Saturday, September 30, 2006

I guess it was a crazy dream

We've almost finished this endurance-testing a1 special--today will be the last day, and the focus will be on B-sides. I got tired of waiting for some singles to arrive, so I can't give you the Almighty mix of "Same Old Brand New You" or "High & Dry," which features the "classic" lyrics "we either get high or go dry." Still, today's songs are worth a listen; I really recommend getting the albums, though, because, as good as the B-sides are, the albums are generally better.

Caught In The Middle (Almighty Mix)--it's an Almighty mix--isn't that reason enough to listen to it? I'd heard a lot of good things about this remix before I got it--it's really highly praised--so I had really high expectations. I'm not sure that it totally met them (I might just have been expecting something different), but it is good. Don't let the first "caught in the middle" throw you--though it reappears, the entire song isn't as strained as that sounds. It's neither a chillout mix nor a dancefloor anthem, just sort of cool (not in the "hip" sense) and almost hypnotizing.

Make It Good (Johan S Vocal Mix) (link fixed!)--the song starts out with the beat; then, distorted vocals come in, gradually becoming clearer and eventually revealing themsleves to be the original song's middle 8 (which is great, so its prominence here is a pleasant surprise; the frequent use of the "when you're weary" bit is also welcome). It's not exactly a call to the dancefloor either, but it is more danceable than the original. The mild distortion of the vocals during the chorus is really nice--it gives it more power, as well as helping to electronic-ify the song.

Miracle--a B-side from the Here We Come era, but you could probably have guessed that 10 seconds in--it definitely has that sound of sheer exuberance (some might say cheesiness) that characterizes their first album. Just a happy, feel-good song--from beginning to end, "Miracle" makes it clear that that's all it wants to be, and sometimes that's all you want. The little ad-libs over the chorus at the end are fun.

You're Not In Love--a ballad sung with what sounds like heartfelt delivery. It's a B-side to "Caught In The Middle" and, though not putting it on the Make It Good album was probably a good decision (there are much better ballads on the album), it's pretty good.

To buy the "Make It Good" single (which has the first two songs), go here (physical); to buy the "Be The First To Believe" single (which has "Miracle), go here (physical); to buy the "Caught In The Middle" single (which has "You're Not In Love), go here (physical).

Next up: two disappointing albums for the price of one!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Turn the radio on and play our favorite song

a1's third album, Make It Good, would be their final one; after releasing it (and a seven-track mini-album in the U.S.) in 2002, the group broke up, though a greatest hits album was released in 2004. That's really a shame, because their third album was really excellent; though it didn't have songs with the exuberance of "Summertime Of Our Lives" or as dance-friendly pure pop as "Same Old Brand New You," their ability to create good music was in full display. Guitars were definitely more prominent on Make It Good than they had been on other albums, but they were generally acoustic and strummy--never overpowering, but providing a solid basis overtop of which (or intermixed with) the boys' melodies could work.

Caught In The Middle--the album's lead single. Probably mid-tempo, but it's difficult to categorize, because there are several different elements taking place at once. The chorus is catchy, but in a way that slowly worms its way inside your brain, not that knocks you over the head with its insistence. It charted really well (#2), which might have given you reason to think the band would make it through at least as many singles as they did for The A-List; that wasn't the case, which was unfortunate--the album is really packed full of good songs, though generally in a similar style to the singles (so if you don't like those, there's a good chance you won't like the album).

Make It Good--the album's second single, which, though it charted at a respectable #11, received a1's lowest ever chart ranking. It's a little slower than "Caught In The Middle," with a few more ballad elements, though I still wouldn't call it a ballad (the album does have some excellent ballads, though). Smooth and guitar-strummy--pretty, in a way, really. That prettiness and smoothness is most on display during the repeated "when you're weary" bit and the lifting middle 8, but the chorus is no less good for adopting a more powerful approach.

This Ain't What Love Is About--faster and with a catchy chorus, with the backing piano adding a nice touch--it, as well as the music overall, somehow manages to create an impression of circular or cyclical motion, which fits nicely with the lyrics "round and round". The entire album represents what critics probably called a "maturation" of a1's sound and, though it doesn't exactly lend itself to dance routines, that "maturation" has luckily not lead to boring music--it's lead to excellent music--music which uses guitars in one of the best possible ways they can be used: not overpowering voices, but simply there, present, used to enhance the song but not be what the song is about. You're not about to forget that they're there, but it's not about Busted-esque guitar riffs; as much as I've used the word in this post, "strumminess" really is the right word to describe it.

Do You Remember--whistling! And use of a repeated non-word syllable ("doo")! More mid/up-tempo music, with a nice strong chorus (the verses are great, too). Don't let the shortness of this description fool you--it's just as good as any of the other songs posted today.

There are so many good songs on the album that choosing which ones to post was really difficult--"Isn't It Cheap," "Make It Through The Night," "When I'm Missing You," "If I Can't Have You," and more are all of similar quality to the songs I ended up choosing and there's a very good chance they'll appear here at some point in the future. The album is definitely worth purchasing--some of the songs manage to achieve a sort of transcendence, in a way; you can buy it here (physically).

Next up: a1 B-sides (including remixes).

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Why does everything gotta be a love thing?

I'm feeling a little too uninspired to write about the not-so-good album (albums, actually, as there are two) and a little too rushed to really go into Make It Good, so today will just be a couple of songs from a random group: Scene 23. Scene 23 were born of the second season of the U.S. version of Popstars (the first season gave us Eden's Crush, the group Pussycat Dolls' singer Nicole Scherzinger was originally in) and were made up of five people, three girls and two boys. They really didn't have any commercial success, releasing an album that was more the soundtrack to the TV show than an actual representation of their work and, though they filmed a video, their single was never really released and radio didn't exactly warm to it.

I Really Don't Think So--a cover of a song originally done by Dutch group K-otic. I'm not particularly fond of the voice of the boy during the first verse, but the the chorus is sort of cute and sweet-sounding.

The Greatest--"I Really Don't Think So" is easily the best of the Scene 23 songs I know (which isn't all of them). "The Greatest" is a little more R&B-influenced and is a cover of the S Club 7 song. Do people actually use the word "conversating"?

Not exactly the height of sophistication, but there you are--tomorrow should be better, I hope. To buy Popstars 2: Introducing Scene 23, go here (physical).

Next up: a1's third album, Make It Good.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I should've cherished you more instead of closing the door

As much as I'm looking forward to getting to write about a1's Make It Good, I'm going to have to interrupt the a1 special for one, maybe two days. Today will be just a random conglomeration of upcoming pop songs.

If you haven't already read the Chartrigger banterview about Upper Street, the boyband made up of members of previous boybands (try designing your own ideal line-up sometime--it's pretty fun) that's launching itself with reality TV show Totally Boyband, you absolutely must. Now, since it seems to be that the more hotly anticipated the music, the earlier it leaks*, that means we can probably expect Upper Street's new single "The One" to leak...oh...five days after it actually comes out. Which is a shame, because I think I like it. Until then, we'll just have to make do with this shabby rip from the video.

A clip of another Matt Willis song has leaked. I really like Matt's music, even if I can't understand half of the words he sings. You can download or listen to the thirty second clip here; I think it sounds very promising, especially the first fifteen seconds--typical bouncy, sort of rocky Matt. Plus, there's something to be said for downloading a song that talks about dowloading mp3's, don't you think? (Full credit to Matt Willis Zone for the clip.)

I liked former Blue member Simon Webbe's second single "No Worries," so, when I heard that he has a new single coming out in late October, I was intrigued. The single is "Coming Around Again" (just a radio rip) and, if you've heard Simon's past singles, you won't be surprised by this one at all--it's maybe a bit like a more uplifting version of "After All This Time," but better. I like it; though I'm still not sure if I'll buy a whole Simon Webbe album, he does know how to do a certain type of song very well, and sometimes that type of song is a pleasant, refreshing, relaxing break. How very Adult Contemporary of me, I know. (Credit to this site, which may possibly have gotten it from this site, in which case, thanks to both.)

Do you remember A*Teens? Of course you do! After giving us a huge amount of top-class pop songs, the group split up. Dhani was the first to launch his solo career; he released "Girl Talk" (which I liked, but it didn't do too well) and was supposed to release a follow-up single that, though performed, never materialized. Marie Serneholt went on to release Enjoy The Ride, an album with great pop songs like "That's The Way My Heart Goes" and "I Need A House." Apparently, Amit (the brown-haired boy, who no longer looks like this, but I couldn't figure out how to use the picture of him from here) is preparing for a solo career that will start in spring 2007, but he's already begun performing live. You can listen to/download one of his demos; though he says "caught in the middle," it is not a cover of the a1 classic. He seems to be pursuing a direction different from that of A*Teens, Marie, and Dhani--it's a little more singer-songwriter sounding (and it has a guitar! Instant credibility!). I like it--nothing overwhelming, but it's good.

Finally, I have to recommend two blogs that I've just added to my links section: PopEatsPop, which everyone is probably reading already but which features often-rare tracks centered around the concept of cover songs that you don't really know are cover songs (it's very educational, in that sense, but not boring! Certainly not with PinkieDust running the place), and Digital Technique, a blog with phenomenal taste in music (I am constantly amazed by how much I like the songs posted there--songs I've always wanted to hear and songs I've never heard of but inevitably adore--a must-visit!). Oh, and if you haven't already gone to #1 Hits From Another Planet (which, once again, you all probably have already), there's no better time to do so than now, because you absolutely must hear the song "Fascination" by Alphabeat--a guy and girl's voices mixing in a hand-clap-filled, too-happy-to-be-believed song which, from the moment it starts to its ridiculously catchy chorus to its epically building middle 8, is pop perfection.

Next up: possibly back to the a1 special, but more likely it'll be one more day of something else (an album review of a not-really-good album, maybe) first.

*OK, I realize that isn't always true...or even necessarily true most of the time...but if no one cares about an album, no one bothers to leak it.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

You expect me to be there, but we never get nowhere

Day 2 of the a1 special. a1's second album, The A-List, found them at the peak of their success, earning two #1 singles (and a #6 single) and a Brit Award for British Breakthrough Act. It's also the album with the most noticeable resemblance to the two biggest boybands of the time: Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync. However, the album overall remained different from anything either of those groups would release, featuring songs that would hark back to their first album, or at least a cheesier, campier style ("Celebrate Our Love," for example) and a single that was a cover of an already famous song ("Take On Me"), a move that the US-based 'N Sync or BSB would be unlikely to ever consider. On songs like "Too Bad Baby" and "No More," though, a1 would try to mimic the attitude of 'N Sync, and, though they were never quite as convincing about it, their songs were none the worse for it.

Take On Me--the a-ha original must surely be one of the greatest songs ever. How do you improve an already amazing song? Get a boyband to cover it! Though the two versions are fairly similar, a1's has some more electronic effects, giving the song added energy and danceability. The video (which I've resisted the urge to embed) has the boys flying around in a futuristic virtual reality videogame environment.

Same Old Brand New You--epic. Positively epic. And yet pure pop, at the same time. I know songs have verses, bridges, choruses, etc., but "Same Old Brand New You" really feels like at least three songs in one, all adding up to what sounds like one of the best and most ambitious pop songs ever. I'm a little let down by the video (above), to be honest--it gets better by the end, but this phenomenal song deserved a video focused around a killer choreographed group dance routine, full of sharp, crisp, clean, aggressive movements, not leaning on cars and looking moody. I do like the dance when they actually do it, though, and there was some good art direction going on. For more dancing, you can watch their performance on Top Of The Pops, though sadly the credits cut in before the song is over.

No More--aah, now, video-wise, this is more like it (even if the song isn't as good)! More choreographed dancing and posing in a more aggressive or attitude-filled song--it even has the "I'm-so-in-despair-what-will-I-do" two-handed headclasp. To be fair, the first time I saw this video, I thought it was very 'N Sync's "Bye Bye Bye"-esque, and it sort of is, but upon rewatching the actual "Bye Bye Bye" video, it's more like what I remembered the "Bye Bye Bye" video being like than what it's actually like.

To buy a1's second album, The A-List, go here (physical) or here (digital; you'll have to search for "a1").

Next up: a1's third album and their most radical change in musical style.

Monday, September 25, 2006

I shoulda listened to my momma done told me

I've gotten tired of waiting for that single to arrive, so instead I'm just going to start that four-day boyband special that I've been mentioning for a month or so. The band in question? a1. I know that we just finished Ben Adams's own special, so this probably makes it seem like I have a bit of an obsession--I really don't, but a1 have the nice combination of some really good songs that not everyone on the planet owns (unlike Backstreet Boys or 'N Sync) and a decent-sized but manageable back catalogue. I may end up occasionally interrupting the special, but expect one day for each of their three albums and then one more day for B-sides (including remixes).

a1 were a four-person (on that cover, from left to right, Paul Marazzi, Mark Read, Ben Adams, and Christian Ingebrigtsen) boyband from the UK who came onto the music scene in 1999 and released their final original album in 2002 before breaking up. Over the course of three albums, they showed an evolution in sound that allowed you to get every style out of them that you could hope for from a boyband: cheesy, sort of Europop-influenced/"old school" boyband; 'N Sync/Backstreet Boys boyband; and pop with strummy guitars boyband.

Here We Come was a1's first album, released in 1999 and launching our singles, all of which charted respectably (no lower than #6). Rarely do I embed videos, but I think to understand this first album, you absolutely must see at least one of their music videos.

Be The First To Believe--Oh. My. Gosh. Does that video not sum up everything that was fabulous about that era and style of pop? It's practically more than I can stand--scenes on beaches, the "acting," the choreographed group dance routine, and the sheer infectious happiness of it all. On a side note, I spent quite some time thinking the lyrics talked about "elevator lovin'," but apparently it's actually part of "elevate our love into the skies," which I suppose is quite different.

Summertime Of Our Lives--I really wasn't going to post this video (for a1's second single), but I couldn't help myself. I'm getting nostalgic, and I didn't even know about a1 until years after they'd broken up! More frolicking on beaches, group dances, and mugging for the camera--also amazingly fabulous. Wouldn't that be the life?

Ready Or Not--one side of a1's third single. Equally as danceable and happy as the previous two songs, though not as beachy. Out of these three songs, it probably does the best job of standing on its own, without an accompanying video.

To buy a1's first album, Here We Come, go here (physical).

Next up: a1's second album--expect more videos (though with songs that are good even without their videos) and more enthusiastic raving!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Turn the bass up, projecting the sound

I'll get around to reviewing Right Where You Want Me at some point, but I think I'll need to be able to think a little more clearly before attempting that. Instead, it's time for another MySpace check-in.

Ben Adams has another song up at his MySpace site. At this rate, we'll have heard all the songs on the album before it actually comes out, but I have no problem with that. "Crash and Burn" is excellent but sounds really different from any other song we've heard Ben doing. It's upbeat but laid-back, a little jazzy, and with a chorus that'll get caught in your head, even if you can't understand all the words in it. The chorus has Ben's voice processed, tinny, and higher-pitched, but it's a really nice touch. Very chill (it's not overwhelming at any point) but also summery.

Darius shills for the movie An Inconvenient Truth in a very lengthy and (suprisingly) eloquent blog entry. Whether or not you like him or agree with him, did anyone expect him to write that well? I know we can't automatically accept blogs "by" artists as actually being by them, but with someone like Darius, who isn't so prominent anymore (and the audience he's writing for is sort of limited--he's got, what, 1,000 friends on MySpace?), I have trouble believing a record company would decide to have someone write an entry for him. And yes, it features what is possibly shameless promotion for his MySpace under the auspices of spreading the news about global warming and the possibly designed-to-impress reference to him reading "five books on the subject by the world's leading scientific minds," but I can't help it--I like the man's music.

Josh Hoge, who claims he is "taking sexy forward," has a new song up, "Damn Thing." I can't say I'm madly in love with it--the songs on his album sampler beat it out, in my opinion--but, more excitingly, he's revealed that his album is going to be released this coming January.

There's absolutely no news on the Simon Curtis front, but I can't pass up another opportunity to mention him--his album, most of which you can listen to on his official website, is excellent, with a lot of really standout tracks on it. One of them is "Left Right Left." It's got soldier-esque chants and, like most of Simon's songs, a catchy chorus. Anyone want to figure out what the political message of the song is? I know I should probably be able to, but understanding lyrics isn't my strong point and, though I might be able to guess based on the rest of the album, I'm not sure; it'd be nice to know if I agree or disagree with what the song is saying. Regardless, it's musically a good song. This album is going to be a must-buy (if it doesn't come out soon, I may have to do a post just about it anyway, incomplete album or not); choosing what songs to write about is practically impossible, because there are so many good ones.

The Click Five's page says they have a digital single coming out September 25. It's probably a safe guess that it's just the UK/international release of a song that's on Greetings From Imrie House (probably "Just The Girl"). If you haven't bought any of their music yet, it will definitely be worth it to buy it, whichever song from the album it is. Rumors say the next album probably won't be coming out until at least winter/spring 2007.

Edit: in non-MySpace news, Darin has a new single, "Perfect," coming out October 18. It will be the lead single from his next album Break The News (due out November 22). He says it "will sound [a] little bit different than my previous work." Based on the single cover (shown here; taken from his official site), I'm thinking it'll be a fast song (or maybe that's just wishful thinking on my part). Given past history, whatever it is, it should be great!

Next up: possibly that Jesse McCartney review, a review of a different album, or some laid-back songs.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Best thing after Def Leppard

I'm in sort of a Vanilla Ninja-ish mood today, so that's who this post will be about. I'd heard about them for quite some time (I think I remember seeing them on the front page of Wikipedia once) before I actually got around to listening to their music, but now, though I'm still no expert, I like some of their songs a good deal. Vanilla Ninja are a band of girls from Estonia that have had a couple of lineup changes during the course of their four non-compilation albums (they've also released one greatest hits album). They really became famous when they entered Estonia's Eurovision-selecting contest with "Club Kung Fu" in 2003 and, though they didn't get to represent Estonia that year, they would take eighth place for Switzerland in Eurovision 2005 with "Cool Vibes."

Heartless--this was the first Vanilla Ninja song I heard that really caught my attention. It's from their second album, Traces Of Sadness, but was never a single. I guess you could call what the girls do "pop rock," though the instrumentation to their songs is often more rock than that categorization would imply. It's not as cute-fun as songs like "Club Kung Fu" nor as edgy or hard as songs like "Black Symphony," instead being driving but not overly aggressive. The "oh"'s here are excellent (pretty critical to the song's appeal) and, overall, "Heartless" is just really catchy. Full credit (and thanks, for introducing me to it) goes to the sadly no-longer-updated Girls On Pop for this song.

Club Kung Fu--stealing Asian elements, this song is just danceable fun. It sort of sounds like a novelty song you'd expect from a one-hit wonder, but this was the song that launched Vanilla Ninja at the beginning of their career. Watch the video of their audition to represent Eurovision and, dubious and cheesy as it is, just try to fight back the impulse to dance along with them.

Liar--back to their second album, we have a song that manages to mix a really catchy chorus with spewed hatred ("LII-AAR!"). One of the great things about Vanilla Ninja's songs is that, even though I have no clue about their singing ability, the guitars never overpower their voices, which is a problem I have with a lot of pop-rock nowadays (especially Kelly Clarkson imitators).

Dangerzone (Long Version)--don't worry; even though it's the "long version," it's less than three and a half minutes long. Fast, rocky, with an almost yipped "to-night!," this was the lead single from their most recent album Love Is War.

To buy Vanilla Ninja's debut album, Vanilla Ninja, go here (physical) or, for the "Club Kung Fu" single, here (digital; you'll have to search for "Vanilla Ninja"); to buy second album Traces Of Sadness, go here (physical) or here (digital; you'll have to search for "Vanilla Ninja"); to buy most recent (fourth original) album Love Is War, go here (physical) or here (digital).

Next up: this was a rushed post, since I'm leaving for the weekend again; however, I should be back this Sunday in time for a post, which might be a review of Jesse McCartney's new album.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

You think you've heard of me, you know you've seen me

I've written about Jim Verraros before; his debut album, Rollercoaster, has some very good dancefloor pop (and I still adore the DJ Strobe Global Club Edit 2 of "You Turn It On," which has to be one of my favorite remixes ever). However, before he released Rollercoaster, Jim had another "album": a series of songs released on (before it reached its current incarnation as nothing more than a database) under the title Unsaid and Understood. When preparation for his "real" debut album began, Jim removed the songs from, saying that his new album would be much better. Some of those songs ended up on Rollercoaster; others, though, did not. I haven't managed to track down all the songs from Unsaid and Understood, but I do have a few; the sound quality, though, is subpar, and some of the songs didn't make the album for a reason, but at least one is better than a lot of the songs on it. I'll throw in a couple of more recent songs (also subpar audio quality), too.

Unsaid--I almost always prefer Jim's dance-oriented songs to his pop-rock numbers, but "Unsaid" is the exception; musically, it's one of my favorite of Jim's songs, even though it's not particularly fancy or revolutionary--just a catchy little chorus. Lyrically...I'm not sure--it sort of seems like there are conflicting messages in the song and, for a generally upbeat song, the idea of having to keep a secret seems out of place.

All I Am--less pop-rock but not really dancey, though it is beat-oriented. Subtlety isn't really Jim's thing (just to err on the safe side, it's nothing that'll phase the vast majority of people, I expect, but if you're under say, ten, probably not the song for you). I understand where he's going with this song, but I'm not sure that it works as well as it could; if it's viewed as a template for some of his later songs, though, it's a nice auditory representation of his "sound"'s evolution.

You Could Be (MMM)--sort of more pop-rock again (maybe tiny hints of jazz), though more laid-back.

Dirty Criminal
--moving from pre-Rollercoaster to post-Rollercoaster, "Dirty Criminal" is another more dance-ish song, or at least faster. I think there's a higher quality version of it (and the following song) out there, but I don't have it. Though it doesn't really seem like a radio-friendly song, I can already picture a music video for it.

You Make It Better--more pop-rock, but I like this song (though I'm not sure how much I'll like it in high quality--it sounds like there's an awful lot of big intakes of breath in it), which makes me hopeful that, whenever Jim's second album comes out, the pop-rock will be as good as the dance-pop. The middle 8 is a nice switch-up that gives this mid-tempo song added speed (though not that much) and a good sense of urgency.

To buy Jim Verraros's debut album, Rollercoaster (which has none of these songs, but has some--though not all--very good songs), go here (physical) or iTunes; I'd also recommend the remixes of his songs, which, like his album, you can buy on iTunes even if you don't live in the U.S. I'm really looking forward to his next album--I think it'll be great--but I have no idea when it will be released (as of July 2006, producer Gabe Lopez was "working on" it).

Next up: probably some rock, but possibly an album review.

My little history of the pre-Rollercoaster era might have some mistakes in it, since that was before I cared about music and it's difficult to find information about, so feel free to correct me or fill me in!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

When this cat's on tour, the mice will play

Continuing the Ben Adams post, today's focus is the album sampler Ben released. It included five songs, included the previously-posted single "Sorry." The sampler was sent out for promo purposes, but the songs on it have never actually been released to the public. The sampler, more than the songs on Ben's MySpace, seems to show that Ben was heading in a really interesting, fun direction with his music--if I ran a radio station, some of the songs on it would definitely get heavy airplay from me.

Destination Rendezvous--we're going to start out with my least favorite of the songs on the sampler, just to get it out of the way, but if you don't like this track, don't skip the rest of today's songs. For a while, this was going to be the album's lead single. I'm really glad they went for "Sorry" instead--"Sorry" is more fun, despite its dark theme. "Destination Rendezvous" has a less agressive beat and, though horns can be a nice effect in some songs, here they just seem sort of squishy. The contrast between the little bells or xylophone or whatever at the beginning and end and the rest of the song is sort of nice, though.

Get Off My Girl--here we go! Much more fun and faster, with rapidfire singing/talking from Ben (and more clever/odd/funny lyrics, depending on your point of view). It even features that stuttering effect I love. There's a version of this song with Har Mar Superstar (who worked on the song with Ben) in it out there somewhere (you can watch a less-than-spectacular live performance of the Har Mar-featuring version here), but this one is rap-less. Full credit to Enthusiastic But Mediocre for this song.

I Don't Wanna Stay--I think this was supposed to be the second single, since Ben has a music video for it posted on his MySpace or viewable here (it looks pretty low-budget, but it adds nicely to the song). "I Don't Wanna Stay" is a ballad, but it's propelled along by a nice backing beat that keeps it from dragging and even gives it a little bounce at points. Ben's working the upper range of his vocals here to nice effect, and the periodic computerized (synthesized?) vocals are a nice touch. The middle 8 is really great, too--you can feel the drama in it. The lyrics are pretty priceless, too--take, for example, "I don't wanna stay where I'm not wanted/Don't wanna be where I don't fit in/I'm not gonna die if you don't love me/It's just I wouldn't call it livin'"--that probably reads as pretty sappy, and it might be (is there anything intrinsically wrong with sappiness, though?), but, though it's a beautiful, sweet ballad, "I Don't Wanna Stay" retains the freshness the rest of the album sampler has.

Don't Tread On My Toes--back to the dancier side of Ben's music. Sometimes it feels like Ben is stretching with the lyrics (rhyming "clumsy clumsy" and "yumsy yumsy"?), but in general, it's another amazing song. The backing vocals are a really nice touch (repetitive, yes, but what matters is the beat they provide, not the words being said, and changing up the lyrics would draw excessive attention to them).

To buy Ben Adam's single "Sorry" (which has none of these songs, but should have done much better than it did), go here (physical) or here (digital). If the album is ever released, it'll be a definite must-buy. There's been more news on the Ben front than normal lately (of course, when "normal" is nothing, that's not difficult to do)--he's got a ringtone available for download over at his MySpace, rumors that he's considering going on I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here! have cropped up (it's mentioned on the Popjustice forums and on his MySpace's wall--maybe there was a friends-only message he posted about it?), and what presumably was/is going to be the cover of his album It's Brutal Out There can be seen when listening to "Do You Wrong" on his MySpace--but whether that's because everything the record company was considering using is just being released because they know otherwise it'll never see the light of day otherwise or because there's finally some movement and progress in getting something to happen, I don't know (I hope for the latter, but fear it's the former).

One final Ben note: even though he's released absolutely nothing for a year and a half, he also has one of the best-run fan sites I know--the fact that it's still going, let alone that it's so high-quality, is amazing, so I have to link to it. There's a plethora of videos, pictures (including the one I used earlier in the post), news, and, most importantly, frequent updates. If there is ever any news about new music from him, that site will have it.

Next up: I thought I had something planned for tomorrow, but I can't remember what it was...maybe Jim Verraros or a MySpace check-in.

(Music links gladly and apologetically removed at request; please support the amazing Ben Adams by buying his single, "Sorry," which you can purchase physically here or digitally here.)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

I'll do the dishes if you do delicious

After a very exhausting but very fun weekend, I'm back; it's amazing how much happens when you're away from a computer only for several days. Anyhow, I've decided that if I'm going to justify my random periodic updates about him, I need to actually post some of his music, so the focus of the next two days will be Ben Adams. We'll start of today with the songs he's actually released and songs he's put on his MySpace, and then move tomorrow to his album sampler.

Ben Adams became famous as a member of UK boyband a1, which released three albums from 1999 to 2002 before disbanding. In spring 2005, Ben began his solo career by releasing the single "Sorry," which charted at #18 in the UK. Hs album, tentatively called It's Brutal Out There, is supposedly still going to be released at some point, though given that it's been a year and a half since his first and only single was released, I'm skeptical as to whether that will ever happen. I'd love it to, though, because Ben's music has a very distinctive and fun style; in just about every review or interview, he was compared to Justin Timberlake, but I'm not totally sure I hear that (maybe "Cry Me A River" has some similarities, but as a whole, I'd disagree). A lot of his music does have a sort of experimental sound--it's definitely pop, but it sounds like Ben (or whoever was in charge) spent a lot of time playing around with the production of it.

Sorry--Ben's debut single. I really can't give it a better review than this one over at Enthusiastic But Mediocre. There are so many things going on here--drums, firecracker-esque screeches, horns, thunder, and Ben's continual apology and description of the sheer awfulness of the thing he's done wrong (though the song never actually says what that is, according to Ben, that "thing" is cheating on his girlfriend when he thought she was cheating on him, only to find out she wasn't cheating--whether or not that's just a nice story for promotional purposes is anyone's guess, but the song itself is great).

Delicious--a B-side to "Sorry" that's really working the whole metaphor angle for all it's worth. Not as dark or quite as complex as "Sorry," but possibly more fun, with some handclap-like sounds in the background. Ben's songs often seem to be more about beat than a flowy melody, but they still sound like music and are definitely catchy.

That's Why I Love You--moving onto songs from Ben's MySpace, we have this minimal, piano-backed ballad that is a huge departure from either of the two songs; it's a lot more traditional. It's less exciting than some of Ben's other songs, but if you're in a ballad mood, it's not bad; in the right mood, it could come off as quite sweet (but, in the wrong mood, it could possibly seem boring). (You can also head over to Poptastic for what might be a higher quality version of this song.)

Broken Bird--another MySpace song, this one written for his mother (I'm hoping that's just because she would like it, and not because it describes her). Another ballad, though slightly less minimal and slightly faster than "That's Why I Love You." Sort of meandering and possibly with some jazz influences. For me, it's not quite as exciting as either of the first two songs, but, in a different environment, it could work.

Do You Wrong--a ballad, but more experimental again; in terms of style, even though it's a ballad, it fits better with "Sorry" and "Delicious" than "That's Why I Love You" and "Broken Bird." This is just a minute-long clip, though, including mainly for listening and comparison purposes.

Electric--Ben doesn't actually sing this song--it's a Lisa Scott-Lee song that Ben co-wrote. I think I remember hearing at some point that Ben had considered using it for himself, which might help explain some of the lyrics (though, if a guy had actually been singing this song, that might have been too much for a record label to get on board with it--a little too direct for them, I'm guessing).

To buy Ben Adams's single "Sorry," go here (physical; Amazon's entire description for "Sorry" is "Sleazy contemporary pop from former A1 member," which for some reason I think is really funny...sleazy?) or here (digital); to buy Lisa Scott-Lee's single "Electric," go here (physical). Ben's album really needs to get released--even if all the tracks aren't great, I think a lot of them would be--so buying his single couldn't hurt!

Next up: the second half of the Ben Adams theme--fewer songs, but some really, really good ones (more like the first two of today than the third and fourth).

(Music links gladly and apologetically removed at request; please support the amazing Ben Adams by buying his single, "Sorry," which you can purchase physically here or digitally here.)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

I don't pretend to be pretty

Josh Hoge is a singer from Nashville, Tennessee, currently trying to break into the American music scene. His debut single, "360," was sent out to radios several weeks ago but, given the slow rate at which singles move up the charts in the U.S., it'll probably be a few months before we can judge whether he'll be successful. He's duetted with Cheyenne Kimball and Nikki Flores, as well as toured with Ryan Cabrera and Aly & AJ, which should give you an idea of the audience he's targeting; given his sound, though, that surprises me, because he doesn't sound like any of those artists. I'd classify his music as pop, but Josh puts a pretty heavy emphasis on his R&B roots, which do peek through on many of his songs, but he also has some other influence, too--maybe soul?. I haven't heard enough of his music to ultimately judge how good his upcoming album, to be released this December, will probably be, and I'm skeptical about what he's like personally, but, in terms of music, he's come up with some decent songs so far.

360--oddly, I could see this song being adapted into something for a singer like Ne-Yo, but it really doesn't sound anything like a Ne-Yo song (it's not nearly as shiny and slick)--it just has a melody that I could see sliding over into that particular genre of R&B. As is, though, it's a pretty, laid-back track sung to a girl who's broken up with Josh ("what goes around, comes around"--hence, "360"). Josh's vocals have a little bit of a rough edge and he doesn't sound like he would be out of his league with a country-influenced song, though there's no twang here. I can't think of anyone else in mainstream U.S. pop who really has a voice like him; whether that will hinder him or help him stand out, I'm not sure, but his voice works for this song, preventing it from totally being just another generic, sort of pretty ballad.

Work That Body--a funkier song, though Josh, going into the higher end of his range now, still sings without a lot of energy; that's not a criticism, but just a fact and reflection of his style (though it does make me wonder how he's going to do a "driving dance floor track," as his official website describes another song on his album). It picks up some pace in the chorus, where Josh describes oggling a girl. Sort of a slinky song, actually.

Take It Or Leave It--as much as Josh apparently likes to eschew influences from country-dominated Nashville (he "does not ascribe to the city's time-honored twang"), there's no way you can ignore the country influence on this song, although that might be more from the instruments than Josh's voice. It might be the fastest of Josh's songs that I've heard, though it's still not exactly dance-floor fodder. The audio quality's not as good as on the other songs.

Undone--Josh throws in some strings, which (along with some layered vocals) give the song a nice bigger sound, and returns to some high-pitched singing. It's still sort of a slow song, but the strings push the pace at least a little bit, and the middle 8 (the effects of which reappear near the song's end) has a mildly pushing-ahead feeling.

You have to be in the right sort of mood to listen to Josh's songs--they're not exactly energy-boosters--but they're a decent opening set of tunes. If you live in the U.S., you can buy his single "360" here (digital) or on iTunes.

Next up: I can guarantee there will be no posts about you-know-who for the next three days. How? I'll be gone for the next three days. This is the time of year where I start going off to competition-ish things on the weekends, so, sadly, most Saturdays I won't be able to post, and any given Friday and Sunday, there's a very good chance I won't be able to, either. When I get back, though, I have a lot of things planned--Jesse McCartney's new album should be arriving some time next week, as well as a single which will finally let me get started on that four-day special about a certain boyband; we'll also be seeing a Canadian duo, some more nostalgia picks, and the beginning of that "versus" feature I mentioned a long time ago in the near future. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Your gravity's making me dizzy

I know I just posted for the night, but when I saw this, I had to post it: the new artwork for McFly's album cover.

This really isn't a McFly-dedicated blog, I swear.

Well, the album cover certainly is...eye-catching. If nothing else, it does show why they changed their logo--the very blocky look of the old one wouldn't really have fit in underwater. I'm sure it will probably get panned, but it sort of fits with the sound of their recent songs and has the whole goofy vibe McFly seem to be going for lately, so in an odd way, I think it works. Tom's looking rather pale, though.

(For a different take on it, you could look at this comparison--not my work)

They just shot their video for "Star Girl"--for pictures from the shoot, go here (they are not mine, though--full credit to the person whose PhotoBucket account it is). Danny seems to have foregone the hair straightener.

I'm feelin' that this is my time

I was planning on writing about V today, but looking at the MySpace of one of its former band members has inspired me to do a MySpace check-in. Be prepared for some subpar audio quality, though.

Aaron "formerly of V" Buckingham has a new song up on his MySpace, as well as a blog entry. The new song is "Once In My Life" and, like "In My Head," it's a nice, sort of laid back pop song, although "Once In My Life" is a "moving on" and hopeful song (unlike the worry-filled "In My Head"). He hasn't lost his sense of humor, so his blog entry is worth a read, too. I'm really liking his new music; hopefully we'll hear more from him beyond MySpace in the future.

Simon Curtis has a very different style from Aaron, but his songs are great, too. His style of pop is darker and more electro-influenced. I'm currently loving his Broken (Show Mix) (beware if you're going to listen to it--it's addictive!)--it definitely has that dark electro-pop sound going on, but it has a really catchy melody and strays away from the minimalism so popular in electro now (which can work well, but it's nice to mix it up every now and then). It's going to sound even better in high quality--I cannot wait for the album, though I have no idea when it will be coming out. Check his MySpace regularly, though, because it will definitely be worth buying. (In addition to his MySpace, you can also check out this one for another of Simon's songs.)

I'm not going to post any Heinz Winckler songs, because I finally found a place to order his album (here, if you're interested and don't mind spending far more on it than you probably should) and I'm going to wait until I have them in high quality. However, his MySpace blog has a rather odd message up--maybe this isn't really his official MySpace? But it did have songs from his album up before the album was released and it's got a message from someone who I know really interviewed him... I'll review Moment Of Truth whenever it arrives (which could be in two weeks or three months, who knows).

I just found out about Gavin Mikhail recently, when he was featured on Zappin' It To Ya, but I'm already in love with "Brave" (I was reluctant to post this, because I really think higher quality audio will add a lot to it, but I'm not sure when the album will show up on iTunes). It's gorgeous piano-based pop that is worth checking out.

And, in the ongoing series of periodical Ben Adams updates...Ben has a new picture up on his MySpace (this is it). Thrilling news, yes? Still waiting for any actual news about, say, the album or something. I really am going to get around to posting about Ben soon--I'm thinking next week or early in the week after that; even though he's only ever released one single, it'll probably be a two-day event.

Next up: I really think Josh Hoge will be the next topic. Given my track record with predictions, though, that probably means he won't be.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Everybody who's staring wouldn't believe

Westlife are an interesting phenomenon--they are both intensely popular and intensely hated by large numbers of people. I don't feel qualified to pass judgement on them as a whole--I don't actually own any of their albums and haven't heard all of their singles. The four (originally five) person Irish boy band have certainly been very prolific since their first single was released in April of 1999, releasing seven albums and getting who-knows-how-many top-ten charting singles. Westlife came to mind today because rumor has it their next album will be released November 6, the same day as McFly's album (McFly's next single is also going to come out on the same day as Girls Aloud's latest effort, "Something Kinda Oooo;" why did they have to choose weeks with such competition? It's a shame both McFly and Girls Aloud won't be able to get #1's, if either of them is actually able to do so anyhow...I am worried that McFly's "Star Girl" won't win them any new fans, but I'd better cut that thought off there and swerve back onto topic). Whether or not you like Westlife, though, I think there's at least one song of theirs that is worth hearing.

When You're Looking Like That--Westlife are best known for their ballads. They've also occasionally dabbled with ballads with a little bit of extra energy ("Amazing") or mid-tempo songs ("World Of Our Own"). This song, though, is clearly fast, even sort of dance-ish, though admittedly in a very boybandish way, with a feeling that it demands to be jumped up and down to. There are tons of little electronic background effects, adding energy and bounce to it, and listen for how the music shamelessly co-opts rock's style during the line "she's all dressed up for glamour and rock and roll." I haven't seen the music video for it (I'm not even sure if there is one), but it has immense potential for a choreographed group dance routine. It's definitely my favorite out of the Westlife songs I know (and, as I said, I don't know that many--their back catalogue is just too intimidatingly large). A song like this wouldn't really fit in on the charts today, but it's really a shame Westlife never recorded more songs like it.

(I just looked on YouTube and apparently there is a music video for it; however, it's just tour footage interspersed with the boys singing to the camera. Some parts have some energy, but there's not really any dancing and using tour footage doesn't exactly lead to a great video.)

Edit: though gossip has November 6 being the release date of Westlife's new album, Amazon seems to have it listed as November 13, which would be a very good thing. Amazon also says "When You're Looking Like That" was originally a ballad on Westlife's second album which was remixed and added to the third album; if so, I have to congratulate whoever had that idea.

To buy Westlife's third album, World Of Our Own, go here (physical) or here (digital).

Next up: probably Gregory Lemarchal.

Monday, September 11, 2006

When you kissed me on your intergalactical frisbee

(In fairness, that title isn't actually taken from one of the songs in this post, but it is from "Star Girl," which it's mainly about anyhow; plus, are you going to tell me a line like that wasn't meant to be pulled out of context and quoted?)

Right, so, McFly's latest single, "Star Girl." I have so many thoughts on it, but none of them add up to anything; one moment I quite like it, the next I'm not so fond of it (so get ready for a bunch of disconnected musings). I have listened to it a bunch of times, so that's probably a good sign (I hope). It reminds me of Son Of Dork's "We're Not Alone," though musically the songs aren't that similar (they just both have spacey sound effects), and Busted songs in general, especially in parts of the lyrics (though, since Tom of McFly helped write some Busted songs, that shouldn't be a surprise, I suppose). The horns in the middle are a nice touch. I'm surprised that it's a single--even if I do like it, it's sort of out-there for a single; can anyone see it getting a lot of radio play? Then again, since the UK singles charts are based on sales, not radio play, that might not matter and Busted's songs after all did well (did they get radio play or just sell well?). "Star Girl" makes me look forward to hearing the final full version of "Lose It" (which Paul posted a clip of) even more. Speaking of clips, "Star Girl" is apparently a reworking of another leaked clip, "Good Night." I'm definitely looking forward to the album which, since the radio presenters referred to it by name, must still be called Motion In The Ocean.

I think I'm going to come down on the side of liking "Star Girl;" I haven't been listening to it for that long, though, so, with luck, I'll be solidly in favor of it in a few days. Will the rest of the world respond the same way? I am, worryingly, skeptical.

Let's move on to a couple of other McFly songs so that there's actually some music in this post.

No Worries--a B-side to "I'll Be OK" that is really good. Strummy guitars are in full effect for a song that, though it fits in nicely with the rest of the Wonderland-era material, is a little lighter than most of it, with a little bit of a happy edge, though certainly not as light or happy as the songs on Room On The 3rd Floor. It really picks up pace at the end.

Home Is Where The Heart Is--a low-quality radio rip of McFly's submission for England's World Cup song (since it's a radio rip, there's a little talking at the beginning and a good deal at the end, but luckily, most of the talking there is over the fade out, so you don't miss much). It's sort of mellow, but I can totally picture people chanting the chorus (the "home" part feels like it would sound perfect for a giant stadium or street full of people trying to sing it together)...then again, I've never actually been to a real soccer/football game, but either way, it's a good song. Of course, that means it wasn't chosen; instead, the FA went with a song by Embrace that I don't think is really about football... I think I remember hearing that one of the leaked demos was a reworking of this song.

To buy McFly's single "I'll Be OK," including its B-Side "No Worries," go here (physical) or here (digital).

There are about a million things I've been meaning to say and keep forgetting. Here, before I forget them again, are some of them:

You all will be glad to know that, though I can no longer complain about a lack of official news from Heinz Winckler, I now have a new celebrity to complain about lack of news from, and therefore relay any random tidbit that I find: Ben Adams. He apparently appeared on The Match, some sort of UK football/soccer show with celebrities. He was on for maybe three seconds, but in lieu of any actual news about his music, that's what I'm going to report.

Thanks so much to the sites that have linked to me, #1 Hits From Another Planet (which you should check out right now for some excellent remixes and a great song by rising artist Mika), Chart Rigger (try not to die laughing reading the banterviews), Fetch Me Some Music (for all new music releases and introductions to some new artists), and the Hotstuff Files (wit, frequent updates, and excellent music taste)--you all should really check them out if you haven't already!

No claims about quality for this next song! I have been going crazy trying to figure out where on earth I know this O-Town song from. It's called "We Fit Together" and I'm pretty sure I just heard it for the first time, but the lyrics sound really familiar, especially in the chorus (there can't be that many songs with a similar beat and the word "goosebumps" in them, can there?)--did someone cover this song? I really don't think I've heard O-Town sing it before, unless it was in a movie or something (apparently it was in Dr. Dolittle 2, but, unless it was superprominently featured, I have a hard time believing that's what I remember it from)...

Next up: it's pretty much been a McFly love-in around here lately, hasn't it? You all should be glad that most of the music I like is made by artists who are no longer releasing music or who seem intent on stringing fans along with no actual sign of when they will release new music. Phixx might be the topic of tomorrow's post.

(By the time I finished this post, I was feeling better about "Star Girl.")

Wouldn't you like to come with me

All right, real post later tonight, but I wanted to throw this link up here really quickly before I have to all can probably guess who and what this is, right? No analysis right now, since I have to go :)


(Just a radio rip; there'll probably be higher quality versions floating around soon)

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Just one look is all you're after

Tarkan is a Turkish singer who, though extremely popular in Turkey, is perhaps best known in Europe for being the original singer of the song that would become Holly Valance's "Kiss Kiss." I think I may be the only person who actually prefers his version, called "Simarik," to Holly's, even though his is in Turkish. However, "Simarik" and his other Turkish songs--though good--aren't the focus of today's post. Instead, we'll be looking at songs from his first ever English album, Come Closer, released this past spring. The Turkish influences so apparent in his Turkish language music have been toned down (though they are still clearly present) and combined with pop and some R&B to make some really fun dance songs that are unlike the music you're probably used to hearing in clubs. His songs have some really great hooks; however, I do know some people aren't fans of his voice and his style of music overall isn't for everyone--I, though, really enjoy it.

Start The Fire--the second single from Come Closer. I think I remember hearing someone say it had '80's influences and, though I wouldn't vouch for that, it is a really fun song with a sort of back and forth beat. One of the great things about Tarkan's music (and, I'm guessing, Turkish music in general) is that it seems to speak directly to the hips. Little electronic revving noises are a nice background effect, as well as some handclap-esque beats. The whole song is a fun little affair which, just when you think it's ended, comes back for a few extra seconds for no apparent reason.

Bounce--the album's debut single. It didn't do quite as well as was hoped, though it was popular enough to make it onto a German equivalent to the Now That's What I Call Music! albums. It's a little less "fun" but a little more clubbish (though still not traditional club fare).

Mine--compared to "Bounce," "Mine" is less dark. At this point, you probably already have an idea as to whether or not you like Tarkan's style--it is distinctive and doesn't appeal to everyone--and I'm running out of ways to describe his songs. Despite my loss for words, though, the entire Come Closer album manages to keep inside the Tarkan style without lacking for diversity at all--it's never a dull album and none of the songs sound the same or blend together. There are just enough ballads to offer a brief respite from the dance and fun of the rest of the album and there's only one track on it I skip.

Shikidim--doesn't the opening to this (just the first couple of seconds) remind you of the beginning of V's "Walk On?" Before you think Tarkan's stolen from V, though, this is an English remake of his 1994 hit "Sikidim," so the idea of the song itself is quite old, though more than just the language has been changed between the two versions. Though "Shikidim" is mainly in English, there are (as you might guess from the title) parts in Turkish. It's got less going on in it than songs like "Start The Fire" so, though I could see enjoying this song in the right sort of club (a club oriented towards this sort of music), and I enjoy the song on its own anyway, it's not as fun as some of his other songs.

Touch--this song is a departure from all the ones above. It's smoother and more electronic and, though it didn't immediately jump out on first listen, it's really grown on me. The lyrics "slide over here, skin against skin/melt into me, forget where you begin" probably reflect two of the most important aspects of this song--it definitely has a very smooth and melting feel to it. I wouldn't really call it a ballad, but it is more minimal and less aggressively danceish than today's other songs.

To buy Tarkan's first English album, Come Closer, go here (physical). If you live in a European country, there's a good chance you can also get it on iTunes.

Next up: if I manage to hear "Star Girl" on the radio, I'll probably write about that tomorrow and throw in a couple of other McFly tracks. Expect Tarkan to appear again here at some point, though he'll probably be combined with other artists because I know he's not to everyone's taste; I really was impressed with how many good songs are on Come Closer, though. I have a new favorite Anthony Callea song, but I'm trying to hold off on posting it until we have some official news about his new music that I can celebrate by writing about him.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Set the scene, I think I'm in love now

Part two of the McFly special today, starting with the two songs from their last (double A-side) single from Wonderland, one song from American album Just My Luck, and the two songs from their most recent single. I know there's a good chance most people know these songs already, but it's part of my goal to introduce great songs to people who've just discovered the world or part of the world of pop (I only "discovered" pop not released in the U.S. nine months ago, so I know what it's like to have to catch up on things); even if only one or a couple of people haven't heard these songs, I'm doing what I'd like to do. Also, I've been dying to get a chance to write about McFly's most recent single, so let me indulge myself :)

Ultraviolet--a bit of a trippy opening, even including a reference to Wonderland, that makes it sound as if the song is appearing out of a shimmering mirage; similar sound effects occur again at the end as the song fades away, leaving you wondering if, like an ended summer romance, the entire thing actually just happened. Not as strong (in terms of sound, not quality) as "I Wanna Hold You." Songs like this (the entire Wonderland album, really) are just works of art--there are so many good things going on, I don't even know where to begin.

The Ballad Of Paul K--this is probably the saddest McFly single (just listen to the lyrics, telling the story of a man getting older and feeling lost in life), but there's also something strangely uplifting about the beginning of the chorus. Even lines like "Don't know why but somehow/The ones you love you hate now" have a hint of something beyond melancholiness in them (perhaps because of the fast, high delivery of the line) that make the song far more than just a ballad about and featuring misery.

Just My Luck
--I was horribly worried when McFly began their attempt to launch themselves in the U.S. They redid "Five Colours In Her Hair," making it harder and possibly stealing angst-rock and emo influences, a direction which I wasn't really fond of. As a result, hearing this song--the only all new song on their U.S. album Just My Luck, which is mainly a compilation of their first two UK albums--was a huge relief. It's a bit more like their first album, poppy and guitar-strummy and happy (as well as sweet), though not quite as beachy. It's got handclaps and a pre-guitar solo middle 8 that'll make you want to bounce back and forth with a big smile on your face.

Don't Stop Me Now--one side of McFly's most recent single and a cover of the Queen song. I'm generally not a big fan of covers and tend to think they work best when you don't know the original version. Queen's original version, though, is famous--even I know it well--but I adore this cover; in fact, I'll even go so far as to say I like it more than the Queen version (heresy? yes! loss of credibility? yes! but it's the honest truth). I love when they get beyond the introduction and the song builds and gathers energy--by the time they reach the chorus, you're completely sucked into this giant ball of sort-of-laid-back-energy and happiness and fun. I also adore Danny's delivery on this song--pretty much all of it, but especially "like an atom bomb, about to woah-oh-oh-oh-oh-explode!" ("collision course" and his first solo lines in the song get honorable mentions). But then I feel bad about leaving Tom out (for some reason, I see him as being really central to the band, but maybe not appreciated as much as he should be--I know, that last part makes no sense)--all four of them are brilliant, OK?

Please, Please--I honestly don't think I could have asked for a better comeback for McFly than this song--"Please, Please" is, for me, perfection (all right, so the first few seconds are a bit harsh, but beyond that, perfect). They've taken the fun of their first album and the maturity and sophistication (not lyrically, because it's still cheeky, but musically) of their second album and combined them together into one song. When I first heard it on the radio, I was honestly awestruck; I had to keep listening to it over and over again in sheer amazement, to prove to myself that I had really just had every wish I'd had about McFly's next album fulfilled. That probably makes the song sound more serious than it is, but a good portion of its perfection comes from how it just radiates fun. Everything in this song, from the stuttering in the chorus ("C-c-c-come with me now!/M-m-m-must be a dreamer!"), the amazing catchiness of the chorus itself, the piano, the short breakdown in the middle 8, the background "whooooooooahh!"--everything--is pop genius of the best sort, harnessed towards making the most knock-you-off-your-feet fun song possible. I could not stop smiling the first time I heard it and, though months have passed, it has exactly the same effect on me today. If the entire album is this good, I think the world might just stop spinning on its axis.

(I know not everyone will agree with me on "Please, Please," so really, that's a completely subjective review--I don't expect it to be perfect for everyone, but for me, it truly is excitement-inspiring perfection of a sort I haven't heard in who knows how long.)

To buy McFly's second album, Wonderland, go here (physical) or here (digital); to buy their American album, Just My Luck, go here (physical) or here (digital); to buy the lead single, "Don't Stop Me Now/Please, Please," for their third real album, go here (physical) or here (digital).

Next up: thanks to humanclay, I now know that McFly have a new single hitting radios soon--with luck, on Monday we'll be able to hear McFly's latest single, "Star Girl," for ourselves. Tomorrow might have to be another McFly-dedicated day, then (in all likelihood, though, it won't be, though they might crop up again on Monday, depending on whether or not I've managed to hear "Star Girl"), or it could finally be Gregory Lemarchal's turn to be featured.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Spent the day laughing in the sun

An introduction to amazing UK band McFly today--no rarities, but just a "you need to hear these McFly songs" post, focused around the singles. I've decided, though, that there's no way I can sum up McFly in one post (in took me two to get through the Click Five, and they only have one album!). I'll cover Room On The Third Floor and part of Wonderland today and then, either tomorrow or in the near future, go into the rest of Wonderland, their American album and their most recent single. For some McFly songs that won't be featured today, look at some of my past posts here, here, and here (that last link will take you to a post describing McFly in more depth, too--basically, they do amazingly fun pop with guitars [generally]).

Five Colours In Her Hair--McFly's first single and the '60's beach feel is in full swing here. Happy and cute, with a hint of cheek. The guitar riff here is really catchy and there's even fun backing "doo-doo-doo"'s.

Obviously--slowing down the pace to mid-tempo, we have McFly's second single. Handclaps, some acoustic guitar, and a sweetness that is far from saccharine. Some of the smoothness disappears for a more beat-emphasized ending with some orchestral elements.

That Girl--more '60's surf guitar sounds (though some of that fades away throughout the song) and a return to a faster speed for a bouncy song with fun backing vocals on the chorus.

Room On The Third Floor--McFly's fourth and final single from their first album, and probably the slowest out of their first four singles, though it's not really that slow and it often doesn't feel like a ballad at all. There are even group "nah nah nah nah"'s in this song--I love McFly's use of repeated non-word syllables in songs (doo doo doodoo doo--doo!, nah nah nah nah, bop bop bop bop badda ba...none of that makes any sense typed, does it?)--they always make them really fun.

I Wanna Hold You--moving onto McFly's second album, we have a rockier, faster song. There's a bit in the middle 8--"we're going! to! lose!"--that sort of reminds me of Green Day, but, personally, I'd rather listen to any McFly single than any Green Day single.

All About You--McFly get all sentimental for their Comic Relief ballad. It's more low-key than many of their other singles, but it's got a good deal of energy for a ballad. The guitars are minimalized (though certainly still there) and some orchestral elements are brought in.

To buy McFly's first album, Room On The 3rd Floor, go here (physical) or here (digital); to buy their second album, Wonderland, go here (physical) or here (digital). I can't recommend them enough; even the songs not posted today are great and only not here because I decided I had to focus on the singles, or I would end up posting almost the entire albums (though it's a safe guess that there will be more McFly appearing here in the future). Their videos are all worth checking, out, too (search for them on YouTube)

Next up: McFly are brilliant--honestly, truly, completely brilliant--and deserve a much more thorough post than this, but it is Friday, so I'm off and out for the night. I'm really excited to get to write about their most recent single, though, so there's a very good chance tomorrow will be part two of the introduction to McFly (finishing up Wonderland, looking briefly at Just My Luck, and practically exploding with excitement over their most recent double A-sided single).

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Try your best to make it through the day

I am so done with this week. In celebration of the approaching weekend (which cannot get here soon enough), here are some weekend-themed songs.

Backstreet Boys member Nick Carter released a solo album, Now Or Never, in 2002, after the release of Black and Blue. Now Or Never has more rock influence than any of the BSB albums did up to that point, though it's still definitely pop. It didn't do too well (at least compared to expectations), which is a shame, because it's good; the mid-tempo and fast songs on it, though nothing revolutionary, are totally worth listening to.

Is It Saturday Yet?--pop with some guitars, though less "hard" than the Backstreet Boys' most recent album. The verses here aren't that great, but the chorus is pretty good and, though its lyrics are simple, it totally sums up my feelings right now--is it Saturday yet? It needs to be.

I'm not even going to attempt to give a comprehensive history of Loverboy, because I don't know that much about them or their music and, when a band has as long a career as they do, I think I'd just end up showing how little I know. '80's rock, basically.

Working For The Weekend--although not their highest charting song, I think it's probably the most well-known. Fun, but then, you probably already know this song and know if you like it or not. A good energy-booster.

Daniel Bedingfield, most famous in the U.S. for his ballad "If You're Not The One," is a pretty divisive figure. I really like his faster songs, though, and would've loved more songs like "Gotta Get Thru This" and "James Dean (I Wanna Know)" on his second album, but even that has grown on me. Today's song, though, is from his first album, Gotta Get Thru This.

Friday--OK, so this song doesn't totally fit the theme because it's about waiting to see a girl again, but it is about desperately looking forward to Friday. Its beat is more pounding, repetitive, and insistent than that of "Gotta Get Thru This" or "James Dean," with Daniel singing (or talking, depending on your point of view) at a rapidfire rate over the top. It all adds up to a sense of desperation that fits perfectly with the song's subject.

S Club 8 were a spin-off of the S Club 7 concept made up of, as you might have guessed, 8 people instead of 7. Its members were all young--roughly around age 12, maybe?--but they had a good amount of chart success, especially with their first album, Together.

Sundown (2006 Flamefly Supreme Burn Wings Club Mix)--I'm pretty sure I snagged this from Dïgï†al €ä®gäsm, so full credit to that great site for this song, but it's good enough that I wanted to share it again. Once again, I'm cheating a bit in terms of theme, but they do say "Friday twilight in the big town/Party people getting ready now," so that's close enough. It's not really ominous, but then again, in a way, it is--it's less fluffy than the orginal version, at least (though fluff isn't a bad thing!).

McFly are a four-person group that do pop-rock, though that generalization doesn't even begin to sum up their two albums. Their first, Room On The 3rd Floor, shows a lot of '60's influences and has a great summery-beachy-vibe. Their second, Wonderland, loses that beachy '60's vibe in favor of songs that run the gamut from piano-based ballads to upbeat rocky pop. Room On The 3rd Floor is probably the more fun of the two albums, but Wonderland is amazing as well (especially when listened to on good quality speakers, not tiny headphones; it improves with age, too).

I'll Be OK
--the opening to this song is epic (despite being simple and not that loud)--I can totally picture the band playing this on stage in a giant stadium, and I bet it's phenomenal when they do. This song isn't really about the weekend, but it is about just trying to make it through the day. It is from Wonderland, so it's not really summery sounding, but it is fun--more mature fun, I suppose (though mature fun isn't necessarily better than other sorts of fun).

To buy Nick Carter's album Now Or Never, go here (physical) or here (digital; you'll have to search for "Nick Carter"); to buy Loverboy's greatest hits album Loverboy Classics, go here (physical) or the song "Working For The Weekend" here (digital; you'll have to search for "Loverboy"); to buy Daniel Bedingfield's first album, Gotta Get Thru This, go here (physical; you might want to consider the UK version, though, which has the extra song "Never Gonna Leave Your Side") or here (digital); to buy S Club 8's Sundown (which does not have today's remix on it), go here (physical); to buy McFly's second album, Wonderland, go here (physical) or here (digital).

Next up: to fulfill a request, McFly!