Tuesday, September 8, 2009
For Emma, For Ever Ago (Bon Iver) (2007-8):
The story of Justin Vernon going off to mourn the end of his band (or is it a love-affair?!) has been well chronicled but if this self-journey is what it takes to produce such beautiful art then I think such a move should be mandatory for all musicians. This stuff is best listened when rain is lightly falling on a morning when you can toss around in bed. If the opening falsetto of Flume doesn’t soften you up then the swelling of vocals and guitar work of Lump Sum will. There’s a peacefulness juxtaposed with raw emotion at work here...as if trying desperately trying to resolve itself while it pleases the ear. Skinny Love breaks out of its holding pattern then turns lyrically dark and accusatory. The Wolves (Act I and II) is even sparer but works. It pales to Blindsided but then the tenderness emitted here is of a rare kind. I haven’t even touched on Creature Fear swirling giddily into the stuff of greatness.
Back to Black (Amy Winehouse) (2007):
Initially I had felt Winehouse’s sophomore had potential but looking back now I realised I hesitated because it seemed too bizarre an existence to what she sung about to be real. Alas it is but so too is the lascivious soul-weariness on display here. Back to Black is a smartly configured opus of 60s big brass sounds that was perfected by Motown before her. Every track is layered with heavy trumpets, stoned lyrics and a heart-felt realness steeped in modernity. Credit her for keeping the album above sea-level too even with the jazzy textures that don’t require much fire-power. Rehab is a stunning ditty reportedly done as her refusal to seek help in an institution for her emotional instability. When she hits a winning formula though---the blissful title track, Tears Dry on Their Own, Rehab, You Know I’m no Good—it all simmers into a slow melting pot of sedative-like escapism. Winehouse totally immerses herself into character because this is her life and all producers Salaam Remi and Mark Ronson have to do are keep up with her.