Your Ad Here

Friday, December 18, 2009

Skyship Academy

Ever since I was a kid, I've been writing stories. As I grew up, I realized that story-writing could be more than a hobby, and about six years ago I started writing seriously with publication a distant, seemingly unattainable dream. Thousands of pages of unused manuscripts later, I began tackling the business side of publishing, seeking out an agent in the summer of 2008. As the new year began, I took the next step and found representation for my novel. Eight months later and I'm thrilled to announce that I've signed a two-book deal with Flux for the first two installments of my Skyship Academy series. The first book will be released in 2011!

I write for teens and kids, and have always focused on that audience. It's what I personally like to read as well, and a place where I can be truly imaginative without having to explain myself. Skyship Academy is a fast-paced sci-fi adventure, inspired by some of my favorite authors in the genre - Eoin Colfer, Anthony Horowitz and James Patterson among many, many others. Here's a very brief summary/teaser taken from the official announcement on Publishers Marketplace:

When a fifteen-year-old slacker discovers that he has the power to control Pearls - fragments of space debris that are a dying Earth's most important energy source - the government's forces work to capture him.

As with any book release, there's a lot of work to do between now and publication, but I'll keep you guys updated throughout the process, as well as link to my author site when it's up and ready. And, as always, you can follow me on twitter for updates on this and other little day-to-day things that I like to pretend are one hundred times wittier and interesting than they actually are.

And a huge thank you to this blog's loyal readers. It's been a struggle at times to keep everything up and running this year as revisions and editing knock down my door, and I imagine it'll only get busier, but rest assured Alienhits is going nowhere. I love my pop music too much!

Labels: , ,

Top 20 Albums of 2009: 18-17

18. Erik Hassle - Hassle

This album was delayed more times than I can count, and although I heard it early in the year months before it was finally released, it’s held up as my favorite album of this singer-songwriter type genre from the past few years. Buoyed by the two singles, the record does a great job of mixing styles and painting a picture of a very promising artist. Lyrically, it’s one of the stronger albums on my countdown, and has a real underdog charm similar to my favorite album of 2007 (Laakso’s Mother, Am I Good Looking?). I still believe that with the right push this guy could be huge in America. I mean, we like Gavin Degraw, and this is a hundred times more interesting.


17. Hot Leg - Red Light Fever

I was a massive fan of the Darkness, and I know that’s an unpopular thing to admit in some circles. Nevertheless, I was saddened when they broke up, as I think that Justin Hawkins is a really gifted (if immature) songwriter. Luckily, the debut effort by his next band sounded very much like the Darkness Part II. It’s not a perfect record, but the highlights are very high. Most importantly, it’s a lot of fun. The band is unashamed when it comes to the much maligned genre of 80’s pomp rock. Surprising, then, was the real artistry displayed here. The songs that aren’t intentionally tongue-in-cheek are impressive on a whole different level.


Labels: , ,

Top 50 Singles of 2009: 45-41

45. Tinchy Stryder - Take Me Back

My sole hip-hop track on the countdown, this successfully fused an intense electro beat with unstoppable (and ungrammatical) hooks.

44. Alexandra Burke - Bad Boys

Proving that she’s more interesting than Leona, this track is so ahead of anything else she’s done that it may end up as both her opening salvo and career pinnacle.

43. Fibes, Oh Fibes & Kim Wilde - Run To You

The unexpected duet of the year, this was easily the most shimmering, romantic look back at the 80’s in a year full of retro singles.

42. Sebastian Karlsson - Serial Lovers

His most upbeat song yet, the instant melody and hook proved impossible to live up to on the subsequent album.

41. Salem Al Falir - Roxy

The most joyous sounding song about STDs that I can remember, this power-pop masterpiece redefined the genres of music that Fakir could pull off.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Top 20 Albums of 2009: 20-19

20. Danny - Set Your Body Free

Released around the turn of the year, this album soundtracked a particularly snowy part of winter for me. It’s not the kind of music that’s going to change lives or redefine the pop landscape, but it’s one of the more consistently upbeat and catchy dance albums of the year. I loved the lead single Radio in 2008, but there’s much more than that to enjoy here. Unfortunately, all of the wrong singles were chosen this year, resulting in a stalled campaign that never allowed the album the success it deserved. Hopefully he’ll come back even stronger.


19. Demi Lovato - Here We Go Again

If I had to pick one teen pop/fluff album this year (and there were many), it would be Demi Lovato’s sophomore release. I wasn’t a fan up until this point, but was floored by the mature, almost Alanis-type pop/rock found here. It reminded me of the late nineties, just before the big pop boom, when music didn’t necessarily need a hip-hop beat or electro undertone to be successful. This may sound weird coming from a huge electro fan like me, but it appealed to my sense of nostalgia. Better yet were the songs. They’re universally strong, and Lovato’s vocals are really quite impressive for someone so young.


Labels: , ,

Top 50 Singles of 2009: 50-46

50. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Zero

The furthest they’ve come to obtaining that infamous label of poptastic. The video, especially, shows Karen O at the height of her power.

49. Alphabeat - The Spell

A reinvention of sorts, which took some getting used to. The adlibs and synthesizers are ever better than the main melody.

48. Aqua - My Mamma Said

The group’s most mature, achingly beautiful song with a dark, artsy video to match. Far removed from novelty pop.

47. Carolina Liar - Show Me What I'm Looking For

The biggest radio ballad of the summer, they stuffed this one to the brim with drama and layered a hands-swaying-in-the-air chorus on top.

46. Janet Jackson - Make Me

The most Janet Jackson sounding single she’s released in a long while, it’s not among her best, but even autopilot Janet is better than most.

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Countdowns Are Coming Tomorrow!

As per tradition, here’s my round-up preview of my top albums and singles of the year. The countdown will start tomorrow and continue until the end of the month. Like 2008, the industry continues to trend in the direction of strong singles and weaker albums, though there were a few stunners this year. Also like last year, there were more and more glimmers of hope from the American pop scene. We’re finally catching up!


Groups - 45%
Solo Artists - 55%
Debut Albums - 25%
Second Albums - 40%
Fourth Album (or higher!) - 35%
Male Singers - 55%
Female Singers - 35%
Male & Female Singers - 10%
American Acts - 25%
UK Acts - 15%
Swedish Acts - 35%
Danish Acts - 5%
Australian Acts - 5%
German Acts - 5%
Columbian Acts - 5%
Canadian Acts - 5%
Albums that saw a U.S. release - 45%
Albums with any substantial success in the U.S. - 25%
Released in the 1st Quarter (including Dec. 08) - 20%
Released in the 2nd Quarter - 20%
Released in the 3rd Quarter - 25%
Released in the 4th Quarter - 35%


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

BIG News on Friday!

I have the biggest announcement I’ve ever made on this blog swimming around my head right now, but I think I’ll let it simmer for a few days and officially announce it on Friday.

The announcement is not music-related, and involves a project I’ve been working on for the past few years. Let the rampant speculation begin!

Also, my year-end album/single countdown begins soon…

Lovelock - Love Reaction

Lovelock is a normal-looking guy from New York. By the picture in this post you'd be hard-pressed to discern the type of high energy electro he produces. Love Reaction, in particular, doesn't even feature his vocals. Instead, it sounds like Annie singing over a Girls Aloud track. I'm a huge fan of the production here. The guitar adds an organic element to something that otherwise could have been a little cold. The verses are so incredibly flawless and dramatic, borrowing from italo and power pop in equal measures. And the processed guitar solo in the middle eight is straight from heaven, totally exploding towards the end. It's like a wonderful dream. I will definitely be keeping an eye on this guy.

Lovelock - Love Reaction by stevemoore2600

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists. Listen to more and buy tracks here. Follow me on twitter at nickajames)


Monday, December 14, 2009

Lady Gaga: Monster Ball - Vancouver 12/11/09

Last Friday night I attended the third and final Vancouver show of Lady Gaga’s Monster Ball. I got tickets about a month ago, which in itself was a small miracle. The Lady can certainly sell out a theater.

