[My Gang] Cat's Eyes – The Best Person I Know : Reco of the Week 03 May 11


3 May 2011, 15:42

Track: The Best Person I Know [Soundcloud]
Artist: Cat's Eyes
Album: Cat's Eyes (11 April 2011, Polydor)
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I have two albums of the week this week, Cat's Eyes, the new side-project from The Horrors frontman, Faris Badwan, and The Rentals - The Rentals Present: Resilience (A Benefit Album for the Relief Effort In Japan), another side-project, this time from Matt Sharp, former bass player for Weezer.

In the days after the biggest and best royal wedding in 30 years, I thought a love song would be in order, but not being a fan of the mushy slushy stuff, this was a bit of a task for me. One that stands out is The Best Person I Know, a 60s girl-group sounding track that is not only beautifully done, but sweet enough without being saccharine and therefore, most acceptable.

But first, the happy couple.

[Source: The Mirror]

According to reports, a third of the planet watched the royal wedding live, thanks to satellite television and the internet. Google had a link on its homepage to the live transmission on YouTube. Twitter was insane with hundreds of tweets per second; and for once, happy tweets far outweighed the miserable ones. The Palace itself kept people abreast of updates. Regardless of stance or cynicism, there was little doubt of the romance and the genuine friendship between the bride and groom. They each married their best friend.

'The Best Person I Know' appears both on the new album and the Broken Glass EP, released a few months ago. Pared back and minimal with pitch-perfect ethereal and echoey vocals, it's The Shangri-La's via dream pop. The music is familiar to fans of The Horrors, shoegaze and fuzzy, but introduced now is a Burt Bacharach sensibility and lush orchestration. The lyrics support the dreaminess of the music, repeating the same lines, themselves constructed as simply as possible. They could be lines written by a teenage hand on the cover of an exercise book. It's a back-to-basics love song, back to what really matters and what moves us most.

Are they? Aren't they?

The track is typical of some of the album but not all. It reminds me a lot of the Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan albums, the voice of the fairy angel contrasted against the beastly devil-type. Faris Badwan and opera soprano Rachel Zeffira avoid going down the same road too much. Instead, they have created an album with an overall girl-group 60s feel with tracks that branch off to explore different avenues. So there are exceptionally light and airy tracks and later, some of those beastly devil ones. The gothic darkness of The Horrors remains and what we're seeing more of now is a sense of playfulness. I wrote about The Horrors before and I noticed it then. Now, it's more pronounced, and it's with that playfulness, with a light, unworried touch, that the album has been created.

BBC review:
As an album, Cat’s Eyes is simply remarkable. Sounding like all the spectral and slightly "woooh" music of yore, its makers throw in additional elements of Nick Cave gothery, Julee Cruise, early 4AD spook, Italian horror soundtracks and the more otherworldly elements of prime 1960s pop such as Scott Walker and Bobbie Gentry. The result is a hazy, somnambulant treat.

My second album of the week is The Rentals Present: Resilience (A Benefit Album for the Relief Effort In Japan). Prince William and Kate Middleton elected not to have a wedding list, requesting people donate to charity instead. It's a coincidence that I should choose this album too this week and, befitting the occasion, it's for a good cause. The digital download is available now and the CD is available for pre-order. http://www.therentals.com/ The whole thing is streaming here: [ We7 | Spotify | AOL Spinner until Sun 8 May ]

From Ernest Jenning Record Co.
[It] features 18 instrumental tracks by Matt Sharp and Lauren Chipman of The Rentals, all previously unavailable outside of the band's epic "Songs About Time" box set. ALL profits from this album are going directly to the Red Cross

The music is entirely instrumental, orchestral, largey piano-led, with some found sounds and recorded spoken voice added on top, except for track 15, July Twenty One, which incorporates vocals in French but is still not a song. Experimental, it has a foot in both pop and classical music, reminding me somewhat of the work of Michael Nyman but only in that it has a cinematic feel and borrows some of the cadences. More than that, it has a contemplative, thoughtful, dare I say it, zen feel. Nothing grabs, there are no hooks, it's as smooth as water and as refreshing, standing up to repeat plays and the kind of music that lasts a lifetime. Within the music is both the East and the West, obvious with the spoken word but less so in the sounds.

Guests contributors on the album include Portuguese actress dalila carmo, Nikolai Fraiture of The Strokes, Rodrigo Amarante of Little Joy/Los Hermanos, French musician Emilie Simon, Gorka Urbizu of Berri Txarrak, and renowned violinist Danielle Belen.

From the official site:
This album was originally recorded as part of Songs About Time, a photography, film, and music project that brought together a large group of accomplished artists who devoted themselves for 365 continuous days to create what the Germans call Gesamtkunstwerk—a total work of art. Originally titled “Tokyo Blues,” the album is a collection of eighteen original scores that were composed for the films of Songs About Time.

The original title of the album was inspired by Japanese author Haruki Murakami's fifth novel ノルウェイの森, also known as “Norwegian Wood,” which was retitled “Tokio Blues" for the Spanish translation. And now, appropriately enough, what was once “Tokyo Blues” has become “Resilience.”

The change of title is appropriate in more ways than one: The music collected has a touch of melancholy but ultimately, when one listens attentively, it expresses hope and a quiet countenance. The duo of Lauren Chipman and Matt Sharp, who shared the role of musical director, would often start from a simple chord progression that Sharp had intended for a traditional pop song. Chipman would then begin to substitute more complex "altered chords" which added a greater depth of color, creating a more experimental and modern arrangement. The result is what you hold in your hands: an elegant, invigorating and transcendent melodic synthesis.

With its orchestral gestures, delicate piano and poetic interludes, the music paints a fitting tribute to the character and resilience of the Japanese people.

-Derrick Taruc

Further reading:

The Guardian - Cat's Eyes interview
The Quietus - review
Wikipedia - Cat's Eyes

The Rentals official site
The Rentals - Facebook
Wikipedia - The Rentals - Resilience
Pitchfork - news in brief
radioIO - press release


- My Gang

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Position in Last 7 Days: 1 / 1,372
Position in Last 6 Months: 6 / 5,960

Date Added: Mar 15, 2011
Views: 61,079, Comments: 36, Likes: 402, Dislikes: 10, Ratings: 412, Favorites: 517

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  • rwitte

    The double album-review is good: it gives me twice as much good reading while, almost paradoxically, refocuses the piece as a whole as on the selected track. As usual, many thanks. The track itself is smashing and I have to agree with the Bacharach comparison (It even sounds like there is a flugelhorn playing). By coincidence, I was writing about Burt simultaneously with you. Even though I am a republican, I agree with you about the Royal Wedding. I am just hoping that neither she, nor the relationship, crumble under the weight of media scrutiny to which she will now be subject.

    4 May 2011, 11:15
  • Babs_05

    Thanks, rwitte! :) It all came together by accident, a rather happy one. Glad you liked the track. I have high hopes for the relationship, I think they're quite strong together, they obviously care for each other and love is a powerful force in itself, overcoming everything. I think they'll be fine. I think given what happened to his mother, they'll work out compromises with the media, which the media will comply with even if out of guilt. They're a stronger couple than Charles and Diana, their boundaries will be respected.

    4 May 2011, 13:40
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