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Saturday, December 09, 2006

Video Premiere: The Sounds - Painted By Numbers

This video's been out for a short while now, but I just saw it for the first time yesterday. Of all the Sounds' promos so far, this new one is definitely their most glamorous. And, for a band with as much style as these guys have, it's a perfect opportunity to showcase them at their best. Doesn't hurt that the song's amazing, too.


“It doesn't matter what you want, it matters that you get what you want”

Beginning with a blippy synthetic intro, Broke On A Wheel doesn't initially sound like much. That is, until you get into the gorgeous verses. Plug-In City are a new band from Australia that plays lovely pop/rock with a nice glossy-yet-still-organic sound, where the electronic influences support the music rather than take it over. Kind of like Eskimo Joe with a bit more bite, Plug-In City is yet another promising young band coming out of Australia.

Download: Plug-In City - Broke On A Wheel

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists! No album yet, but hear more here.)

5. Superheroes
This Danish band broke up this year after three new-wave inspired pop releases. They were getting better and better, and were one of the more fashionable bands out there. Sad to see them go.

4. Le Sport
Rather shortly after they released their excellent Pet Shop Boys inspired debut album, this Swedish duo called it quits. I wonder how much my autographed copy of their cd is worth now??

3. Elkland
After releasing one of the finest synth-pop records of the last ten years, America's Elkland disbanded. The blow is somewhat dampened by the fact that lead singer Jon formed a new duo (Goat Explosion) with quite a similar sound. Now if they'd only get an album out...

2. Protocol
What makes this UK band's break-up even more depressing is that we never got an album from them! After teasing the record-buying public with three fantastic rock/pop single releases, the band all but disappeared. And, recently word came out that they've broken up. I for one hope their unreleased album does not stay unreleased.

1. The Darkness
I'm well aware that The Darkness had its fair share of detractors, but I was really starting to enjoy their descent into a sound that became even more Queen-esque. They were getting better, but now have tragically been cut short.

Friday, December 08, 2006


“You're not listening to me”

Like fellow Swedes Sahara Hotnights and (to a lesser extent) The Sounds, The Koo Koos make dancefloor oriented punk-pop. They call their sound disco rock, though most of their songs that I've heard highlight the rock end a bit more. Before It Is Too Late is the exception. The synthesizers are kicked up to the front and create the backbone for the entire song. It's not the glossiest, most produced thing you'll ever hear, but it's a catchy track. And, you can't argue with the promo pic (or the band name, for that matter).

Listen: The Koo Koos - Before It Is Too Late
Download: The Koo Koos - Before It Is Too Late

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists! No album yet, but hear more here.)

2. Alphabeat (Denmark)
Alphabeat’s debut song, Fascination, may be the most joyful piece of music I’ve heard all year. From its incredible success so far in Denmark, it’s pretty much a given that these guys will be huge when their full-length is released. A second song, 10,000 Nights Of Thunder, proves that they’ve got ample material to follow up Fascination. If they can keep this going, their success will spread outside Scandinavia with ease. Definitely one of my most anticipated albums of 2007.

Best Track: Fascination

1. Mika (UK)
No other artist on this list is quite as exciting as Mika. I seriously believe that he could become the biggest star the world has seen for quite sometime. All seven of the songs I’ve heard so far are of equal greatness. The guy just oozes with charisma and that impossible-to-describe x-factor. Judging from the Mika hype around the web, he’ll have no problem garnering a vast army of fans. Honestly, I’ll wish the guy good luck, but I don’t think he’ll need it. He’s one of the contenders for 2007 album of the year before he’s even released it.

Best Track(s): Love Today / Relax, Take It Easy

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Track of the Week (a day late...)

With a bit of internet forum help (though they probably didn't even need it), Lucky Soul's Lips Are Unhappy won by a large margin. Hey, I'm just happy that people are voting... doesn't matter where they come from!

Track Of The Week: (Nov. 26th - Dec. 2nd)
Free polls from


“Me, messing around with you”

Another great dance-rock group for you today. I'm continually amazed. Just as this genre should be getting old, I find another band that brings something new to the music. Naughty will draw comparisons to Maroon 5 and The Feeling with an added electro edge. In other words, it is unstoppably good. Frontman Will Bates has lived in both the UK and America, and the dual influence is felt in the band's music. If you like this song, which you will, I encourage you to stop by their website and download the rest of them they have up for free. They're all just as good. In fact, if I had known a bit more about this band before I compiled my top ten bands to watch out for in 2007, they'd have easily made the list.

Listen: The Rinse - Naughty
Download: The Rinse - Naughty

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists! No album yet, but download more for free here.)

4. Lamont (Sweden)
Kudos to Lamont for releasing all of their music for free download this year. It’s a great way to spread the word, and I think that the gamble could pay off. With heavy influences from fellow Swedes (and my favorite band) The Ark, there’s really no way these guys can fail. Their awesome new video for Rather Do It only proves how fantastic they are.

