Song: Devil Or Angel
Artist: Lou Doillon, France
Album: Places, 2013
Notes: A delicious summer roller by Madamoiselle Doillon who is already an accomplished actress but has moved sideways over the past couple of years to try her hand at singer-songwriting. The photogenic 30-year-old is the daughter of Francophile British actress/singer, the lovely Jane Birkin, she of 'Je T'Aime Moi Non Plus' notoriety. If you're looking to brush up on your French, check out her website - loudoillon.fr.
Song: When Love Breaks Down
Artist: Snow Patrol, Northern Ireland/Scotland
Notes: A muscular but reverential treatment of the lost Prefab Sprout classic recorded specifically for the soundtrack to the new British comedy movie 'I Give It A Year,' which comes to cinemas in August. The movie stars Anna Faris, Simon Baker and the always-amusing Stephen Merchant, who was Ricky Gervais' hapless agent in the brilliant 'Extras' series.
Song: When You're Older
Artist: Kate Earl, Chugiak, AK
Album: Fate Is The Hunter, 2005
Notes: Of Welsh, Dutch and Filipino ancestry, but now based in the City of Angels, the singer-songwriter has been around for almost a decade. In that time, she's released three albums, her 2005 debut, 'Kate Earl' in 2009 and 'Stronger' in 2012, which saw her team up with Brett Dennen. She's touring all summer long as the opening act for Matchbox 20. For more check out www.thekateearl.com.
Artist: Biffy Clyro, Scotland
Album: Opposites, 2013
Notes: The alternative rock trio have been banging away since 1995, when they formed as Skrewfish in the town of Kilmarnock in the west of Scotland (also the hometown of the famous Johnnie Walker whisky distillery). Comprising lead singer and guitarist Simon Neil and twins James and Ben Johnston, this cut comes from their latest album - their sixth studio set, recorded in Los Angeles with producer GGGarth. They've just cut short their North American tour, after Neil came down with a respiratory ailment.
Song: Let Me Go
Artist: Maverick Sabre, England
Album: Lonely Are The Brave, 2011
Notes: The performing name of Anglo-Irish singer/songwriter Michael Stafford with an explosive electro-pop soul track; a fabulous aggregation of sonic ideas, mixing R&B, folk, electronica, vintage soul, but it all comes together so well. The 23-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.
Song: The Love Club
Artist: Lorde, New Zealand
Album: The Love Club [EP], 2013
Notes: A curious but engaging new pop/synth nugget by 16-year-old Takapuna Grammar schoolgirl, Ella Yelich-O'Connor. Her first single, 'Royals,' topped the chart in her native New Zealand and this week she created a record, with four songs in the country's Top 40. She has a new EP, 'Tennis Court,' due next month (only in New Zealand for the time being.) Very sparse presence on both facebook and at her meagre website - www.lorde.co.nz.
Song: The Lovecats
Artist: Cure, England
Notes: The only Top 10 chart placing the British rock band ever scored on the Billboard Hot 100 was 'Lovesong' in 1989. Plenty of modern rock successes but only one legitimate crossover smash. This terrific lost belter was big in Europe and Australia but did nothing over here when released as a single 30 years ago - certainly one of the most original and infectious numbers written by frontman Robert Smith from the group's canon. They're still going strong, now in their 37th year together and mostly popping up at music festivals around the globe.
Song: Summer Girl
Artist: Family of the Year, Los Angeles, CA
Album: Songbook, 2009
Notes: Taken from their debut EP 'Where's The Sun' in 2009, before finding its way on to their first album, this wouldn't sound out of place on Crosby, Stills & Nash's first album, with a dash of Beach Boys thrown in for good measure. The gorgeous harmonies wash over a simple piano part, broken up by a guitar bridge. They're out on the road throughout the summer. Check for dates at www.familyoftheyear.net.
Song: Saturday Smile
Artist: Gin Wigmore, New Zealand
Album: Gravel & Wine, 2011
Notes: Lovely simple string arrangement and a smokey, earthy vocal style on a number from a New Zealand singer-songwriter, who sounds like a mix of Macy Gray and Mozella. Still in her mid-20s, she was inspired to take up songwriting after hearing David Gray's brilliant 'White Ladder' album. A fair number of her songs pop up in tv shows and commercials from time to time. She's on the Vans Warped Tour this summer, dates at www.ginwigmore.com.
