Category Archives: Robyn

Finally, Robyn releases some new music

You remember Robyn, right? She’s been around a bit recently. Released the odd album or three in 2010. We quite like her. Well, yesterday a new video emerged with her in it and with some music playing in the background. The song, ‘Bad Gal’, isn’t new, in fact we’re pretty sure you can buy it on iTunes as an extra track on one of the Body Talk albums (we can’t be arsed to check as it’s late, but feel free to do so if you wish).

‘Bad Gal’ is billed as Savage Skulls & Douster feat. Robyn, but frankly that seems a bit unfair as she’s the one doing the singing and all of the dancing in the video. Still, ego be damned, she’s third on the bill but effortlessly stealing the limelight as ever.

Albums of 2010: 5 – 1

1. Body Talk – Robyn

“I’ve got some news for you/Fembots have feelings too.” So opens Robyn’s third album of 2010, a compilation of 10 of the best tracks from the two Body Talk mini-albums, alongside five new songs. The lyric sums up Robyn perfectly: a mainstream pop star with attitude, unafraid to promote her sexuality on her own terms.

While guitar bands are praised for daring to use synths in their music, Robyn trades rhymes with Snoop Dogg on the frantic U Should Know Better, makes bass-heavy doom-pop with Röyksopp in None of Dem and, with Dancing On My Own, creates one of the best pop singles of the last 20 years.

But Body Talk isn’t just sleek, forward-thinking electro-pop. It’s also imbued with emotion and soul. Musically, the pace rarely slackens, whereas lyrically Body Talk conerns relationship breakups and/or defiance in the face of heartache. These are songs to dance to with tears streaming down your cheeks. It’s not, however, an album mired by a sense of victimhood, with Robyn both perpetrator and casualty; the Max Martin-produced Time Machine is a lengthy apology to a jilted ex, Love Kills a lengthy warning.

There’s an economy on Body Talk that makes the emotional punch all the more powerful. Dancing On My Own doesn’t waste a second, its metronomic beat the epitome of minimalism, while Hang With Me aims to capture the essence of a relationship in a single line: “I know what’s on your mind, there will be time for that too, if you hang with me.”

Rather than spending ages in the studio, Robyn recorded Body Talk in short bursts, sending tracks to her label as and when they were finished. Commercially, it’s an experimental approach that has yet to fully pay off – only Body Talk Part 2 charted in the UK top 40 – but creatively it’s a testament to the fact that pop music still has the ability to surprise. As Robyn says: “The whole industry knows not to fuck with me.”

Originally appeared in The Guardian’s round-up of 2010’s best albums

Best Track: ‘Dancing On My Own’

2. Teen Dream – Beach House

Whilst the whole dream-pop/chillwave/slo-mo-sepia-tinged genre found itself a whole heap of new stars, the mum and dad of the genre quietly released their third album. From its very first notes – the laconic guitar figure that heralds Zebra – Teen Dream is an album that immediately creates its own mood, pulling you in and keeping you close for its forty-eight minute duration. Whilst their first two albums used a similar template – mid-paced, dreamy, built around Victoria Legrand’s swoonsome vocals – Teen Dream sees them utilise melody much more successfully. Songs no longer meander pleasantly, but strive for a destination. For all its refinement, it’s not quite the dinner party soundtrack some would have you believe. ‘Norway’ features an oddly wonky synth line that would have Rory checking his Bose soundsytem wasn’t broken, the mix is strangely top-heavy and the whole thing is suffused with a weary, almost unbearable heaviness. From the fog it’s Legrand’s voice that pierces through, usually sounding fit to burst whilst Alex Scally creates musical backdrops built around guitar, drums and a pandora’s box of keyboard sounds. An album to enjoy all year round.

Best track: ‘Zebra’

3. The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III) – Janelle Monáe

Janelle Monáe is not like other pop stars. The ArchAndroid, her debut album, is an 18-track, 70-minute conceptual opus, split into two suites, each one separated by ludicrously extravagant Overtures. To say it’s ambitious feels like damning with faint praise; its sheer musical scope – from the James Brown funk of Tightrope to the English pastoral folk of Oh, Maker – is spellbinding. So, the excellent Cold War is new wave with lashings of sci-fi, Locked Inside takes in Off the Wall-era Michael Jackson, while Come Alive (War of the Roses) finds the 24-year-old screaming herself hoarse over squealing guitars. Influences are treated as stepping stones rather than laboured over, with only Make the Bus (a collaboration with Of Montreal) shifting the focus away from the star. The album ends with the eight-minute, string-drenched BaBopBye Ya, a song that teeters on the brink of ridiculousness yet, as with the album as a whole, somehow reins itself in with great aplomb. Behold, pop music has found its latest superstar.

