Tuesday, May 29, 2012

L2 - 'Limitless' (Single Review and Free Download)

Near the end of the film Chicago, Catherine Zeta-Jones covers up her torn hose and pleads to Renée Zellweger, "One jazz killer is nothing these days, but two...." In a scene saturated with female solo artists, maybe the Labbadia sisters, like the Nervo twins, are on to something. Melissa and Jessica make up the dance pop duo L2, although their roots go back to musical theater (both appeared in an award-winning Off-Broadway musical in 2009, Melissa in the lead), and their first two dance singles have breached the top 20 on Billboard's Dance Club Songs chart, first "Boys or Girls" (#10; basically Katy Perry's "UR So Gay" set in a club) then "Insomnia" (#16), an earworm which was my first introduction to the pair. The latest single the sisters are promoting is "Limitless," a feel-good dance anthem that cleans up most of the rough edges of emerging artists' music and sets a solid ground for the engaging singers going ahead.

L2 - "Limitless"

Thursday, May 24, 2012

First Listen: Kylie Minogue - "Timebomb"

When British dance icon Luciana Caporaso unveiled her would-be solo debut album Pop My Trigger in December (licensing complications prevented an official release), one of the tracks, "Glitter and Gold," seemed to me like a perfect track for another legend of dance-pop, Kylie Minogue. Perhaps I wasn't too off the mark; Minogue's brand new single "Timebomb," officially released tomorrow in the UK and Australia in honor of the diva's upcoming 44th birthday, is a rich, throbbing number that sounds like it could have come from the pen of Luciana herself.

The Sexual Mystery & Mastery of Nadia Oh

Nadia Oh may be a tough nut for a lot of folks to crack, but it's clear that if anyone has Nadia Oh figured out, it's Nadia Oh. Fans, critics and foolish detractors have expended a great deal of energy grappling with this seeming anomaly of contemporary dance music (does she "get it?" is she mindless or brilliant? where the crap did this come from? does she even exist?). Meanwhile, Nadia Oh chuckles to herself and every so often unleashes a new musical creation upon the world that inevitably plays perfectly to the qualities that make her irresistible. Yet because the only one not at least somewhat baffled by Nadia Oh's appeal is Nadia Oh, she exercises her game instinctively, drawing no attention to the springs and gears because she already knows how it works and isn't trying to pull a fast one, at least not in this respect. Whether you consider that a product of cluelessness or unabashed natural expertise depends, I suppose, on how much of a sexist asshole you are, but see Nadia Oh has no more problem with sexist assholes than adoring EDM feminists - be it beats, balls or boobs, Nadia Oh simply has something for everybody.

Suck on it.
Frankly, the sooner one decides to abandon the quest for a foolproof, fully agreeable rationale for enjoying Nadia Oh and simply absorb the glorious noise she makes, the better. Not everything Nadia Oh has released is great; a chunk of it isn't even that good (most of this chunk precedes the masterpiece "Taking Over the Dancefloor," from her second album, Colours). But a lot of it is pretty fantastic, and over time a larger portion of her work has been of the "rather good" variety, as is customary with young artists progressively mastering more and more of their art. Oh's latest single, "Slapper (Ayye)," is the best thing she's released since the original demo for "No Bueno" (that the balls-out introductory moombahton melee was severed from the final album cut is simply criminal), and also (or perhaps because of it) the biggest departure from the pattern of work leading up to it. After the tropical, moombahton and dubstep explorations of Colours, "Slapper (Ayye)" is a bass-busting, hip-hop infused dance track that wouldn't be out of place on the first half of Nicki Minaj's latest album.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Coco Morier - "Ambulance" (Video Review)

It has been an active year for coco morier, the new indie-pop solo act by former Electrocute frontwoman/Britney Spears tunesmith Nicole Morier. After releasing her five-track, self-titled debut EP in December (and landing at #3 on this blog's groundbreaking Top Pop EPs of 2011 list), Morier began playing well-received regular shows in Los Angeles before joining Swedish indie royalty like Miike Snow, The Teddybears, and Lykke Li in a new collective and independent label, INGRID, in March. Her track "Afterlife" appeared on the label's inaugural compilation record, released on Record Store Day, and the superb single "Explosions" was featured as KCRW's "Today's Top Tune," among other commendations. Last week, Morier released a new music video for "Ambulance," one of several standout tracks from her debut, and announced her upcoming sophomore EP release, Strangers May Kiss, out June 19 on her new label, on which the track will also appear. Good news all around.

