Saturday, January 30, 2010

I wanna be doin' what you're doin'

The beginning of post below this one is quickly degenerating into an excitement-filled mess, so, yes, I am dedicating ANOTHER one to these Le Kid songs. The yearlong wait was worth it if these four new (once again, new beyond certain circles, not fresh out of the studio) songs are any indication. Stream all of the songs mentioned below here.

"America" (streaming below) might just be my favorite. Pop that makes me think of Gwen Stefani's "Cool" and Kylie's restrained, beautiful, uptempo moments, less because it sounds like them and more because it's similarly swoonworthy, it's grown-up but accessible, sweet without being too precious, Swede-appropriately and unselfconsciously poppy while also more international than many of my beloved Swedish artists usually are. Like being gently swept up in a gorgeous glittery pop whirlwind.

"Escape" is similarly dreamy. The vocal melody is sugary sweet enough to have been sung by a '90s girl group or '80s teen pop starlet, but the instrumentation's electronic sounds are enhanced by dipping and soaring strings that are embedded deep in the background but which give the song a subdued keening emotional edge it might not otherwise had.

"We Are The Drums" has verses with a "Ting Tings produced by RedOne" sound, though they're prettier, less deliberately abrasive than the Swedish-Moroccan musician's verses usually are (maybe partly because of the vocals--can we talk about the singing throughout all these songs for a moment? All female, it's coo-y without being overly coquettish, instantly appealing and accessible, often full of a youthful joie de vivre but capable of turning up or down the naïvety...basically a perfect match for these songs), while the chorus is much more expansive than you'd expect from what precedes it, with hints of a chanted group affirmation.

"Seventeen" is probably the closest to being an outlier out of the set, with a production style that is more guitar-using stop-start than electronically filling in all gaps in sound. It also sets aside the grown-up swoony style for cheekier music and lyrics, with the singers, frustrated at the thought that the guy they've got their eyes on might pass them up for being out of their teenage years ("I can be cute/I can be dumb/and I'm not even illegally young").

The excellent "Telephone" and "Mercy Mercy" are also streaming there, but I've written about them before.

There's something about their melody work that makes me think of the '80s, but not in an obvious way already being done by many others; it's really just work that is informed by pop's past but modern, made by people whose love of great music, especially great pop, comes across with each note.

No music is available for purchase yet, but their debut album will be coming out on Roxy Recordings this year. In the meantime, follow Le Kid on MySpace and Blogger.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Give you love in America

Twitter-worthy newsbites, some of which actually have appeared on Twitter:

EDITED! Clips Full versions (I'm listening to them as I write this) of several Le Kid songs previously unheard by everyone outside of a select few--"Escape," "America," and "We Are The Drums"--are streaming here full versions here (as well as one full new song, "Seventeen"). The poppy technicolor Swedish group's upcoming debut album is one to watch out for in a big way this year. These new songs are...dreamier than I expected, but in a good way. My guess is these are still demos, but they could very well be the final versions. In other Le Kid news, it looks like "Mercy Mercy" was at some point set for a release late this past December but then canceled--pushed back, I presume. Embedded below are the lovely clips of "Escape" and "America," which I cannot wait to buy and hear in their full versions (edit: you can stream the full versions here, as I said above); in terms of music tone, they kind of remind me of Gwen Stefani's "Cool" and the restrained disco princess side of Kylie, mixed with the best parts of the radio edit of MissMatch's "Breathe In Breathe Out" (which members of the group wrote). Edit: I couldn't help myself--I'm also embedding the clip of the somewhat spunkier "We Are The Drums." The verses kind of have a RedOne-meets-the-Ting-Tings feel, but the song is much better than that makes it sound. Could summer get here quickly, please?

"Escape" (it sounds like this cuts out just before the song fully takes off)


"We Are The Drums"

(If you haven't listened to swooshy, harder-hitting dance-pop "Telephone" or summery "Mercy Mercy" yet, this is definitely the time to do so.)

Via the latest issue of QX (via in turn Schlagerprofilerna), Linda Bengtzing's upcoming single "Victorious" is a Melodifestival reject and features Velvet. To be honest, as "oh my gosh, Swedish pop princesses colliding!" as that news is, I'd kind of prefer an all-Linda single, but that's just being picky.

