Wednesday, August 22, 2012


 Among the many excellent tunes I have blasting from my speakers right now, the females are impressing me the most. Last year female releases dominated music with Jill Scott, The Joy Formidable, Beyonce, Tune-Yards, Sophie Hunger, Little Dragon, Lady Ga Ga, St.Vincent,Wild Flag, Nneka and many many others. 2012 hasn't shown signs of turning the reigns over to males anytime soon. As Beyonce says in her female anthem Run The World (Girls); "My persuasion can build a nation".

FIONNA APPLE - THE IDLER'S WHEEL IS WISER THAN THE DRIVER OF THE SCREW AND WHIPPING CHORDS WILL SERVE YOU MORE THAN ROPES WILL EVER DO:  Fionna Apple doesn't just redefine dark music with bitter soul, she IS dark music with bitter soul. She owns pain in away few other artists ever have. Pain is her muse and we the audience benefit greatly. Fionna has kept this album a great secret for six years, allowing no press or visitors of any kind. Unique to her approach is the use of only acoustic instruments, as in only real pianos, real drums, and acoustic upright bass. So the result is incredible on the numbers when she goes off into jazz passages. The percussion of the stand up bass echoes beautifully with the resounding boom of her piano, not many pianists can make a piano boom like Fionna! And of course those lyrics..."My heart's made of parts of all that's around me, maybe that's why the devil just can't get around me."

NORAH JONES - LITTLE BROKEN HEARTS: Lookout Fionna Apple, Norah Jones got dark too! Perhaps because this album came after a nasty break-up. She and producer Danger Mouse(who co-wrote and played on the album as well) went into the studio with no songs written before hand. The two collaborated brilliantly on two songs from Rome(Last year's fictional Italian movie soundtrack by composer Daniel Luppi and Danger Mouse).  Little Broken Hearts delivered on Rome's promise. She speaks here about heart break in a much heavier way than anything she has previously attempted. Norah even threatens to kill the female that stole her man!"Now I'm not the jealous type, never been the killing kind. But you know I know what you did, so don't put up a fight." I am so proud of my longtime crush Miss Norah Jones! And Danger Mouse has proven he has consistent brilliance.

REGINA SPEKTOR - WHAT WE SAW FROM THE CHEAP SEATS: This one goes down as the sweetest and most hopeful album I have heard this year. Regina Spektor is optimistic about trauma without denying the weight of life's burdens. Consider the following lyrics: "Love what you have and you'll have more love. You're not dying...Everyone knows you're going to love...though there's still no cure for the crying." Spektor was born in Russia but studied classical piano in New York, this might account for her unique sound. One can hear touches of The Beatles (specifically Abbey Road) , and also circus-like melodies, something you might hear from Doris Day if she hung out with Neil Young. But none of that is to say this is retro. No What We Saw From The Cheap Seats is totally modern in it's concepts and production value. Music for broken hearts that refuse to quit smiling.

EMA - PAST LIFE MARTYRD SAINTS:  I always get a little more curious about just what Erika M. Anderson(EMA) has come up with here. This is an album you can purchase and still be chewing on a year later. I knew I liked it, but I couldn't tell you exactly why or what it was. Her attitude is punk, her sound is hypnotic, with vocals that land between spoken word and a soulful howl - bringing to mind Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Bjork, The Flaming Lips and even R.E.M. There's really only one real rocker on the album, Milkman(also a single), but not once does Past Life get boring or soft. Every song presents a different style and form, there is no uniform structure on the whole. So obviously I still can't figure EMA out, but I can't wait to see what she comes out with next. I am hooked!

SHARON JONES AND THE DAP KINGS - I LEARNED THE HARD WAY: This album came out in 2010 but it could have been released in 1960 on Chess Records. It is impossible not to hear Etta James and Ruth Brown in the powerhouse voice of Sharon Jones. The Dap Kings hail from Brooklyn, NY and have pioneered a revivalist movement of  60's funk and Soul on their own label Daptone Records. In order to achieve this sound they have done away with all digital recording, going with only older analog equipment (a technique also favored by Jack White of The White Stripes) and through using vintage instruments as opposed to updated equipment. Charles Bradley's 2011 album No Time For Dreaming (also on Daptone Records) follows this same format, channeling the sounds of Otis Redding and James Brown. For old school Soul fans this revivalist movement is music heaven!

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