November 30, 2009

Marina, obsessed with the mess that is America

Marina & The Diamonds released a new video today for her (yes, it's just her) first official single Hollywood (see below). The track is one of the "big guns" she's been saving and it's all about the hot mess that is America. In a perfect bit of unintended guerrilla marketing, the Welsh diva(lette) has been in the United States for the past two weeks, in New York City and LA, devouring all things American, which basically means shoes, dresses and $150 breakfasts. Like so many before her who've visited New York for the first time, Marina has declared she wants to live there. To quote Sandra Bernhard, if you can make it there, you'll fail everywhere else!

The song's great and there's no getting over this gem of a line: "Oh my Gawd, you look like just like Shakira, no no you're Catherine Zeta. Actually my name's Marina." The debut album, Family Jewels, is out February 15. She's been taking some shit from fans about the unofficial tracklist having too many familiar songs, which is odd given that we've actually not heard the final versions of most of them.

Note the linked titles take you to the video or demo on youtube

1. Are You Satisfied?
2. Shampain Massive- this could be a hit single.
3. I Am Not A Robot
4. Girls
5. Mowgli's Road
6. Obsessions the best
7. Hollywood
8. The Outsider
9. Hermit The Frog
10. Rootless
11. Numb
12. Guilty

Marina & The Diamonds Hollywood:

Deluxe. It reminds me a bit of the work of photographers Ellen Von Unwerth and Tim Walker. She's totally Vogue now and, thank God, has not gone bottle blond. We don't need another goddamned blond woman in pop music, thanx (except for, of course, Ellie Goulding).

Marina & The Diamonds Glastonbury Interview 2009:

Could she be any cuter?

See also
Talia, Shiny And New, and the comprehensive fansite

November 29, 2009

2010: I Blame Coco

Caesar, the forthcoming debut single from I Blame Coco sounds kickass brilliant (hear sample). It features Robyn on the chorus, but the amazing thing is this: Robyn isn't needed. Coco's voice is a piece of mannish gorgeousness. Following the moody passion that Florence + The Machine brought to pop music in 2009, I want to see more female acts kicking out rock, rather than electropop. Coco sounds totally unique to this period in music, with her mix of rock, punk and disco. All the boxes are ticked... superb lyrics too. I am all over this next year.

November 28, 2009

Take That's week of swag

Take That Live video trailer:

Take That The Garden (live at Abbey Road):

My guilty admission: Take That's 2008 hit The Greatest Day always makes me tear up. I associate it with a lot of things, but mainly the Obama campaign and win. Look at this fan video of the opening of their July 2009 Wembley show. You can skip ahead to about 4:30 to watch the big entrance. It's corny sure, but visually cool, and it certainly provided the grandness a stadium calls for.

It's my theory that this group's success is a distinctly British phenomenon. They are native sons, or the children/brothers/boyfriends of a certain generation, so there is a love for them that transcends the usual chart rankings. British fans almost will these guys forward because they see their lives in them. That they've actually produced better songs in their thirties is what sustains it. If I could put in my two cents, it would be that their next album take a few more chances.

The Live DVD, released last week, is
already the fastest-selling music DVD of all time in the UK. This week, a separate Live 2 CD package out this week, which Fizzy Pop also reviews. I should add that The Circus tour (how many acts can use this theme? Let's put it to rest for awhile!) was staged by Es Devlin, who's done the last two Pet Shop Boys tours, as well as Kanye West and the new Lady Gaga show.

and don't forget your Take That picture book...

November 26, 2009

Quote of the Week: Little Boots

Suggestions no longer taken, thank you.

On November 11 4Music posted an interview with Victoria Hesketh, aka Little Boots.

The final question:
Your song Stuck On Repeat has a strong cult following amongst your fans. Do you plan to release it on CD at some point?

Her response:

Yeah, basically the head of Radio 1 said an eight-minute edit of Stuck on Repeat would be perfect, they'd love to put it on the A List. So to all those people who sit on pop forums who don't know anything about pop campaigns and sit dissecting other people's pop campaigns, yeah, I think an eight and a half minute edit would be played on radio and it will be a No. 1... You can go and buy a vinyl. That song is two years old now, it's not relevant to release it now. It's done its job. I think that there are a lot of people who are quite deluded about what hit songs can be.

