Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cyber Punk, Synths and Arhthur's Day: Bressie Flies Solo

Whichever way you slice it, Mullingar's Niall Breslin i.e. newly solo pop hunk Bressie, is a busy man. As the front-man of The Blizzards he helped blaze a pop-rock trail through the charts, student unions and numerous live venues across Ireland. The group disbanded for a career break at the end of 2009 while Bressie headed to London to work as a songwriter for hire and to beef up his production and song-writing skills.

Photo courtesy of Ronan Healy

After an extended break from the public eye he returned in May with Can't Stay Young Forever. An 80's inspired Snow Patrol-y ode to the good times it's become a slow burning radio hit, notching up some serious airplay miles. While The Blizzards where a formidable live presence, constantly on the road, Bressie's live shows have been noticeably fewer. A sold out Whelan's gig, an Oxegen slot and a place on the bill at the recent Corona's Marlay Park have been well recieved but his next high-profile slot is as part of this year's Arthur's Day celebrations (a nationwide tour follows). 

The now-annual event brings a veritable feast of domestic and international acts to Ireland. The celebrations take place on the 22nd of September and the line up is undeniably impressive. Scissor Sisters, Stereophonics, Paloma Faith and Calvin Harris will be visiting Irish shores while local acts Cashier No. 9, Ash, Royseven and Ryan Sheridan join Bressie in flying their Irish flag while people countrywide sup on their pints.

Bressie's album, Colourblind Stereo is due 16th of September ahead of a nationwide tour and  before that is second single Good Intentions. At the launch of Arhthur's Day last week in Whelans, I caught a few minutes with Mr Breslin to get the lowdown on the new single, his new sound and his Arthur's Day memories.

Although Bressie admits that the second single uses "the same sound" as the previous he points out that lyrical content itself is quite different. "It came from literally an array of girls who I kept meeting" he begins, that "refused to believe that all men weren’t bastards." Becoming more passionate he continues "Just because some lads are bastards doesn’t mean they all are." The song, Bressie says sets out to "tell this particular girl who’s been battered her whole life emotionally, that not all men are like that and some men do have good intentions". He says that "it's not really a love song" but that it has "an uplifting positive approach". You can watch him perform it live below:

Speaking about the album itself Bressie says that it's takes it's cues from 80s pop such as Tears For Fears and Duran Duran that in his words is "really well produced" but also admits that "I like the cheesy Whitesnake stuff and the power ballad stuff." Again, he warms up joking that if "Here I Go Again comes on and you’re not smiling forget about it, just go live in Tasmania under a tree or something".

Although Bressie prides himself on his pop roots he has found himself taking on a slightly more serious edge with some of the subject matter on the new album. Pointing out that some of the song are "cyber punk" he notes that one track Animal has because a live favourit. He reckons it's because it touches on the the "things that have happened in the last 2 years" and "how badly we were treated it" and "how we’re gonna come back". 

Despite his brooding-hunk status Bressie cuts a quiet but confident figure as his obvious passion for his new project bubbles to the surface. As we wrap up he discusses his memories of the first Arthur's Day, when The Blizzards followed Dizzee Rascal which he points out shows you how "it's so eclectic". This time around he says he's most excited about catching Scissors Sisters and Ed Sheerhan. His nationwide tour kicks off after Arthur's Day and with Bressie saying "the live show means the world to me", it's sure to be a treat for fans of The Blizzards and Bressie himself. 

For more on Bressie visit his website. Colourblind Stereo is released on the 16th of September, Good Intentions is released on the 9th of September. Can't Stay Young Forever is out now. For more on Arthur's Day click here. Check out Sony Music Ireland on Facebook.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda: Pop Near Misses Vol. 01

More than anywhere else, pop music is ruled by the weird and wonderful world of the single. Having a hit single is the lifeblood of many a chart act and still a vital tool for an artist to capture any kind of audience. You only have to look at how the likes of Katy Perry can sell 2.5 million downloads per single in the US but only 1.5 m of the album those singles come from to see that the single wields more power than ever.

One of the frustrating things about being a pop fan is when you pick up an album by an artist that has more than it's share of singles or the very least that one song you just know would be a huge smash. Sometimes it's a song almost too good for the artist in question, sometimes it's one that never makes it to the charts due to the album flopping. Whatever the reason there are many a song that should have, could have, would have been huge. Here I'm starting what I hope can be a regular look at a handful of tunes that never quite got the glory they deserved. From singles that flopped to album tracks that never got a release at all, here is a chance to give a few songs a their moment in the sun.

(1) Breathe On Me - Britney Spears

image via Coverlandia
Britney's 2003 release In The Zone was an attempt by Team Britney to have the starlet grow up, growling her way through a mish mashed of sexy club cuts, R&B bangers and the odd ballad. In The Zone contains some of Britney's finest moments including Toxic and Everytime and some of her worst (The Hook Up was Britney's first and only entry into the cod reggae genre thankfully). There were a handful of gems scattered throughout the album that would have marked an interesting chocie single wise (Showdown, Early Mornin') but the pick of bunch is Breathe On Me. An icy Kylie style synth riff, a trademark breathy-y Britney vocal and a slinky chorus mash together for one of the most mature and interesting tune in Spear's back catalogue. Still sounding fresh today, in the current David Guetta dance friendly radio landscape a song like Breathe On Me would still do good business. Hands down one of Britney's best tunes.

(2) Fire Bomb - Rihanna

Image via Coverlandia
Rihanna's Rated R was considered something of a commerical misfire despite being her best album yet. Rude Boy was the obvious smash hit of the set and a signifier for where RiRi would end up with her next release. The moody textures of Rated R yielded a few chart misfires (Rockstar 101, Te Amo) but it's hard to fathom why somebody at her label didn't give Fire Bomb a shot at chart glory. A huge stadium ready chorus, a yearning vocal from Rihanna and plenty of music video friendly imagery (just imagine the girls go on the road video that could have been. Sigh) make this pop-rock number one that could have shown another side to Rihanna's chart personality.

(3) Janet Jackson - Enjoy

The last decade has not been kind to the sales of former chart juggernaut Janet Jackson. I caught her recent live show in Dublin and was suitably blown away by the presence and energy Janet still exudes. Her hit-making powers may have diminished somewhat but Janet has had plenty of strong material over the last decade but post-Superbowl has found it hard to connect with radio programmers and a wider audience.

2008's Feedback almost turned the tide, managing a decent performance Stateside but never quite did the big business many expected it would. Enjoy, a cut from her underrated 20 Y.O. set, is in many ways the biggest missed opportunity of the bunch. A chirpy, euphoric slice of soul pop it's got an uplifting, cheery quality last seen in her late 90s megahit Together Again and a sleek groove that recalls her heyday. Enjoy would have been the perfect antidote to how Janet has been ignored by radio playlisters were it not for her then label Virgin getting cold feet with how the 20 Y.O. project had performed. It's a shame, Enjoy would have sounded great on advertisments, blaring out of radios and reswizzed for the clubs. As it stands it falls into a pile of lost classics provided by Miss Janet.

There are many many more tunes in this vein to think about so we'll hopefully look at some more soon. If you have some ideas feel free to suggest below.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Your Handy Guide to Britney's Leaked Gimme More Vid

At the height of her mid-life meltdown Britney Spears gave us the near-perfect pop masterpiece album, Blackout. It was of course preceded by the fantastic Gimme More, one of Britney's best singles. A swirling cocktail of a throbby post Timbaland electro-R&B beat and the air of a popstar gone bad it never really had the visuals to back it up. Now we have Britney performing it as part of her current tour but back in 2007 all we had was that ropey VMA performance and the oft delayed and ultimately disappointing music video.

Despite a lengthy shoot and promises of a dark, funeral orientated concept fans were given a video of Britney whirling around a pole with two friends while some random guy and Britney in a blonde wig with friends watched on. It made little sense but was said to be the record label's attempts to cover over the cracks in Britney's life, despite reports of a scene involving a rapper, Britney facing off her blonde self and an extended funeral sequence.

Now a leaked cut of the original video has surfaced. It's a little more conceptual than the version we're used to but not much. There's footage of Britney walking the streets, sitting in bed and plenty of sloppy, out-of-it dancing to be had. It's a mess of badly cut footage, a clearly not all there popstar and little or no plot. But it's oddly hypnotic and an eerie reminder of how lost Britney looked at one point.

What else do you need to know? Well this gif about sums up how "lucid" Britney probably was for the whole thing. She seems to be picking lint out of the air here. Or talking to herself. Who knows?

britney spears,gimme more leak,gimme more video,gimme more,music video,britney,blackout,hot mess

Other important visual "motifs" in this new cut:

1: Just-out-of-bed-ney
2: Funeral Chic Britney
3: Lots of extra "dance" footage of Brit & pals

4: Bald-patch-ney

There you have it, the Britney fan holy grail is now with us. It works on a car crash "laugh until you cry" level. But it's also a hypnotic slice of what could have been, were Britney really coherent enough to command this dark (i.e slutty) and challenging (i.e. slutty) a vision throughout the whole Blackout campaign.

And again, at least there's this to enjoy:

britney spears,gimme more leak,gimme more video,gimme more,music video,britney,blackout,hot mess

Watch it in full here: 


Friday, July 15, 2011

Pop Boys Do Pop Things: Calvin Harris, Will Young, The Drums and.. Olly Murs?

I don't know how many of you went festivaling (yes, it's a word. ahem) recently but I was down at Oxegen DJing multiple times last weekend. I saw only a few bands but given that one of them was surprisingly good Pretty Reckless and the other was Amanda Brunker and Friends it truly was a culturally enriching weekend. I didn't see Beyonce because I was DJing at the time so let's NOT TALK ABOUT THAT PLEASE.

It was a ball but it has completely knocked me for six, I'm only feeling normal now. The upside was having lots of pop treats to catch up on over the last week or so.

While I was "away" lots of male pop types did interesting pop things mainly through the medium of giving us new tunes to listen to. Here are my very succinct and journalistic comments on them:

(1) Calvin Harris has just given us new single Feel So Close. It's a bit dance-y as is Calvin's wont but is not the same sort of dance-y as previous efforts. It's a dance tune that is a bit sad and a bit slow but also fast because it is a dance tune. I really like it and the video is suitably lovely. I was a bit unimpressed with a label press release dubbing it an "emotional rollercoaster" but I felt like a proper cry watching it so be warned.  But overall I would give Calvin 4 slow but fast but slow dance tunes out of five for this one. Well done Calvin. Take the rest of the night off and have a takeaway.

(2) Will Young has come along with his newie Jealousy. We haven't heard from Will much lately as he has been busy doing acting type things and probably clearing out his Sky + box (do you reckon he watches Made In Chelsea?) but now he is back with a sad sack but amazing synth-ish pop number about ... deep stuff. It's V.G. and apparently there are lots more synth delights on the way. I mean if you like Will Young and you like synths this'll be right up your Will Young Synth Street. There is an album coming that is produced by Richard X which in itself is EXCITING news.

(3) The Drums have also popped up with a new number called Money. It sounds like all their other songs but not in a bad way and I would give it 4 Songs that Sound like Your Other Songs out of 5. In other words, I quite enjoyed it. I never understood why The Drums didn't become properly properly huge as they are the perfect jangly indie band with a pop undercurrent but perhaps their new stuff will send them into chart orbit (yes, I just wrote that phrase. Yes, I do feel an appropriate level of shame about it)

(4) Olly Murs has shocked us all with a song that is not stomach-churningly dreadful. Heart Skips A Beat slaps all kind of vogue-ish UK dance music trends together and works way better than it should. It also helps that Rizzle Kicks, the painfully cool but also brilliant rap duo, are on hand to keep things moving along. The song is a little corker and could be the first proper "everybody enjoys this not just X Factor fans" crossover tune in his arsenal. As long as we ignore the video which would be perfectly good if it had less Olly Murs mugging throughout. WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO RUIN YOUR OWN VIDEO OLLY? WHY?

That is your pop boy lot for now. I would like to thank all the pop boys involved for their time and tunes. Calvin Harris and Will Young in particular have made me a bit of an emotional wreck as I type this in a bustling (kind of) Dublin cafe. And if that's not the mark of a good pop tune, then I don't know what it is.