New Music: Roy G and the Biv

My friend Brett is a music manager, with clients ranging from the relatively unknown to the very known--like Eisley in their prime. We often discuss new music, but rarely is the subject of conversation his band. Brett's newest hire is Roy G and the Biv. An electro-pop band with hints of both disco and new-school hip hop, Roy G is destined to become the next It Band for both hip Urban Outfitters and Hannah Montana fans alike. (If you fit into neither of those categories, don't fret--Roy G is pretty freaking likable no matter who you are.)

I can't give out the link to their as-of-yet-unreleased EP, but I can link you to their Myspace. You can listen to two of their best tracks here, "Nicotine" and "Socks On," nostalgic disco tracks with a modern use of sexual metaphor; in "Nicotine," the lead singer tells a worried lover, "I can be your nicotine/it's heaven when you're smokin' me/I might not be good for you/but together we can pull it through." The bouncy blips and boops bring Beck's remix album (Guerolito) to mind, along with the obvious comparisons, Chromeo and (in an alternate, far more violent universe) 3Oh!3.

The strongest track on the EP is"Jungle Fever," a track that feels simultaneously unaware of its inspirations yet commercially constructed, with nods to Pharell Williams, Timbaland, and vocals in vein of Justin Timberlake--the vocals really are that good. The strength of Roy G's production is best showcased here--if I had not been informed I was listening to an unmastered collection I would have thought it was produced in some studio off the Sunset Strip.

There's no doubt Roy G's going to hit radio--keep your eyes on "Runnin"--but until then, they have an exciting period of bubbling under to look forward to. While the EP is not perfect--"Think You Might" is a bit predictable and expected--I am looking forward to the LP.


Review: Solange, "Sol-Angel & The Hadley St. Dreams"

Back in June, I wrote a piece on
Solange Knowles and her summer-pie-delicious single "I Decided." In that distant period of time, there was still question over whether her then-forthcoming album would live up to the infectious first single--not to mention a competitive modern music market flooded with R&B songstresses like Amy Winehouse, Keyshia Cole, and Solange's own sister Beyonce, to name a few. Well, she did it.


(The album's not flawless, however, so let's just say it's an OM-.)

Sol-Angel & The Hadley St. Dreams is a uniquely crafted work of pop-soul that, with its bright vocals and tight production, more than warrants a few minutes outside Beyonce's bootylicious shadow. Solange has a husky Motown growl beneath her feminine vocals, duly fitting her odd physical appearance--almost pretty, but hard-edged and over the top (
This shouldn't be a surprise, really; Tina Knowles is her stylist. Cough, tranny, cough). The album follows suit. While most of the tracks are instantly likable, many of them venture into a personal world far too convoluted to be understood by a casual listener, and the weight of these few tracks bring down the album as a whole.

Solange recently had a baby (YouTube the Destiny's Child video for "Soldier" to see a preggy cameo) and was subsequently divorced from her husband of, like, a year or something. Doesn't
matter. Whatever she went through, it isn't mentioned on Sol-Angel. Nor is her child. Normally one would expect these life-altering events--falling in love, getting knocked up (er, married), having a child and getting a divorce--would somehow show up in her album. I mean, Amy Winehouse can't stop talking about her one love Blake, not to mention her drug addiction and depression. Airing dirty laundry is just part of the package. Granted, sometimes an artist goes to far (suicide references in Keyshia Cole's "Guess What" from The Way It Is), but if my analytical powers are still strong, the only issues Solange is dealing with involve a bit of a Beyonce complex (see image) and an obligatory "for my people" (a.k.a. anti-prejudice) anthem smack dab in the middle of the album. So, when I talk about her weighty tracks, they are really just fatty--and should have been trimmed in post-production. (Or is post-op more appropriate??)

Of these chubby tracks, "Valentine's Day" and "This Bird" are morbidly obese. "Bird" is one of two or three songs on the album with (very) obvious references to Beyonce, which are quite tired by the end of the six-minute track. Ironically, the slower tracks, which Solange simply can't carry with her raspy voice, remind me most of her older sister's first album. Dangerously In Love was more than a little overweight, what with "Signs" and "Gift from Virgo" and "Daddy" and "Speechless" and "The Closer I Get To You" and...you get the point.

