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Artist of the Week-Robyn

In honor of today being a day that ends in “day,” our Artist of the Week is 32-year-old Swedish dancehall queen Robyn. “Why,” you may ask? Because this chick is fierce, that’s why.

Robyn got her first taste of success not singing but with voice acting, voicing a character of 1989’s Swedish/Norwegian film, “The Journey to Melonia,” as well as the Swedish version of “All Dogs Go To Heaven” as a 10-year-old.

Two years later, she was discovered and upon finishing middle school was signed to Ricochet Records Sweden, a subsidiary of BMG. At 16, she signed with RCA Records and released her debut single, “You’ve Got Somethin’” in Sweden in 1994. The song wasn’t exactly a success, but her next single “Do You Really Want Me (Show Respect)” was her breakthrough in Sweden and gave her some momentum for Robyn is Here, her 1996 debut album.

In typical American fashion, we were late to the party but we still caught the bus. Her U.S. breakthrough was “Show Me Love,” a song released in 1997 in the same vein as those Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Mandy Moore songs that were in constant rotation. The song peaked at No. 7 in America and is her last song to reach the Top 10 since. But don’t think that that means she has been unsuccessful.

After a move to Jive Records and a couple subsequent albums, Robyn grew tired of the wholesome teeny-bopper pop scene and recorded “Who’s That Girl” in 2004. Jive was not happy with this new Euro/electro pop sound but Robyn fought the good fight and ultimately decided not to let suits dictate her passion. Thus, Konichiwa Records and the REAL Robyn were born!

Robyn started Konichiwa Records in order to give her the freedom to do whatever she damn well pleased and it worked. Robyn was released in 2005 and she burst back onto the Swedish music scene in a big way. Using huge electro poppy beats yet mixing it up by implementing rap and reggae sounds as well, the album is a perfect way to introduce the new Robyn to the world. The opening track, “Curriculum Vitae,” sets the tone with an eerie, pump-up intro, touting Robyn as the end-all be-all bad ass and the rest of the album follows suit. The U.S. version of the album wasn’t released until 2008 and three of the songs were Top 10 club hits, one of which (“With Every Heartbeat”) getting some radio play.

In 2010, Robyn embarked on an ambitious challenge: releasing three albums in one year. She succeeded. Kind of. Body Talk, Pt. 1 was released in June and featured eight songs, including the Top 10 hit, “Dancing on My Own.” In September, Body Talk, Pt. 2 was released, which also included eight songs and the single, “Hang With Me.” Here is where Robyn only kind of succeeded. Instead of releasing a third album with all new material, the final installment, simply entitled Body Talk, is an amped up version of many of the songs off the previous two albums, plus a few new tracks and the single, “Call Your Girlfriend.” Though some may argue that she kind of cheated, it doesn’t change the fact that all three albums are full of dance hits while every once in awhile still paying tribute to the type of music that made her successful in the first place.

Robyn’s fiery spirit appears in great form with songs like “Konichiwa Bitches,” “Who’s That Girl?” and “U Should Know Better” She’s a bad ass, she knows it and she knows how to work it. But while she touts her strength, she also shows some weaknesses and human struggle in songs like “Dancing on My Own,” “Crash and Burn Girl” and “Be Mine!”

Though she has never won a Grammy (she’s been nominated four times), Robyn has definitely made her mark on a global scale. She’s performed at Nobel Prize ceremonies, become an ambassador for UNICEF, had top hits all over Europe and has won several Swedish Grammys. She’s also made her mark with other artists and in pop culture. She’s worked with the likes of The Knife, Snoop Dogg, Alicia Keys, Royksopp, The Teddybears, Katy Perry, Deadmau5 and others. She was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live in 2011 and most recently, her hit song “Dancing on My Own” was featured at the end of the April 29 episode of the HBO show Girls entitled, “All Adventurous Women Do,” further proof that she is one ferocious female.

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Robyn :: “Body Talk”

Well, she did it. Robyn promised us three albums in 2010 and with the release of the third and final installment of the Body Talk series, she has completed the task … Sort of.

The first two albums, Body Talk, Pt. 1 and Body Talk, Pt. 2 were full of pop dance beats that got you moving, clever lyrics that got you chuckling and heart-felt lyrics that got you feeling.

