In the Mix: Pop Obscure

I love music. When I was pre-teen, I would haul a duffle bag of cds and a Discman with me on family vacation, much to the delight of my father. In college, I was still making mix tapes and cds for friends and my old car. I mixed the music for my wedding using playlists on iTunes and a simple iPod. I always listened to music when I wrote papers in college, so it makes sense that I’d listen at work, too. This week, I found myself listening to everything from classical to Ke$ha. Now, to shine a spotlight on a few artists I bet you haven’t heard of or listened to in a while–or possibly ever.

61igUwTlnQL._SS500_Patrick Stump is best known for being the front man of the emo band Fall Out Boy. I sort of missed the whole scene kid movement, but I always loved Fall Out Boy because the lyrics were so clever and Patrick can sing. Then Patrick Stump when solo, did a 180 and went pop. Soul Punk, and Truant Wave, the EP that proceeds this album, are love letters to the pop music I grew up with in the 80s. Michael Jackson and Prince influences are throughout the album. It’s like Patrick Stump did Justin Timberlake, with more swagger and wordplay. I don’t know why this album didn’t get more play. The songs–about being a twentysomething and looking for happiness–hit home. A fun, danceable album with tons of sass.

tumblr_m509t7xtdq1r8s433o1_500Before Lana Del Rey was Lana Del Rey, she was Lizzy Grant. But before she was Lizzy Grant, she was May Jailer. No matter how many names she gives herself and her collections of demos that continue to find their way onto the tumblr, I am obsessed with Elizabeth Coolidge Grant. Like many listeners, I saw the video for Video Games and was entranced by this neo-femme fatale. I found her Lizzy Grant album (Lizzy Grant a.k.a. Lana Del Ray–with an a, not e) and loved the whole vibe and concept. She was like a David Lynch heroine roaming through Coney Island hell. Then this album leaked. I feel like it is a great document of a developing artist. It’s just her sad, somber voice against a few guitar chords, singing about two of her favorite themes love and loss. Much of the album sounds like Pieces of Me-era Jewel, which is very different from her new ride-or-die persona. A soft, lovely album that shouldn’t be overlooked.

tumblr_ltqvopFvGy1qcjfcno1_500When I was a little girl, growing up on video re-runs in the 90s, I figured that the B-52s and Deee-Lite were best friends, because they wore psychedelic clothes and bouffant wigs. Groove Is In the Heart was everywhere and then the band sort of disappeared–at least from my television screen. I came across Infinity Within in a bargain bin, bought it and was hoping for Groove Is In the Heart, Part Deux. Needless to say, I was disappointed. I recently uncovered my copy and have literally been jamming to this album in my car to and from work. It’s really fun 90s house pop, with bossa nova and techno mixed in, covering issues that are still relevant today: voting, global warming, safe sex and the pursuit of happiness on a dance floor.

00015106I won’t even lie. I have been obsessed with this album since it dropped and think it’s highly underrated. I know, I know. Scarlett Johansson, the actress, covering Tom Waits? What the hell? Scarlett’s voice–to me–is beautiful. It has a deep, husky retro sound that I love. The album plays out like a shoe-gaze dream, filled with electric guitars and tipsy lullabies. Scarlett fared better cutting an album with Pete Yorn, but his album, along with her live AOL sessions, are tracks that I never remove from my iPod. Scarlett, if you’re out there, sing more, no matter what anyone says.

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And then there’s Y Kant Tori Read. I discovered Tori Amos senior year of high school. Although I got Boys for Pele first and was bewildered by it (until my first breakup), it wasn’t until I heard Little Earthquakes that my life was literally changed. Who was this red-headed siren sitting at the piano wailing? Was she real? After fleshing out my maxi-single collection with every Tori import I could find at Media Play, I found a bootleg of Y Kant Tori Read in a local record store. Of course I bought it. It was that album I had read about being so horrible that Tori begged Atlantic Records to never ever re-release it. It was also the album Tori collectors were playing hundreds of dollars for.

It’s not Little Earthquakes. But I adore it. It’s like Pat Benatar doing art-hair-rock, instead of just covering Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights. Lots of 80s synths, big guitars and Tori singing about pirates, witches, and epic hair ballads on eternal love and heart ache with lyrics like purple sunset / orange moon.  The title is a reference to the fact that Tori can’t read music. The sword is famously referenced in the b-side Take to the SkyMy father says, / “You ain’t makin’ any money.” / My doctor says, / “You just took it to the limit.” / And here I stand / with this sword in my hand. While Tori will occasionally play certain selections in concert–Cool On Your Island, Fire on the Side, Etienne–she typically references this period as time where she figured out what she wouldn’t do again. If she hadn’t been forced into making this sort of album, maybe there would have never been a Little Earthquakes. So I count this as a must-listen for many reasons. A great guilty pleasure album.

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One thought on “In the Mix: Pop Obscure

  1. I’ve heard about ‘Y Kant Tori Read’, but I’ve never known anything about it. Very intriguing! I’m going to have to dig this up and give it a spin. I also didn’t know all that Lana history, and am glad I’ve been enlightened a bit!

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