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Brooklyn band Yeasayer have a colourful collection of influences that they wear on their sleeves, including the bouncy 1980s European dance phenomenon, Italo disco. Ahead of the release of the group’s latest LP, Fragrant World, in August, guitarist Anand Wilder explains that the band’s new record harnesses and recontextualises some of the more playful, erratic elements of Italo disco, underpinning Yeasayer’s own easygoing sound with the “compulsive riffs that can withstand bullets” and “disco strings” heralding from the 80s. Read the reasons behind Anand’s weird and wonderful choices below.
- MR FLAGIO Take A Chance
The best use of vocoder – probably early use of vocoder – in a song. Amazing. Great chorus, great build-up.
- BAZOOKA Alive
This has an amazing riff at the beginning of the song. You can only dream of a riff that’s that simple and that recognisable at the beginning of a song – it goes like this: [makes enthusiastic bleeping noises for several seconds].
- BWH Livin’ up
This track starts with a great countdown, probably one of the best countdowns ever. The great thing about Italo Disco is that there’s always something that’s kind of humourous in its aping of American disco music, but with a funny accent.
- Q The Voice of Q
The Voice of Q has another great vocoder. I think the vocoder is kind of perfect for disco music, you know? This one also has a really sweet synth bassline. With these songs, I’m always like, I know how you could make it today, with computers and stuff, but back in 1982? I’m so curious about how they went about making these perfect basslines with their analogue equipment.
- MIRAGE No More No War
This is an Italo disco song with a kind of political slant. It’s kind of chanty – it’s Italo Disco combined with a protest rally chant, and a sweet arpeggiated synth.
- CRISTINA Gimme Love
This one’s a really sexy female vocal that’s obviously trying to be as girlish as Madonna. There’s a wonderful kind of back-and-forth between Madonna and these kinds of artists who were trying to be as big as Madonna but could never possibly be. This was like 1987, so it was in the wake of ‘Like a Virgin’ and ‘Material Girl’.
- CASCO Cybernetic Love
An awesome song with a great, catchy hook and title – any time you can combine the ideas of computers and the most wonderful of human emotions, you’ve got a great disco song.
- O’GAR Playback Fantasy
Another classic. These voices…they’re singing in English but it’s really strange pronunciation. I think Kraftwerk is sometimes the same kind of thing – it’s like, woah, these guys are really German. It’s that kind of really unemotional tone – Playback Fantasy is a great example of the deadpan delivery of Italo disco; that male vocal that makes you think “have you ever stood in front of a microphone before? Is this you emoting right now?”
- DOCTOR’S CAT Feel The Drive
You know all these tracks were pretty much produced by the same two guys. This is the quintessential kind of heavy, arpeggiated riff that’s just driving the whole song – so you “feel the drive” of that riff, you feel it in your bones.
- BRIAN ICE Talking To The Night
I saved the best for last here. I just have the same thing to say about all of these songs – great riffs, awesome riffs! And they all kind of transport you back to that time – this song especially, like, if it isn’t in Beverly Hills Cop, then it should be.