Thursday, August 31, 2006

Multiple Personalities

Back in 2003 the release of Lovers by Aussie combo The Sleepy Jackson sent critics swooning to their keyboards to compose glowing reviews. It's taken four years, but the follow up finally hit shelves at the end of July. Building on the debut's approach - all things Beatles and Beach Boys and summer pop - the new album Personality - One Was A Spider, One Was A Bird really kicks it up a notch. Mainman Luke Steele has created a delightfully over the top record, full to bursting with production whiz bang. There are huge strings slathered everywhere, and memorable melodies abound. The results are occasionally breathtaking, and it's refreshing to hear someone willing to take it to the limit. The influences are still Beatles and Brian Wilson's summer fun, plus a bit of Spector's wall-of-sound and Bacharach's gift for lush arrangement. It is a sweeping epic that appears to have been lost in the shuffle - reviews have been postive to glowing, but I don't feel much buzz around it, especially from the music bloggers. So here's a chance to get yourself acquainted with some very lovely music from down under...

You Needed More kicks off the album, and right away it's big and lush and swoony and orchestral.

God Knows is pure George Harrison Beatles - sweet slide guitar, loads of layered vocals, a glorious chorus. Great stuff.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A Trip To The Kerrier District

Image Hosted by
Luke Vibert got press here last month with the release of his junglist Amen Andrews Vs. Spac Hand Luke album which came out in June. About a month later he put out another record, this time under his Kerrier District alias. Called Kerrreir District 2, I have only just this week been able to get my hands on a copy, and I am psyched. Kerrier is Luke's '80s electro funk and disco outlet, where he puts his quirky melodies to use in service of some seriously fun(ky) music. I'm a big fan of Luke in all of his guises, but I have a special soft spot for Kerrier District due to it's '80s bent - he clearly has a love for the music, and his pastiches are crafted with all the right keyboard sounds and squiggles. Ce Porte is classic - the pitch wheel bends, the stabs and the gently rolling beats all sprinkled with '80s glimmer. My only (minor) complaint about the record is that it is actually just an EP - 5 tracks and one remix by Ceephax - so it doesn't last long enough for me. Great late summer listening.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Bande À Parte

Image Hosted by
Nouvelle Vague's self titled debut dropped back in 2004 ('05 in the US). A side project of French electronica guy Marc Collin (Volga Select, Les Petroleuses, Ollano) and his pal Olivier Libaux, the duo took classic songs of the New Wave era (Love Will Tear Us Apart, This Is Not A Love Song, Making Plans For Nigel), turned them into smoky bossa nova tracks, and called in various chanteuses to croon seductively over it all. Even the name of the band translates as "new wave". As a novelty it knocked my socks off - I am a huge fan of the songs of the era and I really like bossa nova too, so for me it was a perfect concept. It was also quite a success, which led to the duo recording a follow up, Bande À Parte, which hit US shelves last week. Basically it's the same concept, new batch of songs. Since we've heard the concept, the novelty factor has worn off. Ultimately it means that overall I'm not as impressed this time around, although I do like the record. There are some amusing choices - Billy Idol's Dancing With Myself, a couple of New Order songs (Confusion & Blue Monday), the Cramps' Human Fly and U2's Pride (In The Name Of Love) are among them. I was very excited to see Visage's Fade To Grey listed, but the version is only so-so. Today's tunes are, IMO, two of the better tracks on the record. First up is a fantastic version of Heaven 17's masterpiece Let Me Go. The original song is just so good that it would be hard to screw it up, and they don't - it translates well into a smoky jazz club setting. Also very enjoyable is the old Smiths tune Sweet And Tender Hooligan - it's tender melody also makes a smooth transition into the bossa nova realm. So, even though we've heard it before it still makes for a pretty entertaining listen.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Funky Friday Fourpack

Since I've been posting old school tunes all week long it's time for some new stuff to help you get your groove on. These are a few of the new-ish records I've been playing this week...

Cansei De Ser Sexy - Let's Make Love And Listen To Death From Above
Music blogger favorites for months now, these Brazilians bring the party on this record. It's a spirited mix of electro, post-punk and funk - half of the record wants you to rock out while you dance, the other just wants to party. Rude and crude and a lot of fun.

Outkast - N2U
I have to say that I'm enjoying the duo's new album Idlewild - it's a sprawling, experimental set that takes in crunk, electro, Prince, Cab Calloway and a little bit of everything else. This is a Big Boi jam that features Khujo Goodie, and the first time I heard it I loved it's laid back vibe. A raunchy little tune with a bumping groove.

