Friday, July 31, 2009

Just been checking the new release schedule...

Here are some singles scheduled for UK release in the coming weeks, all of which have been big faves of mine in recent times!

Bob Sinclar featuring Sugarhill Gang "Lala Song"

Erik Hassle "Don't Bring Flowers"

BWO & Velvet "Right Here Right Now"
Jason Mraz featuring Colbie Caillat "Lucky"

Milow "Ayo Technology"

Agnes "On and On"

However, given the dire state of the UK singles chart, I'm not building my hopes up :(

Monday, July 27, 2009

This week's playlist: One, two, three, four, uno, dos, tres...

I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho) - Pitbull: I only got to know this song about a week ago but I'm already addicted to it. As near as we'll get to a real summer hit this year.
Ready For The Weekend - Calvin Harris: Another slice of dance-pop awesomeness from this very talented DJ. If the album's as good as its first two singles then it will be a monster.
Diamond Rings - Chipmunk: Not usually into this kind of thing but it escapes the dumper and appeals to me purely because of its sampling of "Pipeline" in the vocal hook.
The Only Ones - Melody Club: I've probably said this before, and if I have (or haven't) I'll say it again anyway: they remind me of the Ark. And that's a good thing.
Fire - Kasabian: still sounding fresh after all these weeks. I really will need to get listening to that new album...
You Can't Kill Rock & Roll - Sugarplum Fairy: more retro-tastic melodic rock from another musically fab branch of the Noren gene pool.
Youngblood - E.M.D.: took a while to grow on me but now it's a firm favourite. Nice catchy Swedish pop, nothing more, nothing less.
Joyride - The Killers: I'm well into their music again and this is one of the high spots on their "Day and Age" album.
Lala Song - Bob Sinclar & Sugarhill Gang: catchy singalong summer dance tune. Mr Sinclar continues to make some inspired choices of collaborators.
Right Here Right Now - BWO: They've had a bit of Swedish TV exposure over the last couple of months. But apart from that opportunity to drool at Martin, they also make great pop. Like this.

Album Review: "Now 73" - Various Artists

Approximately three times a year, the "Now" compilations take the temperature of the UK singles chart of recent months. The series may be over 25 years old now, but it arguably remains this country's most popular compilation album. Unfortunately, as it provides a pretty accurate reflection of current/recent hits, it can also mean that when it's bad, it's pretty horrid.

So it goes with the 73rd running of the "Now" handicap, but compared to some previous editions this one struggles to get out of the starting blocks.

CD1 is a radio playlister's dream...yes, much of it is that bad. Cascada, La Roux, Pixie Lott, Pink, Katy Perry, Jordin Sparks, Shontelle. Each and every one of them has been disproportionately overplayed in relation to their actual chart positions. And it doesn't matter what radio station you listen to in this country - each one is as bad as the other.

On the plus side you get Lady GaGa, Calvin Harris, David Guetta, AR Rahman/Pussycat Dolls, The Veronicas, Agnes and Freemasons/Sophie Ellis Bextor, whose songs on this compilation I do like to hear on the radio.

CD2 traditionally offers more different/alternative songs which have made the charts. However, such is the dire state of chart music in this country at the present time, that it's like CD1 all over again, with more overplayed tripe which if you never heard it again it would still be too soon: yes I mean you Beyonce, Keri Hilson, Ciara, Black Eyed Peas, Soulja Boy, Akon, Flo Rida, 3OH!3, Florence and the Machine.

It's not all bad though: Pitbull, Kasabian, Little Boots, Empire of the Sun, Deadmau5 and Kaskade get my vote, although five tracks out of 22 is still a very poor result, and the remaining tracks I can take or leave.

"Now..." is only as good as what's in the charts, and you know how I feel about them by now. Times have also changed and as we are now in the download era, you can pick and choose your tracks which may be a good thing if you want to avoid that landfill r'n'b. But being the traditionalist that I am, I prefer to get a CD and then rip my favourites to the iPod.

If you're feeling nostalgic then check out which has year-by-year tracklistings of all the albums in the series. When you do this, you'll very quickly realise that no matter the year, there's always good music and bad music on a 'Now' album, but whether you liked it or not, they were always diverse. Current chart music is significantly lacking in diversity, and sadly "Now 73" is a casualty of that.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

"Grattis Kronprinsessan" : my review

I'm no royalist, but I continue to be strangely fascinated by the Swedish Royal Family. One of their annual rituals is the annual celebration of Crown Princess Victoria’s birthday on 14th July - Victoriadagen as it is known. The event is also celebrated with an outdoor concert every year, which is also televised by SVT. The Swedish royals would not only appear to be more grounded than our house of Windsor, but they also have a significantly more attractive gene pool. Victoria is reasonably pretty, and natural, and seems likeable enough. And then of course there is Prince Carl Philip...I rest my case.

It was at this concert two years ago that I first discovered my favourite singer, Salem Al Fakir. Mans Zelmerlow was also on the bill that night; so I was very interested to see both of them on the bill for this year's concert.

This year there was an extra seat in the front row, with the added ingredient of Victoria's new fiancé Daniel Westling along for the festivities.

Host Mark Levengood - is he Finnish? he seemed to speak Swedish with a Finnish accent - brought a calm and respectful tone to the proceedings, which includes fundraising appeals for the princess' charity fund which supports disabled children.

What interested me most of course was the music - Lena and Orup got the party started with "Nu När Du Gott". Of course these two have been particular favourites of mine over the last 20 years - and their professionalism remains in no doubt. I still got the feeling though that the parts are greater than the whole, as I didn't get the same enjoyment from their album as a duo that I did from their solo albums.

Was very excited to see Måns Zelmerlöw next. He seems to be developing a tradition of alternative-acoustic-versions of his hits, and he did the same with "Hope and Glory" although my mum thought that this was inferior to the original. He is still a very good artist though and I can see him having a long career.

Kalle and Bengan next with a bit of folk, which was ok if that's your bag. Swiftly followed by Jill Johnson, who firstly came to our attention in 1998 when she represented Sverige @ ESC, but since that time she has reinvented herself as Sweden’s queen of country music. Again this isn’t really my type of music, but she is a very good singer and very good at what she does.

Next up, Malena Ernman who IMHO got a bit too much time on this concert....again she is very good in her field (opera) but I get the feeling she probably wouldn’t have got the same exposure if she hadn’t won MF.

So, to the real star of the show, Salem Al Fakir. For those not familiar with this underrated Swedish musical genius, he was as ever a very appealing vision with his messy curls, dressed in a white shirt, black trousers and of course his trademark braces. He got Vicky & Dan clapping, and commanded the stage like the true showman that he is, and vocally he was perfect on a confident version of "Astronaut".

Back to Måns, who performed a lively "Cara Mia" which got everyone smiling and clapping - what an entertainer he is. Malena again, backed by Kalle & Bengan. Time to fast Salem Al Fakir, who was back with my favourite song of his - "Good Song" which again got the crowd clapping along. Salem looked as if he enjoyed every single minute of this, and his enjoyment was infectious. His pop/soul/jazz vocals have never sounded better: the man is a true star.

After Victoria dishing out her annual-stipendiet it was time for Malena and "La Voix" which left me cold. Then Jill again, then MZW with a kids’ choir, entertaining us with his latest single "Hold On". I've probably got a few songs on the album which I like more than this one, but he never disappoints.

Finally, the return of Lena and Orup with a very enjoyable medley of their hits. (It would have been more intriguing if they had sung each other's songs, but maybe that's just my wishful thinking?) The show closed with Bengan and Kalle and all the performers back on stage to sing a couple of songs for to the princess.

Rumour has it that this annual celebration will no longer take place following Victoria and Daniel's wedding in June 2010. I hope this won't be the case, as I look forward to this event every year.

You can watch this year's "Grattis Kronprinsessan" at SVT's website: The show will be available to watch until 14th August 2009: well worth watching too, especially at the 35 minutes and 50 minutes mark :)))

I put on my shoes and I'm ready for the weekend

It's not always an easy task to follow up a no.1 hit single, and when that particular single was the mighty "I'm Not Alone" (still my favourite British single of the year so far) then it was a major challenge for Calvin Harris, who continues to be a big favourite on this blog.

So three cheers for "Ready For The Weekend" which presses all the right dance-pop buttons for me. I can only reiterate my previous view that he is breathing fresh new life into dance music. The single is out on 10th August; the album of the same name is out one week later. Have a listen to the new single at

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Holiday news...

Regular readers of this blog will be well aware that I usually take my annual summer holiday in September, it's usually booked by now, and it's usually either France or Germany.

This year's been a bit different though. With the Euro exchange rate still totally rubbish, we made the decision a little while ago to go 'non-Euro' in the southern half of the continent. My initial favourite was Croatia, but there were a few practical problems getting the deals/hotels/dates we wanted etc, so that's been put on hold yet again - we'll get there eventually but not this year.

Anyway, after a great deal of discussion and debate we settled on another new country: Turkey. Initially a very unlikely choice for us, if only for the reason that we're not "package holiday" people, but as time goes on it seems to make more sense. It's a new country, a new culture, and we like Turkish food. That haggling scares me though :))

Will try and get booked within the next couple of weeks - more news soon...

Friday, July 24, 2009

This weekend...

I'm hoping to do a round-up of some of my favourite Swedish summer TV shows. Of course I should have done this on a weekly basis but the best laid plans etc etc....I'll also finally post my "Grattis Kronprinsessan" review which I previously promised to do.

One of these days, normal service will be resumed :)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Album Review: "A State of Mind" (Deluxe Edition) - E.M.D.

Having seen their very nice performance on last week’s "Sommarkrysset" I thought it was time to finally post my review of this album!
One particularly annoying thing about being a record buyer over the past 10 or so years has been the introduction of the "special edition"/"deluxe edition" of an album, usually released just a few months after the original, with the statutory extra tracks or remixes or video clips to encourage the fans to part with their cash once more to buy what is essentially the same album all over again.
For me, most of these special editions aren’t really worth it. However in the case of "A State of Mind" (Deluxe Edition) by E.M.D., it has turned what was initially a pretty disappointing - and dare I say mediocre - debut into something worth a listen. The album now comes with three added tracks, which I like a lot and which are hopefully an indication of the musical direction they will go in.
The album starts with their Melodifestivalen 2009 finalist "Baby Goodbye". This song still manages to divide opinion in blog-land: some like it, some hate it, I happen to love it - it’s just an instantly catchy pop song which I never tire of hearing.
New single "Youngblood" has also become a favourite of mine although it took a few more listens to get there. It’s similar in style to my favourite E.M.D. song (and as they like to remind us, ‘Årets Låt 2008’) "Jennie Let Me Love You" which is another one of those timeless Swedish boy-pop songs which I never get sick of hearing.
The final new track "I’m No Romeo" is again similar to "Youngblood", only slightly more uptempo and something you may expect to hear on a Danny Saucedo solo album. It’s a little similar to "Radio", although more in a boyband-style.
E.M.D. of course stands for Erik, Mattias and Danny, and I still feel that Danny is the group’s ace card both vocally and image-wise. For me he is still a great popstar, and so far he is managing to run two pop careers in parallel (something which seems to come naturally to Swedish artists!) - his exciting solo career and his extremely popular second-life as a member of a boyband which initially many of us were a bit sceptical about. However E.M.D. are now a phenomenal success in their home country, at a time when boybands seem to be out of fashion (but of course Sweden is a country where pop music will never die, and we should always be thankful for this).
That first single "All For Love", a decent remake of what was initially (IMHO) an unspectacular song anyway, is also included on this album. In fact it may be better than the original, if only that we don’t have the three egos jostling for space on the song!
For the remainder of the album they come on like a chirpier version of Westlife on the standard boyband fare - "Run to You", "Alone", "I Lied". "We Can" manages to be saved by Danny’s strong vocals on the chorus, whilst "For You" includes the very bizarre line "For you I’d set my house on fire". Bit extreme eh lads?? :)
"Give Me Some Time" is better because it’s in my preferred uptempo style, "Look At You Now" is an 80s power-ballad meets Take That’s "The Garden", that’s the best way I can describe it.
Unfortunately the album ends on a low note - "She’s My California" is like Westlife-on-stools at their very worst, with the most laughable cliched lyrics.
On the whole, though, I’m more positive than negative about this deluxe edition of the album. A bit more of the "Jennie"-style tracks might have boosted its rating even higher.
Verdict: Good old boyband pop with some high points and some low points, but all in all a decent debut at the second attempt. 6 ½ out of 10.

German Charts Update

Not had one of these for a while so here goes. I've been out of touch with the European singles charts of late so forgive me if some of these songs are a bit unfamiliar to me :)

Something a little bit different at number one. Not Michael Jackson or Lady GaGa, but "Jungle Drum" by Emiliana Torrini. Is there a particular reason for this, or is it just one of those songs that's gone big anyway?

At no.2 is a song which I immediately liked on first hearing whilst on hols in Dusseldorf: "Stadt" by Cassandra Steen, featuring the very distinctive voice of Adel Tawil. Nice mid-paced song which doesn't go down the boring r'n'b route.

Elsewhere, there aren't too many surprises with the usual suspects - Lady GaGa, Black Eyed Peas, Cascada, Beyonce blah blah blah. And yes of course lots of Michael Jackson, the Jacko tunes of choice for German record buyers would appear to be "They Don't Care About Us", "Thriller", "Earth Song" and "Heal The World" (whereas the UK's favourite seems to be "Man In The Mirror", a song which was never a favourite of mine).

The good old tradition that is the latin-flavoured European summer hit lives on in "I Know You Want Me" by rapper Pitbull, with it's "one two three four" hookline. This song had completely passed me by but it's all over the European charts (including the UK top 40) so I suppose people are hearing it on holiday and buying it on their return home?

Speaking of Latin-flavoured pop, with a German twist, inevitably brings me to an old favourite of this blog: Marquess, the German band who sing in Spanish. "Arriba" is more of their good-time summery pop, although I think it's getting to the diminishing-returns stage with them now as this is nowhere as great as "Vayamos Companeros" for example.

Another song that's been around the German chart for a while is "Foot Of The Mountain" by A-ha. Their new album has been quite well-received by the critics. This single is very Keane-influenced IMHO, with its strong piano hooklines. Rather nice, if not earth-shattering.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Bring back the boys!

Yes, it's time for a rant!!

You may think that what I'm going to say is a bit strange, given that I'm female myself, but here goes....

I'm sick of female singers - bring back the boys!

If you've been listening to the radio over the last few months and looking at the chart rundown it can't have escaped your notice that the mainstream music scene at the moment is dominated by female acts of varying quality, and male singers can't get a look in.

Don't get me wrong - there are some new female acts I do like, most of them are of course European, and of the British contingent VV Brown and Little Boots to name two, but they haven't really had the massive airplay/overexposure of the usual suspects....

Category A: Landfill R'N'B. Start the conveyor belt.
Beyonce, Ciara, Shontelle, Rihanna, Keri Hilson, and too many others to mention.

Category B: Eye candy (a.k.a. why can't we have a girl band which looks normal/slightly overweight/not dressed like slappers for once?)
The Saturdays, Girls Aloud (the latter IMHO are now past their sell-by date, but at their peak they were great)

Category C: Post-Winehouse
Arguably the worst category of all: Duffy, and worst of all Pixie Lott. What would my mama do? Like, who gives a ****?

Category D: Ooh, aren't I quirky and don't the critics just love me? (a.k.a. this year's PJ Harvey)
Florence and the Machine. Previous winner still doing the rounds: Lily Allen. (Although credit to her for being opinionated, and "The Fear" is a very good record indeed)

Category E: Rock chicks (a.k.a. radio programmers think they're sooo edgy)
Pink (I liked her once, but I can't listen to her anymore cause she's played to death); Kelly Clarkson (my life would suck if I hear this any more...); Katy Perry.

Category F: 80s revivalists
La Roux = nails down a blackboard. We've heard it all before, and better....

You'll have noticed I've left this year's most-played act Lady GaGa off my list. Strange as it may seem, I like her in a bizarre way, even though I probably shouldn't. "Just Dance" and "Poker Face" are good pop records which I think will have some longevity. The fact that they are played 17 times a day, every day, and I never tire of them, must mean something.

Yet another female fronted act, Cascada, has topped the British charts for the last two weeks with "Evacuate The Dancefloor", which is a significant departure from their usual chavvy-dance into GaGa territory.

But it will all change tomorrow, as X Factor runners-up, boy band JLS, are tipped for no. 1 with "Beat Again". OK so it's more of the same landfill r'n'b which is polluting our singles charts and radio playlists, but I thought I'd mention the significance of this anyway. Firstly they're male. Secondly, they're a boy band, which is very significant indeed, since recent years have seen tough times for boy bands in the British charts, so this might just be the start of something!

What concerns me most is the lack of decent male popstars/talented male singer-songwriters who are being overlooked in this country. The only thing giving me hope is that pop music goes in cycles, so hopefully this year's thing will soon be last year's thing and we can bring the boys back to the airwaves and the charts once more.

Album Review: "Real Control" - Moneybrother

Last weekend I had my usual weekly ritual of watching TV4's "Sommarkrysset" on the internet. A rather enjoyable show it was too, with Moneybrother and E.M.D. among last week's musical guests. Suddenly it struck me that I had never posted my reviews of their most recent albums due to other commitments at the times of their release, so let's get this sorted right now :)

There's something reassuring about another release by Anders Wendin and his merry men, and even major line-up changes haven't changed his signature sound, which to these ears always sounded like a cross between Bruce Springsteen, The Clash and some other post-punk bands, whilst always retaining his own distinctive style.

First single "Born Under A Bad Sign" opens the album with its singalong chorus. You wouldn't expect a song with a title like "We Die Only Once (For Such A Long Time)" to be a cheery little reggae-flavoured foot-tapper, but amazingly it is.

"6 am" (the song he performed on last week's "Sommarkrysset" has a very disjointed 3-songs-in-1 approach, but despite this it seems to work and it has a strong chorus. "Never Ever (I've Been Kissed)" seems to channel Wendin's inner Roy Orbison, if the vocals are anything to go by. Anders Wendin mainly sticks with his usual croaky, gruff Springsteen-style vocals on most of the songs, but "Not That Old" is very surprising with its falsetto vocals, well as near to falsetto as you're likely to get from Mr Wendin!!

"Just Another Part Of Me That Breaks Down": Long song title - check. Stop-start musical-energy - check.

The pace slows down for a big ol' croaky ballad "Young Faithful Love" but then we're soon back at home in Moneybrother's high-speed territory. "Here Comes The Vain Again" has a driving beat whilst "Feel Like Hurting Somebody" seems to mix soul and punk and strangely enough reminds me of early Dexy's Midnight Runners (!)

There is nothing on here as classic as, say, "Reconsider Me" or "...Joanna" or even "Just Another Summer", but many of the tracks stand up to repeated listening as it doesn't take long for them to eat their way into your musical brain :)

Six years on from his debut album, Anders Wendin continues to make the music he wants to make, timeless good old fashioned rock n' roll, filled with excitement and urgency. He makes no concession to here-today-gone-tomorrow musical fashions or trends, and we should be eternally grateful to him for that alone. If "Real Control" is more of the same, then that's just fine by me.

Killjoys on the rampage part 3: Goodbye Teletext

I just found out today that Teletext, the on-screen text information service shown on ITV and Channel 4, is to end in January 2010.

And I'm rather gutted about this. Yes I know you can find out anything on the internet, but it's been a daily ritual for me, for many many years at EuropeCrazy HQ to visit my favourite teletext pages, from local news and sport to ITV's entertainment pages with the soaps round-up and viewers' 'talking points', to my favourite of all - Channel 4's music section "Planet Sound" with its news, reviews, interviews and 'The Void' letters page (ok I'm showing my age now....texts, then!).

And let's not forget Bamboozle with Bamber Boozler, the pixellated quizmaster ;)

They will all be much missed.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Le Tour: Cav's got the other sprinters green with envy

11 stages in and already the annual cycling soap opera that is the Tour de France has the usual mixture of excitement and intrigue going on....

Aside from the Alberto Contador vs Lance Armstrong mind-games over who's the boss in the Astana camp, there is something of major British interest going on. Yet you wouldn't know it from the TV schedules - the nightly Tour updates are only screened on ITV4 (satellite channel).

Fade to dream sequence......

...Imagine if Le Tour was screened on a mainstream terrestrial channel at peak time, the way it once was on Channel 4, many years ago? I'm sure the sport would win a whole new set of fans, and the French tourist board would be rubbing their hands at the thought of everyone wanting to visit France, because there is no better advert for that country than Le Tour....

But back to reality. Mark Cavendish (pictured above, photo courtesy of Getty Images/BBC Sport) excited us all last year with his stage wins and he is surpassing it this year with an even better performance and not only is he back in the green jersey, he has now equalled the British record for the number of TdF stage wins - 8 in total. You get the feeling that he's not finished with the stage wins yet. Cavendish is young, confident, arrogant and talented - and for me he is very reminiscent of one of his recent sprinting predecessors, Robbie McEwen, who was no stranger to a stage win or two not so long ago ;)

This year Cav has been battling with Norway's Thor Hushovd for the green jersey: it will be a thrilling battle all the way to the last day in Paris.

Another British rider doing extremely well is Bradley Wiggins, who is now at 5th in the overall classification. He initially came through the impressive British track cycling setup and won Olympic gold in 2004 and 2008, but his transition from the track to the top 10 in Le Tour has been quite phenomenal.
Italian cyclist Rinaldo Nocentini remains in the yellow jersey although his days wearing it will probably be numbered once the riders hit the Alpine stages of the race. Contador 2nd, Armstrong 3rd and Levi Leipheimer 4th: there is no question that Astana is certainly the strongest team this year, but which of their riders will triumph? I wouldn't want him to win it again, but it would be foolish to write off Armstrong as he is in a very strong position at this stage, and as past years have shown that when it comes to mind games, Lance Armstrong is always the man in the yellow jersey.

Friday, July 10, 2009

This weekend...

I won't be around much - doing a bit of socialising and even a day trip to the seaside (!) so reduced blogging although will try to do a couple of posts.

During my house clear-out I've been rummaging through some old tapes and unearthing some obscure musical gems as I go, so I'm discovering more material for my trips back in time on "Retro Saturday" - which is also taking a break this month and will be back at the beginning of August.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

On your bike

One of my favourite sporting events, the Tour de France, starts today with a very glamorous first stage in Monaco. It's a strange route this year though, as the north of France seems to have been totally overlooked!
Le Tour is the world's greatest cycle race although in recent years it's been dominated by controversy due to doping. Unfortunately we have to accept that this will always be around, and they're fighting a losing battle, but there are also "clean" cyclists who are working hard to improve the image of the event and I can only hope that they are the ones who triumph this year.
This year's Tour is overshadowed by the return of seven-times winner Lance Armstrong. Let me say that - putting aside his inspirational battle against cancer - I've never been a fan of this cyclist. I never liked his race tactics during his winning-years and I wasn't happy to hear about his comeback. Whether it's a successful one remains to be seen: his return will probably overshadow everything else and I can understand if many of the riders will feel a bit put out by the 'return of the king' anyway I'm hoping for a good, clean, competitive race by all involved.
The real star of the Tour, for me, is France itself. Even if you're not a cycling fan, watch the race and just fall in love with the beautiful scenery. Another bonus this year is that the Tour visits Barcelona, which should also be an amazing stage.
There's lots of good cycling stuff on the internet - check out cycling blogger Blazin' Saddles for example, for all the gossip at