Wednesday, August 24, 2011

New Glasser mix!

Treasury of We (Delorean remix) is streamable and downloadable from stereogum here. I like it a lot: tasty Chime-period, Orbital house grooves on top of the usual Glasser tricks. In general, with Glasser (esp. as remixed - I loved the Lindstrom remix of Mirrorage too), Class Actress, Ronika, and the like cranking out cool, melodic dance-pop tunes the dub-step/off-speed hip-hop that has been the principal recent alternative to Dr Luke/Stargate/Martin/Guetta eurotrash (original) dance mainstream at last has some serious competition. Yay.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Favourite Albums?

The Guardian is running a series of articles where their music columnists (one by one) choose their favorite albums, e.g., here. The authors select albums that mean or have meant the most to them, which may or may not correspond to the albums they think are best in some relatively rigorous, defensible, quasi-objective sense.

Most of the writers so far have chosen albums that they first encountered during their teenage or college years, and for the most part they've further chosen albums that were further actually released then. That's as one might have predicted: you were maximally open to new things, and you were there when this great thing happened. I have my own bunch of faves in that vein, e.g., Off the Wall, The Lexicon of Love, A Walk across the Rooftops, Meat is Murder, Tallulah, Weezer (Blue Album), OK Computer, Second Toughest in the Infants, Vespertine, etc..

But, like many people presumably, I have a bunch of faves that don't fit this model. For example, Hunky Dory, the Superfly Soundtrack and Freewheelin' are three real comfort albums for me despite the fact that I don't have an 'I was there/This was mine' connection with any of them. And some of my most precious, oft-returned-to albums are true compilations of older materials: the Beatles Red and Blue double collections, e.g.,

the Bacharach box set 'The Look of Love':

and the Verve Records collection of heartbreak standards, 'When Love Goes Wrong', which I flat out adore:

Here's the latter's unbeatable track-listing (with my 7 absolute favourite tracks bolded):
1. Good Morning Heartache Billie Holiday
2. Born To Be Blue Chet Baker
3. It Never Entered My Mind Johnny Hartman
4. Everybody's Somebody's Fool Lionel Hampton
5. A Woman Alone With The Blues Peggy Lee
6. A Woman's Intuition Beverly Kenney
7. Everything Happens To Me Frank D'Rone
8. I Fall In Love Too Easily Shirley Horn
9. Here's That Rainy Day Helen Merrill
10. I'm Through With Love Arthur Prysock
11. I'm A Fool To Want You Dinah Washington
12. What Will I Tell My Heart? Billy Eckstine
13. But Not For Me Sarah Vaughan
14. Reaching For The Moon Ella Fitzgerald
15. Gloomy Sunday Mel Tormé
I picked up this compilation reduced to $4.99 (or something equally farcical) and it's probably the single best purchase I've ever made. I suspect that some people would regard this as a multiply unfair or inauthentic choice for 'My Favourite Album'. But these are some of the best recordings by some of the best performers of some of the best songs ever written. It's just a fact as far as I'm concerned that no one artist or group can compete with what amounts to the whole of (wretched!) human experience distilled (the disc is so awesome that fantastic tracks from Holiday and Fitzgerald aren't in the top tier of stuff on it!).

If I'm honest about my preferences now and don't overweight nostalgia for, as it were (thanks Morrissey!), 'lay in awe on the bedroom floor', teenage and extended teenage enthusiasms then When Love Goes Wrong has to be my choice. The Bacharach box and the Beatles' double collections probably contend with Hunky Dory and Off the Wall and Tallulah for second.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Women in Rock/Pop 1980 vs 2011

In 2011 women, and particularly solo women dominate both the pop charts (Gaga, Perry, Rhianna, Beyonce, Adele, Winehouse, Pink, Kesha, etc.) and the, as it were, indie charts (Florence, Janelle Monae, Robyn, Lykke Li, Calvi, PJ, Newsom, Bat for Lashes, Feist, Glasser, Class Actress, etc.). Not to mention acts like Dirty Projectors and Sleigh Bells that have strong female components.

