Transcending time and space 

Pompous headline, maybe, but music in general has the ability to do just that, to transcend all times, all ages, all locations. And specifically, this year’s last regular list lives up to that promise: with music written earlier this year mixed with centuries-old music; from music performed by Māori singer Stan Walker to music performed by Dutch violinist Janine Jansen; from music by 95-year old Tony Bennett to new songwriting from Lola Young, 75 years Tony’s junior. And I am pretty certain, since you are a regular of this blog, that you will thoroughly enjoy most of it, if not all.

HOW TO LISTEN:

Petter’s Short List contains all music reviewed in this blog post. Click here to listen and/or subscribe. The playlist changes every month.

Petter’s Long List contains all music previously reviews. Click here to listen and/or subscribe. The playlist is extended every month.

You may also listen to the singles and sample tracks from each album reviewed by clicking on the title.

12 Stradivari
Janine Jansen & Antonio Pappano

Sample Track: Sonata in G Minor Opus 19: III.Andante by Rachmaninoff

So let’s start with the oldest pieces, classical gems performed by wonderkid turned wonderwoman Janine Jansen. This album climbed the Dutch hit lists this Autumn, and has made classical music popular even for listeners who didn’t know they would enjoy it. I have only added the occasional classic album to the playlist, but let this be a reminder of how much pleasure is to be found among the classics.

Dancing on My Knees
Bernhoft

Sample Track: Call Out Kids

Smooth soul singer/songwriter Jarle Bernhoft is out with a brilliant new album, playful yet emotional. Bernhoft handles most of the instruments himself, and makes the music swing and swirl througout the album. His voice is perhaps his most impressive instrument, as much a rhythm instrument as anything else.

Dawn
Yebba

Sample Track: Love Came Down

The cover photo on «Dawn», the debut album from Arkansas singer/songwriter Yebba, is easily interpreted as a picture of the birth of a star. The album was eagerly awaited,following a number of successful and impressive single releases (including in this blog list). Yebba is harder to pin down than many she is compared with, like Adele and Ed Sheeran, as she glides from one genre to another with ease. I highly recommend the whole album, particularly if you like the choice bits in this month’s list.

Deep Fishing
Why Kai

Sample Track: Wherever

What shall we call the music of Why Kai? The closest some has come is to describe as dance electroic jazz. Which doesn’t make all that much sense. Pianist Kai von der Lippe and his band mix electronic sounds with accoustic instruments, and the result is suprisingly intriguing and interesting to listen to. And perhaps dance to?

Deja
Bomba Estéreo

Sample Track: Soledad

Rolling Stone called Columbian duo Bomba Estéreo’s new album «a party record for a world in crisis». I can’t top that, so well put and all the description you need. It is an album full of life and joy, but lyrics and overall mood point to conflict and yearning for a better world.

History of a Feeling
Madi Diaz

Sample Track: New Person, Old Place

Madi Diaz stays within her own world, in a highly personal album about breakup and heartbreak. It nevertheless is a beautiful album, with lovely melodies, performed with Diaz’ distinct voice out in front, simple songwriting, yet sophisticated.

How to Avoid Difficult Situations
Club des Belugas

Sample Track: Casually

One of the most prolific bands in Europe, Club des Belugas, is again out with a new collection of nu jazz/jazz funk/swing jazz. I can’t get enough of them, as long-term listeners of my playlist have realized a long time ago. The Club know how to pick both new and classic jazz and swing tunes, making them their very own. And they also know how to pick unknown and very promising vocalists to perform with them. On How to Avoid Difficult Situations Iain Mackensie, Lene Riebau and old favourite Maya Fadeeva mold in with the band and impress from first to last track.

Lindsey Buckingham
Lindsey Buckingham

Sample Track: Time

It is quite rare so late in a long career to issue an untitled album, but there is so much that is rare with Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac fame. He returned full force to pop music in 2019 with his collaboration with Christine McVie, also of Fleetwood Mac fame, one of the best pop albums of that year. This first solo album in a decade could easily climb into many top 10 lists of 2021. His knack for the great pop hook is so good it is almost annoying.

Love for Sale
Lady Gaga & Tony Bennett

Sample Track: Dream Dancing

It is truly bittersweet experience to listen to Lady Gaga & Tony Bennett’s second album together. Tony Bennett has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and it is most certainly his last album. Still, listening to the album of Cole Porter songs, is like being invited to a party hosted by two inseperable friends. Their voices are made for each other, and while Tony Bennett’s career is sadly at an end, Lady Gaga’s will hopefully last for decades and decades. This magnificent and versatile artist dares where others fear to thread.

Magic Mirror
Pearl Charles 

Sample Track: Take Your Time

Pearl Charles is out with her second album of smooth indie pop, clearly inspired by country as well. Most songs are slow and contemplative in nature, and as with many of the other singer songwriters in the list, the songwriting is surprisingly innovative and crafty.

On n’enferme pas les oiseaux
Barbara Pravi 

Sample Track: Mes Meladroits

Barbara Pravi came in second in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest with a French chanson, Voila, as classic as they come. Now her album is out, and offers as much passion and beauty as we hoped for when we were introduced to this fiery singer in May. There are elements of both French and Middle Eastern folk music on the album, titled «We don’t lock up the birds». In French, naturally.

Outside Child
Allison Russell

Sample Track: Persephone

Another debut album, this time from Canadian singer Allison Russell, and another album that has received rave reviews from all over. This folk-pop collection has serious undertones, because all songs are reflections of a horribly abusive childhood. The music and Russell’s voice feels so sincere and deeply rooted.

The Servant
Shelby Lynne

Sample Track: Will The Circle Be Unbroken

It wasn’t a said thing that I would add a collection of Christian spirituals and gospel songs, but coming from Shelby Lynne, what choice did I have? This amazing singer and country artist seems to be able to do just about everything, as another reviewer commented. Every release from this amazing artist is different, and so is «The Servant». You will hear many «favourites» like Swing Low Swing Chariot and Go Tell it on the Mountain, but prepare to be dazzled. These are completely new takes on music that have been with us for centuries.

Six The Musical
Six Cast

Sample Track: Get Down

When Broadway finally opened again after having been closed down for more than a year, one of the most anticipated shows were British import Six, based on the lives and wives of Henry VIII. There is very little Tudor in these oh so contemporary pop and rock songs, and considerably more laughter and joy compared to the dreary times of Henry’s London. The first version of the musical opened on a few square feet in a back yard during Edinburgh’s Fringe season. Rags to riches.

A Southern Gothic
Adia Victoria

Sample Track: Whole World Knows

Adia Victoria has become one of the principal voices of the American South. This her third album is filled to the brim with accessible roots music, with a distinct contemporary feel, a collection that grows in esteem every time I listen.

Star-crossed
Kacey Musgraves

Sample Track: simple times

Kacey Musgraves filed for divorce last year and commented «I wasn’t going to be a real country artist if I didn’t have at least one divorce under my belt.» When she sings about the heartbreak it is slightly more serious. After «Golden Hour», her last album catering to the masses, she is back where she started, creating musing, heartfelt stories filled with irony and girl-next-door-quality, but with a new vulnerabilty. Hopefully, those who discovered her with Golden Hour will remain loyal, even go back to her first brilliant albums and be reintroduced.

Ta Arohanui
Stan Walker 

Sample Track: He Tangata

The last album of the month is from Māori singer Stan Walker. He has mostly recorded in English up to now, but decided this time to release in te reo, the Māori language of New Zealand. It is an interesting collection to listen to, filled with passion and emotion, but catering more to a Western audience that his own people, I would guess. Still, I am sure that an album with songs in the indigenous language of New Zealand will help build necessary bridges between cultures.

This month’s single list is brimming with artists having their own rooms in The Pop and Rock Hall pof Fame, like Adele, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Brian Wilson, Diana Ross, Rod Stewart, Alanis Morisette, Elbow and Willie Nelson. And these are all new releases (but not necessarily new songs…) But don’t let the Fame Train stop you from listening to wonderful new releases from artists like Bedouine, Lola Yong, Anna-Lisa Kumoji, Christina Galisatus and other.

Easy On Me – Adele 

En av de levende – No 4 

FAKE – Lola Young 

Finish Line – Elton John & Stevie Wonder 

God Only Knows – Brian Wilson 

Hablo De… – Gaby Moreno 

If the World Just Danced – Diana Ross 

Kvarter – Daniela Reyes 

Long Gone Lonesome Blues – Bjørn Tomren

Nothing More to Say – Tess Henley 

One More Time – Rod Stewart 

On the Road Again – Alanis Morisette & Willie Nelson 

The Seldom Seen Kid – Elbow 

Shooting Stars – Anna-Lisa Kumoji 

The Sky is Painted Grey Today – Àsgeir 

The Wave – Bedouine 

When You Were Mine – Joy Crookes 

Who – Christina Galisatus 

Let It Be
The Beatles

Sample Track: I’ve Got A Feeling

8 May 1970 The Beatles released their last album, Let It Be. Their breakup was already old news when the album was released. The disappointment of the band’s demise probably influenced the lacklustre reviews of the album. All Beatles albums (I would say with the exception of Yellow Submarine) were more than brilliant, and Let it Be was in many ways not an exception. Still, there are quite a few half baked, whimsical tracks without much value on there, but it was also the album that introduced the world to classics like the title track, Get Back, The Long and Winding Road, Across the Universe and I Me Mine. Among others.

Repeat after me

New albums and singles are coming out in droves, now that artists can leave their recording bedrooms and climb back into proper studios. Still, music hasn’t changed a lot over the pandemic. In fact, many of this month’s artists have rather looked back for inspiration than forward. Listening through the playlist I hope you will conclude that is not necessarily a bad thing.

I have made one major change in this blog post: Instead of offering a link to the whole album reviewed (which I understand few of you used) I have picked and linked to one sample track from each album.

How to listen:

Petter’s Short List contains all music reviewed in this blog post. Click here to listen and/or subscribe. The playlist changes every month.

Petter’s Long List contains all music previously reviews. Click here to listen and/or subscribe. The playlist is extended every month.

You may also listen to the singles and sample tracks from each album reviewed by clicking on the title.
Back to the Light
Brian May

Sample Track: Lost Horizon

Brian May of Queen fame is out with a «new» album, actually recorded in the early 1990s and re-mixed and released this year. It does show what Brian May contributed , and still contributes, to the sound of Queen, both as a songwriter and not least as guitarist.