Ratatat - Lex
Drafting '70s FM radio guitar chords onto quirky synth-hop makes for interesting listening. The duo's second album Classics picks up where they left off, but seems to move in a more direct, tuneful direction. This track got me right away with it's Art Of Noise breakbeat intro.

The Gossip - Listen Up! (A Touch Of Class Rmx)
From a mini remix EP that has mixes by MSTRKRFT, Arthur Baker and Le Tigre comes this deliciously groovy remix, stretched out and languidly funky. This chick can really sing.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Further Remastered Madness!

Yes, it's one more day of remastered goodies this week. Recent purchases have included a couple of the early Ultravox records - second album Ultravox! and it's follow up Systems Of Romance. This is the band pre-Midge Ure pomposity. 1977 to be precise. The band have recorded Ultravox! with Steve Lillywhite and one of their idols, Brian Eno. It is an interesting mix of punk rock, art rock, elements of prog (hello violin solos!) and experimentation. Singer John Foxx has a different voice, although you can hear elements of someone like Bryan Ferry. Ultravox! has a whiff of Roxy Music about it - it's bound to with all of the shared influences. Eno lends a bit more space to the proceedings, adding atmosphere to songs like My Sex and the album's lead single, Dangerous Rhythm. It is, of all things, a reggae song. New territory for the band for sure. But somehow it works. The bass riff is jamming, the tune has some nice guitar riffing, and Foxx croons along perfectly. There are a few other well known tunes on this record - Satday Night In The City of The Dead, The Wild, The Beautiful And The Damned, My Sex, but I'm digging a little deeper and offering The Lonely Hunter. It's a midtempo funker - bit of a disco beat, grooving bass, big guitars. Kind of reminds me musically of what Japan was doing at the same time. The reissue includes four bonus tracks, live takes of album songs. There are also some extensive sleeve notes that were a pretty good read.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

My '80s Remastered - Ju Ju

As you can see from the latest round of posts here @ SIART, it's been all about reissues. I blogged Siouxsie & The Banshees' Kaleidoscope last week, so this week it's 1981's Ju Ju. Considered by many to be "the (best) one" , it is a mighty fine album. All of the trademark darkness is here, perfectly matched with the tribal rhythms and the atmospheric music. This is the sound of a band at it's peak, crafting memorable tunes - Spellbound, Arabian Nights - that were successes on both the critical and chart level. This reissue is expanded and contains three bonus tracks, two of which are today's offerings. Spellbound (12" mix) is a slicked up but still mighty powerful take. Non album track (and also a single) Fireworks (Nigel Gray Version) is also a bit more produced than the original version, but it's such a great tune that it doesn't matter to me.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A Handful Of Covers

The latest Q Magazine has a cover mount CD featuring "15 Soft Rock Anthems" called Take It Easy. It's a typically hit and miss affair with only a few gems on it. It covers a lot of ground - Heaven 17 doing Don't Fear The Reaper, some ELO, Def Leppard, Moody Blues, Jellyfish, Redd Kross, The Korgis and some pretty dreadful new covers. Of course you get the good(s)!

Chris Difford - Up The Junction - one half of Squeeze's songwriting team covers his own tune in a lovely, downtempo and countryfied twangy fashion. Really very nice.

Psapp - Year Of The Cat - the very hep and now duo Psapp cover Al Stewart's 1977 smash hit in their quirky style - strummy guitars, lowkey organ and steel drum sounds all feature. Again, really very nice.

Monday, August 21, 2006

JAMC Remastered

This year has been a real treat for reissues. Back in July Rhino put out the first five Jesus And Mary Chain albums. They are DualDiscs with videos and a special stereo mix on the DVD side. They are lacking in anything extra special - no bonus tracks and no 5.1 mix. I don't own the first two on CD so they were the ones I plunked my cash down for. Despite the bare bones approach I am very happy with these two discs - clean, crisp and loud!

When this came out in 1985 I was unimpressed. I read about how great it was but it just sounded like a bunch of noise. Well, duh. Now that I am older and (maybe) wiser I've come around to enjoy it's reverb drenched feedback and squall.
Just Like Honey

By 1987 they had lost their drummer Bobby Gillespie, and the new album was all about a more streamlined sound. The wall of noise was tuned down, the rhythms were drum machines, and finally you can really hear the songs. And what songs, eh?
April Skies
About You

Automatic, Honey's Dead and Stoned & Dethroned are also out now.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Funky Friday Fourpack

It's time for another round of assorted, funky grooves to get your weekend off to a good start...

ESG - Keep On Moving
The Scroggin sisters of NYC have been playing since the late '70s and early '80s, and have just released a new album of typically spartan funk on the excellent Soul Jazz label. Leftfield goodness from some pioneers of the No Wave scene.

Cut Copy - Saturdays
A standout track from a record that came out in 2004 and still gets played at least once a month at casa SIART. This is a sunny, blissed out electro-tinged disco gem with oodles of delcious synth squiggles. Where is the follow-up?!?

Brand New Heavies featuring Main Source - Bonafide Funk
From 1992's Heavy Rhyme Experience Vol.1 comes this smokin' funk jam with vocals courtesy of Main Source. This LP is a set of collabos, with the Heavies providing the funktastic backing tracks for a slew of rappers including The Pharcyde, Black Sheep, Grand Puba, Gang Starr and several others. This was obviously meant to be the first of several albums but unfortunately no more came. Too bad, because this is a pretty good set, ranging from hip-hop beats to James Brown funk with stops in Jamaica for a bit of toasting.

Chic - Everybody Dance
From an excellent 2 disc set of digitally remastered tunes called The Definitive Groove Collection that was just released. Chic are the cream of the disco crop. Nile Rodgers' trademark rhythm guitar and Bernard Edwards' most spectacular bass lines have been copied and sampled, and at their peak in the late '70s you couldn't escape them. The music was everywhere, and still sounds fantastic today. Just listen to that hi-hat hiss, that bass line dancing all over the groove, the lush orchestration and those fab vocals. Classic shit.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

My '80s Remastered - Kaleidoscope

The second round of Siouxsie & The Banshees reissues hit UK shelves in May, and I finally got around to picking up a couple of them. These are not the 2 disc sets, but they are remastered and expanded with extra tracks. I picked up Kaleidoscope and Ju Ju. They sound fantastic, and some of the extra stuff is pretty interesting too. Today's offerings come from 1980's Kaleidoscope, the first album to feature the new boys in the band, drummer Budgie and guitarist John McGeoch. It also marked a new approach to music, which the title of the album reflected - "we were discovering we had a lot of sides to ourselves and we were multifaceted in our aproach to making it." This is immediately apparent on the album's first single Happy House (Polydor Demos), which is lighter and more upbeat than anything the band had done before. This version is one of the bonus tracks, and is far more harder edged (and obviously less produced) than the final single version - I love the gritty guitar and tumbling drums on this a lot. The second single was the equally memorable Christine, an acoustically strummy tune about a girl with 22 personalities. Fantastic stuff, and it has aged remarkably well too...

My Best Week Ever!
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the folks over at VH1's Best Week Ever blog for linking to my Cure post from earlier this week - I'm getting the mad hits today as a result. And greetings to all of you new readers - I hope you like what you see and hear and come back for more.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Stepping Stones

The Zen master of hip hop DJ Krush is celebrating the first 12 years of his recording career with a 2 disc retrospective. Called Stepping Stones - The Self Remixed Best, it is a bit different from the usual best of due to the fact that he actually remixed everything on it. I have been a longtime fan of Krush, from his self titled debut and his Mo'Wax breakthrough Strictly Turntablized to 2004's 寂 - Jaku. I dig his blunted approach and his heavy duty beats. There is always a bit of Eastern mysticism mixed in with the jazzy samples, and it makes for much head nodding goodness. The CDs are divided thematically - disc 1 is Lyricism, full of the vocal collaborations with C.L.Smooth, Company Flow, Aesop Rock, Mr. Lif, Zap Mama, Esthero and Anticon. Disc 2 is called Soundscapes, and the tracks are all instrumentals that also feature several guests, including DJ Shadow and Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson. Today's selections come from the first disc, and feature some of my favorite rappers. Meiso (Silent Gun Mix) features Black Thought & Malik B from The Roots (who have a new LP on the way) and rides a bumping, shuffle-y beat and plenty of atmospheric keys. Shinjiro (Harsh Mix) is a hard ass electro groove featuring a tough rap from Mos Def - somewhat reminiscent of the track I Against I that he did with Massive Attack a few years ago.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Head On The Door

The second round of deluxe 2CD reissues from The Cure hit US shelves last week. The Top, The Head On The Door and Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me are joined by the one off Blue Sunshine, released by Robert Smith's side project (with Banshees guitarist Steve Severin) The Glove. Now, that's alot of gloom and doom to consume in one sitting, so I decided to just go with my personal favorite Cure album, 1985's The Head On The Door. This album is the perfect summation of all the band's parts for me. There is gloom and doom, but there are also uplifting melodies and gloriously silly moments. It is some of the band's most poptastic music ever, and this reissue really makes me very happy because it has aged pretty well. From the opening salvo of In Between Days (a song New Order could have written) it is a concise, well balanced record. The second disc is full of demos and live recordings. Today I share a couple of tracks that were never singles, and they are a couple of my fave Cure songs evah! It's fun comparing the demo roots to what came later...

Six Different Ways (Studio Demo)
Six Different Ways

Push (RS Home Demo)

Sunday, August 06, 2006


SIART is packing up the wife and kids and going on vacation. That is a picture of the actual lake I will be enjoying all week. Pretty restful, eh? So, there will be no posts of music for the next few days. I don't even know if I'll have any kind of access to the internet, so it should be interesting for this internet junkie...

Friday, August 04, 2006

Funky Friday Has The Perfect Beats

Back in '98 Timber Records (a Tommy Boy Records sublabel) put out four volumes of a compilation series called The Perfect Beats - New York Electro Hip Hop + Underground Dance Classics 1980 -1985. I picked up Vols. 1 & 2 back in the day, and they are now out of print and hard to find. Today's selections are taken from Volume 1. Rockers Revenge deliver a killer electro groove update of an Eddy Grant oldie, produced by the legendary Arthur Baker. Brits are represented by the trio Imagination, who were camper than camp (and rocked the "Hammer pants" look years before Hammer did) but sounded sweet and funky. Underground in the US for sure, they were Top 40 regulars for a couple of years in the UK. Also on the UK tip are the grandads of British jazz funk, Level 42. Keyboardist Mike Lindup handles the lovely falsetto on this funky space jam, and Wally Badarou's additional keys make this one a keeper. It still sounds great today. Finally, Italian post-disco gets an outing via Klein & M.B.O.'s synth pop electro.

1 Afrika Bambaataa & Soulsonic Force - Planet Rock
2 Planet Patrol - Play At Your Own Risk
3 Rockers Revenge - Walking On Sunshine
4 Yazoo - Don't Go
5 Jellybean - The Mexican
6 Yello - Bostich
7 Kraftwerk - Trans Europe Express
8 Kraftwerk - Numbers / Computer World
9 Peech Boys - Don't Make Me Wait
10 Imagination - Just An Illusion
11 Level 42 - Star Child
12 Nick Straker Band - A Little Bit Of Jazz
13 Klein & M.B.O - Dirty Talk
14 T.W. Funkmasters - Love Money

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Maybe We're Crazy

The wife and I are going to see Gnarls Barkley in concert tonight. I am pretty geeked. I look forward to the costumes - who are they going to be tonight? I've been reading reviews, and they've all been positive. They have been opening the show with a cover of Duran Duran's Hungry Like The Wolf. All of this is good for me. I expect to be fully entertained, and I look forward to hearing the album recreated with a band and string section and all. A good time should be had by all. In the spirit of this I share some Gnarls inspired mash ups, and the original spaghetti western music that is sampled on Crazy. Enjoy...

Gianfranco Reverberi - Last Man Standing - the original bit of music. Quite lovely.

Arty Fufkin - Crazy Logic - Crazy vs Supertramp's Logical Song vs The Who's Go to the Mirror Boy vs Rockwell's Somebody's Watching. It is crazy.

The Legion Of Doom - Crazy As She Goes - Crazy vs. The Raconteurs' Steady As She Goes vs. some old skool hip hop tracks.

Sound Advice - The Last Nasty Boy - the Gnarls Barkley vs Biggie Smalls mash up. That's right, the Gnotorious Gnarls Biggie is in the house.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Big Weekend

Tom Petty's second solo LP dropped last week. (OK, it's really his third.) Called Highway Companion, it is Petty's "road record", full of ruminations on life filtered through the language of drivers and the road. Titles like Turn This Car Around and Night Driver should be a clue as to the direction. Sonically it is largely a low key affair, filled with gentle, dreamy ballads and classic Petty downtempo rockers. It is produced by long time producer/collaborator Jeff Lynne, and Petty handles almost all of the instrumentation save lead guitar, which is played by long time band mate Mike Campbell. It is by no means a departure for Petty. You'll hear all of his musical motifs, and the world weary drawl will always be the same. I really like it's mellow vibe, perfect for relaxing on a sunny afternoon, or the paper on Sunday morning. Big Weekend is one of the more uptempo tunes, and features a nice chunky bass riff that'll make you feel like trucking. I like the sentiment of the chorus - "I need a big weekend, kick up the dust, yeah a big weekend, if you don't run you rust."