Frankie - Cigarettes After Sex: I. (2012)
I am a huge sucker for ambient noise bands, and really any music that I can listen to loudly in my car and lose myself in but can also put it on softly in the background at my apartment while I am entertaining friends. I can’t remember that exact moment I heard “Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby” by Cigarettes After Sex but I know I was struck by the sickly sweet, dreamlike quality the song had, mixed with the blushingly intimate lyrics sang by founder Greg Gonzalez’s androgynous voice. Cigarettes After Sex has put out a number of excellent singles, one full-length album, and one EP, titled I. which I just picked up from a local record store. I. has only four songs on it, two on each side, but is quickly climbing in my list of most frequently spun records I own. The band has had amazing commercial success considering their humble beginnings (I. was recorded in a stairwell at University of Texas at El Paso, Gonzalez calling it “basically an accident”), with “Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby” popping up in episodes of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Shameless,” “The Sinner,” and “Wanderlust.”
I think the thing that most captivates me about I. is that all the songs are gender neutral, so any person could relate to the songs and feel like that are about whoever come to mind without being ruined by an unnecessary “she/her” or “he/him” that might shatter the reverie. Even with their soft, trancelike melodies, however, the lyrics are still intense and limerent, bordering on obsessive. I don’t think the songs are necessarily looking at love in a toxic way, but rather they are the love letters of someone who is obsessed with loving someone and having that love reciprocated.
Michael - Radiohead: OK Computer (1997)
Radiohead have such a special place in my heart in the world of alt. Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, Colin Greenwood, Ed O'Brien, and Philip Selway have really assembled one of the most innovative and unique bands of our time. Hence their impending enshrining in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They've always been known for pushing the envelope, not only musically, but visually, and stylistically. They started to do this a bit with their sound a bit on The Bends but they really went all in with OK Computer. This album may seem relatively tame or normal now compared to the swarms of various electronically influenced alt music. However, when it came out there was nothing else like it. I want to talk about just a couple of songs that make this album so important. Truth be told, I could highlight every one of them, but don't have the space here.
There were so many important songs from this album, let's start with "Paranoid Android". This track is still often used as the band's closer during concerts, it's a masterpiece. Sophisticated and complex, it's a rock opera in it's own right. It has movements throughout the piece. If you haven't seen the animated music video, it's well worth the watch. Unsettling and utterly Radiohead I've included it for you here.
Next, is the hauntingly beautiful "Exit Music (For a Film)". Initially it features Yorke and a guitar. However, it has one of the best breakdowns in music period where he is later joined by the band with a magnificent electronic line. When this happens the entire song builds until Yorke hits some fantastic high notes, before ending the song uttering the line "We hope that you choke / that you choke" repeatedly.
"Karma Police" is one of the most beloved tracks on this album and for good reason. It's lyrically complex, musically tight, and downright one of the best alt songs to come out of the 1990's. The guitar line in this track chills to the bone as it marches through, you feel the mood that literal Karma Police would inspire in it. The video for this song is also pretty great as it features a car chasing a man (with no one driving it) with Yorke in the backseat. It's an interesting choice for the video given Yorke's well documented fear of cars.
OK Computer is simply a must own for any alt fan's record collection. I picked up my copy pretty early on in my record collecting days. I got it from OMEGA Records in Dayton, OH. It's a record I always find myself coming back to no matter how much time has passed, it just has that much of a hold on my musical heart. Give it a listen, perhaps it will on yours as well.