This month’s playlist is much more varied than the February edition. I tried a lot harder to make it a bit more representative of my overarching tastes. That said, quite a lot of this material was new to me. I’m finding that making these is helping me to discover a few things myself. That, at the very least, makes it worth doing. Overall, i’m really quite happy with this one. However, I do have a couple of problems i’d like to iron out for April’s Office Chart. For example, I feel the two halves are slightly too separate. After a more upbeat opening, it’s quite a bit more chilled out by its conclusion. I’d like to be able to get the mix a little more consistent. Still, I think this is a vast improvement over February’s:
Assessment – The Beta Band
Strangely enough, this was the track that introduced me to The Beta Band. Their early work, on releases like The Three E.P.’s, is lauded far and wide by any ageing hipster you can find. When it came time for their final album, Heroes to Zeros (from which Assessment is taken), they’d fizzled a little and started garnering some less than favourable reviews. Being late to the game, for no reason other than my date of birth, has left their catalogue a little skewed. I actually love Heroes to Zeros, and can’t help feeling that their early material is clique-bedroom-wankery of the highest order. That’s journalistic exaggeration of course, but Assessment is still an oddly compelling track in its simplicity.
Wandering Star – Poliça
I don’t know all that much about Poliça. I have to credit my Dad for bringing them into my sphere; he makes recommendations like this sometimes thanks to his religious devotion to BBC 6 Music. Obviously, they’re another one of those synth-laden post-Radiohead bands. That’s usually a pretty annoying thing, but they’re all capable of a good track or two. In this case, after enjoying a little Poliça rabbit hole with my brother, it was this that stuck out. Its stellar music video particularly drew us in, but it’s the interesting vocals and great bass playing that kept it on my personal rotation. In honesty, I doubt this is a band i’ll delve much further into. Wandering Star, however, is a fine addition to this month’s playlist.
Midas Touch – Midnight Star
This was a pretty big hit in the British late-80s. Otherwise, it’s not that well remembered. It floated on my radar thanks to a really interesting remix by Hell Interface. It was that version I initially wanted to put on here, but you’ll have to blame Spotify for me having to choose the original in its stead. Fortunately, it turns out that I like the original just as much as the even more obscure remix. As Hesh Rabkin says on The Sopranos, “a hit is a hit“. This is most certainly a hit. Try not tapping your toe to it. I’ve said it before, but great pop is an absolute treasure. The craft of Midas Touch is deceptively brilliant, while dancing over every delicious cliche of its genre. Also, it has the finest cheeky-triangle in any track I’ve ever heard.
Killer – Socrates Drank the Conium
Socrates Drank the Conium have one of the best band names in recorded history, and they back it up with a unique sound that would probably be impossible to replicate. Their free and loose guitar work gives their music an energy you won’t hear in other prog-rock bands. My first experience with these oft-forgotten Greek rockers came in my late teens. At the time I had no real idea who they were. Frankly, I had no interest in finding out either. I always assumed they were some divinely-talented local band my brother had played with once. Upon researching them for this article, they have a much deeper legacy than that. Born on the Athens club scene, they achieved their greatest fame following an album with fellow countryman, Vangelis. History aside, their music is magical. Their number of listeners on Spotify, however, is criminal.
The End of the World – The Cure
I always wished I could like The Cure more. I simply don’t, although I recognise the quality of certain key tracks. They just always seemed like a band you wouldn’t listen to a full album by. Kind of like R.E.M. They are good, I guess I just never saw them as essential. When they released their twelfth, and self-titled, album in 2014, this track received heavy rotation on MTV2 (my old personal music channel of choice). At first I hated it; I was going through a huge White Stripes phase at the time. Admittedly, none of this is a particularly glowing recommendation of the song. It is great though, and somewhat of a departure for Robert Smith and his macabre pals. Its bridge is a bit grating, but that bass riff in the verse is what it’s all about. I thought this one came in particularly nicely after Killer too.
Lionmouth Door Knocker – Kate Tempest
Goddamn I fucking love this track. I’m going to have to credit my Dad for this one too. He wouldn’t shut up about Kate Tempest, certain that I would not only love her music but “fancy her” too. She’s certainly talented and attractive (i’m a sucker for redheads), but I can’t say I was overly impressed by the things I heard. It was all pretty strong, but not good enough to grab me. When I finally decided to have a cursory click around her Spotify page, I happened upon this absolute masterpiece. As dark and foreboding as the streets it describes, Lionmouth Door Knocker is a crisply produced musing on British suburbia. Out of all of the tracks on this month’s playlist, this has easily had me returning to it the most. Part of that’s probably because it’s brand new to me. Still, an essential listen.
Beep Box – Snarky Puppy
Snarky Puppy, i’m afraid to say, are another band who are new to me. I tripped up on their material one night when obsessed with searching for polyphonic singing on YouTube. This band had done a couple of things with a polyphonic singer, impressing me instantly with their cool musicianship and tight professionalism. I knew that I wanted to include something by them, and I found their catalogue to be an unbelievably strong and exciting one. Suffice to say, I may have found a new favourite band. It was tough to choose something suitable when hearing so much new material myself, but Beep Box just sounded too much like the aesthetic of Secret Cave to not include. It’s worth mentioning that no other song choice on this playlist sounded anywhere near decent following Lionmouth Door Knocker, so this really saved the day with a fairly comfortable transition!
