December 31, 2007

Superlatives of The Year (Best This'n'That)

XO's Fave Pop Star of 2007: Róisín Murphy (see full post here)

Favorite Group: Ghosts

Favorite Female Solo Artist: (I love a good) 4-way (tie)! Siobhan Donaghy, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Róisín Murphy and Kylie

Favorite Male Solo Artist: Darren Hayes

Singing Voice Of The Year: Sara Bareilles

Favorite New Artists: Kate Nash, Sara Bareilles, Justin Currie (as a solo act), and Antigone

Album Cover(s) Of The Year: see here

Debut Album Of The Year: Sara Bareilles Little Voice

Favorite Video(s): see here

Favorite Rockish Music: The National's album Boxer, with great songs like Fake Empire and Squalor Victoria

Favorite BritPop Bands: Ghosts, Passenger, Lucky Soul and Fields

Best Producer: Justin Shave (for Darren Hayes and the upcoming Antigone album) and Jimmy Hogarth for Suzanne Vega

Top B-sides Of The Year: Ghosts Hate This Music Tracey Thorn The Book Of Love Patrick Wolf On Sussex Downs Siobhan Donaghy Don’t Take Me Back / Givin' In Sophie Ellis-Bextor Move To The Music / Duel Passenger You’re On My Mind Maroon 5 The Way I Was Darren Hayes Fallen Angel

Top Remixes Of The Year: Beyonce Green Light (Freemasons Mix) Feist 1234 (Van She Technological Mix) Dannii Minogue He’s The Greatest Dancer (LMC Radio Edit) De Souza and Shena Guilty (Bimbo Jones Mix) Rihanna Umbrella (Jody Den Broeder Lush Mix) Rihanna Hate That I Love You (K Klassic Mix) Robyn Handle Me (Ortzroka Death To Disco Remix) Sugababes Change (Vito Benito Edit)

Oldies Of The Year: Pointer Sisters Dare Me Diana Ross Have Fun Again (Chic Mix) and lots of Moloko!

Best Misheard Lyrics:
Misheard: “To each and every degree you’ve got me in a gurney
Correct lyric: “To each and every degree you’ve got me in agony
- So You Say (Siobhan Donaghy)

Misheard: “Back in the days when I had a mustache
Correct lyric: “Back in the days when I had a Mustang
- Glamorous (Fergie)

2007 Annual Kylie Minogue Leaks (eww!) Award: Fall For You and Lose Control. Strangely or not, this year some of her leaks were better than album cuts or b-sides

Artists Who Deserved Better in 2007: Sophie Ellis Bextor, Dragonette and Siobhan Donaghy

Fanblog Of The Year: The fantastic, exhaustive and always updated Róisín Murphy fan blog by the Hopeless Optimist. I hope I have credited this person enough, because I get my Roisin news there and you should too

Most Overated: Mika (all schtick, bar a few good songs). Runner-up: Calvin Harris

Most Hated: I won't even utter her name. You probably know who it is.

Saddest Demise: Virtually every record store in Washington DC. There is only one true music store (that I would shop in) left and I do give them my cash. That culture is gone gone gone.

Guilty Pleasure: Fergie's paean to all things shallow, crass and poptastic: Glamorous

Best Lyrics Of The Year: Patrick Wolf's Augustine (read)

Best Song Title: Tie between Tracey Thorn's By Piccadilly Station I Sat Down And Wept and Lucky Soul's Lips Are Unhappy

Best Comeback(s): Suzanne Vega recorded her best album in 20 years. Marc Almond did a Lazarus routine, rising from literal near-death to reach a sublime career peak. Bruce Springsteen shocked me by releasing a very strong album (!) and Annie Lennox killed it with her new album, her best in 15 years. Tracey Thorn too, cannot forget her!

Live Show Of The Year: Annie Lennox (DC, Lisner Auditorium)

Favorite Scandipop Person Who Is Not Robyn: I discovered Anneli Drecker in early '07 and she got me through the boring winter months. Songs like Who On Earth, You Don't Have To Change and Tundra are all older songs that should be heard beyond Scandinavia. Thanks to the MIA Brittle Lemon for her.

I-Could-Not-Care-Less-Award: A certain mentally ill pop star's new album and the Spice Girls reunion.

Albums That Most Disappointed Me: First and foremost, Mutya Buena's Real Girl was a Real Dud and I wish her better luck next time or she's headed for Celebrity Big Brother. I was also very sad that the Joni Mitchell album was so weak. I blame the lack of an outside producer to help her keep it lively. Others that were either no good or just did not register with me: Alicia Keys, Deborah Harry (sorry!), Erasure, Tori Amos, Bjork, Prince, Seal and Brett Anderson

Okay, I am worn out with these lists. Rode hard and put away wet! There will be one more list tomorrow and then I am Done with 2007. Pack it up.

December 30, 2007

Top Ten + 1 Albums of 2007

The Top Three:

1 Siobhan Donaghy Ghosts
Read my full post about the Album Of The Year.

Key tracks: Medevac, Halcyon Days, So You Say, There's A Place, Don't Give It Up

2 Sophie Ellis-Bextor Trip The Light Fantastic
After 2 previous solo albums that were more like singles sets with filler, Sophie nailed it on the 14-track Trip. She does it all, Blondie poprock on Catch You, Pet Shop Boysian dramatic balladry on Can't Have It All and one of the more unique Xenomania productions of the year, If You Go. Read my full review.

Key tracks: If You Go, Can't Have It All, New York City Lights, Catch You and What Have We Started, among many other gems.

