Archive for Fischerspooner

Electronic cover versions

Posted in Commentary, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 23, 2010 by softsynth

While listening to the new Collide album (which we were pretty hard on in our review, it still stands but some of these tracks have held up better than we would have thought…) Softsynth was struck by the number of songs that seemed like odd matches with a predominantly electronic band (John Lennon?) Got us to thinking about some of the great cover versions given new life by electronic bands over the years (and some of the noble failures. And some of the just plain shitty treatments).

Some of the early great electronic recordings were cover versions, none more notable than Daniel Miller’s 1979/80 Silicon Teens project which was mostly synthpop covers of classic rock songs from the 50s and early 60s.

It didn’t always work (like the too-twee-by-half “Judy in Disguise”) but sometimes, like the fantastic version of the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” it made for really refreshing takes on the classics.

Bands like Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and The Human League diddled about with covers (Velvet Underground’s “Waiting for the Man”, the “Nightclubbing/Rock n Roll” amalgam, respectively) in the early days of their careers and the likes of Depeche Mode messed about with classics like “The Price of Love” before becoming full-fledged recording artists.

Perhaps the most successful well-known electronic cover was Soft Cell’s monster 1981 hit single, their version of the Northern Soul classic “Tainted Love” (which for decades had the distinction of being the song to log the most weeks on billboard’s Hot 100 Singles chart). Continue reading

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The Softsynth 2009 Playlist (songs of the year ’09)

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 12, 2009 by softsynth

So this will be the last in the long line of “lists” for the year. We had mused about doing up a “best singles of the year list”

and were both overwhelmed by the task at hand and felt persnickety about the notion of being limited to just singles.

The era of the single is definitely upon us what with the death of the CD as the last remaining form of “physical” music and the growth of iTunes culture, but damn it, Softsynth is a creature from the age of album appreciation and the best songs are so often not the tracks sent out to be appreciated by the masses, but those that remain buried in the outer confines of an album. (That said many of the best songs

released there were, indeed, singles, so we’re not limiting ourselves here). It’s what made for the great mixed tapes of yore. (And for those of a certain age, too young for the pure album era of the 70s, but older than those who know only the MP3 era, the mixed tape was a crucial part of our musical upbringing. we created our own playlists, as a kind of precursor to the era we increasingly find ourselves in today via one-off MP3 downloads, but with tracks culled from albums or singles as we saw fit, depending on our mood at a given time.)

This is literally the only time through the year that we open things up to acknowledge the best stuff from various genres, not just electronic music (and in our next post we will revisit the question of what exactly constitutes so-called “electronic music”).We will paint with a wider brush just to fully colour in the year. So away we go, the singles of the year, er, songs of the year, uh…no, the “2009 Softsynth playlist”…

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The Best Electronic Albums of 2009

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 8, 2009 by softsynth

Finally recovered from the exhaustion of compiling the decade’s best electronic albums, we now turn our attention to the best of this year. Two changes to the initial plans. We had reported earlier we were going to do an all-genre-inclusive list, as we did last year on this blog and as we have in previous years in the earlier incarnation of the blog. Given the huge number of predominantly electronic albums that were released this year, or more specifically, the large number of great electronic albums, we have done an about-face and will stay true to the blog’s mandate and share what we think are the best of the year – electronic only. (The only two albums clearly effected by this change are the exceptional new works from The Dead Weather and Placebo, and we’ll hear from them elsewhere, see below…; and as always the definition of “electronic” is somewhat loose – see our own definition in an earlier post.)

Second change, we had also mused about doing a singles of the year list. Ha, we say. Ha! Overwhelmed with the sheer number of exceptional singles we throw in the towel. Simply too onerous. We will instead do the 2009 Softsynth playlist – all genres this time and not just singles but album tracks too. Despite the move to a singles society thanks to iTunes and the like, we still look to album tracks for some of the most interesting, challenging work out there. Those songs, electronic and otherwise that have blown us away or just kept us moving throughout the year will make up the official Softsynth playlist. We’ll get to said playlist soon enough, for now, the best in 2009 electronic albums… Continue reading

Top 25 electronic albums: 2000-2009 – Part II

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 1, 2009 by softsynth

The top 25 albums of the aughts continues as we count down to #1. There’s a lot of variety in these albums, coming from across the spectrum of electronic music, so many great ones that got left out but the cream rises and herewith, the cream…

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What makes for a good live electronic act?

