December 31, 2011

Best 2011: Top Songs

We do like a recap, don't we? This list is hard to do as it changes constantly. Here is one last attempt. I should note I learned about many of these songs, which are not all singles, from you. Some of the sound quality on the streams is a bit meh (#apols, as one tweets).

1 Florrie I Took A Little Something UK SONG OF THE YEAR #1
The unusually long intro (about 75 seconds) heralds the arrival of a great pop diva and the first truly magic Xenomania track in two years. A few reasons: 1) The amazing aural hook sounds like my cell phone text alert. 2) The lyric "I'm dreaming that you're crawling into bed" kills me every time.

2. Friendly Fires Hurting UK SONG OF THE YEAR #2
A bit of pain is rewarding. I fear the pop kids may have missed this gem because they decided Fires were for drunk dancing boys, like the lead singer, Ed. But Hurting is actually a song to dance to while your pants are slowly falling off. Favorite moment: 3:55, when he whispers hurting this way, hurting this way...

and the rest:

Rihanna We Found Love UK/BARBADOS

This all comes down to the hook, "We found love in a hopeless place." Gorgeous.

Sky Ferreira 99 Tears USA
As I said earlier this week, the bridge (2:30) is epic. The impressive vocals/lyrics have an emotional heft that extends beyond the song's "I want to make that bitch boy cry" message. "Do you wanna know how it feels to be me? / When your heart's on the floor and your dream's all gone." Preach, child!

Darren Hayes Talk Talk Talk AUS/UK
Of the many solid tracks from "Darryl Hanes" this year, I choose this superb return single. Lovers in a state of flux, talking it out, not walking out. The strings at the end of the album version seal the deal, but fans should note there is an "attic" version of this song that recasts it as a hushed ballad. Amazing...

Stream it here (embed disabled)

The Goodes feat Judie Tzuke Solid Shoulders UK
If you are prone to high drama, walking around with massive strings orchestrating your every move, then this song is a tonic - or a catalyst - for you. Released with The Goodes (but all Judie on vocals), it pulses, bangs, dips and swoons... one of those urgent, string-laden epics that could collapse under its own weight, but never does. Needless to say, the topic is love. A bit of a spoiler: the "don't leave me hanging" ending is a moment of genius.

Uh Huh Her Another Case USA
The surprise track from the American duo is the SEX. Rock'n'roll on a highwire. Sometimes you hear a song and think "this is me" - and no one would ever guess. I like that.

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds Everybody's On The Run UK
I mentioned in another post that this track's swooning, melancholy orchestral bridge makes it his finest song since 1995. Listen for it from 3:55 to 4:30. Mad beauty from an unexpected source.

Lana Del Rey Video Games UK
Lean in for a big kiss. No other song in 2011 came so out of the ether and captivated people on first listen. Nothing comes close in that regard. Video Games will be lippy Lana's blessing and curse, it is so utterly perfect.

Florence + The Machine All This And Heaven Too UK
From a heavy, heavy record, this is probably not the tune people expected I'd choose. It could easily have been empowerment anthem Shake It Off or the album opener Only If For A Night. But I love the emphasis is on the lyric here. Linguistics never sounded so celestial.

Adele Set Fire To The Rain UK
Another album with a cache of potential songs to put on this list. I chose Set Fire because I played it the most, simple as that. That swooping vocal near the end does it every time.

Jamie Woon Shoulda UK
For me, the most melancholy song of 2011. I associate strongly with a particular moment. Enough said.

Gotye Save Me AUS
In my own lush brain, this was the longest running #1 hit of the year. The lyric is so uplifting. "And you gave me love | When I could not love myself | And you made me turn | From the way I saw myself."

Emeli Sande Daddy UK
She brought back a sound we'd forgot we loved. This is a triphoppian epic with blazing strings. The kind of music that sounds great in your ears on a cold, grey city day or deep in the night. I hope she'll be all over my 2012 lists.

Beth Ditto I Wrote The Book USA
A danceable classic, but Beth always takes it a beat beyond fierce. She's not that simple. Her lyrics are among the best this year: "Heartbreak and then some | Tell me, where is a friend when you need one? | Before you take a second look | Remember I know every trick in the book."

