Rockin’ at the Retirement Home

Yes, there was a time that an artist would push retirement age when reaching thirty. To all the young artists out there: relax – rock’n’roll is for life. Many of the artists in my list today prove the point to such a degree that young artists should rather worry about the competition from the retirement home today than worry about an imminent end of their own career.  (But they don’t all have to worry, which the second part of my blog today proves. )

GO TO THE FULL PETTER’S BLOG LIST ON SPOTIFY HERE

GO TO PETTER’s NEWCOMER LIST (ONLY FROM THIS BLOG ENTRY  ) HERE

 

Roger Daltrey – As Long As I Have This – Soul/Rock

Roger Daltrey

74-year old Roger Daltrey opens the ball with As Long As I Have This, a collection of covers with some original tracks thrown in for good measure. The Who it ain’t, but for someone who wasn’t their biggest fan, this is a highly enjoyable album. Yes, he is pushing his voice to the limit, but didn’t he always do that? Foot thumping good.

 

Paul McCartney – Egypt Station – Pop

Paul McCartney
Photo: Larry Marano/RexX/Shutterstock

Paul McCartney is in the room next door to Daltrey at the home, and there is a lot of beautiful noise coming from there as well. Egypt Station is a great album and would have been even greater with some pruning before release. But Paul’s ability to create a great tune with some whimsical lyrics without a hint of subtext is still unsurpassed. It is 50 years since the release of Beatles’ White album, and to hear that this man is still churning out music like this, well, I am lost for words….!

Paul Simon – In the Blue Light – Pop

Paul Simon
Photo: Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

Paul Simon is out with a compilation album, In the Blue Light, as he is retiring from touring. On it he introduces some of his best songs from previous albums, but with a more sombre orchestration. If you are unfamiliar with the songs on the album, quit immediately and go back to his previous catalogue, for I would say the originals mostly are better. For seasoned Paul Simon fans, you will most likely enjoy another take on these songs, but you will most likely, like me, dig out the originals afterwards.

Willie Nelson – Last Man Standing – Country/Pop

Willie Nelson
Photo: David McLister

At the end of the corridor you’ll find Willie Nelson’s room, and you will be unable to pass without entering, because in there Mr Nelson will belches out some of the best songs of his career, Last Man Standing. Make note that Willie Nelson is 85. Yes, 85. More than any other artist, he has managed to drag reluctant pop and rock fans over to the country side, widening our musical scope. This album is his greatest attempt yet to do just that. (Next time I plan to review his other release of 2018….this man just doesn’t stop until it is full stop)

Chas & Dave – A Little Bit of Us – Pop/Honky Tonk

Chas & Dave

But let’s face it, there are deaths at the retirement home, and Chas Hodges of Chas & Dave fame died a few weeks ago. Before he died the two chums released a new album, their first in 31 years, and sadly their last. This is intimate rock’n’roll as you would hear it in small pubs in the 60s and 70s, with a lot a wackiness and overblown orhestrations, honky tonk piano and a singalong feel to songs you have never heard before.

Misc. Artists – Johnny Cash Forever Words – Country/Pop/Folk

Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash is sadly dead as well, but his family and friends have made a tribute album, with a surprise choice of songs, considering what they had to choose from. But the result is a collection of very personal songs from widely different artists, but with a common thread tying it all together, Johnny Cash’s wonderful world of music. I have picked renditions from Ruston Kelley, Kacey Musgraves, Brad Paisley, Chris Cornell, T-Bone Burnett, Roseanne Cash, Jewel, Elvis Costello, Carlene Carter and Jamey Johnson.

Joan Armatrading – Not Too Far Away – Folk/Pop

Joan Armatrading

Joan Armatrading from Saint Kitts and Nevis at 67 is a bit too young to get a room at the rock’n’roll retirement home, but we haven’t heard from her for quite a long time. Her new album, Not Too Far Away, is vintage Armatrating, folk-pop at its best, perhaps even more hummable than back when her records were on everyone’s turntable. She plays all the instruments on the album, rarely a good idea, but she is pulling that off as well, so no complaints from me.

Francoise Hardy – Personne d’Autre – Folk/Chanson

Francoise Hardy
Photo: Ed Alcock for The New York Times

France’s Francoise Hardy is 74 and is back after severe illness a few years ago. This is a quiet and beautiful collection of songs, with lyrics (I am told) dealing with regret and getting older. Her voice is as insistent as ever, and she is still the Queen of the Chanson, particularly now when the Kings, Charles Aznavour and John Haillyday, both died this year.

Hailey Tuck – Junk – Jazz/Pop

Hailey Tuck

Hailey Tuck is barely old enough to get a job at the retirement home, but she carries the legacy of much older, even deceased, performers on her shoulders. There is a lot of Billie Holiday, Melody Gardot and Madeleine Peyroux in both her voice and her choice of songs, and this amazing debut album proves that she can carry that weight. I think I have added nearly the whole album to the list, just couldn’t choose among these gems.

Jennifer Warnes – Another Time, Another Place – Pop/Folk

Jennifer Warnes

Jennifer Warnes just moved in, 71 years old. Most of us associates her with the Dirty Dancing soundtrack, but she has collaborated with Leonard Cohen for many years, and is an astute artist in her own right, which Another Time, Another Place really accentuates. Still, there is a lot of Cohen in her songs, warm and genuine.

 

 

Well, it is time to move on the younger generation, because there is a lot of great contemporary music made out there, and here is a pick of the crop:

First, let me clarify. I don’t particularly feel artists from Norway are any better or more interesting than artists from other countries, but living here gives me access to more locally produced music, which is why my international readers possibly perceive I have a Norwegian bias.

Emilie Nicolas – Tranquille Emile – R&B/Pop

Emilie Nicolas

That being said, here are three Norwegian artists in a row. Emilie Nicolas is truly local for me, she used to live down the road from me and went to school with my daughter. And has become a great artist of international stature. Her new album Tranquille Emile, is more proof if any was needed. The creativity in her compositions, the earnest lyrics, and the fact that every track has new nuances to be discovered with every replay, is all the proof I need.

Vårin – If I Started Seeing Rainbows – Folk

Vårin
Photo: Anette Blom

Vårin’s debut release, If I Started Seeing Rainbows, has been one of the loveliest new releases of 2018. She is only 21, but there is a depth both to her lyrics, her melodies and to her voice that signals a musical intelligence beyond her years. The music radiates soreness and beauty in perfect combination.

Adam Douglas – The Beauty and the Brawn – Soul/Blues/Pop

Adam Douglas
Photo: Julia Marie Naglestad/NRK

The third Norwegian artist we have adopted. Adam Douglas in American born, but found love in the fjords of Norway. Last year he won “Stjernekamp” – The Ultimate Entertainer, and has since become a household name here. This is his first solo album after he won the contest, and it proves what a great singer, guitarist and song writer he is. There is blues and folk and pop and soul all mixed together, but his unique soul voice ties it all together in a perfect knot. My only regret is that he doesn’t do any covers, but I’ll guess we have to wait until he is ready to move into the retirement home for that.

Gruff Rhys – Babelsberg – Pop

Gruff Rhys

Gruff Rhys was lead singer in Super Furry Animals, a truly inventive band. His solo LP,  Babelsberg, supposedly recorded in one go, stand out as well because this symphony rock at its purest, Rhys’ basic tracks have been overdubbed with a full symphony orchestra, but the songs are still standing out through the carpet of instruments.

Father John Misty – God’s Favorite Customer – Pop/Rock

Father John Misty

Father John Misty is again out with a new album, and again he delivers. Readers of my blog know full well how much I have appreciated all his previous albums, and nothing much have changed in my appreciation – nor in the Father’s approach to music. He is as witty as before, every song is like a small symphony, melodic and at times even hummable. How does he keep this up? This is his fourth release in a short while, and as unique and outstanding as the other three.

Family of the Year – Goodbye Sunshine, Farewell Nighttime – Pop

Family of the Year
Photo: Catie Laffoon

Family of the Year became an overnight success in 2012 with their single, Hero. Now they’re out with a new album, and as with John Misty, not much has changed, still the same full and lovely harmonies, warm and summery melodies, albeit not as easily remembered songs. Still with repeat listening, the smoothness and the melodiousness become more apparent.

Caroline Rose  – LONER – Pop/Rock

Caroline Rose
Photo: Matt Hogan

I’ll end the month’s blog with a new and inspired young artist, Caroline Rose. LONER is her second album, and I have really fallen in love with it. Caroline Rose gives the world the finger with her playful songs, modern and chic, whimsical and with a rare creativity in the use of instruments. There is a bit of Cindi Lauper in Rose, irreverent and rickety. The track Bikini, might be the most fun track of 2018.

 

We’re waving goodbye to Miley Cirus, Phoebe Bridgers, Chris Price, The National, Marc Almond, Van Morrison, Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer, Susanne Sundfør, Ine Hoem, Molecules and Erlend Skomsvoll, Ane Brun, Sparks, Jake Bugg, Silje Nergaard, Beth Hurt, Bugge Wesseltoft, The War on Drugs, Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott, and Robert Plant. They’ll be invited back.

 

 

 

 

 

Summertime Round-Up

Don’t worry,  I haven’t stopped looking, and I have found great new music for you; I apologize for taking so long to publish this time, but sometimes other projects take more time than anticipated. As a patch on the wound (as we say in Norway), I have added a few videos to make the list (even) more readable and ready to enjoy.

Here is the updated list, if you want to go straight to it.

And HERE is a clean playlist of newcomers only….

 

Eurovision Song Contest 2018 – pop

Let’s start with my annual Eurovision Song Contest exercise. As usual, most songs performed are at best forgettable, but there are always some minor gems hidden in the Europudding. This year Belgium, France, Austria, Portugal, Spain, Australia, Lithuania and Germany delivered music that we can still listen to, a month or so after the final.

The Lost Brothers – Halfway Towards a Healing – folk/pop

The Lost Brothers

But let’s move on to more interesting and longer lasting music. I was particularly taken by the album Halfway Towards a Healing from the Irish band The Lost Brothers. This is the closest to Simon & Garfunkel and Everly Borthers we have come for a very long time, soothing, wonderful harmonies, heart-warming lyrics and melancholia galore. The album is their fifth, so I am going to their back catalogue if and when I am getting bored with the current one.

Club des Belugas feat. Maya Fadeeva – Chameleon – swing/pop

Maya Fadeeva

Club des Belugas has joined forces with Russian-born singer Maya Fadeeva, not for the first time. She has a great and (in a good way) piercing voice, but I like it better when the rhythm kings from Germany use more than one singer. Chameleon comes a bit trite in the long run, but the best tracks are now in the list, and these will get you on your feet and swing to music.

The Manhattan Transfer – The Junction – Jazz

The Manhattan Transfer

As will Manhattan Transfer, finally back with a new and adventurous jazz/swing album, The Junction. The group sadly lost Tim Hauser in 2014, but Trist Curless is a good replacement, and their harmonies are as rich and stunning as ever. The title track is especially good, one of the best tracks they have recorded in years. Maybe this is a new beginning for them, I have missed them so much. I still consider them the best vocal group in the world, and nobody still even comes close.

Belle & Sebastian – How to Solve Our Human Problems – Pop

Belle & Sebastian

Belle & Sebastian has also been around for ages and still kept the freshness in the music. Their new album is actually made from 3 EPs, perhaps that is why it feels a bit too long and repetitive. Still, the beauty and richness of the best songs (all of which are to be found in the list), make it worthwhile to listen to, both if you want to reminisce or if this is your first encounter with the Scottish band.

 

Van Morrison – Versatile – Jazz

Van Morrison
Photo: BBC

Northern Ireland

Van Morrison is a most productive man, and a stream of new albums are now out, so fast that I can’t keep up. He is publishing more often than I publish my blog. His newest release is Versatile, looking back on some of the songs that inspired him, mixed with songs he himself wrote, but this time performed as jazz versions. It is easy to forget what a great jazz performer Van the Man is.

Alela Diane – Cusp – Pop

Alela Diane

Beauty can come from personal pain, and Alela Diane’s concept album Cusp about childbirth, both her own and her children’s, is truly beautiful. The soft feel to both the lyrics and the melodies make for great listening.

Turin Brakes – Invisible Storm – Pop/Rock

Turin Brakes

The English indie-band Turin Brakes has visited my list earlier, now the band is back with a much more commercially interesting LP, but not necessarily more musically interesting. Still, I like their melodic pop, more predictable than before, but ideal for summer listening.

Belle Adair – Tuscumbia – Pop

Belle Adair

A similar band, albeit with a different sound and more high-pitched harmonies, is Belle Adair. Again, we are served with pleasant pop for both the beach and the garden, sweet and rich in texture and with melodies that stick.

 

Bahamas – Earthtones – Pop/Rock

Afie Jurvanen of Bahamas

The Canadian band Bahamas (a band that’s not a band: Afie Jurvanen hides behind the name)  also fits easily into my summer repertoire, a little rougher and more upbeat that Belle Adair and Turin Brakes, but most of the tracks on Earthtones easily fits in, without alienating too many of you.

Amy Rigby – The Old Guys – Rock

Amy Rigby

Amy Rigby can play rough all on her own, but she is also funny and lets herself be vulnerable. She shakes up this week’s list, without losing her focus on great melodies and her clear messages.

 

 

 

Sol Heilo – Skinhorse Playground – Pop

Sol Heilo
Photo: Jørgen Nordby

Sol Heilo was part of the Norwegian group Katzenjammer, playing folk-inspired, happy, multi-instrumental rock music. Now she has released her first solo album, and it still has its playful moments, but it is mostly darker and sadder. That doesn’t bother me, this record shows off a new side of Heilo, worth listening to. But don’t miss out listening to her original band, either.

Julian Lage – Modern Lore – Jazz/Rock

Julian Lage

I have featured a number of instrumentalists in my list, but never, as far as I can remember, a guitarist. Along comes Julian Lage from California, and I had to include him and his latest album Modern Lore, that’s how good it is. Lage is at heart a jazz musician, but here he plays – in both senses of the word – with rock, folk and jazz, surprising us with his musical creativity.

Inara George – Dearest Everybody – Pop

Inara George
Photo: Mel Melcon/ Los Angeles Tmes

Inara George lost her father, Lowell George of Little Feat fame, when she was a little girl. The trauma of his sudden death has inspired this wonderful LP, but it is in no way bleak and withdrawn, but rather bright and optimistic, at least when it comes to the sound. Release Me is one of the strongest pop compositions I have heard this year, but the whole collection begs for re-listening.

Marlon Williams – Make Way for Love – Pop

Marlon Williams
Photo: Chris McKeen

Marlon Williams takes me back, in the same way Richard Hawley does, to the times of Roy Orbison and the pop music of the 60s and 70s. His baritone voice grabs me from the first tone, but there is an irreverence here that you rarely found in Orbison. The musicians push borders, but still in the centre stands Williams and takes the song all the way home.

Jimmy Livingstone – Airplane Mode – Pop

Jimmy Livingstone

This week’s final artist is Jimmy Livingstone. He sounds like he has been around forever, but this is in fact only his second album. I found some of the tracks on Airplane Mode truly small pieces of art, where lyrics and tunes come together to create stories that stick, greatly helped by a voice that you won’t easily forget.

Emily Parker, John Mellencamp, Will Stratton, Resistance Radio: The Man in the High Castle soundtrack, Joep Beving, Pieta Brown, Alison Moyet, Martha Tilson, Hajk, Randy Neyman, John Moreland and Asgeir, they all leave us now. Goodbye…

 

 

 

The Difficult Next Album

You release an album and everyone tells you how ingenious it is. Time rushes by, and before you know it your next album is due, with higher expectations than before. The listener travels a similar route – first the excitement from a new discovery, then the eager wait for a similarly ingenious next album from the same artist. Sometimes both parties are disappointed, other times the love story between artist and fan continues. Of the 19 albums I’m presenting you with this month, 9 were on my eagerly-anticipated list. Unfortunately, not all of the albums lived up to my expectations. But some really did.

The updated list is HERE... More than 26 hours of continuous great music!!

I have also singled out the 19 albums reviewed today in the Newcomers List, found HERE.

 

Hugh Coltman – Who’s Happy? -Pop/Jazz

Hugh Coltman
Photo: Sophie Leroux

I thought Coltman’s tribute to Nat King Cole was among last year’s best albums. His new album with his own material contains a lot of great crooner songs, many with a New Orleans jazz/blues feel. No doubt Coltman learned a lot from his time in King Cole land. Who’s Happy? Me.

First Aid Kit – Ruins – Country/Folk

Not so happy with Ruins, I am afraid. The two Swedish sisters came back after the fabulous Stay Gold in 2014 to a much more classic country album in 2018m not as creative, but still with a number of great tracks with the inimitable harmonies that have become their trademark.

Frederico Albanese – By the Deep Sea – Classical/Instrumental

Frederico Albanese

Not so happy with By the Deep Sea either, I am afraid. The Italian pianist residing in Berlin calmed my senses for a year with his previous lovely The Blue Hour. This time he repeats himself a bit too much. Still, it is hard to stay stressed even with his new album, and the tracks left in my list show off Albanese’s brilliance as a composer and artist.

Chris Price – Dalmatian – Pop

Chris Price

Price’s debut album was among the very best of 2017. Dalmatian would have benefited from a bit of pruning, but I am still excited about this composer and singer with a knack for good songwriting almost equalling the work of masters like Jeff Lynne and Billy Joel.  Almost.

Sarah Blasko – Depth of Field – Pop

Sarah Blasko

Blasko was my number one in 2015, then came a forgettable album, and now she’s back in great form with Depth of Field. How come this artist isn’t better known and more loved? Her voice could melt a pole, her songwriting surpasses so many other similar pop artists.

The Silver Seas – Moonlight Road – Pop

The Silver Seas

Their Chateau Revenge album from 2010 in my view still stands as one of the best albums this decade. Alaska from 2011 followed up somewhat. Since then we have been waiting for news from the band. It came this year, and although some of the songs on Moonlight Road show off the brilliance of Chateau Revenge, they are few and far between. Moonlight Road contains too many undistinguished tracks, I am afraid, but I still believe the band has it in them…

Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour – Country/Pop

Kacey Musgraves

…like Kacey Musgraves! I am so proud to have discovered this artist long before the majority of reviewers did. Her two previous albums are so full of fireworks and fun and heartbreak and truth that it is almost impossible to believe she didn’t score massively. With Golden Hour reviewers are going crazy, calling her the new Taylor Swift. And she deserves every bit of praise. The only fly in the ointment is that she will be swamped with composers and producers who will do their best to peel off the very layers that make her the superior artist she is. I hope she proves me wrong – and on Golden Hour there is only one horrible track (“High Horse” – which is already the most listened to track by Musgraves on Spotify – Sigh!), the rest is every bit as lovely as everything else she has released.

Joan as a Police Woman – Damned Devotion – Rock

Joan as a Police Woman

Joan is every bit as tough as a police woman, she does it her own way with a roughness and a different kind of beat to what other of her contemporaries offer. I have kept adding tracks by Joan Wasser for years, knowing that the music is an acquired taste. Her latest, Damned Devotion, is full of musical surprises, great songwriting and beats borrowed from every conceivable genre.

Brandi Carlile – By The Way, I Forgive You – Pop/Folk

Brandi Carlile

Carlile’s The Story was a darling of radio stations across the world. Since then, more similar songs has emerged, performed with a voice that sounds like the singer swallowed rusty nails before recording, many of the songs following the now-familiar recipe of starting quiet and building to a thundering crescendo.  On By The Way, I Forgive You, there are a fair number of those as well, but Brandi Carlile gives us tender un-pompous ballads in between, some of which are now to be found in your newest playlist.

Glen Hansard – Between Two Shores – Blues/Rock

Glen Hansard

There is more real sincerity in Glen Hanrard’s latest solo album, Between Two Shores, a tender, well composed collection of new songs. Hansard sounds like a mild Springsteen, perhaps equally influenced by him and by Dylan and Van Morrison.

Graham Coxon – The End of the F***ing World – Soundtrack

Graham Coxon

Those of you who have enjoyed the Netflix series, must have noticed the very interesting soundtrack of songs from Graham Coxon of Blur fame. The low-key songs get your attention, but they also add a lot of texture to the TV series. Coxon recorded the songs in his own home, sometimes only wearing an old dressing gown, having just rolled out of bed. You get that feeling from listen to this brilliant album.

Moby – Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt – Electronica

Moby

…says Moby, and it seem as if he wanted to add: But now everything is sad and ugly and everything hurts. Because this a sad album, more elegy than fun and laughter, your might say. But it is often hauntingly beautiful, despite the lyrics without much hope, and particularly the tracks with Raquel Rodriguez are pleasing and calming.

Morten Abel – Evig din – Pop/Rock

Morten Abel

There is considerably more fun, both musically and (if you understand Norwegian) lyrically in Morten Abel’s solo album Evig din (Forever Yours). This is an artist who has done his bit of peeing on lampposts in his native Norway. Now he has less to prove and  is more focused on giving his imagination a free reign, being older and not particularly wiser. Abel was the lead singer of The September When, a band who enjoyed tremendous success in Scandinavia in the 1990s.

Lucy Dacus – Historian – Singer-songwriter

Lucy Dacus
Photo: Dustin Condren

Lucy Dacus from Richmond, Virginia, could easily have been on my much awaited list, but I simply missed her debut album. After Historian has really caught my attention with its brilliant collection of musical short stories, I will definitely go back and listen to No Burden from 2016. There is something genuinely true about everything Dacus does on Historian, great lyrics, a laid-back kind of performing that makes me lean forward, and with an irreverent electric guitar playing contradicting the emotional tone of the songs.

Holly Miranda – Mutual Horse – Blues/Rock/Pop

Holly Miranda

Miranda is from Detroit, Michigan, and has recorded for many years without really reaching fame beyond her group of loyal followers. Which is sad and unfair, because her mix of blues. rock and pop is pleasing and well worth listening to. I enjoy that each track comes as a bit of a surprise – new instrumentation, new style every time.

The Wood Brothers – One Drop of Truth – Folk Rock

The Wood Brothers

This trio that sounds like at least a five-piece band, performs what has been called soulful folk, a good label to describe the energetic and peppy album. I would love to see these guys live, that must be true fireworks.

Savoy – See the Beauty in Your Drab Home Town – Pop/Rock

Savoy

Savoy will get you down to the ground again. The husband-and-wife band of Pål and Lauren Waaktar-Savoy jumps from happy Mamas-and-the-Papas pop in Bump, to the dark and the introvert in other tracks. Pål Waaktaar-Savoy’s day job is with A-ha, and Savoy rarely matches the main event, but it happens.

Andy Gunn – Too Many Guitars to Give Up Now – Blues

Andy Gunn

Andy Gunn has every reason to sing and play the blues. His health is in a true mess, but he keeps recording, and his latest album offers some of the best blues to be found these days, raw and full of pain, but at the same time with a kind of optimisim and humour in there, too.

Joan Baez – Whistle Down the Wind – Folk

Joan Baez
Photo: Ty Hyten

Baez has turned 79, but who would have believed. She recently visited the Norwegian-Swedish talk show Skavlan, and revealed she was worried about her voice losing its strength and flexibility, but from listening to this quiet, gentle album, you wouldn’t suspect it. She absolutely seems to be in total control of both voice, song material and guitar playing.

I am pruning Petter’s Blog List, to make room for the 128 new songs. Out go Ray Davies, Jacob Ogawa, Cigarettes After Sex, Charlotte Dos Santos, The Unthanks, Saint Etienne, Ron Sexsmith, Imelda May, Lindsay Buckingham & Christine McVie, Lorde, Cameron Avery, The Beatles, Youn Sun Nah, Arve Henriksen, London Grammar and Don Auerbach. Can you believe all the great music I am taking out?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Free Range Music

Welcome to 81 new songs carefully handpicked for you to start the new year off in a proper fashion. These are songs hatched in freedom, with artists that at least on the surface do what they like without paying too much attention to trends and charts. So you might not find many of these 13 albums on Billboard Top 100. As long-standing readers and listeners of my blog know, that can sometime ensure that the music is fresh and appetizing.

And since it is a new year and a good time to make changes, I leave you with, not one but TWO lists: A new list called (click here:) Petter’s Newcomers with only the new entries, and the good, old list, (Click here:) Petter’s Blog List, including all songs in rotation, including the new entries. 

Airelle Besson, Edouard Ferlet, Stéphane Kerecki – Aïrés –  jazz

Airelle Besson
Photo: Bertrand Guay

Three French jazz musicians, Airelle Besson, Edouard Ferlet and  Stéphane Kerecki ,  have joined forces for a year, and the result is Aïres, an accessible jazz album of standards and new compositions, with Airelle Besson’s lovely trumpet sound in the forefront. If you like the sample I have left in the list, you are likely to enjoy the full album.

Lenka – Attune  – pop

Lenka

Lenka’s music is often optimistic and uncomplicated, sometimes bordering on the naïve, but she always leave me humming along to the playful tunes. Attune  is her fifth album, and there is nothing really new here, but sometimes more of the same is exactly what the doctor ordered. For new listeners who like what they hear, you know what to do.

 

Lizz Wright – Grace – jazz/traditional

Lizz Wright
Photo: Vincent Soyez

Lizz Wright has released a new album, Grace,  made up of standards written and/or performed by dignitaries like Ray Charles, Allen Toussaint, k.d. lang, Bob Dylan and Nina Simone. She is somewhat like a dignitary herself, her deep, lovely, jazzy voice has been heard on five other albums. Her interpretations are inspiring and fresh.

Lee Ann Womack – The Lonely, The Lonesome & The Gone –  country/soul

Lee Ann Womack
Photo: Mark Humphrey

Lee Ann Womack is the quintessential country singer, but on her new album, The Lonely, The Lonesome & The Gone,  she is definitely drifting into soul territory, but never ever losing the country feel to the music. Both country and soul can be pitch dark, so this is not the album to listen to when you’re depressed. Still, there is so much beauty and love of the ordinary life here, that it might be worth it. At least you’ll feel good while you’re feeling bad.

Whitehorse – Panther in the Dollhouse – rock

Whitehorse

Panther in the Dollhouse. I love the image the album title provokes, and husband-and-wife band Whitehorse’s fourth album does not show off two well-behaved musicians. Their love of rock’n’roll permeates most songs, but there is so much variety here that the music and lyrics are difficult to describe, sometimes sultry, other times biting and sarcastic. I have enjoyed their previous albums and was not disappointed when their fourth was released last year.

Benny Andersson – Piano – pop/classical

Benny Anderssson

Benny Andersson of ABBA fame has released a solo album – simply called Piano – on Deutsche Grammofon, performing songs on a grand piano from his vast catalogue.  If anyone was in any doubt before about the quality of his compositions, listen to this album. In my view, Andersson is up there with the great composers of our time, like Lennon/McCartney, George Gerschwin and Irving Berlin. Both his songs for ABBA and his post-ABBA music are brilliantly performed, with so much emotion and grace that it almost makes me cry listening to the love, sweetness or pain that radiate through his fingers.

Pugwash – Silverlake –  rock/pop

Pugwash

On to another great tunesmith, Thomas Walch of Irish band Pugwash and their new album Silverlake. If you’re a McCartney or an ELO fan, look no further. Yes, it is a bit old fashioned, but if you are that kind of music fan, like me, that is complementing the album, not criticizing. And if you have had enough of darkness and winter, Pugwash will definitely introduce an early summer in your ears. Lovely.

