20 Dark Pop Greats

Featuring : Group Rhoda + Terror Bird

There have always been fabulous moments when the worlds of popular music glide into the villages constructed at their parameter. Whilst there, they mingle with the inhabitants, sometimes fall in love, sometimes bear children. Sometimes those children stay the village, sometimes they return to the citadels governed by the deity of cross-media potential. It would be completely out of character if we didn’t celebrate these creatures, born out of step with the rigid codes of their parents.

Terror Bird’s odyssey — beginning in the 4-tracked rooms of Vancouver and snaking its way via the LA Station Radar love this ‘ere blog flirted with last year and finally hopping through the East End of London’s ode to Synth Wave and arriving this year in a gorgeous 7″ from Night School — seems as improbable as it does inevitable. Like all great pop.

When I Woke Up comes all over PJ Harvey with a hammered keyboard straight from the minimal claws of Petit Mal. The (relatively) epic build here, so strong, it could only have come into being by splicing the DNA of Carl Craig with Spector era Tina Turner. The tension feasts on a few X-factor hopefuls until, two thirds through, Toni Bassell’s tortured soul is summonsed to possess Nikki Never’s yelping call out into the darkness. Bold, subtly violent and a touch over three minutes. you can’t ask for better, darker, more moving pop than that.

Terror Bird – When I Woke Up

When I Wore Up’s taken from a 7″ on Night School that came out at the beginning of March and which we unforgivably slept on because we’re rubbish sometimes.  It’s amazing and limited to 300 copies which is a pretty dangerous situation.

San Francisco’s Group Rhoda is pop in the same way that Kate Bush is pop, i.e. perfectly.  Gorgeously enunciated vocals over deceptively simple but giddying-ly evocative arrangements – check.

Concrete Jungle takes what sounds like the end of a run out grove and turns it into a rolling heartbeat intertwined with a foggy hiss; then quickly adds a simple keyboard melody over subdued synth chords.  As much as Fever Ray places her voice behind demonic layers of sound, Group Rhoda foregrounds hers; beautifully clear, naked and well enunciated.  This is folk abducted from Newport, dragged through cold wave and left in a mist filled scrap yard for once commodified and slightly damaged electronics.

Group Rhoda – Concrete Jungle

Group Rhoda don’t have anything to sell yet but you should check out her website to hear more glorious outré pop.

At this point the post usually wraps up but in this instance, not posting another track from Group Rhoda would just be extreme rudeness given the riches presented to us in a neatly labelled zip.

The epic and delicately tense Model Home gets our deserved attention here.  Managing to distil both the Exotica and the spy soundtrack influences that went towards the dearly missed Broadcast; here Group Rhoda takes a rhythmic preset straight from a Lynchian lounge and add enough warm fuzzy bass to transport us back to the 60s before taking the blue-hued spotlight to deliver the straight-to-camera vocal that cuts through you while whispering in your ear.  The breakdown near midpoint is so simple it becomes, for the short time it appears, the most beautiful thing in the world.

Group Rhoda – Model Home

With thanks to Amitai for the tip and Mara for sharing.