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Friday, March 19, 2010

Track-by-Track: Goldfrapp - Head First

I love that all these artists are finally rediscovering what I call the "Van Halen synth." Goldfrapp change directions pretty drastically between albums and this is my favorite iteration yet. I only wish every song adhered to the upbeat synthpop of first single Rocket.

1. Rocket - One of their best singles to date, this puts a smile on my face every time I hear it. From the bubbling synths to the simple, cheeky chorus, it's a reinvention and kicks the album off in the best possible way. 10/10

2. Believer - A little more subdued than the last track, this is still a totally impressive pastiche of 80's synthpop. It feels more like some of their older stuff. 9/10

3. Alive - My favorite track on the album. It's a mix of ELO, Scissor Sisters and every cheesy 80's musical out there. It's one of the only tracks to feature guitar prominently and feels meatier for it. Plus, the sparkling sound effects after the chorus are pretty ballsy. 10/10

4. Dreaming - Another very 80's sounding song. It's sort of a midtempo verging on uptempo with a fantastic moody melody. There's a stunning instrumental outro as well. 9/10

5. Head First - This feels very Abba in some parts. It's the first track resembling a ballad and manages to be both dreamlike and folksy at the same time. There are some gorgeous, sweeping synths throughout. 9/10

6. Hunt - This one, which would be a standout on other Goldfrapp albums, suffers because it doesn't fit tonally with the rest of the tracks. It's not a bad song, for sure, but changes the energy of the album. 8/10

7. Shiny And Warm - More uptempo, but it lacks a hook that's as strong as the other tracks. It feels more like a leftover from a few years ago than a new track. Again, it clashes with the rest of the album. 7/10

8. I Wanna Life - Here we're back to the straight-up 80's sound, which makes me think that this would have fit better towards the beginning of the album. It sticks out like a sore thumb after the previous two tracks. It's a very welcome change. 10/10

9. Voicething - A very pretty sound collage with vocals but no lyrics. It's a beautiful closer to the album, though I can't say that it adds much to the overall package. 8/10

Album Grade: 8.9/10

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Casablanca (ft. Malena Ernman) - La Voix

"I'm forever yours"

This will probably be my last Melodifestivalen-related post of the year, and it's fitting to send 2010's competition off with a rendition of last year's winner. Casablanca and Malena Ernman brought the house down last Saturday when they performed this duet version of La Voix. "Popera" turned into hair metal shouldn't work, but everything connects here. Having Malena join in at the end is icing on the cake. I'm already a big fan of Casablanca (mostly because they're composed of members of Melody Club and Sahara Hotnights, but for musical reasons, too), though I was kind of apprehensive about their sound melding with opera. They've converted the chorus to English but don't change a whole lot else melodically. And as an added bonus, lead singer Anders Ljung can perform. By the way, Casablanca's debut album comes out next month, or so I hear.

Casablanca (ft. Malena Ernman) - La Voix  by  alienhits

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

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Gabriella Cilmi - Superhot

"I want the stars to collide"

Look out for a full track-by-track review of this album soon, since it was such a pleasant surprise. Australian singer/songwriter Gabriella Cilmi used to be a folksy/soul type singer and had a sizable hit around the world a few years ago with Sweet About Me. Now she's totally reinvented herself as an electro pop goddess and made the album that Kylie Minogue should have come back with. The amazing single, On A Mission, which launched the album campaign, was the first indication that we were in for something special. Luckily, the album is more of the same--addictive melodies over fresh, exciting pop production. Superhot is one of the instant standouts. From the frenetic spoke/sung verses to the dramatic (almost operatic) bridge to the processed drums at the end of the chorus, this is a flawless summertime pop song with energy to spare. The album's out on the 22nd (though unfortunately not in the US).

Gabriella Cilmi - Superhot  by  alienhits

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


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Track-by-Track: Salem Al Fakir - Ignore This

"Ignore this," indeed. Seemingly out of the blue, Salem al Fakir's made his most adventurous, left-field album and also his best. The first half, especially, goes for the synth-pop jugular and is impossible to ignore.

