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Posts Tagged ‘Kathleen Edwards’

Top 20 albums of 2008

December 12th, 2008 8 comments

Everybody’s doing it, so I might as well dabble in the conceit that anybody is really interested to know which releases of the year I liked best. I don’t think it has been a vintage year for music, or perhaps I have not paid much attention. I’ve also found myself falling off Planet Indie, so the “singer-songwriters” boss the list. I’ve put sample tracks into one file, in case somebody is interested. The featured titles appear below my brief comments. Full tracklisting in the Comments section. Read more…

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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On current rotation – June

June 24th, 2008 1 comment

I’m not sure if 2008 is turning out to be a good year for music or not. A year ago, new releases by Wilco, Rosie Thomas, Bright Eyes and Brandi Carlile had me very excited. Sky Blue Sky turned out to be my album of the year, and I will be listening to it for many years to come. I’m not sure I’ve yet discovered my album of 2008, even though there are some albums I really like. But, none as much as Wilco’s last year. Here are tracks from some of 2008’s albums I’m enjoying very much, to go with the previous rotation, which featured Tift Merrit, whose effort may well be my album of the year so far, with Kathleen Edwards and the Weepies in the mix.

Jay Brennan – At First Sight.mp3
Jay Brennan – Half-Boyfriend.mp3
Jay Brennan – Housewife.mp3 (all three direct download links)
To start off, three tracks from an exciting new artist in the genre of “guys with guitars named like schoolteachers”. The alternative title for the genre would be singer-songwriter, but that has become a bit of a dirty word (unjustly so). I am sharing the above tracks at the invitation of Jay Brannan’s record company, where he is stablemates with the absolutely wonderful Rosie Thomas. And Brannan does channel the Thomas/Damien Jurado/Sufjan Stevens vibe, right down to the engaging lyrics which ask you to pay attention (just listen to Housewife ““ video here). His debut album, goddamned, will be released on July 1. I’m looking forward to hear more of Brannan’s songs; on evidence of these three songs, it could well be contender for my year-end list.

The Weepies – All Good Things.mp3
The Weepies – Can’t Go Back Now.mp3
I have bigged up the Weepies since I started this blog. The new album, Hideaway, came out in April, and has been on regular rotation ever since I got hold of it. It’s one of those albums I play when I survey my music, and have no idea what I fancy; the default go-to album de jour. The Weepies ““ Deb Talan and Steve Tannen ““ have produced a richer sound than previously without straying too far from their acoustic roots. This is a very warm album; I sort of imagine it like having good coffee and freshly baked waffles on a sunny Saturday morning.

Kathleen Edwards – I Make The Dough, You Get The Glory.mp3
I featured Kathleen Edwards (and Deb Talan) in the Songbirds series. So I was really looking forward to her new album, Asking For Flowers. At the first listen, I was a little disappointed. Second, third listen…same. I was about to write off the album when Indie Pop Ian virtually instructed me to give it a few more chances. Seeing as he is a man of refined taste who shares my love for the Songbirds, I did. And, boy, was he right, and I wrong. This is a mesmerising album with fantastic lyrics and a great alt.country bent. Forgive me, Kathleen, for doubting you. Come December, this may well be in the top 3 of my albums of the year.

Weezer – Heart Songs.mp3
Some say Weezer are living off the greatness of two albums they made in the ’90s. I think that’s a little harsh. The last set was, in my view, pretty good (Perfect Situation is a top notch song). So I approached the new album with hope, and some trepidation. Because Weezer albums can be quite poor, too. The new album, nicknamed the Red Album, falls in between the two extremes. There are a few tracks that beg to be skipped, and others that are a joy. I particularly like Heart Songs, in which Rivers Cuomo tabulates all the artists who influenced him, from childhood to stardom: Gordon Lightfoot, Eddie Rabbitt, Springsteen, Grover Washington, Abba, Devo, Quiet Riot, Judas Priest and so on ““ though I think he might be confusing Debbie Gibson with Tiffany…

Death Cab For Cutie – Talking Bird.mp3
And yet another album I had been looking forward to. I was gratified to read The Quietus giving it a positive review (more surprisingly, The Quietus didn’t rip the new Coldplay album to shreds, as I had expected and, indeed, hoped). Death Cabs’ Narrow Stairs is a fine, richly textured album which rewards repeated listens. It satisfies my occasional desire for a Death Cab fix ““ for now. The rub is this: Narrow Stairs does not have the stand-out tracks of 2005’s Plans (I’ll Follow You Into The Dark, Soul Meets Body), and as an Indie symphony does not quite reach 2002’s Transatlanticism‘s lofty level. So I wonder if in, say, three years time, I will listen to Narrow Stairs instead of these two albums (or, indeed, some of the earlier ones, such as We Have the Facts And We’re Voting Yes from 2000). Maybe it’s too early to say: I will continue to play Narrow Stairs in the hope that it will lodge itself permanently in my head. It just might.

