Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Fireworks and stalwarts: my top 20 songs of 2008

In a year which has seen more firework artists than ever before - bang, they explode onto the scene and in a flash they're gone - there was some great music but no substance. As soon any new acts try to take root we're onto something else: something newer and shinier. It's an unfortunate byproduct of an industry which has yet to mix the right cocktail of time, finance, product and consumers. Blogs like this pounce on new music because there never seems to be anything but. Forget all that crap about fan power and the power of the bloggers launching acts. Music blogs are a foothold admittedly, but I give full credit to Robyn herself (and Pete Tong) for breaking through for the second time. The wise old bird used her knowledge of the old music industry, mixed it with the new frontiers of the internet and together with a dash of solid good music, voila, she struck gold. But can she stick around?

Will we ever see the likes of Madonna again? Admittedly, she hit a bum note this year as the oldest swinger in town, but her legacy keeps her from falling flat on her ass implants. With high street retailers like Zavvi and Tower Records going to the wall, like Popjustice said, if you're Il Divo, you'll be fine with your supermarket-friendly album. But if you're a new act like Frankmusik, how can you compete? Does Sam Sparro have to record a second album to stay around? And how do newer acts like Daggers break out of their MySpace page? The industry needs to look beyond even the idea of 'the album'. We could actually look to the past where it is all about 'the act' and their songs rather than album units shifted. The likes of Grace Jones, Cyndi Lauper, Pet Shop Boys, U2 and even Madonna probably don't need the album model anymore. They could be the vanguard for a new direction - one which will see artists thrive on the material they produce rather than how they package 15 tracks.

2009 will see a healthy mixture of old and new, but let's also talk up the acts who were the 'new for 2008'. Otherwise they'll get lost in the crush and we'll be back to square one. And on that note, here are my top 20 songs from 2008, and by the way, it's one song per artist...

1) More Man Than Man - ANTIGONE
For all her efforts - and this stonking track - Antigone deserves a number one. So here it is. She worked her Spandex socks off to get this track out there, through the blogosphere, live PAs and press interviews but mainstream radio and TV were just too bloody elusive. Radio DJs take note - Pete Tong and Jo Whiley, I mean you. Unfortunately Mr and Mrs Radio 1 still have tremendous power to break brilliant acts like Antigone.

2) The Loving Kind - GIRLS ALOUD
It's a no brainer, really. Pet Shop Boys + Girls Aloud = j'adore. And these girls are the perfect model for following Black Eyed Peas' example in 2009 by releasing a track every two months and doing away with an album altogether.

3) Hot Lips - PACIFIC!
With an accomplished set of tracks on their album Reveries - I can still talk the format - Pacific! could, and should be, as big as MGMT.

4) Airtight - COBRA DUKES
Way back in January, Cobra Dukes released this as a single and then... nuttin', save for a "We're back" notice about a gig in Glasgow with Sam Sparro in September. Stuck in MySpace hell, let's hope 2009 sees more material at least.

5) Embrace - PNAU featuring LADYHAWKE
Aren't they purdy? This duo have a knack for producing amazing songs which sit well alongside the clubbier dance tracks they can bang out with their eyes shut. But Ladyhawke's vocals took this track onto another, higher, level.

6) Kim and Jessie - M83
The band from Antibes are still criss-crossing the globe with their Saturdays = Youth tour. Singer Anthony Gonzalez has the cutest French accent on this beautiful late 80s-sounding power ballad produced by Tracey Thorn's collaborator, Ewan Pearson.

7) The One (Freemasons Mix) - KYLIE

The X song that got away. It should have been MUCH bigger.

8) My Delirium - LADYHAWKE

The bloggers' delight. She's what Katy Perry would love to be. Liked.

9) Pocket - SAM SPARRO
It's not just all black and gold.

10) Secrets and Lies - EMMON
This new track from Swedette, Emmon, came right at the end of the year, like an early Christmas pressie. Ta, love.

11) Big Bass - STARKILLERS
One of my holiday sounds driving around southern Spain. Sounds great in a club or a car. VFM. Value for money.

12) Vacant Heart - FRANKMUSIK

Not released, but it popped up on HisSpace and it's better than the official single 3 Little Words.

13) Nobody Lost, Nobody Found - CUT COPY

Modular, Cut Copy's label, deserve recognition for their services to music from the Southern hemisphere. The Presets and Ladyhawke in particular have taken the world by storm this year thanks to their herclian efforts. Mind you, they're not exactly blogger's friend. Posts and entire blogs disappear without a bye or leave if there's even a sniff of an track being made available for download...

14) I Fell in Love With a Drum Machine - PARRALOX
And this is the track that made me fall in love with them.

15) Sister Siam - THE WHIP
I veered from this track to the less dancey Sirens for this list, but Sister Siam won out just for the sheer energy of the live version.

16) Blind - HERCULES AND LOVE AFFAIR

On everyone's lists this year. They had a fistful of good tracks but an equal-sized fistful of rubbish.

17) We Are Technology - TECHNOLOGIC
Gorgeous minimal electro from the Pet Shop Boys-loving duo from Holland and Poland.

18) Smilin' - BRYN CHRISTOPHER

Hopefully he will fare better in 2009.

19) Wrapped Up in Plastic - ISABEL GUZMAN
Another Swedish electro pop queen, Isabel Guzman may have unintentinally funny lyrics on this track, but I love it so.

20) The Distance in Romance - KARATKORN

Despite a terrible name (in English, anyway) this Norwegian band have such a sweet song here and sung beautifully.

Honourable mentions:
JESSIE - Sexy Silk
DAGGERS - Better Than Love
THE PRESETS - This Boy's In Love
MADONNA - Give It 2 Me
DREAMINFUSION - Simple Life
CAPTAIN - Safe Harbour
JENNIFER HUDSON - Spotlight
FM BELFAST - Synthia.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

HAPPY CHRISTMAS!

And to everyone who has followed my humble ol' music blog, I'll take you under the mistletoe and give you some of my steamin' Plum Duff. Have a gorgeous day. Eat, drink and be as merry as you like.

Bona!

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Who, deer? Me, deer? Yes, dear.

As much as I listen to and tout other people's music, I do make some myself, dontcha know. And a resolution for 2009, instead of keeping most of it under wraps, I'm going to start putting some out there. Think of it as a music notebook. It may have no vocal or it may have a guide vocal (gawd help me). You may like or you may detest but either way I think by using my own blog to put out my own music is one in the eye for the Internet Police. Viva DIY! Anyhoo, here y'are.

S.I.N.G.L.E.
(zShare) - this track has lyrics for verses and chorus, but I've posted the instrumental for now until I come up with a middle eight

Obsession
(zShare) - this was the first completed 'song'

Dirty Men (zShare) - this is definitely NOT me singing but a girl called Sonia. And not that one.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Every second is a lifetime with Daggers

Many moons ago I first wrote about Daggers, and then again I posted missives in the vain hope that something would happen and we would see some product. 2008 doesn't seem to have been the year, but at least this new song Better Than Love, on TheirSpace bodes well for 2009. It's guaranteed to thaw any wintry soul with it's bright and shiny tones. Having worked with pop supremo producer, Richard 'Biff' Stannard at the beginning of the year, it's only a matter of time before this band eurupt. Hurry up though!

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Christmas with Rufus and Martha

How. G. A. Y. Where do you start? From the Christmas jumpers - hand-knitted by momma Wainwright, if you please - to Rufus and his camp ineptitude in front of Martha Stewart. This is grand television. Cut to 8.15 for the double entendre by Rufus that goes straight over Martha's head... or does it? More likely, she squishes that train of thought because she ain't having no homo filth on her show! And is it just me, but does she have that alcoholic rasp in her speech, you know, all breathy as if the vodka fumes are still too overpowering mid-morning.

Part 2 of the sequence is here. Cut to 8.30 for a sweet family McGarrigle Christmas performance.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Ah've put me back out...

Much better than Kylie's ITV cheesefest last year, The Girls Aloud Party last night also seemed a bit more, well, human. Here's a cute little sketch featuring Kimberley and Cheryl as Old Ladies Aloud.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

A Christmas message from Ladyhawke

Here's the tomboyish Ladyhawke with a goofy rendition of Jingle Bells for de fanz. I've really taken to the kiwi lass, very late in the day I know, but all good things come to those who wait, etc. I can't stop playing the current single (in the UK) My Delerium. Here's Pip being interviewed by Sara Cox on Radio 1's Live Lounge and performing a blistering performance of said single, (3.34 in for the song).

Luckily, despite the one song by one artist rule, for my year end Top 20 tracks, I can include at least two tracks by Ladyhawke as this one is a PNAU one!

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

A Christmas message from the Pet Shop Boys



This arrived in the post this morning. Aw!

The signatures are printed though :(

Saturday, 6 December 2008

The Ghosts of Christmas


THE GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS PAST

Here's a few old timers who've been out and about this week:

Not bad for his Wikipedia age of 68. And according to his own website Cliff Richard's 50th - yes 50th! - Anniversary Tour with his original band The Shadows will be "for the very last time". If I was Hank Marvin I'd be worried; just try to avoid being in a room, alone, with Dame Cliff...

This is 62 year old trouper, Liza Minnelli, practically MELTING in her new one-woman show Broadway Palace Theater. Bless her though. She's still got it - just - according to the reviews.

And here's Barry Manilow looking like a frog. A fact everyone picked up on and forgot to review the actual gig.

THE GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS PRESENT
Here's The Wombats bravely surrendering themselves to an eternity on VH1. Is This Christmas? is pleasant enough, just like Shakin' Stevens' Merry Christmas Everyone. And just like the Welsh crooner's hit it'll be dragged out every year from now on until it becomes as familiar as the beardy bloke in the red suit.

THE GHOST OF CHRISTMAS FUTURE
Frankmusik is now officially a Sound for 2009. The boy wonder from Thornton Heath was annointed with said accolade yesterday by 150 music critics and broadcasters. This track, Vacant Heart, is accomplished stuff (I like it a lot more than the current single 3 Little Words which has become slightly irratating the more I listen to it). With the synth bells just under the vocals, it could vaguely pass as Christmassy. Maybe he should do a holiday album next year and call it Frankinsense. Just a suggestion.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Brand spanking new: Girls Aloud - The Loving Kind

Like a chocolate box full of Girls Aloud, The Loving Kind video premiered half an hour ago on Channel 4. As with every GA track, you're never quite sure who's singing which line until the visuals arrive. Nadine normally does all the guide vocals for their producers and gets to keep most of the lines afterwards. This one, with it's sultry groaning vocals; ie, not shouty, is the Sarah/Cheryl show. But then this Pet Shop Boys-penned track suits them best. I bet Kimberley's sick of waiting for the track that's 'written for her'.

Talking of Kim, what's with the Daughter of Frankenstein make-up? "Yes, I'd love some eyebrows. Preferably drawn with a Sharpie and at the top of my forehead please." She's a naturally gorgeous girl. No need to fuck around with it! Sheesh.

And not wanting to sound trite - 'cos it does - Nicola's hair looked amazing.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Go and put the kettle on, babe, I'm choking for a cup of tea...

Get the tinsel off the top of the stationary cupboard, drag the tree out of the men's toilets and dust down the fairy, it's the Girls Aloud Christmas office party!

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Playing catch up

These popsters, what are they like? Always busy, busy; never standing still (unless you're called Kate Bush). Let's have a looksee at the worrapolava favourites. What have they been up to these past few weeks and what delights are they promising to flog us in the near future...


PARRALOX
John and Roxy are in the UK! Electronically Yours staged a double-edged album launch last night at Industry in East London. Parralox's Electricity (read my review here) and the eponymous electro compilation Electronially Yours were launched to an enthusiastic crowd. Despite the sound problems, like someone had put the PA underwater, Parralox delivered a blasting set. Roxy's voice is CD-perfect: what you hear on the recorded version is the same live. And John's songwriting really comes to the fore. These are great pop songs worthy of rubbing shoulders with top tenners.

Next up is the single release of album track Sharper Than a Knife: click here for a sound clip. And a few weeks ago a remix competition of said track produced 28 of 'em. Go to their home page here to listen. Number 21 is particularly special. But I only wished I had thought up a better moniker! By the way, the remix there is only a third finished. The completed version has been submitted and will hopefully be up soon when they get back to Oz. A special version of the track is on a new German compilation, Electropop, which you can buy here.

Rob at Electronically Yours deserves a special mention here. His one-man quest to provide an outlet for great electro music is admirable. From the site to the album and gigs his passion is self-evident and this was shown in the happy army of supporters who were at Industry last night. And he's such a lovely man to boot!

All things Parralox here.

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EMMON
New single and album alert!!! The Swedish electro minx, Emmon, has been vare busy recently. Closet Wanderings (a reference to Narnia or Tom Cruise?) is the title of her new collection of moosic due for release in February 2009. The first single Secrets and Lies, released just yesterday (28th Novemeber) is fucking AMAZING. Starting off as a gorgeous synth pop number, it kicks in at 1.55 with a blast of nosebleed trance. Watch the vid below or go here for a streaming version.



Emmon's first album The Art and the Evill was well-received if undersold outside Sweden. Hopefully the new stuff will be her breakout onto a world-wide stage. She's friends with Kleerup, The Knife and Robyn, so some of the unit-shifting dust should rub off for her!

All things Emmon here.

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JESSIE

Well, it's good news, bad news in Camp Jessie I'm afraid. Bad news first: Gut Records, who signed her last year, went into liquidation in September meaning the planned single release of Sexy Silk (see the Nivea ad below) and album went down the pan along with any hope of Jessie competing in any 'Big in 2009' lists. But this girl ain't out for the count yet, as she wisely acknowledges in an update blog: "What doesn't kill you can only make you stronger, especially in the music industry".

But the good news is that she's been touring with some big names - Girls Aloud, Jools Holland and Cyndi Lauper (!) - and has created a huge buzz for herself again. Comments on her MySpace include corkers like this: "I wish I'd got your autograph after the show, because I don't think your moment is that far away at all!" And this: "You are a class act, an individual with style and a great sense of fun". She remains unsigned but much respected which is half the battle. Jessie still has, in her words, a great management team behind her so we shall see what we shall see.


Jessie - Sexy Silk

All things Jessie here.

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MARSHEAUX

New album alert!!!

Marsheaux
are currently working on their third album scheduled for release in February/March next year. After a steady building of global support with 2007's Peek-A-Boo album, this one will go stellar. Trust me. (Famous last words!!) Just last Saturday, they finished the sixth track of the, as yet, untitled album. If you can help with any suggestions they'll be eternally grateful. And it all bodes well if the one-off single from April this year, Ghost, is anything to go by. Go buy! Here!

Other news in Marianthi and Sophie's world is that their cover package for Peek-A-Boo was nominated in the European Design Awards and featured in the coffe-table book to go with it. I wear my bag over my head with pride. Congrats all 'round!

After their recent support slot at Roisin Murphy's Greek gigs, there's no love lost between the girls and the Irish pop star's sound engineers although they do have much repeck for the "diva" herself who "surely has the knack". (??!)

For a FREE worrapolava remix of Marsheaux's Regret track, go here.

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Other notable worrapolava favourites in brief:

M83 - currently supporting Kings of Leon in a sell-out arena tour. See the lovely Kim & Jessie video here. And all things M83 here.

No news is good news for Cobra Dukes. But I urge you to listen to Airtight again, still a contender for one of my top five tracks this year.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Sneaky Sound System: very, very far from home...

And so they've landed. Ozzie band Sneaky Sound System's UK follow-up to Pictures, the gloriously odd UFO is getting radio airplay and may just be their biggest hit so far. Like Blondie's Rapture, this extraterrestrial subject matter is kookie and suits the bombastic pop sound these dance producers have found. Below is the UK video. Check out the dancing planets at 2.00. Hil-ar-ious.



Sneaky Sound System TheirSpace

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Top of the Pooped*

Top of the Pops is back! Back!! BACK!!! And... No it's not. Well, kind of. The BBC are toying with reviving the weekly chart show according to one source whilst others in MusicWeek have crushingly ruled out any return for TOTP. The hullabaloo when the show was first axed was slightly embarrassing considering no one was actually watching it. Admittedly, the sight of Jeremy Clarkson presenting acts with the kind disdainful snort only your dad could better was reason enough not to watch, but years of running the show into the ground had driven away any potential new viewers. The generational hand over just didn't happen.

It's easy to cite the industry's fragmentation and the explosion in music sources for the lack of interest from today's yoot. But that isn't the case. The blame lies squarely in hands of the TV producers themselves. If the multi-headed Radio 1, just as old as TOTP, can keep up with the times, then surely a weekly music show built on a diet of new music can do the same. Forget all that Noel Gallagher crap about blaming society's demise into knife culture on its cancellation. And don't take any notice of the smug Caitlin Moran who desperately aligns herself with da yoot in a patronising sideswipe at anyone old enough to have grown up with the show.

Whatevs. Personally, I don't really care if the show comes back. What I do care about is that pop music is now a contradiction in terms. With the cancellation Stateside of TRL and no mainstream platform on TV here, the charts are niche: there may be a mixture of styles and artists but where can you hear them all together? Isn't it odd that the biggest-selling singles have no TV airtime other than promo clips, crappy This Morning/Good Morning America slots and crappy soundbite channels. Clever music shows like Switch, which would have featured leftfield artists years ago, now showcase chart acts like Kelly Rowland because there's nowhere else for her to go.

A weekly chart-based TV show on a mainstream channel isn't difficult, or at least it shouldn't be. The rights to populist music are now co-owned by Simons Cowell and Fuller. That's fine. X Factor and Idol have their place. Just don't let them get their hands on popular music.

*UPDATE: just like Take That, it's back for good!

Monday, 17 November 2008

Bah Bumhug!

It's only the middle of November and already Mariah Scarey's perennial favourite All I Want For Christmas is at number 59 in the UK singles chart. Who's buying it? Stop it! It's bad enough that the biggest retailers think Christmas is already here. Let's all just pipe down and wait until the 25th of November when the festive frolics officially begin here chez Monsieur FizzyPop. Oh, hang on. My mistake. Christmas IS already here. The Coke ads have begun.

••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

Burt Bacharach & Adele - Baby It's You



This was one of the highlights of Burt Bacharach's recent concert in London at The Roundhouse. Adele's voice seems to wrap around Burt's song and arrangement like it was the original and the best. Baby It's You is such a sweet song and deserving of the orchestral treatment whereas other fab Burt standards were reduced to medley status. Don't you just hate getting a burst of your favourite only to have it cruelly snatched away just as you're getting into it. I know the back catalogue is HUGE, but it is better to have the full wax rather than just the crack!

Adele's in no hurry to work with Burt again though. Quite rightly she surmises that it would be a predictable get-together. Looky here at the ITN interview where she talks about cracking the USA. She suggested a more left of centre collaboration; someone no one would expect. Adele and Same Difference? Oui? Non?

••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

25 years ago (that's 1983 for those of you what can't add up), the likes of Kajagoogoo, Howard Jones, Heaven 17, Nik Kershaw, Paul Young, Nick Heyward, Tony Hadley were all young hairdos around town in their twenties. Now bewigged and tucked in blokes in their late forties, they're all getting together for a retro fest on ITV 1 this Friday. Now That's What I Call 1983 - great title - will be typical ITV fare: slight whiff of gorgonzola, an audience on poppers and Denise Van Outen being all laddish. Clicky here for all the programme info. The ever-entertaining John (on the right) of Phagz on 45 quite rightly pronounced 1983 as THE most important year in pop. Or at least in his world. But I agree wholeheartedly. Just look at this list of tracks Chelsea Kelsey put together for his own CD compilation of that year. Now that's what I call 1983...

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Crazy times

Posts mysteriously going missing overnight. Yes, the Blogger Stazi have been on a midnight raid and taken down yet another post. So no, Adem, you didn't dream it. There was a post about the stonking Girls Aloud track The Untouchables this week.

In the meantime, Crazy P (aka Crazy Penis) are back! Back!! BACK!!! with a brand new album Stop Space Return. Still as deliciously funky as the previous album, the tour de force, A Night On Earth, they've gone back to their musical roots with vocalist Dannielle Moore taking centre stage on this more song-orientated material. The lead-off single, Love on the Line, is an infectious slab of deep disco and is here in YouTubage...



What is it with bands from the north of England? Dance music comes so naturally. It's a gene handed down from generation to generation: disco, funk, house, whatever. It's there in spades on Crazy P's music. Formed in 1995 by Chris Todd and Jim Baron, they were augmented later by bassist Tim Davies, percussionist Mav (who has since left), and singer Dannielle Moore. Criminally overlooked by the mainstream but held in god-like status by the rest, they oh-so-nearly broke through when Pete Tong picked up on A Night on Earth, touting the super-majestic Can't Get Down as one of his favourites from the 2005 release.

Stop Space Return
is available everywhere and those lucky Ozzies have had it since April where Tinted Records released it first as Love on the Line. You can clicky here for a very entertaining short doc about the band recording it - although whizz forward 2 minutes for the actual talking! My favourite quote is Dan Moore: "Never Gonna Reach Me is based on people thinking that when you're having a good laugh with them, it's an automatic inroad into your knickers!"

Instead of uploading mp3s for your listening pleasure and suffering the Blogger ramraid again, go to 7digital here, or the Beatport player below, where you can listen to and purchase said album including the MAMMOTH title track, Stop Space Return.

Go to Beatport.comGet These TracksAdd This Player


Crazy P TheirSpace

Thursday, 23 October 2008

The cockney Sparro

Strike a light, guvnah! Sam Sparro (or Sparra in his tongue) was on TV last night in a repeat of Channel 4's Transmission and for the first time, I noticed how ENGLISH he sounds. Now I know this Ozzie/LA boy spent some time over here, but the sartorially challenged one seems to have picked up the accent and never let it drop - well, all except for the 'aitches...

Anyhoo, above is a random Sam and Annie interview (Transmission's intro piece on their collaboration was snipped off). And below is the strange mash-up (they never quite work on this show) of Heartbeat and Black and Gold.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Oops, just got pulled over by the web police

'Tis a pity, but it's a fair cop! The luvverly PNAU track Embrace sung by Ladyhawke was here, but now it's gone. It would be nice to be able to point you in the direction of a European or American source to buy a copy, but there aren't any! Well at least it gives me a chance to post this instead. The view from my bedroom window. Bona!

Friday, 10 October 2008

Ch Ch Ch Ch Ch Changes

It was about time I redesigned the place. The purple background was giving me a headache. Quentin Crisp's still here though. Bona!

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Ask Soft Cell. I shook 'em up...

Over-analyse the role of a remix and you could get lost in waffle - best to just treat it as a genre, an art in itself and judge the track on its own merits. Which is why this album of re-heated Soft Cell songs deserves singular attention. It's fucking amazing. A motley collection of hipper-than-thou producers and genuine 'Cell Mates' (The Readers Wifes, Richard X, Manhattan Clique, Yer Man, Cicada, Atomizer and George Demure) have taken Marc 'n' Dave's old C90 cassettes and digitized them into something as bright as a new pin.

Not all of the 26 tracks are the sharpest though. That's fine. And very in keeping with the state of most albums these days. But when it's good on Heat: The Remixes, it's VERY good. Yer Man pull off a stonker with the The Art of Falling Apart album track Heat and Readers Wifes tackle my FAVOURITE Soft Cell track Soul Inside. This single is refreshed and suitably whooped up into a frenzy. It's a project clearly accomplished with integrity: Marc and Dave were involved and happy with it.

Soft Cell were always into their remixes even before they knew what they were. They and The Human League followed up massive breakthrough albums with a remixed version. Dave Ball recalls in the sleeve notes: "The Human League and producer Martin Rushent had realised the potential of the remix at the same time we did - call it synchronicity. The remix versions were very important to us because it was the advent of club culture. In the early 80s we didn't have computers or recall for mixing, so it was all very physical... there could be four of us all with our assigned mute buttons and faders, so the mixdown became like a mini performance in itself. Marc Almond and I typically go into the studio and record all ideas for a track that would initially be around 7 minutes long. We would then reduce that to the best three and a half minutes for the single/radio edit. This process sometimes meant removing a verse or more. If you listen to the 12 inch versions of Bedsitter, Torch, Soul Inside and Memorabilia you'll hear lots of extras."

A Man Can Get Lost (Marcello Remix) - Soft Cell (zShare)
- They've managed to turn one of Soft Cell's 'non songs' into a song. And, dare I say, better it. The guitars give it a brand new edge.

Where The Heart Is (Marcas Lancaster Remix) - Soft Cell (zShare)
- A beautiful Soft Cell single given a Gok Wan-like makeover: it went into the studio feeling like an ugly duckling and came out a swan. Marcas Lancaster understands this song completely by not trying to outwit and overpower.

Sex Dwarf (The Grid Remix) - Soft Cell (zShare)
- This is Dave Ball's own re-think. He's given it a spit and a wipe and it's come up lovely. But still as filthy.

Surrender To A Stranger (MHC Remix - Edit) - Soft Cell (zShare)
- From the Last Night in Sodom album, it's a chunky refit that thankfully has kept the comi-tragic lyrics.

Read a great, comprehensive review of the album here at Underwuld Music.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

The Idol and The Icon

The Idol: Grace Jones

Donning a suitably odd outfit, the Amazonian singer accepted an award from her dad, Tom Jones, at last night's Q Awards for being the Q Idol 2008 (a wonky category to guarantee the legends will turn up). See footage here. The new album is two and a half weeks away!

