Thursday, July 31, 2008

August new releases

This summer hasn't been the most exciting for new releases, and August doesn't change things. The release of the month is the first album in 11 years from The Verve.

Aug 4/5

Conor Oberst - Conor Oberst. Snooze.

Aug 11/12
The Script - The Script. The Irish group behind "We Cry" and current single "The Man Who Can't Be Moved" release their debut. This could be good.

Noah and the Whale - Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down. The band behind current hit "5 Years Time" releases their debut.

Aug 18

The Dandy Warhols - …Earth to the Dandy Warhols… The Portland band releases its 8th album. They're still best known for 2001's "Bohemian Like You."

Aug 25/26

The Verve - Forth. After an 11 year break, English band The Verve is back with their fourth album. Best known for their last album, Urban Hymns, which yielded major hits "Bitter Sweet Symphony" and "The Drugs Don't Work." Urban Hymns is a great album, and I'm hopeful this new release will be too. I like the first single, "Love Is Noise."

Solange - SoL-AngeL and the Hadley St. Dreams. Beyonce's little sister didn't make a major splash with her 2004 debut, but that could change with her second disc. First single "I Decided" is making waves in the UK with its Freemasons Remix--done by the remixers responsible for several of her sister's hits.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

UK Singles Chart, 8/2/2008

1. Dance Wiv Me - Dizzee Rascal Featuring Calvin Harris and Chrome

Dizzee Rascal spends a fourth week at #1, the fifth single this year to stay at the top so long. This will likely be its last week, to be knocked off by...

2. All Summer Long - Kid Rock

Kid Rock! Who is leading in sales so far this week, making him the likely successor on Sunday's chart. This week he's up one spot to #2.

3. No Air - Jordin Sparks Featuring Chris Brown

Jordin and Chris climb back up to #3, their third time at this peak.

6. Shut Up and Let Me Go - The Ting Tings

Fully released third single from The Ting Tings snakes up three spots to #6. A bit shy of the #1 placing for "That's Not My Name," but surely enough to ensure they are not a one hit wonder.

7. Sweet About Me - Gabriella Cilmi

Gabriella Cilmi's new single "Save the Lies" is out in a few weeks. Until then, her previous one is showing no sign of dying, climbing back up five spots to #7 this week, just one spot shy of the #6 peak it reached 5 weeks ago.

14. 5 Years Time - Noah & the Whale

"5 Years Time," the folksy single from English group Noah & the Whale climbs ten spots this week, an impressive showing for such a single, which is still 2 weeks from its physical release. There is #1 potential here I think, as airplay has been steadily growing too.

16. Viva la Vida - Coldplay

Speaking of airplay, Coldplay's "Viva la Vida" climbs to the top of the airplay chart this week. The former #1 hit still doesn't have a physical release in the UK, with none on the schedule so far. No video has appeared for it yet either, despite the band claiming one was in the works. The album, Viva La Vida or Death and His Friends is #1 on the UK albums chart for a 6th week.

18. I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked - Ida Maria

Norwegian singer Ida Maria scores her first top 40 hit, debuting at #18 with "I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked.

19. Hometown Glory - Adele

Adele misses out on the top 10 again, landing her third single "Hometown Glory" one spot below her last, "Cold Shoulder," which peaked at #18. This is actually a re-release of her first limited single, which has been around the lower part of the top 40 twice before.

21. One for the Radio - McFly

3-10, 5-16, 1-8, 3-9, 9-24, 1-9, 3-20, 1-20, 3-10. Those are some of McFly's notorious second week plunges. The band's 14th consecutive top 10 single does not disappoint, falling 2-21 this week. Ouch for most groups, but from this band, par for the course.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

So Long 7Digital

7Digital has stopped selling its music downloads to anyone outside the UK. This is a real shame, as the site was a great place to shop for British pop and rock. According to the response I got from the company, the new download restrictions at 7Digital are the result of new licensing restrictions imposed by the record labels.

Although the contact said they were opening a new U.S. store soon, my guess is that it won't offer anything iTunes doesn't already carry, so what's the point? How sad that 7Digital has closed its doors on me.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Album Review: Delta Goodrem - Delta (4/5)

Few Americans have heard of her, but in Australia, Delta Goodrem is a chart powerhouse. There she's scored eight #1 hits this decade--more than any other artist. She's also had a few top 5 hits in the UK. Like many Australian pop singers, she got her start on soap opera Neighbours, although few others own lives mirrored a television melodrama the way Delta's has. Following the successful release of her 2003 debut album, Innocent Eyes, Delta, at only 18, was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma cancer, putting on hold efforts for a further global launch. She recovered quickly though, releasing her second album, Mistaken Identity, a year later, only to then become embroiled in a tabloid backlash for her relationship with former Westlife singer Brian McFadden, who, at the time was married to former Atomic Kitten member Kerry Katona.

