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1988 Recommendation Thread

Posted: Sun Oct 06, 2019 8:56 am
by Moonbeam
Use this thread to post recommendations for albums and songs for the 1988 poll!


Re: 1988 Recommendation Thread

Posted: Sun Oct 06, 2019 8:59 am
by Moonbeam

I'm sorry if I come across like this gif when it comes to Mylène Farmer, beating everyone over the head with it, but I can't help myself! I'll post my review below of the brilliant Ainsi soit je... album.

Although Mylène Farmer's first few singles didn't catch the public's attention, subsequent singles "Libertine" and "Tristana" and their lavish videos certainly did, and her debut album Cendres de lune showcased that her unique artist/svengali pairing with Laurent Boutonnat could produce an intriguing pop album. Follow-up album Ainsi soit je… represents a great step forward on all fronts: Mylène took over songwriting duties and proved to be a great lyricist, consolidating the themes of Cendres de lune and injecting a wide array of cultural and literary references. Boutonnat's production became more opulent, providing dramatic and ornate backdrops that propel Mylène's narrative pieces into fully immersive experiences in and of themselves. The result is a stunning pop album, one that is as difficult to categorize as it is to stop playing! The music is wholly engrossing and feels fraught with danger, like a modern-day siren song. It's at once a pop album and a tortured, nihilistic tragedy. It's both a contemporary, in places ahead-of-its-time statement and an amalgamation of centuries-old feelings and characters found in historical and fictional pieces. Ainsi soit je… finds a nexus at the intersection of synthpop and goth pop (if such a thing exists), carving a particular niche in the broader sphere of artpop. With a title that twists the French "Amen", translated literally to "so be it" into "so be I", it does what the very best pop albums do – challenges convention while retaining enough familiar elements to get people to pay attention.

Like all classic pop 80s albums, the singles are all watershed moments. Lead single "Sans contrefaçon" is a wonderful dancefloor excursion that sums up the album's approach well. The production is dominated by an innocent, almost childlike synth line that superficially functions as a mega-earworm whose impact is amplified by the context of the lyrics. Mylène has said that she felt like a "failed girl" growing up, and this song sees her shining light on those struggles as she grapples with expectations to conform to gender roles. As she paints the picture of being young and questioning her gender, the music overflows with an exuberance that matches the intensity of these sorts of overpowering, all-consuming feelings of youth. Citing 18th century French soldier Chevalier d'Éon, who in later life presented as a woman, Mylène repeatedly insists she is a boy in the lyrics. As the urgency of the instrumentation grows, the deeply felt defiance of gender roles injects that childlike synth refrain with a mournful tone that embodies the conflict between the innocence of youth and the deeply felt feelings around growing identities that deviate from societal norms. While the sound is pure 1987, the themes feel decidedly 2017 even as she cites examples from 1777. It's an absolute triumph as a single and a message.

The title track is gorgeously produced, delicate balladry in which Mylène ponders existential quandaries. Elegantly mournful, its vulnerability grows as Mylène reaches ever higher in her vocal register for answers and resolute conclusions. The religious reference of twisting of the words of the title add grandeur to her hopelessness, as she ponders what hope she can have if everything is black. With pulsing synth strings augmenting the drama, it plays like a bejewelled ice sculpture resigning itself to the truth that it will never again feel warmth.

Third single "Pourvu qu'elles soient douces" was one of the biggest hits of Mylène's career, the immediacy of its lush synth string pattern driving it to number 1 for 5 weeks in France. An unabashed ode to sex (purportedly anal sex), it flips conventional expectations of gender by suggesting that it is men who need to stop being so coy. The most immaculately produced song on the album, the verses follow an enchanting descending chord sequence with Mylène delivering the lyrics in a rapidfire, daring tone, leading into an ascending chorus with higher-pitched, alluring vocals, making for gloriously ornate drama.

