Harmony Avenue

Where great music always has a home.

Song Sampler of the Day: “Never Forget You,” “Help Me Close My Eyes,” & “Revolution”

Another great Song Sampler of the Day, coming right up. One of these might be one of the more unique songs I’ve posted on Harmony Avenue. First off, though, it’s…

“Never Forget You” by the Noisettes!

I’m not too familiar with the Noisettes at the moment (as is often the case with artists whose tunes I feature in Songs of the Day), but I definitely would like to get to know their music a little better. (Mildly amusing tidbit: I first came across their work when another song by them, “Atticus,” was playing on our Pandora station at work, and I really was intrigued by it…at which point it was promptly skipped, since no one else thought it sounded any good. Sigh.) This is a very retro-tinged song…a way to describe it best might be Motown gone modern. It’s deliciously catchy, yet with a sneaky sort of depth that elevates it above the level of bubblegum. Lead singer Shingai Shoniwa (who apparently is British, but with Zimbabwean heritage) ties everything together nicely with a textured, impassioned vocal. (My sister said it reminded her a bit of Amy Winehouse.)  I’ve definitely been coming back to this song quite a few times.

Next up, by way of Sweden, it’s…

“Help Me Close My Eyes” by Those Dancing Days!

This song, by all-female Swedish indie pop group Those Dancing Days,  is somewhat stylistically similar to “Never Forget You,” in that it’s musically upbeat, but lyrically bittersweet. (Wow, I used both alliteration AND rhyme in that sentence. Since I’m posting on a music blog, not writing a Dr. Seuss book, that probably wasn’t for the best…) However, it’s definitely a bit more dance-oriented than the aforementioned tune. (Not that you’d hear it very often at a dance club or anything, but it’s fairly beat-driven.) It’s subtly intoxicating, haunting, and all those kinds of wonderful things that indie pop music should be.

And last but not least, an intriguing entry into the Harmony Avenue Song of the Day oeuvre…

“Revolution” by Dr. John!

Dr. John is a legendary New Orleans musician with credits and honors as diverse as five Grammy Awards, induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, contribution to the soundtrack for Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog” (he sang the opening tune, “Down In New Orleans”), a collaboration with Hugh Laurie on his recent musical debut, and membership in the first incarnation of Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band. His very cool new record, “Locked Down” (which I haven’t gotten around to checking out fully yet, but I’ve heard a bit of so far), produced by Black Keys member Dan Auerbach, is in some ways influenced by all of those things (and more)…but at the same time, none of them. The vibe of this song (and of the album) is very hard to describe in terms of genre. In terms of atmosphere, on the other hand? Words that come to mind for me: funky, gritty, honest. Things get down and dirty here, but thanks both to Dan Auerbach’s innovative production, as well as Dr. John’s unique artistic vision, this tune stays incredibly, vividly accessible. I’m not usually attuned to this vein of music as much as I should, but songs like this just might change that.

Artist Mini-Spotlight: Kimbra

Quite often while brainstorming posts, I want to highlight artists that only have an album or so out, whose music I’ve only recently discovered, and usually I end up doing this by way of a Song of the Day post. (There have been a lot of them lately, hmmm. Harmony Avenue should not live by Song of the Day alone…) However, a lot of the time, there’s a good deal of songs by said artist that I enjoy, yet not enough to expand into a full-blown Artist Spotlight post. Enter a new spinoff of the Artist Spotlight I’m trying out, the Artist Mini-Spotlight. (I floated making this a combo post like I did with the Song Sampler a day or two ago, but I thought it would be nice to give each artist their own space, since it’s a bit of a different situation than a song.) This will likely be shorter than most Artist Spotlight posts, provided I don’t get too long-winded (yeah, I’m already losing that battle), and will feature some of my favorite tunes by said artist, and good introductions to their music. Without further ado, the inaugural mini-spotlighted artist…

Kimbra!

If you’ve been listening to the radio lately, you might have already heard her voice. She’s the featured artist on Belgian-Australian artist Gotye’s deliriously catchy little-indie-hit-that-could, “Somebody That I Used To Know.” (Her appearance is a high point of an already pretty darn terrific song.) I, like a growing number of people at this point, had heard and fallen in love with the song, when a good friend of mine (the same one that recommended I check out Andy Grammer’s music, as noted here) suggested I look up her solo work. I found out she had an album, “Vows,” released in New Zealand and Australia (her home country and its friendly neighbor, respectively), and took a few listens to some of the songs…and oh baby, I was hooked. She has such a stunning, expressive, vibrant voice that it seems like she can do pretty much anything with. If you were impressed by what you heard of her on Gotye’s single…you are in for a treat. It gets even better.

Something I’ve noticed about Kimbra (besides her terrific music) is that so far, her music videos have been firing on all cylinders. Not since the days of Feist’s triple-threat of “1234,” “My Moon My Man,” and “I Feel It All” have I seen three video clips of  this caliber. They’re quirky, beautifully shot, engaging, dazzling, and tons of fun. I could of course introduce you to Kimbra strictly by audio, but I think it’s better if you check out her amazing visual aesthetic as well.

First off, “Settle Down,” her first single. There are shades of Bjork-style influences throughout (her use of vocal loops and harmonies is wonderfully innovative), but overall, it’s really a song that can’t be classified. The way she builds and tosses and turns…it’s intoxicating. In the best way. Here is the song, with its (literally) fiery music video attached:

The second single (P.S.: these singles sadly have only been released outside the U.S. for now, though her debut is set to bow in the States on May 22, and she does have an EP in the U.S. iTunes store), “Cameo Lover,” is insanely catchy and, to use a highly technical phrase here, pumping. I’m pretty sure I’ve listened to it the most out of all the Kimbra songs I have. There’s a bit of a ‘girl-group’ sound in here…but once again, Kimbra ends up turning it on its ear, and the result is something quite unique. The music video, featuring some infectious dancing by Kimbra herself (accompanied by a throng of female backup dancers), matches the song’s brilliance very nicely:

And because it’s her only other song with a music video, and I’m on a music video kick, the slinky, throwback-esque “Good Intent,” which shows yet another side of Kimbra’s musical vision:

In case you’re wondering whether she’s any good live…here’s a great clip of her singing another song off her debut, “Two Way Street.” If this is how she is in a studio, I can only imagine how terrific she is onstage:

To close it all off, a fun 80s-R&B-tinged number, “Call Me.” (No relation to the Blondie song of the same name…well, maybe a little.)

By the way, she’s only 22. (A fact I found out today while looking at her Wikipedia article as brief preparation for this post.) My mind, it is forever boggled. (She’s only got 2 years on me and is making this kind of incredible music? Wowsers.) Thanks for reading and listening! :)

Song Sampler of the Day: “Comme des enfants,” “Death By Perfection,” & “Reset”

So I have less than a month, officially, until I’m due to leave on my mission and depart for the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah. Crazy, I know. But that means I have 29 days (according to the handy little countdown widget on your right) to keep the Harmony Avenue party going, and I have tons of artists & songs I still want to share. My solution (for now, at least)? I’m going to experiment with some ways to expand my posting repertoire, while still sticking to the (hopefully) simple ways I’ve done things on this blog since the beginning. (P.S.: Helpful feedback on what’s working and what’s not is always appreciated. A blogger can’t do it all on his own. :)) And thus, I introduce to you…the Song Sampler of the Day! It’s the Song of the Day we all know and love, but