May 30, 2012
Bright Light in his new video A New Word To Say
Rush over to Idolator to read my piece on Bright Light Bright Light, where you can hear the premier of an epic album track, Feel It. I did a bit of an edit for them, so here are some additional questions and fleshed out comments from Rod, who is releasing one of THE pop records of the 2012 on June 4 in the UK and June 25 in America...
You collaborate a lot, with artists like Del Marquis of Scissor Sisters and some amazing remixers. Give me some from your dream list.
I'd love to do something with Kate Bush, she's a huge favourite of mine, and I'd love to collaborate visually with David Lynch or John Cameron Mitchell, as Twin Peaks / Hedwig And The Angry Inch respectively were big events in my life. I'd also love to work with Royksopp, Kelis or Simian Mobile Disco. What's been great about the work I've done so far is that I have met some brilliant musicians, so collaboration comes along organically sometimes, like for the Blueprints EP [on iTunes US] where my friends Sound Of Arrows, Sunday Girl, Del Marquis and Allison from The Pierces all lent their vocal talents. Collaboration is one of my favourite things about making music as for me music is all about connection.
The remixes for Waiting For The Feeling are fantastic. You have our mutual friend Vinny Vero doing a mix and you also contacted the epic 90's remix team Trouser Enthusiasts for a long mix that is quite majestic and Bond theme-y. I know you've loved them for years, so what was it like to hear this entirely new version of your song?
I cannot explain how huge a fan I was of the Trouser Enthusiasts production and remixes back in the day, so when Ian Masterson [one half of the mix team, along with David Green] agreed to do a remix for me I was beyond excited. When he finished it, he invited me round to listen to it, and… I totally lost myself for the 9 minutes and almost forgot it was my song. It was AMAZING. It's so epic and so, so overwhelming that someone has done that for me…
The video for Waiting For The Feeling really hits a new level of style for you visually...
I love the colours. There are little nods to Beetlejuice, one of my favorite films. Alun Davies chose a really gorgeous color palette for the video, and Justine Josephs, the stylist, found some incredible clothes. The video's playing around with the idea of waiting - that being on hold - and what type of connections you can have; physical or emotional. I really like how the force of catching or throwing a ball is like being hit with, or releasing emotion. It was a lot of fun to make.
There is no mega record label behind this production. How did you craft such a big, professional sounding record on such a lean budget?
I make it work. Part of the reason the album has taken a little while to come out is because I've had to finance it… not in a "get your tiny violin" way, but I had to budget, and fundraise, and plan. Although to me it just seemed natural to do that, as it's my creative project, so it just seemed like the obvious thing to do. I don't believe in doing anything by half, what's the point? Especially for something pop. I don't think you have to go all out visually, or all out stage wise, to be in a great outfit - I know lots of bands who have simple stage set ups but still amaze me - but for this particular project I had an aesthetic I was interested in, so wanted to really push for it.
What should music lovers do on a trip to London, Rod?
Visit Berwick Street for the independent record shops, go to Rough Trade East and have a coffee while they eye up all the vinyl they have, and definitely stick East (London) for a night out as there are some great club nights... People in London work hard and play hard, and my FAVOURITE thing about London is that you can go clubbing on a Tuesday night to a full room that just wants to dance, have a great night, then everyone gets up the next day and carries on. It's brilliant. There are bars like Dalston Superstore that straddle being a bar and a club, and there are more underground places like Vogue Fabrics that are solely a club. There's a lot of fun to be had.
Club nights seem like such a cultural force there.
There is definitely a community around club nights. Lots of us DJ swap, so we guest at each other's night, which is great as it creates a real sense of co-habitation and we get to swap music tips, geek out a little, and make the experience a lot friendlier. I run a 90s night, Another Night with my friend, and am just starting Comfortable Shoes, a gay indie disco, with my friend Jen Long from BBC Radio 1.
You clearly dig a mashup- whose tunes have you mashed with your music?
I made two mashup versions of my record for DJing out and for my favorite blogs, mixing my tunes with artists like Billie Ray Martin, Britney Spears, Kylie, Brandy and Monica and Corona - all artists whose songs have an incredible sense of melody. I'm a sucker for a killer melody, that's something that is most important for me when I listen to music. A great topline always slays me.
Make Me Believe In Hope is out June 4 digitally via iTunes UK, June 25 on iTunes US or in multiple formats via Rod's shop. Full band album launch in London [tickets] 13th June / DJ Party [free guestlist] 8th June.
If you live in America, you can check out my short review of the album in the June/July issue of Instinct at the finest newstands near you. 5 stars! And don't forget to follow Bright Light x2 and me on Twitter!
