A windswept, fist pumping AOR goth anthem that brings to mind Pat Benatar, Heart, and Siouxsie all at once (an equation we can really get behind), this kind of empowering, dark, big chorus’ed pop is a welcome bad influence in these days of electronic emo top 40 swill…which is to say it’s big and powerful and kicks a whole lotta ass.
It’s a bit of a weird week as in there wasn’t the overwhelming log jam of great new songs that we’ve been used to seeing over the course of 2018…which is to say this weeks playlist of amazing music is a bit shorter than usual but is still full of brilliant things. You can listen on Soundcloud or Spotify but be aware that lists are ever so slightly different as one of the tracks isn’t yet available on Spotify as of this writing. Rock on…
Soundcloud is here :
Spotify is here :
Time is slipping away but no one’s giving up in the candy-coated cloud of “Gunslingers”. Opening with a semi-cheesy lounge keyboard, then morphing into some sinewy slightly trippy soul, ultimately concluding on a big fat bed of “yeah yeaaaaahs”, something sweet is happening here. The band is from Miami which means Florida is now officially responsible for the 2 best songs called “Gunslingers” that we’ve ever heard ( the other being Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers “Two Gunslingers” i.e. very good company).
No matter who we are in this absurd, brief, and messy life we can all lay claim to a peak, a shining moment where we were the best we could be, where all the stars aligned and we fuckin’ delivered the goods.
Welcome to “That’s Their Pet Sounds” our latest semi-regular feature where we will endeavor to spotlight, and celebrate a heretofore uncool, sometimes mocked, occasionally underrated, polarizing, not as acclaimed as they should be, “what the hell?” artist’s grandest artistic achievement i.e. their greatest album.
*”That’s Their Pet Sounds” is named after the Beach Boys landmark 1966 LP which is universally regarded as one of the greatest albums ever made but yeah, you probably knew that.
Barry Manilow’s BEST ALBUM : 1978’s “Even Now”
Why it’s his Pet Sounds :
Okay, before we begin have to attach a disclaimer to this : at this stage in life, I absolutely detest “Copacabana”, it’s just, I fuckin’ can’t… but that wasn’t always the case, which is to say as a kid, sigh, I thought it was pretty cool. I did….but reason I bring it up is because many people will write this album off straight away because of “Copacabana’s” presence i.e. it’s the opening damn track. And look, there is a liberal coating of schmaltz on a good portion of the album ( it’ll inevitably get all over your hands…or ears, case in point “Can’t Smile Without You”, that one really oozes) …but cast your cynicism aside, because once you get past those guys and go deep, you’ll discover that “Even Now” is Barry at his melodic, lovelorn best. Yes, sentimentally over the top but also kind of dark, dazed and lost and, it goes without saying, ridiculously tuneful.
Every track is sung with complete earnestness and nearly always features a dramatic key change around the last chorus or so ( you know those award show performances where all of a sudden a gospel choir or gaggle of harmonizing children rise from beneath the stage to join in on that final chorus and take things completely over the top, well it’s like that except it’s just Barry singing).
Okay, elephant in the room officially acknowledged, onward…
Want a song about not appreciating someone until it’s too late ? That’s the lush “A Linda Song”.
How about some loss, loneliness and regret ? Well the whole latter half of the record does a u-turn from corned out “joy” of “Copacabana “ and “Can’t Smile”. “Where Do I Go From Here”, “Even Now”, “I Just Want To Be the One” and “Sunrise” supply plenty of emotional question marks.
And the guitar riff in “Leaving in the Morning” sounds like a slowed down version of the heavenly opening chord of Cheap Trick’s “Surrender” and as such is totally bitchin’.
The defining track on the album is the aforementioned darkly optimistic (really) and mournful “Sunrise”. In fact the cover of the album is literally a photograph of the song. It’s a world weary ballad about resigning yourself to this thing called life and trying to hang in there whilst contemplating your place in the universe and features a pretty gorgeous piano line that perfectly captures “the sad”.
“I can be dark too bitches”
Anything sub-standard ? Well yeah, “Losing Touch” is unpleasant and the kitsch of “I Was a Fool” can grate but those are tiny gripes.
“Even Now” is Barry at his most consistent and has more top notch tracks per capita than any of his other 30 (!) studio albums. And for an album of singles really, it hangs together exceptionally well. It’s vintage AM radio gold. It’s perfectly calibrated lush, and melodic pop music. It’s his Pet Sounds.
Hear it here:
Here’s some of the coolest pop music, discovered over the past week or so, to inhale. Welcome to the Weekly New Wonders playlist. Please note, this is another one of those weeks when a good handful of tracks are only available on Soundcloud and not Spotify as of this writing so imploring you to head to Soundcloud first so you don’t miss anything ( one of those handful could be your next true love after all) !
Listen on Soundcloud:
Listen on Spotify:
There is something special about “Cruise!” I can’t quite put my finger on. It’s like some weird combination of Toro Y Moi, a faceless old disco 12″ from 1979 you’d find in a random pile of records and a lost Brenda Fassie ( late legendary Diva) bootleg from the 80’s. It’s hazy and catchy and a little bit weird and sounds like nothing else I’ve heard today. Shormey exults us all to “Cruise!” in the quietest way possible and it’s damned near impossible not to be charmed.
The Clash were always expert at intertwining the sour with the sweet, telling stories, and conveying sights no matter how unpleasant or challenging they were, and making them “palatable” for the masses i.e. making them pop. “Time” by Hold sounds not unlike a classic Mick Jones led track off of 1980’s “Sandinista!”: cuttingly critical and observational, radiating frustration ( in this case after a conversation with an overt racist) but paradoxically served up in a melodic blanket. It’s completely infectious exasperation.
Sweetly dizzy and hallucinogenic, all about waiting for that thing to happen, “Someday…” is a living fever dream and it’s difficult to resist it’s lush and tuneful charm. Yeah, it’s kind of funny, as any song specifically referencing a jalapeño in it’s first verse generally would be, but it also sports the line “If the breeze is right dead leaves will come alive”, which is ridiculously poetic.