BILLCS Music Blog’s Top 75 Songs of 2012 – #75 to #61

As in other years, most of my favourite songs of 2012 boiled down to the following criteria:  Music that makes you feel good and want to dance along, and voices/lyrics that just amazed.  There were several new great voices and faces, some returnees, and of course the completely unexpected.  In order to appear on this list, a song must have appeared and peaked on my personal chart between January 2 and December 17 published charts.  If it hadn’t attained its peak position yet, it will appear on my year end chart for 2013.

Click here to view songs #75 to #61  🙂

Three carryovers into 2012 in our first group of #75 through #61 are The Midway State’s “Fire!”,  Lady GaGa’s “Marry The Night”, and “Angel” by Darren Hayes.  Wrapping up their touring on their Paris Or India album, Toronto quartet The Midway State otherwise took a break from music in 2012, and I hope these talented friends will engage us again next year.  You could hear an excerpt of “Fire!” in Bell Canada commercials, and of course their biggest hit “Never Again” is the ringback for Rogers cellular phones.  GaGa was everywhere in 2012, it’s hard to say where The Born This Way Ball didn’t visit!  But a new Ball is on deck as is her forthcoming album ARTPOP, and I’m expecting a new single sometime in early 2013 to promote her touring in North America.  “Angel” by Darren Hayes was a personal choice to carry over.  You couldn’t possibly ask for a more reverent Madonna cover choice – it kept appearing on my iPod Touch shuffle, and as the vinyl flip side to “Talk Talk Talk”, it landed on my chart after the run of another song on this list, “Stupid Mistake”.  Darren’s Secret Codes And Battleships continued to be one of my most played albums into 2012, and one more carryover from that album is ranked higher on this list.  Watch the stunning video for “Stupid Mistake” and listen to Bright Light Bright Light’s percolating remix below as well.

More than ever, my chart contained a cornucopia of worldwide artists appear more than in any other year in recent memory.  Music has no official borders, only those that the music industry continues to put up which hinders availability of recordings and the ability of performers to tour.  Latvia is represented with singer/DJ/model Markus Riva and his dance rave-up “We Dance 4 Reason”, with another song to follow higher up.  “Turn It Up” is the high energy follow up to “Pitiful” for Portugal’s Carlos Nobrega, who is one of my 13 Performers to Watch for ’13 and has another song much later in the countdown.  The worldwide breakout from France this year is M83 whose hook from “Midnight City” (outstanding video below) is imprinted on the year (and an even better cover version appears higher up on the list), which led to sellout shows around the world.  Canadians Marianas Trench had their most successful year ever with last year’s Ever After album and the single “Fallout” among others.  Lead singer Josh Ramsay not only produced that album but is now a Grammy-nominee for co-writing Canadian label mate Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe”.  German DJ/producers Spencer & Hill paired up with the always amazing US vocalist Nadia Ali for “Believe It”, which is your dance song for weekend release after a hard work week.

There are three UK artists in this group.  Keane had a successful year around the world with their Strangeland album, led by the glorious “Silenced By The Night” this past Spring.  “Lights Out” was the second single from duo Bim’s EP of affecting and emotional electropop, Lifelines.  Bim are another of my 13 Performers to Watch for ’13 And a favourite from her Little Belter shows and the subsequent album, Elouise covered “Could It Be Magic” – less like the Barry Manilow version and more like Donna Summer’s – which turned out to be somewhat bittersweet as the song appeared on my chart at the time of the disco legend’s death.  Elouise is off to dazzle Australian audiences with the Little Belter show in early ’13 – the rest of the world will undoubtedly follow.

Three USA performers round out the list.  L.A. quartet Saint Motel released a quirky but very smart album Voyeur this past summer, and toured to support it.  The band’s singer also is responsible for directing the group’s unique videos, so check out the one for “Benny Goodman” below.  Lana Del Rey’s “Born To Die” dominated airwaves and TV video play at the top of the year and solidified her instant presence on the pop music scene (strangely yielding no Grammy nominations).  And the mixtape Hunter by Baiyu, generating the title song on this list, dazzled enough people to land her as a contestant on The CW’s “The Next” and on my 13 Performers To Watch for ’13 list.

