Sunday, December 4, 2016

Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark - Crush - 1985

Probably my favorite OMD album second only to Architecture & Morality.  I think that Crush is probably one of the most underrated Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark albums yet also one of their most influential.  The style and sound of this album help to not only set the stage for all of their future work, but also helped define the sound of Post Punk/Synth-pop from the 80s.

The album opens with my 3rd favorite OMD song, So In Love.  The best, followed shortly by Secret, one of my top 10 OMD songs.  The rest of the album plays terrifically, keeping with a lot of their warm yet experimental songs, and does it without becoming boring. As Architecture & Morality was developing OMD's definitive sound, Crush finds them in their writing prime, fully comfortable with the style they'd created for themselves. 

Also, OMD has a way with the saxophone that makes it sound as acceptable today as it did back then.  Usually I cringe when a band whips out the sax and starts tooting away.  Not OMD.  It's perfect.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

M83 - Saturdays=Youth - 2008

This is the fourth and final post in my "WTF?" posts for the weekend...

I must apologize for the late post tonight.  My wife has been out of work, and life around our house has been stressful, to be expected.  So, tonight I cooked supper for the family.  I usually do, but tonight I made it extra special with a fine set table and restaurant quality Italian food.  Then, we cleaned up the kitchen, and all four of us came into the family room and watched Forrest Gump.  My wife and I knew that our 15-year-old was mature enough and would watch it, especially because he hadn't seen it before.  But, we were unsure about the 5-year-old.  Surprisingly, though, he sat and watched the entire movie without interruption, and even had some insightful commentary to go along.  Needless to say, we were pleasantly surprised.  BUT, there were two bedroom scenes (which we fast-forwarded through), two F-Bombs, 4 or 5 shits and asses, and so many GDs, we couldn't keep track.  But, if we didn't draw attention to it, he didn't even notice.  He probably didn't even know what they were saying or what it meant.  Anyway, we all set through the entire film and really enjoyed it.  I haven't seen the movie in so long, it was nice to watch it again, and it really lifted our spirits.  We then sat around the kitchen drinking juice and having cookies for bedtime snack, and now they are all off to bed.  Families are wonderful....

ANYWAY - On to tonight's post....

To be honest, I really shouldn't call this a "WTF?" post, as there's nothing odd or different about it compared to the other three.  Honestly, looking back, the other three weren't that bad anyway.  I now would probably classify this in my "pleasantly surprised" category instead.

I first heard  Kim & Jenny from this album on a NME Sampler disc that I got from Barnes & Nobles one time.  I occasionally, in the past, liked to sample the discs that came with those magazines, before I discovered Blogspot searches, Pandora, and the other various sources that I now frequent to try out new stuff.  I almost instantly fell in love with the song.

It's funny to discover bands that you think must be new, only to find out that you're only discovering them on their 3rd or 4th albums.  You suddenly start to realize that you aren't quite as hip and pioneering as you thought you were, joining the crowd so late in the game.  Regardless, I wasn't going to let that change my mind.  

So, after acquiring M83's Saturday = Youth album, I listened and seemed to find myself lost in an album that felt like I was being held in 1985 once again.  But, although it sounds "retro", if that's what you want to call it, I don't know why it does.  There's really nothing about the instrumentation that would make me think that, the melodies don't seem dated, and vocally the whispery breathy sighs that they used weren't commonly used in the 80s, either.  They might MIGHT be reminiscent of MAYBE Dream Academy, but that's about the best comparison that I can come up with.  My only assumption is that it must be the lyrics that compel me to think it's an 80s thing.  I don't know.  If any of you reading this have a theory or opinion about it, please comment below, so we can compare notes and pinpoint this feeling....  It'll drive me nuts until I can say "So, THAT'S why it reminds me of the 80s!"

Although all of the songs are performed with delicacy and grace, the album opens powerfully and strong, and doesn't peter out at all.  It stays solid right through to the last song.  It's really impressive.  I can listen to the first 5 or 6 tracks without even skipping a beat, and finishing the album out is never a task, like a lot of albums of this Indie genre tend to be.

The second disc is obviously the remix disc, and it adds an Indie Electro element to the mix.  To me, it harkens back to pre-House/Techno remixes of the 80s, but with definite 2010s overtones.  We even get a touch of Dubstep in there, and it works great without overdoing it.  Unfortunately, I didn't get all of the mixes on the disc, as there wasn't enough to split the mixes into 2 discs.  Plus, all of the mixes I left out are the less favorite mixes of We Own the Sky.  I mean, how many mixes of that same song do we need, anyway?  Plus, I wanted to get the M83 mixes of  the Maps, Fires Of Rome and Midnight Juggernauts' songs on there as well.  Their mixes of other artists songs really capture the essence of those songs and leave a definitive imprint of their own style as well.

So, enjoy these albums, and please let me know your opinion as to why these sound 80s, but don't.  I'd really like to know!

M83 - Youth=Remixes - 2008 

PS - I said mix, remix or mixes 10 times in that last paragraph.  Wow. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Danielle Dax - Blast the Human Flower - 1990

Post #3 in my 4-part "WTF?" posts....

I had to go to Wikipedia, Allmusic and Entertainment Weekly to read a bit about the album and it's reception and production, because shy of owning the album, liking it, and posting it here, I really don't know a whole lot about Ms Dax.

I bought this album when it came out, probably because of the Sire label and it's awesome cover, maybe because I heard it on the college station, and also to try something different, as I was more apt to experiment with new material back then.  It turned out to be a great album, and a solid purchase, as I still have that original disc that I purchased back in 1990.

Without going into what you can learn from the articles above that I mentioned, I did try and listen to some of her other material throughout years past, and I found it too hard to grasp, as it's rather experimental and probably an acquired taste.  I do know from articles I've read elsewhere that she used to put on quite a fantastic 'stripped down' live show, if you catch my drift.  That would be interesting, to say the least.  I will also mention that I had already felt that her sound on this album was more accessible possibly due to Stephen Street's production, which has really been confirmed via my investigations prior to this post.

All of the songs have their own style and feel, their own pluses and minuses.  My favorites really have to be the Beatles' Tomorrow Never Knows,  Big Blue 82, and Jehovah's Precious Stone.  Great songs that fit in well with a lot of the Post Punk/Indie music from the years around the time this was released.  But, all of them each have something that makes them special, it's up to you to find out what you like about them...

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Single Gun Theory - Like Stars In My Hands - 1991

The second post of four in the "WTF?" posts of the week....

So this was just another one of the many groups that I sampled my Freshman year in college.  An Australian band through Canada's Netwerk label, Single Gun Theory can be best described as Synth-Pop with a hint of Gothic/Industrial darkness.  Sort of Darkwave or the likes.  And, they have some great female vocals.

Originally, I just had the CD single of From A Million Miles, and I played it over and over and over.  That song was on many of my compilations from that time period and I once included it on a "soundtrack" that I made for a story I wrote for my Creative Writing class called "Edge To Life".  (Name that artist and album...and guest-vocalist).

It has a very Post Punk/Synth/psuedo-Industrial feel that samples a lot from Indian music which has been stated by the band as a direct influence.  The exotic melodies and instruments intermixed with an almost Manchester-y House-y synthesizer sound and wonderful female harmonies make a lot of the music almost hypnotic at times.

I only had the CD single for the longest time, and finally purchased the CD used at a shop in Omaha Nebraska some time in the mid 00s.  The two singles are obvious stand-outs in quality and pop-influence, but the album as a whole has a magnetic quality that's hard to break.

Now, I have to go pick my son up from Swim practice, so I'll see you all tomorrow...

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Caterwaul - Portent Hue - 1990

This is the first of four back to back "WTF" posts over the next four days.

I first heard this group driving back from class my freshman year in college.  Their song Manna & Quail was sandwiched between Don't Slow Down by the Hollow Men, and It's Heaven by the Railway Children.  A great mix with perfect segues.  I found it shortly after on cassette at Twisters Records and played it pretty consistantly in my car for the Spring semester of 1991.  The album as a whole is "good", but I was always more interested in listening to Side Two, rather than Side One.  Starting with Manna & Quail, followed by Big Ox Laughing and Seven Rabbits, the album really kicks fucking ass.

