Kelly Hogan & Reviews of Emeli Sande & Hot Chip

Singer Kelly Hogan visits the studio. A sought-after collaborator for the likes of Neko Case and Andrew Bird, Hogan’s powerful voice shines through on her new solo record, I Like to Keep Myself in Pain.

Kelly Hogan
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There are a lot of reasons to love Louis C.K., but the latest is how the comedian’s handled ticketing for his new tour. Not only has he bypassed the much-loathed behemoth Ticketmaster (by selling tickets through his own site), he’s also significantly cut down on scalping. He’s let fans know that any tickets showing up on secondary ticketing sites like StubHub and eBay will be deactivated. So far it’s worked. Out of the tickets C.K. sold through Ticketmaster to two shows at conventional venues, 25% have already appeared on secondary sites. Of the tickets he sold through his own site, less than 1% have appeared on secondary sites. Which gets Jim thinking - why don’t more musicians stand up for their fans this way?

Jim and Greg review mid-year sales numbers from Nielsen SoundScan. So far trends established in 2011 have continued: sales of physical product are down, sales of digital singles are up. The most striking continuity with 2011? Adele’s sales dominance continues into year two.

Kelly Hogan

You might not know the name, but chances are you’ve heard the voice. Kelly Hogan is best known as a backup singer for acts like Neko Case, Jakob Dylan, and Mavis Staples. If your spine’s ever tingled listening to a Neko song, chances are you have Hogan’s harmonies to thank. But on her new record, out on the illustrious ANTI- label, Hogan’s the one out front. Hogan solicited tunes for I Like to Keep Myself in Pain from an impressive roster of songwriter friends - people like Andrew Bird, Vic Chesnutt, M. Ward, and Robyn Hitchcock. That Hogan can cover a Robyn Hitchcock song and make it her own gives you some idea of her interpretive abilities. She’s also a big personality and consummate performer. She and the band stopped by the studio to play songs from I Like to Keep Myself in Pain. She explained to Jim and Greg how she started performing publicly and why her favorite songs are like perfectly built little birdhouses.

Our Version of Events Emeli Sande

Our Version of Events

Not long ago, Scottish R&B singer Emeli Sande was studying neuroscience at Glasgow University. Writing and performing music was a side gig. That changed in 2009 when she hooked up with British hip-hop producer Naughty Boy and the two put out the successful single Diamond Rings with Chipmunk. It’s been a swift rise for Sande ever since. After working as a songwriter for artists like Leona Lewis, Susan Boyle and Tinie Tempah, she’s put out her first solo record, Our Version of Events, on a major label. So is Sande the next Adele as some in the British press have prophesied? Jim says not quite. While the quality of Sande’s voice is undeniable, he’s disturbed by the submissiveness in her lyrics (there’s something uncomfortable, he says, about a 25-year-old woman referring to a lover as daddy.) Sande’s cited both Nina Simone and Massive Attack as influences, but when it comes to merging those sounds, Jim says Sande’s got a ways to go. What social consciousness there is on this record is generic and uncompelling. Greg agrees. In trying to show Sande’s breadth as a songwriter, he suspects her producers spread her too thin. Still, the voice is there, and Greg predicts Sande will go on to make better records than this one. Our Version of Events gets a double Burn It.

In Our Heads Hot Chip

In Our Heads

Also hailing from the UK is Hot Chip, a group some have called England’s answer to LCD Soundsystem. Composed mainly of songwriters Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard, the electro-poppers are out with their fifth studio album In Our Heads. On their last album One Life Stand, the band moved away from the happy-go-lucky party tracks that established them into decidedly more emotional territory. Does In Our Heads continue the trend? Greg says unfortunately, yes. He’s always relished Hot Chip’s dancier tracks for they way they compress the history of electronic dance music into three minutes. On In Our Heads the band continues to wear its influences on its sleeve, cribbing from the likes of Prince, The Talking Heads, and Luther Vandross. But for every killer single like Let Me Be Him, there are more than a few drippy ballads. Jim agrees. For him, Hot Chip is essentially a singles band. When they’re on, they’re on, when they’re not, they’re not. On the strength of the few great singles on this record, Jim and Greg give In Our Heads a Burn It rating.

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