in for the overkill

The machine has kicked into overdrive and there is yet another version of the La Roux album is coming our way.

I suppose that's not entirely fair as the album itself hasn't been re-packaged and re-sold to us numerous times, just the singles. (How many "In For The Kill" and/or "Bulletproof" remix packages are there?) According to the official site, February 8th will bring is the digital-only release of the Gold Edition - to tie in (a bit late) to the Gold Tour, I imagine. While they get points for not making us buy the album again for the bonus material, they lose points for attempting to re-sell us a number of tracks we've bought numerous times before. The track list will be:

01 In For The Kill (featuring Kanye West) [I really hoped this was one going to disappear...]
02 Finally My Saviour [aka "Saviour", which we had to re-buy the album on iTunes to get, grumble grumble]
03 Under My Thumb [which we bought the 'Sidetracked' compilation for, and it's not even that great in the first place]
04 I'm Not Your Toy (Jack Beats Remix) [possibly not released in the US before, I forget, but we've still got it a few times over]
05 In For The Kill (Skream's Let's Get Ravey Remix) [STOP! IT! WITH! THIS! REMIX!]
06 Quicksand (Boy 8-Bit Remix) [also possibly not released in the US before, but it was the only reason we bought the re-release of the single]
07 Bulletproof (Zinc Remix) [while not as bad as the Skream "In For The Kill", we've bought this one many times over already]
08 Tigerlily (Demo) [THANK YOU! Something genuinely new.]
09 Bulletproof (Intimate Session at Abbey Road, Acoustic) [this could be nice - it works surprisingly well acoustic]
10 In For The Kill (Vevo Lounge Version) [this is really nice as well]

I understand that there is a limited amount of material to work with AND I would also much rather see them flogging the same old same old in an attempt to get a bigger market share than to completely disappear into oblivion, however it really is kind of insane how many times they've re-packaged some of these mixes. I'm not really sure who this is aimed at either - those who obsessed over each and every single as they were coming out (raises hand) are going to be pissed they have to buy this all again for a few new treats, those who came later to the game and want to go obsessive can still very easily track down most of these on their original homes, and those who thought the Kanye West version was a good idea don't care about the rest of this.

Ahh, well. As long as there's the option to pick what you want rather than having to download the whole thing, I guess it would be worse. They really need to go away and start working on LP2, though.

That Vevo Lounge Version of "In For The Kill":

Surprisingly lovely, yes?



Mirrors have finally announced details of their debut album...sort of. You can piece together all the information from various places.

Anyways, it's called 'Lights And Offerings' - which was kind of an open secret, the band had never really confirmed it yet there were samplers with the title and tiny versions of the artwork on various promo mix CDrs that were out and about - and Recordstore is reporting it is 10 tracks long. 10 tracks is the perfect album length - 5 songs on each side - so that's very exciting. Also, "Lights And Offerings" itself is not amongst the 10 tracks - I love when title tracks appear as b-sides so I'm a fan. These songs are in the line-up:

01 Fear Of Drowning
02 Look At Me
03 Into The Heart
04 Write Through The Night
05 Ways To An End
06 Hide And Seek
07 Somewhere Strange
08 Something On Your Mind
09 Searching In The Wilderness
10 Secrets

If you're crafty you already have 8 of the 10 tracks up there in some version or another so you know this has the potential to be an album of the year. Recordstore is offering signed copies with a free mixdisc but the band mentioned a fancy deluxe edition on their Facebook so I'd hold off on the pre-order for a bit. (There also HAS to be an LP release. There just has to.)

The video for "Into The Heart":

Fantastic. I'm so excited for this one I can hardly stand it.

