Friday, November 27, 2009

truth or consequences

Fiery, red headed, ruby lipped chanteuse, Paloma Faith is about to release the third jewel from her glittering, debut longplayer, "Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful?" It's the title track and as with her previous singles, "Stone Cold Sober" and "New York", she has lensed a lush, art deco inspired video for it which continues the thematic arc of the album's artwork.

Clearly, after two mid-table hits, the video budget for the third has been scaled back a bit. Such a shame that Paloma's album, while having tickled the fancy of the critics, hasn't translated into an all out smash. Some think it might be her husky, smoky vocal tones which only have a passing resemblance to Amy Winehouse.

There's a playfulness to Paloma and wry humor that has never been associated with Amy's darker shapes. Once I got a chance to peel back the curtain and experience Paloma behind the scenes, that's when I became more than a casual fan. She's down to earth while still maintaining a streak of grandeur and glamor about her. She's simultaneously warm and cool. She's pleasantly sarcastic and bawdy one moment, then displays fleeting moments of disarming coquettishness the next.

Check out one of her recent video blog entries from the set of the video for the new single.

I love it how she's having a great time but is clearly non-plussed about the reduced video budget or the current station of her recording career. Epic has certainly shoveled loadsamoney into the project. I think it's time to start thinking about that sophomore album.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Hurts so good

A few weeks ago, I recommended, with the return of Spandau Ballet, that there should be more sax solos in pop music these days. Enter Hurts who hail from Manchester. The duo of Adam and Theo have been quite elusive over the last few months. In fact, back in April, after a brief mention over at Popjustice, I wrote their name down on a yellow sticky and added it to the pile of them that have slowly started to cover the surface of my desk like ivy overrunning a garden. Haven't heard a peep since then.

Now, after a second appearance on Popjustice, who rightly claimed that Hurts are the sort of band Mute might have signed if Mute in the 2000s were like Mute in the 1980s, I decided the time was right to dig a little deeper.

Apparently, Hurts has signed to a Sony distributed imprint run by Biff Stannard, he of Stannard and Rowe fame who wrote many hits for East 17, Five and Spice Girls. The first single, the yearning and moody "Wonderful Life" (not a cover of the 1987 hit by Black), is ready to be unleashed on the public, soon to be adored by many in every corner of the globe.

It's quite lovely. The tribal drums seem to be all the rage this season with everyone from Marina And The Diamonds, Ellie Goulding and even Natalie Imbrugila incorporating them into their current productions.

In a stroke of sonic brilliance, someone rang up legendary producer, Arthur Baker, and had him sprinkle his magic all over "Wonderful Life". In one fell swoop, he delivered a mighty, thunderous remix with flashes of electro brilliance.

A! MA! ZING! Reminds me of the productions he helmed for New Order in the mid-80s like "Shellshock" and "Confusion". Let's hope we don't have to wait another seven months before we hear something from these guys.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

third from the mountain

"Nothing Is Keeping You Here" by a-ha is the third video from their gorgeous album, "Foot Of The Mountain". Such a shame it will be part of their swan song over the next twelve months. Then Morten, Paul and Mags will fade into the mist of pop history.

The single version of this song is quite different from the one featured on the album. Those chiming piano figures and Morten's yearning vocal get the goosebumps going. And you can certainly hear where Coldplay have gotten some of their inspiration from.

The video sort of reminds me of those Pink Floyd, planetarium laser shows. There's an amazing idea. Imagine a laser show set to the music of a-ha. Hey, it can't be any worse than Seal on ice!

next year's love

It has been ten years since Sade released her last, studio album, "Lovers Rock".

Six albums in 25 years is hardly what I would call prolific. But something new from Sade is always heralded as an event much like the return of a comet. So, let the countdown to February 8, 2010 begin. That's the release date for "Soldier Of Love", Sade's forthcoming longplayer.

As much as I love the more languid moments, I'd really love to hear one of those slinky, funked out numbers Sade pulls out every now and then like "Never As Good As The First Time" or "Sweetest Taboo".

more Moyet remastering

After the success Alison Moyet has had with her recently released hits collection, Sony has announced that plans are in the works for some long overdue brushing up of her back catalog.

Not only will Alison's first four longplayers - "Alf", "Raindancing", "Hoodoo" and "Essex" - get the remastering treatment, but they will each feature a second disc containing b-sides, 12" versions and remixes associated with each period. Huzzah!