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 16, 2009 by softsynth

After watching clips of the new Anne Clark live DVD and finding ourselves most impressed with the lineup and the sound she and her band achieve, Softsynth is flashing back to the concert of a lifetime – Depeche Mode, Toronto, 1988, just days before their legendary “101” concert at the Pasadena Rose Bowl. It was a lineup that embodied the best of electronic music, three keyboards, Martin Gore making his first fawn-like tentative journeys to the front of the stage to play guitar before retreating to the comfort of his synth downstage, and a charismatic lead vocalist who carried the energy of the show on his shoulders. Since that time we have seen every variance of live set from myriad electronic bands, some of which work nicely, others bring a degree of shame to the genre. in 2009 what kind of set should we come to expect from the leading electronic bands of the day?

For the more conventional rock band setup, this is a trite and obvious question. You strap on the guitar, the drummer sits down at the kit and you rock it out dude! The standard guitar/bass/drums/vocalist lineup, while inherently dull to this blogger, is the mainstay of a live rock set and there is little question of what the lineup will look like (maybe some question of a keyboard player or horn player being invited to sit in, or for the more prog-rock or enjoyably pretentious, perhaps a small string or brass section, or extra precussion unit, but these are extras to the main deal). But for an electronic band there are many questions that must be queried. Laptops or keyboards? Live percussion or programmed? Guitar or no? Full-on trad-rock lineup or something a little closer to the purity of the electronic set? This is one of those rare posts where we solicit your thoughts. What works for you. What drains the essence of what made the band special in the first place?

Our thoughts: it depends on the band in question. Full disclosure – Softsynth is most fond of performance. We have little interest in watching folks stand behind laptops all by their lonesome, occasionally pushing a button (see And One, Erasure, Venus Hum, Chemical Brothers); while a charismatic lead singer (see Erasure, Venus Hum) can carry a show on their shoulders, it’s nice to see the rest of the band occasionally working up a sweat, or at a minimum, playing a fews keys here and there. Continue reading

A second glance – reviewing the reviews

Posted in Commentary, Review with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 26, 2009 by softsynth

Usually a review is largely based on first impressions; one will listen to a new album a few times to get a feel for it and go with one’s gut. But what’s interesting to see if that initial impression sticks. The main reason I wanted to revisit some reviews/first impressions was my sense that I felt let down by Depeche Mode’s Sounds of the Universe. My initial impression was wrapped up in a relief and inherent excitement around their return to form using electronics with a purity they had not in decades. But the more I live with the album the more I am struck by how underwhelming I find the songwriting. Nothing stands out – lots of ‘good songs, Wrong, Corrupt, In Chains, Peace – but nothing that stands as “outstanding”, unique or a serious meaningful addition to the DM pantheon. 

Initial impression > current impression.

At the same time I was cautiously pleased with the new IAMX release, Kingdom of Welcome Addiction, which was simply “better than I thought/feared it was going to be”. On many, many (many!) listens later, the album feels like such a breath of fresh air, so perfect in tone, so spot-0n in terms of production and songwriting prowess, so emotionally powerful it feels like the album of the year so far. Put on the headphones, crank it up and listen to the title track, or Shipwreck of Life or I Am Terrified, or best of all, Teargarden and tell you you aren’t moved emotionally and even physically by the power of this magnificent album. I was way off base in my lukewarm treatment of the record.

Initial impression < current impression. Continue reading

Review: Fischerspooner – Entertainment

Posted in Review with tags , on March 17, 2009 by softsynth

A masterwork. Simple and to the point: a great, great album, along with the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s 2009 effort, the best of the year so far.

Fischerspooner are an odd band. As much performance artists as recording artists or musicians, one never knows what one is going to get from them. Their first album, #1 was highly experimental, shades of the minimalist 70s-era electronic music with bleeps and squawks and tuneless singing and it was really fun. The followup, Odyssey, went sharply in a different direction, embracing more traditional rock and electro-pop influences, and it totally redefined what the band was capable of on record. Both record worked on totally different levels. Then came Entertainment

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