Artist: John Hiatt, Indianapolis, IN
Album: Bring The Family, 1987
Notes: Covered by all and sundry over the past 25-plus years including the likes of Jewel, Joe Cocker, Bon Jovi, Patty Larkin and Chaka Khan, a sublime lost blues classic. Authentic, passionate vocals and a yearning plea of a song, once featured in the Johnny Depp movie, 'Benny & Joon.' One of the most respected singer-songwriters out there, a real musicians' musician - the now 60-year-old rocker released his 23rd album, 'Mystic Pinball,' last year and is on the road all summer. More at www.johnhiatt.com.
Song: Give It Away
Artist: Zero 7, England
Album: Simple Things, 2001
Notes: A soothing easy breezy instrumental cut by the British pairing of Sam Hardaker and Henry Binns, who were a couple of studio engineers who decided to form their own unit in 1997 - they previously engineered for the likes of Lenny Kravitz, Robert Plant and the Pet Shop Boys. This nugget was featured in an episode of 'CSI' some years ago. So much smart, melodic electronica created by them. Last year they revealed they were back in the studio working on new material.
Artist: Saturday Sun, England
Album: Seagull [EP], 2012
Notes: A completely unknown, obscure A+ acoustic nu-folk ballad showcasing the vocal grit and instrumental craft of a 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're in the process of recording their debut album which should see the light of day later this year. More at www.saturdaysunmusic.co.uk or at Facebook - just add saturdaysunmusic.
Song: Battle of the Heart
Artist: Brevet, Irvine, CA
Album: Battle Of The Heart, 2012
Notes: The title cut from their sorely overlooked recently-released self-produced album, this plucky four-piece formed earlier this year in Irvine, California, describing themselves as producing 'cinematic sounds from Orange County - combining Americana rock, sweeping orchestral tracks, gang vocals, unforgettable choruses, and connective emotional lyrics.' One fan describes their music as a cross between Kings of Leon and Mumford & Sons. More at www.thebrevet.com.
Song: Long Time Gone
Artist: Civil Wars & T-Bone Burnett, Nashville, TN/St. Louis, MO
Notes: A rather disturbing but must-see documentary about the contemporary plague of hunger across these United States came out in the spring called 'A Place at the Table,' skilfully directed by Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush. It was accompanied by an equally worthwhile soundtrack meticulously curated and produced by legendary Americana helmsman, T-Bone Burnett. Between them, Burnett and the Civil Wars duo of John Paul White and Joy Williams provided all 14 original numbers for the film. Burnett was also responsible for the 'O Brother Where Art Thou' and 'Crazy Heart' soundtracks, among many others, while the duo has a new self-titled album out in August.
Song: It Takes Time
Artist: Fleetwood Mac, England/Palo, CA/Phoenix, AZ
Album: Extended Play [EP], 2013
Notes: A lovely ballad from the band's new four-track EP, a simple restrained little gem from Lindsey Buckingham. They're wrapping up the US leg of their world tour, which comes to an end on July 6th, before moving on to Europe. For tickets to see this iconic band (for the last time?) check out www.fleetwoodmac.com.
Song: Give Me What I Cry For
Artist: Chris Rainbow, Scotland
Notes: A melodramatic, but extremely harmonic and rewarding, pop pearl from an underrated singer-songwrtier, who never saw a melody he didn't like. He recorded dozens of ridiculously hook-filled pop nuggets during the 1970s, before he became a member of the now equally unfashionable Alan Parsons Project in the 1980s. The Scottish singer-songwriter, who managed to sing charmingly seamless songs, despite a stammer when speaking, now lives on the remote Isle of Skye.
Artist: Jake Bugg, England
Album: Jake Bugg, 2013
Notes: An 18-year-old newcomer from Nottingham in England - also the home of the legendary Robin Hood of course - described by the Daily Telegraph newspaper as 'an East Midlands Bob Dylan.' He's said he was Inspired to start a music career after hearing Don McLean's 'Vincent' at the age of 12. Made his US TV debut on 'The Conan O'Brien Show' a few months ago and will be back in North America later in the year, opening at the 9.30 Club in Washington, DC on September 14th. Ironically he's been getting a lot of attention lately with his 'Lightning Bolt' number being the ubiquitous current theme song for the Gatorade commercial. This is the shortest nugget on his sterling freshman eponymous set, which is dripping with similarly authentic blues/folk outings. Such a weary, weathered style from teenager Jacob Edwin Kennedy. More at www.jakebugg.com.
