Sunday, 11 October 2015

Pop music gone good

I’ve said a few times, I think. I’m not a fan of pop. I’m not a fan of commercial pop and I’m not even going to bother to explain why. I’m not a fan of so-called indy pop (part of what I call “hipster music”) because I find it terribly dull. Sorry about that, I just can’t understand what people see there. But well, to each his own.

There are, of course, exceptions. Paul Simon is one. Paul Simon is an amazing musician, that’s why I wrote my first post about him. But enough with Mr Simon, today I want to tell you about one of my most recent discoveries. Of course, anyone who knows me personally and reads this won’t be surprised, as I’ve posted stuff on my personal facebook, talked to everyone about them and so on. For those who don’t know me, I hope you don’t know Manel; I’ll be happy to introduce this band to you.
Manel is a Spanish band that doesn’t sing in Spanish. This is actually not weird at all, as several more languages are spoken in my country. Manel come from Cataluña, on the north-east of Spain, and Catalan is spoken there, so why not?

Their music can be described as pop, but it’s obviously not the kind of stuff you find every day on the radio, otherwise I wouldn’t write about it. The great thing about Manel is their original folky instrumentation. If memory serves, I’ve heard wind instruments, an ukelele, a banjo, a flute and the more often but nicely used keyboards.

Manel has released three albums so far. I only have listened to a couple of songs from the first one, but you can already appreciate the unconventionality (not sure that word even exists, but you get my point) of their music in, for example, En la que el Bernat se't troba.

I haven’t given a change to their last album yet, shame on me, but I’ve listened to the second one on countless occasions, and I’m in love with it. 10 Milles per Veure Una Bona Armadura is a superb album which has an exquisite and yet not pompous at all instrumentation. I’ve read online that the lyrics are very good, however I have not bothered to translate them yet. Of course, as I’m writing this I’m starting to feel ashamed, so expect me to do it soon. I will remind you for the hundredth time (basically for those who haven’t had a look at my blog yet) that while I can appreciate good lyrics, I can say “yeah, that’s quite witty” or whatever, what really makes me feel, feel deep, is the melody, the instruments, the arrangements.

It is one of those rare times in which I apparently agree with the majority of the people, as this was the first album sung in Catalan which reached the number one slot in the Spanish charts in more than fifteen years. Not a single song is bad, and the album doesn’t sound repetitive at any point, but I’m too lazy to talk about every single song, so I will quickly mention four of them.

Manel starts this CD with a clear statement about the originality of their music, as the lyrics share the spotlight with a trombone (or a trumpet? I suck at this) which gives the song a lot of energy in Benvolgut. I feel a passion in this song I can’t really explain, and it makes me feel something I can’t explain either, I only know it makes me feel a lot, and very deep. This is what happens with music I like: I can’t really explain how it makes me feel, but there’s some kind of rush inside me that makes me walk around my room, waving my closed fist at the ceiling.

La Cançó del Soldadet is beautifully sung and the simple but effective piano melody is a total success. It is a pretty sad song, but don’t worry, there are others that will cheer you up, such as El Miquel i l'Olga Tornen, which right now is helping me battle the grey clouds I see from my window.

Finally, Deixa-la, Toni, Deixa-la sums up the band perfectly. The almost- a capella beginning, only accompanied by an accordion, the mandolin (or is it a banjo?) playing big part, more than you’ll notice the first time, in the middle section, and the fanfare music ending. You don’t see these things often at all, and they should be appreciated. Manel certainly has a huge fan in me, and I’ll dig deeper both in their music and in their lyrics soon.

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