I didn’t know anything about Blue & Gold until they emailed me their new single, “Ghost Man.” Since I love the song so much, I’m going to give you the same uninformed, undescribed listening experience for once. I think we’ll be hearing a lot more from this Brooklyn band in the future. Just listen…
I was only momentarily disappointed to discover that Lexy & The Kill’s “The Ballad of Love & Hate” is not a cover of the song of the same name by The Avett Brothers. The B-side to the London band’s upcoming single “We Can Dance Alone,” “The Ballad of Love & Hate” is a pop-rock ballad about an abusive relationship that showcases the beautiful texture and range of Lexy’s voice. You can stream “The Ballad of Love & Hate” and watch the video for “We Can Dance Alone” below…
Dayna Kurtz’ new album, Secret Canon Vol. 2, is a thing of beauty. The followup to last year’s Secret Canon 1, Secret Canon Vol. 2 is a collection of rare blues and jazz covers from the 1940-60s with a few originals in the same vein. Dayna calls the album her “New Orleans record.” It’s bluesy, it’s bold and so very, very classic.
I was shocked to discover that the opener “I Look Good in Bad” is a Dayna Kurtz original. The song structure, lyrics and instrumentation seem so classic it could easily be a Bessie Smith cover. It’s one of many songs on the album that showcase the rich and robust range of Dayna’s voice. M.C. Records was kind enough to allow me to share the song, which you can stream below.
Dayna also delivers a stunningly beautiful and emotive rendering of the vintage soul ballad “Reconsider Me” — originally recorded by Johnny Adams, but probably best known as a 1970s country hit by Narvel Felt. You can stream that song at MC Records.
Other highlights include “One More Kiss,” “Same Time, Same Place,” “All I Ask is Your Love” and “I’ll Be a Liar.”
I love, love, love this album. Fiercely, immensely, wholeheartedly. It reminds me of the first time I heard Dayna’s magnificent voice at Mountain Stage in 2002 (sadly my Muruch review of that concert was lost in the great archive disaster of 2005). I had never heard of Dayna before that concert, which I attended to see Natalie Merchant. Dayna walked out onto the stage, sat down in a wooden chair, and tuned her guitar for a few minutes without saying a word. Then she opened her mouth to sing “Love Gets in the Way” (from Postcards from Downtown) and her extraordinary, soaring voice commanded the attention of every single audience member. Like the classic songs she chose to cover on Secret Canon Vol. 2, Dayna’s voice just gets better with age.
SoundCloud stream uploaded w/ permission of M.C. Records
Kodaline just released the video for their new single, “Love Like This.” The song is from the Dublin band’s upcoming debut album, In A Perfect World, which will be released on June 10th. You can stream “Love Like This” and watch the video below…
Buy @ Amazon (available June 10th)
Cold Specks is Canadian-born, London-based singer-songwriter Al Spx and she calls her sound “doom soul.” My experience with Cold Specks’ debut, I Predict a Graceful Expulsion, has been similar to my evolving, seasonally-affected relationship with Kate Bush’s 50 Words for Snow. Though I always loved Cold Specks’ raspy voice, I just couldn’t connect with the album’s somber moodiness when it arrived at the height of summer. But my reaction to the album has apparently changed with the season and now I find these gritty songs to be a breathtaking soundtrack to falling leaves.
I Predict a Graceful Expulsion is most definitely suited only for a particular mood, but the standout tracks – “The Mark,” “Heavy Hands,” “When The City Lights Dim,” “Holland” and “Lay Me Down” – are absolutely stunning. And I think this is an album many of you will love.
Guest Post By: Brendan
I opened Nathan Pacheco’s new self-titled album with some hesitancy. Another “Popera” voice attempting covers of “Hallelujah” and the requisite “Nessun Dorma?” No thanks. But then I pressed play and here I sit with a huge smile on my face. Pacheco’s voice is very good and deserving of the Josh Groban comparisons.
Particularly noteworthy are the original songs on the album, co-written by Pacheco. The centerpiece is an astonishing quartet of new songs which deserve to become modern classics – “Oyela,” “Infinito Amore,” “Tears from Heaven” and “Don’t Cry.”
They are followed by the slightly disappointing original track “Que L’Amour” before Pacheco climbs the summit of Lucio Dalla’s ode to “Caruso,” also covered on Jonathan and Charlotte’s debut. To my ear, Pacheco’s version is more accomplished.
Another standout on the album was a cover of “Now We Are Free,” originally performed by Dead Can Dance‘s Lisa Gerard for the Gladiator soundtrack. Matt Chamberlain’s drums help to make this a triumphant recording. I also appreciated the Celtic flavor added to the song and several other tracks by Eric Rigler’s uileann pipes and tin whistle.
My favorite song from the album, “Infinito Amore,” can be streamed below…
Amy LaVere and Shannon McNally have teamed up and will release their debut collaborative EP, Chasing The Ghost Rehearsal Sessions, on October 23rd. Brought together by their mutual mentor to form the band The Wandering, the two female singer-songwriters immediately clicked, jammed and recorded the EP. Says McNally of their chemistry, “We were both instantly struck by our numerous similarities. It’s not your average gal that drinks bourbon neat, walks around with a pocket atlas and a drives a big white gear van. I thought she was charming and awfully funny.” You can stream two songs, “Never Been Sadder” and “If It Were Mine to Keep,” from the EP below. McNally seems to have added some pep to LaVere’s noirish Memphis sound.
Buy @ Amazon (available Oct. 23rd)
Chasing The Ghost Official Site (Buy CD)
Fiona Apple’s first album in seven years, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do, weaves the fierce emotion, poetic lyrics and masterfully constructed compositions of her previous releases with a much more rugged recording style and strong splashes of jazz. The collection is somewhat unexpected and strange, but it’s also exquisitely beautiful and brilliant.
Fiona’s music has always hinted at the rawness of an exposed nerve, but The Idler Wheel… lays it all bare with little evidence of studio production. While there are plenty of stunners, the roughness and eccentricities of the overall recording were a bit jarring the first time around. It’s the first Fiona album that wasn’t obsessive love at first listen. Yet even that initial doubt was mingled with admiration for Fiona’s unusual song structures. The album is unquestionably heavy with artistic brilliance, it merely lacks the immediate listenability of her previous releases.
However, the album turned out to be quite the grower and familiarity has bred great affection. After a few weeks of getting to know and falling in love with these new songs, I wonder why I didn’t connect with it the first time. I say all this only to encourage any old Fiona fans to listen to the album without expectations or preconceptions of what a Fiona Apple album should sound like. There are hints of When the Pawn… and the leaked, Free Fiona-era, Jon Brion demos of Extraordinary Machine, but The Idler Wheel… is truly a unique and incomparable experience.
Fiona’s dark, punchy delivery in the opening verses of “Every Single Night” is about as close to her classic sound as we get here. The howling explosions of “a fight with my brain” make it clear this listening experience will be something else entirely.
“Daredevil” is by far my favorite track. Self-aware lyrics such as “Don’t let me ruin me, I may need a chaperone” reveal a messed up mind and heart hoping for a savior yet proudly insisting on being accepted as is. Every time the song plays, I’m astounded when Fiona hoarsely cries “Seek me out! Look at, Look at, Look at me!” then swiftly slips into a slinky jazz phrasing of “I’m all the fishes in the sea” before unleashing another wail of “Wake me up!“
With quietly heartfelt lyrics like “I’m amorous but out of reach, a still-life drawing of a peach” and subtle splashes of strings, the verses of “Valentine” captivate me. Sadly, though, I still find the repetitive “I root for you, I love you, You, You, You” chorus a bit irksome. And, try as I might, I still don’t like “Jonathan” – inspired by Fiona’s ex, author Jonathan Ames.
Fiona plays a jazzy Garbo in the piano-driven “Left Alone,” which is another favorite of mine.
“Werewolf” begins as a simple post-breakup piano ballad akin to Extraordinary Machine‘s “Parting Gift.” But the chorus heralds change as Fiona’s voice takes on a more passionate tone and is eventually backed by the screams of a concert crowd.
“Periphery” at first seems to be a low-fi but lyrical denunciation of celebrity sycophants before Fiona sets her disdainful sights on a lover’s wandering eye.
“Regret” is another initially understated look at the end of a relationship soon rattled with a full-throated, howling chorus.
The clang and clamor of “Anything We Want” and Fiona’s deadpan vocals are conceptually an odd fit for the song’s seductive lyrics, but the actuality is absolutely superb. A true artist doesn’t give the audience what they want, they give the audience what they didn’t know they want.
Several tracks find Fiona fully embracing the jazz phrasing and instrumentation she only played with in the past. None more so than the surprisingly simple but very effective finale, which features harmonies by Fiona’s jazz singer sister, Maude Maggart. Aside from Fiona eliciting from her piano a sound so akin to the beat, beat, beat of a tom-tom it would do Ella Fitzgerald proud, “Hot Knife” is a sultry, semi-acapella love song.
I think The Idler Wheel… may be Fiona’s Lorca – Tim Buckley’s fan-alienating, experimental masterpiece. The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do may never be my favorite or most played Fiona Apple album, but it’s most certainly her most complex and daring recording. And like the most delicious of acquired tastes, it gets better with every bite.
Norah Jones seems to have spent the past decade trying to escape the “Adult Contemporary” and “Jazz” labels slapped on her Grammy-winning debut, Come Away With Me (which I personally still love). After playing around with lackluster country and mainstream pop, Norah has finally found a dark, dreamy sound interesting enough to successfully break away from those old coffeehouse categories without losing the mellow charm that made her famous. Produced by Danger Mouse, …Little Broken Hearts spices up pretty post-breakup pop anthems with luscious splashes of noirish electro-rock.
The languid opener, “Good Morning,” sets the tone for the collection.
Funky beats and Norah’s sweetly sassy vocal swagger make “Say Goodbye” the stand out track.
The moody title track melts into the lilting melancholia of “She’s 22,” while the atmospheric “After The Fall” plays like a heartbroken sequel to “Chasing Pirates.”
Slinky Western riffs mingle with a sultry beat on “4 Broken Hearts,” and rhythmic guitar provides a delicious slow burn for the finale “All a Dream.”
…Little Broken Hearts is Norah Jones’ best and most listenable album since Come Away With Me, and her most artistically daring album to date.
Guest Post By: Brendan
A Church that fits our Needs is the new album by folk orchestra Lost in the Trees. In late 2010, I was privileged to be in the audience when the band performed at Mountain Stage. Their far too brief set featured gorgeous, lushly orchestrated songs passionately performed by lead singer, Ari Picker, with Emma Nadeau’s seraphic backing vocals. It was an intoxicating and melancholy mix. I quickly sought out more of their work, and was happy to discover they’ve been heavily covered by NPR’s All Songs Considered. Those live recordings sustained me as I eagerly awaited their next album, which was teased as being “more Stravinsky and less Vivaldi.” Picker’s affection for that composer’s work is evident in his 12-track song cycle, A Church That Fits Our Needs.
The album is a tribute to his mother, who took her own life in 2009. Only ten of the tracks are actual songs, while the other two are essentially sound effects of walking in the woods mingled with a dissonant piano. It is a profoundly moving experience that’s so difficult to put into words, I can’t help but think that “writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” There are so many symbolic references to sounds, images and elements in these songs, I wish Picker had provided a schema for the album as Joyce did for Ulysses.
Standout tracks for me include “Red,” “Golden Eyelids,” and “Icy River,” but this is an album that really needs to be appreciated as a whole, and one which deserves repeated listens to peel away its layers.
A Church That Fits Our Needs culminates in “Vines,” which demonstrates the album’s deeply submerged symbolism. Picker has said he’s not a poet, but these lyrics belie that claim:
“Follow your shadow down to the ocean and get swept up by the sea. You are weeping, you are weeping all that I’ve done to you was once done to me. Such a wicked, wicked house we’re on rounding your memories. And all your words can try, you words can try but there are things that words can’t say, I’ll watch you fall away, fall away as you cower under our graves. I swore I saw her in her golden armor float up around the house, was so glorious, was so glorious, she came down and put her song into my mouth. Her voice lights up the darkest staircase, I’m home when you’re around. And my song will try, my songs can try but there are things that songs can’t say, so watch me fall away, fall away as I cower under your grace. Am I hopeless, am I hopeless, I trust you but where are we walking to?”