BILLCS Top 30 #372

Yeah I know it’s late for the first time but there are neither as many words nor much energy behind it this week.  Expect several videos 🙂

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.

“Memorize Me” by Rune RK & Databoy continue with a tight grip at the top (video is at the bottom of the blog), with “Backseat” by Eric Saade (which I’m hoping will be the follow up to “Hotter Than Fire”, but I think it will be something a little lighter and less risque) as runner-up.  Joe Jonas climbs to #3 with “Make You Mine”, while gorgeous soul ballad “Home” by new UK singer Stone Walters is now at #4.  Listen to “Home” below.

Jason Mraz’s “I Won’t Give Up” climbs to #9, while the cheery “Champagne” by Nelson Clemente becomes his fourth top tenner on my chart.  But it’s “Like A Drug” by Adam Tyler that makes a nice surge up to #7.  The snazzy video is below.

The mostly upwardly mobile songs in the teens are by Eric Saade, The Midway State, Lana Del Rey, Marianas Trench, and Jon McLaughlin & Sara Bareilles, but they’re punctuated by some faster risers.  Joe Jonas once again has the fastest climber on the chart with “Not Right Now” from the Fastlife album at #15.  Right below is Adam Lambert’s “Better Than I Know Myself”, which has a really strong video that shows a softer, vulnerable side of Adam (below) – and I love the high notes in this song.  And “Something” by JMSN is both well worth hearing and watching ( below – you have already been warned in previous posts).  The talented Detroit singer climbs to #18 on the chart.

The newbies this week are almost all dance-oriented except for the one that leads the pack.  Graffiti 6 are on the rise, long after many bloggers have praised their glory over the last few years.  But “Free” is definitely the song to cut it for them, featuring a beautiful vocal from singer Jamie Scott.

Then we have at #22, M83 with “Midnight City”, a song that I’ve been listening to for quite a while now but now the melodic hook is completely entrenched in my brain.  I don’t usually mention covers in conjunction with a newly charted song or one on the rise, but I must say that the rendition by the much-praised The Knocks featuring Mandy Lee is a swift alternate version well worth checking out, with a free download on Soundcloud right here.

It’s nice to have the divine Nadia Ali back in the chart at #26, this time in the hands of producers Spencer & Hill.  “Believe It” has already had significant club play but it’s also great for blasting out the car window on a bad day.  Nadia has previously charted with #2 “Love Story” in 2009, plus of course as part of duo iio with “Rapture”, “At The End”, and “Smooth”.

Lastly, the Monsieur Adi remix of “Out Of It” by Fallulah is such a humdinger that it enters the chart at #27, and you can buy it on iTunes too!

Bill’s #1 song:  “Memorize Me” by Rune RK & Databoy

BILLCS Top 30 #371 – Jan 30/12 – Rune RK & Databoy’s “Memorize Me” Returns – At The Top

Oh the joys and sometimes pain of making a chart and being consistent!  Be prepared for a bit of a ramble…

Back in November, I got so excited about a song that I put it on my chart right away, anticipating a release.  The release, unfortunately got delayed… and delayed… and delayed.  So in ways that only chart geekdom will explain 😉 I have two rules about my chart:  1) If a song is on the way down the chart or holding, it will be removed from it after 10 appearances (20 weeks); and 2) A song must be officially released and commercially available somewhere, either as a free download or for purchase, it can’t exist strictly on a video that people can’t buy or download legally.

So I was thrilled last week when the official release of “Memorize Me” by Rune RK & Databoy happened!!  But it created both a dilemma and strange chart situation.  The dilemma:  Eric Saade’s “Hotter Than Fire” and “Backseat” ruled the top.  Could they make room for “Memorize Me”?  The strange chart situation:  I removed “Memorize Me” from the chart after three appearances (all in the Top 5) because it wasn’t released.  Returning it to the chart would allow a consecutive 10 appearance chart run, like anything else, and it may join Nelson Clemente’s “You Want Me Don’t You” (16 appearances, two chart runs, in 2008 and 2009) and Ryan Star’s “Last Train Home” (the record holder at 17 appearances, two chart runs, also in 2008 and 2009) as one of the three longest running songs on my chart.  The longest consecutive run is Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep”, which moved upward in its 11th appearance to peak at #2 last year.  In any case, “Memorize Me” manages to re-enter the chart at #1, the only song ever to do so in the chart’s 14 year online history.  Another song did re-enter the chart and got to #1, but it didn’t re-enter at the top.  That was “Millennium” by Robbie Williams, my #1 song of 1999.  “Memorize Me” is in great company and will certainly rank highly at year’s end!

