May 31, 2007

"Do you even know the extent of the damage?"

Courtney Love has been preparing for a live show in LA this week with her fairy godsister Linda Perry. She looks pretty good here - always best when she doesn't try too hard.

As God and YOU are my witnesses, I will see "Court" live this coming year. If I have to lie, cheat, steal or sell my ass to the night, I will be there. If you want to also see a small, strange 2006 video of Courtney singing Rhiannon (and quite well at that), click here.

Shoutout to Krissy: Please go with me. I'm miss world. Somebody kill me.

Marc Almond: Darkness into light

Glitter, stars, smoky bars, beauty, tears, passion, dreams, the gutter and the moon. All words/images known to Marc Almond fans. It occurs to me that most of the world has no clue that Marc has continued to make lustrous, torchy pop music in the 25 years since he had a worldwide hit with his cover of Tainted Love with Soft Cell. We're talking megapop songs with strings and near-operatic vocals, one-off vocals on tracks by dance combos and offbeat works like a double album of Russian Folk music!

Marc, who turns 50 on July 9, was almost killed in October 2004 when he had a horrible motorcycle accident in London. It has taken much perseverence over several years, but he is back with new music on June 4.

The album, his first since 2003, is called Stardom Road and it is, as he describes it, "cover songs telling the story of my musical life," bar one new original. Produced by Tris Penna and Marius DeVries, guests are Antony Hegarty (whose album is he not on? Maroon 5's, maybe?) and Sarah Cracknell of St. Etienne on a cover of Dusty Springfield's I Close My Eyes And Count to Ten. I'd expected the record to be all torchy and Brechtian and dark, but it's a fully orchestrated waltz through various underground classics and styles. I'd love to put up an MP3, but I'm afraid Marc would be unhappy with that, so please note the purple link below, along with an MP3 of 2001's beautiful single Glorious, which is.

Hear new song The Ballad Of The Sad Young Men on his myspace page

You can also hear the same song at Tacim's 8/1 blog.

This is the official Stardom Road tracklist:

I Have Lived / I Close My Eyes And Count to Ten (feat. Sarah Cracknell) / Bedsitter Images / The London Boys / Strangers In The Night / The Ballad Of The Sad Young Men (feat. Antony) / Stardom Road / Kitsch / Backstage (I’m Lonely) / Dream Lover / Happy Heart /Redeem Me (Beauty Will Redeem The World) / The Curtain Falls

The aforementioned new song, the doo-woppy Redeem Me, is astonishing, one of the finest productions of his life. A summation of Marc's career and life, he sings, "I danced my way through subterranean cellars, chasing stars up alley ways / Kissed in doorways covered in glitter, falling in and out of clubs and bars / It's not too far to fall to the gutter from the stars." The song makes me realize how much Marc's music precedes the over-the-top compositions of Rufus Wainwright. Redeem Me is guaranteed a spot in my top 20 songs of 2007, perhaps the top 10.

What are my favorite Marc Almond songs? Here are ten:

My Hand Over My Heart
Say Hello Wave Goodbye (Almighty Mix)
Tears Run Rings video
Redeem Me
Child Star
The Days Of Pearly Spencer video
Meet Me In My Dreams
I've Never Seen Your Face

I suspect Varant and Tremble Clef have their own picks!

If you're looking for a perfect pop album you've probably never heard before, I'd recommend Marc's 1991 Tenement Symphony. The production is split between the fantastical arrangements of Trevor Horn and darker creations with Marc's Soft Cell collaborator, Dave Bell. The strings were done by Anne Dudley. Five of the songs on my list above are from this album, which has strangely not been re-released, but is available for a song on Amazon Marketplace. Get. It. Now.

May 29, 2007

XOvision: One man's Garbage

I don't know what it means, but it looks great.

Review: Kate Havnevik live in DC, May 9, '07

Expect a few upcoming posts that have been lingering in the drafts... here is one.

On May 9th I went to see Kate Havnevik open for Air at the 9:30 Club in DC. She performed about 7 songs, all while wearing a very large, odd, purple dress (see above!). She's classically pretty in person, like a younger Kate Bush, made for a stage where the lights hit her cheekbones just so.

Kate's vocals are just as beautiful live as on record; the whole sound was strong because she used some pre-recorded orchestral bits along with two multi-instrumentalist musicians. Unlike Me, her most widely known song, was peformed in a very different version, a capella with a pre-recorded backing of other Kates! The melody was slightly altered, but the song was still identifiable (watch it here).

It has to be said that there is something Bjorkish about Kate Havnevik, not only in her voice, but in how she sings with her eyes wide open - she almost smiles as she performs. Below was her opening number, New Day.

Kate has a video coming out shortly for Unlike Me - one of my top songs of 2006 - and you will see it on this blog. Hear more Kate at her myspace page - she is the darling of Grey's Anatomy.

Oh yes, how was Air you ask? I wouldn't know: we didn't bother to stay! I know, I know, spare me...

May 28, 2007

Kylie's Birthday!

Kylie is back to being a year older than me... here are some pics and a song to celebrate

Kylie Minogue If You Don't Love Me expired
This is a beautiful cover of a Prefab Sprout gem that Kylie did with Brothers In Rhythm around 1994. She slowed it down and turned it into a torchy ballad.

