This is Past Sounds. Every Friday Ghettoblaster Magazine is looking back and finding great music from various eras. Below are songs that sound great no matter what decade they’re played in. So strap in as we take a musical journey, back in time.
Midlake – Some of Them Were Superstitious (Bamnan and Silvercork) 2004
Midlake is a magical indie-rock band from Texas, founded in 1999 by a group of friends and jazz students. This band seems to be less known than they should be, their second album The Trials of Van Occupanther, is an indie-rock masterpiece, relating life in the colonial times to our modern world. Midlake uses the same instruments as any rock band, but their music feels like it’s from another time. This song comes from their debut album and it embodies this concept, with lyrics like, “parading round the town square,” and “praising monocled men,” paints this picture of an almost medieval setting. The almost cartoonish synths bounce along in the verse and a swirling organ provides the base for the epic chorus. The songs shifts to a sauntering piano and flute as the lyrics, “So soon, so soon, so long, and when you’re gone, you’re gone, and life it hurts for someone, you’re someone.” Midlake is masterful at tapping into ageless emotions while transporting the listener to another time and place.
The Beatles – Rocky Racoon (The Beatles [The White Album]) 1968
There’s this band from Liverpool they’re super underrated, they’re called The Beatles. Let’s face it folks there’s not too much more to be said about the biggest band in the history of music and the most highly regarded album of their career, but this song is so goofy and fun it deserves to be revisited. Just like Midlake transported us to olden times, this song takes us to the old west, describing and love triangle that leads to a shootout. Paul McCartney wrote this song while in India with John Lennon and folk legend Donovan. It was intended as a pastiche “spoofing the folk singer” with some fondness. This a dark comedy of a folk song, when that ragtime piano kicks in you can’t help but sing along, “D’do d’do d’do do do do, come on, Rocky boy.”
Outkast feat. Killer Mike – The Whole World (Big Boi and Dre Present…) 2001
Before the Bernie rallies, before Run The Jewels, before R.A.P. Music, the world was introduced to Killer Mike with this song. When I was 11 years old this was my jam (though I had to listen to the clean version). Ragtime-type piano appears on this song, spun into a jazzy hip hop beat, kind of foreshadowing the style Outkast would explore in Idlewild a few years later. (sidenote: this song also has one of the best “to each their own” type phrases, “whatever floats your boat or finds your lost remote”). In tandem with a goofy video, this song exists in a creepy circus setting, making a statement on the nature of entertainment, “and the whole world loves it when you’re in the news // and the whole world loves it when you sing the blues.” It’s odd and fun, business as usual for Outkast, while being very insightful, it seems to be even more relevant now than it was 15 years ago.
Blind Pilot – One Red Thread (3 Rounds and a Sound) 2009
In celebration of Blind Pilot’s third album, And Then Like Lions out today on Expunged Records, I thought I would go back to the song that made me fall in love with the Portland folk rock septet. This song exemplifies Blind Pilot’s entire style, heart-wrenchingly honest and insightful folk songs with melodies that are absurdly catchy and beautiful. The subtle strumme of the acoustic guitar and gentle tap of a snare drive this song, until the slow soft chorus, which eventually regains momentum and ends in a restrained crescendo. This is a lovely song about finding your way in life. Much like OutKast’s song the chorus here captures a simple but powerful truth, “man, oh man, you can do what you want.”
Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – Maid of Orleans (
Going along with our theme of songs that transport us to other times and places, this song talks about Joan of Arc and is accompanied by a medieval video. It starts off with ominous, ambient sounds before bursting into an simple yet grand, building love song. Both electronic and physical drums guide this song with and driving thunder of toms and the occasional snare roll. This song does something really interesting with the strange 80’s keyboard and drum sounds we’re used to, all finally building to a glorious synth crescendo. I personally am turned off to a lot of 80’s music, but it’s always fun to find a gem like this one.
Fang Island – Life Coach (Fang Island) 2010
Let’s end this list right with a bright, rambunctious rock song from the Rhode Island-based band Fang Island’s debut album. Fang Island makes major key progressive indie-rock called by Pitchfork, “‘celebration rock’ before Celebration Rock” referring to the album by Japandroids, and that is the only term to describe this song, it is a juggernaut of positive energy. This song gets the listener hyped, it punches you in the face with fuzzy guitars and gorgeous choral harmonies from the groups three members. Much like Blind Pilot this is a song about finding your way through life, it is energy and fun from start to finish, and a modern indie-rock classic.