The third installment, simply titled  Body Talk, is a combination of 10 songs from the first two albums, a re-recording of “Indestructible” (a song that appeared on the second album) and four new songs. Upon discovering that the track-listing for the final part consisted mostly of songs from the first two albums, I have to admit that I felt a little bit cheated. But after hearing the 15-song disc, I have come to the conclusion that Body Talk is the perfect ending to this highly-anticipated project.



The new songs range from eye-roll-worthy (“Stars 4-Ever“) to upbeat and catchy (“Get Myself Together“), but they all get you moving and show off Robyn’s creativity. Despite the fact that there are 10 songs that you’ve already heard, the songs are in a different order and sprinkled throughout the album, mixing in the new songs in between. Hearing the songs next to a different batch of songs takes away the repetitiveness that one would think you’d hear in this situation.

Since the third installment is a mixture of all three albums, I’m going to be grading it for contention in the top albums of the year even though the first two albums could stand alone. This album is definitely in the running to be the best pop album of the year and I could not have said it better than Giharl21, who left this comment on one of Robyn’s videos: “This bitch has been killing it all year. She’s playing croquet with every pop girls head out there.”



Here are some other pages on EnterTheShell.com that you may enjoy:

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Robyn :: Body Talk, Pt. 2

First of all, let’s clear up some misconceptions. No, I did not HATE the last Robyn album. Upon hearing feedback, I realized that apparently the tone I set with Body Talk, Pt. 1‘s review was that of a negative review. It was definitely not a negative review. Knowing that Robyn set herself up to release three albums in the course of one year, the first album made me think to myself, “Okay, that was a pretty good effort, but let’s see what she can come up with for Pt. 2.” Now that I’ve heard Body Talk, Pt. 2, it’s got me saying, “I can not WAIT for Pt. 3!” And here is why …

Beginning strongly with “In My Eyes,” Robyn takes a lesson from 90’s Madonna. The dancehall queen’s pulsating beats are back with a vengeance as she once again shouts out Konichiwa Records, her self-created record company. Robyn showcases her vocal pipes here along with big, layered dance beats surrounding her. She even gets existential with her lyrics, “We’re all the same/stardust and stuff.” Okay, so it’s not exactly profound, but Robyn definitely has a knack for great songwriting, especially when you consider her stuff is very dance-focused.

The album’s lead single and an updated, dance-y version of one of Pt. 1‘s slower diddies, is “Hang With Me.” I absolutely adore this song and especially the video, which documents Robyn’s non-stop life as a busy musician on the road. It shows the ups as well as the downs … Especially with that roller coaster ride scene. The beat isn’t incredibly overbearing but the short-and-sweet synths pop around everywhere and the simple snare and bass drum still make you want to dance. This is a song made better with big beats because if you remember, the original version was limited to piano and strings and is one of the reasons I wasn’t as big a fan of the first album of the Body Talk series. It was very vocal and showed off her beautiful voice, but it also made her a victim of that whole “getting back to her 90’s pop star roots” issue I had. This spruced up, upbeat version definitely shattered that vision of “Hang With Me.”

“Criminal Intent” and “U Should Know Better” are the album’s epic highlights and pretty much encapsulate Robyn’s attitude toward the music industry and her overall bad-ass-ness.

Criminal Intent” is a deep-synthed, ass-shaking, police siren-filled documentation of Robyn’s trouble with the law for getting “somewhat x-rated on the [dance] floor” (cuz “a little dirty never hurt anyone”). The song follows her story as she explains herself to the judge and who would throw her in jail for dancing dirty? Especially with an excuse as good as, “I strongly object, your honor/They played my song.”

U Should Know Better” features music industry giant Snoop Dogg of all people, which may seem out of place when you hear of the pairing but it really works out perfectly. Deep synths galore and a fast beat will make you want to dance full speed and never want to slow down. Both of these big personalities sing, “You should know better than to fuck with me/If you knew better you would do better” and Robyn brags about cashing six-figured checks and how the music industry, Russia and even the C.I.A. know better than to fuck with her.

This album further proves that she really did give the music industry the finger with her more obvious boojie-ness, attitude and in-your-face beats. The age-old story of singer signs with record company, record company takes too much control, singer ditches record company, singer starts own record company and thrives is definitely seen in Body Talk, Pt. 2, especially with the newfound internet buzz she acquired for performing one of the most stand-out performance on this year’s MTV VMA’s … All of 20 seconds sent blogs everywhere abuzz! The album yet again finishes with a slower track (“Indestructible“) but the difference here is though there are strings galore, part of this string section serves as a make-shift beat machine. They are more aggressive instead of being “pretty” … Here’s to hoping that an dance version of “Indestructible” will be featured on Pt. 3, serving as a bridge connecting the albums the same way the two versions of “Hang With Me” do.

Buy the album at our record store on Amazon

Body Talk, Pt. 2 is a definite success and is set to propel this music veteran into the spotlight she deserves and that she feels comfortable in.

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Covers Revue, Vol. 45 – Robyn covers “Cobrastyle” :: Originally by the Teddybears

Oh, those Swedes! They’ve got so much love for each other! Robyn appearing on Royksopp’s album. Royksopp appearing on Robyn’s album. And for today’s Covers Revue, we’ll check out Robyn’s cover of fellow Swedish musicians, Teddybears.

The band started out in the grindcore genre (thus the ironic band name), but eventually evolved into a band that included everything under the sun, including reggae, pop, punk and electronica. Guitarist Klas Åhlund produced Robyn’s self-titled album, where her cover of Teddybears’ “Cobrastyle” can be found.

In the Teddybears’ version, sounds of reggae and electronica are prominent, along with a bit of Brit pop/punk. Clapping always gets people moving and this song has got it! From a band that used to be classified under “grindcore,” this song is definitely a departure as it will definitely get you dancing.

As we explored earlier this week, Robyn is big in the dance and club scene. Her version of “Cobrastyle” is probably my all time favorite track by her. The build-up in the beginning is amazing! It starts off with a single keyboard melody, but eventually transforms into something more distorted and then gets loud with a big beat introduced. The keyboard melody is what grabs hold of you because its catchiness refuses to let you go! Deep synths underline the verses while the melody jumps back into the chorus, along with Robyn’s incomprehensible lyrics. This song was meant to be a reggae track but her track totally deviates from that.

These two tracks are completely different from each other but both are equally dancey. The only difference is that with one song you’d be dancing in a sweaty Jamaican bar and with the other you’d be dancing in a sweaty European club!

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Robyn :: Body Talk, Pt. 1

Swedish pop star Robyn has decided to take on quite the ambitious New Year’s resolution as she releases Body Talk, Pt. 1, the first installment of three albums, all to be released before the end of 2010.

Body Talk sees the 31-year-old continuing to move away from her mainstream 90’s pop roots. With her last album, Robyn, she gets you to move with what I like to call “Euro-Trash-Dance-Pop,” but with this latest release, she tones it down a smidge. This album still gets you to move at some points, though.

Fembot” is the top highlight off of Body Talk. An anthem about female robots being able to get their hearts broken despite their metal parts, this fun track starts with a childish keyboard melody and has Robyn implementing monotone lyrics but still makes it fun with a plethora of electronic effects. With lyrics like “My super brains are binary/Circuitry and mainframes in for hair/I’m sippin’ propane topped with a cherry/In fact I’m a very scientifically-advanced hot mama/Artificially discreet, no drama/Digitally chic titanium armor,” it’s hard to resist the ensuing robot dance party in your living room.

The first single is “Dancing On My Own,” a story of a girl who follows her ex to a club to spy on him. The quick, thick, bass-y pulses bring back some of that Euro-Trash-Dance-Pop, but the song itself is a slower track. This pulsating occurs throughout the entire track in different forms and Robyn’s ailing voice tries to evoke some strong emotions from the listener. Honestly, you’d probably feel sorry for her if the song wasn’t so creepy. I mean, check out these lyrics: “I’m in the corner, watching you kiss her/I’m right over here, why can’t you see me?/I’m giving it my all but I’m not the girl you’re taking home/I keep dancing on my own.”

None of Dem” is a Royksopp-produced track. You remember this duo from that Geico commercial that featured their song “Remind Me.” The fellow Swedes leave their mark all over Robyn’s song, which is very synth-y and has more pulsating sounds and tones. While the verses are quite slow and toned down to a simplistic sound, the choruses are very heavy and can be overwhelming. This back and forth battle between beats makes it hard to get a good dance rhythm going, but it’s a good track to appreciate with your headphones on.

As with her self-titled release, Robyn’s Body Talk, Pt. 1 starts off very strong but seems to taper at the end. Many of the songs are great dance hall and club anthems, but it’s almost as if Robyn misses those 90’s pop/R&B roots and attempts to squeeze a little bit of that in the end.

This first installment is a good release, but not as good as Robyn, which had 16 songs and clocked in at almost an hour. Body Talk’s mere 8-tracks totaling half and hour are okay but leave much to be desired, making the wait for the next two installments almost a nuisance! That being said, I’m definitely eagerly awaiting what she has up her sleeve for these next two installments.

Bonus: “Fembot” live at Skavlan

Buy the album at our record store on Amazon

Might we recommend some previous shows & blogs you might totally digg:

Read The Review That Started It All Julius C :: OK, OK.

Read The Album Review of Sia :: We Are Born

Download Free Music From TV Buddhas – “Let Me Sleep”

Read The Review on Attack Attack’s self-titled sophomore release.

Check Out Turrtle Phoning it in!

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Artist of the Week-Mike Viola

Given our pseudo-theme of the month, I felt it was only appropriate that we carried on for a couple more weeks.  This month has all been centered around power-pop artists and this week is yet another artist who has the ability to belt out catchy, meaningful, and often playful tunes.  While power-pop may not be everyone’s favorite style of music, this blogger finds that it is an often underappreciated style of play and one that contains some of the brightest lyrical minds in the music world.  This week we recognize an artist who just nearly made legendary status.  Ladies and gentlemen, welcome Mike Viola to Enter the Shell’s Artist of the week.

When you bring up the name Mike Viola, not many people are going to jump up and say “yeah, I know that guy, he’s a great musician!”  And while he is certainly a great musician, the reason most people won’t jump and hoot in support of Mr. Viola is that they probably haven’t heard of him…that is until you tell them what he’s worked on.  Much like last week’s Fountains of Wayne (who Mike Viola is close friends with), our artist has been a part of film and has collaborated with other artists who seem to get more attention than he himself does.  Mike Viola co-wrote with Adam Schlesinger the title song for That Thing You Do! (he performed it, too) as well as many of the songs for 2007’s Walk Hard:  The Dewey Cox Story.  Aside from those movie initiatives, he has also been Mandy Moore’s musical director, and toured with acts like They Might Be Giants, Barenaked Ladies, and Robyn Hitchcock.

Mike Viola is an artist who has been in the game for many years.  He’s played in various bands, collaborations, and teamed up with others to help add to their music (or just to have fun).  A Massachusetts native, Viola had been in the music scene since the 80’s, but it wasn’t until his mid-90’s band, the Candy Butchers, that his music really began gaining attention.  It was during this time that he and Schlesinger penned the title track for That Thing You Do! that reached number 41 in Billboard’s Hot 100 songs of 1996.  The Candy Butchers demonstrated Viola’s exquisite writing abilities, which often focused on the eternally relatable subject of failing and functioning love lives.  The Candy Butchers were excellent at writing songs that you could tap your toes and sing-along to all without getting embarrassed about what it was you were listening to.

While the pop songs were great, it was 2004’s Hang On, Mike that really displayed his talent and emotional spectrum as a writer.  Dealing with topics from his best friend’s introducing him to Kiss Alive II, to bringing children into the world, to the tragic story of coping with the loss of his wife to cancer.  The mark of a great power-pop artist is not only to write catchy and lyrically astute music, but to be able to bridge the spectrum of emotions by drawing from personal experience.  I find few better at this than Mike Viola.

Though Viola has dropped the Candy Butcher moniker, he has gone on to work in other collaborative efforts and has pursued his own solo career.  Having recently moved out to Los Angeles, those local readers who think they might want to check him out will definitely have their opportunity.  Mike Viola’s most recent venture was 2011’s Electro de Perfecto which continues to prove his musical prowess by serving up an offering of more tunes worth singing-along to.  As usual, get your fix below.  Enjoy!

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Artist of the Week (Legend Series)-Nick Lowe

Being a great musician isn’t always about putting out good music.  It’s about knowing your field, being consistent with it, and truly loving what you do.  Few artists are able to bring this skill set to the table for extended periods of time.  This ability to endure and cover four decades of dedication to musical production puts Nick Lowe among our artists of legend.

Nick Lowe began his induction into the music scene in 1967 at age 18 with the band Kippington Lodge, which later changed its name to Brinsley Schwarz, after Lowe’s friend and band mate.  Lowe, bassist and one of the prominent song-writers for Schwarz, wrote some of his future hits during these years such as “Cruel to be Kind” and “(What’s so Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding” (if you’re thinking it’s an Elvis Costello song, you’re half right).

After leaving Brinsley Schwarz, Lowe formed Rockpile in 1975 with Dave Edmunds.  It was during his tenure touring British pubs with Rockpile that he discovered a talent by the name of Declan McManus, known more commonly as Elvis Costello.  Lowe produced his first five albums on the Stiff label and allowed Costello to cover “Peace, Love, and Understanding” in his third album, Armed Forces.  The two have been friends since their meeting and often play shows together.

Nick Lowe, in 1978 took his own name for his band and began his solo career and married Johnny Cash’s step-daughter, Carlene Carter whose 1980 album Musical Shapes was produced by Lowe and featured both Lowe and Edmunds on guitar and bass.  Lowe even wrote the song “the Beast in Me” for Cash himself (which Lowe later recorded on his album the Impossible Bird).  Lowes debut album Jesus of Cool (re-titled Pure Pop for Now People in the U.S.) featured the power pop sound perfected over his years in the pub circuit, but it wasn’t long until his music took a turn.

Not wanting to turn into an aged musician trying to act young, Lowe turned his sights out of long-haired rocking and began playing around with roots rock and singer/songwriter simplicity.  The sound may have changed, but the lyrics retained their original wit, humor, and honesty (listen to the songs “Has she got a Friend” and “Trained her to Love Me” and you’ll understand what I’m talking about).  The difference between his first albums and his latter ones show a maturity and sense of wisdom that some aging artists seem to forget.

Over the years Lowe has worked with many musicians.  Whether as a writer, producer, or band member, his influence has stretched generations.  With names like the Damned, Daryl Hall (of Hall and Oates), the Rumour, John Hiatt, the Pretenders, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Ry Cooder, Huey Lewis, Robyn Hitchcock, Diana Ross, and many more (not to mention the above references) that have been associated with Lowe, how could one deny the impact this man has had on the music industry?  To use a cliché simile, Lowe is like a fine wine.  He gets better with age.  And though it’s a corny comparison, it’s true.  The more the man writes, the more you want to listen to his more recent albums over and over again.  With twelve albums under the name of Nick Lowe alone, this legend has much to offer with his timeless songs that any and all can relate to.  Whether you’re looking for that fist-pumping sound, or the mood music for your next date, Nick Lowe has that special song for everyone.

Useful Links

Official Website

Yep roc’s Website

Sound of Old Nick Lowe

Sound of New Nick Lowe

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Sara’s Best Albums of 2010

As you may or may not know, I have decided to leave Enter The Shell and this will be my final blog. It has been an amazing two and a half years and I have nothing but love for Turrtle, Mailo, Richard, Ky and Justin. All walks of life have been in and out of the shell and I have enjoyed every single moment of it…And if I didn’t enjoy it, I definitely learned some lessons along the way. Being a part of ETS will be something I will always look back on fondly as an incredible life experience and as a professional training ground. There will be a huge void in my life without the shell! But I know I have made friends here and a little of the pain will be dulled because of that. So to all of you who have supported me, and most importantly, THE SHELL, I say thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Now, onto my picks for the best albums of 2010 [Click the titles for individual album reviews]!

The best album of 2010
The ArchAndroid: Suites II and III by Janelle Monáe

Well, I know you all saw it coming. From the moment I was exposed to this album in May, I was hooked. Not only does Monáe transcend genres perfectly in her debut, but this young woman is the role model that young girls need these days. In an era of the oversexed media and population, Monáe’s flare for fashion, dance and acceptance of all things music reminds girls (and people in general) to keep an open mind and be your own person. Her music is catchy, smart and fun. Hopefully Diddy (her mentor) doesn’t turn her into a pussycat doll somewhere down the line. Click here to buy it on Amazon!

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2. Sir Lucious Left Foot…The Son of Chico Dusty by Big Boi
I was never a huge fan of OutKast but for some reason, I was looking forward to Big Boi’s highly anticipated solo debut and purchased it the day it came out. It planted its seed and what grew within me was something massive…A Georgia peach tree from the dirrty south! Armed with the coolest beat in song-of-the-summer “Shutterbugg”, Chico Dusty is 2010’s gem, especially with smart lines like: “My recitals are vital and maybe needed for survival/Like the Bible or any other good book that you read/Why are 75 percent of our youth reading magazines?/’Cause they used to fantasy and it’s what they do to dreams/Call it fiction addiction ’cause the truth is a heavy thing/Remember when the levies screamed, made the folks evacuees?/Yeah I’m still speakin’ about it ’cause New Orleans ain’t clean/And when we shoutin’ ‘Dirty South’ I don’t think that is what we mean.” Click here to buy it on Amazon!

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3. Body Talk by Robyn
“Please state your full name for the record: ROBYN!” This Swedish firecracker left 2010’s pop starlets in the dust when she released three albums within one year. Body Talk, Pt. 1 was a good start and provided a universal list-topping single in “Dancing on My Own,” but Body Talk, Pt. 2 stepped up the game and left us wanting more! When the third installment was released, it was met with a little confusion (by me) as to why she would cheat us out of our money by making it consist mostly of songs from the first two releases. Upon listening to the album though, the listener discovers she wasn’t cheating us at all but really exposing us to the best pop explosion of 2010! Konichiwa Records was built on the foundation of musical freedom, as Robyn began it when Jive began to confine her vision. Well, one thing is for sure: Jive is kicking themselves in the ass right now. She has proved that, in her own words, “the whole industry knows better than to fuck with me!” Click here to buy it on Amazon!

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4. I Learned the Hard Way by Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
After spending most of her life trying to make a career out of singing but only getting as far as the back-up mic, Sharon Jones was finally given the opportunity to shine in 2002. Her soul group’s fourth album, which was released in 2010, is further proof that this feisty mid-50-year-old is on the top of her game. So what if it took her a few decades to get noticed? The important thing is that in her prime, she is blowing away the competition in the neo-soul/revivalist musical movement and the group’s live shows are a living, breathing, dancing, grooving testament to that. Jones, at 54, still moves like she’s in her early 20’s and sings like she has all the wisdom in the world. The Dap-Kings are the perfect back-up band for Jones’ personality and lively voice, making this combo a 1-2 punch! Click here to buy it on Amazon!

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5. Distant Relatives by Nas & Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley
Though this album was released in May (the same day as Monáe’s, actually), I only recently discovered it. This Nas and Marley collaboration displays the talent of both artists. Their respective flows have such different styles yet they merge together nicely, all while delivering a profound message of togetherness and peace. Nas has always been known to have his own style in flow while Marley’s back-and-forth between singing and rapping add some softness and bite. A positive album out there is what this world needs and Relatives provides that in expressing love, peace and even questions that will hopefully make things better. The first step towards making change is asking questions, right? This album does that while still being creative and musically appealing. Click here to buy it on Amazon!

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6. Stuck on Nothing by Free Energy
The James Murphy-led outfit LCD Soundsystem has been on plenty of “Top Albums of 2010″ lists with their recent [and final?] release, This Is Happening. The album is good, but didn’t make my list. Instead, Murphy made an appearance in another way: with his perfect producing on Free Energy’s debut album. Stuck on Nothing is the perfect pop-rock record, reminiscent of 70’s and glam rock with a heavy dose of pop. The delicious hooks do their job and keep you hooked and the album has gotten great reviews across the boards from numerous musical outlets. Though Murphy’s little pet project (the band is also signed to his DFA label) has yet to break through into the “popular” realm, it is certainly making a name for itself as one of Spin Magazine’s favorite new acts. And more importantly, one of mine. Click here to buy it on Amazon!

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7. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West
Despite Mailo’s scathing review of West’s fifth full-length, West just won’t go away. Fueled by his own need for perfection, West pulled out the big [creative] guns for Fantasy. Melding together the perfect mix of classic College Dropout Kanye with the new 808’s and Heartbreak Kanye, the polarizing performer boasts what many are saying is the best of the year. I don’t agree that this album tops any of those above it, but I do agree that this album kicks ass. The production and engineering is superb (it even prompted an L.A. Times interview with the otherwise looked-over engineer of the album), the lyrics are typical emotional, silly, sarcastic Kanye and his celebrity pull is demonstrated in tracks like “Monster” and “All of the Lights.” Kudos, Kanye. Click here to buy it on Amazon!

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8. Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates by The Bird and the Bee
As I said before, when I heard the opening track of TBATB’s latest release, I exclaimed “ALBUM OF THE YEAR!” based solely on that. The album was released in March so obviously I was a little premature. But at any rate, Inara George and Greg Kurstin’s latest indie-pop-fest holds its own and did so for two months before Monáe bumped her down. Even though I don’t usually like to count cover albums as a legit album, Interpreting the Masters has shown me that that is not necessarily always the case, especially when the new act completely reinvents classic songs and still makes them work. George and Kurstin introduced a classic duo to a new generation with this release and I’m looking forward to them doing the same with [hopefully] some new volumes. Mailo and I have expressed our love for George for her creativity, uniqueness and style, but only I have a special song dedicated to me! Click here to buy it on Amazon!

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9. Contra by Vampire Weekend
VW have had a busy year having a commercially successful album, having their songs featured in seemingly every commercial on TV and a lawsuit filed against them by the woman on the cover of the album. Overshadowing that though is the greatness of the album in general. Lead singer Ezra Koenig’s charmful and sweet voice paired with rock and electronic sounds and beats makes this album a guaranteed way to make you move. Additional help from strings to New Wave influences help make Contra one of the best albums of the year. From songs about Mexican “aguas frescas” to reminiscing about gay, sugar daddy love affairs, Vampire Weekend makes anything sound cute. Click here to buy it on Amazon!

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10. Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager by Kid Cudi
After releasing one of 2009’s most highly anticipated albums which then became one of the best of 2009, Cudi turned around and released Rager. Dealing with the downfall after the success of MOTM1, Rager is considerably darker in tone and more mellow in sound as Cudi has suffered some dark times. Rager is quite personal and the listener almost finds him or herself in a conversation with the troubled man himself. The album’s single “Erase Me” is deplorable, despite it featuring Kanye West and “McLovin'” in the music video but the rest of the album is rife with gems like “Marijuana,” “Ashin’ Kusher,” “The Mood” and “Wild’n Cuz I’m Young.” Cudi has gone on record by saying he’s tired of hip-hop and is starting a rock band, which I’m not too thrilled about since “Erase Me” is probably a preview of what’s to come. If that’s the case though, at least we have two great original Kid Cudi albums. Click here to buy it on Amazon!

Here are some other pages you might like on ETS:

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Grammy 2011 Nominations Reactions

The first half of this is reaction is by friend of EnterTheShell.com and Drinkcast alum, Michael.

Michael’s Reactions

The Grammys had their annual nomination party complete with performances by Katy Perry, B.o.B, Bruno Mars, Train and Justin Bieber. The event was held to announce the Grammy Nominations and springboard the promotion of the big show, the 53rd Grammy Awards (which will air Feb. 13, 2011 at 8pm ET/PT).

Here’s the thing about the Grammys: They have the weirdest guidelines for your work to be nominated. Albums must be released between Sept. 1, 2009 and Sept. 30, 2010 (a 13-month period) to be eligible for this year’s Grammys. So anything that comes afterwards is out of luck, which puts us out of luck because some of the best music comes out during the latter part of the year. Why can’t the Grammys take a note from the Oscars, which wait for the whole entire year to get the crème de la crème films in contention?

By following these guidelines they’re really short-listing this year’s Best Album race. This being the Grammys, the best album race covers a variety of genres: The Suburbs, Arcade Fire (Indie Rock), Recovery, Eminem (Rap), Need You Now, Lady Antebellum (Country), The Fame Monster, Lady Gaga (Pop), Teenage Dream, Katy Perry (Pop).

Being completely honest, if I were a voter I would vote for The Suburbs by Arcade Fire, not only because it’s one of the best albums of the year, but also because it is light years better than the other nominees. My real problems with these nominations are with GAG-a and Perry. First, wasn’t The Fame nominated last year? It was, in fact. Doesn’t The Fame Monster have the same songs? Yes, in fact 14 of the 22 tracks are from the prior album. Ok, ok so let’s take the eight new songs and say that’s the basis for the nomination; those must be some really phenomenal songs, right? Second-rate Madonna knock-offs. With the exception of “Bad Romance,” I call this nomination a bust.

I would have gone with The ArchAndroid by Janelle Monae, two entire suites of musical bliss, or even Lungs by Florence and the Machine. The Katy Perry nomination also feel unearned seeing as most critics lambasted the album, unless this was the academy’s thank you for performing at the televised nomination party.

Record of the Year nomination went to B.o.B and Bruno Mars (“Nothing on You”), Eminem feat. Princess RiRi (“Love the Way You Lie”), Cee Lo Green (“F— You”), Jay-Z and Alicia Keys (“Empire State of Mind”) and Lady Antebellum (“Need You Now”). The showdown for this award will be between the collaborated songs “Love the Way You Lie” and “Empire State of Mind,” which puts last year’s Rap/R&B chart-topper with this year’s Rap/R&B topper. If I had it my way, Cee Lo Green’s “F— You” takes the prize.

Best New Artist is the most diverse I have seen in a while: Florence and the Machine, Mumford and Sons, Esperanza Spalding, Justin Bieber and Drake. I hope Florence and the Machine wins this one and I’m glad the fans don’t pick the winners or else Bieber Fever would sweep the entire show.

For those disappointed by this year’s nominations, well better luck next year when the overhyped (read: over it) Kanye West and Taylor Swift showdown will take center stage. Yes, I’m already hyping up next year’s award show…Maybe I can snag a nomination for Best Spoken Word Album!!! Oh, sorry I’m out of contention. It seems that GAG-a’s Fame Whore Monster stole all the nominations.

P.S. we all know who the reigning pop queen is anyway and its not you Gaga its Robyn (!) whose “Dancing on my Own” was robbed!

Sara’s Reactions

Not to worry, my friend. Robyn got her nomination as more were announced throughout the evening. Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own” was nominated for Best Dance Recording along the likes of Goldfrapp (“Rocket”), La Roux (“In For The Kill”), Lady Gaga (“Dance in the Dark”) and Rihanna (“Only Girl in the World”). We’ve got some huge pop heavyweights on this list in Gaga and Ri-Ri, but it’s time for them to step aside and let a real dance veteran (Robyn) finally get what she deserves.

Our girl Janelle Monae deserved to be in the Best Album category HANDS DOWN but instead she must settle for Best Contemporary Album while “Tightrope” feat. Big Boi got a nom for Best Urban/Alternative Performance. I’m really peeved by this. I’m not the only one who believes Jane deserves a Best Album nom, as The ArchAndroid: Suites II and III has appeared near or on the top of countless Top Album lists around the blogosphere.

Speaking of Big Boi, probably the most under-rated song of the year which appears on probably the most under-rated album of the year, “Shutterbugg” feat. Cutty gets a nom for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group. Good luck to Big Boi, whose album Sir Lucious Left Foot…The Son of Chico Dusty is more likely than not going to make it to the top five on my list of best albums of 2010.

On the rock end, ETS faves Vampire Weekend, Arcade Fire, Band of Horses, The Black Keys and Broken Bells round out the nominations for Best Alternative Album. In my opinion, Vampire Weekend’s Contra or Broken Bells’ self-titled debut are totally deserving of the win. Band of Horses’ Infinite Arms was a disappointment while I just can’t wrap my head around The Black Keys (Brothers) or Arcade Fire (The Suburbs).

In a fun favorite for Michael and myself, Kathy Griffin and Flight of the Conchords will be duking it out for a tiny gold phonograph for Best Comedy Album. My vote goes to K-Griff who I’m a huge fan of but more for the reason that FOC’s I Told You I Was Freaky was nothing compared to their self-titled debut (with the exception of “Carol Brown”).

Now, there’s no way we can react or even read every nomination on this list (do they really have to have a nomination for EVERY genre?) so to see the list for yourself, click here and see if your favorite artist made the cut. Then, give us YOUR reactions!

Here are our takes on some of the albums mentioned above:

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Weekly Album Release Parties! :: Nov. 22, 2010

Whoa! Today’s weekly album release party is SO big that it’s coming in a few hours late! Here is the other side of the hurricane we saw the eye of last week. Get ready to get your mind blown!

Here are the new album releases for Tuesday, Nov. 22:

  • The Smashing Pumpkins – Teargarden by Kaleidyscope, Vol. II: “The Solstice Bare” ["Freak"]
  • Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy ["Runaway"]
  • Ke$ha – Cannibal ["We R Who We R"]
  • Lloyd Banks – H.F.M.2. (Hunger for More 2) ["Big Bully"]
  • My Chemical Romance – Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys ["Na na na"]
  • Ne-Yo – Libra Scale ["Champagne Life"]
  • Nicki Minaj – Pink Friday ["Your Love"]
  • Robyn – Body Talk, Pt. 3 ["Indestructible"]
  • Yelawolf – Trunk Muzik ["Pop the Trunk"]

Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay! Get your drinks up and let’s toast this week! We’ve got some of my most favoritest artists releasing next week so you KNOW I’ll be out there in line! Hope to see you there!

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