The sarcasm is dripping off that quote, which is an obvious bullshit answer. There are plenty of fans who thought Stuck On Repeat was a hit single, me included, partly because it's similar to Donna Summer's classic I Feel Love. Play it. NO ONE suggested that an 8 minute version go to radio. That is idiotic. Peter Robinson, the respected pop music journalist, said he did not think Stuck On Repeat should be a single and clearly the "powers that be" felt the same way.

While it is true that it's pointless to second guess mistakes made with Little Boots' promotion - the worst being the lack of identity and her crap, almost offensive debut video (which is hard to find on youtube)- artists should be lucky in 2009 to have fans arguing over minutiae of their career on forums like PopJustice. That's part of being a pop star.

Victoria's album (
Hands) is a very good piece of electropop, no doubt about it. She, however, is like one of those evil blond kids in Children of the Corn. Her sense of entitlement has revealed itself in interviews she's given where she seems wanly uninterested (see how she responded to Chartrigger), a story from another musician about her rudeness toward other artists (via not following rules at a showcase), etc. The fact that she has no strong persona in pop makes this worse because then the story, fair or not, becomes what this post is about: She ain't nice.

Ultimately you are what you put out verbally as well as musically, so if you put out anger/ resentment/ tension, it will be fairly associated with you. We all know that the world's most famous living pop star (Madonna) is notoriously cranky and unkind, but we love her anyway for 25 years of brilliant music and occasional humanity along the way.

To be able to earn a living wage from music in 2009 is a privilege. Ask anyone trying to get the exposure Victoria Hesketh was handed on a plate. There are musicians more talented, smarter and wiser than her who've not found record deals. The same success-too-soon thing happened to Adele and she survived it with grace.
How any artist manages their careeer/talent is their own decision. Fans did not make Victoria's music - that is her achievement - but, at the end of the day, supporters matter. How she treats other people, including interviewers at 4Music, matters as much as how fans treat her.

She plans to launch Hands in the US next year. Should be interesting.

November 25, 2009

Quizzically: Who are these famous children?

The now-grown children of two of my favorite artists. Some clues:

Their mother is back in the news and was an icon of my teen years - at one point I thought she was the most beautiful woman on Earth. My favorite of her albums was released 25 years ago this past summer. She was not solo then, but left her famous group eventually. Their father is a pop music legend. He can sing too, but he's not known for that. He has written, literally, like 40 of the greatest pop songs of the past 30 years. Both children are musical.

The brothers with some girls. The (older) one on the right is pictured below.

November 24, 2009

RED ALERT: Sade's Soldier of Love

February 8, 2010. Pre-order.


XO's Top 10 Plus One Favorite Sade Songs

Is It A Crime
The Sweetest Taboo
War Of The Hearts
Your Love Is King
Never As Good As The First Time (extended 5:00 mix)
Haunt Me
No Ordinary Love
King Of Sorrow
You're Not The Man
By Your Side

Clearly, the album Promise dominates. That is one of my desert islands discs - it is perfect. Is It A Crime is my favorite song, primarily for the imagery ("wider than Victoria Lake, taller than the Empire State") and the careening vocal. Her best video is, interestingly, the last she's release, in Spring 2001, for King Of Sorrow. It was shot by Sophie Muller in San Juan - and she has never been so beautiful.

Mumford & Sons... this is a giddy thing

Earlier this year, I feel into passionate love with a track by Roots Union called Rough Diamonds (read post). Beautiful, rustic English folk that has just enough melodicism to verge into pop. Their album comes out in 2010, but before that we have Mumford & Sons and their own debut Sigh No More. I think this London quartet will appeal to folks who like Idlewild/Roddy Woomble, The Pogues, Passenger, and The Waterboys. One of the band, the singer, is the "Mumford" - Marcus (and he's cute) and one of them is actually named Country Winston.

Sigh No More - the title of this post comes from that song's chorus - was produced by Markus Dravs, who engineered Arcade Fire's Neon Bible, an album that will end up on many Top of The 00's lists. When he realized the band did not own any instruments he briefly kicked them out of the studio until they bought some. The songs feature banjo, bass, dobro and organ, but are usually quite muscular, often building into... not walls, but tornadoes of sound.
While the album has yet to appear on US iTunes, their single Little Lion Man is available.

