Artist: Jim James, Louisville, KY
Notes: Haunting, spare, hypnotic lost gem from the front man and band leader of indie darlings, My Morning Jacket. This highly original cunning number is the standout cut on his third solo set. He also goes under the name Yim Yames, though real moniker is James Olliges.
Song: Happiness Is Easy
Artist: Talk Talk, England
Album: The Colour of Spring, 1986
Notes: Too good for prime time. Progressive percussion, stunning atmospherics and a children's backing mini choir all filtered through the musical mind of the great Mark Hollis, the enigmatic leader of the much-missed Talk Talk.
Song: The Old Magician
Artist: Prefab Sprout, England
Album: Crimson Red, 2013
Notes: The welcome return of the deft art and craft of singer-songwriter Paddy McAloon and his Prefab Sprout combo which is celebrating three decades of largely overlooked top notch fare this year. From a truly sensational comeback album, highly recommended - and annoyingly unavailable in the US.
Song: Take Me Back
Artist: Mindy Smith, Long Island, NY
Album: Mindy Smith, 2012
Notes: A warm slice of Americana pie courtesy of the genre's best. Sweet and simple with no saccharin, no added calories, no trans fats or artificial flavors - and just one of several rubies on her 2012 eponymous album which didn't get enough love.
Song: Southern Sun
Artist: Boy & Bear, Australia
Album: Harlequin Dream, 2013
Notes: Easy rolling indie-folk rock from down under from band's sophomore set which was nominated for a couple of categories in the Aussie equivalent of the Grammys, the ARIA Music Awards. The hip quintet formed five years ago in Sydney around frontman singer-songwriter Dave Hosking.
Song: All of Me
Artist: John Legend, Springfield, OH
Album: Love In The Future, 2013
Notes: A frank and career-defining ballad by one music's good guys. All but disappeared prior to an epic performance at this year's Grammy Awards which finally propelled this diamond into the top 10. Legend wrote the song about and for his girlfriend and new bride, Chrissy Teigen - who appears entirely unclothed in the music video.
Song: The Moment
Artist: Toad The Wet Sprocket, Santa Barbara, CA
Album: New Constellation, 2013
Notes: Their easy rolling melodic pop-rock signature sound and the first fruits from their welcome reunion. As with so many bands these days, their new recordings were financed through crowd funding - no less that $250k from 6,300 fans via Kickstarter. One of the most successful groups to emerge from Santa Barbara.
Song: Out Of Touch (12' Remix)
Artist: Hall & Oates, Philadelphia, PA
Album: Not available, 1984
Notes: L&F's deconstructed edit of the original 7:43 minute 12' vinyl remix. The added punch of the heavy bass-and-drum rhythm track is truly remarkable on this vintage reworking of a monster hit by the world's top-selling duo of the 1980s.
Song: Sometimes Always
Artist: Jesus & Mary Chain, Scotland
Album: Stoned and Dethroned, 1994
Notes: Clocking in at just 2:30 minutes but the most accessible lost nugget by the normally hardcore Scottish alternative rockers. The guest female vocalist on is Hope Sandoval the lovely main singer from Mazzy Star.
Song: This Town
Artist: Clare Bowen & Charles Esten, Australia/Nashville
Album: This Town (single), 2013
Notes: A bit of the Dolly Partons both visually and vocally about actress/singer Clare Bowen heard here in duet with Charles Esten on an enchanting strummer from the 'Nashville Cast' tv album. Mr. Esten also appears in Nashville but was first known as a regular on the US version of the improvisational television show, 'Whose Line Is It Anyway?'
Artist: Sleeping At Last, Wheaton, IL
Album: Space 1 EP, 2013
Notes: Lead-off cut from the recent 'Space 1' EP, one of four extended plays released as part of his wider 'Atlas' project, each of its six tracks named after a planet or a star. Sleeping At Last is the performing name of multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter Ryan O'Neal, an indie-rocker who has released 21 EPs since bowing in 1999.
Artist: Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors, Nashville
Album: Good Light, 2013
Notes: Lovely lilting ode of love, an effortlessly simple but affectionate new cut from the sorely underrated Mr. Holcomb. His wife Ellie is in his backing band along with three so-called neighbors. More at drewholcomb.com.
