Song: Can You Dig It?
Artist: Mock Turtles, England
Album: Turtle Soup, 1989
Notes: A rare extended mix version of the group's signature tune, which somehow failed to chart in the US back in 1991. So much great indie rock has come out of Manchester, England - the band's home base. They were around for some eight years from 1985, led by Martin Coogan - the brother of terrific British comic actor, Steve Coogan, he of 'The Trip' films and the Oscar-nominated 'Philomena'. These days Martin runs Vibe Studios where the likes of the Mock Turtles, Stone Roses and Inspiral Carpets once recorded.
Song: Hold Back The River
Artist: James Bay, England
Notes: Touted by one and all as a breakthrough artist of 2015, but already in the L&F vault from last year - naturally. Sporting long locks and a stylish black hat, the 25-year-old British singer-songwriter hails from Hertfordshire, just north of London, and made his name performing regularly at Communion Records monthly musical showcases at the hip Notting Hill Arts Club, before filling opening slots for Kodaline and John Newman. An alumnus of the Brighton Institute of Music on the south coast of England, he's released just a couple of EPs to date. This number previews his upcoming 'Chaos and Calm' debut album which will drop next month, but is already available as a digital single. After a couple of American dates at the end of March, he returns for a two-week tour starting in New York on April 29th. More at jamesbaymusic.com.
Song: Prayer In C
Artist: Robin Schulz & Lilly Wood and The Prick, Germany
Album: Prayer, 2014
Notes: The rather nifty radio edit of a track already huge all over Europe. The in-vogue German DJ, remixer, producer and all-round clever chap Schulz added his magic to a song originally recorded by French-Israeli folk-pop duo Lilly Wood and The Prick in 2010. Still in his 20s, he came to prominence last year as the electronic whiz behind the Mr. Probz smash, 'Waves' and his album is full of similarly smart remixes and updates, including his dazzling upgrade of Coldplay's 'A Sky Full of Stars'. More at robin-schulz.com/en/.
Artist: Family of the Year, Los Angeles, CA
Album: Loma Vista, 2012
Notes: This lost classic recently got a very welcome shot in the arm via its prominent inclusion in the Oscar-nominated 'Boyhood' flick, but it was first featured on L&F in October 2012 and was indeed named as our song of the year back then. The Los Angeles-based melodic indie rocking quartet are fronted by Massachusetts-born brothers, Joseph and Sebastian Keefe, who spent their teens in sunny Wales in the UK. They formed the group in 2009 and are currently working on their third album. Replete with folk-styled acoustic guitar, a smart hook-filled melody and a summery West Coast sound, it's the kind of record Emitt Rhodes made so brilliantly and effortlessly some forty years ago. More at familyoftheyear.net.
Song: Can't Love Me
Artist: Novi, Ashland, OR
Album: Not available
Notes: Haunting, dark, top-notch new electro-pop from a singer now based in Los Angeles whose real name is Carolyne Neuman. She selected her performing moniker from the latin phrase homo novus which means 'New Man'. Just one album to date from 2011 and a trickle of one-off singles - this terrific cut is not yet available. More on her at iamnovi.com.
Song: Someday Never Comes
Artist: Brandi Carlile, Ravendale, WA
Album: Brandi Carlile, 2005
Notes: The Washington state native began her career taking up the guitar and songwriting at 15, before making her name around the clubs and coffee bars in Seattle performing with her twin brothers Phil and Tom Hanseroth. Her breakthrough came of course with her signature hit 'The Story' - indeed her album of the same name sold more than 300,000 copies in the US. After five sterling long-players on Columbia Records, she's now signed to Dave Matthews' excellent ATO Records label which will issue her new longplayer 'The Firewatcher's Daughter' next month. More at brandicarlile.com.
Artist: Catfish & The Bottlemen, Wales
Album: The Balcony, 2014
Notes: Choppy, urgent, rewarding punk-pop from yet another promising signing to Communion Records, which was co-founded a few years ago by Mumford & Sons multi-instrumentalist whiz Ben Lovett in London's Notting Hill which also boasts the likes of Michael Kiwanuka, Ben Howard and Foy Vance on its roster. The group is a Welsh four-piece firmly fronted by songwriter and lead singer Van McCann, that has been performing since 2007. They're currently on the road over here. For details: catfishandthebottlemen.com.
Song: Lost Without Your Love
Artist: Bread, Tulsa, OK/Cincinnati, OH/Bell, CA/Oakland, CA
Album: Lost Without Your Love, 1977
Notes: If we had love before, we can have it back once more' - an effortless pairing of simple romantic lyrics with simply timeless melodies. The title track from the sixth and final studio album from a quartet that ruled the pop airwaves during the 1970s, behind the pen of its leader David Gates. Sadly, drummer Mike Botts, guitarist/vocalist James Griffin and multi-instrumentalist Larry Knechtel are no longer with us.
Song: She Moves (Far Away)
Artist: Alle Farben featuring Graham Candy, Germany/New Zealand
Notes: Infectious German ear candy from a 2014 EP which also includes three remixes but also the standout cut from Farben's freshman set, 'Synesthesia - I Think In Colours'. Alle Farben - which translates as 'all colors' - is the performing name of German DJ-producer Frans Zimmer, born and still based in Berlin. The guest vocalist with a quirky high-range vocal style comes from New Zealand, a sometime actor who relocated to Berlin in 2013 to pursue his musical muse. More at alle-farben.com and grahamcandymusic.com.
Song: Burslem Normals
Artist: Robbie Williams, England
Album: Rude Box, 2006
Notes: This song was titled after a bit of graffiti the singer saw in his home town of Burslem, England, where his parents used to run a pub. There's an hilarious video featuring the song as its backing theme - called 'Leaving Home' about a precocious young lad leaving home at the age of 7. Check it out at youtube.com/watch?v=dSvS6NzX62I. One of the biggest pop stars on the planet over past two decades - he is reportedly worth north of '100 million but he's never scored a hit on these shores, another weird music mystery. More at robbiewilliams.com.
Song: It's You
Artist: Daniel Martin Moore, Elizabethtown, KY
Album: Stray Age, 2008
Notes: A delightful and affectionate, simple ditty from a Kentucky born and raised tunesmith who sent an unsolicited demo to the always groovy Sub Pop label in 2007 after leaving the Peace Corps. The label immediately snapped him up, since when he's released five albums, the last two on his own OK Recordings. More at danielmartinmoore.com, where you can stream a more recent cut, 'Proud As We Are'.
Song: You Are My Melody
Artist: Change, Italy/New York, NY
Album: Change Of Heart, 1984
Notes: Lead vocalist Rick Brennan, sounding for all the world like a soul sibling to Luther Vandross (who was Change's original lead vocalist), remains completely unknown after his three year stint with this R&B/dance project. The vision of French/Italian entrepreneur Jacques Fred Petrus and Italian songwriter and producer Maura Malavasi, who formed the revolving R&B studio band in Italy in 1979. They enlisted super-producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis in 1984 to revive the group's fortunes for their fifth LP with stunning results, though it failed to crack the Top 100 over here.
Song: Always Forever
Artist: Grace Mitchell, Australia
Album: Design [EP], 2014
Notes: All four tracks from her stunning maiden EP have now been spun on 'L&F'. 16-year old Grace Mitchell is a freshly minted Australian songstress blessed with authentic songwriting chops who also boasts a remarkably mature vocal sound. Originally from Queensland, Australia, but now based in Portland, Oregon, her only previous release was a fun cover version of the Daryl Hall & John Oates' oldie 'Maneater', which was included on 'The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty' soundtrack in 2013. Named as one of the 'New Music Stars of 2015' by the New York Daily News. More at gracemitchell.com.
Song: Perfectly Yours
Artist: Robert Francis, Los Angeles, CA
Notes: A song that swings along so easily from a 25-year-old tunesmith with the nuanced grit in his baritone belying his age. Given a guitar by family friend Ry Cooder when he was nine, he's cut four albums since bowing in 2007 with a fifth long-player, 'Empire Blues' due later in the year. 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 at robertfrancismusic.com.
Song: Too Far Gone
Artist: Sir Sly, Los Angeles, CA
Album: You Haunt Me, 2014
Notes: A Los Angeles-based indie pop trio signed to Jimmy Iovine's Interscope label comprising frontman Landon Jacobs, Jason Suqito and Hayden Coplen. They released the EP 'Gold' back in May 2013 with preceded their debut album 'You Haunt Me. They're currently on the road with 'L&F' favorites Kongos. More at sir-sly.com.
