Musical Purchases that Sum Up My Complex Nature

Last week I bought two albums:

and

Adele’s album, her debut, is stylistically lumped in with the British Neo-soul movement (Amy Winehouse, Duffy, some Lily Allen, etc) but is distinct from her peers in several ways. While Allen’s singing comes with a sneer, Winehouse’s with the threat of self-destruction, and Duffy’s with vague sense of camp, Adele is pure heartbreak. Her voice, both husky and reed-thin, frequently perches itself on the edge of cracking or rasping itself out as she sings about being given the cold shoulder by a potential lover or finally understanding that the boy she likes is never going to like her no matter what she tells herself. Her singing is as gorgeous when hushed as it is when she soars into her upper register.

You’ll remember Blake Lewis as the ADD-ridden spaz who came runner-up to Arizona’s own Jordin Sparks last year on American Idol. Or you’ll remember him as the beat-box guy, one of the two. Anyway, even though I think Blake is very dreamy (which can sometimes be criteria enough for me to purchase an album, Duncan Sheik), I was holding out on participating in his music career. But then I put this remix of “How Many Words” on my workout mix and really liked it, then decided to bite the bullet and get the whole album. Although his producers are trying really hard to forge him in the Timberlake mold, Blake’s album is really fun. He ends up coming off like the guy trying to be like the coolest kid in school and ending up being, at minimum, entertaining to those who watch. The beats are neat, his singing is pretty good, and while the lyrics are often, you know, unsurprising, they do rhyme.

That is your pop music update for the week of July 23.

From the Screen to your iPod

I love a good cover. I love a good cover often more than the original song. I think revisionist perspectives on existing art, when done smartly and with reverence, are brilliant. And today, I received a kind of gift from the universe.

Today marks the drop date for New Found Glory’s new album of covers, From the Screen to your Stereo, the follow up release to a similarly-titled EP. The covers here are all notable hits from movies and TV shows, like Sixpence None the Richer’s “Kiss Me,” the Cardigans’ “Lovefool,” Madonna’s “Crazy for You” (name that film!), even an instrumental version of the theme song from Amélie (that’s balls for you). Since I like my music and my boys a little punky (punk lite, really—naughty-looking but nice enough for mom to approve), New Found Glory’s takes on these songs is perfect for driving to work, dancing around the house while I clean, etc.

Highlights include Lisa Loeb’s surprise duet appearance on “Stay I Missed You” (Reality Bites), the mostly-straightforward cover of Tears For Fears’ “Head Over Heels” (Donnie Darko), the fun retake on When In Rome’s “The Promise” (Napoleon Dynamite), and the now-snarling “Hungry Eyes” (Dirty Dancing).

Hilary Duff: A Treatise

I’m going to admit something that probably won’t shock you if you read this blog often enough.

I’ve been listening to Hilary Duff. A lot.

Her new album, Dignity, comes in the wake of her break-up with Good Charlotte frontman Joel Madden. They were always sort an odd pairing from the beginning, in my opinion: squeaky-clean Hilary and tatooed punk-rapper Joel? I’m not seeing it. But according to Seventeen magazine, they were very cute and very in love.

Not anymore. The first song on the album, the sitar-influenced “Stranger,” claims: “Nobody believes me when I tell them that you’re out of your mind / Nobody believes me when I tell them you’ve got so much to hide.” Duff goes on to explain that she knew the relationship was over when the way he looked at her changed. From Duff’s view, the subject of the song was affectionate and caring in public, but distant and reluctant in private. “I can see what’s going on this time / There’s a stranger in my life.”

The first few tracks on the album are great. After “Stranger,” we get the title track, which is a big-fat diss to Joel’s new gf (who’s got the preggers?!) Nicole Richie. After insisting that all this girl can do is pay for things, Duff complains, “You’d show up to the opening of an envelope / Why does everybody care about where you go?” before launching into this paparazzi-laden indictment:

It’s not news when you get him in bed
It’s not news when somebody slaps you
It’s not news when you’re looking your best
C’mon…give it a rest

Duff goes on to describe how she’s ready to hear the hard things (as long as they’re spoken “With Love”) and, moving on, she asks a poetential suitor: “Were you born in ’74? / Are you the kind of guy that I should ignore?” because he’s “Danger”ous. I’m just glad I was born after ’74, or I might be offended by this.

The rest of the album is mixed….some really lame tracks (like the misstep “Gypsy Woman”—when Hilary says “she can swallow knives,” are we to take this as a veiled fellatio reference?), but it ends on a high note.

I used to hate Hilary Duff, although once I accidentially watched an episode of Lizzie McGuire and I kind of liked it. I like Dark Hilary better than Light Hilary. And although her lyrics are still somewhat insipid, her music has a more mature sound to it that is fun to dance to (in the bar or in the shower) and even more fun to sing in the car.

So if you see me tooling around Phoenix in my little Scion and my lips are moving, don’t worry. I’m not crazy. I’m not talking to myself. I’m singing along with Hilary.

(For more insight into this break-up, see also my posts on Good Charlotte’s break-up album Good Morning Revival

Tori Amos: A Return to Form

I downloaded Tori’s new album last week and got a few opportunities to listen to the first half. So far, I really like it. It does seem a bit like both a return to form and an evoluation. I wasn’t a huge fan of The Beekeeper—I thought it sounded like outtakes from Scarlet’s Walk (which I loved).

The songs have a little bit more of an edge, and I’m pleased to report there is even a snarling electric guitar in the mix. Tori’s creating characters again—five women of various backgrounds and interests—and letting them sing about their lives. It’s an interesting conceit and does work toward creating a more cohesive album.

In celebration, a rundown (in descending order) of my favorite Tori albums:

1. Under the Pink
2. Little Earthquakes
3. Scarlet’s Walk*
4. From the Choirgirl Hotel
5. Boys for Pele*
6. To Venus and Back
7. The Beekeeper

*indicates that I saw her on this tour. I event bought the pig-suckling t-shirt at the Boys for Pele show.

And as a bonus, three of my favorite b-sides:

“Honey”
“Angie”
“Sugar”

Good Grief, Charlotte Brown!

This week the new Good Charlotte album dropped and even after just 24 hours I can say I am totally in love with it.

Good Morning Revival is a bit of a departure from their first two albums, The Young and the Hopeless and The Chronicles of Life and Death. Their previous efforts have been pop-punk anthems chock full of misanthropic lyrics, lots of thick eyeliner, and snarling guitars.

The snarling guitars are back (and good thing), but now they’re joined by driving dance-rock beats and—yes—synths and electronica. The resulting fusion is something wonderful. My favorite song—I listened to it three times on the way to work today—is “Victims of Love.” I love rock songs that make you want to get up and dance, and this album is full of them, but Good Charlotte haven’t “sacrificed” too much of what made their old albums good too. The lyrics now are deeper, have more complexity (although that’s not much of a stretch, really), and the melodies are, well, more melodic.

Other great tracks include “Misery,” “The River” (which is sort of about finding a new start), “Dance Floor Anthem” (yes, it’s true), “All Black,” and “Break Apart Her Heart.”

The lead singer used to date Hillary Duff, so you have to wonder how many of these songs are about her. Or about finding solace in Nicole Richie’s…arms.

I used to be ashamed about my love for Good Charlotte, seeing as I’m not currently a fourteen-year-old girl, overly emo, or goth. But I’m coming out. I love them! This album is so good it’s even going on my workout mix.

One Last List Because AWP’s Right Around the Corner

Albums I’ve purchased this year:

+44, When Your Heart Stops Beating
They kind of remind me of Sugar and Foo Fighters playing together, but I like it. It has a fresh, 90s-alterna feel to it.

Ok Go, Oh No
I was a little late to the train, but I’ve sorted it out now and I really like this band.

Avril Lavigne, Under My Skin
I’m done fighting this. I love Avril Lavigne. Do you hear me? I LOVE HER. I’m gonna tell the world. I listened to the album for two weeks straight. It’s well done.

Matchbox Twenty, More Than You Think You Are
Another belated purchase; I really like Rob Thomas’s songwriting and lyrics, and this is a good album.

Wham!, Make It Big
Is this title something George Michael is fond of uttering in men’s rooms? Whatever the case, it was a nostalgia purchase. I used to roller skate to this album in my basement. It was like Xanadu, but no ONJ.

The Blow, Paper Television
A gift from my friend Kevin, this is an interesting, quiet little album of softcore alternative electronica. Nice, different.

Matt Kearney, Nothing Left to Lose
What would happen if Coldplay picked up Duncan Sheik’s guitar and started doing a little spoken word? The answer: this.

Gnarls Barkley, St. Elsewhere
A strange album with a wide range, I really enjoy the way they inject R&B and soul into their songs. Great cover of the Femmes’s “Gone Daddy Gone.”

Dannii Minogue, Neon Nights
If it’s not clear by now, I’m gay.

Lilly Allen, Alright, Still
Oops, and I just got a little gayer. Allen mixes reggae, ska hooks, P!nk’s brand of lyrics with Shirley Manson’s anger into a pop confection you don’t mind so much when she stretches to rhyme “al fresco” with “Tesco.” Cute accent, too.

Stefy, The Orange Album
Yes, delicious. Sweet and tangy, with a thick rind of guitar and…oh, where is this metaphor going?

Young Love, Too Young to Fight It
LOVE. Reminds me of Panic! At the Disco with a heavier focus on electronic beats than guitar.

Erasure, On the Road to Nashville: (Live in Nashville)
How am I so blessed but to have TWO acoustic albums by Erasure? This one torques up the country and provides revisions of some of their older favorites like “Stop!,” “Chains of Love,” and “A Little Respect.” A must-hear.

Evanescence, The Open Door
I tried to resist, but I love Amy Lee’s voice, and sometimes I get angry too. And sad. And my dark angry sadness needs a little company. I haven’t heard it yet because I just bought it today, but it will probably keep me company in the dark angry sadness that is AWP.