2021 favorites · 2021 music · Playlist

Favorite Music of 2021: songs

YouTube

I wanted to do, say, a top 5 with commentary but it looks like that’s getting too complicated considering I’m behind already with the year-end stuff. See the previous post for my favorite albums.

Lexie Liu – ALGTR

Jukio Kallio – Minit Fun Racer Theme

CASISDEAD, Com Truise & La Roux – Park Assist

melos han-tani – Center City Cenote

Doss – Strawberry

Sequoyah Murray – Module

Glaare – For Sale

Dax Pierson – Catch

Fatima Al Qadiri – Medieval Femme

Marissa Nadler – Bessie Did You Make It

Rebe – Ven a buscarme temprano

Mr. Twin Sister – Carmen

Ora The Molecule – Silence

Graham Nesbitt – Soul & Soil

Crystal – TV Fuzz

Jukio Kallio – Temple Tumble

F!ONN – Kodachrome

Sleigh Bells – True Seekers

Yola – Dancing Away In Tears

Riki – Florence And Selena

Jane Weaver – Solarised

Nite Jewel – When There Is No Sun

2021 favorites · 2021 music · List

Favorite Music of 2021: albums and EPs

Original Twitter thread / Full Topster chart

I lacked much energy for this (let alone editing other blog posts) so I decided to do something a bit different. This past week-or-so I kept to Twitter’s condensed format for a gradually updated thread. I still have some catch-up to do with this year, so I felt it was for the best. Hope you enjoy and find something new!

melos han-tani – Anodyne 2: Return To Dust OST

Mr. Twin Sister – Al mundo azul

Yola – Stand For Myself

Cabiria – Ciudad de las dos lunas

Graham Nesbitt – Garden Story OST

Fishdoll – Moonsense

Nite Jewel – No Sun

Nuovo Testimento – New Earth

Slugabed – We Have The Window Open At Night

Spellling – The Turning Wheel

Jane Weaver – Flock

Backxwash – I LIE HERE BURIED WITH MY RINGS AND DRESSES

Sleigh Bells – Texis

Dax Pierson – Nerve Bumps (A Queer Divine Dissatisfaction)

Pabllo Viitar – Batidão tropical

Riki – Gold

Ora The Molecule – Human Safari

L’Rain – Fatigue

Crystal – Reflection Overdrive

Mix

All we ever wanted was everything…

Listen on YouTube

A mood piece of dreamy post-punk; evoking wistful nostalgia, riversides and misty morning air.

Track listing

after the rain + something’s got to give – the comsat angels / feverpitch – vazz / anything – 24 gone / someone’s calling – modern english / a starting point – dif juz / dolphin – the sun and the moon / paradox – the church / picture frame – this scarlet train / ntr – be forest / what you dream + ghana ft. kwasi asanteblack swan lane / marlene dietrich’s favourite poem – peter murphy / all we ever wanted was everything – bauhaus / kant kino – simple minds / the quarterdrawing of the dog – siouxsie and the banshees / i’ll gather flowers – area / never known – durutti column / the tinderbox (of a heart) – cocteau twins

update

Addressing my relative hiatus

As it turns out, early October marked five years since I began this blog…! Naturally it makes me uncomfortable to look at those early posts but the less text-based projects, like my 80s library music mix, still work pretty well as far as I care. I wanted to post ~something~ to mark this occasion but I got way too caught up in other stuff.

I’m going to get honest with you all now; 2021 feels like another of my most difficult years. That’s the main reason, besides Seahorses’ bizarrely extended cycle, that I posted so much less for these past 11 months.

Beyond that, my difficulty with focusing on new compositions continues from where it began in 2019, as much as I sorely miss letting out my inspiration. As usual, I struggle with finishing my handful of exciting pre-existing drafts too, whether it’s adding to them or the long and boring post-production.

As I mentioned last post, I lost a good chunk of my confidence as a writer. I feel more nervous than ever to express my musical opinions and observations, for various reasons. I feel naive and outmatched, including by writings that technically bother me. I guess it’s no surprise this happened as I was turning 21.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have some plans for this blog, I just feel reluctant to promise too much thanks to how behind I became, not to mention my anxiety over the ominous environmental news that stalks us. Plus, if/once I do get more creatively active, I would want to focus on my own music.

