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Best tunes of 2001: #3 The White Stripes “Fell in love with a girl”

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In 2001 and 2002, garage rock emerged to take the mantle as champion of the indie rock resurgence. The epicentres of the revival were New York, whose scene was led by Interpol and The Strokes (appearing at #5 on this list), and Detroit, from which came The Detroit Cobras and The White Stripes.

Yep. Before Third Man Records, The Dead Weather, The Raconteurs, and a rather notable solo career, Jack White was in a little band called The White Stripes. Formed in 1997 with then wife, Meg, whose last name Jack took when they wed, the duo recorded six albums together before disbanding in 2011. The White Stripes became known for their tightly stylized image – they were most notably rigorous in the use of their red, white, and black colour scheme – and their blues-inflected sound, Meg’s stomping, bass heavy beats, and Jack’s raunchy guitars and raw vocals. Indeed, as things went on, they became less connected with their garage rock roots and more about blues revival.

Interesting, then, that their breakthrough came with their least blues-influenced album, their third, “White blood cells”, and this exciting single that had no traces of it whatsoever. “Fell in love with a girl” sounds like it was it borne out of the garage that welded together the pieces of the garage that housed the rock. It’s a quick adrenaline blip that doesn’t even make the two minute mark. At that length, you can almost hear Jack screaming, “there’s no time for an intro – we gotta go!”. The drums are muddy as hell and violent, Meg channelling her inner animal. Jack even sounds like he’s having trouble keeping up with her and his own raucous guitar work with his vocals, almost breathless for the duration, his attempts at proper diction dispensed with and you have no trouble imagining his gummed up mic covered in spittle. There’s anger and disdain and the feeling of betrayal.

It’s almost exhausting how great this tune is. Enjoy.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2001 list, click here.

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Tunes

Best tunes of 2010: #27 Karen Elson “The ghost who walks”

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The next stop on this Best tunes of 2010 list is the title track off Karen Elson’s debut solo album, “The ghost who walks”. This title, apparently, is a nod to one of the nicer nicknames bestowed upon her in school for “being tall, pale and a little bit haunted”.

Karen Elson was born and grew up in Manchester, England, where she was “discovered” at the age of 16 and began working as a model. She met Jack White in 2005 while filming the video for The White Stripes’ “Blue orchid” and they married shortly afterwards. They had two children together and divorced after eight years in 2013. She continues to model but claims that music is her first love, having released two solo albums now, having co-founded and performed with the New York-based cabaret troupe, The Citizens band, and having collaborated with a number of prominent musicians over the years.

A more cynical writer than I might point to her connection with Jack White as the reason this debut album was ever released. He did produce it and release it on his own label, Third Man Records. However, they have both maintained that she had written the majority of the album in secret, keeping it from him until she thought it almost ready to start recording. Still, his musical touch is pressed firmly on the album’s sound and sensibility and one only has to listen to and compare it with Elson’s sophomore solo release, “Double roses” (released last month), for confirmation.

I’ll be honest. I first came across this album because of the Jack White connection. (I was quite enamoured with The White Stripes for a number of years but more on that another time, I’m sure). I stuck with it after the first listen, though, and this on the strength of the songwriting and of course, for Karen Elson’s vocals.

“The ghost who walks” as an album is quite lovely, if not dark and perhaps macabre, and its title track is emblematic of the entire work. It feels like a cabaret number. Listening to the song (not the video, that’s a whole other story), one can almost picture the waif-like redhead in a black cocktail dress and in a murky spotlight, surrounded by cigar and cigarette smoke. She herself sports a lit cigarette in a holder, clasped in a slender, gloved hand, while her other hand rests on cocked hip, standing and singing alone. Her backing band are in the shadows, neckties loosened, hair dishevelled, crashing cymbals and guitars and keys, each climbing and falling, vying for supremacy. For all this, it’s a mellow and morbid number. A song for well after last call, when the last of the rookie party animals have gone home and only the diehards remain.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2010 list, click here.