S&D: Sophistipop

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Lately I've been sopisticating it up with cds like: Prefab Sprout- Two Wheels Good, ABC- Lexicon of Love, Scritti Politti- Cupid & Psyche 85. What else?

A Nairn (moretap), Friday, 7 February 2003 00:56 (nineteen years ago) link

pearlfishers last three albums.

keith (keithmcl), Friday, 7 February 2003 02:19 (nineteen years ago) link

what specifically defines Sophistipop? Does it just mean 'from the 80s and with strings&horns' ?

electric sound of jim (electricsound), Friday, 7 February 2003 02:37 (nineteen years ago) link

It's got a production that melts in your mouth too.

A Nairn (moretap), Friday, 7 February 2003 02:42 (nineteen years ago) link

Does The Blue Nile count as sophistipop? If so, search Hats.

Does The Dream Academy count as sophistipop? If so, search "Life in a Northern Town."

Paul in Santa Cruz (Paul in Santa Cruz), Friday, 7 February 2003 05:14 (nineteen years ago) link

Level 42's World Machine and Running in the Family should be at least heard, if not savored.

paul cox (paul cox), Friday, 7 February 2003 05:40 (nineteen years ago) link

Sade, Simply Red, Everything But the Girl, Paul Young, Swing Out Sister, Feargal Sharkey, Roachford, Terence Trent D'Arby's first album, later-era Tears for Fears, and pretty much anything else my wife really adores.

Alex in NYC (vassifer), Friday, 7 February 2003 05:46 (nineteen years ago) link

yer beloved Stranglers did the sophistipop thing for an album or two, Alex -- like "Skin Deep"

Tad (llamasfur), Friday, 7 February 2003 05:49 (nineteen years ago) link

Indeed they did.....according to their excellent biography, "No Mercy" (I forget its author), the band aspired at the time to be a sort've "Cooler Roxy Music."

Alex in NYC (vassifer), Friday, 7 February 2003 06:30 (nineteen years ago) link

Can't beat Sade's 1st album or Cafe Bleu by The Style Council.
I liked 2 songs by Swing Out Sister. 'Break out' and my favourite song of my high school years 'Surrender'.

Tim D.B., Friday, 7 February 2003 17:00 (nineteen years ago) link

more recent smart, chamber-y pop: Archer Prewitt, The Negro Problem.

dan (dan), Friday, 7 February 2003 17:06 (nineteen years ago) link

Style Council....of course! Solo Paul Weller will also do the trick.....as will Morcheeba and the rest of the Trip Hop also-rans scene.

Alex in NYC (vassifer), Friday, 7 February 2003 17:16 (nineteen years ago) link

Talk Talk, It's My Life.
Caetano Veloso, Livro.
Elvis Costello, Imperial Bedroom.

Neudonym, Friday, 7 February 2003 17:22 (nineteen years ago) link

EBTG, Baby the Stars Shine Bright

The Caetano reference sort of confuses things (and the TT ref as well). If we're talking about English music of the early-mid '80s with pretensions to a (real or imagined) pre-rock sophistication then OK, but if we're simply talking about alleged "sophisticated" music then that's a big big can of worms.

Amateurist (amateurist), Friday, 7 February 2003 17:24 (nineteen years ago) link

Elvis Costello - yep. certainly. b+b+bu+bu+but - not just 'Imperial Bedroom', surely. lots, if not most, of his late-80s-to-now (ahem) oeuvre seems to fit the sophisto bill. as would most of Joni Mitchell's late 70s recordings, absolutely.

t\'\'t (t\'\'t), Friday, 7 February 2003 18:21 (nineteen years ago) link

I guess I missed the part/assumption that English = sophistication. Opps I goffed.

And those particular records by Talk Talk and Veloso, I think, fit any definition perfectly. I say OPEN that can of worms, or Diet of Wurms! Throw the definition open: Phil Spector producing Ike & Tina Turner! Love's Forever Changes (well, not all of it)! "Kiss" and "Christopher Tracy's Parade" and "Sometimes it Snows in April"! "Eleanor" freakin' "Rigby"!

Or just forget it and let's go with some Haircut 100.

Neudonym, Friday, 7 February 2003 19:03 (nineteen years ago) link

divine comedy's had some great stuff....

msp, Friday, 7 February 2003 19:11 (nineteen years ago) link

guess I missed the part/assumption that English = sophistication

Not an assumption of mine. Just that the title "Sophistipop" as it seems to have been defined by this thread implied a very narrow range of musics. I wasn't making any claims to what or wasn't sophisticated. (In this narrow context sophistication has more to do with a range of arrangement tics/signifiers and the pretentions of the musicians than in any particular breadth of achievement.)

But if you want to broaden the definition that's fine; as I noted above, it confuses things, not necessarily for the worse.

