Friday, October 11, 2013

all she wants to do is dance

Lisa Stansfield ends her extended break from Planet Pop with "Can't Dance", the first funky single from "Seven", her forthcoming, apply-titled, seventh longplayer.

It has been nearly a decade since her previous album, "The Moment", grazed the charts. "Seven" features ten songs which were written with longtime creative and romantic partner, Ian Devaney.

1. Can't Dance
2. Why
3. So Be It
4. Stupid Heart
5. The Crown
6. Picket Fence
7. The Rain
8. Conversation
9. Carry On
10. Love Can

Thursday, October 10, 2013

King George

A few days ago, we revealed a brand new tune from Boy George which will appear on his first solo longplayer in eighteen years! Now, he has unveiled the video for his latest single, "The King Of Everything".

George looks amazing! Simply gorgeous! He hasn't looked this fabulous in years. He looks fit and ready for a return to his rightful place in the pop pantheon.

Friday, October 4, 2013

I'm gonna take you higher

Next month, Keane will close the first chapter of their decade-long career with "The Best Of Keane". This, their first retrospective, pulls together 20 tracks from across all four of their albums - "Hopes And Fears", "Under The Iron Sea", "Perfect Symmetry" and "Strangeland".

"Higher Than The Sun", one of two brand new tunes, will be the first single from "The Best Of Keane". Check out the animated video which just hit the interwebs.

Very nice. Quite a lot of editing went into that. The song, while still maintain the essence of Keane, comes across something like hybrid of Coldplay and The Killers. Not necessarily a bad thing.

However, I think the band needs to stretch a little. They need to try some sonic experimentation like they did on "Perfect Symmetry". The results were unexpectedly spectacular. Right now, it feels like they are treading water. Although I liked "Strangeland", it felt like they reversed course after the shift of the previous album.

"The Best Of Keane" will hit the "shops" on November 11. It will be available in several different configurations including a single 20-track CD of hits. The deluxe edition of the collection adds a second CD of 17 b-sides plus a DVD of an acoustic gig which took place in August of this year. There is also a special super deluxe edition set which contains the two CDs and DVD plus a small, 100 page hardcover photo scrapbook.

The deluxe edition of "The Best Of Keane" features the following 38 tracks.


1. Everybody's Changing
2. Somewhere Only We Know
3. Bend And Break
4. Bedshaped
5. This Is The Last Time
6. Atlantic
7. Is It Any Wonder?
8. Nothing In My Way
9. Hamburg Song
10. Crystal Ball
11. A Bad Dream
12. Try Again
13. Spiralling
14. Perfect Symmetry
15. My Shadow
16. Silenced By The Night
17. Disconnected
18. Sovereign Light Café
19. Higher Than The Sun
20. Won't Be Broken

CD 2

1. Snowed Under
2. Walnut Tree
3. Fly To Me
4. To The End Of The Earth
5. The Way You Want It
6. Something In Me Was Dying
7. Allemande
8. Let It Slide
9. He Used To Be A Lovely Boy
10. Thin Air
11. The Iron Sea (Magic Shop Version)
12. Maybe I Can Change
13. Time To Go
14. Staring At The Ceiling
15. Myth
16. Difficult Child
17. Sea Fog (Live In Mexico City)
18. Russian

Monday, September 30, 2013

loose change

Alison Moyet is about to release the stuttering staccato of "Changeling" as the next single from her current, glorious longplayer, "The Minutes".

It's a strange choice for a single. Perhaps I should clarify. It's a bold statement. The perfect single to showcase Alf's edgier, more synth driven direction with collaborator and knob twiddler extraordinaire Guy Sigsworth.

But, if memory serves me correctly, wasn't this the first track from the album? That's what I find so odd about the choice of single. It was already the first taste we got of her daring, much welcomed direction. In these digital days, I guess it doesn't matter which song is the teaser track or an official single.

Anyway, she looks fierce in the clip. Dressed in a black neoprene number which gives her a slightly futuristic appearance, she stands defiantly against a backdrop of kaleidoscopic city scenes, her herky jerky motions adding an air of anxiety.

"Changeling" will hit the "shops" on October 14.

a perfect example

Barely done with the promotion for "Love Is A Bourgeois Construct", Pet Shop Boys launch right into their next single, "Thursday", which features a rap by Example, the UK's latest lyrical Jesse James.

For some reason, ver Boys didn't lens a video for their previous single. But they've decided to splash a little cash on one for their current platter. And this time, they actually appear in it. Shot in Shanghai, the clip premiered on the interwebs today.

"Thursday" was screaming to be a single right out the gate and is certainly a major highlight of "Electric", their twelfth longplayer.

It will hit the "shops" on November 4 and will be available as a digital download, CD single and 12". The download and CD will feature the radio edit of the title track, as well as two brand new, non album b-sides - "No More Ballads" and "Odd Man Out". The digital configurations will also include a version of "Thursday" reswizzled by Tensnake. The 12" single will feature the album version alongside remixes by Tensnake and Eddie Amador.

So far, I have been nonplussed by the remixes of previous singles from "Electric". While the album is a spectacular high water mark for Neil and Chris, the remixes have left little to be desired.

Monday, September 23, 2013


With the recently completed promotion cycle for "Make Me Believe In Hope" squarely in the rearview, Bright Light Bright Light has already started looking forward toward the follow up to his magnificent, debut longplayer. London based, Welsh born tunesmith Rod Thomas returns with a brand new track and it's another gorgeous gem.

"An Open Heart", a glittering and throbbing slice of electronic pop, will feature on the forthcoming four-track EP, "In Your Care", and it premiered on the interwebs today. Take a listen.

Bright Light Bright Light - An Open Heart by brightlightx2

"In Your Care" will hit the "shops" on November 25.

Monday, September 16, 2013

the swing of things

On October 18, Robbie Williams will be back in the swing of things with his brand new longplayer, "Swings Both Ways". He's a cheeky lad! It's a frothy melange of covers and originals which are sure to bring a smile to your face and swivel to your wrist.

Not sure why RW has decided to return to the well a second time. His most recent longplayer, "Take The Crown", was favorably received. However, it almost feels like he's treading on the past glories of his immensely popular platter, "Swing When You're Winning", from 2001. Still, the new album looks like loadsafun even if I can't stand the sight of Michael Bublé who joins Mr. Williams for a duet. I'll be skipping through that track, thank you very much.

You'll be able to choose from two colorful varieties of the elpee. There is the standard version which includes thirteen tracks. Then, if you prefer a full calorie serving of Robbie, you can splash your cash on the deluxe edition which features sixteen tunes and four bonus videos.

Here's a little preview of what you can expect.

As you will note, there are a few guest stars in the ranks including Olly Murs, Lily Allen, the previously mentioned Mr. Bublé, the overwrought and overrated Kelly Clarkson, as as the wit and wisdom of Rufus Wainright. Oh, that Robbie is such a gay baiter. Still, Rufus is an inspired choice of duet partners. Additionally, some of the originals have been written with past collaborator Guy Chambers, which would've been exciting news about ten years ago.

The following is the tracklisting for the standard version of "Swings Both Ways".

1. Shine My Shoes
2. Go Gentle
3. I Wan'na Be Like You (featuring Olly Murs)
4. Swing Supreme
5. Swings Both Ways (featuring Rufus Wainwright)
6. Dream A Little Dream (featuring Lily Allen)
7. Soda Pop (featuring Michael Bublé)
8. Snowblind
9. Puttin' On The Ritz
10. Little Green Apples (featuring Kelly Clarkson)
11. Minnie The Moocher
12. If I Only Had a Brain
13. No One Likes a Fat Pop Star

The additional tracks on the deluxified edition of the album include "Where There's Muck", "16 Tons" and "Wedding Bells". These songs feature alongside four bonus videos, one for each of the duets.

night manoeuvres

This week, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark release "Night Café", the third single from "English Electric", their current longplayer. And they've added another animated video to their arsenal of vignettes which have been developed for select tracks from the album.

