Saturday, March 31, 2012

Very late Madonna album review

Due to a mixture of bad luck and missed opportunities, I have only just heard Madonna's new album MDNA for the first time. There are approximately a million reviews already but one incredibly beautiful and talented person told me "yours is the one I'm waiting for". I'm a sucker for flattery, so here are my instant impressions, track-by-track.

1) Girl Gone Wild

It's not an auspicious start. Madonna, icon of female empowerment, has taken inspiration from a series of soft porn films where female college students are encouraged to bear their chests for a cheap necklace. The intended tone is cheeky irreverence, but it comes across as tawdry and nasty. Putting the lyrics aside, if you can, Girl Gone Wild sounds 18 times better on a "proper" stereo than it does on a tinny, compressed YouTube video. Madonna's vocals, in particular, aren't as weak as you think.

Key lyric: "Girls they just want to have some fun / Get fired up like a smoking gun".
Is it any good: Yes, just.

2) Gang Bang

A steamy pot-boiler, as Madonna chants over minimalist techno: "I loved you the most, but I was just keeping my enemies close". Bound to be interpreted as a kiss-off to Guy Ritchie, its final scene recalls the video for What It Feels Like For A Girl, which he directed, as a car screeches around town with Madonna screaming "Die Bitch Die" out the window. Surprisingly brilliant.

Key lyric: "If you're going to act like a bitch / then you're going to die like a bitch".
Is it any good: Yes.

3) I'm Addicted

This is the one with the MDMA reference, but Madonna's vocals are cut up like an entirely different street drug. The metaphor of love as addiction is as well-worn as Madge's collection of leotards but, if anything, this is the pivotal track on the album - the Queen Of Pop reasserting her dancefloor credentials after a couple of years where, let's face it, she'd gone totally off the boil. There's a nice nod to Donna Summer's I Feel Love in the middle 8, too.

Key lyric: "I need to dance and it feels like a drug".
Is it any good: Yes.

4) Turn Up The Radio

A classic major key pop melody, undercut by a series of melancholy chords that suggest Madonna's desire for volume is to drown out her thoughts. Short, sweet, insubstantial, fun.

Key lyric: "I don't know how I got to this state / Let me out of my cage cause I'm dying".
Is it any good: It's credible filler.

5) Give Me All Your Luvin'

We know this already. Neither as good as the rabid fans claim, nor as bad as its chart placing would have you believe. While the sugary surf guitar and wobbly dubstep breakdown are diverting, the song is mostly content to sit in a groove without ever going anywhere.

Key lyric: "I'm a barbarian, I'm Conan".
Is it any good: Not really, no.

6) Some Girls

Revisiting the vocodery techno sound of Music, this is essentially a list of different types of girls. "Some girls got an attitude", "some girls call the shots", "some girls always get what they wanna, wanna" (this last one might be Rachel Stevens - can someone check?). Then Madonna comes with a big smug grin on her face and says "Some girls are not like me. I never wanna be some girls." What a dick.

Key lyric: "Some girls make a scene / Shoot their mouth and talk obsecne".
Is it any good: Yes.

7) Superstar

Another list song - "you're Bruce Lee with the way that you move", "you're like Ceasar stepping onto the throne", "you're James Dean driving in your fast car" etc. Madonna is basically comparing her new boyfriend to a lot of men who died in horrible circumstances - providing a neat circularity with Gang Bang's promise to "see off" her ex-husband. It culminates with the frankly bizarre assertion "you're like Abe Lincoln". Who doesn't want to be told that?

Key lyric: "I'm your biggest fan it's true / Hopelessly attracted to you".
Is it any good: Yes.

8) I Don't Give A

Of the "pop" songs on the album, this is the most interesting, production-wise. It's got a mid-tempo chugga-chugga electro rhythm, over which Madonna does a slightly better version of her American Life "soy latte" rap. The lyrical concept is that Madonna is very busy now that she's single: "Wake up, ex-wife / This is your life". She goes on to list some of the horrible things she now has to do all by herself, including connecting the wifi and tweeting on the elevator. It sounds challenging, I think you'll agree.

Key lyric: "Ride my horse / Break some bones".
Is it any good: Yes. Especially the extended choral coda.

9) I'm A Sinner

OH HELLO THERE, WILLIAM ORBIT. Madonna's former producer picks up where he left off at the turn of the millennium, recycling the groove from Beautiful Stranger (and the Ultra Violet mix of Ray Of Light). It's familiar but fresh, with Madonna confessing and revelling in her flaws. "I'm a sinner, I like it that way," she boasts. The middle section lists a bunch of ecclesiastical figures - from the martyr Saint Sebastian, who was shot to death with arrows, to the theologian Thomas Aquinas. It's basically a Catholic We Didn't Start The Fire.

Key lyric: "I'm a sinner, I like it that way".
Is it any good: Yes, although the first chorus keeps threatening to break into "Everybody Wang Chung tonight".

10) Love Spent

This marks the intersection of Madonna's fascination with European gypsy music and hardcore techno. A dog's dinner, served up on a banjo.

Key lyric: "Frankly if my name was Benjamin, we wouldn't be in the mess we're in".
Is it any good: No.

11) Masterpiece

Originally on the soundtrack to W.E., Masterpiece tackles the film's central theme of inadequacy in the face of perfection. Madonna's best ballads are always about desperation and insecurity (think Live To Tell or her desolate cover of Marvin Gaye's I Want You) so this plays to her strengths.

Key lyric: "It hurts so much to be in love with a masterpiece".
Is it any good: Yes.

12) Falling Free

After the anger, the pain and the escapism of the proceeding eleven tracks, this is the point where Madonna cleanses herself of the past (ie Guy Ritchie) and vows to start anew. The most mature lyric on the album, it begins with the acknowledgement "when I move a certain way, I feel an ache I've kept at bay". Over the course of the song, Madonna realises she can't demand an explanation for the breakdown of her marriage, concluding: "If I let loose the need to know, then we're both free. Free to go". Over the last few lines, her voice grows deeper and deeper(!), sinking to what I assume is now her natural vocal register. It's the most haunting, moving moment on the record and, just perhaps, a sign of where her writing needs to go next. Beautiful.

Key lyric: ""If I let loose the need to know, then we're both free. Free to go".
Is it any good: Yes.

So there you have it. MDNA is a pretty good album, like everyone else said before me. I'd advise splashing out for the deluxe edition, as the bonus tracks are a worthy addition to your library, but I'm going to let you discover their secrets for yourself.

Sarah, I hope you're happy.

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Friday, March 30, 2012

New single from Dragonette: Let It Go

Dragonette are pop's dirty secret - a superlative Canadian band with smart lyrics and catchy tunes who have been waiting on the sidelines for far too long. Competition, their ode to stealing another girls's boyfriend, is one of my favourite pop songs of the last 10 years, and not just because the video features dancing lipsticks.

Their luck could be about to change, however, thanks to the help of tiny French DJ and Madonna cohort Martin Solveig. He put Dragonette's singer Martina Sorbara on his worldwide hit Hello, and its follow-up Big In Japan which was, ironically, only big in Japan (and Belgium).

So now, all eyes will be on the band as they prepare their third album for release. Wisely, the first single, Let It Go, maintains some of the club energy of the Solveig tracks. According to the press release, the accompanying album "include the most raucous songs they've ever written and the most emotional and delicate songs they've created". Martina adds, "I think the overall feeling it gives is clap-happy cheerful mayhem." Hmmm....

Here's the single. It's a bit heavy on the treble, but if you twiddle with the EQ on your iPod, you'll find your feet-a-tapping.

The song's out on Sunday. Dragonette's new album is coming soon.

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Two new videos came out today. One is by Swedish newcomers Niki And The Dove, the other is a lyric video by surprisingly resilient girl group The Saturdays. Each single has made a brave effort to scale the craggy peak of the great mountain we call pop. Here is how they fared.

As you can see, the poor old The Saturdays are stuck on the foothills. In this respect, they are very much the five Heidis of generic chart music. Except they can't even claim that title properly, because Heidi from the Sugababes is the official Heidi of generic chart music. Oh dear.

Niki and the Dove, on the other hand, make a much better ascent. This is partly because they have forsaken high heels and chosen adequate climbing equipment [subs - please put joke about crampons here]. It is also because their video is a thrilling journey into space, like the trailer for Prometheus but with 0.00003% of the budget.

See for yourself.

Niki and the Dove - Tomorrow

The Saturdays - 30 Days

(This is probably the most poorly-thought-through blog post I've ever written. And that's saying something. Time for the weekend, I think.)

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New pop find: Ria Ritchie

Here is a sentence that will make your heart sink like a shoe in a yoghurt: "With over 10 million views and 35k subscribers, Ria Ritchie is nothing short of a Youtube phenomenon."

I know what you're thinking: OH JESUS NO MAKE IT STOP. But hang about, because Ria Ritchie is actually pretty good. Here are the facts of which you need to be aware.

:: Ria is 23 years old.

:: Or maybe 24. It isn't 100 per cent clear.

:: She hails from Lowestoft, which has given us such musical luminaries as Tim Westwood, Lil Chris and The Darkness.

:: Her brother is actor Reece Ritchie, who was in mopey drama The Lovely Bones and current BBC 2 thing White Heat.

:: Those early YouTube video, recorded in her bedroom with "moody" lighting, include spine-tingling covers of You Might Need Somebody and Rihanna's PS (I'm Still Not Over You).

:: Plan B spotted her, and has now co-written and produced five of her songs.

:: One of them is called Peculiar and although I'm not allowed to put it on the blog right now, when you hear it you will go "wow".

:: Ria once met Jay-Z's business manager, who promised to put her in touch with some people who could help progress her career.

:: He also told her "about Beyonce's Single Ladies record", which sounds like a very exciting moment but the journalist who revealed this morsel of gossip apparently forgot to ask a follow-up question :(

:: The Jay-Z connection appears to have been written out of her official biography, so it probably came to nothing.

:: But that's just the harsh reality of the music business, which will kick you in the teeth as often as it touches you gently on the boob and says "I could make you a star".

:: Ria has recently toured with Example and Wretch 32.

:: She is currently "cutting tracks" with The Nexus.

:: Which basically means David Sneddon, as you can see.

:: Amazing.

Let's just get on with the music. Here is the current single, Only One.

Ria Ritchie - Only One

And here is one you can download to keep, which is called Blow Back. It's produced by Sam Frank of Skream "fame".

It's all still early days, but you should follow Ria on Twitter or on Facebook as she prepares her assault on the music industry. We'll be checking in at regular intervals, that's for sure.

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Just doin' The Dø

Above is a picture of The Dø, an oddball musical duo who hail from France. They are very good.

The Telegraph also thinks they are very good. It recently carried an article about the band, headlined "Has France finally stopped making the most execrable music the world has ever heard?" - which makes you wonder whether the writer has been paying attention, given the likes of Daft Punk and Air and Camille and Madeon and The Plasticines and Cassius and Nouvelle Vague and David "bloody" Guetta.

Still, you shouldn't let a decade of brilliant music get in the way of a cheap joke about Johnny Hallyday and Joe Le Taxi. Zut and indeed Alors.

But let's get back to the point. The Dø are Olivia Merilahti and Dan Levy. They excel at that brand of rickety indie pop that constantly threatens to collapse on itself like a flat-pack wardrobe. I first spotted them on a free compilation CD a couple of years ago, which featured the jangly PJ Harvey-esque On My Shoulders.

The Dø - Weight On My Shoulders

That song led to a number one album in France - the first ever English-language number one by a native band, according to Wikipedia.

For their second album, the duo are making a concerted effort to "conquérir les rosbifs" and achieve the same success over in the UK. So far, this means a slew of four-star reviews in the music press, and an ear-catching but mentally deranged cover of Janelle Monae's Tightrope for the blogs.

My point is that you should check this band out. They're challenging, sometimes off-putting, but ultimately rewarding. If you like Bjork or The Cardigans (or even Joe Le Taxi) you might like this.

Here is their current single, which is about vomiting. Nice.

The Dø - Gonna Be Sick!

The album, Both Ways Open Jaws, is out now.

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Row-gina Spektor

I was very excited about Regina Spektor's comeback single All The Rowboats when it premiered last month, and I stand by that opinion. An amazing song by an amazing artist.

The video has just popped up on YouTube, and it's a gorgeous stop-motion affair, directed by Adria Petty, who helmed Beyoncé's Countdown video last year (she's Tom Petty's daughter, don't you know). It sees Regina sinking to the bottom of the ocean, where she finds a piano (of course) and then - through the wonder of special effects - the keyboard transforms into oars and she rows away.

But what am I waffling on about? Let's just watch it.

Regina Spektor - All The Rowboats

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Garbage: Pale kids

Have you been waiting with baited breath for the return of Garbage? No, me neither. But here they are, making a new album and trying to remember the chords for Stupid Girl in time for their comeback tour next month.

The big question for any band reforming after an extended hiatus is what their new material should sound like. Should it recall the glory days, reminding fans of why they loved them in the first place ("the Take That"); or should it be a disconcerting barrage of white noise and screaming that will confound the masses but maintain your artistic integrity ("the Portishead")?

Judging by their new single, Battle In Me, Garbage have gone for the crowd-pleasing option. The song even recreates the heart-stopping pauses of Supervixen, the opening track on their debut album.

Sadly, the song's raw energy is neutered by Butch Vig's obsessively fussy production. All those effects pedals and multi-tracked guitars rob it of the immediacy that a real rock recording needs. Next time, let's see more of Shirley Manson's rough edges.

Garbage - Battle In Me

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Monday, March 26, 2012

New from Azealia Banks: [Expletives Deleted]

As an antidote to the Bieberpost (see below), here's a new track from Azealia Banks. Her 212 EP is finally out this week, with the excellent Liquorice as the bonus track, but this is an entirely separate track she posted on Soundcloud last night.

With the Brooklyn MC letting loose over nothing more than a marching band drum beat, Fuck The Fun Up is sparse, short and off-the-chart crazy. But be warned: the Diplo-produced track is so profane it manages to out-filth the amazing 2-minute swearing-only edit of In Bruges [watch here, unless you're at work].

Highly recommended - and free to download!

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Whisper it quietly, but the new Justin Bieber song is quite good

Just close your eyes and pretend its Justin Timberlake.

Justin Bieber - Boyfriend

But let's make a few things clear.

1) It sounds like Justin Timberlake because it steals the chorus to N'Sync's Girlfriend.

2) The song is getting a lot of praise thanks to the phenomenon of lowered expectations.

3) At some point the video is going to come out and Justin Bieber will still irritate the eyes right out of your face. He will wear the same smug smug smug smug smug spoiled brat smile he always does, and do that faux-sincere "I wub you" look at the camera. You know, the one he thinks is sexy but actually makes him look simple.

Nonetheless, a good song is a good song and we are all going to have to accept that we now live in a world where Justin Bieber has recorded a good song. A song that survives the couplet: "Swag swag swag, on you / Chillin by the fire why we eatin’ fondue". A song that he will undoubtedly claim "proves the haters wrong". A song that will inflate his already monstrous ego to the point where he will make Uday Hussein look like the very model of humility and restraint.

Let's just hope that, like Miley Cyrus's Party In The USA, it is a total fluke.

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Friday, March 23, 2012

Tulisa's solo single - the internet speaks

What a strange couple of days it has been in the world of Tulisa Constantinoplebus. I wouldn't wish it on anyone, nor am I going to say anything about it. Instead, let's look instead at the second video she's put out this week, for her new solo single Young.

Taking its cue from the Calvin Harris vs Rihanna school of ravepop, this is pure mindless nonsense, specifically designed to ramp up your BPMs. It's too derivative and SHOUTY for my iPod, but I am a crotchety old man so I'm hardly the target market for a song that repeats the line "we are young" approximately 8,467 times.

So, for some much-needed balance, I turn to the educated citizens YouTube to garner some insight into the song from their carefully-crafted comments.

:: "It's quite a good tune that young people can relate to" [Charleiigh Merrygold]

:: "Sounds quite good, really catchy. But I keep expecting that dappy or fazer will start rapping." [Glambertx]

:: "You should release this song early since most people will not buy it and just youtube rip this" [The Dinosaur Kitteh - clearly a marketing executive at Island]

:: "If I randomly heard this on the radio, I wouldn't care who's song it is because it sounds like any other okay pop song." [Essman]

:: "She just can't scrub off her chavness unfortunately, and it makes her music less sellable (for lack of a better word)." [Gerald Bean - seemingly unaware that there is a better word, and that word is marketable.]

:: "This will go straight to Number 1." [BiebaahhFevahh]

:: "How nice of her to include a nod to THAT OTHER VIDEO at 2:39. The whole thing's cynical, cringe-inducing and obviously a very well strategically planned PR campaign." [we love mayo]

I think that's what you call "a mixed bag".

Tulisa - Young

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New from Paloma Faith: Picking Up The Pieces

It's funny. I wasn't sitting around waiting for a new Paloma Faith record but, now that she's back, I'm quite excited.

I actually bumped into (was asked to interview) Paloma at the Brit Awards last month. She'd just arrived from the recording studio, where she was putting the finishing touches to her second album, Fall To Grace. Here's what she said at the time.

"It's nearly finished. I've got two weeks left. That's when I put all the icing and cherries on top."

I'm really proud of it so far. I wasn't as proud of what I did last time because I was learning as I went along. But I can honestly say that I stand wholeheartedly, 100 per cent behind the new record."

The album's been recorded with Nellee Hooper, of making-very-good-records-with-Bjork fame. I've heard a couple of tracks so far and they've all got that heightened, cinematic sweep that made New York such a stand-out three years ago.

In fact, Nellee Hooper says that was always the intention, describing his first meeting with Paloma like this: "She sat and talked in such detail, as if every song was a short film, referencing everything from Chinese romantic cinema to Hip Hop. When I played the CD she gave me the songs flew out of my speakers! We got together and decided right away to embark on this journey."

