Search My Blogs

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Numbers 25-21, "Such Great Heights"

#21, M.I.A. Tamil nitrate.
25.Heartbeats - The Knife
Deep Cuts (2003)
Remember how this whole thing began? Jealousy of my friend Dan's countdown, which he now appears mysteriously to have deleted was the motivator. This was Dan's number one, and a case  could certainly be made. The Knife have long been one of the more interesting and experimental electronic acts going around, and they have a significantly better ear for a good melody than can be said of the majority of their peers.

But it's the weird, sparse, wobbling, ungrounded baseline here that really makes this one stay with you.

24.Banquet - Bloc Party
Silent Alarm (2005)
Bloc Party always suffered from a perception of being a bit of a bit of a poor-man's Interpol, and it's pretty easy to see how Interpol could have written this. It's almost got 'movements' that  play with the listener's expectations. A question that begins in soaring vowel-y falsetto is completed with a rapid-fire staccato of consonants.

"Why d'you feeeeeeeeeel/sonegated?"

The chorus relies again on phrases that start with the repeated long-format word "tuurning/coooming" followed by a response so rapid-fire it leaves pauses in the chorus where the notes should be.

And it follows in that fine literary tradition of conflating food and sex that began with humanity's very earliest origin myths.

23.Such Great Heights - The Postal Service
Give Up (2003)
Another indie song that made a successful crossover into television - both soundtrack and commercial, such that it really ought to have become thoroughly irritating.

But there's something about those curious, oscillating midi blips in tandem with the vocal that just doesn't seem to age.

It's also been scientifically established as the twee-est track still physically possible to dance to.

"They will see us waving from such great heights
'Come down now', they'll say
But everything looks perfect from far away
'Come down now', but we'll stay."

22.Hey Ya! - OutKast
The Love Below (2003)
The song that revived a million flagging dancefloors. All ages, all genres, all good. I believe this is the highest positioned song in my countdown to have spent significant time at number one internationally, so arguably the winnner of the People's Choice Award. The best and most successful song of the entire decade.

Please don't tell me rap has no musical dimension. It's the musical chops, the fact there's actually a melody present virtually throughout the entire track, it's the ability again of that melody to carry some unusually complex vocal shennanigans, and this is nowhere more in evidence than the "alrightalrightalrightalright" call and response breakdown.

This has always been where most rap artists just in-fill rather than create, in structural terms. But who DOESN'T remember where they first heard "Shake it like a Polaroid picture"?

21.Paper Planes - M.I.A.
Kala (2007)
Rap has always performed strongest when it wears it's rhythm and dance heritage lightest.

Full marks to the Producer, Major Lazer for the correct response when the artist announced she wanted to include four gunshots not just DURING the chorus, but AS the chorus lyric. Listen to this. One semiotically vacuous sound repeated for times creates a very pecific "meaning", that the listener actively interprets as language.

"All I wanna do is/ BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG/ and a' take your money."
There's no information missing from that sentence whatsoever.