Wednesday, December 29, 2010

missing again

Every now and then, labels like to remix and rerelease a tune in order to capitalize on an opportunity to reach a new set of ears. UK labels have been mining this particular vein for well over the last 25 years. Some experiments have worked while others have not.

In the 90s, it was de rigueur to mix and remix, ad infinitum. After the post rave comedown, the concept became less invasive with only a handful of singles being reswizzled. Some aimed directly at the heart of the dancefloor, while other were targeted to an ever dwindling television viewing audience through the use of commercial soundtrack placements.

These days, it seems labels are back in step with the remix game. We've seen Utah Saints and Guru Josh get a new coat of paint with varying degrees of success. Now, it's time for a rather unnecessary stab at Everything But The Girl's pivotal, dancefloor moment.

"Missing", originally issued at the second single from their seventh studio longplayer, "Amplified Heart", met with a resounding whimper when it first skirted with the UK singles chart in 1994. It reached an unimpressive peak of #69. EBTG were used to this kind of chilly chart reception even though the quality of their records were head and shoulders above many of their contemporaries.

Then, in 1995, Todd Terry was drafted in to give it the tossed salad treatment. Zing! An instant hit which raced all the way to #3 in the UK and missed out on pole position in the US by one spot. In fact, the song was such a massive success in the US that EBTG got labeled with the "one hit wonder" tag. In the UK, they capitalized on it and delivered, "Walking Wounded", one of their strongest albums and a bonafide classic.

Now, Dutch DJ, Fredde Le Grand, has been given the master tapes and brought it bang up to date with a newly reworked mix. This time, it's turned into a stadium sized anthem. No easy task considering the pedigree of the Todd Terry version.

Fedde's biggest hit to date is "Put Your Hands Up 4 Detroit", a #1 smash in 2006. He also hit paydirt with two further top 10 singles - "The Creeps", a reworking of a track by Camille Jones which hit #7 in 2007 and "Let Me Think About It" featuring Ida Corr which peaked at the runner up position later that same year. Now Mr. Le Grand puts his dirty Google fingers all over EBTG's landmark recording.

Ben and Tracey are no strangers to this situation. In 1994, Blanco Y Negro, the label to which EBTG were signed from 1983 to 1995, decided to capitalize on the success of "Missing" by issuing a hits collection (their second) and commissioning Todd Terry to give "Driving" a reswizzling. As you can imagine, they were not too thrilled with that opportunistic move.

I wonder what Ben and Tracey think about this turn of events more than fifteen years after they first released "Missing".

Monday, December 27, 2010

white hot wired soul

Many of my favorite artists have embraced social media in all its many varied flavors. One group that takes full advantage of this new connectivity is Hue And Cry. Scottish brothers, Pat and Gregory Kane, returned to the pop universe in 2008 with their magnificently funky longplayer, "Open Soul". In 2011, they will return with another slab of soul with the follow up, "Hot Wire".

Recently, the brothers Kane started recording vocals for the tracks that will make the final rundown. They documented their first day on Pat's iPhone. Let's take a look.

Pat is channeling some serious Sam Cooke like nobody's business! Often, I find it interesting to observe the creative process from inside the studio. Getting to hear Pat's raw, acappella performances as he commits them to the digital domain sends shivers throughout my body. He has one of the finest blue eyed soul voices I've ever heard.

Gregory is quite a technical boffin. He's also a musician's musician. He answers most questions regarding their detailed writing and recording sessions. In fact, Gregory is a font of musical knowledge and fascinating stories. Ask him about his painstaking work and he will gladly respond. Obviously, it's a labor of love. Oh, hardy har! Did you see what I did there?

For instance, if you wanna know about the mic Pat is using in the above clip, Greg will tell you it's an AEA R84 ribbon microphone. It has graced a few recordings I've been taken under my watchful eyes and ears in the past. On record, it gives Pat's voice the sound of hot buttered soul.

And don't be fooled by the time between elpees from Hue And Cry. These men are not slouches! In between the last studio album and the next, they released "Xmasday", a joyous and soulful album of Christmas tunes, and "Bitter Suite, Again", the follow-up to the acoustic live album they released way back in 1989!

