Still not dead, still just resting

The semester is winding down, yay! Though of course that means that final exams and papers are winding up – not so yay. I’m gonna be busy until mid-May, so I don’t think I’ll get the last of my Best of 2009 posts up until then.

But! Until then, here are a few musical notes…

Mark your calendars:

  • KYLIE. APHRODITE. JULY 5. CAN’T WAIT!
  • Richard Ashcroft returns with his new band United Nations of Sound on June 7, when their album Redemption drops. The righteous first single from the album, “Are You Ready?”, and its video were released in January 2010, and the tune’s been getting stuck in my head ever since. A good thing, of course! The fan club-only (unless you know where to look, nudge nudge wink wink) digital download, “Third Eye (Colombus Circle),” has yet to make a big impression on me. Perhaps it’s a good thing it’s not an album track, because while it has some cool melodic and lyrical ideas, it strikes me as a bit under-developed. A sketch of a song, if you will. In any case, I’m still mega-stoked to hear the new album – my second most-anticipated release of the year.

2010 albums I’ve loved lately:

More on these gems later. :)

2010 songs I’ve been digging:

More on these later, too!

Hope everyone in the blogging ‘verse is doing well!

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Not dead, just resting – plus cool artists to check out

Oh my goodness, I’ve been away from this blog for too long! The rest of my “best of 2009” posts are forthcoming, and then hopefully I’ll get a bit more consistent with posting. Hope everyone in the blogosphere is doing well! :D

I’ve received a few emails about nifty new stuff from cool artists – I just have been as slow as molasses about actually posting about them! Here are artists that you need to hear right now!

l_d211c50386fbb749346f5b3dba2e41cc

Elika, you might remember, is a nifty electronica outfit, and they’ve just recently put out an EP called “There Was No Summer.” Find more details about this release on their News page!

The Greatcoats
The Greatcoats

“The music of The Greatcoats is, at heart, music that reminds you of better times.” That’s what The Greatcoats’ MySpace says, and I agree – but I’d have to add that listening to the warm and inviting sounds of The Greatcoats’ retro-inspired debut album makes now one of those better time. The Greatcoats is released on March 9, 2010, and you can check it out at iTunes, CDBaby, and their official site!

Tristan Clopet
Tristan Clopet

Miami-based musician Tristan Clopet has a new EP out, called “Purple.” He has a charming, versatile voice, sounding just as at home atop the grinding guitars of “Proximity Bomb” as soaring above piano on “So Alive.” The tracks on “Purple” promise great things for this artist, so check them out at his official site and iTunes!

My Education
My Education

My Education has created and will release in late April 2010 an original score, titled Sunrise, for the 1927 F.W. Murnau silent film, Sunrise: A Song Of Two Humans. Based on a listen to a track from the album titled “Oars,” this instrumental group have something special on their hands. “Oars” is an atmospheric tune that builds up to an epic end, and it highlights the group’s skill at conjuring a mood. Visit their official website and MySpace!

Whore's Mascara
Whore’s Mascara

All righty, moving right along from “Oars” to… Whores! Whore’s Mascara, that is! This trio is gonna be big – their newest single, “Monogamous,” can be seen on MTV LOGO, MTVmusic.com, SpikeTV, Fuse.tv, and Fuse On demand. Whore’s Mascara is synthy electro with its tongue firmly in cheek (and elsewhere). Try out “Monogamous” and their debut album, Like This But Sexy, on iTunes – even if just to look at the song titles. “Dance Party (Up Your Butt)”? This is a band to get behind (so to speak…!).

The Boxing Lesson
The Boxing Lesson

The psychedelic group The Boxing Lesson (remember them?) have announced that they will be releasing two new albums this year! To whet your appetite, listen to three new demos from their 2009 sessions on their MySpace!

Peter Squires
Peter Squires

Last but certainly not least, Peter Squires released his debut album, Woe Is Me, in late 2009. It’s a short album, but Woe Is Me is long on quality. It’s a folky sort of affair that showcases Squires’ witty lyrics. You can download it for free at his official website – a pretty sweet deal, doncha think? :)

Paloma Faith – Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful? (2009)

61jhr2pPaloma Faith released her debut album, Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful?, in late September. I wasn’t too interested in listening to it initially – from what I’d read about her, and from the quick listen I had to a snippet of one of her songs, she just seemed like another Amy Winehouse-wannabe.

Well, that was a mistake on my part. I found out my error in judgment when I gave her whole album a good listen. My first thoughts were so, so wrong – and I ended up loving Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful?. To write Paloma off as a wannabe or imitator would do her talent a huge disservice. If any comparisons are to be made, I’d say that Paloma sounds more like Duffy with bite. In any case, Paloma’s voice is actually more 30s-jazzy than bluesy, at least to me!

What I’m getting at here is that it’s worth giving music you’re not generally inclined to listen to a chance. Good things can come of it. :)

Now, on to Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful?!

Right from the horn and piano hook that starts “Stone Cold Sober” off, I knew I was going to like this song. Great lyrics give the song an extra kick, like when Paloma tells anyone who would dare to mess with her to “take a rocket out to space”! As good as this track is, it does seem kind of derivative of Duffy’s “Mercy.” Still, it makes for a memorable start to the album. “Smoke And Mirrors,” the next track, has a grand sound – it gets even grander with the big chorus! I love the “give it up” bridge, especially how Paloma sings “lover” as “lovahh”. Her voice sounds neat during the wordless middle eight, and when she lets loose towards the end… just, wow!

l_e6c19fe6d8e44034bdf61b9bc325e93fIn the lovely ballad “Broken Doll,” I can hear how Paloma’s voice might actually turn people off. It’s very stylized and distinct. For those of us who love her vocals, this bass-heavy, slow-paced track puts the focus right on her pipes. After the superb displays of self-confidence in “Stone Cold Sober” and “Smoke And Mirrors,” it’s endearing to hear the bits of vulnerability Paloma displays here. Listen for the cool way she sings “piece me all together” at 3:30.

“Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful?” Well, I don’t know about truth, but Paloma certainly gives us something beautiful in this song! I like that she dialed it back a bit on this one – she sounds just as good in a low-key setting as in a full-on orchestral sound. The guitar flourishes that enter at 1:26 are excellent touches. More strings sweep through as the song progresses, and horns blare, too, all adding up to a nicely layered production.

My favorite track on the album, at least next to “New York,” “Upside Down” is irresistible. The jazzy-30s vibe is tailor-made for Paloma’s voice, and the male background vocals complement her well. This song will get you moving! The middle eight is my fave bit, especially when she takes a melodic page from The Andrews Sisters’ “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” I hope this gets released as a single!! “Romance Is Dead” starts off dreamily, with atmospheric, gauzy production and a pretty melody. The second verse has fantastic lyrics, like when Paloma sings “you kiss with such a potential.” I love how her voice cracks at 2:18 – Paloma is such a captivating singer.

“New York.” What can be said about this piece of absolute loveliness? Sumptuous, larger than life, and featuring a tour-de-force vocal from Paloma, “New York” is the highlight of an already excellent album. I adore the lilting background vocals that enter in the second chorus. The whole song is amazing, but when the choral background vocals come in at 2:33, this track moves from the pop realm into the sublime.

un00titled“Stargazer” has a beautiful chorus, both melodically and lyrically: “how will I shine anymore without your atmosphere?” Perhaps not as ambitious as the other songs on the album, it still sounds beautiful. “My Legs Are Weak” is like a gorgeous, downtempo funeral march. The chorus cry of “goodbye sweet angel” is movingly mournful. The bombastic closing track, “Play On,” is sort of like a companion piece to “My Legs Are Weak.” That blast of a chorus is just wonderful – Paloma really belts it out! The strings and horns are in particularly good form here. A rather epic way to end a really lovely album.

Also worth seeking out is the pretty, relatively restrained “Press Lightly,” an iTunes bonus track. You can find places to buy Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful? here! :)

Hadise – Fast Life (2009)

A couple months on from my declaration that Hadise‘s Fast Life was probably my favorite pop album of the year, I stand by what I said – Fast Life is a fab album!

Hadisepackshot%281%29Kicking things off right is Hadise’s Eurovision entry, “Dum Tek Tek.” Turkish rhythms and western beats combine to make a melting pot of fabulousness, with male choral “hey!”s coming in towards the end to heighten the excitement. What a shame this didn’t win the prize! “Fast Life,” the second single from the album, features lyrics about being busy, busy, busy, and unable to find love. It’s less energetic than “Dum Tek Tek,” but that doesn’t detract from the electro-tinged pop proceedings. Love the line “on my high heels, try walking a mile on these”!

The next track, “Supernatural Love,” has a nice bridge (“and it’s burning…”) and ultra-catchy hook – “I don’t even have to ask-ask-ask, will this love last-last-last?” Fast-paced and fun, this is one you’ll want to play over again. “Long Distance Relationships” is that rare kind of song that is at once both melancholy and danceable. The high-pitched atmospheric synths that come in at 1:35 and the background vocals that enter at 2:08 really add depth to the sound.

My favorite track of the album (tied with “On Top,” which comes later), “Here” is a song about moving on. Beautiful strings and guitar work soar above grungy beats and buzzing synths, and Hadise’s lightly soulful voice sounds perfect for delivering lines like “being sad made me strong.” A great song – in fact, the title of her 2009 Turkish album is taken from this song: Kahraman, the Turkish version of “Hero.” Coming up next is “Married Man,” the only song on the album that doesn’t really go anywhere (but sounds awesome anyway). Hadise sounds fierce as she advises us to “never mess with a married man.” I particularly like the high note Hadise hits in the middle of the song, and the back-up vocals that warn “don’t do it, girl!”

Funky and ferocious – that’s “On Top”! The lyrics are fantastic, with lines like “once my army hits your shores, you’ll wish you could end this war” highlighting how Hadise is the head bitch in charge! The groovy bass intertwines with zippy synths, making this a perfect funk-electro hybrid. The moral of the story? “You better not mess with Hadise!” The next song, “Obsession,” has such a great chorus – it’s just good old-fashioned pop. The middle eight distorts the vocal, “tossing and turning,” so that it sounds like it’s doing just that – tossing and turning! Nice touch.

untitled23234Turkish-flavored like “Dum Tek Tek,” “Double Life” has got another killer of a chorus. It’s not that it’s big or anything, it’s just the perfect blend of great lyrics and great music. I love the “I gotta be with you” ad libs and the flute-y sounding instrumental flourishes – cool stuff! The cute “First Steps” is musically kind of like electro-doo wop, but without “doo wop”s. The “running around” middle eight is heavenly!

The final song on Fast Life, “I’ll Try Not To Cry” ends the album on a high note. Big beats, sweeping synths, and expressive vocals from Hadise convey the sadness and need for strength in a breakup. Love her big vocalizations towards the close of the track. It’s a nice conclusion to a fun pop experience!

You can buy Fast Life on iTunes or 7Digital. It doesn’t look like it’s been released in the US yet, but you can buy Kahraman on iTunes! :)

Short takes

I’ve been listening to a lot of 2009 albums over my ~hiatus~ – unfortunately, not every album I listen to can end up as one of my favorites. Here are a few that I won’t be adding to my “best of 2009” list at the end of the year, but that I think are still worth a listen. :)

Utada-03-bigUtada – This Is The One
The album doesn’t start very memorably – “On And On” is just bland. “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence – FYI” is also rather formulaic, but I love the way a melody, which is cribbed from a song composed by Ryuichi Sakamoto, is incorporated. The next track, “Apple And Cinnamon,” has nice piano and beats, and I like the “chemistry like apple and cinnamon” simile – but otherwise the song just doesn’t have that “something.” But “Taking My Money Back” has a bit of a 90s groove and great lyrics, like “what a waste of a man so fi-i-ine,” so things are looking up! “This One,” the best ballad so far, features the lyric “I’ve been living on my own like Freddie” – nice reference! :)

I found that this album gets better as it goes on. “Automatic Part II” has neat vocoded vocals, and is full of catchy swagger. “Dirty Desire” is fast-paced and I love the heavy beats and nice synth breakdown toward the end. A great guitar riff and fun lyrics like “Oops! Did I turn you on?” make “Poppin'” the album’s best track. Listen out for the “yes” after the “we have it better” lyric. At first I thought I preferred the Seamus Haji & Paul Emanuel remix of “Come Back To Me,” but the song sounds just as good as a ballad. I suppose it just depends on your mood! Love the chorus, which is beautifully melancholic but not sappy. The album closes with “Me Muero,” an up-to-date, 60s-loungey track. It’s a fine song but feels out of place; an odd way to end a patchy album.

1238761746_bwoBWO – Big Science
Big Science begins with my favorite song on the album, “Right Here Right Now.” The next track is really good too. “Love Came Crashing Down” has a piano intro that instantly brings to mind Bob Dylan’s “Ballad Of A Thin Man,” while the chorus reminds me of “Everlasting Love.” So OK, the song is derivative, but I still dig it. The big, gospel-infused ending is cool. “Kings Of Tomorrow (Ballad Version)” is moodily downtempo, and I have no idea what it’s about. It references “sealing fates,” “waiting for signals,” and “fighting the resistance.” So, yeah. I dunno. The next song, “Burning Down The House,” is very 60s-inspired, especially by the Four Tops’ “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch),” but is ultimately kinda flat.

Current single “Rise To The Occasion” has nice violin work and hand-clap beats, and I like the “oh whoa oh oh”s in the chorus. “You’re Not Alone (Ballad Version)” has cheesy beats, but the synths are great. The next song, “Bite The Bullet,” is a bit dull, really… “In Too Deep” is pop-by-numbers… but “Thunderbolt” strikes next to save the day with its driving beat and chilled middle eight. Definitely better than the last few songs. “Rhythm Of The Night” is a midtempo track that’s decent but not great. There is a nice Queen-esque vocal rise toward the end, though, so listen for that. “Singing In My Car” is just far too cheesy. I’m a big fan of cheese but this just grates on my nerves (pun intended!) for some reason. BWO can do much better than this. The next song is some sort of sci-fi love song. “Shoot From The Heart” is one of those super-fast BWO songs that I love. The final two tracks are “disco versions” of “Kings Of Tomorrow” and “You’re Not Alone,” and I much prefer them to the ballad versions.

handsLittle Boots – Hands
“New In Town” kicks things of excellently. It’s irresistibly catchy and the chorus is fierce. Little Boots’ voice, though, doesn’t grab you or compel you to listen. The music is great, but there’s no personality driving it. Still, “New In Town” is really, really good stuff. “Earthquake” is synthesized heaven with a pretty chorus. The disco-y “Stuck On Repeat” doesn’t really go anywhere, but I like the beautiful “every time I try” melody. “Click”is icily bubbly and has a fun chorus – I really like this one. The dance-y and catchy “Remedy” sounds like Lady GaGa, which makes sense, because it was produced by RedOne. “Meddle” has a fantastic chorus, but only OK verses. The military beat of “Ghost” is good, but the rest of it isn’t anything special. Clever lyrics, plus a nice melody on the “heart plus a heart” bit, keep “Mathematics” from being too flat. “Symmetry” is very 80s, but in a good way. Little Boots’ voice goes well with Philip Oakey’s (of The Human League), but his vocals highlight how soft and, well, dull, her voice is.

“Tune Into My Heart”: I can hear that it’s a nice song but it just doesn’t strike a chord with me. “Hearts Collide,” on the other hand, does. This dark track is the best song on the album after “New In Town.” Hands closes with “No Brakes,” which has a good bridge, but is really a weak ending to the album. The trouble with Little Boots is that you want to like her – she’s pop! she’s electro! she covered a Freddie Mercury song (“Love Kills”)! – but her songs leave you feeling like you had a big meal but still feel empty. Her tunes do sound tasty but just aren’t satisfying.

5554Erika Jayne – Pretty Mess
“Stars” is first and is a disco dream! Erika’s kittenish voice, somewhat like that of Donna Lewis or Saint Etienne’s Sarah Cracknell, is perfect for this pop confection. Great synth work and cool vocal effects (love the descending vocal at the end of each verse!) and Erika’s delivery bring the attitude to “Just A Phaze.” The bit at 2:58 is rather euphoric, really. “Everybody Wants Some” of this next track, which starts with a very French-sounding accordion, then gets into a dirty groove. Love the way Erika sings “she’s so bad!” Her purring and meowing get pretty silly, though. “Give You Everything” takes us back to the disco. Everything about this track is fantastic – the chorus is instantly memorable and the production is top-of-the-line. The Mike Rizzo Funk Generation remix of this song is really great, too, by the way! “Pretty Mess”: Oh dear. The one track on the album that just doesn’t work. The sex-driven lyrics are just tired, and basically the song is only a few of those lyrics repeated. Sadly dull.

“Beautiful” is more like it! A perfect summer song, all about beaches, sunsets, and sunrises. Hot beats and shimmery production touches give this track a beachy kind of cool. Deep ‘n’ dirty bass underscores the fabulously filthy lyrics of “Roller Coaster.” No, this track doesn’t really go anywhere – but like a rollercoaster ride, it’s not the destination that matters. What matters is the ~journey~. ;) On the next track, Sheila E. provides some seriously infectious beats. But “Time To Realize” is otherwise kinda boring – you’d think a track featuring Sheila E. would have more energy! The bitchy-fun lyrics, like “is that your real hair?”, make “Run Along” a memorable track. “Sex Shooter” has bite: Erika has incredibly confident delivery. The tempo slows down with “Without You,” a pretty track that proves Erika’s voice works just as well floating atop downtempo beats as riding dance drums. “Love You Forever” starts off as a slow jam, then segues into a delightful dance number. I suppose this song has the slow-to-fast formula of “Pretty Mess,” but for some reason “Love You Forever” works much better. “Lose Myself” is set in Paris in 1922 – no, I have no idea why either! – and accordingly this mellow groove features some French words d’amour. The production is beautifully atmospheric. Erika should try some more songs like this – she’s not just a disco dolly! “One More Time” closes this album with panache. Erika’s voice is really pretty here, supported by breezy, gauzy synths and beats.

All in all, a worthy album, especially considering it’s a debut. Sure there are a few less-than-stellar tracks, but a couple clunkers out of 14 songs is pretty good, I’d say! :)

la-rouxLa Roux – La Roux
You either like La Roux’s Elly Jackson’s high-pitched vocals, or you run screaming in the other direction. Personally, I quite like that her voice isn’t your typical pop vocal. The album gets the show on the road with “In For The Kill,” a nicely icy synth-pop gem. Elly’s tough delivery on “Tigerlily” gives the song a great aggressive vibe. The chorus, in contrast to the forceful verses, is rather pretty. Elly Jackson’s father gives a Vincent Price-in-“Thriller”-esque voiceover toward the end of “Tigerlily,” and to me it’s too obviously derivative to be fresh. “Quicksand” was the first La Roux song I heard, and I loved it! It’s pretty simply arranged, with no big chorus or anything, but it just sounds really good. I’ll be honest, I didn’t like “Bulletproof” at first. It sounded like an ad jingle for a toy store or something. Then I listened again, and the ricocheting drums and fierce melody got lodged in my brain. I guess it was the bubbly synths at the beginning that threw me off at first! Gentler vocals from Elly and a lovely melody make “Colourless Colour” a highlight of the album. I love how the chorus introduces a driving beat – it gives the song that little extra punch.

Though “I’m Not Your Toy” was a single, I think it is fairly average stuff. To be honest, the “I’m not your toy” thing was done much more meaningfully by Lesley Gore with “You Don’t Own Me” in the 60s. Still, “I’m Not Your Toy” is not a bad song, it just pales in comparison to the first five tracks of La Roux. The soft vocals from Elly and the twinkling synths of “Cover My Eyes” makes me think this would’ve been a good slow-dance song in the 80s or something. I like the background vocals here, “ooh”-ing and echoing key lines. To me, this song, aside from those neat bg vox, is one of the reasons why La Roux songs are thought of as just pastiches of 80s synth-pop. By all means, get inspiration from 80s artists – just don’t stick to their formula! The melancholy but bouncy “As If By Magic” reminds me of Ladyhawke’s sound. Next is “Fascination.” From the beginning of this track, my interest was piqued. The catchy melody is enhanced by thumping beats and galloping synths.

“Reflections Are Protection”: By this track, I realized I prefer La Roux’s more fast-paced songs. When they slow it down, the fairly simple synths are less effective than when paired with more energetic vocals and beats. I do like the chorus of this track, though, so it’s not all bad. The album closes with “Armour Love,” a huge step up from “Reflections…” More downtempo than just slow, “Armour Love” has more “oomph” to it because of the nifty beats and synths that don’t sound as color-by-numbers. Bonus track “Growing Pains” is stronger than, say, “Reflections…”, so I would have included it as an album track. The chorus, with its complaint that the answer Elly gets to her questions or struggles is simply “it’s just growing pains,” sounds a bit like a whiny teenager! But the melody’s good, so I can forgive her for the chorus lyrics. :)

All of these albums should be available on iTunes, though I’m not sure about BWO’s Big Science… Anyways – happy listening! :)

Florence + The Machine – Lungs (2009)

As I noted in my last semi-review: Florence + The Machine‘s Lungs is exquisite. Here are my thoughts about this beauty of a record. :)

florence-and-the-machines-lungLungs begins with the 2008 single “Dog Days Are Over.” It starts off calmly enough with plucked harp strings… then some hand claps… then the “run fast for your mother” bit comes along and BOOM! Well, that’s the first, smaller BOOM of the song. Wait for the moment after the gentle piano interlude, when the BOOM! really gets ya. “Happiness hit her” indeed! The jolt at 3:05, when the song quiets down then explodes back into the chorus, is the final brilliant BOOM! of “Dog Days Are Over.” The album, by the way, is not short on BOOM! moments. It is a testament to Florence’s great skill, because though the BOOM!s are many, they never feel unwelcome or dull.

Dreamy sounds kick “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)” off. Every section of the song is delicious, especially the “here I am, a rabbit-hearted girl” bridge, and that lush, Enya-like “ahhh-ah” right before the chorus. And of course, I love that there’s a potential Kate Bush reference in the line “I must become a lionhearted girl.” :) This is really an epic little tune, with its references to Midas, lambs and knives, and water turning from blue to red. I absolutely love the final, weary “this is a gift…” The next track, “I’m Not Calling You A Liar,” didn’t really appeal to me on first listen. There’s nothing wrong with it, it just doesn’t hit me the same way the rest of the songs do. However, I do love the creepy imagery of the lyrics – “there’s a ghost in my mouth… wraps itself around my tongue as it softly speaks.” The harp-accompanied “there but for the grace of God go I” part of the song is lovely, too.

Florence%2B%2BThe%2BMachine%2Bflorence%2B%2BgloveOh my goodness. “Howl.” Can you say “intense”? Everything about this song is fantastic. The pounding percussion and squealing strings pulse around Florence’s primal wail. Make sure to brace yourself for 2:16 – 2:30, especially the point where the music drops out and Florence cries “I hunt for you with bloody feet across the hollow groooound!” Sends a shiver down my spine, I can tell you. The song concludes with just Florence’s voice, on the word “ground.” Beautiful.

I’m reminded of Siobhan Donaghy’s Ghosts album when it comes to the next track, “Kiss With A Fist.” Just as “12 Bar Acid Blues” sounded great but didn’t quite fit with the rest of Ghosts, so “Kiss With A Fist”‘s punky garage rock sits awkwardly amidst the raw regality of the rest of Lungs. This one particular guitar lick towards the end of “Kiss With A Fist” brings to mind the nifty ending of Queen’s “It’s Late,” when the band has a short freak-out and Freddie’s voice and Brian May’s guitar squeal before returning to the main melody. OK, so anyways…! “Kiss With A Fist” is fab for what it is, but it’s just not a perfect fit with the rest of the album.

Now, the next track fits the album perfectly. Ghostly guitar leads us into the tale of the “Girl With One Eye.” Eerie, kinda gross (“I took a knife and cut out her eye”), and rather brilliant, really. The “I said hey, girl with one eye” refrain is addictive. There are 3 BOOM! moments to treasure in this song: at 2:22, when Florence’s voice soars over the erupting song; 2:45 and its sharp intake of breath; and 2:57’s “I said! [BANG!] Girl with one eye…”. You just can’t get any better than those wonderfully jarring instances.

Florence%2B%2BThe%2BMachine%2BRT3R6Km9rofnppwzkqyfhP2Co1_400
Noel Fielding and Florence

“Drumming,” the current Flo single, is next. The percussion at the beginning reminds me of the beats from the training montage in The Mighty Boosh’s first series episode, “Killeroo.” (There’s Florence glaring at Noel Fielding for some reason, in the picture at left.) Anyways! Now that’s out of the way, “Drumming” is one of those songs that is more of an experience than just a tune. Such wonderful, evocative lyrics, like how the “drumming noise inside my head” is described as being “such an almighty sound.” It’s almost a couple different songs in one, and yet it works so well. Excellent stuff! More excellence comes in the form of “Between Two Lungs,” one of the less heavy songs on the album. Beautiful lyrics about “the breath that passed from you to me” float upon jaunty piano and jangly beats. A magical little song.

Speaking of magic – “Cosmic Love”! This song is out of this world (lol). Florence booms “the stars, the moon, they have all been blown out,” and that’s just what it feels like when you listen to “Cosmic Love.” Another “experience” song, really. The next track, “My Boy Builds Coffins,” made an impression on me on my first listen to the album. It just sounds like it’s an old classic; the lyrics are simple but compelling and the music is the most restrained on the album. It’s a fabulous little gem of a tune. And then comes “Hurricane Drunk”! I love the joyfully resigned chorus to this: “I’m going out! I’m gonna drink myself to death!” Florence makes being down in the dumps a delightful notion with “Hurricane Drunk”: the music has a skip in its step and I imagine would be fun to see performed live.

Florence%2B%2BThe%2BMachine%2B%2Bjesse%2Bjenkins%2BphotographyThe album technically closes with “You’ve Got The Love” (such a fun cover of the Candi Staton song), but from what I’ve read it’s supposed to be a bonus track, so for me the album really ends with “Blinding.” And what an ending. The menacing harp motif, the awesome atmospheric touches, the lyrics: “no more dreaming of the dead as if death itself was undone,” “no more calling like a crow for a boy, for a body in the garden” (what’s up with Florence and the death-y imagery?!), and “all the walls of dreaming, they were torn wide open” are but a few of the lusciously morbid lyrics in “Blinding.” My favorite thing about the song is that it ends with a sharp breath. I mean, I love all of the song, but I adore that it ends so dramatically.

If you haven’t listened to Lungs yet, go forth and listen! :)

Florence and Hadise

Quick health update: My eye is still wonky. I can see a little better out of it, but it’s still not right. My ophthalmologist is erring on the side of caution so I’ve had a second MRI, and am awaiting an appointment with a neurologist. So I’m sort of playing the waiting game at the moment. I’m kinda nervous, but very optimistic that things will turn out OK. :)

Florence%2Band%2BThe%2BMachine%2Brabbitheart
Florence Welch

I haven’t felt up to reviewing since this started, but I’ve got to write about two albums that I’ve absolutely adored recently:
Florence And The Machine‘s new album Lungs, released on July 6 (and on July 7 here in the US), is really, really good. I had first taken notice of Florence on XO’s Middle Eight, when the video of “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)” was posted. I think I had listened to a track or two of Florence’s before, but whatever I listened to didn’t really make much of an impression on me. The lush, ornate “Rabbit Heart,” however, did. Even so, I still didn’t pay a great deal of attention to Florence And The Machine after that exposure to “Rabbit Heart.” I have no idea why; I guess I just wanted to wait until I heard the actual album until I decided if I loved Florence’s music or not.

It turns out that Lungs is exquisite. Florence has a powerful, booming voice, a beautiful voice that invites comparisons to other strong vocalists like Grace Slick but holds a tone and quality that belongs solely to Florence. Her regal yet somehow raw sound finds its inspiration in Kate Bush’s darker moments, Stevie Nicks’ most ethereal turns, and in the folk-rock of the 1970s. I may be off the mark here, but I think there’s also a slight Enya influence, at least in the layering of the vocals – and especially in that delicious “aaah-ah” right before the chorus in “Rabbit Heart.” Florence’s lyrics range from the epic (“Howl”) to the domestic (“Kiss With A Fist”) and everything in between. I love how it feels like you’re paging through a great big dusty old leather-bound book of fairytales when you listen to the album.

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Hadise

And now on to Eurovision hopeful Hadise, who released an OK album (titled Hadise) with some awesome singles last year (“My Man and the Devil on His Shoulder” in particular). This year, after giving us the addictive Eurovision entry “Dum Tek Tek,” Hadise came out with what I think is my favorite pop album of the year so far, Fast Life. The electro/urban-inflected pop songs are all worthy of being released as singles but work together as an album, too. A testament to how good music can make you feel better even in the weirdest times: on my way to my first MRI two weeks ago, something I’d never had done before and was nervous about, I listened to Fast Life on a whim and found myself loving it in spite of my anxious self!

Like I said, every song could be a hit single, but my favorites are “On Top,” a fierce attack on a girl trying to get with Hadise’s guy (how very dare she!), “Hero,” a lovely downtempo track about how “being sad made me strong,” and the wonderfully catchy “Supernatural Love.”

Proper reviews of Lungs and Fast Life are coming, but I just wanted to share my thoughts on these albums and update this poor blog! :)

Polly Scattergood – Polly Scattergood (2009)

So I wrote a little about Polly Scattergood awhile back. I noted that “I’m this close to loving [her new album, Polly Scattergood], but I can’t quite commit to that feeling yet.” I’ve since decided that I do, in fact, love this album. Listening to Polly Scattergood gives me the same feeling I had listening to Siobhan Donaghy’s Ghosts in 2007: like I’m listening to something very, very special. Will it eclipse Bat For Lashes’ Two Suns as my favorite of the year so far? You know, it just might. At the very least, the two albums are tied for my fave at the moment. On to the album review! :)
pollycover“I Hate The Way” begins with barely-there ambient synths and beats. Polly delivers the first verse in a quavering, quiet voice. The first instance of the beautiful chorus is pretty dark, with some deep synthesizers creeping around under the mix. Polly’s voice gains strength as the songs progresses, as do the beats and instrumentation – the second time the chorus comes around, electric guitars join in as an incessant drumbeat pounds. Things blow up artfully around the halfway mark of the track, as a high-pitched synth whines and weaves its way around the production. Everything gets quiet and Polly adds in some angelic background vocals, but the intensity isn’t over. Organ-like synths and a delicate piano melody make an appearance towards the end of the track, right before what sounds kinda like a spaceship hovering into view sweeps through. Polly then recites a spoken-word thing over a shuffling drumbeat and odd noises floating all over the place, with cool echoing effects toward the closing of the song. I adore the lyrics of this piece: “I will hold you even though you’re slightly mad,” “my doctor said I’ve got to sing a happy tune,” and “girl you’ve got a million different faces, so why do you put on that disguise?” are some of my favorite lines. Polly’s almost stream-of-consciousness lyrics are a highlight of the album.

On to the next track! I can’t believe we’re only on to the second track – sorry for that mini-novel I wrote up there! I just really like “I Hate The Way.” :D All righty. The kicky beats and bright synths of “Other Too Endless” belie the song’s vulnerable lyrics, like “it can’t be real, no it can’t be real, if I close my eyes maybe I won’t feel this.” I love the strings that show up towards the end of the track – really great instrumental work here! Now we move on to “Untitled 27,” which starts out with a solo piano and synths for atmosphere, plus some ghostly vocals asking “where are you?” and saying “I’m lost.” Creepy! The lyrics here read like poetry – take the first verse, for instance:

Suicidal tendencies
Drain creativity
Auto-pilot
Numb the music
Sick

pollyyyyyyyDeep drumbeats, screeching synths and what sounds like a distorted background vocal wail combine with the lyrics to produce something haunting and beautiful. “Please Don’t Touch” is up next, all bouncing beats and guitars – quite a change from the darkness of the first three tracks! But don’t worry, there’s still something wonderfully “off” about this. :) The chorus is a simple, catchy melody, underscored by hand-claps and punchy piano. The synths and background vocals that come in near the end really give that something extra to the song. More nifty lyrics like “although I lost my mind sir, I think you lost yours quicker” come up here.

“I Am Strong” is quietly pretty, driven by piano and a simple drumbeat. It’s an atmospheric song too, with wafts of windy synths and wispy background vocals entering the mix every so often. It finishes, and the album moves on to “Unforgiving Arms.” It’s sort of sung/spoken, and Polly pulls this off. The chorus has a pop song feel, and is the most “normal” sounding bit on the album. I love the break in her voice at around the 2:30 mark, during a chorus – this adds to the feel of listening in on someone’s private thoughts. That’s a good way to describe the album, actually – it’s like you’re listening in on someone’s thoughts. Set to music. :)

Solo piano starts “Poem Song” off, as Polly sings about how “times takes many tears away.” Soft synths pop up occasionally, and a solo violin plays the melody right in the middle of the track. At a little over 6 minutes long, this song is deceptive – you hear that the song isn’t going to be full of big sounds like “I Hate The Way,” so you think it’ll get boring, being so long. But this isn’t the case: you find yourself wanting to listen to what Polly is singing, because her vocals and lyrics are so compelling.

polly-scattergood-image-2“Bunny Club” is like a more restrained club track. The song tells a story – I think it might be about a girl in a brothel. The bassline and drumbeat push the song along, and the deep synths and hi-hat that enter toward the end of the track really make you want to move! “Nitrogen Pink” is next. It’s full of buzzing synths and the feel of the song builds in intensity as it goes along – frantic drums and those synths beef up the sound as Polly becomes more and more vocally uninhibited. Not so much a song as a little snapshot of emotion.

Bird callings and piano introduce “Breathe In Breathe Out.” A delicate ballad, with a gorgeous chorus – just Polly’s voice, her piano and an atmospheric synth. It’s such a beautiful song, and the lyrics are sad but pretty: “saw a sparkle, felt a tremor…” When the song ends, you feel like you have just listened to a pretty special album.

The iTunes version (at least the US iTunes; not sure about elsewhere!) of this album comes with a digital booklet and 4 bonus videos, including a charming short video about Polly, and is a bargain at only $6.99. If your interest was piqued by my thoughts (I should be so lucky, lol!), I really encourage you to try this album out. :)

Bat For Lashes – Two Suns (2009)

My first proper album review in a few months! :O I’m done with finals, yay! :D
bat-coverBat For Lashes, also known as Natasha Khan, came out with Two Suns in April. It leaked in March, however, and at that time I thought it may be my favorite album of the year so far. Now it’s May, and it’s still my fave of the year so far. This is a really beautiful album, full of unique songwriting and excellent production.

“Glass” starts the album off calmly enough, before thumping drums usher in an epic storm. Khan’s deliciously visual lyrics tell an adventurous love story replete with a “knight in crystal armor” and “two suns spinning at two different speeds.” That particular lyric, though only one line in a song full of regal imagery, is probably my favorite because the words, combined with Khan’s delivery and the music sweeping around, are full of motion and energy. Next, twangy guitars and deep bass get “Sleep Alone” going. Excellently detailed percussion pushes the verses along, and once you get to the chorus – ah! “Lonely, lonely, lonely,” Khan wails, supported by heavier production and some nice, warm synths. I love the ethereal “aah” that washes over the mix after the wonderful line, “they say for every high high, there must be a low, low, low, low, low.”

l_ee49b0ef34dc4138803481f9743e2b34A delicate piano ballad with lovely strings (or synths) for atmosphere, “Moon And Moon” features otherworldly echoes of each line in the second verse. I really like those mournful “ooh”s that make an appearance toward the end of the song. Sad lyrics about not seeing the one you love anymore might get you down, but fear not – “Daniel” will pick your spirits back up! You know that guitar lick that heralds the arrival of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)”? That’s what the almost trumpet-like synthesizers that set the mood for “Daniel” remind me of. What I love about “Daniel” is that the synths aren’t really trying to sound like real instruments (except, perhaps, for the string synths that pop up every once in awhile). It’s like this song takes place in another time – another world! Love the way Khan intones “just kids in the eye of the storm” – what a great line, and fab delivery! All that greatness, plus the song’s even danceable. You can’t get any better than that!

Foreboding synths and a jangly guitar start “Peace Of Mind” off. What makes this song awesome is the gospel chorus that repeats each line Khan sings. Khan’s vocal performance is particularly dramatic in this track. I loe the dark, country-tinged sound of this one – her delivery of “peace of mind” is more a threat than a chorus! “Siren Song” is up next. You can hear some nifty flute work in this! This is sort of the calm in the storm that “Glass” started, yet the choruses are full of a restless energy, heavy with drums and dark lyrics. We bop back to dancing percussion with “Pearl’s Dream.” “A star in me needs to be free,”Khan proclaims, before mentioning battles, kingdoms, and a thousand night in the chorus. It’s all underscored by infectious beats and handclaps. Again, the synth work, which is amazing throughout Two Suns, gives this song a unique sound. The “you know that it’s time to go up” melody almost sounds like it could have been on the radio in the 1960s. Cool stuff.

22354Organ takes the spotlight in “Good Love,” the name of a town Khan “passed… last night in a dream” (I absolutely love her lyrics!). “Good Love” drifts lazily along, but with purpose, and before you know it “Two Planets” swings into view. A solo spoken word intro and battle-ready drums begin this track. “I am one of two planets dancing” and other magical lyrics like it soar above ringing, jingling percussion. This is more like an experience than a song – you’ll want to listen to it over and over again to hear all the neat production touches (which is true of the whole album, really!). Creepy deep vocal swoop in near the end, and then we continue our journey through Two Suns with “Travelling Woman.” It’s a song of encouragement to a, well, “travelling woman,” to, among other things, “never fall in love with potential.” Piano and a leisurely drumbeat give this a timeless, ballad-y feel. Khan’s vocals and the instrumentation become a little more aggressive about half-way through the track. The track quietly but prettily ends on a fade-out.

The album closes with “The Big Sleep.” Wonderfully theatrical, this one, with lyrics about “spotlights coming down from heaven” and the acknowledgement that “it’s curtains-down time.” Khan’s lovely voice is joined by Scott Walker’s deep, dark vocals on this eerie and engaging closing track. The last half of the track features just a haunting solo piano, and ends with some kind of synthesized white noise pulses.

I mentioned in an earlier post that Bat For Lashes’ 2006 debut, Fur And Gold, failed to win me over. Two Suns, however, has got me positively Batty! Check this album out on iTunes or in stores. :D

Let’s try this again!

I said I was back… but that was in late March! School has been keeping me extra-busy, but I’m determined to keep this blog full of my rambling thoughts. ;)

Great new albums have been released or leaked recently. I’ll be writing proper reviews of my favorites soon, but for now, here are the albums that you should check out right quick! ;)

  • Bat For Lashes’ Two Suns, released April 7 in the US. Just beautiful. It’s on iTunes, on Amazon.com, pretty much everywhere, so you have no excuse to not listen to it! ;)
  • IAMX’s Kingdom of Welcome Addiction, to be released in May. It was well worth the wait – the album is full of IAMX’s lush, industrial-infused electronic rock and his idiosyncratic, dark-minded lyrics. Search Google for it, have a sneaky listen, and then buy it when it’s released! :)
  • Lal Meri, a trio that includes Nancy Kaye (formerly known as Rosey) and chill-out maestro Carmen Rizzo, have released their debut album titled Lal Meri. And what a gorgeous album it is! Download it from iTunes or Amazon or wherever and get lost in the beautiful grooves!
  • Sandra released her comeback album of sorts (a triumphant return after her divorce from Enigma mastermind Michael Cretu), Back To Life, in March. It’s characterized by bright, happy lyrics and fabulous music that matches – light years (Kylie reference intended!) from The Art Of Love, a darker album that had the potential to be an introspective, intimate sort of record, but fell short of that mark.
  • Polly Scattergood. Oh, Polly. After listening to her debut, self-titled album, I just wasn’t sure what to think. I’m still kind of in two minds about Polly Scattergood. I’m this close to loving it, but I can’t quite commit to that feeling yet. At first listen the songs sounded super minimal, with lyrics that could be interpreted as pretentious. But! I felt compelled to revisit the album a week or two after listening to it the first time. I found myself enchanted and haunted by the first track, “I Hate The Way,” and this feeling continued through the whole album. I really wanted to hear what else Polly was going to sing, what other melodies she was going to plink out on the keyboard, what other atmospherics she was going to weave. Are her lyrics pretentious? You know what, I don’t even care. They work. Polly Scattergood makes you care about what she sings. There’s something about this girl. Her stark musical illustrations are polarizing, I think, and she will definitely strike some listeners as rubbish. But those who give her a chance might just discover that she’s really something special.
  • Hande Yener, a fab Turkish pop star, came out with her newest album, Hayrola? (What’s Up?, I think is how it translates) last week. She’s definitely worth a listen – her ice-queen electro-pop sound is hypnotic (fittingly, her last album was titled Hipnoz!) and catchy at the same time.