February 29, 2012

Quote Of The Week: Shirley Manson on Rihanna

Shirley Manson on Rihanna and the music business:
To me, what’s happening with Rihanna is really disturbing. Don’t get me wrong—I love Rihanna—but what’s happening to her is what happened to Britney [Spears]. Record companies are overworking these girls, just pushing them and pushing them. It’s like taking a winning racehorse and stabbing it in the neck over and over with steroids. The companies are preying on these young girls, who are valuing themselves according to how many followers they have on Facebook. There’s press about how Rihanna’s about to collapse from exhaustion, and yet she’s about to put out a new record. It’s madness.
Well said, Shirley. The "album every year/non-stop tour" model is artistically and physically unsustainable for Rihanna. I also I think her recent behavior is a dark outcome of being told what to do, non-stop, for 6 or 7 years. She is rebelling in the most visible way she can think to do it. "Now watch THIS!"

Read more of the Shirley Manson interview in Bullett. And PS, I hate love.

February 25, 2012

Keane return May 7 with Strangeland

Click to make giant so you can see Tim's very nice shoes.

My swoonpop favorite, Keane, returns on May 7 with
Strangeland, their first full-length record since Perfect Symmetry in 2008. The band now feels, as I do, that an element of magic was lost on that album. In my opinion, it was the overdone arrangements - it was only when I listened to the Sugababes' take on Spiraling (play it) that I appreciated what a truly stunning song it was. This time the band - officially a foursome now - promises a big emotional sound like their debut, the perfect Hopes And Fears. Strangeland has 12 tracks, whittled down from about 19 recorded...


1. You Are Young
2. Silenced By The Night
3. Disconnected (live)
4. Watch How You Go
5. Sovereign Light Café (live)
6. On The Road
7. The Starting Line
8. Black Rain
9. Neon River
10. Day Will Come
11. In Your Own Time
12. Sea Fog


The first US single is Silenced By The Night. Rumors say there will be a deluxe edition with 4 bonus track and a box set version with the bonus tracks and a book. The album was produced with Dan Grech Marguerat who produced, among other things, the recent Penguin Prison album.

XO's Top Ten Plus One Keane Songs:

Your Eyes Open
One of my all-time favorite songs, ever. Reminds me of Ultravox's classic Reap The Wild Wind in its grandness and beauty. Tom Chaplin brought back the romantic male vocal.
We Might As Well Be Strangers
I was on a hotel bed in London when I first played this (on headphones). I love how the song explodes at minute two.
This Is The Last Time
Anyone who says "this is the last time" never means it, do they? It's only when they don't bother to say it that they actually follow through.
Leaving So Soon
This song reminds me of someone important to me for many years - someone who I now so utterly dislike that I hid from him when I recently ran into him for the first time in five years. "A slap in the face for you now," indeed.
Everybody's Changing
The kind of chorus that appeals to many in its universal whynotme-ness.
The Frog Prince
One of the few songs on album two that matched the mood of their debut. Another song unafraid to wear its tender heart on its sleeve. Lovely middle eight.
Crystal Ball
A cringe-inducing lyric, I admit, but the song still works because you can't really hear the worst bits clearly. Knowing what we know now, it seems like a message from songwriter Tim Rice Oxley to singer Tom Chaplin.
Somewhere Only We Know
The Song Most Likely To. Everyone's covered this, the nicest version being Laura Michele Kelly's orchestral arrangement.
Snowed Under
The band's first set of b-sides (for album 1) were as high quality as the album tracks and this is one the finest. Hard to pick the best one for this list...
This 2008 single was a bold attempt to push the boat out and try something new. It is distinctly Bowie-esque, but the lyric has the same emotional resonance as their debut. "Did you want to be in love?"
Your Love
From the recent Night Train EP, this one has a vocal by Tim Rice Oxley, though it screams for a version with Tom on lead. It chugs along, but also has that ecstatic quality this band does so well. It should also be noted the final 30 seconds is like classic Madonna.

Want to revisit Keane? Do it at Grooveshark. And tell me what your favorite Keane songs are!

February 20, 2012

Rufus: Stay for awhile...

The unexpected first sounds from Rufus Wainwright "big pop album" Out Of The Game are not pop at all... Montauk is a track written for his baby daughter, Viva.

