Posts Tagged ‘pop’



[Picture of Handmade Album cover art ]Handmade is the album I’ve been getting into lately. It’s by French-Moroccan singer, Hindi Zahra, and it’s really good.  Don’t fret; she sings in English most of the time. This album has sold very well in France, Belgium and Sweden, but it has not been marketed here in the UK for some reason.

I find that rather annoying; I really think she’d do well — and what a relief to have something else on the car radio for a change.

From the reviews I’ve read, she’s really good live.  She is a good song-writer and self-taught multi-instrumentalist. She lives in Paris, so she’s pretty cool all-round.

[Picture of Hindi Zahra]Last year it won the Prix Constantin for Best Album, and earlier this year it won the Victoires de la Musique award for the best World music album.

She sings in D major and its relative minor key, B minor as her default key.  Kiss & Thrills and Stand Up are in A minor, and Music (which reminds me of Blur’s Boys who like Girls who like Boys in terms of chord progression) is in G major.

Probably my favourite (apart from Music, is Set Me Free — which is a weird sort of Bluegrass thing. She could easily duet with Richard Hawley on Don’t Forget — or it could be covered by Norah or Corinne; it’s THAT laid-back!

The album works on levels — I have grown fond of the album as background to work or even dinner parties — but as soon as I put on headphones, I experienced all the little twists and nuances she’s put in.

It’s deeper than it at first seems — and she manages to blend Frenchness with Moroccanness, touches of reggae, funk, African, it’s hard to describe, but it is NOT hard to get into; at the end of the day it is pop. Only GOOD pop — not Eurovision and not the crap we’re told to buy here in the UK just now.


Why not check her out and maybe treat someone to the album for a Christmas gift this year? You can buy it Here.

[Embedded video from of Stand Up by Hindi Zahra]




[Cover of My Aim is True]There was only one Elvis until Elvis Costello came along, after that people had to add “Presley” to make the distinction.

The name caused a stir at the time, it was seen as a punk rock thing, disrespect, an attack on America, God, Music, and whatever else the loonies could come up with.

I’d heard the name, but it put me off a bit.  I wasn’t exactly intrigued enough to beat a path to Elvis Costello’s work.

It was 1977.  I was supposed to be at woodwork or something at high school, but instead a crowd of us congregated in Floyd’s house.  We smoked and chilled in the living room watching cartoons and idiotic children’s television, like “Rainbow” and “Trumpton”. On the turntable was ELP or Yes, I cannot recall exactly…

I’m not sure if it was Barbara Thomson or Moray Robertson, but one of them changed the LP to  “My Aim is True“, and I sat up as my world changed. What a half hour that was!

Yes, this really is that good. It is one of the few times in my life that I had to scribble down the name of a record and immediately go out to buy it, to have to own it.  It was raining, but I caught a bus on Ayr Rd for Glasgow. I bought it in the “Listen” Record Shop on Renfield St.  I have owned it ever since, in many formats.

Sometimes, when nothing else will do, it hits the spot exactly.  It has very short songs, the songs have intros, verses, bridges and choruses.  There are guitar solos, so it is not punk. The melodies are catchy, and every part is completely necessary — full of hooks and colour.

There is a great variety in the rhythms, and his voice is perfectly matched to everything else.  The songwriting is superb — music and lyrics, the musicianship is flawless, but the secret ingredient is Nick Lowe’s production.  That makes this as perfect a work of art as it could ever be.

It has an energy, a purity of tone and of purpose.  It is as clean as a new whistle, fresh and dewy new. It sounded like nothing of its time, and it still is of itself, a standalone classic.

Costello was poor, so he had to record this album in just four short burst sessions after work, hence his demos would have had to have been crafted to a pretty high degree. I read in Sounds, NME or Melody Maker, that his demos were superb, but it was only recently that I found some MP3 versions, and they are amazing as “unplugged” versions — different in key, but complete and polished beyond what I recognise as “demo”.

I have always liked that approach myself, I love the energy of live takes, that is what comes across in old Motown records, or the Pixies, or even the Jazz stuff I like best.  Through Elvis’s “My Aim is True”, I discovered things about myself, about my base tastes.

[Press release picture of Elvis Costello from 77]For example, I like variety, especially in rhythm, I like dynamics and interest, I like the raw energy of single takes and a well-rehearsed live band putting the song first.  I was shocked to realise the importance of backing vocals; the Attractions were a tight band. I realised that a band has to be slick and sharp, but the whole thing lives or dies with the singer at the end of the day. There has to be something to love or hate about the lead frontman.

“My Aim is True” is a perfect record, the order of the songs, the dancability, the singalongability, the image, the fun, the tears (Alison), the words that resonate with real people with real feelings in a real world.

  1. Welcome to the Working Week [E maj] 1:22;
  2. Miracle Man [E maj] 3:31;
  3. No Dancing [D maj] 2:39;
  4. Blame it on Cain [G maj] 2:49;
  5. Alison [E maj] 3:21;
  6. Sneaky Feelings [G maj] 2:09.
  1. (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes [E maj] 2:47;
  2. Less Than Zero [F maj] 3:15;
  3. Mystery Dance [G maj] 1:38;
  4. Pay it Back [G maj] 2:33;
  5. I’m Not Angry [Db maj] 2:57;
  6. Waiting of the End of The World [G maj]3:22.

Only recently did I find out that the Attractions were actually more-or-less a band called Clover that I had seen supporting Huey Lewis or Thin Lizzy. There y’go, who knew? I would recommend this album to anyone who plays in a band — listen and learn!

This is one of the few albums I have always had to have around, that has lasted through everything, I thank Elvis Costello for that, from the bottom of my heart.

[Embedded video of Elvis Costello & The Attractions doing “Red Shoes”  on Top Of The Pops September 1977,]




Mike Posner is pop-rap. Not my usual bag I guess, but I have to admit to quite liking the guy’s début album entitled: “31 Minutes to Takeoff“. It only came out a few months ago

Here’re the usual links to check him out:

[Embedded videoclip of Cooler Than Me by Mike Posner live on You Tube]

I like his lyrics — “pre-Madonna” — and “come on over and we can have deja-vu (ooh ooh ooh)” or “Trying to look bored in them Diors”.

He says what we’re all thinking, and that’s a gift!  It is actually refreshing to hear good pop again — a quality lyric, good production, and fine musicality.




It’s fathers’ day today, and I’m being allowed to chill a bit. So I’ve been playing some tunes from the old hard drive, getting the kids dancing about a bit.

Then I thought I’d have a scoot around the interweb, and for some strange reason this tune caught on, maybe it is catchy?  See what you think:

[embedded video of Tanlines’ Real Life from]

*Link to Tanlines on MySpace:

Tanlines’ Real Life — summer finally here?




You have to check this out! It’s Pop — BUT it’s got Rap… BUT  the rap is in Korean… BUT the rappers are young girls… BUT it’s a girl band… BUT it’s not bad!

Here’s what happened… I kept coming across “hawt posts” and stats stuff about some chick called HyunA who was making a “comeback” as part of a new girl group this February. This was creating a great stir and fuss, such that I couldn’t avoid it, so I had to have a peek…

OK so here’s the deal: As you may well have sussed, business is business the world over, and in South Korea, Cube Entertainment (a subsidiary company of JYP Entertainment) are BIG BUSINESS — major Asian acts such as “Mario”, “2AM” and “The Wonder Girls” are signed to Cube/ JYP.  Pay attention, because if you look at the youtube clips you will spot adverts and references.

So far we know that Hyuna was in a massive girl band called “The Wonder Girls” (Sunye, Ye-eun, Sunmi, Sohee, and Hyuna — aged from 15 to 18), but their work schedule was too hectic, and she got sick and was replaced by a girl called Yubin… but as we all now know, Hyuna’s coming back with a new girl band.

Well, to start you off on “The Wonder Girls” phenomenon, here’s a rather cheeky wee track I like called “So Hot“:

embedded video:

Cute song, and credit where credit is due — they are a good girl band; they are all singers and dancers, and good-lookers too, but the twist is that they manage to sing and rap in two languages while dancing about.

It turns out their début track was “Irony” (back in Feb 2007), and there is some fuss involved because the recording has the original rap by Hyuna, but the TV shows and live performances have Yubin’s rap instead. This single was a massive hit and reached number one in Korean charts.

A second fuss is that the wee dance routine created for the song “Tell me” became like a dance virus!  Fans began doing it, and it’s even in computer games and youtube responses (check it out!). Since then, all of their dance routines have been heavily imitated — they must be very addictive!

embedded video:

By the way, “Tell Me” has the rap by Yubin, but here’s  the band singing “Irony” live with Hyuna rapping on the bridge:

embedded video:

The actual promotional video for this is:

embedded video:

Apart from playing some gigs in other countries (including even the USA), “The Wonder Girls” are just about to launch their own make-up line, consisting of 6 different “Wonder” products, and a reality show called “Wonder Bakery”, in which the girls will pair up with aspiring chefs competing to win a cash prize. Seriously. It was also revealed that “The Wonder Girls” have already made 6.23 Million quid as a group!

Yes.  There is a whole big wide world out there! Goodness!

OK, so what am I doing watching very young Korean girls prancing about — amd I having a mid-life crisis or something??? (Ha; too late for that!).

The thing is that I am a daddy; I have a wee girl myself, and I like to encourage her by showing her girls (of all ages) singing, dancing, running, playing music, being good, being successful — role models if you like.

I have no problem showing her “The Wonder Girls” — after a LOT of very embarrassing incidents with Beyoncé, Girls Aloud, Christina — and especially Britney! Gawd, have you seen the video for “Toxic” or “Womanizer”? This material is far too old/ lewd.

At least there’s still the old stuff — Spice Girls, S Club 7, and maybe the Sugababes, but O what a gap in the UK market.  The Koreans know how to serve that sector and make everybody happy.




Another “pop” album (what’s becoming of me?)! LOL.  Seriously, though, Keane have managed to produce a fine pop album with “Perfect Symmetry”. It is a Keane-fan-pleaser, but there are TWO track at least worthy of note — “Better Than This” and “You Haven’t Told Me Anything”, which are different, quirky and inventive!

The first track is “Spiralling”, which is a Bb minor , and gives a great fright if you don’t check your headphone volume level beforehand!  It’s a pretty standard Keane style track.  One for their fans to open the album, and this vein is continued with “Lovers Are Losing” which jumps to Db major.

Then came the surprise: “Better Than This” in Bb major is a David Bowie style track (ala Major Tom).  It features some strange hand clap timings, beats and a banjo for heaven’s sake!  Yes, it’s addictive Pop, a wee gem.

This sets you up for another gem — the “You Haven’t Told Me Anything” in their native Eb major key to bring out the best of Tim Rice-Oxley’s vocals.

At this point you notice that there their “no-guitar”, distorted piano signature is gone — much in the same way that Queen and Elton John used to declare that they didn’t use synthesisers until they suddenly did!

As if realising what they had done, the  title track reverts to Keane Piano and the synthesised wall of strings.  They add an Rice-Oxley “choir”, so the key remains in Eb.

“You Don’t See Me” is an Eb major B-side Keane. Filler, nice, but wadding just the same.

The seventh track needs to pull this album’s socks up, so “Again & Again” comes out on a surprising D minor key, with an upbeat, clean tempo.  More synth than piano in into, it drops for dynamics, and soon the bridge is heading for “Keane Anthem” again!

“Playing Along” is a slow swing tune in Bb major.  It tries to be radical in short spurts, and has guitar all over it, in a very un-Keane manner — from jangly, and thrashy to jazzy slide lead runs!

The ninth and tenth tracks are in D major to give Rice-Oxley’s throat a rest.  “Pretend That You’re Alone” is streets ahead of “Black Burning Heart” simply for having a syncopated piano riff intro! but  “Black Burning Heart” has more substance, and could be acquired given time, although he does “speak French” in the vein of Eddie Izzard for no apparent reason. “Love Is the End” in the peculiar key of A major and a slow, jazzy tempo that could well have been a Norah Jones discard!  At times, Tim even manages to sound like Thom York in Radiohead!

In summary, this is a nice wee album with a couple of gems, but if you hate Keane, steer well clear!