In the 1970s and 80s (yes, I was born then) it was the ultimate sign of friendship – or love – to put together music on an audio cassette, music that you wanted to share, destined for one person and one person alone, songs that you had cherrypicked and put together in the particular order you wanted your special person to listen to it. Sometimes, if love was involved (and it was, more often than not), you would add certain subliminal and not-so-subliminal messages, both by the order of songs and what songs you actually chose to put on the cassette.
I realized the other day, as I was listening to an audio book by David Byrne, How Music Works, that this blog and the accompaning playlist are really remnants of the original mix tape phonomenon that he describes in his fascinating book. I am not so fuzzy about in what order you listen (my recommendation has always been to enable shuffle and listen to a true mix), but I have cherrypicked songs and albums for you as I did in my youth. Only tracks that I find offer great songs, performances and/or songwriting – or at least are curiously interesting – go into the playlist. And although there are more than one of you out there (Reader number 20 000 has just visited my petterwallace site – yeah!), it is truly a personal recommendation from me to you. I would be very surprised if you liked all recommended songs, but my hope is that you find a number og albums and singles every month that otherwise you hadn’t found and enjoyed. That makes it worthwhile for me to go on mixing for you
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 – by clicking on the title of the single, you will go directly to it.
4411 is a duo consisting of Magnus Skarphedinsson and Benedikte Wallace, both musicians but with background from very different genres, electronica and rock/jazz. Here they meet in the middle, within a somewhat dystopic musical landcape, with interesting rhythms, curious electronic soundscapes, mixed together by Benedikte’s velvety, hypnotic voice. Not what you normally would find in my blog playlist, but I feel responsible for ensuring you get a balanced and varied diet of music, right? And Benedikte is my daughter. Two good reasons there.
The queen of R&B is back, with a brave new album simply called ALICIA. THe 40-year old singer has little more to prove, so she experiments with different genres, although most of the album could be said to be well within the soul genre. The album took me by surprise, I didn’t expect so much variety and musical bravery. Still, the tender ballads are my favourites.
I am not related to Lise Davidsen (as far as I know), but I add a few tracks from her second album nevertheless, even though I rarely subject you to classical music in general, and opera in particular (I love the former, not so much the latter). Still, being your human algorithm it is my duty to bring you music that a digital algoithm never ever would have recommended. I hope you like Lise’s disctinct and colourful voice, she is considered one of the best classical singers in the world today. Personally, as with Alicia Keys, I like the quiet ballads better than the powerful arias. But that’s me.
According to Adam Douglas himself, he calls himself a mixer of soul, roots, gospel and jazz. I would argue there is considerably more of soul and roots in his guitar-heavy music than the other two, but on his new album he dares rush in where angels fear to thread, widening out his musical universe, with honest lyrics, the same foot-stomping rhythms as before, but more tenderness and heart than we ever heard from this highly talented singer.
London Grammar just gets better and better, and I think we owe it to the their vocalist and songwriter Hannah Reid more than anything else. According to New Musical Express she has fought and won a battle within the group for more control, and we the listeners are the benefactors. The church echo-y sound is still there, but Californian Soil is richer and lusher, one great melody after another, their best yet.
Ten years ago, indie musician Sharon van Etten released her album Epic. Now she has invited friends and colleagues to re-record the album, allowing them to add their personal touches to each track. She has left her original on the new double album, so you can follow the journey each song has made. I have added one such journey, One Day, recorded with St.Panther, and if you like comparing, go to the full album.
Most of us connect New Orleans with jazz, but there seems to be a growing country and Americana community there, and with Esther Rose as one of its central artists. Perhaps the city is the explanation why How Many Times doesn’t sound all country, but has broader wings and offers a greater lift. I like Esther’s kind, so maybe I ought to seek out others with the same mix and background. Watch this space.
UMI, a R&B singer from Seattle, released her album Introspection in 2018. Now she is re-releasing it, or re-imagining it, as she calls it. I did not catch the album when it originally came out, but I understand that some changes made are subtle, some quite pronounced. I am fine with that. I listen to the reimagined album and like what I hear, and that’s what counts. UMI is a talented singer and producer, the music is sweet, wrapped in rich orchestrations.
Will the real Gillian Hills please stand up? This is a bit of a mystery, this. Gillian Hills is an actress/singer, now in her mid 70s, who made it in French films more or less at the same time as Brigitte Bardot, even appeared in Dallas. In the pictures released in connection with the LiLi album, she does not look like a 76-year old woman, but perhaps I am just prejudiced. This could very be the same artist that made Tut tut tut tut in the 1960s. LiLi is an introvert and spacey album with world undertones, hypnotic and sensual.
Porter Robinson has been a golden boy in the synth pop community, nominated for Grammys from his first release. Now he is out with his second album, an hour long, and I would have recommended shaving off a bit (like I have done; there are 6 tracks in this month’s blog playlist) Still, this is highly creative and worthwhile to listen to, it is hard to find a seam holding it all together, but maybe that is just as well.
This is a strange album. When I began listening, my first thought was to spare readers and move on, but in between psychedelic tracks there are oases of beautiful sound, laid back and a bit sorrowful music, well worth listening to. I have picked some choice cuts for you, but if you want to try it all, use the link in the album cover. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.
I didn’t expect pop idols Deacon Blue to return in good form when they released their album Dignity last year, and perhaps even more suprising a completely new album this year from the Glasgow band that started out in late 1980s. But I am glad they decided to continue recording, this is a great pop album with quality songwriting and a nostalgic feel throughout.
It is not uncommon for actors and TV personalities to take the jump to recording and releasing music, from Anne Hathaway to Kate Winslet, so Dutch radio personality (and drummer) Edwin Evers is in good company. His debut album, Tijd, received rave reviews and the album has become a hit in his home country. It certainly isn’t bad, quiet songs in the pop/folk category, well-handcrafted tunes proving that Evers has listened well to the music of others while DJ’ing.
I don’t expect your digital algorithm would have introduced you to this album either. Avishai Cohen is an Israeli jazz bassist, who brought his trio to meet a full symphony orchestra and re-recorded many of his own compositions. It is an interesting mix; symphony orchestras with its structural and planned music don’t normally mix well with the improvisational freedom of jazz, but on Two Roses the two worlds meet in the middle and mostly on the orchestra’s terms. Still, listen to Arabian Medley, and you might see why I think it is a successful meeting of styles.
Norwegian singer/songwriter SKAAR has released a new collection of songs, sweet and quiet in a Billie Eilish way, but distinct enough to stand on its own two feet. I wish some of the tracks would stick a bit more in my mind, but there is room for contemplation when listening to music, and Waiting gives me plenty of that.
Following her 2017 debut, some reviewers named Frances the next Adele. She wasn’t and isn’t. Her second album, Wonder, proves the point, because here we are exposed to a different kind of artist. Yes, with some of the tenderness of Adele, but going in the opposite direction of grandness. This is great pop, well-crafted and personal songs, deliciously produced and arranged.
Oh, give it a rest, reviewers! Like clockwork they jump at the opportunity to slaughter another release from Ringo. Zoom In is an EP full of joy and fun, not to be taken more seriously than that, just like the man himself. He is as ever the missionary selling the gospel of peace and love. It wouldn’t hurt any of us to listen more to him, relax a bit and embrace, not attack, your fellow man. The world is a better place because Ringo is in it, so give him your ear and go with Ringo’s flow.
It is my annual duty to pick the best songs from Eurovision. Some of you might say that is a contradiction in terms, but I beg to differ. Yes, most songs sound as if they were written by a computer (or a Swedish producer, not that you would notice the difference), and I suspect they are. But there are always exceptions, and in 2021 I found as many as eleven. One of them, Hooverphonic’s Belgian entry, made it into my list in April, here are ten more. I picked them way in advance of the contest, without knowing what country they were from, what the artist looked like and how it was performed on stage. It pleases me that top 4 in the contest are also in my pick of the crop. Good work, voters!
Tapestry by Carole King was released in the magic year of 1971, perhaps one of the best years ever in musical history. And I would argue Tapesty as one of the best albums ever recorded. It is next to impossible to find one song that hasn’t become a classic, from You’ve Got a Friend to You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman. She used Joni Mitchell and James Taylor as backing vocalists (!), and in the forefront is King’s rock steady voice, yet full of vulnerabilty. Her piano playing has inspired keyboardists ever since. But it is the quality of the songwriting that stands out, more than anything. No wonder, Carole King is among the most prolific and successful songwriters of all time, with more than 100 songs making it into to Billboard Top 100. I never tire of Tapestry, and should you be one of the lucky ones who has never listened to it, well, the light just went on in your life.