December 31, 2008

Happy New Year to all!

I wanted to end the year with one last post. Something that has meaning to me, but is not the usual type of music I would put on this blog. Pedro Almodovar's film Talk To Her is flawed, but there is a wonderful moment midway through where the action stops and he has Caetano Veloso perform a beautiful Brazilian song, Cucurrucucu Paloma, in its entirety. It's incredibly graceful.

I hope that 2009 is kinder to us all than 2008. We are lucky to have music that lifts us out of our own small minds. Don't you wonder about people who are not interested in music? Maybe the read a lot! I dunno, but this disco dancer needs music everyday. Happy New Year everyone!

Caetano Veloso Cucurrucucu Paloma

Note that the scene was shot at Almodovar's actual house.

December 30, 2008

Top Albums of 2008... the folly of a monster love

Four albums leapt out this year, with Goldfrapp at the top:

1 Goldfrapp Seventh Tree
For this, I'll use my Instinct Magazine review: Alison Goldfrapp has shaken the glitter out of her hair and discarded the stern Dietrich disco of Supernature for something altogether pastoral on her fourth album with collaborator Will Gregory. Folky though its roots may be, Seventh Tree is very much a Goldfrapp album, awash with electronic swooshes, strings and melodies. While Tree is a calm affair with no blazing dance tracks, the poppy Caravan Girl could easily be the Song Of Summer ’08. Lyrically, the album is softer too: the “backless dress” in A&E isn’t Galliano, it’s a hospital gown, and the protagonist is jacked up on meds as she recalls a night gone wrong. Glamour wouldn’t be glamorous if we lived it 24/7. Seventh Tree is a gorgeous and necessary comedown.

You can also read the full review
about the Album Of The Year.

Key tracks: A&E, Caravan Girl, Road To Somewhere, Clowns, and the spine-tingling Monster Love

2 Ladyhawke Ladyhawke
Pip from Ladyhawke says she's influenced by "video games, childhood memories, nostalgia, pining, loneliness, and depression."It's all packed into the debut from this New Zealand band, who celebrate 80's new-wave-pop-rock that's high on melody. Favorites include Better Than Sunday, the surging Another Runaway and My Delirium, one of my Songs Of The Year. Love Don't Live Here Anymore sounds as if it were ripped from Pat Benatar's Get Nervous album. And id that isn't rad, I don't know what is.

Key tracks: My Delirium, Paris Is Burning, Better Than Sunday, Another Runaway, Morning Dreams, Magic.

3 Will Young Let It Go
My sense in 2008 that the blog world became top heavy slowed down my reviews and if there was a pop album that deserved thoughtful criticism, it was Will's near-perfect fourth CD. He's now entered into Annie Lennox-levels of talent, using the best soul/dance/pop melodies over painful lyrics that melancholy junkies like me wail along with. Take the vulnerable Tell Me The Worst, in which Wils urges a lover to come clean and show his dark side: "If that's all you're gonna give me... Cause that's just not enough / So tell me the worst I'll tell you mine / I got close, but I turned back everytime." At the end comes the frank kicker: "I wrote this song about you / But you know it's also where I fall down / Why don't I cool out.." Really, I don't need to have a relationship. I just need to listen to Will and weep over the imaginary remnants.

Key tracks: Let It Go, I Won't Give Up, Tell Me The Worst, If Love Equals Nothing, Free My Mind.

4 Sia Some People Have Real Problems
Great albums do not give it away too soon. I started playing Sia over and over in Philly last January and it took a full 11 months to really connect with me. Song by song, the melodies became clearer and the vocals went as deep as any record this year. This girl can sang! Veering from 70's AM radio confessionals to gospel, Sia arranges these songs with as many twists and turns as those vocals. The fact that I will carry this album around with me for the rest of my life means it could have easily been the #1 of the year.

Key tracks: Soon We'll All Be Found, Day Too Soon, Death By Chocolate, Little Black Sandals, Beautiful Calm Driving, I Go To Sleep (Pretenders cover).

And the rest of the Top 10:

Alanis Morissette Flavors Of Entanglement
Because I have only previously liked about 4 Alanis songs, I will give some credit for the genius of this album to its producer Guy Sigsworth, who was Imogen Heap's collaborator in Frou Frou. It's a shame that the album really went nowhere because even the b-sides and extra cuts were superb. Alanis still cries a good cry (piano ballad Not As We or the killer Torch), but she also works credible joy on Giggle Again For No Reason. The wonky new-agey-ness is still there in the lyrics - really, she has a song called In Praise Of The Vulnerable Man! Her appearance on this list is kind of embarrassing, but this was an immediate and totally unexpected favorite this summer.

