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2004’S TOP DANCE ACT…. Billboard‘s bestselling album in 2004 from a dance/electronic artist was not brought to us by a lesbian sex act. Despite half a year spent near or at the top of the chart, Scissor Sisters‘ eponymous debut was only the fourth bestselling artist album, just behind Legion of Boom from the Crystal Method and Talkie Walkie from Air. No, the bestselling album was Give Up, a first-class delivery from The Postal Service. It’s likely, however, that you never heard of that particular duo. Well, do you like the Pet Shop Boys? Erasure? Or other soft-voiced groups with a serious passion for electronic beats and a wistful pop sensibility? If so, then The Postal Service could very well be your new favorite band.
The Postal Service
If you like Seattle-based Death Cab for Cuties, no doubt you’ve heard of The Postal Service, since Ben Gibbard is the lead singer and guitarist for both bands. (And by the way, despite what you might expect, he’s straight.) He started Postal Service as a side project with Jimmy Tamborello (a.k.a. Dntel and Figurine) in a mutual experiment to make “fun music” — and to see whether a long-distance band could exist sharing musical ideas and sounds by snail mail, from which the band drew its name. (Gibbard lives in Seattle, Tamborello in Los Angeles.) Obviously, they succeeded: Give Up was released in mid-2003, and it’s pretty much dominated the Top Electronic Album Chart ever since. There’s talk of the duo touring this year — a year that will also see a new Death Cab CD, now that the quartet has made the switch to major-label Atlantic Records. And the U.S. Postal Service, after initially fighting the idea of sharing its name with a pop band, plans to use the band’s music in coming commercials, to tap the youth market.
But it will likely be another year for a follow-up set, leaving newcomers plenty of time to discover the moody delights of Give Up and its abundance of perfect pop songs with great lyrical dexterity. Check out the sheer galloping joy of “We Will Become Silhouettes,” which will be released as a single next month, with a Matthew Dear remix. The original is already a marvel, however, with its accordion-instrumented, New Orleans-style festive flair for the danse macabre: The song has a happy, fearless message about humanity’s inevitable death and destruction. “We will become silhouettes when our bodies finally goÂ… ba, ba, ba, ba,” goes the cheery chorus….
2004’S TOP CLUB SONG… The top dance single played in the clubs in last year is also not exactly new. Gospel singer Vernessa Mitchell‘s “Took My Life” was actually first released as a gospel song 12 years ago. It’s also not exactly familiar. Sure, around town it got play here and there, but certainly not more than Rosabel with Jeanie Tracy‘s “Cha Cha Heels” or Janet Jackson‘s “All Nite (Don’t Stop).” And yet, somehow those two tracks didn’t even factor into the top 20 on the 2004 Club Play chart. Strange….
2004’S TOP DANCE SINGLES FROM MAD/BRIT… On the Maxi-Singles Sales chart, Madonna reigned, snagging the three peak positions, but only as a Britney Spears accessory for the top spot’s “Me Against the Music.” Also here is George Michael for “Amazing” remixes, as well as Anastacia for her only domestic release, the single “Left Outside Alone.” Her latest, self-titled album has still not been released stateside, even with its dominance of the year-end charts all across Europe. Nor has the U.S. seen release yet of her two hit follow-up European singles….
REMIXING FOR RELIEF… BjÃ¶rk will release by early March a two-disc set of remixes of her 1995 hit “Army of Me.” That’s a lot of remixes for just one song, but it’ll be worth it, since proceeds will go to UNICEF in support of the charity’s work for Indian Ocean tsunami relief. BjÃ¶rk solicited any visitor to her website last week to submit his or her own remix of the tune. She reported that a number of unsolicited versions have found their way to her in the past decade, ranging from “hi-energy to death-metal”….
FROM BOY, TO MEN… Boy George plans to raise more than just the energy level on the dance floor with his newest musical outing, reports Billboard. He’s hoping to help release more than just music, too, with his contribution to the new gay porn film Manhattan Heat, from Lucas Entertainment. George’s work in raising eyebrows (and other body parts) comes courtesy of his alter ego, the Twin, according to Billboard….
DIVAS TO DANCE IN 2005… The coming year looks to be shaping up — if you can believe it, and dare we jinx it — as an even better one for dance than 2004. How’s that? Just look at the slate of upcoming releases.
Jennifer Lopez will return with Rebirth and Mariah Carey with The Emancipation of Mimi, both in March. Oh, those don’t excite you? Yeah, well, me neither. Although, in fairness, we should report that Carey has commissioned David Morales and Peter Rauhofer to remix her first single, "Say Something." Still nothing? You say you just assumed there’d be remixes of Carey’s work, and anyway, who cares? Well, I can’t say I do either, but Billboard reported that fact as if it was something noteworthy, as if it was something special for Carey to continue her tradition of writing bland, over-emoting ballads and then tapping remixers to liven things up.
Janet Jackson‘s producer boytoy Jermaine Dupri also worked with Carey on two tracks, even singing on one, "Get Your Number," which Billboard described as a "feel-good, dancefloor-primed R&B number." Speaking of Jackson and dancing Dupri, the latter is set to executive produce the former’s next set. After a bad 2004, Jackson is eager to try again just one year later with a new album, one that Rolling Stone reports will be a return to Janet’s old-school ways, a dance-oriented counterpart to the mostly slow Damita Jo. Madonna is said to be taking the same approach, after 2003’s underperforming and sadly William Orbit-free American Life. Orbit is supposedly on hand to reinvent her once again, so that’s something….
SEMINAL BANDS TO DANCE IN 2005Â… So how does a new release from New Order sound? Or the B-52’s? No word on when exactly we might hear from both seminal bands, but early word was summer. Also on tap is Erasure, whose Nightbird will be released on Jan. 25. The band will perform for two nights, May 2 and 3, at the 9:30 Club. Also out Jan. 25: the latest from the Chemical Brothers, Push the Button.
French electronica duo Daft Punk will return March 22 three years after its last studio set Discovery, with Human After All. Billboard says the title reflects a less robotic sound than prior Daft Punk releases, featuring dashes of rock and "un-ironic emotional sentiments." We remain a bit skeptical, however. Track titles include "The Brainwasher," "On/Off," "Television Rules the Nation" and "Technologic”….
D.C.’S BEST-KNOWN BANDS TO DANCE IN 2005Â… The year 2005 will also be a big year for locally based but internationally renowned electronic acts. Eighteenth Street Lounge’s Thievery Corporation will issue in February its next studio album, The Cosmic Game. Expanding the parameters of the downtempo chillout music that the duo helped pioneer, the album sees guest turns from rockers Perry Farrell, David Byrne, the Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne and others. A tour is expected.
Deep Dish will release from its own D.C.-based label Yoshitoshi its long-awaited next studio set in May, with three songs featuring labelmate and longtime collaborator Richard Morel. Morel, in turn, will this summer release a Blowoff artist album with collaborator Bob Mould. Vocalist and musician Morel has actually been extremely busy as a recording artist for months now, what with the release of his eponymous band’s Lucky Strike, one of last year’s best electronic music releases, as well as one of its most underappreciated….
MORE MOREL IN 2005Â… Over the past month Morel has posted one tune after another on iTunes, including the magnificent, alt-Christmas pop song, "Merry Christmas to Everyone," which traffics in Morel’s usual brooding contemplation. (Sample lyric: "Merry Christmas to anyone, who’s holding on hope of a god when no one seems near.") He released that song in its original form along with a couple of his own Pink Noise club mixes, and in conjunction with another, "Santa Hugged Me," which he says "may be the first Christmas song to acknowledge Santa’s bear status."
Released just weeks before Christmas, it was too late for his publishers to get much airplay or other exposure for the tunes in 2004, but they’re already gearing up for this Christmas. Buy it now, as an early Christmas gift to yourself, and be way ahead of the curve.
Also, Morel’s label just posted to iTunes Dean Coleman‘s Respekt remix of Lucky Strike’s first single, "If You Love Me," which is increasingly getting play at a club near you. Actually, several remixes are available of the track, including Morel’s extended mix of the original, but if you’ve only got 99 cents to spare, go with Coleman’s. Coleman periodically blows icy wind on his pop-oriented tribal mix, keeping things from getting too hot due to the obsessive love of the lyrics. But that’s not the best part. A distorted piece of Morel’s vocals ribbits like an electronic frog throughout the vocal remix, singing what sounds like "Good butt”….