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Monday, September 01, 2014

The Fooo - Jump

"All these good times just hanging out with my friends"

The Fooo, who have apparently now changed their name to... er... The Fooo Conspiracy, are back again with a new EP. Name change aside (which I think is totally unnecessary and overly complicated, by the way), they continue to release really fun, playful pop music. Like K-pop, their style is a hybrid of dance, hip-hop, pop and rock with an emphasis on style and attitude. In the normally safe realm of boy bands, it's pretty forward-looking. The new EP contains their most recent singles, All Over The World and Suitcase, plus three new songs and a remix. I gotta say, I absolutely love how often these guys give us new music of such high quality. It makes it very easy to be a fan. Of the new songs, I think that Jump is my favorite. I love the 50's guitar and ad-libs running through, and the bridge/beginning of the hook is pop singalong bliss. It sounds at once classic and totally current.

Jump by The Fooo on Grooveshark

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


Friday, August 29, 2014

Track-by-Track: Taemin - Ace

God, it's been a long time since I've done one of these. And with all of my going on about K-Pop this summer, it's time for some in-depth opinionating on some of the summer's biggest albums, starting with the solo debut of Shinee's Taemin. 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. Ace - We get a slow burn to open the mini-album. I'm usually not a fan of this, but this track is so slinky and interesting and well-produced that I can't help but love it. The waterfall of vocals in the chorus are especially effective. The English bit at the end makes me laugh, though, as it's such a weird phrase: "Talkin' about what I know about". 10/10

2. Danger - Loved it from the very first listen. This is what Michael Jackson in 2014 would sound like, albeit Korean. It's an impressive, dense production, with the catchiest "bom bom bom" bits I've ever heard in a song. Full of attitude and a chaotic, propulsive beat, this is more than a song. It's an opening salvo. 10/10

3. Experience - We open with some spaghetti western guitar before launching into another catchy, uptempo MJ-inspired pop number. This suffers just a bit by following the excellent Danger, but it's still another great production with an easy chorus and strong beat. 9/10

4. Pretty Boy (ft. Kai) - This sounds more like current K-Pop than anything else on the album, and that's no bad thing. From the trumpeting opening to the huge, aggressive hook, this is a definite standout. If they were to select another single from the album, this would be my pick. In a lot of ways, it sounds like a mix between Shinee (Taemin's group) and EXO (Kai's group), which obviously makes sense. Doesn't make it any less awesome. 10/10

5. Wicked - We're going old-school again, with a slightly funkier feel. My favorite part is when things slow down for the bridge. It's actually better than the chorus, which is a little weak melodically. Still good, but not up to the four tracks that preceded it. 8/10

6. Play Me - With a nod to symmetry, we end with another slow track. This isn't as interesting or melodically rewarding as Ace. Unfortunately, it's easily my least favorite track. Perfectly pleasant, but it just doesn't do anything special for me. 6/10

Album Grade: 8.6/10 Highly Recommended

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Caotico - Bad Heart

"You came for answers"

Caotico had a BRILLIANT debut single with Brains Out a couple of years ago, which just also happened to be a duet with fellow Swede Tove Styrke. Then they released their album and I was underwhelmed. It just wasn't my thing. Now they're back with something that's definitely more up my alley. In a lot of ways, this is Swedish indie-rock to the hilt. It's got that languid vocal style and production that I feel is a hallmark of the genre, but it's also got a cool 80's electro vibe that caught my attention right away. I'd like to see the band continue with this theme as they move on with, presumably, another album. They've got heaps of potential and great charisma.

