June 30, 2010

2010: Q2: Surely it's all unicorns and rainbows from here on out?

In no order, my Top Songs for the second quarter of 2010. I still put on just one song by each artist and for this list all of the songs are actually released. You can hear/see them by clicking on the title...

Kelly Rowland Commander

Kelis Brave
Robyn Dancing On My Own

Katy Perry (gag)
California Gurls
Keane Your Love

Ed Harcourt
Tracey Thorn Hormones
Stars Fixed

Delays Moment Gone

Nobody's Daughter
Rose Elinor Dougall Find Me Out
Sia My Love
Christina Aguilera I Am

Plan B
Love Goes Down
The Divine Comedy
I Like
Diana Vickers
My Hip
Kele Yesterday's Gone

Scissor Sisters Invisible Light

What did I forget?


Worthy recent albums:
Tracey Thorn, Jonsi, Plan B, The Divine Comedy, Stars, Delays, Kelis, Scissor Sisters, Aqualung

What's coming:
Kylie, Kylie, Penguin Prison, Bareilles, HURTS, Kylie, The Pipettes, Kylie

Artist I Love Whose Album is Not For Me:
Sia - it's just more poppy than I'd hoped, though I can see what the intention was.

Kate Nash, Xtuna, Andy Bell, Hole, bland new single by Sara Bareilles

June 29, 2010

Dragonette's summer of sex

Dragonette, the most resilient, underrated, fizzy pop band in North America, have relaunched their website this week with a tidbit of news you may not have noticed....
What we hope you will pick up is our new warm weather single, which will be dropping around the time of our US and Native Land tour in August. It contains a new disco-drenched piece of loveliness called “Volcano” and “Our Summer” (a/k/a “My Summer of Sex”), which we have been playing on Tour for the past year.
Meanwhile, the TRULY EPIC Pick Up The Phone is the iTunes (US) Single of The Week. If you don't know it, download it here. The album, Fixing To Thrill, is on sale for $5.99 too. As PopJustice would say, Quite Literally Amazing.

Follow Dragonette on Twitter
and read what I've said about them in the past. And finally, Stoneyroads has a cool new remix of album track Easy.

UPDATE: They're playing Arjan's show in Atlanta in mid-August. Details here!

Scissor Sisters: Album 3 out now!

Nice one Jake.

Scissor Sisters new CD is out now, worldwide! You can read my track-by-track here. The band just did a funny promo for Night Work with guests like Kelly Osborne and Amanda Lepore. Watch it now.

June 28, 2010

Marina: She knows exactly who she wants to be.

Marina Diamondis has met her match in video director Kinga Burza, who directed her superb debut, Hollywood (watch it), and now her latest single, Oh No! Burza's playing Sophie Muller to Marina's Gwen Stefani, with videos that cannily exploit Marina's personality and beauty. Marina has the "x" factor needed to make a pop star these days, no doubt. She also has the ambition and the songs to back it. The question is really down to her voice: is it something for pop radio delivered to the masses? If you grew up in the 80's, you cannot help but think of Lene Lovich (evidence) when you hear Marina's highly dramatic vocals. In fact, that's one thing that threw me when I finally heard her full album, The Family Jewels. After the relative restraint of I Am Not A Robot and the gorgeous Obsessions (watch it), we got a full album high on energy and theatrics and a bit lower on subtlety.

Do you think Oh No! will be a hit? At the end of the day, it's all down to UK radio - if they take to it, she'll succeed. If not, it won't happen. It's a skittery choice, but clearly an earworm, produced with LA pop maven Greg Kurstin.

Regardless, it must be said: Marina is one of the most visually striking women to enter pop in ages, all black hair and pale skin and red lips. Thank you, Marina, for NOT dying your hair blond like so many in your cohort.

Vogue UK shot this short making of for Oh No!

And here is the completed video...

June 25, 2010

We've got an energy. KYLIE KILLS IT.

