Saturday, November 07, 2009

Snow Patrol Covers Madonna

Snow Patrol has sadly become one of those bands I can no longer get behind. After scoring their biggest hit 'Chasing Cars', they just seemed to get creatively bankrupt, as the subsequent singles just sounded stale and unmemorable to these ears. I know their music's not all that upbeat to begin with, but even the assistance of synthesizers on their latest greatest-hit single 'Just Say Yes' couldn't make them sound any less dull. I believe Gary & co truly peaked with 'Run'.
However, their recent visit to Radio 1 spawned a very listenable cover of Madonna's 'Ray Of Light'. They did a great job on Beyoncé's 'Crazy In Love' years ago, so this is another pleasant surprise. I think I'd like a studio version of this. Maybe they should pull a Leona Lewis (She first covered 'Run' on Live Lounge, then released a proper studio version as a single and earned an easy UK number one). Speaking of Leona, did you know she just covered Oasis' 'Stop Crying Your Heart Out' on her new album, with choirs and all? It's also pretty good. But I digress... here is the reason for all this nonsense rambling:

Snow Patrol - Ray Of Light (Madonna Cover)

(video of the performance)

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Under The Covers...

So, daylight saving, huh? It starts to get dark at just about 5 in the afternoon here now. The last winter of the noughties is coming. Oh well, more reasons to stay in and listen to sad music. As promised, here is another batch of rare covers. I believe these are definitely the best picks in recent memory.

Joan As Police Woman - Overprotected (Britney Spears)
(Cover, 2009)

Such a peculiar pick. I mean when you decide to cover a Britney song, 'Overprotected' wouldn't be the first you think of. Still, I think Joan did a great job with this. From a tour-only cd.

Owen - More Than Words (Extreme)
(The Seaside EP, 2009)

Yes, this is a cover of that song by those two long-haired dudes. Can you detect any irony in his voice? Because what I hear is pretty earnest.

Taken By Trees - My Boys (Animal Collective)
(East Of Eden, 2009)

A gender-reverse reinterpretation by ex-Concretes Victoria Bergsman. Accompanied by a dreamy, oh-so-summery video.

Flunk - Karma Police (Radiohead)
(This Is What You Get, 2009)

It is not easy to cover Radiohead, but I think Norwegian downtempo outfit Flunk swang the song in an interesting direction, and it worked. One for the nightdriving.

Peter Broderick - Roscoe (Midlake)
(7", 2008)

I searched for this on Hype Machine, and was baffled that no one had picked up on this excellent cover before. Perhaps this is due to the fact it was a limited 7" b-side? Anyway, if you just download one from the post, make it this one. It's a faithful cover while also bringing something fresh to the original. The moment in the second verse when the handclaps start is absolutely amazing.

Covered: Selections From Radio 1's Live Lounge

The latest volume of the BBC Radio 1's Live Lounge series came out in the UK last week. As usual, there are hits and misses, with many of the better covers left out in favor of more established names. The idea of Live Lounge covers don't excite me that much anymore, to be honest, most artists just picked a current top hit and performed it acoustically while sounding bored and joyless. It has somewhat become obligatory buzz-generating promo chore. Fortunately, some still try to have fun and bring something new to their renditions. Here are my recent favorites.

Florence & The Machine - Halo (Beyoncé Cover)

The Noisettes - When You Were Young (The Killers Cover)
(available on Volume 4)

Basement Jaxx - New In Town (Little Boots Cover)
La Roux - Farewell To The Fairground (White Lies Cover)
Athlete - Bulletproof (La Roux Cover)

I've got a string of more cover posts drafted, so watch this space...

Monday, October 05, 2009

Dead Man's Bones

Guess who's the next actor to go for the mic? Ryan Gosling. I know, never crossed my mind either. "Dead Man's Bones" is the musical project of him & Zach Shields, with a record coming out soon on Anti. At first, I listened to their track called 'My Body's A Zombie For You' out of curiosity only (with a title like that, who wouldn't?).
But it turned out to be a strange, strange delight. It's all novelty, but creepily catchy. There's not much to say about his singing, but man, the children choir killed on this one (no pun intended). Children choir is like the new handclaps. If I were walking around campus with this track on my iPod, I would have to resist the urge to raise my fists to the sky and shout along: "My body's a zombie for yoooooooooouuuu!", as that would be the equivalent of committing social suicide, I think. Well, with the current vampire craze, I guess the zombies can cash in, too.

Dead Man's Bones - My Body's A Zombie For You

I haven't heard anything else by them yet (how insightful of me), but I'm liking this trend of actors-turned-singers opting for the indie route, as they actually make listenable music. I love She & Him, and that Scarlett Johansson & Pete Yorn song 'Relator' is not bad at all. I could get used to this.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Q&A: Sally Shapiro!

If you've followed my humble blog for a while, chances are you already know of Sally Shapiro and their brand of melancholy, bittersweet italo disco. Johan & Sally's debut, 'Disco Romance', was undoubtedly one of my favorite albums of 2007, and its follow-up, 'My Guilty Pleasure', was just released last month. Now there is little I could say that's not been said already, so I will just confirm that yes, it is indeed worth the wait. The new album's a progression from the previous output, but still maintains the catchiness and wistfulness that made me fall in love with them in the first place. Among my favorite tracks are 'Miracles', 'Love In July', 'Save Your Love', and 'Moonlight Dance'. In fact, I can't wait for winter to come, as this can be the default soundtrack for my walks of solitude in cold, cold weather!

When not quietly making wonderful crying-on-the-dancefloor disco-pop, or obscuring her face with a teacup, the notoriously shy Sally Shapiro does actually do interviews. She was kind enough to answer all my questions via email (thank you, Sally!), which you can now read below, with a complimentary mp3!

MP3: Sally Shapiro - Love In July

What, in your opinion, would be the ideal setting for 'My Guilty Pleasure'?

Maybe when you're in a melancholic mood all by yourself. Or when you're travelling.

One of the differences I noticed in the new album was that there were some more upbeat, dancier tracks, compared to 'Disco Romance'. Was this shift in mood a deliberate decision?

I wouldn't call them more upbeat but maybe more poppy. And yes this was intentional and also a result of Roger Gunnarsson being more involved as a songwriter.

I was quite surprised to find out that Cloetta Paris sang background vocals on 'Love In July'. I too am a big fan of her album 'Secret Eyes'. Could you tell me about how this came about?

Love In July was co-written by Roger Gunnarsson, who as you may know works with Cloetta. So it came natural to have her singing backing vocals on the track. I promised to sing backing vocals on some track of theirs in return.

What do you think about the idea of a duet between you & Cloetta? It has the potential to be one of the most tissue-ready collaborations ever!

Maybe it could be nice. Maybe it could be reality.

Sweden does make the best pop in the world. Could you, perhaps, try to explain what it is that make Swedes so great at melodies?

Thanks - I don't know, but many many people here do sing in choirs or play instruments, maybe one reason could be the state-subsidized music schools, it's pretty cheap to learn to play instruments and a lot of kids attend these music schools.

What is so unique about Sally Shapiro is that you & Johan revived a long-lost genre and made it fresh again. Do you feel like you will keep exploring italo disco further, or would you like to experiment with other genres as well in the future?

I think both Johan and I sometimes feel that we want to try other genres as well, but probably not together. I am more into non-electronic music (indiepop like Belle & Sebastian) and Johan is more into ambient and stuff. So our common project will probably always be very disco-sounding.

Love, Sally

Lovely. This is actually the first interview I've ever done, and it deserves to be posted on a special day like today.

"My Guity Pleasure" is out now on Paper Bag Records.

Make sure to watch the animated video for 'Love In July', it's kawaii overload.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Covered: 500th Post

As you might have noticed, lately I've developed a thinly-veiled preference for covers. Should I face it and just transform this blog into a covers-only one? I admit there are lots of pros to posting covers. They take less time to prepare draft, the source is perpetual, and I love seeing songs I heard before in new coats. Plus any song covered should, by default, be at least half-decent. I do have a thing for rarities, be it covers, remixes, acoustic versions, demos or unreleased tracks. But on the other hand, I still want to talk about new artists and other aspects of music too. These days, I mostly talk about new music through Twitter though. Oh dear, this has become rather puzzling, hasn't it?

Oh well, meanwhile, here are 5 fresh picks from my library. All clickworthy.

Nicole Atkins - Under The Milky Way (The Church)
(Digs Other People's Songs EP, 2008)
A rather unexpected but excellent rendition of this underappreciated '80s new-wave gem.

The Watson Twins - Just Like Heaven (The Cure)
(Fire Songs, 2008)
I apologize for not featuring this gorgeous version earlier. Probably one of my favorite covers in 2008. The hazy twang-tinged vibe is so beautiful.

Vienna Teng - 1000 Oceans (Tori Amos) (Live)
Have you heard the new Tori album? It's just like I expected, half of it was good but other was just dreadful. My fave tracks are 'Maybe California' & 'Flavor'. It's such a shame she's past her prime, as I was going through a heavy old-Tori phase earlier this year. Here's a faithful cover of one of her best ballads, '1000 Oceans'.

Duke Special - Shining Light (Ash) (Live)
Annie Lennox recently covered this. But Duke Special & Coldplay got there first. This time, I give you Duke Special's.

Billie The Vision And The Dancers - I'm A Cuckoo (Belle & Sebastian)
(A Century of Covers: Belle and Sebastian Tribute, 2oo6)
Such a straightforward take, and yet I do like it as much as the original. The spirit is not lost here. I haven't spent much time with the new Stuart Murdoch project 'God Help The Girl', but 'Come Monday Night' is lush. Billie makes lo-fi indie pop and he's good at it. And he gives it all away for free! Be sure to look up his excellent collab with Hello Saferide, 'Overdosing With You', maybe the first song to reference Desperate Housewives characters!

PS. A post was deleted by Blogger last week, so technically, this is now my 500th post. Cheers, for the second time!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Covered: Fiona Apple/Betty LaVette

The perennially moody Fiona Apple recently recorded a cover of Cy Coleman's 'Why Try To Change Me Now' for a tribute EP, "Then Was Then & Now Is Now". It was great to hear something new from her. It's Fiona doing what she has mastered at. An introspective jazzy ditty for those rainy days. I hope she is in a studio somewhere working on some new music. It's been 4 years since 'Extraordinary Machine'.

Fiona Apple - Why Try To Change Me Now

I don't know much about Betty LaVette except that she's a well-respected soul singer. Apparently, she really liked Fiona Apple's 'Sleep To Dream', so much that she covered it and named her 2005 album after a line in the song, "I've Got My Own Hell To Raise". Fiona might have sounded bitter and resentful, but for Betty, she is real pissed! I love how she made the song her own by inserting a little more attitude, like "Gimme my back and get yo ass out there". Great cover, and rather rare, too.

Betty LaVette - Sleep To Dream

P.S. I just noticed this is my 500th post. Well, cheers to that!

Covered: Kat Edmonson

Kat Edmonson is a fresh, young voice to emerge in the jazz scene with her debut album 'Take To The Sky' recently released...
No wait come back!
Beside the obligatory standards like 'Summertime' & 'Night And Day', she also offers a unique spin on more contemporary hits, two of which is 'Just Like Heaven' and 'Lovefool'. To be honest, I was too suspicious of how she would reimagine these songs into her smooth, classic jazz style, but she seems to pull it off with ease. In short, I dig her versions. My favorite is probably 'Lovefool', though. So check them out, cover lovers, and see if she did a good job or not?

Kat Edmonson - Just Like Heaven (The Cure)

Kat Edmonson - Lovefool (The Cardigans)
*sorry, removed as requested

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Nina Nastasia

I've been a quiet follower of Nina Nastasia for a couple years now, and last week, to my surpise, I realized she was never mentioned here. How could it slip my mind?
Nina's music is quite stark, stripped down but poetic. Her short story-songs conveys raw emotions. My entry point was actually her 4th album, 'On Leaving'. One highlight was definitely track 8, 'Treehouse Song'. Growing up, I was fascinated with the idea of a treehouse, though we never had one. There was just something neat about having your own little space, to escape to and be by myself, to gaze upon the surroundings from a different view. So I guess the song just struck all the right chords with me. And everytime the cascading piano keys arrived at the chorus... it was astounding.
Her follow-up a year later is a collaboration with Jim White, a more experimental effort. The artwork was fantastic as usual, and there were good songs, but I felt something missing from this album. Nevertheless, I remain a fan and am really looking forward to some new materials by her. For now, you can try a few samples below.

Nina Nastasia - Treehouse Song
Nina Nastasia - Settling Song
(On Leaving, 2006)

Nina Nastasia & Jim White - Our Discussion
(You Follow Me, 2007)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Covered: Kate Bush

Kate Bush is one of those trail-blazing artists that are so often cited as influence, and yet never properly investigated by me. And then on this fateful night, I was bored enough to make a routine check of Youtube, and decided to view her video for Wuthering Heights. Oh my, it was a revelation. I had heard that she has a reputation for being kooky before, but after viewing that, I know she's a total cuckoo! (in a good way, of course). That video was so amazingly shot and choreographed that it's still refreshing by today's standards. To think that it was about 30 years ago! It took me a while to get used to her voice, but once I did, the song becomes superb and addictive.
Well, I'm convinced. Consider me converted. I shall investigate more about this delightfully bonkers woman's music. In the meantime, here are some covers of two of her most popular singles, 'Wuthering Heights' and 'Running Up That Hill'.

Chromatics - Running Up That Hill
(Night Drive, 2007)
Italo disco!

Placebo - Running Up That Hill
(Sleeping With Ghosts (Special Edition), 2003)
Androgynous alt rock!

Within Temptation - Running Up That Hill
(Single, 2004)
Dutch symphonic rock!

The Puppini Sisters - Wuthering Heights
(Betcha Bottom Dollar, 2006)
'40s cabaret!

The Sweptaways - Wuthering Heights
(CDR, 2006)
Gleeful Swedish a cappella choir!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Songs For Sunday

I've been saving these for a day like today, for it's the perfect time to spin them. I'll let the tunes speak for themselves. Enjoy your weekend!

Fionn Regan - Be Good Or Be Gone
(The End Of History, 2007)
Lay Low - Last Time Around
(Farewell Good Night's Sleep, 2009)
Alexi Murdoch - All My Days
(Away We Go Soundtrack, 2009)
Ian Broudie - Song For No One
(Tales Told, 2004)
Little Joy - Unattainable
(Little Joy, 2008)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Simone White

Simone White possesses a lilting, mellifluous voice. She crafts songs that sound much better on rainy days. Her bittersweet mellow ditties are unobtrusively pleasant, but alluring enough to draw me in and keep me coming back. Because sometimes, that is all I need, beautiful, acoustic music to make the day seem a little less longer.

Simone White - The Beep Beep Song
(featured in an Audi commercial)

Simone White - Why Is Your Raincoat Always Crying?

Simone White - Sweetest Love Song

Her new album, entitled "Yakiimo", will be released soon in June, which gives you just about enough time to catch up with her solid 2007 album "I Am The Man". Other highlights include 'I Didn't Have Any Summer Romance' & 'We Used To Stand So Tall'.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Covered: Jens & Tracey

Jens Lekman and Tracey Thorn
recently teamed up for the 20th-anniversary Merge Records covers compilation "Score!". As I'm a big fan of both, I was psyched when Tracey first announced this on her blog. It literally just came out of nowhere. And I can confirm that it's indeed excellent. Their voices just entwined so well together, and it's deceptively sweet for the wry, deadpan lyrics. Definitely one of the best covers I've heard in 2009.

Tracey Thorn and Jens Lekman - Yeah! Oh, Yeah! (The Magnetic Fields)
I always meant to check out Magnetic Fields' stuff, actually, but I got intimidated by their hefty discography. It doesn't help that the most recommended album to start with is called '69 Love Songs'!

And while we're at it, here are some more fine covers courtesy of Jens & Tracey:

Jens Lekman - A Little Lost (Arthur Russell)
Damn you and your kalimba, Jens.

Jens Lekman - Your Beat Kicks Back Like Death (Scout Niblett)
The build-up here is amazing. Instruments along the way with Jens' crooning make the lyrical content less grim. Almost. :(

Jens Lekman - Water Runs Dry (Boyz II Men)
Wait for his explanation at the end.

Tracey Thorn - King's Cross (Pet Shop Boys)
The Hot Chip Mix is probably more popular, but here's the original version of the cover, a b-side to 'It's All True'. Earlier this year, there was a period when the chorus lyrics of this song really resonated with me.

Last but not least, check out this brilliant collaboration of Jens with Swedish choir The Sweptaways, called 'Happiness Will Be My Revenge'. So so good. Jens has got the Midas touch, everything he does is essential. His collabs? I'll save that for another time.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Covered: Timo Räisänen

Timo Räisänen's cover album '...And Then There Was Timo' must be one of the oddest of its kind in recent memory. The selections are literally all over the place. Rarely can you find covers of AC/DC, Dolly Parton, Sonny & Cher, Josh Groban, Whitney, Mariah, and the obligatory Radiohead all in one tracklist. His approach is tongue-in-cheek, and a bit 'Let's throw all at the walls and see what sticks', but there are some gems here. His surprising cover of Sugababes' "About You Now" is certainly a highlight. I didn't know that song did well in Sweden, or did it? Certainly miles better than this disasterous, Americanized monstrosity of a cover for the tweens (click at your own risk!).
However, the most unexpected one goes to his cover of New Radicals and their only hit 'You Get What You Give'. Seriously, that song is so much fun to sing along to! How come no one had covered it before? Take note, musicians. Timo delivered a faithful version that I found very enjoyable.
Timo is currently on the roster of very cool Swede label Razzia - the home of Hello Saferide, Maia Hirasawa, & Firefox AK. Sample a few below.

Timo Raisanen - About You Now (Sugababes Cover)
Timo Raisanen - You Get What You Give (New Radicals Cover)
Timo Raisanen - Creep (Radiohead Cover)


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

More Covers Coming Your Way...

collage by Julien Pacaud

Another batch of covers. I'm not really in the mood to write some new artists-centric posts, so this should suffice for now. I was having a dreary day that seemed to drag forever, so here's hoping yours is going more smoothly. Besides, if those stats were to be trusted, you guys do love covers. Scoop 'em up, folks!

Rio En Medio - Let's Groove (Earth Wind & Fire) (Let's Groove/Staying Alive 7", 2008)
A simple, yet addictive groove. Her own music is not too dissimilar to what Bat For Lashes is doing.

Tara Busch - Let's Go To Bed (The Cure) (Various Artists - Perfect as Cats: A Tribute to the Cure, 2008)
One of the better ones from an uneven compilation. I really dig this psych-folk take. It appears that Tara's bed may be way up there, among the clouds.

Tricky - Slow (Kylie) (Knowle West Boy, 2008)
Unexpected. His version verges more on electro-rock. Did you know Emilíana Torrini co-wrote this track, and won a Grammy for it? Didn't see it coming either.

Bryn Christopher - Sour Times (Portishead) (My World, 2008)
Bryn was an unfortunate case of buzz over quality. He can sing, and wears nice trenchcoats, but his debut single was rubbish, and the follow-ups didn't fare so well, either. There was a Portishead cover on his album and it wasn't even mentioned in the press releases.

Ingrid Michaelson - Creep (Radiohead) (Live Sessions EP - iTunes, 2009)
The standard Radiohead cover song. Ingrid has a pretty voice and an uncanny resemblance to Lisa Loeb. Her songs are a bit too coffee-table-friendly for me, but this cover is lovely indeed.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Cover Ahoy!

collage by Julien Pacaud

An assortment of covers for the weekend! 5 excellent ones, as per usual. They're not exactly new, but still on high rotation for me. Enjoy.

Lily Allen - Womanizer (Britney Spears)
Recorded live for KCRW Morning Becomes Eclectic. I really like her acerbic take on this. 'It's Not Me, It's You' is a stunning follow-up, by the way.

Jonna Lee - Human (The Killers)
A lovely acoustic take from Swedish singer/songwriter/Razzia-signee Jonna Lee. She's got a newsingle coming out called 'My High'.

Jem - Yellow (Coldplay Cover)
This was on the Starbucks compilation Sweetheart. Her last album was a mess, bar about 3 good songs. Sigh.

Solange - Destiny (Zero 7)
It's the cool, hip Knowles! Her Twitter is quite entertaining, in between showing affection for her son, she also revealed her taste in music, mentioning acts such as Yeah Yeah Yeahs, MGMT, and Zero 7. This sweet performance was for the Spotlight Sessions, which you can watch here. When will she lend a few from her record collection to her big sister?

The Bird And The Bee - Don't Stop The Music (Rihanna)
A lush & playful cover. The Bird And The Bee can do no wrong in my eyes. Their new album 'Ray Guns Are Not Only Just The Future' is an absolute delight, a step-up from their debut, combining Greg Kurstin's slick production skills with Inara's gorgeous vocals. Do check out 'Love Letter To Japan', possibly their most accessible, poppiest track to date.

It's been such a long week for me. May next week come with some good news, I can be so impatient sometimes...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Hollywood, Mon Armour

Hollywood, Mon Armour is the latest project of Marc Collin, the man behind Nouvelle Vague. This time around, he relies on several chanteuses like Skye Edwards (former Morcheeba singer), Cibelle, Yael Naim, Juliette Lewis... to reinterpret '80s movie theme songs. The idea sounds promising on paper, but the actual practice turned out to be not as thrilling.
My main problem with the album is that the novelty has lost its sheen. It sounds exactly like what I'd expect it to be. The production is too repetitive to listen to all in one sitting. The tone is just so...monotonous.
Now that we get that out of the way, the album actually has a fair share of worthy moments, like Yael Naim's balladry take on 'Flashdance...What A Feeling', or Skye Edwards' enticing reading of Blondie's 'Call Me'. The treatment of 'Eye Of The Tiger' eerily reminds me of another cover version by Olivier Bernet for the soundtrack of Persepolis, though. Overall, in my opinion, Hollywood, Mon Armour would benefit from cutting off a few tracks (to later use as bonus tracks, perhaps). Marc's approach is just too safe and treading old ground now, he needs to take some new tricks up his sleeves. The formula's not broken, but it would help if things got shaken up a bit more.

Yael Naim - Flashdance...What A Feeling (Flashdance)
Skye Edwards - Call Me (American Gigolo)
Leelou - Don't You (Forget About Me) (The Breakfast Club)
Katrine Ottosen - Eye Of The Tiger (Rocky III)


Here's the tracklist:

01. View To A Kill (feat. Skye)
02. Call Me (feat. Skye)
03. When Doves Cry (feat. Nadeah)
04. Eye Of The Tiger (feat. Katrine Ottosen)
05. Cat People (feat. Dea Li)
06. Flashdance (What A Feeling) (feat. Yael Naim)
07. Footloose (feat. Cibelle)
08. This Is Not America (feat. Juliette Lewis)
09. Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do) (feat. Nadeah)
10. Together In Electric Dreams (feat. Nadeah)
11. Reality (feat. Nancy Danino)
12. Forbidden Colours (feat. Nadeah)
13. It's Wrong For Me To Love You (feat. Bianca Calandra)
14. For Your Eyes Only (feat. Dea Li)
15. Don't You (Forget About Me) (feat. Leelou)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Covered: Girls Aloud

Everybody wants a piece of Girls Aloud nowadays.

First, Scottish musician Malcolm Middleton recently put up his cover for 'Call The Shots' for free on his website. Also included is his take on The Saturdays' hit 'Issues'. Malcolm's tactic is nothing new, which is to strip it down, dissect the melodies, strum the guitar and put on a strong accent. Still, it's interesting to hear such meticulously-produced pop songs in such context. The Saturdays cover might even be better than the original - the lamest single of the pop group so far (their pedestrian charity cover of Depeche Mode's 'Just Can't Get Enough' already counted).

Malcolm Middleton -Call The Shots (Girls Aloud Cover)

Malcolm Middleton - Issues (The Saturdays Cover)

Bloc Party had also covered 'Call The Shots' for Radio 1's Live Lounge. The intention is good, but let's say Kele's voice is not best suited for the song...

Bloc Party - Call The Shots

The latest British up-and-coming act, Florence & The Machine (pictured above) had a go at 'Can't Speak French', too. I still remain undecided on her own music, but her folk-infused cover is quite alright. She's clearly a nutter, which is great. I wonder whether Nicola and Florence would meet to share fashion tips?

Florence & The Machine - Can't Speak French (Girls Aloud Cover)

It's funny that only after 6 years in the business that Girls Aloud finally reached their peak, thanks to no small parts from Cheryl Cole's current X-Factor judge stint. My unashamed fascination with the group is also at an all-time high. 'Out Of Control' might not be their best album, but it still is an amazing pop confection. They even came close to dethroning The Cardigans as the most listened to band on my iPod (yikes)! It's great to see them getting the recognition they deserve, and here's hoping for a couple more albums before the eventual split.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Beast - Mr. Hurricane

How do you like the spanking new layout? I finally caved in yesterday and decided to upgrade from the classic Blogger template. Closed the blog for about 2 hours, meddled with codes, refurbished this and that. And I'm very pleased with the result. It looks so much nicer, isn't it? I particularly like the rounded corners and the fixed background. That dusty, dull, unsightly old one can retire now, phew. On to the music...

Beast is a new Montreal duo, consisting of Jean-Phi Goncalves and Betty Bonifassi. Now Betty came as a big surprise, as I remembered her singing on the soundtrack for 'The Triplets Of Belleville', one of my favorite animated movies ever, and also one of the most bonkers I've seen. Never would I have guessed that, since her vocals on the following track is so much...rawer.
'Mr. Hurricane' is a fuzzy mix of soul, rock, and electronic. Betty coined their sound as 'trip rock', so let's stick with that for lack of a better description. The track got me bobbling head and tapping toes instantly, and that is always a good thing. There's a certain '90s flair to the driving beats, but with a more updated touch. Also, there's a choir in the chorus! Plus one! Actually, I think the choir made the song.

TRY: Beast - Mr. Hurricane

The music video for the song is very cool, if a bit uneasy. Beast has a recurring obsession with bees, apparently. Not just a few, thousands of swarms of them. You're best advised to not click on the play button if you have apiphobia.
Beast - Mr. Hurricane from MapleMusic Recordings on Vimeo

Beast's self-titled album was released in the US on March 3. I find this taster decent and very likable, so I will probably give it a spin. You can purchase it here or on iTunes.

P.S. I was going to make 'Beety and the Beast' the headline. Thank goodness I did not. Ummm...

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Loney Dear - Airport Surroundings

Loney, Dear and I got off on the wrong foot back then, as I made the mistake of viewing the rather disturbing video for 'I Am John' first. I was put off and decided to pass.

2 years and minus a comma later, Loney Dear's back with a new one. Luckily this time, the second first impression hits all the right chords.

'Airport Surroundings' is his new excellent single, in that it's properly catchy indie pop and also managed to, in risk of sounding cheesy, "pull my heart strings". The first listen was a bit manic with all the frantic layers, but soon all came together. The earnest lyrics demonstrated the quiet wreckage and the despair so well I half expected him to have a nervous breakdown at the end of the song. The moment the crescendo came, and the harmonies kicked in before the chorus was sung once more - Wow. So much emotion packed in just over 3 minutes. Can you imagine driving to this after a not-so-good day? My mouth was singing along, but my head hurt, in a good way. Had I heard this 2 years ago, I don't think I would have enjoyed this as much. I guess I'm at a different place now, and my taste expands with time. Sad, sad music for lonely nights.

Avoid the radio edit that reconstructs the song into the traditional verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure. Fail. Just listen to the original in all its glory.

TRY: Loney Dear - Airport Surroundings

Oh, need I mention he's Swedish?

Watch the apt driving-themed video.

Visit his MySpace.
Buy the album.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Towa Tei + Miho Hatori = Big Fun

Towa Tei, one of the leading figures in the Japanese electronic scene, has returned after a long hiatus with new single 'Mind Wall'. Considering he's a former member of Deee-Lite, I guess it makes sense that he recruited the help of another '90s alumni, ex-Cibo Matto Miho Hatori! And the result is fantastic. I like the contrast of the rhythmic verses against the jazzy, laidback chorus, of the thumping drum-n-bass beats against the plodding piano keys. This kind of fusion might not be anything new, but it works perfectly. And the animated promo video is total eye candy, it's bonkers, Japanese style!

The new album, 'Big Fun', is on iTunes internationally by now, I think. I'm looking forward to hearing the rest.

TRY: Towa Tei Feat. Miho Hatori - Mind Wall

If you're not too familiar with Towa, make sure to check out his two Kylie collaborations. 'German Bold Italic' is an ode to an imaginary typeface (!), with an odd video featuring Kylie in geisha get-up, directed by her then-boyfriend Stéphane Sednaoui. The other, 'Sometime Samurai', was released in 2005, a good 7 years after the first collab.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Bic Runga Returns.

Bic Runga is probably the greatest musical export ever from New Zealand. Why her music never really caught on beyond her native country still perplexes me. 3 years after 'Birds', she finally returns with a new compilation. 'Try To Remember Everything' comprises b-sides, rarities, live cuts and previously unreleased materials. The album's actually quite good, in comparison with others of this ilk. One of the many highlights is 'A Day Like Today', a b-side from my favorite Bic era 'Beautiful Collision'. It's a wonderful feel-good song with not a single note gone to waste. Bic's cute way of enunciating certain words is also on display here. Listen closely. I misheard 'carried' as 'carefree', and 'a message' as 'Mrs. Jones' all the time. 'Strangers Again', a new recording of a song by Kiwi band Sneaky Feelings, is closer to the style of her third album, 'Birds'. There's also an orchestral take on the jazz standard 'Autumn Leaves', and two pristine live versions of 'Drive' and 'Sway'. I swear I had like 4 different live versions of 'Sway' and I love them all. Here I offer you a rare acoustic performance from the Irish charity compilation 'Even Better Than The Real Thing' instead. If you're not familiar with her, then make 'Sway' your starting point. I still remember clearly the first time I saw the music video for 'Sway' on VH1. So captivated was I that I rushed to my dial-up connection to find out more about this amazing woman. That video was an alternate version that's not on Youtube, the one with her walking down the snowy streets, bumping into eerie twins. I'd love to watch that one again. Aah, good times...
You don't know how hard it is to find an old pic of hers with decent quality. I ended up choosing the one above, a very young Bic from the late '90s, she's lovely isn't she?
If you're already a fan, then this is a nice collector's item to tide you over, if you're not, seriously, start digging.
I know she's quite busy raising her child these days, but let's hope new materials will be put out soon. In the meantime, enjoy.

Bic Runga - A Day Like Today
Bic Runga - Strangers Again (Sneaky Feelings Cover)
Bic Runga - Drive (Live)

Bic Runga - Sway (Live)
(from Even Better Than The The Real Thing Vol. 2, 2004)

Try to buy the album here.

Visit her MySpace.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

I'm Done Hibernating.

Welcome back, guys! Yes, I finally return from my 3-month hiatus. Feels good to be home. Happy new year, 2009! If you're reading this, thank you - for sticking around.

So I guess I should start with a rational explanation. College applications. To America, that is. It was a painstaking, cruel process, but I'm glad it's all done, now all I can do is sit here waiting and hope for the best come April.

I must admit it felt refreshing to be out of the loop. I was able to spend more time revisiting the good old tunes and those I'd overlooked. Overall, 2008 was an uneventful year musically. Plus, I was a bit intimidated by the whole Blogger-vs-bloggers debacle. It was devastating to see my posts yanked down by a bot. I'd read some ridiculous stories, and I even had doubts about whether I should carry on or not. In the end, I just couldn't give up, so here I am. For now, I'll try to stay low profile, buying my own domain is just not an option as a server costs money of which I'm running short...I was a bit annoyed that I wasn't able to put together another Christmas mix this year, though, I had a lot of materials and now they'll have to wait for another year - what a waste of festivity.

Anyways, as a way of making up for my lack of updates, I'll make an exception and do a special repost! Drop a comment and I'll accept the first 5 requests! One track per person, please. (Okay I'll make it clearer. What I meant was if you're new here, and want to get an old track I posted that has now expired, then just say it and I'll repost it for you)

Here's a little treat for you all. No introduction necessary, I shall give you:

Adele - Black And Gold (Sam Sparro Cover)