Song: Hey Ho
Artist: Gin Wigmore, New Zealand
Album: Holy Smoke, 2010
Notes: Brassy, gritty, lost corker from her freshwoman album showcasing ace Mexican horns and a dirty guitar vibe. Backed on that long-player by Ryan Adams' band, the Cardinals. A couple of intriguing albums and a deuce of EPs since bowing in 2009 - more at ginwigmore.com.au.
Artist: Pure Bathing Culture, Portland, OR
Album: Moon Tides, 2013
Notes: Shimmering, sugar-sweet ear candy from their glittering August 2013 release. Sarah Versprille & Daniel Hindman were formerly in the retro-folk combo, Vetiver, based in the ever-fertile musical breeding ground of Portland. Follow their art and craft at facebook.com/PureBathingCulture.
Song: Losing You
Artist: Quincy Mumford, Allenhurst, NJ
Album: Speak, 2011
Notes: Mercifully no relation to the now overcooked and over-exposed Mumford & Sons, laid-back acoustic gem from a relative newcomer and surfing/skateboarding hipster. Six years into his recording career - more at quincymumford.com.
Song: Enough For You
Artist: Rictor, Nashville
Album: Till The End, 2013
Notes: Nashville natives, Kyle and Kelsey Rictor are also both concurrent members of General Ghost, but now branching out as this new duo. Ace music just poring out of the siblings on both fronts.
Song: Molly Malone
Artist: Sinead O'Connor, Ireland
Album: Sean-Nos Nua, 2002
Notes: Born to sing this ancient Irish folk tune, treating it with beautiful empathy - pouring her soul into the story of a lonely fishmonger, sweet Molly Malone. A rare and precious pearl from the L&F vault, from the somehow deleted treasure of an album which cannot be bought for love or BitCoins.
Song: Until The End
Artist: Dirty South feat. Joe Gil, Serbia
Album: Speed of Life, 2013
Notes: Big room EDM production, should have been as big as Avicii's equally mighty 'Wake Me Up'. Serbian-born electronic whiz Dragan Roganovic's beginnings can be traced back to a \tape deck, a couple of cassettes, a pause button, strong ears and clever hands. This number features guests vocals from underloved indie-folk popster, Joe Gil.
Song: Say Something
Artist: A Great Big World, New York
Album: Is Anybody Out There', 2013
Notes: The original (2011) version of the year's top desolate ballad smash, but sans Christina Aguilera who features on the hit version. New York-based pop duo, Ian Axel and Chad Vaccarino met while both attended the Steinhardt Music Program at NYU.
Song: Troubled Mind
Artist: Everything But The Girl, England
Album: Amplified Heart, 1994
Notes: Blissful, typically literate swayer from Tracey Thorn & Ben Watt. No new material from EBTG for more than a decade, but, pleasingly, a new album from Mr. Watt called 'Hendra' due any day, only his second solo outing.
Song: Grow Around You
Artist: Bernard Fanning, Australia
Album: Departures, 2013
Notes: Rousing pop/rock anthem from a CD which remains unreleased in the US (available only as an import for about $40 on Amazon). Bernard is from Brisbane, the former lead singer of hard rockers Powderfinger until they split up in 2010.
Song: A Little Bit of Love
Artist: Brenda Russell, Canada
Album: Brenda Russell, 1979
Notes: Perky lost soul/pop gem made all the more charming by the backing children's choir. A-list Canadian-American pianist/singer-songwriter now in her '60s her fabulous repertoire and vocal chops have been used by the likes of Sting, Stevie Wonder, Aretha, Joni Mitchell and Donna Summer. Also wrote 'Get Here' smash (Oleta Adams).
Song: Ghost In The Machine
Artist: Fire and The Sea, Los Angeles
Notes: The close harmony class and soul searching of L&F alumni Kyler England and Adrianna Gonzalez, recently uniting as a new duo, The Fire and the Sea. Based in LA - their maiden EP will emerge this spring. Sensational.
Song: The Enemy
Artist: Andrew Belle, Wheaton, IL
Album: Black Bear, 2013
Notes: Yet another treasure from an increasingly strong canon of work being assembled by this horribly under-appreciated tunesmith. Real name is Drew Forston, expectedly based for the last few years in Nashville - a few tv and film placements for his songs over the past couple - but flying lower under the radar than Captain Sulley Sullenberger. More at Andrew Belle.com.
Artist: Lucius, Brooklyn, NY
Album: Wildewoman, 2013
Notes: Strong hooks on this overlooked nugget by a Brooklyn based '60s girl group meets New Wave combo. Fronted by a pair of Berklee School of Music alumni, Holly Laessig and Jesse Wolfe, and signed to the top-drawer indie label, Mom + Pop Music.
Song: On My Own
Artist: Patti LaBelle & Michael McDonald, Philadelphia, PA/St. Louis, MO
Album: Winner in You, 1986
Notes: L&F doesn't care that this was a hit way back when, or that its seemingly cheesy arrangement makes it dated: simply a tour de force of emotion, soul, top-notch songwriting and exquisite vocal delivery. Written by Burt Bacharach and his then wife, Carole Bayer Sager, it was originally recorded by Dionne Warwick - though mysteriously never released by her.
Song: Are You Living
Artist: General Ghost, Nashville
Album: Not available, 2014
Notes: A crisp, hook-laden rhythmic corker from the aforementioned Rictor brothers, Kyle and Kelsey. Regrettably this cut is not yet available for commercial consumption. More at GeneralGhost.com.
Artist: Bear's Den, England
Album: Agape EP, 2013
Notes: Best cut from last year's little known EP of the same name by a jangly indie-folk trio which was signed by Ben Lovett (Mumford & Sons) to his uber-hip Communion label a couple of years ago. They toured in 2012 with Ben Howard and the Staves. A fair smattering of worthwhile videos for your perusal at bearsdenmusic.co.uk.
Song: I Am Not Waiting Anymore
Artist: Field Report, Milwaukee, WI
Album: Field Report, 2013
Notes: Top-drawer lyrics on this backwoods gem by a six-piece folk outfit firmly led by Chris Porterfield (Field Report is an anagram of his surname). He was originally in DeYarmond Edison, a group fronted by Justin Vernon of Bon Iver.
Song: Farewell Daddy Blues
Artist: Margot Bingham, Pittsburgh, PA
Album: Not available, 2013
Notes: A blues classic originally recorded by the great Ma Rainey, updated here by actress/singer, Margot Bingham, a stand-out talent in season 4 of the HBO series, 'Boardwalk Empire'. (ABCKO Records recently issued a rather good selection of music from recent seasons of the series, 'Boardwalk Empire Volume 2' - but, of course, this rather lovely blues gem not included in its 20 tracks.)
Song: I Don't Need You
Artist: Harry Nilsson, Brooklyn, NY
Album: Flash Harry, 1980
Notes: Too sad for words, an embittered, cynical man, crushed by previous bad experience, his heart locked up, unable, unwilling to open it one more time. From one of the all-time great vocalists, this ballad made even more poignant by being one of last songs he ever recorded before dying from heart failure, gone too soon at the age of just 52.
Artist: Natalie Taylor, Nashville
Album: Not available, 2013
Notes: Already a permanent fixture on L&F, a drop-dead catchy pop hit-in-waiting which floats along with such melodious ease. A new, telegenic, talented Nashville-based singer-songwriter who clearly deserves major attention: more at NatalieTaylormusic.com.
Song: Go Alone
Artist: PJ Morton, New Orleans
Album: New Orleans, 2013
Notes: An old school/nu school, Stevie Wonder-flavored nugget from his recent long-player. PJ was born in the Big Easy, flew under the radar until being recruited as a touring backing musician for Maroon 5 in 2010. The album features Mr. Wonder and Busta Rhymes among others - and the ubiquitous and extremely irritating and overrated Adam Levine.
Artist: Greg Laswell, San Diego, CA
Notes: Exquisite. A cover version of his own masterful original included in a remarkable, extremely quiet, reflective remakes album of other top gems from his past catalog. Too good for prime time.