Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Left Frankenstein flat on his back

(Updated! See the bottom of the post for a new artist and song) To begin with, happy Halloween everyone--isn't it an exciting holiday, be safe, etc. etc. Let's get to some Halloween-themed songs:

a1 - Scared--this is far from the best song in a1's back catalogue, but it fits with today's holiday, and it's all right; it does sound a little dated, but it's very boy band, which is nice. It's also, despite its somewhat Halloweenish organs and a couple of scream sound effects, not the sort of song that you can only listen to around Halloween, which is a good thing.

Aqua - Halloween--to be honest, I rarely listen to this song normally (it might scare me a little), but it is pop and it is called "Halloween," so here it is. I'm not sure whether there's a lack of good Halloween songs (#1 Hits From Another Planet's recent series of posts would seem to prove otherwise), or I just don't seek them out--I'll have more (though not a bunch) and better songs for the run-up to Christmas.

If you like the songs, buy the albums--you can buy A1's second album, The A-List, here (physical) or here (digital; you'll have to search for "A1") and Aqua's second album, Aquarius, here (physical) or here (digital).

Now that we have that out of the way, let's move on to the important stuff :)

(Credit and thanks for this lovely picture go to here; it is not mine--I couldn't find who was the original photographer, but if they see this and would like me to remove the photo, or give more direct credit, just let me know)

In news from the Anthony Callea world (what, you thought I was going to get through this post without mentioning him?), Anthony is the opening act for Diana Ross on her tour of Australia. In his performances, he's performed five songs from the new album, including FOUR previously unheard ones! The most positive early buzz surrounds "Addicted To You," which is uptempo and will supposedly leave people shocked that Anthony Callea is the one singing it. Since I'm guessing that's more a matter of the style than the vocal quality, I am thrilled--apparently a lot of the songs are very pop-rocky and mid- to up-tempo, which I am hugely excited about. I do admit to being nervous--the current trend towards guitars infiltrating everything does not always work so well (as I pointed out with Heinz Winckler's latest album), but for some reason I just have a feeling this will work out for the best. In further Anthony news, the tracklisting for his new album, A New Chapter, has been revealed. Here it is, along with the known information about the tracks (keep in mind I haven't heard any of these songs besides "Live For Love," so it's all secondhand; I don't take credit for it, and pretty much all of it comes from ACOF--thanks!). (Edit: I'm updating this as information comes out.)

1.) A New Chapter (also popular among fans; it's been compared to Bollywood or Middle Eastern songs, or an Enrique Iglesias [? I may have misinterpreted that] song, and apparently narrates a story)
2.) Perfect Mistake (midtempo, rocky)
3.) Addicted To You (the current fan favorite; supposedly faster/uptempo, rocky, very radio-friendly, and likely to appeal to a demographic far beyond who normally listens to Anthony [though everyone should be listening to him already!])
4.) If Only (rocky)
5.) Best I Can Be
6.) Live For Love (the current single--a ballad that still reminds me of something that would be in a Disney movie, though I now quite like it)
7.) Stranded
8.) Want You To See (according to fans at a live performance, a ballad with stunning high notes; a press release said it was one of the "harder-edged, rock numbers")
9.) Here I Go Again (a huge orchestra--64 pieces, I think--was brought in for the recording of this song; a ballad)
10.) There's Always Time (rocky)
11.) Almost
12.) You Saved Me Tonight (a ballad, very emotional)
13.) Runaway (the general fan favorite before the Diana Ross concert; it's been described as pop/rock, upbeat, and catchy, though not as upbeat as "Addicted To You")
14.) Heartbeat (a ballad)
15.) Now You're Gone (Anthony said they went for a "raw" feel with this song and compared it to the production on James Morrison songs; a ballad)

Just in case you all hadn't picked up on it by now, I can't wait for this album...it comes out November 27, and you can preorder it here.

Gareth Gates supposedly has a new official website, which I think is a positive sign (though it is odd the old site doesn't yet link to the new site--maybe because it's still being built)--it shows the management still care about him and are gearing up for new activity surrounding him.

I am not really following X Factor this year (I'm too caught up in Australian Idol--my vote may have switched to Jessica Mauboy, by the way), but my vote for the winner is Eton Road. Not for any particularly legitimate reason, no, but because Anthony out of Eton Road once won a contest to sing a duet with Gareth Gates--you can watch the video from Top of the Pops of his duet (the audio and picture don't line up) here (but it's not a must-watch). So, Eton Road to win!

(Picture credit to Arjan Writes)

Update: ooo--Arjan Writes always introduces some great new artists, and today is no exception; when I read about this artist over there, I had to post this track. It's from US-based Young Love, and is incredibly catchy, as well as sort of cool/hipster. It's synth-based and electro, but a little rocky and just generally good--take a listen! Oh, and, suitably for a song with this title, it's also quite danceable. (No, it's not ripped from a stream on the Internet; it's actually decent audio quality--128 kbps.)


If you like this song, buy their new self-titled EP, including this song, on the US iTunes here. Their album, Too Young To Fight It (which I am now going to be keeping an eye out for), is coming out in early 2007. Visit Young Love's MySpace for a free download of a remix and their official site for more news.

Next up: possibly a male singer from Sweden--if it's the one I'm thinking it will be, there will be much excited raving, but at least it'll be about the music of someone new, right?

(Sigh...on a side note, I just noticed that the one time I make a snarky comment about something Anthony has done is the one time any of my comments about him are noticed...my little "$5 video" reference is what gets picked up on, not the times I said I absolutely adored his album, or the fact that I clearly adore his music because I keep you all up-to-date on anything that happens with him [even if it's more than you'd like to know], the new people I've introduced to him [which is my only goal], my lengthy refutation of the frequent criticisms of him, or my practically essay-length post about how absolutely amazing "Wanna Be The One" is...yes, it was a generalization, and yes, there are exceptions--notably, "Hurts So Bad," which I think is his best video...I would've just hoped I would be allowed to make one criticism of an artist whose work I completely adore--that his videos, in my completely uninformed opinion, are not always used to their maximum potential for promoting his music and widening his audience...as a rule, I try to keep this blog positive, and if I criticize someone, it is always [with one early exception, which was out of character and I felt very guilty about, and so retracted] someone who I respect and want to succeed--there's no point writing about artists I don't like. I fully and truly apologize to anyone I may have offended.)

Monday, October 30, 2006

I hate the sound when you break me

I was going to save this for later, but I realized that with Halloween coming up I should at least attempt to come up with some Halloween-themed songs for that day (I've got one in mind, though it's nothing really special)...so, today it's off to the Netherlands and another reality TV show--this time, Starmaker. The show (I think) followed twelve kids who lived together while competing to make it into the final group, with viewers (and judges?) choosing who got to continue on. Seven of them, a mix of boys and girls, ultimately went on to form the band K-otic, although Sita (whose song "Popstar" has been featured here before) would leave after their first album to pursue a solo career. K-otic released two albums, Bulletproof followed by Indestructible, before breaking up, and they're both worth purchasing if you can find them. As for what happened to the members of K-otic, Sita has released two excellent solo albums but is now focused on children's TV presenting; Stefan appears to be in some sort of covers band; Martijn is in a rock band, Van Gunn, based out of the US that will supposedly have its songs on iTunes soon; Anna has gone into acting; Bart was in some rock band at some point; Bouchra joined what seems to be a decently popular (or at least not indie/unsigned) German girl band; and Rachel was supposedly launching a solo career, but I have no idea what happened to her.

