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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Summer Tunage!

It’s time now to post what’s on my Songs of Summer 2009 playlist so far!

First, though:

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The Minogue sisters!
  • I’ve been listening to Dannii Minogue non-stop for the last few days. I just got in the mood to listen to her and simply couldn’t stop! Dannii, please come out with some new music sometime! :) I’ve particularly been enjoying listening to some of my old favorites like “Hide & Seek,” which next to “I Begin To Wonder” is my favorite Dannii ditty.
  • I also went on a Kylie Minogue binge about a week ago. She’s only about 200 songs away from topping Kate Bush on my last.fm charts!! :O Never thought I’d see that happen. Anyways, I really enjoyed listening to Impossible Princess again. Despite this being my favorite Kylie album ever and placing in my Top 5 fave albums of all time, I don’t listen to IP as often as you’d think. To put it simply, it tends to get me down because it reminds me so much of a bittersweet time in my teen years. Bitter, because I had just dealt with my first round of OCD badness; and sweet, because I have good memories of school and friends from that time. Hearing the darkness of “Too Far” and the frantic “Limbo” again remind me of how far I’ve come since I first heard the album at 16.

Sorry for getting depressing there! OK, now onto the Songs of Summer 2009. :)

  • “Who Do You Love Now (Bart Claessen FM Edit)” by Riva, featuring Dannii Minogue, is a 2009 reworking of the classic club stomper. This remix is not as epic as the original – but it’s still a good, trance-y mix with lots of blazing synths. There’s also a rejigged version of the video to match – check it out here!
  • Sophie Ellis-Bextor‘s distinctive vocals can be heard on Freemasons‘ “Heartbreak (Make Me A Dancer),” a stonkingly great dancefloor anthem. (I’m not even sure if “stonkingly” is a word, but that’s just how good this song is – it makes you invent new words!) The video edit has an awesome breakdown and buildup with some lovely strings. Well worth a listen!
  • I had listened to “When Love Takes Over,” by David Guetta featuring Kelly Rowland, a couple of months ago but it didn’t really make a dent with me then. After reading an entry singing the praises of the song over on Pop Trash Addicts, I thought I should give the song another listen. Now it has earned a place on my Songs of Summer 2009 playlist! The keyboard in the song reminds me of great big dance tracks of the 90s, which is a very good thing. :)
  • I have been absolutely adoring “Berlin” by French singer Christophe Willem. The album it comes from, Caféine, features Christophe singing with Kylie (or singing with her recording, whatev!) on a new version of “Sensitized,” which prompted me to give the album a try. Now I adore Caféine too! Caféine is perfect electro-pop and I’ll probably review it soon! :)
  • The Black Eyed Peas are back and I quite like their new single, “Boom Boom Pow.” It’s pretty minimal electro-hip-hop, but it’s highly addictive! :)
  • In-Grid, another fine French singer, has a song called “Le Dragueur” out right now that I really love. The accordion or whatever works so well with the beats, and the “yeah yeah yeah”s of the chorus are cool too.
  • Dragonette are back with a new single! “Fixin’ To Thrill” is full of awesome deep bass, synths, guitars, and fierce vocals from the lead singer. Can’t wait for their new album!
  • I’m really liking Pop Levi‘s new glam grunge single, “Terrifying.” Different in that it’s not nearly as upbeat as last year’s Never Never Love singles were, it’s still awfully catchy! I actually prefer it to the other single he’s got out now, “Police $ign.”
  • BWO has a new single out, titled “Right Here Right Now.” All the usual BWO bits are here: light but infectious beats, pretty synths, and and anthemic chorus. A fine slice of pop, perfect for the summer!
  • I’m kind of on the fence about Niels Van Gogh‘s revamp of Livin’ Joy’s 90s hit “Dreamer.” The extended remixes are great, but the only radio edit of the song I can find is the Denis Koyu & Micha Moor Radio Mix (for my summer playlist, the songs have got to be short and sweet!) – a good mix, yes, but a little long at 4:30. Otherwise, it’s a dancefloor-ready tune!
  • Speaking of the dancefloor – Cascada has a new song out called “Evacuate The Dancefloor.” It’s kind of a carbon copy of Lady GaGa’s “Just Dance,” but it’s got a charm all its own. The Wideboys Radio Mix really takes the song to the club, and has found a space on my summer playlist. :)
  • Last but not least is “The Wind Blows (DiscoTech Remix)” by The All-American Rejects. I’m not a big fan of them but I seem to always like their singles. I really would have liked a big club mix of this track but this electro mix is good too; the deep synths and fat beats beef up the ballad-like original.

