Friday, July 24, 2009

Break in service

Sorry for the short hiatus on the blog - but I'm away for a week on an alcohol research project. Normal service will be resumed on Monday, 3rd August.




"It was very easy to film," Victoria Hesketh told the BBC.

You don't say.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Muse return with unhinged sound collage

It's Queen! It's Andrew Lloyd Webber! It's a Cossack Dance! It's Frank Sinatra! It's a Bond Theme! It's the deranged rantings of a paranoiac! It's Chopin!

In other words: Business as usual for the Museketeers.

Muse - United States of Eurasia

For those of you paying attention, the accompanying video has something to do with Muse hiding bits of the song all over Europe. Fans have spent the last week tracking them down like they were secret agents (not the glamourous ones who do the killing, the other ones who keep notes about what time they turn the lights off in Westminster).

Once all the pieces had been collected, they were stitched together and - hey presto! - a literally quite good album track was theirs for free.

Some people have too much time on their hands, eh readers?

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Madonna - mistress of message

How long can you resist the evil forces of advertising? Thirty seconds? A minute? Two minutes?

How about five seconds.

That's how long Madonna thinks she needs to brainwash you into forking out for her new greatest hits compilation, Celebration. This is the one that will re-package the songs already available on The Immaculate Collection (amazing) and GHV2 (as bad as the oh-my-god-it's-2001 name implies) with all the best bits from off of Confessions On A Dance Floor and Hard Candy. A mixed bag, in other words.

Here she is, pushing her product into your face via Youtube (Youtube). If you're easily influenced, look away now.

Madonna - Celebration trailers 1, 2 & 3

Reversing the tracks is incredibly clever. "If you can recognise this song, in five seconds, after we've fucked about with it," the advert implies, "it must be pretty damn recognisable."

I suspect it's also a very Madge-esque two fingers to the people who have accused her of hiding satanic messages in her songs over the years. For example:

Question for people with working ears: Does it really sound like Madonna is singing "Hear us, save us, Satan" in this clip? To me, it sounds like "Hear us, save us, Sat Nav" - which is pretty impressive, given that Like A Prayer predates GPS navigation systems by an entire calendar year.

Wait a minute... What was the point of this post again?

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Cornershop make record

It's no Brimful of Asha, but the new Cornershop record is a decent rip-off of Primal Scream ripping off Joe Cocker covering T-Rex.

Cornershop - Who Fingered Rock and Roll?

Is there any song that can't be improved by a trio of wailing divas screeching "yeah, yeah, yeaaaah" over the chorus? (Hint: No).

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Passion Pit partake in peel perversion

Passion Pit's new single, To Kingdom Come, features the following lyrical couplet:

"So now I hide in piles of princely orange peels
It feels the way you told me how it'd always feel

Tautology aside, we're confused. How does it feel to hide in orange peel? Do the stringy bits get in your hair? If you had recently sustained an enormous amount of paper cuts in a tragic stationery cupboard incident, would the citrus sting? If there were also rose petals and cinnamon sticks available, would you be a human pot pourri?

In any case, why would someone have to hide in a pile of orange peel? I'm guessing it would have to be pretty situation-specific - like carrying out industrial espionage at Del Monte, or taking paparazzi shots of the Munch Bunch.

But the disguise would never work if you were, say, stalking some girl you fancied. Sooner or later, she'd be bound to say to herself: "Hang on, there isn't normally a massive, festering heap of oranges outside my house. How did that get there?"

And what would she think once she'd discovered your body inside the rapidly composting food waste? If you were very lucky, the pigment would have seeped into your pores and she'd some filthy attraction to Dale Winton. More likely, you'd end up on the sex offenders register, receiving disturbingly explicit emails from blubbery Tory politicians.

Passion Pit offer no resolution to this quandary in their video, which features the Massachusetts' quintet dressing up as mad scientists and doing mad sciencey things with a conical flask.

It is very disappointing.

Passion Pit - To Kingdom Come

PS: Passion Pit were particularly good at the Latitude Festival last weekend, even though the singer looked a bit like Rory McGrath. There was practically a stampede when they took to the stage. Nobody did that for Nick Cave.

PPS: Did I mention I was going to Latitude? That's why there were no updates at the end of last week. But you can read all about my "adventures" here, and here and here and here and here. Ta-ra!

