Reviews October - December 2009


2raumwohnung - Lasso (Bonus Track Version)


Lasso (2009) - ♪♪♪
2raumwohnung (Germany)

Thomping drums and cheering children invite the listener in on opening track ‘Der letzte abend auf der welt’ while Inga Humpe orders you to dance like there is no tomorrow. This might hint that the 2raumwohnung duo (Inga Humpe and Tommi Eckhart) continued on their electropop dance path. Fact is on ‘Lasso’ they try to work more with other genres which brings them closer to electric acoustic pop then the dancefloor. More then predecessor ’36 Grad’ even more ‘regular’ songs make out the whole of the album. That doesn’t mean they shed their roots because a track like ‘Body is boss’ is an old fashioned dance-stomper. But tracks like ‘Wir werden sehen’ (the single), ‘Mosaik’ and titletrack ‘Lasso’ show that 2raumwohnung is ready to make a next step. Central theme is love (of course) in the sense that boy wants girl but doesn’t get her or the other way round. “You look at me like I’m strawberry’s with cream / but cowboy, you must drive on / everything you want is not for you” sings Inga on ‘Lasso’ and it’s exemplary for the playful allegories that are worked in the lyrics. However, there are some lesser gods on the album sometimes giving it the idea of listening to a German bossa nova album. Maybe it’s because of Inga’s semi-whispering airy way of singing, maybe because of the use of acoustic guitar…I don’t know. The last two tracks are even a bit boring (although with very sweet lyrics) making ‘Lasso’ fade out silently after a stomping start. And that can’t be their intention. 2raumwohnung is one of the better bands Germany has to offer and this new album is certainly good but somewhere midway the album could use some spice…and it isn’t there.


>> Back to list of reviews


Absoluuttinen Nollapiste - Musta hiekka 


Musta Hiekka (2009) - ♪♪♪
Absoluuttinen Nollapiste (Finland)

Gradually we find out that Finland holds many musical secrets. Up in the northern tip of Europe Absoluuttinen Nollapiste (translated: Absolute zero) has been working on their own musical spectrum since 1991. Combining Finnish folk elements with prog rock ‘Musta hiekka’ ('Black sand') is already their tenth album. Singer/guitarist Tommi Liimatta and guitarist Aki Lääkkölä are responsible for most of the songs but oddly enough this did not result in a strictly guitar driven album. In fact the keyboards of Janne Hast play an invaluable role in the mysterious northern atmosphere the album breaths. This is already evident in opening track ‘Veistän kehdolle kantta’ which sounds, with it’s dark computerized vocals, as a science fiction soundtrack. Sure, there are some standard guitar diddy’s on the album like ‘Teikäläisen taivas’ ('Your kind of heaven') and ‘Voiko lämmin kesäyö olla muuta kuin levoton?’ ('Could a hot summer night be more than restless?') but they form the weaker tunes in reference to some of the more epic tracks on the album. A great example, and one of the highpoints, is ‘Valvoja-aika’ ('Controller-time') which starts with a dramatic organ melody before commencing into a thrusting rhythm, pausing mid-song in an almost medieval sounding mandolin solo. “Any number of their own home, stripped the state of their own dreams” grunts Liimatta as the track picks up speed again to end in an hurricane of sound. Also displaying the incomprehensible lyrics. My suomi is awful but even the big translator machine had difficulties with Liimatta’s fruits of labour. There are highly erotic suggestions like on ‘Loppuun katseltu kukkanen’ ('Viewed the end of a flower') with references to soft skin, white doors, small flowers and his gun going somewhere. But the most unusual is that no song has a standard couplet/refrain build-up. It’s all one flowing text written like a poem or one stream of consciousness. For musical fans of for instance Swedish band Dungen and looking for more prog-folk rock Absoluuttinen Nollapiste is a great suggestion.

Listen to 'Loppuun katseltu kukkanen'


>> Back to list of reviews


Sången om dig och mig (2009) - ♪♪♪
CajsaStina Åkertsröm (Sweden)

CajsaStina is the daughter of famous Swedish singer Fred Åkertsröm, who worked closely with Cornelis Vreeswijk among others. ‘Sången om dig och mig’ (‘Song about you and me’) is CajsaStina’s eighth album and it has been nominated for a Swedish grammi for best folk album. The album was recorded with a small, acoustic band (grand piano, contrabass, drums & percussion and guitar). CajsaStina produced the album herself and she also composed nine of the eleven songs on the album. Jack Vreeswijk, son of Cornelis Vreeswijk, appears as guest singer on two songs, including the traditional ‘Jag hade en gång en båt’, made famous by the Beach Boys as ‘Sloop John B’ and one of Cornelis Vreeswijk’s signature songs.

CajsaStina’s style is half folk, half pop music with small touches of jazz here and there. To my ears it all sounds ‘typical Scandinavian’. She has a very clear singing voice and her (mostly self-penned) songs are very personal and have intelligent, beautiful lyrics. In some perspective, she is a young Swedish version of Joni Mitchell, although her Scandinavian singing style is more distant and icy cool than Mitchell’s.

On ‘Sången om dig och mig’ the central themes are travelling and fleeing, seeking a new environment to make a better life. For example in ‘Live tur & retur’ (‘Live round trip’):
“Here I sit on a train, a traveler, among others, towards different goals / the world is big but still the same / next to me sits one who knows how a hard the impact of a verdict can be / And how nice it feels, when the bridges are burned / Freeing the man from what he fled from”

Meanwhile she is contemplating on the big questions of life, like why do we exist? CajsaStina in ‘Chans’ (‘Chance’):
“Driven by a longing for something I do not know / Driven by the desire to get rid of all the aimlessness / Thoughts father in circles, clouds dissipated over / And while I go here, beat the seeds take root and become a flower, growing up, wither down and die”

But there is also room for positive thoughts and emotions:
‘Dagen är vaken’ (‘Thye day is awake’):
“The day is awake, the air is clear / I forget for the moment, the questions I have and let the silence still all striving / Here, in this moment, I want to live”

I realise that CajsaStina’s songs and singing style will not please everyone. Still, if you happen to like them, as I do, her new album ‘Sången om dig och mig’ is very enjoyable and has much nice melodies and texts to offer.

>> Back to list of reviews



Haris Alexiou - I Agapi Tha Se Vri Opou Ke Na 'Se 


I agapi tha se vrei opou kai na sai (2009) - ♪♪
Haris Alexiou (Greece)

Haris Alexiou is one of the few Greek singers who have achieved worldwide success and have built a very loyal fan base. It is probably thanks to her switch from traditional Greek folk music to actual ‘world music’ at the beginning of the 1990’s. In 1995 she released the masterpiece ‘Odos Nefelis ‘88’, for which she wrote all songs herself for the first time. After this classic album, she release many more records, some better than others, but never again with the impact of ‘Odos Nefelis ‘88’. Haris latest album release is promoted as sort of Nefelis’ successor. And indeed, there are many similarities between her new album, ‘I agapi tha se vrei opou kai na sai’ (‘Love will find you wherever you may be’) and ‘Odos Nefelis ‘88’. There is the beautiful booklet with many black-and-white photo’s of Haris, lyrics in Greek and English translations. Six of the ten songs were written and composed by Haris, for the other four songs she took care of the Greek translations. As the album title already indicates, the songs are basically about love. But that certainly does not mean these are sweet, soft or sentimental songs. In some songs, it is even the complete opposite, like ‘Megalosa’ (‘I grew up’), in which Haris sings: “I was raised up / family monster / Nonsense kindness, phoney obedience / A child actor playing a grown-up / I am not talking about violence, I’m talking about rape / Being an adolescent means being in war / A muddy adolescent in the disgusting city / Then, a neurotic adult”

Musically, the album does remind me of ‘Odos Nefelis ‘88’. And her loyal fans will probably be thrilled with the album. The only thing is: then, in 1995 it all sounded new, like a reborn Haris, now it sounds like I have heard it al before. Do not misunderstand me – the compositions are very beautiful, the arrangements and production near to perfect. And Haris’ voice sounds as beautiful as ever. Yet, somehow the album fails to have the impact on me that some of Haris’ earlier albums had. It is almost as if it sounds too perfect. I wish Haris would have added some electric guitar or heavy drums and beats here and there to give it just a little bit extra. Maybe on her next album?


>> Back to list of reviews



Franco Battiato & Chiara Vergati - Inneres auge (Il tutto è più della somma delle sue parti) 


Inneres Auge (2009) - ♪♪
Franco Battiato (Italy)

The subtitle of Battiato’s latest album is: ‘Il tutto è più della soma delle sue parti’ (‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’). The famous master from Sicily decided to release a collection of ten songs, four previously unreleased or new songs and six rarities or new versions of familiar songs.

I am a huge Battiato fan since more than twenty years, but I can not help feeling disappointment after listening to ‘Inneres Auge’ (‘The inner eye’). Only four new songs, new versions of songs that – for the most part - we already know very well (‘Un’altra vita’, ‘No time no space’, ‘Haiku’). The total playing time is barely 33 minutes! What was Battiato thinking when he decided to release this album? An artist with a creativity and productivity of Battiato (more or less one album every year) certainly would not have had the need to release an album this short, lacking sufficient new material…

Anyway, beside the disappointment there is in fact some interesting stuff to be found on the album. ‘Inverno’ (‘Winter’) is a beautiful cover of a song by the late Fabrizio De Andrè. And the title track ‘Inneres Auge’ is actually a fantastic song, with poignant lyrics on an electronic rhythm and melody. In the song, Battiato protests against the messed up Italian political system and a pleas to seek refuge into spiritualism:
Someone says it's wrong to hold private parties / with pretty girls to brighten Primary and Servants of the State? / … / The horizontal line leads us to the subject / the vertical toward the spirit / With closed eyes glimpsed a glimmer / that with time and patience / opens the inner eye”

It might have been a better idea to release ‘Inneres Auge’ as an ep in stead of a full (?) length album. Let’s hope Mr Battiato will make up for it with a great new pop album somewhere in 2010…

>> Back to list of reviews



Bela B. - Code B 


Code B (2009) - ♪♪♪♪
Bela B (Germany)

Bela B’s decision to quit his job as drummer/singer of popular German band Die Ärtze hasn’t been a bad one. His debut album ‘Bingo’ was already successful but with ‘Code B’ he is set to at least confirm his status as a solo artist. “All hail to the Power of Opposition” is the central message he wants to send. But don’t expect any hardcore punk music to underline that message. Bela B makes rock music, German style. In it he mixes folklore, German vaudeville, Neue Deutsche Welle and punk-rock into one. Code B is a darkly exhilarating homage to Lee Hazlewood, Hank Williams, Mannfred Meiner and Bela’s recently deceased hero Lux Interior (of the Cramps). Next to a somewhat similar dark voice Bela also has Lux’s love for B-movies in common. A theme that returns regularly on the album. From cheap horror in the openingtrack where Bela plays the part of ‘Graf Rockula’ (as a variation on Dracula) to Japanese karate movies on ‘Ninjababypowow’ to gangsterflicks in ‘Liebe und benzin’. The ultimate movie homage is delivered on the last track ‘Der Wahrheit’ when famous Italian artist Alessandro Alessandroni joins in. Yes, indeed the same that laid down the famous harmonica sequence on Morricone’s ‘Once upon a time in the west’. It gives the track a typical spaghetti western vibe. And more guests turn up on the album like punk-legend Chris Spedding and actress Emanuelle Seigner (the wife of Roman Polanski). Although the inspiration might be sought in ‘cheap’ fiftiesmovies the lyrics themselves are far more intelligent then you might assume on this description. Bela’s tales of everyday life are sometimes witty and sometimes filled with biting cynism and come across as modern beat poetry. Bela sees himself as a persona that makes society look in a mirror. He is a mere actor that takes of his mask when he leaves the stage. As he actually does on the cover. Somehow ‘Code B’ reminds me a bit of David Bowie’s eighties rock project Tin Machine with a Udo Lindenberg twist.

Listen to 'Altes arschloch liebe' and 'Liebe und benzin'



>> Back to list of reviews



Benjamin Biolay - La superbe 


La superbe (2009) - ♪♪♪♪
Benjamin Biolay (France)

When he won the prestigious ‘Victoire de la Musique’ award for best album in 2002 for his first solo album ‘Rose Kennedy’, Benjamin Biolay was one of the most promising new French artists. Since then he encountered commercial success (especially with his first two albums) and artistic credibility (he was asked to produce and compose for renowned artists like Juliette Gréco, Françoise Hardy, Valérie Lagrange, Henri Salvador and Julien Clerc). His last two albums were very sombre and personal, due to his break up with Chiara Mastroianni. Furthermore, his outspoken negative opinions on some other artists, especially Bénabar, did not help him in creating a very sympathetic public image. Sales figures declined enormously and Biolay left his record company.

Now, he is back with a much more optimistic, self-financed album ‘La superbe’ (‘The great’). Benjamin Biolay has often been compared to the great late Serge Gainsbourg. And with this latest release he will certainly not end this comparison. But listening to ‘La superbe’ many other references come to mind, like Alain Bashung and the Smiths.

‘La superbe’ is a magnificent epic song cycle, in which we follow this character over a month in the summer. There is a story, a relationship that goes wrong. And naturally different peculiar characters, like Miss Catastrophe. According to Biolay “everything is personal, but nothing is autobiographical.” With this album Biolay takes us on a tour to Paris, Lyon (where he grew up) and Buenos Aires. On this musical journey we encounter a wide range of musical styles: Brit pop (‘Prenons le large’, ‘L’espoir fait vivre’), jazz (‘La Toxicomanie’), dub (‘Padam’), synth-pop (‘Assez parlé de moi’) and even tango (‘Buenos Aires’).…

In an interview, Biolay states that “La Superbe is a state of mind, an attitude. It’s about the difficult times where you have to put your life on the line. I think I’m going back to one of my first loves, F. Scott Fitzgerald. I’ve always had the ability to settle accounts with other people but, in this instance, I’m telling myself a few home truths.”

In ‘15 août’ (‘August 15’), the second song on the album, Biolay describes the things he does after his lover left him and went to Bristol. She writes him a mysterious note, ending with “I'll call you in a few days / The time to digest a little / I’m okay / Do not stay alone, try to see some friends / kisses / PS: I saw your sister in the 41”.

In the closing track ’15 septembre’ Biolay writes her an answer:
“Sometime September 15 / I'll write you at Fred’s / where I drink as much as I can / I see very few friends, besides, I have very little / I ask you one last service / do not write to me , no, that’s better / PS: I think my sister never takes public transport”

Between these two songs, there are many great tracks with beautiful lyrics to be found. For example the very original ‘Brandt Rhapsodie’, a duet with Jeanne Cherhal about two lovers communicating with each other through post-it notes:
"I'm pregnant ... / My love to your mother phoned just now, I think she did not dare tell your sister /  Your father has re-attack last night / I love you, call me, I think of you, I think of him"

The beautiful but sad ‘Night shop’ in which Biolay sings:
“For the night I eat / A girl with orange hair who tells me "You're beautiful" / I, I, I, I do not believe her entirely / with her pale face and from animal world / During the night I think back to the sun / And I empty all the bottles / I destroy the hotel rooms / Up there, up there”

In ‘Ton heritage’ (‘Your legacy’) he sings about his child:
“If you're afraid of the crowd, but support people / If your ideals crumble when you reach the age of 20 / And if nothing goes as planned / If you're nothing but a rolling stone / Ride my child. / It's not your fault / It's your legacy / And it will be worse when you're my age / It's not your fault, it is your flesh, your blood / He'll have to do with, or rather without / My child... my child...”

Although ‘La superbe’ is a more optimistic album, most of its songs are melancholic and deal about love / especially tragic love. Biolay is a master in expressing his melancholic feelings through his lyrics. IN the song ‘Padam’ he combines it with the rise and fall of a pop star:
“I waited in vain, for the whole world to cheer me, to declare me it’s flame, In a premium orgy / … / The art of living without someone who loves you”

‘La superbe’ is indeed a great record. Again Biolay positions himself in the front league of French pop music. Like many of his albums, the songs have to grow on you. At this moment, I reward it with 4 notes, but I consider it a serious possibility that I will have to add a fifth note after having listened to the entire album a few more times.


>> Back to list of reviews



Jane Birkin - Jane Birkin au Palace (Live) 


Au Palace (2009) - ♪♪♪
Jane Birkin (France)

In 2008 Gainsbourg´s muse released the album 'Enfants d'hiver' for which she wrote all the lyrics for the first time. The release of the album was followed by an extensive tour (actually, she is still touring) on which she performs songs of her new intimate, accoustic album, together with accoustic versions of many of her (and/or Gainsbourgs) old classics. By 2009 we probably all know the Gainsbourg classics and one might question what added value another live album with 'Ex-fan des sixties' and 'Yesterday, yes a day' can bring. And indeed, Birkin frequently tours and she has already released an impressive serie of live-albums. But never before did she tour with her own songs and this live-album can be considered a test case: can the new songs compete with the old time classics during an entire recital? I have to admit that they do. As a matter of fact, some of the new songs blend in with Gainsbourg classics just perfectly. On the other hand, the Gainsbourgs classics come out stronger and better than ever in this accoustic, intimate setting. With this live album Jane Birkin proofs that she has become a mature performer, able to bring other material as well as the Gainsbourg-classics. I wish and hope that she will take her songwriting a next step further in the years to come and that - one day - she will have the courage to give a recital containing only her post-Gainsbourgs songs. I believe she has the strength and capacity to do just that...

>> Back to list of reviews



Frank Boeijen - Camera 


Camera (2009) - ♪♪
Frank Boeijen (Netherlands)

After the somewhat forced album made with Henny Vrienten and Henk Hofstede last year we see Frank return to singer/songwriter form on ‘Camera’. Recorded in Brussels he is accompanied by a mainly acoustic quartet. It also seems that the older Frank gets the more retrospective his albums become. Opening tracks ‘Alles wat ik had’ ('Everything I had') and ‘het huis van Hans’ ('Hans’ house') are melancholic recollections about how it used to be. To be honest, these first two tracks are a bit dragging on and it’s with song number three ‘Op een dag’ ('Once') that Boeijen gets control of what he does best. Making romantic popsongs with mysterious texts. “Once upon a time the day is a landscape on a friendly face / Your embrace is a poem / Once everything will seem lost / Once it’s always you that matters”. This craftsmanship is also present on ‘Streken van de meester’ ('The strokes / tricks of the master') about the tension between a painter and his model. “Her soft neck / becomes even softer by the paint on the canvas / a soft brush seen through the lashes of the eye / a hidden longing”. Musically this song comes closest to his older work. His mysterious text writing is even subject to a song in ‘De vraag’ ('The question'). More trips down memory lane are featured in ‘De onderkant van de hemel’ ('The downside of heaven') about unconditional love between friends: "Too young to look forward / too old to look back”. On ‘Morgen is het dinsdag’ ('Tomorrow it’s Tuesday') Frank grabs back on the theme of his first hit ‘Verjaardagfeest’ of a person who detest birthday parties. But where that first hit is a comical report this time autumn-like depression lies in wait.

Over the years Frank Boeijen may have become a bit demure in his musical course choosing for midtempo albums that hint towards lounge-rock or jazz. In this ‘Camera’ is no exception. Some mistake that course for a dispassionate attitude. In Frank’s case it’s hardly a question of passion (being one of the most romantic songwriters the Netherlands has), it is more basking in his own little world. Maybe even cocooning. With ‘Camera’ we get a glimpse into a musical world that is solely his own. You either love it or you hate it. Explaining the two star-rating for a quality album. Listen first.

>> Back to list of reviews



Luz Casal - La Pasión


La Pasión (2009) - ♪♪♪
Luz Casal (Spain)

Luz’s new album is not a regular pop album but an exploration from the Spanish singer to the traces of Spanish music in Latin-American music just after the Second World War. With the album she brings a homage to the bolero and brings the it home again. At the time under influence of the Spanish civil war and the establishment of the fascist regime under Franco many Spanish intelligentsia fled the country to South America. Taking with them the musical traditions of their home-country. ‘La pasión’ features eleven tracks written by Latin-American songwriters and poets that were the offspring of the emigrants (sometimes spending their childhood in Spain). A good example is ‘Alma mia’ by Mexican songwriter Maria Grever (1894-1951). Born from a Spanish father and Mexican mother she spend her childhood in Spain before returning to Mexico where she be came the first Mexican female composer (one of her compositions is ‘Cuando Vuelva a Tu Lado’ also known as ‘What a difference a day makes’). More compositions and boleros from the forties to the seventies were written by Cuban Osvaldo Farres (‘’), Rene Touzet (‘Con mil descensanos’), Mexicans Eduardo Magallanes and Mario Molina (‘Historia de un amor’ and ‘Que quieres tu de mi’) and Argentinean poet Maria Elena Walsh (‘Como la cigarra’). Luz’s mission was: "not to drag the items into the present, but to view them from the source. To interpret their origin, back to the desire for purity that denote these romantic boleros”. Produced by Renaud Letang, who has worked, among others, with Feist and Manu Chao, Casal records with an all star cast among which the percussionists Alex Acuna (Ella Fitzgerald, Paul McCartney) and Luis Conte (Madonna, Ray Charles). The orchestral arrangements are being conducted by Brazilian legend Eumir Deodato hightening the latin vibe. Released on jazz-label Blue Note ‘La pasión’ is a sincere and sympathetic historical project outside the borders of pop. And sung by one of the best singers Spain has to offer.

Listen to 'Alma mia'


>> Back to list of reviews


E cosi che si fa (2009) - ♪♪
Roberto Ciambella (Italy)

The album of Roberto Ciambella has come about over a period of years. Gaining some minor attention under the name Robin Echo a few years back 46 year old Roberto recorded this new album between the summers of 2006 and 2008 with his friends Rocco Tank (Elio e le Storie Tese), Lucio Bardi, Saverio Porciello Rino Zumbini, Paola Folli, Lola Feghali and many others. It is mostly the result of jam sessions commenced in his basement. And that can be heard. First of all by the passion for music that is present on the album and also the somewhat ‘dry’ production. The result is a sympathetic album but also an album that leans heavy on standard rhythm and blues music. Probably thanks to the horn section that lightens up the recordings. But apart from the Italian language this album could have been made anywhere. It brings about hints of Van Morrison or more recent James Morrison or Jamie Cullum. Roberto is a crafted singer, he has a very good band around him and there are some nice tracks like ‘Gli irriducibili’, ‘Senza una motivo logico’ and ‘Tu mi confondi’. But the album as a whole lacks a unique character and is too exchangeable with a lot of other music to stand out.

>> Back to list of reviews


Dorian - La Ciudad Subterránea 


La ciudad subterranean (2009) - ♪♪♪
Dorian (Spain)

Loyal visitors of our site have learned that the Barcelona music scene has a big influence on the Musica Mestiza of Spain. That highly powerful mix of urban music, electronics and traditional flamenco. The musical style has become so synonymous with Barcelona that we almost expect every band from that city to make that kind of music. Luckily we have Dorian who rather makes an interpretation of the new wave style of Editors and Kasabian but then with a lot of electronics that build up around Spanish rock. ‘Simulacra de emergencia’ (Simulation of an emergency): “Your life is a graveyard / Memories extinct / and that office / your sweet white and gray marble/ If we meet again / very short, and it is the end  /I put you on my list of forgotten /and fly away. “ and rather roam the night time streets looking for an artificial paradise “I know that tonight my mind is lighter than air / with all that I have taken the sun could melt / For that I remember that I lost control /I always carry a book of this horror as alibi / But when you show up the pain fades /I do not need anyone for that / as every night we lose two / looking for some artificial paradise”.

And I embrace and began the journey, I never went that far with so little luggage / I vanish in space and time, for a few hours something fills the void.”. Dorian is a good Spanish act but their music has one flaw. And that is that their style was already very electronic new wave but with Sidechains at the helm it has become even more monotone. Each individual track is great if you would hear it on a compilation, on your car stereo or in a club. But ten tracks in a row can become a bit tedious, also since vocalist Marc is a sufficient but limited singer. The result is an album with ten great tracks that stand out on their own but not as a whole. Three stars are well earned but just. More variety next time guys.

Listen to 'La tormenta de arena'


>> Back to list of reviews



Brigitte Fontaine - Prohibition 


Prohibition (2009) - ♪♪♪♪
Brigitte Fontaine (France)

Forty years after ‘Brigitte Fontaine est fou’ the French enfant terrible of folk-pop hasn’t lost anything of her creativity and wit. No other artists in her right mind would sing a refrain that says: “I am old and I am a bum / with my dragonfly look” but Brigitte does it on ‘Prohibition’. As always assisted by Areski Belkacem and this time under production of Ivor Guest. The clever thing about Fontaine’s lyrics is that they are dressed like self mockery but also hold a mirror to the listener. It is us that portray her as genius, funny or charming as comes clear in the biting ‘Je suis un poete’ or ‘Entre guillement’. She advices us to stop the quotes. But how can we when she writes songs like ‘La fiancée de Frankenstein’ which is a bizarre poetic report how one night she kills herself by forgetting to turn of the gas: “On the North bridge I give a ball / with rock ‘n roll sirens and fire men / thunder and lightning torches / behold the fate of desperados”. Musically Guest delivers a great job in balancing the album between electronic and acoustic elements. Midway the album slows down to deliver an almost jazzy pause with ‘Harem’ and ‘Pas ce soir’. Recorded with a small combo playing instruments like violoncello and vibraphone it gives the album that touch of air and finesse before commencing to the second half. Fans who were craving Fontaine’s political outspokenness like on Kekeland get their wishes fulfilled. To start off with opener ‘Dura lex’ which is a strong complaint against governmental paternalism. “Forbidden to enter, to speak, to smoke / to be without papers / is the same as burning / The state is hell / the public tyrant / that so-called republic”. ‘Partir ou rester’ ('Stay or leave'), written just after the election of Nicolas Sarkozy at the Elysee, poses the question if internal resistance or exile are options. “But where the fuck should we go / Belgium, Spain or Britain / We walk down the street / fight against the idiots”. The track is a duet with Philip Katerine, one of the well known friends that join Brigitte on the album. Other colaborating friends are Jean Cherhal and Jamaican diva Grace Jones. Their feline duet ‘Soufi’ could be a song against the Arabic oil industry but it can just as well be a plea for tolerance. Instrumentally guitarist Leo Abrahams (known for his work for Brian Eno and David Holmes) and jazz-bassist Tom Herbert (Mercury-prize nominee) also support outstandingly in creating the bizarre, cynical world that is Fontaine’s universe: “I’m a poet / I don’t embrace you / open the prisons / they kill us”. A French phenomena of constant quality.


>> Back to list of reviews


Pixel (cd) + Psifides hronou (book) (2009) ♪♪♪♪
Dimitra Galani (Greece)

Internationally, Haris Alexiou has gained much more popularity, but in Greece Dimitra Galani definitely matches her fame. Galani has been a recording artist since 1969 and she released over 80 albums. Her latest project is ‘Pixel + Psifides hronou’ (‘Pixels of time’), a cd plus photo book.

The book that accompanies the cd is based on extracts from the novel ‘Ta onira tou Einstein’ (‘Einstein's dreams’) by Alan Lightman and contains images of photographer Lila Sotiriou. The book attempts to describe time, from a scientific as well as humanistic point of view, thus trying to find a way to of understanding people in time and the second life of things, uniting past and present.

The album contains for the most part remix versions of Galani songs and covers. But there are also some new songs, like ‘Enigma’, written by Vassilikos, and the beautiful tender ‘Den eimai apo do’ (‘I'm not from here’) by Paulidis. The remix versions are quite fresh and adventurous. ‘Tipota’ (‘Nothing’) for instance, one of Galani’s standard songs from 1989, is reworked by Greek rock band Cyanna into an entirely new and fresh sound. And ‘Ta hartina’ (‘The paper’) has been reworked by Imam Baildi, a Greek collective that have reworked traditional Greek songs from the ‘40’s and ‘50’s with beats, raps, rhythms, trumpets etc. The result is, again, fresh and exciting. Naturally, there are also more traditional versions like ‘Dipsa’ (‘Thirst’), a beautiful ballad with Portishead trip hop beats, and ‘Querer’, written by Dupere & Tadros and reworked by Bajofondo, an electrotango formation from Argentina and Uruguay.

‘Pixel’ has clearly been made with much love and care for the songs. It is a great statement of Galani’s artistry and ability to keep in touch with today’s popular music scene, despite her being around the scene for more than 40 years. The cd comes with a beautiful photo book for a retail price of only € 9,99. A great present to all her fans and a perfect introduction for young people to get introduced to this grand lady from Greece!

>> Back to list of reviews



Die Goldenen Zitronen - Die Entstehung Der Nacht 


Die Enstehung der Nacht (2009) - ♪♪♪♪
Die Goldenen Zitronen (Germany)

'The Origin of the Night’ is a fresh sign of life from Hamburg’s anarcho electro pop collective Die Goldenen Zitrone three years after ‘Lenin'. And we do not have to wait long until the rattling rhythms, the winks to Krautrock and Neue Deutsche Welle, bubbling analog synthesizers and Asian stringed instruments fly again from the speakers. Elements and inspiration from their recent collaboration with Chicks on Speed, DJ Hell and Peaches are also included in the big blender. Central theme this time is the era of post 9/11, Web 2.0 and the collapse of capitalism. The texts were inspired from blogs and tweets Schors Kamerun and Ted Gaier found on the Internet. If that is the case then the background for opener ‘Zeitschleifen’ will be pretty sad, subsequently letting a man and a woman tell what’s wrong in their relationship without telling it directly to each other. “It was the clouds that obscured their sight / it was fear that fed the new stream / it was time that didn’t move ahead”. ‘Bloss weil ich Frier’ is another example where this time the protagonist continues to whine about his Blackberry and his car. In "Des Landeshauprmann letzter's weg", the government of Angela Merkel gets their fair share of criticism as well as the docile public. English speaking assistance comes from dub-punk Mark Stewart on ‘Drop the stylist' where he climbs the barricades once again to spew his vision on the youth of today. The album builds up to the loudest track ‘Lied der medienpartner’. “Most make money / shop for inspiration / even when I’m broke I have to buy nice things / Trouble during the crisis? / We must think anticyclisch / One of us has to get the job done.” A more cold perspective on the current economical crisis hasn’t been penned down yet. The artwork is also well done with sinister watercolours done by Contemporary Fine Arts. Sometimes the result is less than the sum of its parts. In the case of the Goldenen Zitronen it is not. The collective (which this time consists of eleven people!) delivers a super exciting album until the last second. Even the seemingly odd choice to cover Melanie's 'Beautiful people' falls perfectly into place. Mind you it’s not all easy listening so if that ole’ punk vibe isn’t your thing.

>> Back to list of reviews


Hurra (2009) - ♪♪♪
Kult (Poland)

Opinions on Polish fora differ greatly wether the latest album of Kult is a great album or a disappointment. The first group praises the bands musical intensity that is still present after so many years as an active band. The second group usually mutters that singer Kazik Staszewski lost his knack for writing cynical and rebellious lyrics. To start with the first comment I have to say that ‘Hurra’ is a great musical album. The music is melodic without losing it’s punk-touch. Especially when the groovy keyboards and the horn section kick in the songs are irresistible. A great example is ‘Nowe tempa’ which is already one of my favourite tracks due to it’s funky staccato arrangement. But it’s the diversity of tempo’s and musical instruments that make this a good album. From the punk-opener ‘Maria ma syna’ ('Mary has a son', inspired by the New Testament story of the birth of the Messiah) to the experimental jazz-like ‘Nie mamy zsans’ ('We have no chance')  to a country ballad like ‘Skazani’. The second group has their doubts however about the lyrics. The regular themes like religion, relationships and politics are again there but somehow they find it to simple. I tend to disagree with them. For instance ‘Skazani’ ('Convicted') is a bitter story about a marriage gone wrong. The whole marriage theme is something that returns more on the album and even on the cover where a groom makes a jump that looks like a ‘hurra’ jump but in fact is one of frustation. Frustation is a theme that is also featured in ‘Amnesia’ a story about a journalist getting stuck in his dark perception on the world and without sleep (hence the title). And there are more treasures. But what the critics mean is that chorus lines are repeated to much. But isn’t that the essence of rockmusic? And on ‘Nowe Tempa’ the chorus "If everything was different / If everything was the opposite” is meant to repeat itself. Otherwise the whole punch would be gone. Maybe some judgements our clouded by the fact that Kazik was rather fierce on illegal downloads made available of the album prior to it’s release. A young boy from Rezow was even arrested for putting the album on his webpage. Fans slaunted Kazik with the comment that, untill recently, he sang ”all artists are prostitutes" protesting artists that sold out for commercialism. It’s the old discussion how far copyrights go. In my opinion Kult is entitled for some credit if you come up with a good album like this.

>> Back to list of reviews



Phantom - Phantom Featuring Lio 


Phantom ft. Lio (2009) - ♪♪♪♪
Lio & Phantom (Belgium)

Lio was probably Belgium’s most popular artist in the early eighties. With ‘Bananasplit’ and ‘Amoureux solitaires’ she dominated the europop charts. She is definitely no longer the lolita she was back then, but she still has a very loyal fan base worldwide. Her page on is one of the best visited artist page of the site. The lyrics of many of her songs were written by Jacques Duvall. And now they team up once again for the album ‘Phantom feat. Lio’. Phantom is a backing formation founded by multi talented artist Benjamin Schoos (aka ‘Miam Monster Miam’, owner of record label ‘Freaksville Record’). Schoos and Duvall also wrote Belgium’s 2009 Eurovision entry ‘Çopy cat’. It seems Phantom is actually developing this into a string of albums of closely related artists. First there was ‘Phantom featuring Marie France’ (another one of Duvall’s muses), followed by ‘Phantom featuring Jacques Duvall’. Lio participated in the live performance of this album and it was then that Schoos proposed to her and Duvall to do a Phantom album featuring Lio, singing Duvall’s lyrics.

Just like it’s predecessors, this Phantom album has B-movie/comic like art work (black and with foto). The album ‘Phantom feat. Lio’ was recorded in just three days in Liege, Belgium. According to Lio recording conditions were difficult (interview in ‘Focus’). The recording sessions took place in a former brothel without heating and only neon lights. This is obviously just like Schoos intended it to be, since he created an unpolished rock atmosphere, vibrant, spontaneous and rebellious. Opening track 'Je ne veux que ton bien’ (‘I do not want anything good for you’) is a right in your face rock song, as is the following track ‘Ta cervelle est en grave mais ta grande gueule fait des heures sup’ (‘You’re brain is serious, but your big mouth is making overtime’). With a sensual male-voice ‘La fidelité’ (‘The fidelity’) is a Gainsbourg inspired song. Closing track ‘Le long de la voie ferrée’ (‘Along the track’) is a sad song about a girl who commits suicide:
“She can no longer endure it / The noise of the trains / To be able to finally fall asleep / She will sleep on the tracks / She does no longer believe in paradise / She came to prefer even hell / to the slums along the railway tracks”

Lio, not the world’s best singer, really knows her way with the more rock oriented song material. And it has been a long time since I heard her singing this good. The romantic, yet bit absurd lyrics from long time musical friend Duvall combine perfectly with the fresh and spontaneous production style. This is an album created by three kindred spirits and they obviously had a lot of fun recording it. Thank you Benjamin Schoos for re-inventing Lio as Belgium’s most naughty Lolita-singer, thank you Jacques Duvall for providing Lio with such great lyrics. And, of course, thank you Lio for a great europop record!


>> Back to list of reviews


Lola & Angiolina Project - I Love You - EP 


Lola & Angiolina Project (2009) - ♪♪♪
Loredana Bertè & Ivana Spagna (Italy)

In 2008, the song 'Musica e parole' (music: Alberto Radius, lyrics: Loredana Bertè) was excluded from the race, since it had too many ressemblence with a 1988 song performed at San Remo, also written by Radius. A typical Italian scandal with a strange twist: Loredana was allowed to perform the song anyway, although it did not participate in the contest... She performed the song with handcuffs on - together with Ivana Spagna. They must have enjoyed working together, since they released an ep with six songs earlier this year. Both ladies are established and popular singers and have had long careers in pop music, yet quit different from each other. Loredana being a rebel and rock chick since the early eighties, Spagna a former Italo-disco queen (Fun Fun’s ‘Happy station’, followed by several solo hits like ‘Call me’ and ‘Easy lady’). The diva’s were both very involved in the enterprise. La Bertè (co-)wrote 5 of the 6 songs, the other being ‘Father’, with lyrics by La Spagna. La Bertè produced the album artistically, La Spagna was responsible for the executive production.

