Thursday, December 31, 2009

Best of 2009: Top 40 songs

Things nowadays tend to move and change in such speed that, when artists release their debut album after a couple of hyped-up songs, it's not uncommon to find their previous audiences already looking somewhere else and not giving a damm. As a consequence, there's the danger of ending up with shorter careers than expected. But frankly, when there's such a huge amount of exciting new tracks by new projects - and a lot of them with no album out yet - as in 2009, everything else becomes secondary. The list of 40 songs below should give you 40 explanations for that.

40. Memory Cassette - Last One Awake (Friend Remix) (mp3 via Transparent)

39. Das Racist & Wallpaper. - Combination Pizza Hut And Taco Bell (Wallpaper. RMX) (mp3 via Pitchfork)

38. Washed Out - Feel It All Around (mp3 via Transparent)

37. Jensen Sportag - Victim (mp3 via Transparent)

36. Samuel - Say Goodbye (mp3 via Neon Gold)

35. Ellie Goulding - Wish I Stayed (feat. Frankmusik) (mp3 via Neon Gold)

34. Cut Off Your Hands - Happy As Can Be (mp3 via Spinner)

33. jj - From Africa to Málaga (mp3 via Gorilla vs. Bear)

32. The Big Pink - Velvet (mp3 via Spinner)

31. The Black Eyed Peas - I Gotta Feeling (mp3 via Boom Boom Chik)

30. Girls - Lust For Life (mp3 via Transparent)

29. Theophilus London - Sandcastle (Black x Blue) (mp3 via Neon Gold)

28. Jay-Z - Empire State Of Mind (feat. Alicia Keys) (mp3 via MFR)

27. Yes Giantess - Tuff N Stuff (mp3 via Neon Gold)

26. The-Dream - Love vs. Money

25. The Sound Of Arrows - M.A.G.I.C. (mp3 via Neon Gold)

24. The xx - Basic Space (Pariah Remix) (mp3 via Gorilla vs. Bear)

23. Grammatics - Murderer

22. HURTS - Wonderful Life (mp3 via Arjan Writes)

21. Erik Hassle - Don't Bring Flowers (Yes Giantess Remix) (mp3 via Neon Gold)

20. Memory Tapes - Bicycle (mp3 via Transparent)

19. Drake - Houstatlantavegas

18. frYars - Morning

17. Friendly Fires - Skeleton Boy (Air France Remix) (mp3 via Pitchfork)

16. These New Puritans - We Want War (mp3 via You Are The Music)

15. Erik Hassle - Isn't It Obvious

14. Evan Voytas - Getting Higher (mp3 via Transparent)

13. VISITOR - Los Feeling (mp3 via Neon Gold)

12. Jamie T - Spider's Web (mp3 via

11. The Drums - Let's Go Surfing (mp3 via Transparent)

10. Animal Collective - My Girls (mp3 via Atlanta's A-list)

9. Major Lazer - Keep It Goin' Louder (feat. Nina Sky & Ricky Blaze) (mp3 via The Burning Ear)

8. US Royalty - Keep it Cool (Bo Flex Giantess Remix) (mp3 via Neon Gold)

7. Think About Life - Havin' My Baby (mp3 via Neon Gold)

6. Lady Gaga - Bad Romance (mp3 via The Burning Ear)

5. Ellie Goulding - Under The Sheets

This girl might dominate 2010. She has already created a lot of buzz on the internet and crossed on to the BBC airwaves, proving that Ellie Goulding has everything to become a household name. Produced by the magnificent Starsmith, this song is a breath of fresh air in the current pop and electronica panorama, lead by the truly beautiful voice of Ellie. (JP)

4. The Horrors - Sea Within A Sea

First single from the excellent Primary Colours (my favourite album of 2009, no less), Sea Within a Sea gave us a first glimpse of what was to come… and what a glimpse it was! Faris Badwan singing with a disaffected delivery over a dense and more electronic, bass-heavy, psychedelic sound. And then, at 3:39 (4:05 in the video below, blame its introduction dialogue), those motorik clunky synths come in, and by that time, we all start floating.

3. Julian Casablancas - 11th Dimension

The much awaited solo album from The Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas presented itself to the world with this banger of a synth rock song. Not only it pushed his sound forward, it is also highly addictive. The Strokes + 80's pop = bliss. (JP)

2. The Sound Of Arrows - Into The Clouds

Having complete creative control over everything put out under their name, it becomes an evidence that these guys were born with some amazing talents. Into The Clouds is the epitome of perfection in a synth-pop song, where everything counts to build a constant state of joy: those epic involving keyboards, those banging beats, those bright sweet melodies… One word: breathtaking!

And as a bonus, because there’s never such a thing as “too much Into The Clouds”, here’s an eighties-fest remix of it.

The Sound of Arrows - Into The Clouds (Fear of Tigers Remix)

(mp3 via Neon Gold)

1. Erik Hassle - Hurtful

An international number one in the making (if there’s any fairness in this world), the absurd catchiness of Hurtful is just part of the story. The fact is that there is so much sentiment in this song that it ends up being a powerful and contagious anthem, to stop-whatever-we’re-doing-and-start-singing-out-loud, wherever we are. And then there’s the marching drums, the touching lyrics, his emotive singing, all matching together too damm well. So let’s forget for a minute that ironic perspective we tend to have towards everything and just let ourselves go, because Hurtful is truly what “larger than life” means.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Best of 2009: Top 30 albums

Contrary to popular belief, the full-length album format is not in agony, at least considering the amount of quite-good releases during 2009, so much so that I actually had some difficulty in shrinking this list to just 30 entries. Again, there was a general lack of categorizations, which is something expectable in an age when almost every music ever made is easily accessible to everyone. Thus the only tendency is actually having no preconceptions towards all kinds of music styles. Really all kinds.

30. Oneida - Rated O (review)
29. Rihanna - Rated R (review)
28. Jeremy Jay - Slow Dance (review)
27. Patrick Wolf - The Bachelor (review)
26. Girls - Album (review)
25. Move D & Benjamin Brunn - Songs From The Beehive (review)
24. Fuck Buttons - Tarot Sport (review)
23. Grammatics - Grammatics (review)
22. Japandroids - Post-Nothing (review)
21. Theophilus London - This Charming Mixtape (review)
20. Neon Indian - Psychic Chasms (review)
19. Sunn O))) - Monoliths & Dimensions (review)
18. Fever Ray - Fever Ray (review)
17. Drake - So Far Gone mixtape (review)
16. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart (review)
15. The xx - xx (review)
14. Muse - The Resistance (review)
13. Discovery - LP (review)
12. Frankmusik - Complete Me (review)
11. Memory Tapes - Seek Magic (review)
10. Julian Casablancas - Phrazes For The Young (review)
9. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion (review)
8. frYars - Dark Young Hearts (review)
7. The-Dream - Love vs. Money (review)
6. Passion Pit - Manners (review)

5. Zomby - Where Were U In '92?

For a few moments, Zomby freezed his natural evolution inside dubstep codes and invented a parallel universe that brought us back to a very specific period in time (1992). Sounding like a lost rave classic loaded with infectious drum'n'bass beats, we didn't know if this was a nod to the past or a sign of the future to come. It didn't matter anyway: everything sounded so damm powerful that it was impossible to stand still, as if there was no tomorrow.

Zomby - Tears In The Rain (mp3 via Neonized)


4. Erik Hassle - Hassle

Let's be honest in here, there's a bit of a boy-band member in Erik Hassle: the clean production, the ultra catchy melodies... And let's be even more honest: there's also a lot of emo in Erik Hassle: the recurrent topics about falling in love and being in pain because of that. But there's also something unique which takes his universe much (much) higher: his sincerity, so big that it ends up melting even the coldest heart. This is perfect pop music with no shame to touch us, and all the better for it.

