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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

March 22nd, 2008 4 comments

When I started this blog, my idea was to flag new releases I enjoy while occasionally dipping into the archives of pop. As it has turned out, I’ve had greater fun doing nostalgia. But that means I’ve sometimes neglected the original purpose of this blog: to promote new music which I like. So, here are some songs from new releases (and one that is a year old) which I am listening to at the moment.

Tift Merritt – Keep You Happy.mp3
Tift Merritt – Morning Is My Destination.mp3
I can’t claim to know much about Tift Merritt. The new album, Another Country, is her third. I have not heard the previous albums, but the buzz has been good. Another Country may become Merritt’s breakthrough album. Merritt swings between country, alt.country and folk-pop, which places her alongside the adorable Mindy Smith, another singer who is receiving attention only in her 30s. Another Country is a gentle but engaging exercise, one for Sunday mornings. Keep You Happy, with its Wilcoesque guitar, has a depth which may at first not be apparent, while Morning Is My Destination fuses alt.country sounds (even more Wilco guitar here) with classic country rock.
Tift Merritt on MySpace

Landon Pigg – Falling In Love At A Coffee Shop.mp3
Another singer-songwriter with shaggy hair and a funny name… His 2006 solo album, titled LP, was a pleasant folk-pop effort, but lacked a killer track. Pigg delivers such a track with Falling In Love At A Coffee Shop, an entirely sweet acoustic song which will doubtless end up on the soundtrack of a quirky independent movie (think Garden State). This is a song that should have featured in the Love Songs for Every Situation series (guess in which part). I hope the coffee shop in question an independent joint, not bloody Starbucks. And I hope that Pigg won’t sell his soul by letting Starbucks use this song for an advertising campaign; the song is far too lovely to be tainted by the stink of capitalist globalisation.

Tristan Prettyman – Madly.mp3
I loved Tristan’s 2005 debut album, Twentythree, a slice of California Dreaming which was trumped last year by Colbie Caillat’s entirely lovable album. I had sort of hoped that Tristan would in turn trump Colbie with more of the same. Instead, on her second album, Hello, Tristan suggests musical growth, and a welcome country influence. The beach vibe is still evident (see Madly), but many tracks are darker and more complex than those on the debut (California Girl sounds nothing like the title suggests). At first I was thrown by this; my expectations thrown, I was disappointed after the first listen. Having put the thing on rotation for a bit, I’m falling for it. (More Tristan Prettyman here)

Joshua Radin & Ingrid Michaelson – Sky.mp3
Joshua Radin’s We Were Here album was my album of 2006. I love the man’s gentle voice, his Drake-channelling acoustic sound, and I really enjoy his lyrics. I’ve read that Radin’s soft sound was forced by their production in a NYC flat. Sky, his new duet with the wonderful Ingrid Michaelson is upbeat and poppier than previous material. The rest of the four-song Unclear Sky EP (an iTunes special described by the singer as a teaser for the upcoming album) is more like the Radin we know, understated and intimate. Lovely Tonight, which should be on the CD later this year, is a gorgeous duet with Catherine Feeny, one of my favourite songbirds (whom I featured here), featuring guitar work by Ryan Adams. (More Joshua Radin here and here)

Counting Crows – When I Dream Of Michelangelo.mp3
Adam Duritz and pals are releasing their first studio album in five years, following the critical failure Hard Candy. Actually, there was much that is good on Hard Candy, though the true quality of some of the tracks revealed themselves only when performed live, as the fine New Amsterdam live album showed. Listening to Counting Crows albums requires patience; not unlike hearing an album by their spiritual godfathers, The Band. On my first listen, I didn’t much like the new album, Saturday Nights And Sunday Mornings. After the second listen, I liked it better. A few listens further, and I’m sold on much of the album. Apparently the first, rockier half is a band effort, while the second, more reflective half is something of a Duritz solo project (as if anyone ever remembers any of the other Crows). The tracks I’m posting are the immediate stand-outs; the former a rock tune in the manner of The Band, the latter a slow-burner in the manner of, er, The Band.
Counting Crows homepage

Laura Veirs – Saltbreakers.mp3
Laura Veirs – Pink Light.mp3
Laura Veirs on MySpace