April 30, 2010

Scissters: Fire With Fire first listen

A trailer for the forthcoming Scissor Sisters record, Night Work, that features a snippet of their summer single, Fire With Fire, the one Del Marquis told me is "epic" and Popjustice thinks "is so amazing that if it catches you at the right moment it might bring you slightly to tears." Turns out it's a proper anthem, stadium worthy, with strings and- even in this brief clip - a ribbon of vulnerability. Which is just what we need in pop music today.



MAY 1 UPDATE: Wongie posted a live performance of the song that might fill in the gaps a bit more. It's lovely.

And Jake is quite ripped. He has a Ken Doll chest.

April 29, 2010

Waiting for Scissters

fingers tap tap tap on the table. Where is Fire On Fire?

pic from...

The Gaga Influence

TIME's 100 Most Influential People in the World has Didier Drogba (African soccer player), Lady Gaga and President Clinton.

Game on, Madonna.

source: Playbook

April 28, 2010

HURTS: Dancing on the valentine

HURTS retains their mystique as traders in minimalist cool. I mean, the singer can barely look anyone in the eye or move a facial muscle. We're talking restraint to the point of psychosis. Rule Brittania!

I still don't know what to make of this song, their first official single for Sony. I hate the way he exclaims the line "Every minute more brings you closer to God!" for instance. In that little bit, the whole cover is blown and they seem like Slimane-clothed arrivistes.*

But the "Turn away, turn away, close your eyes, you can run away...." b-chorus is just gorgeous.

* Edit: This is an overstatment, but it sure sounds good.

April 27, 2010

Forever Adam

Occasionally I fall prey to Old-Geezah-Sndrome of the Rock variety. You know, "Music these days sucks. When I was a kid..."

But seriously. When I was a kid, Adam Ant was a star. And we don't have anything like it these days. Nothing so ambiguous or genre melding. Maybe MGMT are sort of like that, but the songs aren't really there, are they? It's prog, not pop. Adam was home-grown, home-sewn... a minxy mix of mascara and balls.

So, now in 2010: Adam has announced his return to music. If you care one whit, the new Quietus interview is a MUST-read. Take this quote about how he kind of gave up:

I should have been more U2 about it. What they do is they don't change their formula. I know what their next record is going to sound like. I don't buy it because I hate them, but I like Edge, and I like the band. I just don't like fucking Mr Bono. (Does an Irish accent) 'Every time I click my fingers, an African dies.' Well, stop clicking your fucking fingers, then! I don't like his lyrics or what he stands for or represents, how he dresses or anything. But I do actually like the fact that they had the bollocks to last, which I didn't.
Brilliant quote. For your edification, my favorite Adam Ant song is Desperate But Not Serious - especially that bit at 3:10 when he softly moans. Pop kids should all have this on their iPod. By the time the video was produced in 1982, he was a major label star - the way he's shot proves he was a commodity, but I love how both the punk kid and the Brit wit peeks through in his movements and lyrics.

April 26, 2010

Keane's Night Train preview

Keane are previewing their new 8-song EP (Night Train, out May 10) now on their website. The video above has samples of every track, and the two videos below are part of a full series highlighting each song.

For those into Keane, check out this interview in the April 25th Sunday Times. I've posted a lot about Keane over the years, but here is...

Xolondon's Top Ten Plus One Keane Songs

Your Eyes Open
The Lovers Are Losing
Leaving So Soon?
This Is The Last Time
Can't Stop Now
We Might As Well Be Strangers
The Frog Prince
Somewhere Only We Know
Crystal Ball
To The End Of The Earth
Snowed Under

Their debut album Hopes and Fears was my favorite of 2004 and they haven't scaled those heights since. Remember when every Keane b-side was better than an album track? Those were the days, etc etc.

Thanks to the Fly To Me fansite

April 23, 2010

La Bex talks up new album

Click Sophie Ellis Bextor's track by track description of forthcoming album Straight To The Heart.

via gaytimes

Crowded House, 24 years on

A free download of the new Crowded House single, Saturday Sun.

