So I've written on this blog about listening to the One Kiss Can Lead To Another box set, but I've also talked about it in real life. "I've been listening to a lot of girl group pop," I say to my friend Graham, and he responds with "You mean like the Pipettes?" and I think I then got one of those faces that old music snobs get when you have a conversation like that one.
But those old sixties songs are on my computer, and that's in Washington. I'm doing the late-night music blogging on my mom's computer, without mp3s. But there's YouTube, and Pitchfork linked to songs by The Pipettes when running down the best tracks of the year. I'd heard them before, but I heard them again today. And the reaction is still the same, I guess, that face. The face that says "I know what you're talking about but no that's not what I'm talking about."
Part of the appeal of the box set of singles is how it brings out the diversity in all the different bands, all the weird angles. So a band that's going after specifically the Shangri-Las misses a lot- The weird reverbed guitar solos, the dramatic (as in theater) choruses.
And that girl group box set has solo performers on it as well.
So that leads to something I wanted to talk about, an amazing Olympia moment. At a house party, bidding farewell to the aforementioned Graham, (I think this is actually where we had that conversation) there is a dance party, and I am dancing supposedly amazingly, supposedly violently. The type of dancing you do when you mostly dance at rock shows but then some girl says that she heard you are a good dancer and you should dance with her if that is the case. (Sam Adams, who said I redeemed that party, said that I did everything short of punch this girl in the face, so violent was my dancing.) But I am not the star of this anecdote I wish to tell. The star is The Blow, who wasn't even there, except in song. But when the Poor Aim EP started to play and all the girls that were dancing started to sing along to various lyrics, for emphasis, I don't know, it was something special. The point of pop music as I understand it came through so fucking strong, in that whole danceable + relatable sentiment intersection. When I was walking home I thought about how the difference between good song lyrics and good prose is that song lyrics are all about understanding the world, sung from a position of authority that comes when you're creating the sonic world, whereas prose is all about confrontation with the actual world outside the page. But that was just theory that fact doesn't always bear out. What's important is the dancefloor singalong moment. The EP pretty much played out in its entirety, and I think every song had someone accompanying a line or two. (The Pitchfork Top 100 tracks of the year list is right on when talking about Parentheses, right down to the Me And You And Everyone We Know comparison, and the name of that movie and what it evokes is what makes the sheer being in public with friends group singalong so much a perfect moment.)
The Blow is on the modern girl group pop compilation, the one that exists in my mind. So is Saturday Looks Good To Me. So is Camera Obscura.
Now I want to talk about Camera Obscura, whose last record I don't think I heard save a track or two. I know the record was lent to me and I pretty much rejected it on Belle And Sebastian grounds. I heard the opening track of the new record on The Best Show On WFMU and downloaded the whole thing. Alex and I were bitter at the Pitchfork review, with its talk of it distinguishing itself the old-fashioned way, through melody and lyrics, because it came shortly after the not-as-enthusiastic-as-we-thought-it-should've-been Matmos review. But then that song (Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken) came across the speakers, and even Alex was interested. He's not as into the rest of the record as I am, we haven't talked about it, but yeah, I think it's great. I put music from this year on shuffle and a song came on I didn't recognize but thought was so great I checked to see what it was, and it was Camera Obscura. The person who lent me the last record doesn't like it so much, nor does her boyfriend who bought her the record. I was talking to him, and he said it sounded like stadium rock. I said that if stadium rock was fronted by smallish twee girls I would like it way more, and so that's the appeal. It's really great. I haven't formulated an albums of the year list but that record- It's got the standout singles but what's odd is how the rest has stuck with me, the way that I think of the song "Come Back Margaret" at odd intervals- Sometimes because I'm looking at a girl in class named Margaret and I am simple but also sometimes when I am watching movies and that song is just a catchy song, for how low-key it is.
Camera Obscura is just on the whole more girl-group than the aforementioned Pipettes, which I guess is just me saying they're better, or that they're actually good. I should maybe go forward with a back catalog investigation but so far that hasn't shown any rewards.
I'm also tempted to talk about Lavender Diamond here although they're very different. The only association that there really is is that, for my next installation, where I make a movie, I want to use the Dawn song "I'm Afraid They're All Talking About Me" (which is amazing, and which ran through my head when I was in a vietnamese restaurant and thinking that these teenage girls were giggling about the way I was eating chicken) as some kind of Quentin Tarantino-esque pop song coup and I also want the band Lavender Diamond to play in the installation, because I think they would, but I don't know what song I'd use for unexpected purposes. I like that band though. The cartoonist Ron Rege plays drums, and Jeff Rosenberg (from Young People, and also the guy from Pink And Brown I didn't meet) plays guitar. Becky Stark seems like very good people, judging from the creation of a thing called Comedians For World Peace and being inspired while in Providence during the Fort Thunder days. Also the song "You Broke My Heart" is pretty much the jam, and the probable pick were it not for my belief that something that plainly expressive would overwhelm any scene in any movie. It's not the same genre as what I'm ostensibly discussing.
I could go on about that though- the most recent Saturday Looks Good To Me mixtape appearance was the song "Lift Me Up" off Sound On Sound volume 3, which starts off with these HUGE bass notes and goes odd places and is just generally very girl-groupish in a way that works. So's Yo La Tengo's Beanbag Chair, despite the male vocal. I guess the issue isn't the idea of citing a modern band so much as the issue is citing any single band when confronted with a genre, as the idea of saying a genre is that it should bring to mind a bunch of bands, and that saying "You mean like The Pipettes, and Saturday Looks Good To Me?" would be a much more acceptable answer.
I imagine there will be a post about comics that will be pretty lucid in between now and the time where I write a year-in-review. I'll talk about Kevin Huizenga's output for the year. You know, this kind of shorthand exercise where I talk about art so when I talk about the year, of which art was a huge part, you'll know what I'm talking about.