Friday Funk

I have a very varied selection of ‘favourite’ music. Like many of you I suspect, a lot of it is influenced by what I heard growing up (Motown) or during my formative party years. One genre I have always loved but I’m really not sure where I first heard is Disco. For me, Disco music is instant happy, instant dancing and the instant feel good factor.

So when I was asked to review this album it wasn’t hard to say, yes please!

As you can see from the track list, Up All Night is full of some absolutely stonking tunes if you happen to be a disco fan. Despite some of my favourite songs being on there I had no idea who Nile Rodgers was. Co-founder of The Chic Organization, he later worked with Sister Sledge, and one of my all time favourites Diana Ross. His talent wasn’t left in the 70′s however as he continued to work right up to his most recent work you may have heard – Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’ which he also had a hand in.

Nile Rodgers is touring through the summer with Chic (they were at Glasto recently, and will be at Bestival,) but if you can’t see them and have a Disco shaped hole in your music collection I can highly recommend Up All Night. I’ve not stopped dancing to it :)

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Disclaimer: Rebecca was provided with a complimentary review copy of The Chic Organization – Up All Night (The Greatest Hits) but if she didn’t like it, she wouldn’t be writing about it.

PS Come back for Friday Frock at 1pm – It’s a good one!

Musical Discoveries: April

Good day to you, Findettes! Today we are going to dispel the myth of the musical Guilty Pleasure. Let your pleasures be no longer guilty!

Be proud of your music taste –a catchy tune that sells by the billion is far harder to write than a load of critically acclaimed white noise. Just because something invokes the snobbery of others doesn’t mean it has no value, right? Today we will be examining (in the usual glib and insubstantial way) the latest wave of country music, a genre often derided for being tacky and formulaic that more often than not boasts serious song-writing muscle.

Personally, my re-interest in country has been piqued by E4 twangathon Nashville, the hit US TV drama following the trials and tribulations of a bunch of country music artists as they follow their fortunes in the famous music city. The show’s trump card is a powerhouse performance from Hayden Panetierre as hard-as-nails rising star Juliette Barnes (allegedly based on the very real Carrie Underwood). If you haven’t been sucked in yet, you need to get into this series – fast. It’s compellingly glitzy but there’s real depth to the characterisation and a bucketload of brilliant, strong female characters – what else would you expect from the creator of Thelma and Louise? But the best part of all is that there’s a ton of original music in every episode, and pretty much all of it is genuinely good.

You can download the soundtrack now – and note that this is only volume 1 of this season’s music… this is merely a redneck’s whisker of what we’ve heard on the programme so far. Here’s a taster of Juliette teaming up with arch rival and country grande dame Rayna James (played brilliantly by Connie Britton):

But these days country music isn’t always about bottle blonde and rhinestones. There’s been a cool edge to country ever since the alt-country/Americana explosion of the noughties ushered in a new breed of serious artists who wanted to move away from the Kenny Rogers cheese factor and towards some serious indie credibility. Welcome then to Caitlin Rose, whose latest record is smooth, sophisticated and intoxicating, like bathing in tub full of bourbon. Highly recommended, especially if you like your songs with plenty of stories to tell:

Caitlin Rose: No One To Call

Finally, just a little more lovelorn, we have Indiana’s Austin Lucas who is currently on tour in the UK with the equally brilliant band The Glossary, whose latest album is due to be released in the UK soon and is well worth a bend of your ear. Do go and see them live if you can – I was lucky enough to catch both last week it was a phenomenal performance.

Austin Lucas: Sleep Well

Tell me Findettes– do you love country music? Seen Nashville? What are your pleading-not-guilty pleasures?

Penny
x

PS! Find Penny at her new blog: All We Need is Radio Gaga or on Twitter @TokaiPenny

Musical Discoveries: March

Good day to you Findinos (I can call you this as I have just got back from holidaying in Italy and am quite the expert), today we have a first in that all our picks for this month are singles! It’s rare that we have a month of artists releasing album teasers of quite this calibre, so I’m cashing in and filling up Rebecca’s beautiful website with hideous Youtube embeds and lots and lots of excitement. Are you giddy yet? You should be…

Justin Timberlake – Mirrors (from forthcoming album The 20/20 Experience)

Pop star/actor, actor/pop star, what is it about those celebs that flip between the two that makes us think they’re crap at both? Regardless of what you think about JT’s gifts (and let’s admit it, that face is a gift, regardless of what’s coming out of his cakehole) his new single is here. JT has stated in the press that he’s now heavily influenced by Pink Floyd and other prog rock – yes really – but the only evidence of this here is that the song is over eight minutes long. However, this means that it is Very Serious Music and we should sit up and pay attention. I’m slightly upset by Mirrors, irrespective of Justin’s impressive length, because Timbercheeks used to release terrifically sexy, clever, groove-laden songs and this all sounds a bit R ‘n B lite. Like something Bieber would do. The last four minutes are fair enough, but really they’re just all noodles stuck on the end. This is the second song released off the new album, and I’m still holding my breath for the Big Bootyshaking Single. I have faith though, come on Justin.

Phoenix Entertainment


For those of you sitting there thinking you’ve never listened to a song by Phoenix, if you’ve ever heard any incidental music on E4 then you’re almost certainly mistaken. These French pop pixies make super-smart indie music with throbbing great catchy bits that spin you round like a relentlessly cheerful carousel until you have to get off and throw up. But in, like, a really, super-good way. The new one is all classic Phoenix bouncing verses, paired with a crashing great chopsticks-style hook that’ll get the festival crowds jumping from May through to September. New album promises to be great fun, even if some of their earlier subtlety is slowly being bled out in favour of this type of instant sugar rush.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Sacrilege

I like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs because they somehow manage to be interesting and hugely accessible all at the same time. Plus, I always want to look at what Karen O is wearing and what her hair’s doing, and it’s nearly always something amazing. They had promised that their new album would take us back to their more simple, lo-fi roots, but as there appears to be a gospel choir on the end of this, I’d say that’s likely to be a load of tosh. Great song though. (and if you’re interested we’re talking blonde bob and 1970s rodeo cowgirl for this record – outstanding effort as ever, Ms O).

David Bowie The Stars (Are Out Tonight)


Ah, it’s another pop star/actor, actor/pop star dichotomy! But we always let Bozzer get away with it don’t we? Because he’s a living legend that’s why. This is off the new (new!) Bowie record which should be out by the time you read this, and already has critics dribbling into their iMacs and making the keys all sticky with how good it is. I won’t profess to be an expert of his oeuvre (I didn’t object to Black Tie White Noise era Dave – apparently this means I‘m a philistine) but I will say that this has everything you could wish for from a Bowie song – it’s cool as ice with a nice edge of menace and please watch the video because Tilda Swinton is in it being absolutely batshit bonkers and it’s insanely fab.

That’s it for this month my lovelies, please let us know what you think of this little hit parade in the comments – whether you think Justin’s a joke, Bowie’s past it, or just really really want to be a 1970s rhinestone cowgirl (I know I do). And, naturalmente, let us know what you’ve been listening to!

PS! Find Penny at her new blog: All We Need is Radio Gaga or on Twitter @TokaiPenny

Musical Discoveries: February

Penny’s back today and I for one am excited… you’ll have to read on to find out why, but Penny has given a nod to one of my favourite bands (and albums) of all time.. sound track to my youth and all that, that I still regularly have on repeat in my house. Love it Penny, as always.

Good day to you Findettes! I am pleased to report that, somehow, we have made it through to February. I looked out of the window the other day and actually saw the sun in the sky. We’re nearly there! I hope your resolutions are going well. Mine was to resume public blogging, which I have been doing over on my new blog All We Need is Radio Gaga. The good news is that 2013 is already looking corking good for tunes, and I had to trim down a huge list of really fabulous albums this month to bring you the following top picks…

Tegan & Sara – Heartthrob

Latest sounds by Tegan and Sara

Some people like it when bands get all introspective and serious about their art. I like it more when formerly “proper” bands throw everything out of the window for the sake of a truly amazing chorus. Writing brilliant pop music is so, so much harder to do then writing something obscure in a funny time signature that lonely smelly men will buy on £50 German import and never open the shrink wrap on for fear of lessening the resale value. It really is. Because music is about joy, not scoring points. This record is Canadian sisters Tegan & Sara moving away from their quirky indie roots and stepping up to the plate to write an album so full of twinkling electronic pop joy that you can imagine Kylie listening to it in her car on a sunny day. Is it disposable? Maybe. But what’s bad about that when it sounds so good?

Local Natives – Hummingbird

Hummingbird by Local Natives

There are some areas of modern music that I feel a bit socially awkward around. The corner of the music party where the Fleet Foxes/Arcade Fire fans are hanging out is just not somewhere I’ve been. It’s not that I don’t want to go over there, with all their flutes and the photo shoots in the desert with the animal masks, it’s just that I always assume I don‘t have anything to say about these bands. I put Local Natives in the same group, as a band that might require me to have some sort of permanent Instagram filter over my life before I could listen to. It is simply by chance that I’ve stumbled across their new record and even though it sounds so unbelievably indie (or psych-folk or whatever) it is actually really good and swooping and lush and lovely. I wouldn’t listen to it to get pumped to go out for a night dancing or anything, but a cup of coffee and the Sunday papers on a February morning – yes. Maybe I’ll go and stand in the corner at the party next time. I hope they don’t mind that I don’t have a beard or a vintage tea-set.

Fleetwood Mac – Rumours [35th Anniversary 3CD Deluxe Edition]

There is nothing I can say about this, other than the fact that they are touring this year and here is this reissue of an incredible album that has sold over 40 million copies, and, and, and, there is no more excuse I need to bang on about Fleetwood Mac. The Fleetwood Mac Rumours reissue (three disc edition) includes the album and some other gubbins like live stuff and B-sides, and blah blah look at the video of them playing Don’t Stop live in 2007! There’s a marching band! And look at Stevie Nicks, she looks like she’s been frozen in time and I’m not sure how she can open her mouth to sing! You could be there and you could see all this too!

So how are you doing, Findettes? Heard anything good lately? Wanna tell me how good Arcade Fire really are? Hands poised over the keyboard to book Fleetwood tickets the second they go on sale? Hit me up in the comments…

Penny
x

PS! Find Penny at her new blog: All We Need is Radio Gaga or on Twitter @TokaiPenny

Musical Discoveries: November

Good afternoon pop pickers, what are you all listening to this month? It’s all been about the laydeez for me, as this month we have a 100% all-female line-up for the first time in Florence music history! Maybe it’s because the boys were being boring this month, more likely it’s just because girls are brilliant. Read on and let me know what you think of this month’s picks (plus your own) in the comments….

Bat For Lashes: The Haunted Man

This is record is GREAT. It’s really, really good. I don’t normally use rubbish introductory sentences like this, because I’m not normally rendered speechless by things, but when it comes to the third outing for Natasha Khan, (aka Bat For Lashes) it seems I most definitely am. This is so accomplished, the song-craft is effortless, weaving all kinds of instruments into a visionary tapestry that reminds me of Kate Bush at her most simple and accessible. If this gets nominated for the Mercury next year (which it ought to) it will mean every single one of Khan’s three records will have been shortlisted – surely a record? A deserved one. Listen to single “Laura” if you missed it – and I defy you not to be moved by it. If this is anything near to being your sort of thing then trust me – you’ll be listening to this well into the new year.

Taylor Swift: Red

I never thought I would voluntarily listen to a Taylor Swift album, let alone talk about it in public, but inescapable single We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together had me sucked in and I couldn’t resist. I don’t know who Swift has writing her songs but they are imbued with magical unicorn juice. Every song (even the ballads, which I normally dislike) are beautifully put together and have just enough class to pull this record out of the usual pop dross and into somewhere quite special. Pop nugget “22” has almost as much bite as WANEGBT and opener “State Of Grace” is so cool it could have been lifted straight off a “serious“ band‘s record and would be lauded as genius. Surprising, accomplished and excellent.

Anyway, any excuse to repost this atom bomb of a single. I hadn’t realised the video was this great either. People in music videos wearing animal costumes would normally make me want to spit fire, but these are so demented and borderline sinister you can’t help but be transfixed by them. Check out the weird bear/monkey man! You would not want to meet him on a dark night. He’s far too happy.

Florence‘s Earworm: *A*M*E: Play The Game Boy

Florence’s Ear-Worm is all about songs that make you dance around the house in your knickers punching the air and turning the hairdryer on so your hair blows back like you’re in a music video in the 80s and the cats are your backing dancers and then all of a sudden you realise you’ve left the curtains open and the old lady over the road is staring at you. Just me? OK. This song will make you think it’s summer again. Aural candy floss of the highest order – lick it, it gives you a sweet buzz and disappears almost instantly. Joy!

Penny.
x

PS Find Penny on her blog Bad Penny Says, or @TokaiPenny.

Musical Discoveries: October

Good afternoon Findettes! Shake off your galoshes and come dry off by the fire whilst Aunty Penny winds up the gramophone for us on this chill October day. Fancy a sherry? I’ll get the nice glasses out.

I almost wasn’t going to review the xx’s new record Coexist because it’s basically very much like their debut, but do you know what? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I love listening to the xx in the winter, it’s the perfect soundtrack to grey city days, a gorgeously delicate counterpoint to all the hustle, bustle, mucky buildings and being stabbed in the eye with someone else’s brolly. This is a sumptuous set of songs, just like the first, stripped back to the bones, no messing about. I always tell my mum off when she comes back from the shop with yet another navy blue top because she’s always got a wardrobe full of them. Well, sometimes you’ve just got to go with what you know.

I tell you what though, this is a surprise! Who remembers Beth Orton? She’s from back in the day when folktronica was an actual word that people used to use to describe music people in their twenties played at dinner parties. But Beth was always a cut above all that nonsense, she’s got a lovely, truly distinctive and honest voice with no bells, whistles or warbles. She’s clearly passionate about her craft, knows her musical onions, is talented and marvellous and, well, I’ve had a girl-crush on her since I was a teen and had Trailer Park on constant rotation. New album Sugaring Season moves away from any bleeps and squiggles and cosies up to the truly epic, sweeping folk music that she always did so well. A wing-spreading, if you will. Gorgeous.

Florence’s Earworm
I have a real weakness for massive, glittery pop songs that bound into your ears wiggling their spangly hot-panted bottoms and juggling giant disco balls. This is the new song from Canadian pop twins Tegan and Sara, and if this is the direction the new records is going in, I’m very excited. Are we all ready to dance around our bedrooms punching the air and singing into our hairbrushes? Get set – go!

Penny x

PS. Readers, I couldn’t help but add a postscript to Penny’s round up this week and I feel justified as this particular piece of musical hot property wasn’t even released when Penny wrote this post. Since, it has become Number 1 in the download charts and high up on the list of conversation topics amongst fans of the associated franchise or the superstar songstress involved – The new Bond single from the forthcoming film of the same name, Adele‘s Skyfall.

As far as I’m concerned it’s a musical match made in heaven, Adele’s silky tones were made for Bond and it’s a win win with the marketing department as 2 huge franchises combine. I’ve heard people say it’s same-y, but surely that’s the point of Bond. It has a theme after all. I’d love to hear what you think of it? (Watch the Skyfall Trailer here.)

Musical Discoveries: May

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!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

PS Find Penny on her blog Bad Penny Says, or @TokaiPenny.

Musical Discoveries: April

This afternoon, it’s time for Penny to tickle our musical tastebuds with the month’s new and noteworthy musical releases. There’s two big hitters this time around as well as two I hadn’t heard of, so please do share your thoughts as usual if we’re inspiring you to take a chance and listen to something new, or you rate Penny’s choices.

The first sunny days of the year have arrived, and with them the students covering our local parks like a travelling circus, brandishing acoustic guitars, disposable barbecues and juggling paraphernalia. Every year I become more convinced that these are not actually undergraduates, but undercover sixth formers. “Surely that girl can’t be more than 15!” I shriek. Then I realise that I am simply getting old. That’s why their outfits look ill-conceived, or like they’re going to a Reality Bites themed fancy dress party.

I’d like to think that there are some benefits to ageing, however uncool it might feel. As the years go by we get wiser (or at least more willing to laugh at our mistakes). We get more relaxed about music, too. More open to listening to new things that might not necessarily fit into our “tribe” or what we think is cool or safe. And I think we have much more fun doing it, too. So how about trying something new this spring? Go to a gig, if that‘s something different for you. Catch some jazz, go to a cheesy pop concert, whatever, just do something unexpected. For me, it was enjoying the Michael Kiwanuka album. What will it be for you?

Michael Kiwanuka: Home Again

Unlike some of his old-school soul heroes (Sam Cooke, Otis Redding), Michael Kiwanuka doesn’t have a great deal to say. There’s no burning political or emotional point to bash home here, nor is his a fresh, hip sound that we ought to deceive ourselves we are hip for listening to. This soft, easy, crooning style has been done and done to the point where you slip into it like a nicely worn pair of shoes. You know, the ones your friends think are a bit tacky, but you wear them anyway. Because you’re getting old, and you can’t always be bothered about being fashionable, and who wants to limp home with blisters anyway? Michael Kiwanuka’s voice is honey for you to dip your ears in. Sunday morning perfect.

Madonna: MDNA

Talking of getting old, here’s one lady who could almost be a granny to some of you young pups. Crazy! How would you feel about your Nan making a record that references class A drugs and includes songs with titles such as “Gang Bang” and “Girl Gone Wild” (which I believe is something to do with a wet t-shirt competition)? YOU WOULD LOVE IT. The critics have been a bit mean about this album, and it’s certainly no return to the pop genius of her early years, but she seems to be getting most of her stick for being past it and trying too hard to be cool. I am not going to stand for this, and neither should you – Madge is doing it for all us ladies growing old disgracefully. The album itself is fine. It’s a Madonna album. It has clearly been pointed at the nightclubs, it’s big and upbeat and it’s no worse than anything else she’s put out in the last 20 years. Sadly the MIA and Nicki Minaj collaborations are a bit tame, but why let your rivals steal your thunder? I just hope I’m singing about group sex and getting off my tits when I’m 53.

The Shins: Port Of Morrow

For some reason, I have always lumped the Shins into the mental dustbin where I put all bands that sound like they should be on the Juno soundtrack. You know, cute but mildly irritating indie rock. This new album is bound to get oodles of airplay on Radios 2 and 6, because it is both eagerly anticipated by music fans, and also a maturing of their jaunty, folky sound into something that sounds a bit more like Noah and the Whale. I’m not sure any of this is good news, least of all for Shins fans. However. The lead single, Simple Song, is quite brilliant and you will definitely be tripping over it for the rest of the year and wondering to yourself “what on earth is that?” Somebody on the desk next to you at work will start singing it, and it will be lodged in your head for weeks. The rest of the album is really good, but with the bouncy twee-ness of their old sound polished away, I can’t help thinking how much they sound slightly weak version of Crowded House now. Maybe I it was a tiny better when they were irritating. No pleasing some people though, eh?

Julia Holter: Ekstasis

This record pleases me though. It pleases me greatly. It’s not as instant as the previous three – far from it. This is an album you need to put on for weeks, and let it seep into your pores until suddenly you realise it has become a part of you. Julia Holter is an up and coming experimental pop musician from L.A, and she makes beautiful, weird and woozy electronic lullabies to listen to on those nights where you just can’t sleep. It’s abstract music, that somehow still manages to soothe as it challenges. The more traditionally structured songs are textured and complex, but still as sugary-soft and whispery as French pop. Meanwhile, the ambient “serious music” moments are like a soundtrack to snow falling. Delicate, beautiful and seriously impressive. If you want to take a chance this month, this should probably be it.

Seriously, I can’t believe Madonna is still going. All credit to her…! (Anybody remember this?)

Love,
Rebecca
xo

PS Find Penny on her blog Bad Penny Says, or @TokaiPenny.

Musical Discoveries: March

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.

Penny.

PS Find Penny on her blog Bad Penny Says, or @TokaiPenny.

Musical Discoveries: February

Yaaaaaaay! it’s time for Penny to share her acid sharp and smart thoughts on this months fresh February music releases. I always love hearing what she suggests but this month is a bumper one and might just solve your V-day problems when it comes to getting a little something for the boy. ;)

They say music is the food of love, so with Valentine’s Day fast approaching I am here to feed your soul with another hearty plateful of audible treats. The following records are all romantic in their own little way, so whether you like your loving on an expensive yacht, in a log cabin in the woods, in a slinky boudoir, on a heaving dancefloor, or if (like me!) all of the above because you’re just not that picky, then there will be something for you to delight in here. Listen up, lovebirds! Here we go…

Lana Del Ray – Born to Die
If you’ve escaped the hype so far, give yourself a gold star. Lana Del Ray burst onto the internet last year to overwhelming critical acclaim, billing herself as the “gangsta Nancy Sinatra”, purring sultry anthem ‘Video Games’ and looking a million dollars. Mere months later it turns out she does more than just look expensive – she’s millionaire’s daughter Lizzie Grant whose previously flopped career is having a very PR savvy revamp. Her authenticity tainted by the whiff of record company invention, the critics start to turn on her. Lana Del Ray’s star has risen and plunged, and all while you’d popped out to make a cup of tea. The internet, eh?

This is still THE hotly anticipated album of 2012 so far, and it’s not bad at all. The sensuous, heady ‘Video Games’ is the best thing on here by a mile, but the first four songs all stand up to scrutiny, especially the brooding swagger of ‘Off To The Races‘. The production is lush and epic, Del Ray’s rich voice swoops and swoons over the beautiful orchestration. The repeated motifs of material glamour and doomed romance get a little overplayed and the quality tails off a bit towards the end, but there’s no denying the hooks are all here and it’s very stylishly done.

First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar
However if you’re after real emotion, there are better records out this month to spend your money on than the ones getting all the press. First Aid Kit are two Swedish sisters who also found fame on the internet when their cover of a Fleet Foxes song went viral in 2008. This is their second album, and it’s truly gorgeous.

This is folk music with a big spoonful of country, although for the most part you won’t care what it is. The sound has a fresh, modern twist which saves it from drifting into pastiche -even on the twanging ‘Emmylou‘, which goes as far as name-checking Johnny Cash. Johanna and Klara’s mournful vocals are locked in a relentlessly sweet harmony that skips over simple, plaintive guitar, singing bittersweet stories of sorrow, heartache and love that’s long settled into a weary dance. This is a wistful album crammed full of history that still manages to feel brightly inventive and authentic at every turn. They’re touring the UK this month too, with the equally impressive Samantha Crain – not to be missed.

Goldfrapp – The Singles
I’m not a normally an advocate of greatest hits collections – they tend to give me flashbacks to that scene from Alan Partridge: “favourite Beatles album? I’d have to say ‘The Best Of’!” However, when you get a cult band like Goldfrapp who have been popping out chart hits every now and then over the best part of a decade, it’s a canny way to get them all in one place. This is slick, sexy electro-pop, and when you gather all the big tunes together it’s consistently good fun.

Don’t be put off by unfamiliar song titles either – it’s surprising how many of these tracks you’ll already know. “Ooh La La”, “A&E” and “Number 1” have all been used in TV and advertising before now – I guarantee these and more are lurking around in your subconscious and you‘ll be singing into your hairbrush from the first listen. Perfect music for getting ready to go out with the girls.

2 Bears – Be Strong
When it comes to love, popular music is largely preoccupied with heartbreak and pain. Not the 2 Bears. This duo (featuring Joe Goddard of the brilliant Hot Chip) have created a record entirely concerned with the pure joy found on the dance floor.

The debt owed to the 1990s dance music scene is overwhelming – you might as well dress this album up in an over-sized smiley tee and give it a dummy to suck – but the tunes are enormous and it’s all done with a knowing wink and a true passion for the genre. Pretty much every track will have you reaching for the lasers – from the sweaty groove of ‘Bear Hug‘, through the 90s piano euphoria of ‘Work Harder’ to the anthemic house stomp of ‘Be Strong‘. This is a truly awesome dance record that you won’t be able to avoid this year. Get it now – you’ll be bear-hugging a stranger before you know it.

Penny
x

Thanks Penny – I’ve already started listening to these :)

Have you got any of these or are you thinking of making a purchase? (All of them are available along with all of Penny’s previous suggestions in Florence’s Amazon store) Do share your thoughts as always readers.

Love,
Rebecca
xo

PS Find Penny on her blog Bad Penny Says, or @TokaiPenny.