The final single, "Sans logique" is one of the most breathtaking songs I've ever heard. Starting off with some brooding synth strings before an eerie, almost paranormal effect and a repeated utterance of "This is a blank formatted diskette" raise the tension, it sets the stage for a titanic battle for sanity. Mylène's voice is so delicate yet so tormented, the perfect vehicle to drive this tale of God vs the devil, religion vs logic. Here, she takes on the eternal internal battle waged between the duality of her good and evil sides, battle lines scorched in blood red with delectable, relentlessly driving, octave-stepping synth strings and streaked with effect-laden spirits and Spanish castanets amplifying the fervor. Oh those synth strings! Mylène begins by asking that if we were made in God's image, why didn't God ensure we didn't have a dark side as well, one that creeps in and and interferes with her childlike innocence. The paradox of her dual goodness and evil drives her to the brink of insanity, half-angelic and half-Satanic, warning that her silence is murderous and imagining that she could skewer her lover's eyes with scissors. Visual as those lyrics are, the most visceral moments for me come with the TORMENT she evokes with the wordless chanting during the piano-backed bridge, giving me chills every time: "na-na-na-na-na-na-na-yaaaah ooooh. Na-na-na-na-a-ya-ah yah-AH yah-AH yah-AH yah-AH". Those hushed, alternating "yah-AH"s say so much more than words could there to communicate the break in her sanity, their potency magnified by their softness. On a good day, I might be convinced that it is the greatest song ever recorded, such is its otherworldly magnetism.

As with all landmark pop albums of the 80s, each of these songs was given great visual appeal through iconic music videos. Already known for the lavish, filmic quality of her videos courtesy of Boutonnat, they are even more extravagant here, with the 18-minute "Pourvu qu'elles soient douces", which features hundreds of extras in an 18th century battle between the English and French, breaking records as the most expensive video at the time and "Sans contrefaçon" extending to 9 minutes with a moving portrayal of a puppeteer's dummy coming to life. "Ainsi soit je…" is shot in gorgeous sepia tones and "Sans logique" reenacts a bullfight from a Goya painting in which Mylène plays the role of the bull and her lover the bullfighter.

The remaining tracks are also deeply effective, and more importantly, affecting. Opener "L'Horloge" casts a 19th century poem by Charles Pierre Baudelaire as a dense, haunted mood setter. "Allan" likewise lurks in the darkness, an ode to Edgar Allan Poe with lyrics that conjure the shadowy spirit of his poems. Musically, "Allan" features evocative synth motifs drenched in gloominess and given a gothic spirit courtesy of some wordless male background chants. "La ronde triste" is a spellbinding, dreamlike English language piece driven by a foreboding piano refrain and enveloped with layers of synths and woodwinds. It seems to capture the spirit of a woman who feels things at 200% the intensity of others in opposition to a male vocalist (presumably her paramour) whose sole response comes in the form of repeated utterances of "Don't cry", intermittently given an ultra-80s effect to be rendered as "D-d-don't cry". "Jardin de Vienne" carries a funereal tone as Mylène laments a boy who she discovered dead from suicide by hanging in a garden of Vienna.

While they serve as pop songs, these songs also seem to create their own vivid worlds, often rendered as half-dream, half-nightmare by concluding with numerous repetitions of the chorus before fading out, transcending from songs to mantras to be sung by tortured souls rocking themselves back and forth. And while this may seem grim, the lightness of Mylène's vocals and the 80s polish of Boutonnat's production ensure that they don't feel too heavy. In fact, the sound is so visual and the lyrics are so engrossing that it isn't hard to concoct a concept that weaves the songs together with a storyline. In it, the opening salvo "L'Horloge" sets the stage for a trip through the heroine's history, grappling with her identity as a child in "Sans contrefaçon" and finding solace in the macabre words of Edgar Allan Poe in "Allan". As her boundless feelings mature as she becomes an adult, she becomes increasingly frustrated with potential companions ("Pourvu qu'elles soient douces" and "La ronde triste"), feeling like a square peg in a round world and leading to existential crisis ("Ainsi soit je…") and eventually a psychotic break ("Sans logique"). Ultimately, the limits and the structure of the world that led to her sorrow remain steadfast, claiming another victim in the boy she discovers in "Jardin de Vienne". Although this is merely a product of my own immersion in the album, it says something about Ainsi soit je… that it lends itself to this sort of reimagination. The one song that deviates from the overall feeling is the camp classic "Déshabillez-moi", a teasing, seductive cover of a Juliette Gréco song from 1967. Showcasing the versatility of Mylène's vocals, it serves to lighten the mood toward the end of the album. As Farmer was long criticized for being too serious, a song like "Déshabillez-moi" goes a long way to dispel the notion that she can't let down her hair when she feels the mood. Closer "The Farmer's Conclusion" ends the album with one final bout of weirdness, in which Mylène's wordless vocals are mixed with various effects and animal noises, a play on her adopted surname.

It's a common and lazy falsehood to brand Mylène Farmer as "the French Madonna". While both Farmer and Madonna became huge pop stars in the 80s and built a lot of their reputation with dance music, blatant sexuality, and incredible visuals, the similarities more or less end there. However, what's probably meant as a sort of dismissive label actually serves to highlight how ahead of the curve Ainsi soit je… was. Years before Madonna got truly racy with "Justify My Love" and the Sex book, Mylène Farmer was singing odes to anal sex and appearing fully nude in her videos. And where Madonna was rightly revered for advancing contemporary dialogue around social issues with songs like "Papa Don't Preach", Mylène Farmer was highlighting the plight of those who don't feel they fit into conventional gender norms and associations of religious fervor with mental illness. As a big Madonna fan, it's a great compliment that I can say that Ainsi soit je… is a bolder, more ambitious, and fully-realised album than anything Madonna had done up to that point. With Ainsi soit je…, Mylène and Laurent Boutonnat unlocked the highest potential of their creative pairing and rode the formula to great success throughout the 90s and 00s. While many of the subsequent albums represent creative high points in their own right, the enchanting magic that permeates Ainsi soit je… keeps me returning to it like no other and concluding that it is one of the finest pop albums ever made. The French should be building statues to celebrate this woman and her towering artistic achievements.

Re: 1988 Recommendation Thread

Posted: Mon Oct 07, 2019 8:56 pm
by Pierre
I can't resist sharing a complete left-field discovery that I've run across for this year. Does the name of Jean Beauvoir ring a bell with anyone? If yes, then you're most probably making a mixup with the famous French novelist Simone de Beauvoir, otherwise you're Marty McFly. I can hardly believe anyone else remembers this strange 80s mutant who could definitely not survive that decade.

First, that's not a nom de scène, the guy is of Haitian parentage. Second, just look at this blonde mohawk, that makes him look like a misguided fusion of Prince and Billy Idol. Both references are not gratuitous - Jean Beauvoir, like Idol, started in a punk band, though in his case it's a footnote band called Plasmatics, which is faintly remembered in the metal milieu for launching the career of a second-rate glam metal goddess named Wendy O. Williams. Afterwards, his career starts to be all over the place, playing with Steven Van Zandt, squeezing a song on Stallone's Cobra's soundtrack, producing the Ramones' "My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down/Bonzo Goes to Bitburg" - but by 1988's Jacknifed, he was trying to suck in influences from 80's pop-rock à la Fine Young Cannibals or New Jack Swing and crooning like Prince (see? toldcha both references were not chosen at random) to get a shot at stardom. Of course, the rest is NOT history - by next year, he was back playing hard rock and in the early 1990s even tried his hands at AOR. After grunge's explosion, it was a sure shot at career suicide. It appears he's still producing stuff, but he otherwise vanished into obscurity. That was the story of Jean Beauvoir, and if I managed to entertain a couple people with it, at least I didn't lose 20 minutes typing all this down. So, here are the album only single and title song (don't ask me what's up with the girl shot that this Youtuber put on the latter, though).

Re: 1988 Recommendation Thread

Posted: Wed Oct 09, 2019 10:27 pm
by Safetycat
If anyone's forgotten it already, Singing in the Shower by Les Rita Mitsouko and Sparks (one of the semi-finalists of the recent Unacclaimed game) was released in 1988:

Re: 1988 Recommendation Thread

Posted: Fri Oct 11, 2019 8:30 am
by Father2TheMan
This guy is almost completely unknown outside of his cult following. Nice restrained but soulful vocals on this one from WEST COAST DIARIES, VOLUME ONE. I had no luck figuring out why it didn't embed even though I aped Safetycat's post above but clicking on the link WILL open the vid albeit in a new tab: