Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Friendly Fires - Friendly Fires

Proving that the Brits are currently on top of their game in music right now, here's another excellent debut from a young and upcoming new band in the UK, to add to the likes of Mystery Jets, Late Of The Pier, Los Campesinos or These New Puritans, just to mention a few of the most recent projects appearing lately. This time, think DFA fronted by a close relative to Justin Timberlake singing perfect indie-pop anthems in an all-night-long party and you'll get a close idea. Loaded with addictive hooks, incessant rhythms, angular synths, blissful shoegaze moments, and insanely catchy melodies, this is music that doubles as a dancefloor filler and a daytime-favourite, each track standing on its own and feeling like a future hit-in-the-make. Not to mention the fact that the whole album was self-produced, with the only exception being "Jump In The Pool" (recorded with Paul Epworth of Bloc Party fame), which is also another good point to show how these guys really have it all to become the next big thing. While that doesn't happen, stay tuned, as there's already more than enough glistening and fresh goods to enjoy. (8/10)

Friendly Fires - Jump In The Pool (video)

Official site
MySpace page

Monday, September 29, 2008

Deerhunter - Microcastle

I have to confess that I was really curious about this second full-length album from Deerhunter, as no one could know what to expect. Their first record "Cryptograms" was a visceral reverb-loaded cathartic experience full of angst and despair, but then they followed it up with an EP ("Fluorescent Grey") that took a more pop-oriented lighter approach and to top it all, an year later, vocalist Bradford Cox put out a record that was a completely different experience. In "Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel", from Bradford's side project Atlas Sound, it seemed as if he had come to terms with his own demons and the result was a collection of beautiful home-made abstract drone sketches. So what next? A return to the loud sonic assaults of their debut? Or keeping up with the recent evolution and exploring a bit more the inner-joys of the Atlas Sound project? The answer comes in the form of "Microcastle" and follows a surprising direction: it takes a bit of everything that was behind and adds up some 1960's influences seen through a schizophrenic lens. So we end up with a very diverse but also strongly-cohesive collection that if, at first hand, seems a bit understated, that's just because we now can actually see the amazingly-written songs in all their glory, something that in the past was hidden underneath all the hypnotic fucked-up noise. And fucking great songs these are, with their delicate mixture of psychedelic leanings, pedal-guitar algoritms, compelling melodies, dynamic flourishes, glorious refrains and bedroom experimentation. All put together to form a confident exorcism made of indie gems that is destined to become one of the best records of the year. (9/10)

Deerhunter - Agoraphobia (fan video)

MySpace page

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Madonna's Sticky & Sweet - Words & Pictures (Polaroids # 22)

So I finally got to see the new Madonna show here in Lisbon. 75.000 people. Lots of euphoria and fun. Better than her last tour? Possibly. Did I have fun? Absolutely.
Again, the show is divided in 4 distinct parts, each with its own theme and visual/musical genre. Madonna has to be one of the best performers ever. An actress if you will. She is her own piece of art. And, like art, she's constantly changing, evolving and surprising. Very few other performers are owners of this kind of talent (Bowie and Björk come to mind). If you wanna "get" her, you have to see her live shows. All photos below by yours truly.

ACT 1: The Ghetto-Fabulous Queen
This time around there's no big build-up intro with surreal Steven Klein images. There are some graphics projected on a screen (candy is the theme) and she comes on stage in a big M-shaped throne, wearing a black coat and knee-high boots, dominatrix style. A recurrent theme. She sings "Candy Shop" with some precise dance moves, then segues into the second song with a big "Hello Lisboa!" that drives us portuguese folks wild. The song is now "Beat Goes On", one of my favourites from her last record, and the huge screens on stage project images of Pharrell Williams and Kanye West in tuxedos singing with her. All very flashy and glamourous. Suddenly a huge white Rolls Royce comes on stage, with the words "M-Dolla" on the license plate (her alter-ego on the new record) and she and her dancers drive down the huge catwalk into the public. Works brilliantly! Next, a simple guitar based performance of her 1994 song "Human Nature" (a lyrical response to everyone who spoke against her when she was exploring sex as a theme) and the screens show a video of Britney Spears (yes, really) trapped inside an elevator, being filmed by CCTV cams. The thing here is the claustrophobia of fame and it's fascinating to me that Britney Spears agreed to do this. She is the perfect metaphor for the song. Next, a new rendition of "Vogue" (amazingly redone) and she's gone.

ACT 2: 80's are back
The screens light up with colourful animated versions of Keith Haring's paintings. Keith, an old friend of Madonna from their days in New York in the early 80's, would be 50 this year. She said this was an homage to him. She sings "Into The Groove", dances, girates, jumps rope with her dancers and it suddenly becomes one big party. Then 2 new songs: Heartbeat (with amazing choreography of her dueling with a dancer) and "She's Not Me", where 4 dancers come on stage dressed like her old personas (the virgin, the cone-bra early 90's persona, the Marilyn-esque, the bustier glam queen) and she torns them apart repeating the "She's Not Me" line. Then comes "Music" in a brilliant new version, with the screens full of graffiti tags, very street and fun. She's gone again.

ACT 3: Gipsy Party!
She comes on stage on top of a piano singing "Devil Wouldn't Recognize You", a new song that fans seem to adore but that I failed to connect to. Until now that is. The performance totally made me enjoy the song more and more, mostly because of a new piano arrangement. She looks stunning in a simple black dress adorned with colorful pagan stripes that would make Björk jealous. A few songs later and it's one big gipsy party, with romenian musicians on stage with her and her tribe of amazing dancers. The portuguese audience seemed to love this. My favourite part of the show was actually here, when the lights go down and it's just her and the romenian band doing a great performance of "You Must Love Me". I was front row and she was just 2 meters away from me. I was singing like a mad man and she acknowledged that and smiled back. That's how intimate I'll ever get in a Madonna performance.

ACT 4: Rave!
There's one video segment before this where she tries to bring a political message to her show. The video, a new remix song called "Get Stupid" (love it!) shows images of good and bad, ending with Barack Obama on the good side. She's showing her support to him and this might be controversial when the tour lands in the US (and Madonna loves a good controversy). I'm posting a video of this bellow.
The last segment shows her in a space-age suit doing techno versions of "Like a Prayer" and "Give It To Me", among others. It's not very conceptual, unlike the previous ones, but it's one hell of a party and the audience is jumping like crazy. Laser beams light up the sky, Justin Timberlake comes up on stage in the form of a moving video projection, Daft-Punkesque robots dance with her on Ray of Light and for the last song, "Give It To Me", the screens project images of retro arcade games. The show ends with a big "Game Over" sign and you know the party is over.

I must say I don't think I ever had so much fun at a Madonna show. I recognize that her last tour ("Confessions", 2 years ago) was more of an art show, more dark and atmospheric. Therefore less fun. She was playing smaller arenas so I don't think that kind of intimacy would be possible on this tour. The idea here is to create a 2 hour non-stop party and you really get that in the end. It was simply really good, do not miss it if you have the chance. See you in 2 years Madonna...

Monday, September 22, 2008

Otto; Or, Up With Dead People

A small independent production filmed in Berlin, "Otto..." is an arty project that ended up being one of the most surprising movies I've lately seen. Full of beautiful shots, bizarre moments, inside jokes, disturbing scenes, a clever soundtrack, a subversive sense of humour and very creative ideas (the silent-film character who doesn't speak and lives in black and white is pure genius), there's also an extra touch that takes it apart. Above all the shock and visceral horror, we have a sense of loneliness, melancholy and nostalgia that makes us reach a very touching conclusion: forget all the cliché imagery, zombies can be special, sensitive and have a heart. Who knew? To put it in another way, this could just be seen as the story of an outsider, alone, looking for love. Or, in Otto's own words: "I was a zombie with an identity crisis".

Teaser Trailer:

The Bug - London Zoo

It would be easy to label "London Zoo" as just the next step in dubstep evolution, with this genre blending itself with many external influences like dancehall or ragga, to create new exciting universes. But let's not forget that Kevin Martin, the man behind this project, has been around for more than a decade, while this itself is already his third album as The Bug. With that in mind, it's still clear that "London Zoo" is the synthesis of many things that have been happening in London's nightscape for the last few years. And like M.I.A., Spank Rock or Diplo, The Bug's strongest asset is to absorb the atmosphere of our times and create something that abolishes all frontiers, while still having a strong individual identity that guides the listener around and adds a special unique touch. And "London Zoo" is no easy-listening indeed: soundtracking fear and oppression in an almost aggressive way, this music is so claustrophobic, frantic and dense, that you shouldn't be surprised to reach the end gasping for air. Not for the faint-hearted. (9/10)

The Bug - Skeng (feat. Killa P and Flowdan) (video)

MySpace page

Friday, September 19, 2008

Home Videos # 13

Robyn - Be Mine (live)

Robyn was the support act for Madonna's incredible show last Sunday in Lisbon, and I don't think there could be a better way to open a wonderful evening, so here's a video of herself being super cute while performing one of the songs from her last album (yep, swedish pop, all kinds of amazing, etc.). As for Madonna and her intense Sticky and Sweet extravaganza, expect a more detailed report soon!

(filmed on the 14-09-2008 at Parque da Belavista in Lisbon, Portugal)

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Kleerup - Kleerup

Ah, those Swedes making pop music, they can never go wrong, right? Almost two years after first hitting an absurd amount of pleasure centers with a devastating song featuring Robyn on vocals ("With Every Heartbeat", and let's not be shy in here, that is arguably one of the best songs of the past few years...), Kleerup proves there was much more up his sleeve. This debut solo album is nothing less than a stunning collection of blinding pop moments with hints of electro and house...but what exactly takes it apart, you may ask? Maybe the healthy dose of warm and involving nostalgia that is featured? Or maybe the delicate construction applied to each of these 12 songs? Perhaps the sum of its parts, the spacious keyboards, the emotional melodies, the volatile synths, the vintage sounds or the other delightful old-fashioned elements? Either way, the final result is nothing else than a bright pop monument and that is it. Bonus tip: best savoured during those special quiet moments... (8/10)

Kleerup (feat. Robyn) - With Every Heartbeat (video)

MySpace page

Monday, September 01, 2008

A Mix Tape For September

Just randomly selecting some tracks that I have been playing non-stop lately: Dan Black is myspace's new hot user and this track is not the only gem he has up his sleeve; Sonic Youth's "Superstar" is here via Carpenter's influence (it's a cover, and a very good one) and The Carpenter's themselves are here with "Close To You", a track that I've loved so much. If you haven't ever listened to David Bowie's DJ song then you should, if you don't know Santogold's "L.E.S. Artistes" then shame on you. Enjoy!

Girl Talk - Feed The Animals

Music has never been so accessible as nowadays and one of the most direct consequences of this democratization is the gradual deletion of its categories and frontiers, be it in genres, geography, target groups or even when you think about past / present / future. Girl Talk, alter-ego for Gregg Gillis, is another synthesis product of this fact. Incorporating only sounds from pre-existing and well known songs, all the music heard in "Feed The Animals" (his fourth album) is sampled from an infinite quantity of different sources that, pretty much, cover the entire pop music history. Really, think about a specific favourite song of yours from the last 40 years and there's a good chance that it will be included somewhere in these 53 unstoppable minutes, even if just for a few seconds, only a small part of it (be it a bass-line, a beat, a voice, a guitar riff, etc.) and mashed-up with a few other elements from completely different songs. Putting everything together must have been a hell of a work that needed to use a very detailed, scientific and encyclopedic approach, but the best of it, besides the good taste in choosing the different materials sampled, is that everything flows so naturally and, most of all, sounds so spontaneously fun. (7/10)

Girl Talk - Like This (fan video)

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