April 30, 2009

Mini-reviews: This used to be my playground

What should one name the phenomenon of a band announcing they've recorded their Best Music Ever and then you discover that the record is just sort of meh? We've seen this time and time again, especially when a band or artist is on a roll. Several of the great acts of my youth have recently released music I am decidedly mixed (or worse) about...





U2 No Line On The Horizon

Has U2's new album brought peace to the Middle East? They seemed to believe it would. Who craes when you can pour over sleeve photos of ageless rough trade drummer Larry Mullen? The croaky atomic bomb that is first single Get On Your Boots did them no favors. Why offer rat-a-tat-tat grunge when we need sweeping grandeur? U2 may try too hard (Moment Of Surrender) or smoke too much hookah (Fez), but a shaft of heavenly light still shines over White As Snow and I’ll Go Crazy.*

Depeche Mode Sounds Of The Universe

I had the SOTU boxset edition in my hot hands the day this album was released. It is thrilling, with multiple discs, documentaries, 2 books, 2 BUTTONS, etc. A true music geek experience. I just wish I liked the album more. In Sympathy and Perfect are great pop radio tunes, and Wrong, which seemed such an odd single choice, actually sounds better in the context of the album. It’s nihilistic for sure, but the lyrics are sharp and Martin Gore’s wailing near the end is sublime. Only Peace comes close to what I wanted from the band that lifted my soul with Never Let Me Down Again and Enjoy The Silence.


Morrissey Years Of Refusal

It's diminishing returns for Morrissey since 2004’s perfect You Are The Quarry. Refusal has a paltry portion of stand outs: the Your Arsenal-esque Black Cloud and recent single Throwing My Arms Around Paris among them. It’s Not Your Birthday Anymore, which has a spine tingling vocal performance, is absolutely perfect. What went wrong with the rest? Lack of tunes (two have been released before) and very slight inspiration. If I have to hear the painful chorus to Someone Is Squeezing My Skull one more time, I will stick my head in a vise.

*Fans should note that the Paris b-sides Because Of My Poor Education and Shame Is The Name are better than 75% of the album tracks.

**Review published in the April issue of Instinct Magazine

April 29, 2009

Beth Ditto: Ah, ah, ah, ah, oh, woah, yeah-oh, yeah-oh





MuuMuse
has Heavy Cross, the new discopoprock song by The Gossip. I love Beth Ditto. I've seen her live once and her voice is a power of nature. It has thrust. Plus, she's real; she's neither censored nor canned. I hope she stays that way. Rock swami Rick Rubin has anointed her the future of rock music, but this new tune fortunately does not bear his rootsy stamp. She's from Arkansas - do foreigners know how to say that? - and Southern girls are either horrific or fabulous. Beth is the latter.

UPDATE: Rick Rubin DID produce the record. See their recent Twitterview.

A few freebies: If you've never seen her performing I Will Always Love You in her Dolly getup, check this out.
And be sure to peruse her Steven Klein spread in Pop Magazine...

April 28, 2009

It is Kate that brings us together



I'm sure I've said it before, but in college I had a poster of this image on my wall; it must be 6 feet tall. It's rolled up in my house - cannot bear to part with it. But more to the point, everyone should have this EP. Be Kind To My Mistakes is one of Kate's finest songs.

The Heap names her album



Ellipse. Named after the house she recorded it in (her family home). That's Immi above, in an airport - isn't she cool? She's traveling around playing people tracks from the CD, out this summer.

Follow Imogen's Twitter

Maybe California, maybe not.

Spinner.com is offering a free legal MP3 of Tori Amos's new ballad Maybe California. The track is a big John Philip Shenale-conducted epic. Not bad by any means, but it's no Gold Dust or 10,000 Oceans for sure. If you download it, you'll also get a small surprise regarding the artist and album title...

Tori Amos Maybe California:



The accompanying visualette (sigh) is a variation on the Welcome To England video. Which begs the question: Are all the visualettes (cough) going to be Robotic Stepford Tori traipsing listlessly around various locales in extreme couture? This video does have some beautiful images in its final moments, but I yearn for the overalls-wearing Tori who was able to move her facial muscles enough to show us her dimples. She was real. This girl is not.

