December 31, 2006

2006: The Year That Was



This post is a guide to my various Best Of lists for 2006. A good way to get a sense of (or be confused by) my taste. Included is my list of favorite songs of the year....

The 21 songs below do (err don't!*) fit on an 80 min CDR. This was very hard to whittle down, so there are some extras below. The key to XO's heart and soul? Swoony strings, handclaps, a stomping beat, and /or oooohs. I could do all sorts of lists, but this is The List...

Note - the first 2 songs are truly the Top 2, but the others are in no ranked order.

1 Minimal: Pet Shop Boys UK
I won't try to review this beautiful song again- just read what I said here.
2 Pull Shapes: The Pipettes UK
The most thrilling opening moments and a great sing-along track: I like to rhumba! The praise you'll see no blogs in the next 2 weeks is much deserved.
3 Transatlantic Flight: Lorraine NOR
How could anyone dislike this? Pet Shop Boys-esque brilliance. We hope this album, Pop Noir, is released in early 2007.
4 Live With Me: Massive Attack UK
Speaking of noir, Terry Callier's rumbling vocal is so urgent and passionate. I could play this over and over - it has never worn out and came close to being my top song.
5 Stay Until Summer: Alexis Strum UK
Ahhhh, Alexis, another track that never wears out. This song gets "XO's Middle Eight Middle Eight of The Year" ribbon. The vocals on that bridge that part are goosebump-inducing as they climb up and down the scale.
6 Black And White: The Upper Room UK
The greatest unrequited love song in many a year. The band met a sad demise, but this song will always be a fave. It's my teen and college years in one song.
7 Never Be Lonely: The Feeling UK
Feel Good song of the year, especially the sing-along ending. Please note that Dan sang this to me (and a small audience of like ten people) this fall. Ummm- hmmm, he did!
8 Living For The Weekend: Hard-Fi UK
Ya gots ta love a rock band with a strong sense of disco. I feel like strutting when I play this song. Going out tonight, baby you and I, going out tonight.
9 Tell Me All About Your Day: Skye UK
Thanks so very much to Tremble Clef for this modestly pretty song. Read his review. We had a nice blogger lunch summit this July and will again soon!
10 Knock ‘Em Out: Lily Allen UK
This funny song captures everything great about Lily. She does all the voices too. I would love to see her knock that fake bitty Jojo right off the TRL charts. Female Voice Of The Year. Haters suck my dick. ;o
11 Back In Time: Linda Sundblad SWE
Late entry! I love the slightly wonky English on this swirling discopop track that came to me via the great Catchy Tunes Of Sweden.
12 Magician Man: The Pipettes UK
This track knocked Keane's "Leaving So Soon" off the list at the eleventh hour moment and now the mix is too long*! Anyway. I played this song endlessly. So much so it will soon have it's own post, complete with MP3. Stay tuned.
13 Sophia: Nerina Pallot UK
A perfect distillation of Sarah McLachlan and Tori. Creamy smooth with a nice sense of melancholy. A good song to calm me down.
14 Naive: The Kooks UK
I could have also chosen "She Moves..." but I think this one is their classic. Luke gets my Male Voice Of The Year Award as well - love the way he sings the word asking at 1:42. The ending "hold onto your kite" bit makes me so happy.
15 Rehab: Amy Winehouse UK
It's all in the hook: No No No. In a right world this song will make every Best Of list. Go Mark Ronson! Amy, should we worry about you or not?
16 With Every Heartbeat: Robyn with Kleerup SWE
Not technically released yet, so I debated whether this should be here. Fuck it, it's genius. Robyn is still a well-kept secret and she shows more promise as a major artist than anyone I can think of.
17 I’ll Do Whatever You Want: Memphis CAN
I have not yet bought the CD, so expect more news on this Stars spinoff band. "Is it wrong / To create a song / In the ashes of what / We believed in?" A perfect, delicious indie pop song for those who love fighting and drama. Expect a wider release for this CD in 2007.
18 The Long Way Home: The Dixie Chicks USA
A manifesto in the form of a pop song. Everyone should listen to this when they don't feel brave or are hiding their true selves: I opened my mouth and I heard myself...It can get pretty lonely when you show yourself. Late bloomers unite! Saw them live - brilliant, but forgot to review them. Sorry Anne!
19 Dear God Please Help Me: Morrissey UK
Swear to God, this song made me cry the first time I heard it. Cry cry cry. Get over the sex in the lyric, it's a conduit to something greater. This is about self-awakening and the fear that brings. Fits nicely with the song above in this sense. The heart feels free.
20 Unlike Me: Kate Havnevik NOR
Bjorkian granduer. This Guy Sigsworth collab is defined by it's diving and fluttering string arrangement. Note the moments the orchestra actually gets louder (1:45 and the end). Key line: Unlike you, I am not pretending. [Heh! I was working through some shit in '06? My only comment is this: don't linger to let people tell you you're shitty or it will stick. Don't devolve. Clean cuts. High roads. Movement forward.]
21 The Songs That We Sing: Charlotte Gainsbourg FR/UK
Possibly the coolest record of 2006. Take a close listen to the lyrics. Great songs, like great stories, have brilliant opening lines: "I saw somebody who / Reminded me of you / Before you got a face / I wish that you could have stayed that way."

Additional 2006 Best-Of Posts:

Top Ten Albums of 2006

The Best POP Tunes

Superlatives of The Year (Best This'n'That)

Best Album Covers

Producer Of The Year: Mark Ronson

Best B-Sides, Remixes and Leftovers

Best One Hit Wonders

Videos Of The Year

It was 20 years ago tonight



HAPPY NEW YEAR!

That's me in my teenybopper bedroom on December 31, 1986 (stop doing math!) with the lovely Joanna, who is still one of my best friends. Look around at your friends, young'uns, because one day, if you're lucky, you'll be aging sexpots like Joanna and me.

