Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Seven Songs

My mp3 player is on the fritz, the cd player is busted in my commute car and I can't take hearing RHCP and something off Licensed to Ill every single time I listen to Live 105 for more than five minutes so it has been lots of talk radio for me lately. It's not that I've given up on music as this meme, which comes from XO by way of the thoughtful This Man's World, proves.
List seven songs you are into right now, no matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they're not any good, but they must be songs you're really enjoying now. Post these instructions in your blog along with your seven songs...

Amy Winehouse "You Know I'm No Good" (mp3)
When I got hooked on "Rehab" (see what I did there?) a couple of months ago I didn't expect to fall in love with anything else from Winehouse but this Mark Ronson production occupies the same head space I reserve for breezy Portishead pop songs. That is if they existed. Lyrically the song drops a few great lines, including one about tearing "men down like Roger Moore", and the way Winehouse draws out words like "trouble" is positively intoxicating.

The Killers "Read My Mind (Pet Shop Boys Stars Are Blazing Mix)"
Reminding me a bit of Motiv 8's version of Pulp's "Disco 2000" this remix is a bit hit and miss. PSB take a hands off disco friendly approach for the song which is nice but a bit boring outside but the final moments of "Go West" bit they add at the chorus which is fantastic and worth the blah parts. I'd love to hear the edit and see if it gets to the meat of things but it's not available in the US and I haven't found it on 7digital yet.

Freezepop "Less Talk More Rokk (Guitar Hero 2 Mix)" (youtube)
Despite "Get Ready 2 Rokk" being Freezepop's most downloaded song on itunes it's one of my least favorite songs so when I learned they were making their major label debut with what look to be version of the song I was concerned. This mix is rather good and brings to mind the best of modern Daft Punk.

!!! "Heart Of Hearts" (myspace)
This hasn't grabbed me like "Take Esctasy With Me", which relates directly to the song not having been written by Stephin Merritt, but this is dance rock done right. Love the false ending and the guitar sound is killer.

Matinée Club "Tokyo Girls" (youtube)
Originally based around a now recreated Gary Numan sample this sounds like a hit because it was. Catchy and I've found myself enjoying it despite cringing at some of the lyrics...

Felix Da Housecat "Neon Human" (youtube)
Revisiting Devin Dazzle And The Neon Fever recently has reinforced my original thought that "Neon Human" is the best track on the album because it sounds quite like "Axel F".

Jay-Jay Johanson "Rocks In My Pockets"
I generally prefer Johanson's pop stuff but Tremble Clef turned me on to this song which really is "a record worth locking up the razors for."

Friday, February 23, 2007

Video: Tracey Thorn "It's All True"

Tracey Thorn has long been one of my favorite vocalists and with Everything But The Girl's hiatus carrying into a sixth year I was pleased to find that "It's All True", the first single from Thorn's forthcoming solo album Out Of The Woods, delivers the electropop goodness that I could only dream of a few short months ago.
The song's video is a single continuous shot that finds a seated Thorn facing us in a room filled with desks and uniform office drones adorned in grey suits. We never see much of Thorn as the director reduces her to a graphic element instead taking the standard pop approach of showing the star in close up as the focal point. Not only does this suggest that Thorn is one of her audience, often dismissed by critics with the subtle "coffeehouse crowd" insult, who are represented here literally as special effect created clones but the approach echoes the emotional distance often associated with Thorn's vocal delivery. As the video develops the clones are given chances to shine and express themselves individually with dance flourishes and momentary surges of color refuting the simple dismissal of Thorn's audience by demonstrating that they are more than an extension of their homologous environment but have soul and personality that is unique to themselves. The visual style of the video, most specifically the final moments, mirrors that of a number of viral videos in which people represent pixels in recreations of 80s video games which is not unlike the production team's loving reinterpretation of early 80s club music:

: Tracey Thorn's Out Of The Woods is out March 20 and Tremble Clef's inspired review of the album is a must read. Thorn's music can be previewed at her myspace which includes some delightfully endearing blog entries.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

I Want To Wake Up

Spin just created a list of ways to save the music business including this obvious suggestion:
Fully embrace the Web. Instead of making threats when an unauthorized song or video shows up on MySpace or YouTube, majors should welcome the exposure. In its early days, MTV made you want to buy records and go to shows. The Web has the ability to provide those same thrills.

