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Saturday, September 02, 2006


"There's always one more ass I forgot to kiss"

Like other Blondie inspired groups, Stimulator play a synth-focused pop. Think Stefy, Epoxies, Lovemakers, etc. Just because they may lack some originality doesn't mean that they're not good. In fact, 78 Stimulator ranks right up with those other groups and the band's also got style and attitude to spare. Lead singer Susan Hyatt used to be in a band called Pillbox. Maybe you've heard of them? I haven't, but it doesn't matter, because her work in Stimulator is great. This is the lead single from their debut album. They also did a cover of Olivia Newton-John's Magic (you know, that song from Xanadu?). It's actually pretty good. Check out the video on their website.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists! Buy the album here.)


"We got to get up and make this happen"

I had never really thought much about Sweden's Fibes, Oh Fibes!, but after hearing this (the first single off their just released second album) I was completely hooked. It's got a really nice summer shuffle to it that's sort of a throwback to the eighties but still really contemporary. It actually reminds me a bit of Souldecision (remember them?) but a little less cheesy. This is what soul-influenced pop sounds like, not a bunch of the rent-a-rapper crap that goes on the radio now.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists! Buy the album here.)

Kasabian - Empire
Release Date: September 19, 2006 (US)
Label: RCA

While Empire may not be the earth shattering, groundbreaking savior of music the band were (impossibly) predicting, it is an above average follow-up. There are no instant smashes here along the lines of their debut’s Club Foot or L.S.F., but the record feels more consistent than their debut. Their sound has been streamlined somewhat and there’s a glam influence to many of the songs. Kasabian are at their best with loud, succinct stompers like the title track and Shoot The Runner.

Kasabian have also recorded two of the most dance-oriented songs that they’ve ever produced in Stuntman and By My Side, each of which throbs with pulsing dance floor beats. There is also a light folk touch in some of the more down tempo tracks (Me Plus One, British Legion).

However, as on their debut, the band can sometimes get lost in aimless soundscapes that do little to enhance their songs. Closer The Doberman, for all its pomp and grandeur, seems excessively overblown for such an average song. Similarly, Sun Rise Light Flies is pushed to sound epic but falls short because the song isn’t strong enough. And thank god Apnoea is the shortest track on the album. Otherwise, its barrage of techno noise would cause multiple headaches. Still, although Empire is not an obvious smash, it is a worthy follow-up that shows just enough artistic growth for the listener to assume that Kasabian have a few more records left in them. B

Key Tracks: Stuntman, Empire, Shoot The Runner
Jessica Simpson - A Public Affair
Release Date: August 29, 2006
Label: Sony

There is a place for campy, cartoon-character pop, and Jessica clearly knows this. Hell, she’s managed to build a career out of it! A Public Affair is her cheesiest record yet, a salute to roller rinks and preteen bonfires that relishes in its own stupidity. When it works, it’s poppy fun, but these moments are unfortunately few and far between.

The best parts of A Public Affair imitate (or sample) superior artists. The title track owes its entire existence to a bouncy Madonna sample, and once the chorus of overexcited roller skaters chimes in at the end, resistance is futile. The other highlights are Simpson’s cover of Dead Or Alive’s You Spin Me Round (Like A Record), B.O.Y. (with guitar stabs that sound suspiciously like they belong in the Cars’ Just What I Needed) and the sugary Shania Twain sound-alike Walkin’ ‘Round In A Circle. The rest of the album is less successful.

Simpson dons her daisy dukes once more for Push Your Tush, an embarrassing (self mocking?) country/pop/dance mixture that falls flat on its face with painfully unfunny proclamations like “take it to the barnyard!” Towards the end, A Public Affair becomes almost unlistenable. Unlike the breezy first half, Simpson decides to return to her standard oversing-every-note-that-I-can delivery. Given her earnestness, especially on the break-up ballad Let Him Fly, it could be campy fun. Sadly, the melodies just aren’t there. C

Key Tracks: Walkin’ ‘Round In A Circle, A Public Affair, You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)

Friday, September 01, 2006

So how freaking awesome were My Chemical Romance at the VMA preshow last night?? Never been a big fan of them before, but I am so excited for their upcoming rock opera The Black Parade! (I also completely approve of the costumes)


"Let's go to the beach tonight with a bottle of wine"

Office are probably the most "indie" band that I've posted on this blog so far. But, they also have a strong pop sensibility that lends their songs an instant appeal. Wound Up inhabits the same genre of jangly summertime pop/rock that the Delays do so well (I'm talking more Faded Seaside Glamour Delays than You See Colours Delays). In this song, it's all about the chorus. It's so gorgeous and has that instant classic singalong sort of feel. Their whole office persona is kind of strange, especially given the joyous nature of their music, but it's also pleasingly different, which is a plus.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists! Buy the album here.)

Thursday, August 31, 2006


"Nobody dances anymore, nobody takes chances anymore"

Truer words were never spoken. Okay, maybe not...but I think the chorus (and title) of this song sum up much of the stale mainstream music coming out of the States right now. And, quite conveniantly, the message is wrapped in an instantly-stuck-in-your-head party rock tune. It starts out with some odd synthesized vocals and you think it might just suck, but wait until the chorus because you won't be sorry.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists! Buy the album here.)

Beyoncé - B’Day
Release Date: September 5, 2006
Label: Sony

The main complaint I had about Beyoncé’s debut was the lack of uptempo tracks. It’s a little misleading when an album’s hit singles bear little resemblance to the rest of the songs. Upon listening to B’Day (say it fast and it sounds like it should belong in a toilet), it appears that Beyoncé’s noticed this as well. The album’s sole slow jams (the gorgeous Irreplaceable and the Aretha-wannabe Resentment) are tacked onto the end of the record. Everything else appears to have been engineered for a party. What kind of party? Well…apparently one that involves Beyoncé screaming at you a lot.

If you’ve been unlucky enough to hear the second single from B’Day, Ring The Alarm, you’ve been given a pretty accurate taster of what the album’s like. Filled with blaring sirens, caterwauling and pointless posturing, the “song” is an unqualified mess. This trend continues on Get Me Bodied and Freakum Dress, which aren’t so much songs as opportunities for Beyoncé to display her unique (and ear-piercing) squawking over obnoxious, repetitive tracks.

There are echoes of Crazy In Love all over B’Day. The lackluster Deja Vu is as close as she gets to recreating her biggest solo hit, while Green Light borrows some of Crazy’s brass. The songs that aren’t all up in your face (Upgrade U, Suga Mama) are almost too slight to be memorable. This is all especially frustrating because we know that Beyoncé has it. She can be pleasingly odd (as evidenced by her tribal-cum-seizure dance in the Deja Vu video) and can crank out fantastic urban pop (Work It Out, Crazy In Love). B’Day, however, is a notable misstep. D

Key Tracks: Irreplaceable, Deja Vu, Kitty Kat
Update: zshare is back up... downloads are back

"We're still dancing here, secret ghetto ways"

Proving that there can be more than one American-but-more-successful-in-England band with Scissor in the title, Scissors For Lefty released their debut 3 song ep a few months ago in the UK with this song as the lead single. It's not entirely different than bands like Franz Ferdinand and White Rose Movement, but it's catchy in its own right. All three of the songs on the ep are actually fantastic, but Ghetto Ways is probably the most immediate with its sharp dance beat and breathy hook. The album comes out in a few weeks.

Scissors For Lefty - Ghetto Ways

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists! No album yet, but buy the single here.)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Persephone’s Bees - Notes From The Underworld
Release Date: August 29, 2006
Label: Sony

Like all of the very best pop bands, Persephone’s Bees present a cocktail of many seemingly incongruent ingredients. Take On The Earth, which appears late in the album. The song is a mash-up of spiky new wave guitar, breathy nonsensical chants, hard glam-rock flourishes, and background vocals reminiscent of the Beach Boys. Then it all fades out for a few seconds and stumbles back in for a final attack. It’s such a mess that I’m not sure it could even really be qualified as a song, yet it’s still pop and catchy. Somehow.

Although On The Earth is the most experimental song on the album, it sums up Underworld’s charm nicely. It’s the kind of record you can’t stop listening to because you don’t know what’s coming up next… Fernando-style Abba melodies (Even Though I’m Fooling Around), Russian new-wave/folk (Muzika Dlya Fil'ma), 60’s psychedelic pop (the heavenly chorus of lead single Nice Day).

The majority of the credit must go to Russian-born lead singer Angelina Moysov, who lends the songs an icy playfulness and American guitarist Tom Ayres who supplies a healthy dose of rock pomp and pop smarts. On paper it shouldn’t work, but that’s precisely how great pop albums are born. B+

Key Tracks: Nice Day, On The Earth, Climbing


"I'm high on you and on drugs"

There's something very Swedish about Laakso. I think it's the accents. They've got a unique pop/rock sound that borders on the alternative/experimental. This song starts out like a pretty typical rock song, but then bursts into a joyous, singalong chorus. And, of course I have to mention the lyrics, which make me laugh. It's a very blunt song, for sure. They're high on you and on drugs. It's the worst combination of addictions. If you like this song check out "Never Satisfied" as well, which was a sizable hit on Swedish radio a few months back.

Laakso - High Drama

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists! Buy the album here.)
Stefy - The Orange Album
Release Date: August 29, 2006
Label: Wind-Up

Stefy are a good itunes band. With an album where barely half of the songs are worth your time, it’s a better idea just to download the highlights. The Orange Album kicks off well, with the opening trifecta of standout (and first single) Chelsea, Hey School Boy (which all but borrows the glorious “way-oh” chants from the Bangle’s Walk Like An Egyptian) and the melodramatic synth dirge Love You To Death. From there, things get less interesting.

Stefy have obviously been listening to the best parts of Gwen Stefani’s L.A.M.B., and this is evidenced by the upbeat, party-driven songs (Cover Up, Orange Crush), but too often the band loses any sense of identity or, more importantly, hooky songwriting. The last four tracks add up to fifteen minutes of blah, but worst of all is Orange County, where they try to get all serious (aka: mopey) on us. The story-song chronicles the plight of a young couple (with unplanned child) trying to make it in the OC. The chorus adds up to nothing more than a laundry list of pop culture (“We still got our MTV, Jay-z and Gwen Stefani, Tivo for my sweet sixteen, and prepaid AT&T”) and, like many bad songs before it, seems to be written with the sole intent of teaching the listener something. It’s nothing that we haven’t heard a hundred times before, and it’s not unique enough to prove memorable. Ditto for the majority of the album. C+

Key Tracks: Chelsea, Love You To Death, Hey School Boy

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


"Dancing like they're in a dream"

If there was a pop music comic book, Portland's Epoxies could easily be Sweden's Alice In Videoland's arch-rivals. They dress similar (see Alice here) and are both propelled by a relentless synth pulse, but Roxy Epoxy's (clever, yes?) voice is a lot darker than Toril's. Almost Amy Lee-ish. Actually, the whole song is a lot darker than Alice. Still, both bands look like comic book characters and I'd love to see a dance battle between Synthesized and Cut The Crap. That's just me, though...

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists! Buy the album here.)

Monday, August 28, 2006


"Find yourself between the lines"

Another late summer, lazy afternoon breezy synth song to add alongside earlier posts from Van She and Taxiride. This song is actually from back in 2001 but I think it's perfect for this time of year. Zoot Woman have released two albums and this is a single from their first release. It's also my favorite song of theirs. It's probably their poppiest in terms of songwriting. It sounds like some forgotten hit from the 80's. Kinda like Hall & Oates mixed with A Flock Of Seagulls.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists! Buy the album here.)

Sunday, August 27, 2006


"Hey, show me the way to your heart"

There are far too few female glam goddesses nowadays. I'm thinking Alison Goldfrapp types, strong and sexy and brilliantly alien. Angelina Moysov, the Russian-born lead singer of new San Fransisco band Persephone's Bees can now be added to the ranks. From what I've heard from Persephone's Bees so far, their music seems to be pretty unclassifiable. It's definitely pop in nature (and catchy pop, at that) but with the everything-goes experimentation of the 70's. In this song alone I can hear elements of Bowie, Abba, Queen (Brian May's dramatic guitar solos) and heaps of funk. Their full-length debut comes out in the States on Tuesday.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists! Buy the album here.)