Melodically and lyrically, the song is classic CH, but it has a bigger atmosphere than recent tracks, but the jury is still out for me. It's not immediate.
This one comes from a new album, out June 11, called, intriguingly, Intriguer.

Crowded House
launched when I was in high school and overtook the whole planet with Don't Dream It's Over, a song I've often compared to a modern day Whiter Shade Of Pale. Their first four albums, released between 1986 and 1994, are an imperial run of perfection. Neil Finn is surely one of the top 25 songwriters of his generation, but I am not sure he'll ever get the widespread recognition he deserves. The band certainly has a pretty massive following that is as fervent now as it was in the 80s.

Xolondon's Top Ten Plus One Crowded House Songs:

Private Universe
Into Temptation
When You Come
Love This Life
Fall At Your Feet
Kare Kare
Distant Sun
Four Seasons In One Day
Weather With You
Can't Carry On

and of course, Don't Dream It's Over

Crowded House also have the distinction of being the musical act I've seen live more times than anyone else. I'm not sure they've ever been able to capture on a recording just how epic they are live. Their songs will be covered forever.

April 22, 2010

Tracey Thorn: Why Does The Wind?

Stereogum has premiered a new track from Tracey Thorn's May 17 album Love And Its Opposite. This is one of the uptempos on the album - a pleasingly urgent song called Why Does The Wind? I love the lyric at the end: Why not just kiss?

How often have you wanted to say that to someone?

Download Why Does The Wind? NOW

* Minor quibble: They say the album is produced by Ben Watt and Ewan Pearson. I don't think Ben, her husband, is a producer on this. Just Ewan.

April 21, 2010

The Curious Case of Kylie Minogue

This image does what most recent Kylie album covers* do: it screams


Indeed. But can we please acknowledge one glaring thing about this photo? That Kylie appears to be pulling some of that Benjamin Button shit?

Still, pop stars are never embarrassed about this sort of thing, are they? I remember my senior high school portrait being so airbrushed I thought it made me look Asian. I was mortified. If I had the pop star gene I would have just said, "Ooh, well done me! Don't I look deluxe?" and been on my way. The Kylie looks great here, but even better in real life.

*except, err, Body Language.
I don't like that one.

April 19, 2010

Review: Robyn's Dancing On My Own

Robyn has been leaking new tracks from her Body Talk project for a few weeks now and I've been a bit... disconnected. They seem more swaggering and candy coated than I wanted from the woman who wrote Dream On and Be Mine. In a recent interview, she talked about how she found her "sad voice" on her last album, especially on With Every Heartbeat, but I wasn't hearing that voice.

The official new single, Dancing On My Own, is finally out and it's hairs-on-end stuff. At her best, Robyn delivers something deeper than what the pop charts allow. I feel like no one's noticed the lack of contemplation or darkness in recent pop music. The "echelon" is aglow with glitter sticks and boom boom and... that's it. Robyn consistently takes you deep into a mood, the same way bands like Depeche Mode and New Order used to do. Think of the former's Never Let Me Down Again or the latter's Regret. Her music is for those of us who appreciate rain and clouds.

"I'm not the girl you're taking home, I keep dancing on my own."

Dancing On My Own is a tearjerker. The more you play it, the more you want to burst into projectile tears.

Update: Here is the proper video (and it's epic)

April 18, 2010

Mixtape: Clap your hands, clap your hands

This is what style and cool look like. via Love's blog

That's Annabella Lwin above, from BowWowWow, one of Malcolm McLaren's poppier ventures. See my post this week about McLaren. It's brief!

Kate Nash is about to release her sophomore disc, the embarrassingly titled My Best Friend Is You. She's re-recorded what may be her finest track, Do You Want To Share The Guilt. Hear the original now. The new Bernard Butler-produced version is a sonic case of ADHD. What was once a sort of hushed, melancholy memory is now an unnerving race toward nothing with the monologue at the end sped up to a frenzied pace. Horrid. I should note that the album does have some successful tracks like Pickpocket, but is generally over-produced.

