Ryan Star’s NYC show and 11:59

I must now backtrack on last week’s trip to New York City, which was primarily a get-to-know-NYC for my 10 year old daughter as well as an opportunity for me to explore and do some things in the city with her.  So Monday evening was the lavish “Phantom Of the Opera” production, but Tuesday I took her to her first rock concert, Ryan Star’s show at the Irving Plaza (Fillmore).

I couldn’t have picked a better show.  Opening up with strong sets by Thriving Ivory and particularly Lion of Ido (I will blog about them in the near future), Ryan’s show was a celebration of the release of his major label debut album 11:59, which has been years in the making.  It was a high energy and deeply felt set of approximately 75 minutes, focusing on most of the songs from 11:59, as well as the odd cover (The Beatles’ “We Can Work It Out”), and older songs with which I was not familiar such as “Sink or Swim”, “You and Me”, or the frenetic “Psycho Suicidal Girl”.  Highlights for me were a new favourite song of mine (!) “Start A Fire” (video above) as well as the encore performances of “Breathe” – you could literally feel the connectedness in the room which has been held together by Ryan’s close contact with fans over the various social networks – and a song originally done by his previous band Stage called “Back Of Your Car”, for which he brought on stage his three former band members (he also unexpectedly segued the song into a few verses of the B.o.B./Hayley Williams hit “Airplanes”).  It simply seems natural and genuine for Ryan to want to do all of this but the best part is actually making it happen.  Ryan is well on his way from club dates and opening act stints to major league performer.

The 11:59 album is all that we could ask for and more.  It includes past favourites like “Right Now”, “Last Train Home”, and of course “Breathe”, plus “Lie to Me” TV theme “Brand New Day”, the emotional “Losing Your Memory”, and the thoughtful title track.  I think “Start A Fire” could be a massive radio hit if it’s promoted properly.  11:59 is all about rock and pop music that you can play at any time and it will make you feel good about just about anything for the duration.  I’m hoping Atlantic Records takes the time to promote 11:59 and Ryan Star to make a win-win for everyone.

Tuned-On! Top 30 #332 – August 2/10

Bim "Scatterheart"

This will be a quick and early blog as I am off to New York City tomorrow for 5 days with my daughter, during which time we will see Phantom Of The Opera, Ryan Star’s CD release show (Ryan hangs at #5 with “Breathe”), and perhaps visit the Jewish history museum as well as other sites.

That new pop meister extraordinary, Rod Thomas, aka Bright Light Bright Light, grabs #1 on the new chart with “A New Word To Say”, a free download that will hopefully be on BrightLightx2’s upcoming album.  That having been said, I can’t wait for the official release of “Love Part II!

It looks like Brandon Flowers’ “Crossfire” is destined for the top, as it zips into the Top 5 at #2.  “Pumpkin Pie” by Evan Taubenfeld and “Gettin’ Over You” by David Guetta move up in the Top 10, and Two Door Cinema Club’s “Something Good Can Work” does get there amid stiff competition.  As you will see, every song from 11-19 moves up, and really good stuff like “Broken Tonight” by Armin Van Buuren featuring VanVelzen gets stuck at #13 in a year rife full of grand pop songs.  So how does one compete with songs that rev in my mind like those on the chart from Goldfrapp, The Good Natured, Reni Lane, Lifehouse, and Roz Bell?  Last week’s debuts by Adam Tyler and Chris Mann shove along into the lower teens, with Bim’s gorgeously contagious “Head Over Heels” as the fastest riser (and congratulations on the release of the Scatterheart album, now available in iTunes!), moving up 27-17.  Still further down, songs by Hanson and Billy Franks continue to make inroads.

The debuts will continue to bend my ear for months.  How can one resist the happy feet dances generated by Kylie Minogue’s “Get Outta My Way” (her first appearance on my chart since 2004’s “Slow”), the powerful show-stopping drama of Elouise’s “Pretender”, and the sarcastic wit of Maroon 5’s “Misery”?

To see the full chart, click on the link under ***BILL’S PERSONAL CHART*** to the right, or click right here.  Any comments are more than appreciated 🙂

I don’t know if I’ll get a chance to blog while I’m away but you can check in on me on Twitter.

10-bit Q&A with Simon Curtis

Simon Curtis
In the coming months, we will witness the further evolution of our favourite boy robot, LA-based singer/songwriter Simon Curtis.   Simon’s been busy working on new songs for an upcoming mixtape/album, which, like the wonderful 8-bit Heart (which is the best ‘unsigned’ record of 2010 thus far), should be available for free online later this year.  To further add to the evolution, Simon is performing his first all-acoustic show on Thursday July 29 at The Mint in L.A.

In among all of these crazy preparations, Simon took some time to answer some questions for us in this ’10-bit’ Q&A:

1.  For an independent artist, your fan base exceeds amazing.  I know you recognize and respond to this support, including the videos and artwork that your fans have done, and the message boards that they’ve created.  Can you tell us something that you would love to say to your fans outside of the U.S.A. who only know you through your music, You Tube videos , Facebook , and Twitter ?

I am so incredibly grateful for the fanbase I’ve been fortunate enough to start creating, I love them all dearly.  I feel truly honored to have people gravitating toward it so much!

2.   Suddenly there are a number of solo young indie male pop singers on the rise like you – Mike Posner (now signed to J/Sony), Adam Tyler, Sam Taylor, to name three – and you all have your own diverse takes on pop music.  I think it’s more than a case of being the guys’ turn, and it may have actually started with a record like Jesse McCartney’s Departure album in 2008. Though women still dominate the charts, do you think the focus might be shifting, and if so, why?

Well I think that for a long time women have dominated pop music because it’s so easily acceptable for a woman to make pop music.  It tends to seem that a lot of people don’t quite take men seriously when it comes to music of the pop persuasion, but I think the recent influx of boys pursuing it like I am myself is indication that it’s not just a game for girls.  I definitely think the world is ready for a strong male pop perspective.
The Old Style Boy Robot
The New Style Boy Robot!

3.  Your ‘boy robot’ persona and the nerd glasses have definitely struck a chord with fans, along with the hopeful stories in 8-bit Heart that talk about loneliness and wanting to find love.  Can you give us a little more perspective about this character and what you hoped to accomplish with him through your songs?

Well the character created in making the album was essentially me in my most raw, musical form.  I needed an image to associate with the music, and the neo-futuristic Buddy Holly look just fit right in with it, totally complimented the simple yearnings for love that I was expressing in the album with a look associated with an era of innocence.  It all just seemed to come together rather well.

4.   I’m sure you have to be budget conscious, knowing where to draw the line to spend more money on something, such as an elaborate video, that might not really help you out in the long run.  So many people were impressed with the acapella black and white video for “8-bit Heart” – how well do you think that video served its purpose?

The 8Bit Heart Acapella Tyler Shields video portrait was just supposed to be a teaser.  I was in early talks with a record label at the time of my first show, and afterward they wanted to hear “more of my voice”… so I went the next day and made that to prove to them that I could really, truly sing.  I’m incredibly proud of that video.

Download 8-bit Heart at http://www.simon-curtis.net if you already haven't!!

5.  Looking at 8-bit Heart as a whole, what are a couple of things that totally exceeded your expectations, and what are a couple of things you would do differently on your next record?

I honestly am still blown away by the reaction it elicited from the collective internet.  I mean, it’s opened so many doors for me I can’t even comprehend it.  I am really looking forward to working with a proper budget on my albums.  I want to make videos, etc. and it’s just so hard when you’re completely independent and starting all of this on your own.  I am a hard worker though, and quite up for the challenge 😉

Beware of feline conspiracy theories...

6. You have a few references in 8-bit Heart to conspiracy theories and other matters of intrigue.  Fans know that you’re an avid reader, but how did you become interested in them and decide to incorporate them into your music?

Well, I’ve always been a little cerebral when it comes to writing music.  I don’t think I could ever write a song about dancing at the club, etc. without having some sort of deeper layer beneath it, some sort of commentary, something.  I am obsessed with fantasy and science fiction, and I think it’s just a natural reflex for me to insert it into my music.  I am in love with pop music, it’s one of my biggest passions, and that love translates right into the music that I make myself.  The idea of creating commercial pop with a broad appeal that is laced with hidden-meanings and subtle references just elates me to the core.

7. A lot of fans would love a sequel to 8-bit Heart and are hungry for more story-songs and conceptual themes.  But I think you’ve probably got a few other things in mind!  Can you speak a bit about your next record?

Well, as it is right now I can only say that the overarching theme of the next album is a very militant one.  The first album was an introduction, this one is me taking my flag and thrusting it into the ground and staking my claim.  The songs on this album are dealing with my struggle to achieve, the deep-rooted yearning within me.  Despite the fact that I tend to write in themes and use a lot of references, I still write very much from the heart. Everything I’ve written is something I have most certainly felt.  With that said, there’s a lot dealing with betrayal on this record as well.  It’s turning out to be a bit heavier than 8Bit was.

8. Could you name one other current singer and one other current songwriter that you would like to collaborate with, and say why?

There are so many it’s ridiculous.  I’ve been able to strike up a bit of a friendship with Rod Thomas (BrightLightBrightLight) and I absolutely love him and what he does.  Darren Hayes is an idol of mine, so working with him in any capacity would truly be a dream come true.  I’ve always been obsessed with Bloodshy and Avant, and of course Max Martin has essentially been my Jesus since I was 13.

Lady GaGa

(hint: Cherrytree/Interscope should
put them together and find out!)

9. Could you identify a pop song and a pop album that, for you, recently made a significant change or impact, and how?  Basically, records that say ‘OK music as we know it now is different’.

Gaga’s Fame Monster was a huge turning point in music.  It showed everyone that pop, pure pop, was back.  I applauded that record so much for what it did for pop music.  I mean, Gaga has single-handedly brought the world back to pop, and that made me incredibly happy.

10. Some talented fans tell you that they would like to do the same thing that you’re doing – what kind of advice would you give them on how to handle the demands that the entertainment biz can offer?

The entertainment business is a hard, hard world to navigate, you have to know precisely who you are and what you want and pursue it relentlessly for years and years.  Be smart, know your talents, and know that it is first and foremost a job.  A job that you must work incredibly hard at!

Thank you Simon!  We’re all happy to stay along for the ride and look forward to the follow-up to 8-bit Heart.

A Visual ‘Slice’ of #PumpkinPie

It’s well before the usual time of year when we all dig into pumpkin pie, but I’m glad the video for Evan Taubenfeld’s “Pumpkin Pie” from his digital release Welcome To The Blacklist Club has surfaced to support interest in the record, which I blogged about a few weeks back.

I’m no longer enamoured with the video format, it is basically a commercial outlet to promote a record.  Nonetheless, I’m impressed with the down-to-earth quality of “Pumpkin Pie”.  It tells the story, it’s all Evan, and best of all, it’s sincerely honest, with a good message for the younger generation.  Twitter figures prominently – no surprise since it has helped build Evan’s fanbase  as well as his weekly online Soda Sunday streams – along with his website.

Despite thinking that I would quickly tire of the song, it has much to my surprise become one of my very favourites from Blacklist Club.  If it can grow on me, the same could easily happen to you.

“Pumpkin Pie” is a great end-of-summer hit in waiting.  Make it happen people 🙂

#MusicMonday Roundup

Saint Motel “Dear Dictator (Sam Sparro remix)”

Sam Sparro’s remix has given a 70’s lustre to this L.A. quartet’s caustic humour that screams disco balls and polyester with this song, but still sounds contemporary in a dramatic Scissor Sisters kind of way.  It might take a while to catch on, but well worth it.  Download it for free right here .

Tyler Hilton “This World Will Turn Your Way”

It’s been over 6 years since LA’s Tyler Hilton debuted with his CD The Tracks Of, which featured the catchy and modest “When It Comes” and jaunty crowd-pleasing fare such as my personal favourite, “The Letter Song”.  He had featured roles in TV’s “One Tree Hill” and as a young Elvis in the film “Walk The Line”.  He’s used his website, MySpace, and meet-and-greets at his shows to communicate with and secure his extremely loyal fan base, which has waited, through singles, album tracks, and EP’s for his upcoming full album release “The Storms We Share”.  From his latest EP “Ladies and Gentleman” comes the optimistic “This World Will Turn Your Way” with a very eye-catching and touching video, above.  Fans of Ryan Star and Rob Thomas should dig this, and if “World” is any indication, “The Storms We Share” will be well worth the long wait.

Elouise “Pretender”

If Sam Taylor’s “Run Away” was a contemporary torch song for the youngins and since Rufus Wainwright is wrapped up in the opera world, the UK’s Elouise is finding a niche with her own version of alternately sultry, soulful, campy, and bold torch pop that brings to mind everyone from Shirley Bassey and Dusty Springfield to Dionne Warwick.  Matched with Kylie Minogue producer Steve Anderson, Elouise’s 3 song EP Stardust, including “Pretender” (a live snippet in the video above, whose sonic power on record soars through you), goes right through the high quality meter, leaving you wanting much more.  I second and third the raves from fellow bloggers MyFizzyPop and Don’t Stop The Pop, so now the world has to catch up! Order it from Elouise’s website or via Bandcamp (where you can also hear the full version).

Tuned-On! Top 30 #331 – July 19/10

“8-bit Heart” by Simon Curtis continues in its second appearance at the top on my latest personal chart, as Simon begins recording his next release in West Virginia, and his Robot Army of fans just can’t wait!  But challenging for the next chart in two weeks is “A New Word To Say” by Bright Light Bright Light at #2, who have just signed to Virgin’s new Popjustice Hi-Fi label.  “A New Word To Say” is available to you free if you subscribe to Rod’s newsletter at the Bright Light x 2 website .  And if it can’t get any better, the first ‘official’ Bright Light x 2 single will be out on September 12 called “Love Part II”, and for now you can hear this amazing tune, certain to be one of the best of the year, right here .

As we head closer to the August 3 release of his 11:59 album, Ryan Star’s “Breathe” moves into the Top 5.  Justin Nozuka’s “Unwoken Dream (King with Everything)” moves up within the Top 10, and then we have four new Top 10 entries.  Not surprisingly, the first is Fastest Riser “Crossfire” by Brandon Flowers, obviously a contender for the top spot on my chart in a few weeks.  View the excellent video right here .  It’s taken perhaps a little longer than usual for them to get to the Top 10 because of the competition, but Evan Taubenfeld’s “Pumpkin Pie” and “It’s Like That” arrive, as does “Gettin’ Over You” by David Guetta & friends.  Next into the Top 10?  “Something Good Can Work” by Two Door Cinema Club, perhaps, as it leaps 17-12.

The chart has been pretty slow paced lately, not to deny the calibre of the songs, as tunes by Goldfrapp, The Good Natured, Reni Lane, Roz Bell, and Lifehouse all move up nicely.

Our three debuts speak loudly about the quality of pop music in 2010. I didn’t even really like George Michael’s “I Want Your Sex” when it came out in 1987, but it may have brought down some in-your-face barriers for music on radio.  While the song is definitely tamer now, and I never really thought it would be revived other than in kitschy or campy situations, it has been brought home in style.  As I blogged about recently , L.A. singer (and “Glee” backup vocalist!) Chris Mann recently released the song on iTunes with an especially strong vocal performance (you can view the stylish video right here) that may just be too good for the song itself, but here it is on my chart bowing at #23.

Next up, it’s taken me a little longer to warm up to “Friction” by LA’s Adam Tyler, as other bloggers took to it well before its official release last month.  Right now, I’m loving it when alternate free download versions of songs appear online, and the late 80’s early 90’s near-Hi-NRG frenetic vibe of the Ricardo Autobahn edit has sold me on it.  The video, at the top of this page, is definitely intriguing and Adam is a talent to watch!

Lastly, London-based duo Bim, comprised of Rebecca Rosier and Tim Davis, have released glorious if melancholy ear candy in the form of “Head Over Heels”, from their upcoming release Scatterheart, which will be accompanied by a number of videos.  Despite its upbeat title, “Head Over Heels” is indeed a sad song about the end of a relationship.  It’s empathetic theme sinks in after a few listens and hits a home run.  If you’re in England, watch for Bim on tour!  Listen to “Head Over Heels” on Bim’s MySpace page .

View the full chart right here or using the link underneath ***BILL’S PERSONAL CHART*** on the right.  Enjoy 🙂

Note for Chartphiles 🙂 – My online database – the link is under ***BILL’S PERSONAL CHART*** – with my complete chart history since 1998 is updated to the current chart.  If you get any strange messages, click Run, then No, and then you may also have to refresh.

Is it Really Looking a Bit Like 2004 (or Maybe 2002)??

In addition to this blog, I am the co-administrator at M4B Charts Central , which has an entertaining message board which you can all join.

The site and board has quite an active discussion about songs on our Globalchart, compiled by my co-admin Bryan Armstrong since 2003.  The Globalchart, which I started and compiled for the first four years, is a composite chart of personal chart rankings of about 50 Internet music chart makers, and has been published since 1998.  When I have the opportunity, I write a Chart Observations about the Globalchart, and this week took a turn for the silly when I noticed all kinds of things similar to 2004 (and a couple to 2002!).

Scroll down the page to view the chart and my commentary, and enjoy.

#MusicMonday Roundup

We’ll start our Music Monday Roundup today with the latest video from Justin Nozuka’s You I Wind Land and Sea album, “Heartless”.  This is a solid, emotional pop/rock release that may have longer lasting legs than “My Heart Is Yours”.  And it’s not a cover of the Kanye West song!

Our friends at Pop Justice have unveiled their new record label, Popjustice Hi-Fi, to be distributed (at least in the UK) by Virgin.  Their first two records are from Swedish singer Rosanna and wonderful Bright Light Bright Light (aka Rod Thomas), whose introductory single “A New Word To Say” is one of my 10 current favourites.  Congrats!

The official album cover for Flamingo by Brandon Flowers is:

A view of Las Vegas from a certain hotel, perhaps?  The full album is due on September 6.

I am still in the process of digesting Kylie Minogue’s Aphrodite album, however it is much better than I thought.  Not to slight it, but it’s Madonna’s Confessions On A Dancefloor-lite – it simply is not as robust but full of potential singles and dance floor hits.  So far I like “Get Outta My Way” (the reported second single) and “Cupid Boy” the best.

New UK duo Bim (below) have issued a fabulous free download of the track “Head over Heels” from their upcoming album Scatterheart that is well worth the subscription to their newsletter at their official website.  This song puts ‘gorgeous’ back into current pop music!

The Next Great Voice You Hear is from Chris Mann

OH MY.  It’s not often that I am left speechless but our friends at Electroqueer have done it again.  They’ve blogged about Kansas-born Chris Mann (another great unheard voice from Kansas, like Clayton Senne)  and after hearing his supurb cover of George Michael’s “I Want Your Sex” – yeahhhh I know, but it’s really, really good! – I had to hear more.

So I head over to his MySpace site to listen to other songs from his EP released almost a year ago, and available on iTunes.  The best version of Kanye West’s “Heartless” hands down – almost made me cry.  But Chris is a songwriter too so there are plenty of originals like “When The Lights Fade” to keep you interested.  The guy has an amazingly natural, soulful voice with such drawing power that it’s hard to get enough.  Dan Black meets Sam Sparro, for starters??

Reading through his blogs, it appears that he has some great industry connections – it looks like he toured with the wonderful Idina Menzel and my 10 year old daughter’s eyes have almost popped out – and has been writing songs for the upcoming album by Mr. Shu himself, Matthew Morrison.  Chris is performing a show in NYC on August 5.  I am in NYC that week but alas will be gone by the time of his show (sob!).

I don’t say it often – Not To Be Missed!!  The video for “I Want Your Sex” is below.