May 28, 2012
May 25, 2012
May 18, 2012
May 17, 2012
Scene: Big Shanty roller rink, Kennesaw, Georgia, 1979. I am rolling around in circles, no more than ten years old, when Donna Summer's single Dim All The Lights comes on. The song has a hazy, laid back intro - it sounds like a ballad - but then she hits this endless note at about :38 seconds in and it revs right up into heaven. I close my eyes and just glide along, transported away to some future I did not yet know.
The grand irony of pop music is the notion of disco/dance music as lesser, “lite” music. She loves you yeah yeah yeah is fine, London Calling is fine, but the orgasmic 17 minutes of Love To Love You Baby is not. This is history rewritten. Follow the timeline and you’ll see that disco was, in its own way, a rebellion (against punk music), except that the punks in question weren’t white. The disco denizens were black, Latino - not yet merged into “Blatino” - and largely gay. I am not the first to note that, before Andy and Liza took over Studio 54, disco was the sound of the disenfranchised. Donna Summer was unapologetically - for awhile, anyway - their queen.
So when people lump together Siouxsie, Chrissie and Debbie as the pop punks of their day, that’s not giving Donna Summer her rank. I think it was pretty rebellious of Donna to release a song that sounded like she was getting fucked twenty-five ways to Sunday on the studio floor, don’t you?
There wasn’t a hit-maker disco diva before Donna Summer. She was the pioneer, albeit one with a lucite cane and an orchid in her hair. Diana Ross, bored with her Michael Masser ballads, followed Donna, as did Streisand. Without Donna, there would be no Beyonce and, without Donna, Madonna would not have justified her love. Donna had a vision too, whether it was concept albums about the seasons or female archetypes, the hooker or the waitress.
You may not be old enough to know that disco so enraged straight white men that it drove them to burn records in stadiums. Seriously! Were these sports fans/rednecks trying to kill a subculture by burning gays, blacks and Latinos in effigy? I won’t go there. Donna Summer is much loved by many for creating music that set them free.
If you looked at me at 21, you could argue that I - white, middle class, male - didn’t ever need to be set free. In the early 90’s, I was out with my friend in a beat up old car (Cutlass Salon!). When we returned home, the opening part of Last Dance - the dewy “oooh ooh oohs” - was coming out of the boombox on the front seat. With one foot on the pavement, I said “Oh wait, I love this song. We can’t get out of the car yet.” So we listened to Donna: “I need you beside me, to guide me…” Then the beat kicked in and we just got out and danced beside the car. I’m sure someone driving by was like, “Oh, Jeeeeesus, what a fag.” Why do I care? I’m free too.
One of my favorite Donna songs, I Love You...
and Dim All The Lights
This post contains elements of a 2008 review I did of Donna's final - and excellent - album Crayons.
May 15, 2012
Jimmy Somerville, one of our most underrated singer/songwriters, has been releasing EPs over the last few years without garnering much attention. He's about to release a new one - Solent - that I believe is the closest he's come to his brilliant 80's and 90's music.
1. Some Wonder
2. Kite (Siriusmo Remix)
3. Taken Away
5. Why Did It End This Way?
6. Some Wonder (Felix Gauder Remix Full Length)
7. Taken Away (Fred Falke Remix Full Length) YES!
8. Some Wonder (John Winfield Remix)
Solent will be released worldwide on Monday, May 28th, except Germany (May 25th) and the USA (May 29th).
Xolondon's Top Ten Plus One Jimmy Somerville Songs
May 14, 2012
What happens when two artists I love collide in a time machine? Bright Light Bright Light, whose album is out June 4, has remixed Darren Hayes' new single, Stupid Mistake into a 90's Moment. It debuted on Arjanwrites this morning...
And it's FREE
Because Darren never does anything half-assed, he even produced a new edit of the video for Stupid Mistake.
May 13, 2012
I've been on a mini break from blogging for the last week. Sometimes you just need a lay down. Or a lay, haha. Anyway, here's a few tidbits piling up in my disco drenched brain:
Truth Or Dare has been re-released on BluRay and DVD. Check Holiday and others. What a classic! I have never owen it because I was waiting for a special editions, which this is not. No added scenes, nada. Somebody fire Guy Oseary please; Madonna's iconography is not going as it should be.
You can preview the debut album from Bright Light Bright Light NOW at iTunes UK. My review of it for Instinct Magazine is on stands in the US any day now. 5 stars. Meanwhile, check Rod's Soundcloud for lots of free mixes/mash-ups and keep an ear cocked Monday, May 14 for something special.
Rod's earlier single Disco Moment is featured on EQ's Poptronik compilation out now via Aztec Records. The excellent Bim and Van Go Lion are also on that mix.