Jessica 6 See The Light USA
Sweaty night music that builds over five minutes in a frenzied orgasm of sound. Jessica 6 and Nomi Ruiz are the wicked cool heart of New York.

Will Young Jealousy UK
Hands down, Will's most accomplished, artistic single. It represents the album perfectly in not only how elegant it is, but how his vocal restraint gives way to the tension on the song. This is a seriously slow burn and the album version is the keeper, you should know. Flawless.

Alpines Cocoon UK
Bjork did not deliver the kind of edgy, widescreen Utopia I wanted, but this pretty (and totally unknown) London duo did. It's also the Video Of The Year.

Play it here (embed disabled)

Clare Maguire I Surrender UK
O Clare. The album failed, but that doesn't take away from its quality. I shockingly never wrote about this song, which was, for a long time, the crown on my list for 2011. It's like the best of Fleetwood Mac reconstituted for today's popstrels. That it wasn't released as a single is a pop injustice. "Be mine. It's a physical thing."

Kathryn Calder Turn A Light On USA
I heard this one drizzly day on NPR and crushed hard. It starts out sweet but goes godamned celestial by the end. Glorious.

What did I miss?


Some songs that made it to this list and were cut and added and cut at various times: 1 Marina and The Diamonds Radioactive, 2 Sophie Ellis Bextor Synchronized, 3 Patrick Wolf Together, 4 Friendly Fires Live Those Days Tonight, 5 Beyonce's Schoolin' Life, 6 Lady Gaga's The Edge Of Glory, 7 Penguin Prison Don't Fuck With My Money, 8 Darren Hayes Bloodstained Heart, 9 Yasmin Finish Line (Freemasons Mix) and 10 Foster The People I Would Do Anything For You and the plus one, Will Young's Come On.

Click here to see more of my favorite songs from the first two quarters of the year. Where was I in Q3?

December 28, 2011

Best 2011: Top Ten Musical Moments

Top Ten (Plus One) Musical Moments of The Year

10 Lady Gaga's finest musical moment ever comes in the clanging final minute of Marry The Night.
From 3:35 onward, it blazes. Ironically, it sounds like she is singing Madonna at about 3:50, right? And that bassy bed of synths at 4:05? Chills.

9 The swooning, melancholy orchestral bridge of Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds' Everybody's On The Run, his finest song since 1995. Listen for it from 3:55 to 4:30. Mad beauty.

The 90-second "showgirl" piano intro to Kylie's live Les Folies version of Everything Is Beautiful. Indeed, it is.

7 The moment in the gorgeous middle eight of Friendly Fires' True Love when it goes from funk to swirling synth. From 2:25 to 2:41 - I play this segment over and over and over. The whole album is filled with this kind of detail.

6 The string coda (3:01) on the album version of Darren Hayes' slayer of a summer single, Talk Talk Talk. It's emblematic of the album's incredible string arrangements. In this case, they emphasize the sadder subtext of a dancey pop song.

Stream it here (embed disabled)

5 2:58 to 4:00 of Jessica 6's See The Light. This tracks kills me DEAD. J6 are totally in the NOW and deserve a big budget for 2012. We need Nomi Ruiz as a pop icon - she makes the listener feel as fierce as she is.

4 The slow horn-laden section (2:25 to 2:42) of the sweetest love song this year, Patrick Wolf's Bermondsey Street. "Regardless of religion. Braver than any faith..." Again, chills.

3 The closing 40 seconds of Jamie Woon's heartbreaker, Shoulda. "
A sign for what's been. Sign for what'll never be." This one makes me really sad; enough said.

2 The bridge (2:30) to Sky Ferreira's 99 Tears. The impressive vocals/lyrics have an emotional heft that extends beyond the song's "I want to make that bitch boy cry" message. "Do you wanna know how it feels to be me? / When your heart's on the floor and your dream's all gone." Preach, child!

1 The unusually long intro (about 75 seconds) to Florrie's I Took A Little Something, my favorite pop song of 2012. That amazing aural hook sounds like my cell phone text alert. I love the way it builds and opens up at :46. Hear it. The edited clip below doesn't have the long intro, but does have the moment where the track kicks in (:35).

and the inevitable Plus One goes to...

