March 31, 2011

2011, Q1: Heartache and then some


This year is music reminds me of... one of those orgasms that just sort of fizzles out and you're like "That was it?" I struggled to find enough truly great songs for this list. Here, in no order, are my favorites for the first quarter of 2011. Normally I have a few rules, like these tunes not having to be singles (still true), but this time I am allowing more than one song by each artist, or else there would be nothing here! The colored link will take you to youtube, where you can hear/see the song.

Adele Set Fire To The Rain
Adele One And Only
Adele Turning Tables
Echoes Footprints
Sky Ferreira 99 Tears
Yasmin Finish Line (Freemasons Club Mix)
Beth Ditto I Wrote The Book
Clare Maguire I Surrender my favorite song of the last 3 months...
Clare Maguire Burn
Clare Maguire The Happiest Pretenders
Thomas Dolby Oceana
Stevie Nicks Secret Love
Jamie Woon Night Air
Jamie Woon Spiral
James Blake The Wilhelm Scream
Oh Land Perfection
CocknBullKid Asthma Attack
Wolf Gang Dancing With The Devil
Friendly Fires Live Those Days Tonight

What are your favorites?

Worthy albums thus far: Adele, Clare Maguire, Beth Ditto (EP)

Coming Soon: albums by CocknBullKid, Jamie Woon, Nerina Pallot, kd lang, Patrick Wolf, Lady Gaga, Stevie Nicks, Wolf Gang, Friendly Fires, Wild Beasts, Sarah Nixey, Penguin Prison (I hope), Guillemots, Frankmusik (maybe), Sound Of Arrows, Monarchy, The Feeling, Sophie Ellis Bextor (a sad little in-joke)

Disappointing: Beady Eye, Lady Gaga single, Human League, James Blake, Jessie J (blech)

Follow me on Twitter where I am perhaps a tad too active

March 29, 2011

Kingston Returns

Nothing says rock'n'roll heir like a fur vest. He is still more wicked than you will ever be.

Check out Kingston Rossdale's January look.

March 28, 2011

Yasmin: The end is the beginning

These are such treacherous times in the music biz that it's dangerous to get attached to developing artists. If they release a single that doesn't fly, they're done (just ask MPHO, Alex Gardner, Mini Viva, Ed Drewett, etc etc). London artist Yasmin is about to release her second single, Finish Line and - this is rare these days - she ticks all my boxes. Great track (she writes her own stuff), lush club mixes, stunning face, solid video, cool artwork. And now we hear that she is recording her long-player with none other than Starsmith (Ellie Goulding, Kylie, etc), among others. Let's hope some harsh record exec doesn't break our hearts, because this single transcends the malaise pop music is in right now (think anything with the ubiquitous Dr Luke sound).

Finish Line is out May 8th... and can anyone tell me what the yeah-yeah-yeah interpolation is at 2:35? [Update: It's the ad libs at 2:47 on Stevie Wonder's As, also covered by George Michael & Mary J Blige]

and her 2010 single, On My Own. Both songs have a pleasing touch of the 90's

Follow Yasmin on Twitter and watch her interview with Louie of wotyougot.

Finally, my favorite mix, Freemasons Pegasus Club Mix. Massive.


March 27, 2011

Kate Bush. First George Michael and now Kate ...


Listen to the very vocodered sample of the forthcoming Kate Bush single, Deeper Understanding. The new version is 6:32, so one hopes the effect is used sparingly.

Edit: A certain he-popper suggested to me this is simply the voice of the computer speaking back to Kate. Good point.

Via Pop In Stereo

March 26, 2011

My Name Is Stevie Nicks: A witchy new Stevie preview

She is a magical gift that keeps on giving, 40 years into her career. My Beloved Stevie Nicks has just released a "preview" trailer for her May 3rd album, In Your Dreams.

