Archive for August, 2008

25
Aug
08

Everyday is Like Sunday, Except for Blue Monday and Ruby Tuesday, and…Well, Friday I’m in Love: Weekly Mix #31

It’s often difficult to tell how an artist will be without the band he/she started with. Fans get very attached to bands as a whole, and whether the band actually breaks up or the members decide to do side projects, they’re always comparing the solo projects with the original band line-up. Some, like Morrissey and Bjork, go on to have very successful careers on their own while others like Brett Anderson and Bernard Butler never regain the same magic they had together when on their own (they couldn’t even recapture that magic when back together as The Tears). Others continue with the same smaller, cultish fanbase they had in the firstplace. And still others, manage to form new bands and collaborations that either flourish or flop. The big question is: where is Crispin Hunt? Last I heard, he’s forming bands and projects only never to release anything (except for the oddly-titled project Mayonnaise four years ago). Don’t get me wrong, I really like Richard Hawley, but surely more potential could come out of the long defunct Longpigs.

Because I’m a bit short on time this week, I’ve included a bunch of artists that went solo after being in bands I quite love. Not comprehensive, but I can always make a second mix in the future. I’m going to call this mix One Wo/Man Show.

And if it seems like I’m even more lazy with this blog than usual this week, it’s because I’m headed off to Edmonton to present a paper at an academic conference and won’t be back til the beginning of next week. I’ll try to come up with some extra stuff when I get back.

22
Aug
08

The Girl Who Wanted to Be God: Gender and Music

Gender has been a fascinating concept for me, especially ever since I started university eight years ago. I’ve only taken two courses that actually dealt with gender directly (one on the Rhetoric of Gender and the other on Sexual Disguise in the 18th century), but they were enough, along with my general interest in androgyny, to give me a good sense of gender as a social construct. Even within the context of gender classes, where people should be most open to gender variation and ideas, I felt like a bit of a square peg because I’m not some militant feminist. To be particularly ornery, I would always twist my essay topics into ones that either dealt with androgyny or masculinity as a concept – the rest of the class likely had the feminist issues covered anyway. Admittedly, feminism is/was important, especially considering the track history of the world, but I figure that gender equality should work both ways when gender performance theory is concerned. Men are performing just as much as women are. And I generally don’t care for stereotyping and those who feel they must adhere to gender stereotypes. Then again, maybe this is because I don’t often fit into one very neatly.

One particularly irritating stereotype is the one that implies females cannot be involved in music the same way males can, whether it be as an artist or a critic or a fan. Sure, females can be artists, but they’ll always run up against some sort of crazy catch-22 where if they’re too masculine, they’re betraying their femininity, but if they’re too feminine, they’re just playing into female stereotypes. Just read Simon Reynolds and Joy Press’s book The Sex Revolts to experience this frustration (I disagreed with several points in the book’s argument, especially the chapter that dealt with The Clash and the Manic Street Preachers, which argued that both bands were so homosocial and “gang-like” that they deliberately excluded women from their worlds – anyone who actually knows anything about both bands couldn’t possibly criticize them for this borderline misogynist attitude). Additionally, sure, there have been female music journalists/critics, just not nearly as many as male ones, nor as many famous ones – I know that I haven’t ever been aware of being a fan of a female music journalist or critic. And as far as music fans go, most music magazines are clearly aimed at a male market as males are assumed to be the most fanatical and obsessive when it comes to loving music. Females are often portrayed as being less critical in their music choices and as lovers of popular music rather than alternative styles, that they are more suited for fawning, groupie-like behaviour than that of intelligent connoisseurs. It’s all ludicrous from my point of view, but then again, just by scanning through the MP3 blogs out there and The Hype Machine demographics, I would have to admit that the vast majority are written and consumed by males.

In the research I’ve done on blogs and general blogging behaviour, it seems more females blog than males, but that they are more likely to favour the diary style as opposed to the filter style, which is arguably more objective and usually about topics and issues outside of the blogger’s personal life (ie: politics, technology, etc.). When doing my own primary research about MP3 blogs, I noticed a plethora of styles that couldn’t be concretely linked to the bloggers’ genders. In many cases, bloggers, including myself, use pseudonyms that don’t readily reveal the bloggers’ genders. To be honest, I hadn’t really thought too much about whose blogs I was reading in relation to their gender identity – selection of music and writing style most often draw me to particular MP3 blogs more than anything else, which I assume is the case for most other MP3 blog readers. At least I hope so.

