Ben Wyeth – Pop Off City
I’d love to know where you were when you first heard vaporwave and whether you took it seriously? Honestly, I think it says a lot about our appreciation of music. Personally, I heard it, like most people, in the form of some kind of sonic-meme.
It was later that I discovered the fact that thousands of these kinds of vaporwave albums were cluttering up the internet. They all sounded like music heard after ingesting enough weed to have Megadeth sound like chill folk music.
It’s interesting to note where the vaporwave scene has travelled and how it has earned the respect of the music industry. Hell, even Beck built a lot of his most recent album on the aesthetic.
Ben Wyeth is one of the artists taking the style as seriously as he can on Pop Off City. And, if anyone should know a good sound when he hears it, Mr Wyeth, aka Ben Grubin, former singer for the great indie-rock band Hockey, a group that expertly and seamlessly moulded sounds and styles, making them feel at the same time fresh as well as ageless.
With vocals a la Frank Sinatra and a beat that sounds like a vinyl that’s scratched and can go on forever, it certainly captures a mood. It feels like being stuck in Windows 95 for eternity. It’s quite a brave new direction from Grubin, whose early records did promise to offer us a new kind of musical chameleon. It’s a song that tracks his long journey and goes on to prove that his restlessness has served him well.
Blue Cactus – Come Clean
The arc of the pop star balladeer is pretty clear and quite dramatic. It’s a story told time and time again in music documentaries made decades on from the musicians’ heyday. It always begins with them struggling. It then moves to them, achieving fortune and fame and celebrating the spoils that go along with these. It finishes with the hits drying up, the balladeer losing their soul to some terrible addiction, then redeeming themselves, usually through God, or some form of nostalgia-backed comebacks.
The point is that the music industry figured out the ingredients for a great, heartfelt pop hit a long time ago, and they know how to manufacture these for each one of their biggest stars. Still, there are some who’ll claim that pop music hasn’t been good in a very long time and that these songs, for the most part, are cynical attempts at getting people to buy a lousy product.
We’re not quite as angry about pop music as that. Still, the idea seems to be that many people have a natural ability to feel when an artist is drawing on genuine sentiments and when they are merely replicating them. Blue Cactus’ Come Clean offers an incredibly tender performance that teeters on the edge of heartbreak. In fact, it’s this tenderness that characterizes not just the vocals but also the arrangement. Come Clean is a profound confession of frailty.