My personal favourite of the new songs is a stripped-back love song called Just Be. It starts off with a little piano figure that echoes Bonnie Raitt's I Can't Make You Love Me. Amazingly, what comes next manages not to suffer in comparison, as Paloma whispers, "Don't say nothing. Shhhh, just be" to her paramour.

The first single is Picking Up The Pieces, and it received its first radio play on Radio 2 this morning. More uptempo than Just Be, it's a familiar tale of complicated boy-girl stuff. "It deals with the issues of being in a relationship with someone who is still recovering from a previous relationship," says Paloma. "It is a song about self doubt and insecurity." It is also very good. Take a listen.

Paloma Faith - Picking Up The Pieces

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It's time for some Monsta jams

Back in 2008, there was a man called Bryn Christopher. He had a stunning voice, one rather glorious hit single (this one), and a very sweaty stage show. Then he vanished, faster than that packet of mini eggs I found in the cupboard yesterday.

But Bryn is back, Back, BACK! Also a bit like those mini eggs, which have been repeating on me all morning. Urgh.

He's now the singer in Monsta, where he's joined by knob-twiddlers Rufio and Rocky. According to the press release, Rufio and Rocky are "better known as hot production duo Pegasus". Really? Because I've never heard of hot production duo Pegasus. Type their names into Google, and all you find are articles about Monsta which - surprise, surprise - all say "Rufio and Rocky and better known as production duo Pegasus". Talk about making your own reality.

Anyway, a bit more digging reveals that that Pegasus did a remix for one-hit wonder Daisy Dares You (which was surprisingly good, given the source material) and that their manager once used Facebook to blag them tickets for The Saturdays' Album Launch Party. This interview also claims that Rufio once played in a jazz fusion band with Michael Kiwanuka.

Good Lord.

But I'm being unkind here. What has happened in the past has no bearing on the future, and Monsta's future looks very good indeed. Their new single, Holding On, will burst our of your speakers ka-blam like a sonic shockwave. If Chase and Status remixed a lost Gnarls Barkley single, it might sound like this - IE very exciting indeed.

Destroya is a slightly older track but no less magnificent. It showcases how the band's thudding basslines and production smarts cushion Bryn's huge voice. If you compare it to his earlier solo material, where the vocals tended to swamp the music, you get an idea of how well the trio work together.

Finally, this bugged out cover of Marvin Gaye's Heard It Through The Grapevine is spectacular. What's more, it's free to download.

Alternative headlines for this article included:
:: The Monsta Mash
:: Loch Noise Monsta
:: Here be Monstas
:: What's that coming over the hill? Is it a Monsta? (Yes, it is.)
:: I am not a Monsta. I'm just a girl standing in front of a boy she's poisoned. So this other boy would go to town on her. (which is an obscure 30 Rock quote)

I think I chose the right one.

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Regina Spektor On Ice

This is quite bizarre. And quite brilliant. It's a routine from what I assume must be the Russian version of Dancing On Ice, with Regina Spektor's Apres Moi used as the backing track. The choreography is miles ahead of anything we get on ITV1. No wonder Russia keeps winning all those Olympic medals.

Regina posted the clip on Facebook earlier, saying:

"How amazing! i feel so lucky that they chose my song for this beautiful piece... i LOVE skating- and i've never seen a work like that... i felt so bad that Oksana Domnina and Maksim Marinin were so upset after their beautiful job... it's so frustrating to fall after working so hard...
spokoynoy nochi malishi, reginka

(I missed the fall first time round - it comes at 3'49", and explains why the skaters look so gloomy at the end)

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Warning: This song will soon be unavoidable

The girl being eaten by the giant marshmallow is Carly Rae Jepsen. She came third in the 2007 season of Canadian Idol, which basically makes her Canada's answer to Same Difference. There must have been a malfunction with the crushing jaws of showbusiness death, however, because she's ended up with a proper recording career.

First the bad news: Justin Bieber has a hand in this. He signed Carly to Interscope sometime last year, and has been (*shudder*) writing music with her. The good news is that Carly actually knows something about the popular medium we call song. She started off in a swing band(?), namechecks Van Morrison and Nina Simone, and released a handful of pretty folk-pop songs after her Canadian Idol experience.

Carly says she has now moved on to a "Kimbra-La Roux-Dragonette phase". As reference points for dementedly brilliant pop music go, those are pretty darn good.

Carly's new single is Call Me Maybe and it's exactly the sort of teen-friendly melodic pop that dominated the airwaves at the turn of the millennium. But in the era of autotune and "da club" it sounds strangely fresh and new. Catchy of chorus and peppy of demeanour, you won't be surprised to learn it started life as a country song. It's out on 15 April, but with playlist additions from Capital and Radio One, so it's pretty much going to be inescapable in about a week's time.

