Retro: 80s Outliers

Believe it or not, I haven’t listened to my beloved 80s college radio-era albums and mixes in quite some time.  I did that on purpose as I wanted to soak my brain in some of the new stuff that’s out there.  Different sounds thirty years on.  Some music reminiscent of the early years, such as the noisy shoegazeyness of Panda Riot versus My Bloody Valentine.  Other music reveling in its weirdness like Alt-J or its sparse loveliness like London Grammar.

So going back down the 80s rabbit hole one more time, I’m hitting the usual cast of characters such as The Smiths and the Cure and so on.  I procured those discographies quite some time ago.  I still listen to them every now and again when the mood strikes.

Lately however, I’ve been wanting to do a bit more research in the bands and sounds that I never quite got around to following other than a few singles.  I recently caught up with the Fall’s discography for the most part (I’m bypassing their 1,058,736 live albums that seem to have the same release frequency as a Guided By Voices record), and now I’m curious once more about some of the other outliers from that era.

Here’s some of the stuff I’m talking about:

 

A lot of Electronic Body Music (aka EBM) there to be sure.  It might sound much more lower-tech than the DJ boffins we have nowadays like BT and Skrillex, but not bad considering a lot of those synths were brand spanking new at the time and no one really knew much of how to work them.  And as long as they got people on the floor, so much the better.

But I’m also curious about other genres out there from that era, like the various punk scenes (such as Boston versus DC versus LA versus SF, and so on), or more of the Athens scene (Pylon, Love Tractor, etc), or anything else that’s out there that I may have missed.

So yeah…if any of you have any suggestions for old-school tunage for me to look into, please feel free to let me know!

Let’s hear some music

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I’m worried that I’ve run out of things to listen to.

Well, that’s not entirely true.  It’s more that I’ve been listening to too much of the same thing lately, added to the fact that I haven’t been too entirely excited by the recent releases this month.  Sure, there are a few big names, but I’m not at the OMG I MUST DOWNLOAD THIS NOW UPON PAIN OF DEATH like I normally would with some albums.

Meh, it’s been an off-month, is all.

I mean, Sirius XM just started a new official Beatles channel and their playlist is quite brilliant (not just the canon discography, but solo works, covers by other groups, and songs that inspired the band).  They even sneaked in the 2017 stereo remix of “A Day in the Life” from the new Sgt Pepper deluxe release that’s coming out on Friday (yes, I ordered it as soon news about it dropped, and yes, I’ve been twitching all week to get it into my grubby paws).  From what I’m hearing, the new remix of the album is quite lovely indeed.

Still…I need a change.

NETIZENS!  Suggest some tunage for me!  Anything, any genre, any age.  My palate is wide and I want to check out stuff I haven’t heard before.

What are you listening to?  What albums are you freaking out about?  What’s your latest obsession that you want me to get in on?  Tell me in the comments! 😀

 

Listening to the Seventies

You know, for all the classic rock I’ve listened to over the years, I haven’t really focused too closely on the 70s other than the hits.  I’ve got a decent mp3 collection that covers a lot of discographies, but I’ve always tended to limit my ‘classic’ listening to the 80s (my teen years) or the 90s (my college/post-college/HMV years).

Granted, my age was in the single digits in the seventies, so my familiarity with the music from that era comes from the listening habits of my older sisters, the records I took out of the town library, and the usual culprits you hear on classic rock stations like Springsteen, Elton John, Billy Joel and Led Zeppelin.  The rest of it tends to be filled with easy listening pop that we escaped like Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand, and variety specials filled with corny humor and the same central casting guest stars.

It is kind of fascinating, though, when you realize that this song..

…and this song…

…came out in the same month, November 1977.

I’m thinking it’s time for me to do another decade overview, this time of the decade where I was the bratty little kid brother.  I mean, going past hearing “The Piano Man” for the 1,485,035,436th time.  Expanding the genres between punk and sunshine pop, prog rock and early metal.  If there’s one thing I enjoy immensely when listening to music, it’s listening to it within the context of its history.  I’m curious to hear how they all intertwined.

Writing Session Tunage: What Next?

NOTE:  HEY KIDS!  Speaking of writing, I have an e-book coming out this Friday!  The Balance of Light, the third book in the Bridgetown Trilogy, will finally get released in just a few short days!  Come on over to Smashwords and check it out!

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Of course, you all know that I almost always have some sort of tunage going during my writing sessions, especially when they’re back here in Spare Oom.  Even as I type this, I’m listening to Elbow’s latest album, Little Fictions.

You also know that there have been certain go-to albums that I’ll play, especially if I’m working on something related to the Mendaihu Universe.

But now that that particular project is complete…now what should I listen to?  Good question.

Meet the Lidwells! is about a musical family, and once I get to the bulk of the writing of this project, I’m sure I’ll be listening to a lot of 90s alternapop to fit with the band’s sound.  I’ve got a lot of that stuff in my collection, thanks to my time at HMV, but I can also let SiriusXM’s Lithium station do the work as well.

Other than that, my project options are wide open.  I’m thinking maybe a standalone Mendaihu Universe book or two.  And for some reason, I’ve decided that I need to listen to a lot of LOUD music for those.  The plot ideas I have for these involve a lot of emotional and societal tension, so something twitchy and irritable would fit quite nicely.

Something like the alt-metal of Caspian for instance:

…or something nice and crunchy from Deftones.

I’m sure I’ll temper it with some quiet moody stuff like I always do.

Either way, it’s time to change up the writing session soundtrack big time.  I’m not sure what I’ll be listening to in particular, but I’m keeping my options open.  Some of my favorite writing session albums come to me purely by accident — an album I haven’t heard in years that just happens to fit the mood of the scene, or a new release that clicks with me right from the first listen.  I still absolutely adore Failure’s Fantastic Planet (it’s still on my gym mp3 player after all these years), but I’ve got to start listening to more than just the same things.

A bit of listening

The one downside to listening to new things this early in the year is often that there isn’t anything new out to listen to.  So I’m often bouncing around my music collection, throwing on whatever happens to pop into mind at the time.

As usual, I’m writing this just before my evening writing/editing session, and I was in the mood for a bit of Porcupine Tree — a band I’d discovered while at HMV (their 1999 album Stupid Dream had just been released) and one that would often be a go-to for my writing sessions during the early 00’s.  In this case, 2002’s In Absentia came to mind, so I popped it on.  It’s a lovely album, recorded at the point where they’d decided to morph from dreamlike, guitar-based prog rock to a more prog-metal influenced sound.  [Note: lead singer/band leader Steven Wilson would be the first to slap me for labeling them prog, as he quite loathes the term.  But I digress.]

I’ve posted numerous times before about some of the key album releases over the years that influenced, or at least gave a soundtrack to, the Bridgetown Trilogy.  This album, Dishwalla’s And You Think You Know What Life’s About, Mansun’s Six, Beck’s Sea Change, and so on.  They’re all great albums that I’ll still throw on now and again while I’m writing or editing.

Does music distract me from my work?  Well, yes, sometimes it does.  Especially if I hear a song like Silversun Pickups’ “Panic Switch”, which often sends me across the room to pick up my bass to play along with it.  But more often than not, just as it has since I was a scruffy teenager first attempting to write novels, it serves a dual purpose: it’s background noise to help me focus on the task at hand, and it’s also a sound that, if I choose correctly, influences whatever it is I’m working on at that moment.  I’ve listened to music for so long, and for such long stretches, that if I don’t have anything playing while I’m working, I kind of feel naked in a way.  The silence makes me self-conscious.

But you know, that’s why I have such a large collection as I do, and why it’s 99% digital now.  I have a library of sound that helps me through the day, in whatever I’m doing, whether it’s writing, editing, or the Day Job.

And I wouldn’t want it any other way.