The beginning of Sol-Angel is nearly perfect, however, so who cares about fatty thighs when the upper body is bangin'? Kicking things off slowly, "God Given Name" (produced by the Thievery Corporation!) is a strange choice for an album opener, but in the context of the entire set it makes sense; Solange wants the world to know she is different, and while I can't say I fully believe her, the effort is admirable, and "Name" is most certainly listenable. Solange has a great sense of humor, and despite the cryptic lyrics of the later tracks, we get a peek at who Solange really is when she laughs and assures the production team, "I know I sound high, but I promise you guys, I'm not high. I'm not high!"

"T.O.N.Y." has a 808 line that begins on an off note, which works beautifully when Solange's vocals kick in, leading her into the jumpy chorus and allowing her to bow out just in time. The production is understated and calm against the thumping bass line, a juxtaposition of musical influences (Jay-Z hip hop and old school soul) that would not work with another artist. Solange croons about her lost love, Tony, who isn't "just a regular guy," but is really "just the other night." Yeah, thanks Sol-Angel. I'm still trying to figure this one out: does T.O.N.Y. stand for The Other Night? Plus Y? Doesn't matter. "Dancing In the Dark" follows right behind the slightly-stronger "T.O.N.Y.," and while the track showcases the best instrumental work of the entire album--reminiscent of Winehouse's first album--it's the only upbeat track lacking a decent hook, and once again features Solange's confounding lyrics: "These leaves, I want them to fall/these leaves, I can't shake them off/I should be dancing in the dark..."


The strongest song on the album, the ridiculously beautiful, relentlessly bubbly "Would've Been the One," actually surpasses both of Solange's current singles ("Decided" and "Sandcastle Disco") in both production quality and vocal presentation. Solange has a fantastic upper range, and her songwriting abilities, limited vocal flourish, and the production by Riddick and Splash merge like perfectly chiseled gears in a jukebox. The production on "One" is modern while maintaining a retro sensibility, in vein of Christina Aguilera's "Ain't No Other Man."
Mid-chorus the beat doubles, ending in an ecstatic little blast of piano chords and tambourine shakes. It's an indelible, once-on-an-album kind of track, a song designed to lift spirits and inspire--you know, in the music-as-caffeine kind of way. Hey, coffee inspires me.

Of course there's the second single,
"Sandcastle Disco," where Solange tells a new boy she's a "cool low jane with a skip on her shoe"; with it's smoky cymbals and Solange's coy use of metaphor ("I'm nothing but a sandcastle/don't blow me away"), "Disco" is another shining moment on Sol-Angel.

The album's strangest moment comes in the form of
"Cosmic Journey." Unlike many professional critics, who see the track as superfluous and a bit too trippy for mainstream pop, I find "Cosmic" an essential song in the Sol-Angel catalog. Beautifully sung by Solange, "Cosmic" had the potential to be one of the more commercial tracks on the album, and if transitioning the song into a thumping dance track in the last quarter was intentional--not a self-indulgent creative choice--than I admire the producers and their ability to finely edit a song simply because it is music, and not a dollar sign.

When the fat is trimmed and the lyrics decrypted,
Sol-Angel & The Hadley St. Dreams is a fantastic re-debut by an artist that will undoubtedly become a major player in pop-soul for years to come. The challenge for Solange will be walking the fine line between saccharine pop and repellent, experimental R&B--but if "Sandcastle Disco," "Would've Been the One," and "T.O.N.Y." are any indication, she's got a better balance than we think.


First Day Back Soundtrack

My first day at the University of Texas began this morning in a rush for the bus at Far West Boulevard. I missed my second cup of coffee and even a decent goodbye--but so far, I'm feeling right at home.

Of course, a seventeen-minute bus ride means only one thing: plenty of time to listen to new music.

Spoon's "Don't You Evah" is a great pick-me-up, with "Nothing Fails" off Madonna's American Life a nice mantra for the upcoming semester. The lyrics are all about love and crap--not that love is crap--but the title itself is where I place my hope...

To get in the UT mindset, Andrew Bird's "Fake Palindromes" and Bjork's "Wanderlust" inject a little weird into my ride before stepping onto Guadelupe, where grown men quite literally ride around on bikes in red strappy thongs. That's underwear, not sandals.

Today is a great day for music, and that is because of only one album: Solange's Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams. Review forthcoming...


Mad Style: Old Music rocks, TIME Magazine editors think they know music

Old music has come back from the past to gang bang my iPod. "Old" meaning songs and artists who rose to fame before my musical maturation--my musical puberty, if you will. Naturally, Madonna is one of these artists, and that is not to say she isn't relevant today, something that is most certainly debatable, but her catalogue of hit songs goes back almost three decades. That's a lot to dig through.

I'm always writing about Moby and his ability to sense trends before they hit the airwaves, but no one read the musical forecast like Madonna in her prime. Madonna's "Vogue" is a track so future-conscious it's hard to believe it was written and produced before I was even one year old. As a writer, Madonna isn't given enough credit, but with the exception of "She's Not Me," Hard Candy doesn't really warrant any kind of writing praise. But her "old" stuff? It's brilliant. The most amazing thing about "Vogue" isn't the production, which arguably paved the way for hundreds of piano-driven dance tracks (ex. Moby's "Disco Lies"), but the cultural influence and style set forth by Madonna in the late eighties, with "Vogue" the primary vehicle of that influence. The track's echoed vocals and bridge--where Madonna famously name drops like, I don't know, every important actor and actress of the pre-Beatles era--could be the soundtrack to any Gap or American Apparel ad, or even remixed and rerecorded by Rihanna to top the charts. And I'm not suggesting this as some distant New York Times writer whose job requires them to make empty predictions--I'm dead serious, as both a fan of Rihanna and an active observer of pop radio. By observer, however, I mean that literally: if a doctor doesn't have to test every prescription drug he hands out, surely a music blogger doesn't have to listen to Kiss FM to understand what the pop audience craves.

And speaking of distant music writers, TIME magazine wrote an article in this week's issue about the "songs of the summer." "Disturbia" is number two on their list. Let us recap: Rihanna released "Disturbia" little over a month ago, where it received a moderate amount of buzz but never charted well because of "Take A Bow" essentially raping the charts multiple times (it hit No. 1 on Billboard twice, before Katy Perry's "I Kissed A Girl") Just last week "Disturbia" hit number one, which is surprising to me considering how aurally annoying the song really is. The point here being, how can TIME crown Rihanna's "Disturbia" the song of the summer when the track just hit radio three weeks ago? The answer is, they can't. Of course, the actual "queen" of the summer, if we're going to use that term, goes to Perry and "I Kissed A Girl." (Considering how many times I've written "Grill" in place of "Girl," I should just rewrite the song for her.) But of course the politically correct (LOLZ) TIME denounces "Kissed" because it offends both gays and straights, and "no one really listens to it." And that's why it was number one for almost two months. Thanks TIME, for another well-written article by your musical monkey men with their inability to admit how much they listen to "I Kissed A Girl" in their cage at the zoo.

I'm pretty sure I just wore myself out. Janet Jackson, Salt-N-Pepa ("Push It" may be the sexiest song ever produced), old Kylie Minogue, Boston, and even Smashmouth are beginning to tighten to gap in the race for my taste. Sadly, though, I still choose The New over The Good more often than not, simply because I'm addicted to the former--yes, I really am that shallow. But for now I'll enjoy "Vogue" and "La Isla Bonita" and "Smokin'" and the rest of my pre-pubic tracks while radio continues to devolve into a static blob of Timbaland beats and Akon hooks.


Mad Style: TOM's Wrap Boots

Snatch these up quick, females.


Music: David Archuleta should have won

So David Archuleta's first non-American Idol single was released last week, and it's a perfectly engineered piece of pop for a radio audience that all too often embraces music that "fits" instead of music that's simply "good"; a fault, certainly, but I'm not giving Archuleta enough credit. "Crush" is young and flouncy without the froth--Archuleta keeps his lyrics mature and his voice at a low pitch, which serves to separate him from the Chris Browns and Jonas Brothers of the pop stream. The title of the track is misleading; I can relate to the material on an individual level, and I'm no fifteen-year-old. David asks, "Am I crazy/or falling in love/could this be real?" What's best about the track is how unpredictable it is. I mean, everyone knew the AI producers would stick Archuleta with a Jordan Sparks/Miley Cyrus vibe to hit the preteen market, but I don't think anyone knew it would be this good. I highly recommend "Crush," even if its relevance is shorter-lived than Sparks'.

Demi Lovato released a single this Tuesday, which was kind of surprising considering her name first appeared in the pop lexicon a week ago. "Get Back" is another solid preteen pop track; therefore, it is shocking by default. She's got a fantastic voice, in the vein of a young Christina Aguilera, but the instrumentals are faceless and predictable. This is pop, though: It's not as if Fiona Apple ever hit radio because her pianist was famous among the coffeehouse elite of Seattle...

One wonders, though, if Cyrus hadn't made fun of Lovato and her even less important counterpart Selena Gonzalez (or Gomez, or something) in that YouTube video a few weeks back, would I have even given this track a look?

A few cool club tracks have come to my attention the past few weeks as well. "I am the Light" by Yuma and Jeni Fujita is a pulsing retro tune with a sound like Seamus Haji's remix of Moby's "I Love To Move In Here." The track outlives its welcome--I'm so not down with songs that last longer than five minutes--but before it gets corny ("I am aligned with the creative power of the universe!/I am peace, love!") it's a nice break from the crap storm iTunes has been raining on me lately with Mariah Carey remixes and seven versions of Goldfrapp's "A&E."

The Ian Carey Project published (Ian Carey didn't produce the track) a song on a club compilation called "Get Shaky," and it once again reinforces my worship of Moby and his ability to forge trends in the dance genre. (The fact that he's in his mid-thirties, a vegan Christian activist, a close friend of the Dalai Lama and still relevant has rendered him cutting-edge in his own right) The vocalist on "Shaky" is a nice fit for the mid-nineties inspired melodies, beat claps and all. The track is a great example of editing--if only more producers would hold the reigns on thumping beats and synths we'd have, well, a lot more Mobys.

I'm also feeling P!nk's "So What" (thanks to a friends' blog) and Uh Huh Her's "Not a Love Song," but that's for another time.


Two new design details

1. High-buttoned shirts. This is something I picked up by accident when buttoning up for work a few days ago. I think the loosely constructed , low-hanging shirt buttoning is tired and the era of tight coordination and a look of real thought--a la Marc Jacobs fall 2008--has begun. I can honestly say the high-buttoned idea is my own, which is not always the case.

2. Cutoffs. Please, this is ridiculous. I started wearing above-the-knee cutoff khakis (and chinos, and denims...) in spring of 2007. They just felt right. I still wear them on a daily basis, to add a hint of togetherness to sloppy v-necks and wrinkled linens. Now The Sartorialist, Men's Health, and Details can't stop writing about how cutoff's are the next big thing--come on. Anyone who was at Austin City Limits 2007 knows cutoffs, especially khakis, have been "in" for a year; with all this publicity, though, I have to start looking for something new...

Cutoffs need three things. a) A uniform "hemline" about three inches above the knee, b) a tight fit in the thigh and lower back--often when cut, trousers lose their contouring, and c) a nice pair of sunglasses!


Back from Outer Space

I had a fan-tiddly-ding-tastic week. I'll download later...

This was a great week for the kiddos. Taylor Swift, the Jonas Brothers, Chris Brown, and David Archuleta all have some killer material I will be discussing. Club had a substantial boost as well, with a few great new remixes and a nice compilation album soon to be discussed.

Just give me a little time to un-relax.


Silk Shorts: Appearing on Dustin's legs in Fall 2008

No, this is not me--but I promise you right now, this will be in two weeks. I'm assuming the shorts are really a pair of Ralph Lauren boxers or something, which should be cheap enough to rock before I get a steady income of "insuring prompt service."

Gold lame shoes are not my thing, but I think they work for this guy because of his tattoo. The hard-edged, black outlined design is a perfect contrast to the American Apparel-esque oxfords...

This only means one thing:

I have to get a tattoo!!

Photo by The Sartorialist.


Pineapple ExprYES!! lolollloloolllol

I just saw Pinapple Express, and I have to say, it is one of the funniest films I've ever seen. Compared to other Apatow flicks, the humorous moments in Express came less frequently, but when the jokes hit they hit hard. I would like to compare the gut-busting sequences to different degrees of weed, but I'm afraid my experience is limited to years of running at Town Lake and extra seed at an M.I.A. show. (Jules, I'm talking to you!) Suffice it to say I laughed harder three times during Express than any other comedy I've seen.

James Franco really carried the film, too. He was perfect--better than perfect. He defined his role so well I cannot imagine another actor playing his part. Seth Rogen is always fun to watch onscreen; he's your fun, wild uncle; he's your charming roomate who just can't get a break.

See it.


Madonna's tour outfits expensive, scary, and scary expensive

I am slowly but surely gaining interest in regards to Madonna's Sticky and Sweet Tour later this year. I bought tickets back in May, but only now are the details being leaked. A trio of Madonna outfits were posted on Coutorture this morning and I have to say, I'm extremely impressed. If there's one thing Madonna does well it's perfecting details; her wardrobe for the tour is no exception.

While the above look seems a bit ordinary--I've seen Madonna wear similiar outfits for dinner and a movie with Guy--it maintains a taste level that will help keep the Sticky and Sweet tour from lapsing into some kind of tranny circus act, a la Cher or Christina Aguilera. The bell sleeves are an especially nice touch. One of the dresses my model with be...er, modeling for my Disco shoot later this month has a light bell sleeve detail with a long cuff at the wrist. By the way, this dress is designed by the Givenchy house, which is a good or bad thing depending on whether you are a Steve McQueen fan or not. I happen to fall into the former.

I would, however, like to see how this dress would look if John Galliano, who ruled as king of the Givenchy empire in the nineties, had designed it. (The dress would most likely hit a few Gwen Stefani notes, rather than the dominatrix symphony this piece seems to speak.)


This what I'm freakin' talking about. This is why I'm interested in the S&S tour. (S&M tour?) Arianne Phillips, loooongtime costume designer for Madonna's tours, designed this pitch-perfect look for a clothing reveal at some point in the show. It's scary, powerful, and very old-lady-humping-Justin-Timberlake. 'Nuff said.


P.S. Am I the only one who's ready for some decent music to be released? The Faint released Faciinatiion yesterday but it's so blah I can't even think of actual words in the English language to describe it.


The IT Factor

Katy Perry has that indescribable, intangible gift of foresight when it comes to her style. I didn't buy into all the Perry fashionista hype back in the day (i.e. June), but I do now.

According to her latest official blog post, her new visual style reference will be Prince's own Apollonia.

Perry has officially joined the ranks of Sarah Jessica Parker, Carine Roitfeld, and Grace Jones.

"Fresh," indeed.

Mad Style: Dubai

Dubai, of the United Arab Emirates, is the future of upper class living. Any Architectual Digest could tell you that, though. With towers like the Burj Dubai (below) being built twice as high as the Empire State Building, there's no doubt Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the President and CEO of Dubai (yes, CEO) likes to flaunt his ego. Rather than sportscars or beautiful women, two things Maktoum already posesses, Maktoum shows off with skyscrapers and man-made islands. Who says a man can't play god?

Dubai has mad style because of how quickly it is becoming the next great World City. London, New York, Paris, Houston (ugh), we know. But Dubai? It represents something beautiful in a part of the world where beauty is very much in the eye of the beholder. As I understand it, the United Arab Emirates is centered between southern Asia and Iran, two impoverished areas in need of a little capitalism. (Or, perhaps there's a bit too much capitalism, leading to exploitation--but either way, I wanna be rich so I can own part of The Palm!)

Look at how quickly the city has progressed. In fact, while the image on the right shows a fourteen-year difference, the majority of Dubai's business (and pleasure) sector has only flourished since 2000. By 2015, Dubai will have the tallest buildings in the world, the most expensive hotels and clubs, the most expensive real estate in the entire world, and the most forward-thinking architecture and design of the 21st century. (I should just make that a tradition now, inserting "21st century" into my posts as much as possible.)

What I love, though, is that Maktoum does not tax a single citizen of Dubai. In fact, the prices of houses on The World or The Palm, two artificial island developments, ranging from $1-5 million, are kind of a steal. With no taxes at all--not to mention free healthcare and education--that cool $1 million will pay itself off within a decade.

So, basically, what I'm saying is I'm moving to Dubai. Granted, it's still ruled by a monarchy/theocracy/dangerous possibly terrorist-affiliated regime, but if the beaches are clean...

Here's a prediction: By 2020, the Summer Olympics WILL be hosted in Dubai. Er, I take that back--the Winter Olympics will be hosted in Dubai. I think I forgot to mention that there are numerous skii resorts in Dubai. In the middle of a desert. Modeled after the French Alps.



Mad Style: Nature

There's something unspeakably beautiful about Texas wilderness. It's unique to central Texas, and tends to put everything in perspective. How does that work?