As covered by Planet Salem, Chart Rigger, and Scandipop, I'm enjoying Staygold's new single "Backseat Love." The Prince-reminiscent song mainly features vocals from future Melodifestival contestant Salem al Fakir (disguised and under the alias Damien Adore), but in the live performance at the P3 Guld Awards, Robyn stepped in to provide the female vocals usually done by Lady Tigra.

We've finally heard a couple of songs from the reformed-and-featuring-in-a-reality-TV-series Swedish girl group Play. Modern sounding pop, insistent single "Famous" and its sparkly b-side "Girls" have caught my ear, although we'll see if they have lasting power; the problem with much of the output of Janet Leon (one of the artists featured in last year's season of said show) was that, though it took its leads from where pop is at now, many of the songs sounded anonymous over the long run.

In belated news, I've only just noticed that "DESTROY! DESTROY!", just possibly Swedish group DYNO's best song from what we've heard so far, is streaming in a quality better than what you can hear at MySpace over on their Facebook page, accessible whether or not you have an account. Synthy pop-rock that is very much worth your time on every level. Go over the #1 Hits From Another Planet to hear "Above & Beyond."

Speaking of synths, Xenomania-backed British singer Alex Gardner debuted the soulful singer-songwriter over synths sound via the full version of his debut single "I'm Not Mad" getting played on the radio recently; check out Xenomania News for instructions on listening to it or here for a clip. I've been a bit nervous about this project living up to this potential and now find myself in the strange situation of feeling unsure that "I'm Not Mad" is all I wanted it to be while simultaneously playing it much more than I expected. I've been wondering recently if Xenomania's output in the past year or so has always succeeded as matching up a great instrumental to a great vocal part (with, in general, the instrumentals exceeding the vocal melody, but at least not really fitting together), and "I'm Not Mad" kind of enhances the differentiation even more. Still, the song has gone straight into frequent rotation on my iPod, so I must really like it.

There's a low quality recording of Nanne performing her new single "I Natt Är Jag Din" here. The song sounds to have the production style you'd expect from Nanne (flirting with electro-rock), but I'm still not totally convinced. Sanna Nielsen's mid-tempo Celine Dion-like "Devotion," meanwhile, is proving with time to be more enjoyable than my original "OK" rating would indicate. It could still use a better ending, though.

Friday, January 22, 2010

In the end it's all or nothing

A few random notes (some covered earlier on Twitter):

The new song I've found most enchanting in the past few days is from Matisse, the American singer who used to be one half of Brit & Alex (of the pop-rock song "Let It Go" from Step Up 2). "Better Than Her," by Kevin Rudolf, is one of those songs that sounds musically simple and sweet, a fluffy little midtempo electronic pop song that to non-pop-friendly ears would probably seem totally generic. It's one of the few American songs to come out this year (so far) that I didn't have to work at liking and always look forward to playing again, though, so for my money, any success here would be well-deserved.

Swedish group Dyno has several new songs and song clips on MySpace. Their debut album is one to get excited about now, '80s synth-pop-rock that fills a gap that desperately needed to be filled. Another reminder: these guys, among other things, worked on the Erik Hassle album. Their songwriting skills are solidly in place.

Danish singer Nabiha's '60s-sounding debut single "Deep Sleep" was fine, but it was "The Enemy," her probable second single, that most got me interested in her album, Cracks, out February 1. The full studio version of "The Enemy" and several other new songs are streaming over on her MySpace (and clips of all the songs are on Danish iTunes). I very much recommend checking them out; producer Carl Rydén has reined in some of his dance tendencies to create a fun electronic pop sound that, though commercial, mainstream pop, brings just a bit of quirky something that feels a bit different in the case of at least half the tracks streaming there (something that I didn't really feel to be the case with "Deep Sleep"). It's not music that would fit in on U.S. radio, but its style would mesh with the UK music scene (not that that means it will).

I was thrilled that a1 made it through to the Melodi Grand Prix final in Norway this past weekend (as well as pleased that Karoline Garfjell qualified to the second chance round). They're only two songs into their post-reformation career (well, three if you count the [less good] song that starts around 50:45 here, taken from a telethon for Haiti, plus a couple more we've heard bits of in video blogs), but I'm very glad to have them back; they're making exactly the music I'd want them to be making at this point in time. I've had a post sitting as a draft saying more about "Take You Home" for ages, but if nothing else, it's certain to appear in my year end countdown (which is, um, still coming).

