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Love Songs For Every Situation: Being In Love

February 12th, 2008 1 comment

Here’s the trouble with Valentine’s Day, apart from the crass commercialisation and pressure to spend a month’s salary on a dozen frozen roses shipped in from Argentinia or wherever. Valentine’s Day is just for the select few, the lucky ones who are experiencing love in a good way. It excludes those who yearn for love, those who have had their heart shredded to ribbons, those who love somebody they cannot have. No, it doesn’t just exclude hem; it mocks them. The forced inclusiveness — red and white dresscodes, the Valentine’s cards and, worse, Valentine’s e-mails to people — creates an illusion that love causes no pain, that love is like it is in the movies (and how many rom coms open at your multiplex on February 14?). Worse, Valentine’s Day makes people in a relationship say or do things they may not really mean, even if they don’t really know what they are doing. So for most people, the most appropriate Valentine’s Day song is the one I posted a few days ago: Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris – Love Hurts.mp3

For most people, Valentine’s Day is a banal fraud, and so are many of the songs that extol the glory of love. In lyrics, romantic love, of whatever brand, is usually a musical McGuffin, the plot device that drives the song. The Beatles sang exclusively about romantic love until Rubber Soul, their sixth album, “Nowhere Man” breaking the mould. Some of the emotions portrayed in some of these songs ring true, of course. Sometimes the lyrics are eloquent even. But do they convey the feeling of love accurately? Does, say, Kylie Minogue communicate it today? The challenge today, as it was on the mix-tape I posted on Saturday, is to find songs that can convey being in love believably, in lyrics, sound and performance (songs marked with an asterisk have been recycled from older posts).

Art Garfunkel – All I Know.mp3
“I bruise you, you bruise me. We both bruise too easily, too easily to let it show.” Art Garfunkel breaks our hearts in his beautiful 1973 version of the Jimmy Webb song. Being in love is a fragile reality. You are vulnerable. Your future is determined by the one your with: “All my plans have fallen through, all my plans depend on you; depend on you to help them grow.” Hurt may be just around the corner. Is Art neurotic or realistic when he sings: “But the ending always comes at last; endings always come too fast”? All these questions have no answer. There is only one answer: “I love you, and that’s all I know.”

Sarah Bettens – Grey.mp3
Sarah Bettens, of the folk-rock duo K’s Choice, takes the vulnerable route too. Here, love isn’t red, nor black or white. It’s somewhere in between: grey. Love can die, and Sarah says it might do so from her side even as she pleads to be loved. “You can’t be my everything and I am not half you. But you can make it all worthwhile, and that’s why I love you.”

The Weepies – Cherry Trees (live).mp3
Yeah, posted again. This is a gorgeous love song based on Pablo Neruda’s poem. “I wanna do with you what spring does with the cherry trees”, the idea nicked from Neruda, means that love must renew itself and grow. “Sometimes our love is like a mountain: solid and steep, grounded in heat. And sometimes we rage like a river, cold and fast, then quiet and deep. We ride the storm, ’cause when it’s through we have changed and love is new.” This is the key love surviving summarised in two lines.

Everything But The Girl – Love Is Where I Live.mp3*
Some of the songs here are love-giddy, others communicate the fear of being in love. Of the latter, this is the darkest. Tracy Thorn seems certain that this love won’t last. It’s here now, but may not always be. So she repeats these three words like a mantra: “It won’t last”. She’s been burned in love before, clearly. Love is here, but it cannot survive when one partner thinks it is already doomed. What Tracy needs is a shot of Donny Hathaway’s brand of love.

Donny Hathaway – A Song For You.mp3
In this definitive version of Leon Russell’s stunning declaration of love, Donny Hathaway puts us through the wringer. He has treated the woman he professes to love poorly, but now he is going to articulate just how much he loves her back: “and if my words don’t come together, listen to the melody, ’cause my love is in there hiding”. He’s not lying: the melody is enveloped in pure love. It communicates tenderness and vulnerability. But the words do come together: “I love you in a place where there’s no space or time. I love you for in my life you are a friend of mine. And when my life is over, remember when we were together: we were alone and I was singing this song to you.” Would you not melt? Would that not reassure Tracy Thorn?

Herb Alpert – This Guy’s In Love With You.mp3
It may be a little premature to include this Bacharach composition here. It might belong in yesterday’s post. Our dude has only just picked up that the girl he desires seems to like him back. From here on, Herb gets into it. The deal, as far as he knows, is done. Back out of the deal, he tells her melodramatically in the best bit of the song, and he might not survive it: “My hands are shakin’, don’t let my heart keep breaking ’cause I need your love, I want your love. Say you’re in love and you’ll be my girl…if not…I’ll just…die.” To great effect, when it seems that the song has ended on that note, it resumes with Herb’s trumpet, indicating that probably the girl has not given him cause to die. Yay!

Blue October – Calling You.mp3
We’ve not dealt with the insecurity in love that produces quasi-stalker behaviour, have we? This is where alt.rockers Blue October come in to help us out. This seems to be quite a sweet song: guy finds girl (probably out of his league), life has become easier and better…except he feels the need to phone her all the time to see if she is thinking or dreaming of him (yup, way to keep the girl, dude, waking her up all the time). The thing is, love makes people act stupidly. We may laugh at our dude here, but who in love has not ever had the same impulses?

The Crimea – Lottery Winners On Acid.mp3
Let’s get giddy, kicking off with John Peel-championed Indie-rockers The Crimea (with the original EP version, not the inferior re-recording with which they scored a 2006 UK hit). The song has a ’60s-like exuberance about it, and not just because of the acid reference. Our boy is so deep-fucked in love, he even loses his grasp on basic grammar: “If she get a black eye, I want a black eye. If she get a splinter, I want a splinter too.” And later: “If she get a disease, I want a disease. If she go tripping, I go falling over.” And his Mom might rightly enquire: “If she jumps of a bridge, would you jump as well?” Of course our boy would. ” Everything she say, I was thinking anyway.” Isn’t that just the way love is, initially?

Style Council – You’re The Best Thing (extended).mp3
Presumably Paul Weller wrote this for Dee C. Lee, a former Wham! backing singer who joined the Style Council in 1984 when she and Weller hooked up. So when he sings stuff like: “I could be discontent and chase the rainbows’ end, I might win much more but lose all that is mine” (meaning Dee C.’s love), you sort of wonder what their chances are. All good intentions in vain, Weller and Lee ended up getting divorced.

Sarah McLachlan – Ice Cream (Live).mp3
Sarah McLachlan takes the more conventional route to explain love: it’s like ice cream or chocolate. A jubilatory song that conveys the euphoria that comes with being in love, and being loved back. A note of caution: ice cream and chocolate melt in heat; will the romance retain its shape in the heat of passion?

Minnie Riperton – Lovin’ You.mp3
A song just dripping with love. The birds are singing, so is Minnie, hitting orgasmically high notes. The song was written with her husband, and in the end Minnie sings, in multi-syllable mode, the name of their daughter, Maya (SNL comedian Maya Rudolph). Which is lovely, I think. The lyrics are simple, yet communicate all that needs to be said. The line, “Stay with me while we grow old, and we will live each day in springtime” is a great one for wedding proposals (though these are best not uttered on February 14). In the context of this song it is poignant: Minnie died of cancer in 1979, five years after “Lovin’ You” was a hit.

Earth, Wind & Fire – Love’s Holiday.mp3
Love finds expression in sex. So, to round this thing off, a couple of songs saturated with love and sex. On “Love’s Holiday”, Maurice White rocks his sonorous voice in the most seductive manner. Forget about Barry White or Isaac Hayes, Maurice’s is the voice of a sex god. “Would you mind if I looked in your eyes till I’m hypnotised, and I lose my pride?” Playa got game. But, ooops, what’s this: “Would you mind if I make love to you till I’m satisfied, once again.” Till you are satisfied, Mo? What sort of seductive proposition is that? Promise her satisfaction twice over before you think of yourself, you selfish goon!

Foo Fighters – Everlong (acoustic version.mp3)*
Maurice’s women may be better off with Mr Grohl, who may not look particularly hot, take much care of his hair (if the Grammys performance is a reliable guide) or have a particularly sexy voice, but he has a way with words: “Slow how you wanted it to be… Breath out, so I can breathe you in, hold you in.” And here is the beauty of Grohl’s seduction technique: he doesn’t make grandiose promises of being a bureau-of-standards-approved lovemachine; he doesn’t flatter about bodies being wonderlands. He just outlines how he plans to make an emotional connection while in the act of making love. Which makes this is one of the best song about sex ever.

Love Songs For Every Situation: Falling In Love

February 11th, 2008 3 comments

I’ve said it before (sort of): Valentine’s Day is crap. But that is no reason not to deal with the subject of love this month. All of it: the good, the bad, the shitty. And, oh man, love can be a real bastard. So over ten posts I’ll aim to cover almost all emotions that accompany love: the butterflies that take residence in one’s stomach, the giddiness of being in love, the betrayal and pure pain of love dying, the emotion of being left heartbroken, the bitterness that follows a broken love, the regrets of a love failed, the confusion and conflicts that love deals in several ways, the pure pain of unrequited love, and love that cannot be (not necessarily in that order).

We’ll kick off with the butterflies of falling in love, that incredible emotion when you know that somebody else has dominates your mind, the euphoric fear as you realise things will not be the same again, as you face the prospect of happiness or utter heartbreak. The artists in our selection here are generally a hopeful lot.

The Spinners – Could It Be I’m Falling In Love.mp3
The singer in this glorious slice of 1973 soul has discovered with amazement that he is falling for his latest flame. He makes grand promises of that love being everlasting, mainly, one suspects, because he fears that “there will never come a day when you up and take your love away”. In the fadeout he is begging that she, who in the first verse seems to have fallen for him, will not fuck him over. He doesn’t use such language, of course, but the message is clear: dude is giddy and scared.

Colbie Caillat – Realize.mp3
I’ve posted this before (twice, I’m ashamed to say), but I’m all for recycling. And this song is as perfect for this post as Colbie believes she and her object of love are for each other. A cute song which acknowledges that love on first sight is not a common occurrence. She and the paramour have known each other for a while, and suddenly — pow — she realises she’s in love. That happened to me once while away in Johannesburg (possibly the ugliest city in the world). Sitting in the car, I realised — pow — that I was in love with a girl back home. Alas, the story will have to continue in the post about unrequited love.

The Weepies – Gotta Have You.mp3
Another recycled song, I’m afraid (I promise, it’ll get better as we go along, but this is about finding the right song for the right emotion. And this one happens to feature four I’ve posted before). The cute Deb Talan sets out her agenda: she has to win the heart of the man who has entered hers. I’m not sure she is going about it the right way as she admits to deliberately annoying him in the first verse. Yet, her commitment is evident: “No amount of coffee, no amount of cryin’, no amount of whiskey, no amount of wine; no, no, no, no, no, nothing else will do: I’ve gotta have you, I’ve gotta have you.”

Stephen Bishop – It Might Be You.mp3
As I said in the introduction to the Valentines mix tape (thanks for the nice comments, those who bothered), love demands some cliché, and Stephen Bishop is our man for that purpose with the love theme from Tootsie, which was a rather nice movie starring the lovely Jessica Lange, and some chap. Beware though, only the melody is cliché; the lyrics are quite beautiful. “I’ve been saving love songs and lullabies. And there’s so much more no one’s ever heard before”. Awwww! This is a vinyl rip, for that extra piece of romantic nostalgia (that is to say, I can’t find my Stephen Bishop CD).

Michelle Featherstone – Falling.mp3
The wonderful Michelle Featherstone doesn’t go with the giddy in this quite fantastic, Mazzy Star-ish song. Love is sucking her in and making her knees buckle, but not necessarily in a good way. She’s not comfortable making herself vulnerable: “In my state of vertigo I can’t look down, can’t feel the ground, so will you catch me?” The fear of falling…

Weezer – Falling For You.mp3
Oh yes, falling in love can come in all sorts of musical genres (though in C&W that would probably involve a doggy gone died). So we’ve had the Spinners falling in love soulfully, Colbie Caillat acoustically, the Weepies folkily, Michelle Featherstone darkly and Stephen Bishop schmaltzily. Weezer doing so alt.rockingly. And what a joyous song to do it with. The lyrics are less joyous. Rivers Cuomo knows he’s setting himself up: “I’m shakin’ at your touch, I like you way too much. My baby I’m afraid I’m falling for you. I’d do ’bout anything to get the hell out alive, or maybe I would rather settle down, with you.”

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 iPod Random 5-track Experiment Vol.1

November 18th, 2007 1 comment

A little fun diversion. Put the iPod on Party Shuffle, and take the first five tracks that come up. It seems my iPod was in a kicked back mood, coming up with five songs that are pretty mellow.

