Upon identifying my four very favorite songs, I punched them all into Pandora so it would, with any luck, spit back a selection of tracks with similar musical properties. Maybe I had an even more favorite song of which I was unaware!
One of the first results to grab me was Zoot Woman's "Jessie", a cut from their 2001 album Living in a Magazine. After the initial "wow, this is great" impulse, I researched the band and discovered that they're a going concern, and a youngish one at that. That's unusual — most of the groups or artists I latch onto have decades of recording behind them, are defunct, or have gone defunct and are on at least their first comeback. The charitable spin is that I prefer to listen to what's stood the Test of Time; what's more likely is that I'm terrified of wiping out while surfing the wave of the moment's current, fleeting trend.
So — and this, for me, is unprecedented — I immediately went on iTunes and bought the album — that's how strong I found "Jessie". The worst case scenario would be one with which we're all familiar, wherein the rest of the disc sounds nothing like the attractive track. Fortunately, that's not the case with Living in a Magazine, a suite of pretty damn well-crafted pop — and pop is one of our time's prime venues for craft — that uses synthesizers in a way that no English pop group has done in decades. I thought synths had become the domain of the laboriously retro (bad) or the the laboriously D.I.Y. (worse), but Zoot Woman showed me otherwise.
That said, the album has some dead zones, especially when things get a little too jangly — in my world, "jangly" is absolutely the most damning pejorative applicable to music — but there's another standout track, "Information First", that's nearly "Jessie"'s equal, especially when it comes to working the synth pads. Sadly, it appears that Zoot Woman have since abandoned the slick pop tradition for something called "electroclash," a term I sometimes hear associated with decent dance-y stuff but more often with garden-variety ugly sounds. A released track from their upcoming album sounds acceptable, I guess, if a little goofy and not particularly distinctive.
I've got a bunch of musical ideas of my own, but not much experience producing the stuff. As I build my home recording studio, it approaches the level where I can use to crank out not just radio shows but fine tunes as well. With this goal in mind, I listen to music for stuff to copy even more than I listen for DJing material or for my own pure aesthetic response. Since I'd ideally like to work on projects with a distinct pop sensibility, a polished surface and a slight edge of cold detachment without irony (note italics), there's a lot I want to copy in Living in a Magazine, so it must be good!