Trouble Leads To Paradise For La Roux

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Setbacks lead to comebacks. Just ask La Roux. A lot of emphasis is being placed on the five-year absence of the UK duo, and it's with natural reason. In music consumer terms, five years without so much as a buzz single is of drought proportions considering La Roux left us after delivering a monsoon of synthesized amazingness on their debut album. Like a choosy, smooth operating lover you can't quit, La Roux played us for five years, dancing on promises that were relayed, and then in turn, delayed. Patience saw us through the whirlwind success of their 2009 self-titled debut, and it was its success that possibly made those five years afterward so grueling. 

Not only did touring take up a few years, but their breakout single, "In For The Kill" kept the band coasting well into the noughteens thanks to remixes by Skrillex, samples by The Game, covers by Kelis, and a pre-Kardahsianed Kanye West edging into the official remix to give the duo bushels of cred. Not to mention they had other singles ("I'm Not Your Toy" and their US best-seller, "Bulletproof") that garnered the same amount of attention, and to wrap it all up in bow, in 2011 they scooped up a Grammy as well. Elly Jackson and Ben Langmaid threw a bulls-eye on the futuristic spin of all that was '80s synth as La Roux was a love letter to the New Wave era, crackling with pinball whizzing synths and the anticipating potential of bigger, bolder moves, but Jackson became kind of fussy when talks of La Roux's follow-up became dialogue. She noted that she didn't want to do synth music for the "rest of her fucking life". Heck, she had even stopped listening to '80s music. Oh, and yeah, about the synth genre, bad news guys and gals, it's dead, dead, D-E-A-D. 

Over-dramatic much, Elly? Eh, just getting warmed up. 

Take 5 Friday: 'Weird Al' Yankovic + Alex Isley + Kyan + Dorothy + Nikki Jean

Friday, July 18, 2014

Reheating leftovers of the week...

Because I'm Tacky!
Shocking news. We're all pretty dag gum tired of Pharrell's "Happy". Dag yo gumma gumma tired. Don't lie. You are flat-out spent on it like I am, but bless 'Werid Al' Yankovic for twisting hilarious parody and biting wit into his version of my most hated hit song of 2014. "Tacky" is simply a goldmine of amazing right down to its visual. Featuring a star-studded cast (Aisha Tyler! Margaret Cho! Jack Black! Eric Stonestreet! Kristen Schaal!), "Tacky" clicks through a list of unsavory attributes --- you know like sandals with socks, live-tweeting funerals, and those who type their resumes on Comic Sans. It's a celebration of all that is tasteless and fluorescently unashamed, and it (along with Schaal's "hands" tank-top --- where can I buy that?) has oddly made me 'happy' again. Throughout this week, Weird Al has dropped several videos from his Mandatory Fun project, parodying the likes of Lorde, Robin Thicke, and Iggy Azalea, but "Tacky" is by far my favorite of the bunch as I didn't know it would be everything I ever wanted in this life right now. [Watch

Run To The Sun
Speaking of Pharrell....this has been the week of obscure remakes, but Alex Isley just kind of scoffed at that and said: "You know what? I'll take TWO obscure songs and mash them into one franken-song?" Okay, okay. She probably didn't say that verbatim, but that's the conclusion I'm coming to via her latest offering. Never would I thought to have put 702's "I Still Love You" (from their underrated 2003 album, Star) and N.E.R.D.'s "Run To Sun" together, but since Pharrell penned both tracks, it makes a heap of sense. The end product is a glorious and inventive swirl as Ms. Isley puts these two songs on ice and lets them steam up together into a richly seducing slow jam. Satisfying. [Listen]

Belanger's Got Mariah Carey Feeling Emotions Again

Thursday, July 17, 2014

I pride myself on the cache of Mariah Carey remixes I have collected over the years. Whether they were bootlegs or crafted by some of the notable spin doctors at the time (Junior Vasquez for the win), I was snatching them up left and right. Most were culled from endless years of scrolling through fan forums and sites. Now mind you this was in the stone age before SoundCloud, Spotify, and all those other spiffy stream services that make remix sharing so simple now. We were using sluggish phones lines and roughing it through sharing sites like Kazaa (ahoy piracy!) back then. I will say I have slipped in these last few years of remix hoarding, but there is just something about a Mariah Carey remix that gets me all nostalgic and wanting to collect again. Well, NYC's Belanger has cooked up all the vintage-y feels for me once again on his re-work of Carey's big 1991 hit, "Emotions".

