Monday, December 19, 2005

Those wondering where my end of year round up can wonder no more. It's light-ish on Euro this year, so it doesn't really belong here, and as such, it is here. There'll be the odd repost of things featured on here, but never mind, the waffling is all new, baby.

A little while back, I can't remember quite where, I enthused about "Isaac" by Madonna, and was wittily, if not devastatingly shot down by it being described as something that would be played at a "bad Greek disco". I wonder if Victoria Xalkiti is getting played at their discos too. I'm quite taken with her hit of a month or so ago called "Telia". I can't help but take the title to its Greek root, or something looking like it, as "telic" means pertaining to an end, and there's a fitting hopelessness to the wanton craving in "Telia", where even though her "heart is beating" and she implores her lover to "keep on singing", and the beat is percolating and jaunty and the vocal is breathy and felt, and the resolution is one of loss and resignation, as best typified by the pre-chorus "My heart is aching" which gives the truth the abnegating chorus only hints at in tone rather than lyrical theme. But it's a great, hooky little pop song too, skittering beats, a sneaking rhythm and a nice pulsing bass underpinning it, and if I'm not entirely sure of the sentiments, I like it more than enough as a meaningless collection of notes and instruments to enthuse.

Victoria Xalkiti - Telia

I have been remiss in not saying anything about the recent Venke Knutson album, I will admit, but I think it's largely because I'm so disappointed with it. The teaser single "Just A Minute" was pleasant but would have been one of the weakest songs had it appeared on her debut, and there's something Not Quite Right about an admittedly very pretty run through of "When The Stars Go Blue" done with World Idol Kurt Nielsen. The album does begin terrifically though, with "A Lot Of Love" sounding like a teen-girl expansion on the trusty literate-rock-pop-guitar template (think a girlier Fountains of Wayne, specifically "Amity Gardens", maybe, no, not The Click Five, you idiots), a tinny keyboard siren over its power-pop chords makes for a fantastic opening (particularly for an opening track), and the chorus is a winner. Venke's very good at vulnerability, even when she's ostensibly in a safe place emotionally - "Down by the water, by the boat" - and physically, but she's at her best when she combines it with a tinge of girlish determination to speak her heart, even when her ESL pop is occasionally clunky. But I love the way the guitars cut out in the second half of the choruses, before chiming adorably during the middle eight, and there's something.. awfully comforting about it. It sounds like a great record to have on as winter fades into spring, so I've missed the boat a bit, but if you're in the Northern Hemisphere, you might as well wait a month or so and then download it.

Sadly, as I intimated above, the rest of the album falls spectacularly short of this song, being as it is mostly inconsequential Nordic Lilith fare (haha, do you see what I did there?), at no other point does the alchemy between girly and confident gell like on here.

Venke Knutson - A Lot Of Love

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Having tried and failed to get a clean version of the #4 in Ukraine, I offer this corrupted radio version which has an annoying voice announcing the name of the station it comes from. But I did want to give y'all a chance of hearing it in full, as it POLARISED the PANEL and as such is CONTROVERSY and that's interesting isn't it?

NiKuz'ma Mogilevskaya - Timennedaesh

Of perhaps even more interests to pop fans is the fact that Vesna Pisarovic has recently "dropped" her new "record", and it is called "Peti" which means "fifth", thankyou Mind Taker, for that wonderful bit of insight, if you're reading please tell me where your blog has gone, I can't get to it, ANYWAY.

What you need to know about this album:

1. Vesna wrote "In The Disco" for Deen, possibly the gayest Eurovision song ever.
2. She also spiced up 2004 with the lovely "Ti Si Kriv" which is on this album, wonderfully.
3. It's quite good.

My favourite song of it is "Ovo Nije Moje Vrijeme", which I love for its extremely odd palette - a bit EE folk, a bit Turkish sashaying strings, a kind of coastal, a pastoral opening (I imagine this is kind of a Croatian coastal equivalent to those homely English country folk sounds), incongruous bleeps, and a bonkers brass bit in the middle and most of all, and those heavily punctuated Slavic bursts of vocal that I love. I mean, I like all of the other bits that combine to make the song, but I love particularly the way Vesna enunciates the alien consonant combinations.

While not knowing enough about the musical heritage of any of the things I write about, I admire that which takes lots of little bits that are comforting and familiar and mixes them up in an unfamiliar, even bizarre way, even though the cocktail probably seems familiar in Croatia. But yes, I'm awfully fond of it, it's strange and lovely. I hear the mountains, I hear the ocean, I hear.. all sorts of exotic things, pardon me, I am being an annoying, overbearing, ignorant tourist here....

Vesna Pisarovic - Ovo Nije Moje Vrijeme

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Cross Europe Chart Challenge... of Death! UKRAINE

Right, well this is a bloody long one. Partially to compensate for my glandular-fever-caused silence. And the fact that we have some new people. But Eastern Europe is interesting, isn't it? Yes, it is.

RW: Rob Willers offered to be my token, confused American, as the other ones have gone missing.
AM: Adrian Murphy is a Popjustice denizen.
AA: Also known as Whitney's Septum, Adem also is responsible for the amazing I'm Always Right.
AK: Andew Khan lives here - and I don't know why I don't have a link yet. My bad. LOOK AT THE PLAYLISTS!
PB: Patrick Blake manages to find Canberra a bit more pop than I did when I lived there.

1. Yulia Savicheva - Esli V Serdce Zhivet Lyubov
EO: 6, CA: 8, AM: 4, SS: 4, SN: 3, IM: 7, MT: 5, BL: 3, RW: 6, PB: 8, AA: 7, AK: 6, JP: 9

You may remember her being danced around by painted men in Eurovision last year and delivering a vulnerable (i.e. out of tune) performance of a frankly dull song, coming 10th or something due to neighbourly love.
AM: She's still got the ropey song, so maybe there are some painted men floating about too...
BL: A limp "angsty" ballad on which Yulia over-emotes. That's not a good sign. Can we get the late night piano and sleazy trumpet their own spin-off?
AA: Yulia is an 18 year old Russian girl whose nickname in her native town is "Matilda". She's done the Eurovision circuit and been singing since she was 4.
PB: It's got pretty instruments! Trumpety thing! Guitar! Piano! I could imagine Kimberley Locke doing this. It's all very radio friendly and darn good. Oooh and a big note bit near the end.
RW: The soft voices and choir ish background singers make it hard to give the song bad marks. The background harmony tends to be very catchy. I could never hit that high note that she does.
EO: Yulia probably couldn't hit that note either.
CA: I actually liked her Eurovision-entry 'I Believe' (even though Yulia sucked live) and checked out some other material of hers. I mostly found boring ballads (with exception from one called 'Korabli' which was rather excellent) but this is really good!
SS: She still sounds like Avril but now tries to sound like Shakira, if that makes sense.
EO: I find the way she sings the word "Lyubov" to be rather unconvincing, frankly.
IM: The opening of this is just lovely, very atmospheric in a generic but pretty way, and I kind of wish it had continued in that vein. But the build to the first chorus is extraordinarily well-handled, and the chorus itself is, if a bit undistinguished, fairly catchy. It's fairly cinematic - I could see this being used in some movie that involves a bunch of plucky underdogs saving the world and learning about the power of friendship or something.
SS: It certainly sounds dated, and in not such a good way, and the chorus is too repetitive, and don't get me started about the sax part! Silly! it's all a bit overdramatic isn't it?
SN: Inoffensive-but-dull verses + completely incongruous chorus (so long piano, hello acoustic guitar!) + utterly baffling trumpet solo and pointless wispy electronica = frustrating and bad. Proven by science!
MT: Kinda average ballad pulled out by a very passionate performance; too bad atasteless sax solo strikes in the middle of the song! I can't get over such a wretched idea, what where they thinking about?
AA: There is much guitar, combined with the promise of a key change: Now, I love a good key change as much as anyone around here. How horrifyingly disappointing it is, then, that it abruptly ends with not even an afterthought that we've all been robbed of an uplifting and euphoric finale.
CA: Ukraine always seems to give away the number one spot to ace songs, so to everyone who's reading this - if you're searching for a good song, go download the number one in Ukraine - you're guaranteed a good pop song.
JP: Anyone who shares their name with a member of t.A.T.u gets bonus points from me. I like how the verses are a poppy ballad, yet the chorus is quite rocky.
AK: She sounds a little perkier than usual in the chorus but it's still quite an average song that the Stock Russian Pop Trumpet Break does nothing to improve.

2. Via Gra - Brillianty
EO: 5, CA: 10, AM: 3, SS: 5, SN: 7, IM: 8, MT: 6, BL: 5, RW: 5, PB: 4, AA: 5, AK: 6, JP: 8

The return of Via Gra couldn't be more exciting for me. Along with Alcazar and Bodies Without Organs, they're probably the best pure-pop group in the world. The initial signs aren't looking too good though. Traditionally the first singles from the new releases have been ridiculously strong but, along with the previous one, Net Nichego...., Brillianty doesn't make the grade.
AA: It is very nice to see Geri Halliwell placing all her concentration into the Ukrainian market. You know, I could probably handle this with a stiff drink in my hands, but it’s 10:45 on a Friday morning and, apparently, I should at least wait until Lunch.
AM: VIA Gra, I think, introduce themselves in a "Call now for instant pleasure" voice. Hurrah. Pity, then, that the song is more damp-fumble-in-Gorky than a hot-night-with-Russian-spy-babe-in-exotic-Vladivostock.
MT: What a name for a band...indeed they sound like they were making music for an old porn movie, only with a vocal track on it. In case of using this for a porn flick of today, use a MIDI version of this.
SS: I like Via Gra. I think they started to decline when the big busty blonde (or was it the brunette?) left the band about a year ago.
AK: The chorus sounds quite good but the group is lacking an iconic lead singer in the mould of the sacked Alyona Vinnitskaya or the wonderful and equally sacked Anna Sedakova. Current head-girl Al'bina Dzhanabaeva doesn't have the same personality or vocal ability and it looks as though they've gone for an overly-busy backing track to try to compensate.
EO: Kind of wanky and jazzy but also kind of cocktail classy pop that doesn't have the melody to match its fabulous backing track. They call themselves "Nu Virgos" outside of Eastern Europe, and had a fairly big hit around a few European countries a few years ago called "Stop Stop Stop" that was rubbish, but they've had better songs. This isn't really one of them.
IM: This doesn't really hit its stride until the chorus when everyone starts singing, but then it sounds wonderful. Especially on the refrain where the horns kick in.
JP: I've heard of Via Gra but this is the first song of theirs I've heard. I like the "ooh"s and it's plentifully poppy, sounding quite like something you'd hear in the Swedish charts.
BL: This chugs along quite pleasantly: however many girls there are in the group trade lines, and the reasonably top-tapping verses and chorus blend together quite seamlessly. But then the Mad Bit strikes, about two-thirds of the way into the song, when the undead Jamie Cullum possesses the tune and it all goes a bit big band.
RW: This song reminds me of something I would hear at a wedding after all the drinks have been consumed. The rainbow of voices makes it sound very well dull. And don’t try to impress me with a few strokes on the piano. It is not working. Tolerable.
PB: Sounds like a big-band version of Hear'Say's "Everybody." It's just twee.
SN: The general mood is one of cheerful downtroddenness, which I like, and it’s in stark contrast to the nifty cabaret/second-rate game show flourishes shoehorned in here and there. Rubbish, ill-fitting coda though, and it’s never good to end on a bad note.
SS: They lost their trash unique Russian Europop stylee it seems and that's a shame, because that's what makes Russian pop work so well!
CA: I really really loved 'Bomba', and this is nearly as good. The chorus is so catchy, and I love how the production is really different from most pop songs floating around at the moment. Wow! This deserves to be number one everywhere! Forever and ever! VIA Gra is probably my new favourite band from Eastern Europe, judging from the two songs I've heard. They're like the Russian version of Girls Aloud.
IM: It's incredibly happy – I'm reminded of the anime theme tunes I've heard. The horns help, of course, but you don't get the kind of effect this refrain has just by using certain instruments, it's good pop songwriting all the way.

3. Valerij Meladze - Inostranets
EO: 10, CA: 8, AM: 5, SS: 8, SN: 9, IM: 7, MT: 7, BL: 2, RW: 2, PB: 10, AA: 9, AK: 8, JP: 9

A hymn, a chant, a dance, a rant. A dense electro-Europopping extravaganza. Genius.
AA: This is what Indecent Obsession would have sounded like if they had been heavy drug users, and tried to recreate Ace Of Base’s “All That She Wants”.
AK: Via Gra producer Konstantin Meladze is evidently saving the best songs for his brother. Despite Valerii's distinctive vocals being buried deep in the mix, it's a fine effort displaying the kind of unconventional, dramatic production that made his girl-group so interesting. It sounds like it could have been intended as a follow-up to their Pritayenia Bolshe Net collaboration.
SS: Now this is good retro! it's SO 90's, I hear some Engima, a bit of Ace of Base , a small pinch of Vangelis and that opera thing, it all goes so well together!
PB: It's Nanne Gronvall meets Maxi Priest and I love it. There is the sound of an elevator bell in it. There's something bleak about this song that, like, you know, like, reflects the Ukraine...and stuff.
MT: Song's fine but the thing that truly makes it for me here is the production; it sounds so huge! Cannot go wrong with stuff as bombastic as the scary bit at the end of the chorus.
IM: “Inostranets” is instantly one of my favourite words, and I don't know (and don't want to know) what it means – my mind is imagining some sort of bizarre super hero team or space program, and that's the way I like it. Luckily the song is ace too, with the kind of lush production that makes the opening 45 seconds near perfect.
AM: This man brings to mind a sort-of Ukrainian X Factor winner. Passable enough singing, with added melodramatic music, chanting and atmospheric guitars. These things make the song infinitely better.
CA: This is my idea of what an ideal Eastern European pop song sounds like. It's just so typically them, somehow. Atmospheric, catchy and deep.
SS: This is dated in a good way, I love that dramtic part with the violins twards the end! You just wait for it to explode.
SN: Scene: Some sort of dark Ukranian forest. A small child skips obliviously through the terrors of the night, as do the rather jaunty drums amongst the Electric Guitar of the Apocalypse. Suddenly old Valerij (dressed as the Big Bad Wolf, perhaps) leaps out from behind a gnarled tree and...I don’t know, eats her or something. Hilariously melodramatic and terrifying in equal parts, but all of it brilliant.
BL: I thought "Saliut, Vera!" was quite nice, but where that was effortless, this track's just terribly labored. It feels like there are too many people singing a chorus that has too many words, for one thing.
RW: Waste of time!
IM: I love the way they bring in the strings while keeping the rhythmic base fairly interesting. They probably don't need the guitar and those strings, but a little overkill never hurt anyone.
EO: Maybe the best thing he's ever done, at least as good as "Saliut, Vera!" or his duet with Via Gra from 2003 whose name I have forgotten.
AM: This could be amazing - if sung by some aging discodivadolly.
JP: The title sounds like a very hi-tech version of the Internet used in outer space. Maybe that is what it they're singing about, I wouldn't know. It's a dramatic male-sung pop song which I can bop along to with no language barrier.

4. NiKuz'ma Mogilevskaya – Timennedaesh
EO: 8, CA: 8, AM: 8, SS: 5, SN: 8, IM: 6, MT: 9, BL: 0, RW: 5, PB: 6, AA: 3, AK: 8, JP: 7

Accordions are trumped only by surf guitars on the novelty instrument food chain.
IM: The intro here is great enough, but when the beat kicks in and the accordion keeps going it's promising; unfortunately soon you can't hear it any more.
CA: Oooh! Electro-pop! Mixed with something that sounds like an accordion! This is what makes the Ukrainian chart so good, the mixture of genres and productions are simply brilliant. Its chorus is also amazingly catchy, even though the voices are slightly disturbing. It makes me wanna dance!
EO: I was about to say that it was a Soviet "Dragostea Din Tei" then I remembered that Moldova was once a Soviet Socialist Republic. Well, it still works for me.
PB: Ah! It starts off like the "Amelie" theme music, and then it goes all O-Zone!
JP: I'm not sure if it's a novelty song or just fun pop music, but I certainly like it.
AK: I was expecting it to go a bit Verka Serduchka from the accordion intro but it develops nicely into a muscular disco-pop anthem worthy of Ruki Vverh. Extremely catchy - i could easily see myself playing it when i DJ. It's amazing how Russian and Ukrainian stars continue to make fundamentally formulaic pop sound so fresh and exciting.
BL: First, one crap singer starts yelling, and then a second crap singer who has something up her nose joins in, as the beat boom-chaka-chakas away behind them. Blah blah blah ta-yeash! Bloo bloo bloo da-yeash! It's a veritable duet of ass.
AA: If sexual assault were a sound, it wouldn’t sound all that different to this number. A guy who sounds like the distant cousin of DJ Bobo, and a girl who is probably one of Marianne Faithfull’s bastard heroin-using-born children, if their voices don’t push you into slitting your wrists, the horrible “melody” will.
AM: Accordions and synths! What the whole world is waiting to hear. This turns into a cool euro-electro-pop song with chanty-type choruses and boys and girls singing. And one girl screaming. I like.
RW: The voices are almost cartoonish. And even though I speak no Ukrainian, this song is stuck in my head. I don’t know if that is good or bad.
MT: It starts with an accordion or something like that, which reminds me of a dance hit from a couple of years ago, sung in French, which name I cannot seem to recall right now. (Maybe In-Grid's "Tu Es Foutu?" - EO). Now, as Popjustice readers know, there aren't that many things out there that sound as pop as an accordion; it was a great start for the french hit, and it's a great start for this one. Then the bassline takes over, cutting the accordion in half, deeper than the sharpest stilletto...and from then on I'm totally sold. So this is how pop on a non-meta level works; the killer accordion and the bassline being the ripped ear in the yard from "Blue Velvet"; you start at a random familiar place like your room or the cybercafé I’m in, but you find this ticket to ride to and get pulled into a completely unexpected, outrageous land where anything goes. And it certainly goes wild; by the time the chorus arrives I find myself too sucked into the music to distinguish it; I can only feel it.
PB: It's a bit like that crazy German guy, Stefan Raab, or that crazy Austrian guy, Alf Poier! Actually, if I had to listen to this on the radio every day, I would get sick of it pretty quick. Actually, I'm sick of it now. It goes on a bit too long. There's something DIRTY about it.
SN: While I have no doubt that this group would piss me off in no uncertain terms if I actually knew anything about them or was forced to listen to them regularly on Ukraine FM (or whatever), this amuses me highly in the same way shiny objects do. Whee!
MT: What is one supposed to make of this, when one cannot stop to think about it and the only think allowed by the body is dancing?

5. Elektro Stance - Black Horse & The Cherry Tree
EO: 4, CA: 2, AM: 3, SS: 2, SN: 4, IM: 5, BL: 10, RW: 1, PB: 9, AA: 10, AK: 7, JP: 6

Elektro! Stance! Love the name. They've electrocuted KT Tunstall.
IM: I would never have guessed that this was a KT Tunstall cover if Edward hadn't told us; in any case, it's certainly better than anything Tunstall is likely to do herself. It's a little too generic for a trance-y cover to attain true bliss, but those “woo-ooh”s are very well used.
EO: KT Tunstall sang it. She's boring. Electro remake adds surprisingly little, retains all boredom.
CA: Boring. Next, please.
SS: Sounds like the never to be released Lasgo remix! I'm actually missing that guitar string beat thing from the original, it makes it all even more monotonic than it was in the first place
AM: Actually, in retrospect, it's just a crap remix, really, isn't it? My change of (elektro-)stance comes as they have failed to do anything good with the "no, no" bits.
JP: What a strange cover. I can't decide if it works or not, or in fact whether it's KT singing or someone else who is doing an extremely good impression.
SN: Pointless dance covers of timeless classics I can forgive, because it’s a little bit fun to read the often-illiterate rantings that gush from both the pro and anti camps in various forums worldwide. What I can NOT forgive is the pointless rejigging of a song that was hardly memorable to begin with.
BL: Come on. How is this even a fair fight? If an electro style cover of a KT Tunstall song that ends up sounding like the best record Girls Aloud never made doesn't win this Chart Challenge, I will go off and join a troop of performing monkeys. Or make my fellow panelists do so. Imagine taking the bassline of the Pet Shop Boys' "Flamboyant"; turn it up, speed it up, toughen it up; borrow some girls from Richard X and make them shout "two, three, four!" at opportune times; and then get a woman who has her country growls down pat to fiercely rattle off a Tunstall lyric that in this context suddenly sounds like Alison Goldfrapp's wettest dream. Well, what you imagined will still not be as good as this track, unless you are Elektro Stance. And if you are, I would like to meet you. The only way this could be better is if the line I misheard the first time I played this – "Colin Farrell on my back" – was the real lyric (sadly, it's actually "I fell in fear on my back"). I don't know why this is only #5. I don't care if it's because it has already been to #1, or on its way there; this should be at the top of this or any other chart forever and forever, and then probably for one more year after that.
EO: Ordinarily I would edit such a long screed down but it's so spectacularly out of step with everyone else it had to be reproduced in full.
PB: What a beat. Horses are so big right now aren't they, what with Goldfrapp and Madonna and such. And cherry trees are underrated outside of Japan, so this song is just great. That bass just makes me want to go to the toilet.
AA: Clever electro pop – probably the best song in this top 10 as well.
AK: My God, that's hilarious. Hats off to anyone that can make the abysmal KT Tunstall sound half-way listenable. Extremely well-done Italo-disco, as close to a club stormer as is possible with such unpromising starting material. It's bound to be a huge hit across Europe.

6. Aviator - Podarok
EO: 4, CA: 2, AM: 6, SS: 9, SN: 5, IM: 3, MT: 4, BL: 3, RW: 7, PB: 4, AA: 7, AK: 5, JP: 7

Aviator are a serious band. I can tell this by the opening bars which scream "serious band".
BL: I'm trying to find something nice to say about this inoffensive but unremarkable song in case Aviator turns out to be a hot boy band that I want to run the fanclub for. But all I've got is: "I quite like the way the strummy guitars and synths come together to end the song."
RW: It’s the Ukrainian Ricky Martin! I bet this singer is sexy. I can tell in the voice. And I know voices.
SS: When this started I expected in to go with a beat dance beat twards the chorus, but it seems to be a simple pop track with a guitar. I like simple pop tracks with a guitar, and this also has synths here and there to top it all!
SN: The Rhodes organ promises soulfulness. Perhaps this will be enjoyable, I say to myself! Then it’s whisked away at the 40-second mark to be replaced by the inevitable acoustic guitar and identikit drum programming and I proceed to curse Aviator for being so misleading.
CA: What's up with the synth sound in the beginning? It's very annoying. I like how it "morphs" into an acoustic song, but the melody isn't really getting to me.
AK: The intro reminded me a little of Marc Almond's version of Like A Prayer -it's a shame it fails to take off in a similar manner. It's a pleasant but instantly forgettable bit of fluff.
AA: You know, I’ve been telling my cousin for years he’d make a great Ukrainian pop/folk singer. Obviously produced in his basement, but it’s quite nice to see he’s finally taken my advice.
PB: It's pleasant, and I can imagine the video would have the "Aviators" flying around in litle Cessnas over the countryside. Smiling, and such.
AM: It skitters along in a nice fashion, with an Acoustics+ sound and some nice foreign-boy-singing. It would be a nice movie soundtrack, or the soundtrack to a few quiet drinks in a Kyiv bar.
IM: I don't know why, but I expected something more rockin' from a band called Aviator. Instead the dreaded acoustic guitar, signifier of blandness, shows up and the guy and his duet partner proceed to sing a cheap knock off of Iraklij's “Kaplia Absenta” , only without the dancefloor smoothness or sense of anguish.
JP: Wow, this is really Eurovision. I'm not sure how well it would do as it's a lot less mad than the other songs so far, but I quite like it.

7. Pinoccio - T'es Pas Cap
EO: 2, CA: 9, AM: 7, SS: 1, SN: 5, IM: 1, MT: 8, BL: 0, RW: 6, PB: 7, AA: 0, AK: 3, JP: 7

I seem to remember hearing about this doing well in France and it seems to be in French too. The backing music is quite annoying.
SN: The “Funfair of Horrors” theme they’re going for is quite good, but I really think it’s time to make those child labour laws more stringent.
BL: I think I'll go get my tubes tied tomorrow. Fucking children.
AK: I have an exceptionally high tolerance for novelty techno pop but even my nerves were tested with this one. In-Grid for six-year-olds is preferable to the Crazy Frog but i'd be perfectly happy never to hear it again.
RW: Is the kid singing 12? It is catchy and oddly entertaining. Nah nah nah nah nah nah nah nah nah nah nah nah! Down with child labour!
MT: Is this how pop sings in the post-Schnappi world? You won't get any complaints from me if this the way things are gonna be from now on.
CA: Is this the new Schnappi or something? I'm noticing it's charting in a lot of countries. The intro is infectious! Sorry but I love this. At least as long as it stays outside my country. So until then I think it's brilliant. Sorry again.
IM: This is a heartless-sounding “Schnappi” clone, and thus needs to be shot. It starts with a quasi-calliope that lets you know immediately how bad this will get, and I think the “cute” kid is a guy this time, but it's nightmarish in any case.
AM: I loved the intro to this, nice electro-pop-esque sound. Now it's Amy Diamond! Or a boy-version (I think). He's saying a lot about Té Cap. Oh! It's French. It's taken a verse and a chorus for me to realise this. Yay. I see me drunk in an Euro-disco 'Somewhere in Europe' tonight dancing like a tit to this.
MT: What I hear here is a very good grasp on what pop with no aspirations of meta should be: a killer keyboard line, weird instrumentation with no special purpose out of making me wonder in the first place (is that a castanet what I hear in the background?) and casting plain amazement on me in the second place (how did they think of that!).
PB: I'm annoyed I don't know what "cap" means or stands for. It isn't in my 1.8kg French dictionary. What ever it is, you're not it. French kids are too cute to hate.
IM: I've had to fight the urge to scream “YOU'RE NOT A REAL BOY AND YOU NEVER WILL BE!” every time I've listened to this.
AA: Oh. No. You. DON’T. What exactly is going on here? And could someone explain why Jordy – nearly 12 years on – does not sound any different than he did on his first single way back in 1993, "Dur Dur D'etre Bebe (It's So Tough to Be a Baby)”?
EO: One of the trials of editing this is that often, my brilliant gag is also used by one of the panel, and I allow them to have it, as I get to rewrite and they don't. On this occasion, it is my pleasure to be able to say: T'es Pas crap (Okay, not brilliant, but accurate).

8. Russkie DJ - Brilliantovaia Ruka
EO: 0, CA: 5, AM: 8, SS: 0, SN: 3, IM: 3, MT: 7, BL: 0, RW: 4, PB: 5, AA: 3, AK: 3, JP: 4

I'm not sure what to make of this.
EO: What exactly is this? Dance? Novelty? I can't really put my finger on it. I just know that I dislike it. It reminds this video I see on the Russian music channel we have, it has Santa with this sort of music, babbling some rubbish above it, is this Santa too I wonder?
SN: How do you review something that’s just a bunch of soundbites gathered from the mixing-room floor and spliced together by the work experience boy as opposed to any sort of structured entity? It’s like reading a book that’s had its pages ripped out and strewn around the house.
AM: Crap dance music meets crap folk music in a much-better-than-Mark-McCabe way. It's the kind of absurdly amazing rubbish I would love to hear as I bop my way down in a Kyiv nightspot.
JP: Two songs in one top ten with the word "brilliant"? This one, however, is not that brilliant. It's very busy, sounding like a cartoon theme tune and a football song combined.
MT: Sounds like fun to me but I can't help feeling I'm missing a lot of the joke here, even the most obvious ones!
SS: And am I the only one waiting for them to scream DUVAIJ DUVAIJ DUVAIJ DUVAIJ, Scooter stylee?
IM: The middle is an incoherent, whirring mishmash; the opening features someone sounding like a more laid back of the guy who opens CapaRezza's great “Guida Me”, and the end layers on more annoying self-shout outs than should be possible outside of rap mixtapes.
AM: It's got making-no-sense-even-in-Ukrainian talky-shouty-bits.
SN: There are atoms of brilliance to be found amongst the insanity, but this just has the net effect of pissing me off.
CA: I'm beginning to think that the Ukrainian chart is a circus in disguise.
PB: Well this is just mad. They sure know how to have fun don't they. If I knew what they were saying it would probably be even more funny. It's just all over the shop.
AK: I can imagine the video of "hilariously" speeded-up bits of 1970s Soviet sit-coms in my head as i type. Threatens to turn listenable when it starts ripping off Faltermeyer near the end but never quite makes it. It's a poor man's version of DJ Grib and DJ Grib was rubbish to begin with.
AA: It’s like having too much ketamine and trying to watch Sesame Street – great in theory but disastrous in action. Even Benny Benassi would be ashamed.
BL: You remember the climactic scene in that Hitchcockian suspense movie where the good guy and bad guy have it out in a crowded fairground? They pursue each other in a vaguely homoerotic dance of danger, pushing the poor cotton candy seller out of the way, until they finally end up on a merry-go-round for the final tussle. A gun rears its ugly head; our hero manages to push a young kid off his horsey and out of danger just in the nick of time. Everybody panics and screams as the gunshot ricochets wildly and somehow causes the merry-go-round to malfunction. No getting off now! Faster and faster the carousel goes, utterly out-of-control, while the music also speeds up into AN UNBEARABLE FRENZY. This song would be perfect for the comedy version of that scene.

9. Irina Bilyk – Navsegda
EO: 3, CA: 4, AM: 6, SS: 6, SN: 6, IM: 5, MT: 2, BL: 6, RW: 2, PB: 2, AA: 2, AK: 5, JP: 4

Oh a ballad. I was waiting for one. I like the piano when the chorus builds, but that's the only strong point it has, the rest of the song is a bit average.
BL: This mid-tempo ballad is devoid of shrieking moppets and carny clowns,so it already has a headstart on some of our other candidates.
JP: A girly song which is bearable, but gets quite boring as it doesn't seem to go anywhere.
MT: Lame lame average ballad, I suppose every chart in the world has a couple of this ones (Katie Melua, anyone?)
AK: Again, pleasant but forgettable. Does nothing to distinguish itself from a million other records released every year. Destined to end up as filler on a Soyuz compilation.
IM: This whole song has the same kind of feel as the intro to the Yulia Savicheva song at #1; but it never takes off and it's also not quite as soothing as that song was at first. It's pleasant, but nothing more.
CA: It's better than the new Jo O'Meara one, but still quite boring.
EO: There are sections of this that are really very pretty indeed, but not enough of them; perennially sounding like killing time before a good bit that never really comes.
AM: Passable ballady type, it has a nice chorus which helps. And ooh-wee-ooh-wee synthesiser (?) bit which is a teeny bit out of place.
SN: Being sung in a foreign language can do songs a lot of favours. Perhaps it’s easier to focus on the emotion behind the (undoubtedly terrible “moon/June” lyrics favoured by this genre of AM-radio ballad) lyrics and see that this girl is hurting, or at least is doing a mighty good job of sounding like she is. Which lifts this from “dull” to “dull but bearable,” which is an achievement in itself.
BL: I especially like that bit once we're there, where Irina leads the instrumentation: "la la lee lee noo noo" she sings (note: only a rough
approximation), and the piano follows ascendingly, deng-deng-deng-deng-deng, a beat behind. I enjoy as well the "oooh-ooh-oooh" synth sound that ends each chorus. To sum up, for those joining us late: nice bit into the chorus, nice bit in the chorus, nice bit out of the chorus. You're
AM: Oh, there's some drums near the end. They were unexpected.

10. Valeriya – Klyuchiki
EO: 7, CA: 7, AM: 5, SS: 7, SN: 6, IM: 4, MT: 6, BL: 4, RW: 2, PB: 6 AA: 9, AK: 6, JP: 5

I'm starting to lose hope that she'll ever recapture the brilliant form of the Glaza Tsveta Neba album but she's a reliable source of undemanding, fairly amusing pop.
EO: Endearing, unchallenging, lighter than air and about as fulfilling. But good for its duration, which, in a consumer culture, is more than enough for a transient chart hit.
MT: Valeriya sounds kinda like an Argentinian singer with huge fake boobs called Laura Miller.
CA: Ooh! More pop circus! With this being the last song on the chart and everything I can must say that the Ukrainian chart is highly underrated. It's more fun than the German, Swedish and UK top 10s added together. No James Blunt, no hip-hop what so ever, lots of catchy electro and four songs that sounds like they're taken straight from a merry-go-around. What more can you ask for?
SS: Oooh I was waiting for a song that reminded me of Ruslana!
IM: The wailing backing vocals that start the song are a nice touch, and the lead singer has a voice that reminds me both of Shakira and of Ruslana at times (a definite plus).
AA: This is “top banana”. A chorus that’s more infectious than Chicken Pox, it’s such a pity I cannot understand what she’s on about. My mother, bless her heart, would simply adore this. I would definitely vote for Gloria Estefan to maybe attempt a Spanglish version too… could you JUST imagine? No? Well, no, neither could we.
AM: Warbling! This opens with some unbeatable warbling. You can't get enough warbling in post-Eastern bloc music.
SN: Pedestrian verses, which just seem to drag for hours, even though in reality it’s probably only seconds.
AM: The chorus itself is catchy and bouncy enough, the woman singing is either a leggy model or a mail-order-bride type. I can't help but feel a better dance beat behind this would make it Top 5.
SN: Nice sing-songy bridge, quite a serviceable chorus, um…it’s alright, I guess, though it doesn’t appear to be making any serviceable impact on any areas of my brain.
JP: I love the beginning of this song, but the song itself is a little disappointing. The beginning is the most (or only) dramatic bit.
IM: Note that in the chorus those backing vocals do most of the heavy lifting, though; a little interesting texture in your singing does not a good performance make. This could have been good, but it never really comes together.
SS: Send this to Eurovision Ukraine!
PB: PB: Oooh this was starts off with some impressive chanting and pretty wind instrument and Eastern sounding twangy instument. Then it gets rather average and like a sub-standard Swedish non-Melodifestivalen entrant all the way through. Then right near the end the chanting comes back and it's wonderful. Like those Estonian teachers! Not as good as Ruslana.
MT: It starts the way one of those horrible midtempos by Sting would start, but she does a good job of building a bit of drama towards the chorus so I suppose I should like this; and since I’m such a predictable chap, I do have fonds feelings for this in my heart.

