Silent Shout: Nothing In This Column Would Exist Without David Bowie

Carl Williott | January 15, 2016 10:00 am

Silent Shout is our recurring roundup of the latest in alt-pop. It might not be music for the masses, but — to paraphrase *NSYNC — this might be pop.

When a musician presents you with something that can only be described as “ahead of its time,” it’s a confusing and thrilling experience. And perhaps no musician to emerge in the last 50 years has more of those moments to his name than David Bowie. Here are my two favorites: 1) “What In The World,” a piece of nervy synth-rock that is probably responsible for chiptune, despite the fact that it came out way back in 1977. 2) His unapologetic turn to pure commercial pop on Let’s Dance, a move that is pretty much the blueprint for our entire 2010s era.

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And it’s likely no artist inspired, influenced or enabled more “ahead of its time” moments from subsequent musicians, either. Bowie expanded the conceptual and stylistic scope of rock and pop, opening up a whole new world of ambition for artists in his wake, while reshaping listeners’ expectations. He made this stuff three-dimensional.

I’m not going to saddle the below artists and songs with the absurd responsibility of carrying on or building on that legacy. But it’s safe to say none of them, nothing in the land of misfit pop, would be here without the many lives and many works of David Bowie.


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Prince Rama — “Bahia” & “Now Is The Time Of Emotion” The Bowie force is strong with these sisters, who fuse elements of psych, new wave, synth-pop, funk and more and attach it to ridiculous, fully-realized mythologies. The concept of the duo’s last LP was that for each track they channeled the ghost of a band that died during the apocalypse, and they describe their forthcoming album Xtreme Now (out March 4) as “the first real foray by any musician to create a new ‘extreme sports genre'” of music. You’ll be relieved (or disappointed?) to find out this genre does not sound like Mountain Dü-metal.

Yeasayer — “I Am Chemistry” The alt-pop OGs are back after the somewhat disappointing reception of third album Fragrant World, which I’d argue is underrated. “I Am Chemistry,” the sprawling lead single for fourth album Amen & Goodbye (out April 1) seems to be a return to the more psychedelic, nomadic sound of their 2007 debut after putting out two albums of oddball synth-pop. The video is like a happy version of a Tool video.

Essaie Pas — “Le Port Du Masque Est De Rigueur” Underneath every synth-pop song is a sinister minimal wave song. The Montreal-based duo of Marie Davidson and Pierre Guerineau mine the cold Soviet era on the first single off their debut LP Demain Est Une Autre Nuiton, out on DFA on February 19. Like any minimal wave song worth its weight in patch cables, the stern-teacher vocals aren’t in English, thus amplifying the alienating experience of it all.

School Of Seven Bells — “On My Heart” Like Bowie with Blackstar, School Of Seven Bells’ Benjamin Curtis was making music up until the moment he succumbed to cancer. Remaining Bells member Alejandra Deheza decided to finish the duo’s final album, SVIIB, and now it’s out February 26, just over two years after Curtis’ death. Latest single “On My Heart” is grand, digital dream-pop, and just about the most hopeful-sounding thing you could imagine coming out of such an experience. So it’s a pretty fitting way to end this edition of Silent Shout.

What’s your favorite Bowie-indebted pop of the past few weeks? Let us know below, or by hitting us up on Facebook and Twitter.