Prick Up Your Ears Baby!


A certain element of yearning, kind of seasonal-like.  And then some detours:)!

Some of the tunes on this month's playlist are superbly arranged and orchestrated, some a bit more raw. I guess it just seems to fit the season. Although it’s now December, when I wrote this, leaves were falling (well, maybe 5 here in LA and those were immediately blown away by aggressive lawnsmen) air chilling, (well it always seems to be 70 degrees here), reflections on time passing (actually you’d never know it living in LA), or on the meaning of life (yeah, well that gets put on the back burner a lot here too), or on loves lost... Okay okay, I’m just trying to feel East Coast-ish, all right?  Anyhow, I am a West Coaster and must therefore swing you right back into a hot frenzy on our last tune.

So give a whirl to our playlist!

Michael Kiwanuka - this young British singer, originally of Ugandan descent, is quickly rising as a potential R+B superstar.  Pulling on a number of influences from Hendrix to Gaye and Terry Callier, Kiwanuka, at a tender age, seems to sing from a very old, very deep soul.  I struggled to choose my favorite tune on his new album, and found it terribly difficult. So I suggest y’all head to Rdio and listen to the entire album.  It’s been meticulously produced to create a seventies lo-fi world and will take you right back.

David Byrne & St. Vincent - Byrne, always in form with punchy drums and bass, slightly wanky voice and inimitably direct lyrics, has found, on his new album Love This Giant,  a peerless partner in St. Vincent, a young female singer-songwriter whose previous tunes already show she’s mining a parallel vein to Byrne.  A lovely lilting voice... “Who shouts out Hallelujah, who’s gonna sing out loud?”

Kings of Leon - Are a band of brothers, progeny of a roaming Pentecostal preacher who took them on his peregrinations through the South. Finally moving to Nashville, they came into their own, becoming a powerhouse of “Dixie-styled rock & roll” hits. Lead singer, Caleb Followill, has a raw, resonant voice which cracks and slides through a huge range of emotion.  I just love the big insistent bass on this tune, the tinny minimal drums, and lilting, I gotta say erotic, lead guitar. Again, had a very hard time just choosing one tune from these guys.

Beth Orton - a British singer songwriter who’s been on the scene for a decade and has a dedicated fan base, of which I am a part.  Her cover of the Ronnette’s ‘I Wish I Never Saw the Sunshine’ transformed that tune into a definitive break up elegy. Her work has morphed from ‘folk-tronica’ to pure folk to, on this new album, a more fully arranged form of folk pop, which seems to suit her superbly sweet, expressive voice.

Asa - This Nigerian singer has been on the scene for a few years, but she seems on this album to have really hit her stride.  Now living in Paris, she has started winning awards. She manages to manipulate some seriously thoughtful lyrics into some seriously swinging neo-soul.  Really well orchestrated, awesome choruses, killer voice. “I feel like I’m floating through the system... I feel like I’m forced to break the silence. Is that a crime? I feel like we’re all following shadows...” I love her!

Feist - Probably not a new name to anyone, but her work keeps delivering.  Feist has a voice that could charm the birdies out of their nests. Her lyrics are haunting and unnervingly poetic.  This is off her most recent album, Metals, and is only one of many extraordinary and original songs.

Dave Matthews Band - This tune is suddenly getting a lot of airplay, so excuse us if you're already on to it. I might never have swung in Dave’s direction except my sweet daughter, at 15, was such a fan.  Took her to the Meadowlands to hear him (preceded by one of my all time favorites Angelique Kidjo!) and realized his genius. This tune reveals a sadder, older Matthews... who somehow manages to mold his regret into a sort of poignant, pleading poppaby (mixture of pop and lullaby?)

The Byrds - Okay, I had to include a little something from my youth - which at the time, 1965, struck me right between the eyes. ‘Turn Turn Turn’ was what I was listening to, one autumn afternoon, while I was sitting in my boyfriend’s lap and he managed to steal second base - seemed to me to qualify as a new season. The music seemed so thoughtful, so meaningful and obviously way deeper than anything my parents would listen to. I didn’t know at the time that the song was written by Pete Seeger, with lyrics (except for the last line) taken directly from Ecclesiastes. Nor did I know that later in my life I would actually get to know Mr. Seeger a little bit as I was enlisting sponsors for his Clearwater Revival festival on the banks of his beloved Hudson River. What a truly marvelous man.

M83 - This tune - a big, lush, hard-driving electronic choral work from a Frenchman named Anthony Gonzalez - blends lots of reverb, soft recitatives, big howls and clangy guitars.  Says Gonzalez: "It’s written like a soundtrack to an imaginary movie with different atmospheres, different tempos, different orchestrations... When I make an album it's always about nostalgia, melancholy in the past and memories."

Patti Smith - Whatever you thought you knew of her, Smith has become more so now that’s she’s turned 65. This is from her new album, the first in 6 years. ‘Banga’ is named after a dog in the Mikael Bulgakov’s The Master and The Margarita - one of my favorite books as a teenager.  The whole album seeps under your skin and reminds you of who we are as a generation.  Yeah, you - are you still with us?  Read more about Patti's recent show in LA and a piece written about her by a young woman writer from Brooklyn...

Brazilian Girls - Actually not a Girl Band, but how clever to name yourself according to a popular web search.  And the lead singer is in fact a girl, Sabina Sciubba, and she has a hugely sexy, cabaret quality voice. Anyhow, I love them and I can’t help but get up and dance whenever I hear them.  It’s that eclectic mix of mexican horns and trip-hop... On this tune, which I assumed was a David Bryne cover but is in fact an homage, they actually got dear David to sing along.  I defy you to stay in your chair for this one. (btw, I didn’t include one of their hits (“Pussy” ) due to its x-rated lyrics!)