Archive for the ‘Anna Calvi’ Category

In many respects, the magic and mystery of music has melted away much like a tape left atop a dashboard on a hot summer’s day. And since most folks never bought pricey blocks of Maxell XLII-S and TDK-SA cassettes, or even the cut-rate packs of Realistic wonders, they don’t care. Tapes, and the music therein, hold little value to them. (This is a half-assed metaphor, I know, but bear with me.) To them, mixtapes (and even mixCDs) are a thing of yore that they never bothered with except, occasionally, as unwanted gifts.

Growing up, I believed there were two types of music fans: AM and FM. The AM set enjoyed the hit singles, while the FM variant immersed itself in albums, and that belief held even when, for music, the AM band faded to staticky silence. I’ve come to realize that I was wrong. Simply put, there are those who care deeply for music, be it the latest hits or yesteryear’s album tracks; and there are those who care deeply for background noise.

A college professor of mine, way back in the early ‘80s, observed that many people are afraid of silence – and not just when around others. He said they turned on the TV or radio when they arrived home out of an unconscious fear of being alone with their thoughts. It makes sense. In today’s world, of course the “TV or radio” usually translates to a smart phone or computer, and the noise accompanies them while they surf the modern equivalent of tabloid newspapers (aka social media).

They don’t buy music. They don’t rent it via subscription tiers. Instead, they click-click-click into readymade playlists on ad-supported streaming sites and leave it at that. A simple search within those same sites often gives one the ability to hear specific songs after commercials, too, so music – at the top tier, at any rate – has become commercial bait. (In a way, the illegal-downloading boom spurred by Napster and its clones assured that entire generations would know of no other experience.)

That my Top 5s feast at the same trough I decry is an irony not lost on me. And, with that, here’s today’s Top 5: Relics of a Bygone Age…

1) Bruce Springsteen – “Thundercrack.” A 1973 performance by Bruce and an early incarnation of the E Street Band from the Ahmanson Theater, Los Angeles.

2) Jackson Browne – “Running on Empty.” A Joel Bernstein photo montage set to the classic song, which – along with its album namesake – was reissued in remastered form on July 5th.

3) Lucy Rose – Live at Decoy Studios. Lucy’s artistry harkens back to a time when fans dropped LPs onto their turntables and studied the lyric sheets. This short set of No Words Left songs features “Conversation,” “Solo(w),” “Song After Song” and “Treat Me Like a Woman.” 

4) Caroline Spence – “Who’s Gonna Make My Mistakes.” The sterling singer-songwriter owes a big debt to ’90s-era Sheryl Crow on this Mint Condition tune. (The video was released on July 9th.)

5) Anna Calvi – Live at Salle Pleyel. The fine folks at ARTE Concert have shared this intoxicating concert, filmed earlier this year in Paris, from the always mesmerizing Ms. Calvi, who seems to have stepped through a time portal from an era when music mattered for art’s sake, not commercial gain. (It helps, of course, that she channels everyone from David Bowie to Maria McKee (circa Life Is Sweet). 

What a wild and wacky week it was. Without dwelling on the details, which would bore most folks, I’ll share this: It was somewhat prophetic that Paul Weller released “Movin On,” a track from his forthcoming True Meanings album, on Wednesday, August 1st.

The press release for the album says, “Paul’s 26th studio album is a record unlike any he has ever made before, characterised by grandiose-yet-delicate, lush orchestration: an aesthetic to which Paul’s better-than-ever voice, singing some of his most nakedly honest words, is perfectly suited.”

Released into the wild a day earlier, Anna Calvi’s “Hunter” is as mesmerizing as it is restrained. Just when you think it’s about to explode into rapture, it pulls back. On Twitter, she explained that “I wanted simplicity, I wanted something quietly brave, quietly defiant. I wanted there to be intimacy. I wanted to find a place between beauty and ugliness.”

Neneh Cherry’s “Kong,” which was produced by Four Tet and Massive Attack’s 3D, is a stirring response to Europe’s refugee crisis. 

Jamie Lin Wilson – “The Being Gone.” So I don’t know much about Jamie Lin, but a few folks that I follow on Twitter retweeted this song, about returning home after an absence, and I liked what I heard. The bio on her website refers to her “honeyed tenor twang,” which I think is quite accurate.

First Aid Kit – “Running Up That Hill.” The sisters Söderberg covered the Kate Bush classic for a recent Spotify Singles session, and here they are performing it in concert… 

When we moved from the apartment to the house in the spring of ’14, I assumed the outdoor yard work would be a relative breeze – especially since we have a guy to mow the lawn. But the side of the house features a column of bushes and flowers and things that, quite frankly, I have no idea what they are, just that they’re green, grow, and grow close to and onto the front porch and house, and sprawl into the driveway. And the lawn guy just does the lawn. Which means that, every so often, I have to cut everything back.

And, this morning, I did just that. I spent close to two hours cutting this and grabbing that, and stuffing full four big paper refuse bags. All in all, I’d rather have been here, at my desk, reading this or that blog, listening to music new and old, or surfing the waves of YouTube, where one clip leads to another and then another and, before you know it, you’ve whiled away the day pruning the good from the bad.

There’s much good music, these days. And, as always, there’s much bad. If you’re on the lookout for the former, here are five artists and acts that, in my estimation, are worth the download. 

1) Whitney Rose – “Can’t Stop Shakin’.” I learned yesterday that the honky-tonkin’ Texas transplant from Canada – she hails from the land of Anne of Green Gables, Prince Edward Island –  is slated to play the City of Brotherly Love come November. Here, she and her band perform “Can’t Stop Shakin'” in the Netherlands:

2) Middle Kids – “Mistake.” I drove Diane to the airport early Friday morning – as in, we left home at 3:45am, as she had a 6am flight – and then headed into work, only to discover once I arrived that I left my work laptop at home. Argh! I dutifully drove home, and did the roundtrip in less time than it normally takes to go one way. And this intoxicating song from the Aussie rock band served as the perfect pick-me-up when WXPN’s morning show featured it at 5:25am. Here they are performing it on CBS This Morning’s “Saturday Sessions” a few weeks back:

3) Anna Calvi – “Don’t Beat the Girl Out of My Boy.” The British operatic rocker – one of David Bowie’s spiritual heirs, in a way – unveiled this video today. It’s the first taste of her forthcoming album, Hunter, which promises to be a tour de force. She explained in a lengthy Instagram post on Monday that “I’m hunting for something – I want experiences, I want agency, I want sexual freedom, I want intimacy, I want to feel strong, I want to feel protected and I want to find something beautiful in all the mess. I want to go beyond gender. I don’t want to have to chose between the male and female in me. I’m fighting against feeling an outsider and trying to find a place that feels like home.”

4) Mikaela Davis – “Other Lover.” In March 2017, Diane and I were lucky enough to see the Staves at the World Cafe Live. Mikaela – who plays harp – opened. As I said in my review at the time, “When I first saw the harp on stage, I braced for a set of elevator music. Far from it. She was, in a word, hypnotic.” And those weren’t empty words on my part – they were preceded by action: I purchased her five-song EP, Pure Divine Love (The Mission Sessions), after the show. Anyway, next month – just in time for my birthday – she’s releasing her first full-length effort, Delivery. Here’s the latest teaser track…

5) Amilia K. Shirer – “Lightning.” Sometimes I hear an artist or band, like the Stone Foundation, and wonder why I’ve never heard of them before. Here’s another. Amilia K. Shirer released a few albums in the early 2000s, placed songs on various TV shows, and…well, I’m not sure of her entire backstory. But I am sure that the 2017 album this song is from, Wow and Flutter, is just plain great. After one listen, you’ll swear it’s been with you forever. (Among the supporting players: guitar great Gurf Morlix, former Lone Justice/X guitarist Tony Gilkyson, and bassist extraordinaire Daryl Johnson.)

And speaking of the Stone Foundation… I discovered the British soul band a while back via Paul Weller, who produced their 2017 album Street Rituals. They are, in a word, phenomenal. Here’s hoping that they tour the States someday soon…