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.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Ingrid Michaelson Returns, Queers Up Robert Palmer With "Girls Chase Boys"

Some purists may feel differently, but I've liked Ingrid Michaelson's toe-dips into mainstream pop during the last few years. Her just-for-fun pop cover of Cheryl Cole's "Parachute," which Michaelson co-wrote, presaged her polished, studio-refined 2012 album, Human Again, on which she tinkered with just enough elements of electronic pop to make things interesting, and some of her early followers mad. Her new single, "Girls Chase Boys," ahead of the upcoming album Lights Out, finds her comfortably in her pop-with-indie-pout zone, and it's about exactly as charming as we've come to expect.

Tribute to Robert Palmer

"Girls Chase Boys" is an energetic pop tune, with lightweight lyrics about breakups over claps, heavy drums and, I don't know, is that a harpsichord, maybe? Michaelson doesn't challenge things, she just tosses in something a little weird. She's still playing the glasses-wearing, bookish little sister to Sara Bareilles, and the drums in particular recall the aggressive percussion of "Brave," but "Girls Chase Boys" doesn't aim for the same emotional or musical heights; Michaelson is very comfortable staying at about 7.

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