When we are fiercely old party children*, we'll look back on the early 21st century and say we were thrilled to live through two historical events: 1) The election of Barack Obama as President and 2) the release of Kylie Minogue's Aphrodite. This is - hands down and back up again - the finest pop album since Madonna's Confessions, perhaps better. Not only is it filler free, it is overflowing with those moments of pop euphoria where music does what it should: lifts you up and carries you off into the clouds. Music wins, music saves. First thoughts...

1. All The Lovers becomes clearer in the context of the whole album. It's softer in spirit and sets the tone.

2. Get Outta My Way
After living with 90 seconds from the mega-mix, this song - the most instantaneous on the album - surprised me with verses more sleek than the chorus. It's born into the Top 20 Kylie songs. And the lyrics will inspire. XO to poor tourists on DC streets: "Get outta my way, way outta my way." They also work for the Ass Game (thanks Rod!) "Get outta my ass, way outta my ass."

3. Put Your Hands Up (If You Feel Love)
The Starsmith collaboration has not one, but TWO incredible breakdowns. There's something very 90's here, but I can't quite nail what it is... it's not the raver lyrics, it's the arrangement.

4. Closer
I could do a two word review of Aphrodite that goes like this: Gaga who? But I won't. The electronic harpsichord on Closer kills.

5. Everything Is Beautiful
Shimmery mid-tempo notable for its lyrics: "If I lie with you long enough, I can see the things I'm dreaming of / Let's go through the ritual until everything is beautiful...." sigh. Thank you for that, Tim Rice Oxley.

6. Aphrodite
Pounding manifesto. When I first heard it, I thought, errr, Gwendolyn and her marching band had invaded West London, but the song goes way beyond that hoohah. Screaming to be a single, the earworm is in that "all righhut" business. And the smooth middle eight is like ice cream.

7. Illusion
This hasn't totally clicked for me. Where and what is the key inside this song? Maybe the strings on the middle eight...

8. Better Than Today
reminds me of Scissor Sisters. It pushes right up against honky tonk and provides a good change in mood and tempo. Stuart Price perfected that trick on Madonna's Confessions.

9. Too Much
Monolithic. Calvin Harris creates a worthy followup to his 2009 hit Flashback. Can you imagine this on a really loud sound-system? Poppers O'clock. Love the vocals on middle eight.

10. Cupid Boy
The one in which Kylie pushes close to cutesy but backs off with the incredible synths in the middle eight. (Notice a middle eight theme here? It's not self-referencing. All great albums are loaded with them)

11. Looking For An Angel
I was told this track is "very XO" with those seesaw strings and the oooh ahhh - again - middle eight. Layers and layers to this. "When good things are good I wan t to share them, I don't want to be alone..." That whole section is amazing.

12. Can’t Beat The Feeling OBSESSED with the synths at 3:11. Kylie no longer needs to perform old songs. She could tour this whole album and the audience would go there with her.

Clearly Aphrodite will solve famine and war. It may even clean up the BP oil spill.

*Thank you Scissor Sisters

June 23, 2010

We Thought The Feeling Was Over... But It's Not

The Feeling are working on their new album - due this fall, supposedly - as I type this. After the relative disappointment of their Ta-Dha-esque second disc, this follow-up is make or break. I'd been feeling (!) quite negative about their chances until I heard the live rip of a new song they did - perhaps called Leave Me Out Of It - with Sophie Ellis-Bextor on co-vocals (watch it at the bottom of this post). It ditches the retro ELO-isms for something more sleek and mature. And then I heard this bit of news...

They are working with Freemasons.

