Thursday, April 16, 2009

Recently Obsessed With French Music

I think there's just something I like about the sound of the French language. But while it's especially suiting, in my opinion, to weirdo synthpop such as might be found on compilations like BIPPP or So Young But So Cold, there is also other stuff. And there's also just the synthpop.

As we shall see, as I tour French music with no real knowledge of it...

France Gall - "Baby Pop" (1966)

Written by Serge Gainsbourg. Saccharine sweet, catchy yé-yé sung by 18-year-old France Gall.

Charles de Goal- "Exposition" from Algorhythms (1981)

Weirdo French synthpop/no waviness.

(Discovered thanks to post-paranoia.)

Les Rita Mitsouko - "Marcia Baïla" from Rita Mitsouko (1985)

Quirky, bouncy synthpop from the mid-80s.

(Introduced by Dustin.)

And I wanted to post a video by Les Thugs, but "As Happy As Possible" has disappeared from YouTube. Suffice to say, I also like that song.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Casiotone for the Painfully Alone - Advance Base Battery Life

Casiotone for the Painfully Alone

Advance Base Battery Life

Tomlab, 2009

With bouncy beats lying beneath mellow, comforting synthesizer melodies and accompaniment, Owen Ashworth's Casiotone for the Painfully Alone gives one the feeling of being in the company of a sympathetic friend in a moment of heartbreak, loneliness, or any number of other disappointments. Ashworth's lyrics and music can play an important role for listeners caught in these situations. While the topic matter is generally sad and melancholy, they are not meant for dwelling and brooding in misery. Themes of loss (“White on White”), nostalgia (“Old Panda Days”), and simple disappointments (“White Corolla”), all leave his audience with a feeling of determination (best exemplified in “Sunday St.” or “Lonesome New Mexico Nights”).

Advance Base Battery Life, being a collection of singles and other non-album tracks from 2004 to 2007, it runs through a number of different moments in Ashworth's career. The disc features a re-envisioning of a song from 2001's Pocket Symphonies for Lonesome Subway Cars (“Lesley Gore on the T.A.M.I. Show”) and other songs which hint at the sound present on his first three albums (“Missoula,” “The Only Way to Cry,” and “Voice of the Hospital”). However, a large portion of the album also shows the direction Ashworth has taken since 2003's Twinkle Echo, including a different version of “Holly Hobby,” which also appears on 2006's Etiquette. And all points in-between are covered. In addition to the plain Casiotone tracks are his recent collaborations, such as one song performed with the Donkeys (“It's a Crime”).

Ashworth's synthesizers are usually understated, sometimes simply acting as accompaniment for the words being sung, sometimes providing a number of catchy melodies and hooks, in and of themselves. Ashworth's singing is often delivered with a “what-else-can-I-say” attitude, reflecting the states-of-mind of the characters in his songs. One might think, initially, that it was simply “blasé;” but, in fact, the inflections are important to convey Ashworth's message. One of the great things about this collection is how it runs a lengthy gamut of the different moods of Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. Here, you can find fun, commiseration, and the kind of relief you might normally get from old friends.

caUSE co-MOTION - It's Time: Singles and EPs 2005-2008

It's Time: Singles and EPs 2005-2008


Slumberland Records, 2009

Opening with tinny, rapid chords, followed quickly by thumping drums and then finally fully fleshed out with the introduction of voice and bass, “Only Fades Away” lets you know what you're in for within the first five seconds. Cause Co-Motion's grasp of the immediacy of the pop song is a quality I find sorely lacking in current pop trends. The careful arrangement and repetition of catchy melodies rolling by at a pace which might be described by some as “moderate, but on the quick side,” lends itself easily to enjoyment by those looking not for the voyeuristic pleasure of drama and spectacle, but something more akin to a moment of commiseration with a compassionate soul. It's hard not to like this band.

The songs are short. Exceptionally short, by today's standards. There are fourteen songs included in this collection of singles and EPs, and not a single one goes over the two minute mark. They don't even meet it. Cause Co-Motion have a sort of guerilla-warfare approach to their music. The songs come seemingly out of nowhere and are gone about as quickly, sometimes just as soon as they register in your mind. Although the songs themselves may not be hard to miss, nothing about the songs are hard to miss. The pop genius is immediately apparent. Each song manages to tell a story and convey meanings. Even with the short lengths, they explore and travel through different moods and atmospheres, some songs going from spastic bombast to thoughtful passages. The songs and melodies bounce and sway, leading the listener along with the route the words take.

Delivered with a selfless quality that resembles Beat Happening, the music and performances are inviting to the listener. There's no ego in the singer's voice imposing himself onto the listener. The words are purely honest and sincere, and you're left with the feeling that they're being sung because they must be, plain and simple. No grandiose endeavors or hidden agendas lurk here. It's just genuine passion. But the music isn't without a sense of humor. Despite the typically lovelorn lyrical content, the levity of the music keeps the band away from self-indulgence or unnecessarily lengthy introspection. This collection ends quickly, but it's the nature of the songs' brevity that you can put it right back on and listen as many times as you need in order to get your fill, without ever losing that same excitement you found on the first listen.