Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008: Top Songs

1. Goldfrapp- A & E
Those familiar with Goldfrapp's past knew they were capable of switching gears as they said they would after the disco-tastic Supernature but know one could know they would come up something so completely different from everything else they have done before while conjuring up their most emotional single to date. A year after I first heard the song it still gives me chills. Every time.

2. The Killers- Human
Bonding over their mutual Pet Shop Boys admiration Stuart Price takes The Killers down the disco in a collaboration that brings out the best in both parties. Brandon Flowers searching vocals take on questions that no one else dared ask as the music gives us the divine answer.

3. Moby- Disco Lies
First appearing on the Cloverfield soundtrack this second single from Last Night is the finest pop moments of the year you've never heard. Unfashionably technopop rather than electropop the song takes at what first appear to be pedestrian disco diva vocals wailing about how "you lied" and turn it into something transcendent. Shame a poorly planned initial release and a terrible video kept this grower from everyone but fans.

4. Cut Copy- Lights & Music
While I continue to bill this as the hipsters "Where The Streets Have No Name" the lush economy of the song is so breathtaking that even my repeat listens have only faintly dulled the impact of the song.

5. Kanye West- Love Lockdown
Forget Kanye the media personality for a moment. Can you think of a single song with an arrangement that flies completely in the face of convention that comes across as absolutely accessible as "Love Lockdown"? Kanye's futuristic performances are a jaw dropping but at the core the song deals with love that has spun out of control in an honest way and that is something pretty amazing too.

6. Hot Chip- Ready For The Floor
This rumored Kylie reject (sadly debunked) is ready for the floor as it asks "I can’t hear your voice, do I have a choice?" before creating even more confusion by quoting Tim Burton's Batman. Amazing.

7. The Black Ghosts- Anyway You Choose To Give It
Bringing together the talents of the guy behind The Wiseguys (my favorite big beat two hit wonder of 1999) with the vocalist from Simian (naturally not a part of the amazing Simian Mobile Disco) "Anyway You Choose To Give It" is a proper song that begs for you to hit repeat despite the Justice-sized overdriven bass that dresses the track. With an album that finally just dropped in full on itunes this is most definitely an act to keep an eye on.

8. Chemical Brothers- Keep My Composure
Better by a hair than the other new Chemical Brother track included on the unnecessary singles collection Brotherhood this collaboration with Spank Rock finds the Brothers reconnecting with a raw jump up hip hop sound they haven't explored since the Loops Of Fury EP. Plays up more of their strengths than 95% of their material this decade.

9. Nine Inch Nails- Discipline
Trent Reznor stops trying to be scary all the time on this disco number from the second Nine Inch Nails album of the year (the free one) and releases his most openly commercial singles in years.

10. Ladytron- Deep Blue
Who doesn't love a song about the most famous chess playing computer in the world?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Things I Learned In 2008

Over the past year I have learned a few new things:

  • Spiralfrog is amazing! I read about the site, which offers free legit downloads from most of the major labels and big indies, last January in a year end recap that predicted it would die a quick death. The site runs on a model similar to the subscription based versions of napster, rhapsody and zune offering drm-protected wma files that play back with windows media player and on wma compatible mp3 players. While it won't help ipod sheep the site offers a quality way to preview music in a way that the public has been looking for since original version of napster went mainstream.
  • Publicly calling your label out on being stupid works. At least sometimes: Moby posted a missive about the merits of beatport and how he couldn't understand why his label wouldn't allow his music to be sold on the site when everything in the music business had fallen to pieces. After what he said was years of privately arguing with his label his material was posted on beatport within a month.
  • Neon Neon's "Dream Cars" borrows at least half of it's melody from The Drifter's "Under The Boardwalk".
  • Major labels still don't know how to handle import releases. This year saw late, often internet only, releases from Robyn, Kylie, Groove Armada, The Egg (put out in 2004 everywhere else) as we still wait for Roisin Murphy, Girls Aloud and who-knows-what-I-forgot to come out stateside. While not all of these are out on multinational labels one would think that it would be a fairly easy to avoid losing US sales on acts like this. Simply release everything you have the rights for digitally at the same time across the world so you catch the early adopters. Then if the label decides they can actually push an album do a CD release when the artist is available to promote it in the US. Problem solved. Get to it guys.
  • When revisiting Pet Shop Boys albums I haven't listened to in some time I find myself reaching new insights that I later realize I actually read at GeoWayne's site at some point since my last listen. Here I was thinking that I had become older and wiser.
  • Matinee Club are once again The Modern. Honest.
  • No clear favorite album this year but it seems like there are too many albums I have yet to give a proper listen to. I found myself most often playing the offerings from Ladytron, Robyn, Midnight Juggernauts, Cut Copy, Neon Neon, Blank + Jones and Goldfrapp.

Monday, December 29, 2008

All Rights Reversed

The Chemical Brothers re-released We Are The Night this past week and unfortunately this was not the attempt to revitalize the album with the new Brotherhood singles that I would lobby the band for but an update to the artwork inspired by "legal reasons". While it is difficult to find details it appears that the screen prints done by Kate Gibb for the packaging incorporate the work of artist Herbert Bayer without his estate's consent. There is a great comparison of the source material and the original Chemical Brothers cover and the booklet's interior artwork here which makes it pretty clear that something was up. Here is the illegal art from the original release:

: and the new version:

Monday, December 22, 2008

Video: Freezepop "Frontload"

Things had been relatively quiet on the Freezepop front lately leaving me with the impression that they had given up on their major label debut Future Future Future Perfect when the new Form Activity Motion EP dropped out of nowhere on to itunes a few weeks ago. Oddly enough the core of the release are remixes of the two extremes in quality found on Future.... The understated electro ballad "Thought Balloon" encapsulates much of what Freezepop does best with tender lyrics that find the narrator stumbling to let get the words that could start a romance over innocent music. On the other end of the spectrum is "Frontload" the most openly ambitious songs the band has recorded which has an arrangement on the album that simply does not work. While even the first notes signal that it is intended to be epic the song ultimately turns into a mess. So imagine my surprise when the band's new version featured in the video and found on the EP is much, much better turning "Frontload" from a song I despise to one that I just can't get enough of. What's the difference between the two? You can't ignore the new rhythm track but more important to the song's success is the change structurally turning a song with a couple of peaks into one with a single linear build. The video is nice too breathing new life into the played-out back of a taxi concept without resorting to gimmicks (no offense to Jarvis who pulled that route off marvelously):

: The rest of the "Frontload" remixes on the EP fare well and are worth checking out over the "Thought Balloon" mixes but they got that one right the first time. Sometimes you just can't mess with perfection. Stop by their myspace for more Freezepop fun.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Video: Anya Marina "Move You"

