Friday, August 31, 2012

More Commercial Music

I admit, I tend to watch some bad TV. But my taste in television programs balances out my impeccable taste in music. I may not completely come clean as to what shows I watch but I will openly list Law & Order (all of them), Burn Notice, Leverage, and any type of hidden camera exposé-type shows (most recently, Restaurant Stakeout) as some favorites. Even still, most of the time I choose to have the television on mute, soundtracked by whatever records I may throw on my stereo.  But there is that less-than-rare occasion when during a commercial, a song catches my ear and like any good music geek, I rush to write it down in the event that I need to compile a list of commercial songs...or in this case when the inclination to put together a mixtape comes calling. So here it is: our second As Heard On TV mixtape. Last time we did this in February (, it was triggered by Echo & The Bunnymen's "The Killing Moon" appearing in that Super Bowl Audi commercial. This time, Matt & Kim's latest ad jingle/single, "Let's Go" (which shills the Sony Xperia) is the catalyst for this mixtape- not because I want to include it but more because I'd rather hear these commercial songs.


As Heard On TV II [Random Ramblings & Mixtapes]

As Heard On TV II
1.  Violent Femmes, "Blister In The Sun": Back before it was ever called "alternative" any quirky, left-of-center rock acts were deemed "college rock." It's a term I never quite fully grasped. Oddly, "Blister In The Sun" is the first track on a an actual mixtape I used to listen to in high school so it's fitting that it kicks this off. It most recently appeared in an HP commercial.

2. Bryan Ferry, "The 'In' Crowd": I heard this one in a DSW commercial. It figures that someone as suave as the man who is voice of Roxy Music would end up soundtracking something having to do with fashion. I just expected it to be for Victoria's Secret or something a bit sexier.

3. M83, "Raconte-Moi Une Histoire": I still can't wrap my head around the fact that M83 is huge now. This one is off their great double album from last year, Hurry Up, We're Dreaming and it's the song I lovingly refer to as "the frog song." It was a nice surprise to hear this in an Expedia ad. I recently used Expedia to book a trip. I guess the commercial worked.

4. Lykke Li, "Get Some (Remix by Beck)": I believe this one appears in an ad for Lexus. Admittedly, I wasn't sure who it was, at first, but when I heard her voice I knew it had to be Lykke Li in remix form.

5. Yaz, "Situation": Not only is this song in an eSurance commercial, but it's one where they compare buying insurance to making mixtapes. Or something like that...I was distracted by the fact that two things I loved were appearing at once: that being Yaz and mixtapes, obvi. On a sidenote, this song stresses me out to play whenever I DJ because of how the music just drops out at about the 4-minute mark. It's a fear I'll never get over.

6. Depeche Mode, "Just Can't Get Enough": I'm all for this outpouring of love for Vince Clarke, albeit by some sort of coincidence. Hearing this song in a Staples ad is weird, but so is hearing it when the current incarnation of DM perform it live, so to me, it's a wash. It's hard not to like this song with its bubblegum chorus and sweet synths. Now, if only we can get an Erasure song to appear in a Target ad or something...

7. Cold Cave, "Life Magazine": The Verizon commercial that this song appears in may be outdated by now, but I just wanted a reason to include this song. Mainly because I forgot to include it in the first installment of As Heard On TV.

8. Atari Teenage Riot, "Black Flags": For a short period of time in 1997, I thought Atari Teenage Riot were going to be huge. To me, their gnashing mix of hardcore punk, thrash metal, techno, and industrial was on the verge of being a global phenomenon. Man, was I wrong. ATR released a great comeback album last year entitled Is This Hyperreal? which picked up where their 1997 album, Burn, Berlin, Burn! left off. It's really too bad that dubstep/brostep has taken over because the digital hardcore that Alec Empire and company practiced is so much more visceral than those meat-headed bass dropping dubstep idiots could ever produce.  Oh where was I? Right...this song is used in a Sony video game-type ad.

9. The Joy Formidable, "Austere": I'll happily post any song by this band. Clearly they've become one of my favorites since first hearing them almost 2 years ago. They've got a new album due out in 2013. In the meantime, "Austere" could be heard in an EA Sports video game ad and maybe even another one I'm not aware of. But really, any reason to blast The Joy Formidable is a good one.

10. Interpol, "The Heinrich Maneuver": Probably the last truly great Interpol song. It was good to hear this one resurrected in a Verizon ad. I only wish more of it got played.

11. The Clash, "London Calling": Perhaps the most surprising song to appear in a commercial. I'm guessing timeliness played an important factor in hearing this in a British Airways ad since it was so close to the Olympics. Another sidenote: I was bummed that I missed the closing ceremonies because I couldn't catch the Spice Girls reunion. I'm not even kidding. I was comforted to find out that they didn't do "Say You'll Be There." So yeah...The Clash!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

July Backtracks

Another month, another mixtape. This time around we not only look back to the songs that got constant rotation in July, but we also give it a new name. It was one of those happy accidents that was stumbled upon when putting together last month's June 2012 Mixtape, so now we implement it with the July 2012 Mixtape below. Instead of referring to this series with the clunky "Monthly Favorites Mixtape" moniker we switch it up with the sleeker (and more concise) "Monthly Backtracks." I have to admit, it felt like a stroke of genius coming up with that. Clearly, it's the simple things that make me happy.

July's mixtape still has its share of synths, twisted and barbed one moment, sparkling and almost seductive the next. But unlike the previous Monthly Backtracks mixtapes, July took a turn away from feedback-soaked shoegaze and dream pop instead moving towards some spiky post punk. So let's get to it, and as always, listen loud and become immersed.


July 2012 Mixtape
1. Purity Ring, "Obedear": This Montreal electropop duo aims more for the head than it does for the dancefloor. That's not to say that their debut album, Shrines, won't be moving bodies, but with beats this ghostly, a track like "Obedear" would be just as suited for soundtracking a seance as easily as it would a goth club.

2. Divine Fits, "My Love Is Real": It's easy to use the word "supergroup" when describing Divine Fits. After all, the band consists of Spoon's Britt Daniel, Dan Boeckner (Wolf Parade, Handsome Furs), and Sam Brown of New Bomb Turks. And while their debut single, "My Love Is Real" hints at the New Wave-indebted synthpop that Boeckner explored with Handsome Furs, their forthcoming album, A Thing Called Divine Fits (due out on Merge on August 28th) comes across as a more cohesive effort; a product of two pop savvy artists joining forces for the simple reason of creating great songs. Have an advanced listen to the album on NPR by clicking here.

3. Twin Shadow, "Beg For The Night": If there was any album that surprised me this year, it would be Twin Shadow's sophomore release, Confess. Where its predecessor, 2010's Forget, re-imagined 80's New Wave as bedroom pop, Confess is much more realized, as George Lewis, Jr. catches up to his aspirations with bigger production and a bigger sound. "Beg For The Night" is one of the album's highlights, with its sweeping synths and Lewis' romantic croon almost setting the stage perfectly for a climactic prom scene in the best movie John Hughes never got to make.

4. Crystal Castles, "Plague": Crystal Castles aren't exactly known for their subtlety. And while "Plague" eventually gets to that familiar terrain that we've come to expect from them where synths shriek just as much as singer, Alice Glass, it's those surprisingly quiet moments that serve as the calm before the storm that makes this an unexpected journey.

5. Icky Blossoms, "Sex to the Devil": Easily my most recent discovery to make it onto this Monthly Backtracks mixtape, this Omaha, Nebraska synthpop act isn't just a throwback to decades past. Despite a somewhat unfortunate band name, they mix in some indie rock coolness and a touch of R&B swagger. "Sex to the Devil" is one of their debut album's more sweat-inducing moments.

6. Holograms, "Astray":  Stockholm's Holograms took me off-guard. Often times, I find myself referring to them as a more accessible version of Denmark's Iceage, one of last year's favorite discoveries. But where Iceage delves into Joy Division-inspired, death-rock, Holograms has a slightly slicker approach making catchy post-punk that teeters on the edge of New Wave. "Astray" steers away from its bristly guitars at just the right time as wobbly keyboards and handclaps sweetens some of the song's rough edges.

7. Mission Of Burma, "Dust Devil": There isn't much that needs to be said about iconic Boston punks, Mission Of Burma. Since hitting the "restart" button in 2002, they've just about tripled their initial 80s album count and they've done so without losing any of their edge or softening their sound. Their latest, Unsound, finds them still as visceral as ever. Young punk bands are still playing catch-up.

8. The Vaccines, "No Hope":  London's The Vaccines seem like they're on the verge of becoming the biggest band in the world mixing messy garage rock and bratty punk, with just a small touch of noise-pop. But don't be fooled by the title of their new album, The Vaccines Come Of Age (due out in September), because it's still filled with jittery guitars and themes of youthful confusion. The album's lead single, "No Hope" doesn't pull any punches turning awkward growing pains into a celebratory battle cry. Apathy hasn't sounded this good since the 90's.

9. JEFF The Brotherhood, "Country Life": Nashville brothers, Jake and Jamin Orrall may keep their setup minimal, relying on just guitar, drums, and vocals, but their songs aren't simple and mindless. They take fuzzy garage rock and mix it with catchy Blue album and Pinkterton-era, Weezer-like power pop. Their latest, Hypnotic Nights is their most high-profile release, thanks to some production work from Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. "Country Life" opens the album and to be honest, it's that mid-song handclap breakdown that completely wins me over. What can I say? I like handclaps.

Bonus Track:
*not included on the Spotify playlist*

10. The New Highway Hymnal, "Out With The Lights": Just another kickass tune from this Boston psych rock quartet. It's like a boozed-up Black Rebel Motorcycle Club on a drunken bender. And I mean that in the best possible way.

So there you have it. Until the next mixtape. Keep it loud!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Night Clouds

I tell everyone that I listen to music all the time. It may seem like an exaggeration but in all honesty, it's pretty close to the truth. And on those days when things gets stressful, music seems to be the only thing that can save me.  It's funny how hearing a 3-minute song can turn things around. So here goes - a new batch of songs that may not change the world but at this very moment, they're all perfect in their own way.

Diamond Rings - "I'm Just Me"
This song pretty much inspired this post. After a long day at work when all I wanted to do was crash, "I'm Just Me" brought me back to life. Glammed up electro-pop with a larger-than-life chorus that's instantly addictive. It's the first single off an as-of-yet-untitled album due out later this year on Astralwerks.

Crystal Castles - "Plague"
Always sounding as if they're on the brink of imploding is practically Crystal Castles' calling card. "Plague" may not stray too far from familiar terrain, but that doesn't stop it from being a chaotic blast of synth/noise goodness.

Moon King - "Only Child"
Sometimes I listen to songs by bands I've never heard of. Such is the case with Moon King. I stumbled upon this Toronto duo while procrastinating one day and was floored by this song. Its dark undercurrent hints at both Siouxsie & The Banshees and Cocteau Twins. So yes, there's a little gothiness in obvious reason as to how it won me over.

Ringo Deathstarr - "Rip"
A quick shot of fuzz-soaked noise pop makes everything better. These Austin rockers have got a new album due out in September and "Rip" is its way-too-short first single.

Bloc Party - "Day Four"
And we close out this installment with what is essentially a Bloc Party slow-jam. Their comeback album is due out on August 20th and "Day Four" practically ensures a welcome return for a band whose ambitious musical output seems to have come full circle.