Thursday, January 31, 2008

Ready For the Floor

Song: Ready For the Floor
Artist: Hot Chip
Album: Made in the Dark

Here’s a band that just seems to be getting better. Hot Chip’s debut, 2004’s “Coming On Strong” had its moments, yet it was so joke-y, very hard to take seriously. And while they have never shaken that goofiness, their sophomore follow-up “The Warning” (2006) showed that they were more than a joke band. “Over and Over” was a track that immediately drew you in, and built percussion on top of percussion to a true pop sing-a-long moment. But for me, it was “And I Was a Boy From School,” which had equal parts catchy electronic-dance and pure emotion. It was quite beautiful, and a great rhythmic track… and the geek-ish vocals of Alexis Taylor perfectly suite their vibe. Hot Chip seem to want to be many things, or try many things musically. Beat wise they are doing things that are Chemical Brothers worthy, yet they have a deep affinity for R&B, be it Prince or R. Kelly.

While it might seem like a touch of more of the same, the bands third record “Made in the Dark” is better in every way. It seems that they’ve figured out their strengths and where they do best as a band. So we have an album of killer dance tracks, met with genuine slow jams that are both musically interesting, and emotionally true. Actually, to call this “more of the same” is completely not fair… it’s just Hot Chip writing a superb new collection of songs.

First single “Shake a Fist” is an attention getter. After a slow build of driving percussion and random blips coupled with Alexis’ stuttered vocals, the song suddenly stops completely and then explodes with crazy video game noise. Before you can turn to your friend and say “What the…?” big beats take you over and you’re dancing. It’s a crazy track, that swerves here and there, but utterly enjoyable. Even better is the following track and current single “Ready For the Floor.” Here we have a song that sounds like a lost 80’s classic… almost. It’s a bit Pet Shop Boys-ish, quite sweet and warm. It’s the song that should give them some crossover potential, and proof positive that these guys deserve a bigger audience. Awesome.

There are some earnest ballads here too that are musically interesting, “We’re Looking For a Lot Of Love” takes you to synth-organ lead church with a laid back beat and soothing vocals, and yet… is it a Nicolette Larson joke? Even better is the title track, which is a piano assisted, full of soul, break-up track. It sounds almost classic… and would more so if you hadn’t written Hot Chip off just a little as geeky pranksters.

This is one you don’t want to miss.


Ready For the Floor

Shake a Fist (Audio Only)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Out of Our Heads

Song: Out of Our Heads
Artist: Sheryl Crow
Album: Detours

There are some artists that, despite their genre, seem to be able to create any type of music that fits within the marketplace and their own aesthetic. Madonna comes to mind when I think of this because she pretty much has consistently had success but commercially and artistically. Back in the 90’s she had the 1 – 2 punch of the sort of mediocre “Erotica” and “Bedtime Stories” but then wowed everyone with “Ray of Light.” Everyone thought she sank with “American Life” but then came back with “Confessions on a Dancefloor,” an incredibly successful record that garnered her most successful tour ever. I think “American Life” was a personal record, and one that she did, by Madonna terms, very little marketing and promotion for. With “Confessions,” she basically said… “I’m Madonna, if I want you all to buy my records and see my shows, I will have it done.” And we did.

I’ve been a Sheryl Crow fan since her debut “Tuesday Night Music Club” back in 1993. When that record came out, and she had the super hit “All I Wanna Do” many of the collaborators on the record thought she took too much credit, including the albums main producer Bill Bottrell. In response, Sheryl created her sophomore album, “Sheryl Crow” in 1996 which was better, and had more hits. She then released “The Globe Sessions” which happened to be even better, and also garnered a slew of hits. She was proving herself all right, letting go of the criticism, and doing it for herself. It seemed to me, since each record was better than the one before, that she was unstoppable. And while “C’mon, C’mon” wasn’t to me, as good as the albums before, it was still really solid, and the most pop of her records. After a successful Greatest Hits package she finally slipped a bit, with 2005’s “Wildflower.” I just couldn’t get into the record and it was something no other Sheryl Crow record had been before… boring.

