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Blue Songs

4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Audio CD (31 Jan. 2011)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Moshi Moshi
  • ASIN: B004AYBT0C
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  Vinyl  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 43,240 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Painted Eyes
2. My House
3. Answers Come in Dreams
4. Leonora
5. Boy Blue
6. Blue Song
7. Falling
8. I Can't Wait
9. Step Up
10. Visitor
11. It's Alright

Product Description

BBC Review

Blue Songs sees Hercules lynchpin Andy Butler and his shape-shifting array of chums return, after scoring gold in the collaborative and critical sense with a self-titled 2008 debut. That breakthrough was spearheaded by the sublime Yazoo-channelling single Blind, with vocals by Antony Hegarty (of ...and the Johnsons fame); its parent LP a record justifiably celebrated as one of the best of its kind to emerge in the last decade.

For the follow-up, Butler has moved away from the distraction-heavy New York scene in favour of his hometown of Denver; he also recorded in Vienna with techno legend Patrick Pulsinger. Again, a troupe of contributors has been assembled – appearing alongside mainstay Kim Ann Foxman are Venezuelan singer Aerea Negrot, Shaun Wright and Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke. The results mostly reference the 1985-1994 house era that Butler’s own label, Mr Intl., operates within. But this is no pastiche of that time, more a further exploration – and added elements of future disco ensure Blue Songs is very much relevant in 2011.

Opener Painted Eyes, featuring the octave-tastic lungs of Negrot, is pure 21st century Sylvester. Lead single My House couldn’t be more 1989 hands-aloft deep house – you expect Adeva to pop up at any moment; even its accompanying video seems like a lost episode of Dance Energy. Boy Blue features mellow acoustic strums underpinned by a menacing electronic throb and brass swells, sounding not unlike something from Screamadelica. Kele’s contribution to Step Up continues his disco epiphany, and drags him even further into the house nation; and there can be no better tune than the uptown Chic disco of Falling for getting ready to before a big night out. The album closes with a slowed-down abstract take on Sterling Void’s It’s Alright – the sentiments work, even if they are lost a bit in the non-largeness of its soundbed.

Hercules and Love Affair have vaulted over any second album worries with a jubilant and celebratory collection of large tunes. Blue Songs has the ability to sound great whether you’re cleaning the flat, swinging in a hammock or heading down the rave-up. Smashing stuff.

--Ian Wade

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By No Big Words on 7 Jan. 2012
Format: Audio CD
Its as if the music God has put Inner City,The Cool Notes 2 pints of electronica a pinch of funk and a dash of soul into a food processor and created Hercules and Love Affair.I'm not even sure the music god even put aside Sunday as a rest day the work and imagination that has gone into this creation.Any band that can make a clarinet sound cool(track 6)and a flute sound funky (track 1) certainly ticks all the boxes for me.This album is their 2nd and I thought it might miss the vocal presence of the Antony and the Johnsons front man but I thought wrong.This is a must buy album.For some reason this cd has gone into my itunes under the the genre of indie rock,I think its becauce they didn't know what genre to label it as so i made up my own.FUNKASOULAMAZIN
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By Terry on 21 Feb. 2012
Format: MP3 Download Verified Purchase
There are many amazing songs on this album.

They delight, they're quirky and they're innovative.

They are clever without rubbing your nose in how clever they are.

Highly recommended along with their more dance-oriented debut.
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By Simon Wilkinson-Blake on 29 Sept. 2011
Format: Audio CD
I don't follow music close enough to know how to describe this type of music accurately but I love the vocals, instruments and overall production. Check it out at least!
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By AlexT on 4 May 2013
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
So many little gems in here, this is a cd for making love to, for chilling, for having fun. YES!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 6 reviews
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Stylish house sheen; patchy, a bit disappointing. 26 Mar. 2011
By Angry Mofo - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Gone is the heady interplay of horns, disco, and Greek mythology. Instead, Blue Songs offers a club-ready thump, minor-key rhythm chords and sampled shouts of "Go!" and "Come on!" It's rooted far deeper in the Detroit/Chicago influence than the debut. There are a few instruments other than drum machines -- occasional strings or staccato piano notes (echoes of "Strings Of Life") -- but the main body of "My House" is far more representative, all drums and bleeping synth rhythms.

Antony Hegarty and Nomi Ruiz have been swapped out for several new vocalists, including Kele Okereke from Bloc Party. The new guys are mostly less distinctive than the old crew, but they have less to work with. Instead of Antony's unhealthily intense, self-flagellating confessionals, songs like "Visitor" contain stereotypical dancefloor calls and slogans like, "It's no time to stand, it's time to jump." That line is delivered by a flamboyant Eurodance voice resembling the rapper in "Be My Lover" by La Bouche.

Good thing is, without Antony's forceful persona, the vocals can be gentler. Andrew Butler, who sang on the soft and sweet "This Is My Love" on the debut, returns on the very gentle and lovely "Leonora." His vulnerable, slightly plaintive tone on the childlike lines, "Come out and play / Kiss me on this day," combined with the airy but slightly melancholy music, is very affecting. The little circular flourish on piano at the end of the second chorus, while Kim Ann Foxman sighs "She speaks to me," is like a fresh springtime breeze.

Okereke's turn on "Step Up" is another high point. This is the one time the album recalls Antony's prima-donna grand-standing. There's a strong hint of darkness in the lyrics ("there is pain in being real"). The chorus has a positive it's-OK-to-be-yourself message, but Okereke's gentle falsetto has a strangled crack to it, like he's only learned this message after going through some extreme emotional crisis. The music is sparse, with a few bright piano chords providing a splash of sunshine. And dig those awesome, vintage Purple Motion/Skaven synths that pop up in the second half of the chorus! Second Reality 4 Life!

More highlights: "Painted Eyes" uses seductive violins to set a tone of decadent, nocturnal luxury, like the deep blue colour on the album cover. An idea from the debut gets recycled, since the violins repeat a line from "Blind" that was originally played on horns. The vocal, again, doesn't quite have Antony's throaty drive, but is much more delicate. The languorous pace is perfect for swooning in a leather chair while chilling out at an upscale lounge. "My House" has a chorus with the killer pun, "I put my house in order." I am amazed that the Detroit/Chicago pioneers never thought of that. It makes for an amazing hook.

Unfortunately, the album also has some really awful songs, whereas the debut had none. The least bad of these is "Visitor," which I can even enjoy on some level if I can force myself to ignore the hilarious idiocy of that Eurodance chorus. At least it has some dancefloor kick to it. But alas, Blue Songs also has two slow, nearly beatless ballads. "Blue Boy" is a cloying, pastoral bit on acoustic guitar. That style only sounds good if you can play acoustic guitar with a lot of technical skill. Also, this type of song emphasizes the vocalist, so you should also write something better than, "this song is sung for you." Sadly, techno bands typically can't do either of those things, so when they try to write a song like this, it invariably sounds slow, long, and boring (see also the horrible version of "Tessio" on Luomo's second album).

The title track is also slow, and probably should have been only half as long as it is, but at least it has a cool flute/xylophone combo playing in between verses. But things get much worse on "I Can't Wait," an extremely monotonous chugging techno number. Kim Ann Foxman sounds OK with production wizardry to make her voice softer. But here, she tries some kind of loud, bratty snarl, and it sounds terrible, literally unpleasant to the ear. The repetitive lyrics don't help.

And even that's not the bottom of the barrel. I was glad to learn that "It's Alright" is actually a cover. Glad, because it would be unspeakably painful to know that Hercules were responsible for a song asserting that the incredible power of awesome house music will totally bring about world peace, man. I cannot describe to you how much I loathe the lazy, superficial descriptions composed by glancing at this morning's headlines, such as, "Dictations enforced in Afghanistan / People in Eurasia on the brink of oppression" (wait, "on the brink"? you mean they're not quite there?), and then the patronizing, self-important conclusion, "But it's gonna be alright / 'Cause the music plays forever on and on." I dislike many things about this song, even down to the calculated use of populist contractions in "there's one thing fo' sho'" and "givin' me strength." Oh, and it doesn't even have a beat, it wants you to focus on these lyrics.

I try to focus on the good parts. At its best, Blue Songs sounds gentler and nicer than the debut; about half of it is a great follow-up. But I don't think it will hold up as well with time. Even without the really awful songs, the lyrics tend to be less pointed, less personal (except "Step Up"), more vague and stylized. "Answers Come In Dreams" has a cool bass line, but it sounds like the singer is just intoning disconnected phrases, with no narrative or even rhythm to hold them together. I like Larry Heard as much as the next fellow, but it seems that Chicago house is most interesting when someone pushes the envelope a bit more.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
That's Right, I Said It - This Album Is Better Than The First 23 Aug. 2011
By jive_badger - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I love the first self titled album. I love the vocals, love the horns, love the classic disco feel. It's fantastic. It's tough to beat songs like 'Blind' and 'Athena'. But I've listened to Blue Songs for the past few months... repeated listens, a lot of time to let it sink in. I'm sure plenty people will disagree but that's too bad. This album is even better.

