Throwback Thursday: “Wuthering Heights”

Yes, I know it’s Friday. But I wanted to get a Throwback Thursday post out this week, and I suppose I could change the name of this post to “Flashback Friday,” but since the feature is called Throwback Thursday…oh, never mind. It’s the thought that counts, right? Getting on with things…here’s a song I recently discovered from back in 1978…

“Wuthering Heights” by Kate Bush!

So I had heard the name of Kate Bush from time to time over the years…even heard some covers of her work. However, it wasn’t until a week or so ago that thanks to “Strictly Come Dancing” (the British show that spawned “Dancing With The Stars” here in the US), I listened to what is considered probably her biggest hit (it went to #1 in the UK upon its release in 1978), this song, for the first time. At first, I wasn’t sure what to think, but I liked it. It struck my fancy, so later, I listened to it some more (thank you, Spotify). Then I loved it. And eventually, I kept listening to it over and over. Kate’s definitely a…very unique artist, to put it kindly. Let’s be honest, a more blunt way to say it would be that she’s REALLY weird. But in this song (and the best of her other work, which I have begun to explore thanks to this tune), she channels that weirdness, for lack of a better term, into something bracingly unique, beautifully riveting, and gracefully melodic. Inspired by, you guessed it, the novel “Wuthering Heights,” and armed with a stunning soprano range (she recorded this when she was just 19), and a singular tone (it’s a bit hard to get used to at first, but it grows on you), Kate truly has crafted a timeless tour-de-force. It’s fitting that this was her debut single, because in my view, this is an excellent introduction to the free-spirited artistry of Kate Bush. This may sound cliche, but she’s definitely one of a kind–and this song is very strong evidence of that.

Now, to keep myself honest (I know there’s not anyone clamoring for my posts or anything, but still), here’s a little sneak peek of posts to come (hopefully some of them within the coming days):

  • An artist spotlight on the fantastic Laura Mvula, a rising star from the UK
  • An album review or two that I’ve been sitting on for a while
  • Another Throwback Thursday post (hopefully this time actually on a Thursday)
  • Songs and Music Videos of the Day, of course (I may get one up today or tomorrow, in fact)
  • More posts in Spanish
  • A new Play List post (most likely one highlighting my favorite arrangers, though this may change…)
  • A Sketches post I’m considering, on a very topical subject, as well as a Cover Stories post or two
  • And coming up next month…Christmas music galore, a recap of “The Sing-Off” special (that’s sadly all it’s going to be this year, but I’ll take what I can get), and of course, my favorite albums of 2014

I told you I had lots of ideas (at least I think I did)…stay tuned for all this and more, and for now, thanks as always for reading and listening.

Play List: Great Songs Called “Stay”

It’s been a wee bit, but I’m back with a new feature that I’ve been brainstorming for some time now. So, people on the Internet seem to love lists. I’d probably be one of those people. You just can’t resist a really fun list. (Hey, that could be a song lyric.) I’ve done quite a few lists here before (a selection of my favorite Christmas albums, which I will be adding to this year; the best albums of 2011, something I’ll be reprising for 2014 as well; etc.), but now I’m breaking them off into their own feature, and hopefully expanding my repertoire a little bit in regards to that. The subjects will be completely all over the place, most likely, but then again, isn’t that my style?

To kick off the new “Play List” feature, I decided to do songs with a common theme…and somehow came up with a list of great tunes that happen to have the same name, “Stay.” (Those musicians, always wanting people to stay.) Why “Stay”? Well, it’s what came to mind first, I suppose. (My next post will be about songs called “Go.” Ba dum cha…) At least one or two of these, you’re most likely well acquainted with, and the other ones, hopefully it will be some nice music discovery. Given the typical subject matter of songs where someone wants someone else to stay, you can expect that these will all pretty much be ballads…but there’s some variation that keeps things interesting.

“Stay” by Rihanna & Mikky Ekko

This is the one you probably have heard of recently. I don’t have firsthand experience in knowing how popular it became…it was released while I was in Peru. I actually found out about it while I was there…another missionary had the sheet music for the piano part, and so all I knew about this song for a year or so was the piano part, and one of my companion’s remembered version of how the song went. (He was a very good singer, but let’s just say his memories of how the song went weren’t very strong.) Once I got home, I was able to hear it in full, and I was quite impressed. Rihanna’s work has always been a bit of a mixed bag for me…some of her stuff I’ve liked, some of it I’m definitely not into, and a lot of it has me ambivalent. This song, however, she keeps it incredibly simple musically (though thankfully not lyrically, as happened with “We Found Love,” which features like 5 or 6 lines tops for the ENTIRE song), with just a piano, a bit of guitar, and singer-songwriter Mikky Ekko accompanying her. Rihanna’s vocal is very on-point, and her interplay with Mikky is excellent. (He does a fine job in the parts he has to himself, I might add.) It’s probably one of the strongest songs that Rihanna has ever done, I’d have to say. Having her go acoustic is a wise choice that I wish she’d take more often.

