The 2007 Punch: My Favorite Albums of The Year

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Arjanwrites_bullet_small_2 Róisín Murphy "Overpowered"
Timeless and intelligent dance pop by a top-notch performer. Bring on more Róisín in 2008 please!

Arjanwrites_bullet_small_2 Siobhan Donaghy "Ghosts"
Donaghy broke out of her girl group mold and pushed her artistic boundaries in exciting new directions. "Ghosts" is one of the most overlooked, yet sublime pop records of the year.

Arjanwrites_bullet_small_2 Charlotte Gainsbourg "5.55"
Subtle, soft and chic. It is like Chanel No. 5 for your ears.

Arjanwrites_bullet_small_2 Darren Hayes "This Delicate Thing We've Made"
"This Delicate Thing We've Made" is just that. A delicate piece of work that takes you on a journey through time with Hayes' distinct vocals and Justin Shave's accomplished production stylings.

Arjanwrites_bullet_small_2  Kenna "Make Sure They See My Face"
Genre-buster Kenna combines electronica, funk, pop and hip hop so elegantly that it rocks.

Arjanwrites_bullet_small_2  Will.I.Am "Songs About Girls"
A bold solo record by one of the most genius producers of the moment.

Arjanwrites_bullet_small_2 Anouk "Who's Your Momma"
Confident and honest, this rock chick tells it like it is. Expect "Good God" to climb the global charts in 2008.

Arjanwrites_bullet_small_2 Passenger "Wicked Man's Rest"
Touching balladry sang by one of the year's most striking new voices.

Arjanwrites_bullet_small_2 Tracey Thorn "Out Of The Wood"
A perfect marriage of style and substance. And her voice is priceless.

Arjanwrites_bullet_small_2 Roz Bell "The First Sunbeams"
Bell combines songwriting talent with a laid-back attitude that is simply irresistible.

Arjanwrites_bullet_small_2 Klaxons "Myths Of The Near Future"
These three lads got me dizzy on my feet when I saw them perform at Coachella back in April. This is rock and roll for the here and now.

Arjanwrites_bullet_small_2 I also enjoyed listening to albums by these great artists in 2007:

Kate Havnevik "Melankton"
Kanye West "Graduation"
Dragonette "Galore"
Alison Moyet "The Turn"
Young Love "Too Young To Fight It"
Just Jack "Overtones"
Annie Lennox "Songs Of Mass Destruction"
Kocky "Kingdome Come"
M.I.A. "Kala"

December 28, 2007 in Annie Lennox, Anouk, Darren Hayes, Just Jack, Kanye West, Kate Havnevik, Kenna, Mika, Passenger, Roz Bell, Róisín Murphy, Siobhan Donaghy, Tracey Thorn | Permalink | Comments (5)

Watch Siobhan Donaghy Acoustic Performance

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Siobhan Donaghy's performed three songs from her new album "Ghosts" in a special acoustic set for Liveroom.tv. The stripped-down performance of "There's A Place," "So You Say" and my favorite "Coming Up For Air" neatly shows off Donaghy's unique vocal style. Make sure to check out "Ghosts" with all its quirky twists and turns in full stereo.

July 19, 2007 in Siobhan Donaghy | Permalink | Comments (2)

Interview with Siobhan Donaghy (Part 2)

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In the second and final part of my interview with Siobhan Donaghy, the singer talks more about the importance of her gay fans, her love for Elisabeth Fraser of The Cocteau Twins, being a songwriter, having superpowers and much more. (Read Part 1)

A special thanks to Siobhan for taking so much time to talk with me. "Ghosts" is a remarkable pop record and Siobhan spoke very candidly about the personal journey and inspirations that led to this very special album. If you haven't heard it, make sure to stream samples and download it HERE at 7Digital.com.

You talked a lot about how isolated you felt while recording this record. This is a feeling a lot of your gay fans in particular might relate to. How important is your gay following?
I have quite a big gay following in the U.K.. I have performed at a few alternative gay nights here in London and it has been loads of fun. My gay fans have really come on board with this new record. One very good friend of mine runs a party here called Trannyshack and I go there and DJ every once in a while. My gay fans have really been among my most loyal fans and continue to buy my records. It’s fantastic.

Are you a religious person?
Not really. I was raised as a Catholic but I'm at odds with a lot of things the church preaches. Maybe there's a higher being, but I don't believe in the church.

Were there specific artists or bands that inspired you musically for this album?
One of the biggest influences musically for this record was a band called The Cocteau Twins and their lead singer was a woman called Elizabeth Fraser. She’s one of my favorite singers. Her voice was one of the biggest inspirations for this record. It is instantly emotive and she picks such unusual melodies.

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Did you feel a lot of pressure to make a very commercial record and were you influenced by any current musical trends?
In France I was far away from that. It is interesting because when you make a record in London it is very easy to have cross-pollination. You hear stuff on the radio, there are people all around you with all kinds of opinions, and while I was in France I wasn't distracted by all those rules. I was able to go a bit further left-field and chose things that were a bit more abstract. And that’s how I want to make a record. Hopefully, people will get it and it is not too weird. [Laughs]

But if you make a pop record, you have to think how it is going to work commercially, right? I mean you can't ignore it.
You have to come up with a mix of songs. The actual essence of this album are songs that will never be singles, like “Ghosts.” Obviously, I’m fully aware that I'm signed to a major label and that I need to make hits. And also, I did not make this record for myself. I want people to hear it so I had to come up with some songs that do well on radio too. “So You Say” is a song that came up quite coincidentally and I am so pleased that it turned out to be very radio-friendly. Quite honestly, I don't think I am a good enough songwriter to write according to a certain formula and say 'now I'm going to write a radio-friendly song.' That's a really difficult job. All I can do is my best.

What artists in the chart right now do you think have gone left-field and are still very commercial?
Mmm. Let me think. Well, Amy Winehouse is the best example. She hits notes that are really unusual. She has the most fantastic voice. She has her own sound and is very successful with it. She's coming from a very left-field direction. She is sort of an inspiration for other artists. And she is completely herself and she wears her heart on her sleeve. It is brilliant that people can fall in love with that.

Do you have a favorite lyric on "Ghosts"?
I love the chorus of "Halcyon Days." It goes, "In a stream of purest thought. Nothing's lost that can be caught. It's tender to behold." I really love that song. It is a good example of the ethereal stuff on the record and it has a bit of a summer vibe. I can sort of imagine sitting on Ibiza and listening to that during the day. [Laughs]

What’s the best and worst thing about being a pop star?
Worst thing is that you become a public property and people think it is their god-given right to give you their worst opinion of you. If people don’t like me, they are sort of happy to say it me. In real life, people don’t talk to each other like that and they are not as frank with their family or friends or colleagues as they are with people in music or film.

The upside is that I have a fantastic record label that supports me and lets me make whatever record I want to make. I find that incredibly fulfilling and can’t imagine a life without it.

If you could ever lend a hand to a charity organization, which one would you chose?
My grand pa had very bad Parkinson disease. There is medication that could be made available but it is too expensive so governments don’t make it available to patients. So I would probably do something with that. I have also been invited to be part of an anti-bullying campaign here in London that I’m going to take part in. That's a good one. There are many causes I could choose from, but I can't really come up with more from the top of my head right now.

If you could have any superpower, what power would you like to have?
It is probably very cliché and a boring answer, but I'd quite like to fly. [Laughs]

Are you in touch with any of The Sugababes?
I am still in touch with Mutya, the other girl who also left. We wish each other well. There's aren't any hard feelings. There's now two new girls in the band that I've never worked with so obviously I can't really have any problems with them. I wish them luck actually. some people get upset when I say that what I do is completely different than what they do now. But it is true, I have gone into a completely different direction. But that doesn't mean I don't enjoy their music.

Will "Ghosts" be released in the United States?
I am honestly not sure. If you work with a big record company there is so much going on. The first step is the U.K., then it will be Europe, then it will be Asia, and then we'll get to America. It seems British artists are doing so well in America right now that there's a much higher possibility. We shall see. The album will definitely be released, but I don't know when and what type of promotion they will do. Hopefully, I can come out and do some shows and everybody will love it. [Laughs]

July 17, 2007 in Interviews, Siobhan Donaghy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Interview with Siobhan Donaghy (Part 1)

Siobhan Donaghy's second solo album "Ghosts" is by far one of the most striking pop records to come out this year. Not only captures it an engaging musical aesthetic, but it also presents a compelling personal journey of self-discovery that serves up more depth than your run-of-the-mill pop ditty.

After Siobhan Donaghy left popular British girl group The Sugababes, she had to get used to the fact that her life was no longer carefully planned out by handlers and managers, Instead, for the first time since the age of twelve she was able to make her own decisions and plan a musical career that satisfied her artistically. It would have been easy for her to mimic the sound of The Sugababes and pull off some quick and dirty solo hits. She decided, however, to take a more gutsy direction that would not only challenge herself, but also her listeners.

Inspired by her travels, her new-found love for '80s bands like The Cocteau Twins and her drive to do something new, she decided to move to the French countryside to work with producer James Sanger on "Ghosts." Working with Sanger, who was a raging drug addict at the time, in total isolation proved to be a whole new challenge for Donaghy, which ultimately led to an album that is by far her most personal and thought-provoking piece of work.

I spoke with Siobhan at length about her new record. Today, I'll feature the first part of a two part series in which she talks about the journey that led up to "Ghosts" and her experiences working with producer James Sanger who was instrumental in creating the sound for this record.

In Part 2, she will talk more about gay fans, religion, the challenge of being "commercial" and how she feels now about The Sugababes." (Click HERE to purchase "Ghosts "in hi-fi MP3 format at 7Digital.com.)

Read Part 1 of 2 after the jump.

Q: It seems you have been on quite a journey before you got to making this album.
SD: I have been in the music industry for 10 years or so. I met my first manager when I was twelve. I met two girls and together we became a girl band called The Sugababes. I did that for four years. When I didn’t get on with one of the girls in the band I decided to continue on my own. I worked on my first album called “Revolution In Me” for a while and I felt that I got my personality back on that record. Being in the Sugababes, and being part of a pop cycle and pop band wasn’t really me. Everything was decided for me. Where I traveled, what I sung, what I wore. So when I left the group it was new to me to make my own decisions.

"Revolution In Me" was released on London Records, which was part of the Warner Music Group. I left London Records and started thinking about my next album. It turned out that a lot of people I made music with before had moved on into a different directions so I looked for new people to collaborate with and start from scratch.

Q: What did you want to achieve musically on this record?
SD: My vision was always to make a record that was catchy and not too hard for people to get into. But on a personal level, I also wanted to make it interesting and challenging for myself as an artists. Accomplishing both goals turned out to quite challenging when you make a pop record. It is okay to challenge people a little bit I think besides having some fun melodies. In order for the record to be timeless, you need have a few slowburners. My favorite song on the record is “Goldfish.” It was one of those songs that people might not get at first listen. "Goldfish" is about the feelings of isolation and being pushed into all kinds of different directions.

Q: How did you end up working with James Sanger?
SD: I got a call from James who lives in the north of France. He lives in this five hundred year old manor that is sort of falling down around him. I wasn’t really happy at the time and had even moved back in with my parents. James invited me to come to France to work on some songs. I had nothing to lose and I decided to go to France to work with him.

Q: How was it to work with James?
SD: James is a genius but he was a heroin addict when we worked on the record, and that made it all a helluva lot to deal with. I was pretty much making a record with a junkie that was pretty unpredictable. I was afraid he would kill himself. He went to rehab twice while we worked on this record. He has completely changed his life now though. He is sober. It is truly a miracle.

Q: You seem to be asking a lot of questions on this record. Especially about your own identity, and place in the world.
SD: Yeah, You're right. I put my heart and soul into this album. I feel this record has helped me to be more independent and mature as a songwriter. The lyrics on “Goldfish” are the most personal on the entire record. It sort of reflects my feelings of not really knowing where to go and what my place is in the world. I felt like a failure and a lot of the songs deal with my insecurities. A lot people connect with these lyrics so I’m really glad I opened up. Writing the record felt like therapy to me. Another good example is a song called "Coming Up For Air," which was one of the last songs that I added.

Q: In all your soul-searching, did you find answers?
SD: I think I did. I spent so much time on my own in France. It was a very isolated place to be. Half of the time I didn’t even have cell phone reception. There was something really liberating about that. I tend to overthink so many things and I learned to let some of these things go.

July 15, 2007 in Interviews, Siobhan Donaghy | Permalink | Comments (3)

Watch Siobhan Donaghy Video

 

Check out the spooky video for Siobhan Donaghy's new single "So You Say" that will be released in the U.K. on June 18. The song is one of the few songs on her forthcoming second album "Ghost" that most closely reminds me of the music she put out in her not so distant pop past with the Sugababes.

The video was directed by Jamie Thraves who also worked on videos for Radiohead and Coldplay. The concept of the video is based on David Lynch 2006 mind-bending movie "Inland Empire." It is considered by many critics as a surrealistic "masterpiece" with plot that has been hard for many viewers to untangle. Lynch once said in an interview that the movie is "about a woman in trouble, and it's a mystery, and that's all I want to say about it."

Donahy and Thraves have adopted this concept in this new video that features surreal moments with birds and pieces of glass. And of course, that freaky and mysterious ending makes the entire video worthwhile to watch. In fact, she should have include more of that freakiness earlier on. I really admire Siobhan for making unusual and unexpected choices for herself when it comes to selecting producers, photographers and directors to create a style that stands out from the pack.

Hopefully, this single will do well overseas. It should resonate well on mainstream radio. Most blogger are raving about the song "Medevac" that also appears on her new album. I'm more biased towards "Coming Up For Air," a pivotal song on the album (with a Madonna "Frozen" feel to it) that reflects some of Siobhan's reflections and struggles that led to the big idea behind "Ghost."

Much more about that soon in my interview with Donaghy that will appear very soon.

May 30, 2007 in Siobhan Donaghy, Video Streams | Permalink