Saturday, April 30, 2011

Kimbra - Good Intent

This weekend is all about Kimbra.  Each day, starting Friday and ending Sunday, The Soundtrack Of My Life will feature a different song from her upcoming album, Vows. 

Today's selection is "Good Intent".  Kimbra switches her game plan with this track.  Imagine a dark and smoky club with a jazz singer playing in front of a swinging band.  It's somewhat vintage and has an alluring vibe that sounds like trouble.

Kimbra's layered vocals create the illusion that she's being backed by a group of singers, complete with matching outfits and swaying dances.  In reality, she just knows how to tackle harmonies to produce a fleshed out sound that fills the room.

Spiraling down a devious line, the chorus' melody gives "Good Intent" an almost sarcastic sound.  Kimbra holds the power with her demanding voice.  This song definitely showcases a different side of her as an artist.  She could pursue a more soulful jazz influenced style just as easily as a pop focused destination.  She seems to have found the perfect middle ground between these genres and it works flawlessly.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Kimbra - Cameo Lover

This weekend is all about Kimbra.  Each day, starting now and ending Sunday, The Soundtrack Of My Life will feature a different song from her upcoming album, Vows.

Today's track is "Cameo Lover", the second single off of Vows.  This single has a chorus that explodes with a pounding beat that calls back to the swaying doo-wop days.  It's a perfect contrast to the poppy bounce of the verses.  The track is in every way just as infectious as "Settle Down".

"Cameo Lover" has elements that you just don't hear enough in modern pop music.  The quivering pizzicato strings in the chorus are beautiful underneath the brassy horns.  The entire production effort sounds fresh, yet classy in a way that doesn't give in to today's latest trends.

The song has one of those hooks that stays with you for hours until you find yourself humming the melody without notice.  "Open up your heart! Open up your heart!"

"Cameo Lover" is complete with a newly released music video that is a rainbow of fun, almost literally.  Set against a white backdrop, Kimbra shows off her doll-like dance skills.  Backed by her group of dancers, they slowly transform a bunch of sharp dressed men into neon clad makeup-wearing men... through the power of song, of course.  The video is slick, stylish, and I love it.

Open up your heart to the "Cameo Lover" music video below...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Lady Gaga - Judas

Lady Gaga is always full of surprises.  "Judas", the follow-up single to her record breaking "Born This Way", was slated to be released on April 19.  The schedule was going exactly as planned when the unthinkable happened.  A low quality two minute clip of the track was somehow leaked and posted online.  This would surely hurt the massive anticipation behind the single, so Gaga released "Judas" to radio and digital sources immediately, four days ahead of the original release date.  This rushed release had her Little Monsters everywhere in a panic, trying to hear the new single.

To start things off, "Judas" is completely different from "Born This Way".  While they both have that "Gaga" sound, "Judas" isn't an inspirational anthem like the title track from her upcoming record.  The lyrics are much darker with various Biblical references.  "Jesus is my virtue, Judas is the demon I cling to."  I'm sure the religious groups that are often seen protesting outside her concerts will react to this track.

Religious standpoints aside, "Judas" is a heavy dance song with an industrial sized beat.  The synths are intact, as always.  "Judas" could be Born This Way's equivalent to The Fame Monster's "Bad Romance".  They both have the bizarre chant-like hook, "Gaga ooh la la - Judas Juda ah ah", and lyrical themes of, well, a bad romance.

One major change found on "Judas", as compared to the rest of Gaga's discography, is her vocal technique.  During the verses,  she sings with a strange almost-accent.  Once the chorus comes around, she's back to her traditional soaring vocals.  The bridge melody sounds strikingly similar to the German lines from the remix of "Scheiße" that was used during the Mugler fashion show in Paris.  When you put it all together, the result is another milestone in Gaga's career.

The vast differences between "Judas" and "Born This Way" have me wondering which direction her new album will take in a lyrical sense.  No matter which way she goes, Gaga is always pushing the boundaries for modern pop music, and "Judas" is no exception.  One has to wonder if Gaga leaked the song purposely just to give it to her fans a few days early...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Hot Panda - Mindlessnesslessness

Earlier this week, I stumbled upon a band and knew that I had to write something about them.  This band is Hot Panda, a four piece hailing from Canada.  Upon first listen, their song "Mindlessnesslessness" caught my attention immediately.  It's a roller coaster track covered in punk rock vocals and psychedelic organs.  Yes, mindless is an appropriate adjective to describe the record.  I would suggest you turn it up loud and go crazy.

The organ riffs twisted within the song are something between the soundtrack for an old horror film and a single by The Doors.  They really hold the song together and give off a bouncy vibe.  With about one minute remaining, "Mindlessnesslessness" switches from a giant ball of spunk to a mellow stretch of indie goodness.  It's a sudden and surprising change that doubles the song's fun.

If you need a burst of uncontrollable energy or just long for a little bit of insanity in your day, then check out "Mindlessnesslessness".  You can stream or download it for free below.  The track can also be found on Hot Panda's 2010 album, How Come I'm Dead?.  Brace yourself for a wild ride.

Beth Ditto - I Wrote The Book

Beth Ditto has gone solo.  The outspoken riot grrrl and lead singer of Gossip has started a new chapter in her career. Instead of using that soulful voice of hers for rock music, Beth Ditto went pop.  Not just any kind of pop, but club friendly early nineties Madonna-esque pop music.  For those of you who know and love Gossip, this may scare you.  However, Beth Ditto manages to tackle this new style with outstanding results.

"I Wrote The Book", the first single off of her self-titled EP, could be the start of something amazing.  The production is nothing short of sleek and glossy.  While the song has a distinct throwback sound, it doesn't fall into the outdated and cliché part of the nineties.  It's current, yet classic.  Beth's vocals are drenched in echo, adding some depth to the track.  When I listen to "I Wrote The Book", I imagine an overcrowded dancefloor with neon strobe lights.

You can download "I Wrote The Book" for free and check out the rest of the EP, here.  It may be a step away from the sound of Gossip, but it's most certainly worth a listen.  The accompanying music video is just as appropriate.  She's definitely channeling a little bit of "Justify My Love", and maybe even "Vogue".  Check it out below...

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Nominate The Soundtrack Of My Life For An O Award!

The O Music Awards is a brand new award show that showcases the best of the internet.  As a project of MTV, the awards focus heavily on social media.  There are categories such as "Must Follow Artist On Twitter", "Best Fan Cover", and "Favorite Animated GIF".  Also included on the list is "Best Independent Music Blog", and that's where The Soundtrack Of My Life needs your help.

MTV pre-selected a handful of blogs for the list of nominees and they're allowing fans to nominate their own favorites.  If you enjoy this blog and feel it deserves a nomination, then you can make it happen!  Keep reading to find out how...

Friday, April 1, 2011

Britney Spears - Femme Fatale

Britney Spears... so much to say.  She's been through her share of ups and downs, but somehow, she always ends up back on top.  Whether she's debuting a new track or shaving her head, her fans are always loyal and stick with the pop star through it all.  When her seventh album, Femme Fatale, was announced, the pop world exploded with anticipation.  Would this album be Britney's big return?  In reality, Britney was never gone.  During 2008 she released Circus, a massive success on the charts.  The year after Circus, she put out "3" as a promotion piece for her compilation album, The Singles Collection.  It's just that when you're Britney Spears, you don't have much room for error.

Femme Fatale is an interesting pop album that soars in places, but then falls short at times.  The lead single, "Hold It Against Me", completely dominated the radio waves upon its release.  Everyone was talking about the track's dubstep influences.  "Hold It Against Me" also had a classic Britney sound.  It was almost like an updated version of one of her signature hits.  The track is definitely one of the standout moments for Femme Fatale.

"Till The World Ends", the second single from the album, is the opening track.  The chorus is a perfect sing along moment for parties.  It never fails to get someone in the room to join in with Britney's chopped vocals.  These two singles alone prove that finding a catchy song with a hook is no problem for good ole Brit.

While the hooks are definitely plentiful on this album, the production is less than desirable.  Perfection has always been a major element in pop music.  Everybody wants a tight and clean vocal track.  However, Britney's vocals are altered to an extreme this time around.  The auto-tune is full on and her vocal lines are robotic.  This proves to be a problem when listeners are looking for a personal connection with the artist.  By twisting the vocals to that extent, it's hard to find any sign of personality or attitude in Britney's voice.  A producer can still do a good job without pulling the life out of the music.  There are some moments, such as Britney's opening vocals in "Big Fat Bass", where she sounds real and pure.

If you set aside the production elements of the music, you're left with a very danceable album.  Every track is synth heavy with small traces of dubstep, as heard in "Hold It Against Me".  Two guest artists are featured on the record.  Newcomer Sabi is on "(Drop Dead) Beautiful" and is on "Big Fat Bass". Neither of the cameos add much to the record, especially Sabi's.  They seem easily replaceable.  The male vocals on "How I Roll" outshine both performances.

Some tracks definitely perform better than others.  "Trouble For Me" has an amazing synth line intertwined within the song.  It's sounds exotic and dangerous, a definite head turner for first time listeners.  "How I Roll" uses samples of Britney's breathing and gasping on top of bubbling pops.  The electronic and uncredited male vocals are great.  "Trip To Your Heart" is whimsical, while "Inside Out" sounds like the next hit.

After Femme Fatale is over, Britney needs to be more than just a recording artist.  She also needs to be a performer and personality.  Her current female rivals, such as Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, Ke$ha, and Katy Perry, either write or co-write most of their music.  For better or worse, they seem to push a part of themselves through the music to create something real.  While Britney manages this from time to time, the production holds her back.  I would prefer less than perfect vocals if that meant more emotion coming from Britney.

Femme Fatale will throw Britney back into the spotlight.  It will also provide listeners with a few great singles over the summer, and while it isn't an amazing album, it's still solid.  If you're a lover of glossy dance-pop music or a Britney fanatic from way back in the Hit Me Baby era, you should grab a copy of Femme Fatale, maybe even go for the deluxe edition.  Otherwise, there may not be much for you here.