Martin Solveig & Dragonette

Martin Solveig [b. 1976; real name, Martin Picandet], a native of France, has created a career that combines the elements of producing, DJ’ing and performing quite unlike nearly anyone else in today’s world of popular music.  Solveig’s historical influences included Prince, Lenny Kravitz and Stevie Wonder—a decidedly eclectic group—and the non-conformity of his taste has clearly increased his popular appeal.  At the age of 21 he started his own record label, Mixture Stereophinic, where the first track his company released (“Heart of Africa”) sold ten thousand copies.

Solveig has since earned worldwide acclaim for the quality and technical merits of his music videos.  He also hosts a weekly radio show from Paris, titled C’est la vie, which is available everywhere online—both live and as a podcast.

His success only continued to skyrocket after joining up with Dragonette [ca. 2005], an electro-pop trio from Canada currently comprised of Martina Sorbara (songwriter, vocals), Dan Kurtz (producer, bassist), and Joel Stouffer (drummer).  The group signed a recording contract in 2005 with Mercury Records, shortly after the release of their self-titled EP.  That deal caused them to relocate to London, and they toured extensively throughout the U.K. as well as back home in Canada.  Their success in clubs and on stage did not translate to significant airplay, however, as several songs struggled to make it into the top 100 on the U.K. Singles Chart.  Nonetheless, they enjoyed a Juno nomination in 2008 for Best New Group.

Dragonette had partnered with several house DJs in the past, but their pairing with Martin Solveig is what gave them a tremendous boost in popularity.  Their greatest collaboration to date has been on the song, “Hello” [2010], which also launched an incredibly well received music video produced, naturally, by Solveig.  The song literally went on to significant commercial success, as South Africa’s landline provider, Telkom, selected the tune as background music for TV ads that announced the launch of their wireless division.  On a personal note, in 2009 Solveig was named a Chevalier of Arts & Letters for his contribution to the arts, one of the highest accolades a French citizen can receive.

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Yolanda Be Cool and DCUP

Yolanda Be Cool and DCUP [ca. 2009] is a collaborative recording and performing effort between a band from Australia—comprised of Sylvester Martinez and Johnson Peterson—and an Australian combo-DJ / remixer / producer by the name of Duncan MacLennan (a.k.a., DCUP).  The trio’s initial project involved the single, “Afro Nuts” [2009], which the duo performed and DCUP remixed.  However, it was their second release, “We No Speak Americano” [2010] that launched their international career.  This song, a product of Australia’s indie label Sweat It Out, made the Top 40 charts in the U.S. and Canada—as well as receiving maximum airplay in Europe and Latin America plus, of course, Australia—and had reportedly sold more than a million downloads in the U.S. alone by the spring of 2011.

The group’s name was lifted from a throwaway line in the Quentin Tarantino film, Pulp Fiction [1994], where the character played by Samuel L. Jackson recites the phrase, “Yolanda, be cool!” during one of the more dramatic moments in the movie.

“We No Speak Americano” is best described as “electro-swing.”  It samples extensively from a 1956 Italian hit whose title translates to “You Pretend to Be an American,” which is sung in the Neapolitan dialect by Renato Carosone [1920–2001], one of the most popular Italian recording artists of the post-WWII era.  The success of their peppy dance remix was a major factor in the group’s extensive 2011 tour schedule, which put them on the road almost continuously from March through November.  In addition to nine appearances in Australia and another seven in the U.S., Yolanda Be Cool performed in such far-flung locations as Salvador [Brazil], Ibiza [Spain], Kuala Lumpur [Malaysia], and Lausanne [Switzerland].

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Noah and the Whale

Noah and the Whale is an indie folk band from Twickenham, London, England, formed in 2006. The group consist of Charle Fink (vocals/guitar/ukelele), Tom Hobden (fiddle/keys), Matt “Urby Whale” Owens (bass guitar), Fred Abbott (guitar/ keys), and Michael Petulla (drums).  Their sound is often compared to that of Neutral Milk Hotel and Bonnie “Prince” Billy , no doubt two of the bands biggest influences. The band cites folk and punk as their biggest influences. The band are also avowed fans of the film The Squid and The Whale (which was the partial inspiration for the band’s name), and film director Wes Anderson.

In 2008, after a few singles, ther band released their debut album, Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down. It went to #5 on the British Album Charts and eanred many great reviews. Up until the release of the album, the band was joined by Laura Marling as a back-up vocalist, but since she has fledging solo career, she had to leave the band shortly after the release of Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down.

Hurt but undaunted, the band began work on their second album in 2009 with an entirely different approach. Their second album, the First Days of Spring, does not contain any female back-up vocals, a response to Marling’s departure from the band. The album was released in late August 2009, a little over a year since the release of their debut album. It further cemented the band’s career, selling well and earning positive reviews.

Their most recent album, Last Night on Earth, was released in March 2011, selling well due to the strength of the single “L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.” which peaked at #14 on the UK Singles Charts. The album propelled to the UK Top Ten, and is even experiencing modest chart success in the US, peaking at #135. The album has gone Gold in the UK.

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Alexandra Stan

Alexandra Stan is currently the most successful solo artist in her native Romania. Born on 10 June, 1989, shortly before the overthrow of Nicolae Ceausescu, she studied music at the Traian Lyceum in her hometown of Constanta, and is currently pursuing her education at the Faculty of Management Andrei Saguna. She is pursuing a degree in International Relations and Law.

In the meantime, she is also actively pursuing a career in music. In 2009, she released her first single “Lollipop,” which sampled “Fergilicious” by Fergie, Her second single, “Mr. Saxobeat,” topped the charts in her native Romania, and has made headway in other parts of Europe, even reaching #6 in France. Her first album was released worldwide in September on Ultra Records, entitled Saxobeats, with “Mr. Saxobeat” going platinum in Italy and her YouTube videos earning millions of views. It is due to be released in the US at the end of October and has yet to have a release date in the United Kingdom. “Mr. Saxobeat” was also the first Romanian language single to top the singles chart in Germany since 2004’s “Dragostea din tei” by Moldovan act O-Zone.

There is also another single released from the record, entitled “Get Back (ASAP),” which is making the rounds on the charts internationally. It has peaked at #4 in her native Romania, and has charted in other countries, such as France (where it peaked at #18), Slovakia, Czech Republic and Belgium. The single has yet to be released in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

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So This Is The New Year….

The Mayans are predicting that 2012 is going to be the end of the world. I really hope this is not true. I hope that it’ll be a new beginning for me and for the world in many different ways. I plan to accomplish a lot, and I have some things I hope come into fruition.

-I hope to keep blogging about music

-I hope to write music and start a music project this year

-I hope to start that Album Review website I’ve been saying I’m gonna do since 10 years ago but never got to.

-I hope 2012 is a better year for music

-I hope Mission of Burma releases a good album this year. Their last one (2009′s The Sound The Speed The Light) disappointed me.

-I hope Radiohead releases a better album this year (or soon) than The King of Limbs; It really was their worst album since Pablo Honey

-I hope Lady Gaga goes away

-I hope Kevin Shields gets off his lazy ass and finishes the new My Bloody Valentine

-I hope I get to go to some awesome shows this year

-I hope the second season of Portlandia is as great as the first one

-I hope Soundgarden’s new album is worth the wait. Their most recent tour certainly was.

-I hope to find happiness inside myself this year

-I hope I don’t lose focus

-I hope none of the guys in the GOP field become president

-I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams

-I hope…

POSTSCRIPT:

…And another great thing about 2011 was the Iraq War ending. Until the next war…

This Heat – “Cenotaph”

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Songs That Got Me Through 2011

Not gonna lie, this year for the most part sucked. Aside from a week in Seattle that changed my life forever, the other 51 weeks were mostly shit. And to top it off, 2 days before New Years, my iPod got stolen, with me starting off 2012 going into debt, when I’m trying to get out of debt, to get a new one. A nice way to polish off 2011. And after a decent holiday season too.

I did discover some great music though. And it got me through those hard times. Here are 5 of the songs that helped me survive 2011.

1. Christian Death – “Cavity (First Communion)”

Early 80s death rock. Bauhaus meets LA trash. The opening track to their 1982 album, Only Theatre of Pain, contains some bitchin’ guitar lines and the distressed vocals of Rozz Williams, got me through a shitty February. Emo kids, eat your heart out!

#2. The Dismemberment Plan – “The City”

A song about not feeling right in the particular city you live in, in this song’s case Washington D.C. Few lyrics have resonated with me as much as “This is where I live/I’ve never felt less than home.” Here’s hoping me moving cross-country will change that sentiment.

#3. Barfly – “DSM IV”

Support your local scene!

A rousing doom metal track from my favorite defunct local band (New Haven, CT representin’!) Barfly. My former band played a show with them (the same night as this video was taken), and made friends with them. They put out a 4 song EP, entitled Ambition Handicapped By Laziness, which was awesome, and “DSM IV” was the highlight for me. Two of the band members are in a hardcore band called Heavy Breath, which is also great, and the drummer moved to Chicago and has a whole shitload of music projects going.

#4. Chavez – “You Faded”

Underrated 90s Chicago band that I got into this year. My favorite song by them. Aggressive yet emotive as good alternative/indie should be! A good song to listen to when you’re pissed and on the road.

#5. Boris – “Feedbacker”

2010/2011 was the year I really got into drone/doom metal: Earth, Sunn O))), Boris, Sleep, etc. Boris, particularly, struck a major chord with me because a lot of their music just flows the way I need it to, in my opinion. Feedbacker is my favorite Boris record. Definitely a good record to drift off to when you’re feeling down.

“Feedbacker Part 2″

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