The b-side of Kate's single Doo Wah Do is her boyfriend Ryan of The Cribs doing the same song. MISTAKE Kate. And it's true that one newspaper in London offered this review of that tune: "Doo wah don't." It's better than that!

Eric Erlandson finally talks about the "new" Hole. I was going to do a 7 Digital widget on here, but the record sounds a bit lifeless. I love his comment about her overrated single Skinny Little Bitch: "I know Courtney can write good lyrics. It’s one of her strong points. But it’s 2010. Do we really need to hear a 45 year old woman screaming “Skinny Little Bitch?” Is that where we’re at now?"

Another case of vicious reviewing: The Times on the new record by James: "A Runrig/Deacon Blue with a new-age gloss, their own tribute band, James live to blight another day." Amusingly, they still have it 2 stars. The Guardian are much kinder.
This is a list top pop star tweeters, including some pop related sites. I've had dinner with one... who is not MC Hammer (wtf?).

Vinny Vero did a great blog post on Record Store Day over at So Hip It Hurts. He even has pics of NYC store Rebel Rebel, where you might be able to see him shopping in person! Love it when he says, "I clearly remember Greenwich Village before the strollers..." Phil Robinson also did a great post on his blog Worrapolava.

Tracey Thorn's album is one of the best of 2010. More on it soon -it's out on May 17th. Let me just say that Swimming is lush pop and Hormones is Tracey at her lyrical peak. Meanwhile, before the album is released you can get her cover of Vampire Weekend's Taxi Cab via iTunes this coming week.

Working with Madonna made William Orbit mental. Read more in this Times piece on that and his collab with the apparently infamous Katie Melua (my tweeps do not like her), but her single has an interesting structure. I assume Brits view her as uncool?

Speaking of Madonna, her manager Guy Oseary tweeted this week that she has not yet recorded anything for a new album.

Aqualung - who is really one man named Matt Hales - is suddenly back with a new album called Magnetic North. You can get a free track called New Friend at the bottom of this page. On iTunes you can download a beautiful 6-minute ballad - he specializes in those- recorded with a little help from Sara Bareilles. I'd love it if Sara worked with Matt on her own next album, which is surely due in 2010??

The Pipettes new CD single has a beautiful, album-worthy b-side called Who Made You The Doctor? It's an old live fave, but very timely given the arrival of Matt Smith as the new Doctor Who. I am in the camp of people who love the new Who. Do you?

Three for the 80's babies:

Bananarama just released a monolithic remix (by Ian Masterson) of their track Love Don't Live Here Anymore. It's piece of disco melancholia. Hear it at Music On Vinyl.
Adam Ant is at the Scala in London on April 30. One of my friends needs to see this and report back! Tickets are through Ticketweb - £17 each.

Jimmy Somerville is playing the Indigo O2 on May 13th too. His last album, a covers affair called Suddenly Last Summer is getting a CD release in the UK tomorrow, April 19.

I am having a very mixed reaction to the new music from Sia. She recorded her LP with Greg Kurstin, a producer I normally love. But he's too pop for Sia, who worked with producer Jimmy Hogarth on her last album. He had a sense of Sia's range that I worry is missing from the We Are Born clips. The first single, Clap Your Hands, is at first weak and becomes suddenly addictive. Hear it on myspace.

A great blog Silence Is A Rhythm Too, has some new charity covers. One I mentioned yesterday is Dubstar doing a version of I'm In Love With A German Film Star (Sam Taylor Wood's is better, to be honest) and the other is Patrick Wolf - yes, him! - doing a faithful version of Kate Bush's Army Dreamers.

Suede played the Royal Albert Hall and I did not go! Methinks this is NOT the last we have heard from the reunited Suede. Brett has to know he has no serious contender status as a solo act. He needs to go back to Suede. Now. Update: They'll be back at the end of the year.

Nobody seemed to notice that Marc Almond has started releasing a series of 2-disc remasters, the first being 1999's Open All Night. The bonus disc has 18 tracks! Soon to come is Stranger Things.

Crowded House is back with Intriguer - Neil Finn is one of the top ten songwriters of the past 25 years. End of.

Aqualung New Friend:

Photo via Flickr MCM Advertisements - thanks Richard!

April 17, 2010

Celebrating Record Store Day, April 17, 2010

For Record Store Day, I'm getting - actually I bought it already - the gorgeous vinyl version of Goldfrapp's new album, Head First. There is something so pleasing about the recent vinyl resurgence - even the HMV on Oxford Street has a nice collection of vinyl singles. My fondest memory of record stores is the exhilaration of great album sleeves - especially big displays. Anyone who experienced that era might recall how you'd thumb through the racks, looking at artists you already knew/owned, as if one day you'd magically find an album you didn't know existed. In the process, you'd gaze at the covers all over again.

Here are some favorite vinyl LP covers from over the years. These used to fight for "display" in my bedroom, versus being filed on the shelf.

and my latest vinyl purchase, which works beautifully in 12" format...

I actually have Grace Jones and Missing Persons framed on my wall.

April 16, 2010

For once, we'll do what comes naturally

I thought it would be THE song of summer 2009, but 2010 works for me. The Gossip finally release the blazing Pop Goes The World as a single and video. A year on, the chorus of this song is still a pounding, zinging masterpiece.

The Gossip Pop Goes The World:

Note this tune was on my tops songs mix for 2009.

April 15, 2010

Here am I, dressed in my bravest face

I've written about Dubstar before. They were one of my favorite bands of the 1990s. Perfect British radio music, ranging from janglepop to glistening electropop to stately English balladry. Epic stuff. My favorite tracks is, without a doubt, Stars, one of the top 20 songs of the 1990's (a list I've not yet published)...

Dubstar Stars sample

Dubstar recorded a few superb albums and then, after one meh release in 2000, bailed ship. Lead singer Sarah Blackwood went on to form icy lady-electro combo Client and the guys, Chris Wilkie and Steve Hillier... who knows? In 2008, fans got all cranked up when it looked like the band would reunite and then... the whole thing suddenly imploded in a distasteful public meltdown that threatened to ruin their individual reputations.

Apparently the drama of 2008 has been unwound. [!!!] The group have reformed and plan to record a new album (United States Of Being) for... 2011? Their first official release is for buffetlibre's Amnesty campaign, a cover of I'm In Love With A German Film Star, an old Passions song most recently covered by the Pet Shop Boys with Sam Taylor Wood on vocals. You can buy it here as part of a cheap bundle. Who knows what the future brings, but Sarah's voice is yet another English gift to music.

Dubstar St. Swithin's Day 1995

April 14, 2010

Londinium, Meet Penguin Prison

Penguin Prison plays London for the first time next week and if I lived there I would not miss it. (got that, my London peoples?) He'll be at....

GoldDust at Hoxton Bar and Grill on Wednesday, April 21st tix
Dalston Stamford Works on Friday, April 23rd tix

Should you need any proof that this will be great, check out these two live clips from Chris's first show (ever) in New York, April 8th at Mercury Lounge.


Thanks to Supmag

April 13, 2010

Ten things the new Scissor Sisters song IS.

Invisible Light is...

A greased handjob in a darkened backroom
A ride on the ferry to the Statue Of Liberty
Lauren Hutton in a DVF wrap dress rubbing against a man in a subway car at midnight
Times Square and The Gaiety, circa 1982
Diana Ross and Michael Jackson dancing in the World Trade Center version of Oz
Rod Serling's Night Gallery
Paying for a gold lame-covered journal at Little Rickie on the LES, 1994
Sian Phillips, so fierce in I Claudius
A worn ragged Great Gatsby t-shirt
Dancing so hard you think you will finally have a heart attack



April 11, 2010

Ellie Goulding amidst the flora and fauna

Ellie Goulding Guns and Horses:

Hmmm. Ellie's new video, shot in Los Angeles. It appears to have had an actual budget.
  • The female dancers. What does it all mean? Is it an esoteric Statement or random tits and ass?
  • The male dancers. Now this is golden: they have VPL. Visible penis lines.
  • Or are they actually the cast of Glee? Whatever, they do literally supply the guns.
  • The white horse threw Madonna AND Alison Goldfrapp and rode over to Ellie, who wisely did not mount it.
  • Ellie is wearing plaid flannel. Bringing back grunge.
  • The weird new "I do it all for you" chanted ending is... demode.
What do you think? Is everybody starry eyed?

April 9, 2010

I have faith in this love track

Malcolm McLaren Madame Butterfly:

That is truly one of the greatest pop songs of all time. It elevated radio to a new level in 1984.

Malcolm McLaren - who died of cancer yesterday, if you did not hear the news - didn't just make music. He identified, enhanced and promoted subcultures. It was Malcolm, not Madonna, who first saw the pop music potential of voguing. His track Deep In Vogue is just as good as her own Vogue, and it actually features the voices of same voguers featured in Jennie Livingson's famous documentary Paris Is Burning (rent it).

There will be many tributes to McLaren over the next few days, but the one I recommend is Annabella Lwin's candid piece for Entertainment Weekly. Malcolm discovered her and made her the lead singer of his controversial pop group Bow Wow Wow, a group that my friends and I adored back in the early 80's when we were just getting into music.

Malcolm McLaren Deep In Vogue (Extended Mix):

April 8, 2010

10 Facts from your Librarian XO

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen me doing a little factoid thingy the other night. Let's face it, it's a world of hearsay, so here are ten (plus one!) actual current musical truths.

Fact #1: Karen Elson, ginger model/Lady de Jack White, can SING. And she is the most beautiful girl evah. Evidence

Fact #2: One of the new Paul Epworth-produced Florence & The Machine songs is called Strangeness and Charm. Evidence

Fact #3: Nada Surf has recorded a lovely and very faithful cover of Kate Bush's Love And Anger. Evidence

Fact #4: The always gorgeously orchestrated The Divine Comedy has a new record out May 31 called Bang Goes The Knighthood. Evidence

Fact #5: Joan Jett, a woman who has climbed the mountain of Rock, has a new face. Whatever, she fucking rawks. Evidence

Fact #6: The embattled BBC6 has a podcast I've downloaded for about a year - Music Week. Love it. One of the hosts used to be in Menswear. Evidence

Fact #7: Courtney Love has a new "single" on iTunes US called Pacific Coast Highway. The non-fact is that it's not as good as Malibu. Evidence

Fact #8:
Delays new album (out June 7) is called Star Tiger, Star Ariel. You can get the mellow first song Find A Home for free now at their website. Evidence

Fact #9: I Blame Coco is singing with some group called Sub Focus on their new song Splash. It's quite vibey. She needs to slam us with an album this summer. Evidence

Fact #10: Little lost boy
Patrick Wolf has a new deal with Mercury Records imprint Hideout to release his next record, The Conqueror. Evidence

Fact #+1: Tying it all up with
Patty Wolf AND Kate Bush, Patrick has covered her Army Dreamers for charity. Evidence

April 7, 2010

Laura Marling leaps into the big time

Laura Marling Rambling Man:

Joni Mitchell's Court And Spark album is now such a touchstone that it's been assimilated into the blood and bones of pop music. 35 years after its release comes a song worthy of inclusion on that album: Rambling Man. And it's performed by a 20-year-old, Laura Marling. For me, the core lyric is in the bridge, with these lines:

And it's hard to accept yourself as someone you don't desire,
As someone you don't want to be.

Heavy stuff. The full album, I Speak Because I Can, is pretty close to perfect: a folk-based record with an awareness of melody and intriguing arrangements. It's not simply a guitar/voice record, though Marling's voice and songs are good enough to sustain that. This will end up on a lot of "best of" lists in December. Standouts are Goodbye England (hear it), Devil's Spoke (video), Hope In The Air (I love the end bit about "your last serving daughter") and Alpha Shallows, which is like Russian folk by way of Holland Park.

Laura is on tour in the UK in April and in the US in May. These shows are can't miss if you like this kind of music. Check the Tour section of her website for dates. Note that the album is also finally out in America as well.

Final comment: Marling wrote this song when she was 18.
Here is a clip of her performing it in 2008. Since then, she's grown up! You'll see what I mean when you compare her look in the two clips and how she allows the song to breathe more now.

