hey, let's talk about some music, shall we?
there may still be some color coordination issues to work out, but i've finally got my little podplayer set up, and i even made it so it doesn't start automatically when you get to the site now. nice of me no? the innaugural playlist (of this iteration) features some of my favorite singles and songles of the spring/year so far, mostly in the pop realm(s)... 2007: first quarter favorites (except it's really the first third at this point, but who's counting.) nothing tooo over the heads of the sorta folks who hang around the stylus singles jukebox and the iltp (toiletpaper i mean teenpop) thread, where i heard of most of these in the first place. speaking of the styjuke, i was just invited to join the crew there, so bully for that. let's call this practice.
lil mama - "lip gloss"
this is something like my single of the year so far - at least i can't think of anything in particular that has dominated me more so far in '07 (i figure "give it to me" is disqualified for having been on my year-end mix, even though only now is it getting the response it deserves), so until something better comes along... anyway it's pretty ridiculous that i haven't gotten sick of this considering how mindblowingly minimal the beat is (literally the same two elements, in the same two bar pattern, looped for the whole thing.) (extra) credit due, then, to lil mama, and her kinetic frenetic sing-song braggodocio, skipping deftly around and atop that beat and keeping the whole thing fresher than fresh. the lyrics, of course, are absolutely key - but i feel like they speak for themselves at least as well as they've already been written about elsewhere. (basically, the important thing is that she really is singing (er, rapping, whatever) about lip gloss; it's not a metaphor, or a come-on. srsly.)
i can't figure out whether or not this is (becoming?) an actual hit - i did hear it blasting out of several car windows (in succession; all tuned to the same station) in west philly this weekend, so that's a good sign. fingers crossed we get to see how well it withstands legitimate (rather than simulated) overexposure.
stephanie mcintosh - "so do i say sorry first"
took a little while to figure out what kind of song this is. at first i thought it was country, for some reason (the generic specificity of the lyrics? actually, save perhaps for some of the production touches late in the song, i still think it could pass.) but, no, duh, it's a rock song - a rawk song, even - although it has clean girly vox so we're not supposed to call it that.
all i know about ms. mcintosh is that she's an australian soap star. which bodes well in my experience. (hm, i'd never really thought about "australian pop" as an entity before.) but this sounds less like that other aussie soap star (who records in the uk anyway), more like those aussie rockers who, oh yeah, recorded my favorite song of 2006 (er, in sweden.) it's maybe even harder (rawer) than the v's - especially the opening moments, though the chorus gets a little bit mannered. certainly its anger and intensity seems to come from a more genuine, recognizable place - tempered as they are by a certain playfulness. this and "4ever" both employ irony to some extent, but there it was winking and here it's practically wincing.
some of the lyrics are frustratingly wonky ("i can't hear words when you scream like you do"?), but the conceit is original and works, especially the resounding chorus (though i always want to sing "or do i say sorry first," which i think makes more sense - like she's pretending to try to remember the sequence of events she and her lover have "rehearsed.")
linda sundblad - "lose you"
just gorgeous. this is one of those lush, creamy electroacoustic tracks that just seems to glide by effortlessly. like goldfrapp's "black cherry" or air's "universal travel" - but beatier - something like "heartbeat" i suppose (and its sister-songs, "time after time" and "heartbeat." also "with every heartbeat" - did i ever think to group that in with those?)
the lines about heaven also make me think of rachel stevens' "i will be there," which also fits in that swoony, mellow but danceable category. [that line also resonates nicely with the religious subject matter that linda's sort of made her calling card (q.v. "oh father"), but does it actually make any sense? why exactly does losing somebody make her think she's in heaven?]
wait a sec, attending more closely to the lyrics ("pounding heart on a saturday night"?), this song is really reminiscent of "heartbeat." it's like the same song in an alternate universe: with basically the scenario (well, it's sat instead of fri) but with a completely opposite emotional perspective on it, so that it ends up heartbreaking rather than euphoric.
i need to give it some more spins for a full assessment, but this album could be the next anniemal - (it's at least as good; more varied, tho less electro) - except of course it won't be. why did the hipsters decide to stop caring about scando-actual-pop anymore? and what happened to annie, annieway?
natasha bedingfield - "i want to have your babies"
they're all like "omg, she actually means it" - but to me the crazy thing is not necessarily that she's singing about wanting to have "random men's babies," as somebody said on iltp - i don't think anything in the lyrics suggests that random men or even multiple men are implicated - they must have got that from the video. granted, if it'd really scare the guy that much, he probably doesn't know her very well.
aside from the initial greatness of the whole premise (which is admittedly great), what really makes this awesome is how cleverly the song is structured, so that it actually enacts the very (flimsy) division between her interior thoughts and her exterior speech that she's describing - and that division gets transgressed (as she bursts uncontrollably from the "mm-mm-mm" bit into the chorus) in the process of describing it ("whoops! did i say it out loud?) that's...so cool. plus there are a lot of great individual lines. i especially love the scary middle-eight, wherein tashbed momentarily breaks into soul diva mode. and the music is really fun and silly and springy. this is an excellent springtime song, in case you didn't notice.
i still think she should say "serious like rabies" though.
hilary duff - "dreamer"
i know, enough with the blondes already, right? hils isn't blonde on the cover of her new record, actually - and these people never seem to keep their hair the same color for two seconds anyway, so i can't really keep track. whatever.
i'm gonna call it and say dignity is the paris of 2007 - not that it's as good, or as favorite, though it comes within spitting distance of dance-pop full-length gold. (a slight resequencing and a couple of judicious omissions - 14's too long anyway - might do the trick.) it's enough of a reinvention that it feels like a debut. and i've already got a possibly irrational soft spot for it that's going to necessitate a good deal of 'splaining. plus it seems to take many of its cues from ms. hilton's dubious success (that's h-duff's best parisian huskifying at the opening of this 'podcast) - and she's followed her to #1 on the dance charts, so i guess it works.
"dreamer" is not a single (nor is "danger" or "never stop," which is currently in rotation on mymyspage) but it's the one that's been in my head the most recently (actually now "between you and me" is overtaking it.) and it is officially awesome, even if the chorus isn't nearly as good as the verses (in terms of melody, arrangement and lyrics.) the "bum bum bum" bit, in particular, is brilliantly multivalent, suggesting carefree insouciance, bored annoyance, and the workaday routine (all resonant with the lyrics) while also calling out the object of the song as a bum bum bum himself. it may be snide ("i go to bed and i wake up/isn't that interesting?") but it's also possibly the mildest, most polite kiss-of to a stalker ever penned. instead of being a creepy violent weirdo, he's simply a "dreamer" who just doesn't happen to believe the same dreams as hilary does. (compare this to the venemous title track, directed at paris and her ilk - well, lindsay specifically - and remember, hilary actually had a creepy violent stalker.)
aberfeldy - (do) whatever turns you on
here you go, these guys aren't blonde. they don't have a US record contract either. even superfan tim sendra seems to have forgotten about them. boo hoo.
well this might not be a single either (i guess that's "hypnotised," which is good too - it lacks the poppy synth hooks, but has a great bit where the back-up singers say "shut up!") but it's the (almost?) title track of their latest album, which came out in the uk last year, and as far as the internet can tell doesn't seem to be coming out in the states... (even though they've recently hit the big time here.) i really hope it does though, cuz from what i've heard it's just as lovely as their lovely lovely lovely debut. erm. this song is self-explanatory, bouncy keyboard pop, with a message! i don't need to write about it - just listen for yrself and if you donnae like it phbbbbt! ok.
fyi: according to their website, aberfeldy is named after the scottish town of the same name, aberfeldy.
tracey thorn - raise the roof
does anybody actually say "raise the roof" anymore? it makes me think of early high school, specifically jeremy cooney. and that makes me think of julia stiles, and "change the world" by eric clapton and babyface, and lauryn hill (c. the score, not miseducation), and that one day we hung out at the amusement park with karen and merre. anybody else not feeling me?
ok, this one's also not a single (that's it's all true, which sounds exactly like a tracey thorn single should); it's perfectly situated as the last track on a beautiful album. but i wanted to share it cuz it's the one that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.
which tracey has a way of doing better than almost anyone... i'm so glad this album is out; even if it's hard to imagine it bettering walking wounded or "protection"...it comes darn close. both lyrically and musically - one wonders why she and ben watt didn't work together on this, but she's found some suitable substitutes for her husband. (ewan pearson is a surprisingly sympathetic collaborator - his production work here is subtler than what i've heard from him before. and it's sweet that she's working with darshan jesrani, even if it's just one track.) "grand canyon" and "falling off a log" are also standouts, as is the arthur russell cover.
you know, i feel like people think that this is music for boring adults...and yeah, it is sophisticated and "mature," whatever that means...but tracey's no more of a has-been than madonna has been - their careers are just as old - and she's got more indie electro cred, and i don't see why she shouldn't be just as revered and celebrated. she's not much of a go-getter, i suppose. sigh; i just think it's a shame that walking wounded isn't more widely acknowledged for the perfect album that it is... i'll stop now.
08 May 2007
06 May 2007
i felt like there was something else to say about EMP, since i didn't really offer any general comments on my experience. like carl wilson, i didn't find it to be nearly as mind-blowing as
last year's conference, although it was plenty enjoyable.
of course, as my second exposure to this curious, ad-hoc community, there was less of a transcendant sense of new and unexplored possibilities. but there also just weren't as many papers or panels that stood out as really engaging and provocative (as, for instance, the girl-group panel and carl's own celine dion paper did last year.) somehow, there didn't seem to be many papers that addressed areas of directly relevant interest to me, though i don't understand how that's possible. i definitely felt like the expansion to four simultaneous panels diluted the energy and cohesion of the conference, and - although nobody else seemed to complain about this much - i found there to be strikingly little adherence to or concern with the con's decidedly vague "theme."
i guess this didn't bother folks because the theme is something of a red herring - the true theme is always simply "pop music," and the point is overwhelmingly to bring together the best and most prominent writers/thinkers on the music to share some of their work, rather than to enact a large-scale discussion around a set of more specific topics. which is certainly reasonable, given that this is really the only event of its kind. but it's also a shame, i'd say, since there are certainly a range of very potent and significant ideas to be explored even hewing quite close to this year's ostensible theme - the relationship between music, time, and place - which could have enhanced cross-resonances throughout the conference if more of an effort had been made to draw them out as the focus. it would have made it easier to come away with a sense that something particular had been discussed, considered, and, perhaps, in some small way, explained.
i don't mean to keep bringing this up - because i really don't want to complain about it -
but if my paper had been included (it was evidently not aided by the increase in accepted submissions - though it was, by-the-way, abso-bloomin-lutely on-theme) ... well, golly it would have been nice - i feel like i would have gotten a lot more out of the conference. not just for the obvious reasons, but simply because it would have given me more of an entree into the "hallway" conversations that form a lot of the substance of the conference. as it was, i didn't really end up talking to that many people. because i'm shy, but more because i didn't have anything particular or urgent to say to anybody there, even though obviously there are all kinds of things i could fruitfully discuss with most of them.
also, since i had friends to hang out with and things to do in the evenings, i didn't need to or attempt to join any of the myriad social activities that went on outside of but connected to the conference, such as what i'm sure was an awesome party at m. matos' house saturday night. i did end up going to lunch on sunday (after the big wrap-up discussion, which has been described/discused/dished on in detail elsewhere) with carl, ned raggett, tom kipp, and several others - most of that conversation was about the idea of creating something (a web forum? an online magazine? a print publication?) to carry forward the spirit and substance of emp throughout the rest of the year - an idea that despite some big talk has unsurprisingly not led to even subsequent e-mail dialogue (unless it has and i was weeded out.)
anyway, thanks to the lovely mr. kipp, who, like me, is what carl calls a "thinker without portfolio" (even though his 'folio does now include four popcon presentations, and mine stretches to fit some academic and some periodicalized pop writing.) at the end of the conference, he made some discouraging comments about the prospects of ever getting a paper accepted at there without some significant credentials. of course that's not entirely unexpected - but i'd previously have thought that the selection process would weight the quality and relevance of the proposal at least somewhat substantially against the "brief bio" and acknowledged insider status. kipp's doubtful about that, and he's probably in a position to know (himself standing as one of the few perennial exceptions, since "once you're in you're in.")
coming after the intense but inspiring final roundtable talk - on the fraught subject of "the future of thinking about music for a living," which left me musing optimistically about academia (as the academics were on the whole way more positive about said future than the journo-types) - that comment was a tiny buzzkill that brought me down to thinking about my future for living about music, period. which is to say, my position with respect to this group of people who inhabit emp-world. because, once more, i'm left feeling like these are my people, at least rightfully, but that i don't quite belong to/with them, at this point anyway. despite lots of rhetoric about inclusiveness and intermingling, i still end up on the outside. which is something i do to myself, more than anything. and i'm trying to figure out how not to.
one thing i want to do is to start focusing (on) my writing here; making an effort to create something more potentially accessible and reader-friendly. which means, mostly, to just write better. and also shorter, and maybe less erratically. we'll see. i've got a few several loose ends to tie up, as always, but i'm going to perhaps be playing around with format here in the coming weeks/months, to see if i can sculpt this blog into something more emphatic, deliberate...something with a stronger sense of itself. eh?