29 February 2008

"seven boom medley" || freezepop || 2001

Throughout the last decade, Freezepop have established themselves as a valued presence in the electronic music scene. The best I can tell, they're just three kiddos from Massachusetts who love synth. Honestly, what more do you need to make a band than that?

Their sugary, sweet synthpop melodies have been making hearts sing since 1999, when they formed in Boston. After a couple of EPs named after various colors, they released a breakthrough LP entitled Freezepop Forever in 2000. It contained "Plastic Stars," which remains to this day one of the purest love songs I've ever heard. Another EP called Fashion Impression Function followed the next year, and about this time the band really began to get noticed by neon kids like myself. Their second LP on the Archenemy label was 2004's Fancy Ultra Fresh, which contains the French-flavored "Parlez-Vous Freezepop" (a personal favorite).

Thanks to their songs landing in video games like Guitar Hero II ("Less Talk More Rokk") and Rock Band ("Brainpower"), Freezepop are doing pretty darn well for themselves, and I think it's fantastic. These kids are living the synthpop dream! If you like today's track, I recommend their entire collection to be added to your library. All of it can be purchased (at very nice prices) right from the band on their website.

This track never actually appeared on a Freezepop album, but it's one of their most well known. It's a cover of the songs "Boom Boom (Let's Go Back To My Room)" by Paul Lekakis (which I wrote about back in December) and "Boom Boom Boom Boom" by Vengaboys. It's much less in-your-face than either of those songs, but I think that's what makes it so cool. Freezepop's songs are incredibly mellow, and bring to mind images of sitting on a cool neon beach sipping some sort of electric limeade, but they still make you want to dance!

Listen to it here (and sorry for the stupid anime clip, but there is no music video).

Available On:
Popaganda Vol. 1 - The Speed Of SoundSouvenir RecordsSVNR'CD 04CDBuy it here!

25 February 2008

"stop" || data || 1985

The 50th track!

This adorable little song employs what I can only think to refer to as an "airhorn synth," as that's exactly what it sounds like. It's new wave synthpop at its finest, and it's simply blissful.

The lyrical content is, of course, morose, but not without reason. I find them to be a ginger slice of life. It's about the hopeless search for fault in a relationship that's failing, and how in the end it really solves nothing to do so. We hear it from the perspective of the lover that's just realized this, and is begging the other to chill out.

The vocals are haunting and beautiful, and the drum machine is irresistible. Definitely a lost gem!

Listen to it here.

Available On:
Elegant MachinerySire1-25297LP
StopSire7-28932Promo 7"

22 February 2008

"inside a dream" || jane wiedlin || 1988

Jane Wiedlin is an entertainment curio. She began her music career in the '70s with some fairly hardcore punk rock bands in LA and went by the moniker "Jane Drano." (How awesome is that?!‽) She rose to fame as a member of The Go-Go's, who had a handful of '50s throwback pop rock hits in the early-to-mid 1980s. She also made cameos in numerous movies and television shows, and continues to do so until this day. (Check out her impressive imdb page!)

My personal favorite of her capricious movie roles has to be that of the Singing Telegram Girl in the 1985 big-screen rendition of Clue. After singing just one line of her telegram, she gets shot, and it's hilarious. (Watch it!)

The thing I love most about Jane is her cute, squeaky little mouse of a voice. She sounds youthful, but not infantile; airy but not piercing. In fact, the softness of her voice is very reminiscent of Kate Bush, one of my all-time favorite performers. (I should feature one of her songs one day soon...) If Kate Bush were more pop-rock oriented and had a voice closer to Stacey Q's, you'd have Jane Wiedlin. Come to think of it, I think a duet between Kate and Jane would be both blissful and exciting. Throw Stacey in the mix and you'd be talking all-time classic!

Fur was Jane's first solo album, released on EMI-Manhattan Records. She was very likely seeking to make a footprint all her own in the vast mudpit known as the music industry, and I think she nailed a bullseye. This record is refreshing, vibrant, funky, and still manages to stay heartfelt. Jane's lyrics are often unusually morose for pop music, but I find the placement of her lyrics with upbeat music an interesting juxtaposition.

This track is one of these unusually sad-sounding songs. It's about being miserable while one is awake, and finding enough solace to continue living only while asleep and dreaming. It sounds awful on paper, I know, but the song is truly beautiful. It speaks of life in a very frank matter, almost a nod that it's okay -not- to be okay all the time.

Jane, I agree. Dream on.

Listen to it here.

20 February 2008

"should i say yes" || nu shooz || 1988

There have been many songs written about the anguish that romance can bring. This particular tune deals with the difficult decision that one must face sometimes when faced with an ex that wants to give things another shot. It taps into feelings of mistrust and disdain, yet still there's a longing for things to be right and happy again.

