June 30, 2008

2008: Q2 Tops

In no order, my Top Songs for the 2nd quarter of 2008. A few rules: Not necessarily singles, with only one song by each artist and it must be officially released (or officially played). The colored link will take you to a place you can hear/see the song.

Viva La Vida fanmade video
My God. The best Coldplay song since Yellow. The timpani alone sends me skyhigh.
Antigone More Man Than Man myspace
Buyable on July 14, this is a major disco track that makes me swing my disco balls.
Donna Summer Stamp Your Feet bad video
What a monumental summer anthem! I hope we hear it during Olympic coverage.
Sam Sparro 21st Century Life myspace
Killer chorus and a worthy disco followup to Black And Gold.
Sneaky Sound System Kansas City myspace
A gem from Adem (that does not rhyme, right?). I was born in Kansas City, but keep it on the DL.
Mariah Carey I'll Be Lovin U Long Time non-video
If it makes me feel good, please do not judge me!
Jennifer Hudson Spotlight crappy video
Ne-Yo written, standard Stargate track, but J-Hud elevates it, as she does most everything she touches.
Ne-Yo Closer video
Oh, just run with it boyfriend. Let it out.
Rihanna Disturbia non-video
3rd Stargate in a row. Ri-ri is in her imperial phase.
Madonna Miles Away non-video
Best song on Stale Candy. Video better be good b/c this single is really going to be the end of that record.
Alanis Morissette It's A Bitch To Grow Up non-video
Inelegant title for one of AM's finest songs and one my peers seem to be feeling...
Cyndi Lauper Into The Nightlife video
What a massive chorus! Solid, au courant return and much needed career boost.
Neon Neon I Told Her On Alderaan myspace
NeonX2 entered the Tardis and came out in 1985. In the land of Princess Leia, no less!
Captain Keep An Open Mind video
After a sterling debut comes another jaunty Britpop single.
Delays Girl's On Fire hmmm
Could this song be any bigger? I'd love to hear this live, with those massive drums barrelling.
Aimee Mann Thirty One Today video
Following Alanis' lead, Aimee tackles the hard edges of aging with a polished sweetness
She & Him I Thought I Saw Your Face Today non-video
Pasty Cline is tapping her toe in her grave in Winchester VA.
The Verve Love Is Noise myspace
The loop is relentless, but their first song in 11 years is passionate dancerock.
Wild Beasts The Devil's Crayon video
Vocalist on the verses reminds me Big Country's Stuart Admason (RIP). video
Teddy Thompson Where To Go From Here
Beautiful ballad by Richard Thompson's angelic son. Prod. by Marius DeVries. myspace

What are your favorites?

Worthy albums this quarter: Sam Sparro, Coldplay, Alanis Morissette, Donna Summer, Cyndi Lauper, She & Him

Anticipating: Antigone, Grace Jones, Jennifer Hudson, Ne-Yo, Annie, Lily Allen, Deepest Blue, Will Young

Disappointment: Madonna's "Stale" Candy doesn't hold up over time. Maybe it will sound better in 5 years, but I would venture to say she did not invest herself in this music the way she always has.

June 28, 2008

Róisín: Headstrong and livin' dangerously

Róisín Murphy's making movies, this one for Movie Star. Her boyfriend directed this homage to John Waters. The lobster vignette is pure early 70's Waters, with a bit of kooky violence and gore, but no shit-eating (NSFW) or singing assholes, thank God. Methinks John will pay her a compliment if he sees this: Róisín is the filthiest woman in the world.

I just noticed that Róisín has a big gap in her touring schedule this fall. I certainly hope she will fill it with an American tour. Check out this recently released live video for the slammin' Cry Baby, one of my faves from Overpowered.

June 27, 2008

Kylie: Wasn't it just her choice to make...