Four years later now, Delta has put those demons behind her (we hope), and has readied a remarkable new album, her best yet. Delta opens with one of my favorite songs to come along this year. "Believe Again" is a beautifully crafted power pop ballad in the grand tradition of songs like Robbie Williams' "Angels" or Celine Dion's "It's All Coming Back to Me Now." The dramatic single opens quietly with a full orchestra overture, building gradually to the first chorus with Delta's breathy vocals, piano, percussion, guitar, woodwinds, and drums. And it only gets bigger from there (a male chorale backs her during the bridge). Delta showed a willingness to do singles like this with 2004's Guy Chambers-penned "Out of the Blue"--another personal favorite--and this is a worthy successor. Check out the silly video too, where Delta rises from the primordial soup while geometric stone forms rotate above the ground (dramatic pop songs deserve ridiculous videos, it just has to be that way).

First single "In This Life" has a more traditional format and nicely showcases Delta's powerful pipes, holding her own against the wall of sound created by the layers of piano, electric guitar, and drums. Full on drama isn't her only mode of operation though. Sweet "Possessionless" thins out the accompanyment a bit, although Delta's signature piano remains among the mix of acoustic instruments. "Born to Try," her first single from 2003 makes a cameo here on the U.S. version, bumping "The Guardian" from the set. This is a regrettable omission, one I hope is corrected with the forthcoming UK release, as "The Guardian" is a fantastic song--one of the album's best (and who needs to hear "Born to Try" again?).

"Bare Hands" has a vaguely R&B arrangement, with pumped up bass and synths added to the piano and guitar mix. Despite that, this is actually the most traditionally Delta Goodrem sounding song so far. Piano and guitar ballad "God Laughs" follows, and then "You Will Only Break My Heart," a real treat. It's much more upbeat than we're used to hearing from Delta, backed with a bit of reggae sway. With this, and tracks like the country-influenced "Woman," Delta shows she has more range than your average singer. "Brave Face" sounds at first like it isn't going to be very remarkable until you the great chorus, which completely makes the song.

Ballad "I Can't Break It to My Heart" is another great vocal showcase for Delta's voice. She has a great deal of control, singing effectively when she's quiet and belting out the chorus. And refreshingly, she stays away from the melismatic acrobatics that so many of her contemporaries mistake for "good" singing. "One Day," one of the six tracks co-written by boyfriend McFadden, is another standout--a laid back, guitar-driven piece of modern pop. "Angels in the Room" quietly closes the album.

If there was any doubt, the dramatic orchestra- and piano- backed power pop of Delta cements Goodrem as the new Celine Dion. She even has Celine's penchant for odd lyrics: "All the things that I've collected, stones and shells, every word in every book upon my shelf, only form a brief description of myself; but they don't define who I am, I don't think anything can" she sings in "Possessionless," where she declares that her "naked body" is all she has for her man. Racy? A bit. Ridiculous? For sure, but power pop has never been known for its lyrical meaning. Delta is blessed with a creative team of producers and songwriters that have created a diverse collection of pop songs that aptly showcase her as a singer that deserves the attention she gets (and hopes to get finally in the U.S.).

Best: Believe Again, In This Life, You Will Only Break My Heart, Woman, God Laughs

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Personal Chart, 7/26/2008

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 1 .... Viva La Vida - Coldplay (4 wks @ #1)
2 .... 6 .... Believe Again - Delta Goodrem
3 .... 4 .... Leavin' - Jesse McCartney
4 .... 2 .... Give It 2 Me - Madonna
5 .... 7 .... I Kissed a Girl - Katy Perry
6 .... 8 .... The One - Kylie Minogue
7 .... 3 .... Pocketful of Sunshine - Natasha Bedingfield
8 .... 5 .... Take a Bow - Rihanna (1 wk @ #1)
9 ... 14 ... Hometown Glory - Adele
10 .. 12 .. All Summer Long - Kid Rock

Monday, July 21, 2008

UK Singles Chart, 7/26/2008

1. Dance Wiv Me - Dizzee Rascal Featuring Calvin Harris & Chrome

Dizzee Rascal remains on top of the chart for a third week, ending the recent rather rapid turnover at the top of the chart. Earlier this year, the first four #1 hits of 2008 each spent 4 or more weeks at the top, a spell that was broken by The Ting Tings' "That's Not My Name," which spent a sole week in pole position. The four following #1s each spent just 1 or 2 weeks at the summit. Conventional wisdom would have said this single would have followed suit, to have been knocked from #1 by this week's #2...

2. One for the Radio - McFly

...But that wasn't to be. McFly, Britain's poppier answer to Blink-182 and Good Charlotte, have had seven #1 hits this decade--second only to the 10 #1s scored by Westlife. Despite the fact that McFly's #1s have a tendency to plummet from #1 like stones, at least they reach the summit. "One for the Radio" is the first single from the group's forthcoming fourth album, Radio:Active, and by missing #1 (it surely won't rise to the top next week), becomes their first lead single from an album not to hit the top spot. Oh, and despite the title, the single is only #23 on the airplay chart, which is actually rather good for them (they never get airplay).

3. All Summer Long - Kid Rock

Kid Rock scores his biggest ever UK hit with "All Summer Long," charging up to #3 upon its physical release this week. His previous best was "American Bad Ass," which hit #25. Unlike McFly, this track is one for the radio (it's #7 on the UK airplay chart), and it really does sound great while headed to the beach (or so I'd wager, as I haven't yet headed to the beach this summer).

7. Give It 2 Me - Madonna

Jumping up 10 spots upon its physical release, Madonna scores her 62nd UK top 10 with "Give It 2 Me." Go Madonna! Okay, with the celebration aside, let's talk about why this is actually a very disappointing chart performance. First, this ties "Get Together" as the lowest Madonna has charted with a follow-up to a #1 hit. All others were top 5 (many were even #1s themselves). Second, the is the lowest the second single from a Madonna album has charted since "Take a Bow" missed the top 10 in 1994. Even "Hollywood," the second single from widely derided American Life, hit #2.

Radio in general for this and Hard Candy's last single, "4 Minutes," has been rather tepid for Madonna. "4 Minutes," despite being #1 for 4 weeks, never hit #1 on the airplay chart, and "Give It 2 Me" peaked at #8 a couple of weeks ago. In contrast, "Hung Up" spent 8 weeks at #1 and its follow-up, "Sorry," spent 5 weeks at the radio summit--both were #1 on the sales chart.

Let's hope this is a fluke and not a downward trend, as Madonna has a great third single waiting in the wings in "Miles Away."

9. Shut Up and Let Me Go - The Ting Tings

The Ting Tings score their second top 10 hit with "Shut Up and Let Me Go," the third single from their debut album, We Started Nothing. It's fully released today, making it a top contender to unseat Dizzee Rascal for #1 next weekend. Their last single, "That's Not My Name," is still selling strong, down one spot to #15 this week.

34. About You Now - Sugababes

Sugababes make a surprise return to the top 40 with their former #1 "About You Now." The sales go not to the single version but a Radio 1 Live Lounge acoustic recording, recently featured on the TV show Hollyoaks.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Album Review: Black Kids - Partie Traumatic (4.5/5)

Been wondering where all this summer's best pop melodies, hooks, and energy have gone? Look no further than Partie Traumatic, the debut album from Jacksonville, Florida band Black Kids. They remind me of the Killers--great songs led by a smug lead singer and crafted with an obvious '80s synth-pop influence--but more upbeat. Most of Partie Traumatic is the kind of music that makes you want to move, no ballads in the mix.

Lively "Hit the Heartbreaks" starts the set, drenched in synthesizers and personality. Similarly upbeat "Partie Traumatic" follows, upping the guitar and piano quotient. "Listen to Your Body Tonight" nods to the Flaming Lips but retains the fast pace established by the first two tracks.

Like several recently launched bands (such as The Ting Tings), Black Kids has male and female vocalists, which works well (mostly lead Reggie Youngblood, with both of the band's female members, Dawn Watley and Reggie's sister Ali, as backup and occasional co-leads). Lyrically, they range from playing double-entendres like "heartbreaks" to the gender-bending cleverness of "Hurricane Jane" or "I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You," the latter giving us "You are the girl that I've been dreaming of ever since I was a little girl" (delivered by Reggie).

"Hurricane Jane" slows the tempo a bit, providing the album its most downbeat moment--a tale of loneliness--but not delivered too seriously. The album's best line starts the chorus: "It's Friday night, and I ain't got nobody, so what's the use in making the bed?" This, along with the next track, "I'm Making Eyes at You," are my favorites. "I'm Making Eyes at You" is also a bit slower than the opening party-baiting salvo. Even so, the sweet synths that form the song's melody and punched up by "Mickey"-esque drum moves. It's warm keyboard melodies harken to the early '80s the most of any of these songs.

"I've Underestimated My Charm (Again)" has a more prominent stomp to it. It's good, but gets lost between the last two great songs and the one that follows. "I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance with You" isn't perhaps the year's catchiest title for a single, but it's one of the most clever. As silly as they may seem, the band is musically quite good, effectively layering multiple synth effects over guitar and keyboard riffs while the girls sing "dance! dance! dance!"

Thankfully, the album holds up its charms to the very end. "Love Me Already" and "Look at Me (When I Rock Wichoo)" are good, but my favorite of the three closing tracks is "I Wanna Be Your Limousine," which exudes the most personality through its synth-pop swagger.

I appreciate that Partie Traumatic is a lean 10-track set with not a bad song in the bunch. This is joyful, upbeat modern pop music, perfectly timed for summer. Let's also take a moment to acknowledge Bernard Butler, who between this album and Duffy's Rockferry, has produced the year's two best debut albums.

Best: I'm Making Eyes at You, Hurricane Jane, I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance with You, Hit the Heartbreaks, Partie Traumatic, I Wanna Be Your Limousine

Billboard Hot 100, 7/26/2008

Not a lot of excitement on the Hot 100 this week...

1. I Kissed a Girl - Katy Perry

Fourth week at the top for Katy Perry and "I Kissed a Girl." This is quickly becoming the summer hit of 2008.

4. Forever - Chris Brown

Chris Brown earns the sales gainer and a new peak at #4 for "Forever," becoming his fifth top 5 single.

6. Pocketful of Sunshine - Natasha Bedingfield

"Pocketful of Sunshine" appears to be the single that just won't die. In its 22nd week in the Hot 100 it's up a spot to #6. It's fallen three times now and recovered, last time reaching its highest peak at #5. It's still nowhere near the longevity of "Unwritten," which spent 42 weeks on the Hot 100.

8. A Milli - Lil Wayne

Lil Wayne follows recent #1 hit "Lollipop" with "A Milli," which appears in the top 10 for the first time this week (up 3 spots). Everyone says he's the greatest thing in rap right now, but I'm not convinced. I don't see anything special about this single.