The final 50 seconds of Florrie's indie masterpiece, Experimenting With Drugs. Hear it. Jesus God, that song is brilliant. It moves from layers of shimmer to a lonesome New Order guitar. This girl is the real deal.

What are your favorite moments in songs this year?

photo by Slimane

December 22, 2011

Best 2011: This Is Bigger Than The Grammy Awards

Xolondon in London

Pretend I am giving out these awards in a posh hotel in London, surrounded by drunken popstrels...
Artists of the Year: Will Young and Florrie. He finally reaches his sublime peak with Echoes ten years into his career. And Florrie, after a period of finding her musical voice, releases Experiments, the most listenable, concise pop music collection this year.

Singing Voice(s) Of The Year
: Ed MacFarlane from Friendly Fires, Will Young, and Wild Beasts' Hayden Thorpe, whose voice finally tipped from weird to so right in 2011. And lippy Lana Del Rey (aka Lizzie Grant) for some fearless "monotonic" trilling. And Adele, of course.

Wiggling Butt Trophy: Ed MacFarlane. Behind every great voice is a great ass.

Most Precarious Hype: Okay, yes, Lana Del Rey. Let's admit it now: this could crash and burn. Latest release Off To The Races gives some hope though. Born to die, indeed.

Producer Of The Year: Richard X for his work on Will Young's perfectly realized Electro Pop Moment, Echoes. Total eleganza. Careening emotion without breaking a sweat.

Three Wise Men Who Deserve More Respect/Attention Than They Receive: Chris Glover, aka Penguin Prison, for his gem-laden debut, which is almost a Greatest Hits record. This guy has it all and not enough people understand that! Wolf Gang's Max McElligott, who did an equally fine job merging indie with pop melodies on Suego Faults' 10 tracks. I'd also add Jamie Woon, whose debut Mirrorwriting is the most subtle, lovely fuck music of 2011.
Best Musical Trend: The perfect EP. Following Robyn's EP mentorship in 2010, Beth Ditto and Florrie NAILED it down in 2011.

Lyrics of the Year: There are so many, but some are quite plain, with a personal meaning. Instead, here are two great lyrics that wordsmith big emotion...
Jamie Woon, for the heartbreaking conclusion of Shoulda:

A sign for what's been
Sign for what'll never be.
The line under what's been
The line for what'll never be.

When the years are collected
I pray that we are regretless.
You and I, the connected
You and I and the blood and the bone.
And the chorus of Bon Iver's Holocene:
…and at once I knew I was not magnificent
hulled far from the highway aisle
(jagged vacance, thick with ice)
I could see for miles, miles, miles
Worst Lyric of 2011: This clunker from Marry The Night by Lady Gaga: "Love is the new denim or black."

Live Show Of The Year:
Without a doubt, for sheer (gay) spectacle and audience love, Kylie Minogue slayed them (in Fairfax, VA of all places). Also loved Will Young at Shepherd's Bush Empire in West London. He owned the stage... "totes" imperial/totes adorbs. Both had excellent tour programmes too. Laura Marling was a blessing since I saw her in a synagogue.
Most Unexpected Pop Moment of 2011: Sitting on a couch in Brian Higgins' big studio/office in the Xenomania HQ in Kent, answering the question of what I thought of Lana Del Rey with "I need to hear an album first."

Cutest 80's Popstar (Aging Well): Nick Heyward of Haircut 100
Album Cover Of The Year:
Friendly Fire's Pala ties with Wolf Gang's Suego Faults. For complete packaging, Darren Hayes' deluxe edition Secret Codes and Battleships and Nicola Roberts' Cinderella's Eyes.

Best Vinyl Package: Wolf Gang's
gorgeous (and $$$) limited edition 12" single for The King And All Of His Men. Look at the art here.

Best Ass Package:
That Jonas brother.
Best Promotion Featuring Penises:
LeKid's Oh Alright album release party invitation (definitely NSFW or children)
Best Summer Album:
Torches by Foster The People. Chipper California sunpop.
Fave Musical Women of Tweet: Same as 2010: Tracey Thorn, Judie Tzuke, and Helen Terry,
but I'd add Cher and Rihanna.

