14 December 2006

Music Recommendations

I think it's been quite a disappointing year for new music on the whole. My favourite album of the last few years - Long Gone Before Daylight by the Cardigans has not yet been surpassed (even by their follow-up, Super Extra Gravity). This is one of those rare albums when each track from first to last is wonderful. If you haven't heard this, give it a shot.

But from this year's (or thereabouts) music releases, I'm going to suggest a few things to you that you may or may not have heard of (all links are to Amazon.com as not all of it can be bought in the UK. Sometimes I've had it from Amazon marketplace, or even from iTunes).

First up is Tanya Donelly - a founder of the indie band Throwing Muses and also Belly. Tanya has made 4 solo albums all of which in my opinion are wonderful. Just last month came This Hungry Life an interesting album in that it is recorded live in a small venue but is all new material (a brave attempt). It starts with a cracking first track. Some might argue the album is a bit too country-tinged, but I like it. If you do like this, you will almost certainly like the first two albums - Lovesongs for Underdogs and BeautySleep. The third album - Whiskey Tango Ghosts is still good but just not quite on a par with the first two. She has a great voice, and some good lyrics too.

Tanya's step-sister is Kristin Hersh who is also of the Muses. I was a bit late to Grotto, but again I really like it, and a new one is due in the New Year. Unfortunately, I missed a performance in a small London venue next month as it was sold out quickly.

Incidentally, while I like the Muses, I'm not an out-and-out fan, so don't think that's a pre-requisite for liking these albums - they're just great albums by themselves.

I've also enjoyed The Dears with their second album - Gang of Losers. Murray Lightburn who fronts the band has a great delivery, and great lyrics. Sometimes you swear you're listening to Morrissey (listen to track3 "Lost in the Plot" off the first album "No Cities Left" and you'll see what I mean). Anyway, this album offers the best of British indie from the late 80's/90's. Not bad for a Canadian band!

When you see Murray live (well, on video), he's not what you expect. The same, in reverse, goes for Antony (of Antony and the Johnsons fame). I also liked "I am a bird now" though this may be an acquired taste.

The Pet Shop Boys are a band I've liked over the years, without having a complete collection. Fundamental (and the 2-disc set with Fundamentalism) shows them at their best with catchy tunes.

Staying with boppy and electronica, one of the albums I played a lot this year was We Are Pilots from the Shiny Toy Guns. I discovered this band on Radio 6 doing a cover of a Depeche Mode song on an album of such covers called Goth Electro
which is also good. I got We Are Pilots off iTunes UK as it was not available here as a CD, but last time I looked it wasn't there. Go figure.

Finally, if you're in to more atmospheric stuff, I saw an excellent review of The Silver Tree by Lisa Gerrard who used to be 50% of Dead Can Dance. I went ahead and got this off iTunes as it was a long album at a good price (couldn't get it on CD for less than about £20 as an import at the time). If you liked the later Dead Can Dance albums, then you'll appreciate this one. Another comparison would be like a good Enya album but without some of the catchy (and later annoying) songs!

I hope you'll manage to sample one or more of these artists and perhaps discover something you like.

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