XO's 2006 Superlatives: What was HOT



XO in Warholian replicate. Weird to see me?

Favorite Group: The Pipettes tied with Pet Shop Boys

Favorite Female Solo Artist: 3-way tie! Amy Winehouse, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Lily Allen

Favorite Male Solo Artist: none!

Singing Voice Of The Year: Luke of The Kooks (male) and Lily Allen (female)

Favorite New Artists: The Upper Room (RIP), Lily Allen, The Pipettes, Captain, The Kooks, Hard-Fi, Camera Obscura (new to me!).

Artists Whose Labels Made It Impossible On Their Fans: Alexis Strum, The Modern (aka Matinee Club) and The Upper Room, who were all dropped too soon.

Album Cover(s) Of The Year: see here

Favorite Video(s): see here

Producer: Mark Ronson (see here)

Mashups Of The Year: Madonna vs. Death Cab Hung Up On Soul , The Supremes vs. Ultra Nate Free Love Child, Madonna vs. Trammps Music Inferno

Top B-sides and Remixes Of The Year: see here

My most popular post this year? Probably this one from April '06, complete with old photo de moi and weird tidbits about me.

2006 Annual Kylie Minogue Leaks (eww!) Award: On The Up and So High As usual Kylie discards are better than most pop songs by other artits, God bless her.

Albums / Artists I Liked That Were Near Impossible to Buy: West End Girls, Bertine Zetlitz, Katie Ryan, anything good by Robyn, Linda Sundblad

Artists Who Deserved Better in 2006: The Upper Room, Jamelia, Lorraine, Delays, Pink

Good Rock Stars This Year: Lily Allen, Faris Badwan (of The Horrors), Johnny Borrell (of Razorlight)

Sexiest Stars Of Music: Charlotte Gainsbourg and Ola Salo

Fave Viral Video: There were many but this recent one is also educational. I love how he cals Cheyenne "Cheney"! I cannot do this, btw...

Most Overated: Justin Timberlake. Runner-ups: Timbaland, Stefy, BWO (sorry gang!), Nelly Furtado

Best Imitations: Jessica Simpson’s uberMadge-y A Public Affair, The Upper Room sounding like The Lilac Time, Kate Havnevik sounding like Bjork and Imogen Heap.

Artists Whose Good Records Sadly Made Little Impact In 2006: Richard Ashcroft, Shawn Colvin, Lloyd Cole, Kelis, Prince, Morrissey, Badly Drawn Boy, Frank, Scissor Sisters (for me anyway).

Guilty Pleasure: Jessica Simpson’s ubergay A Public Affair

Best Lyrics Of The Year: The Pipettes “Magician Man” (lyrics by?), “Addicted” by Amy Winehouse, and “The Operation” by Charlotte Gainsbourg (lyrics by Jarvis Cocker)

Best Song Title: Luke Haines’ Off My Rocker At The Art School Bop

Chill Music Of The Year: Skye Edward’s beautiful album Mind How You Go– so low key that no one listened to it., but it’s very good. I should note that Morcheeba fans didn't like it much.

Best Comeback(s): Pet Shop Boys – it practically makes me cry. Some of the best music of their career, not to mention a zillion PSB products!

Artist Who Transcends Pop: Pink. We all thought she might be ovah when her last album didn't do well, but I'm Not Dead was a fantastic genre-popping record with great melodies and "blistering" vocals. Pink is one MTV artist I think should be heard by everyone. She's spunky, beautiful and very talented. I think she's in it for the long haul...

Live Show Of The Year: Arena: Madonna (MSG, NYC) / Mid size: Pet Shop Boys (DC, DAR Hall) / Club: Neko Case (9:30 Club, DC)

December 29, 2006

2007: Diz song is fukn mint*




I have been confusing Just Jack with Hot Chip for awhile. Just Jack is actually Londoner Jack Allsopp (Kirsty, hello?), who raps and sings to very modern backing tracks that Beck would cry for.

His new single Starz In Their Eyes is, as Kofi's Hat would call it, an earworm that burrows into your brain. People are comparing to him to The Streets, but his singles are closer to Lily Allen in that he does whimsical pop-rap with what looks like a bundle of cash behind the videos.

The quesion is, can he sing? He can certainly talk-sing. I wouldn't have lingered on him were it not for the great music, which somehow boosts the vocals. The songs sound fully built, with little nooks and crannies to disappear into. Go to his myspace page and check out Disco Friends, a totally different flavor with a smooth chorus of robotic vocals (a la Daft Punk) and cello breakdown. Another, Talk Too Much sounds like...err... Prince playing flamenco with Tom Tom Club in Majorca. The bass heavy Spectacular Failures features a full choir on the chorus. Sophisticated stuff.

Stream 5 full songs at Bebo

Following on the Keane post below, Jack also has terrific artwork that positions him as a man in the heart of all activity...



Just Jack Snowflakes MP3
From his first album, 2004's Outer Marker. Just Jack's spirit mother, Neneh Cherry, is channeled on this monolithic triphop track, a melancholy song notable for a huge string section.

Get the album Overtones on January 29 in the UK. Watch his earlier video Writer's Block. Jessica at DirrrtyPop and Wongie have given him their blessings, as have the kids at PopJustice.

* The title of this post is a comment about this song I noticed on YouTube .

December 28, 2006

2006: Nobody but stars in here tonight



Top 10+1 B-sides
All of these tracks were superior to tracks that actually made their respective albums - and in most cases are single-worthy.