Best Musical Man of Tweet: Aaron Gilbert of Delays.

Most Favored Social Media:
I lovex3 Tumblr

Most Missed Blog / Website: Remember The Eighties,
supposedly due back in 2012.

Top Remixes Of The Year:
Melanie C Think About It (7th Heaven Club Mix), Adele Someone Like You (Jonathan Gering Mix), Robyn Call Your Girlfriend (Sultan and Ned Shepard Remix), CocknBullKid Asthma Attack (Wawa Mix), Tracey Thorn You Are A Lover (Clock Opera Remix), Emeli Sande Heaven (Mojam Remix), Marina And The Diamonds Radioactive (Starsmith Rework), Florence + The Machine Shake It Out (Benny Benassi Mix), Florrie Call 911 (Florrie Remix), Will Young Come On (Beatless Version), Kylie Minogue Put Your Hands Up (Blue Satellite Remix),
Kylie Minogue Put Your Hands Up (Pete Hammond Mix), Hurts Sunday (Seamus Haji Mix), Yasmin Finish Line (Freemasons Mix), Sophie Ellis Bextor Starlight (JRMX Club Mix), Lady Gaga Sheisse (DJ White Shadow Mugler Mix), Casey Spooner Faye Dunaway (French Kiss Mafia Remix), and my favorite remix of 2011, Josie Cotton See The New Hong Kong (Loverush UK! Club Mix). Just glorious.

My Own Favorite Blog Posts (On This Here Blog, By Me):
A few: When Clare Maguire Rings, A Ke$ha Kristmas?, 10 Musical Thoughts on Marry The Night and an interview with Darren Hayes.

Biggest Surprise Album: The pop indie chick debut solo record by The Nicola, Nicola Roberts of Girls Aloud. My favorite songs are Lucky Day, Say It Out Loud and Everybody's Got To Learn Sometime.

Obligatory Madonna Award For Single Not As Good As It Should Be: Masterpiece.
I'm not really in love with it.

Most Obviously Tired Award:
Lady Gaga
wins for the third time in a row. The Edge of Glory video-shoot meltdown said it all: personal drama ruins what should have been her finest moment. Rihanna's running a very close second.

Flop Of The Year: Bjork's would-be return to pop, Biophilia. Amazing album cover, tuneless music. Bjork has maybe not lost the plot so much as willingly tossed it, which is even more depressing. I blame her hot husband. Note that Biophilia also has the biggest discrepancy between album art (uhhmazing) and songs (what songs?).

Disappointing Albums: These are disappointing because I really do think the artists are talented and worthy of attention. First, 
Frankmusik's Brit-ruined-by-LA mess Do It In The A.M. (I hope he doesn't read this! I just heard a loss of identity in this record.), and Beyonce's screechy 4, complete with creepy, uncharacteristic pregnancy-whoring. Then some bewildering stuff: Kate Bush's 50 Words For Snow aka 50 Words For Slow, Feist's torpid Metals (which may someday grow on me, I admit), Stevie Nicks, whose latest solo record wove about five solid tracks into a tapestry of dull... or better yet, a shawl of meh. Rihanna made her umpteenth album in a matter of weeks in random hotel rooms. It sounds like it. Though TTT has a few great singles, the rest is filler.
THE WHY ARE YOU SCREAMING AWARD goes, sadly, to my girl Florence Welch, who shouts her way through one of the loudest albums of the past few years. I've heard Ceremonials sounds much better on speakers in a room (versus earbuds). Maybe when I move into a cathedral I'll finally understand what that means.

Best Look: Florence Welch
for her Virginia Woolf Goes To A Marvelous Party styling. Mannish elegance. Andre Leon Talley has the vapors.

Best Pop Diva Moment #1: Madonna
reclaiming her throne with a simple declaration: "I absolutely loathe hydrangeas."

Best Pop Diva Moment #2: Darren Hayes
telling me to have the French toast while he chose some berries. "Tell them I eat." he said, waving his fork over the bowl.

