I’ve been thinking about this for a while, ever since we’ve been doing the Picks of the Years thing. What got me really started on this was the way that the 1980s divides people. For some, it is the Decade That Taste Forgot and for others it is Pop Heaven. Personally, I reckon that the 80s were like all the other decades, there was good and bad.
One thing that is very 1980s is a kind of glossy slickness, perfect production and a big, wide-screen sound, but never fear, you won’t be hearing anything from the artists in the picture above.
Of course, there are other sides to ’80s music but it is the songwriting, production and general “bigness” of the whole thing that I have been thinking about. Even the intimate and emotionally-charged songs seem to have a sense of epic scale about them. OK, so sometimes it ends up being a musical equivalent of Top Gun, but that just screams out “1980s” anyway.
So, here is a playlist that showcases the glossy sound, the production, the soulful flourishes (without being soul music) and the all-round epic qualities. All of the artists are British, some are bigger names than others, one or two are probably not as well-known as they should be but all of the tracks I’ve picked show up at least one facet of what I’ve been rambling on about.
Nothing new to anyone on here, just a quick and cheap post I guess to try to convince Bish that pop didn’t suck after 1984, i think it got even better. More polished – probably peaking around 1987 for the swooniest pop for my money. (A monster year overall. We have our work cut out on that one.) Then it started to sort of unpolish itself, and started to go other places by the end of the decade. Which was all good.
New household member and French princess Seraphine says she only listens to old school jungle and sometime glitch-step. I don’t quite believe her silky continental sophistications as I’ve seen her secret stash of Serge Gainsbourg, rare groove and booty bass LPs.
2. “Annabel Dream Reader” – The Wytches
I’m a 90s kid through and through. Cut me and I bleed jangly indie, shoegaze and pre-major-label grunge (when it was called alt. rock). I’m pop but Sub Pop. I’m sub Sub pop Pop. Pop.
Some folk might think that the terms wretched, noisy & abrasive are negative words to describe music with. I think things went bad when the only audible influence bands took from Nirvana ended up being Nickleback, Puddle Of Mudd, Creed, et al. There are so many bands influenced by Kurt, Thurston, J Mascis whose music sounds nothing like them, but it was Bleach or Nevermind that made them pick up a guitar.
Rarely a band dares to occupy a space made sacred by Saint Cobain over twenty years ago. Rarer still is a band with the ideas or the chops or the tunes to pull off anything worthwhile.
Filtered through a sixties freakbeat awareness, pre-nevermind rhythm section and a throat shredding south coast accent, The Wytches scream their fucking heads off in memorable pop tunes as distortion reigns supreme. From the fuzz comes transcendence. Touch me; I’m quick.
1. “Soft Friday” – Coves
Noise ridden wall of sound pop melodies fuzzy skygaze shoegaze hazy days; the (beautifully sub-40 minutes 10 tracker) Coves record has myriad sparkling & eclectic psyche pop delights that I haven’t stopped listening to since April.
I just love it so much.
4. “United Ghosts” – United Ghosts
Poppy hooky shoegaze with dual male/female vocals. There needs to be some sort of internet widget where this stuff gets posted straight to my door without me even hearing it first.
joint 3rd. “New Gods” – Withered Hand
Dan’s long awaited follow up to Good News (his first record which was my favourite of 2009) was a worryingly together effort with a backing cast of Scots indie royalty behind him (King Creosote, Eugene Kelly, Frightened Rabbit to mention a few). The old bumbling charm has diminished a bit, the songs are bigger and looking out rather than in. I think the album just lacked a “No Cigarettes” or “Love In The Time Of Ecstasy” and time had increased my expectations to silly levels. It’s a great record, don’t get me wrong.
joint 3rd. “St Vincent” – St Vincent
I like my pop music like I like my coffee: bonkers & unpredictable, taut & skewed, arty & twisted (never ask me to make coffee). It’s Madonna brought up on Talking Heads rather than disco. An incredible record from an incredible talent, and had I picked it up earlier in the year it may well have been higher up the list.
Mewsli finds it hard to choose too. Here’s the next three best LPs of 2014.
7. “Ganglion Reef” – Wand
I like my 60s inflected psychedelic pop music COVERED IN RIFFS AND NOISE AND MENTALISM. Thanks Wand!
8. “Sun Structures / Sun Restructured” – Temples
I like my 60s inflected psychedelic pop music incredibly authentic sounding. Thanks Temples!
This record was so 60s beat pastiche that I initially dismissed it but I’m very glad I went back to it as it’s chock full of fab songs. The remix album that is now bundled with it is the whole record taken apart by acid drenched wizards (actual wizards! Beyond The Wizard’s Sleeve to be precise) in a fevered high and put back together all wonky and could well be better than the original. Excellent value for money for sure.
6. “Days Of Abandon” – The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
The growing Pains continue. The first LP noise-twee made way for LP2’s angry teen stompbox (my fave LP of 2011) and now their third sees them getting Jen from Fear Of Men to sing half the songs in a polished 80s Smithsian fashion. Jangle and sparkle and huge pop songs – not indie pop – just POP. Fit to burst exuberance and sky grazing ballads.
It’s not them, it’s me. If DsD is falling for sappy ballads in his dotage, i seem to be going for feelgood pop in mine. I really wanted to be hooked on droney stuff, like the Swans and Temple and Parquet Courts. Or grab my pipe and slippers and hang out with Beck, or stare out the window at the dismal weather with the War On Drugs, or brood with Bonnie Prince Billy. But seems that most of what i found this year that hit the spot is a spectrum of pop.