Top Ten + 1 Great (Or Not) Things About Stevie Nicks' New Youtube Clip

1 White horses and fog. In Stevie's LA backyard.
2 Ye olde Renaissance fair styling mixed with...
3 Shockingly, Stevie in a black pantsuit working a Maryann (True Blood Demon) thing
4 The same damned pier Patrick Wolf hangs out at with his Abercrombie crew
5 A bunch of little girls you just know are Stevie's godchildren, nieces, etc etc
6 One of those girls posing as a trendy, Wilson Phillips-y faux vampire
7 Tacky McMansion with murals and Scarlet O'Hara staircase moments
8 The legendary Sharon and Lori, Stevie's ye olde background lady singers
9 Two Stevie staples: twirling and spoken word bits about herself said from a third person POV
10 Dave Stewart inserting himself into the visuals far too often. Exit stage, David.
11 A cute owl, a Stevie Nicks variant of "putting a bird on it."

The first single from the album, Secret Love, is on sale now. In this juicy-as-fuck new Guardian piece, she says the song is so old (1972) she "honestly cannot remember" which rock star she wrote it about. She also says a new Fleetwood Mac album is due in 2012 (Note: reason to live), and utters this gem of a quote about Sheryl Crow adopting children:
I want to have complete freedom. Sheryl does not have complete freedom now. She doesn't! But that's what she wanted. She wanted a baby. And I have a Yorkie Chinese crested dog. I'm happy with that.
And yes, Stevie's people (or coven, as it were) are on Twitter, though she famously vowed never to do it.

March 25, 2011

Cover Story

Sade. This album cover says "I am 52 and I am fucking hot.
Follow that, pussycat."

Patrick Wolf. This album cover literally screams "I know I was a hot mess before,
but now I am all cleaned up and pure."

March 23, 2011

Live Those Days Tonight

Live Those Days Tonight is the first single from Friendly Fires second album, Pala. I am torn*. The sound is massive, percussive pop. Not surprising considering Paul Epworth produced it. The chorus is tremendous, but the verses - aside from a cool stabbing sound - are not as strong. And the middle eight is a chant, which is another way of saying copout.

I have great expectations for Pala.
Ed MacFarlane is a sexed-up popstar with all the right moves. You know... the type who kisses anyone and everyone while drunk off his ass. Check out his wiggling hips in their last video, Kiss Of Life, below.

Pala is out May 16 in the UK and May 24 in North America. Live Those Days Tonight, in its full 5-minute form, is for sale now on iTunes US (and probably elsewhere, if could be bovvered to check.) Paul Epworth recently talked about the album, calling it a "game changer."

. Here is the first performance of it, on Jimmy Kimmel:

March 22, 2011

Loleatta Holloway's life well lived

Though Loleatta Holloway sang many famous songs, I think this 1998 cover
of a classic Style Council song is my favorite.

That is pure joy.

And when you're knocked on your back and your life's a flop
And when you're down on the bottom, there's nothing else
But to shout to the top, we're gonna shout to the top!

March 21, 2011

The Archivists!

Last weekend, The Independent published a great piece by Sam Delaney called Pages Of Innocence, with the subtitle "Devotees are creating an online archive of the magazines that chronicled their youth." It covers the burgeoning number of online blogs - they highlight three - that scan partial or full issues of British music magazines, most now defunct.

Awhile back, I blogged about Brian McCloskey's excellent site Like Punk Never Happened. This is an amazing source for full issues of Smash Hits, moving chronologically. He is up to March 1981, as of this post. My God, that is THIRTY years! Life flying by in song.

Also included are two other blogs:

Select Magazine Scans, which primarily covers the 90's Britpop era. Check out this example from an April 1993 issue with Suede on the cover. or this November 1995 page which has The Chemical Brothers reviewing Pulp's epic single Sorted For E's And Whizz.

Archived Music Press covers the now "deceased" Melody Maker. Check out this reviews page from May 6, 1989, with Simple Minds' Street Fighting Years as the lead review ("The intentions are epic... we like it that way," they write).

There is an irony to The Independent piece that says a lot about big business media in 2011: Nowhere in the online version is there an actual link to any of these blogs. They just don't get it, do they? The record companies are now catching up; not so The Independent.

Though the CD is dying, it's not dying as fast for the 30-60 year old demographic that might be remasters right now. From my viewpoint, these new magazine sites work in tandem with labels (like Cherry Red and Rhino) who are remastering/packaging older CDs. News and critique-based blogs like So Hip It Hurts and The Second Disc are indispensable sources of info.