: This is coming from a magazine that had a website that was not accessible to the general public until a few years ago and lost much of the audience during the same period so maybe they know what they are talking about.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Flashback: Mono "Life In Mono" (1996)

The 90s were a difficult time for those looking to combine a love electronics and the craft of songwriting. The rise of underground techno suggested that vocals and traditional structure weren't necessary while the reactionary grunge movement knocked anything with a synthesizer off "alternative" radio in the US but the success of Portishead opened a new door that allowed songwriters access to the American market. The caveat: their music was labeled as trip hop. There was a time when trip hop was, at least in my mind, a fairly specific genre during the first half of the 90s when it directly involved the hip hop inspired Bristol Sound. Over the course of the decade the term diversified when bands like Hooverphonic and Morcheeba revealed similar stories about sneaking their music onto major labels by convincing A&R men that they could sell to the trip hop crowd.

Producer/instrumentalist Martin Virgo had a solid background in the genre working as a session musician on albums from Massive Attack and Bjork before forming Mono with vocalist Siobhan de Maré but the tone of the project echoed a decidedly more pop approach exemplified by other late 90s trip hop acts. The band's sole album Formica Blues produced four singles including the Saint Etienne-esque "Slimcea Girl" but "Life In Mono" is their finest, if perhaps darkest, moment. Equally bringing together Virgo's passion for all things John Barry and Phil Spector with drum 'n' bass inspired beats the song had the unique quality of sounding dated and futuristic on the first listen. A decade later it simply sounds timeless:

: The song's inclusion, reportedly at the suggestion of Robert De Niro, on the soundtrack to Alfonso Cuarón's Great Expectations helped make the song a radio hit in the US two years after it's initial release but my first exposure to the song was the Propellerheads instrumental remix which used the originals Barry flavored guitar to turn the song into a proper James Bond dance track. More recently former Spice Girl Emma Bunton used "Life In Mono" as her most recent album title and included a faithful cover of the song which I'm sure was not inspired by a karaoke version being available.

Despite their moderate success Mono didn't survive after rifts between the two proved to be too great to bridge. Siobhan de Maré has since worked with Robin Guthrie and Martin Virgo seems to have slowed down as reports suggest he is spending his time with a rightfully unsigned jam band. Sigh...

Friday, February 09, 2007

Video: LCD Soundsystem "North American Scum"

James Murphy and company are here to they clear up some misperceptions “for those of you who still think we’re from England” on the first single from LCD Soundsystem’s forthcoming Sound Of Silver. Musically the song plays on LCD’s strengths and does it with a short running time which is something of a rarity for the project. The tinfoil heavy video parodies the artifice and excess of mainstream videos as it opens with Murphy playing a bored rock star at a photo shoot before a Hype Williams style “LCD” graphic takes the video to the moon:

: The "North American Scum" single drops later this month with Sound Of Silver expected the week of March 20 when Murphy has asked fans to pick up the album on the theory that if everyone who bought the first LCD album bought SOS then it would chart at number 1 (assuming sales matched the historic low a few weeks ago). Hear more from the band at their myspace.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Swimming In The Haze

Nine Inch Nails are expected to release new album Year Zero this April. NIN's site has a section up for the album now with an incomplete tracklisting that lists two song names with a bunch of "0"s (see what they did there) outlining the names of the other tracks. Reports have the album being mostly recorded on laptops while the band was touring and it gives me hope that it will sound like this live cover of The Normal's "Warm Leatherette" with Peter Murphy on vocals that I saw posted on Voltage:

