Artist: Natalie Imbruglia, Australia
Album: Counting Down The Days, 2005
Notes: The telegenic twenty-something from down under, but long based in England, started off as a teen actress before moving across to a career in music in the mid-'90s. Best known for her global smash,' Torn', but this is one of several sterling follow-ups which flew under the radar. The daughter of a Sicilian father, she was named the sixth most naturally beautiful woman of all time in a poll of fashion/beauty experts in 2004. Heading the list? - there was only one possibility: Audrey Hepburn.
Song: Who Are You
Artist: Elected, San Diego, CA
Album: Bury Me In My Rings, 2011
Notes: A half-dozen top undiscovered songs on an album by an underrated singer-songwriter by the name of Blake Sennett. California-based, who you might know from his past work with the now defunct Rilo Kiley, he recorded most of this longplayer on his own in his rural home, saying, I played most of the instruments myself, so it was easier to erase stuff without hurting anyone's feelings...? A highly recommended collection of what he calls 'shimmering pop songs reminiscent of mid-century West Coast rock.' More on his Elected project at www.theelectedband.com.
Song: All Of My Heart
Artist: ABC, England
Album: Lexicon Of Love, 1982
Notes: First-class theatrical '80s synth-pop rock from New Romantics best known for 'When Smokey Sings' and 'Be Near Me,' boasting the powerful lead vocal chops of band founder, Martin Fry. They're still going strong today though there have been no new recordings since 2008. The track was produced by Trevor Horn, who always creates a distinctively rich multi-layered production: he's the man behind dozens of big hits including 'Owner Of A Lonely Heart' by Yes, 'Crazy' by Seal, 'Relax' by Frankie Goes To Hollywood and 'Video Killed The Radio Star' by Buggles - of which he was one half.
Song: Anymore Of This
Artist: Mindy Smith & Matthew Perryman Jones, Long Island, NY/Levittown, PA
Notes: Recently featured on the ABC-tv series 'Switched At Birth,' and featuring the combined talents of Miss Americana, Mindy Smith and the deeply under-appreciated Matthew Perryman Jones. Her first 45 was a duet with Dolly Parton, on the latter's 'Jolene' a decade ago. (Dolly was instrumental in bringing her music to the fore.) His last album, 'Land Of The Living,' is coming out on vinyl soon and he'll be playing a handful of dates in August opening for John Hiatt. Check both out at www.mindysmithmusic.com and www.mpjmusic.com respectively.
Song: Good Year For The Roses
Artist: Elvis Costello, England
Album: Almost Blue, 1981
Notes: Written by Jerry Chesnut and originally a huge hit for the late George Jones back in 1970, who passed away in April at the age of 81 having notched up more than 150 country hits beginning with 'Why Baby Why' in 1955. Regarded as the greatest living country singer when alive, everyone tried to copy him but none came close. Costello's version was from an admirable album of country classics, cut in Nashville with his erstwhile Attractions - including keyboardist Steve Nieve, who provides the lovely country-fried organ rolls on the number.
Artist: Haerts, New York, NY
Album: Wings (single), 2013
Notes: A sensational rhythm track underwriting a modern rock corker from a New York-based combo with a multi-cultural transatlantic lineup; led by Nina Fabi and Ben Gebert, its five members variously hailing from the US, England and Germany. Made available on iTunes recently, it can also be streamed on Soundcloud and at www.haertsmusic.com. They're currently working on their debut album and touring through the end of June.
Song: See Those Eyes
Artist: Altered Images, Scotland
Album: Pinky Blue, 1982
Notes: Defined by a typically naive mid-'0s British new wave rhythmic backdrop and the cute pixie vocals of Clare Grogan, who formed the band with some ex-high school chums in Glasgow, Scotland in 1979. Discovered and mentored by Siouxsie Sioux of Siouxsie & The Banshees, they scored a handful of hits on home turf. Produced by the legendary British new-wave helmer, Martin Rushent, the man behind The Human League, The Stranglers and The Buzzcocks among many ohers, and who died too young at age 62 in 2011. Grogan went on to become an actress and popular tv presenter in Britain while bassist Johnny McEhlone ended up in another Scottish combo, Texas.
Artist: John Grant, Parker, CO
Album: Pale Green Ghosts, 2013
Notes: Melodic satire - an alternative cleaned-up version of his acerbic original titled 'GMF.' It's a peculiar but winning cut issued as a single a couple of months ago - a biting indictment of those among us who lack self-deprecation, people who are endlessly self-absorbed, but the lyrics deceptively wrapped up in a rather soothing melody. Some fun words though 'I'm usually only waiting for you to stop talking, so that I can, Concerning two-way streets I have to say, that I'm not a fan, I am the greatest living creature that you'll ever meet.' The former frontman for the Czars, he went solo in 2009 and his debut CD 'Queen of Denmark' was voted best album of 2010 by influential British rock magazine, Mojo.
Artist: Josh Rouse, Paxton, NE
Album: Nashville, 2005
Notes: So relaxing and warm, the quiet easy-going philosophy of the Tennessee-based singer-songwriter with his chilled ruminations on life. Recording since 1998, ten underloved long-players since then - more at www.joshrouse.com, where you can stream all the tracks from his latest set, 'The Happiness Waltz,' as well as check out details of his forthcoming US tour, beginning in Louisville, Kentucky on June 12th.
Artist: Erin Ivey, Austin, TX
Album: Broken Gold, 2011
Notes: The original studio version of a song written about Amelia Earhart which was included on her recent live album 'Dreamy Weather.' Regarded as Austin's Urban Folk darling - indeed she quietly blew the roof off the place at this year's SXSW music fest - she's been a professional musician since 2007, and has opened for the likes of Shawn Colvin and Loudon Wainwright. Do check out her always busy web thing at www.erinivey.com. She's playing at Summerfest in Milwaukee and Blissfest in Harbor Springs, Michigan this summer.
Song: All This Time
Artist: Boom Circuits, Los Angeles, CA
Album: The Boom Circuits [EP], 2010
Notes: Describing themselves as an electro/indie/rock pop combo, comprising the duo of former Casteneda singer Vega Schenk and Black Lab guitarist/programmer producer Andy Ellis. Like many artists these days they're doing things they're own way - trying to make it happen without a record label. Their song 'Everything And Nothing' made its way on to 'The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Pt. 2' soundtrack album. Check them out at facebook.com/theboomcircuits.
Song: Love Is Everywhere
Artist: Bob Schneider, Austin, TX
Album: I'm Good Now, 2004
Notes: A classy singer-songwriter who has been plugging away creating top-notch, erudite melodious fare for a long time. A local musical hero in his home town where he's won no less than 24 trophies at the city's annual Music Awards since being named Musician of the Year in 1999. His 12th studio album, 'Burden Of Proof,' is due next month, and he'll be on the road promoting it for the next couple of months. (Most of his live shows are recorded and then made available to his audience on their way out.) Check out where at www.bobschneider.com.
Song: We're Still Here
Artist: Sleeping At Last, Wheaton, IL
Notes: A lost sapphire from singer-songwriter Ryan O'Neal and his performing moniker, Sleeping At Last. Born in the same Illinois town as L&F favorite Andrew Belle, he originally recorded with his brother Chad but went fully solo in 2008 - interestingly early in their career they were signed to Jimmy Iovine's Interscope label after an introduction from Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan. No new albums since 2008 but an endless stream of worthwhile EPs and singles. He has the rather neat idea of allowing fans request a song on his website to perform at future gigs. More at www.sleepingatlast.com.
Song: Believe Me Now
Artist: ELO, England
Album: Out Of The Blue, 1977
Notes: Less than 90 seconds of anthemic strings-swirling magic by one of the true mega-bands of the 1970s. Founded and steered by Jeff Lynne, who astonishingly wrote the hits 'Mr. Blue Sky,' 'Turn To Stone' and 'Sweet Talkin' Woman' in just three weeks while holed up in a chalet in the Swiss Alps in 1977. (Apparently not good enough to get him inducted into this year's Songwriters Hall of Fame. His fellow writers think that Aerosmith's Steven Tyler and Joe Perry are more deserving.) He then went on to become one of the most in-demand producers in rock history working with everyone from Randy Newman to Tom Petty to Bob Dylan as well as also being a Traveling Wilbury.
Song: Never Say Never
Artist: Max Gomez, Taos, NM
Album: Rule The World, 2013
Notes: One of several deceptively mature cuts from the 20-something singer-songwriter guitarist on his freshman album which was released in January. Haunting alternative country-folk, old-school meets new school with shades of early Kris Kristofferson and a dash of Johnny Cash. The rootsy newcomer and earnest tunesmith who earned his musical spurs playing blues and country covers in local bars around his hometown of Taos is currently on the road: dates at www.maxgomezmusic.com/shows/. Also check out his Facebook page - just add maxgomezmusic.
Song: On And On
Artist: Maverick Sabre, England
Notes: A superb update of a song orginally written and nailed down in 1996 by The Longpigs by Anglo-Irish singer-songwriter Michael Stafford, who goes by the name Maverick Sabre, with a track featured in the new British comedy movie 'I Give It A Year.' The 22-year old recently appeared in the role of Parson Nathanial on 'Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds - The New Generation,' a part created by Phil Lynott in the 1978 original, and which features him duetting with Joss Stone.
