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#98 – This Year’s Model (Elvis Costello)

In 99-75, Top 150 on June 26, 2013 at 11:38 pm

 

Elvis Costello. His music sounds like his look. A bit unassuming, with a quirky style and slight eccentricity. This Year’s Model is his second album with The Attractions backing him up, a 1978 release that has been critically acclaimed.

As usual, my first few listens to this album didn’t really sit well with me, but as I listened to it more and more I realized that this album still has a current sound. For a 1978 release, its incredibly contemporary. Its got an intentional sound that is precise, skilled, and really makes me appreciate the talent of Costello and his crew. And yes, with songs like “Pump It Up” and the rock-organ that underscores much of the track, you can easily place the music in the late 70s, early 80s. It captures some of the wild, loose sounds of the psychedelic era and refines it into a sound that is equally expressive but almost sounds more controlled.

What sticks out to me more than anything else on this album is the sex-charged undertones. But I suppose with an album title like This Year’s Model, what should I expect, right? It just amazes me because beneath the upbeat, light, jazz-pop sounds, there are lyrics like “I don’t want to be a lover / I just want to be a victim” (from “The Beat”). I mean come on, Mr. Costello! But I guess that’s part of what adds to his music, in particular this album. Its charged with passion that’s exciting to experience, whether you listen to the lyrics or not.

The more I listen to this album, the more I appreciate it. It might actually become part of my regular listening repertoire, that’s how much I’m enjoying it right now. Really cool to listen to some of his earlier music.

Track Listing

Side One

  1. No Action
  2. This Year’s Girl
  3. The Beat
  4. Pump It Up
  5. Little Triggers
  6. You Belong To Me

Side Two

  1. Hand In Hand
  2. Lip Service
  3. Living In Paradise
  4. Lipstick Vogue
  5. Night Rally

In A Tidal Wave Of Mystery (Capital Cities)

In albums, current listenings on June 7, 2013 at 12:46 am

Capital Cities - In A Tidal Wave Of Mystery

Two years after I posted “Safe and Sound“, the electro-dance-pop-joy single by Capital Cities, they’ve hit the number one charts for Modern Pop and are selling out shows on their North American tour, including stops at Bonnaroo and Toronto’s Edgefest 2013.

And now their debut album, In A Tidal Wave Of Mystery, is out and I’m listening to it now. And clearly, I love it. These two dudes have managed to recreate the easy-breezy rock your socks off, Summer-synth sounds on every track of this album. Kick ass, right? From the main track we all know and love (aka “Safe and Sound”), the album starts with a bang. Everytime I hear this track I feel like I am going home, because of some great memories associated with it over the last two years. And then we run right into the light and airy “Patience Gets Us Nowhere Fast”, which is slightly faster but has less of an intensity. Its got shorter syncopations in the synths and an echoing, ringing high end chime or synth that makes this track feel like there’s a little more sunshine in the top end…mixed with the breeze you might feel if you were driving in a classic red convertible with the top down, along the West Coast (I picture a tall and imposing rock face on one side of the road, and a sharp drop off to ocean on the other).

What’s really cool about the album is that there is a sense of familiarity to it, partially due to the fact that they managed to keep their electro-dance-pop sound, as I mentioned before. Part of that is also because I know a few of the tracks, like “Kangaroo Court“.

The album has got enough dance to it that you won’t mind busting a move, but you can also rock out to this Summer album in the background while you’re bbq’ing some mixed veg and enjoying a Mill Street brew. In other words, its kind of like the perfect Summer album.

If you haven’t been following Capital Cities since I originally posted “Safe and Sound”, then shame on you! Just joking, but now is the time to get on board. This album might just be my favourite Summer album for 2013…at least that’s how it’s shaping up right now!

So check it out, support these two on iTunes and check out their shows if you can! I’m going to see if I can get to Edgefest. You can catch Capital Cities on Conan tonight for their debut TV performance, and in the meantime, enjoy their tunes and this live video.

Nothing Compares 2 U (Capital Cities)

In current listenings, tracks to listen to on August 9, 2012 at 1:05 pm

Image

God I love these guys. Capital Cities just released this rad cover of the oh-so-singable, widely known Sinead O’Connor song. I seriously think you’ll love this. 

You can share “Nothing Compares 2 U” on The Hype Machine, or check out the SoundCloud clip below. 

Float (KO KO)

In current listenings, tracks to listen to on May 22, 2012 at 1:30 pm

There’s only two ways that tracks with whistling can go: really phenomenal, or really, really phenomenally bad. In general, I’ve gotta say, I love whistling and I think most people do (its jovial and fun and light-hearted). In fact, my good friend recently decided to improve his whistling skills so he literally worked on it for a few months. You’ll be happy to know that his whistling has improved.

But back on track: KO KO starts off this beautiful and breezy track with some whistling that sets a nice little melody in motion. Its repeated throughout the song, although the whistling isn’t always there. I can’t find much information about KO KO except that they have a Bandcamp page with three songs that I really enjoy. One of these songs, is “Float”. Its a catchy pop song with a simple and intimate feeling that touches on life issues, both personal and career-related. It gives me this feeling of being in an “in-between” kind of state. There is a sense of determination, mixed with some insecurity about achieving different goals in life. I love the sound of this tune with its relentlessly light and easy hook and dream-like feeling that the synths create. This is a great Summer song if you are loving the sunshine but feeling a little bit introspective.

As far as I can tell, KO KO is made up of two California brothers, Ryan and Taylor Lawhon, with the assistance of other musicians in their area. If you like “Float”, you’ll probably like their three-track release on Bandcamp. They’ve offered it up for free download a few times in the past, so keep your eye out and it might just happen again!

Sending you all some Tuesday love…

Lighthouse (NewVillager)

In current listenings, tracks to listen to on March 7, 2012 at 10:19 am

NewVillager is an artist collective fromin Brooklyn and San Francisco, with an eclectic style and explorative soul. The two core members are Ben Bromley and Ross Simonini, but they also bring in a number of other people depending on what each project requires. If you check out their website, you’ll see that they are interested in a variety of different media, some of which is music.

“Lighthouse” encapsulates the eclectic spirit of the group, both in the music and in the video. This track has so many layers of unique sounds, including various synths that seem to keep changing as the track continues, some soft strings, and an odd and also fitting, full, deep voice singing over it all.

According to Stereo Gum, the band recorded each track on their album 10 times with different choruses and melodies to experiment. This track definitely has a celebratory feeling to it. It is filled with joy.

Check out this track, one of ten from their debut album, which they say is a “song cycle” based on looking at transformation. Hmm. What do you think? Do you like the song? What do you make of the video?

tracks to listen to – Pure Gold (Boss In Drama)

In current listenings, tracks to listen to on July 26, 2011 at 9:00 am

Let’s get back to more Summer dance tunes! It’s the best listening to tracks that make you move, and this is definitely another tune that does that.

Boss In Drama is a DJ from Péricles Martins, São Paulo, Brazil and he spins some smooth dance beats that are perfect for sipping some drinks on a beach or patio…that is, until you hear his music and you want to get up and move! He’s got some radical electro-pop-dance tunes on his myspace page that remind me of Chromeo – they are fun, slightly nostalgic, and mix the classic disco sound with new-age electro-dance music, which makes the tracks current and unique. And I think the album cover (above) is a good indication that there’s a bit of disco in his tracks!

Check out this track called “Pure Gold” from SoundCloud. It’ll get you moving! Oh, and here’s a hint. If you click the little down arrow on the right side of the player, you can download the track for free! Enjoy!

tracks to listen to – Safe and Sound (Capital Cities)

In current listenings, tracks to listen to on July 7, 2011 at 10:00 am

I specifically changed the date that this entry was scheduled to post because I was excited for you to hear it, and also because you need one-day extra to ENSURE that you get this tune downloaded in time for the weekend road trips and beach adventures.

This track comes from my escapades exploring the Hype Machine blog. For those of you who don’t know, the Hype Machine checks a bunch of music blogs online for the most blogged songs, and posts them in playable formats on their website. Its a great site to find new tunes!

Capital Cities is an L.A.-based, electro-pop duo (so says their website) and they’ve got catchy, Summery, upbeat tunes that have a bit more depth to them than your average electro-pop tune.

Check out “Safe and Sound” on Capital Cities‘ website for a free download (if you sign up for their newsletter). And then check out some of their other tunes while you’re on there. You might soon hear these guys on radio stations!

Born This Way (Lady Gaga)

In albums, current listenings on May 31, 2011 at 10:00 am

Born This Way (Lady Gaga, May 23, 2011)

Lady Gaga promised her fans (aka Little Monsters) the best album of the decade when she was amping people up for the release of her second studio album, Born This Way. Is it the best album of the decade? I’m not sure that it is. That’s the way I’m leaning. But, I will say that this album is a powerful dance-pop-hard rock album with its ups and downs.

Track Listing

  1. Marry The Night
  2. Born This Way
  3. Government Hooker
  4. Judas
  5. Americano
  6. Hair
  7. Scheibe
  8. Bloody Mary
  9. Black Jesus – Amen Fashion
  10. Bad Kids
  11. Fashion Of His Love
  12. Highway Unicorn (Road To Love)
  13. Heavy Metal Lover
  14. Electric Chapel
  15. The Queen
  16. You and I
  17. The Edge Of Glory
  18. Born This Way (Country Road Version)
  19. Judas (DJ White Shadow Remix)
  20. Marry The Night (Zedd Remix)
  21. Scheibe (DJ White Shadow Remix)
  22. Fashion Of His Love (Fernando Garibay Remix)
  23. Born This Way (Jost & Naaf Remix)

Gaga repeatedly said that this album would be full of sledgehammer beats, and that is definitely true. Start to finish, Born This Way has intense dance tracks mated with a broad range of other genres – opera (‘Government Hooker’, ‘Bloody Mary’), hard rock (on multiple tracks, including ‘Born This Way’ and ‘Electric Chapel’), 80s pop (again, on lots of the tracks), maybe even some latin influences (‘Americano’).

I was really interested in listening to this album to see what kind of music Lady Gaga would create for her second album, especially with higher and higher expectations of her, which come naturally as she tries new things creatively. I have a feeling she would probably say that it doesn’t matter what people think about her new album, because its an album of self-expression and embracing your true nature and who you are. Its a powerful message to put into sledgehammer dance tracks, but really, there’s nothing wrong with that, although I wouldn’t say its something I’ve heard a lot of in the past. On first listen, I didn’t like this album – there are cheesy parts (including the saxophone on ‘The Edge Of Glory’ – I’m sorry, I just don’t like it) and some of the themes (self-love, self-expression, sexuality, religious references) feel a bit much – a little repetitive. But when you listen to a few tracks at a time, they are engaging, unique and for the most part, memorable.

The so-called “Special Edition” is a full album of 23 songs, and that sledgehammer beat drives right until the end. It starts off powerful with ‘Marry The Night’ and captures you with a few ballad-like lines before the driving dance tracks  starts and continues for the rest of the album. Its a great amp-up at the beginning of the album. Throughout the entire disc, there’s this synth guitar sound that is featured on a lot of the tracks, and I guess it kind of creates a throughline that connects tracks together, even though so many are distinctly different.

The title track, ‘Born This Way’ is a huge dance tune with a lot going on, and at first it sounded really chaotic to me, and I thought there was too much noise happening. Now, I think its a really well-orchestrated track with an impressive mix of sounds, including 80s dance style beats and melodies with rock elements, all underscoring powerful lyrics about self-love and self-expression.

I dig this album because its very different from the pop or dance music out there right now. Gaga has completed an album that cross-breeds genres and tops it all of with interesting and very intentional themes. I don’t think the lyrics on this album are incredible, in fact there are some parts that are just cheesy, like the beginning of ‘Americano’ – it just doesn’t sit right with me. There is something that is unnatural about it. But the rest of the track is really catchy, and was even based on an Arizona immigration law, if I’m not mistaken.

This is the thing: there are some parts of the album that have cheesy moments, and there are other parts that are kick ass, catchy, unique dance tunes that stick in your head and make you want to move.

I don’t think all the tracks on this album should be on the album. ‘Black Jesus – Amen Fashion’, ‘Fashion Of His Love’ and ‘Electric Chapel’ are okay tracks, but the other tracks are all so high-intensity, and unique that these three just don’t seem to cut it for me. They are missing the diverse sound that the other tracks on the album have. But Lady Gaga doesn’t do things by accident. She has a very specific mission and is clear about what she wants to achieve through her music. So if she included tracks on this album, I think its safe to say she feels they are necessary.

Born This Way is different from The Fame or The Fame Monster, and its a good thing. If it was the same, it would just be catchy pop-dance tunes. Her new album pushes the boundaries of music a little bit further and challenges the mainstream music industry as a result. I think its great. Not to mention, she worked with a team of incredible collaborators, including RedOne and DJ White Shadow, who has a few remixes on this album as well.

If you are looking for some unique new dance tunes, check this album out. It’ll probably grow on you. You might have to skip over some songs (I sure did). But there are still quite a few that I really like.

Lady Gaga sings her heart out on all these tracks, and they all have a clarity that is different from the last album. Gaga is singing more honestly and comfortably about the subjects she wants to and her love for her music shines through the music.

So is it the album of the decade?  I don’t think so. But I do think that Born This Way is a landmark album in pop culture just like Lady Gaga herself. The album is a reflection of Gaga – its unique, its honest, its committed to something powerful, and it does not ask for your acceptance, it just wants you to enjoy it by letting lose and being yourself.

Check it out, and let me know what you think!

#145 – Aja (Steely Dan)

In 150-125, Top 150 on April 12, 2011 at 1:08 pm

Although I’ve been reading today that Steely Dan tends to be played in department stores or on elevators, this album, Aja (pronounced like “Asia”) has got some sexy, sexy jazz-influenced pop-rock sounds. They’re great!

Steely Dan is really made up of two guys, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, who had many different artists work with them in-studio on their albums. Their first platinum album, Aja, was released in 1977.

I listened to a remastered version of the album, although it would be really cool to listen to the original LP.

Here’s the track listing:

 

Aja (album)

Image via Wikipedia

Album Art for Aja, 1977.

Side One

  1. Black Cow
  2. Aja
  3. Deacon Blues

Side Two

  1. Peg
  2. Home At Last
  3. I Got The News
  4. Josie

Apparently Steely Dan are known for being perfectionists in the recording studio, and that definitely comes through when you listen to this album. Start to finish, it’s got crisp orchestrations that go beyond just the recording quality (which really, the quality could be due to remastering). The tracks on this album ring with a very cohesive and intentional, groovy sound. The first track, “Black Cow”, sets the tone of the album with slow mix of synths, guitar, and some smooth-sounding horns. Its a great combo. That said, the first track isn’t one of my favourites, but it definitely captured my interest.

I’ve listened to this album a few times, and what I’ve noticed is that there are lots of intriguing lyrical references (Black Cow is actually something like a mix of coke and root beer, sometimes with ice cream…or alcohol. am I right?), but all those lyrical references are intermingled with songs that sound pleasant and have enough of a pop-twinge to fool you into thinking that they are sweet love songs. Most of them have to do with getting high, drunk escapades, or various ladies. At least I think so?

So what to say about this album…I can definitely hear the department store/elevator song on these albums, but I really dig the groovy jazz-rhythms and the precision on each recording. I looked up a photo of Steely Dan from this year, and they do not look like rockin’ gentlemen – they look like established, theoretical, and very-carefully orchestrated musicians. But what do I know?! Oh, and that was a total judgment. I know.

Again, great album, and I would recommend a listen. My advice would be to stick it out and listen to the entire album. Don’t turn it off after “Black Cow” like I wanted to.

Enjoy, friends!

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