Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Darkness can't get me to sleep yet

What's on my playlist at the moment?

Alex Gaudino, "I'm In Love (I Wanna Do It)" (as featured on Xenomania News and Popjustice)
An uplifting pop-dance track with an instrumental from Italian dance producer Alex Gaudino, topline from former Xenomania member Tim Powell, and vocals from young American singer and former Xenomania development project Maxine, "I'm In Love (I Wanna Do It)" soars straight into summer anthem status.

Sky Ferreira, "Obsession"
Previously recorded but unreleased by Adam Lambert, the Ryan Tedder-penned "Obsession" is Sky's American debut single. In contrast to the pure electro-pop sound of her UK debut, "One," "Obsession" is an electro-glam shoutalong which finds a throaty-sounding Sky demanding her love interest's full attention. The middle eight's "ain't nothing wrong with OCD/long as it's for me, long as it's for me" might be the earworm that burrows itself furthest into your brain, but the hooks elsewhere do a more than adequate job.

Usher feat. Jay-Z, "Hot Tottie"
It feels like cheating on Max Martin to confess that the song from Usher's new Versus EP that has drawn most of my attention is the Ester Dean-penned "Hot Tottie," but the vaguely exotic-sounding electro-hip-hop come-on is my favorite thing Usher has done since Confessions (unless you count the "pow pow pow" line in "OMG").

Sirens, "Stilletos" (as featured on Don't Stop The Pop)
Though they've been around since 2003, the new single "Stilettos" is the first time I've paid attention to thus far hit-free British girl group Sirens. The synths here surround you in a perfect mix of gentle and sharp, but I'm at a loss to explain why this song works just so well for me--suffice to say, it does.

Katy B, "Louder" (as featured on Karinski)
British singer Katy's current single "Katy On A Mission" may be riding high in the UK midweeks at the moment, but it's "Louder," a late-night dubstep track, that I prefer.

One Night Only, "Say You Don't Want It" (as featured on #1 Hits From Another Planet)
Pop-rock with a big singalong chorus and hints of electro influence? Yes please.

Armin van Buuren vs. Sophie Elllis-Bextor, "Not Giving Up On Love"
The collaboration between Dutch trance producer Armin and British singer Sophie is another song channeling that late summer feel, mixing uplift and melancholy, but can you ever really have enough songs in that vein? Not when they shimmer like this one.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I can see it in your eyes

We should be getting the music video for Swedish band Le Kid's amazing second single, "We Should Go Home Together," any day now. A few weeks ago, the group provided this picture from the video shoot:

Everything they do just makes them more lovable. They know exactly what music they want to make and what image they want to go with it.

If you've forgotten what "We Should Go Home Together" sounds like--kicky pure pop joy, basically--here's the live-performance-with-supplemented-studio-audio video again.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Drop the record

Alexandra Burke's latest single, "Start Without You," isn't really doing it for me, but her performance of it on TV show Magic Numbers was befitting of someone who's had one of the best singles of 2009 and one of the best singles of 2010.

There's enough "popstariness" there and in her delivery on "Bad Boys" and "All Night Long" to certainly make you hope her label and A&R get their act together and deliver on the album front next time around, no?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

This place is prison

The music video for McFly's new single, "Party Girl," is out.

The cynical part of me says that if you're already facing accusations of bandwagon jumping with your new more electro sound, throwing vampires in your video isn't exactly going to fend off those claims.

Maybe more importantly, it makes no sense, probably due to the fact that it seems to be random clips from the online movie they've made (as opposed to, say, a music video length presentation of a plot), intercut with performance footage. It also literally features a stripper pole. Then again, they've hardly been making great videos as of late anyway.

The song is still solid but not fantastic (why couldn't there have been a stronger chorus?). Nothing's really going to knock the album off the top spot on my "most anticipated albums of the year" list, though.

In other news, the original b-sides for the single include "Hotel On A Hill" and "Sunny Side Of The Street," two songs from the set that leaked earlier this year.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My mind starts to go

Speaking of songs that make sense after a week of driving around and lying on the beach...

Before I left, I was one of those people complaining about the auto-tuning that makes the words in the chorus of Alex Gardner's new single "Feeling Fine" incomprehensible. The highly processed sound was a sudden shift from the "Xenomania does singer-songwriter with some synths" of before and hid what many saw as Alex's main asset, his soulful voice. Don't summer singles largely live and die on the ability of a group of people to sing along with them? It's impossible to do that here--well, impossible to do in unison outside of a phrase here and there, since we're probably all just making up our own words to go along with three-fourths of the chorus.

A few days of lakeside towel residence bookended by drives past empty fields and creatively named fishing shops has a way of doing funny things to your music perception, though. A song that previously seemed like the throwing away of a vitally important second chance for a struggling singer to establish himself suddenly becomes the song that makes you wish your increasingly sand-filled headphones hadn't become so tinny that using them is like listening to a thirty-year-old cassette recording of a song's radio debut. Blame the sun, blame the company, blame your cliché-filled brain--but in the end, you can't even blame the great quicktalking middle eight for your newly developed love of the song: that chorus, that darn gibberish-filled robotic chorus, has managed to burrow its way into your brain and, like the sand that a week later seems to have also found its way into every corner of your suitcase, refuses to disappear.

British singer Alex Gardner's second single "Feeling Fine" is released in the UK on September 27 and should eventually be available for purchase here (physical).

Make the same mistakes but I can't walk away

The new a1 single is their third great release in a row, meaning that everything they've offered as part of their comeback has, so far, been worth buying. Now, if only there were somewhere from which those of us outside Norway could buy it...

The studio version is streaming here.

It's the their third time in a row offering up a sparkly mid-tempo ballad as a single, but somehow they manage to change up the template just enough each time to make me fall all over again (though if forced I'd peg their Melodi Grand Prix offering, "Don't Wanna Lose You Again," as my least favorite of the three). I don't care if the crowd was forced into punching the air and singing along--their group actions feel like the naturally counterpart to "In Love And I Hate It" and give me just the slightest hint of goosebumps.

Come on, show 'em what you're worth

Let's all just pretend the other Katy Perry song to leak this morning doesn't exist and enjoy the other Stargate contribution from her upcoming Teenage Dream album, the dance/rave explosion that is "Firework."

Katy Perry - Firework by ileaks

By the way, after initially being just mildly positive about "Teenage Dream," I fell hard for it last week.

You can preorder Katy Perry's album Teenage Dream here (physical).

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hit the lights, start the show

Darin's new album has only two songs that can even kind of be argued to be something other than a ballad. Before the album's release, we'd heard at least part of every song on it except two. There are only ten songs on it.

01 Microphone by poppostergirl

And you know what? Despite all that, it's pretty good. I can't lie and say that I wouldn't have been happier if he'd delivered a few more songs in the vein of "Breathing Your Love" or "Paradise" ("OK (Dangerous Game)" is the closest you'll find to the RedOne-heavy sound of Darin's previous album), but overproduced '80s power ballad-style drums and synth washes behind classic melodies suits him.

Mutt Lange-loving producer Tony Nilsson is probably guiding force in this stylistic change. "You're Out Of My Life" still comes across as a lost John Waite-meets-REO-Speedwagon hit from twenty-five years ago, which is nothing but a compliment. "Only You Can Save Me" and "Drowning" continue in the same vein and count as some of Darin's strongest ballads ever, while Darin's generally electronic cover of Coldplay's "Viva La Vida" adds in little U2 guitar flourishes. The pseudo-uptempo "Microphone," featured on this year's Swedish Idol, is a highlight; it falls somewhere between inspirational self-affirmation and cocky boasts but finds the right musical mix of string-using uplift, those '80s drums, and modern electronic beats to avoid being as cornball as you'd expect.

The only two songs on the album which aren't co-written by Nilsson are end-of-August ballad "Endless Summer" and "I'll Be Alright," an acoustic guitar and string-featuring ballad written solely by Darin, but they slot in nicely next to the other tracks, even if they are noticeably different.

Lovekiller is an enjoyable album, pushed along by strong melodies, a good production concept, and Darin's always pop-ready voice. Now, if only we could get someone to start making modern day "Livin' On A Prayer"s...

Darin's fifth album, Lovekiller, can be purchased here (physical) or here (digital).

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Take me somewhere I can breathe

I'm heading out of town today and will most likely be without Internet access for a week--I might pop up with a tweet or two depending on cell phone reception, but even if not I should be back next Saturday or Sunday.

I'm looking forward to catching up on what I've missed the past few days as well as what I'll miss in the next seven, but in the meantime, I'd like to leave you with a perfect, dreamy pop song that has so far eluded my every attempt to write about it. Some songs are just that special, you know?

All Saints' "Pure Shores" is from the group's second album, Saints & Sinners, which can be purchased here (physical) or here (digital). It's also available digitally for Americans on Amazon.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Solamente pienso en ti y en lo estúpida que fui

The new single from Mexican pop band Belanova is almost all anyone could want from them.

01 Nada de Más by poppostergirl

Full of upbeat synths that dance and sparkle but retain a gentle feel to them, "Nada de más" splits the difference between songs like "Baila mi corazón," the uptempo lead single for their third album, and songs like "Paso el tiempo" and "Niño," which set their lyrics about loss set to swoony melodies and beats.

It showcases the best side of the group's music: how they mix the cute with the beautiful. Denisse's girlish voice is backed by beats that manage to be cute without sounding small or bleepy--the opposite, in fact: the group creates full, colorful, electronic soundscapes. The simple verses of "Nada de más" find the narrator brushing off the idea that anything is unusual or noteworthy in her life before, in the chorus, making a tiny little confession: she can't stop thinking about her former love. It's framed in a straightforward but heart-tugging way:

Solamente pienso en ti (I only think about you)
Y en lo estúpida que fui (And about how stupid I was)
Al pensar, al soñar, que ibas a regresar (To think, to dream, that you would return)
Al creer, que tal vez, un día ibas a volver a mí (To believe that, maybe, one day you would come back to me)

That girlish, coy voice of Denisse's brings an added poignancy to the song's story--she sounds so young that all of this bears the rush of your first teenage heartbreak, but the grown-up way she knowingly plays with those words conveys someone who's been though enough to know she should know better. It's all the intensity of puppy love with just a hint of the frustration of a cynic angry at herself for taking chance, wrapped up in in a romantic tone and joyful beats.

My only complaint is that Denisse, equally capable of using her voice to make me go weak at the knees or stressing it into sounding too nasal, leans a little too close to the latter in the middle eight. Usually the big climax and final adlibs are, thanks to her singing, my favorite part of these sorts of Belanova songs, but "Nada de más" doesn't quite reach the heights of the aforementioned "Paso el tiempo" and "Niño" in that regard.

That's nitpicking, though. "Nada de más" is an excellent example of one of our most cherished musical forms: danceable songs about heartbreak. It's adorable and moving, catchy and beautiful, youthfully intoxicating and smartly made--proof that none of the best traits of music are mutually exclusive.

"Nada de más" can be purchased from U.S. digital music stores like Amazon and iTunes. It's the lead single for the band's fourth album, Sueño Electro I.