Linus
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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Linus
This is it: the motherlode of all France Gall compilations. An Intégrale of all her Philips recordings from 1963 to 68. Not a single one of its 70 plus tracks a clunker. I know, it sounds unbelievable but I assure you it's true. 3 CDs, packaged in a Long Box, the breeziest, cutest, jazzy-est songs you'll ever hear. Essential listening for all aficionados.

On a side note, it also serves as an amazing primer for anyone wishing to dip a toe or two in the fabulous world of french yé-yé. The 60's really were a wild and fast world to live in in France. It's quite amazing the sheer number of female singers that were around at the time if you think about it. To top all that, the songs were not bad at all, quite on the contrary. They still sound as fresh today as the day they were recorded and continue to influence every twee solo singer that you find making records today, even though it has been delegated to the indie scene as it's not considered trendy music. Well, it is in my book, anyway.

I leave you with one of her greatest hits, Les Sucettes, a single penned by none other than Serge Gainsbourg. As you might imagine, it caused quite a commotion once people began to realize what the lyrics were all about...

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Linus
Phew! It took me a bit of work but it's done! Don't know if you've noticed but now you can listen to every song I chose to highlight the album I'm writing about in their entirety, instead of just a 30 second clip. A bit of hard work to get there but really worthwhile as you will see.

Now, I'm taking a well deserved breather while chilling out to my current favorite Tori track from her new album. See you soon.

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Linus
A very recent discovery that I did while looking for some french ye-ye albums that I still hadn't heard. Canada's Margo Guryan's TAKE A PICTURE was her only official output (seems I have a thing for artists that only put out one or two albums in their recording careers) and it's a beauty. It's the kind of record you put on those lazy Sunday mornings and let it wash over you with all its unabashed sunshine glory. If you like breezy songs, charmingly arranged and with that extra retro pop sound to it, this is the perfect record for you.

At times it almost feels like you're listening to a lost Claudine Longet album because Guryan's vocals are strikingly similar to Longet's in that breathy, whispering way we've grown so familiar with. It really is 60's french pop sung in english. Apparently, Guryan didn't care too much about pop songs (she is classically trained) but after hearing The Beach Boy's wondrous GOD ONLY KNOWS included in their legendary PET SOUNDS album, she never looked back. Can't really blame her, can you? While you're still here, have a listen to Sunday Morning.

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Linus
Golden-voiced, fair-looking, talented, Shelagh McDonald was one of Britain's brightest upcoming stars with a sure-fire career ahead of her. And then she vanished.

Compared to both Joni Mitchell and Nick Drake, she had a lot to live up to and she had the talent to do so. With only two officially recorded albums to remember her, it's mind-boggling to think the heights she would reach if she hadn't abandoned the music business altogether. Apparently, after a big alucinogenic journey caused by heavy drugs, she lost her way. Literally. Her parents had to rescue her back to Ireland and no more was heard of her. A crying shame.

Still, her catalogue remains an obligatory (re)discovery and perhaps her somewhat tragic fate is the main ingredient of her lasting charm. Here's to you, Shelagh. Listen to Stargazer, one of her best compositions.

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Linus
I thought it would be appropriate for this midsummer night to invoque a band that perfectly blends pagan traditions with avant-garde music, bordering on folk art-rock. Let me introduce you then to the mystical, scary sounds of Comus' debut album, FIRST UTTERANCE.

I first heard of them when I began to seriously investigate the whole british acid/folk/progressive scene and Comus was always a name that was held in high regard by everyone who was into this particular kind of music. After tracking down their album, it was not hard to see why: the songs have a kind of paganistic ritual to them and the lyrics as well as the singing emphasize this very characteristic. Murder, rape, violence, despair and occasional moments of serene clarity are the main ingredients of this bewitching brew of both ancient and modern sounds.

If you want to know, Comus is derived from Greek Mythology: he is the god of festivity, revels and nocturnal dalliances. He represents anarchy and chaos. During his festivals in Ancient Greece, men and women exchanged clothes. He was depicted as a young man on the point of unconsciousness from drink. He had a wreath of flowers on his head and carried a torch that was in the process of being dropped. Unlike the purely carnal Pan or purely intoxicated Bacchus, Comus was a god of excess. He is a son of Bacchus and Circe. Perfectly suited then for a night like tonight's. Listen to one of their key songs: Herald.

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Linus
The perfect record for a hot late spring day like today's. GONNA TAKE A MIRACLE was Laura Nyro's wonderful tribute to the songs she loved as a teen and the ones that formed her as both a musician and singer.

As legend goes, this album was recorded in just a few days and the tracks you hear are mostly one-take affairs. Apparently, both Nyro and the Labelle combo knew all the songs by heart and it was just a matter of getting them right on tape. A lot of fun was also involved, according to those who enjoyed it, which really helped the whole feel of the record: laid-back, spontaneous, fun and moving.

Nyro's impressionistic approach to songwriting is also on clear display here, despite it being a strictly covers album. She was always a free spirit, anyway. At this moment in time, it was still not considered fashionable to do a whole covers album, which only goes to prove just how far ahead of her time she was. Still is, in my book. Listen to The Bells and dare not to fall in love with it.

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Linus
It's lovely waking up to this wonderful song. Especially on a bright June morning like today's. Have a lovely day, everyone.

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Linus
5:55 is like listening to an Air record with tracks sung by Charlotte Gainsbourg and lyrics written by Jarvis Cocker and Neil Hannon. Which is exactly what it is, of course. This might sound a tad demeaning but I assure you it isn't.

Colaborating with such household names in the music business was an excellent bet for Ms. Gainsbourg. And the results show in spades. Air's electronic soundscapes are indeed the leitmotiv that runs throughout the entire record and all for the better: they set up a familiar feeling right from the start and create the perfect background for Ms. G. to lay down her inobtrusive vocals on the songs. She really does sing in a kind of muted way, somewhere between her father's dispirited delivery and her mother's sultry phrasing. Which perfectly suits the sardonic lyrics kindly offered by Cocker and Hannon, by the way.

It's an album that requires multiple auditions to fully appreciate its many qualities. It's also an album that sticks to your skin, which is always a good thing in my book. Listen to 5:55, the album opener.

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Linus
I will get to that Charlotte Gainsbourg album in a day or two but before I do that, let me just take a minute to talk about an album that I pulled off my shelves today.

POCKET SYMPHONY is the last album officially released by Air and it's a treat. I've been following their career and musical output somewhat closely and this particular album is my favorite alongside their extremely successful MOON SAFARI. The soothing melodies are omnipresent and the fake 70's Francis Lai/Pierre Bachelet/Cerrone sound is here and more convinving than ever. The knack for melodic balladry, so intrinsyc to their music, is also on clear display here. However, there are some suprises: Jarvis Cocker and Neil Hannon sing one song each with lyrics written also by them and the koto and the shamisen, two japanese instruments, are new additions to the sonic tapestry of the record. The results are both exotic and exhilarating. It all starts with Once Upon A Time:

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Linus
The album that first introduced me to the wonderful Harry Nilsson. With a home made-like charm and sound, it captured my ears and imagination right away.

Harry Nilsson is an anomally in the music world. Never toured and from what I understand never sang in public apart from TV apparitions. HARRY is the third album he recorded for RCA and it possesses a kind of aura that you find in some albums by Randy Newman. It's not a coincidence that his next album was exactly that: a collection of Newman's songs.

It's Americana all the way and Tin Pan Alley is never far behind some of the tracks. Very mellow, very acoustic, very cosy. And Nilsson's voice is always a pleasure to listen to. Besides, he possessed a melodic gift to rival McCartney's or Lennon's (which he was a close friend of). Needless to say, I went on to discover all his other albums, each and every one an aural pleasure in its own right. Listen to Puppy Song, the album opener.

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Linus
Well, I've already managed to get my hands on that Charlotte Gainsbourg album I mentioned below and before I do a whole post dedicated to its (many) charms, I decided to write about a particular record that's been doing the rounds of both my home and car background music for quite awhile now: Goldfrapp's SEVENTH TREE.

Released just last year, it has become one of my most listened records of late. Being a fan of their other albums, each a winner in its own right, I was astonished at how far they managed to change their sound and musical approaches with this one. Straying away from the electronica sound they managed to master with ease in their previous two records, the sounds on SEVENTH TREE are in turns pastoral, acoustic, melodic, trippy and summer-like. It's their most distinctive album to date and it's so richly textured and arranged that it'll keep you listening to it over and over again just to unravel its many rich layers.

I wonder where they'll go from here but I'm certain it will be just as exciting a track as the one that lead them to SEVENTH TREE. By the way, if you're wondering where they got the name for the album, well, it came in a dream to Alison Goldfrapp: she saw a big tree with the number 7 on it. Listen to their album opener: Clowns.

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Linus
I've always had a soft spot for french pop and today, when I stumbled upon this lovely song by Charlotte Gainsbourg, the famous daughter of the even more famous Serge Gainsbourg, I knew that I had to investigate the whole album. Especially when all the songs are composed by Air and the lyrics written by Jarvis Cocker and Neil Hannon, three of my musical heroes. Stay tuned.

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Linus
In my view, the best example of New Folk you can find. Following traditions but subversively changing them whilst aurally delighting the listener at the same time, A GARLAND OF SONG, the debut album of The Owl Service combo, is a winner on all fronts.

Released just last year, it has made fans of whoever listens to them. And it's not hard to see why that happens: the songs are all exquisitely arranged and beautifully composed and sung (both by male and female voices). At times, you forget that you're listening to a contemporary record because the blood that runs through this particular sonic vein is anything but new. However, you do sense a particular indie trait here and there that only adds up to its pastoral charm. I'm very curious to see where they will go from here and apparently they have already recorded and E.P. of sorts with Alison O'Donnell, one of the vocalists from Mellow Candle, so I guess they're on the right track, wouldn't you think so too? Listen to Turpin Hero.

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Linus
I've been listening to this record at least once a week ever since I discovered it. The more I read about them, the more I'm sorry this was the only record they put out. Today, it's considered somewhat of a flawed masterpiece but such was not the case when Mellow Candle first released SWADDLING SONGS to an unsuspecting buying audience.

Backed up by two amazing female singers - Clodagh Simonds and Alison O'Donnell - the songs range from up-tempo folk-rock meteorites to exquisitely arranged melodic reveries. Simonds was also the main songwriter and it's really a shame she stopped composing because she was still very young when SWADDLING SONGS came out and she already displayed very advanced songwriting skills. It's the kind of music that transports you to another time and space. Magical ones, in fact. Listen to Silver Song.

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Linus
Compilations are a tricky thing. Some complain that they're always hit and miss affairs, whilst others like me embrace them for the chance of getting to know artists you normally wouldn't come across by.

BEARDED LADIES is such a compilation: with highs and lows but always interesting to listen to. Put together by Jane Weaver (she also features on one track) at the behest of indie label Finders Keepers Records, it's a female-singers-only record that tries to find a kind of ethereal quality both in the styles and voices of these acoustically based songs. Perfect for rainy nights like this one I'm having over here. Let Susan Christie sing you about a Rainy Day.

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Linus
Couldn't help from posting this Lisa Ekdahl video here as it's one song I'm currently grooving to. Pay attention to the lyrics. Quite beautiful. Beautiful lady singing them, too.

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Linus
Saw her staring at me today in a music store and couldn't help bringing her back home with me. God, I missed this girl and I didn't even know it. GIVE ME THAT SLOW KNOWING SMILE is the new album by Lisa Ekdahl and it's like drinking a hot capuccino late in the day sitting in a porch overlooking a deserted beach in April. Nice. Which is what I will try to do everytime I listen to this wonderful little album. Except I will try and listen to it all year round and not just in April, of course...

She sings in english this time around (she has already made quite a few albums in her native tongue, swedish), and some songs recall former successes of the "...SINGS SALVADORE POE" album. That particular album was responsible for her international breakthrough and the one that introduced most of us to that child-like voice and simple phrasing that are all her own. Glad to see she's back on the right track, again. I really missed her all these years. Listen to the title track:

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Linus
A true heir to the kind of magical folk music I mentioned in the post below, Josephine Foster's HAZEL EYES I WILL LEAD YOU is an album that doesn't sound (or look, as you can see by the record cover on your right) that was made in 2005. Quite remarkable. She sings in a voice not of this time and plays instruments in a way as if someone much older and wiser has taught her, almost as she bypassed today's music writing altogether. Truly magical.

This is the kind of artist I don't want to know a lot about, prefering them to be as mysterious and enigmatic as they once were in a time without the internet. But I just couldn't help myself from checking out her wikipedia entry and I'm glad now I did because, as it happens, she used to sing at funerals and weddings as an adolescent and had aspirations to become an opera singer. Well, that's all I needed to know to make her even more fascinating to me. Listen to the title track, Hazel Eyes, I Will Lead You.

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Linus
Hello everybody and welcome to my new blog. Maybe 4 blogs the charm? We'll see.

Anyway, if you'd like to keep up with what I'm listening (just like it says in the Aural Greetings), just watch this space. And I hope you like my first recomendation: EARLY MORNING HUSH, an acid-folk compilation that came out in 2006 riding high on the new folk revival that's been happening for a few years to this date. I, myself am a devotee of this particular genre because it conjures all sorts of memories and feelings that belong to years spent watching british children's TV shows like Brendon Chase and the like. Remember those? The word you're after here is "bucolic".

Drawing inspiration from traditional folk music, the tracks on this compilation reveal artists that brought new musical lexicons to a genre once thought old and stale. Stand-out tracks are too many to enumerate here but Shirley Collins singing Poor Murdered Woman is always a show-stopper.

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