Category: Pop Music

Guaranteed that if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past month or so, that you would have come across a couple of posts on the Los Angeles-based duo Pom Poms. Comprised of singer/songwriter Marlene and Grammy-nominated producer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Billy Mohler, who is probably best known for his work with AwolnationLiz PhairKelly Clarkson, and Macy Gray, the duo have been thrust into the national spotlight for a sound that owes a debt from classic garage rock and pop such as Connie FrancisPasty ClineRoy OrbisonJohnny Cash, the girl groups of the early 60s and others —  but with a subtly modern (and anachronistic) twist that makes the sound seem as though it could have been part of a a Quentin Tarantino film.

The duo’s debut single “Betty” first gained the attention across the blogosphere for a subtly scuzzy, lo-fi-like garage-based guitar rock sound that would make you think of the aforementioned Roy Robison and Buddy Holly the song possesses a similar urgent and swooning Romanticism. The heartache expressed by Marlene’s aching vocals is a heartache that we all have known at some point — being desperately in love with a fickle and thoughtless lover, who you know will inevitably break your heart. Following up on the buzz from “Betty,” the duo released a hushed and spectral alternate version of Betty that featured Marlene’s vocals paired with a sparse arrangement that includes a subtly Bossa Nova guitar line. Sonically, the alternate version channels Patsy Cline — in par — in particular, “Crazy” and “Walkin After Midnight.” And as a result, the alternate version aches with a similar desperate loneliness and longing.

Pom Poms latest single “123,” is a swinging and swaggering 60s-inspired soul song in which the song’s narrator describes playing a cat-and-mouse game with a potential suitor, who the song’s narrator sets upon having as hers and hers only. And as a result, Marlene’s sultry and soulful vocals possesses a come hither and stop wasting my damn time quality. Sonically, the song pairs Marlene’s vocals with period specific staccato bursts of organ,  propulsive rhythms and some funky guitar chords; thematically (and to my ears), I’m reminded of several songs including Amy Winehouse‘s “Rehab,” and Nancy Sinatra‘s “These Boots Are Made For Walking,” as the song possesses a similar brassy confidence.

 

 

Adelaide, Australia-born and Palm Springs, CA-based singer/songwriter Sia has had quite a career, as she can trace her career’s origins to when she was the vocalist in Adelaide-based acid jazz act Crisp in the mid 1990s. After the band’s breakup in 1997, Sia released her debut effort, OnlySee through Flavoured Records and relocated to London, where she provided vocals for British duo Zero 7.

After the release of Healing Is Difficult, an album inspired and informed by the death of her-then boyfriend Dan Pontifex and Colour the Small One, the Australian-born singer/songwriter, who was deeply displeased with the fact that her work was struggling to connect with a mainstream audience, relocated to NYC and began touring the US. During a two year break in which she “retired” as a pop performer and focused on being a pop songwriter, Sia developed a reputation as go-to co-songwriter and songwriter as she’s credited with writing or co-writing songs for and by an incredibly diverse and impressive list of mega-hit artists. A short list of her writing credits include Ne-Yo‘s “Let Me Love You (Until You Learn to Love Yourself),Rihanna‘s “Diamonds,” Kylie Minogue‘s “Sexercize,”  Beyonce‘s “Standing On The Sun,” Katy Perry‘s “Double Rainbow,” Britney Spears‘ “Perfume,” Beyonce’s “Pretty Hurts,” Christina Aguilera‘s “You Lost Me,” Lea Michele‘s “Cannonball,” Pitbull, Jennifer Lopez and Claudia Leitte‘s “We Are One (Ole Ola),” and countless others. (This shouldn’t be terribly surprising as Sia’s sound and aesthetic draws from hip-hop, funk, soul and pop while managing to sound unlike any of her contemporaries.)

Interestingly, Sia’s first taste of international stardom came in a rather unexpected fashion. She initially wrote “Titanium,” for Alicia Keys but the song wound up being sent to EDM superstar David Guetta, who included Sia’s demo vocals on the song and released it as single in 2011. The song was a massive commercial success as it peaked on the top of record charts across the US, Australia and Europe. But it was “Chandelier,” the breakout hit off her sixth, full-length effort, 1000 Forms of Fear was a commercial and critical success. The single was nominated for four Grammys last year — Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Pop Solo Performance and Best Music Video; and she nabbed several ARIA Awards and MTV Music Awards, which established the Australian-born singer/songwriter as an internationally-recognized star, in the same lines of the artists she had written for during her “retirement.”

Sia’s seventh, full-length album This Is Acting is slated for a January 29, 2016 release, and in an interview with NME, she has mentioned that the forthcoming album is much more pop-orientated than its predecessor. And interestingly enough, the album’s third and latest single “Alive” was co-written by Adele and was intended to be on Adele’s latest album 25. When you hear the song, you can actually hear Adele’s influence on the song — the piano-led introduction and the song’s soaringly anthemic hooks; however, as gorgeous as Adele’s voice is, the song just feels and sounds as though it just had to be Sia’s. Not to say that Adele hasn’t had profound experiences at a young age but lyrically, the song conveys a sense of wisdom, pride and triumph over life’s fucked up circumstances — deprivation (financial and emotional), heartache, despair, loneliness and worse. And when you hear Sia’s voice crack ever so slightly when she sings  “I’m still breathing/I’m still breathing/I’m alive,” during the song’s anthemic hook, it feels like a punch right in the ribs or in the solar plexus. Of course similarly to Gloria Gaynor‘s “I Will Survive,” the song possess an infectious “you can and will get through anything/you go-girl” optimism. It’s honestly the sort of song that the women of your life will lustily yell along to while driving to or from the club.

Recently Sia announced a remix package of “Alive” that features remixes and reworks from Maya Jane Coles, AFSHeeN, Boehm, Cahill and fellow Australian, Plastic Plates. In a recent interview with The Fader, the Australian producer was asked how the “Alive” remix came about, and as he explained to the publication, “Sia and I first met in Sydney 2001. Sam Dixon and I shared an apartment in Bondi and Sia crashed at our place. Until 2010, I played drums on Sia’s albums and toured around the world in her band. This is my 3rd remix for Sia, “Cloud” in 2010, “Chandelier” in 2014 and now “Alive.”Given our musical history, reinterpreting Sia’s vocals is effortless and pure joy for me.”

Plastic Plates’ rework turns the torch burning pop song into a slickly produced synth-based club-banger  as his production includes stuttering drum programming, cascading synths, wobbling and tumbling low-end, sirens and other assorted bleeps and bloops while retaining the song’s anthemic hooks and Sia’s achingly heartfelt vocals.

 

 

 

Up and coming, New Jersey-born pop artist Donna Missal first captured the attention of listeners and the blogosphere with her sultry and bluesy debut single “Keep Lying,” which paired Missal’s soulful, pop belter vocals with buzzing power chords, a propulsive rhythm section and anthemic hooks. Lyrically, the song’s narrator pleads with an unfaithful and deceitful lover to keep the facade of faithfulness so not to ruin her long-held fantasy. Is it cynical? Absolutely. But it evokes a deeply dysfunctional relationship — the sort where lies are just as useful and good as honesty. Somehow, I’ve been there once or twice before . . .

Building upon the buzz that “Keep Lying” has received Massal recorded a sultry and bluesy cover of Drake‘s massive hit “Hotline Bling” that turns up the vulnerable and sensual need of the original, essentially taking Drake’s hit song and confidently making it her own.

 

Check out how Donna Missal’s cover compares to the original.

Live Concert Photography: Blue Note Jazz Festival at Summerstage, Rumsey Playfield: Meshell Ndegeocello with Gabriel Gabon-Montano and Roy Hargrove 6/6/15

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