Flo. My. God.

Okay. The Florence and The Machine show last night at the 9:30 Club in DC was...



more soon when I have calmed down...

Update: Pics from the DC show

April 5, 2010

Bright Light Bright Light: FREE track

Bright Light Bright Light is the nom de pop of the lovely Rod Thomas, who has just finished recording his debut album, Make Me Believe In Hope. Welsh Radio 1 presenter Huw Stephens aptly called him "a one-man swoon machine." I had the pleasure of sitting with Rod at a dinner in London and he's a right gentleman. In fact, I may have scared him with my pop-musical obsessiveness...

"Bright Lightx2's" giving away
A New Word To Say, a track produced by Boom Bip, who was 1/2 of the amazing Neon Neon. It should be noted that, like Boom, Rod is from Wales and if this song were recorded in Welsh it might actually be called... Y Nyw Wyrd Ty Syy. [lame joke. syrry]

Bright Light Bright Light A New Word To Say FREE zipfile with James Yuill remix

Hear samples from the debut album on youtube and get various BLx2 remixes at his blog.

Icon, Meet Icon

See the new Spin - or Spin Online - for a fantastic piece with Debbie Harry and Alison Goldfrapp. Both look fantastic and neither is ever anything close to dull.

Meanwhile, Goldfrapp's new Head First album is stunning. While it's not the emotional highpoint that Seventh Tree was, it does have a perfect mix of 80's "stonkers" (Alive, Rocket, I Wanna Life) and subtly melancholy mid-tempos (Hunt, Dreaming). It is worth the cost of the record just for the zippery synths that dominate the final minute of Dreaming. The title track's chorus of "My whole world in light / Head first in love" will surely be one of the prettiest of 2010.

Be sure to read Robbie Daw's great interview with Alison on Idolator.

April 2, 2010

Alex Gardner: Shhh, don't speak, Hot Lips

Hello Alex Gardner! Jeeezy peezy, is that photo real? Xenomania is trying so hard to make him connect with any audience, but I am not sure it's going to work. They just need to put the album out. I'd show you a recent Q&A with young Alex, but his answers were so canned - he apparently has no musical influences - and non-answery that I cannot be bothered.

What you can watch here is his cover of the JLS hit One Shot. Alex has a very good mouth, doesn't he? Heretofore he shall be called Hot Lips...

Scotland on Sunday did a recent piece on him.

Andy Bellesque

There is so much to respect about Andy (Erasure) Bell, notably his career longevity, his sense of humor/style (they're intertwined) and his role as an AIDS advocate. Suddenly he has a new solo album out on May 25 and it's called Non-Stop. His last solo record had a set of lovely songs, including a duet with the legendary Claudia Brucken of Propaganda. This one, however, could be quite mega because it is co-produced and co-written with Pascal Gabriel, most recently responsible for tracks with Ladyhawke, Marina and Goldfrapp.

The odd bit. The album conclude with Honey If You Love Him, a duet with Perry Farrell (of Jane’s Addiction). What? The press release also has this intriguing bit: "He has even purposely changed his vocal register and style for much of Non-Stop, putting clear blue water between his soulfully electronic solo voice and his gleaming, poppy Erasure work." Not sure what the "clear blue water" bit means, but it sounds poetic.

The first single is Call On Me, out May 10th, but two songs are already out. Both were originally released in Europe under the moniker Mimo (really, why?!)

Will You Be There via
iTunes UK / Amazon UK / iTunes US / Amazon US - the Seamus Haji mix of this is vv good, though I think the better new song is Running Out - via iTunes UK / iTunes USA / Amazon

XO's Top Ten Plus One Andy Bell/Erasure Songs

Fingers And Thumbs my favorite
Love Oneself (with Claudia Brucken)
Oh L'Amour
Blue Savannah
A Little Respect
Don't Say You Love Me
Solsbury Hill
Let's Take One More Rocket To The Moon
Abba-esque (all of it)
Rock Me Gently (acoustic version)
Spiraling (acoustic version)