Review originally appeared in The Guardian’s Film & Music section

Best track: ‘Tightrope’

4. I Speak Because I Can – Laura Marling

Much had been made about how Laura Marling’s second album showed her vast maturity and whilst it’s true that it’s short on LOLZ or any songs featuring an unnecessary verse from Pitbull, all this inference about songs centred around knitting and incontinence put us off somewhat. I Speak Because I Can is, however, an album of great vitality, each song harnessing a strange sense of restrained urgency (if such a thing can even exist and it probably can’t). Songs like ‘Rambling Man’ and ‘Alpha Shallows’ sound like they’re aching to breach the restraints Marling places upon them but sound better for the fact that they can’t. Lyrically, it’s an album that reveals itself more and more with each listen, Marling telling stories from the perspective of various character and yet somehow inhabiting them all. At the core of it all is her voice, poised but with a hint of weariness on ‘Goodbye England (Covered In Snow)’ or swollen with spite as on ‘Hope In The Air’. It closes with the title track, a one-tack recording that hinges on the lyric “never rode my bike down to the sea / never quite figured out what I had believed”. It’s sung in such a way that you believe that the non-riding of a bike actually encapsulates a myriad of repressed feelings, of missed opportunities of not taking risks and it’s this ability to turn the mundane into something more that makes Marling so special.

Best track: ‘Rambling Man’

5. Congratulations – MGMT

Congratulations, the follow-up to the hugely successful Oracular Spectacular, was, in many ways hampered by the band themselves. Not in terms of the music – which wasn’t anywhere close to the commercial suicide that many had hyped it be – but in terms of all the guff that went along with it. The band decided against releasing any singles, immediately recalling Radiohead’s similar stance with 2000’s Kid A album. Whilst the Oxford comedians suggested it was because there simply weren’t any singles on the album, VanWyngarden and Goldwasser just seemed to not want to play the game. There was a lot of po-faced boo-hooing about never wanting to be successful in the first place and that they’d all rather work in a sewer or in Toys R Us, and yet all this can’t take away from the record itself. Produced by Sonic Boom, Congratulations is a brilliantly odd collection of songs that meander joyfully, taking in odd homages to Brian Eno and the Television Personalities’ Dan Treacy along the way. There’s much to enjoy not least because no matter how hard they try they can’t help but make hummable melodies. ‘It’s Working’, ‘Flash Delirium’ and ‘Brian Eno’ all rattle along in a psychedelic daze whilst the lilting ‘Someone’s Missing’ and the closing ‘Congratulations’ are suffused with a kind of sweetly melancholic inertia. The centrepiece is the 12 minute long ‘Siberian Breaks’, which is a wonderfully pretentious as the title suggests. Bloody-minded but often brilliant, Congratulations was the ‘difficult second album’ it was more than OK to love.

Best track: ‘It’s Working’

New Music Monday

NOTHING ELSE MATTERS, JUST BUY THIS

Body Talk by Robyn

CHEERS!

First Listen: Body Talk pt 3 by Robyn

What a year it has been for Robyn. Perhaps not in a commercial sense – her last single missed the top 40 and neither parts 1 or 2 of this three part series cracked the UK Top 30 – but creatively Robyn has 2010 pretty much sewn up. On November 29th she’ll release Body Talk, a fifteen track album that features five songs each from the first two parts and five brand new tracks, including new single, ‘Indestructible’. It looks like she’ll also release those new tracks on a separate EP (Body Talk pt 3, completist fans) and we’ve heard ’em so we’re going to write a thing on them. Huzzah.

Now, we’ve done the whole bird rating system before, so we’re rating them according to body parts (not the rude ones, this is a family show).

5 = Ears

4 = Eyes

3 = Hands

2 = Elbows

1 = Nipples

Let’s do this:

1). ‘Indestructible’ – You’ve probably heard the radio edit of this electronic version of the previously available acoustic version, but here we get the, er, album version. The intro is a bit longer and the string part is extended, but really it’s still the same amazing song just with a few added bits of amazing. Hell, you could add a FloRida verse and it would still be amazing.

Verdict = Eyes

2). ‘Time Machine’ – Starts a bit like Britney‘s ‘Piece of Me’ (on which Robyn sang backing vocals), before a slightly disconcerting “Hey” arrives, which is then repeated throughout the opening verse. The song is about Robyn being a bit of a bitch to her boyf and now she really regrets it. The chorus (which is pretty fucking incredible by the way) goes, “All I need is a time machine / A one way track / Cause I’m taking it back, taking it back”. The last bit is lifted by a melody shift and it’s one of those ones that makes your stomach flip a bit. Needless to say, this is the Max Martin production and it’s so brilliantly catchy it’s almost pastiche, but Robyn manages to keep it together. There’s also a brilliant electro meltdown midway through.

Verdict = Ears

3). ‘Call Your Girlfriend’ – It’s easier to see why the excellent ‘Cry When You Get Older’ was left off the final version when you hear this similarly paced electro tear-jerker. The beats are still huge and there are some lovely synths on it, but the lyrics are the real highlight. Basically, Robyn is giving a man some advice; “Call your girlfriend / It’s time you had the talk / Give your reasons / Say it’s not her fault / But you just met somebody new”. Guess what? It’s only bloody Robyn herself that this guy’s shacked up with. “Don’t you tell her how I give you something that you never even knew you missed”  = ouch. It’s a song about Robyn being the other woman but that she’s adamant this new guy doesn’t treat his current girlfriend badly. ONLY Robyn could make this song work and frankly it’s a bloody triumph.

Verdict = Ears

4). ‘Get Myself Together’ – As with part 2, these songs aren’t as slap-me-round-the-face amazing on first listen as much of part 1 was, but there’s still so much to love. ‘Get Myself Together’ is another tear-jerker with Robyn ruminating on a relationship disaster over pounding beats and shooting synth sounds. The chorus is HUGE and there are some lovely lyrical touches; “I saw my brother last night, he said I know you too well / You can’t pretend that nothing’s wrong”. It’s pretty frantic until the whole thing drops out for the final verse and there’s just a jackhammer beat and a sudden whoosh that heralds one last run through of that chorus.

Verdict = Eyes

5). ‘Stars 4-Ever’ – The only one that didn’t immediately jump out. It starts like a mid-nineties dance number, all treated vocals and “you and me on the hood of my car”. It’s a bit more mid-paced than the other tracks, at least on the verses and the chorus doesn’t hit quite as hard as the others. But, the more you listen the more it creeps under your skin and it’s the perfect way to close not only the EP but the whole fifteen track album. An album that any other pop star worth their salt would cut their arm off to have under their belt.

Verdict = Eyes

Overall verdict = Part 3 – Ears. Body Talk – Ears. 5/5, basically.

New Music Monday

We’re feeling a little sheepish. We were so tired post-Iceland that we neglected to do a New Music Monday (or any day) last week and for that we are truly sorry. We know that there have been protests in Paris because of it and the Government here have gone mad and decided to tax the poor and needy simply because we were too lazy to write some words about some songs. Again, “soz”. It feels a little pointless mentioning how well (or otherwise) things did two weeks ago, so let’s just dive straight in shall we?

BUY THIS

The Fool by Warpaint

We’ve been pretty excited to hear this ever since the EP and frankly when we first played it we were slightly disappointed. This isn’t a reflection on the band, more a spotlight on our own eagerness for immediacy and obvious melodies. The Fool is like a friend of a friend who you meet and don’t think much of because they seem a little weird and shy but your friend keeps on at you about how nice they are and you trust that friend so give you them another chance and actually they’re properly amazing. It’s like that. But in aural form.

BORROW THIS FROM SOMEONE

Down There by Avey Tare

Avey Tare, aka one of them from Animal Collective, may not be the one that everyone’s always banging on about (that would be Panda Bear – where for art thou second solo album Mr Bear?), but Down There is a brilliantly murky collection of watery beats and muffled, unsettling vocals nonetheless. Lucky 1 could have come straight off Merriweather Post Pavilion, whilst the brilliant Oliver Twist incongruously drops in a vocal sample from ATB’s ‘Fine Night Tonight’ midway through.

DOWNLOAD THIS (FOR FREE)

‘Get Some’ by Lykke Li

Sweden’s best pop star behind Robyn is back! Lykke Li made the lovely Youth Novels a few years back and wooed just about everyone who heard it, but the album itself was marred slightly by her cutesy vocals and habit of sounding like a small child. Well, that’s in the past. ‘Get Some’ is a feisty, horny (“wrapped around my finger like a lonely lover’s tongue”), drum-heavy slice of pure pop brilliance and can be downloaded FOR FREE from her website. Welcome back.

Yeah, so that’s 3 in a row

Robyn. ‘Indestructible’. Full version. 2010. Owned.

The final part of the Body Talk trilogy will be released on the 29 November.

New Music Monday

In between writing even more about that blasted Joe McElderry song, we’ve been busy summoning up a hailstorm of shit to descend upon you all. Harsh? Perhaps. But let’s look at the facts. So, ‘Hang With Me’ by Robyn entered at no. 54 on the UK singles chart. That’s thirteen places below a cover of Kings of Leon‘s ‘Use Somebody’ by Pixie Lott, twenty-four places below a new Maroon 5 single and forty-nine place beneath Olly fucking Murs. We were mildly appeased by the news that Body Talk Pt. 2 broke the top 40, but only just (it was no. 38). Maximum Balloon didn’t even make the Top 75, which only compounded the misery. We can barely be arsed, but let’s get on with it shall we…

BUY THIS

The Hundred In The Hands by The Hundred In The Hands

One of our favourite things about this American duo is the fact that they’re signed to Warp yet their debut album is produced by Richard X, a man responsible for the Sugababes‘ ‘Freak Like Me’ and ‘Some Girls’ by Rachel Stevens. This album doesn’t have anything as good as either of those modern day pop classics, but it does feature a handful of very good songs and some that are fairly derivative but still highly enjoyable.

BUY THIS IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY STOLEN IT

Mind Ctrl: Psychic Chasms Possessed by Neon Indian

This album by Alan Palamo, aka Neon Indian, was first released in the US late last year and immediately heralded as the dawning of chillwave. Apart from sounding like the worst music genre of all time (yes, worst than grillcore), chillwave is too varied in its influences to really be coherent. Either way, this debut – complete with a bonus EP of remixes by the likes of Toro Y Moi and Javelin – is neither “chilled” nor “wavey”, so there!

DOWNLOAD THIS

‘Undertow’ by Warpaint

Another ‘Single of the Week’ crown for this American all-female four piece. This time, rather than a David Bowie cover, ‘Undertow’ is the first single from their excellent debut album, The Fool. As with the album as a whole, it’s a song that reveals its charms slowly, building from fragile beginnings before blossoming into a jangly, haunting swirl of vocal harmonies and lovely guitar figures.

New Music Monday

Another week has gone by in the (not as busy as it used to be) world of music purchasing, and lo and behold the albums we picked failed to set the charts on fire. Summer Camp‘s was an EP so we’re not even sure if it’s chart eligible and The Like would need a miracle of some kind to be on anyone outside of London’s radar. (We didn’t pick the Hurts album because of the disappointment, but it did chart at no. 4, which is pretty impressive nonetheless). The Bjork single was nowhere to be see EVEN THOUGH IT’S FOR CHARITY. Children in Pakistan are dying because of you, basically. Anyways, enough of the negativity, let’s get some love in the room…

BUY THIS

Body Talk Pt 2 by Robyn

We oversaw the premiere of this album on The Guardian website last week and had to defend it against a gluttony of dimwitted twonks harping on about how it’s all manufactured “pop pap” and that it’s made by idiots for idiots, etc, etc. It was exhausting, but worthwhile, because Body Talk Pt 2 – the second part of an audacious plan to release three albums in 2010 – is quite simply a brilliant album, regardless of genre. In just 8 tracks it covers love, lust, heartbreak, arrogance, ego, fear and heartbreak again. Now, you don’t get that from some indie band dressed like Top Man mannequins do you?

BUY THIS TOO, YEAH

Maximum Balloon by Maximum Balloon

You may be saying; who the fook is Maximum Balloon? To which we would reply; it’s Dave Sitek. You may be saying; who the fook is Dave Sitek? To which we would reply; the producer behind albums by Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Foals, Liars, Holly Miranda and even that Scarlett Johansson one that’s actually pretty good. Oh and he’s the guitarist and producer with TV On The Radio. If you are still unsure then why are you reading a music blog? Anyways, Maximum Balloon features an amazing roll-call of guests – Theophilus London, Karen O, David Byrne, to name just three – and is a brilliantly conceived collection of woozy, slightly off-kilter pop.

DOWNLOAD THIS

‘Hang With Me’ by Robyn

Yeah, what? If there’s a better single out this week then we’ve yet to hear it. Just buy this or there will be hell to pay, mmmkay?

Polar opposites attract

We would have given anything to have been there. The other night Bjork was honoured with Sweden’s Polar Prize (you get a million Swedish coins) for being amazing for a really long time. Bjork herself was there to witness (through gritted teeth it looks like) Robyn covering ‘Hyperballad’ and Wildbirds & Peacedrums doing ‘Human Behaviour’.

Here’s Robyn’s effort:

Obviously, her voice isn’t as gymnastic as Bjork’s but she puts her own spin on it and very nearly “makes it her own”. Below is a video of the whole of Bjork’s segment of the show, so you can either watch the Robyn bit again, or skip to 6:54 and watch the excellent Wildbirds & Peacedrums take the already pretty pagan sounding ‘Human Behaviour’ and ratchet up the earthy drama.

Yes, that is Bjork’s Dad and yes he does have the best accent of all time.

New Music Monday

You’ll have to excuse the look of the blog today. For reasons we’ve still yet to fathom, WordPress (our delightful hosts), took it upon themselves to change the look of the blog, thus stripping it of all the lovely pictures and link boxes we had so pain-stakingly created. Now, this may be something to do with an update by the person whose design we ‘borrowed’, but still, it’s bullshit and we’re going to cry. Things aren’t helped by the fact that Best Coast‘s brilliant album entered at a lowly 67, Wavves were nowhere to be seen (neither was Sunday Girl) and Arcade Fire entered at no. 1. We kinda like that album, don’t get us wrong, but it’s just a bit sad all things considered. We’re just sore because our beloved blog has been desecrated! Anyway, grudgingly, here are this weeks choices. (NO MUM, I DON’T WANT TO PLAY *THROWS TOYS OUR OF PRAM*).

BUY THIS

Church With No Magic by PVT

This trio from Australia used to be called Pivotal, but they had a run in with some other band who got their knickers in a twist and demanded the Aussies take all the vowels out and make do. We’ve not heard of Pivotal, but we’re assuming they haven’t made an album as brilliant as Church With No Magic. Signed to Warp, PVT make booming, beat-clattering song-behemoths that splutter and stumble out of the speakers like drunk club bangers. One of the songs, Light Up Bright Fires, is just bonkers, the kind of slathering beast that makes you feel a bit dangerous even if you’re just sat in your pyjamas watching Phil Mitchell actually smoke crack in ‘Enders.

BUY THIS ALSO

Mines by Menomena

Something tells us Portland trio Menomena (rhymes with phenomena) don’t want to be famous. For one, their album cover comes with no text on it, nor does the back. The cover photo is of a broken statue in a forest. Oh, and their track titles are things like ‘Tithe’, ‘Bote’ and ‘Oh Pretty Boy, You’re Such A Big Boy’. No matter of course, for Mines is a brilliantly odd collection of songs that fuse guitars, piano, percussion and brass in a way Arcade Fire can only dream of. Apparently, the band had a torrid time during recording and this tension is palpable for much of the album. It only adds to the drama in a good way.

DOWNLOAD THIS

‘The Drug’ by Röyksopp

Röyksopp’s last album, Junior, was a collection of bright, sparky electropop with guest vocals from the likes of Robyn and Karin from Fever Ray/The Knife. The cover was a neon splash of pinks and purples. Well, funtime is over people. Senior is the flipside to all that frivolity, focusing on instrumental soundbeds that float around like wisps of smoke. ‘The Drug’ is the first taster and is a suitably atmospheric six minutes of fairly spartan electro noodling. (For proof of how serious it’s all about to get, check out the album cover above).