“Ecstasy” – jj (Words/music: jj, available on jj n° 2, Secretly Canadian 2009)
A few years back, rappers and DJs looked to Scandinavia for samples, with Peter Bjorn and John’s “Young Folks” married to an assortment of freestyles on mixtapes. This time around, it’s the mysterious Swedish pop group jj lifting the track from Lil’ Wayne’s “Lollipop.” It’s all there – the echoing keyboard, the melody, and even the beat. Other than softening the drums slightly and trading Wayne’s auto-tuned purr for the hazy, distant sounding female vocals, “Ecstasy” and “Lollipop” sound like siblings. Both even take place in a club, although Wayne has his attention on the ladies while jj offers a paean to their club drug of choice.
Still, the first time through jj n° 2 was jarring, if only because I wasn’t expecting this turn. The first few tracks are bright and bouncy, featuring woodwinds and hand drums. I had it on in the background and enjoyed it while cooking dinner and maybe because I was preoccupied I didn’t notice the keyboard line right away. It wasn’t until the hook came in with the same melody and enough similar syllables to get me to put down the frying pan and turn quizzically toward the stereo. Even if it seemed out of place, I still found it compelling. Where the overall skeeviness of Wayne’s lyrics in “Lollipop” (where he’s nowhere near as clever as his finer moments) turned me off, “Ecstasy” sounds somewhat hypnotic and captivating. Where I’d probably feel out of place in a dance club that played “Lollipop” (which is to say that I’d feel uncomfortable in just about any dance club), there’s an inviting warmth to “Ecstasy.” Maybe it’s the song’s lower intensity, but I feel like I could survive in a place playing that song.
Waves of nostalgia just ripple over me when I hear any of Vince Guaraldi’s music - at the age of six or seven, probably with my parents sitting with (or close to) me as I watched Linus wait for the Great Pumpkin to appear… whatever costume off for the night and candy to be had…
And in thinking back on those Charlie Brown specials, it was always Linus who was the believer while all others doubted and this song in particular captures that feeling: a simple and almost childlike faith in goodness.
‘reaching this itch in my soul is like any good playing card… must be why I’m thinking of Las Vegas… why, it’s more brighter than the sun to me…’
Every memory should be this liltingly gorgeous and all songs should make you feel like you are ascending clouds like stairs. And whether you find God or a strip of neon lights, you got there with the assistance of this song.
I can say with a kind of quiet certainty that some things will always haunt you forever - the first time you want to kiss someone, the first time you see the ocean, how it feels to leave someone behind, shooting stars in the summertime.
And we speak of being ‘haunted’ as a past-tense ghost, but one that still lingers in our bones… is it really there? Or do we just not let it go? Is there truly a spectre in our midst or just our emotional imaginings?
The entirety of Turn on the Bright Lights is a delicious spook-show of love and longing for me. While there might be shades of Joy Division within this 2002 release, it is not nearly as dire as Ian & Co. - I feel hopefully sad, wistful and still wishing… The ship is sinking, but under the most wonderful of sunsets.
When I hear a good song (original, cover, live, album… it doesn’t matter the format or the style or the set-up), I tend to get literal chills running along my body. A sort of music-induced skingasm, if you will.
Had one just now. And I can still feel it lingering around my shoulders as I type. The only Aaliyah album I own is the last one she made before her untimely passing (Aaliyah’s ‘Loose Rap’ is seriously so good it should be wrapped up like candy), so I can’t say that my mind recalls this song of hers that The xx have covered.
But I have a feeling that if she were here today, she’d definitely like this. The xx sound so wonderfully haunting in all their songs and this is no exception - it is almost better than good, though, this time around.
Honestly I can barely process the level of amazing that this is.
I cannot even recall how I stumbled onto the greatness that is Kaki King - it was before Into the Wild, though. Somewhere out there in the cosmos of the intraweb, no doubt, thrust me into her musical vision… and I have never turned back.
It was ‘Night After Sidewalk’ that made me love her.
And now with her new album [Junior], the love has turned to commitment - no longer an affair, but rings and vows. I don’t mind at all.