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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Cowboy Bebop: The Music

I am not the most extremely knowledgeable person you'll find when it comes to Japanese Anime, but I know what I like. And, although I can take or leave the Cowboy Bebop series, the music on the soundtracks is another matter completely. Overseen by musical genius Yoko Kanno, who can compose in pretty much every genre possible, the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack cds offer an eccentric, enjoyable, and often-times pop centered selection of music. Most of the Cowboy Bebop music is instrumental and fits the show perfectly, but take all of the tracks with vocals from the series and compile them into a two cd set and you've got what I like to think of as one of the best soundtracks there is. Today I'm going to share with you a few of my favorite cuts from this spliced together soundtrack. (BTW, if you want my tracklist for the 2 cds, let me know...)

Ask DNA - Strange lyrics that don't really seem to fit the series, but all I know is that if someone would have flung this in the vicinity of Robbie Williams, he could have had the comeback he needed. Ask DNA has got a perfect, singalong pop/rock melody. It sounds like something that could have been in a hit in the 90's.

Gotta Knock A Little Harder - One of my favorite ballads ever. The lyrics, melody, and intensity of this song absolutely floor me everytime that I hear it. Sung by the utterly brilliant Mai Yamane, it may take awhile to get under your skin, but it'll stick with you.

Chicken Bone - To close, I've gotta post one of the strangest songs on the soundtrack. Even if you think you have no interest in this music, listen to this song and tell me that you're not completely weirded out. Here's a sample of some of the lyrics. Draw your own conclusions. By the way, it's got a bit of a hip-hop flavor... no joking.

"Roast it well with cajun sauce, together, together...Oohh...Long as they don't throw it away...Bake it with asian sauce, together, together...Oohh...It is good for your healthy life...Baby it's true...Coz when you love it to the bone, Woah...Bone..."

Now how can you argue with such brilliance?!?

Buy the Cowboy Bebop Soundtrack cds here

*mp3's back up... sorry about that - Cowboy Bebop is evidently quite popular

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Dykeenies - New Ideas

“I've got a wealth of new ideas"

Meet the UK's answer to Hellogoodbye. The Dykeenies hail from Scotland, but they have a bit of an indie (dare I say emo?) influence to them that makes them sound more like a Californian band than anything. The band has opened for such UK stars as Maximo Park, The Fratellis and Mystery Jets, yet they don't really sound like any of those bands. There is also a remix of this very song floating around that adds some oomph to the original, but I'm not sure exactly how to get ahold of that. Go to their myspace to hear it.

mp3: The Dykeenies - New Ideas
zshare: The Dykeenies - New Ideas

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists! Preorder the new EP here)
Somtime today #1 Hits From Another Planet will welcome its 100,000th reader! Will it be you??

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Last Days Of April - Who's On The Phone

“Who are you speaking to when you're all alone?"

I love this new single from Swedish band Last Days Of April! The group's been around for ten years, but they've recently adopted a more power pop sound than they had before. Basically, that means their music sounds bigger and catchier... both great improvements. Who's On The Phone sounds a bit like Snow Patrol if they sped things up a bit and sugarcoated their melodies. The chorus is pure singalong brilliance, almost like an old Suede song or something

mp3: Last Days Of April - Who's On The Phone
zshare: Last Days Of April - Who's On The Phone

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists! Buy the album here)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Lo-Fi-Fnk - Change Channel

“Change channel, reach out for..."

Sweden's Lo-Fi-Fnk have been successful as pop stars, remixers and trendsetters. Their new 2007 single, Change Channel, seems to be their bid for worldwide success and, although it's not my favorite track by the guys, it does have that undeniably strange Lo-Fi-Fnk sound. I would have picked a different single to represent them outside of Sweden (Wake Up would be good, since it was already a hit in Scandinavia), but luckily Change Channel improves with each listen. It's an interesting slice of dance pop and any new material from this band is always welcome.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists! Buy the single here)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Dover - Tonight

“I've gotta give you something to remember me by"

I'm posting a picture from this Spanish group's newest album because it's what finally sold me on them. Robpop from don'tstopthepop first wrote about this band late last year and, while I downloaded the song, listened to it and liked what I heard, it ended there for me. Luckily, I was reminded about them again... and this time everything clicked. Sometimes with music it's just a case of being in the right mindframe and hearing exactly the right song that clinches the deal. The song in question is Tonight, and I'm so glad that it reintroduced me to Dover. With it's catchy-as-all-get-out verses and swirling synths, the song is an absolute pop smash. I've been spinning their new album, Follow The City Lights, like mad lately and they have quickly propelled themselves into the upper echelon of pop acts in my mind. Now, back to the album cover... it's brilliant, and completely brings me into the Dover world better than any of their promo pics. Amazing what a little space age pop art will do.

mp3: Dover - Tonight
zshare: Dover - Tonight

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists! Buy the album here)
The Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
Label: Merge Records
Release Date: March 6, 2007

After near-universal praise of their breakthrough album, I still wasn't sold. Despite some magnificent high points, Funeral just didn't add up to much for me. Luckily, the band's new album, Neon Bible, strengthens their sound and ups the drama that was lying just below the surface for much of Funeral.

