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Saturday, September 23, 2006


“Hope is not fading away despite what they say"

In the vain of fellow Scandinavian Andreas Johnson, Langer plays acoustic/electronic pop music that is far more interesting than the John Mayers and Teddy Geigers of the US. Breaking News is an elegant guitar ballad with a pulsing electronic undertone and some great atmospheric drama. Despite not being an American radio release, the sentiments in the song are very much what a lot of people over here are feeling right now.

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

Friday, September 22, 2006


“Don't know 'bout love, don't know about tonight"

I'll get it right out of the way first: this is nothing more (or less) than cheesy, electro dance-pop (like you couldn't already tell that from the photo, right?). Luckily, Etienne's been inspired by a great group of musicians (ABBA, Elton, Darren, Michael, etc.) This song, which actually does not feature on his demo debut, is a fantastic euro-dance track. Awash in catchy synths and breathy vocals, it's one of those instant kind of songs. If you like this kind of music you'll be humming along after the first chorus.

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

Thursday, September 21, 2006


“We live on fascination"

Get ready for perhaps the most energetic, happiest song I've heard all year. Denmark's Alphabeat have yet to release an actual album yet but if Fascination is anything to go by, when they do it's gonna be massive. It all starts with an addictive, Pippettes-ish hand clap beat and then rolls along on a bed of playful girl/boy vocals until it hits the chorus, which is where it all blows into the stratosphere. Then the boogie guitar comes in... Freaking epic. I am eagerly awaiting further work from this group, though they have already set the bar extremely high for themselves.

Alphabeat - Fascination

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists! Buy the track here.)
Janet Jackson - 20 Y.O.
Release Date: September 26
Label: Virgin

There’s talk of a comeback. Although Janet Jackson has been one of the most consistent artists of her genre over the past twenty years, one enormously blown-out-of-proportion mishap unfairly relegated her to blacklist status. That’s America for you. We love to build them up and tear them down. So, two and a half years later Janet’s back again with an attempt to regain the musical status she so quickly lost. Does 20 Y.O. live up to the hype? In a word, no. But don’t panic yet.

While 20 Y.O. does not even come close to Janet’s best work (namely, Rhythm Nation and The Velvet Rope), it is still an above-average slick r&b disc. Gone is much of the pop found on earlier projects like 2001’s All For You. In its place is almost total r&b, most of it in the tepid Jermaine Dupri style. The dull electro throb of Show Me and Miss U exemplify this the best. They’re both alright songs (especially the fiesty rap at the end of Show Me), but they’re missing the Janet spark… that creative, ferocious energy that her earlier work possessed. Much better is Get It Out Me, the sole pop/dance moment on 20 Y.O. or the guitar-fuzz sleaze of This Body, which sounds like something Prince and Paris Hilton could cook up together. The best track on the album turns out to be Take Care, which is easily the strongest of Janet’s classic “baby-making” songs. With a soaring melody reminiscent of earlier ballads like Someday Is Tonight and Come Back To Me, it’s a gorgeous piece of dripping harmonies and soft come-ons.

In between the highlights are midtempo-to-slow jams that, while passable, are nothing really that special. It’s the sound of coasting rather than comeback, and this may be a problem. Throughout her career, Janet’s been at her best when knocking down challenges (depression on The Velvet Rope, independence on Control, political disillusionment on Rhythm Nation). At these times she’s seemed unstoppable…in complete control. Much of 20 Y.O. sounds more like an artist who has succumbed to the pressures of current trends on the radio. It’s time to invite Janet the innovator back. B

Key Tracks: Take Care, Get It Out Me, This Body


“You're like a rollercoaster toaster in a big four poster bed"

Australia's cult rock/pop group Machine Gun Fellatio is kind of like a harder-edged and (possibly) more perverse version of the Scissor Sisters. They're a huge band at seven members (all of which have monikers like Bryan Ferrysexual and Love Shark) and have quite a few albums out. I'm not crazy about all their stuff but they've definitely got quite a few great pop songs. Rollercoaster is one of the most immediate and deservedly one of the band's hits. It's a simple song with a lot of surprises.

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

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


“I've got to get out of this twisted skin and dodge the holes I'm falling in"

Here's the indiest of indie UK singers for you. So indie in fact that he doesn't have an actual press photo. Given this, it's surprising how polished his sound is. There's elements of Erasure, Savage Garden and Elkland in his style of synth pop. And, if that's not a fantastic combination, I don't know what would be. This is but one of the singles from his album, Back + Forth. It begins with a great synth line and guitar riff and is very catchy. You'll love it, trust me.

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

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Basement Jaxx - Crazy Itch Radio
Release Date: September 12
Label: Xl Recordings

I had the pleasure of seeing Basement Jaxx live this summer and the biggest thing that struck me during their performance was an incredible sense of anything-goes energy. On their new album, Crazy Itch Radio, it’s the songs with this kind of feeling that stand out amongst the rest.