The lyric that hits hardest for me is: "We may be different but there's one thing that stays the same / I know I need you in a way that I can't explain."

I mean, geez, what a mouthful.

How horrible a feeling is it to know that someone is just awful for you, but to feel like you can't live without them? This song is about working through those feelings, and he insecurity that one inevitably feels about making their final decision. It can be the toughest one you'll ever have to make.

This is one of the only songs on this subject that truly captures the painful emotions that one must suffer through during a time like this. The entire Told U So album helped me through the worst breakup that I've ever been through, and it remains my favorite breakup LP to this day.

If you've ever had your heart broken, grab this album and hold it close to your heart. It'll help you. I promise.

Listen to it here.

16 February 2008

"boy" || book of love || 1985

I love songs that deal with gender issues.

This Book Of Love tune was the group's first single, released one year before their amazing self-titled debut LP. They're known in the synthpop community for their signature sound that revolved around heavy drum machines, churchy-sounding bells, and a chick lead singer with a deep voice. As far as I can tell it was a decent hit in the clubs, which makes sense as socially relevant dance music was huge in this era.

The song's lyrics, sung by the unusually baritone Susan Ottaviano, explain that "It's not my fault, that I'm not a boy." They proclaim this fact several times before the end of the song. The lyrics express a desire, though, to be amassed with this group of "boys" in the "boys' bar," but evidently to no avail.

I've always had the same interpretation of this song's lyrics, but as I've discussed it with friends there appears to be a more popular opinion than mine, so I'll present both and leave the decision up to you:

Most people seem to think that the song is a simple ode to penis envy. The lady wants to hang with the boys, but she can't, and it's not her fault that she's a girl. Not exactly a step forward for women's lib, if you ask me.

For me, the opening lyrics say it all: "I want to be where the boys are, but I'm not allowed." The song was written by Ted Ottaviano, the only male in the group. This song seems to me like Ted's personal lament for feeling left out when surrounded by groups of manly men.

"It's not my fault, that I'm not a boy." But does "boy" mean "male" in this text? I don't think so at all. I think Ottaviano's definition of a "boy" is the kind of male who likes sports, enjoys jock talk, scratches his balls, and objectifies women with his friends when they're out in groups. Sure, this kind of male is annoying, but speaking as a guy who is most certainly not a "boy," it can make you feel left out sometimes in social situations to not be a "boy."

I understand where you're coming from, Ted. I'm not a "boy," and yes, on rare occasions it sucks, but in the end I still don't want to be one.

Listen to it here.

14 February 2008

"baby baby (7" heart in motion mix)" || amy grant || 1991

For my inaugural Valentine's Day post, I obviously wanted to pick a love song. For what are probably more than obvious reasons, when we hear the phrase "love song" we end up thinking of romantic love. While understandable, it's not really fair, as there are scads of beautiful love songs in the realm of music that have nothing to do with romance at all.

This Amy Grant tune is one of my all-time favorite love songs because it's so pure. She wrote the song about her daughter Millie, and tells us in the liner notes that her "six-week-old face was my inspiration." Romantic love may be fleeting, but the love that a mother feels looking at her brand new child is one that doesn't fade.

Keeping in fashion with this blog's theme of bringing to light songs that haven't had their chance in the sun, I chose this mix of the song because most people have never heard it. It was stashed on the b-side of the 7-inch single and the cassette single. Most people my age were buying cassette singles instead of vinyl singles at this point, and even then most people never listened to the b-side, so here it is. Amy Grant meets breakbeat. Ha!

I encourage you to take this day of love and use it as an excuse to tell your friends that you love them. While you're at it, call your mother and tell her you love her, since you probably haven't talked to her in a while. Radiate neon waves of love.

So, here goes mine: Mom, Dad, this one's for you. Thanks for all the love you've given me over the years, and here's to plenty more to come.

Love is a beautiful thing, and not one whose many forms are spoken of often enough in today's society. So use the day, and don't just make someone you love smile; make everyone you love smile.

Listen to it here.

12 February 2008

"nite and day" || al b. sure! || 1988

A bit of soulful New Jack Swing to fill up this rainy Tuesday morning.

Ah, Al B. Sure. What a ridiculously high voice this guy had! Doesn't matter a bit though, since he totally rocks it.

This is the sort of song that makes you want to cuddle up next to a beautiful lady and slow dance, but not too slowly.

I love hearing soulful singers like Al go on about the ladies of their affections. They do so in a way that's definitely romantic, but also manages to be provocative and even at times aggressive (but not in a bad way). Guys like Al almost sound like it pains them to sing about a beautiful woman; in fact, the more in love with her they are the more pain you hear in their voice. This amuses me so because it's not even an unhappy breakup song, just a goofy love track, but he sings it like a painful breakup song.

Soul singers abound making music like this in the late '80s and early '90s, and while New Jack Swing is just all kinds of awesome, few singers achieved Al's level of coolness. Al and his flattop were suave.

Listen to it here.

10 February 2008

"serious" || donna allen || 1986

Sunday comes, and I bring the funk.

Donna Allen is a tiny little woman with a lot of hair and a voice from heaven. I love the way she thrashes herself around in the video clip for this song, because it just furthers the image that I have already of defiance. The familiar subject matter in the lyrics suggests that Donna is through taking crap from a man who may or may not be faithful to her. Now, while I realize that this isn't the pinnacle of originality, I also realize that if we were to focus on this song's lyrics we'd be missing the point.

The bass line in this song is delicious enough to bring tears to my eyes. It actually makes my mouth water if I listen to it loud enough. I also love the male backing vocalist's raps; they're the type that you can hear once and remember the words forever. This song also employs a vocoder, which, as we all know, takes awesomeness to a whole new level in any song.

Not much depth to this one, it's just a brilliant dance song. Enjoy!

Listen to it here.

04 February 2008

"the river" || stacey q || 1988

It's very tough for me to articulate the brilliance that is Stacey Q.

Never in my life have I come across an artist that moves me the way that she does. Her repertoire pulls from a variety of genres and styles, everything from Hi NRG (arguably the style for which she is best known) to synthpop to freestyle, to more surprising styles like pop rock and new wave, and even folk rock & acoustic rock.

Stacey's first album as Stacey Q was 1986's Better Than Heaven. It's a solid Hi NRG album, pausing the groove only briefly for the album's one downtempo ballad: "Don't Let Me Down." The album did fairly well commercially mostly thanks to the Top 40 singles "Two Of Hearts" and "We Connect."

Then Stacey did something that forever rid her of any "teen pop" label that one may try to slap on her: She released 1988's Hard Machine, an album that strayed far from the Hi NRG sound of the last record (except "I Love You," which kicks ass anyway). The album is filled with glorious rock music, but not without the synthesizers that are a staple of the Stacey Q sound. The album even has a downtempo number that's borderline R&B music ("Don't Make A Fool Of Yourself"), and was even remixed on the 12" by the great Shep Pettibone.

"The River" is where the album takes its most surprising turn. It's a raging, anger-and-lust-filled new wave track that makes you want to drive your car at dangerous speeds. Stacey is foraging new musical territory with the track, but she doesn't miss a note. This track alone proves that the girl can rock just as well as the big boys, and she's not afraid to knock 'em down a few pegs.

Stacey actually performs this song in the 1989 movie One Man Force, where she makes a cameo as Leah Jennings, a rock singer who gets kidnapped. Her part in the movie is tragic, but watching her rock out on the mic singing this song is magical (even if she gets kidnapped in mid-lyric).

Ah, Stacey Q. Why can't the world be made of your music?

Listen to it here.

01 February 2008

"jolene" || strawberry switchblade || 1985

Strawberry Switchblade were a duo from the UK that surfaced in 1985 with a self-titled LP, and then disappeared completely from the music scene shortly thereafter. That one album was enough to gain them an almost cult following, and not an undeserved one, either. Their gorgeous blend of goth glitz and synthpop is undeniably pretty awesome.

They had a decent hit in the UK with "Since Yesterday," which is fantastic song, but I chose instead to spotlight their cover of this Dolly Parton classic.

"Jolene" is a song that's surely stood the test of time, and I'm positive that it's due to the unusual attitude and tone of its lyrics. So prevalent in pop music are songs (usually sung by female singers) that threaten onlookers to stay away from their mate. ("You can't take my man, because I'm way hotter than you," blah, blah, blah) That's not the attitude of this songwriter, though. This time, the lady in question is pleading with another woman (Jolene), whom she obviously views as a threat to her relationship, "begging" Jolene not to steal her lover.

It's hard not to feel a little heartwrenched after hearing this song. We feel pity for the poor housewife, because clearly the man is all she feels like she has. She thinks that if the sultry Jolene swoops in to steal her husband that her life will end, and she'll never pick up the pieces and move on. The worst feeling for me is thinking that the wife already knows that her husband has slept with Jolene, and rather than feeling strong enough to confront both of them and deal with it, she's instead begging for Jolene's mercy. It's heartbreaking.

I think two things have kept this song alive for so long: 1.) It gives the listener extreme emotional catharsis. 2.) Countless women have probably felt the wife's helplessness and find the song relatable.

Strawberry Switchblade laid down the ultra-sad vocals over one of their signature drum machines, and an underground synthpop classic was born.

Listen to it here.