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