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Friday, March 30, 2012

Flashback Friday: Nik Kershaw - Drum Talk (Extended 12" Remix)

"I let the drums do the talking"

I've been sort of rediscovering 80's pop star Nik Kershaw now that his breakthrough debut album, Human Racing, has been reissued as one of those fancy two-disc remastered sets. While the first disc is the album we're all familiar with, the second one is full of remixes and bonus tracks. It's a remix that I want to highlight today. Drum Talk is one of my favorites from the album as is, but this extended version just makes it that much sweeter. It's not heavy on melody (the way I usually like my pop songs), but that's not what this particular track is about. The vocal part of the song doesn't even really kick off until three minutes in. However, the percussion in this is just so wild that it doesn't really matter. It's like they threw all the production into a blender and turned it on high. If you're unfamiliar with Kershaw's work (and most of it is much more song-oriented than this!), pick up this reissue. It's a great place to start.

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

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Elton Versus Pnau - Good Morning To The Night

"Turn around to say good morning to the night"

We've got a really cool project on our hands here. Australia's Pnau, who had my favorite single of last year, have been granted access to Elton John's masters from his back catalog. Given this incredible wealth of material, they've been charged with reinterpreting/remixing his hits. An album is forthcoming, but for now we've got the first taster. Good Morning To The Night is a reswizzling of the classic Elton track Mona Lisas & Mad Hatters, though to be honest you're not going to hear much from the original melody. It's really just a line from the chorus, and not the one you'd probably expect. I hope that further tracks utilize more pieces of John's indelible melodies, but this is still very cool. I need to hear the rest of the album NOW.

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

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Face - Suicidal

"Don't ask me if I'll ever see you again"

Thanks for Paul over at FizzyPop for reintroducing me to this band. I say "reintroduce" because I wrote about these guys ages ago when they went under the band name Pandering & The Golddiggers. They had a couple of great tracks posted on various websites, but never found the mainstream success they deserved. Now they're back as The Face, and they've brought a handful of new tracks with them. You can listen to them all on their soundcloud page. My favorite is Suicidal, which is a great straightforward dance song. Simple chorus... not reinventing the wheel... but it's definitely effective. I love the electro beat and the trade-off of vocals. The spoken, BWO-esque middle eight just seals the deal. I can't wait to see what they come up with next.

(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.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Movie Review: The Hunger Games

I first read The Hunger Games two years ago and adored it -- thought it would make a good movie, in fact. Flash forward and here we are, with a monster hit adaptation. I won’t go into the story or the characters, since if you’re reading this you’re probably already familiar. I had my doubts about some of the casting (mainly Peeta and Gale), but I’m happy to say that, though it doesn’t touch the Harry Potter series, this is one young adult lit adaptation that doesn’t suck.

Filmed primarily with a naturalistic eye, and led by the incredibly effective Jennifer Lawrence, the movie deposits us immediately into the impoverished, rural setting of District 12. This is a science fiction future that, barring a few of the more outlandish flourishes, feels startlingly real. I’d put that down to the genuine emotion in every frame, and the decision to forego massive CGI overkill in favor of grit and texture.

Of course, it’s not all trees and dirt. The decadent Capital is well-rendered, despite being populated by a cast that looks like transplants from a Lady Gaga tribute act (which I guess was probably somewhat intentional). The film, like the book, pauses here for awhile before getting to the nonstop action of the Arena. This was one of my favorite sequences in the book--a barbed skewering of reality television and the entertainment industry. It doesn’t register quite as powerfully on screen, but the film still hits all the right notes.

Then we’re whisked off to the Arena, where the action really kicks in. Those tense minutes as the Tributes are being released into the game are some of the most harrowing moments on film in the last few years. The stakes are high--about as high and personal as they get. The violence is never gratuitous but always unsettling. It’s one thing reading about kids killing kids, and quite another seeing it on screen. It’s brutal, but effectively so. From this point until the end of the movie, it’s nearly constant suspense. The “cave scene” with Katniss and Peeta, my least favorite in the book, has thankfully been shortened for the film.

At nearly two and a half hours, The Hunger Games is the rare epic-length film that flies by. It’s relentlessly paced, taut in both story and character, and just as shocking as it needs to be. Now, it’ll be interesting to see what they do with the next two books--especially since this first one is widely considered to be the best. A-


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Monday, March 26, 2012

Track-by-Track: Madonna - MDNA

As far as Madonna listeners go, I'm in the "fan" category, but far from the "obsessive fan" that seems to make up the bulk of her base nowadays. Her 80's stuff is legendary pop, but to be honest none of her work has really struck me since the turn of the millennium (Hung Up excluded). So it's with curiosity and a little hope that I approach this album. After all, it's her "divorce record," so she should have some interesting things to say, right?

1. Girl Gone Wild - A straightforward club/dance track. Honestly, after the kitsch of first single Give Me All Your Luvin, this is kind of a relief. It's dialed back a bit, but still has enough of a hook to stay with you. Not her most memorable, but a good opener. 9/10

2. Gang Bang - Probably the most demented song she's ever recorded. This is Madonna fully embracing camp (which, let's be honest, is kind of appropriate at this point in her career). It's bound to split opinion with its Kill Bill inspired lyrics and theatrical, ridiculous vocal performance, but I find it incredibly entertaining... if only because she's finally not taking herself so seriously. 10/10

3. I'm Addicted - Hearkens back to her late 90's/early 00's days, even though this isn't one of the William Orbit produced tracks. Lots of electro squiggles and production flourishes. Still, it feels a bit like (good) filler. 8/10

4. Turn Up The Radio - The first Martin Solveig collaboration on the album, and the production sounds quite similar to his hit, Hello. But I like the pure-pop melody and the summery, sugary melody. I just wish the lyrics weren't so obvious. 9/10

5. Give Me All Your Luvin' - The first single, and it makes much more sense in context of the album. I still hate the "L-U-V-Madonna!" bits. They're cringeworthy. And the guest raps are unnecessary. But beneath all that, there's a good song in there. It's growing on me. 8/10

6. Some Girls - Now we're back on track. This song was bound to be good, given the collaborators involved. I put much of its success down to Klas Åhlund, who writes/produces much of Robyn's best work and had his hand in this song as well. It shows. Interesting production and a hook that sneaks up on you. 10/10

7. Superstar - The lyrics are horribly lame, but like Turn Up The Radio, this has enough of a shiny pop hook to almost overcome them. I just love the sound of it. 9/10

8. I Don't Give A - Similar to the last song, the lyrics are a little suspect (everything just seems to literal on this album), but the production is insane. It's got the best beat on the album--a relentless hip-hop/rock combo. The operatic outro just seals the deal. 10/10

9. I'm A Sinner - This is the track that's grown on me most since I first heard the album. It fits right between Ray Of Light and Music in her discography, sort of an older cousin to Beautiful Stranger. In that way, it's classic Madonna (rather than "chasing-trends Madonna"). 9/10

10. Love Spent - One of the many tracks with a focus on her recent divorce. I don't know... I just find it a little tedious. Maybe it's because it comes after I'm A Sinner. I like the folk influence, but it's not enough to make this a standout. 8/10

11. Masterpiece - Previously released on the W.E. soundtrack, this is the only classic Madonna ballad on the album. It's not one of her strongest. Pleasant, yes, but it doesn't leave enough of an impression to stick. 8/10

12. Falling Free - Another ballad, though this is far more interesting than the last one. The melody has a strong folk influence and the production is pretty subdued compared to all the tracks that have come before. 9/10


13. Beautiful Killer - Should have been on the album. Again, it's got that Madonna circa 2000 sound to it. I love the straightforwardness of it, and the fact that it references her divorce without being completely consumed by it. A breezy, thumping pop song. 10/10

14. I F****d Up - This starts as a swirling midtempo but quickly becomes something much more interesting. As the music builds and quickens, the song improves. If the first half wasn't quite so long, this would've been perfect. 9/10

15. B-Day Song - I just find this kind of stupid. Maybe it would have worked back in the 80's... or sung by someone else. I like the 60's girl-group influence, but the Beat Goes On sample annoys. 7/10

16. Best Friend - Yet another track chronicling her divorce, and easily the worst. It's like a page out of her diary, recorded over clinky production and a plodding melody. 6/10

Album Grade: 8.7/10

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