Song: I'm Alive
Artist: Jackson Browne, Germany
Album: I'm Alive, 1993
Notes: An absolute cracker that never charted from a singer-songwriter who couldn't be more West Coast if he tried, despite being born in Heidelberg, West Germany - his father was an American serviceman stationed there. The ever youthful Rock and Roll Hall of Famer is still feeling alive at the age of 66, and has just released a new album 'Standing In The Breach'. This track was co-produced by the legendary session guitatist Waddy Wachtel, who is also the long time guitarist for Stevie Nicks. More at jacksonbrowne.com.
Song: Hole In The Middle
Artist: Emily Jane White, Fort Bragg, CA
Album: Dark Undercoat, 2007
Notes: With lovely off-kilter, off-note light twangs going on the background chorus, this is an L&F debut for a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist based in San Francisco. She started out as somewhat of a punker at college, subsequently formed the Diamond Star Halos band but began her solo career some seven years ago. She has a bit of a niche following in France where she once lived and performed. More at emilyjanewhite.com.
Song: Long Way Down
Artist: Tom Odell, England
Album: Long Way Down, 2012
Notes: The title track from his debut CD, which did brisk business in his native UK and northern Europe when released last year. He's a fresh-faced 23-year old pianist, singer-songwriter, discovered by British songstress Lily Allen and indeed signed to her own In The Name Of label. She described his performing style thus: 'His energy onstage reminded me of David Bowie'. Jools Holland was also an early adopter asking Tom to appear on his 'Later ... With Jools Holland' TV show. The venerable British music magazine, the NME, somehow gave the record a scolding review with zero points out of ten - and just to prove how badly that music critic got it wrong, Odell was subsequently named songwriter of the year at the prestigious 2014 Ivor Novello Awards. More at tomodell.com.
Song: Don't Let It Die
Artist: Hurricane Smith, England
Notes: Fabulous, vintage pop glory written by a former engineer at Abbey Road Studios. Written in the vain hope that John Lennon would record it and remarkably commercially released in its original demo form, it became a big hit in the UK in 1971 though he only scored over here with 'Oh Babe What Would You Say' a year later. The reason Smith hoped that Lennon might record it was mainly down to his close relationship with the Fab Four - he engineered all the Beatles recordings at Abbey Road up to 1965 and then went on to do the same for the early Pink Floyd albums. A former RAF pilot, Smith passed away in 2008, but what a career - the year before he died he published a memoir called 'John Lennon Called Me Normal' - the affectionate nickname given to him by the legend.
Song: Yellow Lights
Artist: A Lanky Swede, Sweden
Album: Soon, Soon, Soon, 2012
Notes: After playing a track by fellow Swede, The Tallest Man On Earth, last week comes A Lanky Swede - who apparently is taller than The Tallest Man On Earth. He is in fact Ola Kl'ft, the leader of The Perishers, but now on what seems to be an permanent sabbatical from that band. He moved to Vancouver in 2010 and released his solo debut 'Soon, Soon, Soon' in 2012. Last year, he was back gigging in Sweden, but there's no news of any new material.
Song: Find It
Artist: Family of the Year, Los Angeles, CA
Album: Loma Vista, 2012
Notes: Classy close old-school harmonies from a band truly maturing into a top-flight combo with a track bursting with smart hook-filled West Coast indie pop/rock. The indie folksters were formed just five years ago by Welsh-born brothers, frontman Joseph and drummer Sebastian Keefe, who grew up on Martha's Vineyard. Vocalist Christina Schroeter and James Buckey make up the foursome. Their song 'Hero' was featured in the highly-rated Richard Linklater film 'Boyhood'. More at familyoftheyear.net.
Song: Black Metal
Artist: Max Jury, Des Moines, IA
Notes: An old school soul influenced by Gram Parsons, Paul Simon and Dylan but a brand new, top-drawer ballad from a 21-year old tunesmith described as coming on like 'the missing link between Gram Parsons and George Harrison'. He began playing the piano at the age of six and wrote his song at 13, before he enrolled at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, but dropped out - twice. He's opened for Lana Del Rey, has just wrapped a tour of Europe and is playing a few US dates this month. More at maxjury.com.