This refix was released about a week ago (so consider this a throwback to a throwback) but I've been playing it a lot lately while getting my fitness on, and it's perfect to break a sweat to as well as perfect to hear "Emotions" all decked out in a feverish house style. If you need a refresher, "Emotions" was Carey's feel-good summertime stunner that continued you her on a single winning streak, as it was at the time, her 5th #1 single in a row. It was somewhat criticized for sounding a wee bit like The Emotions 1977 smash, "Best Of My Love", then again, it always seemed intentional to me hence the song's title and all. Belanger has a knack for twisting a beloved classic into something fresh, so if you want to feel a new kind of emotion then by all means get caught up.

Kiesza Gets Deep

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

My goodness

Steam is just rising off of Kiesza's latest "So Deep" and if you were looking for the backing soundtrack to all your summer flings and fantasies, well, this is that track. Yes, I'm a little late to dive into "So Deep" as its one of the fabulous four numbers on the Canadian vocalist's excellent Hideaway EP (out now), but no corner of time could have prepared me for all the sexy wexy that is coming out at me on this.

"So Deep" is in the same league as all the midnight sexual heals Maxwell scribed on 1996's Urban Hang Suite --- and if we want to get technical ---  this song escaped off of Janet Jackson's classic Velvet Rope album (direct attention to "Anything"), and forgot to tell Janet about it. Yes. This is some serious between-the-sheets soul with a smattering of kinetic house by song's close-out and Kiesza handles all of this gallantly. It's no secret that Kiesza has become one of my favorite new acts of 2014. She's just been so consistent and on-point that it's silly to not indulge in her crusade to bring the (and gosh, I hate typing this) the sexy back into R&B. Take to the sky with this natural high and scoop up the Hideaway EP so you can be like all the cool kids. 

Artist Watch: Ekkah

Monday, July 14, 2014

When you have a fairly common name you're bound to have someone in your friends' circle that possesses your namesake. Since I am the 156th Jennifer you'll ever meet in your life, I have in my short life had about a handful of Jennifers that have been pals. Due to that, and for the longest, I thought to form an all-girl band called: JENNIFER! (the exclamation point and the all caps are necessary). Still I don't think it'll be successful, because Jennifer's, eh, we're kind of bougie and self-absorbed. Someone is bound go all Diana Ross on everyone within first single drop. Who has been successful on the dual/multiple names front are The Donnas, The Veronicas, and the two Melanie's B & C from the Spice Girls, and now hoping to gain similar success is Ekkah, two Rebecca's (Rebekah Pennington and Rebecca Wilson) who hail from the UK and who have their keen ears latched to the future soul movement.

I'm quite impressed with their debut single "Figure It Out". It's got everything I like in it --- '80s synthesizers, Jessie Ware-esque vocals, and a bassline that bumps --- and it settles down the bones some as its perfectly lush. Its late summer afternoons, beaches, and all that easy-does-it stuff. The duo are prepping for an EP, and in the meantime are coasting on this song, and a few demos on their recently dropped (and aptly titled) Summer mixtape. There's also a really funky rework of Patrice Rushen's "Forget Me Nots" on there as well, so yeah, they are worth a scope.

SZA & Jill Scott Find Divinity

Who would've thunk that  SZA and Jill Scott could come together to make a swirled soft serve of soul that bears repeated listens? Not that I underestimated these two fine ladies, no, its because when two worlds collide like this it brings the wide-eyes and awe, and well,"Divinity" does just that as the eyes widen and the mouth dropped, as these songbirds bring it like "whoa". Producer Om'Mas Keith managed to blend these two differences and make a sum that really rockets into the cosmos of all that bold, abstract, and melodic. It's not called "Divinity" for kicks, there is higher power here.

1992: Ah...Bas Noir

Thursday, July 10, 2014

House has come back in a big way these last two years or so. I know, because I feel I type and say that sentence a lot. Still it's true. Acts like Disclosure, Moko, and Kiesza have revived one of the 1990s biggest music movements and in turn they've either woven in UK Garage or just some good ol' R&B into the pulse and pounce of the genre's sleek repetitiveness, thus mutating the sound for a whole new generation. Not to yankee doodle all over the place, but the US has been in the house game a long time as well, and the red, white, and blue fruits of our labor blossomed all over the '90s that it's difficult to even name all the players involved. Bas Noir is an act that bloomed during this period but, unfortunately, got lost in the sauce of bigger acts, and when interest in house and club music waned in the middle of the decade, they ceased to exist. Cue the teardrops and the sad violins. Yet, in their brief moment in the sun, they issued out what to me is possibly one of the best house albums you'll ever hear.

JUCE Are Burning & Blazing Up

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

"My city's burning up, burning up" --- and so goes the chorus of JUCE's newest and all I can say is
"oooh childe, yes!" I know the ladies are talking about their UK homestead's bumping nightlife, but it's the devil's scabby kneecap here in South Texas and this song couldn't be more apt. It's just unnecessarily H-O-T right now, and no air conditioning or church fan can stop this sting of heat that is just ripping through and kicking my ass. But I will endure the sun's mockery and the agony of boobsweat just to bounce around carefree to "Burning Up" which is yet another gemstone for this trio.

Not as strong as "Call You Out" or "(H)ours", and yeah, I'm a tad disappointed it's not a Madonna cover, but this one is just as savvy as the others and who doesn't like a little sonic Chic-esque flashback in their midst? Crank the temp up.

Artist Watch: Purple Ferdinand

First it is the name. What a great name. Purple Ferdinand. Then there is the backstory. A tattoo artist who hails from the UK and strums her ukulele to the songs she's writes all by her lonesome. Yes. I must listen. Then there is the EP entitled Dragonfly. It's hella brief with three songs all clocking in less than four minutes, but, hold on, wait a minute, it's three songs deep, as "Birds", "Speak True", and "Wasn't Taught To" are poetic little charmers that linger after they chime out. Just lovely they are and have Miss Purple Ferdinand sharing table space with Corinne Bailey Rae, Lianne La Havas, and all those other earthy big maned soul chicas of recent. Then we've got the visuals, all three songs get the treatment, and if there was a need for ukuleles to take starring role in a music video, then well sorry, everyone else, but Purple Ferdinand is cooler than us all and has brought the ukulele game to another level. Oh, and she's singing Little Dragon covers? New best friend material right there.

To repeat myself, sometimes you don't need much, just the little things to give you a fuller and more vivid picture and Purple Ferdinand is the sum of many intriguing parts, parts that will make you an instant fan and have you reaching for the repeat button. Trust. You can scoop up Dragonfly for free over at Purple Ferdinand's webspot, and also take a gander at the visuals after the cut for some supreme ukulele heroics.

KING Beautifully Criticize Mister Chameleon

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Floating into the steam of summer, the lovely ladies of KING have got a brand new melody to covet and it is a beaut. Putting people on blast takes skill to do with tact. I'm one of those who gets loud and starts twitching and balling fists, but I need to take some cues from these ladies as they make the lushest diss song I've ever heard with "Mister Chameleon".  It just glides on a sound potpourri of swelling and twinkling synths as they call out a man's disloyalty and fair-weather ways, all while debating if they should say 'hasta la vista' or not. 

If this charming track sounds a wee bit familiar it's because KING did a live and lengthier version at the Volia! Gallery in Los Angeles a few weeks back, and it was just as wonderful as this spiffed up studio version. Nonetheless, both versions are sublime, and will both definitely find room on my summer soundtrack. Bask in the glow of "Mister Chameleon" after the cut.

Goapele Shouts With 'Hey Boy'

Monday, June 23, 2014

It feels like a lot of hot minutes have clocked by since Goapele blessed us with Break Of Dawn, but that was 2011, and this is now. 2014 will have Goapele being Strong As Glass as her fourth album is on the come up, and she's already smashing doubt about it with the album's first single. Co-written with Estelle and Keith Harris, "Hey Boy" diverts away from her signature mellowness as Goapele goes for the roll and bounce of a spangly groover that is fit for a summer filled with lovey-doveiness and endless possibilities.

She merges in good company as the early '80s R&B revival has been in an upswing as of late, and "Hey Boy" perfectly captures the bygone era, adding in a little millennial steeze with some chopped n' screwed effects just to keep things interesting and dancing on the jagged edge. Goapele has already promised that Strong As Glass will be full of surprises, so consider this the first slice of awe.

Robin Thicke's 'Paula' Project Sounds Downright Creepy

Okay, so as I get older, I'm going for a more 'mind over matter' approach to life. So for some people, whether they be some overexposed celebrity or my weird neighbor who told my mom that the cure to diabetes was to drink her own urine, I just kind of shake my head, go "ain't that some mess" and just keep it moving and focus on what I gotta do. Well, that is until some bullschmidt comes into my proximity and well, raising an eyebrow over it just won't do.

I have been asleep at the wheel when it comes to Robin Thicke lately. Mostly out of disappointment. I used to like the guy, but now I have learned to enact the power of separating the artist from the art as it's truly the only way for me to get joy out of The Evolution Of Robin Thicke and Something Else now because Thicke went batshit after "Blurred Lines" and things keep getting weirder and weirder*. If you've been living under a rock, Thicke and his wife, actress Paula Patton, divorced, separated, got burned out, whatever, they are supposedly done-zo after being high school sweethearts from way back when. Thicke has been adamant on trying to get the love of his life back ever since, and he's doing it the only way he knows how, by music, and he's got a whole album of tears and apologies coming soon.

1984: Cherrelle's 'Fragile' Remains Strong

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Cherrelle's 1984 debut, Fragile begins with a smashing of glass, and in a way it's metaphorical. Soul music was in the midst of flux as the 1980s steamrolled in and reconstruction of the genre was taking place after disco's infiltration were beginning to wane. Ribbons of disco still wove into the folds of the spiky synths and quiet storm smoothness of early '80s R&B; most of it just dressed up as with the glossier funk epithet attached to it. By 1983, variations on the soul theme were becoming more and more prominent, as technological advancements and innovative techniques began to foreshadow the tone of how the rest of the decade would play out.

By now it's constant echo to mention the names of Michael Jackson and Prince when we discuss how Black music in the '80s made seamless transitions and broke new sound ground as they crossed over to pop (White) audiences. But let's not count out the ladies, as Shannon's "Let The Music Play" birthed Freestyle, and Disco's reigning queen Donna Summer slipped into new inventive shoes as her early '80s offerings were drenched in New Wave nourishment. Cherrelle is an interesting entry in all of this, because her debut was the unlikely home of a monster post-disco song that ended up shattering old ways and introducing new ones.

Max Marshall Dreams Of Yesterday

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Usually artists embark to the red, white, and blue to seek their fortune n' fame, but Baltimore-born Max Marshall went against the current as she opted to nest in East London in order to nurture the budding of her soon-to-be blossoming singing career. Smart move considering the British future soul scene is just busting at the seams with talent galore, but not worried about the competition Miss Marshall is, as she's already clocked in prime studio time with Matrix & Futurebound, and landed a guest spot on their wildly popular 2013 single, "Control"

While she began as a wig designer for Lady Gaga (now why didn't I think of that while filing for unemployment?), Max Marshall is carving her name into the desk, and she's not going to dentition for the likes of "Yesterday", her latest installment. Debuting through i-D Magazine, urbanite life roosts in the track's suave chillax vibe that feels like summer afternoons and icy sweet popsicles and recalls the gritty heart of gold possessed in '90s R&B chanteuses whose names were either Aaliyah, Mary, or Faith. Miss Marshall has other rhythm and muses at her SoundCloud spot, and I suggest giving her debut mixtape, Forgive Me, some undivided attention.