Tuesday, September 25, 2012

la petite fleur

Today, Kylie Minogue, everyone's favorite Aussie pop rocket delivered"Flower", the first single from her forthcoming longplayer "The Abbey Road Sessions".

A tender, sweeping ballad which was originally scheduled to appear on "X", has been given a new lease on life. Re-recorded for the current Abbey Road project, "Flower" sees Kylie eschewing her penchant for uptempo bottom wigglers in favor of a mature and sophisticated sound complete with gorgeous orchestral arrangements.

The video also sees a more demure Ms. Minogue floating through the black and white vignettes like a forest pixie spreading peace, joy and love throughout her soft focus countryside. Gauze and linen alert!

One wonders what other K25 celebratory goodies she has in store for the Minogue minions.

from the hip

One of Glasgow's finest, Deacon Blue, are back with "The Hipsters", their seventh longplayer since their auspicious debut 25 years ago.

First single, the the title track, is a panoramic, string driven number which beautifully details the interplay between Ricky Ross' urgent rasp and Lorraine McIntosh's gorgeous bell tones.

Lovely! Definitely up there with some of their finest singles which harkens back to the magnificence of some "Raintown" era epics.

"The Hipsters" is out now from all fine "shops".

Saturday, September 22, 2012

bright light in Brooklyn

Bright Light Bright Light recently dropped the vid for his forthcoming single, "Feel It", which is from his spectacular debut album, "Make Me Believe In Hope".

It features a cameo from Scissor Sisters member, Del Marquis. Watch as they throw some shapes on the streets of Brooklyn. Perhaps it's a little tribute to "West End Girls". You decide.

It's got that 90s vibe. Visually, some of the graphic sections remind me of videos from Black Box. And we finally get to see Mykal Kilgore, the person responsible for the diva pipes on the track. His voice give me goosebumps and finger tingles!

"Feel It" will hit the "shops" on October 29. As mentioned, BLBL commissioned a remix from yours truly and it will feature as part of the single configurations.

Friday, September 21, 2012


"Elysium", loosely named for Elysian Park, a green oasis in Los Angeles which offers an escape from the urban sprawl of the city, is the eleventh longplayer for Neil and Chris, collectively known as Pet Shop Boys for nearly 30 years.

The album is a turn away from the glitter synth stomp of previous album, "Yes". Therefore, with "Elysium", we find Neil and Chris in lush and low-key mode in a similar vein to "Behaviour" and "Release" after an extended period of laser sharp pop.

Like many artists and bands that have managed to maneuver through the pop landscape over a three decade career, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe find themselves in a significantly changed world. The music biz has been augmented by the dizzying world of social media, digital marketing, product portfolios and access-all-areas celebrity. How does a band famed for razor sharp wit, a slightly ironic bent and heartbreaking pathos carry on the manic, instant fix world of 2012?

Thankfully, ver Boys continue to move forward without much attention paid to their detractors. This has always allowed them to follow their musical instincts. They don't care if they're cool which, ironically, makes them very cool.

But this music biz malarkey can be a slippery slope. An artist's first elpee is usually the benchmark because it is the first. It's also, arguably, the most personal since they didn't have a fanbase until well after it had been released to an unsuspecting public.

Then the paradigm shift begins. Once success sets in, demands are placed on an artist or group. The label wants a surefire, successful follow up. The fans want more of the same. Something familiar to grab on to. And to expect a group like ver Boys to make the same album after 30 years is absurd. Following an artist on their journey is always fraught with unexpected, and sometime unwarranted, twists and turns. Ultimately, the creative soul needs to be fed and left to wander in its natural direction.

Some fans have been less than enthusiastic about a more mellow PSB longplayer. However, they should be reminded that an artist follows their creative vision. With rare exception, they should never listen to fans. If they did that, an artist would make the same album over and over again. Their audience would tire of them rather quickly. Instead, a group like PSB bend, twist and shape as they evolve. This is what makes longstanding artist thrive and their audience grow with them.

