I Used to Love H.E.R.

The 46th installment of I Used to Love H.E.R., a series in which artists/bloggers/writers discuss their most essential or favorite hip-hop albums and songs...

Maestro Fresh Wes "Let Your Backbone Slide"

I don’t remember where or when I first heard it, I just remember that "Let Your Backbone Slide" has practically always been a part of my life. From what Wikipedia tells me the song was pretty popular state side as well as in Canada, but living north of the border for the majority of my life I can tell you that it stands as one of the few non-Tragically Hip songs that I can think of to be celebrated on such a level. Think "Funky Cold Medina" x "Wild Thing" in terms of its chances of being played at a party.

Coolio "Fantastic Voyage"

Coolio came along at a time when I had practically zero interest in hip hop – for the most part I practically only listened to dance music; there were some exceptions like the Spin Doctors, Counting Crows & Aerosmith, but nine times out of 10 that’s what was in the cassette player. I was somewhere around 10 or 11 years old when "Fantastic Voyage" came along and at the time it was the playful (and sexy) music video which complemented the funky bounce of the song that really hooked me; something that was repeated on a similar level (sans sexy) with Coolio’s equally enjoyable "1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin’ New)" in 1995. I remember that I kept this tape in the drawer of my desk rather than putting it on the self with my other music for fear that I’d somehow get in trouble if one of my parents saw the parental advisory sticker on the cover. Not that they were particularly interested in browsing through my music collection, but when you’re 10 and you have something that has a sticker on it explicitly warning parents about its contents, the item carries with it some sense of danger. Regardless of what kind of fame-whore, Juggalo wannabe Coolio’s evolved into, if it weren’t for tracks like Fantastic Voyage I would likely have never gained a similar ear for like-sounding rhymes and beats.

House Of Pain feat. Guru "Fed Up (remix)"

When I was in grade school I was on a competitive hockey team; I think I played for three or four seasons until my family had to move and I ended up quitting (I thought we moved for financial reasons … which we did, downsizing in many aspects of our life … so I told my parents I just didn’t want to play anymore. Years later this came up in discussion and apparently we weren’t hurting to the point where I had to quit. A shame in hindsight). One of the best memories I have was the team dynamic that was shared for a couple of seasons. While players moved up and down divisions based on their skill level, for at least two of those years I played with the same core group of kids. Never underestimate the power of winning to bring people together. Our warm-up music was made up of a selection dance music tapes … which in retrospect is absolutely ridiculous when you think about it … then again, acts like 2 Unlimited offered some pretty ill jock-jams back in the day. One of the favorites that came out of this was House of Pain’s "Jump Around"; or at least the edited version that we had on our K-Tel Dance Mix ’93 tapes. A few years later I was becoming increasingly interested in music and finding out what else was out there. The local library had a scattered selection of CDs to browse through so I typically ended up just snatching a dozen or so at a time, regardless of whether or not I knew what they were, and taking them home for a listen. On one trip I picked up House of Pain’s last album, 1996′s Truth Crushed to Earth Shall Rise Again. Granted, most all of it went right over my head and to this day I couldn’t tell you what the record sounds like … with one exception, that is. The remix of "Fed Up" really hit a spot with me then, and remains one of my favorite House of Pain tracks to this day (though in all honesty, the list of my favorite House of Pain songs isn’t a lengthy one). The song was also my introduction to Guru.

Beastie Boys "Root Down (live at Tibetan Freedom Concert)"

In 1997 I wasn’t old enough to gain a knowledgeable understanding of what exactly was going on in Tibet, or why musicians were lobbying for Tibet to be free (whatever that meant), but I was old enough to recognize that the lineup on the three-disc Free Tibet collection was sick enough to pony up the cash for. In retrospect there are far more bands on the 36-track mix that I’m interested in now than I was then … for those who aren’t familiar I’d recommend checking it out as the lineup offers a great cross section of musicians from that period. Despite the laundry list of fantastic musicians on the comp., back in ’97 I ended up spending quite a lot of time with Beasties & "Root Down." The version might not be too different from the original, but the variation caught enough of my ear that it led me to spend a lot more time with the group. For a number of years "Intergalactic" was practically my favorite song, and strange enough, I might not have been so attracted to it had I never stood in a music store wondering what the hell Tibet was.

