Notes, Corrections, Clarifications, Apologies, Addenda
Songs To Make You Drop Your Drink Ö pt 2
Iíve been reading Dave Eggersí A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Iíd been putting it of. Ages ago I bought a copy in a charity shop for a pound. It didnít look like it had been loved. I didnít think I would love it either. I didnít really want to love a book with that sort of title. I particularly didnít think I would love a book like that by a smart young American. But I did. It is almost a heartbreaking work of staggering genius. And he knows it. Eggers really can write. And he flaunts it.

Anyway the book has a so smart section, a sort of appendix, featuring corrections, notations, updates, tangential remarks and clarifications. Itís very clever and very funny. And I am going to borrow boldly to annotate my musings on songs to make you drop your drink.

So it seems the nation agrees Kelisí 'Milkshake' is an astonishing song. Truly the Neptunesí production makes it sound as unsettling as a Chris and Cosey Ď80s tease. Yet the accompanying Tasty set is anything but, and fails miserably to blast beverages skywards. Rather like Timbaland and the recent Missy missive. I think I have had it up to here with these big name production teams.

There is one Timbaland produced number on Alicia Keysí Diary Of Ö It is easily the weakest song in the set. Yet you can imagine the pressure from record companies keen to unite big names. As if Alicia needs it. Sheís still a kid, but has put together two lovely, lovely LPs. And the recent single 'You Donít Know My Name' is such a gorgeous, sumptious soulful ballad. I think Laura Nyro would approve wholeheartedly.

I get wary talking about smooth ríníb and new soul. It can imply conservatism. But when there is a bit of an edge, a touch of imagination, a sense of purpose, then wow! Itís pop at its best.

Terri Walkerís 'Ching Chingís one of the best homegrown pop moments of recent times. You can sense some thought going into what sheís doing. Hereís a lady blessed with a beautiful soul stylistís voice, who has made a conscious decision to eschew the heavy handed productions and the parading round partly dressed way of getting on. And it works. For now.

And then you get to thinking that there must be more magnificent underground soul out there. It stands to reason, and it could be fun finding out.

One joyous discovery to date is the Jazzyfatnasteesí the Tortoise and The Hare set from late 2002, which is utterly sublime organic soul exactly the way you would want it to be. The Jazzys (Mercedes Martinez and Tracey Moore) have Roots connections and ooze minimalist class. The cover consciously cites Simon & Garfunkel, thus they distance themselves from the mainstream maelstrom. The sound is sparse, the songs strong, the harmonies exquisite, and the feel fantastically fresh. I want more!

I may feel like beating myself up about missing out on new soul gems, but the same applies to so many areas of musical activity. Itís hard to keep up, and the wrong things garner attention. It is hard to strike a balance between succumbing to salvage operations and seeking out new music. Sometimes you stumble accidentally across treasure, and sometimes you have to gamble and trust instinct.

And how many times do we have to say this? Soulís a funny word, but it is something that links great records from the Jazzyfatnastees to the Young People and Slumber Party. Itís something about feeling, expression, and imagination. Itís nothing to do with authenticity, ambition, technique and gloss.

How the fear of missing out drives us on! It stems from a very real knowledge that we are missing out. Yet sometimes it really doesnít matter. Delayed discovery can lead to a lot of joy later on. This may not help an artist struggling to make ends meet, but thatís the way it goes I suppose.

Drugstore must have had more than their fair share of struggle. I only recently stumbled across their Songs For The Jet Set 2001 outing. Accepting 'Alive' is never going to be the only song Isabel whispers in your ear, then Jet Set is something of a lost classic. Stripped and intimate, itís a thing of great beauty, and Isabel sings like a tired, troubled, and tender guardian angel.

And how many times do we have to say this too? I may have been missing in action, but I donít recall banner headlines singing Drugstoreís Jet Setís praises. And I donít remember seeing immense editorials eulogising the Jazzys. Nor have I seen much ado about Slumber Partyís artful lullabyes. And how many others have the very great Katie Eastburn of the Young People on their covers? Itís no wonder we are all, ahem, missing out on heartbreaking works of staggering genius from time to time.

© 2004 John Carney