Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Best Albums of 2010 So Far

As of midnight tonight 2010 is officially half over. Already this year there have been a number of quite good albums. Here's a rundown of my favorites by genre.


The Scissor Sisters' cheeky third album, Night Work, is probably my favorite album of the year so far and definitely the year's best pop album. The sassy, sexy set is smutty, joyous fun.

Honorable mentions: The Music of Glee, particularly the Madonna EP and Volume 3, Robyn's electropop EP Body Talk Pt. 1, which insantly raised expectations for parts 2 and 3, and Goldfrapp's very early '80s fifth album, Head First.


The National's gorgeous album High Violet is probably my second favorite album so far this year. Although this is their fifth album, I'd never listened to them before, and this definitely made me want to hear more. I've already checked out their fourth album, Boxer, which is also good.

Honorable mentions: Keane's EP Night Train was an experimental turn for the British band. Although I haven't reviewed it yet, Gaslight Anthem's American Slang sounds like a winner.


Broken Bells, the collaboration between Danger Mouse and the Shins' James Mercer is the best album Danger Mouse has produced. They get bonus points for using Mad Men's Christina Hendricks in the super cool video for "The Ghost Inside."

Honorable mentions: The debut from Two Door Cinema Club, Tourist History; the hard-hitting sound of Sleigh Bells' Treats; and the eclectic second album from Vampire Weekend, Contra.


The genre-hopping The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III), the big label debut from Janelle Monae, was a great find this spring. The ambitious album is both retro and futuristic--challenging and inviting.

Honorable mentions: British hip-hop artist Plan B's soulful turn on The Defamation of Strickland Banks; Soldier of Love, the first album in 10 years from Sade; and the heartfelt sophomore set from Corinne Bailey Rae, The Sea.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Album Review: Scissor Sisters - Night Work (5/5)

Flamboyant pop/rock band Scissor Sisters have never shied away from sex. After all, their name itself comes from tribadism, a lesbian sexual practice. In that vein, Night Work is the album the group was always destined to make. From "Night Work" to "Invisible Light" it's a 12-track non-stop party of an album with nary a weepy "Mary" or "Land of a Thousand Words" in sight.

Since the new wave revival really got going in 2004, the '80s have been a major source for inspiration, although lately it's not been enough to have songs with '80s elements--people have turned to flat out making '80s music (see La Roux, Goldfrapp's recent album, etc.). Scissor Sisters appear to be doing the same this time, with production duty from Stuart Price (Madonna's Confessions on a Dance Floor, The Killers' Day & Age). Whereas Scissor Sisters and Ta-Dah used the disco '70s and synth pop '80s as historical references, Night Work jumps into the time machine and embraces those eras full on.

Thus "Night Work" bristles with such early '80s energy you might as well switch out "Scissor" for "Pointer," and "Whole New Way" could easily have been a discard during George Michael's 1987 "I Want Your Sex" recording session, although what was racy then seems downright chaste in 2010 as delivered by Jake "I think I need a rubber tonight" Shears. "Fire with Fire," despite being the current single, doesn't quite fit with the rest of the album's fiery first third, if only because its earnest Chariots-of-Fire-meets-The-Killers sound isn't as seedy as its album neighbors.

The album's opening quartet is really perfect and the best of the bunch is the campy disco stomper "Any Which Way," which is so perfectly realized that you can't help but envision leisure suits, mirrorballs and lighted dance floors. Plus you get Ana Matronic's hilarious spoken-word bridge: "You know baby when I was taking my panty hose out of their egg this evening I thought, 'I'm gonna find that man who's the right shade of bottle tan--a man that smells like cocoa butter and cash. Take me any way you like it...'" You said it Ana!

Ms. Matronic isn't the only horny member here. Jake unleashes his slutty growl on the hard-edged "Harder You Get," which sounds like the soundtrack to a sleazy '70s dungeon evening. "Running Out" begins with the sound of panting before trotting out its early '80s dance pop sound. "Something Like This" thrusts its highly processed synthesizer sound to the fore.

Ana takes lead vocal duty on "Skin This Cat," another '80s derivative, which is surely a metaphor for something that I can't even guess at ("come here kitty kitty skin this cat" hmmm...). Then there's more flesh on display in the next song, "Skin Tight," which wasn't a standout at first, but has grown on me with repeat listens. A Confessions on a Dancefloor-like seamless transition brings "Sex and Violence," a moody dance pop groove that recalls the 2005 Madonna work on which Price made his name. Its relative calm is a bit of a reprieve before the fast-tempo of "Night Life." I'm having to force myself to listen to it because I know what's coming...

...the completely fantastic closing number "Invisible Light," surely the best album closer this year. This glittery piece of disco lasts over 6 minutes, the longest song on the album, and includes a fun cameo of Ian McKellan (whom I once met, by the way) saying goofy things like "sailor's lust and swagger lazing in the moon's beams, whose laser gaze penetrates this sparkling theater of excess and strobed lights." Okay, I must confess, I just got up and danced in my living room to about half this song, it's just too good not to. What a way to end with a bang.

This was the album I was anticipating the most this first half of 2010, and I'm pleased that its exceeded my expectations. It may very well be their best album yet. It's definitely the band's most cohesive work, a real workout of an album that will leave you feeling used and a good way. Who needs a cigarette?

Best: Any Which Way, Whole New Way, Invisible Light, Fire with Fire, Night Work, Harder You Get, Skin Tight

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Album Review: LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening (2.5/5)

It's possible I just don't get LCD Soundsystem. The group, led by producer/DJ James Murphy, has put out three very acclaimed albums, none of which have seized my ears and demanded my love. It's said that This Is Happening will be their last work, so I figured I'd give it a shot.

