July 31, 2008

Red Alert: Keane's Perfect Symmetry

Keane releases a new song called Spiralling on Monday, August 4 at keanemusic.com. The album Perfect Symmetry, produced by Jon Brion and Stuart Price (!), is out October 18. To quote one of their b-sides, "I've waited a long long time."

Other songs include the first official single Lovers Are Losing, Perfect Symmetry, Black Burning Heart and Playing Along.

Their debut album Hopes And Fears was my favo(u)rite of 2004. It made me dizzy; I could not stop playing it for about a year. God lives in Your Eyes Open! Sadly, Under The Iron Sea was another story. I suppose it was written in the stars. Rather than up the ante, like Coldplay did with A Rush..., Keane overthought it and faltered. Though it has some good songs, it lacks the pureness of its predecessor, with Tom's voice too deep in the mix. Let us hope they really have found themselves again. We'll have a clue on Monday.

Xolondon's Top Ten Plus One Keane Songs:

Your Eyes Open
One of my alltime favorite songs, ever. Reminds me of Ultravox's classic Reap The Wild Wind in its grandness and beauty. Tom Chaplin brought back the romantic male vocal.
We Might As Well Be Strangers

I was on a hotel bed in London when I first played this (on headphones). I love how the song explodes at minute 2.
This Is The Last Time
Anyone who says "this is the last time" never means it, do they? It's only when they don't bother to say it that they actually follow through.
Leaving So Soon
This song reminds me of someone important to me for years who I now utterly dislike. A slap in the face for you now, indeed.
Everybody's Changing
The kind of chorus that appeals to many in its universal whynotme-ness.
The Frog Prince

One of the few songs on album two that matched the mood of their debut. Another song unafraid to wear its heart on its sleeve. Lovely middle eight.
Crystal Ball
A cringe-inducing lyric, but the song still works because you can't really hear the worst bits clearly. Knowing what we know now, it seems like a message from Tim to Tom.
Somewhere Only We Know
The Song Most Likely To. Everyone's covered this, the nicest version being Laura Michele Kelly's orchestral arrangement.

Snowed Under
The band's first set of b-sides (for album 1) were as quality as the album tracks and this is one the finest. Hard to pick the best one for this list...
Under Pressure
Note-perfect cover of the Queen/Bowie classic. The best song on last year's Radio One compilation. As D'luv and I noted, the "loves such an old fashioned word" bridge will give you chills. I promise.
The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore
Another cover, this one of The Walker Brothers. Again, a good match for Tom's angelic voice, which is double-tracked on the perfect chorus.

Read my other Keane posts.

July 30, 2008

Antigone vs. (M)antigone

photo www.jochenbraun.com

The first single from
Antigone's forthcoming album is out now. More Man Than Man has started showing up on hardcore dance blogs, which is a good sign that the word is out. Juicy pop stomper though it is, it seemed to me there was a message in the lyrics.

XO: What's the inspiration for the new single? I will take the male point of view and say that the guy in it sounds like he can't win, because on the one hand the woman assumes he's going to leave and never come back, but later she implies that she wants him to leave. Is this is a "war of the sexes" song in the sense that we are conditioned to assume what the other sex wants?

Antigone: More Man Than Man is precisely a war of the sexes type song, but it's as much about the complexity of one's own sex as the division between them. The way I always try to approach writing about something more existential in my songs is to paint a picture which is vivid and personal that sits on top of the deeper darker stuff. Most people don't notice the undercurrents though, I don't think, much to my chagrin!

XO: I hear "her" singing and I'm like, "You want me to leave, you want me to stay... WHAT!?"

Antigone: I suppose I wanted to articulate a common legend in today's sexual landscape: girl meets boy, girl and boy become friends. Platonic friendship develops into that of the fuck-buddy variety, where occasionally girl and boy get drunk or trashed and fall into bed, hence the opening line "I woke up to find you in my bed again." Girl discovers that for a small period after sexual interactions, boy becomes an idiot and ignores her, getting all annoying and teenagery and treating her like a skanky ho'. Girl then delivers sexy sermon in form of 'More Man Than Man' to boy, to put it to him that actually, she doesn't want a relationship at all, and he should just be cool about their interludes and not be a rude prick (pun intended).

XO: Is she pissed because he is making assumptions about what she wants?

Antigone: She is totally pissed about him, and his sex or gender, making assumptions about what her sex or gender are perceived to want. In my own experience, women are often very cool about casual sex, indeed they seek it out in certain circumstances ("On my own I reserve the right to get my share"). It's a liaison that girl is demanding needs to be assessed on an individual basis, not a prescriptive one. The chorus really just consolidates all of this by asserting that a woman can have a higher libido than a man, and in that sense she can be more man than man. Only because that's the way that women and men have traditionally been pitted against each other, that men have insane libido's and woman don't.

XO: How does the video fit into all of this?

Antigone: I tried to tackle all this gender stuff with the video in a really simple way. We render total stereotypes of masculinity and femininity - suit, prom queen, club bunny, worker man - then splice them into each other like some kind of lo-fi video gene therapy. So if you look carefully, you'll see that they all end up wearing each other's clothes and taking on each other's characteristics, as well as mashing them all up in the middle section. And by dressing both the prom queen and the drag queen in exactly the same clothes (quite a feat as my darling friend Byron is 6"7 and I'm 5"3!), we're not actually saying that we're the same, but that we all have common elements. The way genetics is going, I'm sure male and female will be recognised as loose categories soon enough and the world will be a much better place for it. Certainly I feel I'm somewhere in the middle.

Antigone More Man Than Man:

You can buy More Man Than Man in various mixes at iTunes worldwide and other vendors. Check Antigone's myspace for more details.

July 29, 2008

Will Young "finds it hard, finds it hard"

You can hear a sample of Will Young's new single, Changes, at willyoung.co.uk - sounds like Simply Red circa 1987 to me. Not a surprise, but not bad either.

July 27, 2008

Maxwell withholds, Melo gives

It is no secret that I'm disappointed by the narrow path of recent American r'n'b/soul. The best of that style tends to be exported from the UK these days. And now Land Of All Good Pop, Sweden. I discovered Melo by accident. His full name is Nils "Melo" Tull and his debut, Off My Chest, is getting a lowkey release this week in the UK.

His PR pack mentions Marvin Gaye, but I hear more Stevie Wonder and Maxwell. There is some actual musicianship going on here; I like the bass-heavy sound mixed with layered harmonies. It's uber smooth. What Have We Got To Lose, Forever and What's New are standouts for me, while the upbeat Too Good has a reference to Vanity 6's Nasty Girl. The fingersnap-beat ballad Real Slow is the first video (below). It's not my favorite because it's closer in spirit than the rest of the album to... say... R Kelly. Closing ballad Anything Like Me is much better. This is exactly the kind of sound that should return to US radio - simplicity in arrangement (with a jazzy bent) and a focus on vocals on pure vocals with one note per syllable.

You can buy Off My Chest now via iTunes UK, US and Sweden

Real Slow:

If you don't like this tune, be sure to hear some of his other tracks on myspace before you decide.

Quien es esta crone?

Click to enlarge the full horror.

Come on in to my store 'cause my sugar is sweet!

July 26, 2008

Dragonette: Jesus DOES love them

Dragonette's album is finally on US iTunes.

It breaks my trashy heart that this band did not blow up in 2007. They're so very worthy and should have at least captured all the "Scissters" fans. Must-have tracks: Take It Like A Man, Competition, I Get Around and the lovely Another Day.

July 25, 2008

Mixtape: Yes we can can

Now is as good a time as ever to post that image. Obama is wrapping up his presidential factfinding tour of the world. I post this because I think my friends outside the US care about this election almost as much as I do. Obama will be a citizen of the world, not a bully. I believe he can restore our image abroad and he made a strong attempt yesterday in Germany. For those really into it, The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza did a big piece this week on Obama's early political life in Chicago, which is about as corrupt as it appears to be in the Batman movies. Lizza also answered questions about the article here.

The opening chords of Ne-Yo's Closer are indentical to the opening chords of Darren Hayes' Fallen Angel, which was shockingly left off his Delicate CD. Somebody, like, say... Justin Shave needs to do a mashup now! Anyway, woofy PopMuse has a remix of Closer (Flashlight Exendedd) that's very stompy.

Bextor Collectors go here now.

Which reminds me, while we all sit and mull over the downfall of Hard Mandy. Last week the
NYT published a piece on how she's no longer a fashion icon, with her "Dolly Parton" dress (true!) at Cannes.

Boogaloo Stu reminds me of that era in the life of ABC when they were doing Be Near Me and looked all cartoony. He's also very John Sex. Stu's tune is Magnetic Heart and it's melodic electrostomp. What do you think?

With regard to the recent disco renaissance, in which New York/Dumbo indie types have "invented" disco music from scratch, ladies, that's a load of glittery caca. Had Santogold recorded Sophie Ellis Bextor's Catch You, the Stereogum kids would have creamed their retro Gloria Vanderbilt jeans. I do like some of the Hercules and Love Affair tracks (Time Will), but the Heloise And The Savoire Faire record is odious, like Scissters trying to improve Morningwood.

John-John Barrowman (aka Captain Jack) says "Come into my very gay closet" to look at his Barbies.

My favorite New Yorker Varant went to see Yaz(oo) at The Beacon last week and a did a brief review.

Gay Dad was one of the great bands of the late 90's (or maybe it was 20000 by that point). They did 2 albums: one perfect and one shit. Moody Places has their singles. I recommend Oh Jim and Joy in particular.

Has Gwen Stefani been pregnant for like 2 years now?

The Pretenders, who have a new album, Break Up The Concrete, in September, are giving away the songs week by week. Which would be great, if the first one, Boots Made Of Chinese Plastic, were any good. It's a worn out Bo Diddly pastiche.

Where is the Morrissey single?
The album, Years Of Refusal, is out in September! The title of the album must refer to my sex life.

Not speaking of which, Jay Brannan and Margaret Cho have teamed up for a new song, which you should not watch while at work.

