Tuesday, August 30, 2011

New Music Tuesday: David Guetta, Esperanza Spalding and More

Every Tuesday, hoards of new singles, EPs and LPs appear on iTunes, Amazon and in stores everywhere, and a new sales week begins. Each week (well, most of them) I post what I’ve bought, sometimes with tacit recommendation and sometimes with the hesitation of an experimenter. If you have any opinions, comments, or suggestions about my weekly picks, or care to share what you're buying and why, please do so in the comments!

+ David Guetta - Nothing But the Beat (iTunes, Amazon)

Like many people, I am conflicted when it comes to French DJ/producer David Guetta. My impression that I've gleaned from the outskirts of the dance scene is that dance and house devotees are pretty cool on Guetta (as in the opposite of warm, not the opposite of Barry Manilow), who may or may not have been at one point a major player in the genre before exploring a pop crossover with his 2009 album One Love, which a lot of folks saw as selling out. He has his pop detractors as well, who usually fault him for his ubiquity and cliched predictability, which can seem patronizing as well since a) he's French - they're born patronizing Americans, and b) he is unquestionably adept at his craft and, the assumption is, capable of far better work than he's contributed to pop/mainstream music. I don't have strong feelings on him either way; I generally find his pop work enjoyable in the kind of unremarkable way I enjoy Dr. Luke songs or Kelly Clarkson singles. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Jessie and the Toy Boys – So Now What? An Open Letter

Dear Jessie/Ms. Malakouti,

First of all, congratulations on the Femme Fatale Tour  on which by all accounts you performed an excellent, effective opening set for the one and only Britney Spears that exceeded expectations. Also, bravo on the EP Show Me Your Tan Lines, a set of five solid pop tracks that are both enjoyable and by themselves superior to a number of full albums released by major female pop acts in 2011 (I can think of at least three off the top of my head). Well done, truly; this is work of which you can rightly be proud.

All of this brings me to my point today. First, the good news: with your canny and clever reincarnation as Jessie and the Toy Boys you are not only proving yourself a noteworthy and talented pop musician, but thanks to Spears and Co. the public is starting to catch wind. This in itself is a major achievement, and a more jaded person would hardly blame you if you threw in your cap, declared victory and lit off to rupture a glass ceiling in some ridiculously unrelated career. However, I get the feeling that the musician thing is really the innate occupation you’re gunning for, in which case you’re barely out of the starting gate. Words cannot fully express the vast scores of good artists before you who also made it out of the gate only to be trampled by the overcrowded stampede before getting anywhere and…well, when the horse breaks a leg, you know the rest. 

The Ke$ha Project - ‘Mr. Watson’

Whenever I find myself unmoved by the new music on tap or otherwise lacking motivation to write about the offerings of the moment, I always turn to one tried and true coping mechanism that inevitably carries me through the rut. The odd thing is, I’ve been doing so for well over a year without realizing the pattern until now, which is either cosmically inspiring or evidence of the deterioration of my faculties such ruts tend to inspire. Either way, I expect to save a great deal of time in the future now that I know that the guaranteed cure for musical mélange is sleep, exercise, and a healthy dose of Ke$ha.

I feel genuine guilt whenever I look back at pieces I spend time writing but don’t publish for whatever reason (this is 100% true) and consider that I could have used the time spent on those doomed ideas instead in the continuing development and proliferation of The Ke$ha Project. Said guilt is likely aggravated by the still shallow amount of critical and academic discussion I have published on the matter to date, so to combat that, and to latch onto a topical tie-in with the start of a new school year, The Ke$ha Project hereby continues with the very bad but very funny influence of “Mr. Watson.”

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Song for the Day: Ultraviolet Sound - 'Robot Lover'

Natalia Kills' bionic lamentations on the last Song For the Day got me thinking about the robot archetype currently proliferating in pop, dance, and electronic music. While the "robot lover" of "Activate My Heart" is the role the singer takes on in order to reject it, the third-person character has been popping up in lyrics quite a bit lately, often as the subject of desire when the vocalist is female. There's so much that's interesting about this sexual fascination with machinery, which is probably a large reason these tracks tend to be rather gangbusters.

I've decided to ride the robot wave for a few more days. Today's meditation on the virility of artificial intelligence comes to us from electropop duo Ultraviolet Sound (vocalist Sarah Hudson and producer Sami Diament), who released their self-titled debut album earlier this year following the success of lead club single "Suck My Kiss," which made waves on the Billboard Dance Club Play chart in late 2010. Electronic-pop songs about mechanical dalliances tend to either dial up the melodrama (see "Activate My Heart") or play it tongue pointedly in cheek, as on Ultraviolet Sound's "Robot Lover."

On its own plane it's a pleasant, simply constructed uptempo '80s throwback that one might expect to find on the required reading list for "Lyrics 101: Metaphor" (probably right next to Natalia Kills' "Activate My Heart") - there's a witty (and, astonishingly, non-phallic) pun on the word "tool," and the phrase "turn me on" gains humor through literalism... hardy har har. But what struck me about it was how many ways it flips the microgenre's conventions on end: it's as uptempo and lighthearted as its contemporaries are slow and brooding; it's the robot's "feelings" and "heart" being mended rather than the human damsel behind the microphone; and, appropriately, when the titular cyborg makes his appearance he is more Wall-E than Terminator, adorably responding to Hudson's pleas for reconciliation with a computer-generated "Totally!" You can enjoy the silliness of girl-on-bot lovin' below.

'Robot Lover'
Ultraviolet Sound
Ultraviolet Sound
Odds On Records, 2011


Ultraviolet Sound's new single "Girl Talk" is an enjoyable, catchy and clever track just beginning to heat up; the self-titled debut album is available now on iTunes and Amazon

For more on Ultraviolet Sound, visit their website.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Song for the Day: Natalia Kills - 'Activate My Heart'

Among other things, today marks the long-awaited U.S. release of Natalia Kills' full-length debut, Perfectionist, which has been out in Europe for much of the year already. That there is a U.S. release in the first place is to the credit of the UK-based would-be provocateur and her valiant efforts over the past months to make it happen, from opening for Robyn on her second 2010 US tour to teaming up with Billboard Hot 100 #1 hitmakers LMFAO and labelmates Far*East Movement as a featured artist and, most recently, to performing on a few stops of Katy Perry's California Dreams Tour.

The US edition of Perfectionist includes all of the singer's previously released singles ("Zombie," "Mirrors," and official US launch singles "Wonderland" and "Free") with one unfortunate exception, the April 2010 promotional single "Activate My Heart." Released between the so-so "Zombie" and the much better "Mirrors" (although the latter was already available unofficially), "Activate My Heart" was the single that elevated Natalia Kills from give-or-take to artist-to-watch status in my book. Anyone can come up with one good, even great pop/dance single, which "Mirrors" certainly was, but the brooding, thoughtful (if a bit lyrically over-earnest) dirge "Activate My Heart" was enough of a left turn that was handled competently enough to suggest that here might be an artist with talent and some sort of idea or message she wanted to broadcast.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Song for the Day: Doctor Rosen Rosen feat. Kay - 'Hot'

I've been wanting to bring back "Song for the Day" for some time. As luck would have it, on this hot and unremarkable Monday a pair of intriguing new artists have provided me with an excellent track with which to re-launch this new and much improved incarnation of an old Vertigo Shtick staple. Once more unto the breach, my friends...

When it comes to totally getting it, rookie producer Doctor Rosen Rosen seems pretty up there. The relative newcomer had already begun turning heads with early efforts at remixing the work of pop progressives like La Roux, Lady Gaga, M.I.A., Natalia Kills, and Jessie and The Toy Boys when he recently announced his ambitious and refreshingly apropos debut project, Girls, which is to arrive in four EP-sized installments over the next year and feature collaborations with some of "the brightest up-and-coming female artists." The first volume landed earlier today and features Jessie and the Toy Boys, Anjulie, Meg Myers, and the blonde and mononymous Kay, who last appeared on the recent Diplo and Datsik collaboration "Pick Your Poison" (I believe I mentioned that she'd be showing up again very soon).

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Pop Goes the Dubstep (Part 3): Maroon 5 - "Moves Like Jagger" (feat. Christina Aguilera)

By Kurt Bitter, Vertigo Shtick Contributor

Loyal Vertigo Shtick readers will recall a two-part series of posts several months back where we chronicled the journey of dubstep from the underground London clubs to the pop mainstream (Read Part 1 here; Part 2 here). Because the usage of dubstep in pop music is becoming so commonplace, I’d venture to say that we’re no longer listening to “a pop song with dubstep influences” when we turn on the radio and hear any number of offerings from Britney Spears, Ke$ha, or the like. Rather, we’re listening to a song from an emerging genre: "Popstep."1 I am here now to report that rock music has officially gone dubstep as well. Behold: the creation of RockstepTM.

Okay, I may be jumping the gun just a bit. There have been no known reports of dubstep influences in any forthcoming Metallica, KISS, or Dave Matthews Band records. I can report, however, that I was pleasantly surprised to discover several trademark popstep elements in “Moves Like Jagger,” Maroon 5’s latest single (featuring Christina Aguilera).

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

New Music Tuesday: Kimberly Cole, Cher Lloyd, and More

Every Tuesday, hoards of new singles, EPs and LPs appear on iTunes, Amazon and in stores everywhere, and a new sales week begins. Each week I post what I’ve bought, sometimes with tacit recommendation and sometimes with the hesitation of an experimenter. If you have any opinions, comments, or suggestions about my weekly picks, or care to share what you're buying and why, please do so in the comments!


+ Eddie Amador & Kimberly Cole - "Arrow Through My Heart" (iTunes, Amazon)

Kimberly Cole had one of the most surprising sleeper hits of 2010 with her extraordinary eleventh-hour debut album Bad Girls Club, the first release on the Oxygen Network's new label imprint and tie-in to the television show of the same name. Unfortunately the brand new distributor did little promotion of the LP, not even releasing a second single to follow the cult hit "Smack You," so while the brand gets our thanks for allowing Cole a full-length platform to show off her considerable stuff, it's thrilling to see some new material and a new label. Cole has teamed up with house music icon Eddie Amador (and silent partner-in-crime Jeeve) to produce this immense single, part pop, part house, with some dubstep and a solid feature verse by brand new act Garza. I'll have more on this later today as I'll be talking about the new single this morning with Cole herself, but don't wait another moment to get your hands on this incredible club single.

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