February 22, 2014 by Julia
I love discovering new music; don’t you? And I have found some of the best stuff through blogs and friends, so in the spirit of compulsive music sharing, I am going to inflict my musical taste and opinions upon you! Hopefully, you don’t mind.
A few disclaimers:
1. Contrary to what the title implies, I know you may have heard some of this music before (especially if you know me in person). If so, yay!
2. This is only some of the best non-mainstream music I’ve heard. And I couldn’t even get to all of my non-mainstream favorites because who wants to read a blog post for that long? And I realize, of course, there is more great music out there of which I am not yet aware. If so, enlighten me! I am insatiable.
3. I stuck to an indie, folky, singer-songwriter vibe with most of these albums and songs, because when I tried to encompass more genres (like classical) it got out of control. For the record, I do love music from every genre (she said haughtily), but I am probably, predictably, most partial to this kind.
4. I am a music geek, and must geek out every once in a while or my head will explode. If you are not a music geek, it’s okay to skip this post and just read the next one in which I will probably spill my guts or say something personal and/or embarrassing! Don’t worry, it always happens eventually…in life AND in the blog.
5. All cover art is sourced from Amazon unless otherwise noted. You can also link to the albums on Amazon by clicking on the cover art. I do link to some choice tracks (where available) from each album if you’d like to hear them in their entirety on YouTube. (Some of them are even accompanied by student films or montages because that’s all I could find!) But if you’re really interested, just search for the album on Spotify or buy it on iTunes. Am I saying stuff you already know? Sorry.
Whew! Deep breaths.
Okay. Geek Time.
See, this exercise isn’t going to be as hipster-ish annoying as you thought, right? I mean, your parents probably know of this guy, and everything.
My parents did in fact listen to Harry Connick., Jr.’s early jazz albums when I was a kid, and I always liked his soulful, swinging delivery, both on the piano and vocally. The original music on the album She, though, is his first real departure from the more traditional jazz standards of his previous work – it is more modern, and it is grittier, funkier and crackling with vitality. I heard it first as a teen and thought it was amazing; it still holds up for me to this day. It feels both spontaneous and perfectly executed, like all the best jam sessions. Try these tracks: She, (I Could Only) Whisper Your Name, Here Comes the Big Parade, Honestly Now (Safety’s Just Danger…Out of Place)
If you like quirk and whimsy as much as I do, you’ll love this album. You may remember Jill Sobule as the two-hit wonder of “I Kissed a Girl” (long before Katy Perry did it) and “Supermodel” (from the classic Clueless soundtrack). But her other songs here are more than novelties, and each song is a wonderfully crafted gem of a story, sparkling with humor and inventiveness and pathos. Try these tracks: Margaret, Trains, The Jig is Up, Vrbana Bridge
This was my first Wainwright album (although it’s his third release – his first two albums are also great), and so it holds a special place in my heart. The whole album has a haunting, classical, romantic, gorgeous, over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek, melancholy quality to it (is that enough adjectives for you?), and Rufus is a unique character. His voice is distinctive, and depending on your taste, you might call him whiny, or you might call him an old soul. Personally, I adore his voice and whole persona. I mean, check out his awesome album portraiture. Try these tracks: I Don’t Know What it Is, Go or Go Ahead, My Phone’s On Vibrate for You, Want.
Simply put, a fantastic Beatles covers album. The right artists are chosen for the right songs, so that each song is infused with new life. Also, a perfect introduction to non-Beatles fans, as a way of saying – see? They wrote this huge variety of songs! They were brilliant! Try these tracks: Sarah McLaughlin’s Blackbird, Rufus Wainwright’s Across the Universe, Eddie Vedder’s You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away, Sheryl Crow’s Mother Nature’s Son, Chocolate Genius’ Julia
You know how Fiona Apple hit the music scene with her first album, Tidal, and people thought she was a little too crazy and assumed she was on drugs because she was so skinny but they loved her song Criminal because it’s so freaking awesome? And then her second album came out a few years later, and it has this super-long title (see above) and there were no clear singles and people other than critics and well, music geeks, kind of forgot about Fiona Apple after that. I really connected with Tidal, and was disappointed at first that When the Pawn had a less accessible feel. But the more I listened to it, the more I could hear the layers of beauty, texture, raw emotion and shadow. Yes, it’s full of dark clouds and anger. But the songs ring true, and Fiona draws you in, and you know she is articulating her interior as truthfully as she can, with no regard for genre or expectations. What results is a melancholy, passionate kaleidoscope of sound. Try these tracks: Paper Bag, A Mistake, Limp, The Way Things Are
Sia is a unique artist, and her music lighter than that of some of the aforementioned artists. If you’re looking for smart, upbeat, intricate pop that’s off the beaten path but still dance-able, then look no further. Again with the layers of sound. I’m a fan of the interesting layers. Try these tracks: The Co-Dependent, Bring Night, Be Good To Me
You know how some music can quietly settle on our shoulders, and suddenly you feel as though the moment is golden, and all is right with the world? This is one of those albums for me. It feels wholly domestic and comforting, like an old quilt and a cup of tea and an oil lamp while a storm brews outside over the corn fields. (Yes, we are in the heartland of America as painted by Andrew Wyeth, in my imaginings.) It is the aural equivalent of dust floating in afternoon light. Sweet and good background music for quiet time at home. Try these tracks: Half Acre, Idle (The Rabbit Song), Sailor
And now for some songs:
A hand-clapped, call and answer delight sure to lift your spirits. Dennis and I once imagined a music video for this done in old-school Disney Silly Symphony style – happy bird choruses in swinging, rubbery, walking trees. Listen here
Real Love – Regina Spektor (2007)
Spektor takes the John Lennon classic and imbues it with deeper feeling than the original. It’s stunning. Listen here
Kathleen – Josh Ritter (2003)
This is a song I have yet to tire of. In fact, if I had to pick favorites, it would probably be in the top five. The melody has a bittersweet, timeless feel but the beauty and warmth are uplifting. Perfect for an aimless drive with an old friend under the stars. Listen here
A confection of irresistible harmonies and guitar. It’s just lovely. And the fact that “Marie” is such a recognizable type from literature – the fun and sweet yet misguided and messed-up lady – is just icing. Listen here
The lyrics are like an old poem, enchanting and evocative, and they flow along with the harp into a beautiful melody to match. I am transported to a creepy underwater wonderland every time. Who would make a better mermaid than Joanna Newsom?
If you want to come on down,
down with your bones so white,
watch the freight trains pound
into the wild, wild night
How I would love to gnaw,
to gnaw on your bones so white,
and watch as the freight trains paw,
paw at the wild, wild night.
Another one of my true favorites. I am partial to the retro sound, the gravelly voice singing the romantic lyrics, the building verses to the chorus, the layers of sound and the edge of the electric guitar juxtaposed against the honky-tonk piano. It’s got a bit of everything. Listen here
This band is all jokey and dumbed-down on purpose (which actually makes them really smart?), but they know how to rock. I feel like a dork saying that, but it’s true. THEY KNOW HOW TO ROCK OUT. Speaking in Tongues is by far my favorite song of theirs, for it’s crazy-ass beat and weird vocal voodoo. This video shows you everything you need to know about them.
One of those songs that starts out in minor key and then the chorus blooms out into major like a sunflower opening to the sun. And then it sneaks back to minor, and then back to major. I love that. Give it time, it will grow on you. Listen here
When I am feeling down, this song heartens me with the simple message: we were built for this. The cello and understated singing give it a folksy Americana feel that perfectly underscores the feeling of camaraderie and support. Listen here
It has taken AGES and AGES to round up all these links, but music-sharing is a compulsion and I can’t help myself. Okay, one more, bonus round:
Ultimate stalker anthem extraordinaire. Catchy, whimsical, creepy. Listen here
I don’t really know how to end this, because my brain has been fried by the internet. Hope you enjoy the music – and tell me about some about some of your lesser-known favorites!