August 26, 2009

Mini-reviews: XO's Instinct

Almost every month, I contribute reviews to a magazine called Instinct. Sometimes I'm assigned albums and other times I choose. It's always fun because the guidelines are specific: 80 words or 125 words, depending on the review's placement on the page. There's something very pleasing about enforced conciseness - it makes you trim all the fat off your writing. It's for an arts page of a more general magazine, so the reviews are not for pop music buffs. You need to be careful with your references and background information. The most important thing for me is, in such a short span of words, that I am as specific as I can be, giving actual song titles; I don't review the artist (as often happens in mini reviews), I review the music.

Here are a few reviews Instinct has published over the past few months. All are as-published in print, with the exception of the Little Boots review, originally for the America-only EP Illuminations. I've expanded that to the whole album.

David Guetta One Love

Imagine you are David Guetta. You sleep until 4pm, before DJing in Dubai, Mykonos, or Ibiza for huge crowds on massive sound systems. You only make music when it feels right. And you embody the word elan. For One Love, Guetta’s latest dance-pop hybrid, longtime vocalist Chris Willis returns, sounding strangely like Michael Hutchence. Then Guetta notches it up with some big names: Akon, on the catchy Sexy Bitch, Brit chick Estelle, and the ubiquitous Will.I.Am, whose tracks are particularly mindless in this batch of party tunes. It's Kelly Rowland who finally becomes the bride on THE song of summer '09, When Loves Takes Over. She takes it to the core with both of her tunes and Guetta finds his match in creating unadulterated euphoria.

The Gossip Music For Men

On Music For Men, The Gossip slam out a pop record with four rock elements: heavy bass, guitar, relentless drums and the fierce vocals of Beth Ditto. Industry swami Rick Rubin anointed the plumptious diva as the future of rock and her voice has real thrust. The final 45 seconds alone of Pop Goes The World are as thrilling as anything you’ll hear this year. The song has a tsunami of a chorus. You are hearing the sound of NOW.

Little Boots: Hands

Victoria Hesketh - aka Little Boots - is living the dream. She's a bedroom synth noodler graced with a major label deal. These summery tunes won’t change the planet – like all discopop, Stuck On Repeat channels Donna Summer - but her debut is filler-free. LA-inspired New In Town veers from swaggering to cooing, while Symmetry, a duet with Human League's Phil Oakey, is frothy electropop in its purest form. Hesketh's identity is hazier on Remedy, produced by Lady Gaga cohort RedOne.

Jimmy Somerville Suddenly Last Summer

There's no one quite like Jimmy Somerville, who spent the twenty years following his astonishing 1983 debut, Smalltown Boy, producing iconic discopop. His first new album in five years, Suddenly Last Summer (online only) is a collection of subtle covers. Blondie hit Hanging On The Telephone, for instance, is transformed into a gorgeous, melancholy guitar ballad. If you’re seeking rapturous disco, revisit the oldies. For those sated by Jimmy’s still-beautiful voice, download the heartbreaking Sweet Unknown and you’ll want more.

Wild Beasts: Two Dancers

When I heard The Devil’s Crayon from Wild Beasts 2008 debut, Limbo, Panto, I thought I'd discovered new Britpop gods. I was shocked to find that track was sung by bassist Tom Fleming. Lead singer Hayden Thorpe's flailing falsetto is a seriously acquired taste. On Two Dancers, the band sounds, to quote a lyric, “equally elegant and ugly.” First single Hooting and Howling has a Radiohead sleekness, but When I'm Sleepy (about eating supper?) is consciously arty. Sample before buying.

These albums are available in most territories via iTunes.


Yuяi said...

Good show, XO! I love reading your concise yet full-flavored reviews. One has to be extremely disciplined to pull off a successful mini-review. I wish my writing was as good.

And congrats on their publication as well.

Aaron said...

Brilliant stuff! As Yuri said - I wish my writing is that good, I struggle with a 300 word review...

Anyways, Congrats on the magazine placement! Chris Willis is a brilliant vocalist, and I can't wait to hear the David Guetta album!

Must hear the Gossip album - Little Boots' album is decent enough

Anonymous said...

You should be a writer. I see James Joyce parallels. Might be the ketamine though.

xolondon said...

Oh no, heart, I think you should be a writer.

countpopula said...

Excellent reviews! I was just telling a friend last night how rockin' the Gossip album is. Amazing how three people in a typical "live rock band" format (and one who doesn't really play an instrument) can make such a brilliant racket (see: Yeah Yeah Yeah's). Beth Ditto's voice more than compensates for the spaces in the music. Brilliant record.

I think Yuri and Adem should BOTH be writers as well.

Anonymous said...

LOL! Thanks babes!!! I'm more of an actor/singer/dancer myself though. We're all creative in different ways. Sometimes I get a fire in my belly and I just want to put some Florence on and roll around on a stage draped in a sash or something. Intercepting my performance with little yelps, the odd monologue, some vocal scales. That's how I express myself. Other times I'm feeling more reflective and throw some Tori on the stereo, turn the lights off and lay in awe on my bedroom floor whispering, oh oh smother me Mother. I'll give the writing thing a go too though, God, I love a new challenge LOL!!!!!

DanProject76 said...

Cool as usual! My husband keeps playing Wild Beasts tracks in the car so I might have to go rummage around and see if he has an album.

Myfizzypop said...

i wish i could afford an Instinct subscription, but alas Entertainment Weekly and Details plus Attitude and Q take up all my magazine allowance. I live vicariously through your words :)

D'luv said...

Your Instinct editor is lucky to have you.

xolondon said...

The first version of this post talked about my Instinct editor, but it seemed OTT so I took it out. Anyway, peoples, my Instinct editor is very smart and dreamy and I always want him to be on my kickball/kickass team.