Tag Archives: pop

Noise Variations: “Blue Velvet” through the Years

In honor of David Lynch’s release on vinyl of his single “Good Day Today” (and our love of all things Lynch), Noise Narcs is posting on the music of, for, and about David Lynch this week. See our intro post (and claim of Lynch as a Philadelphian) here, and see the rest of the DLW posts here.

Few directors capture so well the menacing strangeness of America’s small towns and suburbs as David Lynch.  Twin Peaks gave this theme its full, soap-opera-length treatment, but Lynch had already begun to probe the heartland of darkness in earnest five years earlier with the masterful Blue Velvet (1986).

In the picket-fence town of Lumberton, U.S.A., young Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) is drawn like a reverse moth into an Oedipal nightmare of violence and sexual desire.  The film’s central image, its titular fetish, is a blue velvet stuff gag.

She wore blue velvet
Bluer than velvet was the night
Softer than satin was the light
From the stars
She wore blue velvet
Bluer than velvet were her eyes
Warmer than May her tender sighs
Love was ours
Ours a love I held tightly
Feeling the rapture grow
Like a flame burning brightly
But when she left, gone was the glow of
Blue velvet
But in my heart there’ll always be
Precious and warm, a memory
Through the years
And I still can see blue velvet
Through my tears

Tony Bennett was the first to have an early hit with the Bernie Wayne and Lee Morris penned pop song in 1951, a million years ago.  Soaring strings complement his crooning style.

Tony Bennett, “Blue Velvet”

In 1955, a D.C. doo-wop outfit, The Clovers, recorded their version of the song.  The Clovers would eventually be best known for their 1959 hit, “Love Potion #9.”

The Clovers, “Blue Velvet”

Taking their cue from The Clovers, a Cleveland-based doo-wop group, The Moonglows, recorded one of my favorite versions in 1957.

The Moonglows, “Blue Velvet”

Then, in 1963, the “Polish Prince,” Bobby Vinton conceived of Blue on Blue, an entire album of songs with the word “Blue” in the title.  “Blue Skies,” “Blue Hawaii,” “Blueberry Hill,” “My Blue Heaven,” etc.  This is inarguably the most famous rendition of “Blue Velvet,” hitting number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and staying there for three weeks.  It is also the version that opens Lynch’s film.

Bobby Vinton, “Blue Velvet”

And three other notable versions:

And of course:

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Dreaming of a sunny Friday: Four King Cousins

The Four King Cousins were a quartet whose salient qualification seemed to be their deep music executive connections. Oh, that, and the goddamn amazing bit of sunny bliss that is their “I Fell.” Which, by the by, was written by the “We’ve Only Just Begun” team of Paul Williams and Rick Nichols. Which, even more by the by, was originally written for a bank commercial. Thanks, Wikipedia.

The Four King Cousins, “I Fell” [Buy] [via Emerald’s Steve Hauschildt/Pitchfork]

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Shaolin dance party: Paragraph’s “Powernap”

ParagraphBack in the summer of 2005, my brother, some friends, and I started performing a few cover tunes each Monday night at an open mic at Martini Red, a dive bar in Stapleton, Staten Island. A quartet of college students called Paragraph also performed each week, and they were by far the most exciting original act I had seen on the island. Their early stuff was mostly quirky dance-punk — angular, Gang-of-Four-type guitar stabs, driving bass lines and disco beats — fun, catchy, and always danceable.

The quartet became a trio, and over the years they honed their sound, experimenting with drum machines, adding layers of keyboards, working with other local musicians, and in 2009 they released a self-titled eight-track disc. “Body Part(y)” is one of the standouts.

PARAGRAPH by ParagraphParagraph, “Body Part(y)” [Buy PARAGRAPH]

Paragraph recently released a video for their single “Powernap,” which is available on a three-song EP, Chic Punk One. As with their self-titled album, the vocals are too buried in the mix for my taste — I have some trouble actually making out what singer Danny Lane is saying — but it’s a fun club-banger of a tune, and the video is slick. (Plus, it employs a variation of my all-time favorite music video conceit: the band traveling to the gig, where they eventually perform the song we’ve been hearing all along [see Huey Lewis and the News’ “I Want a New Drug”].) It’s been a thrill watching these guys grow as a band, and I’m glad they’re around to rep Staten Island.

Paragraph - Chic Punk OneParagraph, “Powernap” [Buy Chic Punk One]

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Mike Edwards (5/31/1948 – 9/3/2010)

Police in southwestern England say a former member of the Electric Light Orchestra was killed in a freak collision with a huge hay bale that rolled down a steep hill.

The victim was identified on Monday as 62-year-old Mike Edwards, who played cello in the British rock band between 1972 and 1975. (AP)

Electric Light Orchestra, “Mr Blue Sky” (Buy Out of the Blue, 1977)

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"When I close my eyes, I see cartoons playing in the darkness of my mind, so I usually write about those."*

The Smiles and Frowns have been enjoying favorable and apt comparisons to such psych-folk architects as Syd Barrett and White Album era Beatles in the year or so since the release of their debut self-titled album.  The Phoenix, AZ duo themselves describe their sound as:

…a bit of a mix.  There are haunted train ride songs, and children’s theme music songs, psychedelic science fiction songs etc. I guess it’s mostly just a collection of experiments in sound, patterns, and melodies. (The Urbanian, 3/9/2009)

Whatever it is, I’m liking it and so is UK label, akoustik anarkhy, who are giving The Smiles and Frowns an official re-release this month.  The 25 minute long mini-album ranges in tone from a playful and aloof track about a bird named Sam to a creepy, instrumental waltz titled “March of the Phantom Faces.”   It’s tough to pick a favorite, in part because the 8 tracks, as distinct from each other as they are, hang together so well.  But here’s one of the more playful tracks, about a boy named Cornelius who sits up in a tree all day, talking to animals through the use of a magical flute.

The Smiles and Frowns, “Cornelius”

You can preview more tracks from their myspace page or purchase and download the mp3 version of the album from Amazon.

PS I doubt I’m the only person for whom “Cornelius” recalls this:

Is it just me or is children’s television programming so much less frightening nowadays?

*Adam Mattson, one half of The Smiles and Frowns, quoted in a recent Guardian review

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Ariel Pink: Not a metal god

For some reason, I had, without listening, filed Ariel Pink under “metal.” But after hearing the truly lovely breakout single from Ariel Pink’s Haunted Grafitti’s Before Today, the truly excellent “Round and Round,” I realized I should have filed myself under “clueless idiot.”

Ariel Pink produces 1970s AM pop. You know, if it were filtered through a freak folk vortex. With a stopover in Elephant 6’s Athens, Georgia.

The album is a flitting, beautiful mess. Which just happens to contain song after song of fantastic pop. Their cover of Rocking Ramrods’ “Bright Lit Bright Sky” is my current favorite. Check the video below.

[Buy] at Amazon.

And check out the original after the jump! Continue reading “Ariel Pink: Not a metal god” »

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Fol Chen and Baths at Johnny Brenda's

Next Thursday, 8/5, Johnny Brenda’s will be hosting two interesting California acts fresh off of new releases.  Headlining will be the mysterious Fol Chen, who dropped their sophomore album, Part II: The New December at the beginning of this month and from what I’ve heard, it’s pretty crazy.  A sort of demented, disjointed pop that paints a picture of a parallel earth, a successful revolution with unexpected consequences.  Here’s a description from the press release:

The plot, steeped in a Bowie-esque sense of puckish melodrama, picks up with the malevolent John Shade vanquished. Unfortunately, the struggle alluded to in Part I has left Fol Chen’s world frayed – covered in ash, plagued by acid rain – and its population dazed. The members of Fol Chen, once a ragtag team of insurgents, are now bureaucrats forced to sit back and watch as the cipher they relied upon to defeat Shade mutates into a virus that eats words indiscriminately.

Watch this, you will like it, weirdos:

Fol Chen – The Holograms

Fol Chen | MySpace Music Videos

Pretty scary, yeah?  It’s tough to resist sharing at least one more track with you, but if you manage to get your hands on it (You can purchase Part II: The New December here), “Men, Beasts or Houses” comes with my seal of approval.  It’s dark and strange.

Opening for Fol Chen will be Baths, the latest project of 21 year old Will Weisenfield, that released a debut LP, Cerulean at the end of last month.

Baths, “Lovely Bloodflow”

You can buy Cerulean at Amazon.

Looks like tickets to the show are just $10 and are still available.

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Everybody Loves To Love Somebody

One of the latest releases from Sublime Frequencies (previously mentioned on NoiseNarcs here) is a compilation of music recorded between 1966 and 1968 by Indonesian a-go-go band, Dara Puspita (Flower Girls), whom the writers at Sublime Frequencies somewhat audaciously declare to be “arguably the world’s greatest all-female garage rock band.”  Feel free to argue in the comments.

Anyway, I was thinking about doing a post about them, but while doing some quick research on the group I came across their version of The BeeGees 1967 super-hit, “To Love Somebody.” So I decided instead to do a brief (and by no means exhaustive) round-up of some of my favorite remakes of that pop masterpiece.

In a sense, the song has no original version.  Barry Gibb wrote the song for Otis Redding, who unfortunately died in a plane crash before it could be recorded.  But take a moment to imagine what that would have sounded like.  It sounds awesome in my imagination.  Quite frankly, no other version could ever live up to it.

Nevertheless, we’ll commence with the song as recorded by the inimitable Brother’s Gibb:

The Bee Gees, “To Love Somebody”

Pretty excellent, but not really my favorite version.  With the exception of the opening verse, gently sung by Robin Gibbs (I believe), something about it seems a bit too precise, perhaps a bit overproduced with the soaring strings, French horns and fade-out.

Next, from what is probably her most commercial album, 1969’s To Love Somebody, here’s Nina Simone:

Nina Simone, “To Love Somebody”

In my view, there’s little wrong that Nina Simone can do.  This track and the rest of the popular covers on that album, while far from her best work, are no exception.

Now the much rougher Dara Puspita cut:

Dara Puspita, “To Love Somebody”

That is a lot of reverb, but it’s pretty sweet, don’t you think?  Imagine 9-year-old Barry Obama on the playground in Jakarta wallowing in the heartbreak of his 4th grade crush with the help of this song.  If you like it, then I highly recommend that you support Sublime Frequencies by paying them for an album.  This track happens not to be on their Dara Puspita compilation, unfortunately, but they’re a solid outfit that collects really awesome music from all over the place.

Last but not least, Janis Joplin slows it down.  Here’s a rendition where the horns really work. From I Got Dem Ol’ Kosmic Blues Again, Mama! (1969).

Janis Joplin, “To Love Somebody”

Have I left your favorite version out?  Let me know in the comments.

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Even Outer-Space has a Glass Ceiling

James Mercer (from the Shins) and Brian Burton (Danger Mouse) will soon release a video for “The Ghost Inside,” a track from their recent collaboration, Broken Bells (which Cydney wrote positively about way back at the beginning of march).  EW reports that starring in the video alongside Mercer and Burton will be none other than Mad Men‘s Christina Hendricks.

Hendricks plays a hard-working android who wants to retire to an outer-space resort community. The voyage brings Hendricks’ character into contact with Mercer and Danger Mouse, a.k.a. Brian Burton. On that meeting, Mercer remains mum. When it comes to her spaceship trip, he only offers, ”Things happen along the way that make it difficult.”

Poor Joan.  So savvy and competent, yet nothing ever seems to work out in reality the way we imagine it will…even in space.   Especially in space.

Anyway, sounds pretty fun to me.  If it has androids, chances are I’ll like it.  And if there’s one thing that Noise Narcs might like even more than Twin Peaks, it’s Mad Men.

Broken Bells, “The Ghost Inside”

Completely Tangential Update: Remember MTV’s Undressed? Yeah you do.  Turns out you can watch all six seasons for free online.  You’re welcome.  In the last four episodes of the first season, Hendricks stars as “Rhiannon,” a high-school senior staying with an older girlfriend in LA so she can visit college campuses (and get a head start on being free from her parents and their no-boys-allowed policies).

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Singles Mixer

"What kind of music do you like?" "Don't talk to me."

I’ve got 4 tracks to share with not much in common except that I listened to them yesterday (though not for the first time), so I thought I’d just throw ’em all together and stop thinking about which (if any) deserved its own post.  I’ve listed them below in order of most likely to get a thumbs up to least.

The first track is from Dag för Dag’s debut Boo (2010).  Dag för Dag (Swedish for “day by day”) is a Stockholm-based trio led by American brother and sister Jacob and Sarah Snavely.  The album is uncomplicated and fun and not very challenging, and “Hands and Knees” has a Mamas and the Papas sort of feel that I like.

Dag for Dag, “Hands and Knees”

Video here.

This next one’s also a bit retro.  Librarians’ second album, Present Passed (2010), is all over the place in terms of style.  Probably best described as Animal Collective imitators, but on “Cranberry Palace,” they’re definitely channeling the Zombies.

Librarians, “Cranberry Palace”

Here’s one for banjo-lovers (I think NoiseNarcs may have one or two) and Philadelphia-philes (although there are definitely none of them here).  Jack Rose was a Virginian guitarist and folk enthusiast who made his home in Philadelphia, PA.  We unfortunately lost him back in December to a heart attack, but the posthumously released Luck in the Valley is solid, solid listening.  Glenn Jones plays the banjo on the elegiac “Moon in the Gutter.”  It is undoubtedly my favorite of these four tracks.

Jack Rose, “Moon In The Gutter”

And lastly, I’m finishing as I began, with a Scandinavian three-piece, but this is pretty much the opposite of “Hands and Knees.”  It is not for everyone.  If you didn’t like Bitches Brew, then you should stop listening now.  But if you’re into manic jazz/rock fusion, then organ-led Elephant9 might be for you.  Walk the Nile (2010) is their second release and it makes me want to run around in circles.

Elephant9, “Fugl Fenix”

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