Friday, August 31, 2007

The Sign

Song: The Sign
Artist: Ace of Base
Album: The Sign

I can’t help it… I like Ace of Base. And I should just get over it.

What I really need to come to terms with is how much I like dance pop. From Madonna to the Pet Shop Boys, Kylie to the Scissor Sisters, Annie to Calvin Harris, I really can’t stop listening to goofy, bop-able, dance songs. I need to just be man enough and fess up… this is who I am. Why does this feel like AA?

Actually, if you read my blog at all you know this. Sure, I’m a rock fan, I dig alt-country, jazz, hip hop, folk… I’m into all sorts of stuff… but dance pop is one thing, at least here in America, that just isn’t cool at all. Despite dance pop being THE type of music in the UK and parts of Europe, in the U.S. it just doesn’t seem to jive. Sure the boy-band and Britney/Christina period had its moment on the U.S. pop charts but it was relatively short lived and it was NEVER respected. And while artists like Robbie Williams, Kylie, and the Scissor Sisters are HUGE all over other parts of the world, they have a hard time getting arrested in the States. Dance pop is just NOT popular here. But this is not always the case.

Back in 1993 the Swedish band Ace of Base took the entire world by storm with their lite-reggae infused dance pop anchored by three mega-smash singles; “All That She Wants,” “The Sign,” and “Don’t Turn Around.” After blowing up in Sweden and then the rest of Europe with “All That She Wants” and their album “Happy Nation” and then, after being turned down repeatedly in the U.S. by record label after record label being told “that will never work here,” Arista’s Clive Davis took them on, had them record a few new single possibilities (including “The Sign” and “Don’t Turn Around”) and the rest is dance pop history. Combining the sales of “Happy Nation” and its U.S. counterpart “The Sign,” Ace of Base hold the Guiness Book of World Records spot for “Best-Selling Debut Album.” Twenty-three million copies sold. Whoa!!!

Aside from the teen-pop era of dance pop in the U.S., most “Huge in Europe” dance artists and bands have only managed to have one-off singles here in the U.S., but Ace of Base did it, and did it big. Despite the ABBA comparisons (in a time when ABBA were still not cool, “Mama Mia” was not on Broadway) “All That She Wants” took the U.S. pop charts by storm, reaching #2 on the Hot 100. The songs subject matter wasn’t new… Heart’s “All I Wanna Do is Make Love to You” was basically the rock version of “All That She Wants”; a woman who just wants a child, no man for her thank you. (She’s gone tomorrow!) “The Sign” was even bigger, reaching number one despite obtuse (and/or stupid) lyrics. And it is in fact pretty empty headed… “Life is demanding without understanding,” “I saw the sign… and it opened up my eyes!,” “No ones gonna drag you up, to get into the light where you belong, but where do you belong?” Oy. It is despite this, and because of this, that I love this song and am so embarrassed to admit it.

I didn’t know that third single, “Don’t Turn Around” was not written by the band and actually has quite a history. Written by Diane Warren and Albert Hammond in 1986 for Tina Turner, who recorded the song but only released it as a b-side of “Typical Male.” Warren was reportedly not happy that it wasn’t put on one of her albums… I haven’t yet heard Tina’s version. Bonnie Tyler recorded the song in 1988 and soul singer Luther Ingram had a #55 R&B hit with his version of the song the same year. Aswad, a UK reggae band, heard Luther’s version and recorded the song seeing his version go to #1 on the UK singles chart again in 1988. And lastly, Neil Diamond (Neil Diamond!!!!) recorded a version in 1992 that went to #20 on the Adult Contemporary charts here in the U.S. Ace of Base did best with the song though, having it go #4 on the Billboard Hot 100, #5 in the U.K., #2 in Sweden, and #1 in Canada, as well as top 20 in over ten other countries. Carazy!

Ace of Base had middling success post “The Sign” but like most record-breaking successes, it’s hard to really top them. They are currently working on a fourth LP with plans to release it in the spring of next year. I’ll be interested to see what they come up with, and in the meantime I will finally exhale and rest easier knowing that my secret is out, and my love of dance pop and various guilty pleasures will not bound my semi-hipster lifestyle. (I am now officially taking this too seriously.)

Below are the videos from “The Sign” and then just below that are all the guilty pleasures you sent me… thank you!


All That She Wants

Man, I haven’t listened to that one in a while.

The Sign

Don’t Turn Around (live)

Living in Danger

Your Guilty Pleasures (Most with YouTube links!):

The Carpenters
Carole King
Carly Simon
60’s Girl Groups
UK Chick Singers
“Pure Moods”
Return to Innocence” – Enigma
Peg” – Steely Dan
Don’t Lose My Number” – Phil Collins (Anything by Phil Collins… almost) [wecastmusic admits to LOVING “Invisible Touch” yikes!]
Teenage Dirtbag” - Wheatus ("I've got two tickets to Iron Maiden baby")
“Those Were the Days” - Mary Hopkin
I think I Love You” - Partridge family
Dominique” - The Singing Nun [I had to look this one up… wow]
Alone Again (Naturally)” - Gilbert O' Sullivan
Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)” - Looking Glass [I once met a Brandy… and she was named after this song! She seemed like a fine girl too.]
Close to You” - The Carpenters
Mr. Dieingly Sad” - The Critters
"Which Way You Going Billy?" - The Poppy Family [Terry jacks!! I LOVE “Seasons in the Sun]
What Have They Done to My Song, Ma” – Melanie

And one reader had such good ones I feel the need to post not only his selections, but his killer explanations too:

Kiss Me” - Sixpence None the Richer (Perfect pop song. People hate this just for the fun of it, no one takes time to just enjoy.)
"My Prerogative" – Britney Spears (Pretty much the END of her career, but funny, I consider this her Sinatra "My Way" moment.)
Glycerine” - Bush (For one song, he nailed it. He suffers from the David Beckham syndrome. Plus he never made another good song.)
Just What I Needed” – The Cars (The Wife let the stupid Circuit City commercial ruin the song for her. I still think it's great.)
INXS - Anything in the 80's
John Mayer - Anything (I like him, period.) [Honestly, he can be hysterical]
Oasis – “Definitely Maybe," "Morning Glory," "The Masterplan" (No apologies on any of those albums. Afterwards....)
"California" - Phantom Planet (I actually like this song MORE as the theme song. [The O.C.] I mean, was that the most perfect theme song since “Diff'rent Strokes” or what?)
You Should be Dancing” – The Bee Gees (Anyone else try to recreate the sat night fever dance sequence at a wedding reception? Me neither.)
Don’t Fear the Reaper” and “Burning for You” – Blue Oyster Cult
Dancing Across the USA” and “Holiday Road” - Lindsey Buckingham (nat'l lampoons vaca)
We Got the Beat” - The Go-Go's - (This thing burns as good as any hardcore punk song.)
One Night in Bangkok” – Murray Head (I have no rational explanation) [No need… it can make even a hard man humble.]

GOOD list. Said reader also let me know that a new indie compilation is out of, what else, indie rock covers of guilty pleasures! Read about it here.

Thank you all who contributed!

Enjoy the long weekend.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Take Me Home Tonight

Song: Take Me Home Tonight
Artist: Eddie Money
Album: Greatest Hits: The Sound of Money

For me, the majority of 80’s rock can be classified as a guilty pleasure… if I didn’t loathe it all so much. Bands like Air Supply, Foreigner, REO Speedwagon, Van Halen, and Huey Lewis and the News comprise what I consider to be a real low point in music history. (I am sure some of you will argue with me over the merits of Van Halen, and argue that Eddie Van Halen is one of the best guitar players alive, but I never ever liked them. And while Eddie’s guitar playing may be technically impressive… it’s just noise to me. And David Lee Roth may be THE most annoying front man in the history of music. Now THERE’S a big statement!)

