May 29, 2008

Rihanna hot hot hot

Out of the blue, a slamming new Rihanna track called Disturbia. Much improved over the whiney, weak Take A Bow, a song that rode to #1 purely on momentum. Could this new track be inspired by "Ri-ri's" dalliance with Shia Lebooooof?

I was happy to see Rihanna knock Beyonce off her pedastal last year after the latter recorded the shrieking mess that is B'Day and insultingly foisted it upon the world. Miss Spears, of course, had already taken a belly flop off her own mantle. The saga points to the hard (candy?) truth about pop music: there is always someone cuter and more hungry waiting to take over the world. I keep hearing new dance tracks and being reminded how much Madonna '08 sucks!

If it were up to me, Rihanna would have remained quiet this year and returned at Christmas with a new album. Her June 17 re-release of Good Girl Gone Bad (Reloaded) has 3 new tracks: 1) Take A Bow, 2) a collab with Maroon 5 on If I Never See Your Face Again and 3) Disturbia. It'll also come with a DVD.

In the meantime, you might find Disturbia floating on the web somewhere...

May 27, 2008

She & Him: I couldn't help but fall in love again

She & Him are Zooey Deschanel - the spunky actress who played the stewardess sister in Almost Famous - and M Ward, the indie folk dude. Their debut album, the hopefully titled Volume One, should be trumpeted far and wide. It's fantastic. They sound like an amalgamation of kd lang in her Shadowlands era (country), mixed with bits of early Linda Ronstandt, mixed with 1950's New York City jazzwomen like Blossom Dearie.

The album cover features a girl holding a bright light and that's exactly the right visual for these songs, fresh and light sing-along tunes.

I recommend Sweet Darlin', which has shades of last year's Brit fave Lucky Soul, the smooth retro country of Change Is Hard, and the single Why Do You Let Me Stay Here. I love Zooey's twangy, vaguely mewling (in a good way!) vocals. I Thought I Saw Your Face Today is so breathtaking that Patsy Cline's heels are clickin' in her coffin. The latter song also whips me into the backseat of a white '72 Cutlass Supreme - there is something very 70's AM radio about it. Good times, good times.

She & Him Why Do You Let Me Stay Here expired

May 26, 2008

One is such a lonely number

Music Source has this booty...

Liza Minnelli's collaboration with Pet Shop Boys, the 1989 album Results. When is Minnelli going to pull a Cyndi /Donna and do a blistering dance record for the clubs. It seems inevitable. I recommend Tonight Is Forever and Rent.

A mysterious Tour Version of Candy Store by Madonna that is superior to the album version. Gives the track a long intro.

A promo interview for Kylie's Impossible Princess (Kylie Minogue) CD.

Shock-a-locka-a-boom features...

The original 10-minute extended mix of Madonna's Open Your Heart, a song sorely in need of a live resurrection. I find that this track doesn't sound as dated as one would think - it just gets better as time goes on.

PopMuse has...

The Steve Mac remix of Rihanna's Cry. Much better than the album version. Not new, but worthy.

A slightly odd-yet-pretty club mix of Alanis Morissette's Underneath by the esteemed Josh Harris.

May 24, 2008

Mixtape: Drop your socks and grab your mini boombox

That pic of Kylie came from Vasilios at PJ Forums. 2 weeks on the road and she's tweaking her setlist, which is cool. Strangely, she is not performing her next single The One at some of the shows. If you want to watch the opening number Speakerphone (which Madonna strangely calls the best song on X), see the video further down. The part where the letters come out of her eyes and mouth is quite a Moment. And the Kylie Merch is EPIC.

Lily Allen says she is not out of control and that she is finishing her new album with Mark Ronson right now. By "not out of control," she means that dying your hair an inappropriate shade of blond and showing your shaved poonani via a see-through dress is fine behavior.

The Alanis Morrissette album is a gem (review soon), thanks to producer Guy Sigsworth. I've only had a few Alanis songs on my iPod in the past: Hands Clean, Thank U, and So Unsexy, so this is a surprise to me. It may be in my Top 10 for the year.

A lonely place to be: I don't like The Ting Tings. At all.

