Blue Songs (Bonus Track Version)
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In 2008, Hercules and Love Affair — a project headed up by Andrew Butler — released its self-titled debut. It was a 21st-century reimagining of disco, but it didn’t come off as just another example of retro cool; it actually packed an emotional punch. The excellent songwriting and the vocal talents of Antony Hegarty (of Antony & The Johnsons) and Nomi Ruiz were two of the main reasons why the album worked. Those singers are absent on 2011’s Blue Songs, a solid follow-up. There are touches here and there that hint at the influence of 1970s/’80s New York disco radicals such as August Darnell and Ronnie Rogers, but the primary historical referent here is house. The insistent “My House,” with effective vocals by Shaun Wright, is a prime example of this stylistic switch. “Answers Come In Dreams,” is a funky whatzit that features Aerea Negrot, whose striking vocals recall Grace Jones. Bloc Party frontman Kele Okereke does a good job on the chugging house track “Step Up,” and Kim Ann Foxman, who appeared on the Hercules and Love Affair debut, lends her voice to “Shelter.”
Don't listen to those who lead you astray.
HALA's self-titled debut is one of my favorite albums from 2008. "Blind", which features the amazing Antony Hegarty on vocals, is still one of the coolest dance songs I've ever heard. Certainly HALA had huge shoes to fill when recording their follow-up album.
What's worse, Blue Songs was released at the top of a year when fans of dance music prefer to listen to the overproduced and heavily commercial sounds of artists like David Guetta, Benny Benassi, and Lady Gaga. And I haven't even mentioned the sudden massive popularity of Dubstep, which in the past year has saturated every remix single available to the public. Nothing against Dubstep, but something has to be said for overplaying something to death.
Blue Songs is, in my opinion, a breath of fresh air. Each song, while individual, shares a common thread with the rest of the tracks. They all sound like they stepped out of a time capsule from a 1989 gay discoteca. The string arrangements: Fabulous. The vocals: Perfection: The beats: Energizing. To hate this album, is to hate the soul of dance music.
Painted Eyes, the opening track, takes aim for your feet, and effectively lifts you off your a**. The momentum is kicked up a notch with the infectious rhythms of My House. Unlike the disposable party anthems of HALA's contemporaries, these song may take a couple listens to grow on you at your computer, but I guarantee you can play this at a house party on full blast, you're gonna get some people up and moving. The next two tracks, Answers come in dreams and Leonora, are equally enjoyable. But then we hit the middle of the album, and the ecstatic state of mind is killed by two really dull and boring tracks: Blue Boy and Blue Songs.
I'm all for the color blue, but these songs do NOTHING for me. They keep me from giving the album a full 5 stars. But luckily HALA redeem themselves with the next four tracks, building the excitement back up until the climax: a cover of Sterling Void's hit "It's Alright" (made famous by Pet Shop Boys). This song is a rave classic, so it was a bit perplexing to hear it completely void of a beat. But after a second listen, I realized it was my favorite song on the album. It's Alright has always been a song close to my heart. The lyrics are so inspirational. HALA give the song full respect here, and I guarantee you'll love it.
The iTunes version comes with a bunch of bonus tracks. While I haven't played them all yet, I can say this much: For $9.99 what are you waiting for? Just buy the whole album!
Save your $$
Uninspired and monotonous, every track sounds the same as the one before. Even the remixes are sub-par. I'm so disappointed.
A steep slope downward, but starts off with one hell of a bang.
The opening track for this album, the deceptive, Bjork-esque single "Painted Eyes", emanates brilliant sincerity with some beautifully crafted Euro style dance-pop that subtley adds more and more depth as its 6 minute love affair with Hercules (*wink*) entraces you into dancing its ephemeral fandango along with it. The deep, crawling bassline gets under your skin and gets you addicted to the beat, and just as you feel you've spaced out in the pleasant wavy sounds, a sweet, dominating string melody creeps into the song and slowly evolves into its signature stacatto 80s-cheese that succeeds at digging into your mind for days through the perfect amount of repetition and familiarity. This track provides some much needed sincere pop in a time where ironic chillwave runs the scene.
I can't say enough about the album opener, but, unfortunately, its the only aspect worth commenting on in this long, rather non-descipt album. While the instrumentation and ambiance stays consistent throughout the last 13 tracks, the replay quality and memorability sharply drops as the rest drags on and on and seems to blend together. Keep in mind, the album doesn't have the flaw of being loud and distracting, it sways to the other end of the spectrum - background music. A good album to keep on while, say, working on Sudoku or Picross, all but "Painted Eyes" wouldn't be fit to turn up at a party or a club to get people moving. There are moments in "My House" and "Falling" that stand out amidst the drone, but nothing fulfills very well after the introduction.
My 3 star review is for the excellence of the first track (which would be 5 stars without a doubt on its own), while the rest of the release isn't worth much more than a backdrop for the single. The majority of the album certainly doesn't take anything away, as it keeps consistency in musical quality, but this brand of ambient Euro pop requires something extra to stand out, and none of these live up to the high bar set at the start. As my title says: Blue Songs starts off with perfection, but can't keep your interest for very long after the initial 6 minutes. Whether getting the album as a canvas for "Painted Eyes" to shine on is worth $9.99 is questionable - hence the 3 stars.
Years Active: '00s
Top Albums and Songs By Hercules and Love Affair
||Painted Eyes||Blue Songs (Bonus Track Version)||6:01||$0.99||View In iTunes|
||Blind (Full Album Version)||Hercules and Love Affair||6:18||$1.29||View In iTunes|
||My House||Blue Songs (Bonus Track Version)||4:52||$0.99||View In iTunes|
||Raise Me Up||Hercules and Love Affair||3:51||$1.29||View In iTunes|
||Shelter||Blue Songs (Bonus Track Version)||3:45||$0.99||View In iTunes|
||Blind (Radio Edit)||Blind - Single||3:42||$1.29||View In iTunes|
||Leonora||Blue Songs (Bonus Track Version)||4:32||$0.99||View In iTunes|
||Classique #2 (Edit)||Classique # 2 - Single||6:10||$1.29||View In iTunes|
||Blind (Frankie Knuckles Remix)||Blind||7:51||$1.29||View In iTunes|
||My House (Tensnake Remix)||Blue Songs (Bonus Track Version)||8:01||$0.99||View In iTunes|