Friday, August 31, 2007

KT Tunstall Covers Bloc Party

KT Tunstall sure knows how to do a cover justice. After giving us her own takes on The White Stripes, Beck, The Flaming Lips, The Jackson 5 and Missy Elliott, Bloc Party's 'The Prayer' is the next on her list. I quite like the original, but I gotta say once again she pulled it off. She did sound like having a lot of fun while not trying too hard, and it's a little more than your average Live Lounge cover.
As I know, if it all goes according to plan, her muchly-anticipated sophomore effort 'Drastic Fantastic' will be released in Sept. 3 in the UK and two weeks later in the US, on the 18th. Thanks to the endorsement of American Idol and Ugly Betty, she has now become quite a household name 'across the pond', so she's got a lot to prove this time around. Everything from the album title, to the cover with the shiny electric guitar (sorry KT, but Feist has donned that white dress better), and the tongue-in-cheek video, seems to all lead us to believe that she's way rock n' roll now. Of course, 'Black Horse And The Cherry Tree' and 'Suddenly I See' were huge hits in America, but I do love her quieter moments, in fact 'The Other Side Of The World' and 'Under The Weather' were some of my fave tracks to listen to in rainy weather. I hope there's space left for those introspective, mellow numbers, because I felt really underwhelmed by the lead single, 'Hold On'. It's a mixture of good elements of her at her upbeat side, but somehow it never gets melodic or infectious enough to hold your attention.

Anyway, I will find out how it turns out soon enough, and I'll report back when the time comes. Here you go, the Bloc Party cover:

KT Tunstall - The Prayer (Bloc Party)

Her Myspace

The Pipettes Dancing And Boogie Their Way To North America

More than a year after the release of their debut album (my second favorite album of 2006!), The Pipettes will finally invade the US with an official stateside release in October 2 (thanks XOLondon for the tips!).

I'm supposed to say something lengthy about how awesome they are, but upon realizing that I raved about them constantly almost every month last year, you might be better off clicking on the label and read the old posts, in case they're not familiar to you.

Riotbecki, Gwenno & Rosay are now signed to a major label, Cherrytree (division of Interscope), which makes them label mates with Feist, Rooney, and The Feeling. It's good to see their people get it right this time with that spanking new cover above (considering their disastrous US cover for The Feeling last time). However, as quoted on their MySpace blog, there seems to be a little remixing going on by producer Greg Wells, probably to 'help' them fit in with the American taste. Stopping by Greg's Wikipedia worried me, though, as his discography included Timbaland, Pussycat Dolls, Jesse McCartney and Paris Hilton. On the other hand, he has also worked with Rufus Wainwright, Pink, Mika so here's hoping he knows what he's doing and not turning their sweet '60s-girl-group harmonies into a pile of urban shit.

On the bright side, I've already listened to the two new tracks! It was taken off their MySpace now, but I've got a hold of them to share with you all.
'Dance And Boogie' is a typical poppy Pipettes track that gets along nicely with the old version of the album, and 'Just Be Yourself, Baby' is a slightly different sound for the girls, a bluesy ballad.

The Pipettes - Dance And Boogie
The Pipettes - Just Be Yourself, Baby

In the meantime, check out their MySpace for more infos and tour dates.

Sights & Sounds: The Softlightes - The Microwave Song

Kris Moyes is a director who can do magic out of a presumably low budget. His videos seem to be tailor-made for the 320x240 YouTube box (in another word, 'viral' videos), yet they're all quite strangely entertaining. After providing quirky videos for Sia and Architecture In Helsinki, he's back with LA indie pop band The Softlightes for their new single 'The Microwave Song'. The concept can be summarized in one sentence: human hands in glittery gloves making talking faces with a backdrop of rainbow-colored lights!!!

The song itself is a slice of twee, childlike, sugar sweet indie pop. I started humming along when the final chorus kicked in the first time I saw the video. No kidding. Maybe it's a sign from a higher power telling me to finally go and check out their debut album 'Say No To Being Cool. Say Yes To Being Happy'. I loved 'Heart Made Of Sound', but kinda forgot about them until this video brought them back into my orbit. Let's hope some of the rest is as good as this song.

MP3: The Softlightes - The Microwave Song

Check out their Myspace for more streaming goodness.

She Keeps Italo Disco Alive

Sally Shapiro's now signed to a US label. Which means 'Disco Romance' will make it way from Sweden to America this October, with 3 exclusive brand new tracks. It's almost been one year since I got hooked on her music, and it's good to see her still going strong. One of the new tracks, 'He Keeps Me Alive' (a cover), has been gathering hype on quite a few major music blogs. It is Sally at her best, singing melancholy melodies over uptempo retro beats. I just love her voice, weary, sad, but so sincere and convincing. A keeper, definitely.

Sally Shapiro - He Keeps Me Alive

Talking of covers, here's an old track available on the Swedish version that's worth your time if she's new to you.

Sally Shapiro - Anorak Christmas

Sally also lent her vocals to a track by her producer Johan Agebjorn, which is his contribution a compilation called 'Milky Disco', on Lo Recordings. It's a tad different from her own stuff, but it can be described in two words: 'space disco'.

Johan Agebjorn - Spacer Woman From Mars (feat. Sally Shapiro)

Looking forward to listening to the other new tracks. Electronic fans that love Annie/Cloetta Paris/pop from Sweden in general shoule keep an eye for her.

Her MySpace

Groovin' To Róisín

Groove Armada should whore themselves out to other artists more frequently. 'Soundboy Rock' was a letdown, but the outstanding track on it clearly was their collab with Mutya Buena, 'Out Of Control (Song 4 Mutya)' (with no help from the horribly dull video). And now, they've teamed up with ex-Moloko-vocalist Roisin Murphy for her second single off the new album 'Overpowered'.

The result is glistening with AMAZINGNESS.

I'm finding it hard to figure out if 'Let Me Know' is better than 'Overpowered' or not, however, one thing is for sure that like the latter, it's getting non-stop rotation on my iPod. She's clearly aiming for a more direct, commercial sound this time and she handles it with such class that she never appears to be selling out.

I haven't been this excited about an electropop album since 'Trip The Light Fantastic', and so far, the marketing campaign has been flawless. Just imagine that cover above on a vinyl sleeve. At this rate, lyrics on the cd booklet is no longer necessary as long as they have a dozen of brilliant pictures of Roisin in ridiculous designer's clothes in random normal places.

The video should be bonkers, too, I assume.

I guess you've heard it all by now, but anyway, for those who's missing out, here's the radio edit of 'Let Me Know':

Let Me Know (Radio Edit)

And as a bonus, a live performance of 'Overpowered':

Overpowered (Live from BBC Radio 1 'Global Gathering' 27.07.07)

And here's her anthemic collab with Boris Dlugosch back in 2001, worth a revisiting.

Boris Dlugosch feat. Roisin Murphy - Never Enough (Radio Edit)

'Overpowered' drops this October in the UK.

There's also a free track called 'Modern Timing' available at her MySpace.

*EDIT: The Joey Negro remixes are quite epic, too.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Covered: Seven Nation Army

I haven't listened to "Icky Thump" in its entirety. Still, if the two lead singles are anything to imply, it's likely to be another solid album from them. My only small complaint is their recent Malloys-directed videos which are more mainstream and conventional. (though I do know 3 minutes of Michel Gondry costs a fortune these days)
Anyway, 'Seven Nation Army' remains a fave White Stripes song for other artists to cover. Here I posted all the ones that I have known and listened to, so if I'm missing something, let me know. The ones standing out from the six are Vivek Shraya's electro take and Nostalgia 77's imaginative jazz remake.

Nostalgia 77
Damien Rice & Lisa Hannigan (Live)
Charlotte Church & The Brand New Heavies (Live)
Hard-Fi (Live)
Drap En Hund
Vivek Shraya

Monday, August 27, 2007

Covered: The Scientist

Though Coldplay seems to have moved to the category of "Bands that have become way too popular that it's not cool to like them anymore", you can't deny that Chris Martin penned some seriously great songs. And 'The Scientist' is one of those wistful piano ballads everyone knows. Female singers love covering it, too. Avril and Natasha have performed it live, but Johnette Napolitano's version is the proper studio one, and it's on her latest album recently released this year. Hope you enjoy them all.

Avril Lavigne - (Myspace)
Natasha Bedingfield - (Myspace)
Johnette Napolitano - (Myspace)

Aimee Mann's version - (Myspace) (now my favorite one out of the bunch!)

Whose cover version is your fave? Are there more covers of 'The Scientist' floating around the web that I'm not aware of? Feel free to drop a comment and let me know. :-)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Covered: Umbrella

When an artist decide to cover a recently ubiquitous smash hit, their reason behind it might be one of the following three:

1. Their new album doesn't sell quite well enough, so a cover done right may help regenerate buzz and interest.
2. They're fresh on the scene, having come from out of nowhere. If they get lucky, they may get signed because of the amazing job they've done on the cover. If they're already attached to a label, then it will cut some time on the marketing process. The problem here is if their own stuff isn't as good, they will quickly be last week's news in a world of short-attention span.
3. They're just trying to stay relevant.

Below are three of my favorite covers of Rihanna's 'Umbrella', which may or may not fit the theories above. My most favorite one is Mandy's version, though.

Mandy Moore - Umbrella
(she performed this acoustically for Yahoo Music. Video here)
Scott Simmons - Umbrella
(synth-pop cover version. Honestly, I don't know anything else about this guy.)
Biffy Clyro - Umbrella
(courtesy of Radio 1's Live Lounge with Jo Whiley)

For more info on these artists, visit their MySpace:

Mandy Moore
Scott Simmons
Biffy Clyro

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Because Your Grandpas Are Hip Too

Get ready to cringe.

Okay, so what we have here is two sixtysomething veteran singers attempting to connect to 'the kids' today (and gain some quick publicity), and what better way to do that than covering popular, edgy rock hits, their way?
I'll reserve further judgements to you. They might be the type of covers you play once out of curiousity and then hit 'delete', but at least it's interesting

Tom Jones - I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor (Arctic Monkeys Cover)
(Live at Wembley Stadium, for the Princess Diana Concert a couple of months ago)

Paul Anka - Mr. Brightside (The Killers Cover)
(from his forthcoming cover album 'Classic Songs, My Way'! The tracklist might be a little cringeworthy. He will also cover Daniel Powter's 'Bad Day'! Somehow I'm a bit drawn in to hearing a swing version of that.)

More cover versions of 'Umbrella', 'The Scientist' & 'Seven Nation Army'! Told you it's a coveriffic weekend!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Mark Ronson Redoes Golden Skans

How come I didn't know about this? I'm not sure where it came from, but there's a good chance he did it for BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge. He teamed up with Daniel Merriweather to reimagine Klaxons' hit 'Golden Skans', with his usual signature touches, like, of course, horns. I did prefer his version to Kaiser Chiefs' one, though. With decent production value, this could as well be a nice bonus track or b-side. Plus it inspired me to revisit some old covers and I might even post a few for the weekend.
Speaking of Daniel Merriweather, the shitty international version for 'Stop Me' video (the 'tears' one) slightly ruined the song for me. Before, I pictured Daniel as this senile, black soul singer (note to self: narrow-minded), but after viewing the video, I didn't know how to feel because it's good to see that he is not what I thought he was, but on the other side, his onscreen presence made he look so corny, like a boyband reject from the late '90s. I wish he had just remained faceless to me.
Anyway, it seems that good things are lining up for both of them. Mark is MTV US's 'Discover & Download' for this month, and Daniel's already set to perform at the VMAs in September.
And here I give you the funked-up version of 'Golden Skans':

Mark Ronson feat. Daniel Merriweather - Golden Skans (Klaxons Cover)

For more info about Mark Ronson, you can click on the banner below, which will take you to his official website.
Mark Ronson - MTVs Discover + Download Artist of the Month

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Midsummer Mix

This summer so far is not the best summer I've ever had. It's practically raining all the time. Or maybe the weather and my mood just go together accordingly.
Anyway, it was during a rainy night that I remembered I haven't compiled a mix for this summer yet. After about fifteen minutes browsing my library, I came up with these 12 tracks. All breezy, laidback, and melodically lovely, just like the way an ideal summer should be. You can either check out just a song or two or download the whole thing as a zip. Here's hoping you'll enjoy them all.

Grandaddy - The Nature Anthem
Adorable-sounding kids singing about how a perfect summer should be. You'll be singing along before the song officially ends.
Belle & Sebastian - Another Sunny Day
Belle & Sebastian has a few songs that have the summer vibe. Considering I already picked 'A Summer Wasting' for last year's mix, I'd go with this one. Achingly gorgeous song. I had no idea why they didn't release it as a single, since it's really one of their best songs to date.
Husky Rescue - Nightless Night (Original Radio Edit)
Husky Rescue's from Finland. Not sure if nightless nights do really exist there, but the song's definitely fun and infectious, though a little repetitive.
Flunk - On The Balcony
"All I wanna do is sit here on my balcony and think about you and me, and how happy we could be...". Lovely song from the Norwegian electronica outfit.
Emilianna Torrini - Unemployed In Summertime
Probably the best song about summer from an Icelandic artist. (unless Bjork and Sigur Ros also have good songs about summer. Do they?)
Franz Ferdinand - Wine In The Afternoon
B-side to double A-side single 'L. Wells/The Fallen'. Tell you what, 'Wine In The Afternoon' really should have been the A-side instead of 'The Fallen'. Nice guitar solo. There's a great music video for it, too.
Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out Of This Country
Title track from the album that came third place in my best album list for 2006 (which sadly never gets published). Traceyanne's voice makes me want to actually live in the sixties.
Coconut Records - West Coast
The only 2007 song in the mix. Coconut Records is the side project of actor/musician Jason Schwartzman. It feels like the sequel to Phantom Planet's 'California', which makes sense since he's their ex-drummer.
The Sundays - When I'm Thinking About You
The kind of song that needs to be listened to while lying on the rooftop, watching clouds roll by and feel the breeze flowing. It's so beautiful I could cry.
Keren Ann - Right Now & Right Here
I think this might be an English version of a French standard. You can almost hear the sounds of seagulls and sea waves(oh wait, they're already in the song!). Soothing.
Morcheeba + Hubert Laws - Summertime
Skye Edwards covering Ella Fitzgerald. Enough said.
Wendy & Bonnie - By The Sea
I found it hard to believe that this song was from 1969. A timeless dreamy track for those aimless beach walks. It was sampled for the intro of 'Hello Sunshine' by Super Furry Animals. Couldn't think of a better way to conclude the mix.

Download the whole mix as a zip here.

What's your summer anthem for 2007? Feel free to drop a comment.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The 2007 Graduation Mix

Three months ago, I asked for your suggestions as I was in the middle of making a mix to mark my high school graduation.
I graduated in late May, and though I got the list jotted down, and the files uploaded already, somehow it just didn't feel right, so I decided to save it for another occasion. Well, lately, I've been watching some of my favorite Buffy episodes again, and after finishing the season 3 finale, I know I just have to post it up here and get it over with. A graduation mix in mid August, that's me and my timing.

My three years at high school was quite normal. I wasn't always on time for class, I got bad grades once or twice (okay, maybe a little more than that), I sometimes broke the rules but managed to cover them up safe and sound. I got along just fine with everyone, I didn't hang out much with the cool and popular kids and the geek club didn't welcome me either. But it was definitely fun. I took all of that for granted until it finally hit me that it was about to be over. As the last few days were approaching, I took a moment to realize that my campus looks so beautiful. Especially with the summer showers outside, and I was walking in the halls with my iPod on. Yearbooks signed. Hundreds of photos taken. I tried to put together every memory from the past 3 years that I could remember, and take one last look at them before I put them into little boxes and push them away to a corner of my mind...
Graduation day. Slept through most of the ceremony. Went to a restaurant with the whole class to celebrate. Then off to the karaoke bar, where I, once again, might have made a fool of myself (I've made sure the footage will never make it to YouTube!). All good things came to an end. As I was heading home, an unnamed feeling arose inside. I'm not getting any younger. There goes a quarter of my life. This fall, I'm gonna start anew as a college freshman. Things are bound to be anything but the same. Maybe I'm overreacting. I don't know. I just have to move on. Don't we all do...

For warming up, here are two popular songs with 'graduation' in their titles. I don't want to put them into the mix because it'd be just too obvious.

The Beach Boys- Graduation Day
Vitamic C - Graduation (Friends Forever)

The mix was originally intended as one for the prom night, so as you can see it was divided into three parts: the party starters, the alternative rock ones and the more downbeat, melancholy ones saved for the last dance. Most of them isn't directly about graduation, but for me, they do capture the overall emotion so I think all the songs fit together quite nicely. My selection tended to go a little more mainstream this time, but it only makes sense in that you can sing along to songs you already know. So listen away, get your nostalgia flowing, or just save it for your own forthcoming graduation. Either way, I might as well move on now.

Party starters, electro-flavored:
Justice vs. Simian - We Are Your Friends
Quindon Tarver - Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen) ['07 Mix] (Romeo & Juliet OST)
Hot Chip - And I Was A Boy From School
The Dandy Warhols - We Used To Be Friends (love the double handclap bits to bits)
The Pipettes - School Uniform (The Pipettes' first ever single, you'll be singing along in no time, dangerously catchy)
The Rembrandts - I'll Be There For You (I still watch Friends reruns every now and then)
I'm From Barcelona - We're From Barcelona (Excellent twee pop from Sweden)
Hello Saferide - My Best Friend (listen closely to the lyrics...)
Michelle Branch - Goodbye To You (Sometimes I wish Michelle would just drop out of her country duo The Wreckers and record another solo album)
Pink - Who Knew
Nerina Pallot - Learning To Breathe
Gabrielle - Ten Years Time (Extra cheese, the good kind)
Smashing Pumpkins - 1979 (classic, not too keen on their comeback, though)
Green Day - Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)
Jag Star - Leavin'
Jimmy Eat World - Work (watch the Marc-Webb-directed video, too)
Air - Remember (it slows down from here)
Zero 7 - Futures (featuring José Gonzalez)
Belle & Sebastian - We Rule The School
Sarah McLachlan - I Will Remember You
The Dismemberment Plan - Crush (Jennifer Paige Cover) (A haunting, emotional rework that takes the original to a way higher level, must-listen)
The Sundays - Wild Horses (Rolling Stones Cover) (this cover will forever be associated by me as the one played in episode 'The Prom' of Buffy)
The Cardigans - If There Is A Chance (in a perfect world, this song will be played for the last dance simultaneously in every prom across the globe, and there won't be a dry eye in the room. Heartbreakingly beautiful.)
Buffy Ensemble Cast - Where Do We Go From Here? (I know. This is still not the last reference to Buffy in this post, though...)

*UPDATE: Now you can download the whole mix as a zip file here.


Well, that was the most fun you can
have without having any fun.

What about the part where we kicked
demon ass? I didn't hate that.

Guys, we blew up the school! It's the
best day ever!

Why do demons even come here anymore?
Don't they know how bad we are?

I think we've done pretty much everything
we can. You guys wanna take off?

I'm for it.

(to Buffy)
You okay?

Yeah. I'm okay. I just... I could use a
little sleep.


If somebody could just wake me up
when it's time to go to college, that'd
be great.

Guys. Take a moment to deal with this.
We survived.

It was a hell of a battle.

Not that battle. High school.

We're taking a moment.

And we're done.

Jimmy Jimmy Aaja!

I've been spinning this album a lot lately.

It's far from perfect, and I don't think that's the best M.I.A. can offer, but as a whole, it's one of the few truly exciting releases that I enjoy. Some of my favorite tracks are Paper Planes, XR2, Pickle Mango Down River, and the best of them all, Jimmy - my song of the month.

"Jimmy" is a rework of "Jimmy Jimmy Aaja", which she used to dance to as a child. It's originally from a 1982 Bollywood musical movie called "Disco Dancer". She co-produced it with Switch. If M.I.A. ever needs a mainstream breakthrough, this will be it.
"Jimmy" is just a very addictive, bombastic track. The Bollywood string sample is...just larger than life, I've been trying to get it off my head but it just won't let go, even when I go to sleep. I also love the synths, and the arcade game sound effects. What I like about M.I.A. is her music can be bouncy, and the lyrics may seem silly at first glimpse, but when you take the time to fully examine it, it turns out to be quite boldly political and thought-provoking. Even a fun dance-along song like Jimmy is no exception, with the opening lines: "
When you go Rwanda Congo/ Take me on a genocide tour." But after that, it's pure Indian-outer-space-disco heaven.

The video is also amazing, too, achieving that cheap '80s look. It's an improvement after that seizure-inducing video for 'Boyz'. Lovin' it.

"Jimmy" will be released as the second UK single off "Kala", and here's hoping it gets to the position it deserves, a number one! Robyn pulled it off, why can't M.I.A.? She must be doing so well in Japan.

M.I.A. - Jimmy

The music video:

And for your interest, here's the original song from the Bollywood '80s movie Disco Dancer, along with a video clip.

Disco Dancer - Jimmy Jimmy Aaja

Pre-order "Kala".
Her MySpace.

PS: If you happen to be my 200,000th visitor, give me a shout out, won't you? Also, I've got something special planned for tomorrow.