1) Magician Man The Pipettes
2) Spring Park Hotel Captain
3) Speeding Cars Imogen Heap
4) Undercover Nelly Furtado
5) My Needs Will Young
6) Nan You're A Window Shopper Lily Allen
7) Italian Girlfriend Lorraine
8) Absolute Power The Divine Comedy
9) Heartbreaker Pink
10) Boys Will Be Boys Goldfrapp
11) Thin Air Keane

Top 10 +1 Remixes
Note that the first two are light years ahead of the others in feeling my love. All these songs were on my anti-flab gym mixes... constantly. Freesmasons need to remix everything, especially all of Queen Luther's tracks. Their mixes lift me up and drop me off in heaven. I should also add that it's hard to listen to the originals after hearing such great mixes as these 11.

1) Shine (Freemasons Club Mix) Luther Vandross
2) I Feel It (Cicada Mix) Lorraine
3) Erotica / You Thrill Me (Stuart Price Tour Mix) Madonna
4) Strangelove (Lodge Mix) Sarah Nixey
5) Music Inferno (Stuart Price Tour Mix) Madonna
6) Judy (Blue States Mix) The Pipettes
7) The Stars Are Blind (Tracey Mixshow) Paris Hilton
8) When You Were Young (Jacques LuCont Mix) The Killers
9) Minimal (Love Mix and Telex Heaven Mix) PSB
10) Deja Vu (Freemasons Mix) Beyonce
11) Only One Too (Stonebridge remix) Jewel

Note that these mixes were discovered via bloggers like D'luv/Moogabear, Zeon and Arjan. Thank you to all of them...

Top 10+1 Late-to-the party tracks
Songs from other years that I either discovered late or kept playing well into '06. These are actually not in a any order...

1. Feist Mushaboom
2. Robyn O Baby
3. Death Cab Brothers On A Hotel Bed
4. Sugababes Ace Reject
5. Memphis Love Comes Quickly
6. Will Young All Time Love
7. Kurt Nilsen Weddings Off
8. June Tabor Hard Love
9. Claudia Brucken Lipstick Vogue
10. Bertine Zetlitz Girl Like You
11. Dannii Minogue You Won't Forget About Me

Saturday is my list of the Superlatives (best this'n'that) and that's the END of the lists for 2006! Hurrah!

photo courtesy of Hedi's blog

Keane in '06: A lament




My favorite album of 2004 was Keane's Hope And Fears. Most of you didn't read this blog in its early days, but I loved the album, the concert and the band. I'm sorry to say that 2006's Under The Iron Sea completely underwhelmed me. There were some brilliant songs (esp. Crystal Ball and Leaving So Soon), but first single set me off badly (I was irritated by the attempt to sound like u2) and it was downhill from there. At the time of release, I complained that there was something off about the album and now we know the conditions under which it was made, with Tom in a drink/coke spiral, being a dick. It's all over the lyrics.

Regardless of addictions or in-fighting, the group made a series of bad decisions along the way, the most recent of which is to release Bad Dream as the 4th single, when it clearly should have been either Leaving So Soon or Frog Prince. The new b-side is intriguing though: a cover of The Cult's She Sells Sanctuary (along with what will likely be another shitty remix).

As for their video output, don't get me started. The new Bad Dream video is the ultimate in naval-gazing bullshit. My God, how dull. Again, where they could do no wrong before, it is now a comedy of errors. Watch the new video here. Warning: there is no payoff, the video goes in a circle and, in fact, metaphorically bodes ill as Tom goes from darkness to light rto darkness again.

The up news: they sound reinvigorated since Tom's release from the drunk cell. Their Dirrrtylicious radio performance was inspired (see it on their website) and the Thin Air b-side on Nothing In My Way single was decent. Now there's an alternate universe in Germany that gets Try Again as a single (covers above) on Feb 9, with a live album's worth of b-sides:

2 Somewhere Only We Know - Live from Duisburg, Germay
3 The Frog Prince - Live from Duisburg, Germay
4 Try Again - Live from Duisburg, Germay

2 Everybody's Changing - Live from Duisburg, Germany
3 This Is The Last Time - Live from Duisburg, Germay
4 A Bad Dream - Live from Duisburg, Germay

2 Nothing In My Way - Live from Duisburg, Germay
3 Is It Any Wonder? - Live from Duisburg, Germay
4 Bedshaped - Live from Duisburg, Germay




The Sanna Annuka artwork continues to thrill, yes? I am pretty sure that Annuka did the cute Christmas stuff at Starbuck's.

Let's hope Keane will learn from the traps they fell into and wow us with a great third album in 200..8?

December 27, 2006

All together now: ooooh! ahhhh!



Out in two weeks! It will include my live faves
Hand On Your Heart and Spinning Around, plus
White Diamonds
and a Kids with Bono.

December 26, 2006

2007: Damien Leith



Wongie introduced me to Damien Leith, the 2006 Australian Idol. 30 years old, he was born in Dublin, but now lives in Australia. The song is lovely, if a wee bit derivative, and his voice is flawlessly smooth.

Pertinent question du jour



Is Fantasia Barrino a foreskin fanatic?

I notice her new song is called Hood Boy. Hmmm! Maybe it's just Boys In The Hood versus Boys With A Hood?

I do love this song though. It's fucking uplifting and will for sure be on my lists for 2007. Listen close though and note that Big Boi has executed a brilliant rip on MC Lyte's Ruffneck and Bee's Crazy In Love. The explicit version is laden with the N word and her vocals are rough as shit - like breaking up ragged. Bitch has been around the block!

yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

Hear it on Fantasia's myspace page or buy it on iTunes US. Watch the video above. Who styled her? My God! That one eyelash?

December 24, 2006

It's December 24th...



It's Christmas, so where is the snow? It's 55 here!
Am preparing to leave for my parents now, presents
in hand. Merry Christmas everyone...

2006: XO's Top 10 Favorite Albums

The Illustrious Top Three:



1. Pet Shop Boys Fundamental (special edition) UK
If someone had told me in '04 that PSB was headed for a renaissance, I would have wistfully sighed. They'd hit the point where they were just doing one or two sublime songs per album. Fundamental is loaded with them. It's melodic, it hots all the PSB classic notes, and it is produced to minute perfection by Trevor Horn. Nothing is left to chance - there are brilliant details all over these songs. If you want to read more about what I said on this blog, just go to this PSB Guide.

