Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Wrong Opinion

Song: Wrong Opinion
Artist: Chairlift
Album: Something

Every once in a while I have an album or song that I dig, listen to a bit, for sure plan to highlight here on this blog... and then a bunch of other stuff rushes in and takes its place here and there.  Enough time goes by that it just feels like old news, and it never happens.  Recently I've acquired a couple follow-up records from these such bands... so enough is enough.  Here we go.

It's been four years since Brooklyn-based indie-electro-rock act Chairlift released their debut album "Does You Inspire You."  I did like that record, and they made a bit of a mark having their track "Bruises" selected as use in an iPod commercial. (yeah, one of those.)  Well the band is back with their sophomore set "Something," and after a couple listens I can say it grabbed be even a bit more than the debut.

Chairlift sound a little 80's without really trying for an 80's sound.  They're a bit Siouxie, a little Cure, and a touch of Kate Bush... but I also hear a little Christine McVie-ish Fleetwood Mac in there.  But more "electronic."  All in all Chairlift write evocative songs with a wide range of sounds and moods.  I immediately connected with the dark, noisy, "Wrong Opinion" as well as the lush semi-ballad "Take it Out On Me."  "Ghost Tonight" sounds like the Stevie Nicks dance album that's never happened, and first single "Amanaemonesia" leans on some spooky synths and punchy beats for some If-Florence-Was-in-the-80's greatness.

So, go out and listen to this record... and listen to the first one too.


Wrong Opinion
Take it Out on Me

Monday, January 30, 2012


Song: Maniac
Artist: Moullinex feat. Peaches
Album: Casablanca Reworks by the Gomma All Stars

It's official... I need a Casablanca Records retrospective.  I don't even know if one exists, but there is a lot I need to learn from the disco era, and the electronic music pioneers from that label represent a huge hole in my collection and disco knowledge.  I say this because of the excellent new "Casablanca Reworks" that was recently released on Gomma Records.

Moullinex, Telonius, Munk, and The Phenomenal Handclaps all feature Peaches doing modern versions of four disco classics.  Electro House versions of Stephanie Mills "You Can't Run From My Love,"The Skatt Brothers "Walk the Night," "Our Love" by Donna Summer, and then Michael Sembello's 80's classic "Maniac."  And they're all amazing.

Odd little factoid... "Maniac" was inspired by the 1980 horror movie of the same name and originally the chorus was:

He's a maniac, maniac that's for sure,
He will kill your cat and nail him to the door.

Phill Ramone, the producer of the song, thought the song should be more about a girl with the passion for dancing.  Hence...

She's a maniac, maniac on the floor
     And she's dancing like she's never danced before.

Good thing eh?


Maniac - Moullinex feat. Peaches

Our Love (Dub) - Telonius feat. Peaches
You Can't Run From My Love - Munk feat. Peaches

Friday, January 27, 2012


Song: Doubt
Artist: Amanda Mair
Album: Doubt

I've been recently intrigued by Swedish teenager (15!) Amanda Mair, whom I recently discovered via another end-of-year best singles list.  "Doubt," her second single has been on heavy rotation for me, and I'm pretty excited to hear her debut album, due this year.

Mair's first single "House" started like a pretty piano ballad only to turn into a churning beat-kicking stormer.  "Doubt" is more immediate, with a persistant beat that works well with Mair's vocal.  It's a little dramatic, but not overtly so.  Sort of like a less weird Marina & the Diamonds, that regardless conjures Kate Bush to a certain degree.  Her sound is now... a touch of electro with Alternative rock ambitions.  Interesting.

I wonder if any of her song titles have two words.  Or more.  We'll see.  This is one to watch.



Thursday, January 26, 2012

Big Mouth

Song: Big Mouth
Artist: Santigold
Album: Master of my Make-Believe

It's kind of wild to think it's been over four years since Santogold burst onto the scene and gave us her brilliant self-titled debut.  But the wait is almost over, as her sophomore album, "Master of my Make-Believe" is set for release this spring.  But things are different...

First off, Santogold is now Santigold.  (???) And instead of sort of sounding like M.I.A... she like totally sounds and almost feels like M.I.A., given her new video for "Big Mouth," a new track she just released that I assumed was the official fist single for the new record but apparently it's not.  That's sort of good news as it's a little underwhelming.  Is this going to be another Ting Ting's situation?  Huge debut record, big splash... sophomore slump?  (truthfully that Ting Ting's song is growing on me.)

Santigold released a new track back in April of last year, "Go" featuring Karen O of the Yeah, Yeah, Yeah's.  I liked the song, but it seemed like a toss-off compared to the brilliant tunes for the debut.  But in retrospect, after hearing "Big Mouth" it seems better.  That's not to say that I'm disliking "Big Mouth," I guess I'm just expecting more.  It seems much more like an M.I.A. run-off than something touching the true brilliance of say "You'll Find a Way," "Creator," "L.E.S. Artists..." dang, I could go on.

That said I do like the beat of "Big Mouth" and the animated-meets live action video.  I question the need for the Gaga diss at 1:28, but more so... there's the fact that this track is really just lifted from Buraka Som Sistema's (We Stay) Up All Night.  Take a listen after hearing "Big Mouth," I mean... this is way more than an Express Yourself/BTW situation, no?

I'm not ready to write off Santogold... er, Santigold yet.  I'll wait until I hear the album or at least an official single.  She's done a lot of really great collaborations lately, check out the amazing Beastie Boys collab "Don't Play No Game That I Can't Win" below.  But she better hit us with something mild-blowing soon.


Big Mouth
Go (w/Karen O)
Don't Play No Game That I Can't Win - Beastie Boys w/Santigold

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Be Strong

Song: Be Strong
Artist: The 2 Bears
Album: Be Strong

I first heard "Bear Hug" back in June of last year and thought it was pretty ridiculous.  A bit of 90's house minimalism with a digitally altered deep voice going on about giving bear hugs.  Silly.  Seeing the video (below) at least got me to listen to the song again, and while it reeked of hipster, the silly rooftop dance scene made me chuckle... and then the post chorus kicked in and I was like... wait, is that the guy from Hot Chip?

The 2 Bears are a London-based duo started by yes, Joe Goddard of Hot Chip along with Raf Rundell.  They formed in 2009 and are releasing their debut album, "Be Strong" sometime this year.  It's a mix of house, soul, 2-step, and Hot Chip's unique electro-nerd style.  It's a bit like if Hot Chip did a record with Hercules and Love Affair.  And if that alone gets you excited, prepare to be pleased.

Thankfully, the entire record doesn't use that silly deep voice, though it pops up here and there."Be Strong" though from the start was very different from what "Bear Hug" sets you up for.  The slow-building opening track "The Birds & the Bees" mixes steel drum and horns over a bubbling beat that's quite lush and fantastic.  Then "Be Strong" explodes into your ears and it's the 90's all over again.  It's a great track, and more representative of the album than "Bear Hug" is.

The album continues along and surprises you in its diversity and quality.  Maybe it was my low expectations after that first single, but this record is really really pleasing me.  Be sure to check it out.

Oh, "Work" and "Take a Look Around" are blowing me away right now.  This is something.


Be Strong
Bear Hug

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hang it Up

Song: Hang it Up
Artist: The Ting Ting's
Album: Sounds from Nowheresville

It seems like ages ago (over a year) since we got a new Ting Ting's song, the last being the single "Hands,"  back in 2010.  I loved that song, a new more dance direction that we all thought was the start of their second record... then "Hands" didn't do as well as their previous singles... and then nothing happened.

Well, now well over a year later we are finally getting new music, but things might not be so good in Tingtingsville.  The new record, "Sounds from Nowheresville" is scheduled for release next month, but the new songs aren't from the "dance" sessions when they wrote in Berlin back n 2010 (where "Hands" came from.)  Apparently all of those tracks were scrapped... and not only scrapped, the band have said they deleted them.  Hmm.

Well, what we have now is the official first single from the new album, "Hang it Up" which does sound like classic Ting Ting's... but also a little lifeless.  It certainly doesn't have the punch of "Shut Up and Let Me Go" or "That's Not My Name."  It's not a bad song per say, it just doesn't have the sparkle their earlier singles did... and not to mention that this is how they decided to start their comeback.  Odd.

Well, we'll reserve judgement for the full album, in the meantime... let me know what you think of "Hang it Up."  Have they lost it?


Hang it Up
Silence (Bag Raiders Mix)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Call My Name

Song: Call My Name
Artist: Tove Styrke
Album: Call My Name

Here's some punchy dance pop to get you into this Monday...

Tove Styrke is a Swedish-born isnger-songwriter raised from a very musical family.  Her father, Anders Ostman had scored a Swedish number 1 single in 1970, and opened a record store after he stopped touring.  He introduced Tove to guitar, but she gravitated more towards piano, as encouraged by her grandfather, who taught lessons.  She began modeling for the likes of Cosmo and Glamour before being a contestant on Sweden's version of American Idol in 2009,  leading to her being signed by Sony Music at the end of that year.

Styrke released her debut, self-titled album in 2010 scoring one Swedish top-5 with "White Light Moment."  Just last August she released the single "Call My Name" from her forthcoming, as yet untitled sophomore album.  I immediately liked "Call My Name" upon first listen, reminding me of another Swedish dance-pop singer... September.  Actually, Allmusic has described Styrke's music as combining ""the bubbling electronica ofRobyn with the hipster synth pop of Annie and the hook-laden Euro-disco of September"

Sound just about perfect!  This is a fun, feel-good dance track with mysterious lyrics. (what is she talking about?)  I like it.  Haven't heard anything else form her, though I'm getting her debut to see what that's all about.  I'll look forward to this sophomore album thats still in the works, set for release sometime this year.


Call My Name

White Light Moment
High & Low

Friday, January 20, 2012

Down With the Trumpets - Rizzle Kicks

Song: Down With the Trumpets
Artist: Rizzle Kicks
Album: Stereo Typical

A small aside... this is my 1,000 post!

I saw this song pretty high on an end-of-year best singles list from 2011 and have been enjoying its old-school youthful charm since.  I just started researching this very young band and they have a neat story...

Rizzle Kicks is comprised of (children) Jordan "Rizzle" Stephens & Harley "Sylvester" Alexander-Sule from Brighton, UK.  The two were born in North London and met at the age of four when they became friends.  They lost track of each other over the years and both independently moved to Brighton.  Through a "series of coincidences," the guys re-connected at age eleven facing off in a Sunday league football match.  They ended up going to the same school where Jordan was creating mixtapes, rapping over his favorite pop hip-hop samples.  He asked Harley to sing over them with him, and Rizzle Kicks was born.

The young duo started obtaining beats from local producers and recording demos, then creating low-budget videos for their tracks, uploading them to their website which they cultivated into a strong online presence.  Some old-school hip-hop inspired tracks caught the attention of Island Records, where they were subsequently signed.  Their debut album came out last October with production work from Ant Whiting, The Rural, Mike Spencer, and Norman Cook (AKA Fatboy Slim.)

I've been really loving "Down With the Trumpets" and just this AM got their full debut, "Stereo Typical" giving it a half listen.  It's certainly a pop album, but I quite like this duo's flow... mixing an old-school vibe with playful lyricism.  They mix hip-hop and reggae with a pretty deft pop sensibility.   Need more time with the album, but check out "Down With the Trumpets."  Fun.

Happy Friday.


Down With the Trumpets
Prophet (Better Watch it)
Mama do the Hump

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Video Games

Song: Video Games
Artist: Lana Del Rey
Album: Born to Die

Have you heard about this chick yet?

Well, Lana Del Rey, the New York City-born, Lake Placid raised, singer-songwriter who is just 25, has made quite the splash this week when she debut on "Saturday Night Live" this past weekend and many have said she's the worst performer the show has ever had.  (ouch)  Her debut album, "Born to Die" isn't even out yet (but is next week) though everyone seems to be talking about her.

I first heard her debut single "Video Games" this past October but it didn't grab me.  It wasn't until mid-December that I took a second listen as I was seeing the song make quite a few "best singles of 2011" lists and I thought I should give her another go.  "Video Games" is a haunting-yet-odd woozy-waltz of a song that Rey delivers in a half-bored, half-drugged fashion that regardless, gets under your skin.

Well, she performed the song on SNL and it seems to have gotten the entire world talking about her.  I could see, if you hadn't heard the song itself prior to the performance, that you might get a little "WTF?" out of it... but it's just kind of how she sings.  You're just going to have to listen to it yourself.  (video below.)

The song has gone to #1 in Germany, and has been in the top ten in Austria, Belgium, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the UK.  Del Rey sites Nancy Sinatra, Britney Spears, Elvis Presley, and Kurt Cobain as influences.  Okay.

I recently got the four-track EP they released to iTunes prior to her SNL performance and music is very quirky.  From string-laiden pop trip-hop to sweeping retro-ish balladry... it's certainly not what is on the radio right now... but could she be the Adele of 2012?  (haha)


Video Games
Video Games (Live on SNL)
Born to Die

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Song: 212
Artist: Azealia Banks
Album: 212

Well speaking of Azealia Banks, the mysterious chick collaborating on the the new Scissor Sisters single under the name Krystal Pepsy... here's her sole song that's been burning up the internet, and now New York City, the town it's about.  Pitchfork called this "best new song" just a month ago, and she recently just topped NME's cool list.  And she ain't even signed yet.  Pay attention.

Banks, 20 originally from Harlem, went to the same school of the performing arts, Manhattan's LaGuardia High School, as Nicki Minaj, whom she is getting many comparisons to.

"212" is incredibly vulgar, infectious, and charming.  And take a look at the below video.  Despite its simplicity... you can tell this girl is a star.  This track has been blowing my mind.  You need to hear it.  Also, check out her minimal electro take on Interpol's "Slow Hands."  Very cool.


Slow Hands

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Shady Love

Song: Shady Love
Artist: Scissor Sisters
Album: Shady Love

The Scissor Sisters came out with a surprise release of their new single "Shady Love" on the second of the year, it's from their as-yet-announced fourth album coming sometime this year.  It's a dance-focused goofy little gem of a track featuring the much-buzzed about Azealia Banks under the pseudonym "Krystal Pepsy," which had been used, under a slightly more copyright-infringing spelling, by lead Jake Shears when he DJ'd.

The track sounds like nothing they've ever done before, and yet sounds completely Scissor Sisters.  The chorus reminds me of Anita Baker's "Sweet Love" is a way, and while Ms. Banks is good on the track, I wonder where Ana is.  Girl?

I really really wasn't feeling this track as first... it's a bit off-putting when you're expecting a joy-to-the-walls track like "I Don't Feel Like Dancing," or something soaring like "Fire With Fire."  But "Fire" didn't represent "Night Work," their last brilliant album very well, and it seemed with that album, and "Shady Love" that they are ready to explore some new aspects of dance music.  I'm ready.

And it's hard to resist Jake when he raps "she gonna vote for Obama, and she likes to dance to Madonna."  Win.  Oh, the video is quite cute as well.


Shady Love

Friday, January 13, 2012

Best of 2011: Lady Gaga

Best of 2011

Song: Heavy Metal Lover
Artist: Lady Gaga
Album: Born This Way

"Born This Way" was my favorite album of the year.  It was my favorite by some margin.  It was the one record that I consistently listened to since I got it in February, one that I listened to multiple time from start to finish, and... I am also not ashamed to admit that a look at my iTunes play count indicates that I've played seven of the albums tracks into triple digits... and several others over seventy some.  There was no other record that thrilled me or filled me with as much joy as "Born This Way" did, and it established to me that Lady Gaga was, as I suspected before I heard this, a formidable talent that has a very very long career ahead of her.

I really liked the way that "Born This Way" incorporated rock, "metal," dance beats, and 80's and 90's sounds for something that was new, thrilling, and yet classic sounding.  Now, obviously it's not for everyone and Gaga saw her meteoric rise slow down a bit with this album, it was backlash time this year.  The album is a little all over the place, loud, brash, and a little messy.  But I think that's the point... it's a wild journey through Gaga's head as incarnated by that, admittedly awful, "bike-Ga" cover.  (I like the special edition close up, or the above "Collection" reissue.)  And despite all of that, the album is quite a ride.  And I love just about every minute of it.

The thing about "Born This Way" is how packed with great tunes it is.  And, if you've only heard the singles from the record, you're only getting a small piece of what this monster of an album is.  And I suppose, if you've only heard the singles... it probably seems really disjointed.

"Judas," her "flop" of a second single was my favorite track of the year.  Taking everything Gaga had done prior and made it bigger, badder, and more insane.  I also just loved "The Edge of Glory," an emotional, lyrically rich song that ends the album on such a high note... it's pure life-affirming joy on the dancefloor, and was such a nice surprise hit this summer.  Her last single, "Marry the Night" didn't catch on at all, but it's also one of my favorites, and possibly could lead into the darker dance tunes on the record she hasn't unleashed yet.  "Scheiße," "Government Hooker," and possibly even "Americano" could be huge dancefloor staples in another universe, and the sexy, dirty "Heavy Metal Lover" is a classic in waiting... but will it happen?  Her singles aren't smashing like they did... and I feel she may be ready to move onto the next thing.

It's hard not to write about this record, given how big and amazing I think it is, yet didn't grab the public the way I think she intended, without a hint of shoulda, coulda, woulda.  This album is so bloody amazing I have read exhausting amount of fan input on how she maligned the album campaign... chose poor singles, videos, etc.  Whatever.  The truth is, popstars just aren't making albums like this anymore.  This is a monster in the vein of the biggest records that Michael, Madonna, and Janet did back in the 80's.  It's as big as "Thriller," as catchy and rich as "Like a Prayer," and tries to be something "important" like "Rhythm Nation."  What more could be asked for?

I know I'm going to love "Born This Way" for a long long time.  It's the kind of record that, if I was younger, would have changed my life.  No doubt.  In a year when music really fell mostly flat for me, "Born This Way" filled me with life.  Truly.


Heavy Metal Lover
Government Hooker

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Best 2011: The Chain Gang of 1974

Best of 2011

Song: Don't Walk Away
Artist: The Chain Gang of 1974
Album: Wayward Fire

I just love this record.

I've written about The Chain Gang of 1974 twice now.  Once in November of 2011 when I first discovered the band and their indie release "White Guts" and then this past June when the album was picked up by a larger label, rejiggered with new tracks, a new cover, and a new name... "Wayward Fire."  It improved the album, which in June I was thinking just needed to be heard by more people given the solid tunes, and now at the start of 2012, when I am not hearing about it anywhere... I'm trumping it as one of the best of the year.

A mix of dirty blues, 80's new wave, and modern electronics, "Wayward Fire" sounds both classic and now in a way the best records from 2011 did to me.  But once again, this isn't about some nostalgia trip, it's about writing great songs, and "Wayward Fire" is filled with them.  I really loved the new "Undercover," which had a bit of an Editors/Cold Cave sound to it, and loved the organic funk of the old "White Guts" tracks "Stop" and "Devil is a Lady" as well as the epic eight-minute "Hold On," a disco-funk epic that really needs to be heard.

But the 80's were really conjured to amazing effects by the pretty "Matter of Time" and then one of my favorite songs of the year, album closer "Don't Walk Away."  I think I mentioned it before but this song could close a John Hughes movie, both in sound as well as it has a lost classic feel.  LISTEN TO THIS.

I really really like this record and wish it had gotten a bit more exposure, I'm not sure why it didn't.


Don't Walk Away
Hold On
Listen to the full 8 minute version here.

Matter of Time

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Best of 2011: Class Actress

Best of 2011

Song: Limousine
Artist: Class Actress
Album: Rapprocher

There were a handful of 80's-inspired indie-electro records that really shined to me this year, and a couple surprised me in how with repeated listens, they continued to get under my skin and forced repeated listens.  Initially, when I heard Brooklyn's Class Actress, I liked lead singer Elizabeth Harper's pretty if semi-disconnected voice and the early Madonna-ish relatively simplistic electro.  But repeated listens proved the album to be emotionally rich lyrically, and the dated sound began to transcend itself... it was like an 80's spell had been cast.

I fell for single "Weekend" when I first heard "Rapprocher" as well as album track "Limousine," both being the more upbeat tracks from the set, yet having this laid-back, detached cool to them.  But as I got more into the album, slower burning tracks like "Love Me Like You Used To" and "Prove Me Wrong" began to shine... and this was when the full beauty of the album took hold.  It's a club record without all the ra-rah hooks and big big choruses... sure, I love that stuff, but what was great about "Rapprocher" was its calm approach to dance music.

The band started out with an indie-rock guitar-based sound until producer/keyboardist Mark Richardson did a remix of one of their songs and Harper liked the sound better.  Third member Scott Rosenthal joined the band after the change in sound and Class Actress was born.  It's odd to know that, as they seem so assured with this sound... and hard to think of any of these songs as "rock" versions.

This is a quiet little record that could... seemingly unassuming, but slowly creeps up on you with its nostalgia charm, bored vibe, and most importantly... the intoxicating vocals of Ms. Harper.

I also LOVE that cover!


Love Me Like You Used To

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Best of 2011: R.E.M.

Best of 2011

Song: Oh My Heart
Artist: R.E.M.
Album: Collapse Into Now

Admittedly, "Collapse Into Now" might not have been on my year-end list if the band hadn't called it quits after the relative quiet release of this, their fifteen album.  But that's not to say that this is some small half-hearted attempt to make sense of the end of a band that I once proudly claimed my favorite, a way to put a close to that part of my life, and a way to atone somehow for their lackluster output since the late 90's.  No. "Collapse Into Now" is on this list because it's one of my favorites of the year, though the emotional impact of the split did dive me deeper into this album, as well as their best moments from their 31 year career as heard on the seemingly rushed released, but pretty solid two-disc career spanning Best of.

But let's get this straight, "Collapse Into Now" is a great record, one that can proudly sit among the band's discography, and their best record since Bill Berry left the band in 1997.  Does it fit into the top five albums the bands ever released?  Well... maybe not.  But if you were a fan of R.E.M., emphasis on "were," you just simply need to get this record.  It is very worthy of being the last bit you hear from the band, and it does, in retrospect, serve as an album of everything R.E.M.'s been, with songs that seem to come from every stage of their career.

"Discoverer" launches the album and seems to take a cue from their last album, 2008's "Accelerate" and 90's fav "Monster," a sharp rocker made to shake stadiums awake.  "All the Best" continues this, but reminds me of the "Bad Day"-era of rocking non-album tracks the band did as they were treading water. (In a good way) Then we're given two of the best songs the band has ever written, the "Out of Time"-esque "ÜBerlin" and "Automatic for the People" like "Oh My Heart."

Later we have some honestly fun guitar rock in the shape of "Mine Smell Like Honey," "Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter," and "That Someone is You."  It's here, along with the first two tracks on the album that I feel the band took the momentum of "Accelerate" (which I unfortunately tired of quickly) and wrote some fun and more memorable classic R.E.M. tracks.  Their not essential, but they are good.

Barring a few exceptions (hello "Around the Sun") the last couple R.E.M. albums, despite being lackluster would usually contain at least one killer single that could stand among their best, and one album track that I thought proved without a doubt that the band still had it.  "Collapse" has the quiet, meditative, "Walk it Back" that's taken on deeper meaning for me since the disbanding.  It's a companion piece of sorts to "We All Go Back to Where We Belong," the bands final single found on that aforementioned best of.  I'd actually drop "Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando And I," the album's weakest track and the only true throw-away, and I'd add "We All Go Back" to the end, after the epic actual album closer, the "Belong" meets "E-Bow the Letter" "Blue" with Patti Smith.  A song that brings back the "weird" R.E.M.

If one song can really bring an album together, "Collapse Into Now's" is "Oh My Heart," the bands ode to New Orleans that shoots and connects with the heart in the way that emotional powerhouses "Everybody Hurts," "Find the River," "Country Feedback," and "You Are the Everything" have done in the past.  This was the R.E.M. we all knew and loved, this was the band that effortlessly could write a killer hook and cut-to-the-vein emotion.  It might be my favorite R.E.M. song in a good decade and a half.

Who knows what's ahead for the members of the band, I can't imagine them stopping music creation all together.  Regardless, I'm happy "Collapse Into Now" has ended things.  I think in a couple years it will be regarded as a lost R.E.M. classic.  And one of 2011's best.


Oh My Heart
Walk it Back

Monday, January 09, 2012

Best of 2011: Yuksek

Best of 2011

Song: Always on the Run
Artist: Yuksek
Album: Living on the Edge of Time

French DJ, remixer, and Producer Yuksek first grabbed my attention with his hard-hitting dancefloor single "Tonight" from his debut '09 album "Away From the Sea."  It was a great track, and I thought the remainder of the album was pretty good as well.  I was not prepared when the man released "On a Train" from his sophomore album "Living on the Edge of Time" replacing the harder club beats for an electro-meets 70's singer-songwriter vibe.  And I was even more surprised when the full album, became one of favorites of the year.

Obviously the electronics are still there, and this could be considered a 'dance' album, but it's much more songwriting-focused, with each track having it's own distinct personality vs. a chugging four-to-the-floor album of dance music.  But that's not the reason I like... I just really really like the songs.

In another lesson in expectation meets reality, it took several listens to this album for it to sink in.  Again, I expected a more faceless dance record like "Sea," and played it a lot at work but didn't really listen to it.  But I fell into a moment where I was listening to "On a Train" quite a bit commuting... on the train (haha) and gave the album an entire run through with headphones.  Whoa.  Songs that had thus far been "background" came to life and an honest album came through.

It may have the 70's vibe, but it has a very 80's sound, though not in a homage type way.  The production of "Living on the Edge of Time" is very modern.  In a way it's very LCD Soundsystem, using modern electronic dance music with a bygone approach to creating it, though Yuksek excludes the punk mentality of LCD and infuses a more pop/songwriter insistence to the music.  It's an album that surprised me more than any new, killer debut this past year as my expectations of Yuksek didn't include this by a mile.

Thank you Sir.


Always on the Run

On a Train

The Edge

Friday, January 06, 2012

Best of 2011: Nicola Roberts

Best of 2011

Song: Lucky Day
Artist: Nicola Roberts
Album: Cinderella's Eyes

This year, more than any, I've been pretty in love with pop music.  And more specifically British or European dance pop.  I've always been a fan for sure, but there was just something about a handful of pop singles that had me stuck on repeat.  All year.

There were two Brit girls that really won me over, and neither have a five-letter name that starts with "A."  No, one was a fourth-runner-up British X-Factor teen who released one of my favorite pop songs of the year, has an amazing follow up that I've recently been obsessed with, and a UK number 1 that was pretty universally loathed, and of course is a crazy guilty pleasure of mine.  But bar those singles, the full album was a bit too juvenile, even for me. ;)

But edging out the others was a girl whom had been part of the post-millenium Spice Girls and was giving a go at the solo game.  Nicola Roberts was one-fifth of Girls Aloud, a wildly successful pop act formed on a singing talent show in the UK.  I know nothing about them, but was taken this year by the M.I.A. meets Ting Tings-esque debut single by their member Roberts.  "Beat of My Drum" was a scattershot Diplo dream that was equal party goofy and fierce, and engraved itself into my scull despite my reluctance.  I remember writing about the track at the time as more of a lark.  A fun goofy track.

At that time, her second single had just come out, I liked it... but highlighted "Drum."  Well, just a few days later I had "Lucky Day" on repeat, over and over.  This song consumed me this year, and it became one of my absolute favorites of 2011.  The video (see below) showed off Nicola's odd off-beat charm.  I was more than hooked.

When the album came out I was shocked at how solid it was.  Aside from the two singles we got the Stefani-esque "Gladiator," the Kylie-leaning, soaring, "Say it Out Loud," brash dance gems like "Yo-Yo," "I," and "Cinderella's Eyes," not to mention pretty amazing attempts at dramatic pop balladry that were more surprising given their lyrical depth, ("Porcelain Heart," "Sticks + Stones") as well as an out-of-nowhere electro take on James Warren's the Korgis' "Everybody's Got to Learn Sometime."  Whoa.

I listened to this record a lot, and it edged out other pop albums like Sophie Ellis-Bextor's "Make a Scene" and Rihanna's "Talk That Talk" for inclusion.  It's not for all tastes, you might HATE it, but honestly, if nothing else... when it comes to sunny, feel-good pop music, "Lucky Day" is tops.


Lucky Day
Beat of My Drum

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Best of 2011: Peter, Bjorn, & John

Best of 2011

Song: Tomorrow Has to Wait
Artist: Peter, Bjorn, & John
Album: Gimme Some

Peter, Bjorn, & John's third album "Writer's Block" was one of my favorite albums of 2006, and it's been a bit maddening waiting for them to release a proper follow-up.  I assumed that the band was folding under the weight of topping their breakthrough single "Young Folks" by releasing the mostly instrumental "Seaside Rock" two years later, and then "Living Thing" in 2009, which was a slight return to pop, but way more experimental than what I'd loved from first hearing them... what gives?

Well the wait for indie-pop bliss ended in March of last year with the release of "Gimme Some," a true return to form that while not containing a song with the dizzying heights of "Young Folks" (a once-in-your-career track really) it was, song-for-song, a better album than even "Writer's Block."  It made me one happy indie-rock fan this year.

But I also listened to first single "Second Chance" a whole heck of a lot this year, a great song that landed as a TV show theme song here in the States.  But again, unlike "Writer's Block," which was great but I ended up always comparing every song on the album up against "Young Folks,""Gimme Some" was start to finish consistent and great, filled with memorable melodies, killer guitar grooves, and a gritty/seedy meets sunny vibe that's oddly wonderful.  It really was the album that I always wanted them to follow "Writer's Block" up with, and what it lacks in surprises, it makes up for in songwriting and consistency.


Tomorrow Has to Wait
Second Chance
Dig a Little Deeper

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Best of 2011: Foster the People'

Best of 2011

Song: I Would Do Anything for You
Artist: Foster the People
Album: Torches

"Pumped Up Kicks" has got to be the out-of-left-field hit of the year.  A demo that caught viral fire in 2010 and forced lead Mark Foster to get it in gear and record a full album of tunes.  January saw the release of the song on iTunes as part of a three-song EP to wet appetites while the band tried to finish the debut album.  And in an amazing twist, a great record was written and recorded while the song was getting under everyone's skin.

Once I personally got over the shame that I only came to know of the band (and the song) in August, I simply got sucked into the sunny melodies, catchy chorus' and lyrical obtuseness of "Torches," a little album that could that turned out to be one of the year's best.  A front-to-back great listen.

Although, like R.E.M.'s "The One I Love" and The Police's "Every Breath You Take," "Pumped Up Kicks" remains a huge sing-a-long hit that many many singing along don't have any idea what it's really about.  But that is part of the remarkable story of the song... can you imagine intentionally trying to write a pop-rock hit song about a Columbine-esque school shooting?  Yeah, me neither.

I really really liked this record, which is much more than "Pumped Up Kicks," despite subsequent singles not catching on.  Will be very interested to see what they do in the future.


I Would Do Anything for You
Pumped Up Kicks

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Best of 2011: Penguin Prison

Best of 2011

Whoa.  What a year.

It's taken me some time, and I must admit I'm not even fully there, but this year wrapping my head around the music of 2011 was (and still is) hard for me to muster.  I had several highly-anticipated albums that I didn't connect with AT ALL (Radiohead, Bjork, My Morning Jacket) and a couple of medium-anticipated albums that I didn't connect with (The Drums, Electric Six, Feist, Jay Z & Kanye West) not to mention the stuff that EVERYONE seemed to love that I also didn't care much for (Adele, Bon Iver, Lykke, Li.)  So what did I like?  I've been asking myself that same question...

There really was only one album that I was truly obsessed with this year.  It grabbed me immediately, and I'm still playing the hell out of it.  And there really wasn't a close runner up at all... and it wasn't until I did go back and took look at everything released this year that a full list of favorites came together.

There actually was some pretty good stuff, and one huge classic... let me tell you what I liked:

Song: Don't Fuck With My Money
Artist: Penguin Prison
Album: Penguin Prison

I'm not sure exactly how many times I over-used the term "80's inspired" in 2011 but it was pretty fitting as there was a LOT of it out there.  And one of my absolute favorites of the year from that mini-get-growing genre was the self-titled debut by Chris Glover, aka Penguin Prison.

More than just a trip down memory lane, this mash up of Prince, George Michael, and Michael Jackson was awash in 80's and yet the best thing about it are the songs; catchy, tightly produced, and pretty thrilling.  It's an album that I liked right away, and only grew more and more on me.

And nothing says "2011" to me more than single "Don't Fuck With My Money," and Glover was smart enough to thankfully make an Occupy Wall Street-inspired video for the song.  (See below)  In general that song title alone sums up 2011, when the most corporate of music flooded the airwaves (some of it I loved in spite of myself) and money in general was on everyone's mind.

If you're a fan of 80's music please do yourself a favor and pick this album up.


Don't Fuck With My Money
Golden Train
Fair Warning