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Friday, May 22, 2009

"Everyday I lie awake and pray to God today's the day"

People have been raving about Passion Pit since the beginning of the year but I never saw what all the hype was about. But throughout the past month or so of hearing The Reeling on the radio, I've become somewhat obsessed with the single. I'm still not sure about the band in general (it's the vocals), but I am sure that the chorus of this track is drop-dead amazing. It's got such a summery vibe to it but sounds very alien as well. It's like Duran Duran meeting Deep Forest... something I wouldn't immediately peg as a hit but becomes one after repeated listens. They're definitely not a mainstream pop group (again, the vocals), but will find a lot of love from hipsters and bloggers. That's usually something that defines uber-boring snooze bands, but Passion Pit are different, at least with this song! I haven't heard too many other tracks so I hope their album is good too.

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

Thursday, May 21, 2009

"Bombs, bombs away"

I was so tempted to post an Adam Lambert song today, but I think I've already gotten all my thoughts out on that particular issue. So, in keeping with the spirit, I'll be posting a song by another Idol-non-winner with star potential. This time it's Swedish Idol, and Johan Palm. Johan's album came out on Wednesday and, although I haven't given it more than one listen yet, I can safely say it is miles better than winner Kevin Borg's. I was a big fan of Borg and didn't begrudge him the win at all. He was by far the most vocally talented of the bunch, though Johan's voice translates to record much better. It's got the grit that Borg's is lacking. Ultimately I think he'll end up more successful. Teenage Battlefield is the opener on his album, and should be the next single (unless they go with a ballad, in which case I recommend the gorgeous All The Time In The World--a hit if I've ever heard one). It sounds a bit like the Killers' younger brother, which is of course a fantastic thing. It's precisely the style of music I was hoping he'd go for, and it works wonders on this track. And while the rest of the album's not quite the same, it's still a solid debut from an artist I think we'll be seeing for awhile.

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

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Last Thoughts on American Idol (I Promise)

I know… blather blather blah blah… I have talked about this season of American Idol more often than any on this blog. But the truth is, I’m so struck with idol fever this year that I’ve gotta write about it one last time.

According to all the prediction sites, it’s neck and neck in the voting so anything could happen tonight. Kris seems to have the slight edge, as I thought he would, though honestly he’d be better off coming second because if he manages a victory I imagine the headlines for him are going to show quite a bit of bias. After last night I think it was clear to anyone who the global superstar is. Sure, I like Kris. He could have a couple hits in America given the right material, but I don’t think people are going to be as devoted to him next year or the year after that. A talented as he is (and a genuinely nice guy, it seems), he’s not particularly unique. Play a Kris Allen song after a Jason Mraz song on the radio and that will become pretty apparent. In the context of the competition he’s got a fantastic come-from-behind story. In real life? Well, we’ll see.

On the other hand, Adam has already won. If he gets the official title tonight, great! (I voted until midnight… is that pathetic?) But, if he loses, he’ll still be the winner in every aspect but the title. He’ll be the one on the magazine covers. He’ll end up being the focus of the articles. Freed from the constraints of “unfairly influencing the contest,” the media will leap all over him, forgetting Kris quickly after he’s crowned. He’s easily the most “controversial” (I prefer “electric”) figure the show’s ever had and he’s all but monopolized the press for the past few months. I say this not as a fan (which…ahem… I am), but as fact. Anybody that disagrees has been living under a rock. The official title has become somewhat meaningless, no matter who wins.

Forgetting winners and runners-up, I’ve just gotta say how incredibly gratifying last night was. I never thought I’d hear the phrase “glam rock” in the context of American TV, especially the number-one watched show in the country. I never thought someone like Adam--the definition of fundamentalist kryptonite--would be considered a frontrunner for anything. And then, after the crappy coronation songs ended, came Glee… a smartly written comedy series about a show choir (A. Show. Choir.) given the pimp spot after perhaps the most watched episode of the most watched series of the year. As the blissful choir misfits sang at the end of the pilot (and sang un-freakin-believably)… Don’t Stop Believin'!

UPDATE: Well that was awkward, wasn't it? I think even Kris was like... "really?" It's inconceivable to me that after the performances tonight (the best in Idol history, btw) anyone would fail to see what staggering talent Mr. Lambert has. Oh well, Kris is unthreatening, cute and--most importantly--totally straight.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Track-by-Track: The Sounds - Crossing The Rubicon

In lieu of a traditional post, I'm going to focus on an album today. I was lucky enough to hear a preview of the Sounds' new album (out June 2nd) and wanted to share my thoughts with you:

I'll preface this review by saying that I'm a huge Sounds fan. I've followed them since their first album, seen them live in Sweden, and will see them again this summer. That being said, their newest album, Crossing The Rubicon, is probably the weakest of the three that they've released. I had a feeling after hearing the single that they were going for a more radio-rock route, downplaying the straight-up synth-pop of their last album. I think they've spent far too much time in America.
But, before you assume that this is a negative review, the Sounds are still the Sounds... probably the best female-fronted band since No Doubt. There are a couple of very strong standouts and fans of the band's synth/dance sound will not be totally disappointed. Too often, though, they wind up sounding like a different band (a much more "serious" band), when I wish they'd just embrace the energy and hooks that made them so fun on their first two albums. When they do find the perfect marriage between hooks and

1. No One Sleeps When I'm Awake - Kicking off the album is the first single. I've been sort of underwhelmed with this as a single. It just doesn't have that spark that I'm used to with the band. Great title, though, and the chorus has certainly grown on me. Overall it represents a shift to a more mainstream (Americanized?) rock sound for them. 7/10

2. 4 Songs & A Fight - This sounds more like classic Sounds from their first album. The guitars are more prominent than the synths, but the melody's straightforward and catchy. I especially like the end bit, where the electronic influences (or is that a guitar?) really kick in. 8/10

3. My Lover - Opening with a synth arpeggio that quickly morphs into a disco beat, this is the song that most Sounds fans will consider the official start of the album. This is far more pop/dance than the preceding tracks. The staccato verses are spectacular. Lots of electronic squiggles on this one, and one sick beat that becomes quite symphonic towards the end. This should be the next single. 9/10

4. Dorchester Hotel - Back to the rockier sound, this track is uptempo but the melody reminds me more of a ballad. It's good (the verses moreso than the chorus), but could be a dozen other bands. Definitely a bit different than previous Sounds songs. I could imagine a band like Paramore recording this. 6/10

5. Beatbox - Another full-on dance track, this is definitely the Tony The Beat of the album. The verses are more of a chant/rap than singing, but they're effective. The chorus is also very catchy... possibly single-worthy. 8/10

6. Underground - Opens with a strong, stomping beat that's very new wave. The melody is a bit strange, with some very high-pitched singing on the hook. It's easily the most experimental-sounding track so far. Electronics and guitars are balanced pretty equally. It reminds me of something the Tough Alliance would come up with. On first listen I really like it. 9/10

7. Crossing The Rubicon - A big, weird spacey ballad of an interlude. This sounds like nothing the band have ever recorded... very experimental. Plenty of people will hate it. It doesn't really matter, as it's only about a minute long. ?/10

8. Midnight Sun - Breezy, midtempo 80's pop song. Pretty heavy electronics on this one, with strong, well-sung verses. The chorus is a bit of a let-down (for me, at least). Actually, the chorus sounds a lot like the opening track. Overall, pretty forgettable, if pleasant. 7/10

9. Lost In Love - Another synth-based pop/dance track. Sonically, it sounds great. Melodically, it doesn't have much of a hook. Maybe it's a grower? 6/10

10. The Only Ones - Begins as a piano ballad and grows more dramatic as it continues on. Ballads have never been the band's strong suit (in fact, I'd get rid of them altogether), and this is not really any different. It's fine, but not very exciting. 5/10

11. Home Is Where Your Heart Is - Now this is more like it! The lyrics are a bit cheesy, but we're back to strong-melody-territory. This is a midtempo, electronic pop/rock song with an uplifting message. The "uplifting message" part is where the cheesiness comes in, but the anthematic hook compensates nicely. Definitely the strongest track since the interlude. 8/10

12. Goodnight Freddy - This is just an atmospheric, electronic instrumental. I think it's probably a hidden or bonus track on the album. Like the interlude, I don't really have much to say about this one. ?/10

Best Tracks: My Lover, Underground

Album Grade: 7.3/10

Monday, May 18, 2009

(+ Eurovision Wrap-up)

"I'm like a kid in a candy store"

First off, a huge congratulations to Norway's Alexander Rybak. Totally deserved to win Eurovision, and not only did he win it but he smashed all records while doing so. And, just as I predicted, it looks like Fairytale is shaping up to be a European hit (it's at #3 on UK itunes!). The album's out at the beginning of July. Here's (apparently) the next single. Can't say I loved this right off the bat (it's basically Jason Mraz meets Michael Buble), but it's grown on me and I've heard other clips which sound quite good, so I'm really looking forward to the album.
On another note, I am baffled (yet again) by Sweden's low placing. The past few years it's been so disappointing. At least it makes me feel a little better about the Ark's dire score in 2007. And for the record, I did not understand the love for the Estonian, Azerbaijan or United Kingdom entries. Boring, hideous, and boring/off-key in my opinion. I much preferred Greece's over-the-top dancing on the giant light-up stapler, if only for the entertainment value.

Now onto today's post. Poster Girl and Ohh Crapp both wrote about Troy This recently, but as a service to anyone who somehow missed hearing about him, I've got to highlight his song Back That Up. Lame title, yes, but the song is majorly addicting. I knew about twenty seconds in that it was going to be a highlight of 2009. Troy has some songs where he sounds like Prince (especially the amazing--and Robyn-featuring--American Dream), and overall his sound is very 80's/Swedish. That makes sense because he recently did a lot of recording in Sweden (lucky!). Back That Up is the kind of epic pop that doesn't really need to be written about so much. Just listen to it and you'll see why I'm so obsessed. In a lot of ways it really defines the sound of this blog. Needless to say, he's a very exciting up-and-coming popstar.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists. Listen to more here.)