My pocket is deeply lined with nostalgia.

March 20, 2011

Fake That > Take That

Finally, a decent video from the fab five. This is their piece for Comic Relief,
set to new song
Happy Now.

What a strange album campaign this has been. It's seemed devoid of life,
unlike the album itself, which remains... very good.

March 17, 2011

Just an invitation would have been just fine

Still stuck on my lady Stevie Nicks. I'd never seen this performance until this year - it's mind-blowing, especially the dancing during the middle eight. I am reminded that I will never live out my dream of being a Solid Gold Dancer in very tight pants. I have nonetheless mastered the primary move of throwing my head back...

You. Just. Know. Florence Welch would slay a dragon for that dress.

Awhile back I did my
Top Ten Plus One Stevie Nicks Solo Songs

and now my Top Ten Plus One Stevie Nicks Fleetwood Mac Songs (in no order)

Beautiful Child
Everybody Finds Out
Thrown Down
Sisters Of The Moon
Silver Springs
Gold Dust Woman
Sara (live version, 1980)
Rhiannon (live version, 1980)

March 16, 2011

If you're not seen red then you shouldn't be seen nowhere

The new issue of Vogue has a great quote on Rihanna...
There are very few women who can dye their hair Bozo the Clown red and still look so cool, so beautiful.
Amen. I love Rihanna. Her new record, Loud, is not her finest (that's a split between Good Girl and Rated R), but I love how she plays the pop star game with a kind of do-what-I-want elan.

The title of this post comes from Emerald City Sequence in The Wiz. I'd love to hear Rihanna remake this tune since color - or lack of it - is such a driving force in her music and visuals. If you don't know this song, it's discotastic. Hear it now.

Rihanna's Vogue Gallery

March 14, 2011

Mixtape: Sidewalk talk

That's a previously unseen (sort of) Richard Corman picture of Madonna that Out debuted today. It was taken in 1982, before she released her debut album, when she was about 23. There is something about these pictures that makes me yearn for the 80's - everything seems so pure here. What a brilliant pop star. Take a look at the full set.

Scritti Politti finally released a hits CD this week, Absolute. It has two new songs: Day Late and a Dollar Short (like Scritti produced in Britney's studio) and A Place We Both Belong. Singer/songwriter Green Gartside spoke to The Guardian last Tuesday.

Depeche Mode will release Remix 2: 81-11 album in April. Rumored to feature Rihanna, of all people. Dave was featured this weekend in a NYT style piece on Godfathers of Glam.

The Communards was Richard Coles and Jimmy Somerville. Richard is now a minister in England. Look at him today! My favorite Communards song? Hold On Tight

Fans of Morrissey and The Smiths should take a look at this AMAZING site: Vulgar Picture. Another great Smiths site is Passions Just Like Mine. Every pop artist needs this kind of archive.

Crap sentence from Janet Jackson's shitty new self-help book: "My childhood was a powerful and often perplexing combination of experiences that were wonderful as well as challenging." Wow.

The Guardian has a video of Patrick Wolf playing a new ballad, Armistice, from his soon to be blowing my mind album, Lupercalia. It's gorgeous and reminds me a lot of the sound of the moody Wind In The Wires, my favorite Wolf album.

We are just a few weeks away from the CD version of Duran Duran's All You Need Is Now. Hear samples of the new songs now. Too Bad You're So Beautiful sounds like a highlight. For US fans, note that the Best Buy edition has a unique track called Early Summer Nerves (also a part of the Amazon UK edition). More on various special edition details at DD's site.

Sarah Nixey, whose Sing, Memory was one of the better pop records of 2006, is coming back with a second solo disc in May. Called Brave Tin Soldiers, it's a more stripped own affair - details very soon.

My tweep Michael Cragg tells us who the hot new produceres are that we need to keep an ear on. As for Michael's blog, a recent gem of a post followed his granny's thoughts on Britney Spears' video. The Brits tend to call their grandmas "Nan." This is very odd; what if their grandma is named, liked, Gladys?