Funkmaster Flex & Wu-Tang Clan "Lay Your Hammer Down"

When I was in high school things weren’t really working for me: I didn’t particularly care about my grades, sports failed to hold my interest and the relationships I had with other kids were becoming increasingly superficial. I had heard about a program you could go into to work rather than take classes (essentially I’d go to school half the year, work the other half), and given my options I took that route. I went to work as a cook and for a couple years I met some ridiculous characters. That said, I was turned onto some great music along the way. Punk, rap & rave were key practically every day in the kitchen (oh, and James Brown… a lot of James Brown), and it was during this phase that I really latched on to Wu-Tang; I was familiar with the group before, but hadn’t really ever listened to any solo albums to that point. For the next couple years I remember Method Man being my favorite MC & Ol’ Dirty Bastard remains to this day one of the all-time greats in my book. While songs like "Triumph" and "Protect Ya Neck" are some of the best around and "Bring The Pain" was my favorite at the time, it was tracks like this Funkmaster collaboration that led me to dig a little deeper into the archives.

[This article first appeared on So Much Silence.]

Green Light Go Interview

Chris DeLine of Culture Bully makes you both laugh and really, really think about the world of online journalism and the serious impact it has on the way bands market themselves. But then he flips the fun switch on again when he says something totally out there (read question #8 for instance) that reminds us why we love working with bloggers. Online critics love music just as much as we do, and it's great when they have that balance of a sense of humor and seriousness and professionalism of it all. Culture Bully covers folk, hip-hop, electronic, everything, really. Major label superstars and indie underdogs. As to what Culture Bully likes to cover, DeLine said, "...if it sounds good to me, I like it. That said, if it ever comes to the point where Culture Bully is rocking some Seether on the reg, I would sincerely hope someone smacks me around with a tube sock full of batteries until I come to my senses."

Music Monday Q&A

1. How long has Culture Bully been operating?

1,970 days as of August 23 2010.

2. What makes Culture Bully different from other websites?

It's the only site to be a) called "Culture Bully," and b) be 100% fully endorsed by me: Chris DeLine. I'd like to make it clear that I, in no way, stand behind the sub-par Culture Bully Español knock-off.. But if you're looking for an actual example of competitive edge... I can't think of another site that recently featured new music videos by Scissor Sisters, Behemoth, RZA and Joanna Newsom in the same day. So I've got that goin' for me.

3. Do you think Culture Bully has a specific musical niche?

(See: Behemoth & Scissor Sisters.) I was genuinely mulling this over about a week ago. To some degree I know the site alienates a lot of people because it's all over the place—too all over the place, even. But I'd rather go that route than try to pick a single genre, or sub-genre, and focus solely on that. It just doesn't seem like it'd be as much fun. I mean, at this moment there's stuff on the main page focusing on everything from heavy metal to hip-hop... Actually, come to think of it, there's a common denominator there: tight jeans. Maybe the site does have a niche and I just never realized it.

4. What albums are you looking forward to coming out?

Grinderman, Robyn, Kanye West... but there's an impossible amount of music to listen to that's released every day, so it's not like I'm on the edge of my seat waiting for anything to reach my ears. Each day offers a new surprise in that regard.

5. How does Culture Bully support independent music and what’s important about doing so?

I'm probably not the best guy to stand up and wave the indie-music flag, and I'm not even sure that I know what it means to truly support independent music. Is there a sticker, like the "I Voted" stickers you get during elections, that says "I support indie music?" Just like major labels, much independent music is so ridiculously god-awful to the point that I don't think I could wear the sticker in good conscious, if there was one. I had a friend in university who liked bands along the lines of Seether and Nickelback and whatnot, and when I would push him to qualify why exactly he likes that stuff when the options are limitless of what you can listen to he gave me a response along the lines of, "If it sounds good to me, I like it." To some degree I've grown in a similar direction. Ten years ago I wouldn't be caught dead listening to pop music, and the vast majority of rap made no sense to me. (Sidebar: not Wu-Tang though, them shits was tight even when I was in junior high, son.) But once you open your ears and let down your guard a little bit, life becomes more enjoyable; same holds true for music. I don't have much interest in ignoring major label music or specifically focusing on independent music just for the sake of doing so: if it sounds good to me, I like it. That said, if it ever comes to the point where Culture Bully is rocking some Seether on the reg, I would sincerely hope someone smacks me around with a tube sock full of batteries until I come to my senses.

6. Do you think online publications are taking precedence over print magazine? What kind of effect do you think that has on bands?

I guess the only way to know for sure would be to look at circulation statistics or earnings statements of the individual publishers to know if they're getting their asses handed to them financially. If they are, then I suppose you could draw the conclusion that the online world has taken over. Until then, though, I'd have to say no: I mean, until Pitchfork can move a couple hundred thousand issues of a print magazine every month, it's still just a website. There's still a market for print, and there will be one for the foreseeable future, but yeah, the shift toward digital publishing is eating up more and more of the pie as each year passes. There are certainly exceptions, but I still don't think the online world takes precedent quite yet. If your band gets a feature printed in some zine like NME, I'm still thinking that it means a whole lot more than getting a blog post on Stereogum (for example).

As far as bands are concerned, as the music blogosphere/world of online music publications continues to expand there becomes more opportunities to be featured somewhere on the Internet. Honestly, I love the idea that there are thousands and thousands of music blogs—so many that the idea of actually figuring out a ballpark figure is staggering—but the flip side is that there are thousands and thousands of music blogs. It becomes a blur after a while and unless you really connect with some site in particular as a reader—whether you like a blog's style, content, or are simply a fan of their niche—chances are that vast majority of everything that's out there is going to be overlooked anyways. So in the end, I'm not sure that it means that there are any more honest opportunities for bands now that there's a balance between print and online than there was when print dominated. It just means that the way bands have to market themselves is changing... but that's an entirely separate discussion for another time.

7. What blogs/magazines do you read other than your own?

Honestly, I pay more attention to Twitter and digg-ish aggregators than individual sites for the most part. But, as far as music sites are concerned, I check out arm's length-list that's featured on my links page fairly regularly. I've been enjoying more dance/electronic sites as of the late, for whatever that's worth. Non-music: Mashable, Cracked... Like I said though, on the whole I just go where the Internet leads me. It's a trying mistress at times, but one that typically treats me right in the end.

8. What has been your most definitive moment since you started Culture Bully?

This interview... or the time I got a cease and desist order from Axl Rose's lawyers... or both. It's hard to say.

9. If you could interview any musician/band (dead or alive) who would it be?

The thing about interviews is that they're pretty much forced conversations between strangers. I don't know that you can expect too much from anyone you haven't really met before, especially considering the typical amount of time it takes to simply crack the ice with someone. The more you think about it, the more awkward the idea seems. That said...

Dead: I would like to hang out with Jimi Hendrix for a while. I think I could've learned a few things about partying from that cat.

Alive: I think Neil Young would have a few words that would help me gain some insight into life. The man's smart, and having lived through what he has, I can't imagine him not having a few amazing revelations just waiting to roll off his tongue. And if all else fails, we could just talk about hockey... though I honestly wouldn't mind just hanging out in awkward silence with the guy; seems like that'd make for a pretty great story to tell someone else's grandchildren.

10. If you could be in any band (of all time), who would you rock with?

I've never really wanted to be in a band. Sure, daydreams here and there, but I've never really wanted it. I'd much rather tour with a team of skateboarders, the Harlem Globetrotters, or even the Jackass crew. Actually, especially the Jackass guys: they're kind of like a band when you think about it. And I know Chris Pontius can actually jam a little bit. In the event someone has the power to make this happen holler at me, seriously—I'd jump at the chance to intern for their website or something. I'm pretty flexible and have already moved three times across two countries this year, so I have no qualms with picking up shop at a moment's notice. Please America, help show the rest of the world that dreams can come true!

[This article was originally published by Green Light Go.]

Heinali and Matt Finney “End of July” (Influenza)

Approach Influenza as a series which serves to offer insight into the birth of a song; these are the thoughts, influences and the inspirations directly from the mind of the artists.

With a distance of nearly 9000 kilometers between them, lyricist Matt Finney (Alabama) and producer Heinali (Ukraine) met online and found a way to pool their thoughts and ideas into a collaborative effort which has since resulted in two albums: Town Line and the recently released Lemonade EP. While the considerable distance between the two denies a certain degree of chemistry, their proximity from one another has not hindered their creativity. “End of July” showcases that collective focus as a flowing piano line bleeds into a dark ambiance and throbbing guitar which enhances Finney’s haunting spoken word realization. Leonard’s Lair called the EP an “uncomfortable” listen, while Revibe Review likened it to hearing “Nine Inch Nails or Joy Division [for] the very first time.” In this edition of Influenza Matt Finney looks back on the song and details the dramatic timeline which led to the track’s creation.


We write in a really weird way. It’s completely separate so we never know which direction the other is gonna go. It keeps things exciting and interesting for us and the listener. This song in particular really shapes the EP. The first two tracks are so heavy but then the piano creeps through the headphones for this one. It was so eerie the first time I heard it. This shows how great Heinali is as a composer. He can work at both ends of the spectrum: the quiet introspective before he decides to make your ear drums suffer a bit. It’s amazing how one guy can create a sound this pure and heartfelt after hearing my vocal takes. It blows me away each time we complete a track.

I spent a while agonizing over these lyrics. I couldn’t seem to get them perfected but after the first line was down the rest fell into place. The story behind it stems from a rough time I was going through last year. I was in a serious relationship for three years. We were talking about getting married which scared the shit out of me. It wasn’t something I wanted but I’m a chump and I let her force the idea upon me: We became engaged for a while. The relationship slowly started to burn out; it was obvious to both of us and everyone that was around at the time, but she continued to hold on like I was all that keeping her from drowning. Before I had the chance to call everything off she told me that she was pregnant. The news rattled me to my core.

I couldn’t imagine us having a child. I couldn’t imagine having a child in general. I would be just as bad as my father. I was a complete wreck. She took an abortion pill and that was it. I didn’t go with her to the doctor to have any of this done. She could’ve been making it up to try and salvage what was left but I’ll never know. I carry the guilt around everyday. She’s supposed to be getting married soon but she still talks a lot of shit on me. I probably deserve it. The last line of the song is about the absolute rage that comes from something like this happening. It’s terrible but I kept thinking “why us?” We were already prisoners chained to each other and now this. The song is a wake up call for me. I hope it will help some other people if they’re in the same boat or they feel trapped in a life that they don’t want.

Katy Perry “Teenage Dream” Review

With her new album, Teenage Dream, Katy Perry is looking to do anything but break the mold, “Some people get full of themselves, and they think that anything they do is going to work or turn to gold or be the right move, and the reason why you’re here is because of the people that like your music and the fans, so you always should keep an ear open to what they’re saying.” But is she successful in avoiding the faux pas of evolving as an artist, as she hoped to do when talking to Rolling Stone this past May? Let’s just say: mission accomplished. The album’s first single, “California Gurls,” does little to divert from the path clearly paved with 2008′s One of the Boys, and in doing so it landed Perry her second number one single. “I just know what kind of card this summer needs, and that’s the one I’m playing,” she told Reuters earlier this month; her insight was, and is, apparently dead on.

Perry’s understanding of what her fans want isn’t exclusive to her music however: in becoming the character of Katy Perry she’s also feeding a persona that her fans want look up to. In her own words she has revealed that she prefers to play the role of the sexual tease—just as many hundreds of thousands of girls (and guys) around the world do—but nothing more. And while countless photos capture her bearing more than her soul she continues to take the higher ground, just as she did when she commented on the video for Lady Gaga‘s “Alejandro,” “I think when you put sex and spirituality in the same bottle and shake it up, bad things happen.” Similarly, she continues to make the clear division between what’s “acceptable” and what’s not in her music. Teenage Dream is overflowing with sexual innuendo, but nothing R-rated, because that’s not what her audience would want. The title track opens the album with Perry innocently pleading, “Let’s go all the way tonight, no regrets, just love.” Things quickly progress from there, however. The very next song, “Last Friday Night,” revolves around a story of getting blackout drunk, committing crimes, and having sex with multiple partners—or at least the two that she vaguely remembers—all the while explicitly keeping things “fun,” rather than crossing into any sort of reality. “This Friday night, do it all again.” Even Snoop Dogg, who simply doesn’t work as a PG artist, is molded under the perception of Perry’s character in “California Gurls.” During his lackluster contribution to the song he raps “squeeze her buns.” Seriously, Snoop “gang-bang-slap-a-bitch-nigga-out-to-get-a-grip” Dogg says “squeeze her buns.” And why is Snoop used here despite being reduced to the point of childish irrelevance? Because his name still provokes a sentiment of edginess among the same crowd that’s sexually excited by saying making love instead of fucking. The problem with this scenario isn’t Snoop, but rather that Perry’s simply not above any of that, herself: “Yes, I said I kissed a girl. But I didn’t say I kissed a girl while fucking a crucifix.”

“Circle the Drain” is aimed at her ex, Gym Class Heroes’ frontman Travis McCoy, condemning his excessive use of drugs and the role he wanted her to play in their relationship, “Wanna be your lover, not your fucking mother… Had the world in the palm of your hands but you fucking choked.” The only difference is that Katy Perry’s trying to justify her language based on context: “fuck” is OK if it’s used under the pretense of raw emotion, but not OK if it’s mixed in with sexual innuendo. But with songs like “Peacock” that innuendo is embarrassingly masked under a crass shroud of wordplay, “Are you brave enough to let me see your peacock? Don’t be a chicken, boy, stop acting like a bi-atch.” Context here doesn’t mean a thing; it would be less offensive if she refrained from such grade-school nonsense and simply said she wanted to check out this dude’s dick. Then again, doing so doesn’t rhyme as well as peacock and bi-atch, does it…?

A bad song can typically still be salvaged by good production though, and if Teenage Dream was laced with nothing but forward thinking beats, any of the previous objections would likely be moot. A good tune’s a good tune, right? But songs like “Peacock” are downright bad in that realm as well. Even as the album begins to shift towards bearing any lyrical substance, as it does with “Firework,” the accompaniment of a generic beat impedes any real progression. “Who Am I Living For?” is about as fresh as the production gets on Teenage Dream, but even at that it sounds like a recycled Timbaland beat from a few years back; one which wasn’t really all that original to begin with. “E.T.” stands out as the album’s most unique beat, floating somewhere near the brink of innovation, but producer “Dr. Luke” Gottawald himself has explained how the song wasn’t even originally meant for Perry; it’s a left-over Three 6 Mafia beat. So even at its high points, musically, Teenage Dream is essentially a collection of b-side beats and dated production.

However, to this day what continues to separate Perry from her contemporaries isn’t her sound as much as it is her hands-on approach to the actual songwriting behind her albums—with Teenage Dream there isn’t a single track where she doesn’t receive a songwriting credit. No matter where you stand on any other aspect of the album, Perry should definitely be praised for that, especially when she could have easily relaxed on that front and gone with whatever was put on her plate. The only issue is that the end product, regardless of who’s behind it, is so predictable that Teenage Dream only goes to further suppress the idea that she was much of a singer/songwriter to begin with (not that “Ur So Gay” was all that dynamic a song). “Pearl” comes close to a touching story (reflecting on a crumbling character who is in a suffocating relationship, only to reveal that the character is—surprise—her), but things don’t really get much better from there: “Peacock” and “California Gurls” aside, the album only continues to stumble with lines like, “One hundred percent, with every penny spent, he’ll be the one that finishes your sentences” (“Not Like the Movies”). Even worse, “Last Friday Night” finds Perry remarking on how much of an “epic fail” it was to tear her dress; really, “epic fail,” that’s what she’s bringing to the table.

In the same May interview with Rolling Stone, Perry commented on how telling the album would be concerning the direction of her career, “The second record is really important to me because I think it shows whether I’m meant to do this, or I got lucky.” Don’t get things confused: One of the Boys was no fluke. And like that record, with her new album she had a vision and she did all she could to accomplish her goal. But the issue with Teenage Dream isn’t whether or not the album’s a success, whether or not it proves her to be a fluke or “the real deal,” if it plays to her audience, how “sincere” it might be, or whether or not it’s generally enjoyable to listen to: the issue is whether or not Teenage Dream provides proof that she’s “meant to do this.” The stab at Gaga is telling in that Katy Perry clearly has some sort of sense of her own values, and where she draws the line—near nudity is OK, but I doubt we’d see Perry wearing a machine-gun bra any time soon (because a bra ejaculating whipped cream is somehow less offensive). And she’s entitled to her opinion just as I, or you, are ours. Don’t get me wrong, you honestly can have it both ways: there is an art to being sexy, playful, and tasteful, all at the same time. That said, it’s a fine line to walk, and as soon as you slip you set yourself up for an immense amount of criticism. That’s where all of this non-music-related static becomes important: Katy Perry was “meant to do this.” She can play the role and take the bumps along the way. Clearly things weren’t working for Katy Hudson, so when Katy Perry found success, the only smart thing to do would be to continue the same approach, no matter how bland it might be. It’s wise to play to your audience, especially when the financial stakes are so high. It’s wise to dumb down your product so as not to offend your fans’ sense of taste. It’s wise to add a hint of scandal along the way—showing just enough of your personal character—so that fans get a sense that you’re “real” and not some clown playing to their desires. But it’s also boring. Teenage Dream will be a smashing success, and for as long as Katy Perry wants to make music (and money) she’ll have no problem finding an audience. So congratulations Katy Perry: you’re not a fluke. You’re simply an inoffensive, tasteless, generic success.

Elektrisk Gønner “Panoramic Targets” (Influenza)

Approach Influenza as a series which serves to offer insight into the birth of a song; these are the thoughts, influences and the inspirations directly from the mind of the artists.

Roughly translated from the French site Student After All, “Panoramic Targets” is described as a “small ball of platinum electro-rock remix with two more balls into the charger.” I’m not exactly sure what that means, or how accurate the interpretation is, but the reference to platinum is an interesting one because of the slick nature of the song; without effort it seamlessly shimmers as if it were, in fact, made of a precious metal. The track has a sleek mystique and a relaxed approach which only furthers the feeling that it’s far from your run-of-the-mill “electro-rock.” In this edition of Influenza Benjamin Gønner of the Barcelona/Toronto/København/French collective Elektrisk Gønner details the origins and development of “Panoramic Targets.”


Actually I started this song like seven years ago. I was involved with a lot of other different projects (musical or not) and I thought this song would perfectly fit for my band Oslø Telescopic. As a kid my father was buying me a new 7″ single every weekend, so I have a huge collection of ’80s hits and I was regularly using them for some samples material. Among this amount of vinyl sounds, I was recording some “loop-sessions” on my old iMac, collecting libraries of rhythmic or melodic loops. Though I’m playing some electronic music, I never really used “real” electronic music software. I’m working my electronic tracks in an old-school way, made of layers and collage, the same way I’m writing rock, folk or whatever songs.

For this track, I found a very famous European ’80s hit song, and I just kept the intro voice, reversed it, pitched it and twisted it until creating an abstract rhythmic material, so that you couldn’t recognize the original song. So originally I only had the very beginning of the song with the squirrelly-sounding loop and some cheap electronic drum parts but I couldn’t finish it. I knew there was a potential behind this short beginning, but I couldn’t find the key to finish it. I have loads of unfinished tracks like this and from time to time, I’m listening to them again, trying to feel inspired but most of the time, I’m just delaying the process again.

I had a hard time in 2008 plus Oslø Telescopic was dying after five albums and 10 years of weird-cult-indie-fame-unfame, and I needed to launch a new project as a new beginning. At the same time, by a lucky chance, as I was visiting an old friend, I discovered a dusty vintage monophonic Korg in his cellar. I convinced him it wasn’t the best instrument for his son to learn piano, and eventually, I could get it for free. It’s always inspiring to have such a new toy, and listening again to some early demos, I tried once again to record something on “Panoramic Targets.” This time, things were getting easier. I recorded a bass melody with the powerful tacky-sounding vintage keyboard, and then I started improvising a lead singing, trying to imitate some bluesy female voice through distortion, somewhere between Nina Simone or Beth Gibbons on ecstasy. I often have a sharp picture of what I want to do when it comes to singing, but fortunately, I’m a pretty bad at imitating, and at least it would sound like something rather unique. Later I tried to record a few other takes but I kept the first one because, despite of all its imperfections, it was sounding more authentic and more intense. The lyrics were inspired from an indie movie I watched in Toronto, but I can’t remember the name of the movie, nor the director… “Your head leaves your shoulder when you hit the ground.”

The temporary names for the new songs are usually the name of the sampled artist, or at least a clue to remember where I found the sample. So I was looking for a new name and didn’t want to use a word from the lyrics while at the same time I was editing a video for my other project Løzninger; that song is called “Moving Targets.” I found it funny to draw a parallel with the “Moving Targets” song, so slow and mellow, and this new more-dance-able “Panoramic Targets” song. Like a kinda schizo-twin-sister song, plus the name fits perfectly to the new aims of this new project. Elektrisk Gønner was born with this first song. At least, seven years later, I do know that there’s always a second chance for (very) old demos…

Iron Maiden “The Final Frontier” Review

The Final Frontier is Iron Maiden‘s 15th album, and one that initially brought with it rumblings that it would be the legendary band’s swan song. After all, it is called The Final Frontier and founding member and bassist Steve Harris has put 15 albums on the board as the predetermined lifespan of the group. In recent interviews Harris has scoffed at the unofficial marker though, subsequently adding a cheeky exclamation point to an album that has been eagerly awaited since the release of Maiden’s last studio album, 2006′s A Matter of Life and Death. And without much of a shock the opening track looks back, touching on a sound that is sure to please old-school fans, though it’s likely to attract its share of curious looks along the way.

The introduction to the album comes in the form of a two-part track, “Satellite15/The Final Frontier”: the first half of the opener is strange song which sounds uncharacteristically hollow and—truth be told—wouldn’t harm the rest of the album had The Final Frontier bypassed it completely. As soon as “The Final Frontier” takes off, the opening riff connects in classic Maiden fashion, representing as a nod to the past as the band moves ahead into the future. Next comes the record’s lead single, “El Dorado,” which thematically follows a deceptive character’s narrative as the band chugs along behind Bruce Dickinson’s ever-youthful sounding vocals. Setting the tone for the album, the song’s solo does well in acting as a stunning interlude between the track’s chapters of dialog.

“Mother of Mercy” continues with a less frantic pace than the previous tracks, warming up as a lyrical portrait of a battlefield and its casualties is slowly painted. Nicko McBrain steps in with a rumbling beat before the band follows suit and chimes in with an oh-so-familiar rhythm. Later, following the song’s solo, Dickinson further solidifies the focus of the track, “Rivers flow with blood, there’s nowhere left to hide/It’s hard to comprehend there’s anyone left alive/Sick of all the killing and the reek of death/Well, God, tell me what religion is to man?” A relative-ballad in comparison to much of the album, “Coming Home” follows, including one of the record’s most technically impressive solos while lyrically focusing on an ever-present longing for Albion (Great Britain), “Coming home when I see the runway lights/In the misty dawn of the night is fading fast/Coming home, far away as their vapor trails alight/Where I’ve been tonight, you know I will not stay.” “The Alchemist” revs the pace back up as a story is told of John Dee and his trials with the “strange alchemy” of Edward Kelley.

It’s at this point in time where the band begins to take liberties with the attention span of the listener: Each of the following five songs run roughly eight to eleven minutes in length—to date, The Final Frontier is actually the longest studio album in Iron Maiden’s catalog. “Isle of Avalon” features an extended dialog between guitarists which is gorgeously revisited with the tandem guitar pieces in “The Man Who Would Be King.” The gritty guitars of “Starblind” and the slow-boiling intensity of “The Talisman” fall in the middle of the two aforementioned songs, but as much as the band might push things when it comes to the length of the tracks, they never really toy with useless experimentation or include much—if any—aural waste; everything is in order and plays out accordingly. “When The Wild Wind Blows” concludes the album with its characters preparing for some sort of end-times, an Armageddon which is subsequently manipulated by a mass media set on confusing a nation’s citizens with misdirection. “There will be a catastrophe the like we’ve never seen/There will be something that will light the sky/That the world as we know it, it will never be the same/Did you know, did you know? As the band winds down and softly plays Dickinson out, a swirling wind howls in the distance and the album fades to black.

How many bands can you name, just off the top of your head, who have long-since outlived their expiration date? And how many of rock’s greatest names continue to play on, cashing in their legacies for another “farewell” tour, or even worse, ridiculously sub par studio albums that are no sooner released than they are forgotten? Here we are, some 35 years after Iron Maiden began creating a legacy which the band never set out to make for itself, and the group sounds as tight and energetic as it ever has. Not only that, but Iron Maiden is making music that is—shocking for a band of its age—honestly relevant in the grand scheme its genre; if you were to take away Maiden at this point in time, the band would leave a hole in today’s metal scene, not just the metal scene in general. The Final Frontier is a substantial statement backing up that sentiment, though in all honesty, by this point in time they never really needed one.

Robyn “Body Talk Pt. 2″ Review

The first episode of the Body Talk trilogy did well in bringing a bit more recognition for Robyn stateside—the singer just recently concluded the North American stint of her 2010 tour and locked down the #3 position on Billboard’s Dance/Electronic Albums chart. But Body Talk Pt. 1, itself, did a bit to shake up the sound that had been so tightly associated with the singer for the half-decade which followed the initial release of her universally acclaimed self-titled record. Considering the pop-synth that dominated Robyn, Pt. 1 did well in changing the pace of things: Within the album’s eight tracks she used rigid digital harmonization (“Fembot”) and electro-dancehall (“Dancehall Queen”), she gracefully sang over a string/piano combination (“Hang With Me”), and concluded the record by breathing life into an aged Swedish folk song (“Jag vet en dejlig Rosa”). Considering that at the time there were two steps yet to take before the Body Talk series would end, with the release it appeared as though Robyn was on pace to completely reinvent herself (once again). But with Pt. 2, however, she has done just the opposite.

Rather than pursuing further experimentation, Body Talk Pt. 2 reverts back to the sound which modern Robyn fans have come to know her by. Built around the album’s first single, “Hang With Me”—which appeared on Pt. 1 as the aforementioned string/piano ballad—are six other songs that collectively act as a grand reminder as to why Robyn remains such a great record.

“In My Eyes” and “Include Me Out” precede the single, while “Love Kills” trails, each lending evidence of tightly produced pop songs tightly wrapped around lyrics about maturely approaching the highs and lows of relationships; each of which were keystones of Robyn’s self-titled release. “We Dance To The Beat” continues by distancing itself from the linear flow of the album, adding a hollow beat and tinny robotic-vocals which oddly complement Pt. 1‘s “Don’t Fucking Tell Me What to Do.” Where “What to Do” included a detailed list of what it was that was bringing the singer down (drinking, smoking, diet, heels, shopping, ego, email, touring, etc.), “We Dance To The Beat” thematically dips into a warped revelation of what may become of our culture in the absence of realization. “We dance to the beat of silent mutation… of your brain not evolving fast enough… of raw talent wasted… of another recycled rebellion.” It’s a stretch to say that the self-awareness of realizing that her record label is pissing her off and that suburbia is imploding are on the same level, but the similarities between the two offer an amusing juxtaposition.

“Criminal Intent” invokes Peaches before the record’s breakout is ushered in with an “ooo-wee” from Snoop Dogg. “U Should Know Better,” as in “U should know better than to fuck with me,” parallels Robyn’s version of “Cobrastyle” in both pace and sound, but offers the first example on the record of her unique ability to approach confrontational lyrics within the realm of pop without sounding lame, “I declare most solemnly the prince of darkness know better than to fuck with me.” As with Pt. 1, Body Talk Pt. 2 ends with a unique song, in this case “Indestructible” which features a well placed cast of strings. While it would be interesting to hear the track reconstructed for Pt. 3, as “Hand With Me” was for Pt. 2, “Indestructible” is stunning in its simplistic beauty as an original, vocally and musically. “I’m gonna love you like I’ve never been hurt before, I’m gonna love you like I’m indestructible.”

Regardless of where Robyn goes with Pt. 3, with only the first album in mind, the Body Talk series has already become a success. With relatively little promotion she has seen sell-out crowds on this side of the Atlantic, and has gone gold back in her native Sweden. The 16 Body Talk songs to this point have show a new variance in her compositions that Robyn didn’t: she’s added robust non-dance music to her pallet, toyed with new thematic elements, and demonstrated even further why she should be considered one of the premiere names in dance on a global scale. If she’s able to deliver eight more tracks in Pt. 3 that remotely resemble the same quality and consistency, this series is going to be one to remember for a long time to come.