June 2009


Here’s June 2009’s Second Edition.

Single and Listening

Single Reviews by Release Date

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This time I review 3 divos.  Okay, I’ll admit, I’m a little late on the come-up on a couple of these, but this year’s BET Awards turned me on to some things and these are the songs I wanted to review today.

Kid Cudi “Day ‘N’ Nite” Released:  February 8, 2008
From Previous ReleaseA Kid Named Kudi and
Forthcoming Release:  Man on the Moon:  End of Day
Infectious beat and infectious chorus.  At first, those lyrics seem a little too straightforward, but then something happens and the cadence hypnotizes you like a snake charmer.  Definitely, a sing- and dance-along song.  A refreshing change in hip hop subject matter that reflect depth and another point-of-view.
 
Maxwell “Pretty Wings” Released:  April 28, 2009
From Forthcoming Release:  BLACKsummers’night
I first heard Maxwell perform this at the 2009 BET Awards with a great introduction by Jamie Foxx.  Of course it took on a different life as it was one of many tributes to Michael Jackson that night, but the song stands on its own two “wings.”  And, it floats weightlessly into the air as ecstasy-laden R&B.  I don’t think Maxwell has ever been christened the prince or king of anything, but maybe he needs to be. This is the type of soul that makes you want to dance out of your shell. I wasn’t paying attention to Maxwell before, but I am now.

Jay-Z “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)” Released:  June 23, 2009
From Forthcoming Release:  The Blueprint3  
It’s what you’ve come to expect from Jay.  It’s at his level.  And, that’s above average for sure.  Doesn’t change the game, though, as much as make an, arguably, necessary statement against Auto-Tune.  The interpolation of “Goodbye” works well enough, but seems obvious.  The live jazz instrumentation is the highlight and the intended antithesis to Auto-Tune.

So, this countdown is about MY TOP 10:  Fictional Bands and what songs best represent those bands.  I’m going to throw in about way more than 5 BONUSES throughout this countdown as well.  It’s a fun one in a different kind a way (MY TOP 10s are always fun, aren’t they?), so I’m going to be a little looser with it.  I’m going to go girl-boy-girl-boy as much as I can, so this time around the men will be on top.  I’ve  let the women lead more than a few times, so turnabout is fair play.

1. The Five Hearbeats “We Haven’t Finished Yet”

The Five Heartbeats,
one of my favorite films, was written by Keenen Ivory Wayans and Robert Townsend and directed by Townsend, himself, who also stars in the film.  I think it’s his strongest film next to Hollywood Shuffle.  Loosely based on a composite of Motown male groups and artists such as The Dells, The Temptations, James Brown, Frankie Lymon and others, the film starts in the 1980s and flashes back to the 1960s.  The film tells the story of  The Five Heartbeats’ struggles and rise to fame admidst the tumultous racism of those times.  Though consisting of original music, the actors didn’t all sing in the film and the soundtrack actually consists of real acts like The Dells, Patti LaBelle (who features on this track), and After 7 singing the songs from the film that were lip-synched by the actors.   This is my favorite scene from the film because I love the way their first hit song comes together with Robert Townsend’s character and his little sister.  The bigger hit of the film was The Dell’s “A Heart is a House for Love” and that is one of your BONUSES. 

***BONUS*** The Dells “A Heart is a House for Love”

***BONUS***Alvin and The Chipmunks “Beat It”

And, in tribute to the King of Pop — The ‘Munks of  Music.

June 30, 2009

A popolio selection of today’s New Releases.

Stevie B The Terminator
Björk Voltaïc (CD/DVD)
Delain April Rain
Jeremih Jeremih
Maino If Tomorrow Comes
Moby Wait For Me
Rob Thomas Cradlesong
Wilco Wilco (The Album)
Wu-Tang Clan Chamber Music

I first Just Picked Up Bat For Lashes’ Two Suns here and then I reviewed “Daniel” here and “Pearl’s Dream” here.  Now, I’m reviewing the whole set.

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 LTR (Long Term Review)
Full Release Review

all over the place

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Bat For Lashes Two Suns
Released:  April 6, 2009

“Indie pop” sounds  like an oxymoron, but Bat For Lashes weaves a magical musical tapestry that defies any other description.  Not only is Two Suns indie pop, it’s a concept album that works in layers more than as a literal translation of  a linear story from track to track.  Though I’m calling it pop, it’s pregnant with  lush instrumentation that brings the songs to life.  

Exploring dualities in fable-song form, she presents an alter ego in the form of Pearl, who plays foil to her Bat For Lashes persona.  Two Suns takes you to a world of princesses and dragons and castles and large bodies of water between warring kingdoms.  You feel like one of Robin Hood’s Merry Men stopping in the forest to take in the Folk Fairie’s rave.

“Daniel”  hauntingly calls out to a soulmate-lover-savior and harkens back to the ’80s.  It’s a synth ice-cream-dream with a juxtaposition of beats in foreground and background that commingle flawlessly.  “Pearl’s Dream” is a mesmerizing ode with a funky beat.  It’s simple yet clever sing-song double-meaning lyrics make the song that much richer.  With synth and drum programming to die for, I picture gypsies with layers of kerchiefs flowing in the wind as they belly dance the night away next to tents on a beach lit by a bounty of bonfires.  And, just wait for that beat breakdown near the end.

Drums run through the tracks so much so that the songs could be interpreted by a drum circle from beginning to end.  New wave flourishes add a unique flavor.  Allusions to renaissance fairs and medieval reenactments aside,  Two Suns, is chic fairytale fare and not geek at all.  A masterful pop-parable that delivers. ♫♫

 Standout Track:  “Pearl’s Dream”
Check Out:  “Glass,” “Daniel,” and “Siren Song”

I owe you two of these a month.  Should be getting one tomorrow, too.  Would like to spread them out more, but just been so busy, lately.Single and Listening

 Single and Listening

Single Reviews by Release Date

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all over the place

carries a tune

part of the chorus

featured soloist

conducting the choir

 I review 4 divas this time around. 

Paulina Rubio “Causa y Efecto” Released:  March 30, 2009
From Latest Release:  Gran City Pop ♫♪
For a song from an album called Gran City Pop, I’d expect more of a distinguishable pop sound.  Maybe this is what Spanish pop sounds like.  First listen, I wasn’t really feeling it.  Second listen, I can tell it’s a Paulina song.  Suits her style.  Third listen, I can see myself singing along, head-nodding to my right, and air-tapping my right foot over left.  A capable effort, but it doesn’t blow me away.

 Paula Abdul “I’m Just Here for the Music” Released:  May 5, 2009
From Forthcoming Release:  TBD
Sounds like Britney pop when it’s done right.  Jay-Z has proclaimed the death of Auto-Tune, but this song was released before that proclamation.  Perhaps, this is a nice last breath on the dance floor.  I can see it burning up the clubs.  A simple and repetitive beat might be its only downfall.  For that reason it needs a layered and complicated remix to really funk things up.  But, overall, it seems to work.

Amerie “Why R U”
Released:  June 15, 2009
From Forthcoming Release:  In Love & War
Love the hip hopped-out intro.  Amerie exhibits some pipes providing some nice layers and colors.  The call-out chorus works and pays clever tribute to “1 Thing.”  Some nice elements that don’t quite find their way to fitting perfectly together, but work well enough.

Mariah Carey “Obsessed” Released:  June 16, 2009
From Forthcoming Release:  Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel ♫♪
Not bad, but I think MC is at a point in her career where the era makes the artist and the artist no longer makes the era ala’ Cher who had a disco hit and then 80s soft rock hits and then techno, etc.  Mariah may stay with the urban/R&B/pop genres more, though, as those are her areas.  A couple of lines of clever wordplay make it worthwhile and the spoken intro works.  It’s a grower; I’d play it more than once.  A slow burner, not spontaneous combustion.

So, this countdown is about MY TOP 10:  Fictional Bands and what songs best represent those bands.  I’m going to throw in about 5 BONUSES throughout this countdown as well.  It’s a fun one in a different kind a way (MY TOP 10s are always fun, aren’t they?), so I’m going to be a little looser with it.  I’m going to go girl-boy-girl-boy as much as I can, so this time around the men will be on top.  I’ve  let the women lead more than a few times, so turnabout is fair play.

2. Sister and The Sisters “Something He Can Feel”

The group from the 1976 period film, Sparkle, based in the 1950, was inspired by The Supremes and in turn inspired Dreamgirls (Number 6) .  It features the Williams Sisters — Sister (Lonette McKee), Dolores (Dwan Smith), and Sparkle (Irene Cara) — and focuses on Sparkle’s journey from backup singer to headliner.  Their mother is Effie (Mary Alice), which is a name that found its way into Dreamgirls.  The actresses  performed their own vocals for the film.  The soundtrack of the same name was produced by Curtis Mayfield and featured Aretha Franklin replacing the lead vocals from the film with her own.  The album was a Top 20 hit for Franklin with a Number 1 R&B single with this song.  En Vogue covered it in1992 for their sophomore set, Funky Divas, renaming it “Giving Him Something He Can Feel” and reintrepreting the scene from the film into an updated, glossy, and sexy video that was quite a hit for them as well.

***BONUS*** En Vogue “Giving Him Something He Can Feel”

Here’s the En Vogue version.

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July 16, 2009 UPDATE:  Less than a week left.  Please vote for popolio.com.

So, popolio.com has not even been around a year.  We debuted on September 15, 2008, and I’m not sure the greater Austin population even knows we exist, YET.  But, I figured, “What the hey?”  Let’s try this.  One, I have nothing to lose, and, two, I  just want to see where this takes us.

I recently saw Milk on DVD and I’m inspired by Harvey Milk’s determination and resilience.  So, maybe we won’t make the mark this year, but you never know if you don’t try and if you don’t take that first step, right?  That fist step may lead, ultimately, to final victory.  I know his deal was politics and more serious, but, this blog is my passion and music makes the world go ’round.

So, vote for us and write us into The Austin Chronicle’s Best Of 2009 in the ‘Media Section’  as the “best local blog” here or mail in a ballot from last week’s edition or any upcoming editions until the deadline.  According to the rules, ballots must be submitted online by Tuesday, July 21, 2009, and only one mail or web ballot per person is allowed.  Click the link or logo above for more details on the rules and to vote. 

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