My favorite photos are the first and last...

May 27, 2007

The Magic Wand

I haven't said much about Patrick Wolf since his whole quitting-performance drama. Here we have a video that begs to be seen. Do I need to explain why? heh heh heh

Classics: Goin' out my head

The Kylie post below (and its resulting comments) got me to thinking about an artist and a song I love. Many of the people who read this blog probably did not at the time this song, Bad Haircut, was being played 24/7 on my iPod. Strangely, I have never seen the video above. Not sure how I missed it, because it's quite good! I must have looked for it on youtube at the time? Anyway, the message is this: gamers will break your heart. Do not cling to them because they are smokin' hot.

Alexis Strum had a song on my 2006 Top 20 Songs list and there is more on her here, along with my fave Alexis post. I'd love to say "Buy her album" but you can't. She never had one released. Got completely fucked over by her label.

So, years late, here is her video for the amazing Bad Haircut, a song that will fool you at first, it seems so straightforward, when it's actually an epic breakup song with a gorgeous melody.

May 26, 2007

Kylie: Hurry up and get a groove on

If you click to enlarge the pic of Kylie and her Main Gay William, you'll see that he is wearing a Kylie hoodie. Should I create XO hoodies and other products for my friends to wear when they are with me? That wouldn't be narcissistic at all, would it? I am, after all, a conglomerate.

Anyway, this won't be a huge post. Kylie's songs are usually great pop tracks, but not always groundbreaking, you know? They don't often speak of her personal life or, you know, the situation in the Green Zone. What she does best is pick melodic tracks that would sound great at the beach, toodling around town, etc. Songs you actually play again and again as you live your life. Music that seeps into your brain quickly, but not songs I can really expound upon.

Here are some of the songs that may or may not end up on Kylie's next album:

Fall For You
Starts like Sophie's Catch You and becomes a crunchy synth thang. One of the better leaks, it is single worthy. The "Authority" on the PopJustice boards says this is actually from the Body Language sessions, but it sounds more current to me. Recent pop songs have a harder guitar edge, a la Beware Of The Dog or Shut Up And Drive.

This is rumored to be new. Another single-worthy song. Why is that so many girl singers release shit? Because Kylie has scooped up all the catchy songs. She throws away gems! I bet she sleeps in Versace gowns too. Anyway, this one is really uplifting, with an earworm chorus.

In My Arms
How do you describe a feeling? I love spoken bits... This is said to be one of the Calvin Harris outtakes [Nov 07 edit: it's not a Calvin song] and that's believable. It has that chewy old 80's synth sound. It's fine, but doesn't make me run around screaming. Other folks think this is the best of the lot.

Lose Control
Nice Moroder-esque Eurodisco. Starts with that dirty, farty synth and some slowed down vocals. I think this sounds Body Language-esque, but the PJ board man says it's new. Very Pop Musik with a nice shimmery Kylie chorus.

This would be very cool were it not for that annoying "Wooh!" running through it. At first I thought it may be some anti-leak device (a la "AOL first listen"!), but the effect fades in certain spots, so I think it's a part of the song. It's actually a Serge Gainsbourg sample and it needs to be used more sparingly.

Note that another song leaked recently called When The Cat's Away, but I don't like that one so much.

May 25, 2007

Kylie at Cannes

Crazy ass Shazzer Stone improvised some la-la-la's with Kylie in Cannes.

Coming up: XO reviews the new Kylie leaked tracks and celebrates Kylie's birthday by eating cake, etc etc.

Who will be at Sanssouci tonight?

The amount of press Rufus Wainwright is doing for Release The Stars is Madonna-circa-1991-worthy. He is everywhere. Here's a biggie though: Vanity Fair has just done a huge piece on the Wainwrights! Notice who is missing from the photos? Oddball father Loudon. He is featured prominently in the piece, which is about this sort of musical dynasty, including a Wainwright child you probaby have not heard of yet...

Read Songs In The Key Of Lacerating

Note also that Vanity Fair Germany has done a piece on him, in which he says, " I like to listen to my music when I'm high." You can also watch a short film of him shooting photos for the piece. More new pics of Rufus from the German issue in the post below...

Run with the dogs tonight

click to enlarge

Scans by Rufus fan kro3anain from the Rufus boards.

May 24, 2007

Xolondon Crowns The New American Idol!

This was a terrible year on AI. Just the dregs. That said, the top 4 was a more solid top 4 than I ever remember. All worthy singers, but no one vocally came close to Melinda Doolittle. It's fine that she did not win, but the poor ratings for the final showdown prove that the matchup of Jordin and Blake was too clearly going to Jordin. The real nail-biter showdown would have been Jordin vs Melinda. Did Sparks deserve it? Well, I don't think so, but she'll be a good Idol in a Miss (Teen) America sort of way. She's saddled with the worst Idol song in years. One hopes they kill the whole concept next year and just write something afterward, specifically for the artist.

Here is my choice for Melinda's best performance. This is pre-makeover, pre-weave, pre-backlash. It is light years ahead of anyone else on the show.

XO tells M the truth

Madonna, looking purposeful on the London set of the thing she is directing, Filth And Wisdom:

Madonna relaxing on the set of the thingy, ignoring a horrible reality...

