Monday, September 01, 2014

Erasure's The Violet Flame artwork and buzz

When I first saw the regular edition artwork for Erasure's new album The Violet Flame, which is due out in a few weeks, I thought they'd finally jumped the shark for good in terms of cover art. But it's amazing what a change in color scheme can do … the black and gold motif of the limited edition box transforms the combination of skeleton and vintage English wallpaper into something rather stunning. I'm looking forward to one of those arriving in the mail with its exclusive disc of the entire album remixed and other goodies.

I was really excited to hear that the duo worked with producer Richard X on this one. Although first single "Elevation" is a rather subtle number that doesn't stir a great deal of excitement, my feeling is this album has got to be better than its predecessor, Tomorrow's World, which was a slight and disappointing effort after such a long wait from the release of Light at the End of the World.

Erasure is doing a Pledge Music campaign for The Violet Flame, but it's been disappointing in terms of extras, with little more than a download of the album art being offered to pledgers.

Seeing Elton for the second time (Tupelo concert, March 19, 2014)

[Five months later, I've managed to finish my thoughts on seeing Elton John in concert again … ]

It was a weeknight and a work day, and I really wasn't feeling up for it. We arrived to the packed venue later than we should have and eased into our seats barely 15 minutes before Elton John took the stage. What followed was an Elton '70s fest, as you'd expect with this tour focusing on the anniversary of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Although the '70s is not my forte, I was surprised by how many of the songs I couldn't identify. I was born in the '70s but grew up in the '80s, so I'm drawn more to Elton's later body of work, which barely gets a tip of the hat in the legend's current tour. I'd rather hear "I Don't Wanna Go on With You Like That" or "This Train Don't Stop There Anymore" than "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters" — so sue me. The highlight for me was his defiant early '80s anthem "I'm Still Standing." The only thing that would have been better would have been Elton breaking out "Too Low for Zero" with an extended keyboard solo in that wonderfully synthy bridge.

The songs:

Funeral for a Friend / Love Lies Bleeding // Had no idea what this was, but the lengthy instrumental bit made for a nice moody opening.

Bennie and the Jets

Candle in the Wind // You’d think Elton and piano alone on this one, but the band joined in.

Grey Seal

Levon // My first real exposure to this song was when Bon Jovi massacred it on the 1991 Two Rooms tribute, and thus I can’t muster much enthusiasm for it.

Tiny Dancer

Holiday Inn // John talked about this one being inspired by touring small towns that all looked rather the same.

Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters

Believe // One of only two nods to the 90s. Certainly a better choice than those Lion King songs.

Philadelphia Freedom

Roy Rogers

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road // Inspired me to put this song in my current playlist, cause this boy's too young to sing the bluuuuuuuueeeees.

Rocket Man

Hey Ahab

I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues // Without the harmonica, sadly, but glad it made the set.

The One // This was the single instance when the band left the stage, putting the focus solely on John and the piano.

Someone Saved My Life Tonight

Sad Songs (Say So Much) // An 80s gem that perked me up.

All the Girls Love Alice

Home Again // The only nod to anything post-2000.

Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me // Yep, I learned this one via the George Michael duet.

I'm Still Standing

The Bitch Is Back

Your Sister Can't Twist (But She Can Rock 'n Roll)

Saturday Night's All Right for Fighting

ENCORES

Your Song

Crocodile Rock // What, no "Healing Hands"?

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Netflix is out to lunch

If, as a business such as Netflix, I did not provide Raiders of the Lost Ark on Blu-Ray, I would throw in the towel and write a letter of apology to customers.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Haunted by the late Garçon Garçon

There's not much music that matters to me anymore that is discovered via old-fashioned radio. A prime example of this is Garçon Garçon, perhaps my favorite artist of the last couple of years, who came to my attention via a blog post about a remix of their song "Stay in Touch." I'd have never heard of them otherwise. They released an EP of songs and later, in 2013, an incredible single, "Instant Attraction." They have a sound that's hard to quantify, but wiki comes reasonably close with "a nostalgic blend of modern electropop with an inherent 80s teen spirit." But there's more than that; many of the tracks have a haunting quality juxtaposed with incredibly sharp pop hooks.

So, it put a dagger through my heart when the duo announced their split via social media. Especially after such a stellar new release.

This is how their tracks stacked up for me in total plays, per last.fm:

Stay In Touch (Son of Vader Remix) // 32
Instant Attraction // 27
Save Our Souls (EP)  // 23
Maybe Tonight (EP) // 21 
Take Me Out (EP) // 21
Hollywood Song (Sveta & Tokoloshe Midas Touch Remix)  // 21                                                 

It's a new Pseudo Echo album called Ultraviolet


A treat has surfaced in the form of a new Pseudo Echo album called Ultraviolet. Many '80s fans know that Pseudo Echo amounted to much more than a clever cover of the disco hit "Funky Town" … their 1984 album Autumnal Park is a masterwork of synthpop.

Over the past year or so, a couple of new tracks appeared on iTunes: "Suddenly Silently" and "Fighting the Tide." Both are excellent, retaining the old sound and knack for melody; the latter, in particular, could have been released in '84. With new tracks coming to light, I had a feeling a new album might be in the offing, and here it is, their first proper album since Race (1989), which took an unfortunate turn toward hair metal territory.

For whatever reason, iTunes and Amazon MP3 have totally different sequences for the tracks on the new set; the first and last songs are reversed, among other differences. I have yet to digest it, and I just hope it captures some of the brilliance of Autumnal Park.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Something new in the air from Information Society

Ironically, just a day or two after deciding to dig through my hundreds of CDs for my copy of their 1992 album Peace and Love, Inc., I stumbled on a new Information Society single release, "Land of the Blind." It's out there on iTunes and Amazon along with remixes and a worthy extra track, "Me and My Rhythm Box." Fans should really get all tingly over the A-side, which is instantly catchy and heavily references their classic signature hit "What's on Your Mind (Pure Energy)." It really feels like turning back the clock.

As for Peace and Love, Inc., it certainly has its advocates, but I've never been able to get into it. I really want to like it, because I love their first two albums, but it feels mostly half-hearted from start to end. My favorite track is easily "Crybaby," which illustrates again how synth ballads showcased their knack for songcraft, as did "Repetition" and "Slipping Away."

Did the commercial letdown of previous album Hack take the wind out of their sails? Perhaps. But Hack is a real gem, an underrated platter loaded with polished, radio-ready hooks. I never tire of going back to songs like "Fire Tonight" (another scorching ballad), "Move Out" and "Come With Me."

Can't wait for the new album after hearing this new tune:


Monday, March 03, 2014

Me and Elton John in Tupelo

I've been to just a handful of concerts in my life, and one of them was Elton John. Some 17 years later, I'm set to see him again in the same venue in Tupelo. That show back in the '90s was stellar, a non-stop three-hour romp from a master. Now, I'm older, and more curious about the set list. Elton isn't trying to make pop albums anymore, so it will be interesting to see what, if anything, makes the cut from latter day albums like The Diving Board and The Captain & the Kid, where the focus is back-to-basics artistry. Back in the '90s, it was a huge thrill for me when he opened with "Simple Life," a modest hit that was and is one of my all-time favorites. 

I hope to be thrilled again.