What music are we listening to at Polari HQ this week?
In the years I was growing up, the Neil Sedaka collection Laughter & Tears was one of life’s main soundtracks. From the upbeat, life-affirming ‘Standing on the Inside’, to the plea for understanding, ‘The Other Side of Me’, the songs really speak about the emotional complexities of life. In this latest record, which is released next month, Sedaka sings stripped down versions of his own songs – some new, some classic – with just his voice and the piano. Incredibly, it marks the 55th anniversary of his first record. He still has the magic, and it’s a wonderful record to relax into, to feel, and then journey through its emotional landscape. Sedaka is a real entertainer, a classic entertainer, and that’s what makes this album such a joy. I get a chill every time he sings ‘Laughter in the Rain’. I definitely want to be at the Albert Hall next month to watch him perform live.
Little Bastard – Controversy – Natalia Kills
Developed by Cherrytree Records – who developed Lady Gaga and produced much of The Fame – British born Natalia Kills released her album of Goth Dominatrix Chart Pop The Perfectionist in 2011 and, well, nothing much really happened. In the shadow of Gagamania, with a very similar production sound, her genius got lost. So I knew I was in for a treat when the video for ‘Controversy’ was posted onto YouTube on Thursday. Looking like a cross between Betty Paige and Miss Kittin and sounding like Peaches repeatedly punching Lady Gaga (which, lets face it, most of us would love to see), ‘Controversy’ is a million miles away from American pop as you can get. Lo-fi beats and noises, with Kills rapping about controversial issues that effect our society and our reality, with a bridge of “drink the kool-aid, don’t drink the kool-aid”, it’s been firmly stuck in my head for the past 24 hours, and I don’t see it leaving anytime soon. Too bad the album Trouble isn’t scheduled for release until next year – right now, thank god it’s so easy to refresh YouTube. Now repeat after me…”drink the kool-aid, don’t drink the kool-aid….”
Bryon Fear – Highwire Poetry – Karin Park
Sometimes you just can’t change the channel. I’ve been a bit like that this week. On Monday, I saw Karin Park live at Hoxton Bar & Kitchen, a small back-bar venue, and as was the case at her album launch, she totally blew me away. Like a Swedish Natalie Imbruglia, Karin was a huge star in Norway before she changed her musical direction on her third album Ashes to Gold moving away from the perfect pop to a slightly grubbier harder sound. Ashes to Gold was the chrysalis that preceded the glorious Highwire Poetry, which would emerge 3 years later. It is without a doubt one of the albums of the year with its alchemic perfection of beat driven pop with memorable melodies and arresting lyrics … and to see such an extraordinary performer in a venue so intimate is a real (and rare) treat.
Andrew Darley – Simulation – Róisín Murphy
Since her 2007 disco-romp Overpowered, Róisín Murphy has performed solo DJ sets, given birth to her first child and collaborated with a number of musicians on a string of self-released singles & album features. Simulation is the latest fruit of her labour. Teaming up with the electronic duo Sweet Exorcist, this single marks a change and growth from her previous albums as she coos and moans about her wildest dreams and erotic fantasies over hypnotic deep house. Clocking in at just under 12 minutes, it sounds as though her own DJ experience and working with others has certainly paid off as this is one of her most coolly confident and sensual of her songs to date. Just don’t be surprised if you feel a little hot under the collar when those 12 minutes are up!
Nick Smith – Devotion – Jessie Ware
Released towards the end of Summer this year, Jessie Ware has managed to channel the best of British R&B, pop, soul and electronica on her slick and distinctive album. Precursed by the wonderful ‘Wildest Moments’ evoking Alicia Keys at her most majestic, Devotion has just garnered a Mercury Music prize nomination for its eclectic mix of hard-hitting drums, sultry vocals and smoking ballads.This impressive and sophisticated debut pitches Ware as Sade walking a little on the wild-side with Neneh Cherry with an effortlessly, fresh and exuberant collection of tracks. Highlights are the wonderfully sinister ballad ‘Night Light’, the downtempo funk of ‘Sweet Talk’ and ‘Taking In Water’ where Ware pours out her heart with a powerful vocal. Simply irresistible.