Anyways, the night was fantastic. We had floor seats, right on the aisle toward the right side of the stage. We were sat by three adorable children. The two youngest were dressed up like they were going to the opera. I’m not sure what exactly they (or their grandparents, who bought them the tickets) were expecting. Let’s just say that the show was anything but kid-appropriate. And, as a teacher, I felt somewhat uneasy sitting next to them. Luckily, the smuttier stuff seemed to go right over their heads. Still, who brings children to a Lady Gaga show?

The rest of the crowd was surprisingly diverse. I was amazed how many older people attended (and by older I mean, gray/white hair). She’s certainly broken through all boundaries.

First up were openers (and longtime Gaga friends) Semi Precious Weapons. They were an absolute revelation. I posted about them last year, but never really investigated further. Plus, I don’t think that their appeal can be fully appreciated unless you see them live. For anyone who’s seen the movie Hedwig & the Angry Inch, lead singer Justin Tranter’s the spitting image of Hedwig in attitude and persona. Throughout their short set, he fed the audience champagne, laid on the stage for a mid-song costume change, and interacted with the sparsely filled auditorium with wit and an undeniable x-factor. The rest of the band was a cannonball of energy, flitting around the stage like a bunch of crazy people. It’s so charming when someone at this level of success plays with the air of a world-conquering stadium band. Most importantly, though, the songs were fantastic. They played three cuts from the upcoming album, which sounds like it will be a million times better than the first. They’re also signed to the same label as Gaga. Good for them.

Next came Kid Cudi, who I must admit, I wasn’t really looking forward to. I went through my brief hip-hop stage around the turn of the century. Since then, it hasn’t really done anything for me. Kid Cudi was fine, I suppose, and seemed to have a few good hooks, but his stage show consisted of walking back and forth of the stage and generally looking kind of uncomfortable.

Before Gaga arrived, the auditorium was filled with a greatest-hits playlist of Michael Jackson, prompting a spontaneous dance party from a good portion of the audience. Quite the carnival atmosphere. I’ve gotta say, I’ve never seen anything like it in a theatre venue.

Gaga arrived with Dance In The Dark and, acting out the lyrics, spent the song dancing in the dark with what looked like white Christmas lights strung around her. The drum sections before the chorus were especially cool with the added light show.

She quickly segued into Just Dance, standing on top of an enormous cube brandishing a keytar. There was also lots of fog. In fact, the entire show had more fog than I’ve ever seen. The front row must have been choking.

She went on to power her way through a two hour plus set, which was as exhausting as it was inspiring. She performed every song on the new album except (curiously) Telephone, as well as most of the songs from the first one. There were two versions of Poker Face, studio and piano. There were many costume changes (a crow-type get-up for Monster, a gold Egyptian-looking thing for The Fame/Boys Boys Boys/Money Honey, and a Rapunzel costume for Paparazzi). There were strange projections, including a brunette Gaga puking blue-green liquid on a blonde Gaga, and there was of course the piano section, which was the highlight for me. It was all too fleeting (Speechless and Poker Face), but felt like the most intimate portion of the concert. Other sections, especially the first quarter of the show, seemed more removed, like we were watching her perform inside some elaborate diorama. I appreciated seeing her stripped down to the voice and instrument. Few people give her the credit she deserves for her musicianship and raw talent.

Other highlights were the spoken interludes and stories she told (about her pre-Fame life making costumes in her apartment, the international Gaga-fan hand gesture, the connection to her fans) and of course the finale encore of Bad Romance. She’s so charming as a person, which can often be overshadowed by her over-the-top performances. The Monster Ball was definitely over-the-top and more than a little raunchy, but thoroughly entertaining and memorable.

Songs performed (in no particular order, since I can’t remember): Bad Romance, Alejandro, Monster, Speechless, Dance in the Dark, So Happy I Could Die, Teeth, Just Dance, Love Game, Paparazzi, Poker Face, Poker Face (piano), Eh Eh, Beautiful Dirty Rich, The Fame, Money Honey, Boys Boys Boys, Paper Gangsta

Labels: ,