Peter Robinson of PopJustice / NME has just written a piece for the new Attitude that examines the problems with Kylie Minogue's X project. I haven't been able toget my sweaty hands on it yet, but I've heard he takes Kylie's collaborator Will Baker to task, as well as the record label and large number of people trying to control Kylie's post-cancer return to pop. Here is what I wrote on the PJ Forums:

I like X as a collection of songs - though it has no coherence as an album. It's like a hits package. I have not read Peter's piece, but here's the one thing about Baker - he spent much of White Diamond trying to convince Kylie to show more of her true self as he knows her. And she didn't. That's my theory as to why he included the cringey Will-cries-and-is-comforted-by-Kylie scene. Trying to show her as a friend. At a certain point the smiley pop becomes tiresome and he knows that. We already get the sense that Kylie is actually a nice person, but I sometimes wonder if he's trying to make her into something she really is not. She's been in the public eye for so long that the shield is permanently up.

I am not sure of Will or EMI's control over X, but it seemed a good moment for her to make a more personal statement. It sounds like Will viewed it as a chance for her to widen her styles. She is never going to be a hit in America and that's fine. She should not worry about it! I do think the X album cover is EPIC, but in general, as a stylist Will has become wretched... run out of tricks. Let the woman be PRETTY for Godssakes! His tour costuming is infantile - I assume the designers followed some sort of direction. Remember her in the beautiful dress on the moon in the Showgirl tour? Wow indeed.

I should note that I think Janet Jackson and Madonna have also suffered from identity crises this year, with too many cooks in the kitchen and too many bases to cover. Becoming sort of shallow at the moment when one hopes the wisdom of a life well lived would inform their music. After so many records sold, Kylie should exercise the creative control she has earned.

ut again, an album that contains Wow, Stars, The One, Cosmic and All I See is pretty fucking great in my book. In fact, the extended versions of All I See and The One rank as some of her most sublime moments.

Update: I've finally read the article. It uses The One as a solid example of the cock-ups with X: Perhaps the most obvious hit single, released at the end of the campaign with no video (and apparently not performed on tour!). Robinson's final parapgraph is the kicker. His advice:

Think about how you want to be remembered in 200 years. Distill that vision into ten songs. Be selfish. Do not be distracted by what you think your fans want... you can do anything, but you will only truly succeed when people know you're calling your own shots. Just be yourself rather than what other people want you to be.


Background reading:
Read my thoughts on X / Paul also commented on this topic

June 26, 2008

Little Sammy Sparro

Black And Gold is free on US iTunes this week and the album is only $7.99. Dan likes it, so you should too!

June 25, 2008

Gallery: Kingston Kool

click to enlarge

Okay, that kid is already hipper than I will ever be and he's, what, 2? Look at that pose and the threads! As you know, I am sort of over Bitchin' Gwen. She made her last album for Kingston's peers, not me. And DILF Daddy Gavin? Stop making "music"! Let's just put Kingston in No Doubt and have him do it all. I believe the children are our future. Right?

What R'n'B in 2008 should be. Period.

Ne-Yo Closer at the BET Awards. Love it.

The show had two other major moments...

1) The reunion, for like a minute, of the great girl group En Vogue. They provided my soundtrack for the early 90's.

2) and then there was THIS:

photo Getty

Oh my. The beautiful mystery that is Maxwell emerged from 8 years of hiding to sing Simply Beautiful for Al Green. Sounded gorgeous as ever. I firmly believe that when this man returns to music, he will sell huge amounts of records.

June 24, 2008

Mixtape: My voice, my weapon of choice

New Annie Lennox pic via Ethrill

Followng up my Grace Jones post, there is now live video on youtube, including a sneak at her simple-yet-scary Corporate Cannibal video and a live bit of Pull Up To The Bumper. The Guardian also reviewed the show, as did the vair vair lovely Phil De Worrapalova.
Antigone releases her feminista disco single More Man Than Man on July 14. It'll be digital via yoctopus.