: On the heels of 2005's With Teeth this is the quickest NIN have recorded studio releases since the two year break between Pretty Hate Machine and the Broken EP which I'm sure has nothing to do with Trent Reznor's discovery that his former manager was skimming money leaving Reznor with a small, by rock star standards, cash reserve a few years ago. I suppose inspiration comes in many forms.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

No Time For Dancing

David Byrne showed off Here Lies Love, his work-in-progress multimedia musical chronicling the rise of Imelda Marcos, as part of the Carnegie Hall Perspectives Series that he curated and performed last week. The first American staging of the incomplete work generated a fair amount of interest with warm reviews in the New York Times and Time Magazine. Better yet is that he did a number of interviews including one with New York Magazine that asked "what made now the right time to write a song cycle about Imelda Marcos?":

Probably the end of the CD and the end of the record business. Seriously. This is going to sound very calculated, but I just thought, If I think of a collection of songs I write as being of a piece, how do you keep that connection and continuity? And I thought, Well, this is made to be heard and seen; it doesn’t rely on a piece of plastic. Although I think the piece of plastic will be a nice-sounding thing, too.

: The Guardian found out why he decided to work with Fatboy Slim on the project:

"I imagined it being dance music, so I thought I should go to a professional for help," he says. "Norman's awfully good at that - he has played an instrument at some point, so has an innate sense of song structure that not everyone in the dance community has. He knows what a song is."

: As a side-note, it is interesting that the qualities that attracted Byrne to Cook are the same reasons Cook is distrusted in the underground electronic scene.

Here Lies Love should be a fascinating experience as the songs reportedly range from whistle sampling big beat to trip hop and pure orchestral accompaniment with archive footage and stage performance expected at the final staging. None of the press indicates that it will happen particularly soon and Byrne has implied he is still in the writing process for material to be featured in the musical. Hopefully it will be worth the wait.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Get Ready 2 Rokk

Boston's DIY synthpop sensations Freezepop have just signed to Cordless Recordings which is great news. I've been a fan of the synthpop trio since stumbling upon them at the old and love both of their albums. Cordless, the mostly internet division of Warner Bros that releases material from Dangerous Muse and Skye among others, should be a good fit for the band because they should give the band wider exposure that they deserve without the pressure for an across the board radio hit. The band had this to say by way of their newsletter:

...the idea of giving up control made us pretty nervous. But things have grown to a point where it's been getting increasingly difficult to juggle all the day-to-day details with getting new music out to you guys. When Cordless approached us, we were impressed by their ideas about artist development, and it was reassuring that they didn't want us to give up our independence. To us, the decision to go with Cordless came down to the fact that they can help us get our music heard by more people without sacrificing the music that we make.

: A new album is due out this Spring and the band's Cordless page is up now. Freezepop's first release for the label is The Rokk Suite out February 27th and you can preview it at their myspace.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Video: Matinée Club "Discothèque Français"

The video for Matinée Club’s "Discotheque Français" is out on youtube and like the band's name change from The Modern the "announcement" came by way of their forum (this time from a fan who happened upon it). The song has been around for almost a year so releasing the video now is a bit puzzling on first blush, but the song is getting the single treatment from the band's new UK label Planet Clique Records at the beginning of March so this is the start of the promotional push. A click on the video quickly reveals a period piece that finds the band acting out some strange plot involving espionage and destruction in France during WWII. Clearly there was some money spent with special effects beyond the standard blue screen variety (when was the last time you saw a dogfight in a music video?) and that raises the question of where the money came from. They left Mercury last year and while it is possible that it was filmed then the band's copyright tagged on the video casts some doubt on that. Planet Clique is just getting started up and Ninthwave simply doesn't have the funding for a video of this magnitude so the money issue is a mystery for now. Regardless it's great to see a Brit band using the video for their "français" song to remind the French of one their history's lowest moments:

: Better bloggers than me have already posted about the video with greater clarity so please visit XO and Arjan for more insightful takes on the video.

Matinée Club "are currently putting the final touches to their debut album" with "The Dirty Blonde" EP expected soon on Ninthwave in the US. "Tokyo Girls" from the Robopop compilation is on US itunes now.