Top 10 albums/20 songs of 2008

01. Cut Copy – In Ghost Colours [ read full review ]
02. Ami Suzuki – DOLCE [ read full review ]
03. OceanLab – Sirens of the Sea [ read full review ]
04. PlayRadioPlay! – Texas
05. M83 – Saturdays = Youth
06. Perfume – GAME
07. Tiziano Ferro – Alla mia Eta
08. Britney Spears – Circus [ read full review ]
09. MEG – STEP
10. Santogold – Santogold

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Cut Copy’s “In Ghost Colours”

Cut Copy / In Ghost Colours / March 22, 2008
03. Lights & Music / Hearts on Fire

I often find it essential to make the distinction between a “fan” and a “critic,” particularly when it comes to music blogs and that distinction becomes blurry to the point of nonexistence. When I choose to review an album, am I doing it as a critic (“I may not personally like this, but I can see the appeal, look at it in relation to its contemporaries, and realize this is significant and you should know about it”) or as a fan (“My personal aesthetic loves this, maybe yours will too”). It is this reason I have avoided talking about Cut Copy’s new album since it was released a month ago, urging myself to take a few steps back to contemplate the meaning of choosing Cut Copy’s 2004 Bright Like Neon Love as best album of 2006 in relation to my immediately positive reception. I pointed out the simple lyrics, examined the heavy pop hooks, and questioned the reliance on voiceless segues that needlessly bulk up the track number (6 of the 15) but to no avail: In Ghost Colours is still an incredible record, fan or critic.

From “Lights & Music,” the italo disco based single that glitters brighter than its following segue “We Fight for Diamonds”, to the moody “Strangers in the Wind,” a bi-polar self-discourse in uncertainty, the album is the veritable definition of positive psychology’s “flow,” a term commonly referred to as “in the zone,” “in the groove,” or what we may now refer to as In Ghost Colours. While the genre ultimately depends on rhyme and shallow meditation is often interrupted by the inclusion of several elements both unrealistically brilliant (acoustic guitars) and characteristically appropriate (reliance on synth, of course, lots of synth), it adequately fulfills the requirements and makes decent headway on originality – if melody is the key ingredient, Cut Copy, as always, provides an ample serving. Even the worst bits, those seemingly needless interludes, provide breathing room to what is sometimes an overwhelming auditory overload (“So Haunted” is so huge it both begs repetition and acknowledges the futility of it – will that segue from electric guitars to pure keyboard ever sound the way it did when you didn’t see it coming?).

Nothing is as wonderful as the implication that a record can be both critically and personally brilliant – one that can be debated not just from an agenda, but from the musical cradle it both fills and rocks. In Ghost Colours may not be very practical – it’s still essentially an electronic/dance record with both an atmosphere and audience box to check – but surely the apathy that marks any hipster has never sounded so inclusive. Or been so danceable.

Official Site
Buy In Ghost Colours

Cut Copy’s “Hearts on Fire”, new album in March ’08

Readers might have noticed my recent infatuation with Australia’s electronic-synth-pop trio Cut Copy as of late. Though the release of their latest EP, Bright Like Neon Love was released in 2004, they still managed to win my vote for best album of 2006. After all, when I think of that year, I inevitably think of “That Was Just a Dream” and “Zap Zap” (and being stood up by a guy who used the word “uber” without irony; I cried about that for like, a second). However, because the release was back in 2004, Cut Copy hadn’t been touring, nor releasing too much new material. Sure, they remixed plenty of tracks in the meantime, including a spectacular rendition of Van She’s already insanely dance rockish tune “Kelly,” but what about new music?

Fortunately, as early as the Spring of 2007, Cut Copy posted a new song on their MySpace entitled “Hearts on Fire,” and like their electronic inspirations, it is la merde (that’s French for ‘the shit’, by the way, ’cause dropping hoity-toity French words is how I roll…that and using words like hoity-toity. Sans irony). Sure, the song follows the same formula as previous hits; lots of one liners repeating nonstop, a heavy bass line, and a New Order reminiscent guitar melody that brings the song to a close, but this detracts little from the impact and overall transcendent quality inherent in its simplicity. Yes, I just said transcendent about a little ditty with the same title as the Rocky IV closing theme (insert a really bad joke about how this song packs a mean punch). However, this is just a preview to the new album Cut Copy will be releasing in March, and if it’s anything like this song, I can guarantee it’ll kick your ass, roll you in carpet, and set you on fire. No official title or track listing has been posted yet, but you can always check out the blog for further updates, tour information, and the chance to purchase extremely overpriced T-shirts that does not even have the band’s name on it (seriously, who is doing the PR on that thing?).

2006 in music: #1 album

Saturdays / That Was Just A Dream / A Dream

I figured that since I already listed a maxi-single as part of my top ten albums list, why not continue to cheat a bit? OK, so Bright Like Neon Love was released back in 2004. Big deal. More important in end of the year lists are those albums which you heard and were simply blown away by. And this album didn’t just blow me away, it kicked my ass, rolled me in carpet, set me on fire, and threw me off a cliff.

There are very few moments in my life where I can look back and find albums where every single song enthralled me, kept my fingers far from the “next” button, and left me playing and overplaying the tracks to sweet oblivion, where even the oblivion couldn’t dream of getting tired of the songs. I can count these albums on maybe one hand with hide’s BEST Psychommunity and Ayumi’s Duty coming to mind immediately. When I heard a song off of the album Bright Like Neon Love, whose name sums up the collection far better than any album name I’ve come across, “A Dream,” (actually the last track on the album, but it was a random download), I wasn’t impressed right away. It was kind of a slow electronic buzz with a catchy rhythm, repeating lyrics, and maybe a speck of glitter for flourish in the synth department, but the more I played the song, the more I found myself drowning in the sea of electronic, neon fish. The rest of the album did not disappoint.

The combination “That Was Just A Dream” and “Zap Zap” are incredible. When that violinesque melody comes in for the bridge section on the former, I almost had to press Stop so I could catch my breath and allow time for my brain’s nerve endings to grasp the sheer brilliance of whatever it is they just heard. Over and over again I played the song, everywhere and anytime; in my car, on my iRiver, right before bed, before class started, while studying, while writing, I couldn’t get enough of it for weeks and weeks. “Saturdays,” with its Daft Punk bassline and catchy as all heck melody that grabs you by the shoulders and demands you get up and dance, the simple lyrics that keep it to a minimum but convey so many feelings, thoughts, and emotions in their minimalism, the eerie electric guitar vibe in “The Twilight” and every single other song that simply boggles my mind to this day, so much so that for the first few weeks I heard it, I didn’t even want to share the album with anyone for fear they would tell me they didn’t like it or weren’t impressed, or worse, “Turn that crap off” (so if you don’t like this album, do me a favor and don’t say a word because you will break my heart).

So no, Bright Like Neon Love was not released in 2006, but if I had to pick an album that changed this year in my life, it would be this album right here. From start to finish, this short journey through the synthscape comprised on the disc, where time could possibly, literally, stand still for a moment beyond the between at the point of almost and where words pretty much cease their function so that I have to stop talking about it right now, before I detract from the incredible music that it is… That is how much I love this album.

Buy Bright Like Neon Love

Friday night shuffle VIII

I put the ol’ iRiver on shuffle and post the first five songs that come up: the somewhat dance/electronic special.

Assemblage 23 – You Haven’t Earned It: I’m not quite sure how to introduce Assemblage 23, except to say that they are a fairly fantastic group that produce a lot of industrial dance songs. Besides the broodingly moody “Cocoon,” this is probably my favorite of their tracks off of their latest album, 2004’s Storm.

Imperative Reaction – Giving In To The Change: While I described Assemblage 23 as industrial dance, this group probably delivers a better definition of that label. While this particular song may reflect a somewhat softer side to the band’s usual use of artificial instruments, it doesn’t detract at all from the catchy beat and somewhat pissed off attitude that sets the group aside from commercial eurodance. Love the interlude.

Pet Shop Boys – Minimal: When I bought the Pet Shop Boys’ latest album Fundamental I was more than a little disappointed. While Nightlife was a complete, though welcome, change of affect, Fundamental attempts to rehash a similar sentiment with mixed results. Gone are the days of “Domino Dancing,” come are the days of melancholy woe is me. While the album has become a rather dusty addition to my CD collection, there are still two absolutely gorgeous songs on the album which seem to imitate 1980s Pet Shop Boys better than I thought possible. “Minimal” is a surreal, synth trip through violins, catchy hooks, an impossibly good arrangement, and helpful hints for future Spelling Bees. Aside from the joy of unraveling the puzzle-box lyrics, the last section of the song provides a peek into a New Order bass section that I may possibly have listened to 5,000 times and still find as magical as the first time I heard it.

Pet Shop Boys – Integral: The last track on Fundamental and the only other brilliant song on the album. While “Minimal” took elements from the past to create a modern sound (think Madonna’s “Hung Up”), “Integral” is completely “Opportunities (Let’s make lots of money)”-influenced. The quirky lyrics remind us once again what made Pet Shop Boys so popular in the first place, except refurbished with a catchier dance break and stronger use of build-ups. There is nothing else I can say about these two absolutely great tracks that you cannot glean from listening to them with your dance pants on. Results may vary.

Cut Copy – Zap Zap: One of the greatest consternations I have about people asking me to reccommend them music is that often I am given certain parameters I am not allowed to walk outside of. The two most common (and possibly worst) barriers I have come across are a) “nothing not in English, please, I like the familiar, I don’t like to step out of my Western comfort box!” and b) “nothing instrumental, I can’t react to a song unless I know what it’s about!” Well, now that we’ve eliminated about 3/4 of the world’s music, sure, let me see what I can do. Asshole. Cut Copy, though they do contain vocals, make sure to keep it short, simple, and sparse. “Zap Zap” is one of the songs off Bright Like Neon Love, the 2004 LP that I couldn’t help falling in love with over and over again. I am even biased, yet secure, enough to say if you have good taste, you will like this song. That doesn’t mean you have bad taste if you don’t like this song. Actually, that’s exactly what it means.