Dibder's New Music Series: Entry 9

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24 sept. 2009, 10h43m

The world of music has been dealt quite a few humdingers this past month, what with rappers humiliating teenage girls, founding members being kicked out of their very own pop institutions, the BBC attempting an X Factor style coup with a glamorous new judge (even giving her the same amazing hair) and Fearne Cotton personally making sure my weekday mornings are groan-inducingly horrible. You'd think I'd appreciate when people talk over the songs they play on the radio, especially the crap stuff, but the fact that Fearne waffles on about nothing and gives inane interviews (along the line of: "What's this?" "Oh, yeah, I loved that!" "I remember, it was great!" "AAAAALLLLLL WWWWIIIIILLLL SSSSSSSUFFFFFEERRRRRR!!!!") in such a grating manner with all of the self-importance of a stage school sixth former is enough to make me scream at the worst of times. Especially when she insists on playing Mika's latest single over and over and demands us to learn each time how much she loves it!

Thankfully, most of the new music I've gotten hold of has been untainted by Fearne's golden-handcuffed appendages; and now my rant is o'er, normal service can resume... (PS, I did post elsewhere that I'd tag a review of Lamb's gig in London yesterday, but under the banner "hangover permitting"... trust, it was fun, even though they sung Gabriel twice without realising and the sound for the first few songs was too loud; Gorecki was fucking ace though!)

I Look to You by Whitney Houston
Her first studio album of original material in seven years, but most prominently plugged as her first album post-divorce from self-proclaimed “thug” Bobby Brown, Houston’s return to the airwaves has been much anticipated, front loaded by a high-profile “first listen” event in London and a revealing interview stint on Oprah. In light of the flood of wannabe divas that she undeniably inspired currently caterwauling through the charts, Houston’s voice is sadly not quite up to the trilling scratch of her early years and is certainly more weathered by experience (a glaring example being ballad I Didn't Know My Own Strength, which at times doesn’t even sound like her!) She can still sell some soulful sass when she wants to (check out the Alicia Keys/Swiss Beatz co-production Million Dollar Bill and Leon Russell cover A Song for You), but the raft of über-producers here (Danja, Akon, R Kelly, Stargate) do well to bury Houston’s voice in the requisite clichés of every pop/R&B album of the past three years, in effect making her sound old and worn when she should sound hopeful and exultant (one such instance being Worth It, which has Whitney singing about soundtracking a night-time love session... Not really!)

Greatest Hits by Aqua
Of all of the successful ‘90s acts to reform before the decade of revisionism peters out, Aqua probably ranked as one of the least excitable prospects of reformation for music fans, even if enough time has passed that classics such as Turn Back Time and Cartoon Heroes should be rediscovered as worthy pop gems in their own right. Treading cautiously before releasing a long-awaited third album, the Danish quartet have plumped for a Greatest Hits package to check their marketability in Europe (though one was already released in Japan and the US years ago), containing twelve of their fourteen singles, three new additions for ‘09 and four album tracks from their two albums. It makes for a less-than-consistent listen but still offers enough proof that Aqua had a lot more promise than the hate Barbie Girl garnered afforded them, particularly on the cuts from the big-budget second album Aquarius (minus the God awful Halloween, obviously!). The new additions vary, hinting at a more rock influenced sound; My Mamma Said registers a nasty blip, but the tongue-through-cheekiness of Back To The '80s and the boisterous key change of Live Fast - Die Young do well to suggest that there’s life in the misunderstood popniks yet.

A Man's Thoughts by Ginuwine
Released in the US two weeks before Maxwell’s comeback record, the rather lovely BLACKsummers'night, Elgin Baylor Lumpkin (for that is his name!) may have pipped his contemporary to the post release wise, but his album pales in comparison with regards to the amount of soul and sultriness within. Granted, Ginuwine’s sound is one that has always flirted with hip hop rather than old school soul, and there are plenty of cuts here where he shows off his pre-eminence in the field of hip pop R&B (even if he’s still using that glass harmonica!) Show Off and Open The Door find him in fine form with production wares from RL, Oak and Bryan-Michael Cox, and Get Involved is almost poignant when it brings his old friends Timbaland and Missy Elliott herself back into the mix, as well as its being the most banging tune on the LP. It’s all very agreeable and serviceable, with a couple of missteps along the way (particularly the uninspired duet with Brandy, Bridge To Love), but for someone who formerly owned the arena of hip hop soul in the 1990s and helped to inspire the current crop of swaggering upstarts, it’s a little disappointing. If this were a debut album, a star would have been born; for the man who burst on to the scene with Pony in 1996, it’s bland and uninvolving.