The Icon: Adam Ant

And the King of Antmusic popped up in an equally odd outfit to pick up his award for Q Icon 2008, (a wonky category to guarantee the reclusive legends will leave the house AND turn up). It's good to see Adam out and about, but he really needs some of Grace's magic dust at the mo'. She's going from strength to strength this year producing some of her best work and performing career-defining concerts.

How about a duet? The Idol and the Icon...

Monday, 6 October 2008

Who the Fenech are Fenech-Soler?

Or, in other words, WOOP! WOOP! WOOP! Fab new band alert! Before you read any further, GO VISIT THEIR MYSPACE HERE and listen to the tracks. This trio from Cambridgeshire, Ross Duffy, Ben Duffy & Dan Francis have a sound all their own. It's electro without the re-wiring. It's pop without the bubblegum. And it's astounding considering they've yet to reach 20 years old and are unsigned.

The tracks featured on their MySpace player sound like future classics. White Hearts for all it's lo-tech production has high hopes and aspirations: Martin Fry and Paddy McAloon on a Scritti Politti production. The vocals from Ben are accomplished and very stadium-like as he sings about Cher setting his eyes on fire, or summat. Lies is equally funky and LARGE. The Cult of Romance, slated as a single with a deal on the table from several labels, is the one that will be as radio-infectious as INXS. Mark Brydon of Moloko will be producing this future epic in a match made in heaven. The fourth track on their MySpace player is the track to hook the Cut Copy/Presets brigade. Black Keys, with shades of Manc band The Whip, is the kind of bombastic synth driven track to go down a storm live.

One question though. What the Fenech is Fenech-Soler?

TheirSpace
The brilliant Paul Lester and his review on The Guardian website.
And, TimesOnline getting all hot and bothered.


***UPDATE*** Vocalist, Ben, got in touch and explained that Fenech-Soler is the Bass player's full name. How exotic. So there you go.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

A Parralox universe

This week saw a very special jiffy bag of delights pop through the door chez moi. After months of having to listen to the wonderous Parralox via TheirSpace the first track on their new album, Electricity summed up its arrival: "Congratulations that we've come so far/It's a pleasure to meet you finally". And singer Roxy, writer/producer John and their LinnDrum don't disappoint. Their debut is as sparky as Summer Heights High and as confident as Dare. Each track is a perfect pop song. There's melody, succinct lyrics and radio-friendly vocals all held together within a verse/chorus format, and like Dare, the only instruments are a synthesizer and drum machine (although the digi effects are very much 2008).

[Click on the titles for a sample] Opening track Europa is fittingly anthemic, a paen to a new start while Black Jeans then cuts in with a Sound of the Crowd swagger to bring us back to earth. Third track, Electricity, is dedicated to the godfather of synthpop, Martin Rushent and like his own productions is as joyous as Altered Images and as glossy as Leisure Process. The stonking I Fell in Love With a Drum Machine, a clear single, has a male vocal reply vocal, a la Matinee Club, which sings: "I love my Linn Drum". How 80s! The single Sharper Than a Knife is Top Ten material: it's accomplished pop with a compelling story of emancipation. How Noughties!

The songs on Electricity could easily sit within other artists' canons: You and Me Both, a Yazoo tribute could be a Kylie track; X Minus One wouldn't be out of place on a Marsheaux album; and given the Xenomania treatment, We Believe in Electric Love could be a Girls Aloud numero uno. The End of Summer, cleverly recreating Pet Shop Boy's Rent drum track is definitely Madonna, circa Ray of Light.

It's clear there is a lifetime of influences on Electricity. Here, Roxy and John explain the music which has shaped their sound.

Buffalo Gals - Malcolm McLaren

What was the first record you bought?
John: "The first actual record I bought was Buffalo Girls by Malcolm McLaren (7" vinyl single). Although by this stage I had already discovered the joys of electronic music. I was an avid fan of Mr McLaren for many years to come and proudly purchased more of his songs, such as Madame Butterfly, Deep In Vogue (I'm surprised Malcolm didn't sue Oldfrapp), Something's Jumping In My Shirt and Double Dutch."
Roxy: "Soooo embarrassing, but it was an album from a tv show called Young Talent Time which featured little wannabe child-stars singing super cheesy songs (and the one which started the Minogue dynasty). I was traj way back!" [Clicky here for a miniscule Dannii on YTT!!]

What was the first song that made you first sit up and notice music?
John:
"The song that really catalysed it for me was The Things That Dreams Are Made Of by League Unlimited Orchestra. It was a lovely Saturday afternoon in December 1982 when I heard that song come onto FM Radio and I just sat there between the speakers transfixed at this perfect union of the synthetic and pop. Of course I was already a massive Kraftwerk / Klaus Schulze / Jean Michel Jarre fan (all this at only 13 years old!!) but to hear electronic music in this format was something brand new. Unless you were there at the time it's hard to understand the cultural and technological context in which this music was being created."
Roxy: "I can't say any song in particular but I used to love my Walkman. I had it right by my bed - the top bunk - and used to listen to tapes and radio surrounded by garish green wallpaper."

