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D-D-D-DON’T STOP DAFFY DANES… It’s official: Those daffy Danes Junior Senior have a new album in the works. And actually it’s already for sale in the duo’s native Denmark. Pitchforkmedia.com reports that skinny straight Jesper ”Junior” Mortensen and chunky gay Jeppe ”Senior” Laursen are currently shopping their follow-up to 2003’s D-D-D-Don’t Stop the Beat to interested American labels, with plans to release it by early next year. So that means Atlantic Records obviously wasn’t pleased enough with the first set to keep them on, but at least it also means the boys won’t be pressured to alter their zany sound. And all signs suggest the duo is as out there as ever. The new set’s title, Hey Hey My My Yo Yo, is even crazier than the first, and for it they’ve worked with Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson from their American forebears The B-52’s as well as their American kindred spirits Le Tigre. A tempting taste of the songs to come: ”Hip Hop a Lula,” ”Can I Get Get Get,” ”Itch U Can’t Skratch,” and ”We R the Handclaps.” An American tour is expected to follow the album’s release — and Junior Senior is a band to see live if ever one existed….
ABBA ON FILM… Speaking of Scandinavian dance-pop, while the original Scandinavian dance-pop band may be long gone, ABBA is still much loved. And finally, you can add something new to your surely extensive collection of ABBA treasures. Maybe you’ve already seen it: repeatedly, on INHD, or if don’t have an high-definition television maybe you saw it years ago at FilmFest DC, Washington’s independent film festival. Or maybe you saw it decades ago when it first came out. But ABBA — The Movie will finally — finally! — be released on DVD in the U.S. next month. (It was just released in Europe.) A documentary film based on the Swedish supertroopers’ tour of Australia, ABBA — The Movie focuses on a fictitious DJ who frantically seeks to interview the band as they make tour stop after tour stop throughout the land down under. Written and directed by celebrated filmmaker Lasse Hallstrom, who also directed all but the band’s final two video clips, the film includes rare concert footage and was one of the first films to ever utilize ”surround” sound. Two years ago it was extensively restored with money from the Swedish government. Billboard reports it will be released as a single-disc DVD as well as a limited edition two-DVD package, the latter including a new 40-minute interview with Hallstrom and ABBA members Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus….
A EUROPHILIA’S GUIDE TO HOUSE… David Guetta and Mylo dominate the nominees in the second annual House Music Awards, with six nominations each. If you’ve heard them – or for that matter Martin Solveig, with five nominations – chances are you’re either a clubhead with a serious case of Europhilia, or at least a European citizen. A London-based event, the House Music Awards are very European-focused, so you’ve probably never heard of a significant portion of the nominees. Still, plenty of American-popular artists, from DC-based Deep Dish to Armand Van Helden to Blaze, all racked up multiple nods. And as long as you hurry, even you can vote for the nominees you know in the awards’ 27 categories — in fact, you could have voted for the nominees to begin with earlier in the year. Voting closes this Saturday, Oct. 1, at www.housemusicawards.com.
Last year’s big winner was Italian DJ/producer Junior Jack, who won for artist and album of the year. The track, or song, of the year went to ”Lola’s Theme,” by the Shapeshifters, or Shape:UK as they’re known in the States. Shape:UK also racked up multiple nods this year too, though unfortunately its latest song, ”Back to Basics,” didn’t make the grade as a Track of the Year contender. Let’s hope its dizzying video picks up the Best Video honor, a new category in 2005. And lead singer Cookie has a clear chance at winning the Outstanding Vocal nod. Though to do that, she’ll have to beat Inaya Day‘s gritty cover of ”Nasty Girl,” to say nothing of Barbara Tucker and ”Most Precious Love”….
PRECIOUS LOVE, BOMP, BOMP BA-DOM… And ”Most Precious Love” is truly this year’s track to beat. That song racked up the most nominations this year, or eight, including Track of the Year and Most Innovative Producer for Blaze, the New York-based collaborative of Kevin Hedge and Josh Milan. It also earned nods for Breakthrough Producer and Outstanding Remix, both in recognition of Dennis Ferrer‘s fascinating, and award-deserving work in transforming the song. The original appeared on Keep Hope Alive, the AIDS-benefit CD featuring a collective of ”Underground Dance Artists United for Life.” Blaze produced a slow-burning soulful house jam, with a lilting Latin flair, to which Barbara Tucker then added her churchy, God-centered vocals. Nice, sweet, but mostly unremarkable. For his remix though, Ferrer turned the track upside down — or should we say, took it higher. He started by adding a booming, fast-clip beat, and then built the remix from his own creation, an unmistakable see-sawing, staccato chord line. First violins, then — best yet — a male choir echoes that chord line (”Bomp-bot-ta bomp bomp ba-dom/bomp bomp bomp bomp”). Futuristic swooshes and swirling synths float atop it all at song’s peak, and by then the dance floor is enraptured in the greater love it has found….
SHE BOPS, WE BOP AGAIN… Would you believe Cyndi Lauper has only had one No. 1 club hit? Of course you know which one: her first single, ”Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” Last year she scored only her fifth Top Ten dance hit: ”Walk on By,” her slow, sorrowful remake of a Dionne Warwick classic that Tracy Young remixed into a shimmering Sunday sunrise delight. While still not available as a stand-alone commercial release, Young’s full ”Losing You” remix closes out in fine form her recent masterful Dance Culture compilation.
And it’s a pleasure to report we’ll be hearing more from Lauper this year. First off, a new remix was included on the just-released compilation Queer as Folk — Music from the Final Season. It’s yet another remix of her several-years-old ”Shine.” Essentially uncredited — only named after the Showtime series’ main club — this Babylon remix is actually better than the Illicit Mix from 2002 or Tracy Young’s mix from 2003. It actually sounds like a more refined version of Young’s original.
Then in November, Lauper will release her ninth studio album, The Body Acoustic, co-produced with Rich Chertoff, who was behind her smash 1984 debut She’s So Unusual. For the album Lauper will re-imagine her biggest hits, giving them a ”modern-day extreme makeover,” a press release promises. So Lauper will rework ”Shine,” ”True Colors” and ”She Bop,” among others. And on still others Lauper will get by with a little help from singing friends, including Vivian Green, Ani DiFranco and Shaggy. Sarah McLachlan will join Lauper on a stripped-down acoustic version of ”Time After Time,” and Kelly Osbourne will add some punky punch to ”Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” And the album will contain two new songs. Finally, Lauper will tour in support of the album, stopping at the 9:30 Club on Dec. 16….
NEW SWEET DREAMS… Lauper isn’t the only hit ’80s act mining its repertoire looking for modern-day pop gold. In fact, one of that decade’s most enduring duos, The Eurythmics, will return with a greatest-hits set, Ultimate Collection, also scheduled for release Nov. 8. So what, you ask? The duo of Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart already released a greatest-hits package soon after they originally broke up in 1990. As many times as you can listen to and never tire of ”Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This),” ”Here Comes the Rain Again,” ”Would I Lie To You?” and ”Missionary Man,” you only need to buy the hits once, right?
Probably, but there is this to encourage you to change your mind: new material. Five years after their first album in a decade, Peace, the duo got together earlier this year and recorded two new songs, including first single ”I’ve Got A Life.” And even more promising, it happened because the two were inspired, not because anyone pressured them to. ”Annie and I didn’t plan to go in the studio — she was staying with me in Los Angeles and we seemed to spontaneously write and record some songs,” Stewart told Billboard. ”It was just like the old days, songs coming at lightning speed and recorded and mixed in a week”….
LOOKING FOR RENEWED LOVE… Also mining her past is another club favorite, Jody Watley. Watley is putting together a Remixed, Reconstructed and Remade compilation of her past hits, which she notes on her Web site will also include several new tracks as well. It’s not known how soon the set will be ready, but the first single drawn from the project garnered Watley her sixth solo No. 1 song, which also happens to be the same as her first solo No. 1 song: ”Looking for A New Love.” The feat, achieved last month, happened eighteen years after the former Shalamar member’s solo-debut hit topped the Billboard dance chart. The new chart-topping remixes were just recently commercially released, and we’re obligated to tell you that the Chus & Ceballos tribal remix is, as expected, the best, although the full-length version of it is better than the truncated mix featured on David Knapp‘s Soakin Wet 2 compilation. But the song in any form sounds as good today as it did the first time around. And there’s plenty of fun to be had with either Chris Joss‘s chunky disco Remix 1 or Henrich Z‘s giddy electro mix, too.
Watley, it should be noted, performed of her own volition outside San Francisco City Hall when the city last year rebelled and declared matrimony to thousands of gay couples. A clip of her performance, in which she ad-libs about the right of all to marry and serenades several of the just-married couples, can be seen from her Web site, www.jodywatley.net….
BRIT BY DESIGN… Queer as Folk‘s final season soundtrack is a nice assortment of new pop and rock tunes. But just as with previous QAF sets (and the retiring show itself), most tracks are British in origin. A Brit must have been in charge of assembly. Earlier this year saw release of the two-disc, very much non-British Queer as Folk: Club Babylon mixed set, which is essential to any gay dance compilation collection. Dance music still accounts for a little over a third of this new, unmixed album, but the true standouts are non-dance tracks from the likes of indie rockers PJ Harvey and The Charlatans UK and the Billie Holiday-influenced Madeleine Peyroux….
MCLACHLAN’S LINGERING AFTERGLOW… Now two years old, Sarah McLachlan‘s ”World On Fire” takes on new meaning in a post-Hurricane Katrina world, when so many of us fumble to do something, anything to respond. ”Tap into the water, try to bring my share,” McLachlan sings in the bridge. ”Try to bring more, more than I can handle/Bring it to the table, Bring what I am able.” Junkie XL‘s brilliant, blazing remix of the song kicks off McLachlan’s just-released second remix collection. You might worry your stereo is on fire there’s so much going on.
Bloom — Remixes is a must-have for McLachlan fans, without question. But it’s a must-have for everyone else, as well. If you don’t count yourself as a McLachlan fan, perhaps you’re just not familiar with her as a remixed artist. By and large, most of McLachlan’s original productions are too langorous and often too slight. No thanks, I’d rather be sleeping, or watching a Lifetime movie about women in distress. But when a skilled remixer gets hold of a McLachlan track and really pays attention to what she’s conveying through her stunning poetry, watch out: you’ll quickly uncover some of your favorite dance songs of all time that way. And McLachlan has had an unprecedented, and largely unheralded, influence on today’s dance music. TiÃ«sto, who might as well trademark the moniker World’s Most Popular DJ, rose to dominance partly as a result of his reworking of McLachlan tunes, and all manner of DJs and dance artists after him have enlisted or remixed sweet, clear, breathy female vocalists to emulate her, from Jes to Kirsty Hawkshaw to Dido.
TiÃ«sto is nowhere to be found on Bloom, which initially seemed like a crime. After all, two of the best tracks on McLachlan’s first remix collection, 2003’s Remixed, were TiÃ«sto productions. Perhaps he asked too much for the job, but in the end he’s not missed: Dusted, DJ Hyper, Tom Middleton and of course Junkie XL all produce mixes that shine as bright as TiÃ«sto’s previous work. A particular treat is the mix of the 12-year-old ”Ice” by Dusted, or Mark Bates, who had assistance from Dido’s brother Rollo Armstrong of Faithless fame. ”The ice is thin, come on dive inÂ…The only comfort is the moving of the river,” McLachlan sings. Acting out the lyrics, the remix moves chillingly slow before sonically cracking through the ice and moving, with quickening speed, below the river’s surface. Though it does stray a little too far beyond dance music with a couple remixes, Bloom, which primarily draws from her 2003 Afterglow album, is a more satisfying collection than Remixed was. Even supposed non-McLachlan fans will be won over….
BT PHONES HOME… Where in the Bloom is BT? BT being Brian Transeau, the Los Angeles-based Maryland native who originally started as a Deep Dish collaborator. Like TiÃ«sto BT polished two noteworthy tracks on Sarah McLachlan’s first remixed set but wasn’t invited back for a second go-around. Or maybe he turned them down, considering his busy schedule. As unlikely as it sounds, BT is currently serving as executive producer of the NBC reality show Tommy Lee Goes to College. Turns out it was BT’s idea for the show in the first place, though he initially wanted it to focus on Journey’s Steve Perry, who declined to star. Beyond that, BT is also said to be finishing work on his next artist album, which he told Billboard was ”for dancefloors,” unlike 2003’s more cinematic and genre-hopping Emotional Technology….
THE THINGS SHE SAID… ”Our first video was about the love between two girls. We do not pretend to be lesbians — we’ve never said we were.” So misspoke t.A.T.u.‘s Lena Katina to Billboard this week in a calculated bit of revisionist history. It’s true the two members of the Russian dance-pop group said little about their sexuality when they splashed onto the scene nearly three years ago. But their label and their handlers went out of their way to suggest that the two were lovers in plain sight. It was a charade that Katina got tired of playing a year into generating much publicity and impressive album sales. As she told the British tabloid The Sun in January 2004: ”We are very tired of each other and it’s not fun playing lesbians any more.”
But why oh why are we dredging through the t.A.T.u. trash? Because, gentle readers, you need to brace yourselves: the duo is back to haunt and taunt us. Yes, unfortunately t.A.T.u. is still together. First single ”All About Us” is making its way to DJs right now. And the two know how to keep stirring the publicity pot: somehow the girls enlisted Sting to play bass on one track of its sophomore album, Dangerous and Moving, due Oct. 11. And Richard Carpenter of the Carpenters arranged and conducted strings for another track. The girls still haven’t completely let go of the sexuality tease either. Though Katina lied to Billboard about ever pretending to be a lesbian, she then added about her t.A.T.u. partner Julia Volkova: ”Julia just had a baby and currently has a girlfriend.” And further, ”We share a special bond.” Gag….
CELEBRATING THE ”COPACABANA”… This past Sunday ushered in the annual Brazilian Day Festival in New York, honoring Brazil’s independence from Portugal. But Tommy Boy is working to convince us we should celebrate Brazilian music all year round. The indie hip-hop and dance record label has just released the American debut album from SalomÃ© de Bahia. Simply titled Brasil, the album is a festive, sunny romp through various Latin dance genres, including samba, bossa nova, salsa and mambo, as well as general Latin dance-pop. And next week Tommy Boy will release DJ Tony Moran‘s surefire hit remix of ”Outro Lugar,” SalomÃ©’s fantastic, thoroughly Brazilian cover of Stevie Wonder‘s disco gem ”Another Star.”
That’s just one standout track among 15 on Brasil, which also includes several Brazilian pop standards and a great, campy cover of Barry Manilow‘s ”Copacabana” sung in Portuguese. Brasil is a must-have album for any fan of early Grace Jones or the late, Latin great Celia Cruz, to name two obvious influences on this playful, energetic and full-voiced singer who dresses herself in a similar over-the-top manner as her late compatriot Carmen Miranda. You get the impression the 60-year-old SalomÃ© is almost always smiling. Listening to her, you can’t help but smile, too….
STREAMING DJ SETS… New Yorker Scotty Thomson just made a return spin at Club Five last Sunday. You missed it, you say? Well you don’t have to miss his set. Soon you should be able to download a portion of that evening’s set at www.scottyt.com — after you register and login. Thomson is not the first DJ to stream music. Several DJs stream original tracks or remixes, and D.C.’s own Jason Royce has recorded two sets — one of current club hits and another from Cobalt’s popular retro Flashback Tuesdays — and posted them for streaming at his site, www.djjasonroyce.com. And Victor Calderone has audio playlists ”coming soon” to his site. But Thomson appears to be the first DJ to make portions of his sets available for posterity’s sake as downloads. Several of his recent sets are already posted, so there’s no excuse not to be familiar with his crunchy, wild style, even if you never leave home….
HENRICHSEN’S STRAIGHT SUMMER… Brett Henrichsen has been creating popular Masterbeat dance compilations for over a decade now, and he’s just launched a new series that seeks to capture the biggest tracks of the summer just passed. (Sorry for that reminder.) S.P.F. 20: Summer Party Favorites is a two-disc, 140-minute mixed set featuring extended versions of each track, not merely radio edits. It’s not that adventurous of a collection, with little mixing and no real curve balls thrown into the mix. If you haven’t heard most of these tracks already, you surely will by the end of the year. It’s what mainstream pop radio would sound like if gays ruled the airwaves. We don’t, of course — and that apparently suits Henrichsen just fine: The cartoon that runs throughout the compilation as well as serving as its cover features several multicultural but thoroughly heterosexual couples grooving on the beach.
As understandable as it is to create a mass-appeal marketing strategy and not just one focused on the gay market — Centaur Records has that pretty well covered — it’s still disturbing that Henrichsen can’t have the cartoonist recognize our kind by drawing one obviously gay couple, dancing close. And have you noticed that even Masterbeat compilations that are explicitly gay, those created for gay circuit events, are the only ones that don’t feature cartoon people on the cover, just generic drawings and images? Come on Henrichsen: show your community some support….
YOUNG’S CULTURE LESSON…. Any compilation seeking to represent any part of 2005 would be remiss without at least one contribution from Offer Nissim. In case you haven’t noticed, it’s Nissim’s year — we’re just dancing through it. Nissim contributes one remix and two original tracks, featuring vocalist Maya, to Henrichsen’s set. And he contributes twice to Tracy Young‘s new set Dance Culture, released on her own label, Ferosh Records.
You may look at Young’s compilation and wonder, why bother? Among the familiar tracks here, you should already own Nissim’s artist debut First Time — many months after release that album still reigns as the year’s best full-length dance release. You could already own Suzanne Palmer‘s artist debut, Home, released in July, featuring one melodic dance hit or soon-to-be dance hit after another. Besides the compilation’s highly touted ”unreleased” mixes of Madonna and Cyndi Lauper, as great as those are, what else is there?
Plenty. Young has outdone herself here, creating one of the most consistent compilations with the widest possible appeal to most facets of gay clubland. Young has managed to assemble 13 tracks, all moving to the same, tasteful pace, and expertly tailored them to pad out an 80-minute set that straddles the usual divide between the sounds of a peak-hour party and an early-hour or morning-party event. This is tribal-focused house that goes out of its way to appeal to those who love sweet melodies and pleasing pop as much as those looking for polyrhythmic percussion compelling you to dance. Young’s Operatic Remix of Terry Barber‘s ”The World Is A Stage” is a perfect example of the middle ground Young has realized here….