August 30, 2010

Quote of the Week: The ideology of Hurts



Hurts, whose September 6th debut album is a total gem, recently did a video interview with Popmat.net. At about four minutes in, they are asked about men's fashion. Here is a snippet:
Theo Hutchraft: Aesthetically, our desire is to be masculine again.

Adam Anderson: Men should be men.

Theo: Yeah. Men should dress like men. And there's a lot of that missing... The only people fashion-wise who I kind of look at are all men and what they wear, because they dress very smart, very elegant. It's lost a bit, I think... That's why we do what we do, to... bring the spirit of man.

Adam: Male pride, I think.
Really? Elegance, to me, is a different matter than - barf! - male pride. Is this whole gender declaration what they truly believe or are they taking the piss? I never know with these boys.

All of this leads to a bigger question: Are Theo and Adam actually in character as Hurts? Are they wryly
portraying pop stars? While I love their style, they also seem eager to "bring the spirit" of pretension back to pop. Keep watching the clip for Theo's entertaining spin-the-bullshit-wheel theories on why a duo is better than a single artist (at min. 6:50).

Genuine or not, I think their view of self-expression is more than a bit arcane.
Hurts can dress like "men," but not all men have to follow that lead. The clip reminds me of two things. The first is a quote from George Washington, of all people:
Do not conceive that fine clothes make fine men any more than fine feathers make fine birds.
And the second, a Sting song about the late Quentin Crisp:



Be yourself, no matter what they say. That goes for Hurts too, yes?

August 29, 2010

Kylie meets Rufus and two worlds collide



Kylie Minogue, in a seemingly random act of philanthropy, appeared with Rufus Wainwright at a benefit for The Watermill Center - a performing artists refuge/workshop - in New York. 4:30 on a summer afternoon in a small Long Island town, in the woods, The Minogue. They did several tunes together include Don't Go Breaking My Heart, Locomotion and, yes, Can't Get You Out Of My Head. Watch Rufus above (with flaming red hair) hit those notes.

For those who know Rufus's back-story, he grew up kind of sheltered from pop music, so this Kylie conversion cannot be terribly old. That said, he is known for his taste in gay divas and a bit of nightclubbing... a return to pop will happen.

Update: Funny tweet from @doronandon: Is the philanthropy reference to Kylie performing with him or to it being a benefit...

Thank you, Doron! x

August 26, 2010

Robbie and Gary, yearning to touch.


Ten - Plus One - Thoughts On Shame:

1 This is a somewhat pointless new Robbie Williams/Gary Barlow single, like needless foreplay to the upcoming Stuart Price-produced Take That single, The Flood.

2 So this video is supposedly based upon Brokeback Mountain, though it's more like two guys meeting at their 20th high school reunion.

3 Unlike Brokeback, there is no burly man-hugging, violent kissing or spit-lubed tentfucks to be seen. #sadday

4 Notice their cars are virtually the same model. This signifies a Connection. Heavy stuff.

5 It seems almost purposefully lit to highlight forehead wrinkles. England does not believe in botox, correct?

6 The parts where they sing to each other at the bar are like an 80's country western video - impossibly cheesy. But Gary Barlow has never flinched from being a Showboy, has he?

7 The song itself, a Robbie and Gary co-write, is not what I expected. It's like a John Denver track! Robbie seems particularly intent these days on crafting autobiographical songs. It's not bad, though maybe not a "hit single."

8 The lyrics have become infamous in a matter of hours: Robbie: "So I got busy throwing everybody underneath the bus." Gary: "And with your poster thirty-foot-high at the back of Toys R Us." They really are the new Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, aren't they?

9 The rocks scenes! My God, the unsightly sexual yearning. Robbie practically undresses Gary with his eyes at 2:22. And how many shirts does one need to wear in Southern California?

10 From here on out, the video goes belly up. First metaphorically, with the painful performance (in suits!) at 3:10 and then literally...

11 Chartrigger noted what I did - that Gary is unsubtly hidden for much of the topless, climbing sequence. But Chartrigger saw what I did not: that Barlow is sucking in his muffin top. Embrace it, GB, it's just the beginning.
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Shame is released on October 4th with a b-side called, haw haw, The Queen. Take That's single arrives soon thereafter (with a sculling video already shot).

