29 September 2008

"boyfriend" || alphabeat || 2008

Hooray for well-crafted European pop music!

I'm sad that I haven't stumbled across Alphabeat before now. They've apparently been making records in Denmark for a few years now, but I just came across "Boyfriend" about a month ago. It took the song a few spins to stick with me, but now I'm addicted.

Definitely a throwback to mid-'80s pop music (no complaints from me), "Boyfriend" almost sounds like it was written by a modern girl-pop group in a "write an '80s song" contest.

When the song started, I was digging the groove of the music, and then I was thrown off-kilter by the singer's vocals. They were warbly, just like all modern female pop singers, but not warbly enough to make me turn off the song. (Warbly girl vocals almost always make me immediately shut off a song during the first listen.) The song is also in a minor key, which gives it a very moden touch.

The Europeans are masters of melodic pop music. I'm absolutely exhausted with American pop, because it's all spawned from R&B music, which I've had enough of, and the vocals all suck. Europe seems to put more emphasis on vocal ability, but more importantly they spotlight producers and bands who know how to write quality pop music. That's why Europop doesn't suck.

One final point I'd like to say about modern USA pop vs. modern Europop: If you hear a pop single by a European group and then go buy the album, you're likely to find an album filled with quality songs. This doesn't seem to hold true with modern USA pop albums. For an example, compare Alphabeat's album alongside Madonna's latest Hard Candy. I can get through MAYBE two songs on Hard Candy, but I can find something redeemable about every song on this album.


23 September 2008

"i'm always manic (when i'm around you)" || a big yes and a small no || 2008

Another song that falls into this "college pop" genre that I discussed in the previous post.

This is a surefire college radio classic. The first time I heard this tune, I complimented our station's music director on what I thought was the best song she'd chosen since taking the position four months ago.

College radio is built for tunes like this one. You'd never hear this on MTV, or on your local Top 40 station, but for college radio, it's a superhit. (If you're looking for another great example of college radio superhit, check out the song "Beard Lust" by Natalie Portman's Shaved Head from just a few posts back.)

Another tune that falls somewhere between indie rock and ska, "Manic" leaves you feeling sugary and delightful. It almost sounds like a tune that would have played in the background during an episode of Ren & Stimpy. I could just be saying that, however, because it makes me think of angular furniture, cookouts, and shag carpeting, but in a totally cool way.

If I were making compilations of college radio classics about 10 years from now, I'd include this track on my first release. I think it's a perfect milestone for this moment in modern music, and a song that should be tucked in the backs of anyone's mind who works in college radio during this era.

A final thought: The title of their album will make you smile.


"makeup artist" || marching band || 2008

Songs like this serve as reminders why college radio is the place to find the coolest music that you'll never hear anywhere else.

"Makeup Artist" is deliciously infectious, from its agreeable drumline and guitar riff to its dainty sing-along hook. There's definitely a heavy ska influence, but without the undertone of douchiness that usually comes with ska tunes.

I must admit that I feel a bit dirty liking the song, because liking it puts me on the fringe of indie hipster territory (to use a scientific term). The song is carefully crafted to be neither a ska song nor an indie rock song, instead landing safely in the middle. It's one of those tunes that's cool enough for the skater crowd and mellow enough for the singer-songwriter acoustic crowd. It sounds like a college party.

I'm glad that this is one of the prevalent sounds in college radio, because it's taking the idea of "pop" to a new dimension. When examined alongside another trend in college radio, rock music with powerful electronics (mainly drum machines and synths), I'd say that the whole lot could be grouped into a "college pop" category. This stuff is today what the Spin Doctors and 4 Non Blondes were in the '90s.


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