Archive for the 'electro' Category


Method in Madness: frYars’ Dark Young Hearts


I feel like I’ve been waiting forever for London-based artist, frYars (real name: Ben Garrett) to release a full proper album. His two EPs, The Ides and The Perfidy (the latter of which I reviewed here), were fantastically dark and odd, and so I waited patiently for the debut album, Dark Young Hearts, which just released a few weeks ago, and like Patrick Wolf’s latest, was financially supported through Bandstocks. Half of the tracks on the record are actually ones I’ve heard before whether as part of EPs, or in the case of Visitors, as a free download earlier this year. Despite this pre-emption, I still really appreciate frYars’ brand of melodramatic and wonky narratives, especially since his voice is a rich, heady mixture of red wine and rohypnol, pleasantly beguiling and dangerous. And often as mad as a bag of obtuse angles. Sure, frYars could be accused of overproduction on this album, giving some of his older material a studio gloss, but I don’t think his music is of the lo-fi sort in the first place; independent should never be equated with lo-fi. His songs have always been on the pop side of the fence (perhaps pop as warped in a baroque funhouse mirror, but pop nonetheless), and the beauty of frYars’ music is where he takes you via the seemingly accessible chamber-electropop. Identities and motives are fluid and sometimes amoral, but the lyrics are captivating, and definitely not something you would find in regular, mainstream pop music. There’s a revelling in the macabre and the strange, which reminds me of the attraction of stories like Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast, a place where the rules are nonsensical, but necessary.

The album opens with Jerusalem, a track that features a wobbly, singsong chorus about moving in circles and causing a desert storm. It very well might be about Middle Eastern conflict, but then again, lines like “I say no to hitchhikers, but all the same I’ll love my neighbour” points to a more abstract set of ambivalent moral codes or criticism of moral relativism. The next song, The Ides, is the one that initially got me into frYars; it is an incredibly catchy plinking piano tune full of bizarre betrayals and near murders, sounding like a possessed music box. In fact, perfidy, ambiguous good/evil dynamics, death and militarism permeate the whole album with an inky fog, a darkness that is occasionally broken with the blinding light of maniacal musings. The unsettling surreality continues with Lakehouse, in which heavy, bassy synths bolster a tale of a lakehouse “built by the mighty for the weary and the hungry.” Though frYars sings lightly about a “gold country sun,” it, along with the lakehouse, feel like an enticing mirage as the music sucks you into its icy depths of numb forgetfulness. With lyrics like “You can sleep here with your soft drinks,” it becomes a Hansel and Gretel story for the twenty-first century.

Earlier this year, the following track, Visitors, and its music video were revealed as was the fact that Dave Gahan was involved. It skips along like laser double dutch as frYars’ high, wispy falsetto crashes into the gloom of Gahan’s lower register during the chorus: “I’ve got a sickness/I think I need your help tonight.” Something sinister is still afoot, but never explicit as he sings, “for the price of a human heart/it’s not that bad.” With another nod to The Ides, Of March is a frantic piece with quick, swishing guitars and persistent piano. fryars’ vocals match the frenetic atmosphere with his warbly, vicious tones throughout the verses, and as he belts out the line “I will go down with this ship tonight,” he sounds vindicated in some skewed sense of honour and blood-mist. And the object of his song doesn’t fare much better as he asks him/her to remember him as he/she commits suicide. The album takes an acoustic, Latin turn with A Last Resort, a track that uses the gentler, croony side of his voice to sing a twisted love song. Lyrics like “When your vessel’s going nowhere, it’s time to forget the sea/when the mind is a mushroom, but the words come easily” make the song seem like a psychedelic breakdown. A couple of minutes into it, the overdubbed vocals form a chorus that sounds like a host of delirious cherubim, and in the end, it’s rather soothing.

Then former Perfidy EP track, Novelist’s Wife, slips in with another soft vocal performance that adds to the taunting madness of the song. As I’ve noted in a previous post, this song is about a wife that bakes her husband’s Hungarian mistress in a pie and feeds it to him. Narrating from the point of view of the wife, frYars sounds quite glib as he tells the husband to stay in his k-hole while the wife would rather stick to ethanol. Leaving the drug-addled world of the novelist behind, the sound of falling bombs, funhouse organ, and a grungy bassline signal the beginning of Ananas Trunk Railway. The lyrics’ gleeful expectation of death is eventually extinguished by what sounds like a control panel going bezerk in a shower of beeps and squeals.

