Wednesday, August 26, 2009

#127. 'My heart grows colder with each day'

Bat for Lashes "What's a Girl to Do?"

I'm not the easiest listener to please generally, but I have my weaknesses. Cellos always make me perk up my ears no matter how bad the song I'm hearing is for instance, and if you throw in a subtle trumpet fanfare in the right context chances are I'll forgive a lot of the less stellar things you put on display. And if you start your song with the "Be My Baby" drumbeat and don't completely lose the plot after that it's possible that you've made me a fan for life. It's a cheap trick honestly. Using one of the most immediately recognizable drum patterns in the history of music creates an feeling of familiarity, making it as though you've heard this song before and all but ensuring you're gonna pay attention past the point where you're aware that this isn't what you thought it was...but I fall for it every time it seems. Clinic's "IPC Subeditors Dictate Our Youth" and The Jesus and Mary Chain's "Just Like Honey" are the two that come to mind instantly, where all it took to get me interested in the band as a whole was using that beat to snap my attention towards the song at hand, and more recently Bat for Lashes' "What's a Girl to Do?" did the same thing.

Of course if the song wasn't up to the standards set by the opening few seconds it probably wouldn't be here, but part of me is convinced that BfL, the alias of British singer Natasha Khan, was created specifically to push all my musical buttons. Not only does "What's a Girl to Do?" have that drumbeat kicking things off, but Khan's right up my alley as far as female voices go, equal parts breathy vulnerability and defiant strength. The arrangement isn't dynamic but the fact that it's based around what sounds like a glockenspiel for the verses is at least an interesting choice. The whole song is drenched a cavernous reverb that's always crisp and never murky, and those handcalps in the chorus are some of the most downcast ones I've heard. It's another song where its simplicity is a virtue, if only because it allows for Khan's voice to shine.

I'd be remiss, though, if I didn't mention the video here. Seriously, if the "Be My Baby" drums didn't catch my attention the video would have drawn me in just as much. The simple image of Khan riding her bike down a deserted stretch of road is indelible enough, but when those hoodied masked men emerge from behind her it's a serious jolt. When they start into a choreographed dance routine on bicycles, and the video plays this ridiculous premise entirely straight to its credit, it makes for one of the most interesting videos of recent years. Like the song, it's taking a relatively simple idea and pulling it off flawlessly, and the way the video informs the song in retrospect (I can't hear those chorus hand claps without envisioning them being done by the biking furries) makes for one of the best song-video pairings in recent history.

Coming up tomorrow: Canada's most slept on rapper or avoiding production cliches for fun and profit.

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