Interestingly enough, I received a comment awhile back on a post I wrote about not wanting to grow up; it stated that the feelings I was expressing were a “boy thing.” I’ve also been called a “dude” or “guy” in other places by other bloggers and once or twice in comments on my YouTube videos. I find this rather fascinating from a rhetorical standpoint – it means that something in my style or rhetorical presence connotes masculinity. At this point, I don’t quite know what it is since I analyze enough rhetoric without bothering with my own (I’d rather not be too conscious of the how in case it affects and influences my future writing). Admittedly, ever since I was younger I read books mostly by male authors, but did that really shape me and my future writing style, or was there something in my nature that drew me to them first? And why can I only share my musical fanaticism with males (most of the females I know get glassy eyes after I ramble on too long about music)? Is any of this related to each other? I hadn’t until recently realized how out of place I seemed in my attitude towards music (and several other things, mind), but gender performance and societal expectations seem to explain this issue.

Though the song, The Girl Who Wanted to Be God, was definitely not one of the Manic Street Preachers’ finest moments, it still holds some of Richey Edwards’ most cryptic lyrics as far as I’m concerned (okay, Revol is also a bit of a mystery). Having a history of writing songs that either criticized or bemoaned masculinity, Richey, and to a somewhat lesser extent Nicky Wire, seemingly wrote from a position of gender identity crisis. However, this song’s meaning, no matter how much I use my university-educated guesswork about metaphor and imagery, still eludes me.

There are no sunsets just silence
You could see that she was true and faithless
But see through the future and forget all the lies
Black out the words for the blind have eyes
I am the girl who wanted to be God
There are times when you feel hopeless
Just for once for no-one else we are blameless
The dawn is still breaking its heaven is so high
She told the truth, told the truth and then she lied
Hold me she said love me to death

These lyrics switch between third and first person positions, seemingly making its narrator both objective and subjective. Is the girl the narrator? Is the girl actually a male narrator? How much of Richey can be read into these words? Like with most literature, no one will ever concretely know the answer; everything is speculation. While Richey often appeared to identify himself with females, whether through songs about prostitution or anorexia, it all seems to amount to his feeling trapped into gender performance expectations, and perhaps that’s part of what made me identify with and love the Manics so much. As well-known as the Manics are for their comments and lyrics on politics, they are just as prolific in gender politics. Though the Manics did glam it up (and the Wire still does to an extent) in their beginning, emphasizing the artificiality of gender roles just as glam and camp acts always have, I think they had some of that more internal androgyny that Morrissey was so adept at expressing. My thinking is that androgyny of this sort would be a lot more helpful in creating a whole human than favouring one side of the gender spectrum in some global game of make-believe.

What came first, the gender stereotype or the behaviour? I suppose that’s more of a question of nature versus nurture, which, with only an introductory course in Psychology under my belt, is an issue I’m not prepared to debate right now. In my perfect world, none of this would matter at all anyway. Gender is just one of the many ways of identifying who one is. I would much rather classify people by the music they love than whether they are female or male, girlie or boyish. In the words of Depeche Mode, people are people. And music is bigger than that.

Gender Bombs – The Stills

The Girl Who Wanted to Be God – Manic Street Preachers

20
Aug
08

Rekindling My Words: Kingfishers Catch Fire

I’m in one of those exhausted, used-up moods. With a bit of writer’s block thrown in for grim measure. Blogs are a lot more work than I anticipated – I truly admire those who manage to blog everyday and yet have something substantial and interesting to say. I’m having one of those weeks where I just want to curl up with old music because all the newer stuff isn’t inspiring me at all. I’m also still in the middle of cutting my 100-page thesis down into a 12-page paper to present at a conference next week. So I’m caught between a writer’s block and a difficult headspace.

Despite my frantic scrabbling through some of the promotional emails I received in the past couple weeks to see if I could find something to write about, I came up empty-handed. However, through the serendipity of MySpace, I did manage to find a band that cleansed my brain of some of its cobwebs with its romantic, pastoral music. London duo, Kingfishers Catch Fire, which features William Robertson and Lucinda Godwin (not to be confused with the Australian band of the same name) is named for a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins, and captures my imagination in the way any sort of decadent/romantic literature does. While their music may just be for the sake of a creative outlet without any intention of selling it to anyone (it’s too early to tell and there’s something distinctly personal about it – as though you’ve stumbled across some poet’s secret hideaway), I would definitely purchase it if it were ever for sale.

As stated in their MySpace profile, the songs are personal, presented with the fragility of a candied violet. Lily on the Grass begins with an acoustic guitar and a strain of violin that capture the simultaneous exhilaration and temporality of a beautiful moment: “But I can’t help but sing/Foreboding notwithstanding/Lily on the grass, I’m delighted.” It is the ephemeral nature of these sublime moments that makes them so perfect in the first place, and this song gently breathes that sentiment like sun-warmed grass. Thérèse has a darker undercurrent to it as the vocal swings between bittersweet melancholy and howling passion and electric guitars buzz in the background. Namechecking Rudolf Arnheim, the German art theorist/perceptual psychologist, Between Light and Dark sounds like a ramble over a forest floor blanketed with leaves in dappled autumn sunlight while the song actually entitled Autumn is delicate as lacework and fills my nostrils with the smoky, crisp scent of fall. The poetry of the lyrics in Autumn transports you back to a time when poetry was unabashed and ornamental and when language was wielded skillfully: “Boy wonder, torn asunder;/Blind mirror of a mercurial Nature./Sunrise ‘phemeral world alive in amber/With a redwing in flight from the shade of a bower.” Kingfishers Catch Fire’s music makes me feel a Victorian picnic by a bubbling brook. A decadent garden party at a manor house. A place where Bright Young Things can congregate in the last hedonistic summer of their youth, where simply looking divine gives you immortality. Somewhere where people love and feel too deeply to survive very long.

