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Saturday, March 05, 2011

Melodifestivalen 2011: Andra Chansen - Live Blog

In anticipation of the final next weekend, today we see who gets to take those last two covered places to compete for Eurovision. I can't say I've been able to summon all that much interest in this second chance round this year, but my predictions is that Sara Varga and Linda Pritchard will come out of this today very happy. We'll see.

EDIT: Literally, the four best songs today are all in the first half. Whoever programmed this did a horrible job.

EDIT: Those "duel" skits were hilariously awkward. But Loreen looks like some weird anime character. I love how Loreen/Sara got the biggest applause. Weird that they're facing each other, when they're probably the public's two favorite acts this week.

EDIT: Who knew Jenny Silver played guitar?

DUEL ONE - Jenny vs. Love Generation: My vote easily goes to Jenny, but I have a feeling Love Generation will pull this out.

RESULT: It's Love Generation through, as expected.

DUEL TWO - Loreen vs Sara: This is the big one, and the hardest to predict. I'd give the slight edge to Sara, though I think I prefer Loreen just a bit more. She certainly has the more interesting stage show, though Sara did much better this time than she did in the qualifiers. I like both songs, though.

RESULT: I was right again, and Sara is through. Poor Loreen looked devastated!

DUEL THREE - The Moniker vs. Linda: I think this is Linda's to lose, though I prefer the Moniker (who, oddly enough, is the only guy in this week's contest!).

EDIT: Anybody else's video feed totally screwing up all of a sudden?

EDIT: I get the feeling that, if the Moniker gets cut, he'll shrug and go "whatever." Whereas, if Linda gets cut, she'll take it as the single greatest disappointment of her life.

RESULT: Wow, the Moniker through. Now that is a genuine shock.

DUEL FOUR - Shirley's Angels vs. Pernilla: This seems like a done deal for Shirley's Angels, though I'm not that excited about either songs so I really don't care who goes through. Pernilla could easily get the same types of votes that came for Sara, though.

RESULT: Hmmm... well, I'm seeing how this is going to go now. Pernilla is through, which means I bet it will be her and Sara in the final. Sweden loves these anti-MF MF acts, for some reason.

EDIT: For the record, out of the ones we've got left (which aren't necessarily the right choices), I'd want Sara and the Moniker through.

EDIT: WTF is this toilet paper roll thing happening now?

EDIT: Oh, jeez... I forgot we now have to see all of these performances AGAIN. Seriously, guys. We know which ones we want to vote for by now. They should just do a five minute medley of all four contenders and be done with it.

No guts, no glory PREDICTION: Sara's song will not only go to the final, but it will become the Snalla, Snalla of this year, easily landing in the top 5.

EDIT: I'd vote for the Moniker, if only for the crazy pair of dancing girls. They make me laugh.

FINAL RESULTS: Sara and the Moniker through. Well, I got one right!


Friday, March 04, 2011

Track-by-Track: Melody Club - Human Harbour

Melody Club, above all else, are aptly named. Throughout their five-album career, they've never skimped on melody--never strayed from a flawless chorus or subtly compelling verse. They are pop music through and through, and don't make apologies about it. Many would call them a guilty pleasure, but that doesn't really mean anything. They are one of the decade's most consistent, and most enjoyable, pop acts. With Human Harbour, they continue their streak of unbroken hits (or, realistically, hits-to-be/hits-that-could-have-been/hits-that-should-have-been).

1. The Hunter - Their unsuccessful (in the context of the show) Melodifestivalen entry. Unlike most singles, this seems to sound better and better each time I hear it. While I was initially pleased, I'm now beginning to think that this is right up there with their best singles. What a way to kick off the album. 10/10

2. Dreamer's Wasteland - This bundles together two (cheesy but wonderful) things I love about pop music: power chords and children's choirs. It HAS to be the next single. The mid-tempo synth track combined with one of the album's best melodies makes for something very special. 10/10

3. Sweet Disaster - Slightly more uptempo than the last track, though still more mellow that we're used to from these guys. The melody and production, though, are spot on. In fact, the production throughout the album deserves a special mention for being slick, polished and varied. This is a grower, and it's totally working because I can't stop listening to it. 10/10

4. A New Set of Wings - An uptempo glam stomp that borrows some production elements from the Ark. It's good (and very catchy), but lacks just a little something. I can't put my finger on it. Still, it's an excellent album track, particularly the frantic middle eight. 9/10

5. Only You Can Heal Me - A slow-burning, atmospheric electro-ballad, this is also a duet with a female vocalist (any ideas who? I don't have liner notes with me). It's very pretty and delicate, though not one of my favorites on the album. 8/10

6. War Of Hearts - Back to uptempo here, though the melody's actually quite slow. The brittle funk of the beat makes a nice contrast with the vocals. At first I thought the chorus was lacking a little something, but I've completely come around to it now. 10/10

7. Human Harvest - This song is an absolute beast. It's the longest, most complicated, and craziest of all the tracks. Segueing from melodramatic ballad to 80's arena rock to a classic rock refrain, this covers a lot of territory in just over five minutes. It's also got some of the best melodies on offer. Ridiculously catchy. 10/10

8. Bed Of Needles - This has a classic mid-tempo shuffle, like a slowed down version of their 2007 single Fever Fever. The production's different than anything else on the album. It's a track that I enjoy immensely when it's playing, but it's not one that I seek out specifically. 9/10

9. Karma Control -Definitely the most frantic song on here. It begins with Kristofer's voice and a string section, but quickly adds are kicking dance beat that propels the song forward at breakneck speed. It's a great, late-album highlight. 10/10

10. I Don't Believe In Angels - I rolled my eyes when I first saw that this was going to be included on the tracklist. I thought, am I really going to want to listen to a Christmas song all year round? But take the "Christmas" out of it and the kitchen-sink production (bells, chimes, guitar solos, etc) is too wonderful to pass up. The lyrics are cheese incarnate, but that melody's indelible. I actually found myself enjoying this more in the context of the album. Go figure. 10/10

11. You Don't Love Me - Another new shift in sound for the band, this alternates between solemn, slow verses and pumped up guitar-charged choruses that are among the loudest pieces of music the guys have ever made. It's all got an anthemic, cathartic release to it. A perfect ending to the album. 9/10

Album Grade: 9.5/10

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Thursday, March 03, 2011

Ulrik Munther - Boys Don't Cry

"Lying on the ground, head in your hands"

When it comes to music, it sometimes seems like we're living in a Justin-Bieber-Willow-Smith-etc world. Record companies are on the hunt for pubescent (or pre-pubescent) pop stars. It's nothing new--I mean, think about how Michael Jackson started--but it seems to be more and more present as kid companies like Disney and Nickelodeon gain more of a stranglehold on the music business. It all adds up to something potentially dangerous, but I'm not about to open that can of worms right now (there's not nearly enough time). I am, however, going to focus on one of these kids (and by "kid," i really mean "teenager"), who I think has the potential to go far in this business. He is, true to my music tastes, Swedish. Most people will be familiar with Ulrik Munther (how's that for a pop star name?) through his acoustic cover of Lady Gaga's Born This Way, which he released the day that song debuted (!) and now has a studio version out on itunes. That's all nice and fine and viral, but what I'm really impressed by is his original song, Boys Don't Cry. To be completely honest, it takes me back to the days of Hanson. The indie-rock stylings are completely refreshing in a world of autotuned Bieber clones and their bubblegum blue-eyed soul. I predict big things for this guy. His nice deal with Universal Sweden should help things along! Soundcloud's having a fit about hosting his song, so here's the video instead.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists. Discover more about Ulrik here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Melody Club - Human Harvest

"It's your last summer, and it's fading away"

They've done it again! Melody Club have yet to release a bad album, and while their latest is more melodically and rhythmically varied (ie: more-or-less a little 'slower' than we're used to from the band), it's a stellar collection of criminally catchy songs. I struggled to decide which track to share today (Dreamer's Wasteland, with its inspired children's choir is another must-listen), but eventually it came down to the oddly-titled Human Harvest. It was my initial standout, if for no other reason than its brazen epicness. It's a stab at the Bohemian Rhapsody format of pop song. There are four distinct melodic parts, ranging from melodramatic ballad to rollicking 80's arena rock. The story is an overblown drama concerning death and redemption and deals with the devil, but it's the melody here that works wonders. It's been stuck in my head for days and I'm a little worried that it isn't going to leave. I'll have a full review of the album, soon. In short: it's great.

Melody Club - Human Harvest by alienhits

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists. Buy the album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Track-by-Track: Eva & The Heartmaker - Dominoes

Despite releasing a couple of albums in their native Norway, Eva & The Heartmaker have seemed to come out of nowhere with their new, poppier sound. Dominoes is a short album, but it more than makes up for that in quality..

1. Dominoes - A stunning opening, this is perched halfway between the band's electro and rock sides. It actually reminds me of the Cardigans. It's very late-90's radio pop, which is a very good thing. This has got to be a single in the future. Great lyrics, too. 10/10

2. Signals - The song that interested me in the first place. It's not the kind that hits you over the head on the first lesson, but this is one of the best, most laidback synth-pop tracks of the year. The chorus is pure bliss. 10/10

3. Not Alone - A more dance-influenced track, though with a somewhat downtempo feeling. It's not as strong as the previous two tracks, but still very good. It's got a very powerful (if not single-worthy) chorus. 8/10

4. Gone In A Flash - This just floored me the first time I heard it. It begins with a spot-on "The Way You Make Me Feel" groove, then come the 80's synths, followed by a huge melody. And then, three quarters of the way through, we get a brilliant guitar solo. Yes! 10/10

5. Ghosts In The Sky - And now we enter the more melancholy singer-songwriter portion of the album. This is quite a shift from the last track. It keeps the synths, but it's within a completely different framework. This is a slowly building indie track with a nice payoff in the chorus. Still, not my favorite. 7/10

6. Twenty-Four Something - Full-on singer-songwriter, coffeehouse mode here. It's pretty, and meaningful, but not incredibly enjoyable. It completes the weakest phase of the album. 7/10

7. Mr. Tokyo - Their first single from the album, it's a breezy synthy number that I've grown to like, though it didn't hit me instnatly. Not as good as the other singles, but very close. 9/10

8. Mysterious Ways - Not a U2 cover. It's back to the delicate singer-songwriter sound, but this is a lot stronger than the previous efforts. It's got a beautiful refrain. 8/10

Album Grade: 8.6/10

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Monday, February 28, 2011

Clare Maguire - Light After Dark

"We'll rise, then we'll fall"

All of a sudden, it seems like there's too much good music to keep up with. Not only do we have new singles from The Ark, Melody Club and The Sounds (it feels like 2004 all over again!), but there are about a gazillion new artists making this year very exciting. One of these is Clare Maguire, whose debut album is released today. It's a fantastic selection of songs, perched somewhere between Marina and Florence's albums (with a fair share of Annie Lennox thrown in). The quality's remarkably consistent, but I selected this song for today because the chorus is just so powerful. Whatever people say about her live voice, she sounds amazing in studio. I also love the moody, serpentine verses. Lots of attitude in a song/album that could have been very boring. I highly recommend giving Miss Maguire a try. This is some impressive stuff for fans of pop (especially lush, 80's pop).

Clare Maguire - Light After Dark by alienhits

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists. Buy the album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.