Goldfrapp's next tour is their usual halfhearted attempt to appease industry tastemakers on either coast, while completely avoiding most of America. Don't work too hard, dears/deers.

I am cranky today, no? Bitch bitch moan moan. Another summer weekend is here though - live it up trolls! I'll be seeing this...

July 23, 2008

Don't know what you've got 'til it's gone

My lovely colleague Liz U sent me this video last night on Facebook and it made me wistful for "when we were cute" (speaking of myself, I mean!). Look at Andy! It's times like this when I try to be positive because, in ten years, the sick joke is that I will look back on today and say, "Oh, look how young I was." Le sigh.

Erasure Fingers and Thumbs

Quote of the Week: The consequences of falling

Great quote from kd lang to SFGate:

I don’t think Madonna ever really liked me, to be honest. We’re very different people.

via AbsoluteMadonna

July 22, 2008

XOvision: Antigone!

Antigone More Man Than Man:

That Pucci-esque catsuit she's featuring probably cost more than the rest of the video, but here is Miss One's first ever clip for the killer More Man Than Man (iTunes UK/US). This is intended to be tongue-in-cheek fresh and it succeeds. A perfect song for summer nights.

And is Starlet really that tiny? A pocket Venus indeed.

More on Antigone later this week, but if you're wondering just who this pixie is, read my interview with her.

July 21, 2008

Darren Hayes: This bird has flown.

This week Darren Hayes releases the concert film of 2007's Time Machine Tour. Though the show sold out London’s Royal Albert Hall, it wasn't possible to bring it to the States, so the DVD will be of particular interest to American fans unable to see the full spectacle.

The tour featured Darren's most theatrical stage show, primarily designed to present This Delicate Thing We've Made, his 2007 double album (my review), though the setlist also incorporated songs from his 12 years in the music business, including Savage Garden hits and earlier solo work.

Delicate's co-producer, Justin Shave, acted as the
tour's musical directer and the staging was done by designer Willie Williams, the man responsible for the last several U2 tours - he did the iconic lemon on U2's 1997 PopMart Tour - and George Michael's current stage set. For the Time Machine Tour, Williams built a 24-foot animatronic steel and neon origami bird, around which the performance took place. Here is a preview:

I decided this was a good moment to interview Darren for this blog. I didn't want to wait 2 or 3 years for a new record. Luckily, he agreed...

XO: Do you see a lot of live shows? Do they inspire certain staging ideas or ways of presenting songs?

Darren Hayes: Not in this decade, sadly, no. Most of my influences are worn pretty heavily on my sleeve. Laurie Anderson is a huge inspiration. As was U2’s ZooTV. David Bowie’s Glass Spider tour (watch) and of course Peter Gabriel’s Secret World tour (watch). All of these artists were combining elements of theatre and specifically theatre design into their shows.

hese days all you need is a video screen and you’ve got a show. That bores me and certainly frustrates [show designer] Willie Williams (having virtually invented the "TV as a concept" idea for rock shows).

I can honestly say the only show that has remotely made me go "wow" recently is the Kanye West tour.

The opening song seems crucial to any live show. A grand entrance is important! In this case, it seems to me there was a lyric that begged to open the show…

Oh, the opening is incredibly important – and it’s fun because you can always use a song that isn’t necessarily a ‘hit’ or an obvious song. You’ve got the audience’s attention purely because you’re suddenly there. So using Future Holds A Lion's Heart was a great way to not only say ‘hello’ but to drop people into the Time Travel theme from song one.

The set looks complex. Did it malfunction along the way? I know performers often love to talk backstage about what went wrong, but the audience usually has no idea.

Sometimes that damned bird wouldn’t fit into theatres (what with them being Victorian and all – access was sometimes limited). Once it didn’t open at all until midway through the next song. When it eventually did, the audience roared with a mixture of joy and relief as I did!

It’ll be interesting to see which songs from Delicate get played the next time you tour with a new record. Do you ever create songs with the idea that maybe they won’t ever be played live?

The concept stuff is going to be hard to play again, [like] The Future Holds A Lion’s Heart or Neverland. I suppose even How to Build a Time Machine. They make sense within the context of the album and the tour but I’m not so sure they would separately.
We’ll see. It is nice to draw a line in the sand with some songs, though I’d much rather take an axe to some Savage Garden songs than recent solo ones!

I loved the presentation of Casey with the street (or tunnel) lights and then the flame effect at the end. That song is inspired by your youth. Wasn’t it emotional singing it in Australia, I assume directly to those who influenced it? How do you keep your composure?

Well, this is a real trainspotters moment here – but in the album I mention a childhood friend called Troy Clifford. I hadn’t seen him for 15 years and he was in the audience that night as were my entire family. Casey (video), to me, is essentially a metaphor for my sister’s car and the freedom it represented. Imagine spending your entire life trying to escape a town – and then finally returning home triumphantly and astride a massive bird!

o say it was emotional would be to under sell it. It was transformative.

I read a droll quote about the tour from Willie Williams:
“In Act III we sink into the emotional abyss, which is a place we always have to go with Darren.”

