music

Heart It or Hate It: Stream Celine Dion's Entire New Album "Loved Me Back To Life" (Audio)

We're just two days away from the release of the new album, Loved Me Back To Life, from multi-platinum-selling and five-time Grammy Award-winning musical maven, Celine Dion — and guess what Instincters? We've got it for you here first! 

You can pre-order the album (track list below) through CelineDion.comiTunes, and Amazon, but before you do that, stream it below and tell us, heart it or hate it?

 

 

Loved Me Back To Life track list:
1. Loved Me Back To Life
2. Somebody Loves Somebody
3. Incredible (duet with Ne-Yo)
4. Water And A Flame
5. Breakaway
6. Save Your Soul
7. Didn’t Know Love
8. Thank You
9. Overjoyed (duet with Stevie Wonder)
10. Thankful
11. At Seventeen
12. Always Be Your Girl
13. Unfinished Songs

 

October Audio Reviews: Diane Birch — In, Katy Perry —Out

By Robbie Daw & Stephen Sears

October Audio is here, Instincters, and more interactive than ever! Stream music, watch videos, plus get the ever-excellent expert opinions from our musical mavens on the newest releases. What’s spinning right now? We've got reviews on the new releases from Diane Birch, Katy Perry, Donna Summer, St. Lucia and Cass McCombs.

 

DIANE BIRCH

Speak A Little Louder (S-Curve)

5 stars

Forget Katy, Gaga, Britney, Miley and all the other pop dames out there chucking out standard pop-porn fare; Diane Birch has the truly amazing album of Fall 2013 that you need to be tuning in to. It’s been over four years since the singer-songwriter’s debut Bible Belt first gained her a moderate amount of attention, but this follow-up, written during much emotional heartache (the songstress went through a breakup and dealt with the passing of her father) signifies that it was worth the wait. The title track starts things off on a hauntingly melodic, mid-tempo note before “Lighthouse” kicks things up a notch with galloping drums and a soaring chorus. Keep an ear out for the outstanding “Pretty In Pain,” a funky toe-tapper Birch wrote with disco legend Betty Wright. It’s followed by killer cuts like the handclap-filled, Stevie Nicks-esque “Love And War,” the new wave throwback “Frozen Over” and the heartbreaking tribute to the singer’s father, “It Plays On.” Buy this album, please. — RD

 

 

 

KATY PERRY

Prism (Capitol)

2.5 stars

Here’s the thing about Katy Perry’s third album Prism: she worked with several Swedes on the album, including Bloodshy and Klas Åhlund, and those are really the standout tracks here. (Some may dig the ballad "Double Rainbow," if that’s your thing.) One of the big songs that’ll get a lot of gays clutching their candy is "Walking On Air," which Perry did with Klas and sounds like an early-'90s house throwback. At a recent album listening session in New York, Katy said she wanted something that sounded like an old CeCe Peniston jam with this track — and it’s pretty marvelous. But overall, you get the sense that the choruses on Prism just don’t go anywhere like you really want them to. The song "This Is How We Do" was recorded in Stockholm with Bloodshy, and I kept hoping the chorus would just blow up. Mind you, it was a decent track, but by album number three, Katy should be knocking catchy vocal arrangements out of the park, and it just doesn’t seem to be happening this time around. Sorry, KatyCats. — RD

 

 

 

DONNA SUMMER

Love To Love You Donna (Verve)

3 stars

The thought behind this posthumous remix collection of the famed disco diva’s hits is to honor her biggest chart successes like “Love To Love You Baby,” “Hot Stuff” and “MacArthur Park,” while also introducing her tracks to the younger, more EDM-loving generation. The reinterpretations themselves are hit or miss for the most part. Duke Dumont’s take on “Dim All The Lights” incorporates little of Summer herself, while the Holy Ghost! Mix of “Working The Midnight Shift” takes a backing vocal track rather than the lead melody fans will recognize. Elsewhere, Afrojack offers up an adrenalized take on “I Feel Love” and Frankie Knuckles pairs with Eric Kupper for a retro-sounding house work-over of “Hot Stuff.” Curiosity seekers will no doubt be thrilled with the addition of “La Dolce Vita,” an unreleased track Summer recorded with longtime producer Giorio Moroder. If only there had been other such lost gems to populate this otherwise so-so compilation. — RD

 

 

 

ST. LUCIA

When The Night (Columbia)

4 stars

St. Lucia’s long awaited debut album thunders across the dance floor. Lush single “Elevate” is held aloft by monolithic synths, while “The Way You Remember Me” recalls a lost John Hughes soundtrack. Band leader Jean-Philip Grobler’s voice is right up front in that track’s polished mix of big drums, synths and — sigh — a sax solo. Early single “September” is a leaner disco machine with swoops of falsetto vocals and a sense of elegant urgency. Former choirboy Grobler delivers a collection of songs that mainline pure euphoria; this is music equally compelling beneath strobe lights or sunshine. — SS

 

 

 

CASS MCCOMBS

Big Wheel And Others (Domino)

4 stars

Cass McCombs records always sound best in the fall, and so here we are with the mid-October release of the California alt-rock poet’s seventh LP. With a run-time of nearly an hour-and-a-half, there are 19 (!) tracks to be found, three of which are snippets of dialog from ‘70s documentary Sean. It would be altogether bizarre stuff if McCombs wasn’t so deft at turning out completely amazing, off-the-wall rockers like “Big Wheel” and “There Can Only Be One,” or the somber, timeless sounding “Brighter!”, a collaboration with recently-deceased actress Karen Black, of all people. Cass has always proven himself to be a musical oddity you shouldn’t miss out on. Here’s another chance — a pretty great one, at that — for your introduction to his world. — RD

 

Heart It or Hate It: "Red Flag" By XELLE

The gals of XELLE (pronounced ex·elle) are on a mission! Their newest release “Red Flag” is a call-to-action, meant to inspire fans to stand up to people like Russian President Vladimir Putin (who this week, signed a new law placing restrictions on the discussion of homosexuality) and New Jersey governor Chris Christie (who is petitioning his state’s court to repeal their recent ruling allowing gay marriage).

“We want ‘Red Flag’ to be the theme song for a movement that helps change the world for the better,” say JC Cassis and Rony G, the dance floor divas who front XELLE.  

The ladies hope to start a movement encouraging everyone who believes in human rights to speak out about their support for LGBT equality in Russia and around the world by posting videos, pictures and social media updates with the hashtag #IRaiseARedFlag in order to show the global community that anti-LGBT sentiment, behavior and legislation will not be tolerated.

Will you join in the fight, Instincters?

Check out the video for "Red Flag" below and tell us — heart it or hate it?

 

 

Dance Diva Debby Holiday 'Dives' In Deep With Kickstarter Campaign

LGBT ally Debby Holiday ain't one of those sistah's who's afraid to get her hair wet, ladies and gentleladiesmen! Blood, sweat and tears, Mz. Holiday is pouring it all into raising the funds for her latest project titled Free2B — a double album of both rock and dance music — with a fresh new kickstarter campaign

Here's what Debby had to say about Free2B:

​If you know my music at all — there is often a common thread. Believe ... In ... You! Cuz baby, you are amazing just as you mutha-snuckin are! In your life, You should be Free To Be ... the beautiful, amazing, delicious, uniquely gifted YOU - you were born to be! Oh, yes - I will preach on it!

The best part? For those who contribute just five bucks, you get the full two albums. If you have a little more green to offer up, you can then spend the day with Debby and be her special guest in the studio!

Sign. Us. Up.

You can hear Debby talk about her campaign and watch some kick-ass snippets of her performing all over the gay U-S-of-A in the video below.  

 

 

_______________________

Not that there's not enough love to go around, but ever since her Billboard hits 'Dive' and 'Joyful Sound,' it's been like 'Debbie Gibson who?' We're totally #teamholiday 

Donate TODAY, new album in February 2014!

September Audio Reviews

By Robbie Daw, John Hamilton & Stephen Sears

Our Audio section is more interactive than ever! Stream music, watch videos, plus get the ever-excellent expert opinions from our musical mavens on the newest releases. What’s spinning right now? We've got reviews on the new releases from Goldfrapp, AlunaGeorge, Janelle Monáe, Natalia Kills and more.

GOLDFRAPP

Tales of Us (Mute)

4.5 Stars

Goldfrapp’s sixth album opener, “Jo,” starts with a red herring: a burst of synth strings. They quickly fade to a plucked bass and Alison Goldfrapp’s beautiful voice singing, “Heard a shot and someone calling, strained in darkness.” It’s as if she’s passed through a film noir portal. The album’s ten songs are narratives: “Annabel,” based on the story of a young hermaphrodite expected to choose one sexual identity; “Simone,” a betrayal scenario. Only the pounding “Thea” hints at past disco majesty; most of Tales is built on acoustic instrumentation, awash in orchestrals.  Make no mistake: the album is a perfect fall headphone record.  The lone song without a proper name, “Stranger,” ascends the (felt) mountain of Goldfrappian classics. To paraphrase its lyric, Tales Of Us will kill you, tenderly. — SS 

 

 

 

AVICII

TRUE (PRMD/Island)

4 Stars

Like a slightly more ambitious David Guetta (heaven forbid), Avicii is taking the opportunity of his first studio album to make a play for world domination. With a Grammy nomination, a bona fide dance-pop classic in the Etta James-sampling “Levels,” and new single “Wake Me Up” bounding into the U.S. Top 10, the 24-year-old DJ/Producer just may be onto something. TRUE parlays his disco expertise into a surprisingly diverse set of pop tunes, one that betrays influences of everything from country to '60s psyche-pop to ethereal diva wailing. He’s even wangled guest star collaborations from Nile Rodgers, Adam Lambert and Mac Davis, of all people, to show that his musical roots extend beyond the club. If that all sounds terrifyingly unfocused, fear not: every track is an upbeat corker with a chorus clearly engineered for major dance floor arm-waving. Extra points for doing so without help from Sia or Pitbull. — JH 

 

 

 

 

JANELLE MONE

Electric Lady (Wondaland Arts/Bad Boy)

4 Stars

The curious case of Janelle Monáe: Prince, James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald and Liza Minnelli rolled into one pocket-sized pistol. High art, high hair and high fashion have not equaled high charting singles. Second LP Electric Lady is a Gemini, split into two halves. The first is serious funk R’n’B soul (her duet with Miguel, “PrimeTime,” may actually dent the charts). The Stevie Wonderesque second half (check “It’s Code” and “Dorothy Dandridge Eyes”) is a near flawless '70s album unto itself. Make your own playlist and call it Songs In The Key Of Monáe. — SS 

 

 

 

 

ALUNAGEORGE

Body Music (Vagrant)

3.5 Stars

Riding the current wave of UK dance that also includes Jessie Ware, Katy B and a raft of other hopefuls, electro-soul duo AlunaGeorge have a good shot at their own hit with the sleek Body Music. Reminiscent of Craig David, AlunaGeorge—singer Aluna Francis and knob-twiddler George Reid—lay atmospheric R&B over skittering 2-step garage beats and taut, popping basslines like nobody’s business. Although most tracks swing in the right direction (first single “You Know You Like It” is a jam) and seamlessly fuse the dance floor with the bedroom (album highlight “Driver”), nothing lingers in the memory very long after it’s ended. Still, it’s a pleasant enough party that ends on a high note with a cheeky cover of Montell Jordan’s classic “This is How We Do It.” — JH 

 

 

 

 

NATALIA KILLS

Trouble (Interscope)

3.5 Stars

Ah, Natalia Kills—the raven-haired Hot Topic goth girl who tried to jump on the Lady Gaga bandwagon three years ago with clumsy electro debut Perfectionist. How she’s still signed to a major label after that colossal flop is anyone’s guess, but here we are. “That girl is a problem,” Natalia warns on electric rock rant “Problem,” before asking, “Don’t you wanna save this dirty little damsel?” Other tracks like “Saturday Night” and “Outta Time” mine '80s synth pop for all it's worth. To be honest, the overall result here is a generally pleasing, modern-sounding record (as it should be, given that studio whiz Jeff Bhasker produced the album). When presented with a rare second chance, Kills seized upon it and actually delivered a somewhat solid album. Whether she’ll get the big break it’ll take to catapult this into the mainstream, however, remains to be seen. — RD 

 

 

August Audio Reviews

By Robbie Daw and John Hamilton

Our Audio section is more interactive than ever! Stream music, watch videos, plus get the ever-excellent expert opinions from our musical mavens on the newest releases. What’s spinning right now? We've got reviews on the new releases from Annie, Ayah Marar, The Civil Wars, KT Tunstall and more.

 

ANNIE

The A&R EP (Pleasure Masters)

4 Stars

Like a skip through the neon-lit streets of Clubland, The A&R EP showcases what singer/songwriter Annie and frequent collaborator Richard X do best: make sparkling, futuristic dance music with a winking eye toward the past. Whereas previous singles betrayed a love for the ‘80s (“Chewing Gum,” “Anthonio”), A&R dips into ‘90s house and dance-pop sounds with cheeky aplomb. First single “Back Together” percolates with the upbeat spirit of Cathy Dennis, while centerpiece “Ralph Macchio” frames an irony-free love letter to the Karate Kid star in a flurry of bleeps and bloops. Lucky for listeners, Annie can be eccentric without losing sight of the fun, ensuring The A&R EP stays as chipper, sexy, and bold as its colorful artwork promises. —JH 

 

 

 

 

AYAH MARAR

The Real (Radikal)

3 Stars

UK-based singer Ayah Marar is a voice you’re likely just now getting up to speed on thanks to her feature on Calvin Harris’ current UK Top 10 hit “Thinking About You.” That particular ‘90s house throwback is truly the best track off the Scottish DJ/producer’s most recent album, 18 Months (she's also featured on “Flashback” from Harris’ previous album Ready For The Weekend), and now Marar’s own album, The Real, is seeing the light of day in the States. Generic-sounding production weighs some of this dance-driven LP down, (dubstep numbers “The Predator” and “Alive” are particularly overcooked), but there are two highlights worth checking out: throbbing jam “Mind Controller” and the album’s housey title track. —RD

 

 

 

 

THE CIVIL WARS

The Civil Wars (Columbia)

4 Stars

As tender as some tracks on this—the second album from country/folk heroes The Civil Wars—are (“Same Old Same Old” is a particular heart-tugging highlight), one can’t help thinking of the duo’s inner strife while listening.  Quick catch-up: Joy Williams and John Paul White struck a chord with music buyers two years ago with Barton Hollow and subsequently when on to snag a Grammy. They’ve since gone on hiatus and we’re now left with their fragile, self-titled sophomore album sitting among the ashes. Knowing this makes their Smashing Pumpkins cover “Disarm” ring with even more poignancy, and the duo’s harmonies on songs like “Dust To Dust” seem like a sad reminder of a once-promising partnership. —RD

 

 

 

 

KT TUNSTALL

Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon (Blue Note)

4 Stars

The world needs more guitar-toting divas like Scottish singer-songwriter KT Tunstall. She doesn’t make hits, rather, she crafts music that’s thoroughly enjoyable to throw on in the background while taking in a book at the coffee shop, lounging in a hammock or sharing a bottle of wine on the patio with friends. And the latter is far more difficult to achieve than the former. The double slashes in the album title here come from the fact that Tunstall staged two different recording sessions, in Arizona with indie/alt-country songwriter Howard Gelb in 2012. The result is a double-album-in-one with gorgeous, piano-driven gems like “Crescent Moon” and “Yellow Flower,” as well as sweet jangle-pop numbers “Invisible Empire” and “Honeydew.” —RD 

 

 

 

 

RUDIMENTAL

Home (Big Beat)

4 Stars

This British dance outfit struck a home run in their home country last year with “Feel The Love,” a euphoric dance track that features up-and-coming soul crooner John Newman. They’ve since wrangled in other prominent hitmakers to lend their voices, like Emeli Sande (on “Free” and “More Than Anything”), Angel Haze (“Hell Could Freeze”), Foxes (“Right Here”) and Alex Clare (“Not Giving In”). As far as DJ-fronted pop goes, Rudimental’s album Home is more pleasant than anything David Guetta has chucked out and on par with the best of Calvin Harris. This one is all beats and heart. —RD 

 

 

The Six EPs You Need To Be Spinning Right Now

The EP is the new black. Why more artists aren't doing them proves nothing except the fact that music labels have a hard time thinking outside the old box. Robyn nailed the genre back in 2010 with her Body Talk EPs, while London's Florrie showed us how the format can spur a fan following. Four to five songs, no filler. Lean mean, quicker to create. At the hazy tail end of summer, we look back at some short players we've had on a loop (or can’t wait to download), all from—no shocker—indie artists. 

By Jeff Katz & Stephen Sears

Annie: The A&R EP

Annie was Annie before everybody else tried to BE Annie. Got that? She is the original pop/indie hybrid goddess. So it's a bit meta that "Back Together"—the EP's first video—was co-written by Little Boots, herself an Annie acolyte. This long overdue release is a taste of European summer. Recorded with pop wizard Richard X in his London studio, these five tracks splash across pop styles, from the edgy club beats of "Invisible" to a kicky ode to ’80s Karate Kid icon "Ralph Macchio." Nothing here carries much gravitas, but that's not the point. It’s sweet music from an artist we admire. —SS

“Back Together”

 

David LaBrel: Young At Heart

The only gripe we have with David LaBrel’s EP is that it didn’t come out sooner, since the EP’s namesake, “Young At Heart,” could have easily been the lead track for our summer soundtrack. The Olin and the Moon frontman’s solo effort delivers solid, homegrown rock—with just a tinge of nostalgia—and showcases a welcome aggression from LaBrel not often seen in the band’s previous work. But don’t fret, Olin enthusiasts; the heart is here, too. “Move On” drives with beautiful pain that’ll have you singing along with the “letting go” refrain at the top of your lungs. So roll the windows down for one more summer spin with the disc’s single, and then download the EP this fall on iTunes. —JK

“Young At Heart”

 

Betty Who: The Movement (available via free download from Betty Who's website)

New rules: The best pop stars are born outside the machine. 21-year-old Jess Newham, aka Betty Who, fresh out of Boston's Berklee College of Music, is the most ebullient she-popper in years. If you ever went to summer camp and developed a gayboy crush on the peppiest girl counselor, that's Betty. She's a towering platinum blond, all red lips and sassy charm. There's not one duff track on her debut EP: "Somebody Loves You" is best heard on a beach boombox, while "Right Here" is all romantic anticipation and "You're In Love" features a chorus that puts Newham on a vocal high-wire. And then there's "High Society," with its own new rules: "We drink chardonnay through the day 'cuz we say so." Cheers! —SS

 

Lorde: The Love Club

If you’ve somehow missed the Lorde train, consider this your last stop before this thing gets into high speed. The Kiwi teen has been a force on alt radio this summer with her addictive single “Royals,” and the best news is there’s more goodness where that came from! The Love Club EP is perfectly packaged with five diverse tracks (and one tricked-out remix), running the gamut from the percussion-heavy “Million Dollar Bills” to the Lily Allen-esque “The Love Club.” Nothing hits quite as brilliantly as “Royals,” but that just leaves us to believe the best is yet to come on the full LP, the wonderfully clever Pure Heroine, out Sept. 30. —JK

“Royals”

 

Slow Knights: Sweet Harmony 

Scissor Sisters' Del Marquis has gathered a collective of artists under the name Slow Knights. Think of it as an ’80s/’90s-influenced R&B/pop supergroup, except the singers are all up and coming. The mid-tempo title track is sung by Mykal Kilgore and Bridget Barkan as if they're a 21st Century Cherrelle and Alexander O'Neal. The song's co-writer, Bright Light Bright Light’s Rod Thomas, adds a literally stomping remix (check that bit at 4:24) that would've been perfect for Blond Ambition-era Madonna. The EP is fleshed out by two funky new b-sides, "Criminal Mind" and "All Eyes On The Prize." Prince fans should note that former members of Prince’s New Power Generation form Slow Knight’s backing band. —SS

"Sweet Harmony"

 

Daniel Robinson: Guesswork

We’re not quite sure he’s old enough to really remember the heyday of his influences, but Daniel Robinson’s Guesswork pays perfect homage to the moody best of Erasure/Pet Shop Boys/every others ’80s electro band you rebelled alongside. But it’s not all stale reminiscing here. Robinson takes on the dance wave of the moment and infuses his dark spin with “Invasion,” while picking up the pop pace in “Running With Wolves.” But it's “Sugar” that has us clamoring for more, showcasing a maturity and cool musical sensibility. —JK  

"Sugar"
 

July Audio Reviews

 

By Robbie Daw & Stephen Sears

 

 

Our Audio section has moved online—and it’s more interactive than ever! Stream music, watch videos, plus get the ever-excellent expert opinions from our musical mavens on the newest releases. What’s spinning right now? We've got reviews on the new releases from Sara Bareilles, Pet Shop Boys, Cody Simpson and more.

 

PET SHOP BOYS

Electric (x2)

5 stars

 

 

 

 

If you haven’t heard by now, there’s one album you absolutely need to acquire in order to get your pulse racing this summer, and this is it. Following 2012’s reflective Elysium — a record that focused on rich instrumentation and the UK duo’s own thoughts on aging in the music biz — pop gods Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe have done a full 180 and are back on the dancefloor, with producer Stuart Price (Madonna, The Killers) in the passenger seat. Electric has the Boys crafting mind-blowing, addictive pop gems like “Thursday” and “Love Is A Bourgeois Construct,” while also serving up the strictly four-on-the-floor bangers “Axis,” “Fluorescent” and “Shouting In the Evening.” For the most part, the album’s tracks are arranged in alphabetical order, and things wind down with the peak-hour rave throwback “Vocal.” On the track, Tennant warmly informs us, “I like the people, I like the song / this is my kind of music, they play it all night long.” Our thoughts exactly, Neil. Whether you’re a diehard Pethead who’s been waiting for another Very-like masterpiece from the Pet Shop Boys or simply a fan of good pop, Electric is a must-have. — RD 

 

 

SARA BAREILLES

The Blessed Unrest (Epic)

3 stars

 

 

 

 

For most folks, summer is best fitted with upbeat music that lets us revel in the season’s sunny glow. But damn that notion, says Sara Bareilles — she of past hits “Love Song” and “King Of Anything.” On her fourth album, the California gurl dials down the tempo a few notches and gives us one piano lament (“1000 Times”) after another (“December”). This isn’t a bad thing, and there do happen to be a couple “up” moments, particularly with slightly-electro number “Eden” and hanclappy first single “Brave.” But, c’mon — lighten up, Sara. It’s July! — RD 

 

 

FRANKMUSIK

Between (VDI USA Inc.)

4 stars

 

 

 

 

Frankmusik has lived to tell. After a long stint in California and a second album that shed the charm of his much-loved 2009 debut, Vince Frank returned to England and reclaimed his mojo. Recording Between on his own budget, to the beat of his own drums — literal and metaphorical — the results puts him back in the game. The soaring chorus of "Did Love?" deserves to be on every car stereo this summer, while “How Do We Know?” is a gorgeous heartbreaker. Pop music with frenetic energy, passion and a dose of self-reflection…welcome back, Vince. — SS 

 

 

CODY SIMPSON

Surfer’s Paradise (Atlantic)

3 stars

 

 

 

 

Everyone’s favorite Aussie tween heartthrob Cody Simpson has gotten more muscular and quite hunkier since he swung onto the pop scene three years ago in a bid to catch the run-off from Bieber mania. But what of the music? This eight-track mini album surfs through jangly guitar pop (“La Da Dee”), dance-leaning radio candy (“Pretty Brown Eyes”) and even some reggae-lite moments (“No Ceiling”). Cody’s shelf-life might be up at any point, but if it’s disposable himbo pop you’re after, you could do worse than dive into Simpson’s cove. — RD 

 

 

​SKYLAR GREY

Don’t Look Down (Interscope)

2.5 stars

 

 

 

 

This chanteuse made a splashy debut as a songwriter a few years back, penning hits for no less than Eminem, Rihanna, Diddy and Dr. Dre. And partnering up with golden-fingered London producer Alex da Kid should have been a slam-dunk for her own solo career. Alas, Skylar has thrown at least four singles against the wall — none of which succeeded in sticking. The problem is this: from “Final Warning” to “Wear Me Out” to the Eminem-assisted “C’mon Let Me Ride,” we never get a sense of who the all-over-the-place Grey really is. Best hang behind the scenes, doll. — RD 

The Boys of Summer

 

By Robbie Daw

 

Summer 2013 needed a soundtrack. Thankfully it’s Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe to the rescue. Thirty years into their career as the preeminent gentleman of pop and conveyors of all that is witty, heartfelt and occasionally tongue-in-cheek under the strobe light, Pet Shop Boys are about to release their 12th studio album, Electric. For production duties, the UK duo enlisted fellow Brit Stuart Price — yes, the man behind Madonna’s Confessions On A Dancefloor and a dozen other pop gems from the past decade. The result, dare we say it, is the pair’s most banging album since 1993’s Very.

 

What brings you two to Los Angeles?

NEIL TENNANT: We’re just in LA for two days before going down to Chile. Our manager also lives here, so we’ve been meeting with her on a few other things. We’re about to start a South American tour on Monday, and we go to Argentina, Colombia, Brazil and Paraguay.

 

The Electric Tour hits the States in September. I caught you twice last time around, on the Pandemonium Tour, including the date in Italy with Take That.

NEIL: Oh, in Milan! Yeah, that was fun.

 

Do you anticipate this jaunt lasting as long as the previous one? That tour stretched on for three years.

NEIL: Yeah, well, we’ll see! The Pandemonium Tour was officially going to take two years. But then the Take That thing happened. You know, sometimes you just get offers to do festivals or to do certain gigs, and so we’re happy to do that.

 

Let’s discuss the new album, Electric — which is coming out on your own label, x2. Chris, do I understand this correctly, that you came up with the name, x2?

CHRIS LOWE: Well, actually, we didn’t think we needed a label. We hadn’t really thought about it. And then we suddenly had to have one. We came up with a few ideas. Can’t think of what they are now.  But I like DSQUARED2, the clothing label, and I thought, ah, DSQUARED2 — and there are two of them; they’re twins. So I thought, what would the Pet Shop Boys’ version of that be? I thought maybe x2. I put it on my iPhone and it had a very nice simplicity to it. It looked very elegant with the “x” and the “2”. So the exciting thing is having a new brand, a new label. And we want to do different things with it — not necessarily music-related.

 

Your previous album, the beautiful Elysium, was only released last September, and yet here you are with a brand new record, out in July. This is like a feast for all the Petheads out there.

NEIL: It’s kind of a remarkably quick turnaround after Elysium. But we feel really excited about that. When we go out on tour, which starts Monday, we’ve got two new albums to play songs from. And also, I think, with our new label set up, we feel the freedom to do what we like. I think that’s a very important freedom for us. When you’ve been making records for a long time, it’s great to suddenly feel that you can do things and not necessarily always worry about radio play or whether the music industry finds it a bit strange to release two records in a 12-month period. And we can do that! So it feels like a great, free time for us.

 

 

 

 

In your video for the Electric teaser track “Axis,” it appears as if the orange cone hats are back. Is this a wink toward Very?

CHRIS: A lot of that is video projections from the latest show we’re doing. The designer, Es Devlin, who we’ve worked with before, wanted to reference some of our older stuff. But also, when we appeared at the closing ceremony of the Olympics in London, they wanted us to wear those pointy hats. They’ve become part of our iconography now. They’re black, though, not the orange ones, so they’re slightly different from Very.

NEIL: The Very ones were actually made of cardboard, or paper, even. Gareth Pugh made the ones for the Olympics. And the ones we wear for this tour are much more designer.

 

Electric is a very “up,” nine-track album produced by Stuart Price, and it plays like the perfect record for summer.

CHRIS: The main thing about working with Stuart is it’s just a lot of fun in the studio. There’s a lot of laughter and a lot of chatting. He works very, very quickly, which we always like with people. It’s never boring working with Stuart. He’s the perfect collaborator for us.

 

 

 

 

The new single, “Vocal,” undeniably has you two getting back to the dance floor.

NEIL: It genuinely sounds like a dance anthem. And also, it was a challenge writing the lyrics to a song about being on the dance floor without being cheesy. I’m really proud of the lyrics. I think they’ve got a lot of poetry about them — you know, “aspirations for a better life are ordained.” Sounds positively biblical! [Laughs] I think it’s a lovely song. It’s got a joke in it — which actually slightly dates it, because dance music has gotten more vocal recently — about having every track as a vocal, and that makes a change. So much dance music is instrumental.

 

Looking ahead, you’ve been working on a project revolving around the life of Alan Turing. How did this come about for you two?

NEIL: Chris saw a documentary on television about Alan Turing. He was, for people who don’t know, an English mathematician and inventor and code-breaker, and he invented what is now the modern home computer —the universal machine, which is one machine that would solve every problem. During the second World War, he had this big team that broke the Enigma Code, so they could find out what the German submarines were doing in the Atlantic. He very much helped to win the war. But also, he was an open homosexual. He used to tell people that he was a homosexual, which was illegal in those days and very shocking for people. He was very, very direct about it. He ended up being prosecuted for that and going to court. As punishment, they didn’t send him to prison, they gave him injections of female hormones. And as a result of being found guilty of gross indecency, his security clearances were withdrawn. He became depressed and he killed himself.

 

What a horrible end for a man who was essentially a pioneer and a war hero.

NEIL: He died and still remains a guilty man in the eyes of the law. Anyway, this film that Channel 4 made was very moving. We both read this biography by an Oxford professor called Andrew Hodges, who wrote this in the early ‘80s. He came from two directions: one, he’s a professor of mathematics, and two, he was a gay rights activist in the 1970s. Both of those strands came together in this magnificent biography. And that’s why [our] piece is called A Man From The Future, because [Turing] was credited as the inventor of the modern computer. Also, he was openly gay, which was an extremely difficult thing to be in those days. He was also looking forward to how things would be in the future. This piece is structured as eight different scenes in the life of Alan Turing, and it’s a spoken-word, electronics orchestra. We actually premiered one of the pieces when we did a concert with the BBC Philharmonic last year. It was called “He Dreamed Of Machines.” We went through Andrew Hodges’ book and took just phrases, really, to indicate what was going on at a particular time. That phrase, “He dreamed of machines” — which is beautiful, I think, for a piece of music — came from Andrew’s book. So that’s kind of an indication of what it’s like.

 

Thank you both very much for the chat. Looking forward to catching you on the road this fall!

NEIL & CHRIS: Thank you!

 

Pet Shop Boys new album Electric will be released on July 16. The North American leg of The Electric Tour kicks off September 12 in Miami.

The Skivvies Bare It All

By Mike Ciriaco, Photos by Augusten Burroughs, Monica Simoes and Michelle Blake

 

The Skivvies are all about stripping down. The New York-based music duo of Nick Cearley and Lauren Molina perform stripped down, acoustic covers of popular songs while stripped down to their underwear. This unique act has attracted the attention of high profile collaborators, like Tony-award winner Daisey Eagan and critically acclaimed writer/photographer Augusten Burroughs. Cearley and Molina recently exposed their souls to Instinct, revealing the origins of their band, their aspirations, and of course, performing publicly in their undies.

 

Where did the concept of The Skivvies originate?

Nick: In our pants. Kidding. Not really. Lauren and I have been creating music together for 10 years, wearing clothes, but performing this style of stripped down covers/mashups, plus originals.

Lauren:  We were getting sandwiches at the corner deli near my apartment and the song "We Found love" by Rihanna was playing.

Nick: I remember saying to LoMo, "God, this song drives me nuts. It’s just digital noise."

Lauren: So we went back to my apartment and dissected the song. We liked what we did with it, making it a waltz march by simply changing the time signature on guitar and ukulele. And we thought we would record a video for the YouTube.

Nick:  Lauren was deciding what to wear, standing there in her bra, and shouted to me from her bedroom asking what she should wear and I said "Just wear that!"

Lauren: I was like, "Well, we are doing a stripped down version of the song...that's pretty hilarious, to take the musically stripped down element to the next visual level" Thus, The Skivvies were born. Nick loves being in his underwear and we are both theatrical actors who have often had to appear in our underwear onstage. So it just seemed right. And ironic. Covers, uncovered.

 

How does playing in your underwear influence your performance?

Nick: Its freeing. I'm self taught, so when I learn an instrument, I am usually in my living room in some sort of state of undress figuring it all out. Putting on clothes to play instruments feels so weird.

Lauren: When we are actually in performance, there's a natural vibe the audience gets by seeing people in their underwear. It makes you appear very vulnerable and it instantly helps the audience to be on your side. Also, if I make a mistake, they are generally more forgiving.

Nick: Yes. Our straight male and lesbian fans are very happy when Lauren makes a mistake. She usually drops something and picks it up off of the floor to make up for it.

 

Do you have a 'lucky pair' of undies?

Nick: I like to wear Andrew Christian, not only because he has been very kind to give me dozens of pairs, but I also feel they are very kind to my naughty parts.

Lauren:  I like wearing Victoria's Secret brand though they have not given me a damn thing. 

 

 

What was the most interesting aspect of shooting your music video 'Hardbody Hoedown' with Augusten Burroughs?

Lauren: Augusten is an incredible photographer and he has the ability to find beautiful interesting shots in the unusual.

Nick: He is also has a very generous heart.  I was fortunate he was able to take my wedding pictures when I was married last June to my husband, Eric Lesh, who is a lawyer at Lambda Legal.

 

In your Rockwell show in LA, you were joined by a very pregnant Daisy Eagan, also in her undies. Did this set the bar for your live shows? Have you ever done anything more unusual?

Lauren: Oh yes! She really raised the bar in all departments.

Nick: We have both been fans of Daisy since we were kids.  I remember watching the Tony Awards the year she won her Tony for The Secret Garden and I remember saying "I want to do that. I will do that." I never played Mary Lennox, but boy I tried really hard.

Lauren: We first got the idea to ask Daisy when we were reading her blog and following her on twitter and realized her sense of humor is also our sense of humor.  We simply wrote her after reading a particular jawdropping entry about healthcare in America and her being pregnant. She replied with a big fat “yes!” within seconds.

Nick: That's what so great about bringing in guests to play with The Skivvies. Everyone has a sense of playfulness and unique creativity and that we can build off together.  Each arrangement is specific for the guest.  Another aspect of individuality is in what each guest chooses to wear. 

We have had Tony Nominee heart throb Will Swenson in a G String dedicating his tune "Get Low" to his mother. The cutest was Barrett Foa in Rocky Balboa boxing get-up singing a mash-up of all songs 'Stronger.' 

 

 

How did you guys first meet?

Lauren: In 2003,  Nick and I were cast by TheatreWorks USA, a children's theatre company that tours across the country. 

Nick: We played the grandest cafetoriums in the land.

 

What is your ultimate goal as a duo?

Nick: The Dream! We have always been a large fan of shows that incorporate sketch comedy with music.

Lauren: "Portlandia" and "Flight of the Conchords" are recent inspirations that are similar to what we would like to be doing.

Nick: I have always been inspired by The Monkees and how they were able to incorporate these aspects so seamlessly as well.

 

What kind of impact are you aiming to make on the gay music scene and the music scene in general?

Nick:  I think what we are doing is truly original.  We take some of the best songs and put our own spin on them. The fact that we are in our underwear is inconsequential.

Lauren: It has been so great to be embraced by the gay crowd. Because of our backgrounds, they seemed to notice us first and give us so much love and attention.

Nick: Wit and irony seem to always be embraced by the gay scene. Look at Oscar Wilde.

Lauren: He also was the first to say "All art is truly useless."

Nick: Well, I think an underwear clad duo singing cool mashups on cello and ukulele, with comedic undertones, is a pretty useful asset to any music scene.

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