Sunday, 29 April 2012

Rufus Wainwright - Out of the Game, Review


Rufus Wainwright is not exactly a musical chameleon. His music stays the same but each new album brings a new flavour. The favour of the newest one is very 70's, maybe to correspond with its title as well as the title song. Rufus is not the new wunderkid on the block any more. But he's definitely not past it either. After the sorrowful All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu the new album brings a new, relaxed mood, a peaceful one almost.

This doesn't have to be every Rufus's fan's cup of tea. What we like about him is partly his sense for drama and pathos. Mark Ronson's production conceals this tendency of Rufus's to a certain extent but if one goes under the surface one will definitely find enough drama here. As well as Rufus's signature Wildean wit.

Out of the Game is after Release the Stars another album which Rufus calls his most pop yet. I'm not exactly sure how successful it is at being pop. Rufus can write really catchy melodies but his baroque style is just never going to be truly mainstream...not even if he uses pop legends (Neil Tennant) or successful pop producers (Ronson). While I have nothing against Rufus trying different things I also think he should give up on making a mainstream pop album at some point, and just make a great Rufus album with a producer who will be slightly more left-field. Who knows, maybe the mainstream success is going to happen on its own.

Because ironically, the most striking song on the album, for me, is the closing Candles "inspired" by his dealing with his mother's death. Sonically the most "Rufus" and the least Ronson song, and the one most affecting and straightforwardly melodic. One has to try a bit harder not to be at least a bit misty-eyed by the end of the bagpipes filled outro.

Still, Out of the Game is a very Rufus album. Painted in slightly different shades, but still beautiful. Just like any other of his albums it is going to be a grower for me, if for different reasons this time. I will have to fight my way through the sheen and polish to get to the cores of the songs but I can still tell now that the core is healthy.

Friday, 27 April 2012

This Week's Top 5 Songs X

Another week...another Top 5 songs post. Put together with the help of iTunes, my last.fm, My Jam & my brain.

Jack White - Weep Themselves to Sleep



Jack White's solo debut album Blunderbuss came out this week and I listened to it a lot. I pretty much love all of the songs but the two which appear in this post won the choosing game. Weep Themselves... because when I was listening to the album for the first time this song, and it's gorgeous piano totally jumped at me. Love at first listen and as of now still not fed up with it. One review called the piano Aladdin Sane-esque. Don't think they're completely wrong.

Jack White - Freedom at 21



This song just sounds really cool. Half-story and half world-truth... I suppose one could write an essay about its lyrics.

And she don't care about the things people used to do
She don't care that what she does has an effect on you
She's got freedom in the 21st century


Iggy Pop - Success



Iggy turned 65 last Saturday. So I suppose that constitutes as erm...Success? Brilliant, funny song which has gotten a bit tragicomic with the passing time. In the end though...Iggy has had quite a success.

The Beatles - Golden Slumbers



Been listening to The Beatles a lot this week on my iPod. Especially to this climatic first part of the closing medley of Abbey Road. I'm not a huge fan of Paul McCartney's singing (I do listen to his solo stuff the most compared to the other Beatle boys though) but I have to say it's not just the melody in this song, it's largely the way Paul sings it with such passion, which is what makes this song what it is. A minute and a half of pure, uglied-up beauty.

The Killers - Losing Touch



One of my favourite songs by The Killers. Gets stuck in my head on regular basis. Sadly, the musician who plays a key instrument on this song, Tommy Marth, the saxophonist, died earlier this week. Tragic, shocking and just plain sad. Tommy has played on The Killers' 2nd and 3rd studio albums, as well as in their touring band. May he rest in peace.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

On Jack White, Me and Blunderbuss (A Review)

It's like meeting an old friend.

Yeah, I know that's a cliché way to put it but what the hell, it's true.

You know how this happens...with your friends as well as with your artists: they are amazing, you love them, you spend a lot of time with them but then for some reason (or no reason at all) you start growing apart. And then...months or years later you get in touch with them and you realise why you wanted to be friends with them/fans of them in the first place.

Me and Jack met 9 years ago. Nope, I'm not one of the fans who'd come on board with the very first White Stripes album, I came after reading a very positive review of Elephant in a Czech music magazine. I'd discovered David Bowie and Kate Bush just the year before and at 15/16 I was hungry for more great, exciting music. So without even having listened to the album before buying it, I just took the money I'd gotten from my grandmother and bought it. From then on we were almost inseparable. In fact, the last time I saw my grandmother (still that year) I listened to the album on my discman on my way to and from the visit.

I tried to be as enthusiastic about The Raconteurs when they came on but I suppose I seem to find a special bond with duos, and any four-piece band which is not The Beatles, has a harder time with me (just ask The Killers). I love many of The Raconteurs' songs though, and in fact, Carolina Drama is one of my all time favourite songs. The moment I lost touch with Jack came with The Dead Weather. Their first album underwhelmed me, and I didn't even given a listen to the second one yet. I sort of knew of Jack's other projects and other stuff (amazingly I only learned about his divorce a few months ago...so much for me and gossip) but it wasn't until Love Interruption emerged this year I actually started to pay attention.

(Just to make it clear I never stopped listening to The White Stripes or certain Raconteurs songs. Therefore last year's inevitable split of The White Stripes made me quite sad and also contributed to me tuning out from all things New Jack.)

Love Interruption sounded "quite good" at first but the song has, over time, completely wormed itself into my brain, in a good way. After hearing Sixteen Saltines I started to be cautiously excited but still, when I gave the album the first listen - through iTunes last week - I still didn't expect anything better than a solid album with a few songs I'll like and a few I'll be indifferent about. I'm so glad I didn't read any (rave) reviews beforehand, it allowed my excitement from Blunderbuss to be 100% mine, uninfluenced, and raw.

What can I say, I love it. It almost feels like Jack took everything that ever worked in his musical output and put it there. It feels like a best of album.

His bewilderment with women, guitar squealing, piano (there's quite a lot of it here...since I prefer piano to guitars I approve!), hypnotic guitars, country, blues, the fact he's a big weirdo, that he likes to fuck with people, tender acoustic moments, funny accents, and also a cover of a cool 1960's song. It's all there,and it works. It works at first listen and it works on the 20th listen.

The stand-outs for me, right now, (besides Love Interruption and Sixteen Saltines): Weep Themselves to Sleep (hello gorgeous piano!), Freedom at 21 (I saw a feminist flipping over the lyrics, not sure why exactly), Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy (damn catchy), I'm Shakin' (better than the original, though I'm disappointed "noivous" was not Jack's thing but in fact already in the original), Trash Tongue Talker (hopefully more of a story than biography? the piano rocks here though) and Take Me With You When You Go (feels like good 5 songs in one, ending the album on a ecstatic high). It's silly writing about stand-out songs when it comes to this album though. I could easily name the rest of the album here as well.

I've seen people call Jack White a god, genius and living legend, I've seen people cry he's overrated. I think he probably gets misunderstood by both of these opposing parties. Let's face it, he didn't invent rock, and he can't quite single-handedly save it (if it, indeed, needs saving). Also dismissing Jack White's songs as retro is too simple. More than anything they sound like Jack from the 90's and onwards is covering a Jack who wrote this all 60 years ago.

I personally believe, that with Blunderbuss, Jack may have finally earned himself the "legend" label. If once in a while he takes a break from doing his various all-star collaborations and delivers an album like this, he might make it to a legitimate god by the time he's 50.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

This Week's Top 5 Songs IX

Led Zeppelin - Going to California



I don't listen to Led Zeppelin much but I adore this song. This week I realised I didn't have it in my iPod (I think it was the new Jack White record that made me remember the fact I love it) and once I added it there I ended up listening to it on a loop. Such a tranquil song.

Jack White - Sixteen Saltines



Who's jealous who's jealous who's jealous who's jealous of who?

I had the chance to hear the album (Blunderbuss) in full through iTunes earlier this week (I know it's leaked but I'll wait till Monday, won't kill me). I'm a White Stripes fan, I quite like The Raconteurs & I was pretty underwhelmed by the Dead Weather...I love Jack but I've kind of lost track of all his projects - therefore I approached his first solo album with cautious excitement. By the end of the album there was only pure excitement left, pure ecstatic excitement which only good music can bring.

Sixteen Saltiness has been on a heavy rotation on my iPod this week. It rocks. Jack hasn't lost it yet. In fact, he might have found it again.

Oh yeah, the video is weird, but then so is Jack. All is well.

David Bowie - When the Wind Blows



When The Wind Blows has kept sneaking up on me for years now but only the other day when I was actually playing the 80's part of the Bowie best of compilation it got me. It hit me, what a great song it actually is. Sure, it has many problems but those are some nice chords under the title bit of the song (is it a chorus? not quite sure with this song), and thinking about it...the verses are great too. And the synth part todoododoodododo. And the lyrics could be much worse. :) A bit of a forgotten Bowie (very rough) gem from the 80's.

Dj Okawari - Luv Letter



My favourite Japanese figure skater - Daisuke Takahashi - has just won World Team Trophy in his category (and set a new world record in his short program) so I spent the last few days surfing the net for his older programs and performances - and rediscovered this beautiful piece of music in the process. I remember having the privilege of watching him skate to it at a World Championship's exhibition a few years ago. In case you're interested you can watch him doing his program here.

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This week there is no Marc Almond song in this post. Yep, the end of the world is coming early. I didn't quite listen to Marc as much this week and I think it's only fair another 80's relic gets a spot here this time...

Morten Harket - Lightning



Morten is the lead singer of a-ha (those of Take On Me fame...but really the band is so much better than this song!) but he's been releasing solo albums since the band's first hiatus in 1993. The previous albums have been mostly singer-songwriter-y, yet the recent one, called Out of My Hands, is more synth-pop oriented and it suits Morten well.

The first single off the album - Lightning - reminds me of Will Young's Jealousy brand of pop, and that's a very good thing. Haven't listened to the whole album yet but if the rest of the songs (including one written by the Pet Shop Boys!) are half as good, it should turn out to be a pretty good album. I will give it a proper listen and maybe review it soon.

Friday, 13 April 2012

This Week's Top 5 Songs VIII

Metro - Jade



I wouldn't have known about Metro if it hadn't been for Bowie covering their song Criminal World on his Let's Dance album, and my favourite blog Pushing Ahead the Dame's post about it (up until reading it I didn't even realise it was a cover). The only album this band has ever released is pretty much brilliant from start to finish...I listened to it a lot this week, so that's why Jade ended up in this week's top 5.

What's not to love about this particular song. Musically it keeps surprising you. The opening verses are beautiful and soft, there's some drama later on... Roxy Music wish they came up with this song.

Nicola Roberts - Yo-Yo



I'd been aware of Nicola Roberts's solo efforts for several months now but I only ever bought Beat of My Drum. Then a few days ago I came across this Nicola song on YouTube and fell in love with her. I rarely watch music videos but Yo-Yo made me watch till the end: a good video for a great pop song. It's a shame Nicola hasn't had a proper solo success yet.

Nicola Roberts - Take A Bite



A perfect fuck you song, this. What else can I say.

So when I got down to London, had the press on my case
Cause I didn't walk round with a smile on my face
Called me a rude ginger bitch and say I bought bigger tits
They're gonna eat all their words, they're talking absolute shit


The Sound of Arrows - Into the Clouds



Listened to The Sound of Arrows album on my way to Venice last Friday night/early Saturday morning, while going through the full-moonlit Alps. Transported me from a bus to a carriage drawn by bewinged unicorns. M.A.G.I.C.al indeed.

Marc Almond - These My Dreams Are Yours



I've been listening to this song on my iPod a lot lately. It's a pretty emotional affair, and seems to be a very personal song for its writer. Marc cuts on the sometimes dark/sleazy poetry of his and instead delivers a beautiful love song. You can find it on Stars We Are, an album which was released in 1988.

You can have my smile, my tears
My wishes, here's a fortune
To adorn you
I'll whisper in the night to you
Promise to adore and never scorn you
And as we grow a little older
Try to understand more of each other
I will be your golden eye
Your master of illusion
Or just your lover

I'll be a dragonfly, a butterfly
A secret or a little lie to test you
A song a verse a lullaby
A symphony once in a while
To try and impress you
I'll take your heart to the limit
The colours of my joy
My tears to dress you
But sometimes dear
My heart's my own
I don't wish to exclude you or
Distress you

Thursday, 5 April 2012

This Week's Top 5 Songs VII

This time tomorrow I'll be laptop-less and on my way to Venice so I'm writing this weekly blog "feature" a day early. Since there's a lot of things one has to do before going on a trip I'll have to keep this entry very minimal. Sorry. Back to the regular order next week!

This week's selection is a bit funny: 2 brand new songs (one of them not quite yet released) and 3 songs written between the years 1929 and 1940. But that's pretty much the way I roll.


Fred Astaire - Let's Face the Music and Dance

Tony Bennett & Michael Bublé - Don't Get Around Much Anymore

Marc Almond - Surabaya Johnny

Graham Coxon - What'll It Take

Wild at Heart - Darling