The highlights of the album are easily the gypsy-folk-dance of Hey You (with an ace guest vocal from Robyn) and Run 4 Cover, which sounds a little like Hollaback Girl’s frenetic, twisted cousin. As with Basement Jaxx’s earlier work, Crazy Itch Radio tries to be a little bit of everything. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it’s just a mess. Take Me Back To Your House sounds a bit like Kylie gone country and it’s probably the most immediate pop song on the album. On the other side of the spectrum, Everybody incorporates so many different vocals, sounds and tones that it ends up being more of a sound collage than a real song.

All ten of the album’s proper songs feature guest vocalists and are on the poppier (though still experimental) side of dance music. There are also interludes that give the impression that you’re listening to the radio (of the crazy itch variety, apparently), which helps the album feel more cohesive. Still, while it’s a pretty consistent listen, there isn’t much on Crazy Itch Radio that really stands out. It’s better and more self-contained than most dance records, but there’s a lingering sense that it just could have been a bit better. B

Key Tracks: Hey You, Run 4 Cover, Take Me Back To Your House

“Changes are happening, it's too late to turn back"

Tahiti 80 may be the greatest group that I have ever heard from France. A lot of times French music seems very detached to me and, although this is very slick funky rock, it's also more idiosyncratic and fun than a lot of similar-sounding bands. Think maybe a bit of Phoenix mixed with more of Maroon 5's pop sensibilities. This song in particular has an extremely catchy chorus that will grab you instantly on the first listen. A good track to transition from Summer to Autumn...

Tahiti 80 - Changes

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

Monday, September 18, 2006

Jesse McCartney - Right Where You Want Me
Release Date: September 19
Label: Hollywood Records

On Right Where You Want Me, teen pop star Jesse McCartney attempts to extend his fifteen minutes with a stab at rock maturity. Basically, this involves nicking Maroon 5’s style and running with it. Unfortunately, the album’s sound is dated and has been for some time.

The title track (and first single) will probably be a deserved semi-hit. It’s the most immediate thing on the album and fits McCartney’s thin, nasal voice. In fact, much of the album is full of retreads of the first song, though all are inferior. Worst of all are Right Back In The Water and Tell Her, or as I like to call them, Droopy Ballad #1 and Droopy Ballad #2. Neither of these songs have the bombast or vulnerability that superior teenage ballads exhibit. Better is Invincible, which tells the story of a fatal drinking-and-driving accident. Lyrically it’s obvious, but at least McCartney seems to feel it. Less successful are Can't Let You Go and We Can Go Anywhere, a pair of atrociously detached rockers.

Jesse McCartney is better suited to Radio Disney fair. After all, Beautiful Soul and Because You Live (both off his major label debut) were legit, catchy pop hits. While they were undeniably bubblegum, they were also fun and urgent. Right Where You Want Me is neither. Instead it’s a long, arduous collection of factory-pressed wannabe-rock that feels hollow and forgettable. D+

Key Tracks: Right Where You Want Me, Feelin’ You, Invincible

Before the albums, binge on B-Sides....

In honor of this freaking exciting fall release season in which some of my favorite artists are releasing new albums, I’m going to bridge their previous work with their upcoming stuff by posting some b-sides…

Scissor Sisters:

The New: Ta-Dah, possible contender for album of the year. More of the same, but bigger. See my review below. September 26th in the States.

B-Side: Forever Right Now, reggae-pop-weirdness unreleased from their last album.

Janet Jackson:

The New: 20 Y.O., which attempts a comeback after the whole Superbowl (blown-out-of-proportion) fiasco. New single So Excited sounds promising. September 26th

B-Side: Love Me, Just A Little While’s synth-riffed evil twin.

The Killers:

The New: Promised rock epic, Sam’s Town…they ditch some of the glam and pump up the anthems. If When You Were Young is any indication, it’s an improvement upon the seemingly un-improvable. October 3rd

B-Side: The Ballad Of Michael Valentine, more jaunty than your normal ballad, I’d say.

Robbie Williams:

The New: Dance-oriented (and tragically titled) Rudebox. Includes team-ups with the Pet Shop Boys, which alone should be worth the hype. October 23rd

B-Side: Our Love, another lovely Robbie ballad from the Intensive Care sessions.

Maroon 5:

The New: As-yet-untitled album promises to “pound a lot harder” and be less “weak and limp” than their debut. Hmmm… November 21st (tentatively)

B-Side: Woman, ultra-funky r&b from the Spiderman 2 Soundtrack.
Scissor Sisters - Ta-Dah
Release Date: September 26, 2006 (US)
Label: Umvd

Scissor Sisters’ debut is one of my favorite albums of all time, so I’ll admit a bias to this review straightaway. On the flipside, Ta-Dah had a lot to live up to. A lot. And, just like the instant-classic lead single I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’, the album passes with flying colors.