Over the last few albums, I feel like Tori is really putting up a wall between her fans and her true self. She performs in "character" and does videos like this. Interviews are pretty serious, so we don't get a sense of who she is now. Maybe that's natural - Tori is not the first to do it, but it makes her less interesting to me. I don't care what Pip or Clyde thinks, I care what Tori thinks.

The first review of Tori's new album is now up and it's basically a variation on the reviews we've read for the last few albums. More of the same, darklings. Whatever, we'll always have Tori at her full power.

April 27, 2009

Lamya: New music streaming



A very kind reader named Mclean alerted me that music from the album Lamya recorded before her death is now streaming on her myspace. It's a natural progression from Learning From Falling. Titles include View From My Shoe, Sick Of Falling In Love, Foxes In Boxes, Bed I Never Made, If Not Now When? and the one I like best, Lady Borderline, which has a great lyric, "With her head up her ass and her feet in the sand..." The songs are less electronic, but have the same twisty melodies that wind along, guided by the lyrics and her lovely voice.

You may recall that Lamya died of a heart attack in January, not yet 40. I love the message on her myspace page: "We thought of you with love today, But that is nothing new. We thought about you yesterday. And days before that too. We think of you in silence. We often speak your name." I had no idea when I posted the news of her death that 6 weeks later I would suddenly lose a close friend to a heart problem, so I sympathize with her family and friends all the more. We are lucky to have Lamya's music - I'm just sorry we cannot discuss it with her.

Little boots, lotsa tacky

Little Boots New In Town:



PopJustice just debuted New In Town, the new video by Little Boots. He calls it slightly odd, which I think is a diplomatic way of saying "slightly crap." It'll be interesting to see how Little Boots career goes. She has major label backing and, really, this video is evidence why that's not always a good thing. It's pandering on many levels, from the trite contrast of well-dressed blond girl in the midst of a bunch of homeless people, to the bizarre blowjob choreography at the end. It also would have been better had she actually danced. This version does have the beautiful middle eight, which comes at the point when it becomes night in the video.

Note, iTunesUK has 30-second samples of all the songs on the new album. Symmetry, with Phil Oakey, still sounds like the one I'll really dig.

April 25, 2009

Tonight it's Maxwell. Now starts the craft.

Tonight I am stuck on this:

Maxwell's PERFECT performance of This Woman's Work last fall. Survive the horrific audience singing from 1:20 -1:49 because the payoff is at 1:50ish, when it really takes off with some major stage drama (pause in song, silhouette, down on knees) and then the unbelievable middle eight, where he fucks the falsetto (3:00) and goes for it.




Had I been there, I would have cried like a baby.

He's back Tuesday with a press conference. I expect this album, Black, to be huge.
I hope it will push him into the pantheon of, you know, greatness. The new single, Pretty Wings, is fucking opulent.

Pretty Wings preview:


April 22, 2009

Heartbreak make me a danse-uhh



Speaks for itself.

Update: PopJustice has a snippet of the final mix. It's Sophie's pinnacle.

April 21, 2009

Duran2: What happens tomorrow



Duran Duran's John Taylor
has blogged last week about the recording of their new album with Mark Ronson producing. At the end of the post, he could not resist a dig against Justin Timberlake and Timbaland:

Mark seems intent on delivering the DD album the fans have wanted for years. One that has the drive and freshness of the first few albums, that is quintessentially hip, without sacrificing any of the hard-earned personality and character of the musicians, something which sadly was lost when Timbaland and Timberlake were in the house. So Mark has me playing, and Roger playing, and Nick playing, hotter and harder than we have in years.

Stay tuned for the statement where John says, "You took that the wrong way!" I actually really like Red Carpet Massacre (hear it at LastFM). I just think it was marketed poorly. Wrong single and too much emphasis on the producers rather than the band. Let's hope they learn from that and don't overdo the Ronson Ronson Ronson chatter. Mark is similar to Timbaland in that he is associated with a very specific sound that seems quite un-Duran. Here is a pic of them in the studio. All will be revealed, all will be revealed.

While we await that album, EMI is re-releasing The White Album of my own youth, a 2-disc edition of Rio in June.

John Taylor I Do What I Do To Have You:



"Is my body heat the right intensity?"

April 20, 2009

Antigone's mixtape, literally



Men, women, love, sex, beauty, nighttime, self-reliance, muscles, makeup and music. AntigoneLand is out now on iTunes "worldwide." Note that Antigone is really the only unsigned artist I've ever covered. She's just brilliant and I love her music. Review coming soon.

