Skutch
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