LCD Soundsystem's music has been characterized as "dance funk," and this album's tracks alternate between being more heavily electronic or more heavily rock-oriented. "Dance Yrself Clean" starts sparsely with a few light beats, horn blasts (likely synthesized), and some quiet vocals. It goes on like this for quite awhile before the volume and other instruments jump in for what sounds like the song proper. When it gets going, it's good electronic pop, but it takes about 3 minutes to get there (and the whole piece is quite long at almost 9 minutes). "Drunk Girls," the album's shortest track at under 4 minutes, feels like a college party, with goofy lyrical delivery about drunk girls vs. drunk boys. It's followed by another electronic number, "One Touch," which to me epitomizes this group's sound: heavily repetitive, with an emphasis on the transformation of musical layers.

"All I Want" then is back to rock. It's electric guitar and piano melody reminds me of The Strokes, if the The Strokes were to draw a song out over 7 minutes. At points it has some interesting melody, like when the keyboards first come in prominently, but later it gets to be a overly cacophonous. "I Can Change" draws some inspiration from '80s new wave, stringing in some synthesizers into the beat mix. I'm generally a fan of the new wave sound, so this is another plus.

"You Wanted a Hit" is more of the layering/changing sound. At over 9 minutes, it's the longest track. Once the vocals kick in, it responds to naysayers: "You wanted a hit, but that's not what we do." While the implication is that he's responding to a record company, I feel like's he's talking to me too. I find the song generally uninteresting until the keyboards come in at the end. That's a general gripe I have with this act--frequently the melodies are too sparse for me, appearing here and there but not coalescing over the whole of a track.

I find the last third of the album particularly unsatisfying. "Pow Pow" is rather annoying. Again, it's little more than a combination of electronic and acoustic beats with spoken-word delivery that has nothing of interest to say. "Somebody's Calling Me" sticks a piano into the mix, but plods along for 7 minutes without using it to much effect until a brief solo 4 minutes in. "Home" is better, having enough instruments to create some warmth.

I've read that you have to listen to LCD Soundsystem songs over and over for them to really sink in. I've listened to this quite a bit over the last few weeks, and it's not working. I do like the first track, and there are bits and pieces here and there that are enjoyable, but overall, it's not my cup of tea.

Best: Dance Yrself Clean, I Can Change

Friday, June 25, 2010

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Scissor Sisters' Night Work - First Impressions

You can listen too here.

Night Work - Gets the party started. Love it.

Whole New Way - Ooh. Very cool. Sounds like Wham! Actually, it sounds a lot like George Michael's "I Want Your Sex."

Fire with Fire - The one we already know and love. Morseo than the other songs so far, this really reminds me of Stuart Price. Specifically the last Killers album.

Any Which Way - Like "Whole New Way" this sounds very late '70s/early '80s. Great disco track. Reminds me of "Filthy/Gorgeous."

Harder You Get - A little slower, but still definitely in the early '80s vein. Sexy electro and new wavish. Reminds me of something but I can't quite say what.

Running Out - Electric guitar at the opening makes this a little more rock sounding. But it's once again got an early '80s vibe.

Something Like This - Harder electro sound, like a poppier version of '80s Depeche Mode. This is the first song that I haven't immediately taken to.

Skin This Cat - Wow this is REALLY '80s sounding. Ooh, Ana is singing. Why don't she and Jake duet ever? A bit mellower this song, although nothing here is approaching "ballad."

Skin Tight - It's jaunty. Not bad. Not a standout. Lots of synthesizers at work here.

Sex and Violence - A seamless transition brings us to "Sex and Violence," which is slinkier and dancier than the last song.

Night Life - More rockin' track with a strong bass line. Again, not a stand out, although this one could be a grower.

Invisible Light - This was the preview track from iTunes, so I've been into it for a few weeks. Ian McKellan makes a great Vincent-Price-a-la-"Thriller" cameo.

This is dynamite good. I'm really impressed. I can't wait to listen to it more.

Billboard Hot 100, July 3, 2010

1. California Gurls - Katy Perry feat. Snoop Dogg

Katy Perry spends a third week at #1 with "California Gurls," which also looks headed to #1 in Britain this week. Be prepared for this song to settle in for a long run at #1. It's a massive, massive hit. Bigger even than "I Kissed a Girl" most likely. At top 40 radio where the song is also #1 this week, it has over 12,000 spins, which is an amazing tally...and...posted a 1500 spin gain over last week. For those who understand what this means its head-spinning. We could be looking at the biggest hit at top 40 radio in a decade. Seriously, has a song topped 13,000 spins at top 40 radio? This could do it. She's also the Airplay Gainer...clearly.

5. Find Your Love - Drake

Drake scores his second top 5 solo hit, making "Find Your Love" his second biggest hit after his breakout #2 single "Best I Ever Had."

8. Cooler than Me - Mike Posner

Mike Posner scores his first top 10 hit as "Cooler than Me" climbs six spots to #8. It's this week's digital gainer.

31. Dynamite - Taio Cruz

Taio Cruz lands his second top 40 hit as "Dynamite," the follow-up to his #1 "Break Your Heart," enters the top 40 by climbing 14 spots to #31. This is a new track not included in the orginal UK release, although this will get a UK release later this summer. Great track.

33. Somebody to Love - Justin Bieber

Canadian teen singer Justin Bieber is hot property in the US right now. Yet he hasn't yet had a really stellar hit. His single "Baby," which peaked at #5 came closest, but wasn't massive. "Somebody to Love" is his 10th appearance in the top 40.

38. Waka Waka (This Time for Africa) - Shakira feat. Freshlyground

This scraped the bottom of the UK top 40 last week and does so in the US this week. This is Shakira's 8th top 40 hit.

Preview Scissor Sisters Night Work

Night Work, the new Scissor Sisters album, is up on MySpace. Check it Out!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Scissor Sisters "All the Lovers"

Scissor Sisters performed a country-fied version of Kylie Minogue's "All the Lovers" on yesterday's BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge. Jake Shears remarked that when he first heard the song it reminded him of Dolly Parton, which inspired this reading. Both the forthcoming albums by Kylie and Scissor Sisters were produced (or mostly produced) by Stuart Price and the Scissor Sisters have collaborated with Kylie, most notably on her 2004 hit "I Believe in You," but also her upcoming album.

Monday, June 21, 2010

UK SIngles Chart, June 26, 2010

1. Shout - Shout For England feat Dizzee Rascal & James Corden
2. Wavin' Flag - K'naan

Football rules supreme on the UK singles chart for a second week, with Dizzee Rascal and James Corden's Tears for Fears/BLACKstreet remake/mashup of "Shout" and "No Diggity" leading the pack for a second week, while K'naan's football song, "Wavin' Flag," climbs a notch to #2. Most of the other sports-related songs have dropped off quite a bit, but not these two.

3. Kickstarts - Example

Example has the highest new debut of the week with "Kickstarts," which, despite having "Kick" in the title, has nothing to do with soccer. This is the third top 40 hit for the British rapper whose songs also have a serious club bent. He first hit #19 with the rather glorious "Watch the Sun Come Up," then #6 with "Won't Go Quietly," which was another hip-hop meets electro hit from earlier this year. "Kickstarts" is his most dance-influenced single yet, as well as his biggest hit.

4. All the Lovers - Kylie Minogue

Kylie has the week's second-biggest debut with "All the Lovers," the first single from her upcoming 11th album, Aphrodite. It's a typically Kylie-esque piece of frothy dance pop with dreamy synths and a thumping bass line. The single is co-produced by Kish Mauve, who were responsible for "Two Hearts," the first single from Kylie's last album, X (which also hit #4) and Stuart Price, who is having a very big summer, having produced most of Kylie's new album and all of the new Scissor Sisters set. "All the Lovers" is Kylie's 33rd top 10 hit and 26th top 5 hit. It's getting a physical release on June 28--one week before the album--but I have a feeling this is as high as the single is going to go.

8. Dancing on My Own - Robyn

Robyn's glorious new single "Dancing on My Own" debuts at #8 to become the Swedish pop singer's fourth top 10 hit, following her 1998 breakthrough, "Show Me Love," her 2007 #1 comeback, "With Every Heartbeat," and 2008 hit "Be Mine." "Dancing on My Own" is another winner, and possibly my favorite single from her yet. It's really quite good. Frankly, I'm surprised this wasn't a bigger hit.

10. Alejandro - Lady GaGa

Lady GaGa, who apparently will never be allowed to watch baseball again, scores her 6th top 10 hit with "Alejandro," the third single from The Fame Monster. This also gets a physical release on June 28, so it may go a little higher, but I'm not expecting a third #1. In the US, this is her first single that looks like it won't be a #1 at pop radio.

17. Commander - Kelly Rowland and David Guetta

The former Destiny's Child member, who saw her career get a nice boost last summer when she hit #1 on David Guetta's "When Love Takes Over," goes down the dance route again with "Commander," the first single from her third album. Oh, and this gets a physical release guessed it...June 28. This I definitely think will climb higher.

30. Over the Rainbow - Glee Cast
32. Any Way You Want It/Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin' - Clee Cast

The Glee Cast caps off their first season with the final two top 40 we'll be be hearing from them for awhile. That makes 17 top 40 hits from far.

31. Tenderoni - Kele

A nice slice of Eurodisco. It sounds a lot like "Yeah Yeah" by Bodyrox.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Album Review: Sleigh Bells -Treats (4/5)

Faceless, pom-pon waving cheerleaders adorn the cover of Treats, the first album from New York duo Sleigh Bells that is spring's buzziest indie debut. The duo's singer, Alexis Krauss, has a bright, high-pitch voice whose chants sound like they could come from one of those cheerleaders, and the band's always uptempo melodies could back a spirited cheer, but its distorted, over-amped sound would quickly have any daddy's girls running for the hills. Looking for a new sound to piss off your parents? This could be it.

Rapid-fire beats and heavily distorted guitar start "Tell 'Em" with a swift kick to your ears. "Kids" swipes some hip-hop beats over which Krauss raps M.I.A.-style. "Riot Rhythm" and "Infinity Guitars" put the emphasis on Derek Miller's guitars, particularly the latter, which struts through its verses and unleashes layers of sound during its choruses. Later track "Straight A's" also begins by unleashing a fury of feedback-rich guitars. You'd have been hard pressed to find a knob that wasn't turned all the way up during the recording of these songs.

The band's penchance for noise and heavy beats lets up for a few songs. "Run the Heart" starts off a little lighter, with trippy synth lines and layered vocals, but tosses in a distorted bass beat to keep the energy up. "Rill Rill" is a breezy, retro, sunny day of a song.

But the general focus of this album is big, loud and fast. "Crowd on the Ground," as the name implies, would be the perfect song to move a big room full of young people bouncing up and down with arms raised. The beats, guitar and vocals all distort into an undulating rhythm of noise. "A/B Machines" keeps the party going strong with its insistent mix of metal guitar, claps, chants and beats. DJing a rave? Be sure to grab this disc.

This is an album that is aggressively listenable. I tried having this on in the background as I worked, and I had to shut it off, for the songs exude such immediacy that they demand attention.

Best: Tell 'Em, Run the Heart, Kids, Rill Rill, A/B Machines

1990 Album Review: Madonna - I'm Breathless, Music from and Inspired by the Film Dick Tracy (4/5)

To follow-up Like a Prayer, rather than a traditional album project, Madonna took this side detour into '40s-influenced pop inspired by her role as Breathless Mahoney in the big-screen version of Dick Tracy. It was one of the few movies considered a hit for Madonna, so to the extent the two products could cross-promote, the ploy worked. And the music, although never regarded as a Madonna "classic," is actually pretty decent. "He's a Man" strikes all the right notes with a vampy Madonna vocal backed a lush big-band orchestration and even chorus-girl vocals. A similar but campier approach for "Hanky Panky" makes it pure brass and sass. The ballads here are all strong: the piano-based "Something to Remember," as well as two of the album's three tracks that were actually from the movie, the Oscar-nominated "Sooner or Later" and the Mandy Patinkin duet "What Can You Lose." The album loses a bit of focus with a couple of over-the-top impressions of Carmen Miranda on "I'm Going Bananas" and Betty Boop on "Cry Baby."

Although there are some great moments among the '40-styled songs, for most people, I'm Breathless appears in their collection because of its closing track, "Vogue," the undisputed Madonna classic. Although at first blush the Shep Pettibone-produced dance pop number has nothing to do with the rest of the album, its inclusion isn't as out of place as it could be. First, the second half of the previous song, "Now I'm Following You," is given a '90s remix, creating a bridge between "Vogue" and the rest of the album. Second, "Vogue" pays tribute to classic Hollywood icons, including some dating as far back as the Dick Tracy era. Third, the vogue dance itself actually dates back to the '30s. So really "Vogue" is a fitting conclusion to the album as it acknowledges the influences of the past while firmly asserting its place in contemporary pop music.

Best: Vogue, He's a Man, Hanky Panky, Something to Remember, Sooner or Later

Friday, June 18, 2010

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Listening to...

All the Lovers - Kylie Minogue. Well, of course I'm listening to this. I don't think I even need to say so.

Dancing on My Own - Robyn. Loving Robyn's new single. I like the hard synth beat and the nod to the '80s.

Beautiful Monster - Ne-Yo. Ne-Yo's first single from his fourth album is, like "Closer," influenced by Euro dancepop. I'm really into it.

Cooler than Me - Mike Posner. I was surprised by this song. I saw it on the chart, but paid it no notice until this week and it's really quite a nice piece of electro-pop.

Find Your Love - Drake. The piano is reminiscent of Linkin Park's "In the End," and the bleeding heart hip-hop artist-turned-singer electronic pop shtick recalls Kayne West's 808s and Heartbreak, which I was a big fan of.

Dynamite - Taio Cruz. Taio Cruz's new single is another knockout slice of pop/R&B. I may like this better than "Break Your Heart," which between its UK release last fall and its US release this spring has worn out its welcome in my life.

. The cred-drenched British hip-hop artist's first single from her latest album is a pretty decent slice of electropop.

Secrets - OneRepublic. Cello opens the latest single by OneRepublic, the follow-up to their hit "All the Right Moves."

Tightrope - Janelle Monae feat. Big Boi. A highlight from her album, which I recently reviewed. It's probably the album's best bet for a pop hit. Features Outkast's Big Boi as guest rapper.

Come Back Home - Two Door Cinema Club. Why hasn't this group broken out yet? Yet another good song from them.

Oasis - Time Flies... 1994-2009

Capping their 15-year career, Oasis's swan song is this 2-disc greatest hits collection. Unlike their last collection, Stop the Clocks, which was a retrospective that mixed hits with b-sides and album cuts (and thus was not at all comprehensive), Time Flies has all of the group's hits, with some adjustments for regions. US gets "Champagne Supernova," which was their second-biggest hit in the states but not released as a single in the UK, and Japan gets "Don't Go Away," although I don't see why the US doesn't also, since it was a top 10 hit at rock radio.

If you're a fan and have all or most of their albums, this set will provide little additional material. Although it does have one rather fantastic inclusion: "Whatever," the band's Christmas release of 1994, which hit #3 in the UK, but has never appeared on an Oasis long-player until now nor was available as a digital single at any major outlet. I'd actually never heard the single before, and it's quite a good one. Apart from that, there's nothing else that's really unique. It's just a solid set from one of the biggest bands of the last decade. A band that, despite its waning buzz in the late '90s and early '00s, still managed to score #1 hits during a time when hot bands like Coldplay and Keane could not.

Best: Live Forever, Don't Look Back in Anger, I'm Outta Time, Whatever, Champagne Supernova, Wonderwall, Songbird, Let There Be Love, All Around the World, The Shock of the Lightning

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Natasha Bedingfield "Touch"

Natasha Bedingfield returns with her new single "Touch." It's been 2 years since Bedingfield's second US album, Pocketful of Sunshine, netted her a major hit with its title track. Strange how it never managed to get a release in the UK, who've now been 3 years without Nat since her NB album offered up two singles that, although top 10 hits, were not really that great ("Babies" and "Soulmate"). "Touch" sounds like it could be a hit. It's got a good, big dance pop sound to it.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Broken Bells "The Ghost Inside" Video

This may be one of the coolest music videos ever. The fabulous Christina Hendricks, who plays Joan on Mad Men, is a space pilot desperate to take a vacation but can't get a break. Visually, it pays quite a bit of homage to Aliens. "The Ghost Inside" is from the Broken Bells album, which I reviewed a few months ago and is one of the best albums released this year.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

UK Singles Chart, June 19, 2010

1. Shout - Shout for England feat. Dizzee Rascal and James Corden

For proof that Brits take their football (soccer) very seriously, look no further than... the singles chart, which this week plays host to no less than eight football-themed singles, including the new #1 hit, "Shout," a remake/mash-up of Tears for Fears 1984 top 5 hit "Shout" and BLACKstreet's 1997 top 10 hit "No Diggity" (both of which were #1 hits in the US). It gives Dizzee Rascal his fifth #1 hit and his second in the last 2 weeks following "Dirtee Disco," which takes an 8-spot dive to #12 this week. "Shout" also features comedian James Corden and was produced by X Factor and American Idol personality Simon Cowell.

So what's up with all the football songs? Can't offer much there, as I'm not a sports fan, but even I know that the World Cup is on right now, so I can only assume that Britain is doing well, fueling the popularity for these songs. I was first introduced to this phenomenon in 1998, when "3 Lions '98" was a #1 hit, and I had no idea why. Here's a rundown of what else is big this week:

3. Wavin' Flag - K'naan

Rapper K'naan has his first top 40 hit as a guest rapper on Keane's recent single "Stop for a Minute." Now he's got a genuine hit of his own with "Wavin' Flag," which is the Coca-Cola anthem for the World Cup. The single climbs 13 notches to #3 this week. If you're interested in only the World Cup version, go for the "Celebration Mix" rather than the original.

10. 3 Lions - Baddiel & Skinner and the Lightning Seeds

"3 Lions" is the most popular and long-lived British football anthem. It was first recorded in 1996 for the European Championships and became a #1 hit. a new version, "3 Lions '98" was a #1 hit in 1998 for the World Cup. The single hit #16 in 2002 and #9 in 2006, again in connection with the World Cup. Now it's back in the top 10 for a fourth time.

22. World in Motion - New Order

New Order's World Cup song, recorded for the 1990 world cup and released under the rather patriotic name "EnglandNewOrder," was the band's only #1 hit in Britain. The single returns to the top 40 this week. Although it got some attention in 2002, this is the first time it's appeared in the top 40 since 1990.

23. If I Can Dream - Terry Venables

A former football player recorded a charity single and its a top 40 hit this week.

28. 3 Lions - Squad

"Squad" is Baddiel & Skinner plus the Lighting Seeds' Ian Broudie joined by Robbie Williams and Russell Brand for a new third version of the song. It's up 11 spots this week, although 3 weeks ago it debuted at #21.

32. Vindaloo - Fat Les

Although this was originally meant of a parody of football songs, it has actually become one, returning to the top 40 this year for the first time since it was recorded in 1998, when it was a #2 hit (kept from #1 by "3 Lions '98").

38. Waka Waka (This Time for Africa) - Shakira feat. Freshlyground

Colombian singer Shakira teams up with South African group Freshlyground for this official 2010 World Cup song, which they will perform at World Cup final on July 11, giving this song plenty of time to catch on and become a hit.

So what else were hits this week?

2. Frisy - Tinie Tempah feat. Labrinth

During most of the week, Tinie Tempah looked to score his second #1 hit, following in the footsteps of "Pass Out" earlier this week. In the end, he got beat by Dizzee Rascal, but under the circumstances #2 isn't bad. "Frisy" is another electro-tinged hip-hop number.

11. Turn It Up - Pixie Lott

Wow. I didn't expect this. Pixie Lott's fifth single and title track from her album Turn It Up out-charts the album's last two singles, up 14 spots this week to #11. I didn't expect this song to be a hit, and haven't paid much attention to it really. It's certainly done better than "Gravity," which, although I like it much better, only peaked at #20.

19. Alejandro - Lady GaGa

Lady GaGa is on the way up with her latest single, climbing 9 notches to #19. It gets a physical release at the end of the month.

Next week: Kylie Minogue tries to score her first #1 hit in 7 years with "All the Lovers," out as a download today and physical single in a couple of weeks. The single is already #1 on the UK airplay chart. Also out are Robyn's "Dancing on My Own," Example's "Kickstarts" and Dennis Ferrer's "Hey Hey."

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Album Review: Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1 (4/5)

After setting the dance pop world on fire with Robyn, the Swedish singer returns with the first in a planned three-part series, Body Talk. Part 1 consists of eight songs, including the first single "Dancing on My Own," a charged dance pop hit-in-waiting along the lines of "With Every Heartbeat," her recent UK #1 hit.

"Don't Fucking Tell Me What to Do" sets the stage with a pretty minimalist arrangement of beats, synth tones and spoken lines like "my drinking's killing me, my smoking's killing me, my PMS is killing me...." etc. Robyn transforms herself into an android on "Fembot," inspired by the villainous robots from Bionic Woman and Austin Powers fame.

"Cry When You Get Older" cranks up the synths and the '80s beats. It's a definite highlight, and would make a good choice as a single. As you'd expect, "Dancehall Queen" tosses in a bit of Caribbean flavor, but not in an unwelcome way. "None of Dem" pumps up the bass for a late-night dancefloor workout.

Turning off the synthesizers and drum machines for a minute, Robyn delivers an earnest, string-laden love ballad with "Hang with Me." It's a nice melody, although her mild vocal chops are more of a handicap here than on her usual uptempo stuff. "Jag Vet en Dejlig Rosa," a traditional Swedish song whose title means "I know of a lovely rose," closes the album on a somber, tender note.

There's an feeling of removal with these songs--a rather manufactured quality, akin to Sweden's other major export (i.e. Ikea furniture). I suppose the shorter length gives Robyn fewer opportunities to show her quirky side. Yet these songs adhere pretty close to the winning sound found on Robyn, so while they won't set the world on fire, they deliver some good moments and will please her fans.

Best: Dancing on My Own, Cry When You Get Older, Fembot

Friday, June 11, 2010

Aracde Fire "The Suburbs"

The Arcade Fire return with their third album in August. Here's a little sample, "The Suburbs."

A. The Suburbs

AA. Month of May

Personal Chart, June 12, 2010

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Scissor Sisters in The Times

Great article on the Scissor Sisters and their new album Night Work from The Times.

Billboard Hot 100, June 19, 2010

1. California Gurls - Katy Perry feat. Snoop Dogg

Katy Perry ascends to the top of the Hot 100, scoring her second #1 hit with "California Gurls." The song is the first single from her forthcoming new album, Teenage Dream. This is Snoop Dogg's third #1 hit, second as a featured artist following his appearance on Akon's 2006 hit "I Wanna Love You."

"California Gurls" is the third #1 hit that references the great state of California after the Eagles' "Hotel California" and 2Pac's "California Love." Among states, that puts California on even footing with Georgia as the states with the most #1 hits to drop their names. Only one other states--Texas--ever got a mention, as only seven songs have ever referenced a state by name. Some, like Jay-Z and Alicia Keys' "Empire State of Mind" reference a state (New York in the case), but "New York" is not in that's song title. Here are the "stately" #1s:

1. The Yellow Rose of Texas - Mitch Miller (1955)
2. Georgia on My Mind - Ray Charles (1960)
3. The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia - Vicki Lawrence (1973)
4. Midnight Train to Georgia - Gladys Knight and the Pips (1973)
5. Hotel California - Eagles (1977)
6. California Love - 2Pac feat. Dr. Dre & Roger Troutman (a double A-side #1 with "How Do U Want It") (1996)
7. California Gurls - Katy Perry feat. Snoop Dogg (2010)

2. OMG - Usher feat. Will.I.Am

"OMG" earns this week's airplay gainer, but it's not enough to keep the single from falling to #2.

5. Billionaire - Travie McCoy feat. Bruno Mars

Travie McCoy of Gym Class Heroes sees his "Billionaire" become his first solo top 10 hit as it climbs six spots to #5. "Billionaire" is one spot shy of the #4 peak of "Cupid's Chokehold," the Gym Class Heroes' biggest hit. Bruno Mars earns his second top 10 hit, while his first, B.o.B.'s "Nothin' on You" remains in the top 10, down one to #8 this week.

9. Rock that Body - Black Eyed Peas

Black Eyed Peas score their 8th top 10 hit with "Rock that Body," the fifth consecutive top 10 hit from their album The E.N.D. Who was the last artist to send up five top 10 hits from an album without the benefit of a re-release? That would be The Black Eyed Peas' own girl Fergie, whose 2006 solo album, The Dutchess, scored five top 10 hits, including three #1s (just like The E.N.D.).

15. Miss Me - Drake feat. Lil Wayne

Drake has this week's highest new entry at #15 with "Miss Me," the third single from his new album. All of which have peaked around the same spot--"Over" hit #14, "Find Your Love" hit #13.

19. Cooler than Me - Mike Posner

Here's an interesting new single. Mike Posner, a singer/songwriter/producer from Michigan, is enjoying his first top 40 hit, "Cooler than Me," which climbs 12 spots to #19 this week. The single has a nice retro, electro-pop vibe to it.

26. Dynamite - Taio Cruz

Following up his recent #1 hit "Break Your Heart," Taio Cruz returns to the chart with his new single "Dynamite," making its H0t 100 debut at #26. It's the second U.S. single from his album Rokstarr, which was not included on the album's original UK release.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Glee Cast - Glee: The Music, Journey to Regionals (3/5)

Hot on the heels of Glee: The Music, Vol 3 - Showstoppers and Glee: The Music, The Power of Madonna comes the final musical Glee product for this season, Journey to Regionals, an EP containing all six songs performed on last night's season finale (stop reading if you didn't watch and don't want spoilers).

"Journey" was a fitting end to the first season of Glee, which quickly became one of my favorite shows on television. It, along with Modern Family, are going to give 30 Rock some serious competition for the Best Comedy Series Emmy Award this year. My money's on Modern Family, which I enjoy, although I'll be rooting for Glee.

Musically, this EP is probably the least satisfying Glee release, although that's not going to stop it from topping the Billboard 200 next week. It's currently ahead of the Eclipse Soundtrack and new Christina Aguilera album at iTunes, despite Vol. 3 still hanging around the top 10.

The new version of "Don't Stop Believin'" is the highlight, which, unlike the original version, features the full New Directions line-up. Naya Rivera (Santana) sounds great on it; I'd love to hear more solos from her next year. New Directions sang two (really three) other Journey songs: "Faithfully," a nicely rendered Rachel/Finn duet, and a full group mash-up of "Any Way You Want It" and "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'."

As much fun as it was to have New Directions do three Journey songs, it wasn't enough to clinch Regionals, which, of course, went to Vocal Adrenaline, which led by Jonathan Groff, did a rather fantastic rendition of "Bohemian Rhapsody." Wounded by their loss and thinking the club would be canceled, the New Directions kids sang Lulu's "To Sir, with Love" to Will Schuester in tribute to his leadership. Later, after finding out the club would in fact survive another year, Will and Puck teamed up for a ukelele-backed version of "Over the Rainbow." Both of these were nice moments, but not musical standouts.

I should do a top 10 best musical moments of the first season of Glee. There are some definite standouts, but narrowing my favorites to 10 will be hard.

Best: Don't Stop Believin', Bohemian Rhapsody

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Lady GaGa's "Alejandro" Video Arrives

Once again Lady GaGa continues her resurrection of the music video as an event with "Alejandro," the new video for her current single. This one is very...Madonna, with its religious imagery, overt sexuality, synchronized dancing male flesh and rifle-tipped brazier.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Album Review: Janelle Monáe - The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III) (4.5/5)

A lot of high-minded concepts get thrown around to describe The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III), the debut studio album from Janelle Monáe. "Afrofuturism" for example, a form of historical and science fiction that critiques Western notions of race, has been used to describe the album's complicated story concept. If that makes approaching the album daunting, fear not--for the music, itself described with every imaginable genre adjective, is quite inviting. We'll get into that in a minute, but first, a little back story.

Twenty-four year-old Monáe, originally from Kansas City, emerged on the scene in 2007 with her debut EP, Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase), the first in an envisioned four-part series inspired by the classic 1927 science fiction film Metropolis. The work caught the attention of Sean "Diddy" Combs, who signed her to his Bad Boy label. Monáe then toured with No Doubt and hot indie band Of Montreal.

Which brings us to The ArchAndroid, which, instead of being part II of Metropolis, actually combines Suites II and III into one long LP. It tells the story of Cindi Mayweather, a woman from the future sent back to the 21st century as an android to liberate "Metropolis" from its oppressors. Frankly, I can't follow the story as I listen to the album, but that's fine. Both suites begin with a classical overture and then proceed along pretty different lines, with Suite II being more oriented along traditional pop lines while incorporating flourishes of many genres, including pop, R&B, rock, retro soul, funk, blues and synth pop. Suite III is more experimental, with touches of progressive rock. Musical adjectives used to describe this album in the press include bepop jazz, big-band swing, British folk, cabaret, cinematic score, classical, dance-rock, disco, doo-wop, easy listening, funk, glam-rock, hip-hop, indie rock, neo-soul, new wave, pop, prog rock, psychedelic rock, R&B, rock, soul and tribal funk. Got all that?

Suite II is dominated by a mix of quality pop songs. "Dance or Die" has Monáe rapping in rapid-fire style over a mix of beats, electronic sounds and horns. "Faster" turns the tempo up even more and throws in some retro soul in an arrangement reminiscent of Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse's "Valerie." The song references Blade Runner, or more specifically the novel it's based on, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? "Locked Inside" switches gears to groovy Motown sounds borrowed from Michael Jackson.

"Sir Greendown" slows down the tempo briefly, employing an ethereal mix of synths and other instruments that recalls the cooler side of John Barry Bond scores, before "Cold War" speeds it back up in a heady mix of beats, synths and guitar. "Tightrope," perhaps the most conventional song on the album, follows. It's a great, funky pop song featuring rap from Outkast's Big Boi, who along with Combs is credited as executive producer of The ArchAndroid. "Neon Gumbo," a song apparently played backwards, follows and ends with a clap of thunder and rain as it segues into smooth, slightly folksy ballad "Oh, Maker."

Fiery "Come Alive (The War of the Roses)" puts Monáe into punk diva mode with an angry, soaring vocal over an insistent guitar melody. Bluesy, funky "Mushrooms and Roses" ends Suites II on a mellow note with Monáe's voice heavily processed. On to Suite III...

Suite III is more experimental. It's classical overture is more lush than Suite II's, incorporating some old-fashioned vocal harmonies that you can't quite make out. Sweetly mellow "Neon Valley Street" sounds like '70s Motown balladry until you get to the spooky spoken middle, followed by the funky electric guitar solo. "Make the Bus" is a collaboration with Of Montreal written by its singer, Kevin Barnes. It's an odd mix of '80s new wave and Queen-like theatrics. It also references Philip Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, providing a connection with Suite II.

Monáe's voice is tweaked once again on fantastical "Wondaland," pushed (presumably electronically) into a higher register. The goofy song mixes sweet sci-fi synths with world music beats and an array of quirky effects. Light acoustic guitar underpins "57821," which has a very '70s feel to it. I tried to figure out what the title refers to, and I got a link to something related to the human genome, so given the album's human-to-android genetic concept, that's probably it. The music stays pretty mellow and atmospheric on "Say You'll Go," which layers strings, synths piano and light beats. Its final 2 minutes incorporate a lovely passage of Claude Debussy's "Claire de Lune." At 6 minutes, it's the longest song up to now, but still shorter than the 8:48 of closing piece "BaBopByeYa." It has a slinky, cinematic feel recalling '60s James Bond scores (more Barry influence) delivered with a cabaret vocal.

Suite III isn't quite as appealing as Suite II, and it's definitely stranger, but it has its moments, particularly the final two tracks. Suite II has the better chance of giving Monáe a hit, if that's even a goal. "Tightrope" or "Dance or Die" might qualify. Certainly the critics are interested--ArchAndroid's Metacritic score is 90, among the highest of any new album released this year.

Best: Dance or Die, Tightrope, Faster, Cold War, BaBopByeYa, Say You'll Go, Come Alive

Saturday, June 05, 2010

1990 Album Review: New Kids on the Block - Step By Step (3.5/5)

I don't own any New Kids on the Block albums. That may come as a surprise, but I was never really into them. In 1989, when they were at their peak, I was more interested in Madonna, Milli Vanilli, Paula Abdul and Janet Jackson. So listening to Step By Step, their third album, I was actually pleasantly surprised by the fact that it was pretty decent.

Sure there is some crap here. The Caribbean-inspired "Stay with Me Baby" is particularly cringe-inducing, as is the group's attempts at rap, such as on the uninspired closing track "Never Gonna Fall in Love Again." And the second half of the album has too many bland ballads as filler.

But there are some pleasant surprises too. Of course I was already familiar with "Step By Step," the group's #1 single from 1990 that was their biggest hit, as well as "Tonight," its follow-up top 10 hit. "Step By Step" has quite a bit of energy, more so than anything from Hangin' Tough, which you may recall as upbeat, but give it a listen and by today's standards it sounds absolutely tired. "Tonight" is particularly interesting. It opens with a little Spanish guitar, before segueing into its piano and strings-backed first verse that name checks the band's biggest hits from the previous year ("Please Don't Go Girl," "I'll Be Loving You (Forever)," "(You Got It) The Right Stuff" and "Hangin' Tough," in that order). It's a slow song, but the ballad jumps up a few notches for the horn-backed chorus. It wasn't much of a success, but it's interesting for its unusual flourishes.

"Baby, I Believe in You" has cool '70s flourishes I didn't expect from a 1990 boy band album. It's appealing bass beat and '80s synthesizer arrangement give it a decade-hopping feel. "Call It What You Want" has a faster tempo, sounding not unlike something from Paula Abdul or Milli Vanilli, and is vaguely reminiscent of "You Got It (The Right Stuff)" too.

"Let's Try It Again" is a smooth R&B ballad that also has a retro late '70s/early '80s feel, kind of like Michael Jackson's "She's Out of My Life." This was the album's single, but due to the significant backlash that developed in late 1990, was their first single to flop, peaking at #53. "Happy Birthday" reaches back even further for a laid back doo-wop feel. "Time Is On Our Side" is another ballad, and sounds an awful lot like Boyzone's "Love Me for a Reason."

Their willingness to explore these various styles is admirable, but backfires too. "Games" aims for a more urban sound, but doesn't score any points for credibility. The second half of the album fills up too much with unremarkable ballads, like "Where Do I Go From Here" and "Funny Feeling," which both strive to capture the spirit of the group's first #1 hit "I'll Be Loving You (Forever)."

Not a masterpiece, but not awful either, and better than I was expecting.

Best: Tonight, Step By Step, Let's Try It Again, Baby I Believe in You, Call it What You Want

Scissor Sisters - Fire with Fire

About 3000 miles away from Kylie, in Manahattan, Scissor Sisters take over their own city street for the video to "Fire with Fire." I love both of these songs and am quite excited for the albums to come out soon.

Kylie Minogue - All The Lovers (HD)

Kylie Minogue and thousands of her underwear-clad friends take over downtown Los Angeles in this senuous video for "All the Lovers." Fantastic.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Personal Chart, June 5, 2010

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Billboard Hot 100, June 12, 2010

1. OMG - Usher feat. Will.I.Am
2. California Gurls - Katy Perry feat. Snoop Dogg

Usher spends a fourth week #1, but "California Gurls" returns to #2. Surely Usher's days at #1 are numbered.

3. Airplanes - B.o.B. feat. Hayley Williams

B.o.B. slides back a notch to #3 but earns the Airplay Gainer. Still a possible future #1.

4. Your Love Is My Drug - Ke$ha
6. Alejandro - Lady GaGa

Last week I was so excited that "Alejandro" had climbed over "Your Love Is My Drug," but this week, Ke$ha gets her revenge, climbing three spots to #4 while "Alejandro" stagnates at #6 and loses its bullet. I'm shocked that happened. The song is still climbing at radio. GaGa's got a secret weapon though--the video will be released on Monday, and like her previous ones, is expected to be a knockout. Apparently this one will be black-and-white, military-themed and homoerotic. Sounds like fun!

8. Bulletproof - La Roux

La Roux scores a top 10 hit! "Bulletproof" climbs 6 notches to #8.

20. Poker Face - Glee Cast
(23. Telephone - Lady GaGa feat. Beyonce)
(30. Bad Romance - Lady GaGa)

The Glee Cast scores its 14th #1 hit doing Lady GaGa's "Poker Face." The ballad arrangement--a duet between Lea Michele and Idina Menzel--has been one of the season's musical highlights, and the charts respond in kind, giving Glee its third top 20 hit.

The song's appearance also means that Lady GaGa has four songs in the top 40--her 3 proper plus this remake.

24. Beautiful Day - Lee DeWyze

Lee DeWyze won American Idol, beating the girl that I thought was going to win. Now we get to see how he fares in the music world. So far, not so hot, as this tepid remake of U2's "Beautiful Day" is seriously karaoke.

28. Impossible - Shontelle

Barbadian R&D singer Shontelle scores her first top 40 hit as "Impossible" climbs 13 notches this week.