Album: The Boy Who Knew Too Much
Mika is back and, from listening to his CD, this hip thrusting and music-loving boy is going to be around for a while. The Boy Who Knew Too Much is a rock opera about growing up with each song as an individual scene. ‘Pick Up Off The Floor’, a nod to the sensual bluesy piano pieces circa Ally McBeal times, is more moving and seductive than any broken-hearted Épopine or smoldering sexpot; the ideal song for getting it on or getting over it. However, there’s also some dead weight brought over from his first album, with songs like ‘I See You’ and ‘Toy Boy’ appearing to be combinations of Disney happy scores and narrative tales of repressed homosexuality.
In a nutshell: A medley of disco, pop, gentle rock and sexually charged melodies makes this diverse and catchy album accessible to new and old fans alike.
Stephanie Wallace Chavanne
Album: Greatest Hits
Cashing in on 90s nostalgia – and what harm? Aqua return with a Greatest Hits album. Included are all their biggest tracks: ‘Barbie Girl’, ‘Doctor Jones’, ‘My Oh My’, ‘Cartoon Heroes’ and, um… yes, that’s the reaction when it comes to reviewing their career. Two albums somehow miraculously result in a nineteen track retrospective.
Many of the songs are in fact tremendous fun, and on observation Aqua have a very credible lyric composition, much better than many other acts who keep their music solely rooted in Europop. It’s just how they sound which lets them down: it’s hard to balance songs about losing one’s mother (‘Turn Back Time’) with songs like ‘Halloween’ (about, surprisingly, Halloween). Flashes of great pop are coupled with excruciatingly embarrassing songs.
That said, ‘Turn Back Time’ was one of the most sophisticated pop songs of the 90s, and sounds as great now as it did back in those Barbie Girl days.
In a nutshell: A great gift to receive, but don’t dare buy it for yourself.
What can be said? It’s just not there anymore. Vitalic has lost what made the masses love him so much. His eclectic floor fillers, like ‘La Rock 1’ and ‘My Friend Dario’, have been consigned to the past to make room for the more mediocre tracks from Flashmob.
This second-rate attempt at a sequel to 2005’s erratically brilliant OK Cowboy is a failure on the DJ’s part. However, the album coaxes fans in with its first track. ‘See the Sea (Red)’ is awash with the sugarcoated obnoxiousness that made us love Vitalic in the first place. Do not be fooled though: this is subterfuge. Lies! The title track, ‘Flashmob’, is painfully repetitive. Imagine Dizzie Rascal’s ‘Bonkers’ without any lyrics and completely devoid of any cunning synth work from Van Helden.
In a nutshell: Flashmob lacks that enigmatic thrill one has come to expect from Pascal Arbez.
Artist: Basement Jaxx
The album name Scars is a reminder of Basement Jaxx’s earlier work: it moves away from the mainstream and focuses on finding the perfect club tune. The already well-known track ‘Raindrops’ is featured here and is a magnificent example of what the rest of the album has to offer: electronic beats with fresh lyrics. The album Scars includes a diverse and utterly strange range of collaborations and musical influences from the likes of Kelis (of ‘Milkshake’ fame) to Yoko Ono.
Although it does take the listener a couple of tries to get into the record, the patience is ultimately well rewarded, finally seducing the listener further and further into an electronic trance. Unfortunately, this album will not appeal to everyone, but for genuine Jaxx lovers who enjoyed their earlier stuff, this is irresistible.
In a nutshell: Scars, a raver’s best friend.
Artist: Nelly Furtado
Album: Mi Plan
There are two sides to this story. One tells the tale of a gifted songwriter who took the easy road for the price of her soul and is now attempting to win it back. The other interpretation suggests that Nelly Furtado – like J-Lo, Beyoncé and Christina before her – has released her first all-Spanish album simply to follow suit. Let’s not forget that Furtado is Portuguese, not Spanish, so a Spanish language album can’t be but a sell-out.
On first listen the latter argument seems the stronger. ‘Manos al Aire’ blends punchy chord progressions with typically poppy drum patterns to produce a catchy single. After three remarkably similar songs, however, it starts to sound more like an anthology of Spanish Eurovision entries than the new album from an artist who has worked with the likes of Timbaland.
In a nutshell: We get the where you’re coming from, Nelly, but not quite what we were hoping for…