Saturday, June 11, 2011

Dreaming that you're crawling into bed

I've previously found young British singer Florrie, a Xenomania protégé who's branching out into work with other producers, promising and frustrating, capable of making songs with instant appeal (see the Fred Falke remix of "Call 911") but too often creating music that feels...distant, both as a result of her voice and her style. It's the same sort of problem that prevented me from getting swept away by, for example, Sally Shapiro, though my personal tastes already prefer Florrie much more.

04 I Took A Little Something by poppostergirl

Good news: Florrie's "I Took A Little Something," taken from her new Experiments EP, still has that dreamy indie-disco sound cultivated in her earlier work, but before you know it the bright '80s synths have overtaken the detachment and turned the tune into the closest she's come to pure joy. As this is Florrie, there's still a subtlety to the topline, but here it seems less like aloofness and more like...a desire to not come across as too forward, a nervousness and consideration in the face of love that suits the song well.

Florrie finds just the right balance here between grown-up restraint and endless summer-style youth, the sweet spot where listener self-consciousness is gone both because the song is so well-made that there's nothing to be self-conscious about and because you're too daydreamily giddy to be all that self-reflective. Effervescent, smart pleasure, "I Took A Little Something" is a must for your playlist this next three months--and the next three years, too.

For a review of the whole EP, check out XO's. You can buy Experiments from iTunes internationally here as of tomorrow.

Sacrifice my life for you

Amazing songwriter Tony Nilsson gave a radio interview a week ago and, amongst the other comments I had to strain to understand a third of (yeah, I need to find a Swedish tutor pronto), one of the more interesting facts was that Fernando Fuentes sang the original demos for Tony's "You're Out Of My Life" and "Like Suicide" (the latter of which Fernando co-wrote). The show even played a few clips, excerpted below for anyone who's as much of a pop nerd as I am.

Like Suicide Clip by poppostergirl

You're Out Of My Life Clip by poppostergirl

Fernando's claim to fame comes from participating in the first season of Fame Factory. Since then he's mainly been out of the public eye, but he's worked as part of a party band and at Wallmans, a show-featuring restaurant where many journeymen singers work as part of making a living in music.

Fernando may not have gotten to sing "You're Out Of My Life" or "Like Suicide" in Melodifestivalen--those privileges went to Darin in 2010 and Christian Walz in 2011, who both recorded excellent studio versions even if they received disparate results in the contest--but before you feel too sorry for him, he provided backing vocals for Eric Saade at this year's Eurovision. Participating in Sweden's highest-ranking entry since victory in 1999 has to feel pretty darn good, as does showing up on the cover of Aftonbladet celebrating.

In today's Melodifestival, it's hard to climb from the behind-the-scenes roles into the spotlight, so I'm not necessarily expecting Fernando to appear in the contest as an artist in his own right. Still, every now and then someone manages it, so who knows? He certainly acquits himself very well in the "Man Of The Mirror" video above (and sounds pretty good on the demo of "Like Suicide" as well, though I'm glad we have Christian Walz's version). If nothing else, keep your eyes peeled the next time you see a line of singers swaying behind the main artist--you never know who you might spot.

(Photo credit to SVT.)

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Love at first sight

Oh Alright, the debut album from Sweden's Le Kid, jumps back and forth between lush, swoony mid-tempos, cheeky '60s kitsch, and day-glo '80s pop. As you'd expect from from a group whose "background" members are three of Sweden's best up-and-coming songwriters, the highlights are stunning. The jubilantly bouncy "We Should Go Home Together" updates Stock-Aitken-Waterman with a wink but also with so much joy that the group reveals a real affection for that sound, as well as an understanding of what made its best examples work. "Mercy Mercy," the group's debut single, is a cheery, summer-ready improvement on Girls Aloud's "Can't Speak French." Perhaps Le Kid's greatest work yet, though, is their fourth single. "America" takes the cosmic ice princess disco longing in Kylie Minogue's "The One" and melts it into something just as beautiful and sparkly but also warm-blooded, making its underlying plea for love all the more powerful in the process.

If outside the context of the album the retro pastiches "Oh My God," "Kiss Me," and "Seventeen" at first seemed a little juvenile or not quite up to par with the swooshy pop-dance of "Telephone" or the Gwen-Stefani's-"Cool"-meets-orchestral-strings of "Escape," their quality somehow becomes more apparent when they crop up in the midst of Oh Alright. Their demanded-replay-value still suffers in comparison to the rest of the album, but their charms, particularly those of "Oh My God," pop a bit more, too.

Elsewhere, "Bigger Than Jesus" is another soaring disco reverie, with a chugging electronic beat outpacing the restrained coos of singers Johanna and Helena. A bonus track version of the Killers' "Mr. Brightside" works surprisingly well both on its on terms and in creating a desire for more Le Kid covers. Still, it's "We Are The Drums," another of the group's consistently great songs even if not the acme of their work, that sums up Le Kid's potential: "we are the chords and the lyrics and the melodies," they sing in their mini-anthem, practically daring you to disagree with the affirmation that they're the beat you run your life to. If they can keep making material that so effectively sums up the joys of pop music, they really will be.

Le Kid's debut album, Oh Alright, comes out August 17 in Sweden. Preorder it here.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

You'll regret saying all those things you said

I give up. Abandoning his previous husky-voiced balladry and pop-rock, Dutch singer Jim returns with a new single and new style. "Feel You Love" is a RedOne ripoff with a level of shamelessness not heard since Cascada's "Evacuate The Dancefloor," only with the budget RedOne-style beats made even more stop-start. It is incredibly cheesy, I'm not sure I'd introduce it to any of my friends, and the music video opens up with a shirtless male model and ends with a couple undressing each other--because jumping on the sound-of-the-moment bandwagon wasn't desperate enough, apparently...

...and yet every time it comes on, I find myself fighting the impulse to jump up and down, hands in the air. I'm surrendering to the stupid, mindless giddiness, no longer able to resist: if you're looking for cheap fun with minimal risk of negative aftereffects later, a sort of counterpart to Enrique Iglesias's "I Like It," "Feel Your Love" comes highly recommended.

Jim's single "Feel Your Love" is available on iTunes internationally here.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Maybe they'll open with an album track

Some of the tracks making me happy at the moment:

Saint Etienne, "Tonight (Demo)" and "DJ (Demo)": the solo songwriting career of former Xenomania member Tim Powell got off to a strong start with soaring dance joy of Alex Gaudino's "I'm In Love (I Wanna Do It)" and the fizzy pop bounce of Ed Drewett's "Champagne Lemonade," but hit a stumbling block with the interestingly dark but ultimately payoff-lacking "Together" by the Pet Shop Boys. Thankfully, he's back on track with the slick, mature pop-disco of his new demos for Saint Etienne. That endorsement comes with a caveat: the assumption that these truly are demos, not yet mastered into their full, crisp final states. If you'll forgive the needlessly obscure reference, "Tonight" and "DJ" are positioned between "Your Love Is Like A Drug" on Bananarama's 2005 Drama album and Saint Etienne's own "Method Of Modern Love." They aren't quite as exuberantly sparkly as that previous single from the British trio, but they could easily sit on the same album.

CocknBullKid, "Yellow": why oh why was this perfectly constructed little pop song not one of the first three singles released from British singer/songwriter Anita Blay's debut album? I can only assume it was relegated to fourth single status, even as every prior single failed to take off, purely because it didn't exist yet. Otherwise why this instant earworm of a grownup, soul-restoring melody wasn't used to launch the album is incomprehensible.

Find it on: Adulthood

Nicki Minaj, "Super Bass": why is it that the rapper known for her crazy voices and colorful, dirty bragging seems to be the American popstar ending up with all the best pretty, mushy music box melodies? "Super Bass" follows previous Nicki singles "Your Love" and "Right Thru Me" into the world of pretty little odes to love balanced out by hints of her crazy persona in the verses. Maybe she was forced into the world of middle-of-the-road adorability by a pop radio environment too scared for a whole song in the style of her many featuring appearances, but it's hard to be too upset about musical conservatism when it leads to songs as charming as "Super Bass."

Find it on: Pink Friday