The OXD Mirror is a weekly music column brought to you by the boys of OCCUPY THE DISCO (OXD), a New York City based collective created by three music lovers, Ru Bhatt, Josh Appelbaum, and Tadeu Magalhães, who want to share their love for disco, house and dance music with the world.
This post is longer than usual but there's so much new good music to share that I wanted to make sure you had a ton of great tracks to enjoy this holiday weekend. Happy end of summer!
Hot Natured feat. Roisin Murphy - 'Alternate State'
Hot Natured's rumored collaboration with Róisín Murphy, one that OXD has waited for with bated breath, finally sees the light of day. The production collective behind hits like 'Benediction' and 'Reverse Skydiving' has been saving this ace-up-their-sleeve for the release of their debut album, Different Sides of Sun, which drops next Tuesday. Thankfully, it does not disappoint. The Irish disco siren's sultry coos are true to Murphy's form but she certainly has surprises in store, including a (probably unintentionally) NKOTB-reminiscent "Oh Oh Ah Oh" refrain that adds a bit of fun to the song. Hot Natured's sophisticated production creates the perfect backdrop, creating a melodic thump that will have you swaying on the dancefloor.
Green Velvet - 'Bigger Than Prince (Hot Since 82 Remix)'
Green Velvet's 'Bigger Than Prince,' an ode to the haters, is a song that just drips with swagger. The lyrics empower the listener to "Walk Around Like [They're] Bigger Than Prince' -- a haughty statement at face value but in the context of the song it's quite fantastic. Leave it to my favorite producer of the moment, Leeds' Hot Since 82 (Daley Padley) to put his signature deep house spin on the track, turning the engaging original song into a veritable club banger. If you like Padley's sound, definitely check out his recent 'Essential Mix' for BBC's Radio 1, which includes some more of his original tracks and remixes.
Fromwood - 'Homespehere '
Europe's enigmatic Fromwood aims to meld "science and soul" with 'Homesphere,' a song that features interview snippets from around the world that explore the notion of home. The interviews are in a few different languages and one has to listen closely to hear the words as they are buried in cascading arpeggios and a thumping beat. Don't strain yourself too hard, however, as the rolling house song is pleasurable to the ear regardless of whether or not one can hear the "lyrics".
Mutya Keisha Siobhan - 'Flatline (MNEK Remix)'
The return of MKS (Mutya, Keisha & Siobhan--the original Sugababes) has been hotly anticipated by pop music fans since their retirement and has already been deemed triumphant by critics worldwide, thanks to their lead single 'Flatline.' It's hard to imagine that the Blood Orange-produced single can be enhanced any further, but British wunderkind MNEK has achieved that with this energizing remix. In addition to a churning beat, MNEK adds in a gospel-inspired chorus that brings this pop song to new, 'Like A Prayer'-esque heights.
Miley Cyrus - 'Wrecking Ball (Robots With Rayguns Mix)'
Baltimore-born Lucas Patrick Smith is known to the world as Robots with Rayguns, a young producer that combines his love for synthpop, new wave and electro with "cheesy pop music." I first discovered the now Phoenix-resident producer in 2009 through his remix for Rihanna's 'Only Girl In The World.' Given his track record of remixing artists like Lady Gaga, Kelly Rowland, and Shakira, it should come as no surprise that his latest effort is tackling the pop-tart everyone seems to hate/love: Miley Cyrus. Think what you want of Miley but this remix certainly turns 'Wrecking Ball,' her follow up to the summer anthem 'We Can't Stop,' into an enjoyable, sun-drenched affair.
