Archive for the ‘music reviews’ Category

I have to admit, I love a good duet.  True, they are generally sweeter than a nanaimo bar a la mode and do tend to walk a fine line between being sentimental and trite.  But I can’t help it.  I’m a sucker when it comes to a romantic collaboration between a male and female singer.  I believe it dates back to the 70’s, watching Sonny and Cher close their show each week with I Got You Babe.

Over the years, there have been many classic duets which were big hit songs; some are powerful and moving like Crying by Roy Orbison and kd lang, some are corny and fun like Don’t Go Breaking My Heart by Elton John and Kiki Dee and some are cool and uninhibited like Jackson by Johnny Cash and June Carter.

In the last 20 years or so, other than R&B and Hip-Hop (which has it’s own form of duet between rapper and singer), movie soundtrack duets and Disney songs, and duet albums of standards by ex-rockers, there really hasn’t been many notable duet songs in the traditional sense – man and woman singing to each other, face to face.  Good duets are still being made, but few and far between and often difficult to find for the singles downloading public.  Here are a few of my favourites:

Move Me To Tears category: Don’t Give Up by Willie Nelson & Sinead O’Connor (original by P. Gabriel and K. Bush)

Caramel Corn category: Modern Nature by Sondre Lerche & Sylvie Lewis

Lustful Cool category: I Dig You by Jon Spencer & Cristina Martinez (aka Boss Hog)

I now have a new favourite which, like an old favourite Fairytale Of New York by The Pogues & Kirsty McColl, can be categorized as all of the above.  The duet in question is Home by Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros and it’s from their 2009 debut CD Up From Below.

…by Sandy Gritt

 

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I’ve purchased a few compilation records in my day.  I think it all started with K-Tel’s Goofy Greats. What an album.  Four sides of some of the wackiest songs of the 70’s.  Fonzie’s Favorites was another one I must have played a thousand times.  Then, as I got older, into my teens and my taste in music began to expand and refine, albums like Life In The European Theatre, Dance Craze and IRS Greatest hits Volume 2 & 3 became the catalysts to what would become my unquenchable thirst for discovering new underground and independent music.

My latest compilation purchase is 2011’s Live From Nowhere Near You.  It’s a three CD, 64 song collection put together by Kevin Moyer.  It consists of songs by Moyer’s friends, professional and street musicians recorded in Moyer’s attic studio and on the streets.  It’s simply amazing.  So many artists, some well known, some playing in unusual combinations, all contributing music and stories in the theme of life on the streets and the journeys to and from them.  All recorded exclusively for this project.

With all the different styles, settings and approaches to these songs, the CDs have an incredible amount of fluidity from song to song, artist to artist.  Artists include: Bright Eyes with Britt Daniel; Josh Homme with Eddie Vedder and The Strokes; Elliott Smith; Ryan Adams and The Dandy Warhols just to name a few.  But some of the best performances are by street musicians from all over the US’s Pacific Northwest, many recorded for the first time.  I’ve been playing the collection in my car for a few weeks now and I’m still discovering some real gems.  I picked it up at the record shop for just $10.  It’s less on itunes.  If you love raw and innovative Indie music, I think you owe it to yourself to get this remarkable compilation.

…by Sandy Gritt

In 1999 after leaving behind a career in construction,  David Francey embarked on his new vocation as a singer songwriter, releasing his debut album Torn Screen Door.  His many travels across Canada along with his Scottish heritage have helped shape his music into something genuine, profound and enormously entertaining.  His straightforward songwriting style is filled with stories of real people and real places.  His voice is both warm and trustworthy like a favourite teacher from childhood reciting lessons in song.  His simple and clean folk arrangements are thorough and captivating.

David has released 9 albums to date.  His latest release, 2011’s Late Edition has the ability to hold you close and keep you safe and warm as well as the power to make you stamp your feet hard enough to kick the dirt up from beneath the floorboards.  A true Canadian troubadour.  I am sincerely blown away by this man’s songwriting talent.  I urge you to check him out www.davidfrancey.com

…by Sandy Gritt

By now you may have heard a couple of verses of the beautiful song Snow Day while happy folks fly paper snowflakes from kite strings in a famous Seattle company’s latest TV commercial.  It’s actually quite a good commercial as far as commercials go and the song sets the mood perfectly.  The song is by Matt Pond PA from their 2005 EP Winter Songs.  There’s a cetain comfort I get every time I hear the the song and that can be said about the entire Winter Songs EP.  Snow Day and two instrumentals are the only original songs on the EP but the covers have been given the same Matt Pond PA treatment which makes them so endearing (the cover of Lindsey Buckingham’s Holiday Road from the Vacation movies is pure magic).

Thoughtful and warm with a touch of melancholy are adjectives that can be used to describe the entire Matt Pond PA catalogue.  Consistent is another.  With nine LPs and eight EPs to their credit and Matt Pond remaining the only original member, there is no doubt as to who runs the show.  Their latest EP Spring Fools is no exception.  Pick up or download any one of their releases and you will find intelligent song writing with the power to warm the cockles of your heart…aaah.

…by Sandy Gritt

Not an official video but a pretty special home video by SizzleCickFlicks:

 Thao with The Get Down Stay Down offer up hook after hook in their 2009 release Know Better Learn Faster.  Balanced on a fine line between tightly constructed pop grooves and playful yet revealing lyrics, this collection of songs is instantly infectious but also smart enough to entice the listener to come back again and again.  Thao Nguyen is a woman with formidable song writing talents and her band certainly knows how to get down.  Cute, clever and so damn catchy, this record will have you dancing around the pod port within seconds of the opening track.

…by Sandy Gritt

I can remember back in the day when “Cat” was a bit of a trend in band names.  Then, for a brief period the favoured pet band names seemed to contain “Dog”, then of course there were the “Jesus” names but more recently I am noticing “Whale” as the latest flavour.  And why not?  Whales are big and important and breathe air just like we do.  One of such bands is New York’s Freelance Whales.  Their debut album, Weathervanes,  from 2009 is a dreamy collection of lush chamber pop complete with organic details which include banjo, mandolin, harmonium and of course a healthy dose of glockenspiel. With five members who are all instrument collectors and all sing, Freelance Whales offer a live sound that is layered with many colours without ever getting muddy and their song writing is full of emotion and playfulness without ever getting mushy.

…by Sandy Gritt

Even though I bought Tom Wait’s latest offering (the deluxe addition at that) the day of it’s release, it has taken me a while to write this review.  I figure if you’re a Waits fan then you already have it and know how masterful it is.  Plus I admit to being a little bias.  So this is directed at the non-Tom Waits fans.

Tom Waits has been writing great songs and producing innovative albums for decades.  He’s one of the best live performers I have ever seen. His creativity knows no boundaries and he’s one of very few recording artists, now in his sixties, who is actually improving with age.  He’s the kind of artist who has no polish in his tool box but has a bigger hammer than you, grittier sandpaper and touch of glitter amongst the dust and bone.  With most songs on Bad As Me clocking in at under four minutes, this collection is a concise display of Waits’ strengths of past recordings with timeless appeal constructed by the adventurous soul of a man who doesn’t use a safety net.

…by Sandy Gritt