You heard it here first (unless you heard it last December, when it came out in the US and everyone else wrote about it). Terrible video, by the way.

Carly Rae Jepsen - Call Me Maybe

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Q: What's black and white and covered in sauce?

A: It's Madonna's new video.

Madonna - Girl Gone Wild

Considering Madonna's recent videography, that's a pretty good effort, isn't it? There's a bit of Voguing, a bit of Sex-era perviness, and a God-bothering spoken word intro: "Oh my God, I’m heartly sorry for having offended thee. And I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven and the pain of hell. But most of all because I love thee, and I want so bad to be good." (although why Madonna thinks "heartly sorry" is an actual phrase in the English language is anyone's guess).

The men responsible are fashion photographers Mert Allas and Marcus Piggot, who also shot the artwork for Madonna's new album MDNA.

And yet... AND YET. This spoof video, which was uploaded to YouTube on Friday, will undoubtedly be the one that comes to mind every time I listen to this single (the visuals have been ripped from the video to Orphic Oxtra's Skeletons Having Sex On A Tin Roof, fact fans)

Madonna - Girl Gone Wild

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Monday, March 19, 2012

Katy Perry: "That so cray"

Katy Perry and her electric blue wig turned up at Radio 1 this morning for an extended Live Lounge special.

Now, I know what you're thinking - Katy Perry's pitch is usually as even as the Moldovan football team's - but, rather than running for the hills with my fingers jammed tightly down my earholes, I actually found the whole thing rather enjoyable. Yes, even when she went for the high notes on the ballad-tastic Thinking Of You.

The best, and most unexpected, moment was a cleaned up cover of Jay-Z and Kanye West's N****as In Paris. You assume it's going to be awful, then it becomes surprisingly tolerable, and by the end you'll be fist-pumping the skyline.

As a wiser man than me said, it all works because she doesn't try to do an authentic rap. Great song choice.

PS: If the video is taken down (as it undoubtedly will be) you can still listen to the session on Radio 1's Website.

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Lana Del Rey's video review, reviewed

"I love you more than those bitches before."

Blue Jeans is officially the new single from relatively attractive singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey, although the observant amongst you will notice it’s been doing the rounds for nearly a year "on the blogs".

By now, we all know the score on a Lana Del Rey single: Lyrics about seedy motel romance, syupry strings, and a few sparse hip-hop flourishes for the kids. If you like Lana, you’ll like this. If you don’t, it’s not going to change your mind.

The video was published to Twitvid overnight and, while I could spend ages penning a "humorous" review, it’s much more fun to read the Daily Mail’s attempt at describing the moody black-and-white clip.

"Smoking a cigarette, she poses in front of a pool surrounded by palm trees," it begins, accurately.

Then, the next few paragraphs try to cram in as many search engine keywords as is humanly possible. Del Rey is "cavorting" with a "male love interest" and "appears to be naked". Thankfully, the incisive journalistic thrust of Daily Mail’s editorial agenda will not let this shocking claim remain un-investigated. After watching the video in full, their crack reporter can confirm that Lana is not naked, after all, "it is just the water soaking her swim costume that adds to that illusion."

Having cleared that up, it is time to listen to the lyrics. And by listen, I mean "re-print at length". During this cut-and-paste exercise, the reporter notices that some of the words are about death. This leads to some confusion over the video’s imagery - ie Does Lana die at the end of the video, or not?

Our reporter, who earlier decided Lana might have turned into a mermaid (?) finds the lack of certainty incredibly frustrating. "The man puts his fingers into Lana's mouth but it isn't clear if she is supposed to be dead," protests one picture caption.

While floundering to make sense of it all, the reviewer essentially gives up. But this results in the article’s best line – possibly the best line of any review in the history of forever: "Alligators also swim around the pool, adding to the love gone wrong vibe."


You can read the full exposé over here. Or just watch the video. You decide.

Lana Del Rey – Blue Jeans

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Labrinth covers the Beatles

So it turns out Labrinth can sing. Really, really sing. That's two reallys, so you can tell I definitely mean it.

Here he is a-strummin' and a-warblin' a cover of the Beatles' Yesterday. It is very good.

Labrinth - Yesterday

Listening to that performance is enough to make you wonder why Lab's new single is auto-tuned up the wazoo. I suppose it makes sense from a commercial point of view, but the all-humans-will-be-erased robovocals make it hard to distinguish in the blur of Taio Cruz and soundalikes.

So it's a relief to hear Labrinth's album sampler and discover that those croonsome manpipes get a proper workout on his BIG BALLAD with Emeli Sandé.