August 24, 2010

Mixtape: v.END of summer



Smackcrumplebang described me as "a one man musical mission whose fantastic fuchsia blog keeps me in his marvelous musical loop." That is the best review. Ever.

Stevie Nicks is working on her new album with Dave Stewart of Eurythmics. She says, "a full-blown rock 'n' roll album with some beautiful ballads." Gee, thanks for the revelations Stevie. All we really know is that one song is inspired by the Sargasso Sea.

The Fly had a first listen to Hurts' debut album Happiness.

A fantastically nervy chat between Peter Robinson of PopJustice and Paloma Faith

Shocking, Etc: The new Hoosiers album has some good songs! Two I recommend: The single, called Choices,and a track called Who Said Anything About Falling In Love, which sounds a bit like The Feeling.

FizzyPop will be doing X Factor recaps, etc. This Americano (meaning me) is not excited to see Twitter hijacked by a reality show I cannot even watch. Wake me up in the final weeks.

This reminds me, I am beyond fascinated with Joe McElderry. I could listen to him talk all day long. Evidence videos: #1 and #2.

I am decidedly mixed on Rose Elinor Dougall's song with Mark Ronson, called That Boy. It's more of a groove than a proper melodic tune.

Hugh Laurie is recording a blues album, I shit you NOT. Let's hope he doesn't call it House Of Blues.

Lourdes is how old?

Phileastend loves, appropriately, the new Ali Love album. I've not heard all of it yet, but the title track, Love Harder, is a keeper. That said, some of the followup songs have sounded like pale imitations of it. Phil recommends a beauty called Dark Star.

Smiths / Morrissey fans need this tee shirt from Etsy.

Robyn fans need this tee shirt from her website.

While you're at, it you can buy the superb new single from Bright Light Bright Light on Amazon UK.

The Guardian has given a mixed review to Katy Pussy's album. They say "You would have to be a total curmudgeon not to coo a little at the title track" and this is embarrassingly correct. When Teenage Dream, the song, was first released, I played it about 16 times in a row and then promptly got a burning sensation when I peed.

Is it really true that Nadine Coyle has an exclusive deal to sell her solo album only in Tesco? Jesus Luz! And that overly coiffed Cheruulll is on her second soon-t0-be-shit album? What is wrong with this crazy world? Listen to me Nadine: This Christmas, release your cover of Fields Of Gold and make a mint.

Champagne cheers and caviar dreams to Dan for his 1400th post. Well done, you. That is dedication, not to mention tenacity.

Finally, there is this amazing line from Prince's most recent crap album -what was it called? - that impacted for about 2 days before everyone said it sucked and forgot about it: “From the heart of Minnesota – here come the purple Yoda."
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Image via Londonist

August 23, 2010

Annie Lennox Tops A Tree



A surprise announcement today is a mixed blessing: The good news is that Annie Lennox is releasing a brand new album. The bad news? It's... Christmas music. Mmm hmmm. A Christmas Cornucopia is part of her new deal with Universal. It's out later than most holiday albums, on November 22nd, via Island Records UK and Decca Records in the US and the rest of the world. It'll be the usual Christmas songs, plus one new original, Universal Child, that one can guess is related to her work in Africa (or maybe it's about her new contract with Universal, haha?). [edit, much later: This album is total ass. Avoid]

It's only been a year since her hits collection (my review), which had two middling songs surrounded by 11 perfect ones (and, err, Sing). Her last proper studio album, the superb Songs Of Mass Destruction (my review), was released in September 2007 and she followed it with a tour that reinforced my impression that she is one of the greatest female singers of our time.

My favorite Annie Lennox solo song remains... Money Can't Buy It

Here are ten others:

Little Bird
Big Sky
Why
No More I Love You’s
Precious
Loneliness
Stay By Me
Cold
Waiting In Vain
Downtown Lights

My favorite Annie video is also Money Can't Buy It...
you recognize a great performer by the fact she can remain riveting with only a towel and a mirror as props:



A caution: Do not try this in your own bathroom... the effect will not be the same.

August 21, 2010

The launch of Starsmith



What do you think? It would be quite tremendous if it weren't, you know, a loop and had a verse or two and maybe a chorus. ? You would not know it from this track, but he does actually sing, so it'll be interesting to hear one of those tracks. This, however, is not what I expected.

