Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Why these tears?

I've said before how much I love Norwegian Idol winner Aleksander With's winner's single "A Little Too Perfect," a perfect upbeat pop song which still holds the title of my favorite winner's single (probably mainly because it deviates so much from the usual template). Much as I understand his desire to pursue more melancholy music after that, I've never been able to click with any of it as much as I wanted to based on that first single.

It's taken a few months, but "What's The Story," the lead single from his second album, might just have won me over. It continues Aleksander's pursuit of a more piano-pop-rock singer-songwriter sound that tries to struggle up from the emotional lows of life (rather than celebrating the highs like "A Little Too Perfect"). Most semi-ballads of this type that I fall for have some big sing-a-long moment, a swooning or keening release or a simple little hook; "What's The Story" doesn't really, though the chorus is strong enough, albeit in a subtle, restrained way, that you could sing along if you wanted to (what really does it for me is the little piano riff that accompanies each line of the chorus). As a result, it's not a song I could see on American radio, but (theoretically, not realistically) elsewhere in Europe, where life in a minor metaphorical key is more musically acceptable? Sure.

It may have taken a few months for my heartstrings to feel it, but mark them down as now officially tugged.

Aleksander With's single "What's The Story" is available for purchase here (digital).

Just for fun and nothin' meant

I've given in and joined the Twitter crowd. Even if you don't have your own Twitter account (if you do, I'd love if you'd follow me), popping by to check out my account every once in a while will keep you up-to-date with new songs I'm listening to but either haven't got around to writing about yet or bits of news that feel too short for the blog. Lately I've been mentioning the second single from Najoua Belyzel's new album, the Mylene Farmer-dedicated "M (Hey Hey Hey)"...

Veuillez installer Flash Player pour lire la vidéo

...a new Blake Lewis song, "Binary Love" (on writer/producer Carl Ryden's MysSpace), which isn't as good as "Heartbreak On Vinyl" but is still OK...

...and the FANTASTIC, GORGEOUS middle eight to Britney's new single "3." Sweet and lovely, in a slightly "Brave New Girl" way.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Take you to the end of the Earth

One of my songs of the moment comes from Trixie. British singer DollFace was a member of never-got-off-the-ground girl group Silhouettes, whose retro pop song "Surrender" Popjustice wrote about. Demo "Ms. Jamaica" has a very different sound than "Surrender," but I like it even more. Apparently co-written by Jasmine Baird, it's modern electronic pop with production elements that Trixie rightly compares to RedOne, though it's more a useful reference point for writers than real copying on the part of its creators. There's something special about how its synths slice and dice--gently--and about the attitude and delivery DollFace brings to the song...something very commercial but with just a bit of mystery to it--the sort of song that, like Mandy Moore's "In My Pocket," you listen to as you explore a new city...something that gets you hoping she and her collaborators will be able to keep up this level of material.

On another front, "Boomerang," another demo on her MySpace, sounds really familiar to me--anyone able to place it?

I'll never find nobody else, babe


What the heck is "I'll Never Love Again" doing on the tracklist for Taio Cruz's second album? Granted, I've spent a year complaining that that track from his first album was never a single and it's one of the songs that played a big role in getting me to buy that album, but (unless it's a different song with the same title), I do NOT want people getting inspired by all this "Radar" ridiculousness. For heaven's sake, it was the FIRST TRACK on Departure.

It's still a beautiful sad modern R&B-pop mid-tempo ballad, though.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Don't know what to say or do

Norwegian singer Samsaya's new single, "ADHD (Love Me Not)," the third in advance of her album, has what you could either call a commonplace or derivative sound, depending on how generous you're feeling, but after several days of listening to it, I'm still just as hooked as ever, which makes me think it might have more lasting value than some of the random one-country pop singles that crop up . If nothing else, that opening "love me, love, love, love, love me" hook is instantly catchy, but I'm increasingly convinced there's something of value to the entire song, not just that part.

Samsaya's "ADHD (Love Me Not)" is available on iTunes internationally here or digitally regardless of country here.

The way you kiss keeps me hangin' on

(I'm running a little experiment to see how I can go about streaming songs that aren't on YouTube--Imeem isn't ideal, as embedded it only lets non-users listen to thirty seconds [unless the song was uploaded by its creator], but it's the best option I know of at the moment, without paying for something. If anyone else has any ideas, please let me know!)

What has Danish songwriter/producer Thomas Troelsen (of Private and great songs like Monrose's "Hot Summer") been up to lately?

Well, since his official site hasn't be updated, I can't give you a comprehensive list. I do know a few things he's been working on, though:

Probably the highest profile thing he's done recently is produce the Raveonettes' new album, In And Out Of Control (streaming there). The Danish boy-girl duo is usually kind of rocky (and cool), but they sound a little more pop this time around to my ears. Granted, I haven't listened to the full album yet, but songs like "Bang" (with its Phil Spector '60s prodution meeting '80s melodies performed by modern Scandinavian indie-pop singers) have succeeded in catching my ear.

Danish electronica music creator Kenneth Bager's latest single, the "Ain't No Mountain High"-sampling "Fragment Sixteen (I Can't Wait)" (clip here), features Thomas's vocals. It seems Kenneth Bager's years-old album Fragments from a Space Cadet is getting some sort of international release...I think...and this new song is being used to lead up to that release. Personally, I prefer the less party-friendly "Fragment Two (The First Picture)," featuring Julee Cruise.

Thomas is also the producer of the new single from Maria Montell, a Danish singer who
apparently usually sings bossa nova-styled songs. "Bang Bang Boogie" has some of that Troelsen funk to it, though (strangely, for me) the chorus feels cheesier than I'd like--kitschier might be a better word--considering the opening verse, which seems like it's going for a more haunting vibe.

'Cause I don't even know what you want

Popjustice has the wonderful new cover for Will Young's upcoming greatest hits-promoting single "Hopes & Fears," but just as good as that cover is the clip of the song on Popjustice. It's worth your thirty seconds--there may be talk of tears and being brought down, but it's got that special gently upbeat feel good magic about it.

"Hopes & Fears" is out November 8, but I hope it gets its radio debut soon. Speaking of Will, apparently "Tell Me The Worst" was some sort of single from the album, but only a "club promo"--is that right? Does that mean no radio play? Shame if so--my favorite song on Will's pretty great last album, Let It Go, tied with "I Won't Give Up."

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sometimes when I close my eyes it feels like I'm living by numbers

ARGH. How can this be HAPPENING?

*throws all the toys out of the pram*

(That's not to say this new incarnation couldn't potentially make great music...but can it possibly still sound like the Sugababes?)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Oh, please, there's no competition

Linda Sundblad's latest single, "2 All My Girls," pulls off the surprising feat of being both more electro-pop and more pop-rock than her last solo outing, 2006's Oh My God! (exclamation point hers). Parts of the song could almost be Lambretta, albeit a tamed version, but those electro bleeps of the verse mark the song out as different territory; you can hear there that the same person who co-wrote Elin Lanto's "Speak 'n Spell" is doing this song. The kicky '80s beat is more Kim Wilde than hard rock. In fact, '90s-styled though the music video may be, "2 All My Girls" keeps up Linda's love of the '80s. This time out, though, her girlish voice coos less--though that girlishness brings an added level of snide to her "yeah, yeah" brush-off--and enters pop-rock anthem territory more...while never actually fully giving itself over to rock. The guitars are kept in check here, used to build the sound but not to drown everything else out. Nick said the song has a "schizo-melody," and he's right, with every part having its own hook, usually multiple.

There's no suble loss like "Lose You," no pure pop joyous release like "Cheat" or "Back In Time," but man, "2 All My Girls" is a heck of a lot of fun. Some people are just born with the attitude to be a popstar*--Linda's got it--and "2 All My Girls"'s songwriters and producers have fine-tuned this song into just enough control to make it pop but with the same explosive release you get from the best rock songs...or the best schlager songs, for that matter, with its great keychange and ad libs as the song moves towards its end. The end result? A killer electro-pop-meets-pop-rock song--which adds up to double the pop appeal.

To buy Linda Sundblad's new single, "2 All My Girls," go here (digital). The song will only be posted for a short time since it's a new single.

*Even if her styling wouldn't always let you know it.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Every second counts

Apparently, Kris Allen's debuting-on-Monday single is a cover of the Script's "We Cry" b-side, "Live Like We're Dying."

Further "apparently," it sounds something like this:

There's not much crazier than judging a song based on a twenty second clip, but a few preliminary thoughts come up.

On the one hand, sounding like the Script--well, sounding like the best half of the Script's musical output--is about as good a sound for Kris as I could have hoped for. On the other hand, I couldn't really recognize his voice for the whole first part of that clip, until he actually sang the "gotta live like we're dying" line--which probably concerns me more than the fact that his lead single is a cover (it's a great song, definitely better than the A-side it accompanied, not exactly widely heard given its B-side status, and suits Kris sound-wise perfectly; what we do hear of his voice here melds into the song perfectly). I think my (very premature) attitude for the moment is: idea of the cover is fine...hopefully it's just not lazily done. He's an American Idol winner, so really, the odds that it will be shouldn't be that great.

Anyway, potentially promising start for Kris--now hopefully he follows through and Adam Lambert and Allison Iraheta both deliver.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

There's no competition

I need to run, but Linda Sundblad's "To All My Girls"/"2 All My Girls" music video is playing here. More later!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

They never listen and they talk too much

Getting spins from me recently: Janet Jackson's "Make Me," covered well at #1 Hits and XOLondon. Apparently it's by Darkchild, which might prompt me to finally finish my week-old "Darkchild is on a roll recently" post.

Speaking of modern grown-up dance-meets-pop: Ysa Ferrer--amazing (with a hat-tip to Aces at the PJ Forums). Why have I not been listening like crazy to her already? Impeccably produced French dance-pop--the kind that probably has substance to it. "Sens interdit" isn't her current single (which is the possibly more fun, more musically intense, and also great but maybe just barely not quite as much so "Last Zoom"), but it was released as a single this year (albeit just barely...January), which means I can count it for my eventual singles countdown. Thank goodness. Expect more about her.

This news comes several months too late, but since Paula Lobos's awesome über-cute dance-influenced pop song "Touch The Light," which Don't Stop The Pop introduced me to, is actually playlisted on P3, here's the video for it:

It was co-written by RamPac, the duo behind Swingfly's equally awesome "Singing That Melody" and "Touch And Go." "Touch The Light" doesn't bear any genre similarities to either of those two hip-pop-rock songs, but it shows a similar ear for an adorable bubbly pop hook, like that of "Touch And Go."

"Touch The Light" is available on iTunes internationally here or you can buy a digital copy regardless of your country here.

Dolly Rockers' new single, "Boys Will Be Boys," is not the song that first hooked me on them, "How Did I End Up With You?", but it is great. It opens with a Katy Perry's "Hot N Cold" style electronic bounce before going into what Paul called Veronicas-ish singing in the bridge and chorus (for some reason it makes me think of the Veronicas doing the chorus in their demo of "All About Us," only with more complete production). If you've only liked "How Did I End Up With You?" so far and found their other material a bit too novelty for you, "Boys Will Be Boys" may help win you over.

I close my eyes, I fall through time

Apropos of nothing, Australian singer (and former Bardot member) Sophie Monk's six year old album track "Come My Way" is still pretty amazing, in that same "wow, what is this amazing song doing sitting here as an album track?" way that A*Teens' "Closer To Perfection" is.

Apparently someone agreed, since Japanese singer Namie Amuro later covered it.

Still, my preferred version is Sophie's, a grown-up modern dance-disco-pop song full of distant longing, solidified in the realm of perfection with its piano and string riffs--one of those sadness-tinged songs to dance the night away to.

If you force me to connect this post to something actually currently relevant, Lake Heartbeat, a blog-featured Swedish indie-credible disco-pop project which features one of "Come My Way"'s co-writers, just released their debut album Trust In Numbers. That's not necessarily a recommendation--I haven't listened to it yet.

"Come My Way" is on Sophie Monk's only solo album, Calendar Girl, which you can buy here (physical) or here (digital).

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Leave the past behind

A couple of promo things I've been meaning to mention, but, ridiculously, haven't yet:

I've written about the amazing London-based club night Scandipop before, but Tuesday the 29 provides an extra reason to get excited about the work its creator does: BWO will be performing. The flyer above contains all the information. I'd love to go if I wasn't across an ocean from it.

I'm currently moonlighting--along with a bunch of other great bloggers--as a panelist over at Pop Trash Addicts Pop Panel. This week's results find me being about as middle-of-the-road on everything as it's possible to be, but luckily the rest of the panel makes up for it...a panel that this week includes Robyn Loau. Mike may play up the trashy aspect of his choices for us to review, but it's also true that his panel is doing one of the best jobs of introducing people to great music they might not otherwise take the time to listen to.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Someone to believe in me

Mini-Linda Sundblad update: it looks like "2 All My Girls"/"To All My Girls" is released September 21 by Roxy Recordings, with this picture as the cover (which does make it seem like she might be going by just Linda this time around). I've still got no idea what it sounds like or even if it's worth getting excited about, but it's too late--I already am.

Roxy also has a series of what I'm presuming are some of the new press photos on its website here.

Tuesday edit: Linda just announced the video for the single will be available on MSN.se on Thursday.

Friday, September 11, 2009

I just wanna make you mine

I've been on a little bit of a songwriter/producer playlist kick recently--making iTunes playlists of what I perceive as the best work of some of my favorite behind-the-scenes music creators. They're all still very much works in progress, even beyond the fact that they always have to open to change as long as the songwriter is still creating new songs, but as I was working on the one for Dr. Luke, I was reminded of just how much I love Ciara's "Tell Me What Your Name Is," an album track from Ciara's most recent release, Fantasy Ride.

If you think of Dr. Luke, your mind probably goes straight to his guitar-filled pop c.2005 work (Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone," Pink's "U + Ur Hand," the Veronicas' "4Ever") or his c.2008 electronic bounce (Katy Perry's "Hot 'n Cold," Flo Rida feat. Kesha's "Right Round"). Obviously there are exceptions to those gross generalizations, but I don't know that I'd group "Tell My What Your Name Is" with any of his other work. If anything, it's more like a version of Ciara's own "The Promise" which takes away some of the emphasis on drums and replaces it with synth sparkles (and has fewer cooed "ooo"s but keeps and even enhances the super-feminity of Ciara's voice on that song and makes it sound even more gorgeous). It's a smoochy, lovey-dovey ballad which has been produced to keep it from sounding too slow--which is just how I like my smoochy ballads.

For the course of the song, we hear none of the crunchy guitars, hyper-kinetic jolts, or filth-flirting lyrics which we sometimes get from Dr. Luke, but three minutes and forty seconds of the most gorgeous, lush R&B-pop sound you can imagine.

Find it on Fantasy Ride, which you can buy here (physical).

Thursday, September 10, 2009

I wanna hear you say that you'll be fine and you're doin' OK

Despite loving the pirate-esque "Sun Goes Down" (in which what might otherwise be thought of as a soul voice was matched to welcomingly strange but commercialized pop), I never bought British singer David Jordan's debut album. The clip of his new single, "(Don't Wanna) Hear You Say" Popjustice posted, though, has had me keeping an eye out for his new material.

It was worth the wait. "(Don't Wanna) Hear You Say" is far less distinctive in sound than David's aforementioned second single, but both the Bakerboys Original Mix and the Wideboys Stadium Radio Edit are fantastic. The original mix is slinkier, a side to side shuffle based on a simple percussion beat and prettily kept from sparseness with quickly ascending and descending synths and string-mimicking sounds, while the Wideboys mix dances up the song--which never felt like a full ballad--while still keeping it in radio-friendly territory, but in either version, the strong main melody is accompanied by equally strong production. David's got a voice I enjoy listening to, which means that "(Don't Wanna) Hear You Say" sounds even better than it might in the hands of artists with arguably similar sounds.

According to Popjustice, the single comes out October 26, though I wouldn't be surprised if that date changed again.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Overload all my senses

Some of the great things about how music-filled the Internet has become are the insight we get into songs while they're still being prepared for recording or release and the proliferation of new songs from across the globe that we might never otherwise have heard of.

Of course, this comes with frustrations, too. One of the ones that drives me the most crazy is hearing a fantastic song and not knowing who sings it, a danger that comes up frequently when you follow songwriters but that also comes up often when supposed demos for big artists are leaked; think Eva Simons's "Silly Boy," for example.

The song currently driving me crazy in this way is below.

Internet land has alternately referred to this song as being called "Exit (Give Me A Heart Attack" by an unknown singer and "Exit" sung by David Jassy and produced by Twin. I could believe that David and the duo from Twin created the song (which I think appeared on the Internet in 2008), but from the few times I've been exposed to David's voice--mainly on raps, to be fair (see: Darin's "Karma," an inappropriate song title given the event David Jassy has received press for)--I really don't think it's him singing. What I do know is this: I LOVE it. It's a fantastic catchy example of the R&B meets Europop sound popular at the moment, with the added advantage of having strings. The singer's voice--male and R&B-pop-sounding--suits the song to a T...I just don't know who he is.

While we're on the subject of David Jassy, I have to mention a piece of news Damian clued me into: a previously unheard Darin song has leaked. Club-friendly "Pop That" is the most R&B (maybe most American? Not quite what I mean, but I can't figure out how to put what I mean into words) we've heard Darin sound, though it's still synthesizer-filled, and comes from the studios of David and Ilya, who have worked with him before. That fact means I don't know where this song fits in chronologically--it's being billed as new, and it could be, but I just don't know if that's the case (and I don't know how much new song creation David Jassy has been doing...but this is somewhat of a new sound for Darin, so that fits with the "new song" idea).

Sunday, September 06, 2009

I just wanted to hold you in my arms

On the one hand, I'm thrilled that Adam Lambert is getting to work with a plethora of big-name songwriters; I hope that adds up to top-quality material, a to-die-for mix of pop, electro, dance, and rock that still feels like Adam and no one else. On the other hand...

I hope his debut album has time for a song like his cover of Muse's "Starlight." At the risk of sounding too pretentious, there's a clarity and beauty to it--a magic to it, as there is a magic to the original track--that his debut album (due out November 24) would do well to remember.

Friday, September 04, 2009

I waited for you at the record shop

The title track from Blake Lewis's upcoming album: l-o-v-e it. My fears that this would be an indie-dance album that ditched all pop sensibilities apparently couldn't have been more wrong. The soundscape created is definitely electronica influenced, but the melody and the way the synths are harnessed couldn't be more pop--in other words, it's a perfect combination. We've only heard it in low quality so far, but even at lower bitrates, you can hear how it's going to sparkle. Beautiful and uptempo, it's the sort of song that fills you with energy--yes, it passes the "has me wanting to jump around my room" test--but tugs just a bit, only gently, at those heartstrings, too.

(This is usually where I would embed a YouTube video of the song, but it's not there yet. Listen by subscribing to his mailing list.)

My expectations for this album just skyrocketed. Could I actually end up loving it more than his debut? It's hard to imagine, given that I spun that record more than any other of the past few years (well, except maybe Erik Hassle's), but suddenly, hearing "Heartbreak On Vinyl," which just might be the most grown-up sound from Blake yet--and I didn't even realize I wanted any other sound from him until hearing this song and now suddenly know that, if this is the alternative, I do--I'm starting to think Blake might actually do it.

To preorder Blake Lewis's new album, Heartbreak On Vinyl, go here. It comes out October 6.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Things were so different, now you're gone, I thought it'd be easy, I was wrong

More songwriter notes and random artist tidbits (I really am going to do more in depth posts, less "news bullet"-y, soon):

Johan "Kermit" Bobäck is working with Darin on new music (he previously collaborated with him on "Seasons Fly").

Apparently British boy band a1 are reuniting for some concerts in Norway in early December and will be performing both old and (gasp!) new songs. I am not ashamed to admit I got more than a bit excited listening to the group rehearse modern classic "Caught In The Middle." Speaking of new songs, Ben Adams, who appeared on this blog many a time in its early days, has a new-ish song on his MySpace (listen to it in higher quality on Facebook), "The Dust Won't Settle," which is really pretty pleasant (albeit sad) pop-rock--more like third album a1 than most of what we've heard of his solo album, but it shows he's just as great with a melody and with his voice. Love it. Ben has also (as I think I've mentioned before) written for Alexandra Burke's upcoming album.

Blake Lewis apparently worked with Darkchild for his upcoming album Heartbreak on Vinyl (out October 6). Listen to some beats but no vocals in this video.

If you're a sucker for über-bubblegummy Swedish pop that sounds like it could have come straight out of the '90s--I mean the really sugary sweet, cheesy kind--you might want to listen to Three's "Lucky Number." Who are Three? Three blonde sixteen year old triplets. You can probably already imagine what the music sounds like. Of course, me being me, bubblegum pop is always welcome, especially if it's got a Swedish connection.

Georgie Dennis, sister of Cathy and songwriter in her own right, has a song called "Dirty Drum" on her MySpace that sounds like it's sung by Elin Lanto. There are better, non-Elin songs there, though.

Carl Falk uploaded some new songs to his MySpace a few months ago. I presume they're demos, though I've got no actual proof of that. My favorite is "Shameless," co-written by him, Lindy Robbins, Kristian Lundin, and Rami Yacoub; it's very pop.

Speaking of demos uploaded on MySpace months ago, Tony Nilsson put the demo of Elin Lanto's "Discotheque" on his MySpace. I'm a total demo addict, as I've convinced before, so for me, hearing the substantial differences--though in this case, it's not a matter of voice, since even the demo contains Elin's voice--is really fascinating. The final version is definitely better, but there are some lost elements which, though they probably had to be lost for the sake of the song, I love.

Still here waiting

This post comes with no real commentary because I'm in the process of of my first listen right now.

To what? Fibes, Oh Fibes!'s new album, 1987, which you too can listen to, right here. The link will only work until Wednesday, 9:30 AM Swedish time, though.

I will say that so far it sounds more '70s (especially in instrumentation) than '80s.

Thanks to Damian for the heads-up!

If you haven't listened to the Kim Wilde-featuring "Run To You" (which is very '80s and very good) now's your chance:

Your love is like a weapon

I'm not sure whether Lady GaGa's decision to write a song for Michael Bolton was from her wear-a-suit-of-Kermits, do-anything-to-get-people-talking-about-how-crazy-I-am side or born out of a genuine interest in making a great song that she thought would work really well with his voice and a willingness to ignore usual rules of cool for the sake of achieving something good, but whatever her reasoning, "Murder My Heart," the result, means that whether or not she intended the latter, she's done it.

The melody--which would have been perfect for an '80s film--and piano-meets-synth backing are strong enough that I would most likely have enjoyed the song regardless of who was singing it, but there's a roughness in Michael's voice--not wholely unexpected given that he was never the smoothest of the power ballad crooners, but that earlier trait has been mangified; Michael Bolton meets...age--that makes it stick in your mind just that bit more.

GaGa on backing vocals, as on Britney Spears's "Quicksand," makes me appreciate her voice in these small, pathos-inducing cameos just as she did on that earlier Britney song. I've never been fully sold on any ballad (or half-ballad, as "Murder My Heart" is) she's sung by herself, but boy, can she take one to the next level when used in that capacity.