And if you haven't checked out the sampler yet, here it is. I particularly recommend Climb On Board and Sweet Riot.

Labrinth - Electric Earthquake (album sampler)

As a footnote, I interviewed Labrinth not so long ago and he mentioned he'd been spending a lot of time listening to 1970s freaky jazz wig-out specialists Weather Report. So you should expect his second album to sound something like this...

Weather Report - Birdland

Far out.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Lykke Li gets deported

She may be a gloomy old sod, but we love Lykke Li and her tearsome brand of sadpop. The Swedish star is in between albums right now, but she popped up on Facebook yesterday to post a new track - recorded with sibling pop group Deportees.

A New Name To Go By is a twilight lullaby, where Lykke Li's layered vocals swirl around a drowsy steel drum loop. If this was the 80s, she'd perform it on Top Of The Pops in a sea of dry ice while two backing dancers rotated slowly behind her in white silk sheets.

But it's not the 80s. So here is a Soundcloud link. How disappointing.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A message has arrived from 1985

Here is why:

And you can find out more on Facebook.


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Vida Veni Vidi Vici

Keeping up with all the new girl bands is getting exhausting - but hang around for a minute and listen to Vida because you might be pleasantly surprised.

Not to be confused with the latest portable PlayStation console or a feminine hygiene product, Vida are in fact a quartet of 20-something singers from London, Essex and Manchester. Their "names" are AJ, V.vee, Jade & Che3kz - which seems unbelievable, but I met someone called Le-a (pronounced "le-dash-ah") the other week, so anything is possible.

The girls have a strong connection with JLS: Oristé manages the group, while Aston is allegedly dating AJ (she's the redhead). They'll be touring with JLS later this year, too.

So what about the music? Well, all we have to go on right now is the single Boombox, which is out at the beginning of summer. Based around a lilting reggae bounce, it's infernally catchy despite its slight chorus. The girls harmonise well, although the "we're so goddamn quirky" rap-singing in the verses might make you want to murder the stereo. Unless you're one of those people who's buying the Stooshe single, in which case you're going to LOVE this.

PS: I have a theory that all these girl bands are being pushed out the door right now because people are worried about the imminent return of Girls Aloud. I know, I know, it's probably never going to happen but Nadine apparently "confirmed" it to the Sunday Mirror last week.

It's worth clicking through to that article, by the way, if only to marvel at the photo caption: "Nadine's love of potatoes isn't harming her figure".


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Monday, March 12, 2012

Plan B's new video is basically excellent

Attention newspaper columnists: Can we have 400 words on this by 11pm? No need to make a considered judgment - we'll get someone from the picture desk to screengrab the really good offensive bits, so no-one will be paying much attention to what you say. However, if you could mis-represent the lyrical content of the song and portray it as a sick rallying cry for violent criminals and rapists by an isolated voice in the musical community who has gone "a bit mental", that would be great.

Thanks. xxx

Plan B - Ill Manors

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Temper Trap go down the Rabbit Hole

Here's one song that made my ears prick up on holiday last week - the latest offering from The Temper Trap. Admittedly, my ears pricked up because I thought I was hearing a newly-unearthed outtake from The Bends-era Radiohead, but then I recognised Dougie Mandagi's distinctive Aussie twang in the vocals and my ears pricked down again. That said: Rabbit Hole is still a pretty awesome track.

Fans should be familiar with the song already, as the band have been playing it live for the last couple of years. Like all the best songs ever written, it starts off very quietly and then suddenly goes mental around the half-way mark with a honking great guitar solo. Honking great guitar solos are always a good thing, "btw". Yes, even when they're done by Brian May and appear on a single by Dappy. I don't make the rules.

The Temper Trap - Rabbit Hole

As is the way these days, Rabbit Hole is not a single. It's a flag in the ground. Because rather than blow you away with the most amazing "cut" from their new album, the band would rather have you go, "oh hey, isn't that the group who did the song on the Match Of The Day montage two years ago? I'd kind of forgotten about them. Do they have a new album or something?". Then later, when you're least expecting it, they're going to come back WHAM! with a fucking amazing single that will make you wonder why they bothered with this one at all.

At least I think that's the idea. I don't quite get it. It's like chatting someone up by boasting about the swimming proficiency badge you got at school and then, two months later, saying: "By the way did I mention how I'm a multi-millionaire astronaut and underneath this mask I look like George Clooney?"

The band's album, by the way, will be called Temper Trap - which either means its a career-defining body of work, or that the original title "Benedict Cumberbatch's Soggy Vegetable Patch Irrigation Disaster" got vetoed at the last minute by the lawyers.

