Friday Mixtape: Bloc Party

From Bloc Party’s “I Still Remember” video. If you like trains, this one’s a must.

IT’S FRIDAY!!!!

That means it’s time for the Friday Mixtape. There is no tape and no mix, just 3 tracks from a single artist. Hope this skates you into the weekend! Today I bring you:

Bloc Party

Who They Are: 4-piece indie rock band from London.

Kelechukwu “Kele” Okereke – frontman: lead vocals, rhythm guitar
Matt Tong
– drums, backing vocals
Russell Lissack – lead guitar
Gordon Moakes
– bass, keyboards, synthesizer, glockenspiel, backing vocals

Why I Love Them (and Why You Should Too): Bloc Party came to me in the most beautifully unexpected way. The last day of class, one of my students gave me a compilation CD of bands he loved and thought I should know. He handwrote the various tracklists, some brief notes: the second album was Bloc Party’s Silent Alarm, their 2005 debut. The year I heard them (2007), Bloc Party released a follow-up, A Weekend in the City, which I wasn’t ready to listen to yet—still soaking up the glory of the first. That changed this week. After revisiting Silent Alarm, I read back up on them—admittedly, the band had fallen off my radar. They now have four albums to their name, one released just this past summer. I have some catching up to do. Check it out:

“Uniform”:

From A Weekend in the City, a great illustration of what Bloc Party does best:

This song owes a lot to Russell’s sparkling, aching chords, which elevate the lyrics. Gorgeous.

“This Modern Love” (My favorite Bloc Party song so far—off their first album):

I love how impromptu and stripped-down this version is. Compounds the feeling that the chorus is Kele counseling himself at an earlier time.

For a band that achieves a beautiful sense of atmosphere (which becomes more electronic on the second album), it’s wonderful to remember that music is often little more than a guitar, a voice. Also a tender portrait of a young Kele and Russell (the founding members of the band).

“I Still Remember”:

Kele, born to Catholic Nigerian parents had a difficult coming out to them, and decided to go public with his sexuality in 2010. Despite explicitly identifying as queer (“That’s the term that speaks most to me”), his Wiki (as of this writing) bills him as gay, despite his statement that he is attracted to both men and women. This single off their second album is likely what first tipped off fans—much like the lyrics to R&B artist Frank Ocean’s single “Forrest Gump.” Frank Ocean also revealed his attraction to men; in his case, as an open letter on his Tumblr this past July. He still has not clarified how he identifies; the media often refers to him as gay.

From a songwriting standpoint, I find “I still Remember” to be stronger than Frank Ocean’s “Forrest Gump,” though I am eager to see what Ocean does next. It is interesting to see how the two have handled their sexuality as public figures; unlike Ocean, Kele has been extremely candid:

“This interview is actually an important step in my relationship with my parents. The reason I’m doing it is that whenever I go out, I’m always stopped by young, gay kids who say that it’s really refreshing and encouraging to see someone like me being out in a relatively mainstream band. If I’d have had someone saying it’s okay to be you when I was a teenager, I’d probably be a very different person.”

As for the rest of Bloc Party…gotta love that their drummer is Malaysian-English. Now they just need a chick!

If you’re in Europe, see them live in the coming weeks (dates on their official site), and next month they hit the States. And Brian: I still remember. If you’re still in Tempe, kick off the holidays on December 12th with a Party. Bon weekend!

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