Friday, August 20, 2004

(I wrote today's post in a hurry yesterday, planning to revise it, but then had an emergency of sorts last night and didn't get to. No time today either. As it is, it reads kind of know-it-all-y...I hope you'll ignore that aspect of it and just take away the fact that the two artists mentioned have some great songs.)

I'm not sure where I first heard it, but a number of people have been linking to a great song by a guy named Jens Lekman called You Are The Light.

It's a wonderful track, but what started to weird me out is that I keep reading that Jens sounds like Stephin Merritt or Belle and Sebastian. I went to his label's page and there, along with a few other people, is that comparison to Stephin Merritt and Belle and Sebastian. After a while this started to kind of puzzle me. Ok, I'm not saying that there's no resemblance at all, but it's sort of like talking about the Raveonettes without ever mentioning The Jesus and Mary Chain. There's a huge pink elephant in the room, and you keep ignoring it, and I'm getting nervous. Also I've been getting concerned (not really, but you know...) that Belle and Sebastian are coming to represent every single vaguely twee band not from America: they're being overused as a reference point. Likewise, The Magnetic Fields seem to pop up as a comparison a little too often these days.

Finally it freaked me out so much that I wrote to Jens (did I mention that I love the internet) and he wrote back and confirmed what I'd suspected: that he's a big fan of the band Orange Juice and the Postcard label. I think the problem is that his record label doesn't think that Americans know Orange Juice (they may be right), so they went for substitutes, and I'm guessing that of those substitutes (including Harry Nilsson, Todd Rundgren, The Modern Lovers, and Smog) Belle & Sebastian and Merritt were the best known in certain circles, so people picked up on that and repeated it until it became official.

You can decide for yourself. I'm me it seems totally obvious, but life is complex. Here's Orange Juice doing a cover version of an Al Green song, called L.O.V.E. Love, from their album You Can't Hide Your Love Forever. The Jens Lekman track can be found via Stereogum. I basically hear Orange Juice, mixed with some Morrissey on the vocals, as the overwhelming influence. Be forewarned that Orange Juice's lead singer has a distinctive voice.

In his email Jens mentioned that he sampled the Orange Juice song In A Nutshell for a vinyl single that's coming out this fall (the version I posted is from a CD called Ostrich Churchyard that compiles early recordings of songs that got re-done for official release).

Finally (setting a record for using the words "Orange Juice" in one post) a lot of people probably know Orange Juice's lead singer Edwyn Collins via his huge hit A Girl Like You from some years back, even if they don't know the band itself.

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