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

#JanuaryJoy – Try some new Music

Good morning! Today’s #JanuaryJoy prompt holds a special place in my heart because it embodies the reason I asked Penny to write a monthly music post here on Florence Finds. I love music but I’m not the first off the blocks when it comes to finding new stuff and there’s even less chance of that now I’m a certified Radio 2 listener. Last year I bought Emile Sande (recommended by Penny last March,) Alabama Shakes (May), and Taylor Swift (from November) as my Musical Discoveries. So this year I’m excited to set ten minutes aside and listen to Penny’s recommendations each month. After all, who doesn’t love the feeling of being ahead of the trends?!


Image Credit

Happy new year Findettes! 2013 is going to be a musical blinder (is that a deafer? No matter) with a gajillion amazing things for you to cry/laugh/sing/vomit technicolor rainbows after drinking half a bottle of Lidl brand Malibu then dance about like a loon to. You will be delighted and relieved to know I have listened to some of these hotly recommended acts. Most of them were pretty dreadful, but this lot are not. In fact, they look a lot like they might be going places:

Haim

Haim are three sisters from California who are being hyped to the point of grossness by the music press at the moment, and are being labelled as all sorts of ridiculous things like “nu-RnB-meets-folk-hop“. Whatever you do, do not let this put you off. This band have a lot of very good songs, and catchy bits that wedge in your brain like enormous, day-glow grapple hooks and tug on your senses til your brains fall out of your nose. Promise. I do not understand why music journalists make up this nonsense when they could just say “very good band, sounds a lot like Fleetwood Mac”.

PAWS

This recommendation comes from a special place in my heart. That would be the punky 16-year-old place in my heart that’s covered in sparkly leopard print that only ever plays 7“ singles with four chords or less. PAWS were the band I saw live the most last year , because they are brilliant. Their reputation as one of the best Scottish live bands around at the moment is completely and totally deserved. If you like scuzzy wuzzy catchy songs and bouncing round in scruffy pubs, this is the band for you – go listen to their debut album Cokefloat which is currently available to listen to for free on Soundcloud.

Laura Mvula

Laura Mvula is a lovely talented lady who seems to get compared to Bjork a lot. That seems a little rash (is anyone really like Bjork? Really?) but perhaps they mean this song reminds them of that early, ethereal Venus As A Boy era twinkly stuff, which it is sort of like. It’s very pretty, very accomplished and all soft and floaty like somebody is stroking your ears with kitten‘s tails. It’s not quite wearing a swan as a dress and starring in Lars Von Trier films yet, but maybe that’s coming with the next record.

Flume

Now if Flume could wear a (metaphorical) dress, he’d probably wear a dress made of every musical genre you can imagine and then put a swan’s head on top of it. And then set it on fire. The Australian producer already has a massive online following, huge blog hype and a debut album that came from nowhere to beat One Direction and the Rolling Stones to get number one spot in the iTunes album chart last year. Official release in the UK is set for February and the album teaser is mouth-watering smoosh of beats and everything-but-the-kitchen-sink production. Your little brother probably already has everything he’s ever released and your Nan will think it’s a right racket.

So there we have it! As today’s #JanuaryJoy is to listen to something new, why not let us know in the comments what bands/artists you’re hoping to open your ears to in 2013?

Penny
x

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

Florence’s Gift Guide #3: The Music Edition

Seasons greetings pop-pickers, have you got your 99p rolls of penguin paper at the ready? Already put the scissors down somewhere and not quite sure where you’ve put them? And that rubbish sellotape that you can‘t bite with your teeth and then it wraps around and argh? That’s right it’s Christmas shopping time and we’re about to give the gift of music. Now I may not be able to tell you how to wrap an mp3. However, I can tell you what to buy to wow and delight the tricky, picky, awkward members of your family.

For Little Sister
TOY: Toy
Exuding hipster cool, your little sister is the only person you know who can wear a bowler hat without looking like a try-hard. She drinks craft beer and is “like, so OVER the Weeknd”. Yes, that’s a popular artist, and we’re not sure where the E is either. Maybe your sister took it. Frankly, nothing would shock us. In order to avoid the wrinkled nose this year, buy her one of the hottest releases of 2012, from a hyped band who actually lived up to the fuss. Lovely scuzzy guitars, a dollop of Joy Division, a little bit of early Manics and whole host of other stuff thrown into a shoegazey swirl. It works. She’ll love it. She might even lend you her tie-dye leggings now.

For Dad
MARTHA WAINWRIGHT: Come Home To Mama
Dads always love listening to a good female singer, don’t they? Maybe that’s just mine. This album would honestly do for anybody who loves a bit of soulful, honest song writing. If you’re already familiar with the Canadian troubadour family of Wainwrights – also including Rufus, Loudon III and Martha’s late mother Kate McGarrigle – you won’t be surprised by how truly accomplished this record is. The songs are emotionally connected to the real, larger than life characters in her family to the point of being raw. They’d be uncomfortable to listen to if they weren’t so beautiful. Quite, quite lovely.

For Best Mate
ALUNAGEORGE: You Know You Like It [VINYL] EP
Having already featured these guys once on Florence I’m happy to report that they smash it out of the park live too. This EP is just a taster of what’s to come from Alunageorge so get excited – slick urban beats, massive hooks and sultry, irresistible vocals that’ll take you to the moon and back. Definitely ones to dance the night away with your best bud, preferably wearing something with bat wing sleeves and some really stupid shoes. They’ll be pretty much omnipotent next year so get on it.

For Big Brother
DEFTONES: Koi No Yokan/SOUNDGARDEN: King Animal
Two mighty comebacks for two alternative genre behemoths, you couldn’t go wrong with either for the whichever member of your family likes to make the devil horns the most. Deftones were always the band who made nu-metal credible (really, these two words can co-exist, I‘ve heard it with my own ears) and their new album is fresh and crunchy and delicious. How they manage to sound modern but still like themselves after all these years in a genre that has otherwise dated horribly is a total mystery. As for Soundgarden, I never got them first time round – they sounded pompous compared to the cut and thrust of grunge peers Mudhoney and Nirvana – but this is just a ripping rock album. Massive riffs, no piddling about, nobody vanishing up their own bum. Lovely stuff.

For Mum
LITTLE MIX: DNA
Ahhh who am I kidding, this is for me. Ridiculous everything-but-the-kitchen sink pop music, so well-executed it slips into your ears and zaps straight into your brain before you‘ve even realised it‘s happening. What’s not to love?

Tell me readers, what music will you be buying for your loved ones this Christmas? And what’s on your list for Santa?

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… June

Good afternoon and I hope you’re ready to give Penny a warm welcome back. This month, in an effort to invite some more reader participation we’ve switched things up a bit and instead of sharing the album artwork, you can now click the images below and hear the albums and songs that Penny is reviewing. I know a lot of you read at work, but we figured if you do fancy looking into her recommendations, then it’s darn sight easier this way. Do drop us a comment if you like the new interactive style. 😉

This is it – summer is here, whether you believe it or not. Put away your moody broody music and pick some pop for June! Now, because this series is about discovering new music, we’ve decided to embed samples in with the reviews this month, so you can suck it and see…. Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Regina Spektor: What We Saw From The Cheap Seats

Regina Spektor is the kind of artist I imagine hipster librarians listening to, although you’ll be pleased to know that you can enjoy her music without any formal training in the Dewey Decimal system. Incubated in the hip East Village anti-folk scene, this is Regina’s sixth album and boy has she got her trademark kooky ditties down to a fine, whimsical art. This is a really solid, consistently good record that knows exactly what it is – jazzy, poppy, stylish and intelligent. You’ll get it straight away if this is your bag (probably because it won’t be a bag, it will be a satchel).

Citizens! : Here We Are

Here’s a treat – something that’s indie enough for festival season, and yet glam enough to still be cool and interesting. Ladies (and gentlemen) of a certain age will remember how way, way back in the 1990s there was a whole army of velvet-jacket wearing, leather-trousered bands, marched into battle by Brett Anderson of Suede (Damon Albarn nicked his girlfriend, remember?). Anyway, I think this sounds a bit like all that business. Really catchy, stylish indie rock with a B-movie, David Bowie post-punk glaze. If you liked Franz Ferdinand when they were about, I think you’ll like these.

Niki & The Dove: Instinct

Swedish babies must learn to write beautiful pop music in the womb. This is the debut album from Swedish three piece Niki and the Dove – one of those buzz bands I always expect to be a bit flimsy and rubbish, except they’re not. From the soaring hits like single Tomorrow all the way down to the murky, brooding brilliance of The Gentle Roar, Niki & The Dove brandish style and substance like a shaman waving two large and impressive rain-sticks at the sky. Vocalist Malin comes on like the lovechild of Kate Bush and Cyndi Lauper, flitting between a soft, lilting coo and an impassioned battlecry over a soundtrack of shimmering, glossy synths and tribal percussion. The dynamics are seductive – a sense of oncoming danger and tension building, exploding periodically into euphoria. It’s the same trick that made Hounds Of Love such an iconic album, but you can’t complain about the template being borrowed when it’s done with so much panache. They’ll get comparisons to Florence & The Machine, but they’re so much better than that.

Catcall: Warmest Place

If that all sounds a tiny bit pretentious, then Australia’s Catcall will be just the tonic. Singer/songwriter Catherine Kelleher makes catchy, bubbly music with a twist of 80s pop. This is her debut album, and though she is already beloved of music blogs and tastemakers she still has yet to break over here in the UK – unbelievable when she’s got songs as ear-wettingly hooky as Satellites and Shoulda Been. Music to lie by the pool drinking cocktails to (something fruity with a plastic monkey in). Catch her while she’s on the cusp!

Penny.

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… The Christmas Gift Edition

It’s time to welcome Penny B back again this morning as she solves all your Christmas gift buying dilemmas with this month’s musical discoveries. I’m going to make it a new year’s resolution to buy at least one of the suggested albums each month and broaden my musical horizons…

Your Best Mate:
Is she a good time girl who listens to anything as long as it’s GREAT? Then you need to introduce your best friend to Janelle Monae. This record is technically late 2010, but after a storming performance at Glastonbury this year and relentless praise from the critics, I couldn‘t miss out the superb Archandroid.

If I tell you Monae used to work primarily with Outkast, you’ll get an idea of the scope of what we’re working with here. This record is a journey that flits from sweet soul (Wondaland) through brooding, stylish grooves (Cold War, Dance Or Die) to the all-out devastating funk of Tightrope. You need to get your best friend into Janelle, just so you have a gig buddy when she comes back to the UK. If this record is 10/10, then her live show is 11.

Significant Other:
They always turn their nose up at the music you put on in the car, so what better way to prove to your boyfriend/husband/partner that you know your onions than by being brave and buying them a great album for Christmas. I have been mostly averse to trendy new genre Chillwave (basically a load of good-looking upper middle class Americans sitting in their bedrooms playing with echoes) but with producer Ernest Greene aka Washed Out
its dreamy, lush progressions are tuneful without ever being obvious, the production is simultaneously intimate and epic, and the whole record is a woozy joy to listen to. Watch out for the big, stadium drums and brooding synths – squint a bit and you’ll see the outline of Molly Ringwald.

Little Sister:
Were students ever this cool when we were little? When did University stop being about Neighbours twice a day and wearing your slippers to the corner shop? For the young, hip, dance music headcase in your family it has to be nutty Scotsman Rustie, with ‘Glass Swords’, a schizophrenic progressive explosion of sounds on the unfailingly cool Warp records.

I believe we have a duty to show the dubstep-loving youth of today that music can still be hectic, staggering and heavy without once being derivative. Never mind your degree, this record is an education in itself.

Dad:
For the male in your life who loves folk, rock and a good old “jam” (oh dear) on the guitar, but still has his head still firmly wedged in the 60s/70s you could do worse than pick up Ryan Adams’ latest offering ‘Ashes and Fire‘.

Don’t be put off by his prolific output (this is his thirteenth studio album), Adams is consistently good and frequently great, and this album sees him at the peak of his alt-country powers. Simple, beautiful music. I know I’m not the only one who fancies him a bit.

Aunty Pat:
Still drinking babycham and dancing up a storm on Christmas Day in your front room, your young-at-heart Aunty Pat is terminally 39. She doesn’t buy CDs anymore, so she definitely won’t have purchased the best-selling and completely excellent ‘Born This Way‘.

However, thanks to the power of the Radio 1 playlist she’ll have heard most of the songs off it by now and will insist on putting her gift on the boom box and bellowing them out while you’re all trying to play Cluedo. You can thank me later.

Big Brother:
Beer drinking muso big bro still goes to gigs. Lots of them. His record collection towers above most people’s houses. So he might have these records already. But if he doesn’t, he needs them, and you will get bonus cool points for buying them for him. If he is into scuzzy fuzzy old indie rock then I prescribe the totally retro 90s sounds of cuddly hair-bears Yuck. Their self-titled debut is completely and brilliantly comforting, and will make up for the fact he never saw Dinosaur Jr. However, if he is prone to cardigan wearing and likes arty, punky rock with glasses then I cannot over-recommend supergroup Wild Flag and their (again) self-titled (again) debut.

It’s basically the ladies from Sleater Kinney, if you know who they are, making some brilliantly catchy, discordant, bubbly guitar pop. It’s music that will make you happy, so if he doesn’t like it, steal it for yourself. You might just find your new favourite band.

Mum:
If she’s ever been a Kate Bush fan, you can’t go wrong with ‘Directors Cut‘ for your dear old Mum.

The ever-brilliant Bush has gone back over a collection of her post- Hounds Of Love tracks, stripped away some of the godawful 80s/90s production and revealed the shimmering musical gems beneath. Alternatively, if you wanted to buy your Ma the new Florence (not Finds, the other one) but she’s already gone out and bought it herself, go one better and buy Anna Calvi’s Mercury nominated effort ‘Anna Calvi’. It’s a cinematic triumph of a record. Luscious, seductive and wonderfully ambitious, I can‘t believe it‘s been so overlooked given the success of similar artists. One listen and you’ll forget about the popular stuff. Florence what? Videogames who? This is where it’s at.

So then, as always, if you know of any of these albums, love them or loathe them, please share your thoughts in the comments box. Or of course if you’d just like to leave an appreciative comment for Penny’s astounding wit and limitless musical know-how. 😉

Love,
Rebecca
xo

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

Musical Discoveries

I’m feeling pretty smug this afternoon, as I have been working hard to gather together some of the most stylish, witty and knowledgeable ladies around on their various subjects, to make sure Florence Finds is bringing you not only diverse but genuine and authentic content. As a result, I am delighted to introduce Florence’s latest contributer and Angel, the hilarious and frighteningly music savvy Penny B.

Penny will be bringing you a monthly column detailing the latest music releases, and much like Florence’s book club, I’m hoping this will give you the opportunity to step outside your comfort zone and make some musical discoveries, alongside credible music reviews you can trust on more popular releases.

Take it away Penny!

As your friendly Florence Finds music correspondent and official record nerd, I’d just like to say a huge thanks to Rebecca for having me, and a great big tuneful hello to you all. Music really is a personal thing, but you’ll be pleased to hear my taste is broader than Meatloaf’s backside, so hopefully you’ll all find something in these monthly round-ups to tickle your earbuds. I’m also always up for banter in the comments section, so feel free to roll up your sleeves if I slate your favourites – these opinions are all my own, and candid they are.

Everything at the moment is sounding MASSIVE. Florence And The Machine’s “Ceremonials” has taken the overblown and put a cape on it, timesed it by ten and thrown twelvety thousand harps in for good measure. Single “Shake It Out” is going to rip up the festival circuit next summer, its pomp is perfect for uplifting big crowds in a live environment. If your patience for this sort of thing is infinite, then you will love this record – the tunes and the ideas are all present, correct and suitably epic, and Welch‘s voice is aching and flawless as always. It’s a lot of massive though, and it gets tiring. You have been warned.

Also eschewing simpler beginnings on their second album are Justice, with “Audio, Video, Disco“. These lovely hairy Frenchmen are checking their dance floor bangers at the door and opting instead for a sci-fi journey to planet Giorgio Moroder, where everything sounds a bit like the theme tune from a BBC science programme circa 1979. It is accomplished, and there are some really great, hooky moments (Newlands) and some nice cheerful electronic pop (Parade) as well as the more adventurous stuff. But I imagine I fall into a large group of Justice fans who are going to be a bit sad that there’s no Let There Be Light or D.A.N.C.E on this record. Some of the people all of the time, and all that.

So from high expectations lowered, to low expectations raised! The Nicola Roberts album “Cinderella’s Eyes” is the best thing Girls Aloud have done since, well, Girls Aloud. Single “Beat Of My Drum” and its Major Lazer stylings is a fresh little can of zingy and the following tracks don’t falter much, with “Yo-Yo“ and title track “Cinderella Eyes” being standouts. If you like quality, forward-thinking pop music then this is for you.

Also revving my space engines this month is yet another heavily produced album where the songs manage to flourish under embellishment. m83’s “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming” is a densely layered double album made by a band named after a galaxy, and I really, really wanted to hate it. It is the sound of fashionable people drinking lattes in Dalston, all slick psychedelia and shoegazey echoes. But it is truly brilliant. How anything so ambient and bloody long (1:13:20) can hold my interest, I have no idea, but mastermind Anthony Gonzalez has rammed endless tunes in amongst the cosmic drifts. If you got along with the big singles from Yeasayer and Temper Trap over the last year or two, you will love this. It is glorious and colossal.

Have you bought any of the above albums? Seen them live? Can’t get them out of your head for all the right or all the wrong reasons, we’d love to hear about it and Penny will be popping by to reply to your comments. Bring them on!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

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

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