Song: Under The Pressure
Artist: War On Drugs, Philadelphia, PA
Album: Lost In The Dream, 2014
Notes: A still grossly underloved corker from last year by a band fronted by Adam Granduciel, who started out as a member of Kurt Vile and The Violators before forming The War On Drugs with the aforementioned Vile in 2005. The group released its solo debut, 'Wagonwheel Blues', in 2008. Vile left shortly thereafter to pursue a solo career and a second WOD album, 'Slave Ambient', followed in 2011. They're currently on the road, including appearances at Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza. Dates at thewarondrugs.net.
Song: Wishing Well
Artist: Josh Osho, England
Album: L.I.F.E., 2012
Notes: A catchy chorus on a slice of delicious new school R&B from a fab contemporary soul singer-songwriter talent not long out of his teens. The son of an Irish mother and Nigerian father, he left home at 16 but ended up becoming homeless but then got his act together a couple of years later determined on a career in music. He was quickly snapped up by the venerable Island Records label which issued his debut long-player. He's just added his guest vocals to Sid Pattni's 'Being Human' latest single. More at facebook.com/JoshOshoMusic.
Song: When The Night Comes
Artist: Dan Auerbach, Akron, OH
Album: Keep It Hid, 2009
Notes: The softer side of one-half of indie rockers the Black Keys with the gorgeous soft folk shuffler from his 2009 solo effort, which remains his only solo outing to date. Born and still based in Akron, Ohio, he began his musical career in The Barnburners, who released one record, 'The Rawboogie' EP, before he teamed up with drummer Patrick Carney to form The Black Keys in 2001. The duo hits the road in a couple of weeks with an appearance at the Bunbury Festival. More at theblackkeys.com.
Artist: Laleh, Iran
Notes: Issued as single in Europe last year and now available here, Laleh with a fab indie-pop anthem, Speaking of Truth. Born Laleh Pourkari in Iran in 1982, she ended up with her family in Sweden after earlier seeking refuge in Azerbaijan, then Belarus and finally a refugee camp in Tidaholm, Sweden. Initially setting out on an acting career, she switched to music via her own production company in 2003 and quickly became a chart-topping act in Sweden. Five Top 3 domestic albums and a slew of hit singles have established her as a household name on home turf. The truly dire 'The Royals' TV series on E! TV recently featured this number in one of its shows. More at laleh.se.
Song: Looking For The Summer
Artist: Chris Rea, England
Album: Auberge, 1991
Notes: A fabulously breezy shuffling lost gem from an accomplished guitarist firmly in the J.J. Cale/Mark Knopfler mold, who made inroads in the US with his debut record 'Whatever Happened To Benny Santini?' back in 1978, since when - despite releasing a string of first-rate albums - has had little success over here. He has sold more than 30 million albums around the world over a 30-plus year career and is still musically active, although he hasn't released any new material since 2011. More at facebook.com/ChrisReaOfficial.
Artist: Massive Attack, England
Album: Mezzanine, 1998
Notes: Such rich and original aural textures all over this track, the haunting heartbeat theme to the much-missed hit medical drama TV series 'House', featuring the wonderful Hugh Laurie. Originally found on the stunning 1998 album 'Mezzanine', the song was written by the Bristol, England-based trip-hop pioneers Robert Del Naja and Grant Marshall on the harpsichord - and they first wanted Madonna to take the lead vocal and sent her the backing track - but instead they ended up using the more ethereal and ghostly tones of the wonderful Elisabeth Fraser instead - she of Cocteau Twins fame. They're still going strong and for what they're up to these days, check out massiveattack.co.uk.
Song: Town Called Malice
Artist: Jam, England
Album: The Gift, 1982
Notes: Motown-tinged post-punk from the trio which comprised Paul Weller, Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler and released 33 years ago, going on to top the UK singles chart. Written, as was all of the group's major repertoire, by frontman Weller, who has of course gone on to forge a successful solo career - this song recalls Weller's working class teenage roots in the English town of Woking. Weller continues to make first-rate music - his latest, 'Saturns Pattern', has just been released in the UK. More on him at paulweller.com.
