New Music!: Royksopp & Robyn, THAT Avril Lavigne song and… Ed Sheeran

It’s been too long since I did a music review round-up, and this time I’m going to avoid waxing lyrical about my favourites Lily Allen and FlorrieTheir most recent songs are pretty amazing and you should have clicked on those links already – one at a time please, otherwise you’ll just hear a messy mess of noise or so much amazingness your head might explode.

When Robyn and Royksopp recently announced a ‘mini-album’ to support a tour they’re doing, I thought my head would explode from their combined Scando-superpower. Two tracks leaked online the other day and have since been ripped down from YouTube. Luckily you can listen to them both here.

Of the two, I think most people are going to like the title track, ‘Do It Again’. If I’m being honest, it didn’t majorly impress me on first listen. Lyrically and sonically, it doesn’t sound like either at their best. Thankfully, ‘Every Little Thing’ is a melancholic electronic gem. Its slow and sinister, kind of Royksopp‘s own ‘You Don’t Have a Clue‘ had a baby with Richard X/Norweigan Popstar Annie‘s collab Just Friends‘.

Since I can’t embed a video for either song, let’s remind ourselves of their fantastic 2009 collaboration; ‘The Girl & The Robot’.

The “don’t deny me, call me back, I’m soooooo alone” send shivers down me

Right, let’s move onto the big one. Avril Lavigne with her new single ‘Hello Kitty’. If you haven’t seen/heard/experienced it yet, here it is:

I want to get a few things out the way first, ie: the things most of the internet are talking about. I don’t think the song or video is racist at all. Avril is really popular in Japan and is a self proclaimed massive fan of that country and the Hello Kitty brand. I’m also not against culture appropriation either; I was raised on dubbed anime that changed a lot of character names and references. Personally I don’t believe that’s a bad thing. If an art form such a music video or children’s TV show has familiar elements mixed in with the foreign, it can make it easier to absorb and less alienating.

The whole ‘minority just used a prop/backing dancer’ thing regarding this, Lily Allen‘s ‘Hard Out Here‘, Miley‘s ‘We Can’t Stop‘ performances etc. gets on my nerves a bit. Its starting to feel like everytime a white artist is using someone of different origin in their videos/performances they are blasted online for putting themselves on a pedestal and reinforcing negative stereotypes. I wonder if these keyboard warriors just want to see only white people in a ‘white persons’ music video, and only black people in a ‘black persons’ video? I could start a whole debate but it’s been done to death so lets move on.

Another thing people are blasting Avril for is that she is ‘too old’ to be making this sort of music and having the image that she does. It’s similar to what Madonna has been facing for years and I kind of agree to a point. Should Madonna, at 55 stop singing about going out dancing and enjoying some sexy time? No. People of that age do do that, believe it or not – as much as we like to block out that fact. However, should Madonna keep baring her breasts on stage? Not really. It’s a bit embarrassing at 25 let alone 55. Back to Avril, then. She is 29. Should she ditch her attitude and rebellious rock chick persona? No. People like Joan Jett have been rocking out for way longer and good on them. Avril’s second single from this album (‘Hello Kitty‘ is single #4) ‘Rock n Roll’ is about maintaining that persona and it’s a great song.

‘Hello Kitty’ is not.

You don’t need to mature with every new album, and by age 30 only sing ballads. But at the same time, to regress to the point where your new single sounds like it was written and produced by a 12 year old is a bit ridiculous. Avril’s first album, released at age 17, was more mature than this. It just feels like a massive step backwards. I love a good novelty record from time to time, especially in summer. Heck, I’ve been blasting the heck out of the ‘Asreje (The Ketchup Song)‘ and ‘Numa Numa‘ for the last week and regret nothing. But this isn’t even ‘so bad its good’. It’s just… dire. The horrid dubstep, “a fat kid on a pack of Smarties/throw a chocolate cake at me”, the annoying beat, just… everything. The sad thing, as a population we buy this stuff up normally. ‘#SELFIE‘, ‘Bom Bom‘, ‘GANGNAM STYLE‘ for pete’s sake. Why this gets so much hate is beyond me. Is it because people are jumping on the racist/too old bandwagons, or we know Avril can do better? One thing is for sure though, it’s getting people talking about her. Remember her previous single, Let Me Go‘? Course you didn’t.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about Ed Sheeran.

Now I dislike Ed Sheeran. I respect him for getting where he is and the way he did it but he annoys me. His voice is shrill, his lyrics are poor (and really creepy, in the case of that 1D song he wrote) and his one song I did like (‘Lego House‘) got overplayed like crazy until I hated that, too. But god damn, his new song is pretty good. If you’ve not heard it yet, enjoy:

What you’ll probably notice right away are two things: 1) This sounds like a Pharrell production and 2) This sounds like first album Justin Timberlake. And those two things are exactly why this is good. ‘Sing’ sounds like a better Justin Timberlake single than anything Justin himself released last year. Ed’s voice actually delivers the smoothness needed really, really well. He sounds as confident as the music, effortless whereas before he sounded way too try-hard. Alongside the marvellous Happy, Pharrell is getting closer to redeeming himself afterBlurred Lines and whilst Ed has a ways to go in my opinion, this is definitely a step – no, a major stride – in the right direction.

 

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The new Pet Shop Boys album ‘Electric’ is really good, let’s all try and make it Number 1 please

If you didn’t know, the Pet Shop Boys new album ‘Electric’ is out this week. Its being hailed as their big comeback, despite their last album only coming out ten months ago. That’s because last year’s ‘Elysium’ was chilled, reflective and… a little bit boring to be honest. ‘Electric’ is the Boys returns to the dancefloor, and the true sequel to 2009’s FANTASTIC Xenomania produced (the guys behind Sugababes, Gabriella Cilmi and the Almighty Aloud‘s biggest hits to name a few) album ‘Yes’. But not only that, it feels like the album PSB should be making and in fact… the album Daft Punk should have made this year with ‘Random Access Memories’.

This is absolutely amazing, why is this not played everywhere?!?

Don’t get me wrong this album is clearly the work of Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe (y’know, the Pet Shop Boys) and producer Stuart Price (The Killers, Kylie, Take That, Madonna). But it’s got the interesting electronic twists and turns that people who know Daft Punk pre-‘Get Lucky’ are used to. ‘Axis’, linked above, is a kitchen sink affair, and could easily be the work of Godfather of Electronic Music Giorgio Moroder, whilst ‘Shouting In The Evening’ is insane in a ‘Skins party sequence/keep the dubstep kids happy’ way whilst still sampling Lionel Richie. 

Elsewhere, ”Vocal’ is a full on raveathon with lyrics about being in a club and getting lost in the music and ‘Thursday‘ is an ode to starting the weekend early, featuring ‘What We Made’ hitmaker Example. Of the 9 tracks here, 7 are instantly gratifying, with only ‘Inside a Dream’ and Bruce Springsteen cover ‘Last to Die’ being overshadowed by the amazingness of everything else on my first dozen or so listens. But the Boys are (usually) clever with writing tracks that take just that little bit longer to reveal their brilliance, so I’ll get back to you on that one.

And now we come to my highlight of the album; a song with possible the most Pet Shop Boy-ish title of all time – ‘Love is a Bourgeois Construct’. An italo-disco affair that hits the sweet spot on first listen, where we find Neil is disillusioned with love, believing it only exists in books and whatnot. Its all very tongue-n-cheek and bounces along giddily, occasionally blasting off into some computery vocal effects (but tastefully done).  There’s even some classic ‘Go West’ male choirs thrown in for good measure. Listen and love:

Yeah, its that good I put it up there twice.

Now here’s the thing: the album is currently sitting at Number 2 on the album charts. This is great, because although ‘older’ bands like Black Sabbath have done great in the album charts this year, and a lot of old stuff is coming back into fashion, the Pet Shop Boys are seen by people of my age and pretty ridiculously ‘uncool’ (maybe its coolness, not love that is a bourgeois construct). The person keeping them from Number One is… this dude.

I mean, REALLY?!?

‘Blurred Lines’ (the song) has been Number 1 for 4 weeks, before getting knocked off by Icona Pop‘s amazing ‘I Love It (feat. Charlie XCX) and then climbing up to the top spot again last week. Well done everyone. I’m not being funny but whilst the song has a really catchy production, the song is dreadful and like the video, it’s a little bit… rapey.

Maybe since turning 21 I’ve actually become 40 but I find #BLURREDLINES (grrrr) crass and… pretty trashy. And off the back of that, this guy is going to have a Number 1 album over British music legends, with a career spanning 25+ years and legendary songs like ‘West End Girls’, ‘It’s A Sin’ , ‘Suburbia’,’Always On My Mind’ and I could go on but you get the point. So I’m begging of you please, music buying public of Great Britain; put aside your ideas of Pet Shop Boys being too old, boring, posh or… gay and go buy a very good electronic/dance album and enjoy it for what it is. Which is pretty spectacular.

Also, I got my first ever vinyl yesterday:

Iconic.