March 31, 2009

2009: Q1

I'm baaaack. Here, in no order, are my Top Songs for the first quarter of 2009. A few rules: These tunes do not have to be singles, but I allow only one song by each artist (or else it would have been dominated by Pet Shop Boys and Royksopp). The colored link will take you to a place you can hear/see the song.

Saint Etienne
Method Of Modern Love myspace
Pet Shop Boys Pandemonium hear it
Lily Allen Back To The Start hear it
Just Jack Embers video
Morrissey It's Not Your Birthday Anymore
Erik Hassle Hurtful video
Roots Union Rough Diamonds myspace
Neko Case People Gotta Lot Of Nerve video
Maria Taylor Time Lapse Lifeline video
Starsailor You Never Get What You Deserve hear it
Tori Amos Welcome To England
RaRa Riot Suspended In Gaffa
Bat For Lashes Pearl's Dream
RuPaul Never Go Home Again
Empire Of The Sun Walking On A Dream myspace
Kate Havnevik Halo myspace
Royksopp Vision One stream it
Antigone Promiscuity myspace

What are your favorites?

Worthy albums thus far: Royksopp, Pet Shop Boys, Black Room, Starsailor, Lily Allen

What's coming: Antigone Foster, Depeche Mode, Tori Amos, Frankmusik, Rose Elinor Dougall (ex-Pipettes), Just Jack, Patrick Wolf, Erik Hassle, Kate Havnevik

Disappointing: U2, Morrissey, Prince

The artwork above is by Miroslav Sasek.

March 26, 2009

Book of brilliant things

Simple Minds Rockets:

Simple Minds
chugging new single Rockets is an odd case: the verses are much stronger than the chorus. It's still pretty catchy and not too cheap sounding, as these affairs often are (can you imagine what Spandau's new music will sound like?) This band have been releasing music nonstop since 1977 and have a new CD out on May 25 called Graffiti Soul. There was much ballyhoo last year when the Jim (ex Mr Hynde/Mr Kensit) Kerr announced he was reforming the original lineup. Well, booyouwhores, it lasted ten seconds before he brought in other players. You can take the boy out of Scotland, but you can't return 'im. The new album sounds like it will be more modern rock/pop versus anything electronic. It was mixed by Bob Clearmountain, who mixed their seminal Once Upon A Time in 1985.

I won't overstate my love for Simple Minds: I only own two albums and a smattering of other tunes, but I love Jim's voice. When I was a freshman, a chick from Jersey who lived in my dorm insisted I looked like Jim Kerr. May be the eyes, but I don't see it...

Top Ten Plus One Simple Minds Songs

you can tell my age here - I was into the mid-80's rock/pop stuff

Don't You (Forget About Me)
Alive And Kicking
See The Lights
Sanctify Yourself
Someone Somewhere (In Summertime)
This Is Your Land
Let It All Come Down
Speed Your Love To Me
Once Upon A Time
Belfast Child

I always thought Streisand could have blown people's minds by doing a big grand version of the big grand Let It All Come Down. And did you know Jim Kerr runs his own hotel in Taormina, Italy? It's called Villa Angela and it looks a little Scarface-tastique in its interiors...

March 23, 2009

Maria Taylor, just like that

Maria Taylor Time Lapse Lifeline:

Maria Taylor's "people" call her music alt-folk, but a song as hooky as Time Lapse Lifeline is pop, pure and simple. Don't get too distracted by the girls-on-a-spree video, this tune stands on its own. She deserves a hit with this one.

On a personal note, my birthday was fast and followed by a tragedy. I don't want to be mysterious: a great, longtime friend died suddenly. Sadly, I discovered that music cannot soothe everything - sometimes it's useless. This song isn't a heavy ballad, but it has a line that resonates -

Oh we dream a life
It was just like that, was just like that
And just like that, and just like that it's done

March 20, 2009

Cover Story: Patrick Wolf

The year of bad fonts. It looks a little cheap, doesn't it?

Update: I should point out the image and design mimics this (better) one:

March 18, 2009

Black Room kiss you in the light of day

In one of most poignantly unceremonious album releases I can recall, Lorraine /Black Room launched their long-awaited - 3 years! - album Pop Noir today on iTunes.

