The major advantage of having someone else (me!) listen through the myriad of new music tracks out there, is that you don’t have to listen to songs with little merit, even from artists who mostly deliver. It surprises me to see how many great albums that I present in my blog also have a number of mediocre, weak or uninteresting tracks. That’s why I give you from three to seven tracks from each album, leaving out the not-necessarily-so-brilliant stuff. However, if you really like what you hear from an artist and/or an album, please test the whole album and even that artist’s back catalogue. I am sure you will find more that you like, but also be prepared to be disappointed at times. Some of the albums I add today fall into the category of “mixed bag”, but hopefully you will agree that the specific tracks I have picked offer some good music to brighten your May.
Let’s start with Mr Mixed Bag himself, Ringo Starr, in my view a fabulous drummer and an underestimated member of The Beatles. The world’s best pop group would not have been as great without him. Too few have taken Ringo seriously, and he seems to be among them himself, because most of the solo releases have been at best uninteresting and uninspired. I saw Ringo in concert a few years ago (my daughter’s band While You Slept opened for him, how proud am I of that?), and it hit me how much pure fun it was. This is a man who has put frivolity and happiness into music, and that’s what we should expect from the music, not art. On his latest album, Postcards from Paradise, he is better than ever (still a mixed bag), he even sings better than before, and a number of the tracks leave no doubt that this is an artist who has been around for a long time and brought with him good ingredients that make up excellent pop music. Few musicians seem to have more friends than Ringo, and he brings them to the studio to have fun with him. No man is an island.
Madonna is another classic pop artist relentlessly moving on. Madonna has tried to keep up with the times, but she is still at her best when she goes back to her own 80s roots. Some of the tracks on her new Rebel Heart have that feel to them, and the album is the most backwards looking album from the queen of pop for a very long time. Not that the sound is old fashioned; the production is in most ways 2015, but the writing is often reminiscent of the best songs from the first ten years of Madonna’s impressive career. I have added seven tracks; if you prefer to listen to a less old fashioned Madonna, listen to the whole album.
Another supergroup of rock music is Fairport Convention. They have been around since the 1960s and have spurned great solo artists and have inspired even more. Folk rock without Fairport Convention would have been a totally different matter altogether. They are still around, at least in name, but to a certain degree also in spirit. Their latest release, Myths and Heroes, are, dare I say it, a mixed bag, but the best tracks on the album are up there with the very best the group has produced before. There is very little keeping up with the times here, so if you like what you hear on the blog list, you most likely will enjoy their back catalogue as well.
Ron Sexsmith is now in his fifties, but there is something very boyish in his music, even though the lyrics signify that this is not his first album. I have listened to him for years, and if you have been a follower of my blog for some time, you have been exposed to Sexsmith many times. His newest album, Carousel One, is a bit of a disappointment, but still consists of a number of great tracks, all of them of course in the list. It is a bit mellower than the previous albums, but even a great composer as Sexsmith must be allowed to relax and just have fun.
Brandi Carlile reached super stardom through Grey’s Anatomy with the song The Story. Few artists manage to keep a career going with one single song, and Carlile hasn’t reached the same peaks as after that initial fame, but she has kept going, kept releasing, kept performing, and her intense, powerful voice is still intriguing to listen to. Her new album, The Firewatcher’s Daughter, offers some brilliant songs, albeit less intense than The Story, but still with power and sincerity. Four great tracks are now in the blog list.
Runner-up of the 2010 X Factor in the UK, Rebecca Ferguson, has also managed to keep a career going following the first burst of fame. She has an extraordinary voice, and as with the two previous artists, she has been in my list before. This year she has released a tribute album to Billie Holiday, and her voice fits the material like a glove. The album, Lady Sings the Blues, isn’t a copy of the famous album from one of the greatest voices ever, rather Ferguson has picked songs from Holiday’s whole career, and made them her own. So if you like this, you have two paths to go: back to the originals and back to Rebecca Ferguson’s small but beautiful catalogue. Either way you won’t be disappointed.
I end with two younger artists who haven’t really made it yet; both heavily influenced by our first artist today, Ringo Starr and The Beatles. Keith Mead doesn’t try very hard to be arty-farty, this is sunshine music, happy and chill, and Sunday Dinner may delight you and give promises of the summer to come. He brings memories of Paul McCartney in the late 60s, early 70s. And that’s not half bad.
Canadian Tobias Jesso Jr. also knows how to churn out McCartney-esque songs. He was discovered by Adele, who tweeted about him and got him a spot on Jimmy Fallon in the US. There is a lot of looking back on Goon, I hear Lennon, Billy Joel, and many other similar men in awe of women and love. Jesso’s craftsmanship is undisputed, and I dare predict this is not the last album from him.
Alvvays, Beck, Buika, Erlend Øye, The 2 Bears, Annie Lennox, Sofia Karlsson, Shaun Bartlett, Nina Pedersen and Marit Larsen graciously leave us to make room for the above 44 great tracks.