Will it work in clubs?

August 19, 2010

Lost Radio: In the saxophone zone




Occasionally I stop and ponder my years of music listening when I did not have a forum to sputter on about it. And then I realize this blog presents a very particular picture of my taste that leaves
a lot out. Here are some "lost" songs from the 1980's that I love and recommend... some you will know, but I hope you don't know them all.

Bluebells Will She Always Be Waiting hear it
Brilliant b-side to their single Cath, this one has a fab lai-lai-lai-lai singalong bit at the end.

Peter Godwin Baby's In The Mountains watch it
Somewhat obscure, but superb electropop from an era before we called it electropop.
The Style Council The Paris Match hear it
Atmospheric, twinkly jazz-pop. Notable for the vocal by Everything But The Girl's Tracey Thorn.
The Lotus Eaters The First Picture of You watch it
Not one I know as well as the others, but I like the video.
China Crisis Black Man Ray watch it
What an odd duck of a song. The title is a pun and it has a good misheard lyric: "And we the people who can but try" I heard as "and we the people in Camden try..."
Alison Moyet Where Hides Sleep
A deep cut from a popular and seminal album. Because Alison's voice is so smooth on the verses, I have this, haha, on a mix I play when I cannot sleep. And then she wails and I wake back up.
Prefab Sprout Appetite watch it
Just in case someone does not know this perfect lyric: "Here she is with two small problems / And the best part of the blame / Wishing she could call him heartache/ But it's not a boy's name."
Nick Heyward Whistle Down The Wind watch it
Lovely Nick was on my 90's list and here he is again, with his 1984 debut solo opus. Ahhh, the days of video budgets to reflect a song's grandeur.
Culture Club Black Money hear it
From an album everyone knows and loves, this song always seems so sophisticated (my question at the time: what does it mean?). Do 20-something he/she-poppers produce this kind of track in 2010? This was in George's imperial phase but, like much of this album, the backing vocals of Helen Terry lift it into the stratosphere. Amazing.
Black Wonderful Life watch it
Anyone of a "certain age" thought of this song the first time they heard Hurts' single of the same name.

+1: Romeovoid A Girl In Trouble (Is A Temporary Thing) watch it
Confession: I once sent Shirley Manson a note suggesting that she cover this song because "it's perfect for you." She did not listen and where is she now?! This is like a girl's guide to the galaxy: "Tears will be saved till they're better spent / There's no time for her to be afraid /So instead, she takes care of business / Keeps a cool head." Listen, Brit Brit.

Do any of you know these songs or want to add to this list? See also: My favorite albums of the 80's

August 16, 2010

Playlist: If I tell you I've watched you...



Morrissey Lost this week's oldie
That's the East Sussex town of Hastings in the photograph above. This is the kind of picture that sends me into fits of whydoIlivehere. Anyway, a few weeks ago Chartrigger sent me Lost, an ironically titled Morrissey b-side from his 1997 single Roy's Keen - the one with the brilliant CD cover - and I was utterly floored. It's so sweeping and so everything you want from Morrissey that it's a Pop Injustice of the highest order to find it buried on a lesser single. This could easily be a leftover from his epic Viva Hate. It has the kind of melancholia and "faded seaside glamour" (hence Hastings above) that only Moz can deliver... "If I see you and I tell you I've watched you, don't make of fun of me later, 'cause I'm just lost." Download Lost while you can at Achtung Baby

Ben Folds with lyrics by Nick Hornby From Above
This collaboration took me by surprise - it is a brilliant idea and it has gone from what was intended as a "side project" to what may be Ben Folds best album. If you look at the history of pop, Ben should be a relic of the 90s, but every few years he whips out a genius, listenable (and singable) record, the last being his 2005 album, Songs For Silverman. This track sounds lovely, all layered and harmonic, but be sure to pay attention to the lyric by Nick Hornby - it's incredibly wistful. Hear it via myspace or buy it on US iTunes now.