How I Learned To Hate Rock And Roll has a
great piece on What an excellent post. My college roommate and I have long noted Rolling Stone's REM stance- that each album marks a return from the disastrous previoius release. This same effect occurs in Prince reviews.

Bryn Christopher fab or just sort of makeshift? I am inclined to say it reeks of Amy Winehouse Bandwagon, minus the drugs and any originality. Check out the video for The Quest and let me know what you think.

Did you see George Michael on American Idol? Watch it. He's aging fast: looked like a skeevy old Greek uncle with the glasses and the neck chain. But he did a great job considering he had a cold. You could tell he was trying to make sure he could hit the notes - a lesson in how to modify a performance when your "instrument" is letting you down. And Praying For Time, while a bit dour for AI, was a thoughful choice at such a bad time in American history.

Check out The Mutineers at 8-1.

Did you know the Kleerup album has track called Forever sung by The Great Neneh Cherry? I don't like it - it sounds as if she's doing vocals on a Lykke Li song. He should have really collaborated on a song that took advantage of Neneh's skills. Linda Sundblad, who did the perfect Back In Time in 2006) also sings a better one called History. Kleerup has a solid song, Lay Me Down, on the epic new Cyndi Lauper album.

The usual round of rumors is back again that Rachel Stevens (the LEGEND) will return to music in 2008. I won't hold my breath. Bravo t her for not sinking to reality show depths.

PopJustice Forums had a hilarious thread about Russian pop lady (not girl!) Valeriya:

DaDa said "
I thought this was Charlize Theron."
Vasilios said "Looks more like a Russian Emma Bunton's Mum to me."
Robbing The Dead said "I find she's a bit overenthusiastic with her face when she sings."
Pull Shapes said "Even Geri doesn't look that haggard."
APN said "No, it's Sarah Harding! "

If you want to know for yourself what they're talking about, check out Valeriya's video The Party's Over

Kylie, Speakerphone live (fan video):

Finally, a few years ago, I posted one of my favorite poems of all time, called Relinquishment (by Sharon Olds). No one read this blog then, so I link to it once more. This poem is kind of at the essence of something I see in myself (something that is not changing as I age). Anyway, give the kids a little culture...

May 23, 2008

The Lady in Cannes

Madonna's been making the rounds in Cannes this week for her documentary I Am Because We Are. She did an interview with Cynthia McFadden last night on Nightline. On the ABC blog Cynthia reveals tbat she tunred down Liz Rosenberg and Madonna's request for the interview (due to other committments) and Madonna accomodated her schedule.

The interview itself was very good. Madonna clearly felt comfortable with McFadden, because she joked a lot and seemed more at ease than usual. That's her big problem - she may actually be very likeable/nice, but she rarely lets down her guard to reveal that side of herself.

In the interview Madonna revealed that Pharrell Williams made her cry when she was recording vocals for the new album. He said something that upset her and she took him out of the room to talk to him - can you imagine? Yikes! When she started to cry, he said "Madonna has a heart!" and that made her cry more! Looking back, she said it was just part of the process of making music and that she gets along really well with him. He produced her next single, Give It To Me, which is one of just a few killer tracks on Hard Candy.

You can watch a teaser for the interview below, where Madonna, looking younger than she has in years, talks about her "big Italian thighs." Right! And check out her Hard necklace...

M with her frequent matron / serious artist look, but hotter, in Cannes. The Lady likes a good shoe.

If you live in North America, you can spy on Madonna going to a yacht party in Cannes. Stars, they're just like us. I was on a yacht last night too. Maybe.

May 22, 2008

I just have to say this now

That's a picture of Daniel Merriweather in the recording studio. You know him from the better-than-the-original cover he did of The Smiths' Stop Me If You Think blablabla with Mark Ronson. He's been recording his debut album, Love And War, for ages. And he's been on the verge of releasing a single called Chainsaw for ages too.

When is this record coming? Because I am so incredibly borrrred by the current state of music. Ohmygod it sucks! There are some pop records I am enjoying, but for the most part nothing is going deep enough. To quote Richard Ashcroft "I need to hear some sounds that recognize the pain in me." That's a bit dramatique, but you get my point.

