1. All Night Passion – Alisha, 1984
I listened to a lot of music in the 80’s, not all of it stereotypical of the era. Instead of trying to impress you, I’m gonna start by losing all street cred. Here’s a song that only a smattering of Staten Island Freestyle lovers will dig. To me, “All Night Passion” is quintessentially 80’s. It was the soundtrack to the many roller rinks and Sweet Sixteens I found myself in at the time, fueling a lust in my fourteen year old heart for big-haired heavily made-up Italian girls from The Rock.
2. Ain’t Nobody – Rufus and Chaka Khan, 1983
A classic from 1983. Sonically, Rufus and Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody” manages to sound timeless while featuring some tastefully incorporated 80’s guitar and keyboards. Songs about the initial sparks of love speak to my inner housewife.
3. God is a Bullet – Concrete Blonde, 1989
To say I was obsessed with Concrete Blonde is putting it mildly. Johnette Napolitano owns me. “God is a Bullet” winds up on half my mixtapes. The louder you play this one the better it is. If there were any justice in the world Johnette would be as famous as Janis Joplin.
4. Gimmie The Night – George Benson, 1980
I was lucky to be influenced by varied music lovers in my family. Mom had a penchant for doo-wop and soul. “Gimmie The Night” by the incomparable George Benson was always in heavy rotation while cruising from A to B along Richmond Avenue, Amboy Road and Hylan Boulevard. Released in 1980 and produced by Quincy Jones, it kicked off the ’80s right. Written by Rod Temperton, who penned Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You” and “Off the Wall.”
5. Young Turks – Rod Stewart, 1981
In 1981 you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting Rod Stewart. It may not be his best song (that would be “Passion“) but the chorus of “Young Turks” always hits me in the feels. “Young hearts beat free tonight, time is on your side.” If you listen closely, you can hear the ’80’s learning how to crawl.
6. Rapture – Blondie, 1980
Debbie Harry was one of my first crushes, along with Caroline Ellis from The Bugaloos, Suzi Quatro from Happy Days and Tootie from Facts of Life. They made me feel all funny in my pants-parts. Blondie dominated the radio with songs like “The Tide is High,” “Call Me,” and the classic “Rapture,” the first hit song to feature rap – albeit by a white girl coached by Fab Five Freddie. In the verses she sounds like a siren calling to you from across a smoky dance floor for a night of neon lit debauchery.
7. Der Kommisar – After the Fire, 1982
We all know “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie is the quintessential 80’s song, but for my last track I wanted something more obscure but no less sticky. While I was THIS close to posting “In a Big Country” by Big Country, I’m gonna end with the English language version of “Der Kommissar.” Wanna fight about it? I remember taping this off Friday Night Videos when I was 13 and watching it on repeat. It has that “sung in a second language” quality that triggers my ASMR. Or something like that. Alles klar, Herr Kommissar.
Janita – Three Songs She’d Love to Have Written
Janita’s newest album Here Be Dragons is another in a progression of finely crafted hymns for the empowered. Whether by love, as in the silky “I Do,” or by subverting expectations, in the Beatlesesque “Not What You’re Used To,” Janita draws on lessons learned during a positively unique career that spans decades and continents. We caught up with Janita on the heels of her latest single “When It’s All Up To You” to find out three songs she’d love to have written.
Elliott Smith — “L.A.”
This is one of my favorite songs by Elliott Smith. I listened to the full album Figure 8 a lot while I was writing the songs on my new album, and it was a huge influence on me both melodically and lyrically. This song in particular has also informed some of the production choices we made later, like the heavier guitars you hear on my song “Not What You’re Used To.”
“L.A.” is incredibly melodic, but there’s an elusive, haunting quality to it. It feels like you’re always trying to reach it, catch up to it somehow. The backing vocals accentuate that feeling. In my mind, the song paints such a vivid picture of the ephemeral, fickle nature of L.A., and the similarly transient nature of the main character. Elliott Smith himself? I don’t know exactly how he does (did) it, but I’m certainly in awe of it.
