Wednesday, November 18, 2009

the glittering sound of a rare noble gas

Worlds collide and inspire words. In these days of blogging, that's how the keystrokes commence from time to time. I will have bits and bobs strewn across my desk. I want to express my excitement for them. Then time marches on, yellow stickies left like withering flowers on the vine.

Then a bolt from the blue. Sometimes the obvious ties them all together. A forest for the trees moment brought into sharp clarity. Often, many bloggers will write about the same thing. Some want the scoop. Others are happy to show their adulation. It's when these two camps meet that the desire to write about a topic either goes cold on me or it fires me up. Thankfully, the latter has happened.

Over the last year or so, Neon Gold, an independent label based in NYC, has been quietly releasing little packets of joy in the shape of pop infused, vinyl nuggets. Last night, I had a discussion with Stephen Sears who writes XO's Middle Eight and has waxed enthusiastcally about Neon Gold on numerous occasions. We enjoyed a gorgeous cup of hot chocolate at Le Pain Quotidien in DC and, as usual, solved the myriad problems that continue to cripple the beleaguered music biz. But our chat about Neon Gold pushed me further to lay praise on them from my corner of the blogosphere.

At the end of the day, it really comes down to the music. Something that sticks to the ribs. A solid story. Building a following. Acts did it in the 80s with MTV. Now, with the advent of world made smaller by the information superhighway and music made available fresh out of the oven without the advent of a middle man, who would have thought a small, independent label releasing tunes on a decidedly old school configuration, could be the breeding ground for promising, new talent?

Neon Gold has done the near impossible. And I realized they are responsible for three of my favorite singles of the year. I haven't had the chance to write about them until now, especially with so much attention paid to them recently. As I mentioned at the launch of my blog, I'm not jumping on bandwagons. I don't pretend to be fashionable. I write about music I like. Sometimes that music overlaps with popular opinion. In turn, I have brought my fave Neon Gold discoveries to other like minded musos. Just like the classic shampoo ad, I've told two friends.....

First up is Marina And The Diamonds. Her second Neon Gold single, "Mowgli's Road", replete with shades of Siouxsie And The Banshees and Kate Bush, is far and away her breakthrough track. A quirky, galloping, piano driven number which is much different from the lush balladry of her first single, "I Am Not A Robot".

And if my ears do not deceive me, I think Marina has been listening to Madness. Give "It Must Be Love", "Embarrassment" and "Ghost Train" a spin and see if you hear what I do.

Neon Gold have sold out of the original, vinyl edition of the single and Marina has been signed to Atlantic which take over promotion of it and her career from this point forward. She's destined for a bountiful new year when her debut album, "Family Jewels", is unveiled in February. By the way, Marina And The Diamonds is a "her" not a "them" as it is the stage name of Welsh songstress Marina Diamandis and not a group of musicians. Just thought I'd clear that up for you.

Next up is a little earworm by Ellie Goulding called "Under The Sheets". Again, "Hounds Of Love" era Kate Bush are the order of the day blended with splashes of Dubstar and the charming tones of Kirsty MacColl. This one has been on constant repeat on my iPod.

Ellie has a folky sound to her voice and is paired with a nearly epic, electronic backdrop which is quite unlike anything else out there at the moment. Although she sits comfortable on the bench beside La Roux and Little Boots, she has a richer and more organic sound than the current crop of electronic ladies.

After one single with Neon Gold, Ellie has been picked up by Polydor and is currently putting the finishing touches on her debut longplayer with the deft hand of producer, Starsmith. She has also recorded one song with hip fave, Frankmusik, who is toiling away in the studio with Dallas Austin on his next album.

My first blush or romance with Neon Gold was the cinematic electronic wash of The Sound Of Arrows, the Swedish duo of Stefan Storm and Oskar Gullstrand, whose single, "Into The Clouds", was brought to my attention through my repeated visits to Popjustice, where they peel off all the pop that's fit to print.

Their widescreen, 80s, pop production brings to mind everything from pulsating drive of New Order to the plaintive vocals of PSB's Neil Tennant with a sprinkling of Saint Etienne's more rhythm driven moments and the European soundscapes of Ultravox. I can't help feel that "In The Clouds" has a faint whiff of Limahl's "Never Ending Story".

As long as Neon Gold uphold their manifesto of delivering quality music with beautiful artwork by artists that have the potential to breakthrough to a broader audience while maintaining an air of individuality and creating a close coterie of fans, music will continue to thrive in these dark days of a crumbling business in desperate need of resuscitation and rebirth.

Now, after a thick, frothy fingerbowl of hot chocolate and some inspired, pop chat, I can removed three, tattered, yellow stickies from my desk.


  1. Great post - i'm loving the neon gold love both here and at XO. I Am Not A Robot remains one of my favourite songs of the year. And I can't wait to hear the debut album from Sound of Arrows. I have a strong suspicion it will be pop magic.

  2. In re: Marina, there's more than a hint of Lene Lovich's trademark hiccup in there as well.