Of course, as time goes on and the journey continues, a group like PSB will always appeal to their core fanbase gaining less and less new followers along the way. Much like their alumni - Depeche Mode, The Cure and New Order - they thrive on their dedicated followers.

Enough about their demographics. Let's dig into the songs on "Elysium".

"Leaving", the opener, is one of the album's highlights. This is a perfect example in which "Elysium" is neither "Behaviour" nor "Release". Although, languid and serene, it isn't heavily electronic like the Harold Faltermeyer produced "Behaviour" and certainly doesn't flirt with the acoustic leaning arrangements of "Release". Therefore, "Elysium" stands on its own merits without ever being a pastiche or rehashing of their past work.

Sparse synths and low-key beats continue with "Invisible". The minimal arrangement, a cornerstone of "Elysium", allows Neil's vocal to stand out in front of the production. That gives the songs, many of which hint at mortality and the passing of time, a sense of fragility. Also, the lack of overt instrumental flourishes allow the listener to focus more on Neil's lyrics and their delivery. It enhances the grand beauty which envelops most of the album.

Then on to "Winner", the first official single from "Elysium". It's a bit chirpy following on from the somewhat sombre and eerie tone of "Invisible". As suspected, the song sounds better in context of the entire album.

Still, it's not one of my favorite singles ver Boys have issued, but I love the fact that they were inspired to write it as a tribute to the Eurovision Song Contest. With that knowledge, the song actually has grown on me a bit. With "Winner", the musical and lyrical references give the song a bit more weight and the sense of wry humor is more present given the topic.

"Your Early Stuff" is typically self-referential and self-mocking, which PSB do quite quite well. Mining a similar lyrical vein to "Yesterday, When I Was Mad" from "Very", this tango-esque number is based around outside observations and conversations which plague many artists of a certain age when their chart fortunes have somewhat faded after the white heat of their regal period.

The mood breaks on "Face Like That", a dark yet somewhat sparkly uptempo number which, with its chugging bass line and revved up siren synth line, sounds like it could have been easily at home on "Please" or "Actually". It's the one way back, retro PSB moment. The clanging cowbell, happy clappy rhythm and synth break at the beginning sound like a close relative to "Heart". To these ears, it sounds like it should be the third single from "Elysium".

Then the energy level is brought way back down to the pace of the rest of the album with "Breathing Space", a beautiful ballad. Very simple and straightforward.

Another slightly jarring moment follows when "Ego Music", an adroitly, outwardly observant track which lambastes today's vacuous celebrity culture. Quirky and jittery, it shows Neil's ability to for penning clever lyrics delivered with healthy dose of searing humor. Together, with "Your Early Stuff", PSB have throw down the gauntlet on a full scale indictment of the music biz. The next big things may come and go, but even through the stormiest of seas the most clever and creative remain.

The complete opposite can be said of "Hold On", one of the worst songs in the PSB cannon. It baffles the mind as to why this was not tossed onto a b-side. It's dull, insipid and overwrought with substandard West End vocal arrangements. It's a great big thud in the middle of an otherwise beautiful album.

"Give It A Go" is a groovy invitation to a potential suitor with a bit of a sixties swing to it. It has a sexy undertone with a slight lyrical tension which is all the more intriguing when you realize it's being sung by a 58 year old man. It gives the lyric a beautiful innocence and intelligence which could not be preformed by an artist in their youth. Very poignant for some of us in the over 40 crowd.

And that's where PSB have achieved something many heritage artists haven't. They have grown older with grace. There is a relationship with their core audience. Sometimes, an artist will try too hard to remain relevant to a younger audience. The key is to remain relevant to your ardent fanbase. You do this by simply growing with them. U2 and Madonna might want to rip a page out of the PSB playbook.

As we saunter into the sunset of the album's tracklisting, we get "Memory Of The Future", one of the more electronic tracks on "Elysium". It's another song about longing and the passage of time. Clearly, this is ver Boys in reflective mood. Experience in song, perhaps?

"Everything Means Something" is one of the more menacing tracks on the elpee which seems to be one where the protagonist and antagonist have a passive aggressive conversation within the context of the lyrics. The clever production changes and time signature shifts further accentuate the two sides of the conversation.

At the close of the album is the closest we get to a bang up to date version of "Being Boring". An elegy for a someone who has passed on. A gorgeous tribute to a fallen friend. Thoughtful and celebratory. Intelligent and sincere. No detail spared including the sound of their friend's motorcycle trailing off at the end.

And that's what makes "Elysium" a joyful listen. It's human. Among all of their work, under the sound of machines, Pet Shop Boys remain human at their core. This is the main reason they have retained such a strong fanbase. The music touches the lives of the listener which has always been and must remain one of the main tenets of popular music.

"Elysium" is a reflection of PSB's microcosm which, at its core, is what moves so many of us in our daily live. The album is an amalgamation of the thoughts, fears, triumphs, challenges and questions that swirl around our universe and thread us all together.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Can you feel it?

Everyone's  favorite Welsh pop troubadour, Rod Thomas (aka Bright Light Bright Light), will return with "Feel It", the fourth single from his devastatingly beautiful debut longplayer, "Make Me Believe In Hope". It is one of the finest pop albums of the year. If you haven't purchased it, your life is truly devoid of color and joy. So, what are you waiting for?

"Feel It" is a euphoric gem which is direct influenced by the finest dance music of the 90s. Shades of C+C Music Factory, Technotronic and Black Box abound. It's an anthemic and effervescent track which features Rod Thomas' urgent vocal riding on top of a chunky Italo house piano line. As the song barrels through its middle eight, an explosion of diva fierceness, delivered courtesy of Mykal Kilgore, bursts into the track and speeds through to an emphatic ending. Absolutely brilliant!

The tracklisting for the single, which hits the "shops" on October 29, will contain a new single edit of the track, as well as Bright Light Bright Light's old school 12" version of "Feel It". That should tickle the fancy of those of us that long for the days when we cherished the simplicity and effectiveness of an extended mix.

Additionally, the single for "Feel It" will include "Good Times", a non-album b-side. The tracklisting is fleshed out with a stadium sized remix of the lead track reswizzled by yours truly along with my sometime dancefloor associate, Steve Migliore. Together, we reworked previous BLBL single, "Waiting For The Feeling", which was very well received around the globe.

A video for "Feel It" has been lensed and should be available on the interwebs prior to the release of the single.

Monday, September 10, 2012

his sugar is raw

Robbie Williams returns with "Candy", the first single from his forthcoming ninth longplayer, "Touch The Crown".

The jaunty little number was written by Robbie and his Take That compadre, Gary Barlow. A slapstick vid was lensed for the quirky little single over two days at Spitalfields Market in London. Check out the colorful clip below.

Robbie has certainly returned with something upbeat and unexpected. Nothing brooding. Not a splash of synthy, filtered dance in the entire track. No forced hip hop leanings. Pure, unadulterated pop that only Robbie can deliver. In fact, Mr. Williams sounds rejuvenated after several years of navel gazing. May his pop flag continue to wave!

"Candy" will hit the "shops" on October 29.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

sax and violins for Kylie

As if by magic, only a day after the interwebs were swarming with excitement about it, Kylie Minogue revealed details of "The Abbey Road Sessions". It's a brand new album featuring sixteen reworked Kylie classics in an orchestral stylee. Whoop!

Actually, my initial thoughts on the subject of Kylie recording orchestral renditions of her biggest hits was less than enthusiastic. Seriously? Nobody really needs this. But upon hearing a few of the online teasers, I change my opinion and decided the lush treatments really suit la petite Minogue at this point in her career.

So, with lavish praise, I'm pleased to present the official tracklisting for "The Abbey Road Session", which, by the way, were recorded at the legendary Abbey Road Studios. Natch!

1. All The Lovers
2. On A Night Like This
3. Better The Devil You Know
4. Hand On Your Heart
5. I Believe In You
6. Come Into My World
7. Finer Feelings
8. Confide In Me
9. Slow
10. The Locomotion
11. Can't Get You Out Of My Head
12. Where The Wild Roses Grow
13. Flower
14. I Should Be So Lucky
15. Love At First Sight
16. Never Too Late

Nice, career spanning collection. Apparently, Nick Cave rerecorded his vocal on their famous duet, "Where The Wild Roses Grow", especially for this special collection. Sadly, it doesn't include my favorite Kylie tune, "Put Yourself In My Place". Oh, well. A boy can dream.

"The Abbey Road Sessions" will hit the "shops" on October 29. As previously mentioned, it will be preceded by "Flower" as a single.

Monday, September 3, 2012

new shoes

After an eight year hiatus, husky voiced songstress Tanita Tikaram returns from the wilderness with "Dust On My Shoes", the lead single from her eighth longplayer "Can't Go Back".

"Can't Go Back" will include ten brand new songs inspired by Tanita's new found love of Americana. The special edition of the album will feature a bonus disc featuring eight acoustic performances of songs from throughout Tanita's twenty-five year career.

The official tracklisting for the standard edition of the album features Tanita's sensuous vocals wrapped around the following ten tunes.

1. All Things To You
2. Dust On My Shoes
3. Make The Day
4. Rock & Roll
5. Science
6. Keep It Real
7. Can't Go Back
8. Heavy Pressure
9. One Kiss
10. If The World Should Want For Love

For a quick reminder of Tanita's powerful songwriting finesse, look no further than "Twist In My Sobriety", the second single from her debut, "Ancient Heart". The single peaked at #22 on the UK chart in 1988. It also features the second best use of an oboe in a chart hit behind "Life In A Northern Town" by The Dream Academy.

Aussie flower at Abbey Road

Looks like everyone's favorite Aussie pop rocket, Kylie Minogue, is continuing her K25 celebration. A new single, "Flower", is slated to hit the "shops" on September 25. Apparently, it will be issued as the lead single from the Abbey Road sessions project, which is tentatively scheduled to be released in November.

"Flower" was a track recorded during the sessions for "X", but never made the album. Kylie performed it as part of her 2008 tour and the song quickly became a fan favorite.

"Flower" is one of the tracks from "X" that never managed to leak in its studio incarnation. For the new longplayer, it will be completely reworked with an orchestra along with a number of other career spanning, Kylie favorites.

A few tasters have appeared on the interwebs since the beginning of the year. "Finer Feelings", originally from Kylie's last album for PWL, is among the highlights.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

crown heights affair

After a triumphant return to Take That, Robbie Williams will return with "Take The Crown", his ninth solo longplayer on November 5.

It was recorded in Los Angeles with producer Jacknife Lee who has previously worked with rock luminaries U2 and REM.

The first single from the elpee will be "Candy", co-written by Take That cohort Gary Barlow. It will hit the "shops" on October 29.

"Take The Crown" will be issued in two flavors - standard and deluxe. The official tracklisting for the standard version features the following eleven songs.

1. Be A Boy
2. Gospel
3. Candy
4. Different
5. Shit On The Radio
6. All That I Want
7. Hunting For You
8. Into The Silence
9. Hey Wow
 Yeah Yeah
10. Not Like The Others
11. Losers

The deluxified edition will feature two bonus tracks, "Reverse" and "Eight Letters", as well as three video vignettes which document the making of the album and the video for the first single.

Apparently, the goal for "Take The Crown", his first album with Universal after his long affiliation with EMI, was to fill it full of potential singles. Let's hope that is the case since it has been quite some time since RW has come up with a longplayer bristling with pop perfection.