BlackBook Tracks #23: Teenage Kicks

This week’s playlist is dedicated to being a teenager, which is something that people seem to be universally nostalgic for despite the fact that we can all agree that a lot of those years sucked. Does it have something to do with missing when you didn’t have any real responsibilities? Whatever. Shout out to anyone who knew me in high school who’s still friends with me now, because all the awkward stuff that happens to me currently doesn’t even compare to how bad it was back then.

Veronica Falls – “Teenage”

This track inspired this week’s theme. It’s the first single from the London band’s forthcoming album Waiting For Something To Happen, promising more wistful lo-fi guitar pop.

Broken Social Scene – “Anthems For A Seventeen-Year-Old Girl”

This is never going to get old, right? No, no it’s not.

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – “A Teenager In Love”

Most of the Pains Of Being Pure At Heart’s songs sound sort of inherently nostalgic, but “A Teenager In Love” really nails it. If only more bands had been mixing twee and shoegaze when I was in high school, it would have made lying facedown on my bedroom floor way more special.

College – “Teenage Color”

This track from French electronic producer David Grellier may be carried by a carefree synth hook, but there’s still the constant reminder that one day, you must grow up.

Marina and the Diamonds – “Teen Idle”

This ballad from the Welsh chanteuse is a look back on the bygone years that nails all those conflicting feelings. Feelings! Those sucked, didn’t they?

The Virgins – “Teen Lovers”

Remember when fashionably sleazy Gossip Girl/Nylon magazine rock was sort of its own micro-genre? It was pretty alright while it lasted, though.

TEEN – “Sleep Is Noise”

The lo-fi synth-pop outfit delivers reverb-laden vocals over a rattling beat. It’s comfortably fuzzy while staying firmly grounded.

T.Rex – “Teenage Dream”

Marc Bolan’s glam rock sprawl recalls the idealism of adolescence. We’ve all been there.

Girls Aloud – “Teenage Dirtbag”

A Wheatus cover done by British pop stars is a thing that happened a while ago. I don’t care if you care that it exists.

The Undertones – “Teenage Kicks”

I think it’s some sort of law in the English-speaking music world that if this punk classic doesn’t do anything for you, you’re a worthless shell of a human being.

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BlackBook Tracks #14: It’s Literally The Last Day Of Summer

Hey y’all, it’s literally the last day of summer! I, for one, am not particularly excited about the changing of the seasons, given that I am from California and believe that anything under 50 degrees is the arctic. I’m already annoyed by having to carry a sweater around, and I will even rebel against that bastion of autumnal culture, the pumpkin spice latte. One thing I have going for me is that I don’t own any white pants to feel sad about not wearing, so that’s something, at least. In mourning, here’s a selection of what comes up when you search for “summer” in my music library.



Girls Aloud – “Long Hot Summer”

Fact: unabashedly manufactured pop music sounds better during the summertime. British girl group Girls Aloud transcend any idea of there being guilt in their listening pleasure.


The Drums – “Let’s Go Surfing”

Has indie rock ever been so fixated on the beach as it has for the past few years? It’s a justifiable obsession, whether you grew up landlocked or not. Here’s one of the definitive tracks of the trend.


Eternal Summers – “Millions”

Look at what this band is called. Including them is obligatory.


Vacationer – “Summer End”

Lush, smartly produced indie pop with a smack of regret really just hits the spot today.


Coconut Records – “The Summer”

You probably didn’t need reminding that Jason Schwartzman is a perfect human, but here you go.


Animal Collective – “Summertime Clothes”

If you, like many other people on the internet, were disappointed with Animal Collective’s offerings on Centipede Hz, it’s always a good time to revisit Merriweather Post Pavilion. This song also serves as a reminder of how I’m finding it hard to let go of this aggressively tacky shirt with a pattern of palm trees on it.


Belle & Sebastian – “A Summer Wasting”

Granted, it’s also pretty easy to spend an autumn wasting, except now we’ll all be wearing sweaters and chugging pumpkin spice lattes.


