Fly-by: Relaxing

Sorry for the fake-out there, kids…Outside Lands took a bit more out of me than I’d expected. Going to take it a little bit easy this week in an attempt to get back some of my energy.

Meanwhile, have a listen to a shoegaze deep cut that pops into my head now and again. Then listen to its ambient reworking by Global Communication.

I should do an overview of both bands. Chapterhouse was a fantastic Britpop/Shoegaze band that didn’t get nearly all the love it deserves. Global Communication on the other hand may be known more for their remix work and their solo outings under their own names (Tom Middleton and Mark Pritchard), but their ’73:14′ album is an ambient masterpiece.

Synthpop Has Returned and I Am Here for It

I should have seen the signs when Davey and Jade from AFI decided to plug in their old-school synths and create Blaqk Audio and have a minor hit with “Stiff Kittens” back in 2007. It’s equal parts darkwave goth and emocore and it sounds like they’d been mainlining their 80s Belgian techno.

Considering I grew up listening to the original stuff on college radio back in the 80s and loved it, I of course gravitated to the new waves of New Wave each time they splashed ashore. They may not have been giant surges, but they always tended to stick around in one form or another.

For a while we saw a number of bands with a form a lazy dreampop like Small Black, or the splashy sound of Bear in Heaven, or the cinematic widescreen of M83:

(Mad props to them for channeling Akira in this particular video, by the way.)

We’ve also seen an uptick of the synth-duo band dynamic, such as Tanlines, MS MR, Bob Moses, and Public Service Broadcasting:

And of course there’s the one-man synth performer Robert DeLong who plays every instrument himself, often all at the same time, many of them consisting of kludged-together video game consoles and joysticks:

Synthpop seems to have finally gained more ground over the last year or so, as I’ve been seeing an uptick of records by performers and bands with a love for that classic 80s synth sound. Many of them are even channeling some of the more obscure goth and darkwave bands such as Xymox, Red Flag and Red Lorry Yellow Lorry such as Drab Majesty and Boy Harsher:

I’m drawn to this sound partly because of its spot-on retro inspiration, but also because it’s exactly the kind of stuff I’d listen to during my writing sessions. I’m about to create another playlist for Mendaihu Universe Book Four (Songs from the Eden Cycle Vol 6, if you’re playing along).

Some people may see this synth sound as sterile, or just another alt-rock hybrid, but I’m here for it regardless. It’s fun, it’s moody, and it’s creative. And I’ll be honest, I wish I had the money and technical mind to buy me one of those synths and record my own stuff. For now, though, I’ll stick with grooving along to these albums on my headphones at the gym or at my PC in Spare Oom, waiting for more.

Recent Releases, Spring 2019

OH HEY It’s been ages since I’ve posted something here, hasn’t it? I suppose I should catch up! Time to provide you with a list of some of my favorite new releases from mid-March to the present!

American Football, American Football (LP3), released 22 March. This is definitely a band to have in your collection. It’s laid-back post-rock, only more melodic and jazzy. And they do write beautiful melodies.

UNKLE, The Road Pt 2: Lost Highway, released 29 March. Surprisingly more upbeat and introspective than The Road Pt 1, but still a moody epic from James Lavelle. Big props for getting Tom Smith (the lead singer of Editors) to sing one of the album’s best tracks.

Billie Eilish, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, released 29 March. This is such a hard album to pin down, because it’s so freaking weird. It’s not goofy-weird like, say, Flaming Lips. More like I think there might be something wrong with you weird. And it’s also dead clever — sound effects and vocal stutters whiz by unexpectedly, the lyrics often hide a wicked sense of humor, and the production is just fantastic.

PUP, Morbid Stuff, released 5 April. Goofy pop-punk with dark undertones, it’s a fun romp even when they’re singing about shitty things.

Fontaines DC, Dogrel, released 12 April. Old-fashioned working-class punk from Dublin, this band’s a favorite of KEXP, who got me completely hooked on them.

New Age Healers, “Hang On” single, released 15 April. I’m really digging this band, partly because they channel the Stone Roses so damn well! Great tunes and lovely dreamlike sound. I’m looking forward to hearing more from this band.

Lamb, The Secret of Letting Go, released 26 April. Still amazing after all these years, this band never fails to capture the perfect mood in their music. Still one of my favorite bands to listen to during writing sessions!

Vampire Weekend, Father of the Bride, released 3 May. This record completely surprised me by how damn good it is! They seem to have eased back considerably on their trademark quirkiness and focused more on the not-quite-retro semi-acoustic sound reminiscent of their first record. For a double-album, it’s solid from start to finish.

HAELOS, Any Random Kindness, released 10 May. Why did it take me so damn long to get into this band? I mean seriously: moody lyrics, atmospheric production, dreamlike melodies…this is 100% in my wheelhouse! This one has been getting extremely heavy play here in Spare Oom, and it’s not going away any time soon.

Charly Bliss, Young Enough, released 10 May. This band could easily have fallen into the sophomore slump, but they pulled through and recorded an even more solid record than their debut! Great bouncy punk fun.

The National, I Am Easy to Find, released 17 May. Always slightly strange, always moody and meandering, but never a dull moment from this band. It’s brighter than their previous record and a wonderful listen.

The Head and the Heart, Living Mirage, released 17 May. This band has evolved in so many different ways you can’t really file them in with the other alt-folk bands anymore, but they’ve definitely hit their stride with this new record.

**

Well! I seem to have gone against my own better judgement and previous complaining about writing schedules by deciding that maybe working off the whiteboard isn’t all that bad a thing after all. The more I thought about it, the more I really enjoyed talking about both new and old music here at Walk in Silence, so hopefully starting this month I’ll be back on a twice-a-week schedule again. We shall see…!

Best of 2018

Whew! This took a lot longer to compile than I thought. As I’d said previously, it was a banner year for great music and it was tough to narrow it all down to my favorite top fifteen albums and songs! This time I went with the albums and songs that (I believe) I not only listened to the most, but the ones I kept coming back to time and again because they were just that enjoyable. Many of them were also part of my writing session heavy rotation.

I’ve also added my silly side lists of releases that may not have hit the top spots but certain got notice in other ways.

TOP 15 ALBUMS
15. The Decemberists, I’ll Be Your Girl
14. Eric Bachmann, No Recover
13. The Beatles, The Beatles (Super Deluxe Edition)
12. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Wrong Creatures
11. Wye Oak, The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs
10. Metric, Art of Doubt
9. Arctic Monkeys, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
8. Shame, Songs of Praise
7. Failure, In the Future Your Body Will Be the Furthest Thing from Your Mind
6. The Neighbourhood, The Neighbourhood / Hard to Imagine the Neighbourhood Ever Changing
5. Lucy Dacus, Historian
4. Snow Patrol, Wildness
3. Johnny Marr, Call the Comet
2. GoGo Penguin, A Humdrum Star
1. Bob Moses, Battle Lines

TOP 15 SONGS
15. The Damned, “Standing On the Edge of Tomorrow”
14. Arctic Monkeys, “Four Out of Five”
13. Parquet Courts, “Wide Awake”
12. The Decemberists, “Severed”
11. Sylvan Esso, “Parad (W/M)E”
10. Johnny Marr, “Hi Hello”
9. Death Cab for Cutie, “Gold Rush”
8. Local H, “Innocents (Edited for Television)”
7. GoGo Penguin, “Raven”
6. Lucy Dacus, “Addictions”
5. K/DA & Madison Beer & (G)I-DLE, “Pop/Stars”
4. tUnE-yArDs, “Heart Attack”
3. Lucius, “Woman”
2. Bob Moses, “Heaven Only Knows”
1. Snow Patrol, “Life On Earth”

BEST NON-ALBUM SINGLES AND EPS
Sylvan Esso, “Parad(W/M)E”
Failure, In the Future EP
Failure, Your Body Will Be EP
Failure, The Furthest Thing EP
Local H, “Innocents (Edited for Television)”
Various Artists, Universal Love – Wedding Songs Reimagined EP
Prince, “Nothing Compares 2 U”
Childish Gambino, “This Is America”
Weezer, “Africa” / “Rosanna”
Matt Nathanson, Pyromattia EP
Dave Grohl, Play EP
Live, Local 717 EP
Nothing But Thieves, What Did You Think When You Made Me This Way? EP
boygenius, boygenius EP
K/DA & Madison Beer & (G)I-DLE, “Pop/Stars”
Mutemath, Voice in the Silence EP

BEST ALBUMS TO BLAST WITH HEADPHONES
Shame, Songs of Praise
Preoccupations, New Material
Pinkshinyultrablast, Miserable Miracles
Soft Science, Maps
Cloud Nothings, Last Building Standing

BEST RETURN AFTER A LONG HIATUS
The Breeders, All Nerve
Tracey Thorn, Record
Andrew WK, You’re Not Alone
Jesus Jones, Passages
Belly, Dove
Arctic Monkeys, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
The Get Up Kids, Kicker EP
The English Beat, Here We Go Love
Dubstar, One
Robyn, Honey
Dead Can Dance, Dionysus
The Good, the Bad & the Queen, Merrie Land
Art Brut, Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out!

BEST ACOUSTIC/REWORKINGS ALBUM
Lucius, Nudes
The Naked and Famous, A Still Heart
Beach Slang, Everything Matters But No One Is Listening (Quiet Slang)
Alt-J, Reduxer
St Vincent, MassEducation

BEST BOX SETS AND REISSUES
Wire, Nine Sevens
Bow Wow Wow, Your Box Set Pet: The Complete Recordings 1980-1984
Black Box Recorder, Life Is Unfair
The Cure, Mixed Up (Deluxe Edition)
Guns n’ Roses, Appetite for Destruction (Super Deluxe Edition)
Public Image Ltd, The Public Image Is Rotten (Songs from the Heart)
Various Artists, C89
Prince, Anthology: 1995-2010
Various Artists, Live Aid
Phil Collins, Plays Well with Others
John Lennon, Imagine (The Ultimate Collection)
Semisonic, Feeling Strangely Fine (20th Anniversary Edition)
The Beatles, The Beatles (Super Deluxe Edition)

…and that’s it! Hope everyone has a wonderful, fun-filled and rockin’ 2019!

END NOTE! I’ll be taking a bit of time off from blogging, starting in January, for personal reasons. I’m not sure how long this hiatus will last, but I’m not going to be making any scheduled posts for a while. I will try to post here every now and again, though I most likely won’t have them on any strict schedule. As always, thank you for following, and I hope 2019 treats you well!

See ya on the flip side!

2018 In Review, Part I: January – March

Originally I was going to go with a favorites-of-2018 post and follow it up with my end of year mixtape list, but while I was going over the releases this past year I found I just could not do it justice with only one post.  Yes there were that many excellent albums out this year!

So instead, I’m doing a four-part post for the last four posts of the year with an overview of all the albums, singles, and EPs (and there were surprisingly many of the latter two!), focusing on each quarter.  I’ll then follow up with my mixtape post on the 31st.  Each post is going to be pretty long, so these should keep you entertained!

Starting with Q1, January to March…

BØRNS, Blue Madonna, released 12 January.  Quirky alternapop that’s fun to listen to without being precious or cloying.

Sylvan Esso, “PARAD(w/m)E” single, released 12 January.  A single-only follow up to 2017’s fantastic What Now, it’s light and fluffy fun.

Shame, Songs of Praise, released 12 January.  Amazing and melodic punk similar to the really cool stuff you’d hear on 120 Minutes back in the late 80s   I absolutely love this album.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Wrong Creatures, released 12 January.  Their best record yet — full of power and emotion and finely tuned into great songs.

tUnE-YaRdS, I can feel you creep into my private life, released 19 January.  “Heart Attack” is up there as one of my favorite tracks of the year.  Merrill Garbus is so much fun to listen to.

Django Django, Marble Skies, released 26 January.  A strange band with an irresistibly catchy sound.

GoGo Penguin, A Humdrum Star, released 9 February.  Rarely does an album blow me away this completely.  Inventive jazz that infuses all different kinds of genres.  One of my favorite albums of the year.

Lucy Dacus, Historian, released 2 March.  A fantastic songwriter, I keep coming back to this album again and again.  One of my favorites of the year.

Lucius, Nudes, released 2 March.  “Woman” has to be my favorite song of the year; it’s so delicate and sparse, yet it wields so much power and emotion and the dual vocal melody is so perfect that it continues to give me shivers.

The Naked and Famous, A Still Heart, released 9 March.  A stripped-down collection of their singles and album cuts, it’s a lovely and relaxing record.  This one got some major play during my writing sessions.

The Neighbourhood, The Neighbourhood, released 9 March.  They’ve gotten bolder and more experimental with each album, and this one nails it.  

Editors, Violence, released 9 March.  One of my “I will buy anything they release” bands, they didn’t let me down.  

The Decemberists, I’ll Be Your Girl, released 16 March.  One of their most heartfelt albums and one of their best.  So many great tracks on this one.

Meshell Ndegeocello, Ventriloquism, released 16 March.  She takes her favorite 80s soul and pop songs and brilliantly makes them her own.

Jack White, Boarding House Reach, released 23 March.  I was surprised at how great this album was!  I’m a passive fan, but this one is one of his best.

Preoccupations, New Material, released 23 March. This band gets better and better with each release.  They can switch from Slowdive-y shoegaze to Wire-y punk seamlessly.

Failure, In the Future EP, released 30 March. An unconventional release, in which four parts of a full album drop each quarter, and they pulled it off perfectly.

**

Coming Thursday: 2018, Q2!

Mixtape: Listen in Silence XXIV

Yes, the current volume of Listen In Silence is number twenty-four.  Not bad for a mixtape series I started back in 1988, yeah?  Missed a few years in between, but I’m glad to say after I resurrected it, it’s still going strong.  The links are for the YouTube videos because I can’t be arsed to attempt to build a Spotify playlist right now.  Enjoy!

Side 1
1. John Hardy, “Hidden Title Theme”
2. Gorillaz feat. George Benson, “Humility”
3. Bob Moses, “Heaven Only Knows”
4. Mitski, “Nobody”
5. Death Cab for Cutie, “Gold Rush”
6. The Kooks, “No Pressure”
7. Eric Bachmann, “Daylight”
8. tunng, “Crow”
9. Metric, “Dark Saturday”
10. James, “Many Faces”
11. Lucy Dacus, “Night Shift”

Side 2
1. Death Cab for Cutie, “I Dreamt We Spoke Again”
2. Gorillaz, “Tranz”
3. tunng, “Dark Heart”
4. Dog Party, “Operator”
5. Nothing, “Us/We/Are”
6. Paul McCartney, “Fuh You”
7. The Neighbourhood, “Softcore”
8. Jungle, “Happy Man”
9. Failure, “Heavy and Blind”
10. Art Brut, “Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out!”
11. The London Suede, “The Invisibles”
12. ShadowParty, “Celebrate”
13. Mogwai, “We’re Not Done (End Title)”