It's really about time. Funny how many projects are being remastered, reissued and revisited lately. In the 90s, at the height of my compilation and retrospective production, there were endless albums that were criminally ignored because the labels didn't think anyone gave two dingles about them. Oh, how times (and revenues) have made labels change their tunes.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Seal of approval

It has only been five, short years since Seal released his first career retrospective, "Best: 1990-2004". It didn't rate highly with me since it featured all the lengthy, album versions of the hits which I have on their original longplayers. There's always been something magical about Seal's best moments and they work most effectively in their more economical single versions.

Unfortunately, after his second album, Seal's career slid down the dumper. I think people lost him after his useless cover of Steve Miller Band's "Fly Like An Eagle" for the movie, "Space Jam". Seal drank too much Hollywood Kool-Aid and his fans began to move on.

Then he sang a duet with his supermodel wife, Heidi Klum for his 2005 album, "System". He performed his songs on ice as the backdrop for figure skaters. Although, it should be noted that it was for a good cause with $5 from every ticket going to an autism charity. And then he got wrangled into recording a slushy album of soul covers, the dismally titled "Soul". Needless to say, Seal moved ever lower down my list of favorites and none of his creative ventures did anything to elevate his status, both commercially or artistically, over the last decade.

For some reason, perhaps contractual obligations, Seal returns with a new hits collection, imaginatively titled "Hits", for the festive season. It seems there will be two editions available. But rather than deliver a single disc and a deluxe edition with a bonus CD, it appears the first disc in the expanded version will be substantially different to the single CD version.

Seal's retrospective features a couple of new recordings including "I Am Your Man", a cover of the minor, Motown hit by Bobby Taylor And The Vancouvers from 1968 which was written by in house tunesmiths, Ashford & Simpson, and "Thank You". Alongside the new stuff, the single CD edition of "Hits" will supposedly feature the single versions of "Killer", "Crazy", "Prayer For The Dying" and "Don't Cry". Finally! And for that reason, this greatest hits collection gets my approval.

1. I Am Your Man
2. Kiss From A Rose
3. Killer (Single Edit)
4. Crazy (Single Version)
5. Fly Like An Eagle
6. Love's Divine
7. A Change Is Gonna Come
8. Amazing
9. Get It Together
10. Future Love Paradise (7" Edit)
11. My Vision (Single Version) - Jakatta featuring Seal
12. The Right Life
13. Prayer For The Dying (Single Version)
14. I Can't Stand The Rain
15. Waiting For You
16. The Beginning (Single Edit)
17. Don't Cry (Single Version)
18. It's A Man's Man's Man's World
19. Thank You

I really wish they wouldn't have included the covers from "Soul". But seriously, shouldn't "Love's Divine" have been a top 10 hit? Such a return to form and quite simply one of the best singles of 2003.

It would've made the perfect follow up to his appearance on Jakatta's melodic, mysterious and muscular single, "My Vision", which briefly restored Seal's chart fortunes by peaking at #6 on the UK singles chart in 2002.

I remember hearing "Crazy" on a local radio station at the back end of 1990. It's still quite a unique and arresting track. Four and half minutes of world weary wisdom. Seal sang it like his life depended on it. That middle eight drum break followed by the deadened piano bit still blows my mind. And with it having been released on ZTT gave it immediate cache among musos. At that point, just about anything Trevor Horn and his label laid their hands on was golden.

If you splash out for the double CD edition of "Hits", it looks as if the single versions have been replaced by their album length equivalents. But we get a few rarities like the acoustic version of "Violet", a gorgeous slice of 90s Brit soul, and a few songs that featured on soundtracks like "A Father's Way" from "The Pursuit Of Happyness" (bad movie, shit title) and "This Could Be Heaven" from "The Family Man" (average movie, shit title). "Love Is Powerful" which was only released as a single in Japan, makes an appearance, as does "Les Mots", an lush, emotive duet with iconic, French superstar Mylene Farmer.

Unfortunately, we get a useless, live medley of soul classic at the end of the second disc. We get it, Seal, you're in lurve and a soulful smoocher. Now get back to the business of delivering the hits just as the title of your new collection reminds us.


