Best tunes of 1990: #11 Depeche Mode “Enjoy the silence”

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Just outside this list’s top ten, at the eleven spot, is perhaps one of the biggest songs by one of alt-rock’s best known bands: “Enjoy the silence” by Depeche Mode.

This British synth-pop, new wave act were originally formed by Martin Gore, David Gahan, Vince Clarke, and Andy Fletcher in 1980. Vince Clarke left the group after only one album and was replaced by Alan Wilder, who stuck with the group until 1995. Depeche Mode has operated as a trio ever since. From the year of their inception through their first handful of albums, they steadily built a following, first domestically and then, internationally, especially with 1984’s “Some great reward”‘ but it was 1987’s “Music for the masses” and its subsequent tour that really broke them in the US. Then came “Violator” and they were huge.

“Enjoy the silence” was one of two advance singles that foreshadowed the brilliance of the record. The song is instantly recognizable with that steady drum machine beat, alternating synth washes that sound like breathes of fresh air, and that guitar melody, an instrument that Gore was newly adding to the band’s usual synth heavy sound up to this point. And of course, there’s those opening lines that lead vocalist David Gahan intones in his perfect baritone: “Words like violence, break the silence, come crashing in, into my little world.”

He’s almost perfectly describing an introvert’s crisis. He does go on, of course, introducing a girl to the picture, a lover’s embrace, late at night, where words only ruin the mood. Is there still love or is it just the physicality? Or is the girl just an idea, or perhaps a symbol, a representation of all that causes him pain? Then, there’s the music video that suggests another interpretation. Shot by Anton Corbijn, a frequent music video collaborator of the band, it depicts as Gahan as the little prince of literary fame, roaming many isolated landscapes with a lawn chair, perhaps in search of some solitude and some quiet.

Whatever the meaning behind the lyrics, the tune is a beautiful beast, built both for the dance floor (as evidenced by its many remixes) and for nights alone, under the shroud of darkness. Truly full of grace and worthy of all the reverence bestowed upon it. Have another listen on me.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1990 list, click here.

Vinyl love: Blur “Blur”

(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)

Artist: Blur
Album Title: Blur
Year released: 1997
Year reissued: 2012
Details: 5 of 7 in Blur 21, anniversary box set, black vinyl, 180 gram, 2 x LP, Gatefold sleeve

The skinny: After the ridiculous Britpop excesses of “The great escape”, Damon, Graham, Alex, and Dave changed things up completely, looking across the ocean at lo-fi alternative bands like Pavement. Their obvious courting of America paid off with their biggest hit ever in the US – the ubiquitous “Song 2” (or as many know it, ‘The woo hoo song’) – but it’s not even close to the best song on the album.

Standout track: “On your own”

Best tunes of 2010: #18 Phantogram “Mouthful of diamonds”

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Let me know if this has ever happened to you.

You discover a band or solo artist and download or purchase a physical copy of their album. You really enjoy it. You listen to it a few times. And then… you forget about it. A few years later, you’re trawling through the upcoming releases list and notice an album by a name that sounds familiar to you. You check out the advanced single (or two) and like what you hear but damned if they don’t sound like you’ve heard them before. So you go to your massive iTunes playlist and sure enough, there they are. And you go about rediscovering them all over again. And you know that you didn’t lose track of them because they’re a forgettable artist or anything like that. It’s more symptomatic of having too much music available to our collective fingertips, a good problem to be sure, but also one that is a new one in this internet world in which we live.

Phantogram is one such band for me. I got into the Greenwich, New York-based duo with the release of their debut album, “Eyelid movies”, and was completely absorbed with the cinematic and atmospheric worlds they created with their music. I was then reacquainted with them in 2013 with the release of a handful of singles in anticipation of “Voices”, the sophomore full-length that came out the following year. In Phantogram’s case, it definitely wasn’t them – it was me. They were pretty active in the four years between albums, having released a couple of EPs and having collaborated with a bunch of notable artists, like Big Boi and Flaming Lips. Apparently, my listening ears were elsewhere.

“Mouthful of diamonds” is one of the incredible tracks off Phantogram’s debut that completely drew me back into the fold while waiting for “Voices” to be released. It’s the album’s lead off track and explodes with its intense beat and low end layer, while synth screeches flit about with Josh Carter’s jangly guitars and Sarah Barthel’s soft and breathy vocals. It is dark and haunting. It is a dream from which you don’t want to awaken. It is a futuristic dance club in some sci-fi flick yet to be made. It’s all this and everything else your mind can imagine while you close your eyes and sink back into your couch with the song’s beats thumping through your earphones.

And I’ll tell you something else. Two albums and two live sets later, and I definitely haven’t lost track of them again.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2010 list, click here.