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. Revered Rolling Stone critic Lester Bangs somehow described the top-drawer album from which this track comes as 'mired in twaddle'. 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 2012's 'Born To Sing - No Plan B' - his 34th album - and his live appearances are sporadic, mainly one offs. More on the enigma at vanmorrison.com.
Artist: Field Report, Milwaukee, WI
Album: Marigolden, 2014
Notes: Lovely chorus from a six-piece folk outfit led by Chris Porterfield, hence the band's anagrammatical name. He was originally in a group named DeYarmond Edison fronted by Justin Vernon of Bon Iver before putting Field Report together while recording their 2012 self-titled debut. They've personally been invited to tour by the likes of Aimee Mann, Counting Crows and Emmylou Harris. More at fieldreportmusic.com.
Song: Lost and Found
Artist: Steve Mason, Scotland
Album: Boys Outside, 2010
Notes: Hypnotic beats and a cunning piano refrain from a singer-songwriter, electronic folkie who hails from Edinburgh. Formerly frontman for the folktronica combo the Beta Band which, when they split up in 2004, left him so broke that he took a second job working construction while moonlighting as a musician. He issued a new long-player, 'Monkey Minds In The Devil's Time' last year. More at stevemasontheartist.com.
Song: Come Monday Night
Artist: God Help The Girl, Scotland
Album: Come Monday Night, 2009
Notes: Sweet, retro-laced folk-pop from a group comprising a revolving cast of female characters assembled by Scottish act Belle & Sebastian's lead singer Stuart Murdoch. His long-gestating film named after his female collective and filmed in Glasgow premiered at this year's Sundance Film Festival and has just gone on general release - together with its fascinating soundtrack. Bizarrely this number, easily the most accessible from the original CD, failed to make it into the film. More about the movie at us.godhelpthegirl.com.
Song: Towards The Sun
Artist: Alexi Murdoch, Scotland
Album: Towards The Sun, 2009
Notes: Long tipped for the big time, he remains a largely well-kept secret outside film and television circles. Alternately raised in Greece and Scotland (his mother was early '60s songstress Louise Cordet who toured with The Beatles in 1963), he relocated to the US to attend Duke University in the early '90s. His debut EP, 'Four Songs', sold more than 50,000 copies through CD Baby and he followed it with his 2006 debut LP, which received dozens of placements on TV and film. Now living in Berlin, Germany, he has only released one album since his debut - the 2011 'Towards The Sun'. Beautiful, restrained, erudite, serious shades of one of his formative influences, Nick Drake, this song also appeared in the film soundtrack for 'Away We Go', a comedy drama directed by the great Sam Mendes. More at aleximurdoch.com.
Artist: Brynn Elliott, Atlanta, GA
Album: Notions Of Youth [EP], 2014
Notes: A superbly crafted nugget from an Atlanta-based singer-songwriter who is concurrently just starting out at Harvard University. She was taught to sing from the age of three by her grandfather and picked up the guitar and piano as a teenager - but it wasn't until the tragic death of a close friend just a couple of years ago that she was inspired to pour her soul into music even though she was still attending high school. Also gaining plaudits for her live shows, Brynn described live performing thus: 'From studio to stage, something shifted'. Radio at large should pay attention. More on the talented songstress at brynnelliott.com.
Song: Country Of Illusion
Artist: William Tyler, Nashville, TN
Album: Impossible Truth, 2013
Notes: Magically blending backwoods Americana with some Indian spice, the instrumental lead off cut from a 2013 album which was inspired by two books written about Los Angeles: Barney Hoskyns' 'Hotel California' and Mike Davis' 'The Ecology of Fear'. Recorded in his birthplace 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 and curiously named 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. More at williamtyler.net.
Song: Crack The Shutters
Artist: Snow Patrol, Northern Ireland/Scotland
Album: A Hundred Million Suns, 2008
Notes: Plenty of airplay on what are known as Triple A radio stations in the US back in 2008, but the song fell eleven places short of cracking the mainstream Billboard Hot 100 and regarded by frontman and band lyricist Gary Lightbody as 'the purest love song' he's ever written. The band is celebrating 20 years together this year and is currently working on its seventh studio album. More at snowpatrol.com.
Artist: Jamie Scott, England
Album: Hurricane, 2014
Notes: Another great track from the precociously talented singer/songwriter/producer's sophomore solo set. He released a terrific album in 2007 as Jamie Scott and The Town, before teaming up with Tommy D to form the duo Graffiti6. They had a new album released earlier this year called 'The Bridge'. During his seven-year recording hiatus he has been writing hit records for the likes of One Direction, JLS, Enrique Iglesias, 5 Seconds Of Summer and Christina Perri. More at jamie-scott.com.
Song: Other Side of the World
Artist: KT Tunstall, Scotland
Album: Eye To The Telescope, 2004
Notes: Hard to believe the Scottish songstress has been making music for almost a decade, with her last album, 'Invisible Empires/Crescent Moon', released in 2013. Now in her late '30s, she allegedly disowned her step-father a few years ago after he announced he was running as a candidate for the far-right British National Party - she herself is an outspoken activist for several causes. This year two new songs by KT emerged on film soundtracks, 'Miracle' for the Colin Farrell/Russell Crowe-starring 'Winter's Tale' and 'We Could Be Kings', written with A.R. Rahman for 'Million Dollar Arm'. More at kttunstall.com.
Song: Only One
Artist: Mikey Wax, Long Island, NY
Album: Mikey Wax, 2014
Notes: 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 has just wrapped up a tour with Parachute and Matt Wertz and teamed up recently with mobile app SMULE, which allows you to sing with him karaoke-style on your phone. More at mikeywax.com.
Song: These Days
Artist: Glen Campbell, Delight, AR
Album: Meet Glen Campbell, 2008
Notes: Before Alzheimer's cruelly drew the curtain across his remarkable six-decade career, he recorded some of his best albums in years, notably the astonishing 'Ghost On The Canvas' in 2011 and 'Meet Glen Campbell' three years earlier - both of which were beautifully curated covers albums of mostly modern rock fare, and overseen by producers Julian Raymond and Howard Willing. This superior version of Jackson Browne's much covered classic, first interpreted by Velvet Underground alumnus Nico way back in 1967, sat comfortably alongside material from The Foo Fighters, Green Day, The Replacements, Travis and U2. There's a terrific documentary about Campbell called 'I'll Be Me', which is currently showing in selected cinemas across the country and also available on Netflix.
Song: Flying (2014 Edition)
Artist: Nice Little Penguins, Denmark
Notes: Fabulous, cheerful, ukulele-driven indie folk-pop from a Danish trio, comprising brothers Michael and Carsten Kolster and Bo Feierskov. They've been playing together since 1983, mixing a bashful cocktail of jazz standards, Nordic folk songs, beat classics, Danish pop songs and a few of their own compositions. Known as Nice Little Penguins since 1992 their stated mission is to 'spread joy and good vibrations like their musical idols, The Beatles, The Police and Crowded House'. Facebook them at /nicelittlepenguins.
Song: Turtles All The Way Down
Artist: Sturgill Simpson, Jackson, KY
Notes: Despite his wizened, old school Waylon Jennings-recalling delivery, Sturgill is a relative newcomer, still in his mid-30s and based in Nashville where he lives with his wife and recently born first child. Formerly the founder of bluegrass combo, Sunday Valley, he went solo a couple of years ago, and has two fine albums already in his pocket. Rhythmically reminiscent of 'Me And Bobby McGee' for sure, the song recently featured on FX's 'The Bridge' series. He's touring through the end of the year. More at sturgillsimpson.com.
Artist: Elton John, England
Notes: The evergreen songwriting collaboration of Elton and his co-writer, lyricist Bernie Taupin is now in its 47th year - interestingly nearly all of their hundreds of compositions are written first as lyrics by Bernie who then mails them to Elton to construct melodies around his words. Elton is now godfather to ten children including Sean Lennon, Brooklyn Beckham and Elizabeth Hurley's son, Damian. The late Jeff Buckley recorded an incredibly tender live version of this lost ballad which is well worth a listen.
Artist: George Ezra, England
Album: Wanted On Voyage, 2014
Notes: The mature blue-eyed vocal style of 21-year-old (but looks about 13), British newcomer George Ezra with a rather crafty catchy dance/pop cut, co-written and co-produced by Joel Pott of the wonderful band Athlete. The track has already made its way around many charts in Europe as his breakout success. He arrived on the scene at last year's Glastonbury Festival and will be playing several US dates in January - most of which have already sold out. You wouldn't know it from this record but he cites being musically influenced most by Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan. More at georgeezra.com.
Artist: Sundays, England
Notes: A breezy track from a British band from London led by the whispie vocals of Harriet Wheeler and her subsequent husband, lead guitarist David Gavurin who met while attending Bristol University. They spent a decade together before retiring from the music scene after the release of their 1997 album 'Static & Silence'. Wheeler and Gavurin have spent the past seventeen years raising their two children, although in a recent interview they revealed they were working on some new music and depending on how it came out, they might perform again.
Song: Made For You
Artist: Alexander Cardinale, Monterey, CA
Album: Made For You [single], 2014
Notes: Squarely aimed at the Lumineers/Phillip Phillips crowd, some new acoustic folk pop from a 30-year old tunesmith and sometime actor, who also goes by the name Xander and records music at his home studio in North Hollywood. This thigh-slapping anthemic roller comes on the heels of a trickle of EPs and one-off digital singles since 2010. He's just wrapped up a tour opening for Melissa Etheridge. More at xandermusic.com.
Artist: Ella Henderson, England
Album: Chapter One, 2014
Notes: A top-drawer production beginning to make big waves across Europe, and now available in the US, from a finalist on the ninth series of 'X Factor' in the UK, and immediately snapped up by Simon Cowell's Syco label - despite finishing sixth on the talent show. The 18-year-old's video of 'Ghost' passed the 10 million views mark on YouTube during the summer and much of its success can be attributed the name of Ryan Tedder amongst its writers and producers. More at ellahenderson.co.uk.
Song: Jesus Was A Crossmaker
Artist: Judee Sill, Oakland, CA
Album: Judee Sill, 1971
Notes: Starting out in the William Morris Agency mailroom before becoming personal manager to several music acts, David Geffen founded Asylum Records as an outlet for one of his acts, who happened to be Jackson Browne. However his first signing was an extraordinary singer-songwriter who led a life which belongs in a movie - drug addiction, jail time, alcoholic mother, abusive step-father. She died age 35 after years of drug abuse, found alone in her Hollywood apartment the day after Thanksgiving in 1979. This great song was inspired by her lover at the time, J.D Souther, and produced by Graham Nash.
Artist: US3, England
Album: Hands On The Torch, 1993
Notes: An infectious slice of soulful jazzy-hip-hop from 20 years ago; a winning stew of disparate musical styles. The band was formed in 1992 by producer Geoff Wilkinson who recruited top British and American session musicians and singers. The keyboard sample on the groove was courtesy of Herbie Hancock's 'Cantaloupe Island,' and featured trumpeter Gerard Presencer. The song reappeared last year in the Steve Carell/Alan Arkin movie 'The Incredible Burt Wonderstone'. This single was released by the venerable Blue Note Records label - it's worth checking out the 75th anniversary Blue Note archive playlist on SONOS radio.
Artist: Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers, Tucson, AZ
Album: Americano!, 2004
Notes: Neatly assembled indie pop-rock with a thoughtfully romantic title by Tempe, Arizona-based singer-songwriter/guitarist Roger Clyne and his Peacemakers backing unit. Recording since the late '90s, formerly with his band The Refreshments, Clyne's a proudly independent musician, who produces self-released material, is on the road every year around the US and uses his own tour bus named The Stallion - indeed his latest album released in April is simply titled 'The Independent'. He even makes his own brand of tequila called Mexicon Moonshine. More at azpeacemakers.com.
Song: Cigarettes & Truckstops
Artist: Lindi Ortega, Canada
Notes: Authentic nu-country with a lovely broken-down rusty truck old school feel to it, and the title cut from her terrific last album, named in several Best Of 2012 lists - the singer was deservedly nominated last year for the Polaris Music Prize. A telegenic practitioner of vintage sounding Rockabilly and Country (she has two albums and a superb Christmas EP under her belt to date), she hails from Toronto, but is now based in Nashville. She recently won her first Canadian Country Music Association Award for Roots Artist of the Year. More at lindiortega.ca, where you can find details of her new album which came out in October.
Song: Louis Louis
Artist: Teitur, Faroe Islands
Album: Stay Under The Stars, 2007
Notes: Achieving without striving - a hallmark of the better artists out there - on a tribute to the late, great Louis Armstrong, from perhaps the only professional singer/songwriter from the Faroe Islands in the Norwegian Sea and part of the kingdom of Denmark. He's so literate and smart with a great sense of melody - indeed was invited to perform at the 70th birthday celebrations for the Queen of Denmark in 2010. Six highly recommended albums have followed since bowing about 10 years ago. Back in June he was awarded an honorary diploma by Henrik, Prince Consort of Denmark. More at teitur.com.
Song: Never Work For Free
Artist: Tennis, Denver, CO
Album: Ritual In Repeat, 2014
Notes: Breezy quirky indie pop from the husband and wife team of vocalist Alaina Moore and keyboard and guitarist Patrick Riley, while James Barone helps out on drums. The couple met at college while both were studying philosophy and have been recording for a couple of years focusing on a surf-laced brand of electro-indie pop. More on them at tennis-music.com, where you can stream plenty of goodies and have enormous fun following the instruction 'Spray To Reveal'. More at tennis-music.com.
Artist: Emeli Sande, Scotland
Notes: One of six absolute pearls from her breakout album from a couple of years ago. Born Adele Emily Gouraguine in England to a Zambian mother, but brought up in Scotland from the age of four, she wrote her first song at eleven and was originally going to pursue a career in medicine before thankfully committing to music instead. Already a successful songwriter for other British acts including Leona Lewis, Susan Boyle and the overrated Cheryl Cole before taking solo flight, her debut album was a multi-platinum success around the world - except over here. She's just added her considerable talent to Band Aid 30 and it's new version of 'Do They Know It's Christmas?' More at us.emelisande.com.
Song: Grand Union
Artist: Arthur Beatrice, England
Album: Working Out, 2014
Notes: An intriguingly low-key song from a below-the-radar English group which tried hard to hide its identity when first emerging in 2010 - relying solely on word-of-mouth. Formed by frontman Orlando Leopard, keyboardist/singer Ella Girardot and siblings Hamish and Elliot providing the rhythm section, they released their debut album this spring - hotly touted by British press including the ever-reliable Guardian newspaper and music paper, the NME. They have a simple website at online-presence.info, but more can be found at their facebook page - facebook.com/arthurbeatrice.
Song: Maple Tree
Artist: Angel Taylor, Sylmar, CA
Album: Love Travels, 2009
Notes: The vocal bridge on this lost diamond is actually too good. When L&F started nearly more than three years ago, a different song from her remarkable debut album was played for the first 14 weeks. One of most underrated young female singer-songwriters out there, she's a 20-something songstress based in Los Angeles with just a couple of EPs and one album to date. No website, but some information at facebook.com/angeltaylor.
Artist: Michael Franti & Spearhead, Oakland, CA
Album: All Rebel Rockers, 2009
Notes: The far superior of the two different versions available. 'All Rebel Rockers' is Franti's most directly Jamaican-styled long-player to date, produced by the iconic reggae rhythm team of Sly & Robbie and recorded in Kingston Town. Oakland born and still San Francisco-based, a longtime advocate of the environment and world peace, Franti made a film to promote peace in the Middle East in 2006 called 'I Know I'm Not Alone' which he made out of his 'frustration with watching the nightly news and hearing generals, politicians, and pundits explaining the political and economic cost of the war in the Middle East, without ever mentioning the human cost. I wanted to hear about the war by the people affected by it most: doctors, nurses, poets, artists, soldiers, and my personal favorite, musicians.' More at michaelfranti.com.
Song: You've Got The Style
Artist: Athlete, England
Album: Vehicles And Animals, 2002
Notes: 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. One of several fine cuts featured on that debut, showcasing the songwriting and vocals chops of their ridiculously talented frontman, Joel Pott. There have been four grossly under-appreciated albums since, but other than 2012's 'Live At Union Chapel' there has been no new music from them for five years. More at athlete.mu.
Artist: The Wind and the Wave, Austin, TX
Album: From The Wreckage, 2014
Notes: Another one of a half-dozen superior cuts from the duo's stunning freshman longplayer, which is knee-deep in rootsy, rustic golden tunes, highly recommended and one of the best Americana albums of the year. New York Times also raves: 'An eclectic, radio friendly cycle that ranges from dreamy pop to foot-stomping Americana'. In-tune creative duo and best friends, Patricia Lynn and Dwight Baker (apparently Baker is the Wind and Lynn the Wave) hail from Austin, Texas. They met in 2009, when music veteran Baker (his song 'Hole' appeared on Kelly Clarkson's 'My December' album) was persuaded to go and see a friend's band - the opening act featured Lynn. More at thewindandthewave.com.
Song: San Francisco
Artist: Foxygen, Agoura Hills, CA
Notes: Some '60s-laced psych/pop from an indie-rock duo comprising Jonathan Rado and wacky frontman Sam France who puts on quite a show in concert, likely to smash himself in the face with his microphone, berate and accost hecklers and generally misbehave - indeed he broke his leg after falling offstage at a gig in Minneapolis last year. You might witness some of this errant behavior onstage on the West Coast in the coming weeks, promoting their brand new album '... And Star Power'. For dates go to foxygentheband.com//tour.php.
Artist: Garrett Gue, Bozeman, MT
Album: Tall Drink O'Water, 2009
Notes: A delightful acoustic confection from an obscure banjo/guitar player based out of Bozeman, Montana. He took up guitar at the age of eight and has been quietly eking out a living playing in small venues around the northwest. He's wrapping up a tour supporting Deep Sea Diver. For details go to thedeepseadiver.com.
Song: I Heard
Artist: Young Fathers, Scotland/Nigeria/Liberia
Album: Tape Two, 2013
Notes: Recent winner for the prestigious Mercury Music Prize in the UK, Young Fathers is a trio based in Scotland comprising Nigerian Kayus Bankole, Liberian Alloysious Massaquoi and 'G' Hastings, a local lad from Edinburgh. Formed in 2008, and describing themselves as a 'psychedelic hip hop boy band', they have released two EPs ('Tape One' in 2011 and 'Tape Two' last year), while their debut album 'Dead' bowed to critical acclaim (and the Mercury win at the beginning of the year. More at young-fathers.com.
Song: Don't You Want Me
Artist: Neon Trees, Provo, UT
Notes: Founded by neighbors Tyler Glenn and Chris Allen in 2005, releasing the EP ' Becoming Different People' the following year, their big breakthrough came in 2008 when they opened for The Killers on a North American tour. They released their debut album, 'Habits', in 2010, followed by 'Picture Show' two years later, from which this Human League cover comes. Their third album, 'Pop Psychology', came out at the beginning of the year. More at fameisdead.com.
Song: Don't You Want Me
Artist: Human League, England
Album: Dare, 1981
Notes: The British new-wave synth-pop band's signature tune - a smash around the world back in 1981/2. It even re-charted in the UK earlier this year after being taken up by fans of Aberdeen Football Club. The group's leader Phil Oakey and his two rather vocally anonymous backing singers Joanne Catherall and Susan Ann Sulley (Victoria Beckham cites Sulley as her inspiration to get involved in pop music - so now we know who to blame) still tour.