Key tracks: Torch, Giggle Again For No Reason, Not As We, In Praise Of The Vulnerable Man and off-cuts It's A Bitch To Grow Up and the delicate, 6-minute Madness.

Reuben Butchart Golden Boy
I always want to have albums on this list that won't be known to every pop blog reader. This year is bereft of such music, bar the amazing Reuben Butchart, a sometime member of Antony and The Johnsons. Come & Play is the kind of New York midtempo I like to think of as the soundtrack of who I am, while Golden Boy probably makes Rufus Wainwright's ass clench, it's so good. Finally, the duet with Antony, All There Is To Tell, has the most heartbreaking final minute of any song this year. I discovered this album in late Spring, but this is autumn all the way. [ed: I suspect Reuben might blanch at sitting next to Alanis on a Best Of list, but he's on top of Grace, which is a favored position] Hear more.

Key tracks: Come & Play, Golden Boy, All There Is To Tell, Belle of The Ball, Northern California.

Grace Jones Hurricane
An unexpectedly superb return from Miss Grace Jones, the original DIVA. The first two singles This Is Life and Williams Blood are among the top ten songs of her career offering two sides of Grace: no-nonsense fierce on the former and sentimental on the latter. I love how this album manages to reference her classic Island sound of the 70's (you know, the reggae shizz) and then place her into the moody James Bond environments she owns. Sure, it was all a bit Massive Attack 1994, but it sounded fucking hot. Amazing Grace, yes.

Key tracks: This Is Life, Williams Blood, Love You To Life, Devil In My Life, I'm Crying Mother's Tears.

Girls Aloud Out Of Control
Normally I am picky about my top albums - I need to like the whole record. I should be honest that I either really love or really hate the songs on Out Of Control. It's pashernate! There are three tunes here that rank as some of GA's most "uber" work and further lift them over the pantheon of great girl groups (and yes, they're leagues above those Spice "Girls"). The three tunes: The Promise (read my live blog of its premier), the moody masterpiece Untouchable (it's their Apocalypse Now, okay?) and the most perfect song they've ever done, The Loving Kind. These three scoot this album onto this list. I look forward to what they do next because they are THE most inventive group in traditional POP pop music.

Key tracks: The Promise, Untouchable, The Loving Kind, Love Is Pain, Turn To Stone and Rolling Back The Rivers In Time (ed: what does that mean?).

Adele 19
Okay, here is the thing - Hometown Glory was the most powerful debut song I can think of in many years. A total jawdropper. The intro alone is worth the price of the album. The voice and the lyrics on 19 suggest a SMART young woman who needs only a guitar to tell her stories. Amazing. Everyone crowed about Amy Winehouse. No No NO. Adele is the musical daughter of the great Billy Bragg. Evidence: The lyrics to Daydreamer: "He is a real lover / Makin` up the past / and feeling up his girl like he's never felt her figure before." I love that! Adele called Chasing Pavements her "Celine moment" and it was- big, bold, radio ready. I have great hopes for her as long as she lets her voice be the guide. Strings not needed here.

Key tracks: Hometown Glory, Daydreamer, To Make You Feel My Love Best For Last, Tired (love the end of that one!)

Solange Sol-Angel And The Hadley St Dreams
Turn your head away from her attention-seeking, ass-haking sister. If you have any taste, you will acknowledge the truth: that in her quote/unquote lesserness, Solange Knowles has better taste. Sandcastle Disco, I Decided (Freesmasons Mix, natch), TONY, 6'Clock Blues. Like a lost Jackson 5 album! The finale, Cosmic Journey, was a beautiful mindfuck of a closer. Really moving. The mass public may a dozen dyed roses, but I pick this dandelion.

Key tracks: Sandcastle Disco, I Decided (Freesmasons Mix), TONY, 6'Clock Blues, Cosmic Journey.

That's 10, so here is the Plus One:

Coldplay Viva La Vida
A twist: I do not love Viva La Vida as it was presented in early summer 2008. It did not live up to the title track, which is their finest song, bar Yellow. So my review here is the corrected tracklist I created after Prospekt's March was released: Life In Technicolor II, Cemeteries Of London, Glass Of Water, Lost!, Lovers In Japan (Osaka Sun Mix), Rainy Day, Postcards From Far Away, Viva La Vida, Violet Hill, Strawberry Swing, Prospekt's March/ Poppy fields, Now My Feet Won't Touch The Ground, Life In Technicolor (inst).

Note: I actually did a review of this and never posted it. Maybe someday when things are slow.

Other solid albums:

Cyndi Lauper Bring Ya To The Brink
Key tracks: Into The Nightlife, Rain On Me, Raging Storm, Same Ol' Story and the massive Lay Me Down

Donna Summer Crayons
Key tracks: Stamp Your Feet, Driving Down Brazil, Science Of Love, Be Myself Again, I'm A Fire and the sexy fucktrack It's Only Love.

The Killers Day And Age
Key tracks: Human, Spaceman, The World We Live In, This Is Your Life and the geeky calypso I Can't Stay.

The Last Shadow Puppets The Age Of The Understatement
Key tracks: My Mistakes Were Made For You, Standing Next To Me, Meeting Place

Next year, o ye Music Godesses, please bring back the Britpop bands and the men.

See 2007's Best Albums list

December 29, 2008

Red alert: Annie back

Annie Lennox's long-delayed new single, Shining Light, debuts on January 5th on the Ken Bruce show on BBC Radio 2. She's shot a video for it too- let's hope it's better than Dark Road's taxi riding.

Brits can also see Annie on the BBC on NYE doing "one of her solo hits and a classic big band tune" on Jools Holland's Hootenanny.

December 27, 2008

2008: RXolondon

If it were up to me, I'd attempt some career resuscitation... before you get all agitated by the disses, note that I don't bother doing this with artists I hate. Well, I sort of hate Prince now, but he used to be my boyfriend.

Before I begin,
let me say that Beyonce Jay-Z needs to GO AWAY and Rihanna needs to end her attempt to rival Robyn for the most re-releases of an album.

REM. Another meh album from the band in 2008. Their previous disk (title?) was too meandering and soft. No balls. The new Accelerate was a reaction to that, which is a recipe for doom. It tried too hard to be rockish and raw. We all know what needs to happen: they need to break up, at least for awhile. I get the sense they're no longer friends, but business associates, albeit friendly ones. M Stipe needs to be challenged to carry out his own vision for a solo album. Having said that, if they stay together, Bill Berry needs to return. Then the band needs to run off to a rural North Carolina studio (NOT Athens GA, where their legend looms too strong) with some new collaborators.

Prince. An album is due in 2009 and I could care less. He needs: 1) a lesson in humility and 2) an A&R who reigns him in. He needs clever art and videos to further define him for the post-1999 era. No more novelty hits tours: anyone who thinks Prince is still good need only hear the full length right-down-to-the-ground version of Little Red Corvette to know the inspiration is shot. In fact, if you want to hear a great Prince album, just play Oracular Specuacular by MGMT and rock out with u'r cock out. Finally - and most importantly - Prince needs to stop antagonizing his fans - he has done irreparable damage with the lawsuits and threats. A bitter purple pill.

Madonna. First, removed the chicken cutlets from your face, close your legs and stop being a craven cougar. Desperation is a respect-killer. You are not a boxer, your vajayjay is not a sugar bowl and, most importantly, you are not Lourdes. Madonna has succeeded all these years by confounding expectation. Hard Candy represents the first time she really 1) repeated herself (visually and musically) and 2) removed herself from the artistic process. For her next disc - her only commodity is music - she needs to go deep and beautiful. One would hope a divorce would elicit some of the self-examination that made Like A Prayer and Ray Of Light such fine examples of commerce merged with art. All Madonna albums need an expressive dance-the-pain-away moment, but The Rebounder needs to take her time and craft ten songs that offer something heavier than "watch my booty get down." It's that simple. And Lady, Steven Klein has become a tired, pisspoor conduit for your visual image. Divorce him too.

Keane. Do not promote your album by saying months in advance that it's the best thing you've ever done. That sets up unruly expectations. And if you extol the greatness of collaborations with Jon Brion and Stuart Price, make sure their influence is evident and that it extends beyond one song. And finally, stop gilding the lily. Perfect Symmetry was overbaked. The singles were unique and truly exhilarating, but the deep cuts tended toward same-iness in arrangements - a sound marked by fussy wall-o-noise arrangements. I'd also suggest the fantastic Tim Rice Oxley write about very specific topics. He can be a bit vague.

Janet Jackson. Three shit albums in a row: give up and become a mom. Really, spare us your exploding cooch and your dribbling lips and your ill fitting space-age spandex and fauxhawks. Truth is that Janet will return to Jam and Lewis for her next record. I've said it before, Janet needs to ditch that horny pug of a boyfriend and get politically active, writing songs about the "new agenda."

