A reasonably good Rihanna remix for you

New York DJ Bremner has had a go at remixing ‘What’s My Name?’ by everyone’s current favourite pop princess, Rihanna. We can’t help but assume that he’s not a fan of Drake as his rap is missing completely, as are bits of the verses, so instead we’re left with lots of cut ‘n’ paste samples of vocals (hence the song is retitled ‘Hey Boy’ as that bit appears A LOT) over cheap beats.

It’s not as good as it thinks it is but it’s nice for a cold Sunday night/bleak Monday morning is it not?

Yes, you can download it if you like.

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Cocknbullkid gets a bit miserable

Can’t pop music be a bit, you know, complicated sometimes? Take Cocknbullkid for example. First she’s Thecocknbullkid and makes electropop love songs with a melancholic centre and everyone’s like “she’ll be big in 2009, you mark my words”. Then, 2009 comes and goes, as does 2010, she drops the “the”, ditches the electropop and drip feeds out “taster”singles, one of which has a video and is available on iTunes (so, like, a real single then). But, here we are, end of January 2011 and we’re writing about what her label are referring to as her debut single proper, ‘Hold On To Your Misery’.

Said single now has a video and it’s an odd one. Basically, Anita Blay is in it as she’s the one doing all the singing and the holding on to the misery and there’s a small group of Anita lookalikes who do some dancing and wear bright clothes. Unfortunately, we can’t shake the feeling it all detracts slightly from the song, which is a shame as it’s really very good.

It’s nice to hear a pop song that’s honest about the fact that life can be a bit shit sometimes and yes we’d prefer to be happy but you can use the negative energy in a positive way. It’s like the saying, ‘when life gives you lemons you make lemonade’ only it’s changed it slightly to ‘when life gives you lemons make some lemonade but keep some lemons back to remind yourself that lemons are a bit nasty and that way you won’t keep buying lemons’.

Ta-dah!

New Patrick Wolf single. Features sax solo.

Exactly as it says above. It’s called ‘The City’ and it’s even more joyful and exuberant than ‘Time Of My Life’. Patrick Wolf is definitely in love, in case you hadn’t guessed already.

Click on the pic below to hear it please:

New Music Monday

So, 2011, how’s it going for you all so far? Bit gray and moody isn’t it? Still, like a giant musical ray of sunshine on a dank, dark Monday morning, we’re here to liven things up as best we can. Yep, New Music Monday is back and frankly not before time. To recap a bit, 2010 ended with Matt Cardle selling an inordinate amount of copies of a Westlife ballad performed with guitars and Take That sold approximately ten copies a minute of their sleek, pop-my-Nan-likes Progress album. But that was then and this is very much now and below are a couple of things out today that you may like to purchase from a shop (probs from a supermarket at this rate), download or steal.

BUY THIS IF YOU LIKE POP STARS IN HATS

Doo-Wops & Hooligans by Bruno Mars

Bruno Mars is one third of production powerhouse The Smeezingtons, who are responsible for some great things (Cee Lo Green‘s ‘Fuck You’ for example) and some not so great things (Travie McCoy‘s ‘Billionaire’). In many ways, this dichotomy is true of his debut album, a collection of songs that veers from the undeniably catchy (new single ‘Grenade’, ‘Just The Way You Are’) to songs comparing his penis to a carrot. Still, albums with two good singles and some other listenable songs are things to be mildly celebrated in January are they not?

DOWNLOAD THIS SINGLE PLEASE

‘Rolling In the Deep’ by Adele

Let’s be honest, Adele’s first album, 19, was a bit rubbish. ‘Chasing Pavements’ was nice enough and that single Mark Ronson produced had it’s moments, but generally, despite a brilliant voice, there wasn’t that much separating her from, say, Duffy. Well, thankfully, Paul Epworth has climbed aboard the good ship album number two (entitled, age-fans, 21) and produced this rather wonderful single, all vintage soul backing vocals and big, echo-ey drums. Lyrically, it’s all “you, young man, are a bit nasty and I don’t love you anymore” and that’s a good thing because he does seem like a bit of a twonk.

Watch with my Mother’s Mother: Bruno Mars

Nan’s back! We saw each other over Christmas and I brought her the Rumer and Take That albums and she brought me a food blender. The other night I tried making a soup in said blender and it came out like purified roadkill, the thought of which still makes me gag. I explained the disaster to my Nan who was sympathetic and also totally unsurprised. We both decided it would be best if I stuck to making smoothies/milkshakes. Anyways, we’re back for 2011 and here’s the first selection, the soon-to-be number 1 ‘Grenade’ by Bruno Mars. As you will see below, Nan was quite worried about poor Bruno by the end.

I liked him. I liked his voice, very nice voice, but a sad song, really nice though. The song’s about rejection really. She’d obviously gone off with somebody else, hadn’t she? I did like the song a lot, but the video…I found it weird. I wasn’t sure about the piano. Why was he doing that? I couldn’t work out what it was meant to represent. I mean, am I being really silly or was it obvious and I’m being, you know? [we chat about what it might mean for a bit].

So carrying a piano about kind of proves something does it? Like a heavy burden? I mean he should have just called her really. Also, the thing that got me was, does he end up under that train? I mean, is he committing suicide at the end there? The whole video is very sad. Such a sad song. It all goes black at the end, so is that the end of him and his piano? I thought it was strange all that and a bit over the top. I get the bit about the piano now which is good because I was a bit worried about that, but what really worried me was him finishing up under the train. The song is just a sort of sad song but, you know, it didn’t make you desperately depressed but the video is…worrying. I didn’t think it was a very good role model [laughs]. The woman in the video wasn’t impressed with him at all. Do you think it was a dream?

He’s got that kind of old school look about him hasn’t he? And completely different to those people he met on the way. I wasn’t quite sure what they represented, those weirdies [amazing]. It was weird that he had his hat on when he was inside and it was raining outside and then he didn’t have it on when he went outside. In the old days it was rude to wear a hat indoors but nowadays they do it all the time. Why wear your hat in your bedroom?

I do like his voice, that sort of lovely, soft voice if you know what I mean. It’s like Michael Jackson, that tone of voice that is natural and soulful. He’s not a typical star but he’ll probably last longer, his songs seem a bit deeper than normal if you know what I mean. I quite liked the lyrics, but I thought it was quite unusual the “grenade” part, but probably quite topical.

Song: 8

Video: 6 It worried me a bit, the ending

Do hold it against her

Or, click here for a vocally less annoying version

It’s been quite a turnaround for Britney Spears in recent years. In 2007 her excellent fifth album Blackout failed to reach the number 1 spot in America, selling a third of what her previous albums had sold. Given that the promotion for said album involved staggering and spluttering through an abysmal MTV Music Awards performance and was followed by her admittance to a psychiatric hospital, it’s hardly surprising sales had tailed off. Yet it included some of her best singles – Gimme More (“it’s Britney bitch”), Piece of Me, Break The Ice – proof that if her litany of producers could come up with some pretty audacious beats then she still had time to add some vocals. Since then she’s had two US number 1 singles (Womanizer, 3) and a huge album and world tour.

The result of which means that her new single Hold It Against Me – the first from her forthcoming seventh album, due in March – has become something of an event. Demo versions have been leaked, Twitter posts from Britney herself have stoked excitement and her label have said there’s just one copy in the UK (although, it’s leaked, so someone may not have a job in the morning).

So, what’s it like? Over relentlessly heavy beats and the kind of synth whooshes that are so popular these days, Britney tries her hand at flirting (“If I said I want your body now, would you hold it against me?”), coming out with the kind of lines usually reserved for ITV’s Take Me Out (“You feel like paradise and I need a vacation tonight”). It all trundles along nicely, with the sweet vocal melody juxtaposing nicely with the industrial beats (courtesy of pop uberlords Dr Luke and Max Martin), before the whole thing has a bit of a meltdown at the two minute mark, first throwing in some grimey, dubstep-esque beats (there were rumours Rusko was helping with the album) and then a smattering of rave chords before the chorus roars up again. Expect Madonna to release a dubstep-influenced album before the year is out.

This is an extended version of the blog that appeared on The Guardian’s music site

Prime Yasmin(ister)

One thing the music industry has been lacking in recent years is young female singers, isn’t it? You just don’t see or hear enough of them these days. Thankfully Yasmin is here to stop the female famine and remind us that ladies singing songs can be a lovely thing. Yasmin is the kind of pop star that people assume it’s OK to like because a). she’s signed to Ministry of Sound b). she’s a DJ who has literally played some songs at places like Ibiza Rocks and probably at someone’s birthday party.

Her debut single, ‘On My Own’, was produced by Shy FX and despite the chorus not quite hitting hard enough (this probably wouldn’t have happened had she been signed to, say, Polydor) is a very nice listen indeed. This is the video:

Unbelievably, it took TWO people to direct that video, the concept of which is “point the camera at pretty lady in ridiculous hat as she walks along the canal”.

Singers singing songs in 2011

Well hello there. Take a seat. Did you have a nice Christmas and new year break? Good. Yes, we did thank you. Got some slippers, some DVDs, a nice cardigan, some CDs and a food blender. I know, very lucky, yes. Shall we crack on with writing about music now that we’re in January and there’s very little else to do? OK, here goes…

So, everyone and their mother is scrambling about looking for the ‘next big thing’ and whilst we’re not opposed to this kind of thing at all (we love a good list and anything that gets people all hot and bothered is fine by us), it does lead to something resembling a backlash before any of these poor buggers have had chance to release any music. For example, we’re already bored to tears by Clare Maguire and not just because she seems – to us at least – to be nothing more than a slightly better dressed Sandi Thom. The Vaccines and Brother can run along because, frankly, we’re not sure it is time for a guitar band revival especially not just for the sake of it.

So, who do we like? Well, below is a short list of people we think will make some nice songs in 2011 and some of them aren’t even brand new. Frankly, we’re going to let people who made music in 2010, or maybe 2009, also continue to make good music in 2011. That’s how nice we are.

LADY GAGA

Born This Way should be the album that cements her Ladyship as the greatest pop star of the past decade and with a single coming out as soon as February there’s not much time to wait. Of course, she could balls it all up by diving a bit too far down the earnest piano-ballad route – that new song she played on tour recently was a). a bit dull and b). veeeerrrryyyy llooooonnnnnggg – but, let’s be honest, it’s going to be a pop masterclass from a woman who hasn’t just learned to be a superstar, she’s re-written the manual, put her face on the cover and then repackaged it with a bonus book of extra chapters more exhilarating than the original version.

COCKNBULLKID

Yep, the one that was meant to take 2009 by storm is back and she’s got a debut album (Adulthood) up her sleeves so chock full of melody it should come with a warning. WARNING: THIS ALBUM CONTAINS SO MANY BRILLIANTLY MELODIC SONGS IT MAY LEAD TO IMPOTENCE OR EAR CANCER. Gone – for the most part – is the electropop of old and in it’s place is a more traditional set-up that frames the songs perfectly, letting Anita Blay’s (for she is the cock in question) voice inject the character.

JAI PAUL

Jai Paul made a song in his bedroom in half an hour. He emailed said song to his brother who went nuts for it, demanded he email it to a blog and then probably placed bets on his sibling’s forthcoming debut album winning the Mercury Music prize. That track, ‘BTSTU’, is the kind of song that takes the fundamental rules of pop music – verse, chorus, verse, bridge, chorus, fade – and manipulates them into something simultaneously new yet completely familiar. It’s not alienating in a “ya, ya, it’s, like, really interesting and technically really proficient” kind of way, it’s just pop music with the limits removed. We were lucky enough to interview him for Dazed magazine recently and as part of that we heard three brand new songs and though our memory fails us when it comes to details, we can confirm that each one was spectacularly amazing.

SPARK

We don’t know too much about Spark other than that she’s a lady, she has black hair and red lips. Oh, and she makes the kind of ’90s-referencing pop songs that make us go from “huh, this is kind of shit” to “this is literally amazing” in the space of one song. That song is ‘Revolving’ and we like it a lot and sometimes that’s all it takes.

JAMES BLAKE

We saw James Blake recently in a pub. Not just having a drink, but actually playing a keyboard and singing and you know what, it was a good evening. It wasn’t some epoch-defining, you-should-have-been-there-oh-my-God-I-cried-at-the-beauty-of-it-all kind of gig, but the boy sure can sing and there’s a beautiful kind of patience about how he arranges songs. Chances are he’ll win the BBC Sound of 2011 thang and everyone will hate him come March, but from what we’ve heard, his debut album (due in Feb) should see him past the haterzzz.

BRITNEY SPEARS

So, she went a bit mad, released an amazing album, Blackout (seriously, regardless of your musical persuasion, please listen to it), got slightly better health-wise and then made Circus which was only 56% good. What can we learn from this? That mental illness makes pop better? Or that Britney really has no clue what she’s singing on until she gets to the studio and that the label dropped the ball? Either way, she’s got a new album on the horizon and ‘Hold It Against Me’, the first single, will premiere this Friday. Co-produced by Dr Luke and Max Martin an insider has said that the track is “infectious”, which is a bit like saying snow is cold or grass is green or Flo Rida has the emotional capacity of a lemon sorbet.

There are loads of others, but we’re tired and need to go and have some cereal before bed, so here’s a list of names of people we also think will do good things in 2011:

Mr Little Jeans

Alex Winston

MNDR

Chad Valley

Panda Bear

Adele

The Strokes

Outkast/Andre 3000

Bjork

Those Dancing Days

Theophilus London

No doubt Damon Albarn will release at least five albums, so that will be nice

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’

Watch with my Mother’s Mother: Christmas Special

This week I had to apologise profusely to my Nan for not getting to speak to her sooner. What with a bad cold and various after work alcohol-infused outings, it was either leave it for a bit or call her up at 2am slurring the lyrics to ‘White Christmas’ down the phone. So, by way of an apology, I sent her the Coldplay Christmas single, ‘Christmas Lights’ (the video I had sent her two weeks ago) AND Matt Cardle‘s debut video for ‘When We Collide’. Below is the final Watch with my Mother’s Mother of 2010 and read on for a special Christmas wish from Nan to all of the people that have said nice things about this here feature. Merry Christmas y’all.

I wasn’t very impressed, it was a bit like a dirge really. I thought the video was tame as well. I tell you what the song reminded me of, The Isle of Mull [I think she means Mull of Kintyre]. It’s not particularly happy, I didn’t think it was very good as a Christmas song. There was no, like, “Happy Christmas”, there was nothing like that really. If you’re going to make a sad Christmas song at least make it memorable.

I just wasn’t impressed all in all. I liked some of the video and at one point I thought I saw Elvis going along the back. There were three of them in a boat and I thought that was quite comical, but overall I wasn’t impressed really. It wasn’t good enough for Coldplay I didn’t think, they do much better than that don’t they? I don’t think everybody can make a successful Christmas song you know. My favourite? Oh, what’s that old one, the one with that guy with the beard…no, not Father Christmas Michael [laughs for a long time]. No, not the white beard. Slade! What was his name? What was that song? They were so catchy weren’t they. I love ‘Last Christmas’ too and I like Elvis’ ‘Blue Christmas’.

Song: 7

Video: 6

Ohhh, Matt. I love Matt whether he’s got a hat or not. I thought he was brilliant and I love that song. I loved the video because it shows him going through the X Factor, I thought it was fantastic. I went on his website too and I really want his CD now. I thought the whole story bit was brilliant in the video and it showed how nice he is. He’s got such a range, I thought he was gorgeous. He was the winner in every single week bar one wasn’t he?

I love the song. I love it more when I listen to it with earphones, it’s so beautiful. Really beautiful. It wasn’t really until you sent it to me and I listened to it that I noticed it properly and it struck a bell. I was willing him to have a good song because I wanted him to win so I wasn’t really taking it in as much as now. I’m so grateful for all those ones you’ve sent. I’ve got them all written down in a folder.

I think people liked him because most weeks he was there wasn’t he? He was consistent, always something you remembered. Dannii did well with his songs every week too. He did a lot of girl songs, which he did perfectly, because he’s got this range. I play that CD you sent me all the time, it’s lovely.

Rebecca lost it with Christina Aguilera didn’t she? Mind you, Rihanna with Matt, I think he was “wow”, gobsmacked, don’t you? I thought it was nice and she did look lovely. But, oh God, later on, that was awful. She took that dressing gown off and she was just walking about with her bottom out. They did complain didn’t they. It was before 9 o’clock.

Song: 10

Video: 10

Have a happy, healthy Christmas everybody!