Monday, June 30, 2008

Divorce Song

Song: Divorce Song
Artist: Liz Phair
Album: Exile in Guyville

Since Liz Phair’s “Exile in Guyville” is celebrating its fifteenth anniversary this year (and has been reissued with extra tracks and a DVD) I thought I would spend the short week talking about some of my favorite albums and songs.

“Exile in Guyville” Liz Phair’s debut album which was released in 1993 on Matador Records is one of my top five albums of all time. I discovered Liz in high school, getting her second record “Whipsmart” first, and then “Guyville” following that. I was excited to hear that the album was being reissued, and that it contained three unreleased songs. The b-sides aren’t great, though the reggae-tinged “Hey You” is fun, though unlike anything on the record. I was really interested in seeing the DVD that comes with it, a documentary Liz directed herself with the “guys” of “Guyville,” different producers, scenesters, and Matador execs that made the record happen. The quality isn’t very good, but anyone that loves the album will find it totally captivating.

For those not in the know, Liz Phair’s debut was a super buzzed about record when it came out back in ’93 and made several end of the year best lists. It continues to be recognized as one of the most import records released during the time. While Liz didn’t invent confessional songwriting, “Exile” was no doubt the blueprint for Alanis Morrissette’s similar (though way inferior) “Jagged Little Pill.” (I remember at the time being so pissed that Alanis got all of that attention where Liz remained an indie-rock darling.) It’s a killer rock record, smart, sexy, fragile, and exhilarating. A song-for-song response to the Rolling Stones “Exile on Main Street,” a miraculous double album… and her first!

While it’s hard to just pick one song from this album, I have always liked the story/song “Divirce Song,” which really highlights Liz’s lyrical ability. One of my favorite lines:

“And the license said
You had to stick around until I was dead
But if you’re tired of looking at my face I guess I already am”

How devastating! It’s a really killer song.

If you don’t already own “Exile in Guyville,” the re-issue is a good reason to go pick it up. It seriously is one of the best and most important rock records from the last twenty five years.


Never Said

Fuck and Run (live from 1995)

Divorce Song (live from Tower Records)

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Boys

Song; The Boys
Artist: Dragonette
Album: The Boys

As I had mentioned earlier this week, I’m pretty Calvin Harris crazy as of late. The same day that I had heard and discovered his song with Dizzee Rascal “Dance Wiv Me” I found this cover/response to his song “The Girls” by English electropop band Dragonette. It’s totally fun.

Dragonette formed in 2005 in Canada, but moved to London as they thought they had a better chance of getting attention, play, and fame & fortune there. Ironically, after the move they blew up in Canada. Oops! Their debut album “Galore” was released in September of last year, I haven’t heard the whole thing but really like the single “I Get Around,” which was first released on a for-promo-purposes EP. The only reason I was introduced to the band was hearing that they had produced a song on the new Cyndi Lauper album. (“Grab a Hold” one of my favorites.)

I’m interested enough in their sound to check them out and see if they should be (or should have been) the next big thing. Their cover of “The Boys” is a lot of fun, tongue-in-cheek, and a great way for all you homos in NYC to kick off Pride weekend!


The Boys

I Get Around

Take it Like a Man

Thursday, June 26, 2008

I'm a Fire

Song: I’m a Fire
Artist: Donna Summer
Album: Crayons

It’s easy, when you weren’t there (or were just too young to really care) but to miss some major moments in music history. Sure I knew various Donna Summer songs growing up (as “Hot Stuff,” “Bad Girls,” “She Works Hard for the Money,” and “On the Radio” were hard to miss) but I honestly didn’t realize how BIG she really was. She still holds many sales records, and with the release of her first album in 17 years, “Crayons” last month she broke another one, as the first artist ever to have a #1 Billboard Dance hit in each of the past four decades.

It wasn’t until I started getting into dance music that I really got to understand how much Summers’ music has been an influence on modern electronica. “I Feel Love” alone has been sampled and covered so much since it’s release, it’s arguably the most well known electronic song ever. It holds up today, and I honestly can’t imagine hearing it way back then… it must have been just mind-blowing.

It had occurred to me, with the release of Madonna’s new album, (and subsequent backlash for being “too old” to be doing that type of music) that we don’t really have any examples within pop music of someone with that type of longevity, still doing it today. But Summers certainly came first, and after seventeen years off the charts, the question is… what type of music is Summers doing? Should she be doing Rod Stewart type standards? No, Summers has decided to do a little bit of everything. “Crayons” (AWFUL album title) if filled with R&B, house tunes, mild hip hop, and dance. It’s quite a mix, and while some of it is a little goofy for my taste, I’ve been enjoying a good chunk of it, especially the house flavored “I’m a Fire,” which was produced by Sebastian Arocha Morton. That was her latest #1 Dance track, which marks her fourteenth number one on various Billboard charts.

Summers has always had a big gay following, and met with controversy when it was reported that she made some anti-gay comments in the 80’s. (Which coincided with a gospel release) Coincidence or not, her career took a hit, and hadn’t really recovered since. With “Crayons” Summers is certainly aiming for gay fans old and new, (she’s done a bunch of gay press for the release of the record) and it wasn’t until my research for this album did I learn that Summers has always denied the negative comments to the community. Bygones baby!


Performing “Stamp Your Feet” on the American Idol Finale

I Feel Love

On The Radio

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Song: Fascination
Artist: Alphabeat
Album; This is Alphabeat

Here’s a fun song I recently came across. “Fascination” was a big hit in Denmark, where Alphabeat hail from, back in 2007. It recently made its way to Europe where it became a top ten hit just this year. It’s a fun, bouncy song, that wouldn’t be out of place on a drive to the beach. (I officially have summer on my mind.)

Alphabeat’s sound is geared toward 80’s pop in the vein of Prefab Sprout. I haven’t heard anything but “Fascination,” but I dig it.



10,000 Nights


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Dance Wiv Me

Song: Dance Wiv Me
Artist: Dizzee Rascal featuring Calvin Harris and Chrome
Album; Dance Wiv Me (single)

Summer Jam alert!!! Since the release of his debut record, the ridiculously titled “I Created Disco,” I have been hooked on all things Calvin Harris, the 23 year old Scottish singer-producer. He recently did a killer remix for my new faves the Ting Tings for their track “Great DJ” as well as an electro remix of the latest Cut Copy single. Not to mention his production work on the latest Kylie album, including my favorite track on the album, “In My Arms.” Since I’ve worn “I Created Disco” out… (actually can you wear out an MP3?) I’ve been eager to hear more from the man.

In checking his Wikipedia page (which is honestly the best place I’ve found to get up to the minute info on your favorite artists) it was revealed that the numbskull had all the work on his new album get destroyed in the Heathrow baggage disaster a couple months ago. Who check a laptop in their luggage? And better yet… who doesn’t keep an extra copy of your work?! Calvin come ON!

Well, my impatience has been temporary satiated by a new production he’s done with UK Grime rapper Dizzee Rascal & R&B group Chrome. “Dance Wiv Me” has the characteristic dumb-catchy electro melody, and is nicely accompanied by Dizzee’s very English rapping style. This is really a Dizzee track, but it’s so very Calvin… regardless, it’s dope. In a reasonable world, this would be one of the big jams of the summer, and it probably will be everywhere… but America. Oh well, we’ll get The Pussycat Dolls which will have to suffice. But in my summer playlist, this jam is ON.


Dance Wiv Me

Monday, June 23, 2008

Black & Gold

Song: Black & Gold
Artist: Sam Sparro
Album: Sam Sparro

My co-worker Darrell, recently turned me on to this really cool new artist Sam Sparro. Darrell heard his latest single “Black & Gold” and couldn’t get enough. He loved the soul vibe, the velvety voice, and the house beats… but when he saw the video he was shocked (shocked!) that he was white boy. He’s also openly gay.

Sparro was born in Australia but moved to Los Angeles when he was ten. He dabbled in some acting as a kid, moved to Sydney, then to London where he immersed himself in the music scene. He moved back to L.A. and was working at a coffee shop when he began to write the songs for his debut.

“Black & Gold” is a super sexy electro groover with a slow build that has really been working for me. I got to listen to the whole album a couple times and think it’s really great. It has a great vibe and the match of Sparro’s soulful voice with electro-house beats really works. I have a feeling this guy might be big… there’s such a distinctive sound to what he does. Check him out.


Black & Gold


Friday, June 20, 2008

(Glad I'm) Not A Kennedy

Song: (Glad I'm) Not A Kennedy
Artist: Shona Laing
Album: Genre

And lastly, of your picks for obscure 80’s tracks, is another lesser know lady of the 80’s; Shona Laing. Shona is a New Zealand born musician whom started recording in the 70’s and had a slew of hit songs in her native country. She was briefly in the Manfred Man Music Band, and has continued recording throughout the years, right up to last years “Pass the Whisper.”

Shona two biggest hits include “(Glad I'm) Not A Kennedy” from her 1985 album “Genre,” and “Soviet Snow, “ which was on here subsequent release “South,” from 1987. The video for “Soviet” got some play on MTV, though Laing never rose to that height afterward. (Allusions to struggles in the industry can be found on her official website.)

Chris, thank you for introducing me to this interesting character!

I want to thank you all for your suggestions for obscure 80’s week. I found a lot of great stuff, a bunch that I had never heard before, which I always dig.


(Glad I'm) Not A Kennedy

Soviet Snow

Thursday, June 19, 2008


Song: Cry
Artist: Godley & Crème
Album: The History Mix Volume 1

Arguably one of the biggest changes that happened in the music business during the 80’s was the onset of the music video age. It created stars sometimes solely based on the visual images associated with the song, and sometimes helped get a band/artist more exposure than just simply the song would do. (Can you think of “Thriller,” “Sledgehammer,” or “Like a Prayer” without having those images come to mind?)

A good example of this was “Godley & Crème’s “Cry,” which was groundbreaking (in it’s time) for the way the faces singing the song morphed into each other. (Later perfected by Michael Jackson’s costly, slick, and controversial video for “Black & White.”) The duo directed the clip themselves.

Check it out:

Godley & Crème were members of the 1970’s band 10cc whom are most famous for their song “I’m Not in Love.” They left when their more avant-gard leanings didn’t fit with 10cc more pop direction. “Cry” became their biggest hit (no doubt helped by the above groundbreaking and attention-getting video) reaching number 16 on the US Hot 100.

Despite the video looking familiar I didn’t remember this song at all until readers Matt & Renato recommended it to me in their obscure 80’s picks. (Though… as a top twenty hit it’s arguably not that obscure.) Regardless, it was one of my favorites that I got to know from reader input. So thank you Matt & Renato!

While Godley & Crème only made one more studio recording, (1988’s “Goodbye Blue Sky”) the duo continued directing music videos in the 80’s, most notably “Every Breath You Take” & “Wrapped Around Your Finger” by the Police, “Rock-it” by Herbie Hancock, “Heat of the Moment” by Asia, “Girls on Film” & “A View to a Kill” by Duran Duran, and “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” by Wang Chung.


Performing “Under Your Thumb” on the Top of the Pops

Their biggest hit with 10cc, “I’m Not in Love”

(You should also check out Tori’s haunting yet sexy version of this song, which can be found on her covers record “Strange Little Girls”)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Drop Your Pants

Song: Drop Your Pants
Artist: Hilary
Album: Kinetic

I knew that I could count on my friend Brian to hook me up with some obscure 80’s, and he did me proud. “Drop Your Pants” is one of four (FOUR!) songs recorded by Los Angeles born Hilary Blake, best known as just “Hilary.” The song can be found on her only release, an EP called “Kinetic.” That song, as well as “Drop Your Pants” never broke the top 40, though a video was made for “Kinetic,” see below.

With a bouncy New Wave beat and a chorus that goes “Drop your pants around your ankles, you make me shiver when you deliver,” this song is begging for inclusion in a great retro 80’s movie. It’s reminiscent of Julie Brown a little… don’t you think?

Unfortunately, Hilary passed away just last year… so don’t go looking for that VH1 Classic special. The song was produced by Stephen Hague, who became a pretty big heavy in the British New Wave scene. His most notable productions include “West End Girls” by the Pet Shop Boys, “Respect” by Erasure, and “True Faith” by New Order. He’s still at it today, working recently with artist such as Robbie Williams, Melanie C, and The Cinematics.

Hilary does have a fan site, you can check it out here.


“Kinetic” video

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Dancing Underneath

Song: Dancing Underneath
Artist: Method Actors
Album; Dancing Underneath

My knowledge (and interest) in post punk is minimal, but the power of bands like Wire, Television, and Gang of Four are undeniable. While my actual 80’s were filled with the likes of Duran Duran and Taco, it wasn’t until college that my musical palate expanded and my interest grew for getting to know more about the 80’s underground music scene. While “Marquee Moon” and “Pink Flag” blew me away when I did get them, I had this feeling that the recorded music was only the half of it… that seeing them live was a huge part of the experience. Would you agree?

My friend Mike has been schooling me a bit in the music of his youth, stuff that meant something to him, and given my obscure 80’s request… he sent me this track by Athens, Georgia band Method Actors. A two-piece that formed in 1979, they only released two LP’s (1981’s “Little Figures” and 1985’s “Luxury”) though they released a handful of singles and EP’s. “Dancing Underneath” pre-dates their debut full length, a jarring yet bouncy tune that reminds me a bit of the Raincoats debut from 1979.


Monday, June 16, 2008

Dancing in Heaven (Orbital B-Bop)

Song: Dancing in Heaven (Orbital B-Bop)
Artist: Q-Feel
Album: Girls Just Want to Have Fun Soundtrack

Obscure 80’s Week… YOUR PICKS!

I wanted to briefly thank all of you that submitted songs and bands for Obscure 80’s week, I am finally getting around to posting some of your suggestions all this week! So to start…

Sarah Jessica Parker is having a killer summer already, thanks to the huge success of the “Sex and the City” movie, but some almost twenty five years ago, Ms. Parker was just getting started on her career, and part of it was a somewhat lesser-known 80’s movie called “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” (The Cyndi Lauper song is played in the film, but sung by Deborah Galli, Tami Holbrook, and Meredith Marshall.) I haven’t seen the film, but have heard it come up in conversation a couple times, usually in a very positive light… so I think I should get around to seeing it, for some silly 80’s teen comedy.

So my good friend Ellen recommended the song “Dancing in Heaven (Orbital B-Bop)” which can be found on the soundtrack. It’s sound SCREAMS 80’s I was honestly surprised that I hadn’t heard it before. This was in fact Q-Feel’s only hit song, released on their self-titled debut back in 1983. It was also, incidentally, the selection for the 1982 Song For Europe (which precludes the Eurovision Song Contest) though the track came in #6 out of 8.


The final scene from “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” that includes the song:

The video… WOW… 80’s!

Friday, June 06, 2008

Viva La Vida

Song: Viva La Vida
Artist: Coldplay
Album: Viva La Vida

Since it wasn’t until their second record in which Coldplay really blew up (and outgrew the Radiohead comparisons) it was their third and last record, “X&Y” that they got their sophomore slump. The slump wasn’t sales related, it sold a ton, but artistically it stalled, which the band has even recently admitted. Regardless, they are one of the biggest bands on the planet right now so much anticipation comes with their 4th album, “Viva La Vida.”

It was widely reported that at the onset of writing their third record, lead Chris Martin labored over trying to create a “perfect” Coldplay record. The result was bland and felt forced… it did have highlights, but wasn’t nearly as good as their sophomore album “A Rush of Blood to the Head.” Actually, it’s probably what we would have heard if Radiohead had decided to copy “The Bends” vs. pushing themselves forward with “O.K. Computer.” Since they have themselves admitted “X&Y” had its problems, I was interested in hearing what the follow up would be like, especially since they were working with the legendary Brian Eno as producer.

As I had reported, they released first “single” “Violet Hill” for free off their website. I ended up digging the song, despite it being an odd choice for first single. (It wasn’t super catchy.) They saved that for “Viva La Vida,” which you have no doubt heard in the latest iTunes/iPod commercials. The merger has worked for the band as the new record holds the record for pre-sales on iTunes, and already on the cusp of breaking the single week sales record for the online music store. So they’re doing something right.

Actually, I found both “Violet Hill” and “Viva La Vida” quite compelling and better than the majority of tunes off “X&Y.” “Viva” is a catchy little tune that seems epic without going overboard. It doesn’t quite give you everything that you want (as X&Y’s songs did) but that makes it more interesting and dynamic. I foresee this one being a good size hit for the band.

I got a chance to listen to the full record this AM and holding off my full opinion. It seems much more interesting than “X&Y,” but also seems a bit slow to me. But I am still digesting.


Violet Hill

Viva La Vida (Live at MTV Movie Awards)

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Ur So Gay

Song: Ur So Gay
Artist: Katy Perry
Album: One of the Boys

This one reeks a bit of novelty, but Katy Perry is getting a lot of buzz regarding her new album, which comes out later this month. After a listen I wonder if she’s the American answer to Lily Allen. Hmmm.

Katy Perry is California native raised by two pastor parents. And actually, she first released a gospel record in 2001 under the name Katy Hudson. Talk about a change of tune… now she sings about straight men who seem gay, and on her current single she tells us “I Kissed a Girl.” (which is not apparently, a Jill Sobule cover.) I like the bouncy quality of this song, yet it’s a one joke track… nothing compared to the wit of Ms. Allen’s “Smile” or “LDN.” But maybe I should hold off on my full criticism until I hear her entire record, “One of the Boys,” which will be released on the 17th.

It is, from my knowledge, the first anti-metrosexual song in existence and the fact that it comes from a female singer-songwriter is quite interesting. Has the metrosexual become ubiquitous? I know my straight girlfriends often like to play “Is he European or gay?” Are they’re too many Metrosexuals now for them to do this? And is there really a backlash?

The birth of the straight guy who likes to take care of himself (and is cultured, etc.) has been an “about time” moment for me, because it’s pretty much driven me crazy that men (thanks to the construct of our patriarchal society) could basically get away with being slobs and still feel that they should get the cute girl that takes care of themselves. Just because they’re, you know… “guys.” But (shock of all shocks) it has come to light that woman actually like a guy that takes care of himself (like the cliched gay man.) But do they? According to Ms. Perry… a backlash may be forming.


Anyhow, this song is cute if ultimately cloying. Send I to the metrosexual in your life… and watch the sparks fly.


Ur So Gay

I Kissed a Girl

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Shut Up and Let Me Go

Song: Shut Up and Let Me Go
Artist: The Ting Tings
Album: We Started Nothing

Like many things in life, I came across this song out of nowhere, had never heard it, or the band, and now I seem to be hearing it EVERYWHERE (including an iPod commercial, natch.) It’s a catchy little slice of Electro-punk buoyed by the bratty charms of lead singer Katie White. The Ting Tings are an English duo that formed in 2006. They got a lot of buzz by playing The Mill in Salford which was known as an artist’s workspace (and hipster party place.)

“We Started Nothing” is their debut album which just recently was released by Columbia Records following a couple successful singles on British radio. I’ve only given it a couple listens but think its pretty fun. Actually, I initially thought it was Shiny Toy Guns as the female vocals sound SO similar. It’s not, but doesn’t it sound like the Guns song “Le Disko?” (Also, ahem… used in another commercial.)

“Shut Up and Let Me Go” is certainly a killer Summer song… which I seem to be craving now that the weather is changing.


Great DJ

Shut Up and Let Me Go (live)

That’s Not My Name

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Meat Market

Song: Meat Market
Artist: Everybody Else
Album: Everybody Else

My friend Rob introduced me to this song and I haven’t been able to get enough of it. It’s a blast of catchy pop-rock that reminds me of The Cars or Weezer. I haven’t heard their full length record but Rob also recommends it. They’re an L.A. based band comprised of Carrick Moore Gerety, Mikey McCormack, and Austin Williams. Their self titled debut came out early last year.

If they get the right break, I could see this becoming a big summer jam.

What do you think? You can check out their MySpace page, with more info about the band here.


Meat Market

Without You (live)

Monday, June 02, 2008

Into the Nightlife

Song: Into the Nightlife
Artist: Cyndi Lauper
Album: Bring Ya to the Brink

I had been holding off posting about this song because of possible interesting news regarding the songs video, and yours truly… but I can’t wait any longer! Haha.

Last week Cyndi Lauper’s tenth studio album “Bring Ya to the Brink” was released, her first of original material since 2001’s “Shine” (which was actually only released in Japan.) I have been listening to the record almost non-stop and think it is absolutely amazing. Not only is this one of her best album to date, but it also trumps the new Madonna record in song for song quality… I certainly didn’t see that coming.

Lauper certainly hasn’t had a Madonna-sized career, despite coming into prominence around the same time, helping define “the MTV generation.” Like Madonna, Lauper has decided to fully embrace a dance record after years of more straight up pop leaning tunes. She’s worked with a handful of interesting collaborators on the record including Rich Morel, Basement Jaxx, and Kleerup (of Robyn’s “With Every Heartbeat” fame.) I was really digging “Set Your Heart,” the first song that was leaked a couple weeks back, and am delighted to report that the rest of the record is as good with some tracks being much better.

“Same Ol’ Story” is the first official single (which I actually think is just okay) but I have officially gone head over heals for reported second single “Into the Nightlife.” It’s a bouncy slice of Euro-disco and one of her best singles in over a decade. Lyrically it’s not much to write about, but it’s so insanely catchy… I have my fingers crossed that it will become the hit it deserves, and if not here then in Europe. The song is co-penned by pop mastermind Max Martin (of “Baby… One More Time” and “Since You’ve Been Gone” fame.)

As mentioned, I am eagerly awaiting the debut of the music video because I might be in it! I went to the filming here in the city and the BF and I are right up front for a reaction shot during part of the filming. Actually, this is exactly what we saw… someone happened to be filming with a camera phone (of course!)

I will of course post the video once it debuts.

I really can’t recommend this album enough and am happy to because of all the incredible things Cyndi is doing for Human Rights and equality. She’s headlining the True Colors tour once again this summer with the B-52’s. She’s been such an advocate for gay rights and I feel that this new record is a love letter to the fans that have stuck with her since the beginning.


More from the filming… I can’t see me but I know I’m there!