I was such a naive little thing when I got into music. I remember how I discovered “Golden Brown”, probably in some Guy Ritchie movie on the soundtrack or some such and I was so much in love with it and with Hugh Cornwell’s voice. I bought – to my shame – not an album but a Stranglers sampler (I like to think I did that because it was not yet the time when you could get everything via Amazon and so I only found it on the sampler in my local record store) and listened to it on repeat.
And now, doing some research on the actual meaning of the song, I have to find out that it probably 100% was about heroin. Crickey!
I have hardly had a drink in three years and have merely tasted the marihuana a couple of times in my life and there I am, humming and singing an ode to heroin. Geez, that’s the horrible thing about Brits and their music. They really know how to sing a song about drugs in such a pretty way that you’ll never guess (Americans somehow haven’t yet managed to be that sly and cheeky about it).
Ok, but I still love that song and wanted to feature it because Hugh Cornwall who wrote the lyrics also said that it might have been about a girl. I actually think that this was just an excuse so people like me would not be totally horrified by the lyrics and clasp only a few of their pearls.
Ok, so here’s the reason why I love the song: that solo guitar in the middle, this incredibly simple, close to monotonous melody, that voice (!) and then this repetitive carnival’s music, that kind of puts you into this weird trance. It’s a beauty even if it’s about a horrible horrible drug.
I also want to add this version which is Hugh Cornwall playing with the Mariachi band Mariachi Mexteca which is really absurd but works surprisingly well.
(I also would like to add how lovely Hugh’s voice still is)
The Middle Kids are from Sydney Australia and are led by Hannah Joy and Tim Fitz. Tagging along, and because a band without a drummer is a band without someone to blame when someone farts on the tour bus, is Harry Day.
The band’s style is somehow inspired of a slightly melancholic country edge but without the twang. In fact, there is an 80s pop clarity that obviously caught my ear immediately and is the reason why their song “Your Love” ended up on this blog. I love that stuff.
I’d like to mention that this band’s use of vocals/backing vocals on record is fantastic (all, I suspect, sung and recorded by Hannah Joy on the EP). That voice is lovely because it can be incredibly tender but also could kick your ass if Hannah would want to.
Apparently, their song “Edge of Town” got quite a bit attention through radio and on Spotify. And it’s a lovely song but “Your Love” has this beautiful effortlessness, this lightness in its sound mingling with melancholy that reminds me of the late Tom Petty (also: the guitars). I also love it when country manages to sneak into indie and pop music because it usually turns out beautifully.
Admit it, you love it when I dig out songs and bands who you know about since years just because I am so behind and don’t read Pitchfork reviews.
BC Camplight released his third album in 2015 with the cheery title “How to die in the North” with Bella Union. BC, also known as Brian Christinzio, has been making music since 2002 but hey, I am a busy lady and the internet doesn’t make it easier because it’s simply too much things to choose from.
Anyways, the song “you should’ve gone to school” is an amazingly throwback ditty with a weird Beach Boys vibe that now and then slips into the early 80s but only just so. His use of harmonies is lovely and he works with the slightly melancholic vibe of 60s pop music (songs like “Life isn’t anybody’s fault” have a lovely nod towards “Nights in White Satin” with freaky guitar-scream-interruptions). In another world, BC might have sang a beautiful duet with George Michaels at some point but alas, this is the world we live in and we have to deal with never hearing this match made in heaven.
BC’s lyrics are generally rather … dire which fits the music. My song of choice for this entry starts with a weird mention of monsters in Mexico, which totally reminds me of this indie horror movie that – now that I think of it – fits perfectly with this song and the album in general (but that’s just my opinion which is worth, like,
an apple and an egg nothing).
Right now, Sammus might be the most fun rapper out there. Her music videos are creative low budget gems full of humor, charisma and lovely ideas. Her song “Mighty Morphing” hunts me down every single day because it’s so damn catchy.
Love the “Ironic”-reference in the style of the video but also the song itself. Rapping about how no one needs to be a certain thing to market themselves but can be everything is one of those things that sound so simple but are hardly communicated in pop songs.
Sammus is also one of the few rappers that do gaming themed songs. A thousand mushrooms for that!
You think this is a one-off? Nope, she’s REALLY into gaming. It’s fantastic. I mean, nerdy gamer girls get hardly any representation in Hip Hop, so this is like the holy grail.
I don’t know why but I am again obsessed (like, “loop that 24/7”-obsessed) with a Miley Cyrus song. Her previous single “Malibu” of the upcoming album “Younger Now” was just like the video a pretty little thing with no real meat on its bones. It also gave us a Miley that is not believable anymore (flowery hippy country girl who is everybody’s darling).
However, “Younger Now” is the kind of aesthetic sound-wise and visually that might be the real true Miley that has been peeking out during her wild phase a few years ago (and sadly resulted in a few appropriation- and “why the hell work with Terry Richardson of all people”-issues that are far more problematic than the nudity).
The Miley that plays with gender expectations and somehow is such a professional in the world of pop but at the same time just not quite as caught up in it like, for example, Katy Perry, shows herself in a video that is all Rockabilly but with the nostalgia factor playing the main character. This is not the dream of how it was back then but how it is now. The Grease brigade, creepy puppet play (a typical symbol of 50s children’s tv shows – also in Germany, by the way), the Elvis costumes and the glitz – the video in itself is mesmerizing.
The song is a lovely goodbye (?) to her wild phase (and quite possibly also to the Disney phase, but obviously no one will acknowledge that because so many people think that her twerk/tongue-phase was worse than being stuck in Disney’s fake smile wonderland that messed up so many of our current and past pop stars).
The lyrics are standard pop:
“Feels like I just woke up
Like all this time I’ve been asleep
Even though it’s not who I am
I’m not afraid of who I used to be”
But the sound is quite interesting. We start with frogs and water singing in the background and a lower guitar tune slowly easing us into the song before Miley sings covered in a subtle echo effect. The song slowly turns into the sort of pop that does well on a dancefloor but still feels calm and melancholic. This is actually a song you would rather hear from a popular rock group like Kings of Leon instead of Miley Cyrus but that’s exactly the sound that suits her (kid has still one of the most amazing and unique voices of any white female pop star out there). I really hope that her album delivers more of this and less of “Malibu” but you never know. With stars of her caliber, conceptually tight albums like Beyoncès “Lemonade” are so seldom, so I expect a few other strong singles and a few fillers.
But then again, Miley’s coop with The Flaming Lips and her resulting Her Dead Petz-album was a fantastic and weird piece of pop. I still believe that she could be one of the greats in the long run.
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.
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!