Reviews October - December 2011

Bookmark and Share








Cattivi Guagliuni (2011) ♪♪♪
99 Posse (Italy)

In 2001 the popular Napolitean rapcombo 99 Posse lost the urgency to continue. Also numerous allegations of urging the audience to violence and promoting (soft) drugs got the better of the combo and BMG dissed the band. But ten years later the band returns. Urged by the political upheaval in Italy (aka Berlusconi reign) and the economical crisis Luca Persico and his gang took stage again in 2009 at the G8 in Naples. And now a full album called ‘Bad Guagliuni’. The issues remain the same: injustice, repression of freedom and class-politics. Who Guagliuni is stays unclear but on a funky beat he goes to the ‘Univesity of Secondigliano’ and opens with a rage against cops, rulers and the church. The tone is set and so are the beats. Elements of raggamuffin colour ‘Canto pe' dispietto’ with the help of Nuova Compagnia di Canto Popolare. Guagliuni takes the barricades on ‘Mò basta’ and spits on the grabbing culture of Lega Nord and bankers on ‘Italia Spa’. Flashes of harcore punk mixed with folk-melodies stew up ‘La paranza di San Precario’ and also are present on the excellent and energetic ‘Vilipendio’ (again a slap against the former Italian president). Musically 99 Posse still sounds like rap with that Italian swing but in the lyrics they become bitter and grim: " In the world there is total confusion, in pursuit of the boundaries between good and evil, just turn the brain and begin to think, study a little 'against the total confusion! ". With this less hope for a future you might ask why the band sticks around. The answer comes on the last track ‘Penso che non me ne andrò’ when Luca tells us he is not ready to leave: “And now I'm here I look at you, you who really with death and until the last of your days you compared, without a lot of drama, voice, set back, feet in the water that you enjoy laughing at the sketches and the wind messes you hair ... and a little 'smile, and a little' cry, so, as you have taught us, human remains. I'm trying”.

Sotto I riflettori (2011) ♪♪
Fuossera (Italy)

Also present on the album by 99 Posse are the colleagues of Fuossera who present an album of their own in the same month. But where ‘Cattivi’ sounds organic and warm due to the use of more than just a drummachine ‘Sotto’ limits itself to synths and cold clinical beats. Fuossera seeks their leading theme a bit closer to home. The title refers to Naples being constantly "Under the Spotlight" of (inter)national media, suffering  of negative stereotypes. Especcially that of the Camorra (the Napolitean maffia) who hammers and rules the city. Their songs tell that a different Naples is possible but you have to weed through the darkness and shady electrics to get that. Take for instance ‘Ipocrisia’, a dark pumping track over which the trio lays their flow with grinding teeth. Good maybe but not highly original. Although specifically written for Naples the personal reflections and details could be extended to the whole peninsula. But there also lies the trouble with this album since 99 Posse delivered an album with almost the same thematics but so much better produced. Somehow ‘Cattivi Guagliuni’ gives you hope for the future while ‘Sotto I riflettori’ just makes you feel your head is on the hacking block ready to be chopped off.

>> Back to list of reviews


ReBelle (2011) - ♪♪♪♪
Marie Paule Belle (France)

Marie Paule Belle is a songwriter who became quite successful in the seventies (‘La Parisiènne’ is her best known hit). Although commercial success quickly faded, she kept releasing albums every now and then, mostly in the typical singer/songwriter style with touches of comedy and theatre. The last few years she toured with a program of songs by famous singer Barbara. After 17 albums, she wanted to release a new collection of songs. Since she did not have a deal with a record company, she followed a friends advise to collect founding funds via internet ( platform). The fruit of her hard labour – ‘ReBelle’ - has been released by the end of 2011.

Marie Paule composed all the songs, the lyrics were written by several contributors, among them Dominique Valls, Isabelle Mayereau and Marie Paule Belle herself. The songs are arranged and produced quite plain and simple, thus having a sort of timeless charm around them. Marie Paule’s piano plays a significant role on each song and her singing has not changed much over the years – she still sounds light and fresh. Still, one should consider her as an exponent of the traditional French chansons, There is little contemporary to this album either.

The lyrics of the songs are simple, but therefore very powerful. Having been very open about her homosexuality since the seventies, Marie Paule never was someone who avoided social-critical topics. And the same goes for ‘ReBelle’. In the opening track – ‘Celles qui aiment elles’ (‘Those who love them’ [all feminine pronouns]) - she pays homage to all the women in the past few decades who dared to be open about their (homo)sexuality and fought the prevailing morality, thus making it possible for women today to live their lives as they want to.

‘Celles qui aiment elles’ (‘Those who love them’ [all feminine pronouns]):
“They secretly hold hands under their jackets / Their eyes caress without moving / Smiling quietly, we read in the picture / June 1950 in Belle-Ile / It was not easy in those years / And in town they spoke very low / The words of hate, they could barely be heard / But they caused tears many times / Follow the model, impossible for those who love them”

In ‘Les asphodèles’ (‘The asphodelus plants’) Marie Paule tells about a woman who takes care of her now senile old man and how she struggles between being faithful to the love of her live and finding some short term pleasure every now and then. The approaching end of life is also the theme of the beautiful ballad ‘Des vieux qui dansent’ (‘Old people dancing’).

There are some lighter songs as well, like the erotique ‘Mystique ou érotique’ and the funny ‘Hobbies de la famille’. But the album closes with a very serious song, Assez’ (‘Enough’), an indictment of the physical abuse of women, which unfortunately still occurs in all cultures.

‘Assez’ (‘Enough’):
“Her name wasCecilia / The rainon hereyelashes mixed withwatershowers when she cameby the crossroads / He wanted her to be docile / Hitting was easy / It the It rained blows  in the house, where the manwas always right / Enoughenoughenough / O those whoraise their hands / Enoughenoughenough / Of those whowash their hands / Here or elsewhere / The pain and the fear are the same”


>> Back to list of reviews


Les bénéfices du doute (2011) - ♪♪½
Bénabar (France)

‘Les bénéfices d doute’ (‘The benefits of the doubt’) is Bénabar’s sixth album. The successful singer-songwriter apparently needed new inspiration, since he changed his production team. He chose to work with producer Jean-Louis Piérot (Manset, Marianne Faithful). The result is a more sober and straight forward album. Out with the familiar brass, make way for the banjo and the harmonica. But everything is in service of the lyrics.

It is admirable that Bénabar tried to innovate his musical style. Unfortunately, it is not for the better this time. The brass sections, adding character to his previous albums, are missing. The extra focus on his singing does not really work that well, since Bénabar does not own a fantastic singing voice. And his lyrics, usually quite funny and witty, tend to become quite pedantic at times.

In an attempt to follow in the footsteps of the famous singer Renaud he addresses society-chritical topics. In opening track ‘Politiquement correct’ he points his finger towards racists and homophobes, pleading to treat each other with more respect. In ‘L’agnau’ (‘The lamb’) he compares the people who do not stand out to the lamb that invites the wolf for diner. It all sounds a bit, well, political correct… The song ‘Différents?’ is an exception, explaining that dictators are, unfortunately, human too and are not so different from you and me. Some foodf for thought at last…

Bénabar excels when he sings small stories from (his) everyday life. Highlight of the album is ‘Les mirabelles’, a beautiful ballad, dedicated to the deceased actress Jocelyn Quivrin, he worked with in the past.

With ‘Les benefices du doute’ Bénabar puts many people to trial. But he ends up being the one on trial himself. The verdict? Well, for the moment we’ll give him the benefits of the doubt.


>> Back to list of reviews


Bookmark and Share


Ilo Veyou (2011) - ♪♪
Camille (France)

Six years ago Camille stunned and wowed the global public with an album built around a one bass note and multi sampling her own voice. Written down this seems commercial suicide or just boring but Camille’s inventive use of this stripped down form of music was inventive, intriguing and highly original. On ‘Music Hole’ she consolidated her status of avant garde pop artist using her own body as beatbox. This set the bar very high for this fourth album ‘Ilo veyou’. The basic concept of using her own voice in as foundation of her music is still there but the songs just don’t sound that convincing. The aura that you imagine she just made the previous albums in a spur of freaky experimentation is gone. You’ve heard it before, the art has turned into a trick. Songs  like ‘Aujourd’hui’, ‘Allez Allez Allez’, ‘Bubble lady’ and ‘Tout dit’ sound like leftovers from previous albums. And ‘La france’ even sounds like a persiflage of Edith Piaf, although that may be deliberate. New this time is the sometimes gypsy-like acoustic accompaniment but it is a too small a foundation for a new gimmick. In fact the only songs that stick are the ones that were made with something that sounds like a band. ‘Mars is no fun’, ‘My man is married but not to me’ and the title track fall in that category. Although you can conclude that these bossanova jazzy tracks come close to the kind of music she made with Nouvelle Vague before she hit her own creative well ten years ago. Actually ‘Le Berger’ is the only track that convinces and hints to what could have been. It’s a ballad around a simple guitar melody and clomping feet in the background. It’s an medieval feeling mystical ballade but it is lost in the rest of the 15 tracks. Of course Camille is still miles ahead of the usual radio friendly pop and in a league of her own. Newcomers to her music will still be amazed. But ‘Ilo veyou’ also gives the suspicion Camille’s wondrous musical garden has hit on dry times.