Well this is the third solo tour Willie and I have done together and right off the bat we joined forces when I made The Tension and The Spark – which was all about darkness really. And it’s a theme in my life I guess – escaping that darkness. Moments of gloom and small brief windows of joy. So naturally my shows sort of reflect that.

oing down the dark tunnel makes the light at the end of seem so much brighter.

In America there is a weird disconnect. I cannot tell you how many times I’m in a store or restaurant and hear your voice on the sound system, and yet, by name / face, you are virtually unknown. On the plus side, I can imagine there is more anonymity in the States. On the negative side, I sense it affected your touring options?

It’s frustrating all over the world really. The only places I’m truly known as a solo artist are the UK and Australia. And that’s lucky in a lot of ways because I live in both places.

n terms of the U.S, honestly, I totally blame Columbia records for dropping the ball with me. They had an artist who was coming off the back of all those millions of album sales and they literally gave up after one single. To them it was another tax write off. To me, obviously it was my career. As much as I hate to admit it – radio airplay does relate directly to sales and bums on seats. If people don’t know you have a record out, they can’t buy it. If they don’t know who you are, you can’t tour to more than a group of loyal followers. So it was frustrating. But I accept it now.

It’s like Robbie or Kylie. I’m lucky I have a career elsewhere and that the cool kids know who I am. ;) I’ll always keep coming back to America because I love it and it just means that the prospect of enormous origami birds on stage is probably not going to be a reality.

For Delicate, you wrote with a lot of people, like Peter John Vetesse, Guy Chambers and Eg White. Is that model still relevant or have you become more DIY with Robert Conley and Shave? It sounds like you may end up working with Shave again?

I can’t imagine I’d work with so many songwriters again. That only happened because I spent time after The Tension and the Spark kind of wounded, stupidly listening to advice that I should work with as many people as possible, ie never make The Tension and The Spark again. Stupid advice in many ways although it gave me some brilliant songs (Words for example and Who Would Have Thought). But the process was ultimately confusing artistically, which is why I ended up ditching most of those outside collaborations.

It’s safe to assume I’ll never make the same album twice.
So I can’t tell you what the next one would be aside from that it would probably start where it left off – with Justin and Robert.

Do you follow the other work of the writers I mentioned above? Eg White did some stuff with Adele and Duffy, for instance…

I’m going to sound like a snob here – but I don’t really get that whole moment. I think there’s a whole bunch of female singers who have launched as a reaction to Amy Winehouse.

I worked with Eg White purely as a suggestion and it was a happy accident because I discovered at the heart he’s a massive Prince fan, as am I. So I connected with him on that level. I don’t necessarily connect on the mainstream side of what he does with other artists. But that’s a testament to his versatility really – that he could write a song like Shiver for Natalie Imbruglia (video) and then with me do something that had more in common with 10cc and certainly not sound like anything he’s doing at the moment. Clever man.

I hear you use the word "mainstream" in the negative, when some of your songs - old and new - are quite mainstream. Not just Savage Garden tunes, but something recent, like The Sun Is Always Blinding Me. Are you consciously moving away from the "mainstream"? It's clear with a song like Casey that you were aiming to be more ambitious in song structure than mainstream radio tunes.

Very good question. I think I'm confused [by] my identity based on radio really! I agree, I'm not indie. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But ironically bands like MGMT are as quirky as quirk gets, but sell records and get played on Radio 1. Similarly the Scissor Sisters.

I guess I just refer to not getting played on the radio or perhaps to better describe it not being considered cool. I don't pay attention to being hip or not and by that definition I am not mainstream in any sense. Does that make sense? I've always loved pop songs and don't distinguish between songs other than if they're good or not.

It's actually a worse prognosis in America, where even Scissor Sisters cannot get played. They're too "deviant" I guess. [sigh] You really have to follow the status quo here. Justin Timberlake is pop, but it's accepted hybrid hip hop/r’n’b. Pop music in its Eurodisco form – or in a more ornate way, like your album - has been trashed in the last few years. Lots of great albums failing to catch on and sell. That’s not a new problem, as good music often does not get heard. Madonna’s work with Timbaland seems indicative of the broader hip hop-influenced trend, but now we have people like Ne-Yo and Chris Brown bucking that by bringing back pop that isn’t hewn with r’n’b.

I’m completely tired of hearing Timbaland. So you can imagine my thoughts on the Madonna album. I think the unfortunate thing with trends in music is that we tend to take things to the point of nausea before we move on. And I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of the hip hop (well it’s more hip POP) sound that seems to dominate every single thing on U.S radio. Maybe that’s easy for me to say since I could never pull off that kind of vibe anyway. But my head, certainly for the last decade, has not at all been focused on what’s in the chart.

I think great records often get missed or ignored, but there’s a beauty in that because they become our secrets. I quite love where I’m at these days. I’d like to sell more records but I like the level of respect I get.

You alluded to not liking Hard Candy. It's controversial, but the debate isn't about artistic content. This time it's purely, “Does it suck or not?”