The return of Jimmy Somerville



There's no one quite like Jimmy Somerville. I can't think of any male singer so accomplished at this kind of falsetto, with the exception of maybe David McAlmont. His vocals manage to sound pure, honest and opulent at the same time. He first appeared in 1983 with Bronski Beat, releasing one of the most important songs of the 1980's, Smalltown Boy. From 1985-88 he was the singer for the Communards, who had another round of hits before he went solo, releasing only four albums in the last 20 years, including 1995's brilliant Dare To Love.

Jimmy's been out of the spotlight for five years and he's been sorely missed. In May, his new album, Suddenly Last Summer, will be released digitally (only). It features 11 cover songs, including versions of Hanging On The Telephone, People Are Strange, Where Have All The Flowers Gone and Motherless Child. On some level, of course, I'd prefer original compositions, but it's fair to say some of his best songs are covers. Suddenly's producer, Andrew Worboys, says:

The new album is very stripped back; we used only a few instruments. Jimmy was very keen to record some of his favourite songs, but wanted to give them a twist and present them in a new way. Jimmy came to my house in the forest for a week, where he searched the internet for the songs he loved. Then we workshopped them around the piano... and we went into a studio in the mountains surrounded by bush.

You can preview two of the songs, Sweet Unknown and the old standard It's Love, on his myspace. His voice remains flawless.

XO's Top Ten Plus One Jimmy Somerville Songs (in no order except that the first one is truly my favorite)

Safe In These Arms
Never Can Say Goodbye
Dream Gone Wrong
Rolling
Someday We'll Be Together
From This Moment On
Disenchanted**
Smalltown Boy*
Hold On Tight**
Heartbeat
It Still Hurts

* with Bronski Beat
** with Communards



Note that the German fansite for Jimmy is a great source for updates. If you've not yet heard You And Me, his 2008 song with Blue Ray, watch the cheesy non-Jimmy video now.

Bronski Beat Smalltown Boy (live):

April 17, 2009

A common twat



Yes, sexy trolls, I am now tweeting. Just barely. No one will miss anything if they don't follow it. And if you expect me to be Ashton (cough cough), you'll end up... bereft.

You took something perfect and painted it red

Daniel Merriweather Red:



I'm still unsure how this album will be received. The first single, Change, flopped. The best songs - and Red is one of them - move away from Mark Ronson's Winehouse-isms to a more 70's AM radio sound. The record also includes a duet with Adele that is very sophisticated, if not blazingly commercial [I know jack: watch it be a huge hit]. The label keeps pushing Daniel's release date back, but this is really a fall album, not a summertime thing. Daniel has too much pathos for beers and beaches.

Watch the EPK. done last year.

April 15, 2009

Mixtape: Does it live up to your every dream?



What do you think of that picture of Tori? Her album samples are on iTunes US and they do not bode well for the final product, sadly. We'll see though - samples can be deceiving.

Napoleon's new single is titled I Try To Despise The Ugly People ( But The Beautiful Ones Keep Turning Me Down). I love the concept of ten 22-ish Swedes doing this kind of 80's British pop music, but I continue to react to the awful awful mixes, which disembody the lead singer from the backing track. Hear it at myspazz.

Simple Minds video for Rockets is out now. Don't dress up too much, Jim.

I'm fascinated by the amount of money being sunk into LeToya Luckett's new project. Her video, Not Anymore, looks like a movie. Maybe she used some of the money she pocketed when she settled with Matthew Knowles after being axed from Destiny's Child? Why this girl though? What makes her unique?

Annie's Anthonio is a perfect night driving song (evidence), but it was sort of an anticlimax when I finally heard the whole track. She just needs to stop dicking around and get the album out. Otherwise it's 2008 all over again.

Which reminds me, when is Heartbreak Make Me A Dancer coming out? The new collab between Sophie Ellis Bextor and Freemasons. Sounds monolithic.

Kate Havnevik's official single is out now, Show Me Love, and it's very... cute. It even has birds tweeting. It's nice, but doesn't have much heft.

Where are Arctic Monkeys?

And where is the new Lucas Mire album? I was playing a few new songs by him and thought, "Hmmm, there is some passion going on in this boy's private life!"

AntigoneLand next week!