Kylie Minogue. I did not intend to do something about The Minogue. I liked her last CD. Tricky Dick [I bet he hates that -sorry Richard] made a suggestion that, for Kylie's 11th album, she should decamp to her native Australia and produce cuts with indie-disco kids Cut Copy. I say the other half should be done with the Kylie-suckled Greg Kurstin. Two producers max and one writing moment in New Zealand with Pip from Ladyhawke to add an all-girl thrill. Sounds like a plan to me.

December 26, 2008

Learn to get together

Daniel Merriweather Change:

I'd completely forgotten that Daniel Merriweather's debut album comes out this Spring. It's taken him almost two years to produce the record with Mark Ronson, so I'm hoping for greatness. While I could do without a rap feature - which takes vocal time away from Daniel - the first single Change is solid soul/pop, even if the video above is weak. The album it leads is called Love & War; other songs include Red, Cigarettes, Getting Out, For Your Money and Chainsaw

This week Ronson and Merriweather also released a cover of McCartney's 70's geekhit Wonderful Christmastime. It's all over HypeMachine and is pretty faithful, which is good or bad depending on your tolerance level for the original. Love the false start. If that ain't your groove, then go right back to their tear-soaked cover of The Smiths' Stop Me.

It's highly likely that Daniel will be a household name (in indie/pop shanties at least) by the end of 2009. Let us say a little prayer that fame does not swallow him the way it overtook his friend Amy Winehouse. He is the real deal.

Thanks to Arjan for catching this new single.

December 24, 2008

2008: Best This'n'That

Ten Reasons Sia Furler is XO's Fave Pop Star of 2008: 1) She did it the old-school music biz method: this album is a grower and she promoted it that way, building the buzz over time, 2) her voice, 3) her voice, 4) her songs - holy shit!, 5) her clever videos on a low budget, 6) her voice, 7) the fact that she is inspirational - the lyrics are words to live by. 8) She is an Aussie and The "Royal We" love Aussies and New Zealanders, 9) her sign language skills and 10) Her performance on Letterman and her clear joy at the end.

Musical Moment of The Year: Is there a question here? Minute 4:50 on Girls Aloud's prog-pop epic, Untouchable: "Whenever you're gone gone, they wait at the door / And everything's hurting like before / Without any meaning, we're just skin and bone / Like beautiful robots dancing alone." Thank you for your pain, Cheryl Tweedy Cole. You nailed it.

Favorite Group: Tie. Girls Aloud, for being 40 stories tall. A pop music dream brought to life. Year after year, they keep nailing it because they know that there is strength in unity. Goldfrapp, for proving that growth occurs through change. Their left-turn album, Seventh Tree, is an example of fearless artistic integrity (FAI?). Bravo to their label for releasing and promoting it.

Favorite Female Solo Artist: Tie. Sia Furler and Pip (who is Ladyhawke)

Favorite Male Solo Artist: FrankMusik

Singing Voice(s) Of The Year: Sia Furler, Vincent Frank (FrankMusik) and Jody Gadsden of The Gadsdens

Favorite New Artists: Ladyhawke, FrankMusik, and Adele

Album Cover(s) Of The Year: see here (note: I added two more since the original post)

Most Unlikely Favorite Music: Alanis Morissette's Flavors Of Entanglement. Seriously, I've never liked her, bar 5 or so songs, and this album and its b-sides blew me away. The other record that shocked me was Solange Knowle's hazy epic Sol-Angel and The Hadley St. Dreams. Musically, it was light years ahead of anything her sister, The WalMart Of Pop Divas, did this year.

Debut Album Of The Year: Ladyhawke Ladyhawke

Favorite Instrumental Movie Music: Jean Felix Lalanne El Noi De La Mare (from Vicky Christina Barcelona) and BBC Philharmonic Orchestra Fantasy-Impromptu in C Sharp Minor, Op. 66: Always Summer (from Brideshead Revisited)

Favorite Non-Pop Music of 2008: Reuben Butchart's lush album Golden Boy, with great songs like Come & Play, Golden Boy and All There Is To Tell, an delicate duet with Antony Hegarty. If you like Antony, Rufus or Tori or Fiona Apple, get this on iTunes.

Favorite New BritPop Bands: This should be a major category and this year there were NONE. The British music industry is in dire freefall.