Mixes remain my least stressful and most dependable pet-project. I have several ideas for these leftover from my more active days, and I’d still love to get cracking on them; I just need the mood to strike me.

I hope that this blog brought you some interesting discoveries or listening pleasure over these years, for it’s many flaws. I might call this time a hiatus, but posts will happen when they happen.

2021 music · My music

Seahorses is out

I took such an ‘exile’ from focusing on music writing this year (-cough cough- self doubt -cough-) that I totally forgot to update the actual blog about this album. Well, after many periods of stress and doubt that I’d even release the thing, I published Seahorses in full just one day before my birthday. It showed up at Vulpiano on 10/08.

Seahorses is a dive into the strange, alluring yet often creepy ways of marine life. Being my second archive release, these are songs I made back in late July (2, 4, 6-10, 11, 13) and December (1, 3, 5, 12, 14) of 2016. #11 is download-only. Given that I previewed many of these songs over the past months it’s become a compilation of sorts.

My inspiration was a mix of Spencer Nilsen’s Ecco The Dolphin music, ocean-themed library music like Eric Vann’s Water World and quirky old space-age/lounge. A particular riff actually reoccurs in about three tracks, somewhat like a library record or soundtrack. I was obsessed enough with this idea of ‘aqua lounge’ to make a companion mix of these influences for Vulpiano: www.mixcloud.com/camp_fr/vulpiano-records-12th-may-2021/

When it comes to my grand-scheme priorities I still don’t feel so good about focusing on such old material for so many months, but I can say that the amount of positive attention this album got made the whole process so much more worth it. My regret shrunk for sure. It doesn’t matter if it’s just a few people telling me they enjoyed my music, I’m just happy to know it wasn’t all for naught, you know? It’s also such a thrill to know that my self-deprecating, anxious 15 year old self’s music is indeed finding some appreciation when, for all I know, it could have found none.

In other news, this means I can finally try and put more focus on newer songs and ideas. I really miss getting creative with my music; the last time I really went ahead and finished something all-new was my song for the Thaw compilation. This early October I’ve been trying to give myself a break from all the project-related stress but I want to at least drop a couple of singles before the year is through. I’d love to get back to writing too but all I can promise for now is the year-end music list. I’ve had a rough year for sure and all this focus on Seahorses meant that the lateness of October caught me a bit off-guard.

If you’re on RYM you may have seen me attempt a top 100 favorite songs list for my birthday as well.

Anniversary

A(nother) love letter to Siouxsie And The Banshees

September marks a whopping ten years since “Into The Light” blew my mind, but I face the same old question once again. Where do I begin with my favorite band? When every Banshees album had it’s formative role for me, describing one for as many as five paragraphs wouldn’t say enough.

Making my way through each of SATB’s eleven albums (combined with the just-as-creative Creatures albums) was a true journey. Each had it’s own world and fragrance so to speak. Few songs meandered together as they weren’t the types to repeat themselves. They helped typify the enduring goth/post-punk sound (as much as they hated such connections), but they did so while thinking far beyond the boxing that the genres could bring. Siouxie would state that those boxing them were struggling to simplify something they didn’t understand. From The Creatures’ incredibly un-rock, xylophone-loving experiments to the near-heavenly flourishes on Hyaena, The Banshees’ music had an imagination that they refused to water down for others’ expectations. Instead, they littered their releases with anything that struck this imagination.

Albums like Dreamhouse and Hyaena took post-punk’s creative potential to their own surrealist, melodically rich wonderland while leaving an influence so large that I find it underestimated to this day. This goes without mentioning the b-sides, where they got as uncommercial and diverse as they wanted, covering a French holiday standard and burying metallic guitar textures with proto trip-hop in the same era. Oh, and this wasn’t the only time they’d cram an iconic earworm like ‘Cities In Dust’ in between. In fact, Siouxsie mentioned that the band loved to put the weirdest b-sides on the catchiest singles to mess with their newfound listeners.

(Budgie would introduce one new rhythmic style after another like it was nothing when he wasn’t inventing a whole new beat (“Land’s End”). As much as McGeoch would embody the classic ‘spidery’ post-punk sound at it’s best (“Spellbound”), nearly every Banshee guitarist evoked fascinatingly different imagery to what I was used to seeing with ‘rock’. (As Siouxsie stated herself, they would always go for a guitar that didn’t ‘sound like guitar’; at least not the average one.) Bloodcurdling nightmares (“Night Shift”), the weightless motion and fog of a helicopter (“Sleepwalking”); the most majestic beast in the sky (“Fireworks”). Where the guitarists came and went, I could count on Steven Severin’s subtle murmurs of bass; they would take me to strange forests or the quiet presence of fireflies. I could go on here.

Siouxsie’s evolution as a singer was a wonder in itself. Contrary to the ‘goth queen’ implications, she could do justice to a whole rainbow of moods. She could be The Scream’s boisterous rebel, the enigma with a warning, an emotive balladeer, the playful witch delighting in chaos. The early 80s material could turn her into this show-stealing burst of desperation and passion. She always brought danger to the intrigue or vice versa, a perfect fit for the band’s own aspiration to capture the thrill of Hitchcock films. While she struggled with pitch for sure, her range just added onto that intrigue, able to reach both rich, mesmerizing lows and hysterical bird-like highs.

Ten years on I can say that SATB was where my music obsession kicked off for real. Few niches in music fascinate me as much as that early-80s ‘alternative’ renaissance they represented so well. While the music I make has little in common with Siouxsie’s up to now, I’ll always aspire to her effortless cool.

2021 music · Interview

Synthpop artist F!ONN on his new album ‘Desolate Disco’; stream his latest single now

F!ONN’s music: Spotify / Youtube

F!ONN, real name simply Fionn and pronounced ‘Fyun’, is a groovy 19-year-old from Ireland letting out his anxieties and observations through fun, snappy synthpop with a tight ear for hooks. While chart topping pop princesses like Madonna, Kylie and Perfume are some of his heroes, he holds the digitized weirdness of Charli and SOPHIE in high regard and often goes for the introspective in his lyrics. In fact, his single “Being Yourself (Is Overrated!)” pokes fun at the cliche advice of the main title, arguing that true openness about one’s identity can endanger rather than help certain people.

Later this August Fionn plans to drop his most accomplished music yet with the glitzy Desolate Disco. Seeing as I came to know him through a chance peek at his Blondie discord, I decided to ask him some questions; thus birthing the first-ever interview here at MAM! Stream Desolate Disco‘s single ‘Conformative’ below.

In just a flashy sentence, how would you describe your music?
Trashier than a bin bag full of Paris Hilton CD’s, and I mean that in the best possible way.

What were your biggest inspirations for the sound on this album? The singles have a glossier, fuller and (of course) dancier sound than before.
Daft Punk definitely inspired a lot of the sounds on the record, because of the way they re-contextualized old samples from disco, soul and soft-rock into super forward-thinking, futuristic music. I’ve been inspired by a lot of the O.G. early chicago house and garage house like Frankie Knuckles’ music, which I love for the lush melodies and dance beats. I was also vibing to the Pet Shop Boys’ 2013 album Electric, which is a fabulous blend of contemporary EDM with great hooks, lyrics and vocals.

I love dance music that is not solely created as functional, but also as enjoyable music in lyrics and composition, another task I wanted to fill when creating Desolate Disco. Roisin Machine by Roisin Murphy, also deserves a special mention because I liked the way her and the producers kind of played with the tropes of Dance music in a super creative and fun way and deconstructed them. Also, an icon of Ireland!

The title of Desolate Disco along with the blurred cover photo implies the classic ‘crying in the club’ feel that resonates with so many pop fans lately; could you elaborate on the lyrical themes?
The lyrical themes of Desolate Disco are split into three parts, marked by the interludes at the start of each act.
Act 1 – The Pop Show, consists mostly of upbeat pop songs with positive messages and represent my mind’s state before the pandemic. At the time, I was just about to turn 18, I was about to start college and although I was still acerbic and bitchy (my brain is just wired that way), I felt content.
Sorry We’re Closed is the second act and revolves around more introspective songs that discuss the self, directly tackle the pandemic, one’s place in the world and my own struggles with depression, which I have been transparent about in my previous work, but haven’t been so direct about.
The final act is called Freedom Punks, and its really talking about healing and learning to have fun again, while also dealing with the lingering bouts of pain and anguish when they happen. Its more sonically experimental and aggressive than the pop songs in the first act. I also sing a lot of the more socially critical songs in this act such as “Tik Tok Killed The Video Star”, a critique of music’s place in Gen Z society and “Ultraviolet”, a denouncement of modern party and club culture.

When and how exactly did you decide you were going to be a pop musician?
There wasn’t an exact moment really, but probably when I went to this festival in Merrion Square as a kid, where you were allowed go up on the stage and sing a song and I sang only the chorus of Umbrella by Rihanna for about 2 minutes straight.

What song do you think is your best work? If you were to summarize your music in five, which would those be?
It depends on the day, but one of my personal favourites is “Ordinateur” because I love how atmospheric and haunting the track turned out. I also think Being Yourself (Is Overrated!) and Not Invited are essentials though, as they are the songs that people get the most visceral, intense reactions from.

“Being Yourself (Is Overrated!)”; “Not Invited”; “Ordinateur”; “Eye For An Eye”; “Your Heart (ft Whitewoods)”; “Conformative”

Your sound evolved a lot since you started; and somewhat quickly. You have an ear for tightly structured pop music as well. Any advice for struggling or just-beginning musicians out there?
I think musicians who are starting out, should literally just start. When I was a child, making tracks entirely out of loops on GarageBand, I don’t think anyone thought I’d get good at making pop music. But, I just kind of absorbed what I’d learnt from listening to other great musicians and kept making music the best that I could. I think its also great to get to know a lot of bad and good people, and have tons of mad experiences with them that can give you good writing material.

Most F!ONN lyrics are quite personal or thoughtful, in contrast to plenty of pop artists. Do you think that pop music has an untapped potential for more serious lyrics as opposed to ‘fluff’? How do you feel about the fluff itself?
I don’t think there’s a need or a potential, I just do it because it’s my chosen way of self expression. Pop is about pleasing timbres and catchy hooks, and there’s a lot of music I like that is simple and fun like that. If you market let’s say an Ed Sheeran album as being an authentic, gripping slice of his own soul, with trashy low-brow lyrics, the general public will view it that way regardless of the actual merit of the album. Yet, if you market a Lady Gaga album as being trashy dance pop, but with Joni Mitchell level deep lyrics, the general public will view that album as its marketed too: trashy dance pop.

Your biggest inspiration in writing lyrics?
It usually starts with an interesting quote I’ve heard or a tiny tidbit of my daily life. In this particular album, which is more conceptual, there are a lot of critiques of the society and culture of Generation Z and the COVID 19 era, which I often feel disillusioned with. Conformative is about the way we as human’s constantly try to fit in with each other when a key part of maturity is learning that one can’t entirely change themselves. Its sort of a sequel to Being Yourself (Is Overrated!) in that sense, except its more direct rather than using irony as a lyrical device. [The upcoming] Tik Tok Killed The Video Star is a personal favourite of mine that touches on similar phenomena. The reduction of music to 15 second or shorter clips that are lip-synced by some of the most inane narcissists to ever grace the planet. I remember when musical.ly first came around, it blipped and quickly fell off everyone’s radar, but it really troubles me that Tik Tok seems to be a new normal of sorts for pop.

Where do you think you’ll take your music in the future? Do you think you’ll always focus on pop?
Well, I’m currently working on a score for an indie film, so I think that already encapsulates your question succinctly. But, I also think that I will work on creating some musical theatre too, possibly something in the vein of Jesus Christ Superstar, where its a suite of songs that form a complete narrative arc.

Any friends or other musicians from your area you’d like to recommend us?
Chris Cahill, also known by the alias Porridge who helped me with additional production on some of the songs. Also, he’s not a musician, he’s a comedian, but Patrick McDonnell proof-read a lot of my lyrics before I recorded them.

Mix

Heart Beat Rock: Dance-Pop Divas of the 2000’s

Listen

One of my biggest gripes with our current poptimism is the centering on the 10s hence little interest in the 2000s’ many great trends: the vibrant synths, the glitzy 80s meeting this decade’s warm late-night ‘cool’, the slick sturdy grooves in a fast tempo, the punchy beats. Oh, and vocals that didn’t fall into the same 3 riffs over and over! I could go on.

From Xenomania to Richard X and funky-house to the Norwegian scene’s icy synths, this mix dives into the styles I miss the most from this decade’s dance-pop. I hope for it to bring you some good carefree fun in this fraught summer. I also hope that it can motivate poptimism’s many many 10s enthusiasts to dip a bit further into this overshadowed era.

This mix had many possibilities so I’m sure that I have a few goodies missing but well, look how long this got already. For more, you can check out my RYM list.

Track listing

caught in the middle + ace reject – SUGABABES / get over you – SOPHIE ELLIS-BEXTOR / nic o mnie nie wiecie + leniviec – RENI JUSIS / maybe – EMMA BUNTON / betcha neva – CHERIE / can’t speak french + it’s magic – GIRLS ALOUD / good boys – BLONDIE / wild – NAMIE AMURO / ride a white horse – GOLDFRAPP / look on the floor (hypnotic tango) – BANANARAMA / heart beat rock – KYLIE / romeo – BASEMENT JAXX / cry for you – SEPTEMBER / experimenting with rugs + left too late – FLORRIE / off and on + let me know – ROISIN MURPHY / funny how – RACHEL STEVENS / do you believe me now? + come and get it – DANNII MINOGUE / will you remember me tomorrow? – MARGARET BERGER / serious – GWEN STEFANI / girl like you – BERTINE ZETLITZ / say it right – NELLY FURTADO / love don’t live here – LADYHAWKE

Playlist

Blood-Stained Roses: Siouxsie Beyond The Singles

Listen Here

Basically an update/expansion on the Siouxsie ‘intro playlist’ I kept reposting here.

So maybe you know ‘Happy House’ or ‘Spellbound’ or another early Banshees hit? That’s great but on ‘Siouxsie Day’, I feel the push to promote a deeper look. Iconic as the big singles were, I feel that this is the tip of the iceberg.

This is a collection for the curious listener who wants to know more about Siouxsie’s more adventurous tastes and gradual evolution throughout her many many projects. After all, we’re talking about 16 albums in all. Sticking to only two or three ‘sides’ of such a prolific figure doesn’t do her justice. As powerful and crucial as the Juju era was, think of the constant misconceptions it inspired. Even Siouxsie would reiterate in interviews; not only was attaining a hit single not a priority, but that b-sides contained the Banshees’ most creative work. (For instance, the proto-trip hop ’Tattoo’.)

From the jazzy mallets of ‘Weathercade’ to Hyaena’s elegant flourishes, to the spacey trip-hop of Anima Animus and her haunting Hannibal finale theme, I hope for this to show new facets to Siouxsie’s music that you might have missed. Title comes from John McGeoch’s summary for the specific musical tension that SATB aimed to create.

(Combining the Once and Twice Upon A Time single collections does make a good intro if you want something more immediate, but note that Twice includes neither single from The Rapture. I do throw in some fantastic non-album singles since they didn’t get the same attention.)

