Saturday, June 11, 2011

Dreaming that you're crawling into bed

I've previously found young British singer Florrie, a Xenomania protégé who's branching out into work with other producers, promising and frustrating, capable of making songs with instant appeal (see the Fred Falke remix of "Call 911") but too often creating music that feels...distant, both as a result of her voice and her style. It's the same sort of problem that prevented me from getting swept away by, for example, Sally Shapiro, though my personal tastes already prefer Florrie much more.

04 I Took A Little Something by poppostergirl

Good news: Florrie's "I Took A Little Something," taken from her new Experiments EP, still has that dreamy indie-disco sound cultivated in her earlier work, but before you know it the bright '80s synths have overtaken the detachment and turned the tune into the closest she's come to pure joy. As this is Florrie, there's still a subtlety to the topline, but here it seems less like aloofness and more like...a desire to not come across as too forward, a nervousness and consideration in the face of love that suits the song well.

Florrie finds just the right balance here between grown-up restraint and endless summer-style youth, the sweet spot where listener self-consciousness is gone both because the song is so well-made that there's nothing to be self-conscious about and because you're too daydreamily giddy to be all that self-reflective. Effervescent, smart pleasure, "I Took A Little Something" is a must for your playlist this next three months--and the next three years, too.

For a review of the whole EP, check out XO's. You can buy Experiments from iTunes internationally here as of tomorrow.

Sacrifice my life for you

Amazing songwriter Tony Nilsson gave a radio interview a week ago and, amongst the other comments I had to strain to understand a third of (yeah, I need to find a Swedish tutor pronto), one of the more interesting facts was that Fernando Fuentes sang the original demos for Tony's "You're Out Of My Life" and "Like Suicide" (the latter of which Fernando co-wrote). The show even played a few clips, excerpted below for anyone who's as much of a pop nerd as I am.

Like Suicide Clip by poppostergirl

You're Out Of My Life Clip by poppostergirl

Fernando's claim to fame comes from participating in the first season of Fame Factory. Since then he's mainly been out of the public eye, but he's worked as part of a party band and at Wallmans, a show-featuring restaurant where many journeymen singers work as part of making a living in music.

Fernando may not have gotten to sing "You're Out Of My Life" or "Like Suicide" in Melodifestivalen--those privileges went to Darin in 2010 and Christian Walz in 2011, who both recorded excellent studio versions even if they received disparate results in the contest--but before you feel too sorry for him, he provided backing vocals for Eric Saade at this year's Eurovision. Participating in Sweden's highest-ranking entry since victory in 1999 has to feel pretty darn good, as does showing up on the cover of Aftonbladet celebrating.

In today's Melodifestival, it's hard to climb from the behind-the-scenes roles into the spotlight, so I'm not necessarily expecting Fernando to appear in the contest as an artist in his own right. Still, every now and then someone manages it, so who knows? He certainly acquits himself very well in the "Man Of The Mirror" video above (and sounds pretty good on the demo of "Like Suicide" as well, though I'm glad we have Christian Walz's version). If nothing else, keep your eyes peeled the next time you see a line of singers swaying behind the main artist--you never know who you might spot.

(Photo credit to SVT.)

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Love at first sight

Oh Alright, the debut album from Sweden's Le Kid, jumps back and forth between lush, swoony mid-tempos, cheeky '60s kitsch, and day-glo '80s pop. As you'd expect from from a group whose "background" members are three of Sweden's best up-and-coming songwriters, the highlights are stunning. The jubilantly bouncy "We Should Go Home Together" updates Stock-Aitken-Waterman with a wink but also with so much joy that the group reveals a real affection for that sound, as well as an understanding of what made its best examples work. "Mercy Mercy," the group's debut single, is a cheery, summer-ready improvement on Girls Aloud's "Can't Speak French." Perhaps Le Kid's greatest work yet, though, is their fourth single. "America" takes the cosmic ice princess disco longing in Kylie Minogue's "The One" and melts it into something just as beautiful and sparkly but also warm-blooded, making its underlying plea for love all the more powerful in the process.

If outside the context of the album the retro pastiches "Oh My God," "Kiss Me," and "Seventeen" at first seemed a little juvenile or not quite up to par with the swooshy pop-dance of "Telephone" or the Gwen-Stefani's-"Cool"-meets-orchestral-strings of "Escape," their quality somehow becomes more apparent when they crop up in the midst of Oh Alright. Their demanded-replay-value still suffers in comparison to the rest of the album, but their charms, particularly those of "Oh My God," pop a bit more, too.

Elsewhere, "Bigger Than Jesus" is another soaring disco reverie, with a chugging electronic beat outpacing the restrained coos of singers Johanna and Helena. A bonus track version of the Killers' "Mr. Brightside" works surprisingly well both on its on terms and in creating a desire for more Le Kid covers. Still, it's "We Are The Drums," another of the group's consistently great songs even if not the acme of their work, that sums up Le Kid's potential: "we are the chords and the lyrics and the melodies," they sing in their mini-anthem, practically daring you to disagree with the affirmation that they're the beat you run your life to. If they can keep making material that so effectively sums up the joys of pop music, they really will be.

Le Kid's debut album, Oh Alright, comes out August 17 in Sweden. Preorder it here.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

You'll regret saying all those things you said

I give up. Abandoning his previous husky-voiced balladry and pop-rock, Dutch singer Jim returns with a new single and new style. "Feel You Love" is a RedOne ripoff with a level of shamelessness not heard since Cascada's "Evacuate The Dancefloor," only with the budget RedOne-style beats made even more stop-start. It is incredibly cheesy, I'm not sure I'd introduce it to any of my friends, and the music video opens up with a shirtless male model and ends with a couple undressing each other--because jumping on the sound-of-the-moment bandwagon wasn't desperate enough, apparently...

...and yet every time it comes on, I find myself fighting the impulse to jump up and down, hands in the air. I'm surrendering to the stupid, mindless giddiness, no longer able to resist: if you're looking for cheap fun with minimal risk of negative aftereffects later, a sort of counterpart to Enrique Iglesias's "I Like It," "Feel Your Love" comes highly recommended.

Jim's single "Feel Your Love" is available on iTunes internationally here.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Maybe they'll open with an album track

Some of the tracks making me happy at the moment:

Saint Etienne, "Tonight (Demo)" and "DJ (Demo)": the solo songwriting career of former Xenomania member Tim Powell got off to a strong start with soaring dance joy of Alex Gaudino's "I'm In Love (I Wanna Do It)" and the fizzy pop bounce of Ed Drewett's "Champagne Lemonade," but hit a stumbling block with the interestingly dark but ultimately payoff-lacking "Together" by the Pet Shop Boys. Thankfully, he's back on track with the slick, mature pop-disco of his new demos for Saint Etienne. That endorsement comes with a caveat: the assumption that these truly are demos, not yet mastered into their full, crisp final states. If you'll forgive the needlessly obscure reference, "Tonight" and "DJ" are positioned between "Your Love Is Like A Drug" on Bananarama's 2005 Drama album and Saint Etienne's own "Method Of Modern Love." They aren't quite as exuberantly sparkly as that previous single from the British trio, but they could easily sit on the same album.

CocknBullKid, "Yellow": why oh why was this perfectly constructed little pop song not one of the first three singles released from British singer/songwriter Anita Blay's debut album? I can only assume it was relegated to fourth single status, even as every prior single failed to take off, purely because it didn't exist yet. Otherwise why this instant earworm of a grownup, soul-restoring melody wasn't used to launch the album is incomprehensible.

Find it on: Adulthood

Nicki Minaj, "Super Bass": why is it that the rapper known for her crazy voices and colorful, dirty bragging seems to be the American popstar ending up with all the best pretty, mushy music box melodies? "Super Bass" follows previous Nicki singles "Your Love" and "Right Thru Me" into the world of pretty little odes to love balanced out by hints of her crazy persona in the verses. Maybe she was forced into the world of middle-of-the-road adorability by a pop radio environment too scared for a whole song in the style of her many featuring appearances, but it's hard to be too upset about musical conservatism when it leads to songs as charming as "Super Bass."

Find it on: Pink Friday

Monday, May 30, 2011

You keep telling me to grow up

My conflicted feelings about Eric Saade the popstar have been documented to the point where I'm sure it's straining reader patience, but my constantly optimistic attitude towards Swedish boy pop means that, like many other fans of Scandinavian pop, I'm looking forward to the release of Eric's second album. Oddly titled Saade Vol. 1, it's released June 29.

Hearts In The Air (feat. J-Son) by poppostergirl

There's at least one reason to feel encouraged about the end product. Around half of the tracks were co-written with Jason Gill, one of several songwriters I'm constantly wishing more European singers would employ. He has a good track record for sparkly synth-based songs with young male Swedish popstars, having turned in Darin's "Paradise" and Måns Zelmerlöw's "Rewind," "Freak Out," and "Hold On." Though not amazing, "Hearts In The Air," the second single from Saade Vol. 1 and a Gill track, is a nice attempt at a slightly more international sound for Eric.

As for additional songs, "I'll Be Alright," a mid-tempo track I initially thought of as totally throwaway, was debuted before "Popular" was released. We've also heard a low quality clip of "Timeless" (listen to it here), a Gill co-write that sounds like a cute fluttery pop-dance-R&B mid-tempo song with enough of a beat to keep it interesting. The demo I've heard of "Me & My Radio" (which could end up being the final version for all I know) falls into a similar category, though this time Eric's nursing feelings of being cheated on instead of reassuring his girl that their love will last forever. I am an eternal sucker for anything that can milk pathos out of the human-radio relationship, so as lightweight as "Me & My Radio" is, its pretty little fast-paced synth runs and lonely chimes charm me.

None of these songs is going to fill the void felt by listeners seeking a second "Popular," but Eric, for all his drawbacks, has always had the admirable quality of knowing where his bread is buttered musically; anything less than another dance track or two would be surprising.

The tracklisting for Saade Vol. 1 is reproduced below, complete with the songwriting credits I'm aware of. If you know more, please fill me in!

1.) Timeless (Jason Gill/Robin Fredriksson/Mattias Larsson/Eric Saade)
2.) Hearts In The Air (feat. J-Son) (Jason Gill/Robin Fredriksson/Mattias Larsson/Eric Saade/J-son)
3.) Me & My Radio (Mich "Cutfather" Hansen/Jason Gill/Mikkel Sigvardt/Daniel Davidsen/Engelina Larson/Brandon Beal)
4.) Made Of Pop (Jason Gill/Robin Fredriksson/Mattias Larsson/Eric Saade)
5.) Popular (Album Remix) (Fredrik Kempe)
6.) Someone New
7.) Killed By A Cop (Jason Gill/Robin Fredriksson/Mattias Larsson/Eric Saade/J-son)
8.) Big Love
9.) Stupid With You (Jason Gill/Robin Fredriksson/Eric Saade/Fredrik Kempe)
10.) Echo (Jason Gill/Robin Fredriksson/Mattias Larsson/Eric Saade)
11.) Still Loving It (Anton Malmberg Hård af Segerstad/Niclas Lundin)
12.) Popular (Original Version) (Bonus Track) (Fredrik Kempe)

Preorder Eric Saade's second album, Saade Vol. 1, here.

Turn the hour hand back

I was starting to worry that the dance-influenced pop-rock anthem trend of the past few years (Metro Station's "Shake It," Cobra Starship's "Good Girls Go Bad," Boys Like Girls' "Love Drunk") was never coming back. Who knew Canadian punk pop band Simple Plan would swoop in to save the day? Having failed to convincingly build on the more grown-up sound of 2005's "Untitled" on the album that followed it, they've finally figured a way to transition from the innuendos and (admittedly sometimes fun) tantrums that first brought them success into a sound more fitting for a group with an average age of thirty. The uptempo "Jet Lag" has a surprisingly effective little metaphor for missed connections at its center, but what seals the deal is its radio-ready chorus. The end result is the best both Simple Plan and Natasha Bedingfield have sounded in a long time. In a summer that's so far lagged behind in worthy hit songs, here's hoping this one breaks through.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Where do you run to when everything's gone?

Maybe I'm forgetting something, but it feels like Roxette's new single, "Speak To Me"...

01 Speak To Me (Bassflow Remake) by poppostergirl

...has the Swedish duo's best chorus in a long time. A long time. As in "up there with classic Roxette ballads" long time.

(I've probably recited my thoughts about Bassflow often enough; check here for my most recent rave. Suffice to say I think he gives "Speak To Me" just the polish it needs.)

The group's most recent album, Charm School, is already out and contains the original version of "Speak To Me." It can be purchased here (physical) or here (digital). The single remix, though, will be out April 18 in Sweden

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Pure and clean

When a clip of Kate Ryan's new single "LoveLife" was posted to her SoundCloud page, I began to worry the album era responsible for uniting the two great pop forces of Kate and Le Kid's Felix and Marta was going to underwhelm...

KateRyan LoveLife Radio Edit by Kate Ryan

...I'm sorry, Kate. How could I ever have doubted you?

"LoveLife" is pop Kate, not full-on trance Kate. Neither of those is necessarily better than the other, but I do love that such a light-hearted topline and sample is backed by more bass than I expected.

Kate Ryan's new single "LoveLife" is released on April 11 in Belgium. You should be able to buy a digital copy here as of that date. The album it precedes, Electroshock, will have a long way to go to equal her last real studio album, 2008's Free. With her usual producers 2N broken up, perhaps going back to them wasn't an option. If that's the case, it's difficult to imagine a more theoretically exciting choice than Felix Persson and Marta Grauers. It's still a nerve-wracking transition, though. Hopefully the end result is as good as you'd imagine and not a replay of what happened when Petra Nielsen worked with the former other half of September, VDB Productions, for no more than three songs on the latest September album (though to be fair, her previous, all Von der Burg-produced album Dancing Shoes showed some signs that the partnership was no longer as consistently great as it used to be).