Linus
Been wanting to write about this album ever since I bought it but never got around to do it. Well, now seems like a better time than any old time so here it is.

I first got to know her by watching the amazing video she did for Dreamland, the first taste of her brand new album, THE BIG MACHINE. It's one of the most amazing videos I've ever seen and the song kept playing in my head weeks after first hearing it. Knowing me, I knew I had to investigate further and went ahed and bought the album without even listening to any more songs. Turns out my suspicions were right and I ended up loving it and listening to it almost non-stop. I love to listen to music while driving and this is one album that really works in that particular situation.

I've since done my homework on Emilie Simon and read quite a lot about her online. It seems that she is being somewhat chastized with THE BIG MACHINE sounding a bit like Kate Bush's work. Not to mention, voice too. And while I can understand that criticism (especially on some tracks where she doesn't sound like she's trying to mimmick the english chanteuse - she's downright channelling her to the point of scary), I applaud the bravura Simon displays on almost every track to keep things always interesting to the point of view of the listener.

So, here she is with Rainbow, the new single and a accompanying charming video and I hope I made you go out and listen to her music if you happen to be curious about her. I know I want more now. Would love to see her live, though. Maybe the next year will grant me my wish.

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I don’t know if you have noticed but I don’t usually feature a lot of male singers on Aural Journal. The reason being because there aren’t that many that I genuinely like or admire. Rufus Wainwright is an exception. A big one. This guy is amazing.

POSES was the album that introduced me to his particular brand of music, one that is strong on melody and with a highly developed chord structure. I must admit I had a bit of a problem with his voice at the beginning but I’ve grown to admire it too, what with its strong delivery and charming monochordic twang. Plus, the songs are all great. And by great, I mean phenomenally great and catchy as hell. Naturally, I fell for it hook, line and sinker.

He went on to make even better albums (WANT ONE and TWO are both masterpieces in the full sense of the word) but this is the one that started it all for me. From the charming opener CIGARETTES AND CHOCOLATE MILK to the enchanting GREY GARDENS, there’s one for every mood of the day in here but I will leave you with one of its highlights, a song that ironically wasn’t written by him, rather by his father, Loudon Wainwright – it’s called ONE MAN GUY. Enjoy it and while you’re at it, have yourself a merry little Christmas.

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Today, as I was rewatching for the umpteenth time the wonderful animated movie by Nina Paley, I knew I had to write something about one of its main characters - Annette Hanshaw.

Hanshaw was one of the most famous singers of the 1920's and 30's in America and practically idolized by all the flappers of the time. She had a distinctive voice register that managed to both convey sensual laziness and naughty demeanour. She made quite a name for her but is now largely forgotten. Special thanks then to Ms. Paley for using her lovely songs as a musical counterpart to the break-up story she tells in SITA SINGS THE BLUES, an animated movie written, produced, edited, animated and directed by Paley using only the Flash tool. A remarkable achievement from any which angle you see it. And that's how I came to know Annette's Hanshaw music.

I leave you then with Wouldn't You Like To Take a Walk. Enjoy and I see you soon.

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Bridget St. John's voice is an acquired taste. But one that you get accustomed to quite easily, such is the alluring quality of the smoky way she delivers her deep-felt lyrics.

Again, a singer-songwriter that started her career at the tail end of the 60's and only managed to produce a very limited number of records, before she disappeared from the eye of the public, that are now treasured as something quite inspiring and magical. The one I'm recomending to you on this very rainy day is her second one, Songs For The Gentle Man, which I find to be melodically better than her debut and musically more accomplished.

I leave you then with Early Morning Song, one of the songs from that sophomore release. Listen and slowly let her get to you.

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The promotional single for Charlotte Gainsbourg's new album - IRM - is called Heaven Can Wait, but I'm sure I'm not the only one who thinks that it will be pretty hard to wait for it to come out come next December. Her collaboration with Beck seems to have been very successful on this song. Let's all just hope that the rest of the album is just as good.

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Anne Briggs is quite the outsider in the folk revival movement of the early 70's. A wild spirit, or so it seems, she regarded the business of performing and recording as almost incidental and not all important per se.

Mistress of a singular voice, somewhere between the lament of a child and the weeping of a young virgin (don't mind me, I've been reading very strange things, lately), she somehow managed to put out enough material to influence the next generation of folk singers. Her first album was mostly an accapella affair, with Briggs' voice as the centerpiece. This track here than you can listen to below - Standing On The Shore - is taken from her sophomore album, The Time Has Come, and on this album you can already sense in a much deeper way that she was a non-conformist and someone that almost shied away from publicity and the whole music business altogether. Apparently, she never cared much for the money she could get from performing gigs.

I tell you, they don't make them like this anymore.