I suspect that, for better or worse, this level of female dominance is a recent phenomenon. That said, I think one can make a case for 1980 as a banner year for women in rock/pop, one that's at least the equal of current times in terms of quantity of female excellence if not in terms of, say, overall quantity or overall market share. So let's make that case by listing important female-centered acts, singles and albums from 1980 in the order, near as I can judge, of their importance and excellence. Note that I've included items that charted very extensively in 1980 even if they were first released in 1979, and I've honored the best by selecting two vids. just for each of the 'top seven' items on my list.

1. The Pretenders (First self-titled album, Brass In Pocket, Stop Your Sobbing, Tattooed Love Boys, Up The Neck)

Chrissie Hynde arrives and explodes. This flawless album, with monster song after monster song, one of the greatest debuts was deservedly everywhere the whole year. Tragic deaths would scar the band soon after this, and the first album's incredibly tight guitars and rhythm section wouldn't repeat. Hynde would be good again after this but never quite this good.

2. Marianne Faithfull (Broken English, Ballad of Lucy Jordan, Broken English, Working Class Hero)

A '60s 'it'-girl returns a woman and makes an angry masterpiece and testament album. With brilliant synth-work from Steve Winwood (who'd obviously paid close attention to Eno's work for Nico in the mid. '70s).

3. Siouxsie Sioux and the Banshees (Kaleidoscope, Happy House, Christine, Red Light)

Siouxsie the prototype, highly haughty, super-creative, indie 'it'-girl with the great haircuts arrives. With John McGeoch in her band she was now unstoppable, as 1981's Juju would further establish.

4. B-52s (First self-titled album, Rock Lobster, Planet Claire, 52 Girls)

Huge down under for the whole year, the B-52s debut contained three of the best party dance-tracks of all time.

5. Blondie (Eat to the Beat, Atomic, Dreaming, The Hardest Part, Call Me)

Blondie's strengths - clever concepts, Debbie Harry's voice and image, Clem Burke's ace drumming (fusing disco beats with rock power) - were perfectly displayed across this series of singles.

6. Abba (Super Trouper, Super Trouper, The Winner Takes It All, One of Us, On and On and On, Gimme Gimme Gimme (A man after midnight), Happy New Year)

Abba were fraying at the seams personally by 1980, were just past their hit-making prime, and were in any case subject to incredible back-lash. But even firing on only 80% of their cylinders, Abba's output was still better than most acts ever achieve.

7. The Motels (First self-titled album, Careful, Total Control, Danger)

Martha Davis introduced a note of LA Noir to pop across two albums in 1980, both of which were all over the radio down under. She and the Motels would break through in the US only with their third album, but their earlier records, and Davis's original sultry, smokey schtick were more deserving.

8. Kate Bush (Never for Ever, Babooshka, Army Dreamers)

Kate Bush continued to show that she was smarter and weirder than anyone else in music since Bowie. Even if you didn't like her latest exactly, she was someone to be reckoned with.

9. Diana Ross (Diana, Upside Down, I'm Coming Out)

Diana Ross had the two classiest dance tracks of the year courtesy largely of Chic, with whom Ross fought. Ross brought in her own engineer to remix, change tempos etc.. I'd always assumed that Chic's original mixes would be better, but having heard them recently, I must say that I prefer Ross's speeded up, slightly poppier mixes. Ross appears to have been very shrewd.

10. Young Marble Giants (Colossal Youth)

The retiring, intellectual, cool person's record of 1980. Alison Statton's vocals are tightly rationed throughout the record, but are an indie blueprint whenever they appear.

11. Olivia Newton-John (Magic, Xanadu, Suddenly)

One of the worst movies ever made had three good, cheesy, pop hits for Ms Newton-John.

12. Pat Benatar (Heartbreaker, We live for love, Hit me with your best shot)

Benatar arrived in 1980 with a series of great singles, spread over two so-so albums. Her albums would improve after this but her singles were never this good again. The gods are cruel!

13. Grace Jones (Warm Leatherette)

Grace wouldn't really arrive until 1981's Pull up to the Bumper single, but the Warm Leatherette album and its title track (a The Normal cover) announced the arrival of someone to watch.

14. Pointer Sisters (He's So Shy)

The Pointer Sisters continued their run of great singles by revisiting the ace groove from The Brothers Johnson's I'll be good to you and Prince's I wanna be your lover. (Note that the rudimentary video's shot in LA's famous Bradbury building.)

