It’s morning somewhere.
On the ’90s nostalgia train this week: trip hop & Ally McBeal, sundresses & biker boots. Sneaker Pimps’ 6 Underground launched me in to a Bond-esque orbit. It was really just the 405. Driving, driving, driving. Sunroof, Slurpee, Sunset. Imperial Highway, I-10, PCH, Santa Monica Bou-le-vard. K.C.R.W. The bubble of film school, where you could navel gaze, roller blade & delay, delay. I worked for a woman who Fed-Exed her Armani suit from Cannes to LA. Because she had vacation plans in Italy, after. I drove the box up through the Hollywood Hills & left it with her caretaker. Her pool was kidney-shaped.
AIDS was reality’s shadow. A friend of my cousin; he’d come to WeHo from Florida. He played me Mariah Carey for the first time. Vision of Love. And paid me well to sand & spackle the walls of a condo he bought, about a year before. The down payment came from money he’d embezzled from work. He never got caught. He just passed away.
Vision of Love is still my favorite Mariah song.
And 6 Underground is the business.
I wanted to go with a sports theme this week at therockmom, and link baseball’s World Series with a discussion of some of my favorite Dallas-area bands past and present (Old ‘97s, The Buck Pets, Erykah Badu, Kelly Clarkson). But since the Texas Rangers blew it big time, and since I don’t know any decent bands from St. Louis (anyone, anyone?), I’ll turn my attention to those other current World Champions – the New Zealand All Blacks, who recently won the Rugby World Cup.
I won’t say much about the All Blacks as such (my Australian husband wouldn’t take too kindly to any gushing), other than I missed watching Dan (sigh) Carter play once he got injured. What I will do is chat a bit about my current favorite Kiwi band – The Naked and Famous.
Most of the time when you hear ‘New Zealand’ and ‘pop music’ you can’t think of much beyond Crowded House and that guy who sang “How Bizarre”. That’s why The Naked and Famous are so refreshing; they don’t wear their Kiwi-ness on their sleeves. I love, love, love Neil Finn but with him you know you’re always going to get sturdy pop, nature images and the odd Maori phrases in the mix. Like a Peter Jackson musical but taller and without the pointy ears.The Naked and Famous are hard to categorize – pop with an alternative streak, hard at times, somewhat dance-able and pretty darn cool. Thom Powers and Alisa Xayalith, who met at an Auckland music school, lead the quintet. They cite Massive Attack, Bjork, PJ Harvey and Tricky as influences, and you can feel a shiver of that techno tension on tracks like “Frayed” and “The Ends”. They’ve been compared to MGMT, but I hear a lot more of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in their sound. On punky songs like “Punching in a Dream” and “Young Blood” – both released as singles – Ms Xayalith sounds eerily like Karen O’s southern hemisphere cousin.
“The Sun” certainly ranks in my top five singles of 2011 so far. To get the full effect of this mesmerizing song, start with the previous track – a solo piano piece called “The Source” – which segues in to the insidious, hypnotic beat of “The Sun”. The layers of beats and vocals build and swirl as Ms Xayalith breathes a litany of regret, memory loss and bad behaviour. It’s a perfect late-night, neon-lit, head-spinning track. You can check out the video here, but be warned that, like the band’s name, it does contain nudity. For gratuitous Kiwi boobies, press play.
They’re a young band and sometimes it shows in their ‘moody girl writes bad poetry’ lyrics – “Jilted Lovers” is a particularly ponderous example. I’m hoping the combination of travel and more exposure will infuse their writing with a bit more depth and courage. They’re on tour in Europe right now, making some inroads in the States, but completely under the radar here in Asia.
Fortunately, for those of us living in pop music backwaters, we have plenty of ways to explore new music. Start with The Naked and Famous official website, where you can watch/listen to not one, not two but SEVEN of their music videos plus a short ‘in the studio’ vid. They’re also a BBC Sound of 2011 Artist – find that here.
I’m now rooting for the Houston Texans to make the Super Bowl.