Category: rediscover

William Brittelle & the Blessed Dunes…

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“I think this is what it must sound like in heaven”

Okay so, that is an actual vintage quote from my “young person’s” diary upon hearing the Cocteau Twins for the first time, and the song “Lorelei” in particular. That’s not hyperbole, I admit I totally, teenage-edly meant it from the core of my angst ridden soul, yup. See I’d never come across anything quite like it before, and hearing it emanating through the speakers gave me a total physical rush, as in I had to stop what I was doing, and just stand there and be awestruck and overwhelmed by it’s plush beauty… so of course that meant it had to be aligned with the ultimate place and space. The #1 song in heaven, for real.

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“Are you there God ? Judging by the sound of this record I think you are.”

And while there are loads and loads of wonderful things out there, that transcendent feeling is still a pretty rare occurrence…which brings me here. William Brittelle is a composer, and multi-instrumentalist as well as the co-artistic director of the New Amsterdam label in NY. Back in 2010 he released a gorgeous, something else pop song called “Dunes of Vermillion” which is a whole lotta things at once: Beach Boys heavenly, late 70’s West Coast Am radio windy , and epically classical in construction. It also features the most regal and sweetest use of autotune you’re ever gonna hear. Plus the guitar solo is a siren song within a siren song. That’s a lot, I know. I was completely obsessed with it for a long while, and it still ranks high in my  horrifyingly geeky “best records of the century” list. The album it ultimately appeared on, “Television Landscapes” also turned out to be a pretty special thing, all wonderfully weird, tuneful, and orchestral.

And so I offer an an eternal bow to at least the # 2 song in heaven: thank you, and please explore below, hello, hello, hello….

p.s. I want to know what tune (s) you think are otherworldly, so please share if you feel so inclined and hey, maybe we’ll print your story. Don’t be shy…

Here’s “Dunes of Vermillion” :

Here’s the amazing “Television Landscapes” album in it’s entirety, go get your headphones :

And lastly, here’s the Cocteau Twins “Lorelei” that I crushed on to ludicrous extremes :

 

The Dynamic Superiors = Life

Here is some medicine to relieve the stress, pain, and tears that this seemingly worldwide mayhem has caused over the past year for all of us. The Dynamic Superiors were a latter era Motown act, who recorded 4 albums for the label from 1975-1977. Their lead singer, Tony Washington’s sweet falsetto was every bit as beautiful as that of his contemporary, Russell Thompkins Jr., of the million selling Stylistics i.e. utterly angelic, and not of this world. Still the Dynamics never achieved near the Stylistics level of success. They did however have 1 shining moment in the sun, releasing one of the most perfect slices of seventies soul ever, “Shoe Shoe Shine”, written by the legendary Motown songwriting team of Ashford & Simpson. And so, we invite you to please watch this sublime, and insane performance by yours, The  Dynamic Superiors from “Soul Train”, December 21st, 1974 because there is so much bad sh*t happening right now and we could all use a little medicine. As long as the earth is turning, these guys will be here for us, in all their yellow suited glory. And for 3 minutes and 30 seconds, that slow spin will make everything feel okay.

Album Review : The Cravats “Dustbin of Sound”

Settle in children, as Ed Zed brilliantly tells of the maniacal genius of The Cravats

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Rarely is it a good idea for punk bands to return with a new album following a few decades’ absence. All too often that vital vim, venom and raw energy become deadened over time or else extinguished completely, so that a band may be able to play a bit better but ultimately have fuck all to say and sound glaringly obsolete saying it.

The Cravats, however, are different. Very, very different. And indeed, to label these sax-bleating Dadaist psycho-geniuses merely as a punk band would be to do them a cruel disservice.

For those unfamiliar, The Cravats began life in the unassuming English town of Redditch in that fabled year of 1977, operating in something of a vacuum of their own making – which is to say they flagrantly defied the more rigid of punk’s pieties to become something more akin to a jazz-damaged, absurdist theatre troupe – almost a genre unto themselves.

Having infected the post-punk milieu with some of the most outlandishly exciting music it had yet seen, The Cravats went on indefinite hiatus around 1985, not to be heard from again (at least not under their sartorial banner) until the hoverboard-festooned superfuture of the 2010s, when they re-emerged with ‘Jingo Bells’, a growling gob in the face of Tory-‘led’ Britain.

The record picked up almost seamlessly from where the Cravs left off 30 odd years ago, with a blistering sound as temporally unclassifiable in the 21st century as it was in the 20th. And so, ladybugs and gentleflies, they were back.

And now in 2017 they bring us a new album ‘Dustbin of Sound’, a work whose strangeness and charm seem once again exempt from shelf life.