Song: Flashed Junk Mind
Artist: Milky Chance, Germany
Album: Sadnecessary, 2014
Notes: Currently making waves with their breakthrough hit, 'Stolen Dance', which was played long ago on L&F, the langurous indie-folk rock/electronica stylings of a German folk-pop duo comprising Philipp Dausch and Clemens Rehbein. Growing up in Kassel, where they were schoolfriends - only completing high school two years ao, they were members of the Flown Tones jazz quartet before outputting their own music soon after. They've just announced details of their first US tour next March. More at milkychanceofficial.com.
Song: The Old Magician
Artist: Prefab Sprout, England
Album: Crimson/Red, 2014
Notes: Too original for its own good, superior lyrics, extraordinary subject matter, predictably strong melody and an exquisite harmonica bridge - one of several sorely overlooked delights on the band's drop-dead superb 'Crimson/Red' opus from last year which is now finally available in the US. Ten outstanding albums by top tunesmith Paddy McAloon and his band since 1984. If you want to capture a moment of McAloon magic, check out www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhZA8GuZ1SI.
Song: As It Seems
Artist: Lily Kershaw, Los Angeles, CA
Album: Midnight In The Garden, 2013
Notes: Issued by the always reliable Nettwerk label, an enchanting track from a 20-something Los Angelino songstress. She is something of a black rose, often choosing death and darkness in her lyrics as showcased in this number indeed Lily says of all her music to date: 'It's all about death. I'd love to say most of my music isn't about death pr heartbreak, but it is.' Indeed the song was featured to great dramatic effect in an episode of CBS' 'Criminal Minds' a couple of years ago. More at lilykershaw.com.
Artist: Madi Diaz, Greenwich, CT
Album: Phantom, 2014
Notes: A neat roller from yet another Berklee College of Music graduate from her consistently rewarding new album. Born in Greenwich, Connecticut, she was raised in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and home schooled by her Peruvian mother and Danish father. She began playing piano at the age of five - no doubt enccouraged by her father who played keyboards in a Frank Zappa tribute band, has opened for the likes of The Civil Wars and Landon Pigg and has released three highly recommended CDs since bowing in 2007. She's opening for Echosmith on some US dates beginning next week. More at madidiaz.com.
Song: All Of The Stars
Artist: Ed Sheeran, England
Notes: Recorded specifically for the 2014 weepie smash 'The Fault in Our Stars' original soundtrack, a box-office smash and its soundtrack arguably the most considered and well-curated film collection of this year. Brimming with relevant class, this melodic pearl inexplicably failed to make the Hot 100 and was only a Top 30 success in Ireland. He has linked up with Plan B, Christina Perri and Taylor Swift and is in much demand for co-writing and guest appearances by other musicians and is riding high with his second album 'X', which is the biggest-selling LP of the year in the UK with sales over 650,000 and also debuted atop the US chart. He'll be appearing at the Rock in Rio USA Festival in Las Vegas next May. More at edsheeran.com.
Song: Don't Find Another Love
Artist: Tegan & Sara, Canada
Notes: From the soundtrack to the unwatchable 2014 remake of the marginally watchable 'Endless Love' original movie - the soundtrack infinitely more palatable than the celluloid. Although Canadian twins Tegan and Sara write nearly all of their own superb material, this number was inked by songwriter Julie Frost, who's also penned huge hits for the likes of The Black Eyed Peas, Beyonce, Madonna and Pitbull. The identical Quinn twins were born in 1980 and have been writing and performing together since they were 15. Snapped up by Neil Young's manager to Neil's Vapor Records in 1999, they haven't looked back since. Much in demand as a support act on major tours, and two years ago they opened for both the Black Keys and the Killers, they released their dazzling seventh album, 'Heartthrob', last year. They have some West Coast dates coming later in the month. More at teganandsara.com.
Song: Skin Deep
Artist: Stranglers, England
Album: Aural Sculpture, 1984
Notes: So many ace deep-catalog tracks recorded by the Stranglers over their illustrious career. They surfaced as an aggressive pioneering act at the dawn of the British punk scene in the mid-'70s in London, but subsequently smoothed out their recordings and made some remarkable tasteful tunes - very few of which got much love over here. Still going strong today, they released a new album, 'Giants,' last year and are celebrating 40 years together this year, though without their original lead singer, the uncompromising muscular-voiced Hugh Cornwell who quit the band for a solo career in 1990.
