Month: January 2018

Soccer Mommy “Cool”

This is everywhere today but it’s just so damn good that I really wanted to feature it here. Wrapped in the sunniest of chorus’s, and fattest of chords, “Cool” makes judgement, desire, and jealousy sound pretty damn heavenly. It’s as melodically gorgeous and incisive as anything off babe/genius Juliana Hatfield’s early 90’s albums ( she who specialized in this kind of sound and sentiment back in the day), which is a real achievement, I’m telling you. After about 2 1/2 minutes, the whole song literally melts  and passes out in the sun. Perfect. Debut album lands in March, and yes, it will be very,very good.

And hey, here’s a some completely awesome Juliana Hatfield circa 1992 to play next 🙂

 

Spike Vincent “Life in the Dust”

It takes mere seconds for this lush, jangling freight train to get rolling, and once it does it just don’t stop. In other words, it’s very easy to envision 100’s of bobbing heads absolutely losing their shiz to “Life in the Dust”. Spike’s sweet and anxious vocal lands somewhere between Jeffrey Lee Pierce of wonderful 80’s renegades Gun Club, and Tom Verlaine of Television: it’s as muscular as the guitar it thunders along with, never wavering, just crushing. The debut album is out in February and okay, gonna say it, forgive me, but play it loud.

James Bakian “Know You”

As of this writing Londoner James Bakian is 14 years old. And hearing how accomplished and pop music perceptive “Know You” is will probably make you want to go back in time and confront your lazy 14 year old self and say, “why couldn’t you be as focused and ridiculously creative as James ? You disappoint me. Get out of here, I can’t even look at you”. Anyway, the song itself is sparse and skeletal and has a bit of a demo-ish quality to it i.e. it’s basically a heartbeat with James’s angelic and fluttery falsetto floating on top. It’s also in possession of a really handsome hook and, I’m telling you now, is better than anything on the last Sam Smith album. Nice one James.

Weekly New Wonders Playlist !

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January has thus far spoiled us rotten, with it’s wealth of beautiful tunes, but sadly that’s all come to a grinding halt this week…nah, I’m just screwing with you. Once again January has blessed us with far more than we deserve. And with that, here are the Weekly New Wonders Playlists in your choice of Soundcloud or Spotify.

Gonna write about some of these songs individually this week so stay tuned !

  • The usual end note: The Playlists are slightly different as in a few songs are only available on Soundcloud at the moment, and another of the tracks is only on Spotify, so you may wanna check them both out.

Soundcloud Playlist:

Spotify Playlist:

 

 

 

When You Hear This Song: “I Would Die 4 U” by Prince (1984)

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“I’m not a woman, I’m not a man, I am something that you’ll never understand”

Okay, I think that’s one of the best opening lines of any pop song ever. Up until I heard Prince sing those words in 1984, I’d been convinced that Morrissey was the only person who really and truly understood me. I even wrote him and told him so ( still waiting for a response). This song changed all that.

I didn’t really get into Prince until the 1999 album came out which, as hardcore fans go, is kinda late. At the time I had a secret crush on this guy I went to school with named Manuel who had pretty eyes, an eternally serious expression, and was a talented artist. I would daydream about him for hours on the train every day while my 1999 cassette played in an endless loop on my Walkman…or at least I did for a little while, until I had my epiphany. Well, not a sudden one, maybe it was more of a realization over time, which was that my affection for him was solely based on his slight resemblance to Prince in the Little Red Corvette video. Why was I wasting time on the middle man (Manuel) when it was Prince I was actually in love with ?

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“You were only fooling yourself girl…”

 And so pretty soon, upon that inner acknowledgment, it was all about Prince and I wanted more. When the release of Purple Rain was announced a year later, both album and movie, I could, not, wait.

When Doves Cry was the first single released off the album and…I didn’t like it. I know, I know, I have no excuse for myself other than to say I’d grown up listening to ELO records and wasn’t “sophisticated” enough to appreciate it’s genius at the time .What I liked was big swooping synthesizers, a lot of big orchestral junk, and whale sized hooks, and…that was it. ELO provided that plus cardboard spaceships inside the albums.

Of course as it turned out, Prince had something up his sleeve.

I bought the album the week it came out and for some inexplicable reason, never removed the shrink wrap, I just opened the slit to remove the record. And tragically there it remains to this day, hanging desperately off the sleeve, baggy, wrinkled and distended, being kept alive for no other reason than “well I’ve had it this long why get rid of it now”.

And yes, the record store was actually called “Slipped Disc”.

See Photo Exhibit A below :

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 Let go, and let God…no,no, I just can’t.

The Song: On side 2, right after Doves it appeared. Layers of big fat synth. A radiant hook. And the lyrics, oh man. I Would Die 4 U dammit. I loved everything about it. It did all those things a brilliant song is supposed to do, made you feel overwhelmed, exposed, sick, and like you were starring in your own epic movie…and maybe made you feel like you were actually cool because it made all your desperate thoughts sound positively valiant and beautiful. It ticked all the boxes and I played it over, and over, and over again.

The Words: There are 2 ways you can interpret the lyrical content, as in it’s either Prince talking or it’s, well you know, “Him”, Jesus…of course with any genius pop song, it’s your voice too ( in this case it’s you at your most histrionic, self-important, and love consumed). I’d like to say something noble like I always hear it as Jesus’s voice, but no…It’s only ever Prince or uh, me.
The Movie:Someone” was very excited to see Purple Rain, so much so that “someone” insisted on seeing it the day it was released at a theater some distance from their town. I went with a friend, and no expectations to that first afternoon showing and from the moment Prince mounted that motorcycle in his heels, I was with him. I felt an ecstatic energy in me every time a song started. When people laughed at some scenes that were clearly not meant to be funny, I took it personally, felt protective of him, thought “God, what is wrong with you people”. He wasn’t a joke, they just didn’t get it :“I am something that you’ll never comprehend”.
Yes. I really thought this. I know.
Anyway, how much did I love the movie ? Well I went to see it again the next day alone.
Our union was sealed ( Prince and me).
 **********
 
April 2016: The first weekend after Prince died, screenings of Purple Rain were scheduled all over the U.S. I bought tickets thinking it would be the perfect way to mourn with other Prince fans. I pictured scenes akin to “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”, with everyone singing, reciting dialogue affectionately back to the screen, and spontaneously dancing in the aisles to Let’s Go Crazy…but it wasn’t like that. Not at all. Apart from some brief laughter during the early scene where Prince sidles up behind Apollonia, in his giant fly sunglasses and plays hard to get, it was a pretty somber event.
And 2 things were abundantly clear since I’d seen it years before in my initial fog of infatuation :
1. The acting was wooden and occasionally really terrible
2. It’s pretty misogynistic
That’s usually how it is when you see a movie you loved when you were young years later through more mature and maybe cynical eyes i.e. it’s never as good as you thought it was, and maybe, not good at all.
…but despite all that, there was also a revelation, which was that the live performances were absolutely transcendent.
Up on a giant screen in the dark they were more beautiful and stirring than I ever remembered. As in you couldn’t believe what you were hearing, or that this guy was ever real. And while Purple Rain, the song, triggered waves of tears and audible sniffles all over the theater from it’s opening notes,  I Would Die 4 U was the one that I fell apart to.

When the song starts, we see him onstage, and after a minute cut to a scene where Prince is in the basement cleaning up the rage inspired mess he made, gathering strewn sheet music, and all of sudden finds the earring he gave Apollonia, that she threw at him during an argument ( justifiably I might add) on the floor. He gently fondles it, smirks ( see lead photo above, that’s a freakin’ smirk) and tosses it backward with laser accuracy to Apollonia, who it turns out is actually there with him because they made up.

I cried through the whole song. Even that corny scene. Crying over his death but mostly thinking about how much this song meant to me as a teen/loser/geek who didn’t know who the fuck I was, if I mattered, or if I was ever going to fit into this world or be understood. “I’m not human, I’m a dove, I’m your conscious, I am love”. Yeah.

And while there’d been no singing or aisle dancing, at the end of the movie, everyone applauded for several minutes for this miraculous guy we got to experience in real time.

Sometimes I can hear I Would Die 4 U, and feel fine, wash dishes or whatever…but other times it’s tears. Still, to this day. It’s never been Purple Rain, it’s always been this.

Last year, I got on a ladder with a handful of crumbling colored chalk, and wrote out the lyrics on a wall at Rough Trade in Brooklyn. A tribute to Prince of course, the one who created it, but also to the damn song itself…and for the infinite amounts of unconditional love it gave me when I needed it.

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Oh yeah, here’s the song in all it’s glory:

SPECIAL NOTICE : Meet Our Newest Feature Column…

A friend was recently telling me about a particular song he loved even though it always made him cry. He spoke passionately about how any time he heard it, it would trigger floods of tears. He couldn’t help it. I immediately assumed it was a ballad because, you know, it made him cry…but it turned out to be this shiny, straight up pop song which kind of fascinated me. It’d been a a top 20 hit in the UK a while back, and was by a band who never got beyond a certain level of notoriety. If you heard it, it wouldn’t strike you as a tearjerker, it’s far more likely to make you dance, but for him it was, is, and always will be a heart twisting, sob inducing, bear hug of a song.

And with that, let us introduce you to a new column called :

When You Hear This Song ( Will You Cry)

The name is a slight twist on the title of a song by Chic that appears on their classic (!) 1979 album “Risque”, and is about as lonely and sad as a disco-soul song can possibly get ( Listen above).

The column is not strictly about songs that make you cry, it’s people talking about a particular song that stirs something in them, ignites sad/happy/crazy/calming/deranged feelings. A song that when you hear it, no matter where you are, just triggers something in you, good or bad or weird.

This is primarily a guest column though I’m gonna write an embarrassing,over the top one to kick it off ( hint: it’s the next post) but mostly I can’t wait to read about everyone else’s songs.

P.S.You’ll notice I didn’t mention which song my friend was talking about which is because he’s gonna write about it here 🙂 I promise it will be awesome.

Weekly New Wonders Playlists !!

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Here are the new playlists ! This month has been pretty fruitful, I mean it’s kind of ridiculous ( and overwhelming in the best possible way). You can listen on Soundcloud OR Spotify but please note, the Soundcloud list has a few more songs because they are not yet on Spotify…but you can’t go wrong either way. Get the headphones…

Soundcloud Playlist:

Spotify Playlist:

Luster “Fall & Forget”

“Fall…”is a woozy synth-pop lament brazenly bathed in a Beach Boys “Pet Sounds” sheen, that also brings to mind Ariel Pink at his absolute sweetest and, gonna get deep here, Paul McCartney’s epic 1971 summer sundown album track “Back Seat of My Car”, which is as high a compliment as we can pay. Lush and desperate and definitely swoon-worthy.

 

Escapists “Army of One”

An empowering tornado with a million hooks, sounding like a hundred high school marching bands playing at once, where every guitar is turned up to 11, and featuring a vocal that I swear, and I know this’ll sound weird, reminded me of Merrill Garbus of Tuneyards. It all adds up to some truly embraceable melodic noise…and any song whose first line is “I am the patron saint of disappointment” could only be good.

Tracey Thorn “Queen”

Okay, Tracey is telling a story here, but I want to make the obvious out of context reference that everyone will, which is that Tracey is a freakin’ Queen, in that she has been responsible for some truly transcendent pop music over the past 30+ years, and is one of the greatest voices ever…okay sorry… had to do that, I’ll calm down now, it’s just that I really love her…actually in this song, you, me, and all of us are the potential/could’ve been “Queen” in question. A swirling electropop anthem, all about the “what if’s ” in life, or rather, a celebration of that eternal question, “where the hell would I be now if I’d…?”. It’s the theme song for all the mind wrestling and mental grappling we do every day, has a proper pop chorus that sticks to the walls and doesn’t come off, is off her forthcoming album “Record”, out March 2nd, and is pretty glorious.