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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BlackBook Tracks #7: Let’s All Care About Sports More Than We Normally Do

So, how about those Olympics? That’s a thing that’s happening, right? London’s being taken over by tourists and athletes and said athletes’ wild sex. Considering that I spend the majority of my time sitting in front of a computer, I don’t really know that much about sports, but here are some tenuously thematic tracks.

Hot Chip – “Wrestlers”
Not only are Hot Chip one of the best bands, their music will be used during the Olympics to score one of the best sports: ping-pong.

Girls Aloud – “Swinging London Town”
Sure, the Spice Girls are reuniting for the Olympics, but here’s something from another girl group on hiatus for you. Girls Aloud never grabbed much of an audience outside of the UK, but it’s never too late to discover pop perfection.

Surfer Blood – “Swim”
It feels like a while since we’ve heard from Florida rockers Surfer Blood, whose debut album Astrocoast was a favorite from 2010. Go ahead and listen to this while reading internet comments about the number of bags that need to be put over Michael Phelps’s head or something.

Jonquil – “Run”
Things I would rather do than actually go running: listen to this song from the perennially pleasant Oxford band Jonquil, featured on their recent LP Point of Go.

Tennis – “Petition”
I played tennis as a kid because my mom said I would like it and Michael Chang was a rare celebrity role model for Asian-Americans during the 90s. I wasn’t very good at it, so now the closest I get is listening to the retro-pop duo called Tennis. This is a highlight from their latest album Young And Old.

The Jam – “London Traffic”
So apparently, a huge influx of people entering a city makes traffic really bad. Here is a song entitled “London Traffic” from 1977, truly a message for the ages.

The Specials – “Too Much Too Young”
The closing ceremonies of the Olympics are set to showcase various artists from Britain’s proud musical history, including ska legends the Specials.

New Order – “Age of Consent”
Not only are New Order also performing at the closing ceremonies, it’s scientifically proven (not really) that “Age of Consent” is one of the best summer songs ever.

Blur – “For Tomorrow”
A significant portion of America is going to have to find out that Blur made more than “that woohoo song” when they headline the closing ceremonies. Here is my favorite Blur song, from 1993’s Modern Life Is Rubbish.

The Ruby Suns – “Olympics On Pot”
It’s almost guaranteed that someone from Vice is going to go to the Olympics on acid, but the title of this song offers a back-up idea.

Harry and the Potters – “Voldemort Can’t Stop The Rock”
The opening ceremonies of the Olympics are apparently set to include a bunch of Mary Poppinses fighting a giant Voldemort. Because there is no reason why they shouldn’t.

Oh Hey, Those Two New Blur Songs Are Here

Earlier this year, Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon premiered the first new Blur song since Record Store Day 2010 at a War Child benefit in London—a plaintive, piano-driven number called "Under the Westway" which fans at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire buzzed about—"It’s a new one!" Today, the band released "Westway" and another new one, "The Puritan," in all their clean studio glory and with handy lyrics videos so you can memorize them in time to sing along and wave your lighters at home while watching the band at the London Olympics closing ceremony. The "Westway" video even has sheet music! (And very Olympics-closing-ceremony-astute lyrics, we might add: "When the Flags coming down/and the last post sounds/just like a love song…"). "The Puritan," with its neon-sign-flashing lyrics video, is the more danceable of the two, heavy on the synths and buzzy noises and complete with a "la la la" refrain. 

Have a listen to both below. Goodnight, everybody! 

"Under The Westway": 

"The Puritan":

The Best Songs From Bands Playing the Olympics

We all have our favorite Olympic events. For some people it’s the diving, for others it’s gymnastics, but for some folks without much of an interest in sports, the musical acts playing the opening and closing ceremonies of the London-based games are the most exciting event of all.

On July 27, the games will open with sets from Duran Duran, Stereophonics and Snow Patrol, and on August 12, they’ll close with a concert featuring Britpop icons Blur as the headliners.

So, while athletes are training for the games and their fans are busy tracking stats and figuring out how to watch each event (much easier now that the entire games will stream online!), we’re getting caught up with the bands that will be playing. Check out one of our favorite songs from each, below.

Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like The Wolf” isn’t just a blazing ’80s anthem with an iconic video—it’s a mantra for athletes, who seem all wholesome and good natured, but are really ready to slit throats to get on the cover of a Wheaties box.

“Dakota” was Stereophonics’ first single to hit number one on the UK charts and sounds like a great number for two Olympic competitors to fall in secret, illicit, Olympic Village love to.

“Run,” the breakout hit for Irish rockers Snow Patrol, isn’t exactly workout music—it’s a bit of a dirgy love song, really—but how could the sprinters and relay teams not be taken in by a track with this title? Also, it would sound pretty sweet played over a slow-motion win.

“Song 2” isn’t the best Blur song—that would be “High Cool” from 1991’s Leisure—but it’s got an undeniable energy to it, one that’s sure to get athletes and fans alike pumped for competition. 

Watch Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon Perform a New Blur Song: “Under the Westway”

We suppose the appropriate response would be "Woo Hoo." Over the weekend, Blur’s Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon took to the stage at a benefit concert in London and played three songs, including a new track, "Under the Westway," their first new material made available to listeners since their 2010 Record Store Day single. (A spoken word collaboration with poet Michael Horovitz recorded in response to the Notting Hill Carnival cancellation was never released.)

Fans at the War Child benefit at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire were treated to the soft, piano-driven track, which Albarn described has having "a lot of words—for me anyway—but not as many as Ed Sheeran has," a nod to the singer-songwriter topping the bill that night. 

Earlier this month, Graham Coxon told the Daily Record the band would be going back into the studio to record a new album. Tonight, they will accept the "Outstanding Contribution to Music" award at the BRITs. Maybe a tour isn’t far behind? Please? 

Watch a video of the performance here. You can hear the buzz of fans: "It’s a new one!"