Best of Contemporary

It might be true that most of the music in my monthly lists point backwards, focusing on contemporary artists who are inspired by music of the 60s, 70s and 80s. You will find that kind of music in my June-list, but there is also great music from contemporaries whose inspiration – if any – is much more recent, like Lauv, Neon Ion and Perfume Genius.

When I have the time, I listen to BBC2’s Top 20 lists on Saturdays from earlier decades, and it hits me every time how much of the music still lives on 30, 40, 50 years later – and how little of the music from the 90s and 2000s  enjoys the same fate. Hopefully, my list helps to give hope that even today artists write and perform enduring music. It’s just that so much of it drowns in a sea of mediocrity.

How to listen:

Petter’s Short List contains excerpts of the albums and singles reviewed in the current blog entry. Click here.

But you can also listen to Petter’s Long List, which contains all music reviewed this far in 2020. Click here.

And – by clicking on the album covers in the blog, you will be taken directly to that particular album in full

Bakkekontakt
Marthe Wang

Marthe Wang, singing in her native Norwegian, offers a new album of personal songs, her emotive voice meets the ear first, then all the other instruments follow.  I would hope that her lovely melodies also please listeners who cannot relate to the well-crafted lyrics.

Heart Echoes
Neon Ion

Another aspiring Norwegian artist, Natalie Sandtorv, performing as Neon Ion, is out with a truly international album, very contemporary sound, an album that deserves to be played and listened to.

-how I’m feeling
Lauv

Staying in the contemporary sphere of the spectrum, here is the first solo album from an etablished songwriter Lauv – if you can be established at 26. -how I’m feeling is an ambitious album, 21 tracks, and surprisingly varied, while keeping within the limits of Top 40 music.

Looking for Stars
Hooverphonic

Looking for Stars was released in 2018, but has won new relevance this year, as the group was supposed to represent Belgium in ESC. We all know how that went, but the group had in my view one of the best and well-crafted entries (together with Bulgaria’s Victoria, who is also represented in the singles list). Hooverphonic has existed for decades and plays broad pop/rock music with heavy orchestration and brilliant singers.

The Personal Gallery
Ketil Bjørnstad & Guro Kleven Hagen

Pianist and composer Ketil Bjørnstad has invited violinist Guro Kleven Hagen to a unique partership. If you thought that last classical romantic piece was composed before 1900, listen to this delightful album of contemporary compositions.

Quickies
The Magnetic Fields

I have to admit I soon grew tired of Stephin Merrit’s little jokes, some as short as 12 seconds, only a few of them giving any kind of aesthetic experience to the listener. But the pure originality of the album, the sarcasm in the lyrics and the funny titles, still make it worthwhile to have a listen. Most reviewers are over the moon, so….

Renaissance
Lola Young

I am considerably more attuned to Renaissance, the new EP from Lola Young. Her first album was out just a couple of months ago, so this young incredibly talented singer/songerwriter is in a good place musically now. It is still beyond me that she isn’t what the musical press writes about these days, because this is fresh, naughty, so well formulated, and absolutely unique. She ought to be a superstar already.

Set My Heart On Fire Immediately
Perfume Genius

One album the musical press does write about these days, is Mike Hadreas’ (aka Perfume Genius) fifth alibum, Set My Heart on Fire Immediately. I can to a certain extent relate to that, because the album’s sophistication, the nakedness of the lyrics and the beauty of many of the melodies, make it so worthwhile to listen to it. But music reviewers are a pack of wolves, so make up your own mind.

Songs for Our Daughter
Laura Marling

In my view, by far the best album from Laura Marling. The songs are directed toward an imaginary daughter, but the collection still doesn’t have the feel of a concept album. Marling’s voice brings back memories of Suzanne Vega, Joni Mitchell and other great singer/songwriter voices. Lovely, all the way.

A Steady Drip Drip Drip
Sparks

How do we feel about Sparks? This slightly ADHD, neo-operatic universe of theirs that hasn’t changed an iota since last century.  As with Magnetic Fields, it is a bit too much taking it in in one go, but A Steady Drip Drip Drip offers a handful of interesting and enjoyable songs to be metabolized when you’re in the mood.

The Women Who Raised Me
Kandace Springs

Soul-Jazz pianist and singer Kandace Springs has annoyed jazz aficionados for years for not sticking to jazz purity, but I expect they will be more happy with her now with the release of The Women Who Raised Me. I am, on the other hand, not that happy with every choice she makes on this tribute album, but I have picked versions of classics that for me adds new value to old standards. And I won’t stand in the way of letting her leave the beaten track even more, for all it’s worth (not much, I guess).

The Stranger
Billy Joel
(1977)

I saw Billy Joel in concert in 1980 in the U.S., and it is still among the most exhilarating concerts I have attended. But then, I was a great and dedicated Joel fan, and still is. I knew most songs by heart, and most songs came from this album, his greatest commercial success, and his most sold non-compilation album, selling 10 million and still going. If there is a problem with the album, it is just that; it is too successful, there are virtually no little-known songs on it. Still, The Stranger brings back good times and feelings of being young. At least for me.

 

 

Look at the list of artists comprising the singles list this month! In most cases these releases are teasers of more to come, so pick your favourites and look forward to coming months. I will follow release dates closely.

1,2 Miss You – Blanche

Boys – Linda Schöne

Exist for Love – AURORA

Give it to You – Julia Michaels

Gotta Be Patient – Michael Bublé & Barenaked Ladies & Sofia Reyes

I Don´t Want to Talk About It – Albin Lee Meldau

I Got Nothin’ – Dion & Van Morrison & Joe Louis Walker

I Wanna Know – VICTORIA

I Wanna Write You a Symphony – Bleu

Laurie – Tim Burgess

A Nosse Voz – Mariza

NY Man – A Girl Called Eddy

Please Don’t Disappear – And Then Came Fall

Reach Out I’ll Be There – Jonathan Wilson

The Real Question – Dan Wilson

Rise – Ships Have Sailed

Stay Away – Randy Newman

Strange Effect – Unloved & Raven Violet

when i look at you – Rosie Carney

The World is Ending – Brent Cobb

 

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