Now I know a lot of you may have fond memories of this genre, I just wasn’t there. Actually, I had a roommate in college that was a Huey Lewis fan, and use to put five (FIVE!) of his albums in our CD player and put them on repeat shuffle. He may have enjoyed it but it was literally like torture to me. I’d rather be caned. I retaliated with putting in five PJ Harvey records on shuffle… ha!

But despite my distain of this kind of dopey pub rock I do have my moments. I of coursed owned Def Leopard’s “Hysteria” back in the day, and while I see the connection one might make between these aforementioned bands and 80’s Bruce Springsteen (Whom I love, and consider “Born in the U.S.A.” one of the best records of that decade) you can not tell me that something like “Hip to be Squared” is even in the same league as even “Glory Days” or “Dancing in the Dark.”

So despite all of this and my recognized pretensions when it comes to 80’s rock I will say there are a few songs that I do in fact find fun in the right setting. None typifies these guilty pleasures more than Eddie Money, and specifically… “Take Me Home Tonight.” “Two Tickets to Paradise” is a keeper too, but “Home,” which reached #4 on the Billboard hot 100 and features the vocals of none other than Ronnie Spector of the Ronettes is pop-rock perfection. It’s one that everyone seems to know (doubled by the singing of the chorus to “Be My Baby”) and is always a crowd pleasure.

Eddie still performs and has continued with his career despite not being culturally relevant within the music business. I really respect that… in an industry that likes to build up the next big thing and then tearing them down once the glitter fades, it’s nice to know that someone can just work, and not let fickle fame make them crash and burn.

Do you have any 80’s rock favorites that you might not blare in the car at an intersection?


Take Me Home Tonight

I love this!

And to refresh your memory on how bad it can get…

Is this not ridiculous?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

More, More, More

Song: More, More, More
Artist: The Andrea True Connection
Album: More, More, More

Disco, as a genre, has been appointed as THE guilty pleasure type of music pretty much since the early 80’s after the “death of disco” movement. It was very UNCOOL to be into disco for many many years and it wasn’t until the mid 90’s re-explosion of 70’s chic did it make a resurgence, in an ironic way. In the past few years, with electro and underground dance becoming hip, the artists and producers of the disco era are getting more respect for their groundbreaking contributions to the dance music movement.

But for the most part, despite Madonna having hits recently with her most disco laced work (“Confessions on a Dancefloor,”) vintage disco is still much maligned. And while ABBA may have had a resurgence due to “Mama Mia” on Broadway and the collective soundtracks of “Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert” and “Muriel’s Wedding,” it’s still pretty uncool in our hip hop and rock lead music industry to dig disco.

For me, disco was something I vaguely remember enjoying when I was a little kid, (I remember listening to “Funkytown” over and over, another guilty pleasure. P.S. they never actually MAKE it to Funkytown do they? They just keep asking for directions,) and then in college it was something my circle of friends were really into on a very kitsch level. And while there are tons of goofy-fun songs from ABBA, KC and the Sunshine Band, on and on… for me the entire era of disco and NYC based Studio 54 lifestyle of it all is pretty well encapsulated in The Andrea True Connection’s “More, More, More.” The song brings to life images of polyester, disco balls, and all-night sleazy parties teeming with drugs, sex, and the grand search for the ultimate in escapism.

And speaking of escaping, this song has an interesting history…

Andrea True moved to New York City as a teenager from Nashville to become a movie star. With no stand-up roles in sight and desperate for money she decided to become a different kind of star… a porn star. At the height of this popularity she was offered on camera work for a real estate businessman in Jamaica. She went, but due to political unrest at the time she was unable to leave with any of the money she earned during this venture. Her solution? Why not call up her producer friend Gregg Diamond to come down and use the money to record a disco song that she could go back to the states with and have it become a hit. (so obvious!) That song was “More, More, More.”

“More, More, More” is irresistible, and all the more fun when you know her history. I remember this song from my youth but only when finding out she was a porn star did some of the wink-wink lyrics and sexy undertones of the song become clear. “Get the camera’s rolling, get the action going.” She sings over the pulsing beat… a classic! The album of the same name came out after the song was a hit in the clubs and on radio, reaching #4 on Billboards Hot 100. The album went platinum, but like many “one hit wonders” of the era, she never reclaimed that glory.

The song was also sampled by the Canadian band Len for their summer hit from 1999 “Steal My Sunshine.” They also, unfortunately, only were able to have that one moment in the sun. Bananarama and British singer Rachel Stevens have released covers of the song as singles. It remains one of my favorite disco guilty pleasures.


The video:

Bananarama’s even GAYER take:

Len’s “Steal My Sunshine”:

What a blast from the fairly recent past!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Knock Three Times

Song: Knock Three Times
Artist: Tony Orlando & Dawn
Album: Greatest Hits

After starting the week with “Morning Train” I thought to myself… why not do a whole week of guilty pleasures? Sounds fun right? I hope I don’t embarrass myself TOO much. To make me feel better I request that you tell me about your guilty pleasures in music. Leave me a comment below or e-mail me at and I will post the list with Friday’s entry. (Don’t worry, I will not publish names to protect your cred. Dig?)

As the 90’s finally get enough distance to be reflective about, I go back and forth as to which decade had more embarrassing music. Sure there is the classic rock of the 70’s, and the alternative music boom in the 90’s, but both had some seriously questionable “hit” records during their eras. I guess each decade will have our “what were we thinking?” moments, and I suppose because of the greater distance, the 70’s still reign supreme as one of the goofiest times in music.

The gems within Disco alone could fill a guilty pleasure box set (and have) but 70’s light pop and rock also had their share of winners. One of my favorites is the Tony Orlando and Dawn classic, “Knock Three Times.” It’s a breezy horn-lovin’ summer jam about secret love signals through a building’s plumbing system. Romance! Tony Orlando was a half Greek, half Puerto Rican playboy who grew up in Hell Kitchen (when it was tough and less… gay.) He worked in the record business before recording a demo at Columbia Records and had it released under the moniker “Dawn.” (The name of a Columbia executive’s daughter.) After realizing there were six some touring “Dawn’s” the group’s name changed to “Dawn featuring Tony Orlando” and then “Tony Orlando and Dawn.” I always thought that the two African American singers he recorded and toured with (Telma Hopkins and Joyce Vincent Wilson) were “Dawn.” I always thought that was a little sexist… two woman, and their BOTH Dawn? I get it now.

After hitting it big with “Tie A Yellow Ribbon (Around the Old Oak Tree)” and “Knock Three Times” Tony (and Dawn… both of them) had a very successful variety show called, what else… “The Tony Orlando and Dawn Rainbow Hour.” The show lasted four years and now he performs in Vegas and Atlantic City. My very good friend Jennifer had a Polaroid of Tony holding her as an infant… I always thought that was insanely cool. Do you see the dichotomy?

“Knock Three Times” is the kind of song that everyone seems to know and everyone seems to agree it’s flat out embarrassing to sing along too. I think it should have a “Sweet Caroline”-sized rebirth as a drunken karaoke super hit. It’s impossible NOT to sing along if you’re drunk and happy. So good! So good! So good!

