29 June 2010

Scissor Sisters: "Night Work"

Been away for a bit, and as I always find myself saying… life, life, life…. Hopefully things have calmed down a bit and I will be able to focus on the blog once again (I pray). And what a great album to come back to write about; it’s one of those summer albums that you know is going to get played in the iPod over and over again.

I was instantly hooked the first time I heard Scissor Sisters’ cover of Pink Flyod’s “Comfortably Numb”; what followed, when listening to the self-tilted debut album (2004), were campy, tongue-in-cheek numbers of sexual decadence to mixed metaphors of crystal meth and Oz. Full of Elton John and disco revival references, the same trend would follow on the second album, “Ta-Dah” (2006). And though enjoyable and fun, making us to dance to a song about not wanting to dance, how many such albums could a band make before leaving you wanting for something different? Well, teaming up with producer Stuart Price [member of Zoot Woman and producer to such acts as Frankmusik, Keane, Killers, Madonna, Missy Eilliott, and New Order], out goes the Elton John references, in comes savvy euro-disco and electronic references, tongue-in-cheek, but no camp, and still sensually/sexually loaded, “Night Work” (28 June 2010) opens up a new era for Scissor Sisters and will prove that this New York City band has quite a few new tricks up their sleeves.

The irony of the band is that they are named after a lesbian sexual position (use your imagination!), and yet the band has no lesbians in it – though the fold does include three gay men and a female-female impersonator. But that is the thing about the band – they are a study in contradiction. It is a world where hedonism truly equates with personal agency, where sexual escapades challenge social norms, and where humor (whether campy or not) is the lens to see and criticize the world. Nothing has changed. Opening with the titular track, the old tongue-in-cheek welcomes you in: “When I was a young boy, I pretended I had a job; my daddy said, “Pretty woman, Mama married into the mob.”” And you are left to wonder just what kind of “Night Work” is going on that needs a midnight train. But what is different is the music; closer to earlier track “Electroblix,” it is a straightforward electronic number with a glam guitar rift. Soon after, you come across the lead single, “Fire With Fire.” Starting as a non-Elton John piano ballet, this song immediately finds its rhythm and electronic elements. A sort of anthem, to fight “Fire with fire, through desire, desire, sire, desire, through your desire,” this is arguably the best single that Scissor Sisters have released to date. Of course the naysayers will say, “Where’s the camp? Where’s the double entendres?” Well, bands grow up and mature, and as a result so does their music and lyrics; that does not mean that those early lyrical hooks are not there; they are, just more intelligently: “Love was just something you found to add to your collection…”

Jake Shears’ falsetto is better than ever, while Babydaddy’s bass playing and arrangements are even cleverer. Del Marquis’ guitar playing as distinct as ever, and Ana Matronic, well, is Ana Matronic, the secret weapon of the band, that adds a sensual, sexually charged element that the band really capitalized this time around. Though we are sorry to see Paddy Boom leave the fold, Randy Real brings a new sense of percussion and drum arrangements that breathe new life into their music. Under the guidance of their new producer, the band is able to unfurl in new directions, that are not so distinct from what they have done before in their distant past, but are done with more sophistication and snazzier than before.

So why should you listen to Scissor Sisters’ “Night Work?” One, they are New York – that sophisticated surface that is sensual and alluring once the surface is scratched. Two, they are one of the few New York City bands that continue to place New York as a center of creative musical scenes. Three, you shouldn’t be a homophobe and should be able to get a kick out of their lyrical antics. And four, the album kicks ass. And of course, this is the main reason you should give “Night Work” a listen. This is a no-brainer: summer time demands fun music, and not the dreary gloom of winter and fall. Throw on a pair of shorts or something slutty for a club, listen to “Night Work,” boogy your ass off to it, and realize that deep down inside, we are all Scissor Sisters.