Dan talked about it on The Feeling's site last week:
I wouldn't say it's a dancey record. But it's definitely contemporary. There are a couple of dancier songs, but then our last record had that. I Thought It Was Over was fairly dancey. It's not a major departure from what we've done in the past - but we just wanted to do it better. So, we're working with Bob (Bob Ezrin) because he's one of the best rock producers of all time, and we're working with the Freemasons to help make sure the synths and the programming are as good as they can be.
The Feeling with Sophie Ellis Bextor, live in London:

June 21, 2010

Mixtape: A little more grown up, a little less ramshackle Muppet-fest

At the time this post goes online, I will be on my way to see Goldfrapp for the very first time. Am going with Vinny So Hip It Hurts Vero. Will report back. (I always say that and rarely do, but I'll try).

Twitter has made me lazy on some level. I used to write long, thought-out reviews, but that seemed to die with the advent of my tweeting. One could say this is indicative of an existential problem with Twitter, but I love it and think the problem is more about how much time I have to tend to the web versus actual real life. It's summer and there is a world out there!

Has anyone heard the album by Lissie? I cannot make out what her identity is. Is she a pop radio chanteuse a la Sheryl Crow / The Corrs or is she a neo-country folkie of the Laura Marling school, but one who has a penchant for covering current radio hits?

Alexis Petridis interviewed Robyn in the Guardian last week. Of and Body Talk Parts 1 and 2 she says, "The working title for the first album was A Bunch of Songs. The second album was going to be called Some More Songs."

Speaking of Sweden, a friend introduced me to Elias And The Wizzkids, a Swedish indie pop act. I heartily recommend their song Oh These Nights - it's on iTunes.

The Guardian also has a good piece on The Scissor Sisters, whose new CD is out on June 28th. The killer quote is Jake about their next tour being "a little more grown up, a little less ramshackle Muppet-fest."

Pitchfork has a new Blonde Redhead song - for free. I've never quite committed to this band. Like Ladytron, they always seem on the verge, thought I'd argue that Ladytron nailed it on their last CD.

Madonna no longer makes music. She makes ad campaigns and her latest is about to hit. This time D&G are "inspired by" Anna Magnani.

By the way, that recent Madonna issue of Interview was nearly impossible to get. I get that mag in the mail, but it always arrives virtually destroyed (hint: I am not renewing).

Dear The Independent: Your music page looks like something from 2000. Please update.

Sting's taken the orchestral-covers-of-hits track, which is not a good sign. The worst bit? The record is called Symphonicity. How fucking cheap, trading off a classic Police album.

Stevie Nicks is FINALLY recording a new solo album in between her zillion live dates. One collaborator is Dave Stewart of Eurythmics. All we know is that recording has begun.

Dangerous Muse are still saying they are going to release their debut album. Just DO IT. Put it out online. Make it a cheap $6 and I will buy it. I was not impressed with their recent single I Want It All, but they had good collaborators on the CD and are capable of something better.

The Pipettes next single is Call Me - actually one of the lesser songs on their upcoming album.

Eminem now supports gay marriage. I assume he means it, but it's all a bit late. I am sure he still LOVES women, you know. [eyeroll]

Kele Okereke. Wow, what a total transformation in public image. Who knew he'd be flashing his guns and ass and going pop? I'd been under the impression his solo CD was a slapped-together affair, but I think I'm wrong. Single Tenderoni did not wow me, despite the title. But there are good tunes on the record like the pretty Yesterday's Gone or the frenetic On The Lam.

Sarah Nixey has self-produced a new album - yes Black Box Recorder is well and truly kaput - and she is shopping for a label to release it. Stay tuned.

Boy George is about to release a new 16-track album called Extraordinary Alien. It features his latest single, Amazing Grace, as well as the brilliant Yes We Can and Time Machine - remember that one with Amanda Blank Ghost. He is also on the new Mark Ronson album (out ??) singing Somebody To Love Me. He talks about it here, when it had a different title.
Which reminds me, where is Daniel Merriweather these days? Singing (beautifully) for his breakfast on TV in Hotlanta. The song, Red, is absolutely The Shit. A tearjerker of the first order. That Daniel did not take off is a failure of someone other than himself. He is lovely and amazing, end of. T

Finally, from the Evening Standard (!?) about a recent Gucci store opening in LDN:
Who let the wolf out? Halfway through his performance on a ukelele, avant-garde singer-songwriter Patrick Wolf announced to a not-so-attentive audience: '"I'm getting paid a thousand quid for this and I get a free Gucci suit, so f*** you if you don't want to listen." And then carried on.
Patrick is back on Twitter, by the way.

