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.
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!