March 26, 2016

Review: Gwen Stefani's This Is What The Truth Feels Like

I reviewed Gwen Stefani's very personal third solo album, This Is What The Truth Feels Like, for Idolator. They didn't like the bit where I used the word leathery to describe Gavin Rossdale, so consider it a behind the scenes scoop that I did indeed call Gavin leathery!

More here - it's a surprisingly solid album...

January 31, 2016

Review: St. Lucia's Matter

I reviewed St. Lucia's energetic new album, Matter, for Idolator. I compare the band to Mannheim Steamroller live at the Acropolis (which never happened btw), but in a nice way...

More here 

December 18, 2015

The Middle Eight's Favorite Songs of 2015

I'm back for my annual list of favorite songs. Did you miss me?  If so, check me out Twitter, Soundcloud and/or Tumblr. 2015 was a year of unexpected pleasures. I celebrated my birthday with friends in Los Angeles (and loved it, much to my surprise) and spent a few amazing weekends in New York. All of that was soundtracked by the songs below, listed in no order. I hope you find something new.

[the page may load slowly because of all the embedded players]  

1. White Light Shura SONG OF THE YEAR #1 (it's a threeway this year)
You have to stick with the monolithic 7 minute version. This track was, for much of the summer, my pick for the best song of 2015. There is a shimmery breakdown at 4:40 followed by a stunning rev back up with a wicked guitar solo at around 5:45. Who does that anymore?  Note that Shura’s other big single this year, 2Shy, is a like a Janet song that didn’t make Unbreakable

2. Take Me Away Janet Jackson SONG OF THE YEAR #2
From a near perfect comeback album. No one really knows how long Janet, Terry and Jimmy worked on Unbreakable – the whole thing is shrouded in pleasing mystery – but the songs sound as if they cooked for a long time. Like many of Janet’s records, the ad libs alone are thrilling – I always repeat the bit at 2:40 when she she sings, “take me away, awww just take me away “ 

Listen to Take Me Away on YouTube

3. Cool On Fire Daniel Johns SONG OF THE YEAR #3
You may not know his name, but you may remember Daniel Johns for two reasons: in the 90's, he was the Jodie Foster-lookalike lead singer of Silverchair. Later he became famous as Natalie Imbruglia’s husband. This track, for me, is about the intersection of desire and vulnerability: “It was getting a little hard / Not to think about each other..  It was getting a little harder / Trying to keep it undercover /  I was feeling insecure / Trying to get your body close to mine.”Mmmhmm. I know.

4. I Want You Wrabel
Wrabel was recommended to me, like Daniel Johns, by Chartrigger. By sheer dint of positioning behind the above track on a summer vacation playlist, I became obsessed with this story of clinging to someone who's done you wrong. “ …don't know why I want you, when I know you're the wrong thing / Don't go, you're the only thing that makes me feel something… and I want you.”

5. How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful Florence + The Machine
Hard to choose my favorite lines from Flo’s open-hearted title track, inspired by the big sky of southern California (which I too discovered in 2015). Is it “What are we gonna do? / We've opened the door, now it's all coming through / Tell me you see it too  / We opened our eyes and it's changing the view.. “ or this beautiful description of a lover: “And every day I wore your face / Like an atmosphere around me / The satellite beside me.” Find me a more perfect string arrangement than what carries the final two minutes of this song out.

Listen to How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful on YouTube

6. As Far As I Could Get Florence + The Machine
Never released digitally – this is the b-side to the 12” limited release of the album’s first single. But it’s perfect. Again, it’s suffused with Los Angeles:

7. Messiah Madonna 
We’d been yearning for so long for this Madonna, wrapping love and religion into a mystical song that recalls her Ray Of Light spirituality. 

Listen to Messiah onYouTube

8. Shine Years and Years
It’s very hard to choose one song from the flawless debut, Communion. This one wins for its romantic hook: “It's you that I've been waiting to find,” but I love the chorus lyric that captures the kind of perfect life moment you relive in your head for… years and years: “I'm holding it all tonight, unfolding it all tonight…  It's you that I've been waiting to find.” Olly is so ebullient – he’s the sweetest pop star.

9. Paris Fickle Friends
My favorite indie pop group keeps releasing one sweet single after another, with a now recignixael sound. Paris pushed the boat out a bit with a mellower tempo.

10. I Can Change Brandon Flowers.
WHO KNEW this oughties dear would come back and slay with his second solo album (and hairstyle)? It was so left field – and probably not a little due to producer Ariel Rechtshaid. Leave it to the pleasingly ambiguous Lafleuer to build a perfect up-tempo moment of a sample from Bronski Beat’s coming-out classic, Smalltown Boy.

11. Criminals MS MR
"I just wanna be a criminal with you." I never got this band until I heard this track (and the equally strong Painted) from their second LP.  It's really all about Lizzy's voice, isn't it? It has a crisp edge that I love - you can't fuck with her. 

Watch Criminals on YouTube

12. Cold Rae Morris feat. Fryars
I don’t know who they are either…. and I don’t know that her LP had much impact, but Cold is airtight. The video is clever too, though they look like two librarians smirking through an experience they didn't expect to have.

13. Better Than That Marina And The Diamonds
Wins for the best middle eight of 2015: “Well, I guess it’s just what humans do / Hook up with other people until it all falls through / And when it’s over they go out and try and heal their pain / Hook up with another lover, do it all again…  I’m not passing judgment on her sexual life / I’m passing judgment on the way she always stuck her knife / In my back ever since we were starting out / Suspicious from the start, I always had my doubts about you.”

