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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sounds of Summer 2012, Part 3

"There is someone here who laughs too hard at everything."  That might be the best lyric of 2012 so far. (as written/performed by Swedish alt top act Miike Snow from their precocious and toe tapping single "Paddling Out.")

This humble blog has a tendency to do that.  We giggled a bit when JLO and Steven Tyler both left American Idol this week.  Perhaps, we hoped, that God forsaken show will fade into our memories and folks can start recognizing the talent already out there.  You know, the kids who have been busting their asses touring 10 months a year.  The kids not worrying about their stylist or image.  Rather, they go about their business perfecting their craft.  They play small clubs to rabid fans in hopes of landing a commercial or soundtrack spot.  These days that is the best way to make coin in the music business.  Hell even the American Idol's fail to bring home big paychecks.

And don't give me Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood either.  They are supreme talents who deserve all the acclaim they receive.  But for every Clarkson and Underwood I raise you a Ruben Studdard or Taylor Hicks, Kris Allen, and Lee DeWyze.  Those guys are poster children for how the big talent shows FAIL as indicators of commercial success.  They may have had some flashing appeal and/or a few hits.  But you could argue their successes could have been achieved with or without Idol.  After all, we live in a World that helped Taco, Rockwell, Right Said Fred, Kajagoogoo, Baja Men, and many more 1 hit wonders grab their collective fifteen minutes.  There is no shortage of hits, and hit-makers, making music today.

Popular music is as much as about the image, timing and marketing behind the song/artist as it does with the song/artist him/herself.

It is the intention of this space to remind readers that there are options.  Strip away the packaging and focus group research and you might just find some hidden gems.  Allow me to take a look at today's Billboard Top 10 and offer some healthy alternatives.  Interested?  Scared?  It's ok, you can do it.

#10 Billboard track:   "Starships" by Nicky Minaj  Minaj has a certain something.  Her disastrous Grammy performance aside she has been chruning out catch dance tracks the past few years.  She runs the risk of becoming too gimmicky with the cartoon voice, wigs and overall wacky persona.  Take away all the goofiness and look here for another single lady doing weird stuff.  It's Canadian Clair Boucher, or alter ego Grimes.  Big synths, weird hair and a personality that won't quit.  Sound Familiar?  "Genesis" Grimes From Jools Holland show April, 2012  Probably more performance art than music/rock and roll.  Still pretty darn cool.

#9 Billboard Track:  "Titanium" David Guetta featuring Sia  Everyone likes a dj these days.  Mr Guetta  has done quite nicely mixing beats and bringing aboard super talent to sing.  Long before Sia became our latest Nelly Furtado she was the voice that fronted indie darlings Zero 7.  She also had some success as a solo act, notably the amazing track "Breathe Me" which you might remember from the series finale of Six Feet Under.  Give some of her other work a listen:

"In the Waiting Line" Zero 7  Their signature song and notable too for soundtrack work, this time in the Zach Braff vehicle Garden State.  As chill a song as you can make.

"Destiny" live from Top of The Pops.  A stirring live version from Zero 7.  A strong dose of R and B that makes for a great bar-b-q companion.
"Breathe Me" Sia  As sad and haunting a love song you will ever hear.  Aching and heartfelt vocals and a simple and elegant piano line.

#8 Billboard Track:  "What Makes You Beautiful" One Direction  These guys don't need any more press so let's move on.  Boy bands come and go.   Every 3 or 4 years guys like this capture a large amount of attention, like New Edition, Backstreet Boys, New Kids, NSync, you name it.  If it is male harmonies you like give Brooklyn's Tanlines a try.  It's just as queer to admit liking them as One Direction.  "All of Me" Tanlines  Fast forward through the first wasteful minute.  Also, "Brothers" Tanlines

#7 Billboard Track:  "Scream" Usher  Hmm, not really in my wheelhouse.  Does the alt/indie World have an equivalent?   Probably not.  In that case look here for some other tall guys singing songs.  "Away From You" Oberhofer or "Only The Horses" Scissor Sisters  This has more a David Guetta feel, but Usher has played with him too, right?  Good, clean, foot stomping goodness from this group of merrymakers.

#6 Billboard Track: "Wide Awake" Katy Perry  Ms Perry is a tough one to figure.  She has the whole conservative background and rebelling girl vibe.  She kissed a girl, and sang with Snoop.  She, like Gaga and Minaj, dons wigs and acts zany.  But somewhere in all the packaging is a singer/songwriter.  Why can't she just do that act, like say Ms Clarkson.  She can sing, right?  She doesn't have to dance or wear cupcake bras set on fire, right?  Why do we make her do it?  Or does she make herself do it?  Whatever the case may be there are several female singers and songwriters who are doing it sans wardrobe malfunctions and marketing teams.  Midwestern Eleanor Friedberger is one of them, and you should take a look/listen.  Think today's Rickie Lee Jones.   "My Mistakes" Eleanor Friedberger. Cheeky little video that only makes me like her more or "Roosevelt Island" Eleanor Friedberger  She absolutely killed this song last week at South St Seaport.  A jazzy and straight up funky little number spoken over with brashness by our heroine.  A hidden gem if there ever was one.

#5 Billboard Track:  "Lights" Ellie Goulding  Sometimes the masses are spot on.  This diddy is straight up addicting.  Got nothing to say except enjoy.

# 4 Billboard Track: "Somebody That I Used To Know" Gotye  Like, # 5 the masses are on the money.  This is a viral video (almost 300 million hits!!) and song.   But this Aussie is no one hit wonder.  Do yourself a favor and explore his entire LP.  It is well worth it.  He is also performing live in and around the NYC area in the coming months and his live act is most worthy.  Get the hell on board already.   His LP Making Mirrors is (understatement) brilliant.  "Easy Way Out" Gotye or "Eyes Wide Open" Gotye for further evidence.

#3 Billboard Track:  "Where Have You Been" Rhianna  There is plenty of synth and techno in the alt World.  There are also plenty of female voices.  And it is doubtful these artists have been assaulted by Chris Brown.  Let's celebrate that.  New Zealand's own "Girls Like You" Naked and The Famous or "You're Early" 2:54  Ok, these brit sisters are more rock than dance.  But they are still worth a listen. This is early Sarah McLachan if there ever was!!  Remember, Sarah was quite a performer before she became Ms Animal Abuse Downer.

#2 Billboard Track: "Call Me Maybe" Carly Rae Jepsen  Sugary sweet cut from the Justin Bieber talent factory.  Not offensive.  Not Earth shattering.  A classic summer pop song.  No harm in liking this track for sure.  But if you like female voices without the cheesy videos and overly sweet sentiment take a trip to Sweden, or Iceland.  Their chicks are a bit darker and sing with a bit of an edge as evidence suggests here:  Iceland's Of Monsters and Men "Mountain Sound" and Sweden's First Aid Kit "Emmylou"  Both live videos and both performed quite well.  Big futures await both youthful acts.  First Aid Kit are the second sister act listed here too.  Coolness.

#1 Billboard Track:  "Payphone" Maroon 5 featuring Wiz Khalifa  There are several things that defy logic here and they are not the songs success.  It is more of the same for Adam Levine and CO and that's all good.  However, why does he need to use Autotune on the track and why, oh why, does he cast himself as a gun wielding here in this video.  Sheer bloody fantasy for sure.  At least he isn't a boxer or something, what, wait?  He does that in the video for "One More Night"??  Oh Moses smell the Roses.  Oh, and Minka Kelly is his girl???  Boy oh boy he is living the dream.  Sour grapes much.  Yes indeed.   Give this some attention so you can forget all about Levine's amazing life:

New Killers track "Runaways"  Brandon Flowers' voice is as good as Levine's if not better.  No effect here either.  So glad they are coming out with a new record.  Their new single is a very promising sign.

Plenty of options out there folks.  Happy listening.

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