Saint Etienne literally releasing another compilation? The kids on PJ forums say so. My Gawd. I assume they have zero control over their own catalog. At least it will have 2 new songs, plus Lover Plays The Bass.
Billie Piper is unrecognizable in Diary Of A Call Girl. It's not a bad show though. Swank London locations and BP is pretty engaging in it. Who knew?! Who also knew she was carrying Laurence Fox's bun in her oven?
Sam Sparro asks Annie some questions for her EPK.

La Bex fan Kaushik is going Guevera on us and wants you to
sign a petition so Sophie will release her collaboration with Pet Shop Boys, assuming it really exists.

peaking of Bex, did you notice my close personal friend Dan Gillespie Sells in a criminal coat/shorts combo with baby blue docksiders in the Telegraph?
I love the name of Mercury Rev's new CD: Snowflake Midnight (out September 29th). Also am bemused by them describing it as "self-luminous." Their old song Nite And Fog is freaking magical.
Oasis has a less ethereal title for their probably-weak October CD: Dig Out Your Soul. Eww. The single has a better title: Shock Of The Lightening. I feel like they're a variation on Prince: Everybody get excited for a week and then we go limp.
The chick in Mates Of State looks like a blond Catherine Tate. Which reminds me, I LOVED the Dr. Who episode about Agatha Christie.

Chanteuse Sarah Nixey's single is now on iTunes all over the place. It's ambient French pop; a Francois Hardy cover. I think it's a divertissement un peu (is that right?). C'est bon, mais ce n'est pas Strangelove. Viva Mlle. Nixey.
Boy George's US tour is over before it begins. I wish him well, but what a mess that man's life is.

I was a HUGE fan of Til Tuesday, but have never fulling warmed to Aimee Mann as a solo artist. Her new record seems to have been recorded with my taste in mind! 31 Today is a total gem.
She appeared in the Independent this week.

Danneeboy cracks me up. I love how he describes good music as "the sex."
Jemboys World (Eternally 14) is loaded with great rarities from the 90's. Load.Ed.

June 23, 2008

Lay it on me, Richard.

Great new photo by a guy named Christoph on Flicker.

I have an undying love and admiration for Richard Ashcroft. He has an alien-like physical beauty and his elegant Song For The Lovers is one of my all-time favorite songs. Utterly and unashamedly romantic. If you don't know it, email me and I'll send it to you. Anyway, Ashcroft is one of the few male rock artists who can match Fleetwood Mac's Lindsey Buckingham. While LB is far more experimental than Ashcroft, they share an edgy, serious passion for music and their voices exude emotion. They make the difficult seem effortless.

I didn't think it'd happen, but The Verve reunited and recorded a new album, Four, due out August 18/19. If you're unfamiliar with Ashcroft, 36, he created two of most essential records of the past 20 years: The Verve's Urban Hymns (September 1997) and his first solo release, Alone With Everybody (June 2000). Watch this live version (embedding disabled) of the former album's Sonnet. The bit from the repeated "by now" at 3:10 until the end gives me chills everytime.

The new single, Love Is Noise, was premiered by Zane Lowe in London tonight and it's lush. It has a sort of swizzy energy about it, edging toward dance music. I'm trying to decide if that "uh huh uh huh" loop is a Simple Minds sample. It sounds like a chopped up bit of the Robin Clark backing vocals on Alive And Kicking. Highly unlikely, but that's what I thought the first time I heard it. That loop is going to be controversial - it's a bit relentless - and if you focus on it, it's kind of overwhelming. A strange mixing choice.

The Verve Love Is Noise get it via Open Your Eyes

XO's Top Ten Plus One Richard Ashcroft / Verve* Songs:

A Song For The Lovers
Slow Was My Heart
Bittersweet Symphony*
Get My Beat
Keys To The World
C'mon People
Science Of Silence
Weeping Willow*
This Time*
Break The Night With Colour

Richard Ashcroft A Song For The Lovers:

... looking beautiful and cadaverous. Check out this version where he wear aviators better than anyone on Earth. I lived Song For The Lovers for a fleeting moment around the time it came out and kept it secret from everyone. Sigh. It didn't work out, so while the whole thing now lives in my head as a case of "what-if," my brain knows the truth. Regardless, everyone needs a moment where they've taken off to another city, telling no one, to meet someone that they should not be seeing...

June 21, 2008

Ladies and gentleman, Miss Grace Jones.

My look is for girls on the run. I'm always in a hurry. For me, sunglasses are eye make-up, even at night. Half of my face is sunglasses, the other half is lips.
- Grace Jones

It's probably no secret that I think that Slave To The Rhythm by Miss Grace Jones is one of the Greatest Songs Of All Time. And now Londoninium is abuzz because Grace just did a big show at Festival Hall (read a review). Topped with tall hats and working the legs (and the usual amount of crazy), she debuted new material from her forthcoming Corporate Cannibal album [6/30 update: it's now called Hurricane]. It's her first in 21 years since her last record, Bulletproof Heart (Grace always has the best album covers), so everyone is on tenterhooks wondering how the new one will sound.

Here's Grace performing Slave at the Trevor Horn event in November 2004. Still emitting superstar frequencies...

What we know about the new album: It was produced by someone named Ivor Guest and has a big supporting cast. Songs include Devil In My Life, Hurricane, Love You To Life, and Corporate Cannibal. I've heard one song - and you can too - This Is Life, and it's very martial. Grace's voice can sit in almost any arrangement and the new track is both modern and self-referencing.

If you don't have Slave To The Rhythm (1985), Trevor Horn remixed one song, "pulling it into a million pieces and throwing them back together in a myriad of new formations" to create an album built around that one song. Really fucking cool. Check out her wicked, "cloaked" performance of it on Terry Wogan. Watch for the payoff in the last 30 seconds. The song is famous for Ian McShane's "Ladies and gentleman..." intro. Trivia #1: McShane met Trevor Horn at my favorite London restaurant, Geale's in Notting Hill.

Additional reading: a history of Grace from The Independent. She's just turned 60! Also watch Grace's son Paulo Goude perform with his band.

Trivia #2: I have a framed album cover of Nightclubbing in my bedroom! You can see it, if you're ever lucky enough to get in there.... haha.

June 20, 2008

We'll break into cinema

Teaser for Roisin's Movie Star (see a painted Roisin peeking out behind these two queens). An homage to John Waters, Divine and maybe a bit of Leigh Bowery.

Cannot. Wait. he says breathlessly.

Thank u Hopeless Optimist.

June 18, 2008

I can hold your gaze

It's been awhile since I've mentioned the Loved Up Darren Hayes. He who time travels etc, etc has two free songs on his myspace page now: A live piano version of Darkness and Justin Shave's instrumental version of Unlovable - I cannot spell that word! - which incorporates something quite Fergilicious. Did you petals also know you can buy a very video gamey live version of Casey on iTunes US? It's quite squizzy.

And then there's this forthcoming Moment... [clicky!]

Gavin on Gwen (so to speak)

Gwendolyn on a Monday

It's like marrying three different people a week, because you never know who's going to come out of the bathroom...Her five- minute look is my favorite. She looks perfect unmade-up.
- DILF Gavin Rossdale tells Page Six Magazine

Gwendolyn on a Tuesday (no lippy!)

Top image via Design Scene / Blog idea from Tricky Dicky!

Madonna: The proof is in the pudding

Madonna The Making Of Give It 2 Me:

Yes, another Madonna post. Anyway: the reason the new video is such crap? It was directed by Tom Munro (based on his Elle mag photoshoot) and Nathan Rissman, who directed Madonna's Malawi film. Neither have a shot a music video before. This Making Of is far more entertaining.

So, now I hear Robyn is opening for Madonna in Europe. I'd go to see her.

June 16, 2008

Madonna vs. M-dolla

Before There Was Candy…

Click on that link! This blogger says that Madonna originally had a boxing theme for her album and has photographic evidence of the cover (albeit with copyright notices all over it). If he's right - and how will we know? - she made a big mistake. The images he has appear to be real and are far more sophisticated than the photoshopped garbage that finally emerged.

What happened? Too many cooks in the kitchen? Maybe someone told her the M-dolla theme was too racially charged? Did she think the candy imagery would appeal to the High School Musical set? Don't know, but I'd love to...

June 15, 2008

XOvision, Take 1: Sharleen Spiteri

Ooh ahh, look at Sharl. She's just released her new video, All The Times I Cried (below), and it's not bad. It was done by Olivier Dahan, who directed La Vie En Rose, the movie about Edith Piaf. Had I directed this video, Sharleen would have also played each of the other two women auditioning. That was a lost opportunity. And don't you think she's looking more and more like Kate Bush as she ages?

As for the song itself: weak. This retro sound is ubiquitous right now and she needs better material. Let it be known that Sharleen did it first in Texas with songs like Black Eyed Boy, but I don't imagine this becoming a hit. She has another track called Stop, I Don't Love You that would have made a better single (and potential remixes). The album, Melody, is out July 14 in the UK.

PS: She keeps wearing that damned red dress everywhere!

XOvision, Take 2: Samantha Mumba

Mumba, lookin' too old and too blingy at 25

In July 2000, I briefly rented a "wee" flat in London (on Aylesford St in Pimlico) and hung out by myself, which I'd never done before or since. Took me a few days to get used to being alone and then I loved it. On that trip, I discovered loads of new music: Coldplay's Yellow, Ronan's Life Is A Rollercoaster and Samantha Mumba's Gotta Tell You (watch the video), which I became obsessed with. Samantha released another great single, Always Come Back To Your Love, and one decent album before disappearing into oblivion.

This summer she is back with a pointless Mickey Modelle remake of Gotta Tell You. It begins quite promisingly and then devolves into a silly Eurotrash thing. As for La Mumba herself, it's weird to see her as a woman, when she was a slip of a girl before, but she looks fine. She reminds me a bit of Sugababe Amelle.

Samantha Mumba Gotta Tell
You (v2008, with Modelle):

June 13, 2008

Gird your loins. Will Young is back.

Will Young, or William Of Young, as Paul says, has this heart-stopping message on his website:

Will’s brand new and incredible fourth album Let It Go will arrive on the 29th September. It's as simple as that!
And it really is, for a few reasons: 1) Will's last record, Keep On, was the shit (in the best way). It's rare to find an artist these days who notches it up on the third record. 2) It's also rare to hear a good male pop artist. There are so few (who else? Darren Hayes and... Darren Hayes?) 3) Will has hair again, miraculously, after a "brief stint" of saying goodbye to it.

I told my friend that I cannot leave my bedroom until this album is released. Please bring food. Until that time, let's watch the making of Will's finest video...

Re: the photo, it was taken this February in London and Will is with Annie Lennox and Kate Sumner (Sting's daughter).

XOvision: Summer grooves

The Teenagers Make It Happen:

Cheap video, great song. French kids worshipping New Order.

Mystery Jets Two Doors Down:

MJ's hilariously spot-on 80's pastiche. Every trick is used and the result is a video and song that appear to be vintage but are quite contemporary.

Sarah Nixey Le temps de l'amour:

La Nixey's press release says the "hills are alive" though it's actually like she's saying, "Je refuse to lip sync. Just look at the birds, bitches."

Annie I Know UR Girlfriend Hates Me:

I used to passionately hate this song because it sounds like Stacey Q's Two Of Hearts. I've softened my opinion as its wormed its way into my porous brain. I appreciate the stylized look of the clip when so few videos have any style these days.

Final Note: The Madonna video for Give It To Me is a depressing low point. It's like she's just given up. Everything about her is either mundane or rehashed. This song was worthy of an epic and she has failed miserably. I'm moving on until the next single, which I trust will be Miles Away. Likewise, the video for Goldfrapp's Caravan Girl is just some American chick (not Mariah, haha) skateboarding to nowhere. Nada to do with the song or band. Big disappointment after the genius of Happiness.

Coming Soon: New videos from Roisin Murphy, Sam Sparro and, finally, Antigone...

June 12, 2008

Quote Of The Week: She started crying her eyes out

I totally made (Madonna) cry like a baby. I had to get her a towel. We were alone recording the album and she kept talking a lot of rubbish, so I shouted a lot of rubbish and she started crying her eyes out... I just said some really nasty stuff, I guess... To be honest I can't believe she told someone about it. The whole situation was quite intense. It's totally weird to make Madonna sob, but even stranger when she tells everyone.

- Pharrell Williams, via NME

June 10, 2008

The A is for 'allo!

Sam Sparro is releasing his album in America on June 24 and he's listened to us! The US version wisely adds the wicked S.A.M.S.P.A.R.R.O as the (logical) opening track. To quote Sam-ola himself: "Oh shit!"

Meanwhile, his new video 21 Century Life is due out soon (hear the song at 8-1). If you have not heard the song, it is hot hot hot. Here is a free, legal MP3 of the first US single, which already blew up in the UK and is surely in the Top 5 Songs for 2008...

Sam Sparro
Black And Gold MP3

...and did you see what happened when Sparro met Ditto?

June 7, 2008

Prince: This is what it sounds like

Today is the little Purple Man's 50th Birthday! Eye'd buy him "a little box with a mirror and a tongue inside" if he hadn't turned into a tiny purple prick, suing everyone, not capitalizing on remastering his back catalog and annually releasing an album not worthy of his legacy. Oh well.

Eye always loved how Mr. Blackwell described Prince: "A toothpick wrapped in a purple doilie." Wicked. Below are my lists. It's hard 2 hate him when eye think of the great, emotional music he has given 2 the world.

XO's Top 10 Plus One Prince Singles:

Sign O' The Times

My favorite Prince song and his artistic peak.
When Doves Cry
The first time eye was truly challenged by a song. Radio was CHANGED.
Pure pop. Like air conditioning on a summer day...in Nice.
Purple Rain

What needs 2 b said?
Little Red Corvette
Album version always superior 4 its ending minutes.

I Would Die 4 U
Can u do the hand motions? I can.
Gett Off
Krissy, u have my love 4 giving me the great memory of this 1.
If I Was Your Girlfriend
The song that launched a thousand handjobs.
Women not girls rule my world.
Alphabet Street
Extended version is best.
Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad
This has aged very well! Find this if u don't know it.

XO's Top 10 Plus One Prince Album/B-side Tracks

The Question Of U
Grind! The finest use ever of handclaps and "hahs"!
Alexa de Paris
Gorgeous 5-minute orchestral used in Under The Cherry Moon.
Something In The Water (Does Not Compute)
Ballad from 1999, a lost classic. Vocal ecstasy.
Sometimes It Snows In April
At his heighth, an unexpected, 7-minute piano-based folk ballad.
The Holy River
Eye once saw Shawn Colvin do an impeccable cover of this
Joy In Repetition
"My name is Andre Crabtree the Third"
The Cross
Spine tingling, always.
Anna Stesia
Love is God, God is Love, girls and boys love God above.
17 Days
B-side to Doves. Bitter and elegant.
She's Always In My Hair
The best of his psychedlic era. A b-side superior 2 its a-side.
Power Fantastic
One of the prettiest, most passionate songs ever recorded. MY GOD.

No one will ever match these songs. Ever. Regardless of how the last 10 years have played out, Prince remains our greatest living musician.

Trivia: Do you kids remember that one of the songs above has a much more complicated title? What is it?

