You’d think they had given up by now, but many of the great artists of the 70s and 80s are still recording music, performing and adding to their already superstrong catalogue. And there are few embarrassments among the tracks from the seasoned stars like Boy George, Michael McDonald, Tony Bennett, Kim Wilde, Simply Red and Joan Armatrating – and they’re all here in the August line-up.
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.
Marina rose to prominence as lead singer of Marina & The Diamonds, although it is fair to say The Diamonds were no more than a backing band. Marina has a strong presence, and both sings, performs and presents herself as a bona fide pop queen – which she to a large degree is. This is modern pop at it its best, sophisticated but accessible.
Tom Petty died in 2017, and much of his music, particularly together with The Heartbreakers (they were a bit more than a backing band), is now being re-released. Angel Dream from the Motion picture «She’s the One», was first released in 1996. I have always considered Tom Petty’s music to be too raw and rough for my taste, but on this particular album, there is softness and vulnerability in between the guitar riffs.
Joan Armatrating made a kind of a comeback right before the pandemic with her wondeful album «Not Too Far Away». She continues on the same path, a milder, happier singer/songwriter, still making her points with poignant lyrics. I have always liked her output, but in her fifth decade of recording, believe it or not, I have never liked what I hear more than I do now.
Perhaps this is the ultimate dream pop album, a playful, sometimes right out weird, collection of tracks from the young French electropop duo. The music will likely appeal to people yearning for the dance floor, as much as to the rest of us who just wants to be taken for a slightly futuristic fun ride.
Lucy Dacus from Virginia in the U.S. has been a rising star for many years, perhaps Home Video puts her permanently up there with our most exceptional songwriters and singers. Her voice is warm and rich, and her songs are like stories your are drawn to listen to. This album stands out in that regard, as she brings us back through a broken childhood and adolescence, painful lyrics, beautiful songs.
Comedian Bo Burnham’s TV Special Inside for Netflix is an innovative and funny look at the time we have all been through tha last two years, but not the kind of comedy that makes the audience roar with laughter. Rather it is as much painful as it is humourous. Bo Burnham is explicit, with an almost embarrassing honesty, while at the same time poking fun at many of our contemporary fads. The songs work independently of the TV special, and in many ways Burnham is the Tom Lehrer of our time. (If you don’t know who Tom Lehrer was, look him up, I guarantee you’ll find it worthwhile. If you do know who he is, look him up anyway)
The movie based on Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical In the Heights is out this Summer, and if you enjoyed Miranda’s Hamilton, you might enjoy the movie and the music just as much. I have added songs from the Broadway recording, I find it better than the movie soundtrack, but the songs are the same. But the story and many of the characters have changed. Usnavi, the main character in the film was not as central in the first versions of the musical. Still, the album and the musical works considerably better if you have seen the film. Which you definitely should see.
Andreas Ihlebæk is a Norwegian pianist who creates and performs neoclassical piano music that I will argue rivals some of the greater composers of the last century like Eric Satie. I have only picked a few tracks for this month’s list, but if you like what you hear, please listen to the whole album, it is breathtakingly beautiful, sophisticated and so rich. (And you can go to the full album, just by clicking on the cover – but you know that already, I guess)
Another impressive artist is Michelle Zauner with her band Japanese Breakfast. Their new album Jubilee is a collection of very confident pop songs, an album you should listen to over and over again, finding new layers with every listen. The album has received great reviews almost everywhere. At times she overwhelms with her knack for the great melody, other times she takes us for a ride with peculiar arrangements. Sometimes she does both.
Sachal Vasandani & Romain Collin, vocalist and pianist in total harmony. This is a subdued and intimate performance by two cirtuosos that know their craft. At times I find it too down beat, but mostly it is mesmerizing, naked and just so relaxing to listen to.
Africa’s premier diva is back. We heard her during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics, and now her latest collaborative album is out, featuring African musicians from throughout the contiment. It is such a happy, powerful collection, traditional and modern at the same time, showing us how African music has influenced and permeated world music – and pop music.
Believe it or not, it has been 12 years since the duo Kings of Convenience last released an album, and nothing much has changed. The sound is the same, the songs are new, perhaps a bit more mature and settled in a way. Pop music doesn’t get more quiet than this, and when I am in the mood for it, it is pure muscle relaxation.
To some extent this is old news for you; I have already pleased you ( I hope) with two singles from this album, Laura Mvula’s third. Her sound is truly inimitable, if you have listened to her before you know instantly what you’re listening to, the sharpness and the beauty of her voice, the creativity of compositions and of arrangements, the beats, the harmonisations that no-one can copy.
Russian-born singer Maya Fadeeva has released her second collaboration with German band Club des Belugas, a refreshing, swinging collection of jazz-, disco- and dance-inspired tracks. If Kings of Convenience and Sachal Vasandani cools your blood, Fadeeva and the Club with fire it up again. Some of the covers are a bit shallow and not too elaborate, but most of the tracks keep my feet busy.
British singer Lady Nade is a new experience for me, although this is her third album. I am sure I have never listened to her before, because that voice I would definitely have recognized. It takes some getting used to, in a good way, because it is raw and warm at the same time, intimate and almost country/Americana-like. The songs are well written and composed, as well as performed.
Lots of great new singles out over the Summer, from young chanteuses like Charlotte dos Santos, Lola Young, AURORA, Miss Li, Lucky Lo and Camila Cabello, to the return of Michael McDonald and Simply Red.
Away From You – Charlotte dos Santos
Brænd mig som en feber – Katinka Bjerregaard
Dreams of the San Joaquin – Michael McDonald, Willie Nelson & David Hidalgo
Earth in a Lonely Space – Simply Red
I Get a Kick Out of You – Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga
Land of the Hummingbird – Dean Owens & Gaby Moreno
Shine On – Kim Wilde & Boy George
Snälla bli min – Victor Leksell
Whiplash – Vera & Scarlet Pleasure
Pop music listeners are a fickle bunch. Stephen Bishop released his third album in 1980, by far his best, and for the first time he released an album that didn’t make the charts. Lots of great artist contributed to the album, like Eric Clapton, Art Garfunkel and Phil Collins, but it didn’t help making the album more popular. Not that it matters now, Red Cab to Manhattan has become a classic album in my collection, one I come back to again and again. The songwriting sometimes reach Beatles level, the energy and the softness go hand in hand. Enjoy this wonderful collection from one of the greats in pop history.