Monday, 22 December 2014

My Top Ten Albums of 2014 - #3

3. Elbow - The Take Off And Landing Of Everything

For the first six months of the year, I was pretty certain this was going to be the best record I would hear in 2014. Elbow's sixth album is a thing of great beauty: achingly wistful, filled with heartbreaking imagery, sublime wordplay and self-deprecating humour. I'm always wary of calling lyricists poets - particularly as I tend to favour story songs over poesy - but Guy Garvey must be the finest bard of his generation. Few other contemporary lyricists write songs - or use words - such as these (from Honey Sun)...
She and I would death defy and promenade
She and I were profligate as de rigueur
She and I were for a Burton Taylor made
She and I won't find another me and her
From a writer's perspective (I used to think of myself as one of those, you know) or even a lover of the English language, every line on this record is gold. Every word perfectly chosen. There's a lot of surprising, oftentimes contrasting imagery, mixing the majestic with the mundane, the exhilarating with the everyday... yet it all fits together so well. This is not an album that was written: it was crafted by a master.
Presidential delays
Suppose I'm just lucky
I'm having a shindig
Me, Red Bob and The Ivory Host
And someone's shouting on the box
A chinless prefect gone Godzilla
My newest friends have forgotten my name
But so have I so far so good and home
You and me trampoline
And oceans of crash site love
(Fly Boy Blue / Lunette)
In my next post, I'll discuss the kinds of songs I like most. Stories about everyday people that I can relate to with the devil in the details. And in many ways, with his obscure references and guesswork metaphors, Guy Garvey should be exactly the kind of songwriter who leaves me cold. But every line here suggests a story, every word is one I wish I could have written myself. Added to that, as listeners to his 6Music show will know, Garvey is one of the most generous and down-to-earth rock stars you could ever hope to encounter. As I've said before, despite the fact that he's written the soundtrack to much of my life, I wouldn't ever want to go for a coffee with Morrissey. But Garvey, like Jarvis Cocker before him: he's the sort of songwriter you feel you could shoot the breeze with. Although chances are he'd want something a little stronger than coffee...
I am electric
With a bottle in me
Got a bottle in me
And glory be, these fuckers are ignoring me!
I'm from another century...
When I do my Top Ten Songs About Boozing, Charge will surely be Number One.(The video, sadly, edits the best line.)

I could write a paragraph about every song on this album, but I'll spare you. There's two more that must be heard though, My Sad Captains, which cements Garvey's reputation as unbeatable in the arena of Songs About Old Friends... and this: possibly the best song ever written about New York City. And, as you'll know, that's a pretty competitive field...
Every bone of rivet steel
Each corner stone and angle
Jenga jut and rusted water tower
Pillar, post and sign
Every painted line and battered ladder building in this town
Sings a life of proud endeavour and the best a man can be...

For every soul a pillow and a window, please
In the modern Rome where folk are nice to Yoko

Chances are you might not dig my #2. Chances are you might wonder what the hell it's doing above Elbow, Morrissey, Jack White et al. But hear me out. I'll do my best to convince you otherwise...

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