When I heard “Creator,” I didn’t want to like her. Sure, it was good…but that’s M.I.A.’s territory! So, I neglected to listen to her debut album for many weeks. Finally, I decided to check out her video for “L.E.S. Artistes,” which came out recently. Only now do I realize that my criticism was unjust–she’s much more than the follow-up act I assumed she was trying to be.
With Gwen Stefani ska-like vocal stylings, the Yeah Yeah Yeah‘s warbling, crashing sounds, some Blondie, some reggae, the M.I.A. experimentalist beats, and a handful of tricks of her own, Santogold is the new big thing; she’s different, exciting, and promising. Her debut is an eclectic collection of the above–never too much of the same, the songs are complexly varied in their styles, speeds, and sounds.
The lead off tracks (which happen to offer the greatest departures of the album as well), “You’ll Find A Way” and “L.E.S. Artistes” are raw, biting indie-pop gems, full of explosive energy. “Unstoppable,” the reggae-tinged electro drifter, and “Creator” offer the clearest lines of symmetry to M.I.A.’s work, though they’re thankfully not perfectly exact. Then there’s “My Superman” and “Starstruck” which both move at a near snail-like pace, though they’re nothing short of hauntingly paced mind-fucks. The bonus track album closer, “You’ll Find A Way (Switch & Seiden Remix)” is an amazing reinterpretation of the original–converting the song’s original indie-rock flavor into unforgivably hard-hitting, guns blazing electro warfare. In short, there’s never a dull moment.
Playful, carefree, and explosive, the debut holds a lot of promise…I’m a big fan, plain and simple. I think the aspect I like most about Santogold is her sound…or lack thereof. She’s not any artist in particular, as evidenced within this album. She bounces around between genres, combining and stripping down, but never actually conforming to a specific niche. Come in with no expectations, and leave without labeling it, because you can’t. So do yourselves a favor and check out her MySpace here, as well as the video for “L.E.S. Artistes” below.
And if you can’t get enough, listen to the remix of “You’ll Find A Way” that I spoke of below. Heaven!
They’re cute, they’re crunchy, and most importantly…they’re back! Collaborating with mega producer and master remixer Junkie XL, the power-pop electro duo Electrocute have just released their newest EP, On The Beat. Combining the light hearted glee of ’60′s beach party music, garage band punk, and the throbbing pulses of today’s most modern electro sounds, the girl’s six track mini-album provides a quick, powerful thrust of addictive energy in just over twenty minutes. I was quite pleased with the total package; it’s exciting, unpredictable, and relentlessly teasing. Just listen to the first ten seconds of “On The Beat” and tell me you’re not thirsting for more. So check it out and ride the beats while they last, because before you know it, the album’s notes blare to a close and the party’s over. Click here to download the album from here, and check out their MySpace here!
Now…I present a transcript of the e-mail interview I conducted with Nicole from Electrocute! She explains a bit more about the construction of the album, delivers a bit of sass, and questions my fandom of Britney Spears. A thin line to cross, my friend. A thin one. Nevertheless, here we go!
Your new EP, On The Beat, just came out on April 15th. Congratulations! What are your thoughts on this new record?
We are just happy to be free from a label and independently releasing our own music again. It’s really fun and we feel now that we are all set up to digitally distribute our songs we will be much more prolific and it’s an exciting new world in music.
How long did it take to construct this EP?
All of our lives and about 6 months.
You worked with Junkie XL in producing this, who happens to be one of my favorite producers. What was the experience like working with him?
He is totally awesome. We also collaborated with him on some songwriting for 3 songs on his latest album “Booming Back At You” and one of the songs called “Mad Pursuit” that’s featuring Electrocute was just in the movie “21″ as well as the soundtrack CD. We love working with him. He’s a really nice guy, one of the smartest people we’ve ever met. The guys brain is just on fire. But he’s also a great sound crafter and he gave the songs a different life.
Any disagreements, or was this a very cordial experience?
It took a really long time to decide upon the album cover as you can imagine. The photo was taken by Evan Lane who is extremely talented “we met him on myspace”. The shoot was really fun as it involved raincoats, bikinis, cling wrap and a fog machine. VoilÃ !
Having recently acquired three new members to make up a fuller live band, do you feel that your live shows have more to offer now?
Well, we’ve always prided ourselves of dishing up pretty exciting live shows compared to most. But the musicians playing with us are exceptional and it’s a lot of fun to get their different input into the songs we have created.
I wish I could go to a show–you should tour over on this side of the pond!
We tour everywhere they will have us! When’s the show?
Now what sort of music do you get your influence from to create music?
It changes all the time as we both have extremely short attention spans.
In your biography, you say that the band was inspired by the sounds of the Berlin electroclash scene. Since I wasn’t there, I would love to know what that was like. Can you describe the environment at that time?
Fun, deranged, lost, and no damage control.
What about the electro scene in America? Is there even one?
Now Nicole, you co-wrote “Heaven on Earth” with Freescha for Britney. As her number one fan, I feel required to ask if you worked directly with Britney or not, and if so, what that was like? Were you aware that the song would be serviced to Britney?
Number 1 fan? I’m sure that would have to mean you have beaten out some very obsessed people, I’ve seen some of the fansites. Britney is great, she did an amazing job with the song. It’s one of the best songs I’ve ever written and I think it fit nicely to her voice.
And now, what’s next for Electrocute?
We are heading off to Europe for the month of May for a mini tour and we will commence work on a new E.P once we get back to L.A.
Any last things you’d like to say to our readers?
Look out for our new video for the song “On The Beat”. Its a collaboration with Jeaneen Lund and the ultra talented dancer/choreographer Ryan Heffington and his “Fingered” dance troupe.
I’d like to thank Electrocute for popping in and giving us all a taste of what’s happening. I look forward to seeing more!
Post written by guest blogger, RJ Kozain.
The drawn out bass and hip-hop melodies that made Portishead one of the driving forces of the trip-hop genre may be gone, but the vocals, lyrics, instrumental moods that make you want to hang yourself from your repressed depression are all still as vibrant as ever on their cleverly titled third album Third, their first studio release in eleven years.
Through black out-dark electronic, ambient and industrial influences, Beth Gibbons, Geoff Barrow and Adrian Utley deliver another masterpiece that is sure to be rotating in stereos across college music lover’s dorm rooms for years to come.
“Silence,” the albums opener track is definitely anything but what the title suggests. Hi-hats, pianos, electronic beeps that resemble something you’d hear when you press a panic button, and tribal percussion (amongst other layers) make the track sound like something you’d hear on the group’s self-titled 1997 release–if it were to be re-released in 2008. “Did you know when you lost?” Ms. Gibbons painfully moans over the track. Uhh..you didn’t lose anything. You still got the beat, Ms. Thang!
An abruptly silent cut off ends the first song and moves you into “Hunter,” which starts like a depressing down-tempo jazz track on drugs, moves into yet another round of electronic “THE WORLD WILL EXPLODE” beeps, and dives right back into suicidal-industrial jazz. This is probably the song that stays the most true to the Bristol sound (or trip-hop) genre.
“Nylon Smile” follows and brings the tribal beats back. The vocals start off with harmonies that could easily be stuck into a R&B tune if the melody wasn’t dragged out with Beth’s crazy voice. “I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve you..” she sings. I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve to have my ears ejaculating over every second of this CD so far, suicide woman.
If this kind of music is not for you, I am absolutely not lying when I tell you to hop on AmazonMP3′s download Third’s fourth track “The Rip” right now. RIGHT NOW!!! Absolutely everything about this song is shining and perfect. If anyone can find a flaw in this song, please tell me. Everything from the instrumental, the vocals, the lyrics, and the melody screams, “Put me on a Goldfrapp CD right now, damn it!” Synths! Oh god, the synths! Also, there is a random hi-hat at 2:33. Yes, a completely random hi-hat sound that makes the song even more special because it only happens once in the song–and its not expected at all. However, I don’t like how the song fades out just as the track is getting good. While this is the album’s best track, it could have definitely been developed into something more. Then again, Portishead always seems to fade out their tracks when its getting good. It’s their thing….
“Plastic” sounds like someone is trying to perform at a church, but a helicopter keeps flying over the place. It develops into a battle ground of guitars, electronic beeps and squeals, dark synths, and tom-tom drums. Its a song you’d hear during a down-tempo version of an opera. Hmm..a down-tempo opera, wouldn’t that be hot? “We Carry On” soon follows with a high looped electronic sound and if you extract the distorted bass, you could place it in a happy-bubbly t.A.T.u. song, where it’d sound just as good.
“Deep Water” offers a calm before the storm. It sounds like the group made a stop in Hawaii and decided to turn some Hawaiian tunes into a simplistic down-tempo vibe. They got it spot on! It also combines 1950′s style harmonies. This is the album’s happiest point, offering the lyrics “deep water won’t scare me tonight.” Awe..happy.
Just when you think someone gave this album some uppers, “Machine Gun” suddenly shoots the album’s only spark of joyfulness nine times in the heart and lets it bleed all over the cold, hard concrete floor while screaming “STOP SMILING, FUCKHEAD.” This song will not hesitate to shoot you…and it will not miss. Not once. Every other measure it offers a round of two percussive sixteenth notes in the form of industrial drums as Beth cries your death. She effing cries it. She knows you’re dying when you hear this track and by the time the distortion on the track comes on…you’re dead. That distortion, in my opinion, symbolizes your brain shutting down..but you’re still being shot. This track is most likely the hardest of hard when it comes to mainstream trip-hop and industrial music. Tricky also has the experimental beats and voice to make you die on the spot, but Portishead does it in a mainstream way. Whether premeditated or not, if I were the judge, they’d be found innocent of all charges pressed against them. (If you followed the extreme amounts of symbolism in this paragraph, I congratulate you.)
“Small” is the next track and starts off like a lot of songs on this album start off, with nothing but a guitar, it then moves into a single string instrument playing and morphs into trip-hop bliss. “Magic Doors” provides a Tricky-esque beat and ends with something that sounds like an elephant is being strangled before a hopeful and cheerful piano begins, which offers Third‘s most emotional climax of the entire album.
Before you know it, Small is cross-fading into the album’s closer track, “Threads.” Isn’t it sad? Your auditory orgasm you’ve been waiting eleven years for is already coming to a close? Yeah, I was a bit disappointed too. “Threads” offers another moment of past Portishead sounds, and is a great way to end the album. If you’re a fan of industrial trip-hop, you won’t feel let down in the slightest. This Portishead album is worth every single cent you spent.
Note: This album isn’t exactly for the pop lovers. It is an extremely long way away from the group’s international success, “Dummy.” But seriously, if you aren’t into this album, please hop onto AmazonMP3‘s (because iTunes DRM is the devil,) and download “The Rip.” You’ll get your money’s worth.
And for those who picked up Portishead’s 1998 live release, I think we can both agree that they can still perform stunningly.
I do a lot of strange things in the shower. I sing, I dance, I [insert lyrics to Britney Spears' "Touch of my Hand" here,] but I also think about things. Like, really deep things. Tonight’s shower subject was the deepest of the deep: ROBYN IS RELEASING HER INTERNATIONALLY 2005 RELEASED SELF-TITLED ALBUM IN THE UNITED STATES OF WE HAVE TERRIBLE MUSIC TASTE TOMORROW.
The girl who brought you 90′s anthems such as “Show Me Love” is back with an album that bleeds pop creativity. The adventure begins with “Curriculum Vitae” which is the most in-your-face introduction that has been released in recent times. Thunder and hell’s bells set the tone for the intro’s opening lines, “Listen, you cannot stop this, you cannot escape it, and you can’t turn it off / So I’d appreciate your kind consideration in this matter, sir or ma’am, would you please turn it the fuck up.” If you don’t follow these sets of instructions and turn it up, you’re out of your mind.
“Konichiwa Bitches,” the albums opening track, tells you everything you need to know about the album through the lyrics. She’s so hot that you call the fire station, she’ll take you on…and she’ll stuff you in the trunk. Sounds like my mind of girl..if I were straight. Robyn’s album continues on with its electro beats on “Cobrastyle” and takes a creative (and safe) twist by reversing the word “nazi” in “Handle Me.”
The album takes an extremely emotional turn with the song that got me hooked on this girl, which is possibly the album’s highlight track. The Kleerup produced “With Every Heartbeat” is packed with a 4/4 bass and kick, synths that could make you cry if they were more musically elaborated, and lyrics about a broken heart that leave you thinking about that love that got away. It hurts with every heartbeat to listen to this song–but don’t be nervous. Even though the album’s next track “Who’s That Girl,” covers female insecurity, it attacks trying to be strong and independent even when wanting to be that girl. It also brings back the upbeat electro-R&B beats that this record is built on.
“Crash and Burn” has a unique vocal sample that plays from start to end and has Robyn singing like she’s a female Prince during the verses, pop-queen during the bridge, and R&B princess during the chorus. This is about as eclectic as the album gets, which is not a problem at all.