Listen to Better Than That on YouTube

14. Never A Woman White Sea
Another song recommended by a friend on Twitter, Never A Woman that takes its time and eases up next to you until you end up spending the weekend with it.

15. Lights Hurts
This band has embarrassed me from album two onward. But this track, produced by… yep, Ariel Rechtshaid, is a perfect disco jam. It was accompanied by the most electrifying video of the year. In fact, I doubt I would have even bothered to play this track were it not for the revelation of Theo as a dancer extraordinaire in this clip.

Watch Lights on Vevo

16. What Do You Mean? Justin Bieber
I know. but here we are: Donald Trump is a leading contender for President and I’m trilling on this little douchebag. He's made a song so well suited to both himself and the zeitgeist. I even felt defensive for him when Lena Dunham accused him of contributing to rape culture with these lyrics, which I read as a genuine reaction to the mysteries of women: “What do you mean? / When you nod your head yes / But you wanna say no?”  Had the no and yes been reversed, Lena would have had a point. Whatever.

Watch What Do You Mean? on YouTube

17. Water Under The Bridge Adele
The ballyhooed 25 didn’t really ballyhoo me, but I appreciate the (much needed) jauntiness of this track – and a very pop vocal from her. 

Morten is still hot. Thank God. I think he has the Paul Newman gene that will keep him in the game until he drops dead.This is the melancholy title track of their back-from-the-dead album. They're one of those bands that keep fake retiring.
19. Loudspeaker MUNA 
Each year my list has several artists or bands that have yet to release an album. MUNA is sparking new female trio from Los Angeles nails modern pop. The vocalist is fantastic and all three of their released songs are strong. Looking forward to 2016 with these women. "If I feel like crying, I won't hide it."

20. North Circular Real Lies
So distinctly British. I love the East London poetry of this piece, one of the more melancholy on their debut album: "Suicide bridge and the morning watch / The royal fumes and fate wires and the things that pick up and kick off / And the roar of the spit on the roads, the central reservation / The rapturous players at the petrol station."

Listen to North Circular on YouTube

21. My Boy My Town Mabel
First, Mabel is the lookalike daughter of Neneh Cherry and Cameron McVey. Her musical pedigree is pretty epic, but Mabel delivers on this track, which has a strong Jessie Ware vibe. It's smooth af. Discovered on December 19 and put on this list on December 21. BAM.

Watch My Boy My Town on YouTube

22. The Point Of It All Anthony Hamilton
From the Empire soundtrack. [Pause: COOKIE!] This is a rerecording of an earlier song, but this simple piano version is an instant standard. "I can't stay away from you baby / Don't wanna be without you... Whenever we're apart / It damn near starves my heart."

Listen to The Point Of It All on YouTube

23. Pressure Off Duran Duran with Janelle Monae and Nile Rodgers
The best Duran single in about 15 years. With Nile's slinky guitar, it's a worthy follow up to Notorious. This is a pure summer party anthem and it makes me so happy. "Something is happening to me, maybe it's happening to you you YOU?"

What did I miss? Let me know!

Here are some songs that made it to this list and were cut and added and cut at various times:

Lana Del Rey High By The Beach Kwabs Look Over Your Shoulder Lianne La Havas Unstoppable Little Boots No Pressure Years and Years Memo (actually the whole LP), New Order Superheated Brandon Flowers Can't Deny My Love

Image by me. It's Pasadena in March 2015. 

November 12, 2015

Madonna’s ‘Confessions On A Dance Floor’ Turns 10: Backtracking

Good evening, babeeezzz. I've emerged from my crypt to write a piece for Idolator called Madonna’s ‘Confessions On A Dance Floor’ Turns 10: Backtracking. It's an anniversary joint. Here's the opening bit for all you discolettes: 
It was Madonna’s 47th birthday and she was seriously hung up. Fans had been waiting for over two years for new music, when a horse bucked our Lady Of The Manor right into an English hospital with a broken collarbone, hand and ribs. Going into fall of 2005, Madonna had something to prove. In the highs and lows of her career, 2003’s tense, folky American Life was a comedown from the successes of Ray Of Light and Music. Those fans felt they’d allowed their queen her Indigo Girls moment and now they wanted classic Madonna dance jams. Rumors circulated about a single inspired by ABBA and then… SPLAT! Just weeks before she was to release her new single, she was busted up, drugged up and out of her usual control. The first thought was not really for Madonna… “Umm, is the album delayed?”
Note that I wrote this while spinning the gorgeous double pink disc of this gem. Fabulous.

December 30, 2014

The Middle Eight's Favorite Songs of 2014

My blog has been sleeping. I've not ended it because, while I don't tend to post much anymore, I like the idea that it is here when I have something to say. Which I do now!  Here are some favorites from the year, in no order. I hope you find something new.

[note the page will load slowly because of all the embedded players]

1 Tough Love Jessie Ware SONG OF THE YEAR
My song of the year's is Jessie's Sign O The Times. Meaning it's pretty obscure on first listen, but then builds into a serious epic by - her usual trick - giving us just enough. U have 2 give love 2 a geeky white Greek girl who builds her song on Prince's red corvette drum.   

2 Uptight Downtown La Roux
Like a perfect outtake from Bowie's Let's Dance. That whack lyric ("when did all these people start to change their shoes?") makes sense when you realize it's about looting in the London riots. 