Falling--since this was a second album single, I probably should have started with another song, but it's just so good that I couldn't help it. I'm not quite sure why it's so good; I think it might have to do with the chorus--that catchy fast guitar riff (quiet but so essential to propelling the song along) with the very poppy vocals, plus the percussion--the drama!

I Really Don't Think So--back to their first album. I posted Scene 23's version of this song a little while ago, but this is the original. "Falling" is far from pop-rock, but "I Really Don't Think So" is even more on the pop side. It's really sweet-sounding, especially in the chorus (the verses are slightly edgier), despite its anti-love message. It's mid-tempo, though the smooth chorus has appropriated some ballad elements.

Hold On My Heart--an album track from Indestructible. It's got that slightly edgier sound, though it's more upbeat than "Falling." More great quiet guitars in the background--really, the guitars sort of make the song; the chorus would still probably be catchy even without that "edge," but, as is, it makes the song even better.

To buy K-otic's second album, Indestructible, go here (physical). It's a good album, but I don't know that it's worth it if you have to pay $50 (!!!) for it, which is what the individual sellers are charging for it. Besides checking eBay, I'm not sure where you can buy Bulletproof.

Next up: expect K-otic to reappear at some point in the future--"No Perfect World," from their first album, is excellent! That will probably be a ways away, though--tomorrow might be back to Sweden.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Ready for takeoff

Today's post is probably the most electronica I'm ever likely to go. It's a genre that I'm not really familiar with, and it's possible that, if I was, these examples of it wouldn't really stand out. Just by themselves, though, they're decently entertaining.

Basshunter (actually Jonas Altberg) is a Swedish musician who makes electronic dance music (though it's not just electronic noises--he also sings in his songs, if it can be called singing, in Swedish). Though the album he released this year was his second, it's also the one that has brought him the most fame, with lead single "Boten Anna" having been a hit in numerous countries. The techy, geeky subjects of his songs have also won him a small degree of fame among participants in that particular culture in the U.S.

Boten Anna--the song that really "broke" Basshunter. The video is somewhat of a viral hit, especially since it's been subtitled in a bunch of languages. The song is about a bot (not a robot--it's beyond my technical understanding, but it has something to do with the Internet) named Anna, but really, whatever story the lyrics might be telling isn't important here--it's about the electronic beeps and swirls. It's not dance music in the sense of Cascada's "Everytime We Touch"--it's less poppy and a little "harder" than that, but it's not hardcore techno.

Vi sitter i Ventrilo och spelar DotA--also referred to just as "DotA," for simplicity's sake. This is the album's second single, and it's got another techy subject I don't really understand--something to do with playing videogames while talking to other people online. It's a little faster than "Boten Anna" and, in addition to Basshunter's singing, has a deeper voice doing some speaking parts occassionally. It's more diverse than "Boten Anna" (it's even got an almost military beat at one point) and is catchier, too. As is often the case with these not-quite-novelty songs, it seems to be not be doing quite as well in the charts as "Boten Anna," though it's still done all right.

To buy Basshunter's second album, LOL <(^^,)>, go here (physical) or here (digital).

In other news that's about as far away from electronica as you can get, there's been a lot going on with Anthony Callea (who I haven't really mentioned here for over a week, so I feel I can slip in a little reference)--new photo shoot pictures, new single cover, promo appeances, preview clips of the single remixes, and a new music video (which, as I predicted, is in the grand Anthony Callea tradition of looking like it cost about $5. You had the biggest selling single in Australian history, Anthony--how can you not afford to put more into your videos?). I wouldn't really recommend the video (but I might discuss it in more detail later)--music videos don't seem to be Anthony's "thing." It is very touching, but, for me, nothing can ever really compare to his voice (which, I suppose, is why the video is so simple--all the more emphasis on Anthony and how amazing he is!) More importantly, though, Anthony is apparently going to be releasing an exclusive new song on iTunes only on November 7. Normally, I'm all for extra songs--but on iTunes only?! That means only Australian residents can buy it! Well, at least I'll be able to listen to the thirty second preview... Don't forget to buy "Live For Love" when it comes out on November 4 if you live in Australia.

(Picture credit here; thanks!)

Update: since I have nothing better to do (i.e., I have a lot to do but I'd really rather write about music), I thought I'd elaborate on my thoughts about the video. I do appreciate what he is trying to do--there are so many issues in the world that need to be dealt with! I think I would've just preferred he go all the way with it (really get specific about what he's thinking of--the continuing violence in the DRC? the LRA and child soliders in Uganda? starving and political manipulation of food in North Korea and Zimbabwe?) or avoid hinting at such big issues. It's not that the video concept is bad, but rather that I'm afraid that people will write it off as "treacley"--I don't think it is, and I think "Live For Love" (though it's no "Wanna Be The One"--see my thoughts on that song here) is absolutely gorgeous (have I ever mentioned that I think Anthony has my favorite voice is music? Not just for an Idol contestant, but period?), but I would've loved something that would really draw people in when they're flipping TV channels...I'm just not sure if this will do that. I truly hope I'm wrong, though--this song deserves to be #1 for weeks and weeks; I just hope this video is the right one to help it do so.

Next up: maybe some girls from Australia, a continuation of the guys from Sweden, or off to the Netherlands.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

That uniform you're wearing, so hot I can't stop staring

(Picture credit to Back to Bournio; thanks!)

Boy, do I miss Busted today. I'd gotten some pop-punk recommendations (not a genre I'm really familiar with) and, though some of them might be almost decent, all they really made me think of was how much better practically any Busted song was. Maybe it's because Busted didn't really put such a strong emphasis on the "punk" part--they certainly had that slightly edgy attitude (really only enough to make kids feel slightly defiant by listening to them...they would never have been seen as "hardcore"), but that attitude was never scary or dreary and, more importantly, they devoted themselves to sheer fun and catchiness. Busted just had this knack for incredibly accessible, addictive, extremely fun and catchy songs, backed with guitar hooks to die for, that should have resulted in sweeping success in the U.S. Their songs would be great for air guitar, but they'd be equally as good for hairbrush singing or dancing/bouncing around the room. Where do you even begin to start in choosing their best songs? There's no way I can do that, so here's just a few of Busted's excellent tracks (nothing particularly rare here, but they're all must-hears). (All that said, some people can't stand them, so they don't have universal appeal; I, however, think they were great.)

Air Hostess--let's start with one of the best openings in music--the sound of an airplane, getting closer and closer, and then that guitar kicks in...and then James's shout of "Let's go!" If that doesn't get your adrenaline pumping, you must not be alive. As with just about any of Busted's songs, there's a case to be made that some of the lyrics are juvenile (traditionally, just one line), but when a song is this fun, who cares? Plus, it's even got a cute reference to how the boys, infatuated with a stewardess, can't do anything because "the paparazzi's lurking" and "one photo's worth a hundred grand" (followed by a shout of frustration). As those lyrics might imply, this was a single from their second album, when they were in the thick of their popularity (actually, from the release of their first single to the day they broke up, I don't think they were ever not popular).

Crashed The Wedding--another second album single, this one swaps the airplane effects for sirens and the stewardess for a former girlfriend who's about to marry someone else (so, of course, the boys must "crash the wedding" and steal her back). Yes, there are guitars, but this is so pop! On the one hand, it seems perfectly tailored for maximum fun and catchiness, but on the other hand, there's a sense of spontaneity and realness (not realness in the sense of "oh, this is real music" but that there's actually a perfect matchup of performers and song) about it that I think comes not just from the song itself, but also the Busted boys. These would probably be good songs in anyone's hands, but there's something about the particular combination of James, Matt, and Charlie that seems perfect.

