Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Personal Chart, 3/1/2008

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 1 .... Mercy - Duffy (2 weeks @ #1)
2 .... 2 .... Wow - Kylie Minogue (1 wk @ #1)
3 .... 3 .... Don't Stop the Music - Rihanna
4 .... 4 .... A&E - Goldfrapp
5 .... 5 .... I Thought It Was Over - The Feeling
6 .... 6 .... Chasing Pavements - Adele (3 wks @ #1)
7 .... 9 .... With You - Chris Brown
8 .... 8 .... Apologize - Timbaland Featuring OneRepublic (2 wks @ #1)
9 ... 10 ... Superstar - Lupe Fiasco Featuring Matthew Santos
10 .. 13 .. Stop and Stare - OneRepublic

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Singles roundup

What I am listening to...

Supernatural Superserious - R.E.M. They're back! Guitars up full, this is a rocking return.

Can't Speak French - Girls Aloud. For the Tangled Up single they chose one of my favorites.

Touch My Body - Mariah Carey. Dumb title aside, this breezy piano and beats single finds Carey at her best. Should be a massive hit, keeping up the post-Mimi fervor.

No Air - Jordin Sparks featuring Chris Brown. Jordin's last single, thin-sounding "Tattoo," didn't wow me, but I've grown to like this atmospheric and tuneful follow-up.

Better in Time - Leona Lewis. Leona's second single. No "Bleeding Love," but not bad. The mid-tempo track keeps up the adult-leaning mid-'90s Mariah Carey sound she's pushing.

See You Again - Miley Cyrus. I decided I had to see what all the fuss is about. Not wonderful, but not bad. Her voice sounds like Hilary Duff sent through the reverb machine a few more times.

What I'm not...

Denial - Sugababes. The Change singles have not been doing it for me. "About You Now" was okay, but no "Push the Button." "Change" was uninspiring. Now we have "Denial," which I just can't get behind. Sorry girls.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Final Oscar Predictions

The Oscars are now just 3 hours away. Here are my final predications and notes on every category.

Picture (not very competitive): No Country for Old Men has it in the bag. While it's not perfect, none of the other four has what it takes to unseat it. None has even emerged as a darkhorse favorite like we usually have such as Little Miss Sunshine last year or notably Crash 2 years ago. Personal pick: Atonement.

Actor (not very competitive): Last year it was the ladies' racies that were easy to predict; this year it's the reverse. All but the very skeptical are predicting Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood). Personal pick: Tommy Lee Jones (In the Valley of Elah).

Actress (competitive): In recent weeks, it looks like Julie Christie (Away from Her) is the clear favorite, but she's still facing competition, primarily from Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose), but also Ellen Page (Juno). Personal pick: Laura Linney (The Savages).

Supporting Actress (very competitive): The most hotly contested of the acting races. The only sure thing is that Saorise Ronan (Atonement) won't get it. Cate Blanchett (I'm Not There) was the early favorite, but few saw her film (and she won recently), then Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone) emerged as the favorite for a moment, until Ruby Dee (American Gangster) gained surprised momentum from her SAG award, but then Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton), snagged the BAFTA, tilting the favor her way. Dee may be the sentimental favorite, and I have a nagging suspicion that I should stick with my guns and say Ryan, but I'm going to flip flop and say it will go to Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton), but for the fact that if Michael Clayton doesn't win this award, it probably won't get anything. Personal pick: Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone).

Supporting Actor (somewhat competitive): Havier Bardem (No Country for Old Men) looks set to pick this one up, although there is some talk that Hal Holbrook (Into the Wild) could steal it as a sentimental favorite. Personal pick: Casey Affleck (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford).

Director (not very competitive). Joel and Ethan Coen (No Country for Old Men) a.k.a. "The Coen Brothers" will walk away with this Oscar tonight, with only the very slightest chance it will go to avante garde Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) instead. Personal pick: The Coens (No Country for Old Men).

Adapted Screenplay (not very competitive). No Country for Old Men should take this easily, unless that bizarre ending scares voters away toward There Will Be Blood. Personal pick: Atonement.

Original Screenplay (not very competitive). Juno is the clear frontrunner, for its winning blend of humor and thoughtfulness. However, wouldn't it be interesting if Michael Clayton stole this one? Personal pick: Juno.

Cinematography (somewhat competitive). This is an interesting one. Roger Deakins should be the frontrunner, since he's up for both No Country for Old Men and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, however, that may work against him here, splitting votes, to pave the way for There Will Be Blood to win. Personal pick: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

Art Direction (competitive). The wild card in many of the tech categories is how much the Academy will respond to Sweeney Todd. EW picked it as their choice over more traditional Atonement. But I think it will go to spare There Will Be Blood, which has a lot of love these days. Personal pick: Atonement

Costume Design (competitive). Again, Sweeney Todd is the wild card here. While the costumes were ornate, I thought they were rather drab. Atonement on the other hand has that green dress, which is like iconic now, and while a film shouldn't win this for one ensemble, there was other good work there too. Personal pick: Atonement.

Film Editing (not very competitive). It would be a real upset for an action movie like The Bourne Ultimatum to take this away from the probable best picture winner, No Country for Old Men. Personal pick: No Country for Old Men.

Score (not very competitive). Atonement should beat Ratatouille for this, and not just because of the innovative use of a typewriter as a musical instrument--it's beautiful music. Personal pick: Atonement.

Song (not very competitive). Surprised it's not competitive? Sure Enchanted looks like the favorite with three nominations in this category, but Enchanted was a fabulous movie because of Amy Adams and its clever script--no one remembers the songs. So none of the three emerges from the pack. In contrast, "Falling Slowly" was a poignant moment in Once, so it should easily win. (Too bad Once's "When Your Mind's Made Up" didn't get a nod too.) Personal pick: "Falling Slowly" (Once).

Documental feature (somewhat competitive). I'm disappointed I didn't get to see Taxi to the Dark Side, but I did see the two frontrunners, Sicko and No End in Sight, the latter of which is the favorite, although I found Sicko more affecting. Personal pick: Sicko

Documentary short (competitive). Everyone says Freeheld will win, but Sari's Mother may have a shot. Although I haven't seen it, I'm rooting for Freeheld based on the trailer and its subject matter: workplace benefits discrimination against same-sex couples. Personal pick: Freeheld.

Foreign Language Film (not very competitive). With Persepolis and 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days eliminated from the contest (not to mention The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, La Vie en Rose, or The Orphanage), The Counterfeiters (Austria) should win. Personal pick: None (haven't seen any of the nominees).

Animated Feature (somewhat competitive). As cool as it would be to see this go to innovative Persepolis, I think Pixar can clear room in their trophy case for another Oscar for Ratatouille. Personal pick: Persepolis.

Animated Short (competitive). The Beatles interview turned animation of I Met the Walrus is the favorite, but Madame Tutli-Putli could also get it. Personal pick: I Met the Walrus.

Live Action Short (competitive). I haven't seen any of these, and I've read predictions for At Night, Tanghi Argentini, and The Tonto Woman. I guess I'll go with the latter, for no good reason. Personal pick: None (haven't seen any of the nominees).

Makeup (not very competitive). Have you seen Marion Cotillard? She's young and beautiful. That she was transformed convincingly into Edith Pilaf both as a young, middle age, and old woman for La Vie en Rose is astounding. Plus, the Academy cannot let Norbit become "Academy Award-Winning Norbit." Personal pick: La Vie en Rose.

Sound Mixing (competitive). Hard to see with these. Action film with the big boom or drama wit the big impact? I'm hoping the latter, for the layering of sounds in No Country for Old Men was crucial for building suspense, and it was done so well. Still, Transformers would be the traditional pick. Personal pick: No Country for Old Men.

Sound editing (competitive). But when it comes to the sound effects themselves, it's hard to ignore the sheer volume and creativity required for an action film. Still, I'm crossing my fingers the academy will pick the better action film, The Bourne Ultimatum, over Transformers, which wasn't my cup of tea. Personal pick: The Bourne Ultimatum

Visual effects (not very competitive). Okay Transformers, here's your Oscar. Personal pick: Must I? Transformers.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Album Review: Goldfrapp - Seventh Tree (4.5/5)

Goldfrapp, the British duo of Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory, drew quite a following off their last two albums, Black Cherry and Supernature, which were most memorable for their hard-hitting, synth-laden glam pop. I love both albums, as well as their mellower debut, Felt Mountain.

For Seventh Tree, the band's fourth outing, they've extinguished the disco stomp. there's no "Ooh La La" or "Strict Machine" here. In its wake they've returned to the odd psychedelia that permeated Felt Mountain, revisiting that album's emphasis on creating purely lovely melodies. Seventh Tree is comprised primarily of the kind of songs that formed a counterpoint on the last two albums, atmospheric tracks like Black Cherry's "Hairy Trees" or Supernature's "Time Out from the World." The lyrics may not make any sense ("only clowns would play with those balloons"...huh?), but the beauty of the music speaks for itself.

First track "Clowns" and first single "A&E" are perhaps the two loveliest songs Goldfrapp has ever crafted. "Clowns" in particular is such a lovely, gentle blend of acoustic guitar and strings. "A&E" is a very different sound for Goldfrapp, even on this record. Unlike most of the other songs, the lyrics are clearly distinguishable, even if their meaning is still muddled--something about going to the metaphorical emergency room ("A&E"=Accident and Emergency, not arts and entertainment). There are no clues in the second verse to the story set up in the first, for it is identical. For this subject matter the sound is surprisingly upbeat, blending piano, guitar, synths and percussion to a mid-tempo beat. It's the most obviously radio friendly track they've ever done.

Goldfrapp have long had an affinity for the kind of swelling strings composer John Barry used for scoring the James Bond movies, and its been noted in the past that the band's music is sometimes reminiscent of this. Several of this album's tracks, including "Clowns" as well as "Eat Yourself" and "Cologne Cerrone Houdini" exhibit these touches. Static crackles over "Eat Yourself" like an old record. This is another highlight, starting with acoustic instruments and bass, adding in harpsichord and eventually strings near the end. "Cologne Cerrone Houdini" opens with bass guitar and synth bursts, building with warm Barry-esque chords during the chorus.

"Happiness" is another highlight. It is one of the album's peppiest track, featuring a blend of keyboards and vocal effects that stomp along to insistent drums and hand claps. "Caravan Girl" also kicks up the beat over synths and piano. "Some People," one of the album's slowest tracks, opens simply with piano and vocals, building through the chorus with lush strings and synths. The only track that doesn't do it for me is "Little Bird," which is just a little too folksy.

Despite what I said about the lack of disco, don't think that Seventh Tree is a radical departure. Many of the same elements from their previous work--the moody atmosphere, the Barry-esque soundscapes--show up here, and a track like "Happiness" embodies the same insistent beat as songs like "Satin Chic" or "Train," albeit a bit toned down. Sure there are fewer beats and less dial twiddling, but the strength of their musical instinct remains fully intact.

Best: Clowns, A&E, Happiness, Eat Yourself, Cologne Cerrone Houdini, Some People

Album Review: Hot Chip - Made in the Dark (3/5)

When will I learn? After being disappointed by albums from The Postal Service, Junior Boys, Mylo, Tiga and LCD Soundsystem, I vowed to never again buy a nerdy/indie electronic album. Sure the beats, beeps and bleeps may be cool, but I’ve found this type of music to be too devoid of melody, hooks and decent singing to impress me. So why then did I repeat this mistake with Hot Chip’s Made in the Dark?

Chock it up to my sense that I should like this music, even if I don’t, and the fact that Made in the Dark, the band’s 3rd album, is getting pretty decent reviews. After previewing the album on-line I thought it sounded good—and the first few tracks are really great. But while it's probably the best of the aforementioned bunch, ultimately it’s just not clicking with me.

The beginning is promising. “Out at the Pictures” starts quietly, building to an upbeat new wave reminiscent of mid to late ‘80s Depeche Mode, blending synths and electric guitar with ease. “Shake a Fist” is similarly upbeat ‘80s-styled dance music, with hard, fuzzy synths and an intermission break where the lead singer describes a game he made up, called “sounds of the studio.” “Ready for the Floor,” the album’s first single, is a real standout track, showing that this style of music can exude warmth and melody when it chooses to.

After that, the pickings are slim. “One Pure Thought” isn’t bad, an interesting mix of synths and beats. And “Don’t Dance,” although not very interesting for the first half, picks up in the middle.

A lot of the songs on here though are ballads, and the lead singer, whose falsetto reminds me of Boy George, doesn’t have the voice to pull them off. Against the cool upbeat tracks that open the album, tracks like “We’re Looking for a Lot of Love,” “Made in the Dark,” and “In the Privacy of Our Love” come off as, well, boring. And the other upbeat ones like “Bendable Poseable” and “Wrestlers” are just too repetitive.

Best: Ready for the Floor, Out at the Pictures, Shake a Fist

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Arctic Monkeys take top prize at Brits

The Brit Awards look a lot like they did last year, with the same bands taking home the top honors for best British album and single that won those prizes last year.

The Arctic Monkeys took the top prize at the Brit Awards tonight, winning the Best British Album award for Favourite Worst Nightmare, beating out contenders Leona Lewis, Mika, Mark Ronson and Take That. This is the second year in a row that the Arctic Monkeys took home the top honor, winning last year for their debut, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not. Arctic Monkeys also took home the award for best British group, also their second year in a row winning that award.

Take That took home the award for best British single for "Shine," beating out a slate of 10 nominees that included major hits like Leona Lewis' "Bleeding Love," Mika's "Grace Kelly," and the Mark Ronson/Amy Winehouse collaboration, "Valerie." This is also Take That's second year in a row winning this award, who won last year for their comeback single, "Patience." In total, this is the band's fifth win in this category, who won twice during the band's early '90s heyday for "Could It Be Magic" in 1993, "Pray" in 1994 and "Back for Good" in 1996. Take that also won the best live act category.

Mark Ronson, really a producer more than a performer, beat out Mika for Best British Male Soloist, while newcomer Kate Nash bested female nominees like Kate Nash, Leona Lewis and PJ Harvey. Mika was named best British "breakthrough."

Among the international winners were Kylie Minogue for best female, Kanye West for best male, and Foo Fighters for best group and best album for Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace.

Here's a rundown of the major winners for British album and single so far this decade:

2007 - Arctic Monkeys - Favourite Worst Nightmare
2006 - Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
2005 - Coldplay - X&Y
2004 - Keane - Hopes and Fears
2003 - The Darkness - Permission to Land
2002 - Coldplay - A Rush of Blood to the Head
2001 - Dido - No Angel
2000 - Coldplay - Parachutes

2007 - Take That - Shine
2006 - Take That - Patience
2005 - Coldplay - Speed of Sound
2004 - Will Young - Your Game
2003 - Dido - White Flag
2002 - Liberty X - Just a Little
2001 - S Club 7 - Don't Stop Movin'
2000 - Robbie Williams - Rock DJ

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Preview Goldfrapp's Seventh Tree

You can preview Goldfrapp's entire new album Seventh Tree, out Monday, on myspace.

I'm very excited about this new album. "Clowns" is such a gorgeous track, and I'm already a big fan of the first single, "A&E."

Personal chart, 2/23/2008

TW LW Title - Artist
1 ... 10 ... Mercy - Duffy (1 week @ #1)
2 .... 1 .... Wow - Kylie Minogue (1 wk @ #1)
3 .... 4 .... Don't Stop the Music - Rihanna
4 .... 5 .... A&E - Goldfrapp
5 .... 2 .... I Thought It Was Over - The Feeling
6 .... 3 .... Chasing Pavements - Adele (3 wks @ #1)
7 .... 6 .... The Journey Continues - Mark Brown Featuring Sarah Cracknell
8 .... 7 .... Apologize - Timbaland Featuring OneRepublic (2 wks @ #1)
9 ... 11 ... With You - Chris Brown
10 ... 8 ... Superstar - Lupe Fiasco Featuring Matthew Santos

Monday, February 18, 2008

UK Singles Chart, 2/23/2008

Great chart this week:

1. Mercy - Duffy

British newcomer Duffy ends the 5-week run at the top for Swedish dance act Basshunter. "Mercy" is Duffy's first major hit, following the limited release last year of "Rockferry." Comparisons with another current newcomer, Adele, are inevitable. Both have been compared to Amy Winehouse, although I think Duffy is more deserving of that. Both put out limited releases late last year followed by big releases early this year. Adele was #1 on the BBC Sounds of 2008 list; Duffy was #2. A rivalry is surely in the making.

While Adele appeared to have the early advantage, Duffy strikes back this week big time, topping both the UK sales and airplay charts. While Adele's "Chasing Pavements" was kept from #1 by a widely derided import dance single, Duffy kicks that single to the curb this week--and on digital sales to boot. The single gets its full release next week. "Mercy" is an awesome track: a stompin' '60s throwback in the Phil Spector or Nancy Sinatra tradition. Duffy's album, Rockferry, is out March 3.
2. Rockstar - Nickelback
Nickelback holds a second week at #2. Had it not been for Duffy, they could have had their first UK #1 hit. It's status as their biggest single is pretty much assured at this point.
4. Sun Goes Down - David Jordan
David Jordan ascends another spot with his international-sounding "Sun Goes Down."
7. What's It Gonna Be - H two O featuring Platnum
Oooh! A dance track. "What's It Gonna Be" debuts at #7 this week on downloads, ahead of its physical release this week. The song sounds very late '90s/early '00s. But really, doesn't all House-based dance music?
9. I Thought It Was Over - The Feeling
The Feeling climbs three spots to #9, which will probably be their peak, as the single is now fully released. This is their fourth single to land in the #7 to #10 range. While that's certainly resepectable, this doesn't become the big hit they were probably hoping for, despite topping the airplay chart last week. Their second album, Join With Us, is out today.
10. A&E - Goldfrapp
Also fully released and perhaps not the hit they were hoping for is "A&E," first single from Goldfrapp's forthcoming The Seventh Tree, out next Monday. The gentle song is a departure from the hard-hitting electro-pop sound that dominated releases from their last two albums. That doesn't make it any less enjoyable though, and this is perhaps their most radio friendly single to date.
11. Stop and Stare - OneRepublic
Tipped to become their second big hit is "Stop and Stare," the follow-up to OneRepublic's Timbaland collaboration, "Apologize," which became an international smash late last year and is still hanging around the chart at #20 this week. "Stop and Stare" debuts at #11 on downloads, 3 weeks ahead of its CD release.
40. Low - Flo Rida ft. T-Pain
The single that has spent the last 2 months at #1 in the US makes its UK debut this week. Look for it to rise until its CD release on March 3rd.
Next week, fully released singles from Kylie Minogue (finally) and H two O will compete with Duffy for #1. Also look for Craig David and Out of Office to score top 40 hits.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Hancock wins Album of the Year

Herbie Hancock's Joni Mitchell tribute, River: the Joni Letters, won the Grammy Award this week for Album of the Year, beating frontrunners Kanye West (Graduation) and Amy Winehouse (Back to Black). This was Hancock's first nomination for Album of the Year, and as noted by Hancock in accepting the award, the first time a jazz album had won Album of the Year since 1965, when Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto won for Getz/Gilberto.

What gets nominated in the Album of the Year category is frequently determined by an interesting mix of popularity, acclaim and nostalgia, with that last piece being perhaps most important in determining who wins. During the last few years, artists like Hancock who are more established legends than popular artists have frequently won over popular frontrunners. Ray Charles over Kanye West in 2005, for example, or Steely Dan over Eminem in 2001.

No word on whether West is fuming over his loss in the category. This is the third time he's been up for Grammy's top prize, following his debut, The College Dropout and his second album, Late Registration, which lost to U2's How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb in 2006. West now joins the company of Sting and Mariah Carey as artists nominated three times in the last 25 years for best album without winning.

Mariah's New Single

Mariah Carey unveiled her new single this week, "Touch My Body," the first release from her forthcoming 10th album (11th if you count her Christmas collection), E=MC2. You can listen to it on her official site:

E=MC2 is the follow-up to 2005's The Emancipation of Mimi, which restored Carey's status as one of pop's leading female artists, following the relative failures of her previous two albums, Glitter (2001) and Charmbracelet (2002), and even the less successful Rainbow (1999) and Butterfly (1997). Mimi gave Carey a massive hit in "We Belong Together," as well as other big hits "Shake it Off," and "Don't Forget About Us." It was nominated for the Album of the Year Grammy, her third such nomination.

What I am (and therefore you should be) listening to

A&E - Goldfrapp. This is perhaps the most gorgeous song Goldfrapp has made since "Lovely Head." It's also their most accessible single, but don't let that turn you off. Its lovely sheen is punctured by the lyrics, which hint at something darker.

Mercy - Duffy. Duffy's second single ups the ante from her first, presenting a sexy, swirling retro number, upbeat with prominent bass drum and strings. She says "I'm under your spell," but with this, we're under hers.

I Thought It Was Over - The Feeling. The Feeling returns with their first single from their sophomore album, an upbeat feel-good track most closely akin to "Love It When You Call" among their previous hits. My only hesitation with this is that it's almost too slick--will their new album be overproduced?

The Journey Continues - Mark Brown featuring Sarah Cracknell. Saint Etienne's singer lends her voice to this atmospheric trance single.

Ready for the Floor - Hot Chip. Hot Chip finally put out a single I like, after being disappointed with the releases from their last album. This manages to be warm and melodic, despite its pedigree.

Break of Dawn 2008 - Out of Office. There's a lot of dance releases out just now, most of which are throwbacks to late '90s dance music. This is probably my favorite of that pack, sounding like something from 1998. Also worthwhile is "What's It Gonna Be" by H two O featuring Platnum.

Please Read the Letter - Robert Plant & Alison Krauss. This is how you make a duet. It's a lovely countrified ballad and they sound great together on it.

Come on Girl (Wideboys Remix) - Taio Cruz. This is what Craig David should be sounding like right now, a fun blend of R&B, electro and dance.

When I'm Gone - Simple Plan. Simple Plan's new album didn't impress me, but this single from it is pretty good. The chorus has a good hook, but I imagine fans are going to be turned off by the slick pop production.


6 of 1 Thing - Craig David. Craig, you lost me on this one--an overly repetitive and uninteresting single.

Just - Mark Ronson featuring Alex Grenwald. A tepid remake of the Radiohead original, and a bad choice to follow-up the brilliant Amy Winehouse collaboration of "Valerie."

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Album Review: Sheryl Crow - Detours (4/5)

Sheryl has a lot to crow about on her sixth album, Detours. Seriously though, the last 2 years saw her battle breast cancer, end her long-term relationship with Lance Armstrong and adopt her son Wyatt. That alone would be enough material for one or several albums. Sheryl draws on these life-changing events to give Detours a particularly personal depth, but she turns to the outside world too to give it political depth as well, touching on the war, the environment and our thirst for oil.

Detours also finds her working with Bill Bottrell, the producer from her breakthrough first album, Tuesday Night Music Club. As such, the album's folksy roots harken back to that disc, which gave her a major hit in "All I Wanna Do," but doesn't forget the often darker territory she's covered since then, such as on her eponymous sophomore album or The Globe Sessions. The album's first two singles, which appear as early tracks here, mark that constrast nicely. "Shine Over Babylon" is moody, slow guitar rock, while "Love Is Free" is upbeat and folksy in that cheeky way that Tuesday Night Music Club was.

Both of those tracks follow "God Bless This Mess," a stripped down opener that reminds us that while Detours has its dark and upbeat moments, it's also a political album. That sentiment is best expressed on "Gasoline," a parable of the oil crisis and global warming set in the future looking back at the year 2017 when "London suffered sweltering heat" and "oil was way past its peak."

Other highlights include the mid-tempo "Now that You're Gone," which is melodic and soulful and has a nice interplay between acoustic guitar and strings. It would make a good next single, which she's having trouble with (neither two released so far have become hits). I also like the folksy sing-along "Out of Our Heads," top 40-ish "Love Is All There Is" and "Diamond Ring," the album's most bluesy number, where Sheryl sings of a broken engagement over a countrified arrangement. Wonder who that could be about? "Motivation" is another fun upbeat number that could have felt at home on her debut.

The albums falters when it gets too precious, such as on the mellow title track where Sheryl sings "mother teach me to love with a paper thin heart" or on the lullaby to her son aptly titled "Lullaby for Wyatt" where she sings "the world could fall apart, but you're my heart." It's supposed to bookend the angst of "God Bless This Mess" by closing on a note of hope for the future, which feels forced.

"Make It Go Away (Radiation Song)" is interesting, for it presents a different musical response to her cancer ordeal than some of her peers. While Kylie Minogue and Delta Goodrem acknowledged their cancer battles with stories of having conquered and moved on--Kylie's "No More Rain" and Delta's "Out of the Blue," Sheryl dives back into the painful experience of her treatment, exploring the fear of her condition and her wish to "make it go away." It's not as uplifting as, say "Coming Out of the Dark," but it's probably more truthful.

Detours is a potent combination of personal and political influences, reminding us of Crow's early musical successes, but showing the songwriting growth of her years since. The album unfolds like a journey, and fittingly from its title, reminds us that in life it's not the course we set out but the inevitable Detours that present us with life's most important and enriching challenges.

Best: Shine Over Babylon, Now That You're Gone, Diamond Ring, Love Is Free, Gasoline, Love Is All There Is, Gasoline, Out of Our Heads

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Personal Chart, 2/16/2008

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 2 .... Wow - Kylie Minogue (1 week @ #1)
2 .... 3 .... I Thought It Was Over - The Feeling
3 .... 1 .... Chasing Pavements - Adele (3 wks @ #1)
4 .... 5 .... Don't Stop the Music - Rihanna
5 ... 10 ... A&E - Goldfrapp
6 ... 11 ... The Journey Continues - Mark Brown ft. Sarah Cracknell
7 .... 7 .... Apologize - Timbaland ft. OneRepublic (2 wks @ #1)
8 .... 8 .... Superstar - Lupe Fiasco ft. Matthew Santos
9 .... 6 .... Clumsy - Fergie (3 wks @ #1)
10 .. 26 .. Mercy - Duffy

Kylie's 6th #1 on my chart, following Can't Get You Out of My Head, Love at First Sight, Come Into My World, Slow, and I Believe in You.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Beyonce and Tina Turner

This is more like it. Beyonce is such a fun performer--and look at those legs! Wasn't Tina Turner known for her legs in her day (they're covered up tonight). She looks great though. So does Cher, by the way, who introduced them. I'm glad she isn't blonde anymore.

Kanye West and Fergie/John Legend

"Stronger" is such an awesome song. Why the record company neglected to submit it for contention in the Record of the Year category is a mystery. Those sunglasses are sure silly though, but I kind of like the Tron-style DJs. The sunglasses come off for his tribute to his recently deceased mother, which is a nice surprise and actually moving.

Now we get Fergie singing her ballad "Finally," which will be the 6th single from The Dutchess, once "Clumsy" fades. Why isn't John singing with her? Fergie's dress is cool. I don't think her hair is very interesting though.

UK Singles Chart, 2/16/2008

1. Now You're Gone - Basshunter

Britain's obsession with this Eurodance track continues, keeping it at #1 for a fifth week. Pundits are wringing their hands, but the public has spoken, and they love love love this song. The single is now in a three-way tie with James Blunt's "You're Beautiful" and Mika's "Grace Kelly" as the 6th longest-running British #1 of the decade. The five singles ahead of it are the 6-week runner "Where is the Love" by Black Eyed Peas, the 7 week runs for Tony Christie's "(Is This the Way to) Amarillo" and Leona Lewis's "Bleeding Love," the 9 weeks for Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy," and the amazing 10-week run last year by Rihanna's "Umbrella."

2. Rockstar - Nickelback

Moving up a notch to challenge Basshunter for #1 is Nickelback's surprise hit "Rockstar."

4. Don't Stop the Music - Rihanna
5. Sun Goes Down - David Jordan
23. Homecoming - Kanye West ft. Chris Martin

Two singles that move up upon their physical release are Rihanna's "Don't Stop the Music," up one spot to #4 and David Jordan's "Sun Goes Down," up five spots to #5. Rihanna's #4 placing is a bit disappointing, given that its strong pre-release showing had indicated it had a chance at #1. (It's such a fun song too, but apparently not as fun as Basshunter. Brits LOVE Basshunter, moreso than Rihanna it turns out. ) Kanye West, however, does not benefit from his physical release, taking an eight-spot tumble to #23 with his Chris Martin collaboration "Homecoming.

11. The Journey Continues - Mark Brown ft. Sarah Cracknell

This cool trance song, featuring St. Etienne singer Sarah Cracknell, should have been a top 10 hit. Apparently it isn't nearly as good a song as "Now You're Gone" by Basshunter, since "The Journey Continues" has to be satisifed by landing just outside the top 10. Too bad.

12. I Thought It Was Over - The Feeling

The first single from forthcoming second album by The Feeling makes its debut at #12. The CD single is out Monday, so look for this to place in the top 10 next week. The track is this week's #1 on the UK airplay chart, knocking Adele's "Chasing Pavements" from #1. The band's previous best was the #7 peak of its debut, "Sewn."

18. A&E - Goldfrapp

Also appearing on downloads is Goldfrapp's first single from their forthcoming 4th album. I love "A&E," and I hope to see it in the top 10 next week.

Ah yes, next week. Goldfrapp and The Feeling will be hoping to place in the top 5, along with Simple Plan's "When I'm Gone." Janet Jackson also returns with her best record in years, "Feedback." Don't bet on any of them dislodging Basshunter from #1 though (unless Nickelback can do it). What's the world coming to?

Rihanna sings

Rihanna's dress looks a little stiff, but I do love hearing "Don't Stop the Music," which is such a fun song. I could do without the appearance by The Time. I guess since this is the 50th Grammy Awards, the live performance are going to pair up current favorites with old timers.

Grammy Prediction

Gotta get this in quick. Who will and should win...

Album of the Year
Should win: Amy Winehouse's Back to Black was the best album of the year, an awesome record that managed to look both forward and backward, or to put it another way, a modern pop record grounded in the traditions of the past.
Will win: With Amy's antics spoiling her chances, the path is clear for three-time nominee Kanye West to finally win this award with his Graduation.

Record of the Year
Should win: Rihanna's "Umbrella" was the ubiquitous hit of 2007 and deservedly so. It was quite a lot of fun.
Will win: Unless Beyonce steals with overrated "Irreplaceable," Rihanna should get it.

Song of the Year
Should win: I think Josh Kear & Chris Tompkins should win for Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats," a clever and tuneful track.
Will win: This one's hard to predict, it might go to Rihanna's team, I seriously doubt anyone will back Amy Winehouse's song about rejecting rehab from a woman who seriously needs to detox. Let's say Kear and Tompkins for "Before He Cheats."

New Artist
Should win: Amy Winehouse is the most interesting and deserving choice.
Will win: Ignored in the album and record categories, she won't be ignored here. It's Amy Winehouse.

Female pop performance
Should win: Fergie's "Big Girls Don't Cry" for putting out the year's best slice of cheesy pop balladry.
Will win: Probably Amy Winehouse for "Rehab."

Male pop performance
Should/will win: Justin Timberlake's "What Goes Around...Comes Around"

Duo/group pop performance
Should win: Maroon's 5's energetic return, "Makes you Wonder."
Will win: Grammy loves U2, so why would it pass up the chance to honor them yet again for "Window in the Skies."

Pop collaboration
Should/will win: With the more contemporary stuff canceling each other out, look for this to go to Robert Plant and Alison Krauss's "Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)."

Pop album
Should/will win: Shut out of the general album category, look for Amy Winehouse's Back to Black to pick this up.

Other predictions:
Rock album: Magic - Bruce Springsteen
Rap album: Graduation - Kanye West
Country album: These Days - Vince Gill
Alternative album: Neon Bible - The Arcade Fire

The Grammys are on

Alicia Keys is singing with Frank Sinatra, who is, of course, dead. He's on a screen in black and white and she's at the piano in color. Needless to say, the pair has no chemistry.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

The "pregap" track

Many listeners are familiar with the idea of a "hidden track," generally a track on an album that isn't listed in the liner notes that plays at the end. Commonly it's an extra track at the end of a CD or the CD's last track will have a long gap of silence following by the song. Less common and less well known is the hidden "pregap" track--a track added to the beginning of a CD that can only be accessed by manually rewinding past the beginning of the first track. I found out about this reading about Kylie Minogue's Light Years, which has such a track called "Password." To access it, start playing "Spinning Around," push and hold the manual rewind, which will rewind past the beginning of the song and then start counting up. Around 3:48 "Password"begins. It only seems to work on CD players, not computers.

Other albums that have pregap tracks include Bloc Party's Silent Alarm ("Every Time is the Last Time") Ash's 1977 (there's two, "Jack Names the Planets" and "Don't Know"), and Blur's Think Tank. Here's a list from Wikipedia:

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Album Review: Adele - 19 (4 / 5)

With all the hoopla surrounding her, Adele seems almost destined to fail, for how could she possibly live up to the hype? She topped this year's BBC Sounds of 2008 poll, the insider survey to identify who the hot acts of the new year will be. Last year that honor went to Mika, who at the time had a brilliant debut single "Grace Kelly," but whose album Life in Cartoon Motion was only so-so. Fast-forward a year and Adele also has a hot track, "Chasing Pavements," and thankfully a good album to back it up.

19 is a soulful creation, showcasing Adele's powerful voice. It's not a magnum opus--most of the songs are about a young woman pining after boys--but why should it be? The most common advice to young writers is "write what you know," so why should singers be any different? There's a good deal of experimentation--Adele trying on different styles to see what fits--and quite a lot of it works very well.

"Daydreamer" is a very sweet, lovely little song. The simple acoustic guitar backing really allows Adele's voice to shine. And she has an amazing voice for someone of only 19. I've read this song is about a girl who discovers the guy she's interested in is bisexual--seems a stretch from listening to it, but okay. "Best for Last" also has a fairly simple arrangement of bass and guitar, before kicking up the tempo with a piano and drum backed chorus.

"Chasing Pavements," in contrast, has a big, layered production with a big chorus. No surprise that it's turned it into the radio hit it was destined to be. It's a good song, but against the leaner opening numbers it sticks out a bit. The high-octane production reaches its peak with the Mark Ronson-produced "Cold Shoulder," which borrows heavily from the style of Massive Attack's classic '90s piece, "Unfinished Sympathy," complete with strings and tinkly synthesizer effects. It's a cool song and a testament to Adele that she sounds as good amid this swirl of sound as she does on the minimal "Daydreamer." "Crazy for You" returns to that soulful minimalism, pitting Adele's vocal stylings against just bass guitar. She displays a lot of range on this song, as well as control, which is nice to hear.

"Melt My Heart to Stone" is a soulful, old-fashioned ballad. Adele's voice squeaks a bit to add emphasis over the organ-like keyboards. "First Love" is another minimalist ballad, replacing the guitar with xylophones. "Right as Rain" is old school R&B/pop. These songs aren't bad, but I don't like them as much as the first five tracks, creating a bit of a sag in the middle of the set.

She more than makes up for it on the next track though, a remake of Bob Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love." The song is so good, and Adele sounds so great on it. This must be a future single. It's too lovely not to be. What can I say? I'm a sucker for the combination of piano chords and strings interweaving a good melody. Toe-tapping "My Same" follows, then upbeat, pop-oriented "Tired."

The final track is another standout. "Hometown Glory" is a potent song. Don't be deceived by the subtle opening piano notes. They quickly morph into thundering chords underpinning a sincere ode to London; quite the contrast to Lily Allen's cutesy "LDN."

One accolade she could do without is all the "next Amy Winehouse" labels. Apart from being a young British woman with a big voice she's nothing like Winehouse. Those expecting a Back to Black-like album will disappointed, as 19 lacks that album's high-concept old-school-meets-new-school take on R&B, to say nothing of Winehouse's dirty mouth. Only "Right as Rain" would really sound at home on a Winehouse album, more likely Frank than Black to Black. Not that 19 is sanitized, but Adele isn't pretending to be anything other than your typical 19-year-old girl with boy troubles. A public debate over whether to go to rehab doesn't appear to be in the cards. Not yet anyway.

Best: Make You Feel My Love, Chasing Pavements, Daydreamer, Hometown Glory, Crazy for You, Cold Shoulder, Best for Last

Album Review: Rilo Kiley - More Adventurous (2004, 4.5/5)

After having completely fallen in love with Rilo Kiley's fourth album, Under the Blacklight, I decided to explore their previous work. I know some fans felt rubbed by their new album for being more mainstream, so I was interested to hear what they sounded like in the past. More Adventurous was the band's third album--a stepping stone between the indie The Execution of All Things and the mainstream Under the Blacklight, it was released on an indie label but distributed by Warner Bros. It also musically bridges those two albums, being both quirky like Execution but with more of the hooks found on Blacklight.

"It's a hit" has humorous lyrics ("any asshole can open a museum, put the things he loves on display"), horns and a bit of the country twang that peppers Blacklight, although Jenny's machine gun lyrical delivery here took awhile to win me over. Better yet is "Does He Love You?," another country-ish ballad, that finishes with a fantastic flourish of strings. "Portions for Foxes" is perhaps the abum's best-known track, as well as its most conventional, pushing a driving melody over bass and guitar rock.

After that, skip over oddity "Ripchord," which is thankfully only 2 minutes long, to the soulful croon of "I Never," which builds quietly from the first repetitive chorus through verses of country-tinged layers of vocal harmonies, twangy guitars and strings to the final belting chorus where Jenny really goes for it. That big sound contrasts with acoustic "The Absence of God," which features the memorable lyrics: "Folk singers sing songs for the working, baby; we're just recreation for all those doctors and lawyers. There's no relief for the bleeding heart."

The album maintains its consistency through its second half. "Accidental Deth" quivers with electronic flourishes over the acoustic guitars. Title track "More Adventurous" lays the country accents on thickly, as does final track "It Just Is." Neither are has much fun as rockin' "Love and War (11/11/46)" though (anyone who what that date means?).

More Adventurous isn't quite as much fun as Under the Blacklight, but it comes pretty close. There's more country influence here that I expected, which isn't a bad thing, as Jenny has the range for both gentle balladry as well as the more belting rock numbers.

Best: I Never, Does He Love You? Portions for Foxes, It's a Hit, Accidental Deth, The Absence of God, Love and War (11/11/46)

Billboard Hot 100 chart notes, 2/16/2008

1. Low - Flo Rida Featuring T-Pain

The irrepressible "Low" by Flo Rida and T-Pain earns a 7th week atop the Billboard Hot 100. It hit #1 the first week of the year and has stayed there ever since. It's a pretty typical example of "crunk" the beat-heavy hip-hop style used recently by Usher ("Yeah!") and Ciara ("1, 2 Step"). This is the third appearance at #1 for T-Pain, who was there twice last year on Chris Brown's "Kiss Kiss" and his own "Buy U a Drank." Seven weeks is a pretty good cutoff to divide the big #1 singles from those that are merely chart toppers--mere as that might be. The 23 longest-running #1 singles of this decade:

14 weeks - We Belong Togehter - Mariah Carey
12 weeks - Lose Yourself - Eminem
12 weeks - Yeah! - Usher ft. Lil Jon & Ludacris
11 weeks - Independent Women Part 1 - Destiny's Child
10 weeks - Maria Maria - Santana ft. the Product G&B
10 weeks - Foolish - Ashanti
10 weeks - Dilemma - Nelly ft. Kelly Rowland
10 weeks - Gold Digger - Kanye West ft. Jamie Foxx
10 weeks - Irreplaceable - Beyonce
9 weeks - In Da Club - 50 Cent
9 weeks - Baby Boy - Beyonce ft. Sean Paul
9 weeks - Hey Ya! - Outkast
9 weeks - Let Me Love You - Mario
9 weeks - Candy Shop - 50 Cent ft. Olivia
8 weeks - Crazy in Love - Beyonce ft. Jay-Z
8 weeks - Burn - Usher
7 weeks - All for You - Janet Jackson
7 weeks - Hot in Herre - Nelly
7 weeks - Goodies - Ciara ft. Petey Pablo
7 weeks - Sexyback - Justin Timberlake
7 weeks - Umbrella - Rihanna ft. Jay-Z
7 weeks - Crank That (Soulja Boy) - Soulja Boy
7 weeks - Low - Flo Rida ft. T-Pain

Beyonce is currently winning the longevity race, with 3 solo singles in the above bracket, plus a fourth with Destiny's Child.

2. With You - Chris Brown
3. Don't Stop the Music - Rihanna

Flo Rida has some pretty big challengers hot on his tail. "With You" is Chris Brown's follow-up to his #1 hit "Kiss Kiss," and features that Stargate sound radio loves right now. "Don't Stop the Music" is already Rihanna's third-highest charting single after her #1 "Umbrella" and #2 debut, "Pon Da Replay." The single is also this week's fastest gaining track at radio.

6. Love Song - Sara Bareilles

Sara Bareilles continues her ascent with "Love Song," up three spots this week. This song continues to be a big seller, despite it sounding more like a radio-driven hit. It's top 40 airplay (#20) is comparatively low to its sales position (#4).

9. New Soul - Yael Naim

How's this for unusual? The highest debut on the entire Hot 100 this week--all the way up at #9--is by a French-born Israeli singer whose latest album (in French, English and Hebrew) was a modest hit in France last year. So why are Americans snatching this up in droves? It's the song featured in the ads for that new super slim Apple laptop, the MacBook Air.

17. See You Again - Miley Cyrus
37. Ready, Set, Don't Go - Billy Ray and Miley Cyrus

Miley Cyrus is quickly crossing over from Disney darling to mainstream darling. Her pseudo-tour documentary, Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert, is the #1 film in America, and she's had two #1 albums, the first Hannah Montana soundtrack and the double album that included the second Hannah Montana soundtrack and her solo debut. Now she also has a pop hit in "See You Again," up 11 spots this week to #17. She also appears at #37 with her father, country singer Billy Ray Cyrus, on "Ready, Set, Don't Go," from her father's album Home at Last.

23. Piece of Me - Britney Spears

The endless media coverage of the ongoing meltdown of former teen idol Britney Spears does nothing for the success of her current single, "Piece of Me," which falls five spots this week after peaking at #18. The single was her 9th top 20 hit.

25. Superstar - Lupe Fiasco ft. Matthew Santos

Lupe Fiasco is currently enjoying his first top 40 in "Superstar," also currently a top 10 hit in Britain. The American rapper appeared on Kanye West's "Touch the Sky," the last single from Kanye's Late Registration, but that single just missed the top 40, peaking at #40. "Superstar" is a great track, up 11 spots this week.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Personal Chart, 2/9/2008

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 1 .... Chasing Pavements - Adele (3 wks @ #1)
2 .... 4 .... Wow - Kylie Minogue
3 .... 9 .... I Thought It Was Over - The Feeling
4 .... 2 .... Elvis Ain't Dead - Scouting for Girls
5 .... 7 .... Don't Stop the Music - Rihanna
6 .... 3 .... Clumsy - Fergie (3 wks @ #1)
7 .... 6 .... Apologize - Timbaland Featuring OneRepublic (2 wks @ #1)
8 ... 12 ... Superstar - Lupe Fiasco Featuring Matthew Santos
9 .... 5 .... Work (Freemasons Remix) - Kelly Rowland
10 .. 17 ... A&E - Goldfrapp

Monday, February 04, 2008

Best of 2007: Movies

I posted this on a preliminary basis on January 1st. Now that I've seen most of the films for the year that interested me, here is a more definitive list.

1. Atonement
Joe Wright's follow-up to Pride & Prejudice was an all around marvelous showcase for good, classic filmmaking. The movie fired on all cylinders: acting, writing, filming, editing, scoring, costuming, sound, etc. It's quite possibly the best film I've seen in the last 3 years.

2. No Country for Old Men
Where Atonement was the year's best symbol of tradition, this was the equivalent for innovation. A remarkable, risk-taking film in which the Coen brothers used all the filmmaker's tools to create a chilling dramatic thriller. This is the year's other classic film.

3. Juno
The year's funniest movie, which despite packing in the laughs, managed to also find time to tap into some pretty heavy emotions and uncomfortable relationships. Ellen Page shined as Juno, but wasn't Jennifer Garner the bigger surprise?

4. American Gangster
Ridley Scott's Period gangster piece showed a gritty and glamorous portrait of 1970's New York, primed with the wealth of the growing drug trade. Denzel Washington makes it look so easy.

5. Gone Baby Gone
The first of two films that showed what a tremendous actor Casey Affleck was, as well as what a tremendous director his brother Ben could be. A dark and twisty thriller at its best.

6. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
The other film where Casey Affleck showed his acting chops, and when compared above his breadth. This intimate, gorgeous film was a real surprise for me.

7. Into the Wild
Jon Krakauer uncovered the mysterious story of the journey and death of Chris McCandless when he wrote Into the Wild, and with this clever adaptation, Sean Penn found his spirit. It is a shame Emile Hirsch was overlooked by the Oscars.
8. The Savages
I didn't expect to like this one as much as I did. It was funny, piercing, and a pretty realistic look at the harsh reality of dealing with a dying loved one. It doesn't hurt that Laura Linney was magnificent, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman really good too.

9. Enchanted
This was the year's most purely enjoyable film, a cute, clever Disney send up in which Amy Adams perfectly towed the line as a Disney cartoon princess who finds herself lost in Manhattan.

10. In the Valley of Elah
It's too bad Paul Haggis's follow-up to 2005 Best Picture winner Crash wasn't a bigger hit, for it was a better film--a moving indictment of the war cloaked as a police procedural. At least Tommy Lee Jones got an Oscar nomination for this.

The rest of the best:
11. Michael Clayton
12. Persepolis
13. Waitress
14. The Bourne Ultimatum
15. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
16. Sweeney Todd
17. Zodiac
18. Eastern Promises
19. Ratatouille
20. There Will Be Blood
21. La Vie en Rose
22. Once
23. The Simpsons
24. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
25. Away from Her

Let downs: I'm Not There, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, Year of the Dog, 3:10 to Yuma, Transformers (what was I thinking, perhaps I read the comment below).

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Oscar Race: Best Supporting Actor

Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson's War

Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild

(not a great clip of Hal, but it was all I could find)

Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton

(again, this is just the trailer, but there are some good clips of Wilkinson in it)

What "counts" as a supporting vs. a lead performance could be debated endlessly. The bottom line is that the studios generally choose by pushing a performance for whatever category they think is appropriate. In this race then you have Casey Affleck, who was a revelation in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, but that was really the lead role of the film, making it hard to compare it against the others, all of whom were good. Hal Holbrook's character was the most memorable of those Chris McCandless encountered on his journey in Into the Wild. Philip Seymour Hoffman was the best part of the otherwise so-so Charlie Wilson's War. Tom Wilkinson's mania actually added a bit of levity to the otherwise serious Michael Clayton. Javier Bardem was excellent in No Country for Old Men as a psychotic hitman. Genuinely creepy. I think he's going to win, but I'd probably still vote for Casey.

UK Singles Chart Notes, 2/9/2008

1. Now You're Gone - Basshunter

The Swedish dance artist Basshunter, a.k.a. Jonas Erik Altberg, spends a fourth week at #1 with the stomper "Now You're Gone." Pundits continue to scratch their heads over its success. Chock it it to a simple house beat, a la Cascada, which has proven to be more popular lately than the more interesting House singles that haven't had much chart sucess of late.

2. Chasing Pavements - Adele

Adele Adkins settles for #2 once again. It's not all bad for Adele though, as her debut album, 19, is sitting at #1 atop the UK albums chart this week. "Chasing Pavements" is also #1 on the airplay chart for another week.

3. Rockstar - Nickelback

Still a contender, Nickelback holds at #3 for a second week with "Rockstar." In the US, "Rockstar" became Nickelback's third-highest charting single when it hit #6 last year.

4. Work - Kelly Rowland

Buoyed by the Freemasons remix, ex-Destiny's Child member Kelly Rowland scores her fifth top 5 hit, matching the #4 peak of her last single, "Like This." Rowland's previous bests were her #2 solo hit "Stole" and her #1 Nelly collaboration from 2002, "Dilemma."

5. Don't Stop the Music - Rihanna

She slips a bit this week, but Rihanna the single will be fully released tomorrow, so #1 is still a possibility.

6. Ready for the Floor - Hot Chip

Hot Chip has their first top 10 hit with "Ready for the Floor," off their third album, which is out tomorrow. Their last album, The Warning, was a Mercury nominee, but nothing I heard from it really interested me. This, however, is a great single, and after previewing their new album yesterday, I'm looking forward to it.

9. Just for Tonight - One Night Only

British indie band One Night Only score their first top 40 hit this week with the winning "Just for Tonight." Their debut album, Started a Fire, is out tomorrow. One of the band members was on the Radio 1 Chart Show, and he sounded really young.

10. Sun Goes Down - David Jordan

David Jordan's first top 40 hit climbs another 12 spots to #10. The physical release is out tomorrow, so look for a top 5 placing next week.

24. The Journey Continues - Mark Brown Featuring Sarah Cracknell

This hot dance single debuts at #24 ahead of its physical release tomorrow. Cracknell is the lead singer for St. Etienne.

32. Hometown Glory - Adele

The release this week of Adele's debut album, 19, pushed her first single, "Hometown Glory" into the top 40 for the first time.

Next week, Rihanna hopes to score her second #1 hit with "Don't Stop the Music." She'll fend off challenges by David Jordan, Kanye West (feat. Chris Brown) on "Homecoming," and Mark Brown and Sarah Cracknell's "The Journey Continues." Also out are the digital releases of The Feeling's new single "I Thought It Was Over" and Goldfrapp's "A&E."

Chart Flashback: 1988

I didn't have a personal chart until the beginning of 1990, but if I'd had one 20 years ago, this is what my top 10 could have looked like this week:

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 3 .... Could've Been - Tiffany
2 .... 5 .... Need You Tonight - INXS
3 .... 1 .... The Way You Make Me Feel - Michael Jackson
4 .... 6 .... Hazy Shade of Winter - Bangles
5 .... 4 .... Spotlight - Madonna
6 .... 8 .... Seasons Change - Expose
7 .... 2 .... Got My Mind Set on You - George Harrison
8 .... 9 .... Candle in the Wind - Elton John
9 ... -- .... Hungry Eyes - Eric Carmen
10 . -- .... What Have I Done to Deserve This? - Pet Shop Boys

This should be a single

Rilo Kiley has released "Moneymaker" and "Silver Lining" as singles from last year's Under the Blacklight, but I believe the title track should be a single too. Wouldn't this sound good on the radio? I love this song.

Album Review: MGMT - Oracular Spectacular (4/5)

Good music takes confidence. In rock, it's often the result of either hard-won success or the boldness of youth. MGMT (say "M-G-M-T" not "management") derives theirs from the latter, as demonstrated on their debut, Oracular Spectacular, a modern, poppy set that shows its '70s and '80s influences on its sleeve. To just look at the band--two young men often shirtless or costumed--says a lot about what must be their current state of mind. Ready to take on the world, they've given themselves a fantastic launch.

"Time to Pretend" is the brilliant opening track, starting off with a swirl of synth effects and establishing an optimistic melody that quickly transitions to the song's upbeat melodic core. Playful lyrics about dreaming of fame ("this is our decision to live fast and die young") mix well with the layered '80s-sounding synths that are currently in vogue.

In contrast, "Weekend Wars" sounds like '70s progressive rock, kissed with spacey synth riffs. Keyboard sound effects are even more prominent on atmospheric "The Youth." Elements of these songs remind me of The Flaming Lips album I reviewed a few weeks ago, as do the weird closing tracks "The Handshake" and "Future Reflections" (lo and behold, both albums were produced by Dave Fridmann). "Electric Feel" also features a heavy does of '70s-ish keyboards, but is influenced more by funk than prog rock.

"Kids" is the album's second obvious highlight after "Time to Pretend." It has a similar '80s electro sound, with a repeating keyboard refrain over a plodding bass-driven rhythm. With deeper voices they could be Depeche Mode here. This is very danceable stuff. The tempo remains fast on "4th Dimension Transition," whose experimental grandeur recalls Muse's recent album.

It's not all cool '80s synths and psychedelica though, as the mostly acoustic "Pieces of What" shows MGMT has other interests too. Drums, electric guitar and even strings (though they may be synths sounding like strings) kick in about halfway through this earnest, Oasis-like ballad. "Of Moons, Birds & Monsters" takes another trip through the '70s--trip being the key word here, with lyrics like "even a bird would want a taste of dirt from abyssal dark." Huh?

Lyrical confusion abounds through a lot of the band's songs. Some of them, like "Time to Pretend" are easy to understand, but others are very bizarre, and may not need to be understood lyrically (if that is even possible) to be enjoyed musically. I'm not much of a lyrics guy anyway, so I don't mind. I'd rather focus on good hooks and melody, which Oracular Spectacular, as the title implies, delivers.

Best: Time to Pretend, Kids, Weekend Wars, Electric Feel, Pieces of What

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Album Review: British Sea Power - Do You Like Rock Music? (4/5)

Do You Like Rock Music? asks the title of British Sea Power's third album. If you're listening, then the answer better be "yes," since the album is chock full of the kind of big guitar-and-chorus sound favored by many British bands of late from Embrace to The Editors. For awhile, everyone wanted to sound like Coldplay, tinkling pianos in tow. Now they want to sound like a U2, with albums trying to duplicate that filling-up-a-stadium sound but in your own home.

The band starts the album with that firmly in mind for "All in It," a lively upbeat opener with a big we're-all-singing-along chorus. Following tracks "Lights Out for Darker Skies" and "No Lucifer" tone things down only a bit before letting loose with the dramatic "Waving Flags." This song really reminds me of the Editors, graced as it is with layered guitars doing that vibratto thing and layered vocals that hover between haunting and ethereal. It's definitely my favorite track. Rockin' "A Trip Out" is also a standout among the more upbeat tracks, as is the melodic "Down on the Ground."

The mellower--I use that term relatively--tracks don't do it for me as much, such as "Canvey Island," which I found a bit tedious, or "The Great Skua," an instrumental track that never manages to take off. I do however like the reassuring "No Need to Cry" and gentle "Open the Door."

Some critics have compared this to The Arcade Fire, but I find the Editors to be much more apt. For those (like me) who were underwhelmed by their latest, An End Has a Start, might find an antidote in this very British, very now set.

Best: Waving Flags, No Lucifer, Down on the Ground, Lights Out for Darker Skies, All In It, Open the Door

Kylie's new singles

It's always interesting when a label decides to release different singles from an artist in different regions simultaneously (they took it to a new extreme with Nelly Furtado's Loose, which had all sorts of different releaeses).

For Kylie's second single, the UK is getting Daft Punk-esque "Wow," while the rest of Europe is getting electro-tinged "In My Arms." I assume both singles will eventually be released in both places.

Here's the videos for "Wow":

...and "In My Arms":

February New Album Releases

Feb 4/5

Sheryl Crow - Detours. Sheryl Crow returns with her 6th studio album. The buzz is really good for this one, as she's reunited with Bill Bottrell, the producer of her first hit album, Tuesday Night Music Club. Entertainment Weekly gave it an "A." I listened to clips on her Web site: "Now You're Gone," "Love Is All There Is" and "Gasoline" sound awesome.

Hot Chip - Made in the Dark. The electronic/pop band returns with their third album, following up acclaimed hit The Warning. It's already earned 4-star reviews from Rolling Stone and Uncut. Preview the album here.

Jack Johnson – Sleeping Through The Static

Lenny Kravitz – It’s Time For A Love Revolution

Feb 11/12
Michael Jackson - Thriller [25th Anniversary Edition]. The Akon remake of "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" doesn't excite me, and neither does the prospect of "The Girl Is Mine" with Will.I.Am (although "Beat It" with Fergie might be fun). Still, if you already picked up the remastered version that came out a few years ago, you only need this if you really want to remakes.
One Night Only – Started A Fire. The band's debut, features current single "Just for Tonight," which I like.

Morrissey – Greatest Hits
Feb 18
The Feeling – Join With Me. The Feeling follows up their solid debut Twelve Stops and Home. New album features lively current hit "I Thought It Was Over" (and band features hot lead singer Dan Gillespie Sells).
Simple Plan – Simple Plan
Feb 25/26
Goldfrapp - Seventh Tree. Their fourth album, featuring lovely first single "A&E." I'm really looking forward to this one.
Janet Jackson – Discipline. Remember when Janet Jackson scored a record seven top 5 hits (including four #1s) from one album? Well that was almost 20 years ago, and the biggest hit she's had in the last 6 years only peaked at #25. Ouch. Maybe this album--her 10th--can turn that around.