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Seven things Mika's new single sounds like

Mika - We Are Golden

(ducks and awaits barrage of abusive comments)

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

New Modest Mouse: Perpetual Motion Machine

Seattle art-rockers Modest Mouse are one of those bands people don't expect me to like because I predominantly write about and listen to pop music.

Well, they're wrong. Modest Mouse are amazing. Deranged, awkward and often uncomfortable to listen to - but consistently amazing.

When they are being particularly obstuse, the quintet sound like Leonard Cohen gargling with razor blades - but also make songs like Dashboard (below), which would propel me straight to the dancefloor of any disco stupid enough to play it.

The band have been secreted away for the last couple of months making some delicious new cacophony, and the first result is an MP3 called Perpetual Motion Machine. A kind of New Orleans big band bluegrass track, it's well worth a listen... Just head over to, where the exclusive track is streaming / screaming right now.

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MPHO covers Kate Bush

You can't really go wrong with a Kate Bush cover, but it certainly helps to have a gorgeous, melted butter popcorn soul voice. Whatever that means.

Here's MPHO giving it some welly.

MPHO - Running Up That Hill

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Shakira - She-Wolf (English version)


When it comes to writing lyrics in English, Colombian pop star Shakira is equally touched by genius and madness.

Has there ever been a more passionate declaration of love than: "For you, I'd give up all I own and move to a communist country"? And has there ever been a more confusing come-on than: "Lucky that my breasts are small and humble / so you don't confuse them with mountains"?**

The English-language version of the 32-year-old's new single came out this morning, and it is - even by Shakira's lofty standards - a literary classic. Here are the highlights:

"Darling its no joke, this is lycanthropy"

"To look at the single man, I've got on me a special radar,
And the fire department's hotline in case I get in trouble later"

"Nocturnal creatures are not so prudent
The moon’s my teacher, and I’m her student"

"I'm starting to feel just a little abused, like a coffee machine in an office"

That last one may be the best lyric of all time, don't you think?

There's an MP3 of the song over at the Hard Candy blog, should you want to hear Shakira's potty poetry in a disco setting.

* If this is the official art-work, I hope the proof-reader notices they've mis-spelled Shakira's name
**These are rhetorical questions. There's no need to send a letter.

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Friday, July 10, 2009

Whole Lotta History... in a box

My limited edition Girls Aloud singles box set arrived in the post yesterday, and it is genuinely stupendous.

Listening back to the singles in chronological order (why have I never done this before?) paints a vivid picture of just how much this plucky, reality-show-band-that-could has achieved. They've been going for seven years now, you know. That's as long as the Beatles.

Okay... that's a ridiculous comparison, but Girls Aloud genuinely did smash the golden pop formula of the 1990s into tiny pieces. Then they gathered up the dust and used it to dot the "i" above their name.

In the process, they finally threw off pop's twin obsessions with Carnaby Street and US R&B to come up with something unique - a culture clash of every amazing sound ever committed to record, from the surf'n'bass of Sound Of The Underground to the cappucino heartbreak of The Loving Kind.

I'm choosing to ignore I Think We're Alone Now, obviously.

The box set's liner notes (by Popjustice guru Peter Robinson) are note-perfect, too, giving full credit to the dark artists of the band's songwriting team at Xenomania.

Chief among the team, it transpires, is Miranda Cooper. It is she who managed to lyrically transcribe the exuberant hedonism of five freshly mojito-minted superstars, in a way the Spice Girls always aspired to, but only ever achieved on Wannabe.

Sitting absorbing all of this pop history, I suddenly realised that I'd never seen the moment when Girls Aloud came into existence, live in front of an audience of millions. Luckily, Youtube has captured it for posterity.

Awwww, bless.

PS: If you want to give the box set a try, there are still a few left.

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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Beyonce turns into Sigourney Weaver

The opening scene of Beyoncé's new video lifts shamelessly from Ghostbusters, but that only makes me love her more.

Beyoncé - Sweet Dreams

Apparently, there's a "video album" version of I Am... Sasha Fierce out in the US. Does anyone know if it is coming to the UK?

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

You must watch this

Remember what I was saying the other day about good music videos not having to be expensive music videos? Well here's the most compelling proof you could hope to find.

Discovered via last week's newsletter, this is the best video I've seen this millennium - no exaggeration.

Wow. Just... wow.

The whole thing took four directors - Masashi Kawamura, Hal Kirkland, Magico Nakamura, Masayoshi Nakamura (two of whom work for the BBH creative agency in New York) - and 64 fans, filming themselves on their webcams in a number of bedrooms around the world.

