Instead of Artist of the Week, this post should be titled, Artist You Are Hearing All Over Commercial Pop Radio. Unfortunately, making that latter a reality is not directly within our powers. It’s also a little wordy, and so we announce that our Artist of the Week is the incomparable Brittany Campbell.
Campbell is a singer, songwriter, and producer from New York. Sure, that describes a hundred thousand people. Campbell is better than them. Her music is the perfect storm of pop, soul, R&B, and rock. She cites Amy Winehouse, Blondie, Joni Mitchell, and Jimi Hendrix as influences. Do you really not want to get on that train? Is that how you want to live your life? Get it together, do the right thing, and listen to these songs.
One of the best releases of 2012 to date is Boys Don’t Cry, an album of covers recorded by Anglo-Pakistani singer-songwriter Rumer (nee Sarah Joyce). As a vocalist, Rumer is soothing and smooth, strictly middle-of-the-road enough to earn her an invitation from U.S. President Barack Obama to perform at the White House in May, the month her album came out ” but that’s not to say she doesn’t have a slightly subversive streak.
After all, who chooses to release a collection of remakes for their second full-length studio album. (Rumer’s 2010 debut, Seasons of My Soul, earned her widespread acclaim, two Brit Award nominations, and a platinum certification in the U.K.)
Then there is the theme of Boys Don’t Cry (whose title was not inspired by The Cure song, which is not among the album tracks): Everything on it was written and performed by male artists in the ’70s. Somehow Rumer makes quintessentially guy songs like Ronnie Lane‘s “Just for a Moment” (about an instant of clarity in a drunken haze) and Neil Young‘s “A Man Needs a Maid” (title: self-explanatory) sound strong enough for a man but made for a woman.
Taylor Swift has yet to top Billboard’s Hot 100, but who needs a No. 1 pop single when you’ve sold more than 20 million albums (as of March of 2011), been named Entertainer of the Year twice in a row by the Academy of Country Music (in 2011 and 2012), been awarded the 2010 Hal David Starlight Award by the Songwriters Hall of Fame (an honor previously bestowed upon John Mayer and Alicia Keys) and won an Album of the Year GRAMMY (in 2010, for Fearless, her second album)? She makes every princess of pop this side of Adele seem like an underachiever.
At the age of twenty-two, Swift has accomplished what it takes some icons entire careers and then some to achieve. (Neither Bruce Springsteen, nor the Rolling Stones, nor Aretha Franklin, nor Madonna, nor Eminem, has yet to win an Album of the Year GRAMMY.) But it’s Swift’s latest honor, being the frontrunner for the role of Joni Mitchell in the upcoming film Girls Like Us, a biopic based on Sheila Weller’s book about the lives of Mitchell, Carly Simon and Carole King in the late ’60s, that has her detractors”and some fans even”protesting “Too soon!” and wondering “Who? Her?” (more…)
That’s just how I felt when I heard the music of Sweet Wednesday. You’ll forgive the gushing when you hear the alt-country, folk, roots sound of the Boston-based duo known individually as Dave Falk and Lisa Housman. I didn’t think musicians made music this addictive anymore. Not since Joan Baez, Glen Campbell (courtesy of Jimmy Webb songs) and Joni Mitchell, anyway.
What I love is the story telling in folk, said Housman. I’m a lyrics person and when the lyrics get me, then that is the song that I am going to love. That is one of the things that got me about folk was the beautiful harmonies.
Still it was something of a surprise for Housman when she met Falk about twelve years ago and soon found herself collaborating with him. For one thing, Falk was a rock and blues guy and Housman was a folk fan. Perhaps that’s why the songs the two perform as an acoustic duo have so many influences, though it’s often Housman’s clear, emotive vocals that steers the music”and steals the show.
With touches of everything from psychedelia to folk-rock to prog, singer/songwriter Jonathan Wilson‘s new album, Gentle Spirit, is something of a beard rocker’s”or more accurately, beard balladeer’s”wet dream, the kind of recording that sounds like it was meant for spinning seductively around a turntable while the listener sits cross-legged on the floor absorbing the credits and cover art like they’re part of a sacred text. And the seventy-eight-minute opus, lovingly recorded on analog gear, has indeed been made available as a double-vinyl LP.
But if you end up discovering Wilson’s work digitally, don’t despair”the experience isn’t analog-exclusive. The magic is still there, Wilson says, looking at a digital scan of a painting you love still conveys the intent, maybe not the detail and resolution, but the intent is still there. Besides, it’s not like Gentle Spirit was a live-in-the-studio recording; Wilson played the majority of the parts himself, diligently overdubbing each instrument as part of a long, laborious process. The one-man-band approachcomes very naturally, he says, I’ve always recorded that way. Gentle Spirit was the first record of mine that had guests helping me musically. I enjoy both sides, live tracking with others and also being completely alone, working it all out. While it’s not a concept album, Gentle Spirit nevertheless has the feel of a slowly unfolding song cycle that makes a long elegant arc. It’s not the kind of thing you just throw together. I had a vision for the basis of the record, Wilson affirms, the bulk of the songs and the record’s meaning, but many things unfolded along the way, the record took many, many months to finish, it was an extended process.