3 Darren Hayes This Delicate Thing We’ve Made
Incredibly ambitious double CD with some perfect moments and a few failures. A huge risk that paid off for pop fans. Read my full review ...and this too!

Key tracks: Who Would Have Thought, Conversation With God, Step Into The Light, Tuning Of Violins, The Future Holds A Lion's Heart.

and the rest, in no order:

Roisin Murphy Overpowered
When Roisin is good, she is electrifying. This album is jam packed with brilliant tracks and, I think, a big leap forward from her first solo CD. I have to also say that among many physically beautiful pop women this year, she was the queen. Read my full review and more about the Artist Of 2007.

Key tracks: Let Me Know (song of the year!), You Know Me Better, Primitive, Cry Baby

Ghosts The World Is Outside
The best Britpop album since Keane's Hope And Fears, no contest. I love this band's fearlessness to really be POP. I think a second album is in the works - I really hope so.

Key tracks: Stop, Stay The Night, Ghosts and Temporary. Brilliant b-side with Hate This Music.

Tracey Thorn Out Of The Woods
The return everyone had been waiting for. What was thrilling about this album, which I never reviewed because it rendered me speechless, was the surprising breadth of styles. Out Of The Woods has moments of acoustic beauty, pure blissful pop and dancefloor coolness. Her voice has never sounded better. Thank GOD she is back. This probably should be in the Top 3.

Key tracks: It's All True, Raise The Roof, Nowhere Near, By Piccadilly Station I Sat Down And Wept (brilliant song title!)

Patrick Wolf The Magic Position
The first great album of 2007. This is Patty's finest moment, combining the best elements of his first two records, and raising the bar with his finest lyrics and melodies. Read my full review.

Key tracks: Augustine (lyric of the year), The Magic Position, Stars, Bluebells

Sara Bareilles Little Voice
Beautiful debut record by the best female voice to emerge from America in years. Sara belongs in the group with Shawn Colvin, Sarah McLachlan and Billy Joel. Read my full review.

Key tracks: Love Song, Gravity, Between The Lines, One Sweet Love

Suzanne Vega Beauty And Crime
Unexpected return from the great singer/songrwriter who launched an army of female musicians in the years following her chart-toppers. Ths is her third best record after the debut and Solitude Standing. Jimmy Hogarth's production gives SV's songs the complexity they deserve. Major record. Read my full review.

Key tracks: Ludlow Street, Bound, Pornographer's Dream

Annie Lennox Songs Of Mass Destruction
The great Diva of our time brings it with her best vocal performance ever and her finest album since her solo debut Diva. Annie goes pretty deep for most older fans and this CD is no exception. Alongside classic Annie songs like Dark Road and Love Is Blind, she included surprises like the Eurythmics-y synth gem Coloured Bedspread and the "filmic", sentimental Fingernail Moon. Add in the Elton John-ish Smithereens (sad song!) and her finest vocal performance ever on Big Sky. Read my full review.

Key tracks: Big Sky, Smithereens, Love Is Blind

Kylie Minogue X
The final analysis is, for me, that Kylie X is brilliant. She has a great formula here: 1) classic Kylie songs like Stars and Wow, 2) modern Kylie on The One and Sensitized 3) successful new styles on All I See and In My Arms, 4) gorge emotional ballad on Cosmic and 5) attempts at "radicalism" that fail horribly, like Nu-di-ty. Read my full review.

Key tracks: Wow, The One, All I See

Best Album of 2007 that is actually from 2005:

Robyn Robyn
How many times has this CD been released? The final version with With Every Heartbeat and Jack U Off is the best. I left the songs off my lists because they are old. With Every Heartbeat was on my best song list last year but never wore out its welcome.

Key tracks: With Every Heartbeat, Be Mine!, Should've Known, Konichiwa Bitches

Other great albums:

Girls Aloud Tangled Up
Key tracks: Call The Shots, Control Of The Knife, Black Jack

Tom Baxter Skybound
Better, Skybound, Night Like This, Last Shot

Just Jack Overtures
Key tracks: Disco Friends, Starz In Their Eyes, No Time

Mandy Moore Wild Hope
Key tracks: Extraordinary, Wild Hope, Nothing That You Are

The Hours Narcissus Road
Key tracks: Ali In The Jungle, Back When You Were Good, Love You More

Dragonette Galore
Key tracks: Take It Like A Man, Competition, Another Day, I Get Around

Passengers Wicked Man's Rest
Key tracks: Four Horses, Wicked Man's Rest, Walk You Home

Rufus Wainwright Release The Stars
Key tracks: Going To A Town, Between My Legs, Nobody's Off The Hook, Release The Stars

Lucky Soul The Great Unwanted
Key tracks: The Great Unwanted, Ain't Never Been Cool, Lips Are Unhappy (great song title!), My Darling Anything

Wonder what I forgot?!

See 2006's Best Albums list

December 29, 2007

I like it in the city when two worlds collide

First, some business: All thanks to Worrapalova for being on the edge with new music in 2007. He wrote twice about Adele before my ears pricked up. Note to self: Listen to Phil right away. Don't doddle in 2008, because the man has great taste.

While the American music biz keeps churning out "artists" like Colby Caillet (crap!), England finds these amazing young women who must've been channeling Dusty and Dinah at age 9.

Adele (Adkins) is 19 years old. NINETEEN. Listen to her! She will be compared to Amy Winehouse, but she's not really that much like her. Sophie Heawood likens her to a young Alison Moyet and that's true, but she's much heartier than Dusty Springfield... the comparison there may be to the melancholy mood of her songs. [Everyone compares everyone to Dusty!] She's also a bit like equally young Paolo Nutini in the way her songs manage to be subtle and knock you down at the same time.

The mind-bogglingly good Hometown Glory was her first single in October, but the album is being launched with Chasing Pavements, which has some beautiful early 70's strings. She calls this song her Celine Dion moment, but it sounds nothing like Celine. I have to admit I do not like the video - it's clever, but creepy; reminiscent of Coldplay's car crash video. She says it's because the song is about a "car crash relationship." Whatever, it also doesn't have enough Adele. People will want to match a face to this voice!

Her myspace blog is great. Sample entry: "ive just done my first UK tour, where i wernt supporting anyone. And it was a right laugh! " She says her 12-song debut album 19 is “about being between 18 and 19; about love... It’s quite a sad album, [with songs about] being cheated on and not getting what you want”.

You can find some of Adele's songs here and listen to Pete Paphides interview her on the recent Times Podcast. 19 is out on January 28 and the single is out on January 21 with a great b-side title: That’s It, I Quit, I’m Moving On.

Last note: Adele's mother is 38 years old. Like me. Adele could be my daughter! Yet another failure that she is not.

December 28, 2007

"The stage is set"

Imogen Heap just did her final vBlog of the year. She has a new car (just got her license) and has decorated it for Christmas. Note that she even has Christmas cards up on the side window! [Did I mention I made all my cards this year? It was fun, but an absurd money pit. AND my mother did not even mention the one I sent her, which specifically had an angel on it for her!] Anyway, Immi just turned 30 and had a massive party, which you'll see in the blog. Kate Havnevik makes a cameo with an interesting cake. I guess my invitation was lost in the mail? See what Immi wore here. The previous vBlog was quite good too, by the way.

Imogen says her album is 90% written, with recording in the new year and a new song, Not Now But Soon, for Heroes, to tide us over in February. You can hear a few seconds of it around minute 2 in this vblog.

December 27, 2007

Cover Story: First look at 2008

Adele's album cover has an iconic photo. Though I have not heard the whole album, I have every hope this record will be on Best Of lists next year...

How... Feelingish. Another cover image with no picture. Always interesting when the band looks as they do. I don't think they know it or trade on it.

You have to love Sarah Brightman for coming up with specific looks for her CD covers. She accentuates them with the appropriate wigs and plastic surgery. In this case, Sarah has fallen off a boat into the Sea Of Kelly Clarkson.

Since when did Cat PowerakaChan Marshall turn into Jane Birkin? I have to admit, she bores me.

December 26, 2007

2007: XO's Favorite Songs of the Year

Finally, the list of my favorite songs of the year....The 19 songs below fit on an 80 min CDR. This was very hard to whittle down, so there are some extras below. I could (and did) do all sorts of lists, but this is The List... thanks to everyone who listened to me prattle on about how brilliant these songs were as I discovered them. That is one of the great things about music, the shared experience.

Note - the first 2 songs are truly the Top 2, but the others appear in the order they do on my iTunes playlist.

1 Let Me Know Roisin Murphy UK SONG OF THE YEAR!
I've been intrigued by some guy's interpretation - can't remember where I read it - that this song is about the gay dating/sex scene. From my own CD review: "Everything is right here: the step step step hook on the chorus, the soulful intro and a vocal that is far more beautiful than most pop songs deserve (especially at 2:08: I don't belong to you, like you don't belong to me / So don't hold on too tightly...)."

2 Casey Darren Hayes USA
Everybody has a real Casey and I had several. Those girls - and one guy -know who they are. What I said in my CD review: "Darren has the time to allow the 6 minute+ track to slowly blossom with longer instrumental passages. The bass beat doesn't really come in until minute 3. The song is divided into sections and when you think it's about to end at 4:43, alongs comes a beautiful synth coda that adds to the grandeur." That part with the beat (2:52) still gives me chills, literally.

and the other greats of the year...

3. Redeem Me Marc Almond UK
My God! Can you think of a better comeback song than this? Every single OTT element is perfect. This is a collaboration with the incredible Marius Devries.

4. 1234 Feist CAN
Apple almost overexposed this in their commercials. I most love the section with the horns toward the end - it makes me so happy.

5. If I Called You On The Telephone The Revelations UK
Poor girls never got a proper CD release or even an album cover or photos. Whatever, they had several great tracks on their CD, but this girl-groupish boomer hits the sweetest spot.

6. Up Country Mancini UK
Although Mancini never released a second single, there is evidence they are not done. Jo Whiley likes them! This is the driving song of the year.

7. Umbrella (Jody den Broeder Lush Radio Edit) Rihanna USA
I could never listen to the original after hearing this mix. I love the chorus lyrics, especially the bit about "Took an oath, I'ma stick out to the end."

8. It's All True Tracey Thorn UK
Tracey surprised everyone with this song being so "pop." Most expected icy club drama and they got the sweetest love song evah, circa Madonna 1983.

9. Wow Kylie Minogue UK
Take Kylie's best musical elements and whip them into a frothy 3 minutes. Explosive would be a good word for this song. 2008 hit coming soon.

10. Disco Friends Just Jack UK
I still don't know the lyrics on the robotic chrous of this took-too-many-club-drugs downer gem.

