23 June 2011

Part One: The Morning

Cut Copy, In Ghost Colours

Easily, one of the best albums that I’ve ever heard and one that’s more lovable because it’s electropop. The pure pleasure of electropop has never sounded sweeter to me than here. It’s suited to running because it’s steady and light, but very energetic with melodies and rhythm that complement motion well. The fluency of the keyboard playing goes a long way to keeping the music so light. It’s not very heavy on bass, but relies on rhythm for the running. I find it eminently suited for that. The entire album is mixed as one suite, but there are track stops on the CD and four points where the music slows to catch its breath and transition to the next batch of songs. If you’re keeping track of time, the album can be stopped cleanly in the middle where “Voices In Quartz” transitions both sides. Side one starts in media res with “Feel the Love” which is nice as it warms up rather than blasts with BPM so that the beginning jog doesn’t get forced to a sprint. It’s a superb song in the Cut Copy catalog as well. “Lights and Music” has a great guitar part that along with the keyboards really moves along the action. The heart of the album is the transition from side one to side two: “So Haunted”, “Voices In Quartz”, and “Hearts On Fire” (one of Cut Copy’s greatest tracks). The Phil Collins reference in the opening lyric is droll but delightful. “With heart on fire, I reach out to you tonight” is wonderful because how can one not want to run to that – the rhythm section doesn’t give one a choice in the matter but it’s lovely to have one song with that particular lyric. The rest of side two is great, but most of it is a little slower so one can wind down. “Far Away”, “Strangers In The Wind”, and “Nobody Lost Nobody Found” stand out on this side, however. That last song is one of the last entirely energetic songs that recalls the first half of the album. As In Ghost Colours ends, everything falls into the place and the triumph of Cut Copy is evident. This entire album is great despite some stellar singles because it’s so immersive. The one long mix, the songs that stand above others but cohere with the lesser and transitional tracks, and the propulsive lightness of everything aid that immersive process. It also doesn’t feel like it can’t be played loud enough.

Cut Copy, Zonoscope

How does one improve on perfection? By staying the same and tightening the craft. This album is somewhat less ethereal, but it opens with one of the greatest songs ever recorded that also for our purposes here suits running (not that one would know this from the Nike and Olymics promo reel that is the song’s music video). “Need You Now” also starts in media res somewhat, but builds to its climax from jog to sprint. The cowbells that add more rhythm from the opening keyboards start this up, then some handclaps, and then drums that announce Dan’s singing. His singing on this album is better because it’s even smoother than the previous album. Again, one of the best songs I’ve ever heard as well as another gorgeous love song and catalog jewel to place next to “Hearts On Fire”. I’d almost say there’s a dual climax: the instrumental one then the vocal one. This is accomplished by another Cut Copy trademark: their superb handling of glissandi. One of the greatest musical joys in this life is glissandi on electronic keyboards and this song doesn’t disappoint. The album isn’t mixed as one – which is unfortunate because a transition from “Need You Now” to “Take Me Over” would have been wonderful – but it still moves from one track to the next with vigor. “Take Me Over” is another great song as well as New Order homage. (One of many wonderful moments that reference the golden age of electropop.) “Where I’m Going” has some great shout-along on the chorus as well as great rhythm for picking up more momentum on that jog. “This Is All We’ve Got” has great drumming that moves one along. Actually, “This Is All We’ve Got”, “Alisa”, and “Hanging Onto Every Heartbeat” are a great suite on the latter side of the album. “Hanging Onto Every Heartbeat” in particular has some lovely synth parts. The entire range of songs is strong for a long run, but the last might be better for home calisthenics. “Sun God” is fifteen minutes of experiment, but also its own separate territory on the album. I dance to this one more often than run with it. It could or could not be a coda, but it works well here anyway. Zonoscope is a little more muscular than the previous album, but the popcraft is stronger and more assured. Almost any song here is excellent as a pop specimen, but the songs never feel staid or boring. This album works great for the indoor and outdoor calisthenics, has its big differences from In Ghost Colours, and might seem too smooth for some. However, one’s heart may not care as it races. Cut Copy has given us another masterpiece.

Sparks, No. 1 In Heaven

Synths that sound like doves? Jokes at the expense of disco lovers? An allusion to Fellini? The world’s only legitimate alternative to Tangerine Dream? Sure. It is the seventies. Easily, one of the masterpieces of electronic music. More practically, the BPM here is excellent for running: smooth synths, steady and sharp drumming, and Russell’s commanding falsetto. The synths are the true star here, but the entire album is sheer delight. A sonic soufflé? I think not. There’s great craft and lovely wit in this music. It’s got a beat and you can run to it. Or pine for Miami Vice with it. (NB: this is not the Sparks album that Neko Case covered.) “My Other Voice” may not be the best song for jogging, but it’s a prelude to another one of the greatest songs ever recorded: “The Number One Song In Heaven”. This one could song could be its own mixtape. It’s perfect. Perfect for running. Perfect for ending your disappointing and trashy Asia Argento film. It’s someone’s number one song. Oh, did I mention that Giorgio Moroder produced this album? That’s right: Sparks (and Cut Copy) like Donna Summers. Oh yeah.

Daft Punk, Discovery

Why not? It’s not as if I could discuss Cut Copy (who toured with Daft Punk) and not mention these guys. This is an energetic album with great BPM and it’s fun. Say it with me: “One. More. Time!” Also, I’ve been in this car with Gary Numan too long – help!

α 60, Exit Ramp Remixes

This has a beat and you can run to it. The album is somewhat dreamier than the other bands on this list, however. “Exit Ramp (Original)” and “Exit Ramp (Antoni Maiovvi's Space Chase Mix)” are the ones which are more energetic, but the entire EP is excellent. It’s spacier, glitchier, and more futuristic than these other bands, but it has great imagination. These songs are great for driving around and taking longer trips, but maybe not as perfect for running. One can do it if you increase the bass and volume, though. This is here because it’s one of the best electronic albums released this year and I wanted to bring it to your attention.

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