So Daniel Merriweather needs to be that! Check out his myspace page and note the diverseness of his songs. Chainsaw is smooth soul - and classic Mark Ronson, while For Winter is a soft 70's ballad, sort of folk. I emailed Robbie tonight and said, "There is just something about his voice that is so much better than most of the guys doing this kind of thing. Something more vulnerable about him." So bring it on Daniel, because there is only so much dancing and bopping I can do. It's only half the story.

Cover story v.5.08

Cyndi Lauper's Bring Ya To The Brink. D'luvly noted it first, that this album cover references Cyndi's 25-yr-old megahit She's So Unusual. Awesome. I sure do hate those parental advisories though. Why can't they go on the back?

Ladytron's Velocifero. The whole package is a fantastic swoosh of Edward Gorey meets Klimt. Supercool art for a supercool band on the artistic rise.

Paul Weller's 22 Dreams. What's going on with the perspective in this painting/collage? It's kid of wonky. Reminds me a little bit of Prince's Around The World In A Day.

Eliza Carthy's Dreams Of Breathing Underwater. What a great photo. Eliza is a British folk artist of the old school tradition, but every blue moon she produces a more contemporary CD. I highly recommend her album Angels And Cigarettes, especially the songs Train and Perfect.

The Zutons' You Can Do Anything. They're having a ZZ Top Moment, aren't they? I approve. What a (literally) iconic picture. It rocks!

May 19, 2008

Diva Alphabet: A is for Annie

Annie's new album sampler

11-minutes of samples from Annie's new CD, Don't Stop. MuuMuse did a big post with all the "deets", which seem correct after hearing the songs.

Early comments: No wonder it took the pixie so long to complete this album, it's solid gold. Fortunately, the Stacey Q ripoff I Know Your Boyfriend Hates Me (which I hate), seems to be the worst song. What Do You Want (Breakfast Song), the second sample sounds, err, blistering. Sweet - obviously Xenomaniacal - has a lovely, apt chorus for its title. Bad Times reminds me, for some reason, of my beloved Rachel Stevens [ed: Rachel, I luv u, call me! xoxo]. Misery is an homage to 80's LA new wave like the great, slutty Berlin.

Update: I just noticed PopJustice did a post on this too.

May 17, 2008

Review: Donna Summer's Crayons

The grand irony of pop music is the notion of disco/dance music as lesser, "lite" music. She loves you yeah yeah yeah is fine, but the orgasmic 17 minutes of Love To Love You Baby is not. This is history rewritten. Follow the timeline and you'll see that disco was, in its own way, a rebellion (against punk music), except that the punks in question weren't white. The disco denizens were black, Latino - not yet merged into "Blatino" - and largely gay. I am not the first to note that, before Andy and Liza took over Studio 54, disco was the sound of the disenfranchised. Donna Summer was unapologetically - for awhile, anyway - their queen. So when people lump together Siouxsie, Chrissie and Debbie as the pop punks of their day, that's not giving Donna Summer her rank. I think it was pretty rebellious of Donna to release a song that sounded like she was getting fucked twenty-five ways to Sunday on the studio floor, don't you?

This is a longwinded way of acknowledging the Queen. With Crayons, Donna releases her first original album of new material in 17 years. At 59, she could have released an album of David Foster power ballads. Instead she called up Greg Kurstin, hitmaker for Lily Allen, Kylie Minogue and Sophie Ellis Bextor, and created a record that is solidly contemporary. Kurstin is 39 (my age exactly), so he too grew up under Donna's influence and gets it.

Donna's "comeback" single is Stamp Your Feet, a literally stomping, monolithic pop song, so powerful when played loud that it could levitate a stadium. The song works because, while it's totally of its time, it does what Donna's best songs did: make you want to cut the fuck loose.

Lester Mendez-produced Be Myself Again is an empowerment ballad that's so sad it doesn't quite empower, which is kind of a relief. The bossa nova mid-tempo Drivin' Down Brazil, another Kurstin track, must be a summer single. It's a margarita of a song; I love the reference to a "lowrise Bonneville." Science Of Love has a melodic, uplifting chorus that, like her legendary Bad Girls album, incorporates rock guitar with beats.

