Favourite Song: Sizarr “Clam” – yes, I miss the Maccabees

Ok ok, I know it’s a little unfair to make such broad comparisons but listening to German trio Sizarr and not thinking of one of the best Britpop bands ever (in the entire world, universe and existence) is simply impossible. Not only because singer Fabian Altstötter sounds a lot like Orlando Weeks (their Wikipedia entry compares him to Jame Blake and Jeff Buckley, which I suspect is a ruse to distract us from the obvious similarities with Weeks). No, the whole vocal style and the use of guitars is heavy into the Maccabees’ 2nd album which was released in 2009 just when Sizarr formed. A coincident? I doubt it.

The only difference: Sizarr love the 80s. As do I, so who am I to judge a band just because the remind me of some other band. Maybe it’s just the grief that makes me hear Weeks in every song, even commercial jingles and street noise.

But! Sizarr’s song “Clam” is such a beauty (also with a little Aha-in-the-80s-vibe) that I let it slide. Especially since the guitar work on that song is more of the 80s The Smiths-variety.  After all, as the two regular readers of this blog might have noticed, I am knee deep in an 80s phase (or “sounds like the 80s-phase”) and therefore all for it. This band, by the way, was suggested by a friend’s friend, so yes, I do get my music from other sources than just Spotify. I have to admit, though, that she recommended this about two years ago … so if you ever recommended something to me or plan to do so you might have to wait a few decades until I finally get to it. THAT’S HOW I ROLL!

One thing, though: the band members have weird artsy pseudonyms which I feel does not work for this kind of music.

Deaf Sty (Fabian Altstötter)
P Monaee (Philipp Hülsenbeck)
Gora Sou (Marc Übel)

This is not the Wu-Tang-Clan, dudes. And if you don’t even put in the effort of wearing abstract masks or outrageous costumes (with glitter!) than why even bother? I don’t get it.

 

Favourite Song: Dream Wife ‘Hey Heartbreaker’ – hey ho let’s go!

Sometimes I go through my old playlists and really miss the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I mean, what kind of band manages to create roughly 3-4 disco club hymns with each of their first three albums? And with the kind of music that really shakes you up. There’s no elegant and timid dancing when dancing to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, I will not have it!

Anyways, Dream Wife pack the same energy into their EP “EP01” with four amazing songs that all will take your arm, like your starry eyed best friend and drag you onto the dancefloor, bouncing and yelling “OMG, this is amazing!”

Dream Wife is a lovely trio from Brighton, London, Reykjavik (the usual, really). They are named after an old romantic comedy. You know, one of those that Hollywood produced in the 1000s back then and if you watched only one of them, you will forever wonder if that’s the one or actually another because there were a lot of people having snappy conversations and looking fabulous but also going through not really interesting story lines.

ANYWAY! The band originally started as a femme version of Spinal Tap, including, supposedly, a mockumentary. But good music parody often leads to actual success and so they decided to follow the money and make this a proper band. The songs are short, melodic and, well, snappy. There’s the hint of Deborah Harry vocals in there occasionally (“Hey Heartbreaker” particularly sounds like a long lost Blondie-A-Side) and this high energy of Karen O. To make it short: I like it!

Quite possibly the first time you see how to eat your spaghetti in a punk way. Rule #1: don’t look at the plate or the fork!

Alex Cameron ‘The Comeback’ is a melancholic masterpiece set in 80s soundtracks

Ok, before I start talking about why this album is amazing, I want to talk a little about its context. Alex Cameron (on stage usually together with Roy Molloy) is an Australian musician who released this record in 2013 for free on the internet. So far, so Radiohead. However, eventually he found the perfect label with Secretly Canadian because of course they napped him. The album was re-released last year in August and was only now discovered by me through Spotify’s scary accurate playlist algorithms.

The album itself is sort of a concept album with Alex miming a washed-up entertainer mourning the breakthrough he never had. However, according to Wikipedia, he didn’t just create this character and make up lyrics for it but wrote the lyrics based on his own (and Roy’s) experiences, therefore lending real life to an otherwise already fantastic concept.

He even dressed the part.

Ok, to the album now: since I am not as deep into the numerous album releases as I was maybe 5-6 years ago, I am not the best judge but from my point of view, the darker, melancholic new wave-revival (or newer new wave) of bands like Interpol, the Editors and the like has a bit dried up lately (in favor of awesome female garage punk, it feels like).

Maybe it’s for the best, though, that I haven’t heard that much retro 80s wave in the last years because that way Alex Cameron’s beautiful ode to 80s soundtracks, Jim Kerr/Bruce Springsteen vocals (I will not be told otherwise) and introspective lyrics can fully excite me in its weirdly unique loveliness.

Add Cameron to my list of awesome dancers (joining Father John Misty and Sylvan Esso’s Amelia Meath)

Cameron hits the 80s synth nails right on the head. There is a clarity to his melodies that really rings true and his vocals keep their control most of the time, only to break emotionally to give this amazing Springsteen impact (that Louis C.K. talked about in a way that is 100% accurate and will be referenced by me forever and forever).

Funnily enough, I nearly instantly thought about the music video for Faith No More’s cover of “I started a joke” and David Hoyle as majestic and sad nightclub musician. Somehow I can imagine Hoyle’s character as the protagonist of Cameron’s album. It feels right.

Anyways, the album itself is not a one note spiel on the 80s nostalgia because even though style and instruments set it in the 80s (which fits to the old artist whose heydays probably have been in the 80s), it’s not just an homage but a truly amazing singer/songwriter album.

If you want 80s pop, get that The Bangles debut ASAP!

I, like everyone else who wasn’t a teen in the 80s, know the Bangles for their chart toppers “Eternal Flame” (all the white girls sing along but not in the right key), “Manic Monday” (which was a gift from Prince, how the hell did I not know that????) and “Walk like an Egyptian” (double the fun since the German punk pop band Die Ärzte covered this in German and I liked it back then as a kid but now really question why they would leech on the Bangles’ success when they would have been ok without this cover).

Also, a fun fact, I have to note: “Manic Monday” was only surpassed by one other song on the charts: Prince with “Kiss”. He basically topped himself. Damn.

BUT today I listened to their debut album (1984) “All over the Place” and I feel like we wronged them so much by only citing the mentioned trifecta of hits. “Going down to Liverpool” is an amazing song and sounds like The Smiths but without the moping (and there’s no way they copied the Smith’s style because both debuts came out the same year). The song was written by Kimberley Rew from Katrina and the Waves, by the way.

Also, the video has a grumpy Leonard Nimoy and one fantastic joke that I won’t spoil now because I love you.

I mean, the music videos alone are so much fun because of all that 80s fashion game going on but the whole album is fantastic and I have no idea why it never pops up in the best albums of the 80s lists because there’s not really any filler song and not every song sounds basically the same (looking at you, The Smiths*).

It’s a bit of a shame that apparently the music industry destroyed this band by featuring mostly Susanna Hoffs because they thought she was, I don’t know, marketable? The music industry can be such a dick. And when the band broke up and Hoffs tried it solo, they dropped her during the recording of her second album. What a dick move, Universal.

I mean, this pre-debut single is fantastic:

It’s also the biggest shame and simply outrageous, that no one gave Michael Steele a record contract for the next 20 years after the band broke up because Steele did not just have the best hair but also a gigantic voice and guitar and bass guitar skills to hold her own (“Walk like an Egyptian” would only be half as good without that bass line). I mean, if you have the whole package right there, why not sign her and make it happen? Universal was a mess in the 80s, I tell you that.

*Look, I like the Smiths but they are the Nirvana of the 80s in that they get way too much credit for being the most popular of a certain zeitgeist sound that was dominated by white dude bands that were moping and kind of a downer.

The last great rock band: Thank god, it’s over

There’s currently a great read on Vulture, an interview collection of people who talk about the Strokes and how they blew up and then petered out. The article is great but the notion is all kinds of wonky. Continue reading

Favourite Song: Angel Olsen ‘Shut up Kiss me’ – blast from the past

I usually don’t do this but in the case of Angel Olsen I feel like I have to slam the music press. I’ve read quite a few reviews of her new album (which, I admit, I haven’t heard fully so far, I always get stuck on this song) and there’s way too many people saying that with her new album she proves that she is super diverse. ‘Xcuse me? How did her previews albums not show that Angel Olsen is diverse like the current season’s Queens of Ru Paul’s Drag Race?

I mean, I listened to the exquisite ode to 70s punk “Shut up kiss me” and I was too things:

– delighted how amazing this song is

– totally not surprised that Angel Olsen could come up with this

The video makes me think that I got the music decade right

What’s lovely is that this is a reference to old school New York punk but it doesn’t sound like a regurgitation of the music of yesteryears (least of all because there have been so few women in that scene). Angel Olsen’s vocals on the line “Even if you walk around as though you think you’re right” is such a throwback to early Cyndi Lauper or Pat Benatar (how does she do it? It’s so gorgeous and then she goes into this full, juicy chorus). But the song itself is so dirty that it automatically reverts you back to a decade earlier, strumming along on the guitar and chewing gum in a hot leather jacket (I guess that’s what the NY punk scene looked like, right?).

In fact, the song coincides with a recent re-discovery of a song by a NY punk band that not exactly sounds the same but not only has the telephone-link (Angel: “I ain’t hanging up tonight”) in its lyrics but also this restless energy with an amazing hook line.

I had to look for this. There’s another video but it has a lot of unnecessarily sexist imagery of pin up models and you know what, I will not have it!

I also want to add that I know of the Blondie-version and it is a hoot but it somehow doesn’t have the desperation of the original. Deborah is simply too cool for school to sing about waiting for anyone to call back. Like, who would leave Debbie Harry hanging on the telephone? No one, that’s who. She rather sounds like she’s mocking the dude who’s told her to not leave him hanging on the telephone …

Favourite Song: Anna Meredith ‘The Vapours’ – whaaa?

Anna Meredith’s debut album “Varmints” is absolutely titillating. Remember, when Dan Deacon came along and it was so weird and colorful what he did and everyone wanted to join his crazy live dane parties?

I feel like Anna Meredith is – although stylistically different – likewise this incredibly fresh air of electronica that’s just weird and beautiful and exciting. Is prog-electro (proglecto?) a thing? Can it be? When I hear “The Vapours” I feel like it should be a thing. And I can’t even describe probably what I am hearing because it’s just this gorgeous layered cake of loopy electronics, electric guitars and violins and everything in this incredibly danceable beat and suddenly you’re in the middle of the musical stage with some wind instruments, it’s bananas!