2011 Q1 shopping list

2010 saw me spending a lot of money. Paired with that, while going through album purchases at the end of the year to make a year-end list, I came across many things that I had bought but listened to maybe once or twice - not necessarily because I didn't like it, more because there was so much to take in - and, in a few cases, things I had totally forgotten I purchased. So I decided to take the month of January off from purchasing new music - partially to pay the bills, partially to further explore some forgotten 2010 releases, partially to go through those massive fan-made Blur deluxe editions. (I cheated a little. I have some credit at the iTunes store so I bought the Anna Calvi single after reading about it - the blatant PJ Harvey-isms are a bit distracting, but at the same time she apparently isn't interested in making an album like that any more so it's good someone is - and then there's the use-it-or-lose-it credit on eMusic, but no new money has been spent so far.) Anyways, it wasn't that difficult as not much has come out this month that was really all that interesting - there was the Klaxons deluxe edition this week but there's only two tracks on it I don't already have so waiting isn't that difficult, next week is the Fujiya & Miyagi album but I'd like to wait to hear some more of it before I commit, and the Anna Calvi album came out but I really can't decide - so it appears to have been a good month to do that. However, the calendar is quickly filling up for February and March with lots and lots of really, really good stuff. Let's take a look.

Gruff Rhys - Hotel Shampoo - Japanese CD with 2 bonus tracks (from the UK 12"/DL singles that aren't available in the US - grrr)

PJ Harvey - The Words That Maketh Murder - 7" (Already available as a download in the UK sans b-side - the US got "Written On The Forehead" for some reason, despite it already being available as a free download from Polly herself. Fuckers.)
The Boxer Rebellion - Step Out Of The Car - 7" (Exclusive b-side not on any of the myriad of formats of the album.)
The Boxer Rebellion - The Cold Still - UK CD release (Recordstore is offering signed copies to the first 100 orders while HMV has an exclusive 4-track bonus CD.)
The Boxer Rebellion - The Cold Still - US iTunes download with 3 bonus tracks, none of which overlap with the HMV bonus disc, which is both nice and obnoxious. (Is there a physical version planned for the US? I can't seem to find one.)
Gruff Rhys - Hotel Shampoo - US CD for those who don't want to go the Japanese route.

Mirrors - Into The Heart - 7" (No word on b-side yet, but Richard X produced single version!)
Mirrors - Into The Heart - US download (I'm assuming, though no one actually has it listed yet.)
PJ Harvey - Let England Shake - CD/LP (Second US vinyl release in a row for PJ - hooray! Also, the iTunes pre-order bonus track is the b-side from the 7" so no need to go that route.)

nothing of interest
Designer Drugs - Hardcore/Softcore - CD (Good remixers don't always equal good album artists, but this is worth investigating.)

Elbow - Neat Little Rows - 7" (Finally, new Elbow!)

Elbow - Build A Rocket Boys! - CD (And, I'm assuming, LP. No word on a US release yet.)
R.E.M. - Collapse Into Now - CD (Could be iffy but worth checking out.)

Also somewhere in there will be the physical release of Duran Duran's 'All You Need Is Now' with extra tracks - please don't fuck it up, it's pretty perfect as it is - and the single release of the title track from last year's Manic Street Preachers album. Also possible is the first single from The Whip's second LP due in the Spring, long-awaited new material from Battles, a dub version of Steve Mason's 'Boys Outside' LP called 'Ghosts Outside' and a single from the Kills record that is out on April 4/5. Active Child is in the studio working on new material though no release has been set, Hunx & His Punx have a proper full-length in the works, Florrie as a second EP and Annie collab in the works (which may or may not be the same thing) and Björk may or may not deliever LP7 in the first half of the year - and which point I may or may not care, she's burned through A LOT of good will over the past five years or so. Also, in the "I'll believe it when I see it" category, that stupid Sound of Arrows album is supposed to be out in the Spring but it may have been delayed - again - the Fall. So I'll see you in 2015 to discuss that one.

All in all, 2011 is shaping up quite nicely. Anything I missed?


five re-issues from 2010 that tickled my fancy

It is becoming increasingly more common for album re-issues to be as exciting - if not more so - than new album releases. 2010 was no exception and delivered a number of highly anticipated, long-overdue album remasters (sometimes for the worse) and expansions (always for the better). Here are the five I enjoyed the most in 2010, listed alphabetically by artist:

a-ha - Hunting High And Low (Remastered and Expanded)
a-ha - Hunting High And Low (Remastered and Expanded)