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.

With all of that chart madness out of the way – it doesn’t happen too often thank goodness – Eric Saade’s “Backseat” holds hard at #2, while “Hotter Than Fire” gives way and lands at #3.  “Make You Mine”, the snappy album track by Joe Jonas, holds tightly at #4.  Further into the Top 10, the beautiful soul ballad “Home” by UK singer Stone Walters rises 8-6, with fellow Brits Labrinth and Tinie Tempah up to #7 with the Benny Benassi remix of “Earthquake” (watch the snazzy video below).  Jon McLaughlin’s piano-laden “Promising Promises” jumps to #8, with The Midway State’s rocking “Fire!” at #9.  Rounding out the Top 10 is “Like A Drug” by Adam Tyler.  I posted about the slick video earlier in the week and you can watch once again below.

All of the songs ranked 6 through 17 are movin’ on up.  They include songs by Jason Mraz (which alas is slowing down, I thought it would have more staying power), Lady GaGa, Nelson Clemente, Marianas Trench, The Midway State’s “St. Paul and the Wolf”, and Lana Del Rey’s “Born To Die”.  In the middle of the chart is the fastest riser, another Eric Saade would-be-smash called “Fingerprints” which climbs 21-15.  Also Top 10 bound is Adam Lambert’s latest, “Better Than I Know Myself”, which climbs to #21.  “Summer Is Over” by Jon McLaughlin & Sara Bareilles should move up more in the coming weeks but for now rises 28-24.

There are four debuts this week, and I did warn you previously about another Joe Jonas song from Fastlife making an appearance.  “Not Right Now” bows at #23, and it’s a real hum-dinger… a beautiful and romantic contemporary cha-cha number.  I would love to hear a remix of this one for clubs.  Hear the song below.

A couple weeks back, I posted about JMSN’s fascinating and mysterious debut album †Priscilla, which contains several songs of note, including the new single “Something”, which arrives at #25.  Its video is definitely worth a look, but is not for those of you who might squirm.

Florence & The Machine’s “No Light, No Light” bows at #27, and the clip below is from the excellent Saturday Night Live performance in December.  I’m finding Ceremonials a bit heavier hitting than Lungs at times, it seems fairly relentless, but still marvel at Flo’s Annie Lennox-meets-Sinead O’Connor voice – best of both worlds there.

And after arriving with a big splash in the UK, singer Yasmin has the last debut on the chart with the percolating “Light Up The World”, featuring Shy FX and Ms Dynamite at #28.  It gets stuck in your head and keeps your foot tapping away.

BILLCS Top 30 #370 – When will the rest of the world get the Eric Saade albums?

OK, Nordic countries, it’s time to share.  While it’s a mean feat to cop a release in the UK, the rest of the world awaits.  Of course I’m referring to Saade Volumes One and Two, my favourite albums of 2011 by 21 year old Eric Saade.  His duet with Dev, “Hotter Than Fire” continues to lead my personal chart at the top.  The fastest riser is right behind at #2, none other than (surprise, surprise) “Backseat”, also from Volume Two.  No singer has started to dominate my chart this way since Simon Curtis (oh, and they should do a duet – but that’s a whole other story 🙂 ).

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.

In addition to “Hotter” and “Backseat” (which is a really sexy song, if you haven’t already got that), I’ve debuted another song at #21 this week, and that’s the anthemic “Fingerprints”.  Despite a little too many effects on Eric’s voice, the song is just too damn catchy for you to miss.  Listen below.

This will be a shorter chart blog than usual because I’ve already blogged about the other new songs on the chart.  We have Jason Mraz’s tender and hopeful “I Won’t Give Up” bounding onto the chart at #13 and Top 5 bound.  Adam Lambert (and it’s hard to believe he’ll be 30 in a few weeks!) makes his premiere appearance here – “Whataya Want From Me” and “If I Had You” came close – with “Better Than I Know Myself” at #26, which sounds like it’s a whole new chapter in the making with such a stunning vocal.  Adam’s upcoming sophomore album is called Transmission.  And the teaming of Jon McLaughlin and Sara Bareilles couldn’t be better on “Summer Is Over” at #28, from Jon’s upcoming album due in May called Promising Promises – the song of the same name strolls into my Top 10 on this chart 🙂

Closer to the top, most noteworthy is “Make You Mine” by Joe Jonas, which climbs handily to #4 (listen below).  I can’t say enough how much his album Fastlife is such a joy.  While R&B ballad “Just In Love” slides down the chart, you can expect another song from the album to debut in a few weeks.  Sounds absolutely great up loud!  Other upward moves in the Top 10 come from the late lamented Boy Banned, Darren Hayes’ “Black Out The Sun”, and the stunning soul/pop ballad full of things important and personal, “Home” by UK singer Stone Walters at #8.

The middle of the chart is looking mighty fine with nice moves from songs by Labrinth & Tinie Tempah, The Midway State (both “Fire!” #12 and the increasingly infectious “St. Paul & The Wolf” at #20 – listen to remixes on the band’s Soundcloud page), Lady GaGa, Adam Tyler (just a forthnight away from the video for #15 “Like A Drug”), Nelson Clemente’s cheery “Champagne”, the fine “Fallout” from Marianas Trench, and of course the gothic sound of “Born To Die”, the title track from the upcoming debut album by Lana Del Rey.  Lana’s “Blue Jeans”, in its spunky Penguin Prison remix, still resides at #5.  Frankmusik is no more in favour of independence for Vincent Did It, but “Wrecking Ball” nonetheless climbs to #22.

I’ve been listening to lots and lots of new music – you should see my Internet bookmarks – so more news on songs you should hear will be coming your way over the next two weeks.  Don’t forget to bookmark this blog too please 🙂

Saade’s Hotter… with the Highest Debut: BILLCS Chart – January 2, 2012

It’s a new name for the blog and personal chart, but the number one song on the chart looks to remain the same for the next while anyway.  Eric Saade & Dev hold at the top with “Hotter Than Fire”, but the 21 year old Swede also has the highest debut in this edition.  I love so many of the slamming electropop on Saade Volume Two that it was tough to choose another one… so this will probably be the second in a series of songs to chart from that album.  Nonetheless, the most rocking track “Backseat” bows at #11.  This song has major international fan appeal.  I don’t think it will be the second official single but it shouldn’t be overlooked as one of the best songs on the record.

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.

Some songs didn’t appear in my year end Top 75 Songs list because they carried over into the current year.  So “Don’t Fuck With My Money” by Penguin Prison gets cozy at #3, while Lana Del Rey’s “Blue Jeans” (Penguin Prison remix preferred) slides into the #5 spot, and “Black Out The Sun” by Darren Hayes lands inside the Top 10 at #8 with “Bloodstained Heart” hanging in at #4.   Also new to the Top 10 are the riveting “Make You Mine” by Joe Jonas at #6, fastest riser “Home” by UK soul singer Stone Walters at #10, and “The Stars Are Saying Yes” by Boy Banned at #7.  You can listen to the former and watch the latter below.  But alas Boy Banned has called it a day, so in the coming weeks you will hear more about the upcoming activities of two of the quartet, Paul (Pob) O’Brien and Ethan Bourne.

The middle of the chart is absolutely crammed with songs vying for the Top 10 by Jon McLaughlin, Joe Jonas (again), Mika, and The Midway State.  It’s rather ironic that “Fire!” by The Midway State precedes fast riser “Earthquake” by Lanbrinth featuring Tinie Tempah, which soars 23-16.  Other recent tunes by Lady GaGa, Adam Tyler (whose video for “Like A Drug” arrives in a few weeks), and Nelson Clemente all continue to climb.