3 Gust of Wind Pharrell Williams
The sawing violin sound on which this track was built is unlike anything I've heard on radio - which didn't play it, natch. Pharrell kookiness ("mothership otha!") abounds, but the end result is astonishing.

4 Do It Again Röyksopp and Robyn
This is close competitor to Jessie for my favorite song. The one where Robyn reappears and slays everyone with a perfect pop moment. Fave segment is the sad bridge ("we should not be friends..") merging into that final slamming run: again. again. again. Musicologists note: she wheels out her Madonna Tools with those bells in the final minute. 

5 Restart Sam Smith
The Sam Smith album let me down with its 80% somber view of "eggshell" gayness. But the butter dripped off my noodle for this 70's AM gem produced by, of all people, radio DJ Zane Lowe.

Listen to Restart on YouTube

6 Busy Earnin' Jungle
Also my favorite music video of 2014, this track is the sound of London in the summer. I LOVE this. 

7 Bring Back the Music Jennifer Hudson
Because Jennifer did what I've been screaming for:  an album that mimics Vanessa Williams' amazing 1994 Sweetest Days album.

Listen to Bring Back The Music on YouTube 

8 The D Word Toni Braxton and Babyface
This whole album was everything you'd want from Toni and Babyface, all these years later. I hope they do it again. This melancholy album closer has some gorgeous instrumentalist pieces.

9 Drowning Banks    
Banks' Goddess album was my big surprise in 2014. Drowning ties with the big ballad, Under The Table.  Her live version of this has a fierce stomp to it. 

10 Shoot and Run Josef Salvat
Sweeping string-pop with a hint of acid to it. Can you imagine if Rihanna had done this? It's like her life story.  The whole EP is solid and contains a - yep - Rihanna cover.

11 Bless the Telephone Kelis
A very short cover of an obscure - and utterly sweet - 70s folk tune. The kind of song that pauses your day. Words I didn't get to say in 2014: "When you tell me how you feel / I feel the same way too / I'm very much in love with you." Next year, maybe?

Listen to Bless The Telephone on YouTube

12 Stay Gold First Aid Kit
For the bridge: "All of my dreams / they fall and form a bridge of memories / where I can get back / to you." Ryan Adams must have cried when he heard it.      

Listen to Stay Gold on YouTube  

13 Is This How You Feel? The Preatures
Could also be on my top tunes of 1978. Is it dirty rock, pop or funk? Lindsey Buckingham must have cried when he heard it.

14 Trap Door Stars
Torque Campbell blazes the fuck out of this vocal and Stars rages on, ever brilliant.

Listen to Trap Door on YouTube
15 Fine Kylie Minogue
This could easlily have been Feels So Good, but Fine leaps ahead because of it s sweet message, which is simply, "you're gonna be fine." OK, Kylie.

Listen to Fine on YouTube

16 Hold Me Gold Fields
These boys keep giving smooth synth elegance. I wanna feel your love close to me.

17 Old 45's Chromeo
The chorus is pure gold. Should have been a massive hit. And it dovetails nicely with my unplanned acquisition of a zillion rare UK 45s this year.

18 Married To the Night Andy Burrows
Anglo-pop folky wheels out another amazing Fleetwood-worthy rock/pop gem. This one only has a sample on iTunes, so trust me.

19 Blessed Nerina Pallot
A whole year of beautiful songs from Nerina - an EP a month. Hard to choose one song, but Blessed seemed to hit an emotional mark as people around me dealt with sudden sadness.

20 You There Aquilo    
This very anonymous UK duo happens to have the best new male singer in years. This guy isn't afraid to sound emotional and their songs are truly beautiful. You There - a totally indie production  -  is like a lost Britpop masterpiece.

21 For You Fickle Friends   
Another indie pop group with a perfect single. If you like a good melody, it only takes one play of For You to be charmed.

22 A Night to Remember Betty Who
I'll say nary a bad word about Betty Who's label (if they can't make this girl a star...). There's a lot of choices from her sweet debut album, but this one gets it for the hook I loved: "I had a hopeless teenage heart I lost back then."

Listen to A Night To Remember on YouTube

23 Sordid Affair (feat. Man Without Country) Royksopp   
For awhile it all made sense / It might have been just a dark pretense / But you had me
And I loved it / To be with you, to be the one / To live a life / That really got me all excited /
I felt wanted.

24 Everything We Touch Say Lou Lou   
I like to think of this beauty as Daenerys Theme: "I raised dragons by my side, but I had to let them go."

25 Champagne Kisses Jessie Ware   
This is from my favorite album of the year and does worthy battle with the title song for my favorite. Jessie says this song is "not about expensive blowies". Amazing production here: it swings low, chimes high, and even has an element of gospel.

Listen to Champagne Kisses on YouTube
26 Losing Becky Hill
The last addition to this list. A flawless MNEK-produced pop song in the late-Girls Aloud vein. Can you hear a bit of Kate Bush in that galloping beat?  Nobody heard this one, but now you have.

What did I miss? Let me know!

Some songs that made it to this list and were cut and added and cut at various times:

Florrie Seashells Tove Lo Not On Drugs Eliot Sumner Come Friday Duke Dumont I Got U Sinéad O'Connor Take Me to Church  Röyksopp and Robyn Monument Arthur Beatrice Midland Bryan Ferry Midnight Train Nick Jonas Jealous

and Madonna counts for 2015, fyi. Follow me on Twitter, LastFM, Soundcloud and/or Tumblr



October 15, 2014

Jessie Ware gets a dose of tough love

If you haven't caught Jessie Ware's hottie husband doing a track by track on Instagram, it's a must. He's actually spot on - and he doesn't spare her a negative comment or two. Too funny.