While the Sisters’ debut was the introduction to their perverse color-pop world, Ta-Dah gives us the full vaudevillian production. The album is big, whether it’s the choral vocals that lead into Ana-led Kiss You Off, the swampy stomp of She’s My Man, or the theatrical, over-the-top Intermission. Upon first listen it’s almost hard to find the songs buried in all of the glitz and glitter, but the album rewards repeat visits. In addition to catchy-as-hell disco/funk/rock concoctions (the theatrical honky-tonk of I Can’t Decide and disco stormer Lights among many others), there are moments of pure honest (and moving) pop music. The Other Side and Might Tell You Tonight may appear late in the album’s running order, but both offer shimmering mature melodies that, if released as singles, will surely become smashes for years to come.

Fans of the bands’ more Filthy/Gorgeous moments will not be disappointed either, though they will have to wait until after the intermission for Paul McCartney and Ooh. While this pair of dance tracks may not touch the perversity of Filthy, they certainly replicate its sound. In fact, all of Ta-Dah revels in the Sisters’ previous sounds, but it’s not a rehash. Instead, it builds on their ambition and is all the better for it. With Ta-Dah, Scissor Sisters continue to produce some of the most relevant, interesting, and downright joyful pop music of our time. A

Key Tracks: I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’, Might Tell You Tonight, She’s My Man

Sunday, September 17, 2006


All the girls in China Town and all the girls in Paris are screaming at me"

Given that I'm on a bit of a Danish trip right now, here's another band from Denmark I recently discovered. Superheroes play a kitschy sort of synth pop/rock that sounds a little like Junior Senior at times. In fact, lead singer Thomas Troelsen was the voice in the chorus of Junior Senior's biggest hit, Move Your Feet. This song in particular sounds like a strange combination of Duran Duran and the Beach Boys and is on their most recent self-titled release. The band has many songs available for free download on their website and I recommend you go over there are download Johnny & I and Cool Girl in particular. Fantastic stuff.

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

Elton John - The Captain And The Kid
Release Date: September 19, 2006
Label: Interscope

The Captain And The Kid is billed as the sequel to Elton’s seminal Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy album and that alone lends the project a ridiculous amount of expectation. And, while the record isn’t as sonically diverse as Captain Fantastic, lyrically it follows nicely. Most importantly, The Captain And The Kid is Elton’s best record since the seventies.

A nostalgic tone lingers over the record, which in itself could be dangerous. But, the classic Elton melodies are here and they suit the material well. In addition to the expected ballads (the heartbreaking Blues Never Fade Away and The Bridge), The Captain finds Elton genuinely rocking out again. Maybe his newfound friendship with the Scissor Sisters has rejuvenated his much-loved seventies persona. Catchy rockers like And The House Fell Down and Just Like Noah’s Ark successfully achieve what the album is about: bringing music back to a time when it mattered. There isn’t anything especially glossy or produced about the songs, but they’re addictive because they’re passionate. Best of all is Tinderbox, a gorgeous sing-along nearly worthy of Tiny Dancer status.

Towards the end of the album, the songs begin to show their country and blues roots a little more clearly, culminating in the closing title track, a soft country shuffle which is perhaps the most transparently nostalgic song, where Elton is painted as “an urban soul in a fine silk suit,” and Bernie “a heart out west in a Wrangler shirt.” It’s a partnership to be celebrated, for sure, and The Captain And The Kid does so in amazing form. A-

Key Tracks: Tinderbox, And The House Fell Down, Blues Never Fade Away
The Alpine - On Feel Trips
Release Date: February 28, 2006
Label: Gun Supers (Sony BMG)

The Alpine’s major label debut revels in the inherent giddy fun of power-pop. On Feel Trips is practically engineered to be sung along to, and whatever genre the band’s playing with on each individual track, they make sure to include at least one enormous hook. Fueling this drive is the interaction between the boy/girl vocals of Peter Boesen and Ida Strand.

Three songs in particular, Mondays Always Look The Same, No I In Team (which appropriately name checks Supertramp) and album-closer Adrian are full-out, cast-of-hundreds, singalong anthems, the kind of which most modern music is sorely missing. In between are a number of surprises. While the band’s sound alternates between influences of glam, synth-pop and seventies AOR rock, it also manages to be rather fluid. Take Crazy Glue, for instance, an odd almost-country ballad that morphs suddenly into what sounds like a Broadway show tune. It’s a far cry from the disco funk of Sham On or the Kasabian-meets-Anastacia rock of High Underground, yet it completely works because it’s irresistibly catchy. Same deal for Iceland and Trigger, both of which wear their eighties influence on their sleeves.

On Feel Trips may not be incredibly deep lyrically, but who says that all music has to be? It would be easy to write The Alpine off as a guilty pleasure, a choice label for bands who make it their mission to write unabashed pop music, but the album’s too good, too consistent to be dismissed. A-

Key Tracks: Mondays Always Look The Same, No I In Team, Trigger