Oh. The BBC Chart Blog quoted me (on Robyn), y
ay me.

June 20, 2010

John Taylor's 50th Birthday: 10 Musical Thoughts

Awhile back I declared it my new mission to bring Duran Duran to the Pop Children of the world. Today is John Taylor's 50th birthday. To celebrate this uber-important milestone, here are 10 musical thoughts about John and Duran Duran.

1 I love John's Obama campaign video. Especially how he says Bare-ack Obama.

2 Best Duran Remix? Come Undone (La Fin de Siecle) is GORGEOUS. Slowed down into a monolithic Bond-ish ballad. It's on iTunes, as is almost ALL their work.

3 Best Duran Duran smash hit no one knows? Serious. Note I am obsessed with John Taylor smiling in the video at minute 2:06 (and shown above). He is so... twinkly.

4 Saddest Duran Duran song? Michael You've Got A Lot To Answer For. Heartbreaking song about Michael Hutchence. Ironic to this post, John had no involvement in this song.

5 My favorite Notorious song not on Notorious. It's a b-side called We Need You. The reissue of Notorious in September will have the song, which is on iTunes now.

6 Duran recently did a round table (again, minus John, booyouwhores) where they answered fan questions. They talk a lot about the forthcoming Mark Ronson-produced CD, but no details yet

7 A must-see video from a Duran perspective and music biz perspective: The Duran documentary (1987) Three To Get Ready - it's totally worth the hour-plus it takes to watch on youtube. It's more poignant to watch now, knowing that John is correct in the film to be worrying that the band is no longer topping the charts.

8 A few John facts: His name is Nigel John Taylor. He has an 18 yr old daughter named Atlanta (Amanda de Cadenet is her mom and here are more pics of her). He has a big overbite that, in America, someone would've forced him to fix and thus damaged the JT charm.

9 People forget that John actually left Duran Duran in 1997ish for two albums (technically he is on Medazzaland, but barely). He returned when Andy Taylor returned and he remains today.

10 Finally, why has no one ever covered New Religion? It's epic. Penguin Prison should take it on.

John, during his Duran hiatus, singing and SMILING V. NICELY:

Here is John talking about the first Duran Hits album, looking very glamourboy:

Last word: John just did a birthday blog .

June 19, 2010

Karen Elson as Grace Coddington

A bit of a random post. For those of you who saw the excellent film The September Issue (trailer) and know the brilliant Grace Coddington. Here is Mrs. Jack White, model/ singer Karen Elson, posing in homage to her.

Below is a video of Martha Stewart talking with Grace about cats (and this photoshoot). Factoid: Grace has a blue persian cat identical to my cat Jasper.

June 17, 2010

The Return of Lloyd Cole

Photograph by Alistair Thain

Lloyd Cole is one of my icons. His three 80's albums with Lloyd Cole and The Commotions are rich, evocative pop. Poetic, sometimes cheeky and always literate. They sound as good today as they did upon release. Since that time he has recorded six proper albums and numerous side projects. He also inspired the Scottish group Camera Obscura to write a song is his honor, Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken (a response to what may be his most famous song, Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken).

Lloyd is preparing to release his next album, Broken Record. You can hear samples of threes songs (Oh Genevieve, Like A Broken Record and Writers Retreat) via the Tapete Records site. The samples suggest Lloyd is more band-focused this time out. At 49 (the above picture is from his pretty boy era in 1988), he has an ageless voice and the new arrangements have a bit of twang thanks to some banjo and mandolin. They sound like a natural extension of his early work with Lloyd Cole And The Commotions and perhaps a bit more energetic than his recent work. The 11-track album is due out on CD and vinyl (!) in September. Among the musicians on the record is Joan Wasser, aka Joan As Policewoman (and former girlfriend of Jeff Buckley!) on piano, vocals, violin and guitar.