Duran Duran and Mark Ronson. Hmmmph. Not sure about that. They are working with him on their new album. If it's like Robbie's Lovelight, great, but I don't want to hear them with horns and retro soul. At all. I still say Red Carpet Massacre was vastly underrated (and botched promotion-wise by their label).

Did any of you see Zac Efron promoting his new movie over the past few weeks? My God, he was built in a Disney Lab. All surface, no depth. Not capable of answering one question with anything other than pablum.

Speaking of which, ain't it cute that the Jonas Only-1-Is-Hot Brothers don't seem to know their album title Lines, Vines and Trying Times sounds like a cocaine reference? Tough life on the road, boys? I think if they want long term success, they need to go off and record with... Rick Rubin, haha!

Patrick Wolf's forthcoming song Hard Times (hear it at 8-1) is much better than Vultures. It's urgent and string-laden, but still has the muscularity of his new work. This should have been the first single. It has not gone unnoticed how unexcited everyone was by that Widget
a few days back, but the clips sound good.


I still prefer Fred Falke's remix of Little Boots' single New In Town, but the original has a perfect middle eight that is soooo Kylie (at 1:51, "Cuz I know how it feels to be alone..."). The vocals are so girlish. It's a plaintive contrast to the swagger of the chorus.

Frankmusik: the Danny Dove and Steve Smart mix Better Off As Two is great. Worryingly, his album release has bounced from April to June to July. If you didn't see the last Live And Lost episode, it was vair vair sweet and featured Davina MacCall (Brit TV presenter) shuttling him around.

Scissor Sister's Del Marquis is the new Breathe. Del Marquis is the new Halo James. For those who get the obscure latter reference. More on him soon, but I LOVE Remember Me Young. Get it for free (legally!) here.

La Roux and I are not likely to happen. I love her look and her artwork, but not her shrill voice. Her next single Bulletproof is better - total Depeche Mode 1983, but the rest is makeshift.

Do you know Heads Will Roll by Yeah Yeah Yeahs (hear it). It's quite slamming. I'm fascinated by the way that band is now considered a major contender. Karen is intriguing but that bowl cut needs to be retired.

I just added Eaten Alive by Diana Ross to my iPod. Love it. Didn't Whacko Jacko have something to do with it? Are that paedo's shows selling out in London? Jeebus!


Erik Hassle is pure radio pop, but it's vair vair good. Only heard four songs, but I'm eager to hear the new CD. His next single Don't Bring Flowers is as good as Hurtful. Be sure to read Adem's review of the album...

I see that Pink's tour is Funhouse-themed. Could this be any more trite? I love her but how many popstars have to do with Circus / Carnival theme? It makes me think that Pink's people consider children to be her demographic. I do love how the Times writer thinks she's a mix of Suzi Quatro and Madonna.

ABC played Royal Albert Hall to much acclaim Friday night. For the second set, Trevor Horn introduced them before they played every song from one of my favorite albums, The Lexicon Of Love, in its entirety. Read about it in The Independent and The Guardian.

April 14, 2009

When all else fails and you long to be....



Madonna talks about Steven Meisel, the photographer who has most"transformed" her in photographs, in the May 2009 US Vogue:
To hear Madonna talk about working with Meisel is like being let in on a long-held secret. She goes on, "Steven had a vision. He had done his research. He had very specific references. I really respected the care that he took with his work, how seriously he approached it, but at the same time he has a great sense of irony. He made me feel like I was part of something important. He treated each photo shoot like it was a small film and insisted that we create a character each time we worked but then would make fun of the archetypes we created. He was the first person to introduce me to the idea of reinvention."

Being the, errr, Madonnalogist that I am, I would argue that his reinvention/be-someone-other-than-yourself aesthetic crept into her own music. That's been the key to her success year after year: whether you like a particular incarnation or not, it is never boring.



And remember when the comparisons to Madonna are flying around a certain new diva, that bitch doesn't have 1/3 the beauty of Madonna. Just sayin'...

Design Scene did a post on this on Monday that got over 40 entertaining comments.

April 12, 2009

Diamonds are forever



Marina And The Diamonds are the bee's knees.

There is a level of complexity to her songs
and a depth to her voice that I'm not hearing in some of the other new electro stars on the scene (you know who they are). She hasn't sacrificed a great pop melody either. The band is recording their debut album now, but the first single/video Obsessions is out and an upcoming tune I Am Not A Robot! - the exclamation point is Marina's- is absolutely sublime. Hear both on myspace and you'll get what I mean about these tunes going beyond standard electropop.

