More music to warm the heart, cheer the soul and keep summer alive and kicking no matter where you may be.
With the artists hail from diverse parts of the globe – Australia, Sweden, UK and the USA – they all share one thing in common, which is an ability to fashion music that allows you feel something.
Ear candy is wonderful, and trust me there are times when it’s all we want to listen to, but for those occasions when you want to sit back, soak up music and have the sense that the songs you’re listening to, which are affecting you on a level way beyond merely aural, actually mean something to the artist who made them, you want music like the kind made by the five artists in this edition of Now This is Music.
So go sit back in a bar in the early hours of the morning or a hill dappled in sunshine and soft breezes or anywhere that makes you happy and listen to music that’s as good for the soul as it is for the ears.
“Lights” by Manfred Kidd
Thank god for nostalgia.
It was what likely propelled Victor Crusner and Fredrik Folkestad, childhood friends who met again by chance as adults on a late night tram in Gothenburg, to re-connect and in the midst of re-living no doubt fond memories discovered that they shared some musical sensibilities.
Fast forward to some recording in what My Spoonful, who thankfully introduced me to this rejoined duo via one of their brilliant new artist emails, called “a timeworn inn and a tiny cabin on the Swedish coast” – it seems to be the thing to do if you’re a Swedish musician with Björn and Benny from ABBA often writing in their tiny studio on the island of Viggso in the Stockholm archipelago – and the creation of gloriously sunny slice of upbeat indie pop with exquisite harmonies, their first single “Lights”.
While not entirely emblematic of the duo’s overall sound which jumps around genres with a spirit of gleeful invention on their EP When Were You When You Were Us, it is the perfect introduction to this talented twosome who seem to have a knack for crafting music that warms the soul, regardless of which track you’re listening to.
Manfred Kidd’s music is the perfect accompaniment to warmer weather which makes it arrival at the start of the southern hemisphere spring where the cooler temperatures of winter are on their way out a real gift from the musical gods.
But hey regardless of where you are, this is the kind of beautifully-produced music that will make your day a better place no matter where you are so do yourself a favour and throw a little sunshine into your day via Manfred Kidd.
“Come Down Softly” by Lemonade
Originally from San Francisco, California and now resident way over on the east coast in one of the current world hotbeds of music creation, Brooklyn, New York, Lemonade (vocalist Callan Clendenin, bassist Ben Steidel, and drummer Alex Pasternak), who have just released of their third album Minus Tide, know a thing or two about gorgeously-lush, harmonies-drenched shimmering pop.
There is something almost luminous about songs like “Coming Down Softly”, which is one of the most beautiful, chilled songs I have heard in quite a while, a melodic, otherworldly gentle reverie that has been described perfectly by passionate music blogger All Fresh Sounds:
“‘Come Down Softly’ suggests a slow, feathery fall onto a mattress and that’s the mood Callan Clendenin and company fashion here. Clendenin’s voice hardly rises above a whisper. Alex Pasternak’s drums alternate between thump and unobtrusive ticking. The group’s tropical flavored synthesizers wash over everything like waves from a lagoon. At a critical juncture Clendenin soulfully murmurs ‘a place that I know, this time I’m not alone, the hair bangs on your shoulder breaks my fall.’ There’s no gigantic drop-off, just a gentle ride into the sunset.”
It is music to drift away with but hardly ephemeral fluff for all that remaining true to the band’s signature indie dance electro pop.
Above all, though, Lemonade have crafted a song that connects emotionally every bit as much as it does musically, a sign that this is a group that isn’t simply producing music for its own sake – it means something and matters to them, and now thanks to their immensely listenable artistry, to all of us as well.
Nick Hakim is nothing if not prolific.
With the musical “ink” barely dry on his last EP Where Will We Go Pt 1, the DC-based music artist has now seen fit to bestow on us another musical gem, the bluesy, sparsely-beautiful “I Don’t Know” and the promise of an EP Where Will We Go Pt 2 to follow.
It is an elegantly laid back, a rich mix of lush, chilled vocals, R&B and blues influences and piano-driven melody that sounds, as Pigeons and Planes rightly observed, like it “should be playing in an almost empty bar at 1am as you drink your sixth whisky and take another drag on that cigarette.”
It’s that languid sense of being ensconced in your own little world, the harsh reality of 9-to-5 jobs and deadlines and taxes far, far away from you, that makes Nick Hakim’s music so compelling.
That and as Becca Gleason at Nerdist observed his appeal to just about anyone with a heart and a pulse and a love of “buttery vocals”:
“His music speaks to the lonely, the broken hearted, and probably the broken hearteds’ pets. If you’re in a perfect relationship, listen, cry together, and make your relationship even more perfect. Nick Hakim’s music is fulfilling but also leaves you wanting so much more.”
More music for the heart? Thank you I do believe I will take that, go to the nearest bar and let Nick Hakim take me away from it all, drink in hand, and mind, heart and soul a million miles form nowhere.
But you can’t sit still forever right, lovely thought that might be so along come one-time London based DJs, Micke and Kris from Fantastic Fantastic, recently signed to UK label 37 Adventures, and their insanely funk pop catchy debut single “Houses”.
It is bright, shimmery, shiny summery feel good pop, populated by sweet harmonies, infectiously upbeat melodies and replete with what Tarynn Law of The 405 correctly says are “oozes sunshine, driving to the beach with your friends vibes”.
Their sound has been influenced no doubt by their countries of origin – Micke is from Sweden and Kris from Sydney, Australia – with both their home locales homes to innovative, musically adventurous pop that is able to fold in influences like the “80s and ’90s sounds that percolate through “Houses” without losing a shred of its original sound.
Add in their obvious knack for infectious hooks and you have a sound that will be just as home on the radio as it is on a hipster’s iPod (assuming they even have such things anymore, which I doubt).
It’s music for the everlasting summer in all of us.
“Queen” by Perfume Genius
There is something quite mystical about the Pacific Northwest of America with its towering mountains, dense primeval forests, and evocative overcast skies that makes it the perfect place for a singularly unique music artist like Perfume Genius aka Seattle-based solo artist Mike Hadreas (who has toured with the likes of Beirut and Gold Panda), to base himself.
In common with many other creative types who call the region home, he has drawn on its pleasingly unusual vibe and what must be searing life experiences, to create songs of sublime beauty, which ache with a thousand kinds of emotion and lyrics that are both poetic, authentic and to the point, all wrapped up in ornate, grand orchestral epic melodies that overwhelm and subsume in the best possible way.
It is music for the mind as much for the senses, and “Queen” is a perfect example of his songwriting craft, a song that Pitchfork describes as “a perfect merger of intent and execution” that features “bigger drums, new keyboards, grunting samples, barely any reverb”, a marked change from his earlier work which was redolent with “creaky vocals, piano, and a kind of reverb that makes all his stories sound like shellshocked, PTSD recollections.”
What strikes me most strongly about his songs is that for all their raw, bombastic intent, there is an underlying fragility and softness, of someone who has managed to draw successfully together vaulting sounds and intimate confessionals into songs that strike at your heart even as they wash over you in wave after wave of deliciously off-kilter melodies.
It is quite simply beautiful, daringly different music that makes you really feel something and which we will be able to indulge to our cathartic heart’s content when his third album Too Bright releases on September 23 this year.
NOW THIS IS MUSIC EXTRA EXTRA!
One of the songs I loved back in my now distant youth was The Knack’s “My Sharona”, an infectiously upbeat rock song/pop song that spent a huge amount of time on the Aussie charts in 1979.
What I have just discovered is that a lot of people most definitely did not like them, according to Trouser Press via Laughing Squid:
“Wildly successful, endlessly arrogant, press-shy and an easy target for hipster belittlement, the Knack immediately attracted a backlash that lasted well beyond its disintegration two years later. Beatles purists objected to the Knack tarnishing the Liverpool lads sacred image (the front and back cover of Get the Knack echoes the look of Meet the Beatles). Women’s rights activists objected to the group for its neanderthal views of romance. An entrepreneurial hippie from San Francisco began a grass- roots campaign against the band, selling T-shirts, bumper stickers and buttons featuring the slogan ‘Knuke the Knack.'”
Nevertheless the appeal of “My Sharona” endures and now Go Home Productions have teamed it, ironically enough with The Beatles’ “Paperback Writer” to brilliant effect …
Lorde is one of the most innovative, clever, and talented artists out there who has achieved an enormous amount at an impressively young age.
Now the song that started it all for her, the contagious beyond measure “Royals”, has received the ultimate cover treatment, courtesy of Farmer Derek Klingenberg who has previously covered “Happy” and “Timber” with his song-lovin’ cows …