Damn lawyers.

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I'm back - and so is Marina

So this is it: The big launch single from Marina and the Diamonds's second album, Electra Heart. Primadonna is a big fruity kick in the guts, tailor-made for daytime radio. Best of all, Dr Luke's production doesn't sound like a cheap Katy Perry cast-off *cough* Jessie J *cough*.

The lyrics - which have been COMPLETELY TRANSCRIBED IN CAPITAL LETTERS on the official YouTube page - are all about Marina's perceived personality flaws. Except they're not because Marina is playing one of her many cleverly conceived "characters". But what the heck, I love this line.

"I know I've got a big ego
I really don't know why it's such a big deal, though"

Here is the video. Nice cardigan.

Marina And The Diamonds - Primadonna

Electra Heart comes out on 30th April but you only get former single Radioactive if you order the Deluxe edition. What a swizz. (I will be ordering the deluxe edition.)

PS This picture, from Marina's Electra Heart Tumblr, is 100% fantasmajesticles.

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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Temporary break in service

Hello there,

In the words of Boney M, "Hooray, hooray, it's a holi-holiday. Digge ding ding ding digge digge ding ding."

Normal service will be resumed on Monday, 12th March. In the meantime, here are John Legend and The Roots performing an exquisitely soulful cover of Dancing In The Dark. If you watch this once a day for the next week, it'll be like I never went away. Or something.


John Legend & The Roots - Dancing In The Dark

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Friday, March 2, 2012

New Santigold video: Disparate Youth

Ms Gold is channelling a Lord Of The Flies vibe in the video for her forthcoming single Disparate Youth. Creepy.

Santigold - Disparate Youth

Frustratingly, the song's not out until April (unless you're lucky enough to live in the US). Santigold's new album, Master Of My Make-Believe follows in May. If you've been wondering why she waited so long after the success of her 2008 debut album, Santogold, this interview with The Vine sheds some light.

"The whole process was a stumbling block!" she says. "It was really hard the second time."

"I think the main thing that I did wrong was to expect that it was going to be easier than the first time. And to expect that I had already figured out how to do it. [But] everything was different. Even the times that we live in are different; the internet is different; the record labels are different and people like different music."

In summary: Different.

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Zinglebert Bemberback

My only response to the news that Engelbert Humperdinck will represent the UK at this year's Eurovision Song Contest, is this:

PS: It turns out a report I recorded for Radio 2 ended up on the Today programme. Does this make me respectable now?

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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Live review: Gotye in Shepherd's Bush

Here is the singer’s eternal quandary: What do you do during the instrumental bits?

It’s a tough moment to get right, with no one correct answer. Here are just some of the possible solutions.

The Liam: Stand still. Look menacingly at the crowd.

The Beyonce: Shake bottom. Shake hair. Repeat.

The Tim Booth: Flail around like a pony chewing through a power line.

The Florence: Turn to face drummer, raise arms. Hold position.

The Jacko: Repeated genital touching.

Last night at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, Gotye showcased an option I’d never seen before. Surrounded on three sides by a variety of esoteric percussion instruments, he would periodically break away from the microphone to bash things with sticks.

The most interesting gadget was a hybrid drum machine and xylophone (I believe it’s called a MalletKat), which he used to trigger samples of everything from violins to wobbly-bobbly basslines. On his left-hand side was a rack of tom toms and cymbals, which were thrashed inside out in a series of drum duels.

The gimmick could have created a distance between Gotye and the audience, but it drew me deeper into the music. The sounds coming out of the xylophone thingy could easily have been produced by a keyboard, but the kinetic energy required to operate the machine focused my attention on the music at a point when normally I’d be thinking "is it time for another beer yet?"

If you need proof, here’s a video of him performing Eyes Wide Open on Jimmy Kimmel a couple of weeks ago.

Gotye – Eyes Wide Open

Lest this all sounds a bit Jean Michelle Jarre, I hasten to point out that Gotye’s music is refreshingly pretension-free. His lyrics are heartfelt and understated, while the songs range from spooky robot rock (State Of The Art) to surprisingly spritely Motown pastiche (I Feel Better).

Former number one single Somebody I Used To Know was lithe and funky, guest vocalist Kimbra appearing from the side of the stage to give her lyrical sparring partner the evils. At the other end of the scale, the hushed whisper of Heart's A Mess managed to bring the audience to a standstill – no mean feat in the notoriously chatty Empire.

Towards the end of the set, Gotye mentioned this was his last date in London "for quite a while". Some people were vocally unhappy – but his reply was superb: "That’s alright, you can listen to the records. They’re magical, they happen again and again."

Ain't that the truth.

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