It’s nice to know that when I’m at a loss for words, music can gently coax them back.

Kingfishers Catch Fire’s MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/williamofellington

17
Aug
08

Everyday is Like Sunday, Except for Blue Monday and Ruby Tuesday, and…Well, Friday I’m in Love: Weekly Mix #30

I’ve stated before in this blog how I’m not really into gooey romance and grand gestures (see my Valentine’s Day post); I honestly find them quite mortifying. I’m also certain that I’ve never been in love, and most of the passing infatuations I’ve had in life have been with people I would never actually meet. Dysfunctional perhaps. Maybe a bit autistic. However, after finally watching Before Sunset, which was the sequel to one of my favourite films Before Sunrise, I realized that love and romance could be done in art in a truly effective and affective way. I fell in love with the characters and their relationship (which was shot nearly in real time in the first film and then all in real time in the sequel) as much as the characters themselves fell in love. The bulk of both films is natural dialogue in which the characters reveal themselves to each other in idiosyncratic speech and hypocritical logic, but what really gets me is the sense of reality and honesty they both have about love and romance and their own flaws, trying to convince themselves that they would likely fall out of love if they spent more than that one day together. Before Sunrise has an open ending that leaves the audience wondering and imagining if the two characters ever fulfill their rash promise to meet up again in Vienna in six months. I was so moved by the first film that I held off on seeing the sequel for fear it would kill the beauty and potential of the first. Now that I’ve seen the sequel and have been confronted with yet another open ending, I still have that great bittersweet sense that the first film left me with. Like Ethan Hawke’s character says in Before Sunset, if you believe the lovers get together, you’re a romantic, and if you believe they don’t, then you’re a cynic. Simple as that. Brilliant filmmaking.

This realistic, but no less romantic, love story on film prompted me to see if I could find enough songs that expressed love for this weekly mix – I wanted to find songs that didn’t do love in a hackneyed way, nor lust in a crass way. Love and lust and all other forms of attraction or relationships have been done to death in music. In fact, most pop tunes are love songs of some sort. I reckon love and lust and the fact they don’t always accompany each other are a considerable part of human experience, and this is why these themes appear in every artform. It’s the classic case of the dissonance between what people want and need, between dream and reality. And perhaps the need to make something more mythical about attraction and elevate the human experience also contributes to the plethora of expressions about love – hyperbole and all.
I tried to craft a mix that would reflect the multiple permutations and facets of this experience: the bumbling stupidity that love can plunge the most intelligent people into (Billy Bragg’s The Saturday Boy, Elvis Costello’s Alison); the all-consuming desire that can mingle with pain and drive one to darker extremes (Interpol’s No I in Threesome, Placebo’s Protege Moi, Sneaker Pimps’ M’aidez); the confusion between friends and lovers and the uncertainty over what constitutes love and its consequences (Bernard Butler’s Friends & Lovers, Club 8’s Baby, I’m Not Sure If This is Love); the longing and regret when one errs and loses love (The Cure’s Pictures of You, David Bowie’s Letter to Hermione, Jeff Buckley’s Lover, You Should Have Come Over); and the excitement, recklessness and novelty of an emotional connection (Lloyd Cole and the Commotions’ Forest Fire, Orange Juice’s L.O.V.E.). Love is more complex than I Wanna Hold Your Hand and Be My Baby. I tried for honesty and originality without completely giving over to cynicism. Maybe I’m a romantic after all. I’m going to call this one My Kingdom For a Kiss on the Shoulder.