Hocus Pocus – Focus
There are loads of versions of Hocus Pocus by Focus. I’ve avoided some of the more pretentious versions, opting instead for the standard “US Single Version”. Obviously, this is a pretty tongue in cheek song. At least, considering those vocals, I hope it is. The playful tone of its occasional refrains aside, this is a riff more than worth hearing. It’s basically one thing repeated over and over with a bit of yodelling to break it up. Guitars and keyboards solo themselves to death as things roll on, and anyone who likes this kind of thing applauds. It’s not as up-its-arse as King Crimson, but still holds onto a musicality that gets nerds like me frothing at the gash (if you’ll excuse my terminology). For example, there’s one snippet of naughty guitar work near the end that makes me giggle every time. The pure audacity of it all…
Introscan No.2 – Paul Kass
Information on the elusive Paul Kass seems pretty limited. Sure, I haven’t dived deep into research but, from my surface scratching, i’m interested enough to want to soon. I discovered his music from the work of Vic Berger over at Super Deluxe. Used in the background to one of his creepily hilarious edits, it’s an interesting piece of aimless synth that appears to be beating a lot of more famous producers at their own game. The title of its album places it as being released sometime between 1976 and 1986. As a Boards of Canada fan (and more on them later), i’d be very intrigued to know if Paul Kass was as big an influence as it sounds like. Only a handful of other tracks are attributed to his name on Spotify, all of which vary greatly in their styles and production. An intriguing one to look into indeed.
Remind Me – Röyksopp
Röyksopp‘s much lauded Melody A.M. is as good a mellow stoner album as it ever was. However, I can never get out of my head the certainty that some of its material was used on the long-defunct BBC kids show, Live & Kicking. When I came to construct this playlist, I actually wanted to include the old radio-edit that I used to enjoy as a child. It’s a vastly different beast; chirpier, faster and with a contrived chorus. When I went to revisit it, I decided pretty quickly that it’s shit. In its place I went back to the album version, the superiority of which is clear. A fantastic, if somewhat aimless, electronic whirr, it’s probably the best track on a well-regarded LP. Considering that the alternate version I nearly chose is titled “someone else’s radio remix”, I can only assume Röyksopp agree with my selection.
It Was a Very Good Year – Frank Sinatra
In last month’s edition, I claimed that Black Night by Frank Sinatra Jr. was probably the best track of the bunch. I thought it only fair this March to respond with a track by his father. Songwriting and arrangement-wise, this is unequivocally the best piece of music on this playlist. Personally, I’ve just heard it too many times for it to have much effect any more. That doesn’t take away from its crooning genius though. From the painstaking composition of the band backing him, to the characteristic tine of Sinatra himself, It Was a Very Good Year is my favourite example of his craft. With lyrics that match the grandeur of its surrounding presentation, songs of this perfection are a glorious rarity.
Part of me thought it was intensely hilarious to put a wrestling entrance theme in with tracks from legendary artists like Sinatra and The Cure. It wouldn’t get a place here without being good though, and that it bloody well is. In fact, it just might be the best wrestling entrance theme ever written. In a climate where other athletes were content with stereotypical jingles, or archetypal throwaway screamo, Bray Wyatt has had his character greatly bolstered by an ominous and less flashy theme tune. Accompanied by the mystique of the rest of his entrance, it makes the music all the more memorable. Sure, this is a bit of a silly choice but I dare you to not agree with me after seeing it in context at least:
How Much a Dollar Cost – Kendrick Lamar
I’ve been meaning to write about To Pimp a Butterfly for some time now, but I feel like the ship’s sailed on that one and I should wait for another significant release. Almost every track on To Pimp a Butterfly would prove a worthy edition to an Office Chart, but in the context of the way things were flowing this month i’m happy with my choice. How Much a Dollar Cost is one of the more introspective pieces on the record, centring around lush piano chords and an intentionally sloppy drumbeat. Lamar’s vocals approach spoken word, which he handles with predictable ease. Every time I hear it, it mesmerises me. This is a bad thing when trying to play Rocket League. It just has this gorgeous, floating guile about it.
Cause – Rodriguez
I haven’t actually seen Searching for Sugar Man, the documentary that exposed the strange career of Sixto Diaz Rodriguez, but I know its general thread. Only a mild success in the Western world, this Dylan-esque songwriter would go on to find large amounts of fame and respect in South Africa. Due to some harshly restrictive laws, Rodriguez himself wouldn’t gain knowledge of his South African popularity until the 1990s. It turned out that his icon status there was such that he consistently outsold Elvis Presley. I have to thank a close friend of mine, who has long fostered my playlist addiction, for bringing this lovely song to the table. I thought some meandering acoustic guitar would do just the trick after a rockier and, at times, more electronic playlist.
Mr Mistake – Nevermen (feat. Boards of Canada)
I’ve been wanting to foster a running joke for my Office Charts. I’ve already stated a couple of times how much I adore Boards of Canada. Last month included some of their music in the form of a remix (of sorts) by Solange Knowles. However, I wanted to challenge myself to see how many Boards of Canada-related tracks I could get on these playlists without directly including one of their actual solo releases. An instrumental version of this was recently released, which is actually a bit better. Without the vocals you’re left with a nicely intricate little Boards of Canada tune. With them you have a jaunty slice of leftfield pop that you have to be in the mood for. That may be why I’ve placed it at the end…