Song: So Young
Artist: Corrs, Ireland
Album: Talk On Curners, 1997
Notes: A much-overlooked ditty from the tight family quartet of beautiful sisters Sharon, Andrea and Caroline and their big brother Jim. Sharon actually wrote the song about their parents Jean and Gerry Corr. The group called it quits in 2006, since when the siblings have turned their attentions to family life. Andrea has found time to cut two solo albums, 'Ten Feet High' in 2007 and 'Lifelines' in 2011, while Sharon released a sole album, 'Dream Of You,' in 2010. Brother Jim has become a 9/11 conspiracy theorist.
Song: Find Your Way Back Home
Artist: Gareth Dunlop, Northern Ireland
Album: Devil Mocks Me [EP], 2011
Notes: A terrific blue-eyed soul singer-songwriter talent from Belfast with one of several pearls from a grossly-overlooked EP. He's a 24-year old tunesmith who was named Young Songwriter of the Year at the 2011 annual Belfast Nashville Songwriters' Festival, which musically unites the two cities. He's opened for the likes of Jeff Beck, Nanci Griffith and Imelda May. His newest song, 'Wrap Your Arms Around Me,' was recently featured in the movie, 'Safe Haven.' More on him at www.garethdunlop.com.
Artist: Tom Waits & Crystal Gayle, Pomona, CA/Paintsville, KY
Album: One From The Heart, 1982
Notes: Boozy, whiskey-soaked balladry of the first order from the Francis Ford Coppola movie (a colossal commercial flop) from 1982. The laid-back bluesy/jazzy masterclass composed by Waits saw him team with the lovely veteran country stylist, as an all-too-sweet vocal counterpoint to Waits' legendary gruffness. It proved to be the last album Waits made with his erstwhile production genius partner, Bones Howe. His work from 1972 to 1982 with Howe reflects a peerless canon of work.
Song: Hard Road
Artist: Shore, Silver Lake, CA
Album: The Shore, 2004
Notes: One of the most overlooked rock-solid albums of the past 10 years by a group which emerged in 2002 fronted by a fine lead singer by the name of 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 these days despite a lack of commercial success, occasionally touring up and down the West Coast. More on them at www.thisisthenewblack.com/theshore.html.
Song: Wild At Heart
Artist: Alfred Hall, Norway
Album: Wilderness, 2013
Notes: Airy, mellifluous new indie-pop by a Scandinavian duo comprising Hans Thomas Kiaer and Bjorn Tveit, a couple of Norwegian farm hands who teamed up in 2009. They recorded their album in a barn in Drammen, Norway, where they encountered a bull named Alfred - hence their band 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: The Outsiders
Artist: Athlete, England
Notes: Written about England's peculiar culture of mindless hooliganism by a hugely-underrated English rock quartet. Since signing to the Parlophone label a decade ago and then seeing their brilliant debut album being Mercury Music prize-nominated, they have taken the less commercial route and musically the better for it. Four grossly under-appreciated albums since, but other than last year's 'Live At Union Chapel' there has been no new music from them for four years, although they have just finished their 10th anniversary 'Vehicles & Animals' tour in the UK.
Artist: Cary Brothers featuring Garrison Starr, Nashville, TN
Album: Let Me Be [EP], 2013
Notes: One of several quality ballads residing on his newest EP, with deft vocal harmonies provided by Memphis songstress Garrison Starr. Long-based in Los Angeles, he first came to wide attention with his 'Blue Eyes' contribution to the hugely popular 'Garden State' film soundtrack in 2004 - but the two albums and a slew of EPs he's issued over the past 10 years are simply first-rate and all worth checking out. Dozens of his carefully-crafted melodic gems have been licensed for other films and tv shows. More at www.carybrothers.com.
Song: She Knows
Artist: James Griffin, Cincinnati, OH
Album: Breakin' Up Is Easy, 1974
Notes: Constantly living in the shadow of his more illustrious Bread cohort David Gates, much to his chagrin, Griffin recorded as a solo artist both before and after his time in the band, and was in two interesting post-Bread bands - Black Tie and The Remingtons. His most successful legacy was as co-writer of the gorgeous Carpenters hit ballad, 'For All We Know,' for which he won an Academy Award. There's also a splendid cover of this song by Ray Charles. He died too soon, age 61, in 2005.
Song: My Rainy Day Girl
Artist: Villains, Atlanta, GA
Album: Velocity, 2012
Notes: An appealing straight-down-the-middle, no-nonsense melodic pop-rock track co-produced by Tom Petty and Don Henley helmer, Stan Lynch, who has a long resum� as a go-to hitmaker. The Atlanta-based quintet, led by Filipino singer Michael Magno, are unsurprisingly influenced by the past-master harmonies of The Band, The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac. More at www.thevillainsband.com.
Song: Running Home
Artist: Gregory Alan Isakov, South Africa
Album: Not available
Notes: Long based in Colorado and much influenced by the music of Leonard Cohen, the singer-songwriter has released five albums over the past decade, including this year's 'The Weatherman.' One of his songs, 'Big Black Car,' was used in a 2012 McDonald's commercial, and this track was originally recorded with his own vocal, but subsequently reversioned with Seven Hats' vocalist Julie Davis out front for inclusion in the Lifetime TV movie 'An Amish Murder,' which aired in January. He begins a two-month tour on July 7th. He's also a sustainable gardener in his spare time. More at www.gregoryalanisakov.com.
Song: No Better Shoulder
Artist: KT Tunstall, Scotland
Album: Invisible Empire, 2013
Notes: A smoldering sapphire from her new album, recorded in Tucson and due in August, finds the Scottish singer in her most country-folk mood to date. She formed her first band, The Happy Campers, in her final year at high school in Kent, Connecticut, since when she has released four studio albums and garnered Mercury Music Prize, BRIT and Grammy nominations, as well as picking up an Ivor Novello Award for 'Suddenly I See.' She begins a 17-date North American tour on September 20th.
Song: Can't Let Go
Artist: Landon Pigg, Nashville, TN
Album: LP, 2006
Notes: Perhaps best known for the Starbucks classic 'Falling In Love At A Coffee Shop' back in 2007, this fine singer-songwriter has been laying low for a while - one single in 2011, except for an occasional track as well as appearing in a couple of movies in recent years, notably Drew Barrymore's 'Whip It.'
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 the month.
Song: Not Even Human
Artist: Angel Taylor, Sylmar, CA
Album: Love Travels, 2009
Notes: Too sad for words, a woman so embittered, so let down by the callous, cruel behaviour of the one she thought she loved that she now views him as in-human. A woman finding out the difference between the peacock feathers on display at first meeting and so despondent upon finding out he's just a rat - the horribly under-appreciated Los Angeles-based songstress, who's just turned 25, wrote this remarkably mature composition when she was just 19, just one of so many lost pearls from her one album to date. She's still out there performing, and has released just one EP, 'Motion,' since her debut. More on her at www.facebook.com/angeltaylor.
Song: Perfectly Yours
Artist: Robert Francis, Los Angeles, CA
Notes: A 25-year-old tunesmith, given a guitar by family friend Ry Cooder when he was nine, he's cut four albums since bowing in 2007. He's found more early success in continental Europe nabbing hits in Switzerland and Germany, than in his native country. You can keep up to speed with the rather enigmatic Mr. Francis on his tumblr page - www.robertfrancis.tumblr.com or at https://myspace.com/robertfrancis.
Song: Five Years
Artist: David Bowie, England
Notes: Never released as a single though it became one of his signature numbers in concert - he actually intended to close his Live Aid set in 1985 with the number, but plans were changed the night before the charity concert to allow an airing of that memorable appeal video featuring 'Drive' by the Cars.
Song: Please Forgive Me
Artist: Pierces/David Gray, Birmingham, AL/England
Notes: The New York-based duo of sisters Allison and Catherine Pierce with their version of David Gray's exquisite ballad, the followup to his only US hit single, 'Babylon,' from his epic 1999 album, which remains his most commercially successful outing to date. This splendid cover is one of several terrific tracks on the 'I Give It A Year' soundtrack, but the siblings, who have been making music since 2000, are currently working on their fifth studio album. More at www.thepiercesmusic.com.