Standout tracks: Minimal, Integral, Numb, The S&G Show, Fugitive and Twentieth Century



2. The Pipettes We Are The Pipettes UK
I don't like 60's girl group music; never have, never will. For me, The Pipettes produce music that sounds like an 80's group (a la early Bananarama) doing a take on the 60's. I doubt I was alone in having a moment hearing Pull Shapes for the first time. Thrillingly, the album stood up to the promise and the girls proved to be collectible with their b-sides as well. They are only artists to have two songs on my 2006 Essential Mix.

Standout tracks: Pull Shapes, Sex, A Winter's Sky, Judy, Your Kisses...



3. Charlotte Gainsbourg 5:55 FR/UK
I strangely never reviewed this CD, but it has been on constant rotation (if MP3s can be on rotation). It is the most modern, uber-cool record this year, with music written and performed by Air, lyrics by Jarvis Cocker and Neil Hannon and wipsy vocals by my beloved Charlotte. It's the kind of record that makes you feel like stripping it all down, throwing out your material bullshit and being totally minimal.

Standout tracks: The Songs That We Sing, The Operation, Little Monsters, 5:55

The Best Of The Rest, in no order:

Amy Winehouse Back To Black UK
A rare album that actually has a theme! Do I need to tell you what it is? Addiction. To drink, to drugs, to men, to drama, to "fuckery." It is soulful, totally frank and very funny. The press twists lot of what Amy (and Lily) say and do - it's projected onto them to create the saleable story of wild bitches in pop. Move beyond it and listen to the tunes.

Standout tracks: Rehab, Tears Dry On Their Own, Back To Black, Addicted

The Upper Room Other People’s Problems UK
I owe this discovery to The Zapping! The late, great Upper Room harkened back to the great 80's era of British pop. Buoyant, melodic, heart-on-sleeve, via unrequited love (the ecstatic Black And White) or fuck offs (Leave Me Alone). No one sings this way anymore and it was so refreshing to near this kind of voice (Alex Miller) again. It seems to me you lived your like a candle in the wind, Upper Room... whatever, the best music often ends in tears.

Standout tracks: Black And White, Kill Kill Kill, All Over this Town, Leave Me Alone, Portrait

HARD-Fi Stars Of CCTV UK
Rock band noted for disco leanings (covered by Sugababes!) and a thick Brit accent via lead Richard Archer. This group can do it all, from swaggering (Hard To Beat) to sweetly emotive (Move On Now). Ecstatic music! Can't wait for the next disc.

Standout tracks: Hard To Beat, Move On Now, Living For the Weekend, Stars Of CCTV

Razorlight Razorlight UK
I love Johnny Borrell, a classic skinny-rock star-cum-sex-god, and I love his willingness to do pop music that has melody and emotion. This album polarized reviewers and bloggers, but I love it. Pop kids, give this one a chance. Plus, he wears white jeans really well.

Standout tracks: In The Morning, America, Los Angeles Waltz, Can't Stop This Feeling I Got, Who Needs Love?

Kate Havnevik Melankton NOR
Nu-Bjork, maybe, but it's a huge-sounding record flooded with great tunes; many are collaborations with Frou Frou's Guy Sigsworth. Derivative? A little. Epic? Yes.

Standout tracks: Unlike Me, Sleepless, Kaleidoscope

Skye Edwards Mind How You Go UK
Thanks to Tremble Clef for Skye. This is another misunderstood record that suffered from listener neglect. I learned to love this when wanting to play something soft in my office. The lyrics are quite strong on some tracks and meant a lot to me on my dour days.

Standout tracks: Tell Me All About Your Day, Stop Complaining, Love Show

Lily Allen Alright, Still UK
What a spunky debut record! Another album that lived up to the promise of its singles. Don't listen to old hookers who slag Lily (!), just listen to the honesty in Friend Of Mine... "You're no friend of mine / I've known it for a long time...", the hilarious characters in Knock 'Em Out or the feminista singsonginess of Everything's Just Wonderful. With brilliant videos and b-sides added, she is a perfect pop package.

Standout tracks: Smile, LDN, Knock 'Em Out, Friend Of Mine

***********************************
Strong Albums That Had To Be Cut From This List:

Captain This Is Hazelville, Jamelia Walk With Me, Neko Case Fox Confessor Brings The Flood, Delays You See Colours, The Divine Comedy Victory For The Comic Muse, The Feeling 12 Stops And Home, Camera Obscura Let's Get Out Of This Country, Pink I'm Not Dead

Pet Shop Boys in 2006: XO's Guide



Pet Shop Boys are my favorite pop act of 2006. I didn't expect it, but can you think of a group more worthy? They released their finest CD in over 10 years (my Album Of The Year), did a phenomenal tour, released an art book, DVD documentary, videos and passel of b-sides on singles. And they did it with the usual wit and elegance. Here is a list of some of my PSB reviews in 2006...

XO Reviews Integral, April 24, 2006

XO Reviews Minimal, April 27. 2006

XO Reviews The Sodom And Gomorrah Show

XO Reviews Fundamental, May 29, 2006

XO Reviews PSB Boys Live in Washington DC, October 15, 2006

Best PSB Fan site: Euphoric

picture courtesy of PSB site Pet Shop Boys Online

December 22, 2006

2006: Worst Makeover

Linda Sundblad before:



Linda Sundblad after:



She looks like she's 40 in her video. It's like a fashion shoot
run amok. Chill on the slap, Linda!

December 21, 2006

2006: The 26 Best POP TUNES


in no order, this is for hardcore pop fans only...

