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Song of the Day – Kate Bush: “Wild Man”

After 12 years between The Red Shoes and Aerial, and five-and-a-half between Aerial and Director’s Cut, Kate Bush is acting like it’s 1978 all over again and releasing two albums in one year. Next month sees the release of 50 Words for Snow, Bush’s first album of all-new material in six years (this spring’s Director’s Cut was an album of reworkings of previous songs.) The lead single, “Wild Man,” premiered yesterday and marries the lush layered style and synth hooks of her ’80s peak with the low-key, mellow harmonies and instrumentation of her 2000s work. The result is a serious grower: where Bush’s spoken verses initially seem underwhelming, repeated listening reveals it to be another rich, alluring release from a true original.

Filed under: Art, Culture, Music, Music video, Pop, , , , ,

Song of the Day – Nerina Pallot: “Seventeen”

Nerina Pallot’s excellent new Bernard Butler-produced album Year of the Wolf was released last week, and finds Pallot’s expertly-crafted pop songs given a sophisticated, elegant, sumptuous vintage singer-songwriter pop sheen by the Suede guitarist. Imagine a more ’70s-minded update of his work on Duffy’s Rockferry LP and you’d be close.

But one of the surprises is that one of the best, and most inventive, of the songs can only be found on a deluxe edition offered on iTunes. “Seventeen” finds Pallot, ever the pop fanatic, channelling late ’70s slow disco with a gloriously languid groove and appropriately glossy production job that resembles ABBA’s Voulez-Vous, Steely Dan’s Gaucho, and songs like “Live It Up” and “Do the Dark” from Blondie’s Autoamerican, which all emerged on the cusp of the move from the ’70s into the ’80s.

It’s a very good, and very clever, pop song and here it is:

Filed under: Culture, Music, Music video, Pop, , , , , ,

Song of the Day – Blondie: “Fan Mail”

Blondie are, to my mind, one of the more underrated of the internationally successful groups of the late ’70s and early ’80s. Certainly, everyone knows “Heart of Glass” or “Call Me” or “Atomic” or “The Tide is High,” but I have often felt that the full extent of their experimentation, innovation, and originality has never been truly appreciated on a wider scale. A listen to any of their earlier records yields often surprising rewards. A favourite of mine is “Fan Mail,” the opener of 1977’s Plastic Letters, a spiky pop song with strange synth flourishes, stop-start rhythms, and of course Clem Burke’s crazy drumming.

For your pleasure, here’s a live version recorded for German TV

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Song of the Day – Nerina Pallot: “Put Your Hands Up”

The lead single from Nerina Pallot’s upcoming fourth LP Year of the Wolf is a classy pop confection produced by former Suede band member and current producer du jour Bernard Butler. The original, debuted live in concert last year, was faster paced and suggested more of a camp Eurodisco anthem but this studio version is pleasingly classy and elegant. In an ideal world, a sophisticated pop song like this would become a deserving hit. We’ll have to wait until its official release later this month to find out.

In the meantime, here is the video

Filed under: Culture, Music, Music video, Pop, , , , ,

Is the new Lady GaGa video much cop?

In a word, yes.

Lady GaGa’s “Telephone” video premiered last night/this morning, depending on where you are in the world. And where you are in the world is important, apparently, because GaGa herself has termed it “a global pop event.” Unbearable arrogance? Well, maybe. But you can see where she’s coming from.

2009 was about proving that GaGa was not just a flash in the pan pop star and that she had real talent. Those acoustic renderings of her biggest hits proved her worth as a musician and writer, and somewhere around the release of “Bad Romance,” it became cool to like GaGa.

So where to go from there? Well, upwards, of course. Second LP The Fame Monster was leagues ahead of its predecessor The Fame in terms of vision and, above all, writing prowess and consistency (although with only eight songs, you would hope it would be consistent throughout), and as her work develops and strengthens, so does her artistic vision, it seems.

Doing great pop videos is nothing new. But it’s hard to remember a time when an internationally successful mainstream pop star was taking such risks and doing something creative and fresh. Recycling Quentin Tarantino is not fresh or creative or original, I hear you say. Well, perhaps. But in the context of the pop video, it is. Here’s an oddball but highly intelligent operator at work; the “Telephone” video isn’t as striking as “Paparazzi” or “Bad Romance,” and the less said about the godawful product placement the better, but it’s by turns quirky, indulgent, puzzling, and hilarious, and when could you say that last about a pop video? “Bad Romance,” probably.

Thank goodness that there’s still a pop star out there doing something creative with this format. You don’t have to like Lady GaGa or her music to realise that she’s an incredible force of good for pop music right now.

Filed under: Culture, Lady Gaga, Music, Music video, Pop, , , , ,