"Hot Wire" is one my most hotly anticipated longplayers of 2011. If you were a fan of the late 80s, sophisticated soul parade which included Love And Money, Level 42 and The Blow Monkeys, you'll definitely want to investigate Hue And Cry. Greg's masterful musicality and Pat's brain shredding lyrics make for some tremendous listening.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

retro nuevo electronica tributata

The end of the year always throws up a few little surprises. Foreshadowing of the year to follow.

Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark will continue their rise from the ashes with the release of the third single from their current longplayer, "History Of Modern". "History Of Modern (Part I)" will carry the torch for the elpee as Paul Humphries and Andy McCluskey continue to tour Europe and make their first visit to the US for promotional duties.

Recently, a rough mix of their cover of "VCR" - originally recorded by flavor of the moment and media darlings, The xx - made its way to the interwebs. Let's take a listen.

Nicely done! Not too much different from the original. That makes sense since anyone with ears can hear OMD's influence on The xx. It even sounds a bit like "Heroes" by David Bowie.

Let's hope they make the wise decision to add a little fairy dust to this and put the final mix of it on the b-side of the CD single and digital download of "History Of Modern (Part I)". In fact, how about adding parts III and IV to it, as well, lads? Right now, those tracks are just sitting on the flipside of the 7" single of their most recent single, "Sister Marie Says". You can pay me in cash for that little bit of marketing genius. Large notes, please. Thanks.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas, Mr. McAlmont

There has been a serious dearth of original Christmas songs making their way to market in the last few years. However, this year has seen numerous, high quality, festive offerings being released for the holidays, making it the jolliest season in recent memory.

Whether it's Hurts, Saint Etienne, Coldplay, Bananarama, Owl City and George Michael with newly penned tunes or Annie Lennox's beautiful longplayer of traditional carols, this Christmas is well packed with favorites for slinging garland around your tree.

With that said, David McAlmont, one of the world's finest vocalists, has contributed his entry to the ever expanding cadre of cracking Christmas songs.

"Merry Christmas Is You", a brand new song written with his current collaborator, master pianist Guy Davies, is tender and touchin. It is guaranteed to give you goosebumps and bring a tear to your eye. It's the ultimate, emotive double whammy. And David, as always, knocks it out of the park with his soaring, majestic voice.

In these glorious days of tweets and blogs, David has been one of the insightful few that has kicked down the fourth wall. He has allowed the world to have a glimpse into the inner workings of his creative process by giving his devoted followers a behind the scenes look at the making of "Merry Christmas Is You" across various social media platforms. The entire development unfolded right before the eyes of his dedicated fanbase.

David even lensed a video for his new Crimbo creation across the frozen tundra of Southwark Park in the very heart and hearth of London after last week's particularly heavy snowfall.

For those of you not familiar with David McAlmont, prepare yourself to be mesmerized by the beauty of his magnificent voice.

Egads! Apparently, pastels are back in fashion this winter. David would know. He has become one of the most fashionable popstars in Britain, following onward through an incredible lineage of suave and sophisticated singers. It's a rarefied group of smartly styled individuals which includes Bryan Ferry, David Bowie and Duran Duran. Make no mistake, David McAlmont is fashion forward and has seriously good taste in tailoring.

By the way, if you swing over to David's official website, you will receive "Merry Christmas Is You" as a free download simply by registering your name and information. We love it when pop glitterati give special audio baubles to their fans.

Recently, I had the tremendous pleasure of seeing David perform one of his very first shows on American soil. At the beginning of November, during a whirlwind trip to New York City, David enraptured a small group of attendees at Rockwood Music Hall, a new venue on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

He performed several songs from across his entire career including a few tracks he originally recorded as part of the duo, McAlmont And Butler. Two of the highlights were "Yes", a #8 hit in the UK back in 1995, and "Falling", which peaked at #23 in the UK singles chart in 2002.

Here's David's stripped down performance of "Falling" with nothing more than Guy Davies' rollicking piano accompaniment.


I first fell head over heels for David's voice in 1993 when I happened across the CD single of "Unworthy" by Thieves, his short lived, collaborative effort with Saul Freeman. Saul went on to produce a couple of albums as a member of trip hop collective, Mandalay.

Back then, during my tenure at EMI, I was in London for business and heard the song floating out of the sound system at HMV on Oxford Street. Immediately, I asked one of the sales staff about it and he directed me toward the bountiful singles section. "Unworthy" was mine for a snip!

I cherished "Unworthy" for a few years until I stumbled across David's self-titled, debut elpee at Rebel Rebel, my favorite record shop in NYC. Since then, I've collected everything David has graced with his vocal presence.

"Unworthy" is like a cross between Annie Lennox and "Heaven And Las Vegas" era Cocteau Twins. I simply cannot say enough amazing things about David. He's truly a gifted showman and singer. Do yourself a favor and get your hands on his back catalog. Oh, dear. That sounded a bit saucy!

Merry Christmas to you, kittens! Thanks for a splendid year.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

electronica cinematique in retrospectum

On Feburary 7, Claudia Brücken, the femme fatale of the synthiverse, returns to the pop landscape with her luxe brand of electronic cinematique when she releases "Combined", her first career retrospective.

Since 1984, when she burst onto the scene as a member of Propaganda with the dark and dangerous "Dr. Mabuse", Claudia has dotted the charts with a few musical offerings.

Her solo album, "Love And A Million Other Things", was just reissued to critical acclaim. And before Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark reunited, Claudia teamed up with Paul Humphries as Onetwo and released their debut longplayer, "Instead".

Now, "Combine" neatly captures nearly all of Claudia's finest moments on one collection including four brand new tracks. "Thank You" is the first single plucked from it for public consumption.

The track was written with and produced by the legendary Stephen Hague who has twiddle the knobs for a diverse array of acts from Pet Shop Boys to Blur, Erasure, New Order, Jimmy Somerville and Siouxsie And The Banshees.

"Combined" presents eight of Claudia's classic recordings. Propaganda are represented by the singles "Dr. Mabuse", "p:Machinery" and "Duel". "Absolutely Immune" and "Snobbery And Decay", her two singles as one half of Act with Thomas Leer, are included alongside her two solo singles from the 90s, the hypnotic swirl of "Kiss Like Ether" and the euphoric acid trip of "Absolut(e)".

All of these singles are combined - natch! - with four brand new works including the previously mentioned "Thank You" and "Night School", a second collab with Stephen Hague. Also featured is "This Is Not America", the David Bowie/Pat Metheny classic, recorded as a duet with Paul Rutherford of FGTH. The final new track is "In Dreams", a cover of Roy Orbison's "Blue Velvet" soundtrack gem in collaboration with Andrew Poppy.

Also included are two tracks from Claudia's current ensemble, Onetwo. The first is "Sequentia", which has remained previously unreleased until now, and "Cloud 9ine", a co-write with Depeche Mode's Martin Gore.

Unfortunately, for all the great material on "Combined", there is one glaring omission - "When Your Heart Beats Out Of Time", her duet with Glenn Gregory, he of Heaven 17.

The song, which has never made an appearance on CD, originally appeared on the soundtrack to the film, "The Shape Of The Universe (A Souvenir Of Insignificance)". Considering the track is controlled by ZTT, I'm surprised it isn't included on Claudia's forthcoming collection.

However, it looks like the extended version of it will make its debut in the digital domain very shortly when Salvo, one of the world's premiere reissue labels, releases the compilation, "The Art Of The 12". Oh, those cunning linguists!

Salvo's licensing deal with ZTT, the original house of excess, continues to turn up long out of print and much sought after gems. In the meantime, the single version of the Brücken/Gregory duet remains unavailable in the realm of zeros and ones.

Here is the full tracklisting for "Combine". Some tracks make their appearance on CD for the very first time.

1. Dr. Mabuse (A Paranoid Fantasy)
2. Duel
3. (The Beta Wrap Around Of) p:Machinery
4. Absolutely Immune
5. Snobbery And Decay
6. Kiss Like Ether
7. Absolut(e)
8. Delicious
9. Cloud 9ine
10. Thank You
11. Sequentia
12. Light The Way
13. This Is Not America
14. Night School
15. In Dreams

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

all you need is eyeliner

The mighty Duran Duran deliver a double shot of goodness today. Firstly, they've unleashed the vid for their latest single, "All You Need Is Now". Let's take a look.

The boys are in fine fettle. Lots of eyeliner is the order of the day. Didn't they do the black jacket and tie shtick when they reemerged victoriously with "Ordinary World" back in *cough, sputter* 1993? And what's with the aluminum foil background? Budgetary constraints, lads?

Secondly, Duran Duran released their new longplayer today. Huzzah! Their thirteenth elpee, christened "All You Need Is Now", will require a deeper dive in between the moments of madness as we run up to Christmas. I've lived with it for about a week and I'm busting at the gut to write about it.

After several listens, it appears that Simon still loves to sing at the top of his range. This always causes problems for Monsieur Le Bon when the band hit the road. Often, in a live setting, he has to reach for the high notes from deep within and his voice tends to get a little screechy. Let's hope he does his vocal exercises before the boys go out on their impending, worldwide trek. Come around for some tea and honey, Simon. We'll make sure your pipes are in tip top shape before the tour.

I noticed a couple of things now that I have the proper artwork and credits. For instance, Dom Brown steps closer to being an official member of the group as he is credited with writing contributions on seven tracks on the album. Do they dare deliver him into the kingdom of Duran Duran with a permanent residence?

And don't forget, kittens, the album will feature three additional tracks when the band releases the physical configurations at the beginning of February.

Most importantly, they are doing it all without being signed to a label. DIY for Duran Duran, darlings! Excelsior!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Swedish Christmas spectacular

What do you do when you've made a gazillion dollars as one of the biggest songwriting teams of all time? For Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, the bearded half of ABBA, you write a Christmas tune and torture the staff of the posh hotel you own in the heart of Stockholm by having them sing it for you. Then you further embarrass them by making a little video.

It's not a patch on "The Winner Takes It All"! I guess the guys have a lot of time on their hands. Who am I to question their business acumen? After all, ABBA are one of the progenitors of the "band as brand" belief.

I've been to Hotel Rival. It's a lovely, boutique hotel in the heart of Södermalm, the southern island of Stockholm. Numerous restaurants and cafes are dotted around that part of the city. I've been to most of the eateries in that part of town having spent a lot of time in the many studios which are tucked away in the alleys and basements all around that area of the mighty, Swedish capital.

Enough idle chat. Enjoy the jolly meriment provided by the men of ABBA. Merry Christmas, kittens! May all your days be filled with glitter and kisses!

Friday, December 17, 2010

one too many times to the well

Here's Duffy's latest single, "Well Well Well".

I hear you roll your eyes in sarcastic disinterest as if I had somehow posted something I didn't know was well past its sell by date.

Take a listen to it. Watch it. Srsly! Go ahead.

Her vocal affectation attacks my ears like a rabid cheese grater. Such a shame, as I really like "Rockferry", her debut platter.

Then, unknowingly, as my eyes flitted across the credits on the single sleeve, the following words sent my system into anaphylactic shock - "Co-produced by Stuart Price". *abrupt record scratch*

Stuart, babydoll. What's with this bit of slumming? Duffy must have paid him a sizable chunk of the cash she copped from her Coke commercial.

Please keep it cool, Stuart. We're watching.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

mixing it up with Bryan Ferry

Bryan Ferry is always up for a nifty reswizzling. So far, we've been treated to post productions of "You Can Dance" and "Shameless", two jewels from his current longplayer, "Olympia".

Now, in conjunction with The Vinyl Factory, the UK's premiere company for vinyl collectibles, Bryan Ferry has revealed two limited edition 12" singles sporting some nifty remixes of two more tracks from his current tour de force.

The first 12" includes remixes of "Alphaville" by Leo Zero and Time + Space Machine. Remixes of "BF Bass (Ode To Olympia)", exclusive to the second 12" single, arrive courtesy of Boogie Corporation and West End Wolf.

A limited edition with only 300 copies of each 12" pressed for worldwide release.

Let's take a listen to the sprawling, nine minute mix "Alphaville" which was loving crafted by Leo Zero.

That one's got a bit of Roxy sparkle on it. Perhaps it's just a little on the longish side. It could do with a bit of tailoring. A nip here, a tuck there. In the recent past, Leo Zero has sprinkled a bit of reswizzling dust on tracks for Paul Weller, as well as Florence And The Machine.