Though Marina is not Anointed yet by the mass media, Peter "PopJustice" Robinson says, "
She is sort of the best thing ever isn't she?" Indeedy. She also seems to be a real girl - I loved her recent blog post about gay cartoon characters. It also doesn't hurt that, like me, she has Welsh roots and is a complete pop culture maven.



Marina's single Obsessions is not available in the US yet, but it is on iTunes UK and Amazon UK, as is Mowgli's Road. A great blog called Kickin' The Peanuts has more on M&D. Fluxblog has another gem called Shampain Sleeper (thanks Andrew!).

April 11, 2009

We had a little tear, now the tears are spent.

Mr Hudson There Will Be Tears




I've been waiting for this since last fall. Now it is here and it. is. beautiful. The final 30 seconds, simple piano chords repeating, literally made my eyes water. There is something deep, deep inside this song...

The album, Straight No Chaser, is one to watch for. It's out in July. A toast to Kanye West for recognizing and supporting this guy, who might not have had a second album otherwise. His upcoming UK dates are listed here.

April 10, 2009

Incognito



A photograph of two of the finest female artists of the last ten years, reunited after a long time, at a party in London. Mutya Buena and Siobhán Donaghy. If there is a Goddess, She will bring these women back to prominence.

April 9, 2009

Fred Falke you set me on you set me on fire



This Spring I am all about Fred Falke mixes. He's a French - that's Frédérick - music producer whose revamping pop songs without deconstructing them to the point they lose all melody. The remixes remain songs versus morphing into grooves. Although Fred's been around for years, working with Alan Braxe (check out their mix of Goldfrapp's Number One), his "solo" mixes are smoother, creamier pop creations, often in the mode of blissful French house music.

Here are some of my favorites. Most are hard to find on iTunes, so I've done a bit of sleuthing:

Kish Mauve Lose Control (Fred Falke Mix)

Ladyhawke Back Of The Van (Fred Falke Ultimate Beverly Mix)

Little Boots New In Town (Fred Falke Remix)

Mini Viva Left My Heart In Tokyo (Fred Falke Dub Mix)

The Whitest Boy Alive (aka Erlend Oye) Golden Cage (Fred Falke Remix)

Will Young Grace (Fred Falke Mix)

He's also done mixes for Lykke Li, Sugababes, Sneaky Sound System, PNAU w/Ladyhawke and, forthcoming, Annie's Anthonio

April 8, 2009

You are so beautiful to me


Photo by Marc Atkins

News from Wales:

Rose Elinor Dougall, The Artist Formerly Known As Rosay From Pipettes, has finished her new album, Without Why, and has a new single coming out June 8th on Elefant Records.

The new single is called Start/Stop/Synch and you can hear it at her
myspace or at Pitchfork. It's a strange one, very ambient sixities and not screamingly melodic, but as usual her sublime voice lifts the music right up into the clouds in the final 40 seconds.

Rose's rarely updated blog here

Madonna of the Ages: Someday it'll catch up with her



She either looks great or ... like Jackie Stallone. I can't decide which.




One hopes she's going to Stuart Price's attic studio in this shot from today.

April 7, 2009

Cover Story: Antigone



Brilliant. Note that she's actually on a set built for her by photographer Nik Pate. I love the font and how the arched letters work with the "place" concept of AntigoneLand, but somehow don't seem cutesy.

The tracklist:

Promiscuity
Hello Yellow
Funky Dancers
To Be Real
More Man Than Man
Mirror
Uberwoman
Life Without You
Into Your Head
Palomino
Waking Up Slowly

Antigone talks about Promiscuity:



I've done a review of the album for an upcoming issue of Instinct and will have one here soon. Needless to say, it's very good.

1985: The Dream Academy

The Dream Academy Life In A Northern Town:



The strange thing for an American obsessed with British music is that there are many videos I've never seen before. This tune, Life In A Northern Town, hit #7 on the US charts, but I don't really remember the clip, which is, of course, so very XO. Why couldn't I have been an English pop star running up and down the hills of Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire?

