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Song Review: Empire of The Sun 'Alive'

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 By Steve Siegel 

It's been five years since the Australia duo of Nick Littlemore and Luke Steele released Walking On A Dream, their debut album with their Empire of the Sun project. Back than, four-to-floor was only just getting started on American radio waves and George W. was still in the White House.

My how things have changed.

In the five years since their debut release, songs like "Walking On A Dream" and "We Are The People" helped usher in the dance-pop era, paving the way for other successful electro-pop acts like Ellie Goulding, La Roux, and Dragonette. Now that EDM has taken over global airwaves, do our favourite Aussie’s and their sun-drenched sound still stand out as much now as it did than? In short: yes. The lead single "Alive" possesses both familiar elements of the EotS sound—unique vocal harmonies, tasty synth melodies and deep all-encompassing bass—yet, it also pushes their sound in a new direction with more intricate production elements both instrumentally and in terms of arrangement.

The lead vocals of "Alive" sound very much like PNAU, Nick Littlemore’s main project way from EotS. This is in contrast to the original EotS record, which was distinctly flavoured by Luke Steele’s vocals. Furthermore, the elegant sparseness of tracks like "Standing On The Shore" and "Walking On A Dream" have been replaced with thick, interwoven layers of contrasting synths. Even the drums pump fuller and louder on this new EotS release.

However, for me, everything is still glued together by what Empire does best when they’re on their A-Game: a killer hook. Nick Littlemore’s lead guitar line cuts through the wash of synth sound surrounding it, beautifully playing off the chopped lead vocal line and soaring up the F major scale for an endlessly singable lick.

Turn up the volume, pop your windows down, and if you’ve got a Jeep Wrangler, kick off your doors, because this is a track that is meant for a highway drive. Whether you’re cruising solemnly through the outback or jetting down I-75, "Alive" is the perfect track to accompany a summer Sunday drive. (Thanks Steven Siegel for contributing this post. Based in London, Steven is a massive dance music fan and a budding DJ/producer. You reach Steve on Twitter and listen to his own productions on SoundCloud.)

Empire of the Sun "Alive" (Astralwerks)
Written by Luke Steele & Nick Littlemore
Produced by Nick Littlemore

April 23, 2013 | Permalink

New Music: Listen to All About She 'Bullet' featuring V V Brown [Review]

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V V Brown during a recent gig in London (source)

The success of acts like Jessie Ware, Rudimental, Disclosure and Duke Dumont is proof that early '90s inspired house music is making a big comeback. It's a retro-styled yet forward-thinking sound that infuses warm, jazzy grooves with pop-savvy melodies and soulful vocals. There's a lot more talent coming out soon that will take advantage of this renewed interest in '90s house. A good example of that is deep house outfit All About She who were recently signed to Tinie Tempah's Disturbing London imprint and released their debut single "2 Hearts" back in March.

All About She now ups the ante and unleashes their fantastic single "Bullet" that features the vocals of none other than V V Brown. It's been a hot minute since we last heard from V V who parted ways with EMI early last year during the promotion of her (unreleased) sophomore LP "Lollipops & Politics." The singer/songwriter made an artistic one-eighty to tap into a more creative vein and take matters in her own hands. Now, almost 18 months later, she has launched her own independent label and is gearing up to release a new album that she has been diligently working on.

Even though it's a collaboration with All About She, "Bullet" gives fans a sneak peak at V V Brown's very exciting new sonic direction. The song jumps right into gear with a pulsing kickdrum and V V's darker vocal timbre that may catch some fans by (pleasant) surprise. She sings, "come as you are you my friend," before a deliciously groovy bassline sweeps the track into mighty powerful and catchy chorus. It's a phenomenal effort that has all the makings of a massive hit and has us very anxious for more new work from V V Brown. (Photo by Karl Is My Unkle)

April 22, 2013 | Permalink

Synth-Pop Duo Paper Crows Unveils New Single 'White Noise' [Review]

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Paper Crows returns today with their new single "White Noise" that truly is one of the finest pieces of synth-pop I've heard in a very long while. The group is the London duo of Emma Panas and Duncan McDougal who I first alerted you about in 2010 when I blogged the Monsieur Adi remix of "Stand Alight." The two followed up with tracks like "When Friends Survive" and their interpretation of Kate Bush’s classic "Cloudbusting" which both emerged in 2011.

The group also signed to Pete Tong's relaunched FFRR label and released the interactive "Build" EP that was launched with an award-winning "interactive synchronized music video player" (click here to check it out). Over the last few months, the duo has been writing and recording new material, and the brilliant "White Noise" is one of the first new tracks they are sharing from their London and Berlin studio sessions.

Paper Crows' contrasting brand of synth-pop and unique esoteric approach has been described as "neo-noir" that refers to the brooding sonics and gloomy, yet uplifting aesthetics of the group's work. "We like to combine the dark and the light, landscapes, and the shortness of life," the duo's Emma Panas sums up in a recent interview.

The richly melodic and classically powerful "White Noise" perfectly captures Paper Crow's contrasting essence by combining big drums and shimmering strings with haunting vocal harmonies that infuse dark with light.  The song starts off with Emma's angelic vocals and a simple key riff before it swells up to its grand, instantly uplifting chorus that has a gorgeous orchestral feel to it. "We lift off the ground into clouds of white noise ( . . .) hand in hand we are prepared," the two harmonize before the song propels into a stunning instrumental bit right at the 3:00 minute mark. It's true pop delicacy. Highly recommended. (Download MP3)

April 19, 2013 | Permalink

Aaradhna Making Waves Stateside with New Single 'Wake Up'

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After releasing two albums and several hit singles in New Zealand, soul-pop songstress Aaradhna is now starting to make waves stateside with her powerful new single "Wake Up." It's a playful tune with an empowering message that features her incredible soulful vocals. She wrote the song as a plea to herself to grab life by the horns and make this happen. "I want to make music that I can really say what I want to say," she explains in a press release.

She adds, "At the time [that I wrote 'Wake Up'] I was listening to Amy Winehouse. I used to go to her 'Back to Black album.' I'd repeat it all day because I connected with all her music. The thing I liked about it was that she didn’t care about what other people said, and she really spoke her mind. that’s what I wanted to do."

Aaradhna (who is from Samoan and Indian descent) developed a deep love for pop and soul when she moved to Romania to be on professional basketball team. She discovered artists like Ruth Brown and LaVern Baker, and soaked in old favourites like Otis Redding, Millie Small, Calvin Richardson, Monica, Sam Cooke, Richie Valens, The Capris, Rosie & the Originals & Little Anthony and the Imperials. 

It's the blend of old-school soul with melodic pop sensibilities that enables Aaradhna to be most honest with her songwriting, taking cues from the late great Ms. Winehouse.  Writing "Wake Up" in particular was a liberating experience for her that was a catalyst for penning more songs. "I just never spoke my mind," she explains. "If I didn't like something, I still said ‘yes’, even when I should have said something else. Now I say what I want and make sure that I have it that way. I had to grow up, go through all that drama, all the crappy moments to know what I wanted."

April 18, 2013 | Permalink

Watch Kerli's Breathtaking Performance on ABC Dancing With The Stars [Video]

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I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge Kerli's showstopping performance on ABC's Dancing With The Stars last night. The Estonian pop singer was featured on the weekly result show together with The Band Perry and Selena Gomez that was seen by millions of people from coast to coast. Kerli performed her new single "Love Me Or Leave Me" on the piano alongside two dancers who beautifully brought the vivid, heartfelt lyrics of the song to life. Kerli's big TV gig was a huge victory for all the Moon Children and other pop fans who have believed in Kerli from the very start. This was our moment to scream and shout, "I told you so. Kerli is the real deal!" I'm hoping that this performance puts Kerli in pole position for breakout success in America. It's time. Make sure to grab Kerli's new EP that includes "Love Me Or Leave Me," plus "Can't Control The Kids," "The Lucky Ones" and four other must-have tracks.

April 17, 2013 | Permalink