The Electric Adolescence Hall of Fame - A Series of Artist Retrospectives

The Electric Adolescence Hall of Fame – A Series of Artist Retrospectives

Not all artists are created equal. Some captivate us for a moment in time with a song or album that makes a strong impression and then dissipates, others stick with us and seem to become part of our DNA. It’s the difference between a one night stand and a transformative relationship.

For the artists who have left that indelible footprint, I have gone through their entire discographies including live tracks, bootlegs, remixes, and interviews, and compiled a series of mostly hour long mixes for those looking for an easy point of entry, or as a celebration for the already initiated.

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Introduced to the world with a debut that had him writing, producing, and playing all of the instruments, the bashful seventeen year-old from St. Paul’s became one of few artists to live up to being labeled a prodigy. Each new album was a reinvention: from the flasher sleaze of Dirty Mind, the sexual pageantry of Purple Rain, and the Beatlesesque “Around the World in the Day”, his heyday was as prolific as any artist in history – a fact made more incredible in light of the thousand or so unreleased songs reputedly stored in his infamous vault. As a crash course for the uninitiated, I’ve put together a selection of my favorite of his unreleased songs. Visit the full post for a chronological mix of album tracks, one of songs written for other artists, and more unreleased content.

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Moodymann’s designation as one of the godfathers of house is well earned, but has perhaps unfairly kept his wider legacy contained. His larger than life vocal flair and his knack of playing an MPC sampler like Roger Troutmann with a synth puts him closer to funk artists like Sly Stone and Prince than to his laptop wielding contemporaries. This legacy is perhaps only fully understood in context of the city with which he is eternally locked in a mutual embrace. Just as the heyday of Motown provided an ideal soundtrack when the motor city personified the American dream, their new favorite son represents Detroit having woken from that dream covered in sweat.

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During the 1990s heyday of British music, it could be difficult to argue anyone other than The Beatles as the most influential band in the country’s history, with groups like Oasis, Blur, and The Stones Roses happily carrying that particular torch. The current state of the UK music scene has far less to do with rock than it used to, and now more closely resembles the Bristol outfit’s complement of electronic pop with baselines born of the Jamaican influence in British dance music, making Massive Attack arguably as influential to this generation of UK musicians than the fab four was to the last. The fact that one of its founding members is probably Banksy only adds to their enduring credibility.

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I may not stand by it forever, but at this exact moment I’m convinced that Air is the most underrated band of all time. This isn’t to say that they aren’t well known and critically lauded, but they shouldn’t be a band where I have to ask people, “do you know Air?” when referencing them conversationally. It’s possible the French duo was pigeonholed as being strictly an “easy listening” act, or simply dismissed as “lounge music”. Those are accurate descriptors, but their pop attempts don’t just echo acts like David Bowie, Brian Eno, and Beck, Air occasionally rises to those lofty standards.

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I woke up in Berlin at about four in the morning to a news alert that David Bowie had died, at which point I rose and spent untold hours pouring through everything he ever recorded and then compiling this mix. At times it felt as if David Bowie died in the same way Obi Wan Kenobi did in Star Wars in that he effectively will always be with us. He had always seemed unburdened by mortality, and larger than the infinite universe that struggled to contain him.

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To say that Brian Eno created ambient music is an exaggeration, but barely. I expect there are fewer basketball players wishing that they could be Michael Jordan than there are ambient producers who wish that they could be Brian Eno. If that were the limit to Eno’s musical output, he’d still earn a place in the musical hall of fame, but not only does his solo music explore myriad genres and sounds, his work producing a catalog of artists so vast that hurts your hand to scroll through them surely makes Brian Eno ones of the most defining artists of all time.

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It could be argued that Kraftwerk’s obsessive relationship with technology was a response to the anarchistic post-war regret felt by many of their countrymen. With the band presenting a version of Germany set far enough in the future to make its past seem light years away, the predictive nature of Ralf Hutter and Florian Schumann’s progression reads like a science fiction novel about man slowly consumed by the machines he helped devise. Visit the original post for an additional mix of mostly bootleg live versions.