Neil Diamond – Act Like A Man.mp3
Micah P. Hinson – Throw The Stone.mp3
I played this album with Any Minor Dude sitting next to me (playing a football manager game). He looked up from guiding Manchester United to greater glories and pointed out that he liked what he was hearing: Micah P. Hinson and the Red Empire Orchestra (Any Minor Dude also endorsed Jay Brannan, by the way). Sounds like Johnny Cash, he said. And he is quite right, of course. In fact, throw in Nick Cave and Steve Earle, and you have Hinson’s sound. The album is coming out in mid-July, so I trust that the buzz is going to build. This album deserves it.

Music for Bloggers Vol.4

January 8th, 2008 5 comments

After some months without, here’s more love for blogs I enjoy. As always, if your blog isn’t featured, but you think it should be, there will be more music for bloggers. I like an awful lot of blogs. Please open the links (in the red headings) by right-clicking and opening a new window or tab; I’d hate to lose you. In each entry, the first dedicated song is a new upload, the second has been posted here previously (except in the bit for Sunset Over Slawit, who gets two fresh tunes).

Popdose
Many mourned the sudden death at the hands of moronic interfereniks of the much beloved jefitoblog. Good news is, Jeff is back and has roped in a few skilled pals to create an Internet culture magazine called Popdose (among these pals is John Hughes, who used to write the excellent Lost in the ’80s blog). Popdose runs articles on music, film & TV, current events and more, and represents a welcome addition to my bookmarks. There are loads of fine MP3s, and best of all, Jefito still presents his weekly mix tape. Hooray!
Thin Lizzy – The Boys Are Back In Town.mp3
Clout – Substitute.mp3

Todger Talk
Men tend to talk about sex like they might talk about automotive mechanics. But would you ask your mates for advice if you had blood gushing out of your fractured penis? It was that experience (hilariously related) which moved “Nottingham’s Mr Sex” to start up a blog, with two qualified colleagues, which will dispense sound, valuable advice on sex and relationships specifically to men. But don’t expect condescending earnesty or laddish phwoarisms (it will be in the dictionary one day, you’ll see). If the first couple of posts are an indicator, the serious subject matter (you don’t think sex is fun, do you?) will be interlaced with a healthy dose of humour. And to get you in the mood, this horny soul classic from the ’70s, followed by Serge’s seduction technique.
Sylvia – Pillow Talk.mp3
Serge Gainsbourg – Cargo Culte.mp3

Holy Goof
Another fairly new site, Holy Goof is an absolute treasure trove of comedy albums from the ’60s up to last year (some ripped audio from DVD), with perceptive commentary. And, best of all, everything’s available on Sharebee, which serves those of us who are excluded by Rapidshare and Megaupload. Get your Chris Rock, Eddie Izzard, Woody Allen, David Cross, Tom Lehrer, Bill Hicks, Sam Kinison, Billy Connolly, Ellen Degeneris, Albert Brooks, Richard Pryor, Bill Maher, Dave Attell, Paul F Tompkins, George Carlin, Kathy Griffin, Denis Leary, Patton Oswalt, Steve Martin, Sara Silverman and a shitload more (even the deathly unamusing Robin Williams, if you must) at the Holy Goof.
Dave Davis – Death A Clown.mp3
Manfred Mann – Ha! Ha! Said The Clown.mp3

Echoes In The Wind
One of the Major Dude winners in the music blogs category last month. Some might have chosen a blog that features obscure, cutting edge artists or provide acute and learned reviews. There are many such blogs I like to visit. Echoes In The Wind isn’t such a blog. Whiteray writes from his own, seemingly vast personal experience. Reading his blog is like enjoying a visit from an erudite friend who, over a few bottles of good dark beer (or, in my case, a pot of coffee and a pack of smokes) shares his stories, and of himself. Whiteray’s music selection is almost exclusively and unsentimentally nostalgic, sometimes featuring stuff that is obscure and surprising, and occasionally exceedingly rare. It was Whiteray who had me give John Denver a chance when he uploaded Whose Garden Was This, a long-forgotten but rather lovely 1970s album by the man whom I had dismissed as a bit of a grinning muppet (which at one point he had actually become). Early in his career, Denver might not have been cool, but he was pretty good. Check out “Sunshine On My Shoulders” from 1971’s gorgeous Poems, Prayers & Promises, and imagine it, if you need to, being sung by somebody else, without prejudice. The second song is a lovely slice of sentimentality by a South African artist. If you like Whiteray’s stuff, you should like this.
John Denver – Sunshine On My Shoulder.mp3
Andr̩ de Villiers РMemories.mp3

Sunset Over Slawit
Much as Whiteray is a regular visitor to my monitor, so is Rol Hirst, another blogger with whose prose I feel instantly comfortable. Rol’s blog does not offer conspiracy theories, profound sociological analysis, political polemic or comedy writing (though he knows how to turn a witty phrase when circumstances demand it). There are fine blogs that offer these, sometimes all in one, and I appreciate these. Rol’s blog appeals on a different level. It succeeds in making you feel that he is a friend sharing his engaging thoughts with you (even though you’ve never met him); his writings suggest that he is a really nice guy… Conveying one’s {perceived) personality in such a persuasive way is a skill not many writers have.
Iron & Wine – Sunset Soon Forgotten.mp3
Gordon Lightfoot – Sundown.mp3

The Hits Just Keep On Coming
A self-confessed angry ex-radio DJ lets rip on his blog, which he presents as a music station of sorts. The concept works very well. JB apparently still presents a weekly radio show. If it is anything like his well-written blog with such judiciously selected music, it should be required listening wherever it is broadcast. The One Day In Your Life feature is especially good, a time travelling blitz. And I wholeheartedly agree with JB about how the Hype Machine aggregator has become less inviting since the redesign, which I think has a terribly cluttered corporate feel now. Like JB, I very rarely venture there any longer. For JB, a great 1995 song from alt.country-rock supergroup Golden Smog, and a fine track by one of the underrated songbirds.
Golden Smog – Radio King.mp3
Kathleen Edwards – Another Song The Radio Won’t Like.mp3

The Ghost of Elecricity
In my lists of links, The Ghost of Electricity is filed in the non-music section, which isn’t strictly accurate, because it does feature MP3s. It would also not be strictly accurate to file Davy H’s site among the music bloggers, because his subject matter isn’t always music. Rather, the music Davy posts often is intended to illustrate his entertaining and frequently insightful ruminations on any given subject. Much in the same way as the songs dedicated to the bloggers in this series fulfill an ancillary function. Wherever one may want to file The Ghost of Electricity, it’s a bloody good read with some fine music (check out the funk here).
The Strokes – Electricityscape.mp3
Manfred Mann’s Earth Band – Davy’s On The Road Again.mp3

Guitariotabs
Two and a half years ago my son, then 10, decided he wanted to learn to play the guitar. After securing a firm commitment from him, we enrolled him with a first-class tutor, a former session musician for South African blues-rock legend Robin Auld, who continues to verse him in the technically correct mechanics of string plucking (or whatever). Occasionally Michael visits sites offering guitar tabs, and sometimes finds that the authors have failed in providing scrupulously correct tabs. So he decided to set up his own tabs blog, with relevant MP3 files and links to the lyrics as an added service. The lazy sod hasn’t updated it in a while “” apparently it’s not a simple task to write tabs, and time consuming as well. Still, I’m immensely proud of my boy, now 13. So visit his blog. In the meantime, here’s something by the wonderful guitarist Kaki King, who featured on the new Foo Fighters album, and the Beatles song Michael announced he really liked when he got into the Help! album, and which happens to be my all-time favourite Beatles tune.
Kaki King – Happy As A Dead Pig In The Sunshine.mp3
The Beatles – You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away.mp3

Previously featured:
Music For Bloggers Vol. 1: Totally Fuzzy, Not Rock On, Serenity Now (RIP), Stay At Home Indie Pop, The Late Greats, Tsururadio, 200percent, Jefitoblog (RIP), Television Without Pity, Michael’s World
Music For Bloggers Vol. 2: Fullundie, Mr Agreeable, Greatest Films, Peanut’s Playground, Just Good Tunes, Csíkszereda Musings, Mulberry Panda, The Black Hole, Secret Love, Hot Chicks With Douchebags
Music For Bloggers Vol. 3: Girl On A Train, Maybe We Ain’t That Young Anymore, Earbleedingcountry, Spangly Princess, Ill Folks, Deacon Blues, One-Man Publisher, CD Rated

