Songstress Delilah: Peaking the Charts and Piquing your Interest

For a country smaller than the state of Florida, England incessantly burgeons with musical talent. A modern “British Invasion” has emerged on this year’s music front, with radio charts offering an English mash-up of thumping bass and the thrum of banjos. From Alex Clare’s experimental drum-and-bass to Ellie Goulding’s indie pop melodies, the eclectic range of British influence has made an influential mark on the contemporary music scene.

Another innovative artist climbing the UK charts is twenty-two year old Delilah; a London-based songstress gaining notable praise with her debut album, “From the Roots Up.” The freshman LP skillfully combines ambient, electro-bass beats with sultry, R&B vocals; successfully achieving a bold range of genre-bending tracks.

Delilah’s first single “Go” samples lyrics from the 1983 Chaka Khan hit, “Ain’t Nobody,” while flawlessly incorporating her own edgy, carnal-driven undertones. The provocative track peaked at #21 on the UK Singles Chart, and amassed heavy radio rotation.

“From the Roots Up” is a candid showcase of Delilah’s lyrical versatility, offering realistic – at times haunting – accounts of love and lust. Physical expression is glorified throughout the album, highlighting her frank and unapologetic approach to sexuality.

Delilah is certainly an artist on the rise, presenting a fresh culmination of innovation and talent, but what’s your opinion? Take a peek at the creative video for her single, “Love You So,” and see if this English artist tickles your fancy….

Destroyer: Kaputt


RIYL: Dirty Projectors, David Bowie, anything on Kompakt

Though he may be more known for his role in indie rock supergroup the New Pornographers, Dan Bejar has been enticing people into his strange world for the past 15 years via Destroyer. Backed by a frequently rotating cast of band members, Bejar uses Destroyer to craft his own brand of avant-pop-rock, unmistakable to anyone who has ever heard it. Over the course of nine albums, he weaves tales of numerous women, told in a hybrid of speech-yelp-singing with non-sequiturs, dense, visually striking metaphors (so dense someone created a Wiki for them), and references to his own body of work. So what happens when you’ve spent 15 years basically perfecting your own genre? What happens when what starts out as weird suddenly becomes the standard? With Kaputt, Destroyer’s ambitious tenth album, Bejar proves he can still make us question our notions of normality and taste.

When he serenades someone in “Blue Eyes” with the line, “Your first love’s New Order,” Bejar surely must be speaking of himself, because with the heavy synths, the saxophone and the female backing vocals that flutter throughout Kaputt, he seems to be unleashing his inner ‘80s. But, as tacky and oppressive as those reference points can be, under Bejar’s particular guidance, they are transformed into something delicate, as though he accidentally played dance records at half-speed and heard something he liked.

The first half of “Suicide Demo For Kara Walker” would make a decent soundtrack for footage of outer space. It opens with slow, steady synths, various sounds floating in and out of the background, such as a quiet guitar riff, light chimes, and what sounds like someone breathing. The song shifts drastically about half-way through, when some relative of the flute jumps in, followed by Bejar’s voice, cautioning, “Fool child, you’re never gonna make it / New York City just wants to see you naked, and they will / Though they’d never say so.” By the time the backing vocals arrive, one might conjure an image of Bejar in a white suit, performing at a hotel somewhere in Hawaii with a Robert Palmer-style all-woman band.

Though it arrives at the end of the album, “Bay of Pigs” serves as the obvious transition piece between Kaputt and Destroyer’s earlier works. Loosely relating to the 1961 invasion of Cuba, Bejar built an EP around it last year. In its original form, “Bay of Pigs” was over 13 minutes long. In its slightly trimmed down length, the 11-minute opus still finds time to transition from droning ambience to scaling blips that sound like they could come from an early Nintendo game, to the guitar-based avant-pop sound he became known for, complete with hand claps. It was around “Bay of Pigs” that Bejar’s record label, Merge, coined the term “ambient disco,” which is the most apropos classification for anything off of Kaputt.

Take off one of those Ts, and Kaputt becomes “kaput,” which means to incapacitate, break, ruin, or destroy. Knowing Bejar’s self-referential tendencies, it could be that he found a cheeky way to create a self-titled album. But with the new direction he’s embarking on, it speaks more fittingly to the ways he is destroying the Destroyer of the past, killing his old sound to create something new. (Merge 2011)

Destroyer MySpace page

Bullz-Eye’s Favorite Albums of 2010: Staff Writer James Eldred’s picks

I would like to preface this list by saying that I have not yet listened to Cee-Lo Green’s new album nor Kanye West’s latest – which everyone and their mother is telling me is a freaking masterpiece. So a more apt title of this list might be “The Top 10 albums of the year that I got around to.”

1. Foxy Shazam: Foxy Shazam
If I had my way this list would have one album. That’s right, this album is so good that it is actually the 10 best albums of the year. Hell, it’s the 20 best albums of the year, and the five albums of 2009. Foxy Shazam aren’t just a band, they are a force of nature that will kick your ass, steal your lunch money and make sweet love to you all at the same time. “Count Me Out,” “Bye Bye Symphony,” “Bombs Away,” the list just goes on and on, every song on this album could be a Top 10 single. Yet somehow none of them have been. America, you’re letting me down even more than usual. There is no greater band on the planet than Foxy Shazam. They are here to take over the world and be the biggest rock stars since the Beatles. So if you all could just accept that already and buy this album now, that would be great.

2. Goldfrapp: Head First
Most artists who try to recreate that classic ’80s dance sound usually crash and burn, sounding more like a parody of the music they’re trying to replicate (Owl City springs to mind) than the real deal. But Goldfrapp pulled it off with this release, channeling the soundtrack to “Flashdance” and Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical” (in a good way!) on instantly danceable tracks like “Rocket” and “Alive.”

3. The Sword: Warp Riders
There are not enough metal bands making concept albums about intergalactic space battles. Thankfully the Sword realized this, and updated their mythology-based themes for the 21st century, changing their focus on medieval wizards and warriors to space-faring heroes and transcendental beings who traverse space and time. The fist-pounding metal that accompanies the far out narrative is pretty damn good as well.

4. Coheed & Cambria: Year of the Black Rainbow
Okay, maybe there are other bands creating concept albums about intergalactic space battles. But while the Sword is like “Aliens,” direct and to the point, Coheed & Cambria’s conclusion to their epic Armory Wars saga is like “Star Trek,” “Star Wars” and Rush’s 2112 all rolled into one incredibly overblown and bombastic delight.

5. Sleigh Bells: Treats
What is it about Brooklyn and male/female electronic duos? First Matt & Kim, and now these two. But while Matt & Kim delivered the audio equivalent of a big hug with Sidewalks, Sleigh Bells’ Treats is like a sonic punch in the face, a bizarre combination of industrial, punk and straight-up noise that is louder and more original than any other record this year.


Read the rest after the jump...

Bullz-Eye’s Favorite Albums of 2010: Staff Writer Mike Farley’s picks

It was an interesting year for me music-wise. So much great stuff passed my desk or by e-mail from publicists, but something odd happened: my old PC started getting so slow that I literally could not listen to my iTunes and work at the same time. Makes writing CD reviews tough, but makes listening while I work to get a feel for new music even harder. I persevered, playing stuff in the car and also, finally, getting a super-fast new PC recently. My joy of listening to my iTunes catalog and discovering new music has returned. And so, I give to you, my Top 10 albums of 2010:

1. The Silver Seas: Chateau Revenge
There are two songs on this album that can bring anyone from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs in no time flat: “The Best Things in Life” and “What’s the Drawback.” Daniel Tashian and company continue to make some of the best music that, unfortunately, most people have never heard. So hey, this holiday season, do something about that. Go buy the Silver Seas’ music, and tell them I sent you.

2. Rooney: Eureka
Editor David Medsker to me, “Hey, I think you’ll like these guys.” Me, after hearing band: “Um, understatement.” It’s just good, unadulterated pop/rock – no whiny kid voice and no Auto Tune.


Read the rest after the jump...