She senses a problem. Her mood quickly shifts. "Call me, XO" she is saying.

[ringy ringy ringy]

M: 'allo, XO?
XO: Esther. The shoes are beyond makeshift. Beyond fugly. The song, Hey Poo, is a full-scale assult on my elegance.
M: Wot?!
XO: Sorry luv, Kylie's on the Blackberry. Laters.

[click. dial tone.]

M: 'allo? XO? Zut alors!

M: [sob! sob! to lackeys] He doesn't like my shoes or my charitable acts!

Lackey: But M'am, poets and prophets envy you!

Madonna's mood shifts again...

M: [sob! sob!] Wot!? Have my cast killed. One. By. One.

Fotos de Kylie

Have you noticed that Kylie Minogue is all over the planet recently? Literally. South America, Europe, New York, London. The paparazzi follow our sweet pixie wherever she goes and she's always smiling. Usually she's with her Main Gay William, but he is not in these pics below. Here are the past few days:

1. Kylie has her dancecard full, so she needs a touch-up on her tresses...

2. Exiting L'oreal, feeling much better... [click to enlarge the photo below so you can gawk at the footware Kylie wears to the salon]

3. Kylie's at the airport! Where is Kylie going and why is she wearing pants emphasize her womb!?

4. Kylie's walking somewhere that befits her chicness. Where is it? Suddenly the pants seem continental...

5. Ahhh... Kylie has gone to Cannes with Crazy Ass Sharon Stone, whose gaping mouth may devour our Pocket Venus. What is La Minogue doing in Cannes? What is this whirlwind building up to?

6. Of course. A night of effortless glamour, performing at Shazzer's beloved Amfar benefit...

Thanks to Tricky for spawning this post... As always Kylie Brasil provides the best pictures of Kylie's every waking moment.

Bonus! When I say Kylie is continental, I mean it. Most Americans will not have seen this recent H&M commercial, in which Kylie goes all bossa nova. It's as good as any Kylie video.

La fin!

May 23, 2007

Review: Bjork's Volta

Bjork has been a favorite of mine for 20 years, but she has rarely created albums that I love all the way through. There is always something too too for me on each record, but I've always found (bar her Drawing Restraint film soundtrack) something to swoon over. I disliked Volta from the start and have only just begun to give it a chance. It’s possible that the album is a true grower and that I will come back in a year saying “brilliant,” but I have to question those who heard this once and screamed “epic!” That’s the age-old wishful thinking of fans in need of something great from an artist they love. Especially one who has been wandering in the Forest Of No Hooks for five years.

So why have I not warmed to Volta? Could it be that there is too much competition in pop? That I have lowered my standard and would rawwwther listen to a nice 3-minute song built on hooks? That I am no longer worthy to hear the Art?

Or could it be that I cannot even open the damned Volta packaging? It took me ages to get the booklet out, it is wedged so tightly. I wisely chose to put that Bjork-as-glass-fruit album sticker on the side panel or it would have been destroyed. Maybe she knows CDs don't get played more than once, because we load them to our computers? Whatever, the packaging is a pain in the ass.

Earth Intruders is a decent single, but not her best. It would have been accepted in the indie pop culture regardless of the Timbaland affiliation because it’s loud and insistent and therefore more authentic by rock standards. It’s her version of a guitar track, but in many was she has mined this territory before on the epic Army Of Me. When it leaked in April, this song was an easy way for everyone to declare the album a potential masterpiece because they hoped it would be.

Anyone buying Volta on the strength of that song will get... Innocence, which is a "Earth Intruders Part Two,” not to mention a rip from Big Time Sensuality. You keep waiting for her to sing “it takes courage to enjoy it.” Courage is not required for this album, just patience.

Can you imagine the Timba fans cranking I See Who You Are or dealing with guest vocalist Antony Hegarty’s voice? It’s amusing and righteous for Bjork to throw those angles at them, but listen to what she does with Earth Intruders on the album version: where the song should end at about 4:30, she tacks on a minute and thirty seconds of foghorns and sound affects. Huh? Does this add to the theme? What is the theme? I though it was going to be martial thang.

I don't know if Volta is any more or less indulgent than her recent work - maybe I am the one that has changed. All I know is that it lacks a certain oomph, which probably has to do with melody and self-editing. The stately Dull Flame Of Desire is a good example of a track that just needs a new mix. The song starts promisingly as a duet with Antony, and it does develop, a la Unison, with beautiful horns and, finally, some beats. Still, it takes too long. She could have shaved a minute off the vocals and perfected the song.

Wanderlust is the most Bjorkian of the Volta songs. It sounds much like my favorite album, Homogenic. Everything works in unison here, the wailing Bjork vocal, the ominous synths beneath the song, the ticky tackety beats, and the horns that wail across the top of it. The song builds for about 5 minutes until, in the best Bjork style, all the elements come together.

Vertebra by Vertebrae, on the other hand, has no melody at all. It brings back the horns in menacing stabs – “like old train sounds,” she sings in the lyrics - but it’s all style, no content. For 4 minutes, the song meanders around its verses. When is the chorus coming? It never does come, but the song is not interesting enough to sustain this endless foreplay. It's like a long interlude.