File this under "now for something completely different" but when checking Spinner today I was shocked to see that their video of the day was by an artist I know. Back when I djed at KSCU, aka my college radio days, I tuned into the station pretty much constantly. One of the station's clear stars was Anya who used her quick wit and warm personality to create an on air presence that put the rest of us college radio slobs to shame. I wasn't too surprised to learn that she soon found her way into a paying job in radio which she has kept up to this day as she currently broadcasts out of San Diego. What I didn't realize at the time is that she is also a musician. Much of her music falls into the "singer/songwriter" category so it's not something you would expect me to post here but Anya is a cool person and she even has a song on one of the Grey's Anatomy soundtracks so here is "Move You":

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Every Little Counts

When the news came down some months ago that the always meticulous Rhino Records would be remastering New Order's 80's albums I imagined it could only mean good things. Unfortunately the reissues tracklisting leaves plenty of potential bonus material out of the picture and worse yet they mastered some of the tracks by picking up some old commercially available vinyl. Stop by siart for a great synopsis of what went wrong as we wait for Rhino to rectify the problem by reissuing the reissues.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Rock It Don't Stop It

Maybe you have seen this ad:

: I can't be the only one who keeps waiting for Ralf Hütter or Florian Schneider to pop up and say "no that's my song" which would prompt Afrika Bambaataa to say "well actually it was influenced by your songs "Trans Europe Express" and "Numbers"...perhaps you remember the settlement".
Common's song is rather good so check out the Hype Williams low budget video for "Universal Mind Control" here.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Video: The Killers featuring Elton John & Neil Tennant "Joseph"

You would think that a track with so much talent involved might be a little better than this:

: I've been waiting for Stuart Price to produce the Pet Shop Boys for a decade now and this doesn't quite cut it. The vibe was apparently good in the studio so we can hope this leads to something better.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Disappointed Once More

While I don't blog with enough frequency to complain about the albums that leave me disillusioned that's not going to stop me:

Shiny Toy Guns Season Of Poison
Endless live support of their debut album, which first came to my attention back in 2005, had reached Cher farewell tour proportions which makes one wonder just how long they spent in the studio recording this lackluster followup. While changing up styles can be a good thing the release suffers from the band purging the synthpop vibe that made them unique making the so-so songs just sink. Of course any album that suggests a whole season of poison isn't going to be much fun so at least band put a warning right out on the front cover.

Moby Last Night Remixed
While I have yet to get my thoughts on the source album out of draft this disjointed remix album is a mess. I rate Moby's two-disc Everything Is Wrong: Mixed & Remixed as one of my favorite remix albums ever but this is clearly on the other side of the spectrum with not enough interesting material to justify the release. While available to download as individual tracks the star here should be Moby's own dj mix of the tracks but it suffers as most tracks are played in their entirety making the whole thing drag on and on for 74 minutes.

Keane Perfect Symmetry
While far from the most fervent Keane supporter I had high hopes for the album after Tim Rice-Oxley's recent work with Gwen Stefani resulted in a highlight and Stuart Price's (peripheral) involvement raised the stakes. Lead single "Spiraling" has grown on me but the album as a whole feels like a chore to listen to with poor pacing and pandering lyrics, listen to "Better Than This" if you want an ego boost, that make the first quarter of the album feel like the whole thing should be over already. The album's real crime is failing the "Early Winter" test. Not a thing here even touches that song.

Sam Sparro Sam Sparro
While Sam has gotten the blog love from the blogs I love the album is actually two tracks deep. The US exclusive "S.A.M.S.P.A.R.R.O." and the undeniable "Black And Gold". I must be missing something because the rest of the album does nothing for me.

Hercules And Love Affair Hercules And Love Affair
I get that their ability to create interesting old school disco vibes and the DFA connection helped win them plenty of buzz but their crushing inability to write songs sinks the album quickly. Now a few short months after the hype has died down I imagine few of the album's most ardent supporter can recall a single track that has stuck with them.

Lady Gaga The Fame
Possibly the worst album on this list it's hard to believe this is in the US top 10. Fans seem to think she is offering something but album is full of bland filler that is only occasionally saved the rare clever line. Among the offenses the brag about a sick beat on "Just Dance" that just isn't delivered in the song.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Techno From Unexpected Faces: Eric Clapton

My college radio days coincided with the American Electronica Revolution (aka 1997) which gave me access to new music in a way that today can only be parallelled by anyone who knows how to log on to the internet (congratulations). Having a front seat to a musical movement allowed me to hear some albums that slipped by the larger public such as T.D.F.'s Retail Therapy. In an effort to guide dj's to better tracks and ferret out language that is less than FCC friendly all the station's music had short reviews and I recall that one staff member wrote something along the lines of "this is really good chill out music but it has these really annoying Poison guitar solos all over it". In a day and age when Daft Punk hid behind dog masks T.D.F. were ahead of the curve wearing helmets in all of their publicity photos even going further in creating a mystique by listing the group's members Simon Climie and someone named x-sample in the liner notes. As one of the first major label "electronica" acts out of the gate what they weren't saying was that Climie was an established industry sideman and that x-sample was a bizarre alias for Eric Clapton. The album has gone out of print but I can assure you that the album was decidedly more smooth jazz than anything else with only a few tracks that were even remotely on par with electronica of the time. The album's highlight is "Rip Stop" an admirable attempt at drum 'n' bass that came only a year after the sub-genre's first credible artist album was released:

: The album garnered some rough reviews including All Music Guide's that calls Retail Therapy "a bland, colorless dead alley into electronic music from two musicians who don't comprehend its essence" which may explain why there has never been a followup. However it's worth noting that in the late 80s Simon Climie's duo Climie Fisher had a not bad non-hit "Love Changes (Everything)" underscore an important montage of Savage Steve Holland's How I Got Into College and that movie has a young Lara Flynn Boyle attempting to play a character with warmth. That's almost as strange as a 60s guitar icon attempting drum 'n' bass.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Late Review: Duran Duran Red Carpet Massacre

Today marks one year since Duran Duran launched their latest comeback album and to celebrate I bring you a late review that has been sitting in draft since February. Maybe I should have finished it:

Duran Duran's Red Carpet Massacre recently caught my attention again prompting me to finally gave it a proper listen. Their patchy self-titled wedding album was one of the first discs I bought back when I really started getting into music leaving me with doubt over their ability to fully bring the goods and it's reputation as one of their stronger efforts has put me off buying Duran Duran albums for ages. Sure there have been some strong moments over the years with "Electric Barbarella" and "Nice" coming to mind as relatively recent favorites, but I never seem to find much I want to revisit outside of the singles. When Red Carpet Massacre came out it simply slipped past me despite it being covered by many of my favorite blogs, talked up by some online friends and hearing some of it on the Bay Area's kinda top 40 radio station.

Without a doubt the defining buzz around the album was super producer Timbaland's involvement suggesting this is Duran Duran's hip hop album. The group have shown an interest in the genre before covering "White Lines" and bringing Missy Elliot on board for a track on their last album but Timbaland co-produces three tracks and his apprentice Danja, who the Wall Street Journal note "typically charges $50,000 to $100,000 per track", has his hands over the all but one of the remaining tracks demonstrating the group's willingness to jump into the deep end of a foreign genre. Well almost. After listening to the album I can now safely say that they didn't jettison all their new wave roots but rather polished them with a different production style. Opener "The Valley" is a great example coming on as strong as any of their recent material but far enough away from their usual mode of operation that my first listen had me checking my car stereo's EQ to see what happened to the missing mid-range. The title track pushes the band further into unexplored territory as the album's biggest lyrical statement, some sort of take down of vapid celebrity culture which must disgust the yachting members of Duran Duran, finds the common ground between punk and the sounds of top 40 hip hop. Timbaland makes his first appearance on "Nite-Runner", the album's biggest hip hop moment and the most obvious choice for a single, lending his signature beats to a song that sounds so little like anything Duran Duran have touched before that that Simon Le Bon's vocals are easily mistaken for those of the track's co-producer Justin Timberlake. The remaining Timbaland tracks allow more of the band to shine through but both don't hit the mark of radio friendly pop with the same force.
Elsewhere in the album the band primarily focus on their strength at crafting mid-tempo ballads. The first single "Falling Down" finds Timberlake alone in the producer's chair steering the band towards "Ordinary World" territory with enough to success to that it got the band back on US radio. Well at least for a few weeks. They strip down the production to simple strummed guitar on "Box Full O Honey" which is an earnest attempt to portray heartbreak that is a highlight despite sounding a bit overworked. "She's Too Much" also hits some sweets spots as LeBon demonstrates why he has such a way with the ladies as he bares his sensitive soul.
Those looking for some old school new wave jams won't be disappointed. "Zoom In" has it going on musically but lines like "I'm zooming in and out on you" seem like an odd pickup line for the new millennium. A bit of research reveals the song was premiered in the game Second Life which give the lyrics a quite literal twist but it's still odd to hear the band wooing a sexy lady by praising her "avatar". You really have to be at a certain stage in your career to have that the confidence to so boldly go where your lyrical muse takes you.
Over all the band really have it together on this out as even the instrumental "Tricked Out", which has a touch of a rocked out Halloween magic, seem essential to the album. It may have taken some time, but Duran Duran have finally found the right mix of new ideas and consistent songwriting to draw me into an album that I want to revisit. Hopefully their label will wake up realizing that they gave up way too early on this strong album and finally release a second single soon.

Monday, November 03, 2008


It is thrilling to hear that the Pet Shop Boys are receiving the Outstanding Contribution to Music Award at the upcoming Brit Awards because it gives me hope that actual pop artists can be honored by institutions. While I hope that something like Popjustice's vision of the event takes place I already dread the way the award ceremony will be butchered on American tv never giving me a chance to see it outside of youtube. There is something fundamentally wrong with the way US television programmers treat Brit musical events. Maybe I'm just paranoid but New Order's lifetime achievement award was cut out of an awards show when it showed on VH1 a few years back and BBC America chopped PSB out of the An Audience with Elton John bar one shot of them in the crowd confirming that they were there. Why show Brit tv when you are just going to not show what makes it different from American music shows? Really BBC America, isn't the whole premise of your network that you cater to Anglophiles? Regardless here is the last time the Boys played the Brit Awards (notice that whoever dresses West End Girls might have seen this):

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Flashback: Cranes "Shining Road" (1994)

Taking their name from the machines that transport cargo on the docks of their native Portsmouth the often experimental, occasionally pop but always unique Cranes got their start in the mid 80s. They opened for The Cure (who have a new album out this week) on the "Wish" tour and first came to my attention when the Robert Smith remix of "Jewel" got a modest amount of airplay on Live 105. That song didn't really grab me and I assumed that I had heard the band's best material since Live 105 even played The Cure's b-sides in heavy rotation at the time. A year later the first single from Cranes next album Loved got a couple of spins and proved just how wrong I was. "Shining Road" is an amazing song. Unexpected and effortless it harnesses the groove of the UK's second wave of rave revolution to the best parts of showgaze alt-rock. All discussions of Cranes inevitably lead to the merits of Alison Shaw's singular voice, which is often described as "childlike" even though otherworldly is perhaps more accurate, but there is no denying her voice is the perfect conduit for the wordless emotion conveyed here:

: After some time off in the late 90s Cranes have kept active releasing music on their own label with an album out earlier this year. If you watch American tv you almost certainly are familiar with some of their recent work that was featured in an oft-aired commercial. Keep up with the band at their label's website.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Video: The Killers "Human"

Brandon Flowers pitched "Human" to producer Stuart Price as "Johnny Cash meets the Pet Shop Boys". My endorsement will almost certainly be the death blow to The Killers domestic success but the perfect marriage of the band's (occasionally) brilliant songwriting to Stuart Price's precision tuned disco machine makes the song one of my musical highlights of the year. Love the unique take on the man/machine dynamic with the whole "human/dancer" lyric that has everyone in such a fuss although I can't help but think that Flowers could have avoided turning up on worst lyric lists by picking a less obscure quote to build a song around:

: Those who still doubt the song's brilliance should give this youtuber's piano version a listen.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Video: Sam Taylor-Wood "I'm In Love With A German Film Star"

Sam Taylor-Wood's new M.I.N.I.M.A.L. video:

: Read better posts here.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Video: The Chemical Brothers "Midnight Madness"

The biggest fault of last year's We Are The Night was it's lack of a tent pole dance track and while it is a bit late The Chemical Brothers have found it with the first single taken from the duo's second greatest hits album Brotherhood. "Midnight Madness" is an awesome track that restores my faith in the Brothers ability to move a dance floor. A cousin to Tom & Ed's definitive trance statement "Star Guitar" here the Brothers refine an aspect of their sound that has never really been fully explored to great effect. Shame it's not attached to a proper album.

Directed by long time visual collaborators Dom and Nic the video features a goblin that crawls out of a bin marked "commercial waste" (subtle commentary on Brotherhood?) and proceeds to do unreal parkour/free running/dancing on the streets before taking it into the club:

: The song also has a Google Earth project connected to it that involves people around the world sending in footage taken at midnight. View the official youtube video or stop by their site for more info.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Video: Underworld "Ring Road"

It has been nearly a year since Underworld unveiled their long anticipated comeback album Oblivion With Bells to a public that has proved itself largely indifferent. Perhaps it didn't quite fit in with current musical landscape or reach the heights of the band's best material but it is fair to expect more of an online buzz for a band with their following. I suspect the reason is that we have another mishandled album on our hands. The lead single "Crocodile" was not the greatest intro to the album because it never quite lifted off like you expected (suffering from too much of the same riff) and it seems like I have seen nothing else about the album since it's release. A quick browse through itunes offers an explanation: they didn't release any further singles to the general public. Personally I was waiting to write about the album until "Beautiful Burnout" got an edit and a single release but I never saw it. Apparently that happened ages ago but was only promoted to djs despite being the album's most likely breakout track. Given that Karl Hyde's voice anchors Oblivion With Bells like nothing Underworld has released since Underneath The Radar this approach of exclusively chasing the Beatport crowd seems entirely wrong. "Ring Road" is a decent single choice with Hyde's daft spoken poetry bringing everything together. It sounds quite like Beaucoup Fish's "Bruce Lee":

: A live album is due from the duo in November so stop by their site for all the info.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Shuffle Blog

Neon Neon "Trick For Treat"

The better of Stainless Style's hip hop tracks has a truly oddball rap from Spank Rock that has something to say about Oprah and her cable network Oxygen before going into a riff on the album's subject John DeLorean. Saved by the killer falsetto "she got me dreaming like a Michigan boy" hook which I've just learned is sung by Har Mar Superstar. Still one of those tracks that works better in the context of the album.

