Dan Black is a British wonky pop artists most known for being the skinny white dude behind “HYPNTZ” a cover of Notorious B.I.G’s “Hypnotize” mashed up with Rihanna’s “Umbrella”. But he was originally a member of the alternative band Servant before they went splitsville in 2008 and has lent his vocals to Italian group Planet Funk as well. His most recent release “Symphonies” like “HYPNTZ” borrows the intro drum sequence from Rhianna’s Umbrella, but switches up the Biggie lyrics with some of his own. At first listen, “Symphonies”, like “HYPNTZ” sounds pretty white bread, but give it a second listen and it sort of becomes a guilty pop pleasure. Also, a great video if you have a font fetish. For more Dan Black, visit his MySpace page or his official website. Symphonies is released on the 29th June and the album ((un)) follows on 6th July. He has also been added to the Julian Casablancas bill.
Good news for Strokes fans. After 4 years since the band released their last album First Impressions of Earth, they are all back in the studio in New York with producer Joe Chiccarelli recording their fourth studio album which is planned for release sometimes this September 2010. In an interview in Rolling Stone magazine, Julian Casablancas said that the band has resisted jamming on old tunes; instead they’re forging ahead. “Some of the new stuff has a Seventies vibe, like Thin Lizzy or Elvis Costello, but then some of it is bizarre music from the future that we’re trying to tone down to sound catchy. So we’re trapped between the future and the Seventies.” Last week, the band unveiled their new logo (pictured above) and have at least four headline shows planned for this summer, as early as June. Unfortunately no news of whether they will be playing any festivals on this side of the pond.
JUNE 12 – Isle of Wight Festival – Isle of Wight, UK
JUNE 13 – Rockness Festival – Inverness, SCOTLAND
JUNE 18 – Hurricane Festival – Scheessel GERMANY
JUNE 20 – Southside Festival – Neuhausen ob Eck, GERMANY
You can check out the bands studio sessions from January in a small video series put out by Wiz Kid.
Julian Casablancas video for the bizzaro Strokes tune “11th Dimension” makes you wonder why the Strokes haven’t put out anything this catchy in a while. Heavy on synth and electo, JC travels through space and time in a quasi post apocalyptic 80’s world full of stormy pagodas, black and white tricorns, MJ Bad style street gangs and an 80’s club scene complete with keytar and robot dance moves where he graffiti’s ” Anger is weakness. Patience is strength” in neon. Catchy song. Sweet video. Check it all out, and the making of the video below:
Julian Casablancas : Phrazes for the Young
Release Date: November 3, 2009
OK, before we get to the crux of this review, i.e. the Christmas song, let’s knock out the rest of the record. Phrazes of the Young, Julian Casablancas’ first solo record is an album that will satisfy Strokes lovers & at least give the haters something to talk about (Point #1 of that argument: Best Strokes Solo Record of All Time, So Far?). Casablancas backs away from the fuzzed out Shure 55 microphone & really gives an expressive performance for a lead singer with a whopping 1 octave vocal range. The songs are all uniformly good, with the Phoenix-esque “Left & Right in the Dark” and the (obviously) Strokes channeling on album single “Out of the Blue.” Striking a even balance between jangly guitars, 80’s keyboards and the requisite girl being scorned or lamented about, Phrazes is perfect for the Christmas party dance mix. Even the legitimate hipster’s nostalgia of “Ludlow St.,” mourning the forever gone scene from NYC’s Lower East Side, strikes a real chord for any city dweller who remembers a time when the positively horrid and positively lovely dank dwellings of the epicenter of Manhattan’s night life weren’t wholly populated by hedge funders & their dates. The only obvious flaw in the album is one that is common in the solo album, and that is the lack of an editorial voice. Take any Beatles record, Paul has to reign in his natural jazz hand-iness to appease the greater good, but any Wings record is overwhelmingly populated by such shenanigans. The same is true for Casablancas. Where many of these songs could have a snappy in-n-out, they drag on almost uniformly to an even 5 + minutes, and the 12 bar blues of “4 Chords of the Apocalypse” just keeps going, verse and verse and verse. Even John Lee Hooker, godfather of the blues, knew when to reign in “1 Bourbon, 1 Scotch, 1 Beer,” but most of the songs on Phrazes for the Young don’t know when to get out while the getting is good. That said, the songs are nearly uniformly good, with album standout “River of Brakelights” being maybe better than any song you’d expect to be on the new Strokes record. Its weird, dissonant bass guitar lead and hyper drumming back up the harmonized drone of Casablancas’ vocal make for hyper competent songwriting, and it’s a sure repeat player. So, recap, songs 1-10? Solid. Song 11? Part of a much bigger discussion: The Christmas Song.
Julian Casablancas’ entry into the almost wholly underwhelming genre of Christmas/holiday music, a cover of a song from a SNL sketch and originally written by Horatio Sanz & Jimmy Fallon is what you’d expect it to be, that being rank and file. By my count there is no standout holiday song, only ones that we tolerate. The Reason For The Season is certainly not musical, though the holiday season is flooded with music, both traditional shit and non-traditional novelty shit. Notice the common thread there? Casablancas’ cover song as entree into the holiday music library is fine, no standout, no stinker, but does it make it into the echelon of tolerable/slightly good Christmas/holiday songs? In this season of giving, receiving, drinking, and list making, let’s see if it makes the list. With that, let’s see what the top 10 most tolerable X-Mas tunes are, in no certain order:
1. Magnetic Fields – Mr. Mistletoe
2. Waitresses – Christmas Wrapping
3. Twister Sister – I’ll Be Home for Christmas
4. Band Aid – Do They Know Its Christmas?
5. James Brown – Christmas in Heaven
6. David Bowie & Bing Crosby – Little Drummer Boy
7. Willie Nelson – Pretty Paper
8. RUN DMC – Christmas in Hollis
9. The Kinks – Father Christmas
10. Peanuts Gang – Christmastime is Here
Sad is the list that has to legitimately factor in “Oi To The World” by No Doubt and “Christmas at Ground Zero” by “Weird” Al Yankovic (not to mention “Same Old Lang Syne” and one million other horrible songs that made it through the 70’s). Surely “I Wish It Was Christmas Today,” Julian Casablancas’ entry into this genre, makes the top 50, but is that necessarily noteworthy? You tell me. Who has a better song into the top 10? Let me know & I’ll update the list with any notable entries. Happy Holidays, and enjoy Casablancas rocking out “I Wish It Was Christmas Today” on Fallon last night.
The Danks are yet another Canadian indie band export that has jumped on our radar aye. Three Toronto bar vets who have been friends since 6th grade and are a boot playing power pop garage rock with a fun party vibe. Lots of hooks and fast drums with some Julian Casablanca’s drawl. Its a Canadian version of the Strokes but with more power pop harmonies. What makes it good is that its still indie and raw and hasnt been cleaned up by a major label yet. The new EP is “In Alright” and this is the first video for the album. A catchy track you might be humming later but not the best on the album. “Squealor” and “Little ’94” are much more interesting songs to check out. The Danks gear up for a month-long national tour with Two Hours Traffic and Hey Rosetta! this Fall.