Monthly Archives: August 2009

The Week in Jukebox

Madonna – Celebration [4]
DJ Quik & Kurupt – Hey Playa! (Moroccan Blues) [9]
Frank Turner – The Road [8]
David Guetta – Sexy Bitch (feat. Akon) [7]
This is nowhere near as bonkers as I Gotta Feeling, my only previous acquaintance with Guetta. Still pretty good (tho). During the verses, the track sounds like the intro to Lollipop, and Akon manages to coin the phrase “your neighbourhood whore,” which Gestalts in a ‘Friendly’ and conjures up images of radioactive Spider-Hookers. Still…the only respectful way they can think of to describe her is “Sexy Bitch”? Damn, girl.
Chris Brown – Changed Man [1]
Livvi Franc – Now I’m That Bitch (feat. Pitbull) [4]
Heartland – Mustache [6]
Taio Cruz – Break Your Heart [5]
Hilltop Hoods – Chase That Feeling [6]
Bloc Party – One More Chance [4]

The xx

Dave wants me to discipline my writing by penning a bunch of 100 word album reviews. Things I have learned thus far: 100 words is not very much space. Also, cutting blurbs down from 115 to 100 is more time consuming than one might think.

Effort #1: The xx – xx

xx initially seems cold and insubstantial, but its stark minimalism proves purposeful and effective – a shockingly assured debut. These South London youth combine ambient guitars and dubstep-influenced drums to create lush instrumentals. Intimately insular, Romy Croft and Oliver Sim sing with deceptive calm, belied by emotional depth. Shelter “mirrors images back” of devotion and regret, while Basic Space seduces and Infinity aches quiet desperation. Later, they transmute UK Funky hit Do You Mind? without losing its smoulder. The further they approach total stillness, the more entranced I am, pulled into a pulsing black hole of charisma and repetition. Trance-inducing.

Ironically, the morning after writing this, P4K posted an interview with them. Nice to know that there’s officially a bandwagon. After I’ve packed a few more boxes and carried stuff over to the new apartment, I’m going to tackle Florence & the Machine. And possibly Electrik Red. Although, I should probably review some stuff that I don’t quite like that much. Pithy dismissal is much easier than concise rapturous adoration (tho).

EDIT: Okay. Second time’s a charm, right?

Given how listless Little Boots’ Hands turned out to be, and how grating La Roux’s non-singles are, my genuine enjoyment and appreciation for the debut from the similarly-hyped Florence and the Machine caught me by surprise. It’s not a perfect record – a bit more sonic variety would be nice – but underneath the Kate Bush influence and hippiedom is a girl with a huge voice and an ear for a good melody.

Attempt #2:

Florence Welch made waves with “Kiss With a Fist”, a bluesy garage shuffle propelled by her powerhouse voice. While nothing on Lungs matches its intensity or grit, this is a rewarding, if uneven, record. The titular organs remain the focus, bellowing through a sea of harp and choirs that sometimes obscure its strengths. By Hurricane Drunk, monotonous arrangements overpower Florence’s songcraft. But when effective, production lends an ethereal quality to otherwise earthy lyrics: Rabbit Heart posits love as pagan sacrifice; Howl equates desire with lycanthropy; and My Boy Builds Coffins soars. An unexpected direction, but no less promising for it.

Guess What? And let the drumbeat drop…

We reviewed Marina and the Diamonds‘ first single, Obsessions, a few months back on Jukebox, and no one was particularly impressed. Which is a shame, because despite not having heard the aforementioned song, the near-universal disdain led me to write them off until I serendipitously happened upon The Crown Jewels EP.

I Am Not a Robot is a tour de force that creeps up on you unawares. It starts off with plinking pianos and a Regina Spektor cutesy-voice that initially scans as twee, but unfolds into something affecting and anthemic. The production slowly builds on the piano, adding a backbeat, strings, xylophone, synths and on to the chorus. While the vocal tics that bothered many of my compatriots on Obsessions are present, they honestly add character more often than not — a Shakira-esque goaty vibrato here; a staccato enunciation there. It’s all quite magical.

Plus the music video is totally batshit insane, which is the most important qualification for pop brilliance.

The remixes are almost as good, specifically the Aspirins For My Children Remix and the Penguin Prison Remix, both courtesy of Neon Gold. The former turns the song into a house duet with a robot, while the latter is an alternate universe take on DFA remixes.

Mea Culpa.

Ugh. I have not posted in a month. Things have been properly insane. Moving this weekend, which is also the weekend of my birthday, after which things shall calm down. In the meantime, a month’s worth of Jukebox pieces.

Boys Like Girls – Love Drunk [7]
Lady Antebellum – I Run to You [5]
Fabolous ft. The-Dream – Throw It In the Bag [7]
Chipmunk ft. Emeli Sandé – Diamond Rings [7]
Christina Milian ft. The-Dream – Chameleon [9]
Gaggle – Crows [6]
Jessica Jarrell – Armageddon [8]
Armageddon is an ambitious mantle to take on in a pop song, and against all odds, Jessica Jarrell pulls it off. Monotone (literally – they’re comprised of one note!) verses embody the willful blindness of a relationship past its due date, before the chorus joins No Air in the school of ‘Over the Top Pop Hyperbole.’ The production splits the difference between Timbaland 2003 and 2008, layering stutter-syths over a faux-Clocks piano line. The chorus tops it all off with a pounding dance beat, joyfully careening towards the end of the world. A cataclysm which is caused by Jessica’s own supernova-like self-destruction. Splashes of Autotune and a string quartet in the final stretch ensure that this is properly epic. Is this R&B, or Aly & AJ-gone-house?
Maxwell – Bad Habits [8]
Danny Byrd ft. IK – Red Mist [7]
Starts off deceptively sludgy and funky, with a measured vocal, and almost convinces me that I’m listening to a dub track. Being caught unawares by the explosion of DnB renders it doubly effective. The spooky organ line is great, and the return of the screwed vocal halfway through is a welcome respite before the final burst of freneticism. I’d rate this higher, but I’m woefully ignorant of drum & bass and I suspect that its classic era contains even more mind-blowing work, so conservatively sticking to a
Chrisette Michele – Blame It On Me [8]
Gloriana – Wild At Heart [7]
Kelly Clarkson – Already Gone [5]
Demi Lovato – Here We Go Again [9]
Eva Simons – Silly Boy [3]
Method Man & Redman ft. Erick Sermon – Mrs International [7]
Mika – We Are Golden [7]
Monica ft. Missy Elliott – Let Me Know [4]
Charlotte Hatherley – White [6]
Humphrey ft. Rohff – Dans La Minute [5]
Christophe Willem – Plus Que Tout [3]
Calvin Harris – Ready for the Weekend [7]
Mos Wanted Mega ft. Janee – Touch My [6]
Sugababes – Get Sexy [4]
Lights – Saviour [8]
Fefe Dobson – I Want You [7]
Metric – Help I’m Alive [7]
Madonna – Celebration [4]

Spottier writing than the last crop, although there are some pieces here I quite like. Mean to write something about Dirty Projectors and Passion Pit, both of whom I’ve seen this month, and also The XX’s self-titled and The Antlers’ Hospice. Hopefully making note of this will hold me to it.