Torr sent me a flickr link with loads of old cassette insert. I don't see many I had, but I do remember using Memorex all the time. I wonder if that company found something else to make!?
I did a piece for Idolator on Annie Lennox's Diva turning 20- and am also still slagging off terrible pop acts chosen by Mike Wass for the Pop Trash Addicts Panel. I am really slumming it with that one! [I kid]
Trashy Mike also did an interview with that hottie troubadour Jay Brannan. I am too mature to mention here that Jay karaokes while holding a hard pen*s as a mic in the movie Shortbus. Anyway, one funny (true?) pull quote from that piece: "If straight men had relationships with each other, it would never fucking work out."
I was prepped to dislike the new Florence + The Machine track Breath of Life due to bombast fatigue, but actually it's quite good. Check out this Making Of video - love how she dresses like a prim retro schoolteacher.
Ever au courant, Vogue has Jessie Ware. What do you think of her latest single, 100%? I am a bit mixed. Nice track, but not a slayer like Running.
I still love Penguin Prison. Here he is performing Don't Fuck With My Money at Coachella. He also sings the new song Hollywood with RAC. Check it here.
Watch a hilarious Beth Ditto filming with Gossip on their new video Perfect World (that song is a gem). Notice an odd deet: Beth says she is a singer in a band called The Gossip, but their official name is now Gossip. Anyhoo, I have a mad crush on the boi-ish Hannah from the group. She may downplay her feminine side, but she's quite a beauty. My friend Sergio did a cute video interview with the band over at Marie Claire.
Rufus Wainwright fans should get the version of his album with the DVD. It has a very nice short documentary and track by track that highlights everything I love about Rufus. My fave songs on the album are the title track, Jericho and the killer Sometimes You Need.
I don't like the new Fiona Apple song, Every Single Night. I know: shoot my sorry ass. A birdy tells me the album - can you says its full name? I cannot - is quite dark. All will be revealed.
Jury still out on the new Keane album. One thing for sure: there are a few songs on the deluxe (including the title track) that are better than album cuts. And the artwork is not as good as it should be.
Have already forgotten the new Alphabeat song - I love them, but it's beyond weak. A cute video almost saves it. Bring on the album.
What is gorge? Don't Stare At The Sun, a new song by Richard Hawley that, if it could be visualized, is bathed in an amber glow. A lovely song about his children.
I also can't stop playing the new Garbage song I Hate Love. The lyric remind me just how smart Shirley is: "They lay all their dreams on you. They let you in and you start to believe you're soft as a miracle. Unfurled, I was new and unfurled..."
Sex on wheels alert: American TV star Nathan Fillion back in the day.
I am worried that Paul Buchanan album is going to be a letdown. It's just him noodling on a piano over 14 songs. Some of the tracks seem more like fragments than songs. Sad recent news that The Blue Nile is truly finished - they just fell slowly apart. It happens.
The incred Rio by Duran Duran turned 30 this week. I remember buying this album to take to a church dance - hey, it was an Episcopal church (they are loose). It was such a glamorous packages and the songs are still fresh. I defy any current hot indie band to come up with a song as sharp as New Religion. No clue why Duran take such stick from hater hipsters? Regardless, snotty Quietus did a nice piece on them.
Sara Bareilles has a new EP out on May 22. Produced by Ben Folds! It's a concise 5 songs and it's called Once Upon Another Time. Get A FREE track, Stay, on her site.
I am still playing Marina and The Diamond's superb Electra Heart album. Right now it is the album to beat for top spot in 2012. My fave songs are Hypocrates, Sex Yeah, Valley Of The Dolls, Radioactive and Starring Role, but there isn't one duff track on it. I also have a tumblr tag with the amazing photos she's released from the project.
Speaking of tumblr, here are some recent highlights from my tumblr kicky&fresh:
Madonna shuffling on Lady Gaga's back
Florence at the Met Gala looking like a lacey bridal cake
Babydaddy and Jake Shears ready for action on the cover of GT
The rudest/funniest post I've reblogged in recent days
One Direction worried about touching male bulges
Excellent Causing A Commotion remix and super rare Madge pic
Finally, if your workspace is too quiet this week, check out my Music Player tag. Lots of faves old and new.
And follow me on twitter so you can talk smack at me all day long.
May 4, 2012
Alpines have followed up their monolithic Fall '11 single Cocoon with an... imperial?... new song, Empire. It chimes and it pounds and it swoops. Cannot wait for an album from these two.
Alpines are Bob Matthews and Catherine Pockson, based in London. The single is officially out June 11. Until then, they have a great, arty blog. If you've forgotten the epic Cocoon, here it is.
