Sunday, December 31, 2006

2006: Top Albums

Thanks to the miracle that is the internet (and free streaming services) this past year has given me the opportunity to listen to almost as many albums as I did when I was a sub-music director at a college radio station. In spite of the access there were only a few albums that I found myself drawn to time and time again.

1. Pet Shop Boys Fundamental

Returning to the principals of the duo's "imperial period" of the late 80's with producer Trevor Horn Fundamental managed to be my favorite and most listened to album of the year despite it's flaws brought on by the Boys own attempt to create a cohesive album. If they had included the Richard X produced "Fugitive" (on the bonus disc), "The Resurectionist" and "Bright Young Things" (b-sides) we would have a classic PSB disc. Sill it's hard to complain about an album that has "Minimal", "I Made My Excuses And Left" and the chill inducing "Integral".

2. Goldfrapp Supernature

Love is a difficult thing when you're treated badly and my relationship with this album is a complicated one. The music is brilliant as the duo complete their electropop makeover in a style that is unparalleled but the endless lingering in limbo for the belated US release took it's toll and I didn't find myself giving it the attention it deserved. Still tracks like "Ride A White Horse", "Satin Chic" and "Let It Take You" changed me as they left an imprint on my soul and for that I will always be grateful.

3. Tiga Sexor

Arriving at least three years too late for a proper electroclash cash out Tiga's debut album left many puzzled on first few listens. Still I've found myself going back to the album over and over again on my mp3 player as I slowly but surely have found new tracks to obsess over and pick apart. This must be why six of the tracks have outside lives as singles even when he didn't just take the easy way out by compiling his one-off single releases as an album. It doesn't matter if Tiga is taking on Public Enemy on "Pleasure From The Bass", deconstructing NIN on "Down In It" or himself on "Type Of Guy" (which references almost every single song he had recorded before the album) there is plenty of good listening here.

4. Ferry Corsten L.E.F.

Trance star Ferry Corsten proves again that he has more interests than the melodic trance he built his name with as he storms the sub-genres that fall under the electronica umbrella with an unusually strong sense of song craft. The album's profile has been hampered by dodgy single selections like "Junk", which is his 2002 hit "Punk" with a rap over it, but the album has very few missteps and is so strong that Howard Jones sounds good and relevant on his guest track (note: I hate Howard Jones). Corsten calls his music loud, electro and ferocious but "L.E.F.", "Down On Love" and "Into The Dark" explore more complex and ambiguous territory (actually "L.E.F" must be played very loud, is extremely electro and is utterly ferocious but you get my point).

5. Junkie XL Today

The most common complaint about Tom "Junkie XL" Holkenborg is that he simply copies the style of others and he overcomes that here exploring a rock-ish style of trance that he has been developing as a remixer over the past few years on an album that also delivers strong straightforward vocal songs. Fortunately it's much better than it should be and far more complex than I can properly describe as the album conjures atmospheric post-punk like The Cure but in a more electronic way. "Today", "Youthful" and "Yesterdays" are as good as it gets from rock-friendly electronica.

There are other albums that could be contenders which haven't connected with me completely yet. Junior Boys So This Is Goodbye is a truly solid album and Hot Chip's The Warning has many fantastic tracks but I rarely find myself listening to them like I do with the albums that made the cut.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

2006: Top Songs

  1. Pet Shop Boys- Minimal (video)
  2. Hot Chip- Over & Over (video)
  3. Gnarls Barkley- Crazy (video)
  4. Goldfrapp- Ride A White Horse (video)
  5. The Killers- When You Were Young (video)
  6. Junior Boys- In The Morning (mp3)
  7. Massive Attack- Live With Me (video)
  8. Tiga- (Far From) Home (mp3)
  9. James Figurine- 55566688833 (mp3)
  10. Justin Timberlake- SexyBack (video)

Friday, December 29, 2006

2006: Year End Survey

In a stunt never before attempted by me I will be summarizing the year that was 2006 in three convenient installments. First up is this lovely survey created from stolen questions.

Favorite Remix of The Year: Madonna- Sorry (PSB Maxi-Mix)
Favorite B-side: Camouflage- Conversation
Favorite Video: Hot Chip- Over & Over
Most Consistent Single/EP Package: Junior Boys- In The Morning
Favorite Song Title: The Coup- Baby Lets Have A Baby Before Bush Do Somethin' Crazy
Most Hated Song: Sandi Thom- I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker (With Flowers In My Hair)
Song That Most Sounds Like Bands Biggest Hit: Covenant- Pulse (An almost exact carbon copy of “Dead Stars” that uses the same chords, bass and melody with lyrics that also mention “stars“)
Most Played Song Released In 2006 Using Itunes: Dangerous Muse- Give Me Danger/Portishead- Requiem for Anna (8 plays each)
Program I Used Least Often To Actually Listen To Music: Itunes
Album that Should Have Been A Disaster But Wasn’t: Bananarama Drama
Least Surprising Album Not To Be Released In 2006 Despite It's Announcement: New Order’s 2006 album that they talked during promotion for Waiting For The Sirens Call
Most Bizarre Album Credit: Additional Vocal Production- Stuart Price (on Scissor Sisters Ta-Dah)
Most Regretted CD Purchase: Imogen Heap Speak For Yourself (Not for the music which is quite lovely. The cd is not supposed to be one of the sony rootkit discs but whatever it auto installed made my entire computer buggy for a week and permanently disabled my favorite program to rip and burn cds. Thanks sony!)
Favorite PopJustice Post: Debunking Banksy's lazy "art" stunt mocking Paris Hilton
Biggest Disappointment: Goldfrapp's absolute minimal promotion of Supernature in the US
Worst Music News: Tower Records closing

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Trapped In The Past

Listmania is upon us as the year comes to a close and as the next few days should attest I am not immune from the fever sweeping across the entertainment press and blogs but I did stumble into a piece on Connect Savannah that makes an interesting point. Given the amazing amount of albums released in a year across a sea of genres each year top 10 lists function as a "media Rorschach test" so that "critic’s allegiances can truly be ascertained". The article's author demonstrates his point by taking apart a couple of bigger outlets lists noting that "the average age of the top three artists on Rolling Stone’s list is 48" which "doesn’t bode well for your openness to new and different sounds". In a year where blogs have come into their own and taken over the arena of championing new music you might wonder what the editorial staff at Rolling Stone was thinking. Perhaps they were too distracted getting down with the kids with their new mtv reality show to focus on music that reflects 2006. Regardless the hidden agenda behind some lists is something to keep in mind when you're skimming the many top 10 lists out there.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Flashback: Saint Etienne "I Was Born On Christmas Day" (1993)

A couple of albums into Saint Etienne's career they realized that "when you're in a pop group, you want to do a Christmas single, don't you?" which led to their Xmas 93 EP. The highlight is the duet with The Charlatan's Tim Burgess "I Was Born On Christmas Day" which is a danceable uptempo love song in the tradition of The Waitresses "Christmas Wrapping" that is much less interested in Christmas so the song can be enjoyed year round.
The video keeps things light with Sarah and Tim meeting up for the wedding suggested in the lyrics and getting down at a wedding reception in a low cost "discotek" decorated with a Christmas tree. Having gotten married around the holidays myself the Christmas tree in the video brings back fond memories of the tree at the corner of our reception that snuck into more than a few of the wedding photographs:

: Saint Etienne's Bob Stanley was born on Christmas day so do wish him a happy birthday if you happen to run into him somewhere on this side of the international date line. While the Xmas EP is long out of print "I Was Born On Christmas Day" can be found on the North American versions of Tiger Bay and on some of Saint Etienne's singles collections.

Friday, December 22, 2006

It Takes A Village

The original Cowboy from the Village People has a new solo album out which finds him covering Pet Shop Boys, Depeche Mode and Robbie Williams among others. Most interesting is the cover of PSB's worst single ever (which just happens to be a Village People tribute) “New York City Boy” which is described as "in your face with the brash, hairy-chested treatment, complete with blazing NYC horns that the Pet Shop Boys version lacked." Preview the disc at cdbaby to get a feel for it.

