Friday, 27 April 2007


To start with, I for the life of me have no idea where this underlining is coming from. Or how to get rid of it. Sorry.

I used to buy a LOT of cds. Before I hit twenty, I was buying at least an album a week. Then I started a music degree, and felt compelled to listen to classic fm, rather than keep up with pop music. And during those 3 years, I totally lost the plot, and stopped buying cds because I stopped listening to them. So to buy two cds in one day was pretty exciting, and listening to them reminded me of why I used to spend so much money and time on them.

To start with, I listened to the Camille cd 'Le fil' on my way home from work. Apart from the single 'Ta Douleur' I didn't like any of it - I thought it was pretentious, and self-indulgent, and most of the music itself seemed basic and boring. I'd wanted more of the groove that the single promised, and instead I average version of stereotypical French music. By contrast, when I listened to Lily Allen's 'Alright, Still' straight after it, it seemed witty and fun and energetic. Like a young British female version of the Cat Empire. But one out of two ain't bad, right?

But then, I decided to give Le fil another go. So this time I listened to it in the quiet of my house, and I really listened to it. And I came to the complete opposite conclusion. Many of the songs are beautifully written, and have a real depth to them. The arrangements are amazing too. The whole album has a drone (sung by Camille) running through it, and while I wouldn't argue that this is as earth-shatteringly innovative as many seem to think, it does really bring it all together, so you know you're listening to an album, not a collection of songs. In addition, the lady can sing. She's able to sound like a full grown and angry woman, or a young and vulnerable little girl. Indeed the instrumentation of 'Ta Douleur' is nothing more than her voice, handclaps, a bass and a trombone. Pretty impressive for a groovy pop song, in which most orchestraters would jump straight for the nearest big band. Ok, so there's still tracks that I'd skip. But there's enough really really impressive ones that I'll be listening to on repeat for a while yet. It's not all funky and upbeat like the singles would suggest, but it is mostly very very good. The only thing I can't comment on here is the lyrics. Apparently my French is just not that good yet. Oh well. Soon.

But then, I got caught again! When listening to Lily Allen's 'Alright, Still' and actually concentrating on it, it turns out to be kind of average. My Cat Empire comment? Well as it turns out, only if they had David Attenborough for a producer. It's unfortunatly quite contrived and conservative musically, and the lyrics are twee. On first listen, the lyrics seemed smart and sassy and witty and confident, and basically perfectly relevant to my life as a young woman in the early 21st century. But after a couple more spins, Lily Allen comes off as an overpriviliged whinger with a big chip on her shoulder. At first she seemed like someone who would be fun to hang out with, but after listening more closely I think I'd be worried she'd stab me in the back a week later. I was even more convinced of this when I read her liner notes, where she unnecessarily takes a pop at anyone she wants to. Like the singing teacher who told her not to give up her day job. Well... I'm not sure that was such bad advice. She can sing nicely, but she's no Nina Simone either. I'd say she got famous through luck, not sheer talent. Her lyrics are kind of impressive in that she's able to rhyme ordinary speech consistently without it sounding contrived, but beyond that there's really no depth to them. All in all, 'Alright, Still' is a decent album, but I'll be limiting my listening to times when the details will be lost anyway - on public transport, or while cooking - not when I'm actually really listening.

Oh well. One out of two ain't bad.

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