“Stay” by Katie Thompson

Years ago, before I started watching “So You Think You Can Dance” regularly, somewhere, someone was watching the audition rounds (this might have been during my freshman year at BYU, maybe?), and I heard a small snippet of this tune. A Google search of the lyrics I heard later, I was introduced to the full track by Katie Thompson, an artist I’d have to admit I still don’t know very much about, but according to her website, is an actress and singer involved in lots of interesting projects. (Apparently she was in the original cast of “The Forgotten Carols,” which reminds me that I haven’t even heard of any of the songs from that, and she will be returning to tour with the production this holiday season. Very nice.) Regardless of the fact I haven’t dug much more into her other work, this song stands as an excellent testament to her talent…it’s a langorous, heartbreaking, yet strong and beautiful song full of emotional heft, thanks to Katie’s emotionally gripping performance (on both piano and vocals). And on top of all that, she’s singing it live. Very impressive, I’d say.

“Reste (Stay)” by Sophie Milman

So FYI, these will all be by women. I don’t know how that worked out, exactly. I mean, there’s definitely more songs called “Stay”…I just ended up liking/knowing about all the ones by female artists. It happens. Anywho, this one is actually in French. An English version was also recorded, but I think I just got it because I bought the deluxe version of the album on iTunes or something. But I digress…Sophie Milman is a top-notch jazz vocalist from Canada, whose music I fell in love with a while ago, when one of her tunes was offered for free as an iTunes Single of the Week. This song is off her second album, “Make Someone Happy,” and is a captivating bossa nova that…well, I don’t speak French, but despite the language barrier, Sophie’s vocal is stellar, and she communicates the passion of the song perfectly, making this song a real treat (among many in Sophie Milman’s repertoire).

“Stay” by Sara Bareilles

Sara Bareilles has come out with some absolutely incredible stuff lately (her most recent album, “The Blessed Unrest,” is gold…I’ve been meaning to post a detailed album review sometime…someone hold me to that), and this, yet another showstopping ballad by Sara (she can write and perform them like nobody’s business), is no exception. She OWNS this. OWNS it, I say. Off her “Once Upon Another Time” EP (produced by Ben Folds), it’s a slight sonic departure for Sara in that the instrumental backing is based on guitar, rather than piano. Honestly, though, Sara could sing with a kazoo and rock it. The vocal, the writing, the fire, the passion…everything shines brightly through in this track. (And this is just one of many musical high points in her career so far.) If Sara was singing this track to me, I wouldn’t just stay…I’d probably start talking about marriage. (Yes, that might be influenced by the fact that I’d love to marry her in general, but that’s beside the point.) It’s that powerful.

“Stay” by Holly Conlan

Like I said above, I so did not plan this being an all-women post. But we need more of those in our lives, right? Women are awesome. Like Holly Conlan, for example. Yet another case of me falling in love with her music thanks to an iTunes free download (would you believe me that that’s how I was introduced to Sara Bareilles as well? There’s a few patterns here…), Holly is an outstanding, innovative singer/songwriter/pianist that keeps coming up with some absolutely gorgeous music. This tune, released a few years back as a non-album single, plays to Holly’s strengths (well, all her songs do, I’d say…) as a writer and performer. It’s a somewhat unassuming tune at first glance, but her quiet confidence and riveting lyrics really draw you in. I highly recommend not only this song, but the entirety of Holly Conlan’s other work…she’s terrific.

“Stay” by Sugarland

And last but not least…OK, so I just did a search now on Spotify for songs called “Stay,” to see if there were any late-breaking additions to my list. This came up, and I’m pretty sure I’ve heard it before…but I wasn’t terribly familiar with it off the top of my head. Now I remember it quite well (I just finished listening to it in full), and…yeah. I like it a lot. Jennifer Nettles delivers an assured vocal, one of her best, and the stripped-back accompaniment is warm and complements her perfectly. There’s even a bit of a lyrical twist…she’s singing to a man who’s already with someone, which adds a new dimension to her pleas to have him stay. If you’re going to listen to a bunch of songs called “Stay” (why not?), you’d better add this one to the list, even if you’re not much of a country fan. (I am, but I think this song appeals to a heck of a lot more than just the typical country music lover.) It’s a winning tune no matter what your tastes are.