Song: Almost Is Never Enough
Artist: Ariana Grande featuring Nathan Sykes, Boca Raton, FL/England
Album: Yours Truly, 2013
Notes: A surprisingly mature, soulful, even restrained soul outing from two youngsters - pop princess du jour Ariana Grande, who also co-wrote the song, and Nathan Sykes from Brit Boy band the Wanted, neither of whom would normally be featured on 'L&F'. The song was originally recorded by the pair for the 2013 sci-fi fantasy action flick, 'Mortal Instruments - City Of Bones'.
Artist: DJ Drez featuring Joey Lugassy, Los Angeles, CA
Notes: A fascinating sitar-infused dub update featuring the main music and lyric refrain from Buffalo Springfield's iconic signature song. The original was written by Stephen Stills in November 1966 about a 10:00pm curfew imposed on the streets of Hollywood that month, which he and many other locals felt was an infringement on their civil rights. Subsequently co-opted by every anti-war movement around, it's been widely used on countless film soundtracks and in documentaries. DJ Drez is a self-styled world music 'sound ambassador hip-hopper' from Los Angeles, 'blending yesterday's roots with the innovative urban beats of today.' A dreadlocked peace-loving character, he also moonlights as a yoga instructor.
Song: Don't Go Home Without Me
Artist: Lights, Canada
Album: Little Machines, 2014
Notes: She's resisted the temptation to go fully-blown EDM on this number even though she's long pioneered that latest wave in the electro-pop genre. Born Valerie Poindexter, the Canadian synth-pop, singer-songwriter has been long inspired by Kate Bush and Bjork and was snapped up at just 15 as a songwriter by Sony Music. Now 27 and a first-time mum this year, naming her child Rocket Wild, she's currently on the road and will be through November 15th. For details: music.iamlights.com.
Song: Simple Things
Artist: Dirty Vegas, England
Album: Dirty Vegas, 2002
Notes: Though more commonly recognized as a house music band, this is a remarkably mainstream pop-rock bubbler from the British trio who scored a dance hit with 'Days Go By' back in 2001. They cut one more album in 2004, before splitting up the following year. They reformed in 2008, since when there has been a sole album in 2011. Quality not quantity is the order of the day, although they reappeared earlier this year with a six-track EP called 'Let The Night' as a taster for a new album. More at dirtyvegas.com.
Song: Bottle of Jack
Artist: Mikey Wax, Long Island, NY
Album: Mikey Wax, 2014
Notes: A kind of breezy pop/rock mid-'70s throwback and one of several choice cuts from a consistently strong pop-chopping eponymous album just released. The Long Island native singer-songwriter, who took up piano at the age of eight and graduated from Vanderbilt in Nashville, has been recording for about six years. He toured with Parachute and Matt Wertz this summer and teamed up a couple of months back with mobile app SMULE, which allows you to sing with him karaoke-style on your phone. More at mikeywax.com.
Song: The Infidel
Artist: Republic Tigers, Kansas. MO
Album: No Man's Land [EP], 2011
Notes: Lovely swaying melodies in the chorus from an indie band, creating a lovely meld of pop, psychedelic rock and folk. Only one album to date and a couple of EPs, the group's founders Adam McGill and Kenn Jankowski have a sort of one-off commitment to the group so their catalog is a little sparse, although their new album 'Mind Over Matter' is expected soon.
Song: Did I Ever Love You?
Artist: Leonard Cohen, Canada
Album: Popular Problems, 2014
Notes: Alternately switching between his own gruff now Tom Waits-sounding dark slow vocal and the conversely peppy acoustic folk female vocals, a typically intriguing highlight from his latest album, a nine-track blues, country-dipped affair, which remarkably has already topped the chart in more than 10 countries around the world. Quite remarkable for an 80-year old performer - only he, Willie Nelson and Tony Bennett are still enjoying that kind of success as octogenarians - and Cohen by far the biggest box-office draw among them, pulling in tens of millions of dollars at sold-out shows around the globe for the past six years. The album has been greeted with the usual 5-star reviews everywhere, with The Daily Telegraph in the UK calling it simply 'a masterpiece'. More at leonardcohen.com.