In one sense, Bjork’s own legend is a problem. Fans like me expect her to reinvent the wheel each time out and, to be fair to her fans, she plays to that, announcing the blueprint for each album: little strings/big sounds, songs recorded on laptap under the kitchen table, no instruments. It’s like a one-sentence movie pitch: Volta: must go around the world assembling songs piece by piece. She has no restrictions now; in her own way, she is a classic archetype: the megastar drowning in too many options.

I also feel like the album was rushed, which seems odd given how long it took her to make. Recent press pieces suggested she was still recording this winter and, for me, it’s still not done. It needs one or two more corkers, as opposed to a wilted ending like the incomplete My Juvenile.

If horns are meant to create the antidote for Volta’s marching songs, they never quite go where I want them to... to a big gorgeous place! They come closest in the second half of The Dull Flame Of Desire, if you make it that far. They also work well on the pretty, if gauzy, Pneumonia. The lyrics, set against a cathedral-like swell of horns, are classically Bjork: straightforward and inspiring: “All the moments you should have embraced, all the moments you should have not locked up… to shut yourself up would be the hugest crime of them all.”

Declare Independence is also a rouser – a classic album track that will polarize fans. It’s her take on a Patti Smith protest song (“damned colonists!”) mixed with Nine Inch Nails backing. Others will hear her, under layers of distortion screeching, “raise your flaaaag!!!” in her dotty Icelandic accent and just laugh. But this is Bjork of yore: notice how the horns reappear in either brief, elegant stabs or as a train horn coming toward you. The song is fucking bonkers and it works.

When I started this review I disliked the album and now I am prepared to say it’s a missed opportunity. Not a disaster, but more of a curiosity than I would have liked. Bjork is not the go-to person for instant pleasure, but it's not setting too high standard to say her records should take you to the heavens and gently bring you down again. Volta just kind of drags you around the world by the pantleg.

May 21, 2007

Summer starts NOW.

If you like to read my blog, you are luckyloos this week, because I am off for a break and will have lots and lots of posts. Tons, like I have no life!

...but I do have a little bit of a life and welcomed what I consider to be my first weekend of summer. It was beautiful 70's weather here on Saturday and I was outside much of the day, eating under the trees at cafes in parts of town I don't usually hang, so I felt like I was on vacation. There are no pics of the great day, so instead I'm posting a pic of Cassie My Dog Sister. My parents sent me this last week. I am well obsessed with Cassie...

Anyway, here also is a list of tunes I am rockin' right now... I tried to categorize them but it was too hard (is this rock, indie or pop?).

Dragonette Competition / Take It Like A Man
Two gorge guitar pop songs by this Canadian band. I love lead singer Martine's empowered sex prowling persona. On Competition, she is the Other Woman ("goodness I like this, being your mistress!") and the bossy Take It Like A Man has multiple layers of meaning. The album is out this July and it should be smokin' hawt.
Hear both on myspace.

Maroon 5 Better That We Break
You may have seen Paul De Zappin talking to Adam Levine about how wonderful this breakup ballad is. A fine studio sheen does nothing to disrupt this insta-classic because nothing can fuck with skinny-mini Adam's voice. And yes, you'd better get used to this tune, because you're going to hear it for the next two years on radio. And if you ever spend the night with Adam, you'll probably hear these words straight from the horse(-hung)'s mouth the next morning. He'll love you and leave you.
Get it via iTunes US (as of 5/22) or hypemachine.

Natasha Bedingfeld Say It Again
Did Adam Levine bed Natasha when they recorded this song? We'll never know, but if life were an episode of Entourage, he did and it was very sunny and Californian in a huge kingsize bed with expensive sheets. But I digress! This is essentially an M5 song with "NB's" vocals laid on top. She should do more of this music. And listen for bony/boner Adam warbling at the end.
Get it via iTunes UK - it is due in America later this summer.

Roderlin Wake Up
First we had The Rosebuds carrying the indie New Order flag and now we have the Swedish group Ronderlin. You can read a better assessment of this fine pop tune at Tremble Clef, who continues to bring music to the englightened masses. And you may be able to get the song too). PS: Be sure to read the "wuvstruck" post about the Vietnamese travel guide.
Get it via itunes or hypemachine.

The National Fake Empire
Not an English band, they are Ohioans from Cincinatti! The vocalist has a deep-voiced Leonard Cohen quality and the song has a great mix of accessibility and dissonance (you'll get that about halfway in). It's a real grower and the ending is very Sufjan. Their new album is called The Boxer and is out this week.
Get it via itunes UK or hypemachine.

Laura Michelle Kelly Jesus Was A Crossmaker
I am well-obsessed with LMK's new songs, this one in particular. This is a Hollies cover, but her reading sounds like an Elton song from the 70's Honky Chateau record. It's sublime and no, it's not a religious song, pop followers.
Get it via google blog.

Pink Martini Hey Eugene
Thanks to Worrapolava for this one, from their new album of the same name. It is not a novelty song, it is a narrative and based on a true story by singer China Forbes, who appeared on NPR this week. It's absolutely delightful and a total earworm. Forbes said that the end of the song is based on TV show themes of the 70's, particularly The Jeffersons, which you can hear in the soul ladies vocals.
Get it via itunes US or hypemachine.

