Archive for the ‘Harriet’ Category

The dulcet tones of British singer-songwriter Harriet conjure the bygone era of mood rings, shag rugs and bell-bottom jeans, to say nothing of the adult contemporary songs that ruled the AM airwaves in the 1970s (in the U.S., at least) – think ONJ, the Carpenters, Carole King and Bread, among other MOR favorites. Her full-length debut from a few years back was an utter delight in that respect; about the only thing missing: wah-wah guitar effects.

One reason for the flashback sound is a factor beyond her control: her warm vocals, which echo Karen Carpenter’s not just in timbre, but inflections – the former a quirk of birth, with the latter probably learned through osmosis, as she was often rocked to sleep as a baby to the Carpenters’ music. Another reason: the songs. “Afterglow,” first heard on her full-length debut, is one example:

Released a few weeks back, Piano Sessions+ features nine songs stripped to their bare necessities: Harriet accompanied by pianist Scott Hayes. Some are covers, others – including “Afterglow” – reworked versions of her own tunes, and two are new. But that’s not all: Four unreleased demos are tacked on, too, including a cover of the Carpenters’ “Goodbye to Love.” Like many a great singer, she invests herself in the lyrics, and gives new life to well-worn songs. Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again (Naturally)” is a great example:

The other chosen covers are likewise exquisite. I only wish she’d picked a Jackson Browne song, too – “Late for the Sky,” maybe, or “Love Needs a Heart.” 

Of the Carpenters cover, she explained on Facebook that it is “something I’ve always been nervous about doing and have avoided, despite the Carpenters being so important to me. However, when [producer] Steve [Anderson] presented me with a new arrangement idea for “Goodbye To Love,” I agreed that we try it and at the end of another session we had, I recorded a quick vocal. After we finished recording, we never really spoke about it again and it’s not something that was ever meant to be heard by anyone but us. But when I started looking through old demos to include on this CD and considered the nature of this release, I thought now was the right time to share it.”

Cowritten and performed with Mick Talbot, “Nothing Until” is an empathetic look at an issue as relevant today as it was in 2012, when they recorded it in her flat. On Facebook, she recalled that “we recorded a handful of song ideas on my 8-track digital recorder! [Mick] is the kindest man and the most incredible musician; wonderful to watch. It was such a privilege to work with him. A few days later, I put the vocal down on the track at about 2’o’clock in the morning and distinctly remember having to sing so quietly into the mic so as not to wake any of my flat mates! I decided never to re-record the vocal as these circumstances made the recording feel so rich and intimate. The song is about addiction and feeling alone with your suffering; a place I’m sure that we have all been at some point in our lives.one with your suffering; a place I’m sure that we have all been at some point in our lives.”

As a whole, the album – which is only available as a CD via Harriet’s website – is a trip into the ethos of music long past. It’s just a singer and her songs, in other words, soothing despite the tinges of sadness and regret that bubble to the fore. It’s a perfect diversion to the crazy times in which we now live.

The track list:

As I write, Diane and I are at a foldable table in the dining area of our new, and still empty, apartment in North Carolina. She’s sitting in a $20 chair we picked up at Wal-Mart. I’m in an armless chair lent to us by the apartment complex’s overseers. Our belongings, meanwhile, are stuck on a trailer somewhere in the swamps of Jersey.

We wanted a delivery date of the 27th or 28th. Our plan was to spend Christmas with family, then drive down on the 26th or 27th, spend a night in a hotel, and unpack over the long holiday weekend. When we met with the moving company’s rep in early December, however, he said no. He insisted that delivery be on December 24th. “That way my people can be home for Christmas,” he explained.

We ultimately agreed to his timetable.

He reinforced the 24th when he checked in with Diane later in the month. She said to him, in the presence of a friend, that the most important thing was the Monday delivery; he agreed, and promised that our stuff would be here. The contract that he then sent over, and that Diane signed, gave a window of the 24th to 31st, but his insistence on the 24th…well, we take people at their word. If I’d seen that stretch of days on the contract, I would’ve assumed it was a CYA move to cover for a snowstorm.

And, in fact, his people were indeed home for Christmas. We, on the other hand, footed an over-priced bill for a buffet-style dinner at a restaurant, returned to an empty apartment, and raged against the rep, who avoided our calls and only apologized, via email, for what he dubbed “a miscommunication.” Diane even emailed the company president, who replied to say that he talked to the rep, and we should expect to hear from him soon. Two days later and…

Yeah, you guessed it. He’s a punk. Our stuff won’t be here until the 30th.

That’s all to say: It’s been a bad week. A bad month. A bad year.  Yet, as always, hope is to be had. The development we’ve landed in seems great, thus far. Good restaurants are nearby, as are a nice (if overpriced) market, and even a coffee shop, which I stopped in this morning. We’ve had to purchase a few things we shipped to ourselves, obviously, but we’ve also bought items we would’ve needed to get, anyway. Tyler the Cat is doing exceptionally well; the wide open spaces within the apartment are, to him, reasons to frolic. And, after a test run, my commute to work seems less onerous – if more convoluted – than my old one. (I’ll know for sure next week, when I head into the office for real.) 

And, with that, here’s today’s Top 5: Hope, Luck & Perseverance…

1) Wings – “With a Little Luck.” 

2) Rumer – “Here Comes the Sun.” 

3) Stephen Stills – “Thoroughfare Gap.”

4) Linda Ronstadt with James Taylor – “I Think It’s Gonna Work Out Fine.”

5) Stone Foundation with Paul Weller – “Your Balloon Is Rising.”

And two bonus tracks…

6) Harriet – “You Get What You Give.”

7) Bruce Springsteen – “The Promised Land.”

In the weeks and months ahead, Diane and I will be sorting through the ephemera of our lives as we prepare to move south. It’s a daunting task, as we’ll essentially be deciding what to keep, what to donate, what to sell, and what to trash. The decisions will be tough: What of the high-school report I authored on Lewis Carroll? (For the record, I got a B+.) What of the middle-school essay that recounted my life up until that point? (An A.) Or the box filled with handouts and notes from various college classes? The boxed-up books in the attic? The old magazines that clutter the den? Our DVDs? CDs? LPs? And what of the many framed and unframed posters and prints currently collecting dust?

Some of those questions are easier to answer than others, of course. And while we’ll keep much, we’ll part with much, too. The thing about growing older is this: You realize your life’s treasures aren’t the things you collect, but the people you hold in your heart.

And, with that, here’s today’s Top 5: New Releases, Vol. XXXIII 1/3

1) Harriet – “You Get What You Give.” The dulcet tones of Harriet are utterly addictive, and this infectious shot of upbeat philosophizing – a cover of the New Radicals’ modern-rock smash from 1998 – is, too. It’s one of four tracks from her new EP, The Universal Sessions, which she recorded for BBC Radio 2’s “Alan & Mel’s Summer Escape.”

2) Jane Willow – “Onward Still.” Speaking of philosophizing… I cannot get enough of this song from the Dutch-Irish singer-songwriter. The martial drums, strummed guitars and Jane’s warm vocals, and her lyrical insights, are balm for the soul. The future is in front of us, all, and what becomes of us is up to us.  

3) Hanora George – “The Fallen.” I discovered Hanora, who’s based out of Cork, thanks to Karrie, who shared an interview with the singer on her Facebook page. Wow. What’s amazing is this: Hanora didn’t begin her musical journey until her college years. 

Here’s the interview in question:

4) Stone Foundation – “Next Time Around.” The Midlands-based band’s latest release, Everybody, Anyone, is an addictive set of R&B-infused rock, echoing the likes of War and Traffic, among others.  

5) Hannah’s Yard – “Feels Like Home.” The Buckinghamshire collective covers this classic Randy Newman song on their current release, the four-song Reflections EP. It’s a stirring rendition.

The earth wobbles on its axis. It’s a phenomenon that has intrigued scientists since the 1890s, when it was initially detected, but it wasn’t until 2016 that Jet Propulsion Laboratory researchers identified the likely cause. Have no fear: The world isn’t set to collapse on its side as if a spinning top in its last seconds upright; the end, as such, isn’t nigh. It’s simply Earth adjusting its balance due to, of all things, drought. Minus the weight of water, it tilts.

In a figurative sense, people wobble, too – and not just from too much booze. We’re forever spinning like tops a split-second from toppling over, our axes shifting from the weight added and subtracted from our shoulders by ourselves and others. We lean one way one day and another the next until, at long last, we spin and lean no more. It’s the way of life.

Different people handle the daily burdens in different ways. Me? Take a look around this blog and you’ll find the answer: It’s music. At its best, whether in concert or via record, CD or digital media, music takes me away from the day’s trials and tribulations like no other. Whether you close your eyes and drift away on a catchy melody or pump your fist in the air with thousands of other fans in the arena, a la at a Springsteen concert, the past and future aren’t just secondary concerns – they are of no concern. And after a morning devoted to the burden known as taxes, which always adds weight to my frame, I’ve focused on music for the afternoon, first with the documentary Ticket to Write: The Golden Age of Rock Journalism on Amazon Prime…

…and then sliding down the rabbit hole known as YouTube in search of wonders and delights, a few of which were new to me. So, for today’s Top 5: Wonders & Delights. No rhyme or reason to the picks beyond they captured my fancy….

1) Harriet – “Reach.” This is a cover version of a song the Brit pop group S Club 7 sent to No. 2 on the U.K. charts in 2000; Harriet recorded it for Graham Norton’s radio show in honor of his birthday. To my knowledge, I’ve never heard the original. And, quite frankly, I don’t want or need to: This voice does it for me.

2) Natalie Gelman – “Easy Now.” I don’t know much about Ms. Gelman, but she’s a singer-songwriter with a bright future. This is a great song.

3) Amelia Eisenhauer & the Peruvian Farm Girls – “Changed.” So Amelia was an American Idol contestant during its final season, which is where I first heard her. She’s good. Better than good, actually, as this video shows:

4) Courtney Marie Andrews – “Honest Life.” The title track to Courtney’s recent album, which I’ve listened to almost daily since discovering it in late February. (It still gets better with every listen, and I’ve listened to it at least several hundred times, I think.) We have tickets to see her in early May – can’t wait!

5) Lulu – “Oh Me Oh My.” We also have tickets to see the legendary Lulu in May. She’s one of the greats, and this song – one of her greatest.

And one bonus – inspired by the torrential rains we experienced yesterday:

6) Belinda Carlisle – “Sun.” This was one the one new song included on Belinda’s Icon collection a few years back. It’s addictive.