1. 7 WORLDS COLLIDE “Too Blue” (from The Sun Came Out 2009). Last month I chatted about JOHNNY MARR’s recent album. But I want to mention another excellent project that MARR was associated with back in 2009. NEIL FINN’s “7 Worlds Collide” brought together great songwriters and musicians to create an album to benefit OXFAM. Recorded in just a few weeks at Christmas time, it featured members of RADIOHEAD, members of WILCO, KT TUNSTALL, BIC RUNGA, AUGIE MARCH’s GLENN RICHARDS among many others. It has a lot of memorable collaborations and great songs. MARR’s playing and singing (“Run In The Dust”) is so essential to making this hodge-podge collaboration work. I wish more people knew about this album here in North America. Fans of all of the artists mentioned above will not be disappointed. And purchasing the album or any of its songs will benefit OXFAM, campaigning for change, providing emergency support and finding ways to eradicate poverty.
2. 7 WORLDS COLLIDE “Learn to Crawl” (from The Sun Came Out 2009). So good, let’s hear another one from Neil, Liam and friends.
3. JULIA HOLTER “In The Same Room” (from Ekstasis 2012). This is a densely layered album that I would loosely characterize as electronica. HOLTER uses diverse styles and instrumentation to enliven the atmospherics, all the while forcing the listener to peel back some of the layers to discover all the cool things going on.
4. BETH ORTON “Dawn Chorus” (from Sugaring Season 2012). BETH ORTON returned last year with a very nice collection of songs produced by Mr. LAURA VIERS (TUCKER MARTINE).
5. SIGUR ROS “Inni Mer Synger Vitleysingur” (from Inni 2011). Iceland’s Coldplay perhaps?
6. ANAIS MITCHELL “Wildland/Young Man In America” (from Young Man In America 2012). Admittedly, I am not an ANI DIFRANCO fan so it took me a while to discover ANAIS, but I have come to really appreciate her. She’s from Vermont and maple syrup and skiing already get enough attention.
7. THE BYRDS “Here Without You” (from Mr. Tambourine Man 1965) During a recent epic car journey with my daughter, we listened to this album as part of an exercise we devised to help eat up the miles and time. We decided to select one album from each year between 1960 and 1980 and listen to them start to finish. Warts and all. This album, for both of us, was a real highlight. No warts or filler… rare for 1965! I re-discovered the harmonies and chiming Rickenbacker that I had come to take for granted over the years as just more classic rock and my daughter saw the connection between the music she loves now and some of the music that directly influenced it.
8. LAURA NYRO “Poverty Train” (from Eli And The Thirteenth Confession 1968) Another album from our car trip. Having never heard it before, I’m embarrassed to say I did not know of NYRO, a true one of a kind. Yet I’m thankful that there are, for me, still stones left to turn over. Now all the singer-songwriters and much of the soulful music of the 1970’s seems to finally make sense!
9. ELTON JOHN “Better Off Dead” (from Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy 1975). Yet another album from the trip, a classic from my childhood and I was really excited for my daughter to hear one my early heros. I fully expected to re-connect with a great lost memory and get that warm fuzzy feeling. What a disappointment… This album is all over indulgent arrangements. And those great lyrics you remember as a kid? They turn out to be coke fueled rambling rants. Still, for 1975, it’s probably better than average and this song has a great melody. Elton had (had) a great voice.
10. ANDREW BIRD “If I Needed You” (from Hands of Glory 2012). The entire album was recorded into one microphone. That’s old school.
11. TIFT MERRITT “Traveling Alone” (from Traveling Alone 2012). Tift’s voice and songs keep getting better.
12. SIMONE DINNERSTEIN/TIFT MERRITT “Colors” (from Night 2013). Touted as folk meets classical, there is also some jazz thrown in there for good measure. The two musicians clearly appreciate each other and seek to explore the other’s genres. Excuse me, do you mind if I explore your genre?
13. CARRIE RODRIGUIZ “I Cry For Love” (from Give Me All You Got 2013). Either with CHIP TAYLOR or on her own, she is a very distinctive singer who can also wail on the fiddle!
14. CHRIS STAMEY “Lovesick Blues” (from Lovesick Blues 2013). Is this just me, or is this a very weird video? I love CHRIS STAMEY either way.