June 5, 2008

Mixtape: Lips 2 find u

I am transfixed by the new Angelina Jolie cover of Vanity Fair (click to enlarge). I shall match the links on this post to her lips! Who was it that said liptstick lies don't hide the truth, they won't keep you waterproof.

For some reason, I get excited when Morrissey announces an album title just as I did in 1989. His new CD is produced by Jerry Finn (a good thing, as Finn did the perfect You Are The Quarry) and it's called Years Of Refusal. 12 new songs and Goddessonlyknows how many b-sides. Cannot wait. Interestingly, he has also just broken with the manager who engineered his comeback, Merck Mercuriadis.

El Marvy has been namedropping in Manhattan. Read about his special live show with Donna Summer.

Captain's new jaunty single is called Echoes Of Fashion and can be heard now on
myspace. Cannot wait for this new album, Captain, o captain! Don't you want to be Clare? She has the best job, just like Wendy did in Prefab Sprout.

PAUL: If you love this mixtape, if you reallllly love it, you will send me the Daggers songs.

Would you like to compare Roisin and Sophie's vesions of Off And On? Do it now at
Le Jukeblog de Benzen.

Labelle is reuniting and working on a CD with Lenny Kravitz and Gamble & Huff. If God is a black woman with an afro, She will see to it that Roisin Murphy writes a song for this album. It would be stellar!

In a revelation that does not surprise me,
Darren Hayes and I agree on the top 3 songs from Cyndi Lauper's album, which I need to review.

Tori Amos is on her own.

For those of you who remember Milla's perfect pop single. Gentleman Who Fell, you can find that album at
The Island Of Failed Pop Stars.

Lorraine were recently in London mixing with Dave Bascombe, so maybe the damned thing will finally be released.

PopMuse did a post on the Alanis album - and he posted what is one of her best songs, It's A Bitch To Grow Up, a new bonus track.
Aimee Mann's new song Thirty One Today is the best thing she's done sicne Wise Up and Save Me. It serves as a companion piece to the above mentioned Alanis song. "I thought my life would be bigger by now / But it's not and I don't know where to turn."

Roisin Murphy's Scarlet Ribbons totally comes alive when she sings it with Tony Christie.
Watch it now.

Kylie turned 40 last week! Did you see Toons'n'Tunes massive Kylie post?

The Ne-Yo song just hit me. It's elegant. Like me and Angie...

President and Mrs. Obama!

One of the many reasons I love Barack and Michelle Obama: Watch them do this quick little fist bump, staring right into each other's eyes. He is the king of cool (as in don't attempt to ruffle him) and she is his equal. I think she will be a fantastic First Lady, as she shares his innate leadership qualities.

Obama has been incredibly patient and gracious toward his Democratic opponent this week, while Opponent (shewhoshallnotbenamed) has not returned the favor. This is not unusual behavior for that family and I am very sad, as I've been a longtime supporter of them, foibles and all. There is a point at which the phrase "go down fighting" (no pun intended) becomes pathetic and Opponent has reached that juncture.

Thanks to Amy Argetsinger for drawing my attention to the fist bump.

June 3, 2008

Take 1: Coldplay

It's only 2 weeks until the release of Coldplay's 4th album Viva La Vida (Or Death and His blablabla).

By now everyone's heard that Lunar, the band's collaboration with Kylie Minogue, was deemed "too sexy." That is exactly what they need! The Baby U2 thing is not appealing. Whatever. Album opener Life In Technicolour is exactly the kind of music Coldplay should be doing now. Primarily instrumental, the song is a collaboration with remixer Jon Hopkins, so it's rhythmic and airy, along the lines of Stuart Price's remix of Talk, but with a fair amount of jingle jangle.

In the EPK below, you can hear bits of Chinese Sleep Chant and Yes, the song he's singing in the lower register.

