Sunday, March 9, 2014

Hear the New Kylie Minogue Track "Sparks"

Kylie Minogue is surely one of the most durable pop stars of our time. It's hard to think of many other artists who began their careers in the 1980s ("The Loco-Motion" debuted in 1987) still releasing relevant pop music (as her upcoming album Kiss Me Once seems likely to be) in 2014.

Kylie Minogue Sparks

The album's lead single, "Into The Blue," is at least as solid as your average Kylie single. It has its official sale release today in the UK, whose weird music release practices often involve radio release long before anyone is allowed to purchase a single (also released today: Katy Perry's "Dark Horse"), which just seems baffling in the digital age (although the UK music charts are purely sales- and not radio-based, which I definitely like).

Kylie is an old pro from the era when singles had physical releases, first as 7" vinyl records and later as CDs, and in those days it made sense to include an additional track, or B-side, that wouldn't appear on the main album but would still fit the album's vibe. The B-side was the ancestor of the bonus track. And in today's digital, track-based sales environment, there's no need for, nor much sense in, B-sides with a single release. But Kylie's still in the habit - internet be damned! - and today's UK single release of "Into the Blue" includes the B-side "Sparks," produced by Matt Schwartz and written by Karen Poole, the team behind Minogue's 2012 one-off single "Timebomb" (Poole also wrote past singles "Red Blooded Woman," "Chocolate," and "Wow").

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Adele Dazeem and Oscar's Big Music Problem

There wasn't much air left in the tires by the time the 86th Academy Awards rolled around on Sunday, and it wasn't just Putin's fault. Certainly the Olympics-mandated extended wait between the nominations and the ceremony (six and a half weeks, instead of the usual four and a half) - not to mention those two weeks the nation spent binging on winter sports and the progression of Bob Costas' pink eye - had much to do with it (although the telecast had 43.74 million viewers, the most since 2000).


The other part of this year's ho-hummitude was a combination of extreme predictability and relative inaccessibility of most if not all of the likely winners in the high profile acting, writing, and best picture categories - also known as the only categories not expected to be taken by Gravity or Frozen. And, sure enough, in those categories we got three Oscars for "slavery is bad," two for "AIDS is bad," and one for the Woody Allen movie. You could forgive any but the most ardent Oscars nut for tuning out or falling asleep after Best Original Song (I did). Not until then, of course, since this year's Best Original Song category offered one of the only semi-dramatic races, and not just (I don't think) for pop music partisans like me.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Getting High for "Sheezus" (Lily Allen, On A Roll)

So, Lily Allen. I was living in London when Lily Allen was first bicycling into the picture, and overall I found her mildly annoying. I did enjoy her debut single, "Smile," with its muffled reggae piano and cheery nastiness, but not her other single, "LDN," because it was dull and her singing was terrible. I liked her chavvy accent, which seemed to be more of an issue for the Brits; we Americans find any British accent charming (see: Bastille's "Pompeii"). Then I remember liking her singles from It's Not Me, It's You, but probably being more impressed that she merited a profile in The New Yorker. I didn't like the childish Katy Perry feud or the childish Azealia Banks feud or the odd blip where she changed her professional name to Lily Rose Cooper, but overall I tended to lean pro-Lily without a ton of enthusiasm either way. And I'm leery of post-baby albums from female artists I've enjoyed because babies, ew, and the only one who's done a song about her baby that isn't dreck is Kelis.

Have you thought about your butt?
Then came "Hard Out Here," which I loved. And the video, which I LOVED. And the controversy, which I both loathed and devoured. And then came "Air Balloon," which...I also loved. And then her song on the Girls soundtrack, "L8 CMMR," which...wait for it...I also loved. And when I learned this weekend that the album is to be called Sheezus - well, I think I audibly cheered. Yes, certainly it helps that I'm not coming in with any expectations on Lily Allen's next project that she needs to hold up to, but that I'm fully on board with literally everything she's done so far with this project is remarkably unusual, and it's got me excited about 2014 when for the last two years it's taken until about June to rouse my spirits about the stuff coming down the pipeline.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Dark Horses: New EPs by Meg Myers and Kimberly Cole Are Just What the Doctor Ordered

The other night I was listening to Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill for about the 43879643th time and thinking something I've thought for a while now: what the world needs now is some good new pissed-off-chick music. It's not specifically "rock" I mean, although it was late 90s rock that saw the last big wave; what I'm jonesing for is something "darker," but aggressive, rather than depressive, as most down-tempo female pop has been for most of the millennium (Adele, R&B on the whole). I think that's why I've latched onto Lorde so enthusiastically (especially her goth-y minimalist Hot Topic Grammys performance) and why my songs like Meredith Brooks' "Bitch," Björk's "Human Behaviour," Garbage's "#1 Crush," and Peaches' "Fuck the Pain Away" keep popping up on my playlists lately.

Meg Myers is ready for, ready for a perfect storm

And there's some evidence that I'm not entirely alone here. There is, of course, Lorde's nine-week reign atop the Billboard Hot 100 with "Royals" (although with the success of its rather more friendly followup, "Team," it's hard to say for certain that her popular embrace stems from precisely the same place as my own), as well as the rabid response to Beyoncé's sexy, insubordinate new album. A Slate piece suggested that the popularity of Katy Perry's "Dark Horse," the current Hot 100 #1, belies a public interest in her "goth-girl-with-training-wheels persona," which is a bit maddening not only given how I was mocked for predicting, back in late 2012, that Perry's third album might be "some unexpected alt-pop masterpiece" but especially because I sure want something much better than "Dark Horse." Sky Ferreira's album of moody indie-rockish-pop was much fawned over by critics (it wasn't my thing), and Nicki Minaj's bellicose new video caused so much Twitter ejaculation I had to grab an umbrella. All of this indicates that a pair of excellent EPs released last week might be just what the doctor ordered.

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