The 6 songs on the album are all quite good. It is interesting to hear a Ivana Spagna sing songs, written for her by Loredana, but she does it well! The song ‘Musica e parole’ was already released on a 2008 compilation by Loredana. Though the songs are poppy and catchy as ever, the lyrics do have a deeper messaqge. Naturally there is time for love in the song ‘I Love You’, a beautiful ballad, dedicated to all lovers in the world. But there is also doubt and concern regarding modern life and our natural environment, for example in the song ‘Enrico 40’:
“Tomorrow I return to the North Pole / This world is a shame and a drought / … / the news warned the nation for our own good / … / it is time to change our situation / … / Antarctica and all are in bloom / change the channel to forget / I only stop when I see the sea / but it is this love that hurts me the most”

Pièce de resistance is the album’s opening track ‘Comunque vada’ (‘Come what may’). In this song, Loredana express her doubt and contempt with false religion:
“I am looking towards the door / I'm on the stairs, sitting, thinking / salt the desire to go and look / or just make them scream against the "Lord" and all its "Saints" / This is the time to break the bridges”

This theme returns in ‘Musica e parole’ (‘Music and words’):
“Only you, while you know that the unexpected arrival of a poor Christ can not save us”

In this perspective it is a bit curious that the one text written by Spagna is a plea to the lord up in heaven:
“Father, have you forgotten about us here? / Tell me if what you see is what you really wanted for us / Father, I did not believe it would be easy to live here, in this madness where I can not always forgive / Father, sometimes I tend to walk away from you / For anger, for pain, but then I always return home / when "Father" [do we receive] a sign from heaven?!”

I can only conclude that this ep is a nicely succeeded musical experiment from two mature and experienced artists, who obviously wanted to do ‘something different’. The songs sound good and the album is well produced. And that is an achievement – when I saw (and heard…) the clip of their live performance at the San Remo Festival, it became clear that time (and other stuff…) took it’s toll on especially Loredana’s singing capacity. Ivana’s somewhat darkened voice saved the performance…


>> Back to list of reviews



Miossec - Finistériens 


Finistériens (2009) - ♪♪♪
Miossec (France)

‘Finistériens’ is the 7th album by former literature student and journalist form Brest, Christophe Miossec. It is actually a collaboration with another Breton, popular musician Yann Tiersen (‘Amélie Poulain’). Tiersen produced the album, co-wrote the songs and played almost all instruments. The album title refers to Finistère, a department in Brittany in the north of France. The name of this peninsula literary means ‘fin des terres’ (‘the end of the earth’).

Tiersen is known for his incredible soundtracks, with a unique yet very intense style. Therefore it is quite remarkable that his arrangements and production does not affect Miossecs own artistic style at all, he just enhances it. Which is good, because Miossec is a rough diamond and it would be a mistake to overproduce his music. Tiersen created the perfect musical layers to accompany this northern French soundtrack. It comes and goes like the tide, the almost symphonic arrangements (guitars, piano and strings) sometimes come up like a mist, or the thick air and tobacco smoke that hangs in the harbour cafés in Brest.

Miossecs new album sounds like the sum of all his previous albums. All ingredients are there – the rough voice, the raw lyricism telling us about love and hate, bitter sweet emotional songs that breath the sound of Brest, of storm, thunder, the rough coast and the harbour… A perfect example are the bitter sweet lyrics from ‘Nos plus belles années’ (‘Our best years’):
“As the sea prevents the fish from seeing the sky / As the lioness chases the gazelle / As I prefer your hatred to your love / For it is the hatred that shows under your true colors / How I wish, you’d never known / How I wish, I had never met you / Today I want so see you disappear / While all our best years / I've spent them at your side.”

Or the beautiful closing track ‘Une fortune de mer’ (‘A wealth of sea’), in which he sings about a lost love, Esther:
“A wealth of sea / that comes with the rolling waves / humming a tune / that recalls the sweetness of your words. /… / A man who recites prayers / For you to come back again / I would have done it before yesterday / But I could not find the words. / I've lost Esther / and I threw myself into the waves / and I joined the Sea.”

>> Back to list of reviews


Plastic Bertrand - Dandy Bandit 


Dandy Bandit (2009) - ♪♪♪
Plastic Bertrand (Belgium)

The only thing in common with that other ‘Dandy Highwaymen’ Adam Ant is that both artists had their commercial height at the start of the eighties. But where Ant went a bit coocoo Roger Jouret aka Plastic Bertrand knew exactly what he was doing. Although not really active for the last years for the outside world Plastic been busy. Hosting the popular Italian TV show ‘I megliori anni’, releasing his autobiography ‘Ca plane…délires et des larmes’, re-recording ‘Ca plane pour moi’ with German band Boss Hog and co-hosting French popular TV show ‘Vivement dimanche’. To top it off he wins a lawsuit which enables him to finally get credits (and royalties) for ‘Ca plane…’. Meanwhile he starts working with Xavier Cafeine on the album that now spins in my cd-player. What to expect? As we already concluded Plastic Bertrand is no fool. If the public expects punky bubblegum pop from him it’s what they’ll get. Already on track number one ‘Edgar Allen Proust’ the music bounces up and down like a mad spring. The lyrics are so staccato fired at the listener that it takes three couplets for realising that he sings the title with a lot of in.ter.punc.tion. But instead of sticking too much into an old routine he incorporates modern electronic sounds and mixing techniques which makes the album sound very fresh. Tracks like ‘Amsterdam’, ‘Machine’ (a duet with singer Frigid) and ‘ Tous des voyous’ couldn’t have been made in another era. Central theme seems to be boredom. Bored of the ratrace, of work, of school, of other people. Like he explains very clearly in ‘Je m’emmerde’ ('I’m bored'): “It’s still not Friday night / I’ve been chewing my pen for hours / my head is about to explode / and worse, since I haven’t moved my feet / I’m bored / there’s more beer in the fridge / I’m bored / at the Carnaval in Rio”. He thinks about a vacation: “To live in the wild / where live isn’t so hard / I’m a tiger, I’m a savage / I eat bark and coconuts”, he thinks about Barbarella: “Lady Barbarella / You make me crazy / I kneel for you”. He scorns the imbeciles that think it’s fashionable to complain how bad your daddy or wife treats you and bore you at the bar with their endless stories. The lyrics might be wacky but try writing something so seemingly simple and light but filled with a mixture of bitterness and humour yourself. OK the music may be not be of very high artistic level, and maybe Plastic isn’t the greatest singer in the world. But Plastic Bertrand has another characteristic that is just as important in pop music, the ability to make you smile.

Listen to 'Machine'


>> Back to list of reviews


Nuodai – P.S. Lyg paskutinį kartą (2009) - ♪♪♪♪
Biplan (Lithuania)

Biplan are a popular Lithuanian rock band whose style of music could be described as pop rock. The band formed in October 1995 and have released four studio albums, all sung in the Lithuanian language. They have received many Lithuanian music awards, such as the Radiocentras award for best rock group, best pop group and best song. We picked this band up on our trip through the Baltic states (Summer ‘09), when we bought their 2005 album ‘Chuligans’. Now they are back with a brand new record, ‘Nuodai – P.S. Lyg paskutinį kartą’ (‘Poision – P.S. Like last time’). According to the band members, the album title refers to the impact of good poison, in other words: their new songs. The under title is a plea to do everything in life as if it were the last time - to love, to play a concert, to communicate with loved ones. This statement reveals a lot of what this group is about: catchy, almost commercial pop/rock songs, with clever, witty and sometimes romantic lyrics. Their guitar-orientated songs have evolved into a very rich and layered sound with strings and all.

Title track ‘Nuodai’ is an uplifting love song. It’s lyrics are very representative for the songs on this album (“Poison throughout the body / Spread your warmth / I already feel close to you / I am even closer to you / … / Feel pleasure / And stay right next to you tonight / … / I shall no longer be without you”). The song ‘Aš be tavęs ne aš’ (‘I am not myself without you’) features singer Karina; with her typical ‘Baltic singing style’ she adds great value to this song. One of the highlights is the dramatic ‘Ar lauksi’ (‘Or outdoors’), obviously highly influenced by Brittish bands like Coldplay but still with a typical local (= Lithuanian) twist. , on which Biplan expresses sometimes remind me of Coldplay. It is followed by ‘Diena naktis’ (‘Friday night’) and ‘Mes uždegam naktis (‘We lit up the night’), two great up-tempo rock tracks. The closing track is a ballad, that ends with a 10 minute noise-guitar fade out – that I just do not get. It would have been nice as an introduction to a hidden track, but that is not the case. And lead singer Maksas Melmanas has a nice, husky singing voice for pop/rock songs, but not for ballads. Apart from this last note of criticism, Biplan succeeded in delivering a very nice ‘feel good’ europop album that will work it’s way through your veins like poison…


>> Back to list of reviews


Intercity - Grand Piano 


Grand Piano (2009) - ♪♪♪
Inter-city (Italy)

Originated in Brescia Intercity (under leadership of Edwood Donadello and singer Fabio Campetti) made their debut with the release of the album ‘Punk Music During Sleep’ in 2007. Since then a lot has changed to start with a renewal of the band with Fausto Zanardelli on keyboards and Anna Viganò on guitar and a voice. Second is that the music took a shift to more electro-acoustic material then the punk-rock made before. But the most ear-catching one is that the band decided to sing in Italian. As Fabio says in an interview: “I find it more difficult to write in English because not being my mother tongue”. A true conclusion. And with good result because the material sound less forced and more fluent. More Italian for those of you who know what that means. Big inspiration for the album was found in movies and art. In the lyrics references to Fellini’s ‘Intervista’, Lars von Triers ‘The idiots’ and ‘The Blair witch project’ are present. The title song is inspired by a painting by Vincent van Gogh and a visit to Amsterdam. But the albums opens with a the dramatic lovestory between Who-drummer Keith Moon and Annette Walter.  Which could be a fictionous film script. The result of all this renewal is an genuine Italian pop album that at times shows potential for future albums. There are some great pop tracks on the album like ‘Sei state compagnia’, ‘Pommerigio alcoholico’, ‘Idio Anversa’ and fabulous closing track ‘Strobogomma’. But on some other tracks the soft monotone voice of Fabio can be a bit overtaken by the music, or in the ballads he is not able to add enough layer to catch the listener. No worries. With the new sound they shrug towards fellow Italians Bluvertigo and come close but hopefully get that last nodge in the right direction with the next album. Keep it up, guys, you’re almost there.

>> Back to list of reviews





Skała (2009) - ♪♪♪♪
Kayah (Poland)

It took her six years to come up with a follow up for the successful album ‘Stereo typ’, but now Kayah is back with ‘Skała’, the eight album by one of Poland’s most renowned pop artists. Just like her last release, the cd & dvd ‘MTV Unplugged’, ‘Skała’ was released by Kayah’s own music company KAYAX.

‘Skała’ (‘Rock’) is a highly emotional album, containing 11 self-penned songs. The album title refers to one of her first records ‘Kamień’ (‘Stone’). It might be perceived as Kayah coming full-circle, wanting to release an album that would sound as fresh as her debut album. One might even think she is taking some distance from her previous success albums, switching to a far more pure, introspective and intimate sound. In an interview with Kayah explains that: "This is a record that - I think - cost me the most. For the first time I decided that I would not do it for the hits. I felt responsible for every sound. Morbidly even caress the sound […] but the hardest work were my texts. I can not write about just anything... I always have to find a double bottom, a hook, to give the song a universal content, so that everyone can find in it part of their lives. […] We wanted this to me to make a natural disc, acoustic and unfashionable.”

In this perspective, it seems only natural that most of the songs on ‘Skała’ were recorded live in the studio, with basic and acoustic instrumentation. The outstanding violin parts were played by the Royal String Quartet. Apart from the regular members from Kayah’s band (Krzysztof Pszona, Artur Affek, Michał Fox Król, Robert Luty, Piotr Żaczek, Iwona Zasuwa, Ewa Jach, Daniel Wojsa) there are several guest appearances: Janek Smoczyński (from the band June) plays piano, Tomek Krawczyk (from Bisquit) and Tomek Organek (from SOFA) play the guitar and Szabas plays double bass. Kayah also invited some fresh stars to work on her new album: Marta Maćkowska and Nick Sinckler (participants from The Star Factory), Patka Gola and Squbass (both young Polish artists). The two persons who worked most closely with Kayah on the new album were Krzysztof Pszona, musical director of Kayah’s band, and Andrzej Smolik, who co-mastered the album in his studio ‘Mewa’.

The result is an album full of trips and emotional calm rhythms and clever, mature texts.
Kayah, as always, sings passionately about feelings, perversity of faith, love growing and fading away, human weaknesses. For instance in the beautiful single ‘Jak skała’ (‘Like a rock’): “You have emptiness around you / that is echoed in your game / … / man even though you can see in your mirror / you're dead as a stone / You ask me how I know... / … / I am a stone / … / living alone in the wilderness / a lonely rock”.

Other outstanding songs on the album are opening track ‘Do diabła z przysłowiami’ (‘To hell with proverbs’), the beautiful ballad ‘Bursztynowa wieza’ (‘Amber tower’), the funky party track ‘Diamenty’ (‘Diamonds’) and ‘Lustro czeka’ (‘Mirror waiting’), a song with exceptionally great vocal arrangements.

As always Kayah sings great – I always think of her as the perfect icy-white soul queen. She cherry picks from the anglo-american soul, jazz, funk and gospel, but she turns it into her own very unique Polish white soul music. The production of the album is simply fantastic. It seems like all instruments were folded very delicately around Kayah’s unique voice. The atmospheric jazzy ballads and mid tempo songs will probably not satisfy all her fans – the poppy, funky Kayah-style is only sparsely present on this album. But I have no doubt that she will, in turn, win a lot of new fans for her.


>> Back to list of reviews



M - Mister Mystère 


Mister Mystère (2009) - ♪♪♪♪
- M - (France)

Mathieu Chédid’s last weapon fact know to us was his collaboration with Brigitte Fontaine for her 2006 ‘Libido’ album. Six long years the public had to wait for the follow up of his big selling album ‘Qui de nous deux?‘. For his return he left the pink suit and the wacky hairdo for a sober black and white look. And apparently the collaboration with Brigitte Fontaine felt good because the granny of French freaky pop is co writer on at least half the album. The albums opens where the duo Fontaine/ Chédid left of four years with ‘Mister Mystère’ driving of. Like ‘ether on ice’ the mysterious mister shows that –M- grew up the last years and is ready to make a more serious album. Is ‘Mister Mystère’ a concept album? I don’t think although but let’s keep that thought while mystery and detective like themes are often present on the album like in ‘Le roi des ombres’ ('The king of the shadows'), ‘L’elixer’ and ‘Destroy’. ‘Hold-up’ is a thriving pulsing story of Mystère watching his own death while his sister Anne Chedid counts down the minutes. Another key-character on the album is the girl ‘Tanagra’ who is courted with the offer to come into Mystère’s arms. The call stays unanswered however. A Malinese girl named ‘Amssetou’ doesn’t bring any solace: “To you I’m a white crocodile / It’s like that and nothing else” –M- explaines with the help of Malinese blind vocal duo Amadou & Mariam (whom he worked with in 2008). So there is nothing more left to do then writing letters to Tanagra. Four of which close down the album: “you make my head spin / you roam the streets and go to rough bars / the gold silk velvet night / in the ovens of Paris / that make my reeboks melt to the pavement / like a seal I stick / I love you” are the closing words. Was it worth the wait? Indeed it was. ‘Mister Mystère’ is a enormous step forward from the catchy pop –M- made in 2003 to the intelligent music that he displays here. On first listen you’ll won’t hear any catchy songs but –M- has passed that scene and created an album with multiple layers without getting pretentious. Almost the entire Chédid family (including daddy Louis) works together on this project. The influences from chanson, pop, African blues and thriller soundtracks are melted together by –M- like a French Damon Alburn. Maybe because the album has to grow on you it wound up with four stars. Ask me again in a year and maybe I’ll correct myself and give it five.

Watch -M- performing 'Le roi des ombres' live on French TV


>> Back to list of reviews



Mina - Facile 


Facile (2009) - ♪♪♪♪♪
Mina (Italy)

Just this February Mina released the album ‘Sulla tua bocca lo dirò’, a not entirely successful attempt to record some classical tunes in traditional romantic and melodramatic style. Just nine months later, the ‘Tiger from Cremona’ is already back with another album, ‘Facile’ (‘Easy’). Fortunately, this new release is Mina’s first pop album since 2006’s ‘Bau’. And what an album it is…

The album was produced by long time collaborator Massimiliano Pani, who took care of most of the arrangements. La Mina is collaborating with both young and established composers and arrangers like Christo Malgioglio (who recorded with her more than 20 years ago) on ‘Questa vida loca’ (‘This crazy life’) and ‘Carne viva’ (‘Living flesh’), Mina’s nephew Axel Pani on ‘Il frutto che vuoi’ (‘The fruit that you want’), ‘Boost’ Dileo from the group Subsonica on ‘Non ti voglio più’ (‘I do not want you any more’) and Manuel Agnelli on ‘Adesso è facile’ (‘Now it’s easy’).

The songs on the album all differ quite significantly in style and emotions, but they were all produced quite sober (for a Mina album that is), with for the most part acoustic instruments. One can say the type of songs as well as the production and arrangements were ‘simple’ or ‘easy’. This results in a collection of songs that have an immediate impact. And Mina sings as beautifully as she can – and this time fortunately her voice was recorded without overdubs or too much production tricks.

‘Non ti voglio più’ (‘I do not want you any more’) is certainly one of the albums highlights, a song that evokes memories of the Beatles and Roxy Music. In this song – a collaboration with Subsonica’s Boost, Mina sings:
“If I were not made of plastic, I would try to warm you up / I did not know I would stay here holding on / Every night we waste here / I'm dying beside the intention".

Another intense emotional song is ‘Ma tu mi ami ancora?’ on which Mina almost sounds like Janis Joplin. ‘Adesso è facile’ (‘Now it’s easy’) is a duet with Manuel Agnelli from the young band Afterhours, that also arranged the song. ‘Questa vita loca’ (‘This crazy life’) is a cool song in South-American style and ‘Con o senza te’ (‘With or without you’) is a beautiful ballad. On ‘Carne viva’ (‘Living flesh’) Mina is presenting us quite explicit lyrics:
“I am living flesh, alas, living flesh / I'm your vitamin / your penicillin / your repentance / your failure / your compassion / despair / without attention / I am living flesh, alas, living flesh / my legs between your legs / the pressure falls on me / I'm your mission / your religion / I do not know what to do / but I am flesh within your flesh”.

‘Il frutto che vuoi’ (‘The fruit you that want’) is partly ironic, partly aggressively sensual song with a splendid text:
“I know who you are / You're the other she / I've seen so many of you now / and if you want him / do not say no / That’s okay with me / … / it is no crime, you do that / reaping the fruit that you want / … / but he remains mine / because I am the only one who knows / how to travel within him / no trace will remain of you tomorrow / just time for a shower and then on your way / reap the fruit that you want / … / but if you want more / than just one night with you / do not hope for that / … / pure love or true love you will not find / I've already made that safe and now / You can reap the fruit that you want"

There is no doubt whatsoever that Mina is one of Italy’s best singers ever. With ‘Facile’ she adds another inspiring chapter to her long time musical oeuvre (spanning already 5 decades now!). I can only wish for many more Mina albums in the future.

>> Back to list of reviews


Il blu e il nero (2009) - ♪♪♪
Perlè (Italy)

Perlè is actually a project build around guitarist and singer Gianluigi Scamperle. Coming from Verona he earned his credits in the Italian underground rock scene since the start of the nineties playing in Konya Dance, Bête Noire and Kasanova. In 2005 he decided to leave the latter to work on a solo-album. Studies on albums from guitarists like John Parish, Lee Ranaldo and John Agnello gave him the idea to create a different album opposite to the standard rock he made before. The result is ‘Il blu e il nero’. It’s an Italian rock album but has a very strong psychedelic element in it. By using multiple guitarlayers, played simultaneously by Gianluigi, Diego Spezie and Spice Andrea Sarasini or Marco Vignuzzi, he erects a wall that weaves more or less organic into each other. The effect is something that I haven’t heard in Italian rock before. He stays clear from making noise or re-do Italian progrock but rather creates an new atmospherique rock style. Good example is the track ‘Rosa’ that gradually opens up to conclude in the fourth minute into a spacious guitar tapestry. Beautiful and highly psychedelic. Opening track ‘Pesca d’Aprile’ ('April fools') and ‘Inevitabile folia’ are also good examples. Strangely a track like ‘Fuoco Spento’ ('Extinguished fire') leaves the concept to create a sort of Red Hot Chilli Peppers rip off. Unnecessary and in no way relating to the rest of the album. The cover version of Lou Reed’s ‘Caroline says’ is surprisingly more closer to the concept although still a strange choice. Another downside of his new musical direction is that the music demands a subtle vocalist and Gianluigi just hasn’t got that voice. He tends to howl and grunt which is more suitable on a hardrock album then for this kind of music. For this reason a song like ‘Roberto Roberto’ even annoys me a bit although also here the guitar-parts are a OK. But there is hope, on ‘La vita che va’ ('That’s life') and especially closing track ‘Al di la delle Nuvole’ ('Beyond the clouds') he restrains himself, sings more modest and hits the right spot. Promising.


>> Back to list of reviews


Filippos Pliatsikas - Balarines Epitrepode 


Μπαλαρίνες επιτρέπονται (Ballerinas Allowed) (2009) - ♪♪♪♪
Filippos Pliatsikas (Greece)

With his new album Pliatsikas continues on the path he cautiously began on his previous album ‘Omnia’. Practically it means that he gradually moves away from his folk past with Pax Lyx and moves further into mixing elements of pop, rock and hiphop in his music. Hiphop? Yes, indeed because ‘Μπαλαρίνες επιτρέπονται’ sees the return of MC Yinka on ‘Adelfe mou’, a song which is carried by a melody resembling Dire Straits’ ‘Brothers in arms’, and a new collaboration with MC Milko-Vic on ‘Tou mialou sou i pixides’ (Of your mind the compasses). The sound of this last song is way off the traditional sound old fans will know and almost sounds like it’s been written for American rock/rap band Linkin Park. Very loud and very rock. But the album holds more adventurous surprises. Like the title song which is not a traditional rembetika (as you might expect from a song about ballerinas) but an uptempo ska-fuelled track. But it’s not all rock-experiments because Filippos knows when to hold back and perform some beautiful popsongs like ‘Καμιά φορά νυχτώνει’ (No time, get dark) with it’s sad lyrics “I stand here and look forward / It seems as if I look like away / Sometime the next year brings people / and sometimes it pulls them away”. The song begins as a ballad but speeds up midway to a exhilarating rhythm. Another true popsong is ‘Διάτρητο κουρέλι’ (Perforating Koureli) with its simple lyrics sung over again “The armor of my mind is not broke / It has a flimsy rag as shield / as the leaving both runs back in / and when i lose the more I want to”. For the album Pliatsikas also adapted two sonnets from Shakespeare’s ‘The merchant of Venice’ on a translation by Manos Xidous. Especially on the track ‘Peri Mousikis’ the result is a great poptrack and one of the highlights of the album. According to Filippos he wanted to create an album that resembled the reality of everyday life with its problems and concerns, political as well as ecological (environmental destruction, migration, political responsibility, international peace). If so lyricist Nikos Kolokotronis did a good job of writing these heavy issues down in a very concealed manor. A simple lovesong like the title track becomes a intimate poem in the hands of Nikos :“I shall go away to escape from you / I shall go away at all costs / I shall go but everywhere I go I carry you with me / you speak with my voice and you live with my soul”. The album opens and closes with two instrumental songs making it an album that listens like a good book. Compliments to Filippos for delivering one of the more adventurous Greek popalbums of the year.


>> Back to list of reviews


Odjazd (2009) - ♪♪♪♪
Renata Przemyk (Poland)

One of Poland’s most credible and innovating female singers is back with a brand new album, ‘Odjazd’ (‘Departure’). Compared to her last album, the 2006 masterpiece ‘Unikat’, ‘Ozdjazd’ is a bit more pop and slightly less depressing and dark. All songs were composed by Renata herself, the lyrics were written by Anna Saraniecka, who is also Renata’s manager. The two ladies have been collaborating for some twenty years now. Therefor, do not expect any major changes in the new material. There are still the dramatic melodies, dark and ironic texts and Renata’s unique postpunk way of singing. And, as always, we can hear the accordion – Renata’s favourite instrument - on some of the tracks. The album has been produced by Renata herself, together with pianist Sebastian Bertanowicz end Leszek Łuszcze. Highlights of the album are ‘I człowiek i mebel’ (‘And man and furniture’) with very strong the rhythms, ’Polska biel’ (‘Polish white’) with great multi layered vocals, and ‘Słony żal’ (‘Salty regret’) a beautiful piano ballad and closing track of the album. Apart from the regular album, the package contains another cd: one with demo versions of the same songs plus 2 extra tracks. Demo does not mean that there is anything wrong with the quality of the recordings. ON this disc we can hear the songs in different, acoustic versistruments were played by Renata herself and she also recorded and produced them in a studio in Krakow. These demo versions proof how well crafted the songs actually are – even with these very sober arrangements they keep your attention from start to finish.

The themes in Anna Saraniecka’s lyrics are quite similar to the ones on the previous albums. They are mostly reflections on life and love in a literary, often ironic style. They express reflections on the past, on problems with accepting reality, like in ‘To, że jesteś’ (‘It's you’): “It makes me uneasy calm / Day after day passes / I look constantly from the damn window / nothing changes. / … / If suddenly this foolish boredom / cuts the vein, takes the oxygen / It makes the graveyard of my dreams / lie down defeated.” Or they tell about romantic love with tragic endings - and – of course departure, as in the title track ‘Odjazd’: “Are you only concerned if your train will be delayed / Why are not you afraid if it goes in the right direction.”


>> Back to list of reviews





Cuéntame (2009) - ♪♪♪♪
Rosario (Spain)

'Cuéntame cómo pasó' ('Tell me how it happened') is a highly popular Spanish TV show that has been running for 11 seasons. The series is set during the last years of Francoist rule, and the transition to democracy in Spain. The series recounts, relying on a combination of micro and macrohistory, the experiences of a middle class family, the Alcántara, during the last years of Franco and the beginning of the Spanish Transition, and has a chronical socio-political storyline. Initially the series would last for ten seasons up to the point of the first free elections in 1977. Due to extreme popular demand the makers decided to add three more seasons with the storyline moving into the 80s and the "Movida madrileña". What does all this has to do with the new album by Rosario? Well, first of all, to emphasize the change to a new era Rosario was asked to record the new themesong. The first ten years the themesong was a cover version of Fórmula V’s ‘Cuéntame’ (where the series got the name from) by Ana Belén. The last three seasons will feature Rosario’s song. Since music was always a central part of the show, the first scene of the first seasons starts with Massiel winning the Eurovision, Rosario picked up the plan to make a personal favourite list of the songs used in the first ten years. That list was the basis for ‘Cuéntame’, the album. The tracklisting is almost in chronical order starting in 1971 with an old hit from Jeanette: ‘Soy rebelde’. This is not the oldest track however since Julio Iglesias’ Eurovision entry ‘Gwendolyne’ was a hit in 1970. Since the series featured music crossing different genres Rosario’s chosen covers go from Spanish funk (the forgotten band Grupo Gale with ‘Quiero besarte’) to Spanish protest poetry (a eighties composition from Joaquin Sabina called ‘Pongamot que hablo de madrid’) to South american folk (Mercedes Sosa’s ‘Todo cambia’) to Spanish crooning (a beautiful version of ‘Todo es de color’ originally by Manuel Molina Jimenez but better known for the hit Alessandro Sanz had with it). And of course a cover of the Fórmula V song. The great thing is that Rosario succeeded in creating an album that doesn’t sound like a random collection of cover versions but actually a true Rosario album. It seems she took special care in balancing the songs so that they would work as a whole. In an interview Rosario says her intentions were to celebrate the rise of Spanish pop music she experienced as a young woman. All we can say is that she very much succeeded in her effort.

>> Back to list of reviews



Joaquin Sabina - Vinagre y Rosas 


Vinagre y rosas (2009) - ♪♪♪♪
Joaquin Sabina (Spain)

Four years after ‘Alivio de luto’ the now secluded living Spanish minstrel Sabina comes up with a much anticipated new album called ‘Vinagre y rosas’. The bitter and the sweet is always something that attracted Sabina and for this album it’s nothing new. Opener ‘Tiramisu de lemon’ opens with the words “I made a single tune / of the ashes of love / the festivals of the past/ my gangrenous heart” and you know you’ll get a handful of that heartbreak fuelled with Spanish passion. This continues on ‘Ay! Carmela’ where he sings “Do not ask me to die for you / what's left of me is auctioned to the highest bidder / as a riot parco in the ruin of the aurora boat”. Different to his previous albums Sabina chose not to work from an acoustic point of view but invited the rockband Pereza to give the necessary rock-spark. According to the singer in an interview with La Nacion he “ decided to contact a young rock band to give me that look I had at age 30”. And this pays of in the sense that at certain point electric guitars and rock rifs break open the more traditional singer songwriter style of Sabina. One of the highlights of the album where the combi works perfectly is on ‘Virgen de la amargura’ or the ‘Virgin of bitterness’. He sings :“ultimate conviction / to your staff only makes me stronger / and kiss your chains / and I promise / to be free like two lines crossed / the dictation of the revolution” after which powerrifs thunderous emphasize the words he just uttered to his saint of bitterness. Another highpoint, the more jazzlike composition ‘Nombres impropios’ handles the theme of drunken lies and bitter friendship: “You see, the sign was not a part of events, it was more about aging orphan kisses with ghosts who learn to grow, hugs that are dying, It was called Utopia, I like to imagine I cheated when I said goodbye. “ The songs of vinegar and roses continue on the titletrack where the singer sighs over an intimate melody : “The poor are not rich / and copper is more than the clay / freedom shut up / since the curfew / ask the cops / what they did in La Moneda.”. The song was originally written for Argetinean singer Mercedes Sosa and is about the bombardment of the Chilean town of Moneda. Since Sosa suddenly deceased this year Sabina decided to record the song himself. Another posthumus song is 'Menos dos alas' which is dedicated to the poet Ángel González who died in 2008. The album was written over a large period of time in Buenos Aires, Prague and Madrid. Thanks to a more diverse approach with rock and jazz elements ‘Vinagre y roses’ has become an album that is more accessible then his previous ones with conservation of his poetic lyrics and high standard. The album is published simultaneously in two different formats: a book edition which includes drawings and texts by Joaquin Sabina, and standard CD edition.


>> Back to list of reviews


The Scene - Liefde Op Doorreis 


Liefde op doorreis (2009) - ♪♪♪♪
The Scene (Netherlands)

After eleven years of absence (not counting Thé Lau’s solo projects and the 2007 adapted compilation) The Scene is back with a new album. And I must say, ‘Liefde op doorreis’ ('Love travelling on') sounds like the band never stopped playing. Reunited with the core-members The Lau shows why The Scene is considered one of the better Dutch rockbands of the nineties. “This is my country, this is where I was born” is the opening line of the album as if Lau wants to stress the fact that this is a Dutch product. As to be expected with an album title like this a lot of the songs handle the matter of travelling in combination of going to, going away or travelling with your love. Travelling through time that “passes in solitude in the mists of Holland” (‘Tijd’). Somehow also a sense of loneliness hovers over the album as stated in ‘Straat’: ”we breathe the same air / we stare at the same water / we wait in the same bridge / longing for the same future”. Sometimes these lonely souls meet just to leave each other just as easy. As penned down in ‘Paradijs’: “This is no charity, this no act of mercy, it’s just a peaceful station on a chaotic trip”. Although The Scene is considered to be The Lau’s project it is on one of the albums strongest tracks ‘Nachttrein’ that the influence of Otto Cooymans (who wrote the music) lifts the song to a higher level. Moving on a thundering rhythm the song reports of travelling on the night train to Berlin while the strings of the Pavadita Tango Quartet pass by like the wind whirling outside the train’s windows. The journey changes in a trip to New York, Rome, Liege, Paris but all the while the singers love is sleeping, oblivious of the world outside. The encore on the album ‘Sterven op de planken’ ('To die on stage') makes clear that if Thé Lau ever wants to stop he wants to die on stage “without tears, without remorse, not because I’m bored / I believe I’ll die before the pictures fade away”. A convincing come back and honestly one of the best Dutch-languaged albums that appeared this year.

>> Back to list of reviews



Viola Valentino - I Tacchi di Giada (Bonus Track Version) 


I tacchi di Giada (2009) - ♪♪♪♪
Viola Valentino (Italy)

To celebrate her 30 years as a recording artist, Viola Valentino - foto model, mannequin, actress and singer - released the ep ‘I tacchi di Giada’ (‘The heels of Jade’). Most people will remember La Valentino from her string of successes in the Italian charts in the first half of the eighties, especially ‘Comprami’ (1979). This ep however contains six songs that differ quite significantly from her hit successes. Viola surrounded herself with young authors and composers. This was a wise move, since they helped her in creating a new and fresh sound. ‘I tacchi di Giada’ is a pure and pleasant album. Viola’s usually lighter material and production has been replaced by a modern, organic soft rock sound.

Valentino, among other things Ambassador of Human Rights, apparently did not want to disregard her latest work in the social field. She recorded two songs regarding the physical and psychological violence against women: ‘I tacchi di Giada’ and ‘Daisy’ In ‘I tacchi di Giada’ she sings very intensely:
“Jade do not be afraid, screamg your story / the sound of your heels dissolves the memory / … / thousand memories that revive / violence that you want to remove / sometimes you just know too little to stop / to rethink and then to cry / … / I met a girl who did not play much with dolls / it is a girl who has lived in terror days / but will recover”
And in ‘Daisy’ she gets even more explicit:
“Daisy, you live with your eyes closed / so you do not have to see your dreams / trampled and abused”

Equally intense is the song ‘Dimenticare mai’ (‘Never forget’), a song about passionate love, which does not give peace:
“Whore - the moon, and people like me who still believe that the history will change / … / it is only my fault, it's just my fault / and then the bitch - boredom and guilt, that leads me to love that destroys me gradually / whore - the night, that thinks it is just my fault, it is only my fault”

In the art work of the cd, Viola has borrowed some lines by famous writer Boris Pasternak to accompany the album: "I do not like people who are perfect, those who have never fallen, have stumbled. They have not revealed the beauty of life.” These lines were chosen remarkably well; they match these six fresh songs with strong emotional impact from the mature, former hit singer perfectly.

>> Back to list of reviews



Ornella Vanoni & Pino Daniele - Più di te 


Più di te (2009) - ♪♪♪
Ornella Vanoni (Italy)

One of the most succesful Italian releases from 2008 was Ornella Vanoni’s album ‘Più di me’ (‘More from me’), on which she reinterpreted some of her success songs as a duet with some of the greatest Italian artists. Now she is back with ‘Più di te’ (‘More from you’), an album containing 11 songs from Italian authors, some of directly in duet with the authors. The albums starts with ‘Vita’ (‘Life’) written by Mogol & Lavezzi and sung in duet with Gianni Morandi and Lucio Dalla. Then follow many Italian standards with guest appearances by Samuele Bersani, Pino Daniele, Ron and Gianna Nannini. The album was produced with the help of two historic names in Italian music as Celso Valli and Mario Lavezzi.
Nine of the ten songs were written by male composers; it is obviously no coincidence that the tenth song is called ‘I maschi’ (‘The males’), a classic song from Gianna Nannini, now recorded as duet between these two legendary singers.

With such a line up the album is destined to equal the commercial success of its predecessor, ‘Più di me’. But can we also consider it an artistic success? Well, for the most part yes. The production and arrangements are – as always with Vanoni – well done. They are a perfect fit for Ornella’s soft but beautiful voice. The song selection is a bit more adventurous than on the previous record. Not only because it’s the first time we hear her sing these songs, also because some of the songs do not instantly come to mind as ‘ Ornella-songs’. For example Zuchero’s ‘Dune mosse’, which she actually turns into the key track of the album (and better than the original version in my opinion). Other surprises are the duet with Gianna Nannini (I am still not sure whether I like this version or not, but it does sounds fresh and more rock ‘n roll than Ornella’s usual material), and ‘Ogni volta’ (‘Every time’) written by Italian rock star Vasco Rossi.

I appreciate Ornella’s effort to rework her own and others classic songs on this album and the previous one. It is done with much respect for the original versions and the quality is certainly there (production, arrangements, song selection). And hearing La Vanoni sing is always a fantastic experience. Yet I do hope her next project will contain more new, original song materiale a great way for her to start the sixth decade of her career…

>> Back to list of reviews