Boy from Michigan
John Grant

Sample Track: County Fair

John Grant is one of the Jekylls and Hydes of the music business, with clearly two sides to his musical persona. His, let’s call it Jekyll-side, really appeals to me, melodic pop/rock with broad strokes, soft while powerful- But John Grant is also into experimental rock and synthpop, a musical world in which he loses me, mostly. Reading about his life with his unfair share of misery, illness and drug abuse could indicate to an amateur psychologist that there is a musical parallel here. Still, this is is best album since «Queen of Denmark» in 2010, (which again was one of the best albums this century, in my humble opinion). I have picked the best bits, but if you want to experiment like John, listen to the whole album.

Gravity
Marie Noreger

Sample Track: Soulfully High

Marie Noreger is a new voice, out with an EP of soothing R&B tracks. This is obviously an artist to be reckoned with, her distinct voice is created for this kind of laid back, atmospheric music.

Modern Love: Season 2
Rosie Carney, Andy Shauf, Gary Clark, Nerina Pallot, John Carney & John Byrne

Sample Track: Meet Cute

When Amazon Prime Video introduced this anthology series two years ago, we were given a two-in-one deal: a heartwarming television series based on the New York Times column Modern Love , and a simply brilliant album of modern pop songs. With the release of Season 2 we again were served a warm and life-affirming TV series, but the second soundtrack album doesn’t hold the same quality as with season 1. Still, there are quite a few memorable tracks here from artists like Nerina Pallot and John Burne.

Native Sons
Los Lobos

Sample Track: Sail On, Sailor

Versatile Californian band Los Lobos was formed in the early 1970s. Now these experienced musicians have looked back at songs written even earlier, and by other artists. The album has become a homage to both a time and to their native state, but also to their humble beginnings: Los Lobos started out as a cover band before they started creating their own special sound.

Pressure Machine
The Killers

Sample Track: Terrible Thing

The Killers’s Human has become a rock classic, a hymnlike song whose lyrics can still keep any group of fans busy for hours discussing what the song is actually about. There won’t be a similar discussion about the songs on Pressure Machine, their latest album. All songs are like polaroid photographs of rural America, most of these introduced by sound recordings of people living there. Each song is like a short story, some of them incredibly moving. This is what a John Steinbeck musical might sound like.

Release Me 2
Barbra Streisand

Sample Track: If Only You Were Mine (duet with Barry Gibb)

Barbra Streisand has managed to reach number 1 on the American charts six decades in a row, a record that I expect will be standing for a while. At 79 she is an American icon, as is her voice. She released an album in 2012 called Release Me, and this is the follow-up, with songs of Burt Bacharach, Hal David, Barry Gibb, Paul Williams, Randy Newman, Michel Legrand and Alan & Marilyn Bergman, Harold Arlen, and Carole King. So don’t complain about the quality of the song writing. Even Kermit the Frog appears on the album in a duet with the diva.

Saturday Night, Sunday Morning
Jake Bugg

Sample Track: All I Need

Jake Bugg’s career started with a bang in 2012, with his self-titled album that reached number one in the charts and being nominated to every conceivable music prize. His nasal, sharp and distinct voice was easily recognizable, and song after song drifted through the airwaves and into our lives. The three next albums were not as unanimously well recieved, although his popularity remained high. Now his fifth album is out, a very radio-friendly album, but still interesting and diverse.

Sob Rock
John Mayer

Sample Track: Shouldn’t Matter But it Does

John Mayer is a similar artist to Bugg in that he appeals to a radio MOR audience. Still there is something more true and expressive in what Mayer offers on his eight album, Sob Rock. The lyrics sounds slightly insipid, like silly love songs, but put to melodies that just stick in your head, so I forgive. I suggest you do, too. This is seductive pop music at its best.

Solar Power
Lorde

Sample Track: The Path

Lorde started out much in the same way as Jake Bugg, as an instant success. It was the single Royals that did it, mostly, and the fact that she was this innocent-looking girl from New Zealand, the country’s first megastar. But it has been difficult to continue at the same success level – it most often is. Also because Lorde didn’t want to be moulded into another Top 20 songstress with a great voice. This is also apparent on her new album. She goes her own ways, with a very laid-back soundscape, maybe too esoteric for those that became fans from the start.

Stand for Myself
Yola

Sample Track: Diamond Studded Shoes

There is very little laid-back about singer Yola and her second album, Stand for Myself. This is a collection with lots of power, from a woman with a message and a mission. She is clearly inspired by music from the 1970s and 80s, not that it sounds dated in any way, this a modern, sophisticated, album that will make you feet tap and your heart race.

Woman on the Internet
Orla Gartland

Sample Track: You’re Not Special, Babe

Orla Gartland’s debut album is breathtaking, so full of musical twists and surprises, and still such a delight to listen to. Woman on the Internet is so inventive and clever, without being gimmicky in any way. Gartland is an artist that speaks her mind, and it seems the people around her let he do just that. I hope it stays that way.

Two pieces of news: 1) ABBA is back!! and 2)Now you can watch the singles as music videos, when available. If not available, listen to the Short List or click on title.

American Tune – Stacey Kent & Art Hiraha

Carry You Home – KAMARA

Don’t Shut Me Down – ABBA

I Still Have Faith In You – ABBA

Louie Bag – Yebba & Smino

The Motions – Daniel Romano

Renegade – Big Red Machine

When You’re Not Around – Thom Hell

At the Edge of the World – Marisa Anderson & William Tyler

Can’t Let Go – Robert Plant & Alisaon Krauss

Crowd in the Middle – A Million Pineapples & Team Me

Pastiche
The Manhattan Transfer

The Manhattan Transfer has been among my favourite bands for decades. I have seen them live six times, in three countries, and while the group is just an amazing live act, thankfully the four perform equally well in a recording studio. Their musicality knows no boundaries, nobody comes even close to the way they harmonize, and I suspect few bands have managed to merge jazz and pop as well as the four members did. Pastiche is the closest the group ever came to a pop album (even though their best jazz number of all times, Four Brothers, is on it), and many of their jazz fans were slightly offended. It isn’t their very best album, I admit, but it demonstrates their music power even when performing simpler material.

It is also fair to mention that when I speak of «the four», there has been two editions of The Manhattan Transfer, with Tim Hauser as the only member of both. Still, all members without exception have been brilliant performers.

Still Recording

You’d think they had given up by now, but many of the great artists of the 70s and 80s are still recording music, performing and adding to their already superstrong catalogue. And there are few embarrassments among the tracks from the seasoned stars like Boy George, Michael McDonald, Tony Bennett, Kim Wilde, Simply Red and Joan Armatrating – and they’re all here in the August line-up.

HOW TO LISTEN:

Petter’s Short List contains excerpts of the albums and singles reviewed in the current blog entry. Click here.

But you can also listen to Petter’s Long List, which contains all music reviewed this far in 2020 and 2021….. Click here.

And – by clicking on the album covers in the blog, you will be taken directly to that particular album in full. AND – by clicking on the title of the single, you will go directly to it.

Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land
Marina

Marina rose to prominence as lead singer of Marina & The Diamonds, although it is fair to say The Diamonds were no more than a backing band. Marina has a strong presence, and both sings, performs and presents herself as a bona fide pop queen – which she to a large degree is. This is modern pop at it its best, sophisticated but accessible.

Angel Dream
(Songs and Music from the Motion Picture «She’s the One»
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Tom Petty died in 2017, and much of his music, particularly together with The Heartbreakers (they were a bit more than a backing band), is now being re-released. Angel Dream from the Motion picture «She’s the One», was first released in 1996. I have always considered Tom Petty’s music to be too raw and rough for my taste, but on this particular album, there is softness and vulnerability in between the guitar riffs.

Consequences
Joan Armatrading

Joan Armatrating made a kind of a comeback right before the pandemic with her wondeful album «Not Too Far Away». She continues on the same path, a milder, happier singer/songwriter, still making her points with poignant lyrics. I have always liked her output, but in her fifth decade of recording, believe it or not, I have never liked what I hear more than I do now.

Cyclorama
Polo & Pan

Perhaps this is the ultimate dream pop album, a playful, sometimes right out weird, collection of tracks from the young French electropop duo. The music will likely appeal to people yearning for the dance floor, as much as to the rest of us who just wants to be taken for a slightly futuristic fun ride.

Home Video
Lucy Dacus

Lucy Dacus from Virginia in the U.S. has been a rising star for many years, perhaps Home Video puts her permanently up there with our most exceptional songwriters and singers. Her voice is warm and rich, and her songs are like stories your are drawn to listen to. This album stands out in that regard, as she brings us back through a broken childhood and adolescence, painful lyrics, beautiful songs.

Inside ( The Songs)
Bo Burnham

Comedian Bo Burnham’s TV Special Inside for Netflix is an innovative and funny look at the time we have all been through tha last two years, but not the kind of comedy that makes the audience roar with laughter. Rather it is as much painful as it is humourous. Bo Burnham is explicit, with an almost embarrassing honesty, while at the same time poking fun at many of our contemporary fads. The songs work independently of the TV special, and in many ways Burnham is the Tom Lehrer of our time. (If you don’t know who Tom Lehrer was, look him up, I guarantee you’ll find it worthwhile. If you do know who he is, look him up anyway)

In the Heights
Original Broadway Cast Recording
Lin-Manuel Miranda & Cast

The movie based on Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical In the Heights is out this Summer, and if you enjoyed Miranda’s Hamilton, you might enjoy the movie and the music just as much. I have added songs from the Broadway recording, I find it better than the movie soundtrack, but the songs are the same. But the story and many of the characters have changed. Usnavi, the main character in the film was not as central in the first versions of the musical. Still, the album and the musical works considerably better if you have seen the film. Which you definitely should see.

I Will Build You a House
Andreas Ihlebæk

Andreas Ihlebæk is a Norwegian pianist who creates and performs neoclassical piano music that I will argue rivals some of the greater composers of the last century like Eric Satie. I have only picked a few tracks for this month’s list, but if you like what you hear, please listen to the whole album, it is breathtakingly beautiful, sophisticated and so rich. (And you can go to the full album, just by clicking on the cover – but you know that already, I guess)

Jubilee
Japanese Breakfast

Another impressive artist is Michelle Zauner with her band Japanese Breakfast. Their new album Jubilee is a collection of very confident pop songs, an album you should listen to over and over again, finding new layers with every listen. The album has received great reviews almost everywhere. At times she overwhelms with her knack for the great melody, other times she takes us for a ride with peculiar arrangements. Sometimes she does both.

Midnight Shelter
Sachal Vasandani & Romain Collin

Sachal Vasandani & Romain Collin, vocalist and pianist in total harmony. This is a subdued and intimate performance by two cirtuosos that know their craft. At times I find it too down beat, but mostly it is mesmerizing, naked and just so relaxing to listen to.

Mother Nature
Angelique Kidjo

Africa’s premier diva is back. We heard her during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics, and now her latest collaborative album is out, featuring African musicians from throughout the contiment. It is such a happy, powerful collection, traditional and modern at the same time, showing us how African music has influenced and permeated world music – and pop music.

Peace or Love
Kings of Convenience

Believe it or not, it has been 12 years since the duo Kings of Convenience last released an album, and nothing much has changed. The sound is the same, the songs are new, perhaps a bit more mature and settled in a way. Pop music doesn’t get more quiet than this, and when I am in the mood for it, it is pure muscle relaxation.

Pink Noise
Laura Mvula

To some extent this is old news for you; I have already pleased you ( I hope) with two singles from this album, Laura Mvula’s third. Her sound is truly inimitable, if you have listened to her before you know instantly what you’re listening to, the sharpness and the beauty of her voice, the creativity of compositions and of arrangements, the beats, the harmonisations that no-one can copy.

That’s My Style
Maya Fadeeva & Club des Belugas

Russian-born singer Maya Fadeeva has released her second collaboration with German band Club des Belugas, a refreshing, swinging collection of jazz-, disco- and dance-inspired tracks. If Kings of Convenience and Sachal Vasandani cools your blood, Fadeeva and the Club with fire it up again. Some of the covers are a bit shallow and not too elaborate, but most of the tracks keep my feet busy.

Willing
Lady Nade

British singer Lady Nade is a new experience for me, although this is her third album. I am sure I have never listened to her before, because that voice I would definitely have recognized. It takes some getting used to, in a good way, because it is raw and warm at the same time, intimate and almost country/Americana-like. The songs are well written and composed, as well as performed.

Lots of great new singles out over the Summer, from young chanteuses like Charlotte dos Santos, Lola Young, AURORA, Miss Li, Lucky Lo and Camila Cabello, to the return of Michael McDonald and Simply Red.

Away From You – Charlotte dos Santos

Blue 2 AM – Lola Young

Brænd mig som en feber – Katinka Bjerregaard

Cure for Me – AURORA

Don’t Go Yet – Camila Cabello

Dreams of the San Joaquin – Michael McDonald, Willie Nelson & David Hidalgo

Earth in a Lonely Space – Simply Red

I Get a Kick Out of You – Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga

I GOT SOUL – Cliff Beach

Instruktionsboken – Miss Li

Land of the Hummingbird – Dean Owens & Gaby Moreno

October Sky – Jebba

Shine On – Kim Wilde & Boy George

Snälla bli min – Victor Leksell

Supercarry – Lucky Lo

Whiplash – Vera & Scarlet Pleasure

Red Cab to Manhattan
Stephen Bishop

Pop music listeners are a fickle bunch. Stephen Bishop released his third album in 1980, by far his best, and for the first time he released an album that didn’t make the charts. Lots of great artist contributed to the album, like Eric Clapton, Art Garfunkel and Phil Collins, but it didn’t help making the album more popular. Not that it matters now, Red Cab to Manhattan has become a classic album in my collection, one I come back to again and again. The songwriting sometimes reach Beatles level, the energy and the softness go hand in hand. Enjoy this wonderful collection from one of the greats in pop history.

Between Rock and a Soft Place

Yes, I know it is a bit dodgy play on words. Sorry, couldn’t resist, since rock’n’roll seems to be back , trying to find its place in between a lot of musical softness and sweetness. So there might be a point there, however dodgy.

Just think: last month the Italian rockers Måneskin won Eurovision Song Contest with a pure rock’n’roll number, followed by two French ballads and a saucy popsoul tune. Close behind came world music, whisperpop and indiepop. It is tough for any music lover to take ESC voting as proof of the music world today, but maybe the Rotterdam extravaganza did say something about the musical taste – at least in Europe – today. I hope some of that diversity is reflected in my blog playlist this month (where you will fin Måneskin’s new album as well, of course).

HOW TO LISTEN:

Petter’s Short List contains excerpts of the albums and singles reviewed in the current blog entry. Click here.

But you can also listen to Petter’s Long List, which contains all music reviewed this far in 2020 and 2021….. Click here.

And – by clicking on the album covers in the blog, you will be taken directly to that particular album in full. AND – by clicking on the title of the single, you will go directly to it.

Bridge Over Troubled Dreams
Delta Goodrem

It’s not the perfect time to be called Delta, but aside from that Delta Goodrem should have little to worry about, at least professionally. Her new album Bridge Over Troubled Dreams went straight to number one in Australia, like most of her previous albums did. She is one of Australia’s most cherished pop artists, and deservedly so. This is pop at its best.

Build a Problem
Dodie

Dorothy Miranda Clark, aka dodie, hasn’t much to to complain about either, , being a YouTube winner for years with her introvert, bittersweet uploads. This is her first studio album, but in the same style as her posted songs, so quiet and, as Evening Standard writes: «her voice small and soft, and so understated that one title is simply a full stop», It is a bit too much (or too little) for me in larger doses, but I have picked some good bits for you, hope you can stomach it.

Daddy’s Home
St. Vincent

St. Vincent takes us back to the 70s and 80s, to a lush New Yorkish landscape. There seems to be a deeper meaning to the pop tunes of St. Vincent compared to Delta Goodrem’s, although they move around in the same territory. As a consequence it may take a bit longer to grasp and to enjoy. Still, the best tracks are wonderful, and of course all of these are in the playlist.

Delta Kreem
The Black Keys

Delta seems to be the word of the month, not only in the news, but in June’s playlist. The Black Keys went into Easy Eye Sound Studio in Nashville, and came out 10 hours later with this album, a love poem to the Mississippi blues tradition that they grew up with. It is such a great homage to a time and a music style that seemed to be lost in today’s music charts. This is the perfect way to bring it back. Kudos to The Black Keys for daring to deviate from the beaten path and do just that.

Fat Pop
Paul Weller

Paul Weller of The Jam fame has not stayed silent since the band broke up, and he hasn’t lost his songwriting and performing touch either. This is his 16th solo album, packed with great songs, maybe not that memorable as some of his previous hits, but still perfect for Summer.

First Farewell
Peggy Seeger

If I had Peggy Seeger’s buoyancy and optimism, I would live to be a hundred, I am sure. Seeger is well on her way, turning 86 last week, and actually singing about being hundred on this absolute delight of an album. Poignant, original and funny in a perfect mix, an album that make you think of old age a bit differently I would hope.

Got Me
Laura Mvula

Only two tracks, so basically a single, but Laura Mvula’s latest release is so good I had to add it to the album section to get your attention. Her new album is just around the corner, so watch this space. Got Me is as if Michael Jackson rose from the dead, such an rousing (an arousing) track, with a beat to die for, perhaps the best single of the year. Laura Mvula’s voice has never been better.

Hello Blue Monday
Jeremy Fisher

Canadian Jeremy Fisher isn’t among the most prolific artists; this is his fourth album in 17 years, and it isn’t really new, «just» a remix of his previous album (named Goodbye Blue Monday) from 2007. It is a bouncy, playful popfolk album, perfect for this time of opening up, some songs reminiscant of Simon & Garfunkel, most others impossible to pin down. This man is all over the place musically, and I love to chase after him.

Hidden Stories
Hooverphonic

Hooverphonic represented Belgium in this (and last cancelled) year of Eurovision, with a song that stood out like a sore thumb, dark and retro (I have added an alternative mix to the singles section – see below), but their latest album shows of their brilliant knack for rock and pop. Geike is back as their lead vocalist to universal, at least Belgian, acclaim, but it was the substitute vocalist Luka Cruisberghs and «Release Me» that caught my attention in the first place last year, and I still think it’s their best song yet (I have added it to singles section, too, although you heard it last year).

Sensational
Erika de Casier

Portugese born Danish singer Erika de Casier is out with her second album. Like The Black Keys and Laura Mvula, it was the rhythm of the music that caught my attention, in a completely different way than with the two other acts, because de Casier’s music is sultry and very, very sensual, drawing you into an intriguing soundscape rather than into very good songs. (They’re not bad, though, but I think you catch my meaning when you listen) There is constant movement here, smooth and silky, from beginning to end.

Teatro d’ira – Vol. 1
Måneskin

There is nothing silky about Eurovision winner Måneskin’s latest albu Teatro d’ira – Vol. 1, this is pure and simple rock’n’roll, performed with zest and belief, as if rock’n’roll was a novel invention. There is something particularly appealing about lyrics in Italian (mostly), perhaps rock should have appeared first in Rome and not in the U.S. But then it couldn’t have.

Today We’re The Greatest
Middle Kids

Australia has always fostered great pop bands and artists, Middle Kids is no exception. The Sidney band is out with their third album and climbled the charts immediately with Today We’re The Greatest. This is grand pop music in the tradition of Queen, although clearly mellower and with a distinct female touch from lead vocalist Hannah Joy.

Vulture Prince
Arooj Aftab

Arooj Aftab lives in New York and has brought with her the influence of her native Pakistan. To me her music is the perfect meeting point between the East and the West, so truly original and stunningly beautiful and calming you can literally feel your pulse slow as you listen. Aftab introduces scales including notes you didn’t know existed, but without alienating my Western ear, just enhancing my musical experience.

What Else Can Break
Mira Lu Kovacs

We don’t often hear pop music from Austria, but judging from this album by Austrian Mira Lu Kovacs, perhaps we ought to. This is such a diverse album, bordering on being all over the place like Jeremy Fisher above, but Kovacs brings it all together and make a whole of it. Great jazz, pop, rock, folk influences, definitely worth listening to.

Lot’s of exciting stuff in the singles section as well this month, piano pop to new versions of old standards to film soundtracks.

Bad Tatoo – Lola Young

Brotin – Eydis Evensen

Coltrane – Hailey Tuck

Don’t Be Afraid – Nico & Vinz

Du vil ikke gå fra meg – Ylva

Give Me Good News – Rolli & The Poor Boys

Lost Birds – Chip Tailor

Lost Cause – Billie Eilish

Lovely Day – Stacey Kent

Melancolia – Jacob Gurevitsch & Buika

Numb – Tom Odell

Our House – The Head And The Heart

Paint the Town – Salvador Sobral

Perfect Day – Karen O & Danger Mouse

Release Me – Hooverphonic

Until The Night Falls – Hadda Mae

Vertu úlfur – titillag – Emiliana Torrini

What A Life – Scarlet Pleasure

The Wrong Place – Hairglow French Crop Mix – Hooverphonic

Chet Baker Sings
Chet Baker

This was the trumpeter and vocalist Chet Baker’s debut studio album. If you every needed an explanation as to why he was called The prince of cool, listen no further. Drugs and alcohol ruined much of his life and probably cut it short, but he did enjoy great career success both in his youth, when this album was recorded, and later in the 70s and 80s, when he was rediscovered by contempary musicians. To me he had the smoothest voice there ever was, it could permeate anything, snuggle up to you and warm your heart and soul – and when he stopped singing and picked up his trumpet instead, the smoothness just changed gear. To me he was one of the greatest, an idol if there ever was one. And this album is where it started.

The Mixtape Generation

In the 1970s and 80s (yes, I was born then) it was the ultimate sign of friendship – or love – to put together music on an audio cassette, music that you wanted to share, destined for one person and one person alone, songs that you had cherrypicked and put together in the particular order you wanted your special person to listen to it. Sometimes, if love was involved (and it was, more often than not), you would add certain subliminal and not-so-subliminal messages, both by the order of songs and what songs you actually chose to put on the cassette.

I realized the other day, as I was listening to an audio book by David Byrne, How Music Works, that this blog and the accompaning playlist are really remnants of the original mix tape phonomenon that he describes in his fascinating book. I am not so fuzzy about in what order you listen (my recommendation has always been to enable shuffle and listen to a true mix), but I have cherrypicked songs and albums for you as I did in my youth. Only tracks that I find offer great songs, performances and/or songwriting – or at least are curiously interesting – go into the playlist. And although there are more than one of you out there (Reader number 20 000 has just visited my petterwallace site – yeah!), it is truly a personal recommendation from me to you. I would be very surprised if you liked all recommended songs, but my hope is that you find a number og albums and singles every month that otherwise you hadn’t found and enjoyed. That makes it worthwhile for me to go on mixing for you

HOW TO LISTEN:

Petter’s Short List contains excerpts of the albums and singles reviewed in the current blog entry. Click here.

But you can also listen to Petter’s Long List, which contains all music reviewed this far in 2020 and 2021….. Click here.

And – by clicking on the album covers in the blog, you will be taken directly to that particular album in full. AND – by clicking on the title of the single, you will go directly to it.

4411
4411

4411 is a duo consisting of Magnus Skarphedinsson and Benedikte Wallace, both musicians but with background from very different genres, electronica and rock/jazz. Here they meet in the middle, within a somewhat dystopic musical landcape, with interesting rhythms, curious electronic soundscapes, mixed together by Benedikte’s velvety, hypnotic voice. Not what you normally would find in my blog playlist, but I feel responsible for ensuring you get a balanced and varied diet of music, right? And Benedikte is my daughter. Two good reasons there.

ALICIA
Alicia Keys

The queen of R&B is back, with a brave new album simply called ALICIA. THe 40-year old singer has little more to prove, so she experiments with different genres, although most of the album could be said to be well within the soul genre. The album took me by surprise, I didn’t expect so much variety and musical bravery. Still, the tender ballads are my favourites.

Beethoven – Wagner – Verdi
Lise Davidsen
London Philharmonic Orchestra

I am not related to Lise Davidsen (as far as I know), but I add a few tracks from her second album nevertheless, even though I rarely subject you to classical music in general, and opera in particular (I love the former, not so much the latter). Still, being your human algorithm it is my duty to bring you music that a digital algoithm never ever would have recommended. I hope you like Lise’s disctinct and colourful voice, she is considered one of the best classical singers in the world today. Personally, as with Alicia Keys, I like the quiet ballads better than the powerful arias. But that’s me.

Better Angels
Adam Douglas

According to Adam Douglas himself, he calls himself a mixer of soul, roots, gospel and jazz. I would argue there is considerably more of soul and roots in his guitar-heavy music than the other two, but on his new album he dares rush in where angels fear to thread, widening out his musical universe, with honest lyrics, the same foot-stomping rhythms as before, but more tenderness and heart than we ever heard from this highly talented singer.

Californian Soil
London Grammar

London Grammar just gets better and better, and I think we owe it to the their vocalist and songwriter Hannah Reid more than anything else. According to New Musical Express she has fought and won a battle within the group for more control, and we the listeners are the benefactors. The church echo-y sound is still there, but Californian Soil is richer and lusher, one great melody after another, their best yet.

Epic Ten
Sharon van Etten

Ten years ago, indie musician Sharon van Etten released her album Epic. Now she has invited friends and colleagues to re-record the album, allowing them to add their personal touches to each track. She has left her original on the new double album, so you can follow the journey each song has made. I have added one such journey, One Day, recorded with St.Panther, and if you like comparing, go to the full album.

How Many Times
Esther Rose

Most of us connect New Orleans with jazz, but there seems to be a growing country and Americana community there, and with Esther Rose as one of its central artists. Perhaps the city is the explanation why How Many Times doesn’t sound all country, but has broader wings and offers a greater lift. I like Esther’s kind, so maybe I ought to seek out others with the same mix and background. Watch this space.

Introspection Reimagined
UMI

UMI, a R&B singer from Seattle, released her album Introspection in 2018. Now she is re-releasing it, or re-imagining it, as she calls it. I did not catch the album when it originally came out, but I understand that some changes made are subtle, some quite pronounced. I am fine with that. I listen to the reimagined album and like what I hear, and that’s what counts. UMI is a talented singer and producer, the music is sweet, wrapped in rich orchestrations.

LiLi
Gillian Hills

Will the real Gillian Hills please stand up? This is a bit of a mystery, this. Gillian Hills is an actress/singer, now in her mid 70s, who made it in French films more or less at the same time as Brigitte Bardot, even appeared in Dallas. In the pictures released in connection with the LiLi album, she does not look like a 76-year old woman, but perhaps I am just prejudiced. This could very be the same artist that made Tut tut tut tut in the 1960s. LiLi is an introvert and spacey album with world undertones, hypnotic and sensual.

Nurture
Porter Robinson

Porter Robinson has been a golden boy in the synth pop community, nominated for Grammys from his first release. Now he is out with his second album, an hour long, and I would have recommended shaving off a bit (like I have done; there are 6 tracks in this month’s blog playlist) Still, this is highly creative and worthwhile to listen to, it is hard to find a seam holding it all together, but maybe that is just as well.

Pale Horse Rider
Cory Hanson

This is a strange album. When I began listening, my first thought was to spare readers and move on, but in between psychedelic tracks there are oases of beautiful sound, laid back and a bit sorrowful music, well worth listening to. I have picked some choice cuts for you, but if you want to try it all, use the link in the album cover. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Riding on the Tide of Love
Deacon Blue

I didn’t expect pop idols Deacon Blue to return in good form when they released their album Dignity last year, and perhaps even more suprising a completely new album this year from the Glasgow band that started out in late 1980s. But I am glad they decided to continue recording, this is a great pop album with quality songwriting and a nostalgic feel throughout.

Tijd
Edwin Evers

It is not uncommon for actors and TV personalities to take the jump to recording and releasing music, from Anne Hathaway to Kate Winslet, so Dutch radio personality (and drummer) Edwin Evers is in good company. His debut album, Tijd, received rave reviews and the album has become a hit in his home country. It certainly isn’t bad, quiet songs in the pop/folk category, well-handcrafted tunes proving that Evers has listened well to the music of others while DJ’ing.

Two Roses
Avishai Cohen
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra

I don’t expect your digital algorithm would have introduced you to this album either. Avishai Cohen is an Israeli jazz bassist, who brought his trio to meet a full symphony orchestra and re-recorded many of his own compositions. It is an interesting mix; symphony orchestras with its structural and planned music don’t normally mix well with the improvisational freedom of jazz, but on Two Roses the two worlds meet in the middle and mostly on the orchestra’s terms. Still, listen to Arabian Medley, and you might see why I think it is a successful meeting of styles.

Waiting
SKAAR

Norwegian singer/songwriter SKAAR has released a new collection of songs, sweet and quiet in a Billie Eilish way, but distinct enough to stand on its own two feet. I wish some of the tracks would stick a bit more in my mind, but there is room for contemplation when listening to music, and Waiting gives me plenty of that.

Wonder
Frances

Following her 2017 debut, some reviewers named Frances the next Adele. She wasn’t and isn’t. Her second album, Wonder, proves the point, because here we are exposed to a different kind of artist. Yes, with some of the tenderness of Adele, but going in the opposite direction of grandness. This is great pop, well-crafted and personal songs, deliciously produced and arranged.

Zoom In
Ringo Starr

Oh, give it a rest, reviewers! Like clockwork they jump at the opportunity to slaughter another release from Ringo. Zoom In is an EP full of joy and fun, not to be taken more seriously than that, just like the man himself. He is as ever the missionary selling the gospel of peace and love. It wouldn’t hurt any of us to listen more to him, relax a bit and embrace, not attack, your fellow man. The world is a better place because Ringo is in it, so give him your ear and go with Ringo’s flow.

It is my annual duty to pick the best songs from Eurovision. Some of you might say that is a contradiction in terms, but I beg to differ. Yes, most songs sound as if they were written by a computer (or a Swedish producer, not that you would notice the difference), and I suspect they are. But there are always exceptions, and in 2021 I found as many as eleven. One of them, Hooverphonic’s Belgian entry, made it into my list in April, here are ten more. I picked them way in advance of the contest, without knowing what country they were from, what the artist looked like and how it was performed on stage. It pleases me that top 4 in the contest are also in my pick of the crop. Good work, voters!

10 Years (Iceland) – Dadi Freyr

Amen (Austria)  – Vincent Bueno

Birth of a New Age (Netherlands) – Jeangu Macrooy

Growing Up is getting old  (Bulgaria) – VICTORIA

Je Me Casse (Malta) – Destiny

Love is On My Side (Portugal) – The Black Mamba

Tout l’univers (Switzerland) – Gjon’s Tears

Voices (Sweden) – Tusse

Voilà (France) – Barbara Pravi

ZITTI E MUONI (Italy) – Måneskin

Breathe – Ships Have Sailed

The Caravan – Zouzouelectric

Carry You Home – KAMARA

Chosen Family – Rina Sawayama & Elton John

Coming a Little Bit Closer – Lene Riebau & Club des Belugas

Deja vu – Olivia Rodrigo

A Man’s Man – Richard Swift

Lady in Green – Sould Goodman, Waldeck & Patrizia Ferrara

Mãe – Mariza

Not Alone (Tiny Paper Clips) – Lucy Schwartz, MILCK, KPH & The Canary Collective

Procession – Andreas Ihlebæk

Ruin My Make Up – Lola Young

Set the Table/Not Around – Ritt Momney & Claud

Shy Away – Twenty One Pilots

Soulfully High – Kate Havnevik & Guy Sigsworth

To be mine (is to lose your mind) – iris

Your Power – Billie Eilish

Tapestry
Carole King

Tapestry by Carole King was released in the magic year of 1971, perhaps one of the best years ever in musical history. And I would argue Tapesty as one of the best albums ever recorded. It is next to impossible to find one song that hasn’t become a classic, from You’ve Got a Friend to You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman. She used Joni Mitchell and James Taylor as backing vocalists (!), and in the forefront is King’s rock steady voice, yet full of vulnerabilty. Her piano playing has inspired keyboardists ever since. But it is the quality of the songwriting that stands out, more than anything. No wonder, Carole King is among the most prolific and successful songwriters of all time, with more than 100 songs making it into to Billboard Top 100. I never tire of Tapestry, and should you be one of the lucky ones who has never listened to it, well, the light just went on in your life.

Hugsongs

The abscence of hugs seems the foremost symbol of the time we have been through in this pandemic. The deep longing for a time when we can touch and show affection for the people dearest to us has also seeped into the music of today.

Dan Clews’ new single is called Hugsong, Ingrid Michaelsen’s new single is called To Begin Again – and a number of albums released lately are simply called 2020. It is a year to remember, infamous in its own way, but the effect lasts well into 2021, so listen for it in many more of the releases I bring to you in this month’s blog list. The pandemic is everywhere, mostly in a good way.

HOW TO LISTEN:

Petter’s Short List contains excerpts of the albums and singles reviewed in the current blog entry. Click here.

But you can also listen to Petter’s Long List, which contains all music reviewed this far in 2020 and 2021….. Click here.

And – by clicking on the album covers in the blog, you will be taken directly to that particular album in full. AND – by clicking on the title of the single, you will go directly to it.

The art of letting go
Rikke Normann

To lighten the mood of the time we’re in, let’s start with the whimsical, light-headed but clever music from Norwegian singer/songwriter Rikke Normann. This is her fifth album, and I highly recommend the other four. This is an artist who does her own thing, this album is filled to the rim with playful music with personality.

Black Valley
Ledfoot

Moving on to Ledfoot, the contrast to Rikke Normann couldn’t be greater. Black Valley is dark and somber, still beautiful and poetic. Ledfoot’s music is labelled dark metal by some, but to my ears we are resting in the land of blues and americana – at least on the tracks that I have picked for my playlist this month.

Chemtrails over the Country Club Lana Del Rey

Staying in the land of sombreness, Lana Del Rey is out with a new album, and reviewers are as usual over the moon. One reviewer said Del Rey’s music constitutes its own genre, and he is in many ways right. Yes, there are remnants of country and americana here, but nobody can imitate her, though many do try. I am not her greatest fan, but I do listen and I do enjoy the David Lynch-like mood she is creating with her music.

Dark River
Lydia Luce

Lydia Luce is more up my alley, and her album Dark River is among the most pleasant surprises this far in 2021. The songs are lush, yes, a bit dark at times, even some tracks with over-the-top arrangements, but the overall impression is one of grandness, perfectly crafted melodies performed with true passion.

Det kanske händer
Bo Sundström

Swedish jazz singer Bo Sundström has pleased swing jazz fans for years with the music of Bo Kaspers Orkester. Now he is out with a solo LP, mostly Swedish translations of standards, but performed in his inimitable style, which ought to please more than Swedish speakers. I’m not all that delighted with some of his choices of songs. Nevertheless, with a sometimes surprising translation, he has added a new dimension to some of the more tattered songs from the jazz standards songbook.

Driver
Adult Mom

The indie rocker Steve Knipe, performing as Adult Mom, brings a very personal touch to this month’s playlist music. Some of the lyrics are giving us perhaps too much information about her life and her urges and experiences, much like last month’s Sarah Mary Chadwick. But this is more upbeat and more rock’n’roll, there is a sunny disposition behind the sarcasm and the rich language.

Evering Road
Tom Grennan

Tom Grennan is one of the most popular artists in the English-speaking world right now. His new album, Evering Road is an impressive collection of personal songs, contemporary in sound, but without being predictable and without bite. There is a lot of energy in his voice, a bit too much at times, bordering on shouting, but I owe it to passion and let it go.

Lillies and Dragonflies
Loren Nine

Loren Nine from the Netherlands is another huge and pleasant surprise of 2021. You have already listened to a few singles from her current album, Lillies and Dragonflies, so maybe you have noticed her, too. The album is brilliant, and although I cannot promise a bright future for the Dutch artist, at least I hope for one. This is singer/songwriting at its best, rich and heartbreakingly beautiful songs, one gem after another.

The Moon and Stars:
Prescriptions for Dreamers
Valerie June

There is something teasing about Valerie June, as if she’s saying: Try and pin me down! You can’t! And you can’t. Every track takes you in a slightly new direction, is it blues? Is it soul? Is it retro Motown? What holds it all together is Valerie June’s distinctive voice. Which is also hard to pin down.

Music Life
Mia Doi Todd

Mia Doi Todd isn’t that much easier to pin down. The cover of her latest album, Music Life, draws me back to classic periods of history, and in a way the music takes me back to something all-encompassing and timeless. The lyrics, however, are concerned with career and motherhood and similar down-to-earth topics. Todd’s sweet, full, slightly operatic voice is fascinating and fits the music well. Which makes sense since she wrote it.

Rorschach Test
Jay-Jay Johanson

Wow! This next album has really taken me by storm, from the first track I listened to. I have not been familiar with Swedish crooner Jay-Jay Johansen, but this is in fact his 13th album. The music has a fascinating hypnotic feel to it, takes me easily back to Massive Attack of the 1990s, and for very good reason: Johanson has been associated with the trip hop genre since he started his career around then. This is smooth, clever and pure delight to listen to.

Roses
The Paper Kites

And while you are in hypnosis mode, move to Australian band The Paper Kites and their many collaborators, and you’ll find a new album that will keep you calm and serene. There is a different vocalist singing duets with lead vocalist Sam Bentley on every track, a nice touch making each track unique.

Swan Songs
Jørgen Emborg

This mainstream jazz album is full of life and bursting with energy, still the story behind it is considerably darker. Swedish pianist Jørgen Emborg was diagnosed with Parkinson’s last year, which would end most musical careers. But Emborg didn’t want to give up, he invested in a piano bench with backrests and thus made it possible to continue controlling his instrument to such a degree that he could record. Many wonderful instrumentalists contribute to this foot-tapping collection.

Tribú Urbana
Ermal Meta

I must admit that I find much Italian pop quite tedious, perhaps because the artists seem to copy each other and create the same vocal style. Ermal Meta, however, is somewhat his own man, not because his voice is that different from many other male Italian singers, but he dares to go out on a limb and widens the Italian pop music genre. His latest album Tribú Urbana is pleasant to listen to, and even though I can’t enjoy the lyrics, I understand from reviews that these are concerned with relationships and love, even forbidden love.

I have already revealed that Dan Clews is included with his lovely Hugsong in this month’s single list. I can also reveal that Janet Kay’s Silly Games is included. If you have watched Steve McQueen brilliant TV series Small Axe, you will instantly recognize this classic reggae hit. I have also included a few covers performed in the Norwegian TV series «De neste» in which aspiring young artists cover older artists’ hits. Some of the covers are better than the originals. Included is also an example of mashup, the YouTube trend of mixing two famous songs together. And – many more.

Áddjá – Ivan & Nils Henrik Buljo

After the Gold Rush – Katie Pruitt

Bad Law – Hedda Mae

Diamant – Maia Hirasawa

Eatni – Gabba

Girls Just Wanna Dance With Somebody Mashup – Pomplamoose

The Hug Song – Dan Clews

The Killing Fields – Roseanne Cash & John Leventhal

Lost Futures – Marisa Anderson & William Tyler

Nee Kotyali Obbane – Arjus Janya & Shreya Ghoshal

A Place Nearby – Endre Nordvik

Sangue do meu sangue – Salvador Sobral

Silly Games – Janet Kay

Space Oddity – We Are KING

To Begin Again – Ingrid Michaelsen & ZAYN

Unforgiveable Sinner – Ylva

Uten deg – Sebastian Zalo

The Way We Used to Roll – Jesse Malin

We Were Dreamers 80’s – Sharon Robinson

The Wrong Place – Hooverphonic

Tap Root Manuscript
Neil Diamond

An experimental album from crooner Neil Diamond? Yes, he was more than the artist behind Song, Song Blue and Cracklin’ Rosie. (although Cracklin’ Rosie is on Tap Root Manuscript ). In fact, this LP from 1970 also included inspirations of world music long before other artists (like Paul Simon) started experimenting with non-Western music. Diamond did this without losing his ability to create the simplest of melodies. I was 14 years when I for an unknown reason bought the album. I couldn’t believe my ears, how was it possible for a hit maker like Diamond to skip from simple childrens’ songs to African fairy tales and then to music played by a symphony orchestra on the same album? It was also the first time I heard an album on which themes from one song suddenly appeared in another.

When Karaoke’s Not Karaoke

There’s been a silly debate going lately that really boils down to whether an artist singing other songwriters’ material is equally worthy of praise as someone performing his or her own material, that performing covers is closer to karaoke than to real art.

I admit I am not particularly fond of listening to people singing in karaoke bars, but I do think in general that artists interpreting other artists can be as enjoyable and impressive as what singer-songwriters do. Hopefully you have found a number of examples in previous playlists to support me in this, and this month I offer a number of tracks of both categories.

Without covers my music collection would be considerably poorer, as would my playlists. What it should boil down to is the quality of the performance and the interpretation, regardless of source of the material.

HOW TO LISTEN:

Petter’s Short List contains excerpts of the albums and singles reviewed in the current blog entry. Click here.

But you can also listen to Petter’s Long List, which contains all music reviewed this far in 2020 and 2021….. Click here.

And – by clicking on the album covers in the blog, you will be taken directly to that particular album in full. AND – a new feature this month, by clicking on the title of the single, you will go directly to it.

0202
The Rubens

Let’s start the March list in Australia, with one of the country’s most popular band, The Rubens. This is their fourth album, a way of looking back on a horrible year, and hopefully looking forward to better times. This is pop in its purest and most easily accessible form, looking back for inspiration, while still bringing us a solid contemporary sound.

Afterglow
Enrico Pieranunzi & Bert Joris

Belgian trumpetist Bert Joris and Italian pianist Enrico Pieranunzi join forces on this seemingsly effortless collection, and as opposed to many other jazz albums, the tracks are mostly short and easy to take in. Music for pleasure, brilliantly executed by two masters.

A Billion Little Lights
Wild Pink

Back to more lush and rich and pure pop music from Wild Pink, with its head singer/songwriter John Ross, sweeter and gentler than the likes of War on Drugs and Oasis, but still with a similar bite.

Distractions
Tindersticks

To support my argument in the opening paragraph, here comes the 13th studio album from Nottingham-based Tindersticks, with an interesting mixture of covers and originals, and to me the covers are the most interesting tracks. Tindersticks isn’t for everybody, for sure, the band is pushing borders of taste, and sometimes I have a hard time following where Tindersticks try to lead (if that’s what they do). But listen to the tracks I have picked for you, these are among the most interesting tracks in this month’s playlist.

Eléctrico (Temporada 2) Capitólio
3 Juho 2020 (Ao Vivo)
Rodrigo Leão

Why did it take so long for me to discover the music and the musicians of Portugal? And not until recently did I start listening to pianist/guitarist/composer Rodrigo Leão, with his cinematic and broad-brushed instrumental music. This album is from a live performance last year, with lovely strings, a choir and and impeccable performance by Rodrigo Leão himself. Who needs mindfulness?

Good Woman
The Staves

I have to start by saying that I wasn’t too thrilled with this girls’ trio latest album, Good Woman. The songwriting is often a bit dull and uninspired, but the best tracks (and of course I have picked them for you) are sweet and tender and powerful. Most reviewers seem to disagree with me, so if you really like my picks, go to the whole album and prove me wrong. Or right.

Hunter and the Dog Star
Edie Brickell & New Bohemians

Edie Brickell & The New Bohemians have been around since the 1980s, and thank god they haven’t given up yet. This is energized pop, fun and preppy and Edie and the band sound more youthful than ever. Edie Brickell is Paul Simon’s wife, by the way, so you have probably heard a lot of songs about her, without knowing you did.

It Might Be French
Waldeck Sextet & Patrizia Ferrara

The fact that Austrian artist Klaus Waldeck put together a group with 10 musicians and called it a sextet, should tell us something about a performer that does his own thing. On It Might Be French, he brings lounge singer Patrizia Ferrara along, on an acoustic, snappy and swinging EP, quite far from his electronica past.

Me and Ennui Are Friends, Baby
Sarah Mary Chadwick

If this album doesn’t prick your ears, you’re not really listening. Australian Sarah Mary Chadwick brings you songs with absolutely no filters, about break-up, her own destructive behaviour and the other seemingly damaged people in her life. It is all so naked and at times painful to listen to, even though it is only Sarah and her piano. I can’t help being fascinated, though, and she makes me listen to her.

Shapes of Dreams
April Snow

April Snow, or Irya Gmeyner as her real name is, wrote much of the music for the excellent Swedish drama series The Thin Blue Line. Her EP Shapes of Dreams offers lovely and melancholic indie pop.

Sleppe tak
Eva Weel Skram

Norwegian singer/songwriter Eva Weel Skram’s new album is a stripped bare collection of emotional songs, never banal, often with a surprising take on the melodies. Her airy voice is well suited for this kind of music, and the Norwegian lyrics are honest and full of wisdom of life and living.

Sunshine Fruit
Bear Garden

Martin Wirén is Bear Garden, but he is rarely on his own with his saxophone. It is quite rare to hear these kinds of arrangements as on Sunshine Fruit, lots of other wind instruments, but never really sounding like big band music, at least not in the traditional sense. The music is reach and fluid with an almost live feel to it. And truly original.

Taste of Honey
Ulf Wakenius

We’re staying in Sweden, and with a bit of jazz, even though Taste of Honey is a homage to Paul McCartney, both as a solo singer, composer and and as part of The Beatles. There are only two original songs on the album, but the karaoke that’s not karaoke, are nothing less than fabulous tracks. I have kept listening to them over and over again, and have enjoyed Wakenius’ take on songs that are so familiar to me, in many ways reinventing them, but with respect.

Terrien
Julien Clerc

Julien Clerc is among the most established French singer/songwriters, a national treasure at 73. When he released another album this year, it automatically rushed to the top of the charts, even though there is nothing new on Terrien. This could have been recorded years ago, perhaps with the exception of a song inspired by Brexit (!), but that doesn’t make it any less good. Stick with what you know. If you like French chancon with a beat, this is for you.

Valse(s)
Richard Galliano

I remember a cartoon I was years ago, where there are two doors, one leading to Hell and one to Heaven, and with long lines of people waiting to get in. A guard is handing out small harps outside Heaven’s gate, while another guard is handing out accordions outside Hell’s gate. Very funny. But there are many kinds of accordians – and many kinds of accordion players. Richard Galliano should be let into heaven with his little accordion, and he could bring this lovely collection of waltzes. This album melts my heart, and I envision being the man in the Paris bar on the cover, while Galliano plays in the background.

You might find some of the most enjoyable surprises among this month’s single releases, some previews of albums to come, but also a number of interesting artists introductions, like Lydia Luce and Asta Hiroki & Lalin St. Juste. I have grown particularly fond of Ylva’s version of Sondre Lerche’s Sentimentlist and Stacey Kent’s I Wish I Could Go Travelling Again. Ylva, Hedda Mae and Endre Nordvik are part of the cast of a new TV series we have commissioned, at NRK where I work, De neste (The Next) focusing on exceptional new talents.

And – I have added, purely on a trial basis, direct links to each single…! If you don’t need it – or don’t like it or don’t use it, I’ll leave it in future blog entries.

Dried Up River – The Lone Bellow

Drivers licence – Olivia Rodrigo

Flirted With You All My Life – Bright Eyes

Girl from New York City – Loren Nine

Glad to Be Here – Hailey Whitters & Brent Cobb

Glir forbi – Hedda Mae

Great Awakening – Christopher Holland

Heavy – Charlie Moore & Duncan Birkbeck

The Hum – Bedouine

I Oslo – The Little Hands of Asphalt

I Wish I Could Go Travelling Again – Stacey Kent & Art Hiahara

Leaving – Charlie Moore

Left Behind – Asta Hiroki & Lalin St. Juste

Line By Line – JP Saxe & Maren Morris

Lose Your Head – London Grammar

Love on the Brain – Kristin Husøy

Out of My Control – From «Blithe Spirit» – Gregory Porter

Scat – Club des Belugas & Iain Mackenzie

Sentimentalist – Ylva

Shivering – HAERTS

Sometimes – Endre Nordvik & Mari Kreken

Star Woman – Honey Hahs

Tangled Love – Lydia Luce

Valentine – Danni Nicholls

What’s Troubling You Child? – Lauren Housley

Jesus Christ Superstar
Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice

When I bought this LP box set as a young teenager, I was both introduced to musicals for the first time, and to a different take on christianity and on the Easter message. I was similarly introduced to a fantastic rock singer, Ian Gillan, who again introduced me to a broader range of music.

I later found out that musicals didn’t all sound like JCS, and that rock’n’roll version of religion didn’t make it more palatable and true. Jesus Christ Superstar is still a magnificent piece of work, although the original recording was improved on later on, at least technically. But nobody did Jesus better than Ian Gillan, Mary better than Yvonne Elliman – and Barry Dennen was never surpassed as Pontius Pilate.

Happy Easter!

The Times They Are A-changin’

«How much have changed and how little have changed», writes David Byrne in his terrific, insightful book «How Music Works», describing popular music’s evolution. So, even if Bob Dylan’s «The Times They Are A-changin'» is released in new, shining armour in Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s 2021 version, it is still the same same tough inside. I hope this blog post and the updated Petter’s Short List bear witness to both all the changes and at the same time how much stay the same.

HOW TO LISTEN:

Petter’s Short List contains excerpts of the albums and singles reviewed in the current blog entry. Click here.

But you can also listen to Petter’s Long List, which contains all music reviewed this far in 2020 and 2021….. Click here.

And – by clicking on the album covers in the blog, you will be taken directly to that particular album in full.

Collapsed in Sunbeams –
Arlo Parks

Arlo Parks of Hammersmith, London, is barely 20 years old, and her debut album made it to the top on hit lists all over the world this year. Her original, contemporary sound is innocent and sensuous at the same time, her skillful voice rolls so effortlessly across the melodies. You want to glide around the room while listening, at least in your mind.

Dark Hearts –
Annie

Annie Strand is more than twice the age of Arlo Parks, but she has a similar innocence in her voice, but her music is considerably more stringent. Still, this is synth-pop as good as it is possible to make it. It is rarely boring and repetitive. I never expected to like this, but there is something mature and world accustomed about these pop tunes, they snuggle up to you and refuse to let you escape. Annie has only released four albums since debuting around the turn of the century. Sometimes it pays off to take your time.

Going to Hell –
Lande Hekt

Back to youth, but this time to garage band music more than silky contemporary pop. Lande Hekt is a young British artist who focuses as much on her opinionated lyrics as on the music. She writes what she feels, surpisingly more politcal than what we get from young artists today, personal and gritty.

Hand Me Down –
Kate Rusby

Songs are handed down through generations, claims folk singer Kate Rusby. So why wait too long? She has rerecorded some of the songs she grew up with from the 80s and forward, instead of diving into the traditional song book. Rusby has got an interesting take on the songs, classics that you probably know very well already. She doen’t actually give them a folk sound, rather she softens the songs, even the up-tempo tracks. Listen, and you may understand what I mean. At times it borders on being uninteresting and a bit dull, but mostly it is sweet and touching, like praise of a friend.

Home –
Rhye

In December last year I made you listen to Sade’s classic album, Diamond Life. There is a lot of Sade in Michael Milosh and his band Rhye (or is it his alternate persona Rhye?), smooth, andrygenous, funky and silky, music always on the move. This is sophisticated pop with remnants of jazz and soul.

Jacobean Chill –
Jacob Collier

The Guardian has already named Jacob Collier as jazz’ new Messiah, which must be quite daunting for a 26-year old. The EP Jacobian Chill is clearly a side project for him, but should not be overlooked. This is such an elaborate piece of work, with the lushest of harmonies and melodies. It is chill, yes, but it brings memories of the harmonies of Queen (more of that later) and perhaps Laura Mvula, perhaps Manhattan Transfer, and it keeps surprising at every turn – even as your’re chilling.

No Place –
Danielle Durack

Arizona singer Danielle Durack has written what is labelled as a breakup album. Perhaps so, but for me this is delicate indie music, not all of it interesting, but enough pleasing tracks to make it into my blog list this month.

Nothinh Gold Can Stay –
Jimi Somewhere

There’s a Norwegian dialect term, «gammalt fydde», old born, that comes to mind when I listen to young Jimi Somewhere, because there is nostalgia in his music, even though it so clearly is contemporary and coming from a young artist. There is also melancholy in even his most up tempo songs, or maybe I am just being thrown off by the sadness in Jimi’s voice.

Not Your Muse –
Celeste

With this album Celeste became the first British female artist in five years to have a number one debut album on the British album charts. And deservedly so. I introduced you to her in the last blog list, with the single A Little Love. Celeste is an exceptionally talented songwriter, and even though one might grow tired of the sweet naivité of her voice, there is enough variation on this album that I keep wanting more. A timeless album, I dare argue.

Roasut – ISÁK

Sami band ISÁK from Norway continues to impress with their world pop music, with lyrics both in Sami and in English. In the centre of the soundscape is Ella Marie Hætta Isaksen and her expressive voice.

Roses in Neurosis – Sivert Høyem

Staying in Northern Norway and with expressive voices: Sivert Høyem, lead singer of Madrugada, is out with an EP of magic proportions, so powerful and yet so gentle. It is easy to say that it is all in Sivert’s deep voice, but the songs are impeccable craftmanship as well.

Under A Mediterranean Sky –
Steve Hackett

Even old rockers mellow with age. Steve Hackett of Genesis fame is out with another accoutic solo album, inspired by his interest in music from all sides of the Mediterranean. Some of the tracks become too mellow for my taste, but Hackett shows how to work a guitar and how to find musical gems and make them your own.

There is truly a little bit of everything in this month’s single list! Good old Christopher Cross of Arthur movie fame is back, as is Noel Gallagher, Don McLean, David Bowie and Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. There are great songs that didn’t succeed in European Song Contest and even a piece by Jean-Philippe Rameu, written in the beginning of the 1700s. And that’s not half of it. Enjoy!

American Pie – Home Free & Don McLean

Build a Fire – Adam Douglas

Coming Home – River

Evan – Elise Le Grow

Gammel mann – Morten Abel

I Can’t Escape – IMERIKA

i dunno love – Rikke Normann

I Put a Spell on You – Brandi Carlile & Renée Elise Goldsberry

Just One Kiss – Imelda May & Noel Gallagher

King Of Letting Go – Sondre Lerche

Love Me When I Go to Sleep – Steady Holiday

Mary Ann – Christopher Cross

Moving Men – Myd & Mac De Marco

new year’s in paris – Francesca Blanchard

Nostalgi – Jørgen Krøger Mathisen & Karoline Wallace

Own Yourself – Dinaye

The Arts and the Hours – Vikingur Ólafsson

Skyll på mig – Bo Sundström

Sounds of Then (This is Australia) – Sarah Blasko

Tá’n Tádh Liom – Rónan Ó Snodaigh

The Times They Are A-Changin’ – Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Roseanne Cash, Steve Earle, Jason Isbell & The War and Treaty

Try! – Airelle Besson, Benjamin Moussay & Fabrice Moreau

Tryin’ To Get To Heaven/Mother – David Bowie

Was It Just Me – Douwe Bob

Witch Woods – EMMY

Wonderful Surprise – Zerrin Özer

A Night at the Opera –
Queen

Every month I try to put together a playlist for you spanning a great number of musical genres. To do that I have to cover a great many artists in each blog post. Few artists dare to move away from their chosen path, sticking to one genre, sometimes for their whole career. I would argue that some of the greatest artists in popular music are artists who dared to experiment, and refuse to be pinned down. Queen is a perfect example, and their fourth album, A Night at The Opera from 1975, proves the point better than any. Queen is using the whole scale of genres, and then some, from progressive rock to vaudeville to ballads to dixieland to hard rock. The album challenges every human sense, making it impossible not to pay attention while listening. Some of the best songs in music history are found on A Night at the Opera, Love of My Life and Bohemian Rhapsody foremost among them.

All the Best Marches are Written

A good friend, who was so into marching band music that it bordered on being unhealthy, claimed that it was no use looking for newly composed music, because «all the best marches have already been written». I am not that much into marches that I can substantiate his claim, but I can understand his feelings. It sometimes feels like all great music has indeed been written. Artists are often rerecording music of the past, sometimes improving on previous versions; new compositions seem to lean on, even copy, what’s already composed. And when artists who flowered in the magical 60s and 70s keep recording, their new music rarely reaches the same level of magic. It’s still good, but not as good as it used to be. Is it us or is it them?

I am not going to argue this point as avidly as my friend did, but there are examples of all of the above in this month’s blog post and playlist, the first of 2021: A new take on Franz Schubert, on the American classics and on Portuguese Fados, as well as attempts to prolong a career by leaning on old formulas – and Paul McCartney, perhaps the greatest composer of our era, to prove the last point. Still, I am not in any way depressed by the thought that popular music’s golden age may be behind us. I thoroughly enjoy much of what is currently being composed and produced and rerecorded. And all the old «marches» are still there, available to listen to whenever I choose. Best of both worlds, in other words.

How to listen:

Petter’s Short List contains excerpts of the albums and singles reviewed in the current blog entry. Click here.

But you can also listen to Petter’s Long List, which contains all music reviewed this far in 2020 and 2021….. Click here.

And – by clicking on the album covers in the blog, you will be taken directly to that particular album in full..

Budapest Concert
Keith Jarrett

It may feel weird to start the first blog post in 2021 with a recording from 2016, but this live album by one of contemporary music’s greatest musicians was realeased in 2020, and I have previewed a track in the singles section of a previous blog post. I listen to this album with awe – but also with sadness, because it will most likely by Keith Jarrett’s last release. He had a stroke recently, and his left side was partially paralyzed, so no more piano playing.

Crescendo i gågata
En hyllest til Lillebjørn Nilsen –
Various Artists

Some artists are national treasures, Norwegian troubadour Lillebjørn Nilsen is one of them. I know I have readers and listeners on three continents who may not appreciate something as parochial as this album, a tribute to Nilsen on his 70th birthday, but I think that even though you may miss the intelligent and heart moving lyrics in Norwegian, you may still appreciate his craft as a composer. I am a lucky bastard, I can appreciate both.

Dreamcatcher
Lee Ritenour

The virtuoso guitarist Lee Ritenour has recorded 45 albums in his sixty year career, still this is his first solo guitar album. All alone he marvels with his collection of guitars, only a fraction of which is found on the sleeve. This is a calming low-key album that grows on me with every listen.

Fame and Glory
Fairport Convention

Fairport Convention rarely do outside projects, the exception is their work for Alan Simon’s rock operas, like Excalibur. Now a selection of these songs has been made available on a new album, Fame and Glory. It is a bit different from what you would expect from the British folk rock band who celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2017 (!). It is still folk rock, though, and still worthwhile to listen to, even if they are not at their peak.

Free
Natalie Duncan

«I am a pianist first and foremost», says Natalie Duncan on the release of her album Free. I find her an equally brilliant singer and composer, blending soul, jazz and r&b and excelling in all of them.

High Anxiety
Matt Bianco & New Cool Collective

Matt Bianco became an overnight success with Get Out of Your Lazy Bed in 1984, and never really made it back to the top of the charts. Matt Bianco is a band, not a person, and was formed by the vocalist Mark Reilly with his lazy, gliding voice, easily recognizable on their new album. The hits are not there anymore, but their style of pop jazz still gives me a thrill. The Dutch big band New Cool Collective adds to the thrill.

Mariza Canta Amália –
Mariza

It must have been the most daunting of endevours, to take on the catalogue of Portugal’s national treasure, Amália, whose death triggered a three day national mourning. But who else than Mariza could do it, and do it well? If you’re into fado, this is your moment. If you have yet to be introduced to this lamentful, painfully beautiful singing style, this is your moment.

McCartney III –
Paul McCartney

The much awaited McCartney III is here. It is good, at times great. It is interesting, historically significant, impressive. But it isn’t Ram, Or McCartney I or Band on the Run. Or remotely close to any of the Beatles albums. Should it matter? Perhaps not. Paul has given the world the best catalogue of any pop composer in history, so there’s nothing more to prove. Just have fun. We’ll be here to listen as long as he keeps recording.

Moonticket –
Kama Vardi

Israeli songstress Kama Vardi has released her third album, a truly international pop album with sweet, catchy tunes, devoid of much Middle Eastern influence. There is a connection between the songs, stories related to a break-up that Kama went through.

Over the Rainbow:
The American Standard EP –
James Taylor

One of the most recognizable voices in pop music continues to cherrypick standards from the American songbook. These three songs are left-overs from last year’s album, and it beats me why none of these made the first cut. His rendition of Over the Rainbow is rich and brilliant, with more chords in the chorus that I have every heard before, enriching this classic even further.

*

Now on to three albums that an algorithm probably wouldn’t have picked for you. But hopefully some of you still find them worth listening to:

Pakistan is for the Peaceful –
Ustad Saami

If you are bored with C-D-E-F-F-G-B-C and are looking for a new musical scale to express yourself, perhaps you can learn a note or two from qawwali music master Ustad Saami whose 49-note scale should be a mouthful for most of us. But out of it comes calm, hypnotic music that challenges your Western ears. I find it mesmerizing, perhaps you do, too.

Schubert in Love –
Rosemary Standley, Ensemble Contraste, Johan Farjot & Arnaud Thorete

As a compete amateur classical music listener, I have always been impressed by professionals who can distinguish between a brilliant and a slightly-less-brilliant recording of a piece. With Schubert in Love even I can have an opinion, because Rosemary Standley and her co-musicians deviate a LOT from what you expect Schubert ought to sound like. And I love it, love how they add rhythm that ought to have been there all along, they improvise and change and twist, and still show Schubert all the reverence his music deserves.

Stiklinger –
Karoline Wallace

My daughter Karoline is out with a new solo album, so how could I leave that out? Especially when I appear on the album myself (it is my piano playing you hear in the background of this track) ? Well, Karoline’s music is hard to categorize, she refuses to stick to a genre, and she refuses to let the listener lean back and tune out. With her music you either tune in and be challenged and hopefully overwhelmed, or you don’t enter her rich and sophisticated musical world. If you like what you hear, listen to the whole album. (And yes, I am very proud of her – and equally of my oldest , Benedikte, who has designed the sleeve together with her partner Magnus Skarphedinsson.)

This Dream of You –
Diana Krall

I have not always been a fan of Diana Krall’s breathy and husky singing and her mellow piano playing. The lack of energy in her performance is obviously an acquired taste, but I recognize that she is an accomplished artist, and in small doses I can lean back and enjoy. On her latest album she offers some interesting takes on among others How Deep is the Ocean and Almost Like Being in Love.

Some interesting new singles are out in December and January, with a promise of more to come. Among the choice cuts in this month’s playlist are new songs from Sivert Høyem, JP Saxe & Julia Michaels and Travis, a few re-recordings of classics by Kristina Train, Pomplamoose and Club des Belugas – and a single from the next Secretary of State in the U.S., Antony Blinken. What could signify a change of style in the White House more than having a rock singer as the country’s foremost diplomat?

Blue – Loren Nine

Devotional – Sivert Høyem

Douce France – Pomplamoose & John Tegmeyer

Get Together – Kristina Train

Give the People What They Want – PJ Morton & Yola

Infinitissimalement – Gillian Hills

Kissin’ in the Cold – JP Saxe & Julia Michaels

lavender and heaven – iris

A Little Love – Celeste

Mad About You 2020 – Hooverphonic

Minnesota – Mick Flannery & Anaïs Mitchell

Mondo Mas – Club des Belugas

Na Pamięć – Alicja

Nina’s Song – Travis

Run Away – Sivert Høyem

Son – ISAK

That’s My Style – Club des Belugas & Maya Fadeeva

Thirteen – Bedouine & Waxahatchee

Without Ya – Ablinken

Himself –
Gilbert O’Sullivan

When MAM Records released Himself in one of the best years in pop music history, 1971, and introduced Gilbert O’Sullivan to the world, we were introduced to a peculiar blend of music, lending inspiration from music halls to rock’n’roll, with a strangely rhythmic piano playing and a nasal singing style at the centre. But the songs were brilliant, playful, lushly arranged and with whimsical lyrics packed with word plays. I was quite influenced by O’Sullivan when I tried to write music myself, I remember. Listening to the album again now, I am reminded how brilliant some of the songs are. Unfortunately, Gilbert O’Sullivan never managed to quite copy the quality of his first album. His second, Back to Front was also good and included perhaps his greatest hit, Clair, but after that it was more of the same, only less of the surprise and quality that his two first albums brought to the world.

Most Enjoyable Albums of 2020

This was not an all-bad music year. Everything else was bad in 2020, but musicians stayed at home and some made beautiful music, alone or together with other musicians. Some cheated and made music before Covid-19 became a term on everybody’s lips. One artist on my list was even dead – and his friends finished the album for him, decades later.

But my ears have enjoyed themselves throughout 2020. So, thank you, artists, for keeping writing, performing and producing terrific music, particularly those of you who pride yourself of playing your own instruments, singing, harmonizing, looking back for inspiration, standing on shoulders of giants, still creating unique, contemporary music.

Before I gave you my favourite top 10 list, let me mention an additional 20 wonderful albums I have had a special pleasure of reviewing and listening to this year (in alphabetical order) :

All Rise Gregory Porter
Bakkekontakt Marthe Wang
Been Around A Girl Called Eddy
Bigger Love John Legend
Maya Hawke Blush
Come In From the Rain Solveig Slettahjell
Correspondence Jens Lekman & Annika Norlin
Down in the Weeds Where The World Once Was – Bright Eyes
En fremmed banker på – Terje Formoe
From Out of Nowhere – Jeff Lynne’s ELO
Happy Hour on the Floor Parsonsfield
Hundre dager Ine Hoem
I’d Rather Lead a Band Loundon Wainwright III
Like Animals Charlie Dore
Patience Sondre Lerche
Saint Cloud Waxachatchee
Songs for Our Daughter Laura Marling
Tea for the Tillerman2 – Yousef/Cat Stevens
The Lost Album Drake Bell
True Romantic – Ziemba

Then on to my special favourites. Albums that stood out and that I enjoyed more than anything else I have listened to this year. ( I have reviewed 113 albums of the more than 200 albums I have listened to, so there’s quite a few to choose from… )

You may notice that very few, if any of these albums will be found on most other reviewers’ top 10 list. Which just comes to prove that this blog has a different outlook and attitude than most reviewers. Hopefully, since many of you keep reading and keep listening, (slightly more of you this year than last year), my choices appeal to enough of you to make it worthwhile.

So, these are my top ten choices of 2020. (Some of the albums were released in 2019, but reviewed by me in 2020. ) You’ll find a link to the individual albums by clicking on the cover. If you want to listen to all of them, I have made a separate list.

Click HERE for all 10 albums.

SAWAYAMA Rina Sawayama

Yes, it’s dance music – and very much Top 40 material, but I would argue with a difference. Japanese-British Rina Sawayama has made the most interesting dance album this year. Daring and innovative.

Personal Best ? Bendik Brænne

Country, Americana and pop intertwined. Norwegian singer Bendik Brænne adds sugar and spice to this delightful album, sometimes sugary sweet, other times with considerable bite.

Are You In Love? Basia Bulat

I love the hoarseness of Basia Bulat’s powerful voice, a value added to her magnificent writing and melodic flair.

Frenchy Thomas Dutronc

French guitar virtuoser Thomas DeTronc plays his guitars better than he sings, but who cares when he so cleverly builds bridges between the American and the French Songbooks. It is a true sing-a-long album. Pure joy.

Heartbreaker Please Teddy Thompson

You must work hard and be in a particularly bad mood to find fault with Teddy Thompson’s songwriting. This is such a well-written, well performed album from an Englishman in New York. I keep listening to it again and again.

Semper Eadem Mimmi

I am going to repeat myself… I come across, all the time, artists that don’t get the recognition they so clearly deserve. Mimmi Tamba, is a prime example. She has released two albums, Semper Eadem this year, that are among the finest and most creative and musically surprising available, but you need to work hard to find anyone talking about her work. She pays no heed to the trends in the business, yet her music is contemporary and moving. I do sincerely hope she will keep on recording.

Harry Nilsson Losst and Founnd

Talking about artists that don’t get the credit they deserve: Harry Nilsson was loved by fellow musicians and many critics, but never became a true superstar (except with Without You and Everybody’s talkin’ , none of which he wrote). He died in 1994. Before he died he had started and nearly finished a come-back album. Record producer Mark Hudson held on to the tapes, and 25 years later it was re-mixed, brushed up and released, I would say in the true spirit of Nilsson. Listen to that voice, even after years of boozing!

Kristallen Nils Landgren & Jan Lundgren

How to know the difference between Landgren and Lundgren? Landgren is the trombonist and the singer, Lundgren the pianist, but otherwise they’re one. Although the album is found in the jazz section of your (non-existan) record store, Nils and Jan take you on a tour of genres, through The Beatles’ «I will» to Swedish lullaby «Byssan Lull». I can’t praise the result enough, this is an album that restores a fragile soul with its beauty.

Intro Lola Young

It happens once in a while: a new artist comes on the stage, and immediately gets a worldwide following. Lola Young is Billie Eillish, Kacey Musgreaves, maybe even Amy Winehouse material, but she isn’t there yet. Not because she doesn’t have it. She does. She is a true artist with words, she plays with her lyrics, eloquent albeit simple rhymes. Still there is meaning and sense in her lyrics, about being young (sic) and living in this day and age.

Modern Love Various Artists

For the first time since I started issuing a top 10 list, I have picked a compilation album as the year’s most enjoyable. I’m not too fond of compilation albums, soundtracks and live albums, but the soundtrack from the Amazon prime series Modern Love is different (and so is the TV series – if you every want to brighten up your day, put on an episode, and watch the whole series). A number of superb artists have contributed, Regina Spektor, The Divine Comedy, Thomas Dybdahl, Goldfrapp, Anne Hathaway, Nerina Pallot and Gary Clark. This is uncomplicated but nevertheless sophisticated pop. And although each song is moulded to fit the episode it is featured in, it is perfectly all right to listen to the album separately. Modern Love, the music and the TV series and the column in the New York Times, celebrate love in all its variants. Isn’t that a great way to leave 2020?

Please let me continue to lend your ears in 2021.