Monday, 21 October 2013

New Music Monday #74

by Katy Perry (out October 25, 2013)

Katy Perry has certainly come a long way. Emerging as a girl who was into kissing girls who had a case of a love bipolar and woke up in Vegas (or something), she would go on to become arguably the biggest solo female pop star on the face of the planet with her second album, Teenage Dream. You know that album... the one that hit the top of the US Billboard Hot 100 with 'California Gurls', 'Teenage Dream', 'Firework', 'E.T.', 'Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.) and 'Part of Me', the latter which was from the supposed 'Complete Confection' edition of the album. With the new album, Prism, it looks like Perry isn't going to be losing her pop crown anytime soon.

K-Pez has already shown she's got the eye of the tiger, hitting #1 on multiple charts worldwide with lead single, 'Roar'. As the opening track on Prism, it works almost as a coda to the Teenage Dream era, before ushering in a new one with 'Legendary Lovers'. Electro-meets-bhangra as Perry coos, "take me down to the river, underneath the blood orange sky, say my name like a scripture, keep my heart beating like a drum." I'd do it. I mean, like, if she asked me... I'd totally do it. From here, it's a mess of thrown-at-wall ideas concocted by a super team comprised of Perry and hit makers Dr Luke, Max Martin, Klas Ahlund, up-and-coming Canadian super-producer, Cirkut and even Sia. Because Sia is anywhere and everywhere.

Feel like a disco-inspired pop smash to sing to your friends on their birthday? Well, there's a song called 'Birthday' so you're in luck. If there was ever a song you're destined to embarrass yourself singing to at karaoke in the near future... this would be it. Need that dose of 90s house music that will make you dance the night away? Introduce yourself to 'Walking On Air' and let the good times roll. 'Unconditionally' is the sorta-kinda power ballad that will be played ten thousand times a day on the radio and have a disgustingly soppy video to accompany it. I'll hate myself for liking it, but meh... what are you gonna do? "I will love you unconditionally, there is no fear now, let go and just be free, 'cause I will love you unconditionally." If I go to a wedding and this song is played and/or someone uses the lyrics in their vows, my face will show disgust, but inside my heart will be breaking. Shut up.

'Dark Horse' is a million times more ghetto than a Katy Perry song has any right to be, but it just shows that the woman can pull off anything right now. She even sings about how she's capable of anything on the track. Stop rubbing it in our faces! Combine the trap beats with magic and mysticism in the lyrics and you've got my personal favourite track on Prism. Not even a sub-par rap segment from Juicy J can bring it down. "Are you ready for, a perfect storm, perfect storm?" Yes. Yes I am. Now, by the time you've arrived at 'This Is How We Do', you're starting to ask where the filler tracks are. We're now seven tracks in and, really, any of them could be chart topping songs. What is going on? Where's the 'Peacock' or 'Thinking Of You'? They're nowhere to be seen! What is going on? Even 'International Smile' manages to take advantage of Perry's breathy tones to create a piece of pop that will wedge itself in your memory. It has to be pointed out though that 'International Smile' sounds a little too familiar, compared to the rest of Prism.

We've found the filler! It's 'Ghost' and 'Love Me'. Two out of thirteen ain't bad, right? Moving right along, 'This Moment' is a nice little slice of forced inspiration that could have fallen out of Kelly Clarkson's folder of future hits. "Be here with me now, 'cause the future is right now, right in front of you, don't let the clock, the clock tell you what to do, a future is right now, I'm in front of you, baby don't blink and miss." I'm already hearing K-Clarks forcing a belt of that out now. P.S. shades of Robyn's 'Dancing On My Own' anyone? Huh? Huh? Of course the track named 'Double Rainbow' was co-written by Sia. It's catchy and reaches for an emotional connection, but surprisingly fails next to another ballad and the final album track, 'By the Grace of God'. I've heard a lot of praise for Perry's performance on 'Double Rainbow', but her less digitally altered vocal on 'By the Grace of God' (sans-chorus) is way more heartfelt.

If there was one thing to fault with Prism, it would be the lack of any real emotional connection to the tracks. Each song is meticulously crafted by pop smash experts. Katy Perry's performance on them is deserving of a daytime Emmy. But it's just performance... acting. And really, who cares? I don't. Do you really care? Are you picking up a Katy Perry album to feel Lorde's teenage angst or have a cry with Adele or hate men with Taylor Swift? No way, man. You'd be picking it up because you love fun pop music that you aren't opposed to singing along to in the car when no one else could possibly see you and you'd even be willing to dance to it in the living room with all the blinds drawn (and when there's no one else home). Ms. Perry's certainly come a long way, but thankfully for fans of all things 'pop', she's still very much the same. Get ready to hear a whole bunch of these songs everywhere and anywhere over the next year.

Matt Bond gives Prism three and half Ellie Goulding heads out of five...


by Bec Sandridge 
EP: Wild Heart (out October 24, 2013)

Holy wow - what a voice! As soon as Bec Sandridge started singing in the opening moments of 'Stones' I was in love. No, not a potential stalkery love, because that leads to all sorts of complications, but I was sold on her voice and the music she makes. Those lines, "my mind is gone, like a rolling stone, out the window," could only be delivered in the effortlessly perfect way they are by a voice like that of Sandridge. It's almost a voice that's removed from time... somehow both vintage and modern sounding. I suppose you could say it's Feist-ish, but at the same time it's not Feist-ish either. There's a bit of old-time magic in the music and I want to hear more. Thankfully the EP Wild Heart (fans of Stevie Nicks are already swooning) is out this week so I can hear more. And those of you lucky enough to be in Sydney should head to the launch show at the Brighton Up Bar on Thursday October 24. If the other songs are half as good as 'Stones', you'd be in for an excellent night!

