Friday, December 17, 2010

Swingin’ Time

If you’re a fan of swinging 1920’s style French jazz, then you’ll certainly enjoy Caravan Palace. They describe themselves as an electro-swing group and they hail from Paris, France. The band’s influences include Django Reinhardt, Cab Calloway, Lionel Hampton, and Daft Punk. Their self-titled album debuted in 2008 and was very well received. Get ready to do some major league toe tapping!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Lion King

Youssou N’Dour. He’s called the Lion of Africa. After listening to him for about ten seconds you realize why. He embodies what African vocals are all about. You’ve probably heard Ladysmith Black Mambaza, Miriam Makeba, and other fantastic African voices. Youssou is right up there with them with his distinctive, powerful voice.

Anyway, Youssou is from Dakar, Senegal and inherited his musicality from his mother who was a Griot (oral historian). He learned to sing as a child and formed the group Super E'toile de Dakar as a twenty-year old. He’s gone on to travel the world with this group and has recorded with everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Peter Gabriel, Sting and Tracy Chapman. He also owns a popular nightclub in Dakar. Long live the king!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Where The Buffalo Roam

If you enjoyed the music of the late 60s, but are totally sick of listening to “classic rock, “here’s a group you may find refreshing. Avi Buffalo was founded by Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg (small wonder he uses the moniker Avi Buffalo, eh?) when he was in high school in Long Beach. He put a band together with fellow classmates and eventually got signed by the renowned label Sub Pop. They released their first album this spring. Their music smacks of Buffalo Springfield (coincidence?) and a bit of the Byrds. It’s low-fi psychedelica with catchy melodies. I have to admit, Avi’s voice gets on my nerve at times, but overall, I find this group charming. Think 60s folk-rock with excellent guitar work. I just missed the opportunity to see them live and I could kick myself. I doubt they’ll become a household name, but I think they’ll develop a loyal following. Count me among those numbers.

P.S. This band is so new, I couldn't find any really good live performances of them. Search youtube in a couple months.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Third Time’s The Charm

For a tiny island with a small population, Iceland sure has produced some remarkable groups/musicians. Bjork, Sigur Ros, and now Olafur Arnalds. “Olu who?” you might be inclined to say. Well, he’s a very young composer, who’s released two remarkable CDs. This twenty-something's music is hard to describe. Imagine that on my blog! It blends a bit of Eric Satie, jazz, George Winston, and you can sense he's definitely influenced by fellow countrymen Sigur Ros. It’s very meditative and introspective. He also engages the help of the Icelandic string quartet, Amiina. Give a listen to the future of classical music.

P.S. My apologies to all my Scandinavian fans out about the lack of correct accent marks—I’m just not sure how to wrangle that.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

You Don’t Know Jacksoul

And neither did I, until a couple days ago. Thanks to the CBC, I’ve been introduced to a number of excellent groups from our neighbors to the north (or to the south, from here in Detroit). And here’s another one. Jacksoul. This group was founded by Haydain Neale in Toronto, in the mid-1990s. The band produces a catchy blend of R&B, jazz, soul, and just great music. But the real focal point is Neale’s voice. And, what a voice. Unfortunately, Neale was involved in a serious car accident in 2007 and was in a coma for several months. He made a miraculous recovery, only to die of lung cancer two years later. But I’m glad his music will live on. Now, at least you know a little bit about Jacksoul, and Haydain Neale.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Invest in Real Estate

The quartet Real Estate formed in 2008 and has been hailed as one of the best bands in New Jersey. “Faint praise be damned”, as the Bard of Avon so succinctly put it. Their unique brand of surfy lo-fi pop sound is perfect cruising music. It’s catchy and toe-tapping in a slow-mo sort of way. They're sort of a Manuel Galban goes American rock. To date they only have a self-titled cd which was released in 2009. Hang ten, Dudes!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Pure Poetry

As most of you know, I tend to post new, relatively obscure bands and musicians. This week, I’m going to make an exception. I recently heard an interview with Natalie Merchant discussing her latest recording and I was very impressed. Natalie was the driving force behind 10,000 Maniacs and has had a successful solo career since the group broke up in 1995. However, she hasn’t released anything in seven years, and her latest, Leave Your Sleep is a dandy.

She sets poems, rhymes, and lullabies to music, with great success. The words are taken from the likes of Ogden Nash, e.e. cummings, Robert Graves, and traditional English and American sources. The instrumentation is a diverse musical odyssey, ranging from The Wynton Marsalis Orchestra and Klezmer, to Appalachian folk and Celtic music. And leading it all is the rich, mature voice of Natalie herself. It’s a two-disc set well worth waiting for.

P.S. If you like what you hear, do a search for Natalie Merchant Leave Your Sleep on youtube. There are many songs including a 30 minute concert of featuring music from the cd.

Friday, October 1, 2010

As Good As It Gets

When it comes to warm, inviting electronica, it’s hard to beat Ulrich Schnauss. His music combines the soundtracky sounds of Vangelis with the, dare I say it, New Age lushness and relaxing feel of Enya. He likes to keep a mysterious profile so not a heck of a lot of info is available about him, but I know he’s a producer from Berlin, Germany. His debut recording arrived in 2001, and he’s released three cds since then. His music features synthesizers, layers of sounds, mainly softer beats, and excellent production values, along with relaxing, sensuous vocals.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Speed Demons

Yet another fine group from Athens, Georgia, Maserati was formed in 2001. This quartet creates spacey aural soundscapes that follow in the tradition of groups like Explosions in the Sky and This Will Destroy You. All their songs are instrumental and feature layers of guitar that ebb and flow. The term Post-rock is used to describe their music, which I feel is quite apt. Unfortunately, their amazing drummer passed away not too long ago. They’ll have a hard time replacing him.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Sweet Sixteen

It seems almost impossible that Nikki Yanofsky is merely 16 years old. The young Montreal based singer already has an impressive resume. She sang several sold-out shows at the Montreal Jazz Festival when she was just 12 years old. She’s gone on to release a couple recordings in both the jazz and pop genres. Because of her scatting ability, she’s been compared to Ella Fitzgerald. Tough shoes to fill. But her scatting is absolutely remarkable for such a young singer. Sure, her voice lacks the depth of a more mature vocalist, but her range and poise are uncanny. Give her a few years and I think she’s going to be famous. Her career also wasn’t hurt when she sang to a worldwide audience at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. All I can say is, “Canada, you’ve got talent”!

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Heavenly Voice

To say Angel Taylor has a gorgeous voice is an understatement. She has a nice range and has a powerful, soulful tone. Angel started out singing in coffee houses in Southern California. A few weeks before her freshman year in college, she made contact with producer Mikal Blue. He eventually got her signed with Aware/Columbia Records, and helped produce her first cd, Love Travels, which was released in 2009. Her songs are sort of folky pop tunes with catchy lyrics. It’s pretty refreshing to hear a new young singer who isn’t totally overproduced.

Friday, September 3, 2010

If The Shoe Fits…

Clogs is a classically-trained foursome who met at Yale in the late 90s. Their music is a compelling mix of chamber, jazz, and post-rock. In iTunes, under the Genre heading, they’re tagged as unclassifiable and when you hear their music, that makes a lot of sense. Some of their tunes are pure chamber music, while other selections have a film soundtrack quality them. The group has five recordings to date and they’re all consistently excellent.

Friday, August 27, 2010

It’s Back to School Time

School of Seven Bells is the brainchild of Ben Curtis and features the dreamy vocals of twin sisters Claudia and Alejandra Deheza. The group debuted in 2007 and has two recordings to their credit. Their music is full of catchy hooks, and hum-along melodies. It’s somewhat spacey and full of electronic psychedelica. It’s hard to compare them with anyone else; you’ll just have to judge them for yourself. (Forgive the sound quality on the live performance—it’s the best I could find on youtube.)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Hard to Beat

And hard to describe. The group Beats Antique blends such a mind boggling and diverse mix of sounds, it makes one’s head spin. Balkan wedding music, Middle Eastern belly dancing, flamenco, hip-hop, and more, all underpinned by heavy dance beats and electronica. The group is comprised of David Satori (guitar, saz, viola, and percussion), Sidecar Tommy Cappel (keys, toy piano, drums, and percussion), and Zoë Jakes (belly dancer, composer, and arranger). As you can imagine, they produce quite a variety of sounds, from rich and complex, to dance tunes reminiscent of those you’ve heard at Greek and Jewish weddings. Classical belly dance music meets the 21st century. They look like they’d be an absolute blast to see live. There are a ton of Beats Antique vids on youtube. Check ’em out.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Extra! Extra!

Eli “Paperboy” Reed is the latest example of a renewed interest in Motown-era R&B music making. As a young kid, growing up in Brookline, MA, Eli listened to his dad’s record collection of R&B, gospel, and blues music. He taught himself to play piano, guitar, and harmonica. Reed spent some time in Mississippi where he picked up his nickname, “Paperboy”, due to the newsboy-type hat he wore. Eli moved to Chicago to attend the University of Chicago. It was there where he met the soul singer Mitty Collier. He so impressed her he was invited to be the Minister of Music at her church. Reed eventually returned home where he put together his group the True Loves. His first recording was released in 2005 and he has since released a couple more excellent cds. The good news is that R&B is alive and well!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Pining for the Fjords

Thomas Dybdahl is one of the most popular singers in Norway. Obviously, that doesn’t mean much here in the U.S. His voice has been compared to Nick Drake’s and Jeff Buckley’s. Not a bad comparison, however he definitely has his own sound. His songs deal for the most part with love and loss. Dybdahl released his first cd in 2000 and now has several recordings to his credit. He is starting to attract attention here in this country, but it certainly has been a long time coming. On a slightly different note, anyone get the obscure reference to the title of this blog entry?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Not Harsh, Karsh.

Karsh Kale was born to Indian parents and grew up in the United States. His music is an original blend of beat-driven electronica and Indian folk. His first outing was with the group Tabla Beat Science and he released his own recording, Realize, in 2001. The song, Light Up the Love, on this cd has to be one of the most beautiful love songs I’ve ever heard. Although it’s not sung in English, the subtle, sensual power of love come shining through. Kale is an incredible tabla player and he’s played extensively with the group Midival Punditz and other like-minded groups.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Horsing Around

The New Young Pony Club is my pick for this summer’s cruising around with the top down on a hot summer evening band. Their music has a nice, dancy beat, sparse instrumentation that has a Talking Heads feel, talky vocals, and simple lyrics. The perfect combination for mindless background music. The London-based group put out their first cd in 2005 and just released their second recording this year. Play them a couple times and their music really grows on you. Not bad music for working out too, either.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Nuts To You!

This is going to be a short and sweet review. Okay, maybe not sweet. We're talking about the group Bullitnuts. There's almost nothing on the internet about them. So I'll just give you a brief description of their music and post a few of their songs. They're a spacey, techno, drum & bass, ambient group with a funky edge to their music. I discovered them on Soma-FM on their Groove Salad channel. I looked up their music on and was surprised at how much their cds go for. A hundred bucks for a used cd? Wow! Anyway, they only put out three cds in the late 1990s and apparently broke up in 1999. But with the quality of their music, you'd think there'd be reissues. Oh well. Have to turn to youtube to hear any of their recordings. What a shame.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Caro Mia

Caroline van der Leeuw is a Dutch singer who I recently discovered. Not exactly a catchy musical name. So she understandably records under the name Caro Emerald. She studied music, focusing on jazz, at the conservatory in Amsterdam, and went on to work as a vocal coach. In 2009, she had a big hit in the Netherlands, “Back it up”. As my daughter pointed out, what’s a big hit in a country of, what 3 million people? She does have a point, but in all fairness, this woman can sing. Her music is reminiscent of 1920s Parisian swing. It’s fun, listenable, and catchy. It’s so new, there isn’t a lot available. But enjoy. I think there’s a lot more coming.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Mad About Madeleine.