So I am pretty thrilled to report that Crow’s new album “Detours,” to be released next month is a return… and pretty excellent. The big surprise, and maybe the thing Crow needed to get the spark back is the return of Bill Bottrell as producer. They have buried the hatchet, and these old friends have crafted a truly incredible album. Like Madonna, after Crow had the disappointing “Wildflower,” she returns with one of her best albums. “Take that! I can do anything!” To be fair, “Wildflower” was to be a very personal record and one she said she “thought she deserved.” Agreed, but thankfully she’s back writing for us.

And for us I mean Crow is writing for the United States, the world, and humankind. This is her most political album to date, but brings everything in a catchy, sunny, Sheryl Crow package. Current single “Love is Free” recalls some pretty tough living and down and out situations in Katrina ravaged New Orleans, but delivers it in a bouncy “All I Wanna Do” style sing-a-long. Despite what I’ve read about the song, the dichotomy of subject matter and tempo is neither odd nor offensive. Crow simply sees the strength within people have lost so much, and carry on. It deserves to be a hit.

Elsewhere on the album Crow touches on failed romance as on “Diamond Ring” (Why’d you run Lance? “Diamond ring… fucks up everything.”) and the fuel crisis (“Gasoline.”) “Out of Our Heads” is an arena worthy sing-a-long that calls for peace over war, love over conflict. Again, super catchy yet meaningful. This is simply some of Crow’s best material to date. I’m still getting into it, but almost immediately I heard the return to the Sheryl I remember, and it’s some return. “Detours” is the album we need right now, one that Sheryl needed right now, and one that further brings her along the road to being one of our most important singer-songwriters we have.


Love is Free

Shine Over Babylon

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Song: A&E
Artist: Goldfrapp
Album: Seventh Tree

With the release of 2005’s “Supernature,” Goldfrapp became one of the leading groups making disco-influenced electronic music. “Supernature” was what seemed like the climax of an evolution that started with their debut, 2000’s “Felt Mountain.” “Mountain” was a trip-hop meets cinematic soundscapes mood record that garnered the group immediate attention and was short listed for the coveted Mercury Prize. Their follow up, “Black Cherry” pushed their sound a bit further. Not wanting to repeat what they had done with “Mountain,” everything was just a bit MORE, most exemplified by the international hit “Strict Machine.” (You’ve heard it in a number of advertisements here in the States.) Given that remixes of “Black Cherry” tracks became huge club hits, Goldfrapp decided to once again go further into all-out dance and the result was the mind-blowing “Supernature” which garnered the group their first U.K. top five (“Oh La La”) and two other top twenty hits.

“Supernature” was one of my favorite records of that year, a non-stop catchy mix of current electronica yet keeping with the group’s penchant for writing actual songs. I can’t recommend it enough, especially the final track “Number 1,” a stunner. I remember hearing the group say that they were unsure of their direction after “Supernature” as they thought that album represented the best of what they could do with that sound. And they had no intention, as before, of repeating themselves. I remember getting a touch sad hearing this… I LOVED “Supernature,” and well… wanted more “Supernature!”

Next month will find the release of their fourth album “Seventh Tree” and what have they done? Well they’ve defied my expectations, and created a record that is NOT “Supernature” yet distinctively Goldfrapp. At first listen I was shocked… and now I am thrilled. “Seventh Tree” is an amazing record. They have returned (sort of) to the lush trip-hop of “Felt Mountain” but have added acoustic guitar and tight songwriting giving the songs an organic folk-like vibe. Lead track “Clowns” opens simply with Alison Goldfrapp’s voice and acoustic guitar, then gives way to romantic strings. It’s quiet and beautiful and sets the pace for the rest of the record. Lead single “A&E” is probably the most upbeat of the bunch, but it truly a stunner. In a way it’s the perfect bridge from “Supernature’s” super-disco. It’s the morning after the party, after the dancing, and she’s still up, grappling with the feelings for another… possibly drug induced, but there, and clear. It’s great.

