June 17, 2007

XO Reviews: Little bit of diss, little bit of dat.

There are so many albums that I want to review, but either don't have the time or just cannot find extensive/decent words to describe them. Reviews need a hook or they get dull. To dance around this mess, I've decided to do some wee capsule reviews for you.

Fields Everything Last Winter
A truly strange record. Equal parts raging wall-of-guitars, strong melodies and wintry folk music in the great British tradition. Some songs, like Song For The Fields and the single, Charming The Flames, combine both elements and it's this stew that makes Fields unique. I don't play this enough, but come Fall I will.
Hear more Fields at myspace

Just Jack Overtones
Jack Allsopp's first album, The Outer Marker, was brilliant trip-pop. The follow-up, which actually got press and play, does not quite live up to the promise. It boasts one of my top 20 songs of the year, the woozy, robotic Disco Friends, but it also has a lot of filler. Still, No Time is epic disco and Spectacular Failures is a suitably grand ballad. Starz In Their Eyes, a skewering of American/Pop Idol, is surely a zeitgeist record for 2007. The album is worth your precious dollars; it's just not quite the full-on monolith I wanted it to be.
Hear more Jack at myspace

Maroon 5 It Won't Be Soon Before Long
Years and millions of dollars in the making, the M5 album is worth the wait. Oversexed Adam Levine toiled away in his Chateau Marmont bungalow, whipping up the best pop/rock/soul this side of Jamiroquai. Typically, the bad stuff is faux Prince (Kiwi with its ...drippy.. lyrics), but there are enough great tracks here to justify purchase. Among them are the strutting single Makes Me Wonder. Fantastic summer single! Other faves include Better That We Break and Not Falling Apart. I hope everybody read Paul's great interview with Adam Levine in Instinct. Hear more M5 at myspace

Mika Life In Cartoon Motion
A fun pop album, no doubt, but one of the more derivative collections of the year. Love Today shamelessly rips off Scissor Sisters, while Grace Kelly, fab though it is, is just a clusterfuck of other songs by other people. Nothing approaches the brilliance of early single Relax (Take It Easy), which actually sounds like it was recorded in 2006. Lollipop- a sort of update of Jean Knight's Mr. Big Stuff (remember that?) - is the sickest ear candy in years, with children singing, "Sucking too hard on your lollipop, love's gonna let you down." Wot!? Honestly, Mika's extreme success baffles me and makes me wonder what is afoot in the starmaker machinery. He's likeable, but why him over any other good artist?
Hear more Mika, if you must, at myspace

Mr. Hudson and The Library A Tale Of Two Cities
Fans of Captain, Ghosts, Upper Room - all the Britpop faves- take note! This band has seriously slid in beneath the radar. I would have never known about them, but for The Zapping. The sound is a moody mix of dubby pop and jazz - pazz'n'jop, as The Village Voice might say. Upon The Heath, Picture Of You and Tale Of Two Cities (the title track is a hidden track!) are all lovely and lowkey, while Take Us Somewhere New has more oomph. They even do a song from My Fair Lady, though my roommate had to point this out to me. My own favorite is the piano-based Upon The Heath, with its image of the singer smoking weed on Hampstead Heath.
Hear more Mr. Hudson at myspace

Mutya Buena Real Girl
The first warning of a dud was the bland album title and impossibly dull artwork. Debut solo single Rea Girl is shamelessly built on a Lenny Kravitz sample that it takes awhile to hear through. It's a decent track, but not a "wower" like her collab with Groove Armada, Song For Mutya. There are few other decent songs, including Breakdown Motel, Paperbag, and the lovely, Sugababes-y It's Not Easy. Still, too many tracks are simply atrocious. B-Boy Baby with Amy Winehouse is the most criminal, an attempt to co-opt another artist's sound in the cheapest way possible, by again ripping off an old song. Don't get me started on the poor grammar on Wonderful. Oy! Am I being too hard on My Beloved Mutya? No. She is one of the best voices out of England today, but that's not enough. You need good songs and Real Girl is bereft of them.
Hear more Mutya at myspace

Feist The Reminder
Leslie Feist deserves her own post, but I am not sure how to write about The Reminder. It's a really strong collection, if not quite perfect. 1234 and My Moon My Man are some of the finest, most joyous pop songs of the year [yes, pop, indie charmers!]. Just click on her name in the labels below to watch the videos, which make the songs even better. Feist also tackles jazzier sounds with Honey Honey and makes loneliness sound gorge on How My Heart Behaves. There are a few songs I willfully don't like, but the number of beauties here makes up for that.
Hear more Feist at myspace

Travis The Boy With No Name
While the new album is better than 2003's weak 12 Memories, it's baffling to me that the band took 4 years to come up with such a meandering set. Closer is lovely, as are Colder and Underneath The Moonlight with KT Tunstall. Still, the album lacks a driver like Turn, perhaps because they have been away from live performance for so long. Hear more Travis at myspace

Coming soon, I hope: Full reviews of Ghosts, Tracey Thorn, and Siobhan Donaghey.


Paul said...

i'm loving the mini reviews, i've had to start doing the same since i've had so much music convulge onto me in a short period. Kiwi is the worst song on the M5 album, but the rest is pretty stellar, though i am a bit biased. The travis album has really grown on me, and i have this huge theory on why Mika is the least original star in pop, but also the most inventive which is far too long to go into here...

J'ason D'luv said...

It won't be soon before long before Mika is just another used-to-be. And Just Jack -- what the hell happened to him? That second single didn't even go Top 30, and who knew he had a nother single being released tomorrow?

Adem IAR said...

You know, on the basis of the reviews I've read of Mutya's album, I still haven't listened to it, and I love her. I'm pretty worried, because a lot of people with similar tastes have told me it's pretty shocking. Maybe this weekend when I've not so much study on.

"Kiwi" is the only song on the M5 album I'm not liking.

Phil said...

How about a mix CD of key tracks from each album and call it "Now That's What I Call Not the Shit Ones"

It's so hard these days to like a WHOLE album. Why can't bands leave it at 12 tracks and be done. There's too much waffle. And who on earth started those 'intro' tracks? I blame Janet Jackson.

hahaha harumph ;)

countpopula said...

Some bands/artists can leave it at 12. The problem is that, now that physical singles are no longer a viable option (except rare circumstances), artists feel they have to give you everything that's been recorded for the project, hoping that you'll find something there to love and giving the fans what they want.

I blame the downfall of the single (and maybe a little Janet too. She's not alone though--Prince anyone? Does anybody else remember Kirstie Allie's spoken bits all over the "symbol" album??? Yikes.)

xolondon said...

Okay, yes, a 21-song sampler of the albums:

Fields: Song For The Fields, Charming The Flames (2)

Just Jack: Disco Friends, Starz In Their Eyes, No Time (3)

Maroon 5: Makes Me Wonder, Better That We Break, Not Falling Apart (3)

Mika: Relax, Grace Kelly, My Interpretation (3)

Mr. Hudson: Upon The Heath, Tale Of Two Cities (2)

Mutya Bunea: Real Girl, It's Not Easy, Breakdown Motel (3)

Feist: 1234, My Moon My Man, How The Heart Behaves (3)

Travis: Closer, Colder (2)

Michael said...

That Fields record is great - I love the vibe a lot.

I have top admit that I love the Mika too, and as wrong as it is my kids love "Lolliop", and sing along to every word. Actually, they do that to the the whole damn record!

alan. said...

just jack's "mourning morning" is so delicate and uncomplicated...
i love it.

and what about the "talk too much" remix with miss minogue?...

maroon 5's "nothing lasts forever" is quite adorable.

mutya's "this is not real love" with george michael is exquisite.
but i'm partial to the down-tempo "25" version.

no mention of feist's "the limit to your love"?
for shame.
that's undoubtedly the best track on the whole album.

good stuff you've got here, xo.