Enjoy, and remember to tell me about your guilty pleasures!

Knock Three Times


Rainbow Hour

Monday, August 27, 2007

Morning Train (Nine to Five)

Song: Morning Train (Nine to Five)
Artist: Sheena Easton
Album: Sheena Easton (AKA - "Take My Time")

I was recently debating the merits of Sheena Easton with some friends and while the “debate” certainly didn’t last long… it did make me think about Miss Easton and the various hits she’s had.

To start, a guilty pleasures mix CD is not officially complete without “Morning Train (Nine to Five.)” You can’t get much more goofy than this way-80’s boppy track that marries blue collar work ethics with Reagan-era 50’s idealism. It’s goofy for sure, but honestly… it’s totally enjoyable. This A.M. I put it on as I walked to work, and while I didn’t take a “morning train” I had to laugh to myself as I snaked my way through the insane Penn Station foot traffic on the street and found the song had put a little bounce in my step. I felt like I was firmly immersed in some 80’s movie music montage. Should I be embarrassed for all of this? I don’t know… but it sure has made my Monday morning a little easier to ease into. More so than say… Joy Division would have.

After reading Sheena’s Wikipedia entry I found out these interesting facts:

-She was “discovered” on a reality show that involved her trying to get a record deal with EMI in the early 80’s.

-“Morning Train(Nine to Five) was originally titles “9 to 5” but was changed so it wouldn’t get confused with the Dolly Parton song

-Sheena is the only performer to actually be seen in the title sequence of a James Bond film, performing her “Your Eyes Only.” (Another killer guilty pleasure… so sexy!)

-The Prince penned “Sugar Walls” was named in Tipper Gore and the Parent’s Music Resource Council’s “filthy fifteen,” a list of songs deemed indecent for their lyrics. (I knew “Come spend the night inside my sugar walls” meant something!)

Sheena’s one unquestionably great moment (in my er… humble opinion) is “Strut,” from her 80’s sexy dance pop phase. Not as sleazy as “Sugar Walls,” but sexy indeed… if “Morning Train” is on your guilty pleasures mix, “Strut” needs to be on the “Awesome 80’s” list. Super fun.


Morning Train (Nine to Five)


Sheena does "Sugar Walls..." on Solid Gold!!!!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Breakin' Up

Song: Breakin' Up
Artist; Rilo Kiley
Album: Under the Blacklight

I don’t know why but I could never seem to get into Rilo Kiley. I heard several of their songs here and there and listened to their last record, “More Adventurous” several times but just didn’t dig it. It wasn’t until I REALLY got into lead singer Jenny Lewis’ solo album “Rabbit Fur Coat” that I felt the need to revisit them. But again, as much as I loved the cute alt-country of Lewis’ record, I still couldn’t get into Rilo Kiley.

This week saw the release of their fourth album, “Under the Blacklight” which marks their first on a major label (Warner Brothers) and the first since Jenny’s very successful (in indie-rock terms) solo record. I have been listening to it for the past few days and immediately loved it. The album has a range of styles including some country elements, as well as rock. The surprise is that some tracks are rather beat heavy and more New Wave oriented… right up my personal alley. It’s fun, smart, and totally enjoyable… how will their hipster indie fans take this?

One of the things that I really liked about Jenny’s solo record was her witty lyrics which remain here on “Under the Blacklight.” I wonder if this will be the record that rockets them to stardom. Not sure if I hear any “sure-fire” hits but I am just really enjoying thus far. My immediate favorite was “Breakin’ Up” which is as epic as indie-pop songs go. As an aside, in their review of the record, Rolling Stone says; “why is it no one else has written a breakup song that incorporates how we describe a failing cell-phone connection?” After reading that I though… wow, Gwen Stefani had actually already done that on her latest album with a song called… “Breakin’ Up.” Ha!

First single “The Moneymaker” is a “Float On” style groovy piece of alt rock. Maybe it’s their bid for the big time… we’ll see. The hooks are there, they’re smart, and darn isn’t former child actress Jenny Lewis adorable.


The Moneymaker

Featuring real porn stars!

Two Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins Videos:

“Rise Up With Fists”

My favorite track of hers live, “You Are What You Love”

And I couldn’t resist…

P.S. She’s the red-head.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Beat Goes On

Song: The Beat Goes On
Artist: Madonna
Album: Title TBD - Nov. 2007

In music, is there anything that is truly a sure thing? I’ve seen too many songs and albums that seem like sure-fire hits stall, and become disappointments. It’s no secret that in the world of pop music, the producer is becoming more and more the star, with the likes of Rick Ruben, Steve Lillywhite, and Daniel Lanois becoming the go-to guys to “guarantee” rock/pop record. Even more so is the role of producer in hip hop, who seem to have as much at stake as the star for a track to be a hit. Unlike the three guys I mention above, if Timbaland starts to have top collaborations bomb, he’s no longer the sure thing.

I was pretty happy to hear, what basically seems rather quickly after “Confessions on a Dancefloor” that Madonna was working on a new record. And it’s already slated to be released this November. What would it be? I thought to myself… well, she may be going after that sure thing… and it’s a hip hop record? She is working with the aforementioned Timbaland, Pharell of the Neptunes, Swizz Beats, and Stuart Price; whom produced the majority of “Confessions.” Can a white woman in her fifties make a hip hop record? Can we ponder this for a second... I mean, is there another that’s ever done this?

Madge has tried R&B before (the very uneven “Bedtime Stories”) with admittedly mixed results, and I wonder if she’ll be able to pull this one off. In the past Madonna has been the trend setter, and I fee like when she has started to chase what is already popular she falls a little flat. I’ve liked that for the past few records she’s taken more underground collaborators and worked her pop magic on musical trends that aren’t yet mainstream. She did this with ambient techno (William Orbit; “Ray of Light”,) French Dance & Folktronica (Mirwais; “Music” & “American Life”,) and French House (Stuart Price; “Confessions.”) This time she’s basically hooking up with hit makers… can she co-op hip hop?

A listen to “The Beat Goes On,” the first of the new Madonna tracks to leak confirms nothing to me really. At first listen I thought it sounded a bit goofy, but it has really grown on me. You’ll hear elements of Timberlake’s “Like I Love You” in the beginning, and some of Maddy’s cringe worth “American Life-like” rapping. (“Instrumentation.”) But in the end, despite the very Pharell production… it sounds like, well Madonna. And a look back through her discography proves that she has always tried new musical boundaries, and they all end up sounding like Madonna songs. I think this proves just how much of an artist that she is, no matter whom the producer is, it’s a Madonna record… but I must confess, I’m a super fan. I even like “American Life,” the only thing I can’t handle is that Evita stuff… ugh. I am not convinced that this will be the first single… I think she has something better up her sleeve.

It is rumored that Madonna is going to perform a new duet with Justin Timberlake, a new track produced by Timbaland at MTV’s Video Music Awards. This follows news that former lip lock partner Britney recently bowed out of a recording session with Justin and Timbaland to record a Justin penned sure-fire come back single for Brit. She is also rumored to be performing a new single at the VMA’s as well… we’ll see.

Madonna has been quoted as saying that Gwen Stefani has stolen her “thing” and I would argue that she is now doing the opposite. What do you think? Have you heard “the Beat Goes On?” Do you think this 50+ white mother of two can throw it down next to the likes of Rihanna and Kelis? Or… if it’s Madonna, does it even matter?


