Thanksgiving can be a truly enriching time of the year. You might go back to your hometown and spend time with your friends and family. You might host your friends and family in your own home. Doing either could make you feel extremely happy — or it could be a corrosive dystopia.
Regardless, here are some cuts new and old to help you survive. A note: These aren’t themed in any particular way, aside from being a collection of good releases.
The S.O.S. Band – ‘No One’s Gonna Love You’
Speaking of hometowns, this cut was produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who hail from my hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Aside from their friend and colleague Prince (RIP), Jam and Lewis are probably Minnesota’s most successful pop and R&B exports.
In the early 1980s, Jam and Lewis started working with the S.O.S Band through a connection with producer Leon Sylvers III — the duo wrote S.O.S. Band’s hit “High Hopes” in 1982, according to All Music.
They went on to produce the band’s 1983 album On the Rise and most of S.O.S. Band’s 1984 album Just the Way You Like It, which includes the above gem, “No One’s Gonna Love You.” Their work with the band solidified the two members of The Time as brilliant record producers. (You could argue their work with Cherelle and Alexander O’Neal already had this covered.)
“No One’s Gonna Love You” is a smooth devotional love song that follows the Jam and Lewis template you have heard on several of their slower numbers, including Human League’s 1986 hit “Human”: the swinging propulsion of the drum machine, the crawling sex of the synth bass, and keyboard chord progressions that fuse with your soul. This number, though, has a cool-ass guitar part that adds some steam to it and vocalist Mary Davis contributes a deep sense of the vulnerability surrounding intimacy.
A$AP Rocky later sampled the song for his 2011 cut “Peso.”
Scam Avenue – ‘Fault Lines’
Brooklyn-based Scam Avenue craft compelling and haunting new wave and synth-pop. New song “Fault Lines,” from the Sailor EP, counts among those. Devery Doleman is an almost sacred chanteuse whose classical vocals are like a hypnotic mist that flows amid the mesmerizing drums, minimal synth and guitar machinations of instrumentalists Lawrence Kim, Julie Rozansky, and Nate Smith. In other words, this is a fucking stunning work of art.
Director Tyler Hubby’s music video — surprisingly shot on an iPhone 7! —matches all of that. You can buy the whole EP in digital spaces.
Chromatics – ‘Glass Slipper’
Italians Do It Better recently reissued Chromatics’ Nite LP, a 2005-era release that represented much of the band’s transition from guitar-focused rock to the dark disco and post-punk of 2007’s highly influential Night Drive — and contained the seeds of 2012’s Kill For Love and even their appearances on the return of Twin Peaks. Ruth Radelet (pictured in the feature photo) hadn’t yet joined the band and Johnny Jewel had started moving things in the electronic direction more and more, which makes the release a fascinating milestone in the band’s career.
Anyway, “Glass Slipper” is an awesome cut. It’s a dark dance-piece with kinetic arps, a fuzzy blast of synth bass, Adam Miller’s vocoded words, and a cinematic sentimentality. This might sound wild, but it sounds like Prince doing a soundtrack for a giallo picture. I love this song comprehensively, and I’m not just saying that because Chromatics are among my favorite bands (although that plays a part).
Check it out. One day I’ll write something huge about this band, but until then, enjoy. Oh. Please buy it on vinyl if you like it.
Chromatics – ‘Looking For Love (Extended Disco Version)’
While I’m writing about Chromatics, how about you enjoy this 15-minute version of the exquisite “Looking For Love”? It’s on the deluxe version of Cherry, which you can buy on CD now. A vinyl version is probably coming later. (Follow the buy link above to find the CD.)
Makeup and Vanity Set – ‘Pure Wave’
Matthew Pusti (AKA Makeup and Vanity Set AKA MAVS) is a talented purveyor of instrumental synth-driven music that derives elements from the 1980s and augments them with creative and modern production and musicianship. When he’s not scoring things, he’s churning out supremely enjoyable fare like “Pure Wave,” from Syncro, which Data Airlines just released.
Syncro is the third EP in MAVS’s Neuromancer series. According to promotional materials, MAVS aims for a Jean-Michel Jarre vibe, which I can hear.
The release is available in digital and vinyl forms, but you better act fast. MAVS vinyl never stays in stores very long.
Supervision – ‘Gymnasium’
The Valerie Collective is full of surprises. The Nantes, France-based label and family sneakily released last week a new cut from Supervision, the project made up of Valerie member Maethelvin and guests.
For the first song, “Turquoise 101,” Maethelvin had fellow Valerie friend Stephen Falken with him to craft a beautifully ambient and Tangerine Dream-esque instrumental piece. This time it’s not specified who’s with him, but what I can specify is that this piece is awesome. It’s a lovely treatment of synthesizer arpeggiations that unfurl progressively beneath galactic synth melodies in a slow-burn crescendo.
“Gymnasium” is even more TD than the first release. I can’t imagine this won’t show up licensed somewhere.
Steve Winwood – ‘Valerie (1987 Remix Version)’
Speaking of art named “Valerie.” The original version of Steve Winwood’s “Valerie” was a gem of a synth-pop number from 1982, but in a show of how production values had changed in a mere five years, the remix version on the Chronicles comp is a borderline arena-ready revelation. (Interestingly, according to Wikipedia, the 1982 Winwood-produced original was a commercial disappointment.)
The hooks never seem to end on any version of “Valerie,” but with the help of American producer Tom Lord-Alge — who also produced Winwood’s 1986 smash Back in the High Life and 1988 followup Roll With It — Winwood is able to truly realize the cut’s true potential.
Missy Elliot – ‘The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)’
Missy is a genius. If it’s possible, she’s underrated as a lyricist and rapper. Pair her with Timbaland, and you have unbridled bliss. Also, I love this video because it’s so ’90s. If you’re feeling like going down the rabbit hole, you should listen to the whole 1997 album Supa Dupa Fly. At the time, Timbaland’s production was considered “futuristic” and highly lauded, and 20 years later Missy’s debut holds up extremely well. Futuristic, indeed.
Koo De Tah – ‘Too Young For Promises’
Thanks to my friend Alex Karlinsky for the tip. This catchy number from the Australian/New Zealander band first appeared in the 1984 Walter Hill film Streets of Fire before showing up on their debut, and I think, only album two years later. Singer Tina Cross’s high-register vocals spout memorable melodies over a tight synth-pop foundation crafted largely by Leon Berger.
Feature Photo: Ruth Radelet/Italians Do It Better