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I've been wanting to talk about Vashti Bunyan for a while now and the recent entry about Judee Sill gave me the perfect opportunity for it. So here it is.

What is it with me and artists with minute discographies? Here we are again, faced with a very interesting female singer/songwriter that has only put out two records in her lifetime. And the second one more than 35 years apart! Well, at least it's a great thing that her talents did not go unnoticed by the following generations of aural lovers. Championed by the new breed of New Folk artists, Bunyan has enjoyed a later life recognition that has only done wonders to her reputation as one of the most original and mysterious artists of her generation.

Her classic debut, Just Another Diamond Day, is worthy of belonging to any discerning music lover's collection, so pure is her voice and so exquisite the arrangements by Robert Kirby (of Nick Drake fame) are. But in this post, I wanted to call your attention to her sophomore album, the enigmatically named Lookaftering, a record every bit as haunting and original as her debut. I leave you with the track Against the Sky. Sit back and enjoy.

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This post is dedicated to one of our readers who called my attention to this very special lady's wonderful music.

I guess you can say that Judee Sill is the tragic american counterpart to Britain's Shelagh McDonald. Both released only two albums in their lifetime, both dabbled dangerously with drugs, both were extremely promising singer/songwriters in their own right, both ended their careers due to poor support from the part of their record companies who didn't believe enough in them and both are now revered, respected and reappraised and their music has suffered a long overdue reassessment that will never do them enough justice.

For me, what really stands apart Sill's music from McDonald's is that she was able to create a niche for her right from the start and the way she fuses folk with classic and rock is so effortless, it leaves you quite disarmed. On top of that, the deeply felt and often times spiritual/religious lyrics she infuses the songs with are the stuff only great dreamers are capable of. She really believed in salvation and redemption in the hollistic sense of those words and her music truly benefits from this aspect of her songwriting. For proof, I leave you with one of her most pure moments in song ever: The Kiss.

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This small incursion that I'm making into some seriously vintage music would not be complete without a mention to perhaps the maddest, quirkiest, most whimsical british band of all time: the Bonzo Dog Dooh-Dah Band, a.k.a. the Bonzo Dog Band.

Led by eccentric extraordinaire Vivian Stanshall, a major force in the post-modern whimsical world (if such thing even exists), they are to the music world what the Monty Python are to the movie world. This obviously means that they possess that rare gift of making people laugh whilst creating great art at the same time. This compilation is essential to understanding and comprehending just what made them tick and exactly why they are revered in Britain as belonging to a sort of music nobility, such was their legacy.

Part of their charm are the reinventions they made around old vintage classics of the popular sort and how they somehow successfully achieved grand notoriety with such material in a time when everyone was looking into the future for inspiration. Perhaps anachronism was the key, after all. If you've never heard them before and are curious to know how they sounded like, here's your chance now. I leave you with one of their all time classics: Hunting Tigers Out In India. Toodle-oo.

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I planned to post this video on last Halloween but that did not come through. I soon came to the conclusion that Nina Simone's spells are welcome any time of the year. I somehow know you feel the same way too. See you soon.

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If you lived in the 20's, this is the kind of music you'd be dancing: the Charleston. All flappers and It girls danced their little feet away to the infectious rhythm of these lively numbers. To be honest, they still possess a kind of timeless charm to them and that's one of the main reasons why I'm recommending this compilation.

As I said before, compilations are mostly hit and miss affairs and this one in particular is not the exception but when it hits the mark, it's a bull's eye. Besides, there's always one or two songs by an artist you've never heard of or paid any attention to that stands out from the rest like a sore thumb and makes you want to know more from those particular artists. And that's always a good thing in my book.

In this one, you get Fred Astaire, Josephine Baker, Sophie Tucker and Al Jolson, as well as some entirely lovable instrumentals courtesy of the more high-profile big bands of the time, so it's all good as you can see. And it also serves as a kind of testimony of the high-speed times they were living in, with new dance crazes and new stars popping up almost every week. It's no wonder this decade was named The Roaring Twenties! Take a listen to Al Jolson belting out Swanee.

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Ladies and gentlemen, I give you singer/songwriter extraordinaire, Neil Hannon, also known to the public buying masses as the frontman and leading figure of posh british combo, The Divine Comedy.

Whenever I think of him I also think of Noel Coward, thus the reason behind this post right after the one about the author behind the anthemic Mad Dogs and Englishmen (by the way, they should really consider adopting that song as their national anthem. Seriously). Anyway, this post is about the album that got me started with my Divine Comedy obsession of a few years back. As I said, CASANOVA was my introduction to the many talents of Neil Hannon and I got hooked very fast. In it, Hannon paints a picture of the adventures and misadventures of a bon-vivant, in love with life, women and, most of all, himself. But he does this in such an hilarious and light-hearted way that it never feels mysoginous or offensive. Plus, all the songs are killers and his voice soars to such intensity and heights that you could not help but feel enraptured by his particular magic all the way.

