Sunday, June 10, 2007

Labrador

I didn't quite remember how I got alerted to Swedish finest indie pop label, Labrador. All I know is that I was hooked after listening to the first mp3 downloaded from their site. The Stockholm-based label is named after a breed of dog. They have the lovely practice of providing a guilt-free mp3 with every new release of theirs. (It's come to the point where I find myself giggling like a schoolgirl abundant with joy every time I see a newsletter from them in my inbox). They have seriously good-looking press photos. And most of all, they have an AMAZING roster of artists. Here, I can only cover on some of them, but if you dig this post, there's definitely more where that comes from. Good news is, musically, this has to be one of the best posts I've ever done. Bad news is, if you like just one song from this post, then you will pretty much want to download all the rest.

CLUB 8


Club 8 is Karolina Komstedt & Johan AngergÄrd. They've been making music since 1995. 'Everlasting Love' happened to be the first track I've ever heard from them (and also the first Labrador track). Only a few seconds in, I knew it was gonna be great. 'Everlasting Love' is a little sweet guitar pop nugget that should see its day as an essential track for a sunny day driving. I'm so excited that their forthcoming album 'The Boy Who Couldn't Stop Dreaming' will be out this fall. The lead single 'Whatever You Want' is already making waves, and is a serious contender for my top 10 songs of 2007. Listening to it feels like a surprise visit from a long-time-no-see friend only to have her talk her heart out, then break down and cry in the middle of the conversation. It's just that good. It has almost everything in the book of the rules of good pop. Handclaps. Infectious doo-doos. Tropicalia percussion. Heartbreaking, dreamy vocals. Club 8 excels at making sad-eyed, timeless pop, and if these two songs don't appeal to you at some levels, you might be a robot. Or Posh Spice.

Club 8 - Everlasting Love (from The Friend I Once Had,1998)
Club 8 - Whatever You Want (from The Boy Who Couldn't Stop Dreaming, coming soon this September)



ACID HOUSE KINGS


Acid House Kings is also a Labrador house band, founded in 1991 (Johan AngergÄrd from Club 8's also one of the founders). Julia Lannerheim, the only girl in the band, joined in 2001. They make lovely, summery pop that you can listen to and hum along on a sunny morning, while making breakfast or just sitting by the window and gazing at the front lawn. Their music is just timeless, I can listen to any songs of theirs regardless of the fact that some of them were recorded 10 years ago or so. In 2005, they launched a karaoke contest in conjunction with the release of their most recent album 'Sing Along with Acid House Kings'. Too bad the karaoke tracks were taken down already from their official site. Ignore that pic like you never knew how the guys looked and check out the songs. If you love them (and trust me, you should) or anything from the artists featured, then more is up for grabs at the link I will be providing at the end of this post.

Acid House Kings - This Heart Is A Stone
Acid House Kings - Sunday Morning



THE RADIO DEPT.


If it was raining outside at 8PM and for some specific reasons I was forced to go out in that turbulent weather, I would grab my coat, reach for the umbrella, and put on some Radio Dept. Because their music is just perfectly made for that occasion. Just ask Sofia Coppola, she picked their track 'Pulling Our Weight' to soundtrack her most recent movie 'Marie Antoinette'.

The Radio Dept. - A Window
The Radio Dept. - Pulling Our Weight



SUBURBAN KIDS WITH BIBLICAL NAMES


First of all, awesome band name. Suburban Kids With Biblical Names makes jovial music paired with rather bittersweet lyrics. It's like I'm From Barcelona, but with just two dudes.

Suburban Kids With Biblical Names - Loop Duplicate My Heart
Suburban Kids With Biblical Names - Funeral Face


THE MARY ONETTES


When I first heard about Labrador's latest signees, based on their name I thought they were a girly all-girl pop band. They clearly are not. What I get instead is '80s-influenced pop that is reminiscent of New Order. 'Void' is the song that caught my interest. Its melodies are instantly catchy. When I find the time, I should investigate more on them.

The Mary Onettes - Void



PELLE CARLBERG

I already posted on him before here but I just have to find an excuse to show that gorgeous photo above. I'm dying to know the location of that house, so next time I'm in Sweden, I might as well have a photo taken in front of it. What if Stuart Murdoch decided to leave Belle & Sebastian and pursued a solo career, I think it would sound like this. You can check out the cleverly-titled song below for more lovable twee Swede pop. Check out the old post for another great track, 'I Love You You Imbecile'.

Pelle Carlberg - Clever Girls Like Clever Boys Much More Than Clever Boys Like Clever Girls

Earlier this year, Labrador celebrated their ten-year anniversary by releasing a 4-CD boxset called Labrador 100 - A COMPLETE HISTORY OF POPULAR MUSIC, which is also their one-hundredth release. It consists of one track from each of every record they've released. Just imagine it, the best tracks from 100 great indie pop records you've never heard. Isn't that amazing? Up to this date, though I only heard about 1/5 from it, I assume if you have a thing for Swedish pop, this should be a collector's item.

These are just a tip of the iceberg.There are way more waiting to be found here.

Say hello to Rosie Thomas...



Rosie Thomas' fourth album 'These Friends Of Mine' came out late last year, but I didn't exactly pay attention to it, that is until I heard a little song called 'Say Hello'.
Lasting only more than 2 minutes, but the song packs this utter wide-eyed adorableness. Rosie's soft, hushed vocals on top of little more than some acoustic guitar plucks. Then Sufjan Stevens sang back to her, before the two harmonized in the key line : 'Say hello oh oh oh oh'. It's pretty coffee-house ear candy, nothing earth-shattering, and is enjoyable for what it is.
Another song of her, 'It Don't Matter To The Sun', from the previous 2005 album, was actually one of the few songs I heard on that one and only time I tried to tune in to Grey's Anatomy. I kept telling myself 'There will be good songs! And that chick from Roswell!' but I changed the channel after about 20 minutes. Medical drama is just never my thing. But I did indeed find out who sang what later on.
I figured her music would make a lot of sense especially when you're on a night bus back home and it just stops raining outside. You plug your earbuds in, play one of her songs, and just smile to yourself, as you look out the window. It's just a good setting you might find yourself encountering.
Now I haven't had the chance to listen to the whole album, but I'm quite sure if you like this couple of songs, chances are you gonna love the rest. And it won't be too much sugar to handle as it's only 33 minutes long.

Rosie Thomas feat. Sufjan Stevens - Say Hello (from These Friends Of Mine, 2006)
Rosie Thomas - It Don't Matter To The Sun (from If Songs Could Be Held, 2005)



Buy These Friends Of Mine
Visit her MySpace

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Debbie, Lily, Amy, Muty.

I just felt intrigued by the idea of Debbie Harry, Lily Allen, Amy Winehouse and Mutya Buena being under the same roof, in the same room, having a tea party. But since that probably won't happen any day soon, I'll make it do in the form of a blog post.


You know, at the end of May, Blondie made an appearance on The Today Show singing 'Heart of Glass' with none other than Lily Allen (who's been covering the song in her gigs). It took a while for the video to appear on YouTube, and I just found an mp3 the other day. So here it is, the historic moment, when Lily and Debbie sharing the same stage.


Lily's done it better before. But it's a morning show, and she looked like she was having great fun. Anyway, Lily just provided her vocals for a new Dizzee Rascal track called Wanna Be (somebody send me that one, please), and also a Jamie T b-side. Her new clothing line for New Look has been selling well, too. So all good things. All we need is a new MySpace catfight.

Blondie & lily Allen - Heart Of Glass (Live on the Today Show)


Moving on to Mutya. I've heard her album 'Real Girl', and can only remember 4 songs from such a wasted opportunity. It's all so bland and unremarkable. I was expecting something more like the Groove Armada collab but apparently that is the only song that sounds like something Sugababes would do. I want real stomping anthems, not awful ballads. The obvious highlight that is the collaboration with Amy Winehouse turned out to be another case of could-have-been-better. With a Mark-Ronson-on-cheap production and a chorus borrowed from The Ronettes' 'Be My Baby', the song's pretty likeable and listenable, enough to be single material, but not amazing as it should be considered it's coming from these two body-art-and-piercing-loving ladies. Amy's vocals were totally underused, and the title, 'B Boy Baby', is a bit ridiculous. So Siobhan - Mutya: 1-0.
But the Groove Armada track was really really good, though.

Mutya Buena feat. Amy Winehouse - B Boy Baby

Mutya's MySpace

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Go Urban...


I think one of the most significant progressions in my ways of listening to music over the years is that I've come to realize that chart positions and sales figures don't matter that much. They just indicate what is on high rotation at the moment, which is not necessarily all good. If I think a song is crap, its topping the chart doesn't change a thing. Of all of the hip-hop/rap/r&b stuff that currently reigns the single/album charts, most of which I'd never listen to again, or be bothered. That's not to say I'm ignorant of the genre, because there are still nicely-produced urban music out there pushing boundaries while still being respectably listenable. Here are some of the urban gems I've favored lately.

Amerie
Poor Amerie. '1 Thing' will always come back to haunt her. Her new album 'Because I Love It' is full of instantly inescapable funk stompers (if you can look pass the balladry clunkers stuck at the end of the record). One of the best r&b albums that I do care for this year. She also showed big improvement on her vocal skills. But you know things won't turn out well when your album is released in the UK & Japan months before its US official release date. So if you like the tracks below, then the album should be a proud purchase. 'Gotta Work' is her next UK single, a track I can't get enough of and is alarmingly amazing to bits. 'Crazy Wonderful' is a '80s-influenced track that just oozes sexiness.

Amerie - Crazy Wonderful
Amerie - Gotta Work

M.I.A.
I can't seem to find the words whenever I make an attempt at describing her music. It just makes people go...um, wild. I really like the new single Boyz, which she had shot a music video for (and in it she looked like a glammed-up Midwestern Gwen Stefani. Oh wait, she already opened tours for her). So far, little is known about her upcoming album 'Kala' except that her ex Diplo and Timbaland lent a hand with some tracks. Whatever, I would still anticipate it nonetheless.

M.I.A. - Boyz (Radio Edit)
M.I.A. - Sunshowers (from 'Arular')
M.I.A. - Everyday I Love You Less And Less (Kaiser Chiefs Cover)

Lil' Mama
Young talent. Spitting the rhymes with such ease at the age of 17, over little more than drums and two locker thumps. 'Lip Gloss' may be novelty, but it's fresh and powerful and carry a positive message. She already scored a spot on a remix of Avril's 'Girlfriend' (and she did it good). Let's hope she's not just another one hit wonder.

Lil' Mama - Lip Gloss
Avril Lavigne feat. Lil' Mama - Girlfriend (Remix)

Rihanna
I never thought I'd see this day. When Rihanna actually has a decent album where every song is good. That's the shocker of the year right there. So third time's a charm, they say. Second single 'Shut Up And Drive' borrows the verses from now-defunct New Order's 'Blue Monday', and it's a slice of mighty banging, metaphor-ridden electro r&b/pop.

Rihanna - Shut Up And Drive

Lauryn Hill
Apparently, for Lauryn, it's okay to have an enormous career-defining album and disappear into the night for ten years, only to come back with a soundtrack single for a kiddie CGI movie called 'Surf's Up'. Not that I'm complaining, 'Lose Myself' is a sweet upbeat summery song and you don't get soundtrack singles this good these days anymore (take note, Snow Patrol...)

Lauryn Hill - Lose Myself

Kanye West
First, Busta Rhymes ripped off Daft Punk. Now Kanye West sampled Daft Punk. What the hell is going on? Everybody thinks it's cool to go 'electro'. Anyway, the sample is taken from 'Harder, Faster, Better, Stronger' and he actually managed to make inventive use of it. Certainly not the best thing he's ever done, but good, and refreshing.

Kanye West - Stronger

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Comeback: Rooney & The Coral

Two favorite bands from the past made the unexpected return...



I thought that Rooney had vanished along with The O.C. I had no idea a sophomore album was in the making. Of course, like most people, I wouldn't have known them if not for their guest performance on the show, and up to now, pretty much every time I want to hear Rooney, I will turn on 'I'm Shakin'' first. That song never gets old.
So when I heard about the comeback single, I was quite excited, but a bit worried wondering if they still have it.
Good thing they do. 'When Did Your Heart Go Missing' is a great piece of pop rock. It's catchy as hell, it sounds right for summertime and it's everything I can expect and come to love from Rooney. It's the kind of song that if you don't grab it somehow at first listen, you never will. Now I'm looking forward to the new album 'Calling The World', out July. Can use some more of this stuff around here.


Rooney - When Did Your Heart Go Missing?

Rooney's MySpace

---


I used to really like The Coral. At the time 'In The Morning' came out, it was different to most of the stuff I was listening to, yet I loved it wholeheartedly. That little sprinkly intro...couldn't get it out of my head. The follow-up single 'Something Inside Of Me' was great, too, and I liked their animated videos with the effects that made it look like each frame was a watercolor painting. I dug deeper into their back catalogue, and found even more good songs. And then they just disappeared.
Well, no more. New album 'Roots And Echoes' are scheduled to hit stores this August and the lead single is 'Who's Gonna Find Me'. About the single, I'm still undecided. Yes, it's pretty good, but not quite as memorable as their old ones. Maybe some more spins are what I need. I hope this time they will have decent cover art, though.


The Coral - Who's Gonna Find Me

The Coral's MySpace

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Air: New Video + Covers


Mer Du Japon is the second single, and one of the few notable tracks from their somewhat lackluster album 'Pocket Symphony'. It's also only track that has a more upbeat vibe. The video continues their minimal approach to videos, with two girls dancing underwater while a dragon writhes around them. Sensual eye candy, but with a twist. It may look boring at first, but it, ahem, pays off in the end.

I take this as an opportunity to share two amazing Air covers.
One from their fellow Parisians Phoenix (whose frontman is husband of Sofia Coppola, whose movies Air often composed for). It's unmistakably French.
The other, is an amazing take of 'Cherry Blossom Girl' by Swedish artist Fireflies. Whereas the original is a quirky, trippy electronic track, this version is going for the intimate acoustic sound, yet still managed to sound equally beautiful and dreamy. Highly recommended.


Air - Mer Du Japon
Phoenix - Playground Love (Air Cover)
Fireflies - Cherry Blossom Girl (Air Cover)


Buy Pocket Symphony
Phoenix's MySpace
Fireflies' MySpace

And we don't care about the young folks...

Just when I thought I had had enough of it.
Peter Bjorn And John's 'Young Folks' has proved to be something more than an underground hit. You know it when Kanye West sampled your song for his one of his lame egofests (think about it, Kanye listening to indie!). Don't be deceived, though, because nothing in the album sounds like it. It's all actually quite low-key, but it has its moments.

Beside the Kanye West new mixtape track, here's a bluegrass (bluegrass!) cover by Dawn Landes that somehow put a smile on my face. And a instrumental sitar version of the song (sitar!), without whistles. I think Peter Bjorn And John are inching to the dangerous Cardigans territory (in which most people regard you as a one-hit-wonder when in fact you make good music before and after your breakthrough hit etc.)

Dawn Landes - Young Folks
Kanye West - Young Folks
Peter Bjorn And John - Sitar Folks

The Comeback: Garbage


Garbage videos used to freak me out as a child. That's an embarassing fact.
Their new single 'Tell Me Where It Hurts', however, is the best thing they've done in a while. That is, indeed, an amazing fact.

'Tell Me Where It Hurts' might be the biggest-sounding Garbage song ever. It sounds like it could have come right after the release of the 007 single 'The World Is Not Enough'. I love the use of the orchestra full blown after the refrain. Shirley's vocals still give the chills, and for a woman her age, she still looks immaculately beautiful. You can witness that in the music video, Sophie Muller's best in a while compared to her other recent by-the-numbers works.



'Tell Me Where It Hurts' is the lead single for their greatest hits compilation 'Absolute Garbage', due out in July. The bonus remix disc seems to be a collector's item, with reinterpretations by Massive Attack, UNKLE, Crystal Method, The Neptunes, to name a few. Shirley Manson herself has been in the studio working with the likes of Jack White, Billy Corgan, and Greg Kurstin for her solo album, which is already a must-hear on my anticipation list. You can listen to the song below.

Garbage - Tell Me Where It Hurts

Extras: a haunting Velvet Underground cover 'Candy Says' (b-side) and a Chilled Out Remix of The World Is Not Enough.

Garbage - Candy Says (The Velvet Underground Cover)
Garbage - The World Is Not Enough (Chilled Out Remix)

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Giveaway: The Winners!

Back.
Actually, the 2 giveaways were already closed last Sunday and I've too sent emails to the winners. But so far, only 2 got back to me with their mailing address. So here's a reminder, if you can't find it in your inbox, try the spam folder (maybe because 'Congrats! You've won this' sounds too much like a lengthy scam spam from Nigeria). If I didn't receive your confirmations by the end of this week, then I'm really sorry but I may have to pick another person for the prizes can't sit there forever. Those who entered but weren't lucky enough, it's okay because I will have another giveaway up next Monday, and this time it involves Mr. Mark Ronson!

And now, here are my belated public congratulations to the following four winners:

The Veronicas CD:
Melvyn, Israel
Ben, UK

The Veronicas DVD/CD:

Joe, US

The Flight of The Conchords prizepack:

Anthony, Canada


So lately, real life has been a little rough and I was so busy posting nothing. Now thankfully, everything's back to normal so I'll try to make it up to you. Some massive posts are being drafted, next week will be Electrocraze week (with banging electronica tracks from many of my favorite bands, get ready to partyyyy!). Whatmore, I've found a new file hosting site (and most importantly, free!) so let's hope it'll stay for long.

I haven't listened to any new buzz albums for about 2 freaking months. Plus this stack of promos sitting and gaining dust on my desk. So much to catch up with.

So I'm still alive and kicking. Good to clear that up.

Oh, and, one more thing, gotta love Tina Fey! 30 Rock is awwwwesome!