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Country Feedback

Song: Country Feedback
Artist: R.E.M.
Album: Out of Time

On their 2003 tour, R.E.M. put a poll up on their website on which song they should play for each date of the tour, giving fans a pick of one song in the set. Surprising to the band (and well… me) was the fact that every single night the fans chose “Country Feedback,” and album track from 1991’s “Out of Time.” And chose the song over all other R.E.M. songs 2:1.

What interests me about this is the fact that it is an album track, never a single, and an odd tune to boot. Sure, “Erotic City” is probably well known to the majority of Prince fans as an unreleased (until the release of the bootlegged “Black Album”) classic, and peppy “should have been a single” songs do find themselves as fan favorites, but “Country Feedback” is a slow, durgy, song with seemingly non-sensical lyrics like “”You come to me with the phone in your hand, you come to me with your hair curled tight,” “A paper weight, junk garage, winter rain, a honey pot. Crazy, all the lovers have been tagged,” and my favorite; “Self help, self pain, EST, psychics, fuck all.” Okay.

Truth is… I have no idea what he’s talking about in this song… but I do love it. There is something about the feeling I get when I hear this song… the open ended lyrics only seem to enhance it. And with a repeated line like “It’s crazy what you could have had” you just insert whatever is happening in your life. I don’t know why it’s called “Country Feedback” as it is never said in the song yet… it works. Michael Stipe is a poet, and sometimes the meaning of his songs are best read into by the listener. All I knew was then when I traveled cross-country with two of my best friends a couple years ago I needed to hear this song while driving through the desert. And loud. I did so, and have that dry road rushing by in my mind every time I hear it.


In this live performance of the song Michael says “We’re going to do this one because it’s my favorite.”

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Song: Special
Artist: Garbage
Album: Version 2.0

Garbage is an interesting band… and a bit of an enigma. At first, I was none to keen on the band, and was suspect that it was “built” from three producers, it somehow didn’t seem natural or authentic… which has always hurt them in my opinion, despite me really liking a lot of their work. Just last month saw the release of “Absolute Garbage,” a collection of their hits including a DVD with videos, etc. (A special edition also includes a bonus disc of remixes.) It’s probably all you’ll need from the band, and while it seems like it could be the nail in their coffin (there have been breakup rumors since their decline in CD sales with the release of “beautifulgarabage” in 2001) they say they will be working on new music later this year… we will see.

Despite never ever wanting to hear “Stupid Girl” again, I pretty much love their second album “Version 2.0.” The album contains some of their best singles; “Push It,” “I Think I’m Paranoid,” “When I Grow Up,” and “Special,” but also contains some great album tracks such as “Temptation Waits,” “The Trick Is to Keep Breathing,” and closer “You Look So Fine.” (Which, while not a single, made it to the greatest hits.)

“Version 2.0” always reminded me of what the Pretenders would have sounded like if they had embraced electronica. Garbage has knowingly tipped their hat to that band a lot and never more so than on “Version 2.0.” It’s such a great record and was the first time for me they felt like a band, making a record. I had much hope for them but unfortunately the follow up “beautifulgarbage” and 2005’s “Bleed Like Me” were lackluster, and the sales showed. Mind you, there are still some killer songs on those records, mostly the singles… and thankfully they are all packaged nicely on “Absolute Garbage.”

Also worth noting is the inclusion of their Bond theme, “The Word is Not Enough” (which is so-so) and the song “#1 Crush,” their best non-album song which was previously found on the “Romeo & Juliet Soundtrack.” “#1 Crush” is one of their sexiest (and catchiest) songs and is a must to have. But for me, “Special” really sums up what is best about Garbage… catchy, a little rocky, a little electronic, and with the trademark killer wail of lead Shirley Manson. It’s a great song.

“Tell Me Where it Hurts” is the single from the collection, you can hear it from the video below.

As an aside, I think “Stupid Girl” is just about tied with Fiona Apple’s “Criminal” as the worst, most annoying, song from a talented artist. Can you think of any others?



“Tell Me Where it Hurts”

And the crazy video for “Push It,” which was up for a slew of MTV Video Awards

Monday, August 20, 2007

Can I Get Get Get

Song: Can I Get Get Get
Artist: Junior Senior
Album: Hey Hey My My Yo Yo

After their debut “D-D-Don’t Stop the Beat” came out in 2003 and their song “Move Your Feet” made a relative splash just about everywhere (It is the most played song in Danish history, though had to settle for “indie-pop hit” here in the U.S.) Junior Senior developed quite a solid fan base that has been clamoring for the follow up. In 2005 Japan got it first with the release of “Hey Hey My My Yo Yo” in August of that year. It is August again, but it’s taken two years for the record to finally hit the States. That is some lag!

Junior Senior’s music is a non-stop happy mix of electronic, 60’s garage and soul, hand claps, and about a fifty hook minimum to each song. I flipped for “Move Your Feet” when it came out, as well as the debut record, but like most candy… after several helpings I began to get a tummy ache. “Hey Hey My My Yo Yo” is more of the same in tone but the songs are a bit more varied in style. I got the record back in 2005 and liked it and a recent re-listen made me like it a bit more. The range in styles from track to track sure helps the empty-headed “let’s have fun!” lyrical content. But Junior Senior have always coasted along on a genuine charm that helps them from becoming overly cloying.

Junior Senior are best described as the B-52’s for a new generation. Their look and style is a cartoonish mix of everything that was loud and goofy from the 60’s up to the early 90’s, and if “Love Shack” is your be-all-end-all dance tune you will no doubt fall in love with their cheeky ultra-catchy tunes. (And on the other hand, if you are in the crowd that particularly loathes “Love Shack” you won’t soon be a Junior Senior fan.)

The U.S. version of the album is coming with a bonus EP of new tracks. I haven’t heard any of these songs yet but it sure gives me reason to buy the new version here. I can’t say you’ll love Junior Senior, but if you’re looking for unadulterated fun, I’d be hard pressed to come up with something better than “Hey Hey My My Yo Yo.”


The video for “Can I Get Get Get” Assembled from fan sent in video’s (a la the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “Cheated Hearts” though I think this came first, and really isn’t the FIRST time this has been done.) My friend Brian is in this one…

Move Your Feet

Take My Time – Another “Hey Hey My My Yo Yo” track featuring none other than Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson of the B-52’s. Talk about synergy!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Grip Like a Vice

Song: Grip Like a Vice
Artist: The Go! Team
Album: Proof of Youth

The Go! Team are a UK based six piece whose sound is a mix of early hip-hop, cartoon-ish energy, and pep rally style chanting. Their debut, 2004’s excellent “Thunder, Lightening, Strike” was an original mix of all these elements and non-stop out there sampling. So much sampling in fact that it delayed a stateside release and ultimately had to be edited to take out some of the un-clearable material. Next month will see the release of their follow up, “Proof of Youth.”

“Thunder, Lightening, Strike” reminded me of the Avalanches record and worked more as a cool party record than an actual album. Unfortunately, my first impression if “Proof of Youth” is that it is just more of the same, “Thunder II” but not nearly as good. Their found footage aesthetic is in tact and it does feel like a Go! Team album, but I suppose I was just hoping for more. I am still listening though and hoping that it eventually grabs me.


Video for first single “Grip Like a Vice”

And from “Thunder, Lightening, Strike…”


“Bottle Rocket”

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Song: D.A.N.C.E.
Artist: Justice
Album: Cross

Justice are the new toast of French electronica with their debut, “Cross” getting a lot of buzz and industry interest. They began remixing for the likes of Franz Ferdinand, N*E*R*D*, Fatboy Slim, and Britney Spears before the release of “Cross.” First single “D.A.N.C.E.” has a kids singing chorus, and enough cold as ice beats to keep any hipster happy.

Being French, and dance artists, the Daft Punk comparisons are inevitable… but beyond even that, they just SOUND like Daft Punk. I mean… a LOT like Daft Punk. But I like Daft Punk. And I kinda like Justice.


Here is the video:

And the video that put them on the map "We Are Your Friends" by Justice vs. Simian:

A Best Video winner at the 2006 MTV Europe Music Awards!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Rudie Can't Fail

Song: Rudie Can't Fail
Artist: The Clash
Album: London Calling

London Calling is simply The Clash's best record, and "Rudie Can't Fail" one of my favorite songs. (Even despite this, which is close to nauseating.)


More Clash...

Rock The Casbah

Guns of Brixton

Should I Stay or Should I Go? (live)

London Calling

Monday, August 13, 2007

Get The Party Started

Song: Get The Party Started
Artist: Shirley Bassey
Album: Get The Party Started

The Shirley Bassey remix album from 2001 fully introduced me to the 60's singer and ger BIG voice. The jazzed up versions of Bassey hits such as "Goldfinger" and "Where Do I Begin?" were perfect for trendy lounge parties or hipster chill outs. I played the record a lot, and was particularly fond of the Kelly Dope remix of her cover of "Light My Fire." No doubt because of the success of the album, Bassey has recorded an entire album of new covers and original tracks, produced or mixed in the same groovy style.

For the most part, "Get The Party Started" is an okay record but it does drag as it goes along. The covers come in shouldn't have ("I Will Survive",) Questionable (Lionel Ritchie's "Hello",) and so bad it's good; ("Big Spender.") Actually, "Big Spender" reminded me the most of the 2001 remix album both in its vibe and the more-is-more approach to vocal heroics. Hearing the Broadway tune sung big, big, BIG with the techno beats in the background is no doubt effective... depends on how it grabs you.

While I initially thought this title track, a cover of the Pink hit, was a little too high concept and ridiculous I managed to add it to a few recent party playlists to judge the reaction, as a re-worked but recognizable song can usually be a hit. Nobody ever asked me who it was, but on a few recent nights out I have heard it played, cleverly, after one of Pink's latest singles. ("Who Knew," and "U + Ur Hand.") So it is getting some play anyhow, could be a an out-of-left-field hit in the making? Not sure, but it's worth a few spins.


The CRAZY James Bond meets "Eyes Wide Shut" video:

"Where Do I Begin"

Please search YouTube for some vintage Shirley performances, they are unfortunately all un-bloggable. Watching her sing "Goldfinger" and "Diamonds Are Forever" are really amazing... and incidentally, did you know she is the only artist to sing more than one Bond theme? ("Moonraker" being her third.)

Friday, August 10, 2007

Won't Go Home Without You

Song: Won't Go Home Without You
Artist: Maroon 5
Album: It Won't Be Soon Before Long

There are guilty pleasures that come in a wide variety of colors… mostly they come by way of goofy, catchy tunes, that you might be embarrassed to be caught singing along to in your car. Most of these come from the 70’s (ABBA, KC and the Sunshine Band) but the 90’s had their fair share of stuff that shouldn’t be heard through headphones on the subway (Ace of Base, C + C Music Factory.) But also there is the hipster guilty pleasure… the stuff that if your fellow Bjork fan heard you listening to you would be mocked, laughed at, and may possibly never live down. Because you know, we’re all assholes.

Every once in a while something totally popular gets the hipster stamp of approval. Kelly’s “Since You Been Gone” could be heard alongside the latest TV on the Radio in the dive bars of the East Village and Williamsburg because they could listen like, you know… ironically. For me, I can profess my love and defend the Paris Hilton record because a) I actually think it’s pretty good and b) because everyone hates her. Now, I could never do the same for say Celine Dion because a) she is wildly popular with soccer moms and b) she totally sucks.

And so now my Maroon 5 dilemma…

See, it’s easy to say you can’t stand Maroon 5. They are super popular (especially with said soccer mom’s,) their music is an unassuming mix of white boy soul and sickly sweet syrupy ballads, and the lead singer kinda seems like a total tool. “This Love” was a bubble gum vaguely disco one-off it seemed, and ballads like “She Will Be Loved” and “Sunday Morning” are the essence of what is adult contemporary drivel. They’re like Stevie Wonder if… actually, I can’t even finish that sentence.

So yes one time I performed “This Love” drunk during karaoke, and I downloaded the song… it was a hit at parties, what can you do. But I would NOT buy their multi platinum debut album. That would be too far, I would lose my hipster cred. So what do I do? I buy their sophomore album… maybe in the hopes that it would be a huge flop, as so many second records are when a band hits it big to start, and then my cred could stay in tact. This is absolutely ridiculous, but hey… at least I’m being honest about it. I really loved “Makes Me Wonder” which at first seemed like a “This Love” re-tread… but I actually grew to like it better. (Can they hear it through my headphones on the street?)

Making all of this worse is the fact that “It Won’t Be Soon Before Long” (give me a break with that title!) is actually pretty bloody good. It keeps the ballads to a minimum, and the upbeat stuff is fun without being annoying, the songs are varied, and work great through headphones, on the beach, at a house party, and I would guess… in the stadium. And worse yet… it’s a huge hit, as was the debut single. How have they done this?!

It’s hard to stay relevant and popular in the world of pop but it seems Maroon 5 have done it. And not only that, based on this album… I think they’re the new Police. I’m not the first one to say this, and before you start screaming sacrilege, think about it… they are white boys that make disco/reggae-lite pop songs about girls, love, with a semi-seedy but overall acceptable creepiness. The comparison is deepened I suppose by “Won’t Go Home Without You” a song I am absolutely shocked I liked so much. The main riff is really a rip off of the Police’s “Every Breath You Take,” it’s a semi-ballad, and yet… I can’t get enough. I am usually apposed to this type of stuff but I have fallen for it. Guilty pleasure indeed!

While I figured that “Won’t Go Home Without You” was a shoe-in for the second single, they chose “Wake Up Call” which is an okay song, but certainly not the best of what the album has to offer. I think “Won’t” has future massive hit written all over it… I couldn’t stop listening to it when I first got the record and it still hasn’t gotten old on me. As a whole, if you like Maroon 5 even a little, you’ll be totally pleased with the full record. I like it more than I’d like to admit.


The video for "Wake Up Call"

As in most of their video's, this one is racy with the lead singer Adam Levine unconvincingly romping around with pretty model types. It's starting to look like homeboy is ready for his close-up.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Digital Ghost

Song: Digital Ghost
Artist: Tori Amos
Album: American Doll Posse

Often in my album listening certain songs will stick out as immediately enjoyable and others take awhile to fully appreciate. The album as a whole works this way too, sometimes the singles get repeated early and often, but then certain tracks take hold, or the entire project as a whole comes into better light. I wanted to highlight some records that I had already written about when they first were available only to find that they seriously grew on me, and have been my most listened to albums over the last several months.

I am a Tori Amos fan, but don’t consider myself a fanatic. I like most of her work, have gotten all of her proper albums, but can agree to flaws, will not begin to think everything she does is genius, (you know you’re out there Tori-heads) and sometimes just find her Tori-eccentricities a bit maddening. But I will say given the obtuseness of some of her work and the complexities that she interweaves within each album, I appreciate her because even though I may know a song or album by heart, there are still depths still to reach. It could be argued that her poetry is nonsense and undeserving of deep study, but I see it as her way of letting the music apply to the listeners life. Songs with specific meaning or stories behind them often can no longer hold relevance outside that given meaning.