Artist: Amber Rubarth, Brooklyn, NY
Notes: The 30-year-old independent singer-songwriter has made half a dozen albums over the past decade and was the winner of NPR's prestigious Mountain Stage New Song Contest in 2010. From a beautifully sparse album which sees her clear voice, backed by her own acoustic guitar, a violin, a cello and percussion, as well as featuring duets with the Jasons Mraz and Reeves. Described by the late great producer Phil Ramone as 'part of the new old-soul generation' of musicians.
Song: Get Lucky
Artist: Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams, France
Album: Random Access Memories, 2013
Notes: A clever disco-recalling current hit which will probably be the biggest selling single worldwide this summer. The French electronic duo of Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo have made some groundbreaking music over the past twenty years - and they were smart to recruit the compositional genius and distinctive choppy guitar work of Chic's Nile Rodgers on this very number. However this retro-disco outing doesn't come close to the original '70s work by Rodgers with Chic co-founder, Bernard Edwards. (In Daft Punk's quest for further attention their colours are plastered all over Romain Grosjean's Lotus at the Monaco Grand Prix this weekend.)
Song: Lost In Music
Artist: Sister Sledge, Philadelphia, PA
Album: We Are Family, 1979
Notes: The real deal: the mighty rhythm section of Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers, the architects of the Chic disco sound, perfected here on a lost classic, which never even charted. Edwards and Rodgers defined the best dance music in the 1970s composing, performing and producing 'We Are Family' and 'He's The Greatest Dancer' for Sister Sledge and all of their own Chic hits. They then went on to work with Robert Palmer, Madonna, Power Station, Ric Ocasek of the Cars, Depeche Mode and David Bowie among many others.
Song: Rescue Song
Artist: Mr. Little Jeans, Norway
Album: Rescue Me [EP], 2011
Notes: A curious but fabulous number, utterly original by design, from a young act by Monica Birkenes, whose 5 foot frame gives her the name Mr. Little Jeans. She describes her music as 'death metal, K-Pop and show tunes' none of which are remotely evident on this catchy sunny pop number. She's hails from Grimstad, a small seaside resort in Norway, won a singing competition at 14, moved to London at 18, but is now based in Los Angeles. Her maiden album titled 'Pocketknife' is due in July, with a single 'Oh Sailor' from it just released.
Song: Blue Ice
Artist: Shout Out Louds, Sweden
Album: Optica, 2013
Notes: A restrained, refined and mysterious, terrific vibe from a band founded in Stockholm more than a decade ago, who have toured with the likes of The Kings of Leon and The Strokes. Their songs have been featured on several TV shows, including 'One Tree Hill' and 'How I Met Your Mother.' Fronted by Adam Olenius, they're just wrapping up a month long tour of the US before heading down to Mexico.
Song: Remember Me This Way
Artist: Steve Martin & Edie Brickell, Waco, TX/Oak Cliff, TX
Album: Love Has Come For You, 2013
Notes: First rate Americana from the banjo-playing icon of American comedy on a rootsy, organic collaboration with lyricist and singer, former leader of The New Bohemians and Mrs. Paul Simon. Martin first picked up the banjo fifty years ago, learning to play by ear by slowing down his 33 rpm vinyl banjo LPs to 16 rpm. The pairing have just begun an extensive summer tour. For dates check www.stevemartin.com/stevemartin/tour.html.
Song: Wishes And Stars
Artist: Harper Simon, New York, NY
Album: Harper Simon, 2010
Notes: An easy breezy vintage folk-pop tune from Paul Simon's talented son. Although he's been performing live as a solo act and as a member of Sean Lennon's band and indeed Yoko's Plastic Ono Band, he didn't release his first solo album until he was 38. His new set, 'Division Street,' was released a couple of months ago and he begins a US tour at the end of June. More at www.harpersimon.com.
Song: Things Will Change
Artist: Treetop Flyers, England
Album: The Mountain Moves, 2013
Notes: Close your eyes and you could be listening to America, but this new combo is from England. They were named Best Emerging Talent at the 2011 Glastonbury Festival in the UK and their debut album is due out at the end of next month. Unlike America, who were an American trio who went to the UK to record their debut, this quintet did it the other way round, recording their debut set in Malibu. They're playing four US dates at the end of June - two in Los Angeles, two in New York. More at www.treetopflyers.co.uk.
Artist: Texas featuring Paul Buchanan, Scotland
Album: Red Book, 2006
Notes: Let me sleep, so I can dream of you, a lovely simple sentiment and a Top 10 hit back in the UK in 2006 from a highly-respected Scottish band led by Sharleen Spiteri, but with the added bonus of special guest vocalist, fellow Scotsman and L&F permanent resident, Paul Buchanan, on a rare uptempo workout for him. After a seven year hiatus, the band is back with a brand new album, 'The Conversation.'
Artist: Bruce Springsteen, Long Branch, NJ
Album: Devils And Dust, 2005
Notes: A restrained and subtle gem, atypical of his more popular bombastic muscular fare ('I wanna live in the same house, beneath the same roof, sleep in the same bed, search for the same proof'). Simply exquisite legato strings and Mariachi horns. July sees the release of the movie documentary 'Springsteen And I,' executive produced by Ridley Scott.
Song: 69 Police
Artist: David Holmes, Northern Ireland
Album: Oceans Eleven, 2001
Notes: A curious but engaging hook and all manner of swirling electronica from a Northern Irish musician, composer and sometime DJ, on one of many strong themes from the first 'Oceans Eleven' update movie from 2001. He's put together a solid body of film work over the past fifteen years and is often called upon to do cunning remixes for the likes of Page & Plant, Primal Scream, U2 and even Ice Cube.
Song: Safe And Sound
Artist: Alfred Hall, Norway
Album: Wilderness, 2013
Notes: Unusual for a first effort to sound so effortless and strong from the Norwegian duo of Hans Thomas Kiaer and Bjorn Tveit. Hans and Bjorn are a couple of Norwegian farm hands who got together in 2009 and recorded the album in a barn in Drammen, Norway, where they encountered a bull named Alfred - hence their name. They were snapped up last year by Sony Music in Europe and are now seeking wider attention worldwide. Check them out at www.facebook.com/alfredhallpage- their website www.alfredhall.com features a neat train on its main page and nothing else.
Song: Handyman Blues
Artist: Billy Bragg, England
Album: Tooth And Nail, 2013
Notes: An amusing self-deprecating little nugget ('takes me half an hour to change a fuse, and when I flicked the switch the lights all blew') from a working class hero, but probably not much good around the house. The alternative British folkie and political activist has been cranking out his reliable brand of folk-punk ranting since bowing way back in 1983 with the raw epic, 'Life's A Riot With Spy Vs. Spy.'
Song: Bottled Up Tight
Artist: Luke Sital-Singh, England
Album: Old Flint (EP), 2013
Notes: Promising fresh singer-songwriter magic from a young 20-something Anglo-Asian tunesmith from London, just getting started - his first EP 'Fail for You' emerged last autumn. Compared to Bon Iver, Ben Howard et al, he's just been chosen as one of the support acts for the Rolling Stones' summer concert in Hyde Park in London in July.
Song: Ain't No Love
Artist: David Gray, England
Album: Life In Slow Motion, 2005
Notes: Too sad for words, the very definition of depression, a sense of worthlessness, a man beaten down by too many broken dreams, devoid of self-love or even the faint breath of hope. After a burst of creativity which saw six albums released over a decade, the singer-songwiter has only made three in the past ten years, the last being 'Foundling' in 2010. He performed at a charity fundraiser for MoxAfrica in London in January and is currently working on a new album at his own The Church Studio, which he is hoping to turn into offices and apartments at some point in the future.
Song: The Life Of Riley
Artist: Lightning Seeds, England
Album: Sense, 1992
Notes: Ostensibly a one-man band comprising Ian Broudie, who has a gift for crafting hook-filled pop-rock ditties, this one written about his son, Riley. The Liverpudlian, now 55, keeps his long-running band active, but also issues solo work. To Brits, he'll always be remembered for writing the best soccer song of all time, 'Three Lions.'
Song: Everything Is Gone
Artist: Liz Longley, Boston, MA
Album: Inside This Song (EP), 2012
Notes: A graduate from the esteemed Berklee School of Music in Boston, described by the Washington Post as 'destined for a larger audience.' Even John Mayer is a fan, calling her music 'gorgeous, simply gorgeous.' She released 'This Is Not The End' last month, a taster for new album. She's playing a few dates in the coming weeks, more at www.lizlongley.com.
Song: When Love Breaks Down
Artist: Snow Patrol/Prefab Sprout, Northern Ireland/Scotland/England
Notes: The Paddy McAloon song now thirty years old brought bang up to date by one of the most reliable bands around today. It's featured in the current British comedy movie 'I Give It A Year', which also features tracks by Dizzee Rascal, Zero 7, Corinne Bailey and Kristina Train. The song's been recorded by Colin Blunstone, Lisa Stansfield and Kate Walsh over the years, but these two versions remain the best.