Happy Tuesday everybody! Yesterday was my birthday and I had a pretty great day. Today I woke up from a dream that I was dating Lana Del Rey (for, like, the fifth time in two months) and she was also a drug dealer with cankles. Then I burned myself while making toast. I’m not sure what this says about the rest of my day but I can at least say we have some extraordinary music being released today and that generally makes everything better.
In fact, today’s top choice is really a tie between the first two albums mentioned below. Also, I’m going to consider it a birthday present to myself that the first four artists being mentioned below are all out musicians. This is much better news for me than yesterday’s Jeopardy category that was all about how April 23 is a bad day for writers. Thanks a lot Trebek! Now, because there is a lot of music out today and some of it has been hard for me to track down, I’ll need to save the reviews for Yuna, Eddie the Gun, Megan Reilly, Magic Wands and Theresa Andersson for tomorrow!
Sea of Bees — Orangefarben (Heavenly Recordings)
Photo from Riot Act Media
Julie Ann Bee, who performs under the moniker Sea of Bees, has been through a lot since her fantastic 2010 debut full-length, Songs for the Ravens. It’s a story many of us have already experienced and one that most of you will eventually experience at some point in life: Feeling comfortable enough in yourself to come out to your family and friends, enter your first “real” relationship and then suffer your first “real” overwhelming heartbreak. Orangefarben is so personal and yet so incredibly relateable, it’s almost as though she has seen all of us in our most painful moments of heartbreak and decided to write an album about it. In some ways, listening to this is like looking back at a yearbook comprised only of bad breakups. The second track, “Alien,” is a gorgeous and understated ode to waking up next to someone you fell in love with and realizing they aren’t that person anymore. Her cover of “Leaving (on a Jet Plane)” stays true to the original version while adding a whole new layer of emotion I hadn’t expected.
All is not lost though, even through some of the gloomiest songs, there is a sense that all will eventually be alright and our protagonist will eventually mend her wounded heart and be ready to experience love again. Everyone needs a good cathartic release once in a while and this is just the album to help get you there. You can stream the album in its entirety over at NPR. Also, I’ll be interviewing Julie sometime in the next couple of weeks so if you’ve got a question you’d like me to ask, feel free to send it my way.
Sarah Jaffe — The Body Wins (Kirtland Records)
Photo by Chris Phelps
Much like Orangefarben, I’ve been listening to Sarah Jaffe‘s latest release as often as possible. From the beautiful album opener, “Paul,” I was enchanted. I use that term lightly because I know how cheesy it can seem. If you know me at all, you know that I am an absolute sucker for strings. If eyes are the window to the soul, string instruments are the soundtrack to your emotions. Ok, you know what? Eff that noise —I’m letting myself get cheesy here because this album is too good to not let myself get carried away.
Jaffe uses an increasingly interesting combination of classical elements layered with her haunting voice, tribal drumming and electronic elements that could have been plucked out of a science fiction thriller. She then flips the script again on “Mannequin Woman,” and even a bit on “Halfway Right,” which almost take on a very Joan as Policewoman meets Carly Simon kind of sound. With every song that came, I couldn’t wait to hear what she did next and with every song that passed, Jaffe never disappointed. You can stream The Body Wins over at Spinner.
LP — Into the Wild EP: Live at EastWest Studios (Warner Bros)
Photo courtesy of LP
If you’ve watched television in the past few months and either don’t have a DVR or forget to fast forward through commercials — like I tend to do — you have most likely heard the incredibly powerful voice of LP singing “Into the Wild.” In fact, the first time you heard her sing, there’s a good chance you stopped in your tracks and had to find out who she was immediately. If you’re like me, you then spent the good portion of that day trying to track down as much info as you possibly could on this small framed, big-haired, gigantically-talented singer who has also written songs for Christina Aguilera and Rihanna (didn’t see those coming!). Well, today’s release is still simply not enough for me, but it will have to do. When all else fails, I can also go back and watch the phenomenal cover of “Dog Days are Over” (which later turned into a duet with Florence Welch).
Claude Violante — Claude Violante EP (Tsunami-Addication)
Photo by Sonia Koumskoff Raissi
I’m highlighting another EP today and this one comes from a French electropop artist whose sound is a little bit of a throwback. This is how I know I’m getting old, because I’m thinking of 80′s and early 90′s sounds as being “throwback.” Out of the four songs on this EP, three of them had me at “Hello.” The only track that took some warming up to was “Generation,” which suffers from a case of “one of these things is not like the others.” The other three jams will be finding a happy home in my “Dark Electro-Funk” playlist.
Carole King — The Legendary Demos (Rockingale Records)
Photo from Carole King
How I Met Your Mother has almost ruined the word “legendary” for me — but I’m happy to see Carole King reclaim it. Until recently, I had known very little about the artistry and history of this incredible woman. Not only does she have this new album of unreleased demos, she’s also just published her memoir, A Natural Woman. What I had failed to really recognize, or research really, was how important her songwriting has been over time. She has a ridiculous amount of hits sung by other artists under her belt. If you’ve got the time, listen to her interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air. Her personal history is really interesting — and as someone who isn’t much of a reader, I’m really interested in getting my hands on this book. You can stream the album in its entirety over at Spinner.
Loquat — We Could Be Arsonists (Nacional Records)
Photo courtesy of Loquat
I’m so excited about being able to write about Loquat‘s newest release. The band’s lead singer, Kylee Swenson (now Swenson Gordon), was one of my very first interviews for Venus Zine. The four years since their last release, Secrets of the Sea, have seen a lot of changes for the band. The lineup has changed and Kylee and her husband, (bass player Anthony Gordon) had to prepare for a family lineup change as Kylee was pregnant while recording. To me, it seems like that would add a lot of stress to the equation. Instead, the music seems more carefree and comfortable than it ever has. I’ve always enjoyed Kylee’s voice and songwriting, but this album brings a new and more polished alt-pop sound for the band. You can stream the We Could Be Arsonists over at Spinner.
Honorable Mentions: Jack White, Romain Collin, Suckers, Ty Segall & White Fence, Toro Y Moi, Eve 6, Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars, The Wanted, Death Grips, Crystal Fighters, Greg Laswell, Brendan Benson, Jamiroquai, Torche and The Hundson Branch.
Exciting News: In case you missed it, yesterday Fiona Apple released her first single in years. I’ll consider it a birthday present because she and I are tight like that. (In my mind).
That’s all for today but remember to come back tomorrow for the next round of artists releasing music this week! Feel free to follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook or follow what I’m listening to on Spotify!