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Albums of the Year: 2009

December 22nd, 2009 7 comments

You can finally exhale: here are my top 20 albums of 2009. Apart from the two top spots, the order is rather random. Ask me in ten minutes’ time, and Grizzly Bear or M. Ward might sit at number 3 and 4. I’ve put sample tracks of each album on a mix; the song titles appear at the end each abstract.

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1. Richard Hawley – Truelove’s Gutter
I didn’t expect Hawley to top his majestic 2005 album Coles Corner. A profoundly soulful pop symphony with accomplished and unusual instrumentation, Truelove’s Gutter may very well be the best album of the decade.
(Open Up Your Door) Homepage

2. Ben Kweller – Changing Horses
Kweller at last finds his sound (changing horses?) with an outstanding country album that provides an antidote to the corporate side of the genre. An absolute joy.
(Gypsy Rose) Homepage

3. Wilco – Wilco (The Album)
Wilco are incapable of releasing a bad album. The eponymous album will probably not go down in the band’s history as a classic, but it’s solid quality.
(You And I) Homepage

4. Brandi Carlile – Give Up The Ghost
It took me a few listens to realise just how good an album this Rick Rubin-produced effort is. Stay-At-Home Indie Pop put it better than I could: “Anthemic, brash, cool… the abc of Brandi, and I could go on to devilish, euphoric, fresh but fragile, and beyond (to gargantuan, hoarse-heavenly, incandescent), but all I want to really do is pathetically declare my love.” But will you still do so when Brandi gets that first clutch of Grammys, Indie-Pop? See if you can guess, without googling, with whom Carlile duets on Caroline.
(Caroline) Homepage

5. Farryl Purkiss – Fruitbats & Crows
The South African singer-songwriter dude returns three years after his excellent full debut with rockier effort. Purkiss draws his influences widely but manages to create his own coherent, late night sound.
(Seraphine) Homepage

6. Elvis Perkins – Elvis Perkins In Dearland
Here’s what I wrote earlier this year: Imagine Dylan as an indie artist, but with an appealing voice. There is a bit of an experimental edge to it, which in the wrong mood can be annoying, but exhilarating in the right mood.
(Doomsday) MySpace

7. Prefab Sprout – Let’s Change The World With Music
Released 17 years after it was actually recorded, this is supposed to be Paddy McAloon’s lost masterpiece. It’s not a masterpiece, but a damn good, and very accessible album, on which McAloon is on a bit of a God trip.
(Last Of The Great Romantics) MySpace

8. Neko Case – Middle Cyclone
Pitchfork calls the New Pornographer “a force of nature”. Hackneyed turns of phrases, even when they intend to pun on an album title, sometimes are just the most appropriate. Case is so much a force of nature that listening to the album can leave the listener exhausted.
(People Got A Lotta Nerve) Homepage

9. Monsters of Folk – Homework
I should love this. Two Bright Eyes guys, M. Ward and the singer of My Morning Jacket, and a batch of very good songs. It’s a fine album, and yet it fills me with a sense of unease, the same vibe I got from the Travelin’ Wilburys (and one song here sounds like a Wilburys track!). And yet, I keep returning to Homework
(Man Named Truth) Homepage

10. Peasant – On The Ground
This deserved more of a buzz. Nicely crafted guy-with-guitar stuff that recalls Joshua Radin and, yeah, Elliot Smith, with a bit of Simon & Garfunkel. A lovely cool-down album.
(Fine Is Fine) MySpace

11. Eels – Hombre Lobo
E offers nothing much new here, but, hey, it’s an Eels album, and does everything you want an Eels album to do. That’s enough for me.
(That Look You Give That Guy) Homepage

12. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest
Beguiling and frequently surprising. It’s an aural extravaganza. Now, which Ben Folds does Two Weeks borrow its riff from?
(Two Weeks) MySpace

13. Mindy Smith – Stupid Love
Indie-Pop may be in love with Brandi Carlile; I declare my (admittedly promiscuous) love for the likewise deceptively named Mindy Smith. Stupid Love, it must be said, is not as breathtaking an album as Mindy’s debut, One Moment More, but it has Mindy’s beautiful voice and pleasant enough songs.
(What Went Wrong) Homepage

14. Bob Evans – Goodnight Bull Creek
I’m a great fan of Evans’ 2006 sophomore album, Suburban Songs. Like that set, Goodnight Bull Creek was recorded in Nashville. Creek lacks the immediately catchy songs of the previous album, but has a much richer, textured production.
(Brother, O Brother) Homepage

15. Jason Paul Johnston – Willows Motel
Solid country, recalling Prine rather than Twitty. And just when I think Johnstone has settled into predictable country mode, he pulls something that makes me think, “What the fuck was that?”
(She’s A Friend) MySpace

16. Marissa Nadler – Little Hells
Again, to quote myself: I am not acquainted with Nadler’s previous effort; apparently it is gloomier than Little Hells. Well, this one isn’t a courtjesters’ convention of heedless madcappery either. It is, however, a beautiful, hypnotic album which draws much of its inspiration from medieval, cloistered sounds.
(Rosary) Homepage.

17. M. Ward – Hold Time
Here Ward draws from the heritage of country and soul, from the Beach Boys and from Spector — the choice of two covers affirm the retro vibe: an excellent cover of Buddy Holly’s Rave On, a less than brilliant rendition of Hank Williams’ Oh Lonesome Me (featuring Hank Sr’s namesake Lucinda). The production is polished, the sound a lot more mainstream than previous albums
(Rave On) Homepage

18. Loney, Dear – Dear John
Our Swedish homestudio-bound genius returns with another magical multi-layered chamber-pop epic which is at once orchestral and, largely thanks to the man’s voice, intimate.
(Airport Surroundings) Homepage

19. Micah P Hinson – All Dressed Up And Smelling Of Strangers
I am not a big fan over covers albums. Usually they are self-conscious about doing something “different” with a song, or issue redundant carbon copies. Cover albums work when the performer is idiosyncratic, so unique that he or she need not try to make a song sound differently. Johnny Cash pulled it off; and for the most part Hinson does so here, where he takes on the likes of Sinatra (My Way, the ambitious fucker!), Leadbelly, Holly, Dylan, Beatles and John Denver, armed mostly only with his trusty guitar and croaking voice.
(This Old Guitar) Homepage

20. Laura Gibson – Beasts of Seasons
Pitchfork nailed it when their reviewer called the singer-songwriter  Gibson’s music as “far better suited to a fireplace and a cup of warm apple cider than to your local Starbucks”. Beasts of Seasons is bleak and beautiful.
(Funeral Song) MySpace

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More Albums of the Year

Albums of the Year: 2004

November 17th, 2009 6 comments

My ten favourite albums of 2004 exclude — and here I fully expect to be shouted at — the rather overrated Arcade Fire debut (it will not feature in 2005 either, seeing as that’s when it came out in many regions). But, Canadians take heart, Ron Sexsmith does feature. As always, this is not intended to represent the ten best albums of the year, only those I have and like best, with some not making the cut much to my regret (Patty Griffin, Anna Ternheim, Sufjan Stevens, A.C. Newman, Joseph Arthur, Kings Of Leon, Laura Veirs). Looking at some contemporary “best of 2004” lists, I feel hopelessly out of touch. Have some of these people ever been heard of again? Did they ever exist, or were their inclusion some kind of critics’ practical joke (Dungen!)?

