Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What the Hell

Song: What the Hell
Artist: Avril Lavigne
Album: Goodbye Lullaby

My friend Felice, after introducing me to yet another heartbreaking Ray LaMontagne track, as well as the experimental and atmospheric sounds of s. carey, surprised me with her love for the new Avril Lavigne single, "What the Hell."  I took a listen, thought it was fun and cute, and some two weeks later... can't stop listening to it.  Thank you Felice... no really.

I haven't really followed Avril's career that much over the years since she broke into the scene as the "anti-Britney" in 2002, a description that she loathed.  I liked her persona and attitude, but didn't really take to her brand of bratty pop-punk.  Just not my thing.  Though I do remember really liking a single from her second record, "Don't Tell Me."  I remember hearing "Girlfriend" from her third record, which I thought was fun in a Kelly Clarkson/Pink pop-rock way, but didn't feel the same as I do about this new track, which has a similar sound.

It turns out that Avril has been working with some of the hottest hit-making producers of the last couple years, though it should be noted... the girl writes ALL of her songs.  That third record, 2007's "The Best Damn Thing," was mostly produced by Dr. Luke, whom is responsible for Ke$ha, the new Britney song, as well as multiple hits for Katy Perry, Adam Lambert, & Weezer.

This time around, she's teamed up with uber hit-maker Max Martin (Pink, Clarkson, everybody) for about half of her fourth album, "Goodbye Lullaby," which is being released at the beginning of March.  Martin lends his hook-addled assistance to "What the Hell," the first single and my latest obsession.  It's a killer pop-rock track that finds Avril going from good girl to bad... a persona that she's always sort of maintained.  It's energetic and upbeat, and man... take a look at the video below.  Despite the continued brattiness in her music, Avril is all grown up.

I didn't realize that Avril was dating Brody Jenner, which I learned doing a bit of research.  She broke off her marriage to Sum 41 singer Deryck Whibley, who actually produces the second half of "Goodbye Lullaby," which she describes as her most personal album to date.  Actually, "What the Hell" may possibly be a misnomer... as she's stated it's "the most pop track on the record." With the rest being a bit more piano-based and personal.  Hmmm.  Though, it does seem these pop-rock gems are her bread an butter.  She also recently penned iCarly star Miranda Cosgrove's new single "Dancing Crazy" which was also produced by Martin.

Guilty pleasure or not, "What the Hell" has hijacked my iPod, and made my mornign and evening commute a little more lively.  Rock on.  Thank you Felice!


What the Hell


Don't Tell Me

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Song: Kaputt
Artist: Destroyer
Album: Kaputt

Here's something nice and easy to start your (possibly) short week if you had yesterday off.  My friend Luis introduced me to Destroyer, a Canadian Indie-rock band fronted by singer-songwriter Dan Bejar.  Destroyer could be described as chamber pop, jazz influenced... I also hear a little David Bowie in there, though can't place what.  In listening to "Kaputt," their ninth album, I'm leaning toward describing them as a really edgy Kenny G.  Which sounds like a diss... it's not.

Destroyer was founded back in 1995 by Bejar, only to take a long extended break in 2000 while he went to Spain.  He since returned to Vancouver with a new album and hooked up with the New Pornographers on a couple projects.  Destroyer then began to get a following and continued their sonic development over the course of several albums in the mid '00's.  "Kaputt," their latest was released just last month.

I've only listened to "Kaputt," their latest, so I can't speak to the bands progression over the years, but in retrospect, the record seems obviously made by someone with a musical history and technique.  Their sound is, in a way, a lite-jazz take on indie-pop.  Bejar's voice reminds me of Benjamin Diamond and "Kaputt" does remind me of his latest album... small instances of electronic work, beats, synths, etc. used more for a swirling, laid-back feel vs. in-you-face production.  It's very very "nice."  Lots of saxophone.  LOTS of saxophone.

But again, this is no complaint.  Not my normal type of music, but there is something magical about Destroyer and their sound.  It's not an album filled with potential singles, more of a straight mood record.  Though it is not without its highlights.  I really liked the dreamy "Suicide for Kara Walker," and the standout track that Luis played for me initially, title-track "Kaputt."  That particular song really shows what the record is all about in the best possible light.  It's a beauty.  Check it out.



Suicide Demo for Kara Walker

Savage Night at the Opera

Friday, February 18, 2011

Lotus Flower

Song: Lotus Flower
Artist: Radiohead
Album: King of Limbs

I love Radiohead, a band who realizes that they have enough interest in them, and enough artistic integrity to avoid all the typical marketing bullshit and just get their music out there.  After the brilliant idea of self-releasing their last album, 2007's "In Rainbows" as a pay-what-you-feel directly off of their website (they have never disclosed how much they made from the record) the band just five days ago announced the release of their eighth album, "King of Limbs," which comes today.

The album will be released physically in March, but you can purchase a download of the record now right from the bands website here.

"King of Limbs" is once again produced by long-time collaborator Nigel Godrich, and was recorded from 2009 to 2011.

Upon first listen it seems to have the same vibe and downtempo feel of "In Rainbows," though seems to heavily rely on experimental sounds, stuttered beats, and overall weirdness of the "Kid A/Amnesiac" period.  (Think Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors.)

Upon the release of the album today the band posted a very odd little video for track "Lotus Flower."  Check it out below... sort of looks like the guy from Jamiroquai stuck in a David Lynch film.  Take a look and you'll see what I mean.

After being a bit disappointed in 2003's "Hail to the Thief," the only Radiohead record that did so since their debut, I was so pleasantly surprised with "In Rainbows," and album that really grew on me and I consider one of their best. I'm a little surprised how much "King of Limbs" seems to sound like it... though I will still be holding my judgement.  Like an onion, Radiohead's music always peels itself back with more layers that you don't hear at first.  I remember listening to "O.K. Computer" the first time and thinking it was WAY too slow for the rock band they had set themselves up to be... and now I listen and only hear the crazy guitar work.  Slow?

Not to worry Radiohead fans... they haven't thrown out a "Shinny Happy People," this sounds typically depressing.


Lotus Flower

Thursday, February 17, 2011

White Horse

Song: White Horse
Artist: Jessica 6
Album: White Horse

While I'm still trying to get into the new Hercules and Love Affair record, I'm realizing that one of its biggest debts, is the vocalist that just don't hold it together like Antony Hegarty and Nomi Ruiz did on the debut.  I'd gone back and gave their debut a spin and marveled at how much they sounded alike, and how much that helped that album sound like a whole.

Antony of course had his own band, the Johnsons, but Ruiz did not, and has recently formed Jessica 6 along with Andrew Raposo and Morgan Riley who put a modern spin on 70's disco and 90's house.  A little like... Hercules and Love Affair.

Jessica 6 are working on their debut album "See the Light" for release this year and have released "White Horse" as their debut single.  I've been living with it for a couple weeks and  have really gotten into it.  A throbbing, spacey disco track that is immediately elevated once Nomi Ruiz' vocals float through.

I just found that Jessica 6 released an E.P. prior with a single called "Fun Girls," a sexy dance track with chugging guitar and once again, Ruiz' killer vocals.  The E.P. contains the single and a slew of remixes.  I'm officially looking forward to hearing more form this band, this sounds great.

You can find out more about the Brooklyn-based band on their MySpace page, Facebook, or official.


Fun Girls

Good to Go (live)

Fader TV Studio Interview

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Everything's Better

Song: Everything's Better
Artist: Lola Kite
Album: Lights

Lola Kite are an electropop/rock band from Amsterdam, Netherlands, "Lights," released this year, is their debut album.

I've been really digging this album though am having trouble finding much info on the band.  Their official site is in Dutch, and while you can listen to some tunes, there isn't much info on their MySpace page.  I'll just try my best...

Lola Kite are foremost a rock band, though they use electronic/electropop elements in their songs.  There is a 60's pop vibe in there, a little surf, and some driving beats, some even dated, to bring home their particular brand of pop music. It's an odd mix, and despite not knowing much but the music itself, I'm finding myself quite charmed.

Their influences seem a bit all over the place, yet begin to make sense with more plays.  From Radiohead, Animal Collective, and Panda Bear, to Love, The Zombies, and yes the Beatles... the band looks to the 60's for their pop-psychedelic vibe, while maintaining the indie rock edge.

First single "Different Story" is filled with hand claps and world music influences, while maintaining an airy, almost space-like feel.  I'm really liking the upbeat New Wave of "Everything's Better," which chugs along with a bit of a male-lead Go-Go's vibe until the chorus kicks in, and then I hear a little "Runaway" by Del Shannon.  This is a summer by the ocean track.  Fun.

I like this bands mix of old and new sounds, with the focus on pop song craft.  Give them a listen.


Everything's Better

Different Story

Don't Stop the Music (Rihanna cover... crazy!)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Song: Satellite
Artist: The Kills
Album: Blood Pressures

The Kills are an indie rock band comprised of American singer Alison Mosshart and British guitarist Jamie Hince.  They have been around since 2000 and are set to release their fourth album "Blood Pressures" in April.

I am only familiar with the bands last release, 2008's "Midnight Boom," a noisy piece of art rock that used minor touches of electronics and a lot of attitude.  (Think Yeah, Yeah, Yeah's)  I liked that record quite a bit, and the bands kitchen sink style of producing.  Messy, cluttered, and brash... yet gets under your skin.

I really liked singles "Cheap and Cheerful," "Last Day of Magic," and "Tape Song" from that last record.  You might know of their song "Sour Cherry," which garnered some attention for appearing in "Gossip Girl."

In prepping for the release of "Blood Pressures," the band have released the song "Satellite" as the first single.  It's been a bit of a slow grower for me, but as I've been listening to it over the past two weeks it has again... got under my skin.  It's a chugging, almost dirge-like rocker, with crunchy guitar, woozy vocals, and atmospheric chanting.

The track has got me excited for the new record, and re-listening to "Midnight Boom" as I write this makes me realize how much I dug that record... I think it'll get a couple spins today.



Tape Song

Last Day of Magic

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sing Me to Sleep

Song: Sing Me to Sleep
Artist: Fran Healy
Album: Wreckorder

I've been meaning to write about this record for several months now.  It got lost in the shuffle before the end of last year, the holidays, and then year-end best of lists.  Travis frontman Fran Healy released his first solo album last October to very little fanfare... though about the same was given to the last Travis album, 2008's "Ode to J. Smith."

I was a pretty big Travis fan back in the day despite the band's range being very limited.  They were Keane before Keane was Keane, they pre-date Coldplay, and released two truly amazing piano/soft-rock albums; 1999's "The Man Who," and 2001's "The Invisible Band."  There are great moments on every Travis album truth be told, and with Healy acting as the chief songwriter, it's no surprise that "Wreckorder" sounds very much like another Travis record.

Once of the things I've always liked most about Travis' music was Healy's voice, which on "Wreckorder" comes in like an old friend.  "Pretty" would be the best way to describe it, and the music follows suit.  Lead single "Buttercups," is a sweet love-over-money jangly ballad, but the song that stood out to me upon listening was a duet with Neko Case, "Sing Me to Sleep."  It has a dark, desert-at-night vibe to it, and Neko's vocals give it this haunting, beautiful quality... very nice song.

Fran Healy makes nice, pretty music in an age where nice pretty music doesn't get much attention.  Shame really... but here I am talking about the album some five-months later while I'm hung up on attention grabbing pop music.  Oh well.  This is a good record, take a listen to some of the tracks below.


Sing Me to Sleep



Friday, February 11, 2011

Born This Way

Song: Born This Way
Artist: Lady Gaga
Album: Born This Way

Over the two and a half years that has been Lady Gaga's entire career it's become clear that she is not a flash in the pan.  I've been really enjoying her since her debut "The Fame" and was pretty blown away by her mini-release "The Fame Monster" which was written as bonus tracks for a re-release of the debut.  But with "Bad Romance," "Telephone," and "Alejandro" included, some of her biggest hits... it was clear this woman had something going on.  And was just getting started.

Today sees the release of her new single "Born This Way," from the album of the same name which will come out in May.  "Born This Way" the album will either cement her as the mega-star of this generation or will show a few cracks in her rocket ship to relevance.  Everything she's done has been bigger than the thing before, a hard track to follow... so what of "Born This Way?"

Given her passion and commitment in 2010 to the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, as well as champion for her "Little Monsters," she's been an advocate to all who are different in whatever way.  And "Born This Way" the single is meant as an anthem for the freaks.  But how much can be done by a single pop song?

Well by years end in 2010 we saw the repeal of DADT... and in a wild out-on-a-limb prediction, WeCastMusic is going on record to say that by the end of 2011, Lady Gaga will have established herself as not only a superstar on the level of Madonna, Prince, and Michael Jackson, but as also someone who has influenced the youth of the world toward a new wave of tolerance and inclusion and away from hate and prejudice.  Overreaching?  Well listen to "Born This Way."

I've listened to this track about a dozen times this AM.  At first I was unsure... but now as I get to the end of writing this I can not only say that I hear another smash hit, but that this track solidifies this woman as a songwriting force.  She set out to write a club banging self-empowerment anthem for anyone who's felt sidelined by who they are.   And she's done it.

I'll say no more now... but I honestly think I've found a new favorite song.

Readers I may have officially drank the Kool-Aid.  But I'm officially Gaga.

Happy Fucking Friday.


Born This Way

Grammy Performance

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Under Cover of Darkness

Song: Under Cover of Darkness
Artist: The Strokes
Album: Angels

The Strokes are back!  After a long break that saw solo records and other music projects from various members, the band has gotten back together for their first album since the relative critical and commercial sidestep, "First Impressions of Earth" from 2006.  A five-year break and the longest the band has waited between albums.

I've actually really missed this band.  After their breakthrough debut record "Is This It" and their better (in my opinion) sophomore album "Room on Fire," the band changed the style of their music on their third album and despite two killer singles, "Jukebox" and "You Only Live Once," the album left me cold, like it did many.  It seems the band felt this hard, and put the Strokes on hold for five years, an eon in the world of rock & roll.

Their fourth album entitled "Angels" is purportedly a back to basics effort with the band already calling it their best since "Is This It."  From the initial guitar rush of first single "Under Cover of Darkness," this seems pretty evident.  There is a certain immediate comfort in the sound of this song that bounces me back to playing "Room on Fire" (and their debut) non-stop for a period of time.  I've liked the solo work that's come out during their hiatus, but it just didn't pop like The Strokes music... and hearing this new song brings it all back to me.  It seems Julian's vocals are mixed a bit different then usual... taking a bit of a back seat to the music... and it seems the vocal treatment that is usually given to his voice isn't there... or is different a bit.  It's hard to describe.

If you haven't heard their first two albums rush out and get them NOW.  You won't be disappointed, and it will give you an itch for "Angels" that will be appeased in March upon release.


Under Cover of Darkness


I Can't Win

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Hard Day

Song: Hard Day
Artist: George Michael
Album: Faith (Remastered)

Back in 1987 I received George Michael's "Faith" on cassette under the Christmas tree, along with a SONY Walkman.  At that point the single "Faith" was still dominating the charts and Michael was just releasing third single "Father Figure."  I remember going out hunting with my father and his buddies only to have "Faith" blaring in my ears on repeat the entire time.  I'm certain that good old George never conceived his pop-funk & R&B odyssey ever being played while stalking deer in knee-deep snow... but that's my life.  I wore that "Faith" cassette out actually... and had to buy a second copy.  The only piece of music I've ever had to do so.

This year, twenty-four after its release, "Faith" is being remastered and re-released as a two-disc set with bonus material.  (There is also a version with a DVD, and a Limited Edition Box set that includes a Vinyl pressing of the album as well as hard cover book and other special extras that'll run ya almost $170.)  The second disc contains a couple b-sides, remixes, and instrumentals.

"Faith" was Michael's first solo album after five years in Wham.  It followed two successful singles that were released while Wham was still together but billed just to Michael.  "A Different Corner," and then the smash "Careless Whisper," which was billed as "Wham featuring George Michael" here in the states.

Upon reading about just how successful the album was I was pretty blown away.  Take a gander at this:

-"Faith" was 1988's top selling single, where "Careless Whisper" held the title for 1985
-George was the first British act to have two top selling singles in the US since the Beatles did it in 1968 with "Hey Jude," after 1964's "I Want to Hold Your Hand"
-It garnered six top-5 singles, five of which went to number 1
-He's the only British artist ever to have four number one singles in the top 100 at the same time
-The album had 51 consecutive weeks in the top 10 (!!!) including twelve weeks at number 1
-It was the first album by a white artist to go number 1 on the R&B charts
-It was the best selling album of 1988 in the US
-It's the 52nd best selling album in US chart history and has total sales of 25 million worldwide
-It won Album of the Year at the 31st Annual Grammy Awards

Crazy impressive.

Six of the nine tracks from the album were released as singles making it the pop-funk & R&B "Sgt. Pepper."  From the then controversial "I Want Your Sex," to the peppy "Faith" and funk of "Monkey" as well as killer ballads "One More Try" and "Kissing a Fool" not to mention the originally dance-oriented production "Father Figure," which Michael altered when he liked the sound of the track minus the snare drum.

One of my favorite tracks from the album, the Prince inspired "Hard Day" was only released as a promo single here in the States, but never officially, no video was ever made.  The song COULD have been another huge hit for the singer I feel, though probably album-fatigue prevented it from being released.  Too bad, as I feel it's one that fell through the cracks a bit.  Though given the albums selling power, you probably know it even if it never impacted the radio.  I love that Michael sped up his voice (a-la Prince) for the "female" parts of the song.  It gives it a strange sexy vibe to it.  Hot.

Re-listening to "Faith" is a reminder of just how amazing Michael was as an artist, which has possibly been a bit marred by his personal struggles.  And while it does sound a touch dated, I think it really holds up.  I'm not sure it will exactly find a new audience with this re-release but it's worth noting anyhow as an amazing pop achievement.


Hard Day (Live During Faith Tour)


Father Figure

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Nobody Knows You

Song: Nobody Knows You
Artist: The Office
Album: Mecca

How quickly we forget...

Way back in 2006 (!!!) I highlighted the Chicago-based band The Office after my good friend Rob gave me a copy of their self-produced & released album "Q&A."  I loved the record and knew they had just signed to a new label (Scratchie Records) with plans to re-record earlier tracks, including those on "Q&A" for their "first" album.  Well, I forgot about The Office, until my friend Cicely mentioned "Q&A" and how much she liked them.  Oh right!

Well, since 2006 the band did release that first record, "A Night at The Ritz" in 2007 and also a follow up, "Mecca" from 2009.  "Ritz" was a blast from the past here and there with some of my favorite tracks from "Q&A"; "Wound Up," "The Big Bang Jump," sounding great with a couple new tracks I didn't know.  "Mecca," which I've also been listening to, is more of the same in the best way, guitar-driven pop that's catchy, crunchy, with memorable melodies all over the place.  Welcome back!

Admittedly, these two albums are running together for me as I've been devouring them simultaneously, save for those tracks that I did recognize from their previous album.  But I've been yearning for some rock music to connect with and these two albums fit the bill.  And, I was happy that the move to a label didn't hinder their sound at all, and "Mecca" proves they're not flashes in the pan... though I have not ONCE heard about these guys mentioned, even in indie rock circles.  But maybe I'm just not talking to the right people.

There aren't many clips available on YouTube but check out the below to get an idea of their sound.  I'm loving "Nobody Knows You," "Enter Me, Exit You," and "Everything You've Witnessed" from "Mecca."  Check this band out if you haven't.


Enter Me, Exit You

Wound Up

The Big Bang Jump

Monday, February 07, 2011


Song: OMG
Artist: The Streets
Album: Computers and Blues

It was way back in March of last year that a reported leak of The Streets fifth and reported final album "Computers and Blues" hit the web and upon a couple listens, it seemed that save for a track here and there, Mike Skinner, who is The Streets, had lost the plot and like the last Streets record, 2009's "Everything is Borrowed" had boiled a unique sound he created down to indifference.  But that was just a leak, the actual album comes out this week, and is possibly the best he's done since his killer sophomore album, "A Grand Don't Come For Free."

While I don't quite understand Skinner's reasoning for dissolving the name "The Streets," something about being "fucking sick" of the name and the connotations it came with.  Since I'm not immersed in the London grime/pop scene I don't know what he's talking about... but after the disappointment of "Everything is Borrowed," maybe he just needed to regroup.  Which he has.

Not since that aformentioned heights of "A Grand Don't Come for Free" has Skinner's work sounded so vital and assured.  The more I listen to "Computers and Blues" I'm starting to think it's going to be considered either a fitting ending on a high note or even a "why did he stop now?!?!" missed opportunity  at great music in the future.  Regardless... listen to this new Streets album NOW.

It must be frustrating to feel like all future work is being measured up to a past glory but the truth is, "A Grand Don't Come For Free" was the perfect culmination of what The Streets could and should be.  Skinner is best at spitting story/songs about lower middle class working lives (and loves) so a concept album about searching for a lost thousand quid while dealing with blokes and birds on top of some serious catchy tunes and top notch humor worked.  The follow up was pretty good, but Skinner had become a superstar, so while the humor and beats were solid, something felt a miss from the king of blue collar suddenly coming into a lot of cash.  Despite that, "When You Wasn't Famous" was still pretty hysterical.

On "Blues," Skinner has figured it all out and gotten back to what he does best.  First single "Going Through Hell" isn't the banger that we've come to expect from the man in first single mode, it's more like a monster truck of a song with a big dark guitar riff and a call to arms to take control of your life despite the difficulty.  Things get practically sunny on "Roof of Your Car," an upbeat tune that ponders the growing technology of our world with a simple view of the stars.  The album is filled with Skinners ruminations on life, matched with some of his most upbeat and catchy music in years.  I'm loving "Puzzled By People," "Without Thinking," "Those That Don't Know," and "Soldiers."

When Skinner wrote "Dry Your Eyes" for "A Grand" he probably knew he'd taken his art to a different level, but probably didn't know he'd written a cultural anthem.  It's the heart of the album, and you couldn't fault him for trying to recreate that heartbreak for "Easy Living's" "Never Went to Church."  That heart-on-a-string songwriting is back with "We Can Never Be Friends," which relies on a simple beat and acoustic guitar.  But it's not the heart of this album.  That goes to the emotional, joyous, and very modern love song "OMG."  It's another story-song and filled with so much cute pulled-from-life moments and taps into Skinner's every-bloke in love bit.  It's also just as catchy as it is emotional.  I love it.

Thankfully, the one track that does remain from last years leak is "Trust Me," the song that really popped out to me as something new, fresh, and the right direction for The Streets.  It's the banger that maybe SHOULD have been the first single.  But is also great hearing as the second to last track as it sounds like a victory lap now, not a diamond in the rough as it did from last years leak.  The album ends with "Lock the Locks," a jazzy track that seems to be a fitting ending.

I'm really happy with this record, check it out.



Going Through Hell

Trust Me

Friday, February 04, 2011

Better Off Dead

Song: Better Off Dead
Artist: The Sounds
Album: Something to Die For

I've been a fan of Sweden's The Sounds since their 2002 debut "Living in America."  They've always reminded me of Blondie, a dance-rock band with a dynamic blonde singer, in The Sounds case, the beautiful Maja Ivarsson.  Their fourth album, "Something to Die For," is set to be released at the end of March.  The first single, "Better Off Dead," was released this week.

Aside from single "No One Sleeps When I'm Awake," I was a bit disappointed with their third album, 2009's "Crossing the Rubicon," especially after it seemed the band really honed their sound on their excellent sophomore album, 2006's "Dying to Say This to You."

I've only gotten to hear two tracks from the new album but their both pretty excellent.  Title-track "Something to Die For" is a fun disco-rock rave-up, very Sounds, very fun.  A steady beat, toy piano, and some Cars-like synths churn together in a pretty irresistible New Wave package.  Fist single "Better Off Dead" is a bit different.  This one slowly grows once it begins, until a serious beat kicks in around :45 seconds in, and then explodes into more New Wave bliss a minute in. Good stuff.  And the breakdown about half-way through the track is pretty insane.  Nice!

Well, with two thus-far solid tracks already, I'm pretty excited about "Something to Die For."  The band hasn't had a breakthrough track yet in their career and maybe it's here.  We'll see if this fourth record has the charm.


Better Off Dead

Something to Die For

Tony the Beat

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Painted Eyes

Song:  Painted Eyes
Artist: Hercules and Love Affair
Album: Blue Songs

Hercules and Love Affair's 2008 self-titled debut ranked as one of my favorites of that year with their single, "Blind" being one of my favorite tracks of that year and several before and since.  A 70's disco throwback that also recalled late 80's house and something quite new and exciting.  New York-based DJ Andy Butler called the group a "project," pulling in a variety of vocalist, producers and musicians, most notably DFA producer Tim Goldsworthy and vocalist Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons.  I've been eager to hear a follow-up, and the sophomore set, "Blue Songs," was just released this Monday.

I heard first single "My House," a couple months back and was slightly underwhelmed.  It didn't have near the urgency of "Blind," nor the hooks, and while "Blind" seemed retro AND forward-thinking at the same time, "My House" just felt retro.  But it is now clear, upon hearing all of "Blue Songs," that there is a lesson in managing expectations here.  It's not really the same Hercules and Love Affair of their debut, and this 2.0 version has a different M.O.

This time around, Butler has teamed up with producer Mark Pistel, best known for his work with Disposable Heroes of Hipocracy, and Industrial heroes of the past Consolidated and Meat Beat Manifesto as well as producer Patrick Pulsinger.  Also new are vocalists Aerea Negrot and Shauwn Wright.  Now admittedly, nobody wants to be compared to Antony Hegarty because... NOBODY sounds like Antony, but I'm not really feeling the two new vocalists as they also don't hold up to the work of Nomi Ruiz from the debut.  But again, Butler has always noted that HLA were a "project," so this new band of collaborators, and shift in sound, should be pretty expected.

"Blue Songs" really goes for the late 80's House vibe and is culminated within the first single.  Despite initially sounding dated, "My House" does come alive on the album.  (Check out the equally retro video below.) A deep beat and fly buzzing noises start the track and soon make way for some soulful vocals that make the chorus sing.  "But my house is in order" sings Shaun Wright, a clever pun that seems like it should have been done before this.  I'm liking this more and more, despite it not holding a candle to "Blind."

I also like the moody, dark, opening track "Painted Eyes" that utilizes the strings found also on "Blind."  Their use could possibly be the segue from the sound of the first record to this set.  I'm not sure what Butler was thinking with "Boy Blue," which comes in halfway and almost drags the album to a complete halt.  It's followed by the also slow"Blue Song," but it's a bit of an improvement... a great early AM chill out track.  Things pick back up with "Falling," a chugging disco stomp that twirls with the best of them.

The last couple tracks pick things up and upon my third listen I'm starting to think less about the debut and more about "Blue Sings" itself.  So this one may require some good patience to get into.  Though, if you know nothing of Hercules, and are HUGE into late-80's/90's House... this record may be a revelation.  It all ends with an oddly limp cover of Sterling Void's "It's All Right" made more famous by the Pet Shop Boys version, "It's Alright."  It's a dramatic and slightly off-putting closer that sort of fits with how you feel when first digesting "Blue Songs."

But this one might be a grower.


Painted Eyes

My House