Click to hear Montauk via KCRW

For those outside the US, Montauk is a place. A quiet beach town on the far tip of Long Island, New York. I think it's fair to say it's a retreat for the wealthy. Rufus - in his usual sassy style - talked in 2010 to the NY Post about his favorite places in Montauk.

UPDATE: Watch this...

Thanks Torr

February 19, 2012

Flash or trash: Girls Gone Wild

Madonna is already moving on to her next single, the Benny and Alle Benassi-produced Girls Gone Wild. Another intelligent lyric? No. Innovative arrangement? No. Catchy? Hell yes.

Decide for yourself..

The lyrics is a sly nod to Cyndi Lauder, is it not? A video is being shot this week with the brilliant photographers Mert and Marcus, who did the new album photos. 

February 16, 2012

Quote of the Week: On Nicki Minaj

Loved this analysis about Nicki Minaj from this week's New York Magazine...
Stardom can actually porter whatever baggage you bring to it. All it asks is that you embrace its bonkers logic and then perform it back to us, dancing your ass off in that hypercolor dream­scape, all decked out for the fame-drag ball.

- David Wallace-Wells, from Shape Shiftress, NY Magazine

Thanks to Sean Hannan for the catch

Up in '12: Jessie Ware

You'll need a glass of wine and lamp dimmer for this song....

Out of nowhere, Jessie Ware arrives with
Running. Produced in London by Julio Bashmore, it can only be called a seductive piece of bluesy pop that sounds like it was recorded in the 90's. Remember when the radio was lit up with great female singers like Lisa Stansfield?

Check out her new video now....

She's been styled in that clip a bit older than she is, from what I can tell. She has a Gillian Anderson thing happening. Having experienced a massive letdown when Emeli Sande's album turned out not to be MY version of events, I will guard my optimism. Jessie's own album is rumored to be out in summer.

February 15, 2012

Playlist: You are the prince of charms

It was Valentine's Day yesterday - did you catch that? - but this post is not just for the lovers. It's for the singletons too. Everyone is worthy of a good jam. So to speak... as it were.

Cassie King Of Hearts hear it
On first listen, this is an endless chorus. That said, it goes super lush at about 2:30. Orchestrals, electronics, the works. I've always liked Cassie: she has a thin little bird voice, but she's got a great look and zero pretense. And this track, on constant repeat, gives me chills. Who knew?

I Belong In Your Arms hear it
This indie pop band has shined it up for a major Pop Moment with this lovely single. The chorus soars, but it's the propulsive movement of the arrangement starting at about 1:50 that really gives this song weight. Those chants at the end are f*cking epic. Case closed.

Lana Del Rey Radio hear it
Not quite uptempo, but then Lana rarely does giddy, does she? This one has a beautiful chorus - "My life is sweet like cinnamon, like a fucking dream I'm living in" - but it's the layered middle eight (from 2:15 to 2:40) that lifts Radio off the ground for me.

Sam Sparro The Shallow End watch it
We love this place, we love it! This is happiness is song form. Absolutely fantastic return from Samola. And that sax breakdown... horny horns!

Goldfrapp Yellow Halo watch it
Great songs, like books, must have amazing opening verses. The imagery in this seals it for me. And the music is bliss. "You said you wanted to fly / a silk red kite / or on arrows / To the moon / wearing all white."

Emeli Sande Mountains

Someone of PJ Forums called this the new Fast Car. Maybe. I think the problem is that, without the amazing string arrangement, the song will be a bit repetitive. That said, it has a strong lyric.I still think the LP is a snoozy letdown.

Smash Cast featuring Megan Hilty Crazy Dreams hear it
This is how you do it. Take a truly terrible song - Carrie Underwood's Crazy Dreams and completely revamp it into a Bruce Hornsbyesque mid-tempo ballad. Why can't the Idol ream come up with a winner's song like this? And yes, I love Smash, which I keep inadvertently calling Shame. Two different.. err... vehicles.

Madonna Give Me All Your Lovin' not recommended
Toni Basil is sitting on a couch, quietly sipping her tea, saying "Reductive." To my ears, one of the weakest Madonna singles in history, but the video is her best in years.

Other letdowns: The new Fibes, Oh Fibes song, Apex Of The Sun is very weak. Nor do I like much of the new Miike Snow music.

Again, most of these songs are for sale now on iTunes. Check yours. And then follow me on twitter!

