Sunday, August 29, 2010

Kelis - Flesh Tone

You gotta respect Kelis as a true definition of what being a survivor means. Pointed as next big thing in many different moments from the last decade, her career hasn't quite been what expected, at least sales-wise, with some highs but also quite a few lows. And even with omnipresent pop classics such as Milkshake, Caught Out There, Trick Me or Bossy on her belt, there's still a perception that the average music listener doesn't quite know what to make of her idiosyncrasies and uniqueness. Something that in a way actually reminds me of Grace Jones.
All of this takes us to her 5th album and another career switch to confuse everyone a bit more. Flesh Tone re-imagines Kelis as a futuristic club-diva, an unreachable and cold persona with a robotic voice, over ecstactic beats delivered by the hands of super - but not so hip - producers like David Guetta or Benny Benassi. Questionable choice? One minute into second track 22nd Century and all those doubts are already behind, such is the state of euphoria induced by the blasting beats that come in.
With digital sounds that vary from electro pop to synthpop, house or dancehall, there's still no question that the true element taking everything into a whole new level is Kelis herself, such is the magnitude of her presence. Her ice-cool attitude and unmistakable hoarse voice completely suit this new direction, with 9 tracks that scream to be heard out loud and with no superfluous strings attached. Preferably hands-in-the-air while dancing in a loaded sweaty club like there's no tomorrow.
And by the end of Flesh Tone, you'll feel compelled to hear it all over again. And again. And again. Just to extend that state of euphoria a bit more. (8/10)

Kelis - 4th of July (Fireworks) (video)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Still In My Blood

A new Erik Hassle song and video = starting your weekend the best way possible. Taken (Still In My Blood) was recently posted by Erik on his YouTube channel, during a break from some recent recording sessions (hopefully a second album is in the pipeline for the near future?), and if this is any indication of what's to come, I'll be a very happy guy indeed. Basically, a steady evolution from the catchy emotive pop genius of his debut, with some new elements added to the equation: loving the bluesy vibes and those subtle doomy synths!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

And we’ll dance all night / And we’ll hold each other tight / ‘Till the morning light

Summer Camp are a girl & boy indie pop duo and they’re releasing an EP soon on Moshi Moshi records. Here’s the single, called Round The Moon, a deliciously lo-fi tune that I find in equal parts retro and current and quite addictive. The video re-edits scenes from the 1970 movie A Swedish Love Story and fits the song incredibly well.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

ceo - White Magic

Some trivia: one of my favourite bands from the past 5 years is a Swedish duo called The Tough Alliance which has perfected the art of escapism, either with their own records or with the amazing releases - Air France, jj, The Honeydrips, to name just a few - from their own label Sincerely Yours. So escapism is something that is being looked for by a lot of people these days, including myself. And what this fact actually means, I'm not really sure, so let's leave it to each one's imagination.
With ceo, a side project of Eric Berglund - one half of TTA -, that art is again sublimed into a whole new level, but this time we are actually taken to a different and unusual destination. Yes, there are still the sunny and summery vibes by the seaside, but we also seem to be travelling timewise, visiting an ancient period inhabited by higher entities.
So is this the grown-up and wise version of The Tough Alliance, and are they going all religious on us? Well, in a sense, yes, but very much on their own terms. Meaning that this journey does sound like a cult celebration aimed to reach a personal epiphany, but one that is done through a very pagan perspective.
In the end, those pop hooks and catchy melodies - now added by lush orchestral pieces - really let no mistake be made: it's still the (individual) celebration that counts. And with pagan rituals? White Magic! (9/10)

ceo - Illuminata (mp3 via Fuck yeah! Go team!)

ceo - White Magic (mp3 via Part-time music)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Janelle Monáe - The ArchAndroid

Hype may usually be met with resistance and suspicion. Yet, three songs into the much praised The ArchAndroid and you know you’re really in the presence of a great talent.
But first things first: the record presents itself as a double suite where Monáe’s alter-ego, Cindy Mayweather (a fictional protagonist of her previous record) becomes some sort of messiah figure to the android community of Metropolis (a direct reference to the Fritz Lang cult classic).
Ambition is also certainly something that doesn’t lack on this young performer: the musical concept draws inspiration from a series of different sources, ranging from Debussy to vintage Michael Jackson (Locked Inside could easily pass as a track from Jackson’s Off The Wall album). A natural one show-woman, she doesn’t seem to want to lock herself up inside a soul&funk tower, experimenting instead with mixed ambients and a variety of sounds. There are backward tracks, orchestrations, pastoral ambiences, psychedelic rock, cabaret tunes, indie-pop (with the help from Of Montreal on the stand-out Make The Bus) and yes, a whole lot of funk.
Not only she manages to make it all sound coherent and honest (the album flows amazingly well) but she also never compromises quality while jumping from style to style, or, better said, while creating a magnificent one of her own. Now I believe the hype.

Janelle Monáe - Cold War (video)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

M.I.A. - /\/\ /\ Y /\

One could almost bet that Maya Arulpragasam was expecting all the divisive opinions that she is getting, and even the start of a backlash, when releasing her third album. In other words, /\/\ /\ Y /\ screams a confrontational attitude in every possible sense, something that was bound to cause negative responses from a lot of people. The initial sirens heard in "The Message" are the first warning, and then come the chaotic sounds that follow through the rest of the album, together with the raw energy, synthetic noises, political lyrics, uncomfortable samples and dirty production values. Yes, with all its claustrophobia and distortion, this is mostly not music to please.
So after "Paper Planes" pushed her to unimaginable levels of fame, she does what only someone with the will to keep challenging popular culture could do, and makes her most risky album. It's not even relevant anymore to mention the way she seems to effortlessly create a perfect symbiosis between genres like dancehall, baile funk, grime, punk or dubstep. In this case, the news is really that aforementioned confrontational attitude, something which, in reality, was always present in her music, but that in here is pushed to dangerous extremes. So inflated it is that sometimes she may even sound like a provocateur that is going full-speed, too fast, while, on the way, leaving incomplete angles in the amalgamation mass that is her sound.
True, there's a lot to discuss about her honesty and the sincerity of all this. Could M.I.A. be just a fictional character created by someone that knows too well the present state of our culture and is aiming to agitate it - in order to become more popular? For all the debate that she has already caused, one thing is for sure: M.I.A translates our present times like few other people do, and that makes her one of the most vital and exciting presences around. The urgency of what is heard in /\/\ /\ Y /\, even with all its voluntary imperfections, couldn't really translate it any better. (7,5/10)

M.I.A. - XXXO (video)

M.I.A. - Teqkilla (Lost my fone out wiv Nicki Minaj Remix) (mp3 via kickin the peanuts!)

Monday, August 02, 2010

Prince - 20Ten

With a legacy like what Prince has already given us, there is an understandable tendency to evaluate his present releases not only by themselves, but also considering his past work in the equation. And this can lead to one of two things: either complaining about how he hasn't managed to deliver something so groundbreaking as, say, Purple Rain or Sign “☮” the Times; or seeing the man as a true genius exactly because of that past legacy and thus still finding proofs of that genius in everything he does these days. And before you read any further, you should know that, yes, I include myself in that second group.
With that said, 20Ten excels my expectations and then some, mainly because it contains some of the freshest music Prince has recorded in the past 10 years. Meaning that this is an album where he clearly just wants to have fun without any further complicated concept, and while doing so, he sounds, well, basically a lot like vintage Prince. Those classic synthetic beats are here, alongside an addictive funky atmosphere and a sensual minimal groove. Sure, maybe nothing new, but hasn't he revolutionized music enough times in the past 30 years already? And the fact that Prince being Prince sounds so damm good... well, that kinda speaks for itself. (7,5/10)

Prince - Everybody Loves Me (mp3)