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Rilo Kiley – More Adventurous

rilo_kileyWhat is it about Rilo Kiley that puts the critics in such ambivalent mood? More Adventurous lives up to its title: it’s an eclectic album, even if there is not much that’s particularly experimental. The variety seems to have puzzled the critics; I like it. There’s the alt.country, folk-rock stuff with which the group has been mostly associated (such as on the lovely title track and The Absence Of God), power indie-pop (the fantastic Portions For Foxes and It’s A Hit), a 1920s throwback (Ripchord), a torchsong country number (I Never), and what might be described as electronica country (the dyslexic Accidntel Deth). Apart from Portions For Foxes, the dramatic Does He Love You (discussed HERE) is the stand-out track. Throughout the lyrics are sharp, and on this album Jenny Lewis found her sexy, expressive voice.
Rilo Kiley – I Never.mp3
Rilo Kiley – It’s A Hit.mp3

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Brian Wilson – SMiLE

brian_wilsonWhen I first got SMiLE , I did not get it. In fact, I was so disappointed by Brian Wilson’s long-awaited and much-hyped collaboration with Van Dyke Parkes that I didn’t expect to ever play it again, just to file it away in a spot where the handsome packaging, with the rather good booklet, would look nice. Then circumstances conspired, making me play the thing four times over on loop. The penny dropped and I got it. There are moments I can live without, yet these moments are a part of the trip: a post-psychedelic trip, a melancholy yet buoyant trip, a trip to a place that doesn’t exist anymore, and probably never did. It’s an album as removed from reality as Brian Wilson is said to be today. The timing of its release, in the middle of the corporate, synthetic ’00s was fortuitous. Coinciding with an era when commercial realism tends to trump enterprising creativity, SMiLE appeared as a connection to a time when innovation was not scorned but rewarded — ironically by putting together the one ’60s masterpiece that never was.

Mike Love apparently described SMiLE as an insult to the Beach Boys’ legacy. To prove his point, Mike Love in 2006 recorded that instant classic Santa’s Going To Kokomo, thereby mercifully redeeming the Beach Boys’ reputation.
Brian Wilson – Roll Plymouth Rock.mp3
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Mindy Smith – One More Moment

mindy_smithMindy Smith’s name evokes the image of plastic blondes in skimpy beachwear living it up at the Playboy Mansion, not the reality of a writer and singer of beautiful country-folk music. Smith was in her early 30s before she finally released this, her debut album. Occasional visitor to this parish Stay-At-Home Indie-Pop (whose periodically updated blog is always very readable) last week commented about One Moment More that it packs an “emotional punch”, referring to Smith’s “supreme songwriting”. Indie-Pop, a man of discerning musical judgment, got it right. Add to that Mindy Smith’s superb, clear voice and ability to invest the right amount of emotion into her songs. Her version of Dolly Parton’s Jolene is probably the best of the many I’ve heard.
Mindy Smith – Fighting For It All.mp3

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Jens Lekman – When I Said I Wanted To Be Your Dog

Jens LekmanTime was when Sweden burdened us with the regrettable likes of Roxette and Ace Of Base who were hauling in the glorious slipstream of ABBA. This decade, Sweden is a hotbed of wonderful Indie-pop created by artists who can create a catchy hook and an incisive lyric, even a cappela style. The Cardigans set the scene, but the godfather may well be Jens Lekman. Indeed, he gets namechecked, alongside Townes van Zandt, in what may be the best Swedish song of the genre, Hello Saferide’s The Quiz. Lekman turns out some rather good melodies, but the charm of his songs exist in the idiosyncratic lyrics. Take the upbeat You Are The Light: the protagonist gets arrested for defacing his girlfriend’s father’s Mercedes Benz at her prompting, and uses his one phone call to ask the local radio station to dedicate a song to her. There are startling surprises in many of his wry lyrics, but they aren’t contrived, and at times they are casually profound. That is an art in an age when so many people discern depth in Coldplay’s lyrics. And unlike Coldplay and their fellow worthies, Lekman is frequently very funny indeed.
Jens Lekman – The Cold Swedish Winter.mp3

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The Weepies – Happiness

weepiesDeb Talan and Steve Tannen were solo performers on the folk circuit when they met. They decided to collaborate, chose a stupid name for their duo, fell in love, married, moved to Topanga, California, and had a child, and in the interim have released three albums. It’s a happy story, with the title of their debut album an opportune portent. The harmonies are, as one would expect, lovely (especially on closing track Keep It There); none of the songs are likely to jolt the listener out of their comfort zone. But it’s not all predictable introspective coffeehouse folk stuff, and when it is (such as on the lovely Somebody Loved or Simple Life), it’s of superior quality. On other tracks, there are jangly guitars on the suitably upbeat title track, snowbells on the Christmas-flavoured All That I Want, bluegrass guitar on Vegas Baby. Perhaps the most affecting song is Tannen’s Dating A Porn Star, as good a country a song as one might find in this decade.
The Weepies – Dating A Porn Star.mp3

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Dave Alvin – Ashgrove

dave_alvinDave Alvin is a flexible musician, at home in country, folk, blues, rock and punk. He has been a member of rockabilly band The Blasters (with his brother Phil) and the influential punk band The Flesheaters, and he wrote Dwight Yoakam’s country classic Long White Cadillac. Ashgrove is a departure from his previous albums, which covered either country and folk or bluesy roots rock (a genre title I despise). Personally, I prefer the country stuff. I’m not a great roots rock fan, but I do like it when Alvin does it — his guitar work is terrific. As always with Dave Alvin, the lyrics are worth following; some of them are compelling. Two stand out: Out Of Control tells a hell of a story, and The Man In The Bed Isn’t Me is truly touching. The sequencing is a bit jarring, though, with the bluesy rock alternating with the country songs, preventing the set from settling into a coherent mood.
Dave Alvin – Sinful Daughter.mp3