This time, they've opted for something a little tongue in cheek with a references to Edward Hopper's paintings such as "Early Sunday Morning", "Automat" and the iconic "Nighthawks". A somewhat humorous thread of violence, sex and tragedy features throughout.

Andy McCluskey explains the inspiration behind the video. "I was in New York for the first time in 20 years. I was feeling melancholy. It was -9 degrees, it was dark and I was on a street corner looking into an almost empty restaurant. How could I not be reminded of Edward Hopper's paintings?"

And OMD know what their fans want. Not only does the CD single include several remixes of "Night Café", it also collects many of the non-album b-sides from previous singles and features a brand new track, "Kill Me".

While the promotion cycle for previous single, "Dresden", has been completed, you can now download the remix of it which I produced for the band. I'm making it available for a limited time. It was a thrill to be asked to reswizzle the track. As a fan from the beginning, it is a career highlight for me.

Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark - Dresden (Vinny Vero & Steve Migliore Remix) by vinnyvero

Thursday, September 12, 2013

it ain't what you do, it's the way that you do it

Boy George is a survivor. His ups and downs have been documented over many column inches over the years. Sadly, for the longest time, he was relegated to being some slightly reformed junkie who spent some time in the clink. Unfairly, his tremendous talent seems to have been glossed over by the sensationalism of his troubles.

Thankfully, it seems the gender bender extraordinaire has put that all behind him. He has slimmed down. He's sporting a lovely goatee. And he's back with "This Is What I Do", his first solo longplayer in eighteen (count 'em!) years. The first single from the album is "The King Of Everything" and it's an anthemic number which showcases his Bowie influences to fine effect.

But I still wonder, as many people must, what happened to the Culture Club album for which Mark Ronson was twiddling the knobs? And where did their 30th anniversary tour disappear to? Here's a clip of them performing "The War Song", a tune which George disowned for years, making a live appearance in concert about eighteen months ago in Dubai. Listen as they incorporate "Two Tribes" by Frankie Goes To Hollywood in the middle of it.

The official tracklisting for "This Is What I Do" features the following tracks.

1. King Of Everything
2. Bigger Than War
3. Live Your Life
4. My God
5. It's Easy
6. Death Of Samantha
7. Any Road
8. My Star
9. Love And Danger
10. Nice And Slow
11. Play Me
12. Feel the Vibration

The elpee will hit the "shops" on October 28.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

a brown apple

V V Brown, she of "Shark In The Water" fame, is finally resurfacing after she scrapped her sophomore longplayer, "Lollipops & Politics", earlier this year. In it's place with be "Samson & Delilah", an independently released album after she ditched her major label deal.

"The Apple", the second single from the forthcoming elpee, is a dark and brooding affair. Clearly, V V wanted to explore a direction that didn't require her to rent a rapper or live on the frothy foam of pop's fickle finger.

And the video is quite a departure, as well. It's the second part in a series of five clips, all of which will be unveiled throughout the campaign of "Samson & Delilah".

Ooh! She's gone all cryptic and arty. Visually and sonically, it appears she's channeling Grace Jones. Very interesting. Let's see where she goes with this.

"The Apple" will be available from all fine digital retailers on August 25. "Samson And Delilah" will hit the "shops" on September 8.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

basement boys

The might Basement Jaxx return with "What A Difference Your Love Makes", the funky follow up to "Back To The Wild". I suspect ver Jaxx were inspired by Earth Wind And Fire on this one. Featured singer, Sam Brooks, sounds a bit like Philip Bailey in his lower register.

Score another floor filler for the boys!

you keep me hanging on

Swarthy singer Sam Sparro drops a new tune from his forthcoming EP, "Quantum Physical, Volume 1".

"Hang On 2 Your Love" is not a Sade cover. It's a hip swiveling new tune which shimmies and wiggles with Sam's typically soulful vocal shining over the top of a handclap happy track that sports a deep house bass and some plinky keyboard lines reminiscent of club classic "Gypsy Woman (She's Homeless)" by Crystal Waters.

It's Sam's first new release after last year's amazing longplayer, "Return To Paradise". Not sure why Durand Bernarr is considered a featured singer on the track. Clearly, Sam is singing. Perhaps, Mr. Bernarr is providing backing vocals. Or, upon second listen, it could be that he is singing the chorus.

This one is aimed straight at the dancefloor! Werq it.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Donna Summer is giving you the finger

Sweet Nefertiti! This is guaranteed to make you shimmy your posterior. Canadian funk outfit lend their synth swagger to "Love Is In Control (Finger On The Trigger)" by Donna Summer.

Originally released in 1982, the single reached #10 on the US singles chart and hit #18 in the UK. It was produced by sonic mastermind, Quincy Jones, after the incredible success of Michael Jackson's album, "Off The Wall".

The single is one of several post 70's gems released by the Queen Of Disco which showed that, with the right material, Donna could still bring the goods to the dancefloor. It also happens to be one of my favorites of hers.

I love the original version. It always makes me wanna run around the room and smash stuff! And I quite like this newly reswizzled slice of Summer. After a year since her untimely passing, I suspect Verve, the label that commissioned this funky affair, is getting ready to release a remix project. Watch this space!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

city song

The mighty Texas return with the second single from their eighth longplayer, "The Conversation". "Detroit City" is another slice of pop underpinned by chunky rhythms and electronics.

The song barrels along at a sprightly pace while Sharleen Spiteri warbles her gorgeous tones over the top of it. The band even manage to keep some of their twanky charm within the track. Definitely a highlight from their current album.

Texas recently lensed a video for it in - wait for it - Detroit! Hat tip to the obvious. Let's watch Sharleen as she spins her fins around the Motor City with joy.

Monday, August 5, 2013

back together with Annie

Annie is back, Back, BACK! The Norwegian songstress has returned with a bubbly, 90s rave inspired EP bristling with pop brilliance! "A&R EP" has been masterfully produced by Richard X who has worked with Annie in the past, and has also twiddled knobs for such pop luminaries as Pet Shop Boys and Saint Etienne. In fact, the A&R in the title of the EP refer to Annie and Richard. Simples!

The artwork for the sleeve is all bright and brash which reflects a clubbing era from once a upon a time and long ago. The EP has the look, feel and sound of E fueled evenings (and mornings!) of yesteryear. Actually, it also reminds me of the single sleeve for "How To Be A Millionaire" by ABC which preceded the rave scene by half a decade.

The lead track, "Back Together", features Annie cooing over a ramped up pop banger filled with 909s and Italo piano which wouldn't have sounded out of place in the summer of 1992. To these ears, it sounds like a cross between Saint Etienne and Cathy Dennis. And the video is a treat for anyone that remembers "The Chart Show".

The rest of Annie's EP is just as jubilant as the opener. If this EP was part of an album and this was the early 90s, four of the singles would be massive hits.

"Hold On" is gorgeous with a rhythmic nod to "Break 4 Love" by Raze, lots of tinkly bits and lovely steel drum sounds. A song titled after the act who played the hero in the movie, "The Karate Kid", could have been a cheesetastic embarrassment, but "Ralph Macchio" is a glorious ode to a childhood crush resplendent with swishing hit hats and plonky keyboard bleeps. "Invisible" moves into darker territory with its rave bits, acid squiggles and machine gun handclaps. Think the love child of Baby D and Altern 8 as a reference point. The EP closes with "Mixed Emotions" another slice of 90s retro activity with a killer chorus. It throws a few rave shapes and seems to hint at shades of Electribe 101.

All in all, it's a tremendously strong EP. It's a welcome return considering she dipped her toe back in the pop landscape with the ill-advised "Tube Stops And Lonely Hearts" last April.

