Friday, August 31, 2012

Mod Up! A Brief Intro to Northern Soul

I'm baaaack! Hope you didn't miss me too much. Today's post is inspired by Juliet, Naked, who is not an "easy" girlfriend of mine but a Nick Hornby novel. It was an ok read, mostly the first half, but what really got me interested was its mention of Northern Soul. Northern Soul is something that often pops up in reviews or interviews of British pop bands, often those associated with the Mod scene such as The Jam or Dexy's Midnight Runners. So I finally decided to find out more about this scene.

According to the wikipedia entry, Northern Soul is basically old American soul music from the 60s that happened to be favored by residents of Northern England. And the more obscure, the better. Now that's something EasyTV can get behind! So we're not talking about Motown big names such as the Supremes, but artists from lesser-known labels. So here's a little selection to give you an idea:

First, to get you interested, here's a song I'm sure you know, and that you probably thought (as I did) that it was an original: Tainted Love. Well, here's the original:

It's not as sleazy sounding as the Soft Cell version, but it's very danceable with its fast rhythm. Mark Almond must have heard this at a Northern Soul dance party, maybe in Wigan, maybe in Blackpool, maybe in Manchester, who knows.

Now one fun aspect of Northern Soul is the dance moves. A nice combination of spins and kicks that might remind one of hip-hop at times. Here's an illustration, to the tune of one of the most popular Northern Soul songs (but still one that's under the radar, because otherwise it wouldn't qualify as Northern Soul anymore now, would it? Such is the curse of a music genre that is defined by its obscurity). The dancing starts at 0:15

Juliet, Naked name-drops a few other artists from that era. One of them, Dobie Gray (who passed away recently), is the author of a Northern Soul "classic" (according to a character in the book) called Out on the Floor:

I'll be honest with you, this music isn't exactly my cup of tea, but I'm glad I finally found out what it was all about. Now if you happened to like this, here's a top 500 Northern Soul list you could use as a starting point. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Music for my Funeral

First of all: DON'T PANIC! I'm fine and there's nothing wrong with me (that I know of). This is just a fun (ok, macabre) exercise. After all, all my life I've come up with playlists in my head and fantasized about the perfect parties that I would DJ at, surrounded with beautiful people with perfect taste (i.e., mine, of course). So why not be the DJ at my own funeral? Yes, of course my funeral would have a DJ; wouldn't yours?

First of all, the no-brainer (heh): I'd start it all with some excerpts from my will for the female guests, wink, wink:

Next, keeping things relatively light, a song that would make my guests reminisce of my penchant for psychedelic music, but also to remind them that from now on, "you can't see me but I can you":

Now, with a smooth transition from early Pink Floyd to a beautiful cover by This Mortal Coil (who else in such an occasion?) of a Syd Barrett song, things get much more solemn:

The lyrics would be quite heart-breaking for such an occasion, and Carolyn Crawley's haunting vocals are just the right fit...

To finish off the proceedings, let's bring in the angels to take me away:

(infinite thanks to Steven Venn for introducing me to this amazing song)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Land of Strange Women

Regular EasyTV viewers probably already know of my Kate Bush fetish. What was (and still is) so fresh about her was how she'd created a sonic and visual landscape that was unlike anybody else's, yet was so unmistakably feminine. You felt like you were given a free peek into the female psyche's most intimate and sometimes darkest recesses. You weren't sure you were welcome, but you couldn't look away either.

Many other female artists have since created their very own personal worlds. The 80s were particularly fertile: see Nina Hagen (already discussed in one of our early posts) or Laurie Anderson:

The late 80s brought us many talented singer-songwriters (Suzanne Vega, Heather Nova) but I'd argue that none of them (other than Bjork, of course) had that sonic + visual blend of femininity and strangeness that I'm talking about in this episode. There were however many great female-fronted bands (Sundays, Cranes, Lush, Shelleyan Orphan) but their music was the product of a collaborative creation and as such the songs weren't as indecently revealing. The 90's seemed to be about self-affirmation, but in a more defensive (Sinead O'Connor), aggressive (PJ Harvey, Hole) or openly insecure (Cat Power) way. Now flash forward to the 00's and the 10's, and there's suddenly again plenty more singular female territories to explore. Some I personally stay away (Coco Rosie, Joanna Newsom) but others are definitely my kind of thing, like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs or, digging a bit deeper, My Brightest Diamond:

The above is probably one of my favorite songs of the 00's. There's some Jeff Buckley influence in there, but it's still very original.

And nowadays it seems that Canada has become a breeding ground for highly original personalities. There's obviously some ancestry (Joni Mitchell, Mary Margaret O'Hara), but this ain't no folk rock:

Austra's weird videos (weirdios?) are a big part of the overall experience, and so I also strongly recommend you check out "Beat and the Pulse" and "Spellwork".

There's also Grimes, who conjures some Cocteau Twins:

Another very singular work is tUnE-yArDs, a blend of world music and hypnotic loops:

To finish off, something from Glasser to induce some psychedelic dreams:

Friday, February 10, 2012

Cheesy Disco!

Well, not every EasyTV show has to be tasteful or culturally interesting, does it? Take it as your opportunity to vote "Kitsch" or "Lame" on this post without feeling guilty. Today I reminisce about disco songs that I used to hear when I was a kid in the late 70s and that are mostly forgotten by now, usually for a good reason.

It all started when I heard Tina Turner's version of "I Can't Stand the Rain" on my 80's specialty channel, which prompted me to find out who it was who sang a disco version a few earlier (the original is a beautiful song by Ann Peebles). So it turns out it's a band called Eruption. Eruption was produced by Frank Farian, the same German guy who also produced Boney M, as well as, as EasyTV viewer Shasha points out, the infamous duo Milli Vanilli. The video is worth watching if only because the singer, Precious Wilson, has an amazing voice, and the outfits are... erm... unbelievable:

(there was a video where the synth player has an outfit with 6 arms, but just couldn't find it again. A challenge for EasyTV viewers!)

Initially I thought maybe that song was by Amii Stewart, who had a big hit at the time with Knock on Wood. You'll see why I wasn't entirely off-base with my guess. Watch the video just to be amazed at Amy's stage presence (and let's face it, she's pretty hot) :

Then of course I got sucked into YouTube surfing, looking for similar songs of that era. There was that one song I once saw, around 1980, with a woman singing and dancing surrounded by a circle of fans, in high heels and looking incredibly tall. The song went "S.O.S. to the rescue". MmeEasy didn't know the song, but the fine researcher that she is, she managed to find it for me. !!!UPDATE!!! I even found the video I saw at the time!

But then out of curiosity I looked at what other hits Dee D. Jackson had at the time, and I stumbled upon a song that I used to love as a 8-10 year old kid. I must admit that even now I don't find it all that bad. Judge for yourself:

You basically can't go wrong with a big fake robot on stage, can you?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Persian Rock!?

EasyTV is back from a looooong sabbatical! Thanks to all who nagged me backed to it (in particular, I'm looking at you Pascalito!). So, what happened during that absence? All my old cool/lame/kitsch votes were lost to the Big Blogger Blackout of 2011. Also, we heard plenty of good new music: Jonathan Wilson, Lana Del Rey, Metronomy, Austra, and my little favorite obscure one: Glasser.

But today's post, as usual, will be about a pretty obscure topic: Rock in Iran! Sounds crazy, no? Obviously, most if not all of it is underground, illegal, banned, censored. The movie No One Knows About Persian Cats, presented at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, tells that story very well. Did you know you can watch the whole movie online (with English subtitles)? Free dissemination of the movie is even encouraged by Bahman Ghobadi, the director!

The main protagonists of the above movie have an indie band called Take It Easy Hospital (don't ask...). And they sing in English!

Kiosk is a band that I believe started in Iran but is now established in Los Angeles, like pretty much every musician who leaves the country. It borders on the spoken word genre and it's sung in Persian, so it's probably more enjoyable for those who understand the lyrics! The video gives a pretty good snapshot of life in Tehran, so it's worth watching just for that:

Finally, how about some hip hop? Shahin Najafi raps about the difficulty of life in Iran, especially for its youth (again, obviously it's more interesting if you understand the lyrics) :

Lots more of backed up blog post ideas to follow soon, I promise!