Chemical Brothers "Spring"

This b-side from "The Boxer" single is unusually melodic as the Brothers noodle about touching ever so lightly the edge of psychedelia. A fans only affair but not a track without rewards.

Ladytron "Tomorrow"

There is something very familiar about this Velocifero track. Probably something to do with the album all sounding very much the same. It works but not as well as the song where she sings about loving a computer.

The Whip "Trash"

Are these guys on Modular? Apparently they are signed to Norman Cook's Southern Fried Records which I suppose means that label has diversified quite a bit. It has a great build to it and that's not the sort of thing you get every day in a rock record.

Underworld "To Heal (And Restore Broken Bodies)"

This Oblivion with Bells interlude just got an expansion for the Songs for Tibet-The Art of Peace Music Project compilation that makes it sound even more dopey as it wallows in new age spiritualism. Of course it's the sort of track I would have written off as completely harmless a decade ago so maybe it's just me.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Greatest Album Title Ever!

Soulwax's reworking of The Chemical Brothers "Hey Boy Hey Girl" is too fresh to be included on last year's remix collection but Different Is Dangerous point toward where the track can be downloaded for the price of an fake email address. Check it out even if you already bought the version that amazon sells by itself for $1.94 individually, on a single that brings you two tracks for $1.42, to solve the mystery of the seven second time difference between the two versions.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Kinda I Want To

A rather complete blog entry pointed me towards this clip of a local news story from the 80s covering Trent Reznor's early band Exotic Birds. His new wave history is hardly secret, the demo that got him signed to record Pretty Hate Machine did feature a song that was pure pre-acid house New Order, but seeing Reznor before the dark fashion demands of the industrial scene took over his image is a bit of a surprise. The fun starts about one minute in:

: Makes you wonder what Reznor could do if he ever started making upbeat music. Hopefully it would be along the lines of "Discipline" from this year's free NIN album The Slip:

Saturday, August 09, 2008

The Human Shopping Mall

Mike Huckabee was the last person I ever expected to hear talk about a musician whose work I appreciate but he was filling in for Paul Harvey this week when he announced the death of Robert Hazard. The brief mention on the radio segment said that you might not know his name but you knew Hazard's work because he had written Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun". Actually I do know the name and really love his cheeky take on materialism "Escalator Of Life" which used to get frequent spins on Live 105 back in the station's Steve Masters glory years. Let's give it a listen:

: Hazard slipped off my radar in recent years but continued to write and record changing up his style going singer/songwriter with occasional country leanings also finding time to work with the school of rock which resulted in this charming video last year.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Video: Cut Copy "Hearts On Fire"

Cut Copy may have created the hipsters "Where The Streets Have No Name" with their underground hit "Lights & Music" but in Eno terms In Ghost Colours has more in common with the atmosphere and rhythm experiments of Remain In Light than the expansive canvas for tightly written songs heard on The Joshua Tree. Naturally the album's second single does nothing to back up my argument instead attaching their standard modus operandi of refashioned post punk to a melancholic melody while a decidedly 90s Euro synth takes the song into territory only previously explored by Electronic circa Raise The Pressure. One itunes user notes there is "nothing that separates it from 80s electronic music" but that isn't a bad thing speaking instead to the strength of the songwriting.
Clearly aimed at the band's core sophisticated Modular adoring audience the video chronicles a day in life of a complete sop that is perpetually rained on:

: Cut Copy have a myspace and probably have a facebook account too if you are interesting in that sort of thing. The "Hearts On Fire" single is out now and includes remixes from Calvin Harris & Midnight Juggernauts.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Video: Goldfrapp "Caravan Girl"

Goldfrapp's latest single is out in the US today. Seventh Tree's last obvious single choice "Caravan Girl" was tipped as "the Song Of Summer" back in February by XO but the tracklisting for the single is so weak that even some of the bands strongest supporters are left to simply yawn. On the bright side the video is rather nice:

: Recently the band have recently done a highly praised session for NPR with Steve Lillywhite that can be streamed here and announced Fall tour dates that include a few stops in the US. Stop by their myspace for details and sample more of Seventh Tree.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Don't Go

The reunited Yaz play their first US dates this week which must be the driving force behind Alison Moyet's most recent album The Turn getting a belated stateside release today. Here is Alison performing the added to the album after the original release single "A Guy Like You" on The Graham Norton Show:

: Check out an interview from the same show which is quite nice and stop by Yaz's myspace for more from the legendary duo.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Video: Audio Bullys "Gimme That Punk"

Perhaps you remember the narrator in LCD Soundsystem's dissection of musical elitism "Losing My Edge" listing every influential and underground act as their personal discovery. Audio Bullys seem to be under the influence of that track on "Gimme That Punk" announcing their own list of punk acts they demand to hear. This could be a fun track that proves they don't sound like a direct echo of The Streets anymore but there are issues. The lyrics paint such a broad view of "punk" that it encompasses almost every genre of popular music over the past forty years which is liberating in concept but every act named is so mainstream there is no distinct thread to tie the acts together making it simply a list of popular artists. Could it be that they are indeed serious and are taking the opportunity to rebuke the elitism found in LCD Soundsystem's track? It seems more likely that they are simply attaching themselves to some of the most successful names in the music business, everyone from The Beatles to 50 Cent, than attempting any commentary. That is all the more unfortunate given the beats are the least arresting the Bullys have ever dropped in a single.

The video has more punk credibility than the song. The director Don Letts made his first punk rock documentary years before he co-founded Big Audio Dynamite and here he keeps the style direct intercutting a stage performance with archive footage and a Dylan-esque scene of the band record dropping to the lyrics:

: Audio Bullys are at work on their next album. Updates and more from the band are available at their myspace.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Shuffle Blog

Perhaps you have read blog entries where someone talks about the first five songs that come up on itunes shuffle. Sounds like fun...

Pet Shop Boys- Fugitive (Richard X Extended)
I haven't listened to this in some time and it really is fantastic. Really everything you would hope that Richard X would help bring out of the Boys as it is top form sleaze. What a lost opportunity that it didn't find a home on the proper Fundamental instead of being tossed off to bonus track land.

Scissor Sisters- Lovers In The Backseat
Since this song is in the middle of the album I never realized how long and odd the introduction is. Actually the whole song is rather odd but it does deal with voyeurism so what do you expect?