So, Tori’s “American Doll Posse” turned out to actually be pretty great. As mentioned, I was immediately taken with the rocky U.S. first single “Big Wheel” and the U.K. first single “Bouncing Off Clouds” but also found some other really killer tracks such as “Teenage Hustling,” (reported second single) “Secret Spell,” “Body and Soul,” Beauty of Speed,” and the haunting “Digital Ghost.”

Actually, “Digital Ghost,” a semi rock-ballad, is my hands-down favorite, and the song that I simply can’t stop listening to. If it wasn’t for Tori’s ‘Tori-isms’ I would venture to say that this song could have been a hit… but Tori is not going to ever play it straight, she just doesn’t have it in her. And while the song seems to be about losing someone to something, unable to get them back, the vagueness of the lyrics both help and hinder the song. It is mysterious yet maddening… really a perfect example of everything Tori. But a simple line like “’Cause the you I knew is fading away” is heartbreakingly direct.

I’ll agree with the critics that the album is overlong which at this point I have come to expect from her. But the collection as a whole is so strong, returning to the creative high that was “Scarlet’s Walk” after the boring as anything “The Beekeeper.” I still am not sure what to make of the whole concept of the record (which I won’t bother to write about, you can read here) but this is Tori as uncompromising artist, and I appreciate it.


And here is proof of everything you think of Tori Amos, and also what you don’t understand:

Here she is performing “Big Wheel” on Letterman:

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Back in Your Head

Song: Back in Your Head
Artist: Tegan & Sara
Album: The Con

I recently read that CD sales are down 20% from last year, a super steep decline even given the downward trend that’s been happening over the last ten or so years post Napster and the birth of the MP3. As a music fan and someone that has spent what can only be described as “a fortune” on music throughout my life I have followed this issue, the trend, how the industry is reacting, and have also given a lot of thought to how I feel about it. On one hand, I am a supporter of the arts and the artists that make them but also as just a huge music lover, the advantages of being able to listen to so much music is a dream, and something I could never have fathomed (i.e. afforded) fifteen years ago.

When I was young, and I mean like starting at eleven, I fed the dog and mowed the lawn for $10 a week. This let me buy one new cassette a week which I did for years. When I started working part time at sixteen, and then full time during the summer, into college, etc. I bought music at a regular (if alarming) rate. This is no different a story from any other music nut, something I learned in my brief stint at a label and met people as much (and more so) into tunes as I. While buying music the day it comes out, spending every last dime, and literally going insane from waiting for a new record by an artist I love to come out is deeply ingrained within me, the internet and information sharing age has changed all that.

Napster was the jumping point which got the industry freaking out. But mind you, they also thought the cassette was the end of the industry, why are they always so nervous? But when Napster came out and I got to use it during its heyday it was a revelation. I was getting songs I always wanted (for free! and fast!) as well as super hard to find stuff I had only read about. I was really into Robbie Williams at the time and remember chatting with someone via Napster and sharing all the hard to find obscure stuff with some dude in Sweden. It was hands down just awesome. But unlike the cassette, Napster did effect the business and music sales have been declining ever since. Despite digital music sales finally being worked out, and Napster shut down and then re-launched as a pay site, the majority of the tech-savvy really liked getting tunes for free so other peer-to-peer services cropped up and the decline continued.

As blogs became more well know, then exploded, then became ubiquitous, MP3’s were just a click away. Labels sent cease and desist orders, files were taken down and then “re-upped” and as more and more cropped up the industry wanted to know one thins: how can we control it? The internet and web are a creation of the people and we get to control it. It’s one of the best and worst things that have happened in the last thirty years. And now, with the onset of large file downloading websites such as rapidshare and megaupload, old, new, and albums that haven’t even been released yet are a simple link away. Blogs now post them, people share them in chat rooms, and message boards are littered with these links. Has the new White Stripes leaked? Well it did before release, and as the way these files work it just gets multiplied and multiplied. You can literally find ANYTHING that is new, old, or yet to exist… why buy?

So as a supporter of the arts and a crazed music nut as I mentioned, I am torn between getting and hearing music I am interested in or can’t/couldn’t wait to hear, and supporting the very artists that make, in all honesty, my life a little bit better to live in. Music feeds me, inspires me, and partly makes me want to get up in the morning. So over the past six months or so I have, given in to my impulses, downloaded these albums, songs, etc. and enjoyed the freedom of not being tied to my bank account in regards to how much music I can listen to. Now only time and hard drive space are my worries. But, while this is amazing it makes me miss out on things. For example, Beck is an artist I have followed and loved since high school. I have, in my memory, waited anxiously and gone out to get at least four of his albums on their day of release. I remember tearing open the packaging for the first time, putting it into the CD player and experiencing it as an album, and possibly the way “it was designed.” For his last two I got early leaked versions online and lived with them for as much as a month before I was able to get the actual album, which I did buy. For both, Beck released versions that had tons of extras, DVD’s that you couldn’t download… making it a sound purchase. But more on that later.

Has this way of experiencing his music “ruined” the “intended” use at all? And does that really matter if I actually do purchase the music? Because I still have not gotten over the joy of opening an album, seeing the artwork, and holding it in my hands, I still buy music. Yes I download these albums and listen, if I like it, I buy it. Does this mean that I am buying as much music as I used to? No way, probably not even half. Does this mean that I am still supporting artist and music that I like and think is good? I think so. Does this mean that I have stopped being disappointed by music I buy that turns out to be garbage (one great song, lots of great marketing, mostly filler) because I get to preview it first, for as long as I want before hand. Absolutely. And that I dig.

So let’s talk about the artists and specifically those that have been very vocal in their dislike of music downloading. I feel for you, to a degree. Let’s say I make a birdhouse I am happy with and proud of. I put it up and the next day I find that it has been stolen. I’m pissed, I spent a long time on that birdhouse… who do you think you are that you can just come and steal my birdhouse! You owe me! I get this, and also understand the disappointment that must set in when you plan and work on a project for months or maybe years only to have a simple leak “ruin” the whole thing. And I also wouldn’t want someone to admire and judge my birdhouse before it was finished. In the age of the leak, many artist are finding unmixed, unfinished, and incomplete work being passed around and then JUDGED for the world to read before they have a chance to complete it to their vision. That really sucks, and would piss me off too.

But let’s talk about being a rock star, a celebrity, and the lifestyle difference of say Bono to someone like myself. While I work forty-five hours a week at a job I care little for working paycheck to paycheck, Bono gets to travel the world, work on his art when he wants to, (something I assume is his passion) meet fascinating new people, and also save the world in his free time. Sometimes when I go out to eat I get the modestly priced chicken because the $25 steak is out of my budget. I love Bono, I love him music, and seeing U2 live was one of the more pleasurable and memorable moments in my life. I love that they lead the rock star lifestyle… but is it fair? Yes he, and other rock stars work hard, do they work as hard as you or I? Do they have the same worries and fears as you and I? Do they have the feeling of little control of their lives that you and I might have?

This difference in lifestyle is what always drives me crazy when I hear those guys from Metallica cry about their music being stolen. Yes, okay… you and your record label executives aren’t making as much money as you used to. But come on… isn’t being able to work on something your passionate about, being able to travel and see the world in top fashion, take almost any amount of time off you’d like, having people that look up to you, being able to inspire, and just not worrying day to day if you can AFFORD life and the future lives of your children enough?! Yes you work hard and should be rewarded but I am sorry… since I have spent more than half of my life and what could have been my life savings on your music, concerts, and videos I say… give me a break. I’m sure you have problems, I am sure things can be difficult for you, but I can not believe that your day to day, week to week, year to year is as difficult as those that actually are BUYING your product. When are the personal rewards you receive from making over… let’s even just say $500,000+ a year just not enough. And how do you justify this when there are people in this world living in utter poverty literally hoping they can get through another day? And while I use Bono as an example of the rock star lifestyle I would also be hard pressed to find someone as privileged who has worked just as hard for people WAY less fortunate as I. Way to go Bono.

Speaking of Metallica, one of my favorite stories I tell when discussing illegal music downloading is something that happened to my good friend Bob when Napster was out and being used by millions and Metallica as a band was one seriously vocal critic of the service and the trend. They put some of their heavy legal muscle (affordable given their multi-million dollar bank accounts, because justice can be bought… hi O.J.!) and forced Napster to have any of their files removed from the service as well as the accounts deleted of anyone who had ever downloaded any of their music. [It is important to remember that at the time, Napster was the only way to really get music illegally (aside from shoplifting I guess) blogs and rapid large file sharing didn’t exist.] Anyhow, my friend Bob, who I would describe as a “super-fan” literally owned everything Metallica had ever released. Every album, VHS, singles, t-shirts, you name it. He spent what little extra money he had on this band and when he downloaded an obscure remix of their song “One” (which was unavailable commercially) his account was shut down. For this one song. He is no longer a Metallica fan.

The irony of being a millionaire in Metallica is that other millionaires probably don’t listen to your music and certainly don’t buy it. Metallica fans, by and large, are the poor, disenfranchised, and angry at the world because they have little control of their lives, and their angry music speaks to them. So fans of the band got to hear their rock star idols complain about losing out on some money that was being stolen from them while they live in mansions, drive fancy cars, and use the hard-earned money that they have taken from these poor fans and blow it on cocaine. Metallica have not since been as popular or relevant post this entire debacle. And justice for all…

So how does this get fixed? And given my points above, SHOULD it get fixed? We have, since the birth of the corporation, done our best to delete the American Dream. The Mom and Pop modest-sized businesses that have allowed certain people who have worked hard to build something and live a “comfortable” living for themselves and their families are dying. Why go get a cup of coffee you’re not familiar with from a stand-alone coffee shop when you can get a $5 frappachino© from good ol’ Starbucks which are conveniently located every other block? Why spend $500 on a stereo system at a small store with a knowledgeable staff when you can get the same system at Wal-Mart for $200 because they can buy in ridiculous bulk and get it cheaper? Why go to that small single record store and pay $20 a CD (because they had to buy them for $10-$14 each) when you can go to the aforementioned Wal-Mart or Best Buy and get it for $10? Actually… why pay at all when you can download it for free?

What the music industry fails to acknowledge is that music is just too darn, and always has been, too expensive. A DVD costs $1 to manufacture and anywhere from $9 to $35 dollars to buy. CD’s are even less to create. So why do you get to charge so much for something that doesn’t cost that much? My mother used to own a gift shop and could mark-up a product from its wholesale price by 50% or what is known as a “keystone” mark-up. Within that 50% profit she needed to pay rent, pay her employees, buy future product, and also live off it. Let’s just say that my Mother no longer has the store. And while she use to carry music because she enjoyed it, she did, as I mentioned, had to pay anywhere from $9 to $14 a CD. So how could she NOT charge $20+ a unit? And why would ANYONE pay that much when they can go to Best Buy and get the same thing at half that price? So how do you rationalize an upwards of 2,000% mark up? I suppose the reason is, you really like being rich. I understand, I’d like to be rich too… and my Mom would probably like to have her store again, and a little control of her life.

Okay, before I get too sucked into this downward spiral of the haves vs. the have-nots, let me get to why I started this post… the EXCELLENT new album by Tegan & Sara…

So yes, about a month ago the new album leaked before release date (leaks used to be news, at this point they are expected) and as it was one of my most anticipated albums of the year I got it and have been listening to it ever since. At first I was unsure how it was going to hold up to the excellent “So Jealous.” The fist two tracks, “I Was Married” and “Relief Next to Me” sure were not the new-wave upbeat pop that I was wanting, and expecting. But things kicked in with title track and third cut “The Con.” I’ve already discussed how much I like it, and despite being catchy like most of their work I love, it is layered, complex, and the best of what I want and expect by these blossoming singer-songwriters. The rest of the album was starting to grab me, even those first two tracks but it didn’t truly sink in until the album I bought came in the mail. Yes, the album I BOUGHT.

Since I had spent some time with the record and realized I was starting to dig it I decided to spend the additional $5 and get the special edition off Amazon. It came with special packaging and a DVD, which I didn’t know anything about until I opened it. To my surprise instead of the obligatory (and usually disappointing) DVD content of a special edition Tegan & Sara made a 70 minute documentary about the making of the record. And it’s amazing. (They did a shorter version of this embedded as a digital file on the CD itself for “So Jealous.”) The movie is broken up into “chapters” (which follows the book theme of the artwork and structure of the album) and basically goes through the album from start to finish, track for track, as they record, discuss, and create the music. Not only was this amazing to behold, I am hard pressed to site another example where an artist was so open to exposing themselves, their creative process, and their art in this way.

Getting a glimpse into their process and the birth of this album was simply a revelation. There was a moment when Tegan, with just a guitar, her voice, and one person accompanying her, played her song “the Con” for what appeared to be the first time for the producer and others working on the record. In essence it was the rawest example of the artist and their art and I am not ashamed to say that it made me cry. It is moments like these that speak to all that music means to me, all the emotion and personal weight that a melody, voice, and lyrics can hold. It was hands down a beautiful moment and one that has (obviously) stuck with me. Since watching this, I have not been able to put the album down and think it is their finest work. It has everything that I have grown to love about their music, voices, and lyrical complexities… and also pushes their art forward. But this glimpse into their creative process was nothing short of amazing.

Here is Chapter III in which I refer for “The Con” from the DVD:

So, because I think you should see this movie and OWN the packaging with the artwork, written lyrics, & credits, go BUY this album. The extras are good, the music is excellent, and it could be one of the more import records of the year. It could be the year for these twin Canadian lesbians. (And yet I hate myself a little for feeling the need to mention that, but a spin is a spin.) I think that artists need to look at Tegan & Sara and their model of being working artists. While they are indie, and do not have presumably the paycheck of say Rihanna, they are most likely making a comfortable living and in my mind the “right” way. They had a modest budget for the record (I’ve heard $50,000, in comparison the Guns and Roses debacle that is Chinese Democracy STILL isn’t out after over a decade in the making and has cost upwards of $13 Million) have created product that is worth buying, and have set up an extensive tour in which to further build their fan base (they did the same for “So Jealous”) and also make them, eh-hem… money.

