It’s the second week of May (already?) and it’s a Tuesday, which means we’re welcoming Penny back with her musical discoveries. I’m already tempted by two on this list and shocked by a third, so read on and see where it’s at for music this month… and see if you can guess which are which.
Good afternoon and welcome to your music for May! Festival season is nearly upon us, and if you haven’t already had a look at the Florence Finds festival guide then hop over now, and then dust off your wellies ready for a season of outdoor music. The majority of this month’s pick of the pops have their roots in Americana – bluesy rock and country-tinged folk, all perfect for sitting around the campfire and toasting marshmallows to whilst wrapped in a million (stylish) jumpers to ward off the brisk British summer nights. And also -surprise!- there’s a Norah Jones album, just to prove I’m not a snob about anything.
Alabama Shakes: Boys & Girls
Attention! Alabama Shakes are set to break the UK in a big way over the next few months. This month’s UK small venue tour sold out almost instantly, they’re in every music magazine, have done Jools Holland and basically ticked every buzz-band box required before they inevitably explode into the nation’s consciousness with their debut album Boys & Girls.
They peddle a simple, soulful sound – think the of the retro-blues of the White Stripes, or a stripped-back Kings Of Leon, then stick a lady with serious lungs and a bucket of charisma at the front and you have a recipe for success. Are the Alabama Shakes doing something new and exciting? Hell no. They are doing something unashamedly old, and they are doing it with style. You’ll be hearing a lot more from these this year though, that’s for sure.
Norah Jones: Little Broken Hearts
When I think of Norah Jones, I think of grown-ups in immaculate homes having dinner parties where they serve something with a coulis on it for pudding. I have never made anything with a coulis on it, and I have never really understood Norah Jones, in spite of her impressive music credentials -which include a boggling 9 Grammy awards. However, this new record is different. Broken Little Hearts is the result of her work with uber-producer Danger Mouse (who has worked with Gorillaz, the Black Keys and Beck among others), and the collaboration has taken her sound in a much fresher direction.
Gone are the smooth, easy-listening stylings of Come Away With Me – in their place is clever, contemporary pop production. Little Broken Hearts sounds like Norah is finally branching into the modern, and it translates pretty well. It’s not going to change the world, but I promise you don’t need coulis on your pudding to listen to this one.
Ellen & The Escapades: All The Crooked Scenes
Marked out by Glastonbury as an emerging talent in 2010 when they were invited to play the Introducing stage, Ellen and the Escapades have since garnered universal praise for their lush, sweeping folk-rock sounds. This is their very impressive debut album, and it’s certain to win them even more hearts.
From the wistful, rolling opener Run, through the Dixie stomp of hit Without You, all the way up to the nostalgic folk of Coming Back Home, Ellen and the Escapades pick you up by your braces and plant you firmly in your rocking chair on the front porch, looking out at twilight plains. No mean feat for quintet from Yorkshire. I guess the bleakness of the moors aren’t that far away from the barren landscape of a cowboy film, when you think about it. Anybody who enjoyed the First Aid Kit album (mentioned here a few months ago) will love this record too.
Jack White: Blunderbuss
If you like your Americana with a bit more growl and groove, the modern king of the blues Jack White is here to get the party started. This is his first solo album, and so eagerly anticipated that it knocked Adele’s 21 off the no.1 album slot, where she’s been lurking quite preposterously for more than a year now (seriously, surely anybody who wanted to buy that record must have it by now?). Jack made his name in the legendary White Stripes, and this record is a riff-packed monster that won’t disappoint fans.
It’s more eccentric than the Stripes, weaving a path through ramshackle rock, swampy blues and quirky country, but it’s all underpinned with solid song writing and is impressively listenable. I have to confess, the White Stripes totally passed me by, but I can’t stop putting this on. How anything so moodily rooted in the blood and guts of a marriage break-up (to model Karen Elson) can sound so completely uplifting, I have no idea. Just more proof of the genius of Jack White – if we needed it.
I’ve been falling in love with Alabama Shakes already via the radio playlist and now I want Blunderbuss to rock along to while we’re burning up the open road in the U.S. of A. later this month. A perfect soundtrack I think. Thanks Penny!