U2 – Songs Of Experience –  rock

U2

Listen and choose sides. Two new releases that have got people talking are U2’s and Morissey’s albums. I love both of them, at least most of it.  I have added a range of tracks from Songs of Experience, hopefully to show that U2 still make vibrant and crowd pleasing music. Yes, it might be new wrapping around music they have made before, as many reviewers argue,but it is written and performed with the experience you only get after having stayed around as long as U2 have. The songs wear well, and I have to admit I had a hard job choosing only a part of, not the whole, album.

Morrissey – Low in High School – rock/pop

Morrissey

This man has lost the power to offend a long time ago, you don’t go more free range than Morrissey. But he is one of the few artists that force me to listen to what he has to say, just out of curiosity. We all like to be outraged. What makes the album a good listen, though, is the music and the production. These are not bad tunes, and they are well performed both by Morissey and by the excellent musicians he has brought along. So let it be that he has discovered oral sex since his last album. Good for him. Move on.

Peter Cincotti – Long Way from Home – pop

Peter Cincotti

If what Morrisey is doing is showing teeth, then Peter Cincotti is completely toothless. His album Long Way From Home, is at times too sleek for my taste, but most tracks are little Billy Joelish pop gems, predictable at times, yes, but Cincotti knows what is in his toolbox, and he crafts songs that you will swear you have heard before, but nevertheless sounds new and fresh and has hooks that bring something unexpected to your ears. At least some of the time.

Warhaus – Warhaus –  rock/pop

Warhaus

If your name is Maarten Devoldere and want to make it internationally, you might as well call yourself Warhaus. And your album Warhaus. The Belgian singer with the dark voice may remind you of Leonard Cohen, but the comparison stops with the feel of the voice. The expected bleakness may be there, but there is something burlesque, even humorous as well in these songs. The music is considerably more varied than you would expect from a trip into musical noir.

Nick Garrie – The Moon and the Village – folk

Nick Garrie

68-year old Nick Garrie is also strangely connected to Leonard Cohen. The two toured Spain together in the 1990s, two mythical figures that I am sure fitted each other like a glove. Garrie has released very few albums, but his debut from 1970 is still one of the hardest to find anywhere. His new album, The Moon and the Village ,  is sweet and old-fashioned, intimate songs about village life, sometimes sounding like nursery rhymes. Still, I am sure you will enjoy the simplicity of it all. And if you’re curious about how myths are made, listen to The Nightmare of JB Stanislas.

Leon Russell – On a Distant Shore – pop

Leon Russell

We end on a sad note, the posthumous album from the larger-than-life singer and composer Leon Russell. He brought a symphony orchestra into the studio and re-recorded most of his greatest hits. The sadness comes from knowing this is the last we’ll hear from him, but there is much joy to be found in listening to a tunesmith almost up there with the dignitaries I have mentioned before. The arrangements on On a Distant Shore are now and then a bit too much for my taste, but you are left in doubt about the classic quality of the tunes. And then there is Russell’s voice. His voice gives new meaning to the word raspy. Who can claim raspiness after Leon Russell?

To add freshness to the full blog list, we say goodbye many of the great names of 2017, Cory Branan, Salvador Sobra, Andrew Combs, Blanche, Coco Hames, Eliane Elias, Karen Elson, Vellichor, Artsvik, Jowst, Lekerommet, Mike & The Machanics, Aimee Mann, Tom Hickox, Mark Nevin, Unnveig Aas, Papai Joci, Father John Misty, Nathan Trent, Curse of Lono,  Bob Dylan and Dan Clews,.

 

 

 

 

TOP 10 FAVOURITE ALBUMS OF 2017

Music primary function is enjoyment, how it makes you feel. I could easily present you with a list of music that impresses, dazzles, challenges, but when it comes down to it, that kind of music may not necessarily be the same as the music that gives you pleasure, music that you want to listen to again and again, that draws you back and lights up your world for a little while.

So, no more best album list, here are the 10 albums that made me most happy in 2017, and not only me. I have added excerpts of both my own and the reviews from other blogs and magazines.

For a playlist of all songs from the 10 albums, click here .

 

 

Jens Lekman: Life Will See You Now

Jens Lekman  has released a wonderful new album, filled with personal stories shaped as pop songs.  This  is a surprising collection of mild-mannered tunes, really among the best albums released anywhere this year. Lekman invites us into his everyday world with both melancholy and sunshine in a perfect combination.

Life Will See You Now is a remarkably focused and well-produced record that blends upbeat ’80s influenced pop and disco into Lekman’s established indie pop. You won’t hear likely many other indie pop albums as refined and rich as this anytime soon: it’s full of Easter eggs lyrically and sonically and is evermore listenable because of the strength of its songs.

Tanner Smith, Pop Matters

 

Randy Newman: Dark Matter

Randy Newman is a master of soundtracks, and who would have believed? The singer behind Short People and other not-so-politically-correct tracks from the 70s and 80s has become a household name in families with children! But I am sure Newman is a true softie at heart, for I know few who can write a better and more heartfelt love song than him. His new album, Dark Matter, is full of them, but also acidly poignant songs about the time we live in. I love both sides of his persona.

Newman’s new album is called Dark Matter, a phrase intended both in the scientific sense and the figurative one—“it’s a dark matter.” He has lost little of his bite and none of his humor. Comfortably into his 70s, with what many would call a very successful career behind him and still time ahead, he seems less interested in polemics than before, less interested in leveraging sentiment with disgust, giving over—ever so slightly—to a softer intention….Smart but never intellectual, given more to the words we use over the words we know, Newman peppers these stories with little references to the Great Migration, climate change (the swells on Willie’s beach keep getting bigger), global politics, and American myth.

Newman has often joked that he would’ve been more successful if he stuck to love songs. Probably true. Personally I can’t begrudge people their escape—the world is a terrible place. But then he writes something like “Wandering Boy.” Tough, tender, mysterious and sad, the song narrates a simple neighborhood party—the kind Newman, who has spent most of his life in the same area of Los Angeles, has been going to since he was a child, through adolescence, multiple marriages and children, the kind that innocently and without fanfare becomes a fulcrum for the vicissitudes of life.

Newman has often put himself in these situations, the voice for characters nobody should have to listen to, curator of moments nobody wants to name. It is a painful, interesting way to be. And if it isn’t love, then what does one call that feeling, and is there any more worth writing about.

Mike Powell, Pitchfork

 

Susanne Sundfør: Music for People In Trouble

Susanne Sundfør started out as a singer and pianist. Now she is back behind the piano, and her voice is at the forefront of the songs again, after a period of flirting with other formats (successful flirts, I might add). Music for People in Trouble is a magnificent album with songs with strong emotional cores.

‘I’m as lucky as the moon, on a starry night in June,” sings Sundfør on her album’s acoustic opener. It’s a misleadingly cutesy start…. Inspired by travels around varied political and social landscapes, from North Korea to the Amazon rainforest, there are trickling water sounds, wiry bleeps and animal peeps throughout. Sundfør is startlingly back-to-basics at times – there are even schmaltzy ballad tones – but frequently her straightforward songs derail brilliantly…..  Another triumph for Sundfør, who delivers complex, maudlin subjects with lightness and majesty.

Harriet Gibsone, The Guardian

      

Hugh Coltman:  Shadows – The Songs of Nat King Cole & Live at Jazz at Vienne

Hugh Coltman has taken inspiration from one of the greatest crooners of all time, Nat King Cole. Coltman has got the same rasp in his voice as Cole, but I feel he is adding his very own touch both to the songs and to the album. He grew up with these songs; his mother played them over and over again, and although Coltman has done more pop than jazz standards in his career, you can hear this is music that he almost innately understands.

This double CD is my introduction to Hugh Coltman and now that I’ve discovered him I’ll keep my eye out for further releases…. I’ve always loved the music of Nat King Cole. My dad was an enthusiastic fan and our album of Nat’s greatest hits would regularly serenade the local neighbourhood, much to my mother’s annoyance…..  Hugh Coltman has a good voice suited to jazz and he does a particularly good job of interpreting Nat King Cole’s songs….

Hugh’s vocal presentation captures the beautiful relaxed and understated delivery of Cole and I found myself forgetting that I wasn’t listening to the originals…. A good album that I’m sure all jazz and Nat King Cole fans will cherish.

Ian Philips, PS News

Father John Misty: Pure Comedy

Father John Misty has done it again. His previous album I named Album of the Year in 2015. I would argue that his new collection is of no lesser quality. There is something truly unique with his voice, with the peculiar choice of stories to tell. Each track is a little symphony, and can take repeated plays, in fact requires repetition.

So what’s (Pure Comedy)  like? It’s like Father John Misty – ie totally early 70s Elton John. But where it was the good time boogie of Honky Chateau and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road that dominated last time, now it’s time for the introspection that ended his last album to continue with massive knobs on.

Gone is the smartass lothario, here now sits a man just as smart, but less concerned with his dick and more the dicks he believes we collectively have become. … it works because it’s so astonishingly, genuinely clever. God, art, politics, Ovid, boy bands, patriarchy, technology, mortality, God again… Tillman’s brains are splattered all over this and despite an ever-present narcissism that leaves his navel well and truly excavated, there’s a genuine empathy for the human condition here that makes for the perfect counterpoint to all this admittedly enjoyable misanthropy.

Mike Goldsmith, Record Collector

 

Dan Clews: While Middle England Mows Its Lawn

Dan Clews was brought out of the shadows by Sir George Martin of Beatles fame. Not that his music reminds me much of the Fab Four, but Clews is no doubt a true troubadour with a genuine English feel, even in the title While Middle England Mows Its Lawn. A remarkable album, so likeable and hummable.

Landscape Folk….Veering from lop-sided Ronnie Lane country-tonk to soothing, MOR folk pearls. His best yet.”

Bob Harris , Mojo

 

Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie: Lindsey Buckingham & Christine McVie

I keep thinking, this can’t be a new album? They don’t write and perform songs like this any more? Well, they surely do, and if you used to love the Mac, you’re in luck, for the kings and queens weren’t dead, at least two of them resurrected, and this truly utterly brilliant album came as a result. I have been given ten new sing-a-longs for the car.

Fleetwood Mac’s last masterpiece, Tango in the Night, relied heavily on Buckingham/McVie compositions, with the group’s third great songwriter, Stevie Nicks, generally absent. Now that McVie and Buckingham are back together in the touring Mac band for the first time since 1997, they’ve reunited in the studio for this succinct collection of gentle pop-rockers, familiar yet far more strange and beautiful than 2013’s brittle Fleetwood Mac EP. Buckingham’s spidery guitar shivers through Love Is Here to Stay and slays the solo on Carnival Begin, while McVie’s undimmed gift for melody illuminates every song.

Damien Morris, The Observer

Chris Price: Stop Talking

On of the most amazing new albums of the year is Stop Talking by Chris Price. Not since Harry Nilsson, John Miles and their likes have I heard more astonishing new pop music from a fairly new artist. Price is only 33 years old and have only made a few albums before this. There are virtually no songs on this album that are uninteresting and run-of-the-mill. Together with old hacks like McVie and Buckingham, Chris Price has invigorated pop music in 2017, but being new at the game makes it just that more impressive.

It is always a special (and quite seldom) moment when I finish to listen to a record for the first time and I instantly know this is an exceptional piece of work. Chris Price has achieved this with «Stop Talking». . . a hell of a record and hot candidate for my personal record of the year. It’s highly recommended!

Andy Leschnik, PowerPop Square

Justin Hurwitz: La La Land OST

I can’t remember last time I saw a movie and listened to a soundtrack that made so content, happy, but also a bit melancholic and nostalgic. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling sing so incredibly well together, and the music of Justin Hurwitz is perfectly integrated into this the loveliest of films. It is surprising that music so heavily infused with jazz and swing works so well in a movie for all ages in 2017.

Falling in love has always worked better with a soundtrack….. Chazelle and composer Justin Hurwitz have created a soundtrack of original songs that stand toe to toe with the great movie musicals of the past.

Zack Ruskin, Consequence of Sound

 

Eliane Elias: Dance of Time

Brazilian Eliane Elias is primarily a jazz pianist, but I adore her oh-so laid back vocal style. Yes, Diane Crall is perhaps the champion of the singing pianist club, but I must admit I like Elias considerably better. Dance of Time is her latest album. I have played and replayed this album throughout most of 2017, and I am still not bored with any of it. It is clever, musically oh so adept, but most of all it makes me feel.

Two years ago, Eliane Elias released Made In Brazil (Concord, 2015) and all it did was win the 2016 Grammy for Best Latin Album. It’s a great album and with Dance of Time, Elias hasn’t repeated a successful formula; she’s perfected it. This is an opulent recording, rich in its authenticity and lavish in its glorious accomplishments….

For nearly an hour Elias, deftly crafts a record that seems like a live performance augmented by a white-hot band of supporting musicians. Dance of Time fills the listener with joy as it soothes one moment on a sexy ballad like «Little Paradise» one moment and irresistibly swaying to «O Pato.»

Recorded in Brazil and produced by Steve Rodby and Marc Johnson, the musical and marital partner to Elias, the idea is to pay homage to 100 years of samba music and it more than delivers on that score.

There is a certain degree of frustration that comes with Dance of Time and that is despite how good it is it will struggle to find the audience and attention it so richly deserves. The sad truth is one would think—one would hope—scoring a Grammy award win would herald an awakening and a rediscovery of Brazilian jazz in general and Elias in particular. That probably won’t happen….

it belongs in the record collection of anyone who loves honest and authentic Brazilian jazz and Dance of Time is as honestly authentic as it gets. Eliane Elias has been one of the genre’s most consistently masterful virtuosos and even when she’s looking back fondly, she is still moving forward confidently. Needless to say this is top shelf material and highly recommended.

Jeff Winbush, All About Jazz

 

And – as an extra treat, here are previous number ones:

2013:

I Awake – Sarah Biasko

2014:

The River & The Thread – Roseanne Cash

2015:

I Love You, Honeybear – Father John Misty

2016:

JOANNE – Lady Gaga

So, that’s it folks. 2017 veers to an end, and we with it. I will be back in 2018 with lots of new, exciting, feel music. So watch this space. Happy new year to all readers and listeners, I really appreciate that you keep reading, keep commenting, keep sharing with others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 2017 Runners-Up

It has been another great music year. I have reviewed and introduced 106 new albums in my blog, all of which I have enjoyed, fully or partly. I have listened to as many that I haven’t liked and spared you the agony.  Which is the whole idea behind my blog: I hunt for the best new music, so you don’t have to. Below are, in alphabetical order, 15 of the 25 albums that I have enjoyed the most this year (with excerpts from my reviews.)Not necessarily the best in terms of quality, but the music that has given me most enjoyment personally.  Click the green heading and the album is there for you to listen to.

This ought to keep you busy until Christmas. After Christmas I will give you my top 10, measured and weighted the same way.

AMERICANA – RAY DAVIES

If it hadn’t been for The Beatles, perhaps Kinks would have been the world’s most loved pop group of the 60s, but they always came in second, which is saying nothing about the fabulous pop music they left us with. Their genius frontman Ray Davies – now Sir Ray Davies – is not only rereleasing old masterpieces; he is making new ones. Americana is truly a brilliant album, filled to the brim with storytelling from America, both personal and other people’s stories. He hasn’t lost the knack for composing great pop tunes on the way and seems to have been inspired, not limited, by sticking to a concept.

CLEO – CHARLOTTE DOS SANTOS

» Charlotte dos Santos has been a friend of our family since she was a young girl, and I have been fortunate enough to follow the development of a great talent, but even I was taken aback when I heard her debut album, Cleo. She dares to try out musical styles that she is interested in herself, without paying any attention to what is pc for a debuting artist, which is why Charlotte is impossible to typecast within a musical genre. Maybe that is why this album will be the first of many. »

A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING – THE WAR ON DRUGS

«The War on Drugs … (is) inspired by country but still safely placed in rock territory. There is true passion in the songs, and a vulnerability in Kurt Vile’s voice that always catches my ear. I have to admit I listen less and less often to bands, but The War on Drugs, and their new album A Deeper Understanding, push me back in band territory.»

EXCUSE ME – SALVADOR SOBRAL

«…Salvador Sobral (this year’s winner of Eurovision Song Contest) is like a breath of fresh air in a music business to a great extent taken over by format composers. He encompasses everything this list is all about.»

HAJK – HAJK

» On to …. Norway, and the indie band Hajk, one of this autumn´s most pleasant surprises for me. The band does not stick to one genre, but flirts with many, from ballads to jazz to funk to pop, and does it all well, great songwriting, even greater performances.»

HEARTS THAT STRAIN – JAKE BUGG

»  Jake Bugg became an overnight sensation a few years ago, with his slightly trembling voice , moody look and catchy songs. Now he is back with an exquisite album, Hearts that Strain, and all my scepticism is burnt away from the first track. The album was recorded in Nashville, and you can hear the influence of musicians who know how to communicate and have done it for a long time.  Bugg is more than a one-hit wonder. «

HONEST LIFE – COURTNEY MARIE ANDREWS

«An… intense and insisting voice belongs to Courtney Marie Andrews from Arizona. At the outset she sounds like a folk singer, but the music on Honest Life transcends folk. It took awhile before I was won over, but now I hear new things with every listen, and you will find me humming Irene or other songs if you sneaked into my car without my knowing.»

I SEE YOU – THE XX

» Romy Madly Croft of The xx is one of the most listened-to voices in the world at the moment. Her duets with Oliver Sim make up the sound of this ultra-modern band, still rooted in music from previous decades. There is something really vulnerable in the band’s music that I believe touches something in listeners of all ages. Their second album, I See You, will obviously end up on most best-of-lists this year. Listen to it anyway. It might even end up on mine. «

LEAVE ME BREATHLESS – ANE BRUN

«Ane Brun’s … album Leave Me Breathless is (..) a tribute to yesterday’s catalogue of classics, but she has in many ways used the songs as inspiration and almost created new songs out of some of the soppiest songs of the 80s. The result is remarkable, very touching and emotional.»

LOUDER THAN YOU – MOLECULES & ERLEND SKOMSVOLL

» I have attended quite a number of concerts with Molecules…  primarily because my daughter Karoline Wallace is the vocalist and her partner Petter Asbjørnsen the bass player. Believe me, listening to Molecules is something I do with pleasure. Yes, it might be labelled modern jazz, but the playfulness, the musicality, the flirt with rhythms and melodies, make much of the music accessible for people outside of the small modern jazz circle. Their album Louder than You, with Norway’s brilliantly inventive pianist Erlend Skomsvoll, has received rave reviews from jazz reviewers.»

MELODRAMA – LORDE

» Lorde from New Zealand … has already developed immensely as an artist, following what easily could have been a solitary massive hit, Royals, a few years back. Her new album, Melodrama, is an outpouring of self-confidence and young energy; it is just impossible not to be riveted by the rhythms and by the originality of both performance and songwriting. Lorde is here to stay. «

RESISTANCE RADIO: THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE – ORIGINAL TV SERIES SOUNDTRACK

» ….In Amazon Prime’s TV drama series The Man in the High Castle,  Nazi Germany and Japan won WWII and divided the US between them, and we are entering the story in the 1960s, with some of the great music that actually came out of that decade. You’re bound to recognize a good few of the songs, here performed by Sharon van Etten, Beck, Sam Cohen, Michael Kiwanuka, Grandaddy, Kevin Morby and Maybird. The atmosphere in the tracks gives me the chill. So does the series. «

SEXSMITH SWINGHAMMER SONGS – LORI CULLEN

» There is nothing wrong being inspired by other artists, and jazz singers tend to rely on a songbook of standards when picking their material. Lori Cullen has gone one step further, and let two of her fellow countrymen, her husband Kurt Swinghammer and composer/singer Ron Sexsmith , produce and write her new album, Sexsmith Swinghammer Songs, from start to finish. Cullen’s lovely, airy and summerwind-swinging voice fits the songs like a glove. «

TRUTH IS A BEAUTIFUL THING – LONDON GRAMMAR

» Hannah Reid of London Grammar has a voice truly out of the ordinary, with a rare strength and range. Their second album, Truth is a Beautiful Thing, delivers on the promise of the first, and then some. There is something almost divine about Reid’s sad vocal as it surrounds and wraps itself around you. It is just so beautiful. «

YOUNGER NOW – MILEY CYRUS

» … Miley Cyrus (has gone from) from Disney princess to fullblown adult artist. I loved her previous album Bangerz as well, but Younger Now places her on the map of artists that are here to stay. She no longer caters to her teenage audience only, if at all? Here are strong vocals, influences from all over the place, including a duet with Dolly Parton, would you believe. The album is a true treasure chest.»

Titlemania

Gone are the days of ”She Loves You”, ”Fever” and other short titles accurately reflecting the content of the song. These days I seem to come across one weird and wonderful song and album title after the other, and in this edition of the blog there are more peculiar and tempting titles than ever. But then there are more titles to choose from than ever, too – 119 new songs are added to an already voluminous list. Consider it a pre-Christmas gift; the real Christmas gift comes in a few weeks’ time when The Best of 2017 is ready for consumption.

The updated list? You find it here….

Sparks

The masters of weird titles must surely be Sparks, the American band that has resurrected after decades away, and with the exact same type of peculiar and entertaining music some of us remember them by. Their album, Hippopotamus, can be a mouthful and an earful for the unsuspecting listener, but I have given you a low-energy spark with my selection, then you can go for a higher voltage if you like it.

Dance a Crooked Calypso with Paul Heston & Jacqui Abbott. Don’t know how? Their new album will teach you. Heston and Abbott flirt shamelessly with pop clichés, but they do it without too many banalities. Left are catching songs that you seemed to have heard before, but I doubt you have.

Van Morrison
Photo: BBC

Some of the songs on Van Morrison’s new album I am sure you recognize, though. Van stays in familiar territory on Roll with the Punches, blues, soul and ballads the way you want it from The Man, no surprises, but comfort and safety for both artist and listener.

Marc Almond
Photo: Mike Owen

You ought to recognize some songs from Marc Almond’s new album as well. The melodramatic sobs in Almond’s vocals is sometimes a bit over the top, but his renditions of old classics are mostly wonderful, celebrating a great time in pop music. Shadows and Reflections is a great and accurate title, because that’s what it is.

Ane Brun

Ane Brun has gone one step further. Her album Leave Me Breathless is also a tribute to yesterday’s catalogue of classics, but she has in many ways used the songs as inspiration and almost created new songs out of some of the soppiest songs of the 80s. The result is remarkable, very touching and emotional.

Chris Price

On of the most amazing new albums of the year is Stop Talking by Chris Price. Not since Harry Nilsson, John Miles and their likes have I heard more astonishing new pop music from a fairly new artist. Price is only 33 years old and have only made a few albums before this. There are virtually no songs on this album that are uninteresting and run-of-the-mill, and I had a hard time choosing what to play for you. . Together with old hacks like McVie and Buckingham, Chris Price has invigorated pop music in 2017, but being new at the game makes it just that more impressive.

Robert Plant

Robert Plant is also an old hack, and it is less of a surprise that he releases a great album, even as late in life as in his late 60s (He turns 70 next year). Carry Fire is a powerful album from a confident and wise artist, who wants to share both his lyrical and musical wisdom with his audience. This is an artist that cares, so listen well.

The War on Drugs

On to two American bands that radiate a similar confidence. The War on Drugs offers the softest touch of the two, inspired by country but still safely placed in rock territory. There is true passion in the songs, and a vulnerability in Kurt Vile’s voice that always catches my ear. I have to admit I listen less and less often to bands, but The War on Drugs, and their new album A Deeper Understanding, push me back in band territory.

The National

That’s where I meet The National, another band that never ceases to please me, although a new listener might find the songs a bit introvert. I don’t expext The National to be the greatest crowd pleasers live, but they certainly please me with their dark and eerie but oh so beautiful songs. Their new album Sleep Well Beast, is maybe less accessible than previous albums, so if you are in doubt, go to their back catalogue for even greater, darker pleasures.

Susanne Sundfør
Photo: Per Ole Hagen

From dark introvert to sweet introvert, two albums that touch emotional strings through two great vocalists: Susanne Sundfør started out as a singer and pianist. Now she is back behind the piano, and her voice is at the forefront of the songs again, after a period of flirting with other formats (successful flirts, I might add). Music for People in Trouble is a magnificent album with songs with strong emotional cores.

Beth Hart
Photo: Greg Watermann

Fire on the Floor showcases another brilliant voice, Beth Hart. Like Sundfør, you can’t peg her into one particular genre, but she seems to be more at home with the blues than with anything else. She is supposedly better live than in the studio, and I look forward to testing that later this month when I am given the chance to attend one of her concerts.

Molecules – Karoline Wallace and Erlend Skomsvoll
Photo: Petter Asbjørnsen

I have attended quite a number of concerts with Molecules as well, primarily because my daughter Karoline Wallace is the vocalist and her partner Petter Asbjørnsen the bass player. Believe me, listening to Molecules is something I do with pleasure. Yes, it might be labelled modern jazz, but the playfulness, the musicality, the flirt with rhythms and melodies, make much of the music accessible for people outside of the small modern jazz circle. Their album Louder than You, with Norway’s brilliantly inventive pianist Erlend Skomsvoll, has received rave reviews from jazz reviewers.

Shelby Lynne & Allison Moorer

A different genre, altogether (and I hope the range of genres in the list is one of the reasons so many choose to listen and continue to subscribe) is country, and Shelby Lynne, one of my longstanding favourites. She is out with a new album together with her sister, Allison Moorer, Not Dark Yet. A duet album like this will always include some compromises; Moorer is more of a traditionalist than Lynne; but I still enjoyed both the familiar Lynne material, and some of the songs they had obviously concocted together.

Jake Bugg

On to two artists that have in common how well they have come of age. Jake Bugg became an overnight sensation a few years ago, with his slightly trembling voice , moody look and catchy songs. Now he is back with an exquisite album, Hearts that Strain, and all my scepticism is burnt away from the first track. The album was recorded in Nashville, and you can hear the influence of musicians who know how to communicate and have done it for a long time.  Bugg is more than a one-hit wonder.

Miley Cyrus

And so is Miley Cyrus, from Disney princess to fullblown adult artist. I loved her previous album Bangerz as well, but Younger Now places her on the map of artists that are here to stay. She no longer caters to her teenage audience only, if at all? Here are strong vocals, influences from all over the place, including a duet with Dolly Parton, would you believe. The album is a true treasure chest.

Phoebe Bridgers

Phoebe Bridgers is a new and more introvert singer songwriter. Her first album is definitely worth listening to, haunting and sorrowful songs, performed with Bridgers’ laid-back vocals, leaving room for the lyrics and the musicality in each song. Like som many new artists, Bridgers got attention when her songs were picked for soundtracks of TV series and commercials, but Stranger in the Alps shows that this was just stepping stones on her way to a musical career.

Silje Nergaard

I am closing the last regular blog entry in 2017 with three Norwegian artists. Silje Nergaard rose to international prominence with her collaboration with Pat Matheny, two decades ago. Since then she has released albums and toured with her user-friendly jazz, making friends way outside the jazz community. Now she moves into electronica (not very far, though) and the result is a mix of some easily forgettable songs and some very strong tracks, some of the best songs she has recorded in years. Obviously you will find the latter songs in the playlist. The album is called For You a Thousand Times.

Ine Hoem
Photo: Stian Andersen

Regular readers will remember that I am quite taken with the music of young artist Aurora. Now another Norwegian female artist delves into a similar landscape with a similar mild but insisting voice. Ine Hoem’s Moonbird is a strong album with a surprising number of memorable tracks. Hoem jumps between genres, but she places herself clearly among new artists with an electronic heart.

Bugge Wesseltoft

Finally, when you have listened to the wonderful and varied music of all the above performers, draw you breath, put your feet up, close your eyes, and listen to Bugge Wesseltoft’s grand piano music. On his new album Everybody Loves Angels, he plays both old favourites like Morning has Broken, as well as pieces influenced by old hymns. The music is inimitably Wesseltoft, nobody plays grand piano like him, nobody can find little gems in forgotten songs and raise them up to be enjoyed once more like he does.

The Wave Pictures, Tom Paxton, Sophie Barker, Benjamin Folke Thomas, Daymé Arocena, Jenn Grant, Greni, Laura Marling, Depeche Mode and Alison Kraus, leave us to make room for the 119 songs from 19 albums.

And – please come back for the final list of the year – The Best of 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Worth the Wait?

Well, it is up to you to decide. I have had a busy few months, so had to skip a posting in September, but I hope the 300+ list of songs in the blog list have kept you content and happy while you were waiting for new tracks. Here they are, as delicately cherry picked by me. Enjoy!

Link to Petter’s Blog List: Click here!

Asgeir

Let’s start with Asgeir from Iceland, the protégé of John Grant, who has worked tirelessly to make Asgeir famous beyond the 300 000 inhabitants of Iceland. Hopefully this new album, Afterglow, will build a bridge to the rest of the world. Asgeir´s voice can sometimes be too falsetto for someone who is not fond of Bee Gees after Saturday Night Fever, but I have pruned Afterglow as well as I could, so you should be left with some ripe and juicy pieces of great music.

Hajk
Photo: Gaute Gjøl Dahle

On to neighbouring Norway, and the indie band Hajk, one of this autumn´s most pleasant surprises for me. The band does not stick to one genre, but flirts with many, from ballads to jazz to funk to pop, and does it all well, great songwriting, even greater performances.

Joep Beving

Before we enter the Anglo-Saxon world for good this October, a quick stop-over in Holland, and the pianist/composer Joep Beving’s contemplative album, Prehension. Beving is an creation of Spotify in many ways, he was completely unknown before he posted his music there, and suddenly it took off and he became one of the most listened-to instrumentalists on the service. I can understand why: he is one of the few contemporary composers who are not afraid of imitating the great romantic classical composers. Even how he looks.

Martha Tilston

Martha Tilston will be a well-known voice for those of you who have followed my blog for years. Her album Lucy & The Wolves was a longstanding favourite of mine, and now she is back with Nomad, a country/folk album in the same vein, perhaps a bit less serious and slightly fresher, but with the same trembling, strong voice floating out of the loudspeakers.

Alison Moyet

A slightly lower-pitched voice belongs to Alison Moyet, a darling of the 80s and 90s, no back with a peculiar mix of songs on her new album Other. I have to admit that quite a few of the tracks don’t appeal to me, too much electronica for my taste, but perhaps this is the perfect mix for new listeners? However, there are a number of terrific tracks left – even after I have deducted what I didn’t like. Sorry about the rest, Alison.

Emily Barker

Emily Barker is a new voice to me, even though I do recognize her claim to fame, the theme music to the British Wallander series. Parker is Australian and has recorded her Sweet Kind of Blue in Memphis. She is hard to pinpoint, skipping from folk to pop to more bluesy stuff, but I like the album and her voice, although a bit indistinct.

 

I know the flags may be a bit provocative, but they are used in Amazon Prime’s TV drama series The Man in the High Castle, in which Nazi Germany and Japan won WWII and divided the US between them, and we are entering the story in the 1960s, with some of the great music that actually came out of that decade. You’re bound to recognize a good few of the songs, here performed by Sharon van Etten, Beck, Sam Cohen, Michael Kiwanuka, Grandaddy, Kevin Morby and Maybird. The atmosphere in the tracks gives me the chill. So does the series.

Randy Newman
Photo: Matt Sayles

Randy Newman is also a master of soundtracks, and who would have believed? The singer behind Short People and other not-so-politically-correct tracks from the 70s and 80s has become a household name in families with children! But I am sure Newman is a true softie at heart, for I know few who can write a better and more heartfelt love song than him. His new album, Dark Matter, is full of them, but also acidly poignant songs about the time we live in. I love both sides of his persona. One of the greatest.

John Mellencamp
Photo: Joe Robbins/Getty Images

I like John Mellencamp best when he is rockin’ and rollin’. On his new album, Sad Clowns and Hillbillies, he does that way too little. For those of you who enjoy the country side of Mellencamp, you are in for a field day, for the rest of us, enjoy the four tracks I have added, two of which are duets with Carlene Carter.

Will Stratton

From rock’n’roll to very laidback sweet folksy pop music: Will Stratton gives us handpicking acoustic guitars, lots of heartfelt lyrics, but also broad orchestra arrangements, adding colour and lots of texture. His album Rosewood Almanac is his fifth album, so if Stratton touches you with this album, there is a great back catalogue to enjoy.

Pieta Brown

Or you could listen to Pieta Brown, another American folk pop singer, with a dreamy voice and with an album, Postcards, filled with laid-back songs. All of these have in common that Pieta sent the tracks to different collaborators, ten in all, like Calexico and Mark Knoffler, who then finished and augmented the recording they received. An interesting experiment, and one that actually works well.

John Moreland

Lots of folk inspired music this week, I will even end with John Moreland, a very American singer with a raspy voice, with earnest songs with more than a dash of heart. Moreland is a musician’s musician, but his Bruce Springsteen-light style is catching on, reviewers are lining up to recommend him and his new album Big Bad Luv. So will I.

A number of artists have kept you happy while you have waited for new tracks. Now the following are moving on to make room for the dozen new albums introduced here: Silyia & The Sailors, Rhiannon Giddens, Rag’n’Bone Man, Jens Lekman, Elbow, Jim Lauderdale, Izo Fitzroy and Wesley Stace.

Figurative Art in Your Ears

I have said it before (and will most likely say it again soon) – there is such an astonishing amount of incredible music being produced, and I bet you only get to hear a tiny fraction of it. My guess is that most of you will only have been exposed to at the most five of this week’s albums. I hadn’t been, until I started this month’s hunt. But the great music is out there, as you will soon see – and hear.

Most of the 103 new songs in the list are accessible pop, rock, country or jazz recordings, with a straight path from the source to your brain’s pleasure centre. True figurative art, in other words, nothing abstract about it, beauty to be indulged from the first note.

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The Beatles

But let’s start with the least contemporary in this week’s list, one of music’s greatest masterpieces, Sgt. Pepper’s Heart Club Band by The Beatles, re-released in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of its original release. There is not very much to be said that hasn’t already been said about this milestone in music, except to repeat that this album has probably inspired more music than any other album in history. To think that this was produced by George Martin with 4 tracks available, beggars belief.

Ray Davies
Photo: Pal Hansen, The Observer

If it hadn’t been for The Beatles, perhaps Kinks would have been the world’s most loved pop group of the 60s, but they always came in second, which is saying nothing about the fabulous pop music they left us with. Their genius frontman Ray Davies – now Sir Ray Davies – is not only rereleasing old masterpieces; he is making new ones. Americana is truly a brilliant album, filled to the brim with storytelling from America, both personal and other people’s stories. He hasn’t lost the knack for composing great pop tunes on the way and seems to have been inspired, not limited, by sticking to a concept.

Jakob Ogawa
Photo: Natt & Dag

A giant leap from the Beatles and Kinks to two young artists on their way up in the world. Jakob Ogawa has only released an EP, Bedroom Tapes, but the sound is modern and truly original, and gives promise of an artist we will listen to a lot in the future. This is sweet and accessible, with great harmonies and a figurative and genderless musical landscape to embrace the sounds of summer.

Lorde

Lorde from New Zealand is only slightly older than Jakob Ogawa, but she has already developed immensely as an artist, following what easily could have been a solitary massive hit, Royals, a few years back. Her new album, Melodrama, is an outpouring of self-confidence and young energy; it is just impossible not to be riveted by the rhythms and by the originality of both performance and songwriting. Lorde is here to stay.

Charlotte dos Santos

The same must be said about Charlotte dos Santos. Charlotte has been a friend of our family since she was a young girl, and I have been fortunate enough to follow the development of a great talent, but even I was taken aback when I heard her debut album, Cleo. She dares to try out musical styles that she is interested in herself, without paying any attention to what is pc for a debuting artist, which is why Charlotte is impossible to typecast within a musical genre. Maybe that is why this album will be the first of many. Congratulations, Charlotte!

Cigarettes After Sex

The American trio Cigarettes After Sex is another debuting artist. The band released an EP in 2012, and now, five years later, the album Cigaretters After Sex is ready for the public. The dreamlike and low-energy, sweet pop songs can either bore you or relax and appease. To me they do the latter.

Dan Auerbach

 

 

 

 

It is  quite a task to find any resemblance whatsoever between the gritty rock’n’roll of Black Keys and the music on their frontman Dan Auerbach’s solo album Waiting on a Song. His alter ego has visited Nashville and produced a country pop album, filled with fun, fun, fun, hand-clapping and sunny riffs rarely created outside the city limits of Nashville. Thank you, Dan, for giving us a tasty summer album.

The Unthanks

We also have a lot to thank The Unthanks for (I couldn’t resist, sorry). They have brought attention to the little known mother of a little known artist from the 60s. Molly Drake never published any of her sweet, romantic and truly poetic songs, but obviously inspired her son Nick Drake, a quiet but outstanding folk singer who met an early death, with her compositions. Now the songs come to new life though The Unthanks album Diversions No 4.: The Songs and Poems of Molly Drake. I am really touched by the frailness and incredible beauty of some of these songs.

Ron Sexsmith

Ron Sexsmith is also a terrific storyteller, and an artist who creates silly love songs without making you cringe. He has a rare ability to write songs that feel familiar even when you cant possible have heard them before. And he is doing this without plagiarizing himself or other artists. The Last Rider is filled with such songs.

Lindsey Buckingham & Christine McVie

The same can be said, and perhaps with even greater emphasis, about the new Fleetwood Mac album (which it isn’t) by Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie. I keep thinking, this can’t be a new album? They don’t write and perform songs like this any more? Well, they surely do, and if you used to love the Mac, you’re in luck, for the kings and queens weren’t dead, at least two of them resurrected, and this truly utterly brilliant album came as a result. I have been given ten new sing-a-longs for the car.

London Grammar
Photo: BBC Radio 6

Hannah Reid of London Grammar has a voice truly out of the ordinary, with a rare strength and range. Their second album, Truth is a Beautiful Thing, delivers on the promise of the first, and then some. There is something almost divine about Reid’s sad vocal as it surrounds and wraps itself around you. It is just so beautiful.

Arve Henriksen

So is the music of trumpeter Arve Henriksen. We used to reach total calmness with the sax music of Jan Garbarek years back. Now Henriksen brings back some of the same ambient, eerie music on Towards Language. If you need to truly relax and take leave of the world for a while, put this album on. And if you don’t have the time, listen to it twice.

Saint Etienne

The British band Saint Etienne has released a concept album, Home Counties, with stories from the heart of England, the areas around London. I am sure this has more relevance for people growing up there, but the album offers refreshing and wide-ranging pop music even for us who grew up elsewhere.

Imelda May

Irish diva Imelda May has invited other icons, T-Bone Burnett, Jeff Beck and Jools Holland, to make an album, Life Love Flesh Blood,  with her, and the result is as great as can be expected, emphasizing May’s distinctive and slightly theatrical (in a good way) voice. This music is timeless with roots going in all directions, as you should expect from a chanteuse of Imelda May’s calibre.

Youn Sun Nah

Another great and distinctive voice belongs to South Korean singer Youn Sun Nah, although she hasn’t managed to reach the same diva status as Imelda May. I kept playing her 2009 album Voyage again and again back then and recommended it to everyone. Her new album She Moves On, is also interesting and pleasing, but Youn Sun Nah still seems to be looking for a unique way to make a mark on the musical world. She enhances most songs she performs, so this is definitely worth delving into.

Cameron Avery

Cameron Avery is also looking for his own inimitable style – or perhaps he isn’t? His album, Ripe Dreams Pipe Dreams, offers so much, but is more related to the big crooners than to the psychedelic rock he used to perform before. There is Lee Hazelwood and Leonard Cohen in there if you listen carefully, and then some.

I don’t want to stretch your attention too much, so to leave room for 102 new songs, I take out the songs that have been there the longest, tracks from Laura Veirs, Halfdis Huld, Courtney Marie Andrews, the xx, La La Land, Carol Bach-y-Rita, Brent Cash, SOHN, and Kathryn Williams.

See you after summer!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Return of the Troubadour

….and the departure of one.

Click to go to blog list on Spotify

A taste of 16 full-fledged albums – and six singles are what I can offer you today. The sheer number of new songs alone – 100 in all – ought to explain why it has taken so long to renew my blog list, because I listen to at least three times that, to end up with songs I hope and think you will enjoy. Among the chosen many, a number of chic and not-so-chic troubadours, the best of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest (not that many) and songs from an artist particularly close to my heart – my own daughter. So let’s start with the troubadours.

Mark Nevin

Mark Nevin is an old favourite of mine from Wales, previously lead singer of Fairground Attraction. His new album, My Unfashionable Opinion, is not nearly as good as his brilliant Beautiful Guitars of 2014, but there are sweet, personal songs in between. Nevin wouldn’t have won Idol, but that is also why I like his unpolished vocals. And we share birthday…

Cory Branan

Cory Branan’s voice is equally unpolished, but that’s what you’d expect from a Memphis singer-songwriter. He was given a Newcomer of the Year award as early as 2000, even without a recording contract at that time. His new album, Adios, is rough and brings Bruce Springsteen to mind. He is at his best, however, when he turns to ballads and the contagious rhythms of “Walls, MS”.

Curse of Lono

Curse of Lono and their new album Severed, offers a strange mix of slightly popmpous Americana and a taste of Dire Straits. Again it is a bit rough, but I like the mix and the surprises the tracks offer.

 

 

Dan Clews

Dan Clews was brought out of the shadows by Sir George Martin of Beatles fame. Not that his music reminds me much of the Fab Four, but Clews is no doubt a true troubadour with a genuine English feel, even in the title While Middle England Mows Its Lawn.

 

Andrew Combs

American Andrew Combs is a very similar artist, an as American as Dan Clews is British. Combs brings fond memories of singers of the 70s and 80s like Gordon Lightfoot and Jackson Browne. His album Canyons of My Mind is his third, and worth listening to in its entirety, a truly great album.

Tom Hickox

Deep-voiced Tom Hickox is out with his second album, Monsters in the Deep. This is more pop than folk-inspired, and as the title implies, a bit dark. The songwriting is top notch and the album is a strong collection worth spending time with.

 

Aimee Mann

I will count Aimee Mann among troubadours as well. She has issued a lot of terrific music previously, but I think her new album Mental Illness is her best ever. There is true greatness in many of the songs, great lyrics woven around good and hummable melodies, all performed with a certain detachment without ever becoming cold.

Father John Misty

And from one exquisite album to another: Father John Misty has done it again. His previous album I named Album of the Year in 2015. I would argue that his new collection is of no lesser quality. There is something truly unique with his voice, with the peculiar choice of stories to tell. Each track is a little symphony, and can take repeated plays, in fact requires repetition. The title is Pure Comedy.

Karen Elson

Then on to four female artists in a row. Karen Elson from Oldham has moved to Los Angeles and produced a lavish and at times grandiose album, Double Roses. There is a lot of First Aid Kit, Kate Bush and Laura Marling inspirations here, but Karen is no doubt original enough to stand the comparisons.

 

 

 

Eliane Elias
Photo: Getty Pictures

Brazilian Eliane Elias is primarily a jazz pianist, but I adore her oh-so laid back vocal style. Yes, Diane Crall is perhaps the champion of the singing pianist club, but I must admit I like Elias even better. Dance of Time is her latest album.

 

Coco Hames

Coco Hames takes us back to the 60s and 70s female singers with a twang and reverberation in their voices. Her self-titled album Coco Hames lacks a bit of variety, but she stays true to her style, and I do like many of the songs, well-crafted and fun to listen to.

 

Unnveig Aas

Country singer Unnveig Aas has also found a particular and peculiar way of singing, that I am sure will please some and annoy others. The album title Old Soul is truly befitting. Aas is 27 years, but the songs have an old-fashioned feel to them, with a lot of pain and signs of a life lived.

 

 

Bob Dylan

Before we leave the troubadours altogether, let’s listen to the one who left. Bob Dylan has lately concentrated his efforts on songs of his parents, the American Songbook. He is an unlikely crooner, but strangely enough it works when he quacks his way through one standard after the other. It is not as successful as Rod Stewarts previous releases, but there is something honest and genuine here that I like. The album title is Triplicate.

 

Mike & The Mechanics

A group that hasn’t change one bit is Mike & The Mechanics, and that is not necessarily meant as a compliment. They had a massive hit more than 20 years ago, and I am sure we could have done without a new album, Let Me Fly,  from them. Still, they know how to build a good pop song, even if all the musical clichés are in use.

Karoline Wallace

Then on to Proud Dad section. My daughter, Karoline Wallace, has been involved in two releases since my last blog. She is part of the trio Lekerommet that released a children’s jazz album, the story of the chicken who couldn’t sing. Both the songs and Norwegian lyrics are playful, funny even for grown ups, and sophisticated enough for the adult ear. She is also the lead singer in the band Vellichor, who released their first single, Final Hours, a couple of weeks ago. This is melodic pop, but again there is sophistication in the song writing.

 

 

Finally, over to this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. Most of the songs have nothing to do in my blog list, but I must say I was pleasantly surprised by a few of the songs (Austria – Portugal – Armenia – Hungary – Belgium), and it pleased me even more that quality was rewarded this year, with Salvador Sobral winning with what will surely be a classic, Amar Pelos Dois.

Salvador Sobral
Photo: AFP

As an extra treat, let us end with a number of tracks from Salvador Sobral’s dual language album Excuse me. He is like a breath of fresh air in a music business to a great extent taken over by format composers. He encompasses everything this list is all about.

 

To make room for 100 new songs, we say goodbye to Pretenders, Tor Miller, Vaults, Agnes Obel, Howe Gelb, Thom Hell, Nataly Dawn, Arborist, Nouvelle Vague, Rodrigo Leao & Scott Matthew, Emili Sandé, Michael Bublé, Saint Motel, Lori Cullen and Hugh Coltman .