UK iTunes / US iTunes


1 I Feel It (moodier new mix)
2 When I Return To The World
3 Saved
4 Tell It All
5 She Lives In Gardens
6 Beyond The Sky
7 A Life Less Ordinary
8 Heaven (P Furs cover)
9 A Million Colors
10 The Mess That We Are
11 Imagine This + hidden track (a 3-min synth/sax piece, Never Give You Up)
12 Italian Girlfriend

Doesn't the hidden track usually go on the very end? Whatever. I am thrilled by the inclusion of the last song, the moody Italian Girlfriend, which is like a lost track from side 2 of Duran's Rio. But where is their masterpiece Transatlantic Flight? Too pop and not enough noir? Where is Tell Me Where You Wanna Go? Beautiful Thing? Touch Me? And all the new songs I'd hoped they were recording in the last 3 years since I found them via PopJustice?

Despite all my mixed emotions about Lorraine / Black Room, there are some fine, fine pop tunes on this album. It's solidly great. In a perfect world, they would have been able to release this via a proper label with proper financing. Those days are gone, so buy the album on itunes and give them a bit of the $ they deserve. And one last note...

Tell It All is one of the most exhilarating, emotional pop songs of this decade.

Blind Item

Which insanely talented artist/group's new single do I think is really kind of... makeshift? It may work as an album track, but not so much as a single. Which same artist/group's video for said song is totally embarrassing?

All is not lost. Risk-taking has its... risks. haw haw.

Can you guess who/m I mean?

I say it's my birthday

The good news: Sharleen loves me:

The bad news: I am too old to be loved.

Which is equally bad news for Sharleen, if you think about it.

Tori Amos: Welcome To England

Tori Amos Welcome To England:

It does not sound like Doll Posse II, thank God(dess). Parts of it remind me of
Girl. My only complaint is the vocal on the second verse ("Heels on...") - that cranky voice she often does.

Welcome to England, he said
Welcome to my world

You better bring your own sun, sweet girl
You gotta bring your own sun

Not bad!

March 16, 2009

If it were up to me, vol. 2

Antigone's Promiscuity would have a video featuring her in all the parts (the girls in the lyrics are actually different sides of one person).

Jimmy Somerville would return with a perfect album a la Marc Almond.

Magnificent would have been U2's first single from No Line...

Funhouse would have been Pink's new single

Pandemonium would have been Pet Shop Boys first single from Yes.

Annie Lennox would sex it up just a wee bit more, with a blazing dance track and red lippy.

Vanessa Daou would release a record as perfect as Zipless.

Sam Taylor would record with Ben Watt.

Human League would release a majestic comeback album, produced by Ladytron and Trevor Horn.

Folks would remember that Michael Jackson is the world's most "loveable" [cough!] pedo/paedo before rushing to the O2.

Courtney Love would keep it together and prove them wrong.

Every city would have a Virgin Megastore with CD singles.

Prince would fuck off. And release a Purple Rain remaster before fucking off.

Madonna would disappear for one full year, emerging with an electro-orchestral masterwork.

Patrick Wolf would release Together on his new disc.

Charlotte Gainsbourg would release her new single NOW.

Chris Cornell
would have never met Timbaland.

Kate Bush would release a double disc Best Of and all new remasters.

Scott Simons would get a full CD release.

Neneh Cherry would sing on the next Air album.

Miley Cyrus would marry her father and move to Bahrain.

Daniel Merriweather would have done a few contemporary sounding songs.

Tori Amos' new CD would have 11 songs (including one that is ten minutes long).

kd lang would record a Christmas album this summer.
Grace Jones would immediately record a new CD.

Beck would be caught in an illicit affair with Travolta.

Black Room would answer my email.

Ewan Macgregor would release his Marius DeVries-produced album.

David Gray would do a follow-up.

Janet Jackson
would return to Jimmy and Terry. Oh wait, she has!

My job-seeking friends would all get jobs making 60+k.

I would have a blazing hotel tryst to the sounds of Royksopp's Silver Cruiser.