The first time I heard Madeleine Peyroux I thought to myself, “Sounds like a cleaned up engineering-wise) version of an old Billy Holiday tune. But upon listening closer, she has her own sound and phrasing. Peyroux was born in Athens, GA, but was raised in Southern California, Brooklyn, and Paris. She started busking on the streets of the Latin Quarter when she was just 15. Her first recording, “Dreamland”, was released in 1996 and is absolutely flawless. It features a group of first-rate jazz musicians, who underplay, which helps showcase her unique voice. Most of the tunes are covers, but also has three original Peyroux compositions. For some unknown reason, she didn’t release another recording for eight years. Her subsequent recordings feature an increasing number of originals and are every bit as good as her first cd.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Eek! A Mouse!

The experimental group Mice Parade is the brainchild of Adam Pierce. They’re not a new group, but they’re one of those groups that I discovered, acquired some of their music, and then promptly forgot about. The other day I put them on and said to myself, “These guys are great! Why haven’t I been listening to them?” Mice Parade combines elements of jazz, folk, rock and their own genre-bending sound. Most of their early releases are instrumental, but more recently they feature vocals. The instrumentation includes acoustic guitar, keyboards, excellent percussion, vibes, and a whole plethora of other instruments. And their songs are rich and complex. Quite unique. In fact, the only group that I could compare them to is Anathallo. Another personal favorite group that I reviewed earlier. I wouldn’t describe them as the mouse that roared, but one that purred.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Out of This World

Galaxy 500 is one of my favorite oldies but goodies. They formed in the mid-80s in Boston and were a precursor to both the shoegazer and slowdive movements. Vocalist and guitarist Dean Wareham was the driving force behind the group. Their music is droney, dark, and subtle. Wareham’s voice isn’t for everyone. I guess it’s what you might call an acquired taste. But this group was sadly overlooked in its day. They did a bunch of recording for the Rough Trade label. But by the time Wareham decided to disband the group, the label went bust. Several years later, Rykodisc bought their entire oeuvre and released it on a box set. Dean went on to form Luna, which continued to carry the Galaxy 500 torch. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Note: If you enjoy the music, a ton of it is available on youtube. Search words: “Galaxy” and “Dean Wareham Luna”.

Friday, May 28, 2010

One Cool Cat

Harry Manx is a unique blend of Indian and Canadian folksy-blues. (I know, that sounds like a pretty odd description). East meets West seems to be somewhat cliché but it’s really to only way to describe his music. His gravelly, soulful voice is emotive and is in a class by itself. You can pick it out the second you hear it. And he accompanies himself on a multitude of stringed instruments—from guitar and lap steel to the Indian Mohan Veena. Harry’s musical journey has taken him around the world. He was born on the Isle of Mann and has lived in Japan, India and Brazil and now calls Canada home. But through it all, he’s managed to record some truly amazing music. A lot of his stuff is available and free to download from the CBC website. I encourage you to check it out. If you need help tracking it down, feel free to email me and I’ll send you some links.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Ten Years After

It’s hard to believe Olive’s last release was ten years ago. Their music still sounds fresh today. The group consisted of producers Tim Kellett and Robin Taylor-Firth along with vocalist Ruth-Ann Boyle. Their music is sort of psychedelic-soul mixed with a bit of trip-hop. Their entire oeuvre is a paltry three cds, the first, “Extra Virgin” was released in 1996 and their last, “Trickle” sadly was released in 2000. Boyle has a hauntingly beautiful voice with a remarkable range, which plays nicely along with the electronic beats and spacey effects backing her up. Almost all their songs feature brilliant production and overdubbing. I really can’t understand why the group was so short lived. The song “Curious” should have vaulted them to international fame, but alas, they’ve been brushed into the ashcan of obscurity.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Not So Fast

Slow Six is a modern minimalist classical group led by Christopher Tignor. The quintet is based in New York City and has produced three distinct cds to date. The “crossover” group borrows a bit from John Cage infused with pleasant electronic sounds, strings, guitar, and keyboards. Their music is quiet, subtly complex, and very melodic. If you enjoy Brian Eno’s Music for Airports,” and groups like the Dirty Three, then this is definitely your cup of tea.

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Really Big Shoe

Just when you thought Shoegazer was dead, along comes the group Engineers. For those of you not familiar with the term, Shoegazer refers to a style of downtempo music shere the group comes out, and plays with little emotion or movement and stares down at their shoes. Hence the word, Shoegazer. Engineers were formed in London in 2003 and have a dreamy, atmospheric sound to their music. If one had to describe them, I guess you could say they’re a cross between the Beach Boys and early Pink Floyd. Unusual combination? You bet. Their songs have an odd familiarity to them. It’s like you’ve heard them before, but I can guarantee, they’re all originals.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Jonsi

If you’re a fan of Sigur Ros then you probably enjoy the band’s lead singer Jonsi. (Sorry, I can’t figure out how to add all the bizarre Nordic accent marks). Anyway, he’s released two cds over the last couple of years and they’re a study in contrasts. The first was a collaboration with his boyfriend Alex Somers, and is quite stunning. The album is titled “Riceboy Sleeps” and the titles comes from the fact that at the time, Alex was down on his luck and ate a lot of rice and spent much of his time sleeping. It’s moody and atmospheric and is dreamy without being boring. It features layers of acoustic instruments and a children’s choir and rarely does Jonsi’s voice appear. At times it almost sounds like something you’d hear in church. The second cd is a solo project called “Go” and it’s just about the polar opposite of his first recording and that of Sigur Ros. It’s happy and jumpy with a strong dancy beat. I’m not sure if he’s singing in Icelandic or the made up language he uses in Sigur Ros and several of the tunes are in English. I really enjoy both recordings and have been playing them over and over—rather addicting.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Queen of Swing

The Susie Arioli Swing Band from Montreal sure knows its way around the music of the 30’s and 40’s. The group consists of two guitarists, a stand-up bass, and a snare drum, all backing up the charming Susie Arioli on vocals. Actually, Susie plays the snare, not so much to add rhythm but to give her something to do with her hands, she confesses. The combination of instruments sounds odd, but it sure seems to work. Her voice is silky smooth, and she doesn’t employ some of the usual tricks other jazz singers use. She sings the songs pretty straight forward, but they sure make you want to tap your foot. Susie and her group opened for Ray Charles at the Montreal Jazz Festival back in the last century (I love writing that), and the rest is history. Growing up she listened to Nina Simone, Chet Baker, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, and Billy Holliday, but her sound is all her own. Another wonderful musical gift from our Canadian neighbors!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Dosh Darn it All

Martin Dosh is literally a one-man band. Growing up in Minneapolis, he started taking piano lessons when he was three, switched to drums in his mid-teens, and eventually returned to the keyboards in his early twenties. He’s played in a couple bands and toured with the amazing Andrew Bird for a year. Through the magic of loops, he can make a complete bandful of music. But he doesn’t use tricks for trick’s sake—his music is rich, tuneful, and playful. And it’s great fun to watch him perform.

In the videos I’ve included, Dosh is technically a two-man band. But he does most of the heavy lifting.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Mo Betta Movits!

Mix some hip-hop with swing, and sing it in the goofiest sounding language on the planet, Swedish, and you’ve got Movits! I don’t know a thing about this group except, once you hear them, you’ll be shouting, “Swing, Sven, Swing”! They did appear on the “Colbert Report”, so I’m not the only one who’s heard of them. As you can imagine, it’s pretty hard to describe this group. They only have one CD out and I’m not sure how easy it is to find. But give them a listen and I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. They’re pretty unique and they’re a whole lot of fun. I imagine they get the crowd on their feet dancing, whenever they play live.