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


Monday, August 25, 2014

Josef Johansson - Blickar kan mörda

One of these days, I'll actually post a song in English again. But for now, I can't neglect the just-released single by Sweden's Josef Johansson. For those not in the know, Johansson was the performer of my favorite track at this year's Melodifestivalen, the epic Hela Natten. Blickar kan mörda (Looks Can Murder) is the new single and it's definitely more uptempo, but still retains that big, lush production.I love the slightly electronic, slightly acoustic, almost orchestral dance sound in this song. Even though he'd neatly slot into a "teen pop" label and probably be pretty successful there, Josef's music feels more mature and subtle overall. This song is cowritten by Swedish music legend Orup, and I'd imagine that it's his input that gives this single its air of classic, non-trendy Swedish pop. I really hope we get a full album from Josef soon. He's got a ton of potential and his singles run is three for three so far.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Friday, August 22, 2014

Infinite - Back

"I say save me"

Okay, so this isn't exactly "new," and I already mentioned it in a post I did about another Infinite song a few weeks ago, but I've got more to say. I really think when all the dust is settled this year, Back is going to find a very high spot on my Top Singles list. I simply can't get enough. Part of that is due to the awesomely styled music video, but it's the song and production that really seals the deal. When it comes to structure, Back is a strange little--almost orchestral--pop song. While most radio tracks follow a pretty strict verse/chorus format, here's what we've got going on with Back: Verse A, Bridge A, Chorus, Breakdown, Verse B, Bridge A, Bridge B, Chorus. In other words, barely anything repeats and the melody manages to grow and change so many times that it's impossible to get bored. The track also has what might be my favorite musical moment of the year. At the 2:03 point (2:23 in the music video), a secondary beat kicks in and the drama and bombast doubles. Taken in tandem with the dancing in the video gives me chills. Fabulous stuff.

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

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Taemin - Danger

"It's my show time"

This is the new Michael Jackson single we've been waiting for, and it comes from Korea and... not Michael Jackson. It makes sense, though, since Korea is one of the places that still gives a crap about the Jacksons' sound (another reason why I love K-Pop). Taemin is a member of the amazing group Shinee, and he's actually the first to go solo. He's the youngest member, known especially for his dancing. With Danger, he gets to show that off, as well as pay tribute to his idol, MJ. This song had me from the first verse. It's produced by Danish genius (and favorite of this blog) Thomas Troelsen and you can definitely tell. Those "bom bom bom" bits in the verses are among the best pop song pieces I've heard all year. It truly is what Michael might have sounded like had he gotten his start in this era. Like most of k-pop, it also benefits from the ridiculously cool music video, so I'm posting that today rather than just the song. Enjoy!

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

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Robin - Parasta Just Nytt (ft. Nikke Ankara)

I love it when an artist is at that point in their career where they're on an undisputed roll, releasing excellent single after excellent single with barely enough space between each to fully appreciate them. Now, Robin's never really taken too long of a break between albums (you can't when you perform in this fickle genre), but it was definitely a pleasant surprise to hear that his next one's out in late September, not even a year after his last. Since Boom Kah hit last fall, he's cemented himself as Finland's most reliable pop star. Kesärenkaat is one of my songs of the summer, and now we've got this totally different, but totally awesome follow up. Parasta Just Nyt sees him going full-on aggressive rap, which is intercut with heavy verses and an almost operatic hook that only gets better the more you hear it. It's like Eminem's Lose Yourself for the Finnish set. It's also the sound of a teen singer growing up and branching out, and I couldn't be more excited to hear what else he's got in store for us.

Parasta Just Nyt (ft. Nikke Ankara) by Robin on Grooveshark

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


Friday, August 15, 2014

Dragonette & Mike Mago - Outlines

"Outlines of the heart"

So, this was uploaded a month ago and somehow it totally passed me by. That's very unusual for a Dragonette song, since I try to follow them pretty closely. After all, they were one of the first bands I featured on this blog. This track is a collaboration with house producer Mike Mago, but it's more than some fancy dance beat. Pleasingly, this is an actual pop song that just happens to be a club track as well. The hook, especially, is fantastic. It represents that melodic side of the band that I really love. It's also giving me strong 80's vibes. If this is a taste of the kind of thing we might expect on their new album, I'm definitely excited!

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


Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Fooo - Suitcase

"We got a home wherever we go"

I am loving how frequently we can count on a brilliant new release from The Fooo. I feel like we get treated to a new song almost monthly, and not only that but an accompanying dance video as well! No doubt about it, these guys are working hard. And as they firm up their rabid fanbase in Sweden, I can see them making huge inroads internationally in the coming months. Suitcase is another hiphop-inspired dance track from the guys. It's funny, because a lot of what I like about their music intersects with what I love so much about k-pop: new sounds, an ear for a bubblegum hook, sharp dancing and tons of swagger. I could do without the annoying schoolyard chant that makes up much of the hook in this track, but I'm still loving the song in general.