Alexis Strum Stay Until Summer
Pink Who Knew
Lorrain I Feel It (Cicada Mix)
Pet Shop Boys The Sodom And Gomorrah Show
The Feeling Never Be Lonely
The Pipettes Pull Shapes
Jessica Simpson Public Affair
Madonna Erotica / You Thrill Me
Frank Silence
West End Girls Suburbia
Jamelia Get Up Get Out
Bertzine Zetlitz 500
Linda Sundblad Back In Time
Lil Chris Gettin' Enough?
Gwen Stefani U Started It
Sugababes Easy
Laura Michelle Kelly There Was A Time
Janet Jackson Enjoy
Dannii Minogue So Under Pressure
Nelly Furtado Undercover
The Modern Industry
All Saints Headlock
Dangerous Muse The Rjeection
Bouncey Irreplaceable
Robbie Williams Lovelight
Cassie Me & U

picture courtesy of posthipster

Quote Of The Week

Thomas Friedman of the NYT, speaking on Meet the Press, 12/17/06:

Think of what happened this week. OK, Dick Cheney, the vice president, stood up at a massive farewell ceremony for, for Rumsfeld at the Pentagon and said he was the greatest secretary of defense in American history. Now, if that is true, either George Bush is a fool or Dick Cheney is a liar, all right? Because either George Bush just fired, at the height of a war - at the greatest national security threat of our country’s current era - the greatest secretary of defense in history, or Dick Cheney thinks we’re all walking around with a sign that says “Stupid” on it.

you can watch it at that link above

December 19, 2006

December 16, 2006

2006: XO's Essential Mix



These 21 songs do* actually fit on an 80 min CDR. This was very hard to whittle down, so there are some extras below. The key to XO's heart and soul? Swoony strings, handclaps, a stomping beat, and /or oooohs. I could do all sorts of lists, but this is The List...

Note - the first 2 songs are the Top 2, but the others are in no ranked order.

1 Minimal: Pet Shop Boys UK
I won't try to review this beautiful song again- just read what I said here.
2 Pull Shapes: The Pipettes UK
The most thrilling opening moments and a great sing-along track: I like to rhumba! The praise you'll see no blogs in the next 2 weeks is much deserved.
3 Transatlantic Flight: Lorraine NOR
How could anyone dislike this? Pet Shop Boys-esque brilliance. We hope this album, Pop Noir, is released in early 2007.
4 Live With Me: Massive Attack UK
Speaking of noir, Terry Callier's rumbling vocal is so urgent and passionate. I could play this over and over - it has never worn out and came close to being my top song.
5 Stay Until Summer: Alexis Strum UK
Ahhhh, Alexis, another track that never wears out. This song gets "XO's Middle Eight Middle Eight of The Year" ribbon. The vocals on that bridge that part are goosebump-inducing as they climb up and down the scale.
6 Black And White: The Upper Room UK
The greatest unrequited love song in many a year. The band met a sad demise, but this song will always be a fave. It's my teen and college years in one song.
7 Never Be Lonely: The Feeling UK
Feel Good song of the year, especially the sing-along ending. Please note that Dan sang this to me (and a small audience of like ten people) this fall. Ummm- hmmm, he did!
8 Living For The Weekend: Hard-Fi UK
Ya gots ta love a rock band with a strong sense of disco. I feel like strutting when I play this song. Going out tonight, baby you and I, going out tonight.
9 Tell Me All About Your Day: Skye UK
Thanks so very much to Tremble Clef for this modestly pretty song. Read his review. We had a nice blogger lunch summit this July and will again soon!
10 Knock ‘Em Out: Lily Allen UK
This funny song captures everything great about Lily. She does all the voices too. I would love to see her knock that fake bitty Jojo right off the TRL charts. Female Voice Of The Year. Haters suck my dick. ;o
11 Back In Time: Linda Sundblad SWE
Late entry! I love the slightly wonky English on this swirling discopop track that came to me via the great Catchy Tunes Of Sweden.
12 Magician Man: The Pipettes UK
This track knocked Keane's "Leaving So Soon" off the list at the eleventh hour moment and now the mix is too long*! Anyway. I played this song endlessly. So much so it will soon have it's own post, complete with MP3. Stay tuned.
13 Sophia: Nerina Pallot UK
A perfect distillation of Sarah McLachlan and Tori. Creamy smooth with a nice sense of melancholy. A good song to calm me down.
14 Naive: The Kooks UK
I could have also chosen "She Moves..." but I think this one is their classic. Luke gets my Male Voice Of The Year Award as well - love the way he sings the word asking at 1:42. The ending "hold onto your kite" bit makes me so happy.
15 Rehab: Amy Winehouse UK
It's all in the hook: No No No. In a right world this song will make every Best Of list. Go Mark Ronson! Amy, should we worry about you or not?
16 With Every Heartbeat: Robyn with Kleerup SWE
Not technically released yet, so I debated whether this should be here. Fuck it, it's genius. Robyn is still a well-kept secret and she shows more promise as a major artist than anyone I can think of.
17 I’ll Do Whatever You Want: Memphis CAN
I have not yet bought the CD, so expect more news on this Stars spinoff band. "Is it wrong / To create a song / In the ashes of what / We believed in?" A perfect, delicious indie pop song for those who love fighting and drama. Expect a wider release for this CD in 2007.
18 The Long Way Home: The Dixie Chicks USA
A manifesto in the form of a pop song. Everyone should listen to this when they don't feel brave or are hiding their true selves: I opened my mouth and I heard myself...It can get pretty lonely when you show yourself. Late bloomers unite! Saw them live - brilliant, but forgot to review them. Sorry Anne!
19 Dear God Please Help Me: Morrissey UK
Swear to God, this song made me cry the first time I heard it. Cry cry cry. Get over the sex in the lyric, it's a conduit to something greater. This is about self-awakening and the fear that brings. Fits nicely with the song above in this sense. The heart feels free.
20 Unlike Me: Kate Havnevik NOR
Bjorkian granduer. This Guy Sigsworth collab is defined by it's diving and fluttering string arrangement. Note the moments the orchestra actually gets louder (1:45 and the end). Key line: Unlike you, I am not pretending. [Heh! I was working through some shit in '06? My only comment is this: don't linger to let people tell you you're shitty or it will stick. Don't devolve. Clean cuts. High roads. Movement forward.]
21 The Songs That We Sing: Charlotte Gainsbourg FR/UK
Possibly the coolest record of 2006. Take a close listen to the lyrics. Great songs, like great stories, have brilliant opening lines: "I saw somebody who / Reminded me of you / Before you got a face / I wish that you could have stayed that way."

