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Fri, 28 Apr 2006

Summertown / Deborah Conway & Willy Zygier
Summertown Not for the first time, I find myself wishing I lived in Australia. Not only because of a 2004 article from the Nine Network's joint website with MSN, which I found while trying to learn something about Ms. Conway and Mr. Zygier, and which informed me that anyone purchasing 20 copies of Summertown would be visited by the pair and given a 20 minute performance. Although that's a pretty good reason. D'you think if we bought a whole bunch of copies they'd make the trip to the US of A?
[ Category: Pop | Add a comment | Link ]

Wed, 26 Apr 2006

16 Legendary Covers from 1969-70 / Elton John
I guess he wasn't always Captain Fantastic. The tracks on this album demonstrate that Elton once had an ordinary side. Humdrum even. You'd think with all his money he'd find a way to bury the master tapes of his uninspired and uninspiring past. Sample a little of this, assuming you can stomach it. It's nice to know that even great performers started in the pits. 16 Legendary Covers from 1969-70
[ Category: Pop | Add a comment | Link ]

Mon, 06 Mar 2006

Linger / Jen Chapin
I've mentioned several times here that I'm a fan of Coverville, Brian Ibbott's cover song podcast. I got a particular kick out of his Groundhog Day show, which was a takeoff on, well, Groundhog Day. Brian used a series of Britney Spears covers, specifically of the songs Toxic and ...Baby One More Time, with the Max Raabe version of Oops!...I Did It Again thrown in at the end. But the one that got my attention was a version of Toxic recorded by the Chapin Sisters, daughters of Tom and nieces of the late, lamented Harry. And while searching the iTMS for the Sisters' music (sadly not represented here but available on their website), I came upon Jen, daughter of Harry and niece of Tom. Clearly there's something to this genetics stuff, because Jen Chapin has both her father's special musical gift, his ability to tell a story in song and his social conscience. Like her father, Ms. Chapin takes a little time to appreciate. But the best often does. Linger
[ Category: Pop | Add a comment | Link ]

Wed, 15 Feb 2006

The Ultimate Peter & Gordon / Peter & Gordon
I graduated from children's music to rock and/or roll, as Reverend Lovejoy once said, right around the time of the British Invasion. Which I suppose means that my concept of rock was formed not by Elvis or Buddy Holly, but by the British bands who followed The Beatles, and then their American imitators. Peter & Gordon had their moment of fame at just the right time to influence me; I can't listen to A World Without Love without thinking they don't write 'em like that any more. (Sounding more and more like my father, I am.) The only other P&G hit I recognize here is Lady Godiva. But what's funny is how many of these tracks I do recognize, just by other artists. And even funnier is how, if I'd heard P&G do them first, I'd be thinking of all these other performers as the cover artists. I guess that old saying is true, that where you stand depends a lot on where you sit. Or at least where you sat when you were starting out. The Ultimate Peter & Gordon
[ Category: Pop | Add a comment | Link ]

Wed, 01 Feb 2006

I Love My Mac / Daphne Kalfon
If you're one of us, you'll likely appreciate this happy little number. If you're not, you're either bewildered why anybody'd write a love song to a computer or gritting your teeth and saying bad words under your breath about those annoying cultist Mac geeks who just refuse to roll over and admit defeat. Me, I say it loud: I Mac and I'm proud! Especially now, when I'm in a new job and dealing with the joy that is Windows for the first time in two years. I Love My Mac
[ Category: Pop | Add a comment | Link ]

Fri, 06 Jan 2006

How Does That Grab You? / Nancy Sinatra
How Does That Grab You? I have a friend who's a devotee of Quentin Tarantino and who somehow talked me into watching many of his films. Being the squeamish sort, I prefer sex to violence. Now that I think of it, I believe I'd prefer sex to violence even if I wasn't the squeamish sort. But I digress. And I'm nowhere near the point of this post.

Anyway, after months of ignoring it, I finally put my friend's Kill Bill DVD in for a viewing. And I was transfixed at what Tarantino had accomplished. He had me from the opening credits, which were accompanied by a (you should pardon the expression) dead on cover of Sonny & Cher's Bang, Bang from this very album, Nancy Sinatra's second. Which also offers The Last Of The Secret Agents, the title song of a forgettable movie starring the comedy stylings of Marty Allen and Steve Rossi. Who are themselves largely forgotten. But not by Denny Hammerton, whose tribute website recalls their 60s catchphrase. And not by me; this post has me just dripping with nostalgia for my preteen years. Which like all good nostalgia has forgotten just how unpleasant those years were. But I digress. Twice in one post!

[ Category: Pop | Add a comment | Link ]

Wed, 28 Dec 2005

Beguile / Sarah Atereth
Beguile Beguile is full of the things I like in an album: a clear and pleasantly warm voice, comprehensible and mostly upbeat lyrics, a not overpowering instrumentation, a moderate tempo. Like King Solomon's ring, it has a power to lift your spirits when you need them lifted or to calm you when that's what's called for. Mellow pop, which I mean in the most positive sense.
[ Category: Pop | Add a comment | Link ]

Wed, 30 Nov 2005

If We Were Really Here / The Happies
If We Were Really Here What's funny about the music of The Happies is that it's so darned happy. Don't these guys know we live in an ironic age? Or have such modern notions not penetrated to Salt Lake City? I guess we should be grateful for such straightforwardly cheerful songs. Although I keep waiting for the shoe to drop, like all those movie police detectives who're just a few days from retirement when that big case comes along...
[ Category: Pop | Add a comment | Link ]

Fri, 28 Oct 2005

Smoking Monkey / Jonathan Coulton
Smoking Monkey Jonathan Coulton is a nerd with a sick sense of humor. That's almost enough to guarantee a mention on my other blog. But he also has musical talent to go with that sick sense of humor, and that's why he's here.

I first heard of Jonathan on Boing Boing, the source of way too many of best blog postings. This one mentioned that Jonathan had just done a folk cover of Baby Got Back, which you can listen to on his podcast. It's that most excellent combination of well crafted and totally wacky that we cherish.

Coulton's own songs are fine examples of musical skill merged with techie humor. If you're a nerd, you'll feel right at home. I certainly did. And that's a good thing, right?

[ Category: Pop | Add a comment | Link ]

Wed, 14 Sep 2005

Blue Like That / Melissa Errico
I knew there was something familiar about her name.

That's what got me to stop: the feeling that I'd heard Melissa Errico's name before. But when I listened to the samples of her singing on the iTMS the mystery only deepened. A few seconds of And So It Goes told me that she's from the theater; there's a clarity and a precision to her delivery, a lack of artifice but no lack of warmth. So I went looking for her bio, to confirm my suspicion and to figure out why I knew her name.

Turns out I was right about her theatrical work, although I haven't seen any of her plays. But I did recognize a couple of her TV guest shots: as Lucie Arnaz's daughter in an episode of Law & Order and the cheating ex-wife of the title character in Ed. Neither one tells me much about her ability to act. But of her singing I have no doubts.

Blue Like That
[ Category: Pop | Add a comment | Link ]

Wed, 07 Sep 2005

Birds of Passage / Bel Canto
Birds of Passage Birds of Passage is the second album by this Norwegian pop group, before personnel changes and, I'm guessing, a desire to broaden their appeal led to a less dark and challenging tone to their work. I hope I'll be forgiven my tendency to stereotype if I suggest that Bel Canto is to ABBA (or Roxette or Ace of Base for that matter) as Norway is to Sweden. (Are the SATs really thirty years in my past?) Just the thing if you're in a down mood and want to settle in for a nice long wallow.
[ Category: Pop | Add a comment | Link ]

Wed, 20 Jul 2005

Gentle Ravings Under a Martian Sky / Kathy Compton
As I've grown older and more cynical (with of course plenty to be cynical about), I've had occasion to reconsider and question the images of my youth. Television has a lot to answer for, including the soppy romatic fantasies Aaron Spelling gave us in the late 70s. Especially The Love Boat, wherein shallow and desperate singles found True Love or at least learned Important Object Lessons in the time it takes to cruise to Mexico. Either Kathy Compton had the same thought, or I'm overanalyzing, which is certainly possible. But her version of the Love Boat theme has an undercurrent that ought to have been there the first time around, sort of like a bit Surgeon General's warning on the opening credits.

Kathy Compton's Gentle Ravings aren't quite ravings, although they aren't entirely gentle either. Her rhythms are sometimes upbeat, sometimes slow and languorous. But almost always with an edge, a sense that things are different, and more interesting, below the surface. I wonder what kind of stories one would find on her version of The Love Boat.

Gentle Ravings Under a Martian Sky
[ Category: Pop | Add a comment | Link ]

Wed, 06 Jul 2005

Get Lucky / The Lascivious Biddies
Give this New York-based quartet credit for making optimal use of modern technology. Not just their albums on the iTMS; not just a website and a blog (hey, any boob can have a website and a blog or two); no, the Biddies even have their own regular podcast. 'Cause apparently having all that other stuff isn't quite enough to get attention around here, even with bloggers who're desperate to meet their weekly posting quota for interesting music. But I digress.

The Biddies make great music; their harmonies are sweet and their natural energy comes through on their recordings. I'd love to hear them live, assuming they ever make their way this far west. But until then I'll listen to their 'casts and wait for another album. These are four bitchin' babes. Just not the Four Bitchin' Babes.

Get Lucky
[ Category: Pop | 1 comment | Link ]

Fri, 24 Jun 2005

Gypsy Valentine / Jamie DeFrates
Gypsy Valentine I kind of wish Jamie DeFrates wouldn't sing.

Not that there's anything wrong with his singing. Quite the contrary; both his voice and his lyrics are rather good. It's just that I so enjoy his instrumentals. There's something distracting about them. Relaxing. Awakening could be the soundtrack for a rather good space epic, one without quite so many lightsabre duels. One Last Rendezvous and the title track are earthily romantic. Almost hypnotic in their way. And far more expressive than mere words.

[ Category: Pop | 1 comment | Link ]

Fri, 17 Jun 2005

One Size Fits All / The Nylons
Spotting this album in the iTMS brought me back to the early days of CDs. As an early adopter of digital music, I suffered from the lack of content to play on my new equipment. If there was an upside to the paucity of releases, it was that we tended to try just about anything that showed up in the stores. And as a result, discovered musical styles and groups we might not otherwise have noticed.

I've written elsewhere about how getting my first player led almost inevitably to an appreciation for classical music, whose grand sound could be heard in all its complexity. The Nylons are at the opposite end of the scale: four guys from Montreal with no instruments at all. (Well, sometimes a little rhythm.) It's the minimalism of their performance that made them a natural for the crisp and clean sound of digital reproduction. It still does.

One Size Fits All
[ Category: Pop | 1 comment | Link ]

Mon, 16 May 2005

Fourth Person / Sarah Sharp
Sarah Sharp is from Texas, but don't hold that against her.

Not much to say about this one. I like her voice. A lot. It has a high and slightly trilling quality that reminds me of Bic Runga, about whom I wrote back when this blog was new.

One peculiarity about Fourth Person is that there are two versions on the iTMS. This one is dated April of 2004 and has 12 tracks. The other one is from March, 2005; the track order's a little bit different, there's an extra song called Blame It On the Night and, because it's a partial album (they cut a song intro), it'll cost you more. So if you decide you like it, buy the 2004 album and add the one track.

Oh, and here's another category rant: how come the 2004 version is listed as Pop, but somehow a year later the same songs qualify as Rock? That sort of thing just confuses the heck out of me...

[ Category: Pop | 2 comments | Link ]

Mon, 09 May 2005

White Lucky Dragon / Sandy Mouche
White Lucky Dragon Sandy Mouche is a band from Sweden. I think.

That much I inferred from their website, and I'm not even sure of that. As for their music, it's light pop of a kind you don't hear much of any more. The songs are a mix of English and French, which means that I'm confused by half the tracks and completely lost with the rest. I'll leave you to figure out which is which.

[ Category: Pop | Add a comment | Link ]

Mon, 11 Apr 2005

Get Away From Me / Nellie McKay
Get Away From Me Get Away From Me is a hyphenate. It's funny, with a title one can only assume is a takeoff on Norah Jones' megahit album, Come Away With Me, although I can't find a connection beyond their both being debut albums. It's a little bit racy, with the occasional swear word. (There's an expurgated version for those with more refined sensibilities than I.) The songs range from pop to blues to rap, always with tongue planted firmly in cheek. I've seen Ms. McKay described as a throwback, although her irony is unquestionably 21st century.

I bought this one a while back after listening to the iTMS snippets. And I'll admit to disappointment when I sat down to listen to the whole thing. But that first impression was wrong. Now when one of Ms. McKay's songs shows up on my iPod, I can't imagine how I missed her wit, her sparkle and yes, her way with a song. She kind of grows on you.

[ Category: Pop | 1 comment | Link ]

Wed, 09 Mar 2005

Sexy / Fire Ball
Sexy Who are these guys?

It's like a good news/bad news joke on the iTMS. The good news is that there's more and more obscure and unusual music on the store with every passing week. The bad is that sometimes the music is so obscure, and the iTMS so lacking in context, that all you have is the music. And that's what we have here: a vocal quartet (I'm guessing from the cover) doing some unusual covers of pop tunes. And I have to say that The Carpenters or Captain & Tennille never sounded better than at the start of this album's Mix the Hits, which moves from Yesterday Once More to Do That to Me One More Time to Roberta Flack's Killing Me Softly and beyond.

But again I ask: who are these guys? Even my trusty Google skills come up mostly empty: one measly listing for the album on a South African music store, which has little more information than the iTMS. They categorize Sexy as Afrikaans; is that right? Is this the new sound of South Africa? Quite a change from Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

[ Category: Pop | Add a comment | Link ]

Wed, 09 Feb 2005

Celtic Collection / Clannad
Celtic Collection One of the side benefits of new countries getting iTunes Music Stores is the growth in selection in the US store. I assume it's no coincidence that we've had a flood of music from Ireland since the iTMS opened there. Nice of them to share. Certainly an improvement over some of the stuff we get from the Germans.
[ Category: Pop | Add a comment | Link ]

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