Best Song: Rather Do It

3. Lucky Soul (UK)
Upon hearing Lips Are Unhappy for the first time, I knew that this band was one to watch for 2007. It’s the kind of song that’s impossible to dislike, and with a voice like Ali Howard’s, there’s no way this band can fail. Their sound is completely different and refreshing and should win them fan after fan next year. I foresee them becoming absolutely massive.

Best Song: Lips Are Unhappy

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


“These are the things that keep us together”

Imagine Sophie Ellis-Bextor being produced by Per from Roxette and you've got a taste of what These Are The Things from Black Box Recorder sounds like. Black Box Recorder are a (very) British group that's been releasing sophisticated pop records for the better part of a decade. This track is from their 2003 release Passionoia. And, coming to my attention only a short time ago, it's one of the best pop tracks I've heard all year. Seriously... it puts a lot of so-called "pop" to shame. And, with echoes of Kylie, Pet Shop Boys and the Lightning Seeds, it'd have to.

Listen: Black Box Recorder - These Are The Things

Download: Black Box Recorder - These Are The Things

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists! Buy the album here.)

6. Hello Operator (Canada)
Poised to be the new Cars, this band has crafted some of the catchiest, shiniest new wave inspired rock of 2006. Their debut EP was absolutely flawless and their most recent song, 55 Regrets, continues in the same manner. A full-length album of this kind of stuff is just the shot that rock radio needs right now. I have extremely high hopes for these guys in 2007.

Best Track: Crash & The Radio Star

5. Dangerous Muse (United States)
Despite releasing two amazing EPs this year, this duo have yet to put their talents to a full length album. Still, every song that they’ve released so far has been equally great, and they’re poised to fill a dance floor niche that is just waiting for them. With the right song, they could become superstars in 2007. They’re already got a lot of fans and I have yet to play their songs for somebody who wasn’t instantly converted as well.

Best Track: Give Me Danger

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


“We're howlin' like a bitch in the storm”

New Australian band Hot Little Hands has a fantastic sound that's a conglomeration of eighties electro, glam rock swagger and, as they call it, garage-disco. Whatever it is, it's fantastic stuff, sexy rock that eases along on a subdued, yet addictive groove. In some places their music actually bears a strong resemblance to fellow Aussies INXS (before JD, that is). Their debut album comes out early next year and should be fantastic if it's up to the standard set by this song, a piano laced, ragtime-rock confection.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists! No album yet, but listen to more here.)

8. Midnight Monkeys (Sweden)
Although there doesn’t seem to be any full-length in view (though they’ve been promising to update their site forever), the songs that Midnight Monkeys have given us so far are nothing short of astounding. A catchy blend of rock, punk and disco, they’ve got a unique sound and a wonderfully cool looking lead singer. Definitely a wild-card for next year, but if they do actually release anything else they could be huge.

Best Track: Without

7. Pompadil (Sweden)
Pompadil miraculously have not been signed to a record label yet, but I am expecting that to change based on what I’ve heard from them so far. A glistening blend of dance beats with gorgeous vocals, this Swedish duo should be huge once they are recognized for the talent that they are. Wait and see… they will be The Attic of 2007.

Best Track: You Need A Man

Yusuf - An Other Cup
Release Date: November 14, 2006
Label: Atlantic/Wea

Yusuf Islam is legendary folk-popper Cat Steven's Islamic name, and the fact that he chose to release his first modern pop release in nearly thirty years under this title reveals what's in store throughout the record. An Other Cup is a spiritual affair, a collection of soft, string-laden hymns for today's weary soul.

Most of the time, the theme works brilliantly. Songs like Maybe There's A World and Heaven/Where True Love Goes work for the same reason John Lennon's Imagine was such a smash. They offer simple, universal melodies and messages, and work extraordinarily well as soft anthems. Even a gentle cover of the Yardbirds' classic Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood is reclassified as a spiritual ballad within the confines of the album. As with any religious and/or spiritual effort, the only time the record sags is when the message gets a little too preachy. In The End and The Beloved are prime examples. Both sound more like the work of an artist trying to teach rather than write an enjoyable song.

Yusuf's voice, however, remains in fine form throughout the record. His performance resonates with warmth, comfort and soul, just as it did some thirty years ago. Even when he turns his attention to religious poetry and allusions, the listener feels welcomed into the album's journey. And, while An Other Cup doesn't boast any groundbreaking, chart-topping hits along the lines of The First Cut Is The Deepest, it does succeed in being a thoroughly joyful, breezy and accomplished listen. B

Key Tracks: Maybe There's A World, Heaven/Where True Love Goes, I Think I See The Light

Monday, December 04, 2006


“Answer the phone and tell me you're all alone”

You are going to love BC Camplight. Sure, he might not exactly look like your typical popstar, but he's talented as hell. Blood And Peanut Butter is one of the best piano-based pop songs I've heard all year (despite being released last year). It's got a fabulously catchy riff and is composed of hook after hook. By the time the female response comes in about halfway through the track, I'm completely sold. Camplight, who is actually Brian Christinzio, has the good sense to orchestrate his songs flawlessly until they glisten like long lost classics. I've had this track on repeat for days now. Enjoy!

Download: BC Camplight - Blood And Peanut Butter

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists! Buy the album here.)

