Leave It All Behind
Foreign Exchange: Dear Friends: An Evening With The Foreign Exchange
From one of my favorite albums of 2011. Each song is a gem, but I always go back to this one. 10/31/12
Rahsaan Patterson: Bleuphoria
When you've been up all night and it's now 6 AM and you haven't slept and figure you'll just need to stay awake, you'd like to listen to something with a smooth groove, something that won't grate on your tired mind and worn-out body. Like this. 8/10/11
It Doesn't Really Matter
George Michael: Older
I'd forgotten about this album, probably because it was not one of Michael's popular ones. This tune is one of my few favorites from here: it heartbreakingly evokes dismissive regret, something I can closely relate to. There are a few times I've loved and lost, looked back and thought, "Well, it really doesn't matter; it's over now" -- even when I know it does. To listen, click here. 7/31/11
You Got Love (Feat. Snoop Dog)
Kindred The Family Soul: Love Has No Recession
There's something about Fatin Dantzler and Aja Graydon, the married couple who comprise Kindred, that makes one believe in everlasting love, tenacious commitment, and steadfast unity in the face of the worst adversity. You know, all the things that we want from marriage. The title of this, their fourth album, says nothing's changed. The future may not always look so bright these days, but love always brings a bit of light into our lives. Click here to listen. 7/30/11
All the While
Jenna Nicholls: The Blooming Hour
I've been lugging around her original version on my iPod for a while and was happy to know she released a newer, better version in May, along with updates of her other tunes. Singer/songwriter Nicholls charms with her sweet blend of folk/pop, which on some days is just the warm embrace we all need.
There is a Light That Never Goes Out
Dum Dum Girls: He Gets Me High
Many of those who know me know that the Smith's classic is one of my top love songs of all time. It might not even have been intended as such, but I find refuge in the thought that you can find home in someone when you don't really have any. This cover is an upbeat version by the Dum Dum Girls -- and it's a fun update.
I'd been tapping my fingers waiting for this album to be released -- and I wasn't disappointed when it finally did. Although there are better songs than this one, this classic Cure cover hit just the right spot while I was mulling over life and love in Manila. Adele's voice has the power to break your heart, yet give you the strength to stand up and keep moving.
Nina Vidal: Nina Vidal
Someone needs to explain to me why she's HUGE in Japan but not nearly as well known Stateside. I just don't get it. I've scoured the internet and have purchased every song of hers I can get in the meantime and am anticipating the release of her latest album "Love, Pop & Soul - The Cover Sessions," which will be available here in August. If you haven't heard her sing, you must visit her site: http://www.ninavidal.com/
Love Is For Strangers
Luciana Souza: The New Bossa Nova
My friend Rick and I share our musical discoveries with each other all the time. Once in a while, our wild enthusiasm meets at the same level -- and then I know we're on to something. This tune -- penned by Souza's husband and producer Larry Klein and Steely Dan's Walter Becker -- made him stay up quite late on a night he had planned to tuck in early. You might want to learn more about Souza here on her site. If you get a chance listen to her live set on NPR.com. You might find yourself staying up late, too.
Trouble Don't Rhyme
Oren Lavie: The Opposite Side of the Sea
I confess, I don't know much about Oren Lavie -- yet. I first came across his name -- like millions did -- via his brilliant Her Morning Elegance music video, which was nominated for a Grammy in the "Best Short Form Music Video" category. Lavie falls squarely in the singer/songwriter category -- if one is so inclined to peg his music into a genre -- sure to appeal to fans of Nick Drake, Joshua Radin, and the like. Check out this amazing new talent here.
This Girl's In Love With You
Ella Fitzgerald: Sunshine of Your Love
This is one of my all-time favorite songs, sung by one of my all-time favorite singers. Seriously, it doesn't get better than this.
Never Want To Say It's Love
Dido: Safe Trip Home
I instantly connected to this song the first time I heard it last year because the words are exactly what I would think if I, well, you know. Am sort of the girl who says "I miss you -- and I really hate that."
Must Be Dreaming
Frou Frou: Details
Imogen Heap of Frou Frou sings like she's perpetually in a dream-like state -- and that's always the place where she takes me. And when she sings about falling in love, she takes me where falling is like dreaming: doesn't quite feel real, but it's just too wonderful to ever want to wake up. "I must be dreaming for I don’t fall in love long...I must be dreaming, oh. Pinch me to waking. So one day I might be yours. As long as I’m losing it so completely…"
This Tornado Loves You
Neko Case: Middle Cyclone
I love this woman's voice -- it's a force of nature, which is why I can't think of anyone else who can sing this song, which opens the album, the way she does. When she sings I imagine I'm the tornado that sweeps through everything in its path in search of my beloved. Neko Case can bring me anywhere she wants to go.
Your Ex-Lover Is Dead
Stars: Set Yourself on Fire
There are songs that grow on me, they don't give me that immediate pow to the gut or heart. Usually these songs appeal more to my head: with each listen I finally get its deeper meaning and how it connects to my life. This is one of those songs. Some people enter your life only to leave it -- and that's all it is: "There's one thing I have to say so I'll be brave. You were what I wanted, I gave what I gave. I'm not sorry I met you, I'm not sorry it's over. I'm not sorry there's nothing to save."
Love You Down
Me'Shell NdegeOcello: Devil's Halo
A great cover, to me, is one that interprets the original in a thoroughly fresh way without insulting it. NdegeOcello does exactly that with her version of Ready for the World's 80's hit "Love You Down." Pounding with sultry, sensual beats and trailing off with a shimmering guitar coda, this makes you wonder if NdegeOcello wasn't possessed by Prince during recording. Now if someone could only do the same for "Oh Sheila."
Nothing But A Miracle
Diane Birch: Bible Belt
One listen to this tune, Diane Birch's first single off her debut album, and I knew she wasn't going to fade into obscurity as fast as she'd appeared. Her voice is the sound of one who has lived long enough to last several lifetimes -- and yet she's only in her early '20s. In a way she has, however, when you consider that she'd spent nearly half her life traveling the globe thanks to her father, a pastor who moved his family from one continent to another until she was back in the US where she was born. Birch, a self-described "old soul" wasn't exposed to pop culture until she was already 13 -- and then immersed herself immediately in all genres of music. Which is why this album is rich with varied styles and influences -- gospel, country, and '70s pop, for instance. But going back to that voice: well, you'll just have to hear it.
- Pretty Wings
MAXWELL: BLACKsummers' night
First in a trilogy, and finally arriving on July 7th is Maxwell’s long-awaited (if eight years isn’t long enough) album BLACKsummers’ Night! The first single “Pretty Wings” has received so much enthusiastic buzz that if it’s any indication of what the album is going to be like, I can’t wait any longer. It definitely adds to the rumor that we can expect more vintage Maxwell. And that’s a good thing.
Musiq Soulchild: OnMyRadio
There’s no mistaking Musiq Soulchild for anyone else. This R&B artist bares his soul, wears his heart on his sleeve, each and every time he creates his lush, layered melodies and poetic, earnest lyrics. If you like Maxwell, you may dig this dude, too. If not, well give him a listen anyway.
Has there been a Maysa album that I haven't yet listed on my Soundtrack sidebar? I don't think so. This is her seventh release, which again is in her classic jazz/contemporary jazz/R&B/soul style that she is famous for, but is certainly not predictable or boring in any way. "My vision for this album," Maysa notes, "was to change the music a little bit to be in line with the way I feel spiritually and emotionally. On a couple of my previous albums I was playing it a little too safe. I'm not afraid to express myself now!"
Liv Warfield: Embrace Me
Funny how I still keep rediscovering tunes and albums I once used to listen to over and over again. This is one of them. Portland-based Warfield's debut album, "Embrace Me," which was released in 2006, is "all about acceptance and not being afraid to spread your wings to soar to the next level." Oftentimes compared to Sade, Warfield's voice has a sultry fullness that lends well to her songs that blend R&B and neo-soul. I'm hoping she gets the general recognition that she deserves -- and which has seemed to elude her still. To listen, click on her site here.
Rockin' You Eternally
Jazzanova: Of All the Things
Ever since it became possible for me to buy only tunes I love, I've been buying fewer cds. But this one I HAD to have in hand -- it's the kind I can listen to from beginning to end and not sense a dull moment. Each blends into the next without sounding repetitive; in fact just the opposite occurs. "Our music can take listeners on a journey," says Alexander Barck, one of the six members of this German Berlin-based DJ/producer collective. And just like coming back from a journey, this made me wish it could never end.
DIANNE REEVES: When You Know
This song has been covered over and over again -- and I've probably heard them all. And although no one can sing it quite like Minnie Riperton can, Dianne Reeves finally gives it the justice it deserves -- jazzed up and more uptempo, and evocative of the kind of love you want to sing to the sky about. Listen by clicking on the orange BOX above.