First off, Rhino takes the remaster crown of 2010 for delivering three of the five packages on this list - and a number of others I had interest in but not the cash to support. (Rhino Handmade ain't cheap, folks.) First up is a gorgeous sounding 2-disc expansion of a-ha's fantastic debut. Disc one contains a lush-sounding subtle remaster of the album proper followed by a period remix of each of the 4 singles, some making their CD debut. (The ones that aren't were previously available on tricky to track down Japanese EPs, so essentially they're all making their easy-to-obtain CD debut.) The second disc starts out with a demo version of each of the album's tracks in the original running order, followed by the period b-sides and a selection of never further-developed demo tracks. (Most of the b-sides were from that batch so it all goes together well.) It's understandable why the band is viewed as a one hit wonder in the US, but this really is a spectacular debut - "Take On Me" really is one of the weakest tracks on it - and should be in the collection of anyone that is a fan of the period. Thanks to Rhino, you now have the definitive version of the album as a one-stop go-to. (Follow-up 'Scoundrel Days' got a similarly structured expansion, but I've never been as big a fan of that one outside of "Cry Wolf". It didn't stop me from purchasing it, of course...)

The Cure - Disintegration (Deluxe Edition)
The Cure - Disintegration (Deluxe Edition)

Rhino contribution #2. To be honest, 'Disintegration' is far from my favorite Cure album - I can rarely make it through the entire thing in one listen, it's just. so. heavy. - and the bonus material on these Cure reissues hasn't exactly been anything you need to listen to more than once. That said, this thing is jam-packed with pretty much all the 'Disintegration' you are ever going to need. The set itself contains a disc for the album, a bonus disc with the now-standard home and studio demos with a few obligatory never-fleshed-out demo ideas and a third disc with the 'Entreat' live album expanded to cover all of the album's tracks. Thanks to the wonder of the internet, we also got another pair of virtual bonus discs in an alternate set of demos and rarities that streamed from the official site and another live run through of the album captured in Dallas on the album's tour. A lot of overlap - and, perhaps, more than a touch of overkill - but you can't say they skimped on extras for this one. Now give us 'Mixed Up' and I can stop buying these stupid things. ;)

Duran Duran Duran Duran Duranduran
Duran Duran - 'Duran Duran', 'Seven and the Ragged Tiger', 'Notorious' and 'Big Thing' Deluxe Editions

We've talked about these before, but I think it's safe to say that 2010 was the year of the return of Duran Duran. (Well, I suppose it started in late 2009 with the 'Rio' reissue.) Anyways, these were obviously going to be here so we'll move on.

The Monkees - The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees (Rhino Handmade)
The Monkees - The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees (Rhino Handmade Edition)

Rhino delivers again with another long-awaited expansion. (Technically this came out before the a-ha reissues, but as far as this list is concerned they fall after.) Anyways, Rhino did 2-disc deluxe editions of the first four Monkees albums - containing even more newly unearthed rarities as well as the mono mixes of the LPs - a few years back, but the campaign totally died leading up to the important one. Long the holy grail of Monkees collectors, the mono mix of their fifth LP was the last to be produced - and in very small numbers - so not many had heard it. It also featured some pretty substantial differences from the stereo mix that were in danger of being lost to time. Apparently the hold up was a mix of soft sales for the first four - it was far from the first time they had been reissued and they weren't exactly cheap, to be fair - and the missing master tapes for the mono mix. In swoops the Handmade division with a minty copy of the LP to do a vinyl transfer of the missing tracks, more period rarities than you can shake a stick at and a lavish lenticular box to throw 3-discs worth of late-1967/early 1968 period Monkees in. Probably not as overkill as the Cure set but you also will never need another version of "Lady's Baby" as long as you live. (Later in the year, Rhino Handmade delivered a 3-disc expansion of 'Head' - which sounded and looked great at the time. However, stretching six songs worth of alternate material over the course of 3-discs proved to be a better idea in theory that execution - and that is even after filling the third disc with a period radio interview. They did a bang-up job on the box, though, replicating the reflective mylar cover for the first time since the original Colgems LP. They definitely get an "A" for effort.)

