Prepare yourself to restore to past – and still stay in the present. A bunch of old favourite artists (and a few notable new ones) let themselves be inspired by the past when creating new music. I am injecting the syringe filled with new tracks into an already strong playlist, so get your headphones out and enjoy!
Many of the artists refreshing the list have contributed before, so many of you who have stuck with my playlists for many years will – hopefully- fondly recognize voices and beats.
Let me start with two of the strangest bands around, bands that defy any trend and play what they enjoy. Pink Martini is from Portland, Oregon, but sounds like they come from the heart of Europe, presenting song material from all over the world, completely without musical borders. Their new album, Dream a Little Dream, is a collaboration with the descendants of the Von Trapp family of Sound of Music fame. For you rockers out there, have patience with me, and sail away with the beautiful music of thes musical nonconformists.
An equally strange band is Club de Belugas, with their jazzy dance tracks and swinging ear drum teasers. The German band has been around for a number of years and has a loyal following of fans – and of vocalists. Some of the greatest are represented on their new album, Fishing for Zebras, my personal favourite being Veronika Harcsa, with one of the most distinguished and arousing voices around.
I am also mesmerized by Elani Mandell’s honeycoated voice reminiscent of Nancy Sinatra and Karen Carpenter, so no one should be surprised that she has sneaked into my list again with her new album Dark Lights Up. The album is kinder and softer than her previous albums, so expect no raising of blood pressure from Elani’s songs. Some of the tracks are too soft even for my taste, but the group of songs left in the list should be enough to wet softies’ appetites for more.
Welch singer Jodie Marie, is another list veteran, despite her young age. On her new album, Trouble in Mind, she delves into the blues and soul that got her into music in the first place. She makes no apologies for recreating the sound of soul of the 70s and 80s, in many ways like The Commitments did a decade or so ago. Some of the track choices are a bit unimaginative, though, but of course you won’t find them in the list.
Rikke Normann makes no apologies, either. The Norwegian singer, with the lovely alto voice and a great musical range, plays and writes the music she enjoys, and the result is sophisticated pop with enticing swing elements, creating a unique style of her own. Rikke has studied music in Leeds, England, and has been a collaborator with a number of Scandinavian artists. With Dig Deep she is out front alone, where she belongs.
Lenka was the vocalist in Decoder Ring in Australia, but it was when she left her home country for America that her career really took off. Her airy melodic voice and her knack for creating sweet and sultry pop songs, have been a great combination, proven by her latest album The Bright Side. And bright it is, so bright I should have added it to the list earlier this summer. I still think you can take the sugar shock even this late in the year. I find it impossible to not be charmed by one song in major after the other. Life is good.
If Lenka and the other happy artists above are a tad too much, her comes an antidote in the shape of Magnus Berg, a Norwegian blues artist that has taken the international blues world by storm. Blues Blast Magazine nominated him as Best New Album Debut for Cut Me Loose this year, and blues lovers will applaud the nomination. Magnus spends a lot of his time in the U.S. and there isn’t much Scandinavian influence in his music. I find it fresh and foot-stomping good.
The Last Hurrah! has also picked up a lot of inspiration and band members in the U.S., even though the band is clearly Norwegian-born. I was first impressed by them when the band contributed to the tribute to Pink Floyd last year, recreating part of Dark Side of the Moon in the most creative way. Their album Mudflowers should have had considerably more attention than it has received, despite rave reviews in Norway. But that goes for a lot of artists in my list, one of the principal reasons for me to publish.
I can say the same about the band that named this week’s blog entry, Restore to Past, a lot of fabulous reviews, equally much attention when they played Øyafestivalen in Oslo this summer, but no chart topper for the album Restore to Past. The two musicians behind the band, Kristian Romsøe and Leifson Persbraaten, are the only really stable elements in the band, the rest of the musicans on the album drift in and out of tracks. The result, however, is one of the most beautiful and memorable collections of 2015, from any country.
An artist that definitely has got a lot of attention this summer is George Ezra, and deservedly so. He made his debut with an EP in 2013, but his music bloomed with this year’s Wanted on Voyage. (The title refers to the sticker on Paddington Bear’s suitcase – but of course you knew that). It is beyond belief that Ezra is only 22 years old. His voice has the roughness and confindence of a much more mature artist, and the songwriter Ezra is equally sophisticated and surprising.
I’ll end by taking you to Brazil, to mandolin player Hamilton de Holandia. I haven’t introduced my listeners and readers to mandolin music before, possibly for good reasons, but de Holandia offers Latin American music of the highest quality and enjoyment, going out front only when necessary and letting his fellow musicians shine. O Baile do Almeidhinha is his 21st album, so if you like what you hear, take a day off work and dive into music that will keep you moving. Who can sit still to this? Not me.
With as many as 70 new songs, a few artists will have to leave us, as usual. This time the following artists pay the price of a long list life: Angeleena Presley, Gretchen Peters, Father John Misty, Willie Nile, Damien Rice, Punch Brothers, Mark Ronson and Trevor Bretzer. As this week’s list shows, great artists are invited back.