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


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Lisa Scinta - 1992

"Just kids in the dark out under the stars"

I was actually sent this track by the song’s producer/co-writer. Now, I get a lot of music sent to me daily and unfortunately 99.9% of it just doesn't fit with my blog and/or my personal taste. But, I could tell by the accompanying email that this was going to be something worth sharing. The artist is Lisa Scinta, and this is taken from her new EP of the same name. The song itself is a bombastic, expertly produced slice of nostalgic pop. It kind of reminds me of something that could've been on Carly Rae Jepsen's last album -- bubbly and poppy without the feeling of any corporate maneuvering behind the scenes. In other words, it feels like the work of an artist who truly loves and understands pop music, and it's the strength of the song that pushes this over the edge. It has a timeless quality about it, and the production choices are right up my alley, particularly the added Michael Jackson-esque guitar towards the end!

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


Monday, August 11, 2014

Eva & Manu - Cinnamon Hearts

"We're young, fresh blood runs in our lungs"

Mondays are the kinds of days that you need a little bit of jauntiness in your life. Honestly, though, when don't you want a jaunty pop song? Eva & Manu have supplied this in abundance with their new single Cinnamon Hearts. Now, I don't really know what a "cinnamon heart" is, but it's not hard to get into the vibe of this song. From the boogie beat to the slowed down, dramatic hook to the post-chorus synth attack, this is a great mid-August feel-good singalong. The duo hails from Finland, which has been churning out pop hit after pop hit this year. Looking at their other tracks on youtube, it seems like this is a lot poppier and uptempo than their usual sound. Hopefully it's not a one-off, because I could use more of this!

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


Friday, August 08, 2014

Spica - I Did It

"I don't care what you want me to be"

Here's a nice little oddball that neatly bridges this blog's English-language history and my newfound love of K-pop. Spica is a successful Korean girl group, though I admittedly am not too familiar with them myself, and they've decided to record an English language album for the Western market. The only other k-pop artist I remember releasing a full-length was BoA, but I'm sure there have been others. The thing about this language shift is that it usually results in pretty sucky music. This might be the single that turns the tide. The production, melody and (multiple) hooks are on point, sounding like a nice crossover between West and East. I still kind of wish it was sung in Korean, but the English lyrics are not bad and the pronunciation is pretty spot-on. Wouldn't it be exciting if this was a big success?

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

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Thursday, August 07, 2014

Dami Im - Gladiator

"Gonna fight for your love"

What a voice Dami Im has! I'd go so far to say she's my favorite X-Factor winner ever, but a lot of that is going to depend on the material she's given when it's time for that all-important debut album. After being initially underwhelmed by her last single, Super Love, I found my affection for it growing each day. I hope the same thing will happen with this song. On the surface, Gladiator seems way too trendy and melodically familiar, but that special essence that Dami brings to a song should push it over the edge for me. If someone like Demi Lovato was singing this (and honestly, it sounds like one of her dirgy self-empowerment anthems), I'd probably dismiss it outright. And if I'm being completely honest, I still want more from Dami, because she's better than this kind of soundalike material. But it's still Dami, and she can make even a mediocre song special.

Gladiator by Dami Im on Grooveshark

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


Monday, August 04, 2014

HyunA - Red

I love a little troublemaking in the otherwise well-oiled K-Pop world. HyunA is part of girl group 4minute, but she's really become a huge solo star on her own. Red is her new single, and it's a ridiculously catchy, bratty piece of pop. The images in the video are reminiscent of Miley Cyrus's recent party girl transformation, and HyunA's delivery certainly amps up the bad girl charisma. The lyrics themselves are your standard bragging about how sexy and cool she is, and the chorus borrows from an old Korean kid's playground rhyme (or so I'm told). Of course, most people reading this blog won't be able to understand the lyrics anyway. You'll be too busy freaking out over the beat and that wickedly melodic bridge leading into the spazz attack of a chorus.

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


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Infinite - Reflex

I've long admired 7-piece K-pop band Infinite, particularly for their lush, string-laden productions that expertly blend East and West. But, for some reason, I've hesitated when it comes to their full albums. After a quick preview, I stupidly dismissed their latest full-length, Season 2. But now that the album's been re-released as Be Back, with an excellent new title track, I was tempted to give it another listen. Thank god I did! I am in love with this album! I even like the ballads, which is rare for me. But Infinite's synth-drenched dance tracks are its bread and butter. Reflex is a late-album highlight that sounds like it's straight from the 80's. In fact, it reminds me of a K-pop group covering a Rick Astley song. Weird, I know, but it all comes together perfectly. Also check out their new single, Back, which has an awesome, cinematic action music video.

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

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

JS16 & Erkka - Girls On Film

I'm usually all about the melody, but sometimes it just comes down to the beat. There are bits and pieces of a vocals in here, sampled tremendously from Duran Duran's Girls On Film, but they pale in comparison to the gargantuan, driving beat that propels this track. It sucks you in like a whirlwind and throws you out the other end dazed, dizzy and totally thrilled. It's simply all about the production. Fans of Duran Duran will probably get a kick out of it too, even if the band's contribution isn't huge. It's perfect if you're looking for a summer workout song.

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

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Monday, July 28, 2014

Hedegaard - Happy Home (ft. Lukas Graham)

"We got a lot of love and a happy home"

This is one of those songs that really captivates you and forces you to stop whatever you're doing to listen. And even more impressively, it manages to do this with minimal production. It's all about the vocals, melody and lyrics. Hedegaard is a Danish DJ and this song was actually a huge hit earlier this year (#1 for 19 weeks!), but is still enjoying success because its soulful singer, Lukas Graham, is currently blowing up. Graham's own music isn't really my thing, but I am in love with the slightly electronic, completely emotional drama displayed here. I'm not sure how I missed this track when it was first released. For those of you that share this fate, I consider it my duty to feature it today! You will fall madly in love.

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

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Friday, July 25, 2014

GOT7 - A

"I know you want me"

I don't know why I initially slept on this song. I think it's because GOT7's debut track earlier this year was a little underwhelming, and they're from JYP, which is my least favorite of the big three Korean agencies (although I love its president, Park Jin-young). Jin-young wrote this track, and it's pretty evident because it has that soulful, addictive beat and feel to it that characterizes the best of his music. It's a ridiculously catchy single, and the seven (!) band members carry it off perfectly. I particularly love the music video, which reminds me of an old musical or something. If this was in English, it could easily be a big hit in the States. Either way, it should feature prominently on your summer playlist.

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

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Bleachers - Like A River Runs

"When I fall asleep, I can see your face"

In a summer that has been (for me, at least) entirely dominated by international music, Bleachers' debut album has been a nice American surprise. Bleachers is the side-project of Jack Antonoff (of fun. fame). The album was released last week after three amazing singles. Those singles remain the best portion of the album, but the rest of the songs aren't exactly slouchers. Maybe a little more mellow, but still good. Like A River Runs is a late-album energizer, with surging production and a shout-along chorus. It represents what I consider the best qualities of Antonoff's music. If you like this, you should also check out his work with the band Steel Train. The song Bullet, in particular, is a nice aural companion to this one.

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


Monday, July 21, 2014

G.R.L. - Ugly Heart

"Your face is a work of art"

I am shocked that his song hasn't been a total smash worldwide by now. Honestly, it's only a matter of time. It's already blowing up in Australia. I'm not a huge fan of girl groups, so it takes something special for me to stand up and pay attention. G.R.L. are that something special. From their attitude/charisma to their campy, fun style to their surprisingly amazing songs, they are bound to be the next big thing. Honestly, they remind me of the Spice Girls a little in that they're both incredibly refreshing and utterly packaged. Sometimes strong branding isn't a bad thing. Each of these girls seems to inhabit their own cartoony character. Oh, and let's not forget about the song. This is a solid gold hit, through and through. The melody is amazing, the lyrics are great, and the whole thing reminds me of classic, 90's pop goodness. Check out the fab music video below and find yourself converted.

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