Saturday, December 02, 2006
MARVEL - GODDESS ON THE LOOSE
“When you look as good as me in black skin and white leather”
Marvel are an interesting Swedish group that have fashioned themselves as comic book superheroes, and most of their songs are also comic-book themed. Some are really pretty funny, but Goddess On The Loose, a single last year, is my favorite. It starts off as blistering rock & roll, then moves into some very glammy vocals with just a hint of Tim Curry. There's even some manic guitar solos and a rather epic drum section towards the end. It's clearly the sound of a young band having a lot of fun. Oh yeah, and it is very, very catchy.
Listen: Fancy - Slice Me Nice
Download: Fancy - Slice Me Nice
This song is about as perfect as you can get. First off, the guy's name is Fancy. How cool is that? Secondly, the song's called Slice Me Nice. What the hell is that supposed to mean? And, in case you didn't get it, he even spells S-L-I-C-E. He's very adamant. Thirdly, it contains lyrics like "I'm like a cake that wants to be baked," only the "wants" sounds more like "vants." Beautiful. In fact, there's really nothing bad to say about this track. Fancy's had a long career and has gone on to record hi-nrg records, Christmas collections, and even a euro-dance concept album. The guy's pretty much a genius, I'd say.
Friday, December 01, 2006
SMALL FERAL TOKEN - A GIRL'S BEST FRIEND
Small Feral Token, in addition to having one of the stranger group names I've come across, are also eerily reminiscent at times of an electronically-backed Tori Amos split with (at times) Canada's Tegan & Sara. The band consists of Lotta and Natalie, two young girls living in Stockholm. Their music is mostly downbeat in sound but very much alive lyrically. Best of all, like a few other bands from Sweden, their entire musical output is available for free on their website. Of the songs I've heard, A Girl's Best Friend was the instant standout. I'll let you draw your own conclusions from the lyrics as to what exactly a girl's best friend is. Hint: it's not a rock.
(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists! Download more for free here.)
Listen: Roxette - Teaser Japanese
Download: Roxette - Teaser Japanese
Before Roxette hit it big in the mid eighties, the band put out the Heartland e.p., though the line-up looked a little different. Marie was there... as a back-up singer, and Per took lead vocals on all the tracks. For all intents and purposes, the album is basically the work of Per's former band Gyllene Tider released under a new band name in the U.S. (because, you know... we're far too hopeless here to be able to pronounce foreign words). Teaser Japanese is the opening track of the e.p. and is catchy as hell. Sure, it's kinda dorky... but the ingredients for the Roxette we now know and love are totally there.
Thursday, November 30, 2006
Release Date: November 16, 2006
Label: Monza Music AB
If a young Madonna had recorded True Blue twenty years later, it might sound a little bit like Linda Sundblad’s Oh My God! From the crackling album opener Cheater to the lead single Oh Father, which flirts with the interplay between sexuality and religion, Sundblad brings back sparkly eighties pop and manages to make it sound more authentic (and classic) than most of her peers.
It’s quite an achievement for the lead singer of the now-defunct pop/rock band Lambretta, a group known more for their pop hooks than their adventurous attitude. Now, unbridled and borrowing the best from Gwen Stefani and fellow Swedish songstress Robyn, Sundblad explodes with a solo debut that presents an absolute kaleidoscope of pop styles. Nearly everything is successful, but clear standouts are the boisterous Back In Time and the unfortunately titled Who (Q-Boy). The latter is perhaps Sundblad’s most eerily “Madonna” moment. A twisting confection of a story-song, it bursts with unpredictable energy and verve, gliding on hook after glorious hook. Later highlights include hip-pop electro dance tracks Keeper and Beautiful Boys, though really the entire album is one long, wild ride, with Sundblad's charismatic, playful voice always at the center.
With Oh My God!, Linda Sundblad has easily crafted the female pop album of the year, and the best thing about it is that it sounds completely effortless. Those expecting a retread of the sound that rocketed Lambretta to fame are going to be surprised by this. Instead, Sundbald has fashioned herself as the pop star that Gwen Stefani promised us, but ultimately failed to deliver. A-
Key Tracks: Who (Q-Boy), Oh Father, Back In Time
“I didn't want it easy, gotta wait until the right time”
Remember Sonique? She's that British DJ-turned-singer who had a global hit in the late nineties with It Feels So Good. She quietly released her comeback single, Sleezy (that's the ghettoer version of Sleazy, for those not in the know) earlier this year. It more or less follows the same template as her earlier hits, dreamlike club music mixed with r&b all wrapped in a solid pop framework. It's brilliant stuff, and puts many r&b divas to shame. In fact, I'd almost go so far to say that Sonique is the natural heir to Donna Summer's throne. Almost.
Listen: Chilly - Taxman
Download: Chilly - Taxman
From their silly 1981 concept album Showbiz, comes this Beatles cover from German disco band Chilly. It's a strange little version of the song, part David Bowie (if David Bowie was some kind of creepy monster) part insanely goofy synth-disco. I wish I could have found a promo shot of the band from this era, as I'm sure it would be suitably funny, but the song stands on its own anyway.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Though voting fell off a bit last week, Viola's Sad Eyed Disco Dancers was the clear winner. Who knew? This week there's some stiff competition, though I've got my eyes on one track that I think will be victorious. We'll see if my prediction is right next week...
PAPERPLANE - GROW YOUNG (VOGEL REMIX)
“Pretend to be king, got whatever it takes”
Paperplane are a brilliant new band from Sweden who mix elements of classic bands like the Byrds and the Beatles with a more contemporary edge. This remix of their first single (no album yet) flawlessly combines the old with the new, creating a catchy singalong with just enough spunk to keep it sailing along. It's not terribly different from fellow Swedes Soundtrack Of Our Lives, though I think that this band has the potential to be more pop-based. The song has a very youthful, Spring-like sound to it, perfect for the continuing onslaught of snow this crazy November has been bringing me!
(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists! Buy the single here.)
Listen: Joy - Lost In Hong Kong
Download: Joy - Lost In Hong Kong
Austrian threesome Joy recorded some incredible eighties fluff, the kind of songs that can rightfully be called guilty pleasures. They had some "hits," though I prefer this album track from their debut. Lyrically (and musically, actually) it's pretty lame, but the melody, especially in the verses, is far too catchy to be dismissed. And just look at their tough poses!
Release Date: June 6th, 2006
Do you miss the guitar rock of the mid to late nineties? Inclusive, varied and pleasantly playful, Middle Distance Runner’s Plane In Flames dabbles in many sounds, from the Radiohead-like dirge The Madness to the fuzzy garage rock of Man Of The People. Though nothing on the album particularly stands out, the band presents a little something for everyone.
Plane In Flames is a pleasant album, hooky in places, brooding in others, and a spotlight for a band with a lot of potential. The record opens brilliantly with Naturally, a sly, sinister song ironically filled with jaunty hand-claps. Switch It Up continues the playfully sinister tone, with lyrics about a girl intent on finding ways to “dig her nails” into the song’s narrator. Both Top Of The Stairs and Up In A Tree are prime examples of the catchy guitar rock the band does very well, while Hooks begins as a atmospheric Death Cab For Cutie sound-alike and soon morphs into an avalanche of epic guitars and vocals. While this kind of thing has been heard countless times before, the band succeeds at taking the best from their influences and crafting a record that shines in its diversity.
Middle Distance Runner is clearly a band with some ambition, and listening to Plane In Flames, it’s clear that they are not stuck in one particular sound. The trick, of course, will be to transcend their influences and find a sound that can instantly be identified as their own. Until then, Plane In Flames is a fitting primer, and an album in which every music fan should find something to latch on to. B-
Key Tracks: Naturally, Top Of The Stairs, The Madness
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
“I don't want to lose your faith, I don't want to let you down”
I noticed that the glorious Jessica from Into The Groove posted this track about a year ago, but I still think it deserves another spin today. Iris are an American electronic/pop group clearly indebted to Depeche Mode. Appetite is an amazing pop song, easily transcending any genre and offering a singalong, sophisticated sound. There's something very timeless about the melody. I can never understand why a song like this doesn't become the hit that it should. Iris have, however, found some much deserved success in mainland Europe.
Listen & Download: Iris - Appetite
Download: Iris - Appetite
(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists! Buy the album here.)
Listen & Download: Baltimora - Tarzan Boy
Download: Baltimora - Tarzan Boy
I really should be severely punished for loving this song as much as I do. I mean, look at the guy who sings it! Yes, that is good old Baltimora, poster boy for the really, really desperate. But, before you judge... just listen to the song. Opening with a cavalcade of cheesy Tarzan bellows and then transitioning into uber-catchy verses, it's practically legendary. I wish I could say that I was being completely ironic, but I'm not.
Monday, November 27, 2006
Release Date: November 22nd, 2006
Darin Zanyar the popstar was borne from the first season of Swedish Idol, one of the many spin-offs from the massive worldwide Idol franchise. He didn’t win (coming in second) but if you’ve ever watched any Idol program, it’ll give you a good idea as to what kind of music Darin records. Break The News, as with his previous two releases, is pure mainstream teen pop. Luckily, it’s also a near perfection of the genre.
Break The News finds Darin sounding like a feisty boy band member gone solo (though he was never affiliated with any boy band). He coos, over emotes and snarls at exactly the right points. The sound is manufactured and for the most part overly familiar. However, there are points (the lead single Perfect, album-opener Insanity and party track Saturday Night) that muster an intense pop fervor that hints at what Darin is wisely aiming for. Similarly, chest-beating ballad Everything But The Girl has hit written all over it, and the electro thump of club tracks If You Wanna and Desire shows some dance floor promise. In fact, what Break The News lacks in inventiveness, it makes up for in pure spunk. It’s only in the record’s second half where the cracks begin to show. What If I Kissed You Now and The Thing About You are typical boy band fodder, undistinguishable from countless chart acts.
Processed pop music is at times unfairly maligned for being lightweight and unnecessary, but in many cases the sneers are well deserved. Thankfully, Break The News is the rare exception. While there’s no doubt that this is a party record, it is amongst the best of its genre released this year. Best of all, within the album’s teen-pop framework are some glimmers of artistic potential. B+
Key Tracks: Perfect, Saturday Night, Everything But The Girl
“Just stop and let it astound you”
Remember Polyphonic Spree, that immense choir of rockers a few years back with the creepy robes and the general cultish atmosphere? Well, De Novo Dahl are a bit like them, sans the robes and the creepiness. In fact, they are the Spree's superior in almost every single way, due to the fact that their sound manages to be expansive and diverse (based on what I've heard so far). Shout is riveting stuff, the kind of transcendent pop music that makes you want to throw your arms in the air and praise something (whatever floats your boat, I guess). It's perfect for day two of snowed in conditions at the #1 Hits headquarters!
Listen & Download: De Novo Dahl - Shout
Download: De Novo Dahl - Shout
(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists! Buy the album here.)
This week's special feature will highlight obscure 80's tracks that were either minor hits or album tracks that (in my humble opinion) should have been hits. Get ready for some bizarre, colorful, and catchy songs each day!
Listen & Download: Trance Dance - Pickin' Up The Pieces
Download: Trance Dance - Picken' Up The Pieces
Trance Dance were a large Swedish group in the eighties that, despite their name, did not play trance music. Instead, they performed a catchy new wave not unlike bands such as Duran Duran mixed with plenty of guitar and male/female vocals. This song gets spotlighted mostly because of the following lyrics: "if you want to do some boogalow, you've got to jump like a kangaroo." I think that's pretty much genius. Plus, the song is insanely catchy.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
The second video version of this song (one of my favorite debut songs from a band all year) trumps the earlier, extremely low-budget one by miles. Although the clip is still obviously low-budget, it shows off this delightful band and the pure pop energy of the song perfectly. I just can't wait for the album! Definitely one to watch in 2007.
“Pretend again, fool us by clapping”
Well, the snow's barreling down here in the Pacific Northwest (very odd for this early in the year, but festive nonetheless), and I'm about to post a real summery song. The Zax are an odd New York City band whose sound combines elements of pop, hip hop, electro and pretty much everything else. To sum it up, their genre is clearly "other." They have created some extremely catchy, under-three-minute pop songs, though. Fool Us By Clapping completely lives up to its clever title, with a fantastic old-school beat and some stabbing synth work that really makes this track stand out. I had trouble deciding which song by this duo to post, as all of their stuff is equally amazing. Recommended especially to fans of Sweden's Lo-Fi-Fnk.
Listen & Download: The Zax - Fool Us By Clapping
Download: The Zax - Fool Us By Clapping
Symphonic Death Metal does Abba
Listen & Download: Therion - Summer Night City
Download: Therion - Summer Night City
To end this bizarre Abba week, I've decided to post a track by a decidedly un-Abba band. That being said, this cover is strangely addictive, not completely unlike Evanescence deciding to try their hand at a disco-pop classic (and going way over the top).