The song is called Hibi no Neiro (Tone of everyday) and it's by a Japanese band called Sour. Check out their website here.

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New Sugababes: Like it or loathe it?

Britain's other decent girlband, the Sugababes, gave the first play of their new single, Get Sexy, on Radio One yesterday and - OH NO! - it has split fans down the middle like a cleaver to a watermelon (note to self: buy a better dictionary of metaphor).

Personally, I think it's great - despite the dodgy recycling of I'm Too Sexy.

What's more, the Sugababes actually needed to split their audience if they wanted to hold onto their careers. Their last album tried to please everyone and ended up being an incoherent mess. This new direction is much more punchy and confident - and shows the band may have finally, after four years, recognised and embraced Amelle's more edgy persona.

Like the rest of the new Sugababes album, Get Sexy has been produced in the US by a "big name" - in this case The Smeezingtons, who did Right Round with Flo-Rida. Other writer / producers on the new CD include Red One, Stargate, Ne-Yo and Ryan Tedder.

I've put a taster of the new single below - and you can hear the full thing on the band's official website. I'd be interested to hear what you think.

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

I am not cool

This is probably not news to anyone - least of all me - but my taste in music is decidedly uncool. What has prompted this post is that I have just received incontrovertible, statistical proof of my utter lack of coolness.

Last.Fm - the web service that remembers the songs you've been listening to and compiles them into a big list for everyone to laugh at - has put together a chart of the songs people most frequently deleted from their profiles in June. In other words, these are songs that people do listen to, but they're too ashamed to admit it.

It looks like this:

[the full list is here]

To me, this looks like a pretty good playlist for the drive into work. In fact, it made me hunt down my Paramore CD and put Misery Business on at full blast. Oh dear.

Music technology blog Music Machinery has done some analysis of the full charts and worked out the least popular / cool artists of all. Here's what they found:

Lady GaGa
Britney Spears
Katy Perry
Taylor Swift
Avril Lavigne
Alexander Rybak
Black Eyed Peas
Kings of Leon
My Chemical Romance
Linkin Park
Miley Cyrus
Jason Mraz
Metro Station
Leona Lewis
Green Day
Amy Whinehouse
Nelly Furtado

Of course, there must be some correlation between an act's popularity and the frequency of their tracks being deleted -- You're not going to end up on this list if no-one's listening to you in the first place (hello, Bryan Adams).

I'd also suggest there's an inherent bias from the fact that the most over-cultivated Last.FM accounts are maintained by men - who are deleting the tracks their wives, girlfriends, sons or daughters have played on their PC. That would explain why the two most obvious genres in this list are "pop for ladies", "disney teenyboppers" and "emo shit".

Personally, though, I'm not going to lose any sleep over this revelation. Nor am I popping into HMV tomorrow to pick up that Neil Young Box Set. What would you rather be: In with the in crowd, or a fan of the music everyone secretly likes?

All this list really proves is that no-one grows out of pop music, no matter what they say when they go to University.

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Monday, July 6, 2009

Will radio play Shakira's new single?

Colombia's second-biggest export is back with a lycanthropic disco track, Loba (She-Wolf). It's her first big release since Hips Don't Lie and Beautiful Liar topped the chart - and it'll be interesting to see how it does.

For starters, the song has not-very-radio-friendly 36-second intro. Secondly, it's all a bit europop - right down to the tacky Boney M strings. Of course, in a world where Cascada can beat Michael Jackson's corpse to number one, this may not the terrible misfire it first seems.

Also in Shakira's favour is the fact that she's decided to record an English-language version of the single. Given that her 2005 Spanish album, Fijación Oral, failed to chart in the UK because it was "sung in foreign", this seems particularly pragmatic.

Personally, I'm not 100% sold on the song, although Shakira's material always grows on me over time.

What do you think? Can you hear this being played on your local radio station? Will it be a hit? Could Shakira's wolverine howl be any more lacklustre?

Shakira - Loba

:: The song is also streaming on Shakira's MySpace page
:: The English version hasn't been released yet (as far as we can tell)
:: This Youtube clip, which splices some old concert footage with the new single suggests the video could be 100% amazing.

:: Although this preview of the real thing suggests we'll get a Herb Ritts-esque moody modelling-type video, as opposed to a full-on "Shakira turns into werewolf and eats babies" loony-fest. Shame!

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Friday, July 3, 2009

Yes, but is it art?

I don’t usually post album sleeves on the blog. I mean, who really cares about Leona Lewis's latest attempt to do sultry "come-to-bed-but-not-really-to-bed-because-I'm-a-good-girl" eyes, or what order The Saturdays are standing in today?

Literally no-one. That's who.

But I thought I’d make an exception for Florence and the Machine's new album, because they’ve clearly tried to say something relevant about the band through the medium of photography. Like Spinderella, I am about to break it down for you.

Because Florence sings sweetly but she can be prickly, too.


Florence has a vocabulary of over 17 words.

Florence is the love-child of a peacock and a bordello.

She literally wears her heart on her sleeve. (Well, her arm, if you want to be completely accurate. But you get the point.)

Florence uses these as a pair of bellows to keep fires going in the depth of winter. Oh, and it's also the title of the album, as you can read in the agressively cheap font just to the left.

No wonder Florence has decided to shut her eyes.

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Nothing to see here...

What's going on? It's like 28 Days Later around here... Must be the post-Glastonbury comedown. Or some sort of post-Jacko musical mourning.

Anyway, just to prove I'm alive, here's the new Franz Ferdinand video, which isn't as good as clever as it thinks.

Franz Ferdinand - Can't Stop Feeling

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Dizzee Rascal and Calvin Harris: New single

We fully endorse Dizzee Rascal's decision to abandon hardcore grime in favour of ridiculously overblown dance music. He sounds so much better on a big, bouncing pop tune than he does mumbling about knife crime over the top of the Transformers soundtrack, don't you think?

His new single, Holiday, received its first play on Radio One last night and its essentially a re-working of The Vengaboys' We're Going To Ibiza, only, you know... credible.

Although the track features Calvin Harris and Chrome, its not quite as good as Dance Wiv Me. But that's like saying bacon isn't as good as bacon butties. They are both brilliant in their own way.

You can hear the song inside this BBC iPlayer gizmo, We nicked it off popjustice, who in turn nicked it off Hattie C's blog.

Third with the news, as always.

Top marks for rhyming bikini with scenery, too.

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Two videos, two budgets, two outcomes

There's a temptation at the minute to feed all music writing through some sort of Michael Jackson filter - and I am about to succumb to it like a nymphomaniac in a massage parlour.

Despite what you think of the final years of bloated self-glorification, Jackson was a visionary artist in the way he married music and visuals, and essentially invented the modern music video.

This was both a blessing and a curse. The Thriller video was such an landmark that it was released as a standalone VHS tape (in the days before MTV, we used to rent it out every six months or so). But, while it was genuinely revolutionary and exciting, it also encouraged the record industry to view music as a commodity - which is the ultimate root of all the buisness's current problems.

Nowadays, a big-budget video is de rigeur if you want to announce your arrival as an "important" artist. It tells the programmers at Radio 1 and MTV to sit up and take notice. And it makes us, the consumers fans, feel good for supporting a shiny, attractive brand pop phenomenon.

What everyone seems to have missed is that the budget doesn't matter. Jackson's biggest video moments were, largely, about his genius as a performer. The bit everyone remembers in Thriller is one long, 40-second, single camera, locked-off shot of the choreography. Scream may be the most expensive video ever made at £7m, but the best moment is simplicity itself - the two Jackson siblings dancing in perfect unison (Janet is better, by the way. Mike lacks her fluidity by this point, his moves an exaggerated parody of that early nimble genuis).

The shopping list of megastar video must-haves - multiple sets, grand locations, designer clothes, designer sunglasses, pyrotechnics, CGI sequences - are essentially crutches. They can prop up a weak performer, but they're no subsitute for charisma and talent. That's why Beyoncé's ultra-cheap Single Ladies video became a cultural phenomenon, while the Black Eyed Peas frenzied CGI-fest on Boom Boom Pow is just so much fodder for MTV Hits.

Which, in an extremely roundabout way, brings me to the two videos at the bottom of this post, which serve as a miniature example of all that's been said above.

The first, for Mr Hudson's excellent Supernova single, is high on production values but ultimately soulless and throwaway. The second, by French DJ Martin Solveig and Dragonette, is charmingly camp and endlessly watchable, despite its obvious budgetary limitations (Jean Paul Gaultier costumes not withstanding) and a so-so song.

Neither is going to topple Jackson from iTunes video chart any time soon, but at least one of them has been paying attention to his legacy.

Mr Hudson ft Kanye West - Supernova

Martin Solveig & Dragonette - Boys and Girls

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