54 points. And here, then, is Valerij Meladze's song, EASILY the best song this round - BAH to the rest of the panel, it's not even close, you guys! I will also post #4, which came second, but, I am kind of looking for a good MP3 of it. I have one with a radio watermark over the top of it, annoyingly. Watch the skies, people.

Valerij Meladze - Inostranets

Monday, November 21, 2005

What's top 10 in Ukraine at the moment?

Well, this. [MP3 Montage]

Well it's a Ukrainian top 10, the most official looking one doesn't seem to have updated in a bit, so this is just.. well, I've long given up on the concept of officialness and objectivity.

Cross-Europe Chart Challenge post extravaganza on this coming in the next day or so, along with (gasp) the two highest scoring songs. Yes, #5 IS really an Italo-dance cover of THAT song.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Moon Taxi - Moonwalk

(Yes, I know I said I'd post lots of things. I haven't. I'm not very sorry because I am busy. I promise, or is it, I threaten, I will have my think-piece on UK chart pop, with specific reference to the differing paths of various writing and production groups up at some point).

ANYWAY. Rather than mothball while I'm busy, I share. I'm not sure where this comes from, but I know it's done fairly well in Estonia and Latvia and Russia, so could be from any of those. And very great this is. Oh sure, the elements when boiled down to their components are so cliched as to make me feel a little embarrassed for liking and posting, but when put together, oh, it's quite good.

For a start, it's not happy, which you'd expect. Like the t.A.T.u. song "Cosmos"/"Kosmos", the space theme is kind of bleak, and if you don't get the hint from the vaguely searching (if not spacy) vocals, you'll get it when you get some shuddery sampled guitar underneath the verse. But oh, that's not why you listen. You listen for the tinkly piano, the Benny Bennassi-lite squelch/fart bass, the backing vocals in the break in the middle, the radio transmissions, and oh the general air of loneliness that can only be fully expressed with a preposterous (over)extended metaphor.

Reminds me a bit of a less manic version of Cascade's "I Need A Miracle", but also, there's another moderately big dance Eurohit from the last two years the chorus melody is very reminiscent of. Anyone who points out what it is will get.. my eternal love!

(and yes, sorry, posts will be at a trickle until December)

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Cardigans - Overload

Having admitted to themselves, possibly, that they will never ever top "Lovefool", a song they don't even like particularly, repeated changes in direction have paid off pretty well for The Cardigans, artistically, and at least in Scandinavia, commercially.

So the fact that their new album is very much in the same vein as their last could be a bad thing, but they've refined the formula. As such, "Overload" is in the running to be probably the second best song they've ever done (well, it's a close run thing with "Paralyzed" and "Lead Me Into The Night" for my money, but anyway). I'm fascinated by Nina Persson's delivery, how she manages to take what is on paper for the most part a hugely romantic lyric, pace it as a slow dance, which is also kind of romantic, and sing it as if she's just had the stuffing beaten completely out of her - ennuied, bruised and helpless, despite the fact that she's a pretty girl in a successful band who in real life surely wouldn't have to put up with any shit from a beau.

It's good acting. And it's a wonderful song. The slightly incongruous middle section is what fascinates me the most. The music almost cuts out before being replaced by some comparatively charging guitars while Nina sings "I'm hot, baby don't burn your finger", and where, say, Robyn would have sung that line as some kind of salacious come-on (viz Konichiwa Bitches), it's rueful and lamenting, and leaves me wondering if she's not more worried about hurting someone than being hurt herself.

She resignedly requests her paramour "Dance me home", after having declared that "True love is to dance" - but she's only learning. It's the sound of a woman pouring herself out of the frying pan into the fire, but it wouldn't be if it weren't such a sterling, felt vocal performance, which make the backing seem almost inconsequential. But it's worth listening for that too, the mix of the sweet and sour has returned, and if you throw in a music box or a flute to add to the arrangement in your head, you can almost believe that this is the same band that once did saccharine but lovingly sarcastic songs like Carnival and Hey! Get Out Of My Way.

I heartily recommend the album, which is out in Europe this week.

Laam - Petit Souer

I am totally loving this track at the moment. I am equally thrown by the way that the opening suggests it's going to be some kind of Francophone Whitney-esque ballad, and then it insteads turns into a Francophone Whitney-esque 80s dance-R&B stormer. Dig those cascading, sashaying swings over the second verse that return in stabbing format in the chorus! Sway your shoulders! Scramble to your French-English dictionary to find out what "souer" means (could someone do this? Babelfish draws a blank)! And love the way the song completely dies at the end, pulling off the hackneyed but sometimes effective slower-more-minimalist-tapering-wavering version of the big chorus with aplomb. I have no idea why the French still can get away with this sort of thing (see also Kayliah's single from earlier in the year) when I can't stand it from the U.S., even given my traditional dégoût for French as a language.

(Big thankyou to the lovely anonymous person who has pointed out the title is in fact "Petit Soeur", and who did so without mocking my appalling typing and worse ignorance.)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

More substantial post on this tomorrow, but I just have to say, on the subject of the now-CD-quality rip of "Biology" by Girls Aloud...