Welcome to the blog’s inaugural playlist. Using the magic of 8tracks, this seemed like a convenient way for me to write about and share the music I’ve been listening to lately. This year I’ve been making a conscious effort to listen to a lot of new music (partly to be trendy and partly because I’m bored of a lot of the old music I have), but I also am always digging around in the past to find stuff that I haven’t heard before. The playlist reflects that, with an eclectic mix of songs old and new.
Listen to the playlist on 8tracks: http://8tracks.com/joshe2424/the-noise-made-by-people-playlist-1
1. Frankie Rose – “Interstellar” (2012)
Frankie Rose made a name for herself playing the type of lo-fi noisy pop that has been extremely popular the last few years as a member of Dum Dum Girls, Vivian Girls, and finally as a frontwoman with a backing band in Frankie Rose and the Outs. This year she released her first album under her solo name, Interstellar, where she ditches that aesthetic in favor of glossy, chillwave style synth pop. The new Frankie Rose is slicker, but on the title and lead track she shows she hasn’t completely changed, as the song’s first minute of plaintive synths explodes into a loud, sugary chorus.
2. Flown – “Almost Human” (2012)
Meanwhile, Frankie’s former backing band, The Outs, has changed their style in a much more extreme way, playing tunes inspired by classic heavy metal like Black Sabbath with some riot grrrl undertones. “Almost Human” (which you can download at their bandcamp page) is only the second song they’ve released, but already shows them settling into a comfortable groove with an immediate thunderous guitar riff and some excellent vocal harmonies. This band is playing a style I’ve been wanting to hear for a long time and I’m hoping to hear a lot more from them in the future.
3. The Fall – “The Classical” (1982)
The lead track from The Fall’s 1982 album Hex Enduction Hour, “The Classical” is pretty much a perfect rock song. The first thing that jumps out is the incredible rhythm the song has thanks to a great bass line played by Steve Hanley and the band’s two-drum set-up on the song. Then comes frontman Mark E. Smith and his free-form, misanthropic lyrics that tear down pop culture and society in hilariously quotable fashion, giving the song that crucial rock element of anger that I always think fuels a band to greater heights. With 29 studio albums and a ton of singles, The Fall have one of the most immense discographies of any band, so given how much I love this song I have a feeling they’ll be keeping me busy for awhile.
4. Julia Holter – “Für Felix” (2012)
Julia Holter’s latest album Ekstasis is full of well-crafted songs that aren’t quite ambient but aren’t quite folk or pop either. “Für Felix”, written for her dog on his last days, starts with some strings but she gradually adds on the instrumentation as the song grows before settling into a lovely 90 second instrumental outro.
5. Nite Jewel – “In the Dark” (2012)
Ramona Gonzalez, aka Nite Jewel, generally lives up to her artist name, playing r&b influenced synth-pop that’s suitable for late night listening. Ballad “In the Dark” is one of the subtlest moments on the album, mostly showcasing Gonzalez’s vocals above simple synths and a memorable chorus. This isn’t the kind of flashy song that typically will show up on year-end best of lists, but it’s pretty much perfectly executed and has been stuck in my head for a few days now.
6. Ponytail – “Celebrate the Body Electric (It Came from an Angel)” (2008)
I’ve recently gotten into Baltimore art-rockers Ponytail, who just broke up last year. Their 2008 album Ice Cream Spiritual is a great blast of exhilarating rock with an artsy twist that comes from lead singer Molly Siegel, whose abstract vocalizing will either fascinate you or drive you insane. “Celebrate the Body Electric” starts with a pulsating, simple guitar riff which eventually gives way to seven minutes of noisy, chaotic fun thanks to the unique combination of Dustin Wong’s inventive guitar playing and Siegel’s ADHD vocals. I’m guessing a lot of people will skip this one, but I find this band really exciting and fun.
7. Chairlift – “Met Before” (2012)
I mentioned in a previous post how catchy some of the song’s on Chairlift’s latest album Something are. While some of the songs on the album were bizarre and quirky, “Met Before” is more straight forward, but as a result is also the album’s most anthemic moment thanks to its sparking synths and a nice vocal turn from singer Carolyn Polachek.
8. Throwing Muses – “Red Shoes” (1991)
Throwing Muses are one of the most underrated bands of all time — an influential, ambitious group that is one of the few bands that can stake a claim to being truly original. I’ve been very into them lately, especially their 1991 album The Real Ramona that is the best combination of singer Kristin Hersch’s oddball songwriting and band member Tanya Donnelly’s pop craft that she would later showcase as the frontwoman for Belly. “Red Shoes” has Herch’s lyrics which are always hard to pin down, but is also accessible thanks to a bright guitar part and bass line along with some of Donnelly’s patented harmonies.
9. Mind Spiders – “Wait For Us” (2012)
Texas punks Mind Spiders play loud, no-frills garage rock with extra percussion thanks to a pair of drummers. “Wait for Us” is simple and straightforward, but that’s refreshing these days, and the the band piles on the noise and feedback in the second half of the song as it builds into a roaring climax.
10. Cate Le Bon – “The Man I Wanted” (2012)
“The Man I Wanted” is the closest Cate Le Bon comes to directly channeling Nico, one of her primary influences. The song has a slow tempo and its instrumentation isn’t as flashy as most moments on Le Bon’s most recent album Cyrk, but it has poignant lyrics and what I think is her best vocal performance on the album (I really enjoy the way she pronounces certain words with her accent).
11. John Parish and Polly Jean Harvey – “Civil War Correspondent” (1996)
I’m pretty much always listening to some PJ Harvey, due to the depth, variety, and consistent greatness of her catalogue. Lately I’ve finally gotten into Dance Hall With Louse Point, her underrated 1996 collaboration with John Parish. At the time the album was mostly dismissed, largely because PJ was coming off an incredible run of albums and people had little interest in what was perceived as an artsy side project for the singer. However, now I think it stands up with some of her best work. “Civil War Correspondent” starts with a noisy guitar riff but then fades into a more atmospheric song that is carried by PJ’s always incredible vocals.
12. Christian Mistress – “Black to Gold” (2012)
For those wanting a burst of rock, Christian Mistress bring it in full force with a sound indebted largely to classic metal bands like Iron Maiden. Frontwoman Christine Davis brings the right amount of pizzazz to the band and really carries them on “Black to Gold,” which has crushing metal riffs and drumming but is also accessible and borderline pop in its structure.
13. Team Dresch – “She’s Amazing” (1995)
“She’s Amazing” is the kind of song I’m talking about whenever I discuss how female bands can make songs with a certain amount of power that other bands can’t. Sung about a positive female media role model who “many people will try to destroy”, this song is extremely uplifting and feels important to the band and listener on a whole different level from most music. It’s one of several great songs on Team Dresch’s lost punk classic Personal Best, which I’ve been listening to a lot the last month or so.
14. Sharon Van Etten – “Serpents” (2012)
Sharon Van Etten has sort of an ordinary charm to her that I think makes her music more authentic and real as a result. “Serpents” is the most straight-forward rock song on her latest album Tramp, and it comes from the always welcome tradition of trashing a former abusive boyfriend.
15. Grimes – “Be a Body” (2012)
Claire Boucher’s Visions is so far the best pop album of the year, and in a just universe where actual craft was rewarded instead of image and appealing to the masses it would certainly be tearing up the pop charts. “Be a Body” is one of her many inventive pop songs on the album, and it’s mostly due to Boucher and her malleable voice, which can go from sounding dark and mysterious to high and girly, usually in the span of the same song.
16. The Breeders – “Safari” (1992)
I had usually ignored EPs by bands for some reason, so I’m just now getting into The Breeders’ Safari EP. For fans of the band, it’s notable for being the only release by them that included both Tanya Donnelly (making her second appearance on this playlist) and Kelley Deal. That combination pays dividends, especially on the title track which is one of their most psychedelic, angular tracks, with noisy dissonant guitar, minimal lyrics, but still some pop in there thanks to Kim Deal’s sweet voice.
Thanks for listening/reading and I hope to make this a recurring thing in the future!