Four more debuts arrive on the chart.  I’ve already blogged about the second entry by Lana Del Rey, whose stunning video for “Born To Die” (#24) arrived a few weeks before the holidays.  The gal is one to watch, as she has signed to Interscope for her upcoming album of the same name.  Above “Born To Die” is the second single from Marianas Trench’s third album Ever After.  I enjoyed first single “Haven’t Had Enough” but other songs prevented it from entering my chart in the Fall.  So their second single “Fallout” is that much more unique and is actually the core of the Ever After album.  I’m enjoying the album immensely and expect to have a full review of it later in the week.  Listen below – an official video for “Fallout” is coming soon!

Frankmusik gave us an enjoyable animated video for “Wrecking Ball” which I blogged about before the holidays, and as “No I.D.” drifts down the chart, “Wrecking Ball” debuts at #26.  Just above that, I’ve dug deeper into The Midway State’s Paris Or India album.  My impressions of the record keep changing as I listen to it.  The group performed “St. Paul & The Wolf” with a local college’s marching band’s members when I saw them in concert on December 17.  The song’s storytelling and anthemic sound continues to win me over and arrives at #25.  Watch a live clip of the band below performing the song this past summer.

Tuned-On! Top 30 #368 – December 19/11… plus Frankmusik, Adam Lambert, Lana Del Rey and more

Well if you’ve been reading this space these past several weeks, then it’s no surprise that Eric Saade & Dev have dethroned Matt Blue’s “Can’t Help Myself” at the top of my personal chart in this edition.  “Hotter Than Fire” is a highly appropriate 2011 finale for this chart, since my next one won’t be posted till January 2 or thereabouts.  It looks to have a nice long stay at the top, unless either a long-awaited release of another song I love happens, or unless another Eric Saade song catches hold of me like “Hotter” and sails to the top.  Watch the spiffy video above; the camera takes great advantage of Eric…

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.

This won’t be a long blog because the rest of the top stays the same, and while both New Yawkers Penguin Prison’s “Don’t Fuck With My Money” and Lana Del Rey’s “Blue Jeans” (in a Penguin Prison remix no less) are on their way to the Top 5, both “Then I Go Twisting” by Erasure and “White Horse” by Jessica 6 sneak into the Top 10 for what look like peak appearances.  In the meanwhile, take a gander at the provocative video by Lana Del Rey, “Born To Die”, which is one of the best you will see these days, tragic story and all.  Her voice almost has a Rufus Wainwright-like quality to it at times in this song.

Just outside of the Top 10 is another story entirely, for four songs look to storm the Top 10 in two weeks.  Keep your eyes on Boy Banned, for “The Stars Are Saying Yes” will getcha when you’re not looking!  It climbs 20-11 this week.  Right behind is the second entry for Darren Hayes currently on the chart, “Black Out The Sun”.  The Fastest Riser on the chart follows, and that’s “Make You Mine”, the big surprise that is within Joe Jonas’ Fastlife album.  It soars 24-13.  Jon McLaughlin’s “Promising Promises” continues to climb at #14.  Rounding out the movers are The Midway State’s “Fire!” at #18, Lady GaGa’s “Marry The Night” which is up to #21, and “Like A Drug” by Adam Tyler jumps 28-24.

I talked about two of the three debuts recently.  “Home” by Stone Walters is a stunning but low-key release from the UK soul singer which hits your heart in all of the right places.  It’s one to watch and debuts at #20.  It’s available for free download right here with an email subscription.  “Champagne” by Nelson Clemente is either a great way to end the current year or a great starter for the next year.  Its lightheartedness is contagious and premieres at #27.  Nelson has already attained a number of Top Tenners on this chart, with “You Want Me Don’t You” (in both its original 2008 release and 2009 Spekr Freks remix) and “90 Days” both cracking the Top 5.  Ninthwave Records has made it available as a free download on Soundcloud right here.  Lastly, producer/remixer Benny Benassi has made some intoxicating music for the dance floor this year, so he gets a hat-trick of sorts with his remix of Labrinth & Tinie Tempah’s “Earthquake” arriving on my chart at #23.  The other two songs to reach the chart?  Chris Brown’s “Beautiful People” and Benassi’s “Cinema” (featuring Gary Go) were on the chart concurrently this summer, peaking at #10 and #11 respectively.  Listen to his remix of “Earthquake” below.  Your body may start moving without you.

A few more tidbits before I wrap up…

Ever the busy guy, Frankmusik recently unveiled a delightful animated video for his Do It In The A.M. track “Wrecking Ball”.  Mr. Frank’s full of ideas… watch for more next year.  In the meantime, watch “Wrecking Ball” below.

And welcome back, Adam Lambert, though you didn’t seem away for more than a hot second.  The most important thing about his upcoming single “Better Than I Know Myself” is that it does away with the dramatic, almost over-the-top high notes of songs like “Whataya Want From Me” in favour of cleaner, richer, and more classic production.  But everything you ever liked about Adam is much intact!  The new album’s gonna be even better, I think.  Listen to “Better Than I Know Myself” streaming from his official website right here.

And I leave you with two more songs for the season.  He was Warbler #6 on “Glee” for a time, and recorded a terrific EP about a year ago along with a bang-on cover of George Michael’s “I Want Your Sex”.  It’s a pleasure to hear Chris Mann so beautifully sing “Silent Night” below.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you, I said it was coming.  Here’s Joshua Desjardins’ heartwarming and humourous video for “Macauley Culkin (Home Alone at Christmas)”.  You will have a smile on your face when it’s finished 🙂

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 #367 – December 5/11… Plus More New Music and Christmas Tunes

It doesn’t happen too often but my top two songs this week are by singers whose first language isn’t English.  And currently, both songs are only available in Europe or Scandinavia, something that I hope will be rectified in the future.  And they are both success stories in their own right in 2011.

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.

We have to go back to almost the start of the year when I first came across cover versions of songs like “DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love” and “What If” by The Netherlands’ Matt Blue.  He teased us throughout the summer with a clip of “Can’t Help Myself (Keep Dancing)”, which continues to have the marks of a smash hit all over it for me.  It finally got released in Europe this Fall, and now this talented cancer survivor has claimed the #1 spot on my personal chart.  No brain cramping here – just pure joy about getting out and having a good time, and sometimes we simply just need that.  Check out the video – again – below 🙂

On a different scale, of course, we have Eric Saade, who has basically took the Nordic countries for his own, courtesy of massive hits “Popular” and “Hearts In The Air” from the Saade Volume One album.  Last week, Saade Volume Two arrived with a similar blend of cosmic pop and magnetic electrodance – the harder and spicier the album gets, the better it is.  More on that later in the week.  In the meantime, the first single “Hotter Than Fire”, featuring Dev, almost beat Mr. Blue to the top, tearing up the chart with a 23-2 move.  So it looks like I’ll be listening to a lot more Mr. Saade throughout the month and into the holidays.  Given my initial impressions of Volume Two, Eric Saade is poised for international success in 2012.  I’m hoping remixes and a crack at the North American market will be in store.  If there is any music that I’ve turned to in 2011 for a break away from absolutely everything, it’s the songs from Saade Volume One, and Volume Two is exactly the logical continuation that might have been anticipated!  Here’s a live clip of “Hotter Than Fire” from a month ago.

Darren Hayes’ “Bloodstained Heart” still moves up to #3, while “Black Out The Sun” continues its rise up to #16.  With already three singles culled from Secret Codes And Battleships, I’m hoping that some other songs from the album might be given a chance, such as the hopeful “Don’t Give Up” or beautiful “Roses”.

The lower half of the Top 10 is party-central!  Matt & Kim’s “Block After Block” jumps to #6, with the forceful electropop of Agnes Carlsson’s “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” right behind at #7.  Kyle Brylin’s aggressive technopop of “Never Love A DJ”, along with Penguin Prison’s “Don’t Fuck With My Money”, and chanteuse-of-the-moment Lana Del Rey’s “Blue Jeans” (in a Penguin Prison remix no less) round out the Top 10.  Looking to break into the Top 10 in two weeks are “Then I Go Twisting” by Erasure and Jessica 6’s “White Horse”, both worthy of filled dance floors.

While great songs by Joe Jonas, Jon McLaughlin, Mika, The Midway State, and Jeronimo continue to reach new heights on the chart, four songs debut.  I can’t rave enough right now about “The Stars Are Saying Yes” by UK quartet Boy Banned.  It’s pop at its purest – a fantastic, simple melody, magical lyrics, and vocals to die for.  The song bows at #20 and is available on iTunes.  Here’s the absolutely charming video, again.

At #24, I go two songs deep into Joe Jonas’ Fastlife album – and if you asked me if that would happen six months ago I would have stared at you with a strange expression.  While I was interested in the Jonas project, I had no idea how good it was, especially after the drab first two singles.  For me, the killer on the album is “Make You Mine”, which has a vocal performance by Joe unlike anything you could have imagined.  The song has a warm lyric and seems to be a distant cousin of a song like “Rock with You” by Michael Jackson.  Look for this one to take off on the chart in the coming weeks.  Listen below for yourself! 🙂

Despite all the hoopla about the video, as well as its many excesses, which you can watch below, “Marry The Night” is one of the very best songs from Born This Way, and its timely release as a single is good enough reason for it to arrive on my chart at #27.  The Lady is everywhere these days, and I try not to get too overexposed to her for fear I will not enjoy her music as much.  Anyone else feel that way?

The last new entry on the chart is the upcoming second single from Shattered Ice, the debut album by Adam Tyler.  “Pull The Trigger”, my second favourite song on the album next to previous Top Fiver “I Won’t Let You Go”, just dipped out of the Top 10, leaving room for me to now add “Like A Drug” to the mix at #28.  I can’t wait to see the video, which looks like it has some massive choreography in store for us.  However I do need you to backtrack to the Shattered Ice album.  It’s been a mainstay on my playlist since its release in August.  And despite some of my initial quibbles about too much production, the album is many songs deep past these three.  “Music Freak” has become a little bit of a personal anthem, and I savour Adam’s less produced voice on the acoustic version of “I Won’t Let You Go” and the ‘orchestral’ version of “Emergency”.  Get it on iTunes and listen to “Like A Drug” below.

Bubbling below the chart we have some festive songs for the holidays, whether they be for Christmas or otherwise.

There are no better bubbles to drink than those of “Champagne”, and we have this new effervescent single courtesy of Australian singer Nelson Clemente, about whom you have read about many times in these pages.  This is a splendid change of pace for Nelson, whose songs are often wrapped up in intense emotion and mystery.  That he recorded someone else’s song this time just ups the ante for Nelson who has this modest kind of talent that people would kill for.  Listen to a taste (?) of “Champagne” below and purchase it on iTunes.  Nelson also this week officially releases his previously free EP Love.Feel.Dangerous (which contains “90 Days”, which you can hear below, and “No Protection”, which have both appeared in my chart) – be sure to get it on Amazon among other places.

“90 Days” by Nelson Clemente

New Yorker Joshua Desjardins gets around.  First he’s writing a song for (and about) dream choreographer Melanie LaPatin on her Ballroom Remixed comp, then he’s man about the comic store during the summer in “I’m A Nerd”.  He’s been performing a show in theatre district called “Joshing Around NYC”, and still has had time for a song highly appropriate for the season.  Sure to put a smile on your face, give a listen to “Macauley Culkin (Home Alone at Christmas)” below.  Then go watch the “Home Alone” series while the movies pop up on TV.  Then listen again.  Happy?  Video to come!  Buy it on iTunes.

The final Christmas song on Elouise’s latest EP Santa’s Little Belter is yet again another bang-on version of a recent classic.  Darlene Love originally sang “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”  for Phil Spector’s seminal Christmas album A Christmas Gift for You.  Listen to a clip below and purchase Santa’s Little Belter on iTunes.  Watch for more fantastic music from Elouise in 2012!

Lastly, we have a beauty of a holiday original from American singer/pianist/songwriter Gavin Mikhail, who has given us some lovely renditions of other songs this year.  This gentle holiday treat is called “Evergreen” and it’s matched with a delightful animated video that perfectly captures the song’s essence.  Buy it on iTunes and be dazzled by the video below.

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 🙂

There’s Nothin’ Wrong With Being Perfectly Pop: Albums from The Midway State and Jon McLaughlin, Jeronimo’s new single

With this edition, I’m going to talk about the perfectly pop sounds of two albums that could slip under the radar, Paris Or India by The Midway State, and Forever If Ever by Jon McLaughlin.  Both are performers whose records I’ve enjoyed immensely, with Jon’s “Beating My Heart” being my favourite of 2008 and “Never Again” by The Midway State right up there at the end of that year as well.  I’ve also got some comments about talented new singer Jeronimo’s latest release.

Paris Or India by The Midway State

I’ve actually been listening to Paris Or India for the past few months now.  The Toronto-based quartet had me enthralled with the quality of its sophomore release.  I mean the record sounds fantastic, the instrumentation is top notch, and singer Nathan Ferraro’s voice either soars with the songs or anchors them with unique emotion.  What’s taken me so long with this album is that with all of its layers, the songs weren’t latching onto me.  Honestly, there isn’t a song I dislike on this album, it’s interesting and just breezes by.  I think I might have been looking too hard for another “Never Again”, and for some off-the-street grit that comes with much less complex and produced debut records.  Paris Or India is sure a progression for The Midway State… I just didn’t anticipate it.

The first single “Atlantic” is a thoughtful travelogue of sorts, while upcoming single “Fire!” gleams with intensity that come to a perhaps-too-quick end.  The album is sometimes caught up with mysterious, puzzling story songs that you won’t hear on the radio.  They are populated with the best melodies on the record.  Be sure to listen to “Hartley Salter’s Kite” (below) and “St. Paul And The Wolf” for another side of The Midway State that was not heard on the Holes album.  But the best song to me that shows their pop potential is “All Anew” (up above) with its straight-forward lyrics and plush melody.

Paris Or India, despite its elliptical qualities, is well worth the time you spend with it.  It’s hard for me to say where some inspiration is coming from, but I don’t think bands like Coldplay or U2 are off the map, and hey, why not strive for the greatness that those bands have achieved.  Also be sure to check out this hardworking band in concert.

“Hartley Salter’s Kite” by The Midway State

Forever If Ever by Jon McLaughlin

This is actually the Indiana-bred singer/songwriter’s sixth album and his return to the indie market after recording his last two albums for Island Def Jam.  It’s one dreamy pure pop album, in the best sense that a piano player’s record can be.  Think of great piano men like Elton John, Billy Joel, Bruce Hornsby… and when was the last time you heard a good album in that vein.  Again, patience is required with Forever If Ever.  It has its delicate moments but there are others when it can rock out like many of the songs in Jon’s last album OK Now.  But it’s much less lush than that record.  There are simple arrangements for songs whose lyrics deserved to be heard.

But for me the spotlight falls on that piano.  Nowhere is it more showcased than in “Promising Promises” (see Jon play it live a few weeks ago, above).  Down to earth and knowing lyrics meet a beautiful melody… complete with a gorgeous and longer than usual piano solo (it’s just before the 3 minute mark)!  “A Little Too Hard (And A Little Too Fast)” and “Summer Is Over” are both engaging, while  “You Are What I’m Here For” and “My Girl Tonight” (hear it below) are epitomies of class.  It’s a pleasure to hear the last two songs with such love struck and happy themes.  The album closer, the lengthy “These Crazy Times” could be the equivalent of Jon’s version of Jackson Browne’s “Running On Empty”, and I can’t wait to hear this one in concert.  He gets to showcase the talents of television’s “The Voice” find, young Xenia, on “Maybe It’s Over” as well.

Again, I don’t think you’re likely to hear the songs from Forever If Ever on pop radio along side Rihanna, David Guetta and LMFAO .  The album sounds very slight on the surface but you have to go deeper to appreciate all of its fine qualities.  Be sure to catch Jon on tour this Fall.

“Somebody Who Loves Me” by Jeronimo

The young Dutch singer is back this time with a stunner of a ballad that made my eyes well up the first time I heard it and did it again as I write.  It’s hard to bridge the dance pop focus with softer songs, and not every performer can do it.  Jeronimo has that sincere personality and delivery, without having a big booming voice, to take a song and leave it stuck in your head.  And of course kudos to the songwriters on this one too.  Thanks to Paul at MyFizzyPop for his inimitable good taste in blogging about it first!  Enjoy the story in the video below.

Published in: on October 16, 2011 at 9:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , ,