When you look at some of the finer-tuned pop acts from the UK in the past decade, Keane make a lot of sense. With acts like U2 and Oasis paving the way for softer, polished acts like Travis and Snow Patrol to make a killing, you could see how Keane could achieve accolades like Q’s best album and track of 2008, or the Brit Awards’ Best Breakthrough Act. But with their eight-song extended player Night Train, Keane have steered the train right off the track.
A tour of their earlier singles reveal infectious and beautiful piano melodies (”Somewhere Only We Know” from Hopes and Fears) giving way to more complex and electrified work like “Is It Any Wonder?” (from Under the Iron Sea) and “Spiralling,” (from 2008’s Perfect Symmetry). Night Train finds Keane stridently embracing the electronics of some their idols—Depeche Mode, a-ha, Pet Shop Boys but in a dreadful direction. Their invitation of guests only adds to the ghastliness bringing rappers into the studio. Oh boy, is it dreadful.
After gentle opening instrumental “House Lights,” lead single “Stop For a Minute” starts with a melodic and joyous piano-driven vibe, but then features verses from Somali-Canadian rapper K’naan, whose voice is somewhere between Lil’ Jon and will.i.am fed through Autotune. “Back in Time” and “My Shadow” attempt to make things better, but the ghastly cover of Yellow Magic Orchestra’s “Ishin Denshin (You’ve Got To Help Yourself)” features the indecipherable and flat voice of Japanese baile-funk singer Tigarah. “Looking Back” brings K’naan back to disappoint again and samples, to cruel effect, “Gonna Fly Now” from Rocky.
Night Train has nothing more appealing than anything from Keane’s past. Naysayers or newbies to the Brit superstars’ sound may now have a hard time cheering them on; fans will see Keane as clearly lost and this EP as atrocious.
In my constant reverence for the diva in all shapes and sizes, I shine the light, now, on Miss Deborah Harry. The woman is 65 years old and one of the most iconic women of punk rock of all time. Really, who rivals her? Patti Smith, sure, Chrissie Hynde, OK. But Patti and Chrissie were grungy, dirty girls in all black with busted faces. There’s no doubt that Patti’s Horses (1975) beat Debbie to the punch with the whole “girls can rock and don’t mess with us” thing. But with 1978′s Parallel Lines, Harry and Blondie hit it out of the park. And boy did they have style doing it.
Blondie’s first was their self-titled album in 1976, attempting to cash in on the synergy of art, rock, glamour and punk evidenced by the success of NYC joints like CBGB, Max’s Kansas City, and Studio 54. Harry had been in some bands before Blondie: a folk rock outfit called The Wind in the Willows in the late ’60s, then a rock band called The Stilettos, where she met her soon-to-be-boyfriend and co-band leader, Chris Stein. By then, Harry had been a waitress, a dancer, and a Playboy bunny, and it was her famous two-tone blonde mane that attracted plenty of Hey Blondie!‘s from many a drive-by truck and a-hole. Well, she certainly cashed in on that crass catcalling in the most powerful way possible: becoming a music and fashion icon.
The band’s first two efforts were more or less commercial duds. But somehow the stars aligned with Parallel Lines and four of the album’s biggest hits have sold twenty million copies since its September 1978 release: "Heart of Glass," "Sunday Girl," "One Way Or Another," and my absolute favorite, "Hanging On The Telephone." This was also an album that meshed nicely with the emergence of music video culture; "Heart of Glass" and "Hanging" are GREAT videos where Harry’s cool, casual lip-synching are overshadowed by her expressive eyes and glossy, red lips. Or, furthermore, by the uncanny control of her voice, especially with "Hanging," during which her voice often transforms into one of the sexiest growls in rock history.
The following two records did fairly well with 1980′s Autoamerican giving us "Rapture" and "The Tide Is High," but it’s "Hanging" that, to me, represents the perceived mad woman, the woman on the edge of insanity, the woman who’ll destroy your world if you let her.
She’s the woman I want to know. She’s a woman I wish my world could’ve overlapped with 32 years ago. –BILL CHENEVERT
Summer was kind enough to give us some of the most exciting new releases of the year: Big Boi, Robyn, Kele, Kylie, Scissor Sisters, Menomena, and Arcade Fire… to name a few. This fall, we’re hoping another batch of musical wunderkinds give us something worth salivating over. Here you have a broken-down list including some of the records that show up on the radar of greatness within the coming months. Let’s discuss highlights, shall we?
Indie boys and girls have something to shout about on the front-ended tip: Chromeo, Of Montreal, The Walkmen, Flying Lotus, Deerhunter, No Age, and UNKLE all have records out this month. Then in October, they’ll get a new Belle & Sebastian, Badly Drawn Boy, and Sufjan Stevens (though let’s hope it’s not another BQE experiment)…
Oh, their twee-loving heads will want to pop! Punk princesses will delight with a new Corin Tucker experiment that promises to blow minds; and hip hop heads have plenty to look forward to as well, especially at the end of September: Gucci Mane, Ice Cube, Jeezy, T.I., and Akon have all got discs for us…
Some older folks are trying to come back this year with LPs, some are laughable and some are genuinely intriguing (you pick): Olivia Newton-John, Robert Plant, Weezer, Paula Cole (intrigued!), Bad Religion, Gin Blossoms, Neil Young, Bryan Ferry, Elton John, and Rod Stewart… go ‘head!
Country fans have a few gems already in the newly-released Justin Townes Earle and Megafaun gems, but what we’re really curious about is Kid Rock, aren’t we? Rick Rubin‘s behind him, maybe we can be too!
Last but not least, for our gay dancefloors, we have several gifts from the gods: Shontelle, Mark Ronson, Antony and the Johnsons (remixed, of course), Kelly Rowland, and the much-anticipated Nicki Minaj solo album will keep us giddy in wait…
Happy downloading! –BILL CHENEVERT
SEPTEMBER 14 (just released) Brandon Flowers – Flamingo Chromeo – Business Casual Little Beirut – Fear of Heaven Nellie McKay – Home Sweet Mobile Home Of Montreal – False Priest Superchunk – Majesty Shredding The Walkmen – Lisbon Bilal – Air Tight Revenge Trey Songz – Passion, Pain and Pleasure Olivia Newton-John – Grace and Gratitude Renewed Robert Plant – Band Of Joy Weezer – Hurley Justin Townes Earle – Harlem River Blues Megafaun – Heretofore SEPTEMBER 21 Abe Vigoda – Crush Flying Lotus – Pattern + Grid World Margot & The Nuclear So and Sos – Buzzard Shontelle – No Gravity Vincent Minor – Vincent Minor John Legend & The Roots – Wake Up! Paula Cole – Ithaca Maroon 5 – Hands All Over Zac Brown Band – You Get What You Give
SEPTEMBER 28 Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest No Age – Everything In Between Pete Yorn – Pete Yorn Mark Ronson and the Business International – Record Collection Gucci Mane – The Appeal Ice Cube – I Am The West Jeezy – TM103 T.I. – King Uncaged Bad Religion – The Dissent of Man The Corin Tucker Band – 1000 Years UNKLE – The Answer Gin Blossoms – No Chocolate Cake Neil Young – Le Noise Kenny Chesney – Hemingway’s Whiskey
OCTOBER 5 Apache Beat – Last Chants Royal Baths – Litanies Clinic – Bubblegum David Archuleta – The Other Side Of Down Ciara – Basic Instinct Toby Keith – Bullets In The Gun KT Tunstall – Tiger Suit
OCTOBER 12 Meat Beat Manifesto – Answers Come In Dreams Badly Drawn Boy – Part. 1 – Photographing Snowflakes Belle and Sebastian – Write About Love Sufjan Stevens – The Age Of Adz Antony And The Johnsons – Swanlights Simian Mobile Disco – Is Fixed Hauschka – Foreign Landscapes Sister Hazel – Heartland Highway
OCTOBER 19 Kings of Leon – Come Around Sundown Elton John & Leon Russel – The Union Ne-Yo – Libra Scale Rod Stewart – Fly Me To The Moon… Sugarland – The Incredible Machine
OCTOBER 26 Warpaint – The Fool Kid Cudi – Man On The Moon II: The Legend Of Mr. Rager Good Charlotte – Cardiology Bryan Ferry – Olympia Taylor Swift – Speak Now
NOVEMBER Elvis Costello – National Ransom (11/2) Neil Diamond – Dreams (11/2) Brian Eno – Small Craft On a Milk Sea (11/2) Kelly Rowland – TBD (11/2) Destroyer – The Archers On The Beach EP (11/2) Matt and Kim – Sidewalks (11/2) Natasha Bedingfield – Strip Me (11/9) Stereolab – Not Music (11/16) Rascal Flatts – Nothing Like This (11/16) Kid Rock – Born Free (11/16) Akon – TBD (11/23) Nicki Minaj – Pink Friday (11/23)
Every once in a while you connect with a record, or with an artist in such a deep way that you can’t explain it. All you can do is listen on repeat. Or watch a music video over and over. Watching singles roll out of a record that you know from beginning to end intimately can be equally thrilling or devastating. When she’s more than just a brilliant musician but also a captivating artist and style-maker, it’s even more exciting to see what she’ll do next.
Right now it’s Janelle Monae, a 24 year-old Kansas City native who moved to New York City to attend the American Musical and Dramatic Academy and then to Atlanta where she met hip hop’s crown prince, Big Boi. She made an appearance on the relatively dreadful Idlewild and shortly after released a debut EP in August of 2007. Then Diddy found her and signed her to Bad Boy. With her debut LP, The ArchAndroid, she’s reviving the theme record. It’s a little mystifying: she’s a robot, she’s a messiah and it’s all inspired by Fritz Lang’s 1927 masterpiece Metropolis. But that’s fine. We don’t always have to wrap our head around the most complex and inspiring art to appreciate it.
The first single was the undeniably funky “Tightrope” featuring Big Boi, but at the moment, my obsession is “Cold War.” A video accompanying “Cold War” was released in August and it is captivating. It’s very simple. It’s a tight shot of her face and shoulders as she lip-syncs (or in this case, sings passionately behind a camera) and emotes with her eyes. I’m deeply attached to the lyrics, especially the first four astounding lines: “So you think I’m alone / But bein’ alone’s the only way to be / When you step outside / You spend life fightin’ for your sanity.” Then, a little later on, “I’m tryin’ to find my peace / I was made to believe there’s somethin’ wrong with me / And it hurts my heart / Lord have mercy ain’t it plain to see? / That this is a cold war, do you know what you’re fightin’ for?” This is what sends her over the edge. She loses it, tears come and what looks like a laugh is clearly an emotionally poignant moment for her. It’s startling; a moment that most starlets would edit out. But it draws me in even deeper into the Janelle Monae kool-aid. I want to drink gallons of it. –BILL CHENEVERT
Dead Confederate have wedged their way into a genre that doesn’t really have many followers or compatriots. Grunge country-rock could come close; maybe heavy alt-country? All kinds of bands come to mind when shooting for comparisons. We know they loved Pink Floyd and most likely Sabbath in their youth, but growing up in Georgia results in a starting point with acoustic guitars and bearded roots rock. My Morning Jacket always comes up and so does Nirvana; lead singer and guitarist Hardy Morris does seem to echo Kurt Cobain at some heavier moments. Yet Dead Confederate seem unconcerned with fitting in and with their sophomore LP, Sugar, they position themselves as pioneers of a new sound.
Their 2008 full-length debut, Wrecking Ball, had a standout single in “The Rat,” a song where Morris begs to be shot—behind a “bang bang” refrain, no less—and subsequently buried. Its hauntingly simple video shows a boy pushing a cowboy-booted foot into a trash bag and hauling it into the woods on his Radio Flyer wagon to bury it. Interspersed with shots of the band playing in a church with sparsely populated church pews and you’ve got yourself one hell of a debut single. While part of the Athens, Georgia scene they’re certainly closer to the Deerhunter and Whigs camp than to R.E.M. or The B-52’s—these guys are a little darker than most and we’re all the better for it.
For this record they chose John Agnello to produce, a man who’s worked with The Hold Steady, Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. The second track on Sugar, “Run from the Gun,” is one of the slowest and softest of the batch but finds Morris’ voice front and center. Even after lumbering kick drums, keyboards, other voices and feedback, his positioning aids in understanding the complexity of their songwriting.
Another far different keeper is the two-minute “Mob Scene,” where from the get-go you get a barrage of chaotic percussion, keys, and herky-jerky guitar; it sounds like a hectic Radiohead song mixed with Queens of the Stone Age. Dinosaur Jr.’s J. Mascis makes an appearance on the stellar “Giving It All Away,” where the band’s energy and tone suggest Band of Horses on a bender.
There’s nothing revolutionary about what Dead Confederate do. They’re a five-piece with a simple drums/two guitars/bass/keyboard equation. And with the title track to finish you off at the end of Sugar, you realize that injecting feedback, noise and charm into stoner rock is all the genre needs to offer back to them some well-deserved Southern hospitality.
The Melvins are a wonder. They’ve been at if for over 20 years and with The Bride Screamed Murder, their 20th LP (or so), they’ve given us one of the best of their discography. These guys don’t usually do staid and steady; they take detours and experiment. On 2009’s Chicken Switch they recruited friends to remix their brand of sludgy, chunky metal and it was turned into nearly unlistenable noise. Here they return to form with new originals and an epic cover of The Who’s “My Generation.”
Album opener “The Water Glass,” is a bizarrely awesome thrasher that turns into a call-and-response march halfway through. It seems a suitable starting point for a band who have done whatever they wanted. They started in Washington alongside Nirvana and rode the wave to Lollapalooza, but with album titles like Prick, Stoner Witch (both ‘94) and Electroretard (’01), a record deal with Atlantic just wasn’t their destiny. With Mike Patton and Ipecac Records, however, they’ve found a new home where their creative whims aren’t questioned.
Traditionally, The Melvins have elicited comparisons to the likes of Black Flag, Black Sabbath, Dead Kennedys and The Stooges, and “Evil New War God” churns and burns like the best stoner metal around. The funny and funky presence of an off-kilter cowbell does this song good, a hint that it’s not all long hair and headbanging. They’re into moments of dark silence with dramatic builds and crashes, and with standout “I’ll Finish You Off” their haunting, pounding metallics are accented nicely by an organ that’d fit right in at the Addams Family estate.
The whopping seven-and-a-half-minute version of Pete Townshend’s anthem sounds nothing like the original. It starts out very slowly with spare drums and a low, crunchy guitar before the choral vocals of “People try to put us down” comes in. For a song that was honest-to-goodness radical and poignant for a moment in time, covering it needs to be taken seriously and the Melvins do, which is a relief. The whole album is a relief, frankly. With the state metal’s in, the old weirdos who started it all need to drop gems like this on the heads of hardcore’s youth.
Grace Potter & The Nocturnals Grace Potter & The Nocturnals (Hollywood Records) SOUNDS LIKE: Fiery VT native beefs up her band, employs a big producer, and gets some classy packaging to strive for indie rock success a la Florence & the Machine FREE ASSOCIATION: A few feel like young Bonnie Raitt, some an old Carrie Underwood FOR FANS OF: Lucinda Williams, Susan Tedeschi, recent Norah Jones
The Maine Black & White (Warner Brothers/Sire) SOUNDS LIKE: Arizona dudes' sophomore and major label debut is more mature than their debut, but that just means it's less emo and punk, more soft and adult FREE ASSOCIATION: The love child of Avril Lavigne and Rob Thomas has a band!?! FOR FANS OF: The Starting Line, Boys Like Girls, Yellowcard Miniature Tigers Fortress (Modern Art Records) SOUNDS LIKE: Phoenix boys moved to Brooklyn and took up with the Morning Benders' Chris Chu which gives their whimsical freak folk song that trendy edge FREE ASSOCIATION: What often starts with acoustic guitar turns raucous and ecstatic FOR FANS OF: Animal Collective, Arcade Fire x Grizzly Bear
The Books The Way Out (Temporary Residence) SOUNDS LIKE: Typically weird hiccupy pastiche of samples, found sounds, electronic music and instrumentation; their brilliant fourth has a New Age/self-help theme FREE ASSOCIATION: These brilliant weirdos make it seem like your life is just right FOR FANS OF: Notwist x Aphex Twin, Squarepusher x Bon Iver, hypnosis
Miley Cyrus Can't Be Tamed (Hollywood Records) SOUNDS LIKE: Why does it sound like every song's been fed through a pasta machine of auto-tunage; it's like this woman is actually a robot, a Disney slut robot FREE ASSOCIATION: She covers Poison! This is darker than the usual Ms. Montana BS FOR FANS OF: Zac Efron, Selena Gomez, Ashley Tisdale, Hillary Duff
Perfume Genius Learning (Matador/Turnstile) SOUNDS LIKE: A Seattle gay goes home to his mother in the woods of Washington and starts crafting painfully emotional and personal songs with a piano FREE ASSOCIATION: Every song seems performed on the verge of tears, in a good way FOR FANS OF: Sufjan Stevens, Xiu Xiu, Antony and the Johnsons, journaling
Lost in the Trees All Alone in an Empty House (Anti-/Trekky) SOUNDS LIKE: A re-issue of the 2008 sophomore LP from North Carolina's Ari Picker and his small army of orchestral and folk friends creating a lush folk pop dream FREE ASSOCIATION: Ahhh! It's from NC; they got lots a beards n' grass down there FOR FANS OF: St. Vincent x Joanna Newsom + Bonnie Prince Billy Buckcherry All Night Long (Eleven Seven Music) SOUNDS LIKE: LA's "hard" rockers were introduced by a tattoo artist nearly 15 years ago and on their fifth you wonder what their secret is; surgery and Monster, methinks FREE ASSOCIATION: Remember "Crazy Bitch"? Man, that was awesome FOR FANS OF: AC/DC, Aerosmith, RHCP, Collective Soul, McFadden's
Eli "Paperboy" Reed Come and Get It! (Capitol Records) SOUNDS LIKE: Where is white soul going to go? Not with Eli, the Boston-bred cool dadio whose spin on modern soul, horns section and all, is boring and tepid FREE ASSOCIATION: Oh, Amy, please snap out of your drunken rage and put out a record FOR FANS OF: Black Joe Lewis, Sharon Jones, Mayer Hawthorne
Street Sweeper Social Club The Ghetto Blaster EP (Gold Village Entertainment) Sounds Like: Tom Morello and Boots Riley are a duo of '90s-inpsired rap rock activists choosing to fight the good fight with covers of MIA and LL Cool J FREE ASSOCIATION: Sometimes, nay often, rap and rock do not mix; leave LL be, pls, thx FOR FANS OF: Rage, The Coup, Limp Bizkit, Kid Rock, fist pumping
Screamin' Cyn Cyn & The Pons Damn, Girl (Crustacean Records) SOUNDS LIKE: Bizzare theatrical punk rock filled with moments of absurdity and rife with curses, male v. female banter and cringe-worthy low budgetness FREE ASSOCIATION: Kind of like a harder B-52's but they did it right and thirty years ago FOR FANS OF: Leslie and the LYs, King Khan & BBQ, press-on nails
Dan Mangan Nice, Nice, Very Nice (Arts & Crafts) SOUNDS LIKE: Vancouver songwriter's second is more complex than strums and heartbreak, guests and instruments abound on a lively, thoughtful folk rock record FREE ASSOCIATION: Moments of melancholy are punctuated by joy and swells of sound FOR FANS OF: Louder Bon Iver, Jason Collet, Great Lake Swimmers Mystery Jets Serotonin (Rough Trade Records) SOUNDS LIKE: A grandiose third record from Brits adore XTC and Pink Floyd but here use throwback synths in romantic ways to flavor their baroque power pop FREE ASSOCIATION: With each LP they change labels and sound, keep em' comin'! FOR FANS OF: Arcade Fire x ELO, Travis x Smiths, Noah and the Whale
It’s August. Labor Day is a mere month away and with our last installment in the Song of the Summer battle, we named a Top Ten. Only a couple songs seem to have any kind of steam to push their way into consideration before a winner is crowned but a couple will enter into the list this week and push a couple suckers out of the way. But first, let’s talk about charts.
Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” currently sits on the top of the Pop chart having needled its way into your skull for 11 weeks now. Do we admit defeat? Do we let Katy lower that sash across her torso? Absolutely not. That shit is tired. A quick look at the rest of the Pop chart’s Top Ten is revealing, in that we needn’t let the charts weigh heavily on our consideration of what is actually good and gay. B.o.B. (or Bobby Ray) hit it big with “Airplanes,” and Travie McCoy’s “Billionaire” is still at it. Both of these songs are completely boring minus Hayley Williams’ (of Paramore) appearance on “Airplanes.” She’s adorable.
Mike Posner, now this one’s interesting. This “Cooler Than Me” song’s doing really well, and he’s sexy as hell. But, this song is brutal. The video is shiny and intoxicating, but the song just won’t cut it. Eminem’s success is slightly mystifying; “Love the Way You Lie” made it to our list, mostly because of Rihanna, but his presence on the Pop chart makes him a little gay, no? Must be tough for him.
Usher, Jason Derulo and Taio Cruz are holding down the R&B heavy hitting with “OMG,” “Ridin’ Solo” and “Dynamite.” Usher’s got it going on, always has and always will. But Derulo and Cruz are forgettable times ten. Rounding out the Top Ten are La Roux—the Brit electropop duo’s “Bulletproof” has been on the chart for 21 weeks—and the lovely and fresh-faced Shontelle, whose “Impossible” is a delightful power ballad. She’s a keeper and perhaps August will be hers for gracing magazine covers and talk-show couches.
As for our picks... LAST WEEK’S LIST:
1. Adam Lambert – “If I Had You”
2. Nicki Minaj – “Your Love”
3. Eminem featuring Rihanna – “Love the Way You Lie”
4. Kylie Minogue – “All the Lovers”
5. Ke$ha – “Your Love Is My Drug”
6. Robyn – “Fembot”
7. Scissor Sisters – “Fire with Fire”
8. Big Boi featuring Cutty – “Shutterbugg”
9. Usher featuring will.i.am – OMG
10. Kelly Rowland featuring David Guetta – “Commander”
THIS WEEK’S LIST: 1. Nicki Minaj – “Your Love”
2. Kylie Minogue – “All the Lovers”
3. Robyn – “Hang with Me”/“Dancing on My Own”
4. Scissor Sisters – “Fire with Fire”
5. Ke$ha – “Your Love Is My Drug”
6. Big Boi – “Shutterbugg”
7. Shontelle – “Impossible”
8. Janelle Monáe – “Tightrope”
Adam Lambert discreetly disappeared off of the charts and out of people’s minds, it seems. His big gay video was so exciting and it still is. But maybe America’s not ready for a huge forest rave with weird cabaret outfits. Eminem will never helm a gay man’s Song of the Summer, period. Kelly’s “Commander” sunk on the charts. Her November LP release is worth getting excited over but the lead single just doesn’t have what it takes to become a national gay sensation.
Robyn’s been kicking ass and taking names this year, including a raved-about performance at Chicago’s Pitchfork festival. And I’m totally cheating by naming two songs but whatever, the new single for a danced-up version of the stunning Pt. 1 single “Hang with Me” is the lead single from September’s Pt. 2 and it feels like a perfect end-of-summer reflection on the summer flings that will undoubtedly come to a screeching halt in the next few weeks. And with “Dancing on My Own” currently banging in clubs on the regular, she actually concocted dance moves to fit the lyrics and they’re the gayest.
Nicki, Kylie and Ke$ha are all in tight contention and their singles are neck and neck at the moment. Scissor Sisters, Big Boi, Shontelle and Janelle are the wild cards, really. The newbies, “Impossible” and “Tightrope,” have been slow builders but after watching Janelle on Ellen the other day, she’s just got to be involved with this list. I’d rather have “Cold War” or “Faster” from The ArchAndroid register on people’s pop-culture radar but it’s just not the case. She’s got loads of charm. “Impossible” feels like the perfect melancholic conclusion to a sweaty, hot summer. This will be the comforting ballad for your summer-fling breakup that’ll get you moving to the club again. —Bill Chenevert
If you didn't know, I can tell you for certain: Robyn is the hottest thing on Earth at the moment. She is talented as hell and she murdered a performance at the Trocadero last night in her usual charming way. She can move. She can fucking dance her ass off and you know what? It was hot as Hades in there and it was pretty packed. She came out in these high waisted white pants with a bold red floral, a small little halter tank and a billowy black jacket that she wore for about one half of a song before it came off. She got covered in sweat and thank goodness, for it. She put on a beret. She was like a sexy pop machine.
And she's working that futuristic vibe in the most delicious and almost understated way. She's slowly but surely buildinger herself up to giant international pop star status and while I will be absolutely pumped to check out future legs of this tour, when her other two Body Talk records are out, this might be one of the last times to have seen her at a smaller place like the Troc. Soon enough she'll be at the Electric Factory or the TLA. She came out with "Fembots" blazing, the charming should-be single from June's Body Talk Pt. 1 in which she likens herself to a sex machine. These are some of the most playfully sexual pop lyrics in recent memory: "Pull up in docking position, Pop the hatch and hit ignition" and "In fact I'm a very scientifically advanced hot mama, Artificially discreet no drama, Digitally chic titanium mama." One of the things I love most about Robyn is how hot she is in a modest, urban kind of way with clothes that are baggy on purpose. She's got a great body but because she's healthy, she dances her ass off every night.
I'd been YouTubing and watching Vimeo videos of hers for a few nights leading up to Tuesday night. I had to educate myself on her self-titled 2005, her triumphant return to America's airwaves after the monster hit "Show Me Love" in '96. Robyn has some phenomenally solid pop tunes on it, too. I'd listened to the new Body Rock record on repeat, over and over, late at night coming home from the bar, cleaning house, drinking beers. I've grown to know this record very intimately and somehow I hadn't found the self-titled until recently. There are some awesome hits and she busted them out last night including the Knife collaboration "Who's That Girl?" The beat is drowsy and funky and she coos about good girls, they're "always pretty, like all the time, I'm just pretty, some of the time." Such a clever little girl, isn't she? I was slightly disappointed that she didn't perform "Handle Me," a quirky hip hop flavored single, but she did pull out the old favorites "Be Mine!" and delivered an unforgettable closing encore version of "With Every Heartbeat."
She also nailed versions of Body Talk gems "Dancehall Queen," "Don't Fucking Tell Me What To Do" and, most importantly, the seriously infectious and powerful single "Dancing On My Own." This is the song she performed on Letterman flawlessly and passionately, and made a video for that is outstandingly well made. In it she sings of that familiar feeling of being in a club and seeing the one you want kissing another guy, or girl. You can run to the bar and be the drunk one, or you can say 'Eff that, I'm gonna just dance really well and enthusiastically. He will notice and he will admit his mistake.' Obviously Robyn chooses option 2 and she even made up some dance moves in the process. They're so simple but they fit in perfectly with the opening of the second verse: "I'm just gonna dance all night." Her arms shoot up to her chest and she pops them cheerleader-like across her chest, then they fly up, fists pumped then down to her hips, one after the other. "I'm all messed up, I'm so out of line" she plays invisible drums to the left, to the right, more quick arm pops, slowly at tics with her right arm, swing it around to the other. "Stillettos and broken bottles, I'm spinning around in circles" and she punches right right, left left, spins her arm like a windmill and then herself. It's just so damn charming.
What was missing from last night show was the new and deliriously charming single from the upcoming Pt. 2. "Hang With Me" is on Pt. 1 as a slow, acoustic plee and for this new single she's turned it into a joyous, shimmery dance track. It's a perfect summer love song: "Don't fall recklessly, headlessly in love with me, Cause it's gonna be, All heartbreak, Blissfully painful and insanity." A perfect video accompanies of our pop heroine on tour in buses, backstage, getting primped and lying around in hotels, and working a whipped up crowd into a frenzy. I'm finding it more and more difficult to take her advice with this one, I'm just gonna go ahead and fall in love with you. I want the blissful painful insanity.
No more stalling, girls. In our quest to determine the ultimate Song of the Summer, we’re going to have to start hurting some feelings. Some songs just aren’t winners. And while there are potential contenders who might show up in August, we’ve got a pretty clear picture of who’s got a good grip on the bouquet.
New York Magazine named a Top Six at the end of May before summer even started and the chart monsters are definitely there (Usher, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga) but hopefully none of those duds are actually winners in this race. Is the Summer 2K10 much more than “California Gurls?” Let’s hope.
As we hit the hottest stretch of summer it’s time to shed some baggage. In the most recent installment we put nine pairs together, 18 artists with hits on the summer radar. So let’s make a Top Ten and keep our eye out for late-July and August hopefuls expecting to put up a fight for the title.
HERE SHE COMES (With the Momentum) 1. Adam Lambert – “If I Had You” Oh, thank you. I knew from the second I saw that ridiculous For Your Entertainment record cover that this album would have one party-time gay smash hit. It was only a matter of time before he worked out the kinks and perfectly planned the drop of a club anthem. With this video, it’s like watching your coming-out-of-the-closet best friend take his shirt off on the dance floor for the first time.
2. Nicki Minaj – “Your Love” This bitch took out Alicia Keys with the quickness. Her single from the Barbie World mixtape blatantly rips off Annie Lenox but who cares? It’s been on the chart for nine weeks and has already skyrocketed to Top 20 Radio status. We knew she had “spunk” from all her collabs, but maybe going solo is the ticket to her success. She’s struck gold with this one.
3. Eminem featuring Rihanna – “Love the Way You Lie” It’d be weird for a gay-hater like Em to snatch the title, but you can’t deny the power of this song. While the entirety of Recovery, his newest LP, is a total downer and the previous hit, “Not Afraid,” is all basement-weight-lifter-white-male, this one’s got some serious steam behind it. It’s the No. 1 digital download and No. 2 Hot 100 track at the moment and it came out three weeks ago. DAMN. IF YOU WANT TO WIN YOU’VE GOT TO GET THE GAYS IN YOUR CORNER 4. Kylie Minogue – “All the Lovers” It’s much easier to root for Kylie now that we’ve heard the full album, Aphrodite, because it is awesome. This single, while absent on big Billboard charts, is easily topping (tee-hee) lists for gays who inhabit clubs. It’s a pretty simple song but on par with what we’ve come to expect from our goddess: synths, a swelling chorus, a euro-disco flare and the ever-present sex appeal.
5. Ke$ha – “Your Love Is My Drug” Sweet Jesus, I almost can’t believe I just typed her name with a dollar sign. But, seriously, this song isn’t going anywhere. It’s been on the charts for 22 weeks. This video’s been watched over 11 million times. The late-May release of this one was perfect timing for SOS placement. And even though her voice is kind of awful, the production is spot on—just the right amount of auto-tune and tinny electronica.
6. Robyn – “Fembot” The buzz around this Swedish blonde is strong. She just killed it at Chicago’s Pitchfork Music Festival, proving that she’s got game in a number of arenas: the indie world, big crowds, international success and places to dance. Put on Body Talk and try not to smile and move. She’s clever with her slutty lyricism (“Pull up in docking position/Pop the hatch and hit ignition”) but also packs a punch with hypnotizing beats. She might just be the one to watch.
7. Scissor Sisters – “Fire With Fire” While we wait with bated breath for more singles and videos from the unbelievably fabulous Night Work, for now we work with “Fire.” But, seriously, in the ridiculous “Any Which Way,” Ana Matronic coos that she’s going to find that man “that’s the right shade of bottle tan/A man that smells like cocoa butter and cash.” I gag. Good idea, Miss Thing.
ALSO BLASTING FROM CAR SYSTEMS 8. Big Boi featuring Cutty – “Shutterbugg” Sir Lucious Left Foot knows what’s up. This is the future. We need our hip-hop to be more than just ’hood. We need soul, we need style and we need to cut a damn rug up. This song’s been populating Saturday nights for a month or two now, and it’s not tiresome. He just turned it out with the Roots on Jimmy Fallon and it was sick. The whole record is a masterpiece kind of like Janelle Monáe’s. These two are the future’s future.
9. Usher featuring Will.i.am – OMG What can you say? He hit it out of the park with this. You can’t stop it. If a gun was put to my head and I was told to choose a song to listen to on repeat between “California Gurls,” LMFAO’s “Shots” or this one there’d be no question. Usher’s a talented man (remember “U Don’t Have to Call”?) and even though Will.i.am is pretty much the devil incarnate, this is no “I Gotta Feeling.”
10. Kelly Rowland featuring David Guetta – “Commander” She’s Top-Ten status, no doubt. Especially with her presence last summer, now, with this track she’s vogue-ing mirror-style with herself in tight latex. You’re in!
In Pitchfork’s 8.5-rated review of Converge’s Axe to Fall, Cosmo Lee compares the Boston quartet to pretty much the biggest punk band of our time, Black Flag. He even likens singer Jacob Bannan’s imagery on the covers of Jane Doe and You Fail Me to Black Flag’s bars. So whether they’re intentionally going for it, Converge have done well in achieving influence, acclaim, and success in the hardcore metal market. There’s a reason this album is their most commercially successful effort to date: it bowls people over with their talent.
What seems to be clear is that an artistically impressive hardcore metal record must have more than just balls-to-the-wall thrashers. Converge certainly deliver those in the first four tracks with “Dark Horse,” “Reap What You Sow,” the title track and “Effigy.” But then you get “Worms Will Feed,” an ambient and disturbing slow build with a reverb-heavy feedback intro that you’re just expecting to explode. And it does, with Bannan’s howl, Kurt Ballou’s needling guitar and Ben Koller’s patient drumming. “Worms” ushers in a lovely slower-paced portion of the record with “Losing Battle” picking the pace back up with a blistering, punishing drum part at its core.
Bannan, Ballou, Koller and bassist Nate Newton invited a host of musicians to guest throughout the record. Members of Cave In provide guitar and drums on “Effigy,” Steve Von Till of Neurosis offers lead vocals on “Cruel Bloom,” and Genghis Tron show up for “Wretched World,” the record’s exquisite closer. These are Converge’s contemporaries but this is not a “guests” record, so to speak. In fact, with this collection of songs they’ve shot to the top of the class. Few bands achieve their level of artistry in the metal field, but perhaps sharing the genre’s spotlight with Isis, Mastadon, Dillinger Escape Plan and Deftones would be appropriate.
It’s rare to find a hardcore metal record that induces headbanging and moshing the way that, say, “Dark Horse” would, and also includes a first-rate stoner voyage on “Wretched World.” Axe to Fall is an impressive record with diversity, good pacing, tempo varieties and passionate playing.
Kylie Minogue Aphrodite (EMI Records) SOUNDS LIKE: At last, a sustainable crop of dancefloor gems from the Aussie whose "All The Lovers" is as good as the record; beat-heavy, ecstatic, simple and joyous FREE ASSOCIATION: She's no opera singer, but she can make a damn fine pop song FOR FANS OF: Cher, ABBA, Annie, Olivia Newton-John, vodka
Sting Symphonicities (UMG Recordings) SOUNDS LIKE: The English legend employs New York and London philharmonics to back his songs from Police days to now, and it's not as terrible as it could be FREE ASSOCIATION: "Roxanne" sucks bad; still better than that horrifying Xmas record FOR FANS OF: Don Henley, Elton John, Billy Joel, Paul MCCartney
Hanson Shout It Out (3CG Records) SOUNDS LIKE: Oklahoma boys are get older and settle into a soft rock niche; some of these have solid craft and execution, but some are so vanilla, not even vanilla bean FREE ASSOCIATION: Say what you will, Middle of Nowhere was a sick record in 1997! FOR FANS OF: One Republic, Five for Fighting, Jonas Brothers
Skinny Friedman Hundred Dollar Salad EP (Young Robots) SOUNDS LIKE: Philly DJ's funky as hell house, dancehall and dubstep collection of three new songs and three remixes from Sammy Bananas and DJ Apt One FREE ASSOCIATION: Think you don't like house or dance music? Try to hate on this FOR FANS OF: Hercules and Love Affair, Juan MacLean, UNKLE, disco
Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse Dark Night of the Soul (DNOTS/Capitol) SOUNDS LIKE: Sparkles is mostly Mark Linkous and, obvs, Mr. Mouse is the Gnarls Barkley//Beck producer, and here's a muddle super-guest star record FREE ASSOCIATION: James Mercer! Iggy Pop! Julian Casablancas! David Lynch! Enough. FOR FANS OF: Traffic, messy bedrooms, banana splits, super sizing
Sia We Are Born (Monkey Puzzle/JIVE) SOUNDS LIKE: The Aussie/UK songwriter leaves behind the nap-inducing jazzy vocals of the past and gives a big ole' bear hug to dance-friendly diva anthems FREE ASSOCIATION: These are some stunning, funky times ten dance tracks, damn! FOR FANS OF: Zero 7, Beth Ditto, Beth Orton, Nelly Furtado, reinventions
MIA /\/\/\Y/\ (N.E.E.T. Recordings/XL) SOUNDS LIKE: Her third sure is full of wolrdly bleeps, noises, scratchy rhythms and beats but most disturbing is that we realize that she can't really sing or rap well FREE ASSOCIATION: Hype and production's only gonna get you so far, sister FOR FANS OF: Peaches, Lady Sovereign, Amanda Blank, truffle fries
Big Boi Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty (Def Jam) SOUNDS LIKE: "Shutterbugg" is just the tip of the Escalade, this is a dense, funky album of potent hip hop with excellent guest spots from Janelle Monae and T.I. FREE ASSOCIATION: Speakerboxxx was gonna be tough to live up to but he KILLS it! FOR FANS OF: Curtis Mayfield meets Cee-Lo, Goodie Mob, crunkness
RJD2 Inversions Of The Colossus (RJ's Electrical Connections) SOUNDS LIKE: Another one from our local disc-spinning hero, some re-worked versions of his January release but some new, beat perfect jams here, too FREE ASSOCIATION: There's nobody that harkens back to DJ Shadow quite like him FOR FANS OF: Boom Bip, El-P, Danger Mouse, Daedelus, Diplo The Gaslight Anthem American Slang (Side One Dummy) SOUNDS LIKE: New Brunswick, NJ quartet of punk revivalists who have clearly adored Bruce their whole lives but have their own pleasant spin on heartland rock FREE ASSOCIATION: So Jersey isn't your favorite, but you can't deny their rockness FOR FANS OF: Calm Pearl Jam, The Hold Steady, Ted Leo, raspy vocals
Konono No 1 Assume Crash Position (Crammed Discs) SOUNDS LIKE: Congo's supreme street band, they use junk to make instruments and amplifiers that churn out rhythmic, modern-influenced joyful dance music FREE ASSOCIATION: You'll have no idea what they're saying but it doesn't matter - dance! FOR FANS OF: Fela Kuti, The Very Best, BLK JKS, happy times
Pan Sonic Gravitoni (Blast First Petite) SOUNDS LIKE: Whacked out Finnish noise minimalists who've made instruments out of power tools creating compositions of tripped out beat-heavy electro FREE ASSOCIATION: There's something wrong with this disc it's all glitchy and fuzzy FOR FANS OF: Bjork, Autchre, Johann Johannsson, Matmos, challenges
Carissa's Wierd They'll Only Miss You When You Leave: Songs 1996-2003 (Hardly Art) SOUNDS LIKE: Seatlle's chamber rock collective, birthplace of Band of Horses, issues a retrospective that's full of strings, piano, ambience and beauty FREE ASSOCIATION: A reunion isn't necessary with this lovely collection of tunes FOR FANS OF: Grand Archives, Death Cab, Modest Mouse
Chatham County Line Wildwood (Yep Roc) SOUNDS LIKE: Rootsy Americana from a North Carolina foursome, their fourth LP with Yep Roc, is a beautifully picked and sang piece of countrified folk FREE ASSOCIATION: If bluegrass is ever gonna do it for you this might be just the thing FOR FANS OF: Uncle Tupelo, Del McCoury, Steve Earle, pedal steels
Jackie Greene Till The Light Comes (429 Records) SOUNDS LIKE: California boy's been at it for almost a decade now, on his sixth he goes a pit poppier, a much more hook and melody-friendly version of his alt-rock FREE ASSOCIATION: These are perfectly crafted tales that sound rich and complex FOR FANS OF: Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Billy Bragg, Joe Pug, the Boss
Seu Jorge and Almaz Seu Jorge and Almaz (Now-Again) SOUNDS LIKE: Brazil's resident musical genius gets a band, fills out his sound with a tight rhythm section, a casual electric guitar and his remarkable voice over the top FREE ASSOCIATION: Life Aquatic was the tip of the iceberg, this man's a force of nature! FOR FANS OF: City of God, tropicalia, maracas, Stevie Wonder meets Bowie
Scissor Sisters Night Work (Downtown Records) SOUNDS LIKE: Disco pop thrives with NY's troupe of gender-bending queers under the guidance of Stuart Price (Madonna, Kylie, Killers) on this synth-friendly opus FREE ASSOCIATION: Their debut was genius, Ta-Dah! was a bore, this one's wicked good! FOR FANS OF: Bee Gees, Blondie, Mika, Duran Duran, disco balls
Maps & Atlases Perch Patchwork (Barsuk) SOUNDS LIKE: Sometimes angular and punchy, others rhythmic and ecstatic, Chicago-bred math rockers' debut is an occasionally wonky but solid LP FREE ASSOCIATION: Oh snap, they usin' a flute! Doesn't make them J Tull but still, props FOR FANS OF: Menomena, Shapes and Sizes, Man Man, finds
Samantha Crain You (Understood) (Ramseur Records) SOUNDS LIKE: The Oklahoman dynamo has a voice that barrels you over with thoughtful, mysteriously dark lyricism and a talented backing band to boot FREE ASSOCIATION: Maybe its her Choctaw origin, but this girl's got soul and it shows FOR FANS OF: Regina Spektor x Joanna Newsom, Gillian Welch
Best Coast Crazy For You (Mexican Summer) SOUNDS LIKE: Bethany Cosentino took her time, picked a good band, and now finally a stellar batch of fleshed out surf rock, girl pop indie rock with grit and punch FREE ASSOCIATION: When will this beachy retro girl pop wave start to feel tired? Not yet! FOR FANS OF: Beach House meets Vivian Girls, Jenny Lewis with Real Estate
Neu! Neu! '86/Vinyl Box (Gronland Records) SOUNDS LIKE: Krautrock legends and Kraftwerkers, Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger, made a huge volume of inspiring, stripped down proto-electro grooves FREE ASSOCIATION: Here they release a previously unheard record and box up the past FOR FANS OF: Can, Bowie, Tortoise, Velvet Underground, !!!, Yaz
Miss TK and the Revenge The Ocean Likes to Party Too (Ernest Jenning Record Co.) SOUNDS LIKE: Asbury Park dance pop masters shock with their simplistic grooves and funktastic rhythms and bass while Miss TK coos and groans the party started FREE ASSOCIATION: Miss TK could easily do what MIA does if she were Sri Lankan FOR FANS OF: Peaches, The Sounds, Le Tigre, Human League
The Melvins The Bride Screamed Murder (Ipecac Recordings) SOUNDS LIKE: One of the weirdest bands around bundle a march, sludgy metal, a 7-minute Who cover ("My Generation") and punk/noise into one on their 20th LP FREE ASSOCIATION: Fans will eat it up; at least it's not a bunch of covers and remixes FOR FANS OF: Black Flag, Sonic Youth, Boris, Soundgarden
Wolf Parade Expo '86 (Sub Pop) SOUNDS LIKE: The Quebecois rockers have made a brooding, moody gem of guitar and drum rock, perhaps not as catchy or digestible as we're used to but it'll do FREE ASSOCIATION: It pays to have some big deal friends (Arcade Fire and Isaac Brock) FOR FANS OF: Modest Mouse, Built to Spill, Frog Eyes, Canada rock
In Search of the Douchebag: A crawl up Third Street, from Oregon to Girard.
The premise was simple enough: A crawl of the Third Street corridor’s bars, from Oregon to Girard, to investigate the nearly three-mile stretch with the reputation of having the highest douchebag-bar concentration in the city. But what exactly constitutes a douchebag bar, you ask? It’s broad, but I compiled a ranking system by asking that question of various people I met along my journey. The most common responses involved similarity of patrons to one another, fights, fashion cliches and open mistrust or mistreatment of the Other (whether gay, female, of color, skinny, fat, etc.). I found my definition challenged at each destination, which I lined up bottom-to-top.
(Note: If you haven’t ever tried to bike or drive around Pennsport, around Snyder, Third becomes Second, Second becomes Third and Moyamensing screws everything up. If an address is on Second St., just take our word for it.)
Nickels Tavern (2655 S. Second St.) was just about empty. A delightful Two Street native named Nicole bartended with a solid tan and a heartwarming accent. Fights-wise, every second Saturday she serves beer to men just out of extreme wrestling bouts at the Arena who are sometimes held together with stitches and bloody bandages, but that’s only once a month. Anyway, in Nicole’s experience, guys who’ve been fighting all night just want another beer, not another brawl, much less to fight in the amateur sense. Nicole’s instinct when pressed to name the Douchiest Philly Bar was Fatso Foggerty’s (2655 S. 18th St.), a bar that in her experience is full of junkies, addicts and dickheads. RANKING: 6
Off to Raw Dawgs Saloon (1700 S. Second St.) at Morris St., on the border of Pennsport and Queens Village. Demerits for the vaguely Irish theme, the (sparse) presence of loudmouth South Philly guys and the incredibly loud jukebox. A regular named Jimmy was playing Springsteen, which was a slight relief from Eminem, but even the Boss gets grating when you can’t hear yourself think. Thankfully, nice bartender Scott turned down the jukebox to talk to me, giving me one of my best definitions of the night: “What do you mean by douchebags? Like, five guys who look all alike?” RANKING: 5
Makos (301 South St.) was where the night took off, as I started getting to bars that had more people than I could count on my fingers. I parked my bike in front of O’Neals (611 S. Third St.), and the bouncer, Dan, confirmed that Jon’s Bar & Grille (606 S. Third St.) was more upscale, but that I was about to hit the douchebag jackpot at Makos. But, I soon realized, Dan must have been operating off yet another definition of the word. Makos was more populated with South Street-type freaks and weirdos. While Rammstein and Rob Zombie blared and strobes flashed, no one seemed douchey so much as frightening and dangerous. RANKING: 4
National Mechanics (22 S. Third St.) isn’t so bad on its own, despite its Old City location. Some sweet girls took me under their wing and had a wealth of expertise to offer. Lianna, Allie, Sarah and Jenn offered some traits from the perspective of female bargoers as to what constitutes a douchebag: “Guys who think they are the shit when they’re not,” “Screaming in a bar” and “Acting like you’re in a frat when you’re 29.” With the aid of their trained female eyes, I counted five d-bags (from afar) here, one confirmed by Jenn, “He’s talking to girls and looking around.” Damning! RANKING: 2
McFaddens (459 N. Third St.), in that weird pocket between Spring Garden and the expressway that’s dead aside from a few Walmart-sized bars, was a mystifying experience. With a $5 cover and $4.50 Lager drafts served in a plastic cup, apparently the patrons here have money to blow. It was here that music began to play a significant part in my ranking criteria. Think “Cherry Pie,” “Get Low” and then “Cotton-Eyed Joe” to get the party started. One dude went over to a tall woman of color in heels, danced up on her for a few seconds, then came back to his friends and collected his high fives. “I did it!” Ugh, I was out of there, $5 cover or not. RANKING: 1
North Third (801 N. Third St.) is tricky. This Northern Liberties bar had few popped collars and the “Cotton-Eyed Joe” count was at zero (thank god), but bartender Scott’s words echoed in my mind. “Like, five guys who look all alike?” Is a crew of loud dudes with identical wash jeans and black button-downs really that different from a crew of loud dudes with the same plaids, knit hats and whimsical facial hair? Or there’s always bad manners, the staff reminded me. “Getting called ‘sweetie’ or ‘hon,’ snapping at an empty glass, ordering things that aren’t on the menu, sitting at a dirty table” are all behaviors they’d classify as douchebaggery. RANKING: 3
Conclusion: McFaddens is clearly the Douchiest Bar on Third Street! I’m not going to lie, “Cotton-Eyed Joe” had a lot to do with my ruling.
It’s tempting to be unenthusiastic about record releases these days. With leaks, digital downloads and continuously pushed-back street dates, the release date isn’t exactly exciting any more, and doesn’t send folks running to the record store like it used to. But that’s all a bunch of stinkin’ thinkin’. There are some solid and exciting releases to expect this summer and we’ve broken them down for you by genre to mark your calendar and budget your downloads.
POP: While Robyn’s Body Talk Pt. 1 has already (technically) hit the shelves, there’s just too much excitement around her little EP cycle to not mention it. Parts 2 and 3 will be released at the end of summer and in the fall, but in the meantime we have the singles “Fembot,” “Don’t Fucking Tell Me What To Do” and the Diplo-produced “Dancehall Queen” to settle into this summer. They’re simple, catchy and make you want to dance like a damn fool. Kylie Minogue, the Queen of the Gays, gives us a much-anticipated, full-length Aphrodite, on July 5, and has released the single “All The Lovers” to get us salivating in the meantime. The video’s pretty druel-inducing, too. Finally, with the ridonculous video to “Acapella,” Kelis has caused a bit of a stir and excitement surrounding her new album Flesh Tone, also out on July 6. Until then, we advise using Adam Lambert’s “Whataya Want From Me” to scratch that pop itch until those three divas give it to us good.
ELECTRO & ROCK: This is where most of the summer’s heavy hitters are dropping bombs, starting with controversy-monger M.I.A., who’ll be giving us an unpronouncable, but highly anticipated record on July 13. The un-typable typographic representation of Maya’s name has made waves with the redhead killing mini-film for “Born Free.” However, “XXXO,” the first official single off the album, is a Diplo track that gives us a taste for what we’ve come to know and love from the Sri Lankan mess. Controversy aside, Kele Okereke, the former frontman for Bloc Party, has taken his newly out-of-the-closet status and run with it on a much dancier, club-friendly electro record called The Boxer (even the title’s kinda gay!), out next week (6/21). The Boxer’s first single, “Tenderoni,” is promising to say the least. Plus he’s working with Spank Rock’s XXXChange, so we can we get a “Hell yes”? Other electro/rock releases getting us giddy this summer include Panda Bear’s Tomboy (7/13), Acrade Fire’s The Suburbs (8/3) and Menomena’s Mines (7/27). Someone get the ice wooder! HIP-HOP: Finally, we’ve got our hip-hop sluggers. Big Boi’s given us some of the most remarkable hip-hop of the past decade and a half with Outkast, and now his solo record looks to be all that and more. Sir Lucious Left Foot hits the streets July 6. “Shutterbugg” is the outstandingly funky single and accordingly sick video and tantalizing feature guests abound: Janelle Monae, Gucci Mane and George Clinton to name a few. Not to mention the Andre 3000 produced track, “You Ain’t No DJ.” Finally, Eminem’s surprisingly happy-go-lucky LP Recovery, drops next week. Enjoy your summer!
Robyn Body Talk Pt. 1 (Interscope) SOUNDS LIKE: Swedish electro Queen drops an eight-song mini-LP that is jam packed with badass disco beats, growly clever lyrics and magical hooks FREE ASSOCIATION: People, wake up! Robyn is the unknown diva you need to hear FOR FANS OF: ABBA, Blondie, Kyie, Annie, Goldfrapp, dancefloor ecstasy
Stars The Five Ghosts (Vagrant) SOUNDS LIKE: The Toronto indie darlings have been downhill since Set Yourself on Fire, and while Amy Milan kills her vocals, it starts to sound all alike FREE ASSOCIATION: OK, got it - heartbreak and devastation, barbs and regrets, repeat FOR FANS OF: Smiths, Broken Social Scene, Metric, journaling
The Roots How I Got Over (Def Jam) SOUNDS LIKE: Hometown pioneers of thoughtful, instrumentally-inspired hip hop turn it out with a collection of funky, jazzy grooves under Black Thought's deft spits FREE ASSOCIATION: No "Seed 2.0" detectable; much prefer another Things Fall Apart FOR FANS OF: Gang Starr, Fugees, Mos Def, J-5, Digable Planets
Andy Bell Non-Stop (Mute) SOUNDS LIKE: Erasure alum's flawless falsetto drifts over disco-spiked trance beats and tasty Friday night synth rhythms for a really fun electro record FREE ASSOCIATION: Perry Farrell wrote "Honey If You Love Him (That's All That Matters)"! FOR FANS OF: Depeche Mode, New Order, Pet Shop Boys
Devo Something For Everybody (Warner Brothers) SOUNDS LIKE: Ohio masters of new wave really do offer something for everyone on this shocking piece of awesomeness; old fans, new fans, strangers and experts FREE ASSOCIATION: Bird and the Bee and Santigold production? Well done, Devo! FOR FANS OF: Roxy Music, Sparks, Kraftwerk, Can, tenacity
Rooney Eureka (Rooney Records) SOUNDS LIKE: L.A. pretty boys' third LP is a strange mix of retro guitar rock, pop radio and sunny surf radio but it seems clear that these guys are actors/musicians FREE ASSOCIATION: They've got that teenage girl demo on lock; and they got money! FOR FANS OF: Steely Dan meets Spoon, ELO, Weezer
Various A Cure for The Broken-Hearted (Edible Onion) SOUNDS LIKE: Eerie, moody and slightly dark collection of folksy, bluesy rock put together by West Philly's Darian Scatton is a perfect dark rainy night companion FREE ASSOCIATION: Each track's got different instruments and arrangements; well done FOR FANS OF: Snowcaps, Br'er, Motorcyle Maus, Brian Reichert
Kele The Boxer (Glassnote) SOUNDS LIKE: Bloc Party's front man goes solo with a much more club-flavored, electronic record produced by Spank Rock's XXXChange and it's a keeper FREE ASSOCIATION: He's achieved stellar Euro disco realness, especially with "Rise" FOR FANS OF: Thom Yorke x Chemical Brothers, London circuit parties
Christina Aguilera Bionic (RCA) SOUNDS LIKE: The dirty diva returns triumphantly with a long jump into the future embracing futuristic electro pop with hiccupy dance tracks and killer beats FREE ASSOCIATION: "Woohoo" with Nicki Minaj is about to blow; GaGa can eat it FOR FANS OF: Santigold, Beyonce, MIA, slutty choreographed dancing
The Chemical Brothers Further (Virgin/Astralwerks) SOUNDS LIKE: A psychedelic and propulsive synth journey that lasts a little too long and transports you to a dancefloor crowded with pacifiers and glow sticks FREE ASSOCIATION: Remember "Block Rockin' Beats"? Man, that was a good song FOR FANS OF: Digitalism, Dust Brothers, drawn-out repetition
Foals Total Life Forever (Sub Pop) SOUNDS LIKE: Oxford, UK rockers kick it out on their second LP with rich, rhythmic songs full of soaring vocals, catchy choruses and beautiful arrangements FREE ASSOCIATION: Magically post-everything and deliciously retro (INXS) at the same time FOR FANS OF: Fleet Foxes x Interpol, happy Joy Division
Hot Hot Heat Future Breeds (Dangerbird) SOUNDS LIKE: Victoria, BC whine-rockers' first on a new label and their first self-produced effort is supposed to be their best since 2002, which doesn't say a lot FREE ASSOCIATION: Elevator ('05) was pretty good, but Bays' voice is just too annoying here FOR FANS OF: Pop punk Spoon, The Faint, crappy Walkmen
Lamb of God Hourglass Vol. III The Vault (Epic) SOUNDS LIKE: The Richmond, VA metal kings put together a retrospective from their past collecting their most virulent, screaming death sludge on one disc FREE ASSOCIATION: The $999 Super Deluxe set includes a coffin guitar case and a sticker! FOR FANS OF: Mastadon, As I Lay Dying, Slayer, Pantera
Clay Aiken Tried and True (Decca) SOUNDS LIKE: The American Idol runner-up takes on classics like "Unchained Melody" and "Mack the Knife" and performs them all over daytime network TV FREE ASSOCIATION: Watching your face and eyes contort is like staring at the sun FOR FANS OF: Susan Lucci, the Buffalo Bills, Nader
Drake Thank Me Later (Cash Money) SOUNDS LIKE: The DeGrassi alum's much-anticipated is a super-produced monster (Swizz Beats, Kanye, Timbaland) of hip hop; computery and voice-effected FREE ASSOCIATION: Big name guests does not equal a good hip hop record FOR FANS OF: Jeazy, Lil' Wayne, Jay-Z, Kanye, Alicia Keys
Ozzy Osbourne Scream (Epic) SOUNDS LIKE: The Oz-man cometh indeed, at 61, he kills it here - there's no doubt he hobbles into the studio, but this is as solid as Blizzard of Ozz thirty years ago FREE ASSOCIATION: With so much garbage metal out there, Ozzy shows us how it can be rad FOR FANS OF: Sabbath, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains
Janelle Monae The ArchAndroid (Bad Boy) SOUNDS LIKE: Stylistic hybrid of funk, soul, R&B, and hip hop from a futuristic new diva for the 21st Century whose take on pop music is refreshing and new FREE ASSOCIATION: Solid production, ambitious variety and infectious hooks FOR FANS OF: Ms. Badu, Estelle, Jill Scott, Santigold, VV Brown
Blitzen Trapper Destroyer of the Void (Sub Pop) SOUNDS LIKE: Laid back countrified indie rock from Portland on their second Sub Pop but fifth LP, it's a breezy, ambient spin on Americana for dusk FREE ASSOCIATION: The title track is an impressive sprawling proggy gem of weirdo folk FOR FANS OF: Neil Young, ELO, Beach Boys, Gram Parsons
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti Before Today (4AD) SOUNDS LIKE: The weirdo/creative genius is a production maverick and DIY hero, but he uses his power for retro, trip rock and not for groundbreaking futurism FREE ASSOCIATION: Tempo changes, peculiar vocals and the occasional deep groove FOR FANS OF: Bowie, Eno, Hall & Oates x Zappa
Sleigh Bells Treats (Mom & Pop Music) SOUNDS LIKE: Electrified mixed bag of punk, crunchy synths, beats, grungy dance music and pop ditties that has everyone jerking off to their indie appeal FREE ASSOCIATION: "Tell Em'" is tired, the rest of the album's chiller and not nearly as shitty FOR FANS OF: Go! Team, Bat for Lashes, M.I.A., popularity
Tobacco Maniac Meat (Anticon) SOUNDS LIKE: The Black Mother Super Rainbow solo project is a psychedelic, tweak-treatment of electro synths and beats with distorted vocals and reality FREE ASSOCIATION: Beck shows up for three unremarkable minutes; otherwise rad! FOR FANS OF: Justice, Xiu Xiu, Broadcast, Ladytron
Toni Braxton Pulse (Atlantic Records) SOUNDS LIKE: The R&B diva returns to the fore with a major label after five years with a collection of ballads, bangers and breakups in her sultry voice FREE ASSOCIATION: Remember 2000's The Heat and "He Wasn't Man Enough"? Straight FIRE! FOR FANS OF: Whitney, Chaka, Luther, Babyface, Brandy, Monica
Jack Johnson To The Sea (Universal Republic) SOUNDS LIKE: The soft rocker's bazillionth record in ten years isn't so bad because he lets his band play a little louder; as always, sun-drenched folksy surfer rock FREE ASSOCIATION: Doesn't it feel like you're funding his stoner beach lifestyle? FOR FANS OF: Dave Matthews, G Love, John Mayer, Jimmy Buffet
Deftones Diamond Eyes (Reprise) SOUNDS LIKE: Sacramento prog metalheads' first in four years is a cathartic scream-out after their bassist emerged from a coma; less melody and more brute force FREE ASSOCIATION: It feels like a dying genre, but these guys keep breathing life into it FOR FANS OF: Tool X Smiths, Faith No More, Nirvana x Metallica
Madlib Medicine Show #5: The History of the Loop Digga (Madlib Medicine Show) SOUNDS LIKE: A throwback collection of '90s beats, trip hop and found sounds with Dolemite pimp comedy snippets and Crate Diggas Palace gems FREE ASSOCIATION: If it's true that "Grass increases creativity," he's consuming lots of it FOR FANS OF: Madvillain, Flying Lotus, Danger Mouse, blunts
Born Ruffians Say It (Warp) SOUNDS LIKE: Toronto trio's second LP is a bouncy and playful rock record full of Luke LaLonde's yelpy vocals, simplistic but pungent drums and herky jerky guitars FREE ASSOCIATION: Ef Pitchfork, they don't know what they're talking about on this one FOR FANS OF: Pixies, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Canadian rock
Free Energy Stuck On Nothing (Astralwerks/DFA) SOUNDS LIKE: Minneapolis-come-Philly boys make delightful pop-friendly retro-inspired sunny guitar rock equally appropriate for arenas and car radios FREE ASSOCIATION: Soundtracking Good Times Summer 2010 loud and clear! FOR FANS OF: T Rex, Thin Lizzy, non-depressing Pavement, joy
Le Pop 5 Les Chansons De La Nouvelle Scene Francaise (Groove Attack) SOUNDS LIKE: Current frenchies making hushed, whispered and ambient pop tunes; mostly soft folksy rock songs here with a few precious little ditties FREE ASSOCIATION: Get some red wine, some stinky cheese and put this on to be transported FOR FANS OF: Serge Gainsbourg, Yelle, Uffie, CocoRosie, baguettes
Tokyo Police Club Champ (Mom and Pop Music) SOUNDS LIKE: Shimmery sophomore LP from the Canucks tries to wow you with production, complexity and catchy hooks undern the Julian Casablancsy vocal FREE ASSOCIATION: Not to be confused with the horrifyingly shitty Tokio Hotel FOR FANS OF: The Strokes, Death Cab x Modest Mouse
Karen Elson The Ghost Who Walks (XL Recordings/Third Man) SOUNDS LIKE: The UK supdermodel is more than just a pretty face in this hauntingly sparse debut of variety including folk, pop, country, folk and murder ballads FREE ASSOCIATION: Jack White is her husband and it's probably awesome because of him FOR FANS OF: ScarJo, Zooey Deschanel, Jenny Lewis, gingers
Chali 2na Fish Market Part 2 (Decon Records) SOUNDS LIKE: The Jurassic 5 baritone's stepped it up with another collection of dopeness - lyrics, guests, beats, samples, skits, styles, all real fresh! FREE ASSOCIATION: Whoa, Quality Control was ten years ago?! Classy, smart emceeing FOR FANS OF: Ozomatli, GIft of Gab, Roots crew, black thought
Suckers Wild Smile (Frenchkiss Records) SOUNDS LIKE: LP debut from the fuzzy Brooklyn rockers jumping on that afro/animalistic tribalism bandwagon and riding it all the way to the buzzworthy bank FREE ASSOCIATION: We'll ride along if we get road sodas and the wagon goes to the beach FOR FANS OF: Yeasayer, Animal Collective, Le Loup, Bowie
An upstate country boy who was Johnny HighSchool, went to an expensive liberal arts college and took about 20 English classes, went to graduate school in Oregon for a couple years then came back to the Empire state and tried to pass as a city boy for a minute. Now I'm Philly and I love it.