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The Songbirds: Vol 5

October 21st, 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments

After a hiatus, here’s a new instalment of The Songbirds. Given the name of this series, it seems odd that I’ve never thought of uploading the song that gave inspired title. So here, in its original incarnation and as covered by a previous Songbird nominee:
Fleetwood Mac – Songbird.mp3
Rosie Thomas – Songbird.mp3

Kate Earl
I really hope Kate Earl‘s fine 2005 debut Fate Is the Hunter will not be the final offering by this engaging Alaskan LA-based songbird. Critics tend to compare Earl with Fiona Apple, without the neurosis. Not being a great fan of Apple, I am inclined to differ. Though vocally they are not dissimilar, Earl plays with different genres, from guitar-folk to piano-driven ballads to what one might call folk-torchsong and folk-blues. Joni Mitchell and Carole King are obvious influences. “Cry Sometimes” is a slowed-down AOR number of the kind those who like the interminably dull Norah Jones ought to hear just to realise just how deficient Jones’ music is. The critics point to the fine “Hero” as the stand-out track on Fate Is the Hunter. I recommend that the reader seeks it out immediately after being acquainted with the songs below. “Sweet Sixteen” is a torchsong-type number which innovatively samples some old shellac record tune.
Kate Earl – Cry Sometimes.mp3
Kate Earl – Sweet Sixteen.mp3

Jill Sobule
Jill Sobule has been around for a long while, but has only ever had one proper hit, 1995’s “I Kissed A Girl”. Audiences presumably looked for more of the same, in the Lisa Loeb mould, and lost interest when Sobule did not pander to expectations. And so Lisa, not Jill, became a bit of a star (not that I’d begrudge the bespectacled one her success). Sobule is a storyteller who dips her lyrics in liberal amounts of irony. Some of her music is quite brilliant, but the real attraction resides in her lyrics, and the delivery thereof. I’ve mentioned this line from “One Of These Days” before: “One of these days I’m gonna touch the sky, like that awful song ‘I Believe I Can Fly’, [pause for effect] I believe I can fly.” The song comes from 2000’s Pink Pearl album, which also features the Bacharach-as-produced-by-Spector style “Rainy Day Parade”, a song about depression and loss. Get the stunning “Lucy At The Gym” and CD-quality live MP3s on the regularly updated download section of Jill’s excellent homepage.
Jill Sobule – Rainy Day Parade.mp3
Jill Sobule – I Kissed A Girl.mp3
Jill Sobule – One Of These Days.mp3

Colbie Caillat
One of the success stories of musicians bypassing the A&R goons via the Internet to find recognition and, in this case, commercial benefit, Colbie Caillat has found favour among bloggers and MySpace trawlers alike. The thing is, purely on paper Caillat’s debut album should not deserve such favour. Its title is Coco, her childhood nickname for crying out loud. The lyrics are cute and sweet, but not particularly poetic. Her sound is breezy and sunny, almost begging comparison to boring old Jack Johnson (who, in fairness, is one of the host of influences Colbie — or her PR — lists on her My Space page). On top of all that, Colbie is very pretty, looking nothing like a grungy or introspective folk chick (all this recalls the case of Tristan Prettyman, whose new album is out in February — hurrah! — and whom I featured in The Songbirds Vol 3) . And yet! And yet, Coco is one of the most appealing albums of the year. We need music for all moods; Caillat provides the soundtrack for happy moods, a bit like early Rickie Lee Jones. If there is a sound that can replicate the feeling of just having falling in reciprocal love, this is it.
Colbie Caillat – Realize.mp3
Colbie Caillat – One Fine Wire.mp3

Kate Walsh
Another singer who created a buzz on the Internet, rather than thanks to conventional promotion methods, Kate Walsh channels the spirit of Nick Drake and Joni Mitchell. Her home-recorded album is intimate, touching and immediately engaging. It is a quiet album — basically a girl and her guitar — but also one thickly layered with credible emotion and exquisite melodies. Tim’s House has accomplished a respectable amount of attention, acclaim and some commercial success through innovative marketing on iTunes Store. But there is more to the album than that. I’ll stick my neck out and predict, hopefully without undue hyperbole, that in some time to come, it will be recognised as a minor classic in the Songbird genre.
Kate Walsh – Don’t Break My Heart.mp3
Kate Walsh – Is This It.mp3 (previously uploaded)
Kate Walsh – Talk Of The Town.mp3 (previously uploaded)

Shawn Colvin
I have been debating wit

h myself whether to include Shawn Colvin in this series, having focused on female singers who have not received much wider exposure or, as in the cases of Rickie Lee Jones and Suzanne Vega, whose new album merited mention. Colvin also released a new album late last year, These Four Walls, which also went rather unnoticed. A pleasant affair, it had a couple of notable songs (“So Good To See You” being particularly good). Colvin’s back catalogue includes some gems, handily compiled on 2004’s Polaroid album. But what I really like about Colvin is that she voiced a character in The Simpsons (the Christian rock singer whom Ned Flanders fancied) and appeared on The Larry Sanders Show. Which is pretty cool. Colvin was also the unfortunate singer whose Grammys acceptance speech (for Song of the Year “Sunny Came Home”) was hijacked by Ol’ Dirty Bastard who expressed his justifiable disappointment at losing a nomination to the revolting Puff Daddy, sartorial stylings notwithstanding, and how Wu Tang is all about the children.
Shawn Colvin – So Good To See You.mp3
Shawn Colvin – Never Saw Blue Like That.mp3

The Songbirds Vol 1: Rickie Lee Jones, Mindy Smith, Michelle Featherstone, Missy Higgins, A Fine Frenzy
The Songbirds Vol 2: Harris Tweed, Brandi Carlile, Hello Saferide, Sarah Borges, Suzanne Vega
The Songbirds Vol 3: Rosie Thomas, Catherine Feeney, Sarah Bettens, Kathleen Edwards, Tristan Prettyman
The Songbirds Vol 4:
Deb Talan, Brooke Fraser, Emiliana Torrini, Maria Taylor, Jenny Lewis

  1. Gossamer
    October 22nd, 2007 at 19:04 | #1

    Another excellent choice of “Songbirds”, Dude. Thank you. I appreciate you selection of Colbie Calliat songs, every other blog has the same ones available.

  2. Jamey
    December 23rd, 2007 at 13:17 | #2

    Contrary to your assertion that Colbie Calliat gained ‘success’, “bypassing the A&R goons via the Internet to find recognition and, in this case, commercial benefit” is the fact that her father IS IN the record industry. As ‘sweet’ as the CD may be, it is all very well calculated and orchestrated and ‘using’ bloggers to market for her IS a new industry technique. (And a lot of bloggers fall for it hook, line & sinker.)It takes industry size $ to make slick videos, something that My Space/Internet artists generally don’t have!Having said all that, I still really like the varied selection presented in your blog!!! Thanks for sharing tyhe music and your thoughts!

  3. Any major dude with half a heart
    December 23rd, 2007 at 22:35 | #3

    Thanks for the kind comment, Jamey.You make some fair points. I’m sure that having a father in the record industry helps a lot on the way, but it didn’t put Colbie on the conventional career trajectory. Her success is a Web 2.0 success story. If that kind of marketing, impure as it may be, can bypass the corporate dictate that forced the public to buy into Britney Spears, then all the more power to it. At least in Web 2.0 marketing, the listener has a choice to turn elsewhere.We obviously disagree on the merits of Caillat’s music, which is fair. But I’d day that the bloggers who showcased her music did so because they liked oy, not because of marketing. For my part, I would not feature music here I do not like (unless I flag it as such). Bloggers like me tend to “market” music because we hope to alert others to the music we enjoy, offering an alternative to overexposed artists (with exceptions, of course). I don’t think the handlers of artists can exploit or use the blogging community, at least not that part of it which has credibility (well, yes, I THINK I do…) Of course, some blogs (not this one) are being sent music by artists and even record companies, with the prospect of such offerings being featured. In my experience, credible bloggers tend to treat these with critical caution. So, if Colbie’s album was sent out to bloggers, and these bloggers didn’t like it, they would surely retain their critical faculties, and nit give it positive reviews.I’d say that is still a much better way of bringing music to the masses than the old corporate marketing machine.And, perhaps, Web 2.0 marketing will bring the wonderful and inexplicably unsigned Michelle Featherstone a way of shifting her independently issued albums.I don’t remember the video for “Bubbly”. Was it made already when Caillat hit it big on MySpace?It’s an important discussion, and I might use your comment and my response as the basis for a proper post.

  4. Jamey
    December 31st, 2007 at 14:25 | #4

    I couldn’t agree with you more concerning blogs being a great boon to the listening public! In the past few years I have become somewhat addicted to blog surfing and discovered an amazing array of artists I would otherwise have missed. Though I also have found that it takes me a long time to circle around to any particular blog!The internet, in general, has changed the marketing landscape for music and, in many ways, brought it back into the hands of the listeners. Since most music bloggers are rabid fans, and generally non-industry folks, I pay a lot of attention to their suggestions. Though I still believe that the ‘industry handlers’ can and do exploit every avenue in their path, I would agree that with bloggers it means that they must tread a much more uncertain path.In my own experience I have found that all the ‘average’ folks who publish on the internet, in all forms of media, are much more entertaining than most of the so called professionals! And any major dude with half a heart will tell you so!Thanks again for all your efforts, it is much appreciated and enjoyed!!!

  5. Stay-At-Home Indie-Pop
    October 25th, 2008 at 20:16 | #5

    Hey dude, I know it’s been a long time since you added to this feature, but have you heard Basia Bulat? Do you rate Beth Orton? And recently I discovered Judee Sill, arguably the spiritual mother of many of the singers featured in your first five instalments.

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