March 31, 2010

2010: Q1 I Heard It On The Radio... or not

This is what happy and relaxed looks like, in Paris, March 18, 2010.

Every year I think, Have all the melodies been used? No, clearly, they have not. A great year for music thus far. This list has been compiled in the post-haze of my vacation, so I am sure something has slipped my mind. I could have included so many more songs from Ellie, Laura Marling, Goldfrapp (who still dominated) and Marina, but I wanted to keep this mix-length. Which ones will make it to my Top for 2010?

You can hear them by clicking on the title...

Jonsi Tornado
Sade Soldier Of Love
The Pipettes Stop The Music
Goldfrapp Rocket
Marina And The Diamonds Shampain
Ellie Goulding This Love (Will Be Your Downfall)
Alex Gardner I'm Not Mad
The Courteneers You Overdid It Doll
Goldfrapp Dreaming
Groove Armada Cards To Your Heart
Linda Sundblad Serotonin
The Bird And The Bee I Heard It On The Radio
Roisin Murphy Momma's Place
Fyfe Dangerfield High On The Tide
Lucky Soul White Russian Doll
Penguin Prison The Worse It Gets
Melody Gardot Our Love Is Easy from 2009
Laura Marling Goodbye England (Covered In Snow)
Katharine McPhee Surrender
Goldfrapp Hunt

What did I forget?

Worthy recent albums: Fyfe Dangerfield, Sade, Marina & The Diamonds, Ellie Goulding, Goldfrapp, Laura Marling

What's coming: Keane, Tracey Thorn, Jonsi, Sia, Penguin Prison, Rufus Wainwright, Stornoway, The Divine Comedy

Disappointments: Singles by Hole, HURTS, albums by Amy MacDonald, Massive Attack (some will differ on that) and, of course, the career-ending Sugababes album, which did not even make me want to say "RIP"

March 29, 2010

We do it again and again and again

May I direct you to two gorge remixes of Penguin Prison's already perfect The Worse It Gets? The first is by Bright Light Bright Light and it's free on his blog. The second, just out, is the legendary Starsmith's glittery disco ball of a mix via Neon Gold.

Spring is here, darklings. Step into the light, grab someone and kiss them now.

March 28, 2010

Mixtape: Here is London, giddy London...

Outside HMV, The Last Record Store. Pity it looks like a fucking Twilight store!

I am home.
My trip to London was really quite epic. But it wasn't even the places we went, the things we saw, etc, that made it so. It was the people, some of whom I had been conversing with on the web for five years.

There is, of course, a view that the Internet is a faux world, that it cannot or will not translate into reality. And in some cases that may be true and wise. But my experience was buoyed by friends more than willing to give me their time. I got a chance to really talk to them about living in London, about music, about life in general. So my traveling companion (Joanna, who was - as always - puhfect) and I sincerely thank them for their graciousness, advice and
good fun.

I did not say much about it beforehand, in case it went tear-shaped, but we had a bit of a "do" one night and it was great fun. These were primarily people I had really communicated with for years online, usually via "proper" email (otherwise I would have wanted to invite like 50 people). I admired everyone for showing up when they didn't really know anyone else.
Perhaps these good folks will carry on these connections in some fashion? I also thought a lot that night about my American friends who I knew would have loved being there.

A bunch of fucking amazing people in a beautiful city, from start to finish. End of.

Some other details.

"Living" in London.
I hit gold when I booked base2stay. Absolutely fantastic, and in a good location, just down from Earl's Court Road (and the tube). This place is completely modern, with excellent beds (which matters on an 11-night trip) and very cool bathrooms. If you travel with a friend, as I did, pick the twin bed room L6. It's the best in the hotel because we had our own sweet patio/garden. Amazing. If you know someone who books it, they should look for Tony and Ashley, who work there. The whole staff was lovely though.

Food in London.
Much better this time than ever before. Among the places I went: Balans (3 times!) The best is in Earl's Court, but we also went to the big one in Soho - so gay - where I ran into Sam Taylor. Salmon cakes and omelets v v good. Canteen at Royal Festival Hall for fish and chips. Same with Geale's in Notting Hill, tucked behind the Gate cinema. Strada was easy and good for pizza. Bam-bou (nr Tottenham) was quite elegant Thai food, on four floors. Beautiful space with a bar at the very top. I had a lychee drink, I think? Carluccio's in Market Place (off Oxford Circus) was the scene of my first meeting with Phil and the aforementioned gathering I concocted Saturday night. And I DID get my "takeaway" Cornish pasty, which I ate on the aforementioned hotel room patio.

