Makeup For The Silence

The digital home of music writer Jesse Richman

Makeup For The Silence

Tag: depeche mode

Simple Math 2012: Everything Counts

I’m not really one for New Years resolutions. That said, as long as we’re using the turn of the calendar to drop another breadcrumb onto this trail we call life (and grind out lists, because everybody loves lists!), I might as well take this moment to reflect on whatever got accomplished over the past twelve months, and set out some goals for the year ahead.

One place where I fell short of my plans was in the writing department. I actually stepped up my game a bit, writing more on PropertyOfZack than ever (despite mentally checking out for the final two months of the year). But I had hoped to branch out more, both in terms of places where my writing appears and in terms of the kinds of pieces I’m writing. On the former, I did some work for a site that never got off the ground, and made some halfhearted attempts at finding some additional places to run my work, but this year I’d like to get a little more serious about pitching stories and such. (You can find links to almost everything I did write here, and a little bit more here). Per the latter, the good news is that 2013 is already looking up: I’ve got a major project happening at One Week One Band in March, and we’re hard at work behind the scenes at PoZ on expanding our non-news offerings (in particular, I have a few plans for long form pieces that I’m set on venturing into in 2013). I even have a kinda-sorta book idea that I’m probably way over my head venturing into (and which probably lacks any sort of readership appeal outside of, oh, me). In general, I’m making little steps, and little steps are good and important, but this year I want to push myself to take bigger ones.

The other quasi-resolution I made last year was to listen to fewer podcasts, and in that plan I failed miserably. If the podcast market felt waterlogged in 2011, 2012 brought a level of saturation I didn’t even know was possible, especially when it came to music podcasts. Programs like Going Off TrackWashed Up EmoNothing To Write Home About, and 100 Words Or Less all became essential listening. Add to that a proliferation of tech and baseball podcasts, and for much of the year it felt like that was all I was listening to – something that’s borne out in my listening numbers. The number of new* albums/tracks I listened to was barely half what I did in 2011, and the number of listens I gave to those tracks was down even further. I enjoy writing about music, but this year it felt like the music I was listening to explicitly for the purpose of writing about it dominated listening for pleasure.

*It’s probably worth noting that none of the below numbers include time spent listening to pre-2012 releases. While that’s certainly a significant amount of my listening time, I’d guess that, proportionally, it was about as far down as my new-music-listening time.

Which is not to imply I didn’t enjoy much of that listening; many of those albums I wrote about wound up as my favorites for the year, and would have gotten the plays regardless. And I saw as much music live as I did last year, which was almost exclusively for my own enjoyment’s sake. But running through my most-played songs and albums of 2012 on last.fm, it’s a muddled mess of stuff I loved and stuff I didn’t care for, and while I suppose spending time on stuff I don’t much care for is just one small, necessary downside to choosing to write about music in a serious sort of way, not spending more time with music I did love doesn’t have to be a side effect of that effort. So, in 2013, I’m doubling down on that whole fewer-podcasts-thing, and making a conscious effort to prioritize listening to music over chatter.

Now with all that out of the way, on to the numbers!

So how did I spend my listening time this year? As of December 29, 2012:

  • By my count, over the course of the year I listened to 121 LPs, EPs, 7″s, Splits or Comps released in 2012.
  • There were 1,155 songs added to my iTunes this year that received at least one play (unlike last year, this only includes tracks from 2012 releases).
  • In total, songs from 2012 added to my iTunes library this year received 3,074 plays.
  • My albums with the most track plays were**:
  1. Dave Melillo – Eskimo Kisses (143)
  2. The Forecast – Everybody Left (110)
  3. Foxy Shazam – Church Of Rock And Roll (109)
  4. Sharks – No Gods (108)
  5. John K. Samson – Provincial (97) **This year’s numbers are almost entirely skewed toward albums I listened to (at least in part) for review. The album with the most track plays that I listened to merely for pleasure this year: Our Lady Peace – Curve (69)
  • My most played songs were***:
  1. The Maine – Good Love (16)
  2. The Forecast – Clear Eyes, Full Hearts (15)
  3. Eisley – Laugh It Off (14)
  4. The Forecast – Skyline (14)
  5. Sharks – Matthew’s Baby (14)*** The same skew applies here. The song with the most plays that I listened to merely for pleasure this year: Our Lady Peace – Find Our Way (11)
  • I attended 93 shows this year, in addition to a week of SXSW and the first three days of CMJ.
  • At these shows/festivals, I saw (by my inexact count) 352 different sets played.
  • I wrote 42 album reviews, along with eight lighthearted Christmas song reviews this year. In general I try to ensure that every album I review gets at least ten full listens over the span of at least a week, though I apparently fell short of that a bit this year. I also wrote one live performance review (of four different performances), and conducted fifteen interviews which were all published in Q&A form.

The full list of albums and EPs from 2012**** that I’ve listened to this year, alphabetical by artist, is after the cut.

**** I think these are all 2012 releases; I did my best to cull out stuff released prior, but no promises.

  1. All Time Low – Don’t Panic
  2. American Gospel – Tall Tales Vol. 1
  3. Anthony Raneri – New Cathedrals
  4. Artist Vs. Poet – Remember This
  5. Austin Gibbs – Fall 2011 (Live)
  6. Basement – Colourmeinkindness
  7. The Beach Boys – That’s Why God Made The Radio
  8. Black Cards – Up The Anti-
  9. Bob Mould – Silver Age
  10. Bonaventure – Come Hell Or High Water EP
  11. Breathe Carolina – Hell Is What You Make It: Reloaded
  12. Carly Rae Jepsen – Kiss
  13. Cassadee Pope – Cassadee Pope EP
  14. Circa Survive – Violent Waves
  15. Classics Of Love – Classics Of Love
  16. Cloud Nothings – Attack On Memory
  17. Coasta – Coasta EP
  18. Code Orange Kids – Love Is Love // Return To Dust
  19. Cold Crows Dead – Album Demos
  20. Cold Crows Dead – Ghost That Burned Your House Down EP
  21. The Company We Keep – Making Moves 7″
  22. Crosses – Crosses EP 2
  23. Dads – American Radass (This Is Important)
  24. Daniel Rinaldi – Daniel Rinaldi EP
  25. The Darkness – Hot Cakes
  26. Dave Melillo – Eskimo Kisses
  27. Daytrader – Twelve Years
  28. Deftones – Koi No Yokan
  29. Desaparecidos – MariKKKopa / Backsell 7″
  30. DIIV – Oshin
  31. Dion – Tank Full Of Blues
  32. The Early November – In Currents
  33. Eisley – Deep Space
  34. Enter Shikari – A Flash Flood Of Colour
  35. Eve 6 – Speak In Code
  36. For The Foxes – The Revolution
  37. The Forecast – Everybody Left
  38. Forever Came Calling – Contender
  39. Foxy Shazam – The Church Of Rock & Roll
  40. Frank Ocean – channelORANGE
  41. fun. – Some Nights
  42. Further Seems Forever – Penny Black
  43. Giants At Large – Doubt
  44. Go Radio – Close The Distance
  45. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
  46. A Great Big Pile Of Leaves – Making Moves 7″
  47. Happy Body Slow Brain – Sleepy EP
  48. Have Mercy – My Oldest Friend
  49. Hit The Lights – Invicta
  50. Hostage Calm – Please Remain Calm
  51. Hyper Crush – Night Wave
  52. I Call Fives – I Call Fives
  53. I See Stars – Digital Renegade
  54. Japandroids – Celebration Rock
  55. Jeremih – Late Nights With Jeremih Mixtape
  56. John K. Samson – Provincial
  57. Jonah Matranga – Voices And Dedication
  58. Joyce Manor – Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired
  59. Just Kait – Once Upon A Girl
  60. Justin Bieber – Believe
  61. Ke$ha – Warrior
  62. Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid M.A.A.D. City
  63. Kevin Devine – Matter Of Time: KD&GDB Tour EP 2012
  64. Kowloon Walled City – Container Ships
  65. Lana Del Rey – Born To Die
  66. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – The Heist
  67. The Maine – The Good Love EP
  68. Masked Intruder – Masked Intruder
  69. Matt Pryor – May Day
  70. Matthew Ryan – In The Dusk Of Everything
  71. The Menzingers – On The Impossible Past
  72. Metz – Metz
  73. mewithoutYou – Ten Stories
  74. Miguel – Kaleidoscope Dreams
  75. Minus The Bear – Infinity Overhead
  76. Misser – Every Day I Tell Myself I’m Going To Be A Better Person
  77. MOD SUN – Happy As Fuck EP
  78. Motion City Soundtrack – Go
  79. Motion City Soundtrack – Making Moves 7″
  80. Moving Mountains – New Light EP
  81. Nada Surf – The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy
  82. The Narrative – B-Sides And Seasides
  83. Now, Now – Threads
  84. Our Lady Peace – Curve
  85. Owl City – The Midsummer Station
  86. Owl City – Shooting Star EP
  87. Pentimento – Pentimento
  88. R. Kelly – Write Me Back
  89. Richard Benjamin – Day Jobs / Night Lives
  90. The Rocket Summer – Life Will Write The Words
  91. A Rocket To The Moon – That Old Feeling EP
  92. Say Anything – Anarchy, My Dear
  93. Set It Off – Cinematics
  94. Sharks – No Gods
  95. Smashing Pumpkins – Oceania
  96. Sparks The Rescue – Sparks The Rescue EP
  97. Speechwriters LLC – Hollywood College
  98. States – Room To Run (Deluxe Edition)
  99. Steven Padin – Out Of The Silent Nest
  100. The Swellers – Running Out Of Places To Go EP
  101. That’s Outrageous! – Psycho
  102. theHELL – Sauve Les Requins EP
  103. This Century – Acoustics EP
  104. Thrice – Anthology
  105. Title Fight – Floral Green
  106. The Tower And The Fool – How Long
  107. Vacationer – Gone
  108. What’s Eating Gilbert – Cheap Shots EP
  109. What’s Eating Gilbert – The Nashville Session 7″
  110. William Beckett – Walk The Talk EP
  111. William Beckett – What Will Be EP
  112. William Beckett – Winds Will Change EP
  113. William Control – Silentium Amoris
  114. With The Punches – With The Punches
  115. 2 Chainz – Based On A T.R.U. Story
  116. VA – G.O.O.D. Music Presents: Cruel Summer
  117. VA – Glamour Kills Tour Split
  118. VA – Pioneer North American Tour Live EP
  119. VA – Punk Goes Pop 5
  120. VA – Punk Is Dead. Get A Job. Split
  121. VA – Scott & Aubrey’s Wedding 7″

T-4-2 – “Desire”

Synthpop seems to experience a renaissance every few years, but of the many revivals, my favorite is the one that seems to have been most quickly forgotten. The early 90s were, to my mind, the apex of the genre. Information Society’s dark and snarky Peace & Love Inc., the moody clarity of Cause & Effect’s Trip, singles like Machine In Motion’s “World In Fascination” and, yes, T-4-2’s “Desire” are all favorites of mine to this day. (Indeed, much of this scene revolved around an Information Society fanzine-turned-loose collective of artists in Houston called CTRL-ALT-DEL, which also issued a couple of compilation CDs during that scene’s heyday, which I’d love to get a hold of).

Meanwhile, at around the same time across the pond, somewhere at the intersection of the dying Madchester/Baggy scene and the burgeoning rave scene, a sweet spot gave birth to albums like The Lightning Seeds’ buoyant Cloudcuckooland and Sense, Happyhead’s playful Give, and EMF’s damn-near-perfect discography (Depeche Mode pretty clearly influenced most of the American bands as well, though it’s a little tough for me to lump DM into this group; their popularity certainly outstripped all of these bands at the time, and more importantly there was nothing to be “revived” in their case. Though they were on the waning side of their commercial dominance, Depeche Mode’s commercial peak came in the late 80s after most of their first-wave synthpop peers had all but disappeared. That said, 1993’s Songs Of Faith And Devotion certainly fits in with the darker stuff from above.)

Alas, it was not to be; none of the above had more than minor success (minus EMF, who are to my mind the one band most unfairly remembered as a one hit wonder), and by the middle of the decade all had slipped off the radar (though The Lightning Seeds had continued success in the UK). Grunge may have famously killed hair metal, but it also did in pretty much anything involving a keyboard for much of the 90s.

Which, frankly, makes it a little weird that any of this music made its way to me. I’ve written here before about Planet B, the weekly alternative/modern rock music hour (Sundays, 11 to midnight following Casey Kasem’s countdown!) on Allentown’s pop radio station B104 in the early 90s. Planet B disappeared somewhere around the end of 1993, done in by the alternative explosion – suddenly, what had been a quirky way to fill an hour of late-night air was a commercially viable format for an entire station – but from when I started listening in 1990 until at least late 92, when grunge began to really dominate, synthpop was a big part of what made up “alternative” music. Out of an hour long show, it was a good bet there would be at least two or three synthpop tunes each week on the playlist.

From when I first started listening to Planet B, I would record each week’s episode to cassette so I could listen to it for the rest of the week in my Walkman on my way to school and back. Of course, tapes back then were expensive, especially for a 7th grader, so I would reuse the same handful of tapes. (I would kill to be able to get a hold of full episodes somewhere now, but I suspect that even if there were archived recordings they’ve long since been discarded.) I kept one tape, titled The Best Of B (clever eh?), and each week would dub whatever really stood out from my full episode onto that tape. (Believe it or not, i still have that tape, though I don’t have any way of playing it and suspect the magnetic coating would flake off if I tried.)

I don’t remember everything that was on that tape, but I know there were tracks ranging from the Tom Tom Club (“Sunshine & Ecstasy”) to LA Style (“I’m Raving”) to My Life WIth The Thrill Kill Kult (“Sex On Wheels”) to the B-52s (“Good Stuff”) to Cracker (“Teen Angst”) to, finally at the very end, Nirvana’s “Lithium”, a knowing concession on my part that alternative music was now mainstream for better or worse, and that I no longer needed to be making tapes off the radio if I wanted to hear it. (I was a weirdly self-aware 12 year old. See also: using the aforementioned Cracker’s “Teen Angst” as my introductory music at my Bar Mitzvah party).

And then there was this track, that only aired once. Thanks to some shoddy editing on my part, the intro where the DJ announced the artist and title was cut off. For LITERALLY 20 YEARS I tried unsuccessfully to track it down. Nobody I spoke to knew it. Googling the lyrics was a dead end. I left questions in random music-nerd forums – nothing. Finally, last week I gave googling the lyrics another crack, and hit the jackpot with a band name, which I followed across the interwebs gathering as much info as possible, until I hit on not just the song but a music video for it, uploaded to YouTube a few years ago.

From what I managed to find online, T-4-2 aka T42 were from Dallas in the early 90s, cut a handful of tracks – a CD/cassette of demos, and two songs that got an official release, including this one – and were produced by Paul Robb of Information Society, which vocalist Will Loconto eventually joined following T42’s demise. (I found a copy of the CD on a torrent site, and the influence of “Hack”-era InSoc is pretty clear). Further, the duo has apparently reunited for a handful of local gigs in the last year or two.

Having never seen the video, I have to admit that not in a million years did I imagine the guys who made this song looked like THIS. I imagined some sleek Dave Gahan-looking Euros in black, not a big dude with flowy Fabio hair and outfits that must have looked like a crime against fashion even in 1992, overemoting in the most hilarious way possible.  All I can say is, if you really want to get how good this track is, don’t actually watch the video while you’re listening, or I can’t imagine you’ll ever be able to hear it without cracking up and/or choking back vomit. Just close your eyes, and enjoy a bit of the synthpop revolution that wasn’t.

Cobra Starship – “Anything For Love”

Cobra Starship – Anything For Love

Ostensibly this place is about my life, and while Makeup For The Silence’s focus seems to be fixed on the past these last couple weeks, I’ve been drowning in the present. On top of working 60 hour weeks, I’m trying to balance my showgoing, two playoff-bound fantasy baseball teams, the upcoming fantasy football season, knocking out a review here and there for PropertyOfZack (and potentially getting involved with a soon-to-be-launched site as well), adding some new coding to the site, spending time with friends, and maybe getting some sleep somewhere in between.  Meanwhile, somehow, we’re two thirds of a way through a year that feels like it’s just barely started. Whizz whizz!

I’m feeling a little overwhelmed, to say the least.  Part of my way of keeping things from feeling like they’ve gotten too far out of control is tearing through new releases as fast as I can, playing catch-up for a couple months of too-busy-to-listen-to-new-stuff-aside-from-what-I’m-reviewing-ness and clearing out the backlog.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who’s been digging around the past as of late.  Witness “Anything For Love” off the just-released Cobra Starship album Night Shades, in which Gabe Saporta eats up New Order, 1980-style OMD the Human League and Vince Clarke-era Depeche Mode, and shits out pure classic synthpop bliss. It’s easily my favorite thing I’ve heard in weeks; I Just Can’t Get Enough of it!

I was actually initially planning on reviewing this album, but then shelved it as things got busy.  But now that I’ve actually gotten around to listening to it, I’ve found the whole thing so intriguing that I think I’m going to end up reviewing it anyway.  I don’t love it as much as I wanted to, and I don’t hate it as much as I was afraid I might, but it’s gotten me pondering pop – the way it’s changed over the past few years; the retromania discussion that’s all over the musicweb this week; and a whole host of other things –  like very little else lately has.

While the album is currently somewhere in that neither-good-nor-bad territory for me, this track is unequivocably WIN.

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