11. Medevac Siobhan Donaghy UK
I imagine this could be done hard live. Like, massively loud and metallic. I fucking love those diving synths that come in at 2:30 ish. Help me out here, coz I'm strung out.

12. Big Sky Annie Lennox UK
All you need to know: Darkness and light, that's what's inside. Darkness and liiiiight, that's what's insiiiiiide.

13. Between My Legs Rufus Wainwright USA/CAN
How often does one get to chat with the songwriter about one of his favorite songs of the year? I did! From my review: "If fans are going to have a Big Gay Moment on this record, when they finally lose their shit and start running around screaming, the last 90 seconds of this song - complete with Phantom Of The Opera crescendos - are sooo it."

14. Augustine Patrick Wolf UK
Elegant, eerie, wise and passionate. Still love that bit at 2:54 where he asks, "Well, is it?"

15. Stop Ghosts UK
Title should've had an exclamation point on it. This Britpop song unexpectedly took me to a Culture Club-circa-1983 moment. Glorious and uplifting. Thanks to Torr for this one.

16. Extraordinary Mandy Moore USA
I am a Geek. I feel for her empowerment schtick wholeheartedly, but hey, I think I was a better version of myself in '07. Did I just say that?

17. Better Tom Baxter
Why isn't this love song at #1 yet? It may still get there. This CD will be around all of 2008.

18. Gravity Sara Barielles USA
Sara is just now taking off, but I was obsessed with this perfect ballad in June when I got my car. I would wail at stop lights, scaring other drivers.

19. Come To Me (Peace) Mary J. Blige USA
Mary excels at lifting us right off the grey city sidewalks as we trudge to work with our iPods. Like, levitating off the ground. "I'm here to make peace. peace. peace."

What almost made it. I practically cried when cutting these. It was XO's Choice! Mark Ronson w/Daniel Merriweather: Stop Me If You Think…, Mika: Relax (Take It Easy), Siobhan Donaghy: So You Say, Sophie Ellis-Bextor: Can’t Have It All, Sarah Nixey: Endless Circles and Suzanne Vega: Ludlow Street.

I played the hell out of Antigone's uberballad Life Without You (among others), but it's out next year. Also, Robyn's With Every Heartbeat was on my 2006 list, so I won't repeat that one.

How did I get to accident/emergency?

Several new pics of Allison Goldfrapp are out there now, but still no tracklist details for A&E. By the way, it took me until this week to realize the significance of the line "I'm in a backless dress..." I thought How glamorous until I realized, Right, a hospital gown.

December 25, 2007

Up in '08: The Gadsdens

Run don't walk to Arjanwrites for a free MP3 of The Sailor Song, a lush track by new Brit band The Gadsdens.

Merry Christmas!

I'm posting from my parent's house because not a (blessed) day goes by that I am not on the Internet at some point. Everyone has their favorite Christmas traditions and shows they like to watch, so here is mine below.

I hope everybody is having a great holiday! I should be back tomorrow to finish up my lists for 2007. xo xo Steve

Click here for an NPR Christmas!

December 23, 2007

Up in '08: Torchwood, Season Two!

Just one month, Captain Jack! Take note that the second series includes a new character played by an icon of sci-fi television. You can see him briefly in this trailer.

Endcap: Patrique's Annus Exoticus

Patrick Wolf finally succumbed to fashion disease at his finale concerts for The Magic Position last week. The pic above is quite subdued compared to the full horror... I am partial to gingham, aren't you?

Patrick had quite a year. Never a dull moment for this talented drama queen...

  1. He released his technicolor opus The Magic Position (my review here)
  2. Wrote my favorite song lyrics this year for Augustine (read them)
  3. Posed for photos beautiful and horrid
  4. Attacked his druggy drummer
  5. Princess obnoxiously "quit" the music business
  6. Unsurprisingly "returned" to the music business moments later
  7. Didn't bother with support for his magic wand
  8. Became a Burberry model in all the fashion rags
  9. Did stripteases onstage in Europe
  10. Finally toured America, doing a gorge set in DC (my review here)
  11. Posed grandly (see below) for a Vanity Fair piece on those bloody eccentric Englishmen
  12. Up in '08: A digital release of new recordings of vault materials and expanded releases of his first three albums, also digitally.

amazing live photo at top by
Natalia Urazmetova

December 21, 2007

"You had your arm around what's-her-name..."

Some recent remixes I've been marching around the city to...

Darren Hayes Me Myself and I (Wayne G & Andy Allder Totally 80's Mix) 6:35
Dazzer versus Madonna, Lucky Star stylee
via 4 Muzik Freaks

Roisin Murphy Let Me Know (Ian Green Club Mix) 7:31
Clubby but gorge mix of the most important pop song of 2007
via Le Jukeblog de Benzen

Tracey Thorn King's Cross (Hot Chip Remix) 6:45
Not my favorite mix, but kind of elegant and I thought some of you would dig it.
via 4 Muzik Freakz

Rufus Wainwright Tiergarten (Supermayer QB Edit) 6:46
Stick with the shorter version. This is cool because it honors RW's style while adding a beat in the latter half
via Toons 'N Tunes

Robyn Be Mine (Verschwende Deine Jugend Remix) 4:31
Very Tron-ish mix that keeps the melody upfront. Ocelot mix also worthy...
via Fhaid Unrated

Goldfrapp A&E (Gui Boratto Mix) 6:52
Urgent and elegant, this mix takes awhile to get going, but it's more seductive than the official version
via 4 Muzik Freakz

and last, a very special link for all you gorgeous peoples...