If you’re still listening past “Robot Boy” and “Eclipse,” then you already fuckin’ know that this album is nothing short of fire and “Should Have Known” enforces that fact. This strict R&B track, which sounds like something Monica could sing is yet another album stand out that covers the subject of a woman being a fool for not seeing a future break up.
“Anything you Like,” an ambient-R&B track slows the album down to a 3LW-esque crawl and takes you to the ending comical track “Jack U Off,” but Robyn, I don’t need you to do that….I just got out of the shower.
-With Every Heartbeat
-Should Have Known
-Crash and Burn
Other releases for April 29th, 2008:
“Hard Candy” by Madonna (What was she thinking? ew!!)
“Third” by Portishead (I’m sure you’ll see a great album review for this on Tuesday/Wednesday.)
Read on for my incredibly long, incredibly serious review of Madonna‘s 11th studio album, Hard Candy!
Madonna truly does want to devour the world. In 2005, Confessions On A Dance Floor further cemented her status as an icon within discotheques around the world, as well as a seat upon the throne as the reigning Queen of Pop. The album served as an unapologetic gift to her long-term fan base, making no pretense in its pandering toward her faithful gay following. Now, after coming back from the hugely successful Confessions Tour, Madonna has returned to reinvent herself with a few new friends in tow and a new mission in mind: universal appeal.
Most fans, including myself, were incredibly dismayed to hear of Madonnaâ€™s decision to turn to todayâ€™s most prominent producers for the crafting of her upcoming album. Securing Timbaland was probably the greatest let down, especially considering his reputation as a career reviver for musicians looking to secure a major radio hit or two. As a true pioneer of pop, Madonna has always had a wealth of undiscovered talent at her disposal. But as evidenced through various interviews in the past few, Madonna wants more fans. So this time around, sheâ€™s fancied herself a very modern, very urban flavor catering to todayâ€™s Top 40 friendly sounds.
The album begins with â€œCandy Shop,â€ which sounds no different than it did when it leaked months ago. While its simplistic production and uninspired lyrics were none too thrilling at the time, none could foretell that the track would eventually become a refreshingly breezy opener to this heavily overproduced album. â€œ4 Minutesâ€ comes in quickly thereafter, horns blaring, as the Timbaland circus begins. The over-excited lead single is currently burning up the charts around the world, and for good reason. Truthfully, this is an addictive track, though itâ€™s impossible to fully enjoy without realizing that the songâ€™s been done many times before with many other artists over the past two years.
Next up is â€œGive It 2 Me,â€ the Pharrell produced second single. Implementing some rave-happy synthesizers and a bit of the old cowbell, the track is a stand-out from the pack. The manâ€™s brought in a dozen production tricks of the trade, including a massive breakdown comparable to a dizzying round of Dance Dance Revolution. â€œLeft, left, right, right,â€ Pharrell chants as Madonna continues to taunt, â€œGet stupid/Get Stupid.â€ Itâ€™s enough to briefly disorient, though itâ€™s a fun sort of confusion here. A small issue is the breakdownâ€™s curious similarity to the Pharell produced â€œYummyâ€ by Gwen Stefani. As I later found out, this would not be the last of the Stefani comparisons. â€œHeartbeatâ€ offers another journey into a kind of synthesized heaven, this time with a surprisingly fuller vocal performance. Thereâ€™s not much here beside some warm dance energy and a bit of throwaway fun.
â€œMiles Away,â€ the fifth track of the album, leaked in lower quality weeks ago on Japanese television. The chorus was undoubtedly a moment of absolute otherworldly bliss, with the potential to lift the album to a higher level. Needless to say, this was my most anticipated track to hear. Sadly, it soon became a deep disappointment. Ten seconds into the song, a Timbaland-voiced beat-box bursts in unannounced above the unassuming acoustic guitar, undercutting the sincerity that the track would have potentially provided. It was deeply frustrating to hear, not only because it destroys the mood of the track, but because the song carries the potential to be better. Despite the obnoxious nature of the human beat-box undertone, the song still performs quite well, though it could truly benefit from an acoustic reinterpretation.
After â€œMiles Awayâ€ comes â€œSheâ€™s Not Me,â€ kicking into the speakers with a funky guitar riff and a handful of bitter lyrics: â€œShe started talking like me and dressing like me/It freaked me out/She started calling you up in the middle of the night/Whatâ€™s that about?â€ The songâ€™s finale also features a surprisingly addictive techno-like breakdown of the chorus to make the song even more addictive. Granted, this is no â€œThief of Hearts,â€ but the song does supply the albumâ€™s greatest amount of unadulterated sass.
â€œIncredibleâ€ is absolutely out of control. Some reviewers seem to consider the song to be an album highlight, but I think this chugging, disjointed mess of a song is the albumâ€™s small disaster. Itâ€™s once again Gwen-reminiscent, though a bit more clunky and strange than the No Doubt singerâ€™s works. Thereâ€™s simply nothing redeemable about this track. The song simply sputters on until the unpredictably fantastic â€œhands upâ€ moment halfway through, though once the trance-happy break dies down, the return to the next verse is entirely unsatisfying. As Madonna laments throughout the chorus: â€œCanâ€™t get my head around it / I need to think about it,â€ I canâ€™t help but agree.
Next on the lineup is â€œBeat Goes On,â€ another romp through the sounds of dizzying disco which happens to echo some of Donna Summerâ€™s greatest releases. As the twinkling beats die down three minutes in, the stage is set for a brief intermission by the one and only Kanye West. He goes into a rather run-of-the-mill breakdown rap that feels appropriate; though the act grows a bit stale once he decides to name drop his latest single. Luckily, the beat picks back up from where it started, bowing out neatly.
â€œDance 2Nightâ€ is the moment of pure, unadulterated Madonna. Conjuring memories of earlier works such as â€œHolidayâ€ and â€œLucky Star,â€ the sparkling up-tempo track features a pleasant Justin Timberlake duet and carries a funky string rhythm. â€œYou donâ€™t have to be beautiful to be understood,â€ she sings â€œYou just gotta give more, more, more / Than you ever have before.â€ The track has all the makings of a wonderfully constructed disco gem, with a few neat tricks thrown in from time to time.
Then comes â€œSpanish Lesson.â€ Now, as much as we all may benefit from the Material Girlâ€™s Latin-tinged vocabulary quiz, the track fails to evoke any actual knowledge. Or pleasure, for that matter. To be fair, Spanish was never really her forteâ€”After all, â€œLa Isla Bonitaâ€ isnâ€™t exactly the first track you that comes to mind when you think Madonna, is it? Within the song, we once again run into the Gwen Stefani comparison, this time during the voiced breakdown. If it didnâ€™t sound so eerily similar to the chorus of â€œYummyâ€ by Stefani (which was also produced by Pharell), the track probably would have felt more genuine.
After my disappointment with â€œMiles Away,â€ I was almost resistant to listening to the tenth track, â€œDevil Wouldnâ€™t Recognize You,â€ another track that held my curiosity after hearing the preview. Luckily, my expectations were exceeded in this case. Drifting upon a drippy, electro beat, Madonna tells the tale of a damaging lover in this smartly crafted, mature mid-tempo track. â€œNow Iâ€™m sober, no more intoxicating my mind / Even the devil wouldnâ€™t recognize you / But I do,â€ she taunts aggressively, proving that Madonna will never truly allow herself to play the fool.
â€œVoicesâ€ ushers in the albumâ€™s closing with a somewhat S&M themed stringed seduction. Echoing the slinky beats from the Erotica era, the track is a romantic comedown from the albumâ€™s bouncy material. With a triumphant piano flourish melting slowly into the cascading beats, the song dies down as she purrs, â€œWho is the master, and who is the slave?â€ Madonna may have just turned 50, but this song serves as a lasting reminder that she will never be too old to break out a whip or two.
Madonnaâ€™s mission here is to captivate the general audience with the bells and whistles of todayâ€™s latest and greatest move makers. Does she deliver? Certainly, though she clearly let the professionals have their share of fun in constructing the album. Unfortunately there are some irritating characteristicsâ€”especially the infuriating signature Timbaland beat which winds itself through almost the entire album. However, along with these annoyances are dozens of brilliant moments made to motivate the body into the groove. This is a Madonna album, after all. No matter how hard she may try to incorporate the latest trends, she will always, at heart, appeal to the dance floor.
Hard Candy, then, is a rather appropriate title for the albumâ€™s listening experience: The album is packed full with delicious treats, often filled with unexpected sweet surprises inside. But wrapped around these tasty, trancey flourishes of fun are rough, crunchy urban beats that often overshadow the greatness that each track could provide. And thanks to its of-the-moment production, this Candyâ€™s been dealt a short shelf life of relevance, which will inevitably grow stale after only a few years.