I Would Die 4 U – Prince

Protege Moi – Placebo

No I in Threesome – Interpol

M’aidez (Acoustic Version) – Sneaker Pimps

Pictures of You – The Cure

Forest Fire – Lloyd Cole and the Commotions

L.O.V.E. – Orange Juice

Friends & Lovers – Bernard Butler

The Saturday Boy – Billy Bragg

Letter to Hermione – David Bowie

Alison – Elvis Costello

Fistful of Love (featuring Lou Reed) – Antony & the Johnsons

Foolish Love – Rufus Wainwright

Lover, You Should Have Come Over – Jeff Buckley

The Man With the Child in His Eyes – Kate Bush

Baby, I’m Not Sure This is Love – Club 8

Heart – Stars

Beyond Love – The The

You’re the Conversation (I’m the Game)- Chris Corner and Sue Denim

14
Aug
08

iTunes & I

It hit me a short while ago that I’m not the same type of music consumer I was a couple of years ago. I used to listen to music by either popping a CD into my stereo or by placing a record onto my turntable. Now I more than likely turn my computer on, and often whilst doing something else, or several other things, I listen to my iTunes library. It’s become so second nature to me now that I hadn’t even realized how much dust my stereo was collecting. And there’s something profoundly sad about all this for me. Am I losing the pleasure of actually listening to music as opposed to hearing it?
I suppose my dependence on iTunes came about when I moved to Ontario for grad school last year and decided to forgo bringing a stereo and my hundreds of CDs with me (it was both impractical and risky – I treat my CDs and records like babies). In my tiny bedroom in a rather decrepit living situation, I turned up my computer’s volume as high as it would go and used music as my usual remedy for the dismal world around me. On one notable occasion, I blasted The Clash’s Sandinista from my bedroom in the morning so that my roommates wouldn’t have the luxury of a lie in after keeping me up all night with their running about and laughing. No, computer speakers are no match for a proper stereo, and no, MP3 files are not up to the standard of proper recordings. But despite these drawbacks, I still enjoyed my music collection, which continued to expand unchecked by my limited finances (there was a fairly decent used CD shop a twenty-minute walk from my apartment). Rather than dropping my new purchases into a stereo, I ripped them to my increasingly gargantuan iTunes library and they joined my regular line-up (whatever that can entail when your line-up consists of over 5000 songs). Occasionally, I tried to have my first listen of full albums through my headphones on a Discman, so obviously I subconsciously believed there to be a difference between listening via iTunes and listening to the disc itself, independent of any other music or distractions.
I can’t say that iTunes has made my desire for tangible music wane at all, mind. As I stated earlier, I still buy as many CDs as I used to, and if I had a proper job and more money, I would be buying a lot of vinyl, too. I’ve probably said it before, but I love looking at music as a package that includes liner notes with images and/or lyrics, and I also like to think that albums should be whole works of art, not piecemeal digital files. And one of my main criticisms of certain bands is the lack of a coherent vision in creating a record, producing a few hit singles and filler. Having said that, iTunes has made listening to disparate music as interesting as consuming an album in its entirety – the shuffle function, whether on my iPod or my iTunes, can place seemingly unrelated songs together in a serendipitous fashion that makes me hear and understand these songs in a whole new way. Then again, it can also frustrate me when I’m in a particular mood for certain songs and others come up instead. I do love The Mighty Boosh’s Cockney Nutjob, but it can be jarring in the midst of Joy Division and The Clash. I suppose that the shuffle function works as my own personal commercial-free radio station, where I can constantly be surprised by songs I hadn’t listened to in awhile or songs I haven’t had a chance to listen to much before. But this process of consuming music is obviously a very different experience from carefully selecting an album or a mix I had crafted earlier and listening to it from beginning to end with complete concentration. However, have I always listened intently to music, or have I used it as a soundtrack to other activities more than I like to think?
Music, for at least as early as my early teens, has been a constant in the background – I could never do homework in complete silence. I still remember working on quadratic functions or organic chemistry problems whilst singing along to Savage Garden (an embarrassing admission, but I feel as though I must confess this aspect of my early teens – my taste was nowhere near as discriminating as it became later in life, and as disturbing as it is to remember, I was told a couple of times that I sounded quite like Darren Hayes at the time…I guess Bowie’s voice was too low for a fourteen-year-old girl to emulate). I think I found abstract problem-solving easier to do as I multi-tasked with singing, whereas subjects that required a coherent argument, like English or History, forced me to relegate music to the background. Until a truly singable song came on and I stopped for a moment. It’s like my brain works best when it’s firing on all possible synapses, including the ones that appreciate music. Music still stimulates and inspires me as I think and write, making me come to fascinating conclusions that I don’t remember coming to later. So then, has my consumption behaviour really changed as much as I think it has?
(Takes a break to sing along with The Boy With The Thorn in His Side)
iTunes and MP3s have facilitated many of the activities related to listening to music, including the creation of mixes and playlists, the search for particular artists, albums or songs, and the ability to skip over tracks. Maybe I feel guilty over this ease and immediacy – I feel that I should be able to search my own brain for an appropriate song rather than type in a keyword or that I should be handling actual discs rather than easily flitting from track to track along with my fickle moods. My discs and records are like people to me (when I buy them from used CD shops, I feel like I’m rescuing neglected orphans and healing them by replacing cracked case covers), and when I don’t take them out to listen on my stereo, I feel like I’m not giving them the attention and commitment they deserve. Also, in order to keep my computer from exploding, I don’t store every song I have on it, which does mean I might miss out on some of the music I didn’t choose to add to my digital library for who knows what reason. I then wonder, though, if perhaps my attention has become more fragmented over time because I just simply have too much music to listen to than I did when my musical scope was much more limited. Exacerbating this situation is that fact that MP3s are easy to amass and transport, which makes my collection spiral out of control. My music is becoming a landslide let alone my life. This issue worries me, though, because I know that some songs take time to grow on me, and if I don’t make that extra time, I might miss out on something magical.

(Stops for some air guitar to The Skids’ Charade)

I guess I miss that feeling of taking time to appreciate music the same way I would a good book or film. Why does the visual consume us while we have to make an effort to be completely immersed by the aural? I blame the Enlightenment. My best friend and I used to spend hours playing albums to each other and trading music via cassette tape, and later, via CD. Now that she no longer lives in the same country, we’ve done a bit of trading both online and through the post, but it doesn’t have that same great feeling of sharing an experience. Whether it be rapt admiration or fits of laughter or actual discussion about why certain songs are good. Even when they might turn out to be not so good later in life. Part of my motive for this blog probably has its roots in the need to share music in some communal way and to take the time to listen once again. To listen closely.

(Drums and sings along to The Sound of Arrows’ Danger!)

I realize this post has been convoluted with pretzel-like logic. I still think that iTunes and MP3s have changed the way I consume music, but I can’t quite articulate the real difference between my earlier self and my present self. Maybe it’s more about how I’ve always had two ways of consuming music, and that iTunes has served to make me more aware of that fact. But I don’t want to slip so completely into my iTunes library never to recall alternate ways of how to love music. I should really take my vinyl copy of The Queen is Dead out and listen to it while lying on the floor like I used to a few years back. Maybe everything would make sense again.

From Blown Speakers – The New Pornographers

Turn It Up – Robots in Disguise

12
Aug
08

Racing the Stars to Supernova: TNT Jackson’s Across the Towers

Despite the fact the Austrian electro-trio TNT Jackson released their sophomore album Across the Towers nearly a year ago, I have only just discovered them (via their excellent single “You and My Pearldiver,” which features vocals from Chris Corner and references Gary Numan’s Are All Friends Electric – buy it from iTunes) and would like to write a bit about them. Named after a Blaxploitation film, TNT Jackson includes Dr. T, Mr. N, and Danny T (TNT, you see), and was apparently founded during a near fatal plane crash in Estonia. And as you can tell, TNT Jackson is also one of those bands with a carefully cultivated crypticism to their identity. Fair enough, the music tells a story that’s more important than the truth.

The instrumental opener, Lamarr, beginning with chiming keyboards, is a breathtaking array of synths and drums that builds from the inner silence of a spaceship to all-out astral sonic warfare. The wittily-titled Leaving Out Vowels is So 2000 begins in a wonky, cosmic fashion, making use of all those fun reverb effects I used to play with on my Casio keyboard as a child. It sounds like an interstellar disco interspersed by old film strips of space documentaries or old series of Doctor Who. Queen of Hearts is funky electro with a retro vibe similar to that of Chromeo, and Cool Mister has a tense, dramatic groove to it that feels like a spy theme for the 25th century. I Dreamed of Chaka Khan could have been a Tiga song with its fey vocals and pumping, but smooth background. Hearkening back to the 80’s, All Black is freeze-dried synthpop that melts in your mouth. Title track, Across the Towers, is driven by tight rhythms that sound like laser pistons in some rave at a NASA warehouse. Ivan’s Got the Answer tells the story about some enigmatic character who could be a “joker or a thief” with a rather detached, robotic voice and refracts the music into more angularity like the speed of light bounced through a prismatic disco ball.

Pushit, which features Eddie Argos of Art Brut, is one of my favourites on the record with Argos’ deadpan voice stretched taut over top of the whizzbangs of electro beats. The lyrics take us back to 1983 as Argos relates a story littered with satirical detail about cassette tapes in the car and women who wear sunglasses at night. Album closer Ours is Forever returns to some of those spacier effects that were used in Leaving Out Vowels, but slows down into a laidback electro-ballad like a cosmonaut serenading his lover over the rocket’s communication system. It’s both dreamy and ominous and just tapers off like a burnt-out star.

As a whole, the album is like an intense explosion in space contained by the vacuum around it – chaotic, but precise. There’s always an undercurrent of energy threatening to blow the whole project satellite-high, but it remains harnessed to produce an intensely glowing core of atomic hedonism. TNT Jackson is the soundtrack to decadent urban youth racing the stars to supernova.

TNT Jackson’s MySpace: www.myspace.com/tntjcksn

10
Aug
08

Everyday is Like Sunday, Except for Blue Monday and Ruby Tuesday, and…Well, Friday I’m in Love: Weekly Mix #29

This week is about a genre of music that can be viewed as both innovative and cheesy, both perennial and disposable, both recognizable and ubiquitous. It’s like heavy metal for arty people. And it gets me every time. Synthpop.

With its earliest origins in experimental electronic music by Germans, namely Karlheinz Stockhausen and Kraftwerk, and then embraced by seemingly hundreds of British artists in the ’80’s, synthpop is largely associated with the New Romantics and a particularly flashy pose that often overshadowed content. And of course the synthesizer (and its attendant drum machines) was the fantastic new toy with which these bands played, creating bubbly, fizzy pop; pumping, high-energy dance music; moody, angsty love songs; and atmospheric, more serious pieces obviously influenced by Bowie and Eno. Along with this scene went thousands of remixes and extended dance mixes, some of which appear in this compilation.

Synthpop and the New Romantics took the glam pose and attitude from the 70’s and transposed it into the futuristic, and often clinical, element of electronic music. With its excesses, seemingly trying every effect in the synthesizer manual and trying every film trick possible in their music videos, synthpop bands often characterized the greedy superficial ’80’s as a whole; however, this apparently excessive fancy dress party still managed to create decent, memorable songs, and yes, they were unabashedly popular, hence the “pop” in synthpop. Oddly enough, as throwaway as many of the lyrics are and as lightweight as many of the songs are, when my sister was a teenager in the ’80’s, many kids associated synthpop with the intellectual kids – perhaps there was always a sense of play and irony about the synthpop detachment or the fact they made an art out of performance. The British synthpop bands seem to have such an effect on the genre that nearly all synthpop acts, whether they’re British or not, sing in that rather overwrought, posh accent, which I know very well that I’m a sucker for.

I’ve personally always been drawn to synthpop at least as far back as that Choose 80’s cassette I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. Although I have a feeling I heard the likes of Tears for Fears and Duran Duran when I was much younger and instinctively enjoyed it as a child. My predilection for men in eyeliner and floppy blouses, moving like robots over multiple keyboards started rather early and never left me. Those shimmery synthy sounds still make me unaccountably joyful – maybe I was an androgynous robot in a former life. Just as synthpop continues to influence newer bands and morphs into electropop, electroclash, EBM, et cetera, this mix reflects both the older and newer versions of the genre, placing Japan and Pet Shop Boys alongside Ladytron and Don Juan Dracula. Although, admittedly, most of it is still 80’s because I’m such a retro nerd. I also attempted to throw in some lesser known bands like Furniture and Screaming for Emily. And before someone mentions it, I’ll acknowledge that the opening track for this mix is by Ricky Gervais’s short-lived band, Seona Dancing – and as wrong as it may be, I like the song quite a bit. The Office…pfft. Seona Dancing should have gone on to conquer more than just the Philippines. This mix is called Spin Me Right Round With Tears in My Eyes.

More To Lose (12″ Extended Mix) – Seona Dancing

If You Leave (12″ Spiral Mix) – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

The Sun Always Shines on TV – a-ha

We Run – Strange Advance

Just Can’t Get Enough – Depeche Mode

Take Me Home – Don Juan Dracula

It’s a Sin (Disco Mix) – Pet Shop Boys

A Little Respect (Extended Mix) – Erasure

Tangiers – The Screaming Trees

Big Blue World – Paul Haig

No Stars – Figures on a Beach

Pale Shelter – Tears for Fears

Deep Blue – Ladytron

The Color of Love – Beborn Beton

Face to Face – Heart to Heart – Twins

Brilliant Mind – Furniture

Fade to Grey – Visage

Newsreel – Fad Gadget

Last Goodbye – Screaming for Emily

The Chauffeur – Duran Duran

Ghosts – Japan

NOTE: At the request of Brad (and perhaps others), here is the zip file of the whole mix. If others want this feature reinstated for my weekly mixes, please let me know.



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Gigs Attended

Arcade Fire w/ Bell Orchestre + Wolf Parade (2005)

Arctic Monkeys w/ Reverend and the Makers (2007)

Austra w/ Young Galaxy + Tasseomancy (2011)

Big Audio Dynamite (2011)

Billy Bragg w/ Ron Hawkins (2009)

Billy Idol w/ Bif Naked (2005)

Bloc Party w/ Hot Hot Heat (2009)

Buzzcocks w/ The Dollyrots (2010)

Damo Suzuki (2012)

David Bowie w/ The Polyphonic Spree (2004)

Diamond Rings w/ PS I Love You + The Cannon Bros. (2011)

Diamond Rings w/ Gold & Youth (2012)

Dragonette w/ Ruby Jean & the Thoughtful Bees (2009)

Frank Turner w/ The Cavaliers (2010)

Frank Turner w/ Into It Over It + Andrew Jackson Jihad (2011)

Franz Ferdinand w/ Think About Life (2009)

Gang of Four w/ Hollerado (2011)

Good Shoes w/ The Moths + The Envelopes (2007)

Hot Hot Heat w/ The Futureheads + Louis XIV (2005)

IAMX w/ closethuman (2007)

IAMX w/ Coma Soft + The Hourly Radio (2007)

Interpol (2007)

Janelle Monae w/ Roman GianArthur (2012)

Joel Plaskett Emergency w/ Frank Turner (2012)

Jonathan Richman (2011)

Keane w/ Lights (2009)

Lou Reed w/ Buke and Gass (2011)

Manic Street Preachers w/ Fear of Music (2007)

Manic Street Preachers w/ Bear Hands (2009)

Manic Street Preachers at Wanaja Festival (2011)

Mother Mother w/ Old Folks Home (2009)

Mother Mother w/ Whale Tooth (2011)

Mother Mother w/ Hannah Georgas (2012)

MSTRKRFT w/ Felix Cartal (2008)

Muse (2004)

Nine Inch Nails w/ Death From Above 1979 + Queens of the Stone Age (2005)

of Montreal w/ Janelle Monae (2010)

Owen Pallett w/ Little Scream (2010)

Patrick Wolf w/ Bishi (2007)

Prince (2011)

Pulp w/ Grace Jones, TV on the Radio, The Hives, The Horrors, Metronomy, Devotcka, Vintage Trouble (2011)

Rufus Wainwright w/ Teddy Thompson (2010)

Snow Patrol w/ Embrace (2005)

Snow Patrol w/ OK Go + Silversun Pickups (2007)

Sons and Daughters w/ Bodies of Water (2008)

Stars w/ Thurston Revival (2006)

Stars w/ The Details (2008)

Stars (2010)

Steven Severin (2010)

Stroszek (2007)

The Antlers w/ Haunter (2012)

The Flaming Lips w/ Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti (2010)

The Jesus and Mary Chain w/ Nightbox (2012)

The Killers w/ Ambulance Ltd (2004)

The New Pornographers w/ Novillero (2008)

The New Pornographers w/ The Mountain Goats (2010)

The Ordinary Boys w/ Young Soul Rebels (2006)

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart w/ Suun (2011)

The Rakes w/ The Young Knives (2006)

The Raveonettes w/ Black Acid (2008)

The Stills w/ Gentleman Reg (2009)

The Subways w/ The Mad Young Darlings (2006)

Tokyo Police Club w/ Smoosh + Attack in Black (2008)

TV on the Radio w/ The Dirty Projectors (2009)

Yann Tiersen w/ Breathe Owl Breathe (2011)

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The only certain thing that is left about me

There is no part of my body that has not been used

Pity or pain, to show displeasure's shame

Everyone I've loved or hated always seems to leave

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So I turned myself to face me

But I've never caught a glimpse

Of how the others must see the faker

I'm much too fast to take that test

The Smiths Queen is Dead

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're happy

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Oh, Keats and Yeats are on your side

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're wanted

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Keats and Yeats are on your side

But you lose 'cause weird lover Wilde is on mine

The Clash London Calling

When they kick at your front door

How you gonna come?

With your hands on your head

Or on the trigger of your gun

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Charles Windsor, who's at the door

At such an hour, who's at the door

In the back of an old green Cortina

You're on your way to the guillotine

Here the rabble comes

The kind you hoped were dead

They've come to chop, to chop off your head

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Then you came with your breezeblocks

Smashing up my face like a bus-stop

You think you're giving

But you're taking my life away

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Won't someone give me more fun?

(and the skin flies all around us)

We kiss in his room to a popular tune

Oh, real drowners

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Don't walk away

In silence

See the danger

Always danger

Endless talking

Life rebuilding

Don't walk away

Walk in silence

Don't turn away in silence

Your confusion

My illusion

Worn like a mask of self-hate

Confronts and then dies

Don't walk away

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You don't want to hurt me

But see how deep the bullet lies

Unaware I'm tearing you asunder

Oh there is thunder in our hearts

Is there so much hate for the ones we love

Tell me we both matter don't we

The Associates Affectionate

I don't know whether

To over or under estimate you

Whether to over or under estimate you

For when I come over

You then put me under

Personal taste is a matter of gender

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I wake at dusk to go alone without a light

To the unknown

I want this night inside of me

I want to feel

I want this speeding

I want that speeding

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You'll never live like common people

You'll never do what common people do

You'll never fail like common people

You'll never watch your life slide out of view

And dance and drink and screw

Because there's nothing else to do

Vanilla Swingers

All I have is words, words that don't obtain

And I feel I'm a stain on your horizon

So I stay away - it's easier that way

And there won't be no-one I need to rely on

Is it him, is it me

Or is there something only I can see

How did I get here, why do we blow around like straw dogs on the breeze

I'm a special one, what they used to say

But I've to stay on, finish levels-A

You don't need exams when you've read John Gray

The Indelicates American Demo

And nobody ever comes alive

And the journalists clamour round glamour like flies

And boys who should know better grin and get high

With fat men who once met the MC5

And no one discusses what they don't understand

And no one does anything to harm the brand

And this gift is an illusion, this isn't hard

Absolutely anyone can play the fucking guitar

JAMC Darklands

And we tried so hard

And we looked so good

And we lived our lives in black

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Plucked her eyebrows on the way

