Get the 'Lost in Music' lowdown with John Meagher
This week: Sinkane, Electric Picnic, Pavement and Clint Mansell
ALBUM OF THE WEEK
Sinkane – Mean Love (City Slang)
The Sudan-born, Brooklyn-based Ahmed Gallab may have been used as a session player on albums from Caribou and Of Montreal, plus the hipster-approved Yeasayer, but chances are you won’t know the name. I certainly didn’t. But for the past fortnight, I’ve been transfixed by this album, the singer and multi-instrumentalist’s second to be released under the Sinkane nom-de-plume. It’s certain to be in my top 10 for 2014 come yearend.
Quite simply, this is a brilliant pop album. Over the course of a lean 35 minutes, there are more genres and ideas shoehorned in than you would find in most artists’ entire career. Yet, the inclusion of such odd bedfellows as krautrock, indie, soul and African pop never feels forced; instead, Gallab’s curious mix of influences is inspired, not least when the ghosts of Curtis Mayfield and James Brown loom large.
Virtually all of these ‘global pop’ songs – not least ‘How We Be’ and ‘New Name’ – blow the three-minute stuff clogging up the charts out of the water. So much of today’s pop is made by the same coterie of writers and producers and the results can sound terribly samey. The fact that there’s nothing homogenous about Mean Love is just one of the reasons it makes such an impact. Another is the Gallab’s direct, clear vocals that ensure that even when the music makes you want to dance, you’ll hang onto his every word.
Ultimately, though, it’s the presence of one great song after the next that keeps me returning to this album every day. Rarely has dashed love sounded so appealing.
Treat yourself. Buy it.
Key tracks: ‘Young Trouble’; ‘How We Be’; ‘New Name’
CLASSIC ALBUM REVISITED
Pavement – Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain (1994)
Among those down the pecking order at Electric Picnic this week is Stephen Malkmus. The Californian plays the Rankin’s Wood stage with his band, The Jicks, on Sunday at 4.15pm.
Chances are he will dip into his old Pavement back catalogue and it’s this, the band’s second album, that remains the highpoint of Malkmus’s music to date.
Unashamedly lo-fi and with a production that might be best described as “bedroom-honed”, these beguilingly rough and ready songs enjoy an elevated place in the canon of US ‘college rock’.
The messy, take-it-or-leave it style of much-adored debut Slanted and Enchanted remains intact, but there are concessions to conventional mass-appeal songcraft too. ‘Cut Your Hair’ delivered one of the band’s few hit singles while ‘Range Life’ and ‘Gold Soundz’ demonstrated Malkmus and friends’ ability to deliver indie anthems.
Highly influential, Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain lives on as a touchstone for contemporary bands like Deerhunter and Parquet Courts.
GIG OF THE WEEK
There’s only one show in town this week – and it’s happening in Stradbally, Co Laois. Rarely has there been so much excitement surrounding Electric Picnic, and the festival has been sold out for weeks. It will be the biggest EP to date in terms of capacity, with a licence for 40,000 granted this year.
Those lucky enough to have tickets are in for a special weekend, with Portishead’s show on Saturday night – their first Irish appearance in 17 years – likely to live long in the memory.
Elsewhere, attendees are urged to check out the sets from two females responsible for two of 2014’s key releases: FKA Twigs and St Vincent. The former is in the Little Big Tent on Saturday at 8.30pm while the latter is in the Heineken Electric Arena on Sunday at 7pm.
To see who’s playing what, check out http://electricpicnic.ie/lineup
Independent.ie will have extensive coverage of the festival over the weekend and RTE Two will be broadcasting from Stradbally on Saturday night.
Clint Mansell – National Concert Hall, Dublin, October 12
The English musician used to play in the 1990s band Pop Will Eat Itself, and has thoroughly reinvented himself over the past decade. The vast bulk of his work has been in film soundtracks and his partnership with the singular director Darron Arronovsky has been especially fruitful. It’s this relationship that will be celebrated in Dublin with music from the Oscar-winning films Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler and Black Swan offering a reminder of Mansell’s gifts.
Tickets cost €35.
Lost in Music – John Meagher