Well, that’s the inaugural edition of Play List. I’d love your feedback…do you like it? Hate it? Do you have some more songs to add to the list? Any other ideas on things with common musical themes you’d like me to take on? Go ahead and comment away…it’s always good to not be blogging into the void or something. Thanks, as always, for reading and listening.

Throwback Thursday: “How High The Moon”

I haven’t been able to post for the past few days, but seeing as Harmony Avenue is approaching its fourth anniversary (!!!) this week, I had to get out a timely Throwback Thursday post celebrating said milestone. I can’t believe it’s been four years since I started this blog…of course, two of those years, the blog was on hiatus while I was in Peru…but still, it’s been quite the ride. Thanks to all of you who have been part of this journey so far, and know that even after four years or so, there’s still more great music and great writing to come. Now, today, for our Throwback Thursday, a blast from the past both in general, and for Harmony Avenue…

“How High The Moon” by Ella Fitzgerald & Manhattan Transfer!

Back on October 25, 2010, I made my first official post on Harmony Avenue, an Artist Spotlight on one of the greatest singers of all time, First Lady of Jazz, Ella Fitzgerald. This gem of a performance was featured at the end of that Artist Spotlight, and is a clip from the 1983 Grammy Awards, where Ella performed with trailblazing vocal jazz group Manhattan Transfer. (Recently, a founding member of that group, Tim Hauser, passed away.) It’s an excellent tune, Ella still had it, even at 66, and Manhattan Transfer provides outstanding vocal accompaniment. You really can’t get much better than this, folks.

Thank you so much for reading…this post, and really any post from the last four years. It’s always great to see feedback, to see that you’re enjoying this blog, and I always love suggestions, comments, concerns, ‘likes,’ whatnot. My goal with this blog is always to share great music with you, and to share my passion for that music as well. As my blog subtitle says, Harmony Avenue is “where great music always has a home.” I’ll do my best to keep it that way, and keep highlighting quality music that we can all enjoy. Thanks for being a part of it all.

Song of the Day: “Jackie and Wilson”

It’s kind of hard to follow yesterday’s star-studded video affair, but it can’t hurt to try. Here’s a fine Song of the Day, from an artist whose star is most certainly rising right now…

“Jackie and Wilson” by Hozier!

Hozier is Andrew Hozier-Byrne, an Irish singer-songwriter who recently released his new, self-titled album. If I’m not mistaken, I’ve heard his single “Take Me To Church” on the radio a bit lately, and he recently performed on “Saturday Night Live” just last week, so chances are he’ll get pretty big here in the States. I first heard of him and his music while watching another show, “So You Think You Can Dance,” this summer. Another beautiful song of his, “Like Real People Do,” accompanied this gorgeous number by two of the finalists. My sister (with whom I was watching), interestingly enough, was a bit more enthusiastic than I was and bought the song, but her excitement soon passed on to me. She was the one to remind me about Hozier’s album release, and the song I’m highlighting here, “Jackie and Wilson,” is one of my favorites off that record. It’s a jaunty, crunchy, very fun song, and both the vocals and lyrics are extraordinary. Hozier has a very unique yet incredibly powerful voice, and his writing is just as strong…the way he puts things is a bit different, but I love it. (The chorus is especially riveting.) It’s a singular way of music-making. If you like this tune, make sure to check out the entire album. I highly recommend it.

Music Video of the Day: “God Only Knows”

Today’s music video spotlight, our first in a bit, is quite a star-studded affair. And it’s a very, very good one. Let’s get right to it, the Music Video of the Day…

“God Only Knows”!

But who’s the artist? Well, there’s actually quite a few. Last week, the BBC released this all-star cover of the Beach Boys classic “God Only Knows” (quite possibly one of the most beautiful songs ever written), both to celebrate the official launch of BBC Music, and as a charity effort for Children In Need. The result? A collection of top-notch talent, backed by the excellent BBC Concert Orchestra, and featuring some pretty darn gorgeous imagery as well. Chances are you’ll see a great many familiar faces in this video (if you’re a bit of an Anglophile like me, you might see a few more), including the legendary Elton John and Stevie Wonder, newer sensations like Sam Smith and Florence Welch (from Florence + the Machine), instrumental geniuses like Queen’s Brian May, and even…a certain boy band that actually doesn’t do too badly. (For a comprehensive list and description of each artist that appears, complete with pictures so you can keep everyone straight, see this article here.) Really, it’s to everyone’s credit that it doesn’t just coast on the star power–this is, without question, a gorgeous cover that somehow manages to fit the best of each artist into the equation. (And that orchestration…ahhh.) Musically and visually, this is a triumph and an unexpected treat, and I really haven’t been able to stop watching it very long this weekend. I can guarantee you that you’ll enjoy it.