Sophie Ellis Bextor and Armin Van Buren Not Giving Up
I had given up, truly. Being a Bex fan is brutal business, watching singles fail and album release dates come and go. So pardon my cynicism when I heard this was coming. I didn't expect a tear-stained epic like this from a dance producer, particularly an actual song that put Sophie front and center. But Van Buren plays up the knife's edge in her voice that makes her unique. The lyrics are occasionally makeshift, but the emotion seals the deal. She's singing the words I'm not giving up, but everything else about the song suggests she is, and that's what makes it so great. Listen to it here

Samuel Still Here
Samuel is a 22yo New York artist connected with the excellent Neon Gold label that launched Ellie Golding and Marina Diamonds (and soon, Penguin Prison). There is clearly some money behind Samuel - he's like a Brooklyn indie kid plopped down in George Michael's recording studio (with Mika's producer, Greg Wells). Still Here is lush pop/disco- this one a twirly, string-laden uptempo. I love the song, but have a minor quibble with the vocals that I cannot pinpoint. I'm not sure if it's something about his range or just a technical issue - the voice is a bit low in the mix. Whatever, the singalong middle eight is gorgeous and the song works. The solid 3-track EP on iTunes US, but you can hear this via Samuel's myspace

Florrie
Give Me Your Love
I am going to be honest about Florrie: I am not convinced there is anything remotely unique about her. What we know: She looks like and sings a bit like Annie, works with Xenomania and Fred Falke, drums, is kind to her fans and is building a web community. About the latter though, there is a tendency now in the Twitter/blog world to avoid applying criticism to artists you communicate with. Everything they release becomes brilliant and amazing when it's clearly not. Obviously this is all subjective, but sometimes you need to distinguish the between the person and their work. This could apply to any artist - it's not unique to Florrie. All of that said, Give Me Your Love is an elegant groove. It's subtle, with with a little bit of hipster cool and a lot of Florrie's drumming. The album could be amazing, but I am not giving away the love easily. Yet. Download it now for free

Madonna to her critics: Eat me, bitches



Today is Madonna's 52nd birthday. On this occasion, aside from looking at the above photograph of her at her birthday party in London (a week after a film extra declared her an old lady), I suggest you read Shiny & New's recent post on Get Together, Madonna herself, and how her music fits into his life.

One of the great "last laughs" is knowing that when some young kid calls you old or tired, you hold the upper hand. Because if that kid is LUCKY enough to live to be old, the story line will come full circle. That kid will eventually understand that what makes someone old has little to do with a number. Regardless of her face or body, Madonna is not likely to grow old anytime soon. Although some of her moves in the defiance of age have disappointed me, Madonna has always been about tenacity of spirit.

August 12, 2010

What does Happiness sound like?



Listen HERE

Video 1: I'm a believer in you now



Ahh, the big silver donut tour. Goldfrapp return with one more video, likely the last, from their very retro Head First project. This is a really sweet song, isn't it? There's a great shot at about 2:14 (and the end of this post) of the three women in the band dancing in what looks like a garden center, totally middle-aged mommish compared to their louche rock-disco stage personas. BUT it cannot be ignored that Alison's costuming for this tour was beyond. Mary Queen of Shops would quake at the Cool.



The album Believer comes from remains one of my top records of the years and has been sorely overlooked in the hullaballoo over other electropop. I just wish the band would make a bit more effort with their singles - better remixers, b-sides, things to make it special. They just seem a bit tired on that front. Whatever. I hope Alison and Will make music for years to come.



Thanks for the head's up, Red Radio

Video 2: Don't F*cking Tell Me What To Drink



Far East Movement, the only act I missed on the All Hearts Tour, report that they "got a little slizzurd and did a remake with Robyn of her song Don't Fuckin Tell Me What To Do." At the end of this clip, you'll see Robyn dancing (on her own, natch) - that was shot at the show I attended at the 9:30 in DC. What a brilliant night.

August 10, 2010

Review: Robyn's Body Talk Pt 2



It's probably not a secret that I did not squeal with joy over Body Talk Pt 1, at least as a body of work. It plays like a bunch of tunes - of varying quality - slapped together on a disc. Initially, it seemed insulting to stick Dancing On My Own near a trifle like Fembots. Now that we know Robyn really is carrying forth her multiple EP plan, I have taken a step back and can more clearly see what she's going for, which is ultimately an album she, I, we, you can build.

Body Talk Pt. 2 is bookended by two of Robyn's finest recordings
. In My Eyes opens with reference to Konichiwa Bitches, but has no real corollary in her prior catalog. With its synth-heavy fullness, it will lift off the roof when it's performed live. It mines the positivity and hopefulness that is characteristic of Robyn's best music (see Dream On) and is solidly, happily radio-ready.

Hang With Me
seemed so perfect as a ballad on Part I, yet now we have another tears-on-the-dancefloor classic (hear/see below). The first time I heard the album mix in all its glory, the hair on my neck stood up. How does she do this? Does she encode the notes with some sort of emotion enhancers?

There is still filler, but it doesn't peck as much. We Dance To The Beat must be an attempt to update the grooves that groups like DeeeLite used to pop out, though the processed vocals remind me more of 80's Laurie Anderson.

Lyrically, Robyn's humor remains at the forefront of her best uptempo songs:
  1. From Include Me Out, this repeated chant: "Can I get the bam bam for all of my whatchamacallits doing whatever and with whoever they like?"
  2. From Criminal Intent: "I admit I can get somewhat X-rated on the floor, but Your Honor, how's that something you get incarcerated for?"
  3. From U Should Know Better, the sublime Snoop Doggy Dog collab:"It's ooh lala and ahh oui oui, sipping vin blanc in our lingerie / Chopping heads off with Madame Guillotine, even the French know better than to fuck with me."
As for the other book-end, the stern dandies in Hurts will cry like babies when they hear EP-closer Indestructible. It is labeled "acoustic," if by "acoustic" Robyn means "monolithic chamber music epic." Her perfectly recorded, delicate vocals are the centerpiece; there's something thrilling about hearing Robyn sing, "This is hardcore, and I'm indestructible" to a string quartet.

Yesterday on this blog, I posted a video with a quote from Kate Bush. She said, "I think everyone is emotional. A lot of people are afraid of being so. They feel that it's vulnerable. I feel that it's the key to everything." This is what Robyn does so well and this is why, again and again, in the voice, the notes, the instruments, her music becomes so personal. "If you do me right, I'm gonna do right by you. If you keep it tight, I'm gonna confide in you." In a perfect world, this would grab us right through the radio and we'd be better for it.

Body Talk is out Sept 6/7 worldwide. See also:
3mins30secs' review of BTP2 b

August 9, 2010

August 8, 2010

Rumer Has It



This is Rumer and I know very little about her other than this:

She is not Rumer Willis.
Her name, bless her, provides all sorts of options for bad puns and references (see above)
She spent her formative years in England, but was born in Pakistan.
She has been cited as sounding like Karen Carpenter, Carole King etc. I'd add in someone like Roberta Flack as well. The gist is that her sound is very 70's singer/songwriter.
The music is warm and chilled out. Some might say it's too chilled or too adult, but I am (apparently ) an adult and I like it. Not everything needs to be electropop, capisce?
Her debut album will be called, in a 70's kind of way, Seasons Of My Soul.

I also know that Rumer is giving away a jazzy pop song called Long Long Day, it's a cover of a relatively obscure Paul Simon song (from One Trick Pony). You can download it for free now. I actually prefer it to her debut single, Slow (not a Kylie cover!)...



The single is out August 23, with UK tour dates throughout the fall. You can follow her on Twitter and there is even a Rumer fan blog.

Alex "Hot Lips" Gardner's epic FAIL



Alex Gardner's out-of-the-blue new single, Feeling Fine, does not make one feel fine at all. It does not even make one feel just... okay. This is the sound of a brilliant singer smothered in vocoder. You can just hear the contemptuous, cynical record executives saying, "Let's make it more like Drake and Derulo and Cruz!"

Sample chorus lyric: "bleh bubbah feeling finnnnee belueb beebubb ahh promise always blee biee s uinnne inne." The vocoder might - might!- have been cool if used sparingly on the middle eight, but it's the apex of awfulness on every chorus.

The video itself, while trite, at least captures Gardner well: all nips, teeth, parted lips and hair. He looks young, but not jail-bait twinky.



Clearly money was spent on this production. If it's indicative that an album will arrive this fall (he's on tour in November), then fine, I will put up with this. I truly believe the single should have been There Goes My Heart*, a ballad in the Chris Isaak vein. It is hard to watch a label falter again and again with an artist who has all the elements for success.

PopJustice's tweet about the song sums it up best...



*note that version of There Goes My Heart omits the mindboggling middle eight

August 6, 2010

YOU ARE A POPSTAR



...and you can pick three producers to collaborate with on your debut album?
Who are they?


COMMENT.

Bright Lightx2: The Video



Do what you want with me. Let everybody see that I'm in love again.

Brilliant chorus. Watch the whole thing so you can actually see Rod as he is meant to be seen. He's practically ripping his clothes off at the end...

Bright Light Bright Light
| Tour

August 5, 2010

Madonna's Paris playgroup

\
click to enlarge

Madgedonna and her entourage leaving Paris, where she has been shooting her movie W.E.

Look at Mercy in the front there with Madonna's lover her minder. She is apparently in her 20's now. Can you imagine hanging around these kids or maybe the Jolie Pitts? They probably lounge around in sunglasses, talking about their parents' carbon footprints.

Except for Rocco, who looks like he may be into talking about guns or poop.

Here is The Sexpat in Directrix mode...

August 4, 2010

Review: Kelis and Robyn's All Hearts tour


Robyn in DC, August 2. Photo via WaPo blog by Kyle Gustafson/FTWP

I was a lucky bitch to get into the Robyn and Kelis All Hearts Tour. These two women are hitting their apex in music this summer! Vinny Vero and I danced our way through one of the best shows of the year. So. 10 thoughts...

1 Dan Black,
whose debut album Un is a sort of secret gem, was great. Super spastic and funny, with really strong vocals and a kind of guerrilla pop/modern rap/rock hybrid sensibility.


2 Kelis. Mile-long legs and a silver wig. Her performance was presented as a continuous-play DJ set, so it included a lot of segues and unexpected mash-ups (eg Milkshake with Madonna's Holiday) The covers were weird because she was often singing along with the artist of the original song, like karaoke.

3 Her set shined most when she played tracks from her near perfect album, Flesh Tone. It's an album I liken to Diana Ross' diana and it proved to be anthemic and storming in a concert hall. Big crowd pleasers were Home - the audience doing the oh-oh-oh -ohhhhhh parts - Fourth of July and Brave. Her "band" (one inaudible drummer and two deejays) did not provide the heft she needed. The songs rarely boomed as they needed to. Her voice and energy made up for it, but she needs a stronger backing in the future.

4 AND THEN CAME ROBYN. Simple staging - no set, just simple lighting from above. Loved the intro which was very techie, especially with the band in white lab coats - which, by the way, the cuter drummer shed, so he was bare-chested for much of the night.

5 Robyn is a firecracker. Incredible energy with a low center of gravity, so she pogos along in this very kinetic way. Like James Brown's tiny secret daughter (he had quite a few - it's possible). She launched like a rocket with Fembots (watch it) and never let up.

6 Dancing On My Own (watch) was played early and she did the arm waving choreography from the video, AS DID I (in my own head). The song sounded harder and fuller live - though sometimes her vocals were kind of deep in the mix - and has a fierce ending that extends the song beyond the recorded version. The chiming bits were more pronounced live as well.

7 Dream On. Another "chills" epic. What an amazing song to hear in a room packed the gills. It's about community and inclusiveness and all the things Robyn represents.

8 Don't Fucking Tell Me What To Do was played, though she did no live vocals for it - in fact, she did not even mime. SHE ATE A BANANA. I might have preferred Hang With Me, but it was a brilliant rock moment.

9 She also performed The Girl And The Robot, Konichiwa Bitches, and an amazing version of Be Mine that sounded like this. The only track I did not warm to? Who's That Girl.

10 The closer was, naturally, With Every Heartbeat. This song is literally the ultimate tears-on-the-dancefloor anthem. At the end, Robyn held up her hands in a heart symbol. She seemed delighted by the crowd response throughout the show and even Shirtless Drummer bear-hugged the other drummer - ohhh the mingling sweat - as they left the stage. Watch the NYC performance.
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Robyn and Kelis are not to be missed. The energy and fire of Robyn's live show came as a complete surprise (I'd been alerted, but was skeptical)

August 2, 2010

Cover Story: Royksopp's miserable FAIL

After the wicked cool of the imagery accompanying Royksopp's Junior album...



We now have this dreck. Let it be a joke! Roykslop?



The instrumental album, a companion piece to Junior, is out September 13