Posts Tagged ‘Harris Tweed’

The Songbirds: Vol 2

August 5th, 2007 2 comments

Harris Tweed
It’s cheating a bit to include in a review of “songbirds” a group, but Harris Tweed’s wonderfully talented singer Cherilyn Macneil is a bona fide songbird, as the songs here, from last year’s debut The Younger, bear out. “Ode To Confusion” is how Regina Spektor might sound if she was cute. The other two might recall Brandi Carlile: a bit of guitar, an ear for a good melody, and poignant lyrics. And the oddly-titled “Le Musketeer est Brave” features one of my favourite lines at the moment: “In my dream I am running, I”m casting off my shoes and socks and my broken heart.” Music to fall in love with. Londoners can catch Harris Tweed on September 23 & 25 (for Scottish and German dates see their MySpace page).
Harris Tweed – Ode To Confusion.mp3
Harris Tweed – Beautiful Mystery.mp3
Harris Tweed – Le Musketeer est Brave.mp3 (previously uploaded)

Brandi Carlile

Brandi Carlile’s name may suggest an airhead pop princess; but that is one thing she certainly isn’t. Expect her sophomore album The Story to create a lot of attention. In a way, it could be a pity when the Grammy nominations come in, because that kind of recognition usually spells an end to an artist’s credibility, leading to unwarranted vilification because people with less good taste than we are have are now buying the music we of the impeccable taste have hyped in first place (irony metres are on, yes?). Whatever happens, The Story is a gorgeous album, fusing folk and country (as on “Have You Ever”) with the occasional dash of guitar rock (“My Song”). Add Carlile’s exquisite songwriting skills and distinctive voice to the mix, and you have something quite special.
Brandi Carlile – My Song.mp3
Brandi Carlile – Have You Ever.mp3
Brandi Carlile – The Story.mp3 (previously uploaded)
Brandi Carlile – Throw It All Away.mp3 (previously uploaded)

Hello Saferide
Hello Saferide is Swedish indie-folk singer Annika Norlin, who picked up a massive amount of deserved Internet buzz over the past few months. “The Quiz”, from last year’s long-titled EP, remains a favourite song of mine; hell, it made me fall in love with Annika (evidence here). That song makes reference to her being “still scared of feet”, following up on the original revelation in “Get Sick Soon”. It’s a cute song, in which Annika hopes that the object of her love would catch the ‘flu so that she might lovingly nurse her guy. “Best Friend” has a similarly quirky sentiment, expressing affection for her best friend by way of wishing that they might be lesbians so as be in love with each other. Get free Hello Saferide songs here. And check out her great new single over at this fine blog.
Hello Saferide – Get Sick Soon.mp3
Hello Saferide – My Best Friend.mp3

Sarah Borges & the Broken Singles
You’ll hear a lot about Sarah Borges yet (perhaps you already have). Somebody used the term “honky tonk country”, which isn’t totally off the mark, but Borges’ music has many more layers. Certainly you pick up the smells of bars, beer and cigarettes hearing this attitude-filled stuff — and I’m not talking Billy Ray Cyrus linedancing crap either. This songbird snarls and roars and dictates her own terms. And you just know that the hapless Broken Singles will be discarded before you can say: “Fuck off, Gretchen”.
Sarah Borges – Come Back To Me.mp3
Sarah Borges – Lonely Town Of Love.mp3

Suzanne Vega
Vega is one of the godmothers of the current lot of songbirds. Songs like “Marlene On The Wall” borrowed from Joni, Rita and Carole, but they also set the template for those who’d follow. These tracks are from her new album, Crime & Beauty, which has received mixed reviews. Granted, half of the album is musically rather forgettable, but when it’s good, it really is good. I especially like the Carlos Jobim & Astrud Gilberto vibe of “Pornographer’s Dream”, which is a bit incongruent with the subject matter (for a companion piece, seek out The Weepies’ “Dating A Porn Star”. And, yes, The Weepies’ very incredibly desirably lovely swoonable Deb Talan will be featured soon). But Vega’s power never resided in her melody, less so in the vocals; Vega is a songwriter, and you connect with her on account of the lyrics. And thee, Crime & Beauty is totally rewarding.
Suzanne Vega – Pornographer’s Dream.mp3
Suzanne Vega – Frank And Ava.mp3
Suzanne Vega – Angel’s Doorway.mp3 (previously uploaded)

South Africa rocks…

June 4th, 2007 No comments

In an earlier post, I flagged the genius of South Africa’s Springbok Nude Girls (or just Nude Girls, as they call themselves internationally) and Harris Tweed. The download stats suggest that the uploads were quite popular. So, here’s some more music from South Africa, with a mixed bag of genres.

In case you missed them, the SNG and Harris Tweed links:
Springbok Nude Girls – Blue Eyes.mp3
Harris Tweed – Le Musketeer est Brave.mp3

Besides Harris Tweed, Durban’s Farryl Purkiss produced the other classic South African album of 2006. His self-titled sophomore album is utterly brilliant over the first four songs, and consistently excellent for the remainder. Purkiss has toured internationally with the wonderful Missy Higgins (whose new album I love) and Donavon Frankenreiter (whose CD last year was very good, too). The comparisons to boring Jack Johnson, with whom he has collaborated, do Purkiss no justice “” the guy from Durban is much better. Here’s the album’s second track:
Farryl Purkiss – Escalator.mp3

the 1990s, a group called Henry Ate were big on the South African scene. Singer Karma-Ann Swanepoel went to find fame and fortune in LA (dropping the non-superstar surname). Sadly, Karma has not hit the big time. This incredibly beautiful song, one of my all-time favourites by any artist, is from her 1998 album One Day Soon. I have no idea what the lyrics have to do with Johann Pachelbel, or whether the melody borrows from the composer who wrote the Canon in D Minor (if you know, please leave a comment).
Karma – Pachelbel.mp3

Cassette, currently hyped big in SA, are certainly innovative, drawing their influences from all over the place. In isolation their songs are almost uniformly fine, but I find it all just a little to eclectic as a whole. This opener, with its Death Cab For Cutie vibe, is the stand-out track for me.
Cassette – A.I.mp3

are a Cape Town emo/punk outfit that self-released their debut, On The Rise, last year. In the way of South African CD stores, only one retail chain bothered to stock the album: one copy in two Cape Town shops only. If the retail herberts have no faith in local artists, it is a reflection on them, not on the quality of the music made by these artists.
Spratch – Two Lives Lost.mp3
Go here to download two songs for free and help the band get some money

One of SA’s biggest rock acts, The Parlotones are a bit of a hit-and-miss affair. When they’re good, they are very good, but when they are bad, ugh! If you’re in England, see them live in June. Here’s one of their songs that is so good, they recoreded it twice:
The Parlotones – Beautiful.mp3

Mandoza is arguably South Africa’s biggest star, and “Nkalakatha” his biggest hit. A musician in the kwaito genre, which combines township pop with house and hip hop. This is the ultimate pump-up number:
Mandoza – Nkalakatha.mp3

still on a kwaito trip, Bongo Maffin made some of the most accessible and innovative music in the genre. It helped that the three members came from different ethnic backgrounds (Shona, Xhosa and Tswana), thus fusing distinct musical influences in their music. This year, Bongo Maffin are up for the BBC World Music Awards. Feel the energy on this 2000 track:
Bongo Maffin – Mari Ye Phepha.mp3

Vusi Mahlasela is one of South Africa’s finest jazz guitarist. In the South African context, that is a good genre to belong to. Internationally, it might be misleading. Even Afro-Jazz would be imprecise, though it is not inaccurate either. It’s mellow, it’s jazzy, it’s African. Try it.

Vusi Mahlasela – Silang Mabele.mp3

1988 and 1992, Mango Groove were the biggest name on the South African scene. Combining pop, kwela and the pennywhistles of the mines, the multi-racial ensemble provided the soundtrack to the death of apartheid. Mango Groove deserved a much bigger international audience. Alas…
Mango Groove – Special Star.mp3

Thank you for the earworms…

May 30th, 2007 No comments

First up I should apologise to my army of loyal readers for the long silence. But I won’t, because only two have ever left a comment. So, stay-at-home dad and KP’s GF, know that I still love you.

Anyhow, my home PC refused to log into me into blogger, and I have been quite the busy chap at work. having succeeded to log in tonight, I might have more possertunity to update more regularly — provided I get COMMENTS! (Yes ‘possertunityis a word. Sean W. Reeves of Amsterdam says so. Look!)

So, four songs today. Four of my four earworms in the past 24 hours. The first was a Celine Dion song, which I will not do unto others as I would do unto myself. I know only two lines, and google has revealed that it is a dirge called “Because You Love Me”. How did that creep into my internal jukebox?

The other four (left-click for download link):

Springbok Nude Girls – Blue Eyes.mp3
“Round about round about round about now”. It’s a South African rock classic, from 1999. Arno Carstens and the other blokes have reformed and released a new album. I haven’t heard it yet. I hope it doesn’t feature too much of that shit reggae sound that used to spoil their pre-breakup albums.

Harris Tweed – Le Musketeer est Brave.mp3
Great SA outfit. This song has a silly title, but such vulnerable lyrics performed by the wonderful Cherilyn Macneil. It’s the guitar that worms itself into my ear. “Ode To Confusion” is a more pervasive, even addictive earworm. But it isn’t my earworm now. This is.

Colin Hay – Overkill (acoustic).mp3
He was the singer of Men At Work, never my favourite group. I love much of his solo stuff though. This 2003 reworking of the Men At Work hit pisses all over the original. The “diving in tooooo deeeeep” line after the instrumental break is a constant and most welcome earworm.

Garth Brooks – Friends In Low Places (live).mp3
I can’t describe myself as a fan of Mr Brooks. In fact, I like only one of the admittedly few songs by the man I know. But, he-yell, this sure is a fantastic singalong number, with the low noites and the high notes. And a perennial earworm. This is the live version, very popular with Brooks fans, apparently. Truth be told, I prefer the studio version, cheesy barfly choir at the end notwithstanding.

And just for the fun of it, the song I’ve just been singing along to: Evan Dando – If I Could Talk I’d Tell You (live)

Here’s my RYM Harris Tweed review:

Harris Tweed – The Younger (2006)
Harris Tweed are the latest great South African hope for international success. On evidence of this debut album, they are a good bet to break big. Indeed, the album”s second single, the glorious earworm-inducing “Ode To Confusion”, has already attracted international notice.

The Jo”burg group, fronted by the talented Cherilyn Macneil, clearly draws its influences widely, with Regina Spektor and Evanescence”s Amy Lee being apparent inspirations. The trick Harris Tweed pulls off admirably is to sound familiar yet entirely original. Some of the songs on this set are crafted with an extraordinary ear for detail and beauty, and a fine sense for choruses one can”t help singing along to.

There are many absolute delights on this album (the peculiarly titled “Le Musketeer est brave” and “Don’t Forget” in particular), and very few misses. Most grating of these is opener “Superfly“, the sort of electro-pop that reminds one uncomfortably of Hillary Duff, and is entirely unrepresentative of the album”s sound (strangely it was also the album”s lead single and thus received wide radio airplay).

Get past the first track, and this an engaging, stimulating and rewarding album.