If you’re a “Supernature” fan, you might really not like “Seventh Tree.” And while I certainly could have taken another helping of their hard-hitting dance music, this album cements the group as one to really watch. I predict a lot of people discussing “Tree” this year and Goldfrapp in general. With this album the band move themselves into a new category… the Radiohead of electro-pop.


A video from each record thus far…


Strict Machine

Oh La La


Friday, January 18, 2008

Someone Great

Best of 2007

Song: Someone Great
Artist: LCD Soundsystem
Album: Sound of Silver

When I first heard “Sound of Silver” I remember thinking to myself that it could be album of the year. At the close of 2007 I felt the same, with many many listens proving the complexity and just awesomeness of what James Murphy has created with his sophomore album. I loved LCD Soundsystem’s self-titled debut, but I certainly didn’t expect something like “Sound of Silver.” It truly is an amazing record.

When I first wrote about the album I mentioned that it seemed like the first singer-songwriter dance record. Sort of a ridiculous claim, and certainly probably not true, but “Sound of Silver” is a true reflection of our times, our culture, and the people that are just trying to get by. I certainly don’t expect a lot of depth on the dancefloor (and I don’t consider “soul baring” house tracks deep) but that’s what you get with “Sound of Silver.” Lead single “North American Scum” was a perfect reflection on the American ideal, and the trend to discount the rest of the world, yet set to an infectious beat that wouldn’t be unwelcome at a get drunk and shake your shit dance-party. Political House?

In the center of the album you have the one-two punch of “Someone Great” and “All My Friends.” “Someone Great” is a slow-building, chime heavy, throbbing sad song about things long past… and the ability (and inability) to get over the loss. It’s abstract, and not clearly about anything specific, but as the listener… you do it yourself. When I first heard “All My Friends” it literally stopped me in my tracks. It is my favorite song of the year and one that I have yet to get tired of. It also has a slow build before exploding into an upbeat, and emotional, finale. It seems to me that this is what the Talking Heads would sound like now if they were still together. It’s a must hear.

As with any record that really pushes things forward and makes things seem suddenly exciting and new, I look forward to see what is next for James Murphy and LCD Soundsystem. The jump artistically from album one to this sophomore effort was certainly unexpected, and I am looking forward to going back to the future with album three.


All My Friends

Someone Great

North American Scum

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Best of 2007

Song: Radar
Artist: Britney Spears
Album: Blackout

So 2007 gave me a true pop dilemma. First, one of my favorite pop artist, Kylie Minogue was set to release a new album, her tenth, after a public battle with cancer over the last couple years, and second… American pop-tart Britney Spears was releasing a new album; her first in a number of years, and her first since getting married (for more than 48 hours,) her first since giving birth to two children, her first since the public divorce, and her first since she sort of went crazy. Which release had the upper hand? Uh… advantage Kylie.

In both cases, the ladies basically went out and got the hottest producers and writers available, and aimed to build an album from these songs, something they both have done in the past.

Maybe it’s because, globally, they are two of the biggest female pop acts working today, but songs from both records, scratch that… sessions, were leaked to the internet months before release. In Kylie’s case, there were a full album’s worth of tracks, all serviceable Euro-pop dance tracks with a few true standouts. With Britney, initially the leaked songs were downright laughable. Insipid poetry-laced ballads and retro-sounding vague hip hop made it seem, when married to the increased public meltdowns, that Britney Spears had in fact lost it. Again… advantage Kylie.