Colin Hay – Waiting For My Real Life To Begin.mp3
I’m a great fan of the former Men At Work singer when he is in wistful mood. This song, from the great 2000 album Going Somewhere, is an anthem to restlessness, a “is this is all there is to life” song which hints at depression. Our man is unhappy, but probably is still good company. And what a great vocal performance! (More Colin Hay here)

The Weepies – All I Want (live).mp3
A Christmas song that works all year around. The lyrics basically say that getting the “you” in the song would be the perfect Christmas present. The studio version even has jingling bells, absent on this stripped down live version from the superb-quality (and artist approved) bootleg of a gig in Ohio in 2004 (find it here). I love the Weepies, name notwithstanding. I love them so much that I’ll repost the links for previous files I’ve posted. Listen to them, and then go and buy their CDs, including the lovely Deb Talan’s solo CDs. Check out the Weepies’ hompage.
The Weepies – Cherry Trees (live).mp3 (From this post)
The Weepies- Gotta Have You.mp3 (From this post)
Deb Talan – Forgiven.mp3
Deb Talan – Tell Your Story Walking.mp3 (From this post)

Judith Sephuma – I Remember.mp3
A late-night or Sunday morning jazzy vibe from South Africa, with keyboards that clearly are influenced by the Crusaders’ Joe Sample. Judith Sephuma, whose ex-husband, South African jazz guitar maestro Selaelo Selota, appeared on the album, fuses SA jazz (which tends to be melodic), Aftrican vibes and old-style R&B. Sephuma (homepage here) won an award for being Africa’s best female singer a couple of years ago for this album. Hear her, and decide that she is in fact one of the best singers in the world.

Foo Fighters – Walking After You (live).mp3 (link removed)
I’m never sure what the Taste Police makes of Foo Fighters. Well, those who don’t like them can get stuffed. The new album is excellent, especially since it guest stars the very fine and quite unique guitarist Kaki King. This classic is the live version from last year’s Skin And Bones acoustic(-ish) set. It is certainly one of the highlights of the album (great DVD, too), though the Foo’s take on “Everlong” is a real mindfuck. (More Foo Fighters here and download the acoustic version of Everlong here)

Phil Campbell – Maps.mp3
I don’t remember how I came across Phil Campbell, but his second album, Joy, was a very pleasant discovery, good enough that I set out to buy it. As if South African CD shops stock albums by obscure artists… “Maps” is great, in the folk-pop tradition, and a fine song to sing along to (which, in my book, elevates a song from being good to great). If this dude was not English but American, he’d be quite big, in a Ryan Adams kind of way. Checking on Hype Machine — the fools who won’t list this blog — there has been one blog featuring the music of Campbell, of all things the track off Joy I like least. On the album cover he looks like the actor Elijah Wood, which I find slightly disconcerting. His friends on MySpace look impressive: Ben Folds, Rilo Kiley, Ryan Adams, Ben Lee, Ray LaMontagne, Jesse Malin and a few more big names.

The Songbirds: Vol 4

August 12th, 2007 4 comments

The final installment of the Songbirds, for now (there are still a few more who need bigging up, but we’ll do that later in the curriculum). So, I’ve featured 20 Songbirds; add your own favourites, and here should be abundant material for a brilliant mix-tape (or double CD-R).

Deb Talan
Deb Talan is one half of the Weepies, whom I utterly love, their silly name notwithstanding. Steve Tannen and Deb Talan were acoustic folk-musicians in their own right and fans of one another before they met. When they did, they became the Weepies (and a couple, or so I’ve heard). The two Weepies albums are great, with just enough of an edge to offset their inherent and appealing twee cuteness. Talan’s solo stuff (which — shame on the world — is not easy to find) is much in the same vein as the Weepies. Check out these excellent recordings of Talan live solo and the Weepies in concert (both endorsed by the artists), from 2003 and 2004 respectively. The latter yielded the Pablo Neruda-inspired “Cherry Trees” file below (edited by your friendly blogger to improve the soundlevels), a song that follows the slightly edgy “Tell Your Story Walking” on Deb’s 2001 sophomore album Sincerely. “Forgiven”, from her 2000 label debut Something Burning, is poetry accompanied by an acoustic guitar, a track that becomes more astonishing with every listen. And I am in love with Talan’s little giggle at the end of “Cherry Trees”.
Deb Talan – Forgiven.mp3
Deb Talan – Tell Your Story Walking.mp3
The Weepies – Cherry Trees (live).mp3 (previously uploaded)
The Weepies- Gotta Have You.mp3 (previously uploaded)

Brooke Fraser
New Zealand’s second biggest selling artist (after Haley Westrena), Brooke Fraser is a huge talent in the singer-songwriter mould with a fine line in attractive melodies and intelligent lyrics. On her second album, Albertine, the rugby All Black’s daughter is introspective about her Christian faith. Happily, her religious musings are not of the saccharine worship variety — God and Jesus are not even mentioned — nor even obliquely about her spirituality. Without listening too closely, “Deciphering Me” or “Shadowfeet”, both from Albertine, could be straightforward love songs. “Without You”, a quite lovely love song from her 2004 debut What To Do With Daylight, has a bit of a Norah Jones vibe going on — if the tryptophanatic Jones was a bit more interesting. Admirably, the CD booklet for Albertine lists a range of NGOs, with contact details, that work on issues such as human rights, development, abuse of women and children and human trafficking.
Brooke Fraser – Shadowfeet.mp3
Brooke Fraser – Without You.mp3
Brooke Fraser – Deciphering Me.mp3 (previously uploaded)

Emilíana Torrini
The name gives it away that Torrini comes from Iceland. Well, her full name actually does: Emilíana Torrini Davíðsdóttir, the offspring of Icelandic and Italian parents. Featured frequently on Grey’s Anatomy (great supporters of the Songbirds — don’t let anyone say that TV exposure undermines an artist’s credibility), Torrini has build up a decent amount of buzz, being mentioned as a bit of an insiders’ tip to the Eva Cassidy Consensus (see here). Her sound is gentle and quiet and militantly acoustic. Yet, beneath the fragile layer of etherealism there is an appealing depth which might require a few repeat listens — but these are richly rewarding. Catch videos of Torrini’s live performances on her excellent website.
Emilíana Torrini – Sunny Road.mp3
Emilíana Torrini – Serenade.mp3
Emilíana Torrini – Nothing Brings Me Down.mp3 (previously uploaded)


Maria Taylor

Azure Ray singer Maria Taylor‘s debut solo album, 11:11, was an eclectic bag of tricks, incorporating folk-rock, electronica and even torchsong. Her new album, Lynn Teeter Flower, is a more cohesive, but not without surprises. One of Bright Eyes supremo Connor Oberst’s favourites (they have guested on each other’s albums), Taylor’s sound is too layered, too crafted, too good to break into the mainstream. But it will establish her as a leading performer in the genre.
Maria Taylor – Nature Song.mp3
Maria Taylor – Lost Time.mp3
Maria Taylor – No Stars.mp3

Jenny Lewis
It is fitting to conclude this series of female singers with one of the best: Jenny Lewis, best known as lead singer of the wonderful (and sometimes frustrating) Rilo Kiley. Where Rilo Kiley have what might be described as an Indie-folk sound (hear the sing-along outro of “With Arms Outstretched”), Jenny Lewis’ 2005 solo album Rabbit Furcoat, with the Watson Twins, was pure alt.country, and deplorably featured a cover of a Traveling bloody Wilburys song, the horrid “Handle With Care”. Jenny has one of the sexiest voices in music today. This is evident on “It’s A Hit” and the fantastic (and easy-to-find) “Portions For Foxes”, both from RK’s More Adventurous album in 2004. Read this excellent interview with Jenny; I particularly like her line about not dropping favourite artists when they become successful or receive exposure in the mainstream (see the entry on Torrini).
Rilo Kiley – With Arms Outstretched.mp3
Rilo Kiley – It’s A Hit.mp3
Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins – You Are What You Love.mp3

More Pandora discoveries

June 7th, 2007 2 comments

More artists I discovered through pandora.com. Being on a deadline, I”ll have to add to this post in drips and drabs. Check this blog periodically to get more MP3 downloads. There should be six download links by the end of the afternoon.

Kevin Devine – Haircut.mp3
One of my favourite Pandora discoveries. Devine is hard to classify: Indie, alt.country, singer-songwriter. He is just fantastic. This is the superior acoustic version of the album version, which appeared on the rare Travelling Through The EU… EP

The Gabe Dixon Band – All Will Be Well.mp3
This is a bit like Billy Joel, before he turned to shit. I must confess that I really, really like only two Gabe Dixon songs, but those two are fantastic. This one has a great chorus and a nice piano hook.

The Weepies- Gotta Have You.mp3
An early Pandora discovery, and the best of the lot. I love the Weepies, despite their silly name. This is one of the cutest songs I”ve ever heard.

Kacy Crowley – Kind Of Perfect.mp3
A lovely song. Crowley”s music is exceedingly difficult to find, which I find mystifying.

Joshua Radin – These Photographs
From my pick for Album of 2006. Radin“s music is gentle, melodic and intimate, recalling the great Nick Drake. You have to admire a love song that namechecks Sylvia Plath, Mary Cassat, Simone de Beauvoir, and Nina Simone (“You”re Nina Simone, when you talk on the phone. You sing to me, and I”m truly no longer alone”. Lovely),

Brandi Carlile – Throw It All Away.mp3
Beautiful, catchy and touching song from Brandi Carlile“s self-titled 2005 debut. Her name suggests an airhead pop princess, but she is actually a hugely talented singer-songwriter with a hell of a voice.