So far, only a short taster of the sinewy and sexy West End Wolf remix of "BF Bass (Ode To Olympia)" has turned up. Here's a snippet of it accompanied by some behind the scenes footage of le photo shoot for the album cover.

Synthy synths and bass pops, ahoy!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Kylie catastrophe

Sound the sirens. Ring the alarm. Kylie's latest single, "Better Than Today", has crashed out at #32 on the UK singles chart this week. *gay gasp*

favorite Aussie pop rocket has not had a showing this dismal since "The One", the final single from "X", limped apologetically into the chart at #36 back in 2008.

With all the promotion afforded Kylie's last two singles, it does leave me scratching my head in wonder. I guess the days of releasing more than three singles from an album are over.

Kylie was always afforded the assurance of a top ten placing. And an album like "Aphrodite", which is filled to the teeth with great sounding, hit driven material, shows there is very little room for growth outside an act's fanbase.

I'm curious to see what Camp Kylie decides to do with the "Aphrodite" campaign from this point forward, especially with a world tour slated for next year. Perhaps the expanded deluxe edition that's been hinted at is about to materialize.


Tits! Violence! Sex! Meat! Crazy, bearded men! Huzzah! What more could you ask for from a new Scissor Sisters vid?

"Invisible Light" is the third single to be plucked from "Night Work", their current longplayer. While the content of the clip is not particularly unusual for Jake, Babydaddy, Ana and Del, it's the fact that the single itself was the buzz track which set up the promotion of the album. An unusual move these days, and it gives the epic track as second lease on life.

Monday, December 6, 2010

snow and happiness

It's been a busy time around So Hip It Hurts HQ, kittens. With a new business launching this week and a possible podcast in development for next year, the days have been filled with a flurry of activity. But enough excuses. Let's get to the music!

I'm a little late with this, but Hurts have a video for their forthcoming Christmas single, "All I Want For Christmas Is New Year's Day".

Epic! My current Crimbo favorite. This year is shaping up to have the most amazing Christmas tunes on record.

Hurts continue to deliver some of the best pop music of the moment. Without being too retro, they sound fresh without ever going all electro. Always striking the perfect balance of melancholy and euphoria. Suave and sophistication for the masses. And they are singlehandedly bringing the waistcoat back into fashion.

If they could only break out of the lower region of the singles chart. A massive hit would surely put them over the top.

Friday, December 3, 2010

lucky charm

Swedish duo, Roxette, will return to the land of the living on February 11 with "Charm School", their first album in nearly a decade.

The first single plucked from their forthcoming eighth longplayer will be the cheekily titled "She's Got Nothing On (But The Radio)". It shows Per Gessle has lost none of his clever wordplay.

The single will hit the "shops" on January 10 and a video for the it should surface shortly. It will be followed by Roxette's first world tour since Marie Fredriksson was sidelined by a brain tumor in 2002.

Recently, Per and Marie road tested their live band Roxette when they headlined the "Night Of The Proms” concerts in front of more than 600,000 enthusiastic fans in Germany, Belgium and The Netherlands.

Look sharp! Roxette have returned.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Do they know it's Christmas?

Seemingly out of nowhere, much like the first, early snowfall of the season, Coldplay return with an unusual single. They've been toiling away in the studio on their forthcoming, fifth longplayer with Brian Eno at the helm.

Before we hear the fruits of their labor, Coldplay released a Christmas themed tune today to whet our appetites. "Christmas Lights" doesn't feature all the trappings of a festive single. No sleigh bells. No gifts under the tree. Not even a hint of evergreen.

It's a bit of a pub tune in the tradition of "Fairytale Of New York" by The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl. The gorgeous, piano led melody has all the hallmarks of a classic Coldplay recording. The feeling of the song reminds me of some The Waterboys' finer moments.

Chris Martin and co. even snuck up on us with a vid which they lensed for "Christmas Lights". According to eyewitness reports, it was shot last week in London on the South Bank of the Thames opposite Embankment. Viva London!

Ah, yes. The old community theater shtick. It always works a treat. So rustic. So humble. Time to break out the Christmas crackers and mulled wine, kittens.