Speaking of Britney, this week I got the new Scritti Politti compilation. That record has a new song called A Day Late and A Dollar Short that I said sounded like Scritti meets Titney. You can hear an interview with Scritti maestro Green Gartside via the Music Weekly podcast.

The Feeling. I am not sure their single Set My World On Fire - hear a 60-second sample of here - is going to do anything. I have not heard the whole thing yet, so I could be wrong, but it seems like zero growth for them musically. I have higher hopes for the full CD, but I've kind of moved on from this sound. Myfizzypop Paul will not be happy with me for saying this!

William Orbit thinks Madonna's directorial debut, W.E., is Oscar worthy. I doubt it, but he has done music for it. Billy Bubbles also gained some notoriety for admitting his Britney collaboration had been dumped from her new record.

REM must have hired a blogger because now they have a blog where they write about themselves! The occasion is the 20th anniversary - JEEBUS - of Losing My Religion. Meanwhile, their new album is out and Uberlin and Every Day Is Yours To Win are highlights.

90's babies: Great news about Suede. This summer they are releasing uber deluxe editions of their 4 albums, each with two CDs and a DVD, so....
bonus tracks and footage, the works. Cleverly, they release one a week for five weeks starting May 30. My favorite Suede album is Coming Up (the tracklist is AMAZING) - that hits on June 13. If you don't know that album, get ready, it is fucking TOPS. Amazingly, you can order the double CD Best Of for 3.99 on Amazon UK!

Follow me on Twitter or friend me on LastFM! It IS my birthday week after all...

March 13, 2011

Up in '11: Marques Toliver

photo by Jimena Roquero

Just at the moment when I'd been feeling a bit despondent about the state of pop music, especially new artists, along comes the quite literally glorious Marques Toliver. 24 years old, he sings, he write his songs, he plays violin with a shivering intensity. And comes from Florida - Daytona Beach of all places. To paraphrase Madonna, "in the evidence of his brilliance," here is Marques singing White Sails on Jools...

Marques' debut EP, Butterflies Are Not Free, is released in the UK on April 25th. Marques talks it up on his blog. The EP will also be made available worldwide very soon. Tracklisting:

1 Charter Magic
2 Sitting Up In My Room (this will likely not be a Brandy cover!)
3 Deep In My Heart (lead single, stream below)
4 Anniversary

Marques' live schedule:

March 16: French Legation Museum, Bella Union / Yours Truly Party @ SXSW, Austin, Texas (3.40pm)
March 16: Red-Eyed Fly, Transgressive Official Evening Showcase @ SXSW, Austin, Texas (8pm)
March 19: Music Gym, Communion / Neon Gold / Chess Club / Plugged In PR Party @ SXSW, Austin, Texas (2pm)

April 7: St. Giles In The Fields, London (EP Launch)
April 25: Rough Trade East In-Store, London
April 30: Camden Crawl, London
May 1: Camden Crawl, London
May 14: The Unitarian Church @ The Great Escape Festival, Brighton

Marques Toliver - Deep In My Heart by Bella Union

You can follow Marques on Twitter too - it's actually him. Thanks to Michael Cragg for the find.

March 11, 2011

If you let me love you, I will love you to death

Keren Ann's
ubercool new single, My Name Is Trouble, reminds me a bit of the work of Bertine Zetlitz, Anneli Drecker and even Feist. It's almost electropop, but a bit more cerebral and indie electro suggests.

Keren Ann was born in Israel and raised in Paris. She's released several albums, but gained wider attention for an eponymous English album back in 2007. Her newest record, 101, is out in the US on March 22. I've barely delved into the album, but agree with Loïc of It's Pop! that this single is its highlight.

The minimalist video for My Name Is Trouble is brilliant: the styling and dance moves are simultaneously simple and iconic. Keren Ann herself reminds me of Sigourney Weaver during certain shots, but her hairstyle is inspired by Joanna Lumley!

Keren Ann's on tour this summer in N America:

April 17 - Kimmel Center - Philadelphia, PA
June 7 - Bell House - Brooklyn, NY
June 8 - Bowery Ballroom - New York, NY
June 9 - ICA - Boston, MA
June 11 - The Warhol - Pittsburgh, PA
June 13 - Lincoln Hall - Chicago, IL
June 14 - Cedar Cultural Center - Minneapolis, MN
June 17 - Triple Door - Seattle, WA
June 18 - Biltmore Cabaret - Vancouver, BC
June 19 - Doug Fir Lounge - Portland, OR
June 21 - Yoshi's - San Francisco, CA
June 23 - Casbah - San Diego, CA
June 24 - McCabes - Santa Monica, CA
June 25 - Luckman Fine Arts Complex - Los Angeles, CA
June 28 - Drake Hotel - Toronto, ONT

My Name Is Trouble is available on iTunes US now.

March 8, 2011

Cover Story: Stevie Nicks being Stevie Nicksy

Like the gypsy that she is, Stevie Nicks is squiring a celestial white horse on
her new album cover.

If you think the airbrushing is a bit... extreme... our bella donna has a history
of that. Here is Rock A Little, released 25 years ago:

I think I actually prefer the new Secret Love single cover...

which calls to mind an image used for her first solo LP back in 1981...

She is nothing if not consistent.

Lastly, I want to quote from a post I did in 2010 about Stevie:
She is an enigma. We don't have stars like this anymore. So original and smart and artistic. We have a few new ones, Florence Welch being the obvious one. You just know Florence reads all sorts of weird books and likes pre-Raphaelite paintings, etc. Rufus Wainwright grew up loving opera. Little Boots? What the hell moves her soul? Sometimes I feel like, as time goes on, we idolize people who don't have any curiosity. They don't have influences other than really shallow ones like, sorry, Madonna. And it's a vague kind of influence. Nothing MOVES them emotionally. Really, what moves Ke$ha? Drugs, Jack Daniels and cock?

I blame you, I blame you

Remember when Radiohead made actual songs with melodies? Since 2008, Wild Beasts have filled that void. Their new single is a lullaby... but what will I dream if I play this when I go to bed?

Wild Beasts

Download Albatross for free (one week only) at Wild Beasts' Facebook page

The track is for sale now on iTunes UK and soon to appear in the US. The album, Smother, is out May 9. Earlier gems include The Devil's Crayon and Hooting And Howling.

March 5, 2011

Patrick Wolf's next single, House

Patrick Wolf's new video journal features a live version of his extraordinary upcoming single, House. The best yet from his new album, Lupercalia.

He recently talked to Digital Spy about the album, out in May 30:
There's a song called Bermondsey Street, which is a love song for a straight couple and a gay couple. It's for the straight couple to realize that the gay couple are experiencing the same emotion of love, but that it just happens to be between the same sex. I wanted to try and eradicate the prejudices that come with gay love. I also love The Days, which is like a wedding waltz song, and Together, which has a classic disco production with an amazing string section.
The tracklist for Lupercalia:

1. The City video
2. House
3. Bermondsey Street
4. The Future
5. Armistice
6. William
7. Time Of My Life video
8. The Days
9. Slow Motion
10. Together
11. The Falcons

video via
The Quietus.The previous video journal is here.

Guillemots return with Walk The River

That is a tiny picture of Guillemots. Pronounced Gill-uhh-mots.

Guillemots are back just one year after their lead singer, floppily-tressed Fyfe Dangerfield, released his crisp, lovely solo album, Fly Yellow Moon. Their new record, Walk The River, is out on April 11 in the UK. Though the first single is the crunchy The Basket, the band are giving away the title track for free!

Word is from Holy Moly that Walk The River is a sad album, which is brilliant... sad music is THE BEST. Here is the track-listing: 1. Walk The River 2. Vermillion 3. I Don't Feel Amazing Now 4. Ice Room 5. Tigers 6. Inside 7. I Must Be A Lover 8. Slow Train 9. Sometimes I Remember Wrong 10. The Basket 11. Dancing In The Devil's Shoes 12. Yesterday Is Dead

Download Walk The River

Stream it here...

I am not in love with The Basket as much... check it out below.

If you want to explore Fyfe's Fly Yellow Moon album, try these tracks: Don't Be Shy, High On The Tide, Barricades and Faster The The Setting Sun.