Song: This One's For You
Artist: Ed Harcourt, England
Album: Strangers, 2004
Notes: A lovely, easy-flowing gem from Edward Henry Richard Harcourt-Smith. The sadly underrated tunesmith from Wimbledon in west London used to be in a band with the rather lovely name Snug. He's released five studio albums since 'Strangers', the most recent, 'Time Of Dust', was issued last year and has just recorded a track for Paul Hartnoll's new project '8:58'. More at edharcourt.com.
Song: Maybe Tomorrow
Artist: Molly Jenson, San Diego, CA
Album: Maybe Tomorrow, 2009
Notes: Since winning Best Acoustic Act at the 2007 San Diego Music Awards, this 30-something singer-songwriter released one album, produced by Greg Laswell, before virtually disappearing, until contributing 'Christmas Don't Be Late' and 'Baby It's Cold Outside' to the 'A Christmas Together Vol. 3' compilation in 2012. According to her twitter account she plays music, shoots videos, does voice overs and paints. More at mollyjenson.com.
Song: Until The Morning
Artist: Lost Brothers, Ireland
Notes: HBO should have used this track on a 'True Blood' promo - an atypical curiosity from an otherwise bluegress high country set. The Lost Brothers are the unrelated Irish duo of Oisin Leech and Mark McCausland, and somewhat of a critics' favorite in Britain. The album was, however, recorded in Nashville under the guidance of Brendan Benson who's a member of Jack White's the Raconteurs - and a top tunesmith in his own right - indeed 'The Passing of the Night' was released on Brendan's own Readyade Records label. More at thelostbrothersband.com.
Song: Can't Get Enough
Artist: Rivvrs, San Francisco, CA
Album: Hold On [EP], 2014
Notes: Soulful folk pop and another cracking offering from last year's fab EP, Rivvrs is the performing name of folk-pop tunesmith Brandon Zahursky, who's based in San Francisco where he's developing a loyal following. Extracts from the EP have already been used on several TV shows including 'About A Boy' and 'Red Band Society'. Stream this cut again at rivvrs.com.
Song: Monkey Tree
Artist: Mother Mother, Canada
Album: Very Good Bad Thing, 2014
Notes: Already a mini hit north of the border for a Canadian quintet celebrating its first decade together. Formed in Vancouver by frontman, guitarist Ryan Guldemond, originally naming the combo simply Mother but adding another Mother to avoid legal issues over the singular moniker. Four indie albums prior to being picked up by Universal Records Canada last year for their major label debut. They've just set out on a headlining US tour through the beginning of July. More at mothermothersite.com/usa/.
Song: Ghost In The Machine
Artist: The Fire & The Sea, Los Angeles, CA/Miami, FL
Notes: The close-harmony class and soul-searching of L&F alumni Kyler England and Adrianne Gonzalez, recently uniting as a new duo. They initially got together in 2008 as part of the quartet The Rescues, becoming known for their song 'My Heart Is With You', which was featured in 'Pretty Little Liars' and last year England had a successful collaboration with DJ Tiesto on the track 'Take Me'. Gonzalez has also joined up with Garrison Starr to form the duo The Silent War, and are currently on the road with The Weepies. More at thefireandthesea.com and thesilentwarmusic.com.
Song: Open Arms
Artist: Gary Go, England
Album: Gary Go, 2009
Notes: An ideal meld of smart melodies, top-drawer production and smart lyrics, on one of five note-perfect lost crackers on his eponymous 2009 CD. Born Gary Baker, he's a London-based, multi-media maven, very much a tech whiz, top songwriter and also a visual artist who makes interesting short films - the only negative on his resume is that Lady Gaga named him as her 'favorite new artist this year' in 2009 - clearly not his fault though. He's also recently co-wrote and co-produced Rihanna's 'Towards The Sun' from the 'Home' soundtrack. More at garygo.tv.