Amateurist (amateurist), Friday, 7 February 2003 19:22 (nineteen years ago) link

Then let's us confuse everything, Amateurist!

I submit that the most sophisticated-sounding pop music ever (as well as being the clear stylistic parent to Scritti Politti/ABC/Pre-fab Sprout) was made by the Zombies and the Who and the Kinks and Love from 1963-1968, and that THAT would be the true honest recommendation to A. Nairn on a roots tip. Who else fits the Johnny Bravo suit of sophistication?

Neudonym, Friday, 7 February 2003 20:06 (nineteen years ago) link

The Who and the Kinks? What did they ever do in that time period beyond yr basic gtr-bs-drums format?

I guess the Kinks threw on the odd harpsichord by the time of 67's Something Else

Mr. Diamond (diamond), Friday, 7 February 2003 20:25 (nineteen years ago) link

I can't really speak for the Kinks' different time-periods, but come on, Mr. D, what about The Who Sell Out, with "Tattoo" and the mini-meta-epic that is "Odorono"? And "A Quick One"? "Sophistication" is not about instrumentation, to me, it's about the FEEL and the emotional timbre.

Honour the timbre!

But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the concept of "sophistication" is more about the sound/structure/smoothness of a song, an album. Burt Bachrach? Stan Getz? Joao Gilberto? OR Pete fuckin' Townshend?

--Neudonym, just trying to keep a thread alive in a cold world

Neudonym, Friday, 7 February 2003 21:39 (nineteen years ago) link

anything on él records? perhaps they're a bit too sophisticated, or there is some kind of a nod and wink involved, but it's great pop.

fortunate hazel (f. hazel), Saturday, 8 February 2003 01:45 (nineteen years ago) link

What about some of Bryan Ferry solo works from the 80s? THey've got this type of sound too.

A Nairn (moretap), Sunday, 9 February 2003 04:09 (nineteen years ago) link

Ah yes, El Records. While most of the releases on that label aren't exactly my stylistic cup of tea, I'd search The Would-Be-Goods, based on the strength of their tracks on the Girl Talk comp. (esp. "The Camera Loves Me").

Jen (nstop), Sunday, 9 February 2003 04:15 (nineteen years ago) link

one month passes...
New Musik - 'From A To B'... can't believe I only found about Tony Mansfield and co. the last month or so...

Prefab Sprout - 'Jordan: the Comeback'... sophisto-pop taken to new levels with this eclectic, sublime concept album.

Obviously Scritti Politti, Blue Nile and others who have been mentioned...
Louis Philippe definitely... though it's a kind of Bacharach-Brian Wilson combination of influences.

Tom May (Tom May), Sunday, 9 March 2003 19:55 (nineteen years ago) link

Somebody mentioned Thomas Dolby or Japan yet?
Or possibly Aztec Camera (their debut "High Land Hard Rain" is a marvellous piece of "sophisti-pop" although a bit less keyboard oriented.

Also, another great band that may be hard to find, but who are really great if you managed to get hold of their records, is Danish band Gangway.

Geir Hongro (GeirHong), Sunday, 9 March 2003 19:58 (nineteen years ago) link

I guess I missed the part/assumption that English = sophistication. Opps I goffed.

I would say most truly sophisticated pop is English. But Steely Dan were Americans, and they would definitely fit in, as they were both clearly more pop than rock and heavily sophisticated.

Geir Hongro (GeirHong), Sunday, 9 March 2003 20:00 (nineteen years ago) link

oh my god. I've never heard the term sophistipop before but I luhhhhv it, as both neutral genre name and dismissive term. Thank ya!

oh, and Prefab Sprout, ABC, Aztec Camera, Blue Nile, and Scritti Politti all had some okey doke songs. I'll search for sure "Look Of Love," "Oblivious," "Over The Hillside" and something off "Something To Remember" for each band respectively.

Though for how I hear it, sophistipop was purely british and '80s, I guess how I'll be thinking of it is as a subset of new wave.

Anthony Miccio (Anthony Miccio), Sunday, 9 March 2003 20:05 (nineteen years ago) link

Dolby, Japan can certainly fit into this loose 'genre'. Sylvian's solo work however is very far from the realms of sophisti-pop, and into a field of its own. Aztec Camera; definitely... Deacon Blue (probably one of the weaker of these bands), later Orange Juice material... these could be included.

Tom May (Tom May), Sunday, 9 March 2003 20:10 (nineteen years ago) link

Sylvian's solo work however is very far from the realms of sophisti-pop, and into a field of its own.

Sylvian solo, The Blue Nile and late-period Talk Talk are all partly the same genre, I would say.

Geir Hongro (GeirHong), Sunday, 9 March 2003 20:17 (nineteen years ago) link

Deacon Blue, along with Danny Wilson, were dangerously close to AOR at times. However, their later material is a bit underrated, and clearly better than their earlier and most well-known recordings.

