‘This Land Is Your Land’ became one of the most unforgettable and enduring American folk songs in the history of the craft. Although Guthrie, who penned it, was hailed (mainly) posthumously after his early death at the age of 55 in 1967- and as much for his social activism as for his musical talents by the way- his song sparked a long legacy, covered and used every which way like an old folk song (which it is, obviously) that just fell out of copyright and became devoid of heritage. Perhaps, it seems, the man would not have cared too much, or at least objected. Guthrie included this jolly disclaimer in his early recordings:
“This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright # 154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin’ it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don’t give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that’s all we wanted to do.”
So we can be happy with what followed. Apart from covers by new(er) heroes of folk, including Bob Dylan, The Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul & Mary, Bruce Springsteen released a live version on his 1986 album Live/1975-85, recorded at Nassau Coliseum, NY in 1980. The song was also re-worked by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, a funk/soul revivalist group, which featured on the Up In The Air OST. This version included the two controversial verses which featured on Guthrie’s earliest recording regarding “private property”, lyrics perhaps out of kilt with the positive, can-do verses most people know, but illustrative of Guthrie’s politics.
Perhaps most ceremoniously, Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen sang ‘This Land Is Your Land’ at Barack Obama’s inaugural celebration concert. 750,000 people were there to hear it; an uncertain number of millions tuned in on TV. With the inclusion of Guthrie’s two “private property” verses at Seeger’s request, it was a bold political application of lyrics that survived only on early recordings and not in the typical playing of the song. It was, perhaps, indicative of a timeless folk song however, that its lyrics, use and meaning should change and evolve with time to the individual endeavours one is pursuing and for the simple pride and idealism that the tune represents. Guthrie’s ‘This Land Is Your Land’ has become like any rhyme, fable or cultural piece so repeated by a nation or culture that it's engrained: its existence somehow eternal, as though the dinosaurs could have whistled it. That is greatness.
The first days of 2011 brought a big, slobbering ‘I’m-over-here’ indie announcement: The Wombats’ second album This Modern Glitch will be released on April 11th. This follows not so hot on the heels of the single ‘Tokyo: Vampires and Wolves’ that came out in September, which will be on the album. ‘Jump Into The Fog’ is the new single, out on January 24th- all a rather prolonged process before April, clearly. If it’s anything like as well received as ‘Tokyo’, should be a great success….which I think it might be.
After apparently playing together for the first-time in December 2009, husband and wife duo Tennis attracted blog attention almost immediately after putting their first ever tunes on the net. They’ve been interviewed about all that ‘hype’ stuff: about being ‘tipped’ around the same time that Best Coast were. But that’s not what it’s about. While their mp3s have proliferated like pollen, the pair have kept their feet on the ground. A love of sailing- an idea that spawned the band as a way to remember their eight months sailing the Atlantic- is still at the forefront of their minds:
"Our whole plan—grand scheme or whatever you want to call it—is to take another writing sabbatical. I like calling it that. It sounds really professional. We’ve been working ever since we got back, so we have a little bit of money to afford another small sailing trip."
I wanted to make this post after hearing the track ‘Marathon’ (as in the place Marathon, off the coast of mainland Florida), which I have listened to most days for the past two weeks or so.
I don’t know most of Lenny Williams’ output but this track 'Cause I Love You' is truly stunning. This, I know. You can’t help but see why: this is over seven minutes of sheer, unadulterated love song, lifting off with smooth soul and strings, hitting an emotional crescendo and tumbling into shamelessly over the top but really, really expressive, unrestrained vocal gymnastics. As though you were to look at an art work, it is an objectively beautiful piece to admire, even if you aren’t feeling so connected with Lenny’s extravagant style of romanticising too.
Not to blow our own trumpets or anything- and pretend for one minute that we are authoritative- but hopefully some of you friends, and people who have strayed one google page too far (12,682) will stumble upon a track or two, enjoy it and go and search for some more. And, it's for THIS mind to wonder whether that hypotethical scenario has come true, and take comfort in the thought regardless...
TOP 10 of 2010
1. White Hinterland Kairos
The perfect summer montage album. Put this on when it gets warm again and you're lazing around in the sun.
White Hinterland- Icarus
2. William Brittelle Television Landscape
This album seeks to challenge what you know about music. It is one hell of a crazy journey through an enormous soundscape. It's one of those albums you could listen to for years and hear something new in the mix each time.
3. Hans Zimmer Inception
The soundtrack to what is probably my (editorial: 'his') favourite film of all time. There aren't many soundtracks that can stand alone from a film and still amaze me. This is one of them. Definitely Hans Zimmer's best work.
4. Beach House Teen Dream
A dreamy and eloquent third album from Beach House that has earned them thoroughly deserved critical plaudits in 2010. Best enjoyed on the train home after a night out.
Beach House- Norway
5. She & Him Volume 2
The second instalment from actress Zooey Deschanel and musician M Ward. Great songwriting combined with catchy vocal hooks makes this album one of my instant favourites.
She & Him- Home
6. Glasser Ring
If you like harmonies and beautiful voices then this one is for you. As soon as the echoes kick in on "Home" you'll be sold. (See below for full post)
7. Bonobo Black Sands
A great instrumental album that I'm sure made many people's top 10 lists this year. Certainly recommended if you're a Zero 7 listener, but again, like Beach House's Teen Dream, an excellent travelling album too.
8. Stornoway Beachcomber's Windowsill
Legitimately one to sing along to. Either turn off or enjoy the great lyrics. "The End of The Movie"? Goosebump inducing.
9. Wild Nothing Gemini
Wild Nothing featured prominently on Top 10 lists elsewhere, but of course cannot be fully recognised as such (and as a 'one to watch') until featued here. This album reminds me of early 90s indie pop. Similarly if you're a fan of The Smiths you'll love it.
Wild Nothing- Chinatown
10. Half Seas Over Half Seas Over
Singer-songwriter Adam McBride-Smith teams up with pianist Elan Mehler to create a jazz/folk album that brilliantly fuses the two and suggests McBride just might be the next James Taylor. Remember, you heard it here first...
Half Seas Over- Sad Mona
In the age of the fractured music audience, it only seems fair that this be a list of albums I discovered in 2010 rather than those that came out in 2010. With almost all music standardised, accessible and instantly available, time has flattened. We just have now an astounding catalogue of sound that has quietly crept up on us and presented, to be explored via the internet (and hopefully bought too).
The 10 in this list illustrate that very point in my view, coming from different eras and genres, even the oldest/most obscure of which- Al Wilson’s Show and Tell is really just a type away. It’s filed below Al Green and above All American Rejects. Sleigh Bells’ Treats is conversely probably the ‘biggest’ album on the list. Like La Roux, Bombay Bicycle Club or Phoenix, they have steadily but quietly built an imposing profile (here in Britain), spearheading this year’s output of blogosphere headline-making pure indie. By comparison, James Blake is perhaps at an earlier stage of his germination into the popular zeitgeist, and it remains to be seen where he will go. CMYK and Klavierwerke EPs were two defining records of 2010: they sat on the dance counter at Rough Trade in Shoreditch and very soon trickled away. They spawned an ambush of the Radio 1 playlist, shows and the announcement of his first long-play, due in 2011. A young, promising and exciting artist making music in a great era of creativity and musical dialogue, his success next year might be a further measure of the potential the online music world has granted artists to cross boundaries and escape genres or musical and geographic scenes. Musically, James Blake and How to Dress Well, as well as many other artists on both sides of the Atlantic show that past, present, dance, hip-hop, pop, R&B, dubstep, dub, dancehall, electronic and organic instrument-led music can be seamlessly brought together. Mount Kimbie's Crooks & Lovers is another such example, and the remaining album on the list released in 2010.
The #1 in the list is DJ Jazzy Jeff’s second solo effort The Return of the Magnificent, which I think-although I don’t know- passed unnoticed on the US R&B charts, as well as here. The star who is so often (hell, always) obscured by his lankier former co-artist deserves not just commercial and critical recognition beyond his 90s pop smashes with Will Smith, I think, but a profile that matches the best R&B and hip-hop artists of the post-millennium. When I first heard ‘Come On’ from the album covered here, it was immediately up there with 2Pac’s ‘Keep Ya Head Up’ in my mind, and has not yet come down. The druggy chill of ‘The Garden’ and summer strut of ‘The Definition’ sound like they deliver exactly what Jeff wanted from them- a perfect, focused flow of open-top car radio goodness that lasts through the initial high, out into the open road and into half-asleep in the back chill out in a hefty 78 minutes. The other hip-hop album on my menu is Jurassic 5’s self-titled LP. Yes, I know- this is firstly a classic that perhaps shouldn’t be on the list (not least because I should have discovered it sooner), but it’s fresh to me so it stays. ‘Concrete Schoolyard’, ‘Improvise’, ‘Without A Doubt’, ‘Lesson 6’: of course some of the most awesome sounds of the rap underground, splicing drum fills, Cut Chemist’s crazy public information samples and turntables that sound like flutes…or the other way round.
Turning to some other random choices, White Denim have been referred to previously on this blog and is one artist that you could be sure is the only in any list of the top 10 of 2010 that wasn’t meant to be in there. Last Day of Summer was in fact just an online-only update on how the band’s third LP is coming along. See below to download it.
With regard to Life of Leisure, that was for me, the album that led the tidal wave rushing towards our shores in late 2009 of American lo-fi indie. A dirge of sluggish, distant melody and synthesisers beating reluctantly, wearily, Washed Out captured the haziness of long, lazy hot days and bottled it. Best Coast, Summer Camp and others pushed similar buttons over the year, employing similar production techniques and pushing for their formulations of lethargic disconnection, but to me, no other finished product was as multi-layered or resonant. This has been an exciting year generally for lo-fi music, driven by many excellent blogs presenting excellent bands seemingly out of the blue. Although featuring on them, Bonobo’s Black Sands was brought to my attention by a friend, and from the first opening montage of soundscape I was hooked. (See below). That particular part of the album might have been a suitable soundtrack for the blockbuster of the year, Inception, with all its soaring strings and ominous undercurrent chanting brewing a dream-like world. However, as opposed to that created in Life of Leisure, it is one that brims with detail. That world makes the album: it fleshes it, informs it, gives it wings. You can soar over endless green hills and into tropical storms: an atmosphere so pertinent that music becomes just an accompaniment to imagination.
Lastly, I was glad to discover Talking Heads this year. The band’s big, consistent output has been rewarding and fun all round, and finally ‘clicked’ when I heard ‘Sugar on my Tongue’ from the album 77: a provocative, slightly disturbing test tube filled with either sex, anger, man, woman- some combination of everything with an angst plug and shaken.
So concludes. At a bit of a stretch and ramble, that was my top 10 of 2010. There was a lot of enjoy this year-a great deal- a huge deal- most of it unknown and untouched, inevitably leaving us all basking in little wee specks in contrast to the massive edifice. And to think that we sleep…
1. DJ Jazzy Jeff The Return of the Magnificent (2007)
DJ Jazzy Jeff- She Was So Flyy feat Kardinal Offishall
DJ Jazzy Jeff- Come On feat. Dave Ghetto
2. Bonobo Black Sands (2010)
3. White Denim Last Day of Summer (2010)White Denim- Some Wild Going Outward
4. Jurassic 5 Jurassic 5 LP (1998)
Jurassic 5- Concrete Schoolyard
5. Sleigh Bells Treats (2010)
6. James Blake CMYK/Klavierwerke (2010)
7. Talking Heads Best Of (2004)
8. Washed Out Life of Leisure (2010)Washed Out- Hold Out
9. Al Wilson Show & Tell (1973)Al Wilson- Broken Home
10. Mount Kimbie Crooks & Lovers (2010)
Mount Kimbie- Before I Move Off