Sunday, January 31, 2010
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Killin’ them softly
La Roux fights its way to the top of the charts
By Joshua P. Ferguson
Originally published in Time Out Chicago Magazine | 01.28.10
Does La Roux’s Elly Jackson come from a mainstream pop mold? With artists like Florence and the Machine, Lady Gaga and Little Boots dominating the charts in Jackson’s native U.K.—she even shares a label with Gaga—it seems a fair question to put to her. All those acts have capitalized on the übertrendy electro-pop sound as well as the makeup, costumes and stage shows that go with it.
“I can see how you might think my image is manufactured because it’s a very pop image with the hair and stuff. I could see that, even if it’s not true,” says the outspoken 21-year-old who’s often pictured with a tidal wave of red hair splashing across her forehead (La Roux means red-haired one). “But what I can’t see is how you could listen to our record—actually listen to the lyrics and the sounds—and think it was manufactured.”
It’s true; one spin through La Roux’s self-titled debut album, and it’s impossible to mistake the duo’s mix of ’80s-inspired dance beats and heartfelt songwriting as anything but genuine.
Expanding on her point, Jackson describes meeting Lady Gaga. “She was asking me who I was going to work with on my next record, and I was like (a) we’re a duo and (b) we produce our own stuff. It just didn’t compute with her.” Even her friends ask similar questions. “Now that I’ve had a hit, I have to go work with Americans?” she asks with a sigh. “People think the only way to be successful is to go off and work with Timbaland or whoever.”
La Roux, which makes its Chicago debut at Lincoln Hall Monday 1, is the studio project of Jackson and Ben Langmaid. A strictly behind-the-scenes member (Jackson performs with a tour band), Langmaid had a string of successes in the mid-’90s and early ’00s as part of electronic duo Huff & Puff before meeting Jackson through a mutual acquaintance in 2006.
La Roux plays Lincoln Hall in Chicago on Monday Feb 1 with opening sets from Boston quartet Yes Giantess and the lovely ladies of Moneypenny, who I had the pleasure of sitting down with for an in depth chat this summer. You can read about all that here: TOC | Moneypenny
We were lucky enough to get our hands on an upcoming single from Yes Giantess, entitled "The Ruins". If you've been feeling the moody indie electronic acts of artists like Delphic, Yeasayer or even Ellie Goulding (who we've featured on the show) than you'll love the melancholy synth-led electro of Yes Giantess. In fact, "The Ruins" is produced by Starsmith, one of the masterminds behind British chanteuse Golding.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Saturday, January 23, 2010
The Martinez Brothers are winning over house heads young and old and there’s no sitting still while doing it.
By Joshua P. Ferguson
Originally published in Time Out Chicago magazine | 01.21.10
TOC | Martinez Brothers
Sure, high schoolers are aware of DJ culture, but, too young to get into clubs, they have an image in their heads that’s been fine-tuned by MTV. Drum ’n’ bass, minimal, Italo? We’re willing to bet most kids would lump it all under “techno.” Unless they’re the Martinez Brothers. Christian and Steve Jr. Martinez each celebrated milestone birthdays recently. Christian, a high-school senior, turned 18, and Steve, who’s taking time off from Hunter College, can finally order a drink for himself.
Which is especially noteworthy because they’re two of the scene’s most promising DJs and have been rocking seminal house-music clubs—in their native New York and across the globe—since 2006. In advance of one of their much-lauded sets, happening at Spy Bar Friday 22, we phoned Steve at their home in Monroe, New York, just ahead of his mini tour of Germany. (Due to class obligations, Chris couldn’t join us—or the trip to Europe.)
The brothers’ induction to house music came courtesy of their father. A clubber in the ’80s and an elevator repairman by trade, Steve Sr., now 46, spent many a night at the Paradise Garage, helmed by famed DJ Larry Levan. His clubbing days died down when his wife first became pregnant; later, he imparted his glory days to his kids. “We would always kick it and listen to music,” Steve Jr. says. “Timmy Regisford used to play on the radio, so we would stay up till three in the morning listening to him—just me, Pops and my brother.”
Pops also encouraged his sons to deejay, buying them equipment, records and arranging their early gigs. “My dad threw a party on Sunday nights,” Steve Jr. says, “and I’d be in church on Sunday mornings thinking, Man, I can’t wait to play tonight!” All of this bewildered their classmates. “I would bring in my iPod and sort of force-feed them songs and they just weren’t getting it,” Steve says. “I remember one girl calling it porno music and I was just like, What?!”
Originally published in Time Out Chicago magazine | TOC: Keepin It Real
LOST & FOUND: REAL R&B AND SOUL
Compiled by Keb Darge and Paul Weller
soul \sõl\ adj + jump•blues \jəmp-blüz \ n + ret•ro \re-trõ\adj
For DJs who are as much historians as they are floor fillers, tracing club music to its roots is an obsession. For jocks of this ilk, the catalog of BBE Records, known for its reissues, is like a wet dream. With the label’s latest, London duo Keb Darge and Paul Weller praise new batches of noteworthy dusty grooves.
Darge almost single-handedly spearheaded the Northern soul resurgence in the U.K., unearthing rare U.S. funk, soul and R&B since the early ’70s. For his latest in the Lost & Found series, the Scottish DJ is joined by Paul Weller, frontman for the Jam and a cornerstone of the mod scene—and a rock star who boasts an enviable soul collection. Both 51, the pair found kindred spirits in each other, joining forces for Darge’s Lost & Found parties at London’s Madame JoJo’s.
Following the first edition’s rockabilly and jump blues, the attention turns to R&B and early soul. Darge and Weller’s mission is clear: to prove the worth of lesser-known talent stretching beyond the familiar voices of Motown. Hearing the aching soul of “You Don’t Love Me” from the Epitome of Sound or the yearning melancholy of “Come on Back” from the Brothers of Soul, you’d never know you weren’t listening to the Philly soul of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes or the Detroit doo-wop of the Temptations.
When not discovering new artists, Darge and Weller uncover obscure B-sides from names we know, like Bobby “Blue” Bland, whose “Honey Child” has him sounding like a male version of Nina Simone, or the Tijuana Brass soul of “Wear It on Your Face” by Chicagoans the Dells.
It might be hard to imagine the masses stomping and swinging to soul music on a Saturday night at Crescendo, but Darge and Weller’s parties often swell to upwards of 500 people. This collection shows why.
—Joshua P. Ferguson
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Lindstrøm & Christabelle
REAL LIFE IS NO COOL
Ital•o \i-tal-õ\ adj + dis•co \dis-ko \ n + Pop \päp\n
Even before people started throwing around the term “nudisco,” lanky Norwegian super producer Hans-Peter Lindstrøm was declared the undisputed king of the sound, which actually encompasses as much Italo, boogie and ‘80s electro as it does disco. Wanting to break from his jazzy house productions as Slow Supreme, but lacking a label willing to release his new discoid nuggets, Lindstrøm launched his own, Feedelity, in 2003 debuting with his single “Music (In My Mind).” It was his first collaboration with a wily young vocalist, Solale.
Now, seven years later that partnership has finally come to fruition with Real Life is No Cool, the duo’s full-length effort, with Solale now using her first name Christabelle. What’s so special about this album is that between their start early last decade and now, we’ve watched Lindstrøm’s productions evolve well beyond where they started but haven’t strayed so far that it doesn’t feel like he’s coming full circle with this latest.
His debut solo album from last year, Where You Go I Go Too let go of the disco dance tone that first turned us on to Lindstrøm. In its stead was proggy electronica of epic proportions. We still loved the record—but it’s not exactly fodder for a dance floor. Now with Real Life, Lindstrøm has re-embraced his poppier sensibility with shorter—much shorter—productions showcasing the arpeggiated synth lines, druggy midtempo italo-disco beats we fondly remember and sultry song writing from Christabelle. At only three weeks into the New Year, we have to roll our eyes at the number of bloggers already proclaiming it to be one of the best records of the year, but we must also admit that it’s damn good.
Much of the album reminds us of stateside disco phenom Glass Candy. This is not to say that Lindstrøm is cashing in on the popular indie disco outfit. Rather, there are ample comparisons between the two. Both are fronted by women whose charm lies in their sexed up and strong, freeform presence. And there’s no doubt that Glass Candy’s Johnny Jewel and Lindstrøm would both name check Moroder as a crucial influence. Ultimately, even if Lindstrøm did let Glass Candy persuade his move back toward a pop style, we’re glad for it. It’s this side of his sound that gets us moving.
The steady slo-mo thump of “Lovesick” has our shoulders bobbing early on as Christabelle asks “Can you call it a sound / can you feel the beat / can you listen to it / can you feel my fate?” If this is love sickness, we hope it always feels this good. A consistent theme in the sound and lyrics, the brooding dissonance of the duo’s cover of Vangelis’ Italo classic “Let it Happen” sets the tone for the rest of the album. Enticing us to “come and take a ride on the wheel of life,” its syncopated chug and soaring melodies lift us up out of our frigid winter surroundings without pushing us into a complete lala land.
Throughout you can sense the more challenging work that was driving Lindstrøm on Where You Go, as in the edgy pulse of “So Much Fun,” but here, in a pop framework, its infinitely more dance worthy. This comes to a head on “Baby Can’t Stop,” without a doubt the brightest song on the album. While everyone else is going ape shit for Aeroplane’s remix—and we’re massive Aeroplane fans—we prefer the ‘80s brass-fueled boogie of the original. It’s pure pop gold.
Even the dramatic mood swing of “Never Say Never” is a welcome addition to the album. A downright chaotic number with the beat literally running in reverse, it reminds us that dance music doesn’t have to be all sugar and nice. Lindstrøm may have made his poppiest album yet, but that hasn’t stopped him from challenging our ears.
- Joshua P. Ferguson
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