Friday, 27 June 2014

Review: 'Do It Again' EP by Röyksopp & Robyn

After Röyksopp and Robyn announced that they'd be touring together and recording new material, I could imagine hordes of fans of quality pop music went absolutely bonkers. I for one did. The duo had collaborated twice before, with amazing results: both "The Girl and the Robot" and "None of Dem" were brilliant slices of glacial, bewitching Scandinavian pop. Expectations were building up.

Only to be further stirred by the lead single (and title track of the EP) "Do It Again" that premiered two months ago. It's every bit as anthemic as you'd expect from a collaboration between these two, with a simple but driving beat and accessible sing-along lyrics. And the bridge amps up the song on yet another level. While an infectious dance floor filler, there's actually some definite darkness to it - the lyrics describe an unhealthy relationship which the storyteller finds herself unable to resist and is helplessly drawn to, like a moth to a flame: "Don't care what they say, it hurts so good / I don't wanna stop, I know I should / But let's do it again, one more time".

Review: 'No Mythologies To Follow' by MØ

If you've been following my blog lately, you've probably figured out that I like the Danish indie pop songstress MØ quite a bit. So, it's about time I took a proper look at her debut LP No Mythologies To Follow. Without further ado, let's get down to it!

The original version of the album comprises twelve tracks, while the deluxe edition (which is the one available on Spotify) features four bonus tunes plus four alternative versions of the new album tracks, one remix, and her Spice Girls cover "Say You'll Be There". With even the ordinary version clocking at 44 minutes, the deluxe edition is clearly quite the package.

Before the album came out, I was concerned with one particular fact: out of the 12 tracks on the initial version of the album, six ("Pilgrim", "Waste of Time", "Never Wanna Know", "XXX 88", "Glass", "Maiden") had been already released in advance in one format or another, four as (then) stand-alone singles. Now, they're all killer tunes for sure, but with the album relying so heavily on 'older' (=previously heard) material, the new stuff has to be extremely good to be on a par. So, the first time I put the record on, I was really nervous - how will the record fare as an entity?

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Playlist: Summer jams!

We've just passed the summer solstice which means that this is as long as our (unfortunately much less than 500) days of summer get. I hope you celebrated it well, with bonfires, sunbathing, beer and buddies, whatever the way that most pleases you. And since it is the midsummer now, what would be a better way to commemorate that than a playlist full of delightful summer jams, eh? So, no matter whether you celebrate St. John's, San Juan, Sankt Hans or juhannus, here's a compilation of 21 summery tunes to brighten up your days! Remember to enjoy it now, it's only going to be downhill from here...

Friday, 20 June 2014

Listen to Popheaval's picks from the Finnish indie scene

As you might have noticed, I don't often feature Finnish music in this blog despite being a Finn myself. That's not to say that there weren't good music coming from the country, it's just that I barely follow the scene over there (especially now that I'm not even living there at the moment). However, every once in a while I bump into bands and artists that I like, usually through the wondrous world of social media. Here are some of my recent discoveries from the Finnish indie (= Findie? Yes, this blog is all about portmanteaus...) scene.

First we have Forwardman, the music project of Helsinki-based Sakari Viittala. He's got an album coming out later this year, and the lead single was released one month ago. The Britrock-esque single, titled "Twenty-Six", is accompanied by a music video that features twenty-six different scenes, shot in various different locations. Good luck trying to spot all the different cities seen in the clip! And if you like the song, he's also got an EP out on iTunes so do check it out as well.

Heading north, next we've got A-M from Oulu. Behind the stage name is singer-songwriter Aapo-Matti Puhakka, who makes music that is a beautiful mixture of mellow alternative rock and Finnish melancholy. He's got a double single "Count To Ten" / "Rainy Day" out, and a debut album due for release this autumn. The latter song is especially amazing and a personal favourite of mine. (As a matter of fact, you might have heard it before in this blog, too.)

Pretty promising stuff, huh?

Uncle Tan, a Tampere-based electronic musician, is a discovery I made through Twitter. I went over to his Soundcloud page and one particular tune garnered my attention. The song, called "The Cave", is an instrumental electronic pop-rocker that recalls some of the better stuff that emerged from the '90s alternative rock scene, such as Garbage. Hell, the production is so top-notch, it wouldn't sound out of place on Madonna's iconic 1998 album Ray of Light!

