Each year the September through November period typically brings us a bigger volume of good music than at any other time. This October was no exception. So, being unable to whittle down the list to our normal 5 current albums plus 1 oldie, and rather than bombard you good readers with too much in one sitting, Equilibrio has this month opted to split its best of music recommendations into 2 batches of 6 each. Part one came out last week. This is part 2.
Download these songs this month…
Anna Of The North
From album: Lovers
Anna Of The North is the chosen moniker of Anna Lotterud from Norway and Brady Daniell-Smith of New Zealand. Their debut album Lovers is awash with soft and tuneful electro-pop. The type of cool and mature pop music in fact that only Scandinavians seem able to produce. Fire is the latest single from the album and is where she cranks it up a bit, sounding quite a bit like Ellie Goulding in the process. There is already great breadth across the album, and Anna can also be found singing back-up on a couple of rapper Tyler, The Creator’s singles, and has had her songs remixed by the Chainsmokers, so it’s going to be interesting to see where she goes to next.
(Also download these songs from the album: Money, Someone, Lovers)
From album: Harmony Of Difference
Kamasi Washington is another of a long list of traditional jazz musicians to have benefited from the high watermark of hip-hop that is Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly (see also Terrace Martin and Thundercat, both previously reviewed on Equilibrio). Washington is a good saxophonist, but even better composer and arranger. Harmony Of Difference is a relatively short album, more an EP even, and is straight up traditional jazz in the main. Track titles are all one-word nouns describing a specific and evocative human quality. Despite these tracks all being wordless instrumentals, there is no shortage of emotion here. Desire opens the album and would work equally as lazy Sunday morning backdrop or post-party wind-down accompaniment.
(Also download these songs from the album: Truth, Perspective, Knowledge)
Bodies Of Water
From album: Spear In The City
Marriage can bring either brutal dissonance or stunning harmony. David and Meredith Metcalf are the husband and wife team behind L.A. band Bodies Of Water and seem to effortlessly inhabit the latter space. Neither of their voices are noteworthy alone, but they deliver something remarkable together with his deep baritone and her sweet plaintive accompaniment. Their songs are unique too: vaguely gothic folk rock with a timeless sound that’s not miles away from early Johnny Cash. Everything on the album is minor-key minimalism and there’s nothing else out there quite like it. Heartbeating is one of the quieter tracks, and the simple rolling-tom backing allows their celebration of the secret language of a couple who’ve been together a long while to really come to the fore.
(Also download these songs from the album: Echoes, Dark Water, Spear In The City)
Song: Supernatural Powers
From album: Souvenirs
Chamber pop is a term used to define broadly melodic pop songs that employ more classical instruments, typically woodwind, piano and sweeping strings, as the chief accompaniment. Big in the 60s and early 70s, there has been something of a mini-resurgence of the style of late (see Matthew White as one example). The wonderfully named Shenandoah Davis is the latest contributor to the genre. But hers is no gimmicky orchestral whitewash effect applied to otherwise normal pop tunes, she really embraces it (she has a college degree in operatic performance after all). The style works terrifically as a backdrop to her slightly offbeat, high-pitched vocal tone and explorations of the daily minutiae of past relationships. Ironically, first single Supernatural Powers is the track where the overall style and tone is least evident, coming across more as a superior indie-ballad.
(Also download these songs from the album: Orbit, Gold Coast, The Wings)
Song: Holiday Destination
From album: Holiday Destination
A 2nd generation Brit, but Muslim Pakistani by background, Nadine Shah has real insights into how it feels to be an inside-outsider. On latest album Holiday Destination she pulls back on her previously operatic vocal delivery and maximalist production values to deliver a set of bleak revelations on fascist global politics, life under civil war conditions in the Middle East and how it feels to be shunned in your own birth country. Just take a look at the juxtaposition of the album title and cover photo of a war-torn apartment block and you get a clear message of the cynicism that lies within. While this might not sound like much fun, the melodies and tempo lift the mood somewhat and prove that ‘important’ music can still be a great listen. On the title track she sings about tourists in a poverty-stricken place, the visitors oblivious to the horrors of daily survival of the locals. At the two-thirds mark a sudden noise arrives and repeats to a point where it almost grates, like some sort of new age warning alarm, which in a way is the whole point.
(Also download these songs from the album: 2016, Evil, Relief)
In case you missed it…
The Postal Service
Song: Such Great Heights
From album: Give Up (from 2003)
The Postal Service was a once-off coming together of Ben Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie, Jimmy Tamborello (aka American DJ and electronic musician Dntel) and Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley and Jenny & Johnny fame. Taking their name from their habit of mailing one another digital tapes so that each of them could do their bits from different locations, the music embodies the melodies and lyrical gifts of Death Cab and molds it to Tamborello’s stunning electronica. Many have attempted to mimic it, but thus far it’s without peer. Indeed it has proven easier to simply rather just duplicate the songs. Best known single from the album Such Great Heights for instance has been covered by major label artists more than 10 times. What was at first a small cult fan base has bloomed over time into a large and influential following. Notwithstanding this, and believing that they would never achieve ‘such great heights’ again, Gibbard and Tamborello have never re-assembled The Postal Service and have recently stated that there is no intention to do so.
(Also download these songs from the album: The District Sleeps Alone Tonight, We Will Become Silhouettes, Nothing Better)
Until next month! To read some of our previous music reviews click here.