For some reason my unconscious mind made a connection when I flipped past this 12″ over at Lucky Records a few weeks ago, so I went back to it and asked my man Gestur, “Is this the same Blake from B.B. & Blake?” He seemed completely unsurprised by that question and confirmed that the two Blakes were indeed one in the same, one Mister Magnùs Jónsson. It seemed an unlikely connection for me to make – we’d seen B.B. & Blake perform exactly one time, back in 2009, and as far as I know they only put out the one CD that we picked up on that same trip to Iceland Airwaves. That being said, it’s one of the albums we go back to the most often because frankly it kicks a lot of ass. Plus it makes reference to Robert DeNiro, so there’s that.
Magnùs Jónsson’s projects, at least the ones I’ve heard, have that great mix of the old and new, giving you something classically familiar, but with a new twist. The BB & Blake CD was like an upbeat version of 1970s lounge, and 2001s Asfarasfarcanbe is sort of the same thing, just more rooted in disco. There’s a bit of Bee Gees in the vocals, but without the over-shrillness that makes you want to stab yourself in the ear with a fork. I dig the beats, and the high vocals set off the medium, snare filled percussion perfectly.
I’ve certainly bought more valuable and collectible and scarce and whatever records this year, but Asfarasfarcanbe might be one of my favorite random finds, something I knew just enough to luck into. Quality stuff.
You need a copy of BB & Blake’s self-titled debut album. If for no other reasons than (1) it’s fantastic music, and (2) you never know when you might need some “adult” sounding music to play. Maybe you’re trying to put smooth moves on someone… or maybe your other half’s parents are coming over for dinner. Either way, BB & Blake is some great mood music, with the added bonuses of being original and contemporary.
BB & Blake is a two-person operation – Icelanders Magnus Jonsson (formerly with Gusgus) and Vera Solvadottir. Though when we saw them live in 2009 at Airwaves there was third member of the band as well.
So why should you care? What, my first paragraph didn’t sell you? Look, if you’re stuck in the “I just like [fill in the blank] type of music” mold, and that type of music isn’t what BB & Blake does, then fine. Don’t bother. Stay inside your musical box and wallow in your own ignorance. But bottom line is that this is some quality stuff – both musically and vocally. The beats are solid, and Solvadottir just sounds dead sexy. I mean, just look at the picture below. I challenge you to disagree. Look at her! Of course she can sing! I’m still shocked when I think about the fact that at the show we attended BB & Blake was followed by Ghostigital and XXX Rottweiler. It was awesome seeing three so distinctly different bands in one venue on one night, but seriously. WTF?
My tastes tend to run towards punk, rock, and metal. But that doesn’t mean I’m not open to talented musicians of any genre, and BB & Blake bring it, particularly on the tracks featuring Solvadottir’s vocals. “Mustang” and “Icequeen” open the album, and both are perfect lounge lizard / adult contemporary / ABBAesque tracks that make you crave a cocktail and suddenly realize that you want to dim the lights. She even sings in French on “Paris Je T’aime”, and does so without it sounding pretentious (no small feat in and of itself). A few of the songs feature Jonsson as the lead vocalist, with “On the Rundown” the most noteworthy example. The two of them play off each other well.
Get a little more grown-up in your music tastes. Put on your smoking jacket or fancy clothes, and groove with BB & Blake. Invite your friends over and pretend you’re adults, the way you used to look at your parents and their friends when you were a little kid. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s some really great music.