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Friday, April 30, 2010

Val & The Bitches - Monkey See, Monkey Do

"Look at all that we can be together"

I've been wanting to write about this song for AGES. I heard it several years ago (yes, years) on Swedish radio and that one listen stuck with me. Now, months and months later, I finally tracked the song down and had listen number two. And it's just as I remembered it. Val & The Bitches are a Swedish band--sort of the Scandinavian equivalent to the Noisettes, except punkier. There's also a strong new wave influence in a number of tracks (and in the band's styling). But it's the funkiness of this track that stuck with me for so long. The swaggering chorus is very 80's Prince and that instrumental hook is immensely catchy. Robo-funk. I love it. They're also signed to the same label that the Mo used to be with. Not that that means much sonically, but it was one of the first reasons I stumbled upon this band. Why this song wasn't a huge hit in Sweden, I'll never know. Not all their songs are this immediate, but there are a few other standouts on the album so be sure to check it out.

Val & The Bitches - Monkey See, Monkey Do by alienhits

(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.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Gravitonas - Kites

"All we want is to be heard"

I feel like Alexander Bard (of BWO, Army Of Lovers, Vacuum fame) really only has a few song templates that he keeps reshuffling and releasing. There's certainly a Bard "sound." I think I could spot one of his songs without even knowing who the artist was. So, it's not surprising that his first single with his new project Gravitonas sounds like it could have been on the latest BWO album. The only real difference is the vocals (though new vocalist Andreas Öhrn even sounds a little like BWO's Martin Rolinski). Luckily, Kites would have been a great BWO song and is, in fact, a great Gravitonas song. It's hardly the rock music some of us were expecting, though there is a catchy guitar hook throughout. More importantly, the track builds into somewhat of an anthem. The chorus is pretty silly, but delivered with the total straight-faced drama that seems to be a bit of a Bard trademark. Best part? About a third of the way through when the beat well and truly drops. It's nice to know that the pop world has someone like Alexander Bard (even though I'd prefer another BWO album!).

Gravitonas - Kites by alienhits

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


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Ark - Singing 'Bout The City

"I was born and raised with a cross in my face"

As my review yesterday noted, the new Ark album is a curious thing, for sure. I think if it had been recorded by any other band I’d be singing its praises right now, but with the standard the Ark have set for themselves over the years, I’m a little reticent. However, I’m unflinching in my praise for one of the album’s best tracks. Singing ‘Bout The City is one of the strangest songs in the Ark canon. Sure, Ola’s musings about the differences between city and country life aren’t all that surprising, but the music behind them is almost jarringly new. Awhile back, the band had expressed interest in bringing country-rock influences into this record, and there’s definitely some of that to be found in the guitar here. But then it shifts into a pure disco hook (a little Bee Gees-esque?) that saves it from becoming a one-genre experiment. Add to that the funky big-band jazz flourishes that punctuate the opening (does it remind anyone else of the theme to Cowboy Bebop?), and you’ve got something that’s quite indefinable. And that’s before the song has segued into its theatrical, symphonic middle section. It’s the kind of shift that defines what an amazing band the Ark really are. They’re willing to experiment within the pop/rock genre they’ve established for themselves. That can be a good thing and a bad thing. Luckily, it’s very successful here. And, unlike a few of the other tracks, Ola’s vocals are spot on throughout, meeting each shift in sound with the verve and believability of a true showman. It certainly doesn’t hurt that this has gotta be one of the more autobiographical songs he’s written.

The Ark - Singing 'Bout The City by milproj2

(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.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Track-by-Track: The Ark - In Full Regalia

It would be pointless to try and pretend that I can be objective about an Ark album. They are, as anyone who reads this blog knows, my favorite band. That being said, In Full Regalia was the first Ark album that I didn't love right off the bat. Unashamedly retro, it's a pretty substantial shift in sound for the guys, and threw me off at first. Luckily, the album's a grower. It remains a collection of consistently good tracks, even if nothing on here comes close to the band's best moments.

1. Take A Shine To Me - An Abba pastiche, plain and simple. The guys came close to this in 2007 with The Worrying Kind, but this is Abba through and through, adding a healthy dose of Beach Boys style harmonies. It's an upbeat, fun way to start the album... though it's a very different sound for them. 9/10

2. Superstar - It's my least favorite Ark single to launch an album, though still miles ahead of most bands. The aggressive guitar riff remains the highlight. Ola's vocals border on shrill here, though, which is a general complaint I have about the album as a whole. He's one of my favorite rock vocalists of all time, so I'm actually surprised to be saying that. 8/10

3. Stay With Me - The first big ballad, it has an odd sound to it. Reminds me a bit of an old standard. Very cinematic, but also intimate and genuinely touching. Ola's lower register makes a welcome reappearance in the first half, which is really quite beautiful. 8/10

4. Singin' 'Bout The City - The closest thing on the album to a future Ark classic, this sounds so unlike them, yet really works. It functions as the centerpiece to the album, a song-suite that manages to cram elements of disco, country, 70's rock and classical music into five minutes. The lyrics are great, the theatrical interlude is fantastic, and the ambition is there. The best track, for sure. 10/10

5. Have You Ever Heard A Song - This has grown more grandiose since we first heard the "acoustic" version. Taking cues from gospel, this rootsy ballad grows and grows until it hits a beautiful climax. It's simple, hymn-like, and the best ballad on the album. 9/10

6. Publicity Seeking Rockers - Total 70's glam about bands that are more concerned with tabloids and image than actual music. This one took awhile to grow on me, but once it did I was quite hooked. They've really mastered that early to mid-70's "glitter rock" sound. 9/10

7. I'll Have My Way With You, Frankie - Definitely the hardest sounding track the band have recorded since breaking out. It's an intense blend of chugging guitar and rapid-fire lyrics that's miles away from what we're used to from the Ark. It's an experiment that works, for sure. 10/10

8. All Those Days - I never thought I'd describe an Ark track as "dirge-like," but this 70's acid-trip of a ballad definitely fits the description. I think I would have loved it as a b-side, or even album-closer, but it cuts the energy placed where it is. it sounds like a Doors tribute song. Unexpected, and I'm not sure if it's a good thing. 7/10

9. Hygiene Squad - Jeez this is a strange little album, and this may be the strangest track of all. It's another flashback to what they used to call "junkshop glam." It's a genre I'm quite fond of, and the Ark do it justice. But the lyrics here are WEIRD. 9/10

10. The Red Cap - Which brings me to the last track. I'm trying to decipher the lyrics here, and if there's some meaning (historical?) that I'm not intelligent enough to be extracting from them. Regardless, this is actually one of my favorite tracks on the album. Maybe it's because it sounds the most like the old Ark. It's straightforward, with emphasis on melody. That's all I ask! 10/10

Album Grade: 8.9/10

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Bright Light Bright Light - Love Part II

"Let everybody see I'm in love again"

After a day (or days) encompassing 26 hours of non-stop travel, I'm back in the States. And today I've got a great track by one-man electro sensation Bright Light Bright Light. Popjustice has been all over this guy, and rightly so. His smooth pop songs have the potential to take him very far. Love Part II is the best of the bunch, with a surging chorus that's more than a little 80's-influenced. He's also releasing a free download of his single, the more downtempo (but equally as good) A New Word To Say. I'm not sure what the plans are album-wise, but he's definitely an artist to watch. Along with Penguin Prison, BLBL represents a new hope for quality synth-pop in 2010. I'm liking where this year is going. Tomorrow (or maybe Wednesday) I'll have my track-by-track review of the Ark's new album. It may surprise you.

Bright Light Bright Light - Love Part II by alienhits

(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.