BOYZONE

BOYZONE Brother (Polydor/Universal)

The reunited boy band’s comeback album has unfortunately become a tribute to its late member, Stephen Gateley, who passed away in October last year. Apart from that, Brother is significant for featuring the Mika-penned single Gave It All Away – which has Gateley’s vocals – a reggae-infused pop ballad reminiscient of UB40’s cover of Neil Diamond’s Red Red Wine. An unusually potent pop song, I must confess, to be found on a boy band album.

The rest of Brother is pretty much boy band throwaway pop fodder but an overall good listen for casual pop listeners (which probably make up the majority of music lovers out there in the pop wasteland). If mainstream pop is your cup o’ tea, you will adore Boyzone’s Brother…

PoP CLASSICS

ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES IN THE DARK Architecture & Morality (Dindisc, 1981)

My first encounter with OMD (like many other post-punk bands) was  the documentary Urgh! A Music War and the wonderful Enola Gay. I believe I purchased a US printed LP that compiled tracks from the 1st two OMD albums (purely for Enola Gay, of course) and then not long after that, Architecture & Morality, which was released at the tail end of 1981.

It is probably one of my favourite albums of the synth-pop era and to this day is an LP I can easily (and comfortably) listen to from start to finish – a rarity.

The album opens with mechanical noises, jangly guitars and jarring mellotrons before Andy McCluskey weighs in with his trademark awkward vocals. Like most early OMD, it is a unique combination of the bitter and the sweet. The quaint She’s Leaving follows, as the band demonstrates that it is as deft at McCartneyesque melodicism as any 70s powerpop outfit. Then Souvenir comes in to deliver the perfect sugar-rush with a truly memorable synth riff and Paul Humpreys’ fey vocals.

The beauty of OMD was that it was able to write experimental instrumental sound collages as well as hit singles. This appealed greatly to a music lover like me that appreciated the Beatles and Pink Floyd, ELO and Genesis. Sealand and the title track were great examples of this ability. In between, these tracks were two singles concerning Joan of Arc – both were top 5 hits – and together with Souvenir (which claimed the #3 spot) ensured that Architecture & Morality would be OMD’s best selling album (to the tune of 3 million copies sold).

For me, OMD was a fine example of a band that were recording for the sheer love of the music. The image of the band was communciated through stylish album covers (by Peter Saville) and artful yet infectious songs, all the while maintaining an experimental edge to their idiosyncratic songs.

The album closes with the bouncing Georgia and the thoughtful The Beginning and the End.

OMD would never quite attain the peaks of this album, with each succeeding album marking the band’s inevitable commercial and critical decline. Still, for having produced Architecture & Morality, OMD deserve their place in the post-punk hall of fame.

A truly essential album.

KRIS ALLEN LIVE IN SINGAPORE

There was a time when it didn’t really matter how a band looked like. It was all about the music. Throughout rock history, there have been bands who have flourished despite not possessing the right image or look. Of course, most of the time, this is not the case, especially in this day and age. A glance at the current top 20 albums on the Billboard Album Charts bears this out mostly, although the likes of Barry Manilow, Susan Boyle and Vampire Weekend are probably the exceptions – and I’d argue that for Manilow and Boyle, other non-musical factors come into play as well.

American Idol is now into its 10th season, and the reality show has been an absolute boon for record companies seeing as it delivers artists who are popular and can sing. With an image finely tuned over the course of an entire season and delivered to an accepting public, by the time the season is over, massive sales figures are almost assured.

Kris Allen is the reigning American Idol and has been cast as the conservative down-to-earth poster boy for the fundamentalist Christian right in the USA. Allen is also a pin-up for teenage girls everywhere, which befits an “idol”. Which to me as a music lover, is irrelevant, to the key question – what about the music?

These were the queries in my mind, even as I waited patiently (with the missus) somewhere at the back of Zirca Mega Club for Allen and band to turn up on stage. At the front, the screaming adolescent girls, were not making the wait comfortable or enjoyable, with shrieks greeting any movement on stage.

When Allen did appear, the noise levels went through the roof. The crowd lapped it all up – every movement, every knowing wink and every “are ya havin’ a good time?”, which Allen repeated ad nauseam throughout his hour-long set. Musically, Allen is a cross between Hootie & the Blowfish and Maroon 5, basically country-folk inflected rock tempered with clinical blue-eyed soul. At best, Allen and his band would go down well with the pub-circuit audiences here. Good thing that Allen does not need to rely on the craft of his songs, because they possessed very little. Like a good pub band, Allen and company ran through some covers – Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror and an awkward medley of the Swell Season’s Falling Slowly and U2’s With or Without You.

But then, Allen does not profess to be an artist does he? He is an American Idol – meaning that the music is secondary to his celebrity status and I’m sure he makes no apologies for that. And why should he? It’s not his problem. It is ours…

We left even as the kids were baying for an encore and I was deeply contemplating the formula which the producers of American Idol have so successfully concocted. There is little doubt that those who paid S$99 to see Kris Allen got their money’s worth as Allen definitely gave the people what they wanted. After all, he only had to appear.

Yes, it seems troubling that the instrinsic worth of Allen is purely invested in his image/looks rather than his talent/skills but in our celebrity-obsessed pop culture where form is put above substance, you do always get what you want…

Thanks to Shaz and Midas Productions for the tickets.

BLUE RODEO

BLUE RODEO The Things We Left Behind (Telesoul)

This album, Canadian band Blue Rodeo’s 12th, is a testimony to the creative staying power of this extraordionary country-rock outfit. A double CD set consisting of 16 tracks, The Things We Left Behind is a lesson in how to deliver a first-rate country-rock album in this day and age.

In fact, in the absence of the now-defunct Jayhawks, Blue Rodeo is probably the alt-country standard bearer with its astute (and consistent) development of country-folk tunes matched with pop-rock dynamics.

On songs like the excellent Waiting For the World, Sheba, Arizona, In My Bones, the fragile soulfulness of the best country-folk shines through as acoustic guitars, pedal steels and violins pluck at your heartstrings. Whereas from the pop-rock perspective, wonderful songs like Never Look Back, the title track, Don’t Let the Darkness In Your Head and Wasted deliver all the right chops and hooks.

Yes, folks, this one is a definite keeper!

Official site

Myspace

THE LUXURY

THE LUXURY In the Wake Of What Won’t Change (Self-released)

Better late than never.

If I had listened to this excellent album in 2009, I would have certainly listed it in my top albums of that year. No doubt!

Suffice to say that this Boston-based band has produced a pop-rock classic which encapsulates everything that the Power of Pop believes passionately about music. Eclectic at its core, defiantly melodic (and harmonic) and referencing all the coolest bits of powerpop, Britpop, psychedelia, prog and post-punk (in a manner I had previously considered impossible), In the Wake Of What Won’t Change is one of those rare albums where swallowing it whole is essential to its full appreciation.

The album opens with electronic noise which seques into epic washes of sound and then kicks off with Getaway Car, a thrilling driving song that recalls Be Bop Deluxe. From then on, the keen listener needs to be strapped in for the ride as The Luxury delivers the amazing chorus of Take It Back (think: the Alan Parsons Project), the epic ‘Til Your Last Day (recalling best prog-pop exercises of Asia and Trevor Rabin-era Yes), the dynamic Next in Line, the jaunty Straitjacket and so on.

Better late than never indeed.

Official site

Myspace

ANNUALS

ANNUALS Sweet Sister (Banter)

Merely describing Raleigh, North Carolina sextet Annuals as an indie-pop outfit isn’t really much help. To these ears, Annuals is a creative unit which is passionate about creating eclectic, genuine pop-rock music. Therefore, on this new EP, Annuals demonstrate that they are equally at home with lusty country-folk (Flesh and Blood), whimsical rootsy jaunts (Holler and Howl), Latin-flavoured pop candy (Loxstep), world music-informed percussive nuggets (Sweet Sister) and atmospheric, moody pieces (Turncloaking).

Regular PoP visitors will be aware that the genre that I’ve coined for artists like Annuals is “widescreen rock”, which includes the likes of Mercury Rev, the Flaming Lips and the now-defunct Grandaddy. Meaning that these bands paint on a epic canvas and is all-inclusive in the genre-bending exercise they call songwriting. Well, Annuals is a widerscreen rock band, if I ever heard one. Displaying an impressive range of styles, Annuals is a band that surprises with every musical turn. My favourite kind!

Official Site

Myspace

WEEZER

WEEZER Raditude (DGC/Interscope)

The law of diminishing returns has been applying to Weezer’s albums since the lukewarm response to Maladroit (2002). Raditude, the band’s seventh album entered the Billboard Album Charts at 7th and it as been downhill from there (its #106 now). My own assessment is that the band has been trying too hard to replicate the freshness of popular albums like the Blue and Green albums as well as Pinkerton. Basically, the band has downplayed the pop-savvy hits of the past and has replaced this with attempts to be hip and cool by incorporating hip hop and rap elements into their music.