Geir Hongro (GeirHong), Sunday, 9 March 2003 20:18 (nineteen years ago) link

On Sylvian, TT and TBN, yeah, perhaps... though something like 'Plight and Premonition' is far more outside traditional structures than The Blue Nile... and indeed 'Gone to Earth' likewise, particularly in its instrumental side.

Tom May (Tom May), Sunday, 9 March 2003 20:52 (nineteen years ago) link

Talk Talk and Sylvian have probably abandoned traditional song structures to a somewhat larger extent than The Blue Nile, but Blue Nile's sloooooooooow delivery of their tunes makes their songs sound rather untraditional too.

Geir Hongro (GeirHong), Sunday, 9 March 2003 23:17 (nineteen years ago) link

six months pass...
i can see the kinks fitting into the sophistipop timeline as godfathers of sorts -- particularly the stuff from the kinks kontroversy through arthur. i can even see the stones, circa aftermath (and until beggar's banquet) being an influence. i'm having a hard time seeing how the who fit in here, though.

(had anyone been listening to "laughing gnome"-era bowie, then he'd fit in too. of course, no-one gave a fuck about him during the sixties. though young americans and station to station are the ur-sophistipop albums, no?

Tad (llamasfur), Friday, 12 September 2003 08:21 (eighteen years ago) link

six years pass...

alfred thank you for that article. all of this stuff is so good, and awaiting its moment of reappraisal

having listened to billy mackenzie/associates all day yesterday, i would like to think they should be added to this thread ?

so, who's going to start adding synth brass sections/backing singers/kitchen sink production to their spiky electro sounds in 2010 then ?

my eldest sons best friends name is danny wilson.
at his fathers 40th a few weeks ago, marys prayer came on party stereo, so i asked of course if the band was the reason for the name choice.
response : "never heard this before until today, it's just on a random 80s compilation i downloaded off itunes"

mark e, Tuesday, 10 August 2010 07:38 (eleven years ago) link


late adopter, Thursday, 12 August 2010 06:27 (eleven years ago) link

does the la band "teen inc" fit into the sophisti-pop indie reappropriation i am hoping for? there's def. a shit ton of slap bass on their records.

uptown churl, Thursday, 12 August 2010 18:51 (eleven years ago) link

four years pass...

sophistipop was purely british and '80s

Would Breakfast Club's "Right on Track" fall under the sophistipop umbrella? That would make them the token US player, I suppose.

Johnny Fever, Monday, 22 September 2014 18:04 (seven years ago) link

feel like that has a little too much "grit" (as it were) for sophistipop, although i love that song.

syro gyra (get bent), Monday, 22 September 2014 18:32 (seven years ago) link

this is a tremendous genre and i hope that one day it gets a box set with copious liner notes.

syro gyra (get bent), Monday, 22 September 2014 18:34 (seven years ago) link

Double's "Captain of Her Heart" definitely needs to be in the sophistipop canon, so they'd be the Swiss entry.

Johnny Fever, Monday, 22 September 2014 18:35 (seven years ago) link

but if breakfast club count for u.s.-sophistipop we have to include ebn-ozn too.

syro gyra (get bent), Monday, 22 September 2014 18:35 (seven years ago) link

six years pass...

This is the only sophisti-pop dedicated thread I can find. Anyway, the only real mention I can find of Shabason, Krgovich & Harris's Philadelphia is on Craig D's 2020 EOY list and that's a travesty because it's really lovely. Very much the ambient end of sophisti-pop but hangs together beautifully as an album.


Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Tuesday, 13 April 2021 19:56 (one year ago) link

While, as noted above, I'm indeed on the record as a big fan of last year's Philadelphia, I'd also recommend that sophistipop fans on this particular thread check out Krgovich's solo album from 2017 (his whole discography is consistently good and recommended as a whole, though, IMO), esp this "Wild Horses"-channeling doozy of a song (Dave Longstreth/Dirty Projectors fans should also find lots to love in his work):


Kangol In The Light (Craig D.), Tuesday, 13 April 2021 20:23 (one year ago) link

three months pass...

Great recommendation, Chinaski and Craig - loved Philadelphia and snapped it up on Bandcamp. "I Don't See the Moon" is such a striking song. Need to check out Krgovich's solo work

Vinnie, Thursday, 29 July 2021 11:30 (nine months ago) link

nine months pass...

I could never quite put my finger on what the hell Faith No More's 'Evidence' was supposed to be but I think I just realized that it's this.

Patton and some of the others were big Sade fans

(In the scheme of things not a big deal but probably noteworthy that FNM were talking about Sade in 1989)

Master of Treacle, Thursday, 12 May 2022 13:28 (one week ago) link

I always wondered if they'd been listening to Ghetto Heaven (skip to 1:07):


buffalo tomozzarella (ledge), Thursday, 12 May 2022 13:45 (one week ago) link

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