In closing I will address one last point on the role of the musician in society and how I truly feel they should be compensated monetarily. I do think that an artist that creates a piece of art and releases it, as well all the people that put it together and get it out there, should be compensated for their efforts. Now, do I think they should be getting millions of dollars for this? No. While I don’t argue that creating an album is in fact ‘work’ I can not understand why someone should be paid an unbelievable amount for this. You are getting to work on your art full-time AND are being paid for it. You are getting the chance to be surrounded by gifted talented people with creative minds, and you are living, as I would assume, your personal dream. Now, what you SHOULD get paid for, and maybe a lot depending on what you’re putting out there is touring. Touring is, despite whatever rock star conveniences you may be afforded, serious work. It is physically draining, and a lot to put yourself out there for a crowd… no matter if it’s 100 people or 100,000 people. I also have no issue with an artist making money on merchandise. Should a t-shirt be $60? Maybe not… but I pay that as a token of my memory of the event. That’s cool with me.

What the internet has done is put some control into the hands of the people. Information and ideas are able to be communicated, sent, and discussed in ways that have never been possible thus far in the history of the earth. In the world of the music business, yes it has taken some small joys out of the process for me, but that is because I allow it. It also has put a bit of a dent into artists and industry types from making a killing off the public, the audience, and those that actually buy the music… you know, the ones that make their careers exist. In the end I don’t feel bad about this. One thing I learned in my brief stint in “the business” is that those in the business don’t even buy the product themselves. “Friends” from other labels will routinely send all the latest product to others and vice versa. Can’t these music fans understand that another music fan also would like to enjoy the benefits of getting to absorb other music without going broke as well?

But go out and buy Tegan & Sara’s new record. They deserve it and so do you.


Here is the video for first single “Back in Your Head”


Song: Jimmy
Artist: M.I.A.
Album: Kala

I’ve been eagerly awaiting M.I.A.’s sophomore album for some time and it is finally arriving on August 21st here in the states. Songs from “Kala” have been coming in spurts on M.I.A.’s MySpace page as leaked here and there. Officially, the first single is “Boyz” an upbeat jam that can be currently purchased on iTunes. This surprises me as “Bird Flu” has been on her MySpace page along with the video for some time and seemed like it was first single material. (While I like “Boyz” “Bird Flu” is much more immediate.) More curious still is the announcement that “Jimmy” will be the second single and again not “Bird Flu.”

“Jimmy” is a great track though, and unlike anything M.I.A. has done before. It is a cover of sorts of the song "Jimmy Jimmy Aja" from the 1982 Bollywood film “Disco Dancer.” You can hear the Indian influence but it also has some serious vintage disco strings and the now predictably unpredictable M.I.A. insane vocal flourishes. It’s an odd song, but I immediately loved it, though as a single I’m not so sure. We’ll see.

My opinion on the rest of “Kala,” based on a few listens, is pretty positive. There are songs that sound like good tracks that she didn’t put on debut “Arular” (“XR2”) as well as exciting new terrain like “20 Dollar,” an atmospheric freak-out that nabs the chorus from the Pixies “Where is My Mind?” She worked with a slew of producers for the record, most notably Timbaland who contributes only the so-so “Come Around” that ends the album and which was previously released on the U.K. version of his “Shock Value” (though not on the U.S. version.)

M.I.A. may be an acquired taste but it must be said, with an onslaught of cookie-cutter pop, hip-hop, and rock out there she is a true original and when first hearing these songs I immediately thought they were just very “M.I.A.-ish.” And that to me is a true artist.


I must admit that I have not seen one Bollywood film though I know of the sub-genre and its popularity. Given this, the below clip of the aforementioned “Jimmy Jimmy Aja” from “Disco Dancer” is the hands down craziest thing I’ve seen today and will put money down on the fact that it will be to you as well. Whoa nelly, what is happening in this scene? She seems to be completely bewitching this dude (and her audience.) And look at his piercing stare… crazy! I am also not sure why she gets so angry with him.

Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy, Aja, Aja, Aja!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Can't Believe a Single Word

Song: Can't Believe a Single Word
Artist: VHS or Beta
Album: Bring on the Comets

Here was a killer surprise, thanks to a random blog I learned that one of my favorite new bands from the past couple years have a new album coming out at the end of this month. VHS or Beta will release their third full length album “Bring on the Comets” on August 28th. I’ve gotten to listen to the record for two days now and it seems to be the record they have been building up to since their inception. Their debut, “Le Funk” was an instrumental Daft Punk homage, and for their sophomore record, “Night on Fire” they added Cure-like 80’s disco rock and vocals on about half the tracks. This is where I fell in love. They opened for the Scissor Sisters in New York one time when I saw them and I have been a fan since. “Bring on the Comets” might be their defining moment, ditching the instrumentals (aside from the minute-long first track) and writing some killer dance rock that, fingers crossed, will garner the exposure this band deserves.

I am still absorbing the record but have found a couple of off-the-bat treasures that remind me of their best work on “Night on Fire.” This record isn’t a new direction; it’s a focusing of their sound. I wanted to pick a song that really grabbed me and immediately it was “Can't Believe a Single Word.” Lo and behold, it’s the first single! (I should really work in A & R I tell ya.) The song is their trademark guitar-based dance rock. The drums and beats are just as important as the riffs and I guarantee that after a listen or three you will be bopping along if not singing along. It’s not as anthemic as the title track from “Night on Fire” but it’s a great song.

So excited to hear some new VHS or Beta, welcome back boys!


No videos yet from the new record, but check out some from “Night on Fire” an album you SHOULD own.

Night on Fire:

You Got Me:

Everybody's Changing

Song: Everybody's Changing
Artist: Keane
Album: Hopes & Fears

I don’t know why but I just can’t get onboard 100% with Keane. As I’ve mentioned in the past, when I first heard their breakthrough single “Somewhere Only We Know” I was convinced it was another band covering Travis. While “Hopes and Fears” their debut was an enormous hit in the U.K. and around Europe I, like many people, saw them as just another Coldplay. And while I didn’t really love Coldplay’s latest, “A Rush of Blood to the Head” is a masterpiece and maybe the best we can expect from this type of piano based balladry.

In their attempt to go a little edgy, Keane released “Is It Any Wonder?” a U2-like rocker that I thought was quite good. The rest of their sophomore album “Under the Iron Sea” was bland with a capital BLA. I went back to thinking they were over rated bores from Snore City.

Now, thanks to the ever-working Lily Allen and my almost fanatic devotion to just about everything she does, I have discovered another Keane song I rather dig. As a b-side of her new single “Alfie” Lily takes the band’s “Everybody’s Changing” and turns it into a reggae-lite, laid back, bon-bon of a song. Since I didn’t know the song, I thought we had just another above average b-side from the ever-working Allen but after some research I found it was a Keane cover, that it was in fact a single for them, and I actually randomly had it in my iTunes. I’ve listened to it a couple times and think it is rather beautiful. A Keane surprise!

I should also note that there is a killer remix of Alfie by CSS on her single as well, bringing the track to a more sexy dancefloor ready territory. She is just releasing single after single and working with some of the best people in the biz. I still am crazy about her Dizzee Rascal duet “Wannabe” from his new record, and this month finds the release of another duet with Common on his latest called “Drivin’ Me Wild.”

I’ve read that also has an unreleased cover of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” that I’ve yet to hear but for now I am happy to have her make me discover another good Keane track and will try my best not to be so judgmental. The dude had to go to rehab after all which is pretty gangster. (I’m kidding, don’t do drugs.) This song isn’t new or even obscure at all but it just goes to show you that no matter how much you pay attention, things can slip through the cracks. And that logic can be applied to a lot of things in life, not just a music nut like myself.


The video for “Everybody’s Changing”

Lily singing the song:

And Lily’s funtabulous new video for “Alfie”

And well, speaking of… here is good ol’ Lily performing “Heart of Glass” with Blondie on the today show: