Hallelujah: A “YMCA”-free wedding mixtape

Here Comes the Bride: A Popdose Wedding Songs MixtapeWe’ve all been there: You’re invited to celebrate a couple’s special day with the bride, groom, and 100 or so of their closest friends and relatives. Everyone’s dressed up and looking good, the food is fine, and the alcohol is flowing. What could be better?

Here’s an idea — how about a DJ who doesn’t play the same damn songs you’ve heard at every other wedding you’ve been to? No “YMCA,” no “Electric Boogie,” and, for the love of God, no “Macarena.” It shouldn’t be that hard, but it is — which is why we’re so pleased to inform you that the gang at Popdose has gotten together and come up with “Bride of Popdose: A Wedding Songs Mixtape,” featuring a long list of songs from their own weddings that haven’t already been played to death. Whether it’s Ennio Morricone, Trisha Yearwood, Indigo Girls, or Beausoleil that strikes your fancy, you’re bound to find something worth celebrating here. And who knows? Maybe some of these songs will come in handy the next time you have to plan a wedding…

Seen Your Video: Metric, “Sick Muse”

We were admittedly late to the Metric party, but after hearing the band’s fantastic new album Fantasies, we are officially smitten. And how cool is this: they just made a video for “Sick Muse,” the song we’ve been putting on mix discs since the album’s release.

The clip itself is simple one: the camera stays still while the band members play, or dance, or sing, or whatever they feel like doing. And if Emily Haines doesn’t have the cutest dance ever, we don’t know who does. Swoon. And as a bonus, this player – which defaults to auto-play, grrrr – contains videos for “Gimme Sympathy” and “Help I’m Alive” as well, along with audio streams of the entire Fantasies album. Sweeeeeeet.

Scripts ‘N Screwz: The New Noise

If there’s one thing you’d expect from an East St. Louis rap duo, it’s the ability to convincingly go dark, and on their full-length debut, The New Noise, Scripts ‘N Screwz deliver: for nearly an hour, the album envelops the listener in a grim, seedy wall of unforgiving sound that effectively frames their stark, socio-politically oriented rhymes. It’s distinctly inner-city stuff, with anger to spare, but it’s also a work of deep thought – and the probing lyrics are well matched by the steadily shifting production, which shifts from the dense, flashy barrage of tracks like “Brick” to the pared-down menace of “Eyes Wide Shut.” Scripts ‘N Screwz claim OutKast as a major influence, but don’t go into The New Noise expecting the freewheeling, genre-hopscotching whimsy that typifies OutKast’s albums; where releases like Aquameni and Stankonia tried to bring the street to the FM dial, Noise sits on the stoop and dares you to come to it. It isn’t always a happy journey, but it’s an unmistakably worthwhile one – if you like your hip-hop lyrically conscious and a little off the beaten path, this is Noise you need to hear. (The V.E. Company 2009)

Scripts ‘N Screwz MySpace page

Solomon’s Seal: The Sea, The Sea

U.S. based British band Minibar has been a fixture on the Los Angeles indie pop scene for the last decade, but yet Minibar has managed to stay under most everyone’s radar. Those who know the band know the slightly smoky and brooding vocals of front man Simon Petty, who is also one heck of a songwriter, and now he gets to prove that point with his debut solo effort, The Sea, The Sea under the moniker Solomon’s Seal. Petty’s obsession with the Smiths is documented in the press materials, and he’s also said to be influenced by the late, great Nick Drake. One thing going for Petty right off the bat is that he doesn’t feel compelled to fake a British accent like other alt-popsters. His vocals bring the songs effortlessly to life – and the songs themselves, with their beautifully sparse production and arrangements, are simply wonderful. The haunting instrumental “Solomon’s Suite” is an odd opener, but then right from the soothing piano and smooth vocals of “A Trick of the Light,” Petty’s artistry just shines. Other standouts are “Sleeping in the Car,” which sounds like a Glen Phillips-Joseph Arthur hybrid, the pretty guitar/vocal of “I Built a Fire,” and the romping, Peter Gabriel-esque “A Part of the River.” (Unshackled 2009)

Solomon’s Seal MySpace Page

My Favorite Highway: How to Call a Bluff

Depending on how cynical you are, there are two ways you can look at My Favorite Highway: Either they’re a television music supervisor’s wet dream – and the latest withered apple to fall off the Something Corporate branch of the blink-182 family tree – or they’re every bit as earnest as they seem, and their full-length debut, How to Call a Bluff, is really just the front line in a new wave of bands whose members grew up listening to Third Eye Blind, Matchbox Twenty, and Everclear. Either way, there’s no getting around the fact that lead Highwayman David Cook is a songwriter with a gift for melody and his heart strapped firmly to his sleeve, and if that just happens to be exactly what it takes to get your music played in an episode of “The Hills,” that’s no reason to write the band off as a crass, watered-down facsimile of something that wasn’t all that great in the first place, is it? Well, again, that depends on your level of cynicism – but if you can bring yourself to listen to Bluff without hearing the strong echoes of the band’s influences, though, you’ll find it a veritable buffet of sweet, fizzy pop treats, all gleaming surfaces, sticky hooks, and giant choruses. If this Highway leads to less-traveled environs, some beautiful vistas could await. (Virgin 2009)

My Favorite Highway MySpace page

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy: How Big Can You Get? A Tribute to Cab Calloway

You’ve got to give Big Bad Voodoo Daddy credit for having enough chutzpah to dedicate an entire album to the repertoire of a legend like Cab Calloway – and for tracking the whole thing live on vintage gear – but it’s a well-known musical maxim that you needn’t bother cutting a cover unless you’ve got something new to add, and that goes double for someone whose songs have been bought, sold, covered, and compiled as often as Calloway’s. As a result, How Big Can You Get? is about as thoroughly inessential as you can get – it’s impeccably performed, and adds a dash of modern production sparkle to a stack of well-worn tunes that includes “Jumpin’ Jive” and “Minnie the Moocher,” but it lacks the heat and spice of the original recordings, and anyway, there’s no reason to spend money on relatively faithful interpretations of Calloway’s songs when plenty of compilations and reissues are available for a minimal investment. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy remains as likable as ever on these recordings, even if lead singer Scotty Morris doesn’t do himself any favors by encouraging comparisons to Calloway, and fans of the band should be consistently entertained. As a gateway to Calloway’s world, however, it’s not worth opening. (Vanguard 2009)

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy MySpace page

Greycoats: Setting Fire to the Great Unknown

We love to see publicists promote records released in the previous year because they believe in them, mainly because it takes us back to a time when record labels had more patience with their artists, and would take the time to groom them, drum up some geniune buzz for a band rather than fabricate fake buzz, etc. (We’re well aware that those days weren’t as innocent as we might think, but they’re our memories, and we’re sticking to ‘em.) We’ll see how this old-school approach works for Setting Fire to the Great Unknown, the debut album by Minneapolis quartet Greycoats. Their bio boasts comparisons to Arcade Fire, Radiohead and Sigur Ros, but a better point of entry might be a more guitar-oriented Keane. “Goodbye, Sweet Youth, Goodbye” sports a soaring chorus that the boys from Battle would kill for, and singer Jon Reine has nicked a few tricks from Tom Chaplin’s playbook in terms of vocal phrasing. It’s gorgeous stuff – Thom Yorke will surely mutter obscenities under his breath when he hears “An Echo in the Dark” – and, in an ideal world, the band is only a soundtrack or “Grey’s Anatomy” moment away from vaulting to the next level. (Greycoats 2008)

Greycoats MySpace page

Susan Boyle sings “Memory” in the semi-finals

New singing sensation Susan Boyle is back with another great performance. It probably doesn’t match her initial performance that made her into an international sensation, but it was pretty damn good considering the pressure.

A Fine Mess makes for enjoyable pop.

Kate Voegele, A Fine Mess

Kate Voegeles’s sophomore record, A Fine Mess is a direct reflection of the emotional roller coaster the 22-year-old singer-songwriter has been through in the last year. Thanks to producer Mike Elizondo (Fiona Apple, Rilo Kiley), Voegele’s second record trades a more feminine, piano pop for a grittier guitar-driven sound that acts as a perfect counterpoint to her delicate vocals. A Fine Mess comes complete with the usual relationship-inspired anthems, but is reinforced by tracks like, “Sweet Silver Lining” where the singer finds hope in the darkest of misfortunes, and “Angel” where Voegele attempts to dispel any “good girl” notions listeners may have about her.

Luckily for Vogele, A Fine Mess is a lot more put together than its title would imply. Entertainment Weekly gave Voegele’s second attempt at pop-stardom a B- suggesting listener’s check out her first single, “99 Times,” where she verbally attacks a friend who is full of lies and excuses. Amazon.com also praised Voegele saying, A Fine Mess is,

“brimming with optimism, first time independence and the wisdom that comes from one too many broken hearts. [Its] the continuation of a road Voegele was destined to travel, and, like every milestone in her career thus far, she navigates it with gusto.”

Unfortunately, not everyone is a fan of A Fine Mess. People.com gave Mess two stars, claiming, there’s too much competition in today’s pop market for Voegele to stand out. Ranking her behind Katy Perry, KT Tunstall, Kate Nash and Kate Walsh, People.com wrote, “while there’s little to distinguish [Voegele’s] brand of chick pop, the One Tree Hill actress at least plays well to the CW crowd” (Kate also doubles as Mia on the CW’s One Tree Hill). It’s true, in comparison Voegele falls short of major players like Perry, but in her defense, A Fine Mess is exactly what it’s supposed to be: sugary pop virtually void of complexity that is easy to relate to, and fun to listen to. It may not be a number one record, but there’s nothing disappointing about it. So, if you were a fan of Voegele’s debut, Don’t Look Away or your iPod is chocked full of Marie Digby, Michelle Branch, or Vanessa Carlton-esque pop give A Fine Mess a listen.

White Rabbits: It’s Frightening

It is increasingly difficult to stand out in the overcrowded pop scene these days, but leave it to Missouri transplants White Rabbits (they’ve since relocated to Brooklyn, much like fellow Midesterners Locksley) to take a trick from .38 Special’s playbook and turn it on its ear: two drummers! The similarities end there, though; It’s Frightening, the second long-player from the White Rabbits, takes those two drummers – think Adam and the Ants, not the Doobie Brothers – and frames them with singer Stephen Patterson’s barroom piano and some sparse guitar work to create the kind of angular pop that you’d expect from the bands on the other side of the pond. Britt Daniel’s presence here as producer is no surprise, as the band’s “They Done Wrong/We Done Wrong” sounds like a lost Spoon track, and Single of the Year candidate “Percussion Gun,” armed to the teeth with handclaps and double-decker harmonies, is delightfully quirky and insanely catchy. That unusual approach to their drum tracks could prove to be an albatross – ask Guster about that one – but for the moment, all is quite well with the White Rabbits. (TBD 2009)

White Rabbits MySpace page

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