Stand by – Penny’s back with this months instalment of musical recommendations and reviews. This monthly post is as much about Penny’s thoughts as your recommendations, so please leave a comment below if you have heard any of these or (gasp!) disagree with her summaries. We’d also love to hear any of your recommendations for new music releases so pipe up if you’ve got something to say!
Spring is Sprung! No more the Winter! Instead of being grey, damp and a bit cold, it’s now grey, damp and a bit windy instead. I don’t know about you, but I like to play music against the backdrop of seasons. A snowy winter spent with that XX album maybe, or a scorching summer with something cheerful by Phoenix. But this grey inbetween-ness we seem to spend most of our year in… what for it? I suggest something reflective, in turn melancholic and gently uplifting. Something that sounds good and romantic against a backdrop of tower blocks and traffic jams. Something you can curl up on the sofa with as you look out of the window at people walking by, their heads bent against the drizzling rain.
Emeli Sandé: Our Version of Events
I was umming and ahhing about whether to include this, but as I think it’s one of the more significant UK releases of the last month it warrants a mention. Lots of people I know love this record, and it is certainly true that Emeli Sande is a formidable writing talent. After all, she’s penned hits for Leona Lewis, Tinie Tempah and …er… Susan Boyle.
I was hoping her album would be a lot more personal and interesting than her pop outings, and it certainly is all minor keys and lovers leaving with suitcases. Sadly, I’m not sure that adds up to anything of any real weight. She has a lovely voice, it’s a glossy beast and there aren’t any stinkers. If you want a dinner party album this could be it. For me? A little bit boring, sorry Emeli. I really wanted to like it, I really did. I think I will take myself off and listen to Blue Lines by Massive Attack instead.
Lambchop: Mr. M
Now onto the good stuff! Lambchop have been around for long enough to justify their world-weary outlook – this is their eleventh studio album – and Kurt Wagner’s velvet croak is as careworn and comforting as a well-aged whiskey.
Previously I‘ve always thought of Lambchop as alt-country, but Mr M is a delicious departure. It’s smooth and jazzy as Burt Bacharach, with achingly beautiful lyrics on grief, hope and friendship that push it way beyond easy-listening kitsch and into the realms of something quite profound. Perfect rainy day headphones music.
Sharon Van Etten: Tramp
Here’s a treat. Brooklyn singer/songwriter Van Etten has worked with indie luminaries such as The Antlers and The National. These are bands you can only listen to if you own minimum of four checked shirts and have a beard (stick-on will do, ladies), so if you haven’t stumbled across them I wouldn’t worry. What’s important is that you listen to this, because Shazzer has created something quite brilliant.
It purports to be folk music, but it’s something much more raw and intimate than that. There’s the stark, sparse thump of the drum, the swooping echoes of guitar and haunting vocals that owe more to PJ Harvey and Patti Smith than any contemporary twee indie nonsense. Each song broods like a jilted lover, skulking around your house and throwing your records onto the front lawn when you‘re not looking. This is dark, epic and quite lovely. If you love Polly Jean, you’ll love this.