Friday, August 31, 2007

Because I'm Awesome - The Dollyrots

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If only for the title alone, title track Because I'm Awesome would be, well, awesome. That it's also three and a half minutes of minor punk-pop genius. An instantly memorable riff coupled with an addictive chorus equals a brilliant pop tune.

So far so good. But then something strange happens. Track 2, My Best Friend's Hot transcends it's cringeworthy title to be also be a very good song as well. It's not that far removed from its immediate predecessor in terms of style and sound but it has an addictive energy and charm that is difficult to ignore.

And that pattern pretty much carries on throughout the album. It's not earth shatteringly different at any point but does what it sets out to do very well indeed. Most songs offer a catchy and thoroughly "sing-a-longable" chorus in the vein of an Avril Lavigne (when she's not being a miserable mardy bitch) or Joan Jett (which isn't too much of a surprise as it's released on her own Blackheart Record label). This is fun, jaunty pop music which delights and offers up a hell of a lot of fun despite it's glaringly obvious lack of originality.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

In Our Bedroom After The War - Stars

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Stars' last album, Set Yourself On Fire, was sublime (the 17th best album of 2007 if you listen to some people....) which immediately brings up, shall we say, issues with the follow up before you've even put it in the CD player. Can In Our Bedroom After The War live up to it's predecessor? Will it offer anything new to the Stars experience?

Well as ever the answer isn't clear cut. It's probably not the work of outright genius that SYOF was but it's still a very good record. And whilst it probably isn't a huge sonic leap forward from that album, if the thing's not broke why bother fixing it?

Indeed lyrically the album concerns pretty much the same themes of love, both lost and won. Having said that, there aren't many songs like Personal in the rock cannon (concerning the tale of a couple who meet through an online dating agency but never meet because when the man gets the woman's picture he decides she's too heavy).

Still if such heartbreaking moments aren't for you, there is still plenty of opportunity to "rock out" to the likes of Bitches In Tokyo.

It's the slower moments, such as the sublime My Favourite Book, that grabbed me the most and although the album will inevitably lose in comparisons to Set Yourself On Fire in some senses, we shouldn't forget that In Our Bedroom After The War is a grand album in it's own right; surely that counts for a lot.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Comnbinations - Eisley

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It's clear from the onset that the band's second album sees Eisley "growing up" to a certain extent. But indeed whilst the playfulness that abounded on Room Noises is perhaps missing to a certain extent, the music is as good as ever. It also retains that somewhat "out there" vibe that permeates their best work with the feeling that you never can quite be sure what's coming next.

Thankfully, "what comes next" is usually very good indeed. From the opening, almost Muse-like, rock track Many Funerals to the gentle closer If You're Wondering this is a constantly delightful album.

The real stand out tracks include Invasion, which is another Muse-esque rocker, the pop-tastic Taking Control and Ten Cent Blues, which may well be the best of the lot.

Ok, so there is the sense that you could categorise the entire Eisley output in the terms of "this sounds like Band A" and "this sounds like Band B" and such is the wide scope of musical endeavour throughout this album that you find yourself finding that the album doesn't quite hang as a cohesive whole. But those are minor problems when the end result is so joyous and uplifting. At once commercial and distinctly uncommercial the contradictions on show during the album, to me at least, only make the album all the more impressive.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Once Upon A Time In The West - Hard-Fi

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I doubt I'll be surprising any regular readers of this site when I tell you that I hate Hard-Fi. Actually that might be a bit harsh. Truth be told they have done a couple of half decent songs which don't see me wishing death on the band every time I hear them. The problem is the band themselves. Rightly or wrongly, and there is the chance that they are great blokes, every time I see them, be it performing a song or doing an interview my first thought is "what a bunch of tossers".

So there. I am going to be biased in this review because I don't like them.

But by the same token I'm not going to totally dismiss them because of that, nor just because the whole "No Cover Art" thing is the biggest load of bollocks since Vinnie Jones' spoken word intro on the last Joss Stone album.

Occasionally there is something akin to genuine emotion on the album and it's at those times that Hard-Fi are almost likable. One example is Help Me Please, written in response to the death of Richard Archer's mother; it's perhaps not a typical Hard-Fi song, which probably explains part of it's appeal.

But really for the most part it's one of those records where I sit there and find myself thinking "what's the fuss?". It's relatively catchy and will sell by the bucketload, but that doesn't make it an astounding piece of work. I'm bored with it now, Christ knows how I'll feel in 12 months time once the radio has played the singles to death.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Single Releases 27/08

If only for the absolutely preposterous video Maroon 5's Wake Up Call has to be one of the worst singles of the year. I mean come on, who does that lead singer think he is kidding?

How could a song with Justin Timberlake and Timbaland on it be so absolutely awful? Yes, that's right, it also has 50 Cent on it. It's no wonder Ayo Technology has bombed in the US charts; Kanye is going to murder him in the chart "battle".

It's greatest hits time for Natalie Imbruglia. Although of course I do believe her when she say's she's only agreed to the compilation CD on her own terms. Yes dear. Glorious is the first "new" track to get an airing; like most of her stuff it's ok, but not great. Indeed, that just about sums her up. But then again what do you expect when her most famous song was, shall we say, misrepresented as her own song when all along it was a cover version....

I know no-one believes me, but the new Hilary Duff album was quite good. I know no-one belives me because it's remix time in order to shill some units. They can't even bring themselves to admit it's a Hilary Duff song as it's released under the name Wawa Vs Hillary Duff or some such nonsense. It's ok, but not as good as the proper version.

The Twang are as pointless as ever.

Mammoth by Interpol is good though.

The Young Knives come back with new track Terra Firma this week; it starts of distinctly unpromisingly, but soon becomes something a lot more agreeable. "It looks like mother nature's got a whore, with no regard for health and safety laws...". You can't argue with genius like that can you?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Nine Lives - Kat De Luna

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I cannot pretend that first hearing of an artist when they provide a soundtrack song for WWE Summerslam fills one with confidence. Although lets face it, it was something of a thrill to hear a song on WWE tv that wasn't your usual pop-rock-metal nonsense.

Kat De Luna is a native of the Bronx, and offers up an eclectic blend of pop, reggae, dance hall, hip-hop, merengue, R&B and bachata in her debut album, 9 Lives. Well that's what the press blurb says anywhere.

So needless to say, if the idea of Rhianna or Beyonce totally detests you then you might as well look away now. But if, like me, you appreciate that those two have done some cracking pop tunes (in amongst, I would be the first to admit, the dross) then you might at least want to check out the best cuts on this album.

There's nothing particularly subtle anywhere on the album with the emphasis placed firmly on fun pop tunes. And there are tunes to enjoy in this vein. In The End is a funky pop tune, mixing an addictive guitar motif with a euro-disco beat to surprisingly good effect and Animal sounds like Shakira at her most mental...which is a good thing.

The real surprise is just how adept Kat De Luna is at balladry (which, lets face it, is where pop usually goes tits up nine (ahem) times out of ten. Love Me, Leave Me may well sound similar to Rhianna's Unfaithful but is both more restrained, moving and utterly adorable.

Sure most of the rest of the album passes by in an unmemorable, albeit jolly, mode, but the odd moment of brilliance ensures this isn't a complete waste of time. Not one to buy then, but one to keep an ear out for.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Girl Talk - Elin

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I can't find anything out about Elin. I presume she's Dutch/German/Something, or at the very least that's where she attempted to make an impact on the charts.

This lack of knowledge about her might suggest that the album can't be very good. And no, it isn't. It's not awful, but if I were to suggest that Elin is a watered down Avril Lavigne, you'd pretty much be able to sum up her sound.

Not offensively awful, but neither does it have anything that I'll be listening to ever again.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Diamond In The Dark - Sarah Borges & The Broken Singles

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I don't know, you go years without reviewing a rockabilly CD and then two come along in succession. Although really, "rockabilly" doesn't really cover quite the range that Sarah Borges & The Broken Singles have on this album.

The Day We Met certainly opens up the album on a rockabilly bent, but before long we're onto the pop-rock cracker Stop And Think It Over (think Avril Lavigne with a genuine ear for a tune), the retro-traditional Country sound of False Eyelashes and the blues driven Open Up Your Back Door.

The lack of a real cohesive tying together of the album does make the overall listening experience more than a little bit chaotic but if an individual track fails to capture your attention then it's a case of don't worry, something completely different will be along in a minute.

Thankfully, most of the tracks ARE crackers. Borges has the charisma to pull off the chameleon approach, and backed by a tight backing group the end results are often something very special indeed.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Black Cat Bone - Lee Rocker

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If I was going to do a Sam Beckett and travel back in time (ignoring the "leap within your own lifetime nonsense") the one place I would go back to, in a musical sense, would be the mid-late 50's and Sun Records. I don't know former Stray Cats member Lee Rocker, but on the basis of this album I'd wager that he'd gladly join me for the ride.

And I can also safely say that if you're one of those people that know Jerry Lee Lewis is The Killer and that Elvis' most vital work was done in those early days at Sun then this is an album that you're going to love.

From start to finish it's a rock 'n' roll delight.

He's just as good at tackling old classics (Bob Dylan's One More Night, Hank Williams' Lost Highway) as he is at churning out great originals.

For any fan of rock 'n' roll, rockabilly, twanging guitars and straight up rocking melodies, this is an absolute must.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Rilo Kiley LIVE

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Ok, so there was no restaurant meeting with Jenny Lewis this time around although we did have to put up with two South Africans in the pub who were cheering for India in the cricket. Jimmy Anderson soon put pay to that though.