The Songbirds: Vol 3

August 10th, 2007 3 comments

Rosie Thomas
Four very good albums down the road, and Rosie Thomas remains obscure enough to impress the Eva Cassidy Consensus — the type of people who rave about this posthumously overrated singer as if there aren’t dozens better ones — with something superior. Detroit-born Rosie (by all accounts an utterly delightful woman) knows how to create a mood. Relaxed, cute and humorous one moment, you wish you were with her to share a giggle, next she moves the listener to tears with her beautiful melodies and poignant lyrics. Songs like “Much Farther To Go”, with the gorgeous arrangement and the sad lyrics (“Sometimes I cry when it’s late at night, and you’re not there to lay next to me. Morning breaks and the sun warms my face…how I wish it was you warming me”) reach deep into the listeners’ soul. Likewise, “If This City Never Sleeps”, which opens Rosie’s latest album, communicates in sound and words the sort of undefinable yearning that makes us sigh uncontrollably for no good reason.
Rosie Thomas – If This City Never Sleeps.mp3
Rosie Thomas – Say Hello (with Sufjan Stevens).mp3
Rosie Thomas – Much Farther To Go.mp3

Catherine Feeny
One of those chance discoveries that make you feel great love for chance. I have not heard Catherine Feeny‘s debut, but her sophomore album Hurricane Glass, released last year and re-released this year, is quite excellent. Where is the buzz for this wonderful talent? Born in the US, Feeny lives in rural England; and the influence of two different rock tradition shows. Hurricane Glass is an intimate album with intelligent lyrics telling of of struggles with regret, disillusionment, insecurity, and melancholy, often mitigated by a sense of hope. I love this line from the excellent opener “Touch Back Down”: ” I have got to learn not to go choosing the ones who don”t choose me. I am always picking the fruit that”s furthest on the tree; it”s sweetest to me.” It should be fairly easy to get hold of “Mr Blue”, which has featured on a few soundtracks, a sweet song with a brilliant flugelhorn interlude. If re-releases qualify for consideration when we compile our Albums of the Year lists, Feeny will surely have a crack at inclusion in mine.
Catherine Feeny – Touch Back Down.mp3
Catherine Feeny – Hush Now.mp3

Sarah Bettens
Bettens is a half of the Belgian twosome K’s Choice, an act that is not as well known as it ought to be, despite releasing a string of fine albums since the early ’90s. In 2005 Bettens released her appealing solo debut, Scream, which veered between intimate ballads and alt.rock. In keeping with the songbird theme, I’ve picked up two of the slower songs. “Grey” was just a bonus track, which is puzzling; to me, it’s the best song on the album. The piano-driven song is not only very beautiful, but has thoughtful lyrics about the depth, fears and transience of love (“I have tasted happiness, the innocence of joy. Do we pay a price for every moment we enjoy? I can make you promises, but even I can’t say if everything I feel for you will never go away”). “Stay” is a bit more upbeat and quite catchy; I particularly enjoy Sarah’s hoarse voice.
Sarah Bettens – Grey.mp3
Sarah Bettens – Stay.mp3

Kathleen Edwards
Another talented alt.country singer doomed to remain stuck in the ghetto of tastefully compiled soundtracks (including the exquisite Elizabethtown OST). Life is very unfair. Canadian Kathleen Edwards, who recalls the likes of Lucinda Williams, has supported Dylan, the Stones, and more importantly, the excellent My Morning Jacket. Edwards anticipated the general apathy towards her music when on her 2003 debut Failer she acidly dedicated a song to the radio playlist compilers, “Another Song The Radio Won’t Like”. The catchy number deserved to be playlisted. Alas, Kathleen isn’t big in the blogosphere either (the absence of new material since early 2005, of course, has something to do with that). Well, this blog loves her.
Kathleen Edwards – Summerlong.mp3
Kathleen Edwards – Another Song The Radio Won’t Like.mp3


Tristan Prettyman

Tristan Prettyman came recommended to me by somebody who likened her to Jack Johnson, whom I like in only tiny doses. Her name also put me off from investigating her music. Then I saw the CD cover of this Californian singer’s debut album, and just had to hear what she sounded like. Happily, it was all very nice indeed (an appearance by her boyfriend Jason Mrzaz notwithstanding). Prettyman is breezier than most contemporary songbirds, and on occasion her sound does indeed recall Johnson. In fairness, I think her Twentythree album, released in 2005, was a bit patchy. But where it is good, it hits the right spots. Like these two tracks, the first a sweet ballad, the other breezily upbeat:
Tristan Prettyman – Melting.mp3
Tristan Prettyman – Always Feel This Way.mp3