So, if you haven't yet succumbed to the very melodic and funny world The Divine Comedy inhabit, what are you waiting for? Here's a taster: A Woman of the World. Go ahead, push that button. You know you want to.

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Make way for the brightest star of them all, Mr. Noel Coward. I like to view him as a sort of Oscar Wilde of the music world, going about his way regardless of everyone and marking his passage with sometimes hilariously ingenious sayings, sometimes scathingly ironic words but always with a panaché that only the best english breed possess.

Mixing vaudeville with british whimsy at its best, his knack for a catchy melody is always on display on every song he composed. But songs were not the only thing he did. Add to his CV the jobs of playwright, director, actor and singer and you have before you a sort of Renaissance Man of sorts for the 20th Century. His influence is still far reaching and numerous compilations and tribute albums have been produced so this one I'm recommending is just one of many, so just take a pick.

I leave you with his most iconic song ever - Mad Dogs and Englishmen - an hilarious and extremely assertive song about what it means to be british among other things. Praise be due to the original master of the ironic song.

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Of course, a crash course on american popular music from the 30's would not be complete without a mention to the girl that still steals all our hearts when she goes 'Boop-Boop-A-Doop'. I speak of the gal that inspired the most famous Fleischer creation of all time, Betty Boop: Miss Helen Kane.

Her quirky voice and child-like pitch are still able to hold us into a sort of trance, as if caught unaware by something otherworldly or at least, very far away from the sounds of everyday life. As I write this, I hear myself asking: "aren't you going a little too far?", but the answer in my heart and mind is a firm "no", because if you play the track below (her classic I Wanna Be Loved By You), you might find yourself slipping away to a faraway world of your own private imagination in a matter of seconds. And there aren't a lot of voices, let alone things, that can do that nowadays, are there?

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Just found out about this french recording artist and I have to admit I'm definitely intrigued. Will have to make further investigations. In the meantime, here she is: Emilie Simon.

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Compilations like these are rare to find. The end results are so precious and eye-opening that they might even change your whole view of how music can and should be made. This one comes highly recommended and it's a treat from beginning to end. But first things first.

If Monty Python ever were a music group perhaps they'd be something like The Bonzo Dog Band, a sort of avant-garde musical combo that made quite the furore back in the late 60's and early 70's by presenting themselves as a merry bunch of retro hipsters with more than a little dose of british whimsy as their main ingredient but always in keeping with a highly sophisticated approach to their music. They borrowed a lot of influences, mainly from music from the first decades of the 20th century and they wore them proudly on their sleeves. This is why this compilation is called Songs The Bonzo Dog Band Taught Us, as it is primarily aimed to the Bonzo fans who'll treasure this album as mannah from heaven. The best thing about it is that everyone with a discerning taste in music will also find plenty to enjoy in it too.

So here they are, the original songs that would later be part of some of the Bonzo records and add to their particular mystique. Charming, enchanting and enduring, they still prove their worth notwithstanding their almost centenary status. I leave you with By A Waterfall, a song you can also find on the Lullaby of Broadway compilation I wrote in the below post, curiously enough. Enjoy.

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My love for american music from the 1920's and 30's was further cultivated when I started to watch movie musicals from those particular eras. Specifically those by or with contribution from the master of the kaleidoscopic song and dance routine, Mr. Busby Berkeley, choreographer and filmmaker extraordinaire.

This compilation I'm heartily recommending in today's post was compiled from the amazing run of hits he managed to succeed when he entered Warner Bros. as a dance choreographer. The thing is, he not only choreographed the whole thing, he also directed the whole shebang, giving specific details to his cameramen to where the camera should be placed and how dancers should move, look and even smile. The results are astonishing to watch even to today's eyes. If you think you've seen everything, think again. Add to this a truly fantastic array of songs, further embelished by divine orchestrations and frequent heavenly choruses and you got in your hands some real pieces of gold. They don't make them like these anymore, that's for sure!

I leave you with Shadow Waltz, a wonderful number sung by the suave Dick Powell and the cute Ruby Keeler, at that time also known as Mrs. Al Jolson. It's one of those things I never get tired of listening to.

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The great thing about having an open mind in what music is concerned is that you never know what's coming round the corner. My particular encounter with the voice and many talents of Josephine Baker happened many years ago in a shop when I decided it would be fun to get a CD of hers just to see how she sounded like (I already knew what she looked like!). As it happened, it was a real bargain (2CD compilation for just 2.50€!) and when I got home, I just couldn't believe my ears: how come music this fresh and melodic was being relegated to the bargain bin was anyone's guess but mine.

