September 30, 2009

2009: Q3 - Summer Part II

Here, in no order, are my Top Songs for the third quarter of 2009. A few rules: There are none. I used to have many rules, but what good did they come to? This is free love. This is like all the things you can fit inside a memory.

Natalie Imbruglia
Want video
Editors Papillon video
Imogen Heap Wait It Out hear it
Dragonette Pick Up The Phone video
Calvin Harris Flashback
Bananarama Love Comes video
Sugababes About A Girl (Keisha Mix) hear it
Fibes Oh Fibes! with Kim Wilde Run To You myspace
Maxwell Help Somebody hear it
MPHO Box'n'Locks video
Paloma Faith New York video
The Mummers Tale To Tell
Florence & The Machine Drumming Song video
Beverly Knight Turned To Stone
A Fine Frenzy Stood Up hear it
Prefab Sprout Ride hear it
Florence & The Machine Swimming hear it
Frankmusik Vacant Heart hear it

What are your favorites? What did I forget?

Worthy albums this summer: Paloma Faith, A Fine Frenzy, Dan Arborise, Dan Black, Florence And The Machine, Frankmusik, Maxwell, Prefab Sprout.

What's coming: Dragonette, MPHO, Robbie Williams, Mr Hudson, Sugababes (?!), Cheryl Cole, Editors, Annie, Erik Hassle, Spandau Ballet

Not Quite What I'd Hoped For: Imogen Heap

photo by Hedi Slimane

September 29, 2009

Kylie US show attendees do not watch this!

No, that is not Boy George in the hat - you'll know what I mean- it's William Baker (Kylie's Main Gay/creative director).

Meanwhile, as this post goes up, I am at a U2 show. "Totally different head. Totally."

Celebrating Madonna

10 Thoughts About Madonna's new Hits Collection

1 Best image in the booklet (2-disc version only; 1 disc = useless!): shown above

2 Wonkiest lyric: From What It Feels Like For A Girl: "Hands that rest on jutting hips, repenting." No Madonna, the image of hands on hips - arms akimbo? - suggests defiance, not repentance.

3 Sharpest lyric: From Don't Tell Me: "Tell the bed not to lay like the open mouth of a grave / Not to star up at me like a calf down on its knees." Lines most likely written by her brother-in-law, Joe Henry.

4 Track that has aged better than expected: the weird, sensual Justify My Love

5 Song that does not deserve to be here: The shiteous new Lil Wayne "feature" Revolver

6 Most missed song: sweet pop Angel or rare disco gem Gambler or soul lifter Nothing Fails

7 Most unexpected song, but a good choice: Dress You Up

8 Version of Madonna missing from the video collection: Herky Jerky Geisha Madonna from Nothing Really Matters

9 Video I could have lived without: Love Profusion

10 Celebration? Get back to me in a year to say whether it's just fine or great.

XO's Top Ten Plus One Madonna Songs, in no order...

Like A Prayer
Live To Tell
Into The Groove
Get Together
Papa Don't Preach

September 28, 2009

Keane: Hopes And Fears deluxe edition

A 2 disc, 37-track "Deluxe Edition" of Keane's first album, the perfect Hopes And Fears, comes out on November 9, 2009. I often wax rhapsodic on hearing my (still-to-this-day) favorite Keane song, Your Eyes Open, while lying on a hotel bed in London in May 2004. Some details on the release:

In addition to the original tracklisting, this album showcases previously unreleased and rare material including early demo Into The Light, recordings from the band’s earliest Steve Lamacq and Jo Whiley radio sessions... and their debut self-released singles. The sleeve notes have been penned by long-time supporter Steve Lamacq.

Though it includes the beautiful song (Snowed Under) that spawned the album's title, this collection is also notable for what's NOT included. The Hopes And Fears singles were famous for b-sides that, in many cases, were stronger that album tracks. Sadly missing are Snowed Under's companion piece, Walnut Tree, as well as To The End Of The Earth, Fly To Me, Something In Me Was Dying, and She Opens Her Eyes. Interestingly, the superb DJ Shadow remix of We Might As Well Be Strangers is included.

The full tracklisting of the Deluxe Edition is Keane's site.

Keane Your Eyes Open:

September 24, 2009

NEW Dragonette MP3: We Rule The World

This is a stormer. A (legal) new track from Dragonette's forthcoming CD, Fixin' To Thrill, which has a brilliant Jean-Paul Goude-ish cover - the one I posted last week.

These guys live a kind of endless youth through their music. It channels memories of being young, when everything was full of possibility. Cliched, I know, but true. Every once in awhile I have an evening like that, where I make eye contact with everyone I see on the city streets and feel completely confident. Happy in the moment. Dragonette's music soundtracks those feelings...

Dragonette We Rule The World MP3

We've got the super hero costumes,
Know how to change our clothes in a phone booth

So let's pretend that we all rule the world.

Track 7 on the new CD, this begins with an All Through The Night-ish intro line and takes off quickly into a guitar/ electropop epic with pinging synths and a trademark massive chorus (their "shiny secret weapon" as usual).

If you haven't seen their new video for Pick Up The Phone, it's proper brilliant. Dragonette's one of the few bands to give a shit about making quality videos these days, and the song is one of the finest of 2009.

September 22, 2009

Paloma Faith: Grandeur is a underrated virtue

I wanted the truth AND I wanted something beautiful. Paloma Faith delivers both. Her debut album is released September 28, but you can stream it now in the player above. When I first heard Stone Cold Sober, I immediate wrote her off as "post-Winehouse." And then I heard the literally majestic New York (watch it here). That track is just a touch on her debut: I cannot think of a more ambitious, expensive sounding album. It sounds like it was recorded by an army dressed in tulle and ribbons...

A hastily composed track-by-track:

Stone Cold Sober is still not my favorite, but I do like the long, heavy intro. Hope it's on the CD.

Smoke And Mirrors has a big glittery bauble of a chorus. The show's over, the audience is walking out...

Broken Doll - tinkly pianos, strings and girl backup singers. This one is hard to pin down.

Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful is more vocal/lyric focused until a massive instrumental middle eight that sounds like the Blue Angels (jets) overhead.

Upside Down like speakeasy music. Uber retro - and perhaps vocally the most Winehouse.

Romance Is Dead's chorus reminds me of something I can't pinpoint. Anyone else know?

New York is dominated by this: 2:12 to 2:43. That's what sold me on Paloma.

Stargazer is a lush watery midtempo recalls the late, great Lamya on the verses and Michael Jackson at his most romantic on the chorus. My early favorite.

My Legs Are Weak is an elegant old soul ballad

Play On, the finale, is all about the blaring chorus. You'll know what I mean when you hear it - a great effect.

Further reading: Don't Stop The Pop covers Paloma live at The Scala in London.

September 21, 2009

Review: Mika's The Boy Who Knew Too Much

We are not what you think we are. We are golden, we are GOLDEN

My pets - Lucinda and Jasper - review the new Mika album:
This is shit. WHO are these wailing cats? We could have done these vocals much better. End of.
Seriously. Rain, One Foot Boy and the Imogen Heap duet were all I could take from this glampop shriek-fest. Fans will like this album because it's more of the Big Girls version of Mika (versus the Relax or the more subdued My Interpretation version). Note to the artist: You are no longer a boy. Put the toy diggers away, get your clothes on and step out of that kid's room.

Mr. Hudson, looking fit.

From the new American GQ Magazine:

His new single White Lies is out October 12th and the album, Straight No Chaser, is out October 19.

September 19, 2009

10 Questions

photo by Hedi Slimane from his blog

01 For Prefab Sprout fans, where do you file the new album Let's Change The World With Music? Chronologically after Jordan The Comeback (1991) or after The Gunman And Other Stories (2001)?

02 Why didn't Natalie Imbruglia record her whole album with Chris Martin? The three songs he did with her, Want, Lukas (a Coldplay leftover) and Fun are by far the best on her new album. In fact, Lukas may be in my Top 20 this year.

03 Why won't record labels work out some sort of international tariff so I can pay ten extra cents and download tracks from iTunes UK and iTunes Sweden. Would they rather figure out ways to invade the privacy of fans via ISPs?

04 Why does Madonna think she can direct a feature film? And why the story of Wallis And Mrs Simpson as told by - get this - Alek Truth or Dare Keshishian. Oh. Wait. "A love story of a pinched, tough-as-nails woman and her fair skinned British husband."

05 Did Janet Jackson think she'd fool us into believing free track Make Me was good by dropping in Michael Jackson song references? But hey, it was free.

06 What happened to the next Royksopp record, Senior?

07 What ever happened to the second video Imogen Heap shot for First Train Home?

08 Why did The Gossip's label choose to release the CD version of Men In Love - the title song is a current favorite (hear it) - in the United States almost 5 months after releasing the album in the UK and on US iTunes?

09 Why did Pet Shop Boys bungle the release date/tracklist of the Beautiful People single?

10 How brilliant is the new Dragonette song, Pick Up The Phone? It's monofuckinglithic. Such a bigass sound. I love them. DC9 on Nov 6, I am there. Other tour dates here (stream it there too).

September 18, 2009

Dragonette cover: AMAZING

Absolutely brilliant. Dragonette always have fantastic art. I still get excited by the glossy-papered booklet for their last CD, Galore. New Richard X remixes at Hard Candy Music.

*title of this post - apologies to PopJustice.

In the You Must Be Kidding Department

A Christmas album with New-Face-Tori as the angel?

From the press release:

"For Midwinter Graces, Amos has again teamed up with long time collaborators Matt Chamberlain on drums, Jon Evans on bass, and Mac Aladdin on guitars. Tori has enlisted the help of a Big Band and an Orchestra with stunning John Philip Shenale arrangements to create Tori’s new seasonal classics."

1. What Child, Nowell
2. Star of Wonder
3. A Silent Night with You
4. Candle: Coventry Carol
5. Holy, Ivy, and Rose
6. Harps of Gold
7. Snow Angel
8. Jeanette, Isabella
9. Pink and Glitter
10. Emmanuel
11. Winter’s Carol
12. Our New Year

After what is probably her worst-selling record to date, she has the same recording crew (take a risk!), very few Christmas songs we know. Oh. Tori.

September 16, 2009

Don't give it up Siobhán Donaghy

Must read: Pony Step interviews Siobhán Donaghy.

She's the real deal, a pop artist who really wants to make art. And she makes a fair (and fantastic) point that her brilliant album Ghosts - my 2007 Album of the Year - seems to foreshadowed Florence and the Machine and Bat For Lashes. And she is recording something, though it's not discussed.

There is comment I take issue with. Her simplistic belief that Sugababes are...
...just three people that will be maneuvered by the people around them. That's why I can never look to their success and admire it or want that. Whatever producer they work with, they sound like.
I'd actually say the Babe's voices override the various styles they try... no matter what Sugababes do, it's recognizable as them. So why does Siobhan have a go at them? Aside from having different musical goals, she says:
[Keisha] never wanted me in that band and made my life a living hell. It’s funny... all these years on, I’ve grown up and I’ve left it all behind me and I’m not bothered by it... I like to think about the good things in life, always focus on the positive, and Zen and all that shit. But I’ll never forgive her.
Again, excellent interview by Pony Step

UPDATE: The song she mentions, Questa Notte, recorded by Ludovico Einaudi on piano, is really beautiful. You can find it on iTunes.

September 14, 2009

Playlist: The dog days are over

We are in a truly great period for pop music. This fall there are a number of massive sounding singles that are so uplifting, they just carry us right up above the political drama and polarization that has extended beyond America into almost every country. I seriously wonder what will happen, we have become so divided and so angry. The hope of January has been smothered in uneducated, blind rage. Civility is in rapid decline and it worries me because karma has a way of delivering a brutal smackdown in times such as these. So I close the door and go back to music, as I always do.

Beverly Knight Turned To Stone.
I tweeted the other day that this song reminds me a great deal of being in the UK in the 90's, when the "soul pop" was so great. This song is not dated so much as organic, with no shitty mod r'n'b speed singing or Flo Rida rapper feature. She allows her voice to be out front and the chorus really blows up into something anthem. The final minute of vamping is
superb with all the ad libs. Seriously, as an American I don't even know who Knight is, but this is how they used to do it. on iTunes UK

Prefab Sprout Ride
My choice for standout track from the "lost" 1993 album, which is a fan's dream. You can see hear the label got nervous hearing this song at the time. It's about religion - "They will ride, ride home to Jesus heads held high..." - but it's more a love song to those who have faith than a love song to Christianity. "They don't walk in God's light/ They just walk the way they do / because it's right." The music is galloping and lush, and Paddy's voice is at it's very best. It literally shimmers. on iTunes UK - hear the song on the clip at the bottom of this post

A Fine Frenzy Stood Up
I've said it before, the Alison Sudol is like a the love child of Keane and 10000 Maniacs in their swoony Our Time In Eden era. This song is a standout on their excellent new CD, Bomb In A Birdcage, because of it's simple chorus and ballsy arena guitars. The end is literally chill inducing with the crowd chanting "we are not!" and Alison (briefly) wailing her ass off in a way I'd not expected. Amazing. on iTunes worldwide

Mayer Hawthorne A Strange Arrangement
The most honest way to describe this is seventies pop soul. I've seen references linking Mayer to Marvin Gaye, but this song is pure Todd "Hello It's Me" Rundgren. I don't love his other tunes so much, but here is a creamy mid-tempo that reminds me of AM radio when I was a very little child. Lush. on iTunes worldwide

Not released yet, but brilliant...

Sugababes About A Girl
After the shit-tastic Right Said Fred rip off get Sexy (sorry, that song is just pandering radio fodder!), Girls bring it back with a - shudders - RedOne collaboration. You know it's RedOne because they do the whole silly "Darkchild"esque shout out at the beginning and then it goes up up up. This tune is fucking massive - can you imagine it on a huge sound system? It's of the same family with Calvin Harris's Flashback - a huge club track that has a heart. I asked my friend to play it for her two-year-old daughter. It has everything Anjali will like, especially catchy chanting. The middle eight is brilliant and literally sweet: "Girls bring the fun of life, sugar like apple pie."

What do I not love? The new Robbie Williams single Bodies. It's trying too hard to be every Robbie song in one, but it's as good as none of them. And ChartRigger is right, the lyrics about Bodhi Tree and wanting to look good naked are absolute twaddle. I know some will disagree, especially since his return is considered to be so welcome in many quarters.

Prefab Sprout Ride:

New Janet Jackson song

Janet Jackson is offering a free unreleased song on her website today. It's called Make Me and it's pretty good - produced by Rodney Jerkins (thankfully minus the "Darkchild" bit). As for her tribute to Michael last night, it was very humbly done. She only appeared during the one song they sang together, Scream. Michael was honored via dance, which worked very well. 

September 12, 2009

Fibes v Kim: There's no turning back from who we are

No video yet for Fibes, Oh Fibes! duet with Kim Wilde, but you can watch them below, performing it at some festival. I love how Christian Olsson's clothes never seem to cover him, even in their press pics. He always has on a very low-cut teeshirt and his pants seem sort of draped on (watch the end of the clip). He's very touchy feely, how he clings to her during the performance. You just know that if you invited Christian over for a drink, he'd be "all over that" in a hot minute.

Bless Kim Wilde for kicking this out after all these years. She looks great and she rocks and it's nice that Fibes recognized that.

Thanks to Day By Day Kim Wilde

September 11, 2009

Editors: Sleep twitch, sweet twitch? Whatever, it's great.

Three bits about Editors:

1 Their album has a pleasing title, In This Light And On This Evening
2 Their album cover is deluxe.


3 Their blinding new single Papillon is like Gary Numan meets Peter Murphy meets Depeche. The chorus is lovely and that line it kicks like a sleep twitch is wicked (I vote sleep vs sweet).

Editors Papillon:

September 10, 2009

Tweet tweet music

Before I started twittering, I was quite dismissive of it. Not blatantly, because I like technology and chattiness equally. I would just slightly curl my lip when people mentioned their "tweets" and [shudder] "tweetpeeps." And then I decided to try it. Some knew what I did not: that I'd become a complete Twitter slut. Anyway, I usually twitter a few things in the AM and PM. I tend to respond "@" a lot, so if you're following many of the same people I am, you may learn to hate me. The good news is that I usually to stick to music, versus talk of cutting my toenails or whatnot.

Click here or on the image to get to my Twitter page. Follow me, follow me...

There is a perhaps-fair image of Twitters and bloggers tapping away on their keyboards as everything falls apart around them ("Hmm? My house is on fire? Where?"). Here is a good Telegraph piece on 50 Things That Are Being Killed By The Internet.

September 9, 2009

Dragonette: We're going places you never dreamed about

Dragonette Pick Up the Phone

As a big fan of Dragonette's debut album, Galore, I have to admit a sense of disappointment at their recent singles Fixin' To Thrill - it didn't - and the other one with the country video, Gone Too Far. But a Man In The Know alerted me at the time that there was much I'd love on their new album. He was right: Pick Up The Phone is sublime (and actually superior to the mellow remix that leaked this summer).

The video has great lighting and color effects and a few moments that remind me of early Madonna videos, with Martine running around having a laugh. She's cut from the same effortlessly cool cloth as Deborah Harry and Pat Benatar: confident, a little bit insouciant, and beautiful without using that beauty as a crutch. It's only the smart boys who realize some of the tomboys were actually the hottest girls. And Martine has great style - look at her feet in this clip. To quote Prince, "Isn't life a little better with a pair of good shoes?"

If you don't already know Dragonette, their 2007 album is on iTunes. Favorite tracks: Competition, Take It Like A Man, I Get Around and the ballad that belatedly nailed me in 2008, Another Day.

September 8, 2009

Romance is not dead: Richard Hawley

Richard Hawley For Your Lover, Give Some Time

Breaking a moment from the Sugababes and glitter balls, I want to proclaim my love for a song that is merely quiet on first listen and then blooms like a rose. Richard Hawley is the man for swoony ballads, often forlorn. This one is proper romance.