There’s another return to the Perfidy EP with Olive Eyes, one of the most unlikely dance tracks ever composed. Its groovy synth line creates a New Wave hit out of a strange story of incest and murder. The mini-drama ostensibly ends with the green-eyed son stabbing his father/uncle with mirth. However, I dare you not to sing along with it. Reaching further back to The Ides EP, Happy features loads of distant rambling vocals, like the babbling of an overloaded mind, as the music neatly matches with an ambling, shambolic mess of drumbeats and banging keys. Some scrambled vocals that sound like burbling, insane Daleks complete the disorientation. Amidst the stream-of-consciousness verses, some of my favourite lyrics about societal moral expectations and arbitrary rules can be found:

We wage wars like Pascal waged wagers,
and its on Pascal’s wager we send sergeant majors to fight,
it would be nice if we took his triangle,
and we could find new angles more violent and wonderful,
I was thinking of saving the animals,
but first we save people (not animals),
just ’cause they’re almost as rare as love through marriage,
do you sometimes wish that your siblings were miscarried?

And people made evil,
we decide what it is and decide what it’s not,
if you do things illegal,
you can be pretty sure that it would be allowed somewhere else,
but we’re happy people,
so there’s nothing wrong with the state of things,
if it’s making you happy,
then there’s nothing wrong with the state you’re in.

Anyone who can combine the mathematical and philosophical work of Blaise Pascal with commentary on moral relativity in a pop song is truly impressive. More betrayal and older material with the next track, Benedict Arnold. The bubbling synths and crisp snare make a rather dreamy ballad of the traitor who was “bad when backs were turned.” The record concludes with the soulful Morning, which surges like stars poking through twilight. Pushing like a delicate lullaby, frYars sings, “This is all we have time for.” From time to time, the song turns into a wailing gospel tune as he groans, “Get mama help/A babe is born,” and all the gloom becomes a spiritual re-birth.

Dark Young Hearts is a potentially bewildering pop record, but the deeper you fall into it, the more it comes to follow its own set of rules, a point about caprcious ethics well-made. The music can be as unpredictable as the lyrics, but also weirdly satisfying in its genre-bending. fryars is one of those artists with a perverse sense of storytelling and the ability to create a shadowy, self-contained world with a cast of odd, but memorable characters so well-defined that they make sense. In a modern world of uncertainty and irrationality, frYars has crafted his own Gormenghast-like island, which is secure in its own methodical madness.

Of March – frYars

Happy – frYars


Everyday is Like Sunday, Except for Blue Monday and Ruby Tuesday, and…Well, Friday I’m in Love: Weekly Mix #72


It’s been a long week, and I think we all need a little dance. And I will try to forget that I can’t be anywhere else more fun for the weekend. Especially at Glastonbury. Watching Blur. After reading glowing reviews of their recent gigs here and here, I’m feeling those common pangs of jealousy that I don’t live on that side of the Atlantic. Not to mention the likes of Jarvis Cocker, Echo & the Bunnymen, Ladyhawke, Bat For Lashes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Calvin Harris, 2ManyDJs, Art Brut, British Sea Power, The Japanese Popstars, The Mummers, Filthy Dukes, Bishi, Bloc Party and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds are also performing chez Michael Eavis. I’m not even there to watch it on the live television broadcast this time. Oh well. At least I scored a pretty nice ticket for the Billy Bragg gig here in November.

This mix is called Let’s Dance the Blues.

Zero (MSTRKRFT Remx) – Yeah Yeah Yeahs

I’m So L.A. – Mynx

Dance to Our Disco – Punks Jump Up

Kiss ‘n Fly – Surkin

Vulture – Patrick Wolf

Where Have the Club Kids Gone – The Mystic Underground

The Things That Dreams Are Made Of (Kissy Sellout Mix) – The Human League

Bulletproof – La Roux

Taken Away (Frederick Carlsson Remix) – Digitalism

Audacity of Huge – Simian Mobile Disco

1901 (Fabian Remix) – Phoenix

Body Packer – Love-Fine

See the Light (Calvin Harris Remix) – The Hours

Neo-Violence (Shazam Remix) – The Tough Alliance

Smack My Bitch Up – The Prodigy

Chinball Wizard (Cadence Weapon Remix) – The Wet Secrets

Listen to the Hiss (Tiefschwarz Remix) – DJ Hell

Beep Beep Beep – Tiga

Hazel – Junior Boys

Fixin’ to Thrill (Don Diablo Remix) – Dragonette

Tiptoe – Goldfrapp

Weekly Mix #72 (Megaupload)


Bildungsroman For the Postmodern Paranoid: Del Marquis and Embryoroom’s Litter to Society