This fantastic discovery set me on quite a journey and today I consider myself an aficionado of everything 1920's and 30's Americana related. They were quite the busy times, with a lot of things going on at the same time: Economic Depression, great advances in filmmaking, industrial revolutions happening everywhere, cultural taboos and social mores being broken, you name it. Forget the 60's: these two decades were where it was at!

This particular CD (or any other Baker compilation, for that matter) is a great way of getting to know her music, as it features both her songs sung in french and in english (she was born american but made her name in France). The song you can listen to below is called De Temps En Temps and is a sweet little number, sung in her trademark mock-french accent. I dare you not to fall in love instantly with her.

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It's funny how you sometimes find things. I truly believe in serendipity, of good things finding a way of finding you in those very particular moments in time when you are not searching for anything in particular. The voice and rare art of Danielle Licari was one of those rare moments.

You really feel truly blessed of getting in touch with such fine artists and I hope I don't sound too corny or presumptuous when I say that the finest of the arts gets you closer to the divine. Few things are able to do that, nowadays. Owner of a crystaline and highly trained voice, Licari uses it as the most exquisitely tuned instrument throughout the tracks of this, a compilation I found while browsing for her available work on CD. It's really a shame that more of her records are not available on CD as they seem to be highly sought after and treasured by her fans.

After scoring a massive hit with Concerto Pour Une Voix (15 million copies sold worldwide!), she went on to explore her voice in the most varied of avenues, even lending her vocal abilities to movie soundtracks and popular hits of the day. I'm going to leave you with a track that is dear to my heart for it belongs to one of my favorite movies ever: Jacques Demy's Les Parapluies de Cherbourg. In case you didn't know (and I certainly didn't!), she is the singer that dubs Catherine Deneuve's singing in that movie. It all makes perfect sense to me now.

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And so another month starts and another musical left turn presents itself to me. Stay tuned.

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As I tend to watch a lot of movies, sometimes it's easier for me to find myself listening to recording artists that I wouldn't normally come across by even if I was deliberately trying to find something new and fresh to my ears. Such was the case with Linda Perhacs. I happened to listen to her while watching Daft Punk's amazing retro-sci-fi movie ELECTROMA, a movie with no dialogues whatsoever and with a soundtrack compiled by the french electro-dance duo entirely from tracks they loved or found that best suited the movie. I was completely mesmerized by the track you can listen to below - If You Were My Man - and played it over and over again when I finally got the DVD until I realized I had to further investigate this mysterious artist that noone seemed to know about. And so I got the album.

Parallelograms
was Perhacs first and only album (again, my penchant for artists with very short careers on full display here...) and it's a beauty with songs that range from the beautifully introspective to the exquisitely arranged. If she recorded more albums, she could have been a contender with Joni Mitchell for one of the best female recording artists of the 70's, because even on this, her debut, she already showed signs of songwriting greatness. As proof, the song below is a sort of B-side as it wasn't even included on the album itself when it came out. Now you can imagine the quality of the other ones. Highly recommended, of course.

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I bet you didn't see this one coming, did you? Well, neither did I. It's just that lately I've been having to deal with very hard situations and having to take a lot of tough decisions that I really need to listen to some harmonious music to get myself together. And this one here by japanese genius Ryuichi Sakamoto is just the perfect thing for that.

Probably my favorite Sakamoto album (alongside BTTB), 1996 consists of musical reinterpretations of his own compositions arranged for a trio. The results are wondrous. It's quite amazing the way in which he succeeds to perfectly translate a totally different sonic arquitecture into the world of chamber music, which is basically what this album really is. Old classics next to then current favorites, they're all here and for me the key for the success of this album lies in the absolutely gorgeous melodies he's been able to produce all these years as a recording artist. That's the basis and sine qua non of the perennial charm of his compositions. Hats off, then.

I leave you with the song that most of us got introduced to his very own particular brand of music: Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence. Enter bliss.

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A classic. Dusty Springfield at her very best and released when she was at the top of her game. I came to it because of my love of her cover version of the bewitching Windmills of Her Mind, which I consider at least as good as the original if not even better in parts. See what you think by pressing the "play" button below.

All the tracks on Dusty in Memphis are winners in their own right and you can really tell that there was a thorough and quite criterious selection of tracks by the producers involved to best suit her unique voice. What really surprises me is that apparently she didn't like her voice and when singing in the booth, she'd ask for the music on her headphones to be as loud as possible so that she could not hear herself singing. Can you believe that? Some people just don't know how good they really are.

Fortunately, that didn't stop her from singing for many more years and from releasing a string of hit albums, though this particular one is viewed as her apex, both artistically and career-wise. If you still don't have this album, I heartily recommend it to you. You will not be let down. Not in the least.

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There are very few bands that are able to get such high accolades and recognition with their first album. American debuters Fleet Foxes have done just that. And for once, the praises are completely worthy.

Their self-titled first album is simply that: an instant classic. Perfect songs, beautifully sung, exquisitely performed and lovingly produced. I wonder if they already feel the pressure of the dreaded sophomore album syndrome. I honestly hope not because I can only see them going even bigger from here, actually. Debut single, White Winter Hymnal is one of the most bizarre first singles ever released: barely 2 1/2 minutes long, almost no instrumentation whatsoever, big vocal harmonies and a sound that is everything but hip. Yet it worked wonders and still sounds great after many listenings. Brave little bastards, they are.

The rest of the album continues the trend: not a dud in sight, and although the influences are reasonably obvious (Neil Young, Bob Dylan, etc.), their sound is unique and distinctive. I leave you with the album opener proper: Sun It Rises.

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Pure melodic perfection. No prizes to whom guesses what my next post is going to be about. Stay tuned.

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It's funny the way I find myself approaching some things. I remember seeing the cover for Camera Obscura's Let's Get Out Of This Country album on a store somewhere and thinking, "that's a really cute cover". Nice wallpaper, too. And I also remember thinking that I would someday get to hear it but just not that day in particular, even though I perfectly could have. Well, that day has come.

I guess some things you have to ready for. And now I am. This is a perfectly delightful record and one of the most upbeat albums I've ever heard without it being too irritating. You know what I mean, I'm sure. The singer, Tracyanne Campbell, delivers her vocals in such a nonchalant way, as if she doesn't care, that the overall effect is one of sweet freedom and carelessness. The production is also one of its major assets, reminding us of the big band sound that used to be the trademark of one Phil Spector.

The whole album is a winner but to get you in the mood, I'll leave you with one of the best singles this part of the 21st century: Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken. Enjoy.

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Apologizing in advance for the lack of recent updates, I come back with a great excuse for a post. Remember when I told you in the post below that one of the major forces behind Françoise Hardy's La Question album being one brazilian singer and musician by the name of Tuca? Well, I was intrigued and I wanted more. And so I went searching for her.

She recorded no more than 3 albums worth of music and left an indelible mark on everyone that got to know her by dying very young due to a food disorder. A real shame because she must be one of Brazil's best kept secrets as her music still sounds strong after all these years she's been gone. The album I chose to highlight in this post is her third and last: Dracula, I Love You (an odd name choice by any standard). Her first two are very melodic incursions into the very rich world of Bossa Nova and her voice throughout those two outings is very relaxed and soothing. This one, however, finds Tuca stretching herself both as a composer and as a singer. Featuring lots of scat, demented improvisations, space-age sounds and schizophrenic thematic structures, Dracula, I Love You is proof that she was capable of reaching amazing musical heights in the course of just a few bars.

The music is very chalenging, though and it requires a few listens before it all starts to make sense. A grower, then. I leave you with O Sorvete (The Ice-Cream), one of the many centerpieces on this amazing album.

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Her most beautiful album ever and a testament to her enduring popularity and charm, Françoise Hardy's La Question marked the end of an era in her career and also a magnificent collaboration with a key element in the creation of this pop masterpiece: brazilian female singer and musician, Tuca.

Tuca was the driving force behind this record and co-wrote most of the songs with Hardy and other musicians. And what a record this is. From beginning to end, it envelops you in such a relaxed mood with the strangest chord progressions you'll likely to hear in a long time. At times, you feel as if you're listening to a strange mix of bossa nova with chanson française, which is exactly what this is, hence its peculiarity.

Ever since receiving this little wonder on the mail yesterday, I just couldn't stop listening to it. Every song a small masterpiece of breathy vocals and deeply felt lyrics which have always been Hardy's trademark. I wish she could have collaborated more with Tuca. The possibilities were endless, at least judging from this incredible track here below: Chanson D'O.

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Even though we're still not in August, I'm making She & Him's debut album, Volume One, Album of the Month.

What an unexpected surprise this album turned out to be. I've been playing it almost non-stop after getting it and it just keeps getting better and better each time I put it on. Volume One is the brainchild and side-project of actress Zooey Deschanel and musician M. Ward. The end result is so good that the volumes could keep on coming one after the other that I will be buying them all! That speaks volumes about their joint talents (sorry about the tacky word games there but I couldn't resist...).