Thanks to the PSB Fans myspace for the tip.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Video: Sharam "PATT"

Sharam is half of house heroes Deep Dish and his latest effort is an effective reworking of Eddie Murphy's classic "Party All Of Time". The video is a must watch so be sure to give it a look:

: Compare with the original Murphy video here and visit Sharam's myspace for more from him.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Free Download: The Knife- Christmas Reindeer

The season of giving is upon us and that hasn't escaped the notice of The Knife. For the rest of the month they are offering the song "Christmas Reindeer" for free on itunes and on their site. If a Christmas song coming from a group that has been exploring all sounds cold and creepy recently seems like an odd combination that is only because it is. They don't compromise their ideals at all avoiding the more accessible route and never loose their un-cheer which makes "Christmas Reindeer" all that much more unique for it.

Stream more from The Knife at their myspace.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Keep Your Eyes On The Real Killers

The Pet Shop Boys site just announced that the Boys are currently in the studio remixing The Killer's upcoming single "Read My Mind". This is the track on the generally rock Sam's Town that is the most likely to translate well into a PSB mix because it's heavy on the synth pads that Boys so often employ giving them a great starting point. Coming on the heels of the underrated "Bones" and their semi-charity Christmas single "Big Red Sled" this next single could be a turning point in The Killers career. Hopefully it inspires a return new wave on the next album.

Here is the video for "Big Red Sled" and if you haven't heard it yet (which as a blog reader and music fan reading a post about The Killers you probably have by this point) keep in mind that it is one of those songs that sounds like a complete mess the first five listens but grows on you after that:

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Video: Client "Lights Go Out"

Client made an unexpected return in the US this week with the digital "Lights Go Out" single. Taken from their forthcoming 2007 album Heartland the track first appeared on the PopJustice CD to generally favorable reviews that often employ PopJustice-ish buzz words like "pop" and "amazing".

"Lights Go Out" is one of those woman-returning-to-a-former-lover-despite-knowing-she-will-end-up-hurt songs and has a great pop line offering to be "your guilty pleasure". Musically the song is sort of a mishmash of ideas that they have explored before borrowing the swinging beat of "Pornography" and the ominous string sound of "Radio" but without the clarity that defines that stronger material. Client have been working with Youth and Stephen Hague on the new album, but having bought the single from itunes there is no info attached to the music (note to itunes: if you're selling music downloads then have someone copy the liner notes because it's the right thing to do) but the song doesn't really have anything resembling the sonic signature of either producer.

The video captures the trio performing individually on rotating platforms with the added enhancement of some very cheap special effects that might have looked cool in a 60s tv show but are now standard issue extras in digital video editing programs. It's a no frills production that reflects the band's new diy status (more on that in a moment) that makes the cheap videos they made for mute look like epics. Sadly even no budget efforts from band's like Freezepop show more imagination while using the same effects.

: Client broke off their relationship with Toast Hawaii/Mute earlier this year citing a disinterest in the corporate nature of Mute as an arm of EMI and they are now planning to go it alone in their native UK and are working with various interested labels to spread their muisic across the world. Finding the single online was something of a shock because Client have been promoting their cover of Adam Ant's "Xerox Machine" (hear Ant's original here) as the album's first single and that has a February release scheduled on Metropolis Records in the US. Itunes lists this single being from the band's German distributor Out Of Line and Client's myspace and official news page has no information about "Lights Go Out". It's only a message buried on Client's forum that explains that the band aren't promoting the single because it's a Germany-exclusive release and that it is intended as Heartland's third single elsewhere. One almost gets the impression that Out Of Line overstepped their rights and that this single might be pulled from itunes rather quickly. This might be the stumbling baby steps of a self release strategy but someone got a Client single online and available as a download in the US. That's more than Mute pulled off in their two album's worth of releases with the band.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Artists The American Recording Industry Deems Important Are...

The new Grammy nominations are out and while the awards have little to do with the actual artistic quality of the nominations (I know of people who work at major labels who were told to sing as part of a chorus to make them eligible to vote as artists thus getting around that whole "it's artists celebrating other artists" thing that gives the award some legitimacy) it's still interesting to see what gets nominated. Here are the categories I care about:

Best Dance Recording
(For solo, duo, group or collaborative performances. Vocal or Instrumental. Singles or tracks only.)

Suffer Well
Depeche Mode
Ben Hillier, producer; Steve Fitzmaurice & Ben Hillier, mixers
Track from: Playing The Angel

Ooh La La
Goldfrapp, producers; Mark "Spike" Stent, mixer
Track from: Supernature

Get Together
Madonna & Stuart Price, producers; Mark "Spike" Stent, mixer
Track from: Confessions On A Dance Floor
[Warner Bros.]

I'm With Stupid
Pet Shop Boys
Trevor Horn, producer; Robert Orton, mixer
Track from: Fundamental
[Rhino Entertainment]

Sexy Back
Justin Timberlake & Timbaland
Danja, Timbaland & Justin Timberlake, producers; Jimmy Douglass, mixer
[Jive Records/Zomba Label Group]

Best Electronic/Dance Album
(For vocal or instrumental albums. Albums only.)


Confessions On A Dance Floor
[Warner Bros.]

A Lively Mind

Pet Shop Boys
[Rhino Entertainment]

The Garden
Zero 7

Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical
(A Remixer's Award. (Artists names appear in parenthesis for identification.) Singles or Tracks only.)

Be Without You (Moto Blanco Vocal Mix)
Moto Blanco, remixer (Mary J. Blige)
[Geffen Records]

Damage Thorn (Buick Project Remix)
Buick Project, remixers (Tiefschwarz & Tracey Thorn)
[Fine/Four Music Productions]

Deja Vu (Freemasons Club Mix - No Rap)
Russell Small & James Wiltshire, remixers (Beyoncé)
[Columbia/Sony Urban Music]

Talk (Thin White Duke Mix)
Jacques Lu Cont, remixer (Coldplay)
Track from: Talk Remix EP
[Capitol Records]

World Hold On (E-Smoove Remix)
E-Smoove, remixer (Bob Sinclair)
[Ultra Records]

: All the songs nominated in the Best Dance Recording are great with the exception of PSB's "I'm With Stupid". Why they didn't release another song as the single is beyond me. The Best Electronic/Dance Album category has a more deserving PSB nod and the category has some good choices even if the Zero 7 and Oakenfold albums got no buzz at all after they were released. Perhaps I'll finally get around to listening to them. I haven't heard most of the Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical although it is worth noting that Stuart Price's Coldplay mix could be seen as the front runner because remixes a rock "cover" of a Kraftwerk track and that E-Smoove's reputation in the industry must be alright despite his public legal issues with Kanye West. If you're interested in listening to the "Damage" mix it is currently up at Tracy Thorn's myspace along with a track from her forthcoming 2007 album (thanks xo!).

A quick summary of the rest of the nominations:

  • Gnarls Barkley nominated for Record Of The Year & Album Of The Year.
  • Imogen Heap's nominations as Best New Artist and for Best Song Written For Motion Picture, Television Or Other Visual Media (for "Can't Take It In" from The Chronicles Of Narnia — The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe).
  • Ministry & NIN nominated in the metal & hard rock categories.
  • The Killers scored a nomination for Best Rock Song & Short Form Video with "When You Were Young".
  • Busta Rhymes Daft Punk-sampling "Touch It" is up for Best Rap Solo Performance.
  • The 80's revival is spreading as Luther Vandross, Lionel Richie and Prince compete for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance.
  • "My Humps" was nominated for a Grammy. Shame they passed on "London Bridge".

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Wrote This Post A Long Time Ago

I was going to post this back in September when this blurb was first published in the UK's Mirror but I never got around to it:

FIVE years and millions of pounds later Robbie Williams has admitted what we knew along - he'll never crack the US.

He will not be releasing his critically mauled forthcoming album, Rudebox, there. "They're not having it, I'm not releasing it there," he told Capital FM's Johnny Vaughan.