Tea etc. We went for a breakfast at
Daylesford Organic in Notting Hill (at the posh end of Westbourne Grove). For lunchy/nibbly bits, we liked EAT (a good chain) and apostrophe (thanks Jams!). The old English lady in me loves tea at The Orangery in Hyde Park (Kensington Palace), but we also had good tea at a pretty room in the National Gallery. It's all about cassis jam (which is blackcurrant).

Record shopping in London. What were once multiple-hour orgies in the late Virgin Megastore are now but an afterthought. still the HMV on Oxford Circus is good, with a small singles section (!) and good amount of vinyl to fawn over. I really wanted the vinyl LP for Goldfrapp's Head First, but worried it'd get assed up on the plane. Also went to Fopp in Soho and briefly to Music And Video Exchange in Notting Hill. I bought some old music mags (80s issues of Record Mirror and Blitz) at the Vintage Magazine Shop on Brewer in Soho. Love that place - a new must-visit.

Shopping in London. If you go London, a great place to get little gifts is at the London Transport Museum shop - the UK has the best graphic design of anyplace in the world. Such care and artistry goes into it - I bought this and this for myself. I also loved going into places we don't have here, like Uniqlo, Topshop, Muji, but my favorite store was, by far, Liberty. Amazing goods, but the Tudor building is extraordinary. There ARE affordable things in Liberty, though all I bought were some fabulous pairs of Falke (err, not Fred Falke) socks. And did you know there is a Laduree in Harrods? Mmmm hmmmm... More on my jaunt to Paris soon.

I'll post again on the music of the trip. Thank you Dan H and Paul for the mixtapes! Amazeballs, as one says. xo

March 27, 2010

Are you the one I've been waiting for?

Stornoway I Saw You Blink:

As the Brits would say, "Bless!"

This Oxford band's debut album has a great title, Beachcomber's Windowsill, and it's out on May 24.

Thank you Torr.

March 26, 2010

FREE MP3: Penguin Prison's best song yet

"I got a car that I call Jenny / I take her out when there’s too much noise in my head." It's hard not love a song with a chorus like that.

Penguin Prison has nailed it again. Recorded with Alex Frankel from the band Holy Ghost, The Worse It Gets is a kicky warm-weather anthem that Penguin Prison described to me as "a bit of Hall & Oates / Doobie Brothers, but somehow cool, if that makes sense." It does. This is a pure, melodic pop tune, but it still sounds like a cool intersection of pop and indie and it's available for free now...

Penguin Prison The Worse It Gets FREE MP3

The Worse It Gets is also for sale as a limited edition vinyl 7" single on Neon Gold Records. It's backed with the excellent Something I'm Not. Earlier single A Funny Thing is still available as well.

If you live in New York, you can see Penguin Prison live on April 8 at the Mercury Lounge. Tickets here.

March 25, 2010

Cover Story: Hole's Nobody's Daughter

Not terrible, but not wow either. I guess Courtney realized her face is too jacked up on filler and botox to be photographed, which is a shame since she is a brilliant model. And the logo is so... 1992 indie Hole.

I could care less about the makeshift single (Skinny Little Bitch), but am eager to hear the album. Her original single choice (Samantha) was pulled due to a potential legal battle with Uncle Fester (aka Billy Corgan). Dramarama, as per usual in Loveland.

First great album title of 2010

The Ark: In Full Regalia, out April 29

I bet you thought they'd broken up... I did.

March 24, 2010

The Pipettes: I can feel your heartbeat

Just when everyone said they were ovah, The Pipettes bring it with a beautiful new video. Clearly some money was spent and the results remind me a bit of English photographer Tim Walkers's work. Look closely for the rarely-seen boys in the band, seen in the background of the "table tea dance." As I've said before, the song is a grower, but when it blossoms, it's gorgeous. Especially the final 30 seconds.

The Pipettes Stop The Music:


I'll be posting again momentarily...

March 18, 2010

When Kevin Smith met Prince

Kevin Smith is the director of the great American classic movie Clerks. A few years back he was invited to do some work with Prince and... it didn't end up so well. It should not come as a surprise that Kevin is a brilliant storyteller. The way he unconsciously layers in references to Prince song lyrics/titles is hilarious ("Don't talk to me like I'm fucking Appollonia!" or "...This is what it sounds like when Kev's fucking pissed.")

Note: If you want to watch the whole thing, this is a 30 minute time commitment, but it's worth it.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

There is actually a full DVD called An Evening with Kevin Smith.

PS: Yes, I am still away on my trip. Back next week!

March 12, 2010

We will keep you safe from harm

As you read this, know that I am "home" in England, the place that makes me happier than anywhere else on Earth. Surely I was born there in another life? It so happens that my trip coincides with the release of Laura Marling's second album, I Speak Because I Can.

Marling, who is only twenty years old, has one of the finest voices I've heard in years. Her music is classified as folk, but laced with strong melodies and production touches that make it accessible in the same way Mumford And Sons' Sigh No More has reached a larger audience. She reminds me a bit of Patrick Wolf in his Wind In The Wires period, when the star-maker machinery had not rendered him tiresome and reckless. For those of you old enough to get the reference, the song below reminds me a great deal of Peter Case, especially songs from his debut album back in the 80's.

Laura Marling Goodbye England (Covered In Snow):

Laura Marling
Devil's Spoke video

Listening to Marling makes me want to go to Cornwall. Someday. This is the kind of music you want to sit in a field somewhere and just MELT DOWN. I want nothing more than that. Have a good cry, get up and carry on with my life.

March 9, 2010

Mixtape: London's mine.

In case I have not mentioned it 1000 times, I am going to disappear for awhile. [giddy arm flapping occurring now] I'll be in London as of Friday AM, on and off for about 10 days. I doubt I'll be online much, but rest assured I'll give you all the details when I return. If I can easily check in, of course I will. British Airways may strike on my flight out, so my London friends should be prepared for me to make a fast segue into a bartender or hotel maid or houseboy.

Speaking of Londontown, The Gadsdens are at Kensington Roof Gardens on Friday night the 12th. I maybe there if I am not collapsing from jet lag. My moptop hair is long gone after that gangly manchild Mika stole my thunder, so don't be looking for that...

I've just reviewed Lucky Soul's new disc. It's a natural progression from the last one - very good, if not reaching quite the highs of their debut.

New Yorkers: I was just thinking about the long lost kitsch store Little Ricky's at 1st Ave on the LES. It's where my friend Krissy and I got our Dancing Kids, whom she has since taken around the world on a photographic tour. The Dancing Kids are, I think, our spirits embodied in pieces of shoddily painted plastic. (Oh wait, that also works as a description on my body. Hmmph.)

Worrapolava's Phil has written a song with Holestar, the Victor/Victoria come to life (a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman - though I have not groped her to confirm). It's a sort of filthy, cheap dance track you can check out here.

The Alex Gardner video for I'm Not Mad. What an epic fail ('00's Cliche Alert). As has been noted by many, they flew him to California to stick him in a room full of mirrors with a static camera. His stoner chic persona doesn't work here and he's so heavily filtered and made up that he looks to be about 12. He's not that far off of twelve but he is legal if you get my drift. Why not do something Bruce Webery since he looks like a baby Chet Baker. Let's hope the next single is Heartbreak and a more worthy visual is created.

Please note that the Gardner video is the first case I've seen of Vevo blocking content around the world. Inane. If you are in America and you want to watch it, you're shit outta luck.

The Times asks "Can Alphabeat make it big?" I dunno, how big do you want it? Bada bing!

Still amused by Frankmusik's recent naked hard peen incident that mad it to PopJustice Forums. Vince needs to do more of that (actually I suspect he does a LOT of that, just not in a studio on cam). The placement /action of his left forefinger was a nice detail. What does that mean for those who did not see the pic? You'll have to find out for yourself.

I was tweeting with Adem about who needs to do similar nude pics and came up with this: Oh! Anders, the singer from Alphabeat, needs to "pull" (haw haw) a Vince Frank. Might need a vertical pic though. Which makes my earlier "Can Alphabeat make it big?" comment above all the more appropriate.

Morrissey fans will enjoy this Quietus piece on non-45 Moz classics

If you are an Abba fan, check out Fizzypop Paul's Top Ten Abba Album Tracks post.

Paul is also right to link up the new group Caro Emerald to Lily Allen. I think they sound like a worldlier and more musically adept Lily. And perhaps more for the adults than the kids. They are a group to keep an eye on.

P Viktor reviews Ellie Goulding's flawless album Lights.

Microfilm has done a remix of Roisin Murphy's brilliant-yet-flop single Momma's Place.

Courtney Love's (it ain't Hole, m'kay?) new single is crap. Hear it/mourn about it at Chartrigger. While it is good to hear her voice again (which I will always love), can we just move right along and hope there is something good on the album?

There will be just a few posts while I am away, including one this Friday on a very British new talent... everybody be well and I will be back soon.

image by Miroslav Sasek

Miss Ciccone on the phone...

Oh wait, that's Gaga? "She didn't know anybody. She wanted to dance. She wanted to sing. She worked really hard and her dream came true."

NICE CANS though.
How many costume changes can one person have? Apparently, The Greatest Video Ever Made (for a song I totally dislike) will be on E! News, Thursday March 11 at 11:30 pm

March 7, 2010

Goldfrapp widget

Best songs? Alive, Rocket, I Wanna Life, Dreaming. Be sure to check out the new video for Rocket and, even better, the website's glamorous Rocket commercial

March 6, 2010

Pipettes return with an EPIC single

The Pipettes official new single, Stop The Music, was first played (just once) on British radio last fall and I managed to find a rip of it. It was this song that convinced me we need to chill and see what the Gwenno and whoever-is-in-the-group-this-week are going to bring out. Perhaps a bit weak on first play, Stop The Music blooms into something truly worthy of their legendary debut, We Are The Pipettes. It's classic Brighton pop, weaving a new bit of disco into the harmonies, finger-snaps, horns and strings. The final thirty seconds, in particular, are quite celestial.

Stop The Music is released on Fortuna Pop on April 19. It was produced by Martin Rushent, famous for his work with Human League and Altered Images, among others. The new album is called Earth vs The Pipettes.

The Pipettes are playing the UK in April and May. Here are the details:

Sun 18 - Manchester - FAC251 | Tickets
Mon 19 - Sheffield - 02 Academy 2 | Tickets
Tue 20 - London - Hoxton Bar and Kitchen Tickets
Wed 21 - Brighton - Audio | Tickets
Thu 22 - Kingston - New Slang @ McLusky | Tickets
Sun 25 - Portsmouth - Wedgewood Rooms | Tickets
Mon 26 - Southampton - Joiners Arms | Tickets

Fri 07 - York - Fibbers | Tickets
Sat 08 - Liverpool - O2 Academy 2 | Tickets
Fri 14 - Darlington - Inside Out | Tickets
Sat 15 - Birmingham - O2 Academy 2 | Tickets
Fri 21 - Crewe - The Box | Tickets
Sat 22 - South Wales Valleys - Parcc Hall | Tickets

Final note: My favorite ex Pipette, Rose Elinor Dougall, is the lead vocalist on the forthcoming Mark Ronson album. She also has a solo LP out in 2010. Expect something mindblowing.

March 4, 2010

XO's Essential Albums: Prefab Sprout's "Two Wheels Good"

As I prepare for my... sixth?... trip to England next week, I've gone back into my blog drafts - there are over 450 unpublished posts! - to find one I wrote in 2006 and never published. For a long time I wanted nothing personal on this blog, but as time marches on, I just don't care. Another blogger encouraged me to post about some of my favorite albums, so with my impending return to the "motherland," I've chosen a perfect record of the 1980's: Prefab Sprout's
Two Wheels Good.

As is often the case for music lovers, my attraction to this album is intrinsically tied to a period in my life. I was in my first year of college, in Fredericksburg, Virginia - The Town That Fun Forgot - and, by chance, met an older female student who I believe I was fated to meet. My self-image changed in the course of a matter of weeks - not everything, just certain pieces that came into clearer focus. An older student, she seemed so mature and wise, when she was actually just 23 at the time. She lived off campus in an actual apartment, which I didn't even know was MY dream until I saw her place.

People around me know I am a big proponent of the concept of mentors. Looking back on this relationship, I can see that's what was happening. I'm fortunate that people I've chosen to really listen to were wise.... and I've been protected in that way. But I was also open to it: there is an energy that flows in some relationships and it requires both people to be on a certain frequency. You know it when it happens - it's strikingly clear. These friends make you feel like a better version of yourself.

Two Wheels Good
, known as Steve McQueen in the UK, is one of the definitive and most literate pop albums of the 1980's, along with records by Lloyd Cole and Kate Bush, among others. Produced by the esteemed Thomas Dolby, each song is a gem... so much so that I'm not sure I can describe my feeling for them.

The opener, Faron is a trucker's midnight fix, bouncing along, keeping him awake. Appetite is impossibly smooth and sexy, with a great refrain: "I think I'll call you appetite." When Love Breaks Down, the one you are most likely to have heard in an elevator, is classic breakup mode: "When love breaks down / the things you do / can't stop the truth from hurting you.. /
When love breaks down / you join the wrecks / who leave their hearts for easy sex."

A few years after discovering this album, in 1991, when my friend had long since left Fredericksburg, I moved into an apartment off campus and I often thought of her when I'd walk home from class, going past her old building. Bonny is one of the most wistful, elegiac songs of the 80's - and so distinctly English. It seems silly now, but I remember thinking of my friend when I'd hear the line "Bonny don't live at home" as I walked past her place. I love Paddy's deep backing vocals at the very end, and I remember another good friend talking about how the easiest, best job would be being Wendy, Prefab's female backing vocalist, who had very little do except trill along with Paddy like a little bird.

Prefab Sprout Bonny

The lyrics throughout the album are intelligent, wry and openhearted. I remember relating so much to the lines below, from Moving The River:

You must know me
Father, it's your son
And I know that you are proud
Of everything I've done

It's the wonders I perform
Pulling rabbits out of hats
When sometimes I'd prefer simply to wear them

No, I wasn't a baby genius, but I am an only child and have often lived for my parents as much as myself, so that's how I absorbed that lyric.

Prefab Sprout Moving The River

I think most true music lovers have stories like this, of a time and place that are bound up in one particular album - I know they do. I have many stories, but this one is special because Two Wheels Good is the soundtrack to such an important stage in my life. Although that friendship proved to be sort of temporal, it too exists inside me every time I hear Paddy McAloon's warm voice.

I've decided to post a few pictures taken during the weeks I describe above - and I should add that despite the friend/mentor described above swanning out of my life in the most baffling way, my best friends of that era are still my best friends today. Bless them each.
You can buy this album for a song on Amazon Marketplace and it is available on iTunes as well.

March 3, 2010

Sharleen Spiteri plunges to the depths of pop hell

Last May I did a post on the cynical marketing of Sharleen Spiteri (below). The outcome of this is a travesty of an album, with the makeshift title The Movie Song Book. Just out in the UK, it is crammed with horrifying karaoke renditions of trite "classics" (Take My Breathe Away) or shiteous versions of good songs (a ragtime Cat People?). You can just imagine Sharl strolling into the studio and recording these in one take each. I mean, this is John Barrowman stuff - music for people who don't like music.

Here is the original May 5, 2009 post...

We've all heard of test marketing in pop music, but I've never seen something so blatant. Poor Sharleen Spiteri. Her record company is polling fans via mailing lists to decide what trashy covers album she should do....

The depressing part? How cynically trite the options are. Do we need another Dusty Springfield covers record? What about the "Celtic Song Book" album? Since when is Maria McKee's Show Me Heaven considered Celtic? At least there was no Carrickfuckingfergus. And can you hear Sharl warbling I've Had The Time Of My Life? How demode is that?!

It's a long, hard fall for the same artist who recorded Say What You Want and Summer Son. Bring back the woman who recorded an album lying on her back in the studio...

Here is the first single, a gonad-shrinking version of Xanadu performed with Terrible Hair:

March 1, 2010

What the fuck is happening here?

The greatest photo EVER. Courtney Love.

Be sure to read the Dlisted piece on this.

The curious case of Erik Hassle

While everyone has their ears cocked toward the Beeb's celebrated Sound of 2010, Erik Hassle is floundering. He's like a busker in need of your human warmth as much as your actual pound note.

Erik's made a great, if not perfect, pop album and literally no one cares. Can we blame anything other than the elusive X factor? For a start, where the Swedish album cover was iconic, the UK cover image (see below) is a complete Photo-shopped botch. If the idea was "Erik Hassle stands out in a crowd" what it actually says is "Erik Hassle is lost in a crowd." Even the album title, previously a simple Hassle, has become a meaningless Pieces. How makeshift.

Infamously, there have been four - FOUR!!! - videos for the superb Hurtful, none of them particularly good, though I am partial to the second one. His previous video, Don't Bring Flowers (After I'm Dead) placed him in a Los Angeles slacker wasteland. It was as if the label said, "Maybe they won't notice he's not an American" rather than celebrating who he IS. Island Records has plenty of talented people. What happened?

I should note that the UK pressing of his album dumps my favorite song, Make It In Time, which some of my fellow tweeps dismissed as "boy band" material when they should know full well [minor British accent comes in] I don't DO boybands [nostrils slightly flair].

Of the songs that made it, I recommend Hurtful, The Thanks I Get (gorgeous, climbing piano ballad), Bump In The Road, Amelia, and Back To Bed. The iTunes version adds 3 tracks that are worth your time.

Erik Hassle Hurtful (video #4):

Lack of synergy with the public, botched marketing, whatever: Erik Hassle should be heard. P. Viktor adds more in his recent review of Pieces.