Second question: Could Nick Laird-Clowes be any cuter? I firmly maintain - pun intended - that the 80's were really the end of the great male pop stars. In the 90's, they became sexually self-conscious. Watch an interview with the band where baby-faced Nick talks about Nick Drake, whom he resembles. I love how he describes Dream Academy's tour as "very very Renaissance Fair." Sadly, they only did three albums before it all collapsed in a cliched drug haze.

I should note that the eponymous 1985 album this song come from is a fine, fine example of great early 80's British pop. People forget it was produced by Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, the same man responsible for bringing Kate Bush to the world of pop. Peter Buck of REM, pre mega-stardom, even plays on one of the tracks. Standouts include In Places On The Run, (Johnny) New Light, Edge Of Forever, This World and this one...

Dream Academy The Love Parade (TV appearance):



Note the rubber legs on that boy. Nick is now 52 and has aged well.

April 6, 2009

Your young tart has faded in you


Antigone by Jochen Braun

Antigone's new single Promiscuity is out today on iTunes in most territories. It has one of the most booming, hooky choruses you'll hear all year, but it's also pretty edgy for a pop tune.

If you want to know what makes
Antigone unique, it's her intelligence. Not that the other divas she's compared to are not smart women - many are. Especially Roisin Murphy. Antigone's lyrics are light years beyond the usual disco fodder: they have clever (loose) narratives and layers of meaning. Will some insipid disco dollies even be able to pronounce the title of this song? Maybe not! But those same listeners might know what "loins" are, one hopes.

When you first hear Promiscuity, you may think it's about two women vying for a lover. I think it's actually two sides of one women. One side wants love and one side wants, well, to get laid. A lot! One side is ready for a deeper connection and the other is still playing the field...

It hasn’t been like this from the start
Like a child forgets its lisp, your young tart
Has faded in you
Is departing from you

Now that your loins she has signed
Now that she has with you spent time
She’s leaving you
And she’s beautiful

The chorus suggests to me a person who knows they aren't ready for commitment...

I could never see
Any reason to be
Close to you
While she was so rudely
Riding around
With you all over town

But as she walks away
I notice that we kind of look the same

Oh, promiscuity laughs
She kept us apart, so we might last

There is more where this came from. AntigoneLand is out via iTunes on April 20. In addition to Promiscuity and More Man Than Man, other gems include Mirror, Hello Yellow and Life Without You.



Lyrics by Antigone Foster, 2009

April 5, 2009

Playlist: You'd better bring your own sun



Still waiting for Spring. Do any Brits recognize the location above? This image is the wallpaper for both of my computers. Anyway, while I continue to put my sweaters away and take them out again, here are some recommended tunes, most not quite released...

1. Tori Amos Welcome To England video
Stunning. Tori's best song in many years. One would assume it's for her husband, especially on the hooky, multi-tracked chorus: "Welcome to England, he said / Welcome to my world / You better bring your own sun, sweet girl." Tori is still insistent on arcane vocal affectations and cadencee - "do a dance" becomes "douh dayance" - but lyrically this is her most straightforward song in a long time. I played it about ten times in a row driving back from my friend's funeral last week and it actually made me feel better. I was sorry Sheryl had not heard it. I was in her presence the first time I heard/saw Silent All These Years, a truly revolutionary song for American radio.

2. Little Boots New In Town (Fred Falke Remix) find it
To quote Stevie Nicks "When love starts out in the darkness, it doesn't do well in the light." Falling in love with the remix of a song you've never heard is risky. What if you then dislike the proper mix? I've not been a fan of Little Boots, but I dig this 7-minute mix for its use of repetition (Stuart Pricey!) and what can only be described as buzzed-on-sugar on the chorus. Fred Falke is flying high. I also recommend his revamps of Will Young's Grace and Ladyhawke's Back Of The Van. Update: the real mix is swaggering and almost r'n'b.

3. Depeche Mode Peace this is not the video
I'm not entirely enamored with Depeche Mode's new CD, Sounds Of The Universe. It is one of their least melodic. The arrangements are great though, often relying on vintage synths that make some songs, like Peace, sound as if they were from their early 80's discs. Peace has a pleasing celestial quality on the (simple) chorus. Lyrically, it's the opposite of Wrong: "I'm leaving anger in the past / With all the shadows that it caused."