A Kylie Tale

As I was listening to the reissue of Kylie Minogue’s 1994 album, Kylie Minogue, I was reminded of a rather formative moment from when I was about sixteen or so. I was telling a friend from a Doctor Who forum on AIM about how I had received two Kylie reissues in the mail and was excited to listen to them. He scoffed. Scoffed! “Kylie Minogue?!” he laughed. And poor naive little 16-year-old that I was, I was embarrassed a bit. Was it silly to be a Kylie fan?km106Then soon after, when instant messaging another friend from the forum (I didn’t get out much, obviously!), the topic of music came up. I hesitantly, sheepishly said I liked Kylie but that I knew that wasn’t really cool. And that person typed some words that have remained true to this day for me about Kylie and music in general: “There’s nowt wrong with Kylie.”

Honestly, I’m not exactly a pushover. Usually I’d have just brushed that Kylie scoff off, but you know how insecure you get during those awkward teen years (and I was certainly an awkward teen!). I think that even without that second person’s validation, I’d have realized pretty soon that there really isn’t anything wrong with being a Kylie fan. Or a fan of any artist. But that person maybe quickened the process, and gave me a great phrase to use too!

It’s true, too. There’s nowt wrong with Kylie. There’s nowt wrong with listening to and loving any artist. Music snobs are the worst and should be ignored. If it makes you happy, if it means something to you, if it makes you shake a tail feather – then be proud of your tunes! :)

Kylie Minogue – X (2007)

X marks the spot. OK, I know that sounds cheesy – but it’s true! When X was first released in November 2007, I was thrilled to bits that we finally had Kylie back and seemingly better than ever. But I was slightly unsure about X itself, I’m afraid to admit.

For one thing, as cool as “2 Hearts” is, it just seemed kinda off as the first single. My biggest gripe with that track is that Kylie doesn’t do the last, rapturous “I’m in love!” at the end of the song – and, indeed, doesn’t sing much of the backing vocals.

kx5546And then there was the hype surrounding the release of X. Before it was released, before “2 Hearts,” before there were any clips circulating, there seemed to be two schools of hope: X would either be an album of pop perfection not heard since… well, ever; or, X would be a superb return to the introspection and experimentation of the Impossible Princess era – as well as a perfect pop album.

I’ll admit that I had my fingers crossed for IP Volume II. Kylie proved with Impossible Princess that she has way more going on in her head than visions of hotpants and glitter. Surely the emotional experiences of Kylie’s last few years should result in an album that lyrically explores the darker parts of her mind and musically delves deep into her soul?

But then, that’s not what Kylie’s about, is she? And I mean that in the most wonderful way possible. Kylie’s music from the very beginning has been about celebrating life and love. As I said in a LiveJournal post about the fab Ms. Minogue, even during her darkest musical time, she was able to find “Some Kind Of Bliss” in her life. Kylie’s music doesn’t focus on the bad times in life or wallow in melodrama – her songs are centered around the belief that life and love are beautiful things. We need music like that. Introspection is good and all, but sometimes, you just need a little fabulousness.
kyliex9So I changed my mind about X. We don’t know what was going through Kylie’s mind and heart the last few years, but it’s reasonable to assume that it wasn’t all sunshine and daisies. Why would anyone want to go through that and then create an album that just dwells on that difficult time? Kylie got through a hard period in her life. This calls for a celebration. And that’s what X is all about.

The electronic glam-rocker “2 Hearts” opens the album and is followed by “Like A Drug,” a fab electro-dance number. It’s all burbling, buzzing synths and features a confident vocal from Kylie. “In My Arms” comes up next and immediately establishes itself as a Kylie classic. Euphoric and beautifully produced with sweeping vocals and whirling synths, “In My Arms” is just sensational.

And now we move from sensational to “Speakerphone”! It’s a little over-long at 3:54, but “Speakerphone” has a cool sound and has a habit of getting stuck in my head! Next we have “Sensitized.” A sort of “Cowboy Style” for the 2000s, this track is the only one on the album that doesn’t seem to gel. It’s a fantastic tune with great beats (and that “whoo!”-ing Gainsbourg sample isn’t as annoying as a lot of fans make it out to be!) but is almost too “organic” for the electronic soundscape of X.

I have to be honest about this next track. “Heart Beat Rock” is ultimately just Kylie knocking off Gwen Stefani’s “sound”. (I am not a Stefani fan and while I liked some of her first album’s tracks, her vocal style now just grates on my nerves.) The chorus is all right but the verses – oh no! Kylie sort of mimics Gwen’s talking/singing style and it just makes me cringe. C’mon Kylie, you’re better than that!!

untitled2X recovers from that terrible faux pas with “The One,” a brilliant pop gem of a song. “Love me, love me, love me, love me” sings Kylie, and how can you resist when the request is packaged in such a fresh, exhilarating song? Up next is “No More Rain,” a sweet, understated tune with poignant lyrics. “Funny how life can unfold” – too true! The low-key groove continues with “All I See,” an RnB-inflected track that, if it doesn’t get you on your first listen, will certainly grow on you.

