July 30, 2009

Lily: Loads of clothes and fuckloads of diamonds

Never one to shy away from a juicy irony, Lily Allen is posing for Chanel. See this Design Scene post for more. I would never have pegged Karl Lagerfeld as a Lily Allen fan. I imagine he would have something like this to say about her:

This Lily Allen creature is an awfully short person.
Full attribution: The above quote is in the wicked spirit of Karl Lagefeld's Guide to Life.

July 27, 2009

Madonna forever

Earlier this week I saw a paparazzi photograph of Madonna that was captioned "Madonna with Jesus at the airport in Zaragoza" and though to myself "You cannot make this shit up." Aside from posts about her Cryptkeeper arms, the blog/Twitter world is whipping itself into a particular frenzy over her upcoming single, Celebration. The track looks like a terrible idea on paper until you hear it via a shitty cell phone rip played in Ibiza and have a near-mental breakdown thinking you cannot leave your house until this song leaks. Or maybe normal people do not react this way?

New York Magazine's
Emily Nussbaum just published one of the most spot-on pieces on Madonna that I've read in years. It's something many fans hovering around 40 will relate to. She really nails it in numerous key points:
Over the years, this vision of discipline as transcendence crackled, hardened, becoming at once awesome and alienating, creating a riddle for fans: How to reconcile that early Madonna with what she’d become?
I try to persuade myself to admire her most New York qualities (ambition, workaholism); I tell myself she’s a dancer, and this is what dancers do. But I feel exhausted just witnessing the effort it must take to maintain this vision of eternal youth. This didactically selfless Madonna is less inspiring than the selfish one in so many ways.
There's the brilliant listing of Madonna's phases:

Jellybean Benitez Madonna to Madonna of the Boy Toy Belt, Unshaved Leaked Photos Madonna, Madonna masturbating on a wedding cake, bouncing beside the waves in “Cherish,” dancing with the little boy in “Open Your Heart,” Who’s That Girl Eyebrows Madonna, Ideal Brunette Madonna (my favorite) saving Black Jesus in that incredible slip, Banned by the Pope! Madonna, “Vogue” Madonna, Fritz Lang Madonna, Wrapped-Plastic Sex-Book Madonna, Shame-Free BDSM Madonna, Sandra Bernhard–BFF Madonna..
It goes on, but she hilariously nailed my favorite: the Ideal Brunette Madonna saving Black Jesus in that incredible slip. You know, when she sees the guys attacking the girl and juts out her jaw at them in defiance? With her awesome hair flying around? (watch for that bit from 2:29-2:50).

But finally, it must come back to her music. Nussbaum quotes writer Rob Sheffield on her lasting legacy:
As for Kabbalah, he points out, “You know, if she made bad records about being spiritually awakened, that’s one thing—but she made a really good one, the Ray of Light album.”
It's easy (and knee-jerk) to write her off after last year's weakish, irritating Hard Candy, but Celebration sounds like another milestone in a career that is unparalleled in pop music. One epic after another. If a Hits record closes a chapter, where does this story go next?

Be sure to read Justify My Love by Emily Nussbaum in New York Magazine, July 26, 2009

The Return of Prefab Sprout

Prefab Sprout Let There Be Music:

To this day, Paddy's is my favorite male voice in music. The opening moments will scare you slightly, but then it goes all celestial-twilight-glamour-angel-wings-to-a-beat. Are the 90's coming back? Maybe so, maybe so.

July 26, 2009

Playlist: All the rushes look the same

Listening to the"oldie of the week" below (Dolby's Screen Kiss), I am reminded of a time when smart people recorded music with smart lyrics. Does that make me sound old? Maybe. It still happens today, but it's rarer to see those songs enter pop culture...

Here are some worthy tunes I've been playing a lot that. These may not be as well known as what we usually dissect on blogs... so here is their moment.

Dan Black Let Go
I'd been skirting around Dan Black due to the chaotic, staccato sound of his up-tempos. But... heavens. Let Go (hear it) is what I dream Radiohead would sound like in 2009 and inevitably won't as they continue detour around pop music. If you like Miike Snow, try this song, as well as Dan's Life Slash Dreams and Cigarette Pack. He is on UK iTunes and here.

Florence + The Machine Falling
There is but one criticism of Florence's breathtaking - literally - debut album. It's that she does not explore the softer side of her voice as much as she should. The opening and closing minutes of this gorgeous heartbreak tune are a testament to the power she has when she hushes it down. This is available on the (gorgeously packaged) deluxe edition CD or via UK iTunes.

The Wild Beasts Hooting And Howling
To quote the lyric, it's equally elegant and ugly.
My only issue with this band is that lead singer Hayden Thorpe's operatics occasionally sounds more Tiny Tim than Antony... and that is not a good thing. Get past the first few minutes and this is a solid thumper. Watch the video.

The Rumble Strips Welcome To The Walk Alone
When last I checked, The Rumble Strips were a decent, brassy Brit band with a fabulous album cover. Now they've restyled themselves and seriously upped the ante on their new album, produced by Mark Ronson (who makes a recovery after the relative disappointment of Daniel Merriweather). This is the title track to their new CD and it has an atmospheric Scott Walker sound. Here's the video for their new single, Not The Only Person.

Imogen Heap First Train Home
Like many, I was initially underwhelmed by Imogen's first proper single in three years. I thought it wasn't WOW enough. It's still not the type of song I'd have launched her with, but it comes into focus after a few listens and features the same nooks and crannies in the arrangement that made her last album so playable for so long. Your ear picks up something new with each listen. She also sounds strikingly British this track, as in this bit at 3:22: "What mattuhs to you doesn't mattuh, mattuh to me." Hear it. On iTunes everywhere.

Oldie Of The Week:

Thomas Dolby Screen Kiss
This 1984 track was recently remastered and has returned to me after a long absence. The lyric is unique for the milieu it captures: British expatriates in LA, lost in the "haze above Old Hollywood." My favorite image in the lush chorus: "Screen kiss, one screen kiss / Blue filter lens, a pool of Vaseline." So perfect, like a followup to Joni Mitchell's characters in Court And Spark and The Hissing Of Summer Lawns. Read more about Dolby's update of the album this comes from, The Flat Earth, at So Hip It Hurts. You can hear the song too...

Some tunes I am not as enamored with - and surprised by that fact:

White Lies
by Mr Hudson (hear it - it's makeshift), Blow Away by A Fine Frenzy (hear it lacking her charms) and the polarizing Cockney squealfest that is Mika's We Are Golden. I should have known his new single would hurt my ears. The Chipmunks version is better.

July 24, 2009

Lily Allen: That's why my life is so fucking fantastic.

Says Doctor Rosen Rosen:

My goal in remixing her entire record was to see what would happen if I placed Lily's voice and lyrics into new musical landscapes that were a complete departure from the original recordings. As most of the original album It's Not Me, It's You is upbeat (thanks to Greg Kurstin's awesome production) my remixed version It's Not Me, It's Doctor Rosen Rosen takes on a darker/dreamier tone.
Stream the album or download it now for FREE.

It is worth it for The Fear alone, which is presented all unicorns and rainbows-y. I also think the new mix for recent single 22 is actually better than the album version, which is kind of Lily-by-the-book for me.

PS: I'm back from vacay now, clearly.

'Babes: If we stayed in the place we were in, we'd never move on

Photograph: Bruno Dayan for The Guardian

Sugababes just talked to the Guardian about their last album (the maligned Catfights, an album I think is 65% great) and their upcoming CD (Nov '09) recorded in America with some producers who apparently need more work, RedOne and Ryan Tedder.

July 23, 2009

Darren Hayes: Do the songs make my ass look fat?

The title of this post is the best quote from the first "vlog" of Darren Hayes in his home studio, looking a bit grunge (era). The best news delivered is that big-haired Justin Shave's producing about a third of the album. He is a fantastic producer - his work is shimmery and modern and smart. If you don't have the album Shave did with Antigone - AntigoneLand - get it on iTunes.

They briefly talk about Darren's favorite music - if you follow both Darren and I on Twitter, you may have seen us comparing music notes a few times about artists like Miike Snow and Florence + The Machine, among others. It was never planned - just a random thing, often along the lines of this:

@xolondon: "Darren you should listen to Erik Hassle"
@darrenhayes: "Did that months ago! You should listen to Miike Snow."
@xolondon: "Reviewed it ages ago!"

that's a paraphrase, but you get the gist! He's a chatty Cathy music geek, that Darren. Twitter enables you to speak directly to artists, which creates a really unique "exhange," if you will.

Madonna: Breathless Mahoney still giving good face

The cover of Madonna's September 28th hits collection - they didn't f*ck it up! It appears to be a 1990 Helmut Netwon photo from the set below. It's been "remixed" Andy Warhol-style by someone called Mr. Brainwash.

This is guaranteed to be the most simultaneously blogged bit of pop news this summer (or this week!). Worrapolava noticed something I did not.

Source MadonnaTribe

July 22, 2009

Visitor arrives today.

Visitor is a fine new Australia-via-London band with a dreamy first track...

Visitor Los Feeling (Rough Mix) free MP3

The band is having a remix competition, with details here. You can download the "stems" (that's remixer babble) and enter by August 15. I know some of you are home noodlers who fancy yourself young electro rebels, so now is the time to whip it up, whip it out and lay that talent on the table. XO's warning: DO NOT make this pretty song suck, okay?

July 17, 2009

Preview: MPHO's Pop Art

She can do it all. Evidence below and a description at MPHO's site. I particularly like Fix Ya Face, which leaked awhile back. Anyone know the release date?

July 15, 2009

Calling Madonna Louise Veronica Wildenstein

Madonna at a party in Milan with her friends Dolce and Gabbana and her Little Baby Jesus boyfriend. You think, Oh, doesn't she look nice (click to enlarge photos for full effect)...

and then you see this (again, enlarge it)...

and you realize Madonna's 25-year imperial "phase" really is at a crossroads...

Thanks MuuMuse for the link

Apparently this is Whitney Houston...

Yes, do you see her? Because I see someone else. Nice photo(shop) though.

Her album is out September 1. I agree with those who say her first song (
I Didn't Know My Own Strength), should not have been one of those treacly self-empowerment ballads that Clive Davis fizzes over. It reminds you of her crackiswhack days. It should have been a blazing pop-dance stormer that looked forward, not back.

Collaborators on the album include A
licia Keys, Diane Warren, Stargate, R Kelly and Akon (on the lousy duet Like I Never Left that leaked last year). No Babyface. Other new tracks include Million Dollar Bill, Nuthin' But Love, Call You Tonight, For the Lovers, I Look to You, Worth It (more empowerment?) and a cover of Leon Russell's A Song for You, a song that's been covered a zillion times. More on the changing faces of divas tonight...

July 14, 2009

Mixtape: Music is saved

I think the above video of Siedah Garrett and The Agape International Choir doing Man In The Mirror, which she wrote, is a good way to sort of lay the Michael Jackson events down respectfully. It's an incredible performance - and her message at the beginning is kind. If you don't have them, I highly recommend two tracks she did as lead vocalist of Brand New Heavies back in '97: You Are The Universe and Day By Day. Incredible, uplifting songs that sound fresh today.

Clearly my computer is back in my loving arms. I had a hard time not being able to update my iPod at least once a day.

The Florence + The Machine deluxe album packaging is sublime and the extra tracks are solid, especially Falling, which showcases her softer side (and a lovely, sad lyric). That record is all I can play right now.

Duncan from Blue swizzles disco stick

It's been confirmed that the song Mika did with Imogen Heap is indeed on his album We Are Golden. See the single cover here (more 70's cartoony stuff) and the recent Observer piece. I like Mika well enough, I just don't love his music.

How many songs have sampled this Dennis Edwards track? Can you name any? Siedah Garrett sings it.

My LastFM lists are wrong-o, peoples. I may need to reset it. Tristan by Patrick Wolf is not my favorite or most-played song!

Prefab Sprout's terrible new album title and cover!
The release date is Sept 7 2009.

Imogen Heap
's First Train Home.
http://bit.ly/G5Z1F She seems to be getting more British, did you notice?

Both the new Sharkia (She Wolf, the one about water coolers at work) and the new Sally Shapiro remind me of Annie http://www.myspace.com/shap...

Just finished reviewing new David Guetta record in 125 economical words. Love DID take over and the second Kelly Rowland track is solid.
Until that's out, the July Instinct has my reviews of the US Little Boots EP and some other thing I forget...

Have decided the new Maxwell CD is gorgeous. The deluxe edition has a nice EPK. Here is an excerpt about my favorite song, Help Somebody.

aking bets that Madonna's new single Celebrate "interpolates" Holiday, that the cover of the hits record is an old, lame pic and that Gambler's not on the CD.

About little (or not so little?) sammytaylor: I flipped on BBC America last night and - voila! - his voice was wafting across the USA via Logo's Beautiful People series. Pick your arms up baby, fly.

Just got the deluxe edition of Trashcan Sinatras new CD and my name is in it as a contributor! I played harp and glockenspiel. But not really. I just paid a lot of cash money to get the special version.

has a new tune called We've Got Scurvy on the SpongeBob Squarepants Greatest Hits. No joke! My parents always said I was going to get that (eat your fruit and vedge...
). Cee-Lo did the theme song (stream it, geeks!). I have a theory that SpongeBob and his sidekick Patrick Star are lovers. I mean, that one is a pink starfish AND they always end up in their underwear! Just sayin'.
Adam Ant called from 1983 and he wants his look and sound back: http://bit.ly/1WtoMc Sorry, that was a pathetic Aniston reference. I like the Preston song, but THIS is the real thing, Desperate but not serious...
New Nerina Pallot song title: When Did I Become Such A Bitch

In case you did not notice, She & Him have covered The Smiths' Please Please Please for the new 500 Days Of Summer soundtrack. Out now.

Download a new Air song here: http://www.aircheology.com/ but be warned that Air are giving away said song because it. ain't. too. damned. good.

Very different sound for A Fine Frenzy on their new single Blow Away:. Safely, her new album cover takes a beautiful girl and makes her look harsh.

Are you following the Ghost of Jacko on Twitter? He is following me. I have my suspicions who this is, but it does add new layers of meaning to You Are Not Alone!

Finally, I find it weird that Madonna does her sound checks with some audience in the stadium. See Frozen below (I think she's holding back the full effect of the dancing):

July 13, 2009

C'mon angel, let's exchange the experience

MPHO covers Kate Bush's Running Up That Hill

The proof in the pudding that MPHO (that's Mm-poh) is not just another video blogger "star." This is one of the best covers of Running that I've heard (my other fave is Claudia Brucken's with Andrew Poppy). MPHO has talent and taste, which was already evident from her ebullient - that's the best word for it - debut single below.

MPHO Box N Locks

I said on my Twitter tonight that this is becoming a magical year for music. It didn't start that way but summer often brings amazing surprises. For more coverage of MPHO, see ArjanWrites and MuuMuse.

Shakira's She Wolf set FREE...

It's the new Shakira single cover!

No, wait. This is the cover:

Get the song FREE today (July 13) at ABC.com

It'll be interesting to see which artists choose to give their singles away via a free download. As for the music, has "Shaki" been listening to Annie? It sounds like Annie, but with the occasional tell-tale bleating. I love it. It's a literal howler with70's disco strings and BONKER lyrics...

A domesticated girl, that's all you ask of me
Darling it is no joke, this is lycanthropy
Moon’s awake now, with eyes wide open
My body is craving, so feed the hungry

...Starting to feel just a little abused
like a coffee machine in an office

July 10, 2009

Dangerous Muse cannot keep their clothes on

WOT? Is the Dangerous Muse record actually happening? THREE long years in the making. The first single is I Want It All -here's a teaser - or a cock teaser, as it were.

Part 1, Behind the scenes:

Part 2, whips and chains:

You can hear more of the single from this earlier "preview":

Why do they bother with clothing at all? When last we saw Mike Furey, he looked like this (NSFW via LastFM).

Imogen Heap: First Train Home premiers Friday

Imogen Heap on Twitter:

imogenheapIf you're around Friday PST 10.20am, tune into the on-air world premier of First Train Home. <3>http://immi.fm/T Exciting! x

Specifics: Imogen is currently on a "whistle-stop" promo tour of the US and will be popping into Santa Monica's KCRW radio station on July 10th to premiere First Train Home, the first single from upcoming album Ellipse. Listen online...

What time is that where you are? Check here

Update via Wongie:

July 8, 2009

Do not go into the light, Xolondon!

One week on and my computer drama continues, I should be all hooked up again Saturday. Seriously, I have not updated my ipod in 8 days! That is a record - and tediously boring. 7300 songs and nothing to play. I hope things will return to normal soon, if only because I cannot type on this teensy keyboard I am borrowing.

Meanwhile, feel free to follow me on Twitter.

July 7, 2009

Six degrees of Róisín Murphy (and friends)

Amanda Ghost, the new President of Epic Records (and a fine singer) has teamed up with five great women - Róisín Murphy, Sinead O’Connor, Micachu, thecocknbullkid and Alessi’s Ark - to record a cover of Chaka Khan’s I’m Every Woman for ActionAid. It's available NOW as a free download from www.actionaid.org.uk/6degrees .

Amanda Ghost started the track and passed it on first to Micachu and Alessi’s Ark, who added their vocals and then sent around to the other women. It's a clever idea, yes?

ActionAid says this about the project:

The Six Degrees project is inspired by the idea that we are all only six introductions away from everybody else on the planet... Show your support for women around the world fighting for an end to the violence and discrimination that keeps poor women poor. Download I’m Every Woman and share it with six friends.

Róisín Murphy glitterball photo by Felix Clay via the Róisín Murphy Blog

Rufus, from one prima donna to another

Longtime "XO fave" Rufus Wainwright is about to launch his new opera, Prima Donna, in Manchester. Tonight, BBC's Imagine is airing a documentary about him. He'll also be on Jonathan Ross this Friday night, July 10.

The storyline for the opera:
Paris. Bastille Day. 1970. Régine Saint Laurent, once the world’s most revered operatic soprano, is preparing for her return to the stage after six years of silence. But in doing so, Régine is forced to confront the ghosts of her past. Can she defeat the demons that destroyed her career, and emerge triumphantly once more into the spotlight?
Here's Rufus discussing it...

Read my short, sassy (and gossip-laden) 2007 interview with Rufus here...

Thanks Phil!!

July 6, 2009

Obsessed: Florence + The Machine widget

The best album of 2009? Maybe so, maybe so...

Note that 7 Digital is selling it to UK buyers for £5.00, though both iTunes UK versions have an epic bonus track, Swimming.

July 4, 2009

Madonna v2009: Shot out of a rocket

Madonna resurrects Michael Jackson for her new tour...

Here are some behind the scenes videos from the the last leg of Madonna's Sticky & Sweet Tour. In the first clip, the now-cliched pre-show prayer circle, I love how she says, "I don't know about you guys, but I'm really excited about tonight's show." Wouldn't it have been great if one of the cast had said, "Mmmm-hmmm, maybe if it were the Confessions Tour"? The new setlist, which includes Dress You Up, Frozen and Holiday, actually makes me want to see this show, unlike the 2008 incarnation...

Pimpin' and prayin'?:

Boss lady:

Jump-rope diva:

Tick tock etc etc:

Hard Candy Music will likely have all the details of the summer tour.

July 2, 2009

Do not be alarmed beautiful ones.

I am experiencing technical difficulties of the f*cked c-drive kind. We are in "data recovery mode" so I may slow down a bit over the next few days. I'll be back and beautiful as soon as possible. Until then, let me know what you think of the Florence and The Machine album!

July 1, 2009

The Gadsdens do good.

The Gadsdens' Sailor Song was chosen by Greenpeace, Oxfam and WaterAid as the music for this year's Glastonbury Festival awareness video.

The video was shown on the main stage throughout the festival and highlights the amazing work these charities are involved with and how the money raised by the event is used.

Congratulations to Jody and the band. This has been a long time coming and it's wonderful that such a beautiful song is associated with such powerful - and real life - images.