Can you believe 2012 is just around the corner? Last minute gift shoppers need not be reminded. If you still have the time for some jolly new music to add to your playlist today, check out this poorly timed roundup of this year’s holiday highlights.
She & Him‘s holiday LP “A Very Merry She & Him Christmas” is pretty much the essential release this season. Zooey Deschanel & M. Ward’s seasonal offering is a charming collection of lovely old-timey fireside tunes.
Birdy‘s debut album is a delightful collection of songs beautifully interpreted by a voice and talent beyond her years. However, one of my favorite tracks are not even on the standard version. Hidden away as a bonus gem on the deluxe edition is a peculiar choice of cover, Mew‘s 8-minute arena-rock epic “Comforting Sounds”. At first I was quite curious and a little worried upon seeing its inclusion on the tracklist, and fortunately, Jasmine’s version does not disappoint. It’s a bold move to not only keep the original length, but also play up the scale by filling the latter half with a stirring widescreen string arrangement and Bjork-esque broken beats. Her weary, aching delivery evokes an quietly devastating kind of melancholy. It is just what I expect it to be: a sublime, orchestral piece of end-credits-worthy wallowfest. It’s a great interpretation that I didn’t even think could exist, but I’m glad it does. If you’re down for some pre-holiday gloom, click play. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya.
STREAM: Birdy – Comforting Sounds (Mew Cover)
Can’t get enough of Ms. Lana Del Rey? Well, if you happen to live in the UK, Christmas might just come early, as the self-proclaimed “gangster Nancy Sinatra” has released brand new album track “Off To The Races” as the iTunes Free Single Of The Week. And if you don’t, no worries, I’ve got it right here for your sampling. The heavily hip-hop-influenced song is possibly her most bonkers so far, or as I’d like to call it, her own “Gwen Stefani moment”. Hate her or love her, she can make buzz like no other. The album really can’t come soon enough.
STREAM: Lana Del Rey – Off To The Races
And just in case you haven’t watched the epic video for her marvelous new single “Born To Die” yet…
So it’s that jolly time of the year when new original festive songs are in demand again. Up-and-coming Swedish duo Serenades has stepped up to the challenge by releasing a holiday-themed song as their first single. However, “Come Home” is not so much about Christmas itself, but rather a lament about the non-festivity of a one-man holiday. And they sugarcoat the depressing sentiment with lovely sun-kissed melodies that Swedes can seemingly do in their sleep. Serenades’ music falls in the same subgenre of chill, tropical, Instagrammed ’80s pop that The Tough Alliance and Gypsy & The Cat also frequent. While their sound’s not entirely original, it’s done beautifully, and there’s enough room for another band in that niche. Curiously, they are signed to Cherrytree Records, Lady Gaga’s label, so undoubtedly we’ll be hearing a lot more from them in 2012. Watch/stream “Come Home” right below.
STREAM: Serenades – Come Home
A 4-track EP is out now, including a remix by Bjorn Yttling of Peter, Bjorn and John.
As if the new Little Boots single “Shake” doesn’t sound like Saint Etienne enough, Crazy P has given it another reswizzle that totally reinforces that impression, albeit of their more organic side. If the original aims for the dancefloor, then this mix is for the ride back home, when you heart’s already been broken, but you carry on shaking anyway. Check it out.
I quite enjoy “Shake” in its full length, by the by. It’s no “Stuck On Repeat”, but it’s fairly enjoyable in its bubbly ’90s-house-lite way, with some catchy la-la’s to boot. And it’s not often that a pop single is out for purchase here at the same time as the UK, so props to Victoria for letting it happen.
STREAM: Little Boots – Shake
It’s been quite a busy year for French songstress Émilie Simon. Back in April, the now New-York-based chanteuse finally dropped her most recent album “The Big Machine” in the US after nearly two years of its original release. The album saw her leaving behind trip-hop soundscapes to explore ’80s electro-pop, and spawned two fantastic singles/visuals, namely “Dreamland” and “Rainbow”.
The project goes on as she just released a new US EP, “The Cycle”, featuring the album cut & new remixes. The remix by Midnight Sun (Midnight Magic, Jessica 6, Hercules & Love Affair) is quite something special. They transform the song into a throbbing ’80s disco affair. I rarely say this but I actually prefer it to the original! Download it for free, along with her own remix of “Rainbow”, and her cover of Bronski Beat’s “Smalltown Boy” below.
But wait! A brand new album is on its way very soon. Entitled “Franky Knight”, it’s the soundtrack to the new Audrey Tautou vehicle “La Delicatesse” (Delicacy). It’s not the first time Émilie does the soundtrack for film either, having scored the March of the Penguins documentary back in 2005. This time, she’s back to singing French on lead single “Mon Chevalier” (My Knight), which is dedicated to her fiance who passed away in September 2009 after catching the H1N1 flu :(. You can watch its music video right below.
The Good Natured have been on the verge of breaking through for quite some time now, and this week, they are back with not just one, but TWO brand new tunes. After premiering the video their collaboration with Swedish DJ Adrian Lux “Alive” a couple days, the previously Popforwarded band has now unleashed what’s possibly the best thing they’ve put their name to. I assure you that I’m not just tossing out hyperbole when I say that their new single “Video Voyeur” is INSANELY BRILLIANT.
Produced by Patrik Berger (Robyn, Tove Styrke, Those Dancing Days), it is pop at its finest. An adrenaline rush in song form, it embodies a tapestry of vocals and hooks after hooks, and then suddenly breathes out at the middle eight for a cascade of Kraftwerk-ian synths before one last big chorus. Clocking in just 3 minutes and 19 seconds, it is an slightly exhausting but thrilling listen. It’s maximalist pop with an unconventional structure, done properly with sharp energy. I simply can’t get enough of it.
The band has now skillfully carved a trademark sound: dark and intense electro goth pop, with a modern spin on ’80s influences instead of just plain mimicry. Watch the fairly straightforward peformance video below, and see if you agree with me.
To make it even better, the band is giving the track away as a free download! Amazing.
And here is their dance collab with Adrian Lux, “Alive”. Sarah McIntosh’s voice certainly gives some bite to what might be just another generic rave-pop tune without her.
STREAM: Adrian Lux ft. The Good Natured – Alive
2012 shall be an exciting year for The Good Natured. Watch them closely.
Spector have enlisted fellow Britrockers The Big Pink to remix their new single “Grey Shirt & Tie”, and the result is both swirling, swooshy and quite anthemic, recalling those rock/electronica collabs that The Chemical Brothers loved to churn out back in the day. I know remixes are so disposable these days, but this one brought a smile to my face. Good work, chaps.
Charlotte Gainsbourg‘s set to release “Stage Whisper”, a double-album collection of live and previously unreleased tracks on December 13. You might have heard preceding single “Memoir”, and her terrific stab at electro-pop “Terrible Angels”. The latest track to surface, “Out Of Touch”, however, is no grand departure for the French singer/actress. Bridging between her past works with Air and Beck, it’s a breezy, dreamy, elegantly-arranged number that she so effortlessly carries. But of course, that’s to be expected when you’re legit music royalty. I can’t help but get drawn to everything she does.
STREAM: Charlotte Gainsbourg – Out Of Touch
And if you haven’t already, make sure to watch the video for “Terrible Angels”, in which Charlotte turned into the coolest unlikely pop star, bursting some killer moves in a grim parking garage.