So I've finally given La Roux a go after only hearing about them for a year. La Roux is the toast of the electronica world, the darlings of the electroclash scene. I have now listened to several La Roux songs and am addicted- for those of you who grew up in the eighties (that would be all cherubs), La Roux will call to mind The Eurythmics with a lot more aggression. Eleanor Jackson is the new Annie Lennox- she's got the androgyny, the coolness, the spunk. And Ben Langmaid, the quieter half of the duo, is the perfect Dave Stewart to Jackson's Lennox. I might be going from Unaware to Huge Fan too quickly, but I hope for bright things for these two.
In finally crawling out from under the expanse of rocks that I call my palatial pad, I've discovered that, for once, the mainstream has kina-sorta made a breaththrough. With their new audience generally numbing their brains on Bieber and Perry, "Bulletproof," La Roux's biggest hit thus far, has amassed eleven million views on YouTube. It's impressive given the tough-to-swallow facade that the duo keep around them. Jackson isn't some petite blondie posing in bikinis. Their music is catchy but distinctive- it takes some chewing, at least in my opinion. I find their lyrics subversive, in the sense that they aren't obnoxious and predictable. Their videos are bizarre. Their image is not the pillar of plastic perfection. I worry that I'm jumping the gun, stretching my appreciation for them past what they might actually have earned, but "Quicksand" is just, plainly and simply, a good song. You might disagree- electronica is not everyone's favorite, particularly it's more in-your-face cousin electroclash. Or you might just not like them. Pfft.
But at least a few great acts have made an impact on the general public. Florence + The Machine hit the big time in 2008, thanks to, apparently, the BBC, which I assume is like British Oprah- there's a sort of BBC Effect and it's benefitting the music world. Janelle Monae, one of the great pleasures of modern music, is gaining speed. I walked past the magazine section of the library the other day and was overjoyed to find her on one of the covers. Adele, Amy Winehouse (say what you will- she's a talented musician and what I wouldn't give to have her voice...), Gnarls Barkley, MGMT, the list goes on. While these names aren't as known as "Britney" or "Christina," I will admit that, I find it so wonderful how more and more people are embracing the less-obvious side of art. I wish for a broader variety even in my own playlist. Quality music isn't limited to a genre- even pop can have artists like Prince or Michael Jackson. I want to see rock and roll, and not pop with nose piercings, but actual rock and roll. I want to see inventive genres from around the world and all of the subgenres that get into the folds and crevices leap out and onto the charts.
At my friend's house a few weeks ago, I became acquainted with First Aid Kit. I love their organic, folksy tunes. They truly make me feel like I have something quality, something like what music junkies had in the 1970s. Give this Swedish duo a go if you can. Then try Loess, Explosions in the Sky, Andrew Bird, and The Shins. Also, on a side not, Gnarls Barkley's Danger Mouse, a brilliant man if there ever was one, has done some work with Shins singer James Mercer- their outfit is called Broken Bells and it is a must-hear: it's dream-pop at its finest and, to me, really put this burgeoning subgenre on the course that it is destined to take.
My list also has some perennial musts- Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, The Goo Goo Dolls, Leonard Cohen, Fred Astaire, David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, Crowded House, and The Beatles. It also has some lesser-known, more "out there" material. If you haven't heard Erykah Badu, you're missing out; and if you haven't heard Deep Forest, well, you're missing out again. Deep Forest is unlike anything I have ever heard. Take some French disc jockeys, throw in a dash of international tribal music, and remix it to house, and you get Deep Forest. It's sublime and you don't know why. Admittedly, I had never heard of them until I found three of their albums at the library. With a name like Deep Forest, I actually thought that it was a New Age/"Waltz of the Spirit Butterfly Crystals" type of thing, but that type of thing can sometimes be relaxing. So I plucked it off of the shelf for future reference. That reference day has come. Check out some Deep Forest.