Song: I'm All Right
Artist: Madeleine Peyroux, Athens, GA
Album: Half The Perfect World, 2006
Notes: A breezy lilting delight co-written with one Walter Becker, one half of Steely Dan of course, from a grossly underloved CD from 2006. Often compared to Billie Holiday in her vocal style, Madeleine was born in Athens, Georgia but grew up in New York before moving with her mother to Paris at the age of 13, where she learned to play the ukulele from her mother and began busking around the streets of the French capitol at the age of 15 and was much influenced by the smokey jazz flavours of the Latin Quarter. There have been five carefully crafted albums since her 1996 debut, including 2013's 'The Blue Room', which examined the influence Ray Charles' 1962 album 'Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music' had on music. She begins a tour next week at the Spoleto Festival. Dates at madeleinepeyroux.com.
Artist: Matt Simons, New York, NY
Album: Catch & Release, 2014
Notes: The Deepend Remix of a sweet and simple lost gem from last year by a singer-songwriter who grew up in Palo Alto before settling in New York. Currently more popular in the Netherlands where an earlier tune 'With You' became one of the Top 30 best-selling singles of 2013. Conversant on both the piano and sax, he's a big drawer in parts of Europe but still consigned to playing small clubs and bars in the Big Apple - he's playing seven dates in the US in July. Two long-players to date, both revealing a keen sense of songwriting and melody. More at mattsimonsmusic.com.
Artist: Naomi, Germany
Album: Everyone Loves You, 2002
Notes: Smart, soothing electronica pop from the debut set from German duo of Nico Tobias Wirtz and Bernd Lechler. They have been working together since the late '90s based in Berlin, and recorded this first CD in their apartment studio. Amnesty International used the number in an awareness promo some years ago. Nothing new from them since 2010's 'The Big Shapes'. More at thisisnaomi.com.
Song: Tell Me You Still Care
Artist: S.O.S. Band, Atlanta, GA
Album: On The Rise, 1983
Notes: Written and produced by the incomparable Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who have helmed hits for the likes of Janet Jackson, George Michael and even Human League. The band itself, assembled in 1977, still performs today, with its original lead singer, Mary Davis, back in the fold after leaving the lineup for seven years. Jackson sampled the song for her 2006 hit 'Call On Me.'
Song: Eyes Closed
Artist: Narrative, New York, NY
Album: Just Say Yes [EP], 2008
Notes: A New York duo comprising Suzie Zeldin and Jesse Gabriel. Still performing together, though Jesse released a solo album titled 'Here, Sit, Stay' under the abbreviated J. Gabriel moniker while Suzie toured with the folk band Twin Forks. if this sweet number takes your fancy, keep up with them at thenarrativemusic.com.
Song: This Is The Last Time
Artist: Keane, England
Album: Hopes And Fears, 2004
Notes: Despite its note-perfect radio-ready beats and melodies and four different promotional videos, this lost gem was never a hit in the US. After four albums, five world tours and a greatest hits package released last year, the English band is on an extended hiatus, taking a well-deserved breather, while there is a rumor that lead singer Tom Chaplin has been toying around with a solo album. More at keanemusic.com.
Song: A Song For You
Artist: Ray Charles, Albany, GA
Album: My World, 1993
Notes: Perhaps the best version of one of the greatest songs ever written by Leon Russell, described by Elton John, who cut a whole album with him a few years back, as 'an American Classic'. Russell recorded it for his solo debut back in 1970, since when the song has been covered by dozens of artists over the years, including Herbie Hancock, Dusty Springfield, Aretha Franklin, Joe Cocker, The Carpenters, Simply Red, Elton, Beyonce and James Taylor.
Artist: X Ambassadors, Ithaca, NY
Album: VHS, 2015
Notes: Discovered by Imagine Dragons who urged their record label Interscope to sign them up, X Ambassadors is an alternative folk-rock quartet Hailing from Ithaca, they have been together for about five years, fronted by Sam Harris who is showing a real knack for writing a good hook: Rihanna's current single 'American Oxygen' was co-scripted by him. The band is touring all summer long, some gigs opening for Milky Chance - dates at XAmbassadors.com.
Song: Ships Pass
Artist: Paul Cook & The Chronicles, England
Album: Volume Two, 2013
Notes: Simple melancholy musings from a little-known young London-based singer-songwriter, his music is informed by the likes of The Shins, Kurt Vile, Cass McCombs, and Paul Simon. A few other worthwhile tunes are available at paulcookchronicles.com, including his recent five-track EP 'Night Fires' released back in January.
Song: Somebody To Love
Artist: Valerie June, Jackson, TN
Notes: Marvelous, equal parts vinegar and honey, with a voice unlike any otherwhich is a rare thing these days. A haunting, authentically raw lost ruby, co-produced by Black Key Dan Auerbach (see above). Born in Franklin, Tennessee and weaned on gospel, blues and R&B, she began her music career in her late teens in Memphis. She opened for nu-folkie Jake Bugg on a UK tour last year and will be playing a handful of festival dates this summer. More at her Organic Moonshine Roots Music site - valeriejune.com.
Song: Just Kids
Artist: Mat Kearney, Eugene, OR
Album: Just Kids, 2015
Notes: A restrained hip-hop laced electro-folk-pop blend from an L&F regular, from his new set which he recorded at his Nashville home, on his tour bus and in Sweden. A talented soccer player in his youth, he earned an athletic soccer scholarship to Cal State in Chico, but a career in music eventually called as did a move from his hometown of Eugene, Oregon to Nashville. He'll be on the road in June and July. For dates, go to matkearney.com.
Artist: Jump Little Children, Winston Salem, NC
Notes: So much unrewarded but first-rate fare from its 15 years together by a band who sadly called it quits back in 2005, with former members now scattered across the country. They formed at the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem in 1991, naming themselves after an old Brownie McGhee blues number. A tight, melodic brand of indie-rock yielding six albums in all. Former leader Jay Clifford, who released a solo album called 'Silver Tomb For The Kingfisher' three years ago, now devotes most of his time to his own Hello Telescope recording studios in Charleston, where he produced L&F alumnus William Fitzsimmons' 2011 album 'Gold In The Shadow'. Out of the blue earlier this month, tickets went on sale for a reunion tour. Dates at jumplittlechildren.com or facebook.com/jumplittlechildren.
Song: Bees Left The Tree
Artist: Sugar & The Hi-Lows, Jackson, MS/Boston, MA
Album: High Roller [EP], 2015
Notes: Recalling the rockabilly country simplicity of the mid-50s Sun Records era in Memphis, Nashville duo Amy Stroup and Trent Dabbs on cracking form as Sugar & The Hi-Lows from their new 3-track single, 'High Roller'. Their full-length 'High Roller album' - their second - is due out June 23rd, and they'll be promoting it with some summer concert dates - some opening for the wonderful Kacey Musgraves. Dates at sugarandthehilows.com.
Song: Melancholy Love
Artist: Abra Moore, San Diego, CA
Album: Everything Changed, 2004
Notes: Born in San Diego, brought up in a bohemian environment in Hawaii, she joined the multi-genre Poi Dog Pondering combo in her late teens and embarked on solo pursuits in 1995 and also a sometime actress who made her film debut in the 1991 film, 'Slacker' and also a popular Lilith Fair alumnus. Sadly no new material since 2007. More at abramoore.com. Incidentally, her parents named her after the heroine of John Steinbeck's East of Eden tome.
Song: I Am
Artist: AWOLNATION, Los Angeles, CA
Album: Run, 2015
Notes: An insistent tub-thumping anthem from the LA-based alternative electronic rock quartet. The indie combo is firmly fronted by mainman, Aaron Bruno who named the band after his nickname after his 'absent without leave' acronym nickname at high school. They are signed to Red Bull Records, the (so-called) energy drink company. They'll be hitting the road this week, through August. For dates go to awolnationmusic.com.