Ryan Adams Two
The enigmatic Ryan is streaming this lovely new song on his myspace. He is such a throwback to the great 70's singer-songwriters. If this were 1975, he would have had affairs with Carly Simon and Stevie Nicks. In fact, half of Carly's songs could easily be about Ryan, given his personality. This is from his new CD Easy Tiger. How many of you have had someone say that phrase to you? I have (but not in the way that sounds).
Get it via hypemachine.

PS: Mom and Dad sent me a pic of our homemade Easter desserts, which I have added to this post.

May 20, 2007

This will hurt a little bit.

The new Garbage single Tell Me Where It Hurts is stunning! One of their best songs ever. The creepy retro video is equally impressive.

Get ready take-no-shit bitches, political activists, bois and riot grrrls, indie writers, daydreaming pharmacists, alt gayboys in skinny jeans, RL-wearin' frat kids with a heart, Pipettes fans into polkadots, disco friends, cafe lovers, executive recruiters with hot bodies, trannies with extensions, Los Angelenos, rubberstamp freaks, archivists who rim, wasps fighting the status quo, mixed race children, bloggers, Blondie fans, bulldog lovers, aging pornstars dethroned to Minnesowtah, black boys on mopeds, obsessive gamers, plumptious women, nailpolish devotees, downtrodden bike messengers, Jamie Bamber cumsluts, pop justicers, the Welsh, Wiconsin IT professionals, transplanted Russians on the UES, lesbian mommies with twins, Eastenders, Scotsmen in kilts with no underpants, librarians dressed in Ben Sherman, FBI agents who hate Fox News, redheads whose cuffs match their collars, anyone named Cassie, Anglophiles, whiskey drinkers, pretty girls who aspire to Louboutin, lovers decamped to Kissimmee St. Cloud, anyone with a Southern accent, upside down Aussies, Londonites in capris in Soho Square, elementary school educators, girls with mod bobs, expats, Second Life geeks, music bloggers, and all... darklings:

Shirley Manson is back!

Tell me where it hurts / To hell with everybody else / All I care about is you and that's the truth / They don't love me, I can tell / But you DO / So they can go to hell.

I'll link the video as soon as I can...

Go on, take everything

Courtney's face looks nice, but sorry, she is too thin. She gets upset when people say that, but it's true! The strange outfit looks pricey*, so she must be back in with designers. Courtney stop drinking those shakes and eat some real food.

Watch a TMZ video of La Love yucking it up with paps.

*Actually the outfit is McQueen. His McQueen for Puma shoes are tres ugly. We saw them at Puma Black yesterday. Blech. That store is hilarious. It is hidden inside the Puma store and this unmarked door slides open a la Star Trek. It looks like a nightclub inside.

May 19, 2007

Review: SEB's Trip The Light Fantastic

Full disclosure: I am 38 now and good pop music keeps me young. In the past two years I’ve heard a number of albums that manage to capture/mine the same excitement that my favorite 80’s records did. Albums that demand complete attention beyond 3 singles. To paraphrase La Bex: Now that I’ve grown up, I can still move to music as good as this. Trip The Light Fantastic IS and it’s one of the top pop albums of 2007.

Let’s start with candor: Sophie Ellis-Bextor has never really been an “album artist.” Trip The Light Fantasitc (TTLF) places her in that league because she takes risks across these 14 songs. It’s a candy box of pop styles, many of them new for Sophie.

In January we heard a set of great songs from the album and wondered if those were the best. Catch You remains an ass-kicking slice of Blondie dance-rock and the first brilliant pop single (and video) of 2007. If You Go, the very rhythmic Xenomania track, is subtler than most of that production house’s songs and the vocals are laid right up front in the mix. The song is shimmering, but - as is typical - Sophie's vocals have a bit of bite.

The original leaked songs are still fantastic, but hearing the full record is a relief. The plucky Distance Between Us, with its perfect chorus, has the most prevalent component of the album: rubbery synths. Do you get stuck, as I do, on the Your. Heart. Beat bit? China Heart - great title - sounds like early Berlin, a high compliment, while new single Me And My Imagination (Popworld video) is the most classically Bextor-esque song on TTLF, with its disco strings and yaddadadadees.

New York City Lights has a repeating chant delivered with a vocoder and a nice guitar crunch that kind of screams for radio airplay. What really elevates the song is the beautiful middle eight ("Run awayyyyyy with me") that starts at 2:03 and lasts for almost a minute. It is surely one of Sophie’s finest recorded moments.

Today The Sun’s On Us - next single? - is the least English song on TTLF. It’s the kind of album-oriented California rock that few female vocalists get right today. This is Sophie’s Linda Ronstadt Moment – the point being that Kelly Clarkson would have shouted her way through it with faux intensity. La Bex plays it cool: pay attention to the bridge at 2:35 – that’s the kind of detail that makes this album so strong.

