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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Two More Reasons To Be Excited About 2007

Now, if I could only figure out where to buy these that actually ships to the States. Any help would be greatly appreciated ;)

Pleasure - Pleasure 2
(out Feb. 12)

01: Intro
02: Alright All Nite
03: Out Of Love
04: Throw It All Away
05: Back To You
06: Uptown
07: Bite The Beat
08: Silk Dream
09: Eskimo Kiss
10: Finest Thing
12: Nightvision

(out March 5th)

01: 10.000 Nights of Thunder
02: Fascination
03: Into The Jungle
04: What is Happening
05: Rubberboots
06: Boyfriend
07: Ocean Blue
08: Fantastic 6
09: The Hours
10: Nothing But My Baby

Sky - Piece Of Paradise (1999)

The very first album I ever bought was Savage Garden's debut release, and it remains my favorite pop album of all time. Any fan of that band should also own Piece Of Paradise. To me, it might as well be the lost Savage Garden album. It may have a few more r&b influences, but the lead singer (that would be James Renald, since the band had three different leads throughout its short career) shares the wispy, pop-influenced style of Darren Hayes.

Although the album tanked in America, in the band's home country of Canada, it was a huge success. It's a shame that, with the exception of Japan, it made little noise elsewhere. Perfect pop albums are few and far between, and it's safe to say that Piece Of Paradise qualifies. This is a record that will always remind me of the late nineties, but doesn't feel dated at all. These songs could be hits today.

Singles: Some Kinda Wonderful, Love Song, Push, All I Want

Strange: Opening with brilliant anthematic synthesizer and equally catchy verses. If you like the kind of stuff I usually post, you will LOVE this.

Shave: A spicy duet that's probably one of the more r&b influenced tracks here. If this would have been released as a single, it would have been absolutely insane. Definitely a highlight of the album.

Buy It! (for a penny!)

Friday, January 26, 2007

Just Jack - Overtones
Release Date: January 29, 2007
Label: Universal

You have likely heard (or soon will) the first single from this new Just Jack record. Starz In Their Eyes, from its building drumline to its disco-funk guitars, is closer to hip-hop nirvana than any artist has achieved for a few years now. It will be a massive hit. There are also at least two other guaranteed smashes on the record (that’d be opener Writer’s Block and down tempo Disco Friends). So, how about the rest of the album? Well, take a cue from the artist’s chosen moniker and it’ll give you a hint.

Other than its few inspired moments, much of Overtones is just Jack. And, quite frankly, he’s just not interesting enough to fill in the filler. Lyrically, he can’t touch The Streets or Eminem. He’s better than a rapping Robbie Williams, but really who isn’t? When Jack doesn’t have the tunes to back up his rhymes, the record falters and ends up being all too forgettable. There are the bright spots, of course. I Talk Too Much is a welcome dance cut, and No Time’s stabbing string accompaniment and sing-song rhymes are catchy enough. Still, unremarkable tracks like Lost and Symphony Of Sirens are simply too repetitive and dull to care much about.

Just Jack has a unique sound and can certainly carry a tune better than most MCs, yet he is more often than not let down by his hooks. A trio of cuts bolsters the beginning of Overtones. Starz In Their Eyes alone has enough power to work listeners into a frenzy, but that track’s energy is in short supply throughout the rest of the album. C+

Key Tracks: Starz In Their Eyes, Writer’s Block, Disco Friends


“Where did all the love go?"

Private Life Of A Cat, as you can probably tell from the title, is a strange little tune. It's the kind of song that could only be a hit in Sweden. It has that kooky Scandinavian indie sound... a breezy, almost fey pop and roll. If I heard this on American radios, I would know that hell had frozen over. It's sad, because this track is ridiculously fun and very interesting. It might not sound like much at first, but it works its way into your brain and finds its own spot to revel in glorious weirdness. Interested yet?

mp3: Lovekevins - Private Life Of A Cat
zshare: Lovekevins - Private Life Of A Cat

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists! Album out in March, buy the single here.)

His Dark Materials: If you have not read this series, you must. Far from the "children's" books they are billed as, Pullman's epic fantasy is thought provoking, heartbreaking and riveting. Harry Potter may be fantastic (and it definitely is), but the His Dark Materials trilogy is truly one from the ages. Containing more humanity and heart than Tolkien's work, more guts and insight than CS Lewis', and more timelessness than any fantasy released in the last twenty years, read these books if you have even a passing interest in fantasy and literature.

What amazon says: "In an epic trilogy, Philip Pullman unlocks the door to a world parallel to our own, but with a mysterious slant all its own. Dæmons and winged creatures live side by side with humans, and a mysterious entity called Dust just might have the power to unite the universes--if it isn't destroyed first. Join Lyra, Pantalaimon, Will, and the rest as they embark on the most breathtaking, heartbreaking adventures of their lives. The fate of the universe is in their hands."

Buy all three books... for a great bargain!

Thursday, January 25, 2007


“Will this at all amount to anything? Amen!”

I'm surprised by the lack of blog hype surrounding Swedish band Strip Music. During the past few years, they've created some great glam-infused synth rock. Their new album, Hollywood & Wolfman, has supplied some brilliant singles, with the Suede-sounding Headlights the best thing they've done so far. It's a big, boisterous record with cascading synths, giant riffs and an undeniable chorus, proving once again that the Swedes can do it all. In fact, I think this whole week will prove that!

mp3: Strip Music - Headlights
zshare: Strip Music - Headlights

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

Today I'm featuring two books (one adult, one children's) that are among my favorites, yet are relatively unknown. One is from the 80's, one from the 70's, but that's not where the differences end.

To the Vanishing Point by Alan Dean Foster
One of the few science fiction books I've actually enjoyed, I'm not quite sure why I latched onto this book. It's far from a literary masterpiece and much of the dialogue seems dated now, but I also find it to be one of the most imaginitive stories I've read. The book follows "all-American" family the Sonderbergs as they make their way to Las Vegas on a family vacation. Along the way, they pick up a beautiful hitchhiker, and everything starts to change. Reality begins to fall apart and the world becomes a strange series of nightmares and alternate realities.

The Brothers Lionheart by Astrid Lindgren
Lindgren, the Swedish author most famous for her Pippi Longstocking books, gives us a more serious tale here. Nangiyala is a peaceful and happy land that your journey to after you die. The book begins with a death (an odd start for a children's book) and most of the action takes place in Nangiyala. But, the land is no longer as peaceful as it once was. It's up to the Brothers Lionheart to save it.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


“So, your eyes gave me the blues”

Zeigeist are the third Swedish band in a row on the blog, but who can help it if Swede’s produce the best music in the world? Anyway, most of these electro-art-poppers’ tunes sound quite like The Knife, but I think that Chasing Your Shadow, a majestic slow builder, would be more at home on a Scissor Sisters record. Imagine it placed between, let’s say… The Other Side and It Can’t Come Quickly Enough, and I think you’ll see what I mean. What the track lacks in instantaneous pop pleasure, it more than makes up for with a flawless, lingering melody, even if I can‘t understand a word they’re saying!

mp3: Zeigeist - Chasing Your Shadow

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists! No album yet, but buy it when it's out!)


Briefly going back to comics/graphic novels today, Bone (try not to chuckle at the title, because it has nothing to do with what you're thinking) is one of the most fantastic fantasy sagas ever released in any format. Despite being entirely in black and white and utilizing simple, cartoon-like images, the series manages to effortlessly glide between comedy, melodrama and action.

Bone follows the adventures of the (who else?) Bone brothers, three strange creatures finding their way through a world full of dragons, rat creatures and other unpleasant and fantastical characters. The comic was published for twelve years by creator (and certified genius) Jeff Smith and the newest paperback released contains all 1300 pages of this glorious epic. Bone is one of the few adventures that is appropriate for all ages and enjoyed by all ages, a near impossible feat.

Those who like their fantasy laced with humor, intrigue and memorable characters should definitely check this out. Even though it's 1300 pages, it reads faster than you'd imagine.

Buy the epic!!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


"Love love love love love love out of line!"

Sweden’s The Lips have quite a throwback rock sound. The seventies-inspired (semi)soft rock track Love Out Of Line, with its lovely harmonized chorus and catchy verses could have easily been a hit in any decade. It’s just one of those songs that sounds like it fell together almost on its own. It’s a shame that a band this great is still unsigned, though I doubt that that’ll last for long. For those that like their rock and pop mixed in a catchy, sing-along style (think ELO, The Feeling, etc), check this out.

mp3: The Lips - Love Out Of Line
zshare: The Lips - Love Out Of Line

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists! No album yet, but buy it when it's out!)

Most of my favorite books (or movies, or music, or tv) deal with a similar theme: coming of age. Perhaps it's because that's precisely where I am in life right now, even though I haven't been in high school for nearly six years. Still, I find the teenage years to be the most interesting to read about, and these selections portray them brilliantly.

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
A captivating read, Wallflower's told exclusively through letters from Charlie (the young protagonist) to an undisclosed, mystery person. The letters are at times hilarious, at times quite dark, and always realistic. Wallflower seems to be the teen book of choice (at least in the States) and is considered by many as a modern classic. I've yet to recommend it to someone who hasn't loved it. Don't let the "MTV Books" label stop you from picking this up.

The Highest Tide by Jim Lynch
I read this when I was studying/working over in England last Spring/Summer. It was the perfect book at the time, because the setting is the Pacific Northwest, which is the area of the U.S. that I grew up in. For anyone who has grown up amongst tide pools, shoreline and the magic of the sea (or anyone who thinks that sounds interesting), this book will instantly ring true. It doesn't hurt that the main character, awkwardly fascinating Miles, and his sex obsessed best friend Phelps (with his "fuck you bangs"), are two of the most enjoyable characters since some guys called Tom and Huck.

Feed by M.T. Anderson
The only sci-fi book on my list today, Feed is extremely topical today and probably resonated with me more than any of the others here. A biting satire, the book shows us a (not-too) future world where computers, internet and television are surgically hooked up to everybody's brain, resulting in what is referred to as the Feed. What happens, though, when teenage boy Titus meets a girl who has ideas of going against the Feed? Needless to say, the ensuing struggle is harrowing, culminating in a wicked finale. It'll take a few chapters to get into this one, because even though the language is simple, Anderson has gone to great lengths to write in a post-Feed language. Brilliant book.

King Dork by Frank Portman
I can't say too much about this one, since I'm currently about a third through it. So far, though, the biting humor and near perfect writing have got me absolutely hooked. If you're into teen lit, music (and why would you be here if you weren't) and sarcasm, pick this up. I'm loving it so far!

Buy all!

Monday, January 22, 2007


"Hanna I know I never ever did do you right"

Juvelen calls himself the "one man boyband." I think he's selling himself short, because he is far more interesting than that. More interesting for any label, in fact. Juvelen (means "jewel" in Swedish) is recieving mountains of hype in Sweden, and for good reason. His current single Watch You Step, is a fine slice of catchy post-Prince pop, but I like Hanna better. Hanna is the kind of pop song that I seriously can't imagine anybody disliking. it is the kind of thing that Outkast promised us in that brief period where they made good pop... a wicked, surprising track that still manages to be conventional, catchier-than-should-be-allowed pop. In between sparkling synthesizer and funky guitars is pure genius. For the second time in less than two weeks, I'm afraid I'll have to use the word essential to decribe this.

mp3: Juvelen - Hanna

zshare: Juvelen - Hanna

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

I'm a big fan of story (teen and kid's, especially). It was a huge part of my college major and I'm currently working on writing several novels within the genre. So, in addition to regular posts this week, I'm going to spotlight some of my literature picks, culminating in..... drumroll..... the trilogy to end all trilogies! Do you know what it is??


Now, I grew up reading comic books (Marvel, btw... not that that'll probably mean much to a lot of you), so I was well ingratiated with the genre already. But, for those who have never read a "superhero" comic before (or at least not this one), I've got something very special to share with you today.

Premise: Hasn't everybody considered the fact that their parents might be evil at one point? For the young cast of Runaways, this isn't just a passing thought. After the gang witnesses their folks performing a human sacrifice, they (as the title points to) run away. But, their parents aren't going to let it be that easy.

Why it Rocks: Where do I start? Runaways has the best characterization (and the best characters) in comics today. Imagine Breakfast Club meets Buffy in a world of superheroes and you've got a good idea of what's in store. In fact, looking closer at the Buffy comparison, that show's creator, Joss Whedon, is actually set to take over the writing of the book when creator (and personal writing idol) Brian K. Vaughn leaves in a few issues. His reason? He's too big of a fan not to.
Back to characters... Runaways has got everything you could want in a teen dramedy. You've got a psychically-linked dinosaur (!), misunderstood jock, alternative witch girl... sexual confusion, body issues... everything. Plus, the dialogue is exactly what you would expect in a teen book: witty, sarcastic and quick. And, in case you thought the book was all laughs.... just recently fans witnessed one of the most shocking and affecting deaths in all of comics.
In addition to characterization, the book boasts the best plot twists you can imagine, almost one (if not more) per issue. The cast is forever changing and the plot thickens with every step the young runaways take. You never know where the story is going, even when you think you've got an idea.
Finally, I can't forget the art, given that this is a comic book/graphic novel. Without saying much, I will say that it is unique, playful and more effective than you can imagine.
I could go on and on (obviously) because I am so passionate about this book. I love it just as much as similar fare (the aforementioned Buffy).

How to get it: So far, Marvel has been kind enough to bind the issues into super-cheap digests, which make this one of the most accessible stories on the racks today. Buy and read it if you are a fan of Whedon or teen stories/movies/television at all. Knowledge of comic book continuity (nerd alert!) enhances the stories, but in no way is necessary.

Buy digest one!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Shins - Wincing The Night Away
Release Date: January 23, 2007
Label: Sub Pop

Wincing The Night Away, The Shins’ third full-length, follows two brilliant albums chock full of perfect indie-pop hooks and jaunty playfulness. So, why do they sound so dour now? Wincing opens up with the languid Sleeping Lessons, which with its prog overtones takes far too long to get going. It’s a taster of what’s to come.

While punchy hooks are still to be found (see first single Phantom Limb), they are often buried deeper this time around. For every Australia and Sea Legs, which hearken back to the band’s in-your-face pop songwriting, there are two more Sailor Girl-s and Split Needles, tracks that float along nicely enough but fail to linger after they’ve finished. The problem is not the slower tempo that permeates the record. After all, those that have followed the band know that they can be just as hooky and effective no matter what the tempo. The letdown is really in the songs themselves. It’s as if they have been blunted, dulled slightly so that when stacked against their peers, they just don’t work quite as well.

Don’t get me wrong, Wincing The Night Away is not a bad record. After all, it is The Shins, and I’d take them over many indie bands any day. More than anything, the album’s a comedown from their last release. It sounds like the work of a band in transition. Working elements of prog and stadium rock into their sound will work eventually (lead singer James Mercer’s voice suits it perfectly), but it’s not quite there yet. Once the guys figure it out, though, the next album should be crazy. B-

Key Tracks: Phantom Limb, Sea Legs, Australia
Before My Favorite Stars Were Stars

Today's post features some rare demos and/or EP tracks from some of the #1 Hits preferred artist roster. All were released before the bands' debut albums and are definitely of varying quality. Some of these bands hadn't quite found their sound yet (see The Ark, The Killers and Melody Club especially), while others (Scissor Sisters and UTIOG) came swinging right out of the gate. Even though every song may not be an instant classic, they are all interesting to hear.

1. Scissor Sisters - Step Aside For The Man
2. The Sounds - Bombs Bombs Away
3. The Ark - I Laid It Down
4. Under The Influence Of Giants - Beautiful
5. The Killers - Desperate
6. Surferosa - Disco Love
7. Don Juan Dracula - Sober
8. Melody Club - A Matter Of Days (Early Demo)