Modern Retro Groove Experience’s Song of the Day: Beastie Boys’ “An Open Letter to NYC.” #neverforget
It’s easy for the perfect pop-song “Genghis Khan” to seduce you. It has a contagious drum beat, breathy vocals about jealousy, and a catchy and witty chorus that anyone can relate to. Who hasn’t gone a little Genghis Khan over a lover? Plus, the video is brilliant.
Miike Snow is an all-male trio from Sweden who lean heavily on synthesizers and Andrew Wyatt’s falsetto singing, sometimes electronically manipulated. Almost all of the songs depart from the upbeat pop song that is “Genghis Kahn,” but that doesn’t mean the album isn’t worth exploring. It is full of strong, melodic songs such as the album’s first single, “Heart Is Full.” The song is built around a sample of Marlena Shaw’s song, “Waiting For Charlie To Home.” The sample lends a desperate tone to Wyatt’s pleading throughout the song to avoid a broken heart.
“My Trigger,” the album’s opener, is ripped right out of the electro-funk era of the late 70s and early 80s. It has all the markings of a perfect pop song — whimsical lyrics, a great hook, and an upbeat x-factor that envelopes the song. “The Heart Of Me” transports you back to the latter parts of the 80s borrowing from Nu Shooz and Information Society. “I Feel The Weight” is a heavily-produced, heartfelt song that works as an intermission for the album’s later songs.
iii earns its place in pop culture with an album that should not go unnoticed. You likely won’t hear many of the album’s songs on terrestrial or satellite radio, so it will be an affirmative act on your part to check out iii and Miike Snow’s goodness. The musicality of the album and its lyrics make exploring iii worth the effort.
Be warned: Future Islands will knock you on your ass. This band’s sound is imbued with raw emotion in every song. The raw emotion derives from the lead singer, Samuel T. Herring, who fully commits lyrically and vocally to the infusion of vunlerability in every song (see, for example, the viral video “Seasons” live on The Late Show, where the band blows away Letterman and everyone else in The Ed Sullivan Theatre). The band’s atmospheric keyboards, New Order-like bass lines, and tight drum rhythms provide a unique palate for Herring’s imposing voice. Other than bass, the band doesn’t have a guitar player, and that certainly contributes to Future Island’s unique sound.
I am confident that the songs on Future Islands’ “The Far Field” will move you. The lyrics are most certainly about love — new, lost or otherwise. “Aladdin” opens the album, fading in dreamy music and then hitting you over the head with Herring’s sledgehammer voice. Herring and the band guide you through the album one beautiful song after another. “North Star” tells about the protagonist’s commitment to wake up beside his lover no matter the distance or circumstances that separate them. Herring demonstrates on “Shadows” that his intensity is contagious, a song in which Blondie’s Debbie Harry accompanies him. “Shadows” rivals Blondie’s “Union City Blue” and “Fade Away and Radiate” as Harry’s most vulnerable recorded vocal performance.
It is extremely difficult for me to be objective about this band and album. There isn’t any song on the album or in the band’s repertoire that I don’t enjoy. The songs on this album bring me to another place where sadness and awe of the beautiful melodies intersect. Future Islands’ will likely transport you to the same place. I recommend spending a lot of time with “The Far Field” this summer.
The first single, “Move,” on Saint Motel’s new album — “saintmotelevision” — is a strong combination of straightforward, catchy lyrics, interesting vocal phrasing, and an upbeat music. “Move” best demonstrates the band’s sound, which is vastly augmented by trumpet and baritone saxophone. In fact, the music sounds like a modern-day Average White Band or Pigbag. “saintmotelevision” is so much more than “Move,” however.
The album has several well-crafted pop songs that equal or surpass the strength of “Move. “”Destroyer” is a witty song with an infectious chorus — “I don’t break hearts, no that’s not me, I destroy them.” The album also includes this year’s wittiest song — “For Elise” — which is a tribute to the women who inspired landmark songs. Marilyn Monroe, Patti Boyd, Linda McCartney (referred to as Linda Eastman), Lola, and Candy Darling. The song isn’t pure gimmick, though. It stands with the entirety of the strong songs on “saintmotelevision.”
Start-to-finish, Saint Motel’s recent album is one of the best in 2017, thus far. Spend the time listening to the entire album; this one comes with a “get it” recommendation. The band is touring this year, continuing in this country on July 27th and appearing in The Capital District Region on November 18th.
May 2 is an important day for alternative music. On this day in 1989, The Cure released “Disintegration,” which includes “Lullaby.” On the same day, The Stone Roses released their self-titled debut album, which includes “Fools Gold.” Six years before those landmark releases, New Order released “Power, Corruption, and Lies,” which includes “Age of Consent.” Not bad, May 2, not bad!