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

T H E Q U E E N S B I R T H D A Y


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
AVAN LAVA So F*kt Up 
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






December 29, 2013

The Middle Eight's Favorite Albums of 2013


Dire year, really. *sips tea* What was most notable for me in 2013 was the major labels jacked up releases, either mucking with the talent, wasting momentum or making generally whack choices. Indie labels are where it's at now. And Nile Rodgers... just do a solo album in 2014. There's a lot of sister acts here. I'm down with that. My "favorite" album, the pop breakthrough by twins Tegan and Sara, was released in January and it was downhill from there on out, with these exceptions:

Album Of The Year



Tegan and Sara Heartthrob
There are so many reasons to love this album. 1) It arrived in dreary January; 2) It’s the perfect album length of ten songs, without one filler track; 3) There’s an infectious ’80s pop joy sweeping over it, without ever being pastiche or retro; 4) They cover all the bases — first crush (Closer), sexual desire (Drive Me Wild) and the post traumatic stress of failed love (the pounding Shock to Your System); 5) In the age of teen sleaze, I’m Not Your Hero is an anthem for smart kids: “I’m not their hero, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t brave.” [my full Idolator review]

Standout Tracks: All of it, but I'll highlight Shock To Your System and I'm Not Your Hero. Closer has one of the best middle eights of 2013.

...and more fantastic albums/EPs, in no order:

 
Little Boots Nocturnes
A big leap for Boots, Nocturnes is more cohesive and goes deeper into pulsing, moody dance music. I love that's a slow burn, not big ebullient pop. Motorway, with its tale of late night escape, is one of my songs of the year, followed closely by Shake (this album's Stuck On Repeat) and the pure pop of Crescendo

Standout Tracks: Motorway, Cresendo, Beat Beat, Satellites, Strangers. The only one I don't love is Broken Record.




Goldfrapp Tales Of Us
A much-needed turn away from disco pop, Tales Of Us is thrilling and emotional. Almost a concept album (all the songs, bar one, are titled with names of people), the arrangements are rooted in acoustics, but end up swimming in the deep end of an orchestral sea. As I said in my Idolator review, "Don’t mistake subtly for weakness: the album is a perfect autumn headphone record. It will sound best as the seasons change, a soundtrack to falling leaves and lit fireplaces. To paraphrase one of the album’s astonishing ballads, Stranger, Tales Of Us will kill you, tenderly." [my full Idolator review

Standout Tracks: Stranger, Drew, Laurel, Thea and Annabel




London Grammar
If You Wait

The opening keyboards/vocals of the first track, Hey Now, set the tone for one of the quietest, most heartfelt records of the year.  Essentially an album of ballads and mid-tempos, it is unlike anything on the pop charts, yet it sold well in the UK. While 21 yr-old Miley Cyrus was embarrassing herself, 23 yr-old Hannah Reid was writing devastating stories like Nightcall ("I'm giving you a night call to tell you how I feel... I'm going to tell you something you don't want to hear.") Strangely, the bonus disc adds several of the best songs, with Maybe coming close to being my song of the year. If You Wait is a grower - it requires time, but it's worth it.


Standout Tracks: Strong, Maybe, Darling Are You Gonna Leave Me, Help, Nightcall.





New Order Lost Sirens
A collection of tracks discarded from the band's last LP (2005's Sirens), Lost Sirens is curiously far better than its source album. It's cohesive, yet varied in styles (Sugarcane is hopped-up dancepop, while Recoil sways and shimmies) and a concise 8 tracks. The fact remains that New Order is no longer: Bernard Sumner (who sounds amazing here) and Peter Hook hate each other. Lost Sirens is their swan song. Superb album cover too; I bought it on vinyl.

Standout Tracks: Californian Grass, Sugarcane, Recoil



A dream come true. Out of nowhere, a new Prefab Sprout album appears on Soundcloud, in full. Wut?! Is it a fake? No. Within months, the legendary Paddy McAloon officially releases what ends up being in Prefab's top 4 albums (Steve McQueen is tops, with three others shifting ranks). Paddy remains my favorite male vocalist and his lyrics are still marked by sharp wit. Check this bit from the flawless first single, The Best Jewel Thief In The World: "Vigilance is lax / Security complacent
Adjacent to the gem, a diadem of pearl / Is the best jewel thief in the world... / Watch your legend grow / The rooftops are for dreamers / You strike and then return, Lucerne–Heathrow / The best jewel thief in the world." They don't do pop music like this anymore.

Standout Tracks:
The Best Jewel Thief In The World, The List  Of Impossible Things, Dreamer


Diane Birch Speak A Little Louder
Diane told Idolator that she was inspired by 80s music like Bowie and Siouxsie Sioux, but I really hear Stevie Nicks in her early solo phase. A lot of artists have mined Stevie (hello, Florence), but no one has really captured her mid-eighties sound as well as Birch does on Pretty In Pain, with that quivering vibrato and rolling piano/bass-driven chorus. The album's major ballad, Unfkd, is serious stuff.  In my dreams, she performs it at The Grammy's with a choir.

Standout Tracks: Pretty In Pain, Love And War, Unfkd, Frozen Over, All The Love You've Got, It Plays On. This album is fucking great.



St. Lucia When The Night

St Lucia's long awaited debut album thunders across the dance floor. The lush single Elevate - my song of the year - is held aloft by monolithic synths, while The Way You Remember Me recalls a lost John Hughes soundtrack. Band leader Jean-Philip Grobler’s voice is right up front in that track’s polished mix of big drums, synths and — sigh — a sax solo. Early single September is a leaner disco machine with swoops of falsetto vocals and a sense of elegant urgency. This is music equally compelling beneath strobe lights or sunshine. [a variation of this review was done for Instinct Magazine]

Standout Tracks: Elevate, September, The Way You Remember Me, Too Close, Wait For Love, All Eyes On You




Sky Ferreira Night Time, My Time
How she pulled this off, we'll never know, but Night Time is a slayer that should carry into 2014 if there really are golden rock gods. Apparently it was recorded in three weeks and never properly mixed, but the result is fizzy collection of pure pop (the flawless Boys and 24 Hours), 80's swagger rock (You're Not The One) and even electrop (Love In Stereo). I Blame Myself is a major manifesto and one of my songs of the year, while the murky, hyper Omanko manages to merge 80's punk with distortion, breathy vocals and this poppy chorus: "I'm gearing up for the Japanese Christmas." And the title means pussy in Japanese.

Standout Tracks: The epic You're Not The One, I Blame Myself, 24 Hours, Boys





HAIM Days Are Gone
Sisters with voices! Though they rock hard live, the album is a friendly 80's romp through FM radio. 


Standout Tracks: The Wire, Falling, Days Are Gone, If I Could Change Your Mind, Don't Save Me



Slow Knights Cosmos
A collective of New York artists banded together by Scissor Sisters' "George Harrison figure" Del Marquis, Cosmos did not get the attention it deserved. My favorite song remains I Got It Bad, a shimmering slow jam by Chrissi Poland that sounds like it was left off a Cherrelle/Alexander O'Neal album back in the day. Bridget Barkan's Kingdom is equally rooted in "quiet storm" beauty. Note that the Bright Light Bright Light remix of Sweet Harmony (sung by Mykal Kilgore and Bridget Barkan) is my remix of the year.


Standout Tracks: I Got It That Bad, Sweet Harmony, Under Attack, Kingdom




Betty Who The Movement EP 
God bless Betty Who for self releasing a free EP of 4 perfect pop songs that basically saved summer. She's a towering platinum blond, all red lips and sassy charm who whipped up four flawless tracks: Somebody Loves You is best heard on a beach boombox, while Right Here is all romantic anticipation. You're In Love features a chorus that puts "Betty " (real name: Jess) a vocal high-wire. And then there's High Society, with its own new rules: "We drink chardonnay through the day 'cuz we say so."




Telsa Boy The Universe Made Of Darkness
Is Tesla Boy's Anton Sevidov more than his pretty face? YES. Four reasons: 1) The slinky, elegant opener Undetected 2) Dream Machine, which sounds like it was built from Madonna's Get Together table scraps, 3) Stars, the big pop moment here and 4) 1991, lost LaBouche! [my Idolaor piece on Tesla Boy]

Standout Tracks: Stars, Dream Machine, 1991, Undetected

More solid records this year, worth your pennies:


Autoheart Punch
(check out the single Agoraphobia)
Alison Moyet The Minutes (my fave jam is Love Reigns Supreme)
Studio Killers Studio Killers (OMG Jenny!)
Pet Shop Boys Electric (for Vocal and Thursday especially)
Pure Bathing Culture Moon Tides (check single Pendulum)
Blood Orange Cupid Deluxe
(check single You're Not Good Enough)
Thomas Dybdahl What's Left Is Forever
(check Man On A Wire)
Annie The AandR EP (flawless, but Back Together is my jam)
CHVRCHES The Bones Of What You Believe
(my fave is We Sink)

What did I forget? Please comment or bellow below. Trash me/chat me/kiss me on Tumblr, lastFM, Instagram and, of course, Twitter.