This Mortal Coil - It’ll End In Tears; I was amazed to find that This Mortal Coil was not a band but a 4AD-wide project, and also that the whole thing is a collection of covers! The album is so cohesive in terms of its darkly beautiful mood. In fact, the Cocteau Twins’ contribution 'Song to the Siren' (which I recognised from the Lost Highway soundtrack) apparently inspired the inception of David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti’s collaborations with Julee Cruise (whose remarkably similar record Floating Into The Night I rented and loved a few months ago). In spite of in-built obstacles, this was a pioneering and haunting work.
They Might Be Giants - Apollo 18; I’m not sure we can be friends if you don’t like TMBG, there I said it. They’re so very goofy and lovable, their songs full of silly references, everything about them is so much fun… These songs come right from those (potentially biologically unstable) nasal passages and straight into my heart yo. I will never get tired of songs like 'The Statue Got Me High' and 'I Palindrome I', even if perhaps this band are best suited to a best-of compilation (I have a well-worn copy of A User’s Guide To They Might Be Giants - every song is excellent). Also, it’s weird that I got this on vinyl, because the ‘Fingertips’ sequence (yes, that Fingertips sequence) was specifically written for people using the “shuffle” feature on those new-fangled CD players. Most bands are repulsed by the idea of people shuffling their records these days.
Dylan Thomas - Under Milk Wood; really lovely recording which made me feel like I was tuning in to FM radio for it. This recording features Tom Jones, Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta Jones, and Alan Bennett! The music is partly by Elton John and George Martin. The liner notes discuss how Thomas would have pioneered the soap opera had he gathered his initial ideas sooner, which I found really interesting. But Thomas understood (as did Lynch/Frost with Twin Peaks) that the main voyeuristic draw of a soap opera was how bizarre the characters are. I watched an entire episode of Coronation Street recently for some reason and it was desperately boring - even though it quite possibly got its name from Under Milk Wood, it ignored Thomas’ weird psychology. I wasn’t always paying full attention to the play, (partly because I’d read it before, and that’s not the best way to experience it), but it doesn’t matter too much, it’s floaty and ambient and essentially plotless. There’s some really nice uses of music in here; I really love how Polly Garter singing in her back yard is transformed into an orchestral, sweeping ballad, with her singing her heart out, and fades back at the end to an acapella. I wish I owned this one, it’s brilliant.
Don Cherry - Art Deco; given Cherry’s bond with Ornette Coleman, I’d hoped for something that pushed some boundaries. Apparently tenor saxophonist James Clay found the lack of chords very challenging, with his more traditional Texan style. It’s played quite safe, but it’s always very sharp. Still it’s hardly free jazz; despite the lack of piano it’s super accessible. There are a lot of familiar tunes - Thelonious Monk’s terrific 'Bemsha Swing', and 'I've Grown Accustomed To Your Face' are tackled here, along with three Coleman pieces, but never does it get particularly vital. I’d still like to explore Cherry’s more avant-garde earlier works.