Eek! No comment.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

this is my kind of music

Neil Tenant and Chris Lowe preview their forthcoming twelfth longplayer, with "Vocal". It's the second taste from "Electric" after they released the largely instrumental, Moroder-esque "Axis".

"Vocal" is classic PSB - subtle verses which harken back to early singles like "Rent" and "Love Comes Quickly" followed by an anthemic, ramped up chorus with lots of sparkly, buzzy synths which reminds me of their version of "It's Alright".

Actually, (Did you see what I did there?) - the song is devoid of the usual verse/chorus/repeat pattern and, instead, cycles the same melodic phrase several times over and ever increasing wall of drum sounds and sythy goodness. Also, it never devolves into a typical and tired EDM formula. Kudos to knob twiddler deluxe, Stuart Price, for keeping it fresh for very Boys.

There's also an accompanying video which was just dropped a few days ago. Featuring a collage of dance footage, it evokes memories of the rave era of the early 90s. It almost like dropping a visual tab of E. Almost.

Best PSB single since "Leaving" from their previous elpee, "Elysium". FYI, my favorite part is the wiggly, pitch bendy synth line that only appears three short times in the track. Brilliant!

Back to "Axis" for a moment. After some online discussion with my circle of discophile friends, I thought it would make sense to reference the more direct inspiration for the track. Take a listen to "Menergy" by Patrick Cowley. While "Axis" has more than a passing flash of Giorgio Moroder's Germanic inspiration within it, "Menergy" is the more direct link.

Chris and Neil really know how to needle drop the most interesting references in their songs. Plus, Mr. Cowley deserves a round of applause for his substantial contribution to dance music. Perhaps the coda to this entry will point people in the direction of his work if they aren't familiar with it.

shake it up

Everyone's favorite, Aussie pop rocket has returned with yet another stand alone single. After delivering "Timebomb" last year without it being attached to an album, Kylie does the same with "Skirt", a flashy, sexy, tribal workout that explodes into a sparkly pop gem when it reaches the chorus.

Actually, it sounds like two completely different songs stitched together rather hamfistedly, but Lady Minogue saves it from being too much of a mess with her patented Kylie coo™.

Rumor has it that "Skirt", along with "Timebomb", will appear on her forthcoming twelfth longplayer which is her first after leaving longtime manager, Terry Blamey, and hooking up with Jay-Z's Roc Nation.

My concern is that Kylie might be trying too hard to appeal to a younger audience rather than stick with pleasing her formidable fanbase. Some artists try to straddle both sides of the fence which tends to deliver an uneven album. "Aphrodite", Kylie's last longplayer of all new material, managed to be a solid platter stocked with a raft of potential singles. Wholly satisfying.

Let's see where she decides to go with her next elpee. A world of gay men are lying awake and wondering.

a sticky situation

The Duckworth Lewis Method, the cricket loving side job for Neil Hannon from The Divine Comedy and Thomas Walsh from Pugwash, return with "Sticky Wickets", their sophomore longplayer.

First single from the album is "It's Just Not Cricket" and it's a jolly romp through the many landmark sounds offered up from The Beatles through to ELO. It is, without question, quintessentially British.

Check out the video as the gents frolic around the cricket pitch with tongues firmly planted in cheeks. And there's more innuendo in the clip than you can shake a stick at. Ooh er, missus!

The following is the full tracklisting for "Sticky Wickets". The longplayer will hit the shops on July 1.

1. Sticky Wickets
2. Boom Boom Afridi
3. It's Just Not Cricket
4. The Umpire
5. Third Man
6. Chin Music
7. Out In The Middle
8. Line And Length
9. The Laughing Cavaliers
10. Judd's Paradox
11. Mystery Man
12. Nudging And Nurdling

Friday, June 14, 2013

tales to tell

The mighty Goldfrapp will return on September 9 with "Tales Of Us", their first new material since dropping their retrospective, "The Singles", early last year. It also marks a return to a sound more aligned with their debut, "Felt Mountain", and fourth longplayer, "Seventh Tree". Fret not, there are some electronic flourishes on the new elpee. However, don't expect the full on, stomp and synth of "Head First".

Thankfully, the good folks at Goldfrapp HQ have provided a handy trailer to hold us over until the summer months have passed. September seems like a long way to wait for an album. But it sounds like it will be worth it.

The official tracklisting for "Tales Of Us" will feature the following ten tunes. All single word titles, nine of them are the names of people. Surely, there must be a tale to tell with each one.

1. Jo
2. Annabel
3. Drew
4. Ulla
5. Alvar
6. Thea
7. Simone
8. Stranger
9. Laurel
10. Clay

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

hit and run

Suede and their signature, sinewy swagger are back with "Hit Me", the incendiary highlight and third single from their current longplayer, "Bloodsports".

The four-track, digital single features two non-album b-sides, "Falling Planes" and "What Violet Says" alongside a handy radio edit of the title track.

With previous single, "It Starts And Ends With You", the band chose to shoot a simple video featuring a studio performance of the track. This time, they've splashed a little cash on the clip for "Hit Me" which focuses on the dramatic and destructive exploits of two people (one man, one woman) as they chase each other through a museum.

There is a twist at the end. No spoilers here. But it does raise a question. "Is life really art or is it the other way around?" You decide.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

electric engineering

"Dresden" is the second single to be plucked from "English Electric", the twelfth longplayer from Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark.

The song is classic OMD with shades of "Enola Gay" well represented by Andy McCluskey's driving bassline and Paul Humphrey's sparkling synth melody.

The lads even had time to lens a beautiful, brightly colored video for the track which starts out with a short James Bond reference and follows a couple as they fall in and out of love in the space of a three minute pop song. Something tells me this little ditty was inspired by Paul's recent divorce.

Clearly, one of many highlights from their current elpee which is chock full of amazing songs and quirky sounds. The album contains all the best bits of OMD distilled into one album.

And as luck would have it, I was commissioned by the label to reswizzle the single. Have a listen and boogie around your handbag.

Monday, May 6, 2013

axis of love

Barely a year after the release of "Elysium", their eleventh longplayer, Pet Shop Boys return with "Electric", a much less subdued affair on a brand new label. In fact, it's the first time Neil and Chris have not issued something through Parlophone, the division of EMI that was their home for the last 28 years. Their new label, the appropriately named x2, will be issued through Kobalt.

"Axis" is the first taste of ver Boys new album and it's quite a striking change of pace for them. It's not a pop song. It's an 80s retro dance track. Very nearly an instrumental except for some spooky whispered words from Neil. Big synths, chunky drums, twinkling bells and a great big nod to Giorgio Moroder which is all the rage in reference these days. Thank you, Daft Punk.

Produced by electronic wunderkind, Stuart Price, "Electric" will include the following nine tracks.

1. Axis
2. Bolshy
3. Love Is A Bourgeois Construct
4. Fluorescent
5. Inside A Dream
6. The Last To Die
7. Shouting In The Evening
8. Thursday
9. Vocal

While "Axis" is the first track to be heard from "Electric", rumor has it that "Love Is A Bourgeois Construct" will be the first official single. "Thursday" features British singer/rapper Example and "The Last To Die" is a cover of a Bruce Springsteen song which original appeared on The Boss' album, "Magic", which was released in 2007.

"Electric" will hit the "shops" on July 15.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Jaxx in the boxx

Basement Jaxx are back, Back, BACK! The duo have resurfaced with "Back 2 The Wild", a manic, slightly cartoonish track that borders on the verge of ADHD. In other words, it's brilliant and loadsafun!

Continuing their tradition of featuring different artists on their singles, this time ver Jaxx installed South Korean singers Miss Emma Lee and Baby Chay on vocal duties. The track is loopy, grin inducing and full of Afrocentric rhythmic joie de vivre. Another one for the crates! It's also the first single to be lifted from their forthcoming seventh longplayer.

And my ears detect some unlikely influences. A bit of Tom Tom Club and a dash of Thompson Twins?

Monday, April 15, 2013

jazz hands

Hands up! Who remembers Johnny Hates Jazz? Well, ver Jazz are back, Back, BACK! More than twenty five years after their debut album, Clark Datchler and co. have returned with a brand new single, "Magnetized", from the album of the same name.

It's a well produced, timeless sounding song which sounds as if it could've been plucked from "Turn Back The Clock", their first longplayer which was home to four smash singles in the UK - "Heart Of Gold", "I Don't Want To Be A Hero", the title track, and the ubiquitous "Shattered Dreams". Turn back the clock, indeed!

Some people may think this is a bad thing. However, I staunchly disagree. Not everything has to feature a rap breakdown or a dubstep break to be a great record these days. Gimme a great song and it will always deliver. And "Magnetized" is the top notch kind of pop that puts a smile on my face.

Trimmed down to a duo of Mike Nocito and Mr. Datchler, Johnny Hates Jazz have gone through three incarnations across three albums. First, they started out as the trio of Mike, Clark and Calvin Hayes, fresh from cutting their songwriting and production chops at the legendary RAK studios in London.

After the success of their 1987 debut, Clark left for a shot at a solo career while Mike and Calvin recruited legendary producer and songwriter, Phil Thornalley, to front the group. They issued one album called "Tall Stories" which didn't yield any significant hits. Fast forward to today and JHJ mark III feature the return of Clark alongside Mike without Calvin.

"Magnetized", the single, will be hit the "shops" on April 29 followed by the elpee a week later.

And maybe it's just me, but there's something about the new JHJ single that reminds me a bit of "This Is Not America", a hit for David Bowie and Pat Metheny Group in 1985. Take particular note of the second verse of "Magnetized". I'm not suggesting they sound the same. They simply evoke the same feelings for me, particularly in the chord structure in the verses of "Magnetized".

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

education in the grooves when you're let down by the news

In my late teens and early twenties, I was a bit too young to understand the nature of politics, both locally and globally. As people did in previous decades, I got some information from my favorite artists and records.

I didn't live through Margaret Thatcher's rule first hand. We had a mess on our own shores with Ronald Regan, whose presidency is currently in revisionist mode. While I was aware, I wasn't engaged.

Here are three records from the Thatcher era that made me look a little more deeply into a place I have called my second home for nearly twenty years. Strangely, they all seem timely today in a slightly unsettling way.

The first one is the parenthetical prefix of "(Celebrate) The Day After You" by The Blow Monkeys featuring Curtis Mayfield from the longplayer, "She Was Only A Grocer's Daughter", whose title referenced Thatcher's familial ties. Released in 1987, it outlines the party plans after the Conservative party has been deposed.

The second Thatcher era single that gave me a reason to try to understand what life was like in the UK, before I started traveling there regularly, was one that I knew directly affected me.

"No Clause 28" was a brave and honest move from Boy George. It highlighted the heinous, controversial and bigoted addition of Section 28 to the Local Government Act of 1988, an amendment which stated that a local authority shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality or promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.

The track begins with a sharp slap to the face by a Thatcher impersonator - "The aim of this government is to make everyone as miserable as possible." Yikes! Imagine how that sounded upon first listening to this funky house track.

George is unforgiving in his delivery. It was a way of putting a bit of distance between him and his past with Culture Club. The gender bending was still at the forefront, but the loved up sounds and songs took a back seat to something close to George's heart. His identity and that of so many gay men and women.

Of course, the political nature of the record along with his then recent drug charges didn't help the single garner significant airplay. But it was an important record which included a cheeky pre-sampling clearance of "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'", some Public Enemy shout outs, and a severe rap in the middle of it which was the first time I heard AIDS mentioned in a pop song. An important record, especially in light of the LGBT struggles we face today.

Here is the third and final Thatcher era tune that turned me toward the UK newspapers.

Slice of Red Wedge anyone? Paul Weller was no stranger to political activism. His social commentary during his days in The Jam held steadfast and strong when he transitioned into The Style Council.

In 1984, in the thick of promotion for TSC, Paul Weller recorded "Soul Deep", a funky slice of politics. He invited a few friends over to record this charity record, under the moniker of The Council Collective, in support of the debilitating and violent miners strike which horrified many citizens of the UK.

The paragraph on the back sleeve of the single said it all:

"The aim of this record was to raise money for the Striking Miners and their families before Xmas but obviously in the light of the tragic and disgusting event in South Wales resulting in the murder of a cab driver, some of the monies will also go now, to the widow of the man.

We do support the miners strike but we do not support violence. It helps no one and only creates further division amongst people.

This record is about Solidarity or more to the point - getting it back! If the miners lose the strike, the consequence will be felt by all the working classes. That is why it is so important to support it. But violence will only lead to defeat - as all violence ultimately does."

And they managed to perform it on "Top Of The Pops"! Scandalous! Those were the days. Education in the grooves when you're let down by the news.

Actually, I forgot the single that first brought my attention to British politics. The riots and racial unrest. The encroaching industrial wasteland. The feeling of desperation. And it went to number one on the UK singles chart."Ghost Town" by The Specials was the one that caused you to feel the winds of change in Great Britain.

In the early days of MTV, this video received quite a bit of airplay. The haunting, howling feeling throughout the record is a bit frightening. It's the stark, bleak, smothering sound of something evil approaching. The only diversion from that sense is the ska meets dancehall breakdown which sounds like its bleeding out of a radio broadcast from the past. This was the one that first piqued my interest in politics as a source for pop music inspiration.

What was happening in the land the inspired me as a musician and a music fan? I needed to know more.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

soul searching

With their promotion machine in motion, Depeche Mode are ready to drop the second single from "Delta Machine". "Soothe My Soul" is another in the Basildon boys' ever growing arsenal of stomp n' boogie blues numbers.

They certainly haven't lost their penchant for something slightly sleazy. And Dave's vocal gets more lascivious sounding with every new album. The chorus nearly borders on being joyous! A rare excursion into uplifting sonic territory for DM.

Friday, March 29, 2013

a little more conversation

Texas are back, Back, BACK! Sharleen Spiteri and co. are about to unleash "The Conversation", their eighth studio longplayer and their first one in eight years. It's also the collective's return since bandmember Ally McErlaine was hospitalized after he collapsed with a massive brain aneurysm in 2009.

Furthermore, "The Conversation" marks their departure from Universal where Texas spent their entire career. [PIAS] Recordings is their new home.

The first single from their forthcoming album is the title track. It's a dark, bluesy number almost hinting at their modest beginnings while still keeping the pop shine they developed during their

The tracklisting for the album include the following twelve tunes.

1. The Conversation
2. Dry Your Eyes
3. If This Isn’t Real
4. Detroit City
5. I Will Always
6. Talk About Love
7. Hid From The Light
8. Be True
9. Maybe I
10. Hearts Are Made To Stray
11. Big World
12. I Need Time

"The Converstaion" will hit the "shops" on May 20 in two configurations, the standard twelve track version and a two disc, deluxified edition with a bonus disc of live recordings of song from across the band's nearly twenty-five year career.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

this girl is on fire

Thanks to a bit of geo blocking, those of us based in the USA were denied access to the video for "When I Was Your Girl" for nearly a week! Outrageous! Thankfully, we waiting patiently for it. Panic was held at bay.

Of course, the single is the first to be lifted from Alison Moyet's eighth solo longplayer, "The Minutes", even though a previous track, "Changeling", was leaked a couple of weeks ago as a little taster of things to come. Comparing the two tracks, it's easy to believe the album will features a wide variety of sounds.

Alison looks absolutely stunning. Such a gorgeous woman with a stunning voice. To these ears, the feeling, fire, emotion and passion of the song is reminiscent of her Jules Shear cover, "Whispering Your Name".

"The Minutes, which hits the "shops" on May 6, had its knobs twiddled by electronic master, Guy Sigsworth. This bodes well for the album as it puts Alison squarely back in the shoes she wore when she was one half of Yazoo in the early 80s, while still maintaining the singer/songwriter sound she started developing with "Hoodoo" and carried on through "Essex" and "Hometime". This is not a retro retread!

The following are the eleven songs that make up the entirety of "The Minutes".

1. Horizon Flame
2. Changeling
3. When I Was Your Girl
4. Apple Kisses
5. Right As Rain
6. Remind Yourself
7. Love Reign Supreme
8. A Place To Stay
9. Filigree
10. All Signs Of Life
11. Rung By The Tide

Hard to believe next year will mark the 30th anniversary of her solo elpee, "Alf".

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Oh, my morning monkey.

This is a year of triumphant returns from many quarters. The Blow Monkeys just splashed their new video across the interwebs. The single, "Oh My", is the first taster from their forthcoming album, "Feels Like A New Morning".

It's a slinky groover that features a circular riff which runs around throughout the song while Dr. Robert ruminates about the pitfalls that come with the race for riches.

While it's closer to the slower, blue-eyed soul of breakthrough album "Animal Magic", the album is rumored to feature a few grittier, T. Rex inspired songs, a sound which dominated their debut "Limping For A Generation". Apparently, there are a couple of dance oriented tracks, but nothing as housed up as the Chicago flavored barnstormers they released toward the end of the 80s and in the early 90s.

"Oh My" will be released on April 1. "Feels Like A New Morning" will hit the "shops" on April 29.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

British electric foundation

It was only a matter of time, with the expulsion of Parlophone when Universal devoured EMI, that Pet Shop Boys would find themselves a new home for their recordings. And that's exactly what they did recently.

After a staggering 29 year relationship with the iconic UK label, Neil and Chris have parted ways with them and signed a deal with the ever-growing Kobalt Label Services. Such a sexy name, n'est-ce pas? It sounds like they are signed to an insurance company or a car manufacturer. Still, PSB have not had much luck with Parlophone over the last half-decade even in the face of career defining albums like "Yes".

Having just released "Elysium", their eleventh longplayer, only six months ago, ver Boys are on track to release their twelfth elpee, the suitably titled "Electric", this June. And by the sound of the snippet below, it's an electronic album with splashes of Giorgio Moroder, nu disco and trance. An update on the sound that made them popular nearly 30 (*cough*) years ago.

Certainly, it's more dance friendly than its mellowed out predecessor. This should be music to their fans' ears who, in general, found "Elysium" to be rather dull. Personally, I grew to love it after only a handful of listens. It was refreshing to hear PSB wrap themselves in a slightly different sonic soundscape.

Produced by electronic wunderkind, Stuart Price, "Electric" will be accompanied by a tour which is sure to feature quite a few tunes from the album, as well as a helping of songs from "Elysium". Here's a little taster of what to expect from the forthcoming PSB longplayer.

metropolis on top of us

OMD have just unleashed the official video for "Metroland", the first single plucked from their forthcoming longplayer "English Electric". It's another beautifully animated clip which, like the previous one for "Atomic Ranch", seems to honor or, perhaps, vilify life in suburbia. Let's take a peek.

The digital bundle of "Metroland" features the full length version alongside a radio edit, four remixes and a non-album b-side. More bang for your buck! The single hits the "shops" on March 25. The tracklisting includes the following:

1. Metroland
2. The Great White Silence
3. Metroland (Radio Edit)
4. Metroland (Manhattan Clique Remix)
5. Metroland (Appropriately remixed by Metroland)
6. Metroland (Jonteknik Remix)
7. Metroland (Roger Erickson Remix)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A plus

Nearly ten years after her last album, and a staggering 27 years since she released an elpee of original material, Agnetha Fältskog breaks her long silence with "A", her fifth English language.

She still looks gorgeous! A bit too much photoshop on the sleeve. Still, her beauty radiates and her voice melts my heart. The album was produced by Jörgen Elofsson who has worked with Britney Spears, Celine Dion and Westlife. It also feature a duet with UK "X Factor" man of the moment and Take That tunesmith Gary Barlow.

The first single to be plucked from the album is "When You Really Loved Someone", a sumptuous ballad with sweeping strings and soaring chorus.

A video has been lensed for it which features Agnetha singing on the stage at Ulriksdals Palace in Stockholm. Her performance is intercut with flashbacks of an actress, playing a young Agnetha, and her love interest. Scenes of unabashed teenage love and its ensuing drama set the scene for Agnetha's memories.

"When You Really Loved Someone" is available from all fine digital retailers worldwide with the exception of Germany which decided to release "The One Who Loves You Now".

A little advice to interviews during Agnetha's promotion activities. Please don't ask her about an ABBA reunion. The answer hasn't changed.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Moyet minutes

The stunningly gorgeous artwork for Alison Moyet's forthcoming album, "The Minutes", has been revealed. Eleganza!

"The Minutes" will hit the "shops" on May 6. The first single, "When I Was Your Girl", will be available from April 1. Prepare to be enthralled!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

walking on broken glass

With a career spanning nearly 35 years, Simple Minds are dipping their collective toes into the retrospective waters once again. "Celebrate", a brand new greatest hits compilation, will hit the shops on March 25 in the UK. It will be made available in two flavors - the red sleeve will feature two CDs of singles for the casual buyer and a fan friendly three CD version will sport a gray cover. The collection will wash up on US shores two months later.

The set spans the band's entire career from their early, post-punk efforts from the late 1970s through to their imperial period throughout the 1980s and early 1990s and onward into their independent years.
Throughout the expansive track selection, you can hear the diverse range of material which has been inspired by punk, the artier side of glam, as well as funk and disco. Just listen to the Moroder-esque "I Travel" or the alternately rubbery and chunky rhythm sections on "Promised You A Miracle" and "Sweat In Bullet", the latter making a few passing glances at Japan with JK giving his best Jim Morrison delivery.

"Celebrate" also features three newly recorded songs exclusive to this collection. "Blood Diamonds" and "Broken Glass Park" are added to the end of the double disc version, while the triple disc adds “Stagefright" which was released as a free download in 2011.

The moody and majestic "Broken Glass Parker" sees Jim Kerr and co. revisit many of the signature sounds they have explored over the years.

"Celebrate" is yet another phase in the rebranding and repackaging of Simple Minds. By the sound of things, Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill are ready to The collection will be commemorated by a world tour and also marks a reversal in the band's fortunes. After their slide from international superstardom, they were often remembered as an overblown, stadium act mostly derided by being wrongly compared (IMHO) to U2.

Although, they freely admit they cashed in a bit when worldwide domination came knocking at their door in the shape of "Don't You (Forget About Me)" from John Hughes' 1985 teen drama "The Breakfast Club".

Now, they are looked upon as part of the vanguard of visionaries who inspired many bands from Manic Street Preachers to Muse. Even the titans of dance music have namechecked Simple Minds over the last decade and a half. Take a listen to the often-sampled "New Gold Dream (81/82/83/84)" which, oddly enough, was never released as a single.

The full, three CD edition of "Celebrate" chronicles Simple Minds' journey through 50 singles and assorted key tracks.