It’s been quite some time since the last Scissor Sisters album, and admittedly, they weren’t top of my mind for the past year or so. I was also completely unaware that their high-trousered lead guitarist, Del Marquis, was involved in several solo outings, including his latest collaboration with Embryoroom, a multimedia group headed by writer/director/producer Edward Quist and Michael Wargula. This album, called Litter to Society, will release digitally on May 26 via and comes on the heels of two recent projects in the same series entitled Hot House and Character Assassination, respectively. Interspersed with regular instrumental interludes and featuring “shadow” tracks, which are meant to represent an ulterior personality of the work, Litter to Society is a continuation of a larger narrative; this work, along with the preceding other two, come alongside a video element, which follows Marquis as the character, Viz, “who has been abducted by a mysterious force and taken into a world where he is seemingly ‘dissected’ emotionally and psychologically, therefore forced to confront his fears.” Marquis describes the theme for Litter to Society as “an account of depravity in modern life, told through songs about urban and social decay. Within each moment, there is hope, the ‘child inside’ and the possibility of redemption.” Treading a Blake-like dichotomy of innocence and experience, Marquis and Embryoroom take this romantic notion and give it a sci-fi, existential gloss.

In some ways this record is bright and shiny with the biggest, 80s-style production, flouncing about in bolshy excesses; then at other times, it is highly subdued and the brashness is tempered either into a subconscious humming or a glistening renewal. The record opens with the title track, which begins with a chorus of soulful female vocals. Rather than mere icy electro, this song is raw with funk and scratchy grooves, and its refrain of “child inside” acts like a dream-like wake-up call to the id, inciting debauched freedom rather than reflecting the innocence of childhood. Marquis’s vocals leap from seductive, low tones to higher, soul-inflected cadences (reminding me a bit of George Michael in places), revealing the struggle between gritty experience and wispy purity; however, this dialogue ends while the last minute features pared back instrumentation and old-style crooning. There is then a rather brief instrumental interlude called Backroom, which sounds like the rough hum of laser bars on an electronic cage, pulsing to a tribal rhythm and surreptitious approach. The suspense lifts to display the first “shadow” of the piece: Litter to Society Shadow, a darker re-imagining of the first track. This time, the track features liberal use of vocoder and the brass section is replaced by angular shades of synths and drum machines. There is a more mechanistic, industrial feel that recalls Depeche Mode, and rather than explosions of sonic colour, the new version, filled with distortion, moves like a re-animated automaton sparking with a network of cold, blue lightning. Freewheeling hedonism seems to be replaced with a pervasive economy of movement and rigid, clinical enjoyment.

Another instrumental interlude appears as AKL Shadow brings the high-gloss synth-funk back with bass and brass. Instead of the tension of Backroom, this track feels lighter and freer, and it reaches its climax in the following song, Any Kind of Love, a strutting, preening piece backed by a full, soulful chorus of female backing vocals. As horns wail and synths squeal, it feels like the room is awash in a mardi gras of flavours and influences, and all inhibitions are drowned out by the sheer size of the sound. The other, colder side of the album reappears with Bug and its use of cleaner, stuttery beats. A vocoder surges like a misfiring circuit beneath the clicking rhythm until the last quarter takes a melodic turn, sending light haloes of sound puffing into the air like laconic smoke rings. Entitled Backroom II, the next track does, indeed, act as a sequel for Backroom with its sonic slices and whistles sounding like the whetting of some neon blade or an ensuing duel in the dark. The brief, weaker reprise of “child inside” precedes the metallic battle sounds as though the bacchanalian party is becoming a distant dream. The rapidly dissolving reverie continues to the last minute of the song as a nearly monotone voice declares, “there is only time and space and the gap between them.” The album concludes with I Believe In You, a surprisingly vulnerable ballad of acoustic guitar and piano with a tender vocal performance from Marquis. The dirty female chorus is replaced by angelic voices as the narrator appears to re-discover himself and find the latent spring of self-worth. In its wide-eyed, earnest prettiness, its contrast with the slick excesses and the mechanical conflict of the earlier songs feels like the dispelling of a swarm of black butterflies.

While I no doubt enjoy the styles of music Litter to Society explores (this kind of soulful synthpop is right up my alley), what truly grabs me about it is how it is attached to a much larger concept, which has obviously been carefully crafted and encompasses multimedia elements. Using massive production and a brilliant mixture of the earthy and glacial, Marquis takes on some fascinating existential and moral quandaries while telling a bildungsroman for the postmodern paranoid. I’m now very curious to explore the earlier installments of this series and look forward to seeing how the fourth and final installment unfolds.

Litter To Society – Del Marquis and Embryoroom

Any Kind of Love – Del Marquis and Embryoroom


Paul Haig Day


Thanks to the efforts of JC from The Vinyl Villain and the cooperation from Paul Haig and his management, April 6 is Paul Haig Day in select parts of the blogosphere. There are over 20 of us across the world dedicating a post today to Paul Haig after the kerfuffle and hullabaloo over Blogger takedowns despite artist permission, Haig being one of the consenting, and publicity-deserving, artists, and JC being the one targetted by Blogger copyright Nazis. If you want a history of the man’s career, pop over to The Vinyl Villain, where JC lays it out quite nicely. Instead, I shall try to outline my experience of Paul Haig.

