Sunday, December 31, 2006

The future bringing us words of promise

(Credit for this picture to Alcazar World; thank you!)

Happy New Year's Eve, everyone! I hope you all have a great time tonight; I'll be facing the difficult choice of whether or not I want to watch the ball drop in Times Square or watch as one of the local towns drops a giant fish or a giant sausage. As you may have guessed, it's another song from Magnus Carlsson today (who is apparently in Thailand right now), bringing this up to, what, three songs by him in the past month? It's just that he's done an awful lot of holiday music. This time, it's once again from his first solo album, released in 2001.

Happy Happy Year For Us All--I'm pretty sure this is an original song and, though I can't say it's my favorite thing Magnus has ever done, it does tie in nicely with the date. It's also noteworthy for another reason: it features Alcazar--I think that makes this the first song Magnus performed with Alcazar (as far as I know), since Alcazarized didn't come out until 2003. "Happy Happy Year For Us All" is, as you might expect, an upbeat song with a bit of a holiday feeling to it.

To buy Magnus Carlsson's debut solo album, En ny jul, go here (physical). If you're looking elsewhere for it, his name is sometimes just listed as "Magnus."

Next up: I had a specific idea for tomorrow, but I've forgotten it as of the moment; maybe...hmm...I really can't remember! If nothing else, maybe a song from South Africa.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Pas un mot, pas un cri

Thierry Amiel, who I've written about a few times before, took second to Jonatan Cerrada in the first season of the French version of Pop Idol. He took a pretty different musical route than Jonatan; I guess you could say he focused more on sophisti-pop (whether it's pop at all might be debatable). Jonatan's songs (even the sad ones) make me think of sunshine (even if it's spotty autumn sunshine in some cases) and prettiness; Thierry's seem more suited for some half-lit room. Thierry's songs were probably supposed to appeal to an older demographic and more serous audience, and they often convey more trauma or drama than Jonatan's (though "drama" might give the impression of lots of energy, which isn't really the case; Thierry's songs seem a bit too hip for that). From what I've heard of Thierry's first album, I've always preferred the most Jonatan-esque song, "Sans toi" (though I'm glad Thierry was the one singing it--he brings that extra desperation the song needed), so I was a bit leery but intrigued when I heard he was releasing another album. The lead single, "Coeur sacré," is decidedly different from "Sans toi," but I still quite like it.

Edit: I just did a little bit of catching up, and apparently the few songs I'd heard from Thierry's first album may not have been totally representative--I may have to hear more! My description of Thierry's music still stands for this second album, though, and I still think he was, even then, less teen idol-sounding (that's not quite what I want to say, but I can't think of a better way to phrase it; maybe less fun [not that I mean that as an insult]? less catchy or hooky?), with a couple of exceptions, than Jonatan.

Coeur sacré--I suspect "Coeur sacré" is meant to sound impossibly cool (just look at the video) and, though it doesn't manage that, Thierry has managed to make a somewhat dark, almost haunting song. The electronic beeps (synth line?), one of my favorite touches and a vital part of the song, are subdued but the only part of "Coeur sacré" that glistens. The hushed, breathy female backing vocals are another nice touch; they both add to the haunting-ness and a sense of sensuality. The song's also a bit addictive, so be careful.

To buy Thierry Amiel's second album, Thierry Amiel, go here (physical). I'm still digesting it, but if you like this sort of more "sophisticated" (but also less fun) pop, it seems like a good purchase--I'm enjoying it so far.

The Zapping has just done a huge two-day special on the rather amazing up-and-coming singer Simon Curtis that is definitely worth reading; you can find part one here and part two here.

Next up: a song by a Swedish singer who I've already posted a lot of songs by...but this time, he's got some other people singing with him. And it's themed to the date!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Kylmää jää jälkeesi

From what I've heard, Antti Tuisku, the third place-finishing Finnish Idol contestant whose popularity has surpassed that of those who beat him, has both a large number of people who adore him (apparently many of whom are young and female, though I'm not quite sure why) and a large number of people who absolutely can't stand him. Let's ignore that for a moment, though, because, though I'm still digesting it, his album New York (released at the same time as his pop album Rovaniemi; New York took the top spot on the album chart that week while Rovaniemi took the second) is shaping up to be a very good dance album, even if the vocal melodies on some songs could be hookier and I might go crazy trying to figure out where some of the samples are from (I have no actual proof that the album uses samples, but it somtimes feels like it does...or maybe the producers and writers just came up with some really good hooks that feel like they should have existed in the past).

Levoton--I am in love with the first minute of this song. Full-on, flat-out love. "Levoton" starts out with distant wooshing wind (accompanied by some clicks and building percussion) that gradually gets louder--but what is it bringing with it? Suddenly, the main drumbeat comes in, and oh my gosh, could it be any more '80's?! It's amazing (though simple)--is it a sample? It's got to be. This is going to be my test for speaker systems in the future--if I don't feel an instense desire to start playing air percussion at this point, the speakers aren't quality. It's still pretty minimal, though...but then the beat drops, a simple, glistening, repeated set of electronic notes. Then a little bit more accompaniment, the moving part of the beat, comes in...listen to it with really good headphones, or preferably on speakers; it's a must, or you'll think I'm crazy, and it's totally worth it--one of the most delicious sections of music I've heard this year. I think speakers--not car speakers--are the way to go. The main shame: the vocal melody, when it comes in, adds nothing to it; if anything, it gets in the way. I'm glad there's singing in the song, but could someone take the music and come up with something else to sing over it? "Sekaisin," which I posted earlier, is still the better overall song. In fact, there are other songs better than this on the album, but at the moment, I just can't stop listening to that first minute of "Levoton."

(Note: after forcing myself to listen to the rest of the song several times, it is a grower and does start to work better as a whole, but I can't help feeling that an intro that amazing deserves a masterpiece of a song).

Apparently, "Tunturibiisi" is going to radio next (after "Sekaisin" and "Levoton") which I don't understand; if they had to choose a song that started with "T" and had lots of vowels in it, I think "Tulevaisuus" would have been a better choice.

I still have no idea where you can go to buy Antti Tuisku's album New York, unless you can navigate through Finnish and this site ships everywhere (which I don't know whether or not it does). If anyone knows, please let me know--there are some other Finnish CDs I'd like to buy!

Lots of blogs I love are starting back up again after a bit of a gap (some more recently than others, but I thought I'd mention them all together): the incredibly detailed and surprising PopEatsPop; the eclectic, educational, and always fun Electroqueer; and the taste-expanding, Russia and nearby countries-focused Russkipop. Also, Enthusiastic but Mediocre has started its year-end countdown of the 100 best singles.

Next up: I'll probably return to Antti at some point in the future, but for now, maybe a French singer.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Keep your fire burning

Russian singer Dima Bilan took second in this year's Eurovision with the great song "Never Let You Go." Before "Never Let You Go" was decided upon as the Russian entry, though, there were rumors that Dima would be singing a song called "Lady Flame." Though luckily Russia decided to go with "Never Let You Go," I still like "Lady Flame," which was later released--it still would have been one of my favorite songs at Eurovision. Dima has released several albums in Russian, but done only a few songs in English; hopefully, we'll be hearing more from him in English in the future (sort of selfish, I know, but it's just more accessible for me that way; even in Russian, though, I think songs like "Eta Bila Lubov" and "Ya Tebya Pomnu" are good, and there's something about "Nochnoi Huligan" that I find really funny and fun).

Lady Flame--as a warning, do not watch the video for this unless you want to be conscious of how you walk for the next several days. At any rate, this song is catchy and fun enough that I'm willing to not think too deeply about how you could interpret the lyrics. It's got touches and flourishes that make it clear that this is not a Western pop song, but they enhance the music, which is already that of a good solid pop song. There are also a bunch of electronic sound effects. I guess it's mid-tempo, though you could probaby call it a ballad if you wanted, but it's got enough energy to it that that might be a little deceptive.

