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Friday, November 19, 2010

September - Mikrofonkåt

"Från slussen hornstull zinkensdamm Vietnam"

Swedish dance-popper September has two new singles out. One is the launch single from her new album (Love CPR), Resuscitate Me, and the other is a cover of Petter's Mikrofonkåt. They're both great (as September singles tend to be), though right now I'd give the slight edge to the Swedish track. While the string-assisted grandeur of Resuscitate Me deserves attention, Mikrofonkåt is just a little punchier and more unexpected. I'm psyched for the new album, though. September albums are always a treat. She's one of the few artists that makes this type of dance-pop as epic and creative as it should be -- kind of like the Swedish Kylie Minogue. It's bound to do very well in Sweden (Mikrofonkåt went straight to number one on itunes), but the bigger question is what will the new music do in the UK. She was able to score a big hit a couple years ago with her best song, Cry For You. Will she be able to repeat that success?

September - Mikrofonkåt by alienhits

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists. Buy the U.S. album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Track-by-Track: Take That - Progress

I've never listened to an entire Take That album before -- not in their 90's heyday, not during their 00's resurgence. And before I heard the lead single from this, I wasn't too excited about a new album (even one with Robbie Williams). So take this review for what it is: the thoughts of a casual (relatively indifferent) fan. What I can say for sure, though, is that producer Stuart Price has certainly had a good year. If his 2010 album work was a trilogy, this would be the epic conclusion. It's as much his record as it is Take That's.

1. The Flood - The band have enjoyed a string of massive hit ballads over the past few years, but it seems that it was all building up to this. It's an incredibly majestic, redemptive song. The perfect comeback, produced to utter perfection. 10/10

2. SOS - This is where the album takes a startlingly (excellent) turn. It's a full-on paranoid dance track -- not what I would've expected from the new Take That. The interchange between vocalists works wonders and this again supports my theory that any song with SOS in the title is bound to be a good one. 9/10

3. Wait - A string-laden midtempo with more of an r&b sound to it. I like how this carries on the electronic elements, but it's one of my least favorite on the album. It sounds a little too mainstream compared to the more experimental aspects of other tracks. 8/10

4. Kidz - This is a big, apocalyptic track... a cross between Muse and the We Will Rock You musical. It's got a cast-of-thousands sound to it, with a heavy glam beat, dramatic stomps, and a sneering Robbie vocal. Excellent. 10/10

5. Pretty Things - This couldn't possibly sound any more like Bowie. It's a languid, distorted music box ballad that didn't hit me on first listen but grows each time I hear it. It's more a solo Robbie song than anything, but it's a great one. 9/10

6. Happy Now - We've now entered the second half of the album, which is stronger than the first. This kicks it off quite soaringly. It transforms from a tricky verse to a pulsing disco chorus. It's the most immediate song on the album. 10/10

7. Underground Machine - Less instant, but just as impressive. This is one of the more experimental sounds for them -- big glam swagger, industrial guitar riff and a loopy falsetto chorus. Like a lot of songs here, it's basically a Robbie solo track, but unlike anything you've heard from him before. 10/10

8. What Do You Want From Me - Though I would've chosen a different vocalist for this, there's no denying the strength of this song. It's like Fire With Fire part two. It's got that ballad vs. dance track sound that Stuart Price produces so well. It builds to something pretty epic at the end. 10/10

9. Affirmation - A perfect seque from the last track, this has quickly grown into one of my favorites. It's got a dramatic prog sound to it, with Bowie-esque verses that build into an explosive chorus. I'm amazed that this is even the same band as the Take That of the nineties. 10/10

10. Eight Letters - The big closing ballad. The lyrics are highly self-referential and autobiographical. It's probably closest to the sound of the previous two albums and seems to utilize the entire band more fully than on most of the album, which is fitting given the meaning behind the song. 9/10

11. Flowerbed - Technically a bonus track, but it's on every version of the album so it'll feature in my review. This tender ballad opens with processed vocals for the first minute or so before revealing a simple, delicate melody. It feels a little unfinished, almost like an interlude, but it's certainly pleasant. 7/10

Album Grade: 9.2/10

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My Chemical Romance - Bulletproof Heart

"Gravity don't mean too much for me"

Regardless of what I think about their music, I'll always have a little connection with My Chemical Romance. Back when I had black hair, I was constantly mistaken for Gerard Way. In fact, when I was living in England (during the Black Parade era), I was even asked for an autograph in the bathroom of a mall (awkward...). I was a huge fan of the Black Parade album and thought it represented a promising shift in sound for the band. That shift has continued a little bit on the new record but, at least on first listen, I'm nowhere near as impressed with the results. I'm not against shouting and screaming in music, but without a memorable melody it's just that: shouting and screaming. My opinion could change the longer I sit with the music, but there were a handful of tracks that hit me on first listen. Bulletproof Heart is the first album track after the single and got me excited to hear what was coming next. It's got the melodic, bombastic sound of their last album with a great hook and a wicked, punchy guitar riff. I wish it was a better representation of the album as a whole, because a dozen tracks of this quality and I'd be over the moon. I guess I just like it when Gerard sings.

My Chemical Romance - Bulletproof Heart by alienhits

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists. Preorder the album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Robyn - Call Your Girlfriend

"It's time you had the talk"

I realize I'm a little behind the blogosphere on this, but there's been so much good music recently that I couldn't quite get to writing about these new Robyn songs until now. She remains the most exciting thing in pop at the moment and the tracks that conclude her Body Talk project are further proof of that. She's just the perfect pop star for our times, made even more perfect by the fact that she writes her own stuff. A Robyn song is instantly recognizable for its cleverness, powerful sense of melody and innovation. She's a leader in every sense of the word. The four new tracks are uniformly awesome, but this one just edges out the others as my favorite. The vocals are set to soaring and assisted by a moody dance beat that melds pop and electro in a perfect marriage. And that dramatic refrain, which intensifies each time it comes back, is one of the best moments of the entire project. Rarely has a song sung from the perspective of a mistress sounded so convincing. It's been an exciting year to be a Robyn fan.

Robyn - Call Your Girlfriend by alienhits

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists. Preorder the album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Track-by-Track: Short Stack - This Is Bat Country

I get the impression from reviews and editorial coverage that Short Stack are one of the planet’s most critically hated bands. I’m not sure what they did to deserve this, other than being an easy target for bitter listeners. Sure, their debut, for the most part, was nothing special and completely derivative (aka: the exact type of emo-rock I moaned about when Fall Out Boy popularized it a few years ago), but every band deserves a second chance. And I’m here to make an audacious (and possibly unpopular?) announcement. Short Stack have released one of the best albums of 2010. Yep, one of the best. It takes me back to when rock music was fun. Huge choruses, even bigger guitar riffs, and charisma to spare.

1. Bat Country - A chugging, atmospheric opener that sets the gothic tone (though not sound) of the album. It's not my favorite uptempo on the album, but it's a great introduction to the album as a whole. And I'll probably mention it again, but Shaun deserves major props for his vocals. They're just dripping attitude the entire time. 9/10

2. The Cross - A short piano intro to the next track (the same that's heard in the music video). No scores for interludes, though.

3. Planets - A huge hit for them, and deservedly so. To be honest, this song didn't fully hit me until about the third listen. After that, it stuck and still hasn't faded in my opinion. It's a real standout of their new sound. Big guitar riffs, choirs (or at least choir-processed vocals) and a real glam swagger. 10/10

4. Are You Afraid Of The Dark - Massive overload of the systems. This is just awesome. It's got a real sleazy funk to it and the final forty seconds rock harder than anything I've heard all year. It's an anthem tailor made for stadiums. It's even got a bit of an industrial Marilyn Manson vibe to it in the chorus (in the best way possible). 10/10

5. Werewolves - A string-laden ballad that's at once a little silly and pretty touching. The chorus is addictive from the get-go (especially the amusing howls), and although it could easily be a novelty track, the symphonic backing's anything but throwaway. It's a hit waiting to happen, and could function as a metaphor for many listeners. 10/10

6. The Cannons - Another short interlude. Specifically, the chant that features at the beginning of the Disco video.

7. We Dance To A Different Disco, Honey - This is already on its way to being massive and, like Planets, it took me a few listens to warm up to. But it's a total standout -- an adrenaline pumping dance-rock anthem. It's got the energy of a full-blown riot and may just end up functioning as the band's catchphrase and rallying cry. 10/10

8. The Mercury - The first of two song fragments featured on the deluxe version of the album. A slow-burning, dramatic My Chemical Romance-type sound.

9. Heartbreak Made Me A Killer - Another absolute highlight. This is as poppy as the album gets, with a huge Queen-inspired hook and an 80's sleaze disco beat. One of the best melodies on the album. Shaun absolutely shines here. The vocal delivery is what makes this really work. He's a star, plain and simple. 10/10

10. Wendy - The big, 80's power ballad of the album. This sounds a lot like Poison (the Every Rose Has Its Thorn era) and has a ridiculously cheesy (aka: awesome) drum fill towards the middle. As clichéd as it sounds, a total lighters in the air moment. 10/10

11. Sweet December - A successful single last year, this is the closest the band veer towards their old sound on this album. It's a dynamite pop/rock track, though. Great, great melody. There's something very Swedish-sounding about this (think The Sounds, The Ark, etc.) 10/10

12. Ruby Red - This suffers a bit coming off of the string of songs before it, mostly because it sounds like the poor man's Wendy. It's not immediately the most impressive ballad, but that's not saying it's bad (in fact, the big chorus is pretty impressive). It's just not quite as good as the rest. 8/10

13. The Thunder - A short interlude of heavy drums, which leads perfectly into...

14. Jack The Ripper - Back on track, and with a vengeance. This gothy track is big on percussion and attitude. It's one of the simplest melodies (and shortest running times) on the album, but also one of the most effective. Totally single worthy. So, so cool. 10/10

15. Sweet Emergency - The second short song fragment. I prefer it to the first. It's nothing completely necessary, but provides a nice segue into the next track.

16. Die Young, Stay Pretty - This is an odd one. It almost has a Sweeney Todd feel to it. Definitely dramatic and theatrical, though it sounds substantially older than the rest of the album -- like a weird old gothic folksong. 9/10

17. Nothing At All - A big ballad to close the album. The strings and vocals are turned up to full tilt on this one. It's still not as good as some of the earlier ballads, but it's grown on me a lot from the first listen. The chorus really gets under your skin. 9/10

Album Grade: 9.6/10

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