Arts & Entertainment
36 min

Eight great things about music in ’08

Alphabeat, Kylie, Britney and more


The Ting-Tings

With a handful of brilliant singles from the debut album We Started Nothing, Manchester’s Ting-Tings, comprised of Katie White and Jules De Martino, has effortlessly mastered the art of impeccably crafted garage pop. Not bad for a band which only formed in 2006. The tunes contain irresistible hooks, nods to funk, pop and dance and a generally happy quality — without for a second being cutesy.

Download these: “Great DJ,” “That’s Not My Name,” “Shut Up and Let Me Go.”

 

Duffy’s “Distant Dreamer”

Welsh soul singer Duffy wowed the world with her masterful take on ’60s-inflected soul/pop in the vein of the late, great Dusty Springfield — to the tune of three Grammy nominations. Her Rockferry album has become the fifth-bestselling disc in the world for 2008 and the closing track “Distant Dreamer” with its Phil Spector-esque Wall of Sound and soaring chorus is a prime example of why so many people have connected with Duffy. British hip-hop singer Estelle criticized Duffy for “misrepresenting true soul music” (why, because Duffy is white and Welsh?) but that just sounds like sour grapes to me.

Download these: “Mercy,” “Distant Dreamer,” “Stepping Stone.”

 

Bimbo Jones’ “Harlem 1-Stop”

Bimbo Jones has been keeping dancefloors grooving the world over with distinctive and 100-percent groovy remixes for the past few years. This year saw the release of the excellent debut disc Harlem 1-Stop, a smartly crafted dance-pop album that blends attitudey vocals from Katherine Ellis (of Roger Sanchez and Freemasons fame), clever pop melodies and expert production.

Download these: “Freeze,” “Make U Mine,” “Don’t Want Me No More.” Talk about a gay-friendly sound. Take that in a good or a bad way.

Kylie Minogue’s “In My Arms”

Easily a contender for best single of 2008, this nugget of pop brilliance from her most recent studio album X was the second single pretty much everywhere in the world except for Canada and the US. The song, produced by Calvin Harris, is one of the catchiest tunes from Ms Minogue in years; it is heavily inspired by the productions of French electro artist Alex Gopher and even generated Kylie’s biggest hit in Mexico since “Come into My World” via a “Spanglish” version released officially in Mexico as a duet with Mexican singer-songwriter Aleks Syntek. All I can really say is if the Mexicans sent it into the top 10 then you know it’s a fine party tune.

 

Kris Menace

Paris-based musician Christophe Hoffel (aka Kris Menace) represents the sound of what is going in Europe right now: an explosion of dance beats that blend old-school analogue electronics and housey rhythms with highly melodic European pop. This year he remixed Metronomy’s “Heartbreaker” into a swirling dancefloor odyssey that sounds like being caught halfway between a Berlin nightclub and outer space. Brilliant.

Download these: “Heartbreaker (Kris Menace Remix)” by Metronomy, “Mer du Japon (Kris Menace Remix)” by Air.

 

Britney’s “Womanizer” video

The past couple of years have been fascinating for anyone with an interest in pop culture, not least of all for Britney’s antics. In a sick way it’s been like watching a hamster in a cage. From shaving her head to losing custody of her children to driving around LA crashing into things while eating Cheetos, it’s been a hell of a ride. Her video for “Womanizer” showed us that we can relate to Brit again. Whether writhing naked in a steamy sauna, cooking breakfast for male models, leading office dance routines or photocopying her buttcrack, Brit wanted to show us her typical day and that she’s really just like us. But more than that, she’s back and she wants us to know it. Triumphant.

 

“I’m in Love with a German Film Star”

Pet Shop Boys and visual artist Sam Taylor-Wood have collaborated before, notably on their 1999 joint cover of Serge Gainsbourg’s “Je t’Aime… Moi Non Plus.” But this time they cover The Passions’ early ’80s classic “I’m in Love with a German Film Star” to awesome effect. Possessing a haunting electro quality and backed up by a stunning video starring Taylor-Wood, in which she is stock still, only her cigarette smoke moving, it rose to the top of the BBC Dance Charts last month, courtesy of some fantastic remixes by Mark Reeder, Gui Boratto and Pet Shop Boys themselves. Stunning.

 

Alphabeat

Denmark is known for three things: Lego, Tuborg beer and power-pop. Okay, maybe more than three: Let’s not forget Whigfield (of “Saturday Night”) fame and the shrill, annoying, now-dead group Aqua (“Barbie Girl”) hail from this Scandinavian country. The good news is Alphabeat sounds nothing like Whigfield or Aqua. The group has remained a bit of a secret to most North American ears though this should change as members have signed on to open for chart-topping girl kisser Katy Perry for select upcoming North American live dates. Their delightful grooves are nothing overtly original; but what they do they do remarkably well. Plus they have good mixes: The recent Pete Hammond remix of “Boyfriend” is an homage to late ’80s Stock-Aitken-Waterman and is nothing short of sweetly addictive.

Download “Fascination,” “Boyfriend,” “10,000 Nights.”