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.

Long Weekend Tunes: Audio Playground, Kyle Brylin, Ballroom Remixed…Remixed, Pierre Lewis, and the return of The Waterboys

Audio Playground featuring Kardinal Offishall “Famous”

One of the most exciting new records to drop out of Canada in 2011 is “Famous” by Audio Playground.  At first listen, you might think it plays closely… perhaps too closely… to a formula started by Taio Cruz’s “Break Your Heart” or “DJ Got Us Fallin’ in Love” by Usher.  What puts this song over the edge is that it’s engaging and tight – before you know it, the song’s over and you want more!

So who are these guys anyway?  Well you may have heard AP’s well-done version of Erasure’s “A Little Respect” over the past few years on radio or in dance clubs.  Based out of multiple cities such as Edmonton, Toronto, New York, and L.A., Audio Playground is a trio comprising producers Rubix & DRC along with vocalist Anthony Gitto.  “Famous” is their third release as they head towards releasing an album.

But first, there is a plan for global domination for “Famous”.  Ambitious?  Yes – and not only do we have a crisp English version featuring none other than Canada’s best rap export Kardinal Offishall (ab0ve), but a French language version is already tearing up charts in Quebec featuring vocalist Randy Raymond (below).  And “Famous” will soon be famous in other language versions to tap into the global marketplace that is now our Internet, since AP’s songs have found their way into dance clubs world-wide.  It’s not a new idea, but can you think of anyone who’s tried it lately, particularly in the last decade or so?  Audio Playground is creating an intriguing blueprint, and I can’t wait to hear more from them.

Kyle Brylin “Bay”

It seems like every few weeks I’m writing about Wisconsin singer Kyle Brylin.  There’s good reason for that.  Young Kyle continues to make amazing progressions with each song he releases.  This considering I wasn’t overly fond of the songs he released a few years back.  The turning points for me this year were the sexy and danceable delights that are “Everything I’m Missing” and his cover of Rihanna’s “S&M”.  These were reinforced with incredible strong songs in the “Telephoto Lens” EP, including a current fave of mine, the blissful “My Fizzy Pop”.

So now we have yet another side of Kyle that was explored on some early songs, one that’s more emotional and lyrical.  “Bay” is well-rounded lyrically and seems to capture the ups and downs of being in a relationship from all vantage points.  The melody and vocals are, for lack of a better word, sweet, in total contrast to the more aggressive lyrics and forceful beats in something like “Everything I’m Missing”.  Kyle’s very prolific, but when the quality, with help from various songwriting partners or on his own, is this good, then each release has its own merits.  Get “Bay” on iTunes.

Less Ballroom…More Remixed

Readers of this blog know how much I took to heart the music from the Spring release of Ballroom Remixed.  It’s a record where you can’t go wrong:  Ballroom music styles contemporized by a host of rising pop stars.

Two of my favourites get retweaked for clubdom and two others are improved somewhat in redux form.  The full version of Ricardo Autobahn’s remix of Elouise’s “The Lover’s Rumba” has been available for free via talented Elouise’s newsletter.  Autobahn’s edit makes the affair more compact for club DJ’s to zero in on its many charms.  My most favourite song on the original record is the jive of “Out Without Your Boyfriend” by Jerry Reid.  It’s too hard to improve on such a fun song, so Autobahn pretty much takes away the jive in favour of a successful transformation favouring European-flavoured club sounds and rhythm.

Then we get to two major improvements.  I’ve enjoyed the campy fun of “I’m A Man (Not A Piece of Meat)” by (yes him again) Kyle Brylin.  But here Autobahn carves out a European house groove that enhances Kyle’s playful vocals in an entirely different way.  You can hear it below.  Tammy Jay & Kally’s “I’m The One” is immensely improved in a more languid and dramatic version that better showcases the voices and the song’s lyrical qualities.  Also included are Autobahn’s “Theme From Ballroom Remixed” and a remix of Jenny McLaren’s “You Were Never Really Mine”.  Great value for those who want the beats and style more 2011 without taking anything away from the original songs themselves.  Get it on iTunes!

Pierre Lewis “One Girl Show”

We’re getting closer to the September 19 release of Pierre’s EP Transitions, from which I previously brought to your attention the Michael Jackson meets Robin Thicke R&B/pop stylings of “Out Of My Mind”.  In a similar vein comes “One Girl Show”, which does the job of creating more anticipation for this UK singer who has loads of potential to breakout big after amassing a huge online following.  Hear it above and watch for Transitions later in the month.  The clip below finds the singer talking about Transitions a few months back.

The return of The Waterboys with An Appointment With Mr. Yeats

An all-time favourite of mine is back with a return to form of their 80’s releases.  I can remember vividly squeezing into Toronto’s El Mocambo on December 6, 1984, to hear then band-of-the-moment The Waterboys.  The Irish band, led by singer Mike Scott, completely mesmerized the small crowd of mainly music industry insiders with a very different version of emotional rock rooted in Irish traditions, in support of their first two releases, The Waterboys EP and A Pagan Place, with another, This Is The Sea, soon to follow.

Aside from a few come-and-go members, the band eventually became just another name for Mike Scott, who took it in a late 80’s, early 90’s detour of albums deeper in Irish traditional music.  After a misfired relationship with Geffen in the early 90’s for the Dream Harder album, Scott started recording under his own name, starting off with two fine ‘solo’ albums, particularly Bring ‘Em All In.  The Waterboys came back in 2001 with A Rock In The Weary Land, a mixed bag with some strong songs, strong enough to take them back out on tour for some excellent shows.  A few more releases later, we find Scott creating songs based on poems by Irish poet W.B. Yeats in An Appointment With Mr. Yeats, due out in the U.K. on September 19 (I’m interested to see if a Canadian release date will be concurrent or if we’ll have to wait till 2012).  The two songs from it that Scott has posted on Soundcloud, “Sweet Dancer” and “White Birds”, are two of the best songs I’ve heard from him since Bring ‘Em All In.  So now, I can just taste what might also be included in the Yeats album as well as a possible concert.  Mike Scott and The Waterboys, you don’t know how nice it is to have you back!   Listen to “Sweet Dancer” and “White Birds” below.

The Waterboys “White Birds”

The Waterboys “Sweet Dancer”

Wicked New Music from Ro & Simon, Frankmusik, Jerry Reid, Long Story Short, The Midway State

Ro Danishei featuring Simon Curtis “Wicked Baby”

Can’t.Get.It.Out.Of.My.Head.  I love it when a song does that to me.  But I didn’t expect that it would be this one.  There’s a perception sometimes that only throwaway songs that didn’t make the cut the first time are added on to records which have already been released.  But when an album is being put on iTunes after being available for free for most of the year, those songs had better be good, DAMN good, to change that perception.  And I even tipped you off to this one earlier (in June).  

So one of the completely unanticipated and precious gems of 2011 belongs to singer Ro Danishei with “Wicked Baby” from the ‘deluxe’ edition of End Of The Rainbow, the original version about which I blogged earlier in the year, complete with five new tracks (two new songs and three remixes, including two killer remixes of “Blackout”, by Paul Hetherington and producer Jeff “Jadion” Wells).  And while I’ve been wrapped up with songs like “Prey To The Beat”, “Drunk Txt”, and “Michelle” throughout the year, it’s her new duet with Simon Curtis (who also collaborated on “Michelle”) that now really brings the power of this record home.  

While “Michelle” was filled with high energy and anger, “Wicked Baby” is pure sizzle and joy.  It revels in reggae-tinged late 80’s and early 90’s pop which screams Sweden!!! and in particular Ace of Base’s worldwide hits.  But the real ear-opener in this song is the 18 second vocal break in which producer Jadion contemporizes the style and finishes it off in party central.  

For a smashing review that took many of my words out of my head before I could write them 😉 check out My Fizzy Pop.  I’ve run out of superlatives for “Wicked Baby”, so you’ll just have to listen to the song below and watch for my new chart on the weekend to see where it places!

Frankmusik “When I Start (To Break It All Down)” Erasure cover

Last week became a week when a performer’s worst fears come to life.  Fortunately one of the most versatile performers around, Frankmusik, had already recorded “The Fear Inside” late last year, and the theme of that song served to counter whoever so cruelly decided to leak music from his forthcoming album Do It In The A.M. (due September 27).  

Frank fought back – with incredibly cool, quickly recorded songs that he made available for free download – and fans (and particularly a bunch of NEW fans I’m sure) reaped the benefits.  He also previewed songs from the album at various blog sites, including the full version of his choice pairing with newcomer and labelmate Colette Carr, “No I.D.”, which you can hear at Arjan Writes’ blog right here.

So because Frankmusik produced the upcoming Erasure album Tomorrow’s World, and is opening for them on their North American tour, I’ve chosen to post his spot-on cover below of their new single “When I Start (To Break It All Down)”.  You may not know it, but 2011 is the year of Frankmusik…

Jerry Reid previews his new album

You first met Detroit’s Jerry Reid through the sensational Ballroom Remixed project this past Spring, when he gave the Jive some bad boy R&R style on “Out Without Your Boyfriend”, powered by Ben Waters’ zinging keys.  And you’ll get a chance to hear a Ricardo Autobahn remix with the release of the forthcoming Less Ballroom, More Remixed.  Jerry gets to show his stuff on his upcoming album, which is previewing on his website through six songs at Jerry Reid Online.  These are pretty tasty tunes, throwing you back into the late 80’s where you might swear that Jerry could cover songs by both INXS and Tommy Page in the same breath.  The rollicking “Radar” is mighty ear-catching, while “Young Wolves” I would say is simply Michael Hutchence-exy.  Songs like “The Drive” help spell out the unique charm of Jerry Reid.

Long Story Short “Girl Without A Name”

I’ve been talking up the merits of duo Long Story Short for a good part of the year since I met Daniel Luka and Nicky James back in February, and told you about their debut album What A Scene.  The deluxe version of What A Scene will be on iTunes very soon, and will include their latest single “Girl Without A Name”, which is also available on iTunes.  The song follows in the uptempo rock vein of their free download “Venom” (currently #7 on my personal chart, and it will also be included in What A Scene), but with a much more lilting and lyrical style as well as a genial melody, that climaxes with shiny strings as it rocks to a close.  So like with Ro Danishei’s “Wicked Baby”, saving some great songs to complement an already very good album is fine strategy indeed.

The Midway State “Run To You” Bryan Adams cover

If you live in Canada, you can’t watch the CBC without seeing a commercial for the show “Camelot”, and hearing a clip of The Midway State’s rendition of “Run To You”, a classic international hit from 1985 by Canada’s Bryan Adams.  The quartet previewed this song when the CBC was promoting their “Cover Me Canada” show – and quickly demonstrated how to revamp a song and make it your own.  The band had already proven this in the past when they performed with no less than Lady GaGa on a duet of Peter Gabriel & Kate Bush’s “Don’t Give Up”, as well as with their version of Michael Jackson’s “Man In The Mirror” right after he passed away.  That “Run To You” is taking on a life of its own while The Midway State promote their sophomore record Paris Or India is a testament to their exemplary choices of songs.  I’m still trying to latch on to some key songs from the well produced and thoughtful songs on Paris Or India, so until I’m ready to write about that, this cover of one of my favourite all-time Canadian songs will fare just nicely.

Spring Popervescence 3 featuring Ballroom Remixed

While the rest of Spring and probably all of Summer will likely be dedicated to every move by Lady GaGa, now that’s she reinvented the Concert in Central Park idea – and not undeservedly so – there are still, quite frankly, a lot of other very good records to which we should lend some attention.

Summer for me for these past five years has had considerable time dedicated to TV’s So You Think You Can Dance.  Between SYTYCD and my 10 year old daughter becoming a competitive singer/dancer who does tap, jazz, musical theatre, lyrical, and song and dance, I have become more familiar with many styles of dance than I had ever expected, being someone who always thought disco dancing was the bees’ knees (so I’m aging myself!).  So when My Fizzy Pop dropped news of the Ballroom Remix project, which I blogged about a few weeks back, and all of the performers involved, and choreographer Melanie LaPatin (who has choreographed so many glorious and memorable SYTYCD routines with Tony Meredith) at the helm, I was more than intrigued.

So with the album’s release on iTunes on May 24, comes the unveiling:  This is one hot and well thought out project!  Songs designed for the variety of Ballroom dances melded with upper crust contemporary pop dance by so many of the BlogVerse’s favourite performers along with many new faces, and terrific, talented writers like Charlie Mason, Liam Curry, and Richard Hymas.  While there are always a few songs in a 22 track collection that will take a backseat to the rest, Ballroom Remixed is many songs strong.  

One of those new faces I mentioned is pictured at the top of this page.  He’s 24 year old Detroit native Jerry Reid, who could very well break out wide open with his super-fantastic-fun “Out Without Your Boyfriend” (featuring Ben Waters) as designed for a Jive dance.  This song has the same energy and verve that I associate with the first time I heard the Stray Cats back in 1980/81, and we know what happened with them as well as Brian Setzer’s solo career.  Listen to the song below.

“Out Without Your Boyfriend” by Jerry Reid featuring Ben Waters

Next up is our favourite Boy Robot, Simon Curtis.  Count this song as an in-between-R∆ taste of another side of Simon, the one more reflective in the song “8bit Heart”.  His song on Ballroom Remixed is “The Puppet Who Gave Himself Strings”, and there’s only one word that I keep thinking of to describe it: Adorable.  It has everything that a song should:  Supurb melody, fantastic and identifiable lyrics, and a beauty of a vocal from Simon.  Even if I never knew it was by Simon, it will unassumingly become one of my current favourite songs, along with the very different “Superhero” and surely whatever will be announced as R∆’s next single this coming week.  Listen to “Puppet” below.  It is a keeper!

“The Puppet Who Gave Himself Strings” by Simon Curtis

Next up we have the shorter version of “The Lovers’ Rumba” by UK sensation Elouise, which I blogged about a in Spring Popervescence 2 in its Ricardo Autobahn remixed form.  While I love the remix, the short version zeroes in on showcasing Elouise’s vocals in a dramatic style with which we have not associated her, and it will surely broaden her audience base.  Rising star Kyle Brylin is also aboard with a song that could have turned into another “Boom Boom (Let’s Go Back To My Room)” if some restraint wasn’t shown.  His song is “I’m A Man (Not A Piece Of Meat)” – is not so campy as its title suggests, and more of a companion piece to the seductive current chart favourite of mine “Everything I’m Missing”, albeit much slicker (with female backing vocals too), which just looks so good on Kyle.  

Self-professed New York theatre ‘nerd’ Joshua Desjardins’ ode to Ms LaPatin “Melanie (Doncha Make Her Dance Alone)” is a grower, a playful theatrical (*shock*) track that features Ms Melanie herself, and you can hear it below.  Other uptempo songs of note come from Linda Teodosiu, Neo, Gravitonas, Jeronimo, Romy Low, Lucas Prata, and Tammy Jay & Kally, while some luscious slower songs appear courtesy of Jenny McLaren, Jaime Lovett, and particularly Jill Helena whose “Woman Of The World” builds quietly.

As I said, there’s no shortage of fine music here, so go get on your dancing shoes and get yourself some Ballroom Remixed 🙂

“Melanie (Doncha Make Her Dance Alone)” by Joshua Desjardins featuring Melanie LaPatin and Ben Waters

Penguin Prison “Multi-Millionaire (Aeons remix)”

It’s been a hot second since Penguin Prison’s “Golden Train” graced my chart at #1 for four chart appearances (8 weeks) at the top of the year accompanied by its inspired mashup with Michael Jackson’s “Workin’ Day & Night”.  Since then, the talented Chris Glover and his band have been touring and, last I heard, may have a new record deal in process for Penguin Prison’s full length and long awaited album.  Mr. Glover has been kind enough in the interim to offer fans a taste of a spectacular song I heard back at a PP concert in October called “Multi-Millionaire”.  While I am more-than-eager to hear the finished original song, the Aeons remix offered for free for a limited time only (Facebook login required) is a house-y Prince-worthy affair which continues to infuse Mr. Glover’s love of great music of the recent past with contemporary pop and dance club innovations.  Listen to this remix below.

And we will flash to a stylish pic of the upcoming Eric Saade album before we continue further.  He will be “Popular” worldwide soon indeed 🙂

Gentlemen Hall “How Long Have They Been Watching” (live)

If you’re not from the Boston area, then you, like me, were wondering who the hell Gentlemen Hall were, and how they ended up winning a contest and performing on the Billboard Music Awards last week.  Well the proof is in the pudding with this gritty but totally captivating clip from their Winter tour, which characterizes the sextet to me as All American Rejects meets Duran Duran – like the latter, with its big tight 80’s sound, and like the former with journeyman performance and an engaging lead singer.  Now, I wanna see them in concert!  Gentlemen Hall’s first official single “Blush” is coming soon and you can hear it on their website-in-development.

Kate Bush – Director’s Cut

Lastly, I ask that you give a listen to Kate Bush’s new album Director’s Cut, which is her first release since 2005’s Aerial.  This record reworks songs from her 1989 release The Sensual World as well as her 1993 record The Red Shoes.  Neither of these two albums are among my favourites by her.  I am primarily a fan of Kate’s early music.  I first heard her as a 17 year old listening to a local radio show that decided to dip into the UK charts, and hearing a song like “Wuthering Heights” at that time helped change my musical landscape as I headed into the direction of college radio while I was in university.  Director’s Cut is an elegant, lush, experimental, frustrating, infuriating, and outstanding record in which you can sink your head and not come up for air for hours.  Of specific mention are “Flower Of The Mountain”, which is “The Sensual World” redux complete with original lyrics taken from James Joyce’s “Ulysses” which were not approved at the time, which transforms the song into so much more than the original, as well as “Deeper Understanding” (which will thoroughly entice you), “Moments Of Pleasure”, and of course “This Woman’s Work”.  You can hear the full album right here.