Summer Camp – “Summer Camp”

I never went to a real summer camp, but maybe you did! Regardless, I think I still like the nostalgic British duo enough to make up for it.


Soso – “I Never Thought You’d Come In Summer”

Swedish chanteuse Soso combines hauntingly catchy production with the kind of vocal delivery that just oozes star power.


Kreayshawn – “Summertime” (ft. V-Nasty)

This is one of the more bizarre offerings on Kreayshawn’s much-delayed debut album, and I say that as someone who actually sort of enjoyed hearing the constant ads for “Gucci Gucci” on Spotify last year. I’m sorry.

BlackBook Tracks #7: Let’s All Care About Sports More Than We Normally Do

So, how about those Olympics? That’s a thing that’s happening, right? London’s being taken over by tourists and athletes and said athletes’ wild sex. Considering that I spend the majority of my time sitting in front of a computer, I don’t really know that much about sports, but here are some tenuously thematic tracks.

Hot Chip – “Wrestlers”
Not only are Hot Chip one of the best bands, their music will be used during the Olympics to score one of the best sports: ping-pong.

Girls Aloud – “Swinging London Town”
Sure, the Spice Girls are reuniting for the Olympics, but here’s something from another girl group on hiatus for you. Girls Aloud never grabbed much of an audience outside of the UK, but it’s never too late to discover pop perfection.

Surfer Blood – “Swim”
It feels like a while since we’ve heard from Florida rockers Surfer Blood, whose debut album Astrocoast was a favorite from 2010. Go ahead and listen to this while reading internet comments about the number of bags that need to be put over Michael Phelps’s head or something.

Jonquil – “Run”
Things I would rather do than actually go running: listen to this song from the perennially pleasant Oxford band Jonquil, featured on their recent LP Point of Go.

Tennis – “Petition”
I played tennis as a kid because my mom said I would like it and Michael Chang was a rare celebrity role model for Asian-Americans during the 90s. I wasn’t very good at it, so now the closest I get is listening to the retro-pop duo called Tennis. This is a highlight from their latest album Young And Old.

The Jam – “London Traffic”
So apparently, a huge influx of people entering a city makes traffic really bad. Here is a song entitled “London Traffic” from 1977, truly a message for the ages.

The Specials – “Too Much Too Young”
The closing ceremonies of the Olympics are set to showcase various artists from Britain’s proud musical history, including ska legends the Specials.

New Order – “Age of Consent”
Not only are New Order also performing at the closing ceremonies, it’s scientifically proven (not really) that “Age of Consent” is one of the best summer songs ever.

Blur – “For Tomorrow”
A significant portion of America is going to have to find out that Blur made more than “that woohoo song” when they headline the closing ceremonies. Here is my favorite Blur song, from 1993’s Modern Life Is Rubbish.

The Ruby Suns – “Olympics On Pot”
It’s almost guaranteed that someone from Vice is going to go to the Olympics on acid, but the title of this song offers a back-up idea.

Harry and the Potters – “Voldemort Can’t Stop The Rock”
The opening ceremonies of the Olympics are apparently set to include a bunch of Mary Poppinses fighting a giant Voldemort. Because there is no reason why they shouldn’t.

Pop Princess Annie’s Triumphant Return

With pop enjoying a sparkly renaissance worldwide this year, perhaps the series of delays prolonging pop princess Annie’s latest record, Don’t Stop, for nearly two years were ultimately serendipitous. Out now, her long-awaited comeback may be a last-minute addition to the inevitable flurry of year-end top tens, as it stands strong start to finish. The return of Annie poetically caps off a year that has seen an impressive new wave of pop stars — from no-brainers like Lady Gaga to on-fire upstarts like La Roux, VV Brown, Marina & the Diamonds, and Florence + the Machine. Annie is sunny as ever when discussing the fumbles of the major label responsible for stopping Don’t Stop in its first go-around. In fact, after the break, she even hints at how it afforded her extra time to make the effort shinier, even though this resulted in accidental cast-offs, later packaged in a special EP. “Hardcore fans are going to like it,” she adds. Although most will find to hard it resist the wiles of an easygoing pop star who can talk about Serge Gainsbourg and Girls Aloud in the same breath.

Well hello, Annie. How are you? Good. There was supposed to be a storm outside, but there isn’t.

Tell me about Don’t Stop. What were you inspired by? I would go into the studio — sometimes after watching TV, bored — and wanted to write about what I saw. “Marie Cherie” was inspired by Serge Gainsbourg. I found inspiration from italodisco and electronic music too. Some clubby music too for “I Don’t Like Your Band” and straight-up pop for “My Love Is Better.”

Speaking of “My Love Is Better,” British pop band Girls Aloud originally sang back-up on that song. But then their vocals were dropped. Why? They were around the studio, recording “Can’t Speak French” and liked the song. So they did the vocals. But then their record label contacted their management. Their management panicked and were afraid it would’ve crashed.

The record was supposed to be released a while ago, wasn’t it? The main reason it took a while to record was because the president of Island Records moved to EMI. So I ended up working with another person. In the end it didn’t work out. Island didn’t listen to what I or my management said.

What about “Girlfriend” — the originally planned comeback single which was out in 2008? The comeback single had no build-up. The “Girlfriend” release wasn’t right.

What did you do then? I left Island and got the rights to the music back. I had to get my own team.

But this wasn’t your first time going indie? I released my first two albums independently.

What was it like to going back to your indie roots? It’s much more work. But it was great. I was more in control.

Jay-Z To Help Girls Aloud’s Cheryl Cole Crack America

This should serve as fair warning so next year when people are going on about, “How’d this shrill cockatoo land a record deal?” they can at least recall the moment when hip-hop king Jay-Z agreed to assist her in her bid to break America. Which is a past-time for many British pop artists. Perhaps Cheryl Cole, one-fifth of Britain’s biggest girlband Girls Aloud, is more suited for American conquest as a solo performer than with the band which made her a tabloid fixture overseas. To her credit, Cole’s already courted goodwill within the hip-hop scene, lending her tinny vocals to a single — who also executive produced her debut record. And unlike much of her band’s material, Cole’s solo work decidedly leans more towards a generic urban pop vibe. Which, given the success of acts like the Pussycat Dolls, shouldn’t be a terribly tough sell for Jay-Z to make to the American public.

Cole has already admitted to being a fan of both Jay-Z’s and Beyoncé’s work. Furthermore, according to a fruit bat hanging from the rafters or from wherever The Mirror collects their sources, she’s now thrilled that the feeling appears mutual. Cole and Beyoncé had their love-in back-stage just after Beyoncé had finished performing with the woman pegged to succeed Leona Lewis when the world tires of Lewis.

In addition to excellent references, Cole’s resumé also bears the glossy credential of X-Factor judge. Other notes: Her first single “Fight For This Love” became the fastest-selling single of this year, reaching #1 in the UK and selling in excess of 130,000 copies in a day. Her album, 3 Words, also went to the top of the pops for a couple weeks. Below, Cheryl Cole demonstrates how to perform some slick dance moves while paying tribute to Stalinist soldiers.

Post-Solange: Lady Gaga, Leona Lewis, & Other Unlikely Covers

Yesterday, we knew nothing about Beyogaga and it was “Sol-Angel this!” and “Hadley St. Dreams that!” Then heads exploded as Solange gave The Dirty Projectors a slick makeover. In a vain bid to extend Solange’s mission of fipster goodwill into a wave of good news for the superlative popstrel that’ll still be relevant by the time next week rolls around, here’s an obligatory trend piece! No, not one about rock-and-roll types legitimizing pop songs/”Single Ladies”, rather the exact opposite. Because irony for irony’s sake is so passé. With pop stars, it’s about self-awareness as a device in furthering careers. It’s about bringing music to the masses. It’s about saving lives. Too far? Fine, fine. In any case, a round-up of some recent exemplary rock covers that pop stars have performed for some reason or another.

In true fashion, Leona Lewis reduces Snow Patrol’s “Run” to a bland ballad that sits pretty next to “Bleeding Love” and “Happy.”

Girls Aloud has incorporated their version of Wheatus’ “Teenage Dirtbag” into their live tours.

Meanwhile Kelly Clarkson performs White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army.” In addition to that, she also serves up a Alanis Morrissette/Kings of Leon combo and her spin on this Black Keys tune.

In a previous life, the Sugababes covered the Arctic Monkeys’ “I Bet You Look Good On the Dancefloor” for the NME set. And last week, they gave Florence & the Machine’s “Rabbit Heart” a whirl.

And of course, Lady Gaga performs Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida.”

Vivienne Westwood Red Label Lights Up LFW

We could dwell on the low lows of NYFW and declare the fashion industry dead and ask who would dream of making available such uninspired wearables! But let’s not. Let’s instead turn our boozy gaze towards Vivienne Westwood and her Red Label collection, which was on display at the Red Bull Fashion Factory. Such campy glitterati as Boy George, ex-Spice Girl Geri Halliwell, and two of five members of Girls Aloud already have. But maybe you’re not the type to buy into celebrity endorsements. Fair enough.

LFW Fashion Director Hilary Alexander has a pretty thorough recap for The Telegraph. It’s replete with a mention of how “a giant, papier-mache frog greeted guests and an ancient, gnarled trunk, entwined with foliage, created a kind of Amazonian entranceway.”

But that jungle theme was Westwood’s way of pledging support to Prince Charles’ Rainforest Project. Westwood, who also likes to spend free time reading books with Pam Anderson, was in exceptionally top form. Alexander prefaces, “In one of her freshest and prettiest Red Label collections, Westwood focused on English heritage. She had envisaged a boat-trip down the Thames from Westminster Pier to Hampton Court.” Then she gushes:

Blue and white striped or grey and white spotted tea-dresses were worn with floppy sun-hats; red and white gingham and argyle all made an appearance; and floral ‘prom frocks’ came with little white cardigans tossed over the shoulders – so debutante!

And while the WSJ offers a sharper criticism of Westwood’s collection, it offers similarly glowing praise nonetheless.

There was also additional celebrity cachet on the catwalk, with Pixie Geldof and Daisy Lowe among the models’ ranks. But such abstractions probably aren’t as poignant as first-person Twitter hysterics. Or footage lifted from the runway show itself, below.

Bastille Day Soundtrack: Pop Stars Awkwardly Singing In French

Happy Bastille Day, friends! Today commemorates the day when a bunch of ragamuffins stormed the Bastille, upended traditional monarchy and paved the road for a better, newer, more Muslim-hating French government! So how can you celebrate? By brushing up on banal phrases like voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir and oui. Or by attempting to speak the language with trepidation usually reserved for hostage negotiation. It’s a bane non-French pop stars know all too well. Did you know that in order to preserve contemporary culture, radio stations in France are required to play at least 40% of their songs in French during prime time? This law has been something of a nuisance to non-French said pop stars who otherwise easily enjoy global success, although a few managed to break through by picking some stilted French, brutalizing the language of love in their cross-over attempt. Take a look at some of the more, err, ambitious, approaches to bilingualism.

At an Oscar telecast a few years ago, for some reason, Beyoncé was enlisted to sing “Look to Your Path” or “Vois Sur Ton Chemin” from Les Choristes, which was up for Best Foreign Flick and one of the Best Music achievements.

Meanwhile, Avril Lavigne found that in order to pimp “Girlfriend” out across the globe, she had to record the song in at least 412 languages. It was all rather cut-and-paste, as she just dubbed the chorus into a clunky brand of French that you might recall from high school. Timbaland, on the other hand, swapped out Keri Hilson for songbird Tyssem to make possible the French version of “The Way I Are” to avoid the pains of having to learn another language.

But one of the more brilliant ways of tackling this cultural barrier? How Girls Aloud went ten shades of meta with their single “Can’t Speak French” by re-recording it as Je Ne Parle Pas Français. But those seeking sweet, sweet music with their cross-cultural pop star may have more luck with Robbie Williams.

Although, when all’s sang and done, the desire to cross-over isn’t unique to just English-speakers. In fact, it goes both ways.