As always, I have absolutely no idea where you can go to buy Russian music, besides eBay, so instead I'll provide the link to Dima Bilan's official site.

Incidentally, according to VH1, the best song of the '80's was Bon Jovi's "Livin' On A Prayer," with Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar On Me" coming second.

Next up: maybe a Finnish song.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

On nourrit l'étincelle

Aaaaahhhhhh! It's Grégory Lemarchal!

All right, I will attempt to remain calm, but woah--he's finally released one of the best songs (along with "Je suis en vie," which was a single, and "Je t'ecris," which probably wouldn't translate well to the single world) off his excellent, top-quality, I-can't-overtalk-it album. The song? "Le feu sur les planches." I posted it earlier this year, and it's sooo good. Contrary to what my grammar in this post might make you think, Grégory doesn't do boy band pop--he just makes amazing, inspiring, epic, world-class pop. And even more amazingly, he's got a brilliant video to go with the song. The title of the song has something to do with fire, so how does the video start? With Grégory singing in an ice-covered room! ...which gradually begins to melt as he sings, until it all breaks apart at one of the song's many glorious parts. Please watch the video--you won't be disappointed, as it is so good and definitely does this amazing song (one of my favorite singles of the year) justice. I love the coloring and the lighting--gorgeously icy.

Video: Grégory Lemarchal - Le feu sur les planches

Honestly, let McFly have their groupies--if I ever disappear, it will be because I've gone off to stalk Grégory.

(And, well, I normally avoid saying things like this on the blog, but Grégory looks rather smoldering in the video clip...although, trust me, that's not why I love him--those three songs I keep mentioning are just so amazing that they've won me over to him.)

Grégory Lemarchal would also win the award for "artist I most want to see at Eurovision"--please, someone, write a ripoff of "Je suis en vie" (or capture the magic of "Je t'ecris" in under 3 minutes) immediately! He's so adorable, but he sings these positively epic songs. Grégory, compete in Eurovision! Release another (studio) album! (but please stay healthy) Marry me?

You can buy Gregory Lemarchal's debut album, Je deviens moi, here (physical), and I completely recommend it--not every song will knock you off your feet, but everything is at least good or very good, and about half the songs are completely amazing; the album contains three of my favorite songs ever. I have a feeling I'm not impressing any French readers, as I don't know that he's thought of particularly highly, but he has so much potential, and it's led to some really great songs so far.

To read my previous posts on Gregory, who really is quite the adorable little popstar, go here and here.

(P.S. I have the worst time trying to keep up with him, since I speak no French, so if anyone has any news on him, it would be much appreciated! I do know about the Olympia '06 CD/DVD, though. For that matter, is this single from that CD--is it a live version? Is this video new? I just saw it for the first time, but that doesn't mean's what I think I know: "Le feu sur les planches" was originally going to be the second single--a music video was filmed and everything--but was replaced at the last minute with "Je suis en vie." I'm guessing that's why this video is labeled as being from 2005, even though I don't think "Le feu sur les planches" was a single that year. The reason I think it's a single now--released in the past few months--is it's in some radio charts at the moment, and he did perform it on Star Academy recently. Does anyone actually know? I'm pretty sure it was just released, so it would tie in with the Olympia CD and DVD, but I keep finding little comments that are confusing me.)

Edit: this question and answer session, if real, might have cleared things up a bit: "Le feu sur les planches" isn't technically a single, but is being used to promote the Olympia DVD and CD. Does anyone know if that means they're actually playing the video on TV now, or if this video was first released back when it was the potential second single? Or both?

Next up: maybe a song from a Russian singer.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

I don't want to let go, girl

Merry day after Christmas! I hope everyone had a great day, whether you were celebrating the holiday or not. I had a lovely music-filled Christmas, as I got to listen to XM Radio for the first time and, in less than an hour, heard the following songs:

  • Savage Garden, "Truly Madly Deeply"
  • Kelly Clarkson, "Walk Away"
  • A-ha, "Take On Me" (sadly not the A1 version, but a great song nevertheless)
  • Backstreet Boys, "As Long As You Love Me"
  • La Bouche, "Sweet Dreams"
  • Madonna, "Into The Groove"
  • Hanson, "Mmmbop"
  • The Killers, "When You Were Young"
  • Beyonce, "Irreplaceable"
  • Hellogoodbye, "Here (In Your Arms)"
  • Nelly Furtado, "Say It Right"
  • Michael Jackson, "Beat It"
  • Natasha Bedingfield, "Unwritten"
It was amazing! I loved it!

Anyhow, this will just be a quick post today, dedicated to a remix I'm into at the moment. Bryan Rice, who I wrote about earlier, is apparently rather fond of remixes for his singles, which surprised me--most of his songs are ballads or ballad-ish (all the more reason to remix them, I suppose). Not all the remixes of his singles are good; the remix of what I think is the most recent single, "Can't Say I'm Sorry," is some sort of strange, sort of R&B, sort of reggaeton thing. This remix, though, is pretty good; it's done by the same people who have also done some of Infernal's remixes. As a warning, though, it is over six minutes long.

No Promises (Weekend Wonderz Club Mix)--at the beginning, it's hard to believe this is a version of Bryan Rice's original and the song Shayne Ward later covered. This is really a very pretty remix; it's sort of house or trance-ish, and starts by repeated use of the "now and forever, love" line (which is only used once in the original song), which works really well. The middle part of the song doesn't quite deliver--when we get to the actual verses and chorus, which use slowed-down vocals, there's nothing too special going on, but luckily, it picks back up at the end (mainly because it stops worrying about the original song and playing the real verses and chorus).

To buy the Weekend Wonderz Club Mix of Bryan Rice's "No Promises," go here (digital).

Next up: maybe a song from Finland or South Africa.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

I'm no genius but I know that they're wrong

Please excuse me as I do my first complete repost of songs I've posted before. However, they were from my second ever post (five and a half months ago) and it is the day before Christmas, so I'm hoping people will be forgiving. More importantly, though (and my reason for doing this), the songs are extremely relevant. Yesterday, UK TV channel ITV ran the documentary Whatever Happened to Gareth Gates? (which, thanks to an amazing fan and the power of YouTube, you can watch online--all links can be found here). Other people have far better commentary than I on it, but I did think it sort of strange that it glossed over everything from the second album era; I know the second album didn't sell as well as the first, but the singles charted highly, so I thought it a little odd that all the old footage of him showed him when he was really young (maximum visual contrast between "then" and now, I suppose). Some key facts:

  • I approve of the hairstyle.
  • Not only does he have popstar hair, he's also gone one step further: he now has a Ben Adams belt! (which might in fact be too much brilliant popstarness in one place at one time for me to handle)
  • He has a record deal.
  • He has a MySpace (all right, this wasn't in the documentary, but it was on his official site, so it's legitimate)
Really, though, how adorable was Gareth? I don't just mean cute, but him in general--he came across really well, and he wants this so badly. It was actually difficult for me to watch. Here's my wish for New Year's: a successful comeback for Gareth Gates, including some brilliant pop songs. Please, please, please among those hundred songs he's written, let there be at least one "cracking" lead-off single that he can win the world over with!

There is, though, one more thing I wanted to address: his music. I think the documentary only played clips from three songs, all ballads. They may very well be lovely ballads. However, if I know the pop blogosphere (and I might not), they may not be met with much excitement (though I want to hear more of "19 Minutes," and am definitely not saying I didn't like the songs--this is mainly a response to what I'm fearing the response might be in some circles). This post, then, is basically a plea: even if you weren't particularly enthused by the songs you heard--if you don't want an album full of ballads--hold off on your final judgement a bit longer. Not only (get ready for a lot of "not only"'s) do I have a feeling the best songs weren't in the documentary, and not only did we not get to hear the choruses for all the songs, and not only did the content of the documentary probably preclude the option of using more fun songs, and not only do reports of the gig say much of his new material is uptempo, two (admittedly old) demos of songs not on the album give extra reason for hope. There is a caveat here: the fact that they're not on the album could be a sign that Gareth has decided not to go in these directions. I, however, am going to hope that the fact that these songs--which in final produced versions would have been more than respectable album tracks--were passed up means that Gareth has even better songs out there.