Erik Hassle - Bitter End (mp3)


3. jj - Nº 2

The 2009 summer soundtrack of a few people including myself, there is a lightness in these songs that ends up being almost ethereal. Whispered melodies, subliminal influences (techno, house, balearic, hip-hop, folk) and a sense of intimacy as if we were enjoying a private beach party with only our closest friends. To top it all, there's also that sweet melancholy which seems an exclusive attribute of Sweden's best music.

jj - Ecstasy (mp3 via Abeano Music)


2. Jamie T - Kings & Queens

An amazing collection of contagious songs, all of them sounding like life-changing anthems, that is what Jamie has achieved with his sophomore album. In a constant state of emergency, Kings & Queens is a full-speed journey into the world of someone like us, a guy with whom we can totally identify with, all supported by the biggest amount of sonic and lyrical hooks per minute that we've seen this year.

Jamie T - Spider's Web (mp3 via


1. The Horrors - Primary Colours

With their second album, The Horrors let some light in their universe, which until then was a very dark and closed one... and we all had a win with that. External influences were also broaden to unusual styles like krautrock, motorik rhythms or, yes, sixties pop, to enrich even further their ambitious psychedelic vision. And then there were the songs themselves, with a new found melodic sense that was a surprising but very welcome new element.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Best of 2009: Top 5 movies

During the next days, Random Types will turn into a list mayhem, compiling my preferences of 2009 in albums and songs. But first, let's kick things off with the 5 movies that, one way or another, made the most impressive marks on me. Needless to say, there were many more which I simply didn't see, but even so, these ones had something really special about them...

5. Milk (dir. Gus Van Sant) / Were The World Mine (dir. Tom Gustafson)

Two ambitious movies that celebrate the difference, showing some possible ways to deal with it. One, Milk, in a more serious approach, ends up being an historical soap-opera that reflects a whole period in time. The other, Were The World Mine, is more light-hearted and could take place anywhere in time, creating an artificial world where all excuses are good to start flamboyant musical numbers. And in completely anthagonic ways, both ended with hugely touching images.

4. Afterschool (dir. Antonio Campos)

A whole thesis could be written about the new perspectives opened by this radical movie, with its approach towards a generation commanded by youtube and immersed in so many different kinds of images without owners. Paradoxically, in a movie with an unusual openness regarding new visual codes and formats (amateur video?), its action happens in a claustrophobic space, an internal college which seems reminiscent of a classic, white and closed spaceship.

3. Zombieland (dir. Ruben Fleischer)

An "end of the world" scenario, in which a plague has turned all population into zombies, and an improbable quartet of survivors with enough practical sense (and light spirits) to actually be a zombie's worst nightmare. Add to this a trashy attitude and a very twisted sense of humour and you don't need much more to have guaranteed fun. Not to mention the unbelievable cameo of Bill Murray starring as himself. And on a side note, Jesse Eisenberg is turning into one of my current favourite actors.

2. Inglourious Basterds (dir. Quentin Tarantino)

History re-written in an hallucinating way, where basically anything goes, including killing Hitler in at least 3 different ways. And a classic Tarantino touch does the best, with brilliant dialogues in 2.5 hours that are also a love-letter to cinema as a complete art-form... as well as a secret weapon to win World War 2.

1. Låt Den Rätte Komma In (dir. Tomas Alfredson)

Cold, austere, minimal... these were vampires as we had never seen them before. But, on the other hand, with a sensitive view towards the minds of two teen outsiders (one of them happening to be a vampire), this was also an immensely beautiful and touching story. And the fusion of red (blood) with white (snow) is the most symbolic image of this unique movie, staying also as one of the most powerful of the year.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Legends - Over And Over

Another overlooked album of 2009, this one coming from Johan Angergård, an unique musician that seems to use each record he releases to show a different side of his many attributes. Truth is, the only element that has been a consistency in his work is actually his unique voice, a perfect blend of flawless / scientific singing (in a way, almost inhuman) with highly emotive tones. As for the rest, if, for example, in previous record Facts And Figures the focus was on eighties synth-pop, now Over and Over is a totally different beast: immersed in extreme feedback and distortion, these 12 songs seem like experiments in fusing gentle pop melodies with abrasive sounds, always supported by top-quality songcraft. So gone are the many electro-disco-synths previously used, which have now been replaced by a live-band feel. With that comes a more urgent sound, drawing influences from eighties noise pop, indie and even krautrock, and using the right amount of intense riffs to create an extremely poetic and nocturnal atmosphere. (7,5/10)

The Legends - Always The Same (video)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The-Dream - Love vs. Money

For one reason or another, there were some records which I didn't write about during 2009, even though they would definitely deserve some mention... and one of them is surely this Love vs. Money. Contrary to other super producers (hello Timbaland), The-Dream (a.k.a. Terius Youngdell Nash) didn't leave his best beats to other artists only, saving also some for his own personal use. And if you consider that, among other hits, he's half-responsible for Rihanna's Umbrella, you'll see how much this means. His second album is the best proof of an amazing ability to produce hook after hook of futuristic synth-driven sounds and writing infectious tunes, hitting all the right pleasure centres with a synthetic r&b of opulent and polished production. It may not bring any new particularly new element to the arena, but then again, it manages to gather pretty much every trick and sound that is hot nowadays, blending it together so well that the final result is nothing short of pure ecstatic r&b bliss. (9/10)

The-Dream - Rockin' That Thang (video)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Best Of the 2000's: Top 20 albums

With 2009 almost over, and as per usual, expect Random Types to turn into a list mayhem during the next few days, having a look at the best movies, records and songs that this year had to offer. But it’s also a decade that is coming to an end, so we’ll start things off first with a view of the very best albums from the last 10 years. So, let the fun begin…

20. Late Of The Pier – Fantasy Black Channel (2008)

Looking everywhere with no limits, this is an album that feels like a big mash-up of oh-so-many things. Neo-glam-synth-electro-rave-trash-pop is just one of the many possible definitions. And Bathroom Gurgle stays as the Bohemian Rhapsody of this generation.

19. Kode 9 + The Spaceape – Memories Of The Future (2006)

Dubstep, in all its incarnations, may be one of the few truly new musical genres that this decade produced, with Hyperdub serving as the main trend-setter label. It all started a few years before 2006, but the first true milestones came with two of the most suffocating full-lengths heard in the 2000’s: Burial’s debut and the dark minimal tones of Memories Of The Future. And when they arrived, we were already calling them “post-dubstep”.

18. Outkast – Speakerboxxx / The Love Below (2003)

A few years before big 1930’s-inspired musicals and grandiose self-masturbatory indulgences (Idlewild), there was a period when Outkast had the world at their feet. This was one of those rare records (well, actually they were two, and very different ones), where a rare consensus was achieved between the hipsters, the critics, the general public and even the Grammy’s.

17. The Tough Alliance - The New School (2005)

Their ability to make catchy pop music seem so revolutionary reminds me of what The KLF achieved 20 years ago, and the truth is that there’s more to these two Swedes than the eye first meets. Everything they do seems to be a small component of a bigger manifesto, an enigmatic one still being written out. And if they went on to do bigger things (like launching their own label, the excellent Sincerely Yours), The New School still remains as The Tough Alliance at their most genuine moment, almost heartbreaking in all its innocent excitement.

16. Usher – Confessions (2004)

Funnily enough, if I were to present the Michael Jackson of the decade award, it would not go to Justin Timberlake, as I’d give it instead to the least-obvious Usher. Justin may seem more forward-thinking and all, but at the end of the day, it’s the music included in this Confessions that, along with his irreprehensible voice and singing, sounds truly timeless.

15. The Strokes – Is This It (2001)

It's interesting how some records sound so vital, yet when you analyse them, they don’t really have anything specifically special in them. In a way, that’s probably why Is This It ended up being so iconic: how do they make it look so damm easy? That, and also the ability to capture the zeitgeist of a particular moment in time (New York early 2000’s).

14. Lo-Fi-Fnk - Boylife

A synth-pop classic as seen through the eyes of two indie-kids from Sweden, with so many irresistible melodies and addictive hooks that it's hard to pin down what the biggest highlights actually are (although What's On Your Mind? easily wins an award for best coming-out-song-of-the-decade). And in not much more than 30 minutes, there's space for everything, from icy keyboards, to some of the most infectious funky beats, topped by that sweet candidness only found in some of the most special Scandinavian music.

13. Kanye West – 808s & Heartbreak (2008)

A lot has been said about Kanye West’s nerve to do something like this. Basically, giving the middle-finger to all of our possible expectations and realising an unique collection of melancholic and heavily-auto-tuned digital songs. The bare essence if it all is actually touching. And truth is, it still sounds like nothing that came before or afterwards.

12. The Notwist – Neon Golden (2002)

The early 2000’s saw the surge of indietronica, a term that didn’t last long but still gave birth to some great albums, one of which is by this german project. And besides the many gimmicks used in this immaculate fusion between indie-pop and electronica, there was also the song-writing: pretty, fierce, naïve, intelligent, cute. Basically, one of those rare records where everything really sounded at its right place, as perfect as it gets.

11. Burial – Untrue (2007)

By the time Untrue was released, Burial was still an anonymous character, hidden behind many masks, and that was the best definition for what laid inside his second full-length. The term “dubstep” was nothing but sweet memories, in an unique world inhabited by past-ghosts and digital frequencies. It was something unnamed but this album evoked it big time.

10. Britney Spears – Blackout (2007)

It may seem like a post-ironic statement, but I really think that this is one of the best records ever made documenting an artist’s fall into the abyss, at least since In Utero by Nirvana. Blackout sounds a bit like hearing heavily-compressed hip-hop inside a wind tunnel, and that is a very big compliment. And it still seems like the most futuristic pop record of the decade.

9. Björk – Vespertine (2001)

The swan dress was just the tip of the iceberg. In 2001, Björk turned inwards and made the most beautiful collection of songs of her entire career. With a full-orchestra, an angels choir, low frequency digital noises and whispered melodies, Vespertine was the ultimate quest for a world of perfection and beauty, naturally cold (like her home-country Iceland) but extremely overwhelming.

8. Studio – Yearbook 1 (2007)

With afro-beat-inspired rhythms, new wave melodies, Balearic guitars and irradiating a blinding light, Studio seemed all but coming from Scandinavia. Actually, come to think about it, this should be considered as an alternative kind of world music, one with no other frontiers than the ability to make our mind travel. And Yearbook 1 still remains as a precious document of that rare ability to fuse two usually distinguished activities: the cerebral and the physical ones.

7. Los Campesinos! – Hold On Now, Youngster... (2008)

With so much enthusiasm felt all over this record, Los Campesinos! gave us a perfect document to that end-of-adolescence phase, full of contradictions, with both the excitement and the disenchantment about what lies ahead. This debut was a non-stop breathtaking dose of sugar-rushed twee-pop, sweet and cathartic, with each song seeming like a lifetime anthem. And indeed, Hold On Now, Youngster... had the “once in a lifetime” tag written all over it. Actually, what came afterwards proved this tag wrong, but that’s another story…

6. Khonnor – Handwriting (2004)

A 17-year-old kid locked inside his room, alone with his thoughts and putting them on a tape-recorder… how many times have we heard this story? Apparently not enough, and the fact is that the naivety of this music ended up touching more than a few souls, including mine. Entering the intimacy of his world was like walking into a secret place illuminated by just a few subtle phosphorescent lights, and basically feeling privileged (and comforted?) to be inside it.

5. The Horrors – Primary Colours (2009)

They had the concept and the looks already, and with their sophomore album, The Horrors finally achieved an aural equivalent to their already huge ambitions and apparent creativity. A psychedelic monster marrying their gothic world with the suffocating sounds of Portishead’s mastermind Geoff Barrow, Primary Colours was as dark as you’d expect, but also (and hence the genius of it) extremely luminous. How did they achieve these two opposite poles simultaneously? It still remains a secret.

4. Björk – Medúlla (2004)

We all know that Björk has a small tendency to sometimes go too far in her eccentricity, but Medúlla was the record with the perfect proportions, thus representing a high peak in her prolific career. She had never been so extreme (a vocals-only album with no instruments? whoa!) but her ability to write perfect catchy pop melodies was also better than ever. This balance was enough to produce what is still, for me, the best record in her entire career. And considering the amount of masterpieces that her catalogue includes, this is really an amazing achievement.

3. The Tough Alliance – A New Chance (2007)

One of the two only names with more than one record in this list, The Tough Alliance sum it up pretty well what the 2000’s represented for me, at least musically. A fuck-off attitude towards categorizations, done with a rebellious DIY spirit, applied to a brand of pop music not afraid to sound insanely catchy. In A New Chance, this concept was taken to the extreme, with hook after hook hitting virtually all the right pleasure centres.

2. Jens Lekman – Night Falls Over Kortedala (2007)

An ordinary guy doing music for ordinary people… except that there’s nothing really ordinary about this Swedish guy or his music. What we got here were immaculate songs that told us some amazing stories, which is something rarer than you’d expect. These stories were sometimes funny ones, others touching and others plain sweet, but ultimately, Jens showed how much common lives can be so grandiose. And with that, in a subliminal way, this record was actually a source of hope for all the ordinary people out there.

1. D’Angelo – Voodoo (2000)

So, you’ve read this far into this list and at number one you find a record released just 3 weeks after the decade had started? Yes, the 2000’s had a lot of genuinely amazing moments (and for a proof of that you have the 19 entries above this one), but what D’Angelo achieved in Voodoo belonged to another universe. Aiming to take into new extremes the “neo-soul” tag first attached to him with his debut album (1995’s Brown Sugar), he actually came out with something so intense that even himself couldn’t bare it. And it’s telling that after Voodoo hit the stores, he ended up losing his confidence and entered a sabbatical period that still lasts today. Truth is, in all its intensity, this record could only become an unique moment, impossible to overcome: an act of exorcism in a contained form, music turning inwards in a tension-build-up fashion that only actually exploded in the song whose iconic video can be seen below.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Drake - So Far Gone (mixtape)

With a debut album - Thank Me Later - scheduled for March 2010 on Young Money (a.k.a. Lil Wayne's own label), Drake is probably one of the most obvious tips for 2010 by any book. And judging from this mixtape alone, he's definitely headed for very big things indeed. Basically, imagine the day after 808s & Heartbreak, a post-hip-hop world where main rap-artists start singing, baring it all (ok, in some cases with a big help from auto-tune, guess you can't win them all), over instrumentals that defy any categorizations... and you get closer to what Drake does in So Far Gone. This guy has basically achieved the creation of a new brand of electro-soul, as elegant, smooth and charming as it is futuristic, banging and sexy, in a post-melancholic record of post-electronic-r&b, studded with an absurd amount of brilliant synth-lines and hooks and post-whatever verses. But it doesn't stop here: for example, we also have the songs he chooses to sample, from the likes of Lykke Li, Peter Bjorn & John, Santogold (before she turned into Santigold) or, you guessed it, Kanye West in 808's... This is a selection that could be a bad thing if it was just meant to show how supposedly cool he is, but in here these songs are given the right treatment, meaning he doesn't rap or sing over them, he actually duets, twists and makes them his own. And a final word to his natural flow: it's a pleasure to see how someone can switch from rapping to singing and back to rapping with such an amazing ease, while being pretty good at both, and using this not as a gimmick but just to serve the songs structure. "Tonight I’ll just fuck you like we’re in Houston" - also great to see someone getting away with lines like this. (8,5/10)

Drake - Best I Ever Had (video)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Rihanna - Rated R

"And then I get a scary thought / That if he's here it means he never lost"

During the first track from Rihanna's Rated R album you hear the loop of a male voice saying "Welcome to the mad house". At this point you know you're not in for another dance record extravaganza, you are here for a dark experience. It's not often that one of the most commercial and radio-friendly artists out there gives her middle finger up to her label and composes a record based on her own artistic view rather than a collection of possible singles. Such is the case with the new Rihanna material, one of the most intriguing and deep records I've heard in a while. There was a true effort in creating a coherent album here, one that explores her feelings after the turbulence of her personal life in the past year.

