To many folks I know, the word “pop” is anathema when used in the context of music. Pop music connotes to many some sort of bland, vanilla-ish mainstream gobbledygook that people eschew. I beg to differ. Sure “pop” music can at times lack the sort of musical artistry or lyrical cleverness that characterizes our favorite songs and/or artists. But, a good pop song is perhaps one of the purest pleasures left out there. Look sometimes you just want to jump out of your seat and dance (not intended as a Lady Gaga reference) or smile infectiously. A good pop song will do that. For your consideration, two such songs that make me smile: Kishi Bashi’s “Bright Whites” (Beatles meets Vampire Weekend) and the Magnetic Field’s “Your Girlfriend’s Face” (for fans of MF’s “Washington D.C.”). Or, if offbeat is more your style, check out this psychedelic, chamber pop ballad by L.A.’s Julie Holter (I heart this song and if you like what you here you can listen to the whole album here).
…and then there is the deeper (perhaps darker) side of music. The soul-searching and intimate record stripped of all pomp and pageantry. The newest Perfume Genius album Put Your Back N 2 It is exactly that. In the interest of full disclosure, this is definitely a somber, somnambulistic, and serene album – the sort best saved for pensive and peaceful hours, perhaps a glass of wine and some low lighting too. But, in all seriousness, this is a gorgeously haunting and delicate album filled with reflective and remorseful vocals matched against some luscious orchestration on certain tracks while others favor a lo-fi folk/singer songwriter aesthetic. Upon listening, I’m reminded a lot of Sufjan Stevens’ Seven Swans and (Come on Feel the) Illinois(e) but without any of the upbeat, band-camp elements and with a greater focus on the vocals, which are far more soulful and less angelic (e.g. my favorite track so far No Tears). In addition, fans of early Iron and Wine and Bon Iver’s For Emma… will find themselves at home in this engrossing record.
Frankie Rose Interstellar and Memoryhouse The Slideshow Effect
…or perhaps you might favor a jaunt down the lane of whimsy and the otherworldy. If so then the recent offerings by Frankie Rose and Memoryhouse might be more your cup of tea. One thing I found really quite exciting and interesting in 2011 was the resurfacing of the early 90s indie-rock sound. Well 2012 appears to be turning towards the second half of the 90s.
I already acknowledged Frankie Rose’s Interstellar late last week but I worry that this gem of a record got lost in the shuffle. In much the same way I felt that 20111’s Wild Flag record took musical styles and forms from the 60s and 70s and incorporated it into their power-punk aesthetic, Interstellar borrows from 80s new wave (“Know Me” sounds like a cross between A-Ha, the Cure, and the Smiths), 60s Brit-pop, and the female fronted groups of the late 90s (e.g. Velocity Girl, Madder Rose and early Rainer Maria).
Memoryhouse’s The Slideshow Effect has less genre jumping but feels like a dreamy reverie through the lead singer’s private journal – or a slower, mellower Best Coast with fewer references to pot and cats.
For further listening to the above referenced albums, turn to this Spotify playlist. If you can’t connect to Spotify then you can stream here:
- Perfume Genius – Put Your Back N 2 It
- Frankie Rose – Interstellar
- Memoryhouse – The Slideshow Effect
…and last, here is a beautiful story about the power of art to give us strength and conviction to face difficult situations. (Even if you don’t like the Cranberries, you should listen to this young man’s story.)
Coming Up… thoughts on Indie-Instrumental Records and an updated concert schedule – so many tours!