Most surprising was that the leaked songs kept coming, around thirty from each pop princess. And this is where it gets interesting. Fans began to put the songs together, adding artwork, and distributing them like they were the album despite the fact that for both, no official track list were released for either. Amid the Britney tracks a few hard-core, modern club tracks emerged, and “Gimme More,” the official first single BLEW UP. It became Britney’s biggest hit since her first “Baby… One More Time,” and despite, or because of her increasingly strange public behavior, we were as a culture literally obsessed with Britney. Yet, she was doing almost nothing for the record… no pre-promotion, and the video for “Gimme More” was super lazy, something that you would never expect from Spears. Regardless, “Gimme More” was a huge single… becoming a top ten hit in Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Holland, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Switzerland, Sweden, the U.K., AND went to number one in the U.S., Canada, and the Euro charts. Kylie on the other hand touted her initial single “2 Hearts” as “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” good, shot a flashy sexy video for the song and watched it… well sort of tank. The song did go to number one in Australia, Spain, and Taiwan, but only cracked the top ten in five other countries, and failed to hit the top twenty in many. Wow… this one is for Britney.

When both albums were released, we finally got the full vision each artist was intending for their album. And here is where things changed for me. Britney’s record consisted of twelve modern club-ready tracks that showed the former child actor finally shedding that image completely. It’s adult, catchy, and remarkably produced. I liked certain songs better than others, but there isn’t one bad one in the bunch. Kylie’s “X” on the other hand… is kind of a mess. Despite having what I consider a couple of Kylie’s best tracks (“In Your Arms,” “The One”) there are some really mediocre songs, and a few actually BAD (“Cosmic,” “Nu-di-ty.”) What is confusing is that there were so many other GOOD songs Kylie left off the record and by far beat out Spears for song-4-song quality. What happened? In the end while I tried to pick my favorite pop record of 2007 I just took a look at my iTunes play-counts and saw that by far I listened to Britney’s record as a whole more. It’s more consistent and actually feels WHOLE vs. Kylie’s all over the place. Winner: Britney

To be fair it should be noted that Britney had her hand in co-writing exactly one song off her record, where Kylie co-wrote seven of the tracks on her record. It’s debatable, from an artistic merit standpoint, that these records can be considered best of anything. When Goldfrapp can create and produce a killer electro-pop dance record all by themselves, and Madonna can mold a dance record with just three producers and co-write EVERY TRACK. But for me, a killer pop song is a killer pop song, and Kylie has pulled off the multiple writer/producer patchwork before. And while Britney may have come out on top (album wise) in 2007, I think the future is a bit brighter for Kylie, despite being much older. There’s a good possibility that this could be the last Britney record, and forget about a tour. Honestly, do we want an hour and a half of this?

“Blackout” might not be artistically noteworthy, but it’s a killer pop record and better, in my opinion, than Kanye West’s much touted new record, and sounds MORE forward thinking and modern. (For Kanye, “forward” means heavy sampling of a seven-year-old Daft Punk song.) If you can separate the public persona from the music, you’ll find Britney’s “Blackout” a true joy.



Piece of Me

Gimme More


2 Hearts

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Hop a Plane

Best of 2007

Song: Hop a Plane
Artist: Tegan and Sara
Album: The Con

“The Con,” Tegan and Sara’s follow up to their 2004 album “So Jealous” was probably my most anticipated record of the year. I feel in love with the twin siblings from that record, a sweet collection of catchy guitar-based new wave songs, that literally did not leave heavy rotation on my iPod for the full three years before “The Con.” I suppose I could listen to the duo re-make “So Jealous” over and over again and be completely content, and while they did not completely abandon their new wave tendencies, “The Con” shoots to go a bit deeper, and succeeds.

I listened to “the Con” a lot this year, digging the pop sensibilities on tracks like “Hop a Plane” and “Back in Your Head” that fit the mold from “Jealous” but also was pleasantly surprised when they took elements from this style and took it just a bit further such as the title track, adding layers both lyrically complex with a touch of strange. They flirt with indie-techno on “Are You Ten Years Ago” and slow things way down (courageously) on the bookend tracks, “I Was Married” and “Call it Off,” without losing their knack for melody and sweet melancholy.

The record is ultimately more songs about love and relationships which are Tegan and Sara’s bread and butter, but there is a new maturity and depth within these songs. Even when the song is as poppy and catchy as “Hop a Plane” they balance the bop with cryptic lyrics that unfold as you re-listen; “All I need to hear is that you’re not mine.”

“The Con” was basically well received this year but has eluded the end-of-the-year accolades it deserves. Get this record, you’ll love it… and get the special edition with the DVD of the making of the record. You’ll soon fall in love with Tegan and Sara too.


The Con

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Me & Mr. Jones

Best of 2007

Song: Me & Mr. Jones
Artist: Amy Winehouse
Album: Back to Black

Amy Winehouse gave us a lot this year. She gave us the return of the beehive hairdo. She gave us a string of semi-lucid, shocking, and ultimately sad public performances. She gave us the paparazzi pictures to match, looking emaciated, hammered, beat up… a real train wreck. But she also gave us one of the very best albums of the year… the old-soul, new attitude, tour-de-force that was “Back in Black.”

Nothing bums me out more than when media debasement over-shadows the actual art a public figure makes, though nobody else married their public mess of a life with their art quite like Amy. Given that the first single (and huge hit) was entitled “Rehab,” and wasn’t come cathartic singer-songwriter ode to getting clear but the REFUSAL to do so… the girl is just different. If nothing else it helped her break in this country, which is close to impossible for established acts from the U.K. No small feat.

But again, let’s not let the music be overshadowed… it’s too excellent. With the help of producer of the moment Mark Ronson, Winehouse crafted a true modern classic. She nailed the 60’s girl group Motown sound, with prestine vocals to match (Winehouse’s voice is amazing, distinct,) but wrote truly modern songs of breakup, heartache, and self-loathing. “Back to Black” works beyond just a soul re-tread because the songs are so well constructed and, potty mouth and all, Amy creates a wholly original persona.

Some choice lines:

“What kind of fuckery is this?
You made me miss the Slick Rick gig” from “Me & Mr. Jones”

“I'm in the tub, you on the seat,
Lick your lips as I soak my feet,
Then you notice little carpet burn,
My stomach drops and my guts churn,
You shrug and it's the worst,
Who truly stuck the knife in first” from “You Know I’m no Good”

“We only said good-bye with words
I died a hundred times
You go back to her
And I go back to black” from “Back to Black”

Song for song “Back to Black” is an amazing record. Put it on for a cocktail party or score your next emotional breakdown, it’s an album that will be there for you… let’s hope that Amy can get it together enough to give us a follow-up.


Back to Black

Tears Dry on Their Own

Monday, January 14, 2008

All I Need

Best of 2007

Song: All I Need
Artist: Radiohead
Album: In Rainbows

Despite not knowing initially what I was getting into, I distinctly remember the first time I listened to Radiohead’s “O.K. Computer.” I had bought it at the closest record store to my college, opened the CD and placed it into my Discman, which was connected to my car stereo via one of those cassette tapes that have a wire to connect to any listening device. I don’t remember what I was doing or where I was going, but I completely remember opening that CD wrapper, and looking at the album cover as it lay on the floor of my ’85 Honda Prelude and getting that first listen to a record that would ultimately become a modern classic.

I mention this semi-inconsequential memory because it’s important for two reasons. First, my initial impression of “O.K. Computer” was that it was slow, and a little boring. This is mind blowing to me now because the album rocks as it does, AND the fact that over time the album would both thrill and confuse me, doing what few rock records do… make an ALBUM, and something that has various rewards with each listen, even with the passing years. And this is what happened to me with “In Rainbows,” the bands latest album released last year. Initially the lack of tight choruses and seemingly meandering song structure disappointed me, and I worried that like “Hail to the Thief,” their last full length album, it would be another piece of evidence that maybe one of the most thrilling bands of my lifetime had lost their edge, and had already accomplished musically everything that they would. But like “Computer,” the layers of “In Rainbows” became clearer with each listen and unlike “Thief,” they’re not re-inventing the musical wheel once again didn’t feel like a let down… it’s just too good.

Secondly, I mention my “O.K. Computer” purchase memory because I have not since that record had that memory (or excitement) of jumping into a new Radiohead record… until “In Rainbows.” This is due, and is therefore my own fault, to the fact that their three album between “Computer” and “Rainbows” leaked to the internet early and I got them and several listens in before I put down hard cash for a physical copy. Because of that I honestly can’t remember when I first heard “Kid A,” “Amnesiac,” or “Thief…” but these are the sacrifices we make when we decide to download. The way Radiohead decided to get past this was to make it available only through their website and through an e-mail download. Much has been written about this and how they are changing the industry…. blah, blah, blah, but I think their decision was simple… they wanted our zero delay in gratification society to get that excitement again, and to experience the record at one time. And they did just that, beating technology to its own game. It could be a stab to control loss of revenue, but why make it pay what you want?

So not since “O.K. Computer” do I have the pleasurable memory of listening to a Radiohead record for the first time. I got the e-mail in the early A.M. of October 10th, downloaded the tracks, and put them immediately on my iPod. I remember walking the dog while I listened to these new ten tracks for the first time under the breaking sunlight of a new morning. And while I did so I knew that thousands (millions?) of Radiohead fans were doing just that, at the same time. I had no pre-release blogger opinions clouding my head (though those would come literally hours after the e-mail was sent, including myself) and I just took in a new Radiohead record wholly. I’ve always been that music listener (and buyer) that knew exactly when a new album was to be released to get it day-of and have many times even gone to midnight sales of new releases so I could join the other super fans if not literally, than together separately… sitting down to hear what my favorite artist or band had cooked up next. And with the digital age, those moments are lost. At least… that was until “In Rainbows.”

So maybe I blame the way it was released, or this sensations and feelings that it brought back to me, but initially the actual MUSIC of “In Rainbows” sort of escaped me. But like “Computer,” given time and repeated listens it became one of my favorite records of the year, it’s complexities and oddness only revealing themselves over time. It is still hard for me to understand (or believe) how I felt about “Computer” initially but I do remember doing so, and now that I’m blogging, I get to do so with “In Rainbows” as well. It’s not as attention grabbing as “Kid A” was, or immediately likeable as, given its “Kid A” context, “Amnesiac” was. I suppose “Thief” was the touchstone as again it doesn’t aim to re-invent the wheel but this collection of songs proved to me much more warm and direct than… well anything they’ve done since “The Bends.” Radiohead fans tend to want a lot. They WANT another “Computer”-like guitar record, or they WANT a return to the more straight forward songwriting of “The Bends,” or even the mind expanding soundscape via storyline album that was “Kid A” and “Amnesiac.” What is certainly clear now after “In Rainbows” is that we’ll never know what they have for us next.

I never minded the emotional disconnect that was introduced with “Kid A” because the album was a story, and more about a complete listening experience and journey vs. singles and a song for song’s sake. (Though that is not to say that the album doesn’t have clear songs.) But when this disconnect continued with “Thief” I was disappointed, there was nothing for me to grab onto. The more I heard “In Rainbows” tracks the more I developed relationships with the songs, with Thom Yorke’s voice. The emotional directness was back. “All I Need” was my initial stand out, a sexy track that of course lyrically is unbelievably sad, and yet… emotionally honest. I’ve been there. Sometimes the music and its complexities suddenly revealed themselves to me as with the case of “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” and “Jigsaw Falling into Place.” They now remind me of “Amnesiac’s” “Pyramid Song” not because they sound similar, but because they make you marvel in what amazing and groundbreaking musicians Radiohead are. And with “Videotape,” the album closer Radiohead proved they can take something seemingly simple and make it mesmerizing, emotional, and the beginning and end of SOMETHING all at once. Amazing.

Because of all these reasons “In Rainbows” was one of my favorite records of last year, and continues to be one I am constantly listening to. Thank you boys, you brought this music listener back to what seemed like a bygone era.