R.E.M - Fables of the Reconstruction (Deluxe Edition)
R.E.M. - Fables of the Reconstruction (Deluxe Edition)

The R.E.M. remaster campaign continues with a fresh look at their third LP. I'm no R.E.M. expert by any means so I'll leave the commentary to others, but this set is both an improvement, a no-change and a step back from the first two. Improvement: the second disc contains a demo run-through of the album plus three - two songs that eventually found homes on later albums and one genuinely unreleased song. No-change: the mastering still kind of sucks and this doesn't sound very good. Step back: the packaging! Yes, it's nice, but it doesn't match the previous two and that's annoying.

And that, as they say, is that. I'm finally ready to fully embrace 2011 - and only eleven days late!


the 12 releases that make up my 2010 top 10

Nothing's ever simple, right? Anyways, the following are the twelve releases that make up my 10 favorite albums of 2010:

Ash - The A-Z Series
Honorable Mention: Ash - The A-Z Series
Key tracks: "Arcadia", "Space Shot", "Instinct", "Binary", "There Is Hope Again"
Ash has always been a singles band at heart, so for them to attempt 26 singles over 52 weeks made sense. Obviously it didn't turn out as perfect as it sounded - the quality expectedly dropped off a bit in the back half of the project and not every track was really single-worthy - but that they could carry it through to the conclusion AND get such a relatively high success rate made the entire thing worthwhile. Plus, it was super fun getting a new Ash "single" every other Sunday.

Alphabeat - The Beat Is...
Honorable Mention: Alphabeat - The Beat Is...
Key tracks: "The Beat Is", "DJ", "The Spell"
Released at the end of 2009 as 'The Spell' in native Denmark, Alphabeat's dance-pop-tastic second album saw a delayed release in the UK in March with a name change, slight track order re-jig and obligatory bonus track. If the self-titled album was a throwback to 80's Europop then "The Beat Is..." has both feet firmly planted on the early 90's dance floor, taking inspiration from Snap!, C+C Music Factory, Technotronic and the like - "Always Up With You" even features the cheesy house piano at the intro. The revolution didn't quite take off as the album was a bit of a dud everywhere except its home country - and my iPod, obviously - but it was a worthy effort.

Prince - 20Ten
10: Prince - 20Ten
Key Tracks: "Laydown", "Compassion", "Lavaux"

Yes, really, a Prince album and - despite the terrible album art, stupid distribution and Prince's paranoid/insane ramblings that "the internet is over" - a really good one at that. His best album since...well, that's kind of pointless, but it is worth noting that it's his most solid album effort as a whole since he decided to stop fucking around with free jazz and instrumental improv and get back to business with 2003's 'Musicology'. The re-introduction of the Linn drum machine didn't hurt either - "Compassion" comes out of the gate sounding like a '1999' out-take and the album never lets up from there. It is hurt a bit without a "Black Sweat"-sized JAM - though "Lavaux" is essentially a "Mountains" rewrite for a mid-album high - but we've got his most thoroughly enjoyable album in quite some time.

James - The Night Before
09: James - The Night Before
Key tracks: "Mother's A Clown", "Crazy", "It's Hot"
The James revival carries on with a fantastic mini-album. Part of a two mini-album set - the second, "The Morning After", didn't quite reach the heights of this one - it is helped by its brevity as it doesn't run out of steam by going on too long like the otherwise excellent 'Hey Ma!' did. It's a bit annoying that the album's best track was only available as a low bit-rate download to purchasers of the album - I'm all for bonus tracks as downloads, but 128kpbs mp3s? Really? - and then didn't reappear on the US compilation of the two albums later in the year. (To be fair, the other bonus track only appeared on the iTunes version - as an album-only download, of course.) Formatting frustrations aside, another excellent addition to the James discography.

(The US totally got the better artwork:
James - The Morning After / The Night Before
Mirrorball Kitty Attack!)

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Before Today
08: Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Before Today
Key tracks: "Round And Round", "Menopause Man", "Can't Hear My Eyes"

I wasn't familiar with Ariel Pink before a demo version of "Menopause Man" appeared on the 4AD Record Store Day 12", but I was instantly enthralled with the odd mix of hi-fi pop and lo-fi bedroom recording the track presented. Proper lead single "Round And Round" was another instant love, even with it's odd song structure and sound a little too close to 70's soft rock, and the album is a fascinating hodgepodge of genres thrown together that somehow manages to hold together as a cohesive whole.

