I'm Doing The Strand

I'm sort of obsessed with the Scissor Sisters' new cover of Roxy Music's "Do The Strand." As Fluxbog accurately described, it sounds "like a gay disco jingle for New York City’s most beloved used book store."

My office building is across the street from The Strand, so it's become my morning theme song these past few weeks. By now, it's safe to say the Scissor Sisters can add a bit of glitter to anything.

I loved Ta-Dah and I'm curious about their upcoming release. At a couple secret NYC shows last year, the band tested material and, judging from the YouTube clips, the songs were all over the place.

Although "Do The Strand" offers nothing stylistically new from their debut album, check out the early 80's pop rock sound of "The Other Girls." I would love this direction for the new album.


I've Heard This One Before

Of course, as a stalwart Morrissey fan, I bought Years of Refusal on its first week of release. Was I as excited about it as much as previous releases? No.

The fact that "That's How People Grow Up" and "All You Need Is Me" were tacked on less than a year after I purchased them on the confusing Greatest Hits makes no sense to me. Why oh why were they put on a new album?

With every Morrissey album, despite what non-fans will say, there are new things to learn about The Man. Unfortunately, I don't think I've learned anything new about Morrissey on Years of Refusal.

That is not to say I don't enjoy the album. Years of Refusal is a piece of fresh air compared to the intensely reflective, dark and meandering Ringleader of the Tormentors.

It's musically upbeat with "subtle Mexican sounds" and I'm finding the melodies linger on in the way great pop music is supposed to. My favorite tracks are the rocking "Black Cloud" and the dramatic "One Day Goodbye will be Farewell."

I wasn't a fan of lead single "I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris," but I find myself humming it all week, so I suppose it does grab you when you least expect it.

Years of Refusal does have a stinker. "You Were Good In Your Time" sounds musically like "Ambitious Outsiders" on Maladjusted, and except for real strings, it sounds pretty dull and has the unfortunate title of being "the song I forget is on Years of Refusal" until it comes on.

The bizarre thing about Years of Refusal is that its rockier moments remind me of the sensitive arena rock that the band Gene was criticized for.

This might be the album Gene fans would love (and every Gene fan was a fan of Queen or The Smiths), but I'm not quite sure what that tells you about Morrissey.


The Beat That Echoes

Isn't it strange when you hear a song you're familiar with in a different context? This happened today as I was passing through the 34th St/Herald Square subway station.

A group of dancers was putting on a show and I was convinced that I knew the song they were dancing to. At first I heard the beat and thought, "Oh, they're dancing to Madonna's "Music." What a strange choice for street dancing on a Sunday afternoon." (Note: it was impossible to find the "Music" video on YouTube since "Madonna Music" or "Madonna Music Video" provided endless results. This is the best I could do).

But then I realized I was wrong when the funky high-pitched synths didn't kick in. "Oh! They must be dancing to Daft Punk's "Da Funk." That makes more sense."

But then I realized "wait a second. It's The Rapture's "Killing"!"

And finally I was right. I remember when Echoes had a major impact on my appreciation for both indie and pop music. For many people in 2003, The Rapture made it OK to dance.

Unfortunately, I never made it to Pieces of People We Love, but maybe I will soon. I'm feeling slightly nostalgic for that dance punk period when Gang of Four was the newest oldest band everyone had just discovered.


Little Boots Live at Studio B

Photo by nickgraywfu.

After watching last night's Little Boots performance at Studio B in Brooklyn, it's pretty clear that Victoria Hesketh has no qualms about being a dance pop superstar.

At her first "real" NYC performance (I believe she played a CMJ showcase last year), she and her tight band were upbeat, cute and delivered one punchy dance track after another.

My interest in Little Boots comes entirely off the basis of two tracks: "Stuck On Repeat" and "Meddle." I don't even think I had heard the original version of "Meddle" until last night -- the remix by Designer Drugs is my signature version.

A lot of people compare Victoria to Kylie Minogue. Last night, she wore a black dress with a draping hood, much like Kylie's white dress in the "Can't Get You Out of My Head" video (without the plunging body line).

Little Boots doesn't have an album's work of tracks yet, so the set was short (about 6 or 7 songs, each around 3 minutes). I loved "Mathematics," which you can hear on her MySpace page.

She was very chatty with the audience, talking about her hometown Blackpool, describing one song as "an R&B ballad .. like Beyonce .. like 'Irreplaceable'" which sounded nothing like either, and getting the early morning crowd to move their feet.

Even though her set list was short, it was incredibly satisfying, which makes waiting for a full album release much easier. Take your time, girl.

Little Boots is doing everything right for fans: she regularlly updates her blog, adds impromptu video performances on YouTube, creates interesting mixtapes and sends newsletters from her mailing list that aren't annoying pieces of spam.

I'm very much looking forward to a full album's worth of Little Boots tracks.


My Favorite Albums of 2008

Cut Copy
In Ghost Colours
I had been listening to tracks of this album since mid-2007, but boy was the album worth the wait. Glistening, shimmery keys and great pop hooks, In Ghost Colours channeled 80's
synthpop in all the right ways. If you were lucky enough to catch them live, you could tell the band were humbled by their own success.

Hercules & Love Affair
It took me a few listens to warm up to this album, but it paid off. Yes, it does sort of trail off in the middle, but there is something heartfelt, unique and complicated about each track that commands repeat listens. "Blind" and "You Belong" are being anointed as dance classics and it's amazing how Antony doesn't always steal the show from the brilliant cast of characters.

Vampire Weekend
I started listening to Graceland a few weeks ago, and
didn't give a flying fuck about its influence on Vampire Weekend's debut. People said the same thing about first Strokes album and Television, but I didn't hear it. All I know is this album has the jangly college pop I yearn for. So fresh, clean and approachable that even my Dad was curious about it on our drive from Lafayette to San Francisco.

Kanye West
808s & Heartbreak
Yes, it's been out for less than a month, but it has also revived my interest in the "album" more so than any other recent release. The excessive auto-tune and lo-fi production does little to hide the aching in Kanye's songs. More importantly, you don't need to be on a downer to listen or appreciate this album's great music and Kanye's creative merits.

"Shove It" was pretty much my theme song this year, as was "L.E.S. Artistes." Moving from San Francisco to New York, "
I can say I hope it will be worth what I give up" was pretty much the story of my life. The rest of the album has some hot tracks on it, but I prefer the mash-ups of "Anne" and "Lights Out" found on Top Ranking.

A few more albums I liked:
Hot Chip, Made In The Dark ("Ready For The Floor," "Hold On")
Britney Spears, Circus ("Circus," "Mannequin", "Unusual You")
Kylie Minogue, X ("In My Arms," "Like A Drug," "Heart Beat Rock")

My list feels pretty mainstream, but what can I say, Most of the "new" albums I bought this year were archives (i.e., I fell in love with Numero Group's Eccentric Soul series, old italo disco and newish italo disco from Italians Do It Better). But more importantly, I really liked the albums I listed above.

I spent most of my this year listening to remixes and singles from artists that could bring me up up up: Designer Drugs, Little Boots, Kid Sister, Treasure Fingers, Danity Kane, Cyndi Lauper, Kleerup, Miami Horror and more. Who said the single was dead?

The biggest disappointment was the new Beyonce album. Out of the sixteen songs on my deluxe version, I would master the tracks in this order:

1. Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)
2. Sweet Dreams
3. Halo
4. Ave Maria
5. Diva
6. Video Phone
7. Radio
8. Smash Into You
9. If I Were A Boy



51st Annual Grammy Award Surprises

As a music fan, I'm always interested in seeing what the old foggies at the Grammy Awards are including in their annual nominee list. This year, I find my jaw-dropping by some of their selections:

1. M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes" nominated for record of the year. This is the kind of thing that everyone believes should happen, but never actually does. I'm totally shocked. Also, the Jay-Z and T.I. collaboration "Swagga Like Us" (which samples "Paper Planes") is also nominated twice.

2. Hot Chip's "Ready For The Floor" nominated best dance recording (along with Madonna, Rihanna, Daft Punk and ... Lady Gaga???). Sam Sparro is also in there, but I never warmed up to him.

3. Robyn's self-titled album nominated for best electronic/dance album. If she wins this, what a triumph. Kylie Minogue's X is in there too, but that album was definitely hit/miss for me.

Grammy stalwarts like Beck, Radiohead and Coldplay are all nominated. And who is this Adele? I have never heard this "Chasing Pavements" song. In any case, it's not a perfect list but I'm rather impressed that Grammy voters are being slightly more progressive about their choices.


Welcome to Heartbreak

It's not quite Pornography, but it's pretty bleak. What I like most about Kanye West's 808s & Heartbreak is how honest and musically consistent it is.

I was expecting a softer sound, a more melancholy perspective on the tragic death of his mother. There is some of that in there, but it's also angry, with lots of self-reflection and frustrations over a lover or girlfriend. He's the boy done wrong.

It gets musically lighthearted 3/4's into the album ("Paranoid," "RoboCop"), but the subject matter remains dark throughout and the majority of the album is under-produced and bare bones.

My favorite track by far is the last one, "Coldest Winter." Notice the rhythmically strange synth melody that doesn't quite sync up with the drums. It's these touches that give the album its shivering effect.
Speaking of The Cure, "Coldest Winter" could be a Japanese Whispers b-side.

I love the album's art direction as well. Say what you will about his arrogance and attitude, Kanye's creativity certainly delivers the goods.