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Friday, February 24, 2012

Melodifestivalen 2012: Heat Four - Preliminary Judging

From the sound of it, week four will likely be the strongest heat in a week year for Melodifestivalen. This is frustrating because it's also the only week where I will be out of town during the competition, which means I'll be scrambling to watch it later while trying not to come across spoilers beforehand. Also, it means no live blog tomorrow :(

(Listen to clips here)

Charlotte Perrelli - The Girl
Two time winner Perrelli comes back with what sounds like a strong schlager entry. It's instantly better than pretty much everything last week, though it doesn't sound like a full-on winner to me. 4.5/5

OPA - Allting blir bra igen (Everything Will Be Fine Again)
This is certainly an interesting shift in sound. It's not unpleasant, but doesn't seem to really go anywhere. In the context of the competition, it feels like a real oddball--and not a memorable one either. 2.5/5

Dynazty - Land Of Broken Dreams
I'm usually a fan of this type of hair metal in MF, but I'm not sure if I'm going to end up loving this or simply liking it. Still, it's a welcome shot of energy and will certainly do well. I'm holding out hope that the full version is even better than the clip. 4/5

Lotta Engberg & Christer Sjögren - Don't Let Me Down
Oh, how I detest Christer. Seriously, his voice makes me want to jump off a cliff. That said, I actually really like the melody of this. It's somewhat Abba-esque and the production is quite campy. I wish it was just the woman singing, though. 3.5/5

Hanna Lindblad - Goosebumps
The second song in this year's competition by my favorite writer, Tony Nilsson. That guarantees that this is going to be at least good. The way the clip's cut, it's hard to tell much more than that, but I'm liking the sound of the chorus for sure. 4/5

Axel Algmark - Kyss mig (Kiss Me)
I have no idea who this guy is, and this seems oddly indie to be in MF, but I don't mind it at all. I'm glad it's at least somewhat energetic. It's kind of weird that it switches from Swedish to English in the chorus, though. 3.5/5

Lisa Miskovsky - Why Start A Fire?
I've always liked Miskovsky, and she's a huge name in Sweden. I really love the drums in this clip and I think the chorus has immense potential to grow on me. There's no denying she'll do well. And I think, based on this clip, that she might just deserve it. 4/5

Danny Saucedo - Amazing
This is a big favorite to win the entire competition. I definitely like the sound of it better than last year's entry, which I didn't like at all. It's very anthemic, but I still think Loreen will end up having the best song this year. We'll see. 4.5/5

I'm calling Danny and Lisa or Dynazty for the final, with Charlotte and Lotta/Christer fighting for that last spot. Arrghh! Why put all the best acts in one week??


Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Look at the 2012 Academy Awards

As usual, I'm a complete nut when it comes to the Oscars. I try to see every nominated movie and definitely have my opinions. This year, having seen all the nine Best Picture nominees, I can safely rank them from favorite to least:

1. Hugo
(huge gap)
2. War Horse
3. The Help

4. Midnight In Paris
5. The Artist

(big gap again)
6. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
(can appreciate elements of the craft, but the movie wasn't for me)
7. Tree Of Life
8. The Descendants
9. Moneyball


Will Win: The Artist
There's just no stopping its momentum. It doesn't matter that it hasn't been embraced by the public or that it's too slight or forgettable. It's been the frontrunner ever since it came out. The novelty hasn't seemed to fade. I can't say it's a bad movie at all (I actually really enjoyed it)... just not the best picture of the year.
Should Win: Hugo
Far and away the best picture of the year, it does all the Artist wants to do but on a deeper, more emotionally cathartic way. Even if you stripped away the excellent story and performances, the movie is simply gorgeous to look at. It's a technical marvel in every way but retains the feeling of a classic fable. There's a reason it reaped the most nominations this year.


Will Win: Jean Dujardin
I think the Artist love will carry over to this category, though it'll be close between him and Clooney.
Should Win: Demián Bichir
Though I haven't seen his movie yet, I was delighted over Bichir's nomination and this is one upset that I'd love to see, if only for his body of work.


Will Win: Viola Davis
It's going to be close between her and Meryl Streep. I'm a massive fan of both of them, but Davis was in the better movie and is due to win.
Should Win: Viola Davis
Again, though Streep was amazing, Davis had the better movie. The real question here is, why was Tilda Swinton snubbed for her unforgettable performance in We Need To Talk About Kevin?


Will Win: Christopher Plummer
He's won everything so far. I don't see that changing.
Should Win: Christopher Plummer
I say this because I really have no stakes in this race. I've only seen two of the five nominated performances and wasn't particularly moved by either, so I'm going with the consensus.


Will Win: Octavia Spencer
The Help is going to dominate the acting categories, and rightfully so. She's won this award in pretty much every awards show so far this year.
Should Win: Octavia Spencer
Though I'm a big fan of both Janet McTeer and Berenice Bejo's performances, Spencer's was the most memorable.


Will Win: Michel Hanazavicius
The novelty of the Artist will most likely carry him to a victory, though there are far more deserving nominees.
Should Win: Martin Scorsese
Again, best movie of the year. But even beyond that, the skill and knowledge it took to direct on such an epic scale (with 3d, to boot), makes this the easy standout in the category. I'd love an upset here. And it's not entirely out of the realm of possibility.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Track-by-Track: Fun. - Some Nights

It seems like I had heard so much praise for Fun's last album, yet for some reason I never got around to checking it out. So when they came back with this new release, I was interested to delve in. After all, I love a good indie-pop record (especially the "pop" portion). Turns out that, for me, this is really an album of peaks and valleys. The peaks are amazingly high. If only it wasn't for the valleys (but honestly, even they aren't so bad).

1. Some Nights Intro - I don't rate intros as a rule, but if I did, this would get a high score. It perfectly sets the scene for the next track in a dramatic, melodic way.

2. Some Nights - Perhaps the album's finest moment. A rollicking mix of rock, gospel, pop and bombast, this track sets the bar so high that the rest of the album struggles to keep up. I'd like to see the band follow this track for future work. It really is powerful. 10/10

3. We Are Young - The big hit single. It's wearing on me a bit after hearing it so often, but there's no denying that galvanizing, anthemic melody. Janelle Monae is completely extraneous, but she adds an interesting element, I suppose. 10/10

4. Carry On - A nice ballad. Nothing earth-shattering, but I can easily imagine this finding success on the radio. The chorus strives for the same rousing singalong nature of We Are Young. It doesn't quite get there, mostly because the song's more subdued, but it's close. 9/10

5. It Gets Better - Back to uptempo. The production here's very interesting. Frantic, cluttered and a cool mix of electronic and acoustic. The verses don't do much for me, but I love the chorus. 8/10

6. Why Am I The One - The album's best straight-up ballad. Though it takes awhile to get to the hook, it's worth it because the harmonies are simply gorgeous. It has a real throwback sound in the best way. It sounds like a lost AOR hit from the 70's. 10/10

7. All Alone - The album's first real foray into hip-hop influenced production. There's a reggae vibe too. In fact, the entire track is a hodgepodge of sounds that shouldn't necessarily go together. And yet it all works. 9/10

8. All Alright - This is where the album starts to sag for me. This certainly isn't bad, but the melody and production just kind of plods along. It's heading for epic territory, but I'm not sure it gets there. Missing some oomph, maybe. 7/10

9. One Foot - This is a bit more experimental. Over a spare, (very) repetitive brassy beat, this song is much more "chanty" (yeah, I made up that word) than melodic. In other words, it's an experiment that I'm not sure entirely works. 7/10

10. Stars - My least favorite track. Personally, I find that the high vocal parts grate and I really don't like the vocoder/autotune choices. I realize it's intentional, but this just seems to meander along. And at nearly seven minutes, that's a lot of meandering. Honestly, take it off the album and you've got a much better listen. 5/10

11. Out On The Town - I can't believe this is only a bonus track, because it's as good or better than half of the songs on the actual album. It's not necessarily the most memorable of the bunch, but its solid pop songcraft is a welcome sound after that last track. 8/10

Album Grade: 8.3/10

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Lena Philipsson - Live Tomorrow

"I'm taking my life in my hands"

Swedish pop diva Lena Philipsson has a brand new album out. Amongst all the obligatory Swedish-language dance tracks is this gem, a cover of Laleh's already excellent Live Tomorrow. The song was recorded in conjunction with the TV show Så Mycket Bättre (So Much Better), where well-known artists put their own spin on other well known artists' songs. Wouldn't it be awesome if we had a show like this in the US? It would be even more awesome if it resulted in a recording like this (or September's Mikrofonkåt two years ago). The energy in this track is what's been missing from a lot of Melodifestivalen entries this year. By the time that backing choir comes in at the very end, we're in pop heaven. Also included on the album is her deliriously catchy single, Idiot.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists. Buy the album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Fun. - Some Nights

"I could use some friends for a change"

Fun.'s new album comes out this Tuesday and I think you should all check it out. I can't vouch for all of the tracks, as I think the album sags towards the end, but there are some definite standouts. The group has scored a surprise hit with We Are Young, which seems to have taken the obligatory "rock hit" slot for 2012 (because apparently America's only allowed one per year... last year was Foster The People). It's a great track, and definitely deserves it. Ditto to Why Am I The One, which has one of the most gorgeous harmonized choruses I've heard in awhile. But it's the title track that immediately captures your attention. The glorious gospel/country/Queen opening is enough of a treat on its own. Then the beat comes in and the song transforms into a rollicking anthem. I wish the entire album would have followed this template!

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists. Buy the album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.