Who has your favourite voice?
John:
"I can only pick one? Ok then...Randy Crawford. I have listened to her for as long as I can remember and she really is one of the greats. I recommend all readers to grab a copy of her album Secret Combination as it contains some wonderful vocal performances and songs including Rainy Night In Georgia and You Might Need Somebody. I had the priviledge of meeting her when she toured Australia in the 90's (I was working at the Hilton) and I have to say her voice is phenomenal. She sounded just like she did on the CD. No autotuning there! Other vocalists that deserve a mention are Annie Lennox, Dave Gahan, Patti Page and last but not least..Divine. Yes, that's right..Divine..just listen to Alphabet Rap and tell me you haven't been entertained ;)"
Roxy: "I love Mary J Blige. She is amazing and there's a heartfelt passion there – it’s almost uncontrolled. Although I imagine she is very much its master."

Is there a song that makes you cry?
John:
"My heart was replaced with a microprocessor in the late 80s so unfortunately I don't cry anymore. Seriously though, I do get very emotional when I listen to The Winner Takes It All by ABBA. It has to be one of the most heart-wrenching songs I've ever heard. It's emotional resonance is all the more powerful when you understand that subject matter mirrors the divorce that Agnetha and her husband, Benny Ulvaeus, were going through. The pain that they all must have been enduring can be heard in Agnetha's voice when she sings this song. Of course she is a brilliant vocalist regardless, but it's one of those magic moments where everything falls beautifully into place (unlike their marriage...whoops).
Roxy: "I’ve cried when I’m writing songs that are really true to my heart...you know when you manage to just get that match between a melody and a lyric to express a feeling."

Is there a song guaranteed to get you dancing?
John:
"Oh yes...Michael Jackson's Don't Stop Till You Get Enough."
Roxy: "Anything anthemic always works. I loved that vid for Rock With You with Michael Jackson in a sparkly jumpsuit with a green screen created starry sky behind him."

Whose songwriting do you admire the most and why?
John:
"That's a difficult choice, but in terms of modern composers I'd have to say Martin Gore of Depeche Mode. Songwriting is an art that you develop over time, although some people seem to be born genious songwriters. I'd say that Mr Gore has certainly matured as a songwriter and you can trace this evolution from Speak & Spell right up to Playing The Angel. Mind you, Tora, Tora, Tora was a great start! He has such a unique approach to lyrics and melody and his exploration into the darker side has given his songs a much deeper meaning and a real edge. Also, Alan Wilder of Depeche Mode. One of my all time fave Depeche songs is The Things You Said, but also Enjoy The Silence and Black Celebration are masterpieces as well. His songs are just lovely."
Roxy: "I thought that the Robbie Williams/Guy Chambers partnership was a good one. It changed song-writing in the 90s and took it to a more complex self reflective place."

Which song of yours made you think, "We've cracked it. This is a proper song"?
John:
"In hindsight I'd have to say Sharper Than A Knife, although I also think Factory Friends is the most meaningful song I've written to date. It's a real challenge to ensure that our music doesn't fall into the cliched 80's revival movement (though a few tracks like We Believe In Electric Love are the exception. But that's just between you and me, gentle reader) so I really work hard to make sure that the production and lyrical content stays somewhat grounded in reality. In the case of STAK it was one of those fluke moments where the music and lyrics fell into place and you end up with a song that translates well in any genre, and could potentially have cross-over appeal. It takes time to distance yourself from your own creation and see it like other people do, although it never really happens that way. What I mean is - as a songrwriter and producer I will never experience the song in the same was that someone who is hearing it for the first time. But I can appreciate that it is a good song (IMHO) and probably the one of the strongest pop songs on the album."
Roxy: "Sharper Than a Knife. It was our first potential crossover song. John, who does the writing on this project, can be a little left of centre, bless him. But I’m a bit of a mainstream tragic so when we started recording Sharper Than a Knife and it was sounding like a radio song, that’s when my little 'you never know your luck, we may really have something here' voice started to whisper."


Parralox Myspace here.
Electricity can be purchased here.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Boy George: Back in the land of the living

Last night, the first of Living with Boy George aired on Living TV. And what entertainment! The Boy doesn't disappoint. He's back to his witty, intelligent self and 'fessing up to a five year drug binge. No BooTube footage yet but I found this liddle titbit on Mirror.co.uk. Clicky here for a look at George the tea boy in the studio.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Missing. Presumed dead in the water: Torment & Toreros

Where IS this seminal album? According to Marc Almond's former label, Some Bizarre, it was meant to be reissued on CD over a month ago. If you follow this circuitous route from their website here, to the newly created MySpace, specifically for the Torment & Toreros album here and the info therein here, you'd think the CD re-issues of both the Mambas albums were already out. Wrong. The first, Untitled, is the 1992 version and the Torment and Toreros album is from 1997, now priced everywhere at the ridiculous sum of £130!

Marc's work, especially this album, which was originally released in 1983, deserves better. Current reissues of his solo work have been patchy and ill thought out. His website said this, way back in June: "It is important that past albums are re-issued, to have them available in the shops. Too much of Marc's vast back catalogue has only been sporadically available. Marc would like them to be available at all times in good pressings with decently printed covers and the correct, relevant B sides and extra's included. This hasn't happened in the past. Marc apologises for what must be frustrating to some fans but despite Marc's good intentions, it really is out of his hands." It's obvious there are wranglings with Marc and Stevo (the Some Bizarre supremo). Out of all of Marc's work, this has to be one of the best, therefore it's a shame the reissue is turning out to be quite messy.

