Playlist, Top 5, and Album Review : July 5, 2010 - England Swings - The BEST music from the UK
In honor of Independence Day, the England Swings show deviated from its usual format yesterday and played sets of . . .

American music. That's right! Music by Americans! 

It was a pre-recorded show, as the station was closed for the holiday. Here's what was played :

Razorlight - America
Everly Brothers - I'm On My Way Home Again

Steely Dan - Reeling In the Years
Big Star - September Gurls

Janelle Monae - Wundaland
Gaslight Anthem - American Slang

Bobby Fuller Four - Let Her Dance
Beach Boys - Don't Worry Baby
Association - Along Comes Mary

George Strait - Run
Band - When You Awake

Kings of Leon - Revelry
Vampire Weekend - Horchata

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Zero
Drake - Find Your Love
Neko Case - People Got a Lotta Nerve

Byrds - My Back Pages
Todd Rundgren - Love Of the Common Man
Low - Laser Beam

R.E.M. - Green Grow the Rushes
Strokes - Last Nite
Rickie Lee Jones - Night Train

Buffalo Springfield - For What It's Worth
Fifth Dimension - Stoned Soul Picnic
Hoagy Carmichael - Old Buttermilk Sky

Jimi Hendrix - Burning Of the Midnight Lamp
Roger Miller - Walking In the Sunshine
Glen Campbell - Wichita Lineman

Although we didn't play them, here's this week's top 5 songs in the UK : 

5). K'naan - Waving Flag (-3)
4). Enrique Iglesias ft. Pitbull - I Like It (new)
3). Kylie Minogue - All the Lovers (re-entry)
2). B.o.B. - Airplanes (new)
1). Katy Perry - California Gurls (non-mover)


Two new entries in the top 5 this week, as the song at the top stays static, and the Last World Cup Anthem manages to hold on another week. 

K'naan's "Waving Flag" drops from 2 to 5 this week, not nearly as steep a dive as the Dizzee Rascal concoction, which dropped out of the top ten altogether. K'naan stayed because it's basically a good song, and it doesn't draw borders. Not England-specific, the song is a true World anthem that anyone from any country can rally around. Featuring tribal drums, a chorus of "oh"s that is adaptable to any language, and the requisite crowd noises. I'm guessing it will become a perennial, and will crop up every four years from now on. 

On the England Swings scale of 1-10, "Waving Flag" gets an 8. 

Enrique Iglesias is a conundrum. His heyday in the American cultural milieu was ten years ago, with a string of hits that culminated in "Hero", released just before 9/11. 

Since then he's gone on to have 5 top 20 hits in England, and his presence in the Latin music world has barely diminished - most of his English speaking fans are probably not aware that he has the number one hit on the Latin charts in the USA right now, in collaboration with Juan Luis Guerra. 

The new hit is called "I Like It" and it's a collaboration with Miami rapper Pitbull, who has had some success in the UK himself. It's a Eurotechno fiesta, driven by pumping synths, an occasional falsetto vocal from Sr. Iglesias himself, and a momentary slip into the old R. Kelly hit "Fiesta". 

Enrique has good musical instincts, I'll give him that. No matter what the current trend (and Eurotech is indeed the flavor of the moment), he can be relied upon to offer up a reasonable imitation. Yesterday, at our mixed Spanish/English Fourth of July celebration, I played "I Like It" for our visitors, and got many expressions of surprise that it even WAS Enrique. However, they loved the current tune in Spanish, "Cuando Me Enamoro". 

The song itself is not bad, but it's also a bit like being hit with a beachball, it leaves no lasting impression. I'll give it a 6 this week.

Released physically this week, Kylie Minogue's (excuse me, she goes by just "Kylie" now) "All the Lovers" jumps back into the top 5. I'm guessing that she was hoping for a number one position, but that didn't happen. The song charted to number 4 week before last on downloads, so watching it return to the charts as the physical comes out says that a lot of Kylie's fanbase isn't buying online. That means they're either very young or very old. I'm thinking it's the latter. 

The song, fraught with a deep bassline and a generic synth backing, is just fluffy and inconsequential. I give it a 6. 

It's no real surprise that the B.o.B. song with Hayley Whatsername, "Airplanes", has charted high in the UK. While Britain doesn't have a strong desire for American rap, especially since they have now developed their own full-blown performers, the more pop-oriented songs tend to rise above the rabble. You won't find Young Jeezy on the UK, charts, but the rap-lite performers like B.o.B.? Sure. 

Of course, the song itself is just downright stupid and vaguely depressing. It's all about the problems with fame, and how Bobby Ray just wants to go and ride the subway with all the proletariats again. 

Yeah, right. That's believable. 

So along with the insincerity of the lyric, the tune itself is just sort of middling and minimal. Nothing to see here; move along. 

It gets a 5 on the scale. 

Here's Katy Perry still at number one! Snoop Dogg provides one of his silkier spits on "California Gurls", and the song has that killer chorus, funky bass, and Katy's idiosyncratic main vocal. Oddly enough, the whole thing could have fit in about 1978 with not too many noticing. 

I give Katy a 7 this week.


Kele - The Boxer

It took Kylie 20-odd years of hard work to drop her last name, so Kele is up on it all about eight years earlier. Huh. 

The best description I can give of "The Boxer" is that it's a melange of the old Bloc Party and the new Bloc Party. 

Now here's the rub : all of the indie-people that I know have dismissed the new Bloc Party, while all agreeing that "Silent Alarm" was one of the best records in the 21st century. So they won't be happy with about two-thirds of this album. 

For those of us not wallowing in indie times past, though, most of the record ain't bad. Let's talk about the newer sounding stuff first : 

"Walk Tall" is a rousing lead off, based on the military cadences that so many movies about basic training have made popular. It also features grinding synth work, indicative of the shock of the new Bloc. "On the Lam" also uses heavy-duty industrial synth, and Kele sings the song in a filtered vocal, occasionally speeding up his voice to make his own girl chorus. The song devotes its last minute or so with an odd buzzy phone ring and call radios. 

That leads us to "Tenderoni", the first single released from the album. Guess what? There's more synths! The song has the feel of a release of a Euro-producer like David Guetta. The rhythm is not straightforward, but stutters and groans. The effect, though, is pleasing. 

We return to samples of telephone messages ("Please hang up and try again") on "New Rules", with minimal instrumentation - it's mostly just a bass line. "All the Things I Could Never Say" has a chopped-up synth line that carries on for perhaps too long. 

Finally, in "Yesterday's Gone", the synths flutter, but don't necessarily wow. Here's the crossover between old and new that might appease the nostalgics, because the song also features a chorus that is very old school Bloc. 

Okay, now for the rest of the old : 

Guitars surface first on "The Other Side", which is still fairly modern and choppy, but has the meandering buzz of "Silent Alarm". It goes a little beyond that particular sound, though, by bringing in a choppy fringe and vocals even more laid-back than formerly. Halfway through, the percussion takes over, and left me with the nagging impression that I'd heard it before.

I had. Excuse the obscure reference, but it uses the same combination of instruments as Joni Mitchell's "Dreamland" circa 1975. But it uses them well!

"Everything You Wanted" has a good example of the yelping vocals that Kele made famous on Bloc Party's first releases : "Silent Alarm" fans, take notice. Also, note that "Unholy Thoughts" could have fit right in on that album. 

"Rise" is another hybrid, sounding very old at first, and then kicking the synths into gear about two-thirds of the way through. 

So do I recommend this album to you? It depends. If you're an advocate of the old Bloc Party, there are moments here that you should hear. If you're among the half-dozen or so that appreciates what the group has done recently, you'll probably love it. My suggestion for everyone : listen to the whole thing, and then simply upload it to your music software and eliminate the ones that don't catch your fancy. That's what I'm doing. 

But I'll probably keep some of the songs from both sides of the spectrum. 

I give "The Boxer" a 7.5 on the England Swings scale of 1-10.

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