‘King of Walking Away’ (the intro to which is pleasingly reminiscent of John Coltrane’s ‘Acknowledgement’) operates as a lyrical and musical mission statement – angular, discordant, earnest yet playfully political, and dosed to the eyeballs with time-honoured Cravatian absurdism, which features beauteous head boy The Shend crooning what must be one of the lines of year: ‘when you bathe that desire I’m an electric fire balanced precariously on your porcelain rim’.

From here on, Shend and his crackpot company lead a stentorian charge through The House that Cravats Built – starting with a party in the parlour of the ‘Batterhouse’, then up the stairs to race around the mutated surf rock corridors of ‘Motorcycle Man’, ‘100 Percent’ and ‘Bury the Wild’, before pausing on a moonlit landing to observe an evil child pushing a naive parent down the stairs to the cuckoo strains of ‘Whooping Sirens’, saxes blazing all the while.

The rompingly sardonic ‘Hang Them’ and frenzied ‘Big Red Car’ segue beautifully into the album’s closer (and one of my personal favourites), ‘All U Bish Dumpers’, which finds The Cravats’ Dadaist preposterousness in full flight (‘the squirrel’s role was to goad idiots toward an unidentified trestle montage’).

A friend of mine who was lucky enough to experience the Cravs in concert several times during the early 80s once put their lack of broader appeal down to the fact that they were ‘too punk for the new wave crowd and too new wave for the punk crowd’. One would like to think that these days the two are far from mutually exclusive, and that cross-pollinators in a class of their own like The Cravats would now receive the adoration they so deserve – though if they don’t, I doubt it will matter to them very much.

Some are made for the margins, and that is why these fine gentlemen of the squonky cloth remain as timeless, savage and brilliant as ever.

Now tie a Cravat about your scrawny neck and feel it constrict until you’re forced into a hangman’s dance in the Dustbin of Sound. You just might enjoy it.

Glorious Plastic Love Rubbish: A Love Note

“My songs are like Bic razors, they’re for fun, for modern consumption. People can discard them like a used tissue afterwards. They can listen to it, like it, discard it, then turn onto the next. Disposable pop.” 

Freddie Mercury speaking in interview circa late 70’s.9af6df87fe2902b04376683f5379ebc4--s-punk-s-style

I love that quote. Can totally imagine Freddie delivering it, and adding a “do you understand Darling?” with a flourish after he says it. It describes the true core essence of pop music…buuuut of course some songs are more disposable than others. I mean, there are very few people on earth who would label the average Queen song as disposable (although, we could ostensibly nominate “Body Language”, and I’m pretty sure Freddie would agree). Fact is, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”, and ” some girl’s mothers are bigger than other girl’s mothers”…which lands us here. One of the great things about the 80’s and early 90’s was that any crazy piece of whatever could end up in the chart. No matter how off the wall, cheesy, unapologetically ludicrous, drowned in lush earnestness, or buried in chocolate coated jellybeans and sprinkles something was, if it had a chorus, an eye-catching video, or a picture sleeve it had the potential to become a hit, especially in the UK. Throughout the 80’s especially, there ran a seemingly endless stream of shameless tunes in garish colors, that if they weren’t pop songs would have been action figures, anime characters or bowls of multi-colored, sugared cereal. There were twisted-tacky euro-tastic anthems ( the earnest WTF*ckedness of Falco’s “Sound of Musik”), frothy fat-synthed joys with anonymous female vocals literally built for the radio ( Maisonettes “Heartache Avenue”, Rah Band “Clouds Across the Moon”), and belligerent teenage girls, chanting homemade slogans, and giving you the finger ( Shampoo, Annabella of Bow Wow Wow). It was all cheese to the core, but like really, really good cheese.

Screenshot 2017-09-30 23.36.15“A bip bam-boogie and a booga-rooga, my cassette’s just like a bazooka”. HELL YES IT IS GIRL.

We no longer have to live in the vacuum of coolness. As a result of streaming, and YouTube, we now live in a musical world without context. There is no need to hide in the closet anymore. If you like trashy pop music, you can like it openly. You can love it out loud. You don’t ever have to start a sentence with ,”I know it’s cheesy/bad/lame but I really like (insert song you hate yourself for liking here)”. You can say, “know what, I f*cking love Mambo No.5″ …actually no, don’t say that, because in no universe is it okay to like that song, but anything else you got, OKAY. Take ownership, you are free.

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No, it will never be okay to like this song.