“Stars” is next and features rockin’ drums that push the song along while Kylie gives a fantastic vocal performance. The mood throughout the album has been happy and energetic, but the next track kicks it into overdrive! “Wow” is a simply wonderful pop song that romps along at a frenetic, joyful pace. Speaking of romping, “Nu-Di-Ty” is often derided as the album’s worst track by people who have not yet come to understand the brilliance of this song. You see, “Nu-Di-Ty” is so awful that it’s great. It sounds like something Kylie and her producers came up with in the studio while drunk or something. It’s the musical equivalent of those idle doodles you drew while sitting in class in high school. “Nu-Di-Ty” is a throwaway track that somehow made it onto the album, and for that feat, should be regarded as a classic.

1355564The album closes with “Cosmic,” a song that, if performed in front of an audience, will most certainly result in that cheesy arm-waving thing. I feel like doing that when I’m listening to it on my iPod! “Cosmic” is a pretty, orchestral-sounding track that is really rather epic. It’s always nice to hear Kylie singing downtempo songs (“Put Yourself In My Place” being the best example of this) and “Cosmic” is a fine addition to that small but lovely group of songs in her repertoire. It’s a touching end to a long-awaited album. So OK, maybe X didn’t change the face of pop music as we know it. But it applied a fresh new coat of lip gloss and some wicked glam eyeshadow, and really, what more could you ask for?

Kylie – In My Arms & Wow videos

Unless you live under a rock, you probably know that Kylie is fierce. After the worthy but ultimately not terribly exciting lead single “2 Hearts” and its video, Kylie is well and truly back on form with sensational videos for “In My Arms” and “Wow.”

"In My Arms"
“In My Arms”

“In My Arms” features several Kylies: Kylie in “too cool for school” mode, rocking around a futuristic recording booth (note the return of a super cool mic!); Kylie as pure pop princess, complete with ringlets!; and Kylie as nutso fan fanatic. Yeah, I’m not so sure about that one either but it works wonderfully! This is one of the best videos of Kylie’s career; Pop Trash Addicts says that the opening seconds in the recording booth are “positively iconic” and I agree wholeheartedly!

"Wow"
“Wow”

After all that perfection, you might expect “Wow” to not live up to expectations – and you’d be wrong! Kylie rips up the disco and raves on the dancefloor in this spacey, slightly sci-fi vid. Looking too nifty in a spacesuit and platinum bob, our girl grooves amidst strobing lights (too many, say Ofcom!) and even dances around a glowing pole! (Not as dirty as it sounds.) I especially like the bit where it gets all black-light-y and Kylie dances around in a glowing wig. Neat!

These songs are the kind celebratory anthems that Kylie is known and rightly loved for. “In My Arms” is simply euphoric, all swooshing synths and vocals, and “Wow” will have you up and dancing and singing along. The radio version of “Wow” isn’t too different from the album track – the beats just seem to have been beefed up a bit. I have the strangest feeling that “Wow” could be Kylie’s next big hit – it’s the kind of simple, feel-good pop that catches public attention. Hopefully other people will feel the same way when the single is released later this month! :)

I’m in love, woo! 2 Hearts Thoughts

By now, you’ve probably heard Kylie’s new single, ‘2 Hearts’. If not, have a look at the video. :)
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And also by now, you should pretty much have figured out that KYLIE IS BACK! Yes indeedy, Ms Minogue is back and on top form. ‘2 Hearts’ is a brilliant new musical direction for Kylie – it’s pop, but a more mature, sophisticated kind of pop. My only tiny complaint is that not all of the background vocals are Kylie’s voice, but you know what? Who cares? It’s such a neat song and it’s gonna go straight to #1. :)

(Can you tell I’m a bit excited about all this? ;) )

And the video! How cool is that? Kylie looks sensational and utterly commands each frame. Welcome back, Kylie. :)

Kylie Minogue – X Details!

untitled45454547OMG OMG OMG! The release date, title, and tracklist for Kylie’s forthcoming album have been confirmed over at kylie.com!

The album is titled X and will be released on November 26 2007, following the November 12 release of first single ‘2 Hearts‘.

The tracklist includes three previously leaked tracks – ‘In My Arms,’ ‘Sensitized,’ and ‘Stars’ – presumably in a fully produced, final version. The album cover has not been revealed yet. Popjustice has released the writing and production credits, reproduced below.

Kylie Minogue –
X

  1. 2 Hearts
    Written and produced by Kish Mauve
  2. Like A Drug
    Written by Mich Hedin Hansen / Jonas Jeberg / Engelina Andrina Larsen / Adam Powers Produced by Cutfather & Jonas Jeberg
  3. In My Arms
    Written by Kylie Minogue, Adam Wiles, Richard “Biff” Stannard, Paul Harris, Julian Peake
    Produced by Richard Stannard
  4. Speakerphone
    Written by Christian Karlsson / Pontus Winnberg/ Henrik Jonback / Klas Ahlund
    Produced by Bloodshy & Avant
  5. Sensitized
    Written by Guy Chambers, Cathy Dennis and Serge Gainsbourg Produced by Guy Chambers and Cathy Dennis
  6. Heart Beat Rock
    Written by Kylie Minogue, Karen Poole, Adam Wiles Produced by Calvin Harris
  7. The One
    Written by Kylie Minogue, Richard “Biff” Stannard, James Wiltshire, Russell Small, John Andersson, Johan Emmoth and Emma Holmgren
    Produced by Richard “Biff” Stannard & The Freemasons
  8. No More Rain
    Written by Kylie Minogue / Christian Karlsson / Pontus Winnberg / Jonas Quant / Karen Poole Produced by Greg Kurstin
  9. All I See
    Written by Jonas Jeberg / Mich Hedin Hansen / Serano Produced by Cutfather & Jonas Jeberg
  10. Stars
    Written by Kylie Minogue / Richard “Biff” Stannard / Paul Harris / Julian Peake
    Produced by Richard Stannard
  11. Wow
    Written by Kylie Minogue / Karen Poole / Greg Kurstin Produced by Greg Kurstin
  12. Nu-di-ty
    Written by Christian Karlsson / Pontus Winnberg / Karen Poole Produced by Bloodshy & Avant
  13. Cosmic
    Written by Kylie Minogue / Eg White Produced by Eg White

This is exciting stuff! :D

New tunes and such!

There have been several new music leaks/releases/previews recently, so here are my faves of the lot:

  • Oh, Britney Spears. Personally, I think the poor thing should quit the biz for awhile and sort herself out, but I quite like her new single, ‘Gimme More.’ I’ve never been a fan of Britney but I’ve never actually hated her music, and ‘Gimme More’ is a pretty nice urban-electro cut.
  • Oh, Madonna. ‘Candy Shop’ leaked and frankly, I’m not digging it.
  • Mylène Farmer protégé Alizée is coming out with a new album (Psychédélices – what a cool title!) in November and first single ‘Mademoiselle Juliette’ will hit radio stations in late September. Catchy as all get-out and beautifully produced!
  • It’s in the trees! It’s coming! …Kylie’s comeback, that is! ‘2 Hearts,’ produced by Kish Mauve, will be out in November. So far we have the original Kish Mauve demo to listen to – NO Kylie vocals here, folks, but you get the idea of what the song will sound like. To me, the track seems to have taken its direction from ‘Some Girls’ (Rachel Stevens) and, strangely enough, ‘Spirit In The Sky’ (Norman Greenbaum) – and it sounds great. Once Kylie works her magic on it, this will be the single of the year.

Speaking of Kylie, here’s a pic from her upcoming calendar. kyliemovellanIs anyone else reminded of Doctor Who‘s Movellans? :)

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Kylie Minogue – Kylie Minogue (1994) + Impossible Princess (1997)

00001Kylie. Does she even need an introduction? Check out Wikipedia for the facts, but all you really need to know is that Kylie Minogue is fabulous. I first got into her tunes around the time of the release of Fever. I picked up her ‘Love At First Sight’ single and the rest, as they say, is history!

Kylie’s career has produced some damn fine music that is actually quite varied compared to your average pop star (and Kylie is anything but average!). My personal favorite Kylie ‘era’ of music is during her time with the deConstruction label. ‘Why?’, I hear you ask. I mean, that wasn’t a particularly successful time in her career, and when people think of ‘Kylie Minogue’ the dark, alternative sounds of Impossible Princess probably don’t come to mind.

Well, the reason why I love Kylie’s deCon era is because it was such an artistic, creative body of work. Kylie Minogue (1994) broke Kylie out of the poppy PWL mold and showed us a more mature, more sophisticated artist. Just listen to the opening strains of the moody, sensual ‘Confide in Me’, which opens the album. They’re light years (heh) away from the bubbling synths and basslines of her earlier work.

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‘Surrender’ has a bit of an r’n’b groove and continues the more sophisticated dance/pop style that ‘Confide in Me’ got rolling. ‘If I Was Your Lover’ is another trip-hop track with funky guitars, great bassline, and strong vocals from Kylie. ‘Where Is The Feeling’, to be honest, is a little long at 6:58, and I actually prefer the amazing BIR Dolphin radio edit of this track. This is a house track with trumpets, strings, and driving beats – lots of fun, but that BIR edit is just so cool that it really blows the original out of the water! (Get it? Dolphin? Water? Aw, everyone’s allowed a bad joke every once in a while!)

‘Put Yourself In My Place’ is a show-stopping, downtempo ballad that’s just beautiful and is rightfully considered one of Kylie’s classics. The show-stopping doesn’t end there, though – after the song fades out, we move on to ‘Dangerous Game’. Sounding like a spy thriller theme, this sultry, string-filled tune allows Kylie to belt it out and prove those who once called her a ‘singing budgie’ dead wrong!

The lounge-y trip-hop ‘Automatic Love’ is followed by the loooooooong ‘Where Has The Love Gone?’ – a cool tune, but overlong at 7:46! In contrast, at 6:43, ‘Falling’ is the perfect length. Written for Kylie by the Pet Shop Boys but reworked into a breathy, hazy house track, ‘Falling’ is just the right length to get into a groove but not get dull. Very nifty and one of many highlights of the album.

Kylie Minogue closes with ‘Time Will Pass You By,’ an exuberant dance track that sounds like an update of Kylie’s earlier work. You’ll be hard-pressed to not bop along to this one!

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So! Kylie Minogue set the stage for Kylie’s next album – the one which would bewilder critics and fans alike. Impossible Princess was released in 1997 as Kylie Minogue, a last-minute title change after the sad passing of Princess Diana. Produced by Brothers in Rhythm, who had previously remixed Kylie’s ‘Finer Feelings’ to great effect, Impossible Princess is – and I’m not exaggerating at all – one of the most brilliant albums ever made. Seriously.

For one thing, this album has ‘Too Far’ on it. This was a huge departure from any of Kylie’s previous work and must have been a bit of a shock to anyone who bought the album expecting more of Kylie’s pop tunes! The intense mood of the song is aided by the drum’n’bass sounds, atmospheric production, and most of all, Kylie’s vocals. This Kylie sounds serious – that Kylie that sang about being so lucky? Yeah, she doesn’t put in an appearance on Impossible Princess.

‘Cowboy Style’ is a neat fusion of Middle Eastern sounds and fiddles, then leads in to ‘Some Kind Of Bliss,’ a nice mid-tempo indie rocker. ‘Did It Again’ begins with some distorted vocals and features an irresistible hook and sharp, self-mocking lyrics – by the way, all the songs on the album were written by Kylie except for ‘I Don’t Need Anyone.’ Pretty neat, huh?

Lovely ambient production and chimes lead into ‘Breathe,’ a beautiful, chilled-out track. The radio edit of this track was sped up, so if you’ve only heard that version, you really need to hear the album version! We dive back into the darkness that ‘Too Far’ introduced with ‘Say Hey,’ a trance-y song with a chilly atmosphere. ‘Drunk’ begins with a harsh chord and leads to some passionate vocals from Kylie. It’s a thickly arranged track with lots of nice touches – a rather underrated gem!

The only track on this album that isn’t absolutely brilliant is ‘I Don’t Need Anyone’ – it feels like it’s trying to fit the ‘indie chick’ template of music and doesn’t jive with the rest of the album very well. It’s good, just not, you know, great.

‘Jump’, a smooth, bass-heavy groove, brings the tempo down before speeding it back up with ‘Limbo’ – a frenetic, explosive plea for relief with wild guitars and heavy drums. Part Two of ‘Too Far,’ you might say. Like much of the album, ‘Limbo’ features raw, undoubtedly cathartic lyrics from Kylie. A really cool, chilling track.

We come down from the anxiety attack that was ‘Limbo’ with ‘Through The Years’, a steamy, smoky, trumpet-spiked downtempo track. And then we conclude with ‘Dreams’ – an epic, string-laden, poetic list of ‘the dreams of an impossible princess.’ The outro of the song is powerful, and it ends on a dramatic little flourish of strings. Perfection, really.

00003Kylie’s deConstruction era showed the world that Kylie is a complex Princess of Pop – she may be best known for sensational pop and dance tunes, but there’s some heavy stuff going on in her head. For one thrilling moment in time, Impossible Princess (and to a lesser extent, Kylie Minogue), gave us a peek at another, more introspective side of Kylie.