The album has better tracks, in my opinion, than either of the above singles.
I highly recommend White Blank Page, which has a really bracing arrangement that comes fully alive about a minute in. The Times recently posted a free acoustic version of the song. Dust Bowl Dance (hear it) is equally thrilling, folk music rage of the kind The Waterboys did so well in the 80s and 90s. This is a band that deserves far more attention than they've received. Almost every song has a moment of catharsis, often moving from pastoral folk to tempest in four minutes.

Sign No More also has a fantastic album cover that you will see again on this blog in December. They are touring the UK in March, with some January festivals in Oz.

November 22, 2009

10 Musical Thoughts: Gaga Edition

1 So Happy I Could Die is my favorite of Lady Gaga's new Fame Monster songs. That it's about rogering oneself does not hurt. I am all for that. I touch myself, can't get enough. It's also got a straightforward, no-frills vocal.

2 Which is one of my problems with Gaga: She tends toward vocal histrionics. The leak of Bad Romance was much purer on the chorus. And Speechless. WHAT is that drunken, slurry second verse? I realize she is singing about a drunk, but it would be more powerful without the overacting.

3 The new artwork is pleasingly economical - just simple, clean and iconic images. The Bad Romance video (watch it) is brilliant, but also a "kitchen sink" production, cramming every possible visual into five minutes, including heavy product placement. Gaga consistently gilds the lily. It's too much! Best bits? The polar bear cape (?) look with sunglasses, the final "crispy" shot and, of course, the crying moments (see above).

4 Bad Romance's chorus still sounds like Bon Jovi to me. I don't like the ga ga ga ga bits, but the song is catchy as fuck nonetheless.

5 My favorite part of Alejandro is easy: Ale-Alejandro, Ale-Alejandro

6 Monster reminds me of something... Backstreet Boys? What is it?

7 The spoken Vogue rip on Dance In The Dark is grating, especially the naff referencing of Jon Benet Ramsey. And she sounds like a 50 yr old - what's the deal with that? The song basically works though. Some very big 80's synth lines running through it.

8 Telephone is the kind of hip-pop hybrid I cannot tolerate.

9 I wonder why she didn't just add about 3 more songs and hold it for late spring? A full album. She was probably thwarted by suits ("too soon!") or didn't realize she'd be so "fertile" on the road.

10 Finally, the hype is out of control. At least it's possible in 2009. With 8 tracks, this is is not the album of the year. It's a solid piece of work, though not groundbreaking. I feel like all the "greatest this, greatest that" is really just excitement over the release. Simmer on it and see what you think in 2010.

Cover Story: Charlotte Gainsbourg

Perfect album cover. I am so obsessed with her. And she gets more amazing every year. In mid March, I will be sitting at Cafe Hugo in Place des Vosges (in Paris). You think Charlotte will show up and drink a bottle of wine with me? One lives on the vapors of dreams, oui?

A preview of the
IRM édition limitée... tres belle.

November 20, 2009

Skye: Dark chocolate and red cherries

Some of you may know Skye Edwards from her role as the lead singer in Morcheeba and others may remember her from her great 2006 album, Mind How You Go. Suddenly, out of the blue, she's back with a new one this week. It's called Keeping Secrets - that's the cover image above, sort of a cross between Nina Simone and Grace Jones. Interestingly the album is produced primarily by Ivor Guest, Grace's lover who did her brilliant 2008 record Hurricane. Her myspace page says the music sounds like "dark chocolate and red cherries" and that actually works. It's often languid, but with undercurrents of stronger emotions. My favorite song from Secrets (thus far) is I Believe, which manages to be both creeping and fluttery. Skye recorded it with U2 collaborator Daniel Lanois.

If you've never heard her work, I urge you to try a few tunes from the last album: Tell Me All About Your Day, What's Wrong With Me (video), Love Show (video) and the truly revelatory Stop Complaining (hear it). That album also spawned one of my favorite posts on this blog.

the final 40 seconds of this video is really beautiful

Keeping Secrets is on iTunes now.

November 19, 2009

Charlotte in a tennis skirt

Charlotte Gainsbourg & Beck Heaven Can Wait:

Brilliant video for a throwaway song. Gone are the strings and elegance from Charlotte Gainsbourg's debut 5:55. They've been replaced by Beck's sort of droll cynicism, which is reflected in this video. There are some great images, but really, I don't like Charlotte slumming it with obese children in LA nearly as much as I like Charlotte in Paris...

Read my 2007 review of the must-have 5:55

Decade's end: The Year 2004

Early morning view from my room in Shanghai.

