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...


Thursday, October 06, 2005

Not that you should need any further encouragement, but if you are in the UK and even remotely on the fence, buy the Rachel Stevens album. This is why. My import copy will take a while to arrive, so enjoy yours.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

I wrote a post the other night but I lost it in a blackout. How preposterous. Anyway, then.

Simone Cristicchi - Ombrellino

I don't think I've done a very good job selling this man to my minuscule audience, but I've got this post and a full-length review going up on Stylus next week, and I will do so eventually. The title means "umbrellas", you know. I'm absolutely fascinated by the art of pastiche, and Simone simply does this brilliantly; he does swing, rap, gorgeous balladry, samba on his album, well that is to say he approximates them and does them in a way that's different to what you would expect and seems utterly unique. On this song, the reference points are probably the more psychedelic end of 1960s pop in the guitar solo and the crowd-chanted chorus, and the more pure pop end of the same decade in the melody. I'm specifically thinking of what The Monkees would sound like if they'd come out in the 1990s (no, I don't mean it sounds like Supergrass either). It's not quite the best song on the album, but it's certainly the most infectious, immediate good-time pop song on there, which makes it more appropriate than my current favourite which is a folksy half-ballad thing. I've said before that I love the sound of Italian being sung, but I don't seem to like a lot of Italian pop (last year I only really liked three things: Gabry Ponte, Luca Dirisio, Paolo Meneguzzi; all three had quality singles), and I find the Italian chart a curiosity; Blue are the biggest thing ever there, and they like Jentina. And The Servant! Which is kind of bizarre. The language barrier will preclude this ever crossing over, much as it did with the amazing Caparezza LP from last year, but you owe it to yourself to investigate deeper; the man's a unique talent.

Reflex - Tantsy

You would already know that "Tantsy" means "Dance", and if you didn't, you should pay attention to more Ruslana. English-speaking artists don't generally call their songs "Dance", now, do they? Except Shaznay Lewis, and look what happened to her. You'd already know that my tolerance for squeaky Slavonic vocalising is extraordinarily high, and what would otherwise be irritating to right-thinking listeners - here, some fantastic whistling - is the star attraction in my head. But aside from all that, it's a pretty thumping, rapid-fire and exceedingly dated (in a good way) little Eurodance stormer with a section that threatens to turn into a rap near the end, but mercifully doesn't, it just blasts on with striking effiency and only a slight dip in relentlessness. And whistling! Genius.

West End Girls - Domino Dancing

This has been knocking around on my wishlist for a while, and it popped up last night, after Popjustice went on about it. But here it is downloadable! There aren't enough Pet Shop Boys covers, I can think of artists who've done "West End Girls" (East 17) and "Jealousy" (Dubstar), but that's about all, unless you count that dreadful tribute album that came out a while back (Momus doing "So Hard", put it away, please). So the promise of a duo who do nothing but cover their songs is a fantastic idea. And where better to start than one of their most unfairly maligned creations? What I always loved about "Domino Dancing" was how it seemed to predict exactly what video game soundtracks would sound like in the very late 80s and early 90s. Yes, I go on about this an awful lot, but bear with me. So, by sounding like that very same subgenre of music, this seems like a perfectly natural progression, almost a direct descendent sonically, while being a faithful melodic representation. All the distinct touches have evolved into a slightly knowing, but likeably twitchy Swede-pop cover. It's amazing how much a different voice changes Neil Tennant's lyrics at time, here these girls don't sound old enough to know what the song was ostensibly about, but the slightly lost, wary feeling of the original remains even amongst the carefree punchy backdrop. No doubt, the Swedes cut to the melodic heart of whatever they do and make it work.