Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue #5

* [Disclaimer] ‘Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue’ is a desperate attempt to show that my musical palette isn’t as bland as a chino-wearing yacht owner from Norfolk called Keith eating a plate of couscous with a biodegradable knife and fork that he bought in a 2 for 1 special at ASDA while watching a highlight reel of ‘The 80s Greatest Quiz Show Moments’ in his fully carpeted, decadent bungalow in Slough. Please enjoy this week’s selection of (hopefully) great music. *

Something Old: Crazy Penis – ‘There’s a Better Place’

You’d be forgiven for thinking that a song built around a sample of the melody from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’s ‘Pure Imagination’ could only sound terrible- by all means, it absolutely should. But 2002 was the year of some seriously questionable experimentation, and not even the refrain of childhood dystopian nightmares is off limits to Crazy Penis. Instantly teasing you with its slow build up, any suspicions you originally had at the start of the song melt away under the tasty combination of deep house and funk. When that so-chunky-you-could-eat-it bassline kicks in after the breakdown, Crazy Penis will have you two-stepping your way to the dark side of the moon and back, with a detour around planet disco on the way. And then there’s the name. I mean… “Crazy Penis” – it’s just outrageous. Some band names come out of a focus group consisting of freshly-suited executives; this one came from the sesh.

Something New: Daniel Caesar – ‘We Find Love’

With the release of his second album, Freudian, Daniel Caesar has asserted himself as having one of the most distinctive voices in modern R&B and soul. Legend has it that there is one of Midas’ fingers lodged somewhere deep within Caesar’s throat that turns every syllable that comes out of his mouth into priceless, harmonious gold. As blissfully comfortable in falsetto as he is in an alto register, the melody to ‘We Find Love’ is like something you can never forget; it worms its way into every crevice of your soul and pushes outwards, until you are buoyed by an irrepressible sense of hope and relief. Beautifully produced, you can hear the machinations of the piano, the sound of the keys being softly pressed and even more lightly lifted. The song grows from the roots that that piano part lays, nourished by gospel backing vocals, reverberating synths, and, of course, Caesar’s breath-taking vocals.

Something Borrowed: Mick Jenkins – ‘Jazz’

This is some inception level borrowing, a sample of a cover- Yael Naim’s version of Britney Spear’s ‘Toxic’, to be exact. Naim’s cover is mesmerising in the first place, with its distorted xylophone-esque chord progression, but with Jenkins’ bassy lyricism over the top, it becomes a completely different animal. It’s dark and hypnotic; moody and aggressive. It doesn’t let you rest; from the rapid-fire flow of Jenkin’s rap to the earth shaking electronic bass, it pushes and cajoles you from all angles, with a style that almost spits at you from across the protective film that separates your ears from your headphones. It’s distorted, liquorice-thick, and precise all at once.

Something Blue: Ben Howard – ‘Follaton Wood’

I listened to this song six times on repeat before I realised what it was about. The simple pleasing strumming of the folk guitar and the relaxing ebb and flow of the vocal melody, disguises the heart-breaking story that lies beneath. In a way, this realisation makes you feel guilty for enjoying what is so easily enjoyable, as Howard tells a story of teenage suicide with a sensitivity that will make you second-guess yourself every time. Every sweet backing vocal or plucked double-bass note is contrasted by a devastating lyric, contributing to a picture that is as beautiful as it is graphic; all painted by Howard’s humble song-writing. Despite the gloomy content, there is an enchanting appeal to ‘Follaton Wood’, an uplift that leaves you with tears of joy rather than dismay as the nearly unbearable emotional refrain of “You laughed your heart out” concludes the song.

Robert Cairns

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