Friday, February 29, 2008

We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off

Song: We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off
Artist: Jermaine Stewart
Album: Frantic Romantic

For the longest time I thought this song was done by Patti Labelle… but it turns out that it’s a dude, Jermaine Stewart. Born in Columbus, Ohio Stewart got his start as a dancer on both American Bandstand and Soul Train, and segued into being a back-up singer for a variety of artists. It was his back-up vocal on the album “Colour by Numbers” by Culture Club that got him his record deal with Arista Records.

Jermaine had a string of hits through the 80’s and also found much success in the clubs, where remixes of his songs were very popular. Though “We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off” remained his most successful and recognizable song.

While this song always seemed a little goofy for me, I mean… “We don’t have to take our clothes off, to have a good time?” I mean… if you did you’d have a BETTER time no? Well… no, this song was actually about the AIDS epidemic that was sweeping through the country in the 80’s, where a “BETTER time” meant possible death.

Stewart himself succumbed to AIDS in March of 1997 after a long illness. And while this fun yet dated track SOUNDS a bit goofy, it might be the right time, with HIV infections on the rise to give it another listen.

Because we do not need to have unprotected sex people, we can just dance and party all night… and drink some cherry wine. Uh-huh.


We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off

Word is Out

First single from his first record.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

I'll Kill Her

Song: I’ll Kill Her
Artist: Soko
Album: Not Sokute

The latest MySpace sensation is French singer/actress Soko, born St├ęphanie Sokolinski. Soko put up her acerbic tongue-in-cheek acoustic ballad “I’ll Kill Her” on her MySpace page back in 2006 and soon found a popular Danish radio station playing and hyping the heck out of it. It then went to number one in the Danish iTunes music store.

According to Soko… the current version of the song is more of a demo, as she wants to make a version “with a lot of colour and really big.”

She doesn’t have a record deal yet, but a proper album is in the works. Currently the five-song EP “Not Sokute” is available through iTunes, which includes “I’ll Kill Her. Despite this, she is selling out concerts.

I think the song doesn’t rise much above novelty, and her other tracks are okay… a bit forgettable. So I’m not sure she’s the next Lily Allen… but I love that people are still finding success and recognition in a great DIY way on MySpace. The business has certainly changed because of the internet, and Soko is just another reminder that it’s not just sales and how we obtain music that has changed… but also the way people “make it” into the biz.


I’ll Kill Her

She kinda comes across like a crazy bitch no?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Right Back Where We Started From

Song: Right Back Where We Started From
Artist: Maxine Nightingale
Album: Right Back Where We Started From

Let’s say that you’ve just inherited a hotel from an eccentric yet distant relative… but when you go to check it out, you realize it’s a dump in wild disrepair, but the taxes alone will put you in debt unless you do SOMETHING to it and make it work for you. Or you lie your way to a great job only to paint yourself into a corner when they ask you to throw the big important company party… can your rag-tag team of friends help you make it happen because you don’t have the money to actually do it for some contrived reason? Or maybe you go on summer vacation only to realize that your summer beach community is going to loose their little piece of heaven to resort developers… unless you can fix up that old broke-down sailboat in the harbor, and enter and WIN the annual boat race and the huge cash prize. What would make all of those possible? A killer music montage of course!

Maxine Nightingale’s 1976 hit “Right Back Where We Started From” is just the type of song used in moments like this… when showing the actual WORK involved in some borderline ridiculous “let’s get to it!” scenario would be way boring… just show the fun stuff. Because when I am fixing up my hotel (and saving my retirement fund) and I get my scrappy (but hilariously rag-tag) group of friends and family together to help, it’s really only important to show the moments when we all sing along together while working. You do that to right? Or maybe all the good bouncy vibes will mend every psychological problem that exists within our complex, but surprisingly mend-able relationships. I LOVE when that happens in real life.

Like Katrina and the Waves’ 80’s hit “Walking on Sunshine,” “Right Back Where We’ve Started From” has been used in various movies and trailers for these kinds of moments… and while implausible realistically, the music montage is a standard device in movies, so keep the bouncy songs coming!

Maxine Nightingale was an English R&B singer and saw the title track to her first album climb to #8 on the U.K. charts and #2 here in the U.S. She struggled to match the songs success, and never topped it, but did have a top five hit with “Lead Me On,” a ballad, in 1979. Given her… well, two-hit-wonder status, she’s a good candidate for the music montage track as most people wouldn’t know her by name, but EVERYONE knows the song… perfect.

While I am being a bit snarky here, I actually think this is a great song. I heard it out in a bar early last week and found myself bopping along to it… almost an involuntary reflex. What struck me is when I looked around and saw a few others doing so as well… like the song had somehow been used subliminally on all of us. I am sure I wasn’t the only one that felt like we should all join together in an impromptu sing and dance-a-long around the bar… or maybe even grab a mop and bucket and get that place in shape y’all! Besides, we can’t let that corporate bar that’s moving in across the street take our business and help close the one place that means so much to the tiny, yet hilariously rag-tag, little community we have! But then again… I’m ALWAYS in those kinds of situations.

Anyhow, enjoy.

What are your favorite music montage songs… or which songs do you think are perfect, yet thus far unused, for this purpose?

OMG… this really DOES happen!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Oh Yeah

Song: Oh Yeah
Artist: The Cliks
Album: Snakehouse

My good friend Brian months ago was on a mission to get me into Canadian rock act The Cliks. Despite his recommendation I never spent the time to look them up and take a listen. So he then went as far as getting a copy on eBay and had it sent directly to my house! I listened once and wasn’t really impressed… oh well.

Well the other day I saw the video for first single “Oh Yeah” and it grabbed me… more so than when I listened to the full album. Well I dug it out and gave it a re-listen and FINALLY got hip to the bands sound… a mix of catchy crunching guitar and deep female rock snarl. Think Joan Jett meets Velvet Revolver… but indie.

“Snakehouse” is the bands sophomore album, after a self-titled debut that came out in 2004. The lineup was different, aside from lead songwriter/vocalist Lucas Silveira. The record is a fairly strong collection of catchy pop-rock tunes, save for a silly, unnecessary cover of Timberlake’s “Cry Me A River.” Lead track “Complicated” is great… but the standout is really first single “Oh Yeah” which finds the band at their catchy best.



Oh Yeah

Monday, February 25, 2008


Song: Mercy
Artist: Duffy
Album: Rockferry

The latest “next big thing” rumblings within the business have recently been bestowed on Welsh female singer-songwriter Duffy. At the tender age of 23 she has already been climbing the ropes slowly, guesting on a Mont Royale record and coming in second on a Welsh version of American Idol (not Pop Idol.) After releasing initial single “Rockferry,” she has followed it up with “Mercy,” which went straight to number one this month… the first Welsh female to do so in twenty-five years. Wow, good work girl!

Duffy’s sound is young and soulful… she’s got a great voice, and will probably get compared to Joss Stone, though it seems she is leaning more alternative than pop with her image, look, and sound. She’s a new take on the Dusty Springfield-type British soul singer. There’s a chance that she could get on the Amy Winehouse retro-train… though her full-length album (“Rockferry” due in March) might not have the “Rehab” it needs for that. Or could “Mercy” have that kind of ubiquity? Who knows… but her music seems effortless and very laid back. It could be a great mood record.

Her full length is being produced by ex-Suede lead Bernard Butler. He’s not going as retro as Mark Ronson did for the Winehouse record… but they are definitely striking a balance between the girl-group sound and something new.

Check her out.


Rockferry Live on Jools Holland

Friday, February 22, 2008


Song: Funplex
Artist: B-52’s
Album: Funplex

Sixteen years between albums is certainly a stretch… and odd for a band that never officially broke up during that stretch. The B-52’s have always been in an odd league of their own, releasing off-the-wall party tunes that made good use of Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson’s go-go girl vocals and Fred Schneider’s… well, let’s just say when Fred starts to “sing” you know it’s a B-52’s song. In retrospect, it’s pretty amazing that “Love Shack,” their biggest hit, was as big as it was here… I mean it’s SUCH an odd song. And yet it brought the band to the mainstream and secured them a wedding favorite… how great is that?

Their follow up, “Good Stuff” was not nearly as commercially successful but was actually a really great record. I loved the title track and lead single, as well as “Revolution Earth” and “Hot Pants Explosion.” So even though sixteen years had past, I was really ready to hear what the band was coming up with next, given the music industry is indeed a different place.

The band was no longer on Reprise and thus they were actually shopping for a label to release their new material. Because of this I was actually able to hear a five-song preview of the new material more than a year ago. Unfortunately, I wasn’t really impressed. I can’t honestly remember the songs I heard, or what stage they were in… but after giving a few listens to the official mix of first single “Funplex” I am no longer eager to write them, and their new material, off. “Funplex” is pure B-52’s, like sixteen years never happened. It’s outrageous, seemingly nonsensical, and totally catchy. I really like the rockabilly vibe… good stuff!

Let me know what you think… after all this time do they still have it?


Private Idaho

Rock Lobster

Good Stuff

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Because I Love You

Song: Because I Love You
Artist: September
Album: September

September is the name given to Swedish dance-pop artist who is releasing her first U.S. release this month. The album “September” is a compilation of tracks taken from her 2nd and 3rd record(s) “In Orbit” and “Dancing Shoes.” The very Euro-dance beats and platinum blonde hair are very reminiscent of Robyn, another fellow Swede. But does the album have something as great as “With Every Heartbeat?”

Hmmm… not sure.

On one hand, “September” is a consistently upbeat dance-pop record with a serviceable singer and catchy tunes. Unlike Robyn, a personality doesn’t really come through the tracks… it moves along consistently but could score the scene to any European Club scene… from a tween program. It’s bubble-gum dance…

BUT… I must admit that I’m actually enjoying, almost despite of myself. It’s upbeat and catchy… and house-y enough to warrant several of the tracks making your favorite workout mix. Some of it verges on Cascade territory… which I honestly can’t stand, but there is something about this that I am really digging.

“Cry For You” has hit the top spot on the Hot Dance Charts here, and songs like “Satellites,” “Can’t Get Over,” and “Looking For Love” have a sunny punchy charm, but it’s “Because I Love You” that has really caught my ears… and comes closest to the “With Every Heartbeat” style of building dance floor drama. Love the Spanish guitar and Giorgio Moroder beat!

I guess this is a half recommendation… it’s VERY European, or very gay, depending on your prospective. Basically if you think Geri Halliwell deserves to be a bigger star… September is the girl for you.


Cry For You


Looking For Love

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Song: Won
Artist: The Beta Band
Album: Hot Shots II

Sometimes a song you know will pop up somewhere expected and it makes you yearn to hear it again. This often happens in movies or TV or even just out and about in the world. Music fills our lives sometimes when we don’t even know it… while shopping, getting our hair done, or at a bar. It’s there, and just waiting to get into your consciousness. So while it was this that brought a song back to my attention, I am a fan of Harry Nilsson’s “One” which is probably best known in the Three Dog Night version, which you can check out here:

Harry’s version is very similar, with that distinct piano that is both haunting and propulsive:

One of my favorite versions of “One” comes from former Till’ Tuesday member Aimee Mann. Mann’s was featured in the film “Magnolia,” which was written based on her songs. Her “One” served as the opening credits, which you can see here:

I am a huge p.t. anderson fan… well, I should say I’m a big “Boogie Nights” and “Magnolia” fan, I just couldn’t get into both “Punch Drunk Love” and this years highly praised “There Will Be Blood.” Just this opening credits sequence, done very similarly to the “Boogie Nights” open, shows he is a master of the character mosaic… it’s pretty masterful, and Mann’s version of the song almost seems written FOR the movie… though the movie is based on the songs, which is sort of the same thing, though opposite. (I’ve just now confused myself.)

Covering someone else’s song can serve many reasons… for Scotland’s Beta Band, they chose to change the title to “Won” and incorporate some hip hop influences and make the song totally their own. The song was a Japanese and U.S. bonus track on their second full-length album “Hot Shots II.” The Beta Band has since split, but they remain an important, if not criminally unheralded, band from the start of the new millennium. I HIGHLY recommend the compilation “The Three EP’s” which many recognize as their first album. It’s amazing… and you might just know the incredible opening track “Dry The Rain” from this.

“Won” is great though… a great take on a great song. These little random reminders of certain songs always seem like a metaphor for life in general to me. But then again… I think I think about music too much. J


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

We’re Gonna Rise

Song: We’re Gonna Rise
Artist: The Breeders
Album: Mountain Battles

I’m a huge Breeders fan and since they are not very prolific, a new album is something to talk about for sure. Their debut “Pod” and their breakthrough “Last Splash” are two of my favorite records, and I really liked their long delayed third album “Title TK” which had very poor sales. Subsequently they were dropped form their label and have returned to 4AD for their fourth release “Mountain Battles” which will be released in April.

For “Title TK” the band released the slow, somber, but incredible “Off You” as first single, which I thought was an odd choice. The world may had been waiting, most likely for another “Cannonball,” their biggest and most recognizable song and instead they gave them something totally different. While there were more upbeat and catchy tracks, they went in another direction. Oddly, they have done the same for their debut single from “Mountain Battles.” “We’re Gonna Rise” is another slow and pretty track that while showcasing the strong songwriting ability of the band, doesn’t show their true power as a rock band.

Despite all of this I really like “We’re Gonna Rise” and can’t wait to hear the rest of “Mountain Battles.” With a Pixies reunion record seemingly not in the cards, The Breeders is what we have from Kim Deal, whom last wrote the only new Pixies song from their reunion, the punchy but odd “Bam Thwok.”



Son of Three


Monday, February 18, 2008

You Can Get it If You Really Want

Song: You Can Get it If You Really Want
Artist: Jimmy Cliff
Album: The Harder They Come

Jimmy Cliff is one of the more unsung heroes in the reggae movement of the late sixties and early seventies. He got his start writing music in the early sixties but didn’t see much success until a string of hit singles at the very end of the 60’s. He really made his mark, and helped to push the popularity of reggae in the United States, when he compiled the soundtrack to the 1972 film “The Harder They Come.” The album contains six Cliff compositions including the classics “You Can Get it If You Really Want” and the title track. It’s an amazing record that was ranked 119 on the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” by Rolling Stone in 2003.

Check it out… it’s a stunner.


You Can Get it If You Really Want (live)

The Harder They Come

Friday, February 15, 2008


Song: Run
Artist: Gnarls Barkley
Album: The Odd Couple

One of the more surprising hits of 2006, Gnarls Barkley’s “St. Elsewhere” was a smash riding on the unstoppable popularity or it’s first, and immediately ubiquitous single “Crazy.” “Crazy” was a pretty amazing song, one in which hip-hoppers, hipsters, and pop fans alike seemed to dig. In the currently segregated music business it was no small feat. They didn’t have any other singles as big as “Crazy,” but the album sold well and was critically successful.

I liked “St. Elsewhere,” but didn’t LOVE it. I really like the production work of Danger Mouse and find his mix of soul, hip-hop, and electronic pretty amazing, and Cee-Lo is certainly a powerful and engaging lead man, with a killer voice. I found the last record a little plodding, despite the gems here and there. Better as a groovy mood record than a genre-hopping song cycle.

Given the popularity of “Crazy” the guys have a certain level of expectation to fulfill with the release of their sophomore set, “The Odd Couple.” They no doubt know this, and I am expecting something pretty amazing… pushing their sound forward. Recently a new track called “Run” had been leaked to the internet and is now officially a single. At the time of the leak, Danger Mouse described the song as “just one of about forty” that they had for the album. So there are questions if “Run” is actually the official first single… but it is now available for sale on iTunes.

It might not be fair then to try to review “Run” as the follow up to “Crazy,” which many are expecting. It’s a fun, break-neck speed track that sounds retro yet fresh at the same time. Totally Gnarls. I love the groovy sixties-ish vibe, and the beat is hot. I don’t think it’s “Crazy” catchy… what do you think?



Gone Daddy Gone

Smiley Faces

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Pale Blue Eyes

Song: Pale Blue Eyes
Artist: The Velvet Underground
Album: The Velvet Underground

It wasn’t until I was in college that I discovered The Velvet Underground, the Lou Reed lead NYC band that came out of Andy Warhol’s Factory and changed the world of Alternative music forever. I think everyone needs to go through a Velvet’s phase at some point in their life and in college was a good time for me. At the suggestion of a very good college friend whom also discovered the band around that time, I went all out and got their at the time recently released box set which contained five discs and everything that they had ever recorded in the studio. If you have the interest in the band I say just spring for this set as you will no doubt love everything they did and it’s re-mastered and all that jazz. Check out “Peel Slowly and See” here.

I won’t bother trying to summarize the bands history, check out their Wikipedia page for that, but the Velvets are such an important part of rock & roll that I feel are sometimes little-known aside from hipsters both new and old. When they released their debut “The Velvet Underground & Nico” in 1965, and brought their dangerous blend of sleaze, gender-bending sex, and rock from the gutter to the masses, it should be noted that the Beatles only then started to change their sound and become more experimental.

I randomly heard “Pale Blue Eyes” a beautiful, haunting ballad from 1969’s “The Velvet Underground” and haven’t been able to stop listening to it. I hadn’t listened to the band in a while and after hearing “Pale Blue Eyes” as well as “I’m Sticking With You” in the movie “Juno” I decided to drag the discs out and give them a new listen… all SO good.

If you haven’t done so already… it’s probably time for your “Velvets Period.”


Pale Blue Eyes (live) - Lou Reed live Sessions At West 54th

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Supernatural Superserious

Song: Supernatural Superserious
Artist: R.E.M.
Album: Accelerate

It’s been roughly ten years since the beginning of my R.E.M. depression. The day they released their 11th album “Up” was the beginning of the end, as a band I never hesitated to call my favorite started a decline. It continued with the better but still lackluster “Reveal” in 2001, and then in 2004 they did something they have never done, they released a truly awful album, “Around the Sun.” What on earth had happened?

Okay… I’m being a little dramatic. While “Up” and “Reveal” aren’t completely terrible, they just certainly where not what I had come to expect from R.E.M., given that since I started listening to the band, every record they released was stylistically different and well… kind of amazing. Much has been written about this, and mostly the decline in quality has been attributed to the departure of drummer and founding member Bill Berry. His last record with the band, the seemingly tossed off “New Adventures in Hi-Fi” in retrospect is quite good… comparative to the last three records.

April 1st will see the release of the bands 14th album “Accelerate.” Last July the band did a five-night residence in Dublin where they “practiced” new songs and played older songs while putting the record together. I got to listen to one of these shows and the band has taken a much more rock direction with the new material… and seem to acknowledge this with the title of their new record. Not since “Monster” has the band made such an effort to rock.

While my overwhelming interest and devotion to R.E.M. has faded a bit over the last ten years, I certainly have gotten enough joy from the band to take each new record in stride, and give it the chance a true fan should. So I am actually pretty excited about “Accelerate” and hope it’s, well… pretty great. I’ve had a few days to live with the first single from the album “Supernatural Superserious” and like it. It’s hard rocking yet pop-y, and love hearing Michael wail in the chorus with Mike Mills harmonizing in the background. I’m not sure if I love it… but am really digging the guitar riff that serves as the hook, and again love that chorus.

What do you think… and does anyone even care about R.E.M. anymore?


Best moments from the last ten years…


The Great Beyond

Imitation of Life

Actually, this video is quite amazing… it’s one wide shot, twenty second take, that goes forward then backwards in a loop and is repeated for the duration of the song. For the video the frame is then zoomed in, panned, etc. to catch the right bits at the right time. It’s quite astonishing. (and should really be seen in better quality.)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Sex Has Made Me Stupid

Song: The Sex Has Made Me Stupid
Artist: Robots in Disguise
Album: We’re In the Music Biz

Robots in Disguise are a female rock/electro band from the UK. Dee Plume and Sue Denim formed the band in 2000 after meeting at the University of Liverpool. Their name no doubt must be a wink to The Transformers… but since forming way before the recent big screen adaptation of the cartoon and toy line I wonder if they regret it a bit. Does it hurt their hipster cred? I suppose, in retrospect, that it couldn’t be nearly as bad as the 1999 formed “I Am The World Trade Center.” Ouch.

“We’re In the Music Biz” is the bands sophomore album, after a self-titled effort that was released in 2001. Their sound is a mix of guitar, electro beats, and female attitude. I really like the single “The Sex Has Made Me Stupid,” which is catchy, sexy, and relentlessly tongue-in-cheek. It’s a great mix of guitar lick and catchy beats with a catchy chorus. Catchy, catchy, catchy! The remainder of “We’re In the Music Biz” is similar, a mix of wink-wink lyrics, driving guitar and vaguely new wave grooves.

Check them out.


The Sex Has Made Me Stupid

Monday, February 11, 2008


Song: Trash
Artist: The Whip
Album: X Marks Destination

Manchester UK’s The Whip are the latest disco rock act to be getting the attention of the indie world. Their debut album, “X Marks Destination” will be released in the UK at the end of March. Their sound is a mix of VHS or Beta, The Infidels, and a myriad of new wave acts from the 80’s. Very guitar driven, but with Goth synths and persistent beats. They are playing SXSW this year and will soon no doubt be the toast of every hipster blog from far and wide.

Despite the hipper than though vibe, I really dig “X Marks Destination.” The New Order and Cure influences are evident, and mid-tempo tracks such as “Save My Soul” and “Frustration” almost sound like lost gems. That’s not to say that they sound totally dated and/or derivative. 12” single “Divebomb” mixes Daft Punk/Justice style French House with arcade sound effects and “Sister Siam” sounds almost pop. My favorite is lead track “Trash,” which sets the tone for their driving, vaguely dangerous vibe.

For more on The Whip check out their Myspace page.


Sister Siam



Don’t think it’s the official video, but love the homo Star Trek

Friday, February 08, 2008

I Can’t Wait

Song: I Can’t Wait
Artist: Nu Shooz
Album: Poolside

So here’s a trip back. This song popped into my head this morning, reason unknown, so I gave it a listen and it immediately put a smile on my face. A perfect song for Friday! I realized I knew absolutely nothing about 80’s dance group Nu Shooz so I did a little digging and guess what… they’re from Portland! Portland!? I’ve never been to Portland, but I also have never heard it as a hot bed for dance music. Oh well… Nu Shooz changed that, if for just a song, or two.

Nu Shooz was comprised of husband and wife duo John Smith and Valerie Day. They recorded “I Can’t Wait” and released it as a single in Portland in 1984 where it became a big hit on radio in that city. Atlantic Records heard it and had them re-record it, issuing the new version in 1986. It went to #1 on the dance charts and #3 on the Hot 100. They’re follow up single “Point of No Return,” (not to be confused with the Expose song of the same name) went to #28 and topped the dance charts as well. I had never actually heard that song… it’s unremarkable, nowhere near the Dancefloor joys of “I Can’t Wait.”

They released what was their official third album in 1988. “Told U So” contained the singles “Should I Say Yes?” and “Are You Lookin’ For Somebody Nu?” Maybe it was too many questions, but they failed to chart very highly. I gave them a listen… kinda boring to be honest. And while that was the end of Nu Shooz, they left us with “I Can’t Wait,” which while not a song to build a career on (despite releasing an unplugged version in the 90’s) it’s a crowd pleaser at any 80’s party.


I Can’t Wait

SO 80’s!!! (love the dog with sunglasses)

Point of No Return

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Come On Down (Live Element Radio Mix)

Song: Come On Down (Live Element Radio Mix)
Artist: Crystal Waters
Album: Come On Down Single

Remember Crystal Waters? She’s best known for two huge radio and club hits in the 90’s, “Gypsy Woman (La Da dDe La Da Da)” and “100% Pure Love.” Since the new millennium, dance music hasn’t had much of a top 40 presence (save for teen pop and hip hop) so poor Crystal has pretty much made just a handful of albums and singles that while big in clubs, haven’t made their way into the hearts and minds of the masses.

In the mid 90’s she has had some club hits that I remember getting on some dance compilations, “In Da Ghetto” and “Say… If You Feel Alright.” Both didn’t chart highly on the Hot 100 (though “Say…” did hit # 40) but did well on the dance charts. Even the U.K. was ignoring her!

I hadn’t thought about Ms. Waters for just about ages, until my good friend John let me borrow the single for her 2001 release “Come on Down” which samples… take a guess, the theme from The Price is Right! I have absolutely fallen in love with this song and can’t get over the fact that I had never heard it before. Oh well. This one went to number one on the U.S. Dance chart… so somebody was listening. It’s so much fun.

Recently Crystal lent her voice to “My Time” in 2003 for the band Dutch, and just last year to Alex Gaudino’s “Destination Calabria.” You can take a look at the video below, as well as a few videos that will take you back.

This radio edit of the song is good, but the full eight-minute club mix is just a bit better. Gotta build that drama!


Gypsy Woman

And while this is a little mean… you really gotta check this out.

100% Pure Love

Destination Calabria

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

She’s Makin’ Me Lose It

Song: She’s Makin’ Me Lose It
Artist: Blake Lewis
Album: Audio Day Dream

So I’m an American Idol watcher. Got into it towards the end of the first season and have pretty much (thanks to DVR) seen just about all of the subsequent seasons. While I do enjoy the show, the music that it has produced has done little for me, save a single or two. Actually… save for Kelly Clarkson really. But post-debut Kelly, isn’t that when we all started to pay attention? Well, The Idol is THE most popular show on television right now, by pretty much a mile, and it has really become a cultural phenomenon, changing the lives of many kids across the country. Some for better, some maybe for worse.

What is my fascination with American Idol the show despite not really caring about the careers that it creates? Well, given the way corporations have taken over America, show business is really the last way one can see the American dream come into fruition. And many of these kids that come to audition for Idol are pretty open to the fact that they want it to change their lives. As with the last several seasons, we are let into the audition process to see the good, the bad, and those grasping at fifteen minutes, despite how humiliating it all ends up. This season has been no different, with one contestant, after being denied entry to the next level, began to cry and say “But I don’t want to go to school!” Sad, but true.

So while I have been watching this new season, now three weeks of auditions, this process had grown a bit tedious to me. The show is really adept at building a story for an individual, even before they sing before the judges, and it’s hard not to be sucked into some of these stories. Since I’ve seen past seasons, I know that slugging through this tedious audition process can pay off when it gets to “Hollywood Week” and you can recognize and recall the hopefuls as they continue to try to move ahead. But this season, as last nights episode began, which I watched between Super Tuesday coverage, I realized I was getting a little over it. Well… that was until I had actually watched last nights Atlanta auditions.

Last night was a particularly rich episode for the auditions period, and thanks to crazy fans, I’m able to post clips. First, it’s still amazing to me but many just flat out awful people audition and then are shocked when they don’t make it. Is this actual delusion? Or do they really just want on TV for 30 seconds? Last night they did, as they usually do once and episode, get a bunch of the worst to sing one song and make a funny edited piece with it. These takes on Fergie’s “Glamorous” were particularly amusing…

Also last night was a what seemed way too long bio segment of someone that obviously doesn’t have a chance, Miss South Florida Fair’s Brooke Helvie. She’s sort of the typical empty-headed American hopeful that usually ends her time on the show in tears after being told she’s awful, or shouting expletives at the camera about the judges. Last night things went a bit unexpected, take a look…

I was pretty shocked in the end… but don’t think she really has a chance at the final twelve.

So why do I watch Idol again? Well… it’s to watch people like last seasons Blake Lewis. We saw him audition, get through Hollywood, and while not a KILLER singer, the kid seemed generally talented. Taking the songs he was given to sing and actually doing something with them, changing the arrangements himself, etc. I loved his cover of “Time of the Season” on the show… and even bought the studio version from iTunes. He emerged as a sort of Kid Maroon 5, with a beat boxing fixation that he never over-did.

Blake ended up being runner up, losing to seventeen year old Jordin Sparks. They both released their first albums at the end of last year and I actually took the time to listen to both. Jordin’s was pretty much as expected… the girl has a great voice that is not distinct at all, and sings teen-pop songs that don’t elevate beyond such. Even the Bloodshy and Avant productions are just so-so. It was pretty awful. But I found Blake’s to be relatively interesting… as I had hoped.

First, Mr. Lewis wrote or co-wrote every track on the record, which I believe only Chris Daughtry has done for an American Idol debut record. His artistic stamp is all over the record, which I found very refreshing. Is it great? No. It really is a Maroon 5-Lite type record, he shows his age a bit… but also shows he is really a talent to watch. He mixes a lot of 80’s influence, his beat-boxing, and his Morrissey-like vocals to positive effect. I’ve certainly listened to it more than I expected. There are some Erasure-sounding tracks on there, as well as Enrique-quality mid-tempo ballads. It’s all over the place, which is part of its charm, but also makes it a few stops before total recomendationville.

That said, it deserves a listen… especially if you like 80’s music and Maroon 5. “She’s Makin’ Me Lose It” is typical of the upbeat tracks, and I must convince I thought some of the slower tracks actually worked. The production is varied, and interesting.

Here is the first single “Break Anotha”

I can see why many loathe American Idol, and honestly don’t completely understand my fixation as most of the contestants annoy the heck out of me. But every once in a while watching someone rise from obscurity to TV’s most watched stage is a complete joy. Watching Chris Daughtry go from every-guy to rock God over his season was amazing. And while I think the music he makes is Creed-like crap, he was SUCH an engaging performer… but who cares what I think, he sold a TON of records. And last night I found the contestant I’m most interested in watching… Amanda Overmyer:

Damn… girl can sing. I guess I’m watching this season too.


Tuesday, February 05, 2008


Song: Umbrella
Artist: Biffy Clyro
Album: Radio 1's Live Lounge: Volume 2

A couple months ago I wrote a piece about a BBC Radio 1 compilation that celebrated the 40th anniversary of the station called “Radio 1: Established 1967” which was comprised of songs, one from each year of existence, as covered by major acts that are popular in the U.K. today. I really liked the collection and recently have also been enjoying another Radio 1 compilation entitled “Radio 1’s Live Lounge: Volume 2” which was released just a couple weeks after the aforementioned compilation last October.

Jo Whiley’s Radio 1 show is a popular live in-studio show in which currently popular artists come in and play live, sometimes stripped down acoustic versions of their songs as well as other popular songs from other artists. At best, an artist will re-work a popular song in their own style and do something different with it. One of my favorite Live Lounge covers was the Scissor Sister’s piano based of Franz Ferdinand’s “Take Me Out.” As in this case, some of these covers can heighten a song, making something pop and seemingly frivolous actually gain some weight. I recall feeling the same when hearing Travis’ acoustic take on Britney’s “Baby One More Time” which was popularly traded in the days of Napster. I remember reading that they wanted to prove how good the actual song was by simplifying it down to just acoustic guitar… and it is ultimately totally effective.

In that vein for this compilation we have Scottish rock act Biffy Clyro doing an acoustic take on Rihanna’s “Umbrella.” It’s simple, straightforward, and actually kind of beautiful. 2007’s most ubiquitous single shows some hidden strength in this version, the words more clear without the driving beat and Jay-Z interruption. It could have been snarky, and devoid of actual feeling… a joke cover that certainly happens within the Live Lounge format. On this compilation alone we have The Frey doing a silly, demeaning take on Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie,” including dry, spoken word take on Wyclef’s more energetic cameo that is simply done to make the original sound ridiculous. The Enemy’s take on Madonna’s “Hung Up” is also too jokey to take seriously, or want to hear more than once. Maybe I’m just a “if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all” kind of guy.

Paolo Nutini do a nice job with Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab, and the Artic Monkeys give a laid-back rock vibe to her “You Know I’m No Good.” Bloc Party turn Nelly Furtado’s “Say it Right” into a brooding Cure-like ballad, and KT Tunstall takes their “The Prayer” and… well she does a pretty faithful cover, nothing really new or interesting… but it’s cool. There are cringe-worthy moments though… as 30 Seconds to Mars turn Kanye West’s “Stronger” into a slow Goth-lite ballad. Just another example of “how does this band still have a career?” Many artists do stripped down live versions of their work, my favorites being Calvin Harris’ acoustic version of “The Girls,” and Robyn’s piano version of “With Every Heartbeat.”

If you’re a covers fan this compilation will be a lot of fun for you. I haven’t heard Volume 1, but from the track list it seems like more of the same. I might just be checking that out…


Biffy Clyro’s live version of “Umbrella”

Monday, February 04, 2008

Conquest [Acoustic Mariachi Version]

Song: Conquest [Acoustic Mariachi Version]
Artist: The White Stripes
Album: Conquest [EP]

I didn’t LOVE the White Stripes latest record, last year’s “Icky Thump” as much as I have their previous releases. Now, I do truly believe that Mr. Jack White is a guitar and musical genius… and therefore while “Icky Thump” may not have met up to the high standards they’ve made for themselves, compared to what else is happening in rock ‘n’ roll (possibly a sweeping generalization from someone that spent a lot of time dissecting the latest releases by Kylie & Britney) the Stripes are still out on top, and one of the more important bands to emerge in the last several years.

One track that I did LOVE from “Icky Thump” was the cover of Patti Page’s “Conquest” (written by Corky Robbins,) which has been selected as the third single. For the single, they are releasing an EP featuring an acoustic “Mariachi Version” of the title track, as well as three B-Sides produced by Beck. It’s a particularly good package, and a must for fans of the Stripes.

I really do like the original more rockin’ version of “Conquest,” but this one is a lot of fun as well. Be sure to check out the video below which, in regular White Stripes fashion is funny and conceptual. I’ve posted my other favorite videos by the band… which are all pretty amazing.



The Denial Twist

The Hardest Button to Button

Fell in Love With a Girl

Friday, February 01, 2008

Stand By Me

Song: Stand By Me
Artist: John Lennon
Album: Rock ‘n’ Roll

I was raised on the Beatles. My parents, my father specifically, were big fans and thus I became one as well. I suppose it helps that they are arguably the most influential band ever, doing for music what very few have done before and since. How many times have you heard a band or artists work be described as “Beatle-esque?” Since I missed the entire Beatles “thing,” not being born before they split, I heard their work out of sequence, including their solo work. (Though for some reason, this pretty much excluded all the other Beatles except Lennon. I’m not going to argue their individual merits; My father just dug Lennon… so that’s what I know.)

So this holiday season my technically… I don’t want to say challenged, more phobic, father asked me to get him an iPod, which shocked me, and fill it up for him with his favorite stuff. So when I got his wish-list it was a little bit like going down memory lane and a flood of images from my past came to me when I saw Lennon’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll.” This album was in heavy rotation when I was a kid and actually was most likely my first introduction to some of these classic songs (covers from the late 50’s and early 60’s.)

Lennon sounds great on these tracks, and Phil Spector’s production brings them to life sonically. I didn’t know the interesting history of the making of the album until reading the article in Wikipedia. I won’t bother trying to summarize, read it yourself if interested, it’s a good story. (Phil Spector is officially crazy, beyond being like… you know, a killer.)

Lennon’s cover of “Stand By Me” was a top twenty hit when the album was released and probably my favorite on the album. It’s slow, which is not typical for the album as a whole which is pretty upbeat and well… rock ‘n’ roll. The song itself is one of the greatest ever written, and when looking for something to end a party recently I played this. Sometimes you can find the perfect summation of life, love, friendship, and family in a song… and here it be.


Stand By Me