Every time I see Lloyd Cole live, I have a moment before he opens his mouth, where I know my whole life is about to wash over me in his first words. His voice, for me, is like seeing the Eiffel Tower in person, Iconic. I've done many posts on Lloyd including one about My Bag, one of many Cole songs I cannot live without. But somehow I never did this...

XO's Top Ten Plus One Lloyd Cole Songs (in no order)

Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken*
Big Snake*
My Bag*
Jennifer She Said*
Cut Me Down*
Forest Fire*
No Blue Skies
Lost Weekend*
Margo's Waltz

*With The Commotions. This list was really hard to edit- there are so many brilliant songs I left off. His various Hits collections are superb and worth a try.

June 15, 2010

Roisin: A remix AND a reality check

First, at the bottom of this post, a tremendous Mircrofilm remix of Roisin Murphy's fall single Momma's Place. I love this and it totally escaped me when the guys first did it, so it is here at their behest (and my pleasure). For those of you wondering what is up with Roisin in the music department, she posted this message (I edited it a bit) on her EMI fan forum:
"Times have changed guys; a fifty-piece orchestra (Statues) is simply not possible. Believe it or not I love club music, I spent a lot of my life lost in music on one dance floor or another and happily I believe it works better when it’s raw. Yet, functional music is exceptionally hard to pull off and so it’s still a challenge I find incredibly interesting...

I happen to think there were some wonderful mixes of Momma's Place done in the competition, as good as any so called professional ones and I find working with the new technology of web possibilities exciting. Whatever you think of Perez, his website is the reason so many people submitted tracks, in the hope of finding a massive audience for their work and for that I thank him...

I am turning a new chapter in my creative life, returning to London next week to get started. I have a child and she is wonderful, so everything else will have to fit in around her. I will do this on my own terms or not at all. I am closing down this site [her EMI site/forum], as it seems very much part of the past. A clean sheet is what’s needed and that is what I intend to create. Those of you who wish to follow my evolving career will not be disappointed, as I still have a lot to prove. There may be some of you who are perfectly happy with what I have already created, with old records and with the past. The past will always be there but I have to move on, so I must respectfully ask you to make your own arrangements.

That last line reads as a bit of a fuck off, but I think it may be more along the lines of "You can keep wishing for [x] but ain't gonna happen." To some degree, I am surprised that Roisin has not found a new label for her work. Even if Overpowered was an expensive "failure," it was also an artistic triumph that widened her audience and expanded her reputation. While I am not sure Roisin is cut out to be a mainstream "hit" artist, I find it hard to accept that some label could not put a smaller investment into her work. If anyone can come up with clever music and videos on a lower budget, I'd expect it to be Roisin Murphy. She followed up that post with another this week:
And so there it is, all I can do is bring the whole thing back to basics in the hope I can build again from there. Song by song, performance by performance, no massive over arching plans and no pressure so everything I do I can do with complete conviction. It’s about creativity again, in everything. It should be fun and so it is.... You guys have always been and always will be great! Stay in touch with one another and may I humbly ask you to keep an ear out for me? Because I’ll be out there, fighting, writing, recording and performing my little socks off.
Though I've never loved Oral Fixation, her other fall '09 single, I still don't get the disregard for Momma's Place. It's a slammin' Prince throwdown - Prince in his inventive phase - with a Tracey Thorn-esque mother-to-child lyric, full of honesty, sass and love. DO try this remix. I particularly love Microfilm chose to end the track.

Momma's Place (FREE Microfilm Remix)
by Microfilm

Thanks as ever to the Hopeless Optimist

June 13, 2010

The Sonnets

What if I moved to Sweden and started a band? One that reflected my love of 80's UK bands like Prefab Sprout, The Style Council, Aztec Camera? I'd wear espadrilles and a crisp Thom Brown pant. Sadly, I didn't and I don't. But that band still exists in The Sonnets, a new group from Stockholm. When you hear their first single, Sebastian Said (video below), it's hard not to acknowledge the serious debt to Style Council's Shout To The Top (evidence). In fact, they recently told a blog that "The Style Council EP 'á Paris [is] the most perfect and good-looking piece of pop music ever made."

I am known to scream "derivative!" at the top of my lungs, but I love this sound so much - and I think it's so unknown to younger audiences - that I don't mind the homage all.

The Sonnets' second single, No Hollywood Ending is out June 29 and you can watch that video here.

The band's debut album is called Western Harbour Blue and it's out in late summer/early fall. Here is what they say about it:
We wanted to make something that bright and pure. A pop music still blue-eyed, naive and and oh so young at heart. We were inspired by the things that brought us back to that feeling. The Style Council. The first summer with Charles and Sebastian in Brideshead Revisited. Prefab Sprout. Jimmy Connors last serve game against John McEnroe in the Wimbledon final in 1982. Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights.
While we wait, here is a superb remix that brings a contemporary edge to the debut single...

The Sonnets Sebastian Said (Montauk Remix) right-click for free/legal MP3

The debut album is out in Japan in July, Sweden / NO / FI and DK on Aug 16, UK / FR/ IT and N America (digital) in September. Sebastian Said and its remixes are on iTunes US, among others, right now.

UPDATE: The album, sadly, turned out to be an utter piece of crap. DELETE.

Track by track: Scissor Sisters' Night Work

Contrary to the image above, Scissor Sisters is still a band with five members. The fifth member is not Stuart Price, whose production work invigorates the band's third album. Though it was inspired by Jake's time in Berlin, and recorded in London, Night Work screams New York at it finest. For me, that city is the fifth Scissor Sister.

The sound of the album is more classically Scissters than the (great) songs released so far, which bear a stronger imprint of Stuart Price.
Night Work is bounds ahead of its sometimes neutered predecessor, Tah-Da. It's imbued with the band's foxy spirit.

Here is a
track by track:

Night Work, the song, is redolent of the album's most frequent sound: surging disco rock. There are crunchy geeeetars all over this album. The chorus is in falsetto and the vibe reminds me of, strangely, ZZ Top's Legs.

Whole New Way is rubbery funk, with Jake singing in that sort of "cracked" voice he sometimes assumes. The line that leaps out from this song is: "I think I need a rubber tonight." Mmmm hmmmm. The chorus is very elastic and Cameo-esque and there's a superb, anthemic middle eight.

Fire With Fire is understated and gorgeous. When placed in context with the whole album, it is only "sad disco" song, with Jake singing in his most pure, vulnerable voice. I adore this song and I think fans will eventually understand it.

Any Which Way is a major standout. Funky disco - think Studio 54 in 1978. Jake doing his Bee Gees vocals, with a chorus notable for a zigzagging bass sound (I guess that's what it is?). The highlight is the middle eight, a hilarious Ana Matronic monologue about taking her pantyhose out of their egg (a nice reference to retro Leggs hose) and fucking in front of... I won't give that bit away. Nice cascading vocals in the final minute, along with stabbing synth strings, hooting and random Vincent Price-y laughter. Classic Scissor Sisters.

Harder You Get, another highlight, is a rock moment. Again, Jake with the vocal affectations, which makes the lead single an anomaly. I love the southern fried rock sound of Harder You Get. It's like 38 Special... if they were cruising men outside a 76 Truck Stop. "What I really want to do tonight is toughen you up.... stop crying like a child, you got what you want..." Some nice Velvet Underground doo doo doo doos mixed in. Totally BALLS OUT, this one.