Robbie, 32, added: "The only way an album of mine is going to be in the States is if I leave it there or leave it in Tower Records. I'll go with a bunch and just leave them."

: The album is actually available online in the US making it much easier to nab the quite good PSB produced tracks, and the big download services gave Rudebox more attention than your average American would expect. Months later I still love the image of Robbie rushing into a closing Tower that has already been stripped of at least 90% of the big sellers with a pile of discs. That's his career in America in a nutshell.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Flashback: Chemical Brothers "It Began In Afrika" (2001)

First played live in late 2000 "It Began In Afrika" is the Chemical Brothers single that almost never was. A few months after the song's debut, but long before the Chems had a version they found satisfactory, they sent the song out in acetate form to a few select producer and dj friends for feedback but as they continued to tinker the track developed a life of it's own. Appearances in high profile mix sessions from their superstar dj friends created buzz for the track and several publications predicted it would be the "anthem of the summer" as far back as May of '01. Despite the praise it appeared that The Brothers couldn't bear to part with the track before it was fully realized and in the age of Napster it may have cost them. With no single in sight versions of the song and clones that sampled the title phrase flooded p2p networks by mid-summer as it became more than just an anthem but a product of the collective imagination of dance fans across the globe.

Why then was there a long wait? I believe it comes down to two factors. First off it is one of the most straightforward club tracks that The Chemicals had released as a single at that point. The song maintains the classic four-on-the-floor throughout and while it works the template fantastically there is nothing definitively "Chemical Brothers" about the track. The other factor is Norman Cook. The title sample and most likely some of the percussion are taken from proto-rap spoken word and soul artist Jim Ingram's "Drumbeat" but Norman Cook used them first in his 1988 one-off project The Urban All Stars on a track called "It Began In Africa". They were working with material their friend and competitor had already cheekily committed to a "dj and producers only" sample disc (track 30 if you're interested) so I suspect they wanted to be sure that when it was released every ounce of floor filling potential was maximized.

An official video for "It Began In Afrika" was never created and it came out nearly six months before their next album leaving the impression that they never really finished the song but it had just reached the point where it had to be released. It charted at the number 8 position on the UK singles charts which is respectable for a track that had the opportunity to tire potential buyers who had download options available for months in advance.

Also of note is the US release date on which other events of a much more important scale overshadow anything else about the song. Reminded of the release date I do think it was my intention to pick it up that day before I woke up to the worst news my generation has witnessed.

Listen to it by way of this unofficial video (actually The Chemical Brothers song over the visuals from a Cassius video):

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Stream BBC Radio's "Back To The Future"

Electronically Yours notes that this week is "Back To The Future" week on BBC Radio 6 where they are celebrating the breakthrough of synth music into the British mainstream some twenty-five years ago. Over the course of the week they are featuring the remarkable documentary "The Great Bleep Forward", a countdown hosted by OMD's Andy McClusky of the top ten synth riffs of all time, interviews with Gary Numan, Hot Chip, John Foxx & Daniel Miller and they will be playing live sessions from Kraftwerk, Ladytron, and Depeche Mode. BBC Radio archives their broadcasts for one week so click here while you still have a chance to pick a session to give a listen so you can enjoy the synthetic goodness while it's there.


Gary Numan's "Are Friends Electric?" came out as the Top Synth Riff Of All Time and Daft Punk's "Da Funk" was the only track dating later than the mid-80's to make the top ten. "Da Funk" would have been my pick if I had only remembered to vote...

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Breaking And Entering With Underworld

Underworld make a return next week with the release of the soundtrack to Anthony Minghella's Breaking And Entering in which they collaborate with established film composer Gabriel Yared. A recent feature article in The Independent went deeper in their history than most articles noting that Karl Hyde spent some time as touring guitarist in Debbie Harry's band after Freur and that their post-rave rebirth came when:

Smith had been working from his bedroom on remnants of electronic equipment. And it taught the duo something useful. "You don't need much money to make work," says Smith. "In the Nineties, we made albums we were proud of in my spare bedroom on so-called crap equipment. It sounded good to us."

: The past couple of years has seen them focus on their RiverRun Project of download only releases available at UnderworldLive. Their motivation:

"We were touring, selling records, earning good money, having a nice time," says Hyde. "That is not a creatively stimulating environment to be in," he says. "We needed to get some uncertainty back into our lives."

"It's nerve-wracking when the culture around the selling of music is saying 'Hold it back, keep it secret and then unleash it'," says Smith.

"That implies it's all you've got, doesn't it?" Hyde says. "So that's it, is it? Everything's precious, and tight, and you're releasing stuff as if you'll never write anything again."

: just the tip of the iceberg for Underworld as they are working on another soundtrack for an epic sci-fi movie directed by Trainspotting's Danny Boyle, and they plan to release their next proper album sometime next year.

Stop by Underworld's myspace to listen to a couple of tracks from Breaking And Entering or dream of the next proper album with this video for Underworld's "Jumbo":

Sunday, November 26, 2006

It Feels Good

One of the kids from Fall Out Boy, ooh felt a bit of my soul die just typing that, interviewed his "idol" and fellow hairstylist victim Robert Smith for this week's Entertainment Weekly. High points include the revelation that Smith initially had no Gothic pretensions preferring just to be in a pop group and that he has found after a tour "making a sandwich becomes really, really intense." Perhaps that is how he's acquired the nickname "Fat Bob" in recent years. Smith also confirms my theory that artists, in particular established ones, have no idea what their strengths are:

We did an album in '96 [Wild Mood Swings] and we had a song on there called ''Mint Car'' — it was the single, and I thought it was a better song than ''Friday.'' But it did absolutely nothing because we weren't the band at that time. The zeitgeist wasn't right. It taught me that sometimes there's a tipping point, and if you're the band, you're the band, even if you don't want to be, and there's nothing you can do about it.

: So "Mint Car" is a better song than "Friday I'm In Love". Let's take a listen to both:

: You tell me which song just sits there and which one brings a smile to your face. Obviously Smith has never thought much of "Friday" saying that it was "just a stupid pop song" when the single was released, but it is also a fun tune with some energy and clever lyrics behind it even if they are less than mind blowing in their depth. As I discussed with friends at the time "Mint Car" sounded like he was going back to rewrite the same song, or at least revisit the same "silly" vibe with a similar guitar riff, but it came across as a mix of trying too hard and just tired. It's almost as if he was saying if you thought that piece of crap was something than listen to what I can do when I try to make crap. If he wanted to play up better songwriting from when the "zeitgeist wasn't right" for The Cure he should be talking up The 13th. Now there's a song that is different and stays with you.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Wrote This Song A Long Time Ago

Just a little over ten years after his death Tupac has a new album out today. The phenomena of these posthumous Tupac albums has always amazed me and even more so now that this is his sixth studio album since his death equalling the number he recorded when he was alive. For proper perspective let's look at a sketch from the final aborted season of Chappelle's Show:

: Click here to listen to listen to Pac's Life for the rest of the week. It opens with gunshot samples.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Video: Johnny Cash "God's Gonna Cut You Down"

Earlier this year I posted about Johnny Cash's "God's Gonna Cut You Down" and now it has an official video jammed packed with celebrities from the worlds of music and Hollywood so you can forever associate the music of Cash with Justin Timberlake and Kid Rock:

: Cash's recording of the song was most likely inspired by Moby's "Run On" from his Play album which took samples from early folk field recordings so casting the video with the rich and famous adds another layer to a complex cycle of inspiration.

