Welcome to a whole new category on PickyBs: The Blind Taste Test.
It’s simple. One of us PBs writers set another a challenge: to review an album they have never heard of before, after only one listen.
Tom has kicked things off by giving me The Avalanches’ Since I left you, and he told me why too:
Created from thousands of obscure, popular and ridiculous samples, The Avalanches’ debut is really a record like no other. Because of its 1960s influences it sounds nostalgic and familiar, bringing up distant warm memories. But these are times that you haven’t actually experienced. They’re from the magical summer that plays out in adverts and movies – feelings that are buried deep in your psyche. It’s nostalgia, escapism, adventure. It’s like going on holiday through music.
It’s a masterpiece and you’ll probably hate it.
I’ve had my listen now, and I’m feeling really odd about the whole thing. I’m used to being able to pull things apart, and preparing to defend myself from the other Picky Bastards’ attacks on my opinions, with some actual familiarity.
But it’s not just that this process forces me to think on my feet with any new music. Absorbing something as layered and complex as this album in particular, in only one play-through, was really disorientating.
It seemed like the album consisted of only one song, for example. Or maybe it was more a collage than a song. It was all very confusing, to be honest. For better or worse, the album seemed to approach like a train which I grabbed onto as it passed me by, and then rolled on through a musical landscape I could barely understand.
What I have to fall back on then, is how this listen made me feel, because that’s much more clear cut. There is a sense that this album is there to make me smile, and it works. On my one listen, on the tram home, I kept finding myself with a dozy grin on my face, as one long, mellow, mid-paced track drifted past me. The lightness of Rhodes organs and sunny vocal loops drifted over me and began to lift the grey night a little.
Before you freak out that this kind of fun-loving music can’t possibly be for you, you surly bunch, remember that you’d be hard pushed to find a reviewer more into dark and pained musical experiences than me (Mount Eerie is a masochistic obsession). Still, I honestly find this album, on one listen at least, to be really uplifting, and all the better for it. The Avalanches and I are an odd couple, I admit, but it’s a match.
Even more surprising, the repetitious samples running through quite a number of the tracks here didn’t grate. In fact the album’s flow gave me the impression that, if I was ever to actually dance (which will never fucking happen), it would be the kind of thing that would make it slightly less agonizing.
The only similarity I can think of is that the beats often sounded like contemporaries UNKLE, but with the angst removed, and replaced with beaming smiles.
It’s intriguing to think whether the album would stay this good after a week of listening to it. I’m going to find out too, because this discovery seems well worth my time. Sorry to disappoint, Tom: I really don’t hate it.
Word by Nick Parker and Tom Burrows.