Yo La Tengo covering The Cure’s “Friday I’m In Love”

Yo-La-Tengo_2015_Dusdin-Condren

When I saw that longtime favorite band Yo La Tengo were covering the classic hit Friday I’m In Love by The Cure, I pictured something hushed, understated, and endlessly charming. I wasn’t wrong.

When I watched the music video, however, I was fucking flabbergasted. It’s an epic story about love destroying the earth, as violent and jarring as it is hypnotic. Coming from this 30 year old band, it’s hilarious and.. surprising.

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Kate Bush’s Hounds Of Love: one of the best music videos ever

This song always makes me feel like I’ve been shot out of a cannon.

It’s a shot of pure adrenaline, that irrational rush of falling in love for the first time. Three whiplash minutes to express the insanity that throws into the atmosphere, leaving responsibility and real life below.

The forces of order try to capture the young lovers. A daring chase through the woods ends at a mysterious party, bursting with lights and color. The jig is up, but our heroine has a plan. Slapping handcuffs on her and her lover’s wrist, they take flight into the dark as the song spirals away.

The camerawork, the costumes, and the urgent sense of drama make this one of the best music videos of the 1980s, and all time as far as I’m concerned.

Kate Bush 1978

I’ve been in love with Kate Bush for a long time. Her music reached its pinnacle with the album Hounds Of Love, a weird mutant of operatic ambition, entrenched firmly within an 80s pop production framework. It’s as daring and progressive as anything she ever recorded, yet reaches the apex of pop perfection several times within its first half. The second half, subtitled The 9th Wave, takes us out into the open ocean before erasing any boundaries between the reflection and the stars.

I’m going to have to follow up with a post about her Running Up That Hill video.

Destroyer – Kaputt

Before 2011, I had heard one Destroyer album, Your Blues.  I recalled a very baroque yet earnest ballad named The Music Lovers, and nothing else.  I thought of Dan Bejar (the sole permanent member) as part of an indie pop milieu I haven’t found interesting in years.  Thankfully, Destroyer changed and I was wrong.  Kaputt is a utopian vision of space-age late night electronic jazz pop.

 

First I’ll mention the atmosphere: as lush as a Ferrari made of diamonds, parked near a waterfall…  bathed in the neon glow of some not-too-distant future.  Every reverb-laden trumpet blast and bright synth line feels magnified, submerged in the liquid cool of Kaputt’s immaculate production.  Some have mentioned the album conjuring memories of the 80s and I can’t disagree;  I think it’s more to do with the painstaking detail of the recording than any genre the band nods toward.   It was a time, after all, when ambitious pop albums were a slightly more common sighting.

If you’re familiar with Miles Davis‘ monumental Bitches Brew, you’ll have some idea of the tone and color the omnipresent trumpet takes on as it darts through the album from beginning to end.  Muted and echoed at godlike levels, it’s an apparition as much as a driving force.  Accenting and elevating the songs, highlighting the utopian feel, it’s a major aspect in cementing this sound in memory.  Another is Bejar’s voice.  With a deliver both earnest  and cool, his affecting lyrics take impressionistic flights spiked with lump-in-throat moments which remind us: he’s not just our tour guide on this  twilit adventure, he’s sharing the story of how we got here.

This chilled out, slickly psychedelic album is polished pop of the highest order.  Crackling with an energy and intricacy unheard of in Bejar’s (former) circles, it unapologetically stands out with a crystaline picture of a time we’re not living in.  For me, it’s the future.  I’m sure this has something to do with my upbringing in the aforementioned decade; this is how the future was supposed to sound then!  You may hear the past.  Either is a fantasy wholly worth inhabiting.

If you’re like me, you may need more assurance that this isn’t the tired indie pop you may expect (or fear) it to be.  So try this:

On second thought, everyone watch that.  One of the most original, thrilling, and straight up funny music videos I’ve seen in a long time.  80’s girls with wet hair, desert mirages, and flying whales!  Wow.  That just made me like this even more.  Anyway…

[you can get this straight from label merge, or even at amazon]

Bill Fay

Bill Fay is a criminally forgotten singer-songwriter musician with a handful of releases under his own name, all orbiting within the few years before and after 1970, when his eponymous debut LP was released.  Obscured by the curtains of history, I’m drawing them back to reveal a vital force in pop songcraft.

Bill Fay - Bill Fay (1971)

Wondrously baroque orchestral arrangements embrace his Dylan-echoing lyrics, conveyed via endearingly imperfect vocals.  The instrumentation dances a fine line between the majestic pop of early Scott Walker and the near-cheese overblown nature of Burt Bacharach, yet feels all the more appealing for this uneasy blend.  The near-awkward earnesty of his approach grows by leaps and bounds upon repeated plays, buffeting apprehension, giving way to an elated comfort with the style.  There’s an nigh-indefinable attraction built in to this album which manages to defy any and all possibly-unfavorable comparisons to the exalted greats like Bob Dylan, Nick Drake, or Donovan.  (I’d toss in Harry Nilsson‘s tenuous sound connection to this album because of my personal affinity and the fact that his Nilsson Schmilsson album entered my mind upon first listen).  Fay simply exists in his own musical ecosystem, relating to but standing outside the historical idioms and standardized notions of his more famous peers.  This certainly isn’t a perfect cup of tea for everyone, but those of us struck by the sounds of any artist I’ve mentioned here should spare the necessary time to take the whole record in.

Note: The final track, one of two bonus cuts, has an added poignancy and heft for fans of the film OLDBOY.  I won’t give anything away, other than to urge a close listen, and possibly a cracked grin upon the first few seconds.

[although reissued this decade, it’s semi-difficult to obtain.  thankfully amazon has a selection of new and used copies, and it’s available digitally as well]