May 3, 2012
When the iconic Beth Ditto released her dance EP last summer, there was a collective wail of "more please." Ditto and her band, Gossip, have come through with the aptly titled A Joyful Noise. Producer Brian Higgins (Xenomania/ Girls Aloud) takes the band's melodic rock and sprays it with a sleek disco sheen. It's the sound of a band coming into its own.
UPDATE: UK fans can stream the album NOW at The Guardian (and on mobile)
A joyful track by track of what to expect:
1 Melody Emergency Of all the songs on Noise, this has the strongest link to the band's rock/punk past. [Shameless boast alert:] And yes, bitchez, the producer Brian Higgins played me this himself in his studio back in November 2011. Three snaps, z formation. The whole time I was at Xeno HQ, I kept hearing Beth's vocals floating through the house. No joke, it was an amazing day.
1 Perfect World, the first single, literally glistens with twilight synths. It's a surprising - and moving - choice of single because it's neither the soul-influenced rock of Gossip's past nor is it Ditto's minimalist dance music. This is mature, dark pop with an emotional core. Stream it here
3 Get A Job opens with a slayer chant: "I’d love to stay and party, but I gotta go to work!" That is all you need to know about this standout. Drag queens rejoice.
4 Move In The Right Direction If Melody Emergency is the most classically Gossip track, this sleek disco number is the most redolent of its producer's hand. Neither he nor the band may agree, but I think you could, quite literally, weld Girls Aloud's vocals to this one, it's that Xenomania.
5 Casualties Of War reminds me of Debbie Harry's softer solo tracks. In fact, the whole album has a bit of Harry influence in its pop variety. In this case, spare balladry, carried by Ditto's cooling vocals. No drama here, just [melancholic] honesty. "I'm doing well. I'm fighting tears, you couldn't tell. I'm not as strong as you thought I was."
6 Into The Wild Bass heavy mid-tempo carried by a strong vocal. "You want me to be honest.... and I quickly became your worst fear." This is not a happy affair, but the song itself is a real grower. "We'll self destruct together. It's all over now."
7 Get Lost Major highlight. It starts deceptively (sort of Supremes retro) before a big-ass 90's house-keyboard chorus lifts it off. Get Lost will sound best in your convertible this July.
8 Involved The backing track has a militaristic feel, but what leaps out to me is the lyrical hook: "I'm not in love with you, I'm just involved with you." Can her words be trusted? Maybe not: "You were on my mind 99% of the time."
9 Horns A bit of fuzzy guitar on this funk pop groove. Xenomania never gilds the lily: it's characteristic of their production to hear a brilliant idea used just once or for a few seconds. The horns of the title are laced into the chorus, but it's not trumpet overkill. This one'll sound great next to Gossip oldies at live shows.
10 I Won't Play More bass-y grooves and some very eighties synths on the pre-chorus (or is that the first chorus? It's Xenomania, after all) followed by a crunching bigger chorus. "I gave you so many chances, but you screwed with my love." Again with the Xeno economy: the wicked cool final seconds fade out too soon.
11 Love In A Foreign Place A Joyful Noise ends on a high note with this slammer. Slow burn verses and a pounding chorus. A meet-your-lover-on-vacation track, in case you didn't guess from the title. A great conclusion. Play this LOUD.
The most pop moment Gossip's ever had. Smooth and fizzy and always emotional, thanks to Beth Ditto's gorgeous wailing. One quibble: the album cover neither speaks to the music - this isn't a Manson album! - nor does it beg for sales. It's creepy. There's always something edgy that keeps them on the indie side and this image is it.
And the first video, Perfect World:
May 1, 2012
David's Lyre is the professional moniker of Paul Dixon from Manchester, UK. He's been releasing music for the past 18 months, but finally put out a sublime debut album, Picture Of Our Youth, in February. Vocally, he reminds me a bit of (a more palatable) Dr Robert from Blow Monkeys, but the sound would fit right in with Patrick Wolf and even, at times, groups likes Camera Obscura. Some of the tracks have an 80's Scottish pop feel (English Roses), while others (Heartbeat) are totally in the now. It's a really accomplished, elegant debut record.
Before you get excited, this story has a fucked up twist: Dixon launched the album with the news that he was over the whole project and moving on. The major label experience had, it seems, crushed him and he wants to start fresh. So be it, but I hate planned obsolescence. In this staccato era, when we're pushed either patronizing shite from labels or indie bedsit fuckery, I want people to hear and love good music.
You can stream the album at soundcloud, but here are some of the highlights:
Picture Of Our Youth is out now on iTunes or you can pay what you wish for it on Bandcamp. Just pay him something. I did.