Cher & The Osmonds Stevie Wonder Medley (Live - Cher Show) 5:00
You can also watch this majestic piece of auditory art here
via All That Glitters Ain't Gold

2007: The 25 Best POP Tunes

This is not "THE List", but it is dedicated to pure pop music, meaning buoyant and frothy and generally made to make people happy... [songs in no order!]

Let Me Know Roisin Murphy
Diana Ross meets Lisa Stansfield, but better.
Kylie Minogue Wow
Made by God in pop heaven
Sophie Ellis Bextor Catch You
La Bex does her best Deborah Harry
Girls Aloud Call The Shots
In their slightly more grownup mode
Fergie Glamorous
Guilty pleasure from the Juicy Coutured skank
Maroon 5 Makes Me Wonder
Adam goes all Backstreet, but in a good way
Sophie Ellis Bextor Move To The Music
She put this on a b-side?
Natasha Bedingfeld Smell The Roses
A little softness from the overly maligned NB
Rihanna Umbrella
Do I need to say anything other than zeitgeist?
The Revelations If I Called You On The Telephone
The greatest retro pop song nobody knows
Dragonette Take It Like A Man
Another Blondie worthy track from an album that should've rocked the world charts
Pleasure Out Of Love
Fred Ball of Bertine Zetlitz fame creates a perfect, cooing song
Mika Relax (Take It Easy)
Mr Stole My Hair never matched this feat on the full-length
Siobhan Dongahy So You Say
That guy named Adam, mentioned in the song, better be hidin'!
Kylie Minogue Stars
Is this Kylie's version of rock?
Mandy Moore Extraordinary
Could I be more of a ladyman for loving this empowerment tune?
De Souza & Shena Guilty
The one that sample Babs at her most disco swizzy
Etherfox feat Antigone Something Different To Say
Ibiza dancepop masterpiece from the girl with the most cake
Roisin Murphy You Know Me Better
Second best song on Overpowered
Ghosts Stop
Britpop worthy of Culture Club. Needs a "!" at the end of the title
Sophie Ellis Bextor Can't Have It All
Undisputed best ending of a song in 2007
Kylie Minogue The One
I vowed not to try and describe this song again
Sugababes Change
One of the 'Babes best ballads (later whipped into a killer dance mix)
Tracey Thorn It's All True
The song that launched my 2007 obsession with The Pointer Sisters "Dare Me"
Annie Lennox Coloured Bedspread
Like a lost song from 1983's "Touch"

December 20, 2007

2007 Album Of The Year

Siobhan Donaghy / Ghosts

In the tradition of Kate Bush and Cocteau Twins, the ex-Sugababe Siobhán Donaghy (pronounced Donnahee) propelled herself into a place somewhere high above the usual air in which pop music floats. There aren't many artists like this anymore, are there? Siobhán isn't selling her private life or her body or her haute production team. Ghosts is a beautiful and adventurous album written and recorded in a French chateau with a talented producer named James Sanger.

Siobhán said she wanted to make a record that was meaningful and quirky. She waltzes all over the pop map in terms of song styles, but the ultimate effect is "rococo" pop. Even the b-sides, like Don't Take Me Back and Givin' In, were sublime. Here is what I said last spring after finally hearing the whole CD:

Clearly, Siobhán has spent long hours lying on her floor listening to Cocteau Twins, Kate Bush, and Tori Amos on her big headphones. The record has a really wide scope, from the Kate-ish backwards trilling on the title track to the "swaying" pop of So You Say. Medevac swoops and pounds while our lass wails about being "strung out." My current favorite is the glistening folk/orchestral ballad There's A Place. This album is a pleasing combination of glorious pop laced with bits of Anglo weirdness.
At the start of 2007, Siobhán gave away the title track (below!) for free on her myspace page. I wrote the above text on March 28, a full three months before the album was released. I suspect many people did not pay for it. Had they done so, they'd know that Ghosts has the most beautiful album packaging of the year. The artwork perfectly complimented the music, with disturing and (literally) ghostly photos by Floria Sigismondi.

Siobhán Donaghy Don't Give It Up video
Siobhán Donaghy So You Say video [I don't like this one!]
Siobhán Donaghy Ghosts fanmade video
Siobhán Donaghy Medevac live at Popstarz
Siobhán Donaghy
There's A Place live at AOL - pretty!
Siobhán Donaghy Interview

Favorite tracks: Medevac, Halcyon Days, So You Say, Sometimes, There's A Place

Thanks to Zarko @ Design Scene for the new photo

December 19, 2007

2007: RXolondon

A year ago I did a post called RXolondon that went over quite well, so I'm repeating myself here, which is ironic given some of the criticism you are about to read. In some cases, the music is fine, in some cases... not so much. I am a fan, or have been, of these folks. Note that normally I post on music I like, so this will surely annoy a few of you, but itiswhatitis...

Duran Duran: An interesting case, because I do like their album (review), but I fear it may fall into oblivion. Could be that it's an old school album that needs to be worked, but mistakes have already been made. Falling Down was a poor choice for a single when the whole point of hiring Timbaland was to secure a hit. Duran need to pop right out of the gate and they just came across as limp old men. That song sounds great on the CD, but it's so NOT a single and it is certainly not even close to Ordinary World (which Justin was aiming for). Nite Runner or Skin Diver must be the second single and they should put out a great video fast. The album cover was a bit dodgy and Roxy Music-esque for the buying public these days, but I don't have a solution to that since the "boys" are almost 50. I suspect their fans would have wanted a nice picture of them on the cover, but I wonder to whom this album is being marketed?