And with that here is a Spotify playlist featuring the aforementioned wonders plus a some other equally magnetic pop things from back in the day when the charts were truly the wild west. And hey, I’d love to hear what your favorite cheese tune is, and why the hell you like it. I promise I won’t tell anyone.

 

 

Fire to the Stars “Wholesale Slaughter”

Okay so, a bit late to this party, but this is too pretty not to spread the word about. This track appeared on Fire to the Stars “Keep You Safe” EP back in 2014, and was then included on the band’s 2016 “Made of Fire” album, so it’s been lurking around for a bit…but we digress. All that needs to be said is that it’s a beauty, somehow managing to be both funereal and pop, starting as a slow dirge dressed in black, with a keening vocal, then suddenly turning the corner onto a sunlit street, courtesy of a beautiful guitar led hook. And while it brings to mind both Patti Smith, and Marianne Faithfull in parts , the glorious spectre of Stevie Nicks hangs over the whole thing, like the dark, dancing around the fire Stevie, the one that consumes all of us earthly beings during the last minute of “Gold Dust Woman”.

Thinking about the construction of “Wholesale Slaughter” led me on a typically geeky tangent. Specifically, I began contemplating the ascent of the 1982 song “Ghosts” by Japan. It was a morose, skeletal dirge that was about as far from a pop song as you could get, yet somehow, beyond all reason or logic, it managed to reach the top 5 in the UK charts that year ( have a listen below, and you’ll see what I mean).
Japan, starring singer/ songwriter, and still legend David Sylvian, were the thinking fangirl’s band of choice back then, but still, would it even be possible for pop this dark, weird, and slippery to rise to those kind of heights again ? Hmmm, I wonder. I’m thinking our collective lack of patience, introspection, and empathy makes it pretty unlikely that an oddball like “Ghosts” will ever be a “hit” at that scale again ( though I remain hopeful because hey, you gotta).  Still, love the idea that it was so mega, and it remains a properly lovely weirdo tune.

 

The System That Started it All…

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I was working my very first summer job at the “One Hour Photo Lab” wearing a blue lab coat the first time I heard the System. Just doing my ordinary shift, mixing a huge vat of film developing chemicals ( not fun), with the radio on when “Promises Can Break”, their new single off the “X-Periment” album came bursting out of the junky boombox we had there. The song was soul, yeah, but it was fueled by a fat synth, so it sounded kind of different, modern. It also featured a dizzying hook, and downright swoon-worthy ascending vocal line. I was instantly in love. I went and bought the album from which it came, “X-Periment”, the very next day and discovered that track was the tip of the iceberg, and that the whole thing was full of tunes with lush electronic heartbeats, and every one sounded like a single.

The band itself consisted of David Frank, Mic Murphy w/assistance from Paul Pesco, and their singular, hard-earned moment in the sun came with their 4th album, “Don’t Disturb This Groove” whose title track was a mega-hit, and is still justifiably beloved today (with over 2 million Spotify plays and counting, not bad). Now while that album is pretty fine, the bands charms and gifts shine the brightest on the aforementioned “X-Periment”, and it’s follow-up “The Pleasure Seekers”. Both feature plush, melodic, electro-soul pop of the highest order, all melodic, edgy, anxious, and emotional, and are absolutely worth seeking out.

And with that let’s raise a glass to these guys, the true pioneers of electro-soul, they still deserve a lotta love , and all of our ears.

Have a listen/look at these sweet things:

And here are the “X-Periment” and “The Pleasure Seekers” albums on Spotify if you wanna go deeper:

https://open.spotify.com/embed/album/2qgQhLLLXt2uGB6AYMCQl2

https://open.spotify.com/embed/album/0IornSrnyQoXSvJVWjL4OP

The Glorious Sorrow of Sade…

Beyonce is not my queen. “Love Deluxe” is an actual cult. And this is no ordinary love…