If It Were Up To Me, Vol 1

March 15, 2009

Anneli Drecker v2009

Drecker: Looking like she's fresh off the stage from an Ibsen play

The vertebrae of the stunning new Röyksopp album Junior is formed by three tracks with vocals by the Norwegian singer Anneli Drecker. It's been two years since I last wrote about her, but you can get her bio via Wikipedia (trust it?), but the highlights are that she started singing in 1985 with Bel Canto and has since done 2 solo albums: 200o's Tundra and 2005's Frolic. Until recently, her music was not easy to find, but is now available on itunes in many countries (US / UK) . Röyksopp should bring her back into the spotlight.

The new
Röyksopp songs are cinematic in scope - huge melodic songs with massive synths, orchestras and layers of Drecker's vocals woven in and layered on top of the music. The most pure pop accomplishment is Vision One, which has the best lyrics on the record, a statement on man's retrograde ambition of willful obsolescence. One line leaps out: "It's too late to think that we can worship human emotions / Cause we've already evolved into machines in our minds." The music is ethereal, but grounded by a belching synthesizer that contrasts with the delicateness of Anneli's voice. One of the songs of the year no doubt in my mind.

You Don't Have A Clue,
about loving a man who's unaware of how entangled he's become in a relationship, is built on a piano line that skips along. I love how she sings "You're hiding from yourself, yes you are, yes you are" as her voice climbs the scales. The third song, True To Life, is almost polyrhythmic. The edgiest of the three tunes (and the longest at 5:50), it sounds like it was created through a series of absinthe-fueled jams.

Now that Bjork has disappeared into an esoteric planet of inaccessibility, Anneli Drecker has really taken her place as the proverbial human voice in the machine. She's already has garnered much respect and, I suspect, prefers a life in which she can slip in and out of the garden gate of pop music.

XO's Top Ten Plus One Anneli Drecker Songs:

You Don't Have To Change
Her most accessible single, from Frolic. In every way you are, you don't have to change.
Who On Earth
For a child, this song is notable for a dramatic showstopper moment in which sings "Am I a concubine?"
Like Bjork on Homogenic: martial electronica juxtaposed with soft synths and orchestrals. Even better for the fact it's song in Norwegian.
6-minute masterpiece starting as a folk tune and evolving at minute 4 into a literal orchestral storm. Her voice is pleasingly double tracked with a male vocal. Rainstorm sounds like it cost a hundred grand, so many musicians play on it.
Turn The Lights Down (with a-ha)
Lovely lowkey duet with Morten Harket from their Lifelines album. More musically "organic" than most of Anneli's own work.
My Emily
She wrote this soft, elegant ballad for Morten Harket.
It's All Here
Bass, acoustic guitar and keyboard. Shimmery. It's all here in my heart.

All I Know
Very Sarah Brightman, this sounds like a movie theme.

...and the three new Röyksopp tunes instantly hit the top. Each a diamond!

What songs did I miss? I know there are some Anneli fans out there...

Röyksopp Vision One:

March 14, 2009

Mixtape: The endless in-between

This blog is five years old. Lucky five. Thank you for reading it, and commenting, when and if you do. This week, solid music news, A to Z, affectionately:

Karima Francis
is a Serious new artist. You can stream her debut, The Author, at LastFM. She's been compared to Tracy Chapman and Joan Armatrading (as Tracy was back in the day.). The jury's still out. What do you think?

Imogen Heap
should have her new album out in summer and she plays a few bits on her newest vblog. The end of the blog has a painfully beautiful snippet of Wait It Out that almost made me cry. She is a shining example of what the music industry CAN be.

Indigo Girls
suddenly have a new CD out on March 25 called Poseidon and the Bitter Bug. They say it's more r'n'b based (!), but it sounds the same to me. Sugar Tongue, a new one, starts out pretty average but blossoms - it's kind of muted 70's on the verses and delicate on the chorus. Samples here. I grew up with these girls and some of their songs (Mystery is one) are like lifelines. Which reminds me, if you are on my FB page, you can see some verrrry old pics of me vamping it up during the period when IG reigned.

Grace Jones
' next single is another killer tune: Love You To Life. Check out some Observer photo outtakes by the photographer Perou.

Little Boots duet, Symmetry, with Human League's Phil Oakey sounds beyond. Hear the snippet at PJ.

Lucky Soul has completed 5 songs for its new record: new single Whoa Billy!, Up In Flames (What You Gonna Do?), White Russian Doll, That's When Trouble Begins, Upon Hilly Fields.

Morrissey is re-releasing Maladjusted in early May with a new cover and tracklist, which adds six songs. The Guardian's Jude Rogers is none too happy about it.

Pet Shop Boys, all over the world. It's all about them right now. The Guardian's Paul McInnes did a great podcast you need. Neil says "We are the Pet Shop Boys and that's what we do."

The Pipettes finally have a new girl, Beth. Album out in summer?

Eddi Reader fans should listen to this podcast. Her constantly-about-to-come-out album Love Is The Way, is still about to come out (April 13). You hear some clips, including a lovely track calle I Won't Stand In Your Way that is classic Eddi, as is the swoony New York City. and her accent, I could listen to it all day.

Tracey Thorn is finishing her new album with Ewan Pearson

Kanye West did a Storytellers last week and the staging was beyond. Catch Flashing Lights at Disco Potential. Whatever one can say about KW, he has incredible taste.

Top Ten Plus One Songs From My Current Playlist (in no order)

Royksopp Vision One
Daniel Merriweather Water And A Flame (with Adele)
U2 White As Snow (like a Christmas song)
Pet Shop Boys Pandemonium
Annie Lennox Walking On Broken Glass (the new recording)
RuPaul Never Go Home Again
Erik Hassle Hurtful (watch it)
Lunar Ignite (more on that soon)
Brett Dennen Ain't Gonna Lose You (used on Ugly Betty)
Royksopp True To Life (another with Anneli Drecker)
Camera Obscura James

I wish I was in England. I have not left this country for 5 years - FIVE - and it must happen soon.

The artwork above is by Miroslav Sasek. If you've never read his miraculous This Is... picture books about various cities, look for one. I just gave myself This Is London as a birthday present. Umm hmm, I am 40 this week.

March 12, 2009

Favourite shirts...

Now that I have your attention...

Rush over to* to check out Napoleon

They're a huge group, they're Swedish and they capture a very particular period in music, the sliver of time when Blow Monkeys, Haircut 100 and Dexy's Midnight Runners ruled the scene. I predict a polarized reaction of love or hate. The ecstatic debut single, I Love My Baby (But If Anyone Touches Her I'll Kill Them), is out on iTunes UK on the really great label Ruffa Lane.

*Talia, you rock, but I'd thought you'd stopped blogging! You are re-linked.

NOTE: I swear I wrote this post yesterday, before PopJustice did theirs today. "Great minds" and all that...

March 10, 2009

What becomes a legend most?

A message to the beautiful children: RuPaul's new album, Champion, contains an incredible, lush electroballad, Never Go Home Again. Seriously, if Robyn or Royksopp had produced this, there would be meltdowns going on over at PopJustice Forums. I need to "edumucate" them asap. Lyrically, Never... is a Smalltown Boy story of escape that's slow burn until some pretty monolithic synths shift it into disco heaven at around 2:20.

Ru became famous in 1992, when I'd graduated from college and had my first place. I loved his house music-infused debut album, especially House Of Love, Back To My Roots and the cover of Chic's Everybody Dance. If you're too young to know those tracks, get them on iTunes or buy a used copy of the CD. I dig his sense of humor (he's a master of facial expressions and voices), his glamour (he is not an old school queen) and the general positivity he puts into pop culture. RuPaul is not a bitchy, demented queen. In fact, I suspect the "two Rus" are more the same personality than is the usual case, where a drag persona allows a shy person to become more gregarious and assertive. For RuPaul, the personality shines through either way, in heels or loafers. I once got into had to kick Someone to the curb who criticized RuPaul. It was like a litmus test: trash Ru and you will sashay... away.

In 2004, he released a substantial "pride" song called
Coming Out Of Hiding. The recent Spectrum/Odyssey mix is BEYOND. I have yet to see his 2007 Starbooty film, but I do own an original vinyl LP of the early version of Starbooty from the 80's and am known to recite the "sistah's on the corner sellin' pussy for sale" bit. I apparently have a need to say that a lot. The film has a brilliant orchestral theme called Big Booty Opening (mmm hmmm) tha's the kind of instrumental you need as you march around a big city. Fierce. From the new album, I also recommend Throw Ya Hands Up, a funny track with The Lady Bunny and Destiny Is Mine, another anthemic electro piece.

Trivia: Which beer-drinking legendary post-punk Britrocker does Ru share a soul voice with? Paul Weller! Evidence? Listen to Paul singing Promised Land with Style Council.

In America, Ru's new reality show Drag Race is a big hit. It's like a combination of America's Next Top Model and Project Runway, with Ru channeling both Tyra Banks (Ru says it's the reverse) and Tim Gunn. I loved how he recently said of one drag contestant, "We're looking for the next international superstar and she's more of a ... regional queen." Touche! I keep trying to work that into a statement at work, but it has not come up yet.

Here's a clip for his new single, Cover Girl, with shots from the show:

For the record, my choice for next the next drag superstar is Bebe Zahara Benet.

Remember though, legendary ones: Never Go Home Again from Ru's new Champion album. GET IT. Welcome back Ru.

...and that bitch I kicked to the curb? Turned out to be a big ol' screaming bottom. Just sayin'!

Abnormally attracted to...

Botox? No, I'm being a dick. She really does look great. It's a beautiful, iconic album image, but the designer should be shaved from head to toe for using that makeshift font. Am I right? I know a certain reader Richard will be disgusted by that small detail.

Here is the "sinful" tracklist:

1. Give
2. Welcome to England
3. Strong Black Vine
4. Flavor
5. Not Dying Today
6. Maybe California
7. Curtain Call
8. Fire to Your Plain
9. Police Me
10. That Guy
11. Abnormally Attracted to Sin
12. 500 Miles
13. Mary Jane
14. Starling
15. Fast Horse
16. Ophelia
17. Lady in Blue

I see Tori has not taken my advice about album lengths, but it doesn't matter because this is what she had to say about opposition to gay marriage:
Why do you have to have anybody else in your bedroom if you're a consenting adult? That is the need people have right now, it seems, to dictate to another person how they should live there life. I find that the greatest sin of all.
Tori's still on the rampage against the darker side of organized religion. Thank God for her (haw haw).

Source: Spinner

March 9, 2009

Contemplating Bridgette

VV who? My head is turned toward a new soul vocalist, Bridgette Amofah. Stunningly beautiful, with substantial tunes. You really believe her voice.

Play her at
myspace - pay attention to the demo for Je M'appelle Me.

Bridgette has recently been playing shows with
Mr. Hudson, whom you'll also know much more about by summer. Let's hope she gets a full album out in 2009. Her double a-side debut single What It Takes / Not Your Style is out now on iTunes worldwide (see links on myspace).

March 7, 2009

PSB widget: You will see me coming

This weekend will end with a money shot: Pet Shop Boys releasing Did You See Me Coming via the newspaper CD. This sounds like it will be one of the classic tracks off their new Yes album. Hear a sample on the widget...

I am still most excited about Did You See Me Coming?, More Than A Dream, King Of Rome (vair vair Behaviour), Pandemonium and The Way It Used To Be. The esteemed Shane Percy has reviewed the album, which many of "my" London darklings heard last night at a PopJustice playback (see audience pic). Phil has some comments about the album/Q&A. And D'luv has the details on the US release, which comes too late on April 21.

Thanks to wwadh for the tip on the widget...

March 5, 2009

I can't stay mad at you for too long. That's wrong.

The title of this post is a line from Rihanna's fantastic song Hate That I Love You. Seriously, writers can't make this shit up. My friend Jessica and I had a brief email exchange today when the details of Chris Brown's assault of Rihanna become public knowledge. It's a really violent, dark story. While forgiveness is understandable, I don't know how any person could return to a man (or manchild, as it were) like that. This is not a woman who is financially bound to any man. Why why why? The story overshadows her talent and her music, which leads me to
Jessica's point about how Rihanna's return to Brown her attacker could affect her career...
We all know that Rihanna going back to Chris Brown is so not good in so many ways. We can go on and on about "what will we tell our daughters?" and the like. And that is all well and good and relevant. But I wonder if Rihanna has given any thought to the fact that by going back to Chris she has basically run her artistic credibility right into a ditch that she will likely not get out of. I mean, think of the list of things that she can no longer sing about and be taken seriously: being a strong woman, walking out on your man, being independent, the importance of love, or just about any subject that requires having a backbone to talk about. What, stand under your umbrella and get my ass whooped? I think not.