New Flame has some nice backing vocals that recall another perfect pop album, 2005’s Come And Get It by Rachel Stevens. If I Can’t Dance is sort of stripped-down, grimy dance rock with some nice BowWowWow drums. It’s wee bit chanty for my taste, but is made better by her clipped Brit accent: If I cahn’t dance, if I cahn’t dance…

Expect Love Is Here, one of her collaborations with Dan Gillespie Sells, to be maligned. I love it and it’s funny to hear The Feeling's 70's AM poprock with Sophie's voice. She recently said this song is her baby Sonny's favorite and one would assume the lyric could easily be about him. It’s the kind of song that would sound great in a convertible on windy summer day.
I’m not so keen on Only One - the one with the lyric about the "windswept eye" - and I’ll probably be in the minority. At least she attempts a sax solo on that one… bold move, baby. Supersonic is fun, but how odd to hear the The B-52’s Fred Schneider pop out from the top of that cake. Great albums should always have a what-the-fuck? moment.

What Have We Started is a perfect album closer and a new sound for her solo career: a modern twist on a 50's/ 60's ballad, with gorgeous girl group backing vocals and a pleasingly large stomper of a beat. However, just when the “official” album is over, comes the real finale. Can't Have It All is quite MASSIVE isn't it? The ticky ticky drum’n’bass is a nice touch and this song surely has one of the great endings in pop music this year. Really, all that's missing is a multi-tracked chorus of ME singing the round at the end. What a perfect, perfect song.

Sophie Ellis Bextor has brought it. Let’s just hope the UK/Euro public is sharp enough to pick up on this fact. It’s not hyperbole to say that there is an alternate universe of pop obsessed kids, indie moppets, aging 80’s tweenies (cough), disco queens in DVF wrap dresses, etc, etc, who would clamor for no less than 7 hit singles from this album, making it the new Thriller. If the difficult third album is indicative of the longevity of an artist, Sophie should be making records when I am long since arthritic and “arm dancing” via a wheelchair…

picture from News Of The World -click to make it huge!

May 18, 2007

XOvision: The heart was rejected by the host

Charlotte Gainsbourg The Operation:

Directed by the great Jean-Baptiste Mondino, this video is erotic and a little creepy just like the song, my favorite on her album. I have had an obsession with Charlotte for many years, so this video is like... porn for me. It all comes down to this: anticipation is as exhilirating as finally getting what you want. There's something to be said for that.

Tracey Thorn Raise The Roof :

What a sweet video. It reminds me of that great
New Order video for Krafty that made me so happy in 2005. A few posts down, Tracey was praising this new clip, which is a proper short film. Here is what she says: "[The director went to] Bucharest to shoot his script about internet dating - and this week the finished version of it landed here on my desk, and I am more thrilled by it than I can remember being by a video in a long, long time. I really hope you love it too, it is so beautiful, full of great detail and colour, two wonderful performances from the lead actors, funny and touching and sad. Suits the song down to the ground."

Goodbooks The Illness:

I wrote about Kent's
Goodbooks in January, when they released their single Leni, but honestly the artwork excited me more than the tune. Now they're back with a better new single, a prelude to the debut album, out in July. What's really changed is that someone screwed the bulb in and put apple-cheeked lead singer Max Cooke front and center in the video. Watch him closely. Does he have certain Simon LeBon mannerisms about him? Do you see it? Thanks Torr

When we talk about Love

Courtney Love gave an interview to National Public Radio's Neda Ulaby this week. The piece is called Rebuilding Courtney Love, One Song at a Time [click on the title and there is a link to play it]. Ulaby talked to both Courtney and Linda Perry about making C-Love's new record Nobody's Daughter, previously titled How Dirty Girls Get Clean.

As per usual, there is cockeyed wisdom, humor and delusion - and it's laden with the word fuck, which is amusing for NPR. Courtney makes a good point, however, about sexism and her own vilification:

I haven't done half of what these guys have done... how come I'm a bigger badass than Pete Doherty? Who hasn't left us a song? If he died tomorrow, nobody would know his songs...and (he) sits around and shoots blood syringes and needles at cameras? Yeah, okay, I've gotten in a few fist fights. I don't know anyone in this business who hasn't, you know? But oh, I get charged with them because I'm a female and females aren't supposed to hit each other... I've been arrested on two airplanes for saying the word fuck.

There's truth in that, especially about Doherty, although she leaves out such flamethrowing as the time in 2004 when she had some strange dude sucking on her tit for the paparazzi outside a Manhattan McDonald's. I always think of Courtney as someone you might enjoy being around, but in small doses.

Regarding her recent weight changes, she says this:

I've been on these shakes... I don't eat, cause food is for peasants. Because I'm 41, is anyone gonna give me shit about me still rocking? Not if I'm thin enough. Isn't that a funny answer? I tried explaining that to my daughter and she was like, You're sick. She says, The culture you ascribe to is so disgusting mother!
She tells these stories about her daughter, I think, because she's proud of them, amused by them and it serves her well publically for people to know that there is someone calling her on her behavior. Linda Perry is the same type, pushing Courtney because she believes in her.

You can hear them rehearsing what may be the first single, Samantha. Courtney's trying to create her own Roxanne or Rhiannon! This is going to be one of the most watched/waited for albums of the year.

May 16, 2007

M: Lyrics done in 30 seconds!

UPDATED: Oy vey! This is just what you'd expect from a Madonna charity single: Hey You has "nice" strings, but insipid lyrics and some mighty streee-ange vocals. The middle eight is freakish (it appears twice) - listen to how she sings the line, "Don't rely on anyone ehhhellse" at about 1:45. ODD. Cats are crying. With Southern accents.

The song sounds nothing like the usual Pharrell Williams productions. Why bother using him? I would have guessed Patrick Leonard or someone like that. Whatever. Here is the good news: you can get it now on MSN, free, for seven days:

Download Hey You legally for free

The first million downloads of Hey You will be free as Microsoft has pledged to donate $0.25 per download to the Alliance for Climate Protection (for the first million downloads). Or maybe Al Gore...

The Grand Old Lady of Indie-Land speaks

Lots of news from diva-come-lately Tracey Thorn:

First, there is a new single in early June for the gorgeous Raise The Roof. The song's producer Tom Gandey did both club and dub mixes, and there is a mix by Beyond The Wizard's Sleeve that Tracey says is "flutes n beats, baby, it's the future." There's also a new video - she's not in it - with a theme of Internet dating. To add pleasure to the pleasure, the single will have 2 new b-sides, both Stephin Merritt (ne Magnetic Fields) covers. She says they are solo tracks, "just me, playing things like piano and omnichord and solina." One cover is The Book Of Love and the other is Smoke and Mirrors,

Tracey also posts this tale of woe:

I put my back out bending over to tie someone's shoelaces (I am 93, you know). Went to the osteopath, who manhandled me a bit, then told me to go home and drink plenty of water and rest. Instead of which I accidentally went out with Ben, drank lots of wine and ended up at the Figurines gig at the Enterprise down in Camden. Appropriately for my age, though, I sat on a stool throughout, and felt like the Grand Old Lady of Indie-Land.
Note that the 3rd single will be the Temperamental-esque Grand Canyon!

Read Tracey's post here

May 15, 2007

Today the sun's on them!

Xolondon is "on assignment" and will be back shortly. In the meantime...

It's LaBex and Sonny Jones! Walkin' through their neighbo(u)rhood in London Town. Turns out Sonny is a Mika fan! More details here...

Rufus's Alpine couture

To celebrate today's release of Rufus Wainwright's amazing new CD Release The Stars, I bring you a sneak peek at my interview with Rufus in Instinct Magazine's June issue, out today in the finest bookstores. Note that the first half of the question is part of the published piece and the second part is exclusive to this blog. And not for the delicate...

Instinct (me!): You’re rockin’ lederhosen in some new promotional photos. Are you bringing those back into vogue, Rufus?
Rufus: I’m definitely making a crack at it. I think lederhosen are great, only because you don’t have to wash them and they can stand up on their own when you take them off and become a kind of sculpture.
Instinct: Ewww. You don’t have to wash them?
Rufus: No, you’re not supposed to. When you have them made you’re actually supposed to take a shit in them, so that nobody else wears them.

When I asked Rufus if he's going to have his band wear lederhosen on tour, he said something intersting: "No, I wouldn’t have them. Are there are Jews in my band? I think its weird for Jewish people to wear lederhosen."

The full interview will appear online around June 1. Soon: more tidbits and my comments on what it's like to talk to that matinee idol! In the meantime, click here to read all of my Rufus posts.

May 14, 2007

All your suits are custom-made in Lonnndonnn

Because the Ciccone Youth* may soon be made to suffer with this Hey You junk, I will just go fetal and watch this. Never. wears. out.

*Aging Youth please note that recreating the dance moves from the middle eight (2:24- 2:45) provides a healthful (and brief!) home workout. Doing it in Bally's is not advised.

May 13, 2007

Ella ella eh eh eh

Rihanna's Umbrella. Really, it's a pop music monolith. A major song, almost as big as Crazy In Love. It will be interesting to see 1) how it does in the US, where we (no, they) don't know a good song from a turd on a sidewalk and 2) if the album is crap like everyone is predicting. So far she has three good tracks leaked, so all will be revealed, probably before it's offically out on June 5. One thing is clear so far - Jay Z is not afraid to push Rhi-rhi to the POP.

I want to draw your attention to a Rihanna remix post at Mixed Up In Glitter. The Linderberg Palace mixes and the Jody Den Broder Lush mixes are absolutely sublime. The former is a hyper-energy piece that recalls Pet Shop Boys and ends lovely strings. The latter has a clubbier feel with rubbery synths - it will sound fabulous on some blingy club sound system.

I was musing to my peeps that this song is zeitgeist enough that drag queens would be well served to strip down a couple of 'roidy gymbots, hand them umbrellas, and do a slammin' hot routine. It's the new Weather Girls!

Oh yes, Rihanna has never looked better.

La Bex can still move while the music plays

On Monday Sophie releases the CD of her new single Me And My Imagination. The b-sides are quite delish, especially the disco-tastic Move To The Music, which she should have saved for a hits collection because the lyrics are surely meant to be sung by an old woman: "All of my yesterdays, the highs and lows... but I can still move while the music plays." No dodgy hips for Mrs. Jones. The album is due on May 21; wasn't it 2006 that we started hearing the first of these new songs?

photo from Sophie Ellis-Bextor Online

May 12, 2007

Release the stars, release your love

I just saw the full album art for Release The Stars (out May 14/15) and Rufus has outdone himself. It's fantastic! We knew there would be lederhosen (more on that this week, directly from Rufus, exclusive to my blog!), but Rufus left us one surprise, which I won't give away... quite.

