Wednesday, February 12, 2014

FRESH OUT THE BOX: Laura Lee Bishop, Blondfire, Civil Wars, David Guetta, Disclosure, Darren Hayes, Joywave, Katy B, Le Youth, LeToya, MKTO, Tegan & Sara

L to R: Le Cool, Katy B, Laura Lee Bishop, Disclosure
Your weekly rundown of what's new and what you should be paying attention to starts now (yup -- I'm early on the uptake this week! Hurrah!). There's a lot of familiar faces (both to this blog and to the mainstream) but a fair few newbies, too....As always, click on the title of the songs here for YouTube links to listen for yourself.

"I need a soft touch / I need a firm hand / A real man..." There's a lot to learn about Ms. Laura Lee Bishop -- she's an up and comer signed to indie label Tommy Boy and "Real Man" is her debut single. It's a bouncy, buoyant, relatable pop jam about being strong enough to be her man and she's got the vocal chops to back up her claims on a time-tested lyrical topic such as this. She really caught my attention in the bridge where she really lets loose and sinks her teeth into the runs. I'm definitely interested to see what's next for her...
Like what you hear? Follow Laura on Twitter via @TheLauraLeeB.

BLONDFIRE - "Walking With Giants"
"Everything is better / With a little love in your life..."
Indie brother-sister duo Blondfire (no 'e' in 'blonde') have been around the block a bit -- they released their debut single ten years ago(!). Their latest effort, second official album Young Heart, is out this week and it's dreamy indie pop that is off-the-beaten-mainstream-path enough for the hipster set but still hooky for the rest of us. Slightly more uptempo "Walking With Giants" is my current favorite but the whole set is intriguing -- I also really like "Dear In Your Headlights" (pun with electric guitars!...see what I did there?).
Follow 'em on the Twitters via @Blondfire.

"...The things you're dreaming about / When you open your heart and the truth comes out..."
The are-they-or-aren't-they folk duo are apparently 'on again' enough to release Between The Bars EP, a four-song studio cover EP set available digitally this week. I was interested because of their cover of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" (originally released back in 2012 -- but was disappointed because it felt too similar to Chris Cornell's re-imagining of one of the greatest pop songs of all time) but I do thoroughly enjoy their bare-bones offering of The Romantics "Talking In Your Sleep". It feels distinctly brand new (not unlike how when the bird and the bee took on those Hall & Oates jams) and the lines are traded off between male and female vocals, giving it a fresh spin.
Want more on The Civil Wars? Check out my review of their shining moment single "Barton Hollow" back in 2012 here.

DISCLOSURE - "F For You (Remix) (feat. MARY J. BLIGE)"
"I play the fool for you, babe / It makes me feel so good..."
"Latch" and "White Noise" remain flawless spinables in my #nowplaying list but the boys in Disclosure continue to go from strength to strength singlewise, this time recruiting the incomparable Mary. Freakin' J. Freakin' Blige. for their revamping of the already fantastic "F For You". I love how fluid Mary's catalog has been -- rent-a-rapper collabs notwithstanding -- that she can pair up with artists like Disclosure and it still fits like a hand in glove. This reads like a 90's dance jam and I'm loving it. I wish more R&B divas took the dance plunge.

DAVID GUETTA - "Shot Me Down (feat. SKYLAR GREY)" (bootleg here)
"Bang Bang / He shot me down / Bang Bang / I hit the ground..."
I know D.Guetta has gotten a bad wrap for being too formulaic since his meteoric radio rise -- I have said it myself a number of times. "Shot Me Down" is a much-needed departure of sound for him. It's a 2014 version of a track that surfaced a few years ago, named "Bang Bang" (with a Nancy Sinatra sample). It's just the right mix of beat drops, tempo changes and left-of-center feel (a new school "Kill Bill" feel). Skylar Grey (underrated in her own right) is a worthy substitute for Guetta's go-to, Sia.
You can read my review of Guetta's US-career-making album 'One Love', released back in 2009, here.

DARREN HAYES - "Wrecking Ball" (no audio available)
"Just say that you love / Say that you love me..."
Nope, it's not a cover of Miley (and Thank Cheiron, it isn't, right?). Every unabashed pop lover should be on Team Darren -- so much of his post-Savage Garden solo catalog is utterly poptastic. "Wrecking Ball" -- a bonus cut from his latest album, 2011's Secret Codes & Battleships, hit digitally this week and it bursts with sticky toe-tapping excitement as soon as you hit play and hits every check-mark for a catchy sing-along. Falcetto? Yup. Whoa-Whoa bits (that go up and down the scale)? Yup. Everything & The Kitchen Sink percussion/beats? Yup.
Check out my review of Darren's single "Bloodstained Heart" back in early 2012 here.

JOYWAVE - "Tongues (feat. KOPPS)"
"They're all just speaking tongues..."
This electro band is a whole lot of fun (and they are from Rochester, NY -- which is not far from where I grew up. Central New York for the win!). Their single "Tongues" was re-released this week with a fresh remix and it's my favorite I've heard from them so far. The bleep-bloop-bah-doop-wahoooh bits are so catchy. Their next EP is due out mid-March.
For more on when I saw Joywave live at CMJ 2013, click here.

"The strings have all worn away and now I'm all exposed..."
Katy B's sophomore album Little Red hit shelves last week in her native UK (and in Germany...but not the US...grumble grumble) so this is a tad latebus. Current single "Crying For No Reason" has already gone Top 5 in the UK and really lets her stretch her vocal wings in terms of range and strength a bit more than her past few singles have allowed. It starts out as a grandiose ballad but let it heat up, the drums really kick in post-first verse. It's by far my fave single from this era so far. The record also includes the don't-be-the-other -woman jam "Aaliyah" with fellow fabulista Jessie Ware that was released for free last year on Katy's website via her Danger EP.

"Oh yes, son / Wanna get with me..."
Not totally unlike the case with Disclosure, Le Youth fits into the broadening dance market by mixing 90's influenced beats with chopped-and-screwed R&B song samples (I know what you're thinking -- it's like my life put into a musical blender). Although he's an American, Le Youth (real name: Wes James) has obviously seen much more success with this type of thing over in the UK (where they get it as opposed to here where it's a bit more niche), especially with his debut single "Cool" which heavily featured Cassie's "Me & U". His latest, "Dance With Me" is primarily centered around Chilli's bridge bits of TLC's "No Scrubs" ("Wanna get with me with no money / Oh no..."). It also features a rap by underground fave Dominique Young Unique who is gaining hype hand over fist.

LETOYA LUCKETT - "Don't Make Me Wait"
"I can't stay here forever / Don't expect me to take the first step..."
Decidedly more R&B-meets-dance-leaning than her solo breakaway in 2009's aggressive anthem "She Ain't Got...(Sh*t On Me)", this former Child of Destiny offered up this nugget from her upcoming third album, Until Then, due out this year. It's one big, chilled-out wash that passes by quick (and encourages a few replays) -- it feels like an intro toward what's to come.

"Let's get it on like Marvin Gaye / Like Hathaway / Write a song for you like this..."
Unlike some of my friends like John (Pop Music Notes) and Paul (MyFizzyPop), I wasn't really aboard the MKTO train until now. "Classic" is unabashed fun with lots of artist references in the lyrics -- it's basically a musical history lesson wrapped up in a love song. The overall sound is a bit like if modern Maroon 5 ("One More Night") and Hot Chelle Rae ("Tonight Tonight") had a baby and I'm not hating it. "Classic" has already gone Top 10 down under (read: in Australia) and the group has opened on tour for Emblem3 (that American X-Factor trio). Their full album has already been released in Oz & New Zealand and is set for a US release in April.

TEGAN & SARA - "Everything Is AWESOME!!! (feat. THE LONELY ISLAND)"
"A Nobel Prize / A piece of string / You know what's awesome? / Everything!!!"
Like many of you, I kind of want to pretend that this whole Lego Movie thing doesn't exist but while I don't endorse the film or its soundtrack per say, it does offer up this novelty play that is "Everything Is AWESOME!!!" -- a parody-like track by T&S and Andy Samberg & Co. Either you get the Lonely Island joke sound or you don't and in my case, I do ("Jack Sparrow" with Michael Bolton is unparalleled and "Go Kindergarten" with Robyn remains to be a go-to play at my day-job). It ain't that serious, just blare it for the novelty alone.


Unknown said...

Love that you mentioned Laura Lee. She's fantastic! Can't wait for more material!

Unknown said...

Love that you mentioned Laura Lee. She's fantastic! Can't wait for more material!

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