Linus
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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Linus
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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Linus
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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Linus
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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Linus
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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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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Linus
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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Linus
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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