La canción del día: “Universos paralelos”

He querido lanzar esta parte de mi blog por mucho tiempo ya. Por años, me ha gustado mucho la música latina, pero mi tiempo en Perú hizo que ese amor creció bastante. Entonces, de vez en cuando, voy a destacar una canción en español (quizás voy a expandir en el futuro con artistas, álbumes y otras cosas), algo que ya hago en inglés regularmente. (Estas entradas también estarán en alguna forma, en inglés.) Espero que les gusten estas canciones…son algunas de las preferidas que tengo en español. Para inaugurar esta parte del blog, la canción…

“Universos paralelos” por Jorge Drexler!

Jorge Drexler es un cantautor uruguayo. Descubrí su música hace varios años (creo que lo encontré por ver que él había ganado un premio Oscar por una de sus canciones), pero no había escuchado a él por mucho tiempo, hasta que decidí buscar a más de su música, después de mi misión. (No sabía muy bien que era uruguayo. Mi último compañero en la misión era de Uruguay, así que tengo mucho más interés ahora en ese país, y me alegró bastante saber que Jorge es de allí.) Esta canción, de su álbum más reciente, “Bailar en la cueva,” tiene un ritmo inspirado un poco de Brasil, e incluye una sección de rap por la artista chilena-francesa Ana Tijoux. Usualmente, a mí no me gusta el rap, pero el verso de ella está chévere, y agrega algo bueno a la canción. También me encanta la letra de la canción—Jorge, además de ser un cantante excelente, sabe escribir el texto de sus canciones en una manera muy distinta, y también muy profunda. Sus canciones te hacen pensar, pero igual son accesibles para todos, y muy buenas para escuchar (y quizás, bailar).

Jorge Drexler is an Uruguayan singer. I discovered his music a while ago (I think I found out about him when I was looking up some info about the Oscars, and saw that he won Best Original Song back in 2004), but I hadn’t heard his stuff for a while, until I decided to catch up on his music, after my mission. (I didn’t know very well that he was from Uruguay, that and I kind of didn’t know too much about Uruguay before. My last mission companion was from Uruguay, which has helped me have a lot more interest in that country, and it was exciting to realize that Jorge is from there too.) This song, from his most recent album, “Bailar en la cueva” (Dancing in the cave), has a bit of a Brazil-inspired rhythm, and includes, of all things, a rap section by Chilean-French rapper Ana Tijoux. I usually don’t like rap (at all), but her verse is pretty cool, and adds something great to the song. I also love the lyrics—Jorge, on top of being a great singer, knows how to write the lyrics of his songs in a very unique and profound way. His songs make you think, but at the same time are very accessible, and very nice to listen to. (You can even dance to them, too, if you want.)

Song of the Day: “Take Me”

Yes. I’m actually posting two days in a row. Isn’t it grand? Well, maybe not that grand. But it’s nice at any rate.

Today’s Song of the Day, the first in a little bit, is…

“Take Me” by Paloma Faith!

Paloma Faith is a fiery soul-pop kind of singer from Britain. You may have heard one of her new singles on the radio, “Only Love Can Hurt Like This” (it looks like Paloma may finally be breaking through to the US market), recently…I think I’ve heard it play a few times, which was cool. I’ve known about her music since quite a while ago, and now she’s getting ready to release her third album (as tends to happen, it’s already out in the UK). This firecracker of a song from that album, I heard on a commercial for Target on the Internet. It’s co-written by John Legend (yes, that John Legend), and Paloma really goes to town on it. She has a powerhouse voice, and that, combined with her slightly quirky, earthy aesthetic, makes for a very fun track. She’s got a gospel choir, a killer piano hook, and lots of fire…if you’ve never heard of Paloma Faith before, this new tune is a very good place to start.

Thanks, as always, for reading! On a slightly unrelated note and as a bit of a teaser, NBC announced this week that “The Sing-Off” will be returning for a fifth season this winter, and I plan to recap it once again, as I did for seasons 2 and 3. Those recaps seemed to be pretty popular features on my blog, so it should be fun! Hope to see you there when I start up the recaps, and before then, too, while you’re at it.