Monday, April 11, 2011

song of the week 16: high llamas - fly baby fly

Got a three-minute attention span? Then you'll hate the High Llamas. Need a sing-along chorus to jump out and grab you by the ears? Ain't gonna happen with these boys.

In my experience listening to a new High Llamas album--as I've been doing in the last hour or so, to Talahomi Way (out today, pop fans!)--usually works something like this:

1st listen: you can pick up all the familiar elements of the band's sound (Sean O'Hagan vocalising and plucking nylon-string guitar in a bossa-nova kinda style, Bacharach-type trumpets, string quartet/vibes/harps, percussive electric piano accompaniment...) but you find it all a bit disjointed. These key changes are a bit radical, there are hardly any noticeable hooks and no musical idea seems to last for more than three or four bars. It's all a bit too clever-clever.

2nd listen: It begins to fit together a bit better. You can see how one idea develops from another, that actually there is a kind of verse/verse/chorus-type song structure. The instrumental noodling isn't just that. It all fits in, echoing and counterpointing the melody.

3rd/4th listen: Actually, these melodies are genius. They go off in all sorts of directions but they're what hold each song together. Getting the hang of this now...

5th/6th listen: Reach for lyric sheet. Sing-along chorus ahoy. Altogether now: "Fly Baby Fly" etc etc...

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