A concept album aligned directly to the post-Bush American landscape (i.e. the same territory that most concept albums of the past few years have been treading), Neon Bible evokes feelings of suffocation, fear, and even hope (just listen to the whizzing ebullience of No Cars Go). Not only that, but the record is also full of songs that are meatier and better constructed than those on Funeral. Nearly every track is a winner, and more importantly, they bleed into one another and form a cohesive statement. This is Arcade Fire with their guns blazing. From the stark desolation of the title track to the stomping giddiness of Keep The Car Running, the songs run the emotional (and sonic) gamut. Best of all, though, is Bible's final salvo. A trio of songs (the aforementioned No Cars Go, the gently striking Windowsill, and the epic My Body Is A Cage) display the band at their peak. My Body Is A Cage ("that keeps me dancing with the one I love"), in particular, is singer Win Butler at his most over-the-top, with organs, choirs of haunted souls and crashing drums echoing his frantic refrain.

With Neon Bible, The Arcade Fire have justified their place as the next big thing, and have managed to create a work that will no doubt transcend the age that it so cleverly depicts. With its string sections, glockenspiels, and accordions, it doesn't sound like many rock and roll albums out there. But, don't be fooled because the energy and the spirit is there… this is definitely rock and roll. B+

Key Tracks: No Cars Go, Keep The Car Running, Windowsill

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Vincent Black Shadow - Metro

“All I can say is that the drugs don't work no more"

Let's get it out of the way first: I hate this band's name. It has something to do with a motorcyle, I'm told. Whatever. What's important is that this Canadian band have produced a song that is the missing link between No Doubt's Tragic Kingdom and Return Of Saturn. It has such a great old school No Doubt feel to it and could have been a huge hit for that band. But, the year is now 2007 and, although singer Cassandra Ford's vocals bear a remarkable pre-lamb Stefani resemblance, VBS completely deserves huge success now. Buy their album and obsess yourself over this song, because if there's any justice in the world you'll be hearing it on the radio soon. It is simply the catchiest and most immediate thing I've heard all week.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists! Buy the album here)

Sebastian - The Vintage Virgin
Release Date: March 7, 2007
Label: RCA

Sebastian Karlsson was a contestant in Sweden's 2005 Idol show, and last year's self-titled debut showed little difference to any other Idol-related releases. Despite a few promising (and self-penned) tunes, a large chunk of space was devoted to tired covers and pedestrian pop songs. It's great news, then, that his new offering, the cover-free The Vintage Virgin, practically brims with accomplished pop/rock.

Troubled Skies opens the record with a great singalong chorus, and the rest of Virgin follows suit. This is music for fast consumption: one listen and you'll be humming along. Luckily, though, it does not become tiresome. The songs, even with their glossy finish, have an organic, lazy feeling to them. Jolts of piano and gospel influences help as well. Words And Violence, the lead single, is the strongest track. Beginning as a ballad, it quickly chugs along until it reaches almost rapturous highs. Similarly, Trigger, with its Razorlight-esque beat and subtle use of a backing choir may just be the album's most propulsive moment. The gentle Falling In Love With You Again and Karlsson's Melodifestivalen entry, When The Night Comes Falling, are also highlights.

Most notably (and unlike his debut), The Vintage Virgin is a perfectly paced pop record. It is not particularly revolutionary. There are the ballads, the rockers, the singalongs, etc. Standard fare for the teen crowd, yet I wouldn't be surprised if Virgin reaches beyond (and matures) Sebastian's core fan base. It is a record absolutely full of potential singles, and most certainly a step in the direction to give Sebastian a career past the initial Idol glow. A-

Key Tracks: Words & Violence, Falling In Love With You Again, Trigger

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Real Idols EP

In honor of American Idol's continued dominance over my work week (Blake and Melinda to the final, btw), today's EP is comprised of some great music from past Idol participants from around the world. Now, good music is by far the exception rather than the rule when it comes to Idol programs, but every once and awhile a true artist will emerge from the fold (or, if not... at least a singer who was smart enough to get a really good pop song). You'll know some of these folks (Kelly, Darin, Sebastian) and some may be new (Jenny Gear, Hedley), but they are all Alienhits approved.

1. Hedley - Villian
2. Sebastian - Falling In Love With You Again
3. Kalan Porter - She's So Dangerous
4. Kelly Clarkson - Just Missed The Train
5. Darius - Rushes
6. Jenny Gear - Tower Of Song
7. Darin - Who's That Girl (The Attic Remix)