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Ron Sexsmith – Retriever

Ron SexsmithEvery male singer-songwriter who enjoys any amount of critical esteem is likely to be compared to the tragic Elliot Smith, the genre’s eternal poet laureate (whose posthumously assembled collection of demos was released in 2004). Flattering though such comparisons are, often they are inappropriate and lazy. Ron Sexsmith’s sound has little in common with Smith’s, and his lyrics are more hopeful. Sexsmith also gets compared to Paul McCartney (and Happiness from Retriever sounds much like a Macca song), who has championed him. I suppose that the comparisons to Smith do not relate to sound or mood, but to songwriting chops. Retriever, like almost all of Sexsmith’s works, is a beautifully written. It’s a warm, gorgeous album, it embraces the listener in a comforting auditory blanket, aided by Sexsmith’s engaging voice and thoughtful lyrics. It’s not the kind of album, and Sexsmith not the kind of artist, that one turns to for a fix of challenging music; there is enough depth here to remove it from vacant pop, but it will not test the listener. It’s more of an old friend, instantly familiar and great company one is happy to seek out again.
Ron Sexsmith – Not About To Lose.mp3

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Nouvelle Vague – Nouvelle Vague

Nouvelle_VagueThis is one of those unexpected albums: loungey covers of Punk and New Wave classics, such as Love Will Tear Us Apart (here set on a beach), Teenage Kicks, Making Plans For Nigel, Too Drunk To Fuck, and Guns Of Brixton (the latter two of which sound like Gainsbourg songs here). It’s all very sincere and quite fabulous, rendered mostly in a bossa new wave nova groove. Nouvelle Vague, a project by Frenchmen Marc Collin and Olivier Libaux using a roster of female vocalists, does not aim for camp comedy or winks and nods. The exercise requires that the listener simultaneously forgets the originals, the better to understand them on Nouvelle Vague’s terms, and to remember them, so as to appreciate their imaginative reinventions. Some don’t quite work (such as The Undertone’s Teenage Kicks), others compare very well to the original, especially The Cure’s A Forest, The Specials’ Friday Night Saturday Morning And PiL’s This Is Not A Love Song.
Nouvelle Vague – Friday Night Saturday Morning.mp3

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Missy Higgins – The Sound Of White

Missy HigginsI can’t profess to be a great fan of the Australian accent, mate. And yet, it is always satisfying when non-American singers resist the temptation of adapting their accent for the international market. Melissa Higgins retains her strong Aussie enunciation, which can be grating but also helps to invest in her lyrics unblemished authenticity. Much of the lyrics are, or seem, intensely personal. Some of them are standard singer-songwriter fare, but there is much here that moves the listener, particularly the title track, about her sister’s death in an accident (featured HERE) and the child-murder song The River. The hit on the album was the upbeat Scar, which was rather unrepresentative of this pensive, though appealingly arranged album which has few weak tracks. If the disagreeable This Is How It Goes is the price one has to pay to have Ten Days or Nightminds, than that’s not a bad deal.
Missy Higgins – Nightminds.mp3

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Wilco – A Ghost Is Born

wilcoThank goodness for the technology of digital playlists. With this album, I’ll never need to hear the pointless noisy distortions on the 12-minute long Less Than You Think again, even as I applaud Tweedy and pals for their willingness to do something different (though that something almost rivals Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music album for unlistenability). And, depending on my mood, I may skip the 10min-plus Spiders Kidsmoke as well, because the guitar solo really annoys me, by which I am doing the song an injustice. But the rest of the album is very enjoyable. It includes some of Tweedy’s best songs, such as The Late Greats and Hell Is Chrome. But the absolute highlight is — and Wilco fans will have guessed it — the opener, At Least That’s What You Said, which plods along with Tweedy in pensive mood until it explodes in gloriously angry guitars.
Wilco – At Least That’s What You Said.mp3

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More Albums of the Year

Any Major Love Mix 2009 Vol.2

March 31st, 2009 3 comments

I posted a mix of songs about being in love last year, for Valentine’s Day, with a view to facilitating loads of romantic seductions (or something). That mix got deleted by ZShare. Responding to a request, I have revised the tracklisting, dropping a few songs, adding a few new, changing the track order. The Jonatha Brooke song I owe to Barely Awake In Frog Pajamas blog. So here is Any Major Love Mix Vol. 2.

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1. Jets To Brazil – Sweet Avenue (1998)
‘ Now all these tastes improve through the view that comes with you. Like they handed me my life, for the first time it felt worth it, like I deserved it.’

2. Michelle Featherstone – Rest Of My Life (2007)
‘ How ’bout that? Waking up every morning with me. Spend our time drinking coffee, speaking softly as the days go by.’

3. Mindy Smith – It’s Amazing (2004)
‘ It’s amazing what you do to me: took my heart and made me feel things I never felt before. It’s changing me, Which direction so certainly; shook me up and threw me around. When we learn to breathe it all in.’

4. The Weepies – Gotta Have You (2006)
‘No amount of coffee, no amount of crying, no amount of whiskey, no amount of wine — no, nothing else will do. I’ve gotta have you.’

5. Richard Hawley – Baby, You’re My Light (2001)
‘But I believe in you and now I’ll show it. And as life goes on you know you don’t have to hate all you find. Baby, you’re my light.’

6. Ron Sexsmith – Whatever It Takes (2004)
‘The sun alone will never do, without your love to shine on through’

7. Ben Kweller – Falling (2002)
‘We could talk if days weren’t so fast, and mistakes just leave it so unsure. Wanna hold you like never before ’cause we’re falling and I love you more and more.’

8. Hello Saferide – Get Sick Soon (2006)
‘ Oh, I love you! I wish you got the flu, you’re the cutest thing I’ve ever seen — like a teddy bear on heroin … You can lay your weight on me and I’ll be your backbone. Lay your weight on me, you won’t have to worry.’

9. Ben Folds – The Luckiest (2001)
‘And where was I before the day that I first saw your lovely face? Now I see it everyday, and I know: I’m the luckiest.’

10. Bright Eyes – The First Day Of My Life (2005)
‘ Yours was the first face that I saw, I think I was blind before I met you. I don’t know where I am, I don’t know where I’ve been, but I know where I want to go.’

11. Iron & Wine – Such Great Heights (2004)
‘I am thinking it’s a sign that the freckles in our eyes are mirror images, and when we kiss they are perfectly alligned.’

12. Mason Jennings – Ballad For My One True Love (2000)
‘And all the while I ‘m dreaming of the ballad for my one true love, searching for the perfect way to say: I love you sweetheart, this is my dream come true.’

13. Joseph Arthur – Echo Park (2004)
‘ The fire never understands the spark, the way it is with you and me.’

14. Kate Walsh – Your Song (2007)
‘I knew I was wrong to jump straight on into this picture so pretty, but he is so pretty to me.’

15. Colbie Caillat – Realize (2007)
‘If you just realized what I just realized, then we’d be perfect for each other, then we’d never find another. Just realized what I just realized, we’d never have to wonder if we missed out on each other now.’

16. Jackie Greene – Love Song; 2.00 am (2006)
‘ Should your mind forget me, regret me, or even do me wrong, you’ll always live here in my heart, ’cause, baby, that’s where you belong.’

17. Jonatha Brooke – Because I Told You So (1997)
‘Could you see it like me and believe what I see? Could you listen, and remember that i love you, only because I told you?’

18. Peter Mayer – Now Touch The Air Softly (1999)
‘And I’ll love you as long as the furrow the plow, as However is Ever, and Ever is Now.’

19. Bob Schneider – The World Exploded Into Love (2001)
‘The world exploded into love all around me, and every time I take a look around me, I have to smile.’

20. Jens Lekman – You Are The Light (2003)
‘Yeah I got busted, so I used my one phone call to dedicate a song to you on the radio.’

21. Liz Phair – Good Love Never Dies (2003)
‘ Tell me what can I say to keep you in my life, all the words slip away when I look in your eyes, because I can never relax.’


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Any Major Love Mix 2009 Vol. 1
More Mixes

Songs of Adultery

March 6th, 2009 7 comments

The theme song for infidelity, Your Cheating Heart, will feature in another instalment, so we will have to do with this bunch of adulterers (all but one men) and the people they’ve hurt (all but one of them women).

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Hello Saferide – Last Bitter Song.mp3

hellosaferide4Annika Norlin has been cheated on with a thin blonde “with a peanut for a brain and volleyballs for chest”. Worse yet, the dude did the dirty deed “with Miss Non-Bitterness” in her apartment. But, bastard dumped, Annika is getting over it by way of carthasis: “Now, this will be the last bitter song. It will be my last, real bitter song about you.” She will find new themes: “From now on, I’ll write about flowers and butterflies, chickens and kittens and shit.” And she’ll “try to find someone who knows I exist”. Which is the best kind of therapy. And, look, it’s working: “I’m feeling cheerful already. I’d like to break his neck, if I may. But most, I’d like to cut off that hair, and cut off that head, and cut off those volleyballs, and I hope she gets her heart broken, and I hope she turns bitter, really really bitter – like me.”

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Jim Reeves – He’ll Have To Go.mp3

jimreevesOh, what a set-up. Jim is on the phone with his woman, who presently is in the company of another man. Reeves has her on the phone, establishing a sense of intimacy and communicating instant forgiveness: “Put your sweet lips a little closer to the phone, let’s pretend that we’re together all alone. I’ll tell the man to turn the juke box way down low”. And then he goes for the jugular: “And you can tell your friend there with you he’ll have to go.” He wants an answer now though: “Though love is blind, make up your mind. I’ve got to know – should I hang up or will you tell him he’ll have to go?” No whining, nor sulking, nor recriminations. Make up your mind, woman, and when you do, of course he’ll have to go.

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Nicole Atkins – Kill The Headlight.mp3

nicole-atkinsJim Reeves is willing to trust again, but that commodity is extinct when Nicole’s man cheats on her. “I know you and you are bound to stray. It’s a foul of men – they swear that they’ll never hurt you again, then give their best shots”, but if that is to no avail, “my heart you won’t have it again, so just don’t try.” The relationship will not be healed and it will be over. There won’t be a point in trying to mend it: “Don’t pull over, just kill the headlights.”

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Carrie Underwood – Before He Cheats.mp3

underwoodWhere Nicole Atkins won’t give second chances, Carrie Underwood doesn’t even let it get as far as that. Acting merely on suspicion, she gets her revenge in before the act. “Right now, she’s probably up singing some white-trash version of Shania karaoke. Right now, she’s probably saying, ‘I’m drunk’, and he’s thinking that he’s gonna get lucky. Right now, he’s probably dabbing on three dollars worth of that bathroom cologne.” So, just in case her imagination corresponds with reality, Carrie has “dug my key into the side of his pretty little souped-up four-wheel-drive, carved my name into his leather seat. I took a Louisville slugger to both head lights, slashed a hole in all four tires.” That should teach him to even think of cheating. He also might forget about keeping pet rabbits.

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Kelis – Caught Out There.mp3

kelisIt is fair to presume that the beautiful Kelis will not take back the perfidious scoundrel who cheated on her. She is not well disposed towards him, as the line “I hate you so much right now” may suggest. But, from Kelis’ side of the story, one empathises with her. What she didn’t do for him? “Held you when you were sick, even sucked your dick” (which, if both ministrations were performed simultaneously, would require soundtracking by Marvin Gaye’s last big hit). Now it’s revenge time on the lying swine. Going one better on Carrie, “I’ll set your truck to flames, and watch it blow up.” Then comes the taunt: “Tell me: How you go’n see her now?” Aaaaaaarrrrgh!!!!!

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Smokey Robinson & the Miracles – Ooh Baby Baby.mp3

smokey-go-goSmokey is the prince of broken hearts. And here, the heartache is of his own making. He cheated and got dumped. “I did you wrong. My heart went out to play, but in the game I lost you. What a price to pay! Hey I’m crying.” Now he tearfully wants her back: “I’m just about at the end of my rope, but I can’t stop trying. I can’t give up hope, ’cause I feel that one day I’ll hold you near, whisper ‘I still love you’.” In the interim, “until that day is here – I’m crying.” Would you take him back?

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Mindy Smith – Jolene.mp3

mindy-smithI could have chosen any number of versions of Jolene, from Dolly Parton’s original to the delightful Strawberry Switchblade version. It is heartbreaking how the singer humbles herself before the beautiful Jolene, with her ivory skin, emerald eyes and smile “like a breath of spring”. She knows she has lost her man, who keeps saying Jolene’s name in his sleep. Her only hope is that Jolene might dump him, and so she appeals for her rival’s mercy (and, possibly, self-sacrifice). There’s some point-missing going on: “You could have your choice of men, but I could never love again. He’s the only one for me, Jolene. I had to have this talk with you. My happiness depends on you .”

But what if Jolene truly loves the man too. She might well attract another one, but will it be mutual love? Perhaps she won’t ever be able to love again too. And might the singer not be deluding herself that being with a man who doesn’t love her will be an arrangement conducive to “happiness”? The poor sap has no say in the matter, of course. He is being traded like a piece of meat whose feelings are immaterial. But then, being a man, he might appreciate not being forced to make a liver-curdlingly difficult decision.

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Shirley Brown – Woman To Woman.mp3

Barbara Mason – From His Woman To You.mp3

sbrownShirley phones Barbara to warn her off her “old man”. “It’s only fair that I let you know that the man you’re in love with – he’s mine.” Not only does she pay for his clothes and car, but she “loves that man”. And, like Jolene, Barbara is being asked to end it for the sake of her lover’s wife. “Woman to woman, if you’ve ever been in love, then you know how I feel. And, woman to woman, now, if you were in my shoes, wouldn’t you have done the same thing too.” So she warns: “I ain’t gonna let you break up my happy home.”

bmason1Happy? Really? Barbara responds to that in her own song, and it doesn’t look like Shirley’s begging and threats have had any effect, as the title already proclaims. She might not be above to satisfy his material needs, but she can give what he really wants: “I can give him love”. As far as Barbara is concerned, the nameless sap has already made his choice and his bed: “He spent last night with me, where he wanted to be.” So the guy has the choice between a woman with whom he has great sex and a wife who provides all the material comforts. Knowing that Mason’s lyrics were written by a man, how do you think the story will end?

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More Songs About Love

Any Major Love Mix 2009

February 10th, 2009 11 comments

Amid all the heartbreak and unrequited love (with lovelessness and death still to come) we are looking at this month, we need a respite from the gloomy tears and instead frolic in the calm waters of true love reciprocated — which in itself, as some of the lyrics here suggest, is a source of anxiety and uncertainty. And, well, perhaps some lucky person might need a decent mix for Valentine’s Day which does not include the unlovely horrors perpetrated by Chris DeBurgh, Jennifer Rush, Peabo Bryson, Céline Dion, Engelbert Humperdinck, Stevie Wonder and, of course, Michael Bublé – and who prefer to do without “edgy” comps featuring the love musings of Coldplay, U2, Avril Lavigne and James Blunt. As always, the mix is timed to fit on a CD-R. It might be a good alternative to an overpriced VD card (and if anybody tries that, please let me know if it was a good idea).

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1. Donny Hathaway – A Song For You (1971)
You taught me precious secrets of the truth withholding nothing, you came out in front and I was hiding. But now I’m so much better and if my words don’t come together, listen to the melody, ’cause my love is in there hiding.

2. Carpenters – I Won’t Last A Day Without You (1972)
When there’s no gettin’ over that rainbow, when my smallest of dreams won’t come true, I can take all the madness the world has to give, but I won’t last a day without you.

3. Ben Kweller – Sundress (2006)
I don’t need a smile from a mannequin, I just want to hold you in my hands. I do everything you want me to…for you.

4. The Weepies – Happiness (2004)
Friday 13, lights go red, green, in a coffee shop. I’m giving you the look while someone else is fingering your wallet in my pocketbook. It’s a mean town, but I don’t care. Try and steal this! Can’t steal happiness.

5. Mindy Smith – Falling (2004)
When I’ve almost had enough, something about you draws me back again. When I’ve almost given up, something about you pulls me in. And we’re falling…

6. John Prine with Iris Dement – In Spite Of Ourselves (1999)
She thinks all my jokes are corny, convict movies make her horny. She likes ketchup on her scrambled eggs, swears like a sailor when shaves her legs. She takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’. I’m never gonna let her go.

7. Moldy Peaches – Anyone Else But You (2001)
Here is the church and here is the steeple, we sure are cute for two ugly people, I don’t see what anyone can see in anyone else but you.

8. Simone White – The Beep Beep Song (2007)
(Yeah, the one from the Audi commercial) Despite all the warnings I landed like a fallen star in your arms.

9. Curtis Mayfield – So In Love (1975)
This love affair is bigger than we two. Lose our faith and it will swallow you. Loving you is what I’ll always feel, never ever doing things against our will. Loving means, never require any kind of test … Ya got me so in love.

10. Aretha Franklin – Baby I Love You (1967)
If you want my lovin’, if you really do, don’t be afraid, baby. Just ask me, you know I’m gonna give it to you. Oh, and I do declare: I want to see you with it. Stretch out your arms, little boy, you’re gonna get it – ’cause I love you.

11. Ron Sexsmith – Never Give Up On You (2006)
I’d never give up on you because I know you’d do the same for me. Never give up on you because you take me as I am, how I’ll always be.

12. Mary Chapin Carpenter – Grow Old With Me (1999)
Grow old along with me. Two branches of one tree face the setting sun when the day is done. God bless our love. (Beautifully sung by Carpenter, the real poignancy of this song derives from its authorship: written and demoed by John Lennon shortly before his murder in December 1980, it first appeared on his posthumous Milk And Honey album)

13. Tom Waits – Falling Down (1988)
For she loves you for all that you are not …You forget all the roses, don’t come around on Sunday. She’s not gonna choose you for standing so tall; go on and take a swig of that poison and like it.

14. Alexi Murdoch – Love You More (2006)
Love you more than anyone. Love you more than anyone. Love you more in time to come. Love you more. (That’s the complete lyric…)

15. Finley Quaye – Dice (2003)
I was crying over you. I am smiling, I think of you. Misty morning and water falls, breathe in the air if you care, you compare, don’t say farewell. Nothing can compare to when you roll the dice and swear your love’s for me.

16. Dexys Midnight Runners – This Is What She’s Like (1985)
“Well how did all this happen?” “Just all at once really. The Italians have a word for it.” “What word what is it?” “A thunderbolt or something.” “What, you mean the Italian word for thunderbolt?” “Yeah, something like that. I don’t speak Italian myself you understand?” “No.” “But I knew a man who did. Well, that’s my story. The strongest thing I’ve ever seen.” (Single version)

17. The Cure – Lovesong (1989)
Whenever I’m alone with you, you make me feel like I am home again. Whenever I’m alone with you , you make me feel like I am whole again. Whenever I’m alone with you, you make me feel like I am young again. Whenever I’m alone with you, you make me feel like I am fun again.

18. Jens Lekman – I Saw Her In The Anti-War Demonstration (2004)
And the skies were clear blue skies, and her eyes were clear blue eyes, and her thighs were about the same size as mine, and we were walking in the anti-war demonstration; it was a sweet sensation of love.

19. Kacy Crowley – Kind Of Perfect (2004)
The last few years have been much harder than we ever thought they’d be. I know you hate it when I say I’m sorry, but I’m sorry. There was never a point in our love that I didn’t love you; not a point in our love. I always did, I always will, I always do, love you still, I always would, how could I not? Just look at us baby, we’re kind of perfect.

20. Joshua Radin – The Fear You Won’t Fall (2007)
I know you’re scared that I’ll soon be over it. That’s part of it all, part of the beauty of falling in love with you is the fear you won’t fall.

21. Nina Kinert – Through Your Eyes (2004)
All the time I stood here holding dandylions and chocolate for you. Tumbleweeds and fireworks go by. It’s hard to keep them still for you to see, nut you know that I try. I want to see you watching what I see, now that you’re mine, through your eyes.

22. Sarah Bettens – Grey (2005)
Will you be my everything? Maybe just this time we can really think that I am yours and you are mine; I am yours and you are mine…

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More songs about love

Have Song, Will Sing Vol. 2 – Songbirds

August 1st, 2008 1 comment

The term singer-songwriter has acquired a bad reputation, unjustly so. As I’ve said before, the genre is in its best state since the days of Joni Mitchell and her contemporaries. The critics, it seems, seem to conflate the rich diversity of artists thus categorised with a glut of performers who have found mainstream success, but who are not actually representatives of the genre. They are not representative because, as this collection (and the first one I posted earlier this week) may show. So in these collections do not expect a legion of Jack Johnson and Norah Jones clones.

Sure, some may be influenced by these, but the current crop of singer-songwriters draw their influences widely: Rosie Thomas, Kate Walsh and the Weepies’ Deb Talan from folk or “Americana”, Brandi Carlile from rock; Ingrid Michaelson, Laura Veirs, Kimya Dawson and Hello Saferide from different strands of indie; Mindy Smith and Charlotte Kendrick from (alt.)country, Missy Higgins from pop; Maria Taylor from everything. And so on.

The women on this mix may be called “Songirds” (a term I had not seen used when I called my series that last year, but which seems to have currency; it is a good and obvious description). These Songbirds come mostly from the US, but other countries are represented: England (Kate Walsh), Sweden (Hello Saferide), Belgium (Sarah Bettens; the female part of K’s Choice), South Africa (the gorgeous Josie Field), Iceland (Emiliana Torrini), Australia (Missy Higgins). Catherine Feeny was born in the US and moved to England; Michelle Featherstone (who, scandalously, has no record contract) went the other way.

TRACKLISTING
1. Laura Veirs – Pink Light (from Saltbreaker, 2007)
2. Ingrid Michaelson – Breakable (from Girls And Boys, 2006)
3. Brandi Carlile – Late Morning Lullaby (from The Story, 2007)
4. Dar Williams – Farewell To The Old Me (from The Beauty Of The Rain, 2003)
5. Catherine Feeny – Mr. Blue (from Hurricane Glass, 2006)
6. Charlotte Kendrick – Thank You (from North Of New York, 2007)
7. Mindy Smith – Falling (from One More Moment, 2004)
8. Rosie Thomas – Since You’ve Been Around (from If Songs Could Be Held, 2005)
9. Kim Richey – The Absence Of Your Company (from Chinese Boxes, 2007)
10. Missy Higgins – Warm Whispers (from On A Clear Night, 2007)
11. Hello Saferide – The Quiz (from Would You Let Me Play This EP 10 Times A Day?, 2006)
12. Deb Talan – Cherry Trees (from Live at WERS Studio, 2001)
13. Maria Taylor – Two of Those Two (from 11:11, 2005)
14. Kate Walsh – Don’t Break My Heart (from Tim’s House, 2007)
15. Michelle Featherstone – Coffee & Cigarettes (from Fallen Down, 2006)
16. A Fine Frenzy – Come On Come Out (from One Cell In The Sea, 2007)
17. Laura Gibson – Hands In Pockets (from If You Come To Greet Me, 2006)
18. Sarah Bettens – Follow Me (from Scream, 2006)
19. Josie Field – Every Now And Then (from Mercury, 2006)
20. Kathleen Edwards – Scared At Night (from Asking For Flowers, 2008)
21. Emiliana Torrini – Next Time Around (from Fisherman’s Woman, 2004)
22. Gemma Hayes – Evening Sun (from 4.35 AM EP, 2001)
23. Kimya Dawson – Loose Lips (from Remember That I Love You, 2006)

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Valentines – Any Major Love Mix CD-R

February 7th, 2008 12 comments

I am no great fan of Valentine’s Day, and don’t usually join in the hype. It seems time appropriate to post a Valentine’s mix though — especially for all the lovers out there who want to express their emotions via the time-honoured medium of the mix-tape, but lack the time or energy to bang a good one together. If I can prevent one fool in love from rushing out to buy a Valentine’s Day comp featuring the stylings of Celine, Whitney and, invariably, the totally misapplied James Blunt classic “You’re Beautiful”, then I feel I have done good.

Compiling this mix represented a challenge, for the genres represented herein tend to be less than effusive on matters of the heart. But when the artists representing these genres do effuse, they tend to do so eloquently and without dangling too much by way of cliché. Of course, love does attract, even demand, cliché, and some of our artists here toy with the odd hackneyed sentiment. These may sound silly to us cynics, but to the fool in love, these clichés are poetry and fact.

Has there ever been a more beautiful love song written than Ben Folds’ “The Luckiest”? Not all the songs here are about the blissfulness of love, perhaps Colbie Caillat’s song is the most conventional love song in this lot. Bright Eyes’ “First Day In My Life” has an undertone of uncertainty. Jens Lekman’s love is slavish, to the point of making grand romantic gestures involving vandalism at his lover’s instructions. Hello Saferide introduces a wonderful paradox in wishing her lover sickness. Liz Phair rounds things off with a take which makes being love seem as difficult as it really is.

Tracklisting:

1. The Postal Service – Such Great Heights
‘I am thinking it’s a sign that the freckles in our eyes are mirror images, and when we kiss they are perfectly alligned.’

2. Jets To Brazil – Sweet Avenue
Now all these tastes improve through the view that comes with you. Like they handed me my life, for the first time it felt worth it, like I deserved it.

3. Michelle Featherstone – Rest Of My Life
How ’bout that? Waking up every morning with me. Spend our time drinking coffee, speaking softly as the days go by.

4. The Weepies – Somebody Loved
‘Now my feet turn the corner back home. Sun turns the evening to rose, stars turning high up above. You turn me into somebody loved.’

5. Bright Eyes – First Day Of My Life
Yours was the first face that I saw, I think I was blind before I met you. I don’t know where I am, I don’t know where I’ve been, but I know where I want to go.

6. Ben Folds – The Luckiest
‘And where was I before the day that I first saw your lovely face? Now I see it everyday, and I know: I’m the luckiest.’

7. Joseph Arthur – Echo Park
The fire never understands the spark, the way it is with you and me.’

8. Ron Sexsmith – Whatever It Takes
‘The sun alone will never do, without your love to shine on through’

9. Jens Lekman – You Are The Light
Yeah I got busted, so I used my one phone call to dedicate a song to you on the radio.’

10. Hello Saferide – Get Sick Soon
Oh, I love you! I wish you got the flu, you’re the cutest thing I’ve ever seen — like a teddy bear on heroin ... You can lay your weight on me and I’ll be your backbone. Lay your weight on me, you won’t have to worry.’

11. Colbie Caillat – Magic
I remember the way that you move. You’re dancing easily through my dreams. It’s hitting me harder and harder with all your smiles.

12. Josh Kelley – To Make You Feel My Love
I’d go hungry I’d go black and blue. I’d go crawling down the avenue. No there’s nothing that I wouldn’t do to make you feel my love.

13. Ben Harper – By My Side
‘My care for you is from the ground up to the sky it’s over under up above down below and to the side.’

14. Mason Jennings – Ballad For My One True Love
‘And all the while I ‘m dreaming of the ballad for my one true love, searching for the perfect way to say: I love you sweetheart, this is my dream come true.’

15. Peter Mayer – Now Touch The Air Softly
‘And I’ll love you as long as the furrow the plow, as However is Ever, and Ever is Now.’

16. Richard Hawley – Baby, You’re My Light
‘But I believe in you and now I’ll show it. And as life goes on you know you don’t have to hate all you find. Baby, you’re my light.’

17. Mindy Smith – It’s Amazing
It’s amazing what you do to me: took my heart and made me feel things I never felt before. It’s changing me, Which direction so certainly; shook me up and threw me around. When we learn to breathe it all in.’

18. Josh Rouse – Wonderful
Reading the paper with my coffee, and before you must go there’s one thing you should know: I think you’re wonderful. Don’t change.

19. Jackie Greene – Love Song; 2.00 am
Should your mind forget me, regret me, or even do me wrong, you’ll always live here in my heart, ’cause, baby, that’s where you belong.

20. Eastmountainsouth – So Are You to Me
‘As the ruby in the setting, as the fruit upon the tree, as the wind blows over the plains, so are you to me.’

21. Bob Schneider – The World Exploded Into Love
‘The world exploded into love all around me, and every time I take a look around me, I have to smile.

22. Liz Phair – Good Love Never Dies
Tell me what can I say to keep you in my life, all the words slip away when I look in your eyes, because I can never relax.

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The new year cometh

December 28th, 2007 No comments

For the final post of 2007 we’re looking to the new year. Ten songs which review the year gone by and anticipate the next. I don’t like New Year’s Eve much. I resent the pressure of having to have a good time as time hurtles forward another digit closer to the year of my death. Bah! Still, don’t let me spoil it for you. And look, Ma, no U2!


Death Cab For Cutie – The New Year.mp3

The song that kicked off the stunning Transatlanticism album (the title of which I dedicate to the British music writer Robin Carmody) so brilliantly. Will you feel any different at 00:01 on January 1? I think Death Cab are due another album soon, which gives us a good reason to be welcome 2008 with some anticipation. I hear a new album by Postal Service, which features Death Cab singer Ben Gibbard, is on its way, too. And last night I listened to Nada Surf’s new album Lucky, out on February 8, on which Gibbard guests. Lucky deserves much buzz; it’s a very fine album.

District Six – New Year.mp3
Go to any New Year’s Eve party in Cape Town’s coloured (mixed-race) community, and you’ll be hard-pressed to avoid this song from the hugely popular and deeply moving musical District Six. The eponymous area was a large working-class suburb on the foot of Table Mountain, on the edges of the city centre, populated mainly by coloureds, one of four main population groups by which people were classified under apartheid. In 1966, the apartheid regime decided that District Six was a slum — which it was, seeing that the white rulers had little interest in developing and upgrading the area. By the mid-70s, District Six had been cleared, and the inhabitants of this close-knit community were removed to ghettos far away from the city (while huge swathes of the area are still vacant today!). Some of these new ghettos were cruelly named after District Six landmarks, so as to drive home the humiliation. District Six – The Musical captured the life in District Six, and its demise, with great humour and heartbreaking pathos. “New Year” illustrates the party spirit in the community. With its blend of global musical influences, the song is representative of the traditional sound of the coloured community (though most would probably rather listen to hip hop, R&B or jazz fusion).

Hello Saferide – 2006.mp3
The wonderful Annika Norlin wakes up on New Year’s morning and already knows it’ll be “another shitty year”. She makes resolutions (” I will learn a new word each day. Today’s word is dejected”), chief among them, “there’s you”. “I’m going to be with you. I haven’t told you yet, but I’m going to be with you.” Oh, I think I’m in love with Annika. (more Hello Saferide here)

K’s Choice – Another Year.mp3
For some, the new year promises another cycle of being in a rut, which in itself can be a soul-destroying comfort zone, as Belgium’s finest observe. “You’re not sick, so you can’t heal. But I wonder do you feel the need to cry: ‘I’m out of here’?” Sarah Bettens’ smoky voice rarely sounded better than on this track. (more Sarah Bettens here)

The Weepies – Not Your Year.mp3
Not your life, more like. The Weepies have a good way of putting into words the vague unhappinesses of life. “Movies, TV screens reflect just what you expected. There’s a world of shiny people somewhere else, out there following their bliss, living easy, getting kissed, while you wonder what else you’re doing wrong.” (more Weepies here)

Maria Taylor – Leap Year.mp3
Well, 2008 is a leap year. So this song gets included on strength of its apposite title, even if it has little to do with the coming 366 days. The excellent Maria Taylor actually does make reference to the seasons in this touching song, from 2005’s 11:11, about a relationship that is somehow stuck. (more Maria Taylor here)

Dan Fogelberg – Same Old Lang Syne.mp3
Apart from the title, seasonal reference and the strains of Auld Lang Syne in the fade out, this has nothing to do with the forced jollities on December 31. In fact, there is nothing jolly about this apparently autobiographical encounter between Fogelberg and his old school girlfriend whom he meets by chance and they trade their stories. He finds that they could be great together if not for circumstances and unloved architects. The final line is quite wonderful. Sadly Fogelberg died a couple of weeks ago, putting to rest my briefly running gag of “fogelberging” as an euphemism. (more Dan Fogelberg here)

Mindy Smith – What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve.mp3
I really like Mindy Smith, but I’m uncertain about her Christmas album. Is The Man trying to turn her into Norah bleedin’ Jones? This standard has been recorded by many great singers, as well as by the likes of Diana Krall and Vonda Shepard. Mindy’s version has a lovely torchsong jazz arrangement, and as always her voice is lovely. The problem is this: here she sings the tune; on her originals (and her stunning cover version of “Jolene”), she lives the songs. (more Mindy Smith here)

The Walkmen – New Year’s Eve.mp3
Brilliant piano riff, great drums, and wonderfully alcohol-soaked vocals in this 2004 indie song about…er…a break-up? Adultery? Alienation in a relationship? Not a song to play after the corks pop.

Abba – Happy New Year.mp3
Among all these not terribly jolly songs, Abba deliver the right note of cautious optimism and anticipation. Life’s a bit shit, but, hey, let’s say Happy New Year, because things might get better. Here’s hoping it will, for all of us. Happy New Year everybody, see you in 2008.

