Pompous headline, maybe, but music in general has the ability to do just that, to transcend all times, all ages, all locations. And specifically, this year’s last regular list lives up to that promise: with music written earlier this year mixed with centuries-old music; from music performed by Māori singer Stan Walker to music performed by Dutch violinist Janine Jansen; from music by 95-year old Tony Bennett to new songwriting from Lola Young, 75 years Tony’s junior. And I am pretty certain, since you are a regular of this blog, that you will thoroughly enjoy most of it, if not all.
HOW TO LISTEN:
Petter’s Short List contains all music reviewed in this blog post. Click here to listen and/or subscribe. The playlist changes every month.
Petter’s Long List contains all music previously reviews. Click here to listen and/or subscribe. The playlist is extended every month.
You may also listen to the singles and sample tracks from each album reviewed by clicking on the title.
Sample Track: Sonata in G Minor Opus 19: III.Andante by Rachmaninoff
So let’s start with the oldest pieces, classical gems performed by wonderkid turned wonderwoman Janine Jansen. This album climbed the Dutch hit lists this Autumn, and has made classical music popular even for listeners who didn’t know they would enjoy it. I have only added the occasional classic album to the playlist, but let this be a reminder of how much pleasure is to be found among the classics.
Sample Track: Call Out Kids
Smooth soul singer/songwriter Jarle Bernhoft is out with a brilliant new album, playful yet emotional. Bernhoft handles most of the instruments himself, and makes the music swing and swirl througout the album. His voice is perhaps his most impressive instrument, as much a rhythm instrument as anything else.
Sample Track: Love Came Down
The cover photo on «Dawn», the debut album from Arkansas singer/songwriter Yebba, is easily interpreted as a picture of the birth of a star. The album was eagerly awaited,following a number of successful and impressive single releases (including in this blog list). Yebba is harder to pin down than many she is compared with, like Adele and Ed Sheeran, as she glides from one genre to another with ease. I highly recommend the whole album, particularly if you like the choice bits in this month’s list.
Sample Track: Wherever
What shall we call the music of Why Kai? The closest some has come is to describe as dance electroic jazz. Which doesn’t make all that much sense. Pianist Kai von der Lippe and his band mix electronic sounds with accoustic instruments, and the result is suprisingly intriguing and interesting to listen to. And perhaps dance to?
Sample Track: Soledad
Rolling Stone called Columbian duo Bomba Estéreo’s new album «a party record for a world in crisis». I can’t top that, so well put and all the description you need. It is an album full of life and joy, but lyrics and overall mood point to conflict and yearning for a better world.
Sample Track: New Person, Old Place
Madi Diaz stays within her own world, in a highly personal album about breakup and heartbreak. It nevertheless is a beautiful album, with lovely melodies, performed with Diaz’ distinct voice out in front, simple songwriting, yet sophisticated.
Sample Track: Casually
One of the most prolific bands in Europe, Club des Belugas, is again out with a new collection of nu jazz/jazz funk/swing jazz. I can’t get enough of them, as long-term listeners of my playlist have realized a long time ago. The Club know how to pick both new and classic jazz and swing tunes, making them their very own. And they also know how to pick unknown and very promising vocalists to perform with them. On How to Avoid Difficult Situations Iain Mackensie, Lene Riebau and old favourite Maya Fadeeva mold in with the band and impress from first to last track.
Sample Track: Time
It is quite rare so late in a long career to issue an untitled album, but there is so much that is rare with Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac fame. He returned full force to pop music in 2019 with his collaboration with Christine McVie, also of Fleetwood Mac fame, one of the best pop albums of that year. This first solo album in a decade could easily climb into many top 10 lists of 2021. His knack for the great pop hook is so good it is almost annoying.
Sample Track: Dream Dancing
It is truly bittersweet experience to listen to Lady Gaga & Tony Bennett’s second album together. Tony Bennett has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and it is most certainly his last album. Still, listening to the album of Cole Porter songs, is like being invited to a party hosted by two inseperable friends. Their voices are made for each other, and while Tony Bennett’s career is sadly at an end, Lady Gaga’s will hopefully last for decades and decades. This magnificent and versatile artist dares where others fear to thread.
Sample Track: Take Your Time
Pearl Charles is out with her second album of smooth indie pop, clearly inspired by country as well. Most songs are slow and contemplative in nature, and as with many of the other singer songwriters in the list, the songwriting is surprisingly innovative and crafty.
Sample Track: Mes Meladroits
Barbara Pravi came in second in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest with a French chanson, Voila, as classic as they come. Now her album is out, and offers as much passion and beauty as we hoped for when we were introduced to this fiery singer in May. There are elements of both French and Middle Eastern folk music on the album, titled «We don’t lock up the birds». In French, naturally.
Sample Track: Persephone
Another debut album, this time from Canadian singer Allison Russell, and another album that has received rave reviews from all over. This folk-pop collection has serious undertones, because all songs are reflections of a horribly abusive childhood. The music and Russell’s voice feels so sincere and deeply rooted.
Sample Track: Will The Circle Be Unbroken
It wasn’t a said thing that I would add a collection of Christian spirituals and gospel songs, but coming from Shelby Lynne, what choice did I have? This amazing singer and country artist seems to be able to do just about everything, as another reviewer commented. Every release from this amazing artist is different, and so is «The Servant». You will hear many «favourites» like Swing Low Swing Chariot and Go Tell it on the Mountain, but prepare to be dazzled. These are completely new takes on music that have been with us for centuries.
Sample Track: Get Down
When Broadway finally opened again after having been closed down for more than a year, one of the most anticipated shows were British import Six, based on the lives and wives of Henry VIII. There is very little Tudor in these oh so contemporary pop and rock songs, and considerably more laughter and joy compared to the dreary times of Henry’s London. The first version of the musical opened on a few square feet in a back yard during Edinburgh’s Fringe season. Rags to riches.
Sample Track: Whole World Knows
Adia Victoria has become one of the principal voices of the American South. This her third album is filled to the brim with accessible roots music, with a distinct contemporary feel, a collection that grows in esteem every time I listen.
Sample Track: simple times
Kacey Musgraves filed for divorce last year and commented «I wasn’t going to be a real country artist if I didn’t have at least one divorce under my belt.» When she sings about the heartbreak it is slightly more serious. After «Golden Hour», her last album catering to the masses, she is back where she started, creating musing, heartfelt stories filled with irony and girl-next-door-quality, but with a new vulnerabilty. Hopefully, those who discovered her with Golden Hour will remain loyal, even go back to her first brilliant albums and be reintroduced.
Sample Track: He Tangata
The last album of the month is from Māori singer Stan Walker. He has mostly recorded in English up to now, but decided this time to release in te reo, the Māori language of New Zealand. It is an interesting collection to listen to, filled with passion and emotion, but catering more to a Western audience that his own people, I would guess. Still, I am sure that an album with songs in the indigenous language of New Zealand will help build necessary bridges between cultures.
This month’s single list is brimming with artists having their own rooms in The Pop and Rock Hall pof Fame, like Adele, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Brian Wilson, Diana Ross, Rod Stewart, Alanis Morisette, Elbow and Willie Nelson. And these are all new releases (but not necessarily new songs…) But don’t let the Fame Train stop you from listening to wonderful new releases from artists like Bedouine, Lola Yong, Anna-Lisa Kumoji, Christina Galisatus and other.
Sample Track: I’ve Got A Feeling
8 May 1970 The Beatles released their last album, Let It Be. Their breakup was already old news when the album was released. The disappointment of the band’s demise probably influenced the lacklustre reviews of the album. All Beatles albums (I would say with the exception of Yellow Submarine) were more than brilliant, and Let it Be was in many ways not an exception. Still, there are quite a few half baked, whimsical tracks without much value on there, but it was also the album that introduced the world to classics like the title track, Get Back, The Long and Winding Road, Across the Universe and I Me Mine. Among others.