Part 1: The first eight years
Staircase Mystery (Stand-alone single)
Mirage (The Scream)
Placebo Effect (Join Hands)
Desert Kisses (Kaleidoscope)
Into The Light (Juju)
Mad Eyed Screamer (The Creatures – Wild Things EP)
Fireworks (Stand-alone single)
Obsession (A Kiss In The Dreamhouse)
Morning Dawning (The Creatures – Feast)
Weathercade (The Creatures – ‘Right Now’ b-side)
Pulled To Bits (Nocturne live version)
Tattoo (‘Dear Prudence’ B-side)
Overground (The Thorn orchestral version)
Belladonna (Hyaena)
The Sweetest Chill (Tinderbox)

Part 2: Late 80’s to 2015
Song From The Edge Of The World (Stand-alone single)
Hall Of Mirrors (Through The Looking Glass)
Sleepwalking (‘This Wheel’s On Fire’ B-side)
Scarecrow (Peepshow)
Manchild (The Creatures – Boomerang)
Little Sister (Superstition)
Face To Face (Batman Returns soundtrack)
Sick Child (The Rapture)
Pinned Down (The Creatures – Eraser Cut EP)
Another Planet (The Creatures – Anima Animus)
All She Could Ask For (The Creatures – U.S. Retrace EP)
Further Nearer (The Creatures – HAI!)
Cish Cash w/ Basement Jaxx
Sea Of Tranquility (Mantaray solo debut)
Love Crime (Hannibal soundtrack)

Mix · My music · On other sites · update

May 12th, 2 PM Pacific on CAMP radio: a companion mix to my upcoming ‘Seahorses’ album

While this ‘archive album’ is suffering the worst case of delay since my 8-bit album last year, I’m still set on getting it out there this month, hopefully before it enters the ‘late’ period. To coincide, I decided to guest on Vulpiano’s monthly mix series for the listen.camp online radio station with a dip into the sounds and styles that inspired the album. I always felt that electronic music and easy listening shared this understated knack for aquatic or underwater themes, so this was a novel concept to revisit.

That means lots of ‘underwater’/surreal production effects, synths that go drip-drop, library obscurities themed around marine life, steel drums and a handful of surprises. For instance: the latest Bebel Gilberto album, which sounds eerily close to mall-themed vaporwave, and one of the most underrated Siouxsie singles in “Swimming Horses” (just because). Plus, of course, two tracks from Seahorses itself. Those are latest single “Fish In Oceania” and “Blue Whale” (which I lift from the download-only version of Ocean Flower; it actually originates from the Seahorses project).

The mix will go up on CAMP’s Mixcloud in the following days. You’ll find ‘similar wavelengths’ on my old Curios From The Background series and the Neptune mix.

Seahorses working track list:

  1. Fish In Oceania – 2:00
  2. Floating By – 2:19
  3. Dorsal Fin – 2:21
  4. Manatee – 2:11
  5. In Our Submarine – 2:16
  6. A Wandering School – 2:03
  7. Mouthbrooder – 2:12
  8. Jellyfish – 2:03
  9. Sand Dollar – 2:37
  10. Blue Whale – 2:54

Download-only tracks:

Deep Trenches demo (0:45), Seahorses (2:15), Lullaby For Sad Porpoise (2:26)

Other updates:

  1. As for the ‘piece’ I mentioned working on with the Mouthbrooder post, that found it’s way to a rough and complex state. I’m not so sure what to do with it right now and sadly, posting it in some form here feels more doubtful than before.
  2. In this next month or so, I’d love to get back to more regular posts, since my extreme focus on That Piece led to delay for many ideas. Still, I think I have enough to juggle for May considering my plans for a special occasion in it’s last week. It’s nothing too big or fancy, but it’s a day I posted about on most previous years here!
  3. I’m in plans of the next ‘traditional MAM mix’, but it’s not happening until sometime in summer. It can say it has some things in common with the previous one..
  4. New RYM lists: [bitter]sweet / loving / emotional synthpop, Beautiful Robots Dancing Alone: existential trance, Lyrics I find interesting / relatable
  5. No plans for front page reviews at RYM right now. I have more important stuff on my plate; I did a lot already and the Dax Pierson review got a frustrating enough response to remind me why I ‘retired’ from it.
  6. The new album from the very 80s, very YMO-ish J-pop group Crystal is ridiculously fun and also beautiful, please listen to it.