Beck’s Back with “Morning Phase”

After a nearly six-year hiatus, Beck aka Beck Hanson real name Bek David Campbell, released his 12th album “Morning Phase” a couple of weeks ago.   Loaded with melodic, acoustic tracks, it’s been receiving critical acclaim – though that’s never been in short supply for Beck.

Here is a performance of “Say Goodbye” from an appearance on The Tonight Show.  If you like it, he also performed “Waking Light”.

Pretty much every music reviewer relates the new album in style and sound to Beck’s 2002 release “Sea Change”, and apparently Beck or his record company connected the two in early press on “Morning Phase”. Decide for yourself – here’s “The Golden Age” from the earlier album.

There are reports that Beck will release yet another album later this year, but likely with a much different sound. He’s put out a few singles recently that might give an indication of what’s in store. Here’s “It Won’t be Long”, and you might also give a listen to “Gimme” to hear him stretch even further to the electronic side.

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Recommendations from Jess at pH Balanced and mvyradio

A favorite blog of ours is pH Balanced, written by Jess Phaneuf, a DJ at mvyradio in Martha’s Vineyard. This week we pass along a few of her recommendations from the past few weeks. And by the way, you can tune in to mvyradio on the internet. There’s a nice iTunes link on their website, and it’s excellent listening all around.

St. Paul & The Broken Bones is a tight soul band from Alabama, fronted by Paul Janeway. Their debut release “Half the City” is out, and the video for “Call Me” introduces you to this excellent, though unlikely looking outfit. I hope Paul will be flattered by the inevitable comparison to a certain Blues Brother.

Appearing recently on The Conan O’Brian Show was Jamestown Revival performing “California (Cast Iron Soul)”. The song appears on “The California EP” as well as on the full length album “Utah”, named for the location of the mountain cabin where the songs were recorded. Jamestown Revival is the duo of small-town Texas high school friends Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance. Before trekking to Austin and L.A. to craft their sound, both had done solo work, and Clay had a few songs picked up by TV Shows ranging from “The Real World” to “Sons of Anarchy”.

Sam Roberts Band has just released the album “Lo-Fantasy” and the single “We’re All In This Together”. Sam Roberts has been well known in Canada for over a decade, winning a number of Juno Awards – Canada’s Grammys – along the way. His first hit single “Brother Down” came out in 2002, released on his first EP “The Inhuman Condition”.

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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.

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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.

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Jake Bugg Crosses the Atlantic

Jake Bugg’s eponymous debut album hit #1 on the British charts shortly after its release in October 2012.   Mining a different folk rock vein than his countrymen, Mumford & Sons, the 19-year-old singer-songwriter claims influences that include Johnny Cash, the Everly Brothers and Don McLean.  The album is now availabe in the U.S., and Bugg will be performing throughout the States later this year.

Give a listen to these tracks, and his website (Jake Bugg) features videos covering a good part of his debut release if you want to hear more.

While Bugg dismisses comparisons to a young Bob Dylan, pretty much every music writer has gone there.  If you want to make your own judgment, “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” was released shortly after Dylan’s 22nd birthday and also reached #1 on the British charts.  We won’t hold Jake to writing the next “Blowin’ in the Wind” yet, but here are two pure acoustic performances to consider.

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