Matt Bond gives 'Stones' four PJ Harvey heads out of five...

The Mark Of Hearts
by Ginger And The Ghost

'Fairytale Pop' seems like an appropriate title for the delicious and dreamy brand of music Ginger And The Ghost have given us a taste of thus far and 'The Mark Of Hearts' is no different. Sampling the melody from 'When The Saints Go Marching In', the song opens with the lyrics “and we all go tumbling down” followed by beautiful rolling acoustic guitar setting a slightly sinister tone for the clip and building the foundations for Ginger’s sweet, sweet vocals to begin the journey into the dream scape fantastic.

Although I wouldn’t directly compare 'The Mark Of Hearts' to any other song (though obviously the sampled parts of the melody sounds like the original song) I’m continually reminded of the likes of Kate Bush, Bjork and Goldfrapp and at times even the likes of Joanna Newsome and Katie Jane Garside as they occupy the same 'art music' space with a definite quirky story telling quality and fearlessness that makes their music so endearing. The video clip introduces us to a world of terrifyingly beautiful spectres in the form of paper, masked trees; dreamy pools, ethereal figures, moving wall creatures, amazing costumery and my favourite part, the acting out of Ginger’s heart going “WoooOOOOooooh”. Ghost either saunters around being ghostly and handsome while Ginger tries to keep her heart safe from the evils that surround.

In 'The Mark Of Hearts' the duo have created yet another beautiful, capturing story that for just under four minutes draws it’s listeners into their imaginary world of tragedy, magic and beauty before releasing us back into reality. I had the pleasure of seeing this performed live at BIGSOUND and was blown away by the energy and theatricality that G&TG had and I’m equally impressed they’re able to translate that same feeling into their videos.

This has been my year of discovering amazing Australian artists and Ginger And The Ghost are right at the top of my 'must watch' list. 'The Mark Of Hearts' is another spectacular work of art that doubles as a toe tapping, butt shaking, dancing like only Kate Bush is watching kind of experience.

Nayt Housman gives Mark Of Hearts four out of five Ellie Goulding heads...

The Future
by Jenny Wilson

The human condition seems to have infected Jenny and its effects are clear as she sets out to affect change with her new single 'The Future' (see what I did there?) The new tune showcases Wilson’s sassy vocals both spoken and sung piercing through an ominous electro heavy backing track with an Atari/arcade appeal glitching and pulsing along like an elevated heart beat.

Jenny has mounted the podium and taken on the role of social commentator and activist for change as a few of her contemporaries have also done on their latest albums (The Knife, PJ Harvey) and her agenda is clear by slamming home the not at all subtle message of human consumption, waste and total disregard for anything but ourselves. The choppy video features carcasses that glide by as rubbish and waste pulse and protesters invade; industrial scenes, animals marching to be slaughtered and people marching to consume while Jenny and her gang of hooded 'hoodlum' activists wreak havoc in protest protest to the organised chaos that is our human existence.

If 'The Future' marks the tone for the album to come then it will be a grand departure from Wilson’s previous works, which are all together more introspective, and story telling on a personal level. I like the fact that Jenny hasn’t rested on her laurels by just reproducing another quirky fun pop album and has adopted what seems to be an all together edgier persona and electro/industrial sound that at least in 'The Future' works so well. I’d almost go so far as to say Jenny has been having a kiki with her contemporaries The Knife in regards to the new direction/tone and I look forward with enthusiasm and a pinch of cautious curiosity as to what the near future will bring from this stand out Scandinavian songstress.

'The Future' is a punchy, in your face, eletro-musical interpretation of the anti consumerism documentaries that have been doing the rounds in the last several years and makes want to get out on the streets in my protest best to help affect change for the betterment of my conscience and our planet.

Nayt Housman gives 'The Future' four Lady Gaga heads out of five...


by Bonnie McKee

Bonnie McKee has songwriting credits on some of the biggest hits of the past decade. With Katy Perry (and a cast of thousands) she helped craft words that would make Shakespeare jealous on tracks like ‘Roar’, ‘Part of Me’, ‘Teenage Dream’ and a song that has words very close to our own Jo’s heart, ‘Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F)’. She’s even partly responsible for the masterpiece that is Britney Spears’ ‘Ooh La La’. Could she be the one (out of a possible seven candidates) responsible for lines as brilliant as, “you don’t have to wear no designer clothes, just as long as we’re dancing on the floor, fingers in my hair and I’m letting go tonight, so free,”? Bonnie McKee’s 'success' as a songwriter is without question. Bonnie McKee, who admittedly I have only just been acquainted with, as a performer is… not my… favourite… person? I think her video for ‘Sleepwalker’ is meant to be going with a horror theme and it sort of gets there because it is horrible. The opening narrative is like a wonderful piss-take on a Lana Del Rey monologue. But it’s not a joke, it’s supposed to be moody and dark and it ends with the line, “funny how your priorities change when you’re faced with extinction,” and I don’t know if I can put myself through another four minutes of this. After some lame zombie (?) moments, McKee saves the young heroine, kisses her (and if she’s anything like K-Pez, she likes it) and then the two team up to make an escape from the lamest zombies (?) of all time. We live in the days of The Walking Dead. YOU DON’T GET AWAY FROM ZOMBIES THAT EASY! The video’s meant to support the song and sell it to you. I wasn’t even listening to it, which is probably for the best.

Matt Bond gives 'Sleepwalker' one Germaine Greer head out of five…

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