Tori Amos: First, let me say it's possible to edit American Doll Posse down to 12 songs and it's much better. The music is not so much the problem: I know a lot of you really liked the album and felt it was a return to form. I had high hopes from the early leaks and the provocative album title, but I still see her making the same obvious mistakes again and again. 20 songs? No, thank you! A b-side is a b-side for a reason (Fat Slut)! There were some great Tori tunes on the album (Teenage Hustling added some new twists and there were classic Tori songs like Bouncing Off Clouds and Secret Spell), but often her voice was kind of buried in the arrangements. Like the last several albums, this was made by the same team, in a bubble in Cornwall with an overcooked (and silly) "concept" and it's her second horrid album cover in a row. The passion is back, but she needs to step out of the countryside if she wants to stay viable. Sometimes don't you get the impression she is playing up to the kook image a bit? If you read her book, you'll know that Tori understands the music business. It's time to change.

Mutya Buena: Wot happened? One of the most awaited solo albums of the year, by one of the most unique vocalists to come out of the UK, and it was a complete BOMB. Mistakes on every level. It told us nothing about who Mutya really is and I actually blame her for that. From what I've read, she's just not very involved, showing up hours late for recording sessions and being distracted by her own life dramas. The songs sounded like outtakes from Sugababes, devoid of life. For example Brokedown Motel could have been a great song, but listen to the cheap-ass beat. Sounds like a demo! And her attempt to cash in on Amy Winehouse with B-boy was utter drivel that fooled no one. Mutya needs to get her shit together and make some slammin' dance songs, sweet pop songs (Real Girl came close) and epic ballads. None of this wan midtempo sludge that sunk her debut.

Bjork released her most forgettable album ever, Volta (review). Earth Intruder was interesting, but the other Timbaland songs sounded just like it. She has strayed from her original goal of taking esoteric, arty music and weaving it into great pop songs. It's like she decided she is an artiste now. She's at a point where she is so revered that she can do whatever she wants. Too much choice can be a bad thing. I also think she needs to be in her videos, which she has finally done with Declare Independence. Regardless, come back to the dance floor, Mrs. Barney, and stop dressing up like a glass pear (or Mr. Kool Aid, as someone else said!).

Prince: "Eye" offer no cures 4 this little asshole who has alienated all his fans 1) by releasing terrible albums 4 the last 12 years and 2) by suing said fans and writing "songs" about how he hates them. Eye think he hates himself and it's outward projection. He has fallen off his tiny stilettos. Now, this rant comes from a person who was obsessed by him in the 80's and still gives each album a shot. He's woefully out of touch and everything about his enterprise, ironically, screams Dollar Store, from the bad mixes 2 the horrid Photoshopped album art probably created by an intern or some roadie. Eye can't even tell u the name of his 2007 album. All eye know is that if record stores still existed, this CD would be in cutout bins. Boouwhore.

December 17, 2007

Cover Story: Shelby Lynne

WOW. She's back! Shelby Lynne, singer/songwriter of one of the greatest songs of all time (Killin' Kind) has grown out her hair and recorded a Dusty Springfield tribute album! This is big news, as Shelby is one of the best female singers alive - her vocals are no bullshit, all honesty.

Called Just A Little Lovin' (and due on January 28), the CD was produced by Phil Ramone and will include 1. Just A Little Lovin', 2. Anyone Who Had A Heart, 3. You Don't Have To Say You Love Me, 4. I Only Want To Be With You, 5. The Look Of Love, 6. Breakfast In Bed, 7. Willie And Lauramae Jones, 8. I Don't Want To Hear It Anymore. 9. Pretend, and 10. How Can I Be Sure.

And did I mention whose idea this album was? Barry Manilow. True story. Hear samples at Shelby's myspace

My Top Ten Plus One Shelby Lynne songs:

1. Killin' Kind video

and the rest in no order:

Dream Some
Gotta Get Back video
Wall In Your Heart video
Trust Me
Your Lies video
Thought It Would Be Easier
If I Were Smart

Shelby's best album is called I Am Shelby Lynne but she does have a Hits Collection. How about that album cover above? I'd like a vinyl version please.

Say the word and I'll give you what you want

So this live leak of the Madonna song is out there now. I am assuming Timbaland is wailing live over it and that the actual song does not start with a full minute of him? He's such a megalomaniac.

Anyway, you can't really hear her until like 1:10 and then it's only about a minute of the song, which appears to be a "duet" with Justin. So far most boards I've (quickly) read seem to hate it and are wailing "career dunzo," but that's been said for years, hmm? Unlike most Timbaland songs, it seems to have a melody. A wee bit urban on the verses, the chorus is really very "urgent" pop, which is appropriate given the song title...

Not posting that title here because I don't want all sorts of blog hits on it. I'll comment more when I hear the real thing.

December 14, 2007

XO's Pop Star O' 2007: Róisín Murphy

There have been years where this "award" was not an option. This time it was practically crying out to me. While 2007 was loaded down with great albums and artists with actual integrity (a rare commodity), I can't think of anyone more forceful than Róisín Murphy.

Róisín likes to talk about how she stumbled into music as a young chick, asking "Do you like my sweater?" on a dance song. As the years have progressed, it is clear that she's been a sort of open vessel of learning. Everything led to Overpowered. Her previous work is very good, but this is more than an album: corny as it sounds, it's an "event." Killer music, unique visuals and a true character at the heart of it all.

In my review of her album, I talked about the two sides to Róisín, often evident in her vocals. One is a pop girl with a sweet, high voice and the other is an almost masculine force. I think the best artists are able to channel these sides of their persona. Tori Amos has built a career on joining the madonna and the "whore" back into one, and Róisín also really joins up what we associate as feminine and masculine.

The music did what the best pop should: the elements added up to something beyond their parts. There hasn't been much dispute on the web about Let Me Know being stellar. It exudes emotion in a way that only this singer could have done. Her songs have a certain wisdom to them, especially You Know Me Better: "How many years can we keep going on this way? / Too afraid... too much at stake / I believe the friendship can survive / Or maybe it won't, if we do or we don't."

She proved that in the media too, when manchild Calvin Harris publicly savaged her on PopJustice for not putting his song on her record. How very dare she! Calvin, who was proclaimed a genius by the media after one single - if that isn't a red alert, I don't what is - acted like a prat and Róisín just wrote it off with a sigh: "He's young." She forgave him and he has since apologized.

Her visuals are as much a part of her self expression as her lyrics. Not unusual for a pop star, but - let's be real - Róisín has the BEST HAIR IN POP MUSIC [evidence] and she has the best clothes and the best moves, both sexy and droll. It's all done with great care and thought, but none of it seems overwrought or too serious. She seems relaxed and free and confident.

Which brings me to "the incident." Róisín bashed the fuck out of her face whole dancing wildly onstage in Russia this year. Have you done this before? Flailed around with such abandon that you either hurt yourself or broke something? You feel like a fool, but there's a part of you that thinks, "Wait! I was right to let go!" Róisín was onstage again like 10 days after it happened and if that isn't work ethic, I don't know what is.

Either you get her or you don't. Love her or leave her, I just have one more thing I need to say: Róisín Murphy has the best champagne cups in the biz. Figure it out for yourself. And dig it all, she's the Queen Of The Year.

Thanks to the great Róisín fanblog for all their work this year.

What's coming in 2008: A new Róisín single for You Know Me Better and more touring, I hope.

*photo of RM in Amsterdam on Nov 21 by the excellent kikicrumbles

December 13, 2007

2007: Music Videos Of The Year

Video Of The Year.... nothing comes close to Our Girl O' The Greasy Spoon:

Roisin Murphy Let Me Know:

directed with a touch of klass by Daniel Wolfe

Sophie Ellis Bextor Catch You:

directed by Sophie Muller

Feist 1234:

directed by Patrick Daughters

Roisin Murphy Overpowered:

directed by Jamie Thraves

Feist My Man My Moon:

directed by Patrick Daughters

Other great videos:

Tell Me Where It Hurts
directed by Sophie Muller

Mark Ronson and Lily Allen
Oh My God
Directed by Nima Nourizadeh

Rihanna Umbrella
directed by Chris Applebaum

Rihanna and Ne-Yo
Hate That I Love You
directed by Anthony Mandler (hot director in 2007)

Mancini Up Country
directed by Santiago Burin Des Roziers

Mixtape: Here is where the sky is blue

My Christmas tree is extra pretty this year

Andrew Davies did a remake of A Room With A View. Have you ever heard of anything so pointless? Really! Don't even go there mister!

Bit of gossip: Flood produced the new Goldfrapp album. Read more at Billboard (who posted the dodgy Madonna info last week).

hen I saw those pix of Amy Winehouse in the street in her underwear, I immediately thought about her parents and what kind of turmoil they must be in. I was apparently having a psychic moment, because Amy's mom wrote a public letter that is really heartbreaking. I hope this time next year Amy will be in recovery. I must sound like an idiot, blathering about some pop star I don't know, but this story really bothers me.

I bought the Scissor Sisters DVD called Hurrah! The documentary is a bit of a mishmash, with constant obligatory shots of the band walking through arena hallways toward the stage / screaming crowd. Never seen that in a concert film, right? Likewise, the stage show is not all that wowsers. I think the first DVD is much better... and of course the first features a flapping cameo from Jake's peen. What does come through is that they seem like a really nice group of relatively normal folk who are old enough to absorb their fame and not fall to pieces.

I also watched the DVD concert that came with U2's remaster of The Joshua Tree. It's clearly the footage used for the screens at an outdoor show in 1987, but that's fine because the focus is on Bono's face. It confirmed to me that Bad is one of the finest songs ever written. The performance of With Or Without You literally made me cry.

Spice Girls.
I actually had the records in the 90's, but prefer the ladies solo. If the cheap tix were not over 100 bucks, I might go for shits'n'giggles. But you can read Spice reviews not only at Chartrigger, but also at butch Johnny's. For the record, my fave SG songs are: Mama, Too Much, 2 Become 1, Viva Forever, and Weekend Lover.

Glad to hear Madonner's album is not called Licorice.

Did I say I am making my Christmas cards this year? It's ended up costing a lot more than normal cards. Whatever, I am kicking it Little House On The Prairie style. I am also trimming on the presents. The only ones I am giving are to my parents and my various kids (friend's children).

Retro Wonderland is jingling its balls. Be sure to download the Sandra Bernhard White Christmas piece. It's a "gentile" classic! "Oh God, Chip, you are so cuuuute! I wish you weren't my brother so I could fuck yewwwww!"

What is it with all these pseudo male models starting up "pop" careers? If I see one more 20-something partyboy type launching a quote/unquote music career by showing his waxed ass, I will wretch. It makes me sound old and defensive, but I just get tired of people who constantly work it with the sex sex sex. Become a porn star, but don't bore us with your autotuned vacuity. To borrow from Ani DiFranco, I am not a pretty boy. That is not what I do.

Note that the above statement is not quite in keeping with my earlier comment about Jake Shear's penis. whatevrah.

am also very bahhumbuggery about my work's Christmas party. It's like forced fun and I am literally thinking of working through it. I just recoil when people order you to make snowmen and shit. And it should be noted that I am quite a festive person, really!

Britpoppery: Captain's next CD is not too far off. Here is a live review of a recent show. The Kooks' album is due in March-ish and is called Konk.
Meanwhile, Lily Allen has released a cover of ELO's song Mr Blue Sky. She needs to stop with the covers and make up with Mark Ronson. Remember when Lily was just a girl riding a bike through London? Those were the days. It's not a sellout to lose weight, of course, but it is a sellout to do loads of press about it. Don't cry when you gain it back and they focus on that, Lily.

Matinee Club was dropped by Universal but is still releasing their CD (digitally) next week [thanks How I Learned...!]. Don't get excited - fans know all the songs. I hope they can make some money off it, but really the party is well and truly over.

The movies I want to see at Christmastime: Atonement, The Golden Compass and Juno.

Morrissey's next single is called That's How People Grow Up. If I didn't comment on the Moz/NME drama, I won't start now.

ABC is finally releasing a new album called Traffic on February 4th. The first single is called The Very First Time. It would be lovely if Martin Fry would speak with pop blogs. Let it be known that The Look Of Love is one of the Top 10 Songs of the 1980's and perhaps all time.

Janet Jackson's song Feedback (from her album due in...doh!... February) has leaked. Not impressive! It's all vocodered so it's not identifiable as Janet AT ALL. It also has some Madonna-isms. Catch 'em? Not to mention references to her period. Not as shiteous as her last two singles though... UPDATE: Hear it now at her site.

Finally, some odd news: I met Darren Hayes last Thursday (in a snowstorm) at a performance inside XM studios. How strange it is to have played Casey like 2500 times over the last 5 months and then end up in some brick building on the edge of DC listening to it performed before 25 people. The reason I never wrote about this? Hmmm. Darren was in great vocal form, witty when answering the DJ's questions, and he did meet everyone individually, but I sort of felt.... distant. I have never been comfortable meeting celebrities - I have nada to say to them in those circumstances. As polite as Darren was, this was the tail end of a long tour and I just felt like... the "next in line" (as another blogger said to me). I am not upset or turned off or anything; I just don't know what to say. It was nice that they brought in an audience, but I'm glad I did not sacrifice a full day's work for 4 songs in 30 minutes (promoted as 60-90).

December 11, 2007

Then again I did not want to be saved

I waited so long my hair grew grey and my teeth fell out. Almost. Lorraine finally released their first official single from their forthcoming album. Today. Worldwide on most versions of iTunes.

The song is Saved and many of you have heard it before, but this is a slightly remixed version by Dave Bascombe who has worked with Tears For Fears among others. The new mix is slightly more crisp, the the vocals laid right on top. It's a great song and the 6:40 MHC Vocal Mix is quite nice.

Totally new is a downtempo b-side called The Mess That We Are, which has the kind of rubbery guitar sound that was prevalent in the 80's with groups like China Crisis. There's even a Spandau Ballet-ish sax moment.

In the pop music realm, there are very few artists who 1) do it well and 2) are men. So pay for this one! Note that it's from iTunes Plus (US link) which requires download of the latest version of iTunes. This caused me much angst a few weeks back, but it's fine now and if you have any problems, email me.

No specific title or date for Lorraine's album, but let me guess February because that's when everything is coming out. I do hope Anders gets a proper shirt for Christmas. Really - take a close look at what's he wearing in the photo above. What's going on there?!

December 10, 2007

2008: Deep Inside The Feeling

"He carried English bayonets in an English way..."

Q Magazine recently did a piece on Join With Us, the upcoming sophomore album by The Feeling, due out on February 18. The first single, I Thought It Was Over, debuted on Jo Whiley and I'm having a mixed reaction. Though I've not heard it in hi-fi, I think I can safely say that it's not a great leap forward. Sounds like an album track from their debut, meaning not bad, but unremarkable. Judge for yourself at The Society For... . Maybe it will grow on me

Piecing together details I've gathered from Q and various other sources, including The Feeling's blog, I can tell you this:

  • The album is self-produced. The planned collaboration with Trevor Horn did not materialize. There are still big orchestrals on the record.
  • Won't Go Away has a sax solo. Ohdeargod.
  • Without You was written in my state, Virginia, the same sad day a crazy kid killed a lot of students and faculty at VA Tech.
  • Another ballad is called Connor
  • Columbia has a Hammond organ and female vocals
  • Regarding I Thought It Was Over, Q says it sounds like Mika, but Dan says The Who mixed with dance. I think it sounds like The Feeling, which means like ELO on a summer break in Brighton.
  • The artwork is by Juno, who also did the Zutons' album and the Arctic Monkeys.
  • Upcoming b-sides include You've Got Big Eyes and Play Don't Think.

Sophomore CDs are such a crapshoot. For every masterpiece (A Rush Of Blood To The Head), there is a poor one, like the new Hard-FI. This group seems to have a lot of integrity, but I think Hard-FI do too. Dan and the boys do seem to still get along well, so that's a good sign.

Watch this sweet live version of Never Be Lonely.

Picture of Dan courtesy of