Friday, July 30, 2010

In love and it's so overrated


Mexican group Belanova's new single, "Nada de más," comes out August 2, apparently. You can listen to a clip below. It sounds pretty fantastic, but then again, I would expect nothing less for the lead single for their new album, Sueño Electro I.

Swedish singer Nanne's new album, En Rastlös Själ, comes out October 6. It's been preceded by the singles "Otacksamhet" and "I Natt Är Jag Din," with one more, the title track, to be released August 18. The cover of the album is at left and the single cover can be viewed here. Other upcoming Swedish albums you may be interested in: Darin's Lovekiller (August 18), Ola's new album (September 15--at least, that's what I read at one point, but Ola now says that it's only 28 days away), and Robyn's Body Talk Pt. II (September 6 internationally). You should be able to buy all those albums from Bengans, though Ola's album isn't listed yet and it probably makes more financial sense to buy Robyn's album from a music distributor in your home country.

The third proper single from the reformed a1, following on "Take You Home" and "Don't Wanna Lose You Again," is "In Love And I Hate It." It's out August 4 in Norway, but the group has been performing it live recently. If you want an advance feel for what it sounds like, here's one such performance.

You know "Champagne Lemonade," that great new song from upcoming British singer Ed Drewett which I wrote about a month ago? It's co-written by Tim Powell of Xenomania. Now we know why it's so buzzily fun. Unusually, for a song coming from a member of Xenomania that we actually get to hear, its only authors are Tim and Ed.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Nothing starts 'til I say go


Britney Spears's "When I Say So"--the full thing, not that tease of a clip we heard last year--has finally, finally, FINALLY leaked.

01 When I Say So by poppostergirl

On the list of songs locked away in vaults that you know exist but have never been heard, "When I Say So" has been high on my desperate-to-hear list. It's one of the songs BT created for the pop princess during the Britney era. The full story of how her work with BT went from album anchors and lead single (as the amazing "Before The Goodbye" was once meant to be) to one import bonus track ("Before The Goodbye"), a b-side ("I Run Away"), and an unreleased song ("When I Say So") can be read here. The gist, though, is this: inspired by the success of the BT-produced "Pop" by 'N Sync, Britney's people asked BT to work on material for her. When the album ended up going in the more R&B, dirty funk direction of songs like "I'm A Slave For You" by the Neptunes, the futuristic pop songs BT had created were set aside.

Now, though, like manna from pop heaven, "When I Say So" has arrived, and it's just as good as we could have imagined--not just better than most of the songs on Britney, but one of Britney's best songs, period.

"When I Say So" is not available for purchase anywhere, but you can support Britney and BT's work together by buying "Before The Goodbye" on Britney here (physical).

Monday, July 26, 2010

Things can fall apart

I love some good pop-rock. I've had trouble finding much this year (recommendations would be very welcome)--and the past few years, come to think of it--but Swedish group Fashion's "Blinded By The Dark" fits in that category.

Lead singer Jakob Erixson is the Erixson of Holter/Erixson, the production team perhaps best known for their remixes but also responsible for songs by Shirley Clamp and Kostas Martakis, amongst others. Fashion has apparently been around for a little while, but there may have been some forward motion in the past half-year. I don't know of an official single release date yet (though their site says an album, Eau de Vie, is coming this year), but at least Lionheart, the record company with which I think Jakob is affiliated as a songwriter, has mentioned them on their site now.

"Blinded By The Dark" is prettily mid-to-up-tempo pop that just happens to be played by a band. Supplemented by some chuggy backing effects (they first kick in during the second half of the first verse), humming, and piano, the song musically conveys the feeling of struggling to soar while being pulled back. I mean that as no insult--based on the lyrics, I think "troubled anthemic" as opposed to just "anthemic" is actually its goal.

Slightly tangentially, the best thing Oscar Holter and Jakke Erixson have ever done? The Holter/Erixson vs. Tom Bola remix of "Burn," one of the songs they wrote for now defunct Irish pop group Industry. Swooshy pop-dance remixes don't come much better than this.

There's nowhere to buy Fashion's "Blinded By The Dark" yet, but you can listen to several other songs on their official site here.

Friday, July 23, 2010

I'll make my first steps in the sand

Dance songs are like buses: you wait forever for one song sampling Nik Kershaw's "The Riddle" to come along, and then two come along at the same time.

Actually, neither Giorgio Prezioso & Marvin's "The Riddle" or JayKay's "Princess" is recommended, but it's an odd coincidence, like Everything But The Girl's "Waiting For A Star To Fall" all over again. Listening to "Princess" is a particularly surreal experience since it's basically what Flo Rida's "Right Round" would have sounded like had its creators decided to sample "The Riddle" instead of "You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)." No exaggeration--if you ignore my strenuous warnings, have three minutes to waste, and listen to it, there's no way you'll be able to see it as anything else.