Clinton- People Power In The Disco Hour
Perhaps Cornershop had a bit of pre-millennial tension on the brain when they decided to go from an indie band to a disco outfit. Or maybe Fatboy Slim's hit remix of "Brimful of Asha" inspired the change in direction. While they were never going to be my cup of tea I did enjoy this song even if I couldn't sit through anything else from Clinton.

Cosmicity- Future Song
There are many songs on the underrated modern synthpop act Cosmicity's final album Escape Pod For Two that I like more than this closing track but it does set a mood nicely. It does remind me that I really should post something about Mark Nicholas' post Cosmicity project.

They Might Be Giants- Minimum Wage

This fourty-seven second oddball track really is random, even on TMBG's masterpiece Flood.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Flashback: Prodigy The Fat of the Land (1997)

A short 11 years ago this week Prodigy's The Fat of the Land was unleashed on the world where it unexpectedly debuted as the number one album on the US charts. Dropped by Elektra after Experience failed to live up to major label standards the band had been written off as "kiddie rave" in America before the two pre-release singles "Firestarter" and "Breathe", both of which topped the charts in the UK, started getting attention from alt rock radio and began a bidding war that ended with Prodigy signed to Maverick in the States. I got on board early on picking up "Firestarter" the week it came out as a Mute released 12" single (the song would later be re-released by Maverick on CD single) so it was exciting to see group pick up momentum and acceptance from the alternative scene that had been hijacked by grunge which had effectively silenced the synthesiser in the States.

The controversial opening track weighs heavily in the legacy of Prodigy and the album. The titular sample of a thrown off Kool Keith line taken from Ultramagnetic MC's "Give The Drummer Some" is a major sticking point and while Liam Howlett suggests it is not literal but rather means "doing anything intensely, like being on stage - going for extreme manic energy" using the offending phrase simply makes the song ugly. Following one of the most extreme build ups ever recorded with the suggestion of domestic violence as the payoff is truly foolish and irresponsible. In the years that have passed there have been several attempts to reclaim the song including the oddly controversial video (spoiler: it's not a dude behind all that misogyny) and the Charlie's Angels movies but both take on the basic violent premise of the song's sample rather than deal with "extreme manic energy". The song does have legs and despite limited exposure at the time of it's release it continues to get played on Live 105 and ended up as their top ranking electronica song on a recent listener voted countdown.

"Breathe" is the band's masterstroke as Keith Flint and Maxim Reality spark over an understated Howlett track that does amazing things with an all 16th note bass line. The second pre-release single for the album effectively raised the stakes from the genre bursting "Firestarter" suggesting that Prodigy were more than simple adrenaline junkies and in fact a thinking man's band as well. Time may have proven otherwise.

A decade on "Diesel Power" remains the best electronica/hip hop track ever. Is it the rap? Probably not although Kool Keith would enjoy a renaissance in the late 90s where he would record boasts about the amazing amount of money he was given to work on "Diesel Power". It is the beats that have me reaching to turn up the volume when this comes on time after time.

Howlett sampled the Beastie Boys on this "Funky" track that takes the album down the rave route. Not a favorite by any means but one that sold my former boss on the album after hearing it in a record store.

We reach the low point of the album with "Serial Thrilla" which is a stupid, stupid, stupid song with Keith "my first single went to #1" Flint on screaming vocals. This is what happens when musicians give in to the influence of too much testosterone.

"Mindfields" is the mysterious fourth single from the album that was only released as a "white label" that was one of the most professional and least disguised "unlabeled" pieces of vinyl I've ever encountered. It's a Maxim song in the mode of "Breathe" and while a review mocked the "this is dangerous" line for trying too hard to be scary this was just a decent edit away from being a hit. Also it helped introduce the action movie world to bullet time on the soundtrack to The Matrix.

The Indian influenced "Narayan" brought Kula Shaker's Crispian Mills in for vocals to create mystic synthpop that had run through the big beat blender. There are some great bits but the track's nine minute running time, which in part are a set up for the big hit that follows, helped make it one of the most complained about tracks on the album. Kula Shaker reprised the song as "Song of Love/Narayana" on last year's Strangefolk which doesn't do much to improve the song's reputation.

There was a time when I suggested that "Firestarter" was the new "Smells Like Teen Spirit" as it rocked alternative radio out of it's grunge haze. Perhaps I overstated my case but the song did truly breakdown barriers as it took samples from The Breeders' "S.O.S." and Art Of Noise's "Close (To The Edit)" as it introduced the world to the punk version of Keith Flint. Twisted indeed.

"Climbatize" delayed The Fat Of The Land's release by several months while it was being developed because Liam said it was amazing and told NME that it would be a single for sure. It never was but the instrumental is a highlight that steps back from the hyper masculinity that permeates much of the album.

The album comes to a close with the hard electro rock cover of L7's "Fuel My Fire". Keith handles the vocals on this one with Saffron from Republica adding a nice bit of color as the backup vocalist which make it sound like an angry love song. Interestingly the choice to end with a cover hint at Howlett's limitations as a songwriter which would go to be far more obvious years down the road when Prodigy finally released a new album.

Fat Of The Land was the commercial pinnacle of the Electronica Revolution of 1997 and while the album has it has faults it stands nearly alone in it's mainstream acceptance. One of the reasons "Firestarter" failed to make Prodigy the next Nirvana is that no one could duplicate their sound that combined songwriting with aggressive techno trash. Actually Junkie XL came close and CJ Bolland did a direct riff on the band's sound on a song that is probably better know for it's remix, but no one else could match what Prodigy had at that moment.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sweet Frosti

Devo are taking legal action over this american idol happy meal toy:

: Gerald Casale, creator of the Energy Dome hats, had this to say
"They didn't ask us anything. Plus, we don't like McDonald's, and we don't like American Idol, so we're doubly offended."

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Video: West End Girls "What Have I Done To Deserve This?"

While I'm sure that blogging Swedish fans of the Pet Shop Boys have know this for ages I must pass this along for the benefit for others that the girl group West End Girls are about to launch their second album Shoplifters. The first single finds the Girls, actually one of the original duo was replaced but who is paying close enough attention to notice, taking on "What Have I Done To Deserve This?" with Magnus Carlson of Weeping Willows (the 99'th most successful band in Sweden as if you didn't know) doing the Dusty Springfield bits. Perhaps because it sounds so awfully familiar the song has inspired a post with no words at PSB blog Very and one sentence of nonsense at Popjustice. Can't find too much to say about it myself:

: Stop by their myspace for more on West End Girls and the new album.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Blow A Fuse

As someone who usually ignores flashmobs I have to admit that this is a pretty amazing tribute to one of the greatest music videos of all time:

: The performance took place earlier this month in San Francisco's Union Square and the location and the way some of the video was shot reminds me of the film Francis Ford Coppola made between the first two Godfather installments: The Conversation. Trust me and Netflix it.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Mini Reviews

Some blogs have frequent updates and proper reviews. That couldn't happen here...

Miss Kittin BatBox

Is disappointment of the year too big of a statement? Miss Kittin is one of those artists who could clearly make brilliant pop music anytime she wants but chooses not to out some need for underground integrity. Depending on your perspective this makes her a saint for not selling out or a fool for hiding her talent. The overall sound recalls her First Album with The Hacker but unlike that genre staple there is almost nothing here that draws you in as even promising tracks like "Sunset Strip" never truly develop. In political terms she is simply playing to her base and doing very little to interest anyone else. Even those who gave the album a couple of months to sink in.
Best Bets: "Kittin Is High", "BatBox"

Client Untitled Remix

While remixes from the four singles taken from last year's lacking Heartland are found here the real selling point of Client's Untitled Remix album are the band's collaborations with other artists. Both "Suicide Sister", their cheery duet with Douglas McCarthy, and their venture into house-gone-electropop "Sorry" with Mexican band Réplica are miles better than 95% of Heartland which suggests to me that Client need to rethink their track selection process when releasing proper albums. The remixes are mostly from parties with less than four discogs credits to their names and unfortunately it shows with only three or so interesting remixes in the set.
Best Bets: "Suicide Sister", "Sorry", "Zerox (N Joi Radio Edit)"

Chemical Brothers B-Sides Volume 1

When this turned up on itunes I knew that Astralwerks had given up on We Are The Night which is shame because it is much better than it has generally been written off to be. While a b-side collection is not entirely unwelcome the Chemicals can be a bit hit and miss as they often use alternate versions of album tracks to pad out singles. If you've been missing the straight dance tracks from the recent albums there is plenty to keep your interest with the subtle acid of "Nude Night", the rumble of "Base 6" and the thundering hip hop jam "Prescription Beats" almost making up for unlistenable experiments like "Scale". Even some of the alternate takes fascinate as we learn "Snooprah", which appears as the brief ambient interlude "Harpoons" on We Are..., also has a secret life as a seven minute dance track complete with disco sirens. The biggest problem here is the Volume 1 thing which keeps the Brothers best b-side, the amazing "Hot Acid Rhythm 1", off the compilation. Check that one out: found on the "It Began In Afrika" single it's well worth the 99 cents.
Best Bets: "Hot Acid Rhythm 1"(well obviously not on the album but if you're only getting one get this track), "Prescription Beats", "Base 6"

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Video: The Orb "Vuja De"

Those adventurous enough to scour the deepest darkest depths of the new releases on itunes already know of the unlikely return of The Orb. Despite being completely off my radar since buying their greatest hits album back in 1998 it appears that Alex Paterson and friends have kept up an ambitious schedule, given the project's original goal was to get people to stop dancing at the end of raves, releasing four studio albums in the 2000s including one of the most annoyingly named albums of all time: Okie Dokie It's the Orb on Kompakt. Melding the band's original vibe with what could be called a proper pop song "Vuja De" is something of revelation. Let's give it a listen:

: The single is taken from album The Dream which is due out shortly in the US and appears to have been put out sometime last year in the UK. Considered a return to their original sound by a wikipedia entry the album features such artists as Youth, Steve Hillage and a guy from Dreadzone. Listen to a few tracks for yourself at their myspace to hear why it received a positive review from nme.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Nobody Loves Me

Using Amazon's download store exposes you to what happens on their music forums and this thread title caught my eye: help!!! - I have been trying for over a year to find this song!!! 1994-95 they played it in clubs alot but I also heard it on the radio I think... starts out slow w/bass guitar notes that get lower "dun dundun dundun dundun dun" and then there... : naturally I had to read the post:

is a female's voice and this is where I get stuck!!! She sounds like she is in pain or something and the chorus has three words - something like I need you or I want you or You Kill Me or something desperate... I really want this song and don't know where to look!!! Know it's not much info to go on but can anyone help???

: Let's examine the clues. Is there anything that would lead you to guess this as the correct song this person was looking for? Amazingly the first person to guess got it right! That almost makes up for the four guesses after the song's identity had been confirmed.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Flashback: Pet Shop Boys "Discoteca (Trouser Enthusiasts Adventures Beyond The Stellar Empire Mix)" (1996)

A kind youtuber uploaded one of my favorite Pet Shop Boys remixes, one that always got me calls when I played it on my college radio show, with a video that reads suspiciously like a blog entry. Let's take a look and have a listen:

: Trouser Enthusiasts only lasted a couple of years but left behind a discography that included many remixes and the single "Sweet Release". Both Ian Masterson and David Green continue to create music but as Masterson notes on his blog "you'd think I'd be a lot wealthier than I am" given the artists they have worked with. Oddly enough the duo's other big moment came under their alias Flexifinger when they traded off production on Dannii Minogue's 1997 album Girl with another young production team Xenomania. Can you guess which one of the teams was just announced as the producers of the Pet Shop Boys next album?

Thursday, May 08, 2008


Portishead are one of the few bands that have fundamentally changed the way I listen to music so I celebrate the release of their new album Third. Since we last heard from them there has been a decided shift in the sound of the band and rather than simply ask "where did the tunes go?" I am going to hold off on any real comment until I have had time to absorb the album and decipher what it all means. I'll meet them on their terms and since it took over ten years for the band to deliver a new album I pledge to opine within the next five years.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Head On The Door

As Metallica headlines KROQ's summer concert I am reminded that there is nothing alternative about alternative rock radio in 2008. While KROQ didn't invent the Modern Rock format Spinner notes that "the station shunned the band for years in favor of alternative bands like Depeche Mode, U2 and the Cure" marking an end of an era. Exactly when that era ended is up to debate, some might argue that was when Metallica headlined Lollapalooza in 1996 almost killing off the travelling festival, but KROQ's reputation and the way it's playlist is shamelessly copied by other alternative stations across the country give this moment a sting.
In the Bay Area we have Live 105 which has had it's own flavor and they downsized their summer concert this year dropping ticket prices to $10.50 (see what they did there?). If they didn't play Red Hot Chili Peppers every hour on the hour I might still listen to the radio.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Video: Bjork "Wanderlust"

Quote Of The Week (thank you Matt)

"If you are loving what Bjork has been doing the past decade this is a single that won't disappoint":

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Amazing News Alert

Ladytron's new album Velocifero is streaming at their myspace before you can even buy the first single. Be sure to catch a free download of teaser track "Black Cat" and look for the album out on June 3rd in the US.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Don't Believe The Hype

Anyone catch the Rolling Stone review that argues Accelerate is "one of the best records R.E.M. have ever made"? Bill Wyman wrote an interesting piece that gets to the root of why many musically minded people have tuned out reviews from the rock establishment's publication of choice. Using that statement as a jumping off point Wyman goes through the past decade or so of the magazine's REM album reviews and discovers that as far back as Up, the album where the public first demonstrated they had lost interest in the band, each release has been praised by Rolling Stone as an improvement on their recent output. Different writers opine on each album but the similarity is striking giving the impression that there is a standard "late period REM album" review expected by the editorial staff. While the uniformity of sentiment may simply come from the shortcomings that come with deadlines and the lack of time to differentiate "sort of sounds like that album that was really good" from "where did the memorable songs go" I suspect the source of this groupthink comes from the canonical glow cast over all of REM's work by their couple of albums that are considered among the pinnacles of the American underground rock movement and their implied effect on the musical landscape on the 1990s. Given that even Peter Buck has called some of that praised material the work of "old, miserable has-beens" suggests the critical elite needs a more distanced eye when it comes judging others who also can do no wrong.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Video: Goldfrapp "Happiness"

The second single from Goldfrapp's Seventh Tree is due shortly and the energetic video has been unleashed to the web. Teaming up again with "A&E" director Dougal Wilson the continuous shot video finds Alison in a series of cameos as we focus on a fellow who clearly has too much happiness to contain as he leaps around an increasingly bouncy neighborhood:

: Promotion of Seventh Tree is starting to pick up as Goldfrapp are beginning to tour. They have three US dates scheduled later this month (although if you won't be near Coachella, San Francisco or New York you're out of luck) and are scheduled to play on The Tonight Show on April 22. Stop by their myspace for single details and click here to hear the rejected Rex The Dog mix of "Happiness",

Monday, March 31, 2008

Video: Pet Shop Boys "Integral"

Releasing "Integral" as a single should have been such a great way to close out the Pet Shop Boys celebrated Fundamental era. The most overtly political song the Boys have ever written has been championed as a favorite ever since Popjustice published the album's first review. The combination of catchy and decidedly "up" dance music with lyrics that address the UK's adoption of mandatory identity cards creates a chilling effect demonstrating "what fascistic power sounds like, and in doing so reminds us of why it must be avoided". However, when Disco 4 generated the single release of "Integral" what the general public heard was not the amazing album version but a remixed version of the song that takes a direct route in musically interpreting the evils suggested in the lyrics. While pleasant enough as an extra track the "Immaculate" mix of the song has no business pretending to be the "single" version as it truly takes the wind out of the sails of the song leaving those who haven't the original scratching their heads and wondering what the fuss was about. What a wasted opportunity for the Boys to demonstrate why they are still relevant and creating compelling contemporary music.

That being said the video is fantastic. Actually there are several versions of the video, including some designed to be watched on youtube and on cell phones, but the main video is something special. A white card shows us the world as the song's narrator sees it, pixels containing bits of information, as we visit some of the busiest hubs of London by way of time-lapse photography. Suggesting the rapid pace at which technology and authorities can identify individuals even in massive crowds it finds a good visual representation of what privacy advocates struggle to express. The room of smiling Petheads posing with digital identities as the song proclaims "If you've done nothing wrong you've got nothing to fear/If you've something to hide you shouldn't even be here" is particularly effective reinforcing the rapturous tone of the original that suggests people are willingly giving up the fundamental freedoms of democracy in the name of the war on terror:

: The block images that feature in the video form a type of barcode that must be in greater use in the UK than the US and can be scanned with cell phones that link you to a number of sites that address issues in the song. My research indicates the band made the images available to download as a pdf so fans can create their own videos but this probably requires a copy of Disco 4 in your disc drive and visiting but it has never worked for me. There are only a few fan videos on youtube which might mean that I'm not alone in my confusion. Still much respect to the Boys for trying out new ideas on a song that deserves a mass audience.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Flashback: Tricky "Pumpkin" (1995)

Tricky's Maxinquaye is not only one of the high water marks of the trip hop movement but one of the most critically praised albums of the 1990s with honors that include ranking as Spin magazine's 2nd favorite album of 1995 and one of Q magazine's 100 Greatest British Albums Ever. Portishead and Massive Attack had defined the genre in the public eye by the time the album was released but Tricky's vision changed the mixture of the genre's formula suggesting a British hip hop as even the album's biggest rock moment, the NIN-esque "Black Steel", is really just re-imagining a Public Enemy song. While some critics would argue it was the production that really grabbed the ear Martina Topley Bird got plenty of press, along with booklet photo appearances, as the sweet voiced female foil to Tricky's mumbling raps many marked her as a future star which played out when she released a 2003 Mercury Prize nominated solo album.
The album's sixth (and final) single is an odd piece of music. A largely unedited sample of The Smashing Pumpkins Gish era song "Suffer" provides the backing track as Tricky does his usual vocal interplay not with Martina as he does on almost every other track on the album but with a young vocalist Orbital had recently discovered yodelling during a performance art piece. This is the music video debut of Alison Goldfrapp:

: Following the success of Maxinquaye Tricky had a fling with Bjork, put in a memorable appearance as Gary Oldman's henchman in The Fifth Element and released four increasingly disappointing albums in four years before bragging about his record deal on the flopped single "For Real" which was his last before he was dropped by the previously indulgent Island. Tricky did stage a comeback with Blowback and is currently involved in a variety of projects including an album that might be released on April 7 2008 although you would hope to see some promotion at this point if that is true.
Alison Goldfrapp went on to ride a white horse and create amazing music with Will Gregory.

Fun Fact: "Suffer" was produced by Butch Vig who would call on Tricky to remix his band Garbage's own trip hop inspired single "Milk" shortly after the release of "Pumpkin".

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Video: Portishead "Machine Gun"

The first shot out from Portishead's upcoming Third album is the single "Machine Gun". An uncompromising piece of minimalist electronic percussion it sounds like something you might hear from Cabaret Voltaire or Nitzer Ebb in the mid 80s making it something bound to put off many of the band's fans who have been waiting for over a decade for a new album. Those claiming to be familiar with the whole album have said this is the oddest moment on it which suggests to me that the band have no interest in being on the mainstream musical radar. Geoff Barrow in particular seems to be an opinionated fellow, try skimming a few of his blog entries to get an idea, that despises most everything mainstream and I suspect releasing this single first is an attempt to separate the group from anything even remotely pop:

: If the video above isn't working then stop by the official site where you can watch it in full screen mode after a quick sign up. Now it should be really interesting to see where the rest of the album takes us.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Quick Notes

  • Exciting to hear that Yaz(oo) have reunited and that their forthcoming box set should have previously unheard goodies. It's even better to hear that they will be bringing their tour to North America.
  • The clips of Róisín Murphy playing street musician are fantastic. Still hoping for a US release of her album and much thanks to Electronically Yours for passing the clip on.
  • Meant to post something about Keyboard Choir who are a group of six dedicated to playing electronic music live. Good mellow stuff.
  • SXSW is almost here which means lots of free mp3s from bands playing the event. Click here for a list of the electronic acts.
  • Download a track from the new The B-52s album over at Rolling Stone. Read the article to see which Bjork album Kate Pierson loves. Thanks to Arjan for this one.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Video: Freezepop "Brainpower"

Freezepop are more than a novelty act. Honestly. I don't know how anyone could figure that out from their latest single "Brainpower". The most annoying moment on their recent major label debut Future Future Future Perfect the sticker on the CD pegged it as a highlight before any fans had a chance to hear it. Bad idea. As the most "rock" track on the album it also appears in the video game RockBand so it makes sense that their label thought it would have a built in audience. I'm not so sure because an objective listen reveals it to be not near the greatness that is well within the grasp of the band.
Shot in LA as they toured the west coast this past November the video finds the band playing on a public access channel while being pelted by things as suggested by a brat with a magical remote control:

: Stop by their myspace where you can listen to better material from them including the song that inspired this blog's current tagline.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Monster Love

Goldfrapp's Seventh Tree is out today. Decidedly different than anything the duo have done before the disc largely avoids the supernatural beats and all out electropop assault of their past couple of releases instead creating another unique sound which is sure to be imitated. Early favorites of mine are the stunning "A & E", "Caravan Girl", "Happiness" and "Cologne Cerrone Houdini" but make sure to read XO's Middle Eight's essential review and stream the album for yourself at Spinner or their myspace.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Video: Cut Copy "Lights & Music"

There was a time that I distrusted Cut Copy. Maybe it the glowing reviews from sources that I often disagree with, their association with hipster friendly Modular Recordings or the suspicious number of times they were featured itunes but there was something about them I resisted. That all dissipated the moment I gave “Going Nowhere” a proper listen and after receiving the band’s Fabric mix disc for Christmas I’ve been really anticipating any new material. “Lights & Music” does not disappoint. Opening like a dance-punk “Where The Streets Have No Name” the song avoids any obvious path taking over two minutes in the unedited version for the synth stab punctured chorus to lift the song from interesting to flat out amazing. This is one of the best and most exciting songs of the year so far.

The video finds the artfully light band simply performing the song in front of giant video screens creating a hall of mirrors effect that echoes the atmosphere of the song. Not only does it show a synthesizer being actually played rather than the usual showing the guitar player when the synth part is played but it gets bonus points for showing a synth drum being used:

: Visit Cut Copy's myspace while you wait for the Tim Goldsworthy produced In Ghost Colours which is out April in the US.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Late Review: Madonna "Jump" MCD

(The following review was intended for a site that continues to have maintenance issues well over a year after this was written)

Madonna - Jump MCD

Jump (Single Edit)
Jump (Jacques Lu Cont Mix)
Jump (Axwell Remix)
Jump (Junior Sanchez’s Misshapes Mix)
Jump (Extended Album Version)

One year after “Hung Up” stormed charts worldwide Madonna has finally released the obvious pick for the immediate follow up single from “Confessions On A Dancefloor” as the album’s fourth track to receive the honor. Lyrically focused on the importance of family and the need to grow by being in new situations “Jump” is an instantly familiar up tempo track that borrows a bass rhythm, synth strings and a few chords from Pet Shop Boys “West End Girls”. Is this just a rip off? No. There is an undeniable similarity that had been acknowledged by co-writer and producer Stuart Price even before the PSB gave the song their blessing but there is much more to “Jump” than a simple recycling of “WEG“. It has it’s own unique melodic ideas and structure that are perfectly capable of standing on their own making the familiar arrangement a tribute rather than a blueprint for Madonna’s song.

Stuart Price’s “Jump” mix, credited under his Jacques Lu Cont alias, marks the sixth song he has remixed from “Confessions” and the fatigue is showing. While effective at times with a sense of tension and menace the mix lacks the impact and vision that Price often brings to the table creating something of a mess instead of dance floor perfection. At first it appears that Axwell‘s mix is a by-the-numbers club reworking, but closer listening reveals just how remarkably assembled the mix is with subtle touches that evolve from the original. The surprise success of the single comes from dance veteran Junior Sanchez who finds a unique approach with multi-pitched vocals edits in the style of 80’s extended mixes while creating a build that only the finest club tracks achieve.

“History” is the first b-side of Madonna‘s “Confessions”-era and it is a disco friendly track that could have fit comfortably on the album. As another Stuart Price production his fingerprints are all over the track but the lyrics are the real star of the song. Apparently Madonna is “so sick and tired of fighting” that she has decided to use the platform of this b-side to present the solution to ending global conflict. If this sounds a tad grandiose and silly to you then this might be a sticking point in enjoying the song but you have to admire Madonna’s willingness to put herself out there and really give her fans something to think about.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Video: Mark Brown Featuring Sarah Cracknell "The Journey Continues"

If you are the type that enjoys pouring over the pop charts of the world you no doubt are already aware that Sarah Cracknell returned to the UK charts this week. This is great news and a cue that I should be paying closer attention as the brightest of the blog world have been talking up the song for months. Dance label boss Mark Brown brought Cracknell in to create "The Journey Continues" in the tradition of pop music that borrows from classical music to build better songs not unlike The Farm's "All Together Now". The catch here is that the source tune is not quite classical cannon but largely based on Australian composer Elena Kats-Chernin's "Eliza`s Aria" which has recently featured in a UK television ad campaign making the song more of an "as heard on tv" hit.

The video was shot using digital stills rather than a film or video camera creating a stop motion effect that is largely unmoving. While the effect has been done memorably before in music videos this tale of a floating dancer simply reminds me of an ineffective Sesame Street numbers short. Of course my disinterest might have everything to do with Sarah Cracknell hardly appearing in the clip:

: No word on a US release yet but be sure to stop by Elena Kats-Chernin's myspace to hear the source material.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Ready For The Floor

Just a few short months after it leaked Hot Chip's new album Made In The Dark is out in next week. In celebration myspace is offering an exclusive preview of the entire album:

: As someone on Hot Chip's mailing list (thank you free download!) I had already had been alerted to the exclusive online listening preview of the album at Clash Music earlier in the week. Exclusive just doesn't mean what it used to anymore.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Video: Moby "Alice"

Moby has "tried to take a long 8 hour night out in new york city and condense it into a 65 minute long album" for the forthcoming Last Night. The first single "Alice" reflects that heavily featuring Nigerian rappers 419 Crew in an odd mix of genres that combine a hip hop foundation with Moby singing an ethereal new wave chorus(or at least a repeated verse) with a breakdown that includes a metal guitar solo. Odd but it works.

Working from Moby's suggestion "to see a lot of things exploding" director Andreas Nillson has created a video that brings elderly stock footage and floating heads together with some sort of "National Treasure"-esque conspiracy lite symbols. I'm not sure that I smell a conspiracy but the most puzzling thing about the video is that something this uncommercial got green light because I can't imagine it being shown on vh1 which along with the song's ambiguous sense of genre almost guarantees that no one will hear the it. At least there are blogs and youtube:

: Download the Last Night megamix sampler by clicking here and stop by Moby's myspace for more info on his "love letter to dance music" which is out April 1 in the US.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Video: Goldfrapp "A & E"

What's left to say about the upcoming Goldfrapp single? If you caught the song when it first leaked you already know that it's brilliant and not really like anything else they've done before. If you've missed it then catch up and enjoy the video:

: Seventh Tree is due out at the end of February (no half year delay for the US!) so check out their helpful myspace to hear more from the duo.