Cover Of The Year. Easy peasy. Sugababes' acoustic cover of Keane's Spiraling. I love Keane's woooh! version but I think the Babes revealed what a beautiful song lurks underneath the Bowie flash. The melody on Spiraling IS one of Keane's finest.

Top B-sides or One-off Songs Of The Year: The best was Alanis Morissette It’s A Bitch To Grow Up, Kylie Minogue Carried Away, Captain Bakersfield, Killers Tidal Wave, Donna Summer It's Only Love, Rufus Wainwright Albatross, Frankmusik's beautiful Run Away From Trouble, Sara Bareilles Winter Song (with Ingrid Michaelson), Madonna Triggering Your Senses.

Top Unreleased Songs: Lorraine Tell It All, Solange & Q-Tip Wanna Go Back, Annie Songs Remind Me Of You, Antigone Promiscuity, The Gadsdens Heartbreaker.

Top Remixes Of The Year (many in '08): Michelle Williams We Break The Dawn (Karmatronic Mix), Madonna Like A Prayer/Feels Like Home Mashup (S&S Tour), Alphabeat Boyfriend (Pete Hammond Mix), Goldfrapp A&E (Gui Baretto Mix), Robyn Be Mine (Verschwende Deine Jugend Remix), Donna Summer I'm A Fire (Matty's Soulflower Club Mix), Madonna 4 Minutes (Junkie XL Mix), Robyn Handle Me (Voodoo and Serano Mix), Sia Day Too Soon (Soulseekerz Mix), Ladyhawke Paris Is Burning (Cut Copy Mix), Fleetwood Mac Never Forget (Cut Copy Lifelike Mix), Rihanna Disturbia (Craig C's Master Mix), NeYo Closer (Stonebridge Radio Edit), Kylie The One (Freemasons Vocal Club Mix), Solange Knowles Sandcastle Disco (Freemasons Mix), Robyn & Christian Falke Dream On (Moto Blanco Mix), and Sam Taylor Wood I'm In Love With A German Film Star (PSB Symphonic Mix)

Oldies Of The Year: Most of these lost gems came from other bloggers/friends - thank you! Amanda Lear Alphabet, Kim Carnes You Make My Heart Beat Faster, Pat Benatar Le Bel Age, Grace Jones Unlimited Capacity For Love, October Project Bury My Lovely, Diana Ross Pieces Of Ice (12" Version), Frazier Chorus Sloppy Heart, Phil Lynott A Child's Lullaby, Craig David Booty Man.

Best Old Album I Returned To: Nicky Holland's debut. Esp Ladykiller, On The Stairs and Face Of The Moon. Circa 1991. It's on iTunes and it's worthy.

Artists I Tired Of Too Fast: Sam Sparro (album was half solid, half shite) and Duffy (once liked, now an object of ridicule).

Artists Who Deserved Better in 2008, Meaning Their Albums Should Have Been Released: Annie, Captain and Antigone Foster.

Guilty Pleasure: Mariah Carey's grammatically challenged I'll Be Lovin' U Long Time, and the Josh Groban/Brian McKnight (!) cover of Bridge Over Troubled Water.

Best Song Title: Tie between Madonna's 4 Minutes To Save The World (I think she dropped the To Save.. part from the official title) and Marit Larsen's If A Song Could Get Me You

Best Comeback(s): Cyndi Lauper, who took the imaginary advice of pop music bloggers and recorded a dance record in Sweden and DC. It didn't light up the charts, but it was high quality and not pandering (hello Madge). Cyndi is much loved for the effort. Donna Summer also updated her sound with the help of Greg Kurstin. Solid record. All it lacked was one orchestral disco number. Just one! Tony Christie, the British crooner of yore, recorded with Richard Hawley and Jarvis Cocker, among others. Super record with a perfect Arctic Monkeys cover. UPDATE: How did I forget Grace Jones? Phenomenal record, imagery, etc. Best of all were the crazy-ass intevriews she did to promote it.

I-Could-Not-Care-Less-Award: Lady Gaga/Blah Blah (sorry to all who sailed in her) and Katy Perry.

