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".


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:


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'


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:
"Head Music"
"Savoir Faire"
"Can't Get Enough"
"Elephant Man"
"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...


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.]


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.