December 15, 2006

2006: One Hit Only, One Hit Only!

I feel a bit cruel creating this list, but as usual, there were numerous cases in 2006 of artists who only created one song I liked. I'd get excited to hear their album and the find nothing else that popped. That is not to say these artists are one hit wonders don't have futures or that the CDs were not good... I just latched onto one track. Note that none of these made my "essential" mix, but I like them all a lot.

My Architects Under The Pines MP3 exp - gorgeous Britpop song
The Weepies The World Spins Madly On Veronica Mars video
Morningwood Nth Degree clever vinyl-lovin' video...
Le Sport Lovetrain In King's Cross MP3 exp
The Similou All This Love
Nighmare Of You I Want To Be Buried In Your Backyard
Clear Static Make-up Sex video
Peter, Bjorn And John Young Folks video - cute animation!
Jenny Lewis Rise Up With Fists! video
Ed Harcourt Revolution In The Heart video - anthemic!
Midlake Roscoe Fleetwood Mac-cy MP3 exp
DJ Shadow feat. Chris James You Made It MP3 exp- Coldplay ripoff
Luke Haines Off My Rocker At The Art School Bop video. Richard X production!
Jessica Simpson Public Affair shitty video that killed the song
Cassie Me & U Deep Throating song! Janet ripoff video
Javine (homewrecker!) Don’t Let The Morning Come video
Terri Walker I Don’t Care
Keisha White Don’t Mistake Me Brit soul video
Simon Webbe Sunshine (Love Like That) Brit soul MP3 exp

and who could forget...

Barbra Streisand Shut The Fuck Up MP3 exp

Coming this weekend: The Essential Mix...
my favorites that fit on an 80 min CDR

December 13, 2006

2006: RXolondon

Like any year in music, in 2006 someone had to have a bad day. Here are some artists who either offended me or just didn't move me like they should. Being a polite sort, I not only bring the problems to light, but also offer solutions!

Janet Jackson: Cancel your tour and have / adopt a baby from an African country. Wear cashmere sweaters with a shirt underneath. Release a double CD hits record next fall with 3 killer new tracks, two by Jam & Lewis and one by someone else worthy, but not another Jackson. Ban your little dog Jermaine from tinkering with your career. Sing about social issues and support Barack - that's Barack, not bareback! - in 2008. Come back after he wins.

Keane: Do not release Bad Dream. Release Frog Prince with two brilliant new b-sides, one being a cover of Ultravox's Reap The Wild Wind. Tour in the Spring to prove Tom is healthy and that you are not fighting, but do not spend a year touring an album that's only half good. Take a decent break and record a perfect new album - use a little bit of real guitar and some strings. Simple!

Scissor Sisters: Release Everybody Wants The Same Thing and give it some great remixes. Do proper video with Sophie Muller - one with no actors playing parts. Appear on Jo Whiley to sing a cover of Wanna Be Startin' Something. Do a few songs for the next CD using funny voices and dialog. Re-record / release Backwoods Discotheque.

Robbie Williams: Go away. For a long time. And not to LA. or London. And then come back in '08 with a ten song pop album, perhaps a full CD with Mark Ronson. Make sure it has some beats and some strings. Make sure it is not schizophrenic: no one knows who you are anymore, though I doubt you do either.

The Killers: Muzzle Brandon now, but first shave his beard. Force him, Clockwork Orange style, to view clips of a boastful Kanye West and then show him Powerpoint slides on Kanye's declining sales. Chill on the loud guitar and Americana Bruce-isms. Bring back the new wave. (Note: if you didn't like Sam's Town, this is the CD you want)

December 12, 2006

All these things should make me happy



For fans of Nip/Tuck, the song the cast lip-synced at the end is called Brighter Discontent by The Submarines. Without giving too much away, the changes at the end are welcomed! The show totally redeemed itself after a putrid 3rd season in 2005. Amazing casting this year, with Peter Dinklage, Catherine Denueuve, Jacqueline Bisset - not to mention the hilarious Rosie O'Donnell eps. Most importantly, of course, Julian McMahon resolved his hair issues...

Download Brighter Discontent now via iTunes.

PS: I love Kelly Carlson!

December 11, 2006

2007: The Year Of Mika?



I am fashionably late to Mika's party: I like to see how the feathers fall. Paulie Z and Arjan, among others, have been (operatically) singing Mika's praises for quite some time, but I was too busy frothing over ma belle Charlotte Gainsbourg to join this caravan. Now I'm on board and, ummm, honking the horn.

Things to know: Mika (meeka) is 22 and skinny, Lebanaese/ Parisian/ British, musically post Scisstors/ Rufus W/ Freddie Mercury. The voice is rubberband elastic and multi-octave. He is pop with elements of glam rock, disco, and - clearly, if ironically - Jesus Christ Superstar. There is a 70's thing going on here, but I would not, as some have, liken Mika to [shudder] Leo Sayer. That's just a moptop hair thing...Mika and XO share that hairstyle.

Mika's EP Dodgy Holiday is out now on 7 Digital and iTunes UK and the debut album Life in Cartoon Motion hits on Feb. 5. A kicky new single called Grace Kelly is out on Jan. 29; it sounds like a lost hit by the fictional Brian Slade / Maxwell Demon from Velvet Goldmine. [See that movie? No? Take a peek.] Regardless, here and now is a free download of my fave...

Mika Relax, Take it Easy

Also watch Mika perform an acoustic version of Grace Kelly on Jools Holland - this is really good.



You can still download the Love Today at Arjanwrites. That track honestly sounds like a duet between Jake Shears and Miss Piggy. I want to hear the full-length version Lollipop which sounds like 70's classic Mr. Big Stuff. Hear that snippet and more playing on Mika's website.

XO's Prayer Coda: Dear Lord, I only want to say please let Mika's career live. Just because I enjoy him does not mean he cannot be successful, right, O Wise One? Yes? Yessss, everything's alright now, everything's fine.

December 10, 2006

La Strum Noel

[ring ring]

Alexis Strum: Yes. Alexis.

Xolondon: La Strum!? I know you have, like, left the music business, but could you please, like, record a Christmas song to bring closure to this annus horribilis?

Alexis: XO, is it you? I love your work and the signed nude piccies you sent were hawt! You want what, peach?

XO: A wee Christmas tune. Something slightly...bitter? With penguins.

Alexis: Penguins, snow, Christmas, umm, lonesomeness? I am writing it as we speak darling, but only if you put me on your Essential Mix.

XO: You got it, Strumbird. Thankeeee. As our pal Paulie Z would say, I hope you have a delightfully delightful holiday! Buh bye!

Alexis: Peace out, bitch!

read my last "phone call" with Alexis here. Source Perez.

Patty's new look for 07!

Green = music



Is it just me or does Lenny Kravitz's daughter (above) look just like her mother, the smokin' (NSFW) Lisa Bonet? Meanwhile, Lenny - who usually dates models Zoe's age - finally looks age appropriate.

Note that I updated the Best Videos of 2006 post below. I forgot one of the cleverest, by Jenny Lewis. Also check out my post below on Sarah Nixey of Black Box Recorder.

Ya'llz need to get over to PopMuse for a special Tracey Thorn exclusive. PopMuse rocks my cock!

Rumor: Deepest Blue will be doing new music. ??? In the meantime, check out singer Joel Edward's myspace for some elegant music, particularly Eve So Blue. His CD is out in 2007.

The kids over at Fetch Me Some Music were sharing Lindsay Lohan remixs and instrumentals. Have they no shame? No wonder it seems to have died. I am way too old for this shit.

Mrs. Xolondon, Angie Jolie, is on the new Vogue.

I love how talent-free Ashanti's new single is called My Lips Are Waiting. Ewwww!

Keeping up with Paul de Zappin's lifestyle posts, if you want to know how I will smell when you hug/ravage me at your holiday party this year, I will smell like Gucci Pour Homme (aka Gucci Gonad) or Hermes D'Orange Vert - I have worn these for years, except for 2002 when I wore Paul Smith that I got in Paris (always buy a cologne there that is not sold in the US!). It is important to smell nice when people hug you, but I personally don't wear cologne to work etc. Note that Amazon has great prices on scents.

KulPop has news on a Blue Nile February American Tour (Birchmere for locals!) and a remix of Tinselton In The Rain, one of XO's all-time favorite songs. I get misty hearing it.

Meanwhile I can also see Camera Obscura when they tour the US this January.

Be sure to read what Tremble Clef says about Linda Sundblad and her epic song Back In Time, which totally knocked Jamelia off my upcoming 2006 Essential Mix. he has the MP3 and he also links to Jessica's Stylus review of Sundblad's album.

While we're on Jessica at Dirrrty Pop, she has also - busy girl - started to count down her 25 Most Poptastic Songs Of 2006. I have been doing my lists all year, literally, in a Word file and will start posting them in a matter of days.

I love Paul's Holiday Diaries.

I highly recommened the new Freemasons / Siedah Garrett track Rain Down Love that The Eyepod is featuring.

Americans cannot afford a Popjustice tee-shirt! $36 plus shipping. Curse the weak dollar. (I expect some snark on this post, d'luv?)

Torr has a meandering new Moz b-side. 2006 was not really Annus Mozzerus, but he will have a song on my aforementioned Essential Mix.

Lycanthropy has a new Patrick Wolf song, Augustine. Not a studio version, but still new!

La Fleur has sadly not written the next Last Christmas. Why have I grown so weary of him? Read Chartrigger's new post about Band Aid and its history.

Did you notice that Imogen Heap up for Best New Artist at the Grammys? Wow! I mean, don't the Grammy's usually nominate people like, say, Pussyflap Trolls? Actually she is up against Carrie Underwood, Corinne Bailey Rae, James Blunt and the Usher-ripoff Chris Brown (who paid for that nom!?). Note that Immi told fans at a recent show that she's begun her next album. I suspect a few of the kids just expired right there from the excitement.

My Gwen Stefani review is in blogger limbo and may never see the light of day: it (the review) just doesn't pop. I give the album a 6/10 btw.

Lorraine's CD will likely by called Pop Noir. Good title boys, but let's see a release date before we start to drip with excitement.

Travis have well and truly disappeared. Would it hurt them to do a little update and say something like, "We broke up, dumb assholes!" or "Album in Spring"?

Finally, would someone fucking pickle Joanna Newsom for wearing this hat?

This is Sarah Nixey talking



Sarah Nixey, the dry, aristocratic voice of Black Box Recorder, is coming back with a solo album this Valentines Day called Sing, Memory. Sarah is many women: Severe school headmistress, sultry sex ed instructor, and escapist butterfly (?) on the recent single The Collector (video).

You may have seen that Arjan is whipping up a froth about Sarah. It worked: I love love love the Lodge remix of her song Strangelove (no, not a Depeche cover) and you can hear it further down this post.

Now, Sarah has very tenacious PR getting her name onto blogs. They realize which blogs are appropriate for Sarah support (unlike the people who think I should be hosting Lucinda Williams contests - not to slight Lucinda. But I digress). I completely misunderstood this bit of Sarah's press packet, written by the esteemed Paul Morley:


She's doing her own thing, liberating herself from having to sing/act the songs of the parts of Black Box Recorder that fancied themselves as a diseased Lloyd Webber and Rice, or a violent Tennant and Lowe, or a creepy Lennon and McCartney. She remembers her odd days in BBR with fondness, but is now happy to be concentrating on developing her own way with language, melody and pleasure, to be breaking away from the Black Box boys disturbed obsessions.

That got my feathers up, but the rep said to chill: "Who wouldn't anyone want to be a creepy Lennon and McCartney?! it's meant in good humour..." The press packet also has a description of Sarah's music / style that is so well composed it makes me want to give up blogging:

Sarah sings, talks, whispers and sighs moody, mesmerising nightlife city centre songs and tender beat ballads about things she has remembered and things she will one day remember.

That says it all really. I have not heard the CD yet, but Sarah's myspace page is streaming several new tracks that sound good. She has a Goldfrapp thing (Felt Mountain era) going on, like eerie sixties soundtrack music.

Sarah Nixey The Collector video
Sarah Nixey Strangelove (Lodge Mix Radio Edit) stream below



The Strangelove mixes are out on Dec 11/12 on itunes or TuneTribe with the album to follow in February.

Shameful PS: Would you believe I stupidly sold all the BBR albums I had?
To quote Streisand and Gibb, "What kind of a fool am I?"

December 9, 2006

2006: Videos Of The Year

1. The Pipettes: Pull Shapes



An homage to a scene in Russ Meyer's Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls movie. See original sequence here. Isn't this one of the most briliant video launches for a pop band ever? It is super cool, fits the song and it's also really funny. Horny kids should look for the naked lady bopping around randomly.

2. Bertine Zetlitz: 500



Chic and stalkeresque. Seems to me the launching point for this video is a line from the song: "You know I have been sweet on you forever / That's why I have been stealing all your stuff." It's nice to see a pop artist present an image of herself that is off-kilter. Bertine is not the ingenue in this video. She's the villain! Or maybe the bland blond model is the villain?

3. Nerina Pallot: Sophia



A very simple premise: girl at a her piano, on fire. Shot beautifully - there are some nice horizon shots of her sitting there, all aflame. I think that Nerina looks like a cross between a lost Minogue sister and Amy Acker, who played Fred on Angel. This is a beautiful song that I played on a loop one weekend I received some sad news about a death.

4. Jenny Lewis and The Watson Twins: Rise Up With Fists!



Jenny Lewis, a former child actress, delivers a flawless performance in this Loretta Lynn / HeeHaw homage, with an intro by Sarah Silverman. A shout out to my friend Alison McCoy, who Jenny Lewis looks just like.

5. Lily Allen: Smile



God bless Lily Allen! She gets a lot of stick for her big gob, but she's come to save pop with British wit, intelligence, great tunes and original style. This video captures her wicked side quite well - love the laxatives bit! Message? Don't date Lily Allen, don't betray Lily Allen. Just dig her music. I love you Lily, please text me...

December 8, 2006

2006: Producer of the Year: Mark Ronson



Let me begin my 2006 "superlatives" now, m'kay? The Producer Of The Year is, without a doubt, Mark Ronson. Vim and vigor are great old words to describe his work in '06. Some of his credits this year include:

Christina Aguilera Without You
Lily Allen Littlest Things video
Robbie Williams Lovelight video
Amy Winehouse Rehab video
Mark Ronson with Alex Greenwald Just video

Ronson brings a brilliant, soulful sound that's often distinguished by his work with the Dap Kings, a horn(y) combo. The epic Amy Winehouse album is probaby the best distillation of his talent thus far. Mark even has his own label, Allido, and on April 17, releases an album called Version. It will feature reworkings of Coldplay (God Put...), Titney (Toxic), Kaiser Chiefs (feat Lily Allen on vox!) and The Jam (Pretty Green, very BowWowWow-ish and sung by Santo Gold).

The important bit: also included is a cover of The Smiths' "Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before", reconfigured by Ronson with vocals by new Austrialian white soul boy Daniel Merriweather. It's phenomenal and you can hear a piece of it via Mark's myspace or in full via Columbia's site. It's so fucking passionate, I just want to run around screaming when I hear it, especially when Daniel starts singing The Supremes' "You Keep Me Hanging On" at the end. You don't want to know how I jizz at the slit over those relentless strings. Oy.

I just have to say for the record that most of this post was actually written on October 22. I am not copying Mr. PJ., nor have I heard the new album, but PopJustice is right about Ronson. Expect Mark to dominate 2007 with his fresh updates of great old tunes and his buoyant production for other artists.

And by the way, forget Timbaland, he is an arrogant fucker.

December 7, 2006

Let me tell you you're the sweetest thing


You need to do as I say and click on the picture above. Do it. Now.

Go away
Round the world
Talk to all
Kinds of girls
But it's me
You will find
In your mind
Tracey Thorn, It's All True

December 6, 2006

Mini break

Don't worry I shall return shortly. You cannot blog when you don't want to, ya know? And it's a busy time of year!

December 3, 2006

New for 2007: GoodBooks



The royal We at "Xolondon Towers" cream over good Russian avant-garde art direction, like the poster above, which is so very Franz. As for the music under the wrapping, you just never know who will assume the mantle of hot new British pop band. Cherubic, jaunty, melodic, retro in a good way, GoodBooks is the name and Leni is their first CD single, so get in on it from the beginning...

GoodBooks Leni video
GoodBooks Walk With Me video from their indie days
GoodBooks interview in a van video

Links: GoodBooks myspace and website. Buy it at Amazon UK. Per usual, thanks to Torr for the inspiration.