And Visions Of 2011 Danced In His Head…

2011 is a special year in many ways for me.  Utterly fantastic music was to be heard at every turn, whether it be a Facebook or Twitter link, a video, a concert… we were just a few clicks away from something amazing.  I’ve met and made contact with some of the genuinely nicest people who are either performers, writers, songwriters, producers … and are always music fans.   For someone like me who has sometimes odd music tastes and often wants to stand up on my seat and root for the underdog, it’s reassuring to know that there are so many of us out there in the world.

In anticipation of my year end Best Songs list – which will be a Top 75 Songs for the first time since around 1992 – I’m going to rave on about 20  performers (and one compilation project) who made 2011 a watershed year, particularly for pop music online (he says after listening to the radio and finding so little of interest on it).  So this post is a little longer than usual… they are in no particular order, except for the last five 🙂

The Script

The Irish trio toured around the world and then seemed to do it again, sideways, finally landing a show in my city.  Their Science And Faith album proved to be a consistent soft rock entry, spawning long-lasting hits like “For The First Time” and “Nothing”.  It’s a record that you can put on at any time and know that you will get something different back in each play every time.  The band in concert has an earnest, contagious energy which will serve them well in their rock career.

Jamie Woon

If I hadn’t heard the magical and eerie “Night Air”, well represented by a beautifully-shot video, Jamie Woon’s Mirrorwriting would not have been one of my most played albums of the first quarter of the year.  Englander Jamie has one of those deep musical souls, highly evident in gripping R&B/Blues-influenced songs like “Tmrw”, “Street”, “Waterfront” and “Shoulda”.  I can’t wait to see where his next album will take him, and us.

The Midway State

The Toronto-based quartet had me a bit puzzled with their sophomore release Paris Or India, but it’s really an album that grows on you with time.  First you must get over the hurdle that it’s quite different, and much more produced, than their 2008 debut Holes.  But the songs do resonate, particularly “Fire!”, “All Anew”, “Hartley Salter’s Kite”, and “St. Paul And The Wolf”.  The band proved how much they’ve grown touring back and forth across Canada and are now a formidably tight unit in concert.  Keep them on your radar!

Jon McLaughlin

What’s one to do after leaving your major record label of 6 years?  Why, you tour the hell out of North America in support of the album that you couldn’t agree upon, that’s what!  So Indiana’s Jon McLaughlin released Forever If Ever on his own, as if to reacquaint us with an increasingly lost image – the singer/songwriter/piano man.  I mean, a full blown piano solo in the album’s best song, “Promising Promises”, really?  The record is mainly soft rock, but also rocks out on “What I Want” and “These Crazy Times”.  And Jon proved himself to be a compelling presence in concert, prepared to bang out that keyboard until it falls apart.

Adam Cohen

I was fortunate enough to win last minute tickets to see Adam Cohen’s show in Toronto in October.  And I was treated to a low key, enthusiastic small event to showcase his first English solo album, Like A Man, since 1998, after recording one in French in 2004 and of course having some success with his rock band Low Millions.  So Adam has now embraced some of father Leonard’s style and grace on the album.  But these are Adam’s songs which tell interesting tales of love, lust, and beauty, as well as a coming of age of sorts.  At 39, Adam has decided to continue with a pop music career after nearly talking himself out of it.  And so out of that we have Like A Man, one of the best albums of 2011.

Jessica 6

This New York City trio is among a select few who seem to be reinventing the late night dance music of their city.  There’s no better example than their See The Light album, full of dark and sensual rhythms carried by the sultry-plus voice of Nomi Ruiz.  “Fun Girl”, “White Horse” and especially the knockout duet with Antony Hegarty on “Prisoner Of Love” will serve as benchmarks in this sub-genre which will continue to grow.

Ballroom Remixed

It almost seems like a no-brainer.  But with the success of contemporary dance in our pop culture spectrum now, thanks in large part to TV’s So You Think You Can Dance, no one had thought about putting a contemporary spin on traditional ballroom dances until now.  Dance choreographer extraordinaire Melanie La Patin executive-produced this fun and diverse compilation, with all songs written and produced by one group of incredible individuals, so it comes off as a dedicated and attractive affair to suit your every dance mood.  And the performers who participated?  A who’s who of Internet pop from across the globe – Simon Curtis, Kyle Brylin, Gravitonas, Elouise, Lee Latchford Evans, Romy Low, Neo, plus stunning newcomers like Jerry Reid, Joshua Desjardins, and Jeronimo.  Putting together such a compilation in these times must have taken massive effort but the results are exceptional, so check it out if you haven’t.

Bright Light Bright Light

Rod Thomas creates sad and romantic electropop with a big heart.  And while we haven’t yet seen a full album release, this London-based Welsh singer/producer/DJ continued to dazzle us in 2011 with the heartbreak of “Disco Moment”, “How To Make A Heart”, and a unique interpretation of the “Twin Peaks” theme (originally sung by Julee Cruise) “Falling”.  And then there are his numerous dance mixes, often courtesy of his nightclubbing event “Another Night”.  Bright Light Bright Light is on my must-listen list.

Adam Tyler,  Kyle Brylin, and Nick Hagelin

All of these fine young men didn’t strike me with their first few songs.  But 2011 has shown that all are coming into their own, with endless possibilities ahead.  All are very prolific, whether engaging us with their own originals/collaborations, or with well-chosen cover versions.

Adam released his debut album Shattered Ice, toured most of the U.S., and also visited England, Sweden and Japan.  The well-received electronic album included pre-released single “I Won’t Let You Go”, plus club bangers such as “Like A Drug”, “Pull The Trigger”, and the anthemic “Music Freak”, but also showed Adam’s softer side as well, which truly highlights his voice, very apparent in his non-album free download covers of Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn” or Adele’s “Turning Tables”.

It seemed that every month saw a new Kyle Brylin release.  And I’d be the first to back off a bunch of songs that sound like they were being thrown against a wall to see what stuck.  But there is enormous quality to multi-instrumentalist Kyle’s versatile performances,  most of which were available as free downloads.  The year started with the interesting “Committed”, and quickly got turned upside its head with a visceral version of Rihanna’s “S&M”.  “Everything I’m Missing” was hypnotic, his best song yet.  He gave us a tongue-in-cheek side with “I’m A Man (Not A Piece of Meat)” from the Ballroom Remixed compilation.  More aggressive electronica followed in the form of songs like “Make It So” and “Never Love A DJ”, countered by sweet pop like “Bay” and the joyful “My Fizzy Pop”.  The year wrapped up with precursors to an album with the many remixes of “Revenge” along with the The System EP.  OK I’m officially out of breath.

For the first while, all I could associate singer/songwriter/guitarist Nick Hagelin with were dancing pandas (from his video of “ICU”).  So when the acoustic cover versions of “The Story Of Us”, “Sometimes I Cry”, and “Marry You” all surfaced, along with a beaut of an R&B/Pop EP called Take Off, then I knew Nick would be here to stay, with much to look forward to next year.  Take Off is available for free download and features the sultry “Metaphor” and wistful title track.

Erasure

September brought me back to an always pleasant experience – my fifth Erasure concert (I saw them first back in 1986!) – but this year’s event focused on both their greatest hits and music from their album Tomorrow’s World, produced by their opening act, Frankmusik.  The album itself stands as unique among all of the Erasure albums because it updated the duo’s sound, which attracted many new listeners, more than evident in the audience at the concert.  And the concert showed that Andy Bell and Vince Clarke are still very fine performers indeed – and just count all of those hits they played.

Ro Danishei

The L.A. based singer/songwriter released the first album of 2011 online for free, and in a year of such high profile women singers, Ro Danishei held her own with End Of The Rainbow.  It’s a collection of songs that would best resemble what a de-layered Kesha might sound like, but with much more focus on deeper lyrical content and solid production (courtesy of Jeff “Jadion” Wells) than image or novelty.  Her duets with Simon Curtis on the blistering “Michelle” and the child of Ace Of Base that is “Wicked Baby”, as well as solo efforts like “Baby Doll”, “Drunk Txt”, and “Blackout” put Ro Danishei on her own platform, waiting to be heard more in 2012.

Lady GaGa

Despite naysayers, Born This Way as an album (but more particularly as a song) is a triumph.  Every generation has its excesses, whether they be by Elton John, David Bowie, or Madonna.  Lady GaGa has her own invention of excess, but with all of her talent, and her ability to get right down to a fan’s level, she still comes across as a multi-layered and unique person.  And there’s no denying the variety in Born This Way, from the humorous “Government Hooker” and “Scheiɮe”, through to the more dramatic “Marry The Night” and “Judas”, and the anthemic “Hair” and “The Edge Of Glory”.

Adele

21 is the most stunningly beautiful best-selling album of many recent years.  Who would have thought a year ago that the New Artist Grammy winner from 2009 had created a record with songs that will serve as bellwether performances for years to come.  The honest emotion in “Rolling In The Deep”, “Someone Like You”, and “Set Fire To The Rain” transcended the year, and will continue into 2012.  21 is certainly a dream come true, a vocal tour-de-force with stunning arrangements.

Darren Hayes

Secret Codes and Battleships is Darren’s first album since the magnificence that is 2007’s This Delicate Thing We’ve Made.  It’s a softer and very personal affair, full of emotion and positive energy.  “Talk Talk Talk” was the danceable introduction to the album, followed by the intense “Bloodstained Heart” and feverish “Black Out The Sun”.  There’s no shortage of fine songs, with “Don’t Give Up” and “Roses” continuing to show the quality and beauty that Darren and his team put into their music.  What’s best though about this record – Darren’s finest vocals throughout.  Can’t wait for the North American concert dates.

Here now are the five quintessential performers in 2011 who require your attention in 2012 and beyond!

Elouise

England’s “Little Belter” certainly captured my attention last year with her knockout Stardust EP, which showcased her powerful voice on “Pretender”.  This year we saw Elouise take up a residency at Madame JoJo’s in London for several sequined-dress laden Little Belter shows, including “Santa’s Little Belter” at year’s end, which promoted her same-name EP of a trio of Christmas songs, including the lost disco gem “Dear Santa (Bring Me A Man This Christmas)”.  She also released another three song EP Stardust Melodies (as with the others, lovingly produced by Steve Anderson), featuring a warm and spot-on cover of ABBA’s “The Winner Takes It All”.  Plus she dared to cover “Born This Way” while Lady GaGa’s Grammy performance was still fresh in our minds (releasing it as a free download), as well as a sexy and sultry version of Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love”.  Then we found her contemporized on the Ballroom Remixed compilation with “The Lover’s Rumba”.  It was a great year for Elouise, and it will only get better from here.  A tour of England first; the rest of the world awaits!

Penguin Prison

Chris Glover and his band were everywhere in 2011.  The year started off with the single “Golden Train”, which Penguin Prison then mashed up with Michael Jackson’s “Workin’ Day and Night”.  Then came the Prince-worthy “Multi-Millionaire” and an older single “Fair Warning”, in numerous different remixes.  Chris also entertained us with various remixes and mixtapes throughout the year, until the self-titled Penguin Prison album dropped, first in England, and then in North America in October.  The album was more than worth the wait, with the crunchy and ribald “Don’t Fuck With My Money” scoring the lead-off track role.  But there’s more to Penguin Prison than making an outstanding fusion of dance past and present, as “Desert Cold” and “In The Way” will inform you upon listening.  Despite their relentless touring throughout 2011, I hope to see a Penguin Prison show again in 2012.

Simon Curtis

Our Boy Robot from last year’s 8bit Heart free download release threw his hat into the official release game with R∆ pretty much taking over my Twitter timeline for the month of June.  He also performed a few shows throughout the year, including the Superfraiche showcase in New York City which I saw in April.  R∆ is a hard-hitting and emotionally heart-felt triumph which is not always an easy listen.  In fact it’s better to be broken up into several parts.  

The song that stands apart from the rest in R∆ is second single “Flesh”, Simon’s most unique offering to date that wraps you up and doesn’t let you go, with its impressive vocals, all of its sexy and sensual imagery, and whirlwind production from Jeff “Jadion” Wells.  Then we have the anthems – first single “Superhero”, concert fave “Laser Guns Up”, love letter to the fans “Get In Line”.  Then smouldering dance/pop courtesy of “Soul 4 Sale”, “Don’t Dance”, and “Enemy”.  Lastly, the intensely raw songs like “How To Start A War”, “I Hate U”, “Pit of Vipers”, and “Joshua” – I for one would not want to be the subject of any of these songs for fear of having to crawl under a rock somewhere.  

Despite its flaws, R∆ proves that Simon Curtis can take his music to the next level and beyond… I’m gonna have to be extremely patient waiting to see what’s in store next.

Frankmusik

Frankmusik left me breathless in 2011 after what seemed to be a simple start with the release of the infectious “The Fear Inside” at the top of the year.  But then the rollercoaster effect started, with the online free release of fine songs that didn’t end up on his September album release Do It In The A.M.  One of those songs is “Hurt You Again”, one of my favourite ballads of the year with a tender vocal which we hadn’t yet heard from talented Vince Turner.  

In the midst of it all, Frankmusik produced Erasure’s album Tomorrow’s World, from which he also gave us a raw cover of the band’s single “When I Start (To Break It All Down)”, and then opened up for them on their North America and England tours.  And in the midst of all that, songs from Do It In The A.M. were leaked months in advance of the album’s release, prompting Frankmusik to release several more songs for free download, including a song about London’s summer riots “Living In The Mayhem”.  

But back to the album – flat out and edgy dance pop, featuring collaborations with Far East Movement, Natalia Kills, and Colette Carr, all Cherrytree labelmates.  The music from the record shaped my playlists for late Summer and Fall, with the swinging title track, the jaunty “No I.D.” (with a fantastic “Grease” inspired video), and dance floor fillers like “Wrecking Ball”, “Ludicrous”, “We Collide”, and “Struck By Lightning”.  

Frankmusik now occasionally broadcasts on uStream from his studio and says he’ll be releasing his next album for free online.  But I’m sure this busy fellow will have more up his sleeve and should not be underestimated in this strange world of pop music.

Eric Saade

I’m so glad I keep an open mind about music or else I may not have returned to listen to Eric Saade’s records this year.  His previous releases, huge hits in the Scandinavian countries, didn’t connect with me.  

And then this year’s Melodifestivalen contest happened in Sweden, with Eric’s “Popular” one of the contenders.  Like with Mans Zelmerlow in 2009, the show extracted a stunning live performance  by Eric.  I was converted and  “Popular” is the defining song for me of 2011, followed in the summer by a full album, Saade Volume One.  This isn’t just Swedish electropop, it sets the standard for the way contemporary electropop should be.  Eric and his fine team of songwriters and producers covered the entire pop spectrum, from the caring and personal “Me and My Radio”, “Stupid with You” and “Timeless”, through to his own anthem for his fans “Made of Pop”, and the brilliantly bizarre “Killed By A Cop”.  

In November, Volume One was followed fearlessly by Volume Two, an even harder hitting, forceful collection of grittier arpeggio-laden electropop, led by a stunning first single featuring Dev, “Hotter Than Fire”.  But there are comparable songs within such as “Fingerprints”, “Love Is Calling”, “Explosive Love”, and “Crashed On The Dancefloor”.  Put Eric on a double bill tour with Swedish legend Robyn in 2012 along with a few other noteable performers and we will have Electropop Heaven.  

Not only does Eric Saade create electropop done so right that makes you feel so good, but he leads the way in which a male performer can rightly find his place in such a female performer-driven business these days.  If there’s any guy who should break into the worldwide pop marketplace in the next few years, it’s Eric Saade.  With Volumes One and Two, he’s created the template.  So other male pop performers, your challenge is here:  The Glove Is Now On.

Tuned-On! Top 30 #366 – November 21/11, plus new Elouise and Boy Banned

Only two more personal charts to go in 2011, and my year end list is in the works.  Years ago this list was of 100 songs, then it got whittled to 75, then to 40, and then back up to 50.  There has been so much great music this year – and so many songs that didn’t end up on my chart – that I may increase the list again.  We’ll see, gotta save some surprises for you!

You can view the full chart using the link under ***BILL’S PERSONAL CHART*** to the right, or you can click right hereYou can hear all of the songs on the chart or watch their videos by clicking on the pics on the chart page.

So the top of the chart remains static, but that’s not a bad thing by any stretch.  Frankmusik and Colette Carr get another chart at the top with one of the glorious songs of 2011, “No I.D.”.  I’m still waiting for that release of “Memorize Me” by Rune RK & Databoy to happen… all good things in time… meanwhile the song holds at #3.  Trust me it will be MASSIVE, and  you can listen to it right here.  “Bloodstained Heart” by Darren Hayes anchors Secret Codes And Battleships at #4, while “Pull The Trigger” by Adam Tyler becomes the singer’s third Top 5 entry on my chart.  

While this song is in full electronica mode, Adam occasionally dips into more minimalist settings from time to time, and – hot off the presses – posted an extremely well done acoustic version of “Turning Tables” by Adele today that truly shows off his voice.  You remember his cover of Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn” from a while back?  “Turning Tables” matches it.  Listen right here and watch for a video of it soon.

The rest of the Top 10 continues to be busy as “Can’t Help Myself (Keep Dancing)” by The Netherlands’ Matt Blue should find its way into the Top 5 in two weeks.  It’s followed directly by Audio Playground’s Canada-wide hit “Famous” at #7, the party-itis of “Block After Block” by Matt & Kim at #8 (note that these Brooklyn faves are playing New York City for New Year’s Eve), and the powerful Eurodance of “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” by Agnes at #9.

There’s plenty of competition for Top 10 entries next time with indie guys Kyle Brylin and Nick Hagelin sitting at #11 and 12, while rising starlet (and somewhat of a Stevie Nicks soundalike in spots, doncha think?) Lana Del Rey climbs to #13 with “Blue Jeans”.  Kyle’s new and humorous video for “That Bad” is video #1 at the bottom of this paragraph.  Adam Cohen’s “What Other Guy” moves to #14 as he winds down a tour of Europe, Israel, and the UK, and his new video for “Like A Man” (a simple but powerful idea full of great faces too) is video #2 below this paragraph.  Penguin Prison is the Fastest Riser with “Don’t Fuck With My Money” soaring 22-15.  Make of it what you will, but the official video for “Money” is set smack in the middle of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations – watch it as video #3 below this paragraph.  Also continuing their rise are the highly danceable “White Horse” by Jessica 6 at #16, and “Then I Go Twisting” by Erasure at #17.

Ahead of the debuts, we find the remainder of last week’s newbies off to a good start.  Fastlife by Joe Jonas is a great album to crank up in your car on a sunny day with its brushes with electropop.  But “Just In Love”, a soulful ballad, is a dazzling alternative that rises to #20.  Jon McLaughlin’s “Promising Promises” is the song to hear on his Forever If Ever release, and it’s up to #21.  Then Darren Hayes’ sad but compelling “Black Out The Sun” moves up to #22, and Jeronimo’s winning “Somebody Who Loves Me”, a Top 40 hit in the Netherlands, jumps to #25.

The three debuts are no surprise, as I’ve written about all of them.  The album I’m currently waiting for, at least for another 9 days or so, is Saade Volume Two by Eric Saade.  His duet with Dev on “Hotter Than Fire” simply sizzles as it lands at #23 for a starting point.  Mika is currently wrapping up recording for his upcoming album The Origin Of Love, and he threw a free concert in L.A. to conclude his time there.  I blogged about his French song “Elle me dit” back in June, but better late than never, this French singalong with a fantastic video (below – only the French could make this one, with a great set of character actors) is at #24.  Then at #26 is Toronto quartet The Midway State, who are touring the heck out of their second album Paris Or India and the second single from it “Fire!”.  I’m hoping to catch them in Toronto in December for a show (I saw them last in 2009) as I have not been able to catch the band while they’ve been in town.  The video for “Fire!” (also below) is a terrific showcase for a concert performance by the band.

I’ll finish up with two more new songs.  UK chanteuse Elouise has transformed her “Little Belter” shows in London into something festive for the season called “Santa’s Little Belter”.  She’s released a new EP of the same name, available on iTunes, and I hope to show off the other songs to you over the next while.  For now, here’s a taste of her warmly gorgeous redux of Judy Garland’s “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” to get you in the Christmas spirit.

And don’t say you weren’t warned, if you are suddenly charmed, boy-band style, or rather Boy Banned-style.  The quartet has been acquiring quite a following in the UK, and if there’s a song to seal the deal on drawing in more fans it’s “The Stars Are Saying Yes”.  This is when you kind of wish that North American radio wasn’t so limited and would just get back to playing good ol’ songs like this.  Even better: The iTunes single features an acapella version!  Enjoy 🙂

Tuned-On! Top 30 #363 – October 10/11

October is proving to be a watershed month in 2011 for album releases – yes that’s right album releases!  As many of you know, I’m a singles-going-steady kinda guy, one song will do it for me over an entire album.  So we have no shortage of album releases this month – priorities for me by Darren Hayes, Erasure, Penguin Prison, Chris Isaak, Florence & The Machine (Nov 1), and the already released Adam Cohen – plus Evanescence, Kelly Clarkson, Drake, Coldplay all on deck too… well the iTunes gift cards will be bountiful this year.  So my new personal chart is a transitional one until the floodgates open.  And I’m still waiting for some highly anticipated singles to drop – “Memorize Me” by Rune RK & Databoy and “Can’t Help Myself (Keep Dancing)” by Matt Blue to name two.

So something will likely give at the top of the chart in two weeks, and you can view the full chart using the link under ***BILL’S PERSONAL CHART*** to the right, or you can click right here.  You can hear all of the songs on the chart or watch their videos by clicking on the pics on the chart page.  But for now it continues to be “Wicked Baby” by Ro Danishei and Simon Curtis at the top but virtually neck and neck with Simon’s own “Laser Guns Up” in second place.  Rumour has it that Ro is now signed to Sony BMG – fantastic! – but I’m not sure of details, and I’m sure they will be forthcoming at some point.

“Disco Moment” by Bright Light Bright Light should by all rights join “A New Word To Say” and “Love Part II” as number ones on this chart, but may get shortchanged in the coming weeks, so it jumps to #3 for now.  New York’s Jessica 6 will be starting a small North American club date tour soon, which will then take them to Europe.  “Prisoner Of Love”, their unique splash of disco nightlife pairing with Antony Hegarty of Antony & The Johnsons, climbs to #4.  I’m anxiously awaiting the video for this song!

The Top 5 is rounded out by the Fastest Riser on the chart.  “No I.D.” by Frankmusik and Colette Carr are in the running for the top as the song surges 20-5, thanks to relentless touring – now that the Erasure/Frankmusik tour is wrapping up overseas, there will be another tour for both performers along with fellow Cherrytree Records signees LMFAO and Far East Movement, starting very soon!

Songs 6 through 12 are trapped in the middle and some should break loose in two weeks.  “Fix Me”, the stunning ballad by L.A.’s Matthew Kurz and his free download mixtape, holds at #6, while “Bad Dog” by UK singer Neon Hitch (and that’s her real name too!) jumps to #7.  And what would a chart be without Adele?  “Set Fire To The Rain” is her third Top Tenner for me from the 21 album, currently one of my favourite albums of the year along with others such as R∆  by Simon Curtis, Eric Saade’s Saade Volume One, and Do It In The A.M. by Frankmusik.

Contemporary electro pop is all a flutter right now as represented by a delightful next bunch:  Adam Tyler’s “Pull The Trigger” becomes his third Top 10 entry at #9; “My Fizzy Pop” by Kyle Brylin follows “Everything I’m Missing” as his second Top Tenner; Penguin Prison does not look to miss the Top 10, making it five in a row in two weeks with “Fair Warning”; and “Stupid With You” by Eric Saade is simply charming pop at its best.

“Bloodstained Heart” by Darren Hayes can only be purchased in Australia right now, but will be on release worldwide in two weeks when his album Secret Codes And Battleships arrives.  The song continues to rise up to #14.  Florence & The Machine’s “What The Water Gave Me” is holding at #18 while their new album Ceremonials is on deck.  And four more of last week’s debuts make headway.  Will Young’s free download of “The Way I See” climbs to #22, while Swedish pop queen Agnes moves 29-23 with “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”.  Nick Hagelin’s tender R&B ballad “Metaphor” also climbs to #20 and is a free download from his website.  With every week that passes, “Famous” by Audio Playground manages to find more radio stations playing it in Canada – Top 50 on the Billboard Canadian Top 100.  This past week saw the debut of the video of the French version of the song, featuring Randy Raymond.  Watch it below.

I’ve spent the past week blogging and tweeting about Like A Man, the fresh start of a sophomore release by Adam Cohen (son of Leonard), as well as his lovely and intimate show I saw in Toronto this past week.  His beautiful and thoughtful single “What Other Guy” (available as a free download) arrives at #24.  One of Kyle Brylin’s latest releases, the propulsive and somewhat gleefully cynical “Never Love A DJ” joins “My Fizzy Pop” on the chart at #27.  Lastly, on the more raucous side, Brooklyn duo Matt & Kim have been promoting the hell out of last year’s release Sidewalks.  I saw them perform last Fall, and they won me over with their energy and crowd interaction.  “Block After Block”, from Sidewalks, keeps grabbing my attention, and with a spot-on performance on the Jimmy Fallon show this summer, the song arrives on the chart at #25.  If you don’t know about this fun pair, watch the Fallon performance by clicking on the link below, as well as the official video at the top of the blog, and you will be converted.

http://busk.com/news/matt-and-kim-late-night-with-jimmy-fallon-video

Adam Cohen’s “Like A Man” and October 3 Toronto Show

As I write, Adam Cohen is performing his second Toronto show at the Drake Hotel.  I had the privilege of seeing him perform last night in a small (maybe 150 people) and intimate setting which was perfect to showcase the new songs from his album Like A Man.

Like the first single “What Other Guy”, the songs in Like A Man are mainly love letters to and about various women and relationships.  It’s a soft and romantic record for the most part, very unlike the songs from his self-titled debut or by his rock band Low Millions.  He really does embrace the intellectual and poetic style that surrounded him as growing up as the son of Leonard Cohen, and steps away from dad enough to make it his own.  

I didn’t even know about this album’s release until last Friday.  It’s a most unexpected and joyous surprise to hear what I would call one of the best records of the year in among all of the pop and electronic music I listen to and about which you usually read in these posts.  But I digress – really, I’ve been intrigued by Adam’s music since his first release in 1998.  

Carefully produced by Patrick Leonard (most noted for Madonna, but many others as well, including Elton John and Roger Waters – Leonard also plays on the record), these are apparently songs that could have gathered dust had family and friends not encouraged their release.  The first (and oldest) song, “Out Of Bed”, puts a smile on your face right away, and you can feel the warmth and humour that lay underneath many of the songs throughout the album.  The lyrical persuasion of “Sweet Dominique”, “Girls these Days”, and “Beautiful” are three more essential reasons to listen to Like A Man.  Adam’s lovely and gentle sing-speak, not unlike his father’s at times, suits every moment.  Having friends like Don Was (stand up bass) and Jennifer Warnes (who recorded his father’s songs on her seminal 1986 Famous Blue Raincoat album) in support adds to all of the precision.

Adam performed a generous set for about an hour last night.  It was full of camraderie and anecdotes that made it very special, especially the story about how Sir Paul McCartney spoke with him after a show and told him that he wished he wrote one of his songs – ultimate compliment!  The singer himself said he felt nervous performing despite “this is what I do”, but it really is a fresh start (not disregarding his past works) so that kind of excitement was deserved.  He led us through “Sweet Dominique” (and incorporated a verse of his father’s “Bird On A Wire”), “What Other Guy”, “Girls these Days”, “Beautiful” (which he dedicated to his 4 year old son Cassius and his son’s mother), a stripped down version of Low Millions’ “Eleanor”, plus covers of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” (for a first time performance that completely gripped the audience) and dad’s own “So Long Marianne” (the title is also referenced in “Beautiful”).  Adam’s set was complimented heavily by the talents of cellist/guitarist Mai Bloomfield and multi-instrumentalist (and Low Millions member) Michael Chaves.

Here’s an imaginary glass of Petrone to salute the release of Like A Man and what should be a successful Canadian, UK, and European tour for Adam Cohen, because I think he’s going to find a lot of new fans along the way.  Don’t be surprised if this album shows up on many year-end ‘Best Of’ lists.  Like A Man is available on iTunes or in hard copy CD format.

Published in: on October 4, 2011 at 11:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Getting to Know Adam Cohen Again: “What Other Guy” free download

This week, 39 year old L.A.-based Canadian singer Adam Cohen (son of Leonard) releases a new album called Like A Man on the Cooking Vinyl label (EMI has it in Canada).

The last we heard from Adam, he recorded a top notch album in 2004 with the band Low Millions which yielded a couple of hits with “Eleanor” and “Statue”.  He also released a French language album called Mélancolista which did well in that market.  Prior to that, his only solo effort was in 1998, a self-titled album featuring the Canadian radio hit “Cry Ophelia” and in particular the dramatic and stunning “Tell Me Everything” (whose video you can view at the bottom of this blog), which I still play often along with “Eleanor”, one of my favourite songs of its year.

I’ve been wondering what he would release next, because his songs are often dark, sarcastic, bitter and brooding, not everyone’s cup of tea, but he certainly showed that he could rock out with Low Millions.  He has never shied away from being his father’s son, and he definitely has the pedigree songwriting skills.  And he’s got a voice that commands attention whether singing quietly or loudly and emotionally.

So 2011 brings us his sophomore English language solo album Like A Man, and Adam is showcasing the album in Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa this week with some live shows before he heads off to Europe and the U.K.  He’s offered the first single, “What Other Guy”, as a free download which you can get below.  And I’m hoping that it’s a solid preview of the album, because the song is a joyous delight.  This is a beautiful, romantic story in the video at the top of the blog, and thematically is nothing like his past efforts.  So the 13 year gap between English solo albums and 7 years after Low Millions is beginning to play out like an inviting new adventure.

Good on you, Adam 🙂

“What Other Guy” by Adam Cohen – free download using the down arrow on the right of the player

Published in: on October 2, 2011 at 3:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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