Wednesday, March 10, 2010


First off - this post has nothing to do with writing and probably does not belong on my business blog.

Now that I've got that off my chest ...

I've spent a lot of time listening to music of late. When I buy CDs, I don't rip the whole CD right away: I listen through it several times, absorbing the songs, and eventually only rip the ones I like. There's usually at least a few songs that I have no interest in, so I leave them off. I often don't bother to rip middling tunes, either.

So my latest ventures have included some old favorites, so revisits, and some new experiments ...


Loreena McKennit -- An Ancient Muse: A traditional Celtic performer wandering progressively eastward over her last few albums. I love LMK's music - it's very pretty and easy to listen to. Even though she's a fantastic singer, her instrumental pieces are some of my favorites.
Best here: "Caravanserai" and "Penelope's Song" (a riif on the Odyssey from the POV of his long-suffering wife).

Sophie Ellis-Bextor -- Shoot From The Hip: Modern dance / disco style music with strong melody and lyrics from a lovely English alto. I just adore Ellis-Bextor's stuff - it's infectious and clever, and I've mentioned before that one of my favorite single lines from any lyric comes from one of her songs ("as if my luck and hope had found each other").
Best here: How do I choose? We'll go "Party In My Head" for some very entertaining / bizarre lyrics ("and all the guests mix brilliantly, 'cause I am them and they are me") and "The Walls Keep Saying Your Name" for an addictive and creepy, atmospheric sound.

Sissel -- My Heart: Classic-influenced pop music from one of the sweetest, most perfect voices out there. I love her sound - it's clean and pure without having that over-dramatic warble of a classically trained soprano. This music is a trifle tame for my listening tastes, but I could listen to The Song That Never Ends if Sissel sang it.
Best here: "Beyond Imagination." Gorgeous piece of music, a lot sweet, a little dark and with beautiful lyrics.


These are artists I'm familiar with, but haven't paid much attention to lately and / or wouldn't call favorites ...

Alana Davis -- Fortune Cookies: Apart from "singer-songwriter," I have no idea quite how to classify Davis - a little rap, a little R&B, a bit of Reggae, and a really distinctive smoky voice that I wish would put itself to a stronger beat and clearer melodies. The first time I listened to this CD, I didn't care for most of it. This time, I found twice as many songs that I enjoyed, so added some to my saved collection.
Best here: "A Chance With You" - an unusual song about letting go.

Clannad - Landmarks: Neo-Celtic music with strong pop sensibilities. I was pleasantly surprised by this; it had sort of faded into the back of my brain as Celtic-knockoff, but it's very pleasant, with some genuine gems. I'd still say that the songs that are good are wonderful, but the ones that aren't sort of fade into the background.
Best here: "A Mhuirnin O" -- I'm not usually a fan of songs whose lyrics I can't understand (hey, I'm big on the lyrics), but the beat and melody here are awesome.

Sheena Easton - The Lover in Me / The Singles Collection: Eighties (or is it eighties inspired?) pop music from a sugary (but pleasant) singer. I enjoy a lot of her highlights / greatest hits, so I thought to try another CD by her. Not ... so much. Found only two tunes I wanted to rip. It's hard to explain what turns me off, but I don't find her fast stuff very melodic, and her slow tunes just don't have enough interest.
Best here: "Swear" -- this one cracks me up. Why did I not rip this before?

Medieval Babes - World's Blysse: Renaissance music / poetry with a hint of modern flair. So ... my last encounter with the Babes (it's actually "ae" with a funny combined symbol) pre-dates MP3s. I actually started with Undrentide ... then lost just the CD (I still have the case) right before I was going to rip it. Argh. This is great music - it helps that I have a real fondness for all things Renaissance, having recovered from the painful overload of my Faire days - but it's best taken in small doses.
Best here: "Erthe Upon Erthe," an infectious melody with lovely instrumentation, and "So Spricht das Laben" -- translated, a really neat argument between life and death over possession of the world.

New Experiments:

Lady Gaga -- The Fame: Heavy dance music of the electropop genre. This was a recommendation, and I was kind of knocked for a loop, because this is totally not what I usually listen to. At all. Yet it's infectious, and for all the similarity of the song structure, it gets into your brainpan and grooves around. So I'm divided whether I would buy a second album and I'm a little embarrassed to admit I like it, but there it is.
Best here: "The Fame." Yes, mark it for the one time in a blue moon my favorite song is the title track.

Leona Naess -- Thirteens: A reflective, contemplative singer-songwriter. This is lovely, thoughtful music, heartfelt but not always compelling.
Best here: "Ghosts in the Attic" - clever lyrics balanced with an earworm of a melody. "When Sharks Attack" is a close follow-up for similar reasons.

Leona Lewis -- Spirit (and) Echo: R&B / Soul-inspired pop music from another English singer. (What is it with me and Brits? Is it the trends in their music mesh more with my preferences? Or do I just like the accent?) The first CD was an accident - I was hunting at Half Price Books for Naess (above), saw "Spirit" and thought, "Wasn't I looking for a Leona?" Lewis took a bit of getting used to, and I still find I have to kind of turn my brain in a different direction to appreciate the groove, but it's very enjoyable.
Best here: "Forgive Me" (Spirit); "Brave" (Echo) - powerful song about not being able to open up to love; and what I will, for lack of title, refer to as "Stone Hearts and Hand Grenades" - a bonus song stuck on the end of the final track of Echo.

DJ Tiesto -- Kaleidoscope: Electronica / dance. Also a referral. I would definitely class this as sparser and music more for background that active listening, but I love the driving beat. Some of the voices are a little nasal, but they blend well with the instruments.
Best here: "Knock You Out" for attitude.

Bonnie Raitt -- Silver Lining: Erm. Country. You know, I don't listen to country music - which is a shame, because country voices (like Raitt's), I positively love. They seem to be much richer and fuller than most pop singers. Though I like some of the songs, this was definitely a "once and not again" purchase.
Best here: "Wounded Heart" - here I'm drawn to the portrait of resignation.

Solas -- The Turning Tide: Neo-Celtic with strong traditional roots. These are folks I feel are springing out of the evolving tradition, and the results are wonderful. Their dance tune sets do tend to start to sound alike, but any individual set - or the songs - is worth the listen.
Best here: "Girl In The War" and "Sorry" - worth the price of the album alone. The first is a wrenching slow ballad about - well, pick your interpretation. That's part of the beauty of it. The second is a driving attack on the idea of repentance. Seriously, if you've read this far, google "Sorry Karine Polwart lyrics" (the original author) and read them. Mairead's voice is powerful and pitch-perfect for both (very different) styles.

Glee -- Volume 1 (and) 2: Yes. I'm a Gleek. I love the blend of clever writing and rousing song-and-dance throughout ... and just the music on its own stands pretty well, too. It's very easy to listen to and belt along with. I'm not a rap fan, but I found the covers done here accessible and entertaining.
Best here: "Take A Bow," "Don't Stand So Close To Me / Young Girl," "True Colors" (the only song on which the singer who plays Tina features, and seriously - why not more?) and ... "My Life Would Suck Without You."


Aubrie said...

Loreena McKennit's music is awesome! I don't listen to pop very much, I know I'm not well rounded in that sense! I guess I should check out some Lady Gaga!


Lindsey Duncan said...

If you like LMK, Clannad and possibly Solas are more likely to be up your alley than Lady Gaga. Sissel, too, possibly.

Lindsey Duncan said...

And if you really want to go in the pop / dance direction, I'd recommend Sophie Ellis-Bextor over LG. Not to say that there's anything wrong with Lady Gaga, but it's definitely a very specific taste. ;-)