Friday, 29 April 2011

Top 5 Songs with whistling

Hmm. I think I said I wasn't going to do a top five this week but my brain got fried by the shere quantity of Bank Holidays and I've done one anyway. It's another Cerys Matthews inspired topic. If you're a similar age to me, the mention of whistling probably makes you think of Roger Whittaker and "Winds of Change" by the Scorpions. I've managed to avoid both though I was slightly disappointed that Jethro Tull's perfectly monikered "The Whistler", despite featuring some pretty mean penny-whistle playing, doesn't have any proper whistling and so fails to qualify.

Listen to Cerys' BBC 6Music show at 10:00 on Sunday to hear a whole bunch of songs with whistling on.

1. "(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay" Otis Redding - Should I ever pluck up the courage to compile a list of my favourite ever songs this will be a strong contender for the top ten. Recorded shortly before his death in 1968 and becoming the first posthumous single to reach number one in the US. It's a real summer song with a sumptious vocal from Otis backed by a typically subtle performance from the Bar-Kays.

2. "La La Love You" Pixies - Couldn't miss the opportunity to pick my favourite band. This track is one of the less well known songs from "Doolittle" and is crooned by drummer David Lovering. A bit of an anti-love song with a mild wolf-whistle refrain.

3. "Young Folks" Peter, Bjorn and John - I really know very little about these guys but this is an impossibly catchy song that has a really memorable whistling intro that has been used by many an advertiser. I suspect they can live of the proceeds from this song for the rest of their lives.

4. "Games Without Frontiers" Peter Gabriel - Probably my favourite post-Genesis Gabriel song and featuring another fine piece of whistling as well as the beautiful "Jeux sans frontier" backing vocal from Kate Bush.

5. "Golden Years" David Bowie - You have to wait till almost the fade out section of the song and when it comes the whistling is brief but this is a rather fine single from Bowie's soul/funk period.


Thursday, 21 April 2011

Easter & Royal Wedding break

No top five this week or next due to the Easter holidays and the Royal wedding. Hope you're able to make the most of the rash of Bank Holidays. If you're looking for something to do you might be kind enough to consider sponsoring Mrs Top5 who is walking over 26 miles in aid of Breast Cancer Research.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Top 5 Works by Martin Creed

One thing leads to another. I was listening to Marc Riley on 6Music when he had a session with Martin Creed. His music is low-fi punk but displays the same sense of humour you can see in his art. The single Thinking/Not Thinking is a two chord stomp about how life falls into those two categories of activity. Another song A-Z sees Martin recite the alphabet from A to Z. I like the simplicity of his lyrics.

Creed is most well known for Work no. 227 "The Lights going on and off" which won him the controversial Turner Prize in 2001. As with most modern artists it raises the argument about what is and what is not art. Personally I don't really care. From my point of view it's visually interesting and that is all that matters.

1. Half The Air In A Given Space (2004)

This is a variation of an installation he did a number of times before with different coloured ballons. I like the fact that the balloons are all the same colour.

I reckon this is an even better picture from outside the gallery. A room full of balloons - what's not to like?

This is work 628 from 2007. It's called dark-blue balloons and is another variation on the same theme.

2. Small Things (2006)

Another recurring idea. The top picture is from 2006 and is in blue neon.

Work 755. A version from 2007 in yellow neon.

3. Nails (2007)

Work 701 is quite a delicate piece. I like the way the shadows from the lighting cast geometric patterns.

4. Balls (2004)

Work 370 appeals to me as much for its similarity to our front room when the boys are having a messy day as its aesthetic value.

5. Everything Is Going To Be Alright (2007)

More neon. Nice juxtaposition against the grafitti.

Earlier version on a landmark building in 2006.

I've broken all my rules this week with multiple choices under one entry so one more won't hurt. This is work 925 Chairs.


Friday, 8 April 2011

Top 5 Pixies Albums

This one has been a work in progress for ages. The Pixies are my favourite band and only released five albums (one was an EP but I reckon it counts). Turned out this wasn't the quick and easy topic I thought it was going to be. It's funny how hard it is to write about the things you really love.

1. Surfer Rosa (1988) - The Pixies full length debut. Produced by hardcore legend Steve Albini with his typical sparse but energetic sound. Kicking of with the trademark Albini drum sound on Bone Machine it clatters through three more tracks before the pace lets up a little with the Kim Deal sung Gigantic and best known song Where Is My Mind?. Thirteen tracks in a little over half an hour and not a dud song amongst them.

Favourite track: Gigantic

2. Doolittle (1989) - Their biggest selling album and a very close second. This has glossier production sheen partly a by-product of signing with Elektra in the US. Despite this Black Francis' writing is as sharply observed as ever. This is the band at their peak, retaining the energy from Surfer Rosa but adding greater depth to their sound.

Favourite track: Debaser

3. Come on Pilgrim (1987) - Not a full album but this twenty minute E.P. pretty much defined their sound. Despite being effectively taken from the cheaply produced "Purple Tape" demo Come On Pilgrim has warmer sounding production than Surfer Rosa.

Favourite track: The Holiday Song

4. Bossanova (1990) - Following the success of Doolittle was always going to make this a difficult album. Whilst they might not achieve the peaks of previous releases there is a consistency of sound that maybe makes this more accessible to new listeners. I saw them at Reading soon after this was released and have great memories of seeing these songs performed live.

Favourite track: Havalina

5. Trompe Le Monde (1991) - The final release and first signs that the band were no longer all pulling in the same direction. This is a forerunner of Frank's impending solo work and there is a distinct lack of Kim Deal influence. Despite this there are some gems to be found. The plinky plonk keyboard refrain of Alec Eiffel, the trademark sreaming vocal on U-Mass and the reworking of "Purple Tape" original Subbacultcha. Fool the world? Probably not.

Favourite track: U-Mass


Friday, 1 April 2011

Guest Top Five - Raymond Chandler novels by Richard Allen

The second guest top five comes from Richard Allen, writer of Craven Cottage Newsround, the best Fulham blog on the internet, and editor of the annual Fulham Review. CCN started about 6 days before my own Fulham blog, and it was Richard who encouraged me to keep on writing. That means it's partly his fault you have to read my weekly ramblings! Over to Rich ...

Were I ever to find myself on MasterMind this might well be my specialist subject, although in writing this I've realised just how much I've forgotten, and most of my memories are fuzzy notions of excellence rather than anything specific I can write about; I'll just have to read them again, won't I?

The appeal here is several-fold: I love private eye novels (I would like to be one); I love novels set in California (Ross McDonald's Lew Archer books have the same X factor - an openness, and excitement, a dark shadow underneath a glittering surface); I love Chandler's writing, which would be diabolical were he not so brilliant (which is why attempts to copy it just don't work); but most of all I love Philip Marlowe, the tired, beaten-down protagonist in all this. I can't describe Marlowe any more than I can describe the books he's in, but suffice it to say I would very much like to be him.

1. The Lady in the Lake

Hard to say why I like this so much. It showcases Marlowe at his best, and seems to be the Chandler book that *works* better than any of the others (the Big Sleep, good as it is, is over plotted and doesn't really fit together, for instance; the Lady in the Lake has no such concerns). Crooked doctors, crooked cops, and some excellent secondary characters along the way. A winner.

"Police business is a hell of a problem. It’s a good deal like politics. It asks for the highest type of men, and there’s nothing in it to attract the highest type of men. So we have to work with what we get."
— Raymond Chandler (The Lady in the Lake)

2. Playback

This is supposedly one of the weaker efforts, cobbled together later in Chandler's life from a movie script that hadn't worked out. The plot doesn't really go anywhere, but for whatever reason I really enjoy this (short) book. I've read it a couple of times now, too. Compared to, say, The Big Sleep, the plot is almost non-existent, but by now Marlowe is almost unbearably human. It's a very lively book, but there's a weariness between the lines. Lots of travelling and hotels here, which also adds to things (a sense of transience or what have you).

"Common sense is the guy who tells you that you ought to have had your brakes relined last week before you smashed a front end this week. Common sense is the Monday morning quarterback who could have won the ball game if he had been on the team. But he never is. He's high up in the stands with a flask on his hip. Common sense is the little man in a grey suit who never makes a mistake in addition. But it's always someone else's money he's adding up."
— Raymond Chandler (Playback)

3. The Big Sleep

The first of the series and made up of several short stories Chandler had written for the pulp magazines. This is a good thing in that a lot of his best lines get in here - it's alive with astonishing turns of phrase - but a bad thing because the plot doesn't really work and has almost too much going on. Chandler's most famous book, and keeps getting into "top x books" lists, but it almost feels too high at #3. It's here because of the aforementioned turns of phrase: absolutely electric stuff.

"Tall, aren't you?" she said.
I didn't mean to be. Her eyes rounded. She was puzzled. She was thinking. I could see, even on that short acquaintance, that thinking was always going to be a bother to her."

— Raymond Chandler (The Big Sleep)

4. Farewell My Lovely

I haven't read this for a while but my initial instinct had been to place it at #2. Marlowe has to work with (or for) the troublesome Moose Molloy, and finds himself in several sticky situations, drugged on an offshore gambling den, knocked out at a late night rendez-vous, and much else besides. Side note: several episodes in the book are supposedly examples of Marlowe's repressed homosexuality, which is an interesting angle for Marlowephiles to consider.

"It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window."
— Raymond Chandler (Farewell, My Lovely)

5. The Long Goodbye

See, when I read this I thought "this is my favourite Chandler" but that was probably 2004 and I've forgotten most of it (I've re-read most of the other books since, but like a number of good things, don't necessarily want to go back to this for fear of something hard to explain). So it's at number 5 because it needs to be in here. Chandler's longest, saddest and most reflective book; I'd better read it again.

"I was as hollow and empty as the spaces between stars."
— Raymond Chandler (The Long Goodbye)