Track Listing:
1. Night Work
2. Whole New Way
3. Fire With Fire
4. Any Which Way
5. Harder You Get
6. Running Out
7. Something Like This
8. Skin This Cat
9. Skin Tight
10. Sex and Violence
11. Night Life
12. Invisible Light

Keep up with Scissor Sisters at their homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

Here is their video for “Fire With Fire” from the ScissorSistersVEVO YouTube Channel.

Read more ...

18 June 2010

Videos to Kick Off Summer

As summer is about to roll in, the summer singles are starting to be released, the festival season is in swing, and we are ready for party music. Hope you enjoy these videos.

Goldfrapp’s “Alive” from their MySpace video page.


GOLDFRAPP | MySpace Music Videos

Ok Go’s “End Love” from their YouTube Channel: OkGo.

Vampire Weekend’s “Holiday” from the XLRecordings YouTube Channel.

The XX’s “Island” from the youngturksrecords YouTube Channel.

Field Music’s “Let’s Write a Book” from the mattmemphis YouTube Channel.

Trentemoller’s “Sycamore Feeling” from the SenPromotions YouTube Channel.

The Courteeners’ “Take Over the World” from the TheCourteenersVEVO YouTube Channel.

The Hundred in the Hands’ “Tom Tom” from the WarpRecords YouTube Channel.

Read more ...

15 June 2010

Foals: "Total Life Forever"

Oxford’s Foals have finally revealed the fruits of their labor to America; “Total Life Forever” (10 May 2010 in the UK, 15 June 2010 in the USA), their sophomore album, sports out a sound somewhere between a dark disco-esque indie and The Cure at their most playful pop ditties. Combining darker beats and moods with wallowing lyrics and vocal arrangements, their new found maturity is one of exactness in musical execution and immensely broodier than their nascent efforts. Just take a listen to the titular track, with its catchy seventy-esque guitar rift, near staccato keys reminiscent of the post-punk bands that experiment with new wave, and irksome lyrics: “I know a place where I can go when I’m low down – to your house, down to your house, I will go when I’m low.” And it is that sort of intricate interweaving of sounds and ideas that is the genius of “Total Life Forever.”

Opening with the broody “Blue Blood,” with its soft opening and slow building beat, you are smacked almost immediately with the lyrical intensity of the album: “You’ve got blood on your hands, I know it’s my own; you came at me in the middle of the night to show me my soul.” And soon after these words, you are tantalized with a disco beat, bass line, and guitar arrangement. Yet, for the upswing of the tempo, the song continues to be broody. But that is what made many Cure songs infectious (from “Let’s Go to Bed” to “The End of the World”): the ability to avoid gloominess while being broody and pop. Followed by the dark but playful “Miami” and the titular track, the fourth song is “Black Gold” and the first track that will make you stop in your tracks with its subtle (but overwhelming) beauty. This is a blender-puree of multiple 80s dark pop references, but still infused with the bands own playful take on 70s rhythms. What makes the song work is again the dichotomy between playfulness and broodiness (“‘Cause the future is not what you see, it’s not where you’ve been to at all… the future is not what it used to be, used to be…”).

Other great tracks on the album definitely include “This Orient” and the penultimate “2 Trees.” “The Orient” starts with a play on vocal sounds that is quickly supplanted by a thumping constant beat, the catchiest guitar playing on the album, and a soundscape that makes you feel as if you are floating freely – atmosphere wise, this is the most visceral song on the album and the standout. “2 Trees,” sung in a very controlled falsetto that is not piercing, may sound like the mantra of a blood bank (“Help yourself, help the rest, give blood away, give blood today…”), but in reality it takes you back to the beginning, back to “Blue Blood” – the coming around to a full circle. The song continues, “Be still, play dead, forget all the rest. Free yourself, free your head; don’t shy away, open your veins and wait til the rain goes.” Perhaps gory, but the double entrendre understood: live life, share life, do not shy away, the hard times will pass. Set to the most pensive music on the album, with a guitar arrangement that accents the emotional urgency of the lyrics, the contrast this song provides from the rest of the album is hard to ignore. Where as all the other songs have a grounded feel, there are moments of wispiness and, dare I say, dream pop in this one.

Foals could have easily taken another road with this album; they could have favored a more radio-ready, bubbly kind of indie rock/pop, but instead flew out to Sweden and recorded an album that may be ambivalent when first listened to, but quickly becomes infectious. Constantly contrasting musical moods with lyrical contents, “Total Life Forever” is the product of precise song writing and arrangement. This is an album that you should definitely check out while lounge back on your couch during dusk.

Track Listing:
1. Blue Blood
2. Miami
3. Total Life Forever
4. Black Gold
5. Spanish Sahara
6. This Orient
7. Fugue
8. After Glow
9. Alabaster
10. 2 Trees
11. What Remains

Keep up with Foals at their homepage, MySpace, and Facebook.

Here are their videos for “The Orient” and “Miami” from their YouTube Channel: wearefoals.

Read more ...

08 June 2010

Andy Bell: "Non-Stop"

Andy Bell is one of those names that should be a household name. Coming to fame in the 80s as the singer of the duo Erasure, he climbed the UK Singles Charts top 20 twenty-nine times, and twenty-two times on the American Dance Charts. As a solo artist (simultaneously while a member of Erasure and DJing), Bell releases his second solo album, “Non Stop” (7 June 2010 in the UK, 8 June 2010 in the USA). Though electropop like his work with Erasure, if you heard the first solo album (“Electric Blue” (2005)), you know not to expect a rehash of Erasure’s work. Furthermore, at a moment in time when countless musicians are reviving and expanding the 80s electropop sound (Chew Lips, Frankmusik, La Roux, Little Boots, Passion Pit, Scarlet Soho, and Temposhark to name a few), the value of this veteran, who helped define the genre, is immeasurable. And in an indie field of more and more musicians coming out and/or staying out of the closet (Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke, Gossip’s Beth Dido, Placebo’s Stefan Olsdal, the boys of Scissor Sisters, Sigur Rós’ Jónsi, and Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij to name a few), Bell paved the road throughout the 80s and 90s to show that openly gay musicians can be and are viable.

Known for his over the top antics and dramatics on stage and videos (Erasure’s very first video has the duo performing in drag, as Andy Bell plays both the damsel in distress and the cowboy trying to rescue her), on albums Bell is known for impeccable, faultless singing, an incredible range and falsetto, the ability to be emotive, and having one of the most distinct voices in music. And the reality is that the quality of male vocalists these days is near extinct. Though Erasure’s music often borders on dance (usually relying on remixes for dance floors), this solo album is dance ready, more so than the debut. “Non-Stop,” true to its name, is non-stop grooving; even when slowing down the tempo, the music is upbeat and party ready. This time working with Pascal Gabriel [whose credits include Debbie Harry, Ladyhawke, Kylie Minogue, and Little Boots], Andy Bell is as playful as he is in Erasure, but with even a more updated electropop sound and beats.

The mirror ball immediately starts spinning with the first track, “Running Out.” Suave, smooth, and sensual, this is the perfect way to invite the listener right in. And beginning to end, more so than his work with Erasure, there are more disco-esque references in the music. But what really become obvious from the start is that unlike “Electric Blue,” “Non-Stop” is not about expansive soundscapes or musical posing, it is about sleekness and dance. The album (actually, each song) oscillates between traditional electropop (like “Touch”), soulful moments (like “Say What You Want”), and intriguing beats that push Andy Bell closer to real house than just dance music, like the titular track, “Non-Stop.” The biggest surprise is the closing track. Perry Farrell [of Jane’s Addiction, Porno for Pyros, and Satellite Party fame] joins Bell for a duet. He happens to be a big fan of Bell’s voice, and together they collaborated on “Honey If You Love Him (That Is All That Matters).” This is the meeting of two worlds that no one would ever think would collide; however, this collision is spectacular: lustrous yet campy, dancy yet temperamental, straightforward yet tongue-in-cheek. Both Bell and Farrell are outside their comfort zones, and that makes the song even more spectacular.

Of course Andy Bell is not the young boy he was when singing “Oh L’Amour” or “Sometimes”; however, the years have made him a better vocalist and savvier when it comes to putting melodies together. And, unfortunately, at forty-six many radio and media stations will probably pass over “Non-Stop,” as “pop” has become the realm of the young and cliché on most radio and video outlets, but this is not a release that you should let get by you. Andy Bell, a veteran, delivers a strong album with “Non-Stop,” proving that age and experience are advantages.

Track Listing:
1. Running Out
2. Call On Me
3. Subject/Object
4. Say What You Want
5. Will You Be There?
6. Slow Release
7. Touch
8. Non-Stop
10. Honey If You Love Him (That’s All That Matters), featuring Perry Farrell

Keep up with Andy Bell at his homepage, MySpace, and Twitter. Also, keep up with Erasure (currently working on a new album) at their homepage, MySpace, and Facebook.

Here is the video for “Call On Me” from the erasureinfo YouTube Channel.

Read more ...

05 June 2010

The Unravelling: "13 Arcane Hymns"

I really make no assumption of where great music comes from or what genre it happens to be in. Though I tend to wear my post-punk / shoegaze heart on my sleeve, I honestly listen to just about anything and everything. This includes metal, which may surprise some people. But I think, in general, metal suffers from the same thing as many genres are suffering from right now: complacency. Between metalcore and metal’s own looking backwards in retro-metal, there doesn’t seem to be much out there that offers something new, something vibrant, or something urgently relevant. Of course, that is my own opinion, and others are welcome to chastise me for it, but before doing that, take a moment and discover The Unravelling. Last year, I had the pleasure of listening to and writing about demos recorded by this Canadian duo, and even getting them to answer a few questions for me (links to demo review and interview). And in the midst of all the chaos and my own struggles to find time, I listened to the official release of “13 Arcane Hymns” (15 May 2010 – available in CD or digital download on the band's website). And after listening, I feel the need to restate something I have said before: Gustavo de Beauville and Steve Moore are incredible songwriters, and their proper release proves just how much chops they really have. And when listening to a band like The Unravelling, one thing comes to mind: Welcome to the future.

The musical references here are broad and wide: from Tool to Nine Inch Nails, from Opeth to Dead Can Dance – but there is always something there that is uniquely them. Self-financing their debut release, “13 Arcane Hymns” is a testament that great music does not have to kiss the arse of the corporate music industry. From beginning to end, this duo takes you on a musical journey of different moods and emotions, as this concept album about being buried alive unfurls. Musically, the credit goes to Beauville, who has created an ever-shifting, unpredictable soundscape that is haunting and mesmerizing. Lyrical and vocal credits go to Moore, who is able to not just carry a tune, but sing with passion, and then turn around and scream, howl, and become primal. And it is in that marriage of dual range, dual versatility, that The Unravelling generates both sonic and visceral power. Actually, it is hard to divorce the two – as the music sometimes pummels you, at others sooths you, and you’re listening to the words and the voice, your heart is racing… your anxiety building… as you shift from one mood to another.