2004. Brilliant year! This blog is born! Back in London! Good year.

My favorite song was, without a doubt, Keane's swoony epic, Your Eyes Open, which reminded me of Ultravox and hits like Reap The Wild Wind. This was the return of the romantic male singing voice after years in the growling butch wilderness. My other favorite song was unlikely: Nancy Sinatra's performance of a song Morrissey wrote for her, Let Me Kiss You. Because melancholy is the best.

XO's Favorite Songs of 2004

Keane Your Eyes Open
John Frusciante Carvel
Rufus Wainwright Waiting For A Dream
Morrissey My Life Is A Succession of People Saying Goodbye
The Killers All These Things That I’ve Done
Delays Wanderlust
The Divine Comedy Our Mutual Friend
Bjork Who Is It
Kylie Minogue I Believe In You
Nancy Sinatra Let Me Kiss You
Finn Brothers Gentle Hum
The Honeymoon Come Undone
Kings Of Convenience Gold In The Air Of Summer
George Michael Precious Box
Girls Aloud The Show
Gwen Stefani What You Waiting For
Kelis Marathon

I had two favorite albums, both new bands, but only one survived. Hopes And Fears by Keane and Dialog by the now-defunct The Honeymoon. The biggest surprise in 2004 was the unbelievably perfect return of Morrissey, who not only nailed his album, You Are The Quarry, but also most of the 12 b-sides.

As I said, 2004 was the first year of this blog. Here are my Best of 2004 posts, where you'll see a slight variation on the list above - my opinion has changed with time - and more description.

November 16, 2009

In which Shirley Bassey twists the collective tit

There's a great story about Dame Judi Dench, in which a London cabbie yells at her, "You stupid cunt!" and Dench replies, "That's Dame Cunt to you!" Brilliant, whether it's true or not. The dame/diva brandishes wit as a weapon. Shirley Bassey's brilliant new album - more on it soon - has a track written for her by Rufus Wainwright. It's called Apartment (hear it below) and one line leaps out:

I don't want to kiss that faggot froggy
Lyrically, the song features a lot of references to fables and children's stories like Rapunzel and Cinderella, so the full line is

I don't want to kiss that faggot froggy / Don't want to fall in love with the beast or the beauty / Get me out of this, this here fairytale / According to me, dreams are hell.

In these situations, we have to look at what we already know: That Rufus is a literate, gay writer with a dry sense of humor. That Bassey has a legion of gay fans and her own dry sense of humor. That, in context, it seems to mean priss... or something.
When she performed it at Electric Proms, she highlighted it with a smile. There is clearly no malicious intent.

But in these situations, it's hard not to look at the flip side of what we know: That faggot, when used in a certain tone and context, is a truly vicious word, in my opinion far worse than a word like fairy (which, in this case, would have been a pun). It's unlikely Wainwright would have "co-opted" any other fill-in-the-blank derogatory term and equally unlikely the label would have allowed said word onto the album, Shirley's "grand return."

Rufus Wainwright is often too clever for his own good. Why bait Bassey? But then, I suspect a Dame calls her own shots.

What do you think?

November 15, 2009

Flash mobs make me happy.

Why can't I be around when a flash mob appears? In this case at The Grove in Los Angeles in celebration of Janet Jackson. I love how it grows as it goes (a pun Janet would approve of?). Janet actually showed up and was hidden up in a balcony about one of the stores. That must have been moving for her, to see all those people dancing in unison to her music.

Watching this and hearing how good those songs were makes me realize just how weak her last few albums have been.

A Britney Spears Pothole

Amazingly, the title of this post is not a drug reference. American insurance company Geico has launched a new commercial featuring a car hitting a pothole and getting a flat. The pothole then speaks... and "she" sounds as if she's inspired by a certain Louisiana-born icon, doesn't she?

November 11, 2009

Decade's end: The Year 2003

I was about to say that I don't even remember anything about 2003, but I think I blocked it out. My one image of that year is breaking the phone in absolute frustration and anxiety. So dramatique. But about the music, 2003 was a great year: I was passionately obsessed with every song below, all of them. More than any other year in the 00s. The top three are, by the way, truly the top three songs.

XO's Favorite Songs of 2003

Turin Brakes
Painkiller (Summer Rain)
"My love giving me head / Feeling very guilty breakin the bread..."
Rufus Wainwright I Don’t Know What It Is
"Putting all of my time in learning to care / And a bucket of rhymes I threw up somewhere / Want a locket of who made me lose my perfunctory view / Of all that is around / And of all that I do."
Stars Elevator Love Letter
"My office glows all night long / It's a nuclear show / And the stars are gone / Elevator, elevator, take me home." A MASTERPIECE, this song!
Roddy Frame Surf
"When I was young the radio played just for me / It saved me / And now I don't want anyone who wants me, baby. / Tuning out the darkness / Turning on the dawn / If life was like the songs / I'd surf into the waves / And in a splash of silver she'd be gone.
The Cardigans Communication
"Well this is an invitation / It's not a threat / If you want communication, that's what you get / I'm talking and talking but I don't know how to connect / And I hold a record for being patient... / With your kind of hesitation / I need you, you want me, but I don't know how to connect / so I disconnect."
Erlend Oye Like Gold
"My baby, my baby, you're everything to me / When you're gone, there's no one / I'm just lonely / "My baby" - I've never used those words / But that's all I could call / Someone sweet as you / Someone sweet as you.""
Goldfrapp Tiptoe
This song is not about the words, which I cannot understand. It's about the atmosphere.
Madonna Nothing Fails
No particular line, this song is about the most honest vocal Madonna has ever sung. A sensual Mary Travers!
Deepest Blue Deepest Blue
Love the idea of the title. Who is your deepest blue? I could tell you mine, but I won't.
Pet Shop Boys Miracles
"Thunder is silent before you / Roses bloom more to adore you too / Miracles happen /when you're around."
Fleetwood Mac Everybody Finds Out
"When love starts out in the darkness / It doesn't do well in the light / Affairs of the heart / That start out in the dark/ Usually stay with the night. / When nobody sees them / At least not together / She rarely goes out / She speeds everyday, waiting for the day /When everybody finds out." SLAMMING EPIC.
Annie Lennox Loneliness
"When I call your name, I'm gonna scream out loud and say / Here I am, standing in the crowd / You say come to me with your open mind / You never know what you still might find."
Simply Red Home
"So fake cool image should be over/ Cause I long for a feeling of home / Real life depicted in song." What does that mean? Whatever , it flows.
Beyonce Crazy In Love
"Got me hoping you'll page me right now." Nice Sopranos reference too.
Pink Catch Me While I’m Sleeping
The best song Prince never wrote. Everyone should download this.
Will Young Stronger The fist song that made think Will would extend beyond the limitations of his Idol start.
Alicia Keys Diary
"Lay your head on my pillow / Here you can be yourself / No one has to know what you are feeling / No one but me and you"
Thomas Newman Angels In America theme
No lyric, but a beautiful song. I wrote about this once and promptly deleted it.

The album of the year is perhaps the best of the decade, Want One by Rufus Wainwright.

and here are some epics that should be on this list...
Josh Rouse Comeback (Light Therapy) / Shack Carousel / Starsailor Telling Them / Sugababes Conversation's Over

Welcome return: Lucky Soul

The first single, White Russian Doll, from their March 2010 album, Coming Of Age.

Lucky Soul White Russian Doll from Ruffa Lane

If you don't know Lucky Soul, read these posts. They're one of the few bands that can be described as having vim, verve and vigor. Their last album, The Great Unwanted, is on iTunes, as well as Whoa Billy!, an amazing single from early 2009 that you can hear on this post.

PS: How about that new logo, design whores?

November 9, 2009

First listen: All Over The World, v..Xmas

Go to this BBC Player and drag the time to 1:29 to hear the new Marius De Vries production of Pet Shop Boys' All Over The World, the song that should have been the first single from Yes. Although, yesss, it is a clever song for Christmas given the song being built around The Nutcracker Suite.

It's a throwback to the days when the Boys would tweak album tracks or rerecord them for singles The strings seem grander, especially around the middle eight.. and is the vocal redone?

thanks to PopJustice Forums

November 8, 2009

Amen, all that we've been through.

It's been a year since one of the greatest nights of my life - election night 2008. For one 24-hour period, everything that was wrong with the world was suddenly okay. Fixable. The feeling in Washington the next morning was brilliant. In a city that went 92% to Obama, there was an incredible and rare sense of true community.

For 2010, I'd like to hear THIS version of Janet Jackson return to music. An absolutely amazing and moving song from 1993's janet.

Today we went to the Newseum and saw this photo of Obama, which won a Pulitzer Prize this year. It was taken by Damon Winter of the NYT in Chester PA on October 28, a week before the election. I understand that some people are disappointed with him, but I think nine months is not enough time to right so many complex wrongs. We have to let this play out.

November 7, 2009

2010: We are not golden, we are neon golden

Neon Gold is a 21st century story. Like counterpart Modular in Australia (Ladyhawke, Cut Copy, Van She, etc), they're bringing out incredible new music that manages to straddle indie, pop and other genres, usually with a keen sense of melody. Based in New York, Neon Gold was started in 2008 by two college students: Lizzy Plapinger (Vassar '10) and Derek Davies (NYU, yr?). Back in the early days of blogging they did a music blog I read called Good Weather For Air Strikes. Despite their New York home base, most of the Neon Gold "roster" comes from outside the US. They told Zaz Report they "spend as much time in London as we possibly can... if we have so much as a few days off school we bolt over to London."

Neon Gold specializes at catching artists at the start of their careers; the singers/groups below are potentially big names for 2010, when they release full length records on other labels. They're starting with vinyl releases via the label. If you are a vinyl junkie, Neon Gold sells their 7 inch singles here.

Ellie Goulding Under The Sheets:

Ellie Goulding is unique for creating a sort of hybrid of electropop and folk-pop. She's even covered Bon Iver, so it'll be interesting see how her debut album disperses electronic sounds across the arrangements. She also has an element of Bjork to her voice that cannot be ignored, though it's perhaps stronger on the blindingly brilliant Under The Sheets, now up for pre-order on iTunes UK with remixes and b-side called Fighter Plane. Follow Ellie @elliegoulding

Marina + The Diamonds Mowgli's Road:

Marina is Welsh, feisty and very funny. She's also very ambitious. Her debut album is out next winter and it's produced by Liam Howe, along with Biffco. Mowgli's Road is a teaser designed to show that she naturally creates left of center pop, but the first major single will be Hollywood, which no one has heard yet. My favorite song is Obsessions. That video, from 2008, captures her intelligence and creativity. If a record biz suit ever suggested Marina dye her hair blond, you jut know she'd give him the finger or worse. Follow Marina @MarinasDiamonds or on her blog.

Penguin Prison A Funny Thing:

Penguin Prison has gained early attention for their remixes, especially the slinky bass-heavy mix of Erik Hassle's Hurtful, which completely re-imagines an already perfect song. Risky, but it worked. Now they have a brilliant debut single - my personal favorite is A Funny Thing, an indie-pop earworm you can download for free here.

Starsmith On Second Thoughts:

Though he's not on the Neon Gold label [update: he is an NG act], 21-yr old Starsmith has worked extensively with their artists, producing and remixing. His real name is Fin Dow Smith and he's a saucer eyed boy(ish) genius who most recently produced Ellie Goulding's Under the Sheets. He's more than a producer, however (see fan-created video above) and he's just signed a record deal, on what looks like a Madmen set. Next up is a Lady Gaga remix and production on Frankmusik's 2010 album, Follow The Leader. I assume a solo record is in the mix too... let's hope. Follow him @starsmiff


Finally, another non-Neon act that sort of is a Neon act by association, Ellie Goulding + Starsmith = Goldsmith. Their best known track is the lush Starry Eyed, but check out the snippet of a beautiful new ballad below.

Also keep an eye in 2010 on NG act Yes Giantess and their lovely ginger friend Erik Hassle - his debut album launches in the UK in early 2010.

November 4, 2009

Decade's End: The Year 2002

The best day of 2002? July 27, when Jasper came to live with me.

Another fucked up year. Seriously, it was very hard to live in DC at this time. We'd had 9/11, followed by ridiculous anthrax attacks and then, as a final insult, we had a sniper killing people randomly for several months. Whatever. Rather than linger on the drama, I thought this week I'd just comment on the music that made my 2002 list...

I am in the school of thought that finds PSB's Release their worst album, but I LOVE the first single Home And Dry, especially the vocodered middle eight, which I played over and over on a CD Walkman (before the iPod) - when I had to come back from another China trip only 36 hours after I'd landed there. Not good, but I also played
I Miss You by Darren Hayes on repeat. I'm not a fan of his Spin album (the blond phase) but I also loved Insatiable... Beth Orton did what Bjork stopped doing by releasing the uber emotional epic string ballad Paris Train... An amazing Alison Moyet return with Hometime, as was the superb pop album by Pretenders... And Beck produced that spoken word track with Marianne Faithfull that is hot hot hot, but also melancholy. I love it when she says, "and now you have betrayed yourself..." The Alanis song was a total earworm (I also liked So Unsexy from that CD)... Tori's Taxi Ride was for her dead friend Kevyn Aucoin, but it's Gold Dust that I have been playing a lot in 2009, for my own lost friend... And in terms of loss, beautiful Lamya died in 2009. Her '02 album is so fantastic. Her Never's Such a Long Time is another song about losing a loved one... An interesting tidbit about the Toni Braxton and Brandy songs is that both were produced by Brandy's babydaddy, whose name I forget, and both are lush. She killed his career when he left her, but he had a unique pop style... At the end of the mix are two Craig Armstrong compositions. Craig had done strings in the 90s for Madonna's ROL album (and Spice Girls!). These two songs were great, especially because they resurrected brilliant vocalists in Neneh Cherry and David McAlmont. Note that the Armstrong CD also has one of the finest post 9/11 songs by - get this - Evan "Lemonheads" Dando. A heartbreaking orchestral epic called Wake Up In New York. Seriously, FIND that song.

Important: if you don't know Stars' MAJOR song Tonight, which is like a lost ballad from the eighties, read this post.

Frou Frou's Details
was my album of the year. It remains on my Top 20 albums of all time and marked the appearance of Imogen Heap as a major pop artist.

XO’s Favorite Songs of 2002

Pet Shop Boys Home And Dry

Beth Orton Paris Train

Frou Frou Must Be Dreaming

Alison Moyet Do You Ever Wonder
Darren Hayes I Miss You
Marianne Faithfull Sex With Strangers

Stars Tonight

Alanis Morrissette Hands Clean

Pretenders I Should Of

Coldplay Clocks

Tori Amos Taxi Ride

Richard Ashcroft Science Of Silence

Sophie Ellis Bextor Music Gets The Best Of Me

Brandy Wow

Toni Braxton Selfish

Lamya Black Mona Lisa

Neneh Cherry
& Craig Armstrong Twisted Mess
David McAlmont & Craig Armstrong Snow

November 2, 2009

Arcadia: Maximum big surprise

Twenty four years on, I still love Arcadia's So Red The Rose. Only 8 vocal tracks, nearly flawless, and each simultaneously lush and angular. It was produced in 1985 by the late Alex Sadkin, who also produced Duran's Seven And The Ragged Tiger, and albums by Grace Jones and Thompson Twins.

Rumor has it the album will be re-released in 2010. I hope it contains the extended versions, which are sublime. Almost everything Arcadia did was solid, but everyone mocked it at the time. It's far more ambitious than anything Duran ever attempted and begs the question of why Duran never worked with someone like Trevor Horn. His Grace Jones classic Slave To The Rhythm seems like a template for much of this album mixed with the boys next move, Notorious.

Arcadia Election Day

I remember loving how they went from blond /tan to pale with black hair. Simon looks great and Nick looks like.. a frail British woman man with dyed hair. Only FAIL in the video: the lack of a cameo by Grace. If you're curious about her lines, here they are:

By roads and backways, a lover's chance down wind
Cut open murmurs and sounds. Be calm hands on skin
Carry further ... entangled strands all sing
Saving some time to slip away. We could dance!

Arcadia Goodbye Is Forever

What is it with all the smiling in this video? Nick looks terrible in this and Simon looks like... Rufus Wainwright! I love this song still - it reminds me so much of Christmas time during my junior year. Maybe it's sentimentality that drives it for me? It should be noted that Pink Floyd's David Gilmour plays guitar here.

Arcadia The Promise

The album version, 7:30 long, features Sting on backing vocals. The quasi-political song was a huge musical step for them. It's much more sophisticated than anything Duran had attempted and the song holds up well so many years on. The album also featured Grace Jones, Herbie Hancock, Pink Floyd David Gilmour, and Mark Egan from Pat Metheny's jazz group.

Arcadia The Flame

This absurd thing was directed by
Russell Mulcahy, who did the Simon-dunking Wild Boys.

Fans of Arcadia should be sure to look at Celluloid Dreams: An Arcadia Fan Site. And it wasn't me that told you about this.