28 February 2013

28 February 2013 - Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark - If You Leave

Who says I can't be timely when it comes to my Wicked Guilty Pleasures posts? Twenty-seven years ago today a cool little John Hughes flick called Pretty in Pink was released and the world was introduced to Andie, Blaine and of course the always off-the-wall Duckie. The soundtrack was pretty rad too. It featured one of my favorite Suzanne Vega songs (Left of Center) as well as songs by Echo and the Bunnymen, The Smiths, INXS, New Order, Psychedelic Furs and of course this OMD hit.

27 February 2013

27 February 2013 - Sly Fox - Let's Go All The Way

Admit it.  You forgot about this song, even though you loved it when it was new.

I admit it.  I did.  Until I heard a cover of it yesterday (that we will be featuring on Totally Covered tomorrow).  I really loved this song when it was a hit in 1986, and, although it has a dated 80's sound, the energy of the tune still endures.

Now, the question is, is the song a protest against Reagan-era foreign policy or a plea to a girl to "go all the way"?  We can say one thing for sure: zhum zhum zinny zinny.

26 February 2013

26 February 2013 - Train featuring Ashley Monroe - Bruises

Where to begin? I am a huge Ashley Monroe fan. HUGE. I loved her first album Satisfied and of course I adore her girl group The Pistol Annies (with Miranda Lambert and Angaleena Presley). "Hippie Annie's" new album Like A Rose comes out next week and I'm fairly certain that it will be one of my favorite records of 2013.

. . . And then there's Train. Blech. Boring. I tried to give them a chance last summer when I saw them with my wife at a music festival in Virginia Beach. I mostly just drank crappy beer and impatiently waited for to them to end their set so we could rush 20+ blocks down the boardwalk to go catch Jamey Johnson.

And now to the present. I recently saw today's video on the CMT Countdown. Needless to say I was conflicted. I wanted to love it, because it was Ashley. I wanted to hate it because it was Train. It took me a few months to admit it, but I freakin' love this song. Enough to give Train another shot? We'll see.

25 February 2013

25 February 2013 - Yael Naim - New Soul

A simple song, or so it seems.  Really, it's a densely layered song with horns, guitar, piano, and drums, with ten seconds of striking silence (at the 2:14 mark). Yael Naim had never had a big hit in the US, and she hasn't had one so big since. And, even though it's a dense and complex song, it's sung sweetly, earnestly, and simply by the artist.

The video, in which she moves into an apartment, only to push on the walls and find that her apartment is in the middle of a lake on a raft, is kind of fun and sweet, too.



A lot of people think that this ad made the song a big hit. Actually, the song had already peaked on the US pop charts - it peaked in the Top 10 and fell very very quickly - when this ad came out. The song had a 2nd life from this ad, racing back up the pop charts.  MTV's heavy rotation, however, is what made this song a hit, not Apple.

Enjoy the ad anyway.

22 February 2013

22 February 2013 - Feist - 1234

You all remember when you first saw this video. Sure.  It was this commercial.



But, before it was an iPod Nano commercial, it was really a video.  It wasn't just made for the commercial. And, because of the commercial above, Leslie Feist scored the biggest hit of her career, based mostly on the strength of downloads, and won a Juno award for Single of the Year.  It deserved it, too - the sweet, jangly, yet melancholy folk-pop that brings bits of piano and banjo into the mix and builds to an exciting ending is truly compelling.

Plus, you can tell they had a lot of fun making this video.



Little known fact: the song was a cover.  Originally written by Sally Seltmann for her New Buffalo project, it was  shelved before release.  When New Buffalo toured with Feist's band Broken Social Scene, Sally brought the song forward.....  and here it is, performed live well before it was recorded for the above video.  At this point, it was still called "Sally's Song". The arrangement is a little different - more horns, slightly different lyrics - but it's clearly the same song.



One thing that this Canadian indie singer-songwriter got that most Canadian indie singer-songwriters don't get (not even Carly Rae Jepsen) is a trip to Sesame Street.  I mean, she did record a song about counting......

21 February 2013

21 February 2013 - Postal Service - We Will Become Silouettes

WOW! I just found out that I'm likely going to see The Postal Service this summer (add to that concert, a Belle and Sebastian/Yo La Tengo show that I'm getting tickets for tomorrow and it's gonna be 2003 all over again!). I played the hell out of Give Up when it came out 10 years ago and I still give it the occasional spin when the mood hits. Let's go back a decade and check out my favorite track (and video) from Give Up.

20 February 2013

20 February 2013 - Fiona Apple - Sleep to Dream & Criminal

In continuing with the "why haven't we already posted this" theme, I bring you Fiona Apple.

This song, an early single, set Ms. Apple up for greater airplay success to come, earning heavy rotation on MTV, when they still occasionally played videos.  The tune is bassline-heavy, with a compelling piano/guitar arrangement - she is a pianist first.  Combine that musical dark dream state with her husky voice and the fact that she looks a LOT younger than she actually is, and you've got a hit on your hands!



Really, in the US, Fiona Apple is a one hit wonder. And because I'm a populist and pander to the wants of the people, here is her biggest hit. In all seriousness, it is an excellent song that deserved every bit of airplay it received (and the Grammy she earned for the performance). It's a little lighter-hearted in sound, but equals "Sleep To Dream" in darkness of theme.



Update: I was reminded that we DID feature Fiona Apple on Totally Covered, with her Beatles cover. Another great song.

19 February 2013

19 February 2013 - Christina Perri - Jar of Hearts

WOW! I'm kind of surprised that we haven't covered Christina Perri here already. She did make my top 10 of 2011 though at Your Forgotten Favorite (now Your New Favorite Song). As I wrote back then, this song blew me away the first time I heard it on the radio. Two years later, the song and video still gives me chills.

18 February 2013

18 February 2013 - Steve Burns - Mighty Little Man

A song co-arranged (and co-performed - check the drummer in this video) by Steven Drozd of the Flaming Lips?  How is this a Wicked Guilty Pleasure?

Because it is primarily written and performed by Steve Burns, who at one time was best known for wearing a green striped shirt, hanging around with a blue puppy and being oblivious to the paw prints around him.   Yes, THAT Steve Burns, long rumored to be dead (he never was), victim of male pattern baldness, and.... musician.

Surprisingly, he isn't singing about the mail never failing.  He's singing about adult themes, with adult arrangements to his music.  Clearly, there is a Flaming Lips influence to the music - several of them are involved with this album, including Drozd and Michael Ivins.  But it's not the Lips - it's Steve Burns, and he found a voice all his own - a voice with a reasonably hard rock edge and an awful lot of emotion.   I hope you enjoy it and seek out his album, Songs for Dustmites.  It deserves more attention than it got, because it is fantastic.



For those not familiar, here is Steve performing his best-known song from 'Blue's Clues".  I did use this song as my "You've Got Mail" sound for many years.

15 February 2013

15 February 2013 - Gordon Lightfoot - The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

I looked back.  I had never posted this song before.  That is a surprise, since, in my mind, it was one of the first I had in mind to put on this blog. (I did post a cover of it by the Dandy Warhols on our sister blog, Totally Covered.  You can see that here.)

The SS Edmund Fitzgerald was launched on June 8, 1958, the largest ship on the Great Lakes.  She was built to carry large amounts of iron ore between Duluth, Minnesota and other Great Lakes cities, like Toledo and Detroit, that relied on said ore.

On November 9, 1975, The SS Edmund Fitzgerald pulled out of Duluth for the last time, en route to Detroit.  The very next day,  the ship was caught in a severe winter storm and suddenly sank, killing all 29 crew members on board.  No bodies were ever recovered from the wreck.

Gordon Lightfoot, who is a Canadian treasure, read a Newsweek article about the tragedy, and wrote this song, which he considers his finest work, as do I.  Despite the minor historical inaccuracies of the song - the ship wasn't bound for Cleveland, the main hatchway apparently didn't really give way - it is a fitting and beautiful tribute to the ship, the crew, and the disaster.  It remains one of my 20 favorite songs of all time, in its beautiful storytelling and simple musical arrangement.



I mention the historical inaccuracies because, in 2010, 35 years after the song was released, Gordon changed the lyrics to reflect the fact that the main hatch didn't give way, and that it was not crew error, but waves that caused the ship to go down.  Here is Gord performing the song live in 2012, with the new lyrics.  He's still got it.


14 February 2013

14 February 2013 - Two Sides of Valentine's Day

OK, I really couldn't decide what video to post for Valentine's Day. Do I appeal to the lovebirds or the haters? Then it hit me, post two videos and make everyone happy or miserable (I suppose).

Here's some Sundays for all you lovebirds out there.



And now here's some Guns 'N' Roses for all you haters.

13 February 2013

13 February 2013 - Bonde do Rolê - Brazilian Boys (feat. Cécile)

Let me be blunt: Bonde do Rolê are gifted remixers.  But they're also musicians in their own right.  Their music has traditionally combined Brazilian funk, punk, and club music styles.

With their last album - the first without original lead singer Marina Ribatski - they added dancehall to their style repertoire. Here, new vocalist Laura Taylor, who is more subtle than Marina Gasolina, easily captures the combination of bravado and sexuality needed to pull off a dancehall song.  They do enlist the assistance of Cécile. who is well-known in the dancehall world.

Really, they're a completely different band without Marina, but still fun and enjoyable.



12 February 2013

12 February 2013 - Ed Sheeran - Give Me Love

Anyone who watched the Grammy's on Sunday saw the fantastically understated duet Ed Sheeran did with Sir Elton John (they played Sheeran's hit single The A Team). Wait, did I just compliment Elton John? Understated? Well I did, and it was. Seeing that The A Team is pretty much all over the radio (and for some time now), I thought I'd go with a more recent single from his + record.


By the way, Sheeran will be taking his live show on the road this spring/summer opening for some small-town girl from Pennsylvania who plays a mix of country and pop music. I hear she's very popular.

11 February 2013

11 February 2013 - Nicki Minaj - Super Bass

Nicki Minaj is truly a unique artist, doing things musically that women just don't do very much - sing in a hip-hop style bluntly about having sex and being boastful, just like men would. In other words, she raps like a guy.

But it isn't all about the.... well, super bass.  There's some soulfulness and softness to this music, and I love that!



If she was nothing but a conceited diva, this post would end here.  But she isn't. She's a nice lady who appreciates her fans.  Here she is doing a duet of this song with a very very young fan.... and happily getting upstaged.

08 February 2013

8 February 2013 - will.i.am featuring Britney Spears - Scream and Shout

I. Can't. Look. Away!

This is typical pop electronica fare, sparsely done, and typically boastful.  Nothing really special here.

But. I. Can't. Look. Away!

It's almost like will.i.am did little more than sample "Britney, bitch."  (OK, she does a little bit more here)  The combination of these two is still, despite all this seeming mediocrity, is still compelling and will get you humming the tune all day.  And saying "Britney, bitch."

07 February 2013

7 February 2013 - The Cardigans - My Favourite Game

I have a tendency to post my favorite songs of all time.  This includes songs that are clear guilty pleasures.  This one isn't so clear, but is one of my 10 favorite songs of all time.  Let me explain.

The Cardigans became a big hit in the US with a particular hit - "Lovefool" - that has been featured on this blog by Scott in the past.  It, like the song that preceded it - "Carnival", which got some alternative radio play in this country - was light fare, with a lovely subject matter.

That's not really representative of The Cardigans.  The followup single to "Lovefool" - "Been It", a future Wicked Guilty Pleasure - was closer to that in subject matter - a little darker.   And this song - the lead single from their Gran Turismo album that followed - was exactly what they are all about - straight-ahead rock sound and dark subject matter.  I, for one, love the guitar hook, a honking-type sound, in this song.

This video is an even greater pleasure, though.  In each of the no less than five versions of the video, Nina Persson is driving a '74 Eldorado erratically down an California highway. This version, the edited version seen mostly in Europe, features pretty much nothing more than that.



The other five versions end with a head-on collision with a blue van carrying the rest of the band, with several car crashes caused by Persson included within. These versions include varying amounts of blood and violence.  In the US, we are much more numb to violence.  This is the darkest version of the video, which ends with a dead Nina Persson.


In this version of the video, the ending is more comedic.  While Nina is still using a rock to hold down the accelerator and still has a head-on collision in which she is ejected from the car, she survives that and sits up.... only to be hit in the head with the rock falling with a cartoony sound.



This version of the video is practically bloodless, but still violent, but ends with Nina getting up and walking away from her ejection.



Finally, in this version, Nina is not ejected - only beheaded. And it's the worst fake head I've ever seen.

06 February 2013

6 February 2013 - Rick Springfield - Jessie's Girl

I remember when this song first came out in the 80's.  I was too young to understand that it was such a deep and eloquent song about jealousy.  All I knew is that that guy was on the soap opera that my mother watched and now he was singing.

General Hospital, people.

The song is quick-building, with most of the story-telling done in the first minute and fifteen seconds.  Go ahead.  Watch the timer.  The song isn't just about jealousy, though - it's about how great Rick Springfield is.  A straight-ahead rock anthem, it's a complexly structured song with a simple hook.

It also won Rick Springfield a Grammy.



In 1999, Rick rerecorded the song as an acoustic tune.  It seems just a little dirtier in this version.  I don't know why.  But here - enjoy it.

05 February 2013

5 February 2013 - Sunny Sweeney - Staying's Worse Than Leaving

Well, since Scott is away on vacation, I get to fill in for his posts over here.   So, I figured I'd better find some contemporary country music.

Luckily, there's some of this music that is also pleasurable to me.  Each of us has posted a Sunny Sweeney song before (him at Christmas, and me as part of a Kasey Chambers double bill), so it seemed appropriate that, as Scott has left for a sunny - pun completely intended - vacation destination, and I'm staying here in this bitter cold, that I post this tune.

I'll put this plainly - Sunny Sweeney is the most genuine country artist today, in dealing with her fans, and that genuinity - is that a word? - is clearly reflected in her music.  And... she's nominated for at least one ACM award this year - New Female Vocalist (although we are a bit puzzled by this "new" things - so here's hoping bigger things are coming.

04 February 2013

4 February 2013 - Right Said Fred - I'm Too Sexy

This might be the campiest song ever released. It was, however, intended to be that way, as a slight jab at the fashion industry.

But it's also a well-constructed song, with a cold ending, which is hard to pull off.  Instantly quotable, instantly danceable, instantly posable.  Musically, it's complex, which makes sense, because the Fairbrass brothers at the center of Right Said Fred are accomplished musicians outside of the band.



Recently, the brothers have redone the song, with slight musical changes.  See if you notice.  They kept the cold close, though.

03 February 2013

3 February 2013 - Super Bowl Special - The 1985 Chicago Bears - The Super Bowl Shuffle

What better way to celebrate this Super Bowl than to enjoy this classic tune recorded before Super Bowl XX?  That day in 1986, when I was the only one in the room not rooting for the Patriots, is the first Super Bowl I actually remember.  And it was gleeful - arguably the greatest victory in Super Bowl history.

Which is why they have the greatest Super Bowl music video in history.  Sure, it looks like Walter Payton and Jim McMahon didn't show up for the original shoot, but it's still brilliant.  And, as the late, great Sweetness said, "We're not doing this because we're greedy.  The Bears are doing this to feed the needy."

So, watch the video and enjoy the game!

01 February 2013

1 February 2013 - Miranda Cosgrove - Dancing Crazy

Sometimes, I'm even embarrassed to say I like a song.  But, this is Wicked Guilty Pleasures, right?

Miranda Cosgrove is best known as the titular Carly from the Nickelodeon television show iCarly.  I'm a little sad that I know that.  Like that show, this song is harmless, lighthearted fun. But it's more than that.  It's well-constructed, with a lot of different-sounding sections that all remain equally danceable.  She might have a long career in entertainment ahead of her.



Oh, and she ain't the best singer in the world - I get it.  That's not what this blog is about. She's not bad, though. Proof: here she is live, complete with a couple of pitchy spots.  It happens, but she holds it together, by not bailing on the song.  Even in the rough spots - mostly at high notes - she retains her stage presence and engages the audience.



And, since we're talking about iCarly, here's the famous Spaghetti Tacos scene. Enjoy.