Deschanel has a lovely voice and she sounds very natural, as if she's been singing for a living all her life. Or maybe she's such a great actress that she could trick us all into believing that she's a great singer as well! Jokes apart, she certainly delivers and there is not a single song on this album that I don't like and that hasn't happened in a long time for me. The debut single is called Why Do You Let Me Stay Here and you can see the lovely video below but the one song that really grabbed me by the throat and twisted me around was their rendition of You Really Got A Hold On Me that you can listen to right here - just press "play" and enjoy.

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I have fallen completely head over heels with Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward's pet project! Watch the charming video for the debut single below:

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The key to the success of Nancy Sinatra is her perkiness. Sure, her songs are great and her very straightforward way of singing are also big ingredients of her mass appeal but you have to admit that the lady does have an attitude. It's the kind of girl who doesn't take "no" for an answer. Lucky us, then for her musical legacy is nothing short of pop treasures along the way.

Boots is her debut album and it sold by the gallon. A household name in merely weeks of starting her career, she was guest to Ed Sullivan and just about any prime-time TV show that you can think of. Of course, her family name did help a bit, though she did not live or make her career on its shadow. These Boots are made for walkin' is still today, by any terms, a great pop single: a catchy tune, feminist-tinged lyrics and a disjointed beat and groovy bass line to help establish the perky mood of it all.

After discovering the album (a winner on all fronts and it's no surprise why it sold so many records), I fell in love with its opener: a cover of the Rolling Stones As Tears Go By, in my view a better version than the original. Go and take a listen and see what you think:

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I drove today with this CD on. Wonderful album all around. Nilsson in this album pays tribute to a true songsmith and a contemporary legend: Randy Newman.

The main core of this Newman covers album consists of Nilsson at the piano singing in a very relaxed and mellow way and at times, you almost feel as if he's channeling the spirit of the composer of these songs such are the similarities in the voice phrasings and quirkinesses. It's a rare album indeed, full of straighforward ballads and some lively numbers, but never losing focus or falling into schmaltziness.

One to go out and look for, definitely and it only goes to prove that Nilsson was on top form, this being the follow-up to the equally wonderful Harry album that I mentioned before here at the Aural Journal. I leave you with Love Story, one of the album's most charming moments and precisely because today a girl friend of mine announced to us that she was going to marry! The best of luck to her!

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And the aural journey takes yet another detour. A left-field one, in fact. Ever heard of Popol Vuh? Well, now you will.

I first got acquainted with the music of this german band when I happened upon the films of Werner Herzog. I think a lot of people can relate to that since they produced some of their most well known work with the equally famous german director. Their soundtracks are objects of cult following all over the world and for a reason: the atmospheres created are otherworldly and help transport the images to another realm altogether.

And so I wanted more. Hosianna Mantra (which presents itself as a marriage between western and eastern religions) is a masterpiece of ambient sounds and pastoral melodies. At the time, it represented both a break-up with their more krautrock oriented sound and a breakthrough to a more transcendental way of making music. It really is an aural delight from start to finish. Listen to Ah!, the album opener:

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Linus
Such are things. I thought the next album I was going to write about was Nancy Sinatra's classic Boots but that was not to be. Buffy Sainte-Marie's wild spirit paid me a visit and forced me to listen to her again. Such are things.

Fire & Fleet & Candlelight is one hell of an eclectic album. Folk, pop, traditional, jazz, it's all here and all sung in her inimitable voice. I clearly remember the first time I heard her: it was at a short film festival, of all places, and Summer Boy, one of her finest compositions, was playing in the soundtrack of one such short feature. I immediately fell in love with it and anxiously waited for the end credits to start rolling so that I could check the name of the song and its singer. After that, I went looking for her and quickly noticed that she was as elusive as her muse seems to be.

Of native american origin, she has always been a fighter for their rights in her own way. She truly is a wild spirit and her music is a testimony of that characteristic. For some an acquired taste. For me, a great artist all around. Listen to Summer Boy and see what you find:

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Linus
Are you ready to start walkin' them boots? Stay tuned.

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Linus
I guess you can view this compilation by Numero Group label as a companion piece to another one I blogged about a few weeks back called Bearded Ladies. That one was about obscure british folk singers whilst this one is more of the same but with an american flavour to it.

It is not a coincidence that this compilation is called Wayfaring Strangers: Ladies from the Canyon. Both the first and the second parts of the title refer to two Joni Mitchell compositions, the big shadow behind all striving female folk singers in the 70s. Joni did mark her territory back then and there were very few artists that managed to share a spotlight with her. These days, the only contemporary female artist that Mitchell confesses to have been influenced by is Laura Nyro, another incredible performer and songwriter the likes of which we have seldom seen since her glory days. But back to the album.

It's most likely that you won't recognize any name on Ladies from the Canyon. But it's also most likely that you'll find yourself searching for more of them by the end of the album. In this sense, it's a complete success. And in my case, I think I definitely want to hear more of Collie Ryan. Like this track here: Starbright (Song of Silence).