Opening with “Move Forward Until You Are Dead,” “13 Arcane Hymns” has this inviting intro, with Moore singing over the guitar arrangement and a building beat, and forty-five seconds into the song, the beat drops and you are completely disarmed. And the track continues to alternate between both extremes: smooth/soothing and hard/abrasive. The third track, “Fire Breather,” the shortest on the album, really demonstrates what these two have learned from Dead Can Dance: big atmosphere, haunting backgrounds, and ambient energy. Further down, “Last Rights Protest” smacks you with its in-your-face power; the song has my favorite guitar work on the album. The eighth track, “In The Safe House,” is simply an incredible song. I will restate what I said about this track before: it is the evidence that these guys can write anything they want, any genre, any mood. This is the one song that stands out the most on the album from the others; it is not just because of its softness, everything about the song is different than what surrounds it. From how it is arranged, to how it was recorded, to how it is sung and played, they demonstrate they are not victims of expectations, nor confined by any complacency of only producing music in one format. The album closes with “Victory Song.” After generating forty-eight minutes of sonic and visceral power that leaves you jumbled on the inside, they create the catharsis you need in this last track. Though only five minutes, this song feels of uber-epic proportion, and everything is here: the thinking outside of the box, the atmosphere, the harshness, the soothing, the harrowing, and the final release.

Why is this a must? “13 Arcane Hymns” is brilliant, infectious, and non-complacent. Not to mention urgent, relevant, and thriving full of energy. In an industry that is marred by counterfeits, musicians buying into shallowly defined genres, and industry whims and trends, The Unravelling compose, recorded, and self-release an album that continues that 2010 trend of pulling that proverbial bar higher. This is more than just any ole metal album; this is evolution, a step towards the future, pioneering new directions for a genre in desperate need of that.

Track Listing:
1. Move Forward Until You Are Dead
2. Becoming Chaos
3. Fire Breather
4. Open Skull
5. Last Rights Protest
6. Revived
7. Unscripted Disclosure
8. In The Safe House
9. Where Will It End?
10. Disconnect-Connect
11. My Resignation
12. Arjuna
13. Victory Song

Keep up with The Unravelling at their homepage (where you can purchase the hard-copy CD or the digit download), MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

Here is “Where Will It End?” from their YouTube Channel: Theunravellingmusic.

Read more ...

04 June 2010

Catching up with Radio Dept., Archie Bronson Outfit, and The Electric Pop Group

I swear up and down that I want to avoid these “Catching Up” posts, and sincerely I do, but inevitably I discover something well after its release or simply just did not have the time to write about it. And time has been something that has been difficult to come by lately. But these are three bands that have really tickled my fancy lately, and unfortunately I was not able to give them the time they deserved previously. (Furthermore, two of them have no official video postings for their current releases.) So I am not going to belabor this one, as I know you may have heard them already, but I wanted them to be represented here on the blog. Enjoy!

The Radio Dept.: “Clinging to a Scheme”

Anyone who knows my tastes in music knows that not only am I a sucker for dark, sinister music, the brooding kind that is nightmare inducing, but I am also a sucker for Scandinavian bands! From Abba to The Legends, Cardigans to Bjork, Moonbabies to Northern Portrait, there is this cosmopolitan feel to their music that distinguishes it from everything else. Perhaps the reason lies in the fact that there is just more exposure to music in Scandinavian nations than most others, being saturated from British to American music, as well as continental and their own musical scenes. What is usually created is sophisticated, intricately arranged music, and The Radio Dept. is no exception. Releasing their third album, “Clinging to a Scheme” (21 April 2010), the band combines electro and indie hooks with a shoegaze feel, and the airiness of dream pop.

Like the post-punk of Cocteau Twins, this is an album that allows itself to be slight broody, completely introspective, but not gloomy. Right from the beginning, Radio Dept.’s signature is evident: the interplay between variant, distinct layers of music – “Domestic Scene” is as sweet as any lullaby and the most serene way imaginable to open the album. The second track, “Heaven’s On Fire,” opens with an interesting Thurston Moore [of Sonic Youth fame] sample: “People see rock and roll as, as youth culture, and when youth culture becomes monopolized by big business, what are the youth to do? Do you, do you have any idea?” Though the sample does not tie into the track in any meaningful way, it points out a truth about the music industry trying to control every aspect of releases, especially since the broadband revolution, when they are losing control of how music is consumed by people.

The album is full of great songs: “This Time Around” reminds me of early shoegaze, and “Memory Loss” (“If I curse, if I should accuse you, please tell me that I’m wrong. If I’m worse, I’m just scared to lose you, I’ve wanted this too long.”) is hauntingly sexy, with a barebones ambient backdrop and a slow tempo, it is the breathy vocals arrangements that really carry the song. My favorite track, “David,” is simply amazing. It is a schizophrenic jamboree of musical elements. With beats that are syncopated at one point and not at another, piano, an almost trip hop feel, the song is the perfect example of Radio Depts.’ master craftsmanship: the ability to really distill many variant strings of musical references into one song. Beginning to end, the album just whisks you away into an ambient, loungy, adventure through an infectious soundscape.

Track Listing:
1. Domestic Scene
2. Heaven’s on Fire
3. This Time Around
4. Never Follow Suit
5. A Token of Gratitude
6. The Video Dept.
7. Memory Loss
8. David
9. Four Months in the Shade
10. You Stopped Making Sense

Keep up with Radio Dept. at their homepage, MySpace, and Facebook.

Archie Bronson Outfit: “Coconut”

Releasing their third album, “Coconut” (1 March 2010 in the UK, 23 March 2010 in the USA), on Domino Records, Archie Bronson Outfit is starting to see their lead single, “Shark’s Tooth,” creeping in many different sectors – two thumbs up to Logo for featuring it. Breaking with their previous album’s sound, “Coconut” experiments more with electronic elements and production styles – though it avoids all gimmicks. Working with Tim Goldsworthy [production credits include Cut Copy, Massive Attack, Rapture, and UNKLE], the album has this alluring aspect like the best of dance punk, but maintains the bands indie rock feel, that always has that touch of psychadelia to it.

If any song was perfect to be the lead single, it was “Shark’s Tooth.” The song is dying to be new wave with a bit of post-punk, but like the video, there is a retrofuture feel to the song, in much the same way that a decade-and-a-half earlier Luscious Jackson accomplished with “Naked Eye.” Except ABO’s “Shark’s Tooth” is more cacophonous and much harder to ignore. This is a ditty that gets right under your skin in a good way. Their next single will be “Hoola,” which takes the band in another direction. This time around, the music is as deadpan as the vocals, though the thick bass line keeps the song from collapsing into a dirgeful, mournful number.

What I really like about Archie Bronson Outfit’s “Coconut” is that it is the exception to all the rules. Garage punk meets surf rock, but melodically more varied, indie rock, but not on some bandwagon, paying homage to the past, but not rehashing old genres – ABO exists in a niche that is outside of the current indie rock scene, removed from trite trends or clichés. Go to any song on the album, whether the almost playful “Chunk” or the sexy but overwhelming “Harness (Bliss)” (such appropriate music for that title!), ABO delivers music that clearly demonstrates thinking outside of the box.

Track Listing:
1. Magnetic Warrior
2. Shark’s Tooth
3. Hoola
4. Wild Strawberries
5. Chunk
6. You Have a Right To a Mountain Life / One Up On Yourself
7. Bite It & Believe It
8. Hunt You Down
9. Harness (Bliss)
10. Run Gospel Singer

Keep up with Archie Bronson Outfit at their homepage, MySpace, and Facebook.

Here are their video for “Shark’s Tooth” from the DominoRecords YouTube Channel.

The Electric Pop Group: “Seconds”

Heading back to Sweden, The Electric Pop Group released their sophomore effort, aptly titled “Seconds” (9 February 2010 in the USA). Led by the Aamot brothers, this is an album of catchy guitar arrangements and steady tempos that just encourage you to sit back and chill. It is the sort of album you want to be playing in the background when you are lying back, relaxing under a tree’s shade. With uncomplicated lyrics, at times bordering on sappy, the album is never syrupy or saccharine. And just like their contemporary Scandinavian brethrens, they have this knack for distilling a vast array of musical references into their songs.

Glossy and sophisticated production, the vocal arrangements meld into the musical arrangements – every aspect of each song conspires together to create a uniform experience. The songs are carried by steady guitar picking and beautiful strumming; it is the sort of guitar playing that even if the lyrics are heading towards sappiness like in “My Only Inspiration” or the sad personal introspection of “In the Back of My Mind,” the guitar arrangements brings in a feeling of lightheartedness. And that is the hook of the album: it is friendly and inviting, it is pop with soul and heart. Yet, for all the friendliness of the album, The Electric Pop Group, despite their name, does not cater to writing music that is radio ready in any conventional sense.

There are two tracks on the album that I cannot stop listening to. The first is “I Know I Will”; it is one of those semi-acoustic inidie songs with a touch of 60s to it that sort of lulls you into a comfort zone. From first listen, you get this feeling of familiarity with this track that makes you want to listen to EPG even more. The other track, my favorite track on the album, is “Into Thin Air.” I am about to commit a sin in the eyes of some people, but imagine a steady Simon Gallup [of The Cure] bass line with a Johnny Marr [of The Smiths] lead guitar, and in this strangest of unions you have “Into Thin Air,” as it subtly breezes by. But it is in that sort of combination of musical concepts that Electric Pop Group excels. They are not shoegaze or reviving Britpop, they are not Smith’s knockoffs or recapturing Ride’s beautiful guitar arrangements. They have, however, listened to some of the best, jumbled it all up into a creative kettle, infused their own brand of indie rock, and poured out a distinct album of beautiful arrangements and infectious moods.

Track Listing:
1. Not By Another
2. Out of Sight
3. I Know I Will
4. Drawing Lines
5. My Only Inspiration
6. In The Back of My Mind
7. The Way It Used to Do
8. Into Thin Air
9. We Never Made Up Our Minds
10. The Best of Times

Keep up with The Electric Pop Group at MySpace.
Read more ...

03 June 2010

Marina and the Diamonds: "Family Jewels"

I came across Marina and The Diamonds late last year, and have had her debut album, “The Family Jewels” (22 February 2010 in the UK, 25 May 2010 in the USA), for some time now, but admittedly did not really listen to it, until Belladonna (aka my favorite Aussie!) told me, “Roman, she’s fabulous…” So I took another listen, my first serious listen supplanting everything I’ve heard about the album and Marina, and I have to admit I really liked it. My first reaction was that I see the comparisons with Little Boots, but other than a sort of frivolity, I don’t see the comparisons with Lady Gaga. If Marina and the Diamonds should be compared with anyone, it is Kate Bush… yes, Kate Bush, the brilliant songstress whose music is haunting and singularly unique. Marina and The Diamonds (really a solo act of Marina Lambrini Diamandis, hailing from Wales) has produced an album that is pop, but not throwaway, fun, but serious, and new wavish, but not part of any revival movement.

An interesting fact about Marina is that she has synesthesia – a condition where one sense melts into another. In her case, musical notes produce different color sensory impressions. Imagine hearing an “A” note, and always seeing the color blue in your mind; though I am not sure how her synesthesia works, I wonder if she capitalized on it when writing music. Through her own admission, she does not come from a musical background, yet her music is… well… colorful. Opening with “Are You Satisfied?” she sings, “I was pulling out my hair the day I cut the deal. Chemically calm, was I meant to feel happy?” The interplay of the stings and piano ingeniously carry the music, perhaps singing of her own opportunity at fame she later sings, “Are you satisfied with an average life? Do I need to lie to make my way in life? High achiever, don’t you see, baby nothing comes for free. They say I am a control freak, driven by greed to succeed… nobody can stop me.” No rest, as the second track floods in with the new wave influenced electro bass line, but softened with the piano, and then given grit with the guitar. “Shampain” is Marina at her best… playful and introspective, conventional but quirky. This is a BIG song, and one of the few that you really get to hear the music really unfurl.

For the most part, this is an album built around the vocals of Marina. I would imagine that some people might find this to be a fault, in that you really do not get to experience the power of the music in long, luscious arrangements. My response to that line of thought is that that is not the point of these songs. Think of bands like Yazoo and Erasure, both Vincent Clarke writing music around the power of vocalists, Marina’s music is about displaying her vocals, introspections, and musings about others. Take “Obssessions,” you may find the piano arrangement catchy as hell, thinking at first it is going to be a ballet, and then the beat drops into something totally different, sort of like the lyrics: “Sunday, wake up, give me a cigarette. Last night’s love affair is looking vulnerable in my bed. Silk sheet, blue dawn, Colgate, tongue warm, “Won’t you quit your crying?” I can’t sleep. One minute I’m a little sweetheart, and next minute you are an absolute creep.”

There are many jewels amongst “The Family Jewels.” Just to mention another, “Hermit the Frog.” What a “waltzy,” flirty song! The sexual tension is thick in this ditty, as Marina justifies her own sexuality: “They call him Hermit the Frog, he’s looking for a dog. Did you find a bitch in me?” But let’s go back to those comparisons. Definitely Little Boots, though sonically not too similar, there is that same sense of joie de vivre in their music. Definitely not Lady Gaga; the music here is not as safe, not as mainstream, Marina and the Diamonds delivers pop music that is not cookie cutter or laden with production gimmicks to get you to listen. And definitely Kate Bush… this is memorable, distinct from her contemporaries, and about the music. I have never been attracted to the reputation of a moniker or the celebrity of an artist; it has to be about the music. And “The Family Jewels” delivers incredible music, a colorful, synesthetic soundscape that is seductive and playful.

Track Listing UK:
1. Are You Satisfied?
2. Shampain
3. I Am Not a Robot
4. Girls
5. Mowgli’s Road
6. Obsessions
7. Hollywood
8. The Outsider
9. Hermit the Frog
10. Oh No!
11. Rootless
12. Numb
13. Guilty

Track Listing USA:
1. Are You Satisfied?
2. Shampain
3. I Am Not a Robot
4. Girls
5. Mowgli’s Road
6. Obsessions
7. Hollywood
8. The Outsider
9. Guilty
10. Hermit the Frog
11. Oh No!
12. Seventeen
13. Numb

14. The Family Jewels, iTunes edition
15. Seventeen, Japanese Edition
16. Hollywood video, Japanese Edition

Keep up with Marina and the Diamonds at her homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

Here are both versions of her video “I Am Not a Robot” [and “I Am Not a (L.A.) Robot”] from her YouTube Channel: Marinaandthediamonds.

Read more ...

01 June 2010

Videos To Kick Off June

My sincerest apologies for not having had the time to sit down and write… but hopefully by the end of the week, things will return back to normal on my side of things. I have much to write about, from The Unravelling to Marina and the Diamonds – could the range be more eclectic than that? Anyway, to kick off June, here are some videos in the mean time. I hope you enjoy.

The Suzukis' "Built In" from the deltasonicrecords YouTube Channel.

Warpaint’s “Elephants” from TheFaderTeam YouTube Channel.

Veronica Falls’ “Found Love In a Graveyard” from their YouTube Channel: VeronicaFallsTV.

We Are Scientists’ “Nice Guys” from their YouTube Channel: wearescientists.

Muse’s “Neutron Star Collision (Love Is Forever)” from their Youtube Channel: muse.

Funeral Party’s “NYC Moves to the Sound of LA” from their YouTube Channel: FuneralPartyMusic.

The Big Pink’s “Tonight” from the 4ADRecords YouTube Channel.

Chief’s “Your Direction” from the DominoRecords YouTube Channel.

Read more ...