Sunday, January 31, 2010

British Male Solo Artist

The largest winner in Brit Awards history is nominated for yet another award for his new album “Reality Killed the Video Star.” The Take That alumni and huge UK star Robbie Williams, is back again for another chance at an award. Williams had some success in America with his smash hit ‘Angels, but has mainly stayed isolated to Britain success. I wouldn’t really mind if it stays that way.

Electronic superstar Calvin Harris is also up for an award. Harris is known allover the UK music industry for his originals, remixes, and collaborations. But I respect him most for his stunt on X-Factor, running the across the stage with the pineapple on his head, later saying, "If you look at music it's a frightening stranglehold that Simon Cowell has got over the entire music chart in the UK at the moment."

Our favorite Rascal, Dizzee is up for an award, and even though Hip Hop isn’t probably what I would classify as my area of expertise, but no one can deny that he is pretty catchy. Dizzee Rascal is just as he describes himself, “Tongue in Cheek,” and that’s something you can respect. I also respect the awesome cover by the Baddies that it has produced.

Paolo Nutini followed up his hit 2006 album ‘These Streets’ with ‘Sunny Side Up.’ Nutini’s follow-up, however, isn’t nearly as sweet sounding as the first and becomes boringly drab after a few listens.

Mika also had a follow up to his hit album “Life in Cartoon Motion.” His new hit, “We Are Golden,” is a production to say the least. But it’s a pretty catchy song altogether. Not to mention Mika’s voice is a wonder to hear. The new album is less Freddy Mercury and more show tunes.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Brit Awards: Best Female Vocalist

Aww the Brit Awards. The time of year when we all have to realize that the Brits clearly have better taste in music than we do on the American side.

First up? Best Female Vocalist

The nominees are: Lily Allen, Pixie Lott, Leona Lewis, Florence & the Machine, and Bat for Lashes.

This is always a tough category, because it is so easy for female vocalists to land themselves into the ‘crappily manufactured pop music,’ genre, in fact, its probably harder not to fall into it.

Leona Lewis is are first nominee, another spawn of the Cowell entertainment machine, is a trend I find so disturbing about music lately. That people like Simon Cowell can go out and turn glorified karaoke singers into Grammy award winning stars. Lewis has seen huge success in both Britain and the United States, but I give 0 out of 0 stars for lack of songwriting talent.

Pixie Lott on the other hand, claims herself as one of the few new stars out there not created by the X Factor machine. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty to like about Pixie Lott, especially on the side of physical looks (I have always had a thing for pretty blondes with long legs, call it a vanity thing), and the fact that she is only 19 years old. Does she have any more talent than Leona Lewis though? Probably not.

Natasha Khan, known better as her stage name ‘Bat for Lashes’ broke out this year with her hit ‘Daniel’ and made considerable noise in the UK with a Mercury Award nomination, and even had a bit of a hit with ‘Daniel’ over here in the U.S. To be honest? I find her voice drab and dragging and unbelievably boring

Lily Allen has had a rocky career that only spans to full-length albums. Her out of control personality and her constant fights with her fellow celebutante can make her annoying, but it also separates her from a lot of other female personalities. He voice is so sweet, but her lyrics are so offendingly honest that she is the perfect remedy for a bad breakup.

Florence & the Machine, another stage name for the beautiful Florence Welch whose distinctly British voice ranges from high-tempered indie rock (Kiss With a Fist) to the more soulful “Dog Days of Summer.”

Vote: Kiss With a Fist-Florence & the Machine

Next Up: Best Male Solo Artist

Friday, January 22, 2010

Vampire Weekend Presents 'Contra'

Vampire Weekend's long-awaited follow up album to their critically acclaimed self-titled debut is finally here. Many times after a band has a great debut album, they end up getting raped by the record companies and the money and disappear into obscurity. ‘Contra’ is good enough to prevent this from happening, at least for now.

‘Contra’ kicks off with the mellow, but nonetheless catchy tune ‘Horchata.’ Vampire Weekend are well-known for their distinguishing African percussion influences, but ‘Horchata’ has a bit more of an island feel to it. And although Vampire Weekend’s trademark is their drums and percussions, it’s wider range of instruments that they use that impress me. My particular favorite instrument in the Vampire Weekend repertoire is their violins, which is why Walcott was my favorite song off the first album. ‘Contra’s’ violins are mostly found on their final track ‘I Think UR a Contra’ and some nice string instruments on ‘California English.’

‘Diplomat’s Son’ is also a bit of an impressive tune with what sounds almost like two separate songs fused into a melody. The piano on the song is another example of the range of instruments Vampire Weekend in willing to use. Actually, it seems that Vampire Weekend is willing to use any instrument they can get their hands on. Some of the songs on ‘Contra’ even have some electronic sounds which feels like a step from their last album.

One of Vampire Weekend’s most impressive attributes is their lead singer, Ezra Koenig’s whose voice has a massive amount of range. The ex-8th grade teacher and Columbia University alum voice is quite impressive on their second track ‘White Sky’ when he hits notes that are unimaginable even to me, which is insulting to my normally soprano range.

Their first hit off the album ‘Cousins’ is definitely the most upbeat on the album and couldn’t be a better choice for the first single. Catchy, repetitive, and danceable, cousins in the perfect indie hit for the season. The video, directed by Garth Jennings, is also fun and light-hearted.

Vampire Weekend’s lyrics are whimsical, but by no means impressive and this new album doesn’t have the same cohesion that their first album had. Is ‘Contra’ groundbreaking? Not even close, but Vampire Weekend does supply peppy pop music that includes intellectual attributes (reflective of their IV education, obviously) so hardly seen in today’s peppy pop music genre.

1. Horchata* 2. White Sky* 3. Holiday* 4. California English* 5. Taxi Cab* 6. Run* 7. Cousins* 8. Giving Up the Gun* 9. Diplomat's Son* 10. I Think UR A Contra

Free Download: HorchataVW.mp3