I have a tendency to discover new artists when they are already old news. In the case of Electric Guest I stumbled upon them through Youtube recommendations in August right after their single ‘Oh Devil” (Feat. Devin Di Dokta) had been released. I think this is probably the one song I’ve listened the most to this autumn. Love the falsetto vocals, the catchy melody, the Jamaican guest vocalist Devin Di Dokta and how they manage to bring a retro vibe into a modern pop production. They have a bunch of other great songs too, but this one is my favourite so far.
Chela is another artist I discovered around the same time through Youtube. Those recommendations can be a great way to discover new music. This girl has some real attitude, a very unique dancing style and an interesting vocal delivery from down under. I really like the creative music video for “Romanticize”.
Now over to something completely different. Found this gem of an album in the Turkish music section at Oslo public library. Just reading the title ‘Disco Folk’ was enough to convince me and their 70s Turkish disco hippie style assured me I had found a real treasure. Have listened a lot to this one over the last year. If you like disco and Turkish folk music, there’s no way you’ll be disappointed by Derdiyoklar Ikilisi.
I got interested in the Peruvian 60s and 70s musical style called chicha through an American Band called Chicha Libre and their version of the early electronic hit Popcorn (They call it Popcorn Andino). A little googling led me to Lucha Reyes, one of the most well esteemed Peruvian artists of the mid 19th century. She has a beatiful voice, but the accompaniement is also very distinctly shaped by the musical tradition of Peru and the Andean region.
I colleague at work told me my own music sounded a bit like Chromeo, so I naturally had to check them out. They really have a catchy sound, mixing analogue synths and electric guitar with disco, funk and modern electronica. It’s rare and refreshing to hear pop artists nowadays who are such skilled musicians, you can really hear these guys are having fun when they’re playing. “Hard to Say No” is my favourite track so far.
I watched a great documentary from BBC a while back called Synth Britannia. It chronicles the rise of synthpop in early 80s England, how a handful of bands grown tired of punk and progressive rock sought influence from electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk and Donna Summer (who fronted Georgio Moroder’s radical synth driven pop productions). The Human League feature prominently in this documentary, as they were among the pioneers of synthpop. They maintain some of the cold robotic aesthetic Kraftwerk have become known for, but nonetheless bring something more lighthearted and very british into the mix and became major trendsetters in the 80s.
It’s hard to describe Mother’s Finest. They really defy cathegorisation, and racial stereotypes too. Let’s say they are the most soulful funk rock band around, founded in 1970s Atlanta and still going strong! Discovering them was one of my definite musical highlights of 2017. Above is their studio version of “Baby Love”, but there is also a great live version out on Youtube.
Babe Ruth is another 70s rock band who did their own thing, this time on the other side of the Atlantic in England. Their sound is a mix between prog, heavy metal and spanish/latin sounds. Babe Ruth’s “The Mexican” was sampled by the Prodigy for their lesser known album The Dirtchaimber Sessions, which I listened to as a youngster. That particular song was my favourite on that album, so it was great to discover the band behind the sample some fifteen years later.
47 Soul was a big musical discovery for me in the past year. They combine acid house influences with hip hop and arabic folk music and have created a killer sound. Omar Souleyman is another artist to check out for more acid arab tunes. They have already been in Norway a few times, so I hope they come back soon and will not miss the next chance to see these guys live.
I visited the Faroe Islands when I was fifteen and have since been very fascinated by this little archipelago right between Norway and Iceland. Faroese Eivør Palsdottir or just Eivør has gained a following in Scandinavia and Germany, but has yet to break through in the English speaking world. I say yet, because I think she deserves a wider following, with her otherwordly singing and fascinating soundscapes.
Yazoo is one of the most unique and powerful acts of early synthpop, and have been a big source of inspiration for me. Vince Clarke’s crisp, melodic synth and Alison Moyet’s powerful voice are a perfect match. Check out their music video for Don’t Go, a nice window into the early 80s, a time when talent mattered more in pop music than fitting into some narrow ideal of physical beauty. If you want to hear more of this style of music, there is a great BBC documentary called Synth Britannia which chronicles the rise of synthpop in the UK, where Vince Clarke and Yazoo are also extensively featured. Last time I checked it was available for free on Youtube.
My music has finally made its way out on the commercial market. Not that I’m expecting to make me rich anytime soon, certainly my expenses will be way higher than my income this year from music. (Unless I score a radio hit or something.) So here is a link to Duke Pope Zero on Spotify. My music is also available through all the other major streaming platforms, plus Bandcamp, Soundcloud and a few other minor music networking sites which I plan to write reviews of here soon. The focus on the blog will also shift more towards music related stuff from now.
Rap and Rock are musical genres with a rough edge, which lends itself to political messages. Pop music on the other hand is usually more light hearted, which might explain why love and romantic intrigue in past decades and nowadays partying and sex tend to be regular themes in pop songs. However there are artists who have had great success with political pop songs over the years. I have made a list of my top three pop songs with a hard hitting political message. Let me know in the comments what’s your favourite political pop hit!
Talkin’ ’bout a Revolution from 1988 by Tracy Chapman is one of those songs that keeps inspiring people across generations that there is hope for a better life for all of us, not just the super rich. The hope of a better future is a prerequisite for any positive change in society. Be sure to keep this song in your playlist for when you’re about to loose faith in humanity.
When You’re Gonna Learn from 1992 was Jamiroquai’s debut single. It questions the way we as a species are exhausting the resources of our fragile earth while wrecking it in the process. Politically conscious lyrics have been a common thread throughout their career, exemplified by their newly released single ‘Automaton’ that questions if we are loosing our souls as more and more of our waking lives are consumed by our internet presence.
They Don’t Really Care About US from 1995 by Michael Jackson was the last true super-hit released by the King of Pop. Was it a coincidence that his career declined in the aftermath of releasing such a hard hitting political song? No damning evidence was ever brought up proving that he actually molested any of those young boys. As a comparison, RnB singer R Kelly’s career seems to have taken little harm from the very serious allegations against him, including possession of child pornography and videotaping himself urinating on a 14 year old girl. But then again R Kelly was never involved in the tricky the business of politics.
Put on your conical hats, lean back and immerse yourselves in this music video, bringing you straight back to that early nineties post-modernist aesthetic. “Can You Forgive Her” features the typical Pet Shop Boys sound, mixing 90s dance with ambient and orchestral elements, accompanied by airy vocals and funny, yet poetic lyrics.
I shared this song with a friend on facebook a while back, and introduced the post with the question in the title. He told me: “Not sure if anyone ever said that.” Maybe nobody said it out loud, but I still feel like some people have harboured suspiciouns in this regard. Well, here is the proof that will have you discard your doubts if you ever had any; Break my Stride by Mathew Wilder from 1983. Take note of the crazy outfits, the interesting dance moves and Mathew Wilder’s proto-hipster moustache!