by / April 22nd, 2011 /

Top Story: State Of Play: What our writers are listening to this week

A new weekly feature in which our writers share their favourite tracks of the week.

PJ Harvey – ‘Written On The Forehead’ (chosen by Kara Manning)

Perhaps no other album has been reviewed as favorably this year as PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake which should pass into our cultural consciousness as one of the most moving, artistic testaments to the brutal cycle of war. Another remarkable touchstone was the nervy, Oscar-nominated 2010 documentary Restrepo, co-directed by British war photographer Tim Hetherington and journalist Sebastian Junger; an unflinching, empathetic examination of an American army unit stationed in the dangerous Korengal Valley in Afghanistan.

On Wednesday morning, while nervously preparing for an interview with Polly Harvey just prior to
her second Terminal 5 gig in New York, I was listening to the album for the umpteenth time and as ‘Written On The Forehead’ was playing, I caught, via a PBS’ Independent Lens Facebook posting, the news that Hetherington and fellow conflict photographer Chris Hondros had been killed in Libya whilst on assignment. As I read of Hetherington’s death, shaken, Harvey gently warbled, “With eyes that that’re crying for everything” … and I found myself weeping at my computer, struck by the small brutality of the moment and ashamed at my own inertia.

Lou Reed – ‘Dirty Blvd’ (Chosen by Phil Udell)

Released over 20 years ago, Lou Reed’s New York album saw him rediscover his solo mojo in a major fashion. From the classic black and white, leather jacket wearing, fag smoking cover onwards this was a rough and ready delight, featuring Reed at his barbed songwriting best. ‘Dirty Blvd’ is as good an entry point as any, a look at the underbelly of NYC life – under the shadow of the ‘statue of bigotry’ – and featuring a doo wop vocal cameo from Dion.

LA Vampires feat. Matrix Metals – ‘How Would U Know’ (Chosen by Daniel Harrison)

LA Vampires is the project of Amanda Brown – formerly of Pocahaunted, and co-founder of the Not Not Fun label. Having already collaborated with Zola Jesus and Psychic Reality, an excellent collaboration with Matrix Metals surfaced towards the end of last year (So Real). This track from it is a hypnotic, trippy affair which should appeal to fans of Hype Williams, Ariel Pink or Geneva Jacuzzi. I don’t know about you, but I can’t get enough of this hazy-warped-hypnogogic stuff that’s doing the rounds at the moment. Ace video too.

Liza Minnelli – ‘Losing My Mind’ (Chosen by Ciarán Gaynor)

A Pet Shop Boys production from Minnelli’s 1989 album Results, although the original version of this song features in Stephen Sondheim’s musical Company. I’ve been reading Sondheim’s book Finishing The Hat, which is wryly subtitled “Collected lyrics (1954-1981) with attendant comments, principles, heresies, grudges, whines and anecdotes”. Nobody understands the craftsmanship that goes into the composition of a great lyric better than this man does. Truly, he is the Aristotle of popular song. Of ‘Losing My Mind’, Sondheim writes: “Using the word ‘to’ instead of ‘and’ in the fourth line of the last stanza takes Sally a step further into her obsession with Ben and offers a nice example of the subtle powers of the English language. As I keep saying, God is in the details.” A fascinating insight into an incredible talent.

Bombay Bicycle Club – ‘Rinse Me Down’ (Chosen by Hilary A White)

Sonic Alka-Seltzer for sunny morning hangovers.

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