The Pet Shop Boys are asking some of our favorite existential questions. Have we become a society of sad robots yet? Are we just drones or digital sheep now? And where are the literal robot workers we’ve been promised to ease our labors? Pop culture has been asking those question for, oh, since the Industrial Revolution, at least. And although we ask these questions anew with each new wave of technology, we’ve somehow still remained our same bloodthirsty, irrational animal selves. Robots are no cure for human nature. The fact that we get all existential about the technologies that make our lives easier is proof that we’re helplessly bound to our emotions. We project them compulsively onto everything around us. We’re no more isolated or desensitized than any other generation in any other eon.
Raise your hand if you miss the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I know I do. I might be alone among purists, but I thought that Mosquito was their best record. Not everybody wants to hear their favorite punk rock band progress to recording with a gospel choir, but I live for that kind of fearless growth. I love a bold experiment even when it doesn’t succeed, and this one succeeded very much. I also think that you can’t underestimate the power of a well-placed gospel choir, and this is one of the best uses of one I’ve ever heard. I mean, it’s both totally apropos and kind of ironic. That’s musical growth, great production, total fearlessness, what have you.
Today’s song is pure atmosphere that gives you nothing to think about. And that’s a good thing. Moby isn’t quite up to Eno levels of ambient mind-cleansing, but he’s damn near close. Creating pop music that gives you nothing to think about in the sense that it soothes the mind and fosters a meditative state, as opposed to giving you nothing in the sense of being stupid…well, that’s actually a pretty tall order and not very many artists fit the bill. And I would like to have my mind soothed sometimes.
The Joy Formidable released their third album in 2016, to very little fanfare. Which is unfortunate, because they deserve fanfare. At a time when guitar rock has somehow become under-represented, we need bands that understand both loudness and melodicism. The Joy Formidable are outstandingly good at balancing heavy feedback with pretty vocals, which is very nearly a lost art. Ritzy Bryan may not be the It-Girl she deserves to be, but she’s the guitar hero we need her to be.
“So much of my album has to do with running away and refusing to settle in one place. It’s about the good and the bad of going out on your own.” – Ryn Weaver
Clearly, running away has been a popular theme. It’s particularly poignant for young women who wish to escape from stifling home lives and see the expectations of their future as nothing but a burden. The option to run away and become a traveling musician isn’t exactly a new one; theater troupes and gypsy caravans have called out to the brave for centuries, and the performing arts have long been a designated haven for nonconformists. The idea of making a break for it is still a powerful one, even though we now enjoy a lot more personal freedom than ever before.
The Human League never covered any Del Shannon songs. If they had, it might have sounded something like this. This is also, technically, not a cover of Del Shannon’s famous hit; somehow no one has noticed that it has the same hook and Ladytron has been allowed to claim sole songwriting credit. Call it an homage, I guess. But it does make me want to hear Ladytron cover some early-60’s pop songs. I also want to hear Ladytron do a collaboration with Phil Oakey, because if anybody can replicate the sound of Dare for the new millennium it’s Ladytron. Or, you know, I just want Ladytron to make another album. Which they’ve been promising to do, but haven’t done. I would like it to be a 1960’s pop cover album featuring Phil Oakey, but I’ll take whatever they want to give me.
Now back to our regularly scheduled content of pretty people making shimmery sonic soundscapes. No news from Electric Youth since 2014. If they stay quiet much longer they just might have to change their name. (hahahaha…ah..uh…) This is a vital part of your Millennial Chillwave discography, which you are no doubt compiling. This is the sound of now-ish, the musical takeaway of the decade. You may think it’s pretty wimpy music, if you’re a fan of bands who wear studded leather unironically, and you’re totally right. There’s just something in the air that makes me want music that’s gossamer deep. Don’t worry, balls-to-the-wall rock and roll will dig its way out of the grave eventually, like it always does. In the meantime, enjoy some shimmery soundscapes courtesy of the hipster generation.