The Songbirds Vol. 1

August 4th, 2007 No comments

I love the current crop of songbirds (a term which might invoke notions of Eva Cassidy, who has been posthumously overrated) better than any of the old crops — including the class of the 1970s. In fact, I can’t even describe myself as a fan of Joni Mitchell; it’s her voice, rather than material, that renders her music unlistenable to me. So here is the first installment of a (possibly fairly extensive) series of contemporary songbirds I love.

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Rickie Lee Jones

It seems right to kick off with an old songbird. Jones has released one of the most fascinating albums of the year, The Sermon On Exposition Boulevard. Candidly, I didn’t enjoy it at first, but was nevertheless intrigued. The sound is very raw (presumably the album was recorded as live), some songs are objectively mediocre, and Jones sounds like she had a case of severe hayfever. The lyrical matter — religious faith — might put some off as well, although it shouldn’t, for Jones explores rather than preaches. The sound might be described as rootsy folk-rock; some tracks seem like inversions of “Sympathy For The Evil”. This is the sort of album one needs to become intimate with — best on an iPod without distraction — to discern moments of excellence, eureka moments.
Rickie Lee Jones – Circle In The Sand.mp3
Rickie Lee Jones – Gethsemane.mp3

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Mindy Smith

Recently I read a review of Mindy Smith in which the clown-with-internet-acess made an unforgivable statement along the lines of: “Mindy Smith could be to the singer-songwriter genre what Norah Jones has been to lounge jazz”. No she can’t, Bozo! Where Norah Jones provides a new definition for coma-inducing blandness, Mindy Smith engages the listener. Bozo presumably meant that Mindy could become the superstar in her genre, attributing to her an accessibility that could be commercially exploited. Mindy’s music certainly is accessible, but not at such a level as to grab the musically disinterested masses who buy their Norah Jones, Travis and Dido CDs at the supermarket, and feel like riding on the syrated edge of the knife when they put on their Coldplay disc. Mindy Smith will not become Norah Jones’ equivalent because there is a depth, a spirit of independence to her lyrics and the music that score these. And thank goodness for that.
Mindy Smith – Out Loud.mp3
Mindy Smith – Long Island Shores.mp3
Mindy Smith – Falling.mp3
Mindy Smith – Angel Dove.mp3

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Michelle Featherstone

Michelle Featherstone’s music has been featured on several TV shows, from Grey’s Anatomy to One Tree Hill, yet I could not find her on amazon.com, and information on Featherstone is sketchy beyond her website. It seems the album is available only on iTunes. I find that puzzling, for here is somebody with immense talent. The haunting “Falling” from a couple of years ago is what Dido could sound like if she had the ambition to actually be interesting: a bit like the wonderful Mazzy Star (death threats for mentioning the great Hope Sandoval in the same thought as boring old Dido to the usual address, please).

I fully expect “Rest Of My Life” (on Featherstone’s new album, “Fallen Down”) to play when McDreamy eventually settles down with an uncertain Meredith, at which point it will be a hugely sought-after track. It deserves to be hugely sought-after now.
Michelle Featherstone – Rest of My Life.mp3
Michelle Featherstone – Falling.mp3

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Missy Higgins

Huge in her native Australia, Missy Higgins is just delightful with her Aussie wicketkeeper’s twang. Higgins (Missy is a diminutive of her first name, Melissa) has a great line in outstanding lyrics and appealing melodies. The debut album, The Sound Of White, was lyrically a bit downbeat, with themes of death (on the stunning title track she sings to her sister, who died in a car crash), depression and what appears to be a story about child murder. The new set, On A Clear Night (two tracks of which below), has its morose moments, but is a more affirming album. Lead single “Steer” could become an anthem for every newly divorced woman who feels she is taking charge of her life.
Missy Higgins – Where I Stood.mp3
Missy Higgins – Steer.mp3
Missy Higgins – The Wrong Girl.mp3
Missy Higgins – The Sound Of White.mp3

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A Fine Frenzy

Currently supporting Rufus Wainwright on his US tour, and previously the wonderful Brandi Carlile (to be featured soon), A Fine Frenzy is 21-year-old Alison Sudol. Her debut album, One Cell In The Sea, marks her out as a massive talent. Just a couple of fewer songs shorter, and One Cell… could be a strong contender for the songbird album of the year (which right now seems like a mammoth battle between Rosie Thomas and Brandi Carlile). Visit The Late Greats blog for two more songs, including the excellent and very sad lead single “Almost Lover” (video here).
A Fine Frenzy – Whisper.mp3
A Fine Frenzy – Liar Liar.mp3

Angel Dust

June 15th, 2007 2 comments

Prompted by a blog I read today, here are a few random songs with the word Angel in the title. I promised the blogger the April Sixth song after he referred to the lyrics of the Hinder song. One thing leading to another, I’ll add fellow alternative rock types Our Lady Peace and Cold to the mix. But then also some Ron Sexsmith and Mindy Smith, to appease the MP3 blog purists that I have not lost my excellent musical judgment. And, yes, I’m quite aware that there are hundreds of other songs I could have used (at least three Dylan songs, Aretha, Minnie Riperton, three Counting Crows songs…or, indeed, Robbie bloody Williams).

I think I’m in love with Mindy Smith. That clear, utterly lovely voice does it for me. This is a really beautiful track from a really beautiful album, 2004’s One Moment More.
Mindy Smith – Angel Dove.mp3

Ron Sexsmith produced one of the albums of 2006: Time Being, a rich, warm set of songs. After more than a decade of making albums, Sexsmith will never break out big, forever remaining the can’t-go-wrong recommendation to the uninitiated. Well, we do hate it when our favourites get discovered, so that’s just as well then.
Ron SexsmithSnow Angel.mp3

I did reveal that Sarah McLachlan is a guilty pleasure of mine. “Angel” isn’t my favourite song by any means (that would be “Ice Cream”). This live version is pretty good though.
Sarah McLachlan – Angel (live).mp3

Suzanne Vega has a new album out. Yeah, I also thought she had disappeared. Yet here she is, thoughtfully contributing an angel song from her pretty good new CD, Beauty And Crime.
Suzanne Vega – Angel’s Doorway.mp3

Crowded House are also about to release a comeback album. And here is Neil Finn with brother Tim as the Finn Bothers on their 1995 album titled…Finn. Lovely Beatles style harmonies on this song.
Finn Brothers – Angel’s Heap.mp3

And here is the alternative quartet (I have an emotional attachment to the April Sixth song). Of each group, there is only one song I really like — all with the word angel in the title. Coincidence, or a celestial conspiracy?

April Sixth – Dear Angel.mp3
Cold – When Angels Fly Away.mp3
Our Lady Peace – Angels Losing Sleep.mp3
Hinder – Lips Of An Angel.mp3