Sunday, 2 February 2014

DIG POP'S ZENITH

Warpaint in Vancouver

DIG Pop is what I call it: Dreamy Indie Girl Pop.  Basically, the genre, or sub-genre, requires very little but a female vocalist, some indie guitar or synths, or both, some moody orchestration with a lush, dreamy and/or retro tone, with some haunted lovelorn lyrics - in short, dream-pop with a girl's voice.  It is ironic that while the likes of the NME keep calling for the second coming of a great Manchester guitar band (okay, a third or fourth coming, after Joy Division, The Smiths, and Oasis), the true great music of our time, in terms of pop, is being made by women.

I would say that DIG Pop began more or less with The Cocteau Twins; and reached a sort of early apex with Mazzy Star a few decades back.  However, it has never really gone out of fashion, and the last few years have seen The Jezabels, Beach House, Dum Dum Girls, Best Coast, Warpaint, Tamaryn, 2:54, CHVRCHES, I Break Horses, Fauns, Still Corners, September Girls, Cults, Tegan & Sara, and many others, exploring this terrain. In fact, Mazzy Star came back last year with a masterpiece, after almost 20 years away, heralding a kind of return of the whole DIG Pop scene.  Anyway the good news is that 2014 has seen the January release of three major new albums, each in the DIG style.

Dum Dum Girls is mostly singer-writer-player Dee Dee - and her new album Too True is a self-styled love letter to a certain early 80s indie groove.  Think 'Golden Brown'-era Stranglers; or Echo & The Bunnymen in their 'Lips Like Sugar' phase; and a little bit of 'Love Is A Battlefield' with a Cocteau Twins sheen.  Then you have the idea.  Beautifully designed by Sub-pop in 80s style, the production is immaculate, and as reviews have been quick to point out, the sound feels timeless; this is not just a homage, but a work of serious reclamation.  The "80s style" is valid and free-floating and can be used now by artists who love that pace, mood and feel.  To make the album even better, the theme of the songs are all about good, evil, love, desire, and poetry - and several songs, if not all, allude directly or indirectly to the poems of Baudelaire and Rimbaud.  This is going to make Eyewear's bets of 2014 list in 11 months.  It is a great disc, and at 30 minutes and ten songs, very lean.

Meanwhile, released at the same time, I Break Horses' Chiaroscuro (light and shadow effects in painting) is equally brilliant, but this time more heavy on the synths, with a more haunted, gothic feel - sort of Siouxsie and the Banshees in an opiate-induced stupor, with a bit of very early 1979/80 Simple Minds ('Boys From Brazil').  The album is stately, mesmeric, and very beautiful.  Another potential classic, and thrillingly out of time, harkening back, but also relevant today. Tracks 'You Burn' and 'Denial' are light-the-black-candles-and-have-slow-dirty-sex-in-the-Brooklyn-loft-among-the-conceptual-art ready.

However while both these aforementioned January 2014 albums are excellent, they are unbelievably surpassed by a true masterwork - the surprise reinvention of Warpaint, whose eponymous second album is quite simply perfect.  Anyone who loves DIG Pop needs to get this today, if only for the best song of the year so far (and likely til it ends) 'Love Is To Die', which immediately takes its place in the pantheon of best songs ever sung by an indie girl.  This is the kind of album you can put on repeat and listen to all day - preferably a rainy day when you are lying among the sheets, self-pleasuring, or reading Larkin, or Yeats, or writing a novel, or simply pining for a longlust distant crush.  It is suitably moody, crafted, lovely, and controlled.

This is the sort of music I love.  And in less than three weeks, it has appeared three times, in its best form.

Witchcraft?  Or luck?  Either way, I accept.


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