If 2008's Youth Novels followed the more hopeful trajectory of yearning and discovery, then Lykke Li uses Wounded Rhymes — an album whose centerpiece is a song in which she declares that "sadness is my boyfriend" — to trace the bitter comedown. While songs like "Little Bit" and "Let It Fall," from Li's debut, paired disappointment with sweetness, the sentiment on Wounded Rhymes is comparatively harsh: On "Unrequited Love" — a sparse, country-tinged lament — Li seethes with an almost callous resignation to loneliness, while "Get Some" sees that fatalism to its hardened conclusion. "Don't make demands / I don't take none," she scowls at one point. "I'm your prostitute / You gon' get some." Which isn't to say that Lykke Li's second album is harrowing or unpleasant, but in fact, just the opposite. Like a younger Dusty Springfield — who somehow managed to sing "Every Day I Have To Cry Some" with a smile on her face — Li's reverb-drenched vocals recall a different era of music-making, wresting the Wall of Sound ambiance from Phil Spector in order to transmit a very modern conclusion: "You see pain like it is pleasure / Like a work of art." It's one of the final statements that Lykke Li makes on Wounded Rhymes, and perhaps, its most telling.
Those Dancing DaysDaydreams & Nightmares (Witchita)
In their native Sweden, Those Dancing Days are proper "pop" stars, but what that means from a descriptive standpoint is a slippery proposition: On the one hand, Daydreams & Nightmares mines a more commercial territory than most indie rock albums — "Can't Find Entrance," for example, was penned by Max Martin and Shellback, who have previously written for Robyn, P!nk, and Britney Spears — but on the whole, Those Dancing Days take more inspiration from the all-girl vocal groups of the Northern Soul era and the propulsive energy of UK post-punk. An unlikely hybrid, for sure. But the result is inexplicably cohesive while also seemingly contradictory — pulsing with neo-Motown swagger ("When We Fade Away"), owing a debt to New Order ("I'll Be Yours"), and reframing the Ronettes as an indie-pop guitar band ("Dream About Me"). If Those Dancing Days are "pop" in the same sense of the word that we'd use with any other Max Martin collaborator, it's only in the sheer sense of joy this album brings: Where their debut album lacked the unhinged nature of teenage art, Daydreams & Nightmares makes up for it with a forceful, but frenetic maturity.
For a group that's been around for almost fifteen years and only have four albums to their name — discounting remix collections, greatest hits, and live albums — Daft Punk sure carry an insane amount of cachet. In fact, they may have set the standard: You're not anyone until you have your own limited edition Coca-Cola bottle.
As one of the earliest and most idiosyncratic female voices in contemporary music, Poly Styrene led the legendary X-Ray Spex as a teenager and gave punk rock its earliest feminist anthem with "Oh Bondage, Up Yours!" Sadly, the singer's official website announced this week that Poly has been diagnosed with breast cancer. A new solo album, Generation Indigo, is still slated for release on March 28.
As the last remaining original member of Sugababes, Keisha Buchanan was controversially outed from the group last year just in time for them to release the horribly disappointing Sweet 7. But with her debut single "Gimme Pressure" having leaked, Buchanan is lashing out. Sample lyric: "I'm a graduate, you're a college kid / I wrote a book on the game that you been studying / Ready or not, here I come / I bet you're missing my voice on those records you're on." Musically, it sounds a lot like Tinie Tempah's recent UK hit "Pass Out," but that's not a bad thing!
Antony & The Johnsons have announced a new EP called Swanlights, to be issued as 10-inch vinyl and digital download only. In addition to two new songs (including the previously hard-to-find "Find the Rhythm of Your Love"), the EP will also feature the first-ever official Antony & The Johnsons remix by Oneohtrix Point Never.
Justin Bond (of Kiki & Herb fame) is set to release a debut solo album later this month called Justin Vivian Bond: Dendrophile. Says Bond: "A dendrophile's a person who gets an erotic charge out of nature. I am one!" Among other things, the album will feature a duet with Beth Orton of the Carpenters' classic "Superstar."
Jessie J's debut album won't be out in America until later this month, but you may already know her from stints as a backing singer for Cyndi Lauper and songwriter for Christina Aguilera and Miley Cyrus. (You can thank or blame her for "Party in the U.S.A.," in case you're wondering.) Earlier this week, while promoting the album in England, Jessie J confirmed her bisexuality: "I've dated guys and I've dated girls," she told a radio show. "Get over it. It's not a secret."
Canadian singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith has earned accolades from everyone from Elvis Costello to Elton John, he's collaborated with everyone from Shonen Knife to Coldplay's Chris Martin, and his songs have been covered by everyone from Rod Stewart to Feist. On his twelfth album, Long Play Late Bloomer, Sexsmith steps up another incredible notch in an already enviable career.
Floetry's Marsha Ambrosius releases her debut solo album, Late Nights & Early Mornings, this week. As a songwriter, she's written for Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake, and Jamie Foxx, but on her own, Ambrosius stays in the slow lane and never really picks it up: While lead single "Hope She Cheats On You" (With A Basketball Player) promises a modern R&B direction, several other key tracks like "With You" — a collaboration with Alicia Keys — are minimal to the point of barely there. Disappointingly, the album is not stripped down so much as it is underdressed.
L.A.'s Dum Dum Girls release the He Gets Me High EP this week, and this one is a somewhat game-changing follow-up to their distorted pop debut: Along with lead singer Dee Dee on production duties is Richard Gottehrer — who besides having written "My Boyfriend's Back" and "I Want Candy," is also responsible for producing the debut albums by Blondie and The Go-Go's. Also necessary: A fuzzy, ethereal cover of The Smiths' "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out."
2010's Progress reunited Take That with Robbie Williams and repositioned the band into a more realistic place — where every day isn't the "Greatest Day" and everyone in the world doesn't always "Shine." For their second single, Take That bring on "Kidz," whose protest imagery angered Simon Cowell enough to ban the riot gear from their X-Factor performance in December, but not enough to stop this ominous clip.
Hurts — "Sunday"
Manchester's Hurts return with the fourth single from Happiness. True to form, their anthemic, but elegiac synthpop is just about as true to the format as you can get without actually being the Pet Shop Boys.
Cults — "Go Outside"
Having pretty much won the Internet, Cults came out of nowhere, scored a record deal with Columbia, and released this video for "Go Outside" — featuring James Franco's younger brother Dave and Julia Roberts' niece Emma — all before most bands have set up a Bandcamp page.
Rival Schools — "Wring It Out"
In some circles, Rival Schools frontman Walter Schreifels practically walks on water for his groundbreaking work with Quicksand and Gorilla Biscuits. But for their first new single in ten years, Rival Schools test that divinity and find themselves on the wrong side of projectile pea soup.
Robbie Daw presents a weekly pop music update here on Towleroad! Robbie runs his own site called Chart Rigger.
Well, it was only a year ago last week when I pondered here on Towleroad whether U.K. pop trio the Sugababes could ever cross over in the States. So far that's a "no," but their new CD, Catfights And Spotlights, arrived in the mail today via Amazon, and all is right in the world.
Catfights... is the 'babes' sixth studio album, and was released in England on Monday. It contains the single "Girls" (see video below), which recently peaked at #3 on the U.K. singles chart (held back from the top spot by Pink's "So What"). But that one is only the tip of the iceberg as far as the catchy, pop-hook greatness that lies waiting here.
A large portion of the album was written and produced by Klas Åhlund, who collaborated with Robyn on her most recent set and wrote and produced Britney Spears' "Piece Of Me." Max Martin co-wrote the track "Unbreakable Heart" with Åhlund.
TWO HIGHLIGHTS: The Motown-infused "You On A Good Day" and the slow-burning R&B jam "Side Chick."
Someone at Universal here in the States needs to get on the stick and get these gals over here.
Order Catfights And Spotlightshere. Catch the video for "Girls" below.
A few music clips for the week:
1. Four Tops, "Reach Out, I'll Be There": I was crushed by the passing of Levi Stubbs, 72, on Friday. Not only was the Four Tops' frontman one of the most memorable voices of Motown, he was able to convey a powerful sadness like no other in the rock era. Stubbs was also the voice of Audrey II in the film Little Shop Of Horrors. Just an all around classy performer.
2. Sugababes, "Girls": The lead single off the Brit girl group's new album.
3. Leon Jackson, "Don't Call This Love": Following in Leona Lewis' footsteps, Jackson won Simon Cowell's U.K. talent program The X Factor last year after being mentored by Dannii Minogue.
4. Guns N' Roses, "Chinese Democracy": Well, there might be a reason heavy metal died at the hands of Nirvana in 1991...
The reunited Labelle's (Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendrix, Sarah Dash) Back To Now, their first album since splitting 32 years ago. Back To Now features production from Lenny Kravitz, Philly soul legends Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, and Wyclef Jean.
Please welcome Robbie Daw, who will be penning occasional music posts for us here on Towleroad! Robbie runs his own pop music site called Chart Rigger.
"Headlines (Friendship Never Ends)," the new single from the Spice Girls, has leaked weeks ahead of its official release. Have a listen and see (or, rather, hear) what you think:
It's pleasant in that "2 Become 1" way, but after all the hype, isn't this new Spice track missing that certain zig-a-zig-ah?
"Headlines" will be included on the Spice Girls' Greatest Hits. Last week it was reported that the British fivesome had signed a deal with Victoria's Secret for the upcoming CD to be sold exclusively in the lingerie chain's U.S. stores beginning November 13. The compilation will also be available on iTunes. Otherwise, there won't be a wide retail release in American outlets until January.
Meanwhile, tabloids are reporting that the video shoot for "Headlines," which happened on Friday, almost collapsed under the fivesome's "diva demands": "Things were very delayed. The director was tearing his hair out and threatened to walk. The girls were so tired and Emma [Bunton] was crying as the shoot just went on and on."
Additionally, Sony Home Entertainment is reissuing the 1997 film Spice World in a "special edition" DVD on November 27, a week ahead of the Girls' world tour.
Please welcome Robbie Daw, who will be penning occasional music posts for us here on Towleroad! Robbie runs his own pop music site called Chart Rigger.
This week, pop/rock/electro trio (as they're billing themselves these days) Sugababes celebrate the triumph of having both the #1 single ("About You Now") and #1 album (Change) on the official U.K. charts. It's no small feat, as the 'babes have been around long enough to issue five LPs and the ubiquitous greatest hits, and have surpassed the typical sell-by date that sees most pop acts reduced to subpar reality show stints.
But "About You Now" -- written by Cathy Dennis (yes, that Cathy Dennis, who had the early '90s green-bodysuit solo career and later penned Britney's "Toxic" and Kylie's "Can't Get You Out Of My Head") -- actually marks the Sugababes' sixth British #1. In their home country, they've had more hits than the Spice Girls, and this year they became the first pop act to play the main stage at the Glastonbury Festival.
So where's the love for the curvy threesome in the States? In recent years, urban-heavy American radio has warmed up again to British acts, such as Coldplay, Natasha Bedingfield, James Blunt and Amy Winehouse. Sugababes (aka Keisha, Heidi and Amelle) write a majority of their own material, and certainly their R&B-tinged pop merits them being a shoo-in for at least a hit or two on these shores.
Granted, the gals don't play their own instruments, but then again, you never saw Beyoncé or Kelly Rowland shredding a whammy-bar-kickin' guitar solo, either. It just seems that in a land where the only thing passing for fun pop on the American charts these days is Britney Spears, surely we should welcome the Sugababes with open arms.
The successful life and quick death of the nationwide Buffy The Vampire Slayer sing-alongs: "I was under the impression that everything we were doing was completely legal and had been cleared by the appropriate people," says Buffyoke organizer Clinton McClung.