Monthly Archives: February 2012

Single: Madonna – “Girl gone wild” (2012)

So um… what happened to that lead single? I liked it, but it didn’t seem to catch alight in the UK or the US (though it managed a top 10 Stateside off the back of the Superbowl). Let’s just move on then, she certainly seems to be, as the second single premiered yesterday. I think the problem is just that people don’t know it’s out, the number of people I’ve spoken to that weren’t even AWARE that she’d got a single out…

Nice tits (not that I was looking). So “Girl gone wild” is a pretty balls-out (or tits-out) dance pop song with Italian producer Benny Benassi at the helm. If the name sounds familiar, you probably remember his hit “Satisfaction” from ten(!) years ago. More pertinently he did the video remix of Madonna’s “Celebration” single back in 2009, parts of which you can hear in this at times.

Consequently it sounds like a remix of a song instead of a song itself. I imagine it working well in clubs, it’s pretty standard dance fare, but in a way that’s disappointing for a pioneer such as Madonna. The chorus is a bit limp, that “hey-ey-ey” bit is memorable, but it’s just so repetitive. The lyrics generally sound like they’ve been auto-generated by some eurodance lyric tombola, and her vocals have so many effects applied to them, you wonder how this would even sound live.

It’s not a bad song by any means, but at least “Give me all your luvin” has a bit of a personality to it. If this is a hit-chasing effort (and if this turns out to be the final mix), it pales in comparison to smash comebacks like J.Lo’s “On the floor”, it doesn’t have much Madonna about it. I’m not going to worry too much about the album yet, and part of me still believes she can turn it around, despite the best efforts of the internet queens to paint this as the apocalypse of her career.

One common criticism is that “she should be doing something her own age”, usually twinned with her having to make ground-breaking pop music. Now I can’t see that particular deadlock getting resolved. People her age don’t do pop, so that leaves her with a choice – the mature route of nice flowery dresses, sweepy ballads and certainly no sex (after all, vaginas cease to exist after a certain age). Or just stick to increasingly gay-interest pop music that never gets playlisted, and just hope she’ll get a “Believe” before she’s consigned to the pop retirement village.

I can’t imagine she’s weak-willed enough to be pushed around by her label, so I can only assume she wants to do this sort of music. So why not? I admit I’m a bit bemused that something as wishy-washy and nondescript as this is the lead-in single for “MDNA”, but she usually knows what she’s doing. Even her relative flop albums were enjoyable (perhaps even moreso than some hit albums, in my opinion), so God knows at least wait until we’ve heard it. Or we can just all fall over each other in a race to denounce her in the snarkiest putdowns that we can imagine, for the sake of a bit of attention. That all seems a bit unimaginative though, doesn’t it?

 

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Single: The Sundays – “Cry” (1997)

I’ve been overdoing it a bit with the reviews, let’s see what iTunes can shuffle up for us… a second single from The Sundays’ 1997 album “Static and Silence” (No relation to The Saturdays).

You might know The Sundays best from their 1990 song “Here’s where the story ends”, their only UK top 5 hit, which was also covered by Tin Tin Out in 1998 with the help of the honey-voiced Shelley Nelson. The album also produced another hit “Summertime”, which I thought was really… summery for want of a better word.

I’ve largely missed out on their catalogue, but bought the album on the strength of the two singles, having seen it on The Chart Show (God, I am feeling old now). As I got used to with their album, this is a pretty laid-back track, with a memorable guitar riff and some gorgeous string sections. I love that Italian-sounding (yeah I don’t know what it’s called) shimmering away in that lovely middle-eight.

The video really sticks in my mind too, black and white, with people of varying shapes and sizes climbing a diving board in a sparse black environment. They nervously jump off one by one, and that’s about it. I don’t know why that made such an impact on me, it’s really sad somehow. Who knows, I was 15 at the time, I was probably feeling uncertain about something-or-other, and worried about the future as most neurotic teens are.

Lead singer Harriet Wheeler has quite a timid voice but a lovely tone to it, light and airy without sounding too forced or sickly. They sound like quite a lovely band really, and it’s almost a surprise they even got to a third album, with Harriet and founding member David Gavurin getting married and raising a child after their second album. I think after 15 years, here was where the story ended eventually, but a lovely note to go out on.

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Album: ABBA – “The Visitors” (1981)

At this point in their career, ABBA were slowly falling apart, with both marriages in the band having come to an end. I think that’s why the songs on this album never really crossed over in the way that some of their happier hits had done, perhaps due to how ABBA are viewed now. It’s accepted that the songs have aged well, but their songs seem to be branded as camp classic more than anything, with their more introspective moments consigned to karaoke melodrama hell.

I guess it’s just what you make of it, if people are still enjoying ABBA then that’s great, it’s just a shame it didn’t do this album any favours. After the pop juggernaut of Super Trouper, this is a real change of pace. More experimental in some ways, certainly a sadder record, but with a few elements of the earlier ABBA material in there. Above all that, it does feel like a goodbye record, doesn’t it? Anyway, let’s just get on with it.

(originally posted June 2011)

07 The Visitors – Definitely a detour from their usual sound, a spooky intro with a few sparse effects. The distorted vocals even make me think of some eastern influences, a la Ray of Light. I don’t know. They get into more familiar territory about halfway through, some manic verse and finally a big hook to bring it all back together. I know a few people really like this but it doesn’t quite set me alight. Not quite sure why they are cracking up, or who the visitors are though.

08 Head over heels – God I love that weird plinky-plonky intro, never heard anything quite like that. A bit of Latin influence here, can I hear? I like the whole production, but it ends up a lot less interesting than the intro made me think, despite its return towards the end. It’s a lot more melody-driven than The Visitors, so that makes it easier for me to get into, but the chorus doesn’t really work for me (god, I hate this negativity so far).

09 When all is said and done – Well if I hadn’t picked up on it before, the divorce(s) certainly make an appearance here with a quite disarmingly upfront song about how nobody is to blame, but how it’s still totally devastating. The vocals are full of passion and emotion, it gives me goosebumps sometimes. Yet it’s still a great melodic song, from that warm intro to the quite light production that lets the vocals take the spotlight.

10 Soldiers – Love that beat from the start, and once everything else kicks in, it’s just got such a sad feel to it. I presume this is Cold War-related, my history isn’t good on this, so I’m not sure specifically what this is about. That chorus just kills me every time though. An interesting melody with harmonies that really stick in my mind. They almost sound upbeat, but obviously they aren’t. I feel a bit stupid even writing about this album as it’s clear to me that I don’t know a lot of the background info needed to really appreciate it.

08 I let the music speak – After that high point, I’m not quite sure this measures up. It’s an odd one, starting off as a pretty standard ballad but emerging as something more theatrical. There are some really interesting changes of mood in here, the synths for a few seconds before the second verse, the choir in the chorus, some more eastern influences for some fleeting seconds. It’s an intriguing song certainly, but after many listens I’m still not really sure what it IS.

10 One of us – Now, the one song I DID know, and the only real hit from the album. Despite coming dangerously close to reggae, this is just a dream to listen to. That choral intro, the lovely bridge leading onto a gorgeous chorus. Very simple melodically but very relatable, the harmonies are wonderful. Just filled with regret at relationship mistakes past, it’s a beautiful pleading track. That’s about all I need to say really. I’m sure Ace of Base were a fan of this one too…

09 Two for the price of one – Oh, time for the boys to have a go isn’t it? I can imagine this is quite a divisive track, especially given the serious tone of the rest of the album. I mean it’s a rather strange song about getting a multibuy offer on the dating pages of a newspaper. I don’t really know if it has any depth apart from being quite a sweet little story. The chorus is catchy as hell, even reminds me of Fleetwood Mack a bit. It’s just simple and just makes me love them really…

08 Slipping through my fingers – Some standard balladeering now, this time I guess it’s about losing someone slowly and how awful it feels for it to be so drawn-out. I think in this case it’s about a friend instead of a lover, but still has an impact. It does capture that feeling well though, and the production doesn’t ham it up too much. “I watch her go, with a surge of that well-known sadness, and I have to sit down for a while” :(.

07 Like an angel passing through my room – A sad one to finish, the ticking clock, the lullaby feel to the song, like it’s time to go to sleep now the fun is over. Not really sure what the angel is referring to, but it feels right for this to be the closing track, even if it only features one of them. Then the clock winds down, and it’s over…

So that’s that, the last studio album. A bit of a mixed bag for me, particularly off the back of the poptastic previous album. It has such an intriguing feel to it though, I almost feel that it’s a bit wasted on me though. It’s easy to throw around words like ‘mature’ and ‘complex’, and I guess they are all appropriate, but I think that does a bit of disservice to their earlier work. It’s just that in this case the album isn’t really going for hits, perhaps they already knew this was going to be the last one, which allowed them to be a bit freer in their output.

Special mention to that artwork too, very evocative of how I imagine the band to have been at that point. Still together, but lost in their own little worlds, not able to paper over the divides between them. What do I know about art or emotions anyway, I did maths at school.

Keepers for the iPod: Head over heels, When all is said and done, Soldiers, One of us, Two for the price of one, Slipping through my fingers:

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Album: Kate Bush – “Hounds of Love” (1985)

Time to release the Hounds finally. I was quite excited about this, I was dimly aware of its status as the big smash album, and already knew it housed two signature tunes. Rather naively I thought this meant a more commercial feel to the album.

I suppose it SORT of is for the first half, but ultimately it doesn’t feel any more commercial than earlier efforts (except The Dreaming perhaps). Not that it should count against it but I guess I didn’t find it as accessible as I was expecting.

(originally posted April 2010)

09 Running up that hill: Well possibly her 2nd most famous single, and definitely deserving of that. Great beat, easy to get into with a memorable chorus. I always assumed this was about trading places with someone who was going to die, but apparently it’s the old gender divide in play. I love the video, all very emotive. I think the 5-minute length detracts a little but it does get a bit more layered at the halfway point, and I like the way it plays out in the last 30 seconds.

09 Hounds of love: Now I know this originally from the Futureheads cover (which I LOVE), and sadly I’m always comparing it to that. I know that will attract outrage but that’s just the way it works sometimes. But I do love this, I don’t know what the hounds are a metaphor for in this case, can’t even guess, that probably doesn’t help me either. The title suggests she is running away from love (literally), maybe that’s why I can’t RELATE. I love the music though, great beat, string accompaniment etc

09 The Big Sky: Oh I love this too, really uplifting. Sounds a bit faux-mental in parts which I’m never a fan of, but very pleasant. I guess its frothy nature is suppose to be something about being young and looking at clouds. I love the African sound of the backing singers after a while, has a great energy to it. Does go on a little too long though, doesn’t seem to change much throughout its duration.

07 Mother stands for comfort: A change of pace now, reminiscent of earlier albums. Guess Kate is up to no good but Mother is letting it slide. I don’t know much about Kate herself, is this a dead mother song? It’s quite nice but not really into it.

08 Cloudbusting:
I thought this would be a bit more familiar as the name rings a bell, but it wasn’t really. I love the strings in this, another little fragment that reminds me of Madonna’s Like a Prayer. It’s not a hugely exciting track but I am a little fond. I’m having a little trouble with the mixing on this album generally, maybe it’s just my speakers but she is a bit too loud or resonant, either the volume is too low for me to appreciate the production or her voice swamps it. Anyway, sweet song.

08 And dream of sheep: A mini-song, very pretty. Not really sure what it’s about, but it marks the return of that weird telephone-voice effect that I fell in love with during The Dreaming. Is that the shipping forecast I hear? I like it without really working out why, she seems rather fragile and just wants a big hug.

07 Under Ice: I’m proper scared of falling under ice, and Kate evidently agrees (unless, sigh, it’s metaphorical ice). Some of the lyrics do come over a bit “forced Year 11 poetry”, but I – again – like this for whatever reason. It’s like a bad dream, she realises this scary thing underneath the ice is HER. Then there is that weird humming at the end … *shudder* WAKE UP

08 Waking the witch: This took me a while, again I love the little recorded voices, they just really disarm me, keep giving me shivers when one pops up right next to my ear. By this point I’m expecting the scary juddery effect when the ‘witch’ wakes up, but then someone makes me even MORE surprised. I don’t know what she’s trying to do with this but it is all a bit disorienting and creepy. In a backwards way that makes me more fascinated by it. A definite love/hate relationship with this, but at least it’s not BORING. Look who’s come to SEE YOU!

06 Watching you without me: My ‘fan fave’ sense is tingling, so I’m braced for the worst when I say I’m not really liking this. I can’t understand what she’s saying for a large portion. I guess this about a broken relationship that Kate’s not getting over in a hurry. Just doesn’t do a lot for me.

07 Jig of Life: A full on Irish blowout now, which I like, got a nice sense of urgency to it without feeling too quaint. Glad it snaps out of it after about 1:45 otherwise it would have just been too repetitive. It’s all good but I’m having trouble having strong feelings about it. The “I put this moment … OVER HERE!” is a bit … hmm.

10 Hello Earth:
Is it time for the doom and gloom again already? In time-honoured tradition this has a big impact on me. Sounds like Earth is OVER and Kate has jumped ship. I LOVE the instrumentation on it, so mournful and full of strings, the drama. THEN the choir kicks in with a funeral dirge for dead Earth, magic. This whole song just makes my hairs stand up on end. We aren’t given any reason as to why it happened, climate change? Asteroid-caused Tsunami? The more I think, I think Kate died in the disaster and is watching it from some remote spiritual outpost. Anyway I LOVE this.

06 The morning fog: Erm… change in tone much?! Hello Earth would have been a perfect (depressing) closer, why did they tack this fluff on the end? Doesn’t do it for me, feels like a bonus track and sadly dispels the gravitas of the previous track. Doesn’t really go anywhere. BOO.

SO. Well looking back at my scores, I think it went pretty well. It did lose its way in the 2nd half for me, but I guess she raised the stakes with the opening salvo. I doubt I’ll ever think of this as my favourite Kate album, but still pretty strong, and as always it has its moments.

Keepers for the iPod: Running up that hill, Hounds of love, The Big Sky, Cloudbusting, Waking the witch (!), Hello Earth.

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Melodifestivalen 2012 review: Heat 3 (Leksand)

Third heat already? This doesn’t feel like such a vintage year yet, though there are plenty of nice pop songs coming through (just not necessarily to the final). Let’s just hope that the prophecised Danny Saucedo victory is as satisfying (and successful) as I hope it might be.

So on to Leksand for the third heat, and another eight hopefuls. I haven’t read the result yet, so let’s hope it wasn’t as disappointing as last week’s outcome.

 

08 Maria BenHajji – I mina drömmar – God I love Swedish, it’s such an interesting sounding language, all those weird vowel sounds. Anyway a cosy lovely start and gentle accompaniment. A bit Disney (but that’s not a bad thing), her voice is really sweet and tender, but as we move through the climactic the vocals get a chance to stretch. I can’t see it doing much business in Baku, but it’s really nicely done, and I love stuff like this. I didn’t see Austria’s entry last year being up to much, but that was a lovely surprise.

07 Mattias Andréasson – Förlåt mig – More Swedish language music now, but more of an R’n’B tilt to it. It’s still got that dreamy synth feel to it, there’s something about Swedish music that just had a particular FEEL somehow. Anyway, this is a pretty by-the-book track in the same way as Maria, but I don’t prefer this genre particularly. It’s nice and listenable, but doesn’t leave a big impact on me sadly.

08 Love Generation – Just a little bit – Right, attempt number two for RedOne-backed the three-piece girlband (formerly four-piece). They might have gone for the full electro-pop experience last year, crashing out in Andra Chansen, but they’ve changed their sound for their next try. It’s almost unrecognisable as RedOne, a sort of electo-rock-pop thing, with a tight chorus, even if the verses aren’t particular memorable. It’s certainly instant enough to get people into it, I wonder if this can make it to the final, I hope so.

07 Carolina Wallin Pérez – Sanningen – A bit of a retro sound now, strumming guitars etc. I like her tone of voice, quite old fashioned somehow. It’s an odd structure, but it’s good if a little downbeat. Again I don’t see it doing the business in Baku, or getting the mass appeal to even get that far, but variety is the spice of life isn’t it?

08 Björn Ranelid & Sara Li – Mirakel – A strange one now, a pretty full-on trancy track, like a Sash! song or something, with a dash of Cascada. I’ve seen a glimpse of this guy, and got the impression he’s supposed to be some sort of evangelist. Without this angle, it’s a decent musical track, even if the spoken-word segments are a little strange in a contest such as this, I’d hate a novelty song to swoop through for non-musical reasons, but I’ve certainly heard worse.

06 Andreas Johnson – Lovelight – Ugh, some people just don’t get the hint do they? I can’t remember how many times Andreas has entered Melodifestivalen, and sure as anything it’s another uptempo indie-ish singalong. This isn’t really doing much for me at all, there’s certainly a nice hook in there, but his voice is a bit nasal and annoying. It’s all a bit banal lyrically, so I’d rather this didn’t get through.

09 Youngblood – Youngblood – Talking of banal lyrics… a template boyband singing a theme song for themselves. “Youngblood, Youngblood, I wanna be I wanna be, a youngblood heartbeat here tonight” ?!? It’s just a load of easy-to-sing lyrics that don’t mean anything. I mean pop-wise it’s catchy enough (just about), the singing is adequate, but it’s like an Eric Saade clone experiment, only they are cloning “Manboy” era Eric instead of “Popular” Eric. The key-change and subsequent climax is enough to do the job, but I feel a little empty. Still, YAY POP LOL

07 Molly Sandén – Why am I crying? – Did I hear that the writer of “Empty Room” is doing a song this year? Is this it? It certainly doesn’t sound too dissimilar, though the tone of the song is totally opposite, she doesn’t WANT this other guy back (or does she really?). I think it’s a cry for help, I’m not buying it. Anyway it’s sweet enough but doesn’t really have the vocal selling point that really sets fire to the best ballads. It just sort of finishes without much fanfare, boo. Oh I just realised that if she’s crying, then obviously she DOES want him back, how dense am I?

So there we have it, another middling bunch. I think the consistency puts it above heat one, but didn’t have songs I really liked in the way that heat two did. I can’t see a winner in this bunch, so I’m hoping they are holding back some aces for the final heat on Saturday.

Oh well, the results!! Molly and the Mirakel song both went straight to the final, I get the Molly appeal really, but I think something else is at play with the Mirakel song. Still, it was reasonable if a little odd. Youngblood and Andreas made it to Andra Chansen in 2 weeks time, that sounds about right. Poor Love Generation 😦 the others I’m not too fussed about, though Maria coming last is a bit rubbish. Never mind, let’s hope heat four is amazing (come on, Danny!)

Keepers for the iPod: I mina drömmar, Just a little bit, Mirakel, Youngblood

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