Saturday, 26 April 2014

Röyksopp & Robyn's new single 'Do It Again' premiered on BBC Radio 1

Röyksopp and Robyn previously announced a joint tour, then a collaborative EP (or a "mini album") titled Do It Again, and now the first song from the record has surfaced! The lead single "Do It Again" (that shares its name with the EP) premiered yesterday on the Annie Mac show on BBC Radio 1 and while currently available for pre-orders, it will be officially released on Monday, along with a lyric video. If you're a fan of their previous work (whether together or separately), or if you're just into some quality Scandinavian electropop, you certainly are in for a treat. Check it out below!

Ah yes. Quite good, isn't it? And in case you missed it, they've also released a one-and-a-half minute snippet of another song called "Monument":

It's going to be an excellent EP for sure, judging by these clips. Oh, and in addition, there were two other songs briefly available for listening but they were taken down due to unknown reasons. That's the internet for ya.

The full tracklist is as follows:
"Do It Again"
"Every Little Thing"
"Inside The Idle Hour Club"

EDIT: ...aaand here's the lyric video, enjoy!

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Apparently, Katy Perry's next single will be 'Birthday'

Hmm. Katy Perry's quite good pop record Prism is about to yield another single and this one will be "Birthday". While I'd still prefer her to release either "Legendary Lovers" or especially "International Smile" (or what the hell, while she's at it, "Walking On Air"), I do get the choice - the track has some undeniable catchiness to it. It'll be much better than the trap-riddled "Dark Horse" anyway, I never really understood the buzz it succeeded in creating. Now Perry's released a teaser of sorts of the upcoming music video and it's hilarious. It features an assortment of "World's Worst Birthday Party Entertainers", all played by Perry herself. These characters include a past-her-expiration-date showgirl Goldie the Dancer (Goldie after her "golden nuggets"), an awkward Jewish showman Yosef Shulem the MC ("Did you hear about the rabbi who did free circumcisions? He only did it for TIPS!") and a social media-obsessed, nasal-voiced young lady called Princess Mandee (or as she's known on Twitter, @mandeerogersakalil_prncessmandee) who dresses up as a princess and paints children's faces, wishing them "Happy Birthday bitcheees". On a side note, she plays the different comedic parts pretty well!

The lyric video's out already so you might as well check that one out, too. Lots of frosting and confectionery skills have been used in order to present the lyrics in a literally sugar-coated manner.

Okay, I'm sure "Birthday" is going to be a fine single. And perhaps she's set "International Smile" aside for a later release 'cause it'd make a terrific summer hit for sure! Yes, that must be it.

EDIT: Coincidentally, this was also the release date of the actual music video so I added it here. It's hysterical: it features pranks where Perry participates in five different parties, each with a different disguise. Then she does all this crazy stuff there to dumbfound the partygoers, such as putting a mouse in her mouth, dancing around with an old man's leg prosthesis and causing a car crash. I was just literally laughing throughout the video, it was so freaking funny - especially the parts with Goldie. Watch it below!

Top image via

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Popheaval goes Eurovision: Semi-Final 1

Alright! The Eurovision Song Contest 2014 is just around the corner and it's about time to start making some previews and predictions. Following the country's victory in the previous year, this year's Eurovision Song Contest will be held in Copenhagen, Denmark. I'm currently living in Denmark as well so I was initially thinking of getting tickets to the Grand Final but they were a wee big expensive for my personal budget. I guess I'll just have to go there and find a nice bar with a big screen and a proper sound system instead...

Anyway, let's get down to it - join me as I go through the contestants and review their songs, list my thoughts on them etc. So, without further ado, here's Semi-Final 1!

Lily Allen shares new music video 'Sheezus'

Okay, I really don't know what to think about this album anymore. Sheezus is shaping out to be an extremely reactive record that seeks to get attention by referring to other more 'current' and 'relative' topics, such as the Robin Thicke-shaming on "Hard Out Here" (he totally had it coming, though) or calling the album Sheezus after Kanye West's critically acclaimed (and somewhat egotistic) Yeezus. And with the title track of the album, it's hardly getting better - rather than relying on her own talent, she keeps name-checking other female artists that have been ruling the charts during her absence: "RiRi isn't scared of Katy Perry's roaring / Queen B's going back to the drawing / Lorde smells blood, yeah, she's about to slay you / Kid ain't one to fuck with when she's only on her debut". Her jab at Lady Gaga is quite hilarious (and appropriate) though: "We're all watching Gaga L-O-L ha-ha / dying for the art so really she's a martyr" (and a martyr is a role she really, really likes to play). But let's not get carried away with that, here's the video:

The rest of the song is just a commentary on her comeback to the music biz, with lyrics such as "Been here before, so I'm prepared / Not gonna lie though, I'm kinda scared". She dedicates a whole verse to having periods (not that there's anything wrong with that). The music video's way too M.I.A.-esque to ignore. And telling her peers to "Give me that crown, bitch / I wanna be Sheezus" with such a lackluster song? Yeah, good luck with that.

Then again, even she herself has dissed the singles, admitting on Twitter they are "docile pop rubbish" when answering to a disappointed fan. 

Uh-oh. Let's hope the album tracks will be redeeming, then. And while "L8 CMMR" was a bit awful, at least "Air Balloon" and "Our Time" were pretty good. I don't want to be that guy who's complaining about change and new directions and how the old material was so much better and whatnot.

That being said, here's a golden oldie and one of my favourite Lily Allen tracks, "Shame For You". Just for the sake of it.


Monday, 21 April 2014

Review: 'Ray of Light' by Madonna

Madonna has been one of the most controversial characters in the world of popular culture. Carving a career out of shocking the public, the Queen of Pop has picked up religious symbols and used them in ways that have upset the conservative time after time. Some have criticised her of trivialising sacred imagery with her antics whereas others have praised her for her boldness to break taboos. Like it or not, she has been one of the most iconic pop heroines ever since the birth of pop culture. She's been like a chameleon, reinventing herself again and again with envelope-pushing audacity. And arguably, none of her transformations has been quite as remarkable as the one that was marked by the 1998 album Ray of Light.

The album was quite a departure from Madonna's previous work: it features a range of more alternative and electronic music influences from techno to trip-hop and was recorded without a live band. Thematically it's a highly spiritual record, drawing from Madonna's conversion to Kabbalah and her interest in oriental religions, which on paper sounds like it could be pretentious and forced - this was the woman who had previously sung about material girls and virgins touched for the very first time, after all. Fortunately, the new and, in hindsight, pretty unexpected direction works beautifully, most significantly due to William Orbit's superb production and Madonna's vocals that show more depth and emotional range than before. The vocal lessons she took for Evita certainly paid off.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

A lot has happened in music lately

As you might or might have not noticed, I've been absent from the blogosphere for a week or so and phew, there's been all sorts of things going on! Here are some of my picks:

Arguably the biggest scoop is Nirvana's unexpected (or expected, depending on how you see it) onstage comeback. The iconic grunge group was inducted to Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility (there has to be at least 25 years from the inductee's debut single; Nirvana's "Love Buzz" came out in 1988). The remaining members of the band then performed a handful of their songs with female singers, with Joan Jett, Kim Gordon (of Sonic Youth), St. Vincent and Lorde singing "Smells Like Teen Spirit", "Aneurysm", "Lithium" and "All Apologies", respectively. The group also asked PJ Harvey to join them to sing "Milk It" but unfortunately, she couldn't make it. Check out the performances below:

Hopefully the performances were also recorded officially so that we wouldn't have to rely on clips recorded with mobile phones.

So that's there. Then to other news:

Monday, 7 April 2014

Siouxsie Sunday: 'Hái!' by The Creatures

After releasing their fantastic 1999 album Anima Animus, there was a lot going on for Siouxsie and Budgie aka The Creatures. The duo released not one but two live recordings (titled Zulu and Sequins In The Sun) exclusively via their official fan club Gifthorse while also releasing a remix album Hybrids which featured remixes of their Anima Animus era tracks done by other artists. Furthermore, they released a compilation album that brought together their 1998 EP Eraser Cut and several B-sides from this era. Then, in 2002, Universal Music released a remastered compilation album of some of the Banshees' greatest hits (The Best of Siouxsie and the Banshees); subsequently, the core trio of the Banshees (Siouxsie, Severin & Budgie) plus guitarist Knox Chandler - who had played both with the Banshees (as their last guitarist) and The Creatures - reunited for the critically praised brief Seven Year Itch tour. A live album The Seven Year Itch was compiled of two of these gigs and released both as a CD and a DVD.

It was however made clear that the reunion was only meant to be temporary and less than 24 hours after the final Banshees gig, Siouxsie and Budgie were already in the studio recording new material for a forthcoming Creatures album. Fulfilling a long-time dream, the duo collaborated with ex-Kodo drummer Leonard Eto. The album was recorded in two parts: the main percussion was recorded as a spontaneous between Budgie and Eto drum duet - that's right, all the drumming you hear on the album is improvised! - and the rest of the material was added after The Creatures had returned to Europe.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Review: 'Immunity' by Jon Hopkins

I don't usually listen to a lot of instrumental music. I suppose I put a lot of emphasis on the singer's voice and the lyrics, too. However, every now and then you just stumble upon music that's too good to pass, no matter whether it represents your usual music taste or not. Remember when I told you guys about the list that I keep of bands and artists that I should check out? The British electronic wizard Jon Hopkins used to be one of the names on that list and, well, I'm extremely pleased that I gave his latest record a spin. The album, titled Immunity and released last year, was actually met with wide critical acclaim and was even nominated for the Mercury Prize for best album. It did ultimately lose to another electronic album though, namely James Blake's Overgrown.

So the record is mainly instrumental, with only occasional appearances of human vocals. Sampling dreamy electronic instruments and sounds taken from everyday life actions, Hopkins uses his synths like an artist would use paintbrushes to paint an enchanting urban panorama that's simultaneously vivid and soothing. The individual songs can be somewhat lengthy - the longest track on the album, "Sun Harmonics", clocks at nearly 12 minutes - but while the beats and the synth riffs are repetitive, they're still not boring. Instead, Hopkins succeeds in crafting atmospheric pieces that profit from the power of repetition.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

M.I.A. and Janelle Monáe announce a joint concert... but with holograms

Mmm yeah. The two innovative left-field music stars will perform onstage together later today in both New York and Los Angeles. Simultaneously. Wait what, at the same time? Yes, with a little help from today's advanced technology, it seems to be possible. M.I.A. and Monáe will be performing separate sets in New York and Los Angeles, respectively, and both will then be joined onstage by the other's hologram (à la Tupac Shakur) while performing two previously unreleased duets. It's all part of the launch campaign of Audi A3, as reported by Pitchfork.

Futuristic or ludicrous? You decide. Sure, it's impressive how much they can achieve with technology these days, bringing together artists who are separated by thousands of kilometres (or say, death) but personally I'm not a big fan of this hologram hype - I think it takes a lot from the whole live aspect of a performance. (Strangely enough, there is a Japanese computer-created hologram 'artist' that's hugely popular over there but then again, this is Japan we're talking about... the strangest of things float their boats.) With living artists it's obviously bizarre but still kind of justifiable, but bringing dead musicians back to give artificial performances is just all kinds of wrong. It's not a live performance if you're watching a 3D video, is it. Urgh. Fortunately it's been announced that Amy Winehouse's father has denied all speculations regarding a similar stunt from their part.

Well, I guess we'll all just have to see how it turns out.

Review: 'Bosnian Rainbows' by Bosnian Rainbows

I tend to keep a list of bands and albums I should check out. Sometimes those bands stay on that list for embarrassingly long times before I actually get myself to check them out. Bosnian Rainbows is one of those bands. A couple of weeks ago I did finally decide to give their self-titled debut LP a spin and well, it was love at first listen.

Bosnian Rainbows is an American alt-rock group that was formed after the less-than-amicable breakup of The Mars Volta. Originally starting as a continuation of Omar Rodríguez-López's side project, the line-up - consisting of previous The Mars Volta members Rodríguez-López and Deantoni Parks, singer Teri Gender from the Mexican punk group Le Butcherettes and keyboardist Nicci Kasper - soon became a band of its own. They released their first album, the eponymous Bosnian Rainbows last summer, and they've already finished their second album as well. Unlike the first LP, the second one will be in Spanish though. This mixture of styles makes an interesting cocktail of sound: whereas The Mars Volta's music is highly progressive - even a bit too progressive for my personal liking - Bosnian Rainbows' music is more straightforward in the sense that the songs are shorter and more to-the-point, as pointed out by Rodríguez-López himself. Also, while The Mars Volta is renown for its experimental prog rock and Le Butcherettes played garage-y punk rock, Bosnian Rainbows can best be described as post-punk, interestingly enough.