Wednesday, April 3, 2013

5 Random Thoughts I Had While Listening to New Music from Alison Moyet

1. The other night while I was watching a commercial for the Australian-TV airing of Salt, Angelina Jolie's 2010 action vehicle, I wondered, why hasn't the Girl, Interrupted Oscar winner interrupted her career slumming with more quality dramas like Changeling, the 2008 Clint Eastwood-directed film for which she received her second Academy Award nomination? I always thought it was such a strange but cool title for a movie, and I was thoroughly disappointed when it was retitled El Intercambio for release in Argentina, giving it a totally different meaning. Leave it to the great Alison Moyet, who once named an album (her best solo opus and the beginning of a most fruitful creative pairing with Pete Glenister) Hoodoo, to revive the arcane folkloric concept for the title of the free download from the minutes, her upcoming eighth solo studio album, due May 6 (just in time for my birthday the following day) and sing it like it's the most natural thing in the world.

2. The plucked intro of "Changeling" (download it here) suggests it could go in one of two directions: rock-edged recalling "A Guy Like You," the first single from Moyet's previous album, 2007's The Turn, or modern electronic, in the spirit of the early '80s work she did with Vince Clarke in Yazoo. Moyet and her new producer/songwriter/musician collaborator Guy Sigsworth (Bjork, Madonna, early Seal) proceed in both directions, and as happy mediums go, it's a catchy way to re-introduce her to the masses and pretty timely sounding, too. I've always preferred my Moyet minimalist (even Yazoo's electronic dance grooves were deceptively spartan) and haunting, though, and "Changeling" is ΓΌber-produced pop bombast. I'd love to hear the dichotomy of her rock vocal attitude here in a more delicate ambient minor-key setting (a la "Back Where I Belong" from Hoodoo), but compared to the Eurodance/trash electronic pop currently crowding the charts, "Changeling" sounds like solid gold.

3. "When I Was Your Girl," the official first single from the minutes, is Alison Moyet the way I love to hear her most, basking in slow-burning drama. It's 3:40 of musical and emotional crescendos that kick off with a simple piano riff and build to a mini-rock orchestra (though, curiously, minus the electronic influence that Moyet has promised is all over the new album) and an almost ecclesiastical Moyet vocal. Yes, The "Voice" (to quote the title of her 2004 covers album) is back! (When I checked out the video on YouTube -- it features Moyet's lookalike daughter -- underneath it was a banner advertisement for "Sacrilege" by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, which reminded me, Mosquito is coming out in two weeks. Yeah yeah yeah!)

4. I love what Moyet told Graham Norton about the inspiration behind the album's title: “Basically, we all feel slightly cheated when our life does not end up being this stream of joy, and one thing that you do understand when you come middle aged is that it was never about that, it was always a lie, that it was always about fantastic minutes that are suspended in years, and that’s what this is about." That's exactly what I've been saying all along, that it's not about settling into an ongoing state of happiness and bliss. That is a lie, a miserable lie (to quote the Smiths), an ideal that's drilled into in our heads as youths that leads to very disappointing adulthoods. It's about the happy moments in life -- the minutes. Stylizing the title in lower-case letters underscores how the tiniest of those moments can leave the largest impressions.

5. Last summer I tweeted Moyet a 30th-anniversary tribute blog post I wrote on Upstairs at Eric, Yazoo's 1982 debut album, and she sent me the sweetest reply (within an hour!).
That night I had a first date with a guy who was born the year after Upstairs at Eric came out, and when I told him about Moyet's tweet, he immediately scored brownie points for knowing who Moyet was. It might be the only good thing I can remember about him, and it was all because of Alison Moyet.

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