There is a Light That Never Goes Out
THE SMITHS: The Queen Is Dead
I mentioned somewhere in my Facebook page recently that this mid-80s tune is one of my all-time favorite love songs -- and people thought I was kidding. OK, so the most obviously romantic stanza might start with "And if a double-decker bus crashes into us. To die by your side is such a heavenly way to die." But anyone who has ever felt alone and misunderstood, but was comforted by knowing that someone felt like home, then you'd understand why I was completely serious.
The Step and the Walk
THE DUKE SPIRIT: Neptune
If anyone's been paying attention to my recent Last.fm playlist it would be obvious this album's been on constant rotation on my iTunes. I love its '60s rock vibe, killer guitars, pounding drums and especially lead singer Leila Moss' cool, confident vocals. The first time I heard Moss reminded me of the first time I heard Debbie Harry over the radio -- it was like listening to an enticing sneer.
Just Like Heaven
KATIE MELUA: Piece by Piece
This late-80s song by British alt-rock band The Cure always made me melt with its tenderness. When I heard singer/songwriter Katie Melua's 2005 version I was a soppy mess on the floor. When she sings: ""Show me how you do that trick, the one that makes me scream" (h)e said. "The one that makes me laugh" (he) said. And threw (his) arms around my neck. "Show me how you do it and I promise you I promise that I'll run away with you.
I'll run away with you." You believe she will. Gladly.
YEAH YEAH YEAHS: Fever to Tell
This tune is more than five years old, yet when it plays on my iPod while I'm running on the treadmill I'm in constant danger of falling off due to intense head bobbing. When Karen O sings, I want to be her: she's just too cool.
When Words Are Just Words
INCOGNITO: Tales from the Beach
This is not your typical "tropical paradise" beach type of music, as the album title might suggest. Here's how Jean-Paul "Bluey" Maunick explains his inspiration for the group's most recent release: '""When I was a kid, my first taste of music came from the beaches of Mauritius," he says. "I spent a lot of time listening to the hotel bands, or the bands playing around the bonfires and cookouts. It's a small island, so there were beaches everywhere. I was always watching live musicians play. So for inspiration for this album, I went back to various beaches around the world - in Italy, Indonesia and elsewhere - and just let the music flow." And it sure does here, in Incognito's groovy blend of retro soul, funk, jazz, and dance. As always, the vocal power here amazes. Not only does Maysa grace us with her presence on four tracks, but Joy Rose, Tony Momrelle, and Imaani remind us why Incognito continues to remain such a powerful, inspirational force after all these years.
- All Good Things
THE WEEPIES: Hideaway
The Weepies, comprised of husband-and-wife Deb Talan and Steve Tannen, have been quite busy since their debut album came out in 2006 -- creating, playing, working with other artists, touring and getting married. I'm a fan of this folk duo's honest, touching music and lyrics, which can talk about pain and longing without dragging you down. When I first heard the song "All Good Things" it sounded familiar and I quickly realized I'd heard the Mandy Moore version first; I then discovered they had worked on her album. No diss to Mandy, but I like this version much, much better. I have a feeling you would, too.
- Your Song
LOVE PSYCHEDELICO: This Is Love Psychedelico
This is Love Psychedelico's (or more affectionately known to fans as Delico) first release outside of Asia -- and it's about time. The duo -- singer Kumi and guitarist Naoki -- formed the band about a decade ago and have been singing about love and peace ever since. Their music, a blend of '60s British Invasion and classic '70s rock, combined with mad Japanese-English lyrics, is cool, catchy, and highly infectious. I can't seem to get enough of them. To listen, click here.
LALAH HATHAWAY: Self Portrait
This is Lalah Hath- away's fifth album, but only the third that I've heard. From what I can hear for myself, this is her best yet. So many of the tracks here are strong and can stand alone -- in fact, rather than download each and every one, I went ahead and bought the entire CD. Nowadays, I do that only when I believe in the entire package, not just some of its parts. Donny's little girl must be making her dad proud: she may have inherited his velvet voice, but she has a style all her own -- and she only gets better, trust me on this. The first track "Let Go" has been attracting lots of positive buzz, but I can't stop listening to the next song, "Breathe." It makes me do just that.
The B-52s: Funplex
Has it really been 16 years since their last studio album (and almost 30 years since I was both stunned and seduced by "Rock Lobster")? I love the B-52s so much that I was almost equally thrilled and scared to hear they were coming out with a new album this Spring. Thrilled for obvious reasons; scared because I didn't know if they could still be relevant (they are in their '50s, after all). But as soon "Pump" burst out blazing, I knew they were back. As Strickland says: "It's loud, sexy rock and roll for your pleasure zones, with the beat pumped up to hot pink." Just the way I like it.