Sunday, January 15, 2017

Song Styles

We interrupt our regular Sunday program of themesongs to make a recommendation of music for fantasy readers, writers and anyone else who doesn't mind a dash of the fantastic in their listening.

Dark, reflective, powerful, yet driven by the artist's dance music roots, Sophie Ellis-Bextor's album Wanderlust adds a liberal dash of fantasy into each song.  I'm convinced that the track "Young Blood" is actually about vampire romance, but that's not the most obviously arcane selection.  If you try out only one song to see what I'm talking about, check out:

Love Is A Camera

Even before I saw this music video, I was convinced that the mysterious woman was the protagonist of Helen Reddy's "Angie Baby" all grown up.

Sophie has a strong, clear voice with a hint of rasp.  She's equally at home with the upbeat pop that is her signature style and with more powerful ballads.

For the record, my favorite from the CD:

13 Little Dolls

(Ignore the transcribed lyrics; they're entirely inaccurate.)

Other albums I've been grooving on lately:

idina. from Idina Menzel.  Most of you probably know her as "that singer from Frozen," but my first encounter with her was as Elphaba (the Wicked Witch) in Wicked.  Her voice is phenomenal; she's a powerhouse, without having that overwhelming vibrato that seems to be a signature of opera-style singers.  This is solid, quality pop music.  What sets this album apart is not so much the songs or instrumentation, but the singing.  Her vocal acrobatics have shades of Celine Dion and Mariah Carey, but she does it much, much better.

I'll even forgive her the e.e. cummings style title.

Stand-out track:

Queen of Swords

Joanne from Lady Gaga.  Yes, I do listen to Gaga.  I'm not one of those superfans who adores everything she does, but I enjoy her voice and her evolution from album to album.  (I also appreciate her willingness to put herself out there.  Now that she's out of the meat-dress stage, it seems very genuine.)  In that respect, the songs in Joanne do the best job so far of standing back and showcasing her voice:  raw, powerful and deep.  

My main complaint about Gaga's CDs is that the songs within each album are very similar - with Born This Way, the melodies blurred together.  Joanne does not suffer from this problem, taking a number of different directions - they may not all succeed, but the songs are generally quite distinct from each other.  There's a range here, from a few classic Gaga dance tunes - "A-Yo" and "John Wayne" - to slower and more contemplative.

Ironically, the title track is one of the weakest on the album.  My favorite - I can't stop hitting repeat on it - is the haunting Angel Down.

Final CD and thoughts:  Ellie Goulding's Delirium.  I've been a fan of Ellie since I stumbled across "Lights" years ago, and I have to say that, if you're not familiar with Ellie ... pick up Bright Lights or Halcyon Days, not Delirium.  (And do be careful - each of her CDs annoyingly has a regular and a deluxe version, and there's no other way to get the deluxe songs unless you buy them as individual MP3s.)  

That's not to say Delirium is bad, but the tracks are much less varied than in the previous two.  Especially if the only thing you know of her is "that song from the Fifty Shades movie" - that song is probably the weakest track on Delirium and it doesn't even do a particularly good job showing off her voice.

For those who already knew Ellie, Delirium showcases her lovely, floaty voice and her rhythmic quirks - she has a lot of fun playing with rhythmic variance in her music.  It's a worthy addition.

My favorite track is on the second CD, aka the Deluxe part of the album:


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