Singers from Across the Spectrum – St. Lucia and Stacy Barthe

St. Lucia, the stage name of Jean-Philip Grobler, has been getting a lot of exposure recently, performing at Lollapalooza in 2013 and appearing on the late night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live.  Grobler grew up in South Africa, singing in the Drakensburg Boys Choir, but now lends his clean vocals to catchy pop electronic tunes laced with harmony vocals from his bandmates.  Here are a couple of live, small studio videos that show off St. Lucia’s unfiltered vocals. Thanks for the recommendation, Eric!

Norwegian music blog Read and Hear recently featured New York singer-songwriter Stacy Barthe. In addition to releasing her own tracks, she’s written songs for Katy Perry, Rihanna, Britney Spears and others. Her voice is certainly as good as anyone she’s been writing for.

Buy Music

Broken Bells Back With Another Album

Broken Bells is a collaboration between Brian Joseph Burton (aka Danger Mouse), one of this century’s best producers, and James Mercer, frontman for indie favorite The Shins.  Their second full album together, “After the Disco”, is due to be released in early February 2014, but the track “Holding on for Life” is already out.  A few versions of the tune can be viewed on YouTube, including this spare live version.  But the spacey (literally) official video lets you hear the more layered album version.

The Shins have been around since 1996 and got a big boost when their song “New Slang” was featured in the movie “Garden State”. Below is a clip from the movie with Natalie Portman giving Zach Braff a listen, followed by the full  album version of the song.

Over the last decade Danger Mouse has produced albums for the Black Keys, Norah Jones, Beck, and Gorillaz, and he is currently working on U2’s upcoming release. He’s probably most well known for being half of Gnarls Barkley opposite CeeLo Green. “Crazy” was the 2006 mega-hit from the duo’s first album “St. Elsewhere”. Below are two versions of the song, one featuring CeeLo and Danger Mouse in a live studio setting, and the other featuring Prince on guitar.

Buy Music

Holiday Music Buying – Best of the New and Old

Now that Thanksgiving is in the rear view mirror, it’s fair to turn attention to holiday gifts.   In this era of downloads and Pandora, if you still enjoy the quaint custom of giving music to family and friends, here are some recommendations from the albums we’ve featured over the past year.

Among new albums, Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories”, Jake Bugg’s eponymous April release, and “The Colonel & The Governor” by Tommy Emmanuel and Martin Taylor are three superb choices.

Daft Punk weaves together a wide variety of influences and pulls in musicians like Omar Hakim and Nile Rodgers to add touches that can’t be synthesized.  “Random Access Memories” needs to be played a few times through to fully appreciate, but the investment of time is well worth it.

Jake Bugg’s eponymous album features a great set of songs ranging from raw rockers to soft acoustic ballads.    And Bugg is not resting on his laurels – he’s just released his second album this year, “Shangri La”.

“The Colonel & The Governor” is an exceptional instrumental jazz album from start to finish.  Two masterful musicians, complementing each other beautifully, on classic songs.

If you’d like to dig back into history and help round out a friend’s collection of classic albums, “Getz/Gilberto”, the groundbreaking Bossa Nova album, “Blue” by Joni Mitchell, and Stevie Wonder’s “Inner Visions” can’t be beat.

“Getz/Gilberto” introduced America to “The Girl from Ipanema” and many other Bossa Nova classics.  The mellow voices of Joao and Astrud Gilberto combined with Getz’s breathy sax are as intoxicating today as they were fifty years ago.

Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” includes many of her classic tunes as well as lesser known gems.  It’s a perfect album from start to finish – no filler. “River” is worth adding to your play list of sad, sentimental Christmas songs.

Stevie Wonder is – well – Stevie Wonder, and in a career of brilliance “Inner Visions” may the best of the best. The first track, “Too High”, features his trusty harmonica work and a great bass hook.

Buy Music

New Music Starts With the Letter “A” – Avicii, Avett Brothers, and Arcade Fire

To cover a lot of musical ground, you don’t need to go beyond the letter “A”.

A few months back one of the biggest electronic dance music DJ’s on the planet, Avicii, released “Wake Me Up”.  He went pretty far afield of typical EDM territory, and the video echoes the country vibe of the acoustic guitar and vocal arrangement.  But the dance beat picks up as the song goes on and the video’s heroine makes the club scene. The vocal on the track is provided by Aloe Blacc, an American singer who co-wrote the song.

The Avett Brothers’ new album “Magpie and Dandelion” is out. We wrote about the band in an earlier post, and they remain a favorite in the folk rock scene. Enjoy this simple studio performance of “Morning Song”.

Arcade Fire’s albums regularly earn critical acclaim, and their recent release “Reflektor” is no different. The Canadian band delivers long, hypnotic tunes, and the video below has got to be one of the longest performances ever on Saturday Night Live.

Buy Music

Daft Punk, Pharrell and Nile Rodgers Get Lucky

One of 2013’s most anticipated releases is Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories” due out May 21st. The last album by the French electronic duo was “Alive 2007” which featured the track “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”. Both the track and the album won Grammy’s.

The first track released from “Random Access Memories” is “Get Lucky” featuring Pharrell Williams and legend Nile Rodgers. Watch the teaser video, then listen to the whole pristine production.

Singer, songwriter, rapper, fashion designer Pharrell Williams provides the vocals on “Get Lucky”. Pharrell (accent on the second syllable) is maybe best known as a producer, helping to assemble tracks for half the names in hip hop. Among his latest production credits was Frank Ocean’s 2012 album “Channel Orange” (see our earlier post Frank Ocean’s and Stevie Wonder’s Best Albums).

Nile Rodgers, who brings the funky guitar work on “Get Lucky”, has the same broad set of talents as Pharrell on a grander scale spanning nearly five decades. His production credits are completely ridiculous (click on the Wikipedia link here Nile Rodgers to read about them), and as a member of Chic he played on one of the best selling singles of all time “Le Freak”.

Buy music: