Sunday, 27 December 2009

Songs of the Decade


This list is not intended by any means to be objective or definitive...I've just put down some of the songs that have been significant for me personally in these past ten years. It's supposed to be a mix of the songs I (used to) love to listen to on the radio through to some obscure tracks, the only criterion being the song's release between 2000 and 2009.
It's quite obvious many of my favourite artists (let alone songs) have been ommited from this blog entry due to time and space restrictions... ;o))

In NO order whatsoever:

All These Things That I've Done - The Killers : Long, long before I bacame anything approaching a Victim (= a fan of The Killers) I'd full-on loved this song. This was the kind of stadium rock I could listen to because it had vulnerability, melacholy and euphory and a bit of pretentiousness - all at the same time. Oh, and the lyrics are pretty great too. I got soul but I'm not a soldier is the perfect anti-war chant of the new millenium, regardless of if it was meant to be one or not.
-Grammy nom-

Viva la Vida - Coldplay : Once a Coldplay fan I drifted away with the thrid album but I was curious what would my beloved Brian Eno do with these hopeless soppy suckers and well, he worked miracles. The album was comercial as well as an artistic succes, this song's the best example: catchy, full of joy w/ pretty good lyrics; and even after almost two years I personally haven't grown tired of it yet.
-Grammy-

American Idiot - Green Day : The frustration of the politics of G.W. Bush put into a song; this song gave the name to a whole, brilliant album, rich on great songs which ended up being huge hits. Tho I'm not as left-thinking as these three Californians and don't think Bush is as evil as it's been popular to say in the past dacade, I do love the raw emotions pooring from this song.

Wake Up - Arcade Fire : Probably the best and most original band that came out in the noughties. I could spend ages thinking about which of their songs touched me the most, which I think is the most beautiful. This song was the first that sprung to my mind, so decided to keep my initial choice here.
We could call Wake Up the spiritual anthem of the 00's.

Hometown Glory - Adele : Tho Adele sings about her hometown (London), I think I can easily apply what she sings to my hometown of Prague as well... So beautiful it hurts. Personally if I had to choose one song from the past decade, this one would be it.
-Grammy nom-

Summertime - Robbie Williams : There probably are a more predictable choices off Robbie's 00's catalogue, yet I chose the closing track on Robbie's slightly more experimental album "Rudebox", a melancholic look back at the 90's - but for some reason I think this ode to carefreedom is pretty much timeless.

Stan - Eminem : The song that gave us Dido. The song that made even us music fans who don't care about hip-hop take notice. This is not just a great song of its genre, it's one of the best popular music songs ever.
-check out the live Grammy version with Elton John-

Can't Get You Out Of My Head - Kylie Minogue : I still remember the first time I heard this song...wasn't a love on first listen but hearing it leaft me longing for more. One of the coolest female pop songs ever?
-3 Ivor Novello Awards-

Music - Madonna : Madonna's released many pop hits in the noughties and many of them richer in message that this particular one but somehow this clever ode to...yeah ya guessed it...music still stands out.
-Grammy nom-

The Way It Is - Nicole Atkins : Grown man were moved to tears listening to Nicole singing this song on David Letterman's late night talk show. And many more men and women were subsequently moved to tears when the video of the said performance appeared on YouTube. The power of music. The passion of love. That can move some.

Dani California - Red Hot Chili Peppers : RHCP managed being both epic and very entertaining with this song. - And I'm not even talking about the video. ;o)
-2 Grammys-

Bring Me The Disco King - David Bowie : For all the brilliance that is Bowie's album "Heathen" I decided to choose the closing track of his (so far) last album "Reality" released in 2003. As the song was written back in the early 90's it puts this thought in your head: did Bowie save it for his last ever song? Coincidence or not...this song couldn't be a better soundtrack to his 'retirement'.
Don't let me know when you're opening the door
Stab me in the dark, let me disappear


King of the Mountain - Kate Bush : A song for Elvis was the song that Kate Bush decided to return with after more than a decade of being a stay-at-home mum. My favourite female singer and songwriter couldn't be ommited from this list.
Elvis, are you out there somewhere looking like a happy man?
In a snow with Rosebud and king of the mountain?

Citizen Kane, Elvis, Michael Jackson...timeless song, it seems.
-UK No. 3-

Home and Dry - Pet Shop Boys : Together with I Get Along the two songs that started my love for this British duo. Probably one of the most beautiful and the most tender love songs these two have ever written. Gone is the irony, here comes the sadness.

Juicebox - The Strokes : Yes, the first song I ever heard this band play was Last Nite and tho that song is pretty hot and all, it doesn't get me going as much as Juicebox. I just love Julian's singing here. I don't really listen to what he's singing about...as far as I am concerned, this song is pure sex.


Fistful of Love - Antony and the Johnsons : Before I ever bought Antony's second album, this song was the first of his I'd ever heard. The irony, of course, is that the song kicks off with Lou Reed's spoken words (I vaguely remember Lou might have been the reason I decided to give Antony a try in the first place).

I Want Love - Elton John : I became a fan of Sir Elton in the noughties (after having a crush on David Furnish for many years, mind you) and I love his recent albums very much. Wasn't easy to choose one song: it basically was a tie between this one (the Robert Downey Jr. song), not very known American Triangle (featuring Rufus Wainwright) and This Train Don't Stop Here Anymore (a minor hit).

Poses - Rufus Wainwright : eventually became a fan of Ruffie in the last few years (he does have quite a few celebrity fans, doesn't he) after many years of trying to love his voice and failing. Of all of his songs that I feel passionate love for I have to choose Poses which is a song I liked even in those dark times and because of the lyrics I did go from wanting to be someone, now I'm drunk and wearing flip - flops on Fifth Avenue. Genius, much?

Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole - Martha Wainwright : Rufus's 'Little Sister' proved to be no softie with this single. She might sing it to her dad but I choose to somehow interpret it as someone's lament to oneself and/or to God.

Take Your Mama - Scissor Sisters : I first noticed Scissor Sisters performing this song at Live 8. I'd heard about them before but never quite got around to listen to them. Hilariously enough it wasn't the yummy loonie Jake Shears that stuck in my memory from that performance but it was the fabulous Ana Matronic...
The Sisters do have better songs than this one but this was my very first, you know. ;o)
(P.S. Ana, I love you.)

Ulysses - Franz Ferdinand : Became a fan of Franz Ferdinand (fan club card and all) thanks to David Bowie's recommendation and this band hasn't let me down yet. Tho I'm a huge fan of their acoustic songs as well as their dancy hits, I had to eventually choose this weirdness from their recent album because it's just brilliant. :o)

Rain - Mika : I knew and loved this song as a piano ballad (see Mika's second DVD), and I love it as a 90's disco type track it ended up being on "The Boy Who Knew Too Much", not a hit in the UK but it best shows Mika's talents for blendig euphoric, sad and dancy into one beautiful song.

Seven Nation Army - The White Stripes : Tho this is the obvious choice, I don't think this song is in any way overrated and it just is one of the best rock songs ever. I did consider putting my personal fave Icky Thump here but then I thought, what the hell, I love this one just as much and, well, it was the song that made the general public pay attention, after all.
-Grammy-

Carolina Drama - The Racounteurs : Listen I'm not like an obssesive fan of Jack White or anything (only have a fetish for his voice and hair) but this guy IS in three succesful bands and he IS a great musician, so including two of his songs here is quite inevitable.
I suppose this is my crime stories & dark humour loving side that puts this song in the all-time-fave rank.

Family Portrait - P!nk : I fully understood the greatness of this song only this year when I finally saw P!nk live and the piano version of it literally moved me to tears. "M!ssundaztood" was quite an important album for me at that time but only now getting to the age P!nk was when she recorded it I can see all the layers.

Muse - Ruled by Secrecy : After many years of trying to ignore these smug looking losers I finally warmed up to them through this particular song that's been one of figure skaters' favourites. No kidding, I became a fan of Muse (who are actually very funny guys) thanks to figure skating. :o))

The Jeep Song - The Dresden Dolls : Might be an odd choice. Probably the most conventional of all their songs (or Amanda's for that matter) but I do have a soft spot for it. I wouldn't go as far and say it's my DD favourite but it is a break-up poppy song with some brilliant lyrics, so what the heck.

Lover All Alone - Clay Aiken : Released in 2008 on the singer's 4th studio album it's so far the only song he wrote the lyrics to. But what lyrics. Let's just write I couldn't say it better myself...(and I totally couldn't SING it better ;o) ).
What I also like about this song is that it mostly relies on the piano and even tho some strings creep in later (the cello's beautiful, tho), this song is still among the least MOR songs Clay's recorded and one of the most organic, raw sounding and most beautiful.

Redeem Me (Beauty Will Redeem the World) - Marc Almond : Written after recovering from his serious accient in 2004 and released three years later this song looks back at Marc's life of wild depravity that the singer doesn't miss; but ultimately this song is a reconsiliation with oneself and an ode to life - and to the beauty of it.
And for me personally I need some beauty in my life could be THE lyric best describing my personality...

The Man Comes Around - Johnny Cash : The 00's was the decade in which we lost many great musicians: George Harrison, Michael Jackson or Ray Charles among them but none of these guys have been around for as long and left as great an impact on popular culture as a whole as Johnny Cash did. Taking to account this was one of the last songs he's ever written, one can easily see the genius of The Man In Black.

FV

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

2009 Albums of the Year

Some of my favourite albums of 2009 in no particular order:

Tonight: Franz Ferdinand

Not love on first listen but after some intensive listening ended up being my favourite of all Franz Ferdinand albums yet. Unusual Ulysses, sexy No You Girls, dancy Can't Stop Feeling, trippy Lucid Dreams or quite touching Katherine Kiss Me... Unlike the earlier albums this one doesn't really have one 'off moment' for me. I'm usually into one-take simplicity when it comes to rock stuff but FF's elaborate ways of producing this record have completely paid off in the end.

The Pursuit - Jamie Cullum

I really like Jamie's style. He's a true 21st Century Kid: he loves jazz, he loves pop, he loves another trillion of music styles and he's somehow able to blend them all together and always sound only like himself and no-one else - and he's getting better and better at it.
As I wrote in my 'review' of this album earlier this year: prior to hearing Jamie's version of Don't Stop The Music I had no idea the song existed and most probably even if I had heard it before I wouldn't have been able to draw a link between Rihanna's ordinary disco track and Jamie's explosion of sexiness. Someone pass me an ice cube.

The Boy Who Knew Too Much - Mika

I fully realize there are many people who don't 'get' Mika's colourful yet kind of spooky world. All jurnos seem to be able to do is lable him "flamboyant". This guy isn't flamboyant, he's downwright craaaazy. But in the best possible artistic way. In a way that gives birth to characters like Dr. John and songs like Rain. All one has to do is jump through the mirror and enjoy the sad yet uplifting ride that'll make you believe that We, actually, Are all pretty much Golden.

West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum - Kasabian

An example of an album where I really don't pay that much attention to the individual songs but rather to the album as a whole.
This album is swagger, this album is a man's man who isn't afraid to raise his maul into the air and cry out in despair for the love missing from this world.
This is what rock and roll sounds like in 2009. Even with all our technology, it's still about the Fire, man...fire.

Far - Regina Spektor

I wanted to put one of Regina's songs from Far on my previous list but I just couldn't choose just one. Regina's released her strongest album yet, dealing with God and other familiar human stuff in her unique quirky way but giving us melodies that you just can't resist and end up singing to them in no time. Oh, and the piano can make our heart sing as easily as it can make it cry.

It's Not Me, It's You - Lily Allen

Tho labled as a naughty girl by the press Lily in fact is very unlike any other female singer out there right now. She's just too clever for her own good. Biting, ironic, sweet and an annyoing bitch at the same time. Lyrically she is a bit of a female Robbie Williams but she's not afraid to be way more political even if it eventually blows up in her face. Fuck You is a true protest song for the new millenium, Everyone's At It & The Fear deal with the sad state of things that are and Him deals with God...with a mixture of irony, warm humor, sadness and catchy melodies.
On the other hand even when Lily loses the smirk and lets her emotions unfold she's still very gripping: I Could Say or the Take That rip-off Who'd Have Known will tug at your heart strings without making you feel guilty about it afterwards...
Best female pure-pop act out there. One-of-a-kind. It would be really sad if this album doesn't get a follow-up.

Journal for Plague Lovers - Manic Street Preachers

Manics are back raw and with the late Richey Edwards's lyrics. Songs like the lead single Jackie Collins Existential Question Time makes you sing along, songs like William's Last Words will send shivers down your spine. Great album.

Reality Killed the Video Star - Robbie Williams

Three years after Rudebox which got undeserved shit from the British press, Robbie decided to go back to his classic (brit) pop roots and the result is probably the most well-balanced record of his recent career. Robbie's slightly less biting than he used to be (Morning Sun, Won't Do That), on the other hand he sings about not calling it a comeback Last Days of Disco) and male lesbians (Difficul for Weirdos), so you know he's still very much our Robbie that won't ever make it big in the US by singing Jesus didn't die for you - what are you on?! - and all is well. :o)

Coraline OST - Bruno Coulais

Of all this year's original soundtracks this one caught my interest the most. Bruno Coulais has previously also scored with his beautiful compostition for Les Choristes, with Coraline he underlines the weirdness and spookiness of the film and a plus point of his songs is the fact the language they're sung in is a made up gibberish which the whole world can equally not understand in unison. ;o)

The Boat That Rocked - Various Artists

No new music here (except for one Duffy's coverversion) but I decided to include this compilation soundtrack album on this list because simply it is better than most of the stuff the still very much alive artists have come up with this year - and it doesn't even include one song by The Beatles. ;o)
If My Generation doesn't get you going, A Whiter Shade Of Pale doesn't make you trip a little and Lorraine Ellison's Stay With Me doesn't break your heart and make you wish Leona Lewis would be capable of something like that, you aren't alive...

FV

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

2009 Songs of the Year

Now, I listen to way too much music, very different stuff, and choosing a few songs as the standouts from this year is basically impossible for me. :o)

I ended up not including quite a few of my favourite artists but they will make an appearance in my next blog about my favourite albums of 2009.

Ulysses - Franz Ferdinand

The lead single from the band's third album "Tonight: Franz Ferdinand" was released right in January and I've listened to it way too many times since then. The brilliant thing is, I haven't grown sick of it yet. The song is quirky, hot, dancy and you can hear Alex Kapranos is a much better singer now than he used to be when the band took to the charts 5 years ago.
If I had to choose one new song I liked the best this year, it most probably would be Ulysses.

P.S. The video for Ulysses must be one of my all-time-favourites as well. Weird rulez.

Zero - Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Yeah Yeah Yeahs changed their sound with their third album "It's Blitz" a little bit and with that they caught my attention. The whole album is pretty much listenable (which I just really can't say about the earlier albums...maybe I'm gonna give them a fifth chance next year) but for me Zero is still a stand out and a song that can wake me up and make me dance basically at any time of the day or night.
Besides the video for Zero must be - again - one of my all-time favourite ones.

Kabul Shit - Lily Allen

I could have chosen basically any song off Lily's second album but I decided the b-side to the lead single The Fear would do here just as fine, if not better. Kabul Shit sounds like what Pet Shop Boys might sound if they were 30 years younger and a girl. The melody is kinda melancholic (especially in the chorus) and the sound of the record probably a little more 'electronic' than we're used to from Lily.
As I shared on this blog earlier I hadn't known this song until Lily sang it on her gig here in Prague - and it was love on first listen that I still haven't fallen out of.
The lyrics of the song deserve a mention, nah, not only a mention, they deserve to be carefully listened to. I think anyone in the late teens/early 20's who at least sometimes uses their brains for thinking for themselves can identify with them.
Sample: Now, you'd think that we'd be grateful/For the fact we've got a choice/Instead we throw it back at people/Who don't even have a voice.

After The Event - Pet Shop Boys

I don't know why some artists don't put their best songs on the albums and instead save them for b-sides and bonus features. After The Event didn't make it on the band's tenth album "Yes", it was among the bonus features on one version of the release and it was later released as a b-side on the second single Did You See Me Coming, yet the album featured two songs that are rather infuriating to listen to.
Even if you don't listen to the lyrics of After the Event describing a typical day full of usual annoying stuff climaxing in a hysteria following someone dying - drama without meaning - you can't stay unaffected by the song when it reaches its come on come on chorus. People keep on describing Neil Tennant's style of singing as expressionless but to me personally his delivery only amplifies the content of the songs.
The lyrics of this song actually kind of remind me of an Andy Warhol quote The movies make emotions look so strong and real, whereas when things really do happen to you, it's like watching television - you don't feel anything.

Dog Days Are Over - Florence + the Machine

Sonically, this song is the closest you can get to a 'fountain of life'. Whenever I listen to it I can't help but visualize people running through grass fields, no kidding. And it's all very colourful. :o)

Uprising - Muse

Well, this song doesn't really have much of a competition on Muse's newest album, does it. A Doctor Who theme rip-off but it still works for me. Sexy rhythm, Orwellian lyrics...what more could a girl with a slight crush on Dom Howard want... The little drummer boy himself, perhaps.

Empire State of Mind - Jay-Z feat. Alicia Keys

Not a fan of hip-hop but this song was love on first listen, I admit mostly because of Alicia's singing and piano playing (her own, just sung, version can be found on "The Element Of Freedom", her newest album) but the rush of energy and sheer joy take over me whenever I listen to it. There really aren't that many songs that can do this. Two huge thumbs up for Jay-Z, Alicia and the city the whole song's about: NYC.

Doesn't Mean Anything - Alicia Keys

Alicia allowed pop to co-write a song with her and the result is just brilliant. The lead single from "The Element of Freedom" is sad and uplifting at the same time: as only the best pop songs can be.

She Wolf - Shakira

I nicknamed the song The Gayest Song Ever. There's a She Wolf in your closet/Open up and set her free. Dancing Queen has just died.
Shakira on the other hand is as quirky as ever and she's back.

Blasphemy - Robbie Williams

So hard to choose just one song off Robbie's latest album but I'm gonna have to go with this one. Great lyrics, great tune (Chambers, after all) and tho the strings arrangement is brilliant the most important thing for me is that you could sing this song accompanied by just the piano and it would still have all its power. So fucking well done.

I Need To Know - Kris Allen

Originally the song that I wanted to write about here was the lead single Live Like We're Dying which I've listened way too many times since its release. But I think I Need To Know is a song that doesn't get nearly enough praize and therefore I'm just gonna sing some myself.
This song makes me feel. It doesn't make me feel for one of my made up characters that keep popping up in my head all the time, it makes me FEEL. And it's not only the power of the lyrics and the melody, it's Kris's weary delivery, the insistance in his voice that can actually take me to what he's singing about or rather to whom he's singing to. You find out for yourselves.

Out of The Blue - Julian Casablancas

Yes, I know I am going to hell in a purple basket/At least I will be in another world, while you're pissing on my casket.
That's a true rocker attitude...

Vulture - Patrick Wolf

Vulture sounds like Soft Cell 2009 - no surprise Marc Almond almost ended up sharing a stage with Patrick in November. It didn't work out this time but I'm hoping it will happen eventually because it's always great seeing your favourite artists collaborating.
Note: if you don't check out the whole album "The Bachelor", at least give a listen to Hard Times, a song that competed neck to neck with Vulture for this spot. It features some 'violin riffs'. :o)

Battle For The Sun - Placebo

Just like the song itself progresses and grows stronger and more intense with every note, the more I listened to the song the more I ended up liking it. Now, 9 months after the release it made it to this list and I think it very much deserves to be here.

Entertaining Thoughts - Tommy Reilly

I really don't know what to say about this song. It's my favourite on Tommy's debut called "Words on the Floor". It starts as a simple piano song and ends up being a big Fucking Brillaint Song and just like with Kris Allen's songs I just wish more people would know about it and appreciate it and love it.

FV

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Screw The X Factor, Go to YouTube

I while ago I went on YouTube hoping I'd find a piano + vocal cover version of Beyoncé's Halo - which I eventually found.
But along the way I also found these two:



Check out 1:41 - the TONE. Woah. I'm not into sopranos and big voices but hell, I like this.

I also found these two:



Orla

But most importantly I found Orla Gratland's channel and also a channel she shares with her friend Ashley.
Once again, the Irish rock.






An effin genius, she is. x



Ago

One more YouTube find:

Been a fan of Ago for quite some time... Simply put, he rocks. :o)







YouTube is basically a talent show only without the nerves, judges, song choice restrictions, touching personal stories and drama (or at least if you don't read the comments there is no drama lol).

FV

2009 Film Surprises

There have been many films this year that I thoroughly enjoyed but in some cases I just didn't expect I would like them so much.

Moon

I first got to know about Duncan Jones's feature film debut early in 2009 but only had the (legal) opportunity to see it when I bought the DVD in November. I was expecting all kinds of good plus thanks to Twitter I got to know more about Duncan himself (he replied to me TWICE, btw! lol). So because of Duncan and all the hard work he put into the project (directing, promoting...) and because of all the positive reactions I was hoping I would end up likig Moon.
But even after all this I actually was surprised - blown away even - by the film. Sam Rockwell is literally starring in this picture...I've never been a huge fan of his but he won me over - especially after seeing the documentaries about filming Moon.

My recommendation: go buy Moon on DVD/Blu-ray because not only the film, also all the bonus features are more than just worth it.

One of the DVD extras is actually Dancan's first film - 30 minutes long Whistle (financed by his granny) which is a clear indication the world of film has got a huge talent in Duncan Zowie Haywood Jones. I can't wait for his next projects.

Star Trek

Having friends who are HUGE Star Trek fans I always knew a little bit about it (my love for Spock has been going on for many years!) and I saw a few episodes (those with Patrick Stewart) and even one film (the one with Iman) but until I read all those rave reviews about the newest, 11th Star Trek film, I was quite in the safe zone as far as Trek goes. ;o) This film singlehandedly made me a bit of a Trekkie.

Must be my favourite blockbuster type of film ever (so far seen it only 4 times...). Why is it a surprise? Because in the months before the film was released no-one was really sure how it would turn out - even with JJ Abrams directing.
I personally hadn't seen one episode of Lost, nor had I seen Zachary Quinto in Heroes - therefore I didn't know what to expect, on the other hand I also didn't have any "baggage" and went to the cinema hoping people on the interenet didn't lie and the film actually was good.
Good, man. Might be the only 2009 film that would get 100% rating from me. It actually feels really good to enjo a big budget film for once. You get the feeling that all the money that went to it was absolutely worth it.

The Damned United

Could I like a film about football? I could, actually - or at least I found out I could a few weeks ago when I finally saw this film starring Michael Sheen and Timothy Spall.
A) tho a film about a football coach, there isn't too much football in it.
B) Michael Sheen. One of my favourite actors has done it again. He's one of the few who can make you forget you are watching a film with your favourite actor and instead pull you right into the story - and he manages to do all that while playing real life characters, sometimes the guys are still alive. He's just amazing and so very under-rated.
C) Timothy Spall. Oscar nomination, suckers!

-----

Doubt and Changeling were two other films (nominated for Oscar 2009) I liked more than I expected but technically they were 2008 films so I decided not to include them here. On the other hand, I think they deserve a mention.
State of Play was another film I LOVED this year but I fully expected I'd love it. I enjoy watching oldfashioned thrillers, moreso if they include Russel Crowe (American Gangster, The Insider).
The Boat That Rocked (Pirate Radio in the US)simply put rocked even on the paper and what I saw in the cinema didn't disappoint in the least.

FV

Monday, 14 December 2009

2009 Surprises in Music

As a music "maniac" I discover new music almost on daily basis. If we say music is my drug, we will be basically correct. ;o)

I've always been a curious person and being for instance a Bowie fan has never just meant I'd listen to his records over and over. It meant I wanted to know all his influences...and make up my mind about them.

But sometimes something wonderful crosses your path without you searching for it (in my case Kate Bush, Leonard Cohen or The Dresden Dolls) and this blog will be about some of these little music surprises that happened to me this year.

Florence + The Machine.

There are many interesting, sligtly deranged-looking female singers-songwriters, who aspire to be another Kate Bush or Tori Amos but not that many of them caught my attention or even made me like them... then came Florence. The red hair, the weird lyrics, the VOICE. And she also has got the songs...not too out-there, not too pop; she doesn't sound like a copy of anyone - and that's something these days. How does she do it, I've no idea.
When she sings that dog days are over, you just somehow believe her. ;o)

Alicia Keys's new songs.

The last time I listened to Alicia was back when she released her first album...and I kind of lost touch with her - until I heard her collaboration with Jay-Z this year and until I heard "Doesn't Mean Anything". Just bought the new album, haven't listened to it yet - but the more melodic, less vocal acrobatic style of the few songs she released this year totally makes me hopeful I'm gonna like it.

Julian Casablancas.

Never been a fan of The Strokes but some of the reviews of his first solo album Phrazes for the Young convinced me I should give the album a listen. Very nice surprise!
Also, always liked Julian's voice...guess that's why I can never really become a fan of someone like The X Factor's Joe. I just don't like too pretty. ;o)

The Script.

I've already blogged about the musical surprises of this year's season of American Idol.....consequently because of Kris Allen I discovered the music of an Irish band called The Script. Tho not a huge fan of soft rock and r'n'b I actually seem to enjoy the mix of it this band offers. Most of all tho, these guys can write some true to life lyrics with some real deep-ish meaning their contemporaries in sound fail to come up with.What can I say, Dublin.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz!

Yeah Yeah Yeahs is a band that's been around for quite some time, I'd known some of their songs but never quite got into them until they released this album this year. I've listened to "Zero" for too many times - and it still makes me dance and I just don't get tired of listening to it. Well done, I guess.

"Cry Me A River" by Michael Bublé.

Aagin...I'd known Michael Bublé for ages, known what type of music he does but never really checked him out until he sang on The X Factor - his version of "Cry Me A River". I guess he had me on "And". Brilliant version - and quite a surprise for me.

FV

Sunday, 13 December 2009

2009 American Idol vs. The X Factor, the Output

Didn't follow any of these shows prior to this year... The trouble with them are the terrible themes and song choices - and as a fan of Bowie, Kate Bush and The Dresden fucking Dolls I always felt these shows were beneath me.

My opinion was kind of changed this year with American Idol. A show that similarly to Czech X Factor allows their contestants to use musical instruments...exactly half of the top 10 finalists ended up being record-buying worthy for me.
From what I've read this season WAS extremely good - I checked out some of the past contestans' performances and I wasn't that impressed by them at all.

This year the winner, singer-songwriter Kris Allen could almost make you forget you were watching a talent show when he humbly strummed his guitar or played his piano covering old ("Ain't No Sunshine") or new ("Heartless") classics, and sang with a passion and vulnerability only Irish and Scottish artists seem to be able to put in their singing.
He also sang Glen Hansard's and Marketa Irglova's Oscar-winning "Falling Slowly" and got praize from them even tho no-one actually hunted these two down and asked them to do it.
Most surprisingly tho, even tho his post-Idol album wasn't flawless, it totally was worth a buy and I can't wait to hear more from this guy.

Then we have the runner-up Adam Lambert.....I intend to write a whole blog about this over-the-top openly gay wonder, so I just add altho not my type - visually or vocally he totally caught my interest and I also am interested in his future career.

Allison Iraheta. Finished 4th place, ended up being singed first and is so far the only American Idol 2009 contestant that got a short article in one of the "serious" Czech rock music magazines. Though only 17, she's got the voice of a 40-year old belter and can express emotion many contemporary female singers can only dream of being able doing.
Was worried her album would turn out being another Avril album, only with better vocals but I was wrong. No, it's not a great album (but neither is P!nk's Fullhouse) BUT it's one of the nicest surprises of this year for me.
If you like female rockers and haven't seen Allison singing "Don't Waste The Pretty" or "Holiday", you haven't lived.

Matt Giraud. Finishing fifth and winning the hearts of everyone on the American Idol tour when there were no judges staring at him and no cameras pointing. Pianist, singer-songwriter and a piece of a man with a very interesting voice didn't show his best in the competition itself but proved he can be THE performer you wanna see on stage when he can just work his audience, play the crap out of his piano and sing.
When he releases his stuff, I definitely will be there to buy it.

Megan Joy. So what if she doesn't sing in the technically right way, she's got the most interesting voice I've heard in ages. One of my favourite Czech singers - and one of the symbols of The Velvet Revolution - Marta Kubisova, has spent her whole life singing with some kind of vocal chords dysfunction - and that's what makes her voice so fucking interesting. Unless Megan's style of singing would lead to a damage to her vocal cords, I hope she won't go and try to sing correctly. :o)
The two new songs she put on her Myspace recently totally made me excited for the whole album she hopefully releases next year.

SO, that's why I tweeted and blogged about Americn Idol so much this year. I couldn't care less about the format of the show - I discovered five great artists that fascinate my soul and ears that are always hungry for new, great music. I believe neither of these five will disappear, even tho not all of them will become megastars.

Being a musician is not only a gift and it's wonderful to see people like Zoe Keating telling it like it is: you can make your living writing, playing & recording music and not being huge stars...if it's really music you love and not fame and money you'll be fine without being on charts (especially in this day and age).
I find it kind of unbelievable that most of these five understand that - especially Megan - and it makes me happy and hopefull for the future of popular music.

Then there we have The X Factor. I made two mistakes. I expected something similar to American Idol - and I also expected the rules of the British version being the same as the rules of the Czech version.
What we ended up having here in the end was a small crowd of wide-eyed contestants in the hands of the "mentors" who in so many cases didn't manage to understand what made their acts so special, instead kept on insulting each other and making as much drama as possible (I've learned that the British love drama even more than the Americans, ouch).
There were quite a few talented performers in the competition (my fave being Rachel Adeji who sadly didn't get far) but what this show didn't accomplish at all was to make me hunger for some new music. It only made me pissed off, week by week. But once I started I just couldn't stop.
As a TV show, great...as a vehicle to find something musically interesting for me, useless.
The only artist I "discovered" by watching The X Factor was, ironically, Michael Bublé who totally got me with his version of "Cry Me A River" and I've bought a few of his albums and become a minor fan since then.
So that would be my only thank you to this show, I guess.

And Brits, if you're reading this, buy Rage Against The Machine's single this Christmas, instead of any muzak this show might produce, I urge you. I'm sure it won't sound a bit like "Live Like We're Dying", anyway. ;o)

FV

(P.S. No, "Hallelujah" is not a Christmas song.)

Saturday, 12 December 2009

2009 TV Surprises

Glee

If you told me a year ago that I'd watch - and very much enjoy - a TV musical series...well, you wouldn't hear many nice words from me.
I do enjoy a musical now and then - if the story is good (Cabaret must be one of my favourite films ever) - and I enjoy the tunes but the combination of musical and TV kind of reminds me of Highschool Musicals and Miley and I'm very much a wrong age group for those (well, always was lol).
First of all, Glee is not just a musical...it's the gayest over-the-top comedy show I've ever seen (and yeah, I own the whole of Ally McBeal on DVDs as well as a season of Will and Grace). Glee makes fun of highschool musicals, pays an homage to them as well and is the only TV show that makes their viewers sob while watching a choir of deaf students "sing" John Lennon's "Imagine" in one episode and totally make fun of that in another episode.
If other highschool films/TV shows give you a nice, shy and talented girl as the heroine and a smart but troubled boy as the hero; Glee gives you an annoying talented girl and a nice, good at heart but basically dumb boy without making them a comedy cliché.
Glee is so not PC but also so PC at the same time - guess it depends what exactly you make of it - and yes, this show can also actually make you think (treat the disabled as equals or make advantages for them? - for instance). Also, it doesn't give you a neatly wrapped happy ending after a morally challenging tale. The good don't always win but the bad don't become good in a blink of an eye, their characters actually develop (kind of suroprising for a comedy, eh?).
Also, Glee is the only show that gives you Sue Sylvester (Emmy nomination for Jane Lynch, ya hear me?!) who utteres one-liners like "Yes. We. Cane." Sue Sylvester became the new Chuck Norris after she killed him and had his balls for dinner. Ew.
Best of all: Glee isn't flawless - in the best possible way. After all, there is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in, as Leonard Cohen sings. ;o)



Dollhouse

It's been short but it was mostly good while it lasted. Nobody thought Dollhouse would get a second season but a miracle happened and a second season did actually get filmed...but miracles can't happen all the time and the series wasn't renewed for a third season. There are 4 episodes left to air now but at least it seems it's going out on a high.

I've never been a Joss Wheddon fan. Buffy, Angel, Firefly...all just names for me but when Dollhouse was the new show on the block I took an interest in it and even tho the first few episodes didn't make me drool with bliss, I was later rewarded for my persistance in watching.
I'm still having mixed feelings about Eliza Dushku, the leading lady of this show; don't think I've seen an actress as imbalanced in her ability as her. Sometimes I wished there'd been another, better actress in her place but other times I was almost blown away by how well she did.
The real stars of this series for me, next to Olivia Williams and Harry Lennix would be the gentlemen Fran Kranz and Enver Gjokaj in particular.
The former playing a neurotic, twitchy and sociophobic genius of a scientist (Topher Brink) who annoyed you at first but you ended up loving him eventually; the latter playing.....well, so many people (including characters usually played by other actors on this show) I'm just blown away by his talent. This guy should get a fucking starring role in a feature film.





Mad Men

Not a new show this year but a new show for me. I love history, I love historic series that manage to capture the time period (the 60's in this case), have intelligent storylines and have some warmth to them as well.
This year's season was somewhat darker than the previous ones but the last couple of episodes and the finale somehow turned that on its head.
Attention to detail, great continuity, next to The West Wing probably the best cast: Brilliant TV.

2009.....Fragments.......

Originally intended to write a blog about what caught my interest the most this year...the good, bad, funny etc.

Never been good at doing those best of/worst lists...therefore the blog would end up being a VERY VERY LONG shambles and therefore I decided to write a series of shorter blogs instead.
Basically I'm gonna write about all the things I only tweeted about but never quite got around to blog about them here.

The blogs will mostly be about (popular) music but I'm sure some stuff from film, TV, other popular culture and maybe even politics will pop up in them as well.

Anyway, I hope those of you who'll end up reading them will enjoy that reading, will agree or disagree...maybe even comment and also excuse my bad grammar and lack of typing skills.

First of the blogs will be up this weekend.

SYL!

FV

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Adam Lambert: For Your Entertainment **Review**


Here he is, for our entertainment. Adam Lambert rose like Phoenix from the ashes of American Idol. Wow, second sentence of Adam Lambert's review and I already managed to sneak in the title of Kris Allen's bonus song. I'm sure the other part of Kradam won't mind, tho. ;o)

Adam Lambert. I didn't fall for his voice or singing ability (although I respect both) or his sex-appeal (which for me is kind of non-existent), it was his personality..."edgy with a smile" attitude, his ariculate manner of speaking. It happened when I saw his Idolatory interview with Michael Slezak for EW. Can't decide if it was the moment he defended/explained his version of Ring of Fire (which, btw, is still my fave AI performance of Adam's.....Adam should thank Clay Aiken for pointing it to me in his blog lol) or if it was the moment he explained where he got his outfit for his number with Kiss. Anyway, after this interview I knew I wanted to get to know and like this guy.

Adam's music faves include Muse, David Bowie... (both of whom he very well covered on the AI tour this summer); on the other hand he also likes Queen and Lady GaGa...that's why I was slightly worried what would his brilliant album combining rock, pop, dance, glam, electronic and-what-have-you sound like in the end. I tried to keep my hopes real down so I wouldn't be disappointed.

So, after hearing the stream of the whole thing a couple of times over he past week, am I disappointed?

Not really.

I didn't think a song that didn't make it on P!nk's album would actually be good. I was also surprised to like a Lady GaGa song. I like her visual stuff but her music...not really. I listened to a snippet of one song and didn't hear anything special but when I heard the whole thing I fell in love. (as Michael Slezak wrote in his Kris Allen review: can’t judge a song by its leak.) I was really nervous about Muse giving their beautiful, brilliant demo to Adam and when I heard the final version I was more than just relieved.

On the other hand, there are songs that just annoy me and songs that I don't care about at all.

For Your Entertainment is such a mix of popular music genres that almost anyone will find their "thing" on it but it also means that unless you are a Glambert and really into your man, you probably won't really LOVE the *whole* album.

Or at least that's the way it is with me.

I won't get too deep into what I don't like about the album, I wanna really share my thoughts on the good stuff but let me just say this: the album gets better when it gets full-on crazy or out-of-this-world. The music, that is; I'm not talking about the cover. It HAS grown on me but I still wish the cover of For Your Entertainment single would be the cover of the album. But I digress.
There are not-so-original and slightly yawn pop moments: the title single (tried really hard but I just don't enjoy it) or Strut. The former sounds like a Britney reject, the latter like one of Rihanna's songs. Nothing against these ladies but I don't dig their musical style (Rihanna's latest single being an exeption).
The song that annoys me is Sleepwalker. This, of course, is a very subjective feeling. I'm not saying it's not a good song. I like it up until we get to the chorus - and the guitar later on doesn't help at all. Or the fact that it sounds too much like other Ryan Tedder co-written songs. Kill meh.
Aftermath is sadly kind of too ordinary to be on an Adam Lambert album (tho *cough* co-written by the man himslef). It's not bad, just ordinary and the only thing that makes it not TOO ordinary is Adam's delivery and voice.

Songs that make my little heart relieved and happy?

Music Again. I could do without the guitar solo (sorry, Justin) but can't remeber what other song's snippet made me sing "You make me wanna listen to music again." for like the past month. So Yeah. A-
Then here we have the songs that I really like a lot but when I heard their snippets I wasn't that taken: Whataya Want From Me and Fever. The first one has the P!nk/Max Martin sound to it, it could be a huge radio hit. The latter song is just so fun to listen to...I seem to like Lady GaGa's songs when performed by someone else... (preferably Christopher Walken). In the verses Adam sounds like he just had a stroke and it's just SO good. lol
I mentioned being pleasantly surprised by Adam's version of Muse's Soaked. Not only it's as good as the demo, the final polished production didn't take away anything from the beauty of this song. Thank you, producer, whoever you are.
Another pleasant suprise would be Linda Perry's A Loaded Smile. The snippet of this song didn't sound anything special but I'm blown away by the whole song. Linda, I love you. I also really like the production on this song. So well done, has this out-of-this-world sound to it.
The closing track - Broken Open - has a similar feel to it. This one's gonna have to grow on me, tho. I'm willing to give it a chance, I think it deserves it.

My last mention: Pick U Up. Tho I hate the "U" in the title (call me old fashioned) the song...just...works. It's not the most original song and it does remind me of Cher for some reason but the verses aren't dull or annoying, the chorus is an old-school torch song melody in its core and the bridge is just simply *in Kara DioGuardi voice* GOOD. After listening to the album a few times this song wins so far.

Final verdict:

Is For Your Entertainment a good pop album worth an international music star? - Yes.

Is this the most original thing in the last 20 years? - No.

Will people who liked Adam the Rocker like it? - If they like modern pop music, they might. ;o)

Is this album flawless? - By far not.

Should we judge it by the first single? - Please, don't.

For Your Entertainment isn't exctly my kind of pop. I like my pop smart, funny & weird: Lily Allen, Pet Shop Boys, Robbie Williams, Mika... What do I know, maybe I'll find some hidden jokes in it as time will go by. But what I hear is by far not bad. Fans of Lady GaGa or P!nk could totally enjoy it. Sonically I'd go as far and say if you enjoy P!nk (I do!), you could like this album quite a lot.

FV

Monday, 16 November 2009

Kris Allen - Kris Allen *Introduction and Review*



Mysterious are the ways of God.

This time last year my only experience with Reality TV Shows and singing competitions were the first Czech Pop Idol (or Superstar as we called it here) - a competition that gave us Czechs a beautiful person with an equaly beautiful voice & an artist with a pretty stable career ever since: Aneta Langerova; and the first season of the Czech X Factor which was so much more fun and MUCH less drama-filled than the British original. I didn't watch any of those religiously but hey, I like music and I try not to be too snobish about it, so I WAS interested in them.

I always got the impression that the British and American Idols and X Factors produced pop stars (pretty boys and girls and occasionally belters like Leona Lewis) who really weren't my cuppa - musically - at all. To be honest, I never spent much time thinking about who the US/UK reality TV singing competitions produced until this spring when I first read the name Adam Lambert.

At first I wasn't really that smitten: his version of Mad World didn't seem to be that special to me. Eventually I grew to like this "edgy with a smile" siren of a rocker (tho his vocal style really isn't my thing*) and found myself tangled into the world of the 8th season of American Idol and in which I found TONS of talent (#signmattgiraud).

As the ignorants usually do I was one of the many who called the US of A homophobic because it wasn't Adam who eventually won this year's Idol, it was this little guy with an ordinary name: Kris Allen. When I got to know what Kris was about : musically (great musical taste, vocal and musical ability) and personality-wise (huble, quiet, wicked sense of humour), I couldn't have been more wrong. Because guess what? I would have voted for "the pocket-sized idol" too!

How could I NOT like someone who loves The Beatles and cites Paul McCartney among his dream collaborators? I know, people talk a lot of things to make themselves look good but Kris knows his shit. Liking his song choices on Idol, his versions of songs by Michael Jackson, Kanye West, Glen Hansard and our very own Marketa Irglova (the two of them LOVED him) - as well as The Beatles themselves was one thing but hearing his own singer-songwriter-y stuff he independently released before Idol (Brand New Shoes) made me really take notice.

This guy might not be the next Michael Jackson (one of his other heroes), the next biggest superstar - he'll leave this to Adam Lambert (if A. really has the talent & balls) but he totally is an artist worth a listen.

Kris Allen, the album, sadly doesn't have enough Kris-written songs. Kris's own stuff is pretty good but I understand it probably doesn't have enough comercial potential, as you have to grow to like those songs and appreciate their sometimes unique melodies. Luckily, all of the songs eventually appearing on the album reflect very well what Kris is about - and Kris's voice and soul add enough to the songs for the album not to sound like a collection hastily thrown together & released to cash in on the 15 minutes - which I understand is often the case with AI finalists' albums.

There isn't a bad song on the album, there are some that suffer from the production, tho: Is It Over is good in its acoustic parts, similarly Lifetime would stand out had it been more in the acoustic style, Before We Come Undone - a very good song with hit potential on its own is unnecessarily poppy.
Songs that stand out for me personally: apart from the first single Live Like We're Dying, it's the perky Alright With Me, heart-piercing Bring It Back and even more heart-piercing closing track I Need To Know which is reminiscen of Damien Rice's work.
The only song written by Kris Allen alone - Red Guitar deserves not only a special mention, it deserves its own sentence: original, fresh, melancholic and upbeat at the same time; with a guitar hook worth dying for.
The songs I haven't mentioned above are all mostly great...I've no complaints - exept for the What The Fucking Fuck bonus of the whole album: a version of Heartless which makes me wanna find the producer and kill him.

What I hear in Kris's work in general is the potential to be the contender of the likes of David Gray.

No, Kris Allen didn't come to this planet from another galaxy, he is very much human...OK, maybe a bit dancer too, but mostly human ;o) - and that is his strongest weapon. He is real, not in any way manufactured - and a real talent.
What I wish from/for him in the future: more albums (at least) as good as this one - and an acoustic live album would be brilliant, too.

Gonna wish upon a star. :o)

FV

If you're interested in my song-by-song review - or rather my notes to each of the songs -, take a few deep breaths and read below.

- - - - -

Live Like We're Dying: the first single written by the Irish band called The Script. A catchy, yet not annoying little song which for me was love at first listen and since I bought it I've listened to it for over 80 times according to my last.fm profile (overall no. 5). Says a lot. http://www.last.fm/user/FantasticVoyage

Before We Come Undone: is a very good song that somehow sounds better live. Not sure if the poppy production was necessary because the song itself is pretty "accesible", I would have liked the rockier edge the live version possessed way way better.
Kris's main appeal to me is the rawness and vulnerbility, the soul he gives into his singing, in that respect he reminds me of the Irish and Scottish singer-songwriters like Damien Rice, Glen Hansard or Tommy Reilly. His live performances have it, his first album has it: carefull with the production!

Can't Stay Away: Now, tis better, the production, that is. Funkier, edgier. Should be a single.

The Truth: slows the album down for a while until it gets to the chorus which slightly reminds me of Snow Patrol or early Coldplay – yet with Kris singing this it surprisingly all works for me. Belt on, little busker.

Written All Over My Face: another song written by (and produced) The Script. Another hit. Tho I have to say I prefer the live version of this to the version on the album...kida sounds like it was produced by a robot (guess it's the drums, really). I have no idea why it works with Live Like We're Dying but not as well with this song.

Bring It Back: sounds like the old Kris Allen, only with a bigger budget. The chorus seriously tears my heart in two a little. I suspect if someone else sang this song I would just scoff but because it's Kris, I hear – and feel – it coming from *a deep place* (as in heart, not the other deep place).

Red Guitar: the only song on the whole album that was written solely by Kris himself. A song that pretty well shows what I love about his songwriting: he doesn't take the melody on the expected way. I can't understand why on earth Kris had to fight for this one to even be on the album. For me personally it's a stand-out song. Very refreshing. Plus it's got a brilliant guitar riff.

Is It Over: we finally get Kris with just his acoustic guitar, if only for 36 seconds. This song is gonna take some getting used to. Not bad at all but I've noticed it getting a few notches better when it's just Kris and the guitar; the song gets a little lost in the production.

Let It Rain: love the piano on it. You can totally tell the song was co-written and co-produced by a Scandinavian. It reminds me of a-ha and its members' solo stuff a little.

Alright With Me: when I heard the snippet of this song I had to replay it again and again. I just can't help myself but love it. It makes my soul dance and actually, can't wait to shake my butt to this one as well. :o) A genuinely happy song that isn't stupid.....we need more of those. x

Lifetime: poker face, huh? A solid pop-rock song, quite good production. I find myself liking the lyrics. Again, the song gets better when it's quieter. Can I have a live album of Kris and just him and his guitar or piano as the next Kris Allen project, please?

I Need To Know: another song that prompted repeated snippet listening – and the only song from this album I could NOT wait to listen to in its entirety and therefore headed to YouTube the minute the album „leaked“. Reminds me of Damien Rice. The main instrument in it is the piano. The song is beautiful. And Kris's singing...well, the way I like him best.

If only the album ended there. Children, don't listen to the bonus! Seriously, I warn you. Some dickhead decided that even tho we all fell in love with just Kris and his guitar performing Heartless , the best thing to produce this song would be the Kanye-meets-Ryan Tedder way. Wrong.
It's not that bad but it's *this small* next to the acoustic version. Shame, shame, shame.

- - - - -

(* definition of "my thing" in this instance: Leonard Cohen, Lou Reed, Johnny Cash, Iggy Pop)

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Reality Killed the Video Star, Robbie Williams **Review**


"Trevor Horn saved Robbie Williams." That's what many people (probably including Robbie himself) think about Robbie's new album. I'm one of the select few who actually pretty much liked Rudebox and I do think it was a much better album than Intensive Care. Reality Killed the Video Star just follows in the getting-better-since-I-broke-up-with-Guy-Chambers path. Robbie lost its footing after he and Guy parted ways but he's managed to find himself again. Artistically as well as in his private life (I sincerely hope so).

Trevor Horn...is an adorable genius, responsible for producing albums of some of my favourite artists: Pet Shop Boys (Introspective, Fundamental) and Marc Almond (Tenement Symphony). I love Trevor, his production is OK with me. He's never been very cutting-edge, the songs he produces are full of strings and sparkling stardust (yeah, that's what I hear there), he makes your soul dance and maybe ache a little but he won't ever go and stab. Intelligent, over-the-top production that's exciting enough to make you really listen.

There's nothing very new happening on Reality Killed the Video Star (a blatant pun on Trevor's own hit "Video Killed the Radio Star" with The Buggles): Trevor creates his usual sound and Robbie lends his voice and his lyrics (tho less biting this time and not all of them are his).

I'm not quite sure if I hear it on the album but when Robbie sings live these days, there's some kind of new vulnerability to his singing, which I love. I was really lucky to hear some of the new songs live at the Electric Proms gig. The live versions had something this album lacks: the aformentioned vulnerability, the passion and riskiness of life, some kind of spark.

BUT I'm SO not saying I don't like the album!!!


There are no fillers - which is something that probably only happened to Robbie's Greatest hits before. ;o)

It opens and closes with one song: "Morning Sun" a catchy enough song for you to have it stuck in your head and not really mind. And what could be more pleasing to this Beatlemaniac than a huge Walrus refference? :o)

"Bodies" is a grower. I liked it right at first listen but couldn't imagine for it to be a huge hit...which it totally became. Jesus didn't die for you. What are you on? also gives you a good example of why Robbie's never been huge in the US of A. :o)

"You Know Me" is a Christmassy post-break-up song. A pretty solid poppy affair that could easily replace Last Christmas (please, do!) and that isn't ashamed of what it is. Orchestra pop rulez!

And after this jingly little song we get to something that can be only described as a FGS - fucking genius song. A Williams-Chambers leftover composition called "Blasphemy".
Can't decide what's the best component of this brilliance: the melody, the production (Trevor and Ann Dudley at their best!) or the lyrics? At the Electric Proms Robbie joked about how clever the bast for me/blasphemy was, putting himslef down as usual. the truth is it IS clever and the lyrivcs as a whole totally cut deep into one's heart. Especially if you are a oversensitive little bugger as me.
And I can't behave
No, it's not the heathen in me
it's just that I've been bleeding lately, internally.


I definitelly don't mind "Do You Mind?", it's "A Place to Crash" Take Two and I completely enjoy listening to it. I predict this is gonna be that kind of song I'm gonna be dancing along and singing along to in my bathroom after a long long day.

Do you like Pet Shop Boys? Well, Robbie does - and with Trevor producing you can be sure you're gonna get some of the PetSound as well. "Last Days of Disco" is one of the Pet Shop Heavies (no songwriting credits there, just a bit of thieving)... the kind of song you start listening to with a mild interest and by the end of it you just freaking love it. Oh, want a Robbie quote? Don't call it a comeback. Wink. Wink.

"Somewhere" is SO Paul McCartney-Beatle-esque. Or you could just say that it's a piece that would fit into a good pre-Webber musical. It's short and prepares you well for "Deceptacon".....this word apparently describes a woman who appears attractive but is actually ugly. The "stepping on eggshels" bit has been hauting me ever since I first heard it...an interesting harmony...the best part? A big soaring chorus that includes the word "Britain". Get your poppy ready.

Ready, steady, go! "Starstruck" was love on first listen. I have to say I enjoed the live version of this song a wee bit more but if I break into a George Michael Dance, I'm sure everything will be fine. Quote? You laugh at us we’re different - And we laugh ‘cause you’re all the same.

Pet Shop Song Number Two is actually called "Difficult For Weirdos" and its lyrics are...priceless.
Guess the gender, unless you’d rather
He is a lesbian, but that’s OK

I choose to take this song as a loving mockery of Lady GaGa. I don't think it was written with her in mind BUT it just reminds me of her. If I wanted to make fun of her, I'd write lyrics like those.

"Superblind" has a slow, average start but when it gets to the chorus, you understand why it got to be included on this album. It's a fine one.
I’m the genius behind me; maybe I shouldn’t have said it. reminds me of poor Topher of Dollhouse. :o)

"Won't Do That" is a love song written for Robbie's missus Ayda. Apparently, according to Robbie it's the first love song he's ever written. Q Magazine begged to differ giving example like "She's The One" and "Angels". Well, I never really took "Angels" for a love song. Didn't really cross my mind...and "She's The One" (which is a song I'm allergic to) wasn't, in fact, written by Robbie. "Won't Do That" isn't a ballad at all, it's a happy love song full of life. Yay for Robbie & Ayda, I say! :o)


Reality Killed the Video Star probably is a new Robbie of sorts. One that's more mature and seems content with where he is who he is and at the moment. Being Robbie Williams is only a part-time job, thank God.


FV


The morning brings a mystery
The evening makes it history
Who am I to rate the morning sun

Monday, 9 November 2009

Jamie Cullum - The Pursuit **Review**



Well, review... I'd say a random collection of thoughts, more like.

I won't get my deluxe edition of Jamie Cullum's new album until next week but thanks to internet I was able to give it a listen over the weekend and on the first few listens my verdict is: SO GOOOOOD! :o)

It's been exciting to follow Jamie's work on this album via Twitter. I still remember the excitement of the almost-finalized product, back then still without a fancy artwork. Just a plain CD titled "It Nearly Killed Me..." (Cute, much?)

Jamie is a unique artist: he keeps on surprising me, yet he never really deviates from his previous direction. I remember being surprised at hearing "London Skies" off Catching Tales for the first time. Was surprised how pop it sounded (hello, Guy Chambers!, hello, guitar!)... The Pursuit again gave me a few surprises like that (Music Is Through, for instance) - I don't really know anyone else who combines jazz, pop, r'n'b and dance quite as well.

The Pursuit starts off with a Cole Porter oldie "Just One of Those Things". If you want to make me love you, go and sing a Cole Porter song. lol I have to admit, I don't love Jamie's version as much as Diana Krall's version but then, the bar might be too high for a guy who's about as *tall* as me. ;o)
"I'm All Over It" is a hit to my ears. It's the kind of song that made me sing along to the chorus right when I first listened to it.
"Wheels" is fresh, exciting and with a slightly different production it could easily find its way to Kris Allen's or Tommy Reilly's albums. The album doesn't really slow down until "If I Ruled The World" starts. And boy, what a beautiful slowing down it is! Jamie's always been good at cover versions (if you can really call them that in his instance). Not really knowing this song before (shame on me!), I wouldn't have known it wasn't Jamie's own; it easily could be a cousin of "Oh God".
The album picks up its previous pace with "You and Me Are Gone", which is easily described as a clap-along, basically. :o) And a dance-along.
Ready for some sexy dancing now? Good, because Jamie's cover of Rihanna's "Don't Stop The Music" will make you do just that. And maybe more (gosh, am I ovulating?). Anyway, not in a million years would I think this wasn't Jamie's own song. I hadn't heard the Rihanna version until yesterday - and to be honest I admire Jamie for finding such a beauty in that pretty crappy pop song. From what I heard of Rihanna's version, seems to me he basically created some of the melody anyway and added a LOT more sexy to it. ;o)
Now we get to "Love Ain't Gonna Let You Down" - the first real love song Jamie's ever written (according to his own words). Too bad it wasn't written for me, because boy, it's great.
"Mixtape" is a song that convinced me to make a playlist one of these days. :o) I used to put together mixtapes and "mixtape" CD's. This song is the kind of pop song that gets me going. Sorry Xenomania and your prefabricated pop, that doesn't get me going at all. (OK there ARE *kinda-sorta* exeptions.)
This is what a Jamie Cullum mixtape looks like:

And can I just say I ADORE the last minute of the song? Brilliant, makes my soul dance. x
"I Think, I Love" This is probably the only nap moment for me. The lyrics are good, but the music puts me to sleep. Had it been on Quiet Nights, would fit in perfectly (not to say I don't like that album!).
The trip-hop (?) of "We Run Things" will wake up anyone who might have a little snooze during the previous song. If you like latin rhythms, strange electronic sounds AND jazz in one, this is the song for you. It's quite catchy, too.
What comes next is 100% loveliness. I already stated that if you wanna meke me love you, you should sing a Cole Porter song (preferably sing it well :o) ) but if you wanna make me FUCKING love you, you should sing a jazzy version of a song from one of my fave musicals: Sweeney Todd, that is. "Not While I'm Around" is a beautiful song - and those of you who have seen the film version might even understand why I tear up internally a little whenever I hear it. :o)
Stephen Sondheim is a genius...I'm not sure if you really can screw up any of his songs. But if you can take them out of their context and make them even better and just as haunting, you win my heart. x
The album ends on a high note - "Music Is Through": a full-on dance song that combines jazz and whatever you call that particular brand of electronic music. On first listen I went "wha?" and then turned into something like this:

"Music Is Through" is a very well titled charming affair...it lasts 7:07 minutes but when it's through - and the ending comes as a small surprise as well - you're left wanting more.

The Pursuit will make you dance, will make you a little melancholic, will make you sing along but most importantly it won't leave you feeling like you've been made fun of. And that should mean something. ;o)

FV

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Lily Allen @ SaSaZu, Prague



Where to start...

I was worried about this gig. Despite the whole copy-and-paste affair I love Lily Allen. But I wasn't looking forward going to the hottest club in Prague (= the hottest club in the whole country, most probably) and I wasn't looking forward to all the stuck-up Czechs who go to these gigs just because the singer is famous - more so if this was supposed to be combined ("posh" club + "posh" people).
I was worried about going home alone at 1 am - across half of Prague. That went fine in the end.
I was also worried about my passing in the middle of Lily's set (which almost happened at one point).

But...let's go back to the start.
I was only pleasantly suprised by SaSaZu. Despite reading negative stuff about it I was pleased by how nice the staff were. The main room is huge & all along the dancefloor there are a few steps leading to the "bar floor" - I stood there and got a pretty good view at the stage.

The supporting DJ Make Music was....eh....let's say eclectic. But I am very grateful to him for playing Blur, Bowie or The Beatles, so I could sing along and not just stand there (when I'm having the worst day of my period the last thing I wanna do is dance).

I read a lot of bad things about the sound in SaSaZu, in the end it wasn't that tragic. But DJ Make Music totally had a better sound then Lily's gig afterward. Dunno what the sound engeneer was doing but half the gig Lily sounded like a cross between Chipmunk and Donald the Duck - and sometimes she wasn't almost audible at all, tho the bass link was. :-/

Lily, oh Lily. What can I say...she's the only contemporary pop singer I really like - if I don't count Shakira (who's been around for quite some time now) and P!nk who's more of a rocker in my book).
Lily's smart, she's a really good singer (seriously, I'd take her over Leona Lewis or Beyoncé any day...I'm just not interested in howling & mostly unispired lyrics) and she can put on a show without putting on a show. 3 outfits, a few musicians, no special effects or dancers & elaborate choreography. My kinda pop show.
She was extremely charming, kept on communicating with the audience who mostly didn't know what the fuck she was saying most of the time because a) of her accent b) they couldn't hear her. But she carried on babbling nevertheless: about her bervous tick when she unnecessarily kept on pulling up her tight jeans ("There's no fucking way these jeans are going anywhere."), about the people in the front rows not having any drinks or that she's glad she's finally playing in Prague.
She also seemed genuinely concerned if we were having fun. I believe it wasn't just a phrase...because Czechs in general aren't of the warmest audiences, let alone posh Czechs who came to SaSaZu just to show off and see the famous Brit chick.

It was kinda sad because quite a lot of the people didn't even know her music: just the two songs that our radios seem to have been playing into oblivion: "Fuck You" and "Not Fair" - and those two also got the biggest response.

Sad indeed, because Lily is one talented lady: as a songwriter as well as a performer - and her lyrics deserve to be understood and sung along.
Well, at least I sang. lol

I loved her set... still there were some highlights in it for me: beautifully sang "Naive" (audience had no fucking idea what that song was, it seemed :o) ), "Oh My God" (ditto), "Littlest Things", "Who'd Have Known" and "I Could Say".
Yep! Lily sang MY song! :o)
Oh and when those middle fingers rose into the air during "Fuck You" it was a pretty good moment too. ;o)
One more highlight: "Kabul Shit" - I didn't know this one - this song's a b-side on The Fear. Lily commented that people wanted her to sing this one live & I think it was very brave for her to perform a song very few people in the audience would know.
I totally get why some demanded this one being played live: I fell in love with it right on the spot yesterday and one of the first things I did today was going to 7digital and buying it. The chorus's got a perfect, melancholic melody. Woo. Thanks a lot for playing it, Lil.

My note to the audience: so there were the show-off people, there were the VIP's; but there also were the giggling tiny teenage girls who attempted (unsuccesfully) at some kind of sexy dance. I guess paedophiles would rejoice... I was amused. I almost felt bad for laughing at them...almost. It really was funny. :o)
We also had the douches. Or at least one who kept on prancing right in front of me during the DJ set and insisted his girlfriend made as many pictures of him looking LIKE was enjoying himself. Sad.
And then there were people I totally don't get WHY they were there. If you DON'T like the singer, the club, dancing or even drinking, why the fuck have you spent 1100-2500 CZK on it? (cca 40-90£.)
MIND-BOGGLING.

I don't want to finish on a negative note. There were people in the audience who enjoyed themselves, danced and sang along. Tho the sound was slightly crappy at times, the band was rocking, Lily sang in tune the whole time, her songs are great, some of them beautiful, even; she was in a great shape & mood and most importantly spontaneous throughout the whole gig. I don't think I've ever seen anyone act as naturally on the stage.
And those three outfits were simple but very effective. ;o)

Screw the people and the sound, it was a great gig and it reminded me why I love this young artist.
I hope her break from the music industry won't take very long... if you're talented like this, you shouldn't waste it. x

FV

Now, isn't this a piece of art? :o)



Profi pictures:
http://bit.ly/4D3BqD
http://bit.ly/36ApVW

P.S. My first time I've ever seen a rapper live. He wasn't bad, btw. Still not sure what the song was called "Just Be Dub/Good To Me"...is my guess. :o)

P.P.S. Haven't seen the setlist yet - I sadly don't remember the order of the songs.