CC33 is a band that has been featured in the blog before, when their song "Miracle Jackson" was the Song of the Week a while ago. I've got a review of their debut album Pig Safari in the making, though you'll still have to wait a bit for it, as I've been pretty occupied with other things lately. Anyway, here's another track from the album, and this one's called "I Used To Be A Teenage Amorphis Fan". This lovely, tranquil tune could almost pass for a Moby track from the early noughties. (But why, oh why is it so short...?) 

And lastly, there's Siinai. This interesting kraut-rock outfit makes conceptual electronic albums. First they had one called "Olympic Games" (pretty self-explanatory, right?), and now they're back with a concept album about... supermarkets. Yes, you've read right. The ambient album, also titled Supermarket is a collection of instrumental compositions about the experience of going through a supermarket, with song titles such as "Jonotus / Queue", "Smiling Cashier" and "Exit". Pretty ambitious, I guess. Anyway, here's "Shopping Trance" from the album: it's a pulsating track that hypnotises with its apparent monotony - a bit like how you'd do your groceries in an almost trance-like state, following your usual routine, just like all the people around you, making the act of shopping feel both fascinating and creepy at the same time.

So, there were some of my picks from the Finnish alternative music scene. Enjoy!

New music videos from Lana Del Rey, MØ, Jon Hopkins

There's some new music videos I'd like to share with you guys so let's get on with it!

First of all, we've got Lana Del Rey with her (apparently) latest single "Shades of Cool", one of my favourites from her new album Ultraviolence (expect a review in the near future). Musically it - along with the rest of the LP - represents a slightly more minimal direction for her, but the video is every bit as Lana-esque than anything we've seen before: there's smoking and dancing in slow-motion, there's an older man as her love interest, there's rows of palm trees, there's driving in a fancy convertible and yes, there's even the good ol' Stars and Stripes. Much American, such Lana, so wow. We're hardly speaking of a proper reinvention here but oh well, the song's quite amazing nonetheless.

Then there's the incredible Danish indie pop sensation MØ with her latest single "Walk This Way", taken from her 2014 debut album No Mythologies To Follow. I've still yet to review it but spoiler alert: it's good. Directed as a collaboration with the i-D magazine, the music video is a high school-themed romp and portrays MØ as a bubblegum-chewing queen bee of her high school athlete posse. The clip also takes MØ's trademark ponytail to a whole new level.

I've been totally obsessed with this singer ever since I saw her live last year, and it's starting to look like she's just about to break through internationally, too - she's been touring the States, getting a lot of media attention and even appearing on national TV! Check out her performances of "Pilgrim" and "Don't Wanna Dance" on Jimmy Kimmel Live!:

Mark my words, she's going to be huge. Such a promising talent, and she puts on an amazing, batshit crazy show, too!

And lastly, we've got Jon Hopkins with a new version of his amazing tune We Disappear from his latest album Immunity. Featuring the soulful vocals of Lulu James, it's an interesting take on the song. Her gorgeous voice complements the song beautifully, but in my opinion, the track's original, instrumental version was hypnotic and captivating in ways that this one isn't. Perhaps that's the magic of instrumental music: it allows the listener to project more of their own interpretation and imagination onto the composition. Still, the new version is stunning in its own way, and the combination of James's organic, classical vocals and Hopkins's futuristic glitch-hop arrangements make a fascinating juxtaposition.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Listen to a Brazilian version of Basement Jaxx's 'Mermaid of Salinas'

In order to commemorate the 2014 FIFA World Cup - currently being held in Brazil - Basement Jaxx have released an alternative version of one of their latest tracks, "Mermaid of Salinas", taken from their forthcoming seventh studio album Junto. Now sung in Portuguese by singer Nina Miranda, this take bears the title "Sereia de Bahia" and is accompanied by a typically wacky music video (as you'd expect from the duo), directed by Spanish director Alan Masferrer. Check it out below and, you now, give me your shimmy shimmy!

(The true star of the clip is obviously the middle-aged, mildly chubby, mildly sunburnt tourist guy.)

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Siouxsie Sunday: 'Mantaray' by Siouxsie

(Alright, I know I promised to write this two weeks ago but things happen. Anyhow, here it is now - let's get on with it!)

2007 marked an unusual year for Siouxsie Sioux - for the first time during her nearly 30-year career, she was going solo. The album, titled Mantaray, wasn't actually the first project she had done under solo moniker, though: three years prior, she had embarked on the Dreamshow tour (with her then-partner and one half of The Creatures, Budgie) where she performed songs from both of the bands she had fronted, The Creatures and The Banshees. A DVD of the show was released afterwards, topping the UK music DVD charts upon its release. The duo of Siouxsie and Budgie also included several songs from their previous (and unfortunately, last) Creatures studio album Hái! (accompanied by Leonard Eto, who played on the album) and billing the tour as a Siouxsie tour was most likely merely a way to incorporate Banshees songs into the setlist.

This time, however, she's really going solo, as in 2007 she announced that she and Budgie had divorced. The subsequent absence of Budgie on the record is a major change - this was the first Siouxsie album since 1979's Join Hands that doesn't feature his work. Siouxsie had previously done amazing records in both of her groups with thriving artistic chemistry, so how does she fare solo?

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Watch the new Band of Skulls music video

The amazing English indie rockers Band of Skulls have released another music video from their latest album Himalayan. Following the previously released "Asleep At The Wheel" and "Nightmares", this is the third single taken from the LP, and features the group's distinctive rock sound, rich in catchy guitar riffs and complete with a typically flawless vocal performance by vocalists Russell Marsden and Emma Richardson.

The clip itself tells a story of a female stripper, and as usual with music videos shot in reverse, comes with an unexpected twist in the end. Such simple but effective storytelling. (Oh, and if you're into music videos with strippers and plot twists in them, why don't you check out the one filmed for Porcelain Raft's "The Way Out".)

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Lily Allen shares a bunch of unreleased demos

After releasing her latest studio album Sheezus a bit more than a month ago - a review is on its way... sometime soon-ish - the London-based pop princess Lily Allen has now shared five previously unreleased demos ("just for LOLS", she says), presumably outtakes from the Sheezus album sessions. Personally, I wasn't that impressed with the record as whole, and to be honest, these demos are miles better than the some of the more auto-tune-obsessed numbers of the album. Five demos can be listened to on Allen's Soundcloud page, though apparently, there were originally six more demos that have since been taken down. Go figure.

Anyway, here are the five demos:

Seriously, what were they thinking when leaving these out of the album? They are amazing! "My Town", an infectious but bittersweet uptempo number, sounds like it could've easily appeared on her 2009 album It's Not Me, It's You, and the brilliant "I Don't Mind Babe" is a classic retro-inspired Lily Allen pop song with her trademark snarky lyrics: "Here's your coat, love / There's the door" and "I don't mind babe / Who the fuck are you?" are prime examples.

"I Was Born In The 80s" is a peculiar reggae-meets-dancehall hybrid, while on "Age of Beige" Allen's giving quite frank opinions regarding the quality of the music they're playing on the radio these days: "I turn on the radio, I can't believe what I'm hearing / Maybe I'm past it but this sounds like bullshit to me". "Stop Right There" is the slowest one out of the bunch, being a beautiful ballad with dreamy arrangements.

No but really, why these tracks never made the cut is beyond me. Instead, we got stuff like *shivers* "L8 CMMR" and "Sheezus". Okay, they're not that bad, but the album would be still so much better with tracks like these demos. Way better. Maybe they'll appear on a future deluxe edition of the album or something. And if not, well, make sure to check them out above before they too are taken down! This is the Lily Allen we were waiting for.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Listen to new Lana Del Rey songs

A handful of brand new Lana Del Rey songs from her forthcoming album Ultraviolence have made their way to YouTube. Following the release of the lead single "West Coast" and the album tracklist, here's three more tracks: they're titled "Shades of Cool", "Ultraviolence" and "Brooklyn Baby". The songs represent a new, slightly toned down sound for the 'internet era torch singer' - the album seems to be stripped from the super-orchestrated soundscape of the Born To Die era. Yet, the fragile melancholy heard on the songs is distinctively Lana-esque, so the new direction feels like a natural evolution from her past music. The more minimal musical backdrop also gives her more space to experiment with subtlety both as a songwriter and a performer.

While I've never been the biggest Lana fan, I do usually find her music enjoyable, and that is the case with her new songs as well. I'm really happy that she toned down the instrumentation a bit - while Born To Die was a fine record, another LP like that would've been too much of an oversaturation of that type of sound. Anyway, here's the new material:

A personal favourite of mine is "Shades of Cool" but they're all very pretty tunes! Although, the piano of "Ultraviolence" sounds a bit too aggressive to blend in with the otherwise soft mix. It's almost demo-like in that sense so I hope it's not the final version.

And here's the music video for the ominous "West Coast" in case you missed it:

Lana has also shared an alternative cover to the album, exclusive to Urban Outfitters:

As you can see, it's a picture of her knee.