Song: Living In Another World
Artist: Talk Talk, England
Album: The Colour Of Spring, 1986
Notes: An aural masterclass replete with swirling Hammond organs, a dynamic rhythmic undercurrent, urgent melodies, pleading lyrics and a spiffing harmonica solo thrown in for good measure. The band was around for a decade during the 1980s, fronted by the subsequently enigmatic Mark Hollis, splitting up in 1991. Hollis released a solo album in 1998 and then disappeared, to live quietly with his wife and two sons in London. In typically mysterious style, he resurfaced a couple of years ago providing an instrumental track for Kelsey Grammer's hugely underrated television drama series, 'Boss.'
Song: I Was Gonna Marry You
Artist: Tristan Prettyman, San Diego, CA
Album: Cedar + Gold, 2012
Notes: A divine lost classic written about her engagement to and subsequent breakup from fellow musician Jason Mraz by the former Roxy model who was diagnosed with vocal cord polyps after the release of her 2008 album 'Hello.' Her third long-player, from which this track comes, was mostly a bare bones autobiographical account of the end of that relationship. A silver lining however, the 33-year-old San Diego-based songstress and former top surfer, got married last year to venture capitalist, Bill Maris. Also check out her lovely followup, the seven-track EP, 'Back To Home'. More at tristanprettyman.com.
Artist: Saturday Sun, England
Album: Seagull [EP], 2012
Notes: A completely unknown, obscure A+ acoustic nu-folk ballad also included on their debut album 'Orix'', showcasing the vocal grit and instrumental craft of a relatively new British quartet, led by vocalist Alex Hedley. Taking their name from a Nick Drake song, they claim they got together because of a mutual love of roast potatoes and hail from the southern English town of Swanage. They describe their music as a full cream Mr. Whippy dripping from a dog's nose in the rising sun! More at saturdaysunmusic.co.uk.
Artist: Boxer Rebellion, Maryville, TN/Australia/England
Album: Promises, 2013
Notes: Still the high mark in the 14-year career of a band that arrived on the UK scene at the tail-end of BritRock in 2001, comprising an American lead singer, Nathan Nicholson, an Australian, Todd Howe and two Englishmen, Adam Harrison and Piers Hewitt. The high performing point of their career so far may be an opening slot for the Rolling Stones in Hyde Park in London in 2013. Things have been quiet from the group since Howe, the musician behind the fluid guitar lead on this number, regrettably left the group last year. A limited edition all-vinyl boxed set was released in January. Details at theboxerrebellion.com.
Song: Bleed To Love Her (live)
Artist: Fleetwood Mac, England/Palo, CA/Phoenix, AZ
Album: The Dance, 1997
Notes: A deeply passionate song about the irrational power of blinding love offering unconditional loyalty and support to a severely damaged soul, written by Lindsey Buckingham at the top of his game and recorded live for the band's original 1997 reunion after a 10-year break. The once-again reunited band, now with Christine McVie back on board, ends its 'On With The Show' world tour in New Zealand in November, adding two new songs, 'Sad Angela' and 'Miss Fantasy' to their repertoire.
Song: Wait In Your Arms
Artist: Grand Nationals, Newtown, NJ
Album: Tennessee Rain, 2011
Notes: A man yearning to reunite with the love of his life, holding a torch that burns too bright - and a recording made all the more tender by the sweet fiddle work of Sammy Barnes. The sensational lost ruby by a band formed along the Pennsylvania/Jersey State line in 2010 by longtime musical chums, lyricist Ian Bennett and melody maker, Adam Honeycutt, who added the aforementioned Mr. Barnes and Jay Harris. If you like or miss the marvellous Blue Merle combo you'll love the Grand Nationals. More at facebook.com/TheGrandNationals.
Song: That Home
Artist: Cinematic Orchestra featuring Patrick Watson, England
Album: Ma Fleur, 2007
Notes: Brief but perfect - 1:43 seconds of pure balladic magic. A divine almost Coldplayesque ballad by a fluid British collective, with guest vocals by Canadian L&F favorite, Patrick Watson. This exceptional tune was buried on the group's 2007 album 'Ma Fleur' and was a prelude of sorts to a longer full-length track called 'To Build A Home' on the same CD, and based around the same beautiful melody. More at cinematicorchestra.com.
