And here we have some of that guitar rock that 2006 was sorely lacking. It was sorely lacking so much that the Arctic Monkeys’ debut album shot them straight to instant fame and breathless accolades of the sort that almost inevitably lead to sore disappointment. There’s hardly a cursed accolade worse than ‘instant classic’ to sink a promising ship, especially if it’s plastered on a debut. As an audience, if you’re not one of those fans who were in on the ground floor and get to say “I told you so!”, your first impulse is to find something to hate. “This so-called instant classic is sooo overrated” you parry “You lot can’t impress me, for what even is guitar rock than just the same Stooges album regurgitated ad nauseum?” That’s actually a pretty fun position to take for the aspiring armchair critic. It’s even worse if you’re the band, and you’ve got nothing to do for the rest of your life except try to live up to a load of hype that got thrown at you when you were barely old enough to sign your own checks. I’m going to hold my initial position here and say that the first Arctic Monkeys album was not actually as monumentally great an achievement as the hype would have it, though apparently a garage rock concept album about the spoils of partying is just what the world was hungering for. However, it was a good start, with or without hyperbole, and more importantly, these guys really beat the odds. They didn’t flame out under pressure, they kept working and got tighter and developed a more interesting image and made increasingly better albums and actually grew into being one of the best guitar bands.
Electropop groups are not good candidates for the unplugged treatment. It’s tough test, stripping away the heavy production and electronic atmospheres defines the genre. There’s not always a lot of strong writing or good musicianship underneath. So you can’t blame any group who leans heavily on bleep-bloops for not wanting to go all acoustic. Here, however, is an acoustic performance by noted bleep-bloop duo Broods, and guess what, it’s good. They’ve pulled the plaintive ballad out of a song that was originally halfway to being a club track. Georgia Nott doesn’t have the most outstanding voice, but she sings with feeling. It’s nice to see that there’s a genuine person behind the usually very glossy music, and there’s an emotional center to the song that may get lost in the production.
The pop scene moves at blazing speeds nowadays, what with the instant gratification culture of the internet, the social media news cycle, etc. So timespans of only a few years begin to feel like decades stretching forwards and back toward infinity. 2013 feels like a life cycle ago, but it was practically yesterday. Time is a flat pancake, is it not? I discovered a lot of new things in 2013, because that was the year I listened to the radio a lot. So when you discovered the same things two years later, I can confidently say that I’ve known about those things for ages, just ages and ages, like eons of geological time. Ahem.. I was listening to Chvrches before they became well known. Four years ago. Do you know how many fruit flies have lived and died in that timespan?
I wish to introduce an artist who I discovered in a most circuitous, thoroughly modern way. Please check out Lissie, a singer-songwriter based in Iowa, of all places. I first heard Lissie as an anonymous voice on an EDM record, which I had to Shazam, because I loved her performance so much. Her vocals sounded organic in a way that most EDM vocals don’t. That song turned out to be The Longest Road by Morgan Page. I decided to follow up, with not much expectation. EDM vocalists, when followed up, usually turn out to be D-list never-were pop divas. I couldn’t be more pleasantly surprised to discover Lissie. Her aesthetic is anything but club kid or pop diva. Her music is not-quite-country not-quite-pop-rock of a type there isn’t a whole lot of anymore; unpretentious, heartfelt but not overly earnest, catchy but not grabby. It’s what used to be called middle of the road, I guess, though that term was generally thrown around as an insult. Well, now that the music industry is a global superhighway bristling with niche-market exit ramps, don’t you kind of miss the middle of the road? Frankly, right now, a smart singer-songwriter who doesn’t care about being on-trend is just about the most refreshing thing to come across.
First off, Suck It and See is a dumb album title, to American ears at least, though the Arctic Monkeys assure us that in the UK it’s not a rude phrase at all. Two nations divided by one language, as they say. Title aside, though, it’s apparently become one of the essential rock albums of the 2010’s, an era that’s been short on good solid rock and roll. Somebody has to tide rock music through one of its periodic dead spells, and these guys nominate themselves. Hence the greaser hair. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been on the fence about Arctic Monkeys for a while, with the suspicion that if the competition were stiffer, they’d be less acclaimed. But they’ve been riding an upwards arc, with increasingly stronger music, and I’ve come around and had to admit they’re a good rock band who don’t really need a caveat. Yes, the world needs a good rock band right now but… Hey, hey, my, my, as the poet said.
Ms Mr should be on your radar of very important electropop groups. You might remember me loving their most recent album, way back in 2015. Of course, I’m waiting for whatever may be next. I just really want to observe someone’s career grow and flourish. I want to see that it’s possible to build a long-term career as a mid-level independent artist who works for their fanbase and themselves and doesn’t rely on the corporate machinery that keeps the biggest superstars pumped full of helium. There’s a lot of promising young groups, and inevitably, most of them will most likely throw in the towel sooner rather than later. I’m not making bets on who will or will not thrive, because that’s mean. Rather, I think it’s great that there’s a platform for so many musicians to promote themselves and find a niche and be rewarded, even on a modest scale, thanks to social media and home technology.
I’ve been thinking that I need to put together a compilation of the best electropop songs. As a basic introduction to the genre, you see. It’s a bit of a vaguely defined genre, but if it has synths that go bloop like it’s 1983 and a ridiculously cute female singer with a high voice, it’s probably electropop. Exhibit A out of many, Electric Youth. “The thought of recreating the past with music is not interesting to us, it’s probably been the biggest misconception of our music and what we’re about thus far. The reality is, we’re much more interested in creating things for the future than things from the past. We are nostalgic people, not in the sense that we long for a different time, because we love the present, but how could we not be reminded of the past when every day, we see the person we had a crush on since 7th grade?” says Electric Youth’s Austin Garrick. If you say so. Please note that electropop groups are nearly always a duo, and they’re either siblings or a couple. Electric Youth are a couple who have been together since the 8th grade, which is nauseating cute. They want you to know that they didn’t name themselves after a Debbie Gibson album; their name is meant to reflect their feelings of optimism in their generation, or something. If you say so.