10
Mar
13

Petra Marklund – Inferno

petra-inferno

Petra Marklund is probably better known as September, the Swedish singer who made an international splash with incredibly poppy songs such as “Cry For You” and “Satellites”.

Petra decided to record under her real name and in Swedish for the first time. She also decided on a change in style. The songs on “Inferno” are still very catchy pop with that trademark Swedish production but they are more sophisticated, kind of indie pop.

She has released two singles from the album so far which will give you a good indication of Petra’s new sound, “Händerna Mot Himlen” (Hands Towards The Sky) and “Sanningen” (The Truth).

03
Mar
13

NEO – Reborn

neoreborn

I first discovered NEO a in 2009 with the amazingly camp poppy song “Flower Power Super Girl” (the name says it all). A stunning debut album followed simply called “One”. In 2010, NEO entered Melodifestivalen with another great dance pop tune called “Human Frontier”. It didn’t win but it definitely helped raise NEO’s profile in Sweden. He repackaged the “One” album, added the Melodifestivalen song and called it “Human Frontier”. I was excited for this second album but it had all the same songs as the first plus one new one which I already had on the Melodifestivalen CD.

So, I had been waiting for a real second album for quite a long time and 2012 was the year. “Reborn” came out early in the year and did not disappoint. Still dance pop, still with NEO’s trademark falsetto but it was definitely a progression from his first album. A little darker, a little more downbeat but still very catchy and very listenable and it has a big sound. It still gets regular spins at my place.

There have been a number of singles released from the album but only two have video clips. “Underground” which I have written about before and “Toxicated Love”, one of the songs used for Stockholm Pride.

If you have Spotify, you can listen to the album below. This is the first time I have put in a Spotify link so hopefully it works.

27
Jan
13

Tim Draxl – My Funny Valentine

my funny valentine

 

This is a jazz album from Tim Draxl, paying tribute to the legendary jazz singer and trumpet player Chet Baker.

Tim Draxl had put together a show called “Freeway – The Chet Baker Journey” along with Bryce Hallett. Chet Baker was at the peak of his success in the 1950s and he had a very colourful life. The show featured Tim telling Chet’s story and singing a selection of his signature songs. Finally, last year, Tim recorded this album of Chet Baker songs.

This is a very jazzy and smooth album. Tim has an amazing voice and it suits this style of music very well. He captures the essence of Chet Baker. I saw the show twice and was transfixed. I was thrilled when Tim announced he was doing this album.

This is a promo for the “Freeway” show which features Tim and others talking about Chet Baker and the show. There is footage from the rehearsals which will give you a feel for the show and the music and of course, Tim’s amazing singing.

27
Jan
13

Rumer – Boys Don’t Cry

rumer

 

I discovered Rumer a couple of years ago with her excellent debut album “Seasons Of My Soul”. I was immediately struck by her beautiful and soulful voice. Many reviewers have compared Rumer’s voice to that of Karen Carpenter and they certainly share some of the same vocal qualities.

“Boy’s Don’t Cry” is Rumer’s second album and is a covers album. An album of covers is always a risky venture but this one pays off. Two things I like about covers albums are when they feature songs I don’t really know and if there is some sort of coherent theme. “Boys Don’t Cry” ticks both those boxes. It is an album of laid back 70s songs written by and about men who have suffered some sort of emotional set back. I hadn’t heard of any of the songs before so I had no preconceptions.

“PF Sloane” (originally by Jimmy Webb) was the first single. It didn’t exactly set the charts on fire which is criminal. Maybe a bit too folksy for today’s audiences but wonderful all the same. I could listen to Rumer’s voice for hours.

“Sara Smile” from Daryl Hall and John Oates was apparently their break-through single but again, I hadn’t heard of it before. Rumer’s version became the second and final single from the album and is in a very similar vein to the first single and indeed the rest of the album.

22
Sep
12

The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman

 

I discovered this remarkable musical by American group Sparks earlier this year courtesy of an internet surfing session. It is not like other modern day musicals in that it isn’t a juke box musical nor is it one based on a movie. It is a fictional story based on real life film director, the Swede Ingmar Bergman. The combination of music by Sparks and the Swedish connection drew me in.

The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman was originally commissioned by Swedish Radio. Brothers Ron and Russell Mael (aka Sparks) were asked to develop a musical as part of a series to be broadcast on Swedish Radio. The musical had to have a Swedish element so Ron and Russell, both film buffs, came up with the idea of Hollywood trying to seduce Ingmar Bergman into making films there. An unusual idea but one that works very well.

The radio broadcast version was in both English and Swedish. A  limited edition Swedish CD was released of only 1,000 copies which appears to be as rare as hen’s teeth. I tried to hunt it down the last time I was in Stockholm without success so ended up getting it via iTunes. An English language version came out later and I was able to get that CD. It was produced for a special one-off performance at the LA Film Festival 2011.

I have long admired Ron and Russell Mael and their work as Sparks. They have had a long and varied career and have never been afraid to try something new. The music in this project is epic and dramatic and I love to play it really loud when I get the chance. There are plans to turn it into a full stage production and eventually a film. I would definitely make the effort to see that.

Here is one of my favourite songs from the musical, “Garbo Sings”. This appears as a fantasy sequence as Bergman is trying to escape Hollywood. Greta Garbo appears as a vision to help guide him back to Sweden. Awesome stuff.

And here are some clips from the LA Film Festival performance.

09
Sep
12

You’re a winner, I’m a winner

New music from Pet Shop Boys is always cause for celebration, for me anyway. A new album has just touched down and no doubt I will write about that later. Today, I just wanted to highlight the rather special video for the album’s first single “Winner”.

“Winner” came out a month ago and with all the fuss surrounding the Olympic Games in London, it was assumed that the song was written to cash in on the games due to the title, single cover art and the anthemic quality of the song.

It turns out that the song was not written with the Olympics in mind. It was actually inspired by Take That during the double header concert tour featuring both Tale That and Pet Shop Boys. Neil and Chris wanted to see if they could write a mid-tempo anthemic ballad and the result was “Winner”. It was never intended that Pet Shop Boys would record and release it themselves. Neil has even admitted that he was thinking of the song as a possible entry for the Eurovision Song Contest. Listen for that key change during the song.

Andrew Dawson, the producer of the new Pet Shop Boys album “Elysium”, was the one who convinced Neil and Chris to record the song themselves. So they did.

Another track was always intended to be the first single but late in the day, the record company decided to release “Winner” instead, obviously thinking that it could be an Olympic tie-in.

I do like “Winner” a lot but having heard the rest of the album, I don’t think it was the strongest choice for a single and as it was, it didn’t sell particularly well. Maybe the record company always knew that anything released would be over-shadowed by all the Olympics hype so decided to release the stronger single later. Who knows.

Anyway, a video was recorded for “Winner” with a storyline closer to the meaning of the lyrics instead of some tacky, predictable Olympics montage. The lyrics are about tolerance and acceptance of those who are different, values that I respond to. And that’s what the video is about.

The story concerns a transgender woman, “Dirty Diana”,  joining a woman’s roller derby team. She is not particularly good at roller derby but that doesn’t matter. There are lots of scenes showing Diana being accepted. They obviously know what Diana is but don’t care. They accept her as one of their own and it is heartwarming to see how happy Diana is, finally being accepted and treated as one of the girls. I also like the fact that the video is shot as if it was an amateur documentary. It adds to the authenticity of the video.

I guess the video wasn’t going to help the single to sell more copies but that’s irrelevant. I love it anyway.

 

09
Apr
12

Evan – Back At Last

I first discovered Evan during Melodifestivalen in 2006 with his mindblowing song “Under Your Spell”, a dramatic, almost operatic three minute piece of theatre. I immediately bought the single (back in the day when singles were readily available), the album of the same name as well as delving into Evan’s back catalogue.

Of course, this was back in 2006 and after that – nothing. Well Evan did pop up again in 2008 as the songwriter for Therese Andersson’s 2008 Melodifestivalen entry but then promptly disappeared again.

A ray of sunshine broke through in 2010 when he released a collection of outtakes and demos called “Bonustracks” and a single called “Falling From Grace” which was pretty damn good but then he disappeared again.

Thanks to one of my favourite blogs, Swedish Stereo, I was delighted to discover that not only has Evan just released a new single  but an album as well. Called “The Beauty of Your Face”, the album is another collection of mini epic pop masterpieces and it’s been out on iTunes for two months! A quick visit to iTunes and a couple of minutes later, I finally had Evan’s third album and I love the grandness of it all as well as Evan’s amazing falsetto.

This is the video for the single “Out of Control”.

Check out Evan’s official site at www.evan.se

iTunes link for the album is right here:

http://itunes.apple.com/se/album/the-beauty-of-your-face/id501099575?l=en

11
Dec
11

Pet Shop Boys + Ballet = ?

When Pet Shop Boys first announced they wanted to write the music for a ballet, I was a little bemused. I guess I didn’t know what to make of it. As much as I love music, ballet is something that has never appealed to me at all. Kulcha and me just don’t mix.

The ballet is based on a Hans Christian Andersen story, “The Most Incredible Thing”, one I hadn’t heard of and still I was bemused. No disrespect to HCA but I had grown out of those sorts of stories many years ago.

I obviously bought the CD when it came out earlier this year. I knew if nothing else, being the Pet Shop Boys, the music would be magnificent. In that regard, I wasn’t disappointed. Different to the usual kind of ballet music I’m aware of and different to a Pet Shop Boys album, yet at the same time quite similar. Sort of a bastard child of the two styles full of dramatic musical hooks and sound effects. Very strident at times which I love. There is only one kind of pop moment which utilises a demo of a song called “Baby” that Neil and Chris had given to Swedish group Alcazar. Always great to hear Neil’s voice no matter how briefly.

So I would definitely recommend the album but how I would I go actually seeing the ballet. Could I cope? I am going to be in London in March next year and the ballet is having a short return season. I took the plunge and booked a ticket. I like to experience new things and a ballet couldn’t be that bad, could it? I reasoned if I really wasn’t enjoying it, I could leave during the intermission. I’ll find out in a few months.

I did find some clips on Youtube that had been put up by someone involved in the production which actually look OK and entertaining enough.

The first is the talent show which has a speaking part, a disco beat and looks a lot of fun.

The next clip is the “pop” moment with Neil singing “Baby”.

The next two clips really show off the audio visual aspect of the show.

I’m starting to think that the show might be an enjoyable experience.

To finish off this entry, here is Alcazar’s version of “Baby” in full. Not quite Neil but you can get a feel for the song. It’s from Alcazar’s “Disco Defenders” album which is worth checking out if you like dance pop.

10
Dec
11

Mark Wilkinson – What Music Is All About

Last night, I was sitting in a community church hall in Glebe which resembled a rather large lounge room. Lots of sofas, armchairs and an odd assortment of chairs and coffee tables. There were 110 of us, all there to experience the magic of Mark Wilkinson performing live.

This was my second time seeing Mark perform. The first time was a few months ago in a tiny basement club near Kings Cross during a two week holiday. Due to a lack of funds, I decided to have a “staycation”, a holiday at home playing tourist in my own city. One thing I had decided to do was to discover a new artist. Some unkind friends tell me that I already have too many CDs (I do) and don’t need anymore (not true). I have quite a few friends who are eternally stuck in the past when it comes to music. They often make sweeping statements about modern music being rubbish which irritates me no end. There is still plenty of great music being created by great artists and I still get a kick out of discovering a new artist.

So, who was it to be? I quickly dismissed sites like Ticketek and Ticketmaster and found myself at Moshtix scouring the list of artists performing in Sydney during those two weeks. It felt a bit like drawing up a shortlist of job applicants to interview. Mark’s write-up caught my eye with words like “fiercely independent” and “soulful voice”. I checked a couple of clips on YouTube, liked what I heard and booked a ticket. I certainly wasn’t disappointed. It was an amazing show and I was instantly a big fan.

Last night was the same. There is something refreshing about a guy with just a guitar, simply singing and playing amazing music. And the voice. Mark really does have an amazing voice. Soulful doesn’t really describe it completely. Mark’s voice is one of those voices that grabs you by the balls and by the heart and drags you along for the ride. I really could listen to Mark’s voice all night long. I had quite a few emotional moments last night thanks to that voice. I kept thinking this is what music is meant to be about.

Another appealing thing about Mark is that he hasn’t succumbed to showbiz. He really comes across as a really down to earth guy, someone you could quite easily have a few beers and lots of laughs with.

Mark released his debut album “Truth Came Running” earlier this year, one of my favourite albums of the year. A great collection of acoustic soul. It is available through his website and on iTunes internationally as are his EPs. Here are a selection of songs.

The first single from the album was “All I Ever Wanted” and it has a great clip filmed in South Africa. I want a t-shirt with “I’m Alive” on it. 🙂

A favourite song of mine that is on the album. “Should’ve Been”.

Mark has that knack with cover versions of totally owning the song. This is the OneRepublic song “Secrets” that is on Mark’s latest EP “Sweet White Lies”.

For more information, check the following links:

http://www.markwilkinsonmusic.com

http://www.youtube.com/markwilkinsonmusic

https://www.facebook.com/markwilkinsonmusic

10
Sep
11

Listening to a new album for the first time

Listening to a new album for the first time is always a special time for me. Personally, I usually to listen to it in private on repeat, shut away in my bedroom with the headphones on. Sometimes if I’m feeling really kinky, I’ll do it in the dark. 🙂  I will then keep playing the album over the next couple of weeks as I become familiar with the songs.

I have been eagerly awaiting the new album from Darren Hayes, “Secret Codes and Battleships”, due out on 21 October 2011. Strangely I was never particularly a fan of Savage Garden but I did and still do love Darren’s solo work. He has an amazing voice and a great pop sensibility pervades his work. Darren’s last album “This Delicate Thing We’ve Made” is an absolute masterpiece and one of my favourite all-time albums.

Since my anticipation for “Secret Codes and Battleships” has been running high, I was intrigued when Darren’s official website announced special listening sessions for the album just for fans. I put my name down, not really expecting to get in, and promptly forgot about it. I never get picked for these things anyway.

Imagine my surprise when I got an email confirming my attendance at a listening session in a recording studio in inner Sydney. I must confess to being nervous before going. Although yes I am a fan of Darren’s music, I can’t compare to those obsessive fans who can reel off facts and who know every details about Darren’s life and career. I have never been that comfortable being that sort of fan about any artist to be honest although I have been in the past.

It was a beautiful sunny day three weeks ago when I turned up at the studio. I made sure that I got there an hour early and was fortunate enough to get into the courtyard area. I sat quietly with another fan even when most of the other people were ushered out to wait in the street. It does pay to be well-behaved at times.

By the time they were ready to let us in, we had to leave any bags and electronic devices with security. We were scanned with one of those portable security wands. I guess they had to make sure no unscrupulous person would record it. The confirmation email had advised that we had to be prepared to be patted down and I was ready for that but sadly no action for me on that front! The security guys were very friendly and apologetic about the security arrangements but no one seemed to mind.

There were about 100 fans and we all sat in the main orchestral room. Darren’s sister Tracey, who runs the fan club, spoke with us about the album and how Darren and his family were very appreciative of the fans’ support. Darren himself couldn’t be there but he had recorded a video introduction which was a nice touch. It was nice to have an artist who is genuinely supportive of and grateful to his fans. A rare thing these days.

And then it was time to listen to the album.

I musy say that this was a very unusual way to listen to an album for the first time. Well, for me anyway. I felt a sense of desperation, knowing that I was going to hear it only once and then having to wait two months to hear it on my terms. I was trying to recall every detail so the memory of it wouldn’t totally disappear. Of course, I wasn’t successful in that regard. It was all a distant memory by the time I got home.

I was able to hold on to my general impressions of the album which of course were very positive. This is a more pop friendly album and a lot more accessible than the last one. It has a lot more tighter sound. I think it’s got the potential to be huge. The two songs that stayed with me the longest were the next singles – “Bloodstained Heart” (now out on Australian iTunes) and “Black Out The Sun” (the rest of the world).

We only got to hear the album once. After the last song, Tracey just announced that was it. I wanted to scream out to play it again but thought that wouldn’t be a good idea. There was a brief chat about favourite songs and then it was time to go. I made sure I thanked Tracey for the opportunity. She joked about how cruel it was to only play it once and then make us wait. I had to agree but at the same time I was very appreciative of being able to hear the album.

Thinking about it afterwards, I think it will still be like listening to it for the first time when I finally get the album except the anticipation and the experience overall will be enhanced by having had this sneak peek. At least I know that I won’t be disappointed.

I have also just found out that there is going to be a special edition with seven bonus tracks and a collector’s edition with twelve bonus tracks so there will be the equivalent of a whole album of extra stuff that will be totally new. Exciting or what? 🙂

An epic clip has been unleashed for “Black Out The Sun”. Darren is currently filming a clip for “Bloodstained Heart” but in the meantime there is a lyric video. Both these songs are different shades of brilliant with “Bloodstained Heart” pipping the post as my favourite. I can’t stop playing them.

And to round it out, here is the video for the first single from the album, “Talk, Talk, Talk”.




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