Song: Come Back Down
Artist: J. Viewz, Israel
Album: Rivers And Homes, 2012
Notes: A superb rolling electronic/acoustic meld from one Jonathan Dagan working out of Brooklyn as a one-man band/producer with guest vocalist Joshua James. Buried on a 2011 album called 'Work In Progress,' a project whereby he released each new song on the internet the moment it was ready. Once the complete album was finished he rounded them all up as 'Rivers and Homes.', which went on to receive a Grammy nomination for Best Recording Package. He's also remixed tracks by Dido, Depeche Mode, the Kings of Leon and Moby. He's currently working on 'The DNA Project', courtesy of Kickstarter. Details at jviewz.com.
Song: A Case of You
Artist: Joni Mitchell, Canada
Album: Both Sides Now, 1999
Notes: The blissful humanity, the divine words and music, dripping with emotion and originality - 'You taste so bitter, but you taste so sweet, I could drink a case of you, but still I'd be on my feet' - an absolute masterpiece. Written for her 1971 album 'Blue', but reinterpreted here with a full orchestral arrangement recorded in London in 1999 for the album 'Both Sides Now'. The 71-year-old gave up singing back in 2010, because, in her own words, 'six decades of heavy smoking have finally robbed me of my voice' and Joni is still recovering at home after suffering an aneurysm in April. More at jonimitchell.com.
Artist: Primal Scream, Scotland
Album: Screamadelica, 1991
Notes: An incredible shuffling groove, indelible bassline hooks, neat piano rolls, and loaded horns, gospel vocals - an amazing musical stew and one of the best indie-dance-rock recordings of all time, but never a hit in the US. The long-standing and uncompromising Scottish rock combo was founded by lead singer Bobby Gillespie in 1982, who was also briefly the drummer for the Jesus & Mary Chain in the early-'80s. They were initially signed to the extremely influential Creation Records stable created by Alan McGhee who also nabbed Oasis (indeed McGhee and Gillespie were old school chums from Glasgow). Check out the terrific documentary about the rise and fall of that label called 'Upside Down: The Creation Records Story' produced in 2010.
Artist: Rachael Yamagata, Arlington, VA
Album: Heavyweight, 2012
Notes: The melodic, lyrical genius of Rachael Yamagata with the title cut from her 2012 EP. She brings an authentic emotion, effortless melodic mood, an intelligent, clever script to all of her work, all trademarked by one of the best voices around gracing everything she writes and performs. Now in her mid-30s, originally from and still based in Arlington, Virginia, she's much in demand for collaborations with the likes of Ryan Adams, Ray LaMontagne and Jason Mraz among others and hits the road again in October after a European jaunt to promote her ace new offering, 'Tightrope Walker'. Dates at rachaelyamagata.com.
Song: Driving With The Brakes On
Artist: Del Amitri, Scotland
Album: Twisted, 1995
Notes: A marriage splitting apart at the seams documented during the long ride home - a beautifully crafted song reflecting on the inevitable but often subtle power struggles that hallmark and ultimately damage so many relationships. The band is best known in the US for their still-played chestnut 'Roll To Me', but this lost ruby has been covered in recent years by the likes of Canadian country combo Doc Walker and more recently by Aussie songstress Kasey Chambers. The group's lead singer, Justin Currie, who released a solo album in 2010, still performs occasionally. His website justincurrie.com is well worth a visit. The band dissolved around 2002, but reassembled early last year for a reunion tour which went down a storm.
Song: The Moon's A Harsh Mistress
Artist: Glen Campbell, Delight, AR
Album: Reunion - The Songs of Jimmy Webb, 1974
Notes: I fell out of her eyes, I fell out of her heart, I fell down on my face, I tripped and missed my star, God, I fell and fell alone, The moon's a harsh mistress, The sky is made of stone. Peerless composition and production by the great Jimmy Webb coupled with a peerless vocal by the great Sir Glen Campbell. Taking its title from Robert A. Heinlein's 1966 science fiction novel, the song was first recorded by Joe Cocker for his 'I Can Stand A Little Rain', and has since seen versions by Judy Collins, Linda Ronstadt, Joan Baez, The Walker Brothers, Josh Groban, Pat Metheny, even a terrific version by Tom Wopat (believe it or not). Lord Webb has recorded the song twice, originally on 'El Mirage' in 1977 and then a stripped down version for 'Ten Easy Pieces' in 1996.
Song: Modern Times
Artist: Army of Me, Washington, DC
Album: Searching For You, 2013
Notes: An ideal union of word and melody from a singular gentleman, Washington DC native, songsmith Vince Scheuerman, with the help of Daniel James, who also produced the record, Gavin McDonald and Jeremy Larson - self-penned except for 'The Action Is Rising', co-written with Phillip LaRue, one half of Us & Our Daughters, who have also been featured on L&F. Scheuerman was set to embark on a major label career in 2007 with his debut album, only to severely damage his vocal chords from which it took him more than a couple of years to recover. He relocated to Nashville in 2012 where he teamed up with James for some golden results. More at armyofme.bandcamp.com.
Artist: Rebecca Roubion, Nashville, TN
Album: The Old, The Young, 2014 (available at rebeccaroubion.com)
Notes: Compositional and performing excellence, lyrical and melodic perfection from a stunning limited edition 2014 maiden album which is sadly no longer available. A Mobile, Alabama native who studied public relations at Louisiana State University, Rebecca's been focusing on her music career since 2012 and since relocating to Nashville. Influenced by the music of Carole King and Eva Cassidy, she's a gifted pianist and singer-songwriter who released a couple of EPs in 2012/2013 funded by a 164% crowdsourcing effort. She says of her song craft:'Every composition is a child, born of (my) oversized heart and raised by (my) hands and voice with nothing but the best of intentions. Keep up with this rare talent at rebeccaroubion.com.
Song: Hold On
Artist: Shore, Silver Lake, CA
Album: The Shore, 2004
Notes: The absolute standout track on one of the most overlooked rock-solid albums of this millennium by a group that emerged in 2002 fronted by a fine lead singer, Ben Ashley in the BritPop Oasis/Verve tradition. Briefly signed to Madonna's Maverick label but then dropped like a stone, they re-emerged with the vinyl double album 'Light Years' in 2011 on the New Black Records label. Still going strong despite a lack of commercial success, occasionally touring up and down the West Coast. More on them at their label's website - thisisthenewblack.com/theshore.html.
Song: True Love
Artist: Coldplay, England
Album: Ghost Stories, 2014
Notes: Just tell me you love me, If you don't - then lie to me - call it true love: howling like a sad lonesome wolf for his uncoupled spouse with some seemingly dissonant guitar wails by Jonny Buckland perfectly juxtaposed with angst against the overall mournful vocal melody by Chris Martin. A tour-de-force by the group and probably the finest moment on their sixth long-player (and amazingly neither a hit in the US nor the UK), which is their only album to date for which there wasn't an accompanying tour. Apparently the band's next album will be their last. coldplay.com remains one of the best music web sites around.
Song: Thinking Big
Artist: Martin Gallop, Canada
Album: Most Beautiful Song, 2014
Notes: L&F's Song of 2014: on the face of it merely an unassuming little folk ditty - but a close listen reveals unmatched quality. Remarkable that after 100 years of popular music composition, a musician can still compose such a simple, lilting, beautifully modest tune married to such kind-hearted and romantic lyrics which have never before been devised. This A+ acoustic shuffler comes from a Canadian born singer-songriter, who at the age of 20 left his birthplace and travelled to Germany to pursue his craft. In 2000, he won the Canadian National Songwriting Contest and used his prize money to record his debut album 'How Much Is The World'. He's released four lovely albums to date, the most recent being 2013's 'Most Beautiful Song'. He now lives full-time in Berlin. More at facebook.com/martingallopofficial.
Artist: Gary Go, England
Album: Gary Go, 2009
Notes: If I had a fresh start, I'd probably fail, so I drink my coffee, and open the mail. I hope the cruel words in your letter, are baptised by my tears, I would try to make it all better, but it would take years. Why is there no one to help me, find my way through, 'cause if there was someone to help me, maybe I could help you'. Too sad for words - the despair of deep loneliness, a man licking the wounds of a latently cruel and selfish love, his home now devoid of any joy, filled only with the desperate spiral of self-pity, his future made all the more painful and solitary in the bleak environs of the big city. Matched with a mournful piano melody and a hopeful string arrangement - just a magical but morose memoir of lost love by British singer-songwriter Gary Baker, who goes by the performing name Gary Go. More at his wonderfully creative web thing: garygo.tv.
Song: Lost and Found
Artist: Kim Taylor, Cincinnati, OH
Album: Little Miracle, 2010
Notes: Minimalist but superior balladry from a songstress who's been making blissful records for more than a decade. Her music has been featured on TV shows such as 'One Tree Hill', 'Smallville', 'Ghost Whisperer' and others and she has supported the likes of Ron Sexsmith, Over The Rhine and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. Her fourth album, 'Love's A Dog,' came out late 2013 and you can review her music at kim-taylor.net. As an interesting side note, she used to own a popular coffee shop in her home city with the charming name, The Pleasant Perk.