Artist: Michael Martin Murphey, Dallas, TX
Album: Michael Martin Murphey, 1982
Notes: No-nonsense old-school mainstream country pop balladry tucked away on a long-lost self-titled album released in 1982; easily the best album he ever recorded and a fair distance from his signature wildfire cowboy tunes. The singer-songwriter continues to make great music 50 years on from forming The Trinity River Boys with ex-Monkee Michael Nesmith, with his songs being covered by the likes of Johnny Cash, Kenny Rogers and Lyle Lovett among others. Still a virtual fixture on the road, he'll be performing his Cowboy Christmas Tour between Thanksgiving and Christmas. More at michaelmartinmurphey.com.
Song: Without Words
Artist: Ray LaMontagne, Nashua, NH
Notes: A second extract from the 'Fault In Our Stars' movie soundtrack and only available on that album from the inimitable singer-songwriter with a deft lost ruby. Interesting to note that while he was working at a shoe factory in Lewiston Maine in his mid-20s, he heard the Stephen Stills song 'Treetop Flyer' on his alarm radio and decided there and then to quit his job and pursue a career in music. The Grammy-winning tunesmith is a deeply private man offstage, living a pastoral life with his wife and children on a farm in western Massachusetts. He released a new album, 'Supernova', back in April and is currently on the road. For details go to - raylamontagne.com.
Song: Mess Is Mine
Artist: Vance Joy, Australia
Album: Dream Your Life Away, 2014
Notes: Another winner from his recently issued freshman album which has already topped the chart back in his native Australia. His real name is James Keogh and hails from the lovely city of Melbourne. He rejected a career as an Australia Rules football player before electing to pursue music. He was snapped up by Atlantic Records in a rare five-album deal last year which is already paying dividends for all concerned. More at vancejoy.com.
Song: Rise Again
Artist: Lira, South Africa
Album: Rise Again, 2013
Notes: Some lovely flamenco Spanish guitar thrown in for good measure on a refreshing bubbly R&B/pop shuffler by a talented and telegenic 20-something songstress from Johannesburg. Growing up Lerato Molapo in the Daveyton township, her influences were the queen of South African music Miriam Makeba, but also Nina Simone and Aretha Franklin. She's been performing live since she was 16 and sang at the FIFA World Cup concert in 2010, alongside Alicia Keys, Shakira, John Legend and K'naan. More at misslira.com.
Artist: Gordon Lightfoot, Canada
Album: Shadows, 1982
Notes: The unmistakable and masterful Canadian tunesmith with the title cut from his 1982 album. A sad resignation hallmarks so much of his work, he's consistently unique in that regard. Both Robbie Robertson of The Band and Bob Dylan count Lightfoot among their favorite tunesmiths, who turns 75 next month and still performs live and works out at the gym six days a week after nearly dying in 2002 when he was in a coma for six weeks, and then suffering a minor stroke four years later. One of the few legends in contemporary music who refuses to have a website, the Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee does have two excellently-run fan sites - gordonlightfoot.com and lightfoot.ca.
Song: Tears and Saints
Artist: William Tyler, Nashville, TN
Album: Behold The Spirit, 2010
Notes: Shades of Mark Knopfler from an ace guitarist who records in his birth town of Nashville. The album got rave reviews, with the venerable Q Magazine saying it is 'possessed and peaceful at once, absorbing and wholly gorgeous'. He's also a member of the underrated Lambchop alternative country combo, and a one-time member of The Silver Jews out of New York. He also has a strong musical DNA, his father writing songs for the likes of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The Oak Ridge Boys and LeAnn Rimes, while he and his sister, Elise, co-own a charming music restaurant/bar in Nashville called The Stone Fox on 51st. More at williamtyler.net.
Song: A Night To Remember
Artist: Shalamar, Akron, OH/Los Angeles, CA/Chicago, IL
Album: Friends, 1982
Notes: So many contemporary acts have been jumping on the '70s disco bandwagon from Bruno Mars to Daft Punk of course, but no one has come close to some of the original treasures, especially this drop-dead perfect dance floor percolator. As with many disco and dance acts, the key to their best music was always the songwriter/producer - often one and the same. In the case of Shalamar they were only at their best when overseen by the great producer Leon Sylvers III who brought the golden touch to everything he recorded. Shalamar's golden period was 1978 through 1983 when they scored a string of feet-moving hits - the quintessential lineup boasted Jeffrey Daniel, Howard Hewett and Jody Watley, who all went on to successful solo careers - but nothing matched their glory days as a disco unit. Check out youtube.com/watch?v=END_WYdf8pw for an extraordinary live performance by Daniel.
Song: Broken Over You
Artist: Grace Mitchell, Portland, OR
Album: Design [EP], 2014
Notes: Clearly circling Lorde and Lana Rey, Grace is a 16-year-old, armed with authentic songwriting chops and boasting a remarkably mature vocal range, with another spanking new track from her maiden offering. Originally from Queensland, Australia, her only previous outing was a crafty cover version of Daryl Hall & John Oates' chestnut, 'Maneater', which emerged on 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty' soundtrack last year. Being groomed by Universal Records as a major new talent, her EP is certainly a promising start. More at gracemitchell.com.
Song: River Of Tears
Artist: Eric Clapton, England
Album: Pilgrim, 1988
Notes: A broken man unable to find solace, ashamed to even show his face, trying to drink away, run away from the demons of unending, unrelenting loss and the haunting memories of better times. Clapton admitted in his autobiography that with 'Pilgrim' he actually set out to write and record 'the saddest album' he could, which when first issued was received with mixed feelings, some finding it too bland - but it is an intensely personal and profoundly sad soulful effort, co-produced and largely co-written by British popster, Simon Climie of the Climie Fisher duo - a daring choice by Clapton but it paid off handsomely. He's recorded 22 solo studio albums since 1970, most recently 'The Breeze (An Appreciation Of J.J. Cale)'. More at ericclapton.com.
Song: Enough Time
Artist: Ghosts, England
Album: The End, 2012
Notes: First-rate mid-tempo synth/pop/rock shuffler from a fresh five-piece British combo.The indietronica band was formed in 2011 by former Ou Est Le Swimming Pool member Alex Starling and drummer Ian Palmer, who met at London's Euston Station in December 2010, had coffee and discussed what they 'liked and didn't like about music and used that as a starting point'. More at facebook.com/wearetheghosts.
Song: How We Operate
Artist: Gomez, England
Album: How We Operate, 2006
Notes: A sorely underrated British alternative-rock outfit who've made much worthwhile music over the past 15 years - their last three albums all issued through Dave Matthews' ATO Records label. A big act around the globe except in the US, fronted by co-vocalists Ian Ball and Ben Ottewell, who's just released his latest solo work. 'Rattlebag'. This track was produced by Gil Norton - who's worked with the Pixies, Foo Fighters, Ben Kweller, Patti Smith, Counting Crows and many others. More at gomeztheband.com.
Song: Ong Namo
Artist: Snatam Kaur, Trinidad, CO
Album: Grace, 2004
Notes: Although born in Colorado, the singer, heard here on a delicious new-ageish track, was raised in the Sikhism religion by her Indian family, and weaned on the Indian devotional music traditions of 'kirtan'. She's released more than one album per year since bowing in 2002, many of them heard in the background of many a yoga class and spa around the western world. More at snatamkaur.com.
Artist: Daniela Andrade, Canada
Album: Crazy [single], 2014
Notes: A 22-year-old Honduran/Canadian singer-songwriter from Edmonton, Alberta, she has gained popularity through her stripped-down cover versions and original songs on YouTube. This cover of Gnarls Barkley's 'Crazy' was featured on the TV series 'Suits' and has been viewed more than 1.8 million timeson YouTube. She released her debut EP, 'Things We've Said' in 2012 and a full-length album is due next year. More at shop.danielaandrade.com.
Artist: Gnarls Barkley, Atlanta, GA/New Orleans, LA
Album: St. Elsewhere, 2006
Notes: The eccentric duo comprises producer Danger Mouse and singer CeeLo Green. Green started out as a member of Atlanta hip-hip group Goodie Mob, meeting up with Danger Mouse when the latter was the DJ on a tour together. Their debut album 'St. Elsewhere', from which this track came, was released in 2006, followed by 'The Odd Couple' in 2008. It was announced in 2011 that a third album would be coming out in 2012. That didn't happen, and in May 2014 Green said the album was finished and would be out in August, but there's still no sign of it.