In my old age I have spent many an hour in deep thought over a number of philosophical problems relating to music and musical taste. For instance, what makes one person like a song and another turn off the radio? What drives the artist to make music? Why are there people in the world who like Cliff Richard? Why are we even here in the first place? I digress. One of the most pressing conclusions I have drawn is that life simply does not afford us enough time to listen to absolutely everything. We therefore need to make choices about what we are going to listen to, and sometimes it helps to be pointed towards these choices. Musicians just keep on writing more music all the time, it never stays still. Music evolves. Styles come and go, they develop, and then a counter style will appear to challenge the mainstream – and eventually it will all get sampled and remixed ironically as tastes change yet again.
Who can say whether a song is good or bad? Who can say whether someone else will like an artist purely based on the other stuff that they listen to? Someone who hates Country and Western will say that someone that listens to nothing else has poor taste in music – but it is all subjective. The explosion of self-publishing sites like MySpace and YouTube has flooded our online worlds with – all subjectivity aside – some shockingly bad amateur music. I suppose it’s good that these people are finding ways to express themselves. And occasionally, you will find an absolute gem. Once you have got over the initial hurdle of the actual skill levels involved in creating music, then it is entirely up to each individual listener whether they like it or not. Not whether it is good or bad. I only know what I like and what I don’t like – I would never try to tell you that what you are listening to is wrong. [Unless it’s Cliff Richard, obviously.]
Herein, I hope to contribute a playlist every now and then that will explore various aspects of these philosophical problems, hopefully in an objective manner. Actually, scratch all that philosophy nonsense. I just want to share what I think is some really great music with you. You will have to be the judge of whether it is or not yourself, of course…
The first playlist celebrates music either written by women or featuring female vocalists, mostly from within the last couple of years.
Frankie Rose and the Outs – Candy
I like bands that make it difficult to categorise them into a particular style. New York based Frankie Rose and the Outs certainly do this. If the Beach Boys and Blondie were to have love-children who were then raised in Phil Spector’s studio, this is the band that would probably emerge. Call it what you will, retro glam surf punk wall of sound whatever – I don’t know. I just know that it is full of energy and quirky melody and charisma and I love it. I feel like this band definitely has something of the Jack Move spirit about them. Also, the video for this track does more than tip a nod to the cult classic horror film Carrie.
Honeytone Cody – Holly The Cat Has Gone To A New Home
From New York, USA over to plain old York, England. What’s happening, owt? Honeytone Cody. I can’t think of any famous bands that have ever come from York, though I’m sure a proper Googling would probably show my ignorance up. Sorry the above link is to a MySpace player, I was trying to avoid that where possible. But this track just insisted that it made it onto the list, and I didn’t like to say no to it. The dark, gritty feel of the rhythm section contrasting with the bright guitar and the light yet sultry vocal is what really makes this track for me. And the totally bonkers title!
Let’s Buy Happiness – Six Wolves
I’ve been known to have a whinge about hipsters. This video… well… I don’t know, is it hipster? Maybe this video is to hipster what butter is to bread. Or something. Anyway, it’s kind of irrelevant because the song is so good it makes up for it, and I actually found the video really enchanting too. It’s the kind of music you could probably best describe as ‘quirky’. This young band is based in Newcastle, north England and they describe themselves as Zouk Epic Indie. I don’t even know what that means. But what I like about this band is the way the weave many musical layers together without the overall sound getting too confusing or crowded, and I also find her voice unique and interesting to listen to.
Laura Marling – My Manic & I
This is a track from Laura Marling’s debut album, Alas I Cannot Swim. Her second album, I Speak Because I Can has been out for some time and has received quite a bit of critical acclaim, here in the UK and over in the USA also I believe. This was the first track I heard of hers a few years ago, and I couldn’t quite get my head round the fact that she was only about 17 years old when she wrote it. Obviously, when you’re 17 you think you’ve already got pretty old, I guess. The lyrical depth and the dynamics of the way the song builds and falls away again really intrigued me. She is often classed as folk, but I think she actually crosses several other boundaries of musical style. I also really love this video, simply because it has animation in it.
La Roux – Bulletproof
Ah, the 80’s. Revisited and revamped. For those that like their quirky a little more mainstream and their mainstream a little more quirky, this is pure synth-pop magic. I really like La Roux, but I know her voice can divide opinion. [Why does she have to sing so high-pitched etc.] I’m not sure how well known La Roux is in America, but over the summer of 2009 she was absolutely massive here in the UK. Massively overplayed on the radio and so on – the kind of artist that you buy the album on the strength of the ‘big single’ and the rest of the album is utter pants. But La Roux was different, in that the whole album was stunning. I thought all the songs showed a particular care and attention in their crafting, and were not just stuck on there as filler. Also, I think it is good for the soul to get away from deep and meaningful songs of introspection and just have a dance about like no-one is watching occasionally.
Lanterns on the Lake – A Kingdom
Lanterns on the Lake are described as ‘cinematic indie’ from the northeast of England. I first heard this band in the late summer of 2010 when the music blog I write for asked me to do a review of them. We subsequently interviewed them for the blog, and what a lovely group of human beings they are. It comes as no real surprise considering the sheer loveliness of their songs – as you can hopefully hear in this track. They all work day jobs as well as creating this beautiful music, but if and when they do take the step towards making writing and touring their primary career choice, I really hope it works out for them. Their debut self-released EPs have attracted some attention already.
Brandi Carlile – The Story
Brandi Carlile is one of my favourite female vocalists – her range and control is absolutely incredible. For this reason, this is the only live performance I have included in the list. [The Spotify playlist has the album version of the track.] Because, song-writing aside, she is such an astounding talent to watch – you just know that her album has never seen auto-tune. This performance on Later with Jools Holland was the first time I’d come across her music, and it totally blew me away. I bought the album the next day and it honestly did not leave my CD player for about two months solid. I still come back to it, and it still does the trick. She’s one of those artists I vaguely list under the label of country/roots/Americana…
Amy LaVere – Pointless Drinking
Amy LaVere was another Later with Jools discovery for me. As I recall, she was on the same show as Seasick Steve, and she also supported him when he toured the UK. Straight away, I was fascinated by this girl with dark hair from Tennessee, playing a double bass twice her size, wearing a full length Little House on the Prairie style dress with cowboy boots. I was just like, “Oh WOW, this music has been made specifically for me.” This wasn’t the song she sang that particular time, [it was Killing Him – also worth checking out] but this one has become a bit of a theme-tune for me.
School of Seven Bells – Half Asleep
This song just wanted to be here. I simply love it, and I can’t really put that feeling into words much better than that. It is a song that, for me, just playing it will put the world right. I hesitate to use the word ‘uplifting’, but, uh… well. Always end on an up, that’s what they say!
I hope you have enjoyed this playlist! If you have any comments relating to your favourite female artist that I missed out, or suggestions of ‘themes’ for future playlists, let them know here at Jack Move, and I’ll see what we can do. Thank you for listening, innit.
“Headphones” image by Alvaro Tapia, used under a Creative Commons license.
Lizzy B. is owned by three cats in England. She also writes for Beard Rock, innit.