Portobella - Viva La Difference

“Slip on leather/ Stormy weather/ I’ll be taking you home/ Who’d have thought you’d be the one/ To be making me moan?”

Ah, the joys of sleazy electro pop! The grating basslines, the sweaty leer of layered chords and drawled insouciance, and oh, the itch they inspire in my bloodstream.

This is definitely a slow-burn writhe of a track; grinding synths and casual pounding beat, heavy chords and coiled tension. Verse vocals lazy, because then the building bridge rings with brash, pouting attitude and kicks back into that careless ‘oh, oh, oh’ refrain (an afterthought which you’ll soon find lifting the chorus repetition with such casual infection).

But really, it’s all about that bridge and middle segment. The layers dropping back to leave that petulant chord sequence, her voice soaring with harsh anger and blatant desire, dipping effortlessly down to growled seduction.

Because there’s nothing breezy and sweet about this kind of thing. Brick wall hard against your back, torn fishnet tights; mirrored walls and scarlet lipstick smudged across your face. Gorgeous.

Poptext Classic Picks of the Day:
The Faders. Girl rock the way it’s supposed to be: obnoxious and utterly commanding.
  • Savage Garden. Xenomania. Enough said.

    Something For Everyone - PopText Retrospective

    This week: something special.
    For the next seven days, every single song I've poptexted has a live YSI link*.

    "Hang on!" I hear you cry with heady excitement, "You've been blogging since November. That's about fifty songs!"*

    Indeed. See, back when I began, I didn't even post the music. And most of you reading right now will only recently have found me. Result? Lots of dead links, and reviews that only go so far to convey the joy of these songs. Every track I write about is amazing in some way, now it's your chance to catch up.

    So welcome. Take some time to rummage around the archives; there you'll find music to like, music to love, and music to blow your mind with such force that you'll emerge a changed person.

    It's good to have you.

    *(or, as dear Max would put it, "Bero på, den här uppskattningsvis femtio schlager!")
    **OK, so there are a couple of exceptions. Go listen to something else!


    Laura Cantrell - 14th Street

    “I see you on the street/ You kiss my cheek/ My knees goes weak/ It’s clear you’ve got nothing to loose/ While I’m loosing sleep.”


    It’s easy to get jaded in this game.

    I turn the page and there’s yet another Ritalin-snorting, tanorexic ingénue staring blankly back (as the man behind the camera/production booth/label puts words in her mouth and an angle in her come-hither hip). Obviously, I adore them; Lindsey, Ashlee, Hillary – the darling girls are the Ketel-fuelled car-crash of my generation, and I’m more than happy to peruse Defamer et al for the latest shuddering stats and occasional burst of pop brilliance to justify my devotion.

    But go looking for innocence? It’s another story. Even their faux-naïve adolescent musings are feedback group-ed to a synthetic aftertaste, strategic angst reading like the twenty-something nostalgia that reveals a song-writer’s hand and self-conscious heart.

    Which is why this version of Emily Spray's song moves me so much, with its simple refrain and quiet emotion. The melody charms and soothes, skipping lightly on eager toes in dew-damp grass. Because innocence isn’t a child-like body or barely-legal pout, it’s hope. Hope that these tangential connections we strive for so desperately will actually lead somewhere; that our hearts will be nourished by something more than an iPod Shuffle and new pair of Louboutin wedge heels.

    Laura’s voice so clear, the gentle hesitancy and trepidation. There’s such admirable control in the production, such subtle backing layers that when she murmurs “One step, two…” the longing is poignant. And that middle section, with its high, falling ‘ahh’: the one that shivers with tangible sweetness – you feel that to the soul.

    Maybe it takes age and experience to give you the bravery to express yourself so sincerely, I don’t know. Bittersweet perhaps, because at the heart of such honest emotion in this song is the fear that keeps her from closing the gap between them. But the simplicity and vibrant emotion here will make you promise, just for a second (before the real world and all its scheming structures flood back in), to live a little braver too.


    Time for an Answer



    Time for a Guessing Game

    “I think I’m going to need some therapy/ Oh babe I hope you’ve got a PhD/ Won’t you lay me on your leather couch/ I’ve got a lot I need to talk about.”

    Must not post….Must resist….Cease and desists will ensue…..Must not…


    I can’t help it, you need to hear this. Not because it will transcend everything you’ve ever heard - causing you to devote your life in worship to the [edited], [for top secrecy], [and lawsuit avoidence] girl - but because it’s damn fine pop.

    I’ll say that again: Damn. Fine. Pop.

    Solid structure, cute extended metaphor, jazzy tuneage. From the opening beats and funky chords, she had my attention (I say 'she', but really, this is yet another of those wonderous anonymous entities that could belong to anyone). The vocals are reminiscent of Xtina at times - when she reaches to belt the top lines: not particularly distinctive, but hell, they work for this while still retaining a distinctively ‘British’ pop feel.

    The saxophone rumbles along, darting up from time to time as cymbals shiver and bass thrums. Swooping along, it keeps the tempo pulled tight all the way with fabulous looping refrain and jauntiness.

    And oh, the jauntiness! Bounce and shimmy, my dear! Shake and twirl!

    Because woven into the aural fabric of this is something irresistible. After all, what is spectacular disposable pop but a melody or refrain that cannot be stopped? A beat connecting to your hips; a bassline that tugs at your spine. This is it. This is repeat-playable. This is good.

    Say it with me folks,


    Now, guess who!


    The Futureheads - Decent Days and Nights (Max Tundra Mix)

    "Say/ What you see."

    Reasons I Adore This (YSI) (or here, for when the first link expires)

    1. I’ve never heard a remix sound so unlike the original track, yet still be utterly in keeping with the band’s style. No frantic guitars, or crashing angular posing, but the essence of Futureheads is obviously malleable because this is still quintessentially them: experimental, pop joy.

    2. The discordant splintered sounds manage to weave and overlay in a wonderfully harmonious loop, despite the initial jar of the listening experience. This isn’t passive stuff, but something engaging that demands you submit, tangling you up in the strands of melody.

    3. It’s magical in an absurd way; the chords of an alternate universe built out of oversized tones and fantastical notes. This is Wonderland, this is Wonkaville; the underlying string shiver ominous but entrancing.

    4. The painstakingly constructed precision is something else: so many incongruous sounds, so much repetition, but oh, how it works. And when the piano section tingles in against that cello, you’re suddenly light and falling.

    5. And how the vocals layer to chant and ring, as you build and swoop with the subtle shifts in depth until the very end.


    Brief Technical Interlude

    The time has come to bid Ed O's borrowed webspace farewell, which means I need new space to host me and all those files you love. So, if you've got any recommendations for non-expensive, reliable servers, tell me! abby.mcdonald@gmail.com as usual for tips or stalker love.


    Alexis Strum - Nothing Good About This Goodbye

    “Only now I’ve let go/ Honey, I just don’t know/ Sit right here/ And watch the sky above for a sign.”

    Music, my dear?

    A classy pop song is hard to find. They try, (oh how they try!) thinking that all they need are a few polished chords or a glacial electro number to leave behind their sordid, thrusting pasts and win my affections. How wrong they are! For every Kelly of the Clarkson variety, there’s, well, a Kelly of the Osbourne breed. Polished precision? Sure, but what about that spark of brilliance, that echo of the divine that leaves a shimmer in your spine?

    Alexis has it.

    A dreamy, understated song, this will take a few listens, but give it that chance. Because when it clicks into place, it’s perfect: swooping, soft and melodic, with the infectious lilt of summer breeze. And then the world drops out, and heavier electro effects fall into place; giving a drive and power that are wonderfully incongruous with that same sweet vocal until they blend back into synthetic dreams.

    The Rachel Stevens cover is forthcoming, but she'll have a lot of work to do to top this.


    PopBytes (Men + Guitars = Sincerity!!! Edition)

    Let the Launch-fest commence!

    Backstreet Boys – Incomplete

    Leaves blowing in the desert despite there no foliage-baring trees! Burning bicycles even though they contain no combustible fuel! Yes indeed, the boys are back in town, defying the laws of nature and science with their heartbreak and collective loneliness. And heartbroken they are, with arms outstretched to the heavens and traumatized knee drops and everything! Oh well, the discordant string section and slow self-importance manage to elevate this above, say, Westlife status, but it still lingers many anguished looks behind the uber-ballad that is Hero.

    Howie Day – Collide

    I tried to resist, honestly I did! I mean, this is the man who looks like the genetic mutation of Jaime Cullum and Ryan Cabrera. He croons away about dawn breaking and being tangled up in me, shamelessly stealing his ‘do-do-do-dodo’s from Paula Cole and loitering with devious intent beneath highway intersections. But I’ve already established my predilection for these identikit crooners, so despite all my best efforts (step away from the DMB), his cough syrup overdose vocals and sweet little chord progressions were too much for me. I gave in, and oh I feel dirty now.

    Gavin DeGraw - Chariot

    So much wrong, on so many levels, that it’s worth watching as a mere cautionary tale to give you perspective (the way you need to know that the toy cows are small, while the ones in the field are just *very far away*). First up – STEP AWAY FROM THE TRUCKER HAT, the image of which is now burned into my memory in the same dark recesses that house the vision of the Ciara white sweater. I shudder. Then of course, the music, a Maroon 5-esque nu-jazz affair. Because both were so great alone. And oh, the lyrics. Chariot = sun, he wants to spread his arms and fly! What have we done to deserve this?


    More Music, Less Talk (Sex Sells Special)

    Britney Spears - Breathe On Me (Jacques Lu Cont remix)

    I could describe this in ways that would make my parents blush, but instead I’ll split that sensual word-count between these three songs that will keep you locked inside no matter how warm that sun shines. Coy? Perhaps. Cowardly? Indeed. But certain things are better left unsaid – even by a blogger such as I.

    Ilya – Bellissimo

    This glitters with the harsh shards of moonlight reflecting on broken glass in a dull cobbled back street (as you trip unsteady, arm intertwined with another). It seeps thick and slow like the wine in your bloodstream, and shivers like somebody has drawn their bow across the back of your spine with perfect sweetness.

    Tricky ft Portishead – Hell Is Around The Corner

    Oh, for 3am and the hypnotic hum of air-conditioning as you wait, cocooned in movement, head resting against cool glass and your sleep-filled eyes squinting at the blurs of neon night that pass. Strands that twist inside your skull, honey seeping down the back of your throat to pool in the pit of your belly.