Maybe this accounts for the sheer number of producers involved in the making of Raditude – Dr Luke, Jacknife Lee, Polow Da Don, Butch Walker and Rivers Cuomo himself. The result? A mish-mash of uneven songs that are largely devoid of melodic ideas, heavy on production techniques and low on creative spark.

That said, I do like the verve and energy of opening single (If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To, with its infectious beat and sing-a-long chorus. Pity the rest of Raditude never quite touches these heights.

Official Site

CHASE HAMBLIN

CHASE HAMBLIN A Fine Time (Self-released)

In this day and age of throwaway, disposable pop, anyone crafting such inventive yet melodious pop music has got to be incredibly passionate and dedicated to his or her chosen musical style or genre. Singer-songwriter Chase Hamblin has been obviously influenced by the glorious 60s pop era as his 5-track EP contains knowing nods to the Beatles, the Bee Gees, the Beach Boys, the Monkees, the Kinks, Herman’s Hermits and so on.

Formerly of the now defunct Houston glam-metal outfit Penny Royal, Hamblin’s music recalls the pure pop stylings of Jellyfish, the Merrymakers, Sun Sawed in 1/2 and Bryan Scary and the Shredding Tears, which means there are choice whimsical, music hall moments alonside the serene chamber pop ones. The standout tracks being the jaunty A Fine Time, the dynamic Think of the Good Times and the pastoral Bye Bye.

So for power pop fans, let me just say that Hamblin is the real deal, there’s enough ear candy and intricately textural work to satisfy all your cravings.

Trivia note – Hamblin grew up in Singapore (’85 to ’93)!

Official Site

Myspace

CLIFF & THE SHADOWS

CLIFF AND THE SHADOWS The Final Reunion (Eagle Vision)

Ah, nostalgia.

Before the Beatles, Cliff Richard and the Shadows were the biggest band in Britain. John Lennon famously said that “before Cliff and The Shadows, there had been nothing worth listening to in British music.” And of course, Lennon was right. This DVD chronicles Cliff and the Shadows’ 50th anniversary show at the O2 Arena in London before 15,000 adoring fans.

It doesn’t matter how old or young you are, you will moved by this – Cliff and the Shadows are in fine fettle and the recording is immaculate. All the hits are dusted off and polished to a perfect shine – In The Country, Move It, Living Doll, The Young Ones, Travelling Light, Summer Holiday, Wonderful Land, Please Don’t Tease, Apache and so on. All told, 42 songs in one night. Amazing!

For fans of British rock ‘n’ roll, you can’t go far wrong with this essential DVD.

RJD2

RJD2 The Colossus (RJ’s Electrical Connections)

If you’re a fan of the critically acclaimed TV show, Mad Men, then you would be acquainted with RJd2’s work. Yes, folks, RJd2 (Real name – Ramble John “RJ” Krohn) is responsible for that magnificent theme song. Starting out mainly as a sample based instrumentalist (ala DJ Shadow), RJd2 has evolved into playing all the instruments heard on his albums and even venturing into singing as well. The results have been stellar, by all accounts.

The Colossus is RJd2’s latest album – the first on his own record label – and it is a wonderfully eclectic mash-ups of genres and styles underpinned by a strong sense of melody. The basic premise being – what if you took cool music from the 60s & 70s, like classic pop, prog rock and infused it with a modern hip-hop sensibility? Totally works for me.

Moving from epic soundscapes (A Spaceship For Now) to wide-eyed pop (The Shining Path) in one swoop summarizes what this album is all about. Add to it the McCartneyesque mellifluousness of Games You Can Win, the jazzy ambience of Tin Flower, the lusty vibrancy of Let There Be Horns, the Motown-inflected Walk With Me and what we have is a classic pop album, pure and simple.

Highly recommended!

Official site

Myspace

BON JOVI

BON JOVI The Circle (Island)

Still going strong after more than two decades, Bon Jovi returns with its latest album – The Circle – which debuted at pole position on the Billboard Album Charts. Quite an achievement. So how do they do it? The music itself is still in many ways Springsteen-lite and you wouldn’t think would appeal to the kids of today, who are either into R&B Hip-Hop, Post-Punk revival or Inane Pop.

On The Circle, Bon Jovi shake up their New Jersey rock ‘n’ roll, with a subtle nods to fellow 80s contemporaries like U2 and Metallica, not to mention the (risible) hair metal of that era. So its big choruses, fist-pumping anthems, power ballads and other predictable stuff.

Really, this is for the casual Top 40 listener, which I know is the majority of music-loving folk out there. Also includes a DVD to offer an incentive to purchase for the chronic downloading generation. I guess you could say I’m on the fence on this – I don’t hate it but I wouldn’t recommend it either.

KEN STRINGFELLOW LIVE IN SINGAPORE

The mark of a truly accomplished singer-songwriter is the ability to win over an audience totally unfamiliar with said singer-songwriter’s work. I’m pretty sure that most of the audience at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre were the usual weekend casual visitors who had no clue who the gaunt gentlemen with the black-painted fingernails was.

But the crowd exhibited its appreciation when Ken Stringfellow (best known as part of the 90s powerpop band The Posies), stood on the bleaches (instead of the stage) to belt out his intricate pop tunes without the benefit of a mic. Demonstrating an impressive set of pipes, guitar technique and superior songcraft, Stringfellow entertained the largely neophyte audience with his passion, talent and good humour.

Drawn mainly from his three solo albums, Stringfellow’s two sets were a sheer pleasure to behold. The musicians amongst us, were fixated on his chord shapes and structures, nodding our heads in unison with every nuance. Indeed, 2010 has gotten off to a magnificent musical start, with more to come…

Official Site

Myspace

KEN STRINGFELLOW

Ken Stringfellow – out of the legendary powerpop band the Posies – will be performing two sets at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre on Sunday, 10 Jan 10 at 7.30pm and 8.45pm respectively. Malaysian singer-songwriter Mohd Jayzuan will be opening. Do not miss this once-in-a-lifetime gig. Especially when its FREE. Brought to you by the great folks at Walk On Music.

Myspace

LING KAI

The lovely and supremely talented Ling Kai will be doing a mini-tour of Starbucks outlets in January. Her first performance is today, 9 Jan. Check out the schedule below and make your way to a Starbucks outlet for coffee and great music…

Sat, 9 Jan, 4pm: Liat Towers

Thu, 14 Jan, 1pm: Capital Tower

Sat, 16 Jan, 4pm: Tanglin Mall

Thu, 21 Jan, 12.30pm: Singapore Land Tower

Sat, 23 Jan, 4pm: Raffles City

Thu, 28 Jan, 12.30pm: OCBC Building

Sat, 30 Jan, 4pm: ION Orchard

Exclusively at Starbucks:

Purchase a copy of Ling Kai’s debut EP “Honestly” for the price of $11.95 (U.P. $13.95) when you buy Ling’s favourite beverage: a Grande Triple Shot Caramel Macchiato.

Official Site

Facebook event page

FLORENCE + THE MACHINE

FLORENCE + THE MACHINE Lungs (Universal)

Electro-alt-R&B. Something like that. Kinda like Yazoo, y’know the duo of Alf Moyet and Vince Clarke in the 80s, if anyone of you can remember that far back. Dynamic, muscular and forthright – Florence Welch and friends present “in-your-face” pop music that challenges perceptions both lyrically and musically.

Howl is a prime example as the song threatens to overwhelm with over the top strings and screaming vocals as Florence sings – “If you could only see the beast you’ve made of me/I held it in but now it seems you’ve set it running free/The saints can’t help me now, the ropes have been unbound/I hunt for you with bloody feet across the hallowed ground”.

The violent imagery is carried on into Kiss with a Fist, a rockabilly number where Florence recalls Chrissie (Pretenders) Hynde with lines like “A kick in the teeth is good for some/A kiss with a fist is better than none”. Good stuff.

The rest of Lungs is just as intriguing as Florence + the Machine brings diverse musical and lyrical ideas to the table with a firm foundation in 80s post-punk, which is perfectly fine in my book. An emerging artist to watch…

Florence + the Machine is performing live in Singapore (supported by the xx) on Sunday, 7th February 2009 at the Esplanade Theatre at 8pm. Tickets available at SISTIC.

Official Site

MySpace

DARYL HALL JOHN OATES

DARYL HALL JOHN OATES Do What You Want Be What You Are (RCA/Legacy)

If anyone deserves the deluxe retrospective multi-disc box set treatment, it’s got to be Daryl Hall and John Oates, don’t you think?

What makes Hall & Oates so special? How about being one of few acts to have been able to effectively blur the lines behind pop, rock and soul? And if you’re into numbers, how about SIX #1 hits on the Billboard charts and THIRTY-FOUR charting singles in the Billboard Top 100, all told? Not enough? Then what about SEVEN RIAA platinum albums and SIX RIAA gold albums?! Basically, the most successful pop duo in history.

For me, its all about the sheer eclecticism of the music and those amazing tunes, as always! And cool, cool vibes.

This 4CD set contains 74 tracks, all those hits, choice album cuts, live and unreleased recordings to round this up nicely. Although, Hall & Oates hit their purple patch in the 80s, they cut their teeth in the 70s, covering a wide range of genres. The 1st disc brings us up to 1977’s No Goodbye, the duo’s first compilation. Highlights include the epic ballad Waterwheel (off Whole Oats), She’s Gone (off Afternoon Luncheonette), Is It A Star? (off the Todd Rundgren-produced War Babies) and It’s Uncanny (off the aforementioned No Goodbyes). Not to mentioned early singles from pre-duo era in the 60s, which basically derived from a love of Philly Soul and the Temptations.

The 2nd and 3rd discs basically contain my personal Hall & Oates playlist as tracks from wondrous albums like the eponymous “Silver Album” (with the guys in full glam mode), X-Static, Voices, Private Eyes, H2O and Big Bam Boom turn out magnificient song after magnificient song. This is where I go misty-eyed, sing-a-long and simply groove to Sara Smile, Wait For Me, The Woman Comes and Goes, How Does It Feel To Be Back, Kiss on my List, You Make My Dreams, Everytime You Go Away, Head Above Water, Did It In A Minute, I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do), One On One, Go Solo, Say It Isn’t So, Out of Touch, Method of Modern Love and Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid. Whew! What an incredible rush!

The last disc loses steam somewhat and a little focus with the duo’s commercial success beginning to ebb at the end of the 80s. Still tracks like Everything Your Heart Desires and Change of Season are worthy additions to the canon. The set closes with two previously unreleased songs, a 2007 live version of the “title” track (a true statement of intent, if there ever was one) and a re-recording of Dreamer, a song Hall wrote in 1972. Both songs indicate the light has not dimmed despite advancing years.

What more can I say? Every PoP visitor must own this essential collection – yes, you deserve some Hall & Oates in your lives! Whether you’re a rock scholar or a casual listener, there’s enough of everything in the art & craft of Hall & Oates that you will become besotted with – I guarantee it! Enough of the hard sell, go and get it and to Daryl and John if you’re reading this, thanks for the wonderful music!

Official Site

CLARE AND THE REASONS

CLARE AND THE REASONS Arrow (Frog Stand)

If you were a mad scientist and discovered a means to distill the talents of Paul McCartney, XTC, John Cale and Brian Wilson and add a huge dollop of female sensibility, you’d probably end up with Clare and the Reasons. This Brooklyn-based band follow up their critically lauded debut Movie with an even more accomplished pure pop effort. Rather astonishing actually.

Eclectic at its core, the music on Arrow mixes and mashed chamber pop (with lush classical arrangements), electronica (throbbing, pulsing synth patterns), music hall quirkiness (check out the bizarre cover of Genesis’ That’s All!) and general pop mellifluousness.

Together with Elizabeth and the Catapult’s Taller Children, Arrow might just be the pop album of the year!

Essential, of course.

Official Site

MySpace

BROOKVILLE

brookville

BROOKVILLE Broken Lights (Unfiltered)

Let’s play six degrees of separation, shall we? Let’s see, Brookville’s main man is Andy Chase. Chase and Adam Schlesinger are both in Ivy. Then, Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood form the nucleus of Fountains of Wayne. Of course, Chris and I played at Baybeats together in August! 5 degrees!

Pardon my self-indulgence but I always need to keep things interesting when reviewing CDs. Fact is, I’ve been criminally negligent in taking so long in reviewing Broken Lights as it is a sumptous album that every serious Pop enthusiast will thrill to. Think of Broken Lights as a loving paean to all things British indie twee pop married with muscular melodicism of 80s blue-eyed soul-pop. A perfect combination, believe me!

Did I just say, soulful and twee? Yep! Sure, Chase and co never quicken the pace too much but this album contains enough jazz-inflected, soft-pop channeling R&B nuggets that bridges both sides of the Atlantic to make this appealing to the US pop underground and the British indie dance scene.

From start to finish, the songs are immaculate as Chase creates his own world of Rhodes keyboards, spidery fretplay, Spectoresque percussion and breathy vocals, which will easily transport the unsuspecting listener to bliss. Highly recommended.

MySpace

Watch the music video for Great Mistake below.

MARIE DIGBY

Marie_phixr

MARIE DIGBY Breathing Underwater (Hollywood)

When Marie Digby was last in Singapore, I was invited to interview her in person. To be honest, I didn’t give it a second thought until I watched a couple of her youtube videos. The girl is hot, no doubt! I even considered taking a day off to meet her in the flesh. But of course, I didn’t. This fact – exotic good looks (Digby is Irish-Japanese) – sometimes works against female singer-songwriters when critics tend to assume that hotness equals lack of talent whatsoever.

A quick look at the CD sleeve will reveal that one, its filled to the max with glamour shots of Digby and two, all the songs are co-written by Digby and a slew of other folk. To be honest, its hard not to be cynical. Especially when you actually listen to the tracks on Breathing Underwater. Pretty generic stuff, with the typical pre-fabricated rampant auto-tuning that is robbing many of these pop divas of any soul whatsoever.

hn-marie-digby-1

I mean, to be brutally frank, I would say that any of our S-ROCK grrls viz. Rach, Ling or Inch, would easily give Digby a run for her money in the creativity stakes. BUT in the final analysis, its all about the image and the hype isn’t it? Crucially, possession of this CD is more about buying into the the Marie Digby package – beauty, sex appeal etc – rather than the music. Sad but true, doesn’t stop anyone from gawking but there you go…

THE BEATLES REMASTERS

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THE BEATLES Remasters: Stereo Box Set (Apple/EMI)

Like many others, I was skeptical (and a tad cynical) when news was released about the re-issue of the Beatles back catalogue in a new remastered CD format. In fact, days before the 090909 release date, I was convinced that I would only purchase selected titles. So here I am having acquired the stereo box set for a princely sum… with absolutely no regrets!

It’s seems odd that Apple/EMI took 22 years to remaster the first CD re-issue (back in 1987) but perhaps the delay was actually a blessing in disguise as obviously technological advances have resulted in a remaster package EVERY Fab Four fan will take pleasure in.

After the harsh, tinny, weak ambiance of the ’87 re-issues, listening to the remastered albums is akin to hearing these wonderful LPs for the first time again. No mere hyperbole dear PoP visitors – this is the real deal!

The improvement in the aural experience is shocking… vocals have greater clarity (harmonies can be easily distinguished), electric guitars are crisper, bass/drums are punchier and the balance of the musical components is perfect. The overall warmer sound is probably closest to the vinyl so far.

Considering that most of the albums were originally recorded and presented in mono, the fact that the stereo versions sound so “right” is a minor miracle and a credit to the engineers who toiled over the remastering over four years. The early albums really benefit from this process – the Please Please Me LP really springs from the traps and the recording is so fresh, it sounds like it was made yesterday.

Sgt Pepper is also a revelation – especially Fixing A Hole, She’s Leaving Home and Getting Better – as I always thought that even the stereo vinyl was possessed of a shoddy demeanour. Of course, my top 2 Beatles faves viz White Album & Abbey Road are simply sonically astounding e.g. Back in the USSR seems to rock harder, Dear Prudence’s guitar riffs chimes brighter, While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ organ resonates stronger, Here Comes the Sun’s synths shine through, Golden Slumber’s performance is more powerful and so on…

What more can I say? All my doubts have been proven wrong. If you are a Beatles fan (and I guess you are) then this box set is the holy grail and there’s no good reason not to add this to your Beatles collection. Oh, one more thing, the box also contains a DVD collecting the mini-documentaries found in Quicktime format on each disc and the samples of the remastered tracks sound even better there – does that mean a DVD-Audio version of this set can be expected soon? The mind boggles.

Official Site

COLBIE CAILLAT

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COLBIE CAILLAT Breakthrough (Universal Republic)

This is the new pop? I’m sorry but it’s hard not be cynical when confronted by an artist like Colbie Caillat. I mean, how could she fail? With her long blonde tresses and pretty face, she would always turn heads and get attention. Oh and the fact that her father, Ken, is a successful record producer and worked on Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours and Tusk albums, I’m sure did not hurt, either.

The songs are pleasing enough, if a tad predictable, and Caillat’s has a good enough voice to carry the tunes but there’s a nagging suspicion that its all too pre-fabricated to be taken seriously. This is the kind of middle-of-the-road wallpaper music that the likes of Olivia Newton-John would bore us with in the mid-70s. Surely, with his connections, papa Caillat would have been able to come up with better songs – who knows get the great Lindsay Buckingham to contribute, maybe?

For casual pop fans only.

FOR THIS CYCLE

Frontcopy

FOR THIS CYCLE s/t (Big Ear Musica)

Weiwen Seah is For This Cycle. As improbable as it may sounds, this 16 year old singer-songwriter has been writing and performing for more than two years now and its no exaggeration to suggest that Weiwen is probably the “next big thing” of the S-ROCK scene now.

Putting aside the hype, there’s no denying the immense potential of Weiwen’s songwriting, not to mention the impressive fanbase he has built up in a relatively short space of time. This 5-song debut EP is testimony to Weiwen’s potential. Whilst Weiwen certainly takes a huge leaf out of the popular artists of his generation viz. Jason Mraz, Jack Johnson, John Mayer et al, he has the maturity and chops to vary his sound ever so slightly.

And thus, this debut EP features two tracks of a full-band line up (which include Livonia/Electrico alumni Daniel Sassoon), two tracks of guitar/percussion and one track of Weiwen solo. My personal favourite of the bunch is Paper Feet (which was probably the best performance at the recently concluded Live ‘N’ Loaded TV series) with its breezy jazz tone and incongruent melancholy mood – “I’ve seen it all from Taiwan to Missouri (pronounced as “misery”)/But I spent my days hiding in my shell, idly”. Coming close is the closing For What Its Worth with its U2 meets Mraz feel, very radio friendly with good positive vibes to boot.

For This Cycle (both the artist and the EP) are easy to get comfortable with, the force of Weiwen’s likable personality will penetrate your prejudices and defences effortlessly and tickle your senses. This is a solid start for the young man and definitely, Weiwen is an artist to watch carefully. Hopefully it’s the beginning of a long and exciting journey…

Check out For This Cycle at Myspace.

Music video for Paper Feet below. Enjoy!

WAYNE COYNE’S BIG ASS FANS

Flaming Lip Wayne Coyne talks about his big ass fan. Really.

And if you like the music in the background, you can pick it up here.

The song is Vortex Punch by Big Fresh.

Cool, huh?

More about Big Fresh in the days to come.

…still there’s more…

CLAIRE DENAMUR

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CLAIRE DENAMUR Le Prince Charmant (Source Etc)

The excitement that overwhelmed me when I got to review this album was indescribable. It’s not everyday one gets to enjoy and review French music. So bear with me while I walk you through the eclectic offering of this emerging French artiste – because you won’t be able to find anything else on her unless you comprehend French.

Denamur credits the variety in her music to her mixed family background – an Argentinian mother and a French-Dutch father and spending her early childhood in Toronto and then in upstate New York. Her influences range from Nina Simone, Edith Piaf, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd to Nat King Cole, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. These influences are evident on her album, which makes it such a treat because she has a vulnerable, pristine quality to her voice.

The title of the album literally translates to “The Prince Charming” and all ten tracks on the album explore themes of attraction, love and disillusion but with gentleness and at a whimsical pace that you’ll feel the music embrace you while De Namur soothes you through it all.

Worthy of mention is Je Me Sens Nue (I Feel Naked), a track where Denamur likens to how she feels when she’s performing – stripped down/transparent and giving everything she has. The track itself sounds chirpy and has an easy flow of a modern jazz feel.

Another track Mal Aimee (Evil Aimee), echos of a beautiful Spanish guitar which cues in this stripped down, quiet South American ballad, complete with harmonious vocals. Elio, the last track of the album is in a similar vein, it goes a step further with its tropical feel and Denamur’s vocals serving as a melodious lullaby.

My personal favourite is the second track from the album, Ah les Hommes (Ah Men). The bluegrass feel of this track is a hauntingly beautiful ode to men.

Le Prince Charmant is out now and should be on your list if you like jazzy, bluesy European fusion and French flair with your glass of wine.

(Charlotte Lourdes)

Check out Claire’s Myspace page. Video of Prince Charmant follows.