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Today we celebrate one of the most important figures in music over the past half century. This man wasn’t a musician – he was an inventor and innovator. Robert Moog (last name rhymes with ‘vogue’) got his start making theremin kits. By 1964, having taken a keener interest in electronic music, he developed a prototype Moog synthesizer that was designed to make electronic music markedly easier to play. The next year, Moog was making custom synthesizers and by 1967, the machines came into somewhat more common use, aided by Switched on Bach creator Wendy Carlos, who made many suggestions on how to improve the instrument. The instrument was featured on recordings by The Supremes, The Monkees, The Rolling Stones and The Byrds. Over time, Moog continued to improve and make his instrument smaller and more portable. Throughout the ‘70s, the instrument became more prominent, in the hands of masters like Giorgio Moroder. Moog passed away in 2005, but his legacy lives on, both in music and in the festival in Asheville, North Carolina that bears his name. In honor of Mr. Moog, please grab your iPod or MP3 player, hit shuffle and share the first 10 songs that come up.
Band of Horses – No One’s Gonna Love You (Cease to Begin): I presume this song is used a lot at weddings and on Valentine’s Day, etc., even though it starts off with the line “nothin’ like a limb torn off.” So it’s not just the sappy song it sounds like on the surface and melodically, it’s awesome. Cee-Lo Green did a nice cover of it.
Maple Mars – Midsummer Day Dream (Welcome to Maple Mars): A pretty acoustic number from the first Maple Mars album. While one could list some of this band’s inspirations, I admire that fact that Maple Mars has its own sound.
Madness – Sweetest Girl (Mad Not Mad): This song was where Scritti Politti took the full plunge into pop music. This Madness cover adds a few Nutty Boys trademarks, but stays faithful to the reggae-soul center of the tune, which wasn’t a stretch for the band. This is a great song.
Cloud Nothings – Fall In (Attack On Memory): One of my favorite songs on the break through Cloud Nothings album. I like how it is a bridge between the melodic punk-pop of their earlier work and the more raw and emotional approach that they have fallen into. It’s really a best of both worlds.
J. Geils Band – Givin’ It All Up (Nightmares...And Other Tales From the Vinyl Jungle): A mid-tempo pop oriented number from the great Boston blues rock band. This almost gravitates a bit towards Southside Johnny territory. A nice tune that had to have transformed into something big live.
Doves – There Goes the Fear (The Last Broadcast): This song isn’t as melancholy as a typical Doves tune, with some sweet melodic touches. Lyrically, it verges on a lullaby, reassuring a child that it’s okay to go to sleep.
Mission Of Burma – Fake Blood (ONoffON): The first Mission Of Burma reunion album was so reassuring. The band sound like it hadn’t ever taken time off and the playing, if anything, was more muscular than ever. This is one of drummer Peter Prescott’s songs, and it goes to a few places, some crunchy, with a pretty guitar break before winding up with the refrain.
Maximo Park – Overland, West of Suez (Quicken The Heart): A beefy guitar dominated number from this literate post-punk pop band. I find that the later day Maximo Park albums seem a bit samey, but once I hear individual tracks on my iPod, they sound better and that holds for this track. The production is real dense, with some subtle backing vocals contrasting to the rougher texture on top.
Radiohead – Karma Police (OK Computer): Think how inaccessible people said this album was when it came out, which was, to some extent, a reaction to the first single, “Paranoid Android”. Of course, the album was different, but to hear a track like this, and realize that other than some production, it was a logical extension of what they were doing on The Bends. One of my favorite Radiohead songs.
Pet Shop Boys – How Can You Expect to Be Taken Seriously? (Behaviour): A nice song from the third Pet Shop Boys album. They may be the only band that could somehow weave that unwieldy title into a hooky chorus. Maybe the first Pet Shop Boys song to feature a prominent guitar, in the chorus.