It’s been 11 years of writing this blog, and in that time I’ve covered a lot of things. My first post, on November 5th 2008, was a Zap Mama song, followed the next day by Nick Cave’s Abattoir Blues, and Barack Obama’s Presidential acceptance speech. Obviously, it was a very mixed bag right out of the gate. Inevitably, a lot of things have changed; my writing format for the better, the rest of the world for… not so much. If anything has been a running throughline that hasn’t changed, it’s the regular appearance of nearly identical fawning blog posts about Bryan Ferry. It seems that I always have the same damn thoughts when Ferry comes up: he is so dreamy, his hair is beautiful, he is the apex of all men, he makes me want to wander the moors in non-weather-appropriate evening wear, smoking is sexy, tuxedos are sexy, being sad in a castle is sexy, more men should wear tuxedos on a daily basis, why don’t real people make me feel like this? etc. etc. Ferry himself is an artist who found a format he likes and sticks with it like lipstick on a tuxedo lapel. So it’s not like there’s anything new to add. The formula is the formula and it elicits the effects it’s designed to elicit. Bryan Ferry makes me swoon, and I’m never – not in 11 years and not in 1,100 – going to come up with a more perceptive insight than that.
John O’Regan (aka Diamond Rings) is a Canadian indie musician who has played in different styles under different names. I saw him in his Diamond Rings guise as an opener for Robyn. I was impressed by his colorful style, or course, but also the energy of his performance. He performed solo, armed only with a keyboard and guitar; it was an impressive combination of pre-set electronic beats and live instrumental improvisation. O’Regan used now-common electronic music techniques that allow a single person to play percussion, keyboards and other effects with just a single keyboard. He also displayed old-school ‘real’ musicianship with his energetic and punky guitar playing. It turned out that his debut album Special Affections doesn’t quite fully capture the spirit of his live performance. However, it’s still a collection of catchy songs with attitude and emotion, and well worth listening to.
This is my favorite MGMT song. (Sorry, Kids.) It is a small gem that really captures the MGMT magic. At only two minutes and thirty seconds, it might feel a little bit like a toss-off. It starts off wavering, then it gets all climactic. But doesn’t overstay its welcome. That’s the trick with really catchy things: it’s tempting take a good hook and hammer it to exhaustion. But you gotta leave ’em wanting more. Just when you’re pumped for it to build up for another round, it ends. It’s magic like that. MGMT are a band who know their way around a really good hook, but don’t take themselves to seriously, and that’s magic too.
It’s been a decade since the last Sade record, and there may or may not be another one. It’s entirely possible that we’ll have to be content with what we have from her, because there’s hardly any doubt that Sade herself could happily never appear in public again. Still, if she does come back, I’m sure that she will once again show all the baby divas how it’s done. She is the very definition of a class act. No feuds, breakdowns, rudeness, or exhibitionism for Sade Adu. All that we know about her, really, is that she loves deeply and fiercely. If love is a battlefield, Sade is the veteran who wears their medals with modesty. And if you think that that’s a clunky old metaphor, Sade is the singer who fills it with conviction again.
To be perfectly honest, I’m getting tired of writing about Here Lies Love after all these years. I mean, it’s been nine years; if you haven’t bought this record already, I don’t know what I can do for you. And it’s not like some new wrinkle in the saga of Imelda Marcos is going to spawn a sequel. None of those things stop me from still listening to the record way more often than I should. And if nothing else, it still offers an introduction to a veritable parade of vocal talents. Here is Nicole Adkins, a singer-songwriter known for her retro style and love for musical Americana.
I don’t think there are going to be very many tangible artifacts left over from the EDM era. There’s not going to be Classic Hits of Dubstep compilations being sold to the nostalgic in a few years. Because there are no classic hits of dubstep. Most of the DJ’s and producers who rose to fame between 2010 and 2012 have already sunk back into anonymity. All that’s left is a lot of hazy memories of cold sweats and cotton mouth and MDMA hangovers. It’s just not a song-based genre, OK? EDM was always about improvisation and in-the-moment experience. And bass drops, which will never not be cool, haha. But if you absolutely must find a handful of actual songs to remember those years by, one of them will be this one. Deadmau5 doesn’t have to worry about regaining his anonymity because his schtick was always appearing disguised as some kind of a nightmarish hybrid of Mickey Mouse and a giant disco ball. Which was memorable enough in its way. And he also, in between dropping that bass like a tab of bad acid, released some albums with songs on them, and some of those songs were good. (He also released a ‘classical’ album last year, and it was weirdly not bad.) But really, you can thank the German singer and DJ SOFI for the hit-quotient of this track. With her sassy flow, she really breaks the usual mold of ethereal and – of course! – anonymous female vocals that EDM is known for. She brings some much needed hot blooded human sexuality into the sterile world of machine-produced dance beats. It’s seared into my memories of 2010.
For all of his influence and discreet ubiquity, I haven’t heard much about Brian Eno lately. Not that he’s the kind of an artist who aims to make headlines, but I could do with some better keeping up. It seems like he’s still all about composing otherworldly soundscapes. As usual, those soundscapes are both purposefully boring and subtly evocative. That is, they do evoke an distinct imaginative atmosphere. It could be the soundtrack to the kind of perversely drawn-out art movie that hardly anyone makes anymore, for example, the kind where static wide-lens shots of gently rustling greenery drag on for minutes at a time, and everyone is silently consumed with unspecified but very terrible sorrows. Eno draws the listener into this imaginative plane, and that plane is – plot twist! – extremely boring. Which is exactly Eno’s plan, his longtime devious hobby of creating things of great beauty that are impossible to pay any kind of sustained attention to.