Once the album is eventually available to everyone again, there'll be a post devoted to it. Until then...

Thursday, 25 September 2008

London's Heroes (that's Antigone and Neil Tennant to you and me)

To celebrate 40 years as THE London magazine, Time Out mag has gathered together 40 men and women who shape and are shaped by (in my *ahem* humble opinion) the greatest city in the world. And like the city itself, there's no dead wood. No spent forces or of-their-ages. They're all still DOING it like the Ever Ready Bunny of pop, Neil Tennant. In this interview, he reminds everyone that as well as the references in tons of other Pet Shop Boys songs, their biggest hit, West End Girls is directly inspired by London. Maybe it's time spent in and around Flood Street in Chelsea (listen to The Ghost of Myself) that helped create his very English habit "of looking in people’s windows at dusk".

For his own London hero, he looks to the past in choosing Noel Coward for defining "an idea of a smart, society London". But looking to the future, it's street urchin Lily Allen who gets his imperial nod: "The great thing about London is the potential for creative anarchy. So at the moment London is a stage for Lily Allen, whether she likes it or not... I was at the Groucho Club and there was a swarm of paparazzi outside. I said, “Why are you all here?” and they said, “Lily Allen’s in here, innit, Neil.” It’s a stage. It was a stage for Oscar Wilde."

And the creative anarchy goes on and on in the city. Baton after baton is passed, new upon new of ideas light up like flames and then... there's Antigone. Like most Londoners, she ain't from London. But she's picked up on the point of it all. She has created something special right here in London. And it's not just the music. The buzz from blog to blog, the ever-growing live audiences and the general good feeling around her are foundations for a future London hero, or, number 41...

Why London to launch yourself? Is there something particular (or peculiar) that attracted you?

Having already tried and failed twice to live in London, I thought I might get lucky third time round. First time I was three years old and not quite in a position to immigrate myself; second time I ran out of money and so had my partner in rhyme before even trying to leave Australia; third stint started Spring 2004 and I'm still here. I'm a Sydney girl and I outgrew it. London was big, intimidating, competitive and important enough to provide just the challenge I was looking for to escalate my music career"

How did you first arrive and what was your first glimpse of the big smoke?

I remember stuff from when I was three: a black friend called Ebony at preschool whom I called my cat after back home; dressing up in armour with the dirty boys next door. Second time I was flying in from Delhi after a stint studying Indian vocals in Mumbai for three months. It was night, dreary, drizzling weather, and the woman beside me was telling me she'd loathed London for a year before falling in love. This time I scarcely saw it at all because I was collected and driven west to stay with family at 120 miles an hour... I remember thinking: I've flown this far to die in a crash on the M4?!"

How does London compare to your home city Sydney?

It's really quite different. If London's the internet, maybe Sydney's more of an intranet. What I mean is that I find London incredibly decentralised, whereas Sydney is easier to navigate because it is very strongly defined by its (beautiful) geography. London is choose your own adventure - it's not obvious - you have to investigate to find your niche. People always ask me why I would live in London when I could be in Sydney but they just think of the weather, whereas I'm thinking about incredible culture, being a global citizen and living in a city that takes my industry seriously. But the one thing they have in common is they're both fucking expensive!"

Robyn picked up on the fact that London is actually a load of small towns knitted together (she's not far off, most of London is made up of ancient villages and parishes). So which are your favourite 'small towns' of London?

There's probably one area I love more than any other that I don't even know yet! Depends what I'm after. For mere electricity it's Sunday 'round Brick Lane [read my take on it here]. Broadway Market or Stoke Newington Church Street for mellow grooviness. For buzzy urban village vibes you can't beat Soho, but then for seriously scenic chilling it's the heath or where I live, on Highbury Fields."

What are your favourite landmarks? Have you done the tourist thing?

I've done the touristy thing, but for me the best landmark is just the air of London's overwhelming history pretty much wherever you turn. When I catch apathy, I read a chapter in Peter Ackroyd's London: The Biography and remind myself I am but a blackhead on her butt. Love the juxtaposition of Tate Modern and St Paul's though: brilliant mash-up."

Everyone has their favourite 'spot' in London. For me it's being able to view the city as the vibrant monster it is: on top of Parliament Hill, from Waterloo Bridge, from the top floor of the Park Lane Hilton and the corner of Old Compton St and Frith St in the middle of Soho.

It's hard to get a vantage point in London though isn't it? It's quite flat and there aren't that many skyscrapers, well not that I've been in. But I kind of like that. It's like the opposite of Manhattan. You know you're in the thick of this massive fuck-off metropolis but you can't see it and you feel like you're in a big village: brilliant! But I reckon mine would be somewhere like Dray Walk in the Truman Brewery off Brick Lane on a busy day. It's just always so buzzing with manic creative energy and I love the sense of style the kids who frequent it have."

How long do you forsee yourself being here?


As long as it takes baby!"




More Man Than Man
is still available here and this week's special Time Out issue is available here. Black Truffle is a gorgeous little boutique on Broadway Market, which Antigone mentioned as one of her favourite places to hang out. Go see the cute site here. I'm biased, it belongs to a friend.

For my previous Antigone interview where she describes her Top 5 Disco Foxes, go here.

And a BIG thank you to Tricky Richard for the London images!