Running Out reminds me a lot of Ladyhawke, who sources some of the same sounds as Scissters. This is a party song, a tipsy singalong. "We're running out of money, of love, of luck." Not my favorite for its repetitive chorus, but very much classic Scissters.

Something Like This reference robots, apropos for it's synthetic vocals. My reaction is somewhat indifferent, but I sense it could be a single thanks to an earworm chorus.

Skin This Cat is Ana's short, sharp moment (it's 2:40). This reminds me a lot of Gary Numan's Cars, but with a breathy, sexiness. Really pleasing, this one, like a soundtrack to PacMen, circa 1982.

Skin Tight is a chugging mid-tempo, the second track with a strong Stuart Price influence. A sibling to Fire With Fire, it's less melancholy, but could also be a single. This plants Scissters firmly in 2010 - no retro references here - and it bleeds seamlessly into the next song...

Sex And Violence is a personal favorite, a slow burn with quieter vocals. "I can't escape the need for sex and violence... who's gonna make you cry?" Lyrically, I think this is one of the stronger tracks - very psychological. It has a nice buildup in the middle eight, though it never goes crazy (or, if you read that negatively, never totally lifts off). Sex And Violence SCREAMS for a mashup with Bronksi Beat's Smalltown Boy.

Night Life is a hyper 1982 pastiche - you could probably chant oh Mickey, you're so fine against the instrumental - but it has some nice drumming on the chorus.

Invisible Light is the grand finale. An over-the top, 1970's style jean creamer. I've raved about it before. This is an immense, dramatic finale to the album and one of the top 5 finest Scissters moments.

Night Work may not leap out immediately. It ditches the Elton loving chart-reaching of Ta-Dah, which is welcome, and replaces that with a mood that is more sinewy, sleazy and tough, yet still very much pop. The melodies are here, but they are more subtle... and that's often a good sign an album won't wear out its groove too fast.

Night Work is out June 28 and 29 worldwide.

June 10, 2010

Playlist: A summer high

for all the lovers.

The emergence Kylie Minogue's Aphrodite Megamix spurred some email between The Richard and I about summer music and how it can transcend good taste (or your usual taste), as my recent shameful love of Katy Perry's California Gurls has done. Summer tunes both reflect and enhance the emotion you feel on a perfect summer day or night, especially when you are in a beautiful place. They tap into a particular version of you.

Now, if You are The
Richard, there is likely an existential moment each summer when you are listening to tunes while cruising over sweeping vistas in a convertible. Mallorca, Puglia, Cape Town. The places change, the summer highs always return.

Bananarama Love Don't Live Here (Ian Masterson Mix)
because the intro is grand excess
Gabriella Cilmi Hearts Don't Lie
girls can imitate the BeeGees too
Ellie Goulding Guns And Horse (Tonka Mix)
not quite as OTT as her Russ Chimes' Starry Eyed Mix, but au courant
Goldfrapp Alive
for the zapping effects
Mini Viva I Wish (Cahill Radio Edit)
after the girls of summer have gone
HURTS Better Than Love
because, hey, they may be the Next Big Failure
The Pipettes I Need A Little Time
Pips go poppers o'clock on the bridge
Diana Vickers My Hip
because Cobraestilo, Ultimate Boy of Summer, gave it to me

Dub Pistols Back To Daylight (Sunday Best Roller Skates Remix)
it's the one that'll provoke a "who is that?" response
Kelis with Benny Benassi Spaceship (Alex Guadino & Jason Rooney Remix)
sittin' on top of the world watching the stars go by, get high get high get high
Kelis 4th Of July (Richard X Mix)
like Buddhists chanting in Ibiza
Kelly Rowland
Commander (Guetta Extended Mix)
Lady Gaga Alejandro
you know it will dominate, so just give in to it
Katy Perry with Snoop Dog California Gurls
it melted my popsicle
Madonna Revolver (David Guetta One Love Remix)
living on the edge with this one
Scissor Sisters Any Which Way
if you smell like cocoa butter and cash
Diana Ross Remember Me (Almighty Mix)
because Rod Dale gave it to me and We Love Rod Dale
Kirsty MacColl My Affair
in case you end up sleeping with the President
Fyfe Dangerfield Faster Than The Setting Sun (New Version)
sounds good against wind
Sia Clap Your Hands (Fred Falke Remix)
easing back into the dance, every summer needs a Falke mix
Eve Gallagher Love Come Down
trailblazer, this woman was.
Cher Take Me Home (7:00 album version)
Apres surf. If you're tipsy you can do the "ooh take me!' bits Sophie could not muster

and, of course, Kylie's summer epic Aphrodite, in toto

This post is for Richard, of course. Here is a picture of Richard on vacay...

June 9, 2010

Ten Thoughts on Gaga's Ale-Alejandro

#1 The 8-minute version of Lady Gaga's new Alejandro video is an icy mess. I hope we'll see a shorter edit where the best ideas leap out. My consistent complaint with Gaga's visuals is that she has a problem editing her message into something powerful in its conciseness.

#2 The song itself is brilliant. A massive summer joyride with an earworm chorus and, despite the cheesily wonky attempts at foreign accents, the vocal is less affected than many of her singles. The referencing of Fernando, recalling Abba, is canny and "just smoke cigarette and hush" is pleasingly commanding.

#3 My favorite set piece in the video is the "runway" dancing with the black pants and the Dorothy Hamill hair (look for it at 5:52), but it's been edited with a pulse effect that makes it too choppy. I also love the subversive bed dancing where she's topping the men, though the set is a rip of director Steven Klein's X-static Process work with Madonna.

#4 I've been going off Klein for a long while now. His fashion editorial work is one trick pony, usually relying on literally slick women rendered as robotic or inhuman, often set into menacing or potentially violent scenarios (he does this stuff to men too). He fares much better here, but I attribute that to Gaga.

#5 Back to her look: Amazing. It is so ugly it's beautiful, in the same way Liza Minnelli was in Cabaret. Gaga nails it every time. Most of the looks reference other artists - in this case, I see Isabella Blow, Madonna and - haha! Cathy Rigby! That's fine. Madonna did homage up the wazoo in the 80's and Gaga is smart enough to know that she still needs to seek out original iconic moments like the infamous hair bow.

#6 She is pleasingly without her usual absurd costumes in the aforementioned bed sequence. I think she needs to do more of this. She looks tiny and vulnerable. Lithe, but not like she's trying to sell sex.

#7 I agree with Tom Houser that Gaga is doing the best job at pop stardom right now, in part because she has a lot of ideas and ALL the resources, like Madonna. You want a budget for your piddly-ass video? Write to Haus of Gaga. What I am kicking against is the idea that Gaga is the all encompassing Face of Modern Pop Music - that everything NOT Gaga fades in her light. Musically, I can tell you right now that I will like Kylie Minogue's Aphrodite far more than I like Fame Monster. There is room for Kylie, Madonna and Gaga. Just not... Ke$ha.

#8 So, the challenge for Gaga is really about her music. Can she bring the same swirl of ideas to songs that she brings to visuals? She doesn't have to - Alejandro and Bad Romance are good enough as they are. But if she wants to put her money where her mouth is and create a "major musical statement," she needs to dig deeper and, I'd say, move beyond her current collaborators. To have lasting impact, I think she should step out more often from behind the characters she creates. She is most likable when she does that, though I doubt being "liked" is her priority.

#9 Which brings up another point. How Gaga's music is far more joyous than her visuals. I like it when artists weld sad lyrics to happy songs or do the same with visuals. Her view is definitely cockeyed and I appreciate that she, like Bjork, wants to bring something a bit esoteric to the mainstream. But like Robbie Daw at Idolator, I wish she'd chill on the heavy messages. It's a pearl-handled hammer.

#10 Whatever I say, she is IN the zeitgeist, if not it. She's got a halo around her finger around you.