I’ve been a fan of Haig’s former post-punk band, Josef K, for quite some time, but I remained completely ignorant of Haig’s solo work until I read some of JC’s posts about it. The tracks I sampled there made me want to hear more, so I searched out Haig’s first three solo albums, Rhythm of Life, The Warp of Pure Fun, and Chain (due to some obsessive-compulsive impulse to start things in a linear fashion from the beginning). The first thing to realize is that this is no Josef K; aside from the distinctive quirk of Haig’s vocals, the sound has changed – the angularity of Josef K’s music is sanded down into funky, synthy grooves and glacial hooks. However, the same Haig wit and poetry continues to twinkle in these later songs.

Rhythm of Life screams to life with single Heaven Sent, a dancefloor filler with chunky beats and the unexpected premise of flying up to heaven, bourne by the rhythm. Vocals on this album snap at you like a taut rubber band against the punches of synth and horn. Rhythm of Life also features singles Blue For You, and my personal favourite of the album, Justice, a moody melody with a fabulous texture of synths. In an evolutionary jump from Rhythm of Life, The Warp of Pure Fun hit me with dreamier, effervescent waves beginning with Silent Motion, a haunting, heart-achingly beautiful track. The smoother, delicious pop mixed with the low, rich tones of Haig’s voice makes this sophmore effort a bright shiny development. This album also features the killer single Heaven Help You Now, an ecstatic anthem for relationship games and the ulimate surrender to them, and Bernard Sumner/Donald Johnson produced The Only Truth, which has traces of Blue Monday in its drum sequencing, but a looser, funky feel rather than a Teutonic precision. Haig’s third solo album, Chain, takes the progression further with more the addition of more jangly and/or driving guitars against a pumping, electronic engine. The only single to be released from this unfortunately ill-fated album was the lead track Something Good, an uplifting gem of a song that gives me the same happy chills as early New Order does. However, there are so many more tracks that deserve a listen, including the vulnerable True Blue, the whiplash-inducing Communication, and the hard-rocking, brighter-than-the-sun Chained, a song written by Haig’s friend, Billy Mackenzie, whose career also included The Associates and his own solo material.

In addition to these first three albums, I’ve had a listen to Coincidence vs. Fate, which released in 1993 and takes Haig’s sound into Chicago-house-inflected territory, proving Haig’s constant versatility and aptitude for experimentation. I’ve also really enjoyed Reason, a single released a couple of years ago, which JC had posted; it pulses with a NIN-worshipping-Bowie-era flavour and fuzzed out darkwave electro. In fact, I just ordered Electronik Audience, the album from whence it came. And I fully intend to keep listening to any future releases while delving back into the Paul Haig catalogue. Paul Haig is an artist to keep watching.

It’s fantastic to be a part of something like this and to feel a little less like one voice in the wilderness; it’s nice to break out of the solipsistic world of digital communication and actually flex some collective power. We are bloggers, here us roar.

Buy Paul Haig product here. And get some reissues here.

Justice – Paul Haig

Silent Motion – Paul Haig

Something Good (10″ Mix) – Paul Haig

Reason – Paul Haig


Everyday is Like Sunday, Except for Blue Monday and Ruby Tuesday, and…Well, Friday I’m in Love: Weekly Mix #58

I wanna dance with somebody. I’m dancing for my life. Everybody dance now. Everybody cut footloose.

This one’s called What a Feeling.

Testcard Girl – White Rose Movement

Bonne Nouvelle – Birdy Nam Nam

Teknoir – Kindle

The Melting Moon – VHS or Beta

25 Seconds (Gary Numan and Ade Fenton Remix) – Mandy Kane

This Rhythm – Filthy Dukes

State of Alert – Radio 4

The Magnificent Romeo – 2 Many DJs

Ares (Villains Remix) – Bloc Party

20th Century Boy (Hoshina Anniversary Remix) – T.Rex


Into the Galaxy – Midnight Juggernauts

I’m Not Alone – Calvin Harris

I Feel Love – Donna Summer

Boy (Extended Mix) – Book of Love

The DJ’s Got a Gun (IAMX Remix) – Robots in Disguise

Turn It On – Ladytron

I Want Nothing – The Black Ghosts

Phantom Pt 2 (Soulwax Remix) – Justice

Extraball – Yuksek


IAMX’s Kingdom of Welcome Addiction Release Date and Tour

I usually don’t do announcements for upcoming albums this far in advance, but I make exceptions for the ones I’m really excited about. In this case, it’s IAMX’s forthcoming third album, Kingdom of Welcome Addiction. It will be released worldwide on May 19, but if you pre-order directly from IAMX’s shop, it will be shipped to you on May 6. Judging from the first free download track, Think of England, and from what I’ve gleaned through live YouTube videos, the tracks off the new album are just as fantastic as those off the first two albums – once I get my copy of the album, there will be a review.

