East Bay View (a blog about several things)

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Hit count: Processed cheese

Arashi, "Step and Go" (#1 Japan): Rickroll'd! Except these guys, for all their talents (hey, it's the guy from Letters from Iwo Jima), don't sing as well as Mr Astley. Well, at least Sakurai Sho is a decent rapper.

Duffy, "Mercy" (#1 UK): She's not the new Dusty Springfield, who was convincing singing soul, and besides, was a great singer. She's more like the new Peggy Lee. Except Peggy Lee was a very good singer.

Jordin Sparks & Chris Brown, "No Air" (#3 US): It would be funny that Chris Freaking Brown outsung an Idol winner, except Sparks has talent, so it's tragic. She can interpret, as on the Stargate-produced "Tattoo", but here there isn't anything worth interpreting. The overprocessing asphyxiates her vocal. The vet Brown knows how to sound cute after overprocessing -- and his cuteness is fine in small doses.

OneRepublic, "Stop and Stare" (#10 US, #4 UK): So your debut single was one of the three or four biggest hits of the decade ("Hips Don't Lie", "You're Beautiful", maybe "Hung Up") -- how do you follow that up? With a trite kiddie-rhythmed chorus melody that can only have been conceived to show off your singer's upper register -- only Chris Martin, let alone Jeff Buckley, would laugh off the competition. They'd also guffaw at the overwrought video: Empty grave! Burning TV! Ryan drowning in bath! Well, Buckley wouldn't laugh at that last part.

Usher, "Love in This Club" (#1 US, #6 UK): Though substandard Polow is still better than anything else on this list, there's still a feeling of "We waited four years for this?". Still, it's admirable as cultural exchange: ecstasy-flavoured lyrics over a trance synth riff, slowed down to reflect the different drug choices of the target demographic.


Friday, April 04, 2008

Top ten: Real time

1. Peter Bjorn and John, "Objects of My Affection": What do you know, they do have a great song. I'll forgive the odd ESL rhyme for an "In My Life" rewrite that isn't so starry-eyed as to attribute it all to one love -- though love's never far from their minds. Really, they do care about the young folks. But they're glad to have grown up.

2. Okkervil River, "Our Life Is Not a Movie or Maybe": Terrific-sounding lyrics, filled with repetitions and internal rhymes. Also a neat rhythmic pattern which puts notes you expect on the 1 on the 3, which, coupled with his fourth bar windup minimises the dead time without voice (without needing to, you know, hold long notes and stuff). Plus the "bad movie" simile: how literary! I mean cinematic!

3. The Go! Team, "Grip Like a Vice"/"Titanic Vandalism": What's the name of this nation? Is this the Cosmic Force? Is this the Funky 4 + 1? Is this the BBC? I thought it was the U.K.

4. Kalima Pierre, "Olingi na sala boni"/"Bomba na motema": The revelation of the Roots of Rumba Rock compilation. Everything you could want in mid-Fifties Congolese rumba is here - a brass band! Thumping drums! And on "Olingi na sala boni", out-of-tune vocals!

5. Kings of Leon, "Knocked Up": They may have have less than chaste reasons for keeping the car running. But they're still heroic.

6. Wu-Tang Clan, "The Heart Gently Weeps"/"Wolves": The album is a patchwork, like every other Wu albums, so the memorable tracks are the well-hooked. "The Heart Gently Weeps" while "Wolves" is lover-not-widowermaker George Clinton's field guide to canids. Raekwon and Ghost elevate the former, while Meth more surprisingly adds value to both.

7. Alicia Keys, "Like You'll Never See Me Again": With ritual song sacrifice left to Idols these days, big R&B ballads are better sung now than in decades, and Keys sings these as well as anyone save Beyonce.

8. The Vandermark 5, "Speedway (for Max Roach)": This month's Vandermark: psycho-electrocello!

9. Three Tenors of Soul, "All the Way from Philadelphia": I barely know the Stylistics, and had look up Blue Magic and the Delfonics -- but everyone knows Hall & Oates!

10. The National, "Fake Empire": It's hard to have false consciousness if you're not fully conscious.

Twelve more: Gary Allen, "Watching Airplanes"; Band of Horses, "Is There a Ghost"; DJ Khaled ft. Akon, T.I., Rick Ross, Fat Joe, Baby & Lil Wayne, "We Takin' Over"; The Go! Team, "The Wrath of Marcie"; Happy Apple, "Very Small Rock"; Les Savy Fav, "Patty Lee"; Little Boots, "Stuck on Repeat"; Magnetic Fields, "California Girls"; Kalima Pierre, "Na mokili moko te"; Rich Boy ft. Andre 3000, Jim Jones, Nelly, Murphy Lee & The Game, "Throw Some D's Remix"; Jill Scott, "All I"; Wu-Tang Clan, "Sunlight".

All this group needs to do to be listenable is replace all their members: Klaxons.