A note about genres
This is the place for lounge acts, big and small – from Tom Jones and Wayne Newton to the little act who played at that Holiday Inn off the new freeway extension back in 1972. Also any LPs of cocktail lounge music, instrumental or otherwise, that don’t strongly fit in other categories. A shop favorite!
Martin Denny, Arthur Lyman, and Les Baxter form the triumvirate. You’ll also find lesser-knowns from The Surfmen to Gene Rains, lots of great Hawaiian and Polynesian music, as well as other exotic sounds from exotic locales around the globe. By the gong of the Mystery Drink, you know this as the smoky, alluring soundtrack to all classic tiki bars!
Luxuria / Soft Tempo Lounge / “Now" sound
As tiki bars evolved, so did the music – and Luxuria is the next new level of Exotica. Losing a lot of the tropes of the ’50s and early ’60s, and adding a bold new sophistication, there’s more jazz and improvisation to the sound of Luxuria – and frequently a bossa nova. In the late ’60s, it was the psychedelic “Now” sound. Walter Wanderley and Dick Hyman often hit it. So did Les Baxter. Gil Ventura kept it alive through the ’70s and ’80s. Also see the fab “Soft Tempo Lounge” channel on YouTube, and the Internet radio station LuxuriaMusic.com. We’re proud that The Current Year is the first record store in the world to showcase, catalog, and feature this exciting and emerging category of music!
Mood Music / Beautiful Music / Easy Listening (BM/EZ)
This is what they used to play inside K-mart and every good supermarket. It brightened the day! In the Brutalist, atomic heyday of High Modernism, every corporate office pumped it through their recessed, and often hidden, speakers – at just the right volume. Muzak was the most famous commercial outfit. More than merely “elevator music,” it was also a popular radio format on both AM and FM – and is truly beautiful! Vocalwise, the EZ category fits Perry Como, James Last, Nat “King” Cole, Mantovani, The Carpenters, Barbara Streisand, as well as category cross-overs like Sinatra and Herb Alpert. It later evolved in some circles to include adult pop standards and “smooth jazz.” In northern Ohio, Sandusky’s AM 1450 (“Classy Music For Classy People”) and Cleveland’s WRMR were BM/EZ stations of note; in recent decades, 107.3 “The Wave” was the more contemporary “smooth jazz” variant.
Burt Bacharach / Swingin' Sixties Songbook
Emerging in the groovy ’60s, the timeless songs of Burt Bacharach and Hal David are classic and cool, and have been performed by the best vocalists, from Dionne Warwick to Cilla Black. Like Austin Powers, we unironically love ’em !
Bubblegum / Sunshine Pop / Twee
Bubblegum pop came out of American paneled rec rooms in the mid ’60s with teenage bands signed on labels like Buddah Records. Everyone knows The Archies and The Patridge Family … by the early ’70s, even The Brady Bunch and The Hardy Boys got in on the act. The Monkees broke out, but Bobby Sherman will always be bubblegum! Sunshine pop was a ’60s SoCal phenom of bands like Millennium, the Yellow Balloon, Sagittarius, Spanky and Our Gang, The Association, The Arbors and The Love Generation, all basking in the Summer of Love and sounding production-wise much like the Beach Boys, the Mamas and the Papas, and the 5th Dimension. Twee’s heyday in the ’90s came from gorgeous K Records and Sarah Records artists like Lois Maffeo, Heavenly, Tiger Trap, and Cub.
Quiet Storm / Velvet Groove
Upscale urban R&B with smooth seductive grooves and soft jazz, the antithesis of hip hop, the perfect recipe for a romantic living-room evening, a boomer-friendly supergenre from Al Green and Barry White to Al Jarreau, Peaches & Herb, and some Patrice Rushen. Sade, of course. We’ve spun this at Porco Lounge! As a radio format it thrived from 1976 all through the ’80s, and even continues today in a newer form with Alicia Keys, Toni Braxton and Usher.
Slower than swing. Think of Victor Young’s charming music in the 1942 film The Palm Beach Story. Some Doris Day records fit in here. Your grandparents or great-grandparents may have swooned to these songs. They’re on every barbershop record.
The Current Year is 1975 through 1984, give or take a few, and the records are by Christopher Cross, the Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan, Kenny Loggins, and Toto. Just about anything churned out by the LA-based session musicians who worked on those adult-oriented rock (AOR) records is game – listen to Michael McDonald on the soundtrack to Running Scared (1986) and google the Yachtski Scale to see how “Yacht Rock” your chromium oxide mixtape is.
Joni Mitchell’s 1975 masterwork “The Hissing of the Summer Lawns” is the quintessential work in this genre – it’s the smooth sounds of yacht rock, but with suburban misery bopping beneath the surface, in the lyrics: the sad impasse of loveless marriage, days of ennui and loss. It could be Carly Simon, Steely Dan’s “Everyone’s Gone to the Movie,” Randy Newman’s “I Think It’s Going to Rain Today.” Dark Yacht probably ended with early Suzanne Vega.
New Wave / No Wave
Key years were 1977-1984. From Blondie, Elvis Costello, The Cars and the B-52s to the no wave of Sonic Youth, Lydia Lunch, and Swans. Every Brat Pack novel references it, and it’s the soundtrack of Valley Girl.
##’80s College Rock / Progressive If it’s featured on the great Slicing Up Eyeballs podcast, it fits here. This is the stuff that was played on college radio back in the ’80s, and was “progressive” before the ’90s got “alternative”: The Cure, The Church, REM, The Pixies, The Smiths, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Stone Roses, Talking Heads, The Smithereens, Depeche Mode, PiL, Love and Rockets, Jane’s Addiction, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Mojo Nixon, Simple Minds, and anything else that would look good as a pin on that denim jacket. Also see “Synthpop.”
Shoegaze / Dream Pop
All the old original greats like Cocteau Twins, Slowdive, and My Bloody Valentine, as well as newer bands like Ringo Deathstarr and CLE locals NIIGHTS and Bloodhounds who make soundscapes of lush guitar-driven fuzz.
Nirvana has jumped the category – they’re in the plain rock section along with all the other classic rock (and Smashing Pumpkins). But here’s where you’ll find bands like TAD if we have it, and Mudhoney, even Soundgarden and Alice In Chains (who themselves are on the verge of jumping the category).
From ’70s acid rock bands to the Black Angels, any kind of rock from any time period that’s strong in psych goes here. Unless it’s a supergroup – you’ll notice Pink Floyd has jumped the category. The great 13th Floor Elevators have not.
This isn’t Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin – there’s a “Rat Pack” category for those guys and the rest of their fun American friends. This is for the beautiful music of Italy – Bebu Silvetti, Mina Mazzini, Piero Piccioni, Piero Umiliani, Hareton Salvanini, Franco Micalizzi, Stelvio Cipriani, Ennio Morricone, Flo Sandons, Patty Pravo, Ornella Vanoni, Silvana Mangano, Sophia Loren, and the like. Capisce?
michael stutz for thecurrentyear.com Version 1.1, 2 Oct 2020