BlackBook Tracks #36: The Fox

 

Is there any creature as beautiful and enigmatic as the fox? No other woodland animal is as famed for making friends with dogs, shapeshifting into human form, and sending drunk texts. Yes, foxes are truly amazing, but they leave us with one question: what do they say?

 

Ylvis – “The Fox”

In an impressive feat of something, I’m still not quite sure what yet, the Norwegian TV stars Ylvis have delivered one of the most memorable songs of the year with “The Fox.” The song’s now-viral video is a strikingly well-produced tribute to the beauty of nature that must be seen to be believed. Hopefully these guys will enter the Eurovision Song Contest, Europe’s annual face-off that determines which country can produce the best/weirdest pop hit, preferably with the help of elaborate costumes, dance routines, and elderly people.
 
 

Niki & The Dove – “The Fox”

The Swedes in Niki & The Dove are nothing but business compared to their Norwegian neighbors. Last year’s impressive debut LP Instinct included “The Fox,” a dark, churning slice of the the duo’s dramatic take on synth-pop. Of course Niki & The Dove’s penchant for animal imagery would include foxes, as sleek and regal as their productions. Instinct is out now on Sub Pop.
 
 

Belle & Sebastian – “The Fox In The Snow”

“The Fox In The Snow” is one of Belle & Sebastian’s most iconic songs, appearing on 1996’s If You’re Feeling Sinister. Tying together three simple images of innocence and melancholy, the track shows just how evocative the Scottish twee icons can be. The band recently released Third Eye Centre, a compilation of B-sides and remixes.
 
 

Born Ruffians – “Foxes Mate For Life”

“Life sucks and love is dumb,” sing Born Ruffians on the charmingly lo-fi “Foxes Mate For Life,” a highlight of 2008 album Red Yellow & Blue. Frontman Luke Lalonde’s distinctive yelp takes a turn for the mournful here as he struggles to stay positive. The latest from the Canadian crew, Birthmarks, was released earlier this year on Yep Roc.
 
 

Jarvis Cocker – “Petey’s Song”

Wes Anderson’s stop-motion adaptation of Fantastic Mr. Fox had absolutely no shortage of charm, but this cameo from Jarvis Cocker was one of its standout delights. In puppet form, the famed Pulp frontman ad-libs a jaunty tune while strumming a banjo, though his boss doesn’t care much for free-form songwriting. If only he was as free as a wild animal.

Photos From Stuart Murdoch’s ‘God Help the Girl’

And you thought Wes Anderson was twee. Stuart Murdoch, lead singer and songwriter for the just-as-good-as-ever master class in winsome pop known as Belle & Sebastian, has a directorial debut on the way that promises to bury us all in whimsy. God Help the Girl, moreover, shares its name with a 2009 Murdoch album whose music will presumably figure in the feature film.  

IndieWire has the stills, and reports on the project details:

Said to be inspired by the French New Wave, the early post-punk movement in music and the films of John Hughes among other things (again, what’s not to love?) the film stars Emily Browning, Olly Alexander and Hannah Murray and tells the tale of James (Alexander), a cynical guitarist who accompanies Eve’s singing (Browning) and becomes a mentor to Cass (Murray), a teen who tags alongside the duo as she learns to play the guitar.

But that’s just the boilerplate plot description. The movie’s real project is to make its stars look really cute by dressing them in vintage Scottish school uniforms, don’t you think? We shouldn’t expect all smiles and sunshine, however—half the B&S songs that mention school also remark upon institutional cruelty and the occasional hooligan lying in wait with “a knife and a bike chain.” So watch out.

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R. Kelly, Bjork, Belle & Sebastian Headlining Pitchfork Music Festival

When you assemble a summer musical festival in a tiny park in an affordable city, you’re already doing something right. When you manage to nab R. Kelly, Bjork, and Belle & Sebastian as headliners, you’re basically suggesting that every other musical festival just go ahead and give up. The Pitchfork Music Festival, which was arguably already the best summer festival our nation had to offer, has just announced its three amazing headliners. The festival will take place July 19-21 in Union Park in Chicago. [via Pitchfork]

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BlackBook Tracks #31: It’s Too Cold to Exist

Word on the street is that we’re in the dead of winter right now. (Another compelling reason to be at Sundance right now is that it’s actually warmer in Park City than it is in New York.) Summer music may be more fun, but this is the time to curl up with a mug of cider and songs that come from cold places.

Torres – “When Winter’s Over”

My current favorite pastime is listening to Nashville singer-songwriter Torres and emoting deeply. Her music sounds perfect when everything is numb except for your feelings, and “When Winter’s Over” hits the spot. Unfortunately, winter is not actually over yet.

Beach House – “I Do Not Care For The Winter Sun”

The temperatures keep dropping, but at least Victoria LeGrand’s voice will keep you warm. Let’s pretend that is physically possible.

Niki & The Dove – “Winterheart”

My heart is frozen. So is my soul.

JEFF the Brotherhood – “Hypnotic Winter”

Nashville rockers JEFF the Brotherhood manage to sound pretty optimistic about the season, which we could probably all do with.

The Dodos – “Winter”

If you’re already starting to get angry about Valentine’s Day coming up, this is for you. The bittersweet jangle works wonders.

Belle & Sebastian – “Winter Wooskie”

“Who’s that girl? She must be nearly freezing” is a semi-iconic Belle & Sebastian line that’s apt for this week. In classic fashion, “Winter Wooskie” paints a wistful portrait with just the right amount of detail.

Nico – “Winter Song”

John Cale recently paid tribute to Nico with a host of other artists, including Sharon Van Etten and Alison Mosshart. Since you’re not going outside anyways, now seems like the perfect time to revisit Chelsea Girl.

Fleet Foxes – “White Winter Hymnal”

Because with those harmonies, it’s easier to pretend that this is just “crisp” and “refreshing.”

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BlackBook Tracks #27: Is 2012 Over Yet?

The holiday season isn’t over yet, but maybe your winter ennui has already kicked in. That’s okay, it was going to happen eventually. Stay warm with these songs.

Coeur De Pirate – “Comme Des Enfants”

Even non-French speakers can understand the nostalgia that this Montreal chanteuse taps into. I associate this song with sunnier days, but sweet folk-pop fits every season.

Blur – “For Tomorrow”

Santa didn’t bring me the deluxe box set of Parklive, Blur’s triumphant Hyde Park show commemorating the Olympics closing ceremony, but I guess I kind of forgot to ask him for it. Well, Portlandia’s coming back soon to remind us that the dream of the ’90s is still alive.

The Decemberists – “The Engine Driver”

Speaking of Portland…

Arcade Fire – “Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels)”

When Arcade Fire release new material next year, it will undoubtedly spark a cycle of both over-the-top fawning and overeager backlash that will dominate my internet life for several weeks. But there’s a reason we started liking them in the first place, and here it is.

Belle & Sebastian – “If She Wants Me”

Is there anything more comforting than listening to truckloads of Belle & Sebastian? I thought not.

The Walkmen – “New Year’s Eve”

It’s that time of year, and though this charming piano ditty is far from a party anthem, it’s perfect for taking a minute to look back.

M. Ward – “Radio Campaign”

You may have had She & Him’s Christmas record on heavy rotation lately, but here’s a reminder that M. Ward’s Transistor Radio hits the singer-songwriter sweet spot.

Badly Drawn Boy – “Something To Talk About”

Nicholas Hoult is all grown up and eating brains now, but we’ll never forget his beginnings in About A Boy. It’s a movie that’s held up over time, as has its theme song.

Camera Obscura – “The World Is Full Of Strangers”

The world may be full of strangers, but there are still friendly faces to be found when sailing the melancholic pop seas with Camera Obscura.

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10 ‘Indie’ Albums From 10 Years Ago That Are Better Than Interpol’s ‘Turn On The Bright Lights’

Matador on December 4th will release the 10th Anniversary Double LP of Interpol’s Turn On The Bright Lights. (“All pre-orders include exact replica Interpol pin from the era,” too, so act fast!) I don’t know about you guys, but my relationship with this album never went beyond zoning out to “Untitled”—or maybe “NYC,” if I was feeling especially moody. Here’s the stuff that came out in 2002 and was vastly better. Just sayin’.

