reviews
Reviews July - September 2012

 

Live Pallas 2012 (2012) ♪♪
Haris Alexiou & Dimitra Galani (Greece)

Europe is in the midst of an economical crises and the situation in Greece is even worse since the country might go bankrupt in the near future. You may wonder what this has to do with this new album release. Well, after listening to this 2cd album two or three times, I cannot but feel that the national crisis also has affected the creative output of Haris Alexiou and Dimitra Galani. In fact, this release offers nothing relevant and is substandard for these two iconic artists.

Haris Alexiou and Dimitra Galani are the most popular female voices in Greece today. Both have been recording since the beginning of the seventies and they have sold millions and millions of records. Both of them have succeeded in maintaining high quality standards throughout their career. Their first musical meeting was in 1981 when they recorded the album 'Ta tragoudia tis hfthesinis meras' (‘The songs of yesterday’) together. The album was very successful and became part of the musical canon in Greece. Thirty years later, Alexiou and Galani got together again to perform some live shows together, now released on this double cd.

My disappointing experience started when I discovered that cd1 contained the second part of the concert and cd2 the first part (at least that’s what I have concluded according to the play list and the public response and applause). My disappointment continued when I learned that approximately half of the 36 songs were performed only partly (ca. 2 minutes) and not integrally, thus creating the impression of a never ending medley. The most shocking fact for me was hearing Alexiou singing in a very poor way. Not only does this release give the impression of two artists singing on autopilot, it almost sounds like Alexiou has either major problems with her voice and timing or is just drunk. For example, listen to her classic ballad ‘Ola se thimizoun’ (‘Everything reminds me of you’); it is almost painful to hear her plowing through the song. Or ‘Di efhon’ (‘With blessings’), on which Galani outclasses Alexiou on one of her best and most beloved signature songs. Galani seems to sing every note correctly, as ever, yet even her singing lacks inspiration. At some spare moments Galani succeeds in transcending the whole situation, like on ‘Esi me xeris pio poli’ (‘You know me better’), ‘Dio meres mono’ (‘Two days only’) and ‘Stereotipa’ (‘Stereotypes’). But even then we are aware that she has released other live albums of much higher quality.

The two diva’s are being accompanied by a combo consisting of piano & keyboards, violin, bouzouki, acoustic and electrical guitars, acoustic and electrical bass, percussions and even some trumpet and trombone. It is all very professional and stylish but the arrangements never become fresh or innovative. It probably is not an easy job to accompany two singers who have both sung many different musical styles and all, but still I consider it a missed opportunity that most of these songs were not given a ‘2012-treatment’. There are moments that the musicians, especially the electric guitarist, who plays way too loud for the singers. It sounds out of balance and lacks nuance.

Although I highly respect both these ladies and their artistic achievements, this live album is only a pale shadow of what these ladies are (were?) capable of. I recommend to buy one of their earlier individual live albums and enjoy the fantastic song material and high quality singing. And if you really want to listen to Alexiou and Galani as a duo, than play the original 1981-record 'Ta tragoudia tis hfthesinis meras'. Let’s just hope that this release is a one-time mistake and that their individual future releases will again be up to their usual high standard.

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Amami (2012) ♪♪♪
Arisa (Italy)

After San remo 2012 all attention went to the winner (Emma) and Nina Zilli (going to the ESC). The result is that the number two is almost to easily forgotten. Not completely fair as Arisa shows with her third album. Here intimate song ‘La Notte’ was no match for the more poppy Emma but is maybe in the long run the better song. And Arisa writes all her material herself together with Giuseppe Anastasi. She sings the ballad with power and precision, less playful then during the live-shows, but more intimate and emotional. ‘Amami’ was produced and arranged by Mauro Pagani who gave the intimate songs simple and airy arrangements that allow Arisa’s voice to play a leading role. Most songs feature a round sound consisting of piano, guitar, strings, and a theremin here and there to give it a nocturnal atmosphere. The first part of the album stays close to that structure and is faithfull to traditional Italian ballads. A funny and cynical, more cabaresque song called ‘Democrazia’ delivers the needed change to prevent the album to sink in a mid-tempo drone. It is a prequel to my favourite song of the album called ‘Poi però’. A bittersweet song about the fear that a relationship will eventually turn sour. It’s a powerfull song with a robust drum and fiddle accompanying Arisa on her bitter monologue. With this song she proves why she is a worthy heir to Mia Martini’s legacy (She won the Mia Martini award in 2009). With this album Arisa wanted to prove she was able to make a more mature album. Even the cover she emphasizes the desire to finally be herself : On the cover  Arisa is sitting in front of a mirror without the "mask" of her previous character (she wore spectacles previously) which is supported in front of her. With this album Arisa puts herself in line with great Italian bards like Cocciante. A bit more diversity in mid en uptempo would make this a perfect album but Arisa has enough artistic character to create that in the future.  

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Οι μέρες του φωτός (Days of light) (2012) ♪♪♪♪
Natassa Bofiliou (Greece)

A new rising star in Greece. That is the main conclusion after hearing ‘Days of light’, the third album by young singer Natassa Bofiliou. Although rising…this album is already her third but it is her debut for a major record company (she signed to Sony recently). The new thing about Natassa is that she seems to gap the bridge between international pop and local Greek music. Not much Greek singers are able to pull both genres off but Natassa makes a convincing effort. She split the album in two to make it easy for us listeners. CD 1 features more wordly alternative pop starting of with the title track. An excellent piece of Eurorock that completely won me over. Starting with a tingling bazooka (or is it piano?) it quickly builds up adding guitars, bass and drums. With a voice that sometimes reminds me of Shakira Natassa powerfull sings this hymn to the sun. Following the rules of Eurorock the song holds at threequarters flowing into a semi psychedelic interlude before Natassa pulls the whole song back for a final burst. Great track, one of my favourites of this summer. The first six songs all following the same melodic role. Switching between the alternative and pop before ending in an intimate pianoballad called ‘Monologue’. It all breathes a sort of live-vibe and that is no surprise when you consider that Natassa took the whole of February to rehearse the material live at the Gazoo club in Athens before starting recording. The process pays off because due to this extensive rehearsing the songs sound natural like a well fitting coat. But over to CD 2 were Natassa stays closer to Greek musical tradition. Opening tracks ‘Δεμένη’ (Anchored) and ‘Ο γλάρος’ (The Seagull) take up the ode to the sea, a theme that is ever so common in Greek Music. We go all traditional with ‘Λοχαγός έρωτας’ and ‘Η καρδιά πονάει όταν ψηλώνει’ (The heart hurst when taller) songs that could easily be on the repertoire of Alixiou or Galani. Also here the album closes with a ballad, this time accompanied by bazookies and violin. Although both sides of Natassa are musical different she has the voice to convince both ways. But evenly important is her dedicated writing team  Gerasimos Evangelatos and Themis Karamouratidis.who are able to write songs that are different in character but still make a coherent whole. Natassa shows with this strong album that all is still not lost for Greece.

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Papitwo (2012) ♪♪
Miguel Bosé (Spain)

Five years ago Miguel Bosé celebrated his 30th anniversary in music with a duet album called ‘Papito’. It was an unexpected millionseller taking away any doubt that Bosé is still the leading popsinger in the Spanish language. The project sold over three million albums sold and Bosé toured for three years in a row with a retrospective of his career. He returned to new material with the album ‘Cardio’ in 2010 so we thought the duet project was a one off nice gesture. But Miquel decided otherwise because this year a returns with virtually the same project, re-recording his old songs with guests, but now a double album. So Alejandro Sanz lends his voice to the track "Te comeria el corazon," Juanes appears on "Partisano" and his niece Bimba Bose returns on "Shoot me in the back." Internationally the most attention will probably go to the duet with actress Penelope Cruz. But honestly, the quietly rippling version of ‘Decirnos adiós’ is quickly forgotten. More interesting is the duet with that other Spanish music dinosaur  Joaquin Sabina with whom he gives ‘Sol forastero’ a raw electronic make over. His Italian guests Tiziano Ferro and Jovanotti also do a reasonable job in polishing ‘Amigo’ and ‘Mirarte’. And the pumping houseversion of ‘Duende’ with Aleks Syntek will definitely go down well on the dance floor. Still the whole thing breathes that the artists contributing worship Bosé without being critical to what they actually are doing. There is in fact no added value to the songs with them joining in. Added with the fact that he definitely wrote some classic and very strong material over the years it is not the quality of the songs that form the problem here. Like any part 2 in the movies and books it is just less interesting then the first one. It is all in respect for the master but personally I prefer the maestro alone and with new song material. But till then we have to make do. He even doubled the songs on the special edition with 14 duets made for different projects of other artists as Hombres G, Raphael, Marlango, Natasha St Pier, Ana Torroja, Tania Libertad and many more. If you had the feeling the first set of 14 wasn’t enough.

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Αndreas Embeiríkos / Dínos Christianópoulos (2012) ♪♪♪
Constitution of pleasure (Το Σύνταγμα Της Ηδονής) (Greece)

The constitution of pleasure. I assume Greece can definitely do with such a law since there is much to laugh about in that part of Europe. At least they now can enjoy the musical variety of it with this electronic project called ‘The constitution of pleasure’. The tracks, released in two separate projects, feature the voices of poets Dinos Christianopoulos (Ντίνος Χριστιανόπουλος) and Andreas Embeirikos (Ανδρέας Εμπειρίκος). Poetry over house music has been done before but leave it to the Greek to not limit themselves to mere samples. What can be heard are complete recitals of the poems by the artists themselves under which the CoP created a swaying soundscape. It is as classy as it is alluring. Both poets sound like they’ve been recorded ages ago and speak to you from the other side. In case of Embeiricos that is actually true since he died in 1975. Both poets have in common that they were both very social critical, hinting towards surrealism and using themes like erotic passion, humiliation and loneliness. Hence the surreal songtitles like ‘Spinning night respite’, ‘Lions for the breast virgin Oryomenoi’ and ‘The presence of angels within a locomotive’. The whole concept is somewhat compelling, menacing and hypnotic. Like a snake charmer's music bringing you into a drugged trance. CoP follows in the footsteps of Lena Platonos, a poet that build an entire career on setting Greek poetry to popular music. Maybe they should meet up. Both albums can be downloaded for free on the website of the CoP of which in our humble opinion the one based on the poetry of Embeirikos is the strongest.

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Mildt sagt (2012) ♪♪♪
Gabrielle (Norway)

Look no further if you’re searching for this year’s europopmusic summer album. Although released in spring the debut album by Gabrielle Leithaug breathes summer breeziness. Former "X Factor" candidate she already had thé Norwegian summerhit of 2011 with ‘Ring meg’, also present on the album. But there is obviously more where that came from. Together with producer and co-writer Lars Kåre Hustoft Gabrielle delivers ten catchy electropop tracks with a high hit factor, best suited to keep pace and the intensity up on the dance floor and any power sessions with your personal trainer in the training room. It’s high energy disco that goes down best with a party at the beach (or your living room). But beside this somewhat superficial purpose can ‘Mildt sagt’ stand the test of also being a pop-album to listen to? Well, yes and no. The first half of the album is not bad but does not rise above the average Eurodance song. Some tracks have some nice ideas but feel half finished. Like ‘Løkken’ or ‘Alt du gjorde’. With their half finished bleeps and beats it has no deeper layer then …well bleeps and beats. And the lyrics aren’t exactly helping raising it to a more poetic level: “You fall from me like sand through your fingers / Cereals for grain / While packing up things”. It’s the second half that deliver a more interesting bouquet of songs. Here Gabrielle’s songs suddenly turn catchy and enticing. Suddenly it does not matter that ‘Høster’ has a silly dodododo chorus. It’s a great pop tune that is made to turn your car stereo on maximum volume and open the windows. It will be no surprise that both singles are in this half of the album (the titletrack being the second single of the album). Gabrielle proves herself the R & B lady that incorporates cool electro, trance and synthpop. It is maybe not very credible yet but there are enough hints that miss Leithaug has just a classic pop album inside of her. One track reveals a preview of what that could be. ‘Inn i deg’ is a track of which Lady GaGa, Robyn and Beyonce dream about. Stomping, ruthless, without concession and still commercial. Move over , here’s Gabrielle.

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Stuntman (2012) ♪♪1/2
't Hof van Commerce (Belgium)

Back in 1998 the Belgian rap crew of the Hof van Commerce (or Chamber of Commerce if you translate the bandname) introduced rap in West Flemish dialect. A novelty at the time and one that found following from other rappers in the region like Fixkes. Frontman Flip Kowlier even based an entire career on it, with the crew as well as a solo singer/songwriter. It is striking that the output of HvC relies heavily whether Kowlier feels like it or not. The last band album was made in 2005 and since then Kowlier delivered two solo-albums before returning to hiphop with his gang ‘Dommestik’ (Serge Buyse) and DJ 4T4 (Kristof Michiels). But ‘Stuntmann’ is here and the question is, is HvC still relevant. The first thing at is striking is that the youthfull anger of yesterday made way for more contempt, maybe due to the fact that the bandmembers all have a family life nowadays (nicely documented in ‘Kinds in bed’). The only bling in their lifes nowadays is the reflection of sunlight in a rattler. The interaction between Kowlier and Buyse is still there with an occasional game of good cop / bad cop, in which they smoothly switch between each other. Kowlier as the soft guy, Buyse as the surly more distant grumbler. But because the lyrics are incomprehensible to people outside Flanders the album is highly dependend on the beats of Kristof Michiels aka DJ 4T4. The DJ had is own career going in the previous decade under the name Ultrasonic but parked that project due to high pressure. He then worked as a producer and radio deejay. I may be wrong but from his perspective he approached ‘Stuntmann’ as an ode to the hip-hop masters of yesteryear. ‘Nie Normael’ can be redirected straight to ‘The Message’ by legendary Grandmaster Flash, on other tracks hints of Black Sheep, Ultramagnetic MC’s and Jungle Brothers are present. Bare repeating electronic beats with a funky ornament here and there. It gives the album a sort of ‘back to days’ – historical vibe, with the bandmembers pushing towards 40, that might not be appreciated by everyone but stays consistent throughout the album. Intentional or not HvC still sails its own course and probably couldn’t care less what we think.

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Väärinpäin lentävät linnut (2012) ♪♪♪♪
Jippu (Finland)

The first thing that comes to mind when looking at the cover of Jippu’s third solo album is the resemblance with the holy virgin Mary. It is definitely no coincidence, since Jippu has never made a secret of being a very religious person. The songs on her album sounds more celestial than on her former two albums, but the lyrics deal not only with celestial matters, but also with issues from live here on earth, with all its ups and downs.

Jippuis a young pop singer/songwriter from Helsinki, Finland. She released her debut album in 2006 and who topped the albums charts in her homeland with her second album, ‘Kuka teki minusta tän naisen’, in 2008. In 2010 she released a successful album together with popular Finnish singer and actor Samuli Edelmann. And now she has just released her third solo album with the intriguing title ‘Väärinpäin lentävät linnut’ (‘Birds flying upside down’).

Despite the fact that Jippu is a practicing Christian, she seems to have quit an open mind on the world around her. The album opens with the song ‘Eva (Nakutaan kielletyllä iholla)’ (‘Eva (Let’s sleep in a forbidden skin)’). It obviously refers to the biblical woman, responsible for the original sin. But the song turns out to deal with the love between two women. In the second verse, Jippu sings about Eva Dahlgren, Swedish long time lesbian pop legend. Jippu explained in an interview that she is not only musically inspired by Eva Dahlgren, but also by her strength and courage to just be what she wants to be. It’s a fantastic song that starts soft and intimate and ends with a great feeling of hope.

From ‘Eva’:
“Shouting from the balcony / You may not come afterparty / You are mine and no one else can take you away from me / Even though the world is cold and angry with us / Tonight we will braid each other's hair. / I may be Eva Dahlgren / Out of all the women in the world / You are more complete, do not see the ugly truth / It's better that you don't know what they say about us / We will escape swiftly.”

The song ‘Henki jä elämä’ (‘Heart and soul’) is a song about being love struck the first time you meet someone. It’s about physical pleasure. And again, the lyrics contain a reference to the original sin:
“I am a woman, I'm a tree and a snake, I am the apple / … / Take my heart and soul / Come up with something to use them / Give your hammer and sickle / Let’s get wild on the street / Take my heart and soul / Take me outside and inside / Smash the window / Break the furniture.”

The title song is about the intense pain one can experience when love remains unanswered. It can become a destructive force, that actually might drive you crazy. Once again a fantastic song:

“There is no us anymore, the rain is pounding like fists to our window / … / You are a man without a useful heart, you cry out your lies / ... / And oh my God, why do I love you. / … / I'm lost on my way to heaven / I’m on my way to the mad house / I crash into the wind, like birds flying upside-down.”

‘Kuningas’ (‘King’) apparently is a song about alcoholism. The sweet, soft melody does not really express that for me. Melodically this is one of the lesser songs on the album. ‘Suojassa’ (‘Protected’) deals with the grace between two people that may not totally deserve it. It's about acceptance, about mildness between people. The song is a nice contract with the next track, ‘Hei me erotaan’ (‘Hey, we’re leaving’). It’s a song about letting go, about stop looking back to what was before, and instead look into the future, the things to come. Although the lyrics are bittersweet, the melody is very uplifting and expresses hope for the things to come.

Then comes the sad ballad ‘Väärin tein (Purple rain’) (‘I have been wrong (Purple rain)’). According to Jippu in an interview, she never had anything special with Prince, until she met someone in a bar and the ‘Purple rain’ was played. It was love at first sight, but apparently it was not meant to last. She explained that she still cannot listen to the song… It is followed by another intense ballad, ‘Kotona taas’ (‘Home again’), a song about remorse, about the wrong choices people make in everyday life, the regret and pain they cause and the fact that we can cope with them to just go on with our lives, to re-appreciate our home, the things we have.
The next song is ‘Onneton morsian’ (‘Unhappy bride’), the only cover track on the album. It was originally written and recorded by the great American songwriter Sam Phillips, but it became popular when Alison Kraus and Robert Plant recorded it a few years ago. Compared to the original track Jippu’s version lacks some harshness, but she adds some melancholy in its place.
‘Inhoan sinua’ (‘I hate you’) is a sour song about a love’s gone to an end and the two people planning top part.

The album closes in style, with an almost gospel-like tune, ‘Haluun unohtaa rauhassa’ (‘I want to forget and find peace’). In the text Jippu asks ‘someone’ to help her, to give her strenght. It is obviously that she addresses Christ in this dramatic song about coming to peace with oneself and the challenges that life puts on our path:

“Now someone tell me how to remove it / How to have courage and cope for many years to live / Now someone please give me the strength to fight and make the right choice and forget / In peace, I want to forget and find peace.”

‘Väärinpäin lentävät linnut’ has become a very personal album. The lyrics and melodies sometimes get a bit too dramatic, but on the other hand: this is clearly Jippu’s message she want s to deliver, without any compromises. Fortunately, she never takes it over the top; the orchestration and production is very tasteful and it all serves her expressive voice very well. Jippu’s third solo album is definitely her best one to date and with it she positions herself in the front league of new young female singer-songwriters in Finland and Europe.

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Jag är inte rädd för mörkret (2012) ♪♪♪
Kent ( Sweden)

The flagbearers of Swedish indiepop celebrate their tenth release with a return to a more subdued production after the euphoric ‘En plats I solen’. ‘I am not afraid of the dark’ is the somewhat imminent title of the album as if the band have to convince themselves that they really aren’t. There are hints of the afterlife with the Egyptian styled coverart. A theme we encountered in 2010 with Kent’s Spanish counterpart Los Planetas ‘Una Ópera Egipcia’. The six minute long single ‘999’, which also opens the album, was a representative announcement for what to expect. It is also one of the weaker songs on the album since it is almost cliché – Kent. Surging guitars and piano-riffs underline the road they have taken at the turn of the century and crafted into perfection. ‘Petroleum’ a synth poppy tune without much weight also doesn’t really convince. It seems that the band was struggling in the studio to decide what they were planning to do for this album and started recording anyway to at least have something. But professionalism doesn’t betray itself. With ‘Isis & Bast’, a midtempoballad they show why they are the leading band in Scandinavia. The weight in the chorus is formidable, Queen Isis meets the beast in the dessert and proclaimes “"I betrayed my class at a polling station. I tore the Pyramids of the king's valley” while around her the storm of sound prefails. It builds up to the highlight of the album, a song called ‘Tänd På’ (On Ignition). It’s the spark the album needs but then we’re already halfway. It’s classic Kent without getting cliché. Coincidentally the song is about the inner struggle to escape and find answers, a search to find direction.

Joakim Berg is at his best with the beautiful and mysterious lyrics: “ I make an excavation of Atlantis / My fingers deep in the earth / I have China in my nail / About 300 years or days / Perhaps we can find forgotten roads / Maybe they are leading to forest / Some of us have been there / but we have forgotten how we got there / We have pictures of thousands / but no longer any memory / of what it takes to get back / Polymer Engineering Science / Into the light”. From here on the band gets more grip on what they want to do although you feel they really had to make an effort to focus. ‘Ruta 1’ starts of as a lost Ratata track before they get a grip and mould it into something great. And ‘Färger På Natten’ is the football song Sweden did not have, written for sing-along sessions in a stadium. Thank heavens the album closes with two excellent tracks. ‘Låt dom komma’ features an oboe and a pumping beat to present the perfect popsong. “I am ready, let them come now”, yes but a bit late Joakim, you’re already at the end of the album. On ‘Hansyn’ the grand gestures and stadium rock are dished overboard for an intimate song in which Joakim whispers over subdued violins:’ I get so bad sometimes / I see traces of your tears / To no dwell / and you have always had / so easy to forgive / Just one of thousands of little riddles / By doing that he loves you / That makes you love you / Which make me love you / That makes us love you”. It is a simple and very effective song. If this is what Kent will sound like on a future project then there is enough promise to look forward to their 11th album. For this anniversary album the score is good and enough to do justice to their reputation. But nothing more. .

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Rakkaudesta (2012) ♪♪♪♪
PMMP (Finland)

‘Rakkaudesta’ (‘Love’) is the sixth album release by popular Finnish band PMMP, consisting of two singers, Paula Vesala and Mira Luoti, backed up by a band consisting of Mikko Virta, Juho Vehmanen and Heikki Kytölä. Paula wrote the lyrics for this album, the songs were composed and produced by Jori Sjöroos. According to Wikipedia there appear to be two different stories for the origins of the band’s name. The first one claims PMMP stands for ‘Paulan ja Miran Molemmat Puolet’ (‘Both sides of Paula and Mira’). However, the girls explained in an interview that the name of the band comes, like ABBA, from the names of 4 of its members: so PMMP is Paula, Mira, Mira, Paula. Anyway, the band has been very popular in Finland since it started in 2002 and have a great live reputation (check out youtube).

According to the blogs on the web it seems that this album has divided their Finnish fans into two camps. The one side thinks it is their bets, most mature album to date with interesting experiments with electronics and acoustic elements; the other side thinks the album is a bit of a let-down, they miss the pop-rock sound of their former albums. Since this album is my first acquaintance with the combo, I will judge this release by its own merits.

‘4ever young’ is an energetic opener and tells a story about a woman who is addicted to plastic surgery:
“Well I'm not 4ever young / Even though I put injections / Even though I go from ampoules to serums. And how much I hated this face before / Now I'm going to start all this again from the beginning / … / Make me perfect, make me a human again and do your cut to the cover of disappointments.”

Third song Heliumpallo’ (‘Helium balloon’) is definitely one of the stand out tracks of the album. Its melody is very diverse and the vocal harmonies really catchy and beautiful. It deals with that rare moments of feeling complete happiness, even though you know that it will inevitably come to an end:
“I revealed exactly everything, I couldn’t hide happiness like that / It’s possible just once, The world is for us, let’s go / … / Who doesn’t ever take off because of love / Will never break into pieces in too high / Lift your gaze to the sky / From there I float little by little: a helium balloon that was allowed to explode.”

An explicit critical view on modern society is expressed in the song ‘Jeesus ei tule oletko valmis’ (‘Jesus won’t come are you ready’):
“Darling give me strength to stand the underwear advertisements on the streets / Everywhere a chick in pictures, trusts herself in panties. / From self-hatred, from misanthropy / Good business from plastic flesh / … / Jesus won't come are you ready / As a basis of good life, nuclear family is the only right one / So fetuses choose carefully, to what uterus you end up hanging / Jesus won't come are you ready.”

‘Rakkaalleni’ (‘To my love’) is a more traditional mid-tempo PMMP-song about someone who is prepared to sacrifice everything for her lover, with possible dramatic consequences. ‘Tytöt’ (‘Girls’) is musically innovatiove, with the girls actually rapping the verses in Finnish (!), but lyrically it seems like a 2012 version of ‘Sisters are doing it for themselves by Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin. Go-go-girl power! The tune sounds a bit funny, childish even, but after several spins in the cd-player, it just won’t leave your head anymore…

Another highlight on the album is track number 8, ‘Pahvinaamari’ (‘Cradboard mas’). A mid-tempo song with beautiful sad lyrics about a pathetic person, stalking young women. It builds up to a great, angelic refrain:
“Forcefully you invented your woman, just glued my face there / Called it love, persecuting, but I was nowhere there. / I didn't stay and stand as your audience / Even though I left, you kept on going / I still heard your voice long afterwards, chatting to the cardboard mask / … / I've already found a sanctuary and you didn't disturb the peace of it /… / And there you are moving on to the next one going on like you always do.”

The album ends with the song ‘Toivo’ (‘Hope’). I read a comment on the web that this song deals with someone who’s in a relationship with a drunkard. Maybe so, but I cannot find this in the lyrics. To me it’s just a nice song with an uplifting message to end the album. A present for all the listeners to close down with a message of hope:

‘Toivo’ (‘Hope’):
“Hope, hope, without it you cannot live / Mercy, mercy, without it you cannot survive. / … / I forgave you and now I'll forgive anyone. / … / We confess everything bad into the wind and it'll carry it away / The wind reads that sheet and turns the page / It doesn't begin from the beginning but from the end / After that there are mornings - Good morning world.”

I find ‘Rakkaudesta’ a very interesting europop album and a great introduction to PMMP. In the near future, I will definitely check out some of their previous albums in order to be able to decide which camp to join…

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Renata Przemyk Akustik Trio (2012) ♪♪♪♪
Renata Przemyk Akustik Trio (Polland)

Renata Przemyk founded her accoustic trio with Błażej Chochorowski (bass and fretless bass guitar) and Maciej Mąka (acoustic and classical guitars, sitar, cavaquinho, panduri) in 2009. Renata herself takes care of exotic percussion instruments like darabuka, djembe, kalimba, bells and cymbals. The trio have been touring frequently ever since. Now they just released a record of the acoustic reinterpretations of a variety of Renata’s songs from the past 20 years. The focus lies on the songs from her last two outstanding albums, ‘Unikat’ and ‘Odjazd’, but there are also older classics like the 2003 single she originally recorded with Katarzyna Nosowska ‘Kochana’, and ‘Babę zesłał Bóg’ from her 1990 debut album ‘Ya hozna’.

It is clear that the trio have been performing together for some time, since they sound really well-attuned. Their musicality is beyond any doubt, it all sounds fantastic. It is really impressive that the songs, stripped and bare, sparsely arranged, stand out at least as good as their original recordings. The album does not present us a collection of old songs in an unplugged setting, Renata takes the opportunity to reinvent the true essence of her art. Her singing is very powerful and intense with nice rough edges. Together with her companions she succeeds in lifting the material above the level of ‘just’ good Polish pop music. She transcends it into a unique mixture of all sorts of European musical influences: fado, flamenco, gypsy folk, chanson. This album is a true gemm; it places Renata Przemyk in the front league of the European singer-songwriters of today. It deserves attention from audiences outside Poland, so order this cd on line of check it out via youtube.

 

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Santacruz (2012) ♪♪♪
Supersubmarina (Spain)

Spanish indierock is never short of grand gestures and pathos. Maybe it’s the legacy of Flamenco that trickles through here, also an art form that leans heavily on fierce emotional expression. The Andalusian rockband Supersubmarina walks in line with the current Eurorock scene adapting the influences from Coldplay and Snow Patrol with the Spanish twist that bands from the Iberian plains lean heavily on the guitars (where most bands tend to offer the keyboards a spot in the limelight). The eleven songs for their second album were recorded in the LaViña studio’s in two large sessions. This pays off in the sense that the album sounds raw allthough there was obviously a bigger budget available to do a professional mix. The whole album sounds more balanced then their debut, more organic and less electronic. Even more so, keyboards can hardly be found on the album. The title refers to the Anadalusina expression of wearing a cross in the sense of a burden or a scar. In this case, the burden is the heaviest of all: that of a breakup, the lack of love. On the titlesong the lyrics make a plea to a higher force: "I can no longer go on / How heavy is your holy cross! / I want to see the light / I want to offer immortal gifts for telling me your plans / Tell me what you know “. All emotions you associate with love and relationships pass by like melancholy (Hermética); incomprehension (En mis venas); rage (Tu Saeta) and deliverance:" Little endless doubts / I'll be here waiting while alive / I'm here to tell you that the time / That we've been lost is just a small dot in the sky of oblivion / Let all the hurt that I have / And we've been / has to count for something / For you have learned " (De las dudas infinitas). The howling and raging guitars are very present through the entire album over and underlaying the entire musical score. Singer José "Chino" sometimes has trouble getting over the wall of sound. But that does not mean that ‘Santacruz’ is not a very enjoyable album with highlights saved for the last when the band delivers two supercatchy tracks with ‘Cometas’ and ‘Hogueras’ that deserve a spot on your Spotify playlist. Check it out, another great indieband from Spain. .

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Du chaos naissent les etoiles(2012) ♪♪♪
Carmen Maria Vega (France)

In chaos stars are born. A poetic title for the second album by French-Guatemalan singer Carmen Maria Vega. Carmen developed herself as a strong stage persona after extensive touring since her 2009 debut. She is a bit wacky, a bit rock ‘n roll, a bit cabaret and must of all very French poprock. She also showed herself a watchfull pupil of Catherine Ringer and a younger sister of Anais. All these influences return on this new album. The chaos referred to in the album title is also present on the album being a bric-a-brac collection of styles. The first two songs she dabbles in vaudeville before getting a grip and burst out in the rocking ‘Sans rien’. Then we slip into acoustic chanson for three songs. Then she joins the rock-a-billy sound of Dionysus for the funny cat-anthem ‘Miiaouo’ and ‘Au marriage du Christine’. Then we make a sharp U-turn to go back to pop with ‘Invité chez moi’. If you’re still following me through this musical maze you’ll understand that the musical spectrum of Miss Vega is as diverse as her hairdo’s. But the suprising thing is that she is able to pull it off at most of the tracks. She obviously has a strong character or appeal judging by the string of collaborators joining in on the album. We found Albin de la Simone, Mathias Malzieu, Marlon B and Mark Plati aiding in the studio. In the end she picks up the guitar and sings an ode to Papa like a true Marie Laforet. Interesting but eclectic young artists.

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Produit de Belgique (2012) ♪♪
Vive La Fête (Belgium)

What is the expiration date of a good musical gimmick? It depends on the gimmick of course (Status Quo has build an entire career around one riff) but after almost 15 years the gimmick of Belgian electro-duo Vive La Fête is becoming rather predictable and unilaterally. The mix of electro, French chanson and a strong hint of kitsch created by Pynoo and Mommens stays unchanged for this new album. The recruiting of producer Jo Bogaert (who celebrated worldwide fame at the start of Nineties with Technotronic) doesn’t seem to have any effect on them. So once again we get eleven songs filled with horny electro beats, pumping bass and Pynoo sighing almost childlike rhymes. In French of elementary level she moans: “Je suis une femme pas contrôlée, va toi et moi on a Saint-Tropez.”. OK, I have to admit, when opener ‘Décadanse’ blasts out of your speaker it is instantly recognizable and exciting. Like a memory of a great party suddenly comes back to you. On ‘Je N’Sais Pas Si Tu’ it seems as if they sample and remix ‘boys and girls’. ‘Bizarre’ and ‘Mi amore’ are in itself no bad partytracks. But the whole album also breathes a form of laziness. But stay tuned to the end (or skip direct to track 11) because single ‘Titi’ is a honest and convincing tribute to Belgian new wave. Dark, rugged and angular rhythms and bobbing basslines. Hints of TC Matic, Kreuners, Front 242 and Luc van Acker serve as foundation for the most dark and sinister track I heard from this duo since years. And a sound that you only find in Belgium. They should have redone half the album like this and it would be artistically much more interesting. But you can also exxagerate musical experimentation. Like closing with a 15-minute pianopiece. I wonder of they please either critics or fans with that. But for the festivalgoers who are just looking for a good time and no innovation. Don’t hesitate to plug into the ungoing beatmachine of Vive La Fête.

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