Artist: Weepies, Cambridge, MA
Album: Sirens, 2015
Notes: The beautiful and winsome title cut from their latest set, the ever tender and rewarding Weepies. So many delightful undiscovered acoustic numbers just lying in the vault from them. They're the married duo of Deb Talan and Steve Tannen originally from Cambridge, Massachusetts, where they were both solo artists until they met at one of Tannen's shows at Club Passim. Their debut album, 'Happiness', emerged a couple of years later, since when there have been a further four albums. Their music making was put on hold with the news that Deb had been diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2013, but she has been in remission since last June. More at theweepies.com.
Artist: Nanci Griffith, Seguin, TX
Notes: Too sad for words, a woman deeply disheartened by her partner's absence and casual infidelity, her faith in romance shattered, her heart broken, love has left the room. Haunting melodies profoundly depressing lyrics, and the unmistakable fragile vocal style of Nanci Griffith with her note-perfect reading of John Prine's deeply morose lost classic. Griffith, who turned 61 last year, spends much of her time on charitable causes these days and there's been no music from her since her 2012 album 'Intersection'. More at nancigriffith.com.
Song: Caught In A Daze
Artist: Penguin Prison, New York, NY
Album: Lost In New York, 2015
Notes: A pleasing '70s retro dance cut from a new sleek disco-grooved long player by electro-pop whiz Chris Glover, a New York-based multi-instrumentalist, producer, singer and remixer - indeed he's remixed cuts for the likes of Ellie Goulding, Marina & The Diamonds and Imagine Dragons. He's playing at the Oasis Festival in San Diego next month, followed by several dates in July. More at penguinprison.com.
Artist: Little May, Australia
Album: Boardwalks [EP], 2013
Notes: An extremely promising indie-folk roller and a one-off digital single from a couple of summers ago by an obscure band who hail from Sydney, Australia. They're a vocal trio comprising Liz Drummond, Hannah Field and Annie Hamilton who started performing at open mic nights in a pub. In an interview in 2013, Drummond said, 'Trust your instincts, write honestly, sing and play with feeling, and remember that if your music sounds good, it sounds good'. They're about to make their US debut playing a handful of US dates, including the Bonnaroo Festival. More at littlemaymusic.com.
Artist: Samite, Uganda
Album: Embalasasa , 2005
Notes: The peaceful heavenly world music vocal class of Samite Mulondo who goes simply by his first name. He plays a variety of instruments including the flute and African thumb piano known as a kalimba, made famous by Earth, Wind & Fire. He was forced to flee his home country in 1982 and immigrated to the US in 1987 where he now lives in Ithaca, New York with his wife Sandra. He's also a noted humanitarian founding the Musicians For World Harmony project and often performing at functions for the Dalai Lama. More at samite.com.
Song: Boys Don't Cry
Artist: Grant-Lee Phillips, Stockton, CA
Album: nineteeneighties, 2006
Notes: Featured on an album of covers of songs by The Smiths, The Pixies, New Order and Echo & the Bunnymen by an artist who has seven solo albums under his belt along with his work as the leader of Grant Lee Buffalo. Last month he began recording a new solo album at Dan Auerbach's Easy Eye Sound studio in Nashville. More at grantleephillips.com.
Song: Boys Don't Cry
Artist: Cure, England
Album: Boys Don't Cry, 1980
Notes: The post-punk band's second single released in June 1979, some nine years before they had the first of their six US Top 50 hits, including the number 2, 'Lovesong'. 13 studio albums have followed from an ever-changing line-up which has always been led by the now 56-year-old Robert Smith. Most recently the band contributed their take of 'Hello Goodbye' to the Paul McCartney tribute album, 'The Art of McCartney'. More at thecure.com.