New Releases: GoodBooks, The Magic Numbers, The Beatles
The question has echoed endlessly: what makes the perfect pop song? The Beatles knew the answer, as did The Beach Boys, but contemporary artists often find themselves struggling to create a pop masterpiece that can be capably adored by legions of listeners. In a modern sense, GoodBooks have come surprisingly close to making such a song in their new single, ‘Leni’. Much like Hot Chip, GoodBooks have borrowed the influences of 80s power-pop legends such as XTC and Talking Heads, along with the lovable 90s Brit-pop of Pulp and Blur. ‘Leni’ has all the goods with a verse that clearly foreshadows an explosive chorus, though the catchiest thing about the song may be the bridge. “When she’s around, I find it hard to understand,” lead singer Maax van Gryffindoeer emphasizes over defiant keys, “she winds me up and down again and again, she might as well leave me for dead”. The bridge develops into the chorus by a slight moan from Gryffindoeer, proceeded by an explosive chorus of epic proportions. A few simple guitar riffs serve as recollection of the bridge, serving as the conclusion before the song fades away. ‘Turn It Back’ doesn’t quite compare to ‘Leni’, but it’s a fun song as well being a nice display of the band’s synth use, which is not overused like some artists are doing lately. GoodBooks are currently touring Europe with The Magic Numbers.
And speaking of The Magic Numbers… about a year ago, The Magic Numbers’ self-titled debut was a delightful surprise. It reached such critical acclaim from the British press that virtually every single show that The Magic Numbers played was sold out immediately after sale. The Magic Numbers released their second album, Those the Brokes, last week hoping to avoid the curse of a sophomore slump, something that British bands with high expectations often fall into. Things haven’t really changed, in terms of their sound. Romeo Stodart still has the same sunshine vocals that earned him a reputation for fantastic melody recognition. Backing vocals by Romeo’s sister, Michele, and Angela Gannon (drummer Sean’s sister) are more prominent throughout Those the Brokes than in the debut, something that was in somewhat of a demand. This isn’t going to help their willingness to avoid comparisons to The Mamas & the Papas, being their slight physical resemblance and musical likeness is still alive and kicking. Stodart still churns out fantastic pop songs such as ‘Take A Chance’ and ‘Carl’s Song’, with hook after successive hook being what The Magic Numbers do best. I still like their debut album more though, which was one of my favorite albums of 2005. With their debut, I never once felt the need to skip a track, each one having its own personality and creative hook. Those the Brokes has several good tracks, though duds such as the overproduced ‘Boy’ and the awkward ‘Runnin’ Out’ are scattered throughout. I still recommend the purchase though, as it still contains some of the best natural pop music you’ll hear this year.
Fine, this isn’t exactly what I would call ‘new material’, but in some sense it could be considerable. By now, I’m sure you’ve heard of Love, the new The Beatles compilation put together by legendary producer Sir George Martin. Fulfilling the requests of Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and Yoko Ono, Martin compiled the compilation for a collaboration with Cirque du Soleil. “The album has the feeling of love,” Ono said, “they have let everything that is beautiful and daring come out”. Before you abandon the idea of transforming Beatles classics, you must consider that I hate Beatles remixes just as much as the next guy. I can’t stand them, even if the likes of Ryuichi Sakamoto and Beck are involved. I adore the originals and only the originals, with little exception, with it being just how the four intended them to be. Love seems to be an exception here. The thing about the tracks on Love though, is that each and every instrument heard is being played by the original Beatles. Martin has compiled and mixed hundreds of Beatles tracks, resulting in an enhancement in sound quality, change of structure, and a different take on the classics. For the most part, all the songs have the same legendary feel and Martin has done a fantastic job of turning the songs into the second best thing. The acoustic version of ‘Why My Guitar Gently Weeps’ is warm and receptive, while the structural change in ‘Eleanor Rigby’ is surprisingly effective. Also, if you want to hear something trippy, check out 01:48 to the end of the madman mix of ‘Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! / I Want You (She’s So Heavy) / Helter Skelter’. So, if you hate insulting electronic remixes of The Beatles like I do but still want a refreshing change of scenery, Love is the perfect place to look.