More worth your time in terms of summer dance fluff is Spanish group Dreaminfusion's organic dance song "The World In My Hand," which, like the aforementioned songs, features on Volume 13 of Vale Music's annual Disco Estrella. It's a release I always look forward to more than I should, given Vale's general cheap tendencies, the often year-old nature of many of the songs, and the "playing in the background at your nighttime beach party" vibe, but the series can feature some gems; it's the first place many of us heard Lucky Twice's "Lucky," for example.

A few more days may reveal if there are other songs worth mining from it (though it already obviously features some of the best singles of last year, including two of my favorite dance songs, DJ Layla's "Single Lady" and Junior Caldera's "What You Get"), but, to be honest, I've not given Disco Estrella much of my time yet--I've had difficulty tearing myself away from Kpop the past few days.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Your beauty haunts me though I haven't seen your face

I've been having trouble sleeping lately. I know, boring story, but it gets worse--wait until you see how that cheesily leads into today's song.

Insomnia by poppostergirl

Cheddar, right? I think the reason demo singer and co-writer Lisa Greene wants to have trouble sleeping is a little different from my experience, though. "Insomnia" evokes less lying bored in bed counting sheep and more fevered tossing and turning between tangled sheets. Its writers are the creators of Britney Spears's "Breathe On Me" and that's certainly a shared lineage you'll have no trouble hearing.

Maybe they're too similar to appear on the same album, but the headphone-ready grown-up bedroom sexiness and ambience-creating style of "Breathe On Me," "State Of Grace" (once again by these writers and which Lisa also sang the demo for), "Insomnia," and another old demo, "Under Your Skin," makes me wish Britney would record at least one of these sorts of songs for each album. I imagine Kylie was a possible target for many of them as well--and I love her--and sure, you could imagine Rachel Stevens or any number of other female pop singers doing it, but no one suits these songs better than Britney.

There's nowhere to buy Lisa Greene's work as a singer. She's co-written and sung the demos for a number of fantastic pop songs over the years, but it seems like her passion as a recording artist is more in line with jazz or bossa nova; you can listen to some of that work on her MySpace. The best option for financially supporting her is probably buying a song she's co-written. Britney Spears's "Breathe On Me," for example, is on In The Zone, which you can buy here (physical) or here (digital).

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Loverholic, robotronic

Thanks to Nikki and LeAnna for being the reasons this post exists.

Korean boy band SHINee just released their new album. It's their second full album, but, due to the number of rereleases and EPs Korean record labels tend to put out, the group is responsible for a lot more material than your average American act by the time of their sophomore release.

The title track and lead single, "Lucifer," is like a ravier version of the dirty electro sound of some Remee/Troelsen productions (Sarah Connor's "Under Your Skin," for example, which has been covered by another Korean boy band), though it's by Yoo Young-jin, the writer of SHINee's earlier hit "Ring Ding Dong" and Super Junior's "Sorry Sorry." "Lucifer" is from that futuristic, piecey strain of Kpop, a mosaic made from the smashed windows of a spaceship. Its irregular pieces jut together to form a whole that lacks fluidity but which is almost more impressive because you can see how its parts fit together. If an artist from another country released this song, it would probably be more vocally melodic and less rat-a-tat machine gun-fire, but that's no complaint.

With Darin apparently too busy making (admittedly very good) '80s ballads to give us the sharp, edgy male-sung urban pop the music scene needs, someone had to step up.

Someone has.

(Also, on a personal note, I'd just like to say how much I've missed seeing choreographed group dancing in music videos. I'm a child of the late '90s pop boom--I can't help it.)

SHINee's new album, Lucifer, can be purchased here (physical).

Monday, July 19, 2010

Don't fall recklessly, headlessly in love with me

Ladies and gentlemen, the new Robyn single, "Hang With Me," via Radio 1:

Hang With Me by poppostergirl

An acoustic version appeared on Body Talk Pt I, but the song was originally released by Paoloa, a Swedish singer and former partner of Klaus Åhlund. This incarnation of the song doesn't really resemble either of its predecessors (well, predecessors to us, if not in terms of when they were made), though; it's not a traditional dance song--would you expect one from Robyn?--but its backing is much more in that direction.

"Dancing On My Own" was a total triumph, a melding of "Be Mine!" and "With My Heartbeat" that might--might--be better than either, so "Hang With Me" has a lot to live up to. Is it better? It's too early to truly judge, but perhaps not. Is it a worthy new single? Yes, oh yes.

"Hang With Me" is the lead single for Robyn's Body Talk Pt II, out September 6, as is the single. You should eventually be able to order them both from here.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

You make me feel like the act of love is empty

Is there a song with sadder lyrics than Darren Hayes's "Unlovable"?

The electro-pop song's structure is flawless: the verses find the former Savage Garden singer aggressively spitting out his feelings while the chorus mixes a squelchy beat with a more expansive melody that in another context would be radio singalong fodder across the world. Musically, it's perfect. Darren could be singing almost anything and I'd love it.

Those lyrics, though. They, in all their awful emotive specificity, are what secures this song its place as one of the best things recorded in the '00s. The disgust the narrator feels for his subject and for himself, his depression, his anger, his desperation, his helplessness--I hope no one reading this ever has reason to feel "Unlovable" strikes them straight to their core, but it captures the tormented state of mind of an emotionally abusive relationship better than any song I can imagine.

"Unlovable" is on Darren Hayes's excellent second album, The Tension and the Spark, which can be purchased here (physical) or internationally on iTunes here.

Start to dial your number, then I disconnect

Sam Taylor's "It's A Mistake" has been featured on Fizzy Pop, Pop Trash Addicts, Chart Rigger, and many other sites and I'm months remiss in doing the same, but it's better late than never. Well, that's only slightly true since the song is no longer streaming on Sam's SoundCloud, but you can listen to other music by him on his MySpace.

Bobby of Don't Stop The Pop and Paul of My Fizzy Pop have been largely responsible for getting me to fall for the balladeering of British singer Sam Taylor. After featuring on a television soundtrack and revealing several songs last year, Sam went quiet for a little while, but he returned recently with what's easily my favorite song from him yet. "Beautiful" and "heartrending" may be overused words in the music industry courtesy of overhyped press releases, but "It's A Mistake" is the rare song that earns them.

Sam's singing conveys a desperate need and a deep fear without actually sounding desperate. He shows the skill of a good actor: allowing us to sense his emotion and the strength of it without overplaying his hand. "It's A Mistake" swells as that emotion threatens to overcome him before backing off as Sam regains control of himself for a few more seconds to continue his plea to his lover to reunite. The instrumental backing of the song, based mainly on piano and kept simple but filled out so it's more than a sketch, feels timeless, which is appropriate: the song's melody, narrative, and Sam's voice deserve nothing less.

The only place you can buy Sam Taylor's music so far is on the Beautiful People soundtrack, which is available here (physical).

Saturday, July 17, 2010

It's 2 AM, I can't decide what I'm doin'

I've had some questions about the other JC Chasez demo I alluded to in the comments of my "Don't Stop" post come in. I'm just going to copy and paste my response to one of them:

The other demo I've got is "La La Land." To be honest, the reason I've been dragging my feet about posting it is that it's more of an interesting little oddity than a song to stir up excitement--more mid-tempo stream-of-consciousness than a typically melodic song. I wouldn't be leaking it since it was posted elsewhere on the Internet in a legitimate way, but given that it seems it's not been widely heard, it does worry me that it might in some way disillusion people. It's just an outtake, but sometimes, when you hear so little new music from an act you love, you end up reading too much into the random tracks you do get to hear.

Still, I definitely know how it is to want to hear anything an artist has recorded, even if it's not single-quality material, so I'll try to post the song soon.

I should probably have clarified that by saying that I know hardcore fans have been through enough to usually understand the difference between an unused song and a song that an artist intends to use as part of a comeback--it's casual commenters who sometimes don't pay attention to the difference.

Anyway, with all that in mind, here's a the key part of this post that is less a "you must listen to this song!" post and more a "for the fans" post: "La La Land," which finds JC engaging in rambling verses about life in Los Angeles and casually "la la la"ing his way through the short chorus. You could make the argument that the casualness of the whole thing fits in with the the way he's parodying being caught up in the fame-loving LA scene, with hipster cred being equated to acting as if you don't care. The end result is still a song that feels more like an extended (arguably humorous) interlude, but, hey, you get to hear his voice.

La La Land by poppostergirl

"La La Land" is unreleased, but you can buy JC Chasez's debut solo album Schizophrenic here (physical) or here (digital).

Brick by brick

Did you know that the maker of one of the most undeservedly overlooked albums of the past five years has a new EP out?

No, probably not. American singer Ferras's minimally promoted new EP is a "live in a studio setting" thing, which means it doesn't have all the fantastic "The Remedy (You And I)"-style production from the Matrix and Gary Clark that I loved on much of Aliens & Rainbows, his 2008 debut album. It's just Ferras singing and playing the piano.

Ferras's songwriting skills have never really been doubt and his songs have withstood the stripped treatment before. Aliens & Rainbow's final track, the beautiful ballad "Take My Lips," stood out as not just an album highlight but one of the best "why aren't teenagers everywhere falling in love with and to this song?" tracks to be released recently, even though it was another live-sounding, piano accompaniment-only recording. Still, it was an open question how that style would hold up over five songs that average a length of six and a half minutes each--that sounds like a recipe for a mess of acoustic, indulgent musical noodling.

There's bad news and good news on that front. These are not condensed songs, more diary entries set to piano, but the bones are strong. If Ferras felt like turning these into "proper pop songs," it could probably be done pretty easily. It is possible to make a structured, traditional if unconventional song with pop appeal that exceeds six minutes in length. Meat Loaf's "I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)," Darren Hayes's "Casey," Styx's "Come Sail Away," Girls Aloud's "Untouchable"--it's not a huge list and it's more a case of "exception that proves the rule," but it could go on. Ferras, however, doesn't really even try to do that here, just unhurriedly explores his way up and down the piano while singing a topline that, though including some great lyrics and delivered beautifully, generally is devoid of hooks, or at least presented in a way to minimize them.

The result is works that are beautiful and poignant and probably important for a growing artist to experiment with, but that in their current incarnation feel more appropriate for some dramatic contemporary dance (see montage below) than at home on my hit heavy playlists. I appreciate them, but I also appreciate the fact that this is an "interim" release, a side project, and not his next proper album.

The song out of these five that comes closest to being catchy is probably "Gypsy Girl," mainly due to its plinky piano background giving the vocal melody room to breathe, though it's also probably not the biggest "achievement" here. "Wall Around My Heart" is the nominal single and, in a different, more accessible life, you could see why, though the same could also be said for "Phantom Song" or "Marshmallow Spaceship."

As it stands, if you're new to Ferras, this isn't the place to begin. The songs on Aliens & Rainbows are a near-perfect melding of diary page-style musings with mainstream-mysterious electronic production and catchy pop melodies.* However, I can never fault an artist for being generous enough to give us something in between albums and, though I can't unequivocally recommend this EP to others, I'm glad I purchased it.

Ferras's EP Interim is available on iTunes internationally here. If you missed out on his debut album, though, I highly recommend it; Aliens & Rainbows can be purchased here (physical) or on iTunes internationally here.

As with any Ferras post, I have to thank Robbie for introducing me to Aliens & Rainbows.

*Though I must admit I've long had a question about his decision to adopt certain points of view in the lyrics. Still, pressured or not, it's the narrator's prerogative, I guess.

A sucker for the crazy life

It's not the most traditionally melodic thing in the world...

...but how fantastic would the new leaked Kat DeLuna song, "Everybody Dance," sound in the middle of a dancefloor mix?

I understand that "Push Push," Kat's last single, was probably slightly more likely to be a hit on American radios than the full-on slicing Eurodisco of "Everybody Dance," but as for which is actually a better song, there's no contest.

I'm not sure how, but in a time when RedOne is so in demand that his name on a song is no longer a guarantee of quality and he can pretty much charge whatever he likes, Kat has apparently managed get something out of him that is not just worthwhile but exciting.

There's nowhere to buy "Everybody Dance" yet, but you can buy Kat DeLuna's debut album, 9 Lives, here (physical) or here (digital).

Thursday, July 15, 2010

There's things that you guess and things that you know

Via Electroqueer comes this remix of a cover of George Michael's "I Want Your Sex."

I'm surprised by how much I like what American singer Chris Mann and remixers SECTR 24 have done here. The descending instrumental part during the title line, which reoccurs during the fantastic final minute or so, goes a long way to breathing life into their take on the song, while its lack hurts the original version of the cover. This remake, though, sets aside the minimalism of Chris's original cover and the funk of George's original, pursuing a sound that doesn't sound like a full-on dance remix but rather just a poppy electronic update. Not every part works in a radio-ready way (though that's probably not the intent anyway) and I imagine you're better off not thinking about it in comparison to the original too much, but for me, it's been perfect for those moments when you need to clear your mind--a headache-alleviating, smile-inducing, pep-in-your-step, air-conditioning-in-the-summer song, which is always a good thing.

You can buy Chris Mann's "I Want Your Sex (SECTR 24 Remix)" on iTunes internationally here, as well as several other versions of the song.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

If looks could kill, then we all would be doomed

When journalists made comparisons between the new McFly single and Lady Gaga, I thought it was just a bad description based on the Dallas Austin-produced "Party Girl" having some electro influences in it.

Party Girl (Clip) by poppostergirl

(Full credit and many thanks for that recording goes to here.)

I was wrong. Boy, those opening "ohh"s could have come straight out of a Lady Gaga song, couldn't they? Of course, after that, the song takes a different direction.

Apparently the full thing is getting played on British radio tonight, but as far as premature evaluations based on fifty-four second clips go, I'm pretty excited.

OK, that's an understatement: the verse and and bridge are both FANTASTIC, hard electro-pop with a great topline. They're shout-it-from-the-rooftops amazing. Though I have nowhere near the right persona to pull off an expression like this, they are in fact, as reported, "rocking." My only concern is that I hope there's more to the chorus than we're hearing, a second half that is irresistably catchy and as aggressive as the music from those earlier sections; so far, it's the least impressive part of the song. Still, we hear so little that I'm fairly hopeful that there's more to the chorus or that it makes sense in its complete form.

After being very underwhelmed by the single from their greatest hits and all the singles except "Falling In Love" from Radio:ACTIVE, it's such a relief to be excited and enthusiastic about a lead single from them again.

"Party Girl" is out September 6 (why so far out?), with the album probably out in November or so and preceded by a second single, "Shine A Light."

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

In her own world

British band McFly's new single, "Party Girl," comes out September 6, but we should be hearing it on British radio soon. Produced by Dallas Austin, it's been described by one set of people as having more of an electro feel than their earlier work and as being comparable to Enrique Iglesias's "I Like It" or as "Taio, Tinchy, Enrique and 3OH!3 all rolled into one." There will be more news forthcoming as journalists attend listening parties for three of the group's new songs, but we do know (from earlier news) that the group worked with Taio Cruz in addition to Dallas for their album, which is out in October or so.

Fans were divided over some demos that leaked a while back, some thinking they were too much of a departure from McFly's usual sound, but I really liked some of them, including the ones that sounded like they were actually from this fifth album's recording sessions. Sure, there are some electro effects, but they didn't really feel like that much of a departure and, more importantly, they were good.

There's also been "news"--blah blah blah logos blah blah blah famous movie poster designer etc.--about a fan community the group is setting up (the reason for the photo at left), but none of it is really all that exciting yet. Just give us some of the song to listen to, eh, boys?

Now no one can save my heart

Swedish retailer Ginza gives this picture as the cover for Darin's new album Lovekiller, out August 18. The tracklisting is below. I've linked to the studio versions or live performances where we have them, or, failing that, noted anything we know about the songs. If you know anything I've left out, though, please tell me!

1.) Microphone (written by Tony Nilsson/Darin Zanyar)
2.) You're Out Of My Life
3.) Lovekiller
4.) Can't Stop Love
5.) Drowning (hear Darin working on the studio version here)
6.) Viva La Vida
7.) Endless Summer (by George Samuelson/Tomas Granlind/Darin Zanyar; George also wrote Darin's uptempo second album single "Want Ya," but I've read nothing to indicate what "Endless Summer" sounds like)
8.) Be Careful With My Heart
9.) Only You Can Save Me
10.) Turn It Up
11.) I'll Be Alright (Darin wrote or co-wrote it and was in the studio while strings were recorded for it recently)

We know most of the songs are by Tony Nilsson, and that Henrik Jansson (who co-wrote "You're Out Of My Life") is also involved. A press release mentioned that Arnthor Birgisson contributed to the album, though his work might or might not be amongst what we've already heard.

Remember, you can preorder the album here, regardless of where you live.

Monday, July 12, 2010

It's so clear to me

Sweet Swedish popstar Darin makes me want to pull out a trapper keeper and scrawl "I ♥ Darin," complete with flowers and rainbows and unicorns, in pink Gelly Roll ink all over it. It's not so much a case of pure physical attractiveness--though he's grown up to be someone who, on the right day, when he's not trying so hard, pulls that off--but because he's EXACTLY WHAT I WANT IN A POPSTAR. He has a perfect pop voice and makes perfect pop music.

01 Lovekiller by poppostergirl

Now, that said, he's yet to pull off a perfect album in my books, though his fourth, Flashback, came the closest. Catchy and often club-friendly, it was just what an international male popstar should release, even if it didn't take off internationally for him.

Unfortunately, it didn't exactly take off in Sweden either, resulting in a change of labels and change of styles. It's hard to believe given the massive success Darin found with the '90s teen pop style "Money For Nothing" from his first album and the floorfiller "Step Up" from his second, but there was reason to be worried about him having a record label given the less than stellar sales of Flashback and its singles (including the excellent "Breathing Your Love," which took the title of my sixth favorite single of 2008 and probably should have been even higher). Darin found a new home at Universal, though, and in late 2009 had his biggest hit in years with an electronic cover of Coldplay's "Viva La Vida" produced by Johan "Kermit" Bobäck.

That hit seems to have been the jumping off point for Darin's new material. His Melodifestival entry "You're Out Of My Life" is one of the best singles of the year so far, and it marks the debut of the Darin-Tony Nilsson giant percussion-based '80s mid-tempo ballad sound. I first fell in love with Tony when he was making pure pop uptempo songs like Ola's "S.O.S."; for a while, that was always the sort of song I'd hope any new track from his was. As of this year, though, I am all about him channeling his big dramatic '80s ballad side, mixing the adult contemporary and power ballads of that era to singing-at-the-steering-wheel-of-your-car effect.

Darin's song for the royal wedding, "Can't Stop Love," was in a similar style and, if not quite as fantastic as "You're Out Of My Life," still pretty good. Now, back with "Lovekiller," his first "proper" single since "You're Out Of My Life," Darin finds himself once again going back to the '80s. From the opening strings and lyrics about bloodstained hands, a smiling knife-wielder, and an irreparably scared heart, you know Tony and Darin have drama on their minds. The bridge is absolutely fantastic, building and building as Darin repeats his accusations. The chorus backs off from that intensity, which occasionally still a little iffy about (it sometimes feels a little too...musically open still, like it's a great thought that's not quite finished and just needs a little closure). Still, when the middle eight comes up and mixes the bridge from earlier with clanging bells and a choir, I'm so swept along in a tide of big pop ballad awesomeness that no sooner has the song ended than I'm playing it again. This is full-on clenched-fists-and-dramatic-lip-syncing stuff--and there's no one who could do it better than Darin who, even when he isn't releasing edgy danceable pop, proves there's a reason he's my favorite popstar going.

Darin's new single "Lovekiller" is available on iTunes in Sweden here. It will be on his fifth album, also titled Lovekiller, which is due out August 17. You can preorder the album here (physical).

I bet you've been here before

Darin's new single, "Lovekiller," comes out tomorrow, the same day he'll be performing it at Allsång på Skansen.

That is all.

Edit: and Darin's just uploaded the audio to his YouTube page:

Hmm...I'm only one listen in, but after being one of the few to think it had real potential based on the live performances, I think I was expecting better. The bridge and bells are fantastic, though, and I know me--once again, I'm sure I'll play it a bunch and upwardly revise my opinion in a few minutes.

(Also: Darin, release the photoshoot from Chic as proper promo pictures!)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

I can't believe it's only Monday, the worst day of the week

One of two likely Xenomania products from a leak of tracks recorded for British X Factor winner Shayne Ward's upcoming third album, "Knocked Down" is one of those songs that makes everything seem to move in slow motion--slower than the beat would make you think, though the gentleness of the instrumental makes the pace seem less than it is. Musically, it's a bit like a more subdued "I Wish" by Mini Viva.

Knocked Down by poppostergirl

The lyrics in the middle of the song at first seem to go a little off course--"Come on, take off something/Girl, don't be shy" is more direct and less kitchen-sink a come-on than Miranda Cooper usually uses--but there's reason to forgive that when, right when you think the song has established the track it will be treading, Xenomania manage to pull off one of their trademark surprises. It's not a section that sounds like it's torn out of a whole different song (a la "Biology") or the last minute reveal of the chorus that's been held off the entire song (a la "It's Magic")--in fact, it's a line we've heard several times throughout the song up to this point. Somehow, though, just as the song is fading out, Xenomania manage to make it pop out at you:

"Because you fit under my arm just right"

I'm sure dozens of songwriters have used a similar phrase before, but what matters is that right there, in that moment, as the song slips away and the keyboards gently swoon and dance their way into silence, it catches you and feels like a moving, authentic expression of something you'd have trouble articulating so succinctly.

What that little fragment captures is also the feel of the whole song, even if it's not necessarily the story the lyrics tell: having a dreamy, loved-up feeling sneak up on you from nowhere. You're not feeling particularly sentimental--caught up in the chase and lusty, if anything--and then there it is: the idea that that little physical indicator, the way your arm fits around someone or vice-versa, might be an indicator of a connection that is, suprisingly, more than just physical. And as you drift off to sleep, mind too fuzzy to really think deeply about any of this, it dawns on you, You know, maybe that wouldn't be the worst thing in the world...

There's nowhere yet to buy "Knocked Down," but you can buy Shayne Ward's most recent album, Breathless, here (physical) or here (digital).

'Cause radio plays our favorite song

What has happened to the Estonian national finals for Eurovision lately? They've been low on quality for the past couple years (with the exception of Rolf Junior, whose entry this year is still one of the best singles of the year). Some of the credit for the quality back in the first half or so of the '00s has to go to the team of Pearu Paulus, Ilmar Laisaar, Alar Kotkas, and lyricist Jana Hallas. They contributed some fun, poppy, but kind of classy entries, three of which won and got to represent the country in Eurovision.

Young Ines might not have won the 2000 ESC as many anticipated, but "Once In A Lifetime" is still a gem, mixing a gentle acoustic guitar sound with traditional Europop to create something completely endearing.

Lovely Swedish singer Anna Sahlene ended up singing "Runaway" in 2002 when Ines turned it down. Representing the host country that year, Sahlene did Estonia proud with her performance and the third place result it brought in. Once again, the Paulus/Kotkas/Laisaar/Hallas team turned in a great uplifting track.

Another Swede, Sandra Oxenryd, represented Estonia at Eurovision in 2006 (just beating out Ines in the national final). She failed to make it out of the semifinal despite some of the year's best choreographed group strutting. Come back to national finals somewhere, Sandra--it's been too long since 2008's "Superhero"!

If you're looking for more music by these songwriters, check out Ines's "That's All Because Of You," which was covered by Swedish group Friends as "Favorite Song (That's All Because Of You)." It's another great song in their catchy, upbeat, organic Europop style. "You Wanna Play Too Tough" is also highlight from them. The composers of the group are also part of the group 2 Quick Start, but I've got only the most cursory of knowledge of that group's material. It's in Estonian and more Eurodance, from what I've heard of it.

After 2006, the team had a few more entries in the national final, but none to rival the quality of their earlier work. It's a shame--fans of Eurovision could use them operating at the same level they used to

Tangentially, while we're talking about Estonia in the Eurovision Song Contest, I have to recommend the documentary Estonia Dreams of Eurovision, which Len was kind enough to send me a few years ago. It's an interesting look at Estonia's preparations for hosting the contest in 2002, including the falling out between the duo that won for the country in 2001, the national final to determine who would represent Estonia in 2002, and the decision as to who would host Eurovision. It's much more entertaining than that description makes it sound, though.

Ines's debut album, Here For Your Love, isn't really available for sale any longer, but you can always keep an eye on eBay and hope to get lucky. Anna Sahlene's debut album, It's Been A While, released under the artist name Sahlene, is available on iTunes internationally here and digitally internationally here; it's really an enjoyable little album--check out the amusing "House" and her 2003 Melodifestival entry "We're Unbreakable." Sandra Oxenryd's album Through My Window is available digitally internationally here.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Searching for shelter

I'm starting to think I'm alone in loving the music video for Brandon Flowers's "Crossfire" as much as I do.

Sweet, smart, and--the thing I'm not reading as much as I'd like--funny. What's not to like? The slow motion capturing of action scenes, languid editing, lingering close-ups, and ballad style of the song juxtapose with the action going on around stationary Brandon in a genuinely humorous way. Likewise, the contrast between the Americana-a-la-Springsteen style of the song and the position Brandon finds himself in--the object in need of rescue, not a swaggering powerful macho subject--is deliberate and, once again, funny. Factor in Charlize's exasperation, Brandon's apologetic, semi-embarrassed, "yes, I've been captured again, but you still love me anyway, right?" smiles, and Charlize putting her arm around him at the end despite it all and you've got a perfect video.

That first explosion, pushing in from offscreen at what seems like a slow pace compared to the manic editing we're used to for action scenes, coming after a minute of atmospheric observation of a stationary Brandon and matched with the serious tone of the belted chorus, is a genuinely laugh-out-loud moment for me, and it's intended to be. Ditto the way Charlize manages to dispatch ninjas attacking her from behind without even needing to take a backward glance to interrupt her "really, Brandon? I have to rescue you again?" face.

With its mix of action, flip humor that plays on our genre-based expectations, and genuine affection between the characters, the video makes me think of great action-comedy-dramas with competent, strong female fighters rescuing slightly awkward semi-love interests or companions--say, Chuck, Xena, or Buffy--and tapping into the same pop cultural vein as those shows can't be a bad thing.

Friday, July 09, 2010

I am no angel

A couple of fluffy pop-dance songs today that sound like they were made with the summer in mind:

I really should have written about Wynter Gordon's club-oriented "Dirty Talk" months ago, but with the weather as it is at the moment, now seems like a good time to finally fix that. Sure, the lyrics are ridiculous and eliminate any chance of it getting played on American radio--Britney can't even say "sin" here without it being censored--but the Jamaica-by-way-of-Ibiza production is positively intoxicating. It definitely makes me eager to hear more from Jupiter Ace as a producer. Even if I was never as excited about "Surveillance" as many other pop fans, Wynter seems to be a pretty good songwriter (we all agree the song she co-wrote for Jennifer Lopez, "Everybody's Girl," sounds like it's by far the best thing Jennifer's done recently, right?), so I'm looking forward to hearing more from her, too.

Scratch by poppostergirl

I'm not totally certain how much I like frequently-renamed American girl group BG5's new single "Scratch" yet. It's fun, but I have this lingering fear we'll be moving on without looking back before much time has passed. "Scratch" is another Antonina Armato and Tim James (a.k.a. Rock Mafia) song, meaning it comes from the people behind Miley Cyrus's "See You Again," Selena Gomez & the Scene's "Naturally," and Aly & AJ's "Potential Break Up Song," as well as the title track and several others on the latest Miley album (Antonina is also the person behind the group). "Scratch" isn't up there with "See You Again" and "Naturally"--the second half of the chorus isn't as strong--but the bouncy production makes it a good entry into the modern teen-pop world.

Wynter Gordon's single "Dirty Talk" is available on U.S. iTunes here. BG5's single "Scratch" isn't for sale yet, but you can buy an earlier EP by them on U.S. iTunes here.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Needing every second just to keep myself from stressing

I just get done complaining about not having any new great songs to write about...and what falls in my lap? Only just that.

07 Dance Tonight by poppostergirl

Killabite is made up of the space-obsessed, Swedish music-adoring Matt Engst and Chau Phan, one Canadian and one American. Chau, the main singer, co-wrote "The Rain" and "Can't Breathe" on Cyndi Lauper's Bring Ya To The Brink, but as far as I know, that's basically all the exposure they'd had up until their latest project, Killabite.

The modus operandi for Killabite seems to be sparkly, female-vocaled, '80s-influenced pop, which I realize describes a third of the music getting made today. The best of Killabite's music, though, is incredibly charming, melodic, and, well, refreshing. You know all those indie-pop duos with cute names like the Bird and the Bee, the Raveonettes, Muchuu, and She & Him? Killabite basically sound like what I hoped those groups would sound like--so really, nothing like them, or only like them if they decided to make bright, poppy, synth-filled music. You get the feeling listening to their music that it could be indie friendly, but their best songs are really so incredibly, brilliantly POP that I don't know how you couldn't be charmed by them.

Some of their pop shimmer probably comes from Alexander Kronlund, the songwriter and former Max Martin colleague behind songs like Britney Spears's "Lucky," Linda Sundblad's "Lose You,' and Robyn's "Don't Stop The Music" and "Who's That Girl." He's co-written about half the songs on the group's upcoming album and, whether it's the '60s girl group chorus of "Ai Love U" or the Kylie-friendly backing track of "Killabyte," his tracks show his pop chops. The group can do the job on their own, though, as "I Don't Care," with its bleepy verses that give way to a bouncey chorus spruced up with little electronic harp plucks, and the moodier "Guns & Makeup" show.

"Dance Tonight" is one of the cases where everything comes together for the duo. Like several of the group's other tracks, it feels like a '60s song made popular through an '80s cover with the '80s hit then being covered again today. The verses, anchored by some deep guitar in the background, feel like they push forward against the beat and the chorus's one-two-four drumbeat gives it a joyful, handclap-like feel, while Matt sprinkles synth sparkles throughout and Chau provides her best naïve-meets-coy voice to deliver lyrics that convey the joy of escape on the dancefloor. It's not a new topic, but Killabite and Alexander have made the arrangement, melody, and singing so catchily, cutely, earnestly appealing that that's not a problem in the least (and there are some good lyrical moments as well, ones that work perfectly in context). The song sports a great middle eight, too, complete with a chanty first half and sparser, hands-clapping-over-your-head second half.

"Off We Go," "Go Down," and robo-voice-featuring "Follow Me Home" are, likewise, also recommended.

So far, the group has only released a cover of "Puttin' On The Ritz" and even that only in Scandinavia, but you can buy it here (digital). Keep an eye out for their debut album, out this year, and in the meantime listen to some more of their songs here, here, and here.

(Editing note: an earlier version of this post referred to the duo by their old name, the You Know Who; they go by Killabite now.)

Du vet att kärleken väljer som den vill

Do you ever have one of those days where it just seems like there's no song that fits as a feature, none that has that intangible X factor that somehow combines quality, lack of Internet saturation, and something you can add to the discussion about it? Today was one of those days for me.

As a result, let's just listen to four Swedish girls sing the best song from their album that hasn't been a single yet.

That was Timoteij with "Vild," the happy, slightly Irish but über-poppy second track from their debut album, released this spring. If you enjoyed it, I'd also recommend the current single "Högt över ängarna"--as pure pop a song as you'll hear this year (it's like the A*Teens never left...but lost their two boys)--and their debut single and Melodifestival entry "Kom"--which sounds like it's for six-year-olds (that's not an insult!) but is all about how important hook ups are in the summer.

You can buy Timoteij's debut album, Längtan, here (physical) or here (digital).

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

No sabes bien como me arrepiento

How have I not mentioned "Egoísta" on the site yet?

Mexican pop singer Belinda rose to fame on children's television before releasing an album in 2003 that sounded pretty much like those released by her American counterparts: very light teen pop-rock. Pretty forgettable stuff, though anyone who loves cataloging the recycling of songs might find it interesting.

It was in the beginning of the campaign for her second album, 2006's Utopía, that Belinda began to show any signs of being a popstar worth anyone's time. Lead single "Ni Freud ni tu mamá" was a stompy electro-rock pop song with a snappy title, but it was its English version "If We Were" that really made me fall in love. Belinda might have been ostensibly listing all the great things she'd do for this guy if he'd be with her, but her sweet nothings sound a lot more like threats. The angry, biting edge to the song was irresistible.

(You can spot Raven and Drew Seeley in the video, presumably due to the Disney connections Belinda picked up through her appearance in a Cheetah Girls movie.)

Utopía, though once again no masterpiece, contained several other enjoyable songs. Whoever was A&Ring the record had a surprisingly interesting idea for what it should sound like. The title track, for example, is written by Sia and Greg Kurstin, and even if it was just a matter of someone asking Sia for an unreleased song she had lying around, it was still a pleasantly unique idea back in 2006. Several other cases of recycling appear on the album--an unreleased Skye Sweetnam, a cover of a Pussycat Dolls' bonus track--but the end result was still a step forward compared to Belinda's first album.

Belinda released her third album, Carpe Diem, this year and, in typical Belinda fashion, its tunes are not entirely unfamiliar to international pop fans (she covers Kim Lian for the second time in her career). You can make a solid EP out of its tracks, though.

In general, Carpe Diem moves Belinda closer towards spacey pop-dance, but "Egoísta" picks up right where "Ni Freud ni tu mamá" left off, with a robo-voiced Belinda delivering menacing insults to a guy over a hard electro-pop-rock beat. It's basically amazing on all fronts, including the chanty "ego-ego-ego-egoista" that makes up the song's main hook. Pitbull shows up, but since he brings with him the radar-style beeps of "I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)," it's not an unwelcome appearance. There is, once again, an English version, but this time I'll be sticking with the Spanish version; Belinda doesn't sound nearly as much like a blank-eyed assassin in English this time out.

You can buy Belinda's third album Carpe Diem here (physical) or, if you live in the U.S., here (digital). The iTunes only bonus track "Duele," written by Cathy Dennis and Chris Braide, is better than many of the songs actually on the album, though, so you might be better off going to iTunes.