Artist: Elton John, England
Album: Caribou, 1974
Notes: The closing track of Elton's multi platinum-selling album from 1974 saw lyricist Bernie Taupin pushing the singer to the limits on the seven-minute plus tragic story-telling lost classic. Despite several earnest attempts in recent years to return to the quality of his earlier repertoire - not least with his last album 'The Diving Board -, his great songwriting days seem to be behind him.
Song: I Know
Artist: Meaghan Smith, Canada
Notes: An intro that sounds like vintage Patsy Cline, then evolves in a lovely throwback ballad with clarinet to the fore, with dashes of kd lang and Bjork. Firmly in an early Norah Jones frame, the bluesy vintage retro stylings of a Canadian songbird who is one of four sibling sisters and ironically the only one who can't read music. She was named Best New Artist at the Juno Awards north of the border in 2011. Married for ten years to her musical collaborator and singer-songwriter Jason Mingo - they welcomed their first child last autumn. More on her at meaghansmith.com.
Song: Archie, Marry Me
Artist: Alvvays, Canada
Album: Alvvays, 2014
Notes: Effortlessly recalling '90s alt-rock, Toronto indie-rock combo Alvvays (pronounced Aalways') with an anti-cliched wedding anthem. The band has been around for just a couple of years, fronted by Molly Rankin - part of the next generation of the popular Rankin Family group from Canada. Their sterling self-titled debut set which emerged last year was hailed by Rolling Stone magazine as an 'indie-pop wonder'. More at alvvays.com.
Artist: Boxer Rebellion, Maryville, TN/Australia/England
Album: Promises, 2013
Notes: Still the high mark in the 14-year career of a band that arrived on the UK scene at the tail-end of BritRock in 2001, comprising an American lead singer, Nathan Nicholson, an Australian, Todd Howe and two Englishmen, Adam Harrison and Piers Hewitt. The high point of their performing career so far was probably opening for the Rolling Stones in Hyde Park in London last summer. A limited edition all vinyl boxed set is due for release next month for die-hard fans. Details at theboxerrebellion.com.
Song: She Loves Him Still
Artist: Stevie Nicks, Phoenix, AZ
Notes: The unmistakable trembling soprano of Stevie Nicks on a track from her eighth solo album, '24 Karat Gold: Songs From The Vault', comprising polished versions of demos she created between 1969 and 1987, described by New York Daily News music critic Jim Farber as 'too much for the casual listener but catnip for the devoted'. She began her professional recording career in 1967 when she was invited to join the Fritz Rabyne Memorial Band by her erstwhile high-school friend Lindsey Buckingham. So devoted to her career in music, she forsook having children to concentrate on her art and craft, revealing in an interview on ABC-TV in 2001, 'My mission maybe wasn't to be a mom and a wife; maybe my particular mission was to write songs to make moms and wives feel better.' The seminal lineup of Fleetwood Mac with Christine McVie is coming to the end of its comeback tour. More at rockalittle.com/main.htm and fleetwoodmac.com.
Song: World A Music
Artist: Ini Kamoze, Jamaica
Album: Ini Kamoze [EP], 1984
Notes: Deconstructed rock-steady bliss, the essence of reggae in its most organic form, with some delayed dub-step echo added in for flavor. Recorded with and produced by the legendary Jamaican rhythm section Sly & Robbie, it's a lost reggae classic and became the sampled backing track, indeed the very foundation for the iconic gangsta reggae/rapped 'Welcome To Jamrock' by Damien Marley in 2005. Born Cecil Campbell in 1957 in Jamaica, Kamoze (his name means 'mountain of the true God') recorded his first sides in 1981 but went on to have a global smash with 'Here Comes The Hotstepper' in 1994.
Song: When Love Breaks Down
Artist: Snow Patrol, Northern Ireland/Scotland/England
Notes: The Paddy McAloon song now thirty years old brought bang up to date by one of the best band's around today. It was featured in last year's British comedy movie 'I Give It A Year', which starred Anna Faris, Simon Baker and the always amusing Stephen Merchant who was Ricky Gervais' hapless agent in the original 'Extras' series. The soundtrack also features tracks by Dizzee Rascal, Zero 7, Corinne Bailey and Kristina Train. The song's been recorded by Colin Blunstone, Lisa Stansfield and Kate Walsh over the years, but the Prefab Sprout original and this version remain the best. More at snowpatrol.com.
Song: My Match
Artist: Odessa, Santa Rosa, CA
Album: Odessa [EP], 2014
Notes: The quiet restrained tones of Odessa Rose, a Californian songstress in her mid-20s who was born in Santa Rosa but is now firmly lodged in Los Angeles. She has been touring with a wide variety of bands since 2008, but her maiden EP, a self-titled 4-track gem, only finally emerged in September - its focus cut, 'I Will Be There' is already a mainstay on this program. She's touring through the end of March. More at thisisodessa.com.
Artist: Paul Cook & The Chronicles, England
Album: Candlelight [single], 2012
Notes: No fuss, no bother, just a simple melody and an endearing vocal from an obscure young London-based singer-songwriter, released as a single to universal disinterest in 2012 on the Grandpa Stan indie label. His music is informed by the likes of The Shins, Kurt Vile, Cass McCombs, and Paul Simon. After a quiet period, he returned with a new EP last month called 'Night Fires'. More at paulcookchronicles.com.
Song: What Is Love
Artist: Kiesza, Canada
Album: Sound of a Woman, 2014
Notes: An unexpected stripped down, slowed down treatment of Haddaway's original 1993 global pop/dance smash by Canadian singer-songwriter Kiesza Rae Ellestad. A dancer and model from Alberta, a former reserve sailor in the Royal Canadian Navy and a former Miss Universe Canada contestant, she recently pitched a bunch of songs to Rihanna, so clearly a fearless young lady and still only 26. She begins a US tour in Atlanta on March 30th. More at kiesza.com.
Song: State of Art
Artist: Friends Again, Scotland
Album: Trapped And Unwrapped (1984)
Notes: An early '80s Scottish group based in Glasgow that only released one album, one EP and four singles, but were extremely influential in pioneering similarly jangly, modern pop-rock which emerged from the region, such as Aztec Camera and Lloyd Cole. They were a plucky five-piece fronted by Chris Thomson and James Grant. After the split, Grant and fellow band members Paul McGeechan and Stuart Kerr went on to form Love & Money, who were equally underrated, despite cutting four albums, one of which was produced by Steely Dan's producer Gary Katz and had Jeff Porcaro on drums. They also opened for U2 and performed at the Artists Against Apartheid concert in Scotland.
Song: Last Call
Artist: Lee Ann Womack, Jacksonville, TX
Album: Call Me Crazy, 2008
Notes: Superior country music, strong lyrics, great melody, a terrific break-up song from a woman who's simply had enough. Texas born and bred, a huge country star who still works her craft in an old-school style, this was the lead-off single - rarely heard outside country radio - from her 2008 album. Named #58 on Rolling Stone magazine's best songs of that year, it was co-written by top Nashville composer Shane McAnally, the man behind hits for the likes of Lady Antebellum, Kenny Chesney as well as the wonderful Kacey Musgraves. After a six-year break from recording, she returned last year with the album 'The Way I'm Livin''. More at leeannwomack.com.
Artist: Savoir Adore, Brooklyn, NY
Album: Our Nature, 2013
Notes: Dreamy alt-rock, described as 'fantasy pop' by the Brooklyn vocal duo of Paul Hammer and Deidre Muro. They have been together as a combo since 2007, initially releasing the delightfully titled EP 'The Adventures Of Mr. Pumpernickel And The Girl With Animals In Her Throat'. They've become critics' faves in recent times and remain a sturdy fixture on the New York indie scene. More at savoiradore.com.
Artist: Keaton Simons, Los Angeles, CA
Album: Currently [EP], 2004
Notes: An easy swaying, old-school vocal and tasteful arrangement from a Los Angeles-based tunesmith, on the title track from the underrated singer-songwriter's first album, which had a bunch of A list talent helping out, including co-writers Jason Reeves, Glen Phillips and Jason Mraz. Simons is also a bit of an actor on the side, popping up in 'Malcolm in The Middle' and the movie 'Hollywood Dreams' - and indeed made a rather fun cameo on last season's finale of Showtime's 'Californication' series. He's also a regular at the best music venue in Hollywood, the Hotel Cafe which will celebrate its 15th anniversary this year. When his parents divorced, his mother married actor Eric Roberts. That probably makes Julia Roberts his step-aunt. More at keatonsimons.com.
Song: The Wilhelm Scream
Artist: Bamboos featuring Megan Washington, Australia
Album: Medicine Man, 2012
Notes: Completely overlooked soulful majesty from a nine-piece Australian combo led by Kiwi bandleader Lance Ferguson, who put together the band back in 2000. A lovely retro joy, kissed by the smokey vocals of guest singer Megan Washington, that can be streamed on their website thebamboos.com. The album from which this comes also features contributions from the likes of Daniel Merriweather and the finally in-vogue Aloe Blacc. The band's sixth album, 'Fever In The Road', which arrived last year, is also worth checking out.
Song: Spilt Milk
Artist: Kristina Train, New York, NY
Album: Split Milk, 2009
Notes: A sobering lost classic from the peerless Ms. Train, yet another A+ pearl buried on her impeccable sophomore opus. Born in New York, raised in Savannah and now living in London, this superlative singer-songwriter released a gorgeous debut album in 2009 that died a death. After touring with Herbie Hancock as his lead singer and without a record contract, she flew to London and began co-writing songs with Martin Craft, Simon Aldred, Justin Parker and L&F favorite Ed Harcourt. She's currently on the road with The Wood Brothers, through the 27th. For details: kristinatrain.com.
Song: Smokin' Love
Artist: Stick Figure featuring Collie Buddz, Duxbury, MA/San Diego, CA/New Orleans, LA
Album: Smokin' Love [single], 2014
Notes: An infectious piano roll which you'll be humming all day long on a slice of reggae lite from Southern California, a one-off digital single from last summer by Stick Figure featuring Bermudian dancehall reggae artist, Collie Buddz. Stick Figure revolves around frontman Scott Woodruff who writes and produces all their material and has now become a forerunner in the contemporary American reggae movement which also includes Rebelution, The Green and the Expendables among others. Five ganja-flavored albums since bowing in 2006 and they're on the road right now. Details at stickfiguremusic.com.
Artist: Caitlin Harnett, Australia
Album: The River Runs North, 2014
Notes: A young lady from Sydney, Australia, who blew the roof off the place at last year's NXNE Music Festival in Toronto, with a recent gem, featuring delectable horns and strings swirling around, offering a splash of Joni Mitchell and Judee Sill, which is no bad thing. A pleasing Laurel Canyon feel glosses her entire new album, her first, which also features a duet with L&F alumnus Kathleen Edwards. It's an outstanding collection and one of the best singer-songwriter sets of 2014. Emma Dallas of PAN Magazine said of Caitlin's music: 'Her sound is earnest and wonderfully simply, like a straight answer in a sea of bullshit'. More at caitlinharnett.com.
Song: Starting Again
Artist: Gustaf Spetz, Sweden
Album: Good Night Mr. Spetz, 2009
Notes: A quirky, off-beat but winning offering from another fine Scandinavian indie-popster. He formerly fronted the nordic group, Eskju Divine, which once opened for the Smashing Pumpkins before going solo about six years ago. He released his debut 'Good Night Mr. Spetz' in 2009 and followed it with 'Saknaden' in 2013. He has a website (gustafspetz.com), but it's in Swedish.
Song: Games People Play
Artist: Lissie, Rock Island, IL
Notes: A faithful remake of Joe South's 1968 hit from the singer-songwriter born Elisabeth Corrin Maurus. She got her break opening for Lenny Kravitz back in 2007, and has released a couple of albums and five EPs since then. She's also seen plenty of her catalog used in film and TV, including 'House', 'Veronica Mars' and 'Californication'. More at lissie.com.
Song: Games People Play
Artist: Joe South, Atlanta, GA
Album: Classic Masters, 2002
Notes: The artist's own version of his Grammy-winning Song of the Year with its socially-conscience lyrics still relevant five decades later. South began his career as a session musician, adding his terrific guitar playing to records by Bob Dylan and Aretha Franklin - and as a songwriter penning four consecutive hits for Billy Joe Royal, as well as 'Rose Garden' for Lynn Anderson. He passed away in 2012, but has a well-kept website at joesouth.com.