February 11, 2012

My silent Valentine

Will Young singing Silent Valentine on Graham Norton, February 10, 2012. He's the master of the heartbreak ballad, isn't he? It's safe to say that Valentine's Day can often seem like a cruel, pointless holiday. Regardless, this performance is flawless, especially the middle eight at 2:08. The only thing missing is the shower of paper hearts that rained down on Will at the end of the live version I saw in London this fall.

Will's new single, Losing Myself, is one of my favorites on Echoes. If you don't already have that album, give yourself - ain't nobody else gonna do it! - a valentine and get it. Even if you live in America and have to order the "old fashioned" CD (the artwork is vare vare good!). It was my favorite of 2011.

UPDATE: Watch Will's new Losing Myself video - it's good stuff! - on my tumblr.

February 4, 2012

Goldfrapp, properly anthologized

This week Goldfrapp release a stopgap hits record called, imaginatively, Singles. The cover is dire and setlist is weaker, though they have contributed two new ballads to the set. Here it is:

1. Ooh La La
2. Number 1
3. Strict Machine (Single Mix)
4. Lovely Head
5. Utopia (Genetically Enriched)
6. A&E
7. Happiness (Single Version)
8. Train
9. Ride A White Horse (Single Version)
10. Rocket
11. Believer
12. Black Cherry
13. Yellow Halo
14. Melancholy Sky

My friend Mike at Second Disc has a series called Reissue Theory where he imagines what should happen with artists' back catalog. I am going to do that here with Alison and Will.

Aside from a better cover image, my version of the Singles album would be called Collected. The tracklist would be similar, but add a few songs and run in chronological order...

Disc One:

1. Utopia
2. Lovely Head
3. Pilots On A Star
4. Strict Machine
5. Train
6. Black Cherry
7. Ooh La La
8. Number 1
9. Ride A White Horse
10. Fly Me Away
11. A&E
12. Caravan
13. Happiness
14. Rocket
15. Believer
16. Alive
17. Yellow Halo
18. Melancholy Sky

The bonus disc would compile b-sides, remixes and rarities, including a currently non-existent studio recording of an early live epic, the James Bond-worthy Sartorius...

Disc Two:

1. Lovely Head (Staré Mesto mix)
2. U.K. Girls (Physical)
3. Horse Tears (Live at the Ancienne Belgique)
4. Big Black Cloud, Little White Lie
5. White Soft Rope (featuring The Midwich Children Choir)
6. Yes Sir
7. Sartorius (studio version)
8. Gone to Earth
9. All Night Operator (Part 1)
10. Beautiful
11. Boys Will Be Boys
12. Satin Chic (Through the Mystic Mix, Dimension 11 by The Flaming Lips)
13. A&E (Gui Boratto Remix)
14. Road to Somewhere (Acoustic Version)
15. Clowns (live from Union Chapel)
16. We Radiate

A proper collected works with something for everyone. Did I miss anything? Remember to check out Second Disc's Reissue Theory posts. They're more comprehensive than this one!

February 2, 2012

I wanna be next to Sam Sparro

Sam Sparro is finally releasing a new album, Return To Paradise, in May. He promises a record that is "a personal journey to self-fulfillment through the music of late 70s and early 80s" with more live instrumentation (versus electronics). Song titles include Bleeding Heart, Happiness, Let The Love In and the first proper release, an excellent track called The Shallow End...

Don't be alarmed if the floors shake, the promo has begun for Paradise! Sam just did an interview with Idol Magazine that's worth your time, and you should also catch his blog - which he recently revved up again when he went to the menswear shows in Paris. He's also doing a mini-tour of 8 US cities in April.

If you've forgotten - or never knew - why we should be caring about Sam Sparro, it really hinges on the still-epic Black And Gold, as well as tracks like Pocket and 21st Century Life.

February 1, 2012

I'm a hugger. Are you?

Darren Hayes hugging a lot of people in London on Sunday, January 29.
A beautiful way to be.

Annie are you okay?

I have a hate hate like love hate thing for Glee, which I think is on the slide. Occasionally, however, they nail it. Like this arrangement /performance of Smooth Criminal...

Naya Rivera is a star, period. The whole thing - cellos to chairs to vocals - is perfect. This isn't totally down to the genius of Glee producers. Idolator makes the point that they co-opted it from an earlier performance by the two cellists. Regardless, the iTunes version of the track is longer, at 3:35, extending the string break in the middle.