Face Myself--the first time I heard these two demos, "Face Myself" was easily my favorite. It's got a little more guitar than most of the Gareth songs we're used to, but it's a far cry from the blaring guitars I can't stand--it still has that all-important sense of melody and hook. It's strong but not aggressive, and I think is a good indication that Gareth and guitar-based songs (which I think many of the new songs will be) can mix very well.

Something Right--I wasn't too captivated by this song at first--I liked it, but liked "Face Myself" a lot more. Now, though, I think "Something Right" is my favorite. I'm not totally sure why that happened; one day part of it just particularly struck me--somewhere around the second use of the "Statue of Liberty" line (the part right after that, with the reference to not being a genius). Instrumentally, it's closer than "Face Myself" to the Gareth we're used to hearing. It's also a mid- to up-tempo song that feels very pure pop (though I suppose you could make a case that it's got a bit of groove to it).

Neither of these songs are on an album to buy, but you can get Gareth's excellent second album, Go Your Own Way, here (physical) or here (digital).

Next up: I can't guarantee a post on Christmas (and I suspect few people will be reading blogs than anyway), but there's a small chance that I might be able to type something up today and post it tomorrow. If so, it may be something holiday-ish or that remix. Either way, though, happy holidays to everyone!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Party 'til the daylight

I went to see Night at the Museum yesterday and was really surprised at how much I liked it--I rarely laugh out loud at movies, especially not in theaters, but this one actually had that effect on me. The laughs slowed down at the end, but that's to be expected--the plot actually had to reach some sort of resolution. More importantly, the movie was good enough to distract me from constantly thinking "Gosh, if only I lived in the UK, I could hear McFly's music in this movie!" the whole time I was watching it, which is saying something. This really does have something to do with music--the song playing over the credits at the end caught my attention--it's cute, light, fluffy, and, if I'm being honest, completely disposable; I'm not making any claims that this is a song you'll be listening to a year from now, or even a week from now. It's by Keke Palmer, most famous for playing the title character in the movie Akeelah and the Bee, but she's launching a music career. She's also due to star in the jump rope-centered Disney Channel movie Jump In!, which I'm pretty sure is hoping a little of High School Musical's popularity will rub off on it--it's even co-starring Corbin Bleu.

Tonight--I couldn't help wondering if this song was fulfilling McFly's "Friday Night"'s role--both have lyrics that you can relate to the movie (though "Friday Night" does that to a greater extent) and "Tonight" played over the closing credits. Given some of the scenes that played during the credits, I'm not sure if that's the case, but I'm not really sure what it means when songs are the "theme song" for a movie (Matt Willis's "Hey Kid" and the Alex Ryder movie is another example)--does that have any actual significance? I guess it just means themed promotional music videos and maybe extra funding from the movie studio for the artist. As for the song itself, it's R&B-influenced cheesy pop that's pretty beat-oriented. There's also some rapping in it, but there's no way it can be for anything other than comedic purposes.

If you live in the U.S., you can buy Keke Palmer's "Tonight" digitally at the iTunes store here.

Next up: be prepared, because there's a very good chance two upcoming posts will be both rock and indie! Or maybe that remix.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Her Sonic Youth CD's were nowhere to be seen

James Bourne, you are a pop genius. But--and I say this gently, and knowing it doesn't really matter...

...could we please get you to change your hairstyle? I won't even worry about clothes yet, and I'm not saying you have to get spikes, but could we just redye it? Maybe? I know it doesn't really matter in the big scheme of things, but it just seems strange to see someone with such amazing talent looking...awkward.

(P.S. When are we getting another Son of Dork album? And is it true you are going to tour the U.S.? Please do not be infected by the music here--if you come back sounding like Hawthorne Heights, I may very well be heartbroken.)

Anyhow, James was a member of Busted and, since the group's breakup, has put together the group Son of Dork, which has released one album and an excellent soundtrack-only song ("We're Not Alone"). My relationship with their album, Welcome to Loserville, has been far from what I expected. I may have said this before, but I thought their album would definitely be one of the "instant pleasure" types--if you're going to enjoy it, you'll enjoy it immediately. For some songs, that turned out to be the case; as much as Son of Dork seem to be disliked throughout pop circles, I instantly loved songs like "Ticket Out Of Loserville" and "Eddie's Song." However, in the months since I first got the album, something unexpected happened: I've begun to like more and more songs on it. I always liked the album, but now, there's only a couple of songs on the album I'm not particularly fond of, and I can't imagine why I didn't love songs like "Holly, I'm The One" and "Little Things" instantly. In short, Welcome to Loserville is a grower, something I never would have expected. Today's song, though, is one of the "instant" ones for me.

Murdered In The Mosh--I don't want to hear that Son of Dork/James don't like pop, or think they are better than boy bands/"traditional" boy bands--this song, and others on the album, show that they think that kind of posturing is ridiculous ("Boy Band," which is tongue-in-cheek, could be confusing in that respect, but the references are there all the same--"Good Charlotte said they liked McFly/is half their fan base gonna cry?").* How can you not love a song with the line "Just go to concerts that you love/'cause there's no shame in liking Backstreet Boys"? The whole song fits with this; it's about a girl's attempts to pretend she likes hardcore rock, because it's "cooler," even though she likes pop, and how ridiculous that makes her look. It's not the fact that she doesn't know Jane's Addiction's songs that makes the boys "fall over laughing;" it's that she claims to be "into Jane's Addiction," but doesn't know the words to their songs.

Enough lyrical analysis: the real reason to love this song is its catchiness and ability to make you want to go bounce off the walls. Yes, the sound is a little harder than Busted's, but not too much--maybe some more emo or rock influence, but really, mainly just that rushing, driving feeling. There's usually a template that songs like this follow, where the pace picks up about two-thirds in, but "Murdered in the Mosh" has this great slowed-down ending, where it gets the tiniest bit choral--no more shredding guitars, but instead overlapping, uniting voices.

I know it'll be unpopular for me to say this, but their album is really great and fun, and I definitely recommend buying it; you can get it here (physical) or here (digital). This song, though I love it, isn't even the best on the album, so, if you even sort of like this, Welcome to Loserville is a worthy purchase.

Next up: maybe that remix.

*If you want to dislike them because of their music, I have no argument with that--it's all to taste. To be honest, a much deeper analysis of the dynamics surrounding Son of Dork in relation to issues like this could probably be done, because--if we look beyond their lyrics (or even into them more)--it probably is more complex than I've made out here. I think the same general conclusion would still be reached, though.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Här kommer jag

Swedish singer Jimmy Jansson is perhaps inextricably linked to Fame Factory, on which he was a contestant (he's steadily dating one of the other contestants from the show, and is expecting a child with her, which I can't believe--2004, when he released his debut album, wasn't that long ago, and he seemed so young!). However, he's also had several experiences with Melodifestivalen. Before Fame Factory, Jimmy competed in Melodifestivalen in 2002 as part of a group called the Poets, though he didn't make it out of semifinals. In 2005, he competed as a solo artist and made it to the finals, placing sixth. He'll also be competing in Melodifestivalen this coming year. He's released two albums so far and is working on a third, I think, but both these songs are from his first album.

Som Sommaren--I know it's the middle of winter (if you live in the Northern Hemisphere), so this song couldn't really be more out of place. Not only does the title probably translate to something about summer, the song itself is full of a bouncy happiness and youthfulness that makes it feel like it couldn't be anything than a summer song--like it's meant to be played under maximum sunbeams. Jimmy's voice is a bit different--it's neither what I'd expect from a teen idol nor someone singing such happy songs as this; I'd be less surprised to hear it in a punk-pop environment, but I'm glad he's chosen to go in this direction.

Godmorgon Världen--less "bop along in the summer" and more "fun with guitars!". I'm going to guess the title means "Good morning world," but this isn't a sweet ode to the rising sun--yes, it may be more flowingly melodic than "Som Sommaren," but the light use of guitars drives the song along at a decent pace and brings the song an up and down feel (which "Som Sommaren" also had, I know, but this is more wave-like, whereas "Som Sommaren" was more staccato). The ending is a bit too abrupt, but it's still a great song overall. It's difficult to compete with "Som Sommaren" for pure catchiness ("Som-som-sommaren!" is just so easy to chant along with), but I think I may prefer "Godmorgon Världen"--maybe because some parts of it could be called pretty, or maybe because it feels like it might yield longer-term benefits (sketchy reasoning there), or maybe just because it's not summer yet.

To buy Jimmy Jansson's debut solo album, Flickan Från Det Blå, go here (physical) or here (digital). If you like your pop with guitars but not in the shouty rock-out style, I definitely recommend listening to more of his songs.

In music updates, Go:Audio have another new song on their MySpace. It doesn't beat "Made Up Stories," but then really, what could? I have such big hopes for this band, mainly in terms of quality but also commercially. There would be a nice parallelism, given my favorite album this year and my favorite album last year, if they were to make my favorite album of 2007, but I'm going to try to not get my expectations too high.

Next up: maybe that remix I mentioned yesterday

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Another year over, a new one just begun

I could probably wait until tomorrow to post these, and I'd have a ready-made post; however, McFly's session in the Live Lounge (today?) was just too lovely to not share as soon as possible. I really haven't written enough about their latest album yet, but it is amazing. Brilliant. The latest single, out this week, is a double A side that features two of the year's best singles for the price of one, "Sorry's Not Good Enough" and "Friday Night" (you can buy it physically here or digitally here). Anyhow, at Jo Whiley's Live Lounge on Radio 1, the boys started out by performing "Sorry's Not Good Enough" and then went on to perform the necessary cover...and they did a beautiful, great job of it, too!

Sorry's Not Good Enough

Happy Christmas (War Is Over)

Now, granted, the backing singers add a lot to "Happy Christmas," but still, a lovely cover!

(By the way, Paul, is that a Wicked hoodie Tom is wearing? As if I needed further reason to like them!)

Who's gonna fill the space in my place

I know that anyone who follows Swedish music will probably know this band and this song, but it's too fun to not post for anyone who might not have heard of it or them before. Swedish band Barbados (they're a "dansband," which translates to "dance band" but just reflects the kind of music they do). They've been releasing music since the early 1990's, and have had two lead singers who've gone on to solo careers: Magnus Carlsson (who went on to join Alcazar) and Mathias Holgrem (who had been a contestant on Fame Factory). They've also entered Melodifestivalen, Sweden's contest to determine their Eurovision representative, multiple times, though they've never won.

Bye Bye--this song was Barbados's Melodifestivalen entry in 2003, the year Fame won with "Give Me Your Love" (and also the year Alcazar entered with "Not A Sinner Nor A Saint"). It's also from Mathias Holgrem's time as lead singer. I'm pretty sure "Bye Bye" must be the happiest-sounding breakup song ever; it's got a bouncy, singalong chorus that you might just have stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Actually, the whole song might be stuck in your head the whole day. Incredibly poppy (and with a UFO analogy that I still don't understand), "Bye Bye" leaves a big impression on you, even if it doesn't have a huge crescendo like some Melodifestivalen songs. I don't think that we can call Barbados a boy band, but any boy band would be thrilled to have recorded a song like this.

To buy Barbados's album Hela Himlen, go here (physical) or here (digital).

Next up: maybe a remix of a song by a Swedish singer.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Mistletoe, Christmas songs, let it play on and on

I realized several days ago that I'd left out of the Christmas special one of the songs that had been my inspiration for starting it; at that point, I thought it might be interesting to post it on Christmas day itself, but I've just realized that that would take away from the ability to play it in the lead-up to Christmas, when the vast majority of Christmas music gets played. It's from someone who I've written about countless times, and who has a TV documentary airing December 23 (featuring some of his new music!): Gareth Gates. In addition to releasing two excellent albums, the Pop Idol runnerup also had some great B-sides on his singles; this is one of them. (Incidentally, I just have to say: if we were giving out awards for best popstar hair, I'd have to nominate Gareth--post-2002, that is--and he'd be a top contender for most photogenic popstar, too.)

Christmas To Remember--as you all probably know by now (but I really can't say it enough), I love Gareth's music; his second album was full of so many excellent pop songs that he should have been able to release singles off of it for years. His music is really pop, and I love that about it. This song is exactly in that vein--complete pop--and it's pretty adorable. Sweet and mid-tempo, "Christmas To Remember" is, as you might have guessed from the title, a love song (convenient that "December" and "remember" rhyme, right?). This is first album era, so he sounds young and the song itself is more reminiscent of the songs on his first album than, say, "Sunshine."

To buy Gareth Gates's single "What My Heart Wants To Say," which has "Christmas To Remember" as a B-side, go here (physical).

Oh, and as a reminder, "Made Up Stories" by Go:Audio is still amazing (even if the band has rather frustratingly decided to start making news about their album viewable only to MySpace "friends"...). My favorite song of the moment, in fact.

Next up: maybe a Swedish singer.

Monday, December 18, 2006

It's human nature, girl, and it's how we turn the world

Mention American singer Josh Kelley and you're almost inevitably going to get comparisons to John Mayer. I cringe at that, but, for all I know, maybe that's accurate; I've never actually listened to a whole John Mayer album. Maybe it's because he doesn't have John Mayer's voice, or hasn't had a series of inescapable but annoying singles (I can't stand that wonderland song or "Daughters," sorry! I understand that people like them, but they're just not my thing), or maybe it's because some--though not all--of his songs pop more for me, but I have much more of a tolerance for Josh Kelley's work (thought more on a singles or individual songs basis than a full album basis). I only have one of his albums, Almost Honest, but he's released one before it and one after it. He got the chance to release his debut major label album after uploading songs he'd recorded onto Napster (back in the days when it was illegal) and saying that it sounded like the music of more popular artists.

Only You--if I'm being honest, any fondness I have for Josh probably comes mainly from this song and its spillover effects. To me, this song sounds more like Maroon 5 than John Mayer. "Don't go act all sweetness" is a bit of an odd line, but in general, this is a good song with a bit of funk to it. It doesn't have the "ooo"'s or "doo doo doo"'s that McFly have perfected, but it does have "oh-oh-ah-ah-aa-ah-ah"'s. Josh wrote this song with the Matrix, the production team who also gave us Jason Mraz's "The Remedy (I Won't Worry)," Liz Phair's "Why Can't I," Avril Lavigne's "Sk8er Boi," and both Busted albums.

To buy Josh Kelley's second major label album, Almost Honest, go here (physical).

Next up: really poppy songs have been in short supply on this blog lately, so hopefully tomorrow will start a couple of posts to change that.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Wait a minute, not the time and place

The name Drew Seeley might not ring a bell, but for countless kids (and adults), his voice should sound familiar: Drew was responsible for providing most (probably the vast majority) of the vocals for the character of Troy (played by Zac Efron) in High School Musical. The official line is that Drew and Zac's voices were "blended" because Zac has a lower singing voice than much of the music required, but both Zac and Drew have said that most of the singing is Drew's. With Zac off filming the movie version of Hairspray, Drew has stepped in to play the role of Troy on the High School Musical tour. Drew has song on another Disney soundtrack, and rumor has it he may release an album at some point. for now, though, you can listen to some of his work over at his official website; it's pleasant enough pop, but I hope he's saving his best stuff for the album, or will work with some really good producers and writers if he starts to record one. His voice sometimes reminds me of what Josh Hoge would sound like with a less gruff voice.

Get'cha Head In The Game--this song is from High School Musical (which I finally saw a few weeks ago!) and it's one of the most fun songs in the movie. Drew co-wrote it and does all the singing (except the backing vocals, I presume) in it--there's no Zac. For those who haven't seen the movie (which is probably no one--I think I was the last person on Earth who had any interest in it to see it), the song is sung during basketball practice (hence the bouncing balls and squeaking sneakers sound effects), with Troy distracted by thoughts of the musical he wants to audition for and a girl.

Hello & Goodbye--one of Drew's own songs. It's on the ballad/mid-tempo side, but was still one of the first to jump out at me. To be a breakout star, Drew's music needs to get an extra spark from somewhere, but for just a sweet pop song without pretensions, this is nice.

Caught Up--many of Drew's songs don't have the "pure pop" sound of the High School Musical sound, though they're still pop; I'm not sure what genre's elements this is borrowing, but whatever genre it is, it's part of the reason that I'm reminded of Josh Hoge (though it's not a perfect parallel my any means, and Drew's songs, as I've mentioned, need polishing, and he definitely needs some brand new songs before he should consider releasing an album). I see potential, though (even though I'm not sure what would be the best way for him to utilize his voice--it's not typical), and I'll be paying attention to what he does in the future; we need a young male popstar who's popular in the U.S.

To buy the soundtrack for High School Musical, go here (physical) or here (digital); you can't buy any of the other songs by Drew Seeley yet, but you can visit his official website and download some more songs by him.

Next up: maybe a hidden song from a boy band's album or a song and a cover of it by an ex- and now re-boy band member.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Everything's within my reach, but everything seems like it's nothing

It's been months since I first said I would write about Jesse McCartney's new album, Right Where You Want Me, but I still haven't really reached a final conclusion about it. There are only a couple of songs on it that I listen to anything close to regularly; however, whenever I do listen to it, I like it and wonder why I don't listen to it more. It's definitely no masterpiece, and I'm convinced "Tell Her" is a ripoff (maybe not musically, but in subject and lyrics) of BBMak's "Next Time," and I miss the cuteness that some of his first album songs had, but it has some good, more on the pop-rock side than before songs. I'm not sure about singles, though; there doesn't seem to be an abudance of options, which may be one of the reasons the album is struggling (or at least I perceive it to be struggling; I don't actually know sales figures for it; at the least, I feel like I heard "Beautiful Soul" a lot more on the radio than I heard "Right Where You Want Me"). The two best songs on the album will probably never be singles, and I'm not sure that they would work as singles even if they were made to be.

Daddy's Little Girl--from my perspective, this is the most fun song on the regular album. The whole "I have to be credible" vibe is less noticeable, though the subject matter is a big change from Jesse's first album; with innuendo and lines like "you just turned 18 a week ago/and you want to learn what you don't know," this song is designed to prove that "daddy's little girl is now my baby." It's more danceable than most of the other songs on the album, and really, as I said, pretty fun. The one part I'd criticize is the middle (I'm not sure if it's the middle 8, but it's the falling surf guitar riff with talk about "shaking").

Running Away--a Best Buy bonus track, but I can't understand why it didn't make the album; yes, it's got a distinctly different style from the rest of it, but I think its presence would have vastly improved my overall opinion of the album. It has so much more energy than this album's lead single, and there's something about this track that feels a bit more orchestral than the other songs; it's not a rock-out or funky song at all--in fact, I'd say it's pretty, lifting. Jesse's words in the chorus come in crashes, in waves, and are perfectly punctuated and backed up by the percussion and the rest of the instruments. This isn't "running away" as in some picturesque frolicking in fields, but a swirling, rushing escape--if only this song wasn't the only such escape on the album...

To buy Jesse McCartney's second studio album, Right Where You Want Me, go here (physical) or here (digital); I do recommend it.

By the way, Split Chick has just recently updated her excellent blog Tip Top Pop and is back in business again!

Next up: there are other songs from this album that I'd like to write about some day, but for now, maybe an American singer.

(Random note: as I was typing this up, a commercial for My Super Sweet 16 came on, and do you know whose music was being used to advertise it? Mika! The song was "Love Today." I can't believe it! And literally a few minutes earlier I had been telling people about how he was probably going to be big in the UK next year! Weird! But exciting, even though it probably doesn't mean anything in terms of him making it here.)

Friday, December 15, 2006

Sans illusion, et sans lendemain

I'm not sure why it is that I always seem to end up relegating French artists to combined posts (except Gregory Lemarchal...and Jonatan Cerrada...and Thierry Amiel), but I'm going to do it again today (in this case, mainly because I don't have that many songs by either of these artists). Pascal Obispo, whose album the first song comes from, has been releasing albums since 1990, though he got involved with music in the 1980's; perhaps more interestingly, his name is an anagram of "Pablo Picasso." The Prototypes (or maybe just Prototypes would be more accurate) are a three person group from France who, though Wikipedia describes their sound as indie rock, seem to have a fondness for electronic-based music, though they definitely have an indie vibe around them.

(Credit for this picture goes to here; thank you!)

Pascal Obsipo and Melissa Mars - 1980--to begin with, thank you to Stylus for introducing me to this song. "1980" is not as poppy as many of the tracks I post. It is also (as is the following song) in French. However, if nothing else, listen to it for the saxophone part. The electronically filtered voices are in sharp contrast to that burst of energy the song gets everytime the saxophone comes in. You can have too much of a good thing--I think the sax breakdown in the middle is a bit much for me--but generally, they're used to great effect (and, if you watch the video, you won't be able to listen to the song without picturing the saxophone players' choreographed gestures). I imagine this song, which clocks in at over five minutes, benefits a lot from a single edit, though.

Prototypes - Un gars fragile--I have so many questions about this song. The Prototypes, from what I've heard, are usually led by a female singer, so did one of the guys in the group step in for this? What on Earth are they saying (I'm pretty sure I can hear "Je suis un gars fragile," which would be "I'm a fragile guy," I think, but that's it; of course, the fact that I don't speak French probably doesn't help, but the singing is pretty rapidfire). What I do know is that this is an electronic-based song that verges on hyperactive and maybe hipster. It would probably be pretty danceable (or lend itself to some interesting YouTube posted dances, anyway). Oh, and it has handclaps, which I'm always a sucker for.

To buy Pascal Obispo's album Les fleurs du bien, go here (physical). To buy the Prototypes' album Tout le monde cherche quelque chose à faire, go here (physical). Alternatively, the Prototypes have put an EP up as a free digital download; you can get it here.

Next up: possibly Jesse McCartney, or another U.S. singer.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

When you're lonely, then you phone me

This is a somewhat desperate plea: in this picture, we have a happy Matt Willis. We want Matt to look like this more often, yes? As opposed to this. Or this. So (and given his past chart placings, which should be seen as respectable but probably won't be), the more people who buy his new single, "Don't Let It Go To Waste," the better. Now, I know it's got nothing on "Up All Night" (excellent!) or "Hey Kid" (very good), but it is still a nice song, and it comes from a great album. Buying this song means: 1.) Matt is less likely to be dropped and thus less likely to stop making brilliant music, and 2.) maybe he can release one of the much better songs off his album next (unlikely that he'll get another single release, I know, but even getting to release 4 singles would be a good sign). Oh, and 3.) seeing his name in the charts might get people to go buy the album. Here, as just a small indication of how good the album is, is one of the songs from it.

Ex-Girlfriend--it was such a tough choice between this and "Get Bored" (formerly known as "Smashing Kelly," I think), as both are brilliant, catchy, uptempo songs. Ultimately, though, this one just barely got the edge, possibly because it is just so fun to yell out "You're a *#@*ing lunatic!" with Matt in the lead up to the first chorus. Plus, as pointed out elsewhere, how can you not love a song with the line "now you've stolen all of my CDs/But baby that's OK/'cause I got them all on mp3's/and I didn't have to pay!" (with more Matt shoutiness that's not scream-shouty). The bridge and the chorus are just ridiculously catchy pop-rock of the kind that demands to be sung along with.

To buy Matt Willis's debut album Don't Let It Go To Waste, go here (physical) and here (digital). However, possibly more important in the short run, you can buy his single, "Don't Let It Go To Waste," here (physical) or here (digital). You can buy either the physical or digital versions regardless of where you live and, though the digital version is a protected WMA file, as 7Digital itself points out, you can burn it to a CD and then rip it off the CD to convert it to an mp3 that you can play on anything.

There are two versions of the single; if you're trying to decide which one to get, I'd probably recommend the one with the B-side "What's The Point," which, though sad, is strangely addictive. The line in the chorus about cigarettes (I think you need to hear it in context, but it's "Tell me that you're staying over/Tell me you've got cigarettes") seems a bit strange--isn't that basically saying "I'm so glad you're back, baby! ...but, uh, you brought the cigarettes, right?" That's an exaggeration, but it does seem to take away from the romance. Then again (and stick with me as I work this out for myself), I think this song is supposed to feel real, and it's the little details like that that take it beyond a typical boy band ballad. This isn't some pure, puppy-love plea--it's depressed desperation, from a real person, for someone--not a perfect person, but the person that matters most to them--to stay with them. Matt's delivery is perfect for a ballad from this standpoint, and it's not something everyone could do. I love the line about problems--there's no emphasis on it, and you might not notice it, but instead of "everybody's got their problems, I've got mine and you've got yours," Matt sings, "I've got yours and you've got mine." The parallelism is great, too: "What's the point in staying angry/Just stay here tonight." The high-pitched, faint, echoey I-don't-know-what's-producing-those-effects (what you hear as the song fades out) are perfect too, giving the song a cyclical feeling and a slow energy--just enough energy that it makes you notice the lack of energy from the narrator (Matt), whose pleas often have a tinge of hopelessness and desperation to them. "What's The Point" is the sort of song you might put in a playlist with Will Young's "Who Am I"...and yet, there's something comforting about it.

So, yes, in short: please consider buying Matt's new single, "Don't Let It Go To Waste" (which comes with a great B-side), which you can get here, regardless of the country you live in. He needs all the help he can get.

Next up: something far less preachy, I promise; probably Jesse McCartney.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

One day, we'll put all this behind us

Sadly, I only have time for a quick little post today, so essentially this will just be a check-in on some of the popstars I follow. To begin with, though, don't forget to vote for your top 10 pop albums of all time by e-mailing Adem from I'm Always Right at well, no, I haven't actually done it myself yet, but I'm going to!

Research (by which I mean bothering to look at the names of the boys in the band and doing one search) that I probably should have done before writing two posts about them reveals that go:audio (or is it Go:Audio?) are the former the Vacancy, which is hugely exciting for me. It does mean, though, that I'm going to do as I promised back when I wrote about the Vacancy and remove the links for their songs. If you haven't listened to the song on their MySpace yet, you absolutely must; I'm still completely in love with it--intoxicated by it, in a way. If they can follow up on this, I may have a triad of current bands representing pop perfection (music perfection).

(Credit for this picture goes here; thank you!)

The ever-amazing Ben Adams has a new song on his MySpace, "I Messed Up." It's one of his laid-back jazzy numbers...which, to be honest, aren't my favorite of his songs; I much prefer songs like "Get Off My Girl." However, you can still hear the excellent "Crash and Burn." I really hope he gets to release an album! (You can buy his debut single, "Sorry," and the top-quality B-side "Delicious" here.)

The new Anthony Callea single will be "Addicted to You," one of the rocky, more uptempo songs on his album--I don't think it's the best of those songs, but I do think it's good, and hope it does well; if it doesn't, I fear a reversion to ballads all the time. Actually, it's just important that it does well, period. Is there a universal rule that all the Idol grads I support have to stop selling as well as they used to as soon as I start supporting them? Watch out, Will Young--I didn't really start appreciating you until around the time of release for "Who Am I," and that was your lowest charting single yet...

Jesse McCartney's new single will be "Just So You Know." The video for it has just come out, and it features shameless cellphone product placement in the vein of most Rihanna videos...but then again, he might need all the money he can get given this album's performance so far, and even the Click Five have some cell phone placement in their videos, so I can't be too harsh on him. The video's nothing revolutionary--Jesse falling in love with another boy's girlfriend--but it does make me like the song more, I suppose; I still see "Just So You Know" as one of the album's middling tracks, though. Then again, my favorite album track, "Daddy's Little Girl," probably wouldn't work as a single (and my sometimes-overall-favorite, and maybe the album's best song, "Running Away"--which really is such a good song--is only a bonus track).

Next up: that plea to buy a single.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

You and him, getting more than friendly

I have to do this. I know I wrote about Go:Audio yesterday, but I have to do it again. Last night, when I wasn't itching to bounce around the room listening to this song, I kept feeling compelled to go blog about it while listening to it. I managed to hold off until today, but I have to do it now. I'm going to take down yesterday's download link, but you can listen to it at their MySpace.

Go:Audio - Made Up Stories

I don't want to listen to anything else (I had to follow it up with the Veronicas, but even their bottled fun and power had lost some of its sheen because I was so desperate to get back to listening to "Made Up Stories." The only thing that came close to being able to work as a followup was "Gotta Get Thru This"--that sheer desperation coming through in Daniel Bedingfield's voice, mixed with how amazing the beat is, wasn't able to replace "Made Up Stories," but something about it came so close to my emotional state that it just about worked)! And you know what? I think this could be a U.S. hit! It really could! Maybe not top of the charts success (although it should be), but All-American Rejects-level success at the very least. It makes me want to dance, shout the chorus out loud, jump on a bed, hairbrush sing with lots of dramatic gestures--it is brilliant. Best song on MySpace by someone who hasn't released anything yet? I think so. Maybe even the best song on MySpace. Most exciting song I've heard in a long time.

The only trouble is I keep wanting to sing "the night you've had with your mate at [some random location like "Storrey's"]" instead of "made-up stories." I have not been this excited about a band since I heard the Click Five's album for the first time, and that--for me--is saying something. I'm petrified that I'm going to wear this song out by overplaying it, but I just can't stop.

This--this song and this sort of feeling--is what music is about.

(As for what it sounds like...I don't know...think the Click Five, the All-American Rejects, McFly, and Busted mashed up and with more synths thrown in.)

Monday, December 11, 2006

It was just a kiss, but I could see you meant it

Why does this get its own post? Well, partly because I didn't want to worry about messing with something that had a YouTube video embedded in it, but mainly because I wanted to draw attention to it.

Sooo...long story short: post on Popjustice by a new band, listened to the song, excellent song, but all I could think of while listening to it was that the singer's voice sounded exactly like someone else's. I mean exactly. And then, about two-thirds in, it hit me: you know who this sounds exactly like? The Vacancy! You remember--I wrote about them awhile ago, posted some songs, and said that I was really disappointed that their MySpace site had disappeared, because they were so good. Well...I'm pretty sure they're back! Listen to this song (up only for a very limited time--it's brilliant, but I'm hoping they'll do well this time around, so I don't want to hurt their chances. It's low audio quality, though, so hopefully that will help) and tell me what you think...isn't the voice a dead ringer? Can anyone tell me? Does go:audio (the name of this band) = the Vacancy? Or maybe it's just wishful thinking on my part. Sigh.

Go:Audio - Made Up Stories (download link removed--visit their MySpace)

and, for comparison purposes:

The Vacancy - Bad Luck Boomerang (link removed)

The Vacancy - Catch Your Tear (link removed)

(Low audio quality for both, sorry!)

At any rate, how genius is that Go:Audio song? Very, very, very genius! I think I have a new song to put on practically constant repeat. If it is the former Vacancy, they're back and improved. Visit their MySpace here, and I really hope we hear more from them.

I wanna watch you fly to the sky tonight

I don't know that much about Emma Andersson (who is not actually blue, but this is the best picture I could find of her; credit for it goes to here). I do know she is Swedish, and was on the show that was the original version of Survivor. I've found a couple of references to some interview she gave that somehow involved Nazis, but, since I don't know Swedish, I have no idea what that was actually about. She was also in the same car accident this year as several of Sweden's Idol contestants (I think everyone was fine). Her 2002 album, Who I Am, is one of the most insubstantial albums possible: not only is it just ten tracks, one of those songs is just a different version of one of the other songs. It's also insubstantial in terms of how it feels--there's a very light feel to her songs, which are generally sweet pop, but sometimes venture into almost trance-ish--but that type of insubstantial is not a bad thing.

(Can anyone tell me more about her? Is this equivalent to me supporting Jordan?)

Weightless (feat. Bosson)--the video for this fits so perfectly--all white and floaty, rippling sheets and adorableness. The lyrics are just as cute. There's not really much I can say about it--it's a great, fun pop song! I'm so glad it's a duet, because I think it works so much better that way.

Somebody Should Have Told Me--just Emma this time, and the song is more laid-back, with sort of a flowing feel, but still sweet. I think that describes most of the songs on her album--simple and sweet. Despite its short length, it's still a nice purchase, because, though none of the songs are ground-breaking, most of them are good.

To buy Emma Andersson's debut album, Who I Am, go here (physical).

Maybe it's just the joy of new headphones, but it seems like there's an abundance of great music going around the blogosphere lately.

The Eye-pod has music by Jump5, who I can't believe I've never heard of before but will definitely have to look for more of--so happy and poppy and dancey that it's amazing!

Digital Technique has Icelandic Eurovision entries and some lovely songs by Sophie Monk--so sweet and pretty!

XO's Middle 8 introduced me to Mark Ronson and "Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before," the soulful song he's produced for Daniel Merriweather. It will be on Ronson's upcoming album Version (mp3 here for a very limited time only, as I definitely want to promote this song--it's so good--and the album, but I don't want to hurt its future sales).

#1 Hits From Another Planet has yet another excellent glammy, rocky song from the Callahan.

Next up: most likely a plea to buy a certain single out this week.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

I just don't see us tomorrow, babe

Wow! Over the past several months, the condition of my headphones must have been steadily deteriorating, but at a pace that I didn't realize it. Yesterday, though, I switched pairs (from my earbuds to some old school headphones), and wow! I had forgotten how amazing music could sound! Of course, this also had some unforseen side effects. I'm having to go back and reevaluate anything I heard for the first time recently--for example, though I still like that Marcos Hernandez song, it's for entirely separate reasons now--you really can't hear that "build" I was going on about with decent (or maybe just half-decent) headphones. It also had the rather unfortunate side effect of me lying in bed at 2:41 AM, listening to "Lev Livet" and trying not to burst out laughing (I was literally biting my lip and shaking)--it's just that infectiously knock-you-over-the-head happy!

One more side note: Digital Technique, already a must-visit, is even more so now because of the post on Sergey Lazarev, who, along with Vlad Topalov from yesterday, was the other former member of Smash!!. Sergey's going in a slightly more electronic and often more dance-oriented style (even for his ballads) and his song "Fake" is seriously one of the best singles of the year (you will want to laugh and be compelled to dance at the same time--I can't believe how much I like it, and that it's held up so many months on, but it's brilliant).

On with the topic for today: Mihai Trăistariu. Mihai is from Romania and sang one of my favorite songs from last year's Eurovision, "Tornero" (speaking of Eurovision: I can't wait for it! This will be the first time I've really followed it as it's happening). Mihai used to be a member of the group Valahia but has since gone solo. He also has an incredible range (five octaves, including his whistle register, I think). He released an album earlier this year, but has also just come out with a Christmas album. His official website is also rather interesting (lots of noise! light-up swords?), though it seems to be behind the times. The non-holiday album disappointed me a little bit, as I was hoping for a bunch of danceable songs, and it's sadly rather short of those, and there are no stormers on par with "Tornero."

Tornero--I'm posting the Eurovision version instead of the album version because I prefer the former by a long shot--there are a lot more background electronic effects going on in the album version, but I think they actually detract from the power, fun, and catchiness of the Eurovision edit, and there was some strange changing of the lyrics and rearranging of the parts of the song. Uptempo and really, really catchy, "Tornero" also boasts a killer moment two-thirds in that you'll probably be mimicking for the rest of the day (the closest I can come to explaining it in written words would be something like "I didn't know-oh-oh-oh-oh-OHHHH...TORRR-NERR-OOO!," but trust me, that doesn't even come close). Despite the title, probably most of the song is in English--it's only the chorus where Mihai switches over to Italian.

Everybody Loves Tomorrow Day--a bit similar to "Tornero" in that it's danceable (mainly in the chorus), but this isn't quite as anthemic. Despite its somewhat awkward title, it's got a decent, a bit trance-influenced chorus that means you probably won't be thinking about the grammar for too long (well, maybe you will, but it sort of feels like it makes sense when he's singing it...maybe). The echoey electronic voice is a nice touch.

Crazy Dance--still of the electronic-ish dance variety, but slightly less laid-back than "Everybody Loves Tomorrow Day." The chorus somehow manages to be awkward but catchy at the same time.

Dimmi si o no--both copies of this song I've heard have that talking at the beginning; I'm not sure if all of them do, but it'd be sort of funny if they all preemptively talked about Mihai Träistariu being back with a "brand new hit." I know they all have that telephone conversation in the beginning, though, because Mihai even uses it when he performs live. Out of these last three songs, this is probably the closest in style to "Tornero," though it still can't rival it. Except for the opening, though, it's not in English Except the verses clearly are in English--I have no idea what I was thinking when I wrote that. This one also has more of Mihai showing off his voice--can that really be him singing at 2:41?! I guess that's what they must mean by "whistle register"...

To buy Mihai Träistariu's album Tornero (in some places, Mihai just used his first name), go here (physical).

Rumor has it that McFly may try to break the U.S. again. I am all for this--honestly, they should be massive here. I'm convinced that if they could've had a spot on the AMAs or something they would have become the next big thing here, and even without that, they should still be huge. However..."Star Girl"? Are you serious, boys?! It's a decent song, but it's so far from their best work that I honestly have no idea what they're thinking. Give us "Sorry's Not Good Enough," give us "Friday Night," give us "We Are The Young," (I'd say "Transylvania, but I don't think that'd be the thing to break with here), but "Star Girl"?!?! Do you not want to be successful here? I'm beginning to think you don't, because you're doing exactly all the wrong things.
(United States, if McFly take off here, I will...I will...well, I don't know what exactly I'd do, but I would be so incredibly thrilled that I can't even explain!)

Next up: maybe an American singer.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Begging me to stay doesn't help it anyway

Vlad Topalov was one-half of popular Russian duo Smash!!; the other half was Sergey Lazarev, who I've featured here a couple of times before. Let me preface all this by saying that I don't know any Russian, so my sources for this information are fairly limited and could be unreliable--feel free to correct me on any of it! After Sergey left Smash!!, Vlad released one more album by himself still using the Smash!! name before releasing a solo album under his own name. The album, Lonely Star (all right, technically, I think it's title is Одинокая звезда, or Odinokaya Zvezda, but I'm going to refer to it as Lonely Star for simplicity's sake), is, unlike Sergey's, mainly in Russian. Though Lonely Star lacks a really stand-out, excellent track like Sergey's "Fake," I think it might be the better album overall, though it still seems to be missing something; often, the backing track is let down by a not-quite-interesting enough part for Vlad (for example, the strings in "Can't Take It" are nice--I was tempted to post it just because of how promising the first ten seconds are--but there's just nothing special about the sung part). Vlad has also been linked to one of the t.a.T.u. girls in the past.

Kinda Crazy--this song isn't really typical of the rest of the album at all, which tends to be more on the mid-tempo, pretty side. "Kinda Crazy" opts for a little more of an agressive attitude and, especially in the chorus, is a little rockier (or at least trying to be rocky). Besides the guitars in the chorus that seem to have been tossed in at the last minute, though, it's got some interesting orchestration and even gets a bit atmospheric in the middle 8. It's a typical "girl, I love you but I just can't take this anymore" song.