Manchester Academy 3 was packed to the rafters which naturally offered us no protection from the tossers. Highlight of the evening from that point of view was probably the girl who about three or four songs into the set stood right in front of me then complaining to her fella that the person she'd stood behind was blocking her view. Don't mind me love.

Anyway, onto Rilo Kiley. Some fans have been terribly upset with the new album but all clinged to some hope that in the live arena, the songs would still kick ass. Well I like the album anyway, but it is safe to say that live, the majority of the new songs do indeed kick ass.

They started off with It's A Hit mind you, and tossed in Portions For Foxes and Paint's Peeling within the first four songs.

Of the new songs, Close Call was particularly good (but then again it is probably my favourite off the album) as was Under The Blacklight. I also thoroughly enjoyed Smoke Detector and Breakin' Up.

Blake Sennett took over for two songs; Ripchord was better than I remember the More Adventurous version ever being but Dreamworld was as dull as it's album counterpart.

The "Crazy Cover Version" of the evening was a version of Jenny Lewis' own Rise Up With Fists; it was funked up and, in all honesty, fairly perfunctory as well. Most bizarre moment of the evening had to be when Lewis preceded 15 with a "warning" to a 15 year old girl down the front which prompted some wag in the crowd to shout out "Jenny's going to piss on you." Quite.

The encore saw a sneak peak of Fergie's new single, no sorry, it was Give A Little Love, and they finished off with a spine tingling version of Does He Love You?

Anyway, it was a quality concert all around. Being quite taken with the new album I enjoyed the new stuff and the old stuff and the band were certainly on form. And as much as some long-standing fans may disagree, Jenny Lewis' attempts to "sex" things up are alright in my book.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Under The Blacklight - Rilo Kiley

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Well Moneymaker certainly "divided" the fans and pre-release reviews of this album seem to have been similarly divided.

For the record, I like Rilo Kiley and the "shocking news" that they'd somehow gone "pop" on their 4th album was never going to upset me that much was it? Neither was the proclamation from some sources that RK had "sold out" by making a catchy album with one eye on actually selling a few copies.

If anything my "fear" was perhaps that Jenny Lewis' solo album Rabbit Fur Coat had somewhat raised the bar. It was a sublime record that was perhaps better than anything Rilo Kiley had ever come up with; which is high praise indeed.

The album starts on a pair of very high notes indeed. Silver Lining, which had been previewed online in the weeks leading up to the album release, is in many ways a typical Rilo Kiley song. It's message seems to concern the collapse of a close relationship, not that you'd particularly tell by the upbeat and catchy tune, and the only thing different is an added sheen (which some fans labelled an "over production"). Close Call is just as good.

Moneymaker turns out not to be typical of the album, and as such does reveal itself as a rather strange lead single, but if long term fans were apoplectic at that change of sound, Breaking Up, with its disco stylings, may well give them a heart attack.

The album's title track in some ways sums up the whole album; the beginning sets it up as something akin to a hip hop track, yet it soon dissolves into a typical guitar led track. For all the hype that this is a "new" Rilo Kiley, there is a distinct impression that it's a moving forward from what's gone before, rather than starting from scratch.

I've never seen the point of giving Blake Sennett vocals on a Rilo Kiley album (perhaps that's just me being biased mind you) so we'll somewhat skip over Dreamworld. It's better than Ripchord from More Adventurous mind you. (I'm aware I'm being a little harsh there, but I can't imagine anyone listening to Dreamworld and not thinking "this would sound better with Jenny Lewis singing it").

Dejalo sounds something like Gwen Stefani would come up and is no doubt another track that will send the rabid fans scuttling to the corner with their heads in their hands. Those with an open mind however might just find it difficult to resist.

15 shows that RK have lost none of their lyrical bite (concerning as it does an older man grooming a 15 year old girl on the internet); it's brass fuelled chorus is delightful and will have you singing along with scant recognition of what you're actually singing!

Smoke Detector is reminiscent of early Rilo Kiley, and indeed whilst catchy never really seems to go anywhere; it's saved by a criminally catchy chorus though. The Angels Hung Around is the most "Rabbit Fur Coat" esque song on the album before we close with the electro pop gem Give A Little Love which once again marries an extremely catchy tune with sentiments that are quite literally heartbreaking.

So all in all it's a triumph. Some, perhaps wishing to sentence Rilo Kiley to life-long "cult" (i.e. not selling many records) status will try and tell you that the album strips away everything that made them great in the first place but that is absolute nonsense. This is the sound of a band stepping up their game.

It's everything you loved about Rilo Kiley...and more.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Single Releases 20/08/07

Suburban Knights by Hard-Fi is not a bad tune at all. But the whole cover art debacle just seems to confirm that the band themselves are a load of tossers. So whilst the tune is ok, I can't really look past the fact that I hate them.

Similarly, Ricky Wilson and the drummer from the Kaiser Chiefs, annoy the hell out of me. SO whilst Angry Mob is a decent single, it doesn't change the fact that the video is crap and that I hate them.

I seem to be one of the few who prefer the new Maximo Park album to their first one, but even with that said I have to admit that Girls Who Play Guitars is not one of my favourites. It's ok, but that's as far as it goes.

Remi Nicole...Remi Nicole. I could do the old Gorilla Monsoon line and say don't commit her name to memory as she won't be here for long. Go Mr Sunshine is alright, but really is not something I ever want to listen to again. Which can't be a good sign can it?

I can't quite believe I once thought Linkin Park were "quite good". I can't even blame it on a woman.

I still don't see the point of hellogoodbye. It's pop, but rubbish pop.

As for The Gossip. Isn't Jealous Girls just the same as every other recent single? Oh I forgot, Beth Ditto is officially cool isn't she?

The Underdog by Spoon is great. But those of you have read my album review will know that already!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

How Can We Be Silent - BarlowGirl

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I don't know what it is recently with me and "Christian" rock. Following hot on the heels of Britt Nicole come BarlowGirl, three Chicago born sisters preaching the good gospel of abstinence from sex before marriage.

Musically this is out and out Evanescence territory. Indeed if you were to happen upon a song of theirs on the radio without any prior knowledge of who they were you might well assume that BarlowGirl were Evanescence.

Of course any closer inspection would serve to realise your folly. As much as Evanescence were championed as Christian rock at the beginning of their rise to fame I doubt they ever had a song like The Guy Song, which appears to be challenging us men to be the kind of people God intended us to be, or Keep Quiet, which seems to be admonishing those people who seem to find Jesus so offensive.

If you are a big fan of Evanescence then you'll probably mildly enjoy this album without ever really being able to get past the fact that its not as good as the band its aping. It's target audience will no doubt lap it up, the rest of us might struggle to come up with any genuine enthusiasm for the album as a whole.

Incidentally it's the most adventurous moment of the set that captivated me the most (or at all). One More Round hits you with a slinky Jazz back beat that elevates it from the pack and shows that with a bit of fine tuning, and an attempt to reach for their own unique sound, there could be a lot to admire about BarlowGirl.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Hand Built By Robots - Newton Faulkner

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I might as well admit from the beginning that I'm predisposed to dislike Newton Faulkner. As if the comparisons to Jack Johnson weren't bad enough, young Newton replies to them by saying that he'd rather be compared to him than someone like Girls Aloud.

Well quite frankly Newton, I would suspect that Girls Aloud wouldn't want to be compared to an album as "pleasant" and insipid as yours. A two word review would be as follows; pleasantly dull.

That's not to dismiss Newton completely. Whilst the comparisons to Jack Johnson are fair musically Faulkner seems a lot more likable than his surfer inspired forerunner and, from my point of view, nowhere near as earnestly annoying. But for all the technically accomplished playing that's on show, there's an alarming black hole where the soul should be.

If you were mad about single Dream Catch Me then I dare say that you'll enjoy this album to a certain degree. Me? Well I'm not sure I'll be listening to this very often in the future, other than as background music next time I go to a Chinese restaurant.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Translated From Love - Kelly Willis

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It might be a fact that the last place you'd expect to find a cover of an Iggy Pop song is on a country album, never mind one by Kelly Willis. And if, by some miracle, that's where you found it then I doubt you'd expect it to be very good...but you'd be wrong.

In fact, Success may well be the highlight of Kelly Willis' first "proper" album in five years (because no one counts Christmas albums my dears); crucially however it is far from the only song worth investigating on the album and merely it appearance on the album in the first place gives a good indication of how varied the album is in terms of sound.

Teddy Boys opening guitar riffs evoke the spirit of Chuck Berry whilst Loving You, with it's banjo and pedal steel combination is much more traditionally country. The More I'm Around You brings to mind a 60's pop vibe whereas Don't Know Why has a much more 1980's country sound to it.

Incredibly though, the album hangs together as a cohesive work, helped by Willis and a fantastic band.

"New Country" can be said to be a lot of things; rarely however, is it quite as good as it is here.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Sophie Ellis Bextor LIVE

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So it was a brand new venue, indeed a brand new town, in the Warrington Parr Hall. Lovely meal in the adjoining Olive Press beforehand (to overhear the waitress saying that only 500 tickets had been sold for the concert) and then it was into the venue itself.

Support act was a group called The Sylvias. They seemed to go down quite well with the crowd but really although they were alright their songs did seem to go on quite a bit. I tell ya, they could teach the Editors a thing or two about stretching out two small verses and a chorus into as long a song as possible.

As the crowd swelled in anticipation of the main event, it was clear that if ever Sophie Ellis Bextor loses her record deal, she will be able to make a killing doing PA's at Gay Clubs and for hen nights. There also seemed to be about 6 men in total in the building who were heterosexual and not with their WAG's.

Indeed at one point in the evening Bextor acknowledged that her make-up was "drag queeny as the best of times" and whilst at times it did seem like the show had been genetically engineered to appeal to the pink pound, it would be wrong to dismiss it on that level.

I personally found myself surprised at just how many good pop singles she's had, and all were met with delight by the small, but very appreciative crowd. Even the album tracks were warmly welcomed, including the more dreary ones.

Ok, so none of this was reinventing the wheel but it was exactly what you would want in a pop concert. Catchy songs, sung with gusto and a hell of a lot of fun.

And on a final note, Bextor's version of David Bowie's Lets Dance in the encore may have been one of the greatest things ever.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Roots & Echoes - The Coral

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I'm not what you could call an avid fan of The Coral. I like a few of their singles but have never really felt the need to submerge myself in their back catalogue. So when I put in the album and get faced with Who's Gonna Find Me things aren't looking good. It reminds me of the sort of song that would be used to advertise a Beefeater Pub. And no, I'm not saying that's a good thing.

Indeed, things don't immediately get any better.

It's track 4, Jacqueline, before things start to look up. But even this, with its admittedly catchy melody fails to really spark up like the best songs of The Coral can.

From this point forward there's as many good (ish) tracks as there are distinctly average ones but there is a distinct sense that The Coral have lost, or perhaps intentionally put to one side, the quirkiness that made them an intriguiung proposition.

Listening to Roots & Echoes you can only come to one conclusion; this is the sound of a band playing it safe.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

One Cell In The Sea - A Fine Frenzy

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A Fine Frenzy is basically singer/songwriter Alison Sudol, and I suppose you could say that it's a wise decision to at least have the pretence of a stage name. After all, female singer-songwriters are ten a penny these days.

The blurb tells us she taught herself to play piano and is a fan of classical music, Motown, Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, Elton John, Louis Armstrong, amongst others. A disparate array of influences perhaps, but ones that are brought together to surprisingly haunting effect.

The music is beautifully pitched, with delightful piano that never descends into the pop parody of a, say, Delta Goodrem, and Sudol has a disarming voice that you'll not be able to resist falling in love with.

What marks this album out from the pack is it's lyrical excellence as well. The claimed fantasy influences of such authors as EB White and CS Lewis is clear in the "tale" songs in her repertoire (such as The Minnow & The Trout) yet the songs which are more firmly based in the heartfelt real life side of things (such as You Picked Me) are just as good.

As ever, or so it seems, the criticism would be that it's all a bit one-paced and there is nothing much that differentiates each track from the one that follows it. It's not that much of a criticism, given that there isn't a track that you'd really want to skip every time and the lush production and Sudol's beautiful voice are just as good every time.

The one exception to the similarity is album closer, Borrowed Time, which sees Sudol pick up the acoustic guitar and pluck out a delicate, fruity melody that might recall Travis' best moments to some.

There's a lot to admire on this debut, and it's faults shouldn't dissuade you from checking it out, especially if it sounds like your kind of thing in general. In essence it's a pretty good debut that simultaneously marks A Fine Frenzy as one to watch and also suggests that there's more to come next time around.

And that fact that she kind of reminds me of a red-haired Rachel Bilson has nothing to do with this review at all; that's just a bonus.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Single Releases 13/08/07

You know, I like Kanye West's songs, but you cannot change the fact that he simply isn't a Grade A rapper. In fact he's a long way down the list. He gains marks for the Daft Punk sample in Stronger, but still, he's not a good rapper. If only he'd added "I's only got's four minutes to sing this song" intro, this would have been superb.

Feelings seem mixed in the world of Rilo Kiley fans about new single Moneymaker but I'm starting to like it. Ok, so it's not what you would expect from the band, but since when has that ever been a crime?

Amy Winehouse stayed out of the crack house for long enough to release a new single, Tears Dry On Their Own. I've never been totally convinced by the Winehouse; catchy though some of her tunes may be, I always wonder just how much she had to do with the Mowtown direction herslef. Still, I think I would speak for us all when I say I just hope she can get her life sorted out.

So Do I Say Sorry First? Well, Stephanie McIntosh, I think you bloody well should. Dreadful, abysmal etc.

David Guetta proves the law of diminishing returns with Love Is Gone. No, it's not bad, but no, it's nowhere near as good as his last car advertisement, sorry, single. Close your eyes and it could very well just be a bad remix of the song you already know.

Will MIA break out with Jimmy? Probably not in the huge chart scaling sense but she deserves a wider audience and this may well give her the chance to speak out to them.

I like Calvin Harris. And I like Merrymaking At My Place. Not that that is a myspace style invitation to come around to my house and party.

And that's me done for another week. Apologies to the likes of Ross Copperman, Polyphonic Spree and Ben’s Brother but I just can't be arsed getting around to you this week.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Else - They Might Be Giants

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Ever since the girl of my dreams inadvertently paved the way for me to buy Flood, the They Might Be Giants album with the superlative Birdhouse In Your Soul on it, I've always sort of liked They Might Be Giants without ever really paying any attention to them. I suppose that is just the foibles of modern life.

So it was with a certain restrained form of anticipation that I was looking forward to this album as I put it in the CD player.

It wasn't a feeling that lasted for long.

Don't get me wrong, it's not an awful record, just not a very good one.

There are indeed moments that would almost sit up there with the aforementioned Birdhouse; I'm Impressed is understated but undeniably catchy and Climbing The Walls is something Weezer would be proud of (if it was slightly beefed up a little). But there's too much generic geek rock on display to provide anything more than a sporadically, and moderately at that, interesting album.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Super Taranta! - Gogol Bordello

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My fear before putting this album in the player was one that whilst Not A Crime was a sublime slice of punk-pop-gypsy rock (or something) and previous album Gypsy Punks was entertaining, if charmingly ramshackle, there is only so far the Gogol Bordello sound can go and, dare I say it, only so much this listener can take.

It's a fear that is partially, if not totally, dissolved over the course of Super Taranta!

When it hits the spot, it's hits the spot sweetly (although at the same time nothing quite matches Not A Crime). American Wedding is a wry look at the subject title ("nothing gets these bitches going, not even the Gypsy Kings" is one of my favourite lyrics of the year) and has me tapping my foot every time I hear it. And funnily enough another standout, Alcohol, could be a Gypsy Kings outtake (albeit one recorded by them whilst on crack) and humour obviously is a Gogol strength, as the title track proves with it's "attack" on Christianity ("second time I read the bible, I thought it was alright" sets up the track perfectly).

If you love accordions and fiddle then you'll be loving this. If not, you might want to take this in small doses. Myself, well I found it a good record but not necessarily one I'll have on repeat play forever and a day. As an album to dip into on a semi-regular basis though, this has it's undeniable charms.

The only thing left to question is Live Earth....WHY?

Friday, August 10, 2007

Coco - Colbie Caillat

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America's Lily Allen? Well at least in terms of using Myspace as a springboard to success. Musically, whereas Allen offered something new, Colbie Caillat could well be any one of a hundred cookie cutter singer-songwriters currently plying their trade. Now before we start, that's not necessarily a criticism of any great depth, just an observation that Caillat offers us nothing new.

What she does offer us though are perfectly pleasant pop songs, which are both easy-going and extremely radio-friendly. Indeed, I'm not aware if she's been playlisted on Radio 2 yet, but if not it can only be a matter of time.

Indeed there is an undeniable charm surrounding tracks such as Bubbly, the reggae tinged The Little Things and the understated Oxygen that will keep you listening, but not exactly having you reach for the repeat button when the album is over.

The standout may well be Midnight Bottle. It's not the catchiest of songs on the album, but seems the most "together" and has the most absorbing lyrical content.

So whilst this album is impossible to hate, it's also extremely hard to love. Like maybe, but not love. It's the musical equivalent of that sweet girl who lives down your street. You like her, and on a hot summer's evening you may even wonder whether you could ever love her, but deep down you know you will never think of her as anything more than a friend.

But perhaps the last word should go to Caillat herself from Bubbly; “You make me smile, please stay for a while" just about sums up her appeal. I certainly wouldn't be against hearing what she comes up with next.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

With Lasers - Bonde Do Rolé

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Whilst constantly lumped in with Cansei De Ser Sexy, Bonde Do Rolé are going to struggle to match the worldwide success that their fellow Brazillians have acquired.

For a start, whilst the sound is similar, on the surface at least, With Lasers lacks the out and out pop genius of, say, Let's Make Love And Listen To Death From Above, and its this lack of a killer tune that will preclude this from making the kind of splash that CSS did.

Still, that is not to say that this is entirely without merits. Those that do listen to it will immediately find this a likeable and rowdy experience, like all good party's should be.

Whether its the kazoo (and indeed the Hollaback Girl-esque drum beat) that accompanies Geremia, the Fannypack style minimalism of Solta O Frango or the 80's Hair metal intro to Bondallica you'll be having fun, even if it's difficult to ever be fully aware of what exactly is going on. Indeed, you don't need to be fluent in Portugese to know what territory we're delving into here and, if I'm being honest, that's half the fun.

Of course you might well decide that one Synth-heavy Brazillian disco pop troupe is enough for your life, but if you did you might be missing out on something quite special indeed.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Insomniatic - Aly & Aj

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Ok, I know. It doesn't sound too promising does it? Two blonde teen sisters singing Disney Teen Pop is enough to turn anyone right off isn't it? And normally I would agree, but there is something borderline genius about the recent single from Aly & AJ, Potential Break Up Song.

Now I'm not one to say such a thing lightly, but it's good enough to be a Girls Aloud single. It's three and a half minutes are packed with more invention than you'll find in the entire Hard-Fi back catalogue and shows an exuberant personality not often found in American by-the-numbers pop.

Of course the real thing to ask is whether or not this is a one-off, or indicative of the new album as a whole?

Tracks such as Bullseye, Like Whoa and Like It Or Leave It prove that the brilliant single was not simply a one-off but sadly there are a lot of tracks that also show that overall they've not moved that far from their previous style.

In many ways that makes this an ideal album for their fan base. It's got enough of what you would expect if you liked what you've heard previously, but also shows just enough invention to keep those same fans hooked.

More, ahem, mature pop lovers may not need to concern themselves with this album as a whole, but there are a smattering of pop classics that will keep even the most cynical of listeners on their toes.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Made Of Bricks - Kate Nash

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Any regular readers of this site, and there must be at least three of you, might think that you know exactly what's coming up in the space of this review. Well let me just say right off the bat that you might be a little surprised.

Because although I should absolutely love this record, given the fact I like Nash, think she's great live and I'm in love with her, there is just something that stops me a little short of outright adoration.

For instance, whilst I'm fully aware that the previous versions of We Get On are not supposed to be the "official" versions, I prefer them to the version that turns up on this album. Similarly, whilst the album version of Merry Happy isn't a million miles away from the demo/Myspace versions I've heard it's new polish takes a little away from what made me fall in love with the song in the first place. And, stop me if this is getting a tad boring now, the same thing applies to The Shit Song. And whilst we're at it, lets lump Mariella in there as well.

Now don't get me wrong, I don't dislike any of those songs at all, they're just not the versions I fell in love with. And it's not as if I've some aversion to all the more polished studio versions. Dickhead is transformed by it's haunting backing, and Birds has just enough "beefiness" added to the backing to elevate it from the much sparser single version.

Then there are the songs I'd previously not heard, such as Pumpkin Song (which ironically, given Nash's recent press statements, is the song that most sounds like Lily Allen) which I enjoyed greatly.

So it all places my in a difficult position. I like the album, in fact I like it quite a lot, but at the same time I can't help but feel disappointed by it. Maybe it's my own fault for expecting so much, but then again that expectation was based on already hearing most of the tracks and seeing her live twice. Who knows, maybe in the weeks to come I'll grow to love these new versions just as much as the old ones.

Or then again, I'm disappointed with what I would call a "great album"...perhaps I'm just mental!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Single Releases 06/08/07

Is it hilarious, or just plain sad, that Kula Shaker are releasing a new single in 2007. I didn't think they were any good when they had their moment in the spotlight. I think even less of them now.

Similarly I have absolutely no love for the Magic Numbers. I just don't see the mass appeal of them. Their first album was boring, and their second one followed suit. So needless to say, I'm not exactly over the moon at their new EP either.

And Hellogoodbye. What is it with people liking them? Baby It's Fact might even be worse than the last one.

On the other hand, Richard Hawley's new single is amazingly good. Tonight The Streets Are Ours sounded great from the first time I heard it; it was one of those catchy little ditty's that sounded so familiar right from the off (and I mean that in a good way).

Why Sophie Ellis Bextor has released Tonight's The Sun's On Us when there are much better singles on the album is beyond me.

I know the Robyn single was out last week but I missed it last week. It's good. In fact it's very good. No doubt Edith Bowman is championing it as we speak as a hot new tune from a hot new artist...

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Here Lies.... - Betty Curse

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It's a testament to how greatly the Betty Curse experiment flopped that her album was released in October 2006 (download only, with a physical release earlier this year), and here we are, in August of the following year, before I even realised the album was out. Ok that's not strictly true; I was aware in general that the album was being released to cash in on the Halloween season but having never seen anything about it since, nor ever seen a copy of it in the shops, I forgot about it entirely until a recent chance occurrence.

The big question has to be then, was I missing anything?

Well, as ever, the answer is yes and no.

Am I any more convinced months down the line that this is nothing more than an elaborate play act from the former Megan Burns? Well no, but neither does that make some of the tracks any the less catchy. Artifice is not necessarily the tool of the devil you know.

There are catchy choruses to burn (God This Hurts, Rot In Heaven, Excuse All The Blood) and Curse can belt them out with energetic pop aplomb. Indeed, if the songs ever did get mainstream airplay, you certainly wouldn't be turning your radio off when they came on.

But in all that lies the problem with the whole project. It's "goth" approach doesn't entirely convince, which may have been the problem in appealing to the target audience and even if it did, the out and out "pop" splendour of some of the tracks would have a hard time gaining favour with the eyeliner-heavy crowd it professes to appeal to.

That said, I quite like it. But I can also see why it's lack of success was, in hindsight, all too obvious.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

This Is The Life - Amy Macdonald

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It's no secret that I've not been overly enamoured by the singles that Amy Macdonald had put out prior to this album, although upon reflection I may have been a little harsh. Yes, even a seasoned veteran like myself occasionally gets blasé when the latest "big thing" gets thrust in our faces.

The first thing I have to say is that I just can't get used to her voice. She can sing, don't get me wrong, but there are times when I cannot look past the fact that something weird is going on with her voice, to my ears at least. It's not an insurmountable barrier thanks to some very catchy songs, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that it's a barrier that somewhat lessens my enjoyment of the album.

There are times, such as on Let's Start A Band, This Is The Life and, yes...I'll admit I was wrong, Mr Rock And Roll when Macdonald sounds on the verge of something really spectacular but sadly it's not promise that she capitalises on throughout her debut album.

Although the song titles alone suggest Macdonald has a lot to say, the overly earnest approach does begin to grate over a full album (what a difference a bit of Kate Nash esque joie de vivre on a few tracks might have made) and whilst in some ways the fact that Macdonald doesn't come across on record as the 19 year old she is may be a positive thing, it can also occasionally have the effect of making her songs sound a little too generic.

That said, like most reviewers have picked up on, if you're looking for something to tide you over until the next KT Tunstall record, this fits the bill perfectly. It also shows that Macdonald is a girl with genuine talent; she just needs to grow into it a little bit more. If she does, next time around the results could be spectacular indeed.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Say It - Britt Nicole

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They tell me that Britt Nicole is "Christian" music. I'm glad they told me because by listening to Say It, you wouldn't particularly guess.

Some might prefer to label her the latest in a long line of Avril Lavigne wannabees who will never make a career out of this music malarkey. Indeed, a cursory glance over her mere existence would probably lead you down that path, but that would not be doing Miss Nicole any justice.

Becuase whilst there is no escaping the fact that this sounds a lot like Avril Lavigne and her ilk, there is plenty of evidnce that Nicole has the ability to stand out from the pack (although admittedly, how much this is down to her, and how much to her "team" is not something I can answer at this stage).

Sure there is a lot that blends into the "teen-pop" pack, but there are a smattering of genuinely catchy, knock-out pop moments on her debut album.

Sunshine Girl is the sort of radio-friendly pop ditty that you can imagine blaring out of your car stereo whilst someone like Fearne Cotton (shudder) babbles on about the ususal nonsense. Holiday has a slinky electro vibe, with a lovely string riff (or whatever you want to call it) and a positively addictive drum beat. Believe has the sort of chorus that would have teen girls across the world singing along.

Of course there is a fair amount of tracks that don't really go anywhere and fit the template a little bit too tightly to really become anything memorable.

Still this has enough good stuff to give it a reccomendation, if it sounds like your kind of thing. And lets face it, if Kelly Clarkson had released this hook-laden album instead of her recent one, she might not have to be apologising to Clive Davis on bended knee...

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga - Spoon

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Ok so this is Spoon's sixth album, and I hadn't heard of them until a few days ago. Well you can't keep a track of EVERYTHING can you? So whilst most reviews of this album you will find will make great play about how good this is in respect to their vast back catalogue, I can't do that.

I can only tell you how good it is...full stop.

Clocking in at a little over half an hour, there isn't an extraneous moment on this album. From start to finish this is a delight. True, it's hard to escape the feeling that, ultimately, everything on this album, from the piano hooks to the handclaps, has been obsessively put in place on each track but the most important thing is that it never actually feels like that's the case when you're listening to it.

You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb's Mowtown feel sits alongside the minimalism of My Little Japanese Cigarette Case, which in turn sits nicely alongside the bouncy pop of The Underdog. Better still, in my case anyway, only Black Like Me sounds anything like approaching a ballad; this is half an hour of bouncy, hook laden pop-rock which, at the risk of upsetting Spoon fans across the world, reminds me a lot of The Fountains Of Wayne (which is a good thing).

If you like your pop mixed in with a bit of "indie" then this is well worth a listen.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Con - Tegan And Sara

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Whilst Tegan and Sara have been "on the radar" for some time I can't say I've ever really warmed to them all that much. A pleasant diversion they may be but they've never really done a record that had escaped purgatory in the CD cupboard, pushed to the back and only really brought out when a search for a lost classic reminds me that the CD is there.

Lead single, and album title track, The Con didn't really bode any better for their prospects with this record. Pretty forgettable really.

But then, quite by chance, I happened upon a track called Are You Ten Years Ago, which really did catch my ears. A little bit ambient, and a whole lot bleak, it may be but it sounds fresh, exciting and vital. And I'm happy to say that whilst the style of that track may not be typical of the album as a whole, the excitement of that song certainly is typical of this great album (although I would also have to admit that nothing quite matches up to this song either).

Nineteen amps up the big guitars and booming drums into power-pop territory, Call It Off is an aching ballad, which soars thanks to it's light touch of string orchestration and the bouncy pop of Back In Your Head merges guitar and keyboards to uplifting effect.

I certainly can't escape the "this sounds a lot like Laura Veirs" vibe I continually get from the album, especially in the vocals, but that's no bad thing in my view as Veirs is one of the great "lost" (as in few people have heard of her) songwriters of the modern age. More ardent fans may disagree, but I think this is Tegan and Sara's best album yet.