1. I Am Your Man
2. Kiss From A Rose
3. Crazy
4. Fly Like An Eagle
5. Love's Divine
6. A Change Is Gonna Come
7. Amazing
8. Get It Together
9. My Vision (Single Version) - Jakatta featuring Seal
10. Prayer For The Dying
11. I Can't Stand The Rain
12. Waiting For You
13. The Beginning (US Single Remix)
14. The Right Life (Remix Radio Edit)
15. Don't Cry
16. Rolling
17. If You Don't Know Me By Now
18. Violet (7" Acoustic Version)


1. Killer
2. Future Love Paradise (12" EP Version)
3. Human Beings
4. A Father's Way
5. Love Is Powerful (Full Length Vocal Mix)
6. Colour
7. Free
8. Latest Craze
9. System
10. Newborn Friend (Morales Radio Mix)
11. Lips Like Sugar
12. This Could Be Heaven
13. Les Mots (Single Version) – Mylene Farmer and Seal
14. It's A Man's Man's Man's World
15. Soul Medley: Get It Together/Here I Am/Knock On Wood (Live)
16. Thank You

Friday, November 20, 2009

the tension and the spark

"Fragile Tension", the other track featured on Depeche Mode's forthcoming, double a-side single has finally spawned a video. Thank goodness it's not anything like the horrendous clip they lensed for "Hole To Feed", one of DM's rare, visual missteps.

"Sounds Of The Universe" is definitely a less pop focused album. It has a gritty uncertainty to it. You can hear the band stretching and trying to break out of their box a little. It will be interesting to follow them on their journey as they move toward the next album.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

the glittering sound of a rare noble gas

Worlds collide and inspire words. In these days of blogging, that's how the keystrokes commence from time to time. I will have bits and bobs strewn across my desk. I want to express my excitement for them. Then time marches on, yellow stickies left like withering flowers on the vine.

Then a bolt from the blue. Sometimes the obvious ties them all together. A forest for the trees moment brought into sharp clarity. Often, many bloggers will write about the same thing. Some want the scoop. Others are happy to show their adulation. It's when these two camps meet that the desire to write about a topic either goes cold on me or it fires me up. Thankfully, the latter has happened.

Over the last year or so, Neon Gold, an independent label based in NYC, has been quietly releasing little packets of joy in the shape of pop infused, vinyl nuggets. Last night, I had a discussion with Stephen Sears who writes XO's Middle Eight and has waxed enthusiastcally about Neon Gold on numerous occasions. We enjoyed a gorgeous cup of hot chocolate at Le Pain Quotidien in DC and, as usual, solved the myriad problems that continue to cripple the beleaguered music biz. But our chat about Neon Gold pushed me further to lay praise on them from my corner of the blogosphere.

At the end of the day, it really comes down to the music. Something that sticks to the ribs. A solid story. Building a following. Acts did it in the 80s with MTV. Now, with the advent of world made smaller by the information superhighway and music made available fresh out of the oven without the advent of a middle man, who would have thought a small, independent label releasing tunes on a decidedly old school configuration, could be the breeding ground for promising, new talent?

Neon Gold has done the near impossible. And I realized they are responsible for three of my favorite singles of the year. I haven't had the chance to write about them until now, especially with so much attention paid to them recently. As I mentioned at the launch of my blog, I'm not jumping on bandwagons. I don't pretend to be fashionable. I write about music I like. Sometimes that music overlaps with popular opinion. In turn, I have brought my fave Neon Gold discoveries to other like minded musos. Just like the classic shampoo ad, I've told two friends.....

First up is Marina And The Diamonds. Her second Neon Gold single, "Mowgli's Road", replete with shades of Siouxsie And The Banshees and Kate Bush, is far and away her breakthrough track. A quirky, galloping, piano driven number which is much different from the lush balladry of her first single, "I Am Not A Robot".

And if my ears do not deceive me, I think Marina has been listening to Madness. Give "It Must Be Love", "Embarrassment" and "Ghost Train" a spin and see if you hear what I do.

Neon Gold have sold out of the original, vinyl edition of the single and Marina has been signed to Atlantic which take over promotion of it and her career from this point forward. She's destined for a bountiful new year when her debut album, "Family Jewels", is unveiled in February. By the way, Marina And The Diamonds is a "her" not a "them" as it is the stage name of Welsh songstress Marina Diamandis and not a group of musicians. Just thought I'd clear that up for you.

Next up is a little earworm by Ellie Goulding called "Under The Sheets". Again, "Hounds Of Love" era Kate Bush are the order of the day blended with splashes of Dubstar and the charming tones of Kirsty MacColl. This one has been on constant repeat on my iPod.

Ellie has a folky sound to her voice and is paired with a nearly epic, electronic backdrop which is quite unlike anything else out there at the moment. Although she sits comfortable on the bench beside La Roux and Little Boots, she has a richer and more organic sound than the current crop of electronic ladies.

After one single with Neon Gold, Ellie has been picked up by Polydor and is currently putting the finishing touches on her debut longplayer with the deft hand of producer, Starsmith. She has also recorded one song with hip fave, Frankmusik, who is toiling away in the studio with Dallas Austin on his next album.

My first blush or romance with Neon Gold was the cinematic electronic wash of The Sound Of Arrows, the Swedish duo of Stefan Storm and Oskar Gullstrand, whose single, "Into The Clouds", was brought to my attention through my repeated visits to Popjustice, where they peel off all the pop that's fit to print.

Their widescreen, 80s, pop production brings to mind everything from pulsating drive of New Order to the plaintive vocals of PSB's Neil Tennant with a sprinkling of Saint Etienne's more rhythm driven moments and the European soundscapes of Ultravox. I can't help feel that "In The Clouds" has a faint whiff of Limahl's "Never Ending Story".

As long as Neon Gold uphold their manifesto of delivering quality music with beautiful artwork by artists that have the potential to breakthrough to a broader audience while maintaining an air of individuality and creating a close coterie of fans, music will continue to thrive in these dark days of a crumbling business in desperate need of resuscitation and rebirth.

Now, after a thick, frothy fingerbowl of hot chocolate and some inspired, pop chat, I can removed three, tattered, yellow stickies from my desk.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Basement Jaxx and the bears

I've been spinning the latest Basement Jaxx, "Scars", on the old victrola this weekend. How do they come up with such fabulous ear candy? So far, two fantastic singles have come and gone. The album just doesn't seem to have set the chart on fire.

It works well in the headphones and on the dancefloor. Well, I don't spend much time in clubs but it makes me wiggle my bottom while I tend to my domestic chores. Close enough. The visuals surrounding the album are stunning, as well. The cover art for the album and its attendant singles is captivating.

Perhaps "My Turn", the sweet and dirty third single, which features the hazy, lazy larynx of Lightspeed Champion, will sort things out. It has a something a little Gnarls Barkley about it without sounding anything like them.

The video, complete with eye catching animation, is thoroughly amazing. Have a look.

And seriously, who doesn't like cute bears? Ahem...

I really enjoyed the second single, "Feelings Gone", featuring Sam Sparro of "Black And Gold" fame. Unfortunately, it got withdrawn at the last minute. Such a shame. The video is kinda crap.

Is it me or does it remind me of "Pigs In Space" from "The Muppets" television show?

However, "Raindrops", the first single, is still my favorite from the album. It still makes my backbone slip. And to prove they are a force to be reckoned with on the live stage, check out this amazing performance from "Later...With Jools Holland".

Seriously smokin'! The energetic, male singer joining them on stage is Brendan Reilly. Clearly, he's enjoying himself. Not quite sure what I think about his dress sense. But what a set of pipes! Apparently, he's on the road with the Jaxx in order to bring to life the lead vocal parts of their many hits.

While touring the globe, It looks like Basement Jaxx found time to record some fresh material. They are gearing up for the release of "Zephyr", a brand new EP at the start of 2010.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

black and white ballet

It took them a while to get around to lensing a video for the first single from the new album. Finally, Spandau Ballet got around to giving us the full visual for the newly invigorated quintet.

Suitably stylish and not too expensive. Nicely done, chaps.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

no ordinary HoJo

It's no secret. I have always adored Howard Jones. I think he is a brilliant, optimistic, insightful songwriter. Many of his songs have endured the 25 years since his debut, "Human's Lib".

His latest longplayer, "Ordinary Heroes", is a more acoustic affair compared to the electronic soundscapes featured on his previous album, "Revolution Of The Heart". I've been assured by HoJo's management that he is planning to return to his synthy roots very shortly.

I haven't had the opportunity to listen to "Ordinary Heroes", as I just received my copy a day or two ago. I opted to purchase the limited edition configuration as it promised to be lavishly packaged.

And HoJo delivered on that promise! It would make any Pet Shop Boys fan drool. As soon as my schedule allows, I will snap a few photos of it and post them. Each of the album's ten tracks are represented by a different, brightly colored 5" X 5" square card with the title embossed on one side and the lyrics on the other. There are a total of 14 cards with the four, additional squares comprising the cover, credits, names of all the fans who purchased the limited edition set, and the one that holds the CD. All of it is held together by a thick, red rubberband. It's a stunner!

Unfortunately, if you didn't plonk down your cash for the limited edition set, you're out of luck. All 1,000 copies sold out at Howard Jones' website almost immediately.

Here's the video for "Soon You'll Go", the tender, emotive, first single from the album. It's sure to give you goosebumps and put a little lump in your throat. Or maybe I'm just a big softy.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ferry fever

On November 23, "The Best Of Bryan Ferry", will be unleashed on the universe. I know some people will roll their eyes. Like we need another hits collection. But I wouldn't draw your attention to this new release unless there was a very good reason.

Firstly, look at that cover! Swoon! I always wanted to wear my hair like that. Secondly, it features nearly all of his essential singles plus a few hard-to-find bits. Upon second glance, however, this really should have been a double CD. A few choice cuts are missing. Thirdly, it's packaged with a DVD which includes all of his stylish videos. I nearly plotzed! Some of them have never before been available.

I first became aware of Bryan Ferry when Roxy Music's "Love Is The Drug" became a minor hit in the US. I was enamored with Bryan's smooth, Casanova stance. There was something warm, yet inexplicably icy, about his delivery. And the songs were slightly glam but had a Bowie-esque shape without aping any of DB's style. Then "Dance Away" caught my attention and I was reminded that it was the same, sophisticated sound I had moved to only four years previously. I was barely in my teens!

Of course, by the time "Avalon" came out and MTV played "More Than This" and "Avalon" with their sumptuous and highly gauzed videos, I was hooked. With Roxy's swan song longplayer in my possession, I investigated their back catalog with aplomb. I dove in at the deep end and discovered Bryan Ferry had issued several solo albums. Bonus!

By the time his landmark album, "Boys And Girls", was issued, I was a full on Bryan Ferry fan.

I'm pleased to reveal the tracklisting for "The Very Best Of Bryan Ferry" in all its glory. There are a few surprises including some single versions that are tough to obtain on CD.

1. A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall (US 7" Version)
2. The 'In' Crowd
3. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
4. You Go To My Head
5. Let's Stick Together
6. The Price Of Love
7. This Is Tomorrow
8. Tokyo Joe
9. Can't Let Go
10. Slave To Love (7" Version)
11. Don't Stop The Dance (7" Version)
12. Windswept
13. Limbo
14. Kiss And Tell (Edit)
15. I Put A Spell On You (Single Mix)
16. Don't Want To Know
17. The Way You Look Tonight
18. Goddess Of Love
19. The Times They Are A-Changin' (Radio Edit)
20. I Don't Want To Go On Without You
21. A Fool For Love (Alternative Version)

The bonus DVD features the following video clips:

1. A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall
2. These Foolish Things
3. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes (from "The Twiggy Show")
4. You Go To My Head
5. Let's Stick Together
6. The Price Of Love
7. This Is Tomorrow
8. Tokyo Joe
9. What Goes On
10. Slave To Love
11. Don't Stop The Dance
12. Windswept
13. Is Your Love Strong Enough?
14. The Right Stuff
15. Kiss And Tell
16. Limbo
17. I Put A Spell On You
18. Will You Love Me Tomorrow
19. Girl Of My Best Friend
20. Your Painted Smile
21. Mamouna (UK Version)
22. Don't Want To Know
23. The Way You Look Tonight (Live in Paris at Le Grand Rex)
24. Goddess Of Love (Live on "Parkinson")
25. Positively 4th Street (Live on "The Culture Show")

Just to prove he's not afraid to dip his stylish toes into an interesting collaboration, Bryan recently invited German producer, DJ Hell, to re-work "You Can Dance", a previously, unreleased song from the Ferry archives. It made its appearance on DJ Hell's album, "Teufelswerk", which was released last April.

Being such a huge Bryan Ferry fan, I'm not sure why this didn't show up on my radar earlier. Apparently, it's going to be released as a single in January!

Deep, dark, sinister, epic, sexy and slightly drugged out. Love it! Apparently, the original version was penned by Bryan Ferry with Eurythmics' Dave Stewart during album sessions in the mid 90s.

And if you're looking for some reswizzled Roxy Music moments, check out the three EPs of remixes that were commissioned in 2006. They were only issued on vinyl but they've finally appeared on iTunes and other digital storefronts.

My two, favorite mixes from this highly sought after series are DJ Kaos' extended mix of "Angel Eyes" and Glimmers' remix of "Same Old Scene". Both stay quite faithful to the original versions.

Check out that dirty, rubbery bass line. Filthy gorgeous!

My relationship with Bryan Ferry goes a little deeper than being a fan of his work and his masterful way with a song. In 1996, I had the magnificently mindblowing opportunity to produce a remix for "Dance With Life (The Brilliant Light)", a song that was featured on the soundtrack to the John Travolta film, "Phenomenon".

The single, which was produced by the legendary Trevor Horn, was only released in Europe and Australia. A limited promo of the mixes made the rounds in the US.

Now, for the first time ever, my club mix is available digitally. It was sourced from my original, studio master. See if you can spot the Brothers In Rhythm influence. Clocking in at over ten minutes, it is suitably epic.

Incidentally, I'm going to make most of my mixes available on the mighty Soundcloud platform as the weeks progress and time in my frantic schedule allows.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

fragile single solutions

It appears that Depeche Mode, after much waffling, have chosen the next single from their magnificent album, "Sounds Of The Universe". Oh yes, my lovelies. You read that correctly. I dared to lavish praise on their current longplayer!

The boys from Basildon have opted for a chart ineligible, double a-side configuration. On December 7, "Fragile Tension"/"Hole To Feed" will be issued as a digital bundle, CD single and double 12" single. The tracklisting for each, complete with requisite, custom, BONG selection number, was announced on their website today.

CD single (CDBONG 42)

1. Fragile Tension (Radio Mix)
2. Hole To Feed (Radio Mix)
3. Perfect (Roger Sanchez Club Mix)
4. Come Back (SixToes Remix)
5. Fragile Tension (Laidback Luke Remix)
6. Hole To Feed (Popof Vocal Mix)
7. Fragile Tension (Peter Bjorn And John Remix)
8. Hole To Feed (Joebot Remix)

digital download (iBONG 42)

1. Fragile Tension (Radio Mix)
2. Hole To Feed (Radio Mix)
3. Come Back (SixToes Remix)
4. Perfect (Ralphi & Craig Club Remix)
5. Fragile Tension (Stephan Bodzin Remix)
6. Hole To Feed (Paul Woolford's Easyfun Ethereal Disco Mix)
7. Perfect (Roger Sanchez Club Mix)
8. Fragile Tension (Solo Loves Panorama Remix)
9. Hole To Feed (Popof Vocal Mix)

double vinyl 12" (12BONG 42)

1. Fragile Tension (Stephan Bodzin Remix)
2. Fragile Tension (Kris Menace's Love On Laserdisc Remix)
3. Hole To Feed (Popof Vocal Mix)
4. Hole To Feed (Paul Woolford's Easyfun Ethereal Disco Mix)
5. Perfect (Roger Sanchez Club Mix)
6. Perfect (Ralphi Rosario Dub)
7. Peace (Herve's "Warehouse Frequencies" Remix)
8. Peace (Sander Van Doorn Remix)

As usual, if you purchase the download from iTunes, you'll get a bonus track. For this single, the extra track is featured in the shape of the Ralphi & Jody Club Remix of "Perfect".

Good thing this special single isn't chart eligible since "Peace", the second single from the album, could barely scrape to #57. That was the lowest chart placing for a Depeche Mode single since their debut, "Dreaming Of Me", way back in 1981 which peaked at the same, exact position. Spooky! "Peace" is also the band's first single not to be issued on 12" vinyl. And boy are their fans pissed off!

I think we're going to see more of this type of special release, much like the forthcoming "Christmas" EP from Pet Shop Boys, as it becomes increasingly difficult for heritage acts to sell singles beyond their fanbases and the singles chart becomes increasingly irrelevant.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Christmas stuffing

One of my favorite duos, Hue And Cry, are about to release "Xmasday", their first ever, Christmas album. It's a stop gap between the soulful Scots' next studio album and "Open Soul", their recent, glorious return to the sophisticated, pop sound that launched them 20 years ago.

If you aren't familiar with Hue And Cry, I suggest you pick up a copy of "Open Soul" and be prepared to swim in a sea of blue eyed soul. Their well crafted pop songs are full of sharp wit and thought provoking lyrics. Definitely one for those that like their pop with a bit of lyrical bite.

"Xmasday" is currently available as a super deluxe edition box set which contains all sorts of Crimbo themed goodies. Take a look at what's inside! Better sit down, kids. They've crammed a lot of love into this festive set.