Jigsaw Falling into Place (video)

Videotape (Live from the basement)

Friday, January 11, 2008

Zephyr & I

Best of 2007

Song: Zephyr & I
Artist: Suzanne Vega
Album: Beauty & Crime

One of the more overlooked albums of the year (I haven’t yet seen it on any best of year lists) was certainly Suzanne Vega’s fun, complex, and beautiful “Beauty & Crime.” A return to form after the divorce album (and therefore mostly downer) “Songs in Red & Gray,” “Beauty” is a song cycle of various New York City stories. 9-11 hangs in the background of these songs, as Vega creates characters dealing with love, loss, and the grand city itself. There’s also a new return to fun in her music, as evident in the opening track, “Zephyr & I,” about the famed graffiti artist. Acoustic guitar and persistent drums hit the forefront while Vega harmonizes with herself and even light synthesizers create a dreamlike vibe as the bridge connects to the lyric and beat driven body of the song. One of my favorites of the year.

Vega has always been a poet, and yet her words fit within her melodies so perfectly. She certainly deserves the kind of career boost that fellow 80’s singer-songwriter Aimee Mann received a couple years ago. Like Mann, she has the uncanny ability to fit the perfect words into her songs. I certainly would list her as one of my favorites of all time.

If you’re a fan of Vega’s this is essential, or of you’re just looking for a great folk-pop record, you’ve found it.


Frank & Eva

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Best of 2007

Song: Loaded
Artist: Seal
Album: System

While I’ve never been a huge fan of Seal’s, I have thought he’s produced some amazing pop tracks in his career. But he really outdid himself with last year’s “System.” Wanting to return to his dance roots (including what I think are his two best songs, “Crazy” & “Killer”) he teamed up with Stuart Price (Madonna’s “Confessions on a Dance Floor”) to create a full album of pumping, shimmering, future-disco. Seal’s voice is as strong and distinct as ever, yet this time the songs meet up with the voice. Aside from a few ballads toward the end (which admittedly are part of Mr. Kiss From a Rose’s bread and butter) the album is song for song solid.

First single “Amazing” is just that, but it is not the only upbeat winner on the disc. “The Right Life” and the title track have Price’s trademark thumping, coupled with some interesting lyrics and again… Seal’s killer voice. “Loaded” is another upbeat stunner that’s been a favorite since I got the album. And I must say his debut with wife and supermodel Heidi Klum “Wedding Day” is honestly not as cringe inducing as it could have been. But I think it has something to do with their tarnish-free public persona. Good for them for surviving this ridiculous system we call “the media!”

Last night I watched something odd indeed… “The Music of Seal on Ice.” It was a benefit for Autism, with Seal sometimes singing live to backing tracks while top figure skaters (Yamaguchi, Boitano) did interpretative… well skating. I’ve never understood figure skating… actually that’s not right, I find it ridiculous, but yet I watched this entire show (the HD no doubt helped) and enjoyed it. Seal knows he’s got a good record, and is just trying to get it out there. Good man.



Loaded at Butter

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Girls

Best of 2007

Song: The Girls
Artist: Calvin Harris
Album: I Created Disco

I have a weakness for dumb dance songs… and this was no more evident than with Calvin Harris’ debut album “I Created Disco.” One of my most-listened-to records of the year. It’s dumb for sure… the album is filled with one ridiculous line after another:

“I’ve got hugs for you, if you were born in the 80’s”
“Now I don’t care what you dress like, or what you wear, but please make sure baby; you’ve got some colours in there.”
“I’ve got my car, and my ride, and my wheels.”
“I like them tall girls
I like them short girls
I like them brown haired girls
I like them blonde haired girls
I like them big girls
I like them skinny girls
I like them carrying a little bit of weight girls”

I mean… it’s also embarrassing. But if you look past the silly lyrics you find some pretty catchy, almost dumb catchy electro-pop tunes, that I have enjoyed over and over. I think there is room still for forward thinking dance music that does something new, and despite his “I created disco” claim, there is nothing very “cutting-edge” in his approach. But maybe this young twenty-something just wanted to make music to get girls to dance to… which seems more the case.


The Girls

Merrymaking At My Place

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Angels Hung Around

Best of 2007

Song: The Angels Hung Around
Artist: Rilo Kiley
Album: Under the Blacklight

Because of the panic at major labels, indie acts are finding the chance to flourish and find new audiences with the help of the file-sharing blog community, MySpace, and well… interest from people tired of the corporate pop landscape. Rilo Kiley found themselves with each release, most likely because of this, with an ever-expanding fan base… a “word-of-blog” (of sorts) endless posts and discussions that helped find their 2004 release “More Adventurous” on top of the “new alternative” indie rock scene. But it wasn’t until lead singer Jenny Lewis’ solo record “Rabbot Fur Coat” (2006) that I started paying attention… a Southern-ish blues meets country record that was steeped in abstract religious imagery and story songs about various people with various problems. Despite what was being built with her band, “Rabbit Fur Coat” was her “A Star is Born” moment.

With the admission that “the songs on ‘Rabbit Fur Coat’ are the kind I really want to write,” fans of Rilo Kiley were wondering what the follow up would be like, especially after the official move on to major Warner Brothers Records. As indie fans do, they cried sell-out, but the surprise is confusing, as it seems that “Under the Blacklight” is exactly what we all should have expected… though it far surpassed what I thought they were, as a band, capable of.

“The Angels Hung Around” is one stand-out, an at-the-grave summation of life (and death) while a former lover is put to final rest. Lewis gets right inside a lifetime of hurt at the tender age of 31 (32 on the 8th… Happy Birthday!) and it becomes a somewhat Springsteen-esque pumping sing-a-long. It’s a stunner.

The rest of “Blacklight” is wildly varied in style and approach yet works as a whole. Fleetwood Mac is the obvious touchstone, 70’s Cali-rock where each song has it’s own movie waiting to be written. This kind of rock music (despite how catchy and melodic it is) just doesn’t find a wider audience like it should, not to mention “Breakin’ Up” has left-field-hit written all over it.



Silver Lining

Breakin’ Up (Live)

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Paper Planes

Best of 2007

Now that we are in 2008, I thought I’d take the beginning of the New Year to look back and make note of the records and tracks I really got into over the past year. Usually I would have an official “top ten records” list, in order, blah blah blah… but this year I am being a bit more loose. So, over the next couple days or so I will highlight some stuff I thought was pretty great in 2007. Most of the stuff I’ve discussed before, but over time and many more listens have come to either appreciate, or more fully understand their genius.

Song: Paper Planes
Artist: M.I.A.
Album: Kala

Initially when I heard tracks from “Kala” I heard the similarities to M.I.A.’s debut, a personal favorite, 2005’s “Arular.” Further listens proved that the songs cut a little bit deeper, both lyrically and sonically. And while I was initially disappointed to hear that literally every song contained a pretty major sample of some other record, most supplying the hook to the track, multiple listens made me realize that “Kala” is much more that just the some of its parts. It sounds like nothing less than an M.I.A. record. And besides, I didn’t know ONE of the samples she uses, and reminds us that “Yeah, I got more records than the K.G.B.” Respect!

Almost immediately I was taken with second-to-last track “Paper Planes.” A Clash-sampling dub-like track that features not only gun and cash register sound effects, but M.I.A. stating: “All I wanna do is (gun) and (cash register) and take your money.” While it’s infectious, it also seems to be a call to arms in our uncertain global times. It sums up the record nicely and illustrates the dichotomy of her government questioning and big talk rap-boasting. (“Some some some I some I murder, some I some I let go.”)

The song has been quite controversial, with the gun shot noises edited out by MTV (then not played) and she looked visibly off-guard when strange popping noises replaced the gun shots while performing the song live on Letterman. In a country that asks us to support war without question, why are we so offended. Maybe M.I.A.’s straight up aural terrorism scares those in power. Isn’t it easier to see woman just mocking the sexed-up girls in the video than these M.I.A. enthusiasts?

In a year that saw Kanye and 50 Cent (fake) arguing over who had the biggest and best rap record of the year in the media, M.I.A. quietly did it, opening the scope to the entire world vs. the (increasingly unimportant) Billboard Music charts.

Paper Planes

Other great Kala tracks: