Thursday, May 31, 2007

New York is a Woman

Song: "New York is a Woman"
Artist: Suzanne Vega
Album: Beauty & Crime

I went pretty bananas for Suzanne Vega’s album “99.9F” and have been a big fan since. Her debut ranks with some of the best in music history, she had possibly the craziest pop one-hit-wonder with a song about child abuse (“Luka”,) and… she like totally loves New York City. Out of nowhere (because of an extensive hiatus between records) comes a new album for 2007, “Beauty and Crime.” Her first, notably, on Blue Note. (She’s been with A & M Records since her debut.)

After the dour, post-divorce “Songs in Red and Gray” from 2001, I am happy to say that Suzanne is having fun again. After the one-two punch of the upbeat “99.9F” and “Nine Objects of Desire,” it’s nice to see her return to something more up-tempo. Kick-off track “Zephyr & I” bounces along with a persistent beat and a groovy bass lick that is new for Vega, and lead single “Frank & Ava” is folk rock with enfaces on the “rock.” Really good stuff.

My immediate favorite was the slower “New York is a Woman,” a beautiful walk through a beautiful city that once again reminds me just how plain GREAT a songwriter Vega is.

I for one am glad she is back.


Some of my favorites…

“Blood Makes Noise”

“Caramel (live)”

“Tom’s Diner (DNA Remix)”

And this is the craziest thing I’ve ever seen…

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Going to a Town

Song: Going to a Town
Artist: Rufus Wainwright
Album: Release the Stars

I don’t really fault people for disliking Rufus Wainwright, his music is an odd mix of classical driven pop with sweeping strings and what can only be described as “a flare for the theatrical.” But those that love him REALLY love him. Me… well I like him, and there are some songs I really love. His voice, while distinctive, doesn’t bother me and puts a real personality on everything he does. And he’s an “out” singer-songwriter, which I surely appreciate.

Rufus’ new album “Release the Stars” just came out earlier this month. After the expansive double album “Want I” and “Want II,” which basically found Rufus at his most “Rufus,” I thought he could either go to another new level in his craft, do more of the same, or worst… just make an awful record. “Release the Stars” is in fact more of the same, no dip in quality, but no step forward either.

While I haven’t found any songs on the album that surpass anything he’s done in the past, lead single “Going to a Town” is worth noting as one of the most dower lead singles in recent memory, but it’s a song we here in America need to hear. Take a listen, and you’ll get what I mean.


Here is the video for "Going to a Town"

Monday, May 21, 2007

All of My Friends

Song: All of My Friends
Artist: Franz Ferdinand
Album: All of My Friends (Single)

So I am just a touch obsessed with LCD Soundsystem as of late, only because their new record, “Sound of Silver” is just THAT good. It currently holds the place for record of the year in my eyes and while it is still early, I have a feeling it will no doubt find itself on many many critics year-end lists.

This month sees the release of the single “All of My Friends,” the centerpiece of the album and my favorite of the bunch. The single is interesting because it has a handful of B-Sides and covers of the song by Franz Ferdinand and Velvet Underground legend John Cale. I have flipped for the Franz cover, they go much more punk than the original, making it more in the vein of the 80’s New Wave that lead LCD James Murphy loved versus just Franz Ferdinanding it.

If I am honest the B-Sides have a lot to be desired, much more ambient and atmospheric than the traditional song-based writing that can be found on the album. Also, while I understand that there must be a single edit, the 7 + minute album version is just better all around. The song is about the build, and without the proper time given I think it is robbed of its true emotional impact.

I told you… I’m obsessed!


The video for “All of My Friends”

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Gagging Order

Song: Gagging Order
Artist: Radiohead
Album: Com Lag

While the world waits for the next Radiohead album, which is rumored to come out sometime this year, the band has decided to release “Com Lag” an EP that was released only in Japan and Australia in 2004. “Com Lag” came on the heels of their last studio album “Hail to the Thief” containing a live version of “Thief’s” “2 + 2 = 5” as well as remixes and a handful of b-sides. It’s as long as the official album, and a true surprise it wasn’t released anywhere else until this month.

I consider myself a huge Radiohead fan, though while I thought that virtually every album they had released was THE record of that year, “Hail to the Thief” unfortunately left me cold. While “Kid A” and “Amnesiac” continued Radiohead along the “strange” path that they began on “O.K. Computer,” those records were filled with killer songs that got better with repeated listens. “Thief” continued the weird, but I really felt like the songwriting had suffered, and the experimentation was nothing they hadn’t done before.

What many Radiohead fans have really wanted was the straightforward rock songwriting they perfected by their sophomore album “The Bends.” The only thing that came close was the live favorite “True Love Waits” that still has never been released in studio form. In that vein, “Gagging Order” is a pretty straightforward acoustic ballad about, well it seems finding a dead body at a crime scene. (Still happy!) I really dig this song and am happy they are releasing the EP so more people can hear it.

“Com Lag” is a must for Radiohead fans but it also shows the interesting choices the band made while compiling “Thief.” The “Los Angeles” version of “I Will” streamlines the song and leaves out the vocal effect from the “Thief” version. I think I like it better. While Thom Yorke’s solo record was well received critically, it just reminded me how much I missed old exciting Radiohead. I eagerly await the next record and hope they can get some of their edge back.


“2 + 2 = 5” Live:

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Time Won't Let Me Go

Song: Time Won't Let Me Go
Artist: The Bravery
Album: The Sun and the Moon

The Bravery are a New York City band that I want to like more than I actually do. I “discovered” the band before their debut came out and fell in love with future singles “An Honest Mistake,” “Fearless,” and “Unconditional.” I was very excited about their upcoming record and thought it to be one of the more promising debuts of that year. Well, they soon were involved in an odd feud with The Killers, whom were also pimping their debut but it then turned out that the bands shared a label (Island) and more suspect… the same PR firm. Fabricated. I officially hate “the business.”

Despite all of this, I got both “Hot Fuss” and The Bravery’s self titled album and ended up listening to the Killers more. After the hoopla that was The Killers second record (which did okay) The Bravery have something to prove which might not exactly be fair, since the Killers debut kicked theirs ass in regards to sales and hit singles but when you open up your big mouth, you gotta put-up or shut-up.

Later this month will see the release of the bands sophomore set, “The Sun and the Moon.” All I have to go on is the first single “Time Won’t Let Me Go,” not a flat out synth-rocker, but a breezy slice of vocal distorted New Wave. It is not, if I can continue this ridiculous comparison, in the same league as lead Killer single “When You Were Young” from their sophomore album, but after a few listens you find yourself nodding along and digging its lazy vibe. A nice slice of Summer fun that might be perfect for those humid-drenched summer parties on your roof deck in Williamsburg. And cool enough until someone asks you who is playing… because The Bravery are SO five minutes ago, and weren’t they like, a ska band once? (Double ugh hipsters)

What do you think?


The cool video for last album's "Honest Mistake"

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Bouncing Off The Clouds

Song: Bouncing Off The Clouds
Artist: Tori Amos
Album: American Doll Posse

I suppose it’s easy to dislike Tori Amos, or simply write her off as a freak. She is an artist that follows her muse and artistic vision, which can be maddening, confusing, and totally thrilling. Her latest, “American Doll Posse” continues in the tradition of Tori being, well… Tori. It’s a “concept” record of sorts in which she sings the songs from the point of view of five different woman whom she names and even dons different wigs on the album artwork to demonstrate the look and attitude of these woman. SO Tori!

I will be honest and admit a few things; A) I’m a pretty unabashed Tori fan, and have been since High School, B) despite A, I’m not a Tori obsessive (and it seems most of her fans are) and actually really disliked her last record, her absolute worst, and C) I only half follow Tori’s concepts and obtuse poetry.

So that said… “American Doll Posse” seems to be an overlong, maddeningly random, Tori-force, a more rock record unlike anything she’s done since her first album, and yes… I mean the never re-released 80’s pop rock debut “Y Kant Tori Read.” At this point, I am not following the five-lady concept and am just trying to get THROUGH this epic. But there is a lot of great stuff here. First single “Big Wheel” is a groovy rocker that finds Tori at her most 70’s, “Bouncing Off Clouds” is the return of dance-remixable Tori, and “Digital Ghost” has a rock power ballad that could have been a mess if it were not for Tori’s commanding voice. Who knows what she’s talking about, but something good is going on here. I’ve not nearly gotten through all the albums treasures, but I’m happy to say that I want to keep listening, which was not the case on the disastrous “The Beekeeper.”

Tori had been falling out of my favor starting with the crazy-bitch manifesto that was “Boys For Pele” (which many fans will argue is her shinning moment) but I faithfully purchased every new release (sans the Greatest Hits package and the rarities box set “A Piano” that I might have been interested in if it hadn’t followed “Beekeeper.” Every album still had at least a few tunes that made them worth having, and then came “Scarlet’s Walk” which in my opinion might be the best of her albums to date. Again, a concept is in there, but it’s interesting, about a woman traveling through the U.S. post 9/11 and breathing it all in, good and bad. It’s Tori as storyteller and it just happens to have some of Tori’s most beautiful music. If you don’t have it, and like her even a little, go get it now.

So far I am recommending “American Doll Posse” as it shows us another side of Tori, the rock chick we knew was there but hadn’t been fully realized. The haters won’t have their minds changed, the devoted will rejoice, and fans like me will just say, “right on Tori, you still got it.”


The video for "Big Wheel"

Friday, May 04, 2007

Threshold Apprehension

Song: Threshold Apprehension
Artist: Black Francis
Album: Bluefinger

As a pretty huge Frank Black fan, both his essential work with the Pixies as well as his extensive solo output, I was unquestionably disappointed with his last release, the double album “Fast Man, Raider Man.” After the country tinged home run that was “Honeycomb,” a double album was sure welcome… but it was boring. Oh Frank… don’t let us down!

As mentioned, I am a big Frank Black fan. I have all of his solo records (Twelve so far) and think (unlike a lot of Pixies snobs) that some of his best work can be found there. My personal favorite is the killer “Dog in the Sand” but literally have found at least a handful of tracks on every solo record that I really dug. That was until “Fast Man, Raider Man.” Given how prolific he is, I suppose some slack should be granted.

BUT, after a wildly successful reunion tour with the Pixies, he has pretty much dispelled rumors of a reunion album and I believe this is simply because expectations are just too high. With only four full-length Pixies records in existence, all considered modern classics depending on whom you talk to, how on earth do you truly follow that up? I guess you don’t… and you just keep cranking out solo records which the world doesn’t hold to the same standard.

So almost immediately on the heals of “Raider Man” comes the mysterious “Bluefinger,” which got leaked a few months back. Oddly, Mr. Black has decided for this album to return to his old Pixies moniker “Black Francis.” This may not be official, as the album doesn’t have a release date as of yet.

The record is a return to the straight ahead punk influenced rock that made the first couple albums he did with the Catholics sound so raw. Gone are the country leanings… is the “sad punk” back? The album apparently has a lot of references to Dutch artist Herman Brood who committed suicide by jumping off the roof of the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam. I am really digging the record, MUCH better than the last for sure. Second track “Threshold Apprehension” is Black as his most unhinged, the likes of which we have not seen in quite some time. I welcome the return, and despite my disappointment with the last record, I will always take each new record as a new clean slate… and this one is worth it.


Thursday, May 03, 2007

Bird Flu

Song: Bird Flu
Artist: M.I.A.
Album: Kala

M.I.A.’s debut record, 2005’s “Arular” was one of my favorite records of that year. It sounded home-made yet was as fresh as anything out there. Singles “Galang,” “Bucky Done Gone,”and “Sunshowers” were some of the more interesting world music inspired hip-hop to emerge on the scene and because of her political stance (and marketing) the beautiful Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam (M.I.A. was a good choice) was pretty hot with the alternative set. My favorite track from her first record was the raucous “10 Dolla” which had the unforgettable chorus; “How much can I get for ten dolla? (Anything you want!)” Hot.

M.I.A.’s second album “Kala” is being released sometime this year, but no date has been set. The first single, “Bird Flu” has been released to her MySpace page and a video has been made for it, shot in Jamaica. To be honest, even though I have read the lyrics and listened to the song many times, I have no idea what she’s talking about. And when asked why she named the song “Bird Flu” M.I.A. answered simply, “because the beat is gunna KILL people.”

Umm… okay.

While I’m a fan, and like “Bird Flu,” I’m looking for more from her follow up. She’s working with everyone from Timbaland to Three 6 Mafia on the record, so we’ll see what happens. You can find more about M.I.A. on her official website, but as a warning, it’s really LOUD.


The video for “Bird Flu”

And the videos from “Arular”

“Bucky Done Gone”

(This is not, as I originally thought, a plea to eject the last season Idol contestant from the show. And I’m kidding.)


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

NYC Beat

Song: NYC Beat
Artist: Armand Van Helden
Album: Ghettoblaster

I was a HUGE fan of DJ/Producer/Remixer Armand Van Helden’s 2005 single “In Your Eyes.” I played it over and over and was surprised it didn’t catch on like another great house track from that year, Bodyrockers “I Like The Way.” Though, “I Like the Way” was sold for a Coke commercial… probably had a little something to do with it.

The corresponding album that featured “In Your Eyes,” “Nympho” was hot or miss, but that’s really house music… and I personally find it a little too repetitive. Armand is really guilty of going overboard with the repetition, and yet I totally dig a lot of his stuff. It’s great for working out, walking to work, or being on like… a lot of drugs.

Armand returns with “Ghettoblaster,” a more 80’s electro throwback record that still sounds very much like Armand. At first listen it is once again hit or miss and while I haven’t dug anything on here as much as “In Your Eyes” or “My, My, My” from “Nympho,” it shouldn’t disappoint any Armand fans. The first standout track is the bouncy “NYC Beat.” It sounds pretty underwhelming, until exactly 1:59 in and the groove really kicks in… I can’t help from dancing a little.


Here is the video for the KILLER single “In Your Eyes” though I must say this album and single edit doesn’t get the full build as the extended club version. If you’re going to buy this song buy that version.

And here is the video for the first single “Touch Your Toes” it’s pretty stupid… or is in bananas? B-A-N-A-N-A-S!?!?