Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My Body

Song: My Body
Artist: Young the Giant
Album: Young the Giant

This years MTV Video Music Awards for me did more than last year to make me feel old.  It was hard to wrap my head around someone like Justin Bieber being highlighted on that show (shouldn't he be on a TeenNick award show?) but was even more-so to see that he was kind of an elder this year with a pretty girl on his arm and a look of bored detachment that would be fitting on a much older nineteen year old.

I won't bore you with my geezer-esque "in my day" bullshit... the show had some nice highlights, Gaga dressed as a male alter ego for the opening performance of "You and I," and then the rest of the evening, Dave Grohl anytime he was on screen, Russell Brand's Winehouse tribute, Tyler the Creator's acceptance speech for Best New Artist, Adele's quiet performance that was good but seemed out of place, and the introduction to an indie-rock band I'd never heard of, Young the Giant performing their excellent single "My Body."

Rock & Roll hasn't been present much at MTV in the last few years... but that's more because that's just not what is popular right now.  Mr. Grohl noted this as they won the one rock award, and I was thankful they cut to him when Queen's Brian May came out for a guitar solo in the Gaga song, as his fists in the air and genuine joy at the spectacle was a stark contrast to most of the room who were still reeling that Gaga was dressed up as Ralph Macchio.  Their faces were mostly; "WTF... who is this old guy?"  Big sigh.

So it was nice for a rock band to come out of nowhere and play the show, and even better that their performance was a star-making turn with a peppy song that I can't stop listening to since then.  I don't think the rest of the audience was on the same wavelength, but oh well.

So who are Young the Giant?  Well they are an Irvine, California band signed to Roadrunner Records and have been promoting their self-titled debut album that came out earlier this May.  "My Body" is a corker... the rest of the album seems good, still listening but it's at times rollicking, and others just quiet pretty guitar-rock.  Though according to Pitchfork, these guys are corporate sell-outs... like "fourth-tier alt-rock bands of the early 2000's."  A indie-rock by numbers band that simply is cashing in on the popularity of indie-rock much in the way Candlebox with grunge.  Again, big sigh.

Though if there is anything that I can take away form all of this is that I care less and less what is authentic or hot, or cred-worthy... whatever.  I like music that MOVES me.  And "My Body," and Young the Giants performance really got my attention.  In a room full, and an award show filled with such... it's noteworthy to feel anything.  Other than absolute boredom and detachment.


My Body
Guns Out

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

On the Beach

Song: On the Beach
Artist: Dinka
Album: Tales of the Sun

As the summer winds down I've been trying to go through my playlists and see if there was anything I missed WeCasting that I really enjoyed.  There really isn't all THAT much (it's been an all-Gaga Summer mostly) but I forgot about this album, Dinka's "Tales of the Sun," which was on rotation a lot in the office, and when I wanted a little "background" music.

In general, I kind of loathe the term "background music" because there just isn't much of that type of music that I identify with.  If music is on... how can you NOT be listening and taking it all in?  But I can own up to a little ambient at night or in the AM, and after several years of hanging out at gay pool destinations, I have succumbed to enjoying what I used to describe as "faceless gay house music."  Ugh.

And that is exactly what Dinka's music is... background beats, mostly instrumental, it is upbeat, but yet still could be considered background music.  Really, not my typical thing.  But this album, after listening to it since June, began to feel like a journey, an hour-plus journey through different summer moods.  Sometimes it even bordered on New Age-ish house-fusion ("Campfire") and yet remains a consistent solid listen.

Like jazz (but not like jazz at all) certain types of house music becomes unrecognizable to me.  A song or album could go on for fifteen minutes without hearing much of a change... just not the type of thing I gravitate toward.  But hanging by a pool this summer and hearing this, yes faceless beat-heavy music, I realized that it's okay to have a little background less attention-grabbing music on the right occasion. (JUST like jazz!) I'm not ready to dig in and find what's best or even different when it comes to this genre, so when I came across Dinka, and "Tales of the Sun" it became my go-to for this type of music.

So readers... if you have been searching all summer for that perfect hour-plus of "faceless gay house music," here you go!  But really, it's better than all of that... and with song titles like "On the Beach," "Great Barrier Reef," and of course the title track... you realize this was built as a summer album.

Well, like a lot of ummm... faceless gay house music, I could find very little about Dinka.  They have a MySpace page, though I don't think it's even been updated since the release of this album.  The more I dig I see Dinka described as "progressive house," which is what I thought Deadmau5 was... and they sound nothing alike.  I guess I'm just a house novice.

Summer's almost over, but the groove can last forever! ;)


On the Beach
Reach for Me
Motion Picture

Monday, August 29, 2011


Song: Radioactive
Artist: Marina and the Diamonds
Album: Radioactive

As longtime readers know, I was pretty taken with Welsh singer-songwriter Marina and the Diamonds when she first emerged with the gonzo single "Mowgli's Road," and then the official full-length album "The Family Jewels," which did the best thing an of-the-internet-age album could do... get you excited with a handful of killer songs that get leaked, and then surprise with an album that contains a handful of other great tracks vs. a bunch of filler.  She didn't take off in quite the way I thought she might, but that might ultimaely change.

After touring the world on her own promoting "The Family Jewels," and her off beat brand of pop music, she oddly joined Katy Perry as opener for her "California Dreams" tour.  While I do like Katy Perry, I was unsure if her fans would take to a true oddball like Marina.  It certainly didn't garner her a big hit single, but the gig proved to be a clue to a new direction.  Marina is going pop, in a pretty big way.

Just recently the BBC released a brand new Marina single, "Radioactive," for her as-yet-scheduled-for-release sophomore album "Electra Heart."  It's quite a surprise, a Stargate (Ne Yo's "Closer," Beyonce's "Irreplaceable") produced dance track that's way less piano-driven quirky pop song with dance beats, and way more straight-up Euro trance.  Umm... what? ?!?!?!

It turns out, despite mentioning that "Electra Heart" is "mainly about female sexuality and feminism," that it must also be about big pop hooks as she's working with hit makers Guy Sigsworth, Diplo, Greg Kurstin, and Dr. Luke to name a few.   Our quirky Welsh possible taker of the Kate Bush/Tori Amos freak-chick crown wants to have the same people on her speed dial as Ke$ha?  And now she's blonde?  And a spokeswoman for makeup king Max Factor?  Okay...

All of that said, I actually like "Radioactive."  I'm not into trance that much (though have been digesting a new trance album that I most likely will be WeCasting soon...) but like Marina's trademark deep voice with the euphoric in-the-clouds beats.  In a way it's unmistakable Marina, despite having a very different sound.  It's easy for a hipster to be cynical about all of this... and yet it's hitting all of my dance-pop buttons.  And an acoustic version that's been released at the same time just proves... there is a Marina song in there as the base.

What do you think of this new sound?


Radioactive (acoustic)
Radioactive (How to Dress Well Re-work)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Secret Weapon

Song: Secret Weapon
Artist: The Whip
Album: Wired Together

I really loved Oldham, Greater Manchester electro-rock band The Whip's debut album "X Marks Destination" which came out in 2008 in the UK and here in the States the following year.  Another band I hadn't really been keeping up with that just so happens to be releasing a new album this year.

"Wired Together" continues the band's electro-rock/dance sound, but seems even more focused and tighter than their debut.  It starts off very strong with the spacey, then throbbing, "Keep or Delete," that builds slowly and explodes in the chorus.  Even better is second track "Secret Weapon," which starts punchy and sunny.  It's clear the band has paid specific attention to making their chorus' a bit more memorable and punchy.

I didn't notice it when I was first introduced to the band, but reminding myself that they are from Manchester, I am hearing a lot of 'Madchester' sound to their brand of electro-rock.  A little Stone Roses, a little Happy Mondays... and the lead singer sounds a bit like the lead of the Charlatans.  Maybe it's just that with "Wired Together," the band seems to be writing tighter songs vs. the experimental dance of their debut.

After The Rapture and the new Cicada records, I'm swimming in possibly great new albums that I need to give more time to.  But upon a couple listens, "Wired Together" seems to be joining the list.  Check this one out.


Secret Weapon
Keep or Delete
The Whip talk about their new album

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Come Together

Song: Come Together
Artist: Cicada
Album: Sunburst

I discovered the U.K.'s indie dance/nu-disco band Cicada from their excellent sophomore album, 2009's "Roulette."  I first heard a remix of single "Metropolis," then fell in love with the album and tracks "Falling Rockets," "Psycho Thrills," and "Executive."  It was one of the best dance records to come out that year.

I was pleasantly surprised to see the band was putting out a new record this year, and have been just diving into "Sunburst" over the last couple days.  Like "Roulette," "Sunburst" has a range of guest vocalists singing the tracks, and a couple instrumentals thrown in there.  It's not a pop dance record, but it's not really a house record either... it's just... it's good.

After a brief intro, the album jumps into "Come Together" with some stuttered beats, male vocals, and some blips and beats.  I dig the chorus, and like the dirty groove and sexy vibe.  Second track "Hit My Ego" rides a delicious bass groove and melds elements of 70's disco and mid 2000's dance-rock.  Next is first single "Fast Cars," which for some reason sounds like it could come off of "Roulette," giving me shades of the underwater theme from that album.  It's souring and a bit transcendental... this is what Cicada does best.

The album begins to take an almost world music dance vibe as it continues.  There is an Indian element to "Magnetic," with some of it sung in what I think is Punjabi.  And instrumental "Woh!" has a Miami-flamenco feel to it.  Each track is solid though as the album continues, including a sequel or remake of sorts of "Roulette's" "Don't Stare at the Sun," this time subtitled "(revisit.)"  It's a neat way to tie the records together, beyond the ocean/water themes of that record, and the "sun" motif here.  (these are minor, and I may be reaching in their intention.)

This is an album to get up and dance to, listen on a long ride, or clean the house.  It's not all catchy hooks and instantly gratifying... but works as a full album and journey.  Cicada are doing something special in the dance world, making true dance albums.


Come Together
Fast Cars
Hit My Ego

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

How Deep is Your Love?

Song: How Deep is Your Love?
Artist: The Rapture
Album: In the Grace of Your Love

A slew of new albums are being released by bands I really love and I've been trying to absorb them as much as possible.  After a ho-hum musical summer... I'm excited for some old standbys to hit me with some quality material.  It had been so long since New York City's The Rapture released their amazing second full-length album, 2006's "Pieces of the People We Love," that I'd stopped checking in on them to find out when new music was coming.  So it was a pleasant surprise to find out that their long anticipated new record, "In the Grace of Your Love" would be coming out early this September.

The band are returning to the DFA label after briefly being on Motown/Universal for "Pieces."  This time they have recruited Phoenix and Cassius producer Philippe Zdar for the album, which was recorded in Paris and Brooklyn.  The sound of this record is much less polished (and catchy) than "Pieces," to the point that I must say... I was a little disappointed.  But after living with the album for a couple days, it is starting to take shape for me.  It's much more "live" sounding, yet contains their hallmark dance-rock sound.

Embarrassingly, I only know big single "House of Jealous Lovers" from their debut "Echoes," which had a distinctly DFA-esque sound to it.  I thought that "Pieces" took that sound and made it... well, more radio friendly.  Which may be two very dirty words to the indie-hipster crowd.  It's possible that The Rapture wanted to do something a little more down and dirty for their next album... or simply, try a new sound on a new record.  But managing expectations aside, the record is filled with some gems... and subsequent listens may unfold its brilliance even more.

"Sail Away" begins the album with lead singer Luke Jenner's pleading vocals and a persistent beat, exploding into an orgy of synths, hi-hat, and guitar.  It immediately sounds like The Rapture, and yet my initial reaction was that it didn't hold the punch of say a "Get Myself Into It," or "The Devil," but was a little "House of Jealous Lovers..." but then at the three-and-a-half minute mark it goes all spacey/jazzy freak out.  WTF?  Second track "Miss You" starts with a sole bass line and then a strut-worthy beat.  As the song begins to build I started to hear Yeasayer... Jenner even sounds a bit like Chris Keating.  Third track "Blue Bird" has a Brit-Pop/Psychedelia feel that seems very out of character for the band... but it's good.

I love the French-sounding, throbbing track "Come Back to Me," and then the slower, atmospheric title track.  The fun gets amped up as the record goes along while I hear echos of everyone from Talking Heads to The Drums.  Lead single "How Deep is Your Love?" is tucked toward the end of the record, but it's a doozy... a six-and-a-half minute epic with house-style piano, glacial synths, and hand-claps.  Pretty awesome.

While I did have some initial disappointment, and difficulty picking a track to highlight off this record without a clear stand-out grabber, the more I listen the more this album is getting to me.  It's not as instant as their previous work, but I'm getting the impression that this is a grower.


How Deep is Your Love?
Sail Away
Come Back to Me

Monday, August 22, 2011


Song: Blommorna
Artist: Jonathan Johansson
Album: Blommorna

Jonathan Johansson is a Swedish singer-songwriter who is set to release his third album in 2011.

That's about all I know Johansson.

Here is his official website.  It's in Swedish... so that didn't help me.

His new single "Blommorna" is also in Swedish, so I don't know what he's singing about.

But "Bloomorna" is instantly gorgeous.  A moody, synth-driven, joy that trancends my language barrier and has been on repeat because it's so gorgeous.  Check it out.


Aldrig Ensam
En Hand i Himlen

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Bring it On (Path to the Mind and the Soul and the Spirit)

Song: Bring it On (Path to the Mind and the Soul and the Spirit)
Artist: Stereo MC's
Album: Emperors Nightingale

If you're like me, you fondly remember Stereo MC's one big international hit, "Connected" from the album of the same name back in 1992, but haven't realized they've been releasing records ever since.  Who knew?  I actually only just got that full album a little over a year ago when I was doing research on Mercury Prize winners/nominees of the past.  That album was actually pretty good, and didn't sound as dated as I'd expect.

As much as I loved "Connected" the song back in the day and for a good spin now and then as it's such a party starter and one everyone knows, the album didn't blow me away enough to look into what they'd been up to, but they've been consistently releasing records and are about to release their 7th proper album, and fourth post-"Connected."  "Emperors Nightingale" is set for release later this month, and I took a listen out of curiosity and was surprised by two big things... one, it was a pretty enjoyable listen from start to finish, steering clear of the British Rap style that grows pretty grating.  But second... and this is a big second for me, they managed to take my least favorite new style of music, Dubstep, and used it sparingly to create a rather nice blend of "now" production and electro-pop songwriting.  Nice.

While there isn't anything as immediate as "Connected" here, the album remains strong and consistent throughout.  I liked the tempo-hoping first track "Boy" featuring Jamie Cullum, as well as the more hard-hitting "Manner" and groovy "Far Out Feeling."  "Feeling" is also notable because it not only incorporates Dubstep, but another, thankfully dying, genre I couldn't stand from the past... Drum and Bass.  But what is so masterful, in my opinion, is that they were able to use these sounds sparingly to the song, vs. making them the song.  It really works.  "Bring it On (Path to the Mind and the Soul and the Spirit)" is the most "Connected"-like track and also sparingly uses the Dubstep... it sounds as if on a see-saw with sounds from the past and the present.  It's the one that could nab them another worldwide hit.

This is a groovy little record from a band that's still got it.  It's not mind-blowing enough for me to go back through their discography to see what I missed, but I think it's worth a listen if it comes to you.  Nice.


Bring it On (Path to the Mind and he Soul and the Spirit)

Far Out Feeling

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Beat of My Drum

Song: Beat of My Drum
Artist: Nicola Roberts
Album: Cinderella's Eyes

I hated M.I.A.'s last album.  I found it tuneless, hostile to its audience, and a real about-face in terms of what her debut and stellar sophomore album were all about.  M.I.A. got a lot of credit for her music, bringing the political edge to her persona, and yet... when you hear something produced by her main collaborators, Switch and/or Diplo, you no doubt end up saying "Wow, this sort of sounds like M.I.A."  I did that when listening to Nicola Roberts' debut single "Beat of My Drum," though it's really just a dumb pop song.  Or had a baton been passed by M.I.A.'s "XXXO?"

Regardless, I've been enjoying "Beat of My Drum" here and there for its goofy charm and had no idea who Nicola Roberts was.  Despite my pop leanings and infatuation with Euro-pop and U.K. music, I didn't know that Roberts was one fifth of the British public formed (via TV program Popstars: The Rivals) group Girls Aloud, who have garnered twenty top ten singles, four of which went to number one.  I know none of them.  Well they have gone on hiatus, after amassing a joint twenty-five million pound fortune, Nicola has created a line of cosmetics, become a vocal advocate against the use of sunbeds by minors, (!!!) and started her own solo career.  Man-oh-man.

The album, "Cinderella's Eyes," is being released next month, and recently second single "Lucky Day" has just been released in anticipation.  "Day" is a bit more standard club fair, but I actually like it quite a bit.  And "Drum," in retrospect, is kind of out there for a pop single... and a reminder that Britney using a little Dubstep in a breakdown isn't exactly "future pop." But "Drum" is pop, and with Diplo at the helm, you will hear the M.I.A. comparisons.  But what is really mind-blowing, is how catchy this track is, compared to the Diplo-assisted, MUCH more high profile, Beyonce single "Run the World," which didn't catch fire anywhere.

I doubt Nicola will have much success here in the States, her sound is very British... and yet, a listen to this and you'll no doubt have "Dance to the beat of my drum!" shouting in your head back to you.


Beat of My Drum
Lucky Day
The Promise (a Girls Aloud single and BRIT Awards winner)

Monday, August 15, 2011

No More Michael Jackson

Song: No More Michael Jackson
Artist: Teddybears
Album: No More Michael Jackson

Sweden's Teddybears didn't seem to get the same attention with their last album, 2010's "Devil's Music," as they did with what I think as their breakthrough, 2006's "Soft Machine."  Though I think they sold just about every song from that record to some commercial to push their music forward.   I actually thought "Devil's Music" was pretty okay, but didn't hold up to "Machine."  Yet truth be told, a lot of "Soft Machine" was comprised of music from other albums, re-recorded material, and the like.  Oh well.

They seem to have staled with singles from that album, stopping after just two... "Buy Mama a House," and "Rocket Scientist," which I highlighted last year.   But they are back with a four-track EP and the title track says it all... "No More Michael Jackson."

I don't see this one being used in any commercials, but like its electro-build up and propulsive beat.

It's fun, even if sadly... there is no more Michael Jackson.  It then reminded me of that old Fatboy Slim track...

The other three tracks on the EP are pretty solid, with the Daft Punk-esque "Cole" a mind-blower.


No More Michael Jackson
Cho Cha (w/Ceee-Lo & The B-52's) from "Devil's Music

Friday, August 12, 2011

Solid Ground

Song: Solid Ground
Artist: Pnau
Album: Soft Universe

Well readers... I've just had my mind blown doing research this AM about Pnau, a band I didn't really know at all but have been listening to, and enjoying their latest album, "Soft Universe" for a couple weeks. So I got the album just before I got the Foster the People album and was surprised at how much both bands reminded me of Australia's Empire of the Sun, which got me wondering when on earth they'd be releasing some new material.  Regardless, I was digging these two new albums from what I assumed were new bands.  Well Foster the People, who I mentioned sounded less and less like Empire to me the more I listened, are enjoying some success with the song I highlighted on Monday, "Pumped Up Kicks" from their debut.  (I was surprised to see them in the top ten of the iTunes chart on Tuesday just after I highlighted them, getting more notice than I's realized.)  Friend and reader Jeff just saw them last night opening up for Cut Copy in Prospect Park... so I'm interested in hearing how they were.

But about Pnau...

I took another listen to "Soft Universe" yesterday as I knew I wanted to highlight the album as the last of the week.  Well, I realized how much I really liked it and unlike Foster the People, the more I listened to Pnau, the more I did think they sounded like Empire of the Sun.  So this AM as I decide to read up about the band I find out they are a duo from Australia, (Nick Littlemore & Peter Hayes) they formed in 2009, this is actually their fourth album, and one-half of the duo is Nick Littlemore... who is half of Empire of the Sun. WHAT?!?!?  [mind blown]

So Pnau has the huge history in Australia, and their self-titled release from 2007 garnered the praise of Elton John, who called it one of the best records of the decade.  One of the songs, "With You Forever" was co-written with friend and collaborator Luke Steele.  After the success of "Pnau,"  Littlemore began working with Steele on a side project which became... Empire of the Sun.  Back in 2009, in regards to Empire of the Sun, it seemed Littlemore had dissapeared... but it turned out he was working on a new Pnau album with Elton John.  Hence... "Soft Universe."  [again, mind blown]

So this all comes together for me... and "Soft Universe" is actually pretty great.  It is very Empire of the Sun, so if you're a fan of that band and you, like me, have never heard of Pnau you must check this out.  (I'm going back to check out their earlier material, especially the self-titled album.)  My absolute favorite tracks are single "Solid Ground," "Unite Us" and the whistle-filled "Epic Fail."  They crackle with the catchy electro-pop sound of Empire with a little less weird.  I really really like it.

I'm recommending this album though am not going to get into too much detail about it as I've already rambled on enough.  I still sort of can't get over that this is the Empire of the Sun guy... but good to know as I assume a new Empire record is much further down the line now.  If at all...


Solid Ground
Epic Fail
The Truth

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Get in Line

Song: Get in Line
Artist: I'm From Barcelona
Album: Forever Today

I was a big fan of the 2006 debut album by Sweden's "I'm From Barcelona," but was put off my their sophomore slump of a second record, "Who Killed Harry Houdini?" from 2008.  The same poppy magic just wasn't there, and that failed momentum caused me to not even bother with "27 Songs From Barcelona," an album where each band member (yes, they are down from the original 29) sang a different track. So you'll forgive me if I blew off their latest offering, "Forever Today" for most of the year only to pick it up again recently to find out... wow, this is their best record.

Admittedly, I'm From Barcelona are not for everyone... their twee sound, sunny disposition, and non-stop goofy hooks just won't jive with everyone.  I really loved their song "We're From Barcelona" from the debut album, and suppose I was looking for them to top the highs of that just-over-three-minute slice of pure pop heaven.  "Houdini?" didn't have one that was close... so it was a nice surprise to listen to "Forever Today" and find the band basking in the same delightfulness of that debut.  Rejoice!

Things jump right out of the gate with "Charlie Parker," a tribute to the jazz great that knocks you aside the head immediately with an infectious melody and an obvious return to their original sound.  "Get in Line" takes their regular sound but adds a healthy dose of synths and a deep bass groove.  It's different for the band, and yet stays right... ahem, in line with what you know from them.  It's as close as the band's gotten to straight-up dance, with a pomp and strut that just puts a smile on my face.

"Forever Today" is one track after another of sunny melodies, group sing-a-longs, handclaps, and optimism.  It's an album for sky-high happiness and positive feelings... so if you're in a grouchy mood, this might cure you, or send you over the edge.  That's really where my warning comes in... it's not a record for everyone, but if you like what you hear a bit, this might be your album for end of summer.


Get in Line
Charlie Parker
Always Spring

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Song: Getaways
Artist: Big Talk
Album: Big Talk

I don't know what's happening with The Killers.  A band that seemingly was aiming to be the next U2 (actually, Coldplay is really going for that... maybe the next INXS?) went "on hiatus" after releasing their so-so third album "Day & Age," and lead Killer Brandon Flowers released a so-so solo record.  Often when a band with a flamboyant front man you identify only with that person, not realizing that the entire band writes the music... not one loud dude who needs constant attention.  But hey, The Killers wouldn't have become The Killers without Flowers over-the-top grandstanding. (and super catchy dance-rock.)

I've had the self-titled album (or "project") by Killers drummer Ronnie Vannucci, Jr. for about two weeks and have been enjoying it... even though I didn't realize it was the band of a former Killer.  In retrospect, it's got "Killers-esque" written all over it.  Big choruses, crunchy sweet guitar riffs, and synths in all the right places... it's also a little Springsteen biting, a little over the top, and... actually quite enjoyable.  I don't hear any "Mr. Brightside" or "When You Were Young" on here... but hey, I didn't hear any songs of that quality on "Flamingo" either.

The album, like Flowers' solo, comes with a lot of top-knotch collab talent.  Vannucci is first and foremost joined by old friend and old bandmate Taylor Milne (Expert on October.)  The album is produced by Grammy winner Joe Chicarelli (The Strokes, My Morning Jacket) and was mixed by Alan Moulder (U2, The Killers, Foo Fighters.)  Former Weezer bassist Matt Sharp also plays on the album, along with Ted Sablay, who has toured with the Killers.

You'll know if you're going to get into Big Talk from the start... album opener "Katzenjammer" begins with a dramatic, very 80's atmospheric synth wash, only to bubble with electronics and then BAM!... guitars.  I hear Foo Fighters, Tom Petty, Pete Yorn, and of course Killers... you name it.  It's a rocking guitar jam that would fit perfectly into a wild night at a little bar.  Lead single "Getaways" follows, again reaching for the 80's rock jugular and sounding a LOT like The Cars.  It's good though.

The Big Talk "project" (as it's been called... not a solo record, not a new band, not stepping on The Killers at all...) is to these ears, a continuation of The Killers sound and if noting else, a reminder that Brandon Flowers wasn't the only one in the band, and that Vannucci is a force to be reckoned with on his own.  I don't know if I hear a track, say like "Mr. Brightside" here, that could give the band a solid radio hit, but the more I listen, the more I like.  The hooks and riffs are there, but seem to be a little more subtle... vs. how The Killers clobber you over the head with them.

But honestly... if you're looking for a solid pop rock album, you should check this one out.



Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Pumped Up Kicks

Song: Pumped Up Kicks
Artist: Foster the People
Album: Torches

Friend and reader Geoff suggested I check out L.A.-based band Foster the People's debut album "Torches" that was released back in May.  One listen and I was immediately hooked.  They immediately reminded me of Australia's Empire of the Sun, though the more I listen to "Torches," the less I think that's true.  They have a laid-back mid-tempo feel to their brand of alternative pop.  I immediately heard their light electro sound, though they seem to be aimed toward the American Alternative Rock audience.  And the album had already reached the top of both the Billboard Alternative and Rock lists.  How have I never heard of this band?

Foster the People were formed in 2009 and consists of Mark Foster, Mark Pontius, and Cubbie Fink.  They gained interest in the band by playing South by Southwest and being highlighted on The Hype Machine.  The single "Pumped Up Kicks" is their best known track, which reached no. 3 on the on Billboards Alternative Songs Chart.

"Pumped Up Kicks" is certainly an album highlight, but thankfully it's just one of many great tracks here.  Second single and album opener "Helena Beat" starts things off with a minimal beat and some experimental sounds before exploding into some electro-reverb.  But the song, and album, really kick off when Foster's vocals kick in... hand claps, guitar, and building synths mix with some undeniable melodies.  It's really sublime.

"Don't Stop (Color the Walls)" sounds a lot like a male version of Tegan and Sara to me, matching their cadence and adept skill at a punchy, undeniable chorus.  I also like the pretty "Waste" and groovy-piano assisted "I Would Do Anything For You."  But honestly... this album is great start to finish.  It's chock full of sunny melodies and a breezy charm that's absolutely infectious.  I haven't heard any yet, but their sound is really begging for some proper remix action.

In a summer... heck year, where a lot of new music just isn't thrilling me, it was great to hear something that immediately grabbed me and sounded great.  Highly, highly recommending this album.  Pick it up and let it soundtrack the end of your summer!


Pumped Up Kicks
Helena Beat
Don't Stop (Color on the Walls)

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Year of the Dragon

Song: Year of the Dragon
Artist: Slice & Soda
Album: Slice & Soda

I came across this very odd little record a couple weeks ago, and it seems I just can't stop going back to it.  It's a bit more experimental than I usually go for (almost shut it down within the first minute of the first track) but when the vocals kicked in... and some of these insane grooves.  I was sold.

Slice & Soda are being described as "protofunk/disco" by their label Sixpack France.  They consist of DJ/Producer Para One and Boston-based singer San Serac.  I do hear elements of funk, disco, rock, and videogames... very LCD Soundsystem.  I'm also hearing a heavy Bowie influence.

And for a limited time, buy the CD and get a t-shirt!

As mentioned, opening track "She Knows" initially put me off with it's crazy swirling noises in the first minute, but when the beat kicks in at 1:05, the album suddenly takes off.  It has a sleazy, dirty/sexy vibe that is very disco, but has that rock Bowie vibe I mentioned before.  "Gasoline Fire" is very LCD Soundsystem, with a persistent cow bell, a throbbing bassline, and dramatic piano.  LOVE IT.  The groove of "Year of the Dragon" is as amazing as it is off-kilter, and one of the best tracks here.  "Shake Up" starts off a bit slow, but finds its groove quickly.  "Dead of Winter" has a crazy deep beat and bass, a super-throwback house party peak-hour smash... by the time you get to this point you're blown away... and only just half-way through.  I'm also slightly reminded of "Blind" by Hercules & Love Affair when listening to this album, though admittedly, nothing reached those heights here.

Lots and lots of pleasurable dirty grooves are to be had on this debut, a funk odyssey that is actually quite catchy and fun.  I get visions of downtown Detroit in the 80's, or some coked-up club in the East Village circa 2002.  Impossibly "now..." by looking backwards...

You can "officially" like them here.


Year of the Dragon

Gasoline Fire
Shake Up

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

The Hunter

Song: The Hunter
Artist: Melody Club
Album: Human Harbour

Awash in glorious synths, glam rock pomp, and a healthy dose of (un)ironic 80's cheese, Sweden's Melody Club is a band on the edge... edge of something pretty magical and Duran Duran-ian, but also on the edge of seriously goofy.  "Human Harbour" is the band's sixth full length album and was released earlier this year.  They recently participated in the Eurovision song contest, which cost them a member out of protest (Andy A.)  They competed in the fourth semi-final in February but went out when they came in 7th place.

I'm not familiar with any of their other work, but it's hard to deny the punchy Journey-esqueness of "The Hunter," the first track off the album and the one they took to Eurovision.  It's anthemic, souring, and hits all the right notes for fist-pumping down the highway.  Again, it's a little cheesy but I like it.  In a way it has a refreshing lack of pretentiousness, basking in big hooks and post-breakdown euphoria.  It's not for everybody.

"Dreamer's Wasteland" brings back the child's choir to emphasize the hooks and recalls Europe a bit somehow.  Things downshift mildly for the mid tempo "Sweet Disaster," which marries some sublime acoustic and electric guitar, only to give way (and give in) to another sing-a-long chorus that actually is quite pretty and gives me a little Suede.  "A New Set of Wings" sounds like the unholy union of a Disney pop star and fellow countryman The Ark... it's glam pomp might not be 100% convincing due to that chorus, but given that we're four tracks in... it's clear they just can't help it.  They need every chorus to be big, big, BIG.

If that 80's cheese factor doesn't bother you, "Human Harbour" will absolutely be a not-so-guilty pleasure.  I can't say it has me itching to go back through their catalog, but I do like this record, despite as I re-read my backhanded review.  Maybe I'm just trying to manage expectations... after hearing indie-electro bands bite the best obscure moments of 80's New Wave, I kind of like this return to/embracing what made the 80's a little too silly.  I've been hearing too many complaints in terms of Gaga's embrace of goofy 80's sounds.  But... it's about fun and unbridled sing-a-longs minus the guilt.  What's so wrong with that?


The Hunter
Sweet Disaster/Dreamer's Wasteland Live
Palace Station - The bands best known hit taken from 2002 album "Music Machine"

Monday, August 01, 2011

Little Shocks

Song: Little Shocks
Artist: Kaiser Chiefs
Album: The Future is Medieval

Back in 2005 when I first heard "I Predict a Riot" from the Kaiser Chief's debut album "Employment," I got the feeling that it was the start of something big.  The year prior had given us the amazing Franz Ferdinand debut album and it seemed dance-rock was going to have quite the resurgence.  "Employment" was pretty stellar, with a couple instant classics thrown in there.  So it came with a bit of disappointment to me that their follow up albums, save for a couple tracks here and there, didn't seem to have the same spark.

After 2008's "Off With their Heads," the band took an extended hiatus before recording their fourth album, "The Future is Medieval."  I got an early download of the album in early June, listened a couple times and just thought it was a way-too-long mess.  But I wasn't really paying attention (as the UK marketing of the album didn't hit me here in the States at all) and didn't realize that the songs were actually in alphabetical order...

Turns out the band came up with a fan-assist concept for the album; they recorded twenty tracks, put one-minute samples on their website, and asked fans to build their best ten-track version of the album, and share their version on the website for purchase.  If someone bought your mix of the album, you got a one pound kick-back.  So the twenty-track sprawling mess was never intended as the full album, and the Chief's ended up releasing a physical version of the album with thirteen tracks, one of which, "Kinda Girl You Are" being brand new as they hadn't finished it in time for the digital promotion.

I think the concept is pretty brilliant, and takes what music fans have been doing since the dawn of the digital music album anyhow, picking favorite tracks and making their own version they like.  Now, the art purists and possibly-pretentious "serious" songwriters out there might scoff at this... as an album can/should be considered one streamlined artistic statement.  But is giving the people what they want not a new for of art?  (discuss.)

Regardless of this concept, I'm still trying to sort through all of "The Future is Medieval."  I'm loving opening track and party-starter "Little Shocks," and if it doesn't have quite the bite of previous singles "Riot," "Oh My God," or "Never Miss a Beat," it does sound unequivocally Kaiser Chiefs.  Which in this day and age of copycat sounds and been-there-hasn't-this-been-done-before biting... it seems revolutionary.  It's nice to hear a band with its own thing going on.

The album seems to be a little more electronic than they've gone before, and yet... it's not what you first pick up on when listening.  If that makes any sense.  I'm still listening, and now just taking things in the order the band has suggested.  It's funny how much a difference sequencing (and editing) can do.  What do you think of this album/concept?


Little Shocks
Things Change
Starts With Nothing