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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Akdong Musician - Time And Fallen Leaves

I am not nearly as filled with October/Halloween spirit as I'd like to be. I don't know what it is, but this year I just feel like the season is passing my by and I need to get on that real quick. Luckily, I've got Akdong Musician and their new autumnal single, Time and Fallen Leaves to help me out. The duo previously ushered in spring with their brilliant 200%. This song has a totally different vibe. It's gentle, moody and takes its time to build to a crescendo. In fact, it's not even a real duet until almost halfway through. The sibling duo are incredibly popular in Korea right now, and rightfully so. There's just something about their voices, songwriting and image that is incredibly refreshing. This is not the usual music I go for, but I am totally smitten with these guys. Eat something pumpkin-flavored, grab a hot drink, and relax to this beauty.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the single here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Dami Im - Living Dangerously

"So tell the fear to fear me"

Let's talk about Dami Im and her astonishingly powerful voice. It's on full display in this track from her upcoming album (out Friday). It's the kind of voice that forces you to stop whatever you're doing and pay attention. Even better than that, Living Dangerously confirms that she's still walking down the wonderful lane of dance pop. I love soaring vocals over intense dance beats. This song is very dramatic and loud. It doesn't have many quiet bits, which could be a bad thing if the lyrics weren't delivered with such passion and fire. This is the Dami Im I fell in love with on X-Factor. I grew to adore Super Love and thought Gladiator was alright, but I think this is the first time an original song has allowed Dami to really let it rip. More of this, please! I'm not sure if this'll end up being the next single or not, but it should be.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Preorder the album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Take That - These Days

"Take me back before we all explode"

A few days after Robbie Williams came back with his brilliant Avicii team-up The Days, his former band Take That also released a new single called... These Days. Take That have become very interesting over their past couple of albums, as they've stretched their musical identity and come up with a really cool sci-fi, theatrical sound. Unfortunately, Take That is now a trio, and Robbie is not one of those three. This could have meant it was back to the boring ballads for the band, but they've surprised me and released another awesome uptempo instead! In the battle between These Days and The Days (confused yet?), Robbie wins hand down. But These Days is no slouch either. It's a hodgepodge of impossibly catchy hooks, coupled with kaleidoscopic, ebullient production that forces you out of your seat. I hope this ends up being the norm for the upcoming album and not a red herring. I'm not the biggest Gary Barlow fan, but there's no denying that he can churn out a great pop song. Also, doesn't this sound like it could have been a song Mika would've recorded?

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Preorder the album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Friday, October 10, 2014

Markus Krunegård - Du Stör Dig Hårt På Mig (Bassflow Remake)

I just love this pairing. As longtime readers know, Bassflow is one of my ultimate all-time favorite producers. Everything he remixes or produces is pure gold. And Markus Krunegård is the vocalist for one of my favorite Swedish bands (the now defunct Laakso). Add these two together and you get something very special--an off kilter pop song married to that sweet dance beat. It also reminds me that I really need to delve deeper into Krunegård's solo material. He's been pretty prolific and popular in Sweden since Laakso ended. This serves as a nice and easy reintroduction. I love the tropical-sounding synths used after the chorus, and the driving beat is on point as usual. I've got a long playlist of Bassflow remixes on my ipod and it's literally the best workout music ever.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the unremixed single here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.

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Thursday, October 09, 2014

Ruth Lorenzo - Gigantes

After what seems like forever waiting, Ruth Lorenzo's debut album finally has a release date! Planet Azul will be out on October 28th. After the magnificent Dancing In The Rain earlier year, my anticipation is certainly at a fever pitch. Ruth's impossibly gigantic voice is on full display in her new anthemic single, Gigantes. The song is performed in Spanish, as will the rest of the album, but it's easy for the listener to get the feel of the track regardless of what language they speak. Gigantes is nowhere near as instant as Dancing was, but it does paint a portrait of a mature, elegant artist with a sound not entirely unlike Shakira's pre-American stuff. I'd imagine that it's also probably a good indicator of what the album as a whole will sound like. If that's the case, it will be perfect for the tail end of Autumn.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Preorder the album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Billy Idol - Postcards From The Past

"Yesterday is history"

I had no idea that I thirsted for, of all things, a Billy Idol comeback in 2014. And then I heard this track, and instantly wondered why I haven't been pining for this for years. Idol's last studio album was almost a decade ago and, from what I can remember, wasn't all that great. This time, he's enlisted the help of AMAZING producer/writer Trevor Horn. Horn understands how to bring Idol's 80's swagger into the present while still maintaining what made the music awesome in the first place. Also, I very much believe that a whopping 100% of what Horn touches is gold (see his one-two punch of Scissor Sisters and Kylie Minogue albums a few years back). So far, Idol has released two tracks from the upcoming album. Both are excellent, but Postcards From The Past is the one that instantly caught my attention because it sounds very much like his 80's stuff. That chorus! That production! That trademark, sneering voice! If the entire album is this good, then we've got an awesome surprise on our hands.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Preorder the album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Monday, October 06, 2014

Cheryl Cole - I Don't Care

"I'm screaming, I don't care"

It's been awhile since I was into a Cheryl Cole single. In fact, not since 2012's still-awesome Call My Name have I felt the need to write about her music. Refreshingly, her new song I Don't Care is a gimmick-free, classic melodic dance track that doesn't sound at all like it wants to be trendy. The beat, while not new or unusual, is amazing from the start and the melody hooks as it wraps deliciously around the production. I don't expect that this will be Cheryl's new sound, and I'm actually kind of surprised that they chose it as a single, but I'm happy that she's up for recording something like this. It'll be interesting to see how the public takes to it. I can't help think that this is more of a Summer single, but I definitely understand that she'll want to ride the publicity of her return to the X-Factor UK (which is looking pretty good so far this year).

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy her music here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Friday, October 03, 2014

Avicii & Robbie Williams - The Days

"These are the days we've been waiting for"

So where the hell did this come from? I love it when awesome, random pop collaborations just appear out of nowhere. I don't think I ever would have considered Avicii and Robbie Williams as two artists that would go well together, but as soon as I heard their names, it made perfect sense. The Days is their new collaboration single and, surprisingly, it's a lot less dance/club inspired than I would have expected. Up until the last minute or so, it sounds like a classic acoustic 70's singalong with some modern electro production to push it forward. The hook is fantastic, and Robbie's vocals are always a treat. I was a big fan of his "dance" album Rudebox, so I certainly wouldn't mind hearing more like this in the near future.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the single here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.

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Thursday, October 02, 2014

BeatBurger - She So High

As a writer and teacher, it's difficult for me to ignore grammatical errors. But, since this song is 90% not in English, I can forgive that wonky, apostrophe-less title. BeatBurger is the project of several producers that work for Korea's SM Entertainment. This song features the vocals of one half of TVXQ, though it sounds much more like a European house track than typical k-pop. I would expect this to come out of some place like Sweden or Norway. The soaring, yet gentle, melody compliments that surging instrumental so well. It's one of those tracks that seems a bit typical at first, but quickly reveals its melodic charms on repeated listens. It's certainly become an unexpected favorite for me, appearing almost out of nowhere to find a permanent spot on my ipod.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Donkeyboy - Hero

"There will be nothing we can't take on"

As soon as I heard those thundering drums that open this song, I knew I was in love. Actually, that's not entirely accurate. I kinda knew I was in love before I even heard the song, because since their debut with the modern classic Ambitions, Norwegian band Donkeyboy haven't put a foot wrong. Hero is catchy enough with its choral hook and melodic verses, but then two and a half minutes in, the production switches up and the track becomes a deliriously fun bit of electro dance. It's like a bonus surprise remix at the end of the song. An even greater surprise would be the debut of this long-awaited third album. We're three excellent singles in at this point, and my mouth is watering for a new full-length. Come on, guys! We can't wait much longer! At least give us a release date...

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy their music here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Monday, September 29, 2014

One Direction - Steal My Girl

"Everybody wanna take her heart away"

Sometimes, in my weaker moments, I wish that I could be one of those "cool" music bloggers who rails against manufactured pop music and highlights "true" musicians. Then I remind myself to screw it and go with the melody, like I always have. I adore a big chorus, an awesome guitar or piano riff, and slick, polished production. Judging from Steal My Girl, One Direction are in the same boat I am. I keep expecting them to ditch this awesome, "uncool" 80's power rock sound they've brought back in favor of something more trendy and boring. Luckily, they surprise me time after time by coming back with something hugely anthemic and melodic, over the top and filled with brilliant pop cheese. I love this new single, just as I've loved everything the band have put out since their debut. I'm amazed how consistently good (and fun) their music has remained four albums in, when most of these types of bands fizzle out and go the boring, adult-contemporary route to make those last few bucks. Like, seriously... that Abba-meets-Journey piano line? I'm in heaven. And I feel sorry for anyone whose personal definition of "cool" doesn't allow them to turn this up and sing along. (But I bet even they'd do it secretly at home)

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Preorder the album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Tove Lo - Timebomb

"You're not the one"

We're all guilty of rushing to snap judgments from time to time when it comes to pop music. I'm no different. In fact, I'm probably worse because I listen to so much music, both for this blog and for my own enjoyment. I knew that Sweden's Tove Lo was tapped as a "next big thing" by many, but I heard her breakout single Habits and deemed it not for me. It probably never will be... I just find it sonically and lyrically uninteresting, and that's fine. It's personal taste. My mistake, though, was painting all her music with the same brush and assuming I didn't need to explore further. Then, Timebomb premiered and shattered that assumption. It's got that building synth and drum production that gives it a big, vital sound. For my taste at least, this is the kind of track that makes me want to investigate what else Tove has to offer. So thank you, Timebomb, for reminding me that an artist is more than one song.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Preorder the album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Block B - Secret Door

"Let it flow"

Block B is yet another Korean band I've been getting into this year, mostly due to the irresistable H.E.R. this summer and Nillila Mambo from a year back. They're a colorful hip-hop group that, at times, reminds me of a group of carnies or gypsies. This is a good thing, by the way! I used to complain about hip hop all the time, thinking it was a boring, unnecessary violent and immature genre. A lot of that is still true of western hip-hop, but I absolutely love the Korean counterpart. Yes, they emulate a lot of Western elements, but combine them with a sense of experimentalism, high fashion and a willingness to borrow from other genres. Take Block B's latest, for example. Secret Door is from a soundtrack, and could've easily been a throw-away track. Instead, its rock and orchestral elements give the song drive, power and an instant upbeat catchiness. I love that we get a guitar solo! Oh, and while you're investigating Block B, check out their album track Mental Breaker. Sounds a bit like good Swedish pop to me!

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the soundtrack here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.

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Monday, September 22, 2014

Robin - Kaikki Ok

I've been thinking a lot lately about my MVPs of the year--those artists or bands that have been both prolific and incredibly consistent with the quality of their releases. Robin Packalen, who I've written about many times on the blog, is certainly on that list. His new album comes out later this week, less than a year from his last one. Having heard it, I can say if you've liked his stuff in the past, you'll love this one too. He's got an incredible team behind him, who have crafted a sound all his own--an addictive mixture of One Direction-style pop/rock, Euro and Afro rhythms and an increasingly prominent emphasis on hip hop and beat. That's not to sell Robin himself short. The guy's a bundle of youthful charisma, with a full-bodied voice that sounds older than he is. Kaikki Ok is a bonus track released with a magazine in Finland, and it's a shame it didn't find its way onto the album because it would have been a highlight. I love African influences in production, and the relentless beat here fits the bill. Add to that a sax interlude and a party atmosphere, and you have another in a string of very strong pop releases. Don't let the language barrier scare you away. It doesn't matter.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Preorder the album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Friday, September 19, 2014

Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814 - 25th Anniversary

"Get the point? Good, let's dance."

Just a short post today to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Janet Jackson's classic fourth album Rhythm Nation 1814, which I would consider to be one of the best albums of all time by my favorite artist of all time. It remains a very unique piece of art, and holds up very well to this day. Part of that appeal is that the album truly does not sound like anything else. Sure, it's firmly in the industrial new jack swing genre, but it manages to leap past that label with its propulsive songwriting, social awareness and intricate, inventive production. Janet, of course, wraps it all up in a bow with her fierce, charismatic-as-hell vocals and performance, as well as the considerable artistic input and songwriting she added to the mix. In fact, one of the album's best tracks--the dynamic hard rocker Black Cat--was written solely by Janet herself. Janet simply does not get her due nowadays as the legend that she is. Her music will always be a huge part of me. For years now, I've been meaning to post a "Ten Best Singles By..." list for Janet on this blog, but I just can't bring myself to rank her best songs. They're all too good. I'd kill for a remastered deluxe version of this album (hint hint) and, of course, new music. But for now, take a listen to this megamix highlighting some of the album's most enduring moments.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Team B - Wait For Me

After the success of last year's WIN reality competition that led to the debut of hugely popular K-Pop group Winner, YG Entertainment is at it again with Mix & Match, which takes the losing team from last year and... well, mixes and matches them until they're a new group to be called iKON. For now, I guess we still call them Team B, but either way, they were my favorite of the two teams on WIN and I think if they get the right songs, they could eventually be the more successful of the two teams. As part of M&M's premiere episode last week, the guys released Wait For Me. Like most YG songs, I was a little ho-hum on first listen but I quickly grew to fall in love with it. And when I say "fall in love," I am not using that phrase lightly. I literally can't stop listening to this track. It's an emotional mid-tempo pop/r&b track with a perfect melody and an excellent guitar line forming the foundation. It feels so incredibly powerful, but I think part of that is because I've watched all these guys have had to go through on their way to success. They're hungry, and you can feel that in the vocals and level of commitment. So all in all, give this a few listens until it clicks, and also watch the performance. You won't regret it (at least until a couple of these guys get kicked off the team...).

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the single here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Eden XO - Too Cool To Dance

"I don't even have to try"

I don't know how I missed this when it was released four months ago. I guess that's what music videos are for, and Eden XO released hers today, drawing my attention finally. Now, Eden XO is the new stage name of Jessie Malakouti, formerly of ace pop project Jessie & The Toyboys. I loved the music of the Toyboys and even featured it here, but if I'm honest, I'd somehow forgotten about the project. Shame on me! Too Cool To Dance is a single that brings it all back to the forefront--a big dance track that sounds like a cross between Gwen Stefani and Kylie Minogue with a modern disco beat. Jessie/Eden is a pop star that never got her due, so here's hoping this new image will reignite her music career. I'm ready for more songs and an album, pronto!

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the single here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Track-by-Track: HyunA - A Talk

I've always considered HyunA to be the troublemaker of the K-Pop world. Maybe that's just me being literal, since one of her many projects is as part of a duo actually called Trouble Maker, but beyond that there's just a swagger and anything-goes-craziness in her music that I really appreciate. A note about any K-Pop review I do: I am not a Korean speaker. I search out translations of the lyrics when it interests me, but lyrics are definitely not something I'm focusing too heavily on in these reviews.

1. A Talk - The intro to HyunA’s new album is more of a mini song than most intros, though it’s still not really long enough to warrant a score. As intros go, it’s fine but not all that memorable.

2. French Kiss - I’ve heard many say that this should have been the album’s single. I don’t agree, as it’s not as good as Red, but I do think that it sounds like it could be a second single. It’s all about that chorus, which is ridiculously catchy and fun. I’d say it’s also probably the poppiest track on the album. 8/10

3. Red - I have come to absolutely adore this song. From the attitude-filled rap, to the melodic, melancholic bridge, to the explosive, fun-as-hell chorus (transitioned from what sounds like a bonkers Tigerlily impression that’s definitely not politically correct), this is a party. The accompanying video does a great job positioning her as Korea's answer to Miley Cyrus, at least when it comes to strange party/afterparty visuals and "screw you" attitude.  10/10

4. From Where Until Where (ft. Beast’s Yo Seop) - Slowing things down to a mid-tempo, smooth r&b flavor, this is a pleasant summertime jam with some catchy synth drops in the background. Not a favorite, but not something I’d skip either. 7/10

5. Blacklist (ft. LE) - This is my second favorite track on the album. It’s a hard-hitting hip-hop track with tons of attitude and a great beat. The refrain that kicks off the song is incredibly catchy. 9/10

Album Grade: 8.5/10 Recommended

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Wolf Gang - Lay Your Love Down

"Do you hear me at all?"

Wolf Gang are the band responsible for one of my favorite singles of the year, the gorgeous and epic Black River. This is their follow-up, which was always going to suffer a bit in my eyes having to follow River. But even though it's not nearly as over the top, the guys have created a really solid indie pop track. The hook sounds instantly familiar to me, like a mix between Bastille and Florence + The Machine. I like the verses even better, with that majestic opening and drumbeat. It definitely has the feel of mainstream crossover success, which this band is well overdue for. It just needs to be featured in the right movie or TV show or something. For now, they're one of music's best kept secrets.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the single here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Friday, September 12, 2014

Kalle Lindroth - Annika

To Finland again today, which has become one of my most reliable countries for new pop music lately. As I've stated before, I just love the sound of the Finnish language. This brand new track by Kalle Lindroth is drop dead beautiful. It's got that surging build to it, where it feels like the song is just getting bigger and bigger while still managing to remain intimate and gentle. Kalle is apparently a TV personality and former lead singer of the band Smak, who I'm unfamiliar with. Not sure what this song is about, but it doesn't really matter because the melody is so gorgeous. It seems to be pretty popular in Finland, too, since it's riding high on the itunes charts upon its release.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the single here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.