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Saturday, May 22, 2004

AVRIL LAVIGNE - Slipped Away
Well, what do you know? You can reuse a trick, but it helps if the trick is lifted from I'm With You, the stunning highpoint of Avril's first album (actually, the only song off it I liked) that seemed to perfectly encapsulate that feeling of awkward belongingness only an earnestly inarticulate seventeen-year-old could muster.

And this is a glorious reprise; a piano is the secret weapon here rather than a cello, but the mood is identical. Avril's lyrics are direct, but still never threaten to be any more than simple, if long-pondered (but never DEEPLY thought out) application of words to melody and rhythm, but she really sells it in the gorgeously impassioned, albeit ridiculously so, middle eight - remember, that was the moment on IWY where the lighters waved and you allowed yourself an emotional moment (well, OK, I did, your mileage may vary) - "now you're gone/now you're gone/there you go/there you go/somewhere I can't bring you back!" - and it's perfect, both for the teenage girls who'll use it to soundtrack lost love, those who think it telegraphs literal death rather than the figurative death of a relationship as well as cynical twenty-somethings who just have something in their eye.

The first sounds she sings, a nanana and a simple "I miss you" are repeated right at the end, and the second delivery is crushing. She doesn't care if you think she's just writing bad teen poetry, her voice shows the emotion and the meaning where her language skills haven't yet developed to a point where they're capable of it. But it gives the whole thing a naive, authentic charm - remember that she's nineteen.

To be completely honest, this is an astonishing song, a sitter for the album's obligatory third-single-slowie, a creative zenith for Team Lavigne, and a brilliantly calculated bit of fence-sitting between adolescent moping and accomplished pop songcraft.
# 3:23 AM []
McFLY - Obviously
I'm a believer - they had me the moment the hand claps came in. This is a vastly superior song to their debut, and in most cases this would point to a chart position three or four places lower, but with the amount of money behind them, this sounds like a chart-topper both in quality and inevitability.

A lone guitar, a swell of strings, a beat that starts out as clapping and a longing vocal that is, perhaps, stretching just a little bit too far, but the drums come in, the song proper starts and it's pulled off the trick of seeming instantly familiar with aplomb. And that chorus - "Obviously/She's out of my league/I'm wasting my time cause she'll never be mine", simultaneously and without any challenging lyricism, strikes the appropriate longing chords in its teen fan base while sounding suspiciously timeless. Each iteration of the chorus becomes more intricate with backing vocals and more uses of the string samples, so by the end of your first listen, you've got the chorus ingrained in your mind, and by the third the exact patterns of the harmonies have joined them.

Chalk another one up for the marketing machine.
# 12:15 AM []

Friday, May 21, 2004

ANGEL CITY featuring LARA McALLEN - Touch Me
It's easy to forget that, before she wrote Can't Get You Out Of My Head and Toxic, that Cathy Dennis had a wonderful voice. As far as range went, she was nothing special, but she was a unique mix of girlish and soulful, and she knew how to mix the cute with a catchy dance beat. Sadly, she never really got her due as a performer.

And it's taken this bland cover version to make me realise it myself, and that's sad. Oh sure, it charges along without ever a thought given to stopping, the beat is relentless in exactly the way it should be, but you get the impression that if you WERE to touch Lara McAllen, she'd be room temperature. She seems characterless and robotic in exactly the wrong sort of way - if she were urging you to dance, you'd probably pay attention, but her invitation to get down in the other way is deeply unappetising. The cold, machine-like sonic textures are more modern certainly, but in two years' time they'll sound infinitely more dated than the early 90s mit synth strings that characterised the original's basic but joyful production.

Cover versions are fine, but this is one that fails because it completely fails to comprehend let alone acknowledge what makes the song worth covering in the first place. It's not as if Cathy needs the royalties.

(NB: Cathy apparently didn't record it first, but it bears a Dennis writing credit on her first album, so she had something to do with it.)
# 12:20 AM []

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

I have updated with The Killers and yet more Vanilla Ninja, making them the first act to have been posted three times. I really, really love them, and suspect their full-length, Traces Of Sadness, will end as one of my favourites of the year.

I posted a Kaksio track a few months back, and got quite a good response to it. If that track, Ajatellen Sua sounded like a Finnish version of Kylie's Slow, then this exciting electro track is what Kylie SHOULD be doing with herself rather than her worthy but unremarkable stabs at sophistication. This is bold and sharp pop music of the best kind, language barrier irrelevant. And lastly, for those of you who didn't or couldn't watch Eurovision, here is my favourite entry, Albania's The Image Of You as sung by Anjeza Shahini - maybe you weren't convinced by her ragged performance on Wednesday, or were left a little unuplifted (yes! that is a real word!) by the competent but slightly subdued one on Saturday, but this is a fabulous pop song, worthy of being a hit around Europe. S Club 8 could cover it. (NB: Someone please make this happen).
# 9:04 PM []
I'm sort of back - Mp3s not quite available at the moment, sorry - will fix later. But here are some singles.

GUNTHER - Teeny Weeny String Bikini
I'm going to hell for this, but, umm, I actually like this. It's like two songs spliced badly together, but it's quite catchy. I would dance to it, I can sing along to the daft female-sung bit, reminiscent of Amber's This Is Your Night and chant along to Gunther's mind-boggingly daft interpolations. Ideal listening for when you don't want, shall we say, a cerebral experience.

Much as I love pop, society's general disdain for it lowered my expectations of it - a singles artist earns their place in my hall of fame for just having three great singles, c.f. what it takes for album bands to get canonised nowadays. Anyway, this is now Vanilla Ninja's fourth excellent single in a row (five if you count their cover of Ballroom Blitz, marrying the vaguely industrial touches of number two, Tough Enough with a harder narrative and a lovely angsty chorus. Estonia nearly sent these gals to Eurovision in 2003, and by god, they should definitely have done it this year. Lyrics falter a teensy bit this time, but that's not unforgivable.

THE KILLERS - Mr Brightside
Fast AND drony, currently liking this quite a lot, something about the unceasing pace that is sticking in the brain. Probably the pop song Queens Of The Stone Age have been trying to write but have failed because they haven't admitted it yet. Or because they are a bunch of bores. Or because they can't write good choruses, take your pick.

In which Lizzie McGuire and her sister prove that this song is utterly impossible to fuck up. Easily the worst version of it ever to be recorded, but damn, it's still catchy, and it doesn't matter a jot if Hilary's voice has been molested by Autotune - as if it ever would. Every popette should be forced to cover an 80s classic like this. Doesn't make me want to hear anything more from Haylie, but that can't be the point.

I've updated my links.. am I missing some that I should be linking to or something?
# 4:03 PM []
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