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Can isn’t a household name among civilians, but they stand next to Velvet Underground in terms of bands that inspired other bands. With a a fluctuating lineup of members with drastically different tastes and musical backgrounds, these Krautrock pioneers were never afforded the luxury of a comfort zone. This forced Can to reinvent itself with every new album or band arrangement, which in turn reinvented the sonic palate from which so many future genres would eventually be defined. Navigating their extensive back catalog can be an intimidating experience replete with drawn-out jam sessions and flights of arguably self-indulgent fancy; but the highlights are strong enough that I would put this compilation of their best moments against any band in history.

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The world seems to shift once my main man Max introduced me to The Verve. All of a sudden we were like Kerouac and Cassidy high on benzedrine in some beat nightclub, standing on wobbly tables and yelling “go, man, go!” as Charlie Parker played his horn. As far as music to choose while you’re having a spiritual epiphany, you could do worse than The Verve. With their generation of pundants lost in a false debate about whether Oasis or Blur were the best UK band of the moment, a better class of people were aware that The Verve beat both of those bands combined. While best known for their single “Bittersweet Symphony”, the Urban Hymns sessions that bred that undeniable album was something of a departure from their signature sound, ostensibly conceived as a solo album by frontman Richard Ashcroft. Their early records featured a more equitable contribution from guitarist Nick McCabe, who provided a psychedelic palette so dreamlike and immersive that I sometimes wonder if Max actually exists.

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Introduced alongside Peter Kemper as the voice of Spacemen 3, Jason Pierce emerged as the only permanent member of the band he reinvented as Spiritualized, then kept reinventing with a fluctuating line-up of musicians that serve as his choir. His signature sound takes traditional gospel on a heroin trip, embracing the many contradictions that seem to serve as his muse. The result is inspirational, yet unsafe. Like a priest with a felonious past, it speaks to our better angels while giving a knowing wink towards our worst demons.

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I’d normally add some sort of bio in this space, but I have no intention of improving upon how little I know about Karin Dreijer, lest some unforgiving truth shatter the fantasy I have where she steals me away to an illegal wine bar where we’d lose our money playing an obscure Russian card game, then hitch a ride to an old farm once used as a safe-house for rogue journalists fearing reprisal from authoritarian governments. We’d stay up all night eating figs and drinking absinth, pouring over Dostoyevsky and the Bauhaus back catalog while plotting the assassination of an executive at the World Bank. Two sunsets later, we’d be lying in each other’s arms, the goggles from our gas masks gently tapping as we rub our noses together, falling asleep to the sound of a deer being devoured by a pack of wolves.

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While featuring a record label within a range of artist retrospectives doesn’t seem right at first glance, the vast majority of the Italians Do It Better catalog is created at least in part by it’s owner, Johnny Jewel. With The Chromatics being the best known band on his roster and Glass Candy following not far behind, Jewel’s solo efforts are behind a number of film soundtracks, mostly notably as part of the last season of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. This retrospective combs through the Italians Do It Better catalog with the diligence of a unstable detective obsessing over the unsolved murder of his estranged ex-wife.

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Unlike any other veteran rap act, the idea of rating the Digable Planets current output against that of their heyday is hardly laughable. Just as their easily digestible debut gave way to a more intricate and enduring sophomore release, Ishmael Butler’s afterlife has been riding a similar tide with projects like his underrated Cherrywine moniker, and his appropriately lauded life as Shabazz Palaces. This compilation fuses those efforts with a selection of Digable b-sides, alternate versions, and interviews.

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Poet, songwriter, and activist Gill Scott-Heron died at the age of 62, leaving a career bookended by the death of Martin Luther King Jr and the election of the first black president. While descriptions of his legacy in media reports seem to be highlighting his activism, too much emphasis on that important factor betrays his prowess as a songwriter; Scott’s political funk and pre-slam poetry was tempered by plaintive ballads wrought with an emotional vulnerability that even the most audacious emcees of today remain too substantially under confident to bare.

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Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon, Nina Simone was invented as a pseudonym to hide her double life from her family at a time when soul artists were regularly vilified for taking what was considered a gift from God out of the church and into bars, nightclubs, and other supposed dens of sin. While the classical pianist apparently had no aspiration to be a singer, initially only performing her own vocals when nightclub owners were too cheap to book her a proper accompaniment, her decades of musical output and dedication to the civil rights movement make it seem unlikely that she would have ever stayed silent. I could pretend that I wished I had met Nina Simone when she was alive, but I’m somehow aware that being in the same room with her would feel like standing next to the sun.

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