Playlist, Top 5, and Album Review : May 24, 2010 - England Swings - The BEST music from the UK
The Happy Time England Swings Show was last night, and it was happy. Here's what we played : 

Band Of Skulls - Death By Diamonds and Pearls (Baby Darling Doll Face Honey)
Pint Shot Riot - Nothing From You

Coldplay - Shiver (Parachutes)
Fyfe Dangerfield - She's Always a Woman

Squad - Three Lions 2010
Leeds Utd Team & Supporters - Leeds, Leeds, Leeds

Shadows - Genie With the Light Brown Lamp
Walker Brothers - The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore

The Fab Four Freakout  :

Beatles - How Do You Do It (Anthology 1)
Beatles - I Need You (Help!)
Beatles - I'm So Tired (The Beatles)
Beatles - Day Tripper

Keane - Stop For a Minute (Night Train)
Laura Marling - Rambling Man (I Speak Because I Can)

Nick Drake - Cello Song (Five Leaves Left)
Fairport Convention - Stranger To Himself (Rising For the Moon)

Corinne Bailey Rae - Paris Nights/New York Mornings (The Sea)
Elllie Goulding - Guns and Horses (Lights)

...and this week's top 5 in the UK :

5). Edward Maya - Stereo Love (-1)
4). Alexandra Burke ft. Pitbull - All Night Long (new)
3). Roll Deep - Good Times (-2)
2). Jason DeRulo - Ridin' Solo (non-mover)
1). B.o.B. - Nothin' On You (new)


This week, songs moved down, new entries charted, and Jason DeRulo went nowhere. 'Vantage number one : Usher is gone from the top 5. Let's look at what he left in his wake : 

The accordion hit of the decade, Edward Maya's "Stereo Love", drops a space to number 5 this week. The track is a fairly soft mixture of the aforementioned instrument and mellow electronica. Vika Jigulina provides whispery vocals, there's vibes and synth bleeps, and a kicker bass line. Viva Romania! 

I like this song, and I'm glad that the British public has taken a shine to it. I'm giving it an 8 on the England Swings scale of 1-10. 

Alexandra's back! And she's brought yet another Miami hip-hop guy with her - this time it's Pitbull. Last time, you might recall, it was Flo Rida. 

And this may be the track that brings her to the Americas. Over here, most songs by Pitbull at least get some attention, so maybe he can drag Alexandra to American consciousness as well. 

It doesn't hurt that the song is one long hook, with Alexandra chanting the title. The Pitbull part is confined to the usual "guest rapper" spot, where he spits a verse about halfway through. In a lot of cases, this manages to stop the momentum of the tune altogether, but this time it doesn't slow down proceedings at all. 

The song is an earworm, and one tends to start humming along around the second listen. I'm giving the tune a 7.5 on the scale.

Roll Deep finally relinquishes the number one spot - and they had it for three weeks - and drop to number 3 with "Good Times". 

Having become very familiar with the tune over the past weeks, I've decided that there's one part that cracks me up. Listen to the female voice after she does the chorus : she drops into a kind of humming that sounds like SHE FORGOT THE WORDS. It's not noticeable even after several listens, but once you realize it's there, it's funny. 

Aside from that, this is an average grime crossover song, with big synths and frenetic (and somewhat squeaky) raps. Not bad, but not a step forward. I'll give it a 6. 

Hey, Jason DeRulo! He's twenty years old, he's yet another Floridian (which seems to have become a center of R&B bubblegum rap in the last year or so). 

Okay, you want to know why he's so huge in Britain? It's because he sounds like Craig David would've sounded, had Craig managed to keep up on his game and was still making records that people paid attention. DeRulo was, perhaps, "born to do it", yes?

Of the three songs that have charted in the UK this year, I'm beginning to think this one is my favorite. It's complex and beautifully done, with unimpeachable vocals. It's the voice that carries the song, for sure - some of you might know that it originally sampled the Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony" to begin with, but had to replace the not-cleared sample with something else entirely. 

Anyway, Jason DeRulo gets an 8 for this song. 

B.o.B., from slightly farther north (Atlanta), now has a transatlantic smash with "Nothin' On You". The song has reached the pinnacle in the UK, about a month after it performed the same feat in America. 

And the song ain't bad. Following once again the bubblegum R&B/rap formula, it's redeemed by the Bruno Mars vocals, complete with Beach Boys harmonies. Billy Ray (B.o.B. himself) contributes a stuttering chorus, and adequate raps. The lyrics are a little odd, but I'm blaming that on trying to fit the rhyme scheme. All in all, not exactly great, but not awful. Let's give it a 6.5.


Keane - Night Train

Not so much an album as an extended stopgap EP, "Night Train" features Keane taking a few different steps and exploring new directions. Sort of. 

It's seven and a half tracks, and three of them are collaborations. Two of these are with Somali rapper K'naan, and the other, odder one with Japanese emcee Tigarah. 

The half-song is a minute and a half of blustery noise at the beginning, meant to lead into the "new" Keane. We dive into "Back In Time", which is, um, "old" Keane in a lot of ways. 

We've got the swirling synths that marked "Spiralling" on the last album. We've got Tom Chaplin's emotive vocals. We've got a slightly-loud-for-Keane chorus. It's all fairly average, and almost sounds as if they're trying too hard. 

"Stop For a Minute" features a very low-key rap from K'naan; other than that, it's still very Keane-ish. It does feature a cool "oh-way-oh!" bit, and the hook is stronger than the previous song. 

"Clear Skies" harkens back to the very old Keane, being an acoustically driven track (at least they're using guitars now). Here's the thing, though, the band can definitely write hooks in songs like this, and they do it again. It passes painlessly. 

Now we get into truly odd territory for the group with "Inshin Denshin". Most critics have lambasted this tune, but - what can I say? - it works for me! The chorus is irresistable, and the breathy vocals from Tigarah (who sounds a lot like a Japanese Charlotte Gainsbourg) enhance it all. The song features liquid blurping synths (I realize that that imagery is a bit sickening, but that's how they sound). Cheers, Keane!

"My Love" features a vocal from the main songwriter in the band, Tim Oxley-Rice, and he sounds quite a bit like, um, Tom Chaplin. The song has a motorik beat, and squelches along quite nicely. 

The second K'naan collaboration - well, all I'll tell you is that it samples a very familiar riff, and whereas many might consider it a bit gauche, I think it's all right! It's not brilliant, but it brings a smile. This is Keane having fun, and there's a certain lugubrious charm in that. It's nice to know that they GOT a sense of humor. The song is called "Looking Back", by the way.

And we end with "My Shadow", which is all sensitive and "Somewhere Only We Know"-like. That is to say, it's the true Keane shining through, and it's still not bad. There were first pegged as Coldplay imitators, lo, many years ago, and here they prove that they can do the best non-Coldplay Coldplay in the business. It's not fun, but it's pretty. 

If this is Keane stepping out in new directions, they're taking baby steps. There's much of this album that's still unmistakably Keane, and the innovations that they explore are a bit more like a stoned dream of Keane (and that may be exactly where they got the ideas, really). All told, this is a better-than-average Keane record, with an added dollop of fresh fun. It will be interesting to see what they do next. 

I give "Night Train" a 7.5 on the England Swings scale of 1-10.

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