Only two tracks come close to revisiting old Donna tunes. Reggae-pop title track Crayons is Donna in her Musical Youth phase, this time with Ziggy Marley. It's infectious - has Donna been playing No Doubt records all these years? Album closer Bring Down The Reign attempts to update the grandeur of State Of Independence, the 1982 Donna/Jon Anderson collaboration that still gives me chills. Reign has African chants, violins and a certain stateliness, but the chorus doesn't quite lift the song as it should.

Crayons does have a few cringey moments. I am not a fan of the squealing "Ya got game!" breakdown on the otherwise perfect Stamp Your Feet. The vocal treatment on the verses of the otherwise strong Fame (The Game) makes Donna's voice unrecognizable - did she need that?

Strangely, the song that offers the pure "release" of Donna's hardcore disco era, It's Only Love, is not on the US version of the record. At almost 7 minutes, it's a surging, stripped down club track with Donna cooing and wailing over the beat, "I need nothing but you and music." It's passionate and ubercool.

There wasn't a hitmaker disco diva before Donna Summer. She was the pioneer, albeit one with a lucite cane and an orchid in her hair. Diana Ross, bored with her Michael Masser ballads, followed Donna, as did Streisand. Without Donna, there would be no Beyonce and, without Donna, Madonna would not have justified her love. Donna had a vision too, whether it was concept albums about the seasons or female archetypes, the hooker or the waitress.

You may not be old enough to know that disco so enraged straight white men that it drove them to burn records in stadiums. Seriously. Were these "sports fans" (rednecks) trying to kill a subculture by burning gays, blacks and Latinos in effigy? I won't go there. What can't be obliterated: Donna Summer is loved by many for creating music that set them free.

If you looked at me at 21, you could argue that I - white, middle class, male - didn't ever need to be set free. In the early 90's, I was out with a friend in my beat up old car (Cutlass Salon!). When we returned home, the opening part of Last Dance - the dewy "oooh ooh oohs" - was coming out of the boombox on the front seat. With one foot on the pavement, I said "Oh wait, I love this song. We can't get out of the car yet." So we listened to Donna: "I need you beside me, to guide me..." Then the beat kicked in and we just got out and danced beside the car. I'm sure someone driving by was like, "Oh, Jeeeeesus, what a fag." Why do I give a shit? I'm free too.

May 14, 2008

Playlist: Top Ten Plus One

The weekend I moved into my new place, it was the beginning of the Cherry Blossom Festival here. Our house had it's own mini-festival going on, which might make me the Cherry Blossom Princess. Nevermind that this wee tree is not actually a cherry tree, but some sort of peach tree. My lovely new friend Alexandra took the photo above. As for the soundtrack, here are 11 songs I've been playing as I bop around Capitol Hill this spring.

Captain Keep An Open Mind
I am obsessed with this song. Captain prove they can craft a perfect pop gem without the aid of previous producer Trevor Horn. here

Coldplay Viva la Vida
Plucky strings? Check. Strong lyric? Check. Choral ohhhs from Chris? Check. Nothing to do with fair trade? Check. here

Delays Girl's On Fire
Surging. With like 4 grandiose endings, this is a monster of a song. 7 Dig

Cyndi Lauper Same Ol' Story
Cyn's new single recorded with DC denizen Rich Morel. With f-bombs galore, this song is a strong teaser for her grand return. She's so unsual it drives me wild.

Santogold I'm A Lady
The one where she sound alotta lika Blondie. Cool boys keep swinging and singing, "I'm a ladeeee, got my mind made up, got my mind up." here

Cajun Dance Party Colourful Life
Britpop kids singing about Wrigley's Gum atop string breakdowns and PA system babble. Produced by legendary Bernard Butler. 7 Dig

ABC The Very First Time
My friends just might ask me if this is really that good. I say maybe, yes! Break out your gold lame suits, this is another class single that could have easily been on The Lexicon Of Love. 7 Dig

Ladytron Tomorrow
Their CD Velocifero is a major record for 2008. Expect it on many critics' lists in December. This track is an even better single than their current one, Ghosts. I shall talk more about Ladytron when my review is finally out in Instinct. here

Sam Sparro S.A.M. S.P.A.R.R.O.
Why the hell did he leave this off his album? It is the perfect CD/concert opener. Fave parts: "A is for 'allo because it's nice to meet ya" and the "oh shit" vocoder bit on the bridge.

Neon Neon I Told Her On Alderaan
Wot year is it? 1985? Sentimental without being pastiche, this is a Welsh dream. Excellent handclap potential sends it soaring. here

Perfume Baby Cruising Love
Found via MuuMuse, who is right that this J-pop tune (with a vaguely pervy title) sounds like a bunch of children warbling. Or maybe a bunch of Rachel Stevens fans singing at recess in Hiroshima. Super kawai.

photo by Alexandra M.

May 13, 2008

This year we're going to be popular, even if it kills us

ike, totally major news. Totally. One of the great cult hit television shows of all time is finally getting a DVD release. Square Pegs, the 80's classic about students at Weemawee High School, is out in the U.S. at the end of May. Sarah recently told MTV that it was a "subversive" show about "two smart ladies looking to find the other smart people in the world." It's not been seen too widely since its original airing, so this release is long overdue (and timed, I guess, to coincide with Sex And The City).

Square Pegs aired on American TV for one short season (20 episodes) in 1982-83, which would have been my 8th grade year. Everyone from Devo to Bill Murray made guest appearances because it was the baby of SNL writer Anne Beatts.

The show was also pop culture's introduction to Parker, who played a bright nerd named Patty Greene. Sarah says she's really the precursor to Carrie Bradshaw because Patty wanted to be a writer and meet smart people. All the characters were cleverly drawn, particularly Tracey Nelson's Jennifer DiNuccio (the Valley Girl who I remember quoting about "little plastic baggies") and Jami Gertz's preppy archetype Muffy Tepperman.

Here is a clip of the opening sequence:

Note that the DVD includes a new interview with Sarah Jessica Parker.

[Joanna, are you paying attention? xosa]

May 9, 2008

A masterpiece that lives and dies unheard

I mentioned Martika's collaboration with Prince in a post this week and received some unexpected feedback. I shouldn't need to tell you - u - that Prince was responsible for some of the finest music of the 80's and early 90's. But there were many songs he wrote for other artists that did not become hits, often done under pseudonyms like Joey Coco, Jamie Starr and Alexander Nevermind. Here are the best according to me, XO. Note that most of this post was drafted in October of 2006. Now it's ready...

The Family The Screams Of Passion:

The Family, featuring Wendy Melvoin's twin sister Susannah on vocals. This was their debut single, six minutes with Claire Fischer strings. Fantastic 1985 album, not on CD. Trivia: this is the group that first sang Nothing Compares 2 U. What I Like has a post with an extended Mp3.

Martika Love Thy Will Be Done:

One of Prince's finest songs, period. As I hinted earlier this week, I've always thought Martika should sue Texas for ripping this off on Say What You Want. Whatever, the song is like smooth electro gospel, beautiful. Get it and alternate Prince mix via this post at Music Source.

Sheila E. The Glamorous Life:

I always have time for The Incomparable Sheila E. This tune never wears out. I always loved the lyrics, such as "They made haste in the brown Sedan" and "If-u-have2-ask-u-can't-afford-it-lingerie...". Here also is Sheila's best video, the very 90's Sex Cymbal - watch the end to see that she is a major dancer too. You can get this MP3 anywhere.

Sheen Easton 101

Watch video here. No, I have not lost my mind, this Prince song is OTT madness in a manic way. My favorite part is the wailing bridge: "Nothing on TV / My girlfriends bore me / They try to please me / But I need you babyyy / You and me need to be / Together together / Physically!" to It surprises me that no one has covered this song because it's very electro. Burning The Ground has a post with remix MP3's (get password to unzip).

Jill Jones Mia Bocca:

For years
JJ hung around in the background of Prince projects with her platinum Marilyn hair. She has some funny moments in Purple Rain, but nobody knew how well she could sing until she recorded a phenomenal album with Prince in 1987 (another sadly not on CD). JJ recently weighed in on Prince's misguided fight against youtube with this wise comment: "Being in the world, and not of it, is difficult." Trivia: Jill married the male model Cameron, who starred in Madonna's Express Yourself video.

Ingird Chavez Elephant Box

Video must be watched here. An acquired taste? One hit wonder
Ingrid's solo CD was not so good. Double Trivia: Ingrid, who became Mrs. David Sylvian, wrote Madonna's Justify My Love with Lenny Kravitz, who she (Ingrid) was fucking while he was still married to Lisa Bonet. That relationship lead to Neneh Cherry writing the song Buddy X about Lenny.

I cannot keep quiet!

Looks Presidential to me.

Hillary Clinton continues to jump the shark. A quote from USA Today yesterday:

There was just an AP article posted that found how Senator Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans is weakening again and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me.

Is that something to brag about? Don't get me started on the race aspect. Hillary is not used to losing - nor is her husband. But she has lost and she needs to get off the stage. I am tired of Bush Clinton Bush Clinton. Her advisor Rahm Emanuel is running around making menacing comments about something that could bring down Obama. The whole thing is divisive and nasty and she needs to STOP before I permanently hate her.

Okay. Tirade over. Back to the pop. Viva Barack!

Update: I want to thank El Marveloso for giving me the link to Tears For Fears' Curt Smith (yes!) piece for Huffington Post. It's very thoughtful and it got me to thining about how many times Hillary has disappointed me in the last 3 months. There are two moments that leap to mind, the first being her comment about "obliterating" Iran. I find that language shockingky Rumsfeld-ian. I don't need more leaders ready to jump into war. She's devolved into a series of reactionary poses - we all know McCain is a potential red-button-pusher, so Hill wants to appear tough. Obliterate, to me, conjures images of The Bomb leveling whole cities. Second, her gas tax bullshit, which Curt Smith agrees was a pandering moment. I am more intelligent than that, though apparently Hillary has given up on me and is now going for the uneducated masses. Again. how Bushian. I admire how Obama doesn't do much pandering - he won't make hollow tax promises (at least not yet). He comes across as generally unflappable (he tried his best to ignore angry Rev Wright). Hillary, she comes across as needing this too much. It's like she wants to burn the whole thing down if it cannot be hers.

May 8, 2008

Keepin' up with Cyndi and Donna?

Debbie Harry has a new electropop song (complete with vocoder, I say with a sigh) called Fit Right In. Download it now via BigStereo.

May 7, 2008

Mixtape: Same Old Fecking Story

Cyndi Lauper is 55 on June 22nd. She sure does look fresh in that fab new press photo, doesn't she? I like her new song Set Your Heart and I love the clip of Into The Nightlife. The album, Bring Ya To The Brink, is out on May 27, but will probably leak next week, when it hits Japan.

Watch a long Madonna interview on BET's 106 & Park. A lot of stupid questions ("If you were a candy, what candy would you be?") and little information other than that Pharrell calls her Mdolla and Shorty Mac if you care. She's featuring a lot of necklaces and her Bad Girl era hair.

Everything is right with the new Coldplay song, Viva La Vida: the prancing strings, the wonderful lyric, the beat, the ohhh vocals. Richard turned me onto this song this morning and I played it like 10 times as I walked to the train past the Supreme Court and all these other beautiful building. Zing! went the strings of my heart...

The Times of London posted a mysterious statement about Andy Taylor this week. Duran Duran claimed he had walke dout of the band. The Times says, "We wish to make clear that it was not unexplained, that he did not quit, leave or walk out on the band – the Duran Duran partnership was dissolved by the other members. He was unable to get a US working visa to attend the New York recording session due to administrative failures by the band’s management." Ooh, dramarama!

Burning The Ground has been riding high recently with posts on "maxi-singles" by Stevie Nicks and Bananarama. I owned both of those 12" singles - the 'Nana song Cairo has always been a favorite.

BritPop question: Whatever happened to Embrace? And when is this new Verve CD coming out?

New York Magazine has an interesting piece on Sarah Jessica Parker. I like what she says about New York. It's also true of the area I just moved away from, Arlington, VA. It used to be cute and original and not rundown, but old. Now it's got a fucking Cheesecake Factory and Pottery Barn. Everybody moves to the cute place and kills it. Happens everytime.

Sex And The City Line of The Week: (said by Charlotte to Trey): "Don’t you bring that flat baby in here, I will kill you!”

Topic: Foxy Brown's real name is Inga Marchand. Discuss!

V just went to see Goldfrapp in Manhattan. Whyohwhy won't they do a proper tour? Anyway, read his review now.

Sharleen doesn't love you.

Where in the world is Shirley Manson? On a shelf, if the suits have their say.

American Idol is truly in its worst year ever (barring that tedious Taylor person). I abandoned it weeks ago. Yuri (wisely) agrees.

MuuMuse has a piece on the opening of Kylie's and Girls Aloud's tours. Have you noticed that every artist now does the Madonna thing with "sections" of a show?

Speaking of which, when are we going to hear all these new Kylie songs she is performing on tour?

Did you see this piece on the state of music blogging today? Very good. My recent Alison Sudol post was based on news from a PR email about A Fine Frenzy*, but I wrote what I wanted and added my own content. It doesn't matter in the scheme of things, but the fact that Lorraine appeared on many blogs last week was no coincidence. What I most like is bloggers with a personal voice and an opinion. If opinions didn't matter, the art of criticism would have died years ago. (This is not meant for any particular blogger, just something I've been musing on with some fellows).

When I started writing this post a few days ago, I was so angry at Hillary Clinton. I never adored her, but was always very pro-Bill. This presidential race has soured that a bit. Now I don't care because I think my man has sewn it up! Barack Barack Barack.

I am so drinking a homemade margarita right now. Au revoir bitches!

*PS: The new video for Come On, Come Out. See what I mean about a 2008 update of 10,000 Maniacs?

A Fine Frenzy Come On, Come Out

May 5, 2008

We really do adore her

Hmph. Why did Sharl fold the picture in half before she put it on her album cover? Whatever, Sharleen Spiteri is releasing a solo album, the oh-so-cleverly titled Melody, in mid-June. You can get a free download of an okay (yeah, just okay) new ballad, That Was A Lie.

We know her new single is called All The Times I Cried, but nobody has heard it yet. Sharl is calling this CD her "Nancy Sinatra record." She self-produced it, though there is one collaboration with Benard Butler. You can bet some plebes will say she's pulling a Duffy, but Sharleen was doing retro soul when that little Welsh girl was in a training bra. Black Eyed Boy anyone?

The Texas Greatest Hits record is delish, but Texas were probably only cool for one single, the stellar Say What You Want (a compete ripoff of the superior Prince/Martika collaboration, Love Thy Will Be Done). In fact, I remember British Bridget - my cousin - making gagging faces when I said I loved the song Halo.

Here are my Top 10 Plus One Texas songs:

Inner Smile (#1!)
Summer Son
Say What You Want
Guitar Song
Black Eyed Boy
When We Are Together
In Demand
Get Down Tonight
Good Advice

Here is a full press release for Melody.

May 4, 2008

Mini reviews: Oh England, oh England

Four newish Britpop records worth the pixels...

Delays Everything's The Rush

Delays third album opens with a corker: Girl's On Fire, which has one of the grandest arrangements of their short career. It takes a minute of layered codas to actually end. The solid first singles, Love Made Visible and the pleasingly titled Hooray, are equally intense and melodic. But it's a little too much. Each song has a kitchen sink approach: power guitars, incessant orchestrals and the relative burying of Greg Gilbert's voice (Delay's calling card) in the mix. It all reaches an amusing irony on the pretty Silence, built around this hook: "If I could have said much more with silence..." Regardless, Delays remain commited to melodic BritPop with no Oasis-like phoney push for street cred. Hear samples Monday.

Adele 19

By the first week of January, Adele's name was a pop buzzword. Now that the clamour has quieted, I can say this British pop soul singer is still worth your money and your attention. Hometown Glory remains one of the songs of 2008, made better here by a moving piano intro. Daydreamer highlights Adele's observational skills, which are pretty spot on for a 19 year old. She's watching a young couple in a bar, the young man "feeling up his girl like he's never felt her figure before." Best For Last has a wonderful syncopated chorus, while Tired is the most contemporary track on the album, made sublime by a sky-lifting vamp inserted into the middle and end of the song. Her Dylan cover, To Make You Feel My Love, is the stuff of weddings and superior to Billy Joel's version. Adele has a gorgeous voice and I think experience will bring out more nuance in her singing. Bring on 21. Hear samples now.

Neon Neon Stainless Style

Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals must have ADHD. He careens around Wales pubrocking it, then doing a forgotten solo record and now this homage to the 80's music he (and I) grew up with. I Told Her On Alderaan, built on Numan-esque synths and a brilliant bass line, captures the sound of the 80's with uttter sincerity. It could easily have been recorded in 1985, but still manages to sound current. The vocals are perfection and it's one of my favorite songs of the year. If he could have only applied that diligence to the full CD, which is split between gems (Dream Cars, Steel Your Girl, Belfast) and bollocks (Yo Majesty, Trick For Treat). Hear samples now.

The Last Shadow Puppets The Age Of Understatement

Wow. Where did this come from? Alex Turner (Artic Monkeys auteur) and Miles Kane have gone all swooning Scott Walker-y. The result is one of the most consistent records this year, an album that sounds like a compilation of 60's James Bond themes. Standouts include the title track, the galloping Standing Next To Me, atmospheric Meeting Place and Calm Like You. Lyrically and musically stunning, laden with melody and great vocals, this is a must-own. Alex Turner is in a seriously imperial phase: savor it while it lasts. Hear samples now.

All samples via the uber cool and well-priced

May 1, 2008

Santogold got her mind made up

Mismatched Santi White is red hot. She's got major New York style, doesn't she? Which means she can look stellar and spend nuthin' doing it.

I had dismissed Santogold as the new M.I.A. because of how she sounds, how she looks and her collaborators. Reasonable, right? Turns out there is more to this woman than meets the ear. Early tracks like Creator and the Mark Ronson collab Pretty Green gave no clue that she can sing in a less affected voice.

As our friend Tacim announces on his blog 8-1, there is some pop going on here. Or I think that is what he's saying - the blog's in Turkish! I suggest you rush now to his post and check out some of the tracks: I'm A Lady, which has a lovely vocal that recalls Deborah Harry, and You'll Find A Way, which I think Tacim likens to Cyndi Lauper, though I'd peg the vocal as very Annabella Lwin of BowWowWow. Lights Out is another good one. Dig her sound and then watch her amusingly not-quite-violent video...

Santogold L.E.S. Artistes:

Santogold Your Voice MP3
Santogold Creator Windows Media stream
Santogold MTVu Backstage video stream

Strange fact: Santi wrote and produced one of my favorite songs of 2001, Golden Boys by Res. Remind yourself now.

Review: Sara Bareilles, Live, DC 04/08

Sara in Louisville last week.*

On Monday night, we went to see Sara Bareilles' show at the sold-out 9:30 Club here in DC. This was a big deal: her first headlining tour at the best nightclub in America. She did not disappoint. If you wondered whether her vocals are as strong live, they are. I'd worried the songs might sound identical to the recorded versions, but Sara's voice lifted and dipped in unexpected ways - she's got more soul than I'd have guessed. While new track August Moon didn't pop for me, her cover of The Beatles' Oh Darling made it sound like an old r'n'b song.

She performed most of her debut CD, minus two gems: bar-ballad City and One Sweet Love. For the pop crowd, she did a woozy piano version of Xtina's Genie In A Bottle (catch it at Backseat Sandbar).

NPR has a good podcast on Sara. When my car died last week, I was thinking about constantly playing her in that same car when it was so bloody hot last summer. She had just emerged, nobody knew who she was, and now she's a big star. Which is a relief, because she proves that you can actually be talented and still be successful. As I alluded to yesterday in my Alison Sudol post, Sara's also done it without any cheap tricks.

Her new video is for Bottle It Up, which is probably not my first choice for second single because it's so close in style to Love Song. I might have chosen the softer One Sweet Love. That said, the love-love-love chorus is an earworm and this could easily be a hit. She looks fantastic in the clip.

*The top photo is from the excellent Backseat Sandbar - it really captures Sara's animated mood at these shows. She was thrilled to be at the 9:30 Club and made that very clear. The pleasure was mutual.

I've been writing about Sara since early June 2007. Check out more posts here, including my album review.