Playlist: Synth-Pop is for Saturday Nights

The first ‘synthesizers’ were invented early on in the 20th century but didn’t truly find their way into popular music until the 1960s and 1970s. Then, a handful of punk followers took the ethos further and started making music with these ‘synthesizers’, all but completely dispensing with the tried and true rock music instruments. A lot of terms were and still are thrown about to describe the style of music that grew out of these first pioneers’ efforts and it’s often hard to differentiate between and or even define them.

‘Synth-Pop’, the genre that is the subject of today’s playlist, might be the easiest to define, being the most apt description for these acts that put ‘synthesizers’ and drum machines at the forefront of their sound. It was, in fact, a sub-genre of ‘New Wave’, as was the ‘New Romantic’ movement. Both of these are terms that are more difficult for this particular blogger to define, though I may make an attempt with a future playlist, more likely with the former than the latter. The term ‘New Wave’ especially, was misused, even more so where it was seen as a synonym for ‘Synth-Pop’ and ascribed to popular artists that came after the original explosion.

This twenty song playlist is a tale in two halves. The first ten tracks span the years from the late 1970s to the late 1980s, from the years where ‘Synth-Pop’ first appeared to the years that saw intense backlash and we saw the return of guitar rock prominence. The last ten tracks start things off with The Postal Service’s single from 2003, “Such great heights”, and flows on from there, through a sampling of the side of the 21st century indie explosion that was enthused with reviving the ‘Synth-Pop’ sounds.

Besides the just mentioned collaboration between Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello, other highlights include:

  • “Cars”, Gary Numan’s debut single released under his own name, save for the bass, drums, and a tambourine, it’s all synths
  • “Don’t you want me”, the best known single by The Human League, originally released as an afterthought off 1981’s “Dare”
  • A trio of tracks written or co-written by Vince Clarke: Depeche Mode’s “Just can’t get enough”, Yazoo’s “Don’t go”, and Erasure’s “A little respect”
  • “Seventeen”, the first single off Ladytron’s sophomore album, 2002’s “Light & magic”
  • “Lose it”, my favourite track off Canadian synth-pop act Austra’s 2011 debut “Feel it break”, an album written mostly in minor key, just like the best of Depeche Mode
  • “New balance point”, the brand new single off Lust for Youth’s self-titled fifth album

For those who don’t use Spotify or if the embedded playlist below doesn’t work for you, here is the entire playlist:

1. Gary Numan “Cars”
2. The Buggles “Video killed the radio star”
3. The Human League “Don’t you want me”
4. Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark “Enola gay”
5. Soft Cell “Tainted love”
6. Depeche Mode “Just can’t get enough”
7. Men Without Hats “Safety dance”
8. Yazoo “Don’t go”
9. Pet Shop Boys “West end girls”
10. Erasure “A little respect”
11. The Postal Service “Such great heights”
12. Ladytron “Seventeen”
13. The Bravery “An honest mistake”
14. Chairlift “Evident utensil”
15. M83 “Kim & Jessie”
16. Cut Copy “Feel the love”
17. MGMT “Kids”
18. Austra “Lose it”
19. Purity Ring “Fineshrine”
20. Lust For Youth “New balance point”

But why is Synth-Pop made for Saturday nights? Eh, I guess it can work just as well on Fridays, or even Sundays, when indeed all Retro 80s nights seem to be scheduled at the clubs. I went with Saturday for the alliteration effect, really, and for the party vibe that many of these tracks elicit. So get out there on your dancefloor, wherever you might be.

For those of you who are on Spotify, feel free to look me up. My user name is “jprobichaud911”.

Playlist: Time to get your Goth on

Happy World Goth Day everyone!

Er… To be honest, it’s not a holiday I observe but it did give me occasion to start in on an idea that I’ve kicked around in the past. And that is making and sharing genre-themed playlists on these pages. So, yeah, starting things off with Goth.

Goth is easily the music genre, lifestyle, and subculture that is most misunderstood by mass media and the public in general. I remember the going joke amongst a few of my coworkers, some years ago, which centred around the term ‘practicing Goth’ (as in, ‘Look at all that black, it looks like Jennifer is practicing Goth today’). It’s a term we culled from an article, one of many that had wrongfully attributed the perpetrators of the Columbine massacre as members of the ‘Goth community’.

I’m not sure I even fully understand the idea of being and ‘practicing’ Goth and all of the different offshoots that now exist but I do enjoy some facets of the fashion (the adoption of Victorian dress, for instance). I am also quite a big fan of a lot of the music that inspired the original scene, though I completely missed out on it, being too young at the time.

Some people sneer at the term Goth as a genre of music, calling it gimmicky, and the truth of the matter is that many of the original artists attached to the genre disliked the tag and tried to loosen its hold. I can remember going to a Sisters of Mercy show in Toronto in 1998, seeing all the youngsters in the audience wearing black, leather, S&M gear, etc., and wondering what they thought of lead singer Andrew Eldritch coming out on stage with his hair bleached blonde and cut short, and wearing a loud red Hawaiian shirt.

