Robert Palmer, the late, suave UK singer of resonant and elastic voice was bit of a Jekyll & Hyde when it came to his recorded output. Prior to his mega trashy and garish hit “Addicted to Love” he straddled the line between several genres, never landing completely on one in particular. He went from funky New Orleans Soul, to Pub Rock and then in 1980 took a peculiar left turn into an intriguing brand of electronic pop music (even going so far as to collaborate with Gary Numan, one of the true fathers of the genre). Tracks like “Johnny and Mary”, and “I Dream of Wires” from this electro period still sound as weird, and memorable as they did the day they were thrust into the world. Which brings us to Dan D’Lion’s spacey and gorgeous “Dislocate”. There are distinct traces of the aforementioned Palmer’s electro side as well as the tunefulness of early The-Dream within it…but make no mistake, Dan is his own man and this is as distinct and wonderfully insidious as any pop thing this year.
There’s some really clever arranging and handsome harmonizing happening within the chorus of Mt. Mura: it sounds like the progeny of The Monroes 1982 new wave classic “What Do All the People Know” though the sentiment is infinitely darker despite the positive beat ( the eternal damage of proselytizing upon youthful minds). It is really, really fine. With that in mind take a listen to their epic, over the top, prog-pop last single “Coma’ too, link below, because it is also pretty exceptional.
“Let Me Show You” is sophisticated and fully formed retro-fine soul, marrying a seventies singer-songwriter vibe in the vein of Carole King or Roberta Flack, with some Stevie Wonder-esque instrumental flourishes, to the more modern day R & B excursions of Floetry and Marsha Ambrosius. It’s all tempo changes, melodic twists, real guitar, and spaced out keys and features a myriad of singular instrumental spotlight moments. It’s then topped with Lydia’s quietly powerful and supremely lovely vocal. It just works in every way.
Good lord. This song is absolutely insidious. It’s crafty. It’s electronic and warm. And once it’s set foot into your mind, it is nearly impossible to evict. It’s both simple and complex, a stream of consciousness nursery rhyme moving back and forth between descriptions of what someone is doing and what someone is thinking which is to say it perfectly mimics how the brain works every waking moment of the day. It’s like some glorious Pet Shop Boys deep cut and features words like “dappling”, “overborne”, “billowing” and “squinting” and is the devil in the best way.
Clocking in at nearly 6 minutes, “Winters” might well give you the sensation of taking a journey. It’s otherworldly, epic and over the top, featuring Taft Mashburn’s gigantic, wavering and emotive voice over a post rock backdrop. Yet even with all the widescreen beauty on display here, there is still something innately lonely and solitary at the core of the song. It’s really something.
Schizophrenic and lush, “Sun Skin Air” is a melodic mix of krautrock and pop and features a straight up prog bridge that sounds like it wandered in from an early Genesis album. Basically it’s a bit of a whirling dervish, completely infectious and extremely difficult to avoid getting completely charmed by and sucked into.
Them Leopards are back with another wonderful and criminally sticky pop tune, this one a message for “Heather” whom they’re fed up with being mistreated by, but who still rules their life. “Call me when you get your shit together”, and “hope it’s not the way you’ll be forever”. Jaunty and blue and just too true.
Did you watch that video ? Pretty great right ? It’s unquestionably the best burying the past and who you were and rising up with the breeze anthem you’re gonna hear this year.
No one is doing what Yola is doing right now. Creating songs in this particular style, with these kind of vocals, that are this innately melodic. It’s true. Now Yola’s songs have a lot of ingredients in their make up. They are an amalgamation of straight up vintage 70’s country pop ( Dolly, Dottie West, Tanya Tucker), classic Laurel Canyon song craft and feeling ( Eagles, Byrds, Carole King, Ronstadt), and Stax-ian power ( Judy Clay), with a dollop of the warmest of early seventies soul (Gladys Knight, Roberta Flack ). They’re all in there, but why does what Yola’s doing here stand out and rise above the rest right now ? Yes, her grand, heart-squeezing widescreen voice is amazing, but at the end of the day, these are just damn good songs, plain and simple.
3 tracks have been released from her forthcoming album “Walk Through Fire” thus far ( out 2/22 and produced by Dan Auerbach ), all distinctly different in sound with not a weak link among them. Listen below to “Faraway Look”, a truly Righteous Sister of a song and “Love All Night (Work All Day)”, which was undoubtedly a # 1 country song in 1975 in an alternate universe. Wow.
There is something oddly familiar about this song, so much so you may feel as if you’ve heard it before even after being exposed to only 30 seconds of it. This is because it’s what you might call “classically constructed” with a marked, definitive hook, and a real lyrical clarity…so yeah, it may well feel like you’ve been here before. Even the vocal possesses a “don’t I know you?” quality with it’s evocation of a world weary Laura Nyro, a ridiculously dark Carole King, and a keening Fiona Apple. It all adds up to something mighty fine, fully formed and out of time, that’s as sadly beautiful as can be. And that crying guitar solo is also pretty exquisite.
This is one big fat pop song. Things start gently, minimally even, and then explode into technicolor once the gigantic and fabulously ascending chorus hits, all fat synths and horn sounds and Sigrid Aase’s soaring voice. It’s all about believing in something intensely, getting overwhelmed by it, maybe realizing that belief is misguided then just stopping the brain train for a bit, taking a beat, and letting your heart rest ( or as Kate Bush simply put in in her own “Breathing”, out, in, out, in). “Breathe” features on the band’s forthcoming second album and they say while this track serves as a centerpiece, the whole lp will exult the actual spiritual and mental need to breathe and that yes, actual breathing sounds will be woven throughout the entire thing. Gonna be a good one.