9. 7 Things - Miley Cyrus

"7 Things" climbs a spot this week, making it Miley Cyrus's highest-charting single to date, having now surpassed the #10 peak of "See You Again." The single is doing very well in sales, even if its top 40 airplay appears to be flagging (it's still gaining, but so slowly that it's actually been dropping on the chart lately, down to #24 on R&R this week).

11. Leavin' - Jesse McCartney

Speaking of the Radio & Records chart, this young man has his first #1 hit on it this week with "Leavin." On the Hot 100, it's up two and this week's airplay gainer at #11.

17. Closer - Ne-Yo

I recently proclaimed this single a flop in America. Apparently that was a mistake; after appearing to peak at #25 a few weeks ago, the single has performed a marvelous turnaround, climbing 10 spots to #17 this week. Top 40 airplay has finally begun to look up as well. "Closer" was recently a #1 hit in the UK.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Personal Chart, 7/19/2008

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 1 .... Viva La Vida - Coldplay (3 wks @ #1)
2 .... 4 .... Give It 2 Me - Madonna
3 .... 3 .... Pocketful of Sunshine - Natasha Bedingfield
4 .... 6 .... Leavin' - Jesse McCartney
5 .... 2 .... Take a Bow - Rihanna (1 wks @ #1)
6 .... 8 .... Believe Again - Delta Goodrem
7 ... 10 ... I Kissed a Girl - Katy Perry
8 ... 12 ... The One - Kylie Minogue
9 .... 5 .... Warwick Avenue - Duffy (2 wks @ #1)
10 .. 7 .... Labels or Love - Fergie

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Thinking About the Grammys

Last week, Entertainment Weekly started speculating about early Oscar contenders this year, so I think it's time to start thinking about what music might be up for the 2009 Grammy Awards. The Grammy eligibility season has just two and a half months left, closing at the end of September. Of course what gets nominated depends largely on the record companies to submit recordings for consideration. When that doesn't happen, embarrassing omissions ensue--Kanye West's "Stronger" missing from Record of the Year, for example. So who might be up this year?

Album of the Year

I think this is the year for Radiohead, perhaps to even win. In Rainbows is among their most critically acclaimed albums and is considered more accessible than many of their recent ones. Both OK Computer and Kid A were nominated. Lil Wayne is a strong contender for The Carter III, as is Alicia Keys for As I Am. Also, Coldplay should be a strong contender this year for Viva La Vida and Death and All His Friends, and they've never been nominated. If a country album finds its way in there, it could be Carrie Underwood's Carnival Ride, which has scored three #1 country hits, or Alison Krauss and Robert Plant's Raising Sand. Not to be underestimated is the Grammy nostalgia factor, which could push The Eagles' Long Road Out of Eden onto the list.

After that my crystal ball gets fuzzier. Sheryl Crow maybe for Detours, although that album hasn't had much impact. Perhaps Death Cab for Cutie or My Morning Jacket, although I see them more in the alternative category. Recent or upcoming releases from Beck, John Mellencamp and The Hold Steady are potential choices too, depending on what sort of impact they have in the next few months. I don't see nods for Usher or Mariah Carey this time (sorry guys), and it's a longshot for R.E.M.'s Accelerate.

Record of the Year

The most obvious contender here is Timbaland and OneRepublic's "Apologize," which should easily make the list. I think "Bleeding Love" by Leona Lewis and "Viva La Vida" by Coldplay should be considered strong contenders too. Sara Bareilles' "Love Song" and Jordin Sparks and Chris Brown's "No Air" are potential nominees. Although it wasn't a big hit, if Alicia Keys is on the albums list, then "Like You'll Never See Me Again" could be here too.

Of course I'd love to see "Mercy" by Duffy make the list, but unfortunately I don't think it will happen since "Mercy" hasn't become a major hit--and last year Amy Winehouse did have a major hit in "Rehab." I'm also not inclined to predict a nomination for Madonna and Justin Timberlake's "4 Minutes," simply because other Timbaland-produced artist collaborations like "Promiscuous," "Give It to Me," and "Sexyback" didn't get it, so why should "4 Minutes?" We still have two and half months for other contenders to emerge here.

Best New Artist

British ladies could crowd this category with the likes of Leona Lewis, Duffy, Estelle and Adele all having varying degrees of potential. OneRepublic should appear here, and if she's eligible, maybe Sara Bareilles. An edgier slate might find Santogold or the Ting Tings here. If Jennifer Hudson can make a splash with her forthcoming debut, maybe she'll appear too. Then of course there's Katy "I Kissed a Girl" Perry to contend with.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sophie Ellis-Bextor returns

Sophie Ellis-Bextor is getting ready to release her fourth album later this year. Two of the album's tracks are now available on her myspace page. "Off and On" is courtesy of Calvin Harris, Cathy Dennis, and Roisin Murphy--not a bad production and writing team to say the least. The other track, "Heartbreak Make Me a Dancer," is a Freemasons production, another good choice.

Ms. Ellis-Bextor (who happens to be Mrs. Richard Jones of The Feeling) could use a hit. Her last two albums haven't fared so well. Her last, Trip the Light Fantastic (my review), scored just one top 10 hit, "Catch You," and the previous one, Shoot from the Hip, had a couple, but neither are very memorable. She remains best known for her debut single, #1 hit "Groovejet (If This Ain't Love)" and the second single from her debut Read My Lips, "Murder on the Dancefloor."

As I've pointed out before, all three of her albums use cliche titles with an "ip" word (lips, hip, trip). If she keeps that trend up, what could the fourth album be called? Some ideas:

Heart Skips a Beat
Shape Up or Ship Out
When My Ship Comes In
The Chips Are Down
Chip on My Shoulder
Nip and Tuck
Let Her Rip
Let It Slip
Tip of My Tongue
At My Fingertips

UK Singles Chart, 7/12/2008

I know this is really late, but hey--better late than never.

1. Dance Wiv Me - Dizzee Rascal (featuring Calvin Harris & Chrome)

English rapper Dizzee Rascal has been a critics darling since arriving on the scene in 2003 with his Mercury Prize-nominated album Boy in Da Corner, but until now he's never had a #1 hit--his previous best being the #10 single "Stand Up Tall." While Dizzee is certainly deserving with this great single, credit should also go to Calvin Harris, the Scottish DJ at work here. While not yet as prominent as say Mark Ronson, Harris is coming into is own, having produced a top 10 hit earlier this year for Kylie Minogue, "In My Arms," and two top 10s for himself last year, "Acceptable in the '80s" and "The Girls."

3. All I Ever Wanted - Basshunter

Swedish dance act Basshunter follows up his #1 hit from earlier this year, "Now You're Gone," with a new entry this week at #3, "All I Ever Wanted." Like "Now You're Gone," this is an English remake of Swedish single Basshunter previously released, "Vi sitter i Ventrilo och spelar DotA," a top 10 hit in several European countries after it was released in 2006.

22. Electric Feel - MGMT

MGMT got an unexpected boost this week, up nine spots to #22 in its second week. So close to being a top 20 hit.

30. No Substitute Love - Estelle

"No Substitute Love" proves to be no substitute for "American Boy," following that massive #1 hit into a lowly #30 slot. While this is more in keeping with Estelle's chart performance prior to "American Boy," it is surprising she couldn't follow up such a major hit with at least a top 10.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Album Review: Ladytron - Velocifero (3/5)

Velocifero, a term the band says means "bringer of speed," is the fourth album from Ladytron, the British electro-pop group that made waves in 2005 with their last album, Witching Hour. They are vaguely reminiscent of mid to late '80s Depeche Mode or New Order with a stronger dance/new wave sensibility.

"Black Cat," the French-language opening track, has an appealingly dark sound with sharp bass, but really isn't a standout for me. I much prefer the second track and first single, "Ghosts," which is more melodic and upbeat, although no one would mistake them for Alphabeat. "I'm Not Scared" is even more upbeat and still pretty dark.

Then there's "Runaway," my favorite track, which has a sharp beat and sinister synth-based groove that sounds very Depeche Mode (Music for the Masses era). "Season of Illusion" keeps up the dark synths and propelling beat. They keep changing female singers, which is interesting. The "Season of Illusion" singer has a deeper voice than the "Runaway" lead. Sometimes they sing together, which is better yet. "Burning Up" is less insistent than many of the tracks that come before it, but the group punches up the melody nicely on the chorus.

"Kletva" really layers on the synth chords, but unfortunately abandons the melody, but it's thankfully short. "They Gave You a Heart, They Gave You a Name" is better, but not wonderful. "Predict the Day" opens with someone whistling over a heavily distorted bass line, and is generally better, although at this point, I think I'm getting bored with the album.

Sexy "Deep Blue" restores my interest though. It's the album's longest track and the best of the second half, featuring a great strings-based middle section. After sagging in the middle, it's nice that the album picks up at the end. Big-sounding "Tomorrow" exudes a certain amount of warmth. "Versus" features male and female vocals--I think the only track to do so but I could be wrong.

My overall assessment of this album is that it is pretty good, but not wonderful. Some of the early tracks are especially good, but this album seems to lack much range--every track features sinister '80s-style synth grooves with beats that range from slightly above mid-tempo to fairly upbeat (but never harsh). About 2/3 through the album, I felt like I was getting bored with the repetition. While it's interesting that they use old fashioned analog synth instruments, it shows that the newer digital ones probably could provide a lot more variety.

Best: Runaway, Ghosts, Deep Blue, Burning Up, I'm Not Scared

Introducing: The Saturdays

Just when you thought Sugababes and Girls Aloud were starting to look a little long in the tooth, there's a new British girl group on the scene. The Saturdays, like Girls Aloud, are a five-some, two of whom are former members of S Club 8 (the spin-off group from S Club 7 originally called S Club Juniors). The group's first single is "If This Is Love."

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Personal Chart, 7/12/2008

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 1 .... Viva La Vida - Coldplay (2 wks @ #1)
2 .... 2 .... Take a Bow - Rihanna (1 wk @ #1)
3 .... 3 .... Pocketful of Sunshine - Natasha Bedingfield
4 .... 8 .... Give It 2 Me - Madonna
5 .... 4 .... Warwick Avenue - Duffy (2 wks @ #1)
6 .... 6 .... Leavin' - Jesse McCartney
7 .... 9 .... Labels or Love (Theme from "Sex and the City") - Fergie
8 ... 12 ... Believe Again - Delta Goodrem
9 .... 5 .... Sweet About Me - Gabriella Cilmi
10 .. 14 .. I Kissed a Girl - Katy Perry

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Grace Jones is crazy

Don't watch this just before bed.

Songs I Love Right Now

Here's what I'm listening to these days.

Believe Again - Delta Goodrem. So this isn't actually a current single anywhere at the moment (it was a #2 hit in Australia late last year), but I don't care because I love it. It's pretty close to replacing "Out of the Blue" as my favorite Delta single. Her current U.S. single, "In This Life," is pretty great too, but I prefer the dramatic feel of "Believe Again." Both are from Delta, released 7/15 in the U.S.

Built to Last - Mêlée. Mêlée is a rock band from Orange County. "Built to Last" is the second single from their second album, which has already been a major hit in Japan and some European countries, and is now getting airplay in the UK in advance of a single release later this month. It's a good pop/rock track with a nice piano riff. Pretty MOR, but nicely done.

The One - Kylie Minogue. While I liked "Wow" and "In Your Arms," neither are as good as "The One," a dance track with shimmering simplicity a la "Can't Get You Out of My Head" backed by a warm '80s synth arrangement. Great stuff--hopefully she'll land another UK top 10 hit with it.

All Summer Long - Kid Rock. I was skeptical about this for awhile, but after I heard it, I liked it right away. It curbs liberally from Lynard Skynard's "Sweet Home Alabama" and Warren Zevon's "Werewolves in London," making it instantly recognizable. Great summer track.

All The Times I Cried - Sharleen Spiteri. Remember Texas? "Say What You Want?" "Inner Smile?" Well this is their lead singer gone solo. Doesn't stray too far from her Scottish pop band's sound, which is a good thing.

Dance Wiv Me - Dizzee Rascal (feat. Calvin Harris and Chrome). Thanks to Calvin Harris, hot Scottish dance music producer of the moment, Dizzee Rascal finally has a major hit, and it's a great song, mixing up hip-hop and dance. It was the UK's #1 over the weekend.

Give It 2 Me - Madonna. Give it to Madonna for following up ultra radio friendly "4 Minutes" with Hard Candy's hardest dance cut. "Give it 2 Me" is Hard Candy's "Get Together," and it's a great track with a propulsive dance beat and a dirty "get stoopid" breakdown courtesy of Pharrell Williams.

Forever - Chris Brown. When it comes to Chris Brown, I either love or hate his singles. "Run It" and "Kiss Kiss" didn't do it for me, but I liked "With You" and of course his Jordin Sparks collaboration, "No Air." "Forever" is a great follow-up to those tracks, an upbeat dance pop number featuring Chris's vocals auto-tuned to android-like proportions.

Leavin' - Jesse McCartney. This is one that took awhile to grow on me, but now I like it. Sure it's an obvious play to grab the Justin Timberlake fans between JT's albums, but JM could certainly pick someone worse to emulate. Very different than the "Beautiful Soul" sound we're used to from him.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Billboard Hot 100, 7/12/2008

1. I Kissed a Girl - Katy Perry

No change at the top for Katy Perry, who is also this week's airplay gainer.

3. Bleeding Love - Leona Lewis

It's been 2 months since Leona was at #1 and she's still in the top 3 with a bullet--and this week's sales gainer no less. Interestingly, two other former #1s still in the top 10--Rihanna's "Take a Bow" at #4 and Coldplay's "Viva La Vida" at #6--are both still bulleted too. I'd like to think this was because fast sales drove these singles to #1 early and now they're still gaining due to their airplay, but as I said above, Leona's bullet is based on sales, so who knows.

5. Burnin' Up - Jonas Brothers

Last week the Jonas Brothers had a hefty #20 debut with their Camp Rock song, "Play My Music." This week they debut at #5 with their latest proper single, "Burnin' Up," giving the group its first top 10 hit. With its airplay gaining swiftly too, #1 looks promising for this.

39. Summertime - New Kids on the Block

After a 16-year absence, the recently reunited New Kids on the Block score their 11th top 40 hit with "Summertime," the lead single from their forthcoming 5th album, Back on the Block. The New Kids' original run of hits stretched from late 1988 to mid 1992, consisting of 10 top 40 singles, all but one of which were top 10 hits and three that were #1s--"I'll Be Loving You (Forever)," "Hangin' Tough," and "Step By Step." Two of the group's members had solo hits--Joe McIntyre hit #10 in 1999 with "Stay the Same," and about a month later Jordan Knight also hit #10 in with "Give It to You." Donnie Wahlberg pursued acting rather than singing, most notably appearing in "The Sixth Sense" in 1999. (What's up with 1999 being the year for solo New Kids success?)

Saturday, July 05, 2008

July new album releases

The second half of the year commences...with a snooze. This has to be the most boring month of new releases yet. Only Delta Goodrem really interests me, perhaps Sharleen Spiteri.

July 7/8

Beck - Modern Guilt. Midnight Vultures (2000) and Odelay (1996) were Grammy Album of th the Year Nominees; Sea Change (2002) received a 5-star review from Rolling Stone, but his last album, The Information (2006), wasn't a big hit. Will his 8th studio album change that?

July 14/15

Delta Goodrem - Delta. Australia's most popular new artist this decade (she's had eight #1 hits since 2003) finally releases an album in the U.S. Word is that Delta, her third album, is better than her last outing, Mistaken Identity, and more polished than her first, Innocent Eyes. Features first single "In This Life."

Sharleen Spiteri - Melody. The Texas lead singer tries a solo disc. First single "All The Times I Cried" is pretty decent, but doesn't sound that much different than what the band would do.

John Mellencamp - Life, Death, Love and Freedom. John Mellencamp releases a disc of folk rock distributed in the new CODE format, which is supposed to be high-definition and virtually indistinguishable from the recording tapes.

Basshunter - Now You're Gone. After scoring a massive UK #1 wth "Now You're Gone," the Swedish dance act has a whole album of such similar wonders, including new single "All I Ever Wanted."

July 21/22

Miley Cyrus - Breakout. The 15 year-old Disney megastar--one of the hardest working people in the biz--releases her second solo album, featuring first single "7 Things."

July 28/29

Young Jeezy - The Recession. The guy who appears on Usher's "Love in This Club Part 1" puts out another album.

Erykah Badu - New Amyrkah Part Two (Return of the Ankh). She's got a new one too.

August looks a little better with new releases from Ne-Yo, Nelly (finally), The Streets, and The Verve.

Album Review: Moby - Last Night (3.5/5)

Clinging to the belief that his music is still primarily for home listening, rather than say commercial licensing or restaurant background, Moby put out his 9th studio album this year. Judging from the cover art and title, Last Night is intended to be Moby back in DJ mode, after the sleepy 2005 release Hotel (hotels are for sleeping after all). It hearkens back to the first Moby album I ever bought, the fantastic 1995 release Everything Is Wrong, which remains my favorite Moby album--Yes, it's even better than Play, his landmark 1999 release that made him a superstar (and superstar of the advertising industry).

Like a lot of Moby, it's an eclectic mix of upbeat and more ethereal dance number, most with tinkly keyboards, layered synths, and processed vocals. It's also therefore a mixed bag, although mostly pretty good. Lyrically, of course, there's not much going on, such as in the upbeat opener "Ooh Yeah," which loops the title continuously over a driving beat and bass and violin synths, or "," which loops a bunch of spoken numbers over an '80s dance vibe.

The '80s are clearly on Moby's mind, explicitly on "Everyday is 1989," an old school Moby track with charging dance beat, pounding piano, and looped vocals from some anonymous dance music diva. "I Love to Move in Here" is another retro-flavored standout, hearkening back to that late '80s/early '90s period when rap and house music were briefly merged, featuring guest Grandmaster Caz. I like the little bursts of synth strings and audience noise. "Alice" has an even stronger hip-hop vibe and a harsher arrangement, although still quite danceable--think House of Pain.

Moby turns his synth chords way up on the opening of "Live for Tomorrow" while looping a soul singer--a sound familiar to any recent Moby album--but then gives it a harder beat. Space-age keyboards show up too in this surprisingly good track that comes off as "classic" Moby. Skip over moody "Hyenas" and undernourished "I'm in Love" to "Disco Lies," an enjoyable blend of early '90s dance-pop and Moby sensibility. "The Stars" is another high-energy, piano and looped vocal track that sounds like a revisited Everything is Wrong leftover.

Then the party ends. "Degenerates" lives up to its title, providing a soup mix of synths and percussion. "Sweet Apocalypse" and "Mothers of the Night" are dull, repetitive instrumentals. Vocals return on the languid title track, but not the sense of enjoyment built by the album's earlier dance tracks.

After giving this a closer listen for this review, I found I actually liked it better than when I just had it on in the background, which unfortunately is how most of Moby's music is consumed. With such attention, the joys of the various songs emerged, and were surprisingly good, especially the retro House tracks. Until the final act, which suffers from being too repetitive and bland, there's a good deal of fun to be in Moby's journey through late '80s and early to mid '90s dance music.

Best: Everyday is 1989, Live for Tomorrow, Disco Lies, I Love to Move in Here, Ooh Yeah

Friday, July 04, 2008

Will Young - New material

Will Young is starting to perform new material from his upcoming fourth album, Let It Go, due for release in late September. Here's a video of him performing an acoustic version of the title track:

Not bad. There's also a poor quality video of Will performing the album's first single, "Changes":

Thanks to xolondon for the heads up on this.

UK Singles Chart, 7/5/2008

1. Closer - Ne-Yo

It's peculiar but not uncommon for a popular American artist has a hit in the UK that isn't a hit at home. The last single by an American artist to hit #1 in the UK but miss the U.S. top 10 was Madonna's "Sorry." Other examples from this decade include "Nasty Girl" by The Notorious B.I.G. and friends, "Get Right" by Jennifer Lopez, "Like Toy Soldiers" by Eminem, and Christina Aguilera's "Dirrty."

In The U.S., Ne-Yo hit #1 in 2006 with "So Sick" and #2 last year with "Because of You." He's had several other top 10 hits, but "Closer" isn't one of them (the single peaked at #25 two weeks ago). Yet it sits on top of the UK singles chart this week, having slowly climbed the top 10 over the last 5 weeks. "Closer" is Ne-Yo's 4th top 10 hit and 2nd #1 after "So Sick."

3. No Air - Jordin Sparks Featuring Chris Brown

Another American Idol winner besides Kelly Clarkson finally has a hit in the UK. Jordin Sparks rises 7 spots to #3 this week to become the American Idol with biggest charting UK single yet, beating the #5 peak of Kelly's "Since U Been Gone." This good fortune is somewhat analogous to American Idol results at home. On the American charts, Jordin Sparks is the only other Idol winner besides Clarkson who appears to have major potential as a pop artist, having hit #3 with this single a few months ago (and #8 last year with "Tattoo"). And no, I'm not forgetting Carrie Underwood, who is now perhaps the most successful American Idol winner in American, but she's more a country artist than a pop artist. "No Air" is a great pop single and I'm glad to see it was able to cross the pond.

4. Forever - Chris Brown

For whatever reason (probably because they're both young American male pop/R&B artists) I have a mental link between Ne-Yo's "Closer" and Chris Brown's "Forever"--both having come out at about the same time in the states and the UK and both climbing the chart at about the same pace, at least in the UK. "Forever" is Chris Brown's third UK top 5 hit, his second coming just one spot above this, giving him two top 5 hits this week. The last time an artist had two top 5 singles in the top 10? It was September 2006, when Timbaland was the featured artist on both Justin Timberlake's "Sexyback" at #2 and Nelly Furtado's "Promiscuous" at #3. He was, of course, the producer of both singles too.

16. Geraldine - Glasvegas

Scottish band Glasvegas score their first top 40 hit this week with "Geraldine." The group hails from Glascow, but apparently has an affinity for Las Vegas too, having used both cities' names to form theirs. Glasvegas is the 9th act from the BBC Sounds of 2008 list to score a top 40 hit. Only Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong has yet to have a top 40 single. The biggest hits from that bunch so far:

1. Adele - #2 "Chasing Pavements"
2. Duffy - #1 "Mercy"
3. The Ting Tings - #1 "That's Not My Name"
4. Glasvegas - #16 "Geraldine"
5. Foals - #26 "Cassius"
6. Vampire Weekend - #38 "Oxford Comma"
7. Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong - #43 "Lonely Buoy"
8. Black Kids - #11 "I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance with You"
9. MGMT - #31 "Electric Feel"
10. Santogold - #27 "Les Artistes"

24. Shut Up and Let Me Go - The Ting Tings
31. Electric Feel - MGMT

While we're on the subject of the BBC Sounds of 2008 list, two of the other artists on it also score top 40 hits this week. The Ting Tings, who hit #1 in May with "That's Not My Name" score their third top 40 with "Shut Up and Let Me Go." It's not in stores until July 14, so expect this to rise--likely will become their second top 10 hit.

MGMT, the American electro/indie band who hit #35 earlier this year with their debut, "Time to Pretend," score a slightly bigger hit at #31 with its follow-up, "Electric Feel."

30. Bye Bye - Mariah Carey

Today's chart commentary started with an example of a popular American artist whose latest single unusually charted much higher in the UK than in the U.S., and I'm closing with something equally interesting--a popular American artist whose last single was a big hit in both countries--and the follow-up a bomb in both. "Touch My Body," Mariah Carey's first single from her latest album was a #1 hit in America and a #5 single in Britain. It's follow-up, tipped by many as a sure thing, has gone belly up in both countries, peaking at #19 in the U.S. and #30 this week in the UK. Truthfully, I'm not that surprised and a little glad. "Bye Bye" is fine but bland, and there are many other better tracks on E=MC2, an album I happen to rather like. "I Stay in Love" is a much better ballad, and upbeat tracks like "Migrate" and "I'll Be Lovin' U Long Time" are good too. Hopefully this won't prevent them from getting a chance.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Personal Chart, 7/5/2008

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 2 .... Viva La Vida - Coldplay (1 week @ #1)
2 .... 1 .... Take a Bow - Rihanna (1 wk @ #1)
3 .... 5 .... Pocketful of Sunshine - Natasha Bedingfield
4 .... 3 .... Warwick Avenue - Duffy (2 wks @ #1)
5 .... 6 .... Sweet About Me - Gabriella Cilmi
6 .... 8 .... Leavin' - Jesse McCartney
7 .... 4 .... Violet Hill - Coldplay (2 wks @ #1)
8 ... 11 ... Give It 2 Me - Madonna
9 ... 10 ... Labels or Love (Theme from "Sex and the City") - Fergie
10 ... 7 .... That's Not My Name - The Ting Tings

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Best Albums, first half of 2008

With My Morning Jacket, I've reviewed 24 new albums so far this year. These are my 10 favorite:

1. Madonna - Hard Candy
2. Duffy - Rockferry
3. Coldplay - Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends
4. The Raconteurs - Consolers of the Lonely
5. The Last Shadow Puppets - The Age of the Understatement
6. Mariah Carey - E=MC²
7. Goldfrapp - Seventh Tree
8. Adele - 19
9. The Ting Tings - We Started Nothing
10. Nine Inch Nails - The Slip