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Linus
Probably my favorite Kate Bush album ever. And considering she made some truly amazing ones in a career that practically any recording artist would have wished for themselves, this is saying a lot.

Some might argue that Hounds of Love or even the more recent Aerial are much more inventive, original and better produced but when push comes to shove, this remains my favorite. The main reasons are clear and simple: I still am completely head over wheels about its title track, The Sensual World, a song that has accompanied me after first hearing it many, many moons ago. And that's just what this is: a nocturnal record, filled to the brim with enchantment, paganism, myth, folklore and secret feelings. Production-wise, this record can be seen as a very intricate tapestry that was woven thread by delicate thread with knowing hands until the final result was delivered almost as a gift to us, the listener.

Of course, there is one or two tracks that I could almost live without but overall, it's a wondrous record and probably the one that gets mentioned the least when her career is discussed. So, here it is and I hope I made you go out and listen to it with different ears and mind. Meanwhile, here's the title track in all its bewitching glory:

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Linus
I am completely smitten by the track you can listen to at the end of this post. It's the sort of song that waltzes round and round at the back of your mind for days and days. And it's also absolutely gorgeous to boot. But first things first.

The album jacket you see on your left is for a double CD tribute to Boris Vian made by quite a number of high-profile french musicians and singers. It came out just last month and it's called On N'Est Pas Là Pour Se Faire Engueuler. As all tribute albums, it's mostly a hit and miss affair with very good reinterpretations of his songs on one side and not so good on the other. Still, it's always interesting to hear how contemporary these half-century songs can sound like with a 21st century production job.

But the one song I was talking about at the beginning of this post is Valse des Mannequins, a wonderful waltz-like chanson sung by none other than Ms. Sarkozy herself, Carla Bruni. Listen to it and I dare you not to replay it directly afterwards!

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Linus
One of her very best albums, Ms. Hardy's Ma Jeunesse Fout Le Camp is an aural delight from beginning to end. Her songs rarely were this tender and fragile and the arrangements as baroque or ornate in their simplicity, if you pardon the paradox.

The thing with Françoise Hardy is that, as her complete discography is yet to surface on CD (some of her albums were never released in that format), sometimes the best choice is to go with compilations. And there are two or three out there that deserve to be in every music lover collection, though incomplete and uneven as they are. But to get a clear picture of how strong she really was as a recording artist in the 60's and 70's, you do need to buy an actual album.

My choice and recommendation for all you uninitiated out there is this, Ma Jeunesse Fout Le Camp, a wonderful album in all aspects: singing, playing, arranging, lyrics, you name it. My favorite track though is this one over here: Des Ronds Dans L'Eau. Enjoy.

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Linus
Coming soon on Aural Journal. The journey continues.

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Chantal Goya was another french yé-yé chanteuse with a somewhat high-profile career in the 60's, though nothing to compare with the likes of Brigitte Bardot's or even Jane Birkin's. However, she did enjoy some exposure and was even cast in Godard's Masculin, Féminin (as you may notice, the french new wave director had a thing or two for popular singers with pretty faces - see below). Later on, she became even more well-known due to her children's TV show and husband Jean-Jacques Debout's composed albums which have reputedly sold over 30 million strong. But let's forget that for a moment and focus on her yé-yé years for a bit.

Infectious pop with an edge sung in a very straightforward way, Goya's 5 singles were enough to put her on the cover of every magazine of her day. It's easy to see why: her music was youth-marketed and her looks were very trendy. She was one of the It girls of her time and Godard even said about her that she was "the Pepsi Generation", which you can take both ways, I suppose. Still, her legacy from those years is strong enough to make people go out and search for her music which, while not being as revolutionary as some of her contemporaries, was still able to make an impression on her listeners and at the end of the day that's what really matters, right?

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Linus
Model, actress, part-time folk singer, icon, heroin addict. So reads the life of Christa Päffgen, better known to the public as Nico.

Déjà vu? Yes, the first part of this review is quite similar to the one below about Zouzou. What is it about models and drugs, right? Still, if you hanged around The Velvet Underground and Andy Warhol like Nico did in the 60's, I guess that wasn't so strange as it at first may seem. Not at all, really. But let's talk about the music instead.

Chelsea Girl was her debut album and it's a keeper. Filled with wonderful songs, mostly covers and a few originals, the main ingredient of this folky affair (the songs all are acoustic guitar-based) is her voice. And what a peculiar voice. Hitting very low notes for a woman singer and sounding quite detached, as if in a world of her own creation, this particular magic is woven with quite unique materials that still manage to beguile and bemuse to this day.