UPDATE: Apparently the video was Justin Timberlake's idea. He pitched the concept to Cash's producer Rick Rubin before American V was released. Also of note is the number of Rubin's clients like RHCP, Jay-Z, Bono and Dixie Chicks that feature in the video.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Depeche Mode's Strange Highs And Strange Lows

Depeche Mode's The Best Of Volume 1 hits the streets this week and like the infamous remix album from a couple of years ago it's available in three versions to keep DM fanatics on a diet of ramen and tap water to support their problem. The most prevalent criticism that the compilation has received is that it is pointless because they released their definitive singles collections two albums ago. It's hard to argue with that but in the band's defense it has been eight years since then and "Martyr" is available to download giving fans interested in the music rather than "collecting" an avenue to avoid shelling out too much money to get a taste of the collection's sole new track. I've given the album a listen and it is more of a success than I expected. Avoiding the chronological approach The Best Of works in the disc's favor avoiding the storyline of changing times and evolving sounds that unconsciously came across in The Singles instead finding common ground across the different eras of the Mode. A recent PopMatters article echoed a sentiment about Depeche having never released a bad album but The Best Of has enough sense to skim the generally dull Ultra and only include the one amazing track from the otherwise completely dreadful Exciter. Do I expect to buy it and own these songs for a second or third time? No. But it’s definitely recommended for casual fans who don’t feel the need to own all the albums. If you fall in that camp it is worth your time.

Perhaps if you read blogs you may have noticed that Depeche Mode won "Best Group" at the MTV Europe Music Awards a couple of weeks ago over competition from The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Black Eye Peas, Keane and Pussycat Dolls. That inspired an interesting post by at Electronically Yours about the group's low profile in their native country despite their status as Britain’s most successful musical export. It's something to contemplate as you watch Fletch's brief acceptance speech here.

Click on the link to stream Depeche Mode The Best Of

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Video: Faithless "Bombs"

Faithless return with a new album To All New Arrivals later this month (although there is no word yet on a US release) and the video for "Bombs" has been gaining praise across the internet. Continuing the anti-war sentiment first expressed in "Mass Destruction" a few years ago the video highlights the common humanity of mankind in an attempt to communicate the horrors and disruption of war by setting violent military action in the Western World where life remains largely unaffected despite the military actions enacted by our governments. The shot where a man sits watching the distant destruction on TV in the comfort of his living room as suddenly it bursts through into his living room is a particularly striking image.

: Stop by the Faithless myspace to listen to remixes and more from the band.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Fly Me Away

Ask Goldfrapp's fans in the US for their thoughts on Mute US and you tend to get some unpleasant sentiment. After all they failed to get the band out to properly tour the States and then let them get away with only doing a one-off gig opening for The Strokes and Kayne West in New York last month. So it is in the face of the album's buzz killing delayed US release and these touring issues that Mute US told Billboard this week, a mere 14 months after Supernature's international release, that they have a marketing plan:

"Our strategic goal [with "Supernature"] was to proactively expand the licensing support from the start, [using it] as traditional marketing plans use radio airplay to garner mainstream exposure," Mute director of marketing Nicole Blonder says.

Mute is also taking "Fly Me Away" to radio in different formats. "We have some programmers coming to the table," Blonder says, but adds, "we're on track to achieve our sales goals without major support from commercial radio"

: It's good to see they set "realistic" goals.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

A Short Audio History Of Techno

Kings Of Techno is a double disc compilation of mixes from Carl Craig "one of the most important names in the Detroit second generation of techno producers" and French DJ/producer/label owner Laurent Garnier which taken together creates a history and explores the genesis of techno. Garnier's disc is titled "History Of Detroit" and he chose to start his mix with The Stooges very rock "No Fun" going on to drop tunes from Aretha Franklin, The Temptations and Funkadelic before finally settling into anything with a purely synthetic pallet and sequenced beats that define the genre. The unconvential approach does wonders at demonstrating a common thread across the Detroit music scenes with the propulsive beat of proto-punk, string laden grooves of Motown and the minimal psychedelic noise of P-Funk setting the stage from the emergence of techno as genre that explores the depths of all those ideas.
Carl Craig's disc is titled "Influences & Developments" and finds him looking primarily towards electronic music created in Europe while using a similar approach it takes Craig seven tracks before getting into music that is traditionally classified as part of the techno genre. Making a larger argument for trends and traditions in electronic music across the world the mix finds common ground in the new romantic, Italo, synthpop, and EBM scenes. The compilation is a great find for those puzzled by the genre, I'm looking at you American journalists that spent 3/4ths of the 90's writing endless about the need to use drugs to enjoy the music, because it provides a context for a genre that seems to appeared from nowhere.

Click here to stream the mixes for the next day or so.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Fundamental Issues

When Pet Shop Boys Fundamental was first released I linked to Tremble Clef's remarkable multi-part breakdown of the thematic lyrical and musical elements of the of the album. I have not seen anything else that reached that level of insight anywhere else so I was intrigued when I saw a wikipedia entry on "Numb" reference a review that contains similar ideas. The review was written by Anton Marshall and is published on, which a google search reveals as "the online arm of the South African newspaper group Naspers". The striking thing is how much of the review echoes one particular Tremble Clef post and you can't help but wonder why that is. Here is a collection of citations from the two articles and for the interest of clarity the review quotes will be in blue and those taken from Tremble Clef are in green. All italics are mine:

Pet Shop Boys have always delivered personal and social experience as a narrative to their material, but Fundamental is a more political album than usual thematically, discussing not just the typical "evils" of politics, but actually where politics pervade the personal.

It's not, to put it most bluntly, simply a record filled with platitudes how politicians are evil, or that we just need to get along. However, the politicization of the personal does occur in more intriguing ways across the album as a whole. Since the theme of
Fundamental, we keep getting told, is "politics today," we can't help but regard many of the other songs in that light, even when they don't appear immediately to be so.

Some obvious examples are "Indefinite Leave to Remain", which clearly reflects on immigration laws' prejudice towards gay partners; and "Psychological", which talks cleverly about a living in a society submerged in fear.

To begin with, much of the album's political targets are at least somewhat novel: an amazing song about ID cards ("Integral"), one about love and nationality, and specifically how immigration laws often disadvantage gay couples ("Indefinite Leave To Remain"), and most pervasively, about the culture of fear ("Luna Park," "Psychological").

Even a Diane Warren contribution, "Numb", can be heard as a comment on human reactions to the climate of terror-attacks and anxieties.

This happens most obviously with the dramatic orchestral ballad "Numb." Composed by Diane Warren (a revelation that I admit I was appalled by), the song first comes across as a straightforward song of heartbreak. (It would have seemed even more so had it appeared, as was the original plan, on PopArt.) But in the context of the new album, its opening lines -- "Don't wanna hear the news/What's going on, what's coming through/I don't wanna know" -- reminds us that it's now a song about the desire or even need to zombify oneself as a way of coping with a world gone mad.

: To paraphrase Kayne West, I'm not saying that Marshall is a plagiarist, but I don't see how this much similarity could be coincidence.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Obligatory Holiday Post

There was a time when I thought I would create a clever Halloween post with some appropriate music, but that's before I discovered blogs that have been doing that for a month and realized I don't have that kind of interest. Check out Dsico covering Ministry's Everyday Is Halloween and be sure to listen to my favorite Dead Or Alive track "Something In My House":

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Stream Scissor Sisters Halloween Show

Scissor Sisters live show at Brixton Academy on Halloween will be webcast by way of anti-global warming site Global Cool. Here is the info:

To view the webcast simply sign in or sign up with before 10pm on Tuesday 31st October, which you can do from the link below.

Those who sign up will not only be able to view the Scissor Sisters’ once in a lifetime fancy dress performance, they will also be treated to unique backstage footage and an exclusive interview with the band.

All we ask in return is that you pledge to turn off your computer at the end of the night.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Free Download: Trentemøller- Always Something Better (Trentemøller Remix)

Trentemøller's Always Something Better (Trentemøller Remix) is a free discovery download this week in the US itunes music store and it's a fantastic piece of gothic electronica that reminds me of Underworld circa-Dubnobasswithmyheadman. Does the name sound familiar? Trentemøller remixed Pet Shop Boys, Röyksopp, Moby and The Knife in the past year and has a had a substantial run creating records for the 12" dj-only crowd. Skrufff recently interviewed him touching on his time teaching music at a kindergarten and getting a bit more in-depth about the motivation behind his album The Last Resort which was released earlier this month:

I’m not making music for DJs, this album was made from my heart, much more than my dance music. Because making dance music involves more workmanship in a way while this was much more personal to me, if people are disappointed, I don’t care.

: Be sure to snag "Always Something Better" while it's still free and check out Trentemøller's myspace to listen to more tracks.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Flashback: Sarah Cracknell "Anymore" (1996)

Sarah Cracknell, the sexy front woman for consistently brilliant Saint Etienne, put out a solo record Lipslide in the UK in 1997, only released in butchered form during 2000 in the US, which was an attempt to distance herself from her apparent "just a pretty face" reputation by proving her artistic and songwriting muscle outside the group. Ultimately the album flopped commercially despite a few fantastic songs on it. She had this to say about why:

I had a lot of trouble with the label I was on [Gut Records]. They weren't very nice to me. It wasn't a great relationship, between me and the label.
I think they were just trying to turn me into something and the thing was I don't think they ever listened to a Saint Etienne album, do you know what I mean? I didn't realize it at the time. It's one of the first thing you'd do, I would think.
So, it was a real struggle and I was very unhappy. I was very happy when the album was finished and I'm proud of it, but they then pretty much didn't put it out. They put it out just about. They didn't promote it at all or do anything.

: I think that's a fair assessment. I remember hearing that they deleted the second single "Goldie" for some odd reason and the maybe-it-exists-maybe-it-doesn't third single "Desert Baby" has the exact same sleeve as the "Anymore" single.

Speaking of "Anymore" I've become re-enamored with the song recently and have been listening to the single on repeat in the car recently. The most striking thing about this Stephen Hague produced the track is just how completely effortless it sounds. Purely electronic for most of the song it has a subtle build that goes from quiet digital pianos to Hague's trademark lush sound with a live Motown-esque horn section introduced in the last third of the song that is just the right thing to take the song to the next level at just the right moment. Even if pop perfection might be a bit of an overstatement it is a great song that deserved a better showing than peaking at number 39 on the UK singles chart. The video has Sarah doing a bit of acting as a pout-prone gas station attendant which doesn't work that well just like most other pop stars pretending to work at dull every-day jobs videos:

: According to some Sarah will next be heard covering Dusty Springfield's "I Close My Eyes and Count to Ten" with Marc Almond on his forthcoming 2007 album. Just don't look for any information on his site because it's the most paranoid promotional site that I've ever encountered where you can't copy-and-paste anything from the site and it's "news" section largely consists of denying rumors.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

This Ain't No Disco

After over a year's worth of fuss New York's legendary club CBGB's finally shut down last week. Once the epicenter of the American punk movement the club became a something of a pop culture icon in it's own right after a number of bands playing there in the 70's like Blondie and The Ramones broke through into the mainstream and the venue got a shout-out in a Talking Heads song leading to a the omni-present CBGB OMFUG (it sounds dirty, but actually isn't) clothing that I see people wearing all the time even though I live on the other side of the country. Despite the past year's worth of obituaries and articles lecturing the fine points of the importance of the club Voltage noted that not everyone was sad to see it go or even had fond memories of the place. One generally positive reader response to the Village Voice article that Voltage references points out that "CBGBs in a way was a morgue and a tourist attraction. It became a parody of its former self" which is behind general tone of "good riddance" comments about the closing. Voltage picked a great quote from the negative ones, but I really fond of this response to the haters:

Don't be so negative. If you don't have something nice to say then don't say anything at all.

: How punk rock is that? Mom would be proud that someone is still giving that advice.

Good news CBGB fans, while the music has come to an end CBGB Fashions will remain open at it's current location until the end of the month so there is still time to buy some merch. Now that is the true spirit of punk.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

For A Little While

Pet Shop Boys released “Numb” as a single this week and I’m still a bit ambivalent about the song. I like that it’s different than anything else they’ve done and that it has one of Neil Tennant’s most emotional vocal deliveries but it still doesn’t sit entirely right with me because Diane Warren’s fingerprints are still all over the song making it a little too much not PSB (yes I am aware that I like and dislike the song for the same reason, but that‘s why I‘m ambivalent you see). I’ve previously mentioned that I didn't want the song to be a single because it's edging out better songs that could have better demonstrated the albums strengths, but I have to admit that they did an amazing job creating a solid single package. I picked up the good stuff at 7digital so I can tell you that the two b-sides are utterly fantastic, visit The Zapping if you want proof, and the Ewan Pearson remix of “Psychological” finally makes the song soar in a way that was missing from the original and the Alter Ego mix on the bonus disc of Fundamental. Also of interest is the original PSB demo of “Numb” which clarifies Trevor Horn’s contribution as those futuristic chimes over the quiet moments and amping up the wall-of-sound orchestra. Then there is the creepy cover art with the Boys wearing Plague doctor masks that might be a commentary on our times.

There are two other PSB releases out this week: the two disc live album Concrete and the book chronicling the sleeve designs of the Boys work Catalogue. Both of those are on my maybe lists and if I see them for the right price I’ll pick them up but having listened to the BBC stream of the concert I didn’t find that much to get excited about. Maybe I’m not just a live album kind of guy.

Here is the offical video for "Numb" done in the style of early Soviet cinema. I wonder what gave the video directors that idea?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


LCD Soundsytem were pretty quiet about their new album 45:33 before today so it was a bit of a shock to see a myspace bulletin shouting about a "NEW LCD SOUNDSYSTEM OUT NOW! exclusively on iTunes" when I checked my account this morning. This single track release, with a running time that is the same as the RPM of 7" singles, is the second in the series of nike/itunes workout music releases that started over the summer with a mix from The Crystal Method. Pitchfork quote the press release with James Murphy explaining that he was approached by the shoe company:

to make a long piece of music built around an arc designed for running, appealed to me because it was so anathematic to what you're typically asked to do as an artist: make easily digestible lumps of music for albums, or the radio, or whatever. I'd been thinking of the records I love in which people made one 'song' that took up the entire LP, and realizing that releasing something like this would otherwise be a virtual impossibility for me, I became excited when the project came along.

: Does this making music on demand for corporate giants signal the end of the hipster DFA empire? I doubt it. They've already gotten over the whole almost worked with Britney Spears thing and once you've admitted to that how could you do wrong? The real question is if it's worth the price itunes is charging. I like LCD Soundsystem and their album was one of my most played last year, but $9.99 for one track that you can only hear a thirty second preview of...that's asking a bit much. Admittedly I'm very intrigued by those thirty seconds, and Riff Market was impressed enough to declare "these weird goofy product branding tie-ins, ARE the NEW ALBUM" (wonder why that LCD Soundsystem bulletin linked to that review) but I really like pop songs. Well, if not traditional "pop" all the time, at least something that knows when to finish. There have been exceptions like the extended version of Orbital's "The Box", but usually if a track lasts more than fifteen minutes I just can't get into it. The Orb's "Blue Room" has an hour long version that I've never made it through even though I love the radio edit, and "Video 5-8-6", New Order's original version of "Blue Monday", tops the twenty minute mark and never justifies that running time. So ten bucks sounds a bit pricey when we are talking about a track that "ends with eight minutes of ambient echoing". Here's LCD Soundsystem doing what they do best in a short-form on "Tribulations":

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Hot Trend Alert: Live Looping

The question of authenticity has always been an issue with live performance from electronic musicians and it's been one of the biggest complaints of those who refuse to acknowledge the possibilities that technology provides. I recently noticed a number of videos that address this by demystifying the process and recreating the process by looping material live. Here are a few examples:

Kid Beyond hails from the hip hop side of things and this cover of Portishead's "Wandering Star" is fantastic as he creates a fairly dense soundscape only using his voice.

Venus Hum are all about synthpop and here they create the foundation for the song live and work from there.

I had previously mentioned her technique, which is what first brought this trend to my attention, but here is KT Tunstall doing her folk pop thing with a little help from a loop pedal.

Friday, October 13, 2006

You're Back Into The Bog

A recent Tremble Clef post asked if there are any successful Madonna covers and the one that immediately sprang to my mind was BiGod 20's take on "Like A Prayer". Originally appearing on the EBM band's third single "On The Run" it ultimately received more attention from college radio than the a-side or it's remixes in no small part because it transcends it's jokey premise which trades the relative polish of the original for a "scary" industrial sound complete with growling vocals. Do a technorati search and you'll find that it's still getting club play at gothic/industrial nights to this day.

There is more to BiGod 20 than a fun cover but their story is a perfect example of how to remain fairly obscure. Talla 2XLC (who had previously been involved with in even more obscure projects Moskwa TV and The Microchip League) met up with Jallokin in the late 80s and after a couple of primarily instrumental 12" singles they teamed up with Front 242's Jean Luc-DeMeyer to record their industrial classic "The Bog". The song was an international success and got them signed to Reprise who released the single stateside in 1990. The following year saw the release of the Dead Poets Society-sampling "Carpe Diem" but it wouldn't be until 1992 that they finally found permanent vocalist Zip Campisi and released their debut album Steel Works!. Obviously the two year gap between the "teaser" single and the album didn't help sales. Steel Works! also had some strange decisions like including the originally released in 1988 and very much sounding like it "America" while dropping "Carpe Diem" making it less of a great album and more of just a good one. The band's 1994 follow-up Supercute didn't really get much attention, in part because of changing trends in the industrial scene that found guitar-led material more in the mainstream and because the album's only single "One" just wasn't as catchy as their earlier material.

The band drifted apart but they remain active producing music. Jallokin has released material as recently as last year and Talla 2XLC is a working dj and produces more techno and trance flavored material like this 2002 Depeche Mode cover. Here's the video for "The Bog" which is fantastic simply because it helps us remember a time when black rain ponchos were a fashion statement:

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Music From A Wider Angle

Cinematic electronica superstar's Hybrid have a new album out this week and I Choose Noise finds them balancing the dancefloor filling ways of their sophomore effort with the orchestral vision they prominently displayed on their debut. Well, I've never actually listened to all of either of Hybrid's two previous albums but I gather that is the story. It's just that despite the presence of New Order's Peter Hook on a few tracks of their second album and all the hype surrounding their first record which helped them land an opening spot for Moby when he first toured to support Play I've never felt any real passion for Hybrid's music. They seem to be the sort of folks I would like because they do things that interest me like record trance songs with orchestral accompaniment and drop Pet Shop Boys samples in their remixes (or at least in their remix of BT's "Never Gonna Come Back Down"), but their tracks consistently clock in around the eight minute mark and they never have kept my interest that long. Of course their crowning achievement to date has been getting "Finished Symphony" used as the music for the final segment of SSX, the game that "is still one of the prime reasons for owning a PS2". SSX is something I can get passionate about. Hybrid not so much.

Regardless I Choose Noise is a solid effort that overcomes the presence of Perry Farrell, who may or may not be attempting to channel Madonna at one point in his vocal appearance, so feel free to stream the album for the remainder of the week here and see if it sparks a more passionate response in you.

Sidenote: Two years later when Moby was still touring Play he had New Order and Outkast opening for him. What a difference bringing Gwen Stefani on for a guest vocal and a video appearance can make.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Still Alright Then

TrusttheDJ posted a news item about Luke Slater releasing a new EP this November. For those unfamiliar with Slater he's been around the underground techno scene for ages and his early work got him a shout out on Daft Punk's "Teachers" before he even released a proper album. Here's Skrufff's take from the article:

The new tracks feature guitars, electro sounds and Luke’s (somewhat scratchy) vocals on top and are distinctly more eclectic than the techno he’s usually associated with. In fact, as long as five years ago, he was actively distancing himself from the genre, telling Skrufff in 2001 ‘The whole discussion about techno is old news- I am a club DJ’ and in 2002 embraced proper songwriting with ex-Aloof singer Ricky Barrow on ‘Alright On Top’.

“I tend to go for themes that are more abstract whereas he’s more into straight talking. A few of the songs are about ‘leave me alone, I just can’t handle it anymore’, which is definitely a feeling that has cropped up on me,”

: I haven't been able to find any videos from Alright On Top, which is one of my favorite albums of the 00s, but it is a techno pop masterpiece well worth streaming via free services like Napster or Rhapsody. Here's the video for Slater's "Love" from 1997's Freek Funk.

Samples of the Head Converter EP can be found at his own label Mote-Evolver's site.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Something About You (When You're Shopping For Music)

Tower Records was sold in bankruptcy court today to a company that plans to liquidate it's assets and close the chain's doors. Here's the story from The Chronicle:

Peter Gurfein, an attorney representing Tower Records, said the company will be sold for an aggregate of $150 million, including the sale of various leases and properties.

Gurfein said Great American plans to begin the liquidation process and going out of business sales on Saturday, which eventually will result in the elimination of the jobs of some 3,000 Tower employees.

"This is not an easy decision," said bankruptcy Judge Brendan Shannon, who nevertheless noted that the Tower debtors and other parties had agreed the bidding process was conducted fairly and in good faith.

Tower Records, which has 89 stores in 20 states and owes creditors about $200 million, filed for Chapter 11 reorganization in August. In its filing, the company said it has been hurt by an industrywide decline in music sales, downloading of online music and competition from big-box stores such as Wal-Mart.

: When I first heard the initial doomsday predictions of the demise of physical record stores some ten years ago I assumed they were ridiculous. My friends and I always ended up at record stores when we went out and nothing could replace the thrill of stumbling into unexpected albums and the social experience of shopping for music. Nothing really has and while I enjoy buying things from download services I still prefer to buy albums as cds and I usually end up at my local Tower so I'm really sad to see the chain go because they were the only reasonably priced place to buy music with any real selection in my immediate area. Besides I have many great record buying memories at a number of Towers across the Bay Area and I can even tell you the general character of them; Campbell is generally strong with one of the best electronic sections, Mountain View is the place to go for music related literature and has a good singles selection, Blossom Hill has good imports, Columbus always gets the good band signings (met the Pet Shop Boys there!), Hillsdale & Dublin are just okay and everytime I've been to Stonestown it's been unorganized with a poor selection. It's a sad day, not only for the 3000 people losing jobs, but for music fans in general because when a well run record store can't compete there is something wrong.

As a tribute here is Lifestyle's fantastic "Shopping For Music" which conveys the romance of record shopping much better than I can.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Dynamic Symmetry

I had been revisiting his work recently and today is Brian "BT" Transeau's birthday so why not take the opportunity to look at his recent work. The past year he has seen the release of two BT albums, one being the score to EA Sports Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005 and more recently he has put out a high minded DVD/CD project This Binary Universe. I've been following BT since his Tori Amos collaboration led to his debut album getting a belated released in the US, and while he has ups and downs over the years including the terminally flawed Emotional Technology I've found him worth watching. The Tiger Woods soundtrack sounds like a something he simply didn't invest much time or creative energy into. I don't know that anyone should expect an artistic statement from a golf video game soundtrack but if anything it's disappointing because it has a track titled "Everything's Gone Green" that has nothing to do with the New Order song of the same name. Shame on you Mr. Transeau. You know it's wrong to lead me on like that.
This Binary Universe is definitely the artistic statement of the two releases. A lengthy article in Keyboard magazine, which is quoted as if it were an actual review in the trailer for the project attached to this post, attempts to define the project as:
Seven compositions, each about 15 minutes long, combine acoustic instruments, synth parts played real-time from keyboards, and “cut-and-paste, musique concrète type stuff,”
: all set to visuals created specifically for the project. Ambient symphony is another take on the music and the arty-composer-that-went-to-Berklee side of BT in full effect here. Stop by the album's myspace and watch the second video for a segment from the DVD. It's good stuff and if you don't like it don't worry his next "normal" album is due out early next year. Apparently that has plenty of "beautiful jangly guitars all over it" with guest spots from Imogen Heap (yay!) and Stewart Copeland (boo!).

Fun Fact: In addition to a career in music that has involved much soundtrack work BT was also an Executive Producer on the highly staged reality show "Tommy Lee Goes To College".

Monday, October 02, 2006

In Stores This Week

I'm all for trying something new and in that spirit here are new releases that caught my ear which can be streamed by way of the links for the next week:

Pet Shop Boys- PopArt
New release? Didn't this come out in 2003? Yes, but legal issues left this greatest hits compilation without a home in my country until someone noticed that the Boys would be touring the US this month. No announcement about this yet on the official PSB site so we can assume their not really "supporting" it. The two "new" songs on the disc are nothing short of fantastic and you really can't find a better collection of music just about anywhere. UPDATE: Since this post the only mention of the US release of the compilation appeared on their site: "Three years after its release in the rest of the world, PopArt is finally released in the USA." Obviously they are enthusiastic.

The Killers- Sam's Town
I'm really enjoying this in my first few half a dozen listens, but The Chronicle got a bit snarky with their review:

Could this band be from anywhere but Las Vegas, where imitation is almost as good as the real thing, if not better? Following the success of its synth pop-heavy predecessor, the group rightly sets out to re-create the ultimate arena album in "Sam's Town," drawing on influences like U2, Simple Minds and the Boss -- maybe even a bit of Meat Loaf.

Beck- The Information

Let's take some more insight from the same reviewer at The Chronicle:

Anyway, what we're really excited about is the album cover. It's just a sheet of blank graph paper that comes with stickers of trees, clouds and lips and stuff. You can arrange it however you like, even if you want to spell out rude words or make a mountain do something naughty with Beck's backside.

V/A- The DFA Remixes: Chapter Two

As a rule I generally enjoy DFA's mixes and I happen to like every single act that was remixed on the disc. Good stuff, and the compilation is the best thing, The Juan Maclean album excluded, that Astralwerks has released as a result of it's distribution deal with DFA Records that forced them to put out albums of complete dreck from the likes of Black Dice. Fun Fact: Chromeo just didn't "get" the mix that DFA did for "Destination: Overdrive" so they left it as a free download on their site for almost two years until this compilation was announced and it suddenly had value.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Save It Until The Morning After

I was originally planning on using Junior Boys "In The Morning" selection as the free itunes download of the week in the US as a jumping off point for some interesting press I had found about the band recently, but the 500+ customer comments have proved too much to pass up. First off I'm amazed by how many people apparently assume that if it's the "single of week" that it is the "best" track added to their store and that they expect it to be a hit. Looking back at the singles of the week even as far as a couple of years ago when itunes was still actively trying to pull in new customers almost everything, including tracks from Nelly Furtado and Avril Lavigne, have been on the margins and are songs that hadn't received any airplay at the time they got the single of the week treatment. Why are there hundreds of comments that essentially say "this is the single of the week?" as if they are really put out and need to comment on something that cost them nothing and took thirty seconds to download? The other major thing that bothers me is the high amount of homophobic innuendo in a number of the reviews. Maybe I've been out of high school for too long, but it's a bit shocking to me how sexuality is tossed around so casually as an insult. Imagine what would happen to these people if Scissor Sisters had a single of the week? Then there is the endless stream of Backstreet Boys comparisons. Is that the only music with synths and vocals that Americans have ever heard? To read the reviews it would seem that way. My favorite comment came from a user who doesn't "even consider that music its just idiots trying to make money! (and obviously failing)". Um, where is that huge market for indie electro pop that brings all it's purveyors riches, fame and bling? The overwhelming amount of one star user reviews is amazing and as some reviews have pointed out probably come from not giving the track a fair listen. So This Is Goodbye hasn't reached the same level of critical praise that Last Exit did, but it's done well with largely favorable reviews by most serious music publications. Pitchfork's review of the track referred to one of the song's synth-lines as "one of the most thrilling (sonic moments) you’ll hear this year". Obviously that went over a few heads like the user who put plenty of thought into their review of "this horrible excuss for a song in a horrible music Gerne".

Thursday, September 28, 2006

It's Only Natural

The Killer's Sam's Town is streaming at mtv for the next few days and having listened to it about three times in the past day I can safely that it's a solid album. I don't know that there is anything as strong as my favorite Hot Fuss tracks like "Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine" but all the songs that the band were talking up months ago are stand outs making The Killers the rare group that understands their own strengths. You only need to see all the bad single selections that bands I've liked over the years have made to understand what an unusual quality that is. My current favorite is the next single "Bones" which for some reason I keep wishing would segue into the ending of OMD's "Enola Gay" as it closes. It would sound something like this, only much smoother and without the sloppy editing. So I'm not the next big mash-up artist. I can live with that.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Recommended Reading

  • Electronically Yours reviews "Martyr", the sole new track on Depeche Mode's forthcoming The Best Of Volume 1, now that the song has been sent to radio and made it's way onto the internet. I wouldn't know where to find it but I rate the song a bit lower than Orac did in his assessment.
  • Maximus at Voltage finds plenty of evidence of rampant rockism in his excellent deconstruction of The Washington Post's positive review of Ladytron's Witching Hour.
  • XO has an entertaining review of Janet Jackson's new disc that lays out the facts and fallacies of the hype around the record. Note: I don't think he likes it.
  • Arjan has an exclusive download off the new Basement Jaxx disc. It's good to read blogs of those with connections because Arjan has the best free stuff.
  • Tremble Clef takes on Beyonce's upcoming single "Irreplaceable" leading to a truly indepth analysis that ultimately asks "if there is -- or if there should be -- good to be gained from the replaceability of those we once thought we loved".
  • My mp3 blog Electro Downloaded just posted it's link to it's 50th free mp3. Originally it was intended to be something of a podcast, and while you can subscribe to the rss feed with itunes or whatever else you grab podcasts with, the "podcast" turned out to be a commentary free mp3 blog. Oddly enough it has it's own myspace with a blog about the blog that also links to free music streams sort of like I do on my "personal" myspace. Should I consolidate my blogging madness? If I had any sense I would have done it long ago...

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Help Of Transportation

This commercial is amazing. Let's examine why:

  • Röyksopp's "Remind Me" provides the soundtrack which, in the particular section of the song that is played, is a perfect match for the airport setting as it gives the jet set vaguely futuristic and loungey background music to kill time to as they are between flights.
  • Erlend Øye is the vocalist on the track and could there be a more appropriate crooner to sing the thoughts of a sensitive caveman? I don't think so.
  • The lyrics we do hear are from the third verse: "everywhere I go, there's always something to remind me, of another place and time". The final "another place & time" line suggest that The Caveman has evolved since the stereotype depicted on the billboard bore any truth but he is unable to escape the prejudice that haunts him even as he is taken by a "futuristic" moving walkway on a journey that his pace and his delightfully aged tennis racket suggest was for leisure.
  • Is there anything better than an advertisement that suggests that their company offends people with it's incorrect and insulting advertising?

Friday, September 22, 2006

Disco's Revenge

French pianist Maxence Cyrin has recorded an album of his nuanced interpretations of electronic classics created exclusively on the piano for Laurent Garnier's F Communications label. Modern Rhapsodies takes on a range of styles covering 80's Depeche Mode and early-era Massive Attack but the album primarily contains reinterpretations techno and rave tracks. Fortunately the release steers clear of the novelty territory it so easily could have slipped making this, along with Jeff Mills Blue Potential, the second notable release this year to attempt a translation of techno into classical music terms. I'm not entirely sure that this signifies an all out movement, but there certainly has been a shift in the musical respectability of a genre that was so thoroughly dismissed critically as disposable drug music in the US during the genre's initial explosion.

Stop by his myspace to hear a couple of complete pieces including his take on Aphex Twin's "Widow Licker" or stop by his section of the F Com site for lengthy previews of the whole album.

Thanks to The Poptastic Pop Tart for posting about the album!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

New York New York

A couple of videos promoting Moby's upcoming Go: The Very Best Of Moby leaked this week and here they are with my thoughts above them and quotes about the songs from Moby below.

Deborah Harry handles vocal duties for this Moroder-style track and if she seems comfortable it because Harry has done that sort of thing before. This video featuring a hard partying chihuahua was apparently rejected by Moby but leaked by someone involved with the project who still thinks it's worth watching. It's horrible to be sure, but Moby's released worse videos and there's no other way to hear the song at the moment.

'new york, new york' is a fun and frivolous disco song that i recorded with debbie harry. it's a song about degeneracy and debauchery in new york city, and i'm incredibly honored and happy to have debbie harry doing the vocals. in recording it i kind of wanted it to sound like abba meets the pet shop i said, it's a fun disco song.

As a bonus track on Go in some European countries Moby re-recorded Hotel's "Slipping Away" with French pop star Mylene Farmer who adds the occasional French verse. Interesting stuff.

'slipping away' with mylene farmer... i first met mylene at teany and we became friends and, simply, thought that this would be a really nice song to do together. it was my favorite song from 'hotel', and i'm glad that it's going to get a new life with mylene's beautiful vocals.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Everybody Wants The Same Thing

How about that new Scissor Sisters album? Not all we were expecting, right? I’ve given the album a few complete listens now by way of the preview on their myspace and it’s downgraded Ta-Dah from my “must buy now” list to the “pick up the good tracks from itunes” list. The reason is because it’s just too 70’s, more specifically too Elton John for me, with way too many piano led tracks using the same plonkety plonk groove. It’s not all bad of course, a band that created something as strong as their debut album couldn’t possible derail that quickly, but the album drags in a serious way. Most of the best tracks appear on the second half with songs I can’t stand like “I Can‘t Decide“ & the entirely too long “She‘s My Man“ slowing down the album's flow from the opening. Highlights include the too nasty to be a single “Lights“, the Anna Matronic showcase “Kiss You Off”(which features the additional vocal production of Stuart Price), “Ooh” which was on their major label courting demo as “Blues” and "The Other Side" which falls a bit short of the transcendence of "It Can't Come Quickly Enough". Maybe a third of an great album is enough, but Ta-Dah has too many clunkers and that will probably push that US breakthrough album until the next one.

Check out ChartRigger and XOLondon for a good track by track reviews.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Get The Message

Electronic's best of collection is out this week and to my surprise Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr have done some promotion. An interesting interview in The Independent reveals the bands birth as a refuge from band politics and their initial intention of simply releasing white-label acid house 12" singles. However, the most interesting part of the piece is when they discuss developing their self-titled debut album in the middle of the party that was Madchester:

"Bernard was like the Pied Piper, but dressed all in white," laughs Marr. "He'd come back to the studio about 4am with an entourage of our friends, and we'd get a chance to road-test our new songs. One time we had "Idiot Country" blaring out and Bez [of Happy Mondays] was talking to my wife. I noticed he wasn't dancing, so I slowed the tempo down until he started to shuffle again. That's when I knew we'd got it right."

: Click here to listen to Get The Message: The Best Of Electronic for the rest of the week.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Running The World

Jarvis Cocker's Live 8 inspired "Running The World" has been making the rounds for a little while now and it now it has a video. If you haven't heard it yet then give it a listen because it's brilliant. The YouTube version I embedded with this post seems to have synch issues so try streaming it by realplayer if that sort of thing bothers you.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

I'm Getting Loud With You

Soulwax's remix album Nite Versions if finally out in CD form, after a run as an itunes exclusive, in the US this week almost exactly one year after it was available to the rest of the world. Taking a cue from the old school, and an album title from Duran Duran, Soulwax rerecorded most of their 2004 Flood produced album "Another Minute" in extended mix form and present it in a continuous mix that is utterly fantastic. Highlights include their take on Daft Punk's "Teachers" where they list their own influences, the trippy "Compute", the LA Style shout out on "I Love Techno" and DFA's remix of "NY Excuse" but it's worth noting that the album as whole makes for a great listen.

Stream the album here for the rest of the week and enjoy this download of "Miserable Girl" to get a taste of what it's about. If that isn't enough you can watch the "E-Talking" video that features a random cameo from Arthur Baker as a bouncer in the final shot or the video for my favorite recent shouty electro song "NY Excuse":

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Gone Daddy Gone

Sean Demery, the program director at Live 105, just stepped down and despite my disagreement with some of his decisions I'm sad to see him go. His tenure at the station has helped turned the station back into something listenable that resembles the station I once loved after the horrible years in the late 90s and I give him props for that. His replacement is long-time music director Aaron Axelson so things aren't likely to change too much, but given that Axelson has a history with electronica this might open the door a little wider for the return of Subsonic. Time will tell and ultimately what I'd really like to hear is more electronic stuff on in regular rotation.

Just a side-note but the Mercury News mentions that Axelson "books the San Francisco indie club Popscene", something he occasionally talks about on air, which might have had something to do with The Killers recent "secret show" at the club which brought the club to attention of the international press. Still it's not like I begrudge the guy his moment because it's noble to have passion for new music in the world of commercial radio that is notoriously for only playing songs after they are hits.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Short Bits

  • Pet Shop Boys made it official and announced "Numb" as the next single on their website. It was an expected move because the track was originally recorded to be a single for "PopArt", which is finally getting it's US release October 3rd, and after two dance singles they must have wanted to show off the slow side of the album but I'm disappointed because it's likely the last Fundamental single which strands the utterly amazing "Integral" in the "fan-favorite" category instead of turning it into the politically important populist anthem it should be. PopJustice were right on the money when they said that it should have been the first single ages ago.
  • The Modern have called it quits or at least they are doing some reshuffling. Electronically Yours found a press release buried on the band's forum that announces the band's intention to change it's name to Matinee Club in conjuction with some line-up changes. I'm late getting on The Modern bandwagon because they have one of the least functional official sites I've ever used and a myspace that often autostarts on a song clip, but XO recently helped win me over with a few posts on the band. Apparently what material The Modern had completed will still be released and their US debut EP is still on for later this year.
  • The Lovemakers are releasing a series of cover songs in a one a week on fashion on their myspace as they ramp up for their next album. Synthman Jason Proctor left the band this past spring to pursue a day job at a start up and they replaced him with a guitarist so these new covers confirm suspicion that their edgy take on Human League styled synthpop from their self-titled and self released debut album is now in the distant past and you can read this recent interview to see their thinking behind it. Still their version Gilbert O'Sullivan's "Alone Again (Naturally)" is the best of the bunch in these new covers so it's worth checking out.
  • DJ Fresh's album Escape From Planet Monday is finally up on US itunes this week so you can grab "Throw" which features Neil Tennant singing the chorus. It's more of a mood piece with a bit of spoken story than a traditional song so it makes no sense outside of the album but it's not without it's charm reminding me a bit of Bilingual with a bit of latin groove going on and a similar guitar style on the track. Stop by fansite and click on the "PSB Mp3 Player" to give the track a listen.
  • I was probably the only person on the internet not angry about the upcoming Depeche Mode Best Of because the band have recieved more exposore for Playing The Angel and the supporting tour than Exciter brought them so I understand that urge to go back and cash in and DM usually do more troubling things to their fans like release three versions of their remix album, but then I noticed that this a "Volume 1". What's that about? They last released singles compilations that split the bands material into two eras in 1998 and one would think that this would be for the more casual fan that wanted an overview of the band's history. Why is this "Volume 1" when they've only released two albums between Greatest Hits collections? Does this mean that "Volume 2" coming in the spring? I suppose it doesn't matter because the same die hard collectors that already shelled out hundreds of dollars to get the remastered DM albums that have been released this year will pull out their credit cards and hand over more money to Depeche and EMI-owned Mute. Oh, I'm not expecting too much from the collections new track "Martyr" even if it got good reviews from an associate of the band that heard it being recorded. PTA is good album, but really short on strong songs with single potential and despite the heavy gothic overtones there are moments of brightness on the album so I doubt that was left off for simple "not fitting the record" reasons. Then again, I've become a bit cynical about DM over the years. Hopefully I'll be proven wrong.