Saintly: 10 Essential Tracks by Saint Etienne

saint-etienne-band2Saint Etienne will always be one of my favourite bands.  Since 1990, they have proven themselves time and time again, single after brilliant single, yet remained somewhat elusive in North America. Like a lot of amazing groups, they tend to defy classification. The Saints’ strengths lie in their own love of music and music history, which they’ve never kept a secret, curating several compilations including 2004s stellar The Trip. Their most recent studio album Words And Music By Saint Etienne ranks as their best yet. What band can claim that after twenty five years? Rarely does an established band sound so utterly fresh as on that record. So without further ado.. Ten tracks that you need to have, in no particular order!


LIKE A MOTORWAY from Tiger Bay

This is the tune that catapulted me into fandom forever. 


YOU’RE IN A BAD WAY from So Tough

60s girl pop meets 90s indie pop. 


GOODNIGHT JACK from Good Humor

Haunting woodwind instruments give way to melodic garage pop.


PEOPLE GET REAL from Foxbase Alpha

Get on the floor and look real sexy!


LIGHTNING STRIKES TWICE from Tales From Turnpike House

Gurgling synthesizers with a side of chorus to die for.


METHOD OF MODERN LOVE from London Conversations

Love, Love, L.O.V.E…


I’VE GOT YOUR MUSIC from Words And Music

“I feel love, in digital stereo…”


WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? from Too Young To Die: The Singles 90-95

Insanely catchy cover of an old song by Jigsaw.


DJ from Words And Music

Lose yourself on the dance floor.


STONED TO SAY THE LEAST from Foxbase Alpha

Self-explanatory.


 

Saint Etienne Official Website

 

 

 

 

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Pet Shop Boys, Electrified

psb_electricWith a release date of July 16, this is set to be one of the highlights of my summer.  Pet Shop Boys return with new album Electric. The Pets are now elder statesmen of dance music, and on Electric, they’ve teamed up with my favourite producer of the 2000s, Stuart Price, who so masterfully crafted Madonna’s stellar (and last good album) Confessions On A Dance Floor back in 2005. Electric is a return to dance for Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe, after 2012’s Elysium, which, despite moments of brilliance, suffered from a lack of single material and a flawed track sequence. With its’ nine tracks with long-ish running times, I’m already reminded of Introspective, their 1988 masterpiece which highlighted 12″ dance versions of the songs. On Introspective, the single mixes were simply edits. What’s even better, Pet Shop Boys are on tour and coming to a city near you! Do yourself a favour and see them live. Here’s the link for tickets.

Check out ‘Axis’ the first single from Electric:

Random Access Throwback

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It can’t be easy to be Daft Punk in 2013. The French duo of Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo have a lot to live up to. Their first two albums, Homework (1997) and Discovery (2002) have stood the test of time as true classics of the electronic dance genre, and their Alive tour of 2007 ranked as one of the best live experiences of all time. But now with a dance scene crowded with aspiring imitators, how do they stand out? On new album Random Access Memories, the answer seems to be ‘look back to go forward.’ Is it a successful strategy? I’m not so sure.

On paper, the album sounds like a dream come true, roping in legendary collaborators Giorgio Moroder and Nile Rodgers, among others. In the case of the former on ‘Giorgio By Moroder’ one might expect a jacked-up future disco/electro track, but instead we are treated to a pleasant, if unenthralling, spoken word session over a watered-down disco retread. The sound is ambitious… it’s just not what I want from Daft Punk. Where has the excitement gone?

‘The Game Of Love’ and ‘Within’ sound like sonic territory explored by fellow French musicians Air well over a decade ago. Things pick up with ‘Instant Crush’ (which, again, sounds like Air) and ‘Lose Yourself To Dance,’ a plodding disco track with lots of Daft Punk vocoder but none of their past thrills. Pharrell does a good job on vocals, but the track goes nowhere and is boring by the two minute mark. First single ‘Get Lucky’ (also featuring Pharrell) is a marked improvement with its’ disco hook and smooth vocal, but after that, it’s right back to Air on the tracks ‘Beyond’ and ‘Motherboard.’  ‘Fragments Of Time’ sounds instantly familiar, a West Coast funk/prog jam featuring Todd Edwards on vocal duty.

Daft Punk always sounded like the future to me, and Random Access Memories just doesn’t continue that legacy. By looking backwards, Daft Punk have stalled. Perhaps they got bored, or perhaps it’s just a natural fizzle; no artist or group can generally keep the excitement high for twenty years. RAM comes off as a genuinely ambitious attempt to inject new life into their formula, it’s just that unlike their past glories, the originality we have come to expect from Daft Punk doesn’t shine through. I’ve heard this music before.

5/10

Menace II Society

One of my favourite musicians of the past half-decade is German DJ/ Producer Kris Menace. His masterful blending of retro synths with new killer beats are second-to-none. He’s just released Electric Horizon, his new disc and I have to say, it doesn’t disappoint. The album is instrumental, but that hasn’t stopped The Kiki Twins from laying their own vocal stylings over the track, and the results are nothing short of addicitive! Electric Horizon is out now on iTunes.

Zebras and Mirrorballs.

Details are emerging around Magic Hour, the new long player by the Scissor Sisters. First of all, I adore the cover art. It does have a certain commercial sheen though, which makes me wonder exactly how commercial the music is going to be; I generally lean towards the less commercial stuff, but word on the street is the band are looking for a hit.

Check out the just-released video of “Only The Horses” at the bottom of this post!

Without further ado, here is the official tracklist for Magic Hour:

  1. Baby Come Home
  2. Keep Your Shoes On
  3. Inevitable
  4. Only The Horses
  5. Year of Living Dangerously
  6. Let’s Have a Kiki
  7. Shady Love
  8. San Luis Obispo
  9. Self Control
  10. Best in Me
  11. Secret Life of Letters
  12. Somewhere
  13. Ms. Matronic’s Magic Message
  14. F*** Yeah (Bonus Track)
  15. Let’s Have a Kiki – DJ Nita Remix (Bonus Track)
  16. F*** Yeah – Seamus Haji Remix (Bonus Track)
 

Scissoriffic!

My favorite disco rockers Scissor Sisters are back with a new single. “Only The Horses” is from their forthcoming LP Magic Hour. I hope this new album does more for them than their last album Night Work did. It was a fantastic album which suffered a few setbacks via poor singles choices, a cancelled tour and barely any promotion. Magic Hour looks to be a less inward affair than the previous disc, containing collaborations with several heavy-hitters such as Diplo, Calvin HarrisPharrell Williams and, my new favourite rap chick Azealia Banks. Check out the [lyric] video below for “Only The Horses.” For the real, yet-to-be-released video, I envision club kids, glitter, midgets, maybe a couple unicorns. Magical! Magic Hour will be released May 28. I’ll be reviewing it here!

MDNA: Occasionally Brilliant

I thought I’d wait a bit after this album’s release before doing this review; sometimes releases come with such insane amounts of hype attached that you need a little time to cool off and let something sink in. I’m glad I did that in the case of MDNA, Madge’s latest dance-pop offering to the world gays.

I found Madonna’s first 2 singles from MDNA to be really lackluster, so I’ll readily admit i didn’t have high hopes for the album, as I did before her opus Confessions came out several years ago.  I’ll get the bad stuff out of the way first OK? “Give Me All Your Luvin,'” the first single from MDNA was a misstep. Easily the worst single of her entire career, the song literally made me want to stick a fork in my eye and I’m pretty sure it made my dog run away. I pray to God I never have to hear it again in my life. Ever. I will not mention GMAYL again in this review. Promise.

“Girl Gone Wild,” the second single that preceded the album was a marginal improvement on the previous single, but I still wasn’t feeling it. It has a very flat quality, which I just can’t get into much. It never really takes off. Luckily, things improve drastically from these first two duds. So I’ve put the fork down.

“Gang Bang” sounds like an audio hate-fuck, and is actually pretty intense and fun, especially by the time M. is screeching “Die bitch!” you wonder if she’s gone completely nuts. It’s a jarring song, thematically similar to “Thief Of Hearts,” one of my old faves off Erotica. Madonna, so poised under normal circumstances, sounds batshit crazy and it works. The real sound of MDNA though, comes in the form of “I’m Addicted,” the first really great track on the album, an all-in-one party track that is Madonna at her most effective. I’m hoping for some killer remixes of it.

“Turn Up The Radio,” which had better be a single, has a really great, instantly likeable classic Madonna vibe. “Some Girls” and “Superstar” carry on the MDNA experience in a nice, albeit unmemorable way; the latter is somewhat catchier though the dubstep break at 2:27 is unnecessary and will only make the tune sound dated in a year or two. The survivor theme of “I Don’t Give A” is reminiscent of “Human Nature” from Bedtime Stories, albeit more comical with lines like “Tweetin’ in the elevator” and a reference to “Baby Jesus on the stairs.” The inclusion of Nicki Minaj is a cringeworthy ploy to rope in a younger audience, but the baroque classical outro to the song more than makes up for it. “Love Spent” continues the “fuck you” vibe. I’m not sure how many fuck-you’s Sean Penn warranted, but Guy Ritchie gets at least two, on the same album! You tell ’em, Madge! Bitches.

“I’m A Sinner” revisits “Beautiful Stranger” in another one of those self-referential moments that colour all her later work. I’m not sure if all the self-referencing is intentional or betrays a lack of ideas but it certainly leaves no doubt as to whose record you’re listening to, trendy producers be damned. “Masterpiece,” the song from her panned film W.E. is a pleasant, if unnecessary addition, but the album closer “Falling Free” is a sonically gorgeous sendoff to her listeners. I have never minded Madonna’s ballads, despite her vocal limitations, they kind of remind you that yes, she is human, not  just the one-woman media industry that she’s so often styled as.

MDNA is better than 2008’s Hard Candy (who wants to hear a middle aged white lady from Michigan attempt to sound urban?) but nowhere near the heights she hit with 2005’s Confessions On A Dance Floor. Which is fine. At 53, she knows her audience, she’s still contributing to pop culture, and for better or worse, there will never be another Madonna. Sorry Nicki.