Why do I not have…?

I know I often go on about how stupidly huge my mp3 collection is (and it is), but quite often I find myself reading a music biography or hear a tune on the radio and realize…why do I not have more of this band’s music? Most embarrassingly, these are often well-known bands that I just never got around to picking up, most likely because I was too busy focusing on completing someone else’s discography, or being distracted by all the shiny new releases.

So, without further ado, I am about to embarrass myself by providing you with a bit of a selection of bands and singers whose songs I am sorely lacking from my library. I really should do something

I have exactly two Sly & the Family Stone songs — the above one and ‘Hot Fun in the Summertime’. I really need to rectify that. Especially since they’re a local band!

I’m also woefully missing out on a lot of Tamla/Motown stuff too. I grew up on a lot of this stuff playing on the radio and I love it, but I guess I’ve just been so distracted by alternative rock all these years that I keep forgetting to make good on adding it.

I have maybe five or six Byrds songs, and that’s it. They pretty much kickstarted the folk rock scene of the 60s and only now am I starting to appreciate that genre and its history.

Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” was one of my favorite mid-80s pop-rock songs, and I loved his work with The Power Station…so why do I only have Riptide, a few singles, and absolutely nothing else of his?

I was far too broke to catch up on a lot of early 90s music at the time it all came out — and there was a lot I had to catch up on — so I’m sadly missing a lot of the classic riot grrl/grunge scene. [As mentioned in a previous post, I was too busy focusing on the shoegaze stuff from the same era.]

Yes, even current bands are missing from my collection! I came to appreciate bands like Against Me! only recently, so I’ve been pretty much gathering those titles when and where I can.

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Now that I have the time and the wherewithal (and now that I’ve caught up with so many other discographies), I’ve been slowly making my way through the histories of popular music and making mental notes. Many of these are songs and albums I can stream, or find in the dollar bins at Amoeba, or borrow from the library or elsewhere.

Best of 2019 and Singles Mix

It’s a few days late, but as promised, here’s my best-of list for 2019! I have KEXP to thank for pretty much all of my listening habits these last few years…after slipping between a few online and satellite stations, I found myself returning to a station I’d listened to briefly a few years ago, and realized just how much their playlist resonated with my musical tastes. So much so that when I moved back to the office for the Day Job, I found I truly missed listening to that station. [I’ve since found that I can stream the station on my phone, which I am doing only for a few hours a day so my phone data isn’t all screwy.]

This past year’s soundtrack and purchases also showed a significant change, in that there’s a lot more in terms of inclusivity as well as flavor. So many more albums and songs in different genres, different countries, different genders. I found myself listening less in terms of “this is a great writing soundtrack” and finally returning to “this is just a damn fine album/single” enjoyment. And I haven’t had that in a long time.

So without further ado…

TOP 15 ALBUMS
15. Hot Chip, A Bath Full of Ecstasy
14. Hatchie, Keepsake
13. Honeyblood, In Plain Sight
12. Jay Som, Anak Ko
11. American Football, American Football (LP3)
10. Lamb, The Secret of Letting Go
9. Lemolo, Swansea
8. Elbow, Giants of All Sizes
7. The Beatles, Abbey Road Anniversary Edition
6. The Cinematic Orchestra, To Believe
5. Sleater-Kinney, The Center Won’t Hold
4. White Lies, Five
3. Drab Majesty, Modern Mirror
2. Coldplay, Everyday Life
1. Haelos, Any Random Kindness

TOP 15 SONGS
15. True Damage, “GIANTS”
14. Deserta, “Hide”
13. Beck, “Saw Lightning”
12. Boy Harsher, “Face the Fire”
11. Drab Majesty, “The Other Side”
10. New Age Healers, “Satellites”
9. Hatchie, “Without a Blush”
8. Jay Som, “Superbike”
7. Toro y Moi, “Freelance”
6. Silversun Pickups, “It Doesn’t Matter Why”
5. White LIes, “Tokyo”
4. Haelos, “End of World Party”
3. Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, “Life On Mars?”
2. DJ Shadow feat. De La Soul, “Rocket Fuel”
1. The Quivers, “You’re Not Always On My Mind”

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And of course, here’s my Singles 2019 mixtape for your pleasure…

Side A
1. DJ Shadow feat De La Soul, “Rocket Fuel”
2. Beck, “Saw Lightning”
3. Toro y Moi, “Freelance”
4. Jay Som, “Superbike”
5. The Quivers, “You’re Not Always On My Mind”
6. New Age Healers, “Satellites”
7. The New Pornographers, “Falling Down the Stairs of Your Smile”
8. Coldplay, “Orphans”
9. Honeyblood, “She’s a Nightmare”
10. Sharon Van Etten, “Seventeen”
11. The Beatles, “You Never Give Me Your Money”
12. Haelos, “End of World Party”

Side B
1. Rudy Willingham, “Pool Party”
2. Charly Bliss, “Chatroom”
3. Sampa the Great, “Final Form”
4. The Chemical Brothers, “MAH”
5. Elbow, “Dexter & Sinister”
6. White Lies, “Tokyo”
7. Drab Majesty, “The Other Side”
8. Foals, “The Runner”
9. Silversun Pickups, “It Doesn’t Matter Why”
10. True Damage, “GIANTS”

Side C
1. Billie Eilish, “Bury a Friend”
2. Big Wreck, “Locomotive”
3. The Chemical Brothers, “No Geography”
4. Drab Majesty, “Long Division”
5. American Football, “Uncomfortably Numb”
6. Fontaines DC, “Boys in the Better Land”
7. DJ Shadow, “Rosie”
8. Beck, “Uneventful Days”
9. Michael Kiwanuka, “You Ain’t the Problem”
10. White Lies, “Never Alone”
11. Angel Olsen, “All Mirrors”

Side D
1. Holy Ship, “Mind Safari”
2. Tallies, “Midnight”
3. Roosevelt, “Falling Back”
4. Mercury Rev feat. Margo Price, “Sermon”
5. Lamb, “Armageddon Waits”
6. Beck, “Tarantula”
7. Boy Harsher, “Face the Fire”
8. Idles, “I Dream Guillotine”
9. The HU, “Wolf Totem”
10. Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, “Life On Mars?”

Side E
1. Sleater-Kinney, “The Future Is Here”
2. Hot Chip, “Melody of Love”
3. Haelos, “Kyoto”
4. Deserta, “Hide”
5. San Fermin, “The Hunger”
6. Sault, “Don’t Waste My Time”
7. Hatchie, “Without a Blush”
8. Underworld, “Listen to Their No”
9. Moon Duo, “Lost Heads”
10. Cosima, “Close to You (Moonlighting)”

Side F
1. The Black Keys, “Lo/Hi”
2. Lo! Peninsula, “Another Divine Joke”
3. Malibu Ken, “Tuesday”
4. 311, “Don’t You Worry”
5. Lemolo, “High Tide”
6. Elbow, “Empires”
7. Coldplay, “Trouble in Town”
8. Black Pumas, “Colors”
9. Mavis Staples, “Change”
10. Lucy Dacus, “La Vie en Rose”
11. Mint Royale, “Show Me [The 2019 KEXP Super Extended Version]”

Recent Releases, Summer 2019

Oops! I’m a month late on this, so this is going to be a slightly longer one, encompassing the various releases I’ve been raving about from June to September. Enjoy!

Silversun Pickups, Widow’s Weeds, released 9 June. Always twitchy, always off-kilter, and always amazing.

Hot Chip, A Bath Full of Ecstasy, release 21 June. A rather laid back and mellow record for them, bu this style suits them extremely well.

Hatchie, Keepsake, released 21 June. One of my favorite finds thanks to KEXP, they’re good alt-poppy fun with some killer bass riffs!

Drab Majesty, Modern Mirror, released 12 July. Highly recommended if you like that 80s gothy synth sound. Definitely reminds me of Clan of Xymox.

311, Voyager, released 12 July. As said before, whenever 311 drops a record I will always pick it up. Good funky fun.

DJ Shadow featuring De La Soul, “Rocket Fuel” single, released 24 July. Another KEXP find, this has to be one of my top favorite songs of the year. It’s a fantastic throwback rap tune you’d have heard in the late 80s. Definitely a nod to Run-DMC on this track.

Jay Som, Anak Ko, released 23 August. Light and lovely guitar alt-rock topped with dreamy vocals. But not shoegaze! “Superbike” is another track that’s been stuck in my head for months.

NAVVI, 25O2 EP, released 30 August. Filed alongside HAELOS as one of my go-to bands for blissful dance alt-pop. It’s a short five-song EP, but it’s got some ace tunes on it.

Tennis System, Lovesick, released 6 September. This band reminds me of Swervedriver with their loud and dissonant shoegaze guitar crunch. Surprisingly a great listen for my writing sessions!

Pixies, Beneath the Eyrie, released 13 September. The long-awaited new Pixies record is strangely spooky this time out. I’m not too surprised considering Frank Black’s forays into weird subject matters, but the creepiness translates well in this case.

Brittany Howard, Jaime, released 20 September. The Alabama Shakes singer brings us an amazing soulful and jazzy solo record filled with blazing funky riffs. Excellent stuff.

blink-182, Nine, released 20 September. We got to see this band live at Outside Lands this year and they were just as amazing as I thought they’d be. Older and ever so slightly more mature, they’re still tight as hell.

The Beatles, Abbey Road Super Deluxe Edition, released 27 September. Of COURSE I have to have this on the list! I’ll give you all a much more detailed response to the release once I finally get my copy (it’s in the mail at this time), but from what I’ve heard via streaming, Giles Martin has remixed it just enough to improve on what is already a fantastic album. The extras are also a hell of a lot of fun!

Start!

Eric Alper, one of the music writers I follow on Twitter, sometimes throws out Questions of the Day just for fun, to get a conversation going. A while back he asked “What song has the best intro?” And of course about twenty different tracks popped up, some more obvious than usual. Here are a few tracks that contain some of my favorite openings over the years. As you can probably tell, I’m a huge fan of the Slow Reveal. 🙂

Speaking of the 90s…

That decade definitely had its share of one-hit wonders and almost-hits, didn’t it? From a former record-store-clerk standpoint, there was definitely a HARD push to get everything and anything out there to cash in on The Latest Sound. This was pretty much across the board in multiple genres. I remember the weekly visits from the distribution reps as they upsold the big names as well as the copycats and the underdogs. Some of it worked, a lot of it didn’t. Sometimes the music just wasn’t as good, but sometimes it was just luck and timing.

Here’s some tunage from the 90s that I thought was well worth the attention but unfortunately didn’t get past the first few hurdles here in the US. I’m pretty sure many of you have never heard of these, or will spark that wonderful ‘oh, that song!’ memory.

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.