It's better for me because I love the theme of this album. It's still got some disco, but this album is house. It's so very house, and it's so very well done. 'My House', 'Falling' - these are great disco/house/electronic tracks. Modern production, euphoric tunes. This is music made by someone who loves dance music. And cripes! There's even more. 'I Can't Wait': This song is great! 'Visitor'... again, great music, great song.
There's been some critisism for the ballads on this album, and I can see where this is coming from. Where the first album had songs (and singers) more upfront and bold, this album has more subdued vocals, and this is a quality that really works for me.

I suppose if there is any real problem here, it's the album's last track 'It's Alright'. But maybe it's because this song will always make me think of Pet Shop Boys. PSB did their own great cover of this song, and like so many great cover songs we get from PSB, their take from the album 'Introspective' simply can't be topped. The version here, by Hercules, is just too long, too plodding, too much of a bummer. You know what guys? I get it, it's your take on this song. But it's a drag. I say just wrap the album up with 'Visitor'. Leave on a high note. Done.

As for this US version, we get a bonus disc of remixes, and they're fine. But we all know the original versions are where it's at. The extra 3 songs are very good and make the bonus material worthwhile, especially the track 'Revenge'. All I know is I like it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Straight out of 1990! 15 Sept. 2011
By xrayman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This is a great gay house record. If you have fond memories (or are into the current revival) of late 80's/ early 90's staples like Black Box, Inner City, The KLF, and Madonna's Shep Pettibone years, you'll love Blue Songs.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This might be who you are 30 Jun. 2011
By Eddie G - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
For people who are expecting Blue Songs to sound like the debut album, I can see where this album might be a bit of a let down, or maybe just too different.
As the previous reviewer mentioned, gone are the Greek references, the bleak vocals of Antony, the soulful stylings of Nomi. The days of DFA/nudisco sounding Hercules seem pretty over.I find that to be a good thing, as Andrew Butler has always said that every album will have a new batch of singers and he has made good on that promise.
What you do get now are the soul sung vocals from Shaun J wright, the amazing Aerea Negrot who sounds probably what Nina Hagen would if she did house, and the incomparable Kim Ann Foxman.
To me this album shows a tremendous amount of growth. I'm sure it could have been easy and faster to release had this group just remade the debut album and pumped it out a year or two ago. From what I can hear though, it seems like much effort went into recreating a 90's sound and feel but just on Andy's terms.
"Painted Eyes" is the opening and amazing song on this album. Lush strings, flute, and Aerea's incredible voice tell a story that could be a friend confessing the amazing qualities in you or a perhaps a eulogy. It sets a path for the album that throws you completely off course for the songs that follow.
"My House" which is the lead single with a very 90's music video goes the complete opposite direction of "Painted Eyes." Very house/deep house in feel. Shaun seems to "reading" an exlover he might have run into at an underground party one night.
From here though, the album slows down a bit. I will agree with the prior reviewer in saying some songs could have been left out. For me it's "Blue Boy." I think if H & LA were the kind of band that would sit on stage strumming a guitar while their vocalist whispers into a microphone, this would be fine. However knowing what they are live and how their other songs go, this could have been a B-side to a single.
The pace picks up around again during "Step Up." The beats start coming back . Again the underground classic house vibe sneaks back in. Soon to be (if not already), concert classic "I Can't Wait" comes in a bit slower than originally heard on the Side Tracked compilation a while back. "Visitor" which I have read about in other reviews doesn't sound out of place at all on this album. Maybe because of album sequencing it could seem that way due to it's progressive/minimal electro style. In context to what they are referencing it's as proper a song as could be expected. If I were to connect it to something, I'd say think KLF. Closing out the album is the very subdued cover of "It's Alright." I've only heard that song previously as a cover by The Pet Shop Boys. If you also know only that version, prepare to be shocked by it's glacial pacing.
To me Hercules is an evolving project based on the moods of it's creator Andrew Butler. I for one expect development, growth, and repeated play-a-bilty. Blue Songs exhibits all of these. I'd recommend listening to this collection driving foward instead of driving looking in the rear view mirror.
Rich and groovy 23 May 2012
By Rolling Stone - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
As a big fan of Hercules and Love Affair, I was not disappointed with this release. There are bonus remixes on an extra CD, which is great too, although a few more remixes on the bonus cd would have been better. This album is very groovy layered with rich vocals, albeit with simple and rather unpolished production. I do wish there was a track or two with reference to the title of their band, something with a Greek reference as they did on their first album.
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