Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Song Of The Day: "Even If I'm Loud It Doesn't Mean I'm Talking To You" by Tove Styrke

I've been on a real Scandipop rant these past few days, but it's just because the music is SO good. Sorry, not sorry. Anyway, we've got a bonkers one here. Meet Tove Styrke. Much like the other Tove, she is Swedish, makes out-of-left field music, and is pretty great at this whole popstar thing. Tove got her big break after appearing on the sixth season of Swedish Idol, and once again the best contestant (TOVE) lost in 3rd place. Anywho, she decided to become a proper popstar with her self-titled debut album in 2010 that introduced her as a pop ingenue that mixed the electronic synths of Robyn with the folky beats of Lykke Li. As an added note, her single "Call My Name" was one of the best songs of 2011.

After taking some time off music to do a little modelling (as the photo above demonstrates), Tove Styrke decided to bless us by returning to the pop industry with her new song, the incredibly titled "Even If I'm Loud It Doesn't Mean I'm Talking To You." EIILIDMITTY shows a new side to Tove as she basically spouts random nonsense together over the catchiest beat on the planet. It has been one of the biggest surprises of the summer and has never failed to get someone excited the first time they hear it. Hopefully, Styrke's new album is a collection of these weirdo catchy songs and we can all be mesmerized by the amazing transformation Tove has had.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Album Review: "Sorry I'm Late" by Cher Lloyd

As a popstar, you have to deal with a lot of shit. With all the gossip surrounding releases, credibility, and record label issues, popstars have a lot of stress in order to try and appease their fanbase. No one can attest to this problem better than X Factor alumni and world's best grunter Cher Lloyd

The just-turned 21 year old (Happy Birthday Cher!) has faced more than her fair share of criticism based on her supposedly "mediocre" performance on the Factor (the foolish public), her so-called "horrible" debut single "Swagger Jagger" (it's brilliant), and even her early marriage last year (do your thang honey!). And frankly all I can say is "BYE HATERS!" and it really wasn't nice to meet them. Cher is a certifiably amazing popstar and should be treated as such, especially since so many other "credible" acts haven't achieved nearly the same success. Her debut album had its hiccups, though "Want U Back" is legendary at this point, but everything about this girl is endearing and if you're part of #ChersBrats you would know that she truly cares about her fans.

Her devotion can be seen as she tried her hardest to release her sophomore album as soon as she could, despite multiple delays from Epic Records and Syco. The first taste of that album came in 2013 when her collaboration with T.I. "I Wish" became one of the best releases of the year. Cher was back with her infectious attitude but displayed a new level of relatability that kept you coming back for more. And really, who hasn't wanted to change themselves for a crush? Though the album was supposed to follow closely with that release, it annoyed Mrs. Lloyd to no end that it wasn't released until May of this year. I'm just imagining her putting all her frustration into a Want U Back grunt while touring with Demi Lovato.

Thankfully, the time spent away really paid off, as her appropriately-titled Sorry I'm Late is a really special record. You always expect an artist to grow up between albums but Cher has pretty much started a new life since her first album went international. This shift is reflected on about half of her sophomore record. The other half still shows the fun-loving young girl that made us fall in love with Cher Lloyd to begin with. Thank god someone gets how to move forward without completely changing their image to "please" taste makers. And the fans have ravenously enjoyed Cher's promotional releases leading up to the album release.

First off, her new mature sound can be attributed to her choice of working with some of the biggest names in pop right now. "Bind Your Love" among many other songs on the album was produced by Shellback and written with Rami Yacoub and Carl Falk, the masterminds behind most of Cher's previous competitors One Direction's biggest hits. The song blends all the spunk and charisma Cher is known for but also displays her wise outlook on life thanks to her new experiences. Songs like "Just Be Mine" and "Alone With Me" show that her lovestruck attitude continues to pervade her sound though it is nothing like the overt "come snog me fella" type writing that was on her first record. I guess marriage will do that to you.

However, nothing shows Cher's maturity than the ballads on the record. "Sweet Despair" and "Human" were written alongside expert singer-songwriters LP and Gossip's own Beth Ditto. While both songs do create a lull in the album's overall upbeat sound, they are stunning stories that depict Cher as looking wistfully back on love, proving that one can learn a lot despite being so young. Second single "Sirens" also portrays Lloyd as the romantic girl pleading her love to come back to her, if somewhat overdramatically. Written alongside Ask Embla's Ina Wroldsen (who wrote many songs for The Saturdays), Cher's voice has never sounded better and no one can deny the girl has what it takes to tackle any type of song, especially after that breathtaking "stays until the sirens' calling" bit in the chorus.

Nonetheless, the true highlights of the album come when we see Cher let loose her inner Brat. Promotional single "Dirty Love" was written with pop mastermind Max Martin's team and provides the fast-paced insanity that really is Lloyd's signature sound. Even though she craves "a bad boy," Cher makes her annoyance with nice boys sound like so much fun and that "when you put your clothes back on, something always feel so wrong" part is pure pop genius. Furthermore, Cher only went and wrote a song with Sweden's most promising talent TOVE LO! Paired with a Tove Lo signature howl, "Killin' It" is pretty much her best song since Want U Back and should really be released as a single.

The album is not as perfect as the wait time would lead you to expect. But that's part of its charm. The rough and tumble attitude that makes Cher Lloyd the amazing popstar that she is would have been lost if every song was a "Sirens." You need the "M.F.P.O.T.Y" (or MotherFucking Party Of The Year) and "Dirty Love" songs on the album otherwise it might be a snoozefest. But if there's one thing you can count on, it's that Cher Lloyd will keep everyone on their toes. Sorry I'm Late is one of the most pleasant surprises this year and hopefully Cher continue to be "Killin it, killin it, killin it" throughout 2014.

Best listened to: In front of your mirror with a hairbrush microphone
Standout Tracks: "Dirty Love" "Killin' It" "Alone With Me"

NSOTPop Rating: 8.2/10

Album Review: "Hello Memory" by Little Daylight

If you have a love for smart electropop with the stylings of an indie band, you will absolutely fall in love with Little Daylight's debut album: Hello Memory. The Brooklyn-born trio spent the better part of last year setting the blogosphere on fire with their odd mix of tribal-esque beats and cutting-edge electronic production through the occasional single and various remixes (this Niki & The Dove remix is stellar). Their Tunnel Vision EP was a perfect representation for the band as they set to establish themselves as a more organic version of CHVRCHES.

Their biggest hit to date "Overdose" was an in-your-face killer of a track and follow-up single "Glitter & Gold" continued their trend of sparky uptempo electropop. They're EP caught the eye of many music critics and even led to an opening spot on Charli XCX's American Tour in 2013 (she even remixed "Glitter & Gold"). With all the buzz behind the band, they took their time to deliver on their debut record, even though it is a pretty huge departure from the sound we all fell in love with.

Deciding to take a darker turn, Little Daylight's buzz single "Siren Call" shows the group creating a sinister atmosphere to match the harsh tones of their earthy beats. While not an unwelcome change, the album that followed this theme ended up being a rather bland affair. Though the album does include Overdose, there isn't much in terms of standout tracks as each song fails to capture the spirit of the energetic group. "Mona Lisa" and "Nothing To Lose" have some attractive qualities behind the production and "Runaround" is the closest we get to the bounciness of "Glitter & Gold" but overall, Hello Memory is an underwhelming record in terms of sound and lyrics.

I added the "Name In Lights" video because it is by far the group's best song and should have been the blueprint behind the new album. The slinky breeziness of this song captures the hope of a young band searching to have their name in lights. I stand by my opinion that many people will love this album especially if you were looking for a smart American version of CHVRCHES and NONONO. It just happens to be that I prefer Little Daylight's earlier stuff and they still have the potential to surprise me hopefully.

Best Listened To: On your way to SXSW
Standout Tracks: "Overdose" "Mona Lisa" "Runaround"

NSOTPop Rating: 5.5/10

Song Of The Day: "World Of Dreams (feat. Mary Jane Smith)" by Galavant

Here we have another stellar track from the frozen tundras of Scandinavia. Except this time, we've got an all out ravey, lasery, balls to the wall EDM banger. Swedish House Mafia may have broken up but that doesn't mean the country have run out of DJs ready to take over the world. Galavant appear to be a duo of dance producers that just went and recorded the best piece of dance music of the year. "World of Dreams" does a good job of coming in as ethereal and hypnotic thanks to the vocals of Mary Jane Smith, the singer out of another Swedish band Smith & Thell. But it really is all about that drop, which literally embodies every electrifying moment of Electric Daisy Carnival and other crazy dance festival. Get ready to play this song on repeat as we head into the coming week!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Album Review: "A Town Called Paradise" by Tiësto

Normally, there is one dance album a year that really gets you moving while also achieving success outside of the EDM Beatport world. Heavyweight DJs like David Guetta and Calvin Harris have taken that honor in years past based on their mixing of harder hitting EDM beats with pop hooks and vocals from prolific singers like Rihanna and Ellie Goulding. Often times, these type of dance albums veer too far towards the pop-centric side and lose the infectious qualities that makes dance music the right type of bonkers to keep Electric Daisy Carnival people coming.

So when 2014 rolled around, it seemed that another album of more pop than dance would take over the airwaves and charts. However, Tiësto decided to come in and take dance music back where it started. Having been on the trance and NRG dance scene for what seems like forever, Tiësto has showed his ability to take pop music and filter it into the dance community magically. His remixes of "Somebody That I Used To Know" and "I Love It" accurately display his expertise at doing so, which made the promise of a new album of original music extremely exciting. Thankfully, Tiësto delivered like the Dutch equivalent of Domino's!

Tiësto's newest album has been the best example of a real dance album since Kaskade's Fire & Ice album. Not really trance and not really pop, Paradise veers from the icy feel of Tiësto's last brilliant album Kaleidoscope by embracing warmer sounds thanks to an acoustic guitar and piano here and there amongst the pulsing synths. Opening track and first single "Red Lights" should not be considered an indication of what A Town Called Paradise sounds like. Unfortunately, Tiësto appears to have fallen into the acoustic-EDM trap that has been deemed "trendy" these days (I can't stand it to be honest). While Red Lights is his most popular single, it fails to live up to every other song on the album. 

Built for a night out at the dance festivals, tracks like "Footprints" and "Light Years Away" show exactly why Tiësto is arguably the most famous DJ in the world. The production value in each song shows how well the DJ understands how to create a dreamy yet danceable atmosphere. Softer songs like "Written In Reverse" and "Shimmer" would cater very well to the Armin Van Buuren trance lovers while instrumental collaborations like "Rocky" with Kaaze and "Can't Forget" with Dzeko & Torres make for great head banging anthems. Lyrically, the album tells various stories of freedom: whether it's running away, getting drunk and turnt, or just expressing yourself, this is a feel good moment for the world. Tiësto also isn't afraid to put older gems of his onto the album as he included his amazing collaboration with Kyler England "Take Me" as the album's closing track.

The key to why Paradise works so well is because Tiësto has taken the route of using lesser-known yet amazingly talented pop writers to help him out. He's got two songs with vox du jour among the dance community Matthew Koma as well as collaborating with one of my favorite producers Fred Falke for the brilliant "Calling On Angels (feat. Elan Lea)." But let's get real, I literally freaked out when I saw Icona Pop and Ladyhawke were on the album! Both tracks are immediate standouts on the album. "Let's Go" perfectly captures the angry rebellion that make Icona Pop so addictive and the girls don't fail to live up to the hype. And "Last Train" with New Zealand legend Ladyhawke is probably the best song on the record to cater to mainstream audiences and hopefully signals a welcome return to music for Ladyhawke. 

The album gets really good when you can tell that Tiësto is taking risks. Second single "Wasted" with Matthew Koma doesn't really fall into any category of music out there. And really, who doesn't like wasted people? The anthemic quality of Tiesto's other songs really shines here and Koma's vocals are probably the best ever. Another example of brilliant weirdness occurs on "Echoes" with Andreas Moe, where Tiësto seems to want everyone to lose their mind to the hardest hitting beats I've heard in a long time. He even managed to get Ou Est le Swimming Pool to come and collaborate on "The Feeling" (I thought the band had broken up in 2011 but oh well). 

While the album can fall into a rut every now and then, overall Tiesto has made a strong collection of crowd pleasing floor fillers. With both dance and pop music going through a house phase right now, it's refreshing to have an album that represents true EDM and gets you hyped for any occasion. It is the perfect album for EDM junkies as well as any driver listening to the radio. Though each song on A Town Called Paradise could be a great song for any of the artists that helped write the album, they all do have Tiësto's stamp of trance pulses and in-your-face synths. It looks like Tiësto has done the impossible and created the year's best Tomorrowland album that actually would actually be played at Tomorrowland!

Best listened to: In the club or at Electric Daisy Carnival-esque festivals
Standout tracks: "Wasted (feat. Matthew Koma)" "Let's Go (feat. Icona Pop)" "Last Train (feat. Ladyhawke)" "Echoes (feat. Andreas Moe)"

NSOTP Rating: 9.2/10

Future Smash Alert: You'll Want To Hear "Do It Again" Again and Again

It is a known fact that 2 amazing popstars create some of the best music of all time. Examples include Lady Gaga & Beyoncé, Iggy Azalea & Charli XCX, and Rihanna & Lil Mama! So what could possibly happen if those two (or three) popstars happen to both be Scandinavian and release a mini-album together. Well, you get the Do It Again EP by Röyksopp & Robyn

Me when I heard the news!

Now for those unfamiliar, Robyn only represents everything that's right with music since the 90's. Listening to "Call Your Girlfriend" and "Dancing On My Own" should set you straight. As for Röyksopp (the two bearded gentlemen), they happen to be a Norwegian electronic duo that have made rather listenable music as well. The two acts are quite familiar with each other already. They had collaborated on the classic "The Girl and the Robot" back in 2009 as well as "None of Dem" in 2010. Well seeing at how well that did, Robyn and Röyksopp decided it was time to join forces to create a sort of "band" type situation where Röyksopp provides the sound while Robyn blesses us with a vocal. Their new EP, which hit number one on the Billboard Dance and Electronic Chart, should be quintessential listening to all electronic music lovers and coincides with their joint tour for 2014.

The 5 song collection explores a wide range of electropop but the true highlight is the title track "Do It Again." Within the first few seconds, you know you've stumbled onto a truly special track. The ravey bouncy track keeps you guessing at every turn while Robyn gives you her signature vocal that matches the shimmeriness of the track. And that build-up into the chorus screams "LISTEN TO ME, I'M AMAZING!" And as Robyn tells you, you'll want to DO IT. A. GAIN! It really has the merits to be one of the best songs of the year (obviously cuz Robyn) and hopefully it gains legendary status like other Robyn songs within 5 years. Well, let's hope Robyn has more of these up her sleeve, but until then let's just listen to this anthem AGAIN!