You Said No--the pace isn't about to let up, oh no--Busted did do slower songs, some of them quite good (like "Who's David"), but we're going to go out today with another energy-filled romp. This song is sometimes also known as "Crash And Burn." More trouble with girls--this time, the boys are turned down by a girl they ask to dance. It's even got "nah-nah-na-na"'s that'll have you jumping around in circles and guitar parts that'll make you want to buy a guitar just so you can do those big sweeping strokes across the guitar strings along with them.

You absolutely must own Busted's albums. At the very least, buy their American album, Busted, which is basically a greatest hits or compilation of their two UK albums--it is honestly one of the best purchases you will ever make, especially considering you can usually find it for a couple of dollars. Get it here (physical) or buy their UK albums (which are worth buying for the songs not included on the US album) here (digital).

Next up: a Swedish singer, but the emphasis in his music isn't really "singing."

Friday, October 27, 2006

How you gonna run at the speed of sound?

Reading about Christmas over at the Zapping has me dying to post some Christmas pop songs I love, but I really have to try to hold out until December...it's tough, though, so, to distract myself, we'll look at one of those singers from Sweden I keep saying I'm going to talk about: Christian Walz. There's a good chance people already know him from his hit single (well, in Sweden, at least) "Wonderchild," but his second album (I haven't heard the first) Paint By Numbers is great as a whole, even if "Wonderchild" is the standout song. Even though his music is pop, I probably wouldn't call it "poppy;" it's also got a tiny hint of an experimental edge to it. His voice is very distinctive, but it works well for his style.

Wonderchild--I can almost guarantee that this will far and away be the most downloaded song out of all of these; it's the most radio-friendly song on Paint By Numbers and the one that draws you in the quickest. Someone over on the Popjustice forums used to always say that Daniel Bedingfield should cover it (which I always loved reading, for some reason), and I think I can see where they're coming from--his voice would work well with the song and it is in a style similar to some of Daniel's songs (but not that of "Gotta Get Thru This" or "If You're Not The One"). Whether you like Daniel Bedingfield's songs or not, though, give this great song a chance--it'll soon be stuck in your head. From those opening strums to the following melody to the "OHhhH-OHhhH-Wonderchild" chorus, it's catchy. That said, it won't be to everyone's taste, probably because of the song's slightly unusual edge.

No No--the first minute of this four minute song is pretty odd. The whole thing isn't like that, though, so at least keep listening past that first minute--it turns into something pretty catchy, though not aggressively so; the words probably won't get stuck in your head, but there's something mildly addictictive about that chorus, with its piano, little swirls, Christian's simple but repeated lyrics, and all the other little sound effects going on that I can't begin to pinpoint. It's not the sort of song you'd put on when you're looking for something to sing along to, but it's far more than background music.

You Look All The Same--this is a slightly more "traditional" song than "No No," but it style has this certain distinctive Christian Walz vibe that I'm having trouble describing--maybe a bit of experimentalness and a bit of soul added to pop? No, that's not quite it. It's got this layered chorus that, once again, somehow manages to be catchy without actually having this out-in-your-face, you-must-listen-to-me hook.

To buy Christian Walz's second album, Paint By Numbers, go here (physical) or here (digital). If you like these songs, I really recommend it, because it's pretty consistently good.

If you're not already reading pop blog Digital Technique, you should be, and you absolutely must pop over there and read the most recent post. Not only has it reminded me how good Uniting Nations' "You And Me" is, it's introduced me to a song that, though I've had it practically on constant repeat for the past several days, I still love: "Follow You, Follow Me." A reworking by Sonny Jones and Tara Chase (who raps, but it's that light sort of rap that, with this music, works well) of the Genesis song, it's got this light but catchy beat, is far better than the 30 second iTunes preview I heard of the Genesis song (I am not insulting Phil Collins; I really like his cover of "You Can't Hurry Love"), and feels like the sort of song that you should be swaying along with and clapping to at a concert.

Thank goodness for Pierre over at the Popjustice forums, who asked a question that has really made me really happy. I'd loved the clip of the McFly song "Lose It" that had leaked, but was disappointed to see "Lose It" not on the tracklisting for Motion In The Ocean. I hoped, though, that it would reappear in a renamed form (as "Star Girl" did)--and apparently, it's going to! "Lose It" has become "Friday Night" and will be on the album.

Next up: we might continue with the Swedish singers.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

I've been a-waiting just to find somebody true

Today will be a one song day, mainly because I don't know anything about this group/artist and because I'm not sure what other songs would best accompany it. What I do know is this: the song is by Jakaranda, which I'm guessing is a group, based on the single cover and multiple voices in the song. I think it was released as a single somewhere--possibly Japan, but maybe elsewhere, too. If you've heard it, though, it's probably from its appearance on the soundtrack to the 1998 remake of The Parent Trap (the movie that introduced Lindsay Lohan to the world).

Never Let You Go--right, so you could make a case that this song is basically just one big sample, since the chanting from the Dream Academy's "Life In A Northern Town" is used pretty heavily (or at least used in a rerecorded version). However, this song takes that sample and uses it to create a dance-poppy, female-led song in which that chanting, though important to the song's power and catchiness, isn't the only important element--the piano/keyboard part and the electronic elements, are all essential (and catchy), too. If it ever really was a single, its success would have been hindered from the start--in 1997, Dario G released "Sunchyme" (which I've only just now heard, through YouTube) which also sampled "Life In A Northern Town" and bears a lot of similarity to "Never Let You Go" (which must have been released not much later, if it was on a 1998 soundtrack). This song, though, actually adds lyrics, instead of just having the chanting, but is at least as cheesy and likely to fill you with--or at least inspire a tiny bit of--exuberance.

To buy the soundtrack for 1998 version of The Parent Trap, go here (physical).

Next up: someday I'll get around to that "Swedish singer," I promise (in the meantime, though, the number of Swedish singers I want to write about keeps growing!).

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Switch it on to Leno to see how you were doing last night

Poor popstars--don't they have such difficult lives? Well, not really, though there are certainly extra pressures, some of which are highlighted by today's songs; the theme today is celebrity and the popstar life (there are a lot of other songs I could have chosen for this, so this theme may just crop up again at some point).

Gareth Gates - Enough Of Me--from the brilliant (well, really, they're both brilliant) "Night" disc of Gareth's double album Go Your Own Way. I know some people who can't stand this song, and I'm not sure whether that's because of the song or who's singing it. It's probably smart that Gareth didn't release it as a single, because it probably wouldn't have done him any favors in the media, but I like it, both musically and in subject--it's a response to those celebrities who are constantly complaining about all the ardors of fame (as well as to the media), with Gareth singing "Every time they wanna bring the heat/I flash a smile at the paparazzi" and "embracing" his celebrity status (and he was/is a celebrity, but, as I said, as a single, this track would have resulted in all sorts of snarky comments). It's got a catchy little guitar riff (it's a rocked-up pop track, but still very pop--pop stealing an element or two of rock in the name of catchiness is fine with me), as well as a great opening, starting with a mild beat and some beatboxing, then Gareth bringing in "the groove," and then the riff.

Darin - Money For Nothing--Darin's big hit from his first album. Whereas Gareth's song is more a response to celebrity-focused media hounding and the celebrities that complain about it, Darin's song is directed towards those who criticize his profession and his music, with Darin asking why they want to call what he does "money for nothing." It's a very pop track (though arguably with some R&B influences, but only in the sense that early 2000's boybands like 'N Sync might have had those influences; it doesn't have the club floor-oriented R&B influences like Darin's later single "Step Up"). The first time I heard it, it didn't really leave an impression on me, but I don't know what I was thinking--it's an excellent song, and pretty catchy.

Sita - Popstar--Dutch singer Sita (more about her in a future post), who came to fame through the television show Starmaker and the resulting group K-otic (more on them in the future, too) before beginning her solo career, brings us to the end of this theme with her song about living the popstar life, but how what ultimately matters is "who you are," not whether or not you're a popstar. That might make this song sound preachy, but it isn't; it's a catchy, bright, incredibly happy-sounding song that will be stuck in your head for days. It's very, very poppy. The video is worth a look if you have a moment; it (like the song) is pretty cute.

To buy Gareth Gates's second album, Go Your Own Way, go here (physical) or here (digital); to buy Darin's first album, The Anthem, go here (physical) or here (digital); I'm not sure where you can buy Sita's second album, Come With Me, unless you check eBay.

In other news, Ben Adams (who you all should remember from his great pop song "Sorry," if not from my frequent praises of him) has made a song of his available for download on his MySpace. The song, "Red Lady," is less aggressive or experimental or fun-sounding than many of his other songs, but that doesn't mean it's any less good. It'll only take two clicks--one to get to his MySpace, and one to click "download"--to download it (and you can listen to it before you do so), so it doesn't require any more effort than what it would take to download a song I posted, and it's really worth it.

As anyone who's been reading the comments over at the Zapping knows, Paul has put up a series of posts I think are brilliant--go check them out: boybands (including the Click Five and some others I should have known about earlier)! Boy/girl band, "the new solo Click Five," Anthony Callea, Darin, and the Click Five again! Just skip reading my comments, OK? ;)

Next up: maybe a Swedish singer.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

I know the logic and I, I know your reasons

South African singer Heinz Winckler, winner of the first season of Idols (South Africa's version of Pop Idol), released his third album, Moment Of Truth, about a month and a half ago. His first album was poppy, the sort of CD you could enjoy immediately, and great. The followup was a grower, but it grew into something amazing; the unplugged feel and occasionally unusual rhythms lent themselves to creating a really gorgeous album. The lead single for Moment of Truth, "Another Day," gave a solid indication of Heinz's new direction for this new album: rockier. I'm still a little unsure as to where I'll ultimately come down on this album, but there are a few things I've noticed about it.

Another Day

The lead single hints at some of the albums main problems, though it's better than many of the album tracks. I think this new rockier style might not totally fit Heinz's voice. "Another Day" doesn't totally demonstrate that problem; album track "Back Together" does (unfortunately) a better job of that. I'm not criticizing him as a singer; on songs like second album single "Can't Lose With You," Heinz is probably the perfect singer (both because his voice suits the song and because you get the sense that he may have had to work really hard to sound so good on the song, giving "Can't Lose With You" extra emotion and perhaps even desperation or desire). His voice works better when it doesn't have to be heard over blaring guitars, which brings us to the second problem with the album: not only do I feel there's a mismatching between Heinz's new rockier style and his voice, the particular style of rocky pop he's chosen isn't always good one. This relates to a phenomenon I have trouble describing but is really important to my enjoyment and perception of music. Not all loud guitars are blaring guitars; the best I can describe "blaring" as is loud guitars that don't sound like they're playing anything in particular, just creating this sonic wall with no hooks or entry point for the listener. Heinz is probably best in a poppy environment (the first album) or a more laid-back (though no necessarily ballad or slow) environment, but there are moments in Moment Of Truth that work better than others.

Got Me Believing

Love Will Breathe

"Got Me Believing" is one of those moments, as is "Love Will Breathe." "Get Away" and "Don't Know What I'm Feeling" both fall into this category as well. "Got Me Believing" (possibly the album's best song) and "Love Will Breathe" verge on the blaring guitars--actually, you could probably make the case that almost or all of the songs on the album do--but they manage to be fairly successful. "Don't Know What I'm Feeling" is propelled along by a nice little riff. However, I can't help feeling that, though these are good songs, they might have been much better sung by someone else. Don't get me wrong; I still quite like them, but I think they might be inarguably great if sung by someone else. There's something about Heinz's voice--I'm not sure whether it's changed, or whether it is because of the change in musical environment, but it seems fuzzy and maybe even thin. There are moments where his voice works, and moments where the songs work, but there are also moments that just don't fit, be it lyrically ("Get Away"'s line "I'm inundated by you, titillated by you" or "Love Will Breathe"'s "what if one lover is all, all you needed/why is commitment a word we have deleted," the latter of which is a line I might see myself buying if delivered by someone like Simon Curtis but just seems odd--maybe even preachy--coming from Heinz) or musically.

Get Away

This review probably sounds very negative, and it really shouldn't; over the course of almost a week, Moment Of Truth has grown on me a good deal, and it's certainly not a bad album--I would still recommend it--but, if you asked me to choose which of Heinz Winckler's albums was my favorite, I'd have a very difficult time choosing between his first two albums, both of which are truly, truly great, but I'd easily be able to take Moment Of Truth out of the running. Part of me wants to blame the songwriting; this is being billed as the album in which Heinz finally got to be more involved in the writing of the album--perhaps this was a case of a new writer working through some ideas and not really knowing what works, resulting in some good tracks and some not-so-good ones? I don't think so; back on second album Come Alive, Heinz was writing songs as good as "Drowning Me," and he only has writing credit on 4 of 12 tracks on this album (which does make the "it's finally my chance to show the real me!" marketing approach an odd one).

Once again, though: if you like this style of rocky pop, it's worth buying, as it's a good album. I just don't think it surpasses either of his previous two works. I've tried to post the best songs from it (and I really think the chorus to "Got Me Believing" is great), but that doesn't mean there aren't others worth hearing (though there are definitely some worth skipping). I'm still a bit ambivalent about it, though; my opinion could change over the next few weeks. I think one of the things I miss most is the pop sensibility that informed some of Heinz's earlier songs, but maybe I'll "get" these ones after a few more listens. In fact, for several of these songs, I can already feel that happening.

On a lighter note: look, Heinz, if you're the winner of the first season of your country's Idol series and you want to shamelessly steal from the Kelly Clarkson school of rocky pop for your third album, this is the way to go:

Guy Sebastian - Elevator Love (Web Rip)

(Link removed at request; head over to the witty Popalastic to stream the song)

I am not a follower of Guy Sebastian (though I do like some of his songs, like "Oh Oh" and "All I Need Is You"), nor have I ever felt a desire to buy one of his albums, but I think this song--his upcoming single--works pretty well; even if it does follow the Kelly Clarkson formula pretty exactly (and I think it reminds me of some other song), it's fairly catchy for that particular subgenre--in fact, I think I might really like it!

To buy Heinz Winckler's third album, Moment Of Truth, go here (physical); to preorder Guy Sebastian's third album, Closer To The Sun, go here (physical).

Next up: maybe a themed post, or that Swedish singer.

(By the time I finished this review, I'm really questioning my evaluation of Moment Of Truth. I'm not going to claim his first two albums don't have subpar songs, so I may have focused excessively on the negative side of things in regards to Moment Of Truth...I'm not sure what to think...)

Monday, October 23, 2006

She's just the kind of trouble I've been dying to meet

I found out about this group thanks to Don't Stop The Pop--full credit and lots of thanks goes to that amazing, globe-trotting blog for the introduction! I've also figured out what I knew O-Town's "We Fit Together" from (I'd been going crazy a few weeks ago to figure out how I knew it, because I was pretty sure I hadn't heard the O-Town version before): this group covered it.

Brother + Sister are a Danish duo made up of, as you might expect, a brother (Sonny) and a sister (Gigi). The two of them are dance partners, but have also released two albums, Just Like That and Sonny vs. Gigi, which feature a mix of tracks centered around Sonny, centered around Gigi, and centered around both of them. Their style of music would have fit in several years ago--even ten years ago, probably--and, according to what I think is some sort of promo site (their current official website is here) their music "appeals to a wide age-range from pre-teens to young adults." Don't let that "wide" age range throw you off, though--their music may not win you any cool points and some people would probably brush it off as "unsophisticated," but, even if not every song they've done is a work of genius, they're fun, and making music that's light and fluffy but still good is not an easy task. A*Teens were never going to win any awards from critics, but that doesn't mean they didn't make good music!

I Wish--a boppy pop song that has a light touch to it. This is one of the songs that features both Sonny and Gigi, though most of the singing is done by Sonny, which isn't such a bad thing--he has a very good voice for this type of music. The song is in a back-and-forth format, with the boy pleading with the girl to love him and the girl explaining that she's been hurt before (so she's now focused on "material junk" instead). "Light" really is the best word to describe it, as well as cute.

Show Me The Money--let's ignore the unintentionally comedic reference to "homeboys" in the beginning. And the attempt at social commentary. Just as a pop song, I think this works pretty well, though it's still in that light style of pop (though not as light as "I Wish") that means few critics are likely to herald it as a masterpiece, which is a shame, because I really, really like it. It's another Sonny-centered song (I'm not sure whether Gigi is in it at all, since the voices of the women near the end could very well be done by someone else--she might do the ad libs, though). It's not really boppy, though it does have a little bit of a heavier beat.

Trouble--yet another song featuring Sonny. This one's a little bit more throwback in style, though I can't quite pinpoint what decade it's referencing; nevertheless, it's not truly in that era of music, instead borrowing elements of it and using it to the advantage of '90's/modern pop. It's even got horns!

If you like these songs, please, please go buy them or the album; you can buy Sonny vs. Gigi (which all of these songs are taken from) here (digital).

Next up: a Swedish singer, maybe, or a Jesse McCartney or Heinz Winckler review.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

I can't find a phone booth to spin around, turn into Superman

A few days ago, I mentioned the Vacancy, who I found out about through Popjustice's singles club. I wondered (and worried about) why so many of their songs had disappeared from their MySpace and why their PureVolume site had disappeared. Now, their MySpace has disappeared entirely. That doesn't seem to be a positive sign. I really hope they return to the music scene (and if they do, I'll gladly remove all of these songs; I wouldn't want to hurt their future chances), but, because I'm afraid that the Vacancy may have well and truly vanished, I'm going to write about them today, because these songs are just too good to not be heard. These aren't all of their songs, but just some of the best ones that I've heard; with the exception of "Handheld," the audio quality is subpar, but they're still worth hearing.

The Vacancy would probably grouped in with Busted and McFly, though the fact that Busted and McFly have such different musical styles should give you an indication that the Vacancy don't sound exactly like either of those bands. Though they use guitars, they also have some nice electronic effects going on. I really think the best word to describe their sound is "quirky" (which is a good thing!), but it's a very approachable quirkiness. I would guess that the Vacancy boys (James, who did most of the singing; Joshua, who played keyboard and sang backing vocals; and Zack, who played guitar) didn't have the advantage of full-fledged expensive studio and company backing for these songs, which is something to keep in mind, too.

Handheld--I've seen this song referred to both as "Handheld" and as "Handheld, Digital, Infrared Compatible." I actually think this song may be the reason I found out about the Popjustice website (the chain of events was something like me looking up McFly on the U.S. iTunes, the Popjustice podcast popping up, me listening to it and being intrigued by this song which was used in the opening, and then going to the Popjustice website to find out more). The singer's delivery isn't quite as full of angst/rebellion as Busted's voices were, nor is it completely smooth, falling somewhere in between instead. It's generally catchy and full of energy; it even has a bit in the middle where the music mostly drops out and the singing gets quiet, before it all returns in full force (though full force here isn't knock-you-off-your-feet in strength).

Bad Luck Boomerang--it's a lot easier to describe the Vacancy's general style than their particular songs, even though each of their songs is distinctive. I think the electronics are a little more important here than in the last song, where a guitar (or guitar-like sound) provided the base. I think it's even catchier than "Handheld," and there's something about it that's less harsh than "Handheld" (though that song isn't exactly harsh, either).

She Walks Right Through Me--the Vacancy's songs aren't just quirky in sound, but in subject, too; this one's about being in love with a girl who's a ghost or some other sort of supernatural entity, but it's far happier sounding than you might expect it sound given that description.

The Silence--just like the rest of the Vacancy's songs, this one is catchy. Though it's not quite as cute, it fits in nicely with the rest of them. The chorus of this song isn't quite as quirky as that of the others, but it's often the one I have stuck in my head.

(12/13/06 edit: song links removed because the Vacancy have apparently not disappeared--let the excitement begin!--but just renamed themselves and come back with an incredible song, which you can listen to on their new MySpace).

I don't know of anywhere that you can buy the Vacancy's music (since this is where I would normally provide such a link), and since their MySpace page is gone, I can't even link you to that (on the off chance that it ever comes back, it was here). I really, really hope they aren't gone--I miss them already and, without doubt, would have bought an album of theirs. They were in a genre I love but didn't quite sound like anyone else in that genre.

Awww...Pinkie of PopEatsPop made my day today with his review of this blog. If you haven't already started reading his blog--which will shock you with its revelations about the true history of cover songs you never knew were cover songs--what are you doing? It's a total must-visit, and (even though I don't comment as much as I should) I can't wait for him to get his computer back (hopefully it has his music still on it!).

Next up: maybe a Danish duo, or a Swedish singer (there are several of the latter I'd like to write about at some point). If I don't hear any more news about the Vacancy, the other songs I have of theirs (not that many) will appear here, too, because there's a gorgeous piano-lead ballad, an acoustic (and less quirky, sadly, though it does prove diversity) song, and another catchy song that's sort of in between "Handheld" and "The Silence" that you all should hear.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

I'll give you all I can, give you all I am

Today, I'm giving you all just one song, but it's one I've often referenced and absolutely adore. It's the basis for much of my belief in Anthony Callea's potential--see, he can/could be an excellent popstar! We'll have to wait to see if this new album lives up to that potential; I don't expect an album full of perfection, but even a few indications of this pop-ness would be very welcome. This will also probably be the last raving about Anthony for a while (that is, until we actually hear more of his new music). Let's get straight into the song, though--it's a B-side that was on some of the singles for "Rain," so, unless you're really into Anthony's music (or even then), it's probably not widely heard.

Wanna Be The One--I am such a sucker for this stuff--pop music too pop to be dance-pop but with an aura of danceability to it, the little electronic squiggle in the background, the catchy chorus, the piano, and that big beautiful male vocal...I love it. Is this Anthony's best song? Probably not. Is it my favorite Anthony song? I think so. It doesn't work quite as well as it could, especially in the beginning (the chorus after the first verse is over too quickly), but I still love it (and love that, as good as it is, it hints at even greater potential). I think the best analogy is my feelings towards McFly's "Surfer Babe"--it's probably not the best song on their debut album, and hearing just it--not knowing anything else by McFly--might not be enough to win you over, but it's my favorite song on that album. That's how I feel about "Wanna Be The One"--it won't be everyone's favorite song, nor will everyone even like it, but, for me, putting it in context of the rest of Anthony's work, it really is amazing.

I'm going to indulge in a personal anecdote (which I normally try to keep to a minimum, but some songs I just can't avoid it--McFly's "Please Please," which has a similar effect on me through sheer amazingness, forced me to do so earlier, too). The first time I heard about this song--which was months after I had found out about Anthony--I embarked on a quest to find out what it sounded like (which was no easy task, as apparently it's relatively rare) since I wasn't about to order it unheard. I found one site--one site--that would let me listen to a preview of it. That preview was supposed to be 30 seconds, but something must have been wrong with the audio, because it would only play maybe 10 seconds of the song--and only half a second of Anthony actually singing. Nevertheless, in those 10 seconds, I fell madly in love with the song (which does make me wonder how much is about Anthony's voice and how much is about the song, but I do think his singing is a big part of it) and immediately ordered it. Two weeks later (do you know what it's like to listen to the same 10 second clip repeatedly for two weeks?!?), it arrived. On the first listen through, I felt a little disappointed--the song seemed sort of messy. On the second listen, though, I "got it" and, before I'd even finished the third listen, I'd realized that this song, flaws and all, could very well be my favorite Anthony Callea song...and one of my favorite songs, period (though I respect anyone who wants to disagree! In fact, most people do, both for technical reasons and for reasons of personal taste). In fact, it's so good that I can almost guarantee that I'll repost it at some point in the future (not the near future, though; don't worry) just so I can talk about it again, with more focus on the music itself that time.

To buy the double CD single for Anthony Callea's "Rain" (the only version that has "Wanna Be The One"), go here (physical).

Since I'm going to try and decrease my number of Anthony updates (although I just might have to comment on the music video, even if it falls into the grand Anthony Callea tradition of incredibly-low-budget-looking videos), I might as well throw in the other news of the moment. He just filmed the music video, which is all well and good, but more importantly, what did his hair look like? Well...

(Not my scan! Full credit and lots of thanks go to here).

...like that. What?!? I've never been a fan of this so-close-cropped-there's-barely-any-hair look (I don't even like it on Justin Timberlake, folks, sorry), but now I have another reason to upset with all the perpetrators of that particular hairstyle--it's infiltrating the world of pop! Will popstar hair soon be a thing of the past? What will happen to hair straighteners and gel for spikes?

For more photos of this particular new look, you can go here (they're from a live performance, not the videoshoot, and are taken by a fan--thanks for posting them! I guess it doesn't look that bad in those pictures...)

When I posted a low-quality version of Darin's new song "Perfect," I said that one of the amazing pop music blogs out there would probably have the high quality version soon. When I said that, I was thinking of Catchy Tunes of Sweden, center of high-quality Swedish pop, and now they have it--definitely go get the song, and if you don't visit CToS regularly, you absolutely must.

Next up: I'll be gone on Friday, and Saturday I might or might not be able to post, but I'll definitely be back by Sunday, with some posts less focused on personal response to a song and more on the music itself--I still have that Swedish singer to talk about, but Heinz Winckler's third album just arrived after about a month (which is still two months faster than a postcard I sent from Costa Rica, so I'm not complaining too much). I almost reviewed it today, but I didn't want to jump to conclusions; after having a couple of days to listen to it, I'll write about it.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

She whispered words like he had never heard

Today's post isn't actually about the Swedish singer I mentioned yesterday, though the song (just one today--sorry!) is sung by a Swedish singer. I also have no particularly legitimate for posting it, other than that it makes me smile (and it's moving away from the acoutic guitar-ness that's overwhelmed this place for the past few days). I think the rest of the world discovered it when Jessica of Dirrrty Pop posted it to her mp3 blog, but, since I had just barely begun to care about music back then (let alone read blogs--trust me, I regret coming to it so late now), I just heard it for the first time recently.

Swedish group BWO are recipients of much blogger praise, and very deservedly so--their music is brilliant. However, though the lack of Alexander Bard's touch means this song isn't quite as amazing as the best BWO songs, this solo song by BWO singer Martin Rolinski is still really great. It's from one of the CDs released during his appearance on the TV show Popstars (the CD was a compilation of the various contestants singing, not just Martin) and so, unsurprisingly, is a cover.

Wig Wam Bam--originally done by the Sweet (I think), this version of the song, though it retains a hint of rock edge, is still incredibly poppy (and cheesy, but that's a good thing). You still get the catchy guitar riff, but the vocals aren't as rough. Though it's poppy version of a rock song, it also feels amped up--it's got more power than the original, I think, which really lets you appreciate how catchy it is. It may not be to everyone's taste, but for me, it's just impossible to listen to without smiling.

Normally I link to where you can buy the album the song I've provided is on, but I have no idea where you can get the Popstars album; instead, I'll just link to where you can buy BWO's latest album, Halcyon Days--get it here (physical) or here (digital).

Back to the UK for a moment: I got some e-mail from the Matt Willis listserve today--I don't really understand what it's about (something about schools and New Music Week?), but if you're participating in whatever it is, you should definitely go buy Matt's song (it's just a single for whatever this is, though it'll be on the album) "Ex-Girlfriend" because, based on a 30 second clip, it sounds pretty fun. Speaking of Matt, if you have 4 minutes of spare time, you can go watch this video from McFly's recent tour, in which Matt joins them for their cover of "Don't Stop Me Now." The Click Five, McFly, and Matt Willis--this confirms my belief that I just missed out on the greatest tour ever. The V/McFly/Busted lineup might give them a run for their money (and might still win out, depending on the day), but basically: congratulations to everyone who got to go--I'm sure it was phenomenal.

Next up: I've just found another Swedish Martin who I may (may--that's based more on description than actually hearing his music, though he does have at least one good song) rather like, but I've heard so many good things about his first album that I want to see if I can track it down first before posting...maybe the Swedish singer I was originally planning to write about today, then.

(Picture source: BWO.ru)

I like the way you're not typical, usual, superficial, visual

I only have a couple minutes, but I wanted to post this before I rush off again. First, thanks to the original source and AcerBen over at the Popjustice boards for providing that source, and I'm sure one of the amazing music blogs out there will have the high quality of this song soon, but for right now, here's a sort of subpar audio quality version of it. What song is it? Swedish singer Darin (Darin Zanyar)'s new single, "Perfect." Since this is low audio quality, I don't think it'll hurt sales, but, as always, if anyone would like me to remove the link, just let me know!


I really like it (handclaps! the way he says "the way" at the beginning--"thuh-uh wuh-ay"!), although I wouldn't be surprised if some people are disappointed. It's not quite as good as "Money For Nothing" or "Step Up" at first listen, but I'm pretty sure it will end up being one of those songs I find myself compelled to listen to repeatedly. It's also a little more R&B (though still pop!) than some of his other songs, but, given his singles from his second album, that's no surprise. Break The News, Darin's third album, comes out November 22 and, based on his previous two albums, should be excellent.

Real post later today!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

You wanted something more than this, fell down for someone else's kiss

At least in the U.S., Ryan Cabrera's music brings a lot of baggage with it. He was Ashlee Simpson's boyfriend (he also dated Lisa of the Veronicas, though few people in the U.S. would know who that was). He's what some people would call a "pretty boy" (in the sarcastic, snooty sense of the phrase that I really can't stand). His music could probably be used to accompany teen dramas; it's also very "boy with acoustic guitar." Unfortunately, all this kept me from listening to more than Ryan's singles on the radio for a few years. Luckily, I got over that and gave his first major release album, Take It All Away, a chance, and I am really glad I did--I'm still not going to speak for what he is like personally, but he (or whoever he works with) has come up with some good songs. I do have his second album, You Stand Watching (which I haven't listened to thoroughly yet, but I think it might have been a case of a rushed-out followup that doesn't live up to the previous album), and the indie album that preceded Take It All Away, Elm St., but Take It All Away has more than enough to occupy us for today.

On The Way Down--Ryan's debut single and the song he's probably most known for (although his ballad "True" might be similarly well-known). It's up-tempo and, though it's definitely got a guitar in it, it's not one of those minimal, guitar-only songs; more importantly, it's pretty catchy. It got decent airplay in the U.S. when it first came out--though apparently it only hit #15 on the Billboard charts, I remember hearing it a lot more than that would imply. The music video has Ashlee in it. (Contrary to what the Australian Idol announcer said when introducing Dean Geyer's performance of it, it is "On The Way Down," not "All The Way Down.")

Shame On Me--opening with an almost Latin-sounding guitar part, "Shame On Me" describes Ryan's attempts to pay attention to what a girl is saying while being constantly distracted by how gorgeous she is. Overall, it's a little faster than "On The Way Down." The title isn't that great, but the bridge and chorus are catchy. You could criticize the lyrics if you wanted to, but really, how can you go wrong with "I've always paid attention to your point of view/but now I want to focus on the rest of you"?

Exit To Exit--ahh, the teenage pathos. As in many of the songs on Take It All Away, "Exit To Exit" is about Ryan abandoned by a girl. I instinctively want to say it's a ballad, but it's not really--the chorus is just a little more ballad-like than it is in these other songs, I suppose. Once again, a really catchy chorus--I really can't argue with the boy's music on songs like this. If you like your strummy-acoustic-guitar-but-still-poppy pop, these are some great examples of it.

To buy Ryan Cabrera's debut album, Take It All Away, go here (physical) or here (digital).

On a side note, this may be the best week I know of for the U.S. iTunes' free music downloads. We normally get two a week, and we're lucky if one is half-decent. This week, though, we got Paolo Nutini's "New Shoes" and Robbie Williams's "Kiss Me"--I prefer Robbie's song, but they are both good or great (and from the UK!). Of course, the excitement is slightly dulled by the fact that I might have already had both of those songs--but still, it's exciting both because of the songs themselves and because of the hope it gives me as to what we might get in the future.

In further news of free legal downloads, Arjan Writes has Mika's "Relax (Take It Easy)," which, though it isn't quite as good as "Grace Kelly," is still a good song--worth paying money for, let alone getting for free--though I'm not quite sure how to categorize it either.

Next up: that certain Swedish singer, probably.

Monday, October 16, 2006

What a day, what a day, what a day

This blog seems to be getting more and more random--today will be another conglomeration of news updates and links. I'll try to go through a series of more planned posts after this, though.

The Click Five, who I raved about back in early September, have just finished opening for the McFly tour--I'm sure they did an amazing job, as not only do they have phenomenally good songs, they are also really entertaining live. Their debut album Greetings From Imrie House, when it was released in the U.S., was incredibly good; however, the UK version of their album is even better, practically perfect, though there's only been one small change: "Lies" has been replaced by their brilliant cover of "I Think We're Alone Now." If you haven't already bought it, there's no better time than now; you're missing out on one of the best and most fun albums out there. I am a little worried about their decision to star in the upcoming Christy Carlson Romano movie Taking 5, though.

I don't know what I can do to convince you to go watch Pacific Avenue's Internet TV show, but you have to see it. The episodes are pretty lengthy (20 minutes, roughly), so I haven't made it through all of them, but they are really funny. Not only do Pacific Avenue have a hilarious show (with good music in it), their own music is so classic boyband (but improved/updated/etc. etc. I'm sure their promo materials would say) that I can barely stand it (there may be about a million layered vocals in it, but I actually really like the effect)--in a good (great) way. Go watch their TV show and look at their MySpace--it's worth it.

Speaking of Pacific Avenue, a commenter provided a link to his/her (sorry! I think "his," based on some clips in the show) blog with photos of Pacific Avenue--it is definitely worth a look, not only because I can't get enough of these guys right now, but also because the photos themselves are great--the blog's pretty new, but pop over there and take a look if you get a chance! If the photographer doesn't mind, I'd love to use their photos in future posts about Pacific Avenue--with full credit and citation/links, of course :)

Jim Verraros's official website has been redesigned--very professional-looking, new photos, blah blah blah...when's the new album coming out? Oh...spring 2007--maybe you should say that on the front page and not on the page for the not-yet-open store.

A lot of you probably aren't following Australian Idol, but you really should be. It's worth paying attention to just so you can understand what Scott To Be Certain and CFB Goes Pop are talking about. Scott To Be Certain is, as always, incredibly witty. CFB has an Idol "novel" that you absolutely must read--watch the show, or just read their recaps, so that you can understand the jokes in the novel because it is ridiculously brilliant and hilarious--watching the show is worth it just so you can read what they have to say about it the next day.

Speaking of Australian Idol, I have to return to the topic of Dean Geyer. I mentioned several of his performances a few days ago and, though I was really amused/impressed by him, I said I wasn't sure that he deserved to win. However, there were several amazing things about Dean's most recent performance:

1.) He covered a Ryan Cabrera song! I'm not going to claim that everything Ryan Cabrera has one is genius, but his first album contains some very, very good songs (I've been meaning to post about it--this might spur me to do so).

2.) The contestants were allowed to use guitars. This, of course, proves that they are all "credible" musicians (Jessica Mauboy didn't play a guitar, but the rest did). However! Even after saying that he wanted to make "On The Way Down" rockier and less pop, do you know what Dean did? Halfway through the song, HE THREW AWAY HIS GUITAR! Yes, the precious instrument of the rock establishment, tossed aside in favor of better showmanship. I'm not sure that we can (as the judges did) credit Dean himself for the idea, but whatever--he did it, and that's what matters.

These factors, combined with his consistent improvement (I will concede that Damien's performance was quite good, for that style of music, but we'll have to see what he does next week) and the fact that he can do backflips (I have this thing for backflips--I don't know why, but they fascinate me), mean that I have to revise my opinion from last week. My official vote (even though his voice still doesn't seem that impressive) is...Dean Geyer for Australian Idol 2006! I still can't believe it, though.

Speaking of Australian Idol, I still think that Anthony Callea's latest single is very Disney-sounding. However...I've now succumbed to how absolutely gorgeous his voice is. I know, I know...I'll try to be stronger in the future. At least we have on record that at one point in time I was able to judge it critically...

I've mentioned this site before, but I have to mention it again: blog Digital Technique is really, really great--frequently updated, with the best of old (as in generally 2000's on) and new music. Some unjustly one-hit wonders and artists I probably should have heard but haven't yet--it's definitely worth checking out.

Another new-ish blog worth visiting is Ni Hao Glitter Owl, all about Chinese pop--I don't really know anything about Asian music (that's an entire continent! How can I not know anything?), but I'm finding it fascinating.

Heinz Winckler (whose third album I've ordered but not yet received) is now a married man! Very belated congratulations to him and Alette.

Ben Adams's official website disappeared a few weeks ago, which didn't seem to be a good sign in terms of his album getting released. Now, though, it appears that a redesigned website will be appearing soon, which seems like a good sign--are things moving towards a release? On a side note, all the "for friends only" messages on his MySpace are practically driving me to get a MySpace of my own.

If you visit McFly's MySpace, you can listen to a medley of three songs from their upcoming album Motion In The Ocean (due out November 6, with second single "Star Girl" coming out October 23). I think the first one is "We're The Young" and the second is "Sorry's Not Good Enough," but I'm not sure what the last one is (maybe "Transylvania"? They might say the title at some point, but I can't tell--that guess is just based on the fact that that's a Dougie song and I think that's Dougie singing). At any rate, this looks to be an excellent album (both poppy and not just a return to their first album style--maturer than that), even if I still don't understand some of the song titles ("Bubble Wrap"? Well, maybe I have a guess). I've had an incredibly difficult time getting it to play at all, let alone play the medley without stopping; I know the album release isn't that far away, but, in case anyone else wants to be able to listen to the four-minute medley without waiting for a half an hour for it to load and play, here it is.

Oh, wow--you all had to read all that for just one song, and it's not even a complete one, nor does it have good audio quality. Well...it's got no logical connection to anything I just talked about, but here's another song--I know, since this group is incredibly popular, there's a very good chance people have it already, but since I don't think it's on a regular album (it's from the On The Line soundtrack), maybe some people don't have it:

'N Sync - That Girl (Will Never Be Mine)

To buy the On The Line soundtrack, go here (physical).

Next up: maybe a Swedish singer (not Darin, although, in anticipation of his new album, I might do a follow-up to my earlier post about him at some point), or some electronic-ish stuff.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Jumped into the backseat of a taxi cab--to where, I don't know

Day two of the Alistair Griffin special, this time focusing on some non-album songs. One random detail about Alistair that I forgot to mention yesterday: he co-wrote a song ("Fade Away") that made it to the top 8 in the UK's list of potential 2002 Eurovision entries. It seems like Alistair has a really devoted group of fans (you should see some of the websites dedicated to him--amazing!), so I'm really hopeful that he'll release another album at some point. I'm definitely no expert on him, though, so if I've made any mistakes in describing him or his music or if anyone knows more, I'd love to hear it!

You And Me (Tonight) (Clubstar Remix)--a B-side from the "You And Me (Tonight)" single. Another edit of this remix appeared on a compilation of dance songs, but it was listed as being by "AG vs. Clubstar," which I think is really funny--that the remixers or album compilers were worried that admitting that the original song was by Alistair would mean it wouldn't be accepted (and maybe it wouldn't have been, but did that renaming really fool people for long?). This remix does have a very dance-oriented beat, but Alistair's vocals are slowed down, resulting in an almost haunting effect.

Next up are what I tend to think of as demos, though two out of the four might not be. At any rate, they're not on Alistair's album and I don't think they're on any of his singles. Thanks to this site for the first two (site found by the brilliant Jessica of Dirrrty Pop) and this site for the second two (found through this site--thanks!). I don't necessarily love all four of them, but I do think they're worth listening to. The first two are from before his appearance on Fame Academy and the second two are much more recent--from at least 2005, I think--and were recorded as demos of songs for other artists. Also, I think there are a lot more songs by Alistair floating around out there--I just don't have them.

Kiss And Tell--a sort of mid-tempo song (I say "sort of" because it definitely has its ballad elements), though it doesn't have the energy or bounciness of "Bring It On." It's pretty simple, especially in the chorus.

Last Dance--a ballad. There are some skips in the song (I'm sorry about that--it's the only version I have), but they're tolerable (or at least worth tolerating in order to hear the song). I think I prefer it to "Kiss And Tell," though I couldn't musically pinpoint why--it just works better for me. It has this sort of slow swaying feel to it (which means I actually could see it being played for the last dance at some high school homecoming).

One Crazy Night--moving on to the more recent songs, we have what is definitely my favorite out of these four songs (though part of that might be just because I like uptempo, energetic songs so much). A lot of people have compared Alistair's voice on this song and on "Kiss And Tell" to Ronan Keating (as in, he's "putting on" a Ronan voice), who I've never really listened to, so I can't say one way or the other. It sounds like it would fit in on Bring It On--it's got a similar energy about it. (Incidentally, this song has also been called "Take It To The Limit.")

Take Me Home--a ballad and, though it's less catchy than "Last Dance," it does show a bit more maturity.

To buy the single "You And Me (Tonight)," go here (physical)...and I'd like to recommend his album, Bring It On, again--you can buy it here (physical) or here (digital).

Next up: I'm not sure--maybe a remix.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Hear the radio blast all the worries from my head

Alistair Griffin is a UK singer-songwriter who first became famous when he took second place during the second season of Fame Academy. However, he'd had several near-brushes with fame before that--he was a member of boyband Ultra (not during their peak popularity) and he auditioned for the boyband Blue. As a solo artist, though, he makes amazing music (generally pop with strummy guitars), a fact which, unfortunately, seems to be often ignored by the general public. His first single, "Bring It On," hit #5 on the UK charts, but his followup, "You And Me (Tonight)" only made it to #18, and he's no longer signed to the same record company. He spent a while gigging around on his own, but apparently he's now performing as part of the band Albion. I haven't really listened to Albion's music, but Alistair makes amazing solo songs. The Alistair Griffin special will last two days, with today's focus being on songs from his album Bring It On and tomorrow's being some non-album songs.

Bring It On--Alistair's debut single and a really catchy piece of happy, guitar-strummy pop. It's got inspirational, keep-going lyrics, but even if you couldn't understand what Alistair was saying, the music does a perfect job of communicating what he's talking about. It's really a perfect mood-lifting song (and I love the little edge he puts on the "on" of "turn it up, turn it on"--"turn it awn").

You And Me (Tonight)
--Alistair's second single, and it's a ballad, but it's a very good one--simple though not really minimal backing that sweetly accompanies Alistair's heartfelt-sounding (almost as if he's pleading; "heart-tugging" might be a better word) delivery.

Painkiller--I love "Bring It On," but this might be my favorite Alistair Griffin song. It's mid- to up-tempo, catchy and just generally great. The chorus is really what seals that preference, but even the verses are really good. Alistair's songs always seem deceptively simple, and they're never overwhelming--though they could easily work for getting yourself pumped up or reenergized, they could also be work as something soothing. Plus, how can you not love a song that has "doo doo doo"'s in it?

Hungry For Love--a Dutch band covered this, and (though I haven't heard their version) for good reason--it's a great song. It's a little rockier than "Bring It On" and "Painkiller" (though that doesn't mean it has annoyingly loud guitars) but it's really great, too.

To buy Alistair Griffin's debut album Bring It On (and I really recommend it--choosing just a few songs to post was very difficult; you might not love every song on it, but the good songs [that is, the vast majority of songs] are very good--Alistair is clearly a great songwriter and performer--"Something About Her" and "In Your Smile" are definitely songs to check out, and The Calling's "Wherever You Will Go" fits Alistair so well that it was must have been meant to be covered by him), go here (physical) or here (digital).

Next up: Alistair Griffin, part 2--some non-album songs (a B-side and some demos).