Radiohead — “There There”
So hypnotic. So badass. Could the production possibly be any cooler? The melody is intricate and beautiful, and I can relate to the lyric from every which angle: as the singer, as the one being sung to, and whether in love relationships, friendships, or with total strangers. The subject matter simply comes up in life in so many ways all the time… I recently tried to express similar notions as I was writing a song, only to remember that it was already done here perfectly. Goddammit.
Punch Brothers — “Julep”
This song is simply magical to me. It’s made me bawl my eyes out at a Punch Brothers concert two separate times. It’s like that viral video that was circulating some years ago of a baby moved to tears when her mom sings a sad tune. I’m that baby when it comes to this song. It simply hits some sort of primal button in me and keeps pressing it until the very end.
While you’re at it, check out Janita’s video for “Digging in the Dirt,” a funky and faithful rendition of the Peter Gabriel classic.
New Music – Bachelor
Jay Som’s Melina Duterte and Palehound’s Ellen Kempner join forces as Bachelor – a musical powerhouse whose new record Doomin’ Sun drops May 28th on Polyvinyl.
Kemper and Duterter recorded the album during two weeks of mutual appreciation in California. Three visceral singles have been released in the lead-up, including the Pixies-flavored “Stay in the Car” and the sprawling “Anything At All.”
Bachelor has also announced the Doomin’ Sun Fest, a one-day livestream featuring Tegan & Sara, Courtney Barnett, Adrianne Lenker, Jeff Tweedy, Japanese Breakfast, Julien Baker, and more.
Self-Serving Interview with Electronic Device Does Little to Advance Musician’s Career
Two men that look suspiciously alike meet outside a fictitious Brooklyn hot-spot – six feet apart.
MC Krispy E: Very nice to meet you. (squints) Have we met before?
Electronic Device: Maybe?
MC Krispy E: Is the rest of the band joining us?
Electronic Device: (pause) I am the rest of the band.
MC Krispy E: You are Electronic Device? What’s that about?
Electronic Device: Uhm, yeah, it’s like a pen name. You know what that is, right?
MC Krispy E: I have some idea.
Electronic Device: It was actually the name of one of my dad’s companies back in the day before…
MC Krispy E: (looking at his watch) Wonderful. So… it says here you have a new single called “All Things Come to an End” inspired by the death of your brother.
Electronic Device: Yeah, after my brother died I recorded songs as a form of therapy in his old bedroom in Staten Island.
MC Krispy E: And now I read that you have cancer. Am I supposed to feel extra sorry for you?
Electronic Device: Uhm…
MC Krispy E: It sounds like this album is going to be super depressing.
Electronic Device: It’s not, I swear. I was looking for some happiness while recording these songs, there’s not much of an agenda beyond that.
Electronic Device: I wasn’t really thinking about influences while recording, but listening back I hear some Concrete Blonde, some Cracker.
MC Krispy: So bands no one is interested in?
Electronic Device: What the hell, man?
MC Krispy: Sorry, it’s almost like I can’t help it. What’s the single about?
Electronic Device: I hate saying what a song is about because everything is up for interpretation.
MC Krispy E: Humor us.
Electronic Device: I can say that “All Things Come to an End” has multiple narrators, some of which are unreliable.
MC Krispy E: (stares)
Electronic Device: And that one day I was at my Dad’s house and when I turned the corner into the hallway my Dad thought I was my brother for a moment, which was super sad because of course I couldn’t be.
MC Krispy E: And then you wrote a whole song about that.
Electronic Device: I guess so. When you put it that way…
MC Krispy E: (yawning) Tell us when the single come out.
Electronic Device: The single is out now. The album comes out in 2021.
MC Krispy E: Well, good for you. And good luck with that cancer thing.
Electronic Device: Yeah, you too.
MC Krispy E: Thanks. What?