The story’s kind of old news – Kay Hanley, vocalist extraordinaire, teamed up with Linus of Hollywood, a singer/songwriter/producer with pop sensibilities. At first they planned to write songs for the Selena Lovatos of the world, but then they realized that Hanley’s cynical lyrics didn’t really have a place on the top 40. So, they recorded the songs for themselves and released an EP called Get Wasted under the nom de plume Palmdale. How to Be Mean is their second offering, released on November 09, 2010, and boy, is it a doozy.
Firstly, I’ll state that my rating is completely arbitrary, and if I’m giving Palmdale a 3.5, who knows what the hell I’ll give a 4.0. But the fact of the matter is that I’m a very systematic person, and so the number rating stays, even if my system is totally whack.
Secondly, I think this is the best pop offering this year. Forget Body Talk Pt. 3. Forget My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Forget any other popular record I could list that would get me hits. This is what pop music should sound like. Kay Hanley’s voice doesn’t need to be manipulated – it’s like pouring sugar right into your ears, if that would be a pleasant experience – and she’s been in the game long enough to know how to sing certain lines, what kind of emphasis to place on what lyrics, what kind of tone should be used on what verse. It’s a shame that Letters to Cleo never blew up like they should’ve, but Hanley’s made a career out of her voice anyway, doing everything from commercial work (Josie and the Pussycats soundtrack) to indie stuff (her last album, Weaponize).
I haven’t followed Linus’s career the way I have Hanley’s, but I think that’s how I can tell his influence. Hanley tends to be grittier, and Linus is more poppy. I can hear him in the more modern sound of this EP, the entirety of “Pick Up the Phone,” the bridge on “Here We Go.” Despite their insistence to the contrary, this stuff sounds very radio, but in a good way. And that is possible. This sounds even more 2010 than Get Wasted, which I loved, but have since gotten tired of. I also find myself mentally speeding some of the tracks up. “West Coast Serenade” has lovely lyrics, but kind of drags, and “Bound for the Floor” needed some kind of oomph to it to make it an interesting cover.
But if Get Wasted is the yang, How to Be Mean is Yang’s funner, cooler sister. The title track sounds like a Get Wasted track, and was apparently the first one written for this set, which makes sense, but the rest of the stuff pushes Palmdale sonically, and makes me excited for their future output. It also makes the stuff from the first EP sound more cohesive, and if/when they release a full-length, I’ll be first in line to buy it. (Or maybe the first “on-line.”)
Palmdale’s “How to Be Mean” released by Oglio Records on November 09, 2010 and available on iTunes and in other places where digital music is sold.
Features the tracks:
1) Meet the Future Downlow
2) Here We Go
3) Can’t Can’t Wait to See You
4) Pick Up the Phone
5) How to Be Mean
6) Things I Think About on Planes