10. Lorraine (Norway)
They could be the new A-Ha if they’d ever get it together and release an album. Their debut track I Feel It was a fantastic taster and their cover of the Psychedelic Fur’s Heaven was even better. Their brand of catchy synth-pop isn’t anything particularly new, but it is completely addicting.

Best Track: Heaven

9. Paper Faces (Sweden)
I’ve been following this band since early this year and was delighted when Disco Boy became a hit in Sweden. Since then, they’ve released two EPs and have a new single out, Breakin’ Up. It’s quite different from Disco Boy and shows the band’s versatility. Their sound is a very nice melding of 80’s and 60’s influences and should continue to prove successful.

Best Track: Mistaken
Lucinda Williams - Car Wheels On A Gravel Road
Release Date: October 4, 2006
Label: Mercury/Universal

Original Album:
Scores of critics have already hailed Lucinda Williams’ 1998 Grammy winning effort Car Wheels On A Gravel Road as one of the greatest albums of all time. Needless to say, it’s a masterwork of the alt-country (screw it, let’s just call it rock) genre. Listening to the recently released remaster, it’s easy to see why. What Car Wheels does better than the vast majority of similar albums is capture authentically a sense of place. Whether it’s in the details of the rural poetry that comprises much of the album’s story-songs, or the unmistakable catch in Williams’ voice that heralds her as a narrator who has clearly lived through what she sings, the entire album is like a journey to the Deep South - with all the heartbreak, wonder and comfort that comes with it.
A riveting one-woman show, Williams effortlessly becomes her character, be it the defeated slur of Drunken Angel or the intense retaliation of Joy. Of course, it helps that the thirteen roots-based songs that comprise Car Wheels are written so well that they could have been successful in any genre. Jack White could learn a thing from the riveting blues of Can’t Let It Go, while the title track quickly becomes a rural hymn worthy of sing-along status. Eight years later, Car Wheels On A Gravel Road still stands out from the pack.

The album is repackaged as a double-disc set, one disc including the original album remastered with three bonus tracks, the second disc capturing a stripped down 1998 live performance. Although the album was nearly perfect before, these added features act as a great supplement. The bonus tracks are up to the same level as the original thirteen and the live recording offers a glimpse at a rawer, more explosive Williams.

Entire Package: A

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Oh. My. Freaking. God.

Allow me to be a fanboy for a moment here, but I about turned into a rocket and flew around the neighborhood when I discovered this bit of news from the official Ark website:

"A new single from The Ark entitled "Absolutely No Decorum" will arrive in January. A new album will be released around April. Written by Ola Salo and Marco Manieri, who produced "We Are The Ark". The new album will be released by Leif Käcks company Roxy Recordings and distributed by Nordisk Film."

Not sure if the smile will ever wipe off my face.... LOVE the song title, too.
Bring on the Countdowns!

It's almost the new year, and that means the blogosphere will be bursting with year-end countdowns of the best albums, singles, etc. I'm a bit countdown happy, so #1 Hits will be no different. In fact, starting tomorrow I'll have the first of the bunch as I count down the top ten artists to watch in 2007. Two artists a day...all fantastic!
Veto - There's A Beat In All Machines
Release Date: February 27th, 2006
Label: Tabu Records

Danish band Veto have been praised by critics for their fearless sound and selected as the opening act for portions of the Killers' European tour. The band is definitely hard to classify, as their full-length debut There's A Beat In All Machines confirms. Most tracks are synth driven, but not in the same way as many of their peers. This isn't simple eighties revivalist music, but instead an icier, brooding mixture of electronica and rock.

The album opens with the pounding, passionately sung Can You See Anything? Frontman Troels Abrahamsen immediately imbues the record with a tense, almost hysterical performance. It's absolutely riveting. You Are A Knife is the obvious single, and the most immediately catchy moment on the record. UK band Muse seem to be an influence almost throughout the entire album, especially in the slow-building melodies of Cannibal and We Are Not Your Friends, both of which manage to challenge the rock norm while remaining compact and hummable. The band's experimentalism doesn't always add up to such heights. Short Fused's scathing lyrics are let down by a song that seems to end just as it's beginning, while From A To B is perhaps too subdued for its own good. But, when everything comes together, the results are amazing. Self-Made is a hectic, brash pop song and the driving chorus is easily the album's most energetic moment.

There's A Beat In All Machines is a promising debut for a band with a different sound. It's by no means a dance album, unlike most of the synth-driven music being produced these days. Instead, Veto have created a glacial song suite: lyrically probing and slow to sneak up on the listener. Once it does, though, it's hard to forget. B

Key Tracks: Can You See Anything?, Self-Made, You Are A Knife

Listen: Baby's Gang - Challenger
Download: Baby's Gang - Challenger

I posted this track a long, long time ago... but I couldn't resist including it in this eighties week as well. It just baffles me. Mostly, I want everyone to see the video because it is completely beyond surreal. The dancing alone... Despite being strange and mostly unintelligible, the song is so incredibly catchy with one of my all-time favorite synth lines. And, did I mention the video?