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Album Review

Most quality trip-hop vocal acts feature cagey singers who couldn't care less about using their sensuality to sell records — the norm is either extreme publicity shyness (Portishead's Beth Gibbons, Lamb's Louise Rhodes) or playing up their sensuality for ironic or sarcastic effect (Róisín Murphy, Björk). And usually, the groups with no such reservations exist on the Buddha-Bar fringe that rarely produces much in the way of quality music. Bitter:Sweet are a different proposition, however. Immaculately self-produced by the duo itself (and boasting a full complement of musician support), Drama is a most sweet and seductive record. Obviously, vocalist Shana Halligan is the reason for most of the sensuality; she has a knack for double-entendre lyrics, whether she's in club mode ("Let's have a dance, while our souls get undressed") or delivering what's supposed to be an emotional ballad ("What did I do to undress all the beauty that surrounds me"). The lyrics and songwriting aren't top-notch — "Sugar Mama" is too clever by half — but everything else on tap delivers quite well. Musically, while there's a certain degree of programming here, and the album appears on the groove-friendly Quango label, this isn't strictly a dance record. A wide array of fusion is the name of the game, mostly Latin or French and including salsa-fied pianos, tango basslines, and the occasional accordion flourish. The band is large at three dozen members, and is conducted and produced extremely well. (Extra credit beyond Bitter:Sweet themselves likely goes to Halligan's father, Dick Halligan, a member of Blood, Sweat & Tears who arranged some of BS&T's best material.) A few songs have a widescreen cinematic quality that would make them naturals for the James Bond treatment. For those who like their dance records organic, or their organic records danceable, and don't appreciate (or understand) the difficult vocalists behind some of the best trip-hop vocal acts, Bitter:Sweet are the answer.

Customer Reviews

More Drama than you can handle!

Wow! Bitter:Sweet crafts another imminently catchy, hook-laden masterpiece. Shana has such a sexy, confident voice and Kiran mixes so many great genres into an intoxicating blend. So what if Amy W is out of the running for 007's "Quantum of Solace"... look no further than the title track "Drama" or "Trouble" if you want a classic sound with a modern twist befitting the Bond franchise reboot. I'm glad I pre-ordered this for the bonus Serj Tankian alternate version of "Drama". Tracks #6, 7, 12 & 13 take the album into sultry downtempo territory. "The Bomb" is the full version of the theme to "The Lipstick Jungle", I would bet many other tracks end up on your favorite TV shows, movies & commercials much like their first album. "The Mating Game" and it's many remixes remain among the most-played on my iPod. Also highly recommended: Natalie Walker, Hooverphonic, Lamb, Morcheeba & Telepopmusik (can you tell I like trip-hop?) Please, please visit Minneapolis when you tour this summer!

Good, but not The Mating Game

Alright, I get the first review. Upon my first listen, my overall impression was that this second album by Bitter:Sweet was not as much a winner as The Mating Game. While I almost immediately liked each track of their first album, this one is going to take some listening to to warm up to. However, the potential is definitely there. What Bitter:Sweet does maintain is their ingenuity in combining a modern electronic sound with the more classic sound of a big band or latin orchestra. There is still that "James Bond Theme" feel to many of these songs. A playful and dark sultriness to them that echoes the feel of their previous album. But this album has less songs that might have mass appeal - what you might call the "radio play songs" - and more that might take some warming up to. The songs that most echo the appeal of their previous album are "Get What I Want", "The Bomb", "Trouble", and "Neurosis". The songs that offer a newer sound from them that I like are "Waking Up" and "Love Revolution". The other songs don't grab me as much, but aren't so unappealing that I wouldn't listen to them. So, overall this album is not as much of an initial hit to me as The Mating Game, but I can also see it growing on me more and more as I listen to it - as many sophomore albums do when you go into them with the high expectations set by the previous album.

bittersweet like the perfect martini

Album 2 maintains the same sleek retro-lounge vibe that their first album had, only this one is less chill and more tongue-in-cheek. They are masters of creative musical timing, and the lyrics simply drip like honey from lead singer Shanna's lips. Pour me some more!


Formed: 2006 in Los Angeles, CA

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Baroque trip-hop duo Bitter:Sweet formed in Los Angeles, featuring vocalist Shana Halligan and producer Kiran Shahani (the latter of whom is also a founding member of Supreme Beings of Leisure). The two had lived just one block away from each other and had even recorded in the same studio before meeting via an online ad. Bitter:Sweet released their debut, The Mating Game, on Quango in April 2006. Drama followed in mid-2008, featuring a track titled "The Bomb" that was used as the theme for the television...
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Drama, Bitter:Sweet
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Customer Ratings