12.29.2009

free of tigers

A little behind the times - as usual - but the excellently-named Fear of Tigers have made his/their/whatever debut album "Cossus Snufsigalonica" [what he said] available for free download from his/their/whatever Facebook/MySpace/label/etc. You should grab it because - like his/their/whatever remix of The Sound of Arrows' "Into the Clouds" - it is fantastic and well worth your bandwidth.

I'll even make it easy for you. Here.

Can't get any easier. You'll buy it when it comes out properly, right? Because that's the right thing to do. Good.

The early 90's dance revival is kicking into full swing and I think I like it. Imagine if he/they/whatever remixed a track off the new Alphabeat album? A-MAZING. Someone make it happen, especially if said track is "This Beat Is".

12.27.2009

get someone to keep us company

It's mix time again!

This year was a little tricky for a few reasons. One: while albums as a whole were a bit disappointing in 2009, plenty of individual tracks shone through and it was tough to not only pick the best to go together but also getting them to play nicely with each other. Two: formatting was a bitch this year with plenty of stuff being either digital- or vinyl-only so trying to find the best possible source for a track proved kind of tricky. And three: the effing loudness wars - seriously, it is getting a bit ridiculous. Check it:

Photobucket

Really? Shouldn't Trent and/or someone in Jane's Addiction know better? For shame.

Anyways, so getting it all to sound good when put in a row was tough and I'm sure it could be better, but there you go.

Anyways, get someone to keep us company:

01 Little Boots - New In Town
single from the LP 'Hands'
02 V.V. Brown - Game Over
single from the LP 'Travelling Like The Light'
03 La Roux - Tigerlily
should've been single from the self-titled LP
04 Dragonette - Liar
highlight from the LP 'Fixin To Thrill'
05 The Hidden Cameras - Mind, Matter and Waste
from the "In The NA" EP and the only worthwhile thing to come out of the 'Origin: Orphan' debacle
06 The Sound of Arrows - Into the Clouds
remix of Freemonster's single of 2009
07 The Temper Trap - Sweet Disposition
single from the LP 'Conditions'
08 The Big Pink - Stop the World
non-album single, though why it wasn't on the album is beyond me
09 The Breeders - Fate to Fatal
EP title track
10 Charlotte Hatherley - White
single from the LP 'New Worlds'
11 Jane's Addiction - Whores
2009 studio recording of a 20+ year old live only track
12 Kasabian - Where Did All The Love Go?
single from the LP 'West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum'
13 Ash - Arcadia
the "C" single from the A-Z singles project
14 Sugababes - Thank You For The Heartbreak
essentially the Sugababes goodbye single
15 Pet Shop Boys - The way it used to be [Richard X Mix]
remix from the "Did you see me coming?" 12"
16 Annie - Songs Remind Me Of You
single from the finally released LP 'Don't Stop'

12.21.2009

my favorite albums of 2009

Here's the thing: 2009 was not a great year for music. It wasn't terrible, to be sure, but it wasn't as fantastic as it should have been. People who should know better were putting out terrible albums - SFA and the Hidden Cameras, I am looking very much in your direction - and even the good albums somehow weren't as good as they could've been/should've been/I'd have liked them to be. Or, perhaps, there was one album that shone so brightly it made everything else seem a bit dull. I like to think it was a mix of the two.

Yes, I'm whining, but isn't that what this type of thing is for? Anyways, putting together a list of 20 albums proved impossible - I had a solid list of 10 I had bought that I wished I hadn't for one reason or another - and rounding it off to a square ten also proved tricky. So I cheated a little - ten plus an honorable mention, which was technically a 2008 album anyways so it wasn't really cheating. Anyways, I'm babbling so here you go:

Annie - Don't Stop
honorable mention: Annie - Don't Stop
key tracks: "Songs Remind Me Of You", "My Love Is Better", "Don't Stop"
Completed and put out in promo form in 2008 before parting ways with Island, 2009 finally saw a commercial release for Annie's second LP in a slightly different form. A few new songs were recorded and added, a few tracks - including killer single "I Know Ur Girlfriend Hates Me" - got relegated to bonus disc-land and we're left holding an album that is very much less than the sum of its parts. Almost every track here is great - I'm not a huge fan of "Marie Cherie" - but it feels like the final configuration of the album is not the best one. In any case, it is very nice to see this finally get a proper release and for every track save one - the cover of "2 of Hearts" which is fun but certainly non-essential - recorded for it to have been included in one way or another.

Charlotte Hatherley - New Worlds
10: Charlotte Hatherley - New Worlds
key tracks: "White", "Alexander", "New Worlds"
The third Charlotte Hatherley album came to us in 2009 after numerous delays and lots of silence from its creator, suddenly appearing almost out of nowhere on release lists and - surprisingly - US download stores. Hooray! Except...maybe it was the delays, maybe it's the new note-perfect albums that proceeded it, but it's hard to deny that it's a little bit of a disappointment. There's an almost forceful obsession with colors in the lyrics - nearly every song mentions a color by name or the spectrum as a whole - which gets oddly distracting. Whatever the reason, it's the perfect case of a favorite artist's weaker work being better than most's best - not really a glowing recommendation, but it's what I've got.

Lady Sovereign - Jigsaw
09: Lady Sovereign - Jigsaw
key tracks: "I've Got You Dancing", "Let's Be Mates", "Pennies"
The video for "I've Got You Dancing" appeared somewhat out of nowhere in January and by April a totally unexpected second Sov LP was in our hands. I hate to use the word "mature" to describe an album, but she does show us a bit of her heart on the title track and her, ummm, bedroom/kitchen preferences in the completely bizarre "Food Play". Not as immediate as the first LP and there's no "Hoodie", but the biggest midget in the game still delivers when she could have very easily faded away into obscurity.

Jarvis Cocker - Further Complications
08: Jarvis Cocker - Further Complications
key tracks: "Slush", "Further Complications", "I Never Said I Was Deep"
Why did no one think to pair Jarvis and Steve Albini earlier? That's all we need to say. [OK, one more thing - THAT SLEEVE! Amazing.]

Little Boots - Hands
07: Little Boots - Hands
key tracks: "New In Town", "Earthquake", "Stuck On Repeat"
Is Victoria Hesketh the next chart pop star or the next Björk? I'm not even entirely sure she knows. What I do know, however, is that she's got what it takes to pull off whatever she decides her master plan is with the rock solid pop of her debut and an amazing stage presence. The charts / blogs / world are hers for the taking when she decides she wants them.

The Big Pink - A Brief History of Love
06: The Big Pink - A Brief History of Love
key tracks: "Dominos", "Velvet", "Tonight"
The sleeve really says it all, as 4AD sleeves tend to: a slightly fuzzy take on the new shoegaze/pop hybrid done right, a trip through 90's indie with 2009 glasses on. They could've easily fallen into the one amazing single/not so hot album trap - sadly, we say hello to the Temper Trap at this point - but it's all good and very nicely varied here. One thing, though: where the hell is "Stop The World"?

Kasabian - West Ryder something something
05: Kasabian - West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum
key tracks: "Fire", "Where Did All The Love Go?", "Vlad the Impaler"
Yes, it is an absolute mess with the weird instrumentals in the middle of the album and Rosario Dawson spoken word tracks, but what a mess it is. Something akin to the soundtrack to a film that doesn't exist - or so its been described - the third Kasabian LP is as infuriating as it is enjoyable...and is all the better for it. [If you can, track down the promo instrumental album - well worth a listen and it actually enhances the album proper.]

Dragonette - Fixin To Thrill
04: Dragonette - Fixin to Thrill
key tracks: "Liar", "Big Sunglasses", "Pick Up The Phone"
This could very easily not exist, what with 'Galore' barely coming out in the end and all the chart and label bullshit the band went through a few years back. They pushed through it all, though, and the pop world is a better place for it as no one does dirty - in terms of synths and sex - pop better as far as I'm concerned.


Yes, Pet Shop Boys
03: Pet Shop Boys - Yes
key tracks: "All over the world", "The way it used to be", "Pandemonium"
Similar to the Jarvis Cocker/Steve Albini pairing, what took Pet Shop Boys so long to pair up with Xenomania? An absolutely lush sounding pop masterpiece, "Yes" flows wonderfully and has the perfect balance of BIG POP moments and understated down moments that the Boys do so well. Unfortunately the campaign was plagued with bad choices - "Love etc" is fantastic, obviously, but does not scream "comeback after a few years away" single which started the whole thing off on the slightly wrong foot - and the rumors were flying that the Boys spent a good chunk of time fighting with the label about things like single choices instead of, you know, promoting the album which led to their most commercial sounding album in ages turning into a relative flop. Which is, of course, very Pet Shop Boys.