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As musical terms go,”baby-making music”, is a particularly execrable one.
Okay, we all know that every situation in life, can be, let me see, “enhanced” or “benefit”, from a finely tuned playlist…but throwing Sade onto “The Ultimate Babymaking Playlist” is actually the height of laziness…because while there’s soft focus love in some of the songs in her canon, like say “By Your Side”,  the most common features of a typical Sade song are unadulterated pain, misery, and loss ( cumulatively known as “the good stuff”). Fact is apart from a handful of tracks spread over her 6 studio albums, she is the true embodiment of pop despair, the veritable Queen of Sad ( or as she once sang, and declared, the “King of Sorrow”). As emotionally distraught as Ian Curtis, Nico,or Kurt Cobain. Desperation, obsession, and complete mental unrest : those are the main features of the average Sade song. Not I’m so happy and in love, or do you take this man or woman. Nope. It’s don’t doubt me, I keep crying, the war is still raging inside of me. You can’t really put on the “Love Deluxe” album, and party. You can cry, drink too much, beg for another chance, or an actual chance, or contemplate earthly existence.That’s what Sade can provide the soundtrack for. She’s here to envelope you in glorious sadness, and you’re gonna like it.
 One of the cooler things that’s happened over the past 10 years, is all the open faced praise and worship that’s been thrown at her emanating from the rock and indie universe…and for the contents of “Love Deluxe” in particular.  The Rosebuds went so far as to cover the whole damn thing in 2012, and Iron & Wine, Pink, and Deftones are among the artists, who have done cover versions of tracks from it . What is it about “Love Deluxe” that so perfectly encapsulates what she’s about? It’s the sparseness, the melodies, the infinite space of the whole thing. It’s the way the way the guitar leads into the chorus of “No Ordinary Love”, which itself is 7 minutes of the most beautiful despair. It’s that 7 of the 9 songs are not happy ones. Sade is here to hold your hand, and compare war stories. It’s gonna be okay.
And so a communal bow to the queen of sad, poet of the rain, and all that. Ain’t nobody like her.
Here’s a handpicked playlist of Sade’s deepest and darkest if you feel emotionally up to it. Go get the headphones.

And here’s Love Deluxe on the Spotify :

https://open.spotify.com/embed/album/6Y8lHGQqTmbE6Hhj1mMCkX

 

 

 

Rush “Subdivisions” One band.One song.

 

Rush. Progressive rock legends. Loved by millions. Nearly 40 Gold, and Platinum records to their name. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members…but alas, for me their appeal’s been elusive. I’m not happy to say this. After seeing the admittedly excellent documentary and career retrospective, “Beyond the Lighted Stage” a few years ago, I absolutely wanted to like them, the whole story had been so compelling, and cool, I thought yeah, I’m finally getting this….but minus the tale, and the visuals, just listening to them on the headphones, I felt nothing. Was not transported. Had no epiphany.

This hopefulness was nothing new, this attempt to love, feel, and understand Rush. Several years prior to the documentary, I’d been similarly swayed to give them another chance, after witnessing the unbridled Rush passion of Nick Andopolis on “Freaks and Geeks” ( best TV show ever). His complete, and utter worship of them, playing along on his 29 piece drum kit , passionately, and horrifically to “Spirit of the Radio”, and later defending their genius to his ex-girlfriend’s Lindsay’s Dad, made me think, yes, there’s something to all this, I want to feel like this too…and with that, I hopefully cued up their mega “Moving Pictures”album…but again, nothing.

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“Neil Peart is the greatest drummer alive !”…say no more Nick, turn that shit up…

Why continually try when these attempts have never worked ? Well, it’s all because of one song ,”Subdivisions”, from 1983. I kind of love it. For real. That song alone is what’s fueled this eternal optimism. It’s fat, melodic synthesizer line, and darkly, perceptive lyrics about suburban teen alienation spoke to my young, angst-ridden ass, as deeply as my most beloved band at the time, the Smiths did. It was my “Manchester, so much to answer for”, except of course my Manchester, was the considerably less historic, austere, damaged, and romantic patch of unbridled suburbia known as, uh,…Long Island. Anyway, this song understood my feelings. It got me. I lived it.

In the High School Halls

In the shopping malls

Conform or be cast out

Yes, Rush, yes, I geekily nodded, and thought. “Subdivisions” release in 1983, coincided with MTV’s growing prominence, and, as a result, the video was on constantly, with it’s overt, and completely literal suggestions of alienation, and bullying, both of which are dealt with by our outcast representative watching Rush sing the song on TV, and playing a video game at the mall. Here it is, in all it’s glory:

 

You know when you’re so into a song that you have a playlist solely devoted to it, featuring every ( decent) cover version of said song imaginable ?  Bueller ? Bueller ? Bueller ?…anyway… while you might be spoiled for choice as far as versions of say, Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide”, or, lord help us, Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, when it comes to “Subdivisions”,  there is struggle. There’s a real dearth of decent cover versions …still, the best one is exceptionally good, and that’s Anita Athavale’s 2007 version. It’s not available on any of the usual music streaming homes, or on YouTube in a conventional way…as in the only way to hear it, is by watching a grim, un-ironic, lost love letter to a deceased shopping mall in Cleveland, complete with a “1976-2009” graphic at the end, that it soundtracks. Seriously though, Anita strips it down to it’s bones, and it’s pretty great. Here it is :

…there’s one more joyful thing to share regarding this band. In the aforementioned “Beyond the Lighted Stage” doc, the elephant in the room is addressed candidly, and awesomely…that being that the Rush audience is obviously, and overwhelmingly male. It’s become kind of a running joke, and is best encapsulated in this scene from, wait for it, “I Love You Man”. Watch Rashida Jones, as Paul Rudd’s beleaguered girlfriend experience the Rush effect in real time. It’s perfect.

