I've always had a soft spot for sunny, almost-whimsical pop music from the Sixties. It's why I get a smile on my face when I hear "Windy" by the Association or the Friends of Distinction's version of "Grazing in the Grass." It's what drew me into LOST's second season opener with the use of Mama Cass's "Make Your Own Kind of Music." There's no "rock" element here; it's just warm and sugary melodies with horns, pianos and layers of vocal harmonies.
I first heard of the Free Design's existence via Stereolab's song of the same name. I heard accolades about their material over the years, but I never heard any of it until yesterday. Sound Opinions features a super-obscure Christmas track, "Shepherds & Wisemen," on this week's show. I played the track about three or four times before I cast my net out for some of their material. Good friend Mark supplied me with the Kites Are Fun compilation, but I'd like to hear more.
If I were to start with a comparison, I'd go back to where I first heard of the group's name. Stereolab has always had some bouncy little pop numbers mixed in with their hypnotic driving numbers. If you want to hear where they got those pop influences, look no further than the Free Design.
I get the feeling the Free Design (and similar-sounding groups) were initially pegged as saccharine pop. Everything sounds clean and sparkling ala Sergio Mendes and Burt Bacharach. Yet the melodies still hold up after all these years. Then I start thinking about what I consider modern pop blah and wonder: will stuff like Hannah Montana and Black Eyed Peas be considered pop perfection in 2021? I honestly hope not. I could be wrong though. Imagine some MP3 blogger praising "My Humps" as one of the greatest songs ever. Now that's scary.