"You're high on a hilltop, soon you come down"
IT'S BEEN ALMOST THREE YEARS since the last melodies slot, and no wonder, with the charts rarely troubled by tales of topographic notions or upward mobility. Pop has eaten itself and now eats television too.
So what can a poor boy do, with 120Gb of digital jukebox to fill? Turn to the Internet of course, natural haven of the obsessive. No longer the MP3 free-for-all it once was, but still a source of rich pickings for a small outlay. Having slightly inadvertently signed up for a year's access to Emusic.com, the monthly $10 is proving worthwhile, for it encourages a lucky dip into the unknown and obscure. Hence we find, at number 19 in the Alt.country genre listing, a band called Map of Wyoming with an instantly endearing and tuneful song called 'Hilltop' (from an album called Trouble is, also featuring the plaintive and vaguely hillish 'Little bit of rain'). It's not entirely clear which is the hill in question, but the main thing is they realise the importance of getting to the top of it, a point rarely touched on in the standard 'Green rolling hills of wherever'.
Naming a band after a map is hard to beat, but from the depths of number 584 in Alternative:indie (but a dizzy 129 in Alt.country) step forward Harvester, with their amazing array of hill-related songs and albums. You have to admire anyone with CDs called Me climb mountain, Mud is my ally and Congratulations on your nudity. As for the songs, they offer 'Mountains to the east', 'The year it was dry', the 43-second 'Hill o' beans' and 'The river is wider than the view'. Clearly these boys speak from experience, and it appears from the Harvester home page that Mount Hood, Oregon's most recently active volcano, is the mountain in question that me climb.
Pity that Me climb mountain seems to be the only Harvester album not available via Emusic, apart from its catchy single 'It's been a long day'. Their racket has been called splunge rock, whatever that means, but it sounds something like The Men They Couldn't Hang meets Camper Van Beethoven, if that means anything either. Apparently the Harvester drummer used to be in a band called Thin White Rope, another one of a bunch of music-making hillgoers over there in the northwestern states. The likes of Denali, The Hilltops and Sid Hillman have yet to be downloaded.
Not that Emusic is limited to Americana, with plenty of homegrown hills by sung and unsung artists. Galloway and the Lammermuirs are in there along with Kerry and Donegal, as well as esoteric world ranges such as the Hills of Honolulu and the Red Hills of Rwanda. There are chick-friendly hill tunes too, with simple girl Stacey Earle singing 'I'll walk all over this earth' (on In my way), and outdoor girl Sinead Lohan's No Mermaid album featuring 'Out of the woods' and 'Hot on your trail' alongside her melodic ode to bagging, 'People and tables'.
For those so inclined, all these offerings (and more) are available entirely legally from Emusic.com, and the first 50 tracks are free. Knocks the pants off cloying ballads, shouting braggarts, anodyne boys and cheeky girls. Why settle for the pap of popstars when you can have the Paps of Jura?
(I quite like those Russian pseudo-lesbians myself - Ed.)
TAC 57 Index