A Week In Music: Bruno Mars Steps Up A Gear, Ke$ha Delivers Bonkers Pop, The Killers Release Bizarre Xmas Video and Much More!
Albums of Note... It looks as though Bruno Mars has stepped things up a gear on Unorthodox Jukebox. From straight-up pop songs, to disco and funk stylings, and a nod to reggae in there too, Mars very rarely fails to hit the mark with these new tracks. “Unorthodox Jukebox is a rich pick and mix of different and colourful elements. His lyrics sometime fall short, but a likeably mischievous personality shines through nonetheless, and so on the whole this is a real step up even from the songs that broke him so hugely two years ago.”
Adding a fresh slant to the out-dated genre of twee-duets, Adam Green & Binki Shapiro release a self-titled album of brief ditties, which may appear cutesy at first glance but soon reveal their darker side, with lyrics such as “I can't be the first to say you're the worst, surely there's one or two? / I care more if you act as though you like me than if you really do.” Adam Green is probably the better known of the two, from his work as part of Moldy Peaches and of course his solo work, too. Binki Shapiro already has indie cred from her other band, Little Joy. “Like everything the pair have done individually, together they have made a record that's short, sweet, and maturely macabre; a late contender for an album of the year.”
Former Razorlight drummer Andy Burrows (the one who probably doesn’t want to be referred to as the ‘former Razorlight drummer’ any more) is releasing his debut solo album, after moving to New York and forging friendships with members of Editors and We Are Scientists. Company is a low-key kind of album; at peace with itself and refusing to outstay its welcome, at just 35 minutes long. “Company is frequently down tempo, occasionally maudlin, and any bombast is in very limited quantities. Burrows is also quick to point out that essentially this is a "Pop" record - just not in a Gangnam Style way - and with its rich, slightly antiquated harmonies and uncluttered production he has a strong case.”
Warrior is the second album from the bonkers dance-pop queen Ke$ha. High-paced, colourful and packed full of tongue-in-cheek fun, this album will be bound for the top of the charts (possibly battling it out with Bruno Mars for supremacy). “The jewel in the crown of Warrior is neither a club banger or a soft ballad, but her duet with Iggy Pop, 'Dirty Love.' A perfect mix of B-movie 60's garage rock and blockbuster pop. Super successful combination! A high-octane mixture of both artists that ACTUALLY WORKS and sounds like they were destined to be holed up in a recording studio together.”
The Christmas compilation album Christmas Rules is released on Hear Music; the record label owned by Starbucks. So, you can pretty much expect to hear an album of the kind of Christmas songs you’d hear playing in Starbucks, then. That said, there are some gems in there, namely Rufus Wainwright & Sharon Van Etten’s take on ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside.’ Sadly, to get to those gems, you either need to deploy the ‘skip track’ button or you need to persevere through the likes of Fun’s terribly un-Christmassy version of ‘Sleigh Ride.’ “The artists on Christmas Rules are dueling against a double-edged sword. Wander too far from the original and people won't connect with it, stay too close and they'll call plagiarism. But here's an idea: Why don't we get today's artists to write their own original Christmas songs? The fact that the youngest song on Christmas Rules is Paul McCartney's 'Wonderful Christmastime' (written in 1979) and most of the others are from the 1950's and beyond would suggest there's been a thirty-year drought.”
Videos of the Week ... ‘Playing With Fire’ is the latest single from Plan B’s Mercury-nominated Ill Manors album. A hard-hitting social commentary, looking at the lives of Britain’s inner-city youth, the video is equally unrelenting and gritty, as we have come to expect from Ben Drew. A brutal take on “Cameron’s Broken Britain,” this one’s not for the faint-hearted – even the soulful interludes provide only a small relief from the message of the song.
Another major release next – this time in the form of ‘I Feel It In My Bones’ by The Killers. The track starts off sounding like an ‘80s Michael Jackson track, slowed down for extra atmospheric punch. The rest of the track never quite leaves the ’80s and is bizarrely peppered with maniacal commentary from one angry-as-hell Santa. It’s an odd kind of a Christmas track. Part comedy, part seemingly-serious emotion.
Vying for the ‘cheesiest video of the week’ prize, Eagle & The Worm’s video for ‘Give Me Time’ is set in a roller rink and plays out like a combination of a 70s disco video and a cheap soap opera. Let’s just hope that’s the vibe they were going for, eh!?
The video for Ed Sheeran’s ‘Give Me Love’ stars Aussie actress Isabel Lucas as a girl who sprouts a pair of wings and goes on a Cupid spree, firing arrows into unsuspecting passers by, who instantly fall for the nearest person in sight. As the songs itself transforms into an almost tribal incantation, the atmosphere of the video gets stepped up a notch as the angel makes her way into the subway for a brief sojourn in a raunchy rave… before being found dead in her bed. Cheery stuff, Sheeran!
Wiz Khalifa’s on a roll right now and ‘Remember You’ sees the rapper team up with The Weeknd. The two make a neat pairing; Khalifa’s distinctive rapping style is laconic enough to complement The Weeknd’s soulful vocals. As you’d expect from Wiz & The Weeknd, the video features a bevvy of beauties in a variety of glamorous and slightly seedy looking locations… an exceptional slice of hip-hop eye candy.
Live Review of the Week ... Dom Gourlay went to catch Foals at The Venue in Derby. With the band making a strong return with recent single ‘Inhaler,’ they played it safe with a set full f familiar material, just peppered with newer tracks. “Interestingly, Foals only play four new compositions during this evening's eleven-song plus two in the encore set. The opener entitled 'Prelude' which doesn't feature on 'Holy Fire' taking the form of an instrumental jam sitting somewhere between the experimental nuances of Can and Nile Rodgers more incisive guitar licks… t's evident for all to see that Foals are bracing themselves for a spectacular year ahead, as if this was only meant to be a warm-up, by the time March's tour in support of 'Holy Fire' comes around they'll be an immeasurable force to be reckoned with proudly on top of their game.”
Music in the News ... The nominations for the 2013 Grammys awards are out. Here are our thoughts on who should win… and who’s most likely to!
Jack White surprised approximately nobody, yet still made the headlines last week by dissing Lady Gaga, accusing her of being a serious case of style over substance.
Fleetwood Mac have announced a tour for 2013, on the 35th anniversary of the release of their globally successful album Rumours. Singer Stevie Nicks has answered suggestions that this is a reunion tour, or merely an exercise in nostalgia, saying “If you never stop, you don't lose your energy…”