Take 2: Sophie Ellis Bextor

Sophie Ellis Bextor is currently recording her new album. 2007's was a corker, so her work is cut out for her. La Bex's myspace player has two new songs: Off And On - the infamous Roisin Murphy castoff produced by Calvin Harris. Both have leaked all over the web, no suprise. Sophie's version is much the same, but her vocals are more sing-songy and light. She's also added a cool, choopy bit at the end ("I put myself, put, put, myself back together").

The other track, which PopJustice reports is produced by Richard Stannard and The Freemasons, has an epic title, Heartbreak Make Me A Dancer, which she, of course, pronunces dahncer. I'm disappointed by this one; it shimmies on a disco vibe, but never really lifts off. In fact, it's more like a Sophie knockoff. Perhaps it needs a better middle eight or some more heat in the arrangment. When it doubt, add more sparkles.

Take 3: Pipettes

The 2 new Pipettes unveiled!

And the parting gift for Becki and Rosay?

No news on the next album, but it should be this year. I keep thinking about 2006, The Summer Of Lily And The Pips. So far, I don't have much confidence this summer will come anywhere close to that magique.

Read what I said about The Pipettes. Their debut record remains a 5-star soul lifter.

June 1, 2008

Review: Alanis Morissette's Flavors Of Entanglement

Every once in awhile an album takes you by complete surprise. You hear it and become obsessed; the music seems to have arrived exactly when you needed it. WHO KNEW that Alanis Morissette's Flavors Of Entanglement would be one of those albums?

I've only been a bystander of the "being" that is Alanis. Flavors is an unexpected renewal of her artistry and her chart potential. If the album is not successful - the odds are against it - it will not be for lack of effort. She has written her best melodies (always a strength) and pushed herself into a new sonic territory by choosing to collaborate with Frou Frou's Guy Sigsworth.

Flavors is a breakup album. It present the full arc of the end of a relationship: anger (Straitjacket, the Frou Frou-ish Versions Of Violence), sadness (delicate piano ballad Not As We), melancholy (Torch) and hopefulness (Incomplete) Love is rarely logical: Alanis contradicts herself about her ex (hmm, who is it? ), one minute decrying him and the next crying over what's been lost.

Torch may be the most shattering song Alanis has ever done. It's either perfect for someone who has just ended a love affair... or it's the perfect death. The images are so intimate and realistic ("Miss your take on anything and the music you would play. Miss cracking up and wrestling. Our debriefs at end of day") that it doesn't matter that she's employed her old "list" trick on the lyric.

This is not to say the new agey, therapy-obsessed Alanis is not present. The anthemic single Underneath has some of the most arcane lyrics of the year: "Spotlight on these seeds of simpler reasons / Score bourne into form, stretching my limit." Opener Citizen Of The Planet is a herky jerky mess, but it has some interesting Indian strings mixed in with the cheesy rock guitar.

Pop nirvana is achieved however on Giggling Again For No Reason. Smooth, elegant synths open and close the track, which has crystalline vocals and a dancebeat. Alanis has never sounded so pure. In Praise Of The Vulnerable Man (another "Alanissy" title) sways blissfully along like a 21st century Carly Simon hit.

Guy Sigsworth, who always produces the kind of music I'd like to make, creates a blanket of sound for Alanis. He wraps her in beautiful moments: the lovely ooohs that conclude Tapes (in which she sings sadly, "I'm too exhausting to be loved"), the pure vocals during the bridge on Versions Of Violence (at 2:23). In fact, the vocals on the album are less affected than ever.

The uplifting album closer Incomplete reminds me of Buffy The Vampire Slayer talking about how she's a cookie that needs to bake a little longer. This is Alanis's wishlist for what she'll be in the future: "One day I'll be secure like the women I see on their 30th anniversaries." It's a sweet conclusion, but we know the truth and so does Alanis: it's nearly impossible to feel "complete." And when you do, will you have anything left to say?

Be sure to buy the Deluxe edition (here or here), which has 5 more tracks, most album worthy. iTunes bonus It's A Bitch To Grow Up is also very strong. Clearly, this is an unexpected imperial time for Alanis.