No More I'm Sorry--doesn't this song start out with potential? It's got quite the interesting, fun little beginning, and really, with that catchy little phrase repeating and then the entrance of the strings used in the song, I guess I'm willing to forgive it the lack of a really killer hook in the vocal part (and it is pretty cute as is; it just feels like it could be so much better). "No More I'm Sorry" is surprisingly sweet-sounding for a song all about breaking up with a girl.

Поднимусь высоко--maybe I just like Vlad's songs for the string parts in them. This is another case of some interesting ideas, but not enough of them. The title translates to something like "I Shall Rise Highly," and I suppose it does have a bit of a rising feel to it, especially with those strings (I know I'm mentioning them all the time, but they're far and away the best part of these songs--even though they wouldn't stand up without the vocals--and I really like that he uses them).

As for buying Vlad Topalov's album Lonely Star, I don't know my way around any Russian music stores, so the best I can recommend is that you check eBay, and point you in the direction of his official site.

Next up: I just found out a really surprising fact about a song I posted earlier, so I might write about that.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Me ves llegar en mi lamborghini

With cover art like that and promotional pictures like this, you might be surprised to learn that Spanish-born Mexican singer Belinda appeared in the Disney Channel movie Cheetah Girls 2 and is on the soundtrack for it. There are teen pop elements to her music, though, and Belinda is fairly young--about 17. She was really young when she released her self-titled debut album, though--not even thirteen! That album, which went double platinum in Mexico and launched a bunch of #1 singles, featured covers of Kim-Lian's "Teenage Superstar" and K-otic's "I Don't Understand You." Her second album, Utopia, branches out a bit more (not always successfully) and is probably an attempt to sound more "mature."

Ni Freud Ni Tu Mama--Utopia's lead single. It's guitar-heavy pop, primarily in Spanish, though the one part of it you're most likely to remember is the random line in English, "You're hot...I forgot," which she tosses off cutely but without commitment, in contrast to the strong, dismissive, maybe even angry attitude her voice shows in the rest of the song as she sings to the boy she's getting rid of. The music video features quick appearances by Disney Channel star and singer Raven and the boy (well, man, I suppose) who did most of the singing for Zac Efron's character in High School Musical, Drew Seeley. Does that beginning sound familiar to anyone else, though?

Quien Es Feliz--the first few seconds are a little off-putting, but the catchiness and quality starts to pick up soon into the song, and you realize this might not be another song with angry, girl-power Belinda telling off a boy, but instead...a love song? Yup--"Quien Es Feliz" even has some rock-ballad elements, though it's mainly not a slow song. The guitars are still important here, but it's not quite as rock-out sounding. The really exciting part of this song is the chorus, which has Belinda's voice soaring and high, really lifting the song above a lot of the others on the album. The middle, where Belinda switches to a sweet delivery, is great, too.

Noche Cool--a strong guitar opening gives way to Belinda rapping, which I'm sure some people won't like, but I think it works, even if it is sort of funny. Once again, it's less rocky than "Ni Freud Ni Tu Mama;" though it's still rocky, it adds in a little glitz, too. There's a great contrast between the rapid fire verses and the chorus, where the words flow more and are often dragged out. There are some DJ-like sound effects, heavy breathing, and kiss-off sound effects (supposedly kisses, but there's far too much attitude in them for them to come off as sweet); really, a music video for this would have to have a lot of dancing in a dark club.

To buy Belinda's second album, Utopia, go here (physical) or here (digital).

Next up: possibly that Swedish singer.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Get my things together, gotta lose myself to you

It's pretty unusual for me to post live performances. Today, though, I had to do it, not because I prefer the live version to the studio version (I'm almost positive the opposite will be true), but because I don't have the studio version yet and don't know when people outside of Sweden will be able to buy it. It's sung by Sebastian Karlsson, the runner-up (to Agnes Carlsson) in 2005's Swedish Idol. I couldn't really stand his debut single, "Do What You're Told" (sample lyrics: "I'm the man/give me control"), so I never bothered to seek out his self-titled debut album. With a song this good (I presume it must be from a new album, though I guess it could be an addition to his old album for a re-release of it), though, I may be willing to forgive and forget.

Words and Violence (Live at the Idol 2006 Finale)--it starts out simply enough, sort of slow with just piano accompaniment. A few lines in, though, the pace begins to pick up and the piano part gets more interesting and is joined by some more instruments. Then we get to the almost plaintive chorus, and it's desperation and hope and excitement and maybe even sadness (why?) all mixed up together as Sebastian begs "leave your worries and sorrow, come and see me tonight" and to "come out, let's get lost lost in the nightlife," with the last syllables dragged out, sounding like the words are being pulled out from deep inside him. In a way, this song has that intangible quality that I loved about yesterday's song, though most people would probably think there's no real similarity between the two. "Words and Violence" is also faster (especially in the backing music) and so much more emotional, and the strength behind the words near the end is perfect; it feels (until he reaches the subdued actual end) as if he's switched from begging to actually doing or being, to freeing himself and others or being freed. If I love the live version this much, I can only imagine my reaction to the studio version!

(All credit for this song goes to the Idol Forums; thank you!)

If you live in Sweden, you can buy Sebastian Karlsson's song "Words and Violence" here (digital).

On an unrelated but very important note, Adem from I'm Always Right is running a contest to determine the top 20 pop albums of all time. You can read all the details here, but essentially, it's a very good idea. Tired of ridiculously pretentious lists of "the best albums of the year/ever"? Help Adem determine what albums should be on the list by e-mailing your own top 10 favorite pop albums to You can vote up until January 26, 2007, after which the results will be tallied and the top 20 pop albums of all time will be announced. Ten albums...hmm...time to start thinking!

Next up: possibly either a Swedish singer or a Mexican singer.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Didn't wanna want you

U.S. singer Marcos Hernandez might want to reconsider his choice of marketing executives, as they apparently thought it was a good idea to advertise on his site that the title of his 2005 debut album, C About Me, is "a 'pickup line' he uses when asking girls to come check him out." They also thought it was a good idea to really emphasize that, after his group Sons of Harmony broke up, he was discovered by the manager of Vanilla Ice. You might know him from his minor hit "If You Were Mine" (which I didn't think I knew, but it actually rung a bell when I heard it), which was apparently also released in the UK (though it charted outside the top 40). He's also decided to try to break South Africa, though I think he's back in the U.S. now. I can't say he's an artist I'm really going to follow, but sometimes artists that you otherwise pay little attention to manage to win your attention with one of their songs.

The Way I Do--every now and then I get sucked in by one of these mushy sort-of-R&B songs--Mario Vazquez's "Gallery" had me in its grip for a bit, I still think Ne-Yo's "So Sick" is quite good, and now, the not new "The Way I Do" falls in that category. It's got this quality about it that I can't describe but that wins me over--the bridge is great, and there's this build in the chorus (is it guitars that kick in? no, some deeper string, maybe?) that just works for me for some reason. The first chorus is over too quickly, but the song picks up after that. There's just a certain type of instrumentation in it that I love, and the melody of the sung parts complements and enhances it well. It also helps that the lyrics don't put me off quite as much as those of "Gallery" did--yes, they're still of the sort that will draw in girls, but these don't feel quite as over-the-top as those of "Gallery" (or at least they avoid implying that girls will sell their souls for money). The lyrics don't need to be deep, just be sweet enough to allow that amazing music to rise up and through them--it's so pretty and intrinsically comforting (mixed maybe with a tiny bit of inspiring). I actually have no idea what he's saying throughout most of the song (and I think it might detract from the song if I did) because, every time it comes on, I get so swept up by the music that all that matters is that someone is singing, not exactly what he's singing. The only off-putting part are these clicks that sound like a record skipping; at first, I was sure something had to be wrong with my copy, but I've yet to hear a version without them. "The Way I Do" is no work of art, but it works.

To buy the second edition of Marcos Hernandez's debut album, C About Me (the first version was an independent release that doesn't have this song on it), go here (physical) or here (digital).

Next up: maybe a Swedish singer, but a woman this time.