Shaved her leg and then he was a she

She says, hey babe,

Take a walk on the wild side

Said, hey honey, take a walk on the wild side

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Hide on the promenade

Etch a postcard:

How I dearly wish I was not here

In the seaside town...that they forgot to bomb

Come, come, come - nuclear bomb

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Back when we were kids

We would always know when to stop

And now all the good kids are messing up

Nobody has gained or accomplished anything

Wire Pink Flag

Prices have risen since the government fell

Casualties increase as the enemy shell

The climate's unhealthy, flies and rats thrive

And sooner or later the end will arrive

This is your correspondent, running out of tape

Gunfire's increasing, looting, burning, rape

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Well, maybe there's a god above

But all I've ever learned from love

Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you

It's not a cry that you hear at night

It's not somebody who's seen the light

It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah

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And what costume shall the poor girl wear

To all tomorrow's parties

For Thursday's child is Sunday's clown

For whom none will go mourning

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My body is your body

I won't tell anybody

If you want to use my body

Go for it

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Oh it's opening time

Down on Fascination Street

So let's cut the conversation

And get out for a bit

Because I feel it all fading and paling

And I'm begging

To drag you down with me

Mansun Six

And you see, I kind of shivered to conformity

Did you see the way I cowered to authority

You see, my life, it's a series of compromises anyway

It's a sham, and I'm conditioned to accept it all, you see

Japan Gentlemen

Take in the country air, you'll never win

Gentlemen take polaroids

They fall in love, they fall in love

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We just want to emote til we're dead

I know we suffer for fashion

Or whatever

We don't want these days to ever end

We just want to emasculate them forever

Forever, forever

Pretty sirens don't go flat

It's not supposed to happen like that

Longpigs The Sun

There's no perfume I can buy

Make me smell like myself

So I put on perfume

To make me smell like someone else

In bed

Calvin Harris I Created Disco

I got love for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's

I've got hugs for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's

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Does his makeup in his room

Douse himself with cheap perfume

Eyeholes in a paper bag

Greatest lay I ever had

Kind of guy who mates for life

Gotta help him find a wife

We're a couple, when our bodies double

Simple Minds Sons and Fascination

Summer rains are here

Savaged beauty life

Falling here from grace

Sister feeling call

Cruising land to land

No faith no creed no soul

Half a world away

Beauty sleeps in time

Sound and fury play

Bloc Party Silent Alarm

North to south

Empty

Running on

Bravado

As if to say, as if to say

He doesn't like chocolate

He's born a liar, he'll die a liar

Some things will never be different

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LCD Soundsystem

Well Daft Punk is playing at my house, my house

I've waited 7 years and 15 days

There's every kid for miles at my house, my house

And the neighbors can't...call the police

There's a fist fight brewin' at my house, my house

Because the jocks can't...get in the door

Johnny Boy

I just can't help believing

Though believing sees me cursed

Stars Set Yourself

I am trying to say

What I want to say

Without having to say "I love you"

Josef K Entomology

It took 10 years to realise why the angels start to cry

When you go home down the main

Your happy smile

Your funny name

Cocteau Twins Bluebell

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Doesn't she look a million with her hairagami set

Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Yes, she's a beautiful brunette angel from heaven with her hairagami set

Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Augment a beautiful brunette

New Order Power Corruption

How does it feel

To treat me like you do

When you've laid your hands upon me

And told me who you are

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You must let her go

She's not crying

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Baiting

Feeling like I'm waiting

Modern times

Valentines

Hating

Hating to distraction

Just leave them alone

Whipcrack

Girls in the back

Girls in the back

Puressence Don't Forget

They say come back to earth and start getting real, yeah

I say come back to earth and start getting real

I know I can't

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So I walk right up to you

And you walk all over me

And I ask you what you want

And you tell me what you need

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The problem of leisure

What to do for pleasure

Ideal love a new purchase

A market of the senses

Dream of the perfect life

Economic circumstances

The body is good business

Sell out, maintain the interest

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Sitting in my armchair thinking again and again and again

Going round in a circle I can't get out

Then I look around thinking day and night and day

Then you look around - there must be some explanation

And the tension builds

Psychdedelic Furs

India, India

You're my love song

India, you're my love song

In the flowers

You can have me in the flowers

We will dance alone

And live our useless lives

Ladytron Light Magic

They only want you when you're seventeen

When you're twenty-one

You're no fun

They take a polaroid and let you go

Say they'll let you know

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No consolation prizes

Spit out your lies and chewing gum

Cut off your hair yeah that's it!

If you look like that I swear I'm gonna love you more

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All the neighbors are startin' up a fire

Burning all the old folks, the witches and the liars.

My eyes are covered by the hands of my unborn kids

But my heart keeps watchin' through the skin of my eyelids

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Prince charming

Prince charming

Ridicule is nothing to be scared of

Don't you ever, don't you ever

Stop being dandy, showing me you're handsome