This time, let me start on a personal note: I have lately been struggling with symptoms of Meniere’s Disease, a benign but very inhibiting illness that has given me days, even weeks, of hearing loss and hearing distortions – not something one would want to struggle with when you’re writing a music blog. That should explain why it has been months since my last blog update. On my good hearing days I have been listening to a lot of great, not so great and, frankly, bad music – so you don’t have to. The result is 36 new tracks in the great-category, more than two hours to be enjoyed with the rest of the tracks in my blog list. Hopefully I will be allowed to listen more consistently in the coming months, so you don’t have to wait this long between posts. Luckily the blog list offers hours upon hours of great listening, so you have very little chance of being too bored, hopefully.
…and remember you can get straight to any album by clicking on the album title…
We start in the most unlikely of places, the Hebrides, yes a part of Scotland, but it’s more exotic to treat as a separate entity (Hebrides voted to remain in the EU three weeks ago – just saying). Mull Historical Society is a one-man band, Colin McIntyre, from the tiny island of Mull. He is a respected musician (and fiction writer!), and has opened for bands like Elbow. His 2001 album, Loss, has been performed in its entirety, just like more famous artists have done with their best albums. His new album is called Dear Satellite, with a number of well-crafted pop songs with deep roots in the eighties. I have picked five enjoyable tracks for you, including his minor hit, Build Another Brick.
A slightly bigger country – or entity if you like – Denmark, has produced a similar artist, Jacob Bellens. I am fascinated by his latest album, Polyester Skin, an intelligent and brilliant collection of pop songs, performed by a vocalist with a rare and moving voice. This album deserves to be wider known, so spread the word if you like the six tracks I have added. Start with Untouchable and listen to the eerie and haunting keyboard intro before we glide into Bellens’ equally haunting voice.
I am very fond of jazz, not all of it, but Ella Fitzgerald and her cocktail jazz contemporaries are among my life’s greatest joys. I have been reluctant, however, to add too much jazz to my list; this is a pop and rock list more than anything and I don’t want to put anyone off. But I can’t resist serving up the wonderful New York duo, Twin Danger and their album Twin Danger, for you. They want to sound as if Frank Sinatra was in The Clash, not sure if I agree, but hey, if it arouses your interest… Vocalist Vanessa Bley and saxophonist Stuart Matthewman write and perform as if all their songs are classics already. Perhaps that’s they way classics were made back when one made classics.
George Gershwin has always been a favourite of cocktail jazz artists. No wonder; his music is ingenious, some of the best tunes ever written by any composer in any time period. Now country singer Willie Nelson tries his best with Gershwin songs on the album Summertime. Many of his versions are too straight and right off the sheet for my taste, but Nelson’s twang, guitar playing and emotive voice give a different feel to a number of the songs, and I have added six that ought to create a sing-a-long around the bar-b-Que this summer.
Two English girls complete this week’s new blog songs, one you might very well remember with pleasure, the other a new voice, at least for me. Tanita Tikaram ought to have a number of flags representing her in my blog. She is born to a Fijian father and Malaysian mother, in Germany, but she grew up in Basingstoke, and you don’t get more English than that. Her debut album, Ancient Heart, from 1988, is one of the best folk rock albums of the 1980s. Her newest album, Closer to the People, four years in the making, is a truly pleasant surprise. She is still writing and performing innovative and pleasing songs, happier sounding than before, even though her alto voice adds a certain seriousness to everything she does. And I still don’t get the lyrics, which I love.
Lucie Silvas could have waved Scottish and New Zealander flags, but unlike her parents she was born and raised in Kingston-upon-Thames outside London. On her third album, Letters to Ghosts, she really shows off her craftsmanship both as a singer and songwriter, with a clever and varied mix of pop, rock and country. Her voice is not the easiest to distinguish from other singers, but the songs she performs are more easily recognizable, easily hummable and enjoyable. I have picked what I consider the best six tracks from a very good album.
I am waving goodbye to a number of artists this week, making room not only for these 36 great tracks, but for future tracks I hope I can find for you and can listen to without too much distortion. The following leave us: Sara Bareilles, Judy Collins, The Zombies, Kovacs, Sondre Justad, Ingbjørg Bratland, Danni Nicholls, Tom Jones, Chris Cornell, Giorigio Moroder, Melanie Gardot, Jesper Munk, Sarah Blasko, The Waniwright Sisters, Son Little, Senabo Sey, Yael Naim, Bill Wells, Mariza, Leah Nobel, Jools Holland and Ruby Turner, Electric Light Orchestra and Lana del Rey. Some of these I am positive will reappear in this year’s best of collection in December.