The Boxer Rebellion - Union
02: The Boxer Rebellion - Union
key tracks: "Flashing Red Light Means Go", "Move On", "Misplaced"
Surprise of the year, here. Their debut album was passable if a bit unexciting, and then out of nowhere comes this. Totally self-funded and originally only digitally available, 'Union' is a widescreen, heart on your sleeve indie guitar record, the likes of which I thought weren't made anymore. Simply gorgeous.

La Roux
01: La Roux - La Roux
key tracks: the whole damn thing
Duh. From the first hear of "In For The Kill" back in February-ish to the very quiet and somewhat pointless re-release of "Quicksand" a few weeks ago, La Roux totally owned my 2009. Say what you will about the album - Derivative? Absolutely. Shrieky? I guess. Dull? Never! - but from front to back the album is perfection.

It could have gone the opposite way. As fantastic as "In For The Kill" is - and it is really, really fucking fantastic - it screamed: "Possible One Trick Pony! Approach With Caution!" Follow up "Bulletproof" was the right second proper single in every way - similar enough to retain the fans you got the first time around but also different enough to show some versatility and an absolutely killer pop song to top it all off.

The album knows exactly where to go and when. The first side is single after single after should be single, hitting you constantly with synthpop perfection. The second side reveals a heart beating under all that machinery - "Cover My Eyes" is heart-wrenching, "Fascination" is the stalker side of you that you don't want to admit is there but you know is, "As If By Magic" is pure denial and "Armour Love" is the painful realization that maybe you were wrong. The only misstep - and it is a small one - is bonus track "Growing Pains" which is merely not as good as the 11 songs that come before it. [Why is it a bonus track anyways - I've yet to find an edition of the album that doesn't have it.]

Add to that the stunning artwork throughout the campaign and the ridiculous extra formats - shaped picture discs! one-sided etched 7"s! - to keep the collectors happy and you've got the whole package. Well played.

a new 'head music'

A friend and I have an e-mail conversation that has been going on for years that covers any number of pop music topics at any given time. Sometimes we'll dive deep into a given artist - it may or may not have started about tracking down promo-only Sugababes mixes, I can't recall - and sometimes it will touch many artists at a time.

In any case, Suede came up [again] recently and we were discussing their career showcase at the ICA back in 2003. For those who don't know, the short version is leading up to the release of the 'Singles' album, the band played five nights at the ICA in London with each night dedicated to one of their five albums. The first three nights they did 'Suede', 'Dog Man Star' and 'Coming Up' respectively from front to back for the main set plus an encore of period b-sides, fan favorites and new single "Attitude". For nights four and five, they did 'Head Music' and 'A New Morning' in their entirety but changed the running order for the gig. Despite having bootlegs of varying quality of the shows since they first appeared, I've never really given them a good listen. [The 'A New Morning' night in particular is of terrible quality...and it doesn't sound that great either.] Anyways, in the discussion it was suggested that listening to the albums in their "ICA configurations", if you will, paints an entirely different picture of the two oft-maligned albums.

First, I'll say that 'Head Music' is without a doubt my favorite Suede album - I know, I know. The idea intrigued me, though - I recall reading a review at the time how the band took the stage for "Hi-Fi" at the beginning of the 'Head Music' night all Kraftwerk-like and blew everyone's mind. So I was game.

First off, to play along at home you need the following playlist:
"Hi-Fi"
"Head Music"
"Savoir Faire"
"Can't Get Enough"
"Asbestos"
"Electricity"
"Elephant Man"
"Down"
"He's Gone"
"Indian Strings"
"Everything Will Flow"
"Crack In The Union Jack"
"She's In Fashion"

Having given the album a listen this way twice, I would only make one change and that would be to flip-flop the positions of "Electricity" and "Elephant Man". Other than that, though, you get a very different picture of a misunderstood and - let's be honest - not fully realized album.

With "Hi-Fi" in the starting position, you get a very different idea of the album in your head from the get go. The first half becomes a very nasty electro-monster before roughing things up a bit with the endearingly goofy "Elephant Man" and then the now side-a ending thrill of "Electricity". [I don't care what anyone says, I still find the track fantastically exciting ten years on.] Side-b, on the other hand, is incredibly heavy and hopelessly gorgeous with a string of increasingly sad and lovely songs before ending with the ray of sunshine that is "She's In Fashion". It ends up sounding more like a bonus track than part of the album, much like "Honey" on 'New Amerykah Part 1', but somehow it works that way.

The exercise does serve to remind that an album can be more than the sum of its parts and that track order can make all the difference in the world. I do think it might even change your mind about the album if you weren't a fan to begin with.

Unfortunately, it also makes the last decade of Suede-related nonsense even more disappointing. *sigh*

I suppose I should give 'A New Morning' an "ICA" listen. Maybe it will change my mind...

12.09.2009

we want more

These New Puritans have a new album coming out in January. It is entitled 'Hidden' and according to their official site, the track listing looks like this:

01 Time Xone
02 We Want War
03 Three Thousand
04 Hologram
05 Attack Music
06 Fire-Power
07 Orion
08 Canticle
09 Drum Courts - Where Corals Lie
10 White Chords
11 5

"We Want War" will be the first single, available on 10" vinyl on January 11th - although apparently it is already out as a 1-track digital download in the UK. The 10" will have an alternate version of the a-side as well as a solo piano version of "Hologram" and will come in a "luxury package with a surprise on the inside". Curious.

The video is out there. It is STUNNING:



Ho-ly shit. Amazing. Those drums! That orchestration! My immediate thought was what Bjork tried to do with parts of 'Volta' - think "Pneumonia" or "Vertebrae by Vertebrae" - but failed miserably at. They pass - oh yes - with flying colors. I totally loved 'Beat Pyramid' but this steps it up to a whole new level.

As is all the rage these days, the official site is offering an mp3 mega-mix sampler of the album in exchange for an e-mail address. It also sounds incredible.

I cannot wait.

[2009 wrap up coming soon.]

12.02.2009

thought for the day

Blur's "Country House", with time as distance, is both much better and twice as obnoxious as you remember.

Happy December.

11.05.2009

I want more, baby, I want more

So, here we are. A year and some number of months after it was supposed to be in our hands, Annie has unleashed her second album. Entitled 'Don't Stop' - as if you didn't know that already - it is just as much of a mixed bag as 'Anniemal' was however many years ago. [I honestly prefer not to think about it, as it shouldn't be as long ago as it was.]

Mixed bag implies bad - which, of course, this is not: there's really not a dud to be found amongst the 17 tracks that make up the album proper and the 'All Night EP', its new companion. [I've even come around to "Marie Charie", which I previously found to be a snorefest.] That said, there is a huge difference in the quality of goodness of the tracks, if you will.

First, the biggest crime: excellent lead single-when-it-was-to-be-released-on-Island "I Know UR Girlfriend Hates Me" - why is it not "H8s", by the way? - has been exiled to bonus-disc land, along with the stopgap also produced by Richard X single "Anthonio". [Nothing produced by Richard X should ever be anything than an projects main focus, fact. See also: Pet Shop Boys' "Fugitive".]

Second: best-closing-track-to-an-album-in-ages and in-need-of-a-proper-single-release stormer "Songs Remind Me Of You" - also produced by Richard X, see a trend? - has been moved to the middle of the disc. Side one, track six to be exact. Two problems within this problem. One: the second half of the album is now a total anti-climax, despite it containing the hate-it-or-really-really-love-it "The Breakfast Song". [I'm very much in the latter camp. In fact, I'd say it's my favorite Annie track...after "Songs", of course. Oh, and "Chewing Gum". Top three, then.] Two: the album closer is now the ho-hum "Heaven And Hell" - which was fine as a mid-album, erm, album track but can't carry the responsibility of closing what should be the pop album of the year. Fail. :(

In the tracklisting re-jigging, we picked up three new songs. "Hey Annie" leads us off with a great marching band beat chant - even if it doesn't quite do the job as opener as well was "My Love Is Better", it is a solid tune. "Don't Stop" is a great, if a bit Annie-by-numbers uptempo number. Only "I Don't Like Your Band" - which is a good time in its own right - doesn't really fit in on the album, sounding like it would be better suited to - here's the twist - a bonus disc. [Bonus disc tracks are the new b-sides, yes? Actually, it could've been used as the b-side to "Songs Remind Me Of You" as that release contained NOTHING. *sigh*]

Here's my proposition. [And everyone who cares about the album has their own ideal tracklist, I'm sure.] Perfect pop albums are 10 tracks, no question. All killer, no filler, etc. How about:

SIDE A
Hey Annie
My Love Is Better
I Know UR Girlfriend Hates Me
Don't Stop
Sweet [another casualty of the new tracklist - no room for this one? Really?]