>> Back to list of reviews


Bookmark and Share


Milosza (2011) - ♪♪♪
Czesław Śpiewa (Poland)

Many people outside think that Czesław Śpiewa is a band but translated the bandname reads Czesław (Mozil) sings. That set straight the polish-danish songwriter delivers his third album. And he does not take a light theme as basis for it since the whole album is build around poetry by Czeslaw Milosz (1911-2004). So, first some background info on that person. Lithuanian born Milosz  escaped to the US after WW2 to write a book called ‘The Captive Mind’. In a fiction story around Murti-Bing pills the writer comes clean with what was the intellectual allure of Stalinism and the temptation of collaboration with the Stalinist regime among intellectuals in post-war Central and Eastern Europe. But it also a protest against materialism and consumerism which (in his eyes) is a cause for the deadening of the intellect in Western society. Now, don’t let this somewhat depressive synopsis get you down because musically the album made by Mozil is much more colorful.

Like a film-score to a black and white movie the harmonica hums on the opening of the album and Czesław starts his ode to the sun on ‘Słońce’. A folk melody it also utters a warning to over ambitious people: “Who wants to paint the world in a colorful character / Let them never look directly at the sun / Because the memory of things that he saw, he will lose / and the tears in his eyes are just burning”. The soundtrack-feeling stays throughout the project. It comes across as a small penny opera in the tradition of Brecht and Weill. In that sense it fits in the recent Polish music projects around the Kabaretu Starszych Panów done by fellow Polish pop artists. We even initially thought this was a third chapter in that cycle. But Milosz' inner battles go much deeper then the cabaret of old men. He is the poet (Poeta) that is offered fame in exchange that he does not have any critique: “You will live free from suffering / We'll give you popularity and fame /  Let your line, rather than to wage war, / educate people so they can play "

Should he sell his soul for an easy life? It’s the continuing dilemma that is present in the lyrics. He acknowledges that in politics (Do polityka) you are a criminal and a hero at the same time depending which way you look and no matter what choices you make. One man’s fortune is another man’s disaster. A nice parallel for the European Commission these past weeks. The six minute long epic track ‘Postój zimowy’ is the last lesson in being humble, a final awareness that you can not influence the course of winter but you can find happiness in small things: "But we go together / and a long way / I let him meet the golden time of grace”. Musically Mozil cleaverly interprets Polish songtradition in a way European composers like Goran Bregovic does for the Balkan. A more critical note is that this album leans very heavy on the Polish texts by Milosz and in that sense some of the deeper charm is lost to us foreigners.

>> Back to list of reviews


Bookmark and Share


Kun valaistun (2011) - ♪♪♪♪
Chisu (Finland)

Chisu, stage name of Christel Sundberg, is one of the most promising new singer-songwriters in Finland. Her second platinum album ‘Vapaa ja yksin’ (‘Free and single’) remained in the national album charts for 70 weeks. Chisu proclaimed in several interviews preceding the release of the follow up album that the she felt a lot of pressure to come up with a commercially and artistically worthy successor of ‘Vapaa…’. And now, finally, the new album ‘Kun valaistun’ (‘When I get illuminated’) has been released.

Chisu is a very original singer-songwriter, although she has not even reached her thirtieth birthday, she takes full control in composing, writing, arranging and producing her own albums. She has a distinctive, delicate voice, at times majestic, at times childlike, that combines perfectly with her often dramatic and melodic songs. Central theme on ‘Kun valaistun’ is the swing between the up sides and down sides of life, yin and yang, if you will. And the consequences of the choices we make in life. Lyrically often symbolized in lightness and darkness, happiness and sadness. Furthermore, Chisu’s lyrics are very direct yet remarkable naïve, but since she uses them to express her deepest, personal thoughts they become very powerful. The opening track ‘Minä ja mun pää’ (‘Me and my head’) is a good example of this:
"Hey, do not be afraid to live was the last advise / … / Life will take, life will bring / … / Already in the tree of life and the hell of it”

The songs themselves also reflect the more darker and lighter sides of Chisu. The album contains some really dark and mystical tunes like the opening track, first single ‘Sabotage’, ‘Ennustus’ (‘Prediction’) and closing track ‘Vanha jo nuorena’ (‘Old at a young age’). For example, in ‘Sabotage’ Chisu sings:
“I need my wounds, deep and salty / when there does not seem to be any pain to replace a friend / that does not leave at any time / that humbly awaits his turn / when there does not seem to be any pain to replace a friend”

And in ‘Ennustus’ (‘Prediction’):
“Boxes in the attic, footprints on the lawn / … / And when I open the boxes, the sun and the memories come back / I know, you're free at last / At last a light on the road, a travelling light there / I am prepared now for this / You are here today / I dare to love”

But every now and then there is room for optimism, like ‘Kohtalon oma’ (‘Fate of their own’) and especially ‘Kriisit’ (‘Crises’). In this last up tempo song we hear an entirely different Chisu. She sometimes sounds like like an American country & western singer!

All in all this results in a very diverse album that offers an interesting listening experience from beginning to end, time and time again. On the other hand, the album sounds slightly less consistent than Chisu’s two previous albums. But it we can only admire this young artist for the fact that she dared to experiment and thus avoiding taking the easy way of just repeating the success formula. I do not doubt that ‘Kun valaistun’ will establish Chisu’s name as one of the leading new artists in the Finnish pop scene. And I can only hope that this fantastic young singer will reach an audience outside of Finland as well. This album is definitely worth the while!


>> Back to list of reviews


Bookmark and Share


Hard op weg (2011) - ♪♪♪
Def P & Beatbusters (The Netherlands)

The initial cooperation between Dutch rap-artist Def P and ska-band Beatbusters took place in 1999. Several members accompanied P on his solo album ‘Cryptokilostijl’ and discussed whether Dutch rap, ska and reggae could be combined and in September of that year they performed four concerts in Italy together. They even found a name for their combined genre calling it ‘Skank-hop’. After a period of heavy touring and unexpected success the two each went back to their initial routine (with Def P returning to Osdorp Posse). But now, more than ten years later, they return for an entire album filled with rap, funky ska and bopping rhythms called ‘Hard op weg’.

The title translates roughly as ‘getting on with it’ which is an understatement after ten years waiting. Def P does what he does best and treats us to his irritations, life views and observations. But contrary to the harsh beats his previous Posse gave as support the funky two-tone ska of the Beatbusters give his raps a necessary lightness and take care you won’t slip away in an overall depression. And so you get confronted with subjects like the economical crisis, unemployment and Third World politics but at least you go down smiling and dancing.

>> Back to list of reviews


Bookmark and Share


Todesmelodien (2011) - ♪♪♪
Andreas Dorau (Germany)

Big was my surprise to be confronted with a new album by camp NDW cult-singer Andreas Dorau. In the Eighties he had a novelty hit with ‘Fred from Jupiter’ made under the wings of electronic twigglers Der Plan. It was a sort of warped German cabaret music on acid. It was a complete mystery what he would make more than 25 years later. And rest assured nothing much changed, only the Marinas, his background choir left. What remains is again a strange mix of pop, schlager and electronics and a singer of whom you keep wondering if he actually can sing at all. But mashed together is sounds as wonderful as a German Sachertorte with bitter cherries.

Because on Andreas’ his collection of deathmelodies you’ll find anger and ‘Neid’ paranoia with ‘Stimmen in der nacht’ or how much it hurts just lying on the sofa ‘Es tut so weh’ (It hurts so bad). Andreas partner in crime this time is amongst others Mouse on Mars member Andy Thoma who takes care of making ‘Und dann’ and ‘Inkonsequent’ into a catchy popdancetunes before throwing you off balance with the minimal ‘Ausruhen’. But more friends help out on the album. Moritz Rrrr from Der Plan teams up with his old friend and Mense Reents (Die Goldenen Zitronen) pops up here and there. Backing vocals on 'Schwarz Rot Gold' come courtesy of Francoise Cactus from Stereo Total and Inga Humpe of 2Raumwohnung.

‘Todesmelodien’ gives you the feeling you’re being part of something funny that somehow somewhere went completely wrong. It’s like you’re laughing when you’re not supposed to. Like the subtle coverphoto where Andreas stands with a John Lennon album and ‘Catcher in the rye’ (look it up if you don’t get the connection). Exemplary is the bizarre story of the house which once briefly contained a bright light. It presumably was the home of a family whose journey on the autobahn got interrupted by heavy rain, this then leading to their car hitting a tree at high speed (‘Es war Hell’). Weird and wonderful. Unique.

>> Back to list of reviews


Bookmark and Share


Aranjman 2011 (2011) - ♪♪♪♪
Candan Erçetin (Turky)

French language and culture traditionally had an big influence on Turkish society. Especially during the sixties and seventies, French chansons became very popular in Turkey. A lot of Turkish artists re-recorded these songs with Turkish lyrics. So it is not so strange that popular singer Candan Erçetin recorded a collection of French songs for her 2003 album ‘Chante hier pour aujourd’hui’, sung partly in French and partly in Turkish. Due to it’s success – and probably Erçetins personal taste – she once again recorded 14 popular French chansons for her latest album, ‘Aranjman 2011’ (‘Arrangements 2011’). The songs date from the period 1954 – 1976, and they became popular in Turkish interpretations. The songs have all been rearranged by Alper Erinç with lots of care and respect. The modern Turkish arrangements enable us to get reacquainted with these great songs, that many of us will remember from many years ago.

The album opens with the song ‘Ali’, written by Dario Moreno & Jacques Plait. A very applicable choise, since Moreno was a Turkish singer, composer and musician who became very popular in France during the fifties and sixties. It became popular in Turkey in the version of Zeki Müren. Erçetin also recorded ‘Les mouettes de Mikonos’ (‘The seagulls from Mykonos’), another song made popular by Dario Moreno, though it was written by André Borly and Arman Canfora.

The second song is ‘L’aveugle’ (‘Blind man’) written by Simon Saguy, made popular by the famous Mireille Mathieu. The third song is ‘Volage, volage’ (‘Fleeting, fleeting’) by Armenian singer and songwriter Marc Aryan. It became a Turkish classic in 1968 in the interpretation of Ajda Pekkan. The fourth song is an interpretation of Salvatore Adamo’s famous hit ‘Tombe la neige’ (‘The snow falls’). This is Ajda Pekkan’s second single release from 1965. The next song, ‘Que c’est triste un monde sans amour’ (‘How sad it is, a world without love’), is also a hit by Pekkan. It was written by Patricia Carli, an Italian songwriter, who mainly wrote successful songs for famous artists like Dalida, Mathieu, Cinquetti etc. ‘Sans toi je suis seul’ (‘Without you I am alone’) is another Carli song, cowritten by Franck Gérald and originally recorded by Christian Delagrange. In Turkey it became a hit when sung by actrice and singer Hümeyra. ’Tu te reconnaitras’ (‘You will recognise’) is a reworking of the winner of the 1973 Eurovision Songcontest, sung by Anne-Marie David. Back in the seventies it became a big hit in Turkey in the interpretation of Nilüfer. ‘On s’embrasse et on oublie’ (‘We emrace each other and forget’) is a song from Jewish Algerian singer and composer Enrico Macias. The song became a hit in Turky as ‘Hoşgör sen’, sung by Ajda Pekkan. She even performed it with Macias at the stage of the Olympia Theatre in Paris. ‘Karlar Düşer’ is the Turkish version of Adamo’s ‘Car je veux’, made popular in Turkey by Zeki Müren. ‘Bak bir varmiş bir yokmuş’ is Ilham Gencer’s cover of Bob Azzam’s ‘C’est ecrit dans le ciel’ is’ (‘It is written in the sky’). ‘Yalanmış’ is Asu Maralman’s interpretation of Julien Clerc’s ‘Ce n’est rien’. ‘Selam söyle’ is again a Macias song (‘Pourquoi parler d’amour’) which was a hit in 1976 in the interpretation of, again, Nilüfer. The album closes with ‘Istanbul (not Constantinople)’, a song written and composed by Jimmy Kennedy and Simon Nat, that was recorded by many artists. In 1954 it was recorded by Dario Moreno in French. Regarding the fact that the song addresses the fact that the renaming of the historic city from Constantinople into Istanbul is only a matter of the Turks, it seems a perfect closing track.

With ‘Aranjman 2011’ Candan Erçetin again pays homage to the Turkish artists of earlier decades. She does it with respect and grace, transforming the classic songs into new modern tunes. It is a pleasure to hear these songs again, not having lost any of their crafstmanshift and power. And Candan, as always, knows how to sing them in just the perfect way.

>> Back to list of reviews


Esqueço-me de te esquecer (2011) - ♪♪♪½
Adelaide Ferreira (Portugal)

When you think of Portuguese music, instantly the popular fado music comes to mind. And since I am not to fond of the genre, Portuguese artist do not pop up frequently on the europop website. But fortunately there are some exceptions, artists who produce actual Portuguese europop! One of these artists is Adelaide Ferreira. Adelaide started her career as a rock singer in the beginning of the eighties. In 1985 she represented Portugal at the Eurovision Song Contest with the fantastic ballad ‘Penso em ti (Eu sei)’, which only ended in 18th position (just before Belgium in last position). Nevertheless, she build quite a respectable career as an actress and singer in her home country, releasing pop albums every few years. Her 2006 album, ‘Mais forte que a paixão’ (‘Stronger than passion’), is probably the best release in her career.

Recently Adelaide released a brand new album, ‘Esqueço-me de te esquecer’ (‘I forgot to forget you’). The album contains thirteen songs, mostly written and composed by Paulo Martins, who also produced them.

Most of the songs are ballads, some are mid tempo. They are the perfect vehicle for Adelaide to present her fantastic voice: strong and powerful, yet warm and tender, with that typical Mediterranean vibe. The opening track is the title song and the first single of the album. It is a touching and dramatic ballad. One of the highlights of the album is ‘O caminho p'ra casa’ (‘The way home’) written and composed by Adelaide herself. It makes you wonder why she does not record more of her own songs… Another highlight is the song ‘Esquecer os porquês' (‘Forget  the whys’), by João Portugal. ‘Dezembro em mim’ (‘In December’) is jazzy tune that allows Adelaide to show her vocal capabilities. The same goes for ‘The truth’, a ballad sung in English.

The album often reminds me of her great 2006 album ‘Mais forte…’, but the arrangements and production tend somewhat more towards easy listening than pop this time. Therefore I consider this album not as good as its predecessor. Yet, it is a very nice album and a very welcome return after five years from one of the leading pop singers from Portugal.


>> Back to list of reviews


Bookmark and Share


L'amore è una cosa semplice (2011) - ♪♪½
Tiziano Ferro (Italy)

With the excellent single ‘La differenza tra me e te’ crawls very close to the mid-Eighties material of Spanish pop-legend Miguel Bosé. Cascading over a piano-loop and sung-spoken lyrics the song seems like a report of why Ferro chose to have his coming out last year: “My life / It makes me lose sleep, again / I understand that it is evident / The difference between me and you / Then ask me how I am / And your smile off the torments and questions / To feel good, to feel bad, to torture, to wonder why”. The song stole the hearts of the Italian public this autumn with over 40,000 downloads and ranking as one of the most played songs on Italian radio this year. Not bad for young Tiziano. But with ‘L'amore è una cosa semplice’ it is obvious he did his utmost best to make a radiofriendly all-pleasing album. The album safely sails over warm and deep soul-jazz tracks mixed with Italian-styled arrangements. Opening track ‘Hai delle isole negli occhi’ is exemplary for what to expect. Like an Italian John Legend Tiziano tells his tale of Islands in the eye. And what do you know, Legend himself joins in on the closing track ‘Karma’ (which is an English translation of the track ‘Smeraldo’). What happens inbetween can be summoned as pleasant pop without taking any risks after a strong start with the first three songs. ‘La fine’, ‘Paura non ho’ and ‘Interludio: 10.000 scuse’ can sweeten your intimate candle light dinner or blind date easily. ‘TVM’ is a nice surprise in the sense that he openly tries to work with the Napolitean songtradition. But the moment passes when ‘Troppo buono’ slides out of your soundsystem. With this song he goes overboard with sweetness. And it gets worse when he does a Michael Bubblé imitation on the cocktail jazz track ‘Quiero vivir con vos’. Tiziano has a good voice and is a good songwriter but personally I like my Italian pop to have just a bit more bite. Contrary to Bosé Ferro stays to close to safe waters, a tat more edge would have suited the album. Now he is more a mediocre clone of Raf then Bosé  Come on Tiziano you can do better then this.

>> Back to list of reviews


Bookmark and Share


Requiem dla Wojaczka (2011) - ♪♪♪♪♪
Fonetyka (Poland)

On the threshold of 2011 we like to point your attention to what might be one of the best alternative albums from Europe of this year. Because that is what the debut of Polish band Fonetyka is. A dark, layered, well crafted exercise of musical excellence. Mind you, the magic of the music Przemek Walczuk (vocals / bass), Daniel Zaklikowski (guitar / keyboards) and Peter Jablonski (drums) will not reveal itself on first listen. It has to grow on you. The whole album is build around poems from Rafał Wojaczek (1945-1971), a Polish poet of the postwar generation. His life was marked by abortive studies, alcoholism, depression and suicide attempts, the last one of which was successful. Quite daring to take such difficult and gloomy poetry and set it to music without making the whole album so heavy that it sinks like a millstone. But they pull it off thanks to a symbiosis of catchy synth motifs and simple, dirty guitar sounds. The mix of diverse, often pulsating and fast synth-rock landscapes gives it maybe a nostalgic feel of new wave but then with a new ring to it. Meanwhile Walczuk’s monotone bronze voice recites the lyrics that display Wocjaczek’s preoccupation with the brutality of the physical body along with its suffering and pleasures: “Be my bra, panties and garter / Be a cradle for the body / nanny what sways me to eat dirt from behind the nail / drink monthly blood lust be mine” (Bądź mi). It’s quite daring actually to record these sometimes explicit lyrics. A song like ‘Krzyż’ is actually a song about intercourse but then beautifully put: " I am vertical / You are the horizontal / I am up  / And you are the valley /I am the Earth / You are the sun / You are the shield / I am the sword”. With these controversial lyrics it’s no wonder the band recorded and produced the entire album independently before seeking a distribution deal. This gave them the liberty to create twelve consistent songs into one coherent album. Almost chronology the album closes with a poem that reads like a suicide note : “I finish in your sleep / last echo of the silence / I finish the ends / This is where your gaze is blinding my sleep / I close with a spark glowing heart / I leave in your heart / I inform myself at your death”. Forty years after the death of a 26 year old poet Fonetyka pays a worthy tribute setting his poetry to music.

>> Back to list of reviews


Bookmark and Share


Decadancing (2011) - ♪♪♪♪
Ivano Fossati (Italy)

Mr. Fossati announced he will retire after the tour, following the release of his supposedly last album: ‘Decandancing’. So it is kind of strange to review an album of this highly respected artist, knowing it will probably be his last. It does explain the reflective character of the album. The state of the world is in today, and Italy especially, is one of the themes on the album. The album title does refer to this state of decline as well, being an ambiguous wordplay, implying ‘dancing on the ruins of the decadent western world’. In the opening track Fossati reflects on the subject in a straight, unmistakable way:

‘La decadenza’ (‘The decline’):
“In full decline / The words have no chance / It is a scary thing / The thought that degenerates / Let's make a deal with God / Leave us a second chance / If you can / this decline / In the midst of so much darkness / Hopes have no chance / C'est la decadence.”

Despite Fossati’s somber observations, the album never gets depressed or negative. On the contrary, the opening track sounds downright cheerful, as long as you do not listen to the lyrics… In the following track Fossati continues expressing his views on today’s society:

‘Quello che manca al mondo’ (‘What is missing in the world’):
“What is missing in the world, I can see it clearly with my own eyes / What is missing in this world, I cannot tell / I am not the man who had a dream, nor am I the artist who had a gift / But also a very thought makes its way, like all great illusions / What is missing in the world, is a bit of silence / What is missing in this world, is the forgiveness that I neither see nor hear / What is missing in the world, is a bit of silence.”

Fossati also shows once again his well developed craftsmanship in writing small, sad stories about love loves. ‘Septembre’ (‘September’) is a great and very touching example of this:

‘Septembre’ (‘September’):
“The good that we were, that took two of us / It is a taxi that stops here / I felt so good in your hands, I would never ask for anything more / But this day that begins in September, I embrace you and I miss you. / … / If this can make you happy / I will not confuse things more / Everything will go well, we can rely on that / If you want to call me every now and then / From this day on, that begins in September, call me when you want.”

‘Decadancing’ is very strong record with intresting musical and lyrical contrasts. It is also a real pop album, that sometimes reminds us of his better albums form the seventies and early eighties. It sounds straight, inspired and diverse. And despite Fossati´s sombre observations of time and society, hen ever becomes cynical. In the closing track of the album - maybe the last Fossati track we will ever hear – he leaves us with a message of hope:

‘Tutto questo futuro’ (‘Everythng about this future’):
“Time erases the intentions of the heart... / Maybe this is what remains for people like us: stay close, think slower, understand with the eyes and do not loose it. / My love, my hope with sincere eyes, I would not ever want to loose it. But I love everything about this future / And also the time wasted that I do not see any more. / You and I, in the midst of the world, we are a bunch of flowers. / Now spend the night and, as you can feel, it does not rain anymore.”


>> Back to list of reviews


Bookmark and Share


Beweg dich mit mir (2011) - ♪♪♪
Glasperlenspiel (Germany)

A new duo which has taken its name from a novel by poet/writer Hermann Hesse. In the futuristic novel the story is set around a mysterious game (the Glasperlenspiel or Glass Bead Game) which is a web of political manipulation and smouldering of individuality. Eventually main character Magister Ludi breaks with the game in favor of his individual's search for authenticity, self-knowledge and spirituality.

This background information could lead to a very high-brow progrock album but the band Glasperlenspiel is anything but that. With a collection of lightweight electropop songs the duo Caroline Niemczyk and Daniel Grunenberg tries to bring the memories of summer back into your living room. The link with the book comes, as the band says themselves, that they try to stay true to themselves. As explained in their single ‘Echt’ (Real): “Everything we see where we go / only this moment remains in the hourglass / if it is real / I do not expect much from this moment / I want him to be perfect that he is genuine. (That he's real)/ And I think the fact that it is better if I can feel it / for that moment all my doubts are gone / because it is real.”

The result is a catchy electro tune. The album features more of these tracks that will make you jump up when out in the German nightlife. ‘Magnetisch’ and ‘Freundschaft’ are good examples of a surprising knack for the ability to write hit-material. And indeed the duo is not entirely new to the scene and already wrote material for other artists. And the current selection of songs was molded during the tour with Ich + Ich. Not surprisingly the production breaths the inspiration from both the Humpe sisters (references to 2Raumwohnung and Ich + Ich are unmistakable). On a vocal level Daniel can count his blessings with Caroline as singer not being a very good vocalist himself. His monotone voice has some solo parts but he gets completely blown away once Caroline opens her mouth. Luckily he can stick behind the keyboards and support in the chorus. Meanwhile the platinum blond can withstand the electronic glaciered cake that is baked here. It’s good summer fluf without any pretence. Very enjoyable and danceable and the advice ‘Move yourself with us’ is not for nothing.

>> Back to list of reviews


Bookmark and Share


Alesia (2011) - ♪♪½
Housse de Racket (France)

The duo Pierre Leroux and Victor Le Masne the next branch of the French alternative danspop. Although they not that new because both men have earned their spurs as a session musician at Air and Phoenix and along the way released an unnoticed album called Forty Love. Under production of Philippe Zdar (Cassius) they go for the second round with this album leaning much more heavily on synthesizers and less on guitar / drums. Single Roman opens with a catchy guitar riff but once the synths drop in it is clear where the emphasis lies. The result is neither fish nor fowl, and therefore somewhat unsatisfactory. On the album, however the menimprove the single by following with a bunch of strong electro glam songs such as Chorus and Apocalypso. Catchy and sweet. Especially on Chateau the repetitive hooks like a titillating surprise in the memory of the listener. In terms of production and sound this pushes the Housse the Racket on to American electro acts such as MGMT and Fisherspooner. Especially on the psychedelic track Ariane where the synths fly screaming to heaven. But by the end of the plate the trick of up tempo beats, keys and hopping psychedelic bleeps gets a bit tedious. The nearly seven-minute song Aquarium suffers from that while in itself it is not a bad track. Alesia has a few highlights, but like a good brie you should never eat too much. Then it gets mushy and eventually will stick to your palate. Good but with moderation.

>> Back to list of reviews


Bookmark and Share


Klagomuren (2011) - ♪♪♪♪
Jonathan Johansson (Sweden)

The music from Malmö based Jonathan Johansson is electropop but from the Scandinavian kind. Followers of our reviews will know what this means. Crystalclear twinkling synths, icy vocals and muted beats in the undercurrent. With this follow up from his ‘En hand i himlen’ ('A hand in the sky'), 2009. Johansson perfected this style on ‘Klagomuren’ together with partner in music Johan Eckeborn. A duo indeed (no-one else joins in on the album) but with a sound that would match the best of Kent or for the international reader Coldplay.

A song like ‘Blommorna’, with its beat slightly based on Kate Bush’ ‘Running up that hill’, is full and well-built. Layer upon layer give you the impression of a whole band, which in fact is not the case. The central theme on the album seems to be the pressure of city-life and the search for inner peace. The album opens with a neurotic hum slowly passing into single ‘Stockholm’, a song about a paranoid friend calling out for help:
You call late / and say your apartment / will become detached from the house / crushed against street / one must bear / their grief in the arms / you have to imitate them / to cope those who continue anyway”.

Jonathan is on a search to drive out his and your demons on the twinkling ‘Centrum’ on which the guitars waver to the far corners of your speaker. The songs are linked to each other as to create a constant flow and story. Halfway the album returns to the subtle drone from the intro for the dark and pastoral ‘Under sjukhusen’. A song about how we pass each other without even noticing one another:
If we heard the heart beat / in a parking lot / in the longest night / Would we listen then?

Johansson’s plea to the Wailing Wall is for more understanding, a warm hand, a friendly face. On album closer ‘Min ljusaste röst’ he sings:
With my brightest voice / I wanted to sing / about you and about me / and others / I wanted to sing about the tenderness we are worth / but it was so difficult.”

‘Klagomuren’ is a sensitive cross-fertilization of spirituality, the pulse of urban life, empathy for fellow human beings and pop music's magic.

>> Back to list of reviews


Bookmark and Share


Lustra (2011) - ♪♪½ (Polanna - ♪♪♪ / Haiku - ♪ / Sobremesa - ♪♪)
Anna Maria Jopek (Poland)

Being Poland's main (musical) export product and a heralded singer around the globe it was only a matter of time when Anna Maria would establish her own publishing and recording company. After Universal’s last attempt to get her to sing in English this was maybe the wisest thing to do. Thus AMJmusic was created with Universal as distributor. The danger of an artist that  is confronted with total independence is that suddenly there are no more barriers and pesky marketing guys who limit your artistry. And so, after four years of hard labor, we get ‘Lustra’, a project cut into three chapters also available as separate albums. All through her career Anna Maria hopped from a more pop orientated sound to folk, pure jazz and back again. With Lustra she takes a turn to jazz again mainly influenced by her musical partner Marcin Kydrynski. Each project has a different initial idea as basis from which they worked. ‘Polanna’ opens the triptych and here she re-interprets traditional songs from her homeland. In a jazzy mould that is. The effect is something between oddness and daring. It is like taking the music sung at the local ‘kawiarnia’ or pub and setting it in a chique hotel lounge. The crystal voice of Miss Jopek glides over the smooth arrangements like silk over a polished wooden cabinet. The essence of the songs is not smooth at all of course but these reinterpretations give it a stylish sheen. Not every song is convincing but a rework of Karol Szymanowski’s song ‘Uwoz Mamo’ (recorded with Gil Goldstein) is a display of how cool the result can be. But as said ‘Polanna’ stays closest to the European song tradition of the three albums. The next album Haiku is an attempt to find common ground between Polish and Japanese music. The project was recorded with Japanese jazz pianist Makoto Ozone and is way beyond of what I can endure. It’s a highbrow posturing collection of ambiance monstrosities and the endeavor of making a mix of European and Asian atmospheric music fails in my humble opinion. It makes you sigh with relieve when you slip in ‘Sobremesa’ the last installment of ‘Lustra’. Jopek herself describes it as a "dessert" but then one after a somewhat demanding main dish. In thirteen songs she tells stories of Lisbon, where she had a "second home" for several years. A collection of beloved songs she interprets the world of Portuguese and Latin song culture. Here Marcin gets free hand of displaying his expertise as a musician / producer and is in fact more his album then Anna Maria’s project. She comes across as just the lead singer in a bossanova combo obviously enjoying herself. She does that perfectly delivering an icy breeze on a steaming hot summer day but fails to give it her own signature. The quality drips from the last album but emotionally and artistically ‘Polanna’ is the more interesting album of the three. Buying ‘Lustra’ complete gets you a beautiful book with photographs of Miss Jopek at various exotic places and a collection of sophisticated songs that could have used some more self critique.

>> Back to list of reviews


Bookmark and Share


I Byen Igen (2011) - ♪♪♪♪
Marie Key (Denmark)

Marie Key is in town again (what the title translates into) and this time she did not take the bicycle but more electronic transport. Out with the band with whom she created two light-pop albums with jazz-feel. On this solo debut Keys airy vocals float on a quivering, slightly grandiose minimal technological soundboard laid out by electronic wizard Andreas Sommer. More talk, less music (Mere Snak – Mindre Musik) opens the album on a dry electronic beat over which Marie’s vocals comes hovering in. The whole album breaths a dreamy atmosphere that is so recognizable for Scandinavian popmusic. Like Key herself sings: “And while she pushes the world / I push the bed into a corner / lie down / fall asleep and dream myself away."

Textual it's a dark love album, which revolves a lot about the feelings of longing and doubt. That it can also translate into a political perspective shows the duet with Bjorn Fjæstad (Partners in crime). “Why paint the day dark” is a response to the whole debate about government and Danish People's Party reintroduction of border controls in Denmark. By then you came to the heart of the album which features some of the strongest songs. The thumbing ‘Stå Op’, droning ‘Man Må Ikke Lege Med Folk’ and ‘Er Du Okay? in the middle are interlocked into one musical vibe about alienation. Loneliness and social isolation in a big city is fit into a piece of beautiful rich and catchy popmusic and the highlight of the album: "You are a stranger and your gaze is hard / but you greet your greeting too short / and those around you - who are they? / I hate it when none of us knows what to say / Are you okay? ".

Then the album flows in a more acoustic block of songs. In a soft and melancholy manor Key looks out the window of her house and observes the world. "Down on the Øster Søgade the cars run by / May they never stop / the buzzing in my sleep / All my thoughts are calm / and everything is as soft / as a summer night, rain tonight / The bad mails I've thrown out / I just pressed delete / Now they fit themselves into a basket / while I was buzzing gently /Tomorrow opens at the park at 10 / and then the night's rain / probably ran away ". I’m impressed with Marie Key’s debut, this tastes like more.

>> Back to list of reviews


Bookmark and Share


Aus lauter Liebe (2011) - ♪♪♪
Klee (Germany)

With their previous album ‘Berge Versetzen’ I wasn’t really looking forward to a new album from Deutschpop band Klee. Their style had become to radiofriendly and bloodless. But the band now reduced to singer Suzie Kerstgens and Sten Servaes did return and were out of nothing leading the German charts with ‘Auf lauter liebe’. Time for a second chance. The cover of the album shows the couple in front of the Eiffeltower and the Cologne-based duo stated that they let themselves be influenced by French pop and the Nouvelle Vague movement. Adding that Paris is geological closer to Cologne then Berlin.

The first two songs on the album do not seem to live up to any promised change. But just when you want to press the ‘next’ button Klee comes up with the surprising hip ‘Nimm dein Leben in die Hand’. A well-balanced pop tune on which Suzie’s voice and intelligent lyrics and the electric musical base lift themselves to a higher plain. A song with indeed a French feel but then turned into a Deutschpop mould. A lucky shot? Nope, ‘Ausser atem’ is an uptempo twinkling tune, ‘Natalie’ swings around the story of girl with an unbreakable positive look at the world, ‘Meilenweit’and ‘Stell dir vor’ are ballads with Coldplay-like epic lyrics and arrangements and on ‘Pulls und Herszschlag’ they even get a bit funky.

Not everything has turned out good though. Songs like ‘Adieu’ and ‘Schmetterlingsflügelschlag’ hint towards French pop but miss the essence, that lazy-easy swing, of that scene completely. You obviously can’t take the influence of German pop-culture out that easily. Which get’s proven with ‘Ich will nicht gehen wenn’s am schönsten ist’ which is as Teutonic as pop can get. Waldhorns, choir and drumrolls included. Overall this fifth album by Klee is again all pop without an edge but at least you have the feeling that this time they the album was made with love.

>> Back to list of reviews


Perfection (2011) - ♪♪
Manto (Greece)

Manto is a terrific singer and songwriter. Unfortunately, her albums diver too much in style to build a truly credible oeuvre. Some albums are very good, some are mediocre and some downright terrible. Her last few albums were quite good, but her latest release, ‘Perfection’, does not do the trick for me at all. Most of the songs were composed by Pegasus, who worked with Manto on her previous album Manto II as well (and with a lot of other popular Greek artists like Anna Vissi and Helena Paparizou). The lyrics have been contributed by several writers like Cosmina & Furcchi Gliatas, Angela Makrinioti, Margaret Harris and Pegasus. Manto only co-wrote the music of two songs on the album. Perhaps she should have taken more control by composing more songs of her own…

The album starts with ‘Unofficial sex’, a song entirely in English. The singing is great, but it all sounds like an uninspired copy of Christina Aguilera. It is the first of three songs in English on the album and the other three are definitely not much better than the opening track. There is also ‘Il paradiso nascera’ (‘Paradise is born’), this time with Italian lyrics. The reason for this does not become clear to me, since it sounds like a regular Manto-song. Not bad, but not very good either. ‘Tha se perimeno’ (‘I will wait’) is the first song in Greek, at last. And I have to admit, this song is a lot better than the two previous songs. It has mid-tempo couplets and strong, abundant refrains. With a slightly different production it would have fitted the gothic Manto II album. ‘Tesseris mines’ (‘Four months’) is a Greek rock ballad, a bit middle of the road, but acceptable. ‘Theos epano sti gi’ (‘God on earth’) is, again, a rock ballad, but this time much more refined resulting in one of the albums highlights. This is the singer Manto that I would have liked to hear much more of on this album.

Unfortunately the bliss does not last very long, since the song is followed by ‘Face to face’, being on of the worse songs on the album (and probably of Manto’s career). To illustrate the poor quality of the lyrics here is the refrain and you will get my point…:

“Face to face / Baby I wanna see you / ‘Cause I really really need you / And I can’t wait / Night and day all I do is want you / I’d give anything to see your pretty face / Face to face”

And just when you think things cannot get any worse… you discover that song no. 9 ‘Genniete o paradisos’ is the same songs as ‘Il paradise nascera’, but now in a Greek version. It is too late and not even the closing track, ‘Mia signomi tin a kani’ (‘I am sorry for what I’ve done’) – a sober ballad n which Manto is only accompanied by a piano (I would have like to hear more of that!) can turn things anymore. I guess the title of this last song says it all…

>> Back to list of reviews


Bookmark and Share


Fais moi une fleur (2011) - ♪♪♪♪
Maurane (Belgium)

It has been so long since Belgian singer Maurane graced us with an album (her ‘Si aujourd'hui’ is from 2007, not counting her Nougaro tribute album from 2009). So long that we almost forgot how much she could tempt us with her unique voice and musical signature. And so the sweet jazz-chanson opener ‘C’est pas dans ma nature’ almost sounds alien in the current synth-driven Europopmusic wave we encounter this month on our review desks.

The album has been recorded almost completely in New York in 2009 with producer Gil Goldstein (Bobby McFerrin, Richard Galliano, Michel Petrucciani) and engineer Jay Newland (known for his work with Norah Jones). This explains the jazzy vibe that hangs over the album. Why it was shelved for three years remains a mystery. At the time, on personal advice of Jean-Philippe Allard, director at the time of Polydor, she travelled to NY: “He said he had worked with a team of people in New York and that this would be ideal for me given the fact that in my musical world, my passion for harmony and my love of jazz and Brazilian music often returns to the surface. Why not, I thought without much hope. Though I was not specifically obsessed with the United States.”  But she went anyway and finally, three years later, we can enjoy the result.

The risk with working with an entire American cast is that an artist looses that typical European vibe. And with the second song ‘Face B’ (a tribute to Henri Salvador) it almost feels that way. Luckily it’s the only mediocre song on an album that gets better with each song. Maurane does not seek a musical revolution but perfects her own personal style and lets her warm and soothing voice slip into music that positions itself between variety and jazz and blues ('Mon ange veile', 'Sous le tilleul'). She wanted a record with multiple influences as evidenced by the title track and first subtle reggae rhythms, or the voodoo song ‘Le diable dans sa bouteille’ on which the artist engages in a tango with some whispered text as if provoking the devil himself. In addition to this text written by Juliette, Maurane get’s help from Brigitte Fontaine, who wrote the very touching ‘Peplum’. And then we did not even get to ‘Opus en si bel homme majeur’ where Maurane’s bronze voice weaves over a intimate acoustic melody while violins fluster around her. It’s the highlight of an album that marks a very convincing return to light European pop scene .

>> Back to list of reviews


Piccolino (2011) - ♪♪♪♪
Mina (Italy)

The cover of her latest album portraits Mina as an alien, an extraterrestrial goddess. The art work is fantastic – a drawing by Gianni Ronco, art direction as always by Mauro Balletti. . On the back cover, there is a hidden between the song titles: “MINA MIA ALIEN’. What is Mina’s message this time? Is the light self-mockery of Lady Mina, knowing that she has not shown herself in public since 1979? Is it a confirmation that she has succeeded her transformation into a truly mythical figure that no longer has any connection with reality?

‘Piccolino’ is the third album in 25 months time by the 70+ diva of Italian pop music. It somehow seems that she feels that she is running out of time, what else could explain her urge to create new albums, after having created an impressive oeuvre of over 70 original albums in the past six decades?

Fortunately, Mina still knows how to select just the perfect songs and songwriters. After having made such an impressive mark on Italian pop music it is impossible to review a new Mina album without context, without prejudice. And yes, one can rightfully claim that her creative peak is years – decades – behind us now. But that would be unfair, we can and may not expect from any artist to stay ahead of its era for more than fifty years. Impossible it may be, but still we tried to listen to ‘Piccolino’ without the context of Mina in mind. And we can only conclude that it is a very fine album, with beautiful songs, beautifully sung and delicately produced. Mina still has the talent to select just the right songwriters (Maurizio Fabrizio, Giorgio Faletti, Franco Fasano, Andrea Mingardi, Giuliano Sangiorgi) and songs. Together with her loyal team of producers and arrangers she produced a diverse and emotional album that can definitely stand the comparison with her best work. It contains beautiful ballads (‘Compagna di viaggio’, ‘Questa canzone’, ‘L’uomo dell’autumno’), modern bossa rhytms (‘Ainda bem’), torch songs (‘Matrioska’) and blues (‘Canzone maledetta’).

The album opens with the fantastic ballad ‘Compagna di viaggio’ (‘Travel companion’), in which Mina sings about the invisible yet long lasting tie between two lovers:

 “I'm sitting next to you / Although you do not see me now / With my eyes that are not there / I watch the game of the pedals under your feet / It is made of air... / The same that you breath, light / I am beside you, with you / I am your passenger... / … / I'm walking next to you / And I am inside your mind / However many roads there will be / I can walk the whole world / And I am made of air... / What silences a whispered prayer / I am beside you, with you / I am your passenger...”

One of the highlights of the album is the highly emotional blues track ‘Canzone maledetta’ (‘Cursed song’):

“Damn the sun, that goes down too early / Since you're gone, it is always pitch black / Damn radio. that is playing these songs / Damn the mirror, and the eyes that witness / Damn the body, that was in my arms / I no longer feel the taste, I do not recognize my face / Damn the sex that beats so strong, that sometimes I even forget death / I know that I have done well / It was a rotten story / But while hating you, I will wait for you / Standing in the doorway”

The regular album contains ten songs, the deluxe edition contains four bonus tracks. One of them, ‘Only this song’, is written and composed by Axel Pani, Mina’s grandson. The songs are entertaining, but do not really add anything to the ten songs from the actual album.


>> Back to list of reviews



Bookmark and Share


Chansons ordinaires (2011) - ♪♪♪
Miossec (France)

What is an album but nothing more than a collection of songs. Or “une collection de chanson” as you would say in French. So that is what Miossec offers his audience on his latest album, a collection of, as he calls them, ordinary songs. And he has a song for everyone. A song that no one is listening to, a song for friends, a song for a man covered with women, a song for the good old days and a song that leaves traces. The concept is as simple as effective. The Brest singer left the big city to record this album in seclusion and quiet. He himself found that the city made him eerie and depressive. The Studio du Faune turned out a much better place to record with his musical friends Sébastian Buffet, David Euverts and Thomas Poli. Under guidance of Domique Brusson behind the mixing desk the whole feel of the album is much more balanced and relaxed. Miossec’s humming baritone fits perfectly with the seemingly simple and supple pop melodies. On previous albums Miossec would danger himself but falling into repetition. It seems he realizes that himself with the openingline : “Everything has already been said but it does not matter because nobody listens”. As if to say that with this collection of songs he will take care that you listen. On the Sympathetic song (told you he had a song for everyone) he sings “It's not because you got nothing to say that we must try to write”. A true word. Miossec delivered with this collection of songs an accessible and varied album for everyone interested in chanson rock.

>> Back to list of reviews


Bookmark and Share


Grand Lièvre (2011) - ♪♪♪♪
Jean Louis Murat (France)

2011 saw the return of the French prince of melancholy to his homeland. Was his previous album ‘Le Cours Ordinaire des Choses’ completelty recorded in Nashville, Tennessee and an exercise in incorporating country-rock , this new one is more back to French rock. It is also a return to Murat’s traditional state of mind which is laced with doom and gloom. Recorded in a few days in southern France, with the faithful Fred Jimenez and Stephane Reynaud, backed by pianist Slim Batteux, Murat wanted to create an almost live – experience. Inspired by the lo-fi movement of the mid nineties with bands like Pavement, Swell and Silver Jews. And as usual the music is laced with Murat’s dark poetic lyrics. Opening track ‘Qu’est-ce que ça veut dire’ sets the tone with the lines: “If my land is nostalgic / and if the sky is muddy / that is the brightness of a light / what falling in love / naked, naked since the dawn of time / I expect a love story/ OK I'm an ignorant / but still "What does that mean? "’ Throughout the ten songs on the album, we find the themes dear to the autho;, the derision of the human condition, doubt, death, love, loneliness. No other then Murat can sing a song like ‘Rémi est mort ainsi’ (Remi died and) and get away with these quit pretentious textes: “I have to save you / Scrub my soul / wallflower of my madness / in the mountain air / Do you hear the kill / The wind of Spain / back to tell my dear / That this time is far / My little Colette”.

Murat’s dark bronze voice gets magnified by the haloed swirling melodies. “in a simple shepherd's song / the rhythm of another era / the simple things” he sings on ‘Je voudrais me perdre de vue’ (I want to lose sight) and indeed the whole album sound as a return to the era when he made magnificent albums like ‘Cheyenne Autumne’ and ‘Le manteau de pluie’. Songs like ‘Alexandrie’ (dedicated to a deceased friend) and ‘Le champion Espagnol’ do have the same feel as the albums made in that timeframe. So ‘Grand Lièvre’is not the innovation you might anticipated but it does emphasize once more the alluring power of Murat’s musical universe. And Murat does try to take a new turn with hypnotic closing track ‘La lettre de la Pampa’ that starts as a simple rhythmic track but in which Murat’s voice hums and dissolves like almost vanishing into the music. “A fear love so much there is nothing new / In chamber music, warm and cozy / Europe is the disorder that plagues at will ….your big white ship being dragged to the scaffold …I do not fear the winter”. Neither do we, and with Murat on the speaker you can cuddle up near the fire and contemplate the dark times we live in. .

>> Back to list of reviews


Bookmark and Share


Kär (2011) - ♪♪♪♪
Lovisa Negga (Sweden)

Briefly Lovisa was a member of Swedish pop act ‘The Majority says’ but that setting was much too limiting for her. So with ‘Kär’ she invites us to her own fairytale pop universe. And recorded and released independently. The first three tracks show what you can expect from Negga. Scandinavian electropop but then with added with a small avant-garde sauce and a ice-cold twinkling voice. Single ‘Iskall’ maybe gives a bit of a wrong preview of what to expect. On an up-tempo beat with Asian melody loops she sings the fantasy-like lyrics: “I wanted to save it , now I'm never really quite / My surroundings decomposing in a decadence , a dance with only surface / Disappeared and came back / What is missing are the dreams that everything is right and nothing wrong / Everything around me went with in my case / That's how I became ice cold. “ And cool it is on the album although the central theme is love and relationships. But Lovisa is not a warm lover. Her touch and musical declarations are touched by the winter forests of Scandinavia. The synths on the intermezzo ‘Multidigit love’ sound like icicles on the trees. “Break me , I'm so weak / Never forget me did you say / Never forget where you saw me go / You smiled and I took my chance / Alone but we were two/ Hold me close / Let me learn”. You probably get the picture. Lovisa goes a bit further then fellow countrywoman Veronica Maggio (who also has a past relationship with The Majority says) and seeks more what borders she can stretch. Veronica is a happy pop girl and made the good ‘Satan I Gatan’ this year. But Lovisa is a dark Nordic siren that tries to lure you in on the bubbling ‘Håll mig nära’ (Hold me near) just to devour you whole. Intriguing debut for fans of Scandinavian electronic female pop-singers.. .

>> Back to list of reviews



Bookmark and Share


8 (2011) - ♪♪♪♪
Nosowska (Poland)

Kasia Nosowska is leadsinger of the rock band ‘Hey’ and she also released a bunch of experimental, more electronic solo albums. During the past decade she has become one of Polands most popular artists, which is is quit extraordinary considering the experimental character of her music. When you listen to the music with ‘western ears’ it is unthinkable that this kind of music will become a platinum disc in western European countries. Nosowska’s new album – simply named ‘8’ - was highly anticipated after her last successful solo release ‘UniSexBlues’ in 2007 and ‘N/O’ in 2008, a tribute album to Agnieszka Osiecka.

Kasia wrote all the lyrics of the twelve songs on ‘8’; most of the music has been composed by Marcin Macuk, Kasia co-wrote the music on four of the songs. It has become a very diverse album with intriguing lyrics. It is multi-layered thanks to the use of a wide range of acoustic instruments like the violin, piano, saxophone, trumpet and clarinet. Therefor each song sounds different and interesting. It starts off with ‘Rozszczep’ (‘Cleft’), a synthesizer-driven tune which unmistakably resembles Bowie’s song ‘Warzwa’ from the album ‘Low’. The next song is ‘Daj spać!’ (‘Let me sleep!’), an up tempo pop song with a franctic, pulsating piano line. It is the perfect tune to accompany the lyrics of the song:

‘Daj spać!’ (‘Let me sleep!’):
“The wrist pulse ticking / It does not sustain me / On the strength of the eyelids, let me sleep / Do not try to fondle me / And a silent world / What a blunt monster blunt this is / When morning starts again / I suck the flesh.”

It is followed by the very touching ballad ‘Polska’ (‘Poland’), an homage to her country:
“I follow the journey of the sun / I lay here, beneath me is Poland / A sewn patchwork of provinces / And small patches of counties / I look at the jets / They make scars in the sky / Below me is a patchwork of provinces / And small patches of counties / The head is soaked in the Baltic / The base formed by Giewont.” [NB: Giewont is a mountain massif in the most southern part of Poland]

After this lovely tune Kasia speeds up again with the single ‘Nomada’ (‘Nomad’), in which she expresses her darker side again. She compares her desire for someone to bulimia - it is full of hunger and lust:
“It provokes vomiting in the bathroom / And your heart, returns to the floor cool excitement / The whole sensitivity, praise, bulimia heart returns to the floor all my love / Wash your fingers...”

Some may think her songwriting is to artificial, yet Kasia is a master in expressing a deeper message with just a small amount of words. Many before have written about the passing of time, but Kasia’s ‘Czas’ (‘Time’) can be considered a wearthy addition to them:
“It’s boring to me / Calendar days from the crumbling year grain / Heaps of decades, centuries / Closed from eras / Wagons of eons - the time.”

One of my favorite tracks on the album is the mystical yet uplifting closing track ‘O lesie’ (‘About the forest’), with a leading part for the cello and clarinet:
“I feel that you are going... Rustling leaves, branches creak, breathe faster / I feel that you are going... Precipitation cones, pounding in his temples / You have come here, you have come here / Where a gold blade slips past - the field in the forest / Where graze in the morning mist dew glistens / Wherever I lay there quietly on my back after slipping in the wind / Shoulders significant footprint in the moss, leave town and come...”

With ‘8’ Kasia Nosowska again presents to us a first class alternative europop album. Once you have put the cd in the player, you will want to play it over and over again…


>> Back to list of reviews


Bookmark and Share


Soita mulle (2011) - ♪♪♪
Regina (Finland)

I’ll admit it freely I have a weak spot for Finnish trio Regina. Their twinkling dreamlike popmusic may not be overly original compared to other Finnish artists (the most Northern country of Europe seems cramped with interesting acts) and Ilsa Pykäri is maybe not the most unique singer around but the band has something that just makes it so accessible to like. Their excellent previous album ‘Puutarhatrilogia’ was a hallucinating allegory using the garden as a metaphore for the human mind. Probably thinking this concept was maybe a bit over the top for most people the band returns this year with a more down to earth album called ‘Soita Mulle’ (Call Me). Opener ‘Haluan Sinut’ almost immediatelly displays the stylechange with slightly cracked guitar riffs, soft drums and bass over a catchy keyboards. It’s fresh pop rather then a synthesized dream although the song is called ‘In a dream’. Regina keeps this course steady with ‘Harjun takaa’ (woven around a sampled sighs and moans) and the lightfeeted ‘Jos et sä soita’. The risk of this new sound for Regina lays in the fact that they always sounded inspired by the airy alternative pop of the start of the Nineties (dubbed shoegazing). Currently this genre is being rediscovered and the subtle course change by Regina may enable to ride that wave but also to lose their uniqueness. And what that is can be heard on a song like ‘Lepään Aalloilla’ a fairylike dreamlike ballad. The craftsmanship of Regina is in subtle details like the bass-loop in ‘Ui Mun Luo’ or the almost fluid keyboards in the intro ‘Unassa’. But I grant them an international breakthrough and with this easy accessible album this should be a possibility. .

>> Back to list of reviews



Bookmark and Share


Omdat ik dat wil (2011) - ♪♪♪
Roosbeef (Netherlands)

We weren’t too impressed about Roos Rebergen’s 2008 debut ‘Ze willen je hond wel aaien maar niet met je praten’ (They do want to pat your dog but don’t wanna talk to you) contrary to the collective Dutch press. Roosbeef’s clumsy pop-style, lazy and slurring way of singing and rag-a-dag music style sounded a bit to pretentious and leaning much too much towards Dutch cabaret (Kleinkunst). But what a difference this more robust second album is. Maybe it is because she teamed up with Torre Florim from popular Dutch alternative rockband De Staat for the one off project ‘De Speeldoos’. What it may be, the ghost of rock apparently slipped into Roosbeef’s music. The singer confirms this herself in the bio by stating that she wrote the album more as a band project. Her music needed some balls. The naïve wonder of the debut album has been changed into more sharp observations of uncertainties, desires, love affairs, and random everyday situations. Even her voice to down a bit. The girlie pitched way of singing made way for a more dark tone. Rebergen sings of a dead-end relationship in ‘Iets Te Veel Wij(n)’, or a plea to not end that relationship on the excellent ‘Niet uitmaken’, while haunting  ‘Nachtauto’ tells of a fleeting romance. She sings about loneliness "We love our self, but rather not alone," on the hypnotic ‘Pulpo’. Producer Tom Pintens provides the musical accompaniment, which Roosbeef enables to break from the cabaret-like atmosphere of the debut. But it’s not all hosanna. For example, songs like ‘Hersenen’, ‘Schone schijn’ en ‘In het bos’ hobble along and seem to continue endlessly. But we grant Roosbeef that practice makes perfect. Continue this way and it could get more interesting with each album.

>> Back to list of reviews


Bookmark and Share


Wir sind am leben (2011) - ♪♪♪1/2
Rosenstolz (Germany)

Have you done everything? Have you tried everything? If not, start now / Because your heart still catches fire / Because your heart knows the love / You are alive”. A fatality in your personal life can sometimes lead to these reality checks. And so it did with Rosenstolz when Peter Plate collapsed on stage and suffered from severe burnout syndrome for 2,5 years. 17 years of heavy touring and recording took their toll. Sometimes the return to normal life means slowing down but AnNa opens the album with a title song that displays a more positive vision. Life’s too short, if you did not live it by now you’d better start. The duo is ready for an overdose happiness (Überdosis glück) and bursting with ‘E.N.E.R.G.I.E.’ after years of recovery. But does this new album also hold the promise of a new course? Actually not really. Rosenstolz holds on to their successful formula of synth-rock, catchy chorusses and a mix of ballads and uptempo floorfillers. We weren’t that positive about their previous album ‘Die suche geht weiter’ just because of the fact that they stuck too much to the safe side and the beaten path.

At that time we actually did not really know what it was but somehow the songs just did not stick. And that is something that did change. Maybe because AnNa and Peter were forced to take their time they also found the time to sit down and be more self critical and focussed. A ballad like ‘Sprachlos’ is a beautiful example of how good Deutschpop can be. With a good build up arrangement and well written lyrics: “Like a sailor without a harbor / Like a ship that slowly sinks / Like a smile which is distant / Behind walls, that was me / Now I’m standing here / Don’t know what I should say / Not a word from me / I’m speechless, speechless”. And there is more to enjoy like the cryptic advice to Marilyn Monroe and the song for those who are forgotten (Lied von den Vergessenen). Probably the most personal track is ‘Mein leben in Aschenbcher’ (My Life in the ashtray) sung by Peter. It is a synopsis of his illness, but also a guide to action. Go ahead! But wiser and less harried. The album is perhaps precisely because of the gloomy background, and the time and  effort they took to make it, one of the more stronger albums of Rosenstolz . Maybe even almost on equal level as their ‘Macht / Liebe’ from 2002. A musical return with vitality.

>> Back to list of reviews


Velours sous la terre (2011) - ♪♪♪♪
Sapho (France)

A new album by Sapho is always an event. This Moroccan born singer, who moved to France with her family at the age of sixteen, has evolved from a new wave singer to a unique composer, performer and novelist. Nearly 62 years old (in January 2012) Sapho presents to us ‘Velours sous la terre’ (‘Velvet underground’) a new album with six songs based on classical pieces from Bach, Marchelie, Chopin, Mozart and Satie with contemporary lyrics by Sapho. The other four songs are synthetic electro carpets on which Sapho murmurs her texts. You may think these two completely different categories of songs can never result in one coherent album, but thanks to her creativity and authenticity Sapho and her team managed to do just that.

The classical pieces have been arranged for the guitar by Sapho and Klifa Rachedi and Nadia Gerber plays the guitar perfectly. The electronic pieces have been produced by Sapho and Rachedi, the tunes being composed by Sapho, Rachedi and several young talents like Yassin Cherif (‘Velours sous al terre’), Didjaman (‘Nona’) and Vincent Samyn (‘Nuit d’errance’). However, the leading part on this album is for Sapho’s lyrics, which are the common thread through this album.

In the beautiful baroque opening tune ‘Paris Mai’ Sapho travels back in time to earlier days in Paris to pay homage to this wonderful joyous city.

‘Paris Mai’ (‘Paris May’):
“It was a sensual time / a royal time / the time of my awakening / a little bit morning / lovers passing by in the street / The terraces vibrate and the cafés shiver by the burning eyes of the neighbors / Ah, an appointment, my enchanted solitude, sang the Brandenburg / A hymn to life begins / To my fresh freedom / … / I embraced the summer dawn / In Paris the streets were telling about men who created beauty / Gaughin sowed his females in the Jardin de Rose Sélavy / In my head the ode to life / And I wanted to be in the clouds when Jean-Sebastien Bach continuous…”

The next song is ‘La route est noire’, a dark and somber electronic sounds cape with accompanying somber yet very imaginative lyrics:

‘La route est noire’ (‘The road is black’):
“The road is black at the bottom of the night / The headlights full of fireflies / Creep quietly / Cars roar of the tide on the road / Burning on the asphalt / White lines, small snakes / Lit under our wheels / Dashes not parallel / My view is unfaithful, my eyes lie, lie / When he attacks the subject I meet / The road is dark, the night is heavy / We drive to the Mayenne / At least at one hundred and twenty on average / Ha, I know it's easy but irresistible... I write in the night of irregular feet / Radio Latina is howling HP / Rolled copper and sambas / But... Why is this bad,why?”

With ‘Velours sous la terre’ Sapho proves she has outgrown her new wave and world roots - she has evolved into a completely unique artist who finds inspiration all over the world and in time periods and out of them she creates her own beautiful art. That does not mean that Sapho’s music is always very accessible – especially when you do not understand French. But if you are prepared to put some effort in it, you will be highly rewarded. Music for connoisseurs!

>> Back to list of reviews


Bookmark and Share


Mer' end kærlighed (2011) - ♪♪1/2
Rasmus Seebach (Denmark)

Rasmus Seebach, son of legendary pop-figure Tommy, and the singer that makes Danish girls hearts beat faster for the past three years is back with his second album. Second album on his own account that is because Rasmus and brother Nicolai have songwriters since the Nineties but were too busy with their own label Top Notch and writing for other artists. At the age of 29 he felt that he would regret it forever if he did not record the song ‘Engel’ himself. It would become a big hit and the centrepoint of his debutalbum filled with soft-pop and modern R&B laced lovesongs.  And now he’s back with ‘More than love’ as ‘Mer' end kærlighed’ translates. More than love?! Girls hold on to your pantys because for Rasmus there is nothing more than love. Like he sings in the single ‘I Mine Øjne’ (Into my eyes): “Hey, you can look deep into my eyes / Although I do not say it often enough / You can see that I always stand right here  / and my heart says stop / People come and go, but you will always be the center of my life / I will love you forever and if you ever doubted / Then you know it anyway now”.

For Seebach life is just one big matter of the heart no matter what other people think. Each song is a variety on a lovesong like the titlesong :”I wish our life was a bed of red roses / But love is not like in the movies / Our friends and family must think we are idiots because we do not let go / But you're the one I love.” And then laced with a lot of uh-uh’s, oh-oh’s and åh – åh’s. But it is too easy to discard Seebach as just another teenypop singer. First of all he is too old for that and second the songs that he and Nicolai are to well crafted and adult to be done off as commercial pulp. And Seebach’s voice may be limited its lightbronze raspy sound fits perfectly with the music he creates. Just giving it a bit of an edge. The good looks do the rest. Within the segment of soft and sweet commercial urban europop (in which Xavier Naidoo and David Bisbal also meddle) the songs are in fact very well done. They are catchy and this second album is actually more balanced then the first one where things got a bit mushy in the end. With happy uptempo tracks like ‘Millionaire’ (with rapper Ankerstjerne), ‘Vover på at gå’ and ‘Vi Lever’ he creates a more diverse pallet without harming the limits he works in. If you would release a clubby song like ‘Vi Lever’ in English or sell it to Enrique Iglesias it would become a huge hit. The universal invitation to party in Copenhagen is just too tempting to resist: “Uh, come and wake me with a bang / Uh, I do not even know your name / Uh, we get lost in Copenhagen / In my own town, I see the world a new / when you give me life's kiss / We live in the night, tonight, tonight”.  Rasmus walks the slippery slope of slick pop but has the talent to exactly know how far he can go and how to craft a popsong to lift him from regular radiodribble.

>> Back to list of reviews


Bookmark and Share


Franky Knight (2011) - ♪♪♪♪
Émilie Simon (France)

Prior to the release of Émilie Simon’s previous album ‘The Big Machine’ her fiancé and music partner partner François Chevallier passed away to complications with Influenza A (H1N1) while on vacations in Athens at the age of 29. All the energy and joux-de-vivre the two of them did up in New York and enclosed on ‘The Big Machine’ suddenly evaporated. Émilie set herself to the hard task of picking up her life again and put all that she still wanted to say to Franky in songlyrics. And so opens the new album with ‘Mon chevalier’ (which is French for Knight) : "I wrote some songs /  they’re all for you/ There’s nothing else that I can do/ Too late to pray too soon to see/ Your eyes again my sweet Franky." It’s an ode from a princess to her disappeared knight. A tragic aspect found in other titles, especially in ‘Bel Amour’ and ‘Jetaimejetaimejetaime’.

It is an intimate personal album that almost feels like it was not meant for our ears. And in fact it was almost not to be that this album was released on a large scale. However movie director David Foenkinos asked Émilie to write the soundtrack for the film ‘La Délicatesse’. The story is about Nathalie (played by Audrey Tautou) who suddenly loses her husband in a car accident. For years, she invests in her work until she kisses one of her colleagues. The romance handles around the question how to revive after passing through the most severe pain? Simon already the songs in memory of Franky in mind and felt they were a perfect fit for the story “Tell me why I’m still here / while you’re gone / still you’re princess” she cries on the electronic fused ‘Franky’s princess’. This dark romanticism and exacerbated builds on more organic orchestrations than usual. Some copper (Something More), then dance rhythms (Franky's Princess), a delicate ballad (Under the Stars). Sometimes the merry arrangements almost seem out of place with the deeply emotional lyrics. Simon’s shrill voice, which still sounds like a hybrid of Kate Bush, Lene Lovich and Björk, fits perfectly with these lyrics of grief and sorrow. Gone are the playfull carefree times of the first albums but with this French / English album she shows a much more mature image of herself. The capability to envelop your emotions in music and still make it accesable to listen to for outsiders is impressive.

>> Back to list of reviews


Bookmark and Share


Tot ziens, Justine Keller (2011) - ♪♪1/2
Spinvis (Netherlands)

The debut of Dutch singer/songwriter Eric de Jong aka Spinvis was a onemanband demolike project that wowed almost every Dutch music critics. The combination of simple melodies, kitchen sink drama and the utterly bored voice of Eric seems like the ultimate soundtrack of sururban life in the low countries. Since then he made a big detour to cabaresque Dutch music known under the name ‘Kleinkunst’. A trap many Dutch artists fall into. But with this new album, his first since 2007 he seems to make a U-turn back to the old Dutch art popsound. The album starts with ‘Oostende’. Resounding ladies singing in the distance - the voice of Justine, perhaps? We hear it several times later. - And then the drum beat falls with a few simple notes and keyboard, bassguitar and a xylophone motif that can gradually builds up the song. ‘Kom terug’, the second song on the album, almost fluently mixes with a repeating synthloop. What is striking is that there are more different musical styles on the album than its predecessors, and an attempt to mould the songs in catchy melodies. This can lead to some surprising songs like the track ‘Club insomnia’. A pounding basement beat leads to a droning bass line. The song evolves an intoxicating track about the hollowness of a night clubbing and a fleeting contacts. Like a Dutch version of The Streets he delivers maybe the best track of the album. And one that almost demands a remix by one of the Dutch top DJ’s. The track also works because it masks Eric’s limited vocal capacity and gives color to his sound. It is almost a waste that this track is followed by the boring return of ‘Ronnie’, a character Eric used before. After this Spinvis has a hard time to return to the interesting first half of the album. ‘Jij wint’ is a melancholy ballad that has some good elements and the closing title track is again a strong song. But in the end it is not good enough to convince entirely and surpass his debut.

>> Back to list of reviews


Bookmark and Share


La cuenta atras (2011) - ♪♪♪
Vega (Spain)

The Countdown (as this album title translates) marks the transition from Universal to Sony for this Spanish singer/songwriter. According to herself it also marks her attempt to shed her legacy of being one of the Operacion Triunfo contestants (Vega participated in 2002). On the album Vega shows her versatility as a composer blending more influences of Spanish rock. Recorded in LA with Sebastian Krys behind the deck Vega penned and recorded the entire album independently and then sold it to Sony. This has its effect on the material that sound more convincing then her previous albums. The steady rocking single ‘Como yo no hay dos’ is maybe nothing special and  still in the style we’ve come familiar with but with the album opening title song and ‘1906 estrellas nuevas’ you’ll recognize a subtle shift. It is more open arrangements and more poprock and before. Vega’s voice is dark and low for a female singer. This makes that she sometimes reminds you of Luz Casal and sometimes of Shakira. Depending if you hints more to Europop ballads or South American rock. You may decide for yourself if this is a good or bad thing. Fact is that Vega saves the best songs for last. ‘La Tregua’ (the truce) is a good built up rocksong and ‘A Tientas’ makes a very good end to this album. It may not all be very inventive and avant-garde but in the category of a radio friendly alternative pop album Spain has nothing to complain about.

>> Back to list of reviews