Chase & Status: The Creative Concept Behind “Flashing Lights”

It’s hard to believe MTV started as a hosting platform for music videos. Flash-forward some thirty years and the channel is a mere shell of its piloting concept. Reality TV now dominates the slots that were once intended for ‘music television,’ but given our generation’s lackluster videos it may have worked out for the better. In recent years, creativity has taken a back-burner to the generic glorification of riches, bitches and “YOLO” fever. With all the ways to showcase talent, I don’t understand why I see the same stock models rotated around for different videos.

I’m a believer that creative video concepts can amplify a musician’s appeal. Visionary artists who detour from the ordinary will often generate intrigue due to their avant-garde approach. Just take the London-based duo, Chase & Status, as a prime example.

Chase & Status are music producers who have created a fortune by navigating away from the norm. The eclectic pair won ‘Best Video’ for their song, “End Credits,” at the 2010 Q Awards, in addition to several nominations for their original and collaborative mixes. Their 2011 “Flashing Lights” video is now regarded as a sinister success; coupling macabre undertones with a buildup of dubstep, break-beat rhythms.

I found “Flashing Lights” to be the perfect blend of drama and drums, but what’s your opinion? Is this video the new wave of creative expression, or the projection of your nightmares?

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….

Our Lollapalooza 2011 Wish List

A few weeks ago, there was a leak that Muse, the Foo Fighters and Eminem would headline Lollapalooza this year. In previous years, when band names have been leaked well before the official announcement, they’ve been accurate, so let’s assume that those are your headliners. Pretty cool and eclectic group, if you ask us. We’ve seen some dyed-in-the-wool alt rockers scoff at the idea of Marshall Mathers playing Lolla, but why the hell not? Snoop Dogg did it two years ago, and no one complained about that.

The festival’s organizers are a good month away from unveiling their lineup, so while we’re in the lull between the leak and the formal announcement, we decided to have a little fun. Here are some bands that we’d love to see take the stage in Grant Park this summer.

Motorhead

Don’t laugh – this makes more sense than the decision to invite Metallica in 1996. They rock harder and faster than anyone alive today, and courtesy of their appearance on “The Young Ones,” they were instantly grandfathered as alt rock forefathers (Ministry’s Psalm 69, anyone?). Still think it’s a long shot? Consider this: Head Foo Fighter Dave Grohl loves Lemmy and has recorded with him, plus the band just released a new record (The World Is Yours), which means a tour is sure to follow. Come on, Perry. You know this would be awesome. Lemmy shows up, drinks all the other bands under the table, and wipes the floor with them onstage. That’s the way we like it, baby.

Franz Ferdinand

Of the big UK bands of the last five years, only Franz Ferdinand and Coldplay have yet to play Lolla, and we’re not sure why. It looked as though the stars were aligned for them to play when the band released Tonight, Franz Ferdinand in 2009, but for whatever reason, it never happened. Considering the heavy nature of the three headliners, both musically and lyrically, the festival could use a party band. The only catch is that the band is not working on a new record, and therefore will not likely be on tour this year. Pity.


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Cut Copy: Zonoscope


RIYL: Talking Heads, OMD, Poi Dog Pondering

Hipster elitists would like to convince you otherwise, but pop is not a four-letter word. It’s short for popular, after all, and who doesn’t want to be popular? Hell, even hipsters want to be popular. How do you think they became hipsters in the first place? Because they were never popular.

Australia’s Cut Copy, on the other hand, has no such inhibitions about the notion of popularity, if their latest album Zonoscope is any indication. Rounded out to a quartet, the electropop band who started their career riffing on New Order and Daft Punk has opted for a sunnier – and a tad softer – approach this time around, toning down the guitars while unleashing sky-high synthesizer tracks. Singer Dan Whitford can do a mean impression of OMD’s Andy McCluskey when he feels like it, and in fact the album’s opener, “Need You Now,” bests anything from OMD’s recent reunion album History of Modern. The galloping “Where I’m Going” is flat-out irresistible, while “Pharaohs & Pyramids” has an explosive finale. Zonoscope sees the band stretching things out as well, with several songs surpassing the five-minute mark and the album’s closer, “Sun God,” clocking in at a whopping 15 minutes. This is fun, gorgeous stuff, capturing the spirit of new wave while giving it a contemporary sonic makeover. One can only hope that more bands follow their lead, because God knows the world could use a few more albums like this. (Modular/Fontana 2010)

Cut Copy MySpace page
Click to buy Zonoscope from Amazon

Audio Bullys: Higher Than the Eiffel


RIYL: Primal Scream, The Ting Tings, Basement Jaxx

Yet another lesson in why bands should choose their names carefully. The word ‘bully’ suggests someone aggressive and intimidating (and, conversely, someone insecure and a little scared). The Audio Bullys, however, are no such thing. They’re beat mongering rockers, like Hard-Fi pulling the late shift in an Ibiza club. (Singer Simon Franks and Hard-Fi’s Richard Archer should do a duet, just to mess with people’s head over who’s singing which line.) The band’s third album Higher Than the Eiffel has some good ideas – lead single “Only Man” is armed with one hell of a hook, and closing track “Goodbye” is a nifty modern-day take on the Specials – but is sorely lacking a filter, not to mention an editor. Two of the first three songs contain fragments of ideas stitched together, much like Coldplay’s Viva La Vida, but there is no flow. Why did “Daisy Chains” need to end with an a cappella bit? (Answer: it didn’t.) “Shotgun” is the only song here that takes advantage of melding two separate ideas into a whole, but it arrives a bit too late to care, thanks to the album’s 56-minute (!) run time. Take out some of the clutter, and this bully could have been a contender. (The End Records 2011)

Audio Bullys MySpace page
Click to buy Higher Than the Eiffel from Amazon

Pendulum: Immersion


RIYL: The Prodigy, Nightbreed, King Cannibal

Pendulum have the most apt band name in history, because they love to swing back and forth between two genres; drum and bass and hard rock. Their 2006 debut Hold Your Colour was almost exclusively drum and bass, but their 2008 follow-up In Silico saw the group abandon almost all of the drum and bass influences in exchange for a hard electronic rock style (think Nitzer Ebb meets metal) that put off much of their core fanbase. It also made them mainstream stars throughout much of their native Australia as well as Europe, leading bassheads around the world to cry “sellout.”

Well, this should shut them up, although it probably won’t. With Immersion the band takes a hard swing back to their drum and bass roots while still keeping just enough of their rock influence to sound exciting and different. They even pull in some electro-house and dubstep influences into the fold. Sometimes they even do it all at once, like with the two-parter track “The Island,” which starts as a straight-up electronic-rock song before suddenly exploding into a sea manic breakbeats and then transforming again into a shockingly good dubstep sound, a genre that is usually as boring and empty as the fans who listen to it. There are a couple mid-tempo tracks on Immersion that stick closer to the rock/dance formula of In Silico, and most of the songs still feature an abundance of vocals. I’m sure the most hardcore drum and bass fanatics out there will cling to those two facets of the album to convince themselves that Pendulum are still a bunch of sellouts. They can go ahead, the rest of us will be rocking out to the first great electronic album of 2011 (or the last great electronic album of 2010 if you live in the rest of the world, where it came out months ago). (Atlantic 2011)

Pendulum MySpace page

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

Daft Punk: Tron Legacy Soundtrack


RIYL: Vangelis, Tangerine Dream, James Horner

Highly anticipated by Daft Punk fans, the soundtrack to Disney’s nostalgia-driven sequel to 1982’s “Tron” is the latest from the French progressive electronic dance masters. Happily it turns out that their work on projects like “Irreversible” and “Electroma” has paid off, as Bangalter and de Homem-Christo prove they can manage to create both a true soundtrack in service of a film, and a powerful musical album in and of itself. Just don’t expect to dance to this one.

The “Tron: Legacy” soundtrack is full of the expected mood setting pieces a score is intended for. They utilize strident, driving string sections, pounding tympani and crescendos of dramatic brass, all of it layered with ambient electronic work that is perfectly measured and restrained. A casual listener is not going to hear Daft Punk at all in many tracks, and this might disappoint long time fans, but only because of outmoded expectations. Anyone willing to just listen and be swept up into the sonic world they create will not be disappointed.

The opening “Overture” is a classic work that would blend nicely into “The Grid,” a more techno-specific piece, if it wasn’t for the overt use of Jeff Bridges’ monologue. It isn’t horrible, but the music is so powerful that there is no need for forced movie dialogue to sell the story. Daft Punk also shows a deep respect for not only the original “Tron” score, but other ‘80s influences as well. “Arena” and “Rinzler” are back-to-back pieces that owe much to the original “Terminator” film (the distinct percussion in particular), while the exquisite “Arrival” follows the influences that Wendy Carlos seemed to take in the original, which adopted from Vangelis’ ultimate sci-fi soundtrack, “Blade Runner.”

This is not to say that Daft Punk rest on the influences of the past. At most, these nods to their forerunners serve as grounding points, allowing the rest of their work to soar in new and powerful directions. “C.L.U.” is one of the best modern classical pieces you’ll hear. Whoever might have pigeonholed Daft Punk into the realm of “just another dance band” will have to reassess now, as Bangalter and de Homem-Christo prove they belong in a much higher category of song writers and composers. (Walt Disney Records 2010)

Daft Punk MySpace page

Bullz-Eye’s Favorite Albums of 2010: Senior Editor David Medsker’s picks

Having children has had a profound impact on my musical tastes. Will it make them cry? Will it teach them naughty words? Will it bore them? Then it doesn’t get played around the house, which has resulted in my sharp turn towards the poppier side of modern. And really, once you’ve seen your three-year-old completely lose his shit when hearing a song with a chorus of “Na, na na na, na na na, na na na na na na na,” it’s hard to push anything on him that doesn’t come armed to the teeth with the pop hooks. Mind you, I think the Ramones are a pop band too, so I’m painting with a pretty broad brush here. But make no mistake – these bands are pop bands, of varying stripes and shapes. If you fancy yourself a hipster, you’d be best to move on and check out one of the other writers’ lists. I gave up being hip a couple years ago, and let me tell you: it’s extremely liberating.

Note: Some of the notes at the end of the write-ups will offer suggestions of which songs to check out. Others actually offer the songs. If you see “Click here for a free download…”, those songs are on our server, meaning you won’t be dragged off to some site that asks you to give up your email address for a song. These puppies all come with no strings attached, so please download away.

Top 10 Albums of 2010

1. Mark Ronson: Record Collection
Ahhhhhh. If I get to heaven, this is what the radio station will sound like. Tasteful drum beats paired with even tastier synth tracks, highlighted by brilliantly chosen guest contributors from Q-Tip and D’Angelo to Simon Le Bon and a devastating performance by Boy George. Definitely gonna ride this bike until we get home.
Download these: “The Bike Song,” “Somebody to Love Me,” “Record Collection”

2. Hey Champ: Star
I’m a sucker for any band that justifies my love for New Order and the Buggles, and this Chicago trio threw down synth pop/rock that, in an ideal world, would have Passion Pit opening for them, not the other way around.
Click here for a free download of Hey Champ’s “Neverest”
Click here for a free download of Hey Champ’s “Cold Dust Girl”

3. Prefab Sprout: Let’s Change the World with Music
Man, what a sweet surprise this was. Originally scheduled to be the follow-up album to 1990′s Jordan: The Comeback, the album was scrapped despite Prefab leader Paddy McAloon already finishing studio-quality demo versions of every song. Eighteen years later, the songs finally see the light of day, and the result is instant nostalgia. He supposedly has dozens more albums on his shelves from the same period. Please don’t make us wait 18 years for the next one, Paddy.
Download these: “Let There Be Music,” “Ride,” “God Watch Over You”

4. The Hours: It’s Not How You Start, It’s How You Finish
This one is knocked down a few rungs on a technicality, in that it’s a Franken-album consisting of the best songs from the band’s two UK-only releases. But hot damn, are those songs good. Shimmering, sky-high, piano-driven pop that addresses the darkness in people’s lives but strives for hope and change. No wonder Nike used one of these songs for their unforgettable “Human Chain” ad earlier this year. Favorite lyric: “I can understand how someone can go over to the dark side, ’cause the Devil, he’s got all the tunes.”
Download these: “See the Light,” “Big Black Hole,” “Come On”

The Hours – “See The Light” 2010 Edit from Adeline Records on Vimeo.

5. The Silver Seas: Chateau Revenge
I’m still pissed about this one. I got a sneak peek of the record months before its release because our publicist is tight with the band. We played the daylights out of it, and couldn’t wait to sing its praises when it came out in April…only April never happened. Then it was July, and when it came out, the damn thing was buried. Why, why, why? Not enough irony or cynicism? I see no reason why the Shins can sell millions while the Silver Seas still toil in obscurity. The phrase ‘criminally underrated’ was written about bands like this.
Click here for a free download of the Silver Seas’ “The Best Things in Life”


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Depeche Mode: Tour of the Universe 20/21.11.09


RIYL: motherfucking Depeche Mode

On Pack Up the Plantation, the 1985 live album by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the band slowly eases its way into “Breakdown.” Petty sings the first line “It’s all right if you love me” just above a whisper, at which point the crowd takes over, singing all the way through the first chorus and even splitting vocal duties between the lead vocal and the “Breakdoooooooown!” backing vocals. It’s exhilarating to listen to, because you can feel the rush the audience felt by getting the chance to be the star. After a few beats, Petty humbly tells the crowd, “You’re gonna put me out of a job.”

Which brings us to today’s lesson. Letting the audience sing part of one song is one thing; forcing them to sing multiple songs is another.

It made sense that Depeche Mode would want to document their 2009 world tour. They were playing to gigantic crowds, and they hadn’t released a live album since 1993′s Songs of Faith and Devotion Live. With four albums of new material to showcase – though they chose to only play songs from three, skipping 2001′s Exciter entirely – it was time to run the tape recorders once again. Tour of the Universe 20/21.11.09 documents two shows the band played before what looks like the entire population of Barcelona, and you can see why the crowds were so excited. Despite front-loading the set with what feels like half of the band’s most recent album, Sounds of the Universe, Depeche pulled out some gems for this tour, including a whopping four songs from fan favorite Black Celebration. They also had a live drummer and principal songwriter Martin Gore playing guitar almost exclusively during the shows. What’s not to love?

Dave Gahan, that’s what. He’s too busy playing rock star to actually sing the damn songs. Gahan leaves it to the audience to sing far too much – and sometimes makes them sing the chorus twice in the same song – and low-range vocal melodies, even when sung by tens of thousands, cannot stand up to the sound the band is putting out. When the band launches into “A Question of Time,” the crowd is reaching a fever pitch, so when Gahan has them sing the chorus the first time, they’re only happy to oblige. When he forces them to do it a second time, the response is nowhere near as enthusiastic, and you can actually hear the crowd deflating. If you have cameras rolling, and they just captured you killing the crowd’s buzz while you fed your ego, would you really test the crowd’s patience again?

Sadly, the answer is yes…twice. Gahan does it again on “Policy of Truth” and – this is the unforgivable one – “Enjoy the Silence,” the band’s biggest hit. The arrangement of the song is spectacular, with the band launching into a fantastic breakdown, but Gahan will not sing the chorus. Now, this is one thing to watch in person – which we did, because he did the exact same thing when the band played Lollapalooza last year – but it’s another altogether to watch on a DVD, where you’ll be reaching for the Fast Forward button even on your favorite songs. It’s even worse onthe CD, where it just sounds like a karaoke track and the singer is too drunk to read the lyrics on the Teleprompter. If there is one show where Dave should have sucked it up and sung the damn songs, this is the one.

Then there is the matter of their drummer Christian Eigner. His playing is fine, but his snare drum is positively flat, as if the band is too afraid to sound like the rock band they’re pretending to be. They would have been better off giving the bottom end the thump that a live setting demands. As it is, the drum tracks from Music for the Masses – a 23-year-old album – sound harder than what Eigner plays here. The direction of the show is spotty, too, spending far too much time out of focus or, worse, focused on the fans recording the show on their phones (worst, trend, ever).

This was a golden opportunity to showcase Depeche Mode’s staying power and their status as godfathers of electronic music, but Tour of the Universe, despite a great set list and solid performances (when Gahan deigns to sing, anyway), does not cut it. It’s one of those things where you simply had to be there to get the full effect of the experience. If Dave had sung all of the damn songs, this set would be essential. As it is, it’s diehards-only material.(Capitol 2010)

Depeche Mode MySpace page
Click to buy Tour of the Universe from Amazon

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