The Notwist — Neon Golden

Boards Of Canada — Geogaddi

Lambchop — Is A Woman

The Walkmen — Everyone Who Pretended To Like Me Is Gone

Imperial Teen — On

Mclusky — Mclusky Do Dallas

Luna — Romantica

Belle & Sebastian — Storytelling

Sleater-Kinney — One Beat

Broken Social Scene — You Forgot It In People

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BlackBook Tracks #16: I Don’t Want to Think How It’s Already Snowing in Some Places

Hey, so, I had a rainy day mix planned out for you guys because it’s been sort of gross in New York all week, but then I walked outside my apartment (I do that sometimes) this morning and it was sunny! So this is what you get instead.

The Bewitched Hands – “Boss”

Can there ever be enough melodic indie pop loaded with vocal harmonies? The answer is no, and the Bewitched Hands are more than happy to oblige.

Fort Lean – “Sunsick”

Stark, bare bones rock from some guys in Brooklyn. Some days, you just need a little help.

This Many Boyfriends – “Number One”

This Many Boyfriends make the kind of smart, wistful guitar pop that sounds pretty good when you have zero boyfriends.

Chad Valley – “Tell All Your Friends”

Is Chad Valley’s Young Hunger one of your most anticipated albums of the year? It should be, at least if you’re into R&B-inflected electro-pop that wears its heart on its sleeve.

Darkstar – “Timeaway”

The latest act to sign to the ever-reliable Warp Records, Darkstar’s going to be on our radars. “Timeaway” is lush and layered, with reverb-drenched vocals. Take it easy.

Cut Copy – “Saturdays”

Enter the semi-nostalgic part of the playlist. The Australian electro-poppers have been delivering the good stuff for years, and here’s a memory of what first made us fall in love.

The Long Blondes – “Swallow Tattoo”

Is it okay to still be mourning the loss of The Long Blondes? The English indie rock outfit was fairly prolific for the short time that it lasted, and Kate Jackson’s persona as the retro-chic woman wronged is worth revisiting over and over again.

Belle & Sebastian – “Asleep On A Sunbeam”

This is what we all need in our lives all of the time.

Jens Lekman – “You Can Call Me Al” (Paul Simon cover)

This cover could be worthy of Nick from New Girl’s sex mix.

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BlackBook Tracks #14: It’s Literally The Last Day Of Summer

Hey y’all, it’s literally the last day of summer! I, for one, am not particularly excited about the changing of the seasons, given that I am from California and believe that anything under 50 degrees is the arctic. I’m already annoyed by having to carry a sweater around, and I will even rebel against that bastion of autumnal culture, the pumpkin spice latte. One thing I have going for me is that I don’t own any white pants to feel sad about not wearing, so that’s something, at least. In mourning, here’s a selection of what comes up when you search for “summer” in my music library.

 

 

Girls Aloud – “Long Hot Summer”

Fact: unabashedly manufactured pop music sounds better during the summertime. British girl group Girls Aloud transcend any idea of there being guilt in their listening pleasure.

 

The Drums – “Let’s Go Surfing”

Has indie rock ever been so fixated on the beach as it has for the past few years? It’s a justifiable obsession, whether you grew up landlocked or not. Here’s one of the definitive tracks of the trend.

 

Eternal Summers – “Millions”

Look at what this band is called. Including them is obligatory.

 

Vacationer – “Summer End”

Lush, smartly produced indie pop with a smack of regret really just hits the spot today.

 

Coconut Records – “The Summer”

You probably didn’t need reminding that Jason Schwartzman is a perfect human, but here you go.

 

Animal Collective – “Summertime Clothes”

If you, like many other people on the internet, were disappointed with Animal Collective’s offerings on Centipede Hz, it’s always a good time to revisit Merriweather Post Pavilion. This song also serves as a reminder of how I’m finding it hard to let go of this aggressively tacky shirt with a pattern of palm trees on it.

