Listening Post #18

by Ben Gladman

1. Elbow – K2

The most politically charged song from Elbow’s new album is also the strongest. Guy Garvey’s vocals are washed in echo as he winds a beautiful knotty melody over an equally hypnotising bass line. It’s simultaneously political and personal, as he pines, “Makes us think that everyone hates us and they do, but they haven’t met you”. Garvey bemoans the corruption of our leaders while simultaneously eulogising the common people, and, in particular, this one woman. It’s a powerful sentiment, delivered perfectly.

2. Mac Demarco – This Old Dog

King of chill Mac Demarco returns with two singles, This Old Dog and My Old Man. As you might have gathered, Mac’s main concern is now that of again. In My Old Man he complains, “Uh oh, looks like I’m seeing more of my old man in me”, and the titular dog of This Old Dog is of course Mac himself. This Old Dog is probably the better of the two, catchy and subtle, with powerful vocal delivery pulling it all together.

3. Snail Mail – Thinning

The lo-fi punk vibes of this Snail Mail track perfectly suit its message. “Haven’t slept right in a week, and I’m thinning out,” sings Lindsey Jordan. The bass is pretty weak, the overdriven guitar feels just slightly out of tune, the vocals are washed out and quiet. All of this is of course a deliberate choice, and, while clever, it would do nothing without a great song behind it. And, fortunately, the song is pretty great, building to a defiant and powerful climax.

4. Xiu Xiu – Get Up

The third single from the upcoming Xiu Xiu album is surprisingly normal. Apart from the bizarre effects that come and go, transforming Jamie Stewart’s voice into an otherworldly instrument, the song feels about as conventional as Xiu Xiu could go. Which of course is still quite weird, but, you know. The lyrics are as sparse and frank as the instrumentation, Stewart’s delivery reminiscent of Phil Elverum of Mount Eerie’s. Wacky but somehow approachable.

5. Julie Byrne – Morning Dove

In an album full of quiet beauty, Morning Dove is perhaps the most enchanting moment. Julie Byrne’s guitar playing is delicate and complex. The swelling strings in the background add a subtle rush of tenderness. Her voice takes centre stage amid all this, shifting from a breathy higher register to an almost tired sounding but affecting lower, and it’s this movement in the verses that really strikes you on your first listen.