Albums That Most Disappointed Me
: What did NOT disappoint me? I could have done a HUGE post just on this topic. Here are some I remember: Morton Harket's tedious solo record (cheekbones still in place), Lykki Li’s Youth Novels (which will probably be on indie Best Of lists), The Kooks lifeless Konk, REM's Accelerate (let it go, let it go, let it go), Jem's Down To Earth (shockingly cheap sounding), Travis (what was the name of it?), Sharleen Spiteri's DOA Melody, ripping off Duffy and Amy Winehouse, Supergrass' Diamond Hoo Ha (has one perfect song, When I Needed You), Pretenders crap new album (again, will end up on old white men's Best Of lists), and of course, Janet Jackson's third strike, Discipline. Her next album will be a Jam and Lewis reunion, mark my words. Alesha Dixon's much-hyped album. Pink's record was not a disaster, but seemed forced compared to her previous CD. And the worst album of 2008? Razorlight's Slipway Fires – truly a career-killer. Buhbye Johnny. It seems to me you lived your life like a candle in the wind. Finally Keane's Perfect Symmetry had a few great tunes, but was ultimately a clusterfuck of noise. Not terrible by any means, but it did not soar, so it was a letdown. Same with the Queen of Desperation, Madonna.

Finally, and importantly:

RIP the Virgin Megastore on Oxford Street and Zavvi. Please read Peter Robinson's comments on the death of British music retailers. This WILL affect how music is produced and released. Pay for the music you love and if you have an independent store near you, buy stuff there. DO IT. Pay more if you have to.

What am I forgetting on this list? I'm sure I'll amend this over the next few weeks. I'll be back after Christmas with a few more lists.

December 22, 2008

Lily Allen Widget

Stream samples of Lily's new record It's Not Me, It's You:


December 21, 2008

We interrupt this Tops 2008 programming to...


...about the forthcoming Saint Etienne single, Method Of Modern Love. Just listen to the sample at PopJustice and I won't need to explain any further. The first great pop song of 2009.

It fits perfectly with the fact that someone actually worthy told me I was "very cute" this weekend [ed: this never happens]. So sing along: "One touch is not enough / When you start, you can't stop / That's the method of modern love."*

*actually that's "the method of of mod-uhn lo-oh-oh-oh-oh-ah-oh"

December 20, 2008

2008: Album Covers Of The Year

In a dire year for album covers, there were little to choose from. Madonna, Sugababes, and Girls Aloud all produced horrible cover images for their records. Alison Goldfrapp dressed up as Mary Kate Olson in pirate gear, while Uh Huh Her didn't even bother.

Here are a few that actually caught my eye and earned a second glance:

My favorite sleeve of the year was for a random hits collection by John Foxx. Everything is right about this, most notably the beautiful silhouette of Foxx's face and his Hedi Slimane-esque scrawny frame. Mert and Marcus could not have shot it better. For the curious, Foxx was the original lead singer for Ultravox and, at 61, he still looks good today.

Vincent Frank is THE voice to listen for in 2009 and his artwork is equally stirring; it took me ages to actually see his face in this collage. This EP has the most beautiful packaging of the year. To utter a phrase said so many times before, I'd love it more in 12".

You have to love Fleet Foxes, a Seattle band, for bringing the Netherlands to the Stereogum crowd. When I first saw this, I thought, "Bruegelish." But it IS Bruegel and there's a whole short story going on in the image. The band themselves are scraggly enough to be transplants from the 1500's.

I admire Solange for her off-center efforts with this album's sound and artwork. She must have been seriously baked throughout the proceedings. But I mean that in the nicest way.

I am not the first person to notice that M83's album, which should be called The Breakfast Club, features what looks like the cast of a John Hughes movie. My own archetype is not really represented here, as I was the Dweeb in Docksiders.

I love this image because it's actually a metaphor for the highwire act Take That balances, caught between being a nostalgia act and producing new music that advances them beyond their pervy-tween roots. Aside from that, it's just aesthetically pleasing and wee Mark Owen provides the necessary subliminal question about receding hairlines.

Mystery Jets, provocative and pretty.

Cyndi Lauper harkens back to her debut album, but with more expensive shoes.

None of these touch the genius covers for 2007. Let's hope for better next year.

December 18, 2008

2008: XO's Top Songs Of The Year

This is technology mixed with a band. I decided to start my Best Of 2008 lists with the important one, my favorite songs of the year. The 19 songs below fit on an 80 min CDR. Not necessarily singles, these are the tunes I most loved in 2008. As always, thanks to everyone who read my blathering throughout the year. I got many of them from you.

Note - the first two songs are the Top 2, but the others appear in the order they do on my iTunes '08 playlist.

I knew it the first time I heard it (which was technically 2007), that no song in 2008 would come close. Maybe it was the line "Is it true the things you say that you don't do / Why don't you ring?" Let's just say I lived that and never expected that ice queen Alison Goldfrapp would be the one to prick my finger and make it bleed. Fast forward to 12/08, I'm over the situation but never the song.

2 The Loving Kind Girls Aloud UK
A dream collaboration with Pet Shop Boys. What does one say about a song so sleek and beautiful? Vocally, this one goes to Nicola and Kimba for their part: "I'd do anything / Sing songs that lovers sing." And tell me how many of you have played this going to work "somewhere on a Monday morning"?

and the other greats of the year...

3. This Is Life Grace Jones UK
I love that Grace's first song in 17 years began with the lines, "This is my voice, my weapon of choice." It has some of the best lyrics this year, with imagery ranging from covered wagons to being locked up in a basement. Listening to this track as you march through the city will actually make you cooler and tougher. WWGD? Take no prisoners, take no shit.

4. Black And Gold Sam Sparro AUS/USA
Can you think of a more perfect debut single that led to... nothing? Poor Sam - he deserves better. It's The Curse Of A Classic. Whatever, the toothy hottie will be able to live off this disco soul throwdown for many years. Best intro for a single this year, lasting almost a minute.

5. Stamp Your Feet Donna Summer USA
Another absurdly good comeback (album review). This song was almost embarrassingly current - I could do without the "you got game!" bridge. A song that actually lives up to its title, Stamp Your Feet will be noted for the lyrical hook of the summer: "Make a big-ass sound."

6. Not A Love Song Uh Huh Her USA
Berlin lives! LA new wave restored! The single of summer that wasn't a hit, but this is the kind of guitar'n'synths track that makes me want to tie a cherry stem with my tongue. That's all I'll say. I wanna waste another day.

7. My Delerium Ladyhawke NZ
I love a rock chick. This record came out of nowhere, literally (New Zealand) - I became obsessive with Ladyhawke, who crafted a Pat Benatar rave-up with a lush, angular breakdown in the middle. I owe this one to Adem. xo

8. Viva La Vida Coldplay UK
Who had not written Coldplay off after the overplayed, commercial X&Y? And then this, their best song since Yellow. Chris dropped the seriousness and did gorgeous pop music again. Seesaw strings, choral oohhhhs and bonus points for the booming timpani. Chill inducing.

9. The Start Of Something Scott Simons USA
West Virginia cutie writes a crisp, autumnal pop/folk song that should have been a #1 hit. I wouldn't be surprised if this song gets re-released in 2009 and licensed to every hit TV show. I should add that it was the soundtrack to the blog post I most liked (on this blog, that is) in 2008.

10. The Sailor Song The Gadsdens UK
Jody Gadsden's vocals make my hairs stand on end. He is the best male voice to emerge from 2008 and when they finally release the album, I hope The Gadsdens will leave this mix alone. I love way it breathes - there's a nice, airy reverb and the twilight strings are lovely.

11. Hometown Glory Adele UK
Or maybe this song has the best intro? I can't remember a time when a debut single moved me so much on first listen. This was the year I moved to DC and these lines became my mantra: "I like it in the city when two worlds collide." It captures everything that is right about a city and, in the age of Obama, we love cities again.

12. Soon We'll Be Found Sia AUS
I always wondered if Sia could every match Breathe Me. Her new album did that several times over. This song is notable for it's optimism, the ease with which it slinks between seductive and wanting and the beautiful orchestration. The vocal is what I'd call "master class." Sia is major.

13. Let It Go Will Young UK
Speaking of master class vocals, Will Young has THE most yearning "it's doomed" song this year. Like Scenes From A (Bad) Marriage, the song is a diary of disorientation. And just listen to the final 20 seconds and how mournfully he sing/talks the title.

14. The Greatest Day Take That UK
There's only so much pessimism one can emit and in the middle of annus horribilis came the greatest surprise I can remember in my adult life - November 4, 2008. Sure, this song lacks any discernible structure or verses, but it's so completely HAPPY. "
And the world comes alive!" Up With People, you tired wheezers.

15. Miles Away Madonna UK?! USA
The disappointment of Hard Candy is blunted by this slice of Madonnarama, which bears all the hallmarks of the old crone's greatest talents, most notably in the lovely hook: so far away, so far way. It also has the finest fade-out on a song in 2008 - the last beepy minute.

16. Before The Worst The Script UK
Yah yah yah, the Maroon 5 of the Temple Bar set. Whatever, this is the most insanely catchy hook of the summer. Collapsing relationships would almost be bearable if this song were their soundtrack. So start a fight with your lover and play this a few times!

17. Closer NeYo USA
Baldy put on his Sinatra hat and headed to the gay disco to experience a Europhic Moment. And, sir NeYo, when you sing that "she wants to own me, to control me" I assume by "she" you mean "he"? You just can't. bring. yourself. to say it.

18. Tell It All Lorraine the grave
Let the lyrics say it, Prop 8: "I don't mind if they're laughing at us / They just wish they were as brave as us / It's not their business what we do / Just swear you'll never let them get to you / We'll run away and I'll kiss you in the light of day / We won't have to wait until we're alone at your place/ We'll live to tell it all."

19. Cosmic Journey Solange and Bilal USA
How in da hell did this happen? Solange Knowles creating the most ambient 6-minute lovers' anthem of the year? Caught between earth and atmosphere, the final song on Solange's album morphs from a space-age hippie ballad to a weed-laden techno raver for UFO geeks. I wanna go go go.

What almost made it: Rihanna's Distubia, Tigercity's Powerstripe, Captain's Keep An Open Mind, Sugababes' Goodbye, Jennifer Hudson's Spotlight, Alanis Morissette's It's A Bitch To Grow Up, The Killers' Human and She And Him's I Thought I Saw Your Face Today. Antigone's debut single More Man Than Man should also be on this list, though I actually played it most obsessively in 2007.

December 16, 2008

Lily Allen's At It

Isn't that a deluxe picture? The publicity machine is churning for Lily's new album. Below is footage of the album art shoot. About 5 songs have been heard, in varying stages of completion, and I'm hoping that some we have not heard are epics. First single The Fear is for sale now on iTunes all over the world. I bought it, did you?

Lily Allen Album shoot:

Lily Allen The Fear:

Side note: VERY busy right now. Last year at this time, I had all my best-of lists ready to go. This year, I have not done one bit of it. Stay tuned!

December 14, 2008

It's called Thuh Luhhving Kaind

A few comments on GA's performance of The Loving Kind:

1) Nicola is rockin' that short hair. Never looked so good.
2) It is The Year Of The Sarah.
3) Cheryl didn't cock it up like she did on X Factor (though she had good reason then).
4) The dresses make them look like wind-up ballerinas crossed with Madonna '85 Wannabes.
5) Nadine looks very serious and workmanlike when she sings.
6) When Nicola and Kimba start their bit, one of their mics gets cranked and it's a bit... rough. Nicola saves it by wailing her part.
7) And those mics look like studded [whispers] vibrators. Just sayin'...
8) How does Cheryl get her hair so poofy? She must be hung upside down when they spray it.
9) Nadine's ooh ooh adlib at the end is absurd.
10) This song seems particularly vulnerable to flat notes, but they did a good job and get points for singing live in the Era Of Mime.

For a more comprehensive post on the Girls' Xmas party, see MuuMuse

December 11, 2008

Patrick Wolf: Battle Ready

It's been too long since I wrote about Patrick Wolf every other day. Now he has a rough/lush new double album due in Spring 2009: Battles. One disc is "solipsistic" and other is about love (Patrique has a beau). Here's the kicker: If you live in the UK, you can buy a share in it for 10 BPS. It meaning the new album, not the boyfriend.

Details from Patrick:

I am very happy to be back in the creative, free world of independent music; on my own label, Bloody Chamber Music (A bloody chamber being a heart, a tribute to the book "The Bloody Chamber" by Angela Carter), started earlier this year. So, here I am. Album four with my own record label. With the old world recording industry a rapidly sinking ship; recording studios closing weekly, free downloads daily, more musicians hitting the long road than ever before to feed themselves, I am happy to have come across a new intimate system of audience and artist participation called Bandstocks. This will be funding Bloody Chamber Music, and the international physical and digital release of my fourth album, Battle, and its collective singles. It’s an exciting game we can play together; you get to be an investor and stakeholder in the album. You will get special editions, first copies of the album, private privileges and mixes... and we get to conquer the world together and show that independence and self sufficiency are the two ways forward and out of the mess the industry is in.

Patrick had a disagreement over musical direction with his last label, so is releasing this one independently. I never understand why labels try to force artists into a box - Patrick has said they wanted him to make a sequel to Magic Position. Any fan would know that was not likely. You can hear a Battle Megamix on the Bandstocks site. Sounds like more grimy majesty. Titles include Hard Times, Who Will and the lovely Together.

Patrique has a new youtube page called Patrick Wolf TV. I don't love the blond hair. It's so lycanthropic....

*speaking of Tilda Swinton, she is in the video above for a brief second. She narrates the new album.