Side B
Take You Home
Loco
The Breakfast Song
I Can't Let Go
Songs Remind Me Of You

Perfect.

Here's the thing. It's fantastic - a minor miracle, really - that this album got a proper release. And for what it is, it rather quite good. My only issue with it is that it could be SO much better with a little more attention. [Considering the amount of time they had to get it ready for release, that's a bit silly.] Fortunately, we live in the era of iTunes playlists so it's super easy to make your own 'Don't Stop' v.3.

11.03.2009

stunning new La Roux art work alert

So after the relative tanking of "I'm Not Your Toy" in the charts, Polydor has apparently decided to play it safe with the next - and probably final - single from the La Roux album by re-releasing "Quicksand". [Which Elly has said she wouldn't do, but funny how these things work.] Anyways...

"As If By Magic" would clearly have been a better choice, however this is what we've got. The tracklist is made up of a new remix by Boy 8 Bit and the previously available Beni's Sinking At 1.56 remix. *sigh* Once again, no shaped picture-disc 7", this time we get a heavyweight etched one...

One thing I will say, though, is that the artwork for this campaign has been fantastic. Totally spot on. Good job.

10.28.2009

allow yourself to be released

My summer of jetting across the country for concerts came to an end last Friday. [I suppose since it started in April with The Whip and is ending in late October, "summer" is perhaps not the best word to use.] Anyways, of all the shows I went to this year, as it approached I realized that the School of Seven Bells show was the one I was anticipating the most.

First, though, there were three other bands to get through. As part of the CMJ festival, the bill was pretty loaded with two bigger names and two lesser known acts. First: the Depreciation Guild. As far as opening acts go, they were quite good and I rather enjoyed their set. They made sense sharing a bill with SVIIB - the trio created an impressive 2 guitar / 1 drum kit wall of sound with a simple but captivating back drop of solid color squares that constantly changed shapes and sizes. [
As my friend James pointed out, think the PSB 'Yes' theme and you're there.] Definitely one to investigate - and look, there are tracks streaming on last.fm.]

Next up was Phantogram, a boy/girl duo with he on guitar and her on bank of keyboards. [It was interesting to notice that of the four bands, only The Depreciation Guild employed a drum kit. Fantastic.] I wasn't quite as taken with Phantogram, though I can't say exactly why. Perhaps further investigation is needed, I'm not sure. Regardless, I found them to be the weak link of the evening, though on their own merits not bad. [Side note: they told us they were from Saratoga Springs. I didn't think anything was from Saratoga Springs. Interesting.]

Third, The xx. I quite enjoy their album and was excited to hear that they had joined the bill after I bought tickets as I now got to see two acts I wanted to see in one go. However, I was skeptical as to how they could carry off a live show - and my concerns were valid. Taking the stage with all four members lined up across the front, they went through the album pretty much note for note, changing only the order of a few songs and throwing in a cover of Womack & Womack's "Teardrops" for good measure. [I totally had to look it up.] It was very enjoyable, don't get me wrong, but you might as well have stayed home and blasted the album on shuffle. That said, they came across as very nice and genuinely appreciative and good for them for being the unofficial stars of CMJ. [Apparently they played every night and even had another set in Tribeca after their set at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. It's also a safe bet that they were the reason the show ended up selling out as the place was packed to the rafters when they took the stage yet was less than half full for School of Seven Bells.] One thing that both James and I got a kick out of was watching the...well, here's where you'd usually say "drummer", but he wasn't actually drumming. The electronic percussionist, I suppose. It would have been very easy to pre-program all the beats for the show, however he was playing them live and keeping impressively solid time even in some of the more intricate passages. So I guess you couldn't have gotten the whole experience at home, though I don't think I'll be rushing out to see them again any time soon.

Finally, 11:45 rolls around and School of Seven Bells take the stage. [Maybe I'm getting old, but christ that was late.] Full disclosure - over the course of the year, 'Alpinisms' has grown from an album that I quite enjoy to one of my absolute favorite albums of the decade. Such a gorgeous, wonderful piece of music. I had heard nothing but absolute raves about their live show from friends who, admittedly, are just as obsessed as I if not more, so my expectations were high. Outside of a pair of setlist misses - no "Prince of Peace" [not surprising] or "Face to Face on High Places" [kind of shocking, actually] - they delivered on every level. My friend Joe put it - the songs come across as a little more aggressive in the live show, and that is spot on. They opened the set with a stunning version of "My Cabal" and then led us through most of the rest of 'Alpinisms' with a trio of new songs mixed in. The new material is amazing - on one listen, I'd say the aggressive tag applies to them most of all but still very much keeping true to their sound. "Chain" was an absolute monster live, as was the usually pretty-but-perhaps-a-bit-long "Sempiternal/Amaranth", which closed the night. [I suppose technically it was the encore, however they only left stage for maybe a minute, returning before the feedback squall ending of "Half Asleep" had fully faded out so I don't think it really counts.] The biggest surprise of the night for me was "White Elephant Coat", which on the album that seems to be missing something but truly came alive in the live setting.

I hope they're not gone too long, as I need new material and the opportunity to see them live again ASAP.

Set lists:

The xx -
Intro
Crystalised
VCR
Islands
Heart Skipped A Beat
Shelter
Basic Space
Teardrops
Infinity
Night Time
Shelter

School of Seven Bells -
My Cabal
Connjur
White Elephant Coat
new #1
Iamundernodisguise
Chain
new #2
Wired For Light
new #3
Half Asleep
Sempiternal/Amaranth

Some YouTube videos from the night [not mine]
:

The xx - Shelter:

[You can also find I believe their full set at the Tribeca Grand from later in the evening on YouTube.]

School of Seven Bells - My Cabal:

10.15.2009

fantastic cover alert: Alphabeat

That's the cover of the new Alphabeat album 'The Spell', out in the UK in January. [Possibly elsewhere sooner, will have to look into that.]

It's fantastic.

That is all.

10.13.2009

listen to your own desire

It is finally in our hands.

After announcements of dates that then got pushed back, release dates passing with nothing, and - really - years of waiting, the double disc deluxe edition of Duran Duran's 'Rio' is finally here. I am happy to report that the wait was well worth it.

The set is gorgeous. It comes packaged in a mini hardback book style sleeve with each disc getting a pocket to rest in on the front or back "page", if you will. There's a 58-page book that has a very nice essay about the album and its place in time as well as the lyrics to the main album, source lists for the bonus tracks and scads of period pictures, all very stylishly put together matching the theme of the album's artwork. As a tangible artifact, it's a win all around.

How about the music? There's not much point in discussing the album itself - it is amazing and 27 years later stands up as one of the finest albums of its decade, of all time even. The remaster job is very nice - this is easily the best 'Rio' has ever sounded and probably ever will sound given the inherent flaws in the master tape.

That said, the album has a history - probably more so than any album in the pop catalog - of not having a truly "definitive" version. I won't go into all the details here as there is a very thorough documentation of all the various anomalies spread out over various releases of the album here. [Essential reading, by the way.] It hasn't been updated for this new edition, so let's go over what's here as the new go-to version of 'Rio'.

The first 9 tracks on disc 1 claim to be the "original UK album", and as far as I can tell they are. However, that's different than what you're used to if you've spent most of your time with the album listening to the album on CD as all digital copies of the album have an alternate mix of "Hold Back The Rain" from the original UK vinyl. Not having a copy of that to compare to, I can't 100% confirm that that is what we have here, however using the track time and descriptors from the previously mentioned website it appears we finally have the true original version of 'Rio' on CD here for the first time. The biggest difference in "Hold Back The Rain" is this version has more prominent keyboards and less guitar than the CD version and - oddly - sounds closer to the Kershenbaum remix that was prepared for the US LP re-issue. It is also missing the first half of the second verse - "So what if the words ain't rhyming", etc. [That part of the verse appears in the lyric book, though. Hrm.]

Disc one wraps up with the 5 tracks that were remixed for said US LP. Again, details on the site, but this is also the first time that the US LP mixes are together on CD. [I believe they've all been out there on various CD releases over the years, except for "Lonely In Your Nightmare" which makes its CD debut on this package.] Unsurprisingly, the big side-a singles don't get too radically worked over here - a bit of an extension on both and more moans on the fade out of "Hungry Like The Wolf". It is worth noting that this is the version of "Hungry Like The Wolf" from the second US pressing - which is essentially an edit of the Night Version - rather than the longer mix from the more common third pressing. Nice. As for the other tracks, "My Own Way" is the Carnival version and is probably my favorite mix of the song - the album version "punched up for dancing". "Lonely In Your Nightmare" is musically very similar to the original version, however there are a completely new set of lyrics mixed in making this my preferred version. Finally, "Hold Back The Rain" is a nearly 7-minute dance masterpiece. All in all, this is my favorite version of the album and it is very nice to finally have it on disc, free of surface noise from worn out LPs.

