Reviews April - June 2011


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Lamparetes (2011) - ♪♪♪♪
Antònia Font (Spain)

Lamparetes marks the return of one the better popacts from Spain. Actually the band originates from the island of Mallorca and sings in Catalan dialect…but heh, who cares when you deliver albums like this. Five years after their highly credible album ‘Batiscafo Katiuscas’ the new album does not disappoint. Openingtrack ‘Me sobren paraules’ begins a bit odd with simple vocal samples but gradually the song develops into a funny about how words cannot express everything: ‘Me too many words / needle, sewing thread, scissors, stove, vermud, potatoes, olives / words so short: p / words so long: esternoclestmastoidel / easy words: breast / difficult words: obliquity, and I know that ...I lack words to explain / Words of love, simple and tender”. The band is known for their funny but usually cryptic and mysterious lyrics. On ‘Coses modernes’ they even through in a Twin peaks deja vu with Pau’s vocals recorded backwards (it sounds like the dwarf in the red room).This is now extended to the songtitles as well with odd titles like ‘ Abraham Lincoln’, ‘ Calgary 88’ and single ‘Clint Eastwood’ (not to be confused with the song from the Gorillaz). At least the last song actually seems something to do with the actor/director himself mentioning ‘Million dollar baby’ and naming him in the chorus “and one man alone is not always enough / who doubts of today in Clint Eastwood”. The album is filled with these kind of references from footballclubs to food to eighties hits (On Calgary 88 they even mention Modern Talking’s hit ‘Atlantis is calling). But the highlights of the album are the orchestral epic ‘Pioners’ almost fluently followed by the more electronic ‘Boreal’. Songwriter Joan Miquel Oliver and vocalist Pau Debon again did their best structure an intelligent popalbum. Antonia font again proves they have a unique personal sound that deserves to get noticed.


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Cardio Tour cd + dvd (2011) - ♪♪♪
Miguel Bosé (Spain)

Miguel Bosé has been one of the most successful recording artists from Spain for more than thirty years. He wrote and recorded some classic Spanish pop songs (‘Amante Bandido’, ‘Si tu no vuelves’) but is also a very professional life performer. Many of his album releases were followed by extensive tours throughout Spain, Italy, South and North America. Last year he released the album ‘Cardio’ and Bosé, followed by a world tour. ‘Cardio Tour’ is the name of the cd+dvd concert registration of his performance at the Palacio de Deportes in Madrid on September, 16th, that has been released a couple of weeks ago.

The dvd contains 25 songs, the cd only 16. The song selection from the cd focuses on Bosé’s latest pop albums ‘Cardio’ (2010), ‘Velvetina’ (2005) and ‘Sereno’ (2002). The additional songs on the dvd are mainly earlier hits ) ‘Sevilla’, ‘Si tu no vuelves’, ‘Nada particular’, ‘Bambú’ etc.). Bosé’s performance is, again, very inspiring and professional. The staging is really fantastic, and the band is playing perfectly. Bosé and all band members are dressed in black suits, white shirts and black ties. It emphasizes the sound of this tour, that is obviously to present the songs quite basically, without too much instrumentation and production.

One of Bosé’s talents is to avoid repeating his classics over and over again. With every tour he succeeds in transforming them into new modern versions, re-inventing the songs and blending them into the new material very naturally. A great achievement! The songs from the ‘Cardio’ album work really well live on stage. We also need to mention the very clever vocal arrangements and accompaniment of the backing vocalists. The trio, two guys and one girl, add contribute greatly to performance.

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Los Veranos y los días (2011) - ♪♪
Dotore (Spain)

A reminder that summer is not only the eternal search for the sun, sea and fun, but can also bittersweet. "The summers and days' the second album by Spanish indieband Dotore are eight tracks of melancholy. This is not album for a bright summer day but more for the late hours of the afternoon when the sun slowly sets in the sea. Four years after the debut ‘Demonios del otro lado del océano’ songwriter Pablo Martínez Sanromá themes up with Norwegian cellist-pianist Håvard Enstad and drummer Iñaki Irisarri. Pablo indicated that homesickness and longing is one of the main influences on the album. Hence that the inward turned songs like ‘Nadie llora en Nanjing’ (No one cries in Nanjing) and ‘La mañana’. Even a happy theme as the summer can be turned into a song about teenage angst when ‘El verano’ is more a story of jealousy (of the kids who look at your partner on the beach) than a celebration blissfull lazyness. The music is kept simple and basic with the band here and there suddenly breaking the acoustic monotone composition with a vibrating cello, a drumpatern or guitar riff. Hints of Beach Boys and Mamas and the Papas come up when listening to the album. Pablo explains in a recent interview that the album is a memory of a summer then about summer itself. " I imagine putting this album in the winter in a state of mind I would like an album of Bossa Nova in winter. In fact I think I hear more Bossa Nova in winter than in summer ... and for me Brazil is summer". All in all ‘Los veranos’ is about laidback relaxation which is nice in itself but spread over 12 songs it can also become a bit of an acoustic drone.

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L'un n'empêche pas l'autre (2011) - ♪♪♪
Brigitte Fontaine (France)

Originally Universal intended ‘One did not prevent the other’ as a duet album. Halfway the process Brigitte decided otherwise and starting working with previously shelved unreleased and rare tracks. By this time she already recorded reworks of some of her original songs in duets with Matthieu Chedid, Alain Souchon and Arno. For many artists this would indicate a temporary artistic blockade which is masked by adding leftovers. But the killer opening track ‘Dancefloor’ proves that this is definitely not the case. Together with Grace Jones she delivers a song that only makes you wonder why the hell she did not release this before (it was recorded for her previous album ‘Prohibition’). We can only wonder why and meanwhile roll op the carpet for our own private danceparty. This is followed by a duet with Arno (‘Supermarket’) which was originally included as a bonustrack for the limited edition of his ‘Genre humain’. The same applies to the duet with Emmanuelle Seigner (‘Dressing’) which originally appeared on the rare compilation ‘Morceaux de choix’ from 1999. The duet with Areski come from sessions for his ‘The Inconciliabule ‘ album and with Higelin she sings ‘Duel’ which is unclear when it was recorded. The rework duets come mostly from the era around ‘Kekeland’ although with Arno she picks up ‘Inadaptée’ from her sixties classic ‘…est folle’ and with Bertrand Cantat she reworks ‘Les Vergers’ from ‘le Bonheur’. The big question is should we regard this as a semi-compilation or a new album. If you wouldn’t know the story behind it the songs come across as a selection of new songs. Or at least new interpreted songs. Even ‘Gilles de la tourette’, which is actually about what the title suggests, does not come across as a B-side strategicelly placed between the more serious tracks ‘Les Vergers’ and ‘Duel’. Brigitte made it a well balanced project that is more then just a nice item for her dedicated fans.


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Elettronica maccheronica (2011) - ♪♪♪
Fraulein Rottenmeier (Italy)

Independent distributor Casa Umani dropped this hot new band on our doorstep with the odd name ‘Fraulein Rottenmeier’. Why a band would choose to name themselves after a the bullying housekeeper from the 19th Swiss century children’s book ‘Heidi - Lehr- und Wanderjahre’ is unclear but the stern Miss Rottenmeier is prominently displayed on the cover. Perhaps they chose the name to underline their rebellious sound because FR presents 10 songs heavy with electronics, dancebeats, rock and hiphop influences. The single ‚Dancefloor’ already was a hint but under guidance of GianMaria Accusani of Sick Tamburo the band cooked up a steaming debut album. The trio consisting of Giogio Laini, Mauro Comelli and Franco Bruna already had an EP ‘Sangue e paillettes’ released in 2009 but spend the following period in touring extensively. Appearing on stage dressed as clowns and decadent metropolitans, they bring a show mixing songs in ironic quotes and balancing between dance and '90s poppunk trash. Subjects go from teenage mischief “Behind the Blackboard / Help! In the classroom there is a bird / And ugly! It 's true!” (‘Dietro la lavagna’) to odd (political) symbolism: “Yes, still used it on me / I feel the skin give / on my knees to do what you want / Under your fist I surrender / Tighten the collar does not make me breathe anymore / let me feel your power / Oh, I'm so in this monarchy / it is so safe, so safe” (Monarchia) And that translates to this debut album which is a fuming technorock pastiche from start to finish. Now this is not a completely new music genre in Italy since Subsonica has been exploring this path for several years. But it would be to easy and unjust to serve FR away as a mere follower of that style. They make their own twist hinting more to pop then Subsonica does. The single but also tracks like ‘ Lacime in Tangenziale’, ‘La nostra romantica balata pop’ and ‘ Political Chihuahua’ are more Depeche Mode then Prodigy (for lack of a better comparison). And the trio seems to know this themselves singing on ‘ Dancefloor” Yesterday at the supermarket there was electronic band on sale / I thought I'd buy it for me to work my heart / And I feel like the ladies of the bon-ton stoves / Almost better than declined in the slums of strumpet / And I always posing as a great sourceofvitality”. It may lack some debt but for a debut album it is not a bad album at all. Promising.


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Make up (2011) - ♪♪♪
Sandra Kim (Belgium)

Just 8 new songs, 5 in English, 3 in French… Why does this album earn the right to be reviewed on, since this site is dedicated exclusively to music in the original European languages that is: not in English)? Well, first of all this is Sandra Kim’s first album in years and, after all, she is a true legend being the first and only winner of the eurovision song contest with ‘J’aime la vie’ in 1986 (25 years ago already…). Secondly, even though the album only counts 8 new tracks, it contains some truly memorable songs.

The best song by far is definitely ‘La nuit (j’ai le coeur fou)’ (‘The night (I have a crazy heart)’), written by the legendary Salvatore Adamo. Kims voice does not resemble the high-pitched voice we all remember from her winning ESC song ‘J’aime la vie’. She sounds much more mature (she will turn 40 next year) and her voice has deepened and darkened, which enables her to bring this real Adamo-gemm in a fantastic way. The lyrics from the last song, ‘Musique ma soeur’ (‘Music, my sister’), were written by Dani Klein (singer of Vaya Con Dios). And this closing track is the second highlight of the album.

The songs with English lyrics all have a retro-sixties sound to them. Touches of the Shangri-La’s, Brian Setzer, Nancy Sinatra and Marie-France pop up. This is obviously Anthony Sinatra’s (which appears to be his real name!) mark on the album. The front man of The Piano Club and the Holywood Porn Stars is responsible for the production and for composing two of the album’s songs. The first single, ‘Anyway the wind blows’, was written by Sinatra and is a good example of the retro-vibe, as well as ‘Good luck, bad luck’ with lyrics by the famous Belgian lyricist Jacques Duvall.

Having Sandra Kim returning on the Music scene is a good thing. Hearing her singing better than she has ever sang before is even better. And this time she’s singing some very nice sons as well. It is just a petty that this album only contains eight songs, and only three of them in her native language French. We can only hope that this come-back will be continued with more albums in the near future.

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Satan i Gatan (2011) - ♪♪♪
Veronica Maggio (Sweden)

This young talent from Sweden has been busy since 2006 but this, her third album, is the first that triggled through to our office. ‘Satan i gatan’ (Swedish for Satan in the street which is an idiomatic expression of mild surprise or plainly said ‘Damn!’) is a collection of songs written by Miss Maggio together with producer Christian Waz. The album opens with the titlesong and Veronica’s bitter lyrics saying : “I remember all that was good, but I will never forget what you did”. Rumours in Sweden go that the album is a reconciliation with her former boyfriend Oskar Linnros. The song "Alla mina låtar" (meaning All my songs) allegedly is a response to the Linnros song "Från och med du" (With you) when Linnros had sung "... one is broken, one is yours, this is the end of our movie." Maggio counters this with singing "You are crushed and I go free, it's all about you". But luckily the album doesn’t turn into a mudfight but is more a celebration of life itself. On the single ‘Välkommen In’ she invites everyone to her party:You, I'll throw down a key from the window in the kitchen / I live four floors up and you are welcome/ Mass shoes in the hall, people at the fan who smoke / It's a party at my place tonight and the whole world is mine/
Oooh, ooh singing the song / It echoes all over the city / Oh, reached the big time / For the cue from the street up to the hall”.
The trend between heart and heartbreak repeats endlessly on the album. On one hand we have the melancholic songs like her duet with co-writer Christian Walz on “Mitt Hjärta Blöder” (My heart bleeds) or the slow love ballad ‘Snälla Bli Min’ (Please be mine again). The album closes with a delicioius Europop-summer track called ‘Finns det en så finns det flera’ (If there is one, there is more). An electronic dance-tune like they can only make it in Scandinavia. What we heard so far from Veronica tastes like more and, more important, she dares to sing in Swedish. Hopefully she keeps this up for the years to come ‘cause I think there is much more talent in this little lady.

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La terra degli aquilano (2011) - ♪♪♪
Mango (Italy)

Guiseppe Mango, more Italian then this romantic pop singer from Lagonegro is hard to find. Four years after the dreamy ‘L'albero delle fate’ (the tree of fairies) and some heavy touring he is back with ‘La terra degli aquilano’ (The land of kites). And again he shows himself the master of stylish melancholy popsongs. The strong titlesong opens the album with a simple piano and Mango typical tear-crooning way of singing. With the refrain the guitar subtly emerges. Mango’s voice is dubbed and lain over each other while slowly the orchestra zooms in and after 2.50 minutes the drums thrust the song to a higher level. It’s beautiful pop craftsmanship that is made so rarely nowadays. For three songs on the album Mango works together with poet Pasquale Panella (known for writing the Cocciante musical ‘Notre Dame de Paris’), ‘Tutto tutto’, ‘Chiamo le cose’ and single ‘La Sposa’. This results in the poetic metaphore for love: “Because I think love is thinking of you / even when you think you do it to me / what are you thinking in the silence you do / Think of us as the truth / I have nothing to saysaynothing / I have nothing / if the feelingis to feelyouI feel / like a song that / Ising”. This new album has also become a family affair of the whole private houshold. Mango’s wife Laura Valente (ex Matia Bazar) takes care of the backing vocals while their two children, Angelina (10) and Philip (16), play piano and drums. But does this give any new turns to the musical universe of Mango. Actually it doesn’t, when you buy a Mango-album it is clear what you’ll get. And when he does try a sidestep it is doubtfull if it was a wise idea. Halfway the album Mango switches style to perform the Carlos Gardel song ‘Volver’ in Flamenco style and near the end he covers the Atlan / Hoffman composition ‘Starlight’. He’d better not. Mango’s musical idiom might be narrow and he might repeat himself over the years but when he stays able to deliver some new gems on each album every four years I’m not complaining.


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Latviešu romances (2011) - ♪♪♪½
Ainars Mielavs & Karīna Tatarinova (Letvia)

Popular Latvian singer-songwriter Ainars Mielavs started his career towards the end of the eighties as front man of the folk-rock band ‘Jauns Mēness’ (‘New Moon’). In 1999 he pursued a solo career, the last few years as the folk combo ‘Mielavs un Pārcēlāji’ (‘Mielavs and the ferrymen’). The last decade his creative output evolved more and more towards pure, serene folk songs. Characteristics of his current style: austere production, limited instrumental accompaniment and the lead part for voice and melody.

Mielavs takes another step in this evolution with his latest album, ‘Latviešu romances’ (‘Letvian romances’). Three of the eleven songs were interpreted by actrice Karīna Tatarinova. On the album Milavs and Tatarinova interpret poems and lyrics from famous Latvian poets, mostly from around 1900 - 1950. Do not get fooled by the title – these poems are in no way ‘romantic’ in the senses of ‘romantic love stories’. These poems are more or less representatives of romanticism as an art form, with the following characteristics:a love of nature, a sense of nationalism and a sense of exoticism/the supernatural. All of these elements can be found in these Latvian poems, especially the love of nature and the revival of national ancient customs and traditions (folklore).

A perfect example of this romanticism is the song ‘Tev’ (‘You’), a wonderful interpretation of Aleksandrs Čaks’ poem ‘Liepas satumst’ (‘The lime-tree darkens’):

“Lime-trees darkens. Pagessilencethe winds,
Strangelanguor, down on the grass.
And once againtoday you could not come,
Comehither, aswasagreed.

Whysayandpromise, smilingsoftly,
Thatyouwill comewhenthesun sets
Ifyou knowthat it will be otherwise,
Do you want togoat the sametime?

Time holds thethought ofyouand feels,
That I am aching, someoneis waiting for you
As long asthe wind skims over theearthovernight,
The milky white road will disappear in the dark.

How do Iknow, maybe it’s good,
That I am sittingheresadandlonely
The mile posts – now my friends,
A silent night, wonderful silence.”

The central theme in this poem is a non-responsive love (and the sorrow it causes), and the hope and longing for him/her to change someday. The object of the poem is not very explicit. So it can be anyone – a woman or a man - or anything – like a place or a country perhaps. This way, everyone can relate to the theme and the lyrics. It may well be that the author  - being away from home – expresses his feelings of homesickness through this poem.

It is also a conversation with oneself; the subject is trying to silence his mind. The poem also has a specific natural setting and contains several natural and mythical references, typical for romantic poetry. Of course there is the symbol of the lime-tree itself, a symbol of fragility that helps to sooth the heartache. And there is also the wind, not only a symbol of the air currents, but also a supernatural manifestation that embodies God's purpose.

Another nice example of romantic poetry is ‘Virši zili, virši sārti’ (‘Heather blue, heather pink’), a poem by Elīna Zālīte. Elina Zalite was a bright representative of the Latvian romantic poetry, that is dominated by romantic youthful restlessness and thirst for love. Traditional poetic forms, in terms of a simple, sincere, emotional. This specific poem addresses the theme of aging and the passing of time, perfectly expressed in the following passage:

“Sadly blue heather look / Man dear to me come to mind / Which the soft, dark hair / Some silver is beginning./… / If the blossoming lips, burning scenes / Hurry love to take and give:Heather blue, gray hair / Autumn begins swings.”

Other poems interpreted by Mielavs and Tatarinova are Fritz Beard, Pāvils Rozītis and Andrievs Niedra. (The latter will be mainly remembered for the fact that he was prime minister of the German puppet government in Latvia between April and June 1919, during the Latvian War of Independence.)

When reading this review you might get the idea that this site is a literary rather than a music site. The 11 songs Mielavs presents to us can only be fully explored if you also have an idea of the meaning of the lyrics. (I fully depend on the assistance of google translate and hope that I have translated these poems correctly...) Musically, Mielavs and his combo (Gints Sola, as always, on guitar and mandolin, Kaspar Tobis on piano and accordion, and Normunds Piesis on trumpet) present a sound that is very similar to Mielavs last few albums. The subtle touches from the accordion are new and underline the folky atmosphere of the album. And there is, of course, the presence of Karīna Tatarinova on three songs. Mielavs has collaborated with other female singers in the past (for example with Agnese on the fantastic duet ‘Tā’ by Imans Kalnins). Although Tatarinova sings very beautiful (as does Mielavs, as always) it is somehow regrettable that they did not join forces in one or two duets. The album leaves me wondering what the interaction between the two artists might have added to this project.

‘Latviešu romances’ is a very decent, honest album that reveals its secrets only when the lyrics can be understood . The album is very professionally made . The very austere production and the subdued instrumentation are completely dedicated to the beautiful lyrics, but, however, prevent real emotional highs at the same time.

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Due soli (2011) -♪♪♪
Mietta (Italy)

September last year, 41 year old singer Mietta gave birth to her son Fransesco Ian. Together with her live partner and father of the child, guitarist Davide Tagliapietra (who collaborated with Ramazotti, Nannini etc.), she obviously found special inspiration from actual events in her live. For her latest album release, ‘Due soli’ (which can be translated as ‘Only two’ but also as ‘Two suns’), several writers and composers contributed material: Nicholas Agliardi, Saverio Grandi, Emiliano Cecere, and Kaballà. And Mietta herself co-wrote some of the songs with Anja and husband Davide. The latter also produced and arranged the album and plays guitar on all tracks. ‘Due soli’ is Mietta’s most personal album to date, on which she shows us a reflective and sensitive side that we have not noticed on her previous recordings. Although many of the songs deal with the subject of relationships, either happy and sad ones, they appear much less superficial than the average pop song in the charts.

‘Fra le mani e i sogni’ (‘In my hands and in my dreams’) is dedicated to Fransesco Ian and in the song Mietta expresses her joy over her new born sun:
“Grow / in myhands and in my dreams / The crazy things you dofor me / Igrow with your breath / Like a flower inashes / And you will bebetter than me / You will growbetter than me.”

In many of the songs Mietta seems to finally come to terms with past releationships that did not end well, for instance ‘Fotografie’ (‘Photographs’):
“Photographs, daggersstraight into the soul / For eternity / A tree that never dies / Parts of me / That will never return / But I'm here / Alone, proud and free at last! / Just for me / Just by myself / The beginning andend, I begin to believe again / Just for me / Just by myself / With my tired hands... / Alive!”

But despite her new found happiness and motherhood, Mietta does not lives in a dream world. ‘Io no’ (‘Not me’) is dedicated to Sakineh, the Iranian woman sentenced to stoning, in particular and to all people who live in captivity and oppression in general. In this stand out track, Mietta rages against injustice and the violation of human rights: “I do not askforgiveness fromthose whowill never forgive / I do not give in to the hunger of wolves and vultures / I do not believe inthe God who does not have mercy on me / I do not bend to blind reason that does not exist / not me,not me,not me! / Some peoplecalled terror andcowardice, justice / … / There is nostone thatcandestroy / A heart that cries,cries no! / … / Tell the world that it will not die / That what I feel deep down inside of me / Thatdoes not even have a bruise / and will live untilI say no”.

‘Due soli’ is a solid pop album with some very nice songs. It shows a singer who has matured and grown as an artist during the past twenty years. Although the album is well produced and sounds up to date, it has at the same a timeless sound to it. It is fortunate to hear that Mietta does no longer needs to keep up with the modern musical trends, she just does what she does best: sing nice timeless pop songs with that fantastic deep brown voice of hers.

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Vamp (2011) -♪♪♪♪
Nada (Italy)

From child star to queen of indie… It is the unexpected story of Italian singer Nada Malanima. At the end of the sixties she scored several hits as a beat girl like Sylvie Vartan and Sheila in France. After a few decades of album releases of changing quality and success, she reinvented herself somewhere around 1990. She started writing her own songs again and recorded a few nice, serious albums during the nineties. It all accumulates to her 2007 triumph ‘Luna in piena’ that won the price for ‘Best independant album’ from MEI. ‘Vamp’, Nada’s fifteenth album, was produced by Nada and Manu Fusaroli, a young indie producer who worked with many indie acts like the power rock trio Zen Circus (two of them are also playing on ‘Vamp’) and the Violent Femmes. It is clear that Nada is continuing the indie-path and ‘Vamp’ is even more punk and raw than her last few albums. Still, the main feature is still Nada´s unique, raw and raspy voice.

The album opens with the melancholic ‘Sirena’ (‘Siren’), probably one of the most poppy and accessible tunes on the album. The song deals with the subject of the impact love can have, that it can actually devour someone completely.

‘Sirena’ (‘Siren’):
“There is a story that intertwines and does not dissolves anymore / Where the sea escapes in the wave, you arrive / Prisoner of a siren, crying in the night / Where do you go / In the moody cosmic rhythm of virtue / In the dark soul, the dark that you will become.”

The following track, ‘La febbra della sera’ (‘Fever in the night’), is one of the albums stand out tracks, with some of Nada’s best poetry ever written:

‘La febbra della sera’:
“Build me a house on the network of spiders / Herons in the sky / That is a rebellious network / The network of stars / Build me a house on two legs of a winged horse / That sends arrows to men far away / And passes caresses like fiery spears / In lovely languages and that have become the fever in the night / Moon, my moon, do not go away.”

‘La canzone per dormire’ (‘A song to sleep to’) is a raw track in which Nada begs her mother to sing her a lullaby, because “I am not born under a good, bright star like back then, when a baby was born in the bright night, laying in the comfortable straw”. ‘L’elettricity’ (‘The electricity’) is a dark pop tune with electronics and guitars:

‘L’elettricità’ (‘The electricity’):
“Here we do not know whether to stay in the dark or to go into the future / In a different world driven by a light wind,  like a gun in the neck / And between a man and a female heart there is no more tic tac tic tac / And that will be the fault of electricity.”

‘Vamp’ contains a colelction of very fine songs that will please all people who closed Nada into their hearts. And maybe, thanks to the unexpected success of her previous album, ‘Vamp’ will receive some radio airplay and thus will be able to win some new fans as well. It is a great pop-album with some of Nada’s best lyrics ever. The songs are very diverse and the production is very tasteful and modern. If you are into somewhat more alternative pop music, this album is highly recommended. And apparently Nada will be touring through Italy this summer to promote the album.

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Caduta Massi (2011) - ♪♪♪♪
Donatella Rettore (Italy)

‘Caduta massi’ (‘Falling rocks’) is the thirteenth album by Rettore. Since the beginning of her career in the mid seventies, Donatella Rettore has been working with her professional and life partner (and since a few years husband) Claudio Rego. Rego the composer and producer, Rettore the singer and lyricist. Together they created some classic memorable Italian pop tunes. They met their commercial peak many decades ago, but fortunately the couple is still recording and releasing albums every few years. And the quality is still there, as their latest darling, ‘Caduta massi’ will prove.

The album opens with the powerful title track. This punk-rock song about a viagra experience refers to Rettore’s hits from the eighties. Thanks to clever production it all sounds very 2011 and urgent.

‘Caduta massi’ (‘Rocks falling’):
“My love, don’t tell me you also took the blue pill / … / Falling rocks / What great fun / A great sprint / Falling rocks / All big beautiful / Trying to let us feel bad / Trying to let us feel better”

The next few songs continue in this up tempo, until Rettore allows us to regain our breath with the rock ballad ‘Ghepardo’ (‘Cheetah’). This apparently simple song has very intimate lyrics, sung by a mature woman thanking her man for the love they found in live:

‘Ghepardo’ (‘Cheetah’):
“Thanks to you I run like a cheetah / and it would be foolish not to do so for you / And furthermore I might even burn / I need you / … / In these times of vulgarity / When even life is poisoned / I thank you for staying here / And not being just a man in the middle.”

Another classic song on the album is ‘Callo’ (‘Call’). It’s a typical Rettore-song with a ska tune and aggressive vocals, but this time she combines it with a rap by Nottini Lemmon. A great party track! It is followed by ‘Se moriró’ (‘If I die’), a mid-tempo song with an extremely catchy chorus. With very witty yet poetic lyrics this is definitely the stand out track of the album:

‘Se moriró’ (‘If I die’):
“If I die, I will die with the orchestra /It will be a change of carousel / I will have three coins in my pocket / One for Charon / One for Dante / And the last one for my ancestors / Ready to make a party for me.”

With ‘Caduta massi’ Rettore and Rego deliver a great album, that perfectly translates the Rettore sound into this day and age. It all sounds very fresh and urgent, yet all her fans will instantly recognize the voice, the song-structures and witty lyrics that are so typical for La Donatella. It makes you wonder why her oevre does not get any more appreciation in her home country, since she really delivered some classic tunes. And I fear that this album will not be getting a lot of airplay, again. And that is a pitty, since she deserves to be presented to the current generation. On the other hand, it does not seem like a big deal for Rettore – maybe she is happy in her own niche with her loyal, long time fan base. With ‘Caduta massi’, she does not show any sign of slowing down. Let’s hope she will keep up the good work and will be releasing new albums every few years…

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Ring n' Roll (2011) - ♪♪♪♪
Catherine Ringer (France)

In 2007, Fred Chichin, half of the famous duo Les Rita Mitsouko, died of cancer during the ‘Variety tour’. After working and living together for 28 years, Catherine Ringer (and their three children) had to continue without Fred. Because she had promised to do so, Catherine carried on the tour without him, sharing her grief with their fans. This resulted in a live album ‘Catherine Ringer sings Les Rita Mitsouko’. After that she participated in some film soundtracks, like ‘Adèle Blanc-Sec’ by director Luc Besson, and in a tribute album for Nino Rota.

But apparently Catherine lost the will to write new songs and create new music. Until somewhere in 2008 Mark Plati, who produced the latest albums of Les Rita Mitsouko, got in touch with Catherine and with his help she re-found the love of writing and composing. Ringer felt like making a danceable album and teamed up with RZA from the Wu-Tang Clan, who arranged the songs. Catherine recorded the songs in the Paramount Studio in Los Angeles, with local musicians like John Frusciante, guitar player of the famous Red Hot Chilli Peppers.

But Catherine was not entirely happy with the results, so back in Paris she teamed up with Mark Plati and started recording again. She produced all the songs, except  ‘Prend-moi’ (‘Take me’) that was co-produced with RZA and three other songs that were co-produced with Mark Plati.

We can only imagine how difficult it must have been for Catherine to create her first album without Fred Chichin. In the song ‘Yalala’ she gives us some hints:

“Your sadness was an accident / Said the voice, come on with me / Slowly get confident /
And have a nice time together / Wow such a surprise / I was sure I had deeper to go / But from hell to sunrise / The magic voice was enough.”

‘Ring n’ Roll’ is definitely not an “Les Rita Mitsouko-album without Fred”. It is a raw and intense album in which Catherine expresses the whole spectrum of the human emotions. Naturally, Fred Chinchin – and the grief for his loss, is omnipresent. But Catherine also sings, cries and howls about love and lust, like in ‘Prends-moi’ (‘Take me’):

“Ah, do you hear me? Ah! I know you’re listening to me / You don’t take your car tonight, that is for sure / ‘Cause you will be taking me / Me who respond so well to your caresses / In the tender hours, the beast with two backs / I love hearing the hottest words”

‘Ring n’ Roll’ was’nt an easy album to create for Catherine, but it also hasn’t become an easy album for her audience. The production is raw and bare, which is a major style break compared to the latest albums by Les Rita’s. Musically the album is quite diverse. It goes from up-tempo songs that resembles Les Rita Mitsouko the most, like ‘Vive l’amour’ (‘Long live love’, ‘How do you tu’) to electro-punk (‘Punk 103’) and actual French blues (‘Si un jour’, ‘Got it sweet’). Catherine’s recognizable voice is everywhere and I have to say, she probably sounds better than ever before. Apart from singing, she also played a lot of the instrumentation on the album (piano, keyboards, guitar, bass).

The stand out track of the album is ‘Mahler’. The basis for this song is an adagietto from Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, in a recording from 1963 by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Leonard Bernstein. Ringer write a poem with highly emotional lyrics dealing with the loss of her husband:

“Your sweet smell is gone / Just as my soul / … / If you were alive, we would be great together / We would have the future / It's beautiful the way we would love each other / Deep down inside of me / Yes it is you / It’s still you who makes me laugh there / Your sight is in my eyes / Yes it is your flame / And I am two”

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Aquatinte (2011) - ♪♪♪
Véronique Rivière (France)

‘Aquatinte’ is Véronique Rivière’s 6th album. Although it has been six years since her last album, ‘Eponyme’, she continues her artistic path. Véronique is a true singer-songwriter. She presents to us a collection of fifteen true and honest songs with an acoustic instrumentation. She is being accompanied by Michel Haumont and Jack Ada on guitar, Gilles Michel on bass and Marc Benabou is responsible for percussions. Veronique has a warm, tender yet modest voice and singing style; in her lyrics she tells stories about things that might happen to every one of us.

The title of the album refers to an etching process by which different tones are being created by the bite, more or less prolonged, in a pool of acid, a metal plate covered with a layer of resin or bitumen powder.

Véronique Rivière on the album title: “I think it looks like us, poor people who face the good and bad moments of life... like my songs most moments in life are more or less happy.Every song is like an etch, a burning, and it is for people to decide if it is successful or if it failed, if I have to throw it into the trash bin or if it can be hung on the wall, or listened to with our ears.”

Opening track ‘Si seulement’ (‘If only’) is a love song with an optimistic message:
“In order to play it tough… We need to not love anyone / Plunge ones heart completely in chloroform / It's easy to say... But in good and due form / One day, love will surprise us all as we are / Love takes us all just as we are”

One of the lyrical highlights is the song ‘Petits riens’ (‘Little things’), a deceptively simple sounding melody, but with a philosophical undertow:
“Little things, grains of dust, water drops into the sea / Little things that create bonds as dots that link are linked through a line / Little things that are good even if they are ephemeral / Three little turns and then leave / But in the end, what do we know about the butterfly effect”

The art Véronique Rivière creates, will probably not attract huge crowds of fans. Still, many of us will be able to identify oneself with the people in these small everyday-life stories. So if you are into quality singer-songwriter stuff, you should definitely give this sympathetic album a try.

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Raskatriski (2011) - ♪♪♪
Rosario (Spain)

It seems like such a short while but the last album of new original material by Rosario Flores was her 2006 album ‘Contigo me voy’. So high time for a new collection of self-penned songs. Again she put inspiration from the music her father Antonio González 'El Pescailla' made, Catelan rumba and Gypsy music. On the album the emphasis is on rhythm and so Rosario creates her own Gypsy funk. The message is: “There is a new rhythm that grabs you and seduces / when you try it you will all the lights / and rising slowly. / Have you heard what they say./ That is very good rhythm that catches you and grabs you / you are filled with joy and not know what happens” and before you know it you’ll be dancing the ‘raska raska raska raska raska triski’. If you doubt of Gypsy music can be funky you’d better think again. Like she sings on ‘Gypsy Funk’: “Who says we do not sing funkyFlores / Yehyeh / And my soul whirls/ Color Swirl / My father was a gypsy / And my mother Lola Flores yeh yeh ye”. It’s a direct refenrence to her heritage. For those of you expecting the raw funk you’ll hear going round you might be disappointed. Rosario serves her funk clean and sophisticated. In a way she reminds of the Acid Jazz scene from the early nineties (think Brand New Heavies). Added with a large portion of Spanish folklore. A large portion of the album shows elements of Spanish flamenco balladry like ‘Aquita del Rio’, ‘Mi son’ and ‘Nuestro amor’. A highlight is the epic ballad ‘Como se pasa la vida’ (As he spends his life). For people outside Spain ‘Raskatriski’ may be a bit too Spanish but the way miss Flores creates her own signature sound is worth the try. We had a big discussion here wether it should get 3 or 4 stars but we settled for 3. But when you close the album with the positive message: Maybe man may someday change  / All look to the sky waiting for that sign / As in fairy tales, whose magic enchanted / everyone will make us wake up / And we know the hands, and as brothers, let us all / by one heart united” (Un solo corazon) you deserve a listening ear.

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A casa di Rubinstein 2011 cd + dvd (2011) - ♪♪
Giuni Russo (Italy)

In 1988 the late Giuni Russo recorded the experimental album ‘A casa di Rubinstein’ (‘At the Rubinstein house’). It contained 8 aria’s by Donizetti, Bellini and Verdi, with musical arrangements and production somewhere between pop, jazz and classical music. And, naturally, the leading part for Giuni’s remarkable voice. The original lp and cd are both out of print for a very long time. Fortunately, in 2005 NAR re-released the cd in beautiful box, together with a dvd from the 1984 live tour.

Now Edel has just released a box with the Rubinstein-album in completely new versions, together with a dvd with a bootleg recording of a 1991 concert by Giuni. The later is an interesting document, although it remains a bootleg recording and therefore the visual quality is not very good. Seeing – and hearing! – Giuni performing live is always an exciting event. In this recital she combines the classical aria’s from the Rubinstein-album with some of her best songs like ‘Nomadi’, ‘Post moderno’ and Battiato’s ‘Il re del mondo’. The eight new recordings on the cd were produced by Franco Battiato, both a musical and a personal friend of Giuni. The new versions feature contributions by some famous musicians like jazz pianist Uri Caine, jazz trumpet player Paolo Fresu, keyboard player Brian Auger and Battiato himself. Unfortunately, the result is definitely not the sum of the individual parts. The original album was kind of a tricky experiment, but hit just the right spot in the unique balance between pop, jazz and classical music. This re-release is completely out of balance. At times the songs become too ambient and thus boring. The production has lost all of its edge and experimental side that made is such a unique piece of art.

It makes me wonder why they could not leave it to rest. The former collection of re-recorded Giuni Russo-songs, ‘Unusual’, already proved that the re-recordings could not even come close to the originals. At least that album contain only a selection of her pop songs. Listening to the reworked 2011-version of the Rubinstein-album just makes me want to shut it off and put the original album from 1988 back on. The only reason to buy this box is because of the dvd with the bootleg recording of the 1991 recital. Nothing can top the original great Giuni!

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Jokin on muuttumassa (2011) - ♪♪♪♪
Stella (Finland)

Finnish band Stella has been absent for three years after their successful ‘Löytäjä saa pitää’ album of 2008. But this year they returned with a very strong third album called ‘Jokin on muuttumassa’. From opener ‘Sunnuntai ja hidas sää’ to intimate closing ballad ‘Karhu’ the band delivers a pallette of what they are capable of. And that’s fine scandinavian pop laced with electronics and hints of mild progrock. It’s a potent mixture that cooks up great tracks like ‘Tästä syksy vasta alkaa’ (It was not until Autumn Begins), ’ Kutsumattomat vieraat jääkää kotiin’ (Unwelcome visitors stay a home), ’Kesän heinä on hiljaa hetken’ and ’ Hän ei ole täällä’. It is also a course change for the band who before was much less polished. But the album title doesn’t mean ‘Something is changing’ for nothing. You could blame Stella of attempting to become Finland’s Coldplay. That may be true to some length but Marja Tahvanainen way of singing, Heikki Marttila’s often grungy guitar riffs, the use of Suomi and elements of Scandinavian rock make this comparison falter at points. Yes, it is a straightforward poprock album, but with an appeal that should attract more attention than just Finnish radio.

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Eden (2011) - ♪♪♪♪
Subsonica (Italy)

When in Italy last month Subsonica’s catchy single ‘Istrice’ (Porcupine) had almost continuous airplay. The single had my hopes up high for the album but ‘Eden’ wasn’t prepared to give it’s hidden beauty easy. On first spin I actually was a bit disappointed. Subsonica’s albums are usually full of adrenaline and catchy the minute you hear the song. The album is much more pop then their previous ones and also much less dark and sinister. The album opens with the vision of a perfect world, and “Eden, the dance of a perfect world / Eden, a passage on the edge of time / Eden, redeem the dream protected / Eden, the light of a perfect day /And if in the end we believe / We will have peace, answers, unknowns”. For the album the band took their time living withdrawn in a country home outside Turin, isolated from the rest of the world and in nature. Hence perhaps the concept of Eden, a place in which to find a quiet place, a place to escape from the anxieties and neuroses subways. Openingtracks ‘Eden’ and ‘Serpente’ sure are less anxious then normal. Vocalist Samuel explained that the band was heavily influenced by Radiohead’s ‘In Rainbows’  while recording the album. But for the fans of the more energetic Subsonica the band switches gear with ‘Il Diluvio’, ‘Prodotto interno lurdo’ and the brutal electrostomper ‘Benzina Ogoshi’. The song is a nice and sharp self-parody, written with the fans through a mail exchange on the internet. The refrain "You failed to repeat Microchip Emozionale" is a remark to their breakthrough album of which ‘Eden’ obviously distances itself. As said ‘Eden’ has a much more layered structure and therefore only reveals it true allure after a few times. Highlight of this new musical course is the electroballad ‘Quando’ (When), a subtle song about waiting for the one you love “When you see your cold melt / I'll wait / When you see your leaves unfold / I'll smile / No! If you want, I will / more than a moment / and then I'll stay upon awakening”. The song then flows into ‘Istrice’ telling the mysterious tale of the woman who changes into a porcupine “In the city that has the heart of a porcupine / I'll look into a traffic of souls here / Who knows who pricked / who made you cry / where am I?”. After four years of waiting Subsonica certainly evolved and delivers a mature album. And thus confirming their status in the frontline of Italian rockbands.

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Aşk & Gurur (2011) - ♪♪♪♪
Teoman (Turkey)

As one of Turkish leading pop/rock artists Teoman had a promise to fulfill after his previous album from 2009. Together with producer Emirhan Cengiz he continued on the chosen path on his previous output for this new album. With the smartly chosen title ‘Pride & Prejudice’ (Teoman suffers from a lot of gossip in Turkish media) he sweeps the floor with all his criticasters in ten compact songs. Opener ‘Tek Başına Dans’ (Dancing alone) hits off with a riff that is signature in Turkish rock nowadays. It also shows that Teoman might change his arrangements but continues to write about his favourite subjects: love, friendship, faith, longing and all the hardships that accompany that. ‘Tek Başına Dans’ is an ode to summer friendships on which Teoman sings: “Summer is upon us.../ We would go somewhere / You might dance / Alone on the beach, all by yourself.../ This rain, this sea, this beach / This stars, passing years / This drunks, this lonelies / Broken hearted old friends”. Another popular theme is the unreachable woman. İrem Candar plays that part on ‘Bana Öyle Bakma’ singing: “Don't come closer to me like this / Don't touch me like this / This world is against us / They will not understand us”. Teoman answers with “If this life gets hold of us / Did it ask to our hearts when it says: C'mon live like this”. It’s the only ballad in the first half of the album that contains more heavy rock with ‘Istabul da’ and the excellent ‘Romantik’ on which Teoman growls and grints awaiting spring to be romantic again. The second half of the album is much less rock but refers much more to the folk-pop side of the Turkish musical spectrum. There is a leading role for the violin and almost jazzy arrangements. The risk is that the album sinks in like a bad souflé but Cengiz and Teoman are able to keep it all under control. Although Teoman wailing way of singing ‘Tesadüfen’ is coming dangerously close of sounding overpathetic. But even the closing track ‘Sahilde bir sarhos’, which sounds like a folk song from an old fifties movie, comes a across as natural in the selection although twenty minutes before you were rocking to ‘Romantik’. I can imagine not every fan likes this diversity in styles but ‘Aşk & Gurur’ is artistically a good calling card of Teoman’s capabilities and talent. In a way it sees him return to the form he had with his excellent 'En güzel Hikayem' album from 2004 and a good revanche to the music market.


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TV Resistori (2011) - ♪♪♪
TV Resistori (Finland)

Smitten by Fonal’s release of Eleanoora Rosenholm we almost forgot that the indie-label of Finland also had another noteworthy release. The third album of vintage-pop combo TV Resistori has been in the making since 2006 but the band members turned out to be very picky about the way the album had to sound. Computer problems, let alone problems with the old recording stuff and bandmembers (the band changed bassplayer), led to a five years silence. But here it is opening with the lovely ‘Ajasta jäljessä’ hobbing along with a merry piano and vocal harmonies of Päivi, and Ykä (the singer-songwriter of the group. Banjo and dry drums perfect the pop sound of the group. Second song ‘Funsti’ is much more upbeat on which Päivi takes the lead role. But it is with the third song that you know where you heard this sound before. Building on the previous albums TV resitori sounds even more like the Finnish answer to Belle & Sebastian or Peter, Bjorn & John. Don’t misunderstand us here, the band can easily compete with named bands. They mix twinkling midtempo pop with upbeat dance numbers like ‘Funtsi’, ‘Ilta aikaa’ or ‘Minne ratsuni laukkaa’ and then close the album with a bluegrass loveballads like’ Pidän susta, tyhmä’ and ‘E.S.O.P.M.J.M.V.M.P.S.O. (Pallo)’. Worth checking out

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