When Karaoke’s Not Karaoke

There’s been a silly debate going lately that really boils down to whether an artist singing other songwriters’ material is equally worthy of praise as someone performing his or her own material, that performing covers is closer to karaoke than to real art.

I admit I am not particularly fond of listening to people singing in karaoke bars, but I do think in general that artists interpreting other artists can be as enjoyable and impressive as what singer-songwriters do. Hopefully you have found a number of examples in previous playlists to support me in this, and this month I offer a number of tracks of both categories.

Without covers my music collection would be considerably poorer, as would my playlists. What it should boil down to is the quality of the performance and the interpretation, regardless of source of the material.

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. AND – a new feature this month, by clicking on the title of the single, you will go directly to it.

0202
The Rubens

Let’s start the March list in Australia, with one of the country’s most popular band, The Rubens. This is their fourth album, a way of looking back on a horrible year, and hopefully looking forward to better times. This is pop in its purest and most easily accessible form, looking back for inspiration, while still bringing us a solid contemporary sound.

Afterglow
Enrico Pieranunzi & Bert Joris

Belgian trumpetist Bert Joris and Italian pianist Enrico Pieranunzi join forces on this seemingsly effortless collection, and as opposed to many other jazz albums, the tracks are mostly short and easy to take in. Music for pleasure, brilliantly executed by two masters.

A Billion Little Lights
Wild Pink

Back to more lush and rich and pure pop music from Wild Pink, with its head singer/songwriter John Ross, sweeter and gentler than the likes of War on Drugs and Oasis, but still with a similar bite.

Distractions
Tindersticks

To support my argument in the opening paragraph, here comes the 13th studio album from Nottingham-based Tindersticks, with an interesting mixture of covers and originals, and to me the covers are the most interesting tracks. Tindersticks isn’t for everybody, for sure, the band is pushing borders of taste, and sometimes I have a hard time following where Tindersticks try to lead (if that’s what they do). But listen to the tracks I have picked for you, these are among the most interesting tracks in this month’s playlist.

Eléctrico (Temporada 2) Capitólio
3 Juho 2020 (Ao Vivo)
Rodrigo Leão

Why did it take so long for me to discover the music and the musicians of Portugal? And not until recently did I start listening to pianist/guitarist/composer Rodrigo Leão, with his cinematic and broad-brushed instrumental music. This album is from a live performance last year, with lovely strings, a choir and and impeccable performance by Rodrigo Leão himself. Who needs mindfulness?

Good Woman
The Staves

I have to start by saying that I wasn’t too thrilled with this girls’ trio latest album, Good Woman. The songwriting is often a bit dull and uninspired, but the best tracks (and of course I have picked them for you) are sweet and tender and powerful. Most reviewers seem to disagree with me, so if you really like my picks, go to the whole album and prove me wrong. Or right.

Hunter and the Dog Star
Edie Brickell & New Bohemians

Edie Brickell & The New Bohemians have been around since the 1980s, and thank god they haven’t given up yet. This is energized pop, fun and preppy and Edie and the band sound more youthful than ever. Edie Brickell is Paul Simon’s wife, by the way, so you have probably heard a lot of songs about her, without knowing you did.

It Might Be French
Waldeck Sextet & Patrizia Ferrara

The fact that Austrian artist Klaus Waldeck put together a group with 10 musicians and called it a sextet, should tell us something about a performer that does his own thing. On It Might Be French, he brings lounge singer Patrizia Ferrara along, on an acoustic, snappy and swinging EP, quite far from his electronica past.

Me and Ennui Are Friends, Baby
Sarah Mary Chadwick

If this album doesn’t prick your ears, you’re not really listening. Australian Sarah Mary Chadwick brings you songs with absolutely no filters, about break-up, her own destructive behaviour and the other seemingly damaged people in her life. It is all so naked and at times painful to listen to, even though it is only Sarah and her piano. I can’t help being fascinated, though, and she makes me listen to her.

Shapes of Dreams
April Snow

April Snow, or Irya Gmeyner as her real name is, wrote much of the music for the excellent Swedish drama series The Thin Blue Line. Her EP Shapes of Dreams offers lovely and melancholic indie pop.

Sleppe tak
Eva Weel Skram

Norwegian singer/songwriter Eva Weel Skram’s new album is a stripped bare collection of emotional songs, never banal, often with a surprising take on the melodies. Her airy voice is well suited for this kind of music, and the Norwegian lyrics are honest and full of wisdom of life and living.

Sunshine Fruit
Bear Garden

Martin Wirén is Bear Garden, but he is rarely on his own with his saxophone. It is quite rare to hear these kinds of arrangements as on Sunshine Fruit, lots of other wind instruments, but never really sounding like big band music, at least not in the traditional sense. The music is reach and fluid with an almost live feel to it. And truly original.

Taste of Honey
Ulf Wakenius

We’re staying in Sweden, and with a bit of jazz, even though Taste of Honey is a homage to Paul McCartney, both as a solo singer, composer and and as part of The Beatles. There are only two original songs on the album, but the karaoke that’s not karaoke, are nothing less than fabulous tracks. I have kept listening to them over and over again, and have enjoyed Wakenius’ take on songs that are so familiar to me, in many ways reinventing them, but with respect.

Terrien
Julien Clerc

Julien Clerc is among the most established French singer/songwriters, a national treasure at 73. When he released another album this year, it automatically rushed to the top of the charts, even though there is nothing new on Terrien. This could have been recorded years ago, perhaps with the exception of a song inspired by Brexit (!), but that doesn’t make it any less good. Stick with what you know. If you like French chancon with a beat, this is for you.

Valse(s)
Richard Galliano

I remember a cartoon I was years ago, where there are two doors, one leading to Hell and one to Heaven, and with long lines of people waiting to get in. A guard is handing out small harps outside Heaven’s gate, while another guard is handing out accordions outside Hell’s gate. Very funny. But there are many kinds of accordians – and many kinds of accordion players. Richard Galliano should be let into heaven with his little accordion, and he could bring this lovely collection of waltzes. This album melts my heart, and I envision being the man in the Paris bar on the cover, while Galliano plays in the background.

You might find some of the most enjoyable surprises among this month’s single releases, some previews of albums to come, but also a number of interesting artists introductions, like Lydia Luce and Asta Hiroki & Lalin St. Juste. I have grown particularly fond of Ylva’s version of Sondre Lerche’s Sentimentlist and Stacey Kent’s I Wish I Could Go Travelling Again. Ylva, Hedda Mae and Endre Nordvik are part of the cast of a new TV series we have commissioned, at NRK where I work, De neste (The Next) focusing on exceptional new talents.

And – I have added, purely on a trial basis, direct links to each single…! If you don’t need it – or don’t like it or don’t use it, I’ll leave it in future blog entries.

Dried Up River – The Lone Bellow

Drivers licence – Olivia Rodrigo

Flirted With You All My Life – Bright Eyes

Girl from New York City – Loren Nine

Glad to Be Here – Hailey Whitters & Brent Cobb

Glir forbi – Hedda Mae

Great Awakening – Christopher Holland

Heavy – Charlie Moore & Duncan Birkbeck

The Hum – Bedouine

I Oslo – The Little Hands of Asphalt

I Wish I Could Go Travelling Again – Stacey Kent & Art Hiahara

Leaving – Charlie Moore

Left Behind – Asta Hiroki & Lalin St. Juste

Line By Line – JP Saxe & Maren Morris

Lose Your Head – London Grammar

Love on the Brain – Kristin Husøy

Out of My Control – From «Blithe Spirit» – Gregory Porter

Scat – Club des Belugas & Iain Mackenzie

Sentimentalist – Ylva

Shivering – HAERTS

Sometimes – Endre Nordvik & Mari Kreken

Star Woman – Honey Hahs

Tangled Love – Lydia Luce

Valentine – Danni Nicholls

What’s Troubling You Child? – Lauren Housley

Jesus Christ Superstar
Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice

When I bought this LP box set as a young teenager, I was both introduced to musicals for the first time, and to a different take on christianity and on the Easter message. I was similarly introduced to a fantastic rock singer, Ian Gillan, who again introduced me to a broader range of music.

I later found out that musicals didn’t all sound like JCS, and that rock’n’roll version of religion didn’t make it more palatable and true. Jesus Christ Superstar is still a magnificent piece of work, although the original recording was improved on later on, at least technically. But nobody did Jesus better than Ian Gillan, Mary better than Yvonne Elliman – and Barry Dennen was never surpassed as Pontius Pilate.

Happy Easter!

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