58 individually picked tunes from 11 artists from 8 different countries have cautiously been added to my blog list, found HERE, to be devoured alone, one following the other or shuffled for your perpetual amazement. Some of the artists you have never heard of, others have most likely been an integral part of your life.
Some of you may even remember the slogan I have used as a title of this week’s blog, for the audiocassette Memorex. I came to think of the commercials when I heard the new album from Irish supergroup Villagers, Where Have You Been All My Life?, because the album was recorded live, without an audience and with all kinds of electronic and acoustic instruments. The songs are all from previous albums, one of which has pleased you blog list listeners before. I consider live recordings a bit flat and uninteresting, but there is something immediate about this Villagers album and the performance of these superb songs. Lead singer Conor O’Brian’s voice sounds more vulnerable and powerful than ever before.
A short trip across the Irish Sea brings us to Wales and the The Anchoress. Catherine Ann Davies hides behind the name, a versatile lady who performs music, writes non-fiction, has a PhD in Literature, and has been artist-in-residence at South Bank Centre in London. The Confessions of a Romance Novelist is not really a debut album for her, but for her “band”. I found the album a bit incoherent, did not enjoy it all, but some of the tracks had a classic feel to them, with roots in music from Kate Bush and a sinister Lily Allen (if there is such a thing).
We might as well take it geographically this week and cross the border to England and two truly classic artists. I suspect most of you readers were deeply saddened by the news of the death of David Bowie, perhaps the most innovative and powerful solo artist in the history of pop music. David Bowie introduced me to rock, his Alladin Sane album is still among my favourite albums of all time. Bowie managed to record one last album before he died and while knowing he was dying. Blackstar is influenced by both rock, jazz and sophisticated pop, and some of the tracks are quite challenging for fans of his most melodic songs. Still, like with most other albums from the master, Blackstars grows on you with every listen, to the extent that you will find yourself humming some of the tracks. I don’t know whether that would have made David Bowie happy or not.
One reviewer said about Suede that they sometimes mistake bigness with greatness, and on their new album, Night Thoughts, that may very well be the case, but I do think that they touch greatness often enough for me to listen to them. Brett Anderson was a guest in Skavlan, a talkshow I am in charge of for my employer NRK, and he argued that an album should be listened to as a unit, not as individual songs. I defy him, and have added four tracks that I particularly enjoy.
I have added three new Norwegian releases, first a solo outing by Highasakite’s Marte Eberson, Mad Boy. Marte was also part of Polopoly together with my jazz singer daughter Karoline, so this is not the first time she experiments outside the highly successful Highasakite environment. Mad Boy proves what considerable influence Marte Eberson has on Highasakite’s universe, because it is hard to hear how the music differs much from their style – which is good news for fans, making Mad Boy a kind of an extra Highasakite album.
I apologize to my non-Norwegian readers, but I have to add a band that sings only in Norwegian, and with lyrics that are as important as the music, No 4. This all-girls group’s first album is a delight, though, and I suspect the harmonies and melodies can please non-Norwegian listeners as well. The jazzy, swing-infused, harmony-strong album, Henda I været (Hands in the air) is filled to the brim with sophisticated lyrics and melodies to go with it.
Sivert Høyem is considerably more accessible for an international audience. Høyem was the lead singer of Madrugada, one of the best rock bands ever to come out of Scandinavia. He went solo a few years back, and with Lioness I hope he will reach international prominence – in Norway he is already an artist filling stadiums. His voice is warm and deep, his music very much grandiose, but this is truly greatness before bigness.
Erik Truffaz was born in Switzerland but has lived and performed in France. His style of jazz is on the truly accessible side, and his Erik Truffaz Quartet is worth listening to even if you don’t feel jazz is your thing. Their latest album Doni Doni mixes world music with jazz, giving it a musical flavour that makes it even more interesting to listen to. Erik Truffaz is a true bridge builder between different musical genres.
n 2015 I claimed Chris Connolly’s solo piano album among the top 10 albums of the year. This year I follow up with Frederico Albanese’s similar album, The Blue Hour. Albanese is using a bit more orchestration, but the album has a solo piano feel to it, and a wonderful feel it is, very romantic, soulful and often mournful. Albanese lives and performs in Berlin.
Then a long journey both musically and geographically, to Sia and Australia. Sia belongs to a group of singer/songwriters that I normally don’t enjoy listening to, shallow and highly commercialized music. But I can’t help being impressed with her ability to create strong and hummable gems on her new album This Is Acting, , and I even forgive her pretentious seriousness, at least most of the time. Nobody can take away her talent both as a performer and as a composer, and her constant criticism of media’s focus on appearance is further softening my resistance.
Finally another album from Eleanor Friedberger, her third outing in my blog list, but the weakest till now. New View has a number of toffee tracks, soft in the middle and hard on the outside, but fewer than on her previous albums. As a blog listener you needen’t worry, though, I have picked what I consider the five best tracks, and if you follow the album link, you can hear the rest as well.
We say goodbye to Sharon Robinson , Pete Atkin, The Deslondes, Buffy Siante-Marie, Roddy Frame, Lenka, Magnus Berg, Eleni Mandell, Rikke Normann, Pink Martini, Club des Beluges, The Last Hurrah!, Hamilton De Holanda, Restore to Past, Jodi Marie and George Ezra. I hope you have enjoyed them while they were part of the list.