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.

Singles and such

You’d be forgiven if you thought I’d dropped off the face of the earth – it’s been eons since my last real update!

To start things off, here are some songs I’ve been adoring for… well, a good while. :)

  • Pet Shop Boys are back with their new single “Love Etc.” from forthcoming album Yes (which I’m so so excited about!). It’s classic PSB, with plinking synths and a wonderful chorus.
  • Bat For Lashes (aka Natasha Khan) will be coming out with her new album Two Suns this April. The first single from the album, the beautifully layered “Daniel,” is out with a fabulously freaky video. I tried to get into her first album, 2006’s Fur and Gold, but sadly could only find myself enjoying the first few tracks. I’ll be giving it another try now, though, because I’ve had a sneaky listen to Two Suns and it has already gained a place on my “best of 2009” list (yeah, I keep track of my faves in list form in my head all year!).
  • Sandra, of 80s Europop classic “Maria Magdalena,” returns with a gospel-flavored feel-good song called “In A Heartbeat.” Her last album, The Art of Love, felt like it was all spoken – it seemed like only the choruses featured Sandra singing! “In A Heartbeat” is a fine return to form, beautifully produced, really really catchy – and no spoken/sung bits! ;)
  • I gave the new single – “Wild” – from Valeriya a try, despite never having heard of her before, but now I’m definitely looking forward to more music from her! Actually, I’m not even sure if this is her new single – her UK website says something about another song called “Back to Love” being released in April. So I’m not sure what’s going on with “Wild”… Anyways – great beats and cool guitars. :)
  • Anjulie is a new artist with a voice like Nelly Furtado, but her tone is a little sweeter. She will be releasing her debut album, Boom, sometime this year (it leaked early though – and via another sneaky listen, I can tell ya that it’s really cool!). She released an EP in late 2008 so I guess “Boom” is the lead single. It’s got this awesome deep guitar riff, and then when the chorus comes in – “boom, sha-la-ka…” – that’s it. You’re hooked! :)
  • Calvin Harris, that electro kid, has a new club-ready dance single out called “I’m Not Alone.” Love those shrieking synths!
  • I’m addicted to Dizzee Rascal‘s “Dance Wiv Me (Jason Nevins Radio Edit)”, which features Calvin Harris and Chrome. It’s club, rap, and rock all rolled into one fab package. I didn’t listen to the original in 2008 but I’m loving this 2009 attempt to bring it to the USA. :)
  • I’m not a big fan of the album version of Beyonce‘s “Diva,” but “Diva (Maurice Joshua Remix)” – now that’s good stuff. So danceable, and a bit funky too! :)
  • Lily Allen‘s back with “The Fear,” the lead single from her neat new album It’s Not Me, It’s You. “The Fear” is pure pop with excellent beats and clever lyrics like “I’m a weapon of massive consumption.”
  • A new trio of musicians, Lal Meri, is out with “Bad Things”, from their debut self-titled album. Lal Meri features the smoky, delicious vocals of Nancy Kaye, who has previously released two albums under the name Rosey. I love her voice and it really suits the lounge-y, psychedelic trip-hop of “Bad Things”. Definitely a new group to listen out for.
  • Marina And The Diamonds have a couple of songs out, and I’ve gotten hooked on “Obsessions.” It’s a beautiful song, and Marina has a distinctive voice, almost theatrical but not in an annoying way. Can’t wait for their album!
  • Patrick Wolf is due to release an album this year and his first single from it, “Vulture,” is absolutely addictive. I really hope that this deep, dark, and rather sexy sound carries over to the rest of the album. :) (The video in that link is a little NSFW, so wait till you get home to watch it!)
  • Last but not least is Chester French. “She Loves Everybody” is a single from their forthcoming album, and it’s just great pop/rock. Synths flourishes don’t sound out of place in the largely guitar-based instrumentation, and I’ve gotta mention the beats – I’m a sucker for a good beat. :)

Arabesque – Friday Night (1978)

Arabesque are pure pop trash. Formed in Germany in 1977, Arabesque were responsible for some seriously cheesy disco music until they split up in 1984. There were a few lineup changes early in the group’s history, but the group more or less consisted of Jasmin Vetter, Michaela Rose, and Sandra, who joined in 1979 and later went on to find solo fame. They were, and apparently still are, big in Japan and Russia.

Their songs are fun, catchy, and campy, and while you could never really describe the music as brilliant, it does make you smile. And that’s what music is for, isn’t it?

78fridaynightFriday Night was released in 1978, so it doesn’t feature any vocals from Sandra, and I’m not quite sure just who is singing. According to this site, either Mary Ann or Karen Ann (whoever they are!) do most of the lead vocals, while Michaela Rose definitely does the lead vocals on three tracks. So I’m guessing that was the lineup for 1978! (Confusing stuff, this crappy disco.)

hello_gThings get kicked off with the awfully titled “Hello Mr Monkey.” It’s basically about a guy who used to be famous but now is reduced to amusing kids in the park. This was actually a single from the album. I have no idea what the marketing people were thinking! But if you ignore the inane lyrics, you have yourself a rather great disco track. Heavy bass and zippy strings give this song a fab hook. “Fly High Little Butterfly” starts off with some snappy saxophone before getting into the story of someone else who became famous, but has issues with her mother. Um, okay! This track is more guitar-based than the first track and the sax takes the place of the string hooks.

“Someone Is Waiting For You” brings those fab disco strings back, as well as lyrics that make little sense. A fast-paced number, “Someone Is Waiting For You” has an urgent drum beat and a catchy strummed thing, panned to the right. I know I’ve heard it in songs before but I can’t think of what it’s called! Things get even sillier in “The Man With The Gun,” which has lines like “I don’t like a man with the gun / Why do I love the man with the gun?”. More great strings and this time a heavy guitar hook make this a decent track, in spite of its lyrics!

“Six Times A Day?” Get your minds out of the gutter – the Arabesque girls just want to hear “I love you” no less than six times daily. I love this track: it’s got a fantastic disco beat, cool picked guitar, and some soaring strings in the background. A neat little disco gem! Less of a gem, and more of a piece of coal, is “Buggy Boy.” This song is so stupid. “You are OK, Buggy Boy!” is an actual lyric in this song about a guy’s car. A deep male vocal says “Come on, get in my buggy, baby” at several points throughout the track. The keyboard or whatever riff is juvenile. This is a terrible, terrible track… and yet, I like it. :( Darn you, Arabesque, for being so charmingly bad!

I take that back. They redeem themselves with “Friday Night,” a glorious little song about, well, the joys of a Friday night. Perfect disco, this one. Ultra-catchy strings and some weird percolating synth in the little interludes make this a forgotten classic. I’m surprised it didn’t catch on outside of Japan and Russia! “Catch Me Tiger” is way too long at 5 minutes but it’s fun so it’s all good. More saxophone and strings appear, and there are even spoken bits that sound oh so wonderfully cheesy. Also too long is “Give It Up,” but it’s fun too, and bound to get stuck in your head. Well, except for the male vocal bits that sound like the “Ma na ma na” song from The Muppet Show! Aside from that, it’s actually a good song.

The album closes with “Love Is Just A Game,” the album’s big ballad. A moody affair, this track is slow but sweet, and works well as a final track. Good for cooling down after all the disco shenanigans of the previous tracks!

Friday Night is one of those “so bad it’s good” albums. I hope I didn’t make too much fun of it in my review, but I only do it because I love it so much. Give it a listen, and you might just find yourself falling in love too!

ara_mmr_v_1200(If you like “Hello Mr Monkey,” you just might be interested in hearing what they did to it in 1998. It was remixed and released as a single in Japan. The mixes are only OK, but they’re a lot of fun to listen to. The ’98 mixes are very 90s Eurodance, while the PHG mix is more of a… well, I’m not quite sure what it is, but it sounds interesting. The CRN mix is Latin-flavored and begins with a cry of “Arriba!”. I’m not making this up.)

Sandra – (Life May Be) A Big Insanity (1990)

Now that I’m back in school, my posting style may change a bit. Full album posts will always be long, detailed, and rambly – that won’t change! – but will not be posted as often as usual. I’m going to start posting more short reviews of singles and such, though, and I plan on posting about them at least a few times a week, if not everyday (it depends on my coursework load!). So let’s get started on the singles! :)

Sandra+Life+May+Be+A+Big+Insanity+34546“(Life May Be) A Big Insanity” sounds grammatically incorrect but is a lot of fun to listen to. Released by Sandra as a single in 1990, this funky pop track was accompanied by several different mixes, the best of them being the Dance Mix. The Dub Mix is neat too – cool percussion! (Sadly, the Club Mix isn’t anything special.)

Sandra – The Wheel Of Time (2002)

untitledSandra, originally from Germany, is a popular singer/songwriter/entertainer in Europe. Her professional career began in 1976 (credited as ‘Sandra Ann’) at age 14 with the release of her first single, ‘Andy mein Freund.’ After leading the German disco group Arabesque from 1979 to 1984, Sandra struck out on her own (aided by Michael Cretu) and found solo fame with ‘Maria Magdalena’, from her chart-topping debut album The Long Play (1985). Since then, Sandra’s many hit singles and albums have helped to build a loyal fanbase for this excellent artist.

Wikipedia has this to say about The Wheel of Time:

Sandra’s first studio album in seven years came with The Wheel of Time in 2002, reaching number eight on the German album charts. The first single “Forever” had moderate success… Although some criticised the fact that The Wheel of Time contained no less than four cover versions of 80s songs, including the second single release “Such a Shame” by Talk Talk, the album was received well by her fans… However, The Wheel of Time faded away quickly.

The album really shouldn’t have, as Wikipedia so eloquently says, faded away so quickly. I think this is Sandra’s most sophisticated, mature album to date. (Her most recent release, The Art of Love, is great, but just doesn’t seem to have the same freshness as The Wheel of Time.)
sandrawheelProduced by Enigma collaborator Jens Gad and Enigma mastermind Michael Cretu, the album has wonderful, atmospheric production and is chock full of chilled beats and delicate synths. At times the songs venture into trance, dance, and even techno/electro areas – ‘Forgive Me’ has a drum ‘n’ bass-style breakbeat and bassline and ‘Such A Shame’ features a mid-tempo trance drumbeat and house piano touches.

Every song is great – I never skip a track when I listen to this album. My favorite songs are ‘Forgive Me,’ ‘Footprints,’ ‘Perfect Touch,’ ‘Such A Shame,’ and ‘Free Love.’ (OK, so that’s like half of the album. They’re really cool songs, though!) Check this album out – you won’t be disappointed! :)