Wednesday 11 December 2013, 14:07
This is the third part of the rundown of my Top 10 Favourite Welsh Albums of 2013. It's very much a personal list, which will be eminently clear to anyone who's waded through part one (The Joy Formidable's Wolf's Law and Future Of The Left's How To Stop Your Brain In An Accident) and part two (Cate Le Bon's Mug Museum and Euros Childs' Situation Comedy).
I celebrate a great year for Welsh LPs this coming Saturday night (14 December) on BBC Radio Wales.
So, back to the Top 10, in no particular order.
Sweet Baboo - Ships
I can't help but write personally, storing up a certain amount of residual shame and anti dignity for future years in an unbreakable web-based time capsule. Music is the nerve endings of the world outside. I can't write about a song that affects me in isolation to that. It'd be like trying to write about the latest exhibition in the Tate Modern with a welder's mask on.
Something like that.
Thing is, if you wandered around the Tate Modern in a welder's mask, it'd be pretty obvious you were trying a little too hard to be part of the exhibition... a frustrated and failed Modern Artist. Security would ask you to remove the mask or kick you out.
I write inexplicably about the artists I most love for a similar reason, I think. I'm hoping that a florid metaphor or a pick 'n' mix simile makes me sound like an artist in my own right. I want to be like them, with their magic songs and sexy pants and rolling lives. I so want to be like them it hurts.
Incidentally, I feel the same way about pastry chefs.
Well, security haven't turned up yet and until they do I'm going to get sticky with the details of my relationship with Sweet Baboo's album Ships.
My wife and I separated in February. Working every weekend for 10 years makes you less ships that pass in the night, more ships operating in separate oceans, on different planets, in different dimensions, passing on different nights. It was a very sad time. I soon discovered that one of the best ways to chase fanged memories into the corners of a big, newly-empty house is to play music-with-heart at a high volume.
Music doesn't come with more heart than Sweet Baboo's.
I have friends who think he's twee but I don't think his songs are twee at all. I think they're whimsical, yearning oxygen. When someone has kicked you in the heart and then taken the time and trouble to kneel down and give it a good slap in the face as well, it's natural to feel a little sorry for yourself.
And when you're feeling that little bit sorry for yourself, moments after the wrecking ball has struck, sat in the ruin of what you thought your life was, having someone sing If You Died Would You Remember That You Loved Me right into the beleaguered space where your heart used to be, makes you feel less like a loser. It makes you feel less like you want to dull the pain with a bottle of whiskey. Or something worse.
It's a song that reminds you about Daniel Johnston, as well. Another 'outsider' who offers a hand of friendship and empathy through the slowly settling dust.
And then we tumble into The Morse Code For Love Is Beep Beep, Beep Beep, The Binary Code Is One One which becomes a glow of hope on the horizon you can just make out through the dust and rubble.
Then Let's Go Swimming Wild's funereal, stately joys (in the verse)... liberating itself in the choruses, unbridled and unselfconscious, plunging into cold, fresh waters – I'm imagining – naked. The tension, then release, of this song is like a cross-trainer for your emotions. Permission to swear, please? No... ah well. It's great, is what it is.
Side note: I don't think about Sweet Baboo naked much. Just during this song.
I wasn't intending to do this track-by-track, but I'm getting drawn in again as I listen - sucked along by the album's irresistible current of melodies: C'mon Let's Mosh, 12 Carrots of Love... these weren't just the songs that soundtracked my personal heartbreak they were the songs that soundtracked my unsteady joy when I got out the other side.
There was a particular moment at this year's Green Man Festival. I've been compering the Walled Garden Stage all weekend. It's been great but I've been doing it in a cotton wool fuzz, not quite there, if you follow me. The band are doing C'mon Let's Mosh.
The sizeable crowd are grinning despite a sudden shower, umbrellas bobbing along with the horns. I'm mouthing the words to the coda – “let us dance and then make love...”. There's a kid, eight or nine maybe, who's singing along on the other side of the fence. He has a stuffed mouse toy in his hand that he's dancing to the music. He's got a smile on his face at least as wide as the rainbow that's just split the sky above us.
It's the most transcendent moment. I realise that I'm happy too. Proper not-having-to-fake-it-to-myself-first-time-since-February happy. And much of that was down to the way this album had threaded itself through the most challenging year of my life.
God bless you, music. God bless Sweet Baboo!
And I haven't even mentioned the exquisite Cate's Song, yet. Discover it for yourself. You will not be disappointed.
Suitable for: Human beings.
Unsuitable for: Certain finely-grained metamorphic rocks.
The plan was to write about two albums in each of these pieces but I'll let this – with some deliberate irony – stand alone. You're busy people. Feel free to let me know what you think about these albums below.
Uh oh, here comes security...