These Days is one of her most easily recognizable songs and the one that made people alert to her when it was prominently featured in a classic scene of Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums. You never forget it. Just like Nico.

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Model, actress, yé-yé chanteuse, icon, heroin addict. So reads the life of Danièle Ciarlet, better known to the public as Zouzou.

I came to know her through her linkage to french yé-yé pop music as she was continually cited as one of the most prominent female figures of the time and so, as soon as I got the chance to get my hands on this anthology on your left, I wasted no time in finding out if the references were valid. First impressions are generally very good, with Zouzou sounding like a cross between Nico and Françoise Hardy without the existentialism or faux-nihilism of either one. Zouzou is much more straighforward in her delivery and on the messages she puts across with the lyrics. Mind, that's not to say that she can be quickly dismissed as vapid or vague. No. She is definitely not an airhead and her work as an actress is a testimony of that, what with her role in Éric Rohmer's Love in the Afternoon and all. It's just that her music is not as heavy or deep as her contemporaries. But sometimes that's just what you need in life.

As a last note, I should say that I find Zouzou's songs much edgier sounding than France Gall's, for instance. As an example, take a listen to Il Est Parti Comme Il Est Venu.

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No prizes for guessing the name of the artist I would be focusing on this post, of course! I told you I had a soft spot for french pop, didn't I? So, deal with it!

If you'd like to only buy a single album by Miss Bardot, make it this one. "Best of" features a fantastic selection of the very best tracks Brigitte has ever recorded and believe me when I say that the very best are here. From the early days to the Gainsbourg days, the hits are there for your listening pleasure. Some complain that she isn't really a singer. I disagree. If the best singers are the ones that know how to give emotion to a lyric, then she is a great one. If she is singing of love lost (and you will find very few songs that deal with this subject because she was much too busy finding new loves instead of mourning over lost ones!) or sunny days, you'll feel it with almost a teenage intensity to it. That was her charm and magic, so it's best to treasure it instead of criticizing it.

You'll see what I mean when you click on the play button below and listen to Moi Je Joue, one of her most infectious songs.

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Linus
Something wicked this way comes... Stay tuned.

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A pleasant discovery I made while digging through the incredibly rich and varied world of late 60's to early 70's british folk music.

Heron were an all-male band that put out only two albums in their recording lifetime (again, the penchant I have for artists with small discographies is in full display here...) but be that as it may, those two records were sufficient to put them on the folk map and on the hearts of everyone who listened to them. Gentle melodies gently sung and played on strictly acoustic instruments are the main ingredients of their particular magic. One interesting note is that, apparently, those two albums were recorded in a field - I'm sure you'll agree with me if I say that you cannot get more pastoral than that!

The cover that you see above is for a compilation that was released in 2006 that collected their entire recordings onto a 2 CD album. Everything is there including an E.P. and some rare covers too. But for now, take a listen to Yellow Roses, the track that opens their debut album and gently fall in love with their sound.

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Linus
The thing with Claudine Longet is that she made perfectly lovely albums in the 60's and 70's but none seem to be available for sale except some hard-to-find japanese copies that usually fetch high prices on ebay or through marketplace sellers. And that's a real shame because they all deserve to be available for public scrutiny and evaluation as they are some of the most precious things put to tape.

So, when Rev-Ola in England decided to release a compilation of her A&M recordings with her own collaboration, the results had to be stellar. Besides, the years spent with that label are her most fruitful. The final results are indeed very, very good and if you're looking for a Longet greatest hits, look no further. This is it. The girl with the breathy voice and the quirky english accent is here in all her glory. Her best songs and some welcome rarities form part of what will surely be one of your most played CDs ever. It's almost impossible not to fall under her charms. But she's also capable of delivering some pretty chilly numbers: just take a listen to her reinterpretation of Rosemary's Baby Theme:

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And so we come to the end of the first month of existence of this blog. It's been a fun ride for me so far and I have noticed I have already made some friends along the way. Hope they stick around for the rest of the journey.

The end really is the beginning and I have decided to talk about an album that marked the official recording debut of an amazing artist: Joni Mitchell. I have been listening to her for years and years now and never seem to get tired. She has introduced me to a whole new way of looking at music and how it should be made and that has stayed with me ever since I first bought this, her first album. This was actually the first CD of hers that I acquired even though her discography offered a very wide selection to choose from. But when I decided to explore her musical cannon, I opted to go there in a chronological way. Needless to say, the journey was wild and wonderful, with each new album offering new musical palettes and new songwriting perspectives.

SONG TO A SEAGULL or JONI MITCHELL, as it's also known, it's one I always find myself going back to from time to time. Maybe it's to revisit that first impression of inocence. I leave you with Night in the City. Take care.

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