I will give up these cigarettes
Stay at home and watch you mend the tears in your dress
have your name in rose tattooed across my chest
And be your lover for all time

The song,
with a new b-side, Sorry I Lost My Way, is on iTunes now. Here is the album version:

My favorite Hawley ballad is the utterly shattering The Ocean (video). It's on iTunes everywhere - try him, especially if it's raining and you are alone.

September 7, 2009

Alison Moyet, 25 years on

Have you ever felt a sense of pride for artists you love who've managed to create beautiful music for many years longer than the usual pop icon shelf life? I feel that about
Alison Moyet, whose new collection,The Best of Alison Moyet: 25 Years Revisited, is out in early October. The deluxe version has 11 "new live versions of songs from her back catalogue with the band who are accompanying her on this tour." They are: 1. All Cried Out 2. Ski 3. Hoodoo 4. Ordinary Girl 5. Midnight 6. This House 7. Find Me 8. Footsteps 9. Is This Love? 10. Situation 11. Wishing You Were Here

Notice in my favorites list below how many tracks are from Alison's 1994 album, Alf. Looking back, that was one of the records from my teen years that essentially "got me through" a bad period. It's perfect. Swain and Jolley, the producers, were at the top of their game. Numerous artists have hinted that the duo were difficult and controlling, including Alison, who seems to have
mixed feelings about this album.

XO's Top Ten Plus One Alison Moyet songs

Do You Ever Wonder?

Should I Feel That It's Over
Love Resurrection video
Honey For The Bees
Steal Me Blind
All Cried Out video
Where Hides Sleep
One More Time

Don't Go (Yaz)
Wishing You Were Here

Alison Moyet Invisible:

If you live in the UK, you're lucky because you can see Alison live throughout November and December. Dates listed here.

September 6, 2009

Roisin: Shake your body down to the ground

Roisin Murphy live in London Hold Up Your Hands

Skip ahead to 5:44 for the Hold Up Your Hands. Deluxe. The new music is sounding like slammin' club tunes for the body. The is not a live vocal, so it may be a mix, whereas the track below sounds more like an album version.

And here is wicked Momma's Place (aka Billionaire), produced with Seiji.

Thanks Arjan for that one and thanks as always to the Hopeless Optimist.

September 4, 2009

You just want the attention

LaRoux I'm Not Your Toy:

There was a time when I could not stand LaRoux, but the majority of their record is shiny rather than tinny.

NME Magazine's recent ranking of the group as one of the top 50 innovators is beyond appalling. There is nothing remotely innovative about LaRoux's melodic regurgitation of 1982, but that doesn't take away from the high points: Bulletproof, I'm Not Your Toy, As If By Magic, Colourless Colour, and Cover My Eyes.

The new video for I'm Not Your Toy is stylishly odd, like some weird Gatsby-meets-Last Days-Of-Disco pool party. But the lyric is my life's love story:

It's all false love and affection
You don't want me
You just like the attention

Ummmm hmmmm

Update: Is this the single cover? Lush!

September 3, 2009

Tonight: Me + PSB

I've stayed away from too many spoilers for the show, though I know it's less heavy on the hits and ends with a Coldplay cover.

In actual news, last night I got a sneak listen to Vinny Vero's new remix of Beautiful People. It's going to be brilliant! You can order it from Amazon Germany here - there are not many being made, so act fast.

September 1, 2009

An education: Scott Walker

Scott Walker It's Raining Today:

The reason I am posting this will become apparent in a day or two, but I want everyone to hear my favorite Scott Walker song, which was (pleasingly) released within weeks of my birth in 19...whatever. If you know the name or voice, you probably know Walker's hits, possibly without realizing you do. Two classics: The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore and Make it Easy On Yourself. His influence on pop music is sweeping: just about any wide-screen orchestral music and passionate singing (crooning!) start with Scott. Just think of Neil Hannon and The Divine Comedy, Richard Hawley, and one that more of you will know, the great Marc Almond of Soft Cell.

The first time I heard this particular song I was in the one of the best record stores in America, one that sadly - and cynically - doesn't exist anymore: Let It Be Records in Minneapolis. They blasted this on the sound system and I bought it on the spot.

If you like pop music with strings, I urge you to play the clip above. To see how au courant Walker remains, check out the clip below from Alex Turner's side project, The Last Shadow Puppets. The video, for one of the most underrated songs of 2008, even pays homage to The Walker Brothers look...

The Last Shadow Puppets
Standing Next To Me:

Fibes, hairstyles and attitude

Thanks to Poster Girl (who really did this post first), for the news that Fibes, Oh Fibes! are streaming their new album 1987 right here.

Below is a clip of the Kim Wilde duet, Run To You