Tuesday, November 30, 2010

This is how Janet's World Tour should sound

You might have missed (or simply not cared) that Janet Jackson announced her biggest ever world tour on November 18th.

The idea is that she'll hire smaller, theatre-sized venues, to "get closer to the fans" (Trans: "my last tour didn't sell out") and will only play songs from her extremely good Number Ones compilation.

If you head over to her website, she's even allowing fans choose which 35 cities she'll visit - which could result in her "hilariously" playing Pyongyang or Fallujah.

What I'd like to see, however, is Janet ditching her whole dance-troupe-vegas-production-number schitck and presenting the songs in a new light. This little video from YouTube shows how, for instance, That's The Way Love Goes could be freshened up for the 21st Century. As the author says "a few rough spots, but not bad for 4am".

That's The Way Love Goes (cover)

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Monday, November 29, 2010

We adore Adele

I'm off on holiday this week, but there's enough good music around at the moment to scatter some posts across the site while I'm Christmas shopping in Holland.

Coincidentally, the first video comes from Amsterdam, where Adele popped up last week for the first TV performance of her new single Rolling In The Deep. This song gets better and better every time I hear it.

Adele - Rolling In The Deep - live

Rolling In The Deep is from the Paul Epworth-produced section of Adele's forthcoming album, 21. The bombastic drums are clearly a hangover from his work on Florence's Lungs. But there's a gentler side to Adele's new material, too, as evidenced when she played the simple heartbreak ballad Someone Like You on Jools Holland a few weeks ago.

Adele - Someone Like You

21 is already shaping up to be one of my most-anticipated albums of 2011... And it's not even December yet.

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Friday, November 26, 2010

Weekend anthem: Ghandi

  • Le Corps De Mince Francoise are a band from Helsinki, Finland
  • Their name is French for "The Thin Body of Francoise"
  • Not, as I originally thought, "Dead French Meat"
  • Which is very poor, as I got an A in GCSE French
  • What is the education system coming to, etc
  • Anyway...
  • The all-female lineup is Emma Kemppianen, Mia Kemppianen and Malin Nyqvist
  • Their new single song is called Gandhi
  • Fans of The Tom Tom Club and CSS will find it comfortingly familiar
  • Here is the video

    LCDMF- Ghandi
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    Wednesday, November 24, 2010

    Totally lovely Regina Spektor performance

    Here's a cute-as-a-button Regina Spektor performing Dance Anthem Of The 80s with the legendary Roots crew and a tuba.

    NB: Stick around for the build-up around 2m40s.

    Regina Spektor - Dance Anthem Of The 80s

    That live DVD Jimmy Fallon mentions at the top of the video? You can get it right now on Amazon (other retailers are available).

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    Video: Cheryl Cole - The Flood

    Cheryl Cole's perfectly acceptable ballad, The Flood, now has a perfectly acceptable video courtesy of Sophie Muller. Therein, our heroine mopes around Dover and lights so many candles you begin to wonder if she's been hired to cater Simon Cowell's next birthday party.

    Cheryl Cole - The Flood

    Now, it might just be me [it is definitely just you - ed] but the scenes where Cheryl is draped over a rock in some sort of subaquatic ballroom made me wonder

    1) How did they hang up the chandelier?
    2) Will she end the video with an underwater bar brawl, like in the film Top Secret?

    Sadly, the answer to number 2 was "of course not, you freak". So here's that scene in full, for anyone who has never witnessed Val Kilmer's finest hour.

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    Can someone erase this song from existence?

    Last weekend, Mrsdiscopop described The Black Eyed Peas' new single, The Time (Dirty Bit), as "a waste of soundwaves".

    I couldn't have put it better myself. It's as if will.i.am has deliberately shit in my ear.

    The Black Eyed Peas - The Time (Dirty Bit)

    For those of you brave enough to watch the above clip, here is a song with similar lyrics that won't make you want to stick a drill through your eyes.

    Patrick Wolf - The Time Of My Life

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    Tuesday, November 23, 2010

    Mark Ronson and the leaking material

    At its best, Mark Ronson's Record Collection is a giddy, freewheeling scamper around planet pop. When you're not toasting Q-Tip with a cup of warm champagne, you're swapping hair gel with Simon Le Bon or taking stupid polaroids with The Pipettes' Rose Elinor Dougall.

    In other words, it's a Gorillaz album without the massive superiority complex.

    Despite Record Collection's generous running time and, let's be honest, the presence of a few stinkers (eg the useless-but-thematically-important Introducing The Business) there are plenty of quality tracks left over from the recording sessions.