P.S. After listening to Movits! a couple more times, I'm pretty sure they're not singing/speaking in Swedish. I think it's all gibberish, like the "Vout" that Slim Gaillard was doing back in the 40's and 50's. It's still a hoot.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Simply Astonishing

That’s just about the only way to describe the piano playing of Hiromi. I had the good fortune to see her play last night and her performance was nothing short of breathtaking. She played mostly original compositions, and thoroughly charmed the audience. Her playing ranged to blazing, powerful runs similar to McCoy Tyner to soft delicate passages that are totally her own style. On stage she’s bursting with enthusiasm and smiles the entire time she’s playing. At times, she gets so into the music she stands up and continues playing.

And her technique is so remarkable, the audience burst into applause mid-song, several times. They also didn’t wait to the end to give her a standing ovation—they rose to their feet after almost every song. Her approach to playing is at times irreverent—at one point she placed something metallic on the strings to make the piano sound like a harpsichord while she riffed on Pachelbel's Canon. While playing a bluesy tune, she reached into the piano board and plucked to lower strings and did a long bass run. I kept trying to compare her to other pianists, but in the end, I just have to say, she sounds like Haromi.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Beautiful Melody

The story of Melody Gardot is truly an example of the human spirit triumphing over adversity. When she was 19, she attended a fashion school in Philadelphia. While riding her bike to school, she was struck by a car and left for dead. While recovering in the hospital over a several month period, she wrote and recorded a number of songs, which would eventually become the EP Some Lessons. It was through her music that she persevered and recovered. Today, Melody is hypersensitive to light and noise and she walks with a cane. She also needs a special electronic unit to help suppress her pain. In spite of all this, she continues to record and perform live.

Her voice and phrasing are both elegant and subtle. And it has a touch of innocence that reminds me of Doris Day. Her songwriting is mature and insightful. I’m surprised she isn’t better known. If she keeps making recordings as fine as her first three, I think that’s about to change.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Crazy Guggenheim

The Guggenheim Grotto--an oddball name for an excellent duo from Ireland. Specifically, they’re Kevin May and Mick Lynch. As you’d expect from a group from Ireland, they feature great vocals, and their harmonies are hauntingly beautiful. Their songs are catchy folk/pop in nature and most of them have offbeat lyrics. On their recording “Happy the Man”, every tune is a hit. Many of them are earworms, and there isn’t a weak song among them. But Guggenheim Grotto is a group that you really need to see live.

My daughter bought us tickets for Christmas, and we saw them a week ago in Ann Arbor. What a fantastic show. They played just about every tune they’ve ever recorded and it was hard to believe that two musicians could produce such a full sound--at least like a quartet. And they told funny stories in between numbers. Kevin told one about how his five-year old nephew was singing along with the lyric to “Her Beautiful Ideas”. But instead of singing, “Let’s get naked and get under the sheets” he was singing, “Let’s get naked and get under the sheep”. Kids say the darnest things!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Oh my, Omar!

Omar Sosa, the multi-instrumentalist from Cuba, began studying drums and percussion at the ripe old age of five. When he was in his teens, he taught percussion to young children before forming the group Tributo in 1986. Listening to his piano work, it’s hard to believe it isn’t his first instrument. Omars’s music runs the gamut from fiery Latin jazz to Keith Jarrett improvisations to World to meditative music promoting the concept of world peace. He’s worked with several vocalists in a number of groups, has produced several recordings, and has been nominated for a Latin Grammy. And to top it off, he’s just one cool dude.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Time Flies

The Horse Flies have been around for a while. They originally formed back in 1979. They're a traditional American roots band with plenty of strings attached. But they also mix in everything from jazz to Caribbean rhythms. The Horse Flies released several albums of original music and then entered a period where they only produced original soundtracks. Well, they just released a new CD and it's a dandy. Welcome back, guys!


Friday, February 5, 2010

Out of Africa

Ayub Ogada, the Kenyan singer has been deeply involved in music since he was six years old. He was born to musician parents and went on the road with them at an early age. He eventually moved to London where he performed on the streets. He was invited to perform at Peter Gabriel’s WOMAD festival. He was also invited into Gabriel’s Realworld studios. Ogada has a soothing, mesmerizing voice and he plays the nyatiti—which is a lyre-like stringed instrument. If his voice sounds familiar, it may be because a couple of his songs were used in the film “The Constant Gardner”. His music is full of joy and is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. This, my friends, is what World Music is all about.

Please note: I’m going to try to update the blog a couple times a week. Probably Mondays and Fridays.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Soul Geek or Geek Soul?

A nerdy white kid from Ann Arbor, Michigan singing soul? You bet. And he’s good! Mayer Hawthorne grew up listening to his dad’s classic Motown records and originally recorded his soul tunes as a joke. When they were played for the head of Stones Throw records, he thought they might be re-edits of older soul recordings. He eventually signed Hawthorne to a record contract and the rest is history. Think Smokey Robinson. This kid has chops to burn. When you’re watch his videos, it’s hard to match the voice to the person. A definite disconnect. Funny story: When he was interviewed on NPR, he told the interviewer she needed a “Mayer Hawthorne” name. He said, “Your middle name will be your new first name, and the street you grew up on will be your last name.” Now that’s nerdy!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Love to Haiti

In response to the horrible devastation in Haiti, I thought I’d post some music by a Haitian artist. Emeline Michel hails from the island nation and is considered that country’s Queen of Song. Her style mixes traditional Haitian music with jazz, samba, bossa nova and calypso. Her voice is smooth and she sings in an effortless manner. Hearing her makes you want to hop on the next plane to the Caribbean. Especially when temperatures hover around 15 degrees.

If you haven’t already done so, please consider contributing to the relief effort for Haiti. Hopefully, the country will head in a positive direction once the rebuilding is over.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Some Tasty Stuff

Lemon Jelly is a spacey electronica duo made up of Nick Franglen and Fred Deakin that I discovered by accident. Deacon is a DJ as well as a designer and Franglen is a producer who has worked with Primal Scream and Bjork. They mix synths, guitar and drum beats with found sounds and recorded robot-like voices to create a mesmerizing, hypnotic sound. Their laid back music is perfect for late night listening and is pretty trippy at times. I don’t really know that much about the group so I’m not going to ramble on and on about them.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Is This a New Avon Product?

Soap & Skin. Sounds like a beauty product to me. In reality, it’s a singer who’s following in the tradition of Iron & Wine, Sea & Cake, City & Colour with an offbeat handle. She grew up on a pig farm in Austria (I’m not making this up) and has an incredible future in store for her—she’s only 19! Her voice and style of music are somewhat reminiscent of Bjork—and that’s a good thing in my book. Some of her tunes challenge the listener, but her voice is always powerful and engaging. I can’t wait for her to do a tour of the States—I’d love to hear her live. And I think I can explain the unusual moniker. Her real name is Anja Plaschg.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

An RIP Holiday

First, I heard that Vic Chestnutt died over the Holidays. Then I heard that Lhasa died on New Years Day. What a sad holiday for music buffs. Lhasa’s full name was Lhasa de Sela and she grew up with some amazing parents. Lhasa spent her early childhood traveling around the US and Mexico in a converter school bus, with her parents and her brothers and sisters. How cool would that be? They spent many evenings singing around the campfire singing. She totally embraced her Mexican heritage and her first couple cds have a definite Mexican influence. But they’re much more than Latin—they have a New-Age/World Music edge to them. While they’re hard to classify, they’re also very listenable. One thing you’ve got to remember, I’m a huge Bjork fan. So you might like Lhasa if you share my taste in music. Her last cd is in English, which in my opinion, somewhat detracts from her charm. However, Lhasa died soon after she released the cd after a long battle with cancer, so in my opinion this is in her way of saying, “Goodbye.” Goodbye, to a wonderful spirit.

P.S. I heard that it snowed in Montreal for 40 straight hours after Lhasa passed away. I think she would have liked that.