I’ll also include the tour dates that have been announced so far (of course none remotely close to me, but c’est la vie):

01/03 GAGARIN 205 / Athens, Greece
10/03 CONRAD SOHM / Dornbirn, Austria
11/03 WEEKENDER CLUB / Innsbruck, Austria
12/03 POSTHOF / Linz, Austria
13/03 GASOMETER / Vienna, Austria
14/03 KIFF / Aarau, Switzerland
16/03 MAGNOLIA CLUB / Milan, Italy
18/03 BARRUMBA / Torino, Italy
19/03 LE GRILLEN / Colmar, France
21/03 AB BRUSSELS / Brussels, Belgium SOLD OUT
27/03 BELZIK FESTIVAL / Battice, Belgium
10/04 YENI MELEK / Istanbul, Turkey
14/04 ACADEMY 3 / Manchester, UK
15/04 STEREO / Glasgow, UK
16/04 CORPORATION / Sheffield, UK
18/04 TALKING HEADS / Southampton, UK
19/04 KOKO (14+) / London, UK
21/04 ROCKHAL / Luxembourg
22/04 LE LOCOMOTIVE / Paris, France
25/04 FESTSAAL KREUZBERG / Berlin, Germany
19/05 LOPPEN / Copenhagen, Denmark
20/05 JOHN DEE / Oslo, Norway
21/05 DEBASER / Stockholm, Sweden
22/05 NOSTURI / Helsinki, Finland
02/06 T.T THE BEAR’S / Boston, USA
04/06 BOWERY BALLROOM / New York City, USA
06/06 SUBTERRANEAN / Chicago, USA
09/06 SLIM’S / San Francisco, USA
12/06 EL REY THEATRE / Los Angeles, USA
21/06 BLACKFIELD FESTIVAL / Gelsenkirchen, Germany
17/07 JAROCIN FESTIVAL / Jarocin, Poland
26/07 BLACKCAVE FESTIVAL / Waregem, Belgium

Welcome addiction, indeed.

Your Joy is My Low – IAMX

Spit It Out (Live in Warsaw) – IAMX


They Know Exactly What They’re Doing: Helen Love’s It’s My Club and I’ll Play What I Want To

The question is how did I manage to miss out on the Ramones-obsessed Welsh girl group Helen Love for so long? They’ve been around since 1993 and released four albums prior to the latest one, It’s My Club and I’ll Play What I Want To, which released last year. With a blend of punk, glam, bubblegum pop and electronic elements, Helen Love feel like the predecessors to bands like Robots in Disguise and Chicks on Speed. They don’t take themselves seriously, and they come with some brilliant pop songs. With a pastiche of references from the 60s and 70s, Helen Love fuse the past with the future perfectly. At any rate, I’m going to review their latest album despite the fact it’s come about a year late. They’re that good.

Like Helen Love’s previous work, this album is full of brief, speedy tracks and fantastic little spoken samples that remind me of a Sigue Sigue Sputnik album. The record begins with the title track, which had also been released as a single. It sounds like a Ramones song being played from a bubblegum pink jukebox in a Japanese retro arcade in the year 2050, replete with vocoder and laser sounds. Then the CBGB fantasy Debbie Loves Joey bursts in with guitar-laden pop-punk and cheeky references, including The Stranglers’ Peaches. As its title suggests, the following track, Dance On (Solid Gold), takes its influences from disco, but adds an electro-rock feel while You Better Learn Karate is as crazy as anything Polysics could come up with as it kicks the stuffing out of you with hyperspeed. With its repeated snippet of “Great galloping gumdrops,” The 1910 Fruitgum Company is an homage to the 60s bubblegum pop group of the same name; it has a bouncy compulsion to it that makes me think of Saturday morning cartoons and the abandon of a Kindergarten class.

After the whirlwind of Transistor Radio, the speed slackens for Jet, which features a snippet of the fantastic dialogue from the 60s Brit comedy The Likely Lads: “In the chocolate box of life the top layer’s already gone and someone’s pinched the orange cream from the bottom.” “Bloody hell.” With a springy use of synths, First Boyfriend recalls the ludicrous novelty in the mundanity of a first adolescent romance. A faster, pumping disco beat peppers Rodney’s English Disco, yet another brilliant reference, this time to Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco, a Los Angeles glam club in the 70s. At under two minutes, Honolulu Superstar is the fastest track on the album while Garage Band uses some jazzy piano interludes and surf rock to tell the story of forming your own band after listening to John Peel. The fun continues with Queen of the Disco Beat, which has blasts of brass and more than a passing resemblence to Rockaway Beach. An anthem to the homebound, Staying In has deadpan verses that are dry enough to peel paint. With 60s girl group flourishes, The New Squad Attacking Formation is a quirky track that makes me think of a gang of teenage girls on scooters terrorizing the neighbourhood. Released as a single, Junkshop Discotheque features a great guitar line as all of Helen Love’s musical influences get jammed together very much as the title suggests. The album crashes to its conclusion with Saturday Nite, which surprises with a classical introduction before launching into yet another potential dance anthem.

Now that I’m aware of Helen Love, I eagerly await a new album called Stick It due out this year (it’s preceded by the latest single called Calm Down Dad – a song in line with the theme of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, but with a sarcastic sheen that mocks adolescence cool and with a hilarious piece of White Riot at the end). There’s something old-fashioned and child-like about Helen Love, but they fire obscure and not-so-obscure references on all cylinders, reminding you that they know exactly what they’re doing.

Debbie Loves Joey – Helen Love

1910 Fruitgum Company – Helen Love

Calm Down Dad – Helen Love


2008 Wrap-Up and New Year’s Eve Mix

Well, here I am at the end of my first year doing this blog. I would love to be able to say something very profound at this point, but frankly, I’m just surprised I managed to keep it up for the entire year in a semi-regular fashion. Looking back at it now, I now realize why so many blogs litter the cyberspace as abandoned detritus – it can be pretty difficult to find something worth writing about on a regular basis. The bloggers who write daily or nearly daily are people to be admired. My sole aim when beginning this blog was to write about music I was passionate about and to write passionately about music. I may not have always achieved that goal, but I definitely tried. And for the most part (aside from a couple of rants and reviews of disappointments from artists I used to love), I’ve attempted to stick to the “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” formula.

This blog has been an oddly apt support system during a fair bit of stress and strain this year; when I was a bit lonely and living in a different city for grad school, it became something to occupy my time and reach out beyond my small bedroom; when I was fretting and puzzling over my MA thesis over the summer, it became a way to refine my research and thoughts; and now while I’m desperately trying to find some sort of gainful employment, this blog is keeping me motivated, keeping me sane during the daily search through job ads. Through all this, I’ve truly met some extraordinary people, bands and fans, and they have made me feel less alone in my thoughts and tastes. They have also sometimes challenged me and made me think, which is just as great. I would like to thank all those artists and music lovers who have contacted me whether by email or by leaving comments behind, and I would especially like to thank a few regular commenters whom I now also consider my friends: Urban Gypsy, Rol, and of course JC, who has been a generous cheerleader from the day I got some hard-to-find Orange Juice off him. Your support has kept me at this when I’ve felt that I had no more words about music.

As my final gift to all of you for 2008, I’m leaving you with a New Year’s Eve mix – play it at a party, big or small, and dance around like a maniac. It’s called Party Like It’s A Prince Reference, and it comes in as the longest mix I’ve done this year, featuring many hits of 2008 along with some very danceable songs of yesteryear. To top it off, I’ve included a not-so-dancey bonus track from El Perro Del Mar, which you can play when the clock strikes midnight before heading back into the mix. In some ways, perhaps, this exercise fulfills some preposterous DJ fantasy I have, and that’s another thing that this blog has allowed me to do: fulfill some of my dreams for an audience that is larger than I would have ever expected back in January 2008.

Thank you, and good night.

Hallelujah (Club Mix) – Happy Mondays

One More Time to Pretend (Daft Punk vs MGMT) – Immuzikation

Wow – Kylie Minogue

Heart of Glass – Blondie

Blind – Hercules & Love Affair

Standing in the Way Of Control (Soulwax Remix) – The Gossip

Mercury (CSS Remix) – Bloc Party

Spit It Out (Alex Kowalski Remix) – IAMX

D.A.N.C.E. (MSTRKRFT Remix) – Justice

I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You (The Twelves Remix) – The Black Kids

Relax (New York Mix) – Frankie Goes to Hollywood

Ready For the Floor (LA Riots Remix) – Hot Chip

Lights & Music – Cut Copy

Money – Salon Boris

Love is My Drug (Remix) – Protocol

Radio Wolf – Kindle

Alsatian – White Rose Movement

Synthetiseur – Housse de Racket

The Sex Has Made Me Stupid (Stupid Sex Midfield General Mix) – Robots in Disguise

