«How much have changed and how little have changed», writes David Byrne in his terrific, insightful book «How Music Works», describing popular music’s evolution. So, even if Bob Dylan’s «The Times They Are A-changin'» is released in new, shining armour in Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s 2021 version, it is still the same same tough inside. I hope this blog post and the updated Petter’s Short List bear witness to both all the changes and at the same time how much stay the same.
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 and 2021….. Click here.
And – by clicking on the album covers in the blog, you will be taken directly to that particular album in full.
Arlo Parks of Hammersmith, London, is barely 20 years old, and her debut album made it to the top on hit lists all over the world this year. Her original, contemporary sound is innocent and sensuous at the same time, her skillful voice rolls so effortlessly across the melodies. You want to glide around the room while listening, at least in your mind.
Annie Strand is more than twice the age of Arlo Parks, but she has a similar innocence in her voice, but her music is considerably more stringent. Still, this is synth-pop as good as it is possible to make it. It is rarely boring and repetitive. I never expected to like this, but there is something mature and world accustomed about these pop tunes, they snuggle up to you and refuse to let you escape. Annie has only released four albums since debuting around the turn of the century. Sometimes it pays off to take your time.
Back to youth, but this time to garage band music more than silky contemporary pop. Lande Hekt is a young British artist who focuses as much on her opinionated lyrics as on the music. She writes what she feels, surpisingly more politcal than what we get from young artists today, personal and gritty.
Songs are handed down through generations, claims folk singer Kate Rusby. So why wait too long? She has rerecorded some of the songs she grew up with from the 80s and forward, instead of diving into the traditional song book. Rusby has got an interesting take on the songs, classics that you probably know very well already. She doen’t actually give them a folk sound, rather she softens the songs, even the up-tempo tracks. Listen, and you may understand what I mean. At times it borders on being uninteresting and a bit dull, but mostly it is sweet and touching, like praise of a friend.
In December last year I made you listen to Sade’s classic album, Diamond Life. There is a lot of Sade in Michael Milosh and his band Rhye (or is it his alternate persona Rhye?), smooth, andrygenous, funky and silky, music always on the move. This is sophisticated pop with remnants of jazz and soul.
The Guardian has already named Jacob Collier as jazz’ new Messiah, which must be quite daunting for a 26-year old. The EP Jacobian Chill is clearly a side project for him, but should not be overlooked. This is such an elaborate piece of work, with the lushest of harmonies and melodies. It is chill, yes, but it brings memories of the harmonies of Queen (more of that later) and perhaps Laura Mvula, perhaps Manhattan Transfer, and it keeps surprising at every turn – even as your’re chilling.
Arizona singer Danielle Durack has written what is labelled as a breakup album. Perhaps so, but for me this is delicate indie music, not all of it interesting, but enough pleasing tracks to make it into my blog list this month.
There’s a Norwegian dialect term, «gammalt fydde», old born, that comes to mind when I listen to young Jimi Somewhere, because there is nostalgia in his music, even though it so clearly is contemporary and coming from a young artist. There is also melancholy in even his most up tempo songs, or maybe I am just being thrown off by the sadness in Jimi’s voice.
With this album Celeste became the first British female artist in five years to have a number one debut album on the British album charts. And deservedly so. I introduced you to her in the last blog list, with the single A Little Love. Celeste is an exceptionally talented songwriter, and even though one might grow tired of the sweet naivité of her voice, there is enough variation on this album that I keep wanting more. A timeless album, I dare argue.
Sami band ISÁK from Norway continues to impress with their world pop music, with lyrics both in Sami and in English. In the centre of the soundscape is Ella Marie Hætta Isaksen and her expressive voice.
Staying in Northern Norway and with expressive voices: Sivert Høyem, lead singer of Madrugada, is out with an EP of magic proportions, so powerful and yet so gentle. It is easy to say that it is all in Sivert’s deep voice, but the songs are impeccable craftmanship as well.
Even old rockers mellow with age. Steve Hackett of Genesis fame is out with another accoutic solo album, inspired by his interest in music from all sides of the Mediterranean. Some of the tracks become too mellow for my taste, but Hackett shows how to work a guitar and how to find musical gems and make them your own.
There is truly a little bit of everything in this month’s single list! Good old Christopher Cross of Arthur movie fame is back, as is Noel Gallagher, Don McLean, David Bowie and Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. There are great songs that didn’t succeed in European Song Contest and even a piece by Jean-Philippe Rameu, written in the beginning of the 1700s. And that’s not half of it. Enjoy!
American Pie – Home Free & Don McLean
Build a Fire – Adam Douglas
Coming Home – River
Evan – Elise Le Grow
Gammel mann – Morten Abel
I Can’t Escape – IMERIKA
i dunno love – Rikke Normann
I Put a Spell on You – Brandi Carlile & Renée Elise Goldsberry
Just One Kiss – Imelda May & Noel Gallagher
King Of Letting Go – Sondre Lerche
Love Me When I Go to Sleep – Steady Holiday
Mary Ann – Christopher Cross
Moving Men – Myd & Mac De Marco
new year’s in paris – Francesca Blanchard
Nostalgi – Jørgen Krøger Mathisen & Karoline Wallace
Own Yourself – Dinaye
The Arts and the Hours – Vikingur Ólafsson
Skyll på mig – Bo Sundström
Sounds of Then (This is Australia) – Sarah Blasko
Tá’n Tádh Liom – Rónan Ó Snodaigh
The Times They Are A-Changin’ – Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Roseanne Cash, Steve Earle, Jason Isbell & The War and Treaty
Try! – Airelle Besson, Benjamin Moussay & Fabrice Moreau
Tryin’ To Get To Heaven/Mother – David Bowie
Was It Just Me – Douwe Bob
Witch Woods – EMMY
Wonderful Surprise – Zerrin Özer
Every month I try to put together a playlist for you spanning a great number of musical genres. To do that I have to cover a great many artists in each blog post. Few artists dare to move away from their chosen path, sticking to one genre, sometimes for their whole career. I would argue that some of the greatest artists in popular music are artists who dared to experiment, and refuse to be pinned down. Queen is a perfect example, and their fourth album, A Night at The Opera from 1975, proves the point better than any. Queen is using the whole scale of genres, and then some, from progressive rock to vaudeville to ballads to dixieland to hard rock. The album challenges every human sense, making it impossible not to pay attention while listening. Some of the best songs in music history are found on A Night at the Opera, Love of My Life and Bohemian Rhapsody foremost among them.