1. The Song I Never Wrote - A short, atmospheric instrumental introduction that sets up the synth elements of the album. Nothing spectacular, and it's an instrumental so I'm not grading.

2. 4 O'Clock - Kicks off with a catchy marimba-sounding synth beat with hand claps. It's a midtempo, but the gorgeous layered vocals and bright instrumentation will have you dancing. 10/10

3. Virgin Mary - The album's most instant, and best, track. The frenetic synth hook reminds me of Prince in his 80's heyday and the chorus is inescapable. I'd go so far as saying it's his best song yet. 10/10

4. Red Rock - The first of several tracks that rely on the vocoder, this doesn't even sound like Salem. It's a mostly instrumental piece that builds up into some dramatic orchestral flourishes. It's fascinating, if not instantly catchy. 9/10

5. Keep On Walking - This is his Melodifestivalen entry, and already a hit single. The synths are a bit more subdued here, but the melody is anything but. The chorus is almost transcendent. 10/10

6. This Is For - An aggressive electro song that reminds me of Robyn quite a bit. He kind of raps the verses, and the chorus uses the vocoder prominently again. 8/10

7. Part Of It - A very atmospheric synth ballad with a subtle melody that creeps up on you. Drags the energy down a bit, but it's beautiful. 8/10

8. Brooklyn Sun - This is much more like his older stuff. It's very pretty, but feels out of place on the album. It's a much more organic sounding ballad. 7/10

9. Don't Wanna Talk About It - Another squiggly synth interlude. Instrumental. Doesn't add much.

10. Bloody Breakfast - Sort of a companion to This Is For. The lyrics are pretty dark and so is the sound. The electro elements are back again, but muted. It feels more like an experiment than a pop song, but it's succeeds in being interesting. 7/10

11. Split My Personality - Another atmospheric downtempo. I can take it or leave it. It sounds a lot more like his older stuff. The melody's not particularly engaging, though. 6/10

12. Cowboys & Dinosaurs - The other song that I can take or leave. It's pretty (and pretty short), but totally brings down the energy. It's got much more of an acoustic sound to it. 5/10

13. I'm So Happy - And we're back! This is a funky close to the album that features an old school boogie/disco beat and some ridiculously happy chimes (even though the lyrics are less than positive). It's one of his best melodies on the album. 9/10

Album Grade: 8.1/10

(Hint: Bring the score up a full point by tacking on older songs Backseat and Roxy, which fit the sound of the album's best tracks perfectly.)

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Monday, March 15, 2010

The Bang Bang Club - Chemistry

"We were fighting for the sake of it"

Songs like this are the reason that I still love doing this blog. The Bang Bang Club are a new UK duo releasing this track as their debut single on May 3rd. Chemistry is a perfect pop song. In fact, I'd go as far to say that it instantly entered my hall of fame the very first time I heard it. It's everything I love in music. Take some Delays, add a bit of the Ark and Protocol, and you've got an idea what this sounds like. The vocals have been compared to Empire Of The Sun, which worried me at first because EoaS's vocals made it hard for me to love that group. Luckily, these are much nicer. Not nasal, but funky. Almost robo-glam. The guys have a few other sample tracks floating around that are also great, but I want to make mention of the stunning ballad Plants & Animals (sample here) as well, because that paired with Chemistry represents what I hope the band's album will sound like. These are epic tunes. Along with Dyno and the Dirty Disco, they are one of my greatest hopes for 2010.
(And by the way, you can download this track for free below - click the arrow)

The Bang Bang Club - Chemistry  by  The Bang Bang Club

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


Sunday, March 14, 2010

And We Have Liftoff...

The Ark.

March 29th: single - "Superstar"

April 26th: album - "In Full Regalia"

Counting. Down. The. Seconds.