The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night
07: The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night
Key tracks: "Chicago Train", "And This Is What We Call Progress", "Albatross"
Shoegazing is alive and it lives in Montréal. OK, not really - the shoegazing tag gets thrown around so much these days that it's essentially useless - but this is one captivatingly beautiful record of woozy guitar noise and boy/girl vocals. I don't even remember how I was introduced to it - I saw the album sleeve image somewhere on line and was taken in by an absolutely glowing review - but I am very glad it has cast its spell on me. (On a side note - and nothing against the previous records on the list - but its a bit ridiculous that a record this great can only sit at the 7th spot on the list. 2010 was a gooooood year.)

Erykah Badu - New Amerykah: Part Two (Return of the Ankh)
06: Erykah Badu - New Amerykah: Part Two (The Return Of The Ankh)
Key tracks: "Window Seat", "Turn Me Away (Get MuNNY)", "Gone Baby, Don't Be Long"

It didn't arrive on time - obviously - but it was well worth the wait. She couldn't make a record more extreme than '4th World War' so what was one to do? Go back to the past and make her warmest record since 'Baduizm', that's what, but mixed with the immediacy and at times uncomfortably personal feel of the first volume. A bit like her 'Lovesexy' to '4th World War''s 'Black Album' - oh, yes. (It even gets away with a Wings sample - WINGS!) Next time, please don't stay away so long.

Steve Mason - Boys Outside
05: Steve Mason - Boys Outside
Key tracks: "Understand My Heart", "Am I Just A Man", "Boys Outside"

I was never really a fan of The Beta Band and therefore certainly wasn't familiar with the following solo material under any number of monikers, but throw in a Richard X production credit and I am all ears. (Also, Joe knows what I like all too well.) The definition of a grower, Steve Mason's solo debut under his own name is one gorgeous, soul bearing singer/songwriter/downtempo-electro record. (Kind of. Right?) It's a bit front loaded with the more uptempo numbers - "Am I Just A Man" is straight-up Tears For Fears, or maybe that's just me - which makes the back half seem to sag a bit, but once it sinks in it's there for good. I am very excited for the dub record in the coming year. (Also, I know finances and everything were involved but I was massively disappointed that the North American acoustic tour was canceled. And don't get me started on how the singles were released/formatted/distributed - although big points for 4 singles off a record. The perfect example of how digital distribution has made collecting harder rather than more convenient, and for seemingly no reason at all.)

Duran Duran - All You Need Is Now
04: Duran Duran - All You Need Is Now
Key tracks: "Girl Panic!", "Being Followed", "Blame The Machines"
Yeah, it's been out for less than a month at this point so maybe this is excitement talking, but Duran Duran are back in a big way with this one. And not just any Duran Duran - because, let's be honest, they've been a number of different bands over the years. This is, as promised in the almost year-long lead up hype, a classic Duran Duran record to sit alongside the first three LPs, the alternate follow-up to 'Rio' that Mark Ronson promised. (Even if it does sound more like the alternate follow-up to 'Seven and the Ragged Tiger' to these ears, but I've always been partial to that one.) There's no doubt they're borrowing from the past here - closer "Before The Rain" does more than borrow from "The Chauffeur", "The Man Who Stole A Leopard" is a fleshed-out "Tel Aviv", "Being Followed" borrows the melody from the chorus of "Last Chance On The Stairway" and I wouldn't believe that "Girl Panic!" wasn't a lost 1981 Night Version if I didn't know any better. And so on and so on. The important thing, though - and what makes the record an absolute blast - is that the band sound like they're having fun. They know this is the record their fans wanted - and bless Ronson for getting that message through to them - and they sound more than happy to deliver. I can't wait for the tour.

These New Puritans - Hidden
03: These New Puritans - Hidden
Key tracks: "We Want War", "Attack Music", "White Chords"

This was unexpected. I was a big fan of 'Beat Pyramid' when it came out - and think it has gotten better over the years - but that album was in no way a preparation for this. While I won't say that this sounds like nothing else out there today as others have - because I'm sure that's not true - I will say that TNPS conviction to turning a pop record on its ear is the strongest I heard from any band this year. Because let's be honest, this is a pop record at heart - albeit it one orchestrated by children's choirs, full orchestras, brass ensembles and melons being crushed with sledgehammers to sound like heads being crushed, all anchored by a 7-minute lead single with a mind-warping video. Pretentious? Yes. But as a means to an end to creating an amazing album, there was - ahem - nothing else quite like it this year.
(Side note one: While the lead-up to the album was perfect - the single! the album mega-mix! they even chose the right second single! - they totally shot the campaign to hell afterward by making the absolute worst decision whenever possible. The "Attack Music" video looked like a Placebo single sleeve come to life - not pretty - and no physical single was weak. Then a bunch of shit MC remixes. Then an era-wrapping remix 10" - inappropriate format, really - that contained said shit MC remixes and a pair of remixes we already bought at least once while there were some decent ones waiting for a proper release. Who's in charge, here?
Side note two: Records 3, 2 and 1 are all pretty much tied and were pretty much the sound track to my 2010. You need them all.)

School of Seven Bells - Disconnect From Desire
02: School of Seven Bells - Disconnect From Desire
Key tracks: "Heart Is Strange", "Dust Devil", "Camarilla"
Ahh, yes. The record that turned me into a 12-year-old in my anticipation. I can safely say that I haven't looked forward to a record as much in a very, very long time and it did not disappoint at all. It's really hard to talk about this record without gushing - why stop now? - but I think it's safe to say that this is as close to the pure School of Seven Bells vision as we're ever going to get, especially with Claudia leaving the band under mysterious circumstances earlier this year. Even a completely heart-breaking tour couldn't ruin it - though every time I listen to it, I can hear how it should have sounded live and it re-opens the wounds a little bit. If this is the end of the road then we ended with perfection.

Active Child - Curtis Lane
01: Active Child - Curtis Lane EP
Key tracks: "I'm In Your Church At Night", "When Your Love Is Safe", "Wilderness"

Kind of cheating being a 6-track EP and all, but nothing got me as excited this year as discovering Active Child. (Thanks again, Joe.) The songs here all sound like they've been a part of me for years - they feel lived in and comforting, like climbing under a blanket to drift to sleep on a cold winter's day...and if that sounds like a bunch of overdramatic bullshit, then so be it, but that's how it is. I absolutely cannot wait to see what comes next.

So there it is - 2010 in record form. 2011, you have some mighty big shoes to fill.


ten(ish) records I enjoyed in 2010

End-of-year-list-making-a-few-days-too-late - hooray! The first - of probably many - is of 10 records that I highly enjoyed in 2010, however for some reason didn't feel compelled to include them in my 10 favorite records of the year. There could be many reasons - perhaps I didn't spend enough time with it as I was busy with something else on repeat, perhaps the rest of the record didn't shine as brightly as *that* single, or perhaps it was all around enjoyable but just not as enjoyable as 10 other records during the year. Whatever the case, I'd highly recommend checking out any and/or all of the following releases, which are presented in alphabetical order:

The Chemical Brothers - Further
The Chemical Brothers - Further
The Depreciation Guild - Spirit Youth
The Depreciation Guild - Spirit Youth
Florrie - Introduction EP
Florrie - Introduction EP
Grinderman - Grinderman 2
Grinderman - Grinderman 2
The Hundred In The Hands - The Hundred In The Hands
The Hundred In The Hands - The Hundred In The Hands
Klaxons - Surfing The Void
Klaxons - Surfing The Void
Liars - Sisterworld
Liars - Sisterworld
Manic Street Preachers - Postcards From A Young Man
Manic Street Preachers - Postcards From A Young Man
Maximum Balloon - Maximum Balloon
Maximum Balloon - Maximum Balloon
Team Ghost - You Never Did Anything Wrong To MeTeam Ghost - Celebrate What You Can't See
Team Ghost - You Never Did Anything Wrong To Me & Celebrate What You Can't See EPs

More year-end madness to come.


2010 according to last.fm

That looks about right - kind of surprised Prince managed to overtake School of Seven Bells at the end, and once again I thought Ash would finish higher.

Here's to 2011 and new LPs from Elbow, The Whip, Boxer Rebellion, PJ Harvey, Dragonette...