Linda Sundblad's new album, Manifest, is due out March 3. If it's full of songs as good as the three we've heard so far, it will be worth listening to.

After what seems like a long time away, young Swedish electronic duo Lo-Fi-Fnk will make a new song available on YouTube on February 2. You'll also be able to download it on that date if you sign up for an event on Facebook.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Anything she wants

One of the best things to happen recently for those of us who love Swedish music is Cutting Room's decision to open a blog documenting all the work they're doing, mainly on the technical production side of music (like mastering). They've been the first place to go to read about new singles from Nanne (a cover of Tomas Ledin's "I nätt ar jag din"), Linda Bengtzing ("Victorious"--so it's in English?!), Brolle ("Anything She Wants"), and many others. If you're not checking the site regularly, I recommend starting to do so now (though I've also been tweeting some of the highlights).

Monday, January 18, 2010

Let's go chase those plastic neon lights

I should probably say something about the second semifinal of the Norwegian Melodi Grand Prix, which took place this weekend, but the clips of this coming week's entries from the third semifinal have me far too dizzy to think about anything else.

The main reason for me spending more time at this website with the song clips is Karoline Garfjell's "Tokyo Night." Electropop, even that with some coolness in mind, in Eurovision national finals is not unheard of, but, unless I'm forgetting something, I haven't heard a really great example for several years, the kind that sounds good to me even outside of the novelty attention grab of that type of song in the Eurovision context. The slinky "Tokyo Night" finally gives us one. Apparently Karoline made it to the semifinals of Idol the same year as Margaret Berger, and "Tokyo Night" sounds like it could easily have been on Margaret's second album. Really a top-quality song which deserves so much better than it will probably get on the night.

The other highlight of the clips is, for me, my beloved A1's "Don't Want To Lose You Again," a ballad which further shows off that, yes, they can deliver the goods on this comeback because they're actually good songwriters.

Belinda Braza also has a cute little electropop song (co-written by Maltese frequent national final songwriter Gerard James Borg), more on the kitschy bubbly side than Karoline's, which I'm looking forward to hearing more of. Too fluffy to make an impression, I expect, but I'll enjoy it.

As for the other entries, Mira Craig may have written the top five-placing "Hold On Be Strong" back in 2008, but I've never been fully won over by her own voice, and it doesn't sound like that's going to really change in the case of "I'll Take You High." Her throatiness helps the song, giving it a welcome desperation, but even then that quality isn't fully explored. I usually enjoy Fredrik Kempe and Hanne Sørvaag's work, but it's too early to judge Didrik Solli-Tangen's "My Heart Is Yours," a Josh Groban-like ballad. The Diamond's "European Girl." a youthful summery entry that feels like an electronic pop-rock song, is catchy, but it seems like its mainly two word chorus might get annoying over the course of a song, and, if nothing else, is unlikely to hold up in a substantive way, despite a few nice little musical touches (like those we hear at the end of the clip). Fred Endresen's "Barracks On The Hill," like last year's pulled Georgian entry "We Don't Wanna Put In," uses sound-alike words to reference a political figure. Pop-rock in a Ronan Keating style, it actually sounds better than I expected based on the gimmicky title, if you ignore the title line, but once again, I'm not sure if a whole song can support the weight of the concept.

This sounds, for me, like the easy highlight of the MGP semifinals, with possibly more good songs than the other two combined. Hopefully they'll be even better in their complete versions.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Technotronic, sipping gin and tonic

The group behind this...

(surely one of the most-featured-in-TV-and-movies songs ever?)

...and this...

...and this....

...and whose members have other projects including, in Klas Åhlund's case, being one of Robyn's main collaborators on Robyn (as well as a songwriter for many other fantastic songs)...

...that group, Teddybears, is back.

They released "Get Mama A House" as a tie-in with an advertising campaign this summer, but from what my quickly fading Swedish language skills are telling me, they have a new single, "Rocket Scientist," released as Teddybears & Eve, out soon, to be followed by an album of the same title in March or April. It will also feature Cee-lo and Sean Paul...once again, I think. You can listen to "Rocket Scientist" here.