    Ronson premiered one of them on his East Village Radio Show last week. Brilliantly titled Taste of a Samurai, it was co-written by Cathy Dennis and Christian Karlsson of Miike Snow and features guest vocals from Jarina De Marco.

    The song was considered strong enough to be part of the tracklisting as recently as August, when NME got an exclusive first play, so it'd be interesting to find out why it was culled at the last minute. I have four theories:

    1) Licensing problems with the featured artists' publishers and labels.
    2) Holding back a few tracks for the inevitable special edition.
    3) Unfortunate similarity to dodgy racial stereotyping chart topper Japanese Boy.
    4) The intro is totally ripped off Especially For You.

    Here's a rip of the song from Mark's endearingly ramshackle radio programme - which is always worth a listen. You can subscribe to the show here if you like.

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    Monday, November 22, 2010

    Those Sleigh Bells jingling, ring ting tingling

    Let's be honest, this blog will never be cool. But occasionally, just occasionally, my tase in music crosses paths with the kids who run the school stereo.

    Today, that music is from "American noise pop duo" Sleigh Bells. Imagine MIA recording an album of nursery rhymes produced by The Go! Team. That is what Sleigh Bells sound like.

    Their last single, Infinity Guitars, came out in September and deliberately gives the impression someone has stuck a knife in your loudspeaker.

    It is pretty much the most exciting song you will hear this year. But only if you click "play" on the following video player thingamajig.

    Sleigh Bells - Infinity Guitars

    Hot on Infinity Guitars' heels is the equally-indendiary Riot Rhythm. The video treatment for this single appears to be "what if The Karate Kid was about chess?" It's delightfully barmy.

    Sleigh Bells - Riot Rhythm

    And now, my brush with hipster credibility already a fading memory, I'm off to listen to a Bimbo Jones remix of Rihanna's latest single.


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    Friday, November 19, 2010

    Make your own Robyn

    This is pretty breathtaking - Lucy McRae, who designed the eyecatching Post-It cover art for Robyn's Body Talk Pt. 3, has posted a "making of" on her blog.

    That record sleeve may look like a clever post-production effect to you, but it's actually a "seven layer paper pixel textile" suspended from an array of coathangers.

    Lucy also created the crazy liquid dress contraption featured in Robyn's Indestructible video. It features "1.2 kilometers of transparent plumbing tubing... knitted with fishing wire to skin Robyn's body". I don't know about you, but I'm going home to make my own version out of straws, hairpins, food dye and Lucozade. This video makes it look easy.

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    This would be the new Arcade Fire video, then

    Last year, Arcade Fire re-recorded Wake Up for Spike Jonze's movie adaptation of Where The Wild Things Are. Now, he's repaid the favour by shooting a video for The Suburbs. Only this is like giving someone a lift into work and them buying you Papua New Guinea in return.

    Arcade Fire- The Suburbs

    Beautiful, disturbing, brilliant.

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    Bruno Mars 'would catch a grenade for me'

    I have lost count of the number of singers who've personally promised they "would die for me" over the last 36 years. But not one of them has ever done it. Not a single one. I'm beginning to think it's just a turn of phrase.

    The latest is Bruno Mars, whose new single Grenade, ramps things up by detailing all the gruesome ways he's prepared to be put to death on my behalf. He sounds pretty sincere, but I'm not going to be convinced he really means it until he jams a fork in his leg or chops off a finger.

    Bruno Mars - Grenade

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    Thursday, November 18, 2010

    Robyn covers Prince

    This will presumably make the global pop blog fraternity explode in ribbons of ecstasy but Robyn's cover of Prince's When Doves Cry just doesn't work for me. If anything, it proves why the Minneapolis musician was right to strip out the song's bass line in the first place. Oh well.

    Robyn - When Doves Cry

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    Amerie - the good and the bad

    Amerie's Because I Love It is one of the great overlooked R&B albums of the 21st Century. Despite the magnificent, Sam & Dave-sampling Gotta Work and the Cee-Lo collaboration Take Control, it sank quicker than a brick in a paddling pool and Amerie was dropped by her record label. Take Control has even been pulled off YouTube for some reason.

    Since then, the singer has popped up every couple of months with the "new single" from her "forthcoming album". None of them sound alike, and the connecting threads are the increasing air of desperation and an eventual, crestfallen retreat back to the drawing board.

    I'm not sure why this should be - Amerie is a great songwriter (all the tracks on Because I Love it were self-penned) with a great appreciation of harmonics, rhythm and the history of soul. It would be a terrible shame if her natural abilities had vanished in the face of an unjustified setback.