It surprised me to learn that the group was from Arizona.  Don't know why, but it did.  Possibly because the album covers always reminded me of Industrial or Gothic or Post Punk album covers, and those bands were generally from Europe or Canada.  From Arizona, though?  Why the hell would they feel the need to sing like that in Arizona?  It would be like listening to Country music in a Japanese Karaoke Bar - just silly.  The music is definitely a Post Punk/Gothic/Hard Rock sound.  And Betsy's vocals remind me a little of a female Robert Plant or Steven Tyler with head injuries.  A lot of howling and other somewhat distressful noises.

But, it all works.  the music is great.  

If you haven't heard these guys before, and feel the urge to try it out, do it carefully.  If you can't really get it within the first song or two, then skip forward to Manna & Quail and the following songs, and you'll see why I like this album.  It's truly a good one.

Why not?

I've run into a couple of stumbling blocks on my journey through making and posting these "new" albums.  Some are easy to fix, some are not so easy.  One of them that consistently has been popping up, especially recently, is as follows, as it's difficult to give it a name....

I only want to post albums that I like, that have additional material and that haven't already been released as extended expanded editions.  I keep finding albums that I would LOVE to post, but the existing expanded editions are already better than I could make them, and also come with better covers.  I would hate to post an album that has already been collected and then give it a sub-standard cover.  And if I simply posted it without a new cover, then what's the point?  There are a dozen other blogs that already do that, and I am trying to do it differently than the rest.

SO, if you ever wonder "Why hasn't he posted this album yet?", it's more than likely is because it's already been done, and not that I don't like the group or album.

I felt the need to point all of this out because I am planning my January posts (can you believe I'm already done with all my December albums?!) and I keep coming back to albums that have already been done, and it's really pissing me off.  Maybe one week or month I'll just have to post all of the albums that already have collected editions, just to get them out of the way....  We'll see.

Techno Rave week starts on the 12th of Dec.  I wanted to point that out because several other blogs have started posting Techno releases from the 90s and I've had these done for weeks already.  Frustrating.

Compilation week starts the 23rd of January, so look forward to that.  They aren't going to be Greatest Hits for particular groups, but compilations of individual songs by lots of groups.  Should be interesting.  I've built and scrapped a dozen different ideas over the past week, but I still have a month and a half to get some cherry arrangements together.

Anyway, off to tonight's post.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Pet Shop Boys - Elysium - 2012

A fairly tranquil album, this was PSB's last album with Parlophone.  After Yes and the myriad EPs, Comps and Soundtracks, this album seemed to be the Boys in a different form.  They were mature, laid back, having a good time yet oh, so serious.  It seems somewhat morose, and a little forelorn, but yet it still is warm and lush.  I'll never get over their synths.  They are oh, so pretty.

Honestly, I've only given this one a play though about 4 or 5 times.  The singles are always tops, but most of the track melodies seem somewhat forgettable.  I will say that this is the last album of theirs in which they are writing songs their age, rather than writing songs for a much younger audience.  Electric and their newest album, Super, really seem to be written for a bunch of club kids and seem somewhat superficial and formulaic.

Once you get into the singles, though, things really seem to get good.  All of their b-sides (which I plugged right down the middle of the album) are terrific, with possibly the one exception being I Started A Joke.  I don't like that one only because I don't care for the original song, let alone a cover version.  The remixes are also fantastic, especially the tracks that the Boys remixed themselves. Not super strong dance hall jumpers, but strong enough to keep you interested and impressed.

I made this cover a long time ago, long before I learned of The Way Through the Woods, the short version.  The album disc was too long, as it is, so I had to put it on the remix disc, at the end.  As I said, the covers have been done for a while, so there's no listing on the cover for the short version, it's just the "invisible" track 10.  Deal with it.  If it bugs you that much, get your Biro out and pen it in below the other tracks.

No personal connection to this album other than I was working as a regional distributor for a company covering 2 states at the time, and I remember listening to this one while sitting in my car in the parking lot of a grocery store about 300 miles from home doing paperwork.  It was a pretty good job, and I loved traveling for it.  But, alas, the business folded shortly after Obama's second win.  That's alright, though.  I'm on to another job I can't wait to get away from...