 

Belle & Sebastian – “A Summer Wasting”

Granted, it’s also pretty easy to spend an autumn wasting, except now we’ll all be wearing sweaters and chugging pumpkin spice lattes.

 

Summer Camp – “Summer Camp”

I never went to a real summer camp, but maybe you did! Regardless, I think I still like the nostalgic British duo enough to make up for it.

 

Soso – “I Never Thought You’d Come In Summer”

Swedish chanteuse Soso combines hauntingly catchy production with the kind of vocal delivery that just oozes star power.

 

Kreayshawn – “Summertime” (ft. V-Nasty)

This is one of the more bizarre offerings on Kreayshawn’s much-delayed debut album, and I say that as someone who actually sort of enjoyed hearing the constant ads for “Gucci Gucci” on Spotify last year. I’m sorry.

Five Questions With Belle & Sebastian’s Stevie Jackson

On July 3, Stevie Jackson, guitarist for everyone’s favorite Scottish musical feelings collective Belle & Sebastian, stepped out on his own to release his debut solo effort, (I Can’t Get No) Stevie Jackson. The record, which features Jackson and a backing band made up of members of The Company, Trembling Bells, The Pastels, and The New Pornographers, features a dozen songs that show off what Jackson, who has worked with The Vaselines, Russian Red, Bill Wells Trio, and God Help The Girl, is capable of on his own. We caught up with him to find out what made him strike out solo, how Belle & Sebastian fans might react to this music, and what’s next for his solo career.

How is it you decided to make a solo album?
It started when Belle & Sebastian, the band I’m in, had done an album called The Life Pursuit in 2006. It had been going for about 10 years at that point, and after that record there was a feeling that we were going to leave it for a while. Not break up, but just do something else for a little while. So I just had time on my hands and I started to get involved in various things—there’s an artist called Nicola Atkinson and we started doing work together. And there were a couple of friends, Gary Thom and Roy Moller with whom I’d get together every week and just make music for fun. There were other various projects going on as well. That seemed to generate a few songs, and I decided to record them—there wasn’t a sense of trying to make a statement, it was just having a few sessions for a laugh. A lot of the record was recorded in 2009 or 2010. And then Belle & Sebastian started up again and I missed my window, but then I recorded more songs last year and that seemed to finish it.

Does having been in a prolific band make releasing a solo album easier or are you still nervous about putting out albums?
Being in the group might help because a few Belle & Sebastian fans might check it out. I don’t really feel nervous about it. To be honest, it sort of feels like it’s kind of in the past to a degree. Making records always feels a bit like that. Once it’s mastered and you’ve done the cover and all that, you’re already on to the next thing.

For people who are familiar with Belle & Sebastian but aren’t sure what to expect from your solo work, how would you describe this record?
There are a lot of story songs, to a degree. They’re about various things; there are a couple of songs about movie directors, there are a couple of songs that are maybe more biographical, but I don’t go in for those so much. The songs with directors are a classic example of something that’s almost an exercise. Whenever you work in a way that’s more abstract, your own personality comes out a bit anyway.

So that covers the lyrics. What about the music?
The actual sound of it is pop music, I guess. It was recorded a lot more rough and ready than a Belle & Sebastian record, the process was more like getting a few friends in a room and recording as I’m teaching them the songs. It’s not very polished. For me, Belle & Sebastian is the sound of Stuart’s voice. So this feels different, but I don’t know if an objective viewpoint would differ. It’s probably not a million miles away.

What’s next for you?
The next thing is probably just writing more songs. Again, the songs have been generated by doing projects. I wrote some music for… Have you heard of a band called the Hidden Cameras? There’s a girl named Maggie MacDonald and we wrote some music together for a play she wrote. That’s generated a few songs and I’ve been thinking about recording them. And we’re developing that a little bit, trying to get the play on again. I’ll also be doing some live shows as well, I’ve got a bunch of guys to play with so we’ll be doing that.