Artist: The 1975, England
Album: Music For Cars [EP], 2013
Notes: A promising preview of their eponymous debut album due in September from a group of alt-rockers from Manchester, England, who first got together as a punk combo at high school about ten years ago, but only performed and began recording together as The 1975 last year. Their full-length debut was produced by Mike Crossey, who also helms for the Arctic Monkeys and the Foals. The band recently opened for the mighty Muse on their 2nd Law Tour. They're playing three West Coast dates on July 24th, 25th and 26th, before returning to the US in October for a 24-date North American tour. More on them at www.the1975.com.
Song: Little Brother
Artist: The Tallest Man On Earth, Sweden
Album: There's No Leaving Now, 2012
Notes: Why are you drinking again little brother' - why indeed? Vocally tailored mid-way between Dylan and this year's young pretender Jake Bugg, though astonishingly he's a Swede performing under the name The Tallest Man on Earth with this sparse, lonesome but earnest gem. He's got an ever growing but still niche following over here, with three Dylanesque long-players and a couple of EPs since bowing in 2006. More at www.thetallestmanonearth.com.
Song: Breathe In
Artist: Lucie Silvas, England
Album: Breathe In, 2005
Notes: Hook-filled lost treasure by the British singer-songwriter/pianist (though half Scottish, half Kiwi.) She wrote her first song at the age of 10, was a backing singer for Judie Tzuke (who co-wrote this track), and her compositional chops are much in demand by other artists. She recently wrote some songs for NBC-TV's 'SMASH', and material recorded in Nashville last year and this should see the light of the day as 'Letters To Ghosts' before the end of the year.
Song: Wonderful Life
Artist: Hurts, England
Album: Happiness, 2010
Notes: A marvellously dramatic cut featured on the sparkling debut set from synth pop-rock pairing of Adam Anderson and Theo Hutchcraft from the always-fertile music breeding ground of Manchester in the north of England. They first met during an inebriated brawl outside a Manchester nightclub in 2005. This, their second single, released in 2010 has been a Top 10 hit in several European countries. The official video - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UOb0ei-Ej6Q - is well worth watching. More on the duo at www.informationhurts.com.
Artist: Kevin Johnson, Australia
Notes: Seemingly cheesy, but a lovely melliflous story-telling treasure about a failed musician with dreams larger than talent. A huge hit in his home country and slaughtered by Mac Davis over here, but this is the original version - an old school Forrest Gumpish autobiographical tale. Still revered in Australia as one of the country's most popular oldies - ironic of course that just as he was about to pack it in as a musician, he finally scored a hit with a song about that very subject. Turning 70 this year and still rightly milking his signature success Down Under. More on him at the appropriately-titled www.rocknrolligaveyou.com.
Artist: Field Mice, England
Notes: Effortless dreamy indie pop from a London-based band who were only around for about four years in the late '80s. Described by one critic as the missing link between the Smiths and Belle & Sebastian, they were fronted by a talented tunesmith named Bobby Wratten. On splitting, Wratten formed Yesterday Sky, then Northern Picture Library before finally founding Trembling Blue Stars in 1995. He kept them going for 15 years, with seven albums and little success before calling it a day in 2010.
Song: My Old Friend
Artist: Sam Amidon, Brattleboro, VT
Album: Bright Sunny South, 2013
Notes: A rather neat organic cover of a Tim McGraw song from a Vermont-born singer-songwriter, but now London-based, presumably because he's married to British songstress, Beth Orton. He's been recording a cool brand of indie folk for more than a decade and his recent CD is otherwise a slow, stripped down, lonesome collection sure to be on a lot of critics best lists for 2013. More on him at www.samamidon.com.
Song: Hello Again
Artist: Amos Lee, Philadelphia, PA
Album: Mission Bell, 2011
Notes: Always fond of a bit of mariachi horn work, some Latin-laced neo-soul folk. He has the dubious disinction of having the poorest first-week selling Billboard number 1 album ever: 'Mission Bell' sold just 40,000 legitimate copies in its first seven days of release, but enough to go straight in at number 1 - truly a music retail sign of the times. He recently contributed his version of 'Some Days Are Diamonds' to 'The Music Is You - A Tribute To John Denver' tribute album. A new long-player 'Mountains Of Sorrow, Rivers Of Song' is due on October 1st. More on him at www.amoslee.com.
Artist: Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel, England
Notes: A mid-seventies pop-rock corker, a big hit in Europe way back when, but completely missed the boat Stateside. The former rock journalist, heavily influenced by the vocal style of David Bowie with a fascinating track, which has been much covered over the years not least by Duran Duran and Erasure. Recorded at Abbey Road with the sublime acoustic guitar solo runs courtesy of Jim Cregan, who was Rod Stewart's guitarist for many years.
Song: Barbara Ann
Artist: Said The Whale, Canada
Album: I Love You [EP], 2013
Notes: The perfect summer tonic, some innocent yesteryear recalling surf pop from a Canadian quintet based in Vancouver named New Group of the Year at the 2011 Juno Awards. The infectious bubbler was written by the band's co-founder Tyler Bancroft, who was inspired by a happy couple who own a hammock store in Vancouver - presumably one of them was called Barbara Ann. It's on their recently-released EP, which comes as a teaser to an album in the fall. They're playing a couple of midwestern dates this week followed by a date in Los Angeles on the 24th. More on them at www.saidthewhale.com.
Song: Paradise Circus
Artist: Massive Attack, England
Album: Heligoland, 2010
Notes: Haunting, curious but engaging track from trip-hop pioneers Robert Del Naja and Grant Marshall, which has been used a few times in tv shows like 'True Blood' and 'Gossip Girl,' but most poignantly as the main theme tune to the excellent BBC television drama 'Luther.' If you like a gripping, cunning police/crime drama do check out the series on BBC America - and a rather erotic arty video clip - for adults only - available for the track on a Youtube near you. They're still going strong and for what they're up to these days, check out www.massiveattack.co.uk.
Song: You Are Enough
Artist: Sleeping At Last, Wheaton, IL
Album: Atlas Light [EP], 2013
Notes: A lost sapphire from singer-songwriter Ryan O'Neal, who has the arguable misfortune of having the same name of the veteran actor, and his performing moniker of 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. Check out more at www.sleepingatlast.com.
Song: Downtown Lights
Artist: Blue Nile, Scotland
Album: Hats, 1989
Notes: Sparkling, hypnotic, conversely downbeat and upbeat, simultaneously discordant and yet highly melodic, at once peaceful and yet desperate - how does he do it? Paul Buchanan with his erstwhile band and a magical lost classic. Mr. Buchanan's last solo album 'Mid Air' is one of the best albums in any genre released this millennium.
Song: The Italian Bicycle
Artist: Andy Stochansky, Canada
Album: Not available
Notes: Top-drawer number and another L&F exclusive. Singer-songwriter based in Los Angeles, but started out as a drummer in his native Canada. His solo debut came in 1996, followed by a further three albums over the next decade, since when there has been nothing. No longer interested in pursuing a career as a performer, he contines to write terrific songs, some of which have been recorded by the likes of The Goo Goo Dolls, Matthew Perryman Jones and Vanessa Amorosi. If you want to hear more by him, check out his House of Andy setup on the excellent Soundcloud streaming service.
Artist: Simple Minds, Scotland
Album: Sparkle In The Rain, 1983
Notes: Although most people think that 'Don't You Forget About Me' is their signature song - it was certanily their biggest hit - the band and its loyal following believe that this corker is their defining anthem - it's certainly their most popular number in concert these days, but was never a hit in the US. Produced by the great Steve Lillywhite and adopted by the Sheffield Wednesday English soccer club as their home games' theme song, which is a bit cheeky since the band is as Scottish as they come. Incidentally the repetitve bass line underpinning that rocker throughout is in fact just one note - a D - simple indeed.
Song: Travel In Time
Artist: Carmen Rizzo, Akron, OH
Notes: Credited solely to its producer, Carmen Rizzo, but featuring a guest female performance by Norwegian songstress, Kate Havnevik. Long-based in Los Angeles, he is a successful and pioneering electronic musician and producer who's worked with the likes of Alanis Morissette, Pete Townshend, Coldplay, Dido and Seal among many others. The two-time Grammy nominee occasionally releases solo albums along with scoring for film. More on him at www.carmenrizzo.com where you can stream plenty of well-crafted goodies.
Song: 3 Wishes
Artist: Dave Thomas Junior, England
Album: The Prize, 2010
Notes: Delightful, simple, melodic pop-folk from a relatively new tunesmith, hailing from Essex in the east of England - and who isn't remotely related to anything Wendy's. This lost gem was once featured on the ABC tv series 'Brothers and Sisters' and is a highlight on his lovely freshman album. He now has his own website at www.davethomasjunior.com, where you can get a free download of 'Nothing In The World.'
Song: I Can't Fix Us Two
Artist: Katie Costello, Hermosa Beach, CA
Album: Kaleidoscope Machine, 2010
Notes: A precocious talent from an early age, who began playing piano and writing songs at just 13 and still only in her early 20s, with an achingly bittersweet lost ballad. Brought up in Los Angeles, but now based in Brooklyn, she has released a couple of CDs, three EPs and a festive single last Christmas. She hasn't performed live for more than a year, but has just launched her 'Facebook Book Club' on her website. Check it out at www.katiecostellomusic.com.
Artist: K.S. Rhoads, Tucson, AZ
Album: The Wilderness, 2013
Notes: Rollicking rhythm track replete with a bit of mariachi horn work, and one of several sparklers on his recent sophomore effort. Kevin is a popular performer on the late night chat shows, and began experimenting with a 4-track recorder at the age of 14. He started his music career about a decade ago in Nashville, and in 2008, when his solo debut 'Dead Language' was released, he became the bandleader of the Ten Out Of Tenn tour. He's also a popular opening act for the likes of David Gray and Chris Isaak. More on him at www.ksrhoads.com.
Artist: Alanis Morissette, Canada
Notes: Yet another superb song released as a single all over the world which mystifyingly failed to chart anywhere. She's such a strong, literate wordsmith and it's hard to believe that it's 20 years since she began working on her 'Jagged Little Pill' classic. She's currently taking a well-earned rest after spending time on the road in 2012.
Song: Don't Keep Heaven Busy
Artist: Johnnyswim, Nashville, TN/Jacksonville, FL
Album: Heart Beats [EP], 2013
Notes: The beguiling musical union of the husband and wife team of Amanda Sudano and Abner Ramirez. They met at church in Nashville and subsequently connected at one of Ramirez's music workshops a few years later and named their duo after a goldfish Sudano had as a child. Featured on their new EP, which has a few tracks written about both of them suffering through the loss of their mothers - indeed Sudano's mother was the late great Donna Summer - not an easy act to follow - but good to see the offspring of a music legend going off in a completely different independent musical direction. They began writing together in 2006, and are now based in Los Angeles. They'll be touring on and off throughout the rest of the year - dates at www.johnnyswim.com.
Song: Wrap Your Arms Around Me
Artist: Gareth Dunlop, Northern Ireland
Notes: A terrific blue-eyed soul singer-songwriter talent, 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 Nanci Griffith. Jeff Beck, and Imelda May. More on him at www.garethdunlop.com.
Song: Hungry For Your Love
Artist: Van Morrison, Northern Ireland
Album: Wavelength, 1978
Notes: The distinctive blue-eyed soul genius that is Van Morrison, playing electric piano on the cut with the great Herbie Armstrong deftly working the acoustic guitar. The first living inductee not to attend his own induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and now alternately living both in Bath in England and in the Irish seaside town of Dalkey. No new material since last year's 'Born To Sing - No Plan B' - his 34th album - and his live appearances are sporadic, mainly one offs. More on the enigma at www.vanmorrison.com.
Song: Lay Back Down
Artist: Eric Lindell, San Mateo, CA
Notes: A terrific light blues number that got a few spins back in 2008 and was licensed for use in the tv shows 'Friday Night Lights' and 'True Blood.' The New Orleans-based blue-eyed bluesman cut his musical teeth in San Francisco as a teenager before relocating to the Big Easy in 1999 and was signed for a while to the fab blues-revivalist Alligator Records label. He's currently on the road through August. For details, check out www.ericlindell.com, where you can also find details of his new album 'Sunday Morning,' featuring Anson Funderburgh.
Song: Running For Cover
Artist: Ivan & Alyosha, Seattle, WA
Album: All The Times We Had, 2013
Notes: Formed in 2007 by the Seattle-based Tim Wilson and Ryan Carbary, taking their name from Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Russian masterpiece 'Brothers Karamazov.' Following the release of their first EP, they added Tim's brother Pete on bass and Tim Kim on guitar to the lineup. Two more EPs and a single were released in 2011 and 2012, before their first full-length album came out in February. In Tim Wilson's words: 'We didn't get it perfect, but I definitely think we got it right.' Check out their rather nifty website at www.ivanandalyosha.com.
Song: Part Of Your History
Artist: Blue Merle, Nashville, TN
Album: Burning In The Sun, 2005
Notes: Doesn't matter anymore what you think of me, Just proud to be part of your history.' The group was regrettably only around for three years between 2003 and 2006, fronted by the talented Luke Reynolds, who formed the band in Nashville. They only released one complete album (and a few EPs), which were stuffed with similar bluegrass-laced high-country gems. Reynolds has done quite a bit of session work for likes of Bret Dennen and Bela Fleck over the intervening years, and joined Guster as a multi-instrumentalist in 2010. He's currently in the studio working on a new solo album. If you want to contribute financially to its making, check out his website - www.lukereynoldsmusic.com.
Song: Lay My Burden Down
Artist: Aoife O'Donovan, Boston, MA
Album: Fossils, 2013
Notes: A fun Duane Eddy-ish guitar bridge gracing that lilting swayer from a lovely new long-player. She's a Boston-based singer-songwriter, whose forename is pronounced EEF-ah, and frontwoman for bluegrass combo, Crooked Still. She wrote the song quite a few years ago and was fortunate to have it recorded by Alison Krauss for her 2011 set, 'Paper Airplane.' She's on the road promoting the new album through August. For dates, check out www.aoifeodonovan.com.
Song: I Wanna Go
Artist: Yuna, Malaysia
Album: Sixth Street [EP], 2013
Notes: The under-cherished lead cut from her recent EP from an artist who's sure to break through soon, especially since she's now signed to the venerable Verve Records. The Malaysian songstress, whose full name is Yunalis Zarai, began recording in her home country about five years ago at the age of 26. She has a wonderful talent for crafting smooth, mellifluous indie-pop, not entirely dissimilar to Dido and counts Feist, Coldplay, Sia and the Cardigans among her influences. More on her at www.yunamusic.com.
Song: Let Her Down Easy
Artist: Terence Trent D'Arby, Manhattan, NY
Album: Symphony Or Damn, 1993
Notes: After the top 5 success of both 'Wishing Well' and 'Sign Your Name,' great things were expected of Mr. D'Arby - not least by the immodest star himself. After the huge success of his debut album in 1987 he took a major commercial nosedive fulled by a dash of egomania. Always an eccentric talent, he had a spat with his record label in 1996 - and then switched his name to Sananda Maitreya in the late '90s and he still records under that rather curious moniker. He also stepped in as lead singer of INXS for a couple of gigs after Michael Hutchence's death. Now living in Milan Italy, he's still touring and still recording.
Song: Let It Be Me
Artist: Ray LaMontagne, Nashua, NH
Album: Gossip In The Rain, 2009
Notes: The breathy, welcoming singer-songwriter warmth of an L&F favorite with one of so many quiet lost highlights on his third opus, recorded at Peter Gabriel's equally welcoming Real World studios outside the lovely Roman city of Bath in the west of England. A deeply private man offstage, he lives a pastoral life with his wife and children on a farm in western Massachusetts. There's been no new music from him since 2010, but he is rumored to be working on a new album. More on him at www.raylamontagne.com.
Song: Too Good For Words
Artist: Angel Taylor, Sylmar, CA
Album: Love Travels, 2009
Notes: A young girl bitterly smitten with a new prince, but considering herself beneath or below the qualities exuded by that man's current belle - lacking the sense of confidence and mythical self-worth to consider herself attractive enough in his eyes - or indeed her own - and resigned to the prospect that the other girl will win his affection. The horribly under-appreciated Los Angeles-based songstress, who's just turned 25, with 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: Wishing Wells
Artist: The Colourist, Orange County, CA
Album: Not available
Notes: A bright, smart new indie pop/rock quartet fronted by Adam Castilla. They claim they met through an online dating site, although it's hard to believe that their female drummer Maya Tuttle has ever been near one. They're setting out on an 18-date US tour on the 27th. For full details check out www.thecoloristmusic.com.
Song: Life In Mono
Artist: Mono, England
Album: Formica Blues, 1997
Notes: Sounding for all the world like something from a mid-'60s European movie, although not written and recorded until the mid-'90s by the short-lived British pop duo of Siobhan de Mar� and Martin Virgo, who were only around for four years. Her dad was Tony Meehan, drummer for the British instrumental group the Shadows as well as one half of the successful duo Jet Harris & Tony Meehan, while her grandmother was once a dancer for Shirley Bassey - so some fine musical DNA shining through.
Song: Love My Way
Artist: Grant-Lee Phillips/Psychedelic Furs, Stockton, CA/England
Notes: Featured on an album of covers of songs by The Smiths, The Pixies, New Order and Echo & the Bunnymen by an artist who, after making fine music for 25 years, has recently moved from Los Angeles to Nashville. Nearly 30 years on, the song's original recorders are still out there playing live and have just begun a major US tour. For details, check out www.thepsychedelicfurs.com.