Kind of...Sometimes...Maybe @sbpt_fitness's pearls of wisdom. #ToughLove

October 4, 2014

Everything old is new again

I thought the (amazing) new Theophilus London album cover looked familiar...

I was right.

If you're gonna rip something off offer up homage, this is a fine source. Let's hope credit was given.

August 16, 2014


Today the Queen is 56 years old. And we are this close to a new album! Because I learned from Madonna how to be opportunistic, check out my Idolator pieces on Erotica and Ray of Light.

August 13, 2014

August 9, 2014

Song of Summer #8: Come Friday

I didn't see this one coming. Eliot Sumner - aka Coco Sumner/I Blame Coco - is back after a few years distance from her not entirely successful 2009 debut, The Constant. That record's best elements, Eliot's powerful voice and forthright delivery, suggested that she just hadn't found her sonic niche.

She's done that with her new EP, Information, and this amazing rager of a song. They say guitar pop is dead,  slaughtered by relentless EDM, but Come Friday pounds that storyline flat. You have a proper melody, lyric and performance and suddenly guitar pop is resurrected in the hands of a strange-in-a-good-way young woman who makes the music SHE wants.

"For England's sake I will stay cold / And will not show this hate I've grown"

This song is The Shit. Really good.

August 6, 2014

Song of Summer #7: You There

I've had a stressful week and playing Aquilo's serene You There (and the duo's eponymous EP) has gotten me through it. Their bio simply says "Ben and Tom from the Lake District" - we don't really need to know more as long as they continue to make such strong music. They've been in the studio recently with producer/artist Sohn, whose own Artifice was a fave in the spring), so there's more to come.

I suppose we could thank the success of London Grammar for ushering in a new kind of sound. Like that band and Arthur Beatrice, Aquilo doesn't need to hammer it to make their point, a statement in itself in the age of EDM. And yes, the voice on this.

Get Aqulo's EP now on iTunes and a great free track, Calling Me, from their Facebook.

August 2, 2014

Song of Summer #6: Sanctuary

"Let's fill these walls with happy times, gonna fill these rooms with peace of mind."

Jody Watley's new single is stone brilliant. A smoooooth jam. If you heard 2006's The Makeover, you know that this Watley era is all about mid-tempo beauty. Sanctuary slides in beside her cover of Madonna's Borderline or even her 1987 Patrick Leonard collaboration, Most Of All.  This is the return of quiet storm.

Above is the radio mix, but her new mini LP, Paradise, has a mellow 6:28 mix that allows the song to stretch out as it's meant to do.

August 1, 2014

Song of Summer #5: Coming Home

Out of the blue comes a perfect summer night soundtrack, Coming Home by London duo Pacific State. I know virtually nothing about them, other than comparisons to Morcheeba and perhaps a bit of Shara Nelson-era Massive Attack. I'd throw in the great Helicopter Girl as well.

Coming Home is a collage of melody, big soul vocals and strings. There are two versions of the track, a 3-minute radio mix and this extended version, which really builds on the Glen Campbell sample.

This post is for Michael Walter. You made my day!

Pop treasures

"An extra track and a tacky badge," Morrissey once sang. These are not tacky, they're treasures! A bit of my archives, most purchased between 1982 and 84. Do you have any buttons or badges, as they're called in the UK?

July 18, 2014

The Return of Bright Light Bright Light

Before I tramped off on a mini break, I did a short interview with Bright Light Bright Light for Instinct Magazine's blog. Check it out here.

Rod's new album, Life Is Easy, is out now! My faves are Everything I Ever Wanted, Lust For Life and Happiness.

His new single I Believe has also arrived with this surprising video...

...sun and sensuality with the hip Brooklyn kidz.

photo by Alex Petch

July 2, 2014

Song of Summer #3: Walk It Out

My surprise new fave song is - get this - a Timbaland production. Jennifer Hudson's Walk It Out. What lured me in was the Chicago-shot video, which reminds me of Janet Jackson in Poetic Justice. But then the track really earwormed: it has just enough old school vibes to keep me happy.

When Jennifer was on American Idol, I loved her so much, I called her Mrs. Sears. Clearly, I know my shit. So here it is, a great strutting song for summer in the city.

"You must have the right producer, with the know-how of putting tracks together on a good recording!"

June 30, 2014

Song of Summer #2: Tough Love

If you've read this blog for a few years, you may already know I am "heels head over" for Jessie Ware.  I hope we're past the point where people confuse her with [shudders] Jessie J.

Our Jessie has been quietly recording her sophomore album all over the world- the only clues have been studio shots from her Instagram. The first real taste of the record is this BenZel-produced slow burn called Tough Love.

So much to love about this track:  It's classic Jessie, in that she doesn't gild the lily. Her choices are never flamboyant, always cool. This time she takes a chance with a vocal an octave higher than usual (she's already fretting about singing it live, which we know she can do). I also love how she cracks the title phrase into multiple syllables ("tough lo-uhv"). The synth washes over the middle eight and end of the track are so rich.

BenZel previously recorded a cover of Brownstone's If You Love Me with Jessie and are responsible for at least half the production on her forthcoming album (released around November). More details at Pitchfork.

I'm still here!

I've been lax with my blog lately. Life just gets in the way!  Here's some of what distracts me...

June 12, 2014

Songs of Summer #1: Is This How You Feel?

Dirty California vibes from a band with the best frontwoman in ages. She is Isabella Manfredi and they are The Preatures.

A few more facts. They're Austrialian, they're pretty, they also have a guy vocalist called Gideon, they rock, they're pretty and their forthcoming single is a gorgeous down-tempo called Two Tone Melody.

May 21, 2014

Spring Songs #11: Young Hearts

Strange Talk occupies the space that Foster The People departed when they went a bit... avant on their new album. This song is pure pleasure - probably even better in the summer sun.

"We're young hearts, look at us go, all we really need is a stereo."  It's that simple, as sometimes it should be.

May 19, 2014

Spring Songs #11: Pray For Love

Kwabs is, thus far, the best new artist of the year. As I said in my Sohn post, there is a new movement of contemporary electronic soul. It began with, to some degree, James Blake and Jamie Woon, before moving to Jessie Ware and now Sampha, BANKS, Rhye and Kwabs.

Of the class of 2014, I think Kwabs - Kwabena Sarkodee - is the real contender. There is a richness to his voice - you believe what he is singing is from his experience. If Neneh Cherry and Youssou N'Dour had a child (in seven seconds, haha), it'd be Kwabs.

Before you watch his new Plan B-produced single, Pray For Love, please take some time with the two videos that captivated me. The first is a heartbreaker ballad, Perfect Ruin... I watched this about six times in a row the night I found it. He needs nothing but the song and the voice. And that chorus!

Send your love to move me
My world has powered over me
In perfect ruins
Somehow it towers over me

And Last Stand. There is a moment during the bridge (starts at 2:22) that gives me chills, when the lyric seems to completely overtake him. Some quality in Kwabs reminds me of So-era Peter Gabriel, but I cannot put it in words.

I also think he's hot - he works that see through sweater.

Kwabs has two EPs: Wrong Or Right and the just released Pray For Love. The title track's video is below...

May 13, 2014

Spring Songs #10: Lost On The Way

Solange is back in the news today for some pretty dark reasons, which everyone can discover easily for themselves. Instead, I'll focus on the best of my Brooklyn queen: her music. The whole Solange experience was rolling along beautifully with her True EP.  And then something went down with her collaborator Dev Hynes. A falling out that has made it look like there's no album coming. Her first post-Dev release, on her Saint Heron label compilation - Cash In - was a bit weak.

Now she's teamed up with Chromeo and found her voice again. This is exactly the kind of smooth jam at which she excels. She even classes up the Chromeo boys.

May 6, 2014

The Return of La Roux is nigh....

keep an eye on her site

Robyn: This will be a beacon when I'm gone gone gone.

Robyn, rocking a Bowie-esque mullet and bleached eyebrows, has just released her latest collaboration with her fiance, Max Vitali. This time it's a commercial for Volvo Sweden. It's typically beautiful and edgy and serene, all in a just two minutes, thirty seconds.

The Royksopp collaboration in the commercial, Monument, is my most anticipated song this year. I keep playing the snippets on a loop. In a short time we'll have the full EP...

Volvo Commercial

Monument (snippet)

Read a lengthy new interview with Robyn here.

May 1, 2014

Oh Land's beautiful Cherry On Top video

Calling it a trope would imply that it's a tired cliche, so instead I'll say that there's a longstanding tradition is pop videos in which our beloved chanteuse dances with a boy. The most famous version of this is, of course, Madonna's Open Your Heart, but it's also been beautifully employed by Fiona Apple in the amazing Paper Bag and Robyn in her Be Mine video. Now Oh Land adds a gorgeous film to this "series" with Cherry On Top.

Cherry On Top is my favorite track from Oh Land. There was a great comment on the PopJustice Forums that she certainly gets a big sound out of her piano in this clip!  Aside from the amazing young man (14 year old Drew Minard) co-starring in the video with her, Cherry On Top boasts a special cameo from one of the greatest models of all time. Watch to see who it is - she's Danish, like Oh Land, and she was plastered all over my college dorm room walls.

For more on the making of this beautiful video, check out this piece at Noisey.

April 21, 2014

Record Store Day and my vinyl obsession, Vol. 2

I enjoyed doing my Record Store Day post so much, I thought I'd extend it. Here is more of my vinyl booty.

This coveted 12" single by Everything But The Girl is the title track to one of my favorite albums of all time. The artwork by Form was economical yet beautiful (love the Japanese referencing). Jeurgen Teller captured Ben and Tracey at a moment of complete power in their creative rejuvenation. This was phase two of an already brilliant career.

On my November 2013 London trip, I did a wee bit of vinyl shopping. These came from Music & Video Exchange in Notting Hill. I already had the Nick Heyward and Prefab Sprout in their US versions, but the former is a gatefold in the UK and the latter has a different album name, Steve McQueen. Which is, you should know dear reader, my favorite album of all time.

A pretty and high-quality pressing of Deee-Lite's second album, 1992's Infinity Within. The record sounds better now than it did on release and the artwork was stunning. This hip NYC band understood visuals. I should add that I recently went to a record store and found two of the 12" singles from this LP. Score!

This is the back cover of the 7" of Human League's amazing 1982 single, Mirror Man. I find the image so classic that it could have been taken today. It's subtle, but the details - like Phil Oakey's heels - really pop. Since I took this picture, I've acquired the 12" version . The actual image is much richer than this sort of washed out version.

Need I say more? Look at this! I actually have Karma Chameleon in both the 7 and 12 inch versions and they're almost identical. Like the Human League above, I just needed it in a larger size to appreciate it.

#nofilter, as the say on Instagram. New Order's records are somewhat elusive in vinyl stores (true of Depeche and The Smiths too) because they are so gorgeous. Technique is perhaps the greatest cover they did. Peter Saville did the design and he explains it in this funny piece from The Guardian.


Okay, I did not actually buy this, but I loved the image - taken in a record store - that I had to post it. I've been going to this place, by the way, since the 90's glory days of two-part CD singles. I duked it out to get my Tori and Bjork singles, etc. This is a classic record store and it's had the same core staff for over twenty years.  Love them.

diana - little d - is one of the most perfect, concise records of the 80s. The cover shot represented a big change in image for Diana at the time. No big hair, minimal makeup. The music is like a manifesto and still moves me to this day. Have fun again...

I think it's appropriate to follow Diana Ross with Janet Jackson. A vinyl was manufactured for the 2001 album this title track came from, but I've always felt that this single image far exceeded the bland Maybelline-like LP cover shot. It's far more iconic.

You've seen enough of my grubby thumb in these shots. Again, if you'd like to occasionally see what I am buying, I tend to post the prettiest stuff on Instagram. Be sure, also, to read this funny Washington Post piece on what the actual plural of vinyl is. You can guess where I stand on this matter. xo

April 19, 2014

Record Store Day and my vinyl obsession

Record Story Day has finally arrived. I just talked to a friend of mine who's waiting in a long line. I've been spending every week on vinyl for most of 2014, so I thought I'd share a bit of what I've been collecting. These images come from my instagram - feel free to follow me!

I bought this UK 12" single because of the gorgeous Jean Baptiste Mondino image and the fact it's in my Top 5 Eurythmics songs.

Wham's UK 12" of Freedom. Pretty boys, big "frosted" hair.

My favorite Aztec Camera album and one of the prettiest LP covers of the 90s. This one is hard to find, perhaps because of the beauty.

This is the 7# UK single - it's actually got a better cover than the 12" which I also own. The Style Council was spot on with their design. I have some espadrilles that make me think of this image when I wear them. Except I'm not lounging around next to the Seine.


The American pressing of Vacation, circa 1982. Notice the attention to detail, from the inner sleeve to the album label.

We were well into the cassette era when this came out, but the album is musically flawless and the artwork is, again, by Mondino.

Fashion icon Helmut Newton shot this rare image of Sade with her hair down for the 12" UK single of 1985's Is It A Crime, her most perfect song.

BowWowWow's poppiest classic is in my hot hands because she was a definitive style icon of the early 80s.  If certain poplet's today want to class it up, they'd do well referencing the mohawk, prom dress and combat boots style of Annabella Lwin. Disastrously, Lwin was kicked out of this band before the album promotion ended because she was... too popular.

A full list of my vinyl is here on Discogs. I am rebuilding after selling most of my collection in a pique of anxiety in 2008. Friend me on Discogs and follow me on Instagram to see more vinyl as I buy it.

April 15, 2014

Spring Songs #9: Eurydice

The press release for Pains of Being Pure At Heart's new single Eurydice likens their sound to Aztec Camera, Lightning Seeds and House Of Love. This is all true. They also have dwell in the same airy Scottish "town pop" of their contemporaries Camera Obscura, Canada's Stars or Portland's Pure Bathing Culture. This track's title character was, should you feel like being illuminated, the wife of the musician Orpheus and a daughter of Apollo. She died of a snakebite

Eurydice is one of the best songs they've ever done, the guitar surge balanced by chiming bells and layered vocals. The amazing ad lib bit starting at 3:10 through to the starry fade is chill inducing.

The album, Days Of Abandon, is out on May 13 in the US and June 2 elsewhere.

April 7, 2014

Spring Songs #8: Artifice

SOHN (all caps) is a name that's starting to proliferate. He's best known as a producer for BANKS and Kwabs - more on the latter this week - but he has a solo album called Tremors, out April 8. Recent single Artifice is smart, catchy and pop-minded.

As a solo performer, SOHN doesn't just produce edgy instrumentals. He's more akin to Active Child and James Blake in that he can actually sing. His label is 4AD (Cocteau Twins!), which is apt because I think he's a part of a real movement in the UK, with musician/producers like Dave Okomu, Two Inch Punch, and Julio Bashmore, creating emotional and very modern music. It's not about the producer, it's about the song.

April 5, 2014

Spring Songs #7: Repeat Pleasure

Tom Krell - aka How To Dress Well - is what some people are calling a "bedsit artist." Making music on his own at home. And then one day he plays it for someone else and a whole thing is born, This track, from his third album, What Is This Heart?, is just lovely. Catchy and effortless.

The new LP is due in late June and iTunes has another track for sale, the vibey soul jam, Words I Don't Remember. Boyfriend must be a fan of Jam and Lewis.  

March 13, 2014

Spring Songs #6: Everything We Touch

Because I am here for these girls. The sound is becoming clearer with each release:  harmonies, melancholia and, always, a strong emphasis on melody.

Say Lou Lou release Everything We Touch with a b-side called Peppermint on May 18.

March 4, 2014

Cover Story: Ben Watt's Hendra

This is going to look beautiful in 12" vinyl...

 It's out on April 14. Here is the first taste, the title track...

March 2, 2014

Spring Songs #5: Heartbreak Dream

The first time I heard Betty Who's new single, Heartbreak Dream, I had a sort of meh reaction. The vocals seemed a bit buried, the melody didn't pop.

This has changed.

I should not have doubted Betty/aka Jess. After maybe 3 plays, the chorus started to worm in and then the emotionalism of the lyric got me, espcecially in the middle eight:
When you hold me, it feels you don't know me.
We are worlds apart.
When you kiss me, I know you haven't missed me.
You keep breaking my heart.

Tears, tears, tears. Another epic!

Heartbreak Dream is from a new EP called Slow Dancing, due out in April.

February 26, 2014

Spring Songs #4: The D Word

Understand this: The first truly great album of 2014 is out of left field: Love, Marriage & Divorce by Toni Braxton and Babyface. These tunes are solid 1992 'face and Toni, all creamy smooth and swinging lowwww.

The album's closer, The D Word, is notable for some lush instrumental passages. If you want an up-tempo, check out the phenomenal, slutty Sweat.

The LP is primarily duets, but there are some solo tracks, the best of which is (surprisingly) Babyface's I Hope That You're Okay. That one is actually kind of sweet, while the next song, Toni's self-composed retort - I Wish - has this howler line:
I hope she gives you a disease, so that you will see. Not enough to make you die, but only make you cry, like you did to me. 

Seriously, this record is the JAM.

February 25, 2014

Spring Songs #3: Not On Drugs

"Baby listen please, I'm not on drugs. I'm just in love."

So goes the first true Swedish slayer of 2014. I have no idea who Tove Lo is and it doesn't matter. It's just a GREAT chorus. It's from her debut EP, Truth Serum, out March 3 on the ever amazing Neon Gold label.

I'd better hear this song non-stop as the weather gets warm warm warm.

Spring Songs #2: Closer

Nerina Pallot is on her game, recording an EP every single month of 2014. Below is a 12-minute mini doc of her recording the first release, January's The Hold Tight. The whole EP is flawless - if you liked the sound of her last full length album, Year Of The Wolf, this is a natural extension of that. The next EP, We Should Break Up, is out March 4.

My favorite track is Closer, which you can hear below. The final minute is a tingler...

Read my 2011 interview with Nerina

February 22, 2014

Sping Songs #1: Seashells

For anyone who's followed the careful trajectory of Florrie, the arrival of new music is a relief. It's been a long, long wait. The first full track we've got is one she's said is unusual to anything she's record before or since.  It's called Seashells and it's a part of the new 5-track Sirens EP (three new songs and two remixes).

I keep coming like a rollercoaster and it gets me high...

February 3, 2014

Backtracking: Ten Years of Scissor Sisters

Today I did a post at Idolator, celebrating the tenth anniversary of Scissor Sisters' eponymous debut album. We had the good fortune to speak to the band's Babydaddy about the recording.

If you're prone to wrapping your fuzzy in a big red bow, please check it out.

January 6, 2014

Foxes launches debut album with Let Go For Tonight

We've hit what is normally a very dry season in pop music. Foxes really brightens it with this decidedly Florence-ian epic. The video molds her into a short-shorts vixen, but her power is in the music.  The single is due Feb 23 in the UK with the 11-song album Glorious out in March. [edit: May, we hope]

She's a British girl, from Southampton and here's a bit of her story. She is most famous as the voice of the gorge EDM hit Clarity.

December 31, 2013

Favorites 2013: THE LIST

I got some emails and comments about the songs missing from my earlier lists. 
So maybe yer faves are on THIS mega list of many great songs in 2013... 

Active Child Evening Ceremony
Aluna George Best Be Believing
Gabrielle Aplin Panic Cord
Arcade Fire Reflektor
Arctic Monkeys Fireside, Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High?
Arthur Beatrice Grand Union, Midland
Autoheart Agoraphobia, Moscow, Hungover In The City of Dust, Heartbreaker, Factories
Ayer Young
Katy B 5AM, Crying For No Reason
Backstreet Boys Breathe
BANKS Before I Ever Met You
Sara Barielles Manhattan, Satellite Call, Eden
Belanger Take Me Home
Betty Who The Movement EP 
Beyonce XO, Blow, Haunted, Superpower, Blue
Sophie Ellis Bextor Young Blood
Bing Li Jing See Me Through (with Diane Birch)
Dan Black Hearts (with Kelis) 
Blood Orange You're Not Good Enough, Uncle Ace, Chosen, Time Will Tell
Brand New Heavies Sunlight
Toni Braxton and Babyface Hurt
Bright Light Bright Light In Your Care
VV Brown The Apple
Mariah Carey #Beautiful, The Art Of Letting Go
Belinda Carlisle Sun
Neko Case Night Still Comes, Where Did I Leave That Fire
Cher Lie To M, Sirens, Lovers Forever, My Love
Chvrches We Sink, The Mother We Share
Cut Copy Take Me Higher
Daft Punk Get Lucky, Give Life Back To Music
Delphic Freedom Found, Don't Let The Dreamers Take You Away, Tears Before Bedtime
Disclosure Confess To Me, Latch, Help Me Lose My Mind
Boris Dlugosch Look Around Me (with Roisin Murphy) 
Rose Elinor Dougall Future Vanishes
Thomas Dybdahl Man On A Wire, This Next Wave Is A Big One, Soulsister
Kat Edmonson I Just Wasn't Made For These Times
Sheila E Who I Am Now, Rockstar,  I'll Give You That
Mikky Ekko Kids (Monsieur Aid Mix)
Empire Of The Sun I'll Be Around, Celebrate
Agnetha Faltskog I Should Have Followed You Home
Sky Ferreira,You're Not The One, I Blame Myself, Boys, 24 Hours, Omanko, Love In Stereo
Florrie Last Thing On My Mind, Live A Little 
Foxes Let Go For Tonight
Frankmusik Did Love, Final Song, How Do We Know?
Friends The Way
Fryars In My Arms 
Fun Sight Of The Sun
Gold Fields Happy Boy, Dark Again, Thunder, Closest I Could Get
Goldfrapp Drew, Annabel, Laurel, Stranger, Thea, Lee 
Jose Gonzalez Stay Alive
The Good Natured Lovers
Ariana Grande Baby I, The Way
John Grant Gmf
HAERTS All The Days
Cyril Hahn Perfect Form (feat Shy Girls)
Haim Falling
Mayer Hawthorne Where Does This Door Go, Corsican Rose, Reach Out Richard
Holy Ghost In The Red, I For Edgar, Cheap Shots
Hurts Guilty
Brendan James Constellations
Elton John Home Again Keane Won't Be Broken
Kelis Jerk Ribs
King Need A Woman By Friday 
KING In The Meantime
The Knocks Modern Hearts (with St Lucia)
Lady Gaga Applause, Gypsy 
John Legend Made To LoveAmelia Lily Truth Or Dare
Lissie Further Away (Romance Police)
Little Boots Motorway, Strangers, Crescendo, Beat Beat, Strangers, Antarctica (unreleased)
London Grammar Strong, Maybe, Darling Are You Gonna Leave Me? Help, Flickers, Nightcall
Lorde Royals, Tennis Court, Buzzcut Season
Laura Marling Saved These Words
Johnny Marr New Town Velocity 
Clare Maguire Paper Thin 
John Mayer Who You Love (with Katy Perry)
Microfilm Romeo Rorschach, Romeo Rorschach (Pastorale Digitale Mix), Lavender Courtesy Phone, Penthouse (feat Sarah Nixey)
Kylie Minogue Skirt (Switch Mix) 
Lucas Mire You Don't Know, Gone
MKS Flatline
Janelle Monae Ghetto Woman, We Were Rock'n'Roll
Monsier Adi What's Going On (feat AME)
Alison Moyet Horizon Flame, Apple Kisses, Love Reign Supreme
Nashville Cast This Town, No One Will Ever Love You
Naughty Boy Hollywood (feat Gabrielle) La La La (feat Sam Smith)
New Order Recoil, Californian Grass, Shake it Up
NONONO Pumpin' Blood
Oh Land Cherry On Top
OMD Metroland, Helen Of Troy
One Direction Story of My Life
Mark Owen Stars, S.A.D. (feat Ren Harvieu), Carnival
Owls Closure
Erlend Oye La Prima Estate
Pet Shop Boys Thursday, Vocal, Inside A Dream
Prefab Sprout The Best Jewel Thief In The World, List of Impossible Things, Dreamer, Who Built The Taj Mahal
Prince Breakfast Can Wait 
Pure Bathing Culture Pendulum, Dream The Dare, Temples Of The Moon
Rhye Major Minor Love, The Fall, One Of Those Summer Days, Shed Some Blood
Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton You Can't Make Old Friends
Quadron Avalanche
Kelly Rowland I Remember, Red Wine
Joesph Salvat Hustler 
Sampha Without
The Saturdays Lease My Love
Say Lou Lou Beloved, Better In The Dark, Julian (Monsieur Adi Mix)
Mark Sciblia Something Good In This World
Sia Kill And Run
Slow Knights Sweet Harmony (Bright Light Bright Light Mix), Under Attack, Kingdom, I Got It That Bad
Sam Smith Latch (acoustic), Safe With Me, La L aLa (with Naughty Boy)
Solange Losing You (Cyril Hahn Mix)
Britney Spears Werk Bitch, Perfume (Dreaming Mix)
St. Lucia Elevate, Too Close, When The Night, The Way You Remember Me, All Eyes On You, Wait For Love
Lisa Stansfield Can't Dance
Sting Practical Arrangement
Suede Barriers, Hit Me
Studio Killers Jenny, When We Were Lovers, Who Is In Your Heart Now
Tegan And Sara I'm Not Your Hero, Love They Say, I Was A Fool, Closer
Tesla Boy Undetected, Stars, 1991, Dream Machine 
There Is Thunder Finer Feelings
Teddy Thompson Saratoga Summer Song
Justin Timberlake Strawberry Bubblegum, Mirrors, Not A Bad Thing
Marques Toliver Control, Something's Wrong 
Emiliana Torrini Speed Of Dark
Travis Where You Stand, Boxes
Two Door Cinema Club Changing Of The Seasons (Monsieur Adi Mix)
Judy Tzuke Uneasy 
Vampire Weekend Step
Vinny Vero (with Drop Out Orchestra) Be Free With Your Love
Robbie Williams Go Gentle
Woodkid I Love Yo, I Love You (acoustic), Run Boy Run, 
Young Galaxy Pretty Boy
Jessie Ware Never Knew Love Like This Before, Imagine It Was Us