Ellipse by Imogen Heap
Straddling the line between twee and swoonsome doesn’t come easy to most, but since the splitting up of Frou Frou back in 2003, Imogen Heap has been steadfast in her commitment to such aesthetics within her nestling electro pop. Often, she strikes just the right gorgeous balance (hear her first Narnia song Can't Take It In for her most sterling example), and there are a few examples of her oeuvre at its best on her follow-up to the well-received debut Speak for Yourself here, one highlight being Wait It Out, which references her only hit single Hide And Seek with her processed harmonies only to open up into a disarming slow burn of synths and guitars. Other forays into self-effacing niceties miss the mark quite bemusedly, particularly Bad Body Double, which charts Ms Heap’s picking out chinks in her physical appearance via a clunky doppelganger metaphor. So, in spite of Heap’s voice being as sweet as it was in Frou Frou and her own composition and production skills in themselves being an expert lesson in homemade production (like Speak before it, Ellipse was written, produced and mixed entirely in her humble abode in Essex), the slighter-than-slight lyrical themes often rob the songs of being able to listen to them without prejudice.

Time To Die by The Dodos
One of the quieter-yet-notable critical successes of last year was rock folk duo Meric Long and Logan Kroeber’s sophomore LP, Visiter, a fine rabble of anti-folk rock made all the finer by its rough-hewn production and excitable noise with its percussion-led music (a key track from that album being Red And Purple). Somewhat novel in their methods of multi-instrumentation in their live performances (Kroeber dutifully tapeing a tambourine to his shoe at the shows being one such quirk), the duo’s third album not only sees them aided with the help of a well-known producer (that’d be Phil Ek, most recently responsible for production duties on Fleet Foxes’ fine debut album from last year) but also, at their own admission, “sounds more like a band”, ironing out most of the leftfield quirks that made their last album shine. Which isn’t to say that Time To Die doesn’t have its moments; Two Medicines in particular benefits from a more refined production with its harmonies and more ornate percussive elements sharing more space with the duo’s established penchant for drumkit-led revelry. It’s just that the refinement in their sound here is just that little bit less charming and immediate than their breakout LP from last year is all.

All Balloons by One Eskimo
Brainchild of former homegrown pop-star-that-never-was Kristian Leontiou and drummer pal Adam Falkner, you’ve every reason to feign ignorance at their One eskimO project. It’s actually the soundtrack to an animated film; they’ve been endorsed by Janice Long on her midnight shift show on BBC Radio 2; they’ve listed Massive Attack next to Nizlopi as their musical influences; it’s co-produced by Rollo “Dido’s Older Brother” Armstrong... It doesn’t exactly bode well, does it? Well, in spite of all of this, and even with recognising each of those elements within the music, it’s actually really rather lovely, reminiscent more of Faithless’ quieter moments most likely because of Armstrong’s influence (Astronauts sounds like a long-lost brother of Don't Leave certainly, and is just as moving) and Leontiou’s evocative vocals providing a readily-empathetic anchor to the sweetness, especially on the meet-cute number Kandi, containing a sample of Candi Staton’s He Called Me Baby. It’s lo-fi, it doesn’t draw too much attention to itself and it certainly won’t appeal to the more jaded listeners here on last.fm (particularly with the tag of being a children’s movie soundtrack on it), tracks like Hometime and UFO are creeping high on my Guilty Pleasures ‘09 list.

The Blueprint 3 by Jay-Z
Not only is The Blueprint 3 the album that turned Jay-Z into the record holder for the most consecutive Number 1 albums on the US Billboard Chart ahead of Elvis Presley, but most importantly, it is the first album of his to chart within the Top Ten on the UK Albums Chart, most likely helped by his support slot for Coldplay on the final leg of their world tour in the UK last week. If that hasn’t announced how much Jay-Z has been accepted by the UK record buying public (aside from the likes of Eminem, Dizzee Rascal and Tinchy Stryder, most urban albums ratchet up Gold/Platinum certifications from the BPI with steady sales and without bothering the Top Ten), then this new album should. Radio-friendly, not without its indulgent egotism (check Kanye West-produced Hate (feat. Kanye West)) but still chock full of Mr Carter’s skilled bravado as well as some choice cuts from the leading hip hop producers (The Neptunes, Swiss Beatz, Timbaland) alongside some well-judged special guests, the obvious standout being Alicia Keys’ somewhat wonderful appearance on Empire State of Mind (feat. Alicia Keys). Other highlights include On To The Next One (Feat. Swiss Beatz)’s neat sample of Justice’s D.A.N.C.E. and closer Young Forever (feat. Mr. Hudson), (even if the featured guest sounds a little like Sting here!)

Things Are What They Used To Be by Zoot Woman
So after new work from Fischerspooner, Peaches and Miss Kittin & The Hacker, the electroclash cadre continues with the new release from Zoot Woman who, thanks to founding member Stuart Price’s commitment to all things Madonna since her Re-Invention Tour in 2004 (as well as production duties for the likes of New Order, The Killers, Seal and Frankmusik, amongst others), have finally followed up their eponymous sophomore disc from 2003. It’s safe to say that, compared with the unholy trinity previously mentioned, Zoot Woman’s sound is more streamlined and less inclined to take in lyrics about Oedipus complexes and dead swingers, but it doesn’t deter from the retro delights to be had here. Essentially one-upping La Roux’s debut for electro pop glory (if falling behind Little Boots, in my opinion), songs such as the unrequitedly longing Lonely By Your Side, the kick-ass More Than Ever and the gorgeous slow build of the title track boast enough synergy between the synths, guitars and beats to suggest an ever-so-slightly more well-adjusted Depeche Mode, even if the edge has been dulled ever so slightly.

No More Stories Are Told Today I'm Sorry They Washed Away No More Stories the World… by Mew
Some self-proclaimed “pretentious art rock” now from this Danish trio, who’ve enjoyed plenty of cult success worldwide (this, their highest charting album in the UK, peaked at 110) as well as recently supporting Nine Inch Nails on their European tour alongside Jane's Addiction. Quite what most NIN fans would have made of material from Mew’s latest fifth album at least beggars certain questions, as this dreamy adventure of an album inhabits a heady atmosphere that, whilst not without its moments of exuberant rocking out (check the finale of Repeaterbeater), is content to take in piano-led moments accentuated by childlike vocals and harmonies (hear Silas the Magic Car). Stark, infantile imagery and wounded naivety is prevalent throughout, encapsulated best near the end of the tumultuous journey with the penultimate track Sometimes Life Isn't Easy, which has one of the most unsettlingly beautiful moments of the musical year in having a children’s choir sing along to a monologue of piteousness and mutilation. A rewarding listen for those who dare and an impressive feat for an outfit that’s still going after fifteen years.

Logos by Atlas Sound
Bradford James Cox is certainly a busy man of late. Not content with working with his band Deerhunter on the release of two of their albums last year, 2008 also saw the debut album of his solo project Atlas Sound, an exercise in ambient music that gave birth to the critically-lauded Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See but Cannot Feel. Helping to bolster a running theme with popular alternative musicians this year by following up with new material the following year, Logos differs from Cox’s former piece firstly in its more mainstream sensibilities. Whereas Cox’s solo debut felt more like a concept album telling a Gothic story of ghosts and past traumas, Logos is a little more ambitious with its templates, taking in guest stars Panda Bear of Animal Collective and Stereolab’s Lætitia Sadier to offer some tripped out mellowness (Quick Canal in particular is hella gorgeous with its Boards of Canada-style beats restless underneath Cox’s indecipherable vocals) as well as some more acoustically informed pieces (hear Criminals and My Halo). It might not create as cohesive another world as his previous disc, but it still has its moments of gorgeousness.

For Lack of a Better Name by deadmau5
Joel Zimmerman enjoyed a certain degree of breakout success earlier this year with the minor chart hit I Remember with Kaskade, as well as a fine critical reception from its parent album, Random Album Title, and a raft of recognition from his peers, including a Grammy nomination. The party continues apace to lesser effect on his latest release, only because there’s nothing quite as awe-inducing as I Remember or Slip from the aforementioned Random here (besides the closing ten minute swoon of Strobe). Zimmerman also commits a couple of cardinal sins in dance music studio albums in letting a few of the jams go on for too long (Word Problems in particular grinding to a halt far later than it should do) and including a somewhat pointless instrumental version preceding a superior track with vocals (that’ll be highlight Ghosts N' Stuff featuring Pendulum’s Rob Swire). Still, there are some mighty fine tunes to be had barbed with a couple of leftfield turns, such as the one-two of Soma’s elegant piano solos puncturing the electronic glitch jams followed by the string-led wonder of Lack of a Better Name.

The Revolution Presents Revolution by The Revolution
There will be those who disapprove of the ethics imposed on the formation of The Revolution, a collective of vibrant young Cuban musicians put together by producers Zack Winfield and Ado Yoshizaki to collaborate with the finest (re: some of the more popular) producers of the Western world. Whilst issue may be taken to claim that the idea of Westernising these indigenous musicians’ sounds robs them of legitimate authenticity, it take just a few bars of the opening track Shelter to not only be swept up by the collective’s evident talent, but also how impressively respectful the producers have been in their roles, whilst still imprinting the tracks with their own sensibilities. Of the assignees, Marius de Vries (helped in no small part on the gorgeous Yellow Moon by Róisín Murphy in particular) and UNKLE’s Rich File should be the most proud, despite fine work from Guy Sigsworth and Jan Kybert also (the latter’s You Wouldn’t Want To Be Me is the stuff of Latin dreams). However, it doesn’t take absolutely anything away from The Revolution themselves that the album can be qualified as nothing less than a success, adhering to each respective genre (tortured trip hop, sassy bossa nova, boisterous Latin hip hop) these producers throw at them with graceful ease.

A Brief History of Love by The Big Pink
The BBC Sound of 2009 strikes again with electro-rock duo The Big Pink, London-based, former indie label runners-turned-Next Big Things with a debut ready to be embraced as much by popular music fans as it will by snooty musos. Although with regards to tone and the amount of abject drama they are completely different, Pink’s debut album could be seen as a companion piece to The HorrorsPrimary Colours from earlier this year, if only for the overt shadow of Joy Division hanging over it, though Pink are more ambitious to take in more than relentless miserabilism. Positively drenched in reverb and as anthemic and rousing as it can be mournful and disturbed (for the former hear recent single Dominos, the title track for the latter), it’s the kind of album that has the music press practically salivating all over it but for once it’s almost entirely justified, at times sounding like early Nine Inch Nails or Depeche Mode, but entirely its own beast of twisted beauty (Too Young To Love being a perfect highlight). A shoo-in for a nomination for The Mercury Prize 2010, methinks!!

Man On The Moon: The End of The Day by Kid Cudi
And yet AGAIN with this BBC Sound of 2009 business... I guess they ought to be very pleased with themselves in picking out so many featured in my listening schedules, if they gived a damn about one of about a million lonely music blogs on last.fm. But I digress; signed to Kanye West’s GOOD Music label in 2008, CuDi has enjoyed increasing amounts of hype since his A Kid Called CuDi mixtape hit and had a profound effect on Kanye in particular, even soliciting a guestspot on his curate’s egg of an album, 808s & Heartbreak, not to mention the airplay assigned to the Crookers remix of lead single Day ‘N’ Nite (Nightmare). Not as emotionally desolate as West’s piece from last year, Man On The Moon still takes cues from a more experimental palette than your average hip hop album, taking in guests as leftfield from the rap scene as Ratatat and MGMT alongside the likes of West and Common, mixing in resonant synths and effects than crunking beats and polished old school arrangements and samples. CuDi himself doesn’t disappoint either, his rhymes and cadence a welcome breath of fresh air from the boisterous motor-mouthing prevalent in the less-inspired hip hop world, fine examples being Heart Of A Lion (Kid Cudi Theme Music) and Enter Galactic (Love Connection).

11:11 by Rodrigo y Gabriela
I may be flirting with disaster when I opine this sentiment, but if the Great British Public can’t get their record-buying faculties in the right place (Lady Gaga holding Doves away from the top spot by a handful of copies being one such criminal happenstance this year), Lord know about the Irish music-buying contingent. However, one rogue act that launched their impressive rise to fame from the Irish shores were Rodrigo and Gabriela, former members of a metal band in Mexico who upped sticks to Europe to broaden their musical horizons, welcomed with open arms for the virtuoso guitar-playing, be it tradional, pop or samba music. As a result, their second album debuted at Number 1 in Ireland and beat away competition from Arctic Monkeys and Johnny Cash to hold on to it. Their follow-up is essentially half-tribute album, each original track dedicated to the one of the duo’s most highly regarded muses (amongst the more recognisable names being Santana, Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd). Exclusively made up of the duo’s remarkable guitar playing, it transcends the commonly placed world music label to deliver something more passionate and alive than most music with hundreds more effects and sequences happening at once.

The Resistance by Muse
So I finally got hold of it... And, you know, if anything it’s even more ridiculous, bombastic and stridently composed as the fake copy I found myself hawking in my last update (before removing all evidence of my deaf assumptions in the edit, obviously!) You’ll have heard Uprising already, with its pseudo Doctor Who theme ominously dancing in the background as Matt Bellamy’s voice rides all manner of surging guitars and yell-along anthems but the album confounds still with some of the most bonkers grandstanding that rock music has to offer this year. Undisclosed Desires opens with a staccato string arrangement and backbeat reminiscent of turn of the century two-step garage before sidestepping into Depeche Mode territory (and it’s very good!) whilst United States of Eurasia (+Collateral Damage) is the sequel to Bohemian Rhapsody that Freddie Mercury never finished (beyond amazing!) Resistance contains one of the most rousing choruses of the year thus far and the three-part orchestral work that closes the album is still as demystifyingly gorgeous, and the perfect gracenote to end such an excessive, relentless explosion of an album.

And that is why The Resistance is my Album Of The Month For September... so good, it was a whole month late!!

And that's me for another month; will be posting my CD3 of the year's best tracks so far next week and then, the final quarter. Christmas is coming; be prepared!

(And a brief apology to brennivin85 for not including the Spotify links where appropriate just yet... will get around to it at some point!)

Commentaires

  • Orange_Anubis

    Ha ha ha I love Aqua's Halloween, it's a classic! I do agree that Ginuwine's album was very underwhelming apart from the ace Missy & Timbo reunion. Speaking of whom, I say a big yay to you tagging Muse's Undisclosed Desires with the ghost of Depeche Mode - I keep seeing reviewers saying it sounds like Timbaland, reviewers who haven't actually listened to any amount of modern R&B I'm guessing, and it annoys me. Anyway, nice choices - I still need to hear Whitney's and Mew's new ones though, and from the looks of it you need to hear the new Dizzee and Beverly Knight ones... ;)

    24 sept. 2009, 11h28m
  • CvaldaVessalis

    Probably a winking pastiche too far for me, that Halloween song! As for Depeche, their "ghost" hangs around a lot of CDs this month, I've realised... Have Dizzee waiting for me at home (not personally, mind!), along with Pixie Lott. May need your help on the Beverley front though. ;^)

    24 sept. 2009, 11h43m
  • brennivin85

    Stop submitting to the Spotify group! you don't even use it?!?!?! And your posts cover albums that aren't on there yet... I thought we talked about this last time? Beverley Knight is on Spotify

    24 sept. 2009, 12h03m
  • CvaldaVessalis

    Dang man, sorry I typed! I can submit to any group I want as long as I'm allowed, thanks A (barely anyone reads my stuff anyway!), and whilst I don't scrobble all the time from Spotify, I do still use it at home every day/night... Dare I ask what you thought of the actual review?

    24 sept. 2009, 13h39m
  • brennivin85

    I doubt you actually have it installed at all G, and yes, to some degree we're all sorry you typed (B just gasped with his hands over his mouth). meeyowch! I liked the review, it was very long.

    27 sept. 2009, 17h26m
  • CvaldaVessalis

    As Tyler Perry would quote: "MmmmHhuummhph!" Plus, I'm always complemented on my length... ;^)

    28 sept. 2009, 1h21m
  • retro_trash

    great reviews as always! im really disapointed with immi's new effort did not capture my imagination one iota. Sugababes is no more, that's all im saying, i think it would be really interesting if you did like an old music entry thing, 80's, 70's, would be cool to see your opinion on some classic and alternative music from the past x

    30 sept. 2009, 13h41m
  • CvaldaVessalis

    Thanks, retro! Are there any other albums I missed that captured your attention this month though? You can imagine the Sugababes reunion concert in 15 years time though with about 20 of them onstage, right? Whilst I'm not surprised that Keisha's departure drew ire from the fans, am a little bemused by how nasty the backlash is getting... Your proposal for a lengthier retrospective is an interesting assignment though! Will have to wait until this year is out, but will give it some thought nevertheless... x

    30 sept. 2009, 14h08m
  • Babs_05

    Same - great reviews as always. Love what you said about Mew, wish I'd managed that. Muse number 1 for sure. I really liked Imogen Heap's new album - you didn't mention the Bollywood inflections, there are some nice touches. I can't be you added Aqua! lol

    1 oct. 2009, 15h34m
  • CvaldaVessalis

    Thanks, Babs! Glad you liked it; I still stand by the opinion that Aqua are under-appreciated, though less-consistent in their pop quality than, say, BWO. As for Imogen, I'll have to give it another listen, but it was the lyrics that turned me off more than anything; production/composition wise, I'll concede it is rather lovely...

    1 oct. 2009, 17h02m
  • Nialloleary

    Hey George-Sorry I've been slow making a comment-another excellent journal. First things first though-The XX are the shoo-in for next years Mercury awards imho. However agree with your assessment of Jay-Z, Atlas Sound & Kid Cudi albums. It's a shame about The Dodo's but I did guess from lastfmer's feedback this album was lacking, in comparison to their debut. From this journal I'm going to try One Eskimo & give The Big Pink a proper listen. It's hard to argue with Muse being album of the month-but to my ears it isn't as good as their last one?

    2 oct. 2009, 6h23m
  • CvaldaVessalis

    Regardless of tardiness, it's always nice to hear from you, Niall! You're right about The XX and their shoo-in status for the Merc '10... Hope Basement Jaxx get a nod as well; lots of people moaning about it but they can just shut it! I've yet to investigate Muse's back catalogue, though Bert did play me one past piece round his place one night when we were trying to outdo each other playing songs with ridiculous key-changes (suffice to say, he won!)... Muse for Eurovision/next Bond theme!! ;^)

    2 oct. 2009, 9h45m
  • Babs_05

    Muse started out well, then they became a little try-hard and I found myself wanting to like them more than I actually did, then I gave up. I'd never have listened to the new album if people hadn't described it as 'preposterous'. I'd say it's the best thing they've ever done. Finally discovered The Big Pink, you'll be pleased to know. It's the XBox advert and 'Dominoes' that did it. What a superb song. Haven't heard the album yet, plan to this week. If you liked the Bollywood inflections in Imogen's album, try Taken by Trees - 'East of Eden', in particular 'My Boys'. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.

    6 oct. 2009, 3h01m
  • CvaldaVessalis

    Hello again, Babs! Thanks for the recommendation, will check Victoria out when I get home tonight. Glad to see you've rediscovered your "Muse" (aha!aha!aha!aha!!) and given TBP a chance... Dominoes is the big single on the album, the rest being a little more mysterious and lovely. Ignore the backlash and enjoy, is what I'll say!

    6 oct. 2009, 11h18m
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