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Archive for June 10th, 2009

Little Boots Gives A Hands On Approach

Posted by Scotio on June 10, 2009

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Ever since the Revoluntionary War, there’s been a steady battle between US & Britain. Over time, it has softened dramatically from that bloody war(take that whichever way you want) to Global Capitalizing. Outside of politics, there’s been the steady tit for tat going on in the music scene between the two “World Powers”. Though they don’t necessarily diss each other, they do fight it out like rabid animals at the top of the music charts. When one act on one side of the pond takes off, the other is ready with a bullet of it’s own. Lady Gaga is currently the “it” girl in Pop music. She’s what the US has to offer. Now, meet competitor #1 from the UK. Her name is Little Boots(née Victoria Hesketh), and she has the artillery to sink Gaga’s ship down to the deepest depths of the sea in the form of her debut album Hands.

“New In Town” is the official lead single for the album, as well as the album opener. Is this a new trend? A brilliant strategy or an odd coincidence? I’m asking about having your leading single open up the album. That seems to be the thing for a lot of new pop albums coming out this year. But, I stray. The song, produced and co-written by Greg Kurstin of The Bird And The Bee, is a happy track. The premise behind the song is “You’re new in town, I’m broke, but we’re going to rock it out anyway.” We should all wish to be able to do such a thing when visiting a new location. The music is a departure from anyone strongly familiar with Bird And Bee(think more electro-pop version of their work). This song is a perfect greeter to all those infamiliar with Ms. Boots. It shows that she’s in it for the fun ride. Nothing overly complicated is shown here. Just a pure fun and early 90’s Electronic-based Pop tune. It might not register in your mind 5 years down the road, but it will get a party started… especially if you’re in the valley. Ok, Boots, you seemed to have taken the more danceable route for this first round.

Kurstin is on this album for most of the longhaul. He helps co-write the track “Stuck On Repeat,” which is produced by Hot chip’s Joe Goddard(who also co-writes the track, along with Little Boots). This track feels like a spiritual successor to Hot Chip’s last album. The beat is infectious and Boots’s vocal work is in the right zone for this type of sound. It won’t be hard to picture a bunch of girls in a convertible blasting this song until you bang your head against something hard, or featured on all the mixtapes/playlists of dance-music DJs. It’s that kind of catchy. It’s that strong on the commercial meter. You’d be prone to discard the song as rubbish until you listen to what it is completely composed of. Goddard displays his wizardry within the realm of synth music. It’s a very driven beat, and it drives you to feel like the lyrics of the song: “I can only move to the beat.” Drats, Boots! You’re in a three-way tag team with some actually TALENTED artists. This isn’t looking fair.

The trio team up again for “Meddle”. Meddle was commercially released as a single last August(of 2008), but I’m sure a lot of people still never heard the song. Goddard, with some production assistance from Kurstin, delivers Pop’s version of a Dubstep beat. To deny the influence of Dubstep on this song would be denying the fact that R. Kelly stopped actually SINGING a long time ago. Yeah, it’s that obvious. With what sounds like a combination of handclaps, fingersnaps, and digital claps the song keeps it’s pace and an underlining tempo that propels you to keep moving even when most of the beat disappears. Think of it as a song from a Musical Movie for Teens that is actually GOOD. Go ahead, wrap your head around that one. “Symmetry” featuring Philip Oakley(of The Human League fame) speaks about being the opposite/reflection of the person you’re romantically linked with. Mr. Oakley is obviously no novice when it comes to Synth-Pop. He comes in, with that scary-yet-uber-cool British singing style. You know the kind that dominated airwaves throughout the 80’s. The strangeness of it, is that with Philip’s addition to the track, you can almost envision the god-awful 1980’s video that would have been on repeat for MTV had this song came out 20-some-odd years ago. Oh, Boots, with your tricky Nostalgia Pop trick shot.

There are a few halfsteps featured here, though. Such as the track “Ghosts.” It’s a half-step, not a misstep. It sticks too strongly to that whole cabaret style in a digital format. That would heavily alienate the easy targets that this album is supposed to be aiming at. Though, this is one of the more lyrically appealing songs on the album, you can’t give the sheeple too much material to think with. Still, the pop enjoyers outside of the herd would probably take to this with ease. “Remedy” is another misstep. The song starts off with a dark synth sound that creeps up on it’s listeners. Then, just when the more sinister lovers start to rejoice as they have found a pop song of their own within this release, the chorus comes in. It pops the building bubble with an older Christina Aguilera sound. You can’t have both sides of that pie, darling. That puts you on eye leave with your enemy that you are dancing with(Lady Gaga). “No Brakes” makes up for these missteps as she displays the full force of the sound that Gaga TRIES to emulate. Hersketh’s voice sails like a sheet in the wind while the beat runs like a kid playing the track & field game with the power pad for the old 8-bit Nintendo. What would bring a slight pause for the Yanks would be when Boots stops singing and talks normally. Reminding them that she is, in fact, British.

After this entry into the tournament of Billboard charts, it’s clear to see that this former lead singer of the Dead Disco group known as Little Boots is far more equipped than Gaga was/is. Not to mention that La Roux is set to drop later this month to put the nail in that coffin and have the Brits come out with the win of Female Pop Acts for 2009. With no retaliation geared from the US branch, it sure does seem to be moving in that direction.

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Miike Snow Lights A Frozen Flame

Posted by Scotio on June 10, 2009

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Pop music seems to be making a serious comeback. With MGMT’s mega impact last year, it seems that these Pop Music Makers have been coming out of the woodworks like bugs after someone stomps on a rotting log(don’t act like I was the only one to do that as a child). Bringing their own coolness to the Pop genre with their Self-Titled LP is the trio known as Miike Snow. Yes, that’s a trio with a name that sounds like it belongs to a singular person. And, yes, that’s not a typo. There are 2 I’s in the first name(actually they are sort-of named after the Japanese director Takashi Miike). The trio consists of multi-instrumentalists Andrew Wyatt(of The A.M. & Fires Of Rome fame) and Christian Karlsson & Pontus Winnberg, also known as the Pop Producing duo Bloodshy & Avant. Of course hearing that Bloodshy & Avant are in the group would lead many to believe it’s filled with a bunch of Britney Spears rejected tracks. Oh, that is so not the case here.

Since “Animal” is the main single from the album, let’s start with that track, shall we? Oh, and not only is it their lead single, but also the leading/opening track for their LP. For the track, Wyatt sings like the adopted member of the band Genesis. Housing his vocal harmony somewhere between Phil Collins & Peter Gabriel(some may say a more “mature” Adam Levine sounding voice, to them I say “shut up”). To say the least, it’s eerily hypnotic. But, that’s not all that’s mesmerizing about this song. The trio constructed a back beat that plays like a Dub-influenced version of Dance-Punk(LCD Soundsystem, The Presets, Fujiya & Miyagi… to name a few artists of that genre). It’s hard not to sway your head side-to-side with this track pumping in your ears. Even if the lyrics doesn’t fully make sense(which seems to be a motif with this album) you still find yourself singing, or humming, along with the track. Suffice to say, their history of catchy pop tracks plays to their advantage here.

“In Search Of” is like a track that Nu-Ravers have been waiting all their lives for. Think of something along the lines of Hadouken!, but much better and more mature. There is no attack for people to be thrown around within the song, but there is a strong urgency to take to the dance floor and show off your glowstick movements under the strobe blacklights. This track contains no live instrumentation. Instead, it’s just pulse-setting synth work unleashed in it’s most impeccable form. With something as incredible as this finally revealed, you know that B&A will be getting hounded with questions from their Producees(it’s a word… even if it only exists in my world) asking why the hell have they been holding out on them. But, those bubblegum artists shouldn’t get too uptight. They would have never pulled that track off as sensationally as this trio does.

Oh, and since I did mention video game sounding music(Hadouken!, for those not keeping up), allow me to expand on that with the track “Cult Logic”. This track comes in like a super(pun intended) remix of the Super Mario theme song. If Nintendo is trying to stay in the area of “cool”, they would be wise to throw this track in their next Mario installment. Trust me, Big N, it will definitely pay off for you. To say that Mr. Wyatt hasn’t spent time with some folks of the Caribbean would HAVE to be a lie after listening to his vocal work on this piece. His melody, tone & pitch sounds like something you would expect Maxi Priest to express if he was still relevant today. This track is so well layered that just when you start to dissect the structure, you realize that you’re still only on the crust. They bring in and take out parts so fluidly that, though you notice it, you still perceive it as one cohesive image.

My personal standout track is “Silvia.” It could be how easily I can replace the name Silvia with the name of the one I hold dear, but I don’t think it’s that simple. For the first 1 minute and 10 seconds, you’re treated to a bare beat digital piano and dance synth accompanied by Wyatt’s voice slightly digitally altered(no, not Autotune. This is another type of digital filter applied to his voice). Then, after that time mark hits, in comes the rest of the beat. And, boy, does things shift. It goes from a slow and passionate tune to a pop love anthem, complete with cadence keeping snare hits. No, the track doesn’t stop there. More pieces are added in and built upon as the track continues down it’s 6 minute and 26 second mark(which makes it the longest track on the album). One sexy portion of the track is when the bridge comes in, and they move the music back to how it sounded at the start of the song. Only to, then, bring it in House music fashion so smoothly that it would make Benny Benassi blush with envy. They run Andrew’s voice through digital pitch changes from then to near the end of the track. Changing his voice to the point where it sounds like yet another synth to the music. “San Soleil” is one of the sexiest tracks I’ve ever heard in my life. It’s like a combination of Art Of Noise’s Moments in Love, the piano from Force M.D.’s Tender Love, Wyatt’s digitally filtered voice and an IDM synth. Yeah, it’s not very hard to see that they were inspired by old school R&B pop tunes for this one, here. Like all the other tracks, this one was executed remarkably. This is the track during and after a sensual session with a significant other. Don’t be surprised if some genius(and, I use that term loosely here) uses this track for such a moment in cinema.

It’s hard to deal with perfection. Equally as much when in opposition of and working with. But, there are moments when perfection is, well, perfect. It flows perfectly, it moves perfectly and it delivers perfectly. That’s what this album is. It’s pure Pop Music Perfection. Yeah, you heard that right. I said it, and I stand by it. It would be easy to declare this group this year’s MGMT, but that wouldn’t be fair. These three have had years toiling away at pop creations inside of the industry. They know what works and what doesn’t. With that, they used all of their knowledge and made sure that THIS works in every sense. It doesn’t have to make sense, it just has to make you dance. Just be ready for the domination of Snow during the summer of 2009. They got the cool, and they aren’t going to make you chill.

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