    Her latest attempt - Outside Your Body - popped up online today. The hi-NRG synthpop sound is apparently popular in her mother's home territory, Korea. To me, it sounds like the intro music to Dance Dance Revolution.

    Hmmm.... not her finest work, is it?

    In the meantime, someone else has recognised Amerie's genius. A singer-songwriter called Mara Carlyle has recorded a mash-up of the star's sole smash hit, 1 Thing, and The Pixies' Hey. It is a revelation in three minutes.

    Mara Carlyle - Piximarie

    Thanks to the magnificent Pop Labyrinth blog for bringing that one to my attention. They've got a free download of Mara's track if you pop over to this destination.

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    Wednesday, November 17, 2010

    Curricular activities

    Sometimes, my job is just too good to be true. In the last week, I've interviewed three of my favourite singers - Alison Goldfrapp, Nelly Furtado and Lykke Li. Although I'm the world's worst inquisitor, asking banal questions that drag on for minutes at a time, all three were polite and professional enough to provide interesting answers.

    First up, here's Ms Goldfrapp, talking about the band's recent tour and why she and Will Gregory let their deal with EMI Records lapse.

    The Nelly Furtado interview went up on the BBC News Website today. It's probably the one I'm most proud of - because it took a simple idea (tell me about the songs on your greatest hits album) and provoked half-an-hour of thoughtful reminiscing from the artist. It wasn't supposed to, but that's what happened. You can click this link to read it. Or you can just look at this picture of Nelly Furtado's midriff instead.

    Finally we come to Lykke Li, who was an absolute sweetheart, wrapped up against the biting London chill in what can only be described as a leather duffel coat. The interview won't be broadcast for a couple of weeks - but here's a sneak preview, where she talks about her plans to bring a huge percussion section on the road with her next year.

    If you want to hear more from Lykke, she was on 6 Music's Nemone show earlier today, where she revealed her new album will be called Wounded Rhymes. The listen again page is here, and Lykke appears about 95 minutes into the programme.

    And here ends the biggest name-dropping session of all time.

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    Tuesday, November 16, 2010

    Elena Jane covers Elton John

    Ellie Goulding has covered an Elton John song. Your Song, to be precise. And it's the soundtrack to John Lewis's Christmas advertising campaign.

    Awwww, brings a tear to the eye, doesn't it?

    Now, I'm not a marketing executive with a fancy degree but I'd say that the audience for Ellie Goulding and John Lewis cross over by 100%. That's 110% in X Factor money.

    To prove it, I just wrote down five phrases off the top of my head to describe both institutions (it's a laugh a minute round here). Here's what I came up with:

    Guaranteed qualityGuaranteed quality
    A bit poshA bit posh
    Reassuring presence on the high streetReassuring presence in the charts
    Slightly stuffySlightly stuffy nose
    Never knowingly undersoldHot in an older sister kind of way

    See what I mean? I bet Ellie would even let you sleep at her house during a blizzard, like one branch of John Lewis did last year. You wouldn't get that sort of Christmas spirit from Eliza "Scrooge" Doolittle or Cheryl "lump of" Cole. Tinie Tempah might give you some eggnog, though.

    Anyway, Ellie has done a proper video for her single. There's not much to it - just some faded Super 8 scenes of the Hereford singer and her mates mucking about near a waterfall - but it's quite sweet. Here you go:

    Ellie Goulding - Your Song

    Anyone who's heard the vastly superior acoustic version of Ellie's album track Wish I'd Stayed must be hoping that her second album takes the same path as the above Elton cover. I wouldn't object myself, to be quite honest.

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    Adele premieres new single

    Get a spare pair of socks ready, because this is going to blow your current footwear clean off. A-maz-ing.

    Adele - Rolling In The Deep

    "I describe it as a bluesy gospel disco song," she told Zane Lowe last night. "It's quite fast, which is a surprise because I do love singing a ballad. But, yeah, it's a song about revenge, so it's quite deep and spicy."

    So there you go.

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    Monday, November 15, 2010

    "My honey loving arms"

    Hello the internet. I have been rather busy today cutting all the swearing and innuendo out of an interview with Alison Goldfrapp. For example:

    In the meantime, Lykke Li uploaded the video for Get Some to Youtube (Youtube). It's not as smutty as Alison Goldfrapp, but it's still rather suggestive. I haven't seen an outfit with this many cock rings sewn into it since that Janet Jackson video with Busta Rhymes 11 years ago.

    ...Er, except for that one time I "accidentally" mistyped the title of a movie into my Lovefilm wanted list. For the record, I give Schindler's Fist three out of 10.

    Lykke Li - Get Some

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    Saturday, November 13, 2010

    Jessie J on Jools

    Jessie J's debut video, which I wrote about earlier this week, is an attempt to define her as a bona fide pop star. It ticks all the big boxes: Attitude, authenticity, style, swagger, production values, personality, sex, sin, insanity and individuality (albeit within the accepted parameters of pop conventions).

    But her true star potential only becomes apparent when you see her play live. Here's the performance that proves it, from last night's Jools Holland show.

    Jessie J - Price Tag

    Jessie confirmed on Twitter earlier this week that Price Tag will be her second single. And none other than Boy George subsequently tweeted the following: Everyone follow @jessiejofficial she's in the elevator going to the top floor!

    Couldn't have put it better myself.

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    Gentle, acoustic ballad corner

    I don't know about you, but after the bluster and bombast of X Factor on a Saturday night, my ears need a little respite from the the SHOUTY VOICE-OVERS, the EQUALLY SHOUTY SINGERS and the BAYING BLOODTHIRSTY AUDIENCES.

    Well, here is the aural equivalent of a palate-cleanser to store up for 9:30pm tonight. It should fit nicely into the ad break between the Cole-athon and the Take That documentary.

    Benjamin Francis Leftwich - Atlas Hands

    Benjamin Francis Leftwich is a 21-year-old singer-songwriter from York. His oeuvre is the strumballad, currently the preserve of such artists as Jose Gonzalez and Jack Johnson. Like them, he takes a genre which is largely doomed to humdrum blandness and draws you in with... something. I can't put my finger on what it is, but there's a delicate, understated beauty to his voice that has me reaching for the "replay" button over and over again.

    Atlas Hands was recorded in a remote French country village, and you can buy it now available on on iTunes. Benjamin is also offering you, the readers of Discopop Directory, a free download of his cover of The Killers' When You Were Young. To be fair, he's probably offered exactly the same thing to readers of other mid-ranking music blogs but I'm not fussy. The track can be streamed or downloaded via the widgety widget.

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    Friday, November 12, 2010

    Review: Goldfrapp at the Hammersmith Apollo

    Alison Goldfrapp is dressed as a bird. Big Bird, to be precise. After he's been rescued from an oil slick and rolled in a bed of glitter.

    Who would do such a thing? Well, I gave you a clue earlier. It's Alison Goldfrapp. Do try to pay attention.

    The enigmatic frontwoman makes a convincing bird of prey. She swoops and soars around the stage, her voice fluttering like a nightingale over the humming-bird buzz of her trademark synthpop. It's definitely a performance to Crow about, Owl have you know [that's quite enough of the bird puns - Avian Ed].

    Kicking off with the experimental acapella Voicething, the set largely concentrates on this year's upbeat, 80s-referencing Head First album. All but one of the tracks (the elegantly dreamy Hunt) gets an airing, setting the tone for a run-through of Goldfrapp's biggest, foot-stompingest electro hits. So we get Ooh La La, Ride A White Horse and Train, but sadly no A&E or Utopia.

    In fact, the only reference to the more ambient or sombre entries in Goldfrapp's back catalogue (the Frappalogue?) are held until for the encore, when Little Bird and Lovely Head get an airing. Scheduling the latter at the end of the show is a brave move. It requires some of the night's most athletic vocal somersaults, as Alison steps to a secondary mic stand and bellows a distorted, operatic soprano with all her might. Astonishing doesn't even begin to describe it.

    It's almost a cliché to praise Alison's vocals after all these years, but it has to be said: She is the most fearless, accomplished pop vocalist of our generation. And quite possibly the next. Mrsdiscopop later remarked that the opening numbers were so note-perfect that she started watching, eagle-eyed [I said stop it - Avian Ed] for signs of lip-syncing.

    I see her point, and not just because she's my wife and I have to. There was, at times, the eerie sense of watching a pre-recorded TV performance. When the gig really came alive, it was because the band deviated from the template. A squealing violin solo at the end of Dreaming threatened to blow the speakers, while the extended coda to Train was so heavy on the bass I thought my throat would collapse.

    By the encore, Alison had ditched the feathers in favour of a black and white harlequin catsuit, covered by a full-length lace contraption that appeared to be a ruff made for a giant. This was, in turn, replaced with a tassled black affair for Strict Machine, allowing the singer to strut around the stage like the world's most flamboyant majorette. The rest of us followed suit, and then we flew away into the cloudy night sky. Probably.

    Intro - Voicething
    Crystalline Green
    You Never Know
    I Wanna Life
    Head First
    Number 1
    Shiny & Warm
    Ride a White Horse
    Ooh La La

    Black Cherry
    Little Bird
    Lovely Head
    Strict Machine

    PS: Photos 2&3 were taken by @Noeby who quite rightly points out that Goldfrapp "left scorch marks on the stage"

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    Thursday, November 11, 2010

    Blue-screen disasters of our time

    Here is a new version of Will.i.am and Nicki Minaj's single, Check It Out, where someone has chroma-keyed in a performance from Cheryl Cole.

    Put it this way, James Cameron's special effects team won't be losing any sleep.

    Oh dear.

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    Cee-Lo's F**k You becomes "Fox News"

    Let's face it, this would have made a better radio edit than Forget You.

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    Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    New Laura Marling single - out today

    Laura Marling's recent album I Speak Because I Can didn't quite live up to my expectations. Understatement is an all well and good, but portions of Laura's album were so reserved that the CD's raw data was a constant string of zeroes. Not that she needs to worry about my opinion - the record was a whisker away from winning this year's Mercury prize. Shows what I know.

    A second album was planned in time for Christmas but, for one reason or another, it's been delayed until February. In its place is a limited edition 7-inch vinyl, out today, where Laura covers Neil Young's The Needle and the Damage Done, and Jackson C. Frank's Blues Run the Game.

    Jack White was in charge of the mixing desk - but since both tracks are just voice and guitar, his job mostly consisted of putting the guitar through a crackling old valve amp. Simple, but effective.

    Laura Marling - The Needle And The Damage Done

    Laura Marling - Blues Run The Game

    You can buy the single on Third Man.

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    Jessie J's video is one big bundle of cute

    Awww, she got a little snowflake on her nosey-wosey!!

    Okay, I lied. Jessie J's debut video is a cavalcade of crotch-grabbing, low-dipping, snarling sexuality. You betcha, she's one edgy, take-no-prisoners motherflipping Female With Attitude.

    Do you know how I know? Because she hangs around with people who could be supermodels if only they weren't so busy getting fake tattoos and holding cigars they haven't actually lit. Because some of those "friends" may be about to have a same-sex kiss, although we cut away just before the good bit. And because Jessie snatches the camera off its tripod and sings right down the lens 'cos no-one can tell her what to do, am I right? AM I RIGHT?

    The thing is - I'd taken the lyrics of Do It Like A Dude to be a sly dig at the pimp bitch posturing of modern R&B. "Anyone can act rough and dirty," Jessie seemed to be saying, "but I have a bit more class". But when you spend your whole video going 'Oooh, aren't I terribly rude?' it kind of detracts from that message.

    This, viewers, is what I get for reading subtext into pop lyrics.

    The song's still a corker (and so is the mighty Labrinth remix). Maybe you won't be as put off by the video as I was.

    Jessie J - Do It Like A Dude

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    Tuesday, November 9, 2010

    Marina "announces" album number two

    Marina and the Diamonds teased fans with the prospect of a follow-up to The Family Jewels at London's Roundhouse last night.

    "I'm going to play a new song from my new album," she told the audience. "Although it's not that new. Being the impulsive person that I am, I decided it would be a good idea to give away every song I'd ever written online before I signed a record deal."

    The song in question was Jealousy. And it sounded like this.

    Marina and the Diamonds - Jealousy

    I seem to be some sort of bad luck charm for Marina. The first time we met, I interviewed her in the pouring rain at the Latitude festival, sitting at a picnic table with our jackets pulled over our heads. When I last saw her in concert, she was sneezing and spluttering with a nasty flu.

    Last night, the run of bad luck continued, as her show was beset by a parade of technical problems - culminating in the hugely expensive, five-screen video installation giving up, leaving a frantic cursor darting about the screen trying to restart the system. Unless that was intentional.

    No-one seemed to care, mind you. Despite a set top-heavy with b-sides and album tracks, there was a huge amount of goodwill towards Ms Diamandis. Dressed in a svelte black catsuit with a neon illuminated heart-shaped belt, she trilled and squawked like an apprentice diva.

    Self-help anthems such as Obsessions and Are You Satisfied struck a chord with the teenager, while the older pop fans went crazy for Oh No and I Am Not Robot (which remains one of the finest British pop songs of the 21st Century).

    It was a shame the video screens conked out - as there were some interesting visuals during the first half of the show, including a fantastic Bond Girl opening sequence. Fingers crossed the second album will earn Marina the dollars to go really crazy with her staging. On this evidence, she could go totally Yoko.

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    Monday, November 8, 2010

    I think I am going to fall in love with this record

    Normally, I like to listen to a song a couple of times before I write about it. Something that sounds astonishing in an initial three-minute blast can become tedious, cliched and wretched after repeated exposure. I call this the "Wagner effect".

    I'm putting that to one side for now because I don't think it would ever be possible to grow tired of the next song. The singer is Josephine by name, Mancunian by origin, and rootsy by nature. The closest comparisons I have to hand are Lauryn Hill and India Arie.

    But that's just lazy pigeon-holing. Listen for yourself. I promise you won't be disappointed.

    Josephine - A Freak A

    Here's what Josephine has to say about the song, in a quote I have cut and pasted from a press release: "A Freak A is really one thing. It sums up, I guess how I've felt growing up and throughout-out my life. It sums up being from a different background to all your friends. It's also about feeling like a freak 'cause you're not really into the things everybody else is into. I suppose it's a bit angsty really. Feeling like an odd ball musically as well as you don't really fit into the usual boxes. A Freak A... can also mean AfricA."

    I will be using the newly-coined expression "throughout-out" throughout-out the rest of the day.

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    Naked & Famous - still very good

    Editor's note: Due to time constraints, this post has been pared down to the bare essentials.

    I previously wrote about The Naked And Famous in July. I said they were good. I stand by that opinion. Here is their second single. It is called Punching In A Dream. The video is eerie but beautiful.

    The Naked And Famous - Punching In A Dream

    That was very nice indeed. Out on 6th December.

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    Friday, November 5, 2010

    Nelly Furtado vs Nelly Furtado

    Which of these two Nelly Furtado medleys best promotes her forthcoming Greatest Hits collection?

    EXHIBIT ONE: The Official trailer

    Songs performed: Maneater, I'm Like A Bird, Powerless (Say What You Want), Say It Right, Turn Off The Light, Promiscuous, Broken Strings, Free.
    Estimated Budget: $15m
    Phwoarr factor: 8/10 (minus one point for James Morrison)
    Sample YouTube comment: "So much better than Cheryl Cole"

    EXHIBIT TWO: Some blokes from Leeds

    Songs performed: Maneater, Promiscuous, Say It Right, Turn Off The Light, I'm Like A Bird, Free
    Estimated Budget: $1.50
    Phwoarr factor: 2/10 (plus two points for sexy bathroom scene)
    Sample YouTube comment: "That is a beautiful unicorn t-shirt"

    I'll be interviewing Nelly Furtado in a week or two. If you have a burning question you'd like me to ask, leave a comment below or contact me on Twitter. Keep it clean.

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    Gig review: Lykke Li in Heaven

    Swedish wonderkid Lykke Li had several potential hit singles on her quirky debut album, Youth Novels. Commercial and cool at the same time, her songs would have worked just as well on Top 40 radio as they did amidst the doomy emo of the Twilight soundtrack, which featured her spooksome ballad Possibility. But the singer's slow-burning, word-of-mouth success largely ruled her out of the pop charts - something she intends to rectify with her next record.

    Li popped up in London's Heaven nightclub last night to road-test some of her new material. It largely fell into two categories: Scorching, percussive chants (such as her latest single Get Some) and, somewhat unexpectedly, big country ballads. One of them was even called Jerome.

    The 24-year-old's fluttering, faltering vocals actually lent a huge emotional heft to the Nashville numbers. Take the encore, a drunken waltz with the heartrending chorus: "Once again, it's happening / All my love is unrequited". When Li held her palms out to the audience and sighed: "It's really true", I actually heard hearts melt.

    The lyrical theme of love lost was echoed on the Phil Spector-ish Sadness Is A Blessing, and a tender, acoustic cover of The Big Pink's Velvet - but it wasn't all doom and gloom.

    Any time there was a chance to pound a drum or thrash a tambourine to within an inch of its life, Li was there, weilding a bloody great big stick. Even the weedier songs from Youth Novels - Dance, Dance, Dance, for example - were given a muscular, percussive makeover. And new tracks like Rich Kid Blues have been expressly built around the rumbling, primal rhythms of an Amazonian tribe offering a human sacrifice to the volcano gods.

    Li's vocals aren't the strongest in the pop pantheon. Dannii Minogue might describe the singing as " occasionally pitchy". Or, in other words, flat. But I didn't care. I'd rather watch an imperfect performance by an impassioned, flawed vocalist than a hundred X Factor bland-o-ballads. It may also have helped that Li, dressed in a Dracula cape with her Rapunzel hair tied up in bunches, was a surprisingly supple mover. A Sexy Feline Machine, as Basement Jaxx once put it.

    As with any gig largely based on unheard material, the audience's attention wavered occasionally. I'd say the uptempo tracks fared better, but I was more drawn in by the lovelorn ballads. It'll be interesting to see which of the tracks make the cut when she releases her album next year.

    (Yes, that is a Fugees cover in the middle of the serlist)

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    New Music: The Good Natured

    The Good Natured, aka 19-year-old Sarah McIntosh, have been kicking around for a couple of years now. Her initial demos, recorded in Christmas 2008, were picked up by Radio 1's new music guru Huw Stephens. They were literally the first songs she wrote and, she says now, "I don't think they're very good".

    Two years later, and she's started to perfect her style. Think primal, tribal pop. Florence & The Machine without the cauldron and pagan sacrifice. Or Marina and the Diamonds with the clattering percussion of Adam And The Ants. In fact, she's been working with Marina's producer Liam Howe, so there's a definite stylistic similarity.

    Her lyrics tread a more shadowy path than Marina's problem page ponderings, however. "I write songs about wishes, desires, hopes, secrets and love," she says. It sounds innocent enough - but her last single was based around the macabre couplet: "Your body is a machine / It will break like you've broken me". Teenagers, eh?

    The Good Natured's new single, Be My Animal, is out this week. McIntosh told Steve Lamacq it was "about having a physical relationship with somebody and wanting it to be an emotional one". The video director has taken a slightly more literal interpretation and filmed a rabbit.

    The Good Natured - Be My Animal

    There is more of this sort of thing on The Good Natured's MySpace page.

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    Thursday, November 4, 2010

    Superb video concepts of our time

    Broken Bells' first video for The Ghost Inside, starring Mad Men's Christina Hendricks as a despondent fembot, was nothing short of a triumph. But sometimes the Hollywood star-of-the-moment and an acre of special effects just isn't enough to push your record into the nation's consciousness. The question is: How do you give the single an extra push without spending any more money?

    The answer is both bonkers and brilliant. The band dug up an old Hall And Oates video and superimposed singer James Mercer's mouth over Daryl Hall's. You know, like how they got the animals to talk in Babe: Pig In The City?

    It shouldn't work, but it does. Here are both videos for a side-by-side comparison.

    Hall And Oates - Private Eyes

    Broken Bells - The Ghost Inside

    So how did this unholy union come about? According to NYmag.com "Filmmaker and friend of the band Matt McCormick says the clapping in 'The Ghost Inside' reminded him of Hall & Oates 'Private Eyes,' so he 'looked up the Private Eyes video on YouTube and realized that song structure and tempo was pretty darn close to that of 'Ghost Inside,' and from there just started playing around with syncing up the visuals from the 'Private Eyes' video with 'The Ghost Inside.'"

    I would like to see this technique used to put a "legacy" artist back into one of their early videos. Imagine seeing The Beatles perform Paul McCartney's Dance Tonight on the Ed Sullivan Show. Or how about Kylie releasing a repurposed version of I Should Be So Lucky for her next single, Better Than Today? Wouldn't that be brilliant?

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    Wednesday, November 3, 2010

    This Take That trailer looks quite good

    ITV are showing it on 13th November, apparently, with a DVD release in time for the "lucrative Christmas market".

    That is all.

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    Rihanna flips out

    Dear Rihanna, this is so far beneath you, it's in the earth's molten core.

    I mean, I get the brand synergy. On the one hand, you've got an anonymous, sterile temple to everything that is wrong with modern consumer culture and, on the other, you have the Westfield Shopping Centre. I AM JOKING OF COURSE.

    What Rihanna needs to do now is restore her credibility by leaking an amazing song that reminds the world why she is the pre-eminent Barbadan pop diva of our times. And guess what? Here is just such a track.

    Love The Way You Lie (Pt II) is essentially Eminem's song with Eminem surgically removed and replaced by Rihanna, who is a-warblin' and a-singin' until the very final minute, when Marshall Mathers kicks down the door and starts barking something about moles (true).

    It is very much in the vein of Alicia Keys' Empire State Of Mind (Pt II), except with a different song and a different artist.

    Rihanna and Eminem - Love The Way You Lie (Pt II)

    By the way, did you see Rihanna "interviewed" by Konnie Huq on The Xtra Factor last week? Truly a meeting of the minds. Pay particular attention to how Rihanna answers the piercing journalistic interrogation: "Have you ever had any ghosts in your house?"

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    Heavens above, it's a new Amy Winehouse song

    Blimey the internet has more leaks than a sieve at the moment. The latest song to find its way into the wild is by Amy Winehouse, who has covered Lesley Gore's It's My Party (although I always preferred Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin's gothic 1980s remake).

    It's her first new material since she recorded Cupid for a Radio 1 anniversary album back in 2007. Indeed, this could have from the same Mark Ronson-supervised session. What I'm trying to say here, basically, is that is has horns on it.

    It's My Party is intended for a Quincy Jones compilation album Q: Soul Bossa Nostra, which is out in the US next week. The whole enterprise is very entertaining until the 'cor blimey luv-a-duck spoken word section, at which point I fell off my chair laughing and bruised my coccyx.

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    Tuesday, November 2, 2010

    A very nice Gorillaz remix for you

    Gorillaz' new single Doncamatic continues to be all kinds of amazing - not least because people incorrectly assume that the singer, Manchester vocalist Daley, is a woman. I wrote to him (I didn't) and he got back in touch (he didn't) to say: "Hey. Whatev the haterz say, my dude bits r 100 PER CENT intact. Ask my mum." (this quote is completely made up).

    Anyway, it's remix time now, and Dubstep boy genius Joker has given the song a delicious hyperspace makeover. Keeping the disco-fied vocals intact, the remix repaints the disco beats of the original in an altogether more sinister light. A fully animated remix video would be awesome.

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    A round-up of Lady Gaga leaks

    Lady Gaga's third album, Born This Way, isn't due 'til the new year but with anticipation riding higher than a unicyclist pedalling across a tightrope over the Grand Canyon, a lot of discarded tracks, demos, leaks and fakes are finding their way onto the internet. You can find dozens on Youtube just by searching for "Gaga New Song 2010" - but here's a selection of the more interesting ones.


    Apparently recorded with Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins in the same session as Telephone. It's well documented, of course, that Telephone was intended for Britney Spears [you can hear Britney's test vocal here] before Gaga re-recorded it last year.

    This track also bears the hallmarks of a demo by a songwriter for hire. The beat is fierce, but it's just a loop. Where there are backing vocals at all, they sound like placeholders.

    On the other hand, the lyrics are fully formed with a intriguing play on being shot by cupid's arrow - her lover has "blown it" and needs to "reload it". I think you can work out the sluttier interpretation for yourself.

    Intriguingly, the rap section contains a backwards lyric which, when played forwards, sounds like "Bad Romance don't lean on me".

    Filthy Pop

    Aside from the amazing title and the scuzzy bassline, this is a bit of a let-down. It comes across as a lesser version of LoveGame, with Gaga delivering a mannered, Hollaback Girl rap: "Spin that shit, spin it til it's platinum". What keeps you listening is the scattershot structure, where voices and musical elements fade in and out of focus like images in a kaleidoscope. Another example of Gaga's genius with breaking pop formats.

    You And I

    Okay, this isn't technically a leak, as it's been performed at nearly every show on the current incarnation of the Monster's Ball tour. A sure-fire shoo-in for the new album, this picks up where Speechless left off, adds a measure of bourbon, three shots of Elton, a firecracker guitar solo and a garnish of What's Going On?

    The lyrics: "It's been two years since I let you go / I couldn't listen to a joke or rock and roll," are apparently about her ex-boyfriend Luc Carl, who was also the inspiration behind Paparazzi and Boys Boys Boys it says here.

    Living On The Radio

    SOUND THE ALARMS it's the archetypal "my lonely life on the road is so lonely and I am so sad and living out of a suitcase made of my own tears" third album song.

    Except it's not, because our little Fame Monster is quite happy measuring out her existence in air miles, just so long as "my songs are on the radio". And now that Gaga's got all the attention she ever craved, she can even afford to poke fun at her own image: "I sure would miss all the caviar, the champagne and the sold-out shows." Nice.

    Super Lover

    Actually, this one's not Lady Gaga at all. It's the debut single by an artist called Starshell who has been told to sound a bit like Lady Gaga. A snippet of her song leaked on the internet a couple of months ago and was subsequently attributed to Lady Gaga but it was ALL JUST A BIG MISTAKE, HONEST.

    Second Time Around

    After this one leaked in July 2009, Lady Gaga took to Twitter to say: "I wrote 'second time around' recently for a current recording artist. I don't know why people insist on leaking my work."

    An interesting exercise in by-the-book pop balladeering, this song shows how carefully the tracks on Lady Gaga's own records are selected to create a thematic, narrative, individual body of work.

    There are plenty more "leaks" to track down if you're keen - and the Gagapedia is a great source of information on their provenance (it was invaluable in writing this blog post).

    Let me know if you see or hear anything else that piques your interest.

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