Friday, 23 October 2009

Cover me up: Metal covers pop III

Another bundle of metal covers of pop songs. Really tried to come up with some more recognizable, but it wasn't that easy.

SugarComa - Crazy (Britney Spears)

Yngwie Malmsteen - Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (ABBA)

Volbeat - I Only Wanna Be With You (Dusty Springfield)

Judas Priest - Johnny B. Goode (Chuck Berry)

Knorkator - All That She Wants (Ace of Base)

New Found Glory - My Heart Will Go On (Celine Dion)

Guano Apes - Big in Japan (Alphaville)

Raintime - Beat It (Michael Jackson)

Sonic Syndicate - All About Us (t.A.T.u)

Lillasyster - Umbrella (Rihanna)

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Cover me up: Metal covers pop II

Another ten metal covers of popular songs. Even if you don't like them, blame only the musicians.

Lacuna Coil - Enjoy the Silence (Depeche Mode)

HIM - Wicked Game (Chris Isaak)

Children of Bodom - Oops, I Did It Again (Britney Spears)

Nevermore - The Sound of Silence (Simon & Garfunkel)

Vader - I Feel You (Depeche Mode)

My Dying Bride - Roads (Portishead)

Pain - Eleanor Rigby (The Beatles)

Black Label Society - A Whiter Shade of Pale (Procol Harum)

Graveworm - I Need a Hero (Bonnie Tyler)

Turisas - Rasputin (Boney M)

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Cover me up: Metal covers pop I

To be honest I am not that much of a cover-versions-fan, but there are some covers that happen to be better than the original. Recently I was listening to Paradise Lost when it struck me all of a sudden that their "Small Town Boy" was in fact a cover of the 80s hit single by Bronski Beat. Half an hour later I was digging lists of cover version of various popular songs and it's not that much of a surprise that even performers from the rang of Madonna have covered at least one song throughout their career. Hence, I decided to create a few lists of my own with covers that you might possibly know or at least enjoy. Still, if you don't like them or find them of poor quality you can only blame the musicians. I am just the one with the lists.

I decided to start with metal covers of pop songs as they tend to be most fun to compare to the original and most are quite original of their own.

Dope - You Spin Me Right Round (Dead or Alive)

Theatre of Tragedy - You Keep Me Hangin' On (The Supremes)

Paradise Lost - Small Town Boy (Bronski Beat)

To/Die/For - (I Just) Died In Your Hands (Cutting Crew)

Machinae Supremacy - Gimme More (Britney Spears)

Rammstein - Das Modell (Kraftwerk)

Helloween - Lay All Your Love On Me (ABBA)

Gamma Ray - It's a Sin (Pet Shop Boys)

Deftones - To Have and To Hold (Depeche Mode)

Within Temptation - Running Up That Hill (Kate Bush)

Monday, 19 October 2009

Discoveries: The Bird and the Bee

A MySpace music sensation Inara George (The Bird) and Greg Kurstin (The Bee), The Bird and the Bee offered their fresh approach to electronic music with slight influences from jazz, new wave and pop-rock. The duo falls in the indietronica sub-genre with dreamy songs and catchy tunes carrying 80s nostalgia. Their music brings together the best of both sides: Inara's mellow voice and Greg's instrumentals. Elegant and sophisticated The Bird and the Bee draw inspiration from French pop that serves as the backbone of the sound and appearance they have introduced. Up to date the duo has released two albums and four EPs with the eponymous debut from 2007 being my personal favourite.

* None of the featured videos are official and no copyright infringement is intended!

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Recommendation weekly: Evil Nine + Freeland

Evil Nine is an English breakbeat/electro hip-hop DJ duo from Brighton. Although being active since 1998 they have released only two studio albums up to date with their official debut being in 2004 with "You Can Be Special Too". Four years later it is followed by the sophomore release "They Live!" that continues their stylistic development. The duo has gained prominence with the hit single "Crooked" that features US rapper Aesop Rocks. For those a bit more into the electronic world Evil Nine might not appear to be much of a new name, although the duo keeps a rather more underground profile and still maintains an accessible and quite enjoyable style.

Evil Nine are closely associated with Adam Freeland, also known as Freeland, as they are signed to his very own label Marine Parade. Freeland himself is a musician and a producer active in the breakbeat scene. He started DJ-ing back in early 90s and soon began releasing mixes of his own. Despite his long club career his first ever original release saw the light in 2003. The album heavily relied on influences from punk, hip hop, electro, dub, reggae and rock. For his second studio record he worked together with Tommy Lee of Mötley Crüe, ex-Marilyn Manson Twiggy Ramirez, Joey Santiago of The Pixies and Tony Bevilacqua of The Distillers / Spinnerette.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Review: Rammstein - Liebe ist für alle da

Love! For you! Indeed, Rammstein are back and they have brought you a basket full of love, but be warned - it's going to hurt...good! With a sound reminiscent of their earliest material and irony always the loyal friend on their side "Liebe ist für alle da" is here to blow your top. Witty and disturbing, original and cocky, cynical and yet a must-have this album demonstrates Till Lindeman and co's returned back to basics and still managed to explore in depth a new music horizon.

"Liebe ist für alle da" didn't bring love to censorship across the world as it unanimously defied the scandalous accompanying video to the lead single "Pussy" and banned it from virtually any TV station. In Germany the song "Ich tu dir weh" caused a major controversy because of its lyrical content that resulted in the official banning of the song. Rammstein spent no time apologizing and announced the song as the second single to be released, although it most probably will never see light in their homeland. The rest of the tracks keep up the ill-fated spirit of the album with heavy riffs, steady drums and Lindeman's unforgettable singing. The track list takes a journey from their best known Tanz-metal style, through pre-World War II nostalgia to a sinister heavy crossover.

If you felt let down by Rammstein's previous two albums ("Reise, Reise" and "Rosenrot") this is the great return you had been waiting for over the past few years. It's unlikely that their newest release will ever top the impact that "Mutter" and "Sehnsucht" had on mainstream heavy music, but it most definitely will rock your socks. Despite the adherence to the industrial scene this album is accessible for any open-minded people who have a broader taste in music and feel free to experiment. "Liebe is für alle da" is one of those multi-layered albums that might take years to explore as they always have something to pop out after every listen.

Songs to hear: "Haifisch", "Frühling in Paris", "Waidmanns Heil" and "B********"

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Review: David Guetta - One Love

The more popularity David Guetta gains the lower the quality of his music goes...sad, but true. "One Love" is like a super-album that gathers prominent (predominantly) American R&B singers who kindly lend their vocals for the sake of commercial dance music. Among the featured names are Kelly Rowland,, Akon and Estelle, as well as Guetta's long-time vocal guest Chris Willis. Actually the album is so packed with famous people that one could easily miss out who really sits behind the whole production. Another thing is that despite the celebrity dance-floor-stampede "One Love" stands out as more of a filling with a few catchy tunes than an astounding mash-up of electronica and R&B (as it may had been planned).

I miss the French house influences he drew inspiration from and that served as the backbone of his older material. It's pretty obvious that "One Love" is aimed at American listeners, making it by far Guetta's most commercial release. His attempt proved to be successful as both "When Love Takes Over" and "Sexy Bitch" topped Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs and made it in the Billboard Hot 100.

Still, Guetta's fourth studio effort is a must-listen-to for every house fan and an excellent recommendation for anyone who is in it for the party. Apart from that "One Love" shows the extent of one's inflated ego after they truly start taking themselves as big shots. I personally have no idea what the title should stand for anyway as "unity" of any kind is absent. The tracks follow the same pattern - chewy beats, strong black voices and cheesy loops scattered here and there. However, most of the songs hardly make a connection between each other and the track-listing looks like a symposium of "singles" rather than an album with a creative idea. Unlike his previous albums this time Guetta focuses on the vocals and lets his crony buddies to take the lead.

Songs to hear: "One Love", "When Love Takes Over", "Sound of Letting Go" and "Sexy Bitch"


Saturday, 10 October 2009

Review: Annie - Don't Stop

The long-anticipated "Don't Stop", Annie' sophomore album finally made it to she shelves after numerous delays, a label transition and legal disputes. "Don't Stop" has gone through more changes than Lady GaGa's concert outfits. Annie had to push the release date more often than Amy Whinehouse had to go to rehab. After her debut "Anniemal" was positively received by both fans and critics, it meant that any next releases would be met with high expectations. Despite all the tension that surrounded the production of "Don't Stop", it most certainly secures the young Norwegian singer a high-level position in the electronic world.

If "Anniemal" could be described as a bold synth-driven debut with a handful of the 80s, "Don't Stop" explores various fields of electronica going from French electro through Scandinavian electro-pop to catchy American synth-pop. This is mainly due to the presence of several prominent producers among who British production house Xenomania that has worked for Kylie Minogue, Sugababes and Pet Shop Boys among others. "Don't Stop" easily satisfies everyone with a good taste in pop music, especially those who are already overwhelmed with Britney's dubious electronic throw-ups.

"Don't Stop" is a classy and non-pretentious album that proves how outstanding and vibrant the Scandinavian pop scene can be. Annie has outdone herself, leading you into a colorful world of her own backed by clever lyrics and up-beat tunes. Definitely one of the best pop releases for 2009!

*Have in mind that there is an additional bonus CD "All Night EP" that has five songs not included on "Don't Stop".

Songs to hear: "I Don't Like Your Band", "Loco", "Don't Stop" and "My Love Is Better"

Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Review: Natalie Imbruglia - Come To Life

Natalie Imbruglia finally came back to life with her fourth studio album "Come To Life" that took her almost four years to record. After the mixed reception of her previous album "Counting Down the Days", Imbruglia took her time to face the frustration of meeting her own expectations about any future music efforts. Obviously she managed to pull herself together and revive what's left of her career. Don't get me wrong, Imbruglia has had a few major hits, but four years of silence in today's music business is equivalent to suicide.

Anyway, "Come To Life" is out there and Natalie has done a great job. After a first listen I thought that the album was full of crap and deserved to go straight to oblivion. Honestly, I was really disappointed, but second chance should always be given and this time it just clicked to me. Indeed, "Come To Life" is beautiful in any possible way, you've got the ballads, the up-beat songs and the good old semi-romantic/semi-angry-at-you tunes. Natalie is bitchy, sweet and ironical and sounds better than ever. The album has something for almost every taste, ranging from dance-driven contemplations to soulful guitar-based emotional landscapes. Furthermore Imbruglia gracefully sways between genres, leaving any false pretensions far behind.

For the track and best choice for a pilot single "Want" Natalie has worked together with Christ Martin from Coldplay. Another Chris Martin collaboration is "Lukas" that had been recorded during Coldplay' sessions for their album "Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends" and produced by Brian Eno. Martin has also worked on the song "Fun". Imbruglia takes part in writing most of the songs on "Come To Life" and since this is her first independent release she had additional freedom on the whole recording process. Congrats, Natalie, on coming to life!

Songs to hear: "Want", "Lukas", "Fun" and "WYUT"

Personal rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Review: Zero 7 - Yeah Ghost

What's most noticeable about "Yeah Ghost", Zero 7's fourth studio release, is the absence of long-time guest vocalist Sia Furler. Sia, who by some is seen as the band's third member, didn't make an appearance as she is currently working on her next album "We Are Born", due April 2010. Although Zero 7 had initial plans to record something less vocal-dependent, obviously they have decided to stick to their collaborative projects the band is best known with. "Yeah Ghost" is somewhere in between the downtempo vibe Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker transmitted through their first two albums and a more up-beat clever electronica with a pinch of various genres brought together by the ensemble of guest vocalists.

"Yeah Ghost" easily distinguish itself from Zero 7's previous releases, as it incorporates a more club-orientated sound with a jazzy twist. I don't consider this a stylistic shift, but more of experimenting in new directions. The presence of new guest vocalists allows the band to explore other fields of interest, thus the variety of songs. "Ghost Symbol" reminds me of a Fever Ray outtake, "Sleeper" and "Medicine Man" could easily be mistaken as under the Basement Jaxx umbrella, and "Everything Up (Zizou)" could pass as a softer Calvin Harris. I am not saying that the duo ran out of ideas and decided on patching up material from other musicians. Not at all, more like they needed to step out of their comfort zone and make a few steps out of line, no matter if they tripped over or even flopped down to the bottom. After all music has to be defying, bold and constantly evolving and "Yeah Ghost" is the challenge that Zero 7 have to face themselves.

Songs to hear: "Ghost Symbol", "Mr McGee", "Medicine Man" and "Everything Up (Zizou)"

Personal rating: 8/10

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Review: Paloma Faith - Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful

Joining Britain's soul music forces, new addition Paloma Faith had to go through plenty of criticism, often being downsized to an Amy-Winehouse-wannabe or an Adele-copycat. Faith admits that she has always had awed rich soul voices and has occasionally tried to imitate them, but after some time she actually found herself in the wide music field. Despite critics opinions Paloma's debut album "Do You Want The Truth or Something Beautiful?" deserves your attention, unless you are not all fed up with the whole wave of white chicks spilling their guts out to sound as black as they can.

If you give the album a chance you'll realize that Paloma has put a lot of effort and it would have actually sounded pretty damn good, if it hadn't been the year of 2009. Sadly, as it may be, Faith has got on the train a bit too late and what her fellow Brit gals had already done, she was just about to do. It's not that the album sounds as if it was recorded in the 50s, that perhaps is it's best trait, but it's awfully reminiscent of several debut albums from the last 4-5 years and you could easily fail to notice that "Do You Want The Truth or Something Beautiful?" is not by Duffy or Adele. The whole record is elegantly structured, flowing from one song to the next one, leading through topics like faithfulness, loneliness, love and disappointment.

"Do You Want The Truth or Something Beautiful?" seems to suffer of poor promotion, as for the time being Faith lacks all the media attention Duffy-alikes got some time ago. Don't get me wrong, everyone for themselves, but Paloma's debut release may come out with a bit of a delay and still it gets to blow off tops, which seem to feel annoyingly secure about their careers. Looking forward to a next release, unless she changes careers again.

Songs to hear: "Stone Cold Sober", "New York", "Do You Want The Truth or Something Beautiful?" and "Play On"

Rating: 7/10

Friday, 2 October 2009

Review: Nelly Furtado - Mi Plan

A Canadian of Portuguese descent singing in Spanish is the shear proof that we live in a modern cosmopolitan world where everything is possible. The singer is Nelly Furtado and the album "Mi Plan", her fourth studio release and first attempt in the Latino genre. Actually, Furtado has had several tracks in either Portuguese or Spanish, but "Mi Plan" is her first and probably not her last record aimed mainly at the Spanish-speaking world.

Around the worldwide release of the album Furtado stated that singing in Spanish or Portuguese lets her express things that she couldn't say in English and allowed her to be more personal and musically free. What she obviously missed out was the fact that she had already established herself as an English-singing performer and a change so big could have a negative impact on her career. I don't say that "Mi Plan" is not worth listening to or that Furtado doesn't deserve to be given thumbs up for the risky detour she is taking, but the public wasn't ready for Spanish Nelly. Not at all. "Mi Plan" was supposed to surpass "Loose" and prove that Furtado is here to stay. Yet, poor promotion and lack of media attention has put the singer in a displeasing situation she has to swiftly get herself out of.

No doubt "Mi Plan" would have made a great debut album in Latin America or Spain, most probably securing her an easily recognizable place in the hearts of fans and critics. Out of the field of possibly-maybe "Mi Plan" stands on shaky grounds that are about to given in under the high expectations that Furtado supposedly had to meet. With the current pace in a few months "Mi Plan" can be officially labeled as a flop.

If we distance from the whole market sales thing and solely concentrate on the product itself, "Mi Plan" cracks wide open under the pressure of simple love-songs that hardly distinguish from one another. The album runs so predictably as if Furtado was too busy giving statements on her Spanish debut than coming up original ideas of her own. The final product that landed on the shelves turned out to be more of an exaggerated dream-come-true than an album of genuine Latino passion.

Next time, Nelly, when you decide you want to go world just have another multilingual album, I am pretty sure anyone would have a favourite piece to stick to.

Songs to hear: "Manos al aire", "Mas", "Bajo Otra Luz" and "Fuerte"
Personal rating: 5/10

Review: Basement Jaxx - Scars

Three years ago I thought that "Crazy Itch Radio" was my biggest Basement Jaxx disappointment, set myself ready for a better album next time. The only thing that came after so much waiting was a bigger disappointment, more dissatisfying than ever. Not that "Scars" is a poor product of contemporary electronic music, but it just misses out a few fundamentals for a successful dance album. Obviously Basement Jaxx have been walking along the wrong path for several years already and with this pace of weak production a major flop is on its way.

"Scars" contains everything that you ought to expect from a Basement Jaxx album: plenty of guest vocalists, danceable house tunes and witty lyrics with a certain touch of exotica. Apart from everything listed the album has nothing more to offer, it sounds so painfully familiar that you might mistake it for a re-release of "Kish Kash" with some additional b-side tracks. The whole album lacks the disco thrill that Basement Jaxx were so fond of. "Scars" is somewhere in between mediocre and satisfactory, failing to create originality of its own.

Despite the guest appearances of hyped performers like Santigold, Sam Sparro and Paloma Faith, the majority of songs easily pass the ear by without causing any specific attention. It seems as if the duo Simon Ratcliffe and Felix Buxton has run out of genuinely good ideas and desperately needs a push forward to a more comprehensive and intriguing dance reality. If no visible stylistic change is to come and another Kish Kash-alike is to be released they'd better have the decency to break up. Please!

Songs to hear: "Scars", "Saga", "What's a Girl Got to Do?" and "Feelings Gone"

Personal rating: 5/10

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Review: Paradise Lost - Faith Divides Us - Death Unites Us

Blamed by some fans for going way too commercial with their last few albums, obviously Paradise Lost took a serious note and offer a heavy slap on the face of all haters. "Faith Divides Us - Death Unites Us" is what many fans have expected for over a decade, after Nick Holmes and co explored the fields of synthrock, alternative rock and lighter gothic metal. Considered by many as Paradise Lost's big come back their latest album will rock your socks and leave you wanting more.

Enough with the faith! Paradise Lost kick ass big time and are here to unites us all, even in death. Metaphorically speaking "Faith Divides Us - Death Unites Us" is livelier and more emotional charging than the band's eponymous from four years ago and "In Requiem", out in 2007. Although not based on fast-paced tracks the album grabs you from the opening track, leading you from this great divide to the long anticipated unification of music and soul, leaving far behind those useless shells called bodies. Actually, you might need that bodies a little bit more if you want to physically experience the whole album with all those amazing riffs, Holmes' deep vocals and the constantly changing mood.

Paradise Lost subtly incorporate a few elements of their earliest doom/death material material that give additional heavier sound to the album. Still, they remain true to the gothic metal genre, of course, with a few slight stylistic detours that are left to you to be discovered.

Tracks to hear: "Faith Divides Us - Death Unites Us", "As Horizons End", "Living with Scars" and "I Remain"

Personal rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Review: No Angels - Welcome to the Dance

For those who don't know or don't remember No Angels was a German girl band that had a string of successful singles back in the early 00s before personal differences emerged on the surface and just as expected the band fell apart. After a break up in 2004 they reunited in 2006, obviously for worse. Their latest release is the album "Welcome to the Dance", which supposedly had to skyrocket their career back to the good old top.

Sadly for No Angels this album is a major flop lacking any decent sound and memorable tracks. It hurt so bad listening to it that my whole being had to recuperate with a no-music-day. OK, I might overreact a bit, but "Welcome to the Dance" is anything but a dance album. It incorporates more electronica than ever nefore, but it all sounds so out of place (and time) that you might take this whole experiment as a joke. What's more silly texts and ridiculous tunes don't stand for quality music of any kind...if you please.

After the rather poor reception of their fourth studio album "Destiny" things looked like as if No Angels were going to break up once and forever. Obviously they didn't, backing up their careers or more likely cutting their own throats with "Welcome to the Dance". I wonder if their producers really hate them that much, allowing the band to release such a pile of crap. Not that No Angels have ever been a staple of quality pop music, but at least that managed to keep their heads above surface. Right now their bodies are lifelessly floating somewhere in the Sea of kitsch, without any certainty to be found.

Don't get me wrong, I am pretty sure that there are people that this album will perfectly appeal to and they will enjoy listening to it on repeat. For those who happen to be open for something a bit more musically challenging and intriguing "Welcome to the Dance" should be anything but tempting. If still you are ready to give it a chance, don't say I didn't warn you! 'Njoy?

Personal rating: 3/10
The two singles:

Monday, 28 September 2009

Review: Miss Li - Dancing the Whole Way Home

Miss Li, real name Linda Carlsson, is among the current names that define Sweden's indie trend adding a bit of jazzy vocals, swift melodies and heart-lighted lyrics. Compared by some critics to Anna Ternheim and Hello Saferide, Li offers a rather more positive approach to music with a twist of pop. Just two years after her last release Carlsson is back on track with her fourth studio album "Dancing the Whole Way Home", which by far is her most successful effort.

Despite sticking to her original sound Miss Li expands on a few new fields, going all deep with a semi-cabaret sound, probably heading to a more sophisticated and elaborate stylistic change in favor of moody jazz with a sateen touch of dreamy pop. On a first listen you might be left with the impression that the whole style mixing has gone havoc, but after a while most of the material will start growing on anyone open to clever genre fusions. Even if this whole pop-flavoured jazz isn't your cup of tea, still the album can appeal to a broader audience, quite picky as well.

"Dancing the Whole Way Home" isn't exactly the album you'd be dancing to on your way home, but you might catch yourself humming it while waiting in the line or just being up for some positive experiences. Definitely not a groundbreaking release, still Miss Li knows music good and if it didn't lack proper international promotion she could have easily made her way to the European market, at least. "Dancing the Whole Way Home" is an excellent kick-start for her to be internationally recognized and receive some credit outside Sweden.

Songs to hear: "I Heard of a Girl", "Bourgeois Shangri-La", "Polythene Queen" and "Stupid Girl"
Personal rating: 7/10

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Review: Clan of Xymox - In Love We Trust

It's been quite long since I've listened to something new and really good in the whole gothic/darkwave field and I was really hoping that "In We Love We Trust", the latest release by the Dutch Clan of Xymox would break the ice. My hopes were too high, unfortunately.

Not that "In Love We Trust" has poor content or is of low quality, it's just that it offers absolutely nothing new or remotely intriguing. The new material is somehow lighter, easier to listen and less satisfying in comparison to previous albums. There are a few highs, but in no way can they compensate for the rest. Furthermore, "In Love We Trust" is also less club orientated with predominant slow tracks. Probably it will be a wonderful surprise for every fan who is more into dreamy ballads about love and despair.

Apart from the opening track "Emily" the rest of "In Love We Trust" takes another direction exploring the gloomy corners of life, although not as goth sounding as some might be expecting. Sadly "In Love We Trust" has no real potential hits from the rang of "Jasmine and Rose" or "A Day" and could easily pass your ears by, but after a few more listens the good stuff starts popping out. Nevertheless, in love we may trust, but they just had to be a bit more convincing.

Tracks to hear: "Emily", "On A Mission", "Desdemona" and "Love Got Lost"
Personal rating: 6/10

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Discoveries: Copacabana Club

Not much could be said about Copacabana Club, a fresh new Brazilian act hailing from the city of Curitiba, Paraná. Making an intriguing mixture of electro-rock and indietronica, they could be easily associated with bands like Cansei de Ser Sexy, although I'd rather make no such comparisons before they have released a full length studio album. Up to know they have released the EP "King of the Night" that contains the hit-single "Just Do It". I am pretty sure that if those guys release an album they would be Brazil's next big thing. My fingers crossed for a full release as soon as possible. If you have a profile you could listen to their EP for free: Copacaba Club

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Recommendation weekly: Nneka

Nneka's style could be described as Bob Marley meets Erykah Badu with a heavy African influence. This young, relatively still unknown, German-based Nigerian-born singer offers her very own experiences, beliefs and causes she eagerly supports. Nneka, originally from the Igbo ethnic group, has tries a few styles through her career extending from hip-hop, reggae, trip-hop and soul with a world music twist. Spending her childhood in her hometown of Warri, Nigeria Nneka tells stories that explore the diversity of African culture, the clash of modern thinking with traditionalism and the struggles that most African go through on daily basic. Criticizing capitalism and the self-absorption of Western societies Nneka makes some excellent good points that deserve to be heard out loud. To me Nneka is another living proof that music can still have a definite social connotation.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

My concert experience: Madonna

I can't believe it took me that much time to gather my thoughts and give a full review on probably the best concert I have ever been! I guess I am going to be a bit too biased having in mind my affection towards Madonna and her music, which in no way makes me blind for the rather blunt and lacking originality Sticky & Sweet Tour. After the completion of the tour Madonna announced a total gross revenue of over $400 million, making it the second highest grossing tour in the history of music (topped only by A Bigger Bang Tour by The Rolling Stones).

With 85 gigs in two consecutive years Sticky & Sweet is Madonna's most extensive tour, which was highlighted by concerts in countries Madge visited for the very first time like Bulgaria, Romania, Finland and Sweden. According to Billboard Boxscore the tour was seen by over 3,5 million people in 30 countries. In Bulgaria alone the concert was attended by roughly 55,000 people putting it in the top 3 most successful concerts in the country.
According to Billboard Boxscore Madonna put almost $5 million in her pocket, which to me is quite a surprise knowing that we had the cheapest tickets. I guess we were really very enthusiastic as the price of 100 euros per Golden Circle ticket (average salary is around 250-300 euros) turned to be absolutely no obstacle for fans.

Luckily Madonna is still among the most popular musicians in Bulgaria, a fact that secured a full stadium and a passionate audience (to some extent). A few enthusiasts started gathering in front of Vasil Levski Stadium the day before, but the real hysteria was the very day when nationalities mixed and you could easily hear broken English flowing in the air. Although I consider myself a Madonna fan I decided to skip the part with spending my whole day under the blazing sun and went just half an hour before the doors were opened. Despite my fan-laziness I ended up a couple of rows from the stage. As a friend of mine said "If I knew we were going to be really that close, I'd have given my whole salary if it were necessary." Agree!

The support act was Paul Oakenfold, although if it were up to me I'd have kept Robyn for the second leg of the tour too. Anyways, I guess he was chosen as producing Madonna's latest hit single "Celebration" taken out from the eponymous Best Hits collection (released September 2009). Bulgarian media spent quite the time and efforts to report on the preparations for the concert: building of the stage, arrival of construction workers and crew, management of the event and highlighting fans' expectations. After all Madonna's concert was and still is one of the biggest events for 2009, despite all the baseless criticism Madge garnered.

At 10 pm what I have been waiting for over a decade came true: Madonna live in concert! Until the very last seconds, even when the opening tune began I still doubted that she is ever going to come on stage. But she did! Alright, I have to admit that I took me some 20 minutes to realize it. It may sound silly to you, but sometimes you just feel as if this person is a double and real Madonna is somewhere in The States having Margarita's and enjoying the company of her new criminally young boy-toy. But it was Madonna in flesh, just a few meters away from me and she looked so different from all the photos, videos, concerts and fan stuff I have ever seen. Probably, cause she was there just for me (OK, and the other 54,999 people) and I could see her face, the wrinkles, her flaming eyes and athletic body. I dare say she's beautiful in her unique way and has this charisma that I had only heard of.

Although I am really fond of Madonna and all she has done I cannot hide the fact that to me "Hard Candy" is a pile of crap, probably her weakest album for the last 20 years. Poor promotion, hideous style, boring photo shoots and tasteless songs with absolutely no message. Still, faith is cruel and it had me watch this very tour, I guess it was a punishment for dissing this album. "Candy Shop" was the first slap in my face, followed by "Beat Goes On". Luckily Madonna's career extend in almost three decades, hence the setlist diversity. Let's say that some of the Sticky & Sweet song arrangements made my ears bleed (check "Music" and "La Isla Bonita"). I wonder if Madonna feels insecure about some of her best known songs, as my mind still can't bear the fact that she chose "Rain" and "Die Another Day" to be backdrops (concert interludes), but gave a free spot to such a ridiculous song as "Dress You Up". It should go without mentioning that the audience kept absolutely silent during this very performance.

My personal favourite performance would be of "Miles Away". There was just this unique connection that made me feel everywhere and nowhere just gazing in Madonna's eyes. Another amazing moment was "You Must Love Me" when people around me started shouting out loud "We love you". I guess the whole we-love-you-hysteria startled her and for a dew seconds she was just smiling with her eyes supposedly filling up with tears. Of course, Madonna is such a stage-expert that you could never tell whether her reactions are ironic.

The audience blasted out at "Like A Prayer" and to some extent at "Vogue", clearly being her best known songs in Bulgaria. I cannot be very judgmental about the audience as I was in a sea of fans and I had the impression that everyone was having a great time. In reality lots of people were there just to see Madonna, but didn't show any enthusiasm and many spent the whole concert drinking beer and discussing personal problems. According to some spectators the whole concert was on a playback, but being a few meters away from Madonna I can assure you that for most of the time she sang live. Whoever doesn't like her singing can take a flight to Mariah Carey's nearest concert and spend two hours listening to impossible octaves.

I can keep on going telling more and more about my concert experience, but some emotions can never take the form of words. Sadly, the concert came to an end in no time and we had to say Goodbye. Of course, until next time!

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Finally back!

My little summer break unexpectedly went for almost two months after my notebook crashed down and I lost almost all of the data I had on it. Dozens of reviews, articles and material-to-be-listened-to went into oblivion leaving me no choice but wait for the problem to be solved, apparently it took some time. Luckily not much happened, a few new albums, couple of interesting music events and the rest is time-spenders. Lots to come, reviews, continuation of some previous topics and most certainly loads of quality music. Stay on track!

Friday, 31 July 2009

Out and Proud: 15 bisexual female singers

Celebrating diversity and rights equality music knows absolutely no boundaries. Colour, nor religion, nor nationality, nor sexuality could possibly stand in the way of music that goes beyond prejudice, inequalities and discriminative laws. At the threshold of the second decade of 21st century we still care exceedingly too much on who goes to bad who with. Like vultures medias point out the odd ones, pigeonholing them for the sake of some pointless organizations with depository missions instead of a good will. But still, there are those proud men and women who are out and proud. That is why I decided to spend some time with a series of OUT AND PROUD musicians, who have had some influence on contemporary music...and culture as a whole.

The first edition is dedicate to some of the best known bisexual female singers, who have officially stated their sexual preferences and don't mind how you would take it. The order is in no way strict or final!

15. Lindsay Lohan - the real bad girl of teen pop music, who began as a promising child actor, but as years passed she indulged into the pleasures of drugs, alcohol and promiscuity. Despite being categorized as lesbian Lohan is closer to the bisexual description, going on and off with guys and gals.

14. Missy Higgins - the Melbourne-born singer-songwriter was one of Australia's best music exports for 2005, giving her some serious career push. She has established as one of the best known Australian alternative singers for the last few years and a promising young musician who is just about to make another major breakthrough.

13. Meshell Ndegeocello - a fine instrumentalist, an experimenter and a style innovator Meshell is one of those smooth jazzy voices that make you dream of realms set far out of any modern boundaries. She may not be your regular million-copies seller, but has more to offer than your average MTV-diva.

12. Skin - open-minded, scandalous and talented are just some of Skunk Anansie's lead vocalist's traits that make her visible in the crowded sea of female singers. Even if you are not into alternative you just can't have missed out her shaved head.

11. Billie Holiday - having a seminal influence on jazz and contemporary pop music she has been referred to as one of the most important GLBT figures for the first half of the 20th century.

10. Amanda Palmer - The Dresden Dolls' lead vocalist and solo performer Palmer brings the spirit of the 30s back on track. She is quite open about her sexuality and leaves no doubt with her original lyrics which deal sexuality, self-expression and outstanding oneself.

9. Ani DiFranco - her songs center around GLBT topics, the atrocities of life, the joy of being oneself and knowing the sole reason of one's existence. One of the most talented and prolific in the folk genre DiFranco has made the way for other aspiring GLBT musicians who are open about themselves and know good music.

8. Dusty Springfield - one of England's most beloved 60s and 70s singer she has always had her personal life secluded, protecting herself from all the dirt that tabloids had in store. Struggling her entire life with personal dramas, Dusty has managed to keep her head up and become a role model for every female musician.

7. Janis Joplin - a controversial public figure, a driving force for the hippie movement and a life ending too early she lived for the moment and made music that lasted decades after her fatal encounter with heroin. Never truly understand during her lifetime Joplin remains an enigma for many, but still is considered as one of the most important bisexual musicians of all time.

6. Pink - being one of the most successful pop singers of the last decade Alecia Beth Moore sexual ambiguity to a new more commercial level freely using a lesbian outfit and openly demonstrating her support for the GLBT community. Not that she was the first one to back up bisexual musicians, but she was one of the few to be there from the very start up to now.

5. Debbie Harry - an inspiration for almost three generations music was her flirt with the world. With Blondie she went beyond her wildest dreams, becoming one of the best known female singers of the late 70s - early 80s and iconic figure for the music industry dominated back then by men.

4. Peaches - boys wanna be her! Bad girls had to learn some new tricks to keep up with her. Outrageous, spontaneous and disturbingly sexually charged Merrill knows no stops. Livin' la Vida Loca of her own she has continuously defended the honor of the GLBT community, even she goes to extremes.

3. Sinead O'connor - going through some major lifestyle changes, she never did shift sexual preferences and kept playing for the same team. Neither scandals, nor her deep theological explorations took Sinead of track, and despite not being that commercially successful her traces in the music business are still visible.

2. Bjork - although she has never said "I am bisexual" she has talked extensively on the boundless flow of sexuality, as well as expressed her sexually ambiguous thinking through her songs and videos. Soothing to some and annoying to other Bjork remains one of the most controversial musicians of the last two decades and certainly a basis for the adequate development of GLBT music.

1. Madonna - she is bisexual, she is lesbian, she is straight. Madonna knows no sexual boundaries and still I have placed her in this list as easily going both ways. She has never kept a secret her numerous encounters with other women, as well as the joy of trying as many tastes as one can. Not your butch feminist dyke, nor your regular vanilla heterosexual Madonna is the sole description for the freedom that bisexuality represents.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Exclusive: Madonna - Celebration

Madonna's first single from her best-off album "Celebration" just leaked and it's time for a proper party! The eponymous song is one of three new tracks to be included in her greatest hits album, expected 21st Sept (UK), 28th worldwide and 29th (USA).

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Wall of Shame: Галя - 3 минути излагация

Имало едно време един доста успешен дует казващ се Каризма. Времето минавало, хитовете се редели един след друг, но лакомията и звездоманията превърнали този музикален проект в бездушния проект Кариеризма. След издаването на един измъчен албум и няколко трудни сингъла дуото се разпаднало на съставните си части: Мирослав Костадинов aka Миро и Галина Курдова aka Галя. Докато Миро успя да се понапъне и да пусне цял албум (със съмнително качество), Галка-малка си взе продължителна почивка, която изглежда не й е била достатъчна. Замина за Щатите, после досади с неадекватното си участие в МAD Secret Concert и след това ни се закани соло музика да пуска. Надявах се да й отнеме повече време докато намери някой да се измами да я продуцира, но къде с помощта на дружката й Руши Видинлиев, къде с едно голямо рамо от страна на Nescafé, госпожица Курдова се завърна на родната музикална сцена...за всеобщ ужас.

Няколко пъти съм изпадал в безмисления спор може или не може Галя да пее, но "3 минути до шоу" е живото доказателство, че наистина фалшивото пеене никоя програма за обработка не може да прикрие. Докато слушам този покъртителен продукт на местната музикална индустрия се чудя докога ще я бъде тази агония? То не бяха блудкави мелодии, плиткоумни текстове и досадни клипове, а сега дори и комбинирани в едно. Шефовете от Нестле е редно да уволнят всички отговорни за това извинение за песен, което се очаква и да бъде част от тяхната рекламна кампания. Разбирам, че Нестле подкрепя българската музика, но не е ли редно да допълнят "добрата"? Промоцирана като песен написана от двете страни на Атлантика "3 минути до шоу" съвсем спокойно минава в графата досадни и желателно незабележими, но имаме нещастието да ни бъде натрапвана като ХИТОВА! Създателите й дори трябва да се замислят как така парче създавано на два континента звучи като електронна песньовка с вкус на разредена евтина водка.

Скъпа Галя, скъпи Руши, скъпи екип работил по "3 минути до шоу", започнете да правите връзка с реалността! В опитите си да бъдете оригинални не вземайте едно към едно комерсиалното мислене на западната колегия, а търсете собствен подход. Текстът е умопомрачително глупав, без извинение. Месенето на български и английски език в една песен е особено дразнещо, най-вече когато няма грам връзка между бученето на "инглиш" и граченето на "бългериън". Ем ай фиешън ор уат? Галя досадно се напъва да бъде лошо момиче, но май не увира, че преправянето на гласа не е начинът. Ако трябва да бъда честен новото й амплоа е по-малкият проблем на фона на виенето й, което може да патентова като оригинална хорър музика.

Благодаря ти, Галя, поне сега няма да се чудя защо в родните клубове оригинална БГ музика не върви, а весело се щрака на чалга колаборацийките с твоята бивша творческа половинка Мирко! Жива и здрава! Време е пак за почивка...продължителна, моля!

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Skunk Anansie officially reunited

Recession is an evil bitch leaving musicians penniless and hungry (figuratively speaking). After a few reunions this year Skunk Anansie buried the hatchet in order to reform the band and play a few gigs, as well as releasing some new material. Honestly said I am not surprised at all, when money is short you just have to swallow the pride and do a few things you might have never expected to be committing. Anyways, Skin and company are back on track after a 9-year break up and they promise to be even better. An European reunion tour names "Greatest Hits Tour" is planned to start on 9th October this year with most gigs across the UK.

Here is the video to the single "Tear The Place Up" taken from their future album "Smashes and Trashes":

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Wall of Shame: Every hero's wake up call?

Probably there really is a god, or at least a higher power that keeps me away from all the crappy loads of music running through music channels as sewer. Don't get me wrong, I do respect everyone that works as a professional in this ruthless business, but sometimes I feel way to disgusted to be supportive. Such is the case with little miss Hayden Panettiere, best known as Claire Bennet from ABC's hit series "Heroes". Apart from her acting career she has a few mediocre attempts in singing of which I was most happily unaware of. A few days ago when one of Panettiere's efforts had been posted on my news feed on Facebook and my nosiness drove me straight to the hell called "Disney's teeny heavenly candy galore". I should check myself for diabetes and severe mental damage.

If you are a Jonas Brothers and alike fan Hayden is your girl, otherwise be warned!

Monday, 13 July 2009

Review: VV Brown - Travelling Like the Light

VV Brown's success is virtually travelling with the light after the release of her highly anticipated debut album. Vanessa, of course VV is not a real name, offers an intriguing combination of electronica, funk and dance with a few strings of alternative and soul. A debut that easily could be among the best ones for 2009 and deserves your attention. Brown's major plus is the fusion of club friendly rhythms with the vibes of underground, which is brought to life with the distinctive use of various instruments and backing on plenty of styles.

Seen as a refined combination of Grace Jones and Erykah Badu, wrapped up in her own originality and stage presence VV Brown is virtually one of the next-best-things to storm the commercial sphere. Nevertheless, Brown's post-modern influences could be considered as both flaws or advances. To me, "Travelling Like the Light" is a fresh attempt to be apart from the mass and still sound accessible and friendly. Sadly, Brown's determination to swing back to the 50s-70s reminds me painfully too much of Duffy and Adele, exceeding the recommended retro dose.

Although often put somewhere in the indie niche, VV Brown is anything but indie. As soon as Island Records, which is part of Universal Music, becomes an independent label VV and alike can proudly call themselves indie-pop. Island being annoyingly cautious take Brown's promotion step by step that keeps her still criminally unknown. Probably under the label's pressure "Travelling Like the Light" deliberately allowed styles to flow into one another creating an idiosyncratic structure for every taste. Of course, even a fifth grader knows that this is a big load of nonsense. Brown proves to be an excellent funk/doo-woop/R&B singer, but she most certainly lacks that electronica vibe that makes you wanna go to every club eager to boogie to her tracks.

Tracks to hear: "Shark in the Water", "Back In Time", "Travelling Like the Light" and "Crying Blood"

Rating: 7/10

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Weeds: Little Boxes

A few days ago I started watching the American dramedy Weeds, which tells the story of Nancy Botwin and her endeavors in the marijuana dealership and the way it affects her family and friends. The opening credits in the first three seasons is the song "Little Boxes" by Malvina Reynolds . Jenji Kohan, the series creator, supports the idea of diversity, thus the guest music appearances of more than twenty musicians and bands that all perform "Little Boxes", keeping closest to the original and still introducing their very own way rework. Among the names are those of Regina Spektor, Linkin Park, Death Cab for Cutie, The Shins and Elvis Costello.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Review: DatA - Skywriter

French electro has always been a slippery slope that can lead to the deep waters of failure. Well, David Guillon, the actual name behind the moniker DatA, got away with a few broken ribs and a fair warning not to play that "daft" if he's not absolutely sure about the final result. Don't get me wrong "Skywriter", Guillon's debut LP would have been a fine piece of electronica...if it was released somewhere in the 90s. At some points the similarities to Daft Punk are that obvious that it bloody hurts, despite the probable good intentions.

"Skywriter" comes out after Guillon's string of EP's, which gained him the respect and the critical acclaim by both fans and journalists. Despite all the praise DatA never did get out of the shade of French electro dominated right now by Justice and their alike. Probably Guillon is not striving to acutely distinguish himself from the whole scene, but "Skywriter" is an album you can easily do without if you are in fact too much into the French electro wave. Perhaps a few more original ideas and crucial stylistic efforts could have pulled out a few tricks to entertain the eager listener, but after a few listens "Skywriter" turns out to be little less than exciting.

Justice, hailed by critics as the fresher version of Daft Punk, did cause a small revolution in the rather stagnant French electro scene, but the success formula wore off too soon. Used by too many and too often and one time French electro sounded as an extended load of crap on repeat. DatA makes no exception to the rule...sorry, but we are not that stupid to anxiously anticipate yesterday's news. For what's worth "Skywriter" has a few pleasant tunes to keep aside for better times that safe the album from being the next annoying hyped electro album with no actual perks. Nevertheless, it all depends on your current electro status and if it says anything but French then, I guess, you should come back when the thrill is back.

Songs to hear: "One In A Million", "Rapture", "Skywriter" and "Blood Theme"

Rating: 5/10

Friday, 10 July 2009

Review: Rinocerose - Futurino

Rinocerose (correctly spelled as Rinôçérôse) is one of those criminally underestimated bands that have always been an idea away from their worldwide breakthrough. Probably, loyal fans are happy to keep this band secret, just for their very own pleasure. Still, albums like "Futurino", their fifth proper studio release, proves that it's about time they gained some serious attention. The stylistic variety, the intelligent lyrics and the emotionally balanced flow make Rinocerose an exquisite addition to your extended music library, as well as "Futurino" a fresh look on French music.

Although Jean-Philippe Freu and Patrice Carrie, the brains and body behind the moniker, started Rinocerose as an exclusively electronic project it has moved to the more rocky sound that dominates "Futurino". Elements of dance-punk, new-rave, electro-rock and indiepop are introduced throughout the record by their subtle fusion and incorporation. The album stands somewhere between self-explored maturity and the party flow of independence, bouncing back and forth in accordance to the vibe.

Forget about all the possible surprises! "Futurino" is to be enjoyed right here, right now...with company, or on your or night. An excellent detour from all the pop crap that has been terrorizing our TVs these days; a vacation on the French Riviera, sharing a few drinks and laughs in a dimmed club with the company of dance beats, groovy guitars and sleek vocals. What more to ask for?

Songs to hear: "Tomorrow", "Time Machine", "Head Like A Volcano" and "Touch Me"

Rating: 8/10

The pilot single "Time Machine":