The video, directed by Evan Lane, is a relatively straight-forward yet thoughtfully artistic representation of the post-relationship depths of stubborn heartbreak the song depicts. The clip is almost entirely pro-grade, with moments of DIY amateurism that manage to make the whole affair more personal and heartfelt than your average glossy big-budget production - a standard for which independent musicians making music videos would do well to strive henceforth. See, for instance, the care taken to capture the beauty of a shower of sparks falling from a cigarette being stubbed out on a wall; also how Morier's silhouette still visibly shapes the lyrics of the song, a simple effect that was likely painstaking to create. Even the harried, blurry outstretched hands reaching for the medicine cabinet or refrigerator door convey not just the action but the unbalanced desperation of depression and sorrow that's long overstayed its welcome.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Ke$ha Project - "Microphone" (New Unreleased Track)

Those who, like me, have been underwhelmed by the pop music output during the year to date will be mollified to know that this has really been the calm before the storm. The great pop provocateur Ke$ha has reportedly been hard at work on her sophomore studio LP, after a successful tour and some time spent reconnecting with groovy animals across the world. Anyone who's paid real attention to Ke$ha's silently but enormously influential musical career will be awaiting the upcoming album with curious anticipation, as all accounts suggest that, for better or for worse, the singer plans to shake things up a bit rather than blithely follow and assimilate to the sound of today, for which she in fact is largely responsible.

Whether this will be a Justin Timberlakean revelation, a Gaga-esque mess of fitful brilliance, or an Alanis Morissette-ish jumping of the artistic shark remains to be seen. While some of the leaked tracks since the release of her debut, Animal, have clearly been born of post-Animal sessions (the hypnotic "31 Seconds Alone," the minimalist "Starvin'"), it's hard to tell if any of them can really be seen as indicative of the direction the new album will take. The recently leaked track "Pretty Lady," a punk rock tribute to drag queens descendent of Garbage's transgender admiration anthem "Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go)," received plenty of publicity thanks to its fabulous subject matter, and it was also the first clear example of the 70s rock influence Ke$ha has suggested the album will center upon.

Yet another, far superior track emerged in full recently to no fanfare whatsoever; it almost seemed nobody noticed (I stumbled upon it by accident, as I had most of the singer's extensive pre-Animal library). It's a shame, because "Microphone" is the most interesting Ke$ha track since the genre-busting "Sleazy," off the Cannibal EP; if "Microphone" is indicative of the kind of pop styling to be found on the upcoming album, we're in for a treat indeed.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Extraordinary People: An Afternoon with Mathai ("The Voice")

On a recent mythologically sun-drenched Saturday afternoon I arrived at Paramount Recording Studios on Santa Monica Boulevard to meet with Mathai, the Indian-American former nursing student who reached the quarterfinals on the second season of NBC's The Voice. The studio entrance is unnervingly nondescript, and when I was directed to Studio G, I found myself temporarily lost in a gated parking lot with a few closed, unmarked doors, a smattering of cars, furniture, and boxes of equipment. Fortunately, behind one door I could hear the muffled but unmistakeable falsetto I'd grown so fond of since Mathai first appeared in the Blind Auditions, singing a sassy rendition of Adele's "Rumour Has It" that caused me to leap out of my seat.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

New Music That Doesn't Suck: April 2012 (Playlist)

It can be difficult sometimes to wade through the web and find good new music recommendations; I know that as much as anyone. On another point, I can't count the number of times I've stumbled upon good new music, or at least new music I enjoy to some extent or other, but never manage to fit it into a post to share the good news. In response to both those dilemmas, I thought I'd at least toss together a list of the new music I've enjoyed over the past month for your reference. Some of the music listed will be very familiar while some will likely not be, and it's all in a Spotify playlist for your convenience, with a few exceptions to which I will provide alternate links. This is music I acquired during the last month, which does not necessarily mean it was released in the last month - we all find music at our own pace! Hope you enjoy and maybe find something you like as well!

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