Worst Trend #1:
Artists on Twitter responding only to negative tweets, thus 1) fueling more negativity and 2) alienating fans who come offering a positive comment. I don't care if its hard for you to respond to a compliment; that is a part of fame. Say Thank You and move on.

Worst Trend #2:
Also on Twitter: Self aggrandizing hashtags and retweets. We do not need to see that everyone loves you. Bully for you, boring for us. And that hashtag branding? Gauche.

Good Riddance Award:
The haughty/phoney Natalia Kills. who is probably waitressing at an Angus steakhouse in London. This shit happens when you rip off an artist (Gaga) who has already used up her own bag of tricks. It's like double jeopardy.
Artist I Abandoned Because She Seemed To Give Up: Clare Maguire, who performed at Lovebox, completely ignoring any tracks from her debut album. The whole thing inspired this post. I should note Clare's song I Surrender is one of my favorites this year.

The "I Have No Idea What You Are On About" Award: Marina And The Diamonds blathering away to Popjustice about archetypes and selling out for a slice of the American dream, all the while actually selling out for a slice of the American Dream. It's as if, by arting it up, we might not notice her going what seems to be a very uber commercial route. That said - let me be contrary like Marina herself! - I fucking love her and Radioactive has truly beautiful bones.

The PR Award: Really? You Expect Me To Fall For This?
I absolutely loathe Jessie J. And Ed Sheeran: pointless and derivative, if less offensive than Jessie.

Worst Song: Price Tag by shriek queen Jessie J. Followed closely by a Lady Gaga tie: Born This Way or Judas. You pick based on how loose your bowels feel in the moment.

Thanks to all who read this blog in 2011.
I know that "nobody reads blogs anymore," so I appreciate anybody who takes their time to check out what I have to say. And thanks as always to my online friends and the London boys and girls. Music makes the people come together, etc etc bla bla bla. xo

Not done yet! Next: Top Songs, Top Albums and a huge-ass list of almost every song I loved in 2011. Follow me on twitter in 2012!
Cravenly, I am also on Tumblr and lastFM. And here are my 2010 lists...

December 14, 2011

Will Young, hung by the chimney with care...

Will Young is doing a little advent calendar thingy, complete with a horrible Christmas sweater (he seems prone to crushingly bad sweaters, especially in his TV series, Bedlam). Today's bit is the chance to win Christmas card from Will, which I entered. The contest, not Will himself.

Will Young's Twelve Days Of Christmas

Will has just announced a June 2012 tour of the UK - a forests tour. One would like to see Will in the woods, wouldn't one? No word on a new single. Meanwhile, he is going to place
very high in my end of year lists. How high? Stay tuned, willies.

UPDATE: We also love Will for THIS MOMENT at the Palladium Monday night, especially for his final comment: "Make sure you buy some merchandise."

Hat tip, Spitzer.

December 13, 2011

Fibes goes to... Cerahtonia?

Fibes, Oh Fibes! are back in April 2012 with a new album called... Album. The first release is Cerahtonia. What is that? Where is that? They drop a lot of F bombs there. The song was produced by Pontus Winnberg of Miike Snow and is a diversion from their previous work. I am not sure what to make of this one, but the first proper single, Apex Of The Sun, is actually out January 21st.

Fibes, Oh Fibes!

If you're unfamiliar with Fibes, scramble to iTunes and look for these tracks: Get Up, Love Child, Love Will Always Find A Way, Run To You (with Kim Wilde!), Dubious and Silhouette.

December 12, 2011

The Lady Sarah Nixey's Christmas

The lovely Sarah Nixey has a new Christmas single called - this is meta - Nixey's Merry Christmas Single. Same cheeky humor from her days in Black Box Recorder! UK fans can buy it here, while US fans can go to Amazon.

Remember that Sarah had an album out this year. I highly recommend two tracks in particular: The Burial of Love and Frost At Midnight.

And yes, she looks gorgeous in that photo...

December 9, 2011

I wanna be the one in control. Autoheart

It's been two long years since The Gadsdens released their beautiful single, The Sailor Song (watch it), and they are finally back, now called Autoheart. I asked Jody Gadsden about the new name and my suspicion was correct (I am wily like that): the name comes from a line in The Sailor Song: " I saw through your automatic heartache..."

is first track from their 2012 debut album and they've nailed it. Produced by Danton (Coldplay) Supple, it casts the band in a more uptempo setting.
This one really surges and soars...