CD 1

1. Life In A Day
2. Chelsea Girl
3. Changeling
4. I Travel
5. Celebrate
6. The American
7. Love Song
8. Sweat In Bullet
9. Theme From Great Cities
10. Promised You A Miracle
11. Glittering Prize
12. Someone Somewhere (In Summertime)
13. New Gold Dream (81/82/83/84)
14. Waterfront
15. Speed Your Love To Me
16. Up On The Catwalk

CD 2

1. Don’t You (Forget About Me)
2. Alive And Kicking
3. Sanctify Yourself
4. All The Things She Said
5. Ghost Dancing
6. Promised You A Miracle (Live)
7. Belfast Child
8. Mandela Day
9. Biko
10. This Is Your Land
11. Kick It In
12. Let It All Come Down
13. Let There Be Love
14. See The Lights
15. Stand By Love
16. Real Life

CD 3

1. She’s A River
2. Hypnotised
3. Glitterball
4. War Babies
5. Space
6. Jeweller To The Stars
7. Dancing Barefoot
8. Cry
9. Spaceface
10. One Step Closer
11. Home
12. Stranger
13. Stay Visible
14. Rockets
15. Stars Will Lead The Way
16. Stagefright
17. Blood Diamonds
18. Broken Glass Park

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

the minutes in moments

Alison Moyet just delivered "Changeling", the first fruits of her labor for "The Minutes", her forthcoming eighth studio longplayer.

Produced by knob twiddling legend and electronic wizard, Guy Sigsworth, the track shows Alison returning to her programmed roots while still maintaining her robust vocal delivery.

The stuttering, squelchy production set against Alison's passionate vocal is a powerful mix. Guy, who has produced Madonna, Björk and Imogen Heap, brings a new dimension to Alison's music while still maintaining her identity. A magnificent match!

I'm very much looking forward to the new album. But I'd like Sony to pull their fingers out and get to releasing deluxe editions of her back catalog? They were on the release schedules and then they disappeared into the mist!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

metro retro

"Metroland" is the lead single from Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark's forthcoming longplayer, "English Electric". Released as a 12" single, the full length, seven minute album version will feature on the a-side, while the b-side will be non-album track "The Great White Silence".

Unfortunately, the 12 inch single, released on March 25, will be the only physical configuration made available. While it would be nice to have a vinyl collectible, I prefer to have a CD single. Digital downloads, although convenient, are not satisfying to a collector. A CD single would maintain the collectibility and still keep things in the realm of zeros and ones. Not sure why artists and labels have been so quick do distance themselves from the dominant physical format.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

a stimulating simulation

Róisín Murphy has become a bit of enigma lately. She appears with a new track out of nowhere and then disappears into the ether leaving her fans salivating for more. Surprises abound!

For example, seven months after she released "Simulation", a slinky and sexy single on Munich-based label Permanent Vacation, a newly produced video for it has turned up out of the blue. Sadly, she does not appear in the clip.

The disappointment of her not appearing in the video is almost made up by the striking and cleverly arty imagery. Check out my favorite part around the 2.28 mark where Olivia Newton-John makes a cameo. Sort of.

Róisín, we want more from you. Please heed our call!

Friday, February 8, 2013

move this

Just as "Devotion", her debut longplayer, featured on many year end favorites, Jessie Ware returns with another magnificent single plucked from the album, but with a twist. "If You're Never Gonna Move" sees Jessie's gorgeous, sweetly sung, slightly hushed vocals flit like a butterfly over a pleasantly insistent track featuring a low, twisted, pitch shifted spoken snippet and a rubbery, bouncing bass.

It's another lovely example of the reason why people have succumbed to her musical charms. It is, in fact, "110%", which features on the album "Devotion", renamed for an easier crack at the American market. Still, it's brilliant regardless of the title.

Jessie can also be found contributing her languid, soulful cover of "Never Knew Love Like This Before", a hit for Stephanie Mills which peaked at #4 in the UK and #6 on the US singles chart in 1980. Dig it.

Monday, February 4, 2013

loose screw

Prince has always been, for better or worse, a bit unconventional. Even at his most conventional, their has always been an element of doing whatever the hell he pleases. Naturally, it hasn't always worked to his benefit.

As we approach the thirty year anniversary of "Purple Rain", - Take a minute to let the gravity of that sink in. Try not to throw up in your mouth. - Prince seems to have been reenergized. First, he returned with "Rock And Roll Love Affair", his first thoroughly enjoyable single in ages.

For his second trick, he has delivered "Screwdriver", a muscular jam that sees Mr. Nelson return to a more humorous and clever lyrical landscape. Even the lyric video, a more conventional promotional vehicle in these interweb savvy times, is tongue in cheek. The more unconventional part of it is that he appears in the video at various points in the clip.

I love the flirty, dirty, sexy Prince. I think he's having more fun these days. Perhaps he has recovered his mojo. And maybe he's not taking himself as seriously as he used to.

robot ranch

"English Electric", OMD's forthcoming longplayer, is shaping up to be a quirky affair. After the cacophony of voice commands that make up the basis of "Decimal", which was featured as the first taster from the elpee, I expected a big, melodic, electronic number would be the next thing we heard. I was very wrong.

Instead, Andy and Paul just dropped some serious science on us with the bleak, robotic wishlist of "Atomic Ranch". Check out the retro 50s themed vid clip below.

Seriously. I think their new album is likely to be "Dazzle Ships" on crack.

second start

Not even a month has passed since Suede returned reenergized for another crack at the pop pantheon. "Barriers", the first taste from "Bloodsports", their forthcoming longplayer, was splashed across the interwebs only a couple of weeks ago.

Now, "It Starts And Ends With You" is launched as the first, official single from the album nearly six weeks ahead of the album.

Brett Anderson is still a slinky, slender lad. Does this man ever eat? Perhaps he is the male Patsy Stone, subsisting on cigarettes and alcohol. Whatever his diet consists of, I hope it doesn't change if that's what fuels his distinctive, visually acute lyrics.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

all I need is a miracle

Hurts unveiled the artwork for "Exile", their forthcoming sophomore effort and the follow up to their debut, "Happiness". Theo and Adam still look smart. They're suited, once again. However, the sleeve seems a bit dark. And why do they insist on using such a large version of their logo? It's a bit overbearing and appears to be shoehorned into place. It needs balance against the title and image.

I had the same design issue with the last album. All of the singles were beautifully tailored works of art. But the album cover featured an awful photo and that oversized font. Bring me the head of that graphic designer!

Still, it's more about the music. The first, official single from "Exile" is "Miracle" which will hit the "shops" on March 10, a day before the album drops. A few weeks ago, Hurts debuted "The Road", another track from the elpee.

The bombast is there. The slightly goth shadings are present. Theo Hutchcraft's voice soars. It seems like they might have eschewed the electronics for a more stadium friendly, rock sound.

Thankfully, they didn't have a protracted absence from the musical landscape. Taking too long to follow up a successful debut is far too risky in the current climate. Strike while the iron is hot. As long as you bring the goods to the table. Bon appétit!

The following is tracklisting for "Exile". Nearly all the songs have very short titles. Only one or two words. Theo and Adam are men of few words.
1. Exile
2. Miracle
3. Sandman
4. Blind
5. Only You
6. The Road
7. Cupid
8. Mercy
9. The Crow
10. Somebody To Die For
11. The Rope
12. Help

Friday, February 1, 2013

heavenly action

Depeche Mode have unleashed the video for their new single, "Heaven". It's a somewhat odd choice for the first single from a new DM album. A sparse, downtempo rock ballad is at odds with the launch of previous longplayers. They've long stopped trying to play the chart game.

"Heaven", it doesn't reflect the more electronic direction that they've hinted at in interviews. Sure, there are few bleepy flourishes, but I was looking forward to something more like the b-side, "All That's Mine".

Sonically, it hits the right buttons. However, one thing missing from both tracks is the booming, epic chorus that was typically the centerpiece of a lead single from a new elpee by the Basildon boys.

Monday, January 28, 2013

electric aesthetic

Today, OMD unveiled the eye catching cover art to their forthcoming album "English Electric". Peter Saville, legendary Factory design guru, has stroked a few electronic brushes to come up with another striking visual that reflects on the past and points to the future. It's sleek, Modernist and yet, fittingly retro. Recently, OMD memeber Andy McCluskey revealed that "English Electric" is best described as reductive (nods to Madonna) as possible while still maintaining a current sound and aesthetic. So too, does Mr. Saville's cover art reflect that. Perhaps half jokingly, Andy has said the he feels it is appropriate that the sleeve of their new longplayer is a contemporary distillation of traditional hazard signals. "English Electric" will hit the "shops" on April 8. It will be available in several formats including a standard CD in a jewel case (very retro!), deluxe edition CD with a bonus DVD, heavy weight vinyl LP in a die cut sleeve (even MORE retro!) and a massive, tin box set. While the deluxe edition will feature a studio interview, three Henning M. Lederer animated videos and unseen tour photos, the vinyl version will also include the standard album in a cardboard sleeve neatly tucked into the elpee packaging. I'm splashing my cash on the box set which will include an exclusive 7" single featuring an unreleased b-side, a sixteen page lyric booklet, the standard CD, DVD, a CD of demos, three artwork prints and a photo of Andy and Paul. If you pre-order the box set from their website, as I have today, you will also receive two enamel badges. Triple retro points! They are sure to find a happy home on my demin jacket.

Friday, January 25, 2013

delta dawn

"Delta Machine" is lucky thirteen for Depeche Mode. Their new longplayer, the long awaited follow up to their twelfth studio effort, "Sounds Of The Universe", will be preceded by "Heaven" which will be made available across two CD singles and digital download on February 1.

Many fans were hoping for a reunion with sound craftsman Alan Wilder. However, their dreams have been dashed upon the rocks. Ben Hillier sat in the knob twiddler's seat for "Delta Machine" just as he did for DM's two, previous albums. On paper, this doesn't do the lads any favors where their detractors are concerned. However, they have promised an album which treads along some new sonic ground.

"Delta Machine" will be released as a standard CD and the now obligatory, fan gouging deluxe edition. The following is the tracklisting for the thirteen track version of the album.

1. Welcome To My World
2. Angel
3. Heaven
4. Secret To The End
5. My Little Universe
6. Slow
7. Broken
8. The Child Inside
9. Soft Touch / Raw Nerve
10. Should Be Higher
11. Alone
12. Soothe My Soul
13. Goodbye

The deluxified version of the album includes four bonus tracks tagged on to the end of it.

1.  Long Time Lie
2.  Happens All The Time
3.  Always
4.  All That’s Mine

"Heaven", the first single lifted from "Delta Machine" will be available in two CD configurations. For some odd reason, the band recycle "All That's Mine" from the deluxe edition of the album on the two track CD single instead of serving up a non-album b-side which renders that CD a completely unnecessary purchase. The five track CD single features "Heaven" alongside four remixes of the track.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

blood brothers

Suede are back, back, BACK! After an eleven year hiatus, my favorite band of the Britpop variety, will return with "Bloodsports", their sixth studio longplayer.

Clearly influenced by David Bowie, and to a lesser extent the long shadow of The Smiths, Suede, along with Pulp (who have a new tune out at the mo), were embraced by the artier side of Britpop as opposed to the lads that waved their banners for the likes of Blur and Oasis. Essentially, all four created the Venn diagram of the 90s rock scene in the UK.

References to drugs, alcohol, sex, androgyny and gasoline fueled Suede's lyrical tank. After their "difficult" yet accomplished and hazy, sophomore effort, "Dog Man Star", alongside the departure of guitar guru and songsmith Bernard Butler, the band embraced the flashbulb flicker of full on pop with "Coming Up". Double entrendre and tongues firmly placed in cheek. A big lipstick longplayer that is equal parts gorgeous and raucous.

Earlier this month, Suede roared back to life when they unveiled "Barriers", the first taste from their forthcoming elpee. A thundering, muscular tune featuring Brett Anderson's epic, sweeping, widescreen lyrical beauty.

The first, official single will be "It Starts And Ends With You" which will be available three weeks prior to its parent longplayer.

The following is the tracklisting for "Bloodsports".

1. Barriers
2. Snowblind
3. It Starts And Ends With You
4. Sabotage
5. For The Strangers
6. Hit Me
7. Sometimes I Feel I’ll Float Away
8. What Are You Not Telling Me?
9. Always

There is a lot of promise for the album due to the return of Ed Buller who twiddled the knobs for Suede's first three albums. "Bloodsports" hits the "shops" on March 18.

Monday, January 14, 2013

British electric foundation

The mighty Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark are about to unleash "English Electric", their twelfth studio longplayer and the follow up to "History Of Modern".

The album will be hit the "shops" on April 8 and appear in several configurations including a standard CD, deluxe edition set featuring a CD and DVD, heavyweight vinyl LP, fancy collector's tin boxset and digitial download. It's tough to keep track of all these things. So many variations. Collect them all!

The tracklisting for "English Electric" includes the following twelve tracks.

1. Please Remain Seated
2. Metroland
3. Night Café
4. The Future Will Be Silent
5. Helen Of Troy
6. Our System
7. Kissing The Machine
8. Decimal
9. Stay With Me
10. Dresden
11. Atomic Ranch
12. Final Song

The first single will be "Metroland" which will be available on March 25 from all fine, digital retailers.

In order to set the tone for the new elpee, Andy and Paul have created a video for "Decimal", the eighth track on the album.

Holy sequential circuits! A cacophony of automated voices. For a moment, I thought I was on hold with my insurance company. Definitely something that hearkens back to their "Dazzle Ship" days. I'm very much looking forward to the forthcoming album and subsequent tour. Set phasers on stun!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

ten in twelve

The end of the world did not come to pass last year. We all managed to move into the new year with our hopes, dreams, wishes and desires in tact. It should be interesting to see how artists manifest their creative ambitions in the brave new world of the interest as technology continues to move music from physical based configurations to the ether.

Last year saw the rise of new artists making names for themselves, some without the aid of a major label. Such is the ever changing landscape of the entertainment biz. Some longstanding artists continue to make the transition with ease. At least that's what it looks like from the outside.

2012 was also a year of life affirming, musical output from a number of artist, both new and those with years of experience. Below, are my ten favorite albums of the previous twelve months. They are listed in alphabetical order. Cue fanfare!

Bright Light Bright Light - "Make Me Believe In Hope"

In a world that continues to push melismatic vocals and samey-same, David Guetta-esque toe tappers, it's refreshing to hear classic songwriting over an interesting production landscape. "MMBIH" is an album of lyrical substance and melodic drive.

Some of the best retro touchstones from the 80s and 90s collide with contemporary sounds. Rod Thomas, for he is BLBL, has a yearning, tender, urgent quality to his voice which draws the listener in without being obscured by the beautiful ear candy in which he's wrapped.

Standout tracks are many. "Feel It", "Waiting For The Feeling", "Love Part II", "Disco Moment" and "Moves" are essential music for those in love with an artist who has a pop sensibility. Perfection. A high water mark of 2012.

Mick Hucknall - "American Soul"

The one that everyone is surprised to find on my list. I've been a Simply Red fan from the start. Mick Hucknall's brand of blue eyed soul has been a part of the fabric of my life for over 25 years. At first, without hearing a note, "American Soul" was a turn off. A covers album. Rarely a smart, creative move. But some artists can pull it off.

So, I was relieved when I heard the album. It is full of gorgeous production elements which adorn Mick's rich and passionate vocal. Most of the songs aren't well known. That's always a good place to start when putting together an album such as this.

There is one song, "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood", which I don't care for no matter how it gets interpreted. I can live without that one. But Mr. Hucknall makes up for it with a big surprise, "Hope There's Someone", a song originally recorded by Antony & The Johnsons. I'm not a fan of Antony, but Mick's take on the song is a beautifully touching and unexpected album closer. A great coffee table album for Sunday mornings. Sexy stuff.

