Sunday, 28 June 2009

Review: La Roux - La Roux



Lucky me! June is my pop month and a few new releases made it exceptionally good. After the amazing debut by English singer-songwriter Little Boots, on my door was already knocking another UK-export: La Roux. Behind the duo are vocalist Elly Jackson and the producer/songwriter Ben Langmaid, who have been cooking new material for almost an year now. Their eponymous debut album could easily pass as the most mature and elaborate pop release of the first half of 2009 and I am certainly not joking nor exaggerating. The Britons have done a great job and an album like "La Roux" is a must-hear in this year's album list!

Drawing inspiration from 80s new wave bands like The Human League and Yazoo, La Roux have their own visions and rely entirely on their very own originality not annoyingly being dependent on good old stuff, which supposedly should do them a few tricks. No, not at all, cause Jackson/Langmaid obviously know how to use the security of the old sound being given a few new improvements. La Roux are far from the idea of being copycats, but let's say that they didn't just discover America, but might leave you with the impression that you just learned about the island of Cuba. Backing themselves on the security of the numerously tried out formula for an electronic act, their debut effort is not a pathetic attempt to bring together loads of memories under the same roof, but an intelligent music provocation that explores new depths and tangles some old stuff with a gentle touch.

"La Roux" surprises abit with the balanced integrity it demonstrates, although at some points you might lose yourself somewhere in between the classy synthpop sound and the rough electronic experiments that are patched together in a rather crude manner. Fillers are virtually left out of the album, which gives an additional exceptionable quality of the product and a definite two-thumbs-up praise for the duo itself. Lyrical themes variate from personal hardships, through finding the meaning of life, to messing around on the battlefield called love. I have to say that I am bored to death to listen to love mishaps and broken hearts, but Elly Jackson with her distinctive quirky voice knows how to tell stories in a way that makes you stay till the end of the track.

Songs to hear: "In for the Kill", "Bulletproof", "Colourless Colour" and "Quicksand"

Rating: 8/10

Friday, 26 June 2009

Le Roi Est Mort, Vive Le Roi!

Michael Jackson

(29.09.1958 - 25.06.2009)

The King of Pop is dead! At the age of 50 just a few months before turning 51 Michael Joseph Jackson, known by fans and friends as Jacko, left this world once and for all. Born in Gary, Indiana, as the seventh child of nine Michael was destined for success, starting his singing career at the age of 5. He was part of the highly successful family bands The Jackson 5 and The Jackson, which were his trampoline to solo career and stardom. In 1982 Jacko released the album "Thriller", which will remain in history as the highest selling album by a solo male performer. The string of number one albums went with "Bad", "Dangrous" and "HIStory" and tens of number one chart breakers. The 80s and the early 90s were Jackson's peak when he was virtually the biggest name in pop music and a cultural phenomenon. He paved the way for hundreds of singers, inspired countless bands and was the King to millions of fans all over the globe.

Michael Jackson broke boundaries, set new standards, reached new horizons and decided trends. Despite being the idol of generations Jacko always remained that sweet little child in his heart that sang "ABC" and was afraid to be alone. Nothing scared him more than loneliness, which haunted him for his life. Deprived of his childhood Michael never really became a full-time grown-up, often called the Peter Pan of music. His immense love to children was the hatch which splintered his career. The allegations of child molestation, the trials and his non-stop presence in the media brought him down. Although he never really showed it Jacko was disappointed with the world, which so kindly put him on a pedestal only to throw him in the dirt.

Michale Jackson's life was a constant struggle and his part was eventually torn apart by the problems he faced, by the unkind roughness of the media and the wrong decision he made. Torn apart by trials, being a regular on tabloids and discussed by everyone Jackson never had a private life of his own. He never had the chance to be himself as attention was always breathing at his neck. Through his music he craved to be left alone, but he never managed to escape the spotlight. Jacko's life is the fine lesson for all parents who are way too ambitious about their kids, as he never had the chance to taste childhood and was a full-time pop star for his entire life.

Jacko didn't really die, he just went on his anticipated moonwalk, far from all the daze of fame, from ugly rumors and the physical pain. He went to a better place where he can always remain a child, who draw inspiration from Motown singers and just wanted to dance in front of the TV. A star alive now he is a whole constellation placed next to names like Elvis Presley and Jimi Hendrix. Music will never sound the same as she lost one of her most beloved children and the deep grief that tears her heart apart will leave an emptiness, which shall never be filled again. For all of us remains Michael Jackson's legacy to be passed by generations for our children and grandchildren to know that we have lived in the era of The King of Pop!

REST IN PEACE, MICHAEL!

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Review: Gossip - Songs for Men



Music for men sung by an open lesbian! Now that is how I like it! American band Gossip is still a hot gossip and this time they offer you more to be jealous of. Beth Ditto is no wussy and she likes being herself even if this means to be criticized for her attitude and be discussed about her quite eye-poking eccentricity and sexuality. Nevertheless, Ditto's media challenges have little to no effect on their music, which has improves with every next record.

"Music for Men" is not your lesbian-kick-ass album that diminishes masculinity or praises woman-to-woman love in the name of emancipation and personal liberation. Sorry to those who were awaiting Gossip with the axes ready to chop-off a few heads, but "Music for Men" happens to be an intelligent post-punk/alt rock exploration of personal battles, the emotionally challenging moments and the harsh truth behind the mundane course of life and the lies we tell on daily basis. Being strong, with the guard up and knowing the perks to survive in the concrete jungle is what makes everyone of us an essential part of the community. The rest is crap and Ditto knows that best.

Although "Standing in the Way of Control" was Gossip's breakthrough release their new album shows some visible changes for good or for bad. Just three years ago this Searsy, Arkansas based band had to face the hardships surrounding the whole overnight stardom and give a serious thought on their next material, which could put an end to their success and send them straight to the "kind" hands of critics. I guess, Ditto had a few top notch ideas hidden somewhere around her bellybutton and "Music for Men" proves that after a very strong "debut" on the big scene one could actually record an adequate follow-up. Of course, to those too much in love with their older material this album might come as a surprise or a big No-No, but after a few listens you'll tune into the beats of Ditto's dance-punk groove.

Songs to hear: "Heavy Cross", "Love Long Distance", "Men in Love" and "For Keeps"

Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Review: Hande Yener - Hayrola?



Everything alright? If feeling bored, lonely tonight or just not in the mood Hande Yener has something for you! You might not know even a single word in Turkish, but I can assure you that "Hayrola?" goes over any language barriers. Hande Yener is one of the biggest names in Turkish pop music and one of the few on the Balkans to develop in the electropop genre.

"Hayrola?" (in English "Everything alright") is all about the positive mood, about enjoying life the way it is and face every frustration with a strong smile. Yener knows good electronica and if you have doubts about the quality of Balkan music it's because you still haven't stumbled upon her stuff. Actually, Hande started as a regular pop singer, but luckily she changed course and gave electronic music a try, which made her success inevitable. "Hayrola?" is her fourth in a successful row electro album and her seventh proper studio release, which had the difficult task to surpass "Nasıl Delirdim?", which shot her straight to fame. Despite every effort "Hayrola?" is no match to Yener's breakthrough album, which was a passionately explosive combination between dance music and witty lyrics. This time the balance just went to hell and the structure is rather crude as if Hande was desperately trying to stay sober in the middle of a drunk party.

Still, if you are up for an intelligent electronic album with a good load of entertainment and rhythm "Hayrola?" may be your answer. Probably, right now, I should be writing a review about an intriguing Bulgarian album, but nationalism plays no importance when it comes to actual quality. For the rest, you have yourselves Morandi, Despina Vandi and similar, but I assure you that once Yener records her much anticipated English debut, once again you will turn your heads to the Balkans and the diverse music we have to offer you...after all we are not constantly in war, CNN!

Songs to hear: "Hayrola?", "Arsiz", "Narsist" and "Siz"

Rating: 7/10

Monday, 22 June 2009

Park Live Fest - обзор

Фестивали! Бъдещето на музикалния бизнес е във фестивалите и в това няма грам съмнение. Продажбите на албуми с всяка година отчитат все по-ниски реализации, а хората, особено в криза, са все по-малко склонни да дават пари за нещо, което безплатно може да бъде източено от нета. В България, да речем, никога не е имало някакво особено музикално самосъзнание и тук пиратството винаги води с няколко гърди пред легалната музика. Спасението за драгите родни и чуждестранни музиканти са фестивали като Park Live Fest, който преди броени дни се проведе в София. Замисъл прекрасен, изпълнение леко вмирисано откъм главата. Предполагам, че трябва да му опростя всички грехове, защото е първото му издание. НО, оправданията щяха да подхождат, ако годината беше 1999 и фестивалната култура беше още в зародиш. Повече от десетилетие фестивалите царуват на световната музикална сцена и ми се струва, че за толкова време би трябва да сме повнесли малко ноу-хау от тук и там. Няма начин никой от организаторите на Парк Лайв никога да не е бил на чуждестранен фестивал и да не е почувствал цялостната концепция на едно такова събитие. В нашия случай като че ли са расли в саксия.

Изпълнителите. Да, изпълнителите. Приличен подбор, с голямата уговорка, че пилотните проекти са винаги най-трудни. Да приемем, че винаги може да бъде и по-зле. Евала, че хедлайнерите на феста бяха големи имена, а не на принципа "който се измами да дойде". Много хора бяха дошли да гледат точно определени изпълнения, което може само да ме радва, че чалгата все още не е промила всички мозъци в България. Успокоението до тук! Въпреки всички напъни на организаторите фестът си остана доста ъндърграунд като за мащаба на гост-изпълнителите. Смешно ми идва Lamb да свирят пред криво-ляво 2 хиляди човека, а някакви силиконови недоразумения да пеят на националния ни стадион. Липсата на реклама или апатията от страна на българските слушатели оставиха Колодрумът в Борисовата градина неприятно празен като по време Национална олимпиада по математика. Добре, че имаше чужденци дошли да гледат своите любимци, че ако изцяло разчитахме на местната фен база можеше и да се прехвърлим в някое по-голямо клубче.

Най-голямата недомислица се оказа пропускателният режим. Да ме извиняват, ама като ми се даде тази гривна и аз като си имам в наличност билетчето, не виждам какъв е проблемът да излизам и да влизам. Вместо да гледам как хора се забавляват, трябваше да ги слушам как се оплакваха точно от тази буквално олигофренска приумица; на всекиго може да му се случи да излезе по спешност, но изглежда на организаторите това им се е сторило нерелевантно. Усмихвам се и влизам, видяло се, че ще бъде и трите вечери закотвен в Колодрума. Вътре: шатри много, хора никакви. Надценка - нелепа, купуването - ограничено. Да ме извиняват всички, които смятат, че е нормално да пиеш "мухито" в чаша за сок срещу 5 лева. Бива, бива, капитализъм, ама да няма човек да пийне една Загорка, а да трябва да се налива с някаква вкисната бира за 4 лева ми дойде в повечко. Самият Колодрум, без съмнение, спомен от соца стоеше обрасал в треволяци, неугледен като отхвърлена комсолска пачавра, усмихнала се с накриво със студената си велописта.

Ден 1...вълнението си е голямо. Първо фестивално преживяване. Всичко ново. Още на входа цялата тръпка умря. Съжалявам...Парк Лайв, но май си беше мъртвороден. Малко хора, кофти място за провеждане, привкус на досада и псевдо себеизразителност (парцалки, стойка и маниерно говорене). Please, this is not Soho! Кръженето из обраслото поле имаше смисъл: Трики. Евала на музикантите, които не се замозабравят. Български "звИздички", моля, учете се! Българското присъствие заслужено си мина незабележимо, просто и предложената продукция беше на такова ниво. Шведите от Little Dragon - голямата изненада. Забележително представяне, оригинални по-танцувални аранжименти на иначе далеч по-бавните им студийни записи. Отново Трики, този път на сцената. Яко пиян и солидно надрусан. Скапано озвучаване, дразнещи дълги импровизации, клатене по сцената и неподходящ подбор от песни, разочарованието ми от Трики беше неизбежно. На него хич не му пукаше, ама и нас яко ни тресеше апатията. Изпратихме го по живо, по здраво, като лепкава безвкусна дъвка полетяла към най-близкия кош. Колко патетично!

Ден 2...скуката отвръща на удара. Хедлайнер - Руутс Манува, съпортът е осигурен от циганския орестър Карандила, диджея на Пъблик Енеми и Рут + групата й. Карандила, без съмнение, се раздадоха. Диджеят прилично разведряващ, докато не се появи недоразумението на Парк Лайв Фест: Ruth & Unlimited. Винаги съм имал съмнения за вокалните способности на прехвалената Рут Колева, но тази вечер се уверих, че някои живеят във въздушни кули. Събуди се, Рут! Изпълнението ви беше толкова скучно, че ако не вдигахте такава патърдия щях да заспя на огражденията. Отчаянието взе превес и Рут почна да ни се моли, но на крива ракета космосът й е виновен. Руутс Манува имаше нелеката цел да събуди заспалата публика. Напъна се, получи се химията, която след звездното му напускане на сцената и повторно връщане тотално се изгуби. Тук е мястото и да изкажа недоумението си от меко казано тъпото изпълнение от страна на организаторите, които изтеглиха програмата с почти два часа напред. Обяснения не получихме, но сред публиката се говореше за проблеми с органите на реда. А, полицията защо не ходи да лови мафиотите в Син Сити или наркотиците в Биад, а тръгнала да дига валянката на 2 хил. човека дошли да послушат нещо, което визуално не се изразява със силикон и перхидрол.

Ден 3...големият финал. Силни изпълнения, слаб интерес. Добре дошли в България. Crazy P определено са щури, весели и себераздаващи се. Plaid, сред големите имена на Warp, доста приятно ме изненадаха. Не си бях направил труда да ги преслушам, но определено им станах фен! Никога не ме беше валял дъжд по време на концерт, но усещането беше доста приятно...с уговорката, че си говорим за краткотраен валеж, защото нямаше да изтрая цяла вечер да седя пред сцената като мокро коте, жално чакащо Lamb да се появят. След известни технически неизправности и поредица от светкавици осветяващи розовото небе на сцената беше причината над два месеца да тръпна: Lamb! Иска ми се да изпиша един ферман за преживяването си, но честно казано думите няма да стигнат! Това е онзи тип събития, на които, ако не си присъствал, просто всичко ти звучи пресилено и пасторално стерилно. Всъщност, когато си усетил студеният дъжд, топлината на тълпата и дрезгавият глас на Лу Роудс, която ти пее за ангели, мечти и криле. Полетях, ревах и за около 90 минути бях извън този свят. Да, да, boys don't cry, дрън-дрън, музиката се чувства, съпреживява и осъзнава. Останалото е комерсиалщина, звездомания и чуплива пластмаса.

Общото ми задоволство от Park Live Fest е някъде в центъра на скалата, основно благодарение на Lamb и Little Dragon. За сетен път се уверих, че музиката в България е в окаяно състояние и не знам колко време още ще кара на глюкоза. Рут, сменяй групата или попрището! Въпреки всичката критика, типично по български, е редно да кажа едно голямо Браво на организаторите, че се постараха този фестивал да се проведе. Убеден съм, че са положили бая усилия, въпреки че нямаше да има нищо срамно, ако бяха ползвали мало външна помощ. Дано посещаемостта и реалният интерес не сломи организаторите и спонсорите и доживеем да видим второто издание на Park Live Fest. С още по-големи имена и още по-голям ентусиазъм. Догодина пак!

Sunday, 21 June 2009

My concert experience: Lamb + Plaid



Day 3! Blessed be this day! Park Live Fest reached its final, which was spectacular and put to sleep all my dissatisfaction with the previous two festival days. Despite all the preparation I was taken by surprise and enjoyed myself as never before. The final three acts blew our tops and on my way out of the venue I didn't want to come to terms with the sad reality - it was over. To me Lamb was the festival's culmination and the reason I bought the ticket at first place. Hats down for Tricky's achievements and the originality of Roots Manuva, but the Manchester duo of Lou Rhodes and Andy Barlow was my personal highlight!

Before I continue with the praise I should mention a few things about the other acts that I got to watch. I was quite late for evening number three and had missed out Gaz Cobain from Future Sound of London and the Bulgarians Phuture Shock, but the rest was to come. I admit I missed for most of their performance the Brits from Crazy P (the P stands for Penis), but manage to catch the last few songs and get a proper idea of their stage presence. Crazy P had already heated up the venue with some groovy dance tracks and the astonishing magnetism of their lead singer Danielle Moore. There was chemistry between the audience and Crazy P and and no doubt people actually wanted them to keep on rocking.

An act away from my "meeting" with Lamb the weather took an unpleasant turn and as soon as Plaid began their set heavy clouds were lazily making themselves comfortable above out heads. After a few tracks rain started pouring down, but this made us come together closer to the stage and give in to the rhythm of IDM. Shame on me, shame, shame! I made no effort to check Plaid's music beforehand and felt really dumb being there first row and shaking with all the guilt on my mind. The guys turned out to have plenty of cool stuff and the positive vibes were in the air despite the heavy cold drops and lightnings in the distance. The weather condition perfectly matched with the essence of Plaid's music and the constantly changing backdrops. I have never expected to enjoy that much something I heard for the first time in my life. Even if I never get to listen to them home they can count on my fan support. My first, and hopefully not last encounter face to face with Warp members (fingers crossed for Aphex Twin).


The moment of truth! One of the most influential trip-hop bands was just about to perform. I've awaited them since I've been interested in the whole scene, going back as further as the end of the 90s. Lamb is one of those bands that I fell in love with the first listen. Nothing could ruin the evening, neither the rain, nor the technical problems they experienced. For the record Lamb had the same sound-system problem as Tricky and Roots Manuva previously: blasting bass beats. Just a few moments before they were due to come on stage their bass broke, which meant additional twenty minutes of wait. The audience applauded every chance of the concert to begin, which after half an hour of clapping and cheering seemed like forever to take.

Darkness. Lou Rhodes, Andy Barlow and a support live member (I think they called him Jeff) covered us with the dark serenity of their music. "Darkness" was their opener! Followed immediately by my personal favourite "B Line", which came to my brains as a rush of warm blood. Despite all the technical difficulties they had with Live Park's equipment live Lamb were amazing! They topped my expectations with the perfect list of songs they chose to perform live, as well as with the fine harmony between Lou's distinctive voice and Andy's music renditions. Going back to the concert the setlist continued with a string of greatest hits among which "Heaven", "What Sound" and "Angelica". "Heaven" was the first song to be sung by the audience, which went nuts as soon as Lamb came to stage.

Andy Barlow was amazing! I have never expected him to be that energetic and jolly, with a wide smile on his face, jumping all around. He was so excited that he even jumped in the crowd, which could have easily torn him apart. Don't worry, we kept him alive just for the sake of other fans around the globe. Andy is the coolest dude I have seen in concert! Definitely! Lou Rhodes on the other hand held back a little, but her constant smile on the face and the cute way she was saying all the time "Thank you" in Bulgarian made the distance always invisible. I think that they were very pleasantly surprised by the warm welcome and the way we appreciated their music. I am not being judgmental but I had the feeling that they didn't expect Bulgaria to be best place to find such an excellent audience, which in fact was fond of the duo's music.

Lamb's highlight was the performance of their highly anticipated song "Gorecki", which was virtually sang the by everyone. But the big surprise came with "Gabriel", which I should admit made me cry. So touching and so real, the whole atmosphere just made the tears come out on their own. It was raining, one could feel the warmth of the crowd and with Lou heavenly singing
"I can fly
But I want his wings
I can shine even in the darkness
But I crave the light that he brings
Revel in the songs that he sings
My angel Gabriel"
create a whole that words fail to describe! My personal favourite!

Lamb had two encores, putting an end of their concert and the open-air part of Park Live Fest 2009 with "Stay". A poetic promise that this performance will always stay in their hearts and I can promise them that Lamb live in Sofia will be long remembered by everyone who spent the whole rainy evening with this amazing band! If you still haven't seen them live hurry up, cause you never know what will happen with them after the end of their tour.

"God bless", they shall return!

Video courtesy of YouTube user finmelchen:



Video courtesy of YouTube user iF0Pi:



Video courtesy of YouTube user opiuma:

Saturday, 20 June 2009

My concert experience: Roots Manuva



The second day of Park Live Fest in Sofia was definitely the lowest point in the whole program. First of all the line-up was less than intriguing. Another thing was that the audience was definitely less than for Tricky, the previous day. The headliner was the British-Jamaican rapper Roots Manuva, who mixes hip-hop with electronica, reggae, dub and even gospel. I admit that just a couple of weeks ago I knew him only by his moniker, but spent enough time getting to know his style. The mere fact that he mentions that many various styles and extensively concentrates on social issues made me attend his gig, drawn by the charm of a rapper who has something to say for real.

I guess, I should start from the very start which was given by the Gypsy orchestra Karandila, which as I was told had to play for over two hours. Don't worry about the poor guys, they are used to the prolonged performances and I assure you that Karandila could have been on stage all night long and beyond. The orchestra was followed by DJ Lord from Public Enemy, who had a few surprises on his turntable. His set was dominated by pop and rock tracks, which was kind of surprising as we expected him to bury us deep in the sands of black music. He made the audience boogie-woogie and still he showed more passion than we did...what a pity. DJ Lord and Karandila tried out to improvise together, which didn't end up as well as expected. Anyways, the last performance before Roots Manuva was of the band Ruth & Unlimited. In one word: L A M E! Their whole performance was absolutely annoying and nerve-racking. They sounded if they played together for the very first time: unorganized and distorted.

After being tortured to the maximum with Ruth's constant pleads to come closer to the scene and dance to the rhythm, and waiting some more twenty minutes for the main act to begin, finally Roots Manuva made his appearance. He was backed up by two DJs and a side singer, whose name I didn't get to hear (understand to be more precise). Honestly I felt wrong while watching Roots, because it turned out that the majority of the people there actually listened to him and they did know the songs. Still, this didn't ruin my fun and I got my groove on.

Due to problems with the police (I never got to find out exactly what) the program had to be rescheduled and pulled back with almost two hours, which after all ended up in no more than an hour suspension. It was announced that Roots will appear on stage at 21:00, which caused havoc among his fans as many of them expected him no sooner than 22:00 and they were rushed into the venue, although he didn't appear on stage earlier than 21:30. I am saying all of this, because the organizers had to push the rapper to shorten his performance and drop a few songs, which brought addition tension to the atmosphere, which was going down the spiral after the dubious warm-up performance by Bulgarian band Ruth & Unlimited. The rescheduling almost ruined Roots Manuva performance, but the management obviously managed to win extra 45 minutes.

Rodney Smith, Manuva's real name, played it safe and entirely backed his gig on his most prominent stuff, which was eagerly and passionately appreciated by hip-hop fans. Even I managed to distinguish at least a few of his songs, although they were slightly rendered. Talking of rearranged versions I should say that not the changes made it difficult for me to recognize them, but the horrible sound system the organizers had provided. The bass was so heavy that for most of the concert I couldn't hear any proper singing and at certain moments there was nothing but blasts and distortions. Among the performed songs were "Bashment Boogie", "Witness (1 Hope)", "Sinny Sin Sins and, "Dub Styles", at least those I managed to distinguish.

His back-up had parts on all of the songs, even those which on the albums were solo performed and he was more passionate than Manuva himself. There was chemistry between them and they proved to be a good combo, although we didn't really care about anyone else but Roots. At 22:00 they announced that the gig was over as they were forced to put an end to it. Umm, yeah, but we did already know its a hoax and nobody bought it. The more the concert neared its end the more annoyed I was feeling. It felt like forever until the last song. I don't know why, but the second part of the performance was blunt and tedious with an uncertain pace and lame improvisations. I have never been happier to hear "Thank you and goodbye". I couldn't stop clapping my hands as I was doing it to make sure this was the very end of Day 2. Indeed, it was.

The videos are courtesy of YouTube user superchiko





Friday, 19 June 2009

My concert experience: Tricky + Little Dragon



Park Live Fest is the first festival of its kind in Bulgaria, bringing together names from the electronic scene and reviving the true trip-hop vibe. Introducing such a concept for the first time on the Balkan music scene definitely meant a lot of risk for the organizers and less to no impact. Luckily, there are still plenty of people fond of the good old 90s when MTV was the pedestal of diversity and music was not all about boobs and trunks.

Day 1 was highlighted by the essence of the Bristol scene and the subtlety of the Swedish improvisational expressionism. Tricky on the prowl with his distinctive half-singing half-rapping distinguishable singing and Little Dragon with their surprisingly original performance attitude, brought freshness to the rather stagnant Balkan alt fields. Nevertheless, I should mention that the two main acts were preceded by three other performances, but they did go rather unnoticed. Although Tricky, real name Adrian Thaws, was the one who we all expected I dare say that Little Dragon made the best impression for the whole evening.

Little Dragon began rather vaguely, carefully testing the crowd and after just a couple of songs Yukimi Nagano and company gained confidence and slowly began heating up the audience. They took me by surprise with more up-beat versions of their sole album's tracks, which were rearranged especially for a fast-paced mind-blowing performance, which was entirely based on improvisation. I guess they did realize that Tricky being after them puts the stakes quite high and still they did their best to reach the level of required quality. The audience definitely appreciated Nagano's intriguing voice and her stage presence, as well as the passion Little Dragon's music had in store. Perhaps, people who would rather stick to their genuine style weren't very happy with the significant changes, although this was no wrong move at all.

Tricky...one of the pioneers of the trip-hop genre, who paved the way for the mid to late 90s alt electronic wave, was the one who was expected to blast the scene and be the bad boy of the festival. Indeed, he spent the whole evening doing spliff and passionately gulping drinks, probably heating up for the grand show. So far, so good. Lights off, a sudden turmoil on stage and there you go - Tricky in flesh and bone, performing in front of some 3 thousand people.

The closest link to the godfathers of trip-hop Massive Attack was there for us ready to kick some ass. Hooray! Have I ever told you how much I hate musicians doing drugs and eliminating immense quantities of liquor? I do! Tricky reminded me why! I guess I should excuse him, as this probably is part of his performance, but it poked out my eyes...they were sore and bleeding. What could be more pathetic the singer stoned as a dumb ass or the audience aggravating the situation with their horrific passiveness. I'd go for number two, please. Tricky might have had to struggle through his artistic inadequacy, but the audience obviously needed to cheer up. Sadly chemistry was absent and the vital connection performer-audience was based just on Tricky's reputation. Definitely there were people who went bananas seeing him live on stage, but the majority was there standing coldblooded and clapping as if taking part in a senior fund-raising campaign.

What made things even worse was the apathy that Tricky demonstrated, which made the show look as if he was there for himself and the rest could just fuck off. I, personally, had difficulty swallowing his annoyingly endlessly improvisations, which brought the majority to the edge of patience. In the setlist, probably on purpose, were omitted a great deal of his most famous songs, which brought more tension and dissatisfaction with the audience. Although trying to compensate with several new song arrangement it all crashed and burnt when technical difficulties abruptly interrupted the show. Afterward, Tricky had lost interest and in no time the concert came to its end. His performance ended with Motörhead's "Ace of Spades" and fans invited on stage to rumble with him. Applause! No requests for an encore. We all went home.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Review: Vive La Fete - Disque d'Or



One of the best Belgian electronic exports the duo Vive La Fete always a few pleasant surprises awaiting us in their albums. "Disque d'Or" makes no exception and no compromises, because Danny Mommens and Els Pynoo know good music. Famous for their high productivity, loyalty to the French language and playful humor Vive La Fete never grow tired of the subtle tricks of the electro sound.

"Disque d'Or" (in English "Golden disc") is placed just two years after last proper studio record, but it clearly shows a change in favor of a more electronic sound, putting aside their more guitar-based clashy style. Of course, once again they have mixed plenty of music inspirations coming up with an original diverse concept that includes genres like dance-punk, electro-rock, new rave and electroclash. Everything is mixed and massively mashed with witty lyrics and Pynoo and Mommens chasing through the tracks.

The album marks a slight return to their earliest material, although it bares its very own essence and originality. "Disque d'Or" most certainly makes no attempts to recreate the atmosphere of "Republique Populaire" for instance, but paves the road to new music experiences in the jolly company of Vive La Fete. Even the slow tracks are suitable for clubs just when you wanna chill-out a little or slowly boogie around the dancefloor networking with other party people.

Of course, "Disque d'Or" is not that perfect to be unreal and has a few weak points, such as fillers, unexplainable stylistic overflows, lack of a lyrical center in few songs and the repetition of several ideas from previous albums. A few annoying details don't really screw up the quality, let alone make the record impossible to listen. "Disque d'Or" might never get to the golden disc certificate or be an impeccable example for an electronic album and still it's a huge load of fun, Belgian artistry and sexy vocals.

Songs to hear: "Petit Colibri", "Everybody Hates Me", "Ce Que Tu Penses de Moi" and "Amour Physique"

Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Review: Passion Pit - Manners



If you've long missed a quality indie pop album on the prowl "Manners" by Passion Pit is out here to fill in a few cavities. Debuting just a couple of years ago the American band Passion Pit brought a fresh breeze in the lately rather stagnant electropop scene with some clever ideas and stylistic manners.

"Manners" has everything that should be expected from an indietronica album: brave experimenting, intriguing vocal-instrumental combinations, pushing a few boundaries further and sticking to their own kind of originality. This record may not be a groundbreaking detour from the straight electropop line, but definitely draws direct inspiration from other areas such as new wave, electro-rock and chamber pop, which add up to the diversity and saturation of the whole product. Lyrically Passion Pit show that words are a fine instrument to express emotions and they sound even better when accompanied by memorable tunes.

Nevertheless, I should warn you about the heavy falsetto that vocalist Michael Angelakos has, cause it may sound a bit too annoying at the very first listen (as happened with me). But after giving the album a second chance impressed by the sound quality I did start to enjoy his voice, which after the startle turns out to be a pleasant accompaniment to the instrumental arrangements. There is a track for almost every indie taste, from good old electronica to shaky dance-punk and soft alt-rock. The best thing is that despite the great variety "Manners" manages to stand its own ground with a stable structure and rhythmic change of pace and emotion.

Songs to hear: "The Reeling", "Make Light", "Moth's Wings" and "Folds in Your Hands"

Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Review: Moby - Wait For Me



Ambient sadness! Depressing harmony! Tunes straight from the heart! Moby never misses out and "Wait For Me" is the 100% proof that he can make virtually any kind of music. Going through various stylistic stages, dubious experiments and a string of successful albums Moby concentrates entirely on the taste of ambiance that was had a vibrant part in his previous records. What he left as B-sides before, now sums the whole concept of his newest album, with no over the top melodies, fancy lyrics or indigestible messages.

"Wait For Me" is for the sole delight. No commercial aiming, no pushed efforts to be radio-friendliness and no disposable resolutions. The album tries to avoid the overwhelming success of Moby, as well as being a pretentious self-centered project with high expectations. "Wait For Me" is the last call for oneself to get hold off themselves and move on despite all the pain and the lows...after all we all need someone to wait for us. With the release of this album on his own label Moby has given himself enough space to develop his devotion to ambient music. Actually "Wait For Me" is his top notch ambient project, which in no means tries to overshadow any of Moby's previous ambient attempts.

The vast majority of included tracks is entirely instrumental with only few exceptions, which is nothing new to Moby, who has released an immense amount of material without vocals. Of course, this may be seen as a major flaw to those used to Richard's popular songs and they are right to some extent. Despite all the visible efforts "Wait For Me" leaves me with the impression that it has never been really finalized and a few more vocal tracks would have done good.

Not that the whole idea for an instrumentally based album is bad, but we have to face the facts: it's the vocal tracks that brought Moby to prominence. I guess, that is the reason why the first official single from "Wait For Me" is the vocal track "Pale Horses". The songs carries a slight resemblance to songs like "Natural Blues" or "Extreme Ways", which is a wise choice for the promotion of a less commercial release. Anyways, if you are not really into the whole chill-out/lounge stuff and slow tunes "Wait For Me" may be a hard one to swallow or an easy one to be cast away as boring and unoriginal. For those who have long anticipated an entirely ambient Moby album 2009 is their year. As far as I am concerned I do appreciate the new album, but I hope Moby will keep on offering new and unexplored stuff. After all that is the whole charm of his music or?

Songs to hear: "Pale Horses", "Wait for Me", "A Seated Night", "Study Wars" and "jltf"

Rating: 7/10



Monday, 15 June 2009

Review: Regina Spektor - Far



The Queen of anti-folk is back with a classy piano-driven elaborate album named just "Far", which is her fifth studio album and the along awaited continuation of her critically acclaimed record "Begin to Hope". With the soft touch of piano music and the distinctive sharpness of her voice Spektor demonstrates a talent, which is yet to reach its highest.

"Far" is a manifestation of Regina's desire to concentrate more on the validity of social values and on the impact of worldwide issues on the individual themselves and the changing prospects of success and failure. Despite not being as edgy or emotionally diverse as her previous album Spektor goes up the spiral with less commercial material, which may be seen as a step aside from her work up to now. I personally, cannot categorize "Far" as anti-folk due to the lack of the style's typical elements and it has more to do with the newest wave of the indie alt music movement that has taken the States overnight.

Regina Spektor has always been devoted to acoustic music and "Far" is no exception to the rule. Even more, it is an acoustic galore with plenty of tracks freed by any other instrument interference or technical tampering. The talented singer further explores the abilities of her vocal abilities, although if you are not very used to her singing style you might find it kind of annoying. This, of course, should be no obstacle to embracing "Far" to its fullest and spending some quality piano time.

Despite all the praise I should say that this album got just a little bit on my nerves with over the top yelling at certain points, repetitive piano parts and rather disappointing of the lyrical content of some of the songs. The emotional charge is quite chaotic and reaches extremes, which just don't fit in the same album tracklist. Regina knows piano music best, but maybe she should break the ice a little and give experimenting more field in her records. Her top competition Tori Amos may have released quite a disappointing album, but at least she did try a lot of things. As for Spektor, obviously she plays safe, keeping in a tight grasp her piano music. But for how long?

Songs to hear: "Man of a Thousand Faces", "Genius Next Door", "Laughing With", "Human of the Year" and "Dance Anthem of the 80s"

Personal rating: 7/10

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Review: Riceboy Sleeps - Riceboy Sleeps



Ambient galore! That is the first thing that comes to my mind after listening to Riceboy Sleeps' eponymous debut album. Truly emotional and inspiring this record is the proof that sometimes words are useless. Music can tell a thousand splendid stories, leaving unforgettable traces without even using a single word. Plus, all those who missed Sigur Ros' earliest stuff will be in ecstasy laying their hands on such a fine product.

Riceboy Sleeps is the collaborative project of Jón Þór Birgisson, Sigur Ros vocalist, and his boyfriend Alex Somers, visual arts. "Riceboy Sleeps" explores the emotional depths of life, goes beyond the horizon and reaches out for a dreamworld, where sleeping giants roam, happiness is to be found during the Indian summer and the howl of Daníell in the sea is to be heard. All things are possible, everything is soft and the heart sings along the cords of an acoustic guitar or trembles with every violin note. The Kópavogsdætur Choir adds up to the atmospheric endeavor through mind and space and brings the light to the rather gloomy and depressive tone to the whole album.

Despite all the efforts "Riceboy Sleeps" couldn't avoid the direct Sigur Ros influence and to some extent it may be considered as the elaborate continuation of the Icelandic band's first studio album "Von" with more emphasis on the string section and less experimentation and modulation. Shared experiences, empathy and self-acceptance, introvert going extrovert, kissing the Sun hello and backpacking on the graves of hatred and vanity, love recognizes no limits and Riceboy Sleeps seem to have more in store for those ready to come to terms with themselves. Although not lyrically expressed equality and the right to be yourself is the thin red line keeping the exquisite structure of this album together. There are plenty of messages and emotional landscapes to be found with every next listen and Birgisson has given his best to leave everything open to your own interpretation. If not, listen to "Riceboy Sleeps" at least once more!

Songs to hear: "Atlas Song", "Daníell in The Sea", "Indian Summer" and "Sleeping Giant"

Personal rating: 8/10



Saturday, 13 June 2009

Vessy - Ring the Bells

From time to time Bulgarian pop music manages to produce something worthy of listening more than once. Consider such beams as the desperate final attempts of Bulgarian pop to survive the harsh competition. I chose to show you this song at is one of the few pop songs right now that actually correspond to the whole idea of pop music, which on the Balkans often takes hideous forms. I am pretty sure you have listened to loads of similar songs and could hardly find any originality, a fact no one can deny.

Vessy is the stage name of Vessela Boneva, an aspiring promising young singer, who has gained moderate prominence in Bulgaria, but still no recognition outside. "Ring the Bells" lacks the actual potential of becoming a major hit and it still it proves to be quite fresh and it may ring a few bells.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Review: Asher Roth - Asleep in the Bread Aisle



It's been a long time since I last listened to something as bad as Asher Roth's debut studio album "Asleep in the Bread Aisle". Excuse me for being that honest from the first sentence, but this album is a pure waste of time...and space. Pretentious rapping, dull lyrics and lack of originality make this debut absolutely obsolete.

Asher Roth is a fresh name in the hip-hop scene, but he makes a disastrous first impression. I wonder how did he actually got to sign a deal, having in mind the quality of his first record, which sounds as if college rock meets amateur rapping. I gave my best to understand his rapping style, but mumbling words without any real rhythm can't be passed as such. Roth is another fine example why the majority of white people are incapable of rapping and an album like "Asleep in the Bread Aisle" could hardly be taken as a serious music product.

Probably Mr. Roth surely has his fans among US college fraternities or is kind of suitable for some teen American drama series and still in Europe his approach to music will remain dubious and rather distasteful. Admirable is the honesty Roth demonstrates throughout the album, which could have been his ticket to major recognition. Sadly, for him, honesty is a vicious friend, who likes to stab you in the back while kindly smiling. Plus the lyrical content is annoyingly predictable: chicks, getting high, drinking till the very last memory is wiped out, promiscuity and parties combining all of the before mentioned. Really? Cause we had no idea what shaking the trunk and doing spliff mean and only gurus like Asher could make it clear for us.

Despite including a load of guest performances and desperately trying to sound like a whitey with a black rap soul Asher Roth demonstrates doubtful skills and rather crude final product, which may easily find its spot among the weakest albums of 2009. For those who expect nothing more than a college freak out party should get their hands on "Asleep in the Bread Aisle", and for the rest saving yourselves a few bucks is the best thing you can do.

Songs to hear: "She Don't Wanna Man", "Lion's Roar" and "His Dream"

Personal rating: 3 out of 10

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Wall of Shame: Miles Away...from originality?

Is Madonna out of money or out of original ideas? I doubt she's gone bankrupt, but it seems that the big cruiser with ideas has gone on a very long trip somewhere far from reach. Although Madonna has had weak videos from time to time, obviously she has decided on totally neglecting the visual part of her singles and focus on keeping the money coming straight to momma. I guess her work is going on a downward spiral, which effects on her music creativity and visualizations, which tend to sound like excerpts from a Rihanna album, than the product of the biggest icons in pop music. I wish I could pick up this song as the song of my day, but instead I listed in the wall of shame and I start to believe that Madonna has more trashy stuff coming on their way to us.

People, please, don't make the same mistake and never ever consider original anything like the following video.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Review: a-ha - Foot of the Mountain



a-ha is on of the those bands that everyone has heard of, but few can really remember what music they actually played. And that is a pity, because their newest release "Foot of the Mountain" proves that new wave music is still live and kicking, despite all the heavy breathing and the gray hair. Although some people were not satisfied with the eponymous pilot single I still was convinced that this album deserved a full listen...and I am not sorry at all.

"Foot of the Mountain" is a-ha's ninth proper studio album and comes after four years of silence, but I guess it was all worth the waiting. Going back and forth between the new wave features, the dreampop influences and the electropop smooth beats, a-ha are anything but out of ideas. Even after almost three decades of bringing quality pop music to the world they still have a few tricks in the bag and without the whole Depeche Mode glamor and hysteria have recorded an exquisite electronic delight for late night emotional endeavors or a mid-day indulgence into the pastoral little world far there at the foot of the mountain.

Marking a return to their original synthpop sound after the successful more rock-orientated album "Analogue", "Foot of the Mountain" has a few fine surprises for a-ha true electronic fans, and still will be no total disappointment to their guitar-loving supporters. However, the album is milder, more mellow and self-introverted, exploring desires and regrets, reflecting the uncertainties of the future and the hardships of the past. There is a fine emotional structure that keeps all the tracks together and without being an actual concept album it does tell a story...but the rest I leave solely to you.

Songs to hear: "The Bandstand", "What There Is", "Nothing Is Keeping You Here" and "Mother Nature Goes To Heaven"

Personal rating: 8 out of 10

Monday, 8 June 2009

Review: Paolo Nutini - Sunny Side Up



Paolo Nutini until just a few days ago was nothing more than a familiar name to me, but after being recommended to me a few times I decided to hear his new album "Sunny Side Up" to hear what's the whole fuss about. I can only say: Interesting! I didn't expect for a man of his age to have such a powerful voice with which he actually tells stories of here and there.

Getting back to the album itself, "Sunny Side Up" despite being in the folk-rock niche explores various styles, favoring blue-eyed soul, bluegrass and neo-folk. Nutini draws inspiration directly from his music upbringing in Scotland and to some extent demonstrates his fascination from American folk music, which has most certainly played a major role. Don't worry "Sunny Side Up" is no country album, released by a Scott dying to be out there on a rodeo. The record is more of a tribute to Americana with the strong fundamentals of the European neo-folk scene.

I just can't agree with the annoying comparison to James Morrison, who despite all the efforts is nothing more than a mere copycat of James Blunt. Gosh, are they brothers or what? "Sunny Side Up" is the final proof that the two don't share the same music bed! Back to Nutini, although his sophomore effort is seen by some as a disappointment and the singer himself blamed for losing track of his own style, "Sunny Side Up" is a melodic experiment curving in fresh wood with the final accomplishment visible only in your mind.

I personally don't see this album as anything close to failure or waste of talent, as it is a manifestation of diversity, emotional landscapes and stories of sadness and happiness, of the strive for a pastoral life deep in the bushes of love. Apart from the few flops here and there "Sunny Side Up" is easily a fine folk piece with hopes and despairs, with maturity and childishness, with Europe meeting America for a dance under the stars.

Songs to hear: "Ten Out of Ten", "Growing Up Beside You", "Tricks of the trade" and "Pencil Full of Lead"

Personal rating: 7 out of 9

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Recommendation Weekly: VV Brown



Ladies and gentleman, I give you one of the brand new and hottest names for the summer: VV Brown! The Northampton, UK, native with real name Vanessa Brown is a young and very promising singer-songwirter, producer and multi-instrumentalist, who has released three singles up to date and right now is cooking her debut "Travelling with the Light", which is going to hit stores on 20th July. Brown has been compared to Santigold, Ladyhawke and Lily Allen and stylistically she has been put in several niches among which indietronica, alternative pop and dance-punk. Vanessa has already been listed as one of the hottest breakthroughs of 2009, but I warn you, she has just began! So watch out for VV Brown playing on your TV/radio stations and crashing for a long time in your hearts.





Saturday, 6 June 2009

Review: Black Eyed Peas - The E.N.D



Energy never dies they say? Hmmm, think again! Black Eyed Peas sound like this actually is The END (without the dots) and after a few listens I should agree with them shutting down business sooner or later. Don't worry, they are not breaking up...yet. Still, this is no explanation for the rather disappointing quality of "The E.N.D", which is their fifth studio effort.

"Boom Boom Pow" definitely was a hook-up with a more electronic sound and futuristic pre-taste dipped in dance beats. Sadly, the album contains too few hook-ups and after several listens the whole idea has gone to waste. Not that I really had high expectations for anything released by Black Eyed Peas, especially after the launch of Fergie' solo reach-out for extra cash and fame, but "The E.N.D" is cramped with tedious punch lines, boobies and trunks in jeans and (f)actually few good dance tracks. The worst thing is that they have tried out to include as many of their ideas as possible and it all turned out into a screwed up mess. Attempts have been made, but the majority of them have crashed and burnt.

You remember Destiny's Child? Yeah, Beyonce's trampoline to success...right! You do recall they used to say they were a band, although we all knew that the greedy B was taking most of the vocal credits. Now move it all to Black Eyed Peas, but instead of Beyonce place will.i.am. What do you see? Really? So did I! "The E.N.D" is another will.i.am and others project featuring from time to time the singing efforts of fellow band members. Fergie, of course, is second in charge of the singing parts, although she can't beat the presence of will.i.am throughout the album. Didn't he have a solo career where to share all of his music ideas and mambo-jumbo? Excuse me for being to pushy, but I really don't like bands openly dominated by a single member. If you doubt listen to "The E.N.D" and calculate the album-time that will.i.am takes up!

Anyway, the whole electropop spinal cord supporting the album structure doesn't really fit Black Eyed Peas. It actually reminds me of Kanye West and his "808s & Heartbreak" album, which was an intriguing combination of electronica and hip-hop. On the other hand "The E.N.D" sounds more like a super drunk party of genres, which ended with a furious fight and unexpected hook-ups.

Fergie is desperately trying to sound sexy and sleazy, tempting and provoking, but her improvement still hasn't seen the light. She should think of picking up a career as a screamo vocalist or finally hiring a vocal coach! Please, Stacy, stop whining instead of singing. Oh, yeah, and confessing that you like holding the bottle tight is no surprise to us...for real! The others demonstrate almost no creativity, their lyrics have lost even the last traces of wisdom, as well as bringing you to the verge of committing a suicide after dancing yourself to exhausting, figuratively saying. Truth is "The E.N.D" had an interesting dance concept, which was lost while trying to be exceedingly original and club-friendly. The END.

Songs to hear: "Boom Boom Pow", "Imma Be", "Out of My Head" and "Electric City"

Personal rating: 6 out of 10

Friday, 5 June 2009

Review: Little Boots - Hands



I've already lost faith in pop music when I got to hear Little Boot's debut album "Hands", which is a splendid combination of various electronic manners and pop tunes. Victoria Hesketh who is behind the moniker Little Boots has done the pop album that I've been waiting six months already. Probably some of you would definitely disagree with time, but for me pop music has more to offer than Britney whining like a dog in pain or Mandy Moore, who just couldn't let go off the whole bubbly dingy.

"Hands" is an album that deserves a good load of praise, although it has its flaws, but they are less than a pain in the ass. Little Boots is part of the fast growing new electro movement and competition is definitely big, but playing with the right cards get you straight to the top of the ladder just a hand away from the crown. Hesketh's story could easily pass as a dream come true and her late success is the proof that even quality music can wide open doors. "Hands" is the sum up of all of her music experiments throughout the years going from jazz, electro, disco, experimental, indietronica, punk and power pop, thus the astonishing stylistic variety and the loads of elements used in the songs. That actually is a good reason why some of the tracks sound like they have been taken out of different releases.

Victoria has been given quite a lot of freedom as experiments flow from one into another, diversity spreads all over the album and extended list of music influences back up every single track. The mere fact that she is no new to the music business has given her the opportunity to spend enough time working on the style she wants to introduce and develop a lyrical concept, which has something to say and is not trying to be over the top. What I like about her attitude towards the whole fuzz surrounding her right now is the fact she is less than impressed and doesn't really give a damn about media attention just for her to promote herself.

"Hands", of course, is not lacking some flaws, like repetition of several lyrical ideas and the use of some annoying electronic elements, as well as a couple of songs could easily pass as fillers. This shouldn't keep you off from giving a full listen to one of the most promising pop releases of 2009 and soon to be big Victoria Hesketh aka Little Boots.

Songs to hear: "Stuck on Repeat", "Remedy", "Meddle", "New In Town", "No Brakes" and "Hearts Collide"

Personal rating: 9 out of 10

Thursday, 4 June 2009

New albums to expect

It's time for an update on the list of brand new albums to expect till the end of this year. Not many titles to be included, but as a whole summer is a weak season for album releases and most are left for the fall or even winter. Still you can enjoy those upcoming and congratulations to the winning fans.

June

Tina Turner - Beyond (19th June)
A-ha - Foot of the Mountain (19th June)


July


Cascada - Evacuate the Dancefloor (6th July)
VV Brown - Travelling Like the Light (20th July)
Jordin Sparks - Battlefield (21st July)
Billy Talent - Billy Talent III (14th July)

August

Behemoth - Evangelion (7th August)
Cassie Davis - Differently (14th August)
Sean Paul - Imperial Blazer (18th August)
Fun - Aim and Ignite (25th August)
Vader - Necropolis (21st August)
David Guetta - One Love (24th August)
Arctic Monkeys - TBA (24th August)
Sean Kingston - Tomorrow (25th August)
The 69 Eyes - Back in Blood (28th August)
Flyleaf - Memento Mori (August)
Dolores O'Riordan - No Baggage (August)

September

Insane Clown Posse - Bang!Pow!Boom! (1st September)
Fine Frenzy - Bomb In A Birdcage (8th September)
Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johansson - Break Up (8th September)
Pearl Jam - Backspacer (22nd September)
Mark Knopfler - Get Lucky (14th September)
Beastie Boys - Hot Sauce Committee (September)
Muse - The Resistance (September)
Infected Mushroom - Legend of the Black Shawarma (September)
The Flaming Lips - Embryonic (September)

Others
Dragonette - Fixin to Thrill (August-September)
Epica - Design Your Universe (September-October)
Usher - Monster (Fall)
Slayer - World Painted Blood (Summer)

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Review: Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest



Some groups are meant to be over the top, being the hype of the year, although they really don't deserve it, others tend to stay a little bit aside, but hold plenty of fine surprises for true music lovers. Such is the case with the American lo-fi/folk quartet Grizzly Bear, who demonstrate to the best how quality sound is actually supposed to be created with their third studio album "Veckatimest".

Veckatimest is the name of a small island in Dukes County, Massachusetts, and I dare say it is one of the most original album titles I have recently heard. At first I thought it is nonsense, but when you listen to the album you could actually visualize this picturesque little island nested in the warm grasp of a blue bay. The whole album is a spiritual endeavor to maturity, the coming to terms with reality and the fascination of emotional complexity. The album merely insists on lyrical perfection, missed out only be the repetition of a few topics, but the best is kept after a few listens when you actually sink into the depths of symbols and indulge into the structural coherence in the album.

After a few experiments, left mostly out of studio albums, Grizzly Bear have proved to be one of the fastest evolving neo-folk American bands, who manage to put the standard higher with every next release of theirs. Although not being one of the most profound pioneers of chamber pop, they have played quite an important role in its popularization, especially in the States where the scene grew in a fortnight. "Veckatimest" is swinging between genres and still preserves preserves the idea of an album both stylistically and lyrically inseparable. They have even tried at certain points to sound poppier and more accessible, which may be seen as a major flaw to fans, who support their relation to the folk scene, but I believe that Grizzly Bear have done it very swiftly and softly, leaving a little surprise for anyone open to less commercially orientated pop music.

"Veckatimest" is not your million-copy selling groundbreaking album and definitely not radios' newest favourite addition to their playlists, but is this year's one of the best alternative records and if you are up for some quality time with meaningful texts, emotionally enriched tunes and extraordinarily charming vocals than Grizzly Bear's third album would be the right choice.

Songs to hear: "Two Weeks", "All We Ask", "While You Wait For The Others" and "Cheerleader"

Personal rating: 8 out of 10

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Review: Eminem - Relapse



Sometimes silence is golden for real! Such is the case with Eminem and the newest add-up to his record history named "Relapse". After five years full of lows among which a pill-addiction, an eleven-week marriage to his two-time wife Kimberly Scott, the murder of his close friend the rapper Proof and producing career with a rather mild success, Eminem ended his hiatus giving a new flow to his solo music. "Relapse" is also expected to be followed by "Relapse 2", which is to be released some time this year.

"Relapse" is entirely based on the rapper's experience during his prescribed drugs addiction, as recordings started immediately after finishing his rehabilitation. This albums also marks the return of his well-known alter-ego Slim Shady, who eagerly demonstrates his indulgence into recreational drugs and craving for serial killing to some extent. Eminem sings about murdering Britney Spears and Lindsey Lohan and makes fun of plenty of other famous persona. The rapper admits that apart from his own experience he has also drawn inspiration from documentaries on killers and movies dedicated to them, thus the more gruesome and darker lyrical content.

Dr. Dre is again the one standing behind the production part of this album, which is no surprise to anyone I guess. He can also be heard on two tracks: "Old Time's Sake" and "Crack a Bottle". The second one is a collaboration with 50 Cent, who is expected to release an album of his own later this year. "Relapse" is Eminem's album with the least guest performers on it for his entire career, allowing him to concentrate more on his own ideas and let them extensively develop.

Despite all the personal background that "Relapse" projects it does lack certain points of originality, sounds rather crude, distasteful and out of real emotions. Few new topics are introduced, but as a whole you have Eminem's usual dissatisfaction with the things in his private life, moaning and bitching around like violence is actually THE resolution. The mommy issue is present, as well as the love you-hate you situation with his ex-lovey-dovey wife, which have become less or more a burden in his last works. His lyrical killing spree provoked by Shady's uncontrollable drug addiction and the horror elements incorporated in several of the songs may be considered as a plus to his die-hard fans of brutality, but to the rest it may sound more of pushing things up in an unknown direction. Actually "Relapse" sounds to me as a desperate shout for help after a serious nervous breakdown and I tend to believe that Eminem is still not sure where the hell he is actually heading to.

Songs to hear: "3 a.m.", "Bagpipes from Baghdad", "We Made You", "Medicine Ball" and "Must Be the Ganja"

Personal rating: 5 out of 10

Monday, 1 June 2009

Review: Placebo - Battle for the Sun



"Battle for the Sun" is Placebo's sixth proper studio album, a strong follow up of their rather poppy album "Meds", which was received by both fans and critics with mixed feelings. Their new album is a departure from the more electronic based sound and a fine return to the classical alt-rock style for which the bands has been numerously praised.

This is the first album to feature new drummer Steve Forrest, who took the place of Robert Schultzberg, and which some fans considered as a sign for an eminent change in Placebo's style. For good or for bad Forrest has really brought a change, which to me is quite positive. "Battle for the Sun" sounds as a whole, with clear structure, adequate emotional balance and almost no fillers. The album demonstrates a heavier sound with the prevail of loud and emotional drumming and the fast and determined guitar riffs back and forth.

Molko has done some improvements of himself demonstrating more complex lyrics with a clearer message in them. Of course, the puns and the riddles are present and nothing is ever to be understood to its fullest when Brian is the one responsible. The topics are various from substance abuse to emotional battles through personal doubts and search for new experiences. He has done quite a fine work with the writing and the majority of songs are thoughtful, clever and provoking with a pinch of wit and playfulness.

"Battle for the Sun" definitely surpasses "Meds" by quality and easily matches by diversity and complexity "Sleeping with Ghosts" and "Without You I'm Nothing". The chosen up to now singles "Battle for the Sun" (promotional) and "For What It's Worth" (official) are not the best pick-ups but demonstrate the exquisite variety offered by the 13-song track-list.

Songs to hear: "Kings of Medicine", "Ashtray Heart", "Breath Underwater", "Julien" and "For What It's Worth"

Personal rating: 8 out of 10