17 May 2009
It's a bit of a sad state of affairs really: things were looking promising when Little Boots started off just using a Tenori-On and a piano doing versions of pop songs (look them up on YouTube if you're interested) and then suddenly.... the hype machine descended.... Yes, that thing.
Suddenly she was grabbed and her hair was done up into loose blonde curls with dark metallic make-up and shiny sequin-decorated clothes and high-heels to match and oh dear! It happened! She morphed into the new version of Ally so quickly that it gave me a headache. Well, a migraine really.
But here's the thing: Vicky just doesn't have the charm or the warmth to be as alluring and listenable as Goldfrapp. Her voice goes from icy squeal to, er, icy squeal and her songs have only one theme which is quite boring after a while. Add to this the fact that all of her backing tracks have a coarse and edgy feel that grates horribly like scraping nails down a chalkboard and suddenly you wonder where the promise of the initial few months went.
Have your imitations if you want, I think I'll stick with the classic model.
Just to prove a point, I think I'll place them side by side in a little video-off for you to decide for yourselves:
12 May 2009
Bat For Lashes are encouraging all of their fans to log on to their MySpace page and try mixing their very own version of "Pearl's Dream", one of the best songs on their new album "Two Suns".
It's certainly unique, and users will be able to save their own little mix and send it to their friends to show off their handy mixing work. Don't like the beats? Ditch them. Not keen on Natasha's layered vocals? Bin it. Want more of the freaky little electro skit at the beginning? Make it run through the whole song, baby!
Ah Natasha! What a fine idea indeed. For those of you who haven't heard the song, here it is:
Now think about your remixes!
Yeah yeah, I know you're sitting there thinking that there are billions of better songs but hey, this is my humble opinion - at first you sit there and its simple guitar riff and psychedelic singing wash over you in an amiable way and then after ten or so plays you start smiling. And the smile is more of a beam that you can't contain but have to in case people start staring at you more than ever.
It's a summer song: even the video screams warmth and tropical bliss but then I woudn't expect anything less from a band who like to dress up in wild headdresses and dance around in tribal jewellery while wearing lovely blue chinese suits (who are MGMT kidding? They're nowhere near as far out as these guys!) Ah, if Sleepy Jackson and Pnau are really on hold then it's good news. I want more from Empire of the Sun. I want it now and I want them to tour next week!!
Ahem this video takes a while to get going: it's like a weird narrative but my Spanish has deteriorated badly so please: someone tell me what they're saying!!
07 May 2009
Oh, what's happened?! All quiet in the Depeche Mode camp? Certainly not! After all, they've had years of bust ups and additctions and have created blindingly good records through it all. So what? Are we going to get a happy, lovey-dovey, oh-so-corrupted version of the Mode now that they've settled down? Like bells we are.
I will stand by this record, which is ten thousand tmies better than their last attempt, "Playing The Angel" (though in all fairness "Lilian" was quite a good song). It's rockier, more ambitious, and has a slight turn towards their old days. Slight. Not too much. Gone are the bleeps and blops (well, mostly) and in come the melodies and the sexy guitars once again. Yay! It's a return to form.
Opener "In Chains" makes use of some slightly stripped down beats and a lovely electronic-warped guitar, using Dave Gahan's voice as its main force. And what a force it is on this record - it seems there's some new vigor and life inside him and this is shown on their first single "Wrong" in which he powers through unstoppably against fragmented melodies and lets the darkness flow. But a lot of this could be down to Martin L. Gore's songwriting. I'll let Gahan have the credit for "Come Back" which is one of the most effective songs on the album.
We still have gentler moments of evil on "Little Soul" and the short instrumental break "Spacewalker" which hold different parts of the album together nicely. Personally, the final third of this thirteen-track album is the best. "Miles Away/ The Truth Is" is, whisper it quietly, almost like a pop song (eek!) and is probably one of the most accessible offerings here. But I still love it more than their darker musings. Strange, isn't it? "Jezebel" serves as an interlude between this and the storming closer "Corrupt" which just has to be THE best closer to a record I've heard so far this year, and it'll take a lot to beat its rock-infused malevolence.
But I don't understand how "Peace" made the final cut of the record. At just over an hour long, they could have afforded to cut out this part. You can see the idea behind it, with the almost choral layering of voices, but the bitty electronica doesn't quite sit right in-between "In Sympathy" and "Come Back". Is it just me or this section just a little unnecessary? Part of me just doesn't want to sit through four minutes of "Peace" before getting to "Come Back", I want to skip through it!!
But despite this black mark in the middle of the record, Depeche Mode have made a much more engaging and pleasing record than their latest attempts. They wanted it to be the "Violator for the 21st Century". Have they done it? Well, it'll always be hard to match "Violator" but you aren't gonna get any closer than this!!
You know, I actually didn't know what exactly to expect with Natasha Khan's second album. Her band Bat For Lashes' first album was filled with understated magic and mysticism that only really broke free from simple piano and harpsichord ditties on a few tracks - not that it stopped me from declaring it as one of my albums of 2007.
Two years later and we are presented with the equally hypnotic "Two Suns", a conceptual album that sees our Ms. Khan expanding her sound quite significantly. Having only ever heard "Daniel" and "Moon and Moon" before buying the album I wondered if it was all going to be low-key electronica and yet more piano musings. But no, opener "Glass" sort of blows that out of the water. It seems Natasha has a soft spot for tribal beats and ringing percussion mixed with dark guitars and her own amazing vocal range. And I DO love her vocal range.
"Glass" also shows Khan's love of metaphorical lyrics, singing about things that on the surface are incomprehensible ramblings. But hey, look! There's actually some deep meaning in there! "A thousand crystal towers"? Yes, definitely a metaphor. But let's not linger on her songwriting prowess and instead focus on the rest of the album.
The first five songs are written under Khan's own name but the second half of the album are ung by her alias Pearl, and the songs become increasingly interlinked. See how in "Pearl's Dream" there is a reference to "Good Love Town", the subject of the next song? Nifty stuff. Pearl's songs are undoubtedly bleaker in many ways, but they provide some of the more magical moments on the album. "Pearl's Dream" is perhaps Khan's best pop moment to date, while on "Two Planets" she seems to invoke the spirit of Bjork, yelping and echoing over layers and layers of drums and beats - very "Earth Intruders". In the first half of the record is "Sleep Alone", which looks like it's going to be the next single. It's understated, like a more upbeat version of her first ever single "Trophy" and includes some lovely sweeping vocals and little bursts of electro that give it a tougher edge.
Ah, Natasha. This album will bring you (and has brought you) commercial success. I like an album that shows evolution and progress, rather than a regression or much of the same. And "Two Suns" does that - it's a much more beefed up version of "Fur and Gold" and is intricately clever, using combinations of the powerful and the simple. Buy it - you won't regret it.