Control by Autoheart

Control will be released as a free download on December 19 via the band's Facebook page (or now on the Soundcloud link!) If you want to know more about the band, I did an interview with Jody in late 2009. They also recently put out a teaser video - a gorgeous ballad call Only A Fool - check it out too.

December 7, 2011

Ladyhawke can't protect you

Ladyhawke returns with a new album called Anxiety in March. Music is saved for
the second time in 24 hours. Here is a preview...

December 6, 2011

It begins again... Miike Snow

The incredible Miike Snow are back with a slayer of a tune, Devil's Work. New album done and dusted. Music is saved in 2012.


December 3, 2011

Cover Story: Lana del Rey

Bee-stung Lana Del Rey is starting to reveal details of her debut album, including this cover image. Wow, am I disappointed. This girl's music evokes so many cool, old school images and this mugshot is what they choose? Fail. Perhaps this is just the single cover.

The next single is, obviously, album title track Born To Die, which you can stream below. In some sense it's more of the same. The vocal that was so unique on Video Games can seems a bit somnambulant or even drugged at times. Which is, I suppose the point! Regardless, this track has a booming chorus and some big budget, widescreen orchestrals.

When I was in England, a very famous record producer - I'll talk more about that later in December - asked me what I thought of Lana. I said, "Well, I love the two songs we've heard, but I cannot imagine a full album of it." She is being positioned as THE new icon, but this sound could get old fast. What do you think? The CD is out January 30, so we'll know soon enough...

December 2, 2011

10 Musical Thoughts: Marry The Night

Last night, I live-tweeted (isn't that what all twatting is?) the new Lady Gaga video, Marry The Night. As always, if you can't stream the video, go to youtube. Here are some revised thoughts from my tweets...

1. The track itself has perhaps the most compelling minute in pop music in 2011, from 3:35 onward, it fucking blazes.

2. That said, it also has one of the most awkward lyrics of the year, "Love is the new denim or black." Inane.

3. This video is a 13-minute closing statement for why Lady Gaga has lost the plot. That plodding, overwrought intro piece before we ever get to the music. And what should be the payoff dance sequence at the end? It gets all chopped up so we don't see it. What was that? Did she try to tell the story of her career in final minute?

4. Gaga, people liked you for your pop songs and get-ups, not because you self harmed, aborted a child or whatever you are vaguely alluding to for 8 long minutes. How that moment affected your fame, I don't get. Apparently the answer to all woes is "I will be famous!"

5. She is straining to shock: I had an abortion, I am showing my tits to my Monsters, I am puking, it turns out I paint on my hair color while drugged up in a bath. Am I sick in the bath or am I sexy, writhing around with my hot tats?

6. As @jbspitzer said, "Can we talk about her Madge voice?" What was that enunciation in the narration? And yet another brazen Madonna getup when she goes to the dance school and they're all looking down at her (which is overcooked symbolism).

7. How much did this bloated self indulgence cost? And how is this video 13 minutes long and yet it still feels incomplete? There are huge gaps in the narrative, especially given the glimpses of visuals in the final minte. This is a VIDEO, Gaga, show us, don't tell us.

8. Somebody at Lady Gaga's label - we know it's Interscope because its scratched on her hand at the end - needs to stand up to her and say "You need a seasoned video director who can help you tell your stories." Madonna and Michael hired the best and never had the hubris to think they were better. This is the career moment where Gaga should use her industry bona fides to bring back big guns like Mark Romanek.

9. What do I think is good? The blow job cheek/hand motion. A few of the looks, like when she marches up to the dance troupe at the end and takes off her glasses. Or the very brief big hat ("I made it! My hat is too huge for my car service!"). And the signature dance move - that leg kicking thing. Let's all do that over some beers and forget this vagazzled mess.

10. Silver lining: One would think that Madonna will see this Gaga video and say FOLLOW THIS PUSSYCAT. My own roommate summed up Marry The Night best when she said, "Who's got time for all that bullshit?"

no no no, Gaga. It's embarrassing now.