Golden sunbird, where did you go?
We were the love birds
I wanna be there with you
Right before we burn
Golden sunbird, I wanna dive into the end of wherever you go
I follow, but where did you go?
I wanna be a sunbird too
Your wings are made of black leather
While mine are made of memories
You are the tough one, and I’m a dreamer
Still you are the one who wants to be sunbird
I guess you weren’t meant for this world
Maybe none of us are…
Somehow, a year has passed since Bryan died. Although I’m not much for pouring out my heart on the internet these days, I couldn’t let today pass without marking it somehow. Above and below are some words that have Meant Things.
In western lands beneath the Sun
The flowers may rise in Spring,
The trees may bud, the waters run,
The merry finches sing.
Or there maybe ‘tis cloudless night,
And swaying branches bear
The Elven-stars as jewels white
Amid their branching hair.
Though here at journey’s end I lie
In darkness buried deep,
Beyond all towers strong and high,
Beyond all mountains steep,
Above all shadows rides the Sun
And Stars for ever dwell:
I will not say the Day is done,
Nor bid the Stars farewell.
— Journey’s End from The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you know all too well that I won’t shut up about The Sound of Arrows and how Voyage is basically the best thing in the history of ever and that once gay marriage is finally sorted I’ll be campaigning for the right to marry an album because I love it so much.
I think that’s only a slight exaggeration.
Before I start blabbing on, here’s the tl;dr: Voyage is my favorite album of the year by a wide margin, and I hope you’ll give it a listen.
The Arrows’ music has an incredible way of embracing the inevitable darkness and sadness of life and somehow turning it into something beautiful, uplifting, and hopeful. To quote the Voyage liner notes:
In the darkest of days
One dreams the biggest of dreams
Close your eyes and the world is ours
That sentiment pervades the album, which manages to be simultaneously melancholy and joyful; accepting the harsh realities of life and looking at everything with wide-eyed wonder. With lyrics like the ones below (from Wonders) I have no doubt part of the reason I love it so much is because of what I’ve been through in the last few months.
I will never forget the way of the world
When we were together, I long to return
I will never forget how you made me feel
Come make me remember wonders of that time
Back when you were mine
So, fair warning: it’s entirely possible I may be a bit biased by how I’ve connected emotionally with their songs. Which is exactly why you need to watch and listen and hopefully be drawn in yourself.
The Sound of Arrows call their music “widescreen pop”, and it’s easy to imagine Voyage as the soundtrack to the most epic fantasy ever made, especially when listening to the instrumentals (which sadly only come with the physical release). There are such rich layers of sound that the tracks work just as well with or without lyrics, and really deserve to be heard both ways. It’s an incredibly cohesive album without a weak or skippable song, which is quite a feat.
As luck would have it, you don’t even have to imagine the movie, because the video for Magic is a trailer for what I can only pray will someday become a real film. (If you don’t watch any of the other videos in this post, watch this one. It’s that good.)
The rest of their videos are just as distinctive and just as wonderful. Nova first put The Sound of Arrows on my radar earlier this year.
Wonders, in addition to being one of my favorite tracks from Voyage, features Stefan being sexy and shirtless. Not going to say no to that.
Did I mention that Stefan and Oskar do basically everything themselves, including videos and the ridiculously beautiful artwork for their releases? Because they do. It’s amazing, and a little mind-blowing. They have a wonderfully consistent aesthetic that perfectly compliments the music. (Also, today, Stefan responded to a question I asked on Twitter and actually took the time to send me an email, which just endears them to me that much more.)
One final indication of how good Voyage is: it’s already my most-listened album of the year by far, and The Sound of Arrows may well beat out Underworld and Tim Hecker for my most-listened artist this year on the strength of a single album. An album that only came out in November.
Reading back over this, I realize I haven’t actually said much of anything about the sound of the album, who it compares to, done a track-by-track review, etc, etc. And I’m OK with that since you can find plenty of it elsewhere. If what I’ve written explains a little of why I’ve fallen in love with Voyage and The Sound of Arrows, that’s enough for me.
Tonight I made up a recipe for green tomato salsa since I wanted to use some tomatoes from the garden in a different sort of way. I was pleasantly surprised with how it turned out, and when I
mentioned that fact I was asked to share. So here it is.
- 2-3 cups chopped green tomatoes
- 1/2 large onion, diced
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 hot pepper, minced (I used serrano.)
- 1 other pepper, diced (I used cubanelle but green or red would be fine.)
- 1 tsp. cumin
- 1/4 cup vinegar (I used apple cider since that’s what I had on hand but white would be fine.)
- 1/4 - 1/2 cup whiskey (See, I told you I was making shit up. But everything’s better with alcohol, right? Right.)
- Saute onion and garlic in oil over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, until softened.
- Add peppers and cook for 3 minutes.
- Add tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes.
- Add remaining ingredients, reduce heat, and simmer for 20-30 minutes, until tomatoes are softened.
This being my list, Underworld obviously ends up on top (as if there was any doubt). I’m not going to go on about the new Underworld album, which of course is amazing. The box set doubly so. But instead of babbling about Underworld (did I mention Barking is brilliant?), I’m going to talk about some of the other artists I’ve enjoyed this year.
Top Listens, New Discoveries, and General Brilliance
One of my favorite new discoveries this year, Skrillex has a style that effortlessly blends equal parts dubstep, electro house, and glitch into an aggressive, melodic sound. I had never gotten into dubstep all that much outside Burial (although I’m rather liking a lot of what I’m hearing of Nero and Breakage lately), but there’s something about what Skrillex does that I find totally irresistible and engaging.
My first introduction to Skrillex was Fucking Die 1 from My Name Is Skrillex, followed closely by downloading the whole EP (which you really should do immediately), since he released it for free. However, I think he really took things to the next level with Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites. In spite of the late October release date, it’s ended up as my #4 most listened album for the year. The remixes he’s done are also amazing and I highly recommend seeking them out. Also, his live show looks absolutely insane.
So yes, I’ve been a bit obsessed with Skrillex. I even bought a shirt, though that was partially because I think the “Ill” logo is a wonderful piece of design.
Russ Chimes initially became one of my favorite remixers for his fantastic work on Frankmuisk’s Confusion Girl and Ellie Goulding’s Starry Eyed. I know that if his name is on a track, it’s going to be quality. Then this year he dropped the Midnight Club EP, which is not only amazing, but has an absolutely brilliant compainon film. He also released a couple of DJ mixes that I’ve really enjoyed.
Fear of Tigers
I first encountered indie dance producer Fear of Tigers through his blistering remix of Crysteena by Mille. However, I didn’t discover his debut album Cossus Snufsigalonica until a few months after its December 2009 release. So it goes into the top albums of 2010 for me. (By the way, Cossus Snufsigalonica is still available for free download. Go ahead and get it. I’ll wait.) His work is full of catchy synthy melodies that pull me in and won’t let go.
Somehow Sufjan found time to release two albums this year. All Delighted People is an enjoyable EP of odds and ends, different from the “50 States” releases, but still falling somewhere in the rock/folk/acoustic family. However, it’s The Age of Adz that really shone for me. This album sees Sufjan once again dipping into electronic sounds, which he hasn’t done since 2002’s Enjoy Your Rabbit. From the simple Futile Devices to the epic Impossible Soul, The Age Of Adz is chock full of songs that are both catchy and challenging. Even though it’s built on synths, the album still is very Sufjan, and very, very good.
Some Other Artists I Rather Enjoyed
Although Heartbeats is far from my favorite LP this year, it has three really amazing tracks. In order of increasing amazingness: 3. Can’t Shake This Feeling, 2. Through The Night, and 1. Heartbeats. As I have mentioned previously, Heartbeats is a total earworm. Or as Popjustice puts it, “the greatest song of the 21st Century.”
With Sigur Rós on some sort of hiatus, Jónsi released Go, his first non-ambient solo album. It’s takes an even poppier direction than Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust and sees Jónsi singing consistently in English for the first time. The tracks somehow manage to be simultaneously chaotic and coherent, packed with the unrelenting beauty that seems to inhabit anything Jónsi touches.
I discovered Example thanks to the inimitable Popjustice. While his earlier work was rap, he now makes what he calls “dysfunctional electro-pop”. Won’t Go Quietly is a very enjoyable album, and I look forward to hearing what he does in the future. Also, something about a potential Skrillex remix? Yes please.
Odd Blood is, to my ears, a bit uneven at times. There are, however, some fairly brilliant tracks, and Ambling Alp ended up as one of my most-listened songs of the year. Such a great singing-in-the-car song.
More Albums I Listened To Quite A Bit
BT - These Hopeful Machines
LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening
Owen Pallett - Heartland
Alphabeat - The Beat Is…
Kele - The Boxer