What do you think?

March 4, 2009

Will Young's final single?

His final CD single. Yes, no more CD artwork you can take into bed with you. But the good news is that Let It Go is, as we already know, a masterpiece.

There are just 5,000 copies and it's available here. Act fast. The tracklist:

1) Let It Go (radio edit, this song was already on my Top 20 for 2008)
2) You Don't Know (live at Cadogan Hall, gorge)
3) Help Me (superb Joni Mitchell cover, live at Cadogan Hall)

iTunes UK also has a live version. Next up SHOULD be I Won't Give Up, if there is a God.

This is Will doing Let It Go on British morning TV earlier this week. It looks lip synced, but it's not - it's live:

What a voice. It's amusing how much trouble he has with the camera. At one point he appears to smile because of it (during a serious part of the song - 2:37-:47). Here is an
alternate performance on another show.

March 3, 2009

Let's just Jack.

Just Jack Embers:

The history of the world in 3 minutes 39. It becomes particularly colossal during World War One when those strings come in. All the icons are here: cheating cavemen, "The Oedipus Family," Queen Elizabeth, Winston Churchill. And the final seconds are immaculate. Puhfect.

Seriously, it makes me a bit sullen that a song like this will slip past while the world focuses on a relatively undeserving U2. Just Jack is the future of classic pop music.

Embers is out on CD /download March 23. The album All Night Cinema (tracklist and cover) - likely one of the best albums of 2009 - is out April 6. Stream Embers and new song Goth In The Disco at his myspace.

March 2, 2009

If I see a light flashing

After a good 2 years of making withering comments about Scottish producer/artist Calvin Harris, I can now say I am obsessed with his new single I'm Not Alone. It's bathhouse NRG disco with a folky vocal melody- a sort of expansive moodswing.

Hear I'm Not Alone now on Calvin's myspazz

A birdy who's met him in person tells me Mr. Harris is a tall drink of water.

March 1, 2009

Frankmusik: Is Vincent Frank honest, crazy or just a big peen?

photo via Frank's myspace and "louiswanks"

Vincent Frank - aka Frankmusik - just gave to the Times Online one of the most insane interviews I've ever read. I mean, this is a psychiatric cabaret worthy of no less than the esteemed Courtney Love.

Read it now.

Among the highlights he spews: That his girlfriend Olivia had a miscarriage and "it tore a massive piece out of us.” How poetic. I'm sure she is thrilled to have that detail splashed in the papers. Then there are the multiple suicide attempts (one recent) and, less shockingly, de rigueur sexual liaisons, the latter of which he claims are "good for the music." Then there is the fact that he is leaving half his earnings to a musician he admires in the US. Huh? Don't get me started on the sleeping with a male popstar bit (he conveniently says they didn't have sex).

There are two ways to read this:

1) He is having a go at the writer, mocking the concept of modern press, in which one sells one's darkest secrets for attention. The problem with this one is that he also mocks the people who read it and believe it. It's insulting.

2) He is telling the truth, which would not jibe with earlier interviews in which he seems entirely together and focused. The problem with this theory is that he seems worryingly unequipped for fame. I have no doubt he's probably an ADD mini-genius - you can almost hear that in his herky jerky musical style - but if these personal stories are true, why share them with a major newspaper?

I'd hope that in Vincent Frank we've found a worthy, talented new link in pop music, which so few male artists have the balls to create. We all do crazy-ass shit at times, we all have dramas either foisted upon us or self created, but I prefer pop stars who keep it together and build their success on their music. You can be frank (haw haw) and still keep your dirt private. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE the songs, so I am going to pretend this interview did not happen (I tried this with the Bush administration and it didn't work). I'll just stick my fingers in my ears and go la-la-la when I'm not listening to the masterpieces that are Run Away From Trouble and Vacant Heart.

FrankMusik Better Off As Two:

Better Off As Two is out in May. The album is delayed again, this time until July.

Watch this video and you'll see someone really likable...