After the Mad House intro you're taken directly into Wait Your Turn, a Chase & Status produced track that cleverly bridges London's dubstep sounds with r&b melodies. It's one of the best songs on the record and it contains some of the best lines I've heard in pop music for a while: I'm such a fucking lady (she wanted to name the album Rihanna - Such a Fucking Lady but retailers quickly backed out). The new single (Hard) follows and it features Young Jeezy. It's a mid-tempo "fuck you I will do whatever I want to" kind of song that works really well. I also sense a bit of a crescendo in the track taken directly from Madonna & Justin's 4 Minutes song. Stupid In Love comes next, the first ballad in the package. It marks the moment where she actually starts to discuss what happened ("my new nickname is You Idiot"). It's short and sweet, the instrumental is minimal and by the book, enough for us to pay attention to the words.

From here on the record gets harder and she starts to walk the line of danger a bit more. Russian Roulette, the controversial single that has left everyone talking, is simply amazing. I love the lyrics (comparing the danger of a relationship with the russian roulette game) and I love even more the production. Everything works: there's tension, there's suffering in her voice, there's a minimalistic and confessional overtone and a dramatic ending. It's a very cinematic and strong track and I can see why it was chosen as single (even if a risky choice, because it's light years away from the mood of her previous singles).

Rude Boy, produced by Norwegian duo Stargate, is another stand-out moment. It's a sexy-as-hell beat infused track made to make you sweat. It kind of reminds me of Grace Jones Pull Up To The Bumper hit, with the same kind of in your face sexiness and caribbean appeal (I should also mention that Rihanna seems to be channeling Grace Jones visually nowadays, the album artwork reminds me a lot of this). Photographs, the Will.I.Am collaboration is also a winner and I suspect it might become the biggest hit on the package. Very stylish, vocoder-heavy mid-tempo song, with all the tricks du jour that are hot in american radio right now. There's also another great dupstep infused moment in G4L where she sings "I lick the gun in the end 'cause I know that revenge is sweet" and a Justin Timberlake track (Cold Case Love), a very soulful and actually quite beautiful song that is worthy of mention, even if she struggles to carry it on well (one is left to imagine how would it sound if Justin had recorded it).

Not that the album doesn't have its own trappings: Rockstar 101 (featuring Slash - really, why?!?) is simply silly, the latin inspired Te Amo is easily forgettable and the rock-FM moment of Fire Bomb doesn't connect with the rest of the record. Surely if they had cut the album shorter it would be a better album but I still feel that Rated R is one of the most intriguing pop records out at the moment. Not only it encapsulates really well the moment in the life of the artist, but it is also really brilliantly produced with some ambitious songs opening territories for others to follow (Wait Your Turn, G4L). She will surely be doing another dance record next, but Rated R will remain as a hell of an interesting moment in Rihanna's discography.

Check out her dramatic live performance of Russian Roulette in the UK television below. And, my god, could she more pretty?

Monday, December 14, 2009

These New Puritans - We Want War (video)

"Hear them whisper"

Just in time to start the week in the best way possible, here's the EPIC new single by These New Puritans, loaded with thunderous tribal drums and infectiously apocalyptic keyboards, just like a glorious soundtrack to all things doom and gloom that even includes disturbing choir chants. The album is called Hidden and will be out on January 18th...and judging from the first sample above, it will be nothing short of absolutely amazing. Really, this song and video have just made me completely speechless...
Have a great week!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A new monarchy is born

"A daring story"

Third tip for 2010, Monarchy are a mysterious London-based duo, with just a couple of tracks under their belt, but already making some waves around. And seriously, Gold In The Fire, in all its brilliance, is enough to see they're fire-hot. Almost-whispered voices (and a falsetto chorus), slow-burning beats, an overall ethereal atmosphere, and then those icy synths which I can never grow tired of.

Monarchy - Gold In The Fire (mp3 via Hard Candy Music)