My iTunes playlist mania continues. My latest effort, entitled Post Pop, was inspired by an XTC song that harri3tspy sent me on one of her mixes. That song posed a question: “what good 80’s pop do I own?” The answer is “not much”. I have a couple REM CDs, for example, but I mostly spent the 80’s buying music from the 70’s by the likes of Genesis, Pink Floyd, Led Zepplin, and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Still the question got me thinking about groups like the Beatles and the Beach Boys, who though clearly rooted in the pop tradition, actually wrote music that somehow transcended the genre… to become “classic”, if not “classical”.
That ultimately lead to the following rather eclectic list of songs:
Angus Dei – Rufus Wainwright The first track off his CD Want 2, this song sets the mood for the mix. Starting with the noise of someone badly sawing a bow across some violin strings, and ending with a meditation on the phrase “Angus Dei qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis” (or as most Catholics know: “Lamb of God, take away the sins of the world”), this comes nowhere near to being a pop song. Rufus is rooted in the pop song writing tradition though (quite literally, being the son of Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle.)
Those Theiving Birds (Part 1)/Strange Behavior – Silverchair Who knew that a band that started out as a Nirvana clone back in the 90’s could produce such beautiful Beatles-esque power pop? It’s all here: the catchy melodies, the strings (courtesy of Brian Wilson collaborator Van Dyke Parks), the changes in tempo. If the previous track set the mood, this one holds the soul of the mix.
Wait For History – Deconstruction This song takes many of the same sort of conceptual ideas (complex melodies, changes in tempo, etc…) and changes the tonal palette to 90’s post-grunge. Built on the wreckage of Jane’s Addiction, Deconstruction turned out only one CD, but it was a good one.
Where Do I Begin – The Chemical Brothers This track shifts the palette yet again… to techno and electronica. Yet, the vocals by Beth Orton have a quintessentially British pop sound.
Sissyneck – Beck Electronica influences are on display here as well, but they are transformed in the hands of Beck into a sort of a postmodern screwball country song.
Twisty Bass – Neil Finn Since Crowded House figured into the genesis of this mix, I wanted include some of their work — they were great at writing pop songs that could be so much more than just pop songs. I chose this track from Neil Finn’s solo CD instead.
The Modern Things – Bjork Likewise, with a mix name like “Post Pop”, a track from Bjork’s CD Post was an inevitably great fit.
Porcelina Of The Vast Oceans – Smashing Pumpkins Taken from the Pumpkins double concept album, this song finds them at their most orchestral sounding (if that term can ever apply to Billy Corgan and crew).
Subterranian Homesick Alien – Radiohead The last track put in me in a concept album mood, and OK Computer is one of the best “complete” (in a Dark Side Of The Moon-sort-of-way) albums out there.
Nightswimming – R.E.M. REM figured in the creation of this list as well, and this track (with its John Paul Jones-arranged string section) made for an organic, acoustic counterpoint to the Radiohead right from the opening sounds of the violins tuning up. Besides, how often do you get to hear an oboe solo in a pop song where the guitar solo should be?
Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove – Dead Can Dance This song took forever to find. I hadn’t listened to it in about 12 years, and pretty much forgot that I even owned it. I was originally looking for a soft, acoustic song with a female vocalist to bridge into the next track and Into The Labyrinth has Lisa Gerrard singing The Wind That Shakes the Barley. This song ended up in the mix instead.
Waiting – Sheila Chandra This song also took a while to find. I hadn’t listened to The Zen Kiss for ages either… but small group of brain cells in my head said, “look for it — it might fit”. Lo and behold, I think this makes a great complement in a tonal sense for the opening track, and the mix is able to return to where it started.
p.s. Yes Harri3t, you can have a copy if you want one.
(second entry for the day)