The reviews are pretty great: The Indpendent, The Times Online and The Guardian give it 4/5 stars. My review is right here.

May 11, 2007

How Mandy Moore is cookie dough.

I've never believed in "guilty pleasure" songs. The concept is based on self-conciousness and peer pressure. Not being able to say, I like this and it's that simple. Mandy Moore's new single Extraordinary is...and it pushes me to the limits of my...individuality! I must not be ashamed to say I played this song over 15 times today. Seriously. 2:54 of bliss.

Mandy's new record, Wild Hope, is a big step forward. I have never given her much thought; she seemed like a precocious child star, overly poised. I'll comment on the album more at a later date, but this sweet song, written with The Weepies, is totally uplifting. The video (above) is clever but does not really make the point that Mandy is actually an adult. If you have not heard the track, sit through the video because, from the middle eight (1:58) onward, the song is absolutely perfect folkpop.

The song's lyrical hook, "and now I'm ready to be extraordinary" reminds me of Buffy the Vampire Slayer's speech about how she is a cookie that's been baking in the oven:

I'm cookie dough. I'm not done baking. I'm not finished becoming whoever the hell it is I'm going to turn out to be. I make it through this and the next thing and the next thing and maybe one day I turn around and realize I'm ready. I'm cookies. And then, you know, if I want someone to eat m...or... enjoy warm... delicious cookie-me, then that's fine. That'll be then. When I'm done.
Of course, the joke's on Buffy and Mandy because I'm not really sure that feeling lasts, when you finally say, "I'm ready" and the story ends happily. It's just a fleeting moment, isn't it? The reality sounds dramatic, but it's true: the very thing that makes you feel extraordinary one minute will have you on your knees the next.

watch the Buffy speech here, from about 1:00 - 1:45ish:

May 10, 2007

Candie Payne: All you need to hear

Meet Candie Payne: born in Liverpool, spent the 80's in Jackson Heights (NYC) and the 90's back in Liverpool, Candie is this close to exploding all over the UK scene. Her debut single is I Wish I Could Have Loved You More and the debut album of the same name is due on May 21 in the UK. I think I actually prefer her previous 7" single All I Need To Hear.

Candie's songs are a moody, airy melding of trip-hop and retro; the kind of records Mia Farrow's Rosemary might have played as she wandered forlornly around her Dakota apartment in Rosemary's Baby.
If I was working A&R at her label, I would have sent the video back though (see it below): it's atmospheric, but weak. A song like this needs amazing visuals to push it up a notch. The original video, further down, is a little better!

Candie Payne I Wish I Could Have Loved You More:

original video:

Hear more songs at Candie's myspace page

May 9, 2007

Quote of the Week: Groove Armada

Tom Findlay from Groove Armada talked with the Herald Sun Newspaper about my beloved Mutya Buena, who apparently does not have much to do with her own songs...

She's 21. She's on her mobile all the time talking to her friends about hair dye. Occasionally I'd get her in to do some singing. She was always late, very often cancelled, but lovely. We had lunch with her twice and both times she had battered sausages & chips, which I really respect. Very easy to work with, apart from the cancellations after big nights out. She may have a baby, but she's 21 and she's still enjoying herself. I like that about her. She's not a mouse who gets pushed out.

Hear Groove Armada's 80's-tastic collab with Mutya on their myspace page. It's Out Of Control (or Song 4 Mutya).

I realized as I put together this post that Adem put up the original report on Popjustice!

La Bex is back

Sophie Ellis Bextor has been bounding around Europa doing interviews and performing her new single, the 1999-ish Me And My Imagination. Along the way she's said some amusing things:

1) She doesn't like her new video - nor do I, as I'm on Team Catch You. She says on her own website, "To be honest, it's not my favourite"! Ouch.

2) Her husband Richard Feeling was mighty pissed about Soph's technical glitches on her New Year's Eve TV performance of Catch You (watch in horror!):"Richard went up to the sound man, who just shrugged. Richard was so angry he threw his drink over him." Good gravy Marie, I say.

3) Sophie tells The Independent about the drama of childbirth: But during pregnancy she was rushed to hospital with pre-eclampsia; her son, Sonny, was delivered eight weeks early. He was in intensive care for five weeks; later, at four months he was re-admitted with meningitis. "It was just so scary, I don't like to think about it," she has said.

4) About baby Sonny's dandy-ish clothing, she says "What's the point of having them if you can't dress them up in cute outfits?" Love her. No preciousness there.

5) That's La Bex above on May 6 at London's Area. She has this to say about dancing in London's gay clubs (Rebel, Rebel and Ghetto Club): "Once when I went there they played 'Murder on the Dancefloor' and I was standing in the middle and everyone was singing it to me with these great happy faces. It felt like I was surrounded by lots of new friends. It was just like the end of a film when the credits are rolling."

6) She loves her new album cover even if her fans decidely do not. (ed: it's dull)

Finally, watch Sophie speak for like 7 seconds about her new single. Strangely the song is only available on Napster UK for now, with a release next week. But why bother, when the album is finally out May 21? For more on La Bex, click on the tag below.

Photo courtesy of fan JP on Soph's board.