It’s incredibly disappointing as a Madonna album. There’s no Madonna on there. It sounds like the second time in her career she was lost musically and has fallen back on a trend instead of creating one. The first was the album Bedtime Stories which I just can’t bear. She worked with Babyface. I say no more.

What we love about Madonna is completely missing from Hard Candy. And that’s Madonna.

I'm surprised you don't like Babyface, given some of your own love songs that still get radio play (I Knew I Loved You, Truly Madly Deeply). Some of his songs now sound like lean, organic pop ballads based on strong melodies - meaning not Timbaland. What was it about Babyface - aside from his dumb stage name! - that bothered you?

It's the production on those 90's Babyface records I don't like. I adore some of the songs he's written, especially [Toni Braxton's] Breathe Again (video). However my overall impression of his production was that everyone did it. Hence my problem with Madge - she seemed to be the last person in line on that trend.

Though it's weird how you can't control what you write or make. Because I agree that the Savage Garden ballads and bits of my first solo record probably are similar.

It surely behooves any artist to try and write a hit because they need the funding to create the art they want to create. Is that also the idea behind writing for other artists?

See, I don’t subscribe that notion at all. Never have. My ‘hits’ have been happy accidents. Albeit financially rewarding ones. But I’d hate to feel I had to write a ‘hit’ to be grafted on to my album just to sell it. Me writing for other people is an experiment really. For two reasons. Firstly, I love pop songs. I love a lot more than I record. And I certainly can write more types of music than I would want to record as myself. Which leaves me with all these pregnant melodies just sitting in my head with nowhere to go.

Secondly, I’ve had everyone who loves me tell me that my songwriting is a skill or a trade that I under use. So I’m going to take time this year writing for things other than myself and see where that goes.

Do you worry about giving up a great song ? Or is it a conscious decision to say, "Let's do something that I wouldn't or couldn't do." Which I suppose begs the question, "Why can't you?"

Just because you can doesn't mean you should. I have written a country song. It's gorgeous. It will never have a home unless I give it away because I don't want to make a country album. Similarly, if you look at my own career - it's taken me a while to find an identity as a solo performer. On Spin, there were a few moments that personally I don't think I should have gone to. I did because I could. Perhaps giving up or giving over some of the songs I can write, but don't choose to record, is a way to give that part of me a voice.

Secretly, I think it’s just a way for me to keep busy and to avoid a follow up to my last album, which I think is going to be tough!

What's the cliche? Good things come to those who wait.

5 songs Darren Hayes has been playing recently:

Electric Feel MGMT video
The Wolves, Act 1 and 2 Bon Iver video
I Know Ur Girlfriend Hates Me Annie video
Until Tomorrow Then Ed Harcourt video [xo: it's swoony]
Just Dance Lady Ga Ga video

Note: Darren's myspace blog often has musical recommendations.

If you're a stage/design geek, you should read this interview with Willie Williams about his work on The Time Machine Tour. Click here for more Darren Hayes posts.

July 20, 2008

Ring Ring. Beep Beep. Ahh hah!

The Feeling Join With Us:

Finally. The Feeling get it right in their new video. Posh British boys on bikes in boarding schools. Wink wink.

Just as the pupils band start ripping off their uniforms in the tall grasses, the video makes a pointless right turn into a carnival theme with some bad eye-makeup, clothes and rocker moves. There's surely another edit where Dan Gillespie Sells has a heartthrobbing naked romp with Mr. Richard Sophie Ellis Bextor - who disturbingly appears to be a dewy 17 year old in this clip.

July 17, 2008

We like the same things and I like your style

Finally, the She & Him video for Why Do You Let Me Stay Here... and it's worth the wait. Wicked, but in a sweet'n'sour way. This song makes me happy. It's as simple as that.

Who are She & Him?

July 16, 2008

My take on Madonna vs. Christopher

I've been reading all the hoo-ha with Christopher Ciccone and The Lady Ritchie this week. I was going to ignore it, but I'd rawther roll in the mud with everyone else! Before my comments, a very rare video from the siblings' golden days:

First, I have not read the book, just an excerpt. Who really knows what knows what goes on in families except family members themselves? I would not be surprised if Christopher Ciccone is a broke-angry-buttslut-addict, but I tend to believe what he says. No one is surprised that Madonna might be called a narcissist. She has rarely allowed her vulnerable, sweet side (errr?!) to show and that is her albatross: she oftens seems completely devoid of spontanaeity or joy. At least in public.

It's sibling rivalry on a grand scale, but it's his side only. She probably has plenty of stories about Christopher too. This tale brings out all the nutsyfaganboobookitty freaks who won't tolerate anything bad being said about Their Goddess. I hate those kind of fans: the ones who think everything an artist does is brilliant and genuinely believe they know her better than anyone, including her own family. History is weighted with geniuses / superstars who were not known for being nice.

I've read some commentary that implies Christopher was always a fame/cash-grabbing hanger-on. He's her brother and, one would presume, he knows her as well as anyone on Earth. He worked with her years before she became famous. Her earliest clips have him dancing behind her (see above). For 15 years, on and off, he designed the stage shows that are now her trademark slash $120 million meal ticket.

Don't get me wrong, I think he's a haughty twat - perhaps too much like her - but she benefitted from his talents too. I wonder if she really told him that he needed to get used to "who and what [she] is" (meaning what? a superhuman goddess?). Oy. Who would not have snorted, "Right. Fuck you, you're my needy, pain in the ass sister. You cannot fool me with your diva shtick!" (he actually said something worse)

He told the GMA interviewer that Madonna tried to contact him before the book was released - probably to yell and threaten him in an English accent? - and he would not speak to her. Too many $$$ in his eyes? He claims they spoke through their father and apparently she was concerned he'd reveal personal stuff about her medical history, bla bla bla. He also says that the father had read the book and was unfazed by it.

Chris had talked for years about the grave scene in Truth Or Dare and how stomach churning that was for him to watch her exploit their dead mother. He clearly views his book as payback. Idiot. Always take the high road. If I could interview him, the one thing I would ask him is "Did you ever tell Guy Ritchie how you felt - that some of the stuff he said/did upset you? Or did you just assume the worst? Did you ever try to make up with Madonna or tell her you felt like you'd been pushed aside?" Probaby not.

Always. Take. The. High. Road.

July 15, 2008

Listen: Goldfrapp's Lillywhite sessions

Goldfrapp recently appeared on NPR's World Cafe Lillywhite Sessions with famous producer Steve Lillywhite in Manhattan. They performed three songs (A&E, Road To Somewhere, Eat Yourself) and did an interview. You can download the session as one long MP3 via the July 10, '08 post at Goldfrapp.fr or here as 3 files zipped.

I don't think she has ever sounded so crystalline (which, in this case, means perfect). The harp-laden performance of A&E is breathtaking. It's hard now to believe they ever did electropop and glam stompers. We are over halfway through 2008 and no album even comes close to Seventh Tree. To paraphrase Road To Somewhere, this album is a friend that guides you.

July 14, 2008

1, 2, 3, 4 monsters walking cross the floor

Okay. This is magical:

Remember, this time last year I was besotted with this:

thank you Krissy!

July 13, 2008

Cover Story: V. whatever and ever amen

Carla Bruni Comme si de rien n'etait:

Mrs. Sarkozy, très passionné and crazy in love with her tiny, bitched out Frenchman. I suspect this was her last walk in heels before she tossed out all her Manolos. Note that this is the album with a song lyric that translates as "You are my junk. More deadly than Afghan heroin. More dangerous than Colombian white." Crazy Frenchy Frenchy people.

The Verve Forth:

A painting or a photo? It's a view I only rarely see. But - think about it - if you have seen a view such as this, you are quite lucky.

Conor Oberst Conor Oberst:

I need to get you out of your cave, man. I want to let you out of your cage and set you free. Yes, tonight's the night...

The Jonas Brothers A Little Bit Longer:

Afew days ago, I mentioned that I'd never heard a Jonas Brothers song. I don't tend to follow pre-pubescent artists, right, as I have others that do that for me. So I finally heard a song, on.... guess what?... NPR! This image is their version of Times Square, because they apparently Rule The World. They should enjoy it, because in a few years they'll sweep the streets they used to own. Last question: what's a little bit longer now?

Martha Wainwright Bleeding All Over You:

This is just a single cover - I'd already featured her album awhile back - but it's another glorious photo. No comment on the song's title.

July 12, 2008

Lost treasure from the "wrecka stow"

Click on image for a gif of Prince giving his most famous LOOK.

Shock-a-lock-a-boom! has one of my favorite Prince b-sides posted now. This is a lush instrumental called Alexa de Paris. It was used in his 1986 film Under The Cherry Moon, in a sequence where Christopher Tracy (Prince) dances with Mary Sharon (Kristin Scott Thomas). The song was actually the flip to his complex, stellar single Mountains.

More reading: My Prince's Birthday post with my favorite songs listed.

Yes, Kristin was overacting. More evidence here:

July 10, 2008

...has always been

Just because I am in the mood for this. Makes my heart leap.

And can I just say I am of the school that thinks she is really beautiful?

July 9, 2008

Annie Lennox: New music in 2008?

It looks like Annie Lennox will release a Best Of compilation in the fall. Her blog says this: "Annie is returning to the studio to work on her first new material since the critically acclaimed fourth solo album Songs Of Mass Destruction in 2007. This new material will be released later in the year through RCA / SonyBMG."

Meanwhile, there is a rumor that Annie sings in the new James Bond movie, though I am not sure she's doing the theme song. That would be brilliant.

In 1987, Eurythmics released a longform video of their album Savage. Amazing stuff shot by Sophie Muller. Brand New Day, below, was the finale. I always loved this video and had not seen it since the 90's. Watching this now reminds me that Annie Lennox has always exuded an aura of self-respect. She's never had public breakdowns or been the subject of distracting gossip. After almost 30 years in the business, that is to her credit. She appears in this video at 1:50, literally glowing.

Eurythmics Brand New Day

July 8, 2008

Mixtape: Make it to the promised land

Do my Brits like a
Pimm's punch in summer?

Mean old Morrissey made an appearance at O2 this past weekend - it was well received. He did a new track with a great title: Mama Lay Softly On The Riverbed. Only TWO months until Years Of Refusal.

Captain's album Distraction was due on August 4, but a message on their website suggests that is not happening. BooyouBritPopwhores to this news!

Alexis Strum news! Her band Bo Pepper is recording an album in LA with Greg Wells (Mika, etc). You can stream her latest song No One But Yourself here. The video is quite sweet as it stars a bunch of tabloid-y teddy bears.

Apparently Noel Gallagher represents what is wrong with the music biz: "We didn't spend a year in the most expensive studio in England, with the most expensive producer in America, and the most expensive graphic designer in London to then give it away. Fuck that." Hey, jackass! Try a cheaper studio next time.

Sugababes may have a new single soon. I wonder what this group can do next? They seem played out. I know some of you loved Change, but I thought that album had no legs. What direction can they go that will "wow" people? Timbaland is said to be working with them, but he's also working with everybody - including me on my first album, due in 2019. Regardless, I see no new girl groups nipping at their heels. 2008, halfway over, has been a terrible year for British pop, honestly.

Music I Just. Don't. Get. Lady GaGa, Ladyhawke, Little Jackie, The Ting Tings, Pharrell Williams.

Does anyone really believe Madonna is schtupping A-Rod? Maybe in 1994, but not now. Highly unlikely. Meanwhile, in other bad news for Lady Ritchie, her fallen-from-high brother is publishing a tell-all next week.
Chart Rigger has the story (and a comment from me).

Mark Ronson produced a song called Beg for Leon Jean Marie. I've heard it and am not sure how strong the actual song is, despite being dressed up in big strings. It's also one of the Leon's lesser vocal performances. Decide for yourself here. I may change me mind!

So Boy George will
definitely not be touring the US this year. He did a great interview with Perez Hilton (really!) and at the end played a bit of a new song called Yes We Can that sounded so good it gave me a wee chill. Kind of pride song, but with Barack's voice talking on it. I liked this line, which is fitting for George in recent years: "Please forgive me for crimes against myself / And I'll forgive your lack of faith."

I hear that Rodney Jerkins is working with Missspears. Is Rodney still considered good? That's a rhetorical question because I could care less whether he is or not. He did Janet no favors. It's not right but it's Darkchild, etc etc.

Keeping with the negative mood of this post, I heard a sampler from Sharleen Spiteri's new Melody CD and it sucks. Although Sharl did retro long before Amy Winehouse and (cough!) Duffy, this new album sounds dead on arrival. Only the ambient title track leapt out. Otherwise, the music is canned soul.

Sheryl Crow is doing a Christmas CD for Hallmark. Poor thing. That cannot be a good sign.

My parents are now hip again: They're going to see Neil Diamond at his arena show. Mind you, they are likely hoping for You Don't Bring Me Flowers and Love On The Rocks (I love that one too). One hopes he doesn't pummel the silver masses with his new album, resurrected Johnny-Cash-stylee as an indie God though he is.

It is true that I have never heard a song by Miley Cyrus or Jonas Brothers or is that Bros?). I just cannot be bothered, which may be an I'mgettingold thing.

Electro Retro is back, thank Goddess, as is Shock-a-locka-boom, which I'd presumed that asshole Prince had killed. The IHOP blog seems to be dead. And by IHOP, I do not mean pancakes.

Surrender your heels to save your bacon

Last week we had Roisin thrilling it up with drag zombies and now we have Jodie Harsh (again), Sophie Ellis Bextor (w/"fringe") and Kelly Osbourne (she keeps trying) in an inexplicable musical short called The Town That Boars Me. It also stars Dee C Lee (ex Mrs. Weller) Sadie Frost (urgh, ex Mrs. Law) and Zandra Rhodes (60's designer now old). It will debut at the Portobello Film Festival at the end of the summer.

Do the smart-ass pop kids know Dee C Lee's relevance to the pop charts in the last 3 years?

July 7, 2008

The Wild Beasts and I will not be lovers

I've been desperate to find a great new British band. Where is this year's Ghosts or Pipettes or Lucky Soul? For a gorgeous moment, I thought Leeds trio Wild Beasts were It. Their single, The Devil's Crayon, is phenomenal, with the verse vocals recalling Big Country's Stuart Adamson (RIP). Debut album Limbo Panto's song titles range from clevuh (The Club Of Fathomless Love and Vigil For A Fuddy Duddy) to titles I'd call nutsy fagan booboo kitty (Brace Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants).

In the beginning's end, this wasn't meant to be. Turns out the single is not sung by the lead singer! The lead has an operatic voice that, in good moments, recalls Thom Yorke and in bad moments recalls Tiny Tim. Not a compliment. So, The Wild Beasts cruelly teased me and we will not have a second date. Look for The Devil's Crayon on my year-end lists despite the disappointment.

The Wild Beasts The Devils' Crayon:

As always, thanks to Torr for all things vair vair Bridish.

July 6, 2008

Weapon of choice

The video for Grace Jones new song Corporate Cannibal is suitably disturbing. I'm not sure if the song or imagery really hold up for six minutes - it seems more effective as it was first used, for a background performance piece. There is going to be a rush to claim everything from the forthcoming album "brilliant" and "amazing." I'll try and use those words judiciously... or find better ones.

Another track, This Is Life, leaked a few weeks ago and it's sick in the best way. It hits you and it feels like a kiss. In fact, after you hear the song, you'll be stronger than you were moments before. Which is not, of course, hyperbole.

Now called Hurricane, the album is out 10/27 in the UK, with no word on a US release. More new song titles have been released, including The Key To Funky, William's Blood, and - haha! - Keeping Up With The Jones. Can you imagine the pressure to create her album cover? Note that there is now a GraceJonesTV channel on youtube. ____________________________________

Edit: As per usual these days, I wrote this post before realizing it had already been done. MuuMuse worships Gracie and likes this track more than me, so check out his post too.

July 5, 2008

She believes in setting you free

Happy 35th Birthday to Róisín

...who, in my opinion, should be the one with the $120 million Live Nation contract. Just sayin'...

Thanks for the reminder, Hopeless Optimist

July 4, 2008

Who is Halo James?

*Note: I wrote this post on Halo James and just realized that Paul did a much better one at Fizzypop last month! I missed it only because he called them a "boyband," which connotes something I tend to dismiss quickly. Boybands need choreography, which Halo James did not have! So here they are again, resurrected all summer long on the blogosphere. Good choice Paul!

Halo James Could Have Told You So

I had never heard of Halo James until last week, via post at Jemboy and We Let The Stars Go.* According to the oh-so-reliable Wikipedia, Could Have Told You So went to number 6 in the UK in 1989. Halo James were Christian James, Ray St. John (who earlier co-wrote Sade's Smooth Operator) and Neil Palmer. They only released one album, Witness, on Epic in 1990.

his was sincere crooner music, inspired by earlier 80's groups like Spandau Ballet, though in on 1989 it seemed a reaction to all the hairband metal that pervaded MTV in the late 80's/early 90's. These prettyboy Brits had to step back when Kurt Cobain raged in a few years later to hasten a quick end to the Warrants and Poisons.

Halo James emerged at the same time as the similarly romantic Breathe, who had a massive worldwide hit with Hands To Heaven and How Can I Fall. I tend not to focus on late 80's music, so that may explain how I missed Halo James. They had virtually no presence in America at the time. I think it was both pure luck and balladry that lead Breathe - not Halo James - to worldwide success, but you can decide based on the MP3 below.

Halo James Could Have Told You So expired

July 2, 2008

1995, Paris: In bed with Ruby Wax and Madonna

"A couple of glasses of wine always makes you look good too"

Since I've been going a bit medieval on Hard Mandy lately, I thought I'd do this mega-post 1995 interview for British television with Ruby Wax. Pretty funny stuff.

Part 1:

Madonna being particularly Streisand-like (read: neurotic/bossy) about camera angles. And note that she was talking about being a "creamy smooth pop icon goddess" back in the 90's.

Part 2:

Part 3:

Madonna talks about making crying calls ("but I love you!") to men in the middle of the night. Ruby is really funny about husbands aging - "eventually they just have two legs." Later Madonna says "I'm not getting out the bed until he makes me cum."

Part 4:

In which Ruby rips Madonna's panties out of her purse and puts them on her head, and later fishes out some Tampax. Joy.

Part 5:

It should be noted that Ruby has said she had a hard time with this interview because Madonna wouldn't "drop the act." Ruby, unlike Hard Mandy, moved to England and never attained an English accent. She wisely figured out that an American accent makes her more unique in Britain.

July 1, 2008

Will Young: Let It Go

Will at Glastonbury (in studio) singing an acoustic version of his new album's title track.

Here also is an interview with Will. His accent reminds me of George Michael at moments.

Goldfrapp: To be consumed by you again

The b-sides for the recent Goldfrapp singles have been disappointing. Unlike past projects, there have been no new songs, just alternate takes and remixes. This is odd because Will Gregory said they'd recorded more songs than they used. CD2 for Caravan Girl is pretty worthy, though, and it has the wispy, golden cover above.

The choral recording of Caravan Girl (minute long sample below!) is perfect because it pays homage to the New Seekers style that influenced Alison and Will when they recorded Seventh Tree. Monster Love - a masterpiece in the Goldfrapp canon - is entirely new recording as well and equally pretty.

Mute have been releasing the various mixes on iTunes US and UK, which is lovely, no?

Paper Route: Indie gorgeousness

Who: Paper Route.
What: Paper Route is a band.
Where: Paper Route is a band from Nashville.
Why: Paper is a band from Nashville soon to release a lush EP called Are We All Forgotten
When: Are We All Forgotten is out July 8, but download the title track below.
How: How? How can you not?

Paper Route Are We All Forgotten MP3

Link: Myspace /EP Review: Stereo Subversion