Marina And The Diamonds - "Electra Heart"

Tipped for big things with her debut album, "The Family Jewels", Marina And The Diamonds didn't quite hit the heights Ellie Goulding did. However, it did solidify a fanbase which was ready for a sophomore follow up. Enter "Electra Heart" which seemed to have suffered a few false starts.

However, Marina delivered her expected blend of quirky lyrics and solid hooks with, perhaps, less Lene Lovich-isms in her vocal delivery. This allowed the songs to breathe a bit without some of the histrionics deflecting attention from the core of the album.

Wisely produced with an au current electronic flavor, "Electra Heart" still shows Ms. Diamandis' penchant for corrupt American ideology and the country's obsession with vapid conversation, self absorbed youth and reality dramas.

Pet Shop Boys - "Elysium"

For their eleventh, studio longplayer, PSB decided to bring the tempo down a bit and produce something as close to a mood piece without sacrificing their pop sensibilities.

Decamping to LA certainly played a part in the more laid back tone of the album. That and the theme of the passage of time and the melancholy that can be attached to it, put Chris and Neil in a more reflective lyrical mode.

Not what fans might have wanted, they still managed to deliver an engaging album which may have taken a few listens to sink in. Even with a couple of clunkers, the album still boasts one of their finest single moments, "Leaving", which is the lush cornerstone of the elpee.

Saint Etienne - "Words And Music By Saint Etienne"

Seven years in the making, Saint Etienne came storming back with one of their most accomplished and thoroughly satisfying pop album of their career. Always inspired by the heart of soul of London, "WAMBSE" loosely follows our fearsome threesome through the capital as they reminisce about their favorite bands and take us out among the serious music fans. The ones that live and breathe pop music in all its multifaceted glory.

Stacked with potential singles in a bygone era, ver Et have all the bases covered. There's the kind of knees up, Euro flavored, dance tracks they do so well ("DJ", "I've Got Your Music"). They do a nod to 60s Bacharach inspired pop ("Answer Song"). The early 90s are dialed in for the atmospheric, Balearic sound of "Heading For The Fair". Spooky, trip hop seems to be the basis of "Twenty Five Years". Shades of New Order weave in and out of "When I Was Seventeen".

Essentially, the entire album is a lovesong to all things British. Crammed with nostalgic influences yet it never sounds derivative. Beautifully resplendent pop music's gorgeous palate of colors from electronic to pastoral. Waving the musical Union Jack with a smile on their faces, hands on their hears and tongues firmly planted in cheek. An elpee for music lovers by music lovers.

Along with Bright Light Bright Light, Saint Etienne are a group I've had the distinct privilege to produce tracks for in 2012. Quite an amazing year for moi.

Saint Etienne - "More Words And Music By Saint Etienne"

Sarah Cracknell and co. have two albums in my year end ten. Not sure if this qualifies as a separate album because it was sold exculsively as part of "WAMBSE" at concerts on their recent concert tour of the US.

Sonically, the ten song longplayer stands on its own. It doesn't have the production sheen lovingly slathered on the host album. But that's part of its charm. A more organic sounding elpee full of top notch tunes as if it was produced as a separate entity. Sometimes less is more.

Don't get me wrong. This isn't an album of demos or throwaways. Sure, there are a couple of covers ("Manhattan" and "Just Friends", originally recorded by Scott Walker and Amy Winehouse, respectively). But they are tailored to the Saint Etienne sound. There's "Lullaby", a track released as the b-side of "I've Got Your Music", which is a beautiful coda alongside previously unreleased gems. Two quirky instrumentals ("Racing Car" and the Kraftwerk-esque "Landscape") plus "Fairground Rock And Roll", a cheeky, slightly raucous, Beach Boys inspired track, keep things buoyant through.

"MWAMBSE" is a magnificent compliment to the shinier, more effervescent parent album. A gorgeous, swoonsome comedown from a night out in London town.

Sam Sparro - "Return To Paradise"

Mr. Sparro's sophomore longplayer didn't receive much commercial fanfare, but it's certainly head and shoulders above his debut. Less emphasis on the electronics, less atmosphere (ie. megahit "Black And Gold") and big on disco attitude and funky fierceness.

Sam testifies on standout track, "Happiness", an exhilarating, 90s house inspired hip wiggler that defies anyone not to get up to get down. I wish he had the good sense to produce an old school seven minute extended version.

Jam & Lewis inspired "Let The Love In" is a real gem. His obvious love of Prince is felt in the sideways "Sign O' The Times" influenced "Yellow Orange Rays". Elsewhere, Sam's tender side shows up on "Shades Of Grey", the album tearjerker. Disco moments include "Paradise People", "We Could Fly" and "Closer". Quirky, funkiness abounds on "The Shallow End".

Tracey Thorn - "Tinsel And Lights"

A Christmas themed longplayer in a year end Top 10 is not a regular occurrence. However, when it's not strictly a tried and true seasonal effort - few Christmas trees, a little light on Santa sightings, not a reindeer in sight - then it makes sense to expand the boundaries on acceptable times of year to spin it.

"Tinsel And Light" is one of those albums. Keen songwriting, not reliant on a hard and fast Christmas theme, a delicately and homespun sounding effort and songs that evoke feelings of winter rather than the spirit of Saint Nick.

Album opener and original composition, "Joy", is a contemporary carol which beautifully encapsulates what it's like to remember the youthful wonder of the Christmas season. The covers have been tastefully chosen. You could be forgiven for thinking "Hard Candy Christmas", originally recorded by Dolly Parton, is a Thorn original. Musically and lyrically, along with the rest of the album, feels very much her own rather than recordings of other people's material.

Scritti Politti makes two appearances on the album, sort of. Tracey does a jolly version of "Snow In Sun", which originally appeared on their Mercury nominated longplayer, "White Bread Black Beer". Then Scritti main man, Green Gartside, duets with Lady Thorn on a Low's "Taking Down The Tree". Randy Newman's "Snow", recorded by everyone from Claudine Longet to Saint Etienne, is given a haunting, stripped back feel with Tracey's achingly beautiful vocal placed over a simple piano arrangement. All in all a gorgeous album suitable for any season.

Jessie Ware - "Devotion"

Every now and again, a dark, seductive, soul album rises to the top of the scene in the UK. This year, "Devotion" used its sublime charm to win over wine bars and the cool cats that inhabit them. This is not a bad thing.

Jessie has a warm, velvety vocal which is lovingly placed over sparse, icy beats. It's that juxtaposition, which hearkens back to trip hop classics like "Blue Lines" by Massive Attack, that makes the album immediately appealing.

Gorgeous, standout cuts include the quietly insistent "Wildest Moments", the slinky "Running" and the swinging, early 80s R&B inspired "Sweet Talk". Intoxicating.

The 2 Bears - "Be Strong"

Fancy a little boogie around the living room? Then "Be Strong", the debut longplayer from The 2 Bears is for you. Imagine New Order meets The Specials at The Hacienda. That's sort of a sideways description of the album. It's an amalgamation of house, hip hop and two step delivered with a healthy dose of indie personality.

Packed full of house inflected choons, this album would've easily had five Top 20 singles if it had been released in the mid-90s. "Work", "Ghosts & Zombies", "Warm & Easy" and the title track are serious earworms that never tire after repeated listens. Even "Bear Hug", which I resisted initially and can sound like a bit of novelty, has a hip wiggling charm about it.

"Be Strong" is the sound of England through the eyes of and ears of Joe Goddard (from Hot Chip) and musical compatriot Raf Rundell. Witty, thoughtful and it has a great beat you can dance to. Set to make you move, just get up on this groove.