The few comments I've read compare it to "Automatic Lover," and the "pop-rock band playing a sci-fi song with highly processed vocals" similarity makes that a pretty apt comparison. It doesn't really have a big singalong-friendly moment and, despite the touches of fun and humor sprinkled throughout it, it's more restrained than I'd like from a lead single, but, as you'd expect from the Teddybears, there's something that makes you return to it.

For other recent work from the group, check out XO's post on I Blame Coco's "Caesar."

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I run away until I see the light

In a slight comfort to those of us counting down the days until Melodifestivalen, Norway held the first semifinal of its national selection for Eurovision, the Melodi Grand Prix, recently. Some familiar names took place, including 2008's MGP winner Maria Haukaas Storeng, Eurovision fan favorite Lene Alexander, and long ago Idol contestant Gaute Ormåsen (as well as the less well-known but still recognizable to international pop fans Elisabeth Carew of several pleasant contemporary R&B-pop songs). Songs by Maria and Keep of the Castle, a hard rock group whose entry is nowhere near as good as Wig Wam's "In My Dreams," qualified directly to the final, but it's one of entrants that only made it to the second chance round that I've had spinning around in my head.

Like Gaute, Bjørn Johan Muri took second in a season of Idol, though in the more recent year of 2007, but of more interest to me than the pedigree of the singer is that of the song. "Yes Man," a gentle singer-songwritery song, a little like a Eurovision version of Owl City or Coldplay, is co-written by Simen Eriksrud and Simone Larsen. Simone is the German-born but longtime Norway-residing lead singer of D'sound, a band with a laidback pop sound that too often approaches jazz or chill too closely for me to honestly say I adore them. Still, they've had their moments over the years, and when they steer themselves towards what I tend to think of as a "Norwegian" singer-songwriter sound, they can make lovely little songs. Take, as an example, their 2003 single "Do I Need A Reason," taken from the only album of theirs I own in full, Doublehearted.

D'sound's singles from this year may not have made an impression on the Norwegian charts, but Simone is hardly hurting for success: she's behind the melody of Donkeyboy's "Ambitions," probably the biggest hit of 2009 in her adopted home country. Likewise, Simen Eriksrud co-wrote that song and many of the others on Donkeyboy's debut album. If you've somehow missed it thus far, I beg you to listen to "Ambitions," a completely enchanting debut single, now.

"Yes Man" isn't a song that seems like a good match for the Eurovision context, nor is it as good as "Ambitions" (even if "Ambitions" has its share of less than great lines, the end result is, through one of those miracles of pop magic, lyrics that end up with a feeling of complexity and emotion, whereas those of "Yes Man" don't tug on you in quite the same way; also, the vocals here really have nothing on the Donkeyboy boys and Linnea Dale on "Ambitions") but its delicate, pretty melody and production style is one I'm far from tired of hearing. I'd say hopefully it finds commercial success in Norway, but signs are good that so far that's already occurring: it's currently topping the iTunes chart there, beating out both of the songs that qualified ahead of it.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Get up and shake the glitter off your clothes

Coming soon (though not tomorrow--the order is still being sorted out, though I'm sure the accompanying description will be as drawn out as always): my countdown of my favorite singles of the year. I will say, though, that I currently feel strangely sure about my top placing song, though knowing me it will change ten times between now and when I actually post it.

In completely unrelated news, we've finally got a return to music from someone I've been waiting for--well, kind of return: Jon Nørgaard, the Danish singer who won Popstars many years ago and featured in Solo, the documentary film about what happens to these reality TV-forged singers several years down the line (it's a pretty good film, one which I've been meaning to write more about for years--I feel like I'd want to start a YouTube account and upload little clips to accompany any comments, though, and I've never bothered to find out how to do any of that).

To veer back on point, Jon is the featured vocalist on the new single from dance producer Kato, "Turn The Lights Off." Its musical backing is neither as heavy and dark as that of Infernal's "Ultimate Control" nor as beachside light as his collaborations with Musikk, but it's slightly more on the upbeat tip if you have to peg it down to one or the other.

As the song is a cover of a song that was already pretty enjoyable and isn't a massive international crossover hit in the waiting, this new version's existence probably won't be of interest to more than a handful of people on the Internet and some Danish dance music fans. Still, I love Jon's voice and, despite the growing pains he's experienced over the years, felt only more inclined to like him as a person after Solo, so I'm glad he's got new music out for me to listen to, enjoy, and buy.