Disc two starts with the only truly previously unavailable material - four tracks from the first demo session for the album in August 1981. They sound pretty much like slightly unpolished versions of the songs that made it out - with some very excited to the point of being a bit distracting backing vocals - but are a nice glimpse into the birth of the album. ["My Own Way" does feature an early set of slightly different lyrics.] The next four tracks are non-album material - the original discoed-up version of "My Own Way" and its b-side "Like An Angel" [a great track in its own right but certainly not up to par with the rest of the album], a live version of "Careless Memories" from the "Hungry Like The Wolf" single and the wonderful acoustic version of "The Chauffeur". We round out the set with five extended versions, including the true night version of "Rio" and the Carnival mix of "New Religion" from the Japanese version of the EP. [Either or both might be making their CD debuts here, I'm not sure.] Most of the material on the second disc has been available on the singles box for years, but it's nice to have it all in one place for a mega-'Rio' marathon. Finally, a cute little Christmas message from Simon LeBon hidden away at the end of the final track - an interesting curiosity that they get bonus points for including here. Hooray!

Missing: the 7" and 12" remix of "Hold Back The Rain" from the "Save A Prayer" single which - yes - are different from any of the three mixes included here, and "Rio [Part II]" which was on the UK 12" in place of the Night version.


Off to the internet, there are two digital exclusives for the album that - fortunately - are available for separate purchase. One is the instrumental remix of "My Own Way" from the original Japanese 12" - possibly not available since its original release - and an alternate remix of "Hold Back The Rain" that originally appeared on the 'Strange Behaviour' compilation. Worth the extra purchase. [It is a bit annoying that they're digital only, however, as there was room for at least one of them on the CD itself - both if you didn't include the live version of "Careless Memories" which doesn't really belong anyways.]

Basically, if you're even thinking you might want this, you do. It's the nicest put together deluxe edition I've seen in a while, and it appears that great effort was put into making sure everything they put on here is properly labeled. [With all the minute variations between different versions of the tracks it would've been very easy for their to be errors. There don't appear to be, but not being the world's foremost "Rio"-ologist I'd ask someone to fact check that.] The appearance of the true original version of the album on CD is a huge unexpected plus, as well as having the US mixes all cleaned up and in one place.

By the numbers, you get:
"Rio" - 3 versions
"My Own Way" - 6 versions [one digital]
"Lonely In Your Nightmare" - 2 versions
"Hungry Like The Wolf" - 3 versions
"Hold Back The Rain" - 4 versions [one digital]
"New Religion" - 3 versions
"Last Change On The Stairway" - 2 versions
"Save A Prayer" - 1 version [poor "Save A Prayer" :( ]
"The Chauffeur" - 2 versions
"Like An Angel" - 2 versions
"Careless Memories" - 1 version

This is as close to definitive as it gets, so grab it while you can. Rumor is that more are on the way - I'm already in line for the 2-disc 'Seven And The Ragged Tiger' if that's the case.

10.01.2009

what's all the fuss? just do it.

Following up a near-perfect pop debut is no easy task. Hence the term "sophomore slump".

Dragonette's second was going to be tricky in my mind. 'Galore' was handily my favorite album of 2007 - single after single after should have been single - and despite a few solid teaser tracks, I was still nervous they wouldn't be able to pull it off.

Well then. I am very, very happy to report that they have more than succeeded in crafting a worthy follow-up to their debut. It is very much the work of the same band - title track/lead single kicks us off in very much the same way "I Get Around" did previously, dirty synths backing an even dirtier lyric - while not being a mere repeat. Whereas 'Galore' was essentially a greatest hits waiting to happen, 'Fixin to Thrill' is a solid album front to back. Some songs are stronger making some appear weaker, but they all fit together into a very cohesive, poptastic whole.

Second single "Gone Too Far" is also the second track. On it's own, it didn't quite work - the electro-country twang seemed a bit of a stretch. However, placed on the album in between the aforementioned dirty-girl call-to-arms of the title track and the dark corner of the dancefloor ready, downright nasty "Lair" it makes sense. Similarly, "Pick Up The Phone" didn't really seem to take off until it got the remix treatment from one Richard X - he should be in charge of remixing everything as I often say - but it serves as a nice mid-way point for the album. Leading into...

Two of the best tracks Dragonette have put to tape yet. First, "We Rule The World" - they should, really - a playful stormer of a song. Second, in eighth position: "Big Sunglasses", a fun-tastic new wave throwback complete with stuttering vocal intro/outro and acoustic guitar/"woo woo" vocal mid-song breakdown. A-mazing.


After that things calm down a bit - the final third isn't disappointing so to speak, it just doesn't grab as immediately as the opening 8-song run. It is also where a good chunk of the down tempos are hidden - if initial reactions to 'Galore's quieter moments are anything to go by, they just need some time to sink in. It does, however, have one of their best song titles in "You're A Disaster", so there you have it...whatever "it" is.

And that's that. One of my most anticipated albums of the year - the last one remaining, I believe - not disappointing in any way, shape or form. I don't know if it's got what it takes to knock La Roux from the top in the album countdown for 2009 or if it will overtake 'Galore' as my go-to Dragonette album once the excitement of the new wears off, but it is a solid follow up from a band who almost didn't get to share their first album with us. Can't wait to see them next Monday - make sure to play "Lair", please.

jump the elvis candy bar

Fifteen years ago - fifteen! - a record came out that had a profound effect on me. It was a little record called 'Diary' by a then relatively unknown new band on the scene with a really cool name. A friend and I had heard "Seven" on the Spin Radio Network - aww, I miss that show - and we knew we had to have the record. So he bought it, I made a cassette dub - this was the mid-90's after all, and we were only 14-year old high school students at the time - and I fell in love.

A year later the band was no more, leaving an even more amazing record in their wake. We wanted to see them live SO bad but now we would never have the chance...

Flash forward a few years and the band has re-united - without original bassist Nate Mendel, of course - and put out a pair of good-but-nowhere-near-as-amazing-as-those-first-two -albums albums. We made sure to be there for the tours and the pair of shows I saw in 2000 were amongst the best I've ever seen. It always left me wondering, though, what would it have been like to see the original line up...

Last week, that question was answered. Apparently at the suggestion of Nate Mendel, the Sub-Pop Fab Four were back together to give their fans the tour they've always wanted. In a way, it was the 'LP2' tour 14 years after the fact - better late than never, yes?

I believe every fan that was crammed into Chicago's Metro last Thursday would answer with an enthusiastic "Hell Yes!". The boys took the stage and started the opening chimes of "Friday" and everyone went ape shit. Over the course of the next 90-minutes, I was reminded of just what we were missing without a Sunny Day Real Estate live show in our lives. The way Dan goes through the whole show with a gigantic grin on his face the whole time. How Will pounds the fuck out of his kit and works himself into a crazy sweat - first song: button down. Second song: already soaked through t-shirt. Third song: shirtless. Bam. Bobblehead Nate and his constant back and forth sway to the music - we got to see him with most of the boys for The Fire Theft, remember? Not the same, not all.

The center point of all of this, of course, is one Jeremy Enigk. That voice - a bit worn over the years and sounding a bit more harsh than usual this evening - still gorgeous. The way he's either got his eyes closed, concentrating so hard on the lyrics, just feeling the music...the next moment his piercing eyes laser focused in front of him, completely hypnotizing the audience. No wonder the first time I saw them I stood front and center completely enthralled watching the man. *swoon*

The set list? Near perfection. [Let's be honest: unless they came out and played both 'Diary' and 'LP2' front to back with "9", "Spade and Parade" and "Bucket of Chicken" as encores, you could complain about something missing.]

Friday / Seven / Shadows / Song About An Angel / Grendel / Guitar & Video Games / Iscarabaid / Theo B / 'new song' / 47 / J'nuh / Sometimes // In Circles / 48

Yes, that's right: new song. Introduced by Jeremy as "no title, just new song for now". It sounded exactly like you'd expect a re-formed SDRE to sound in 2009 - amazing. Like whatever happened never happened. Speaking of, "Guitar & Video Games" stuck out like a sore thumb. Apparently it was there at Nate's insistence, but especially considering what was missing from the original line up - "8"! "Rodeo Jones"! Hello? - I really could have done without it. However, "Grendel" was a very nice, very unexpected surprise that was the highlight of a night of highlights for me. [I always thought it was the fan favorite - how come no one went crazy for it but me?]

It was, of course, over way too soon and as they left the stage, you couldn't help but wonder if we'll ever see them again. Maybe, maybe not. I think I'm OK with it either way - they've left me with a near perfect experience and how I will always remember them now. Showing me that a record that was epochal to a 14-year old can still matter at 29, a full life time removed. Still giving it their all, still amazed at the effect their music can have - I've never seen a band more gracious, more truly surprised and appreciative at the massive reaction a song like "Song About An Angel" gets. If they decide to give it another go - I'm torn on whether or not I'd like a new album. A single with the new song and another on the flip side would be a nice memento of the occasion but I think a full album would be pushing it. Either way, another tour - even with the same songs - would be just as good.
After all, absence makes the heart grow fonder.

[Side note: opening act The Jealous Sound was a steaming pile and exemplified everything that was bad that came out of SDRE's rise and influence. Embarrassing lyrics, banal "loud/soft/loud" we-mean-it music. Just dreadful.]

9.23.2009

in the nah

I suppose I shouldn't be too terribly surprised but the new Hidden Cameras album is not very good.

It's not for lack of trying - it's more that it is trying too hard to be to many things at different times in it's running length...and failing at pretty much all of them.

Joel has been saying recently that he's making a conscious effort to move away from the mega-chamber-pop that defined the first two records. That was hinted at at points on 2006's 'Awoo' - see "Follow These Eyes" for an example - but it is pretty overbearing here. Therefore, the album starts out with 2 minutes of formless drone before "Ratify The New" really gets started...and then goes absolutely nowhere over the course of six-and-a-half minutes.

Things pick up a bit for current single "In the NA" - on album we discover that the only thing extended about the version on the single was the two-minute intro of heavy breathing...lucky us. However even in its shortened version, the song never really takes off - a problem that 'Awoo' ran into frequently as well. It wants to be a big, joyous pop tune but it's just not.

Those two issues pop up over and over on the album. "He Falls To Me" sounds like it is trying very, very hard to retroactively fit in on 'The Smell of Our Own' - I swear that song title sounds familiar so perhaps it is a hold over from that period? - but ends up sound like, well, it is trying to hard.

In the second half of the album we run into another issue. A good chunk of the songs that make up "side b" - if you will - sound like the cast album to The Hidden Cameras - The Musical!. Obviously the band has always had a theatrical side to them - you've seen the live shows, right? - but the songs never suffered for it. Here, they do. Maybe it's my deep-seeded dislike of all things Broadway but it is incredibly off-putting and ruins any chance the album might have of winning me over. We won't even talk about the nonsense that is "Underage" - 80's dance beats and completely ridiculous lyrics that come off sounding totally pervy in an uncomfortably creepy way.

It's completely disheartening for a couple of reasons. First: I love love love this band in ways that are impossible to put into words and it always sucks when your favorites fall. [See also: Super Furry Animals' 'Dark Days/Light Years'.] Second: I honestly didn't think we'd get a fourth Hidden Cameras album proper after all of the stories that had been swirling around the band for the past few years so it's disappointing that what should have been an unexpectedly pleasant surprise is quite the opposite. Third: they still have it in them and there's proof. Hidden away on the "In the NA" EP released a few months ago was a little track called "Mind, Matter and Waste" that was truly a stone cold Hidden Cameras classic. Fourth: there are AMAZING songs hiding in the vaults that, for whatever reason, Joel won't commit to record. Performed during the period between 'The Smell of Our Own' and 'Mississauga Goddam' were two gems called "No Gay Goth Scene" and "Men: Vous Etes Les Memes". Both are totally brilliant - I'd even go as far as to say "No Gay Goth Scene" is my second favorite Hidden Cameras song, behind "Ban Marriage" of course - and both continually get left off of tracklisting after tracklisting whenever a new release comes out. What gives?


Boo.

9.09.2009

mono mystery tour

So long story short, yesterday I ended up with a copy of Mono Masters thanks to a broken street date and a stroke of luck. [Though apparently there were some to be had in stores this morning for a bit cheaper than I ended up paying, but with that being unknown until doors opened this morning I basically paid for insurance.]

They are definitely not numbered. Boo! They are, however, gorgeous. Are they worth it? Absolutely - the packaging alone is beautiful and you really feel like you're holding something special in your hands rather than just something that was thrown together. [That said, they really could have numbered the sleeve of the White Album like the original run, but that's a minor, minor complaint.]

Comparison shopping - do you need both mono and stereo versions? Let's deep dive into 'Magical Mystery Tour', shall we? [I should note that I'm on my 7th listen to the album in 48 hours as I type and it's still exciting. Make of that what you will - perhaps I'm just easily amused.]

Song by song breakdown:

[01] Magical Mystery Tour - Honestly, I don't notice much difference between the mono and stereo mixes. Maybe this isn't necessary...

[02] The Fool On The Hill - I described before how bright and full this one is on the new stereo master. It still sound better than ever in mono however it doesn't "pop" as much, track cluttering and all that. Score one for stereo.

[03] Flying - To my ears the instrumentation is slightly different in mono, particularly the ending loops, but neither stereo or mono has the edge.

[04] Blue Jay Way - In terms of clarity stereo is the clear winner here. [See what I did there?] However, that's not really the point of "Blue Jay Way". In mono it still sounds nice and spruced up thanks to the remaster but retains more of its haze and mystery. It's all tied up now.

[05] Your Mother Should Know - This is a toughie. Even more than "The Fool On The Hill", "Your Mother Should Know" positively shines in the new stereo master and if you were judging each song individually, this would win hands down. However, in mono there are lots of neat little effects and piles of reverb near the end that aren't present in the stereo mix. While it might not fit the song as well, it ties it in nicely with the rest of the album and is very appropriate for it as a whole. I kind of doubt you're ever going to say to yourself: "You know what song I really want to listen to right now? "Your Mother Should Know". If you were, the stereo mix would be the one to go to as its pretty much perfection. In the grand scheme of 'Magical Mystery Tour', however, mono wins.

[06] I Am The Walrus - Another six-of-one-half-dozen-of-the-other instance. I voiced my complaints about the stereo mix yesterday and those issues are not present here. No sudden aural snaps, no obnoxious constant left/right panning in the fade out, no terrible stereo separation distracting from the song. That said, the mono mix is very clearly derived from a different take than the stereo mix. There are two very, very obvious differences: Ringo's drum fill before the second half of the first verse is totally gone and the backing track all but drops out about 1:20 into the song before John's first extended "I'm cryyyyyyying" leaving only vocal and strings. Not really huge differences, but if you grew up on the stereo mix you're going to notice it and it might be distracting. Neither mix is perfect - unless, of course, you're used to the mono mix - so you kind of need both here.

[07] Hello Goodbye - I didn't notice any big differences.

[08] Strawberry Fields Forever - HUGE improvement in mono. Every part plays nicely together and the genius of the song is back on display here. Not even a contest, mono wins. That said, the first fade out/in is much quicker in mono and the second fade out starts much earlier though the song lasts the same amount of time. Not as dramatic as the "Walrus" changes, but noticeable.

[09] Penny Lane - Not as definitive a victory for stereo as mono's win on "Strawberry Fields Forever" but it is still the hands down winner. The mono mix just sounds flat. If you hadn't listened to the stereo remaster yet you probably wouldn't know what you were missing. However, this track is one of the shining examples of what a good remastering job can do on the stereo disc.

[10] Baby You're A Rich Man - Mono wins again for the same reasons it won on "Strawberry Fields Forever".

[11] All You Need Is Love - Slight fidelity differences and different instruments higher in the mix between the two versions and an earlier fade, but nothing major. [No "She Loves You" at the end though? Or did I just miss it?] Not one of my favorites to begin with so I'm not particularly bothered either way.

So make of that what you will. In a few month's time when the shine of the new has worn off I honestly don't know what version of this album I'll reach for. On headphones it will be the mono mix no question - the stereo separation is way too distracting that close up. On a good set of speakers, though, the slight differences in the mono mix would probably be enough to draw me back to the comfort of the stereo mix.

On a similar note, the mono mix of 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' is also considerably different from the stereo mix and, in my opinion, stronger for it. I haven't listened to the new stereo master yet but I almost don't want to - my appreciation for the album grew immensely after listening to the mono and I will certainly use that as my go-to 'Pepper' in the future.


For the record, the first five albums are just fine in mono - 'Help!' being the only one that was in stereo on the original CD issue anyways if I'm remembering correctly - so these will work for me. [I can't tell you the last time I listened to, say, 'Please Please Me' prior to the box yesterday and I can tell you I'm not in any hurry to put it on again.] 'Rubber Soul' and 'Revolver' have me torn - they both sound great in mono, however I just know that they're going to be bigger and better in stereo. However I don't believe there are any major mix differences between the two - please correct me if I'm wrong. I'm also undecided on the Past Masters set - everything bar three tracks is on Mono Masters so dropping another $17 seems silly. However, two of those missing tracks are the a- and b-sides of one of my favorite Beatles singles, "The Ballad of John and Yoko" and "Old Brown Shoe". Since I've already spent well over $300 on this project I think I'll be holding off for now. Christmas is coming, after all...

9.08.2009

roll up for the mystery tour

I thought I didn't care about the Beatles remasters. The soon-to-be-not-current CD issues always sounded fine to me [a bit quiet in this modern age, sure, but that's nothing the volume knob can't fix], they were being presented in kind of terrible tri-fold digipaks which I loathe, and there is little to nothing in the way of new material to be had in the set. The only thing I was marginally interested in - the mono mixes - are only available in an expensive box set that is a bit out of my price range for something I'm only slightly curious about. And really, I don't listen to the Beatles often enough to upgrade 7 or so albums at $12 a pop. [I really have little to no interest in early Beatles - I can get all the fix I need on the Past Masters set thank you very much - so I'd only be getting 'Rubber Soul' on up through 'Abbey Road' plus Past Masters, really. 'Let It Be'? Eh, no thanks.]

This all changed last week when I listened to the Beatles version of "Blackbird" back to back with the Dandy Warhols slaughter of it. [I appreciate the story behind it - applaud it, even - but it's shit.] Wow, the Beatles version sounds pretty terrible doesn't it? Maybe these do need a clean up...

There was no shortage of hyperbole-filled reviews to be found on the internet - of the individual albums, of mono-vs-stereo, of do you need to upgrade?, of is the mono box worth it...you name it, it was out there. I'll admit, I totally got caught up in the hype - plus, who doesn't love a good reissue campaign. So I got myself on board for it...after the mono boxes were long gone, of course, but apparently we'll be getting more, non-numbered editions later in the year so I can wait.

Thursday at work we got our copies of 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band', 'Abbey Road, 'Rubber Soul' and, er, 'Help!' in. Copies I could hold in my hand but couldn't have. Them being that close yet so far away only made me want them more, of course...

On the way home from work Monday, I stopped by an indie notorious for breaking street dates and there they were - all of the remastered albums ready for me to purchase. Slightly more expensive than they would be in a few days, but I needed something to hold me over. The double albums - the ones I want most, of course - were considerably more expensive than the rest so those weren't an option. The albums I could get even cheaper at work come Wendesday were also out, which left me with the choice of 'Revolver' or 'Magical Mystery Tour'. I chose the latter for sentimental reasons and - let's be honest - because I enjoy it way more than the kind of overrated 'Revolver'. [It's inconsistent folks, come on. 'Rubber Soul' might not reach the heights but it's a more solid listen over all and you know it.]

I got in the car and put it on, expecting to be blown away. Aaaaand, I wasn't. Sure, it sounded a little better but was it a total revelation like some reviews wanted me to believe? No. Of course, we're on a relatively crappy car stereo system here, maybe it'll be better at home. Except as the album went on, it started to get more and more impressive. The title track is still covered in a layer of haze - part of its charm, really - but "The Fool on the Hill" is crystal clear and sounds better than it ever has. "Flying" packs far more of a punch than I ever knew it had. "Blue Jay Way" goes back to the haze, but "Your Mother Should Know" was truly a revelation. Always kind of a non-event for me, it has a real zing on this new reissue that almost makes it a whole new song. The bass really does pop, as cliched as that is to say.

At home, I put it on a stereo with good if not great Sony speakers. Now it made sense - the album sounds amazing. The haze still hangs over the album - or, at least, half of the album - because it's supposed to be there. You take that away and you totally kill the songs.

A third listen to the album on iPod headphones - again, good but not great - revealed a bit of a mixed bag and the argument for mono vs stereo totally made sense. The stereo separation on tracks like "I Am The Walrus" and "Strawberry Fields Forever" reveals the inner workings of the tracks and take away from their magic - on this new remaster on headphones, the separation is striking to the point of distracting and almost ruin the songs, particularly "Strawberry Fields Forever". It takes away and punch it has and makes it sound like a bunch of unrelated parts playing together at the same time to make a bit of an unholy racket rather than one of the greatest psychodelic-pop songs of all time. Ditto for "Baby You're A Rich Man". I imagine cluttering them all back together on a single mono-track will benefit them greatly as it will retain their mystique, though I have to wait on that one until the production lines can churn out some more sets.

On the flip side, the slick Paul McCartney numbers sound even more amazing on headphones. "Penny Lane" is MASSIVE as every element gets breathing room and you can hear each crystal clear, yet they come together to raise the song to a new level - something I think the mono version will miss out on. [Again, wait and see...follow up post to come!]

"I Am The Walrus" on headphones - that was the key track and the best way to gauge your interest in the mono/stereo debate. According to the liner notes - which themselves are interesting if a bit slight, but then again how much more can be written about the Beatles output? [Yes, I get it.] - they couldn't reproduce the radio fade ins/outs for the stereo mix so they created a "false stereo" mix by double tracking the mono mix halfway through the song. You can totally hear it - halfway through when the first King Lear line pops up there is an audible change in fidelity and the whole sound of the song changes. Prior to that you've got the "Strawberry Fields Forever" dilemma I described above going on. At that moment, everything snaps together and the masterpiece that is the song reveals itself as everything is firing together. Amazing. That then changes again near the end of the song as they decided - for some reason - to then snap back out of fake stereo and just fade the mono track back and forth between the two channels, giving you an odd bouncing effect.

Those two-ish mono-minutes in "I Am The Walrus" are what you need to decide how dedicated to the whole project you are. Myself, I was on eBay checking out box set prices. A bit more than I want to pay - I guess discovering new sounds via the stereo mixes will have to tide me over - not entirely a bad thing.

the new La Roux video is bizarre

After what seems like ages, they're finally getting ready to lift the next single from the La Roux album. September 28th sees the release of "I'm Not Your Toy" and the video for it showed up on line a few days ago. They've disabled embedding but it's worth a click through, I promise:

I'm Not Your Toy

It reminds me a bit of a GusGus video from the 'This Is Normal' era, or perhaps "Barry". That is, by the way, a very good thing.

9.06.2009

oh now look what you've gone and done!

I can sum it all up in two words:

Dancing skyscrapers.

Oh, yes. The Pet Shop Boys brought their live show back in a big way.

Say what you will about how great 2006's 'Fundamental' album is/was - better than 'Release'! Oh wait, even past that it's quite good on its own merits, isn't it? - the tour behind it was...well, a bit lacking. Some very welcome set list surprises to be sure - "Shopping"! "Flamboyant"! Did I mention "S-H-O-PP-I-N-G"?! - but the stage show itself was a bit boring even with the kind-of-neat-but-could-have-been-used-to-better-effect evolving boxes. Those dancers? Terrible. Even the music wasn't as mixed up as they usually get for the live show, giving you the same effect of staying at home and turning up the records really, really loudly.

WELL

I am very, very happy to report that all of those problems have been fixed and Pandemonium - On Tour ranks up there with Performance and Discovery in terms of Pet Shop Boys tours. Yes, I said it.

First, the set list! When it first appeared on the internet, people were very quick to cry "FAKE!", and with good reason. Not only did it contain just half of current album 'Yes' but there were some real oddballs and too-good-to-be-true songs on there. "Two divided by zero"? "Why don't we live together?"? "Do I have to?"? Did someone expect us to believe this?

Except believe it we had to because it was real. Much like the set lists from PJ Harvey's tour behind 'Uh Huh Her', it's as if the Boys got bored in the studio one day, wrote down all of their songs on little pieces of paper, threw them into a hat and picked out the first 20 or so to be the set list for the upcoming tour. It is, honestly, as close as you can reasonably expect to get to a perfect Pet Shop Boys set list in 2009.

[So, of course I've some issues with it. First - please stop it with "Se a vida e". It's one of your three worst singles ever and we don't need to hear it every tour. Thank you for using "Discoteca" as the ending coda to it, that was very welcome - maybe do that one instead next time? Thanks.

Second - the Boys obviously have a vast catalogue and you're never going to be able to fit everything you want to into one show, particularly when you're as chained to a non-changing set list as their shows require you to be. The medley of hits at the Brits was fun and even necessary in such a situation, but layering one song on top of another and/or teasing us with something we wanted to hear a lot - say, "Closer to heaven" - before launching into something we wanted to hear less - "Left to my own devices" in this example, which it should be mentioned had been teased a song earlier leading into something we wanted to hear even less, "Always on my mind" - got a bit tiring. That said, did we need to hear "Go West" again? Probably not. Did we need to hear "Go West" with the beats of "Paninaro"? Abso-fucking-lutely. So thank you.

Third - "New York City boy"? Really? Oh well.]


Gripe #1 over.

As mentioned before, the set list doesn't change from show to show so there's no point in reproducing it here. I will, however, talk about some of the highlights:

ONE: "Two divided by zero" / "Why don't we live together?": with a bit of "In the night" thrown in for good measure. Where do we begin? First, two completely overlooked gems from 'Please' - which is overlooked in its own right, all you ever hear about are the singles - back to back for a nice flashback to 1986. As if that wasn't enough, during the former we got a cube-head fashion show and the latter not only brought us singing and dancing skyscrapers but also a Chris Lowe dance. Check this shit out:



Amazing. Following it with "Always on my mind" was mean - yes, we get it you need to play the #1s but let us down from our shock high a little easier next time.

TWO: Starting the show with a "More than a dream" tease before launching into "Heart". With cubeheads for everyone! The only downside of this was we didn't get a proper "More than a dream", but it was worth the sacrifice. [PS - "Heart" makes a great opener even if I never would have thought of it myself.]

THREE: The slow section in the middle. Yes, I loved the slow section. People don't usually say that, but here goes. You've just finished the one-two punch of "Always on my mind" and "Left to my own devices" and the crowd is going apeshit. [I might be tired of the former but apparently I'm the only one.] It's time to follow up with another hit. So we get a Chris Lowe piano solo [*SWOON*] followed by a down-tempo b-side, "Do I have to?" And it totally works. I'll admit, I've never been a big fan of the song but this performance totally changed my mind about it. Beautiful. AND THEN, let's morph that into "King's Cross" and get everyone super wistful. Check and check. Next we'll pick up the tempo ever so slightly with the also not-exactly-uplifting-but-gorgeous "The way it used to be". Done. Finally, cap the section off with an absolutely MASSIVE rendition of "Jealousy". Perfect. It's so thrilling - again, remember this is the slow section - that my excitement carries me through *yawn* "Suburbia" [again, fine but it's been done] into...

FOUR: "ALL OVER THE WORLD". Why isn't this a fucking single? As ridiculous as you'd think it would be live and then some. As great as their singles discography is, the Boys have had plenty of missed opportunities in that department but this one shoots right to the top spot of "Pet Shop Boys songs that should have been singles". Seriously.

Then they ruin that with "Se a vida e" *eyeroll* and the not-as-bad-as-I-was-expecting-but-overall-kind-of-pointless "Viva la Vida" cover over the backing track to "Domino dancing". At least we got to see Neil in a crown and cape walking around a park with an umbrella.

"It's a sin", duh, ends the main set. It is, of course, HUGE. They disappear and come back for...

FIVE and SIX: "Being boring" and - wait for it - "West End girls". Yes, "West End girls" was a highlight. They did it dance mix style, for heavens sake. I thought I was tired of it, but I totally wasn't.

Not to gloss over "Being boring" - gorgeous. Stunning. I was going to call "Jealousy" their best slowie but I'd have to save it for this one. There's a reason this is a fan favorite - no, THE fan favorite.

Question one: when's the DVD?

Question two: when's the next tour? [I've decided it has to include "Violence". It just has to.]

Oh yes, quick Gripe #2: the tour merchandise was terrible this go round. T-shirt selections:

- a red shirt with the "Go West" buttons printed on the front. A bit late with this one, aren't we?

- a black shirt with a gold/purple/shiny Pandemonium "P" on the front. Kind of tacky and unwearable - though Neil was rocking it for the first part of the show. He's so cool and uncool all at the same time, I love it.

- a white shirt with the 'Yes' checkmark on the front and "YES" in black letters on the back. Not bad, but white shirts are kind of terrible. Would've been AMAZING on black.

- a really ugly olivey/grey shirt with the PSB block logo in multi color on the back and tour dates on the back. Now you're getting somewh....wait, those are the European dates. Nevermind.

Then there were a couple girl shirts - including a "West End girls one", was this a PSB clearance house? - along with an overpriced hoodie, the obligatory tour book, and a coffee mug. Oh, and a poster - but not the cool hand drawn poster from that contest they had on the website which I totally wanted, just the album cover that sad "On Tour 2009/2010" on it. Bummer.

8.30.2009

you put a spell on me, I don't know what to do

The new Alphabeat single "The Spell" has finally hit YouTube for your listening pleasure.



It's no "Boyfriend" but it is a fantastic slice of Euro-pop that has me quite exicted for their second album - also called 'The Spell' - in October. Bring it on!

8.24.2009

we get high on our music

Finding a parking spot on East Carson Street in Pittsburgh on a Saturday evening is not easy, but - after double checking with a friendly police officer in the Starbucks we leave our vehicle in front of - we manage. Only a block from the venue and we take our time. It's only 8:10 and doors were at 7 - accounting for the opening band, we've probably still got a solid half hour until the Breeders take the stage.

However, as we walk up to the doors of Diesel and pull out our IDs, I hear it - "New Year". Fuck, they've started and the bouncer is telling me he won't accept my enhanced New York State drivers license. "Enhanced - what's that all about? We get a lot of these that are fakes down here." Even if it was a fake, do I look like I'm under 21? If so, thanks and get your glasses checked. We finally convince him and get our tickets scanned on the way in just as "New Year" finishes. I round the corner to the stage and am confused - there's Kim and Kelley [looking very slim these days, I might add] and Cheryl From Florida and Jose...but who's that on bass? It's certainly not Mando...is it? No it can't be.

"AWOOOOOO-oooh." "Cannonball" almost immediately - uh-oh, this isn't often early in the set, how much of the show did we miss? All these years and hears later - and there have been plenty of both - it is still a monster of a song and I still love hearing it live thankyouverymuch. By the way, did Kim just call the woman on bass "Josephine"? No way...

"Kelley will sing this next one" so it is, of course, "I Just Wanna Get Along". Score! Missing from the "Mountain Battles" warm up show I saw, it was a very welcome return. Plus, I've a total thing for Kelley. Three 'Last Splash' songs in a row - I'm certainly not complaining, but...odd.

"Ready to start this next one, Josephine?" No fucking way, I heard that wrong. And the next one is....."Do You Love Me Now?" Seriously? Stunning.

The 'Last Splash' run can't go on forever...so we'll break it to visit 'Pod' for a bit. "Happiness Is A Warm Gun", "Iris" and "Fortunately Gone" all follow in quick succession, all awesome. Maybe I didn't miss as much as I thought I did...and what is going on with Josephine/Not Josephine? [There's no way it can be...right?]

She ducks away for a bit and Kelley takes the bass. Hrm, where are we going with this one? A snare drum is brought out from behind the wall of amps. Oh nice, "The She" returns! But wait...Kim usually plays a full set for that one and this is only one drum. Maybe the economy has affected even "The She". Or maybe...

...oh, yes. "Hoverin'". Are you shitting me? In my mind, my dream-Breeders-set-list doesn't even contain it because it seems so impossible to make an appearance, but here it is. And it is, for sure, the highlight of the show and worth entry price alone. "We get high on our music", indeed. I'm gone on this one. 'Title TK' does get a rep next, though, with a crushing "Little Fury". So good.

"Ready?" "Ready." It takes a minute to sink in because it doesn't seem possible, but we're back to 'Pacer' and it's....."I Am Decided". No. Fucking. Way.

Way.

"I can either play bass good, or sing good. Which one do you want?" This is why I love Kelley.

"Both." This is why I love Kim.

"Alright...we'll give it a go."

"Now I lie to get by..." The 'Pacer' run finishes with the lovely title track, always welcome. Time for some more instrument switching - Kelley back to guitar, Cheryl From Florida onto bass and Jose doctors his drums for the sole 'Mountain Battles' track of the evening - that I see, anyways - "Bang On". Nice choice. I love you, girls, never you worry - and tonight I love you more than ever.

"I'll try not to go to fast for you," Kim says to Cheryl From Florida as she TEARS into 'Huffer'. Done in 90-seconds flat, I'm sure, and what a minute-and-a-half.

"This worked out in rehearsal, so we'll see what happens." Josephine/Not Josephine comes back to the bass, Cheryl From Florida goes and naps for a minute and Kelley has three sheets of paper for this one. What the hell could it be? Kelley and "Josephine" swap spots so the potential imposter has a mic. OK, so maybe it is Josephine, because it is - dun dun dun - "Metal" fucking "Man". Really? Incredible. Another one you'd never dare dream to hear, but there it is. Someone in the back is prepping the violin. Is it time for...

No, but "Safari" comes out to play in all of it's extreme-noise-freak-out glory. Now? Nope - but how about a riff-tastic "Saints"? At this point, I have my usual Breeders concert thought of: "I can't believe it takes all of these people to play these somewhat simple-in-terms-of-complexity songs." Then I realize: yes, you need five people to properly gives "Saints" all of the attention it needs - it's not as simple as you think.

"Thanks for coming, guys!" No wait...well, obviously we've got at least one song for an encore. Sadly, one song is all we end up getting. But what a song. "Kelley can't play the violin, but she can play this song. It's weird." This is why I love Kim and Kelley. "Drivin' on 9", of course. Always welcome, but - and a very small but - kind of an anti-climactic last-song-of-the-evening kind of song.

So, what just happened? Was Josephine Wiggs just on stage with the Breeders? The set list sure suggests it - only three songs post-1996. If you have to refresh yourself quickly, it would make sense to do so on songs you already know. I purposely avoided any tour spoilers so that doesn't help. Bryan just saw them a few nights previous in NYC, I'm sure he would've mentioned something.

Turns out Mando's girlfriend was about to give birth so they called in a favor from our good friend Josephine Wiggs to fill in for the rest of the tour - past the NYC shows. [Though apparently Carrie Bradley was at those so they got to hear "Oh!". I'm fine with that - it really is the one Breeders song I could do without.]

As if that wasn't enough, they have one shirt for sale this evening - a Tammy and the Amps shirt.

A
M
A
Z
I
N
G

If I missed anything, I don't even care. Looking back, I don't see "Tipp City" or "Divine Hammer" and they don't usually stay home for the night. Also, with the return of Josephine should come - I imagine - the return of "Head To Toe", but I've heard that one before too. If I missed "Doe" I'd be kind of miffed, but other than that the night was so perfect it doesn't even matter if it was incomplete.

I almost skipped out on this tour. So close to missing the show of a lifetime. Come out again soon, girls. I already miss you.

8.17.2009

yet another casualty of the digital age

A solid year after it first appeared on them thar internets, Annie's fan-fucking-tastic "Songs Remind Me Of You" finally - and rather quietly - got a single release. Yay!

Oh, it's iTunes only? Slightly less exciting, but at least it's out there. And, for once, iTunes US gets it with the rest of the world. OK, we can deal with thi...

...oh, wait. It's only the album version? No b-sides, no remixes, so fucking live tracks from the i-fucking-Tunes festival last year? Thanks for bothering, but nevermind.

I suppose this means we won't be getting that Richard X extended mix I had imagined in my head. *sigh*

here's the thing with La Roux remixes

The next La Roux single is "I'm Not Your Toy" - not a choice I really agreed with at first, but I've come around to it. It will - presumably - come backed with a robust remix packages as the previous singles have.

In fact, two of those remixes are popped up on YouTube. There's one from Jack Beats:



There is also one from DatA:



Both fine remixes - particularly the DatA one that takes it to a different place than it originally inhabited. However, neither hold a candle to Skream's "In For The Kill" so both are - on some level - a bit of a disappointment.

Oh well. I'll get over it.

8.04.2009

another way the digital age is getting me down

So.

The new Charlotte Hatherley single "White" finally came out this week in the UK...

...as a digital download only. There's a 7" next week but it only has 1 of the 3 available remixes on it. That doesn't work. [Well I need that, but I also need a way to get the other two.]

Being in the US, I cannot purchase the digital download - and, hence, cannot support Charlotte with my hard earned for her work and have to track down a promo on eBay, from which she will not see a cent.

Fuckers. I thought the internet was supposed to make purchasing music easier, not harder. Shooting yourselves in the foot and all that.

In any case, here's the video:


7.29.2009

actually, I'd rather not sell any singles, thank you

According to Recordstore.co.uk the CD single for "Remedy", the next Little Boots single, is once again a 1-tracker with the album version.

She's making it unnecessarily hard on herself, really.

FAIL.

[Truthfully though, it's almost better this way - the remixes from the promo are crappppppp. :(]

7.22.2009

the Metalocalypse is upon us once again

Amazing news from the Dethklok myspace this week.

'Dethalbum II' is out September 8th. [According to wikipedia, there will once again be a limited edition, this time with a bonus DVD with almost an hours worth of unaired material. Order yours early - remember how the first one sold out in no time and was going for $100+ on eBay until a repressing weeks later. Also - vinyl release September 29th. Amazing.]

'Dethgame' for XBox360 and PS3. I have no idea what it will entail, but it's going to be awesome.

30 minute episodes for season 3. This has me a little worried as the 12 minute format seemed to fit them just fine. We'll see.

Fall tour. Bring it.



Amazing.

7.08.2009

you can't mistake our anthology

So for the past five days or so, I've been listening to one of two things: the amazing, amazing, amazing La Roux album or [more often than not] that piece on the left - the 22-disc, damn near complete Girls Aloud singles box set.

I've always had a love/hate [see what I did there?] thing with the Aloud. On one hand, they've released some of the best pop singles of the decade - "Sound of the Underground", "Love Machine", "Biology", "No Good Advice", all brilliant. On the other hand, they've released some of the worst, most unnecessarily pointless cover versions of the decade: "Jump"? "I'll Stand By You"? "I Think We're Alone Now"? I really don't think anyone was crying out for updates of those. [I used to think "I'll Stand By You" was their worst recorded moment, but then I came across their cover of Wheatus' "Teenage Dirtbag" - hardly what you'd call listenable in the first place - on the b-side to the quite lovely "Whole Lotta History" and I very quickly changed my mind.]

Anyways, the box itself cost close to $100 and was a solid 8+ week wait between order and delivery. So was it worth it?

Er, yes and no. Yes, I'm a completion freak and having pretty much everything all in one place is amazing. This box also marks the CD debut of a solid chunk of tracks that were previously digital, promo or vinyl [usually picture disc] only, so that's nice as well. And who doesn't love a good megamix or four? On the flip side [see, I did it again], many of the whopping 151 tracks that make up the box don't exactly beg for a second listen. Especially on the singles for the second, third and fourth albums when pretty much all of the remixing duties were handled by some faction of the Xenomania team - who produced the singles in the first place - things tend to get a bit tedious. There is a bonus disc of previously unreleased tracks - plus - however it is only 8 tracks - minus - and a good chunk of those 8 are just alternate lyric versions. Bonus disc fail.

That said, there are some gems buried in here - many pretty readily available on a sub-$5 CD single eBay or the Amazon marketplace, but that's besides the point - and it is kind of a badge of honor to be able to say "I made it through the Girls Aloud box set and lived to tell the tale."

If anything, it's nice to finally have one of their top 3 moments - rare for such a group, a picture disc vinyl-only b-side, the early-90's dance-act-with-female-guest-vocalist-esque "Memory Of You" - in CD quality. [Even if the bass is a little less exciting in HQ.]

As an art object, A+. As something you'll want to pull out and listen to over and over....notsomuch. Oh well.

10 choice cuts:
"Androgynous Girls" [b-side to "Love Machine"]
"Memory Of You" [b-side to "The Loving Kind"]
"Nobody But You" [b-side to "Biology"]
"It's Your Dynamite" [b-side to "Untouchable"]
"Girls Allowed [Almighty Mix]" [b-side to "Jump" - total club cheese but it's tolerable that early on, plus it's one of their finest non-single tracks to begin with]
"Some Kind of Miracle [Illicit Mix]" [previously unreleased, on 'The Rarities Disc']
"Life Got Cold [29 Palms Mix]"
"Biology [Benitez Beats]"
"Girls Aloud Megamix" [b-side to "Something Kinda Ooooh"]
"Whole Lotta History [Acoustic Version]" [quite lovely version of an underrated single]
bonus: "I'll Stand By You [Gravitas Vocal Dub Mix]" and "See The Day [Soundhouse Masterblaster Mix]" [completely ridiclous clubbed to death overhauls of two snorefests]

Things to avoid:
Any cover version that isn't "Girls On Film"
Any Tony Lamezma remix after your first two - "The Show" and "Love Machine" pop up first and they're probably your best bet.
"Girls on 45 Volume 2" - it just doesn't work for some reason, though the other megamix and album medleys are good fun
The edit/dub versions of the remixes - especially during the 'Out of Control'-era when they're all stacked in a row. Nice to have, yes. Nice to listen to back-to-back-to-back, no.
The interviews on the "Sound of the Underground" and "The Show" discs - all they do is reinforce my idea that the girls only wanted to be famous and became pop stars because they happened upon the opportunity, not because they care anything about music.