Bryan Ferry: Olympia


RIYL: Roxy Music, Thievery Corporation, The Blue Nile

Bryan Ferry’s post-Roxy Music solo career exists in a coccoon of sorts, with few fingerprints from the outside world sullying their beauty and timelessness. Before anyone mistakes that for overblown hyperbole, let’s look at those words a little more closely. His records are beautiful in the sense that they are impeccably played and produced, and they’re timeless in that Olympia, his latest solo record of (mostly) original material, could have come out the same year he released his last solo album Frantic (2002), or Mamouna (1994), or even Bete Noire (1987). Likewise, Mamouna and Frantic could have come out this year without anyone batting an eye as to when they were recorded.

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So they are beautiful and timeless, yes. But truth be told, Ferry hasn’t written a really compelling song in quite a while – that might explain why he hasn’t made back-to-back albums of original material since 1987 – and Olympia does not buck the trend. There are some nice moments, like the bouncy “Shameless,” the haunting “Reason or Rhyme,” and his convincing cover of Tim Buckley’s “Song to the Siren,” but there isn’t a “Slave to Love,” or even a “Limbo,” to be found, a point only exacerbated by opening track “You Can Dance,” which begins with a sample of Avalon track “True to Life.” Likewise, “Me Oh My” is built on the bones of “My Only Love,” from Roxy’s Flesh & Blood. Neither song is bad, per se, but they’ve been done before, and better. There is also the matter of Ferry’s voice. He sings the entire album in that whispered hush, rarely testing his upper range or even his falsetto.

No one expects Ferry to churn out hard-charging numbers like “Both Ends Burning” anymore, but Olympia is awfully sedate, even for a man known for his lounge lizard cool. It’s more or less interchangeable with his recent work, which is a bit of a letdown considering Ferry was able to get four other Roxy veterans (Brian Eno, Phil Manzanera, Andy Mackay, Andy Newmark) to appear, but the overall effort is good enough. If you’re content with good enough, that is. (Astralwerks 2010)

Bryan Ferry MySpace
Click to buy Olympia from Amazon

Morcheeba: Blood Like Lemonade


RIYL: Zero 7, Sade, Wire Daisies

It might feel like an eternity since lead singer Skye Edwards left Morcheeba (2003), leaving the brothers Godfrey to experiment on a couple of albums with different guest vocalists. But with Morcheeba’s latest, Blood Like Lemonade, Edwards has returned and it’s like the band hasn’t missed a beat – i.e., the reincarnation of Morcheeba as we knew it is back and better than ever. The trippy, bluesy electronica that put Morcheeba on the map is still mostly the same, but the songs on Blood Like Lemonade are slickly produced and, well, just damn good. Edwards’ voice is plain dreamy, and these songs are the perfect vehicle for that voice to shine. Most of the tracks are the band’s signature marriage of melody and electronica, as in “Crimson,” the title track and “Recipe For Disaster.”

But there are interesting tracks on here that bring Blood Like Lemonade to another level. The acoustic-guitar-with-beat-infused “Even Though”; the stunning guitar/vocal “I Am the Spring”; and the powerful closing anthem “Beat of the Drum.” Oh, and there’s also the uber-funky pseudo-instrumental, “Cut to the Bass,” which is probably best enjoyed in a very loud, dark, club. If you were already a fan or Morcheeba, you won’t find much wrong with this effort – if you weren’t, it’s the kind of genre-defying albums that just about anyone will like. (Pias America 2010)

Morcheeba MySpace page

Morcheeba MySpace Page

The Orb featuring David Gilmour: Metallic Spheres

RIYL: The KLF, Pink Floyd, LSD

When the Orb first broke through into somewhat mainstream appeal with their 1991 epic The Orb’s Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld, some critics immediately drew comparisons between the ambient house outfit and classic prog rock of the 1970s. Both featured sprawling audio soundscapes, both included tracks that dipped well over 10 minutes in length, and both sounded amazing while under the influence of psychedelics. So while it’s kind of surprising that David Gilmour of Pink Floyd fame is working with the ambient-house legends, its even more surprising is that it took this long.

The story behind Metallic Spheres is a bit odd. Originally it was going to be a single track collaboration between occasional Orb collaborator Martin “Youth” Glover and Gilmour, but after Orb mastermind Alex Paterson got a hold of the tapes, he decided to turn it into an entire album instead. Its not exactly the most organic or natural way of recording an album, but it’s hard to argue with the results; Metallic Spheres is bloody brilliant, the best album to feature the Orb’s name in well over a decade. Unlike many of the recent releases under the Orb name, Metallic Spheres finds Paterson returning to what he (used to) do best; longform ambient tracks. There are only two “songs” on Metallic Spheres; “Metallic Side” and “Sphere Side” and on the CD version there’s barely a noticeable break in between the two. It’s all one big sonic journey that’s nearly impossible to describe since it goes just about everywhere imaginable. Some portions feature nothing but barely-noticeable beats and layers upon layers of Gilmour’s instantly recognizable guitar work, while some segments turn the record into a dub album, with funky beats and playful synths. It all peaks in an orgy of sliding guitars and vintage synths that sounds like the magical Moog baby of Pink Floyd’s Animals and Vangelis’ soundtrack to “Blade Runner.” It’s all very epic and very awesome. (Columbia 2010)

Lollapalooza 2010, The Final Recap: The Opening Acts

In this final installment of our recap of Lollapalooza 2010, we cover the stars of tomorrow, or what is known in baseball circles as the Futures Game. Well, most of them are potential stars of tomorrow, anyway. One of them was a big time star of the past, and not even one with hipster cred like Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, or Roky Erickson. Easily the biggest blemish on the lineup as a whole. Going a bit overboard in bashing the band, you say? Ha. We’re just getting warmed up.

Foxy Shazam, Friday, Sony Bloggie Stage
Our man Eldred is into these wildly ambitious Cincinnati glam rockers a tad more (which is to say, about a million times more) than we are, but after reading Eldred’s amusing interview with Foxy lead singer Eric Sean Nally, where he swore they could win over any crowd, we knew a bet when we saw one. Sadly, we missed the majority of the set thanks to the new reworking of the grounds (enter at Roosevelt? Dude, that’s a mile from here), but once we arrived, we got their appeal, instantly. And if we didn’t, their closing number sealed the deal. Nally leapfrogged onto the guitarist’s shoulders, who didn’t miss a beat on his solo until Nally started kicking his guitar. The keyboardist is literally stomping on the keys, and not Jerry Lee Lewis-style – more like Dance Dance Revolution-style. Nally then took off one of the drummer’s cymbals and chucked it at the drums before walking off the stage. The crowd went absolutely fucking bonkers. Can’t say we blame them.

Foxy_Shazam_02
Photo by Ashley Garmon

Nally also had the best between-song banter of the weekend, where he spoke of how his father knew John Lennon, which we’re pretty sure is bollocks. Either way, this was the best first performance we’ve seen since Hard-Fi in 2005.

HEALTH, Sunday, adidas MEGA Stage
Our boy Eldred was most impressed with this band, claiming that the blew the bad weather away with pure noise. The former sounds nice, the blowing away the weather. The latter, well, it depends. Are we talking Pixies/My Bloody Valentine noise, or, you know, noise noise?

(*hits band’s MySpace page*)

Ooh, My Bloody Valentine noise. Damn. Sorry we missed this one.

Stars, Saturday, Budweiser Stage
As a means of eliminating accidental bias – hey, we’re human, it happens – we tend to listen to bands knowing as little about them as possible. There are drawbacks to this, of course, especially if you cling to your hipster credibility like an oxygen mask. For example, we had no idea until after we were writing up Stars’ performance that they were all members of the much-beloved Broken Social Scene, which has ties to every Canadian band from the last 30 years. If we had, then perhaps we would have felt an urge to find a better superlative to describe their set than ‘pleasant.’ Ah, but hipster credibility means absolutely nothing to us, so here it is: they were fine, and occasionally great. (Their song “We Don’t Want Your Body” is easily the best track on their new album The Five Ghosts.) But at 2:00 in the afternoon on a steamy Saturday, we were perfectly content to lounge in the wake zone between the northern stages and let the mind wander. Read into that what you will.

Stars_01
Photo by Dave Mead

Skybox, Saturday, BMI Stage
It warms our hearts to see a group of kids play the kind of pop that their parents would have listened to as kids. We can’t imagine that they stand much of a chance in terms of radio success, but they might become soundtrack darlings, and goodness knows that’s a more lucrative career path these days than banking on radio to sell your record. We’re not sure the songwriting is at peak level yet, but they have the right idea, that’s for sure.

Nneka, Sunday, Parkways Foundation Stage
Eldred’s last five words made us glad we skipped her, especially considering she played in the middle of a rain shower with gale-force winds: “Too quiet for a festival.” This same thing plagued Neko Case last year, and we would listen to Neko sing the ingredients to a can of soup. Gorgeous voice, but sometimes the music just can’t measure up to the atmosphere. Props to Perry for trying to inject a little variety (read: color) into the lineup, but he’d be wise to take energy into consideration, especially on a Sunday when everyone is already wiped out.

Ancient Astronauts, Friday, Perry’s
The new Perry’s stage, and the space in front of it, is twice the size of last year’s location, and that’s good because it got really tight there last year, especially when Perry himself made an appearance. We dug the last Ancient Astronauts record, a strange blend of New York hip hop and French sensibility, but what we saw of their DJ set was pretty flat. Aside from a fun mash-up involving “Blitzkrieg Bop,” they seemed trapped in a reggae fugue. We lasted 15 minutes.

Astronauts_01
Photo by Matthew Taplinger

See that hat he’s wearing? They were inescapable all weekend, and every time we saw one – which was a lot – we thought, “Tool.” Just sayin’. If you own one, put it in the closet. Or better yet, throw it away.

The Soft Pack, Saturday, Budweiser Stage
It’s hard to stand apart from the guitar alt-rock crowd these days, and granted, these guys didn’t do a great job of standing apart themselves, but there was something in their sound that caught our ear. A similarity to Catherine Wheel, perhaps, or perhaps we were just relieved that someone was coming out of the gate bringing the energy, because Lollapalooza isn’t a music festival so much as a grueling three-day death march of music (if you’re over 30, that is). Bands like the Soft Pack at noon on Saturday are the equivalent of a shot of adrenaline to the heart. Once they were finished, we felt kind of bad for them once we saw that they’d be followed by the decidedly softer Wild Beasts. Don’t let the name fool you, they are anything but.

Blues Traveler, Saturday, Parkways Foundation Stage
Blues Traveler has played every even-numbered Chicago Lolla. The only thing we can’t figure out is why.

Modern rock radio hasn’t touched them since 1995. They never played any of the touring Lollas, receiving their first invite in 2006. Granted, much of that was due to the fact that John Popper & Co. were tied up with the traveling jam band H.O.R.D.E. tours until 1998, but doesn’t that alone demonstrate just how much one of these things is not like the others? Yes, there is some crossover between the festivals in terms of artists, but they largely involved the bands that were exceptions to the H.O.R.D.E. philosophy, not the other way around. And since they’ve been playing the festival every other year in the last five years, they haven’t been gone long enough for people to miss them now. For us, Blues Traveler at Lolla is like Homer Simpson reading a Far Side calendar: “I don’t get. I don’t get it. I….don’t get it.”

All right, rant over. Truth be told, we only heard their first two songs, “Runaround” (leading with the hit? Unheard of) and…wait for it…a cover of Sublime’s “What I Got.” Knowing wink, or calculated attempt to wring nostalgia from a moment that doesn’t call for it? You be the judge. We’ve judged enough as it is.

Raphael Saadiq, Friday, Parkways Foundation Stage
This is admittedly another ‘one of these things is not like the other’ situation, but as big fans of Saadiq’s 2008 album The Way I See It, we were thrilled that he brought his pitch-perfect Motown groove to Lolla. (Why they decided to have Mavis Staples play at the same time on the north side, however, was a head-scratcher.) Armed with a crack band – our friend Tim, a drummer, was most impressed with Saadiq’s drummer – Saadiq played a slightly sped-up version of his catalog, and threw everyone for a loop when his all-black band laid down the hardest guitar riff that anyone played all day. Smart move, given the crowd they were playing to were pretty damn white (hey, they were on the stage that Lady Gaga would grace six hours later). We even caught a guy so caught up in the groove that he danced like he didn’t have a care in the world. While our buddy Tim said, “Man, I’m so glad that’s not you,” we were actually moved by his lack of self-awareness. He was completely caught up in the moment; that’s what it’s all about in the end, right?

Anne McCue: Broken Promise Land


RIYL: Susan Tedischi, Lucinda Williams, Sheryl Crow,

On her second album, Broken Promise Land, Anne McCue delivers a tightly produced group of songs that is well paced and refreshing.  For the record, she’s backed by a rhythm section that consists of Ken Coomer (Uncle Tupleo, Wilco) on drums and Bones Hillman (Midnight Oil) on bass. Together, this trio creates a hard rocking sound that also pulls from the blues, country, and folk. It’s music that McCue calls “cosmic biker music.” On each track, the singer sings with a cool, lovely voice that draws you in. But it’s her killer guitar playing that keeps you coming back for more and her ability to write a catchy song that makes Broken Promise Land so memorable.

Bad ass songs like “Don’t Go to Texas,” “Rock ‘n Roll Outlaw,” and the title track show that McCue is staking her claim in the new blues movement that has made the White Stripes and the Black Keys popular. Elsewhere, on “Motorcycle Dream,” and “God’s Home Number,” a noirish, spooky number that reminds me of late night drives through the city, McCue uses crafty wordplay and a cool, slinky voice to lure you in until she unleashes a killer guitar solo.  Each track on Broken Promise Land flows naturally into the next, making this a complete listening experience and not just another album where you’re looking for the next hit single.

It’s easy to understand why McCue has gained fans in the likes of Nancy Wilson of Heart and Americana queen Lucinda Williams. McCue attacks her guitar on each song with a bevy of blues and classic rock that recalls some of the legends of the ’70s, including Wilson, while her songwriting and singing voice have an urgency and a haunted nature that recall the kind of passionate southern tales Williams has recorded during her storied career. There is a comfortableness about this music that makes it kind of timeless; no matter how many times you hear it, you never get sick of it. It’s the type of music that can form the soundtrack to peoples’ lives.  Broken Promise Land is a great listen and you’ll find yourself coming back to it again and again after your initial time through it. (Flying Machine Records 2010)

Anne McCue’s offcial website

Click to buy Broken Promise Land through Amazon

School of Seven Bells: Disconnect from Desire


RIYL: My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Chapterhouse

Neil Hannon recently quipped in his song “At the Indie Disco” about how “we’re dancing to the beat, and staring at each other’s feet.” One wonders if the indie disco in question was playing School of Seven Bells, because their sophomore album, Disconnect from Desire, is one of the finer shoegazer records from this or any other era (which is to say the only other era, the early ’90s). The drum tracks recall the 808/909 period while maintaining a modern feel, and the harmonies of twin singers Alejandra and Claudia Deheza create the ultimate siren’s call, an ethereal bliss that makes the most crushing one-liner feel like a soft kiss goodnight. “I L U” is the album’s crown jewel, reimagining My Bloody Valentine’s “Soon” as a tender breakup song (bonus points for its dead simple three-note chorus), while the jangly “Babelonia” sends a knowing wink to Jesus Jones’ “International Bright Young Thing” with Deheza’s wavering vocal.

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It’s curious that a shoegazer renaissance would take hold in today’s climate, especially when it was only marginally successful the first time around. Ah, but nostalgia is a powerful thing, and there are few periods as beloved by music hounds as the go-go modern rock scene of the early ’90s, when grunge and baggy still coexisted peacefully. Disconnect from Desire distills the ecstasy-fueled elements of those early shoegazer records with a healthy dose of pop songcraft. The end result, at the risk of sounding cliche, is dreamy. (Vagrant/Ghostly International 2010)

School of Seven Bells MySpace page
Click to buy Disconnect from Desire from Amazon

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