The idea in creating this playlist was not to define what is and what is not goth but to celebrate those artists that inspired generations to wear black. It is somewhat chronological, starting with those post-punk artists that toiled in darkness (Joy Division, Bauhaus), continuing with those that took up the mantle (The Cure, The Sisters of Mercy), squeezing in some acts that are not technically goth but definitely don’t sound out of place (Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen), and finally, gently transitioning to those that felt honoured to play in the originators’ shadows (She Wants Revenge, The Horrors), many years later.

For those who don’t use Spotify or if the embedded playlist below doesn’t work for you, here is the entire playlist:

1. Joy Division “She’s lost control”
2. Bauhaus “Bela Lugosi’s dead”
3. Tones On Tail “Christian says”
4. Love and Rockets “Haunted when the minutes drag”
5. The Cure “The hanging garden”
6. Killing Joke “Love like blood”
7. Siouxsie & The Banshees “Cities in dust”
8. Sisters of Mercy “Alice”
9. The Mission “Tower of strength”
10. The Cult “She sells sanctuary”
11. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds “Red right hand”
12. Concrete Blonde “Bloodletting (The vampire song)”
13. Leonard Cohen “Waiting for the miracle”
14. Dead Can Dance “Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove”
15. Cranes “Shining road”
16. Interpol “Obstacle 1”
17. She Wants Revenge “Tear you apart”
18. The Horrors “Do you remember”
19. Esben and the Witch “Marching song”
20. I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness “According to plan”

Enjoy.

For those of you who are on Spotify, feel free to look me up. My user name is “jprobichaud911”.

Playlist: New tunes from 2019, part one

I guess it was just a matter of time before playlists became a thing on this blog. The only surprise to me is that it took me this long to break down and post a Spotify playlist to these pages. And I’m already imagining this won’t be the last. Hence, the “part one” adjunct at the end the title above.

These here twenty-five songs are all from albums that have been released in the first three months of 2019 and are amongst my faves from said albums. Indeed, these are the songs that have soundtracked a very long winter up here in Canada’s capital, making my morning and afternoon commutes to and from work that much more bearable.

Highlights include:

      • “Not so proud”, track five off the self-titled debut album by Tallies, a four-piece dream pop outfit from Toronto, Ontario, Canada
      • A track (“Dylan Thomas”) by the surprise collaboration between Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers, from the album titled “Better Oblivion Community Center”
      • “Motor city steel”, one of the few highlights off an otherwise disappointing outing from Dandy Warhols, an alternative rock favourite in my books
      • “First world problems”, a song I wanted to hate off Stone Roses’ frontman, Ian Brown’s latest solo effort because its title is oh so millennial… but I just can’t help myself…
      • Reviews have been decidedly mixed for the debut album by (don’t call us a) supergroup Piroshka, who include ex-members of Lush, Moose, Modern English, and Elastica, but I love the single “Everlastingly yours”
      • “Tough enough” by Ex Hex is so so so 1980s in a Go-gos, Bangles, and Pat Benatar kind of way

For those who don’t use Spotify or if the embedded playlist below doesn’t work for you, here is the entire playlist:

    1. “Not so proud” Tallies (from the album Tallies)
    2. “About the light” Steve Mason (from the album About the light)
    3. “Her cold cold heart” Night Beats (from the album Myth of a man)
    4. “[10 good reasons for modern drugs]” The Twilight Sad (from the album It won’t be like this all the time)
    5. “Seventeen” Sharon Van Etten (from the album Remind me tomorrow)
    6. “Death in midsummer” Deerhunter (from the album Why hasn’t everything already disappeared?)
    7. “Dylan Thomas” Better Oblivion Community Center (from the album Better Oblivion Community Center)
    8. “Motor city steel” The Dandy Warhols (from the album Why you so crazy)
    9. “Sequence one” TOY (from the album Happy in the hollow)
    10. “Spiked flower” Swervedriver (from the album Future ruins)
    11. “Mexican dress” Blood Red Shoes (from the album Get tragic)
    12. “Five on it” Spielbergs (from the album This is not the end)
    13. “First world problems” Ian Brown (from the album Ripples)
    14. “Gallipoli” Beirut (from the album Gallipoli)
    15. “Bellyache” Yak (from the album Pursuit of momentary happiness)
    16. “Everlastingly yours” Piroshka (from the album Brickbat)
    17. “Until the fire” Ladytron (from the album Ladytron)
    18. “Jonatan” Desperate Journalist (from the album In search of the miraculous)
    19. “Pressure to party” Julia Jacklin (from the album Crushing)
    20. “One last night on this earth” Sundara Karma (from the album Ulfila’s alphabet)
    21. “Exits” Foals (from the album Everything not saved will be lost, part 1)
    22. “Woman” Karen O and Danger Mouse (from the album Lux Prima)
    23. “Tough enough” Ex Hex (from the album It’s real)
    24. “Look at you now” Sleeper (from the album The modern age)
    25. “Wasted youth” Jenny Lewis (from the album On the line)

Enjoy.



For those of you who are on Spotify, feel free to look me up. My user name is “jprobichaud911”.