Kill Ya Stereo – Astra Moveo

Black Milk – Zeigeist

Kids (Pet Shop Boy Remix) – MGMT

Temptation – New Order

Kelly (Lifelike Remix) – Van She

Walking on a Dream (Treasure Fingers Remix) – Empire of the Sun

Paris is Burning (Cut Copy Remix) – Ladyhawke

Danger! (Mr. Pedro Remix) – The Sound of Arrows

Rebel Rebel (Soulwax Club Edit) – David Bowie

Personal Jesus (Boys Noize Remix) – Depeche Mode

You and My Pearldiver – TNT Jackson featuring Chris Corner

Supermassive Black Hole – Muse

Billie Jean – Michael Jackson

Paris (Justus Köhncke Remix) – Friendly Fires

Girls on Film (Night Version) – Duran Duran

This Boy’s in Love – The Presets

Hearts On Fire (Hoshina Anniversary Remix) – Cut Copy

I Get Around – Dragonette

Bounce – MSTRKRFT featuring N.O.R.E.

Higher State of Consciousness – South Central

Crimewave – Crystal Castles

Love Song (Philadelphia Bluntz Remix) – Simple Minds

Love Shack (12″ Remix) – B-52’s

Repetition Kills You – The Black Ghosts

Debbie Does Montreal (Blondie vs Of Montreal) – team9 vs Stereogum

Apollo-Gize (Fred Falke Edit) – Digitalism

Spin Spin Sugar (Armand’s Dark Garage Mix) – Sneaker Pimps

Runaway – Ladytron

Dead Sound (80KIDZ Remix) – The Raveonettes

Paper Planes (DFA Remix) – M.I.A.

Embrace (Fred Falke Miami Horror Remix) – PNAU featuring Ladyhawke

Auld Lang Syne – El Perro Del Mar

Party Like It’s a Prince Reference (Megaupload)


"I bet that you look good on the dancefloor…but nowhere else": Mikrofisch’s Masters of the Universe

Though Masters of the Universe by Mikrofisch released last year, I only just discovered it. I actually only just discovered Mikrofisch, so that could be part of the problem. Apparently, Mikrofisch began in 2001 when Mawe N. Klave and Silvi Wersi met in Cologne. Though they intended to cover The Smiths, they ended up producing original material, and a year later, they released their debut album Gleichstrom/Wechselstrom. After Wersi moved to London, the duo ended up recording Masters of the Universe over a three-year period, and the product is a magnificent anti-hipster shot in the arm. With lyrics like these, making countless music and pop culture references and observations about the trappings of being twenty-something in the 21st century, I’m surprised Klave and Wersi’s tongues haven’t come clean out the other side of their cheeks.

The album begins with Alien Monsters, a hilarious send-up of alien attack films complete with deadpan vocal delivery and rot-your-teeth twee background. Let’s Kiss and Listen to Bis starts with a Peter Hook-like bassline and then ’80s synthesizers kick in to augment a sweetness worthy of the twee mentioned. The narrators stalwartly refuse to make love to DFA; instead they want to regress into the ’90s of their adolescence, including the Glaswegian pop-punksters. The ’80s influence continues as arcade video game aesthetics, drum machines and vocoders cover the track Bad Hair Days with a retro veneer. Shifting into a more down-tempo feel, I Never Get Much Sleep on Weekdays emulates the catatonic state of the fatigued, apathetic twenty-somethings they sing about. The sarcasm and ennui drips off the chorus: “We’re the twenty-somethings/We’re the part-time punks/We got our records from Ebay and our clothes from H&M/Don’t look back in anger/Today will okay/Tomorrow will be much like yesterday.” The following track, Morrissey, Jeff Mangus, Stephin Merritt, John Darnielle, is a brilliant existential anthem for indie moper-loners everywhere.

Not only lonely indie songwriters get mentioned. Referencing the ’60s model and muse of fashion designer Rudi Gernreich, Peggy Moffitt Look-alikes pops about like a soft drink or a fun fair as it satirizes those hipster girls who come to gigs dressed like thrift store mods. Then, whizzing into life and making a personificative address to the theremin, Drum Machines Will Save Mankind uses fuzzy, lo-fi synths and drum machines to revivify the twee genre – it’s a bit like if someone decided to use Darling Buds songs in an Atari game. Then disco is given an 80s 8-bit makeover in Disco Fantasy as Klave and Wersi’s vocals drift dreamily over top. They even use the galactic leitmotif that often comes with disco and funk music. The album then shifts into pure power-pop bliss with We Love You, a cutesy song ostensibly sung from the perspective of crazy fans, but which adds a brilliant twist to the narrative. It features a screamy chorus akin to Robots in Disguise or Chicks on Speed.

This is followed by one of my favourite tracks on the album, The Kids Are All Shite, which namechecks Brit indie rock mediocrity in monotone vocal delivery against an intense bassline. It lampoons the MySpace generation perfectly, including their propensity to follow “indie” trends slavishly and to idolize NME bands whose music plays in supermarkets “before the sell-out’s even started” and who “all look like Johnny Ramone.” One of the best lines is “I bet that you look good on the dancefloor, but nowhere else.” The chorus also reminds me melodically of Depeche Mode’s New Life. The record takes a slower turn with See You Next Tuesday, a delightful, electro anti-ballad with interplay between male and female vocals. The tempo comes back up for Evil Customer, a perfect track for anyone who’s felt stifled by their city or town or chained to a crap retail job – they create a perfect contrast between the pleasant sing-song of a polite front and the deteriorating mental state of the narrator that descends into Tourette’s-like hysteria by the end. Just as astute as Evil Customer, (No One Listens To You When You’ve Got) Flat Hair is one of the better songs I’ve ever heard about the mind-sickening “reality” of reality TV; the verses are delivered with a cool detachment like that of Black Box Recorder’s Sarah Nixey. The record concludes with Focus On It, the harshest song on the album with its dirty, crunchy beats and its play on and with hypnotic trance and house genres.

With the generous use of drum machines and minimal synth sounds, there’s something lo-fi and homemade about the record; indeed, it was recorded in various bedrooms and living rooms. At the same time, it is the perfect aural document of the love-hate no-win situation of being an indie music lover in the noughties. Mikrofisch intelligently deconstruct the world they live in while paying unironic tribute to the music they love. You can download the entire album for free here with the band’s blessing. This album is a bit like finding a He-Man action figure inside a Kinder egg: a nostalgic but nerdy cool surprise inside a sweet, waxy chocolate shell. The perfect gift for a generation who know too much to care very much.

Let’s Kiss and Listen to Bis – Mikrofisch

The Kids Are All Shite – Mikrofisch

Evil Customer – Mikrofisch


More Blistering Identitätkampf: IAMX’s New Single

I’ve been waiting for this for over a year. IAMX has just released a new single today, Think of England, and it’s available for free download. It is the first new material since 2006’s sophomore album The Alternative. With the introduction of the single, there has come a new colour scheme and style for the MySpace page – gone are the yellow and black, replaced with red and muted grey. The single itself is a shift in mood – gone is the dark cabaret, instead there is a rather insistent, urgent sense of wild escape.

If anything, it is a natural progression. The debut album Kiss + Swallow was generally a slower, seedy affair, oozing sexual deviance and desire. Then The Alternative came with its cabaret image and feel, but with an extra punch of raspy, vicious need that pervaded most tracks, including the incredible title track. Now, the energy has continued to escalate with syncopated rhythm and high-pitched, brain-searing synths, pushing both speed and sonic limits. Additionally, Corner’s vocals continue to careen between delicate vulnerability and desperate power, but paired with the intensity of the music, they have become even more frenzied than in previous material. As for the content of Thinking of England, Chris Corner has always been rather vocal about why he left England, and more specifically London, for Berlin. I feel like this song is part of that declaration and that necessary separation from older identities and lifestyles. IAMX continues to be an identity project.

According to IAMX’s blog (with its idiosyncratic use of the caps lock), Chris Corner has been in the process of choosing which direction this project should go in and has solicited feedback from his fans (of which there is a rather intense cultish following). As vocal as he has been about moving to Germany, he has been equally outspoken about staying independent and DIY. He has mused over the dilemma of the independent artist:
And ideas of a new Web site:
Judging by the responses (myself included), there will always be conflicts of opinion, and by opening himself up to the floodgates of input, Corner will have many things to think about and consider. My only hope is that he remains as honest as he can within a framework that represents all he wishes to be. The fact he wants to create such a symbiosis between fan and artist is inspiring – he is definitely a pioneer in this brave new world of major label collapse.
If you’re lucky enough to live or be in Europe within the next four months, you’ll be able to see IAMX on tour, where more new material will be unveiled. Also, if you are the consummate IAMX fan, get yourself here to pre-order the Live in Warsaw album, which will only be released in Poland on November 14. I eagerly await a third album. Until then I will keep listening to this new anthem to Identitätkampf. All of us IAMX fans will be basking in the pyre of the past and dancing on the grave of the music industry. You are not alone at the frontline.

Think of England – IAMX

i-Polaroids – IAMX

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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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


My body is your body

I won't tell anybody

If you want to use my body

Go for it


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


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


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


Running on


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


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' 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


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


You must let her go

She's not crying



Feeling like I'm waiting

Modern times



Hating to distraction

Just leave them alone


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


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


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


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


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


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


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