Firstly, you'll get the new album which takes you on an incredible journey through Christmas day from start to finish. The tracklisting for "Xmasday" includes the following ten tracks:

1. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
2. Players Of The Game
3. White City
4. Rockin' Robin
5. We Free Kings
6. Someday At Christmas
7. Auntie Claus
8. Two Little Boys
9. Spinning Top
10. All Kind Men

You will also get a bonus CD which includes two, additional tracks, "Let It Snow" and "What A Wonderful World", which were recorded during the "Xmasday" album sessions and have been specifically reserved for the gift box.

Then there's an amazing, bonus DVD! It includes the entire, live, audio recording of one of the band’s favourite concerts which took place at the Glasgow ABC on February 21, 2009. The setlist for that show includes the following:

1. Strength To Strength
2. Ordinary Angel
3. European Child
4. Long Terms Lovers Of Pain
5. Stumble Through The Dance
6. Headin' For A Fall
7. History City
8. Labour Of Love
9. Mother Glasgow
10. Violently (Your Words Hit Me)
11. Looking For Linda
12. My Salt Heart
13. Sweet Invisibility
14. The Last Stop
15. Back To Back
16. Crazy In Love

And if that wasn't enough, the DVD also includes five songs filmed live, selected by the band as highlights from their 2009 "Open Road" tour. Each clip was shot on location at a different venue. The five tour videos are:

1. Looking For Linda/Vera Drives (live from Academy 2 in Birmingham)
2. History City (live from the Gala Theatre in Durham)
3. Back To Back (llive from Whelans in Dublin)
4. My Salt Heart (live from the Picture House in Edinburgh)
5. Mother Glasgow (live from the ABC in Glasgow)

Also featured on the DVD are six videos of private stage performances which were previously only available on Hue And Cry's website. The private stage videos are:

1. Labour Of Love
2. Looking For Linda
3. Last Request
4. Crazy In Love
5. Back To Back
6. Stumble Through The Dance

Lastly, the band recorded a special video message that includes commentary relating to every track recorded during the "Xmasday" album sessions.

I'm exhausted just thinking about all the bumper crop of bonus material! It's going to take me days to sift through it all.

But wait! That's not all. The deluxe box set also includes a 28 page, full color, 2010 wall calendar with all new photographs of the band, a Christmas greeting card and a set of nine, different postcards from the "H" in Hue to the "Y" in Cry featuring new images of the brothers Kane and "Xmasday" design elements. They're even including a badge so you can wear you admiration for the band loudly and proudly. Plus you'll get a one-of-a-kind, ornament embossed with the Hue And Cry logo. Your Christmas tree won't be complete without it!

It's mighty impressive! If you don't believe me, let Pat and Greg tell you.

Christmas cracker

I'm a little late to the party on this one today due to the fact that I was in the process of molding young minds at a university. More on that later.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, Pet Shop Boys will release a five track, Christmas EP to coincide with their forthcoming UK shows. "Christmas" (Inspired title, no?) will be released on December 14. The tracklisting is as follows:

1. It Often Doesn't Snow At Christmas (New Version)
2. My Girl
3. All Over The World (New Version)
4. Viva La Vida/Domino Dancing
5. My Girl (Our House Mix)

The new version of "All Over The World" has been produced by PSB with Marius de Vries, who has most notably twiddled the knobs for Björk, Annie Lennox and Rufus Wainwright, among others. I first came across Marius in the 80s as the keyboard player for The Blow Monkeys. Since then, he has developed into a magnificent producer of lush proportions.

Also co-produced by Marius is a new version of “It Doesn’t Often Snow At Christmas”, originally an exclusive Christmas single issued to members of the Pet Shop Boys fan club in 1997.

Pet Shop Boys’ arrangement of the Madness classic, “My Girl”, was originally performed with Suggs and Carl of Madness at “Can You Bear It?”, last year’s charity benefit for the family of Chris and Neil’s former assistant and close friend, Dainton Connell, who was tragically killed in a car accident. A remix of "My Girl" will round out the rest of this special package.

The EP also includes a medley of Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” and Pet Shop Boys' very own “Domino Dancing” which has been a highlight on the current PSB world tour. However, rather than include a live version of it from the tour, they recruited Stuart Price to produce a studio version of the track especially for this release. Stuart famously produced their 2009 Brits Medley and, of course, Madonna's "Confessions On A Dancefloor". Nice work if you can get it!

Many will notice that neither my mixes of "Beautiful People" nor Ralphi Rosario's mixes of "Did You See Me Coming?" have been included. But that doesn't mean they won't be able available. I hate to sound like a broken record. Or would that be a corrupted file these days? Well, they do still press vinyl. Whatever your phrase of choice, just keep watching this space. Seriously. After all, Christmas is nearly upon us.

And why the multi-colored balloons on the sleeve? Have I missed something? What do they have to do with Christmas? Shouldn't they have been ornaments or something similarly festive?

I'm getting a little misty about this EP. Remember when PSB used to pull out a surprise, single out of their back pockets in the middle of an album campaign?

The release of "Christmas" isn't quite the same as when they issued non-album singles, "Always On My Mind" and "Where The Streets Have No Name (I Can't Take My Eyes Off You)", especially since they were in the midst of their imperial phase at the time. But the inclusion of "My Girl" (a cover!) and "Viva La Vida/Domino Dancing" (a mash up of covers!) is certainly in the spirit of those previous, classic singles. I can hear 100,000 PSB fans rejoice!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Aqua go goth

A few months ago, Aqua returned with a greatest hits album and a new single, "Back To The 80s". It's a fun, frivolous piece of nostalgia. And I love the irony of a group from the 90s paying tribute to the 80s with a single in the 00s.

I figured "Greatest Hits" would never get a US release. And I knew better than to think any radio station would support the single. After all, the US market, traditionally bereft of tongue in cheek humor, certainly wouldn't get a giggle from the lyric, "When Michael Jackson's skin was black". And in light of recent events, it would almost seem blasphemous regardless of the date stamp on the recording.

Well, Aqua's hits collection was released this week in the US. But if you listen to "Back To The 80s" you'll notice the Michael Jackson line has been switched out and replaced with "When Arnie told us, "I'll be back."" I would post the video but Universal has this terrible habit of disabling the embedding function on their clips. Of course, THAT is the smartest way to promote music. Anyway, with the new lyric inserted, I think it's interesting that they chose to dub the video the "international version" when the US is the only territory that required the line change is the US. Oh, how we laugh.

Well, from bright, colorful and nostalgic to stark, dark and eerie, Aqua have returned with a second single from their greatest hits longplayer. "My Mamma Said" sees the Danish foursome clad in black, seated at a white dining table in a gray room with the floor covered in dead leaves while they feast on raw meat. Sexy and twisted!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

when you wish upon a star

Perky, UK duo, Mini Viva, have returned with another poptastic track. "I Wish" is the fabulous follow up to their debut single, "Left My Heart In Tokyo", which peaked at #7 in the UK singles charts just a few short months ago.

Something about them reminds me of Mel & Kim. The song has shades of the more languid and lovely moments from Pet Shop Boys. It must be the Xenomania production and its close proximity to the release of the PSB album, "Yes". And for no reason in particular, I'm reminded of "Too Many Walls" by Cathy Dennis. Dare I mention that it even sounds like something I might write?

Frankee Connolly and Britt Love were whooshed off to sunny LA where they lensed a video for their latest single.

Super cute and Crayola colorful! But did they need to fly to LA for it just to walk around the city to shoot a video? Surely they could have done this closer to home?

Get that album out soon, ladies!

Monday, November 2, 2009

oral examination

Róisín Murphy has returned. "Orally Fixated" is the first single from her forthcoming longplayer, the follow up to "Overpowered", a masterpiece of epic proportions that might prove difficult to improve upon. The single will "hit the shops" in the UK on November 16.

What can I say about a song that starts with Róisín repeatedly reciting the phrase, "Eat me.", in a somewhat mischievous and coquettish voice? The track is a bit herky jerky in the percussion department and features a slamming snare which gives it a slight, 80s club feel.

The verses are dark but the chorus, which sits over a sparse, manic arrangement, has a very sweet feel to it. Sounds like someone had a field day editing the rapid fire, rhythm track in ProTools. Then, out of nowhere comes a squealing, guitar solo before dubbing out through to the end. Currently, she is streaming it on her MySpace page. Check it out!

At the moment, Róisín is nine months preggers and ready to drop something more than some fresh beats! Surely the saucy single sleeve was taken before she was with child. Apparently, the queen of cool has three singles ready to unleash on her rapidly increasing fanbase.

Earlier in the year, she suggested "Demon Lover" would begin the campaign for the new album. Perhaps she's holding back the goods until after the birth of her child. She's such a tease!