15. Holly Vincent (Miles Away)

Holly and The Italians (w/ Holly Vincent's stonking voice, guitar, and general coolness) released a pretty great album in 1981 (which they never really followed up), but this 1980 single was an especial stunner.

16. Lori and the Chameleons (The Lonely Spy)

This pretty stunning single could have been featured on Pitchfork last week! It anticipates and may have influenced recent, well-received work by Charlotte Gainsbourg, Glasser, Lykke Li, Grimes,...

17. Lipps Inc. (Funkytown)

An alternately irritating/awesome hit song.

18. Toyah Wilcox (Ieya)

Some sort of masterpiece that Toyah was never able to follow up.

19. Flying Lizards (Money)

Just a fun as hell cover and video.

In sum, there were a heck of a lot of women in both mainstream and, as it were, indie charts in 1980. The best stuff was all-time-great, and much of the rest was either solidly entertaining or interesting in a where-will-this-person-go-next? way or both.

Friday, August 12, 2011

South Park Psycho

South Park's recent Season 15 ep. 6: City Sushi ended with an homage to Psycho's final scene. Instead of a double dissolve from Norman to mother/skull to car-being-pulled-from-swamp we got Chinese restaurant guy to crazy white psychiatrist guy to City Wok restaurant. Click the above image for details!

Monday, August 08, 2011

The Shangri-Las II

A simple vid I made for a remix of one of their 'Shadow' Morton penned/produced classics from the Stonewall (1996) soundtrack. The mix is nothing special really, but the Shangs. haven't been remixed much, so it struck me as worthwhile getting up on youtube.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

The Shangri-Las

Like a lot of people, I've been re-listening to Amy Winehouse over the past week or so, and really appreciating her pop sensibility. That's led me to explore some of Winehouse's pop/girl-group influences a little more thoroughly than before, esp. the Shangri-Las. The Shangs' best records are simply incredible: great songs including a bunch written by Brill Building, presiding geniuses Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry, fabulously atmospheric conceptual productions, and great vocal/dramatic performances by Mary Weiss. A heck of lot of stuff that we all love from the last 40 years of music from the Velvets and Lou Reed to the Who to Gainsbourg to Abba to the Ramones to Blondie to Kate Bush to Propaganda to (I'd argue) MBV to Winehouse to Bat for Lashes is deeply indebted to the Shangs' colloquial melodramatics. And just look at them in early 1965:

And listen to where they got to by 1966:

and where they began in 1964:

They had 'it' from the beginning, and never lost 'it'. Just, wow. The Shangs haven't so far been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Greenwich and Barry are in, as are The Ronettes and Darlene Love). That should change. Lesley Gore and the Crystals deserve to be inducted too, but the Shangs are a bigger omission in my view. The conceptualness and cinematicness that the Shangs introduced to pop means that the history of pop and rock simply doesn't decode properly without them. Their omission may be part of what Frida from Abba had in mind when (at Abba's own induction) she pointedly, smartly drew attention to how few female artists had made it in to the Hall:

p.s. If you need convincing that Ellie Greenwich's genius extended beyond her monumental '60s tunes, consider the following:
EG: Yep. And years later, I was working with Cyndi Lauper on her single "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun". And during the rehearsals, they got kind of... stuck on the breakdown part of the song. So I thought for a minute, and then it came to me: "Girls. They want. Wanna Have Fun. Girls. They wanna have. Just wanna, they just wanna. Girls. Girls just wanna have fu-un." And so that's what we went with.
That, of course, is the bit of the song that pushed it over the top into joyousness/greatness, making it an instant classic/standard.

Monday, August 01, 2011

M83's Skin of the Night

I'm late to the party on this 2008 track and its album... but I like it a lot. Neu!, Simple Minds, Kate Bush, Tears for Fears, Talk Talk, Modern Eon, MBV, maybe a little Massive Attack are the obvious, general, background influences on the album, aside from the direct model of Air (M83 are French). And the 'Thou shalt not fall' chant from The Lost Boys s/track may have helped shape this track in particular. (I've sometimes heard 'of the night' and 'the night' designated/mocked as none-more-'80s phrases: think Benatar, Winwood etc.. I'm open to that idea, but want to see some data!)
p.s. Excellent live at (fab!) KCRW version here:

Nouvelle Vague's version of Psych. Furs' Heaven