4. Daniel Merriweather For Your Money
This took me by surprise. It's pure Stranger-era Billy Joel and it should be called New York because the lyrics give that city great prominence (or is that the lyrics give that great city prominence?). From his forthcoming CD, Love And War. I love New York and I love Daniel. This one is not really on the web yet, but Daniel's next single is another 70's-era ballad, Red.

5. Phoenix Countdown (Sick For The Big Sun) hear it
I was talking with my sharpie friend Nathan about Phoenix and how they seem capable of one thing. Their new CD is strong, but it must be said: it's samey! I have little to say about this tune either, except that it's good! Pop fans will like it and the music will sound good in the car this summer.

6. Alcazar Baby hear it
Are your eyes popping? First, Phoenix followed by Alcazar and then Alcazar... at all. They're so 1999. Pet Shop Boys wrote this one and the production is worthy of the duo. It's just simple, sun-kissed Europop. The kind of thing you want to hear in the shops and discos of a seaside town. Flip flops, fruity drinks and a kiss when you least expect it.

There are a few more songs I'll be doing individual posts about in the coming days.

April 4, 2009

Paolo says, "Darling, I'll lay down on your rug"

Paolo Nutini Candy:



Warbly, isn't he? I love this! I was worried about how Paolo would follow up his last record, which has some truly perfect songs on it. I still need to be picked up off the floor after hearing Last Request. This first single suggests that I not worry much. It was produced by Ethan Johns of Rufus Wainwright and Kings Of Leon fame and is due out May 18, if singles exist anymore. The album has a dippy title, Sunny Side Up, which does have some ripe album art potential.

Need to be reminded of why Paolo is worthy? Watch below - he is 19 years old in this clip.

Paolu Nutini Last Request (live on Jools):

April 3, 2009

The Songs I Cannot Live Without,#1

People send me really kind notes sometimes, telling me that I've led them to a lot of great music. But so many amazing songs came and went long before I started this blog. Friends know because I used to make them mixtapes and CDRs. I was obsessed with that! So, I'm going to try and start an occasional series of posts about songs I cannot live without. Songs that run really deep.

The first is major.


Stars Tonight:



Come around and say you love me

Hang your heart in lights above me
Is that too much to ask for?
When the night descends upon us
Take a shower, dry your hair by the furnace
I'll watch you from the corner

Telephones and old typewriters
Words of love along the wires
Let's make it work tonight
Telegraphs and birds that fly
Through air so still you hear me sigh
Let's make it work tonight
Tonight, tonight

Then furious you threw the picture
I, cap in hand, an awful mixture
That kind of hard love is the worst
I try to speak but you don't hear me
When you're gone you still feel near me
For a while for a little while

I've tried
Telephones and old typewriters

Words of love along the wires
But nothing is working tonight
I've tried telegraphs and birds that fly through air so still you hear me sigh
But nothing is working tonight
Tonight, please let's make it work tonight
Please let's make it work tonight, tonight
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Tonight is available on most iTunes. It's from the group's 2001 album, Nightsongs.

Maxwell is moments from coming...

back to music. Click on the image below to see stills from the video for his new single, Pretty Wings. You can hear a snippet of the song, an appropriately delicate ballad, at his myspace.



Maxwell also reports that Sade is finishing an album, which he calls "monolithic."

April 2, 2009

Thank God For Lucky Soul



This blog is called XO's Middle Eight because I often find myself waxing on about the middle eights - or "bridges" - of songs. A great pop song will have, in the middle or final third, another great tune hidden inside it. Lucky Soul's new single Whoa Billy! leaps off from their previous retro sound and then, at 1:37, has a joyous "whoa oh ohhhhh" middle eight that makes me want to fucking jumprope! It even appears at the end of the song (2:59). I can only imagine how this goes over live.

The track seems simple, but it's not. Listen close and you'll hear some sonic advances - a stronger electric guitar and a disco breakdown at 1:52, just after the whoa oh ohs, which makes me wonder if there are multiple middle eights, b-choruses or what?! Its complexity does not overshadow its pop genius. We need this kind of music right now.


You might recall that the band's debut album, The Great Unwanted, was one of my favorites in 2007 (my review). The artwork alone was beyond. I should add that their label, Ruffa Lane, is a purveyor of fine pop in general. I'm intrigued by new act Napoloeon too.

This is HEAVEN. It makes me so happy. Here is a FREE and legal download...

Lucky Soul Whoa Billy!