Can I tell you something, after writing all this I’m seriously considering giving Rush another try, I mean, maybe it’ll stick this time….

 

 

Valerie Carter is worth remembering…

It’s hard to know what to say about Valerie Carter, the singer-songwriter who died in March of this year, at the too young age of 64. Probably the best way to describe her career, is as one of those woulda/coulda/shouda situations. The nearest she got to having a hit record was when her cover of “Ooh Child” played over the closing credits of the bonafide cult classic of suburban teen ennui from 1979, “Over the Edge”. Her career focus was mainly singing back-up for people like James Taylor, and Jackson Browne, while occasionally contributing songs to other artists like Earth, Wind, & Fire. She recorded 2 promising solo albums in 1977, and 1979 respectively, the first of which was produced by her musical soulmate, the late Lowell George of Little Feat…but after those releases, it was literally crickets in terms of her solo output : she didn’t release another album until 1996.  Her time in between was spent touring with the aforementioned James, and Jackson, and providing backing vocals on a myriad of albums, by other artists. The biggest of the latter, was soft rock flamingo Christopher Cross’s self-titled debut album, which sold 5 million copies and was the Grammy Album of the Year in 1980. And so while a lot of people were exposed to her beautiful, soaring, full of longing voice on the album’s duet “Spinning”…they didn’t necessarily register that it was her, Valerie Carter, sublimely lifting it off the ground ( and she totally does, listen above), they were just, you know, playing the Christopher Cross album, and basking in it’s west coast sunset glow ( by the way, it’s a pretty nice glow, and no one should be embarrassed for liking it, so go on then, bask).

It appears the last years of her life were challenging, as she battled substance abuse issues, got arrested twice as a result in 2009, and was ultimately sent to rehab. Yeah, it’s sad, but know what, she was an incredible singer, in possession of a truly transcendent, and soaring voice, and she should’ve been famous, and she died too young, and it’s not too late to discover, and give over to the loveliness she offered, because damn, she was just so great. Take a listen….

Blessings from the Beach Boys…

Here’s a geeky question for you. Ready ?.. because I’m telling you it’s really geeky… okay, so what would your “dream band” sound like ? The one that would encapsulate everything you love in the musical universe in every way ? Vocals, sound, songs, everything.

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I love hearing people’s answers to this because they are usually weird, awesome, and distressing all at the same time. I’ve sadly spent many waking hours pondering this question, out loud even, and came to the realization that my mythical band would sound something like Chaka Khan, or Gladys Knight fronting the Beach Boys circa 1966-1973. It shouldn’t surprise that I’m still waiting for this unicorn to arrive.  Okay, I had a false alarm a few years back when Laura Mvula first came onto the scene. She had the voice, and there were some Brian Wilson-esque flourishes production-wise on her debut LP, and my childish hopes were raised for a second…but no, as sweet as it was in parts, it just wasn’t it. And so, in the interim, I’ve  had to make do with other stuff . Maybe “make do” is a bad way to put it, as there are some beautiful, singular songs that have surfaced over the years, that have been touched by that Wilson genius ( not just Brian’s, but Dennis’s too), proudly wear their hearts on their sleeves, and are completely wonderful, and cool, and worth getting lost in.

Here’s a playlist called, “Beach Boy-esque”, and I ask that you forgive me on that title. It’s been in my I-Tunes with that name for ages, because basically, that’s what every song in it is. It’s full of tracks that have that influence, that feel, that signature Wilson thing, and sound great on headphones, long drives, or during crying sessions ( basically all the normal activities Beach Boys music is utilized for in life). There are some truly beautiful things out there, so have a listen, and hey, if anyone out there has any recommendations, I wanna know a.s.a.p. !

Click on the link below for the playlist :

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/esperanza19/playlist/7hEM7PBtO5nb6Vs0DCURy6

p.s. I wanted to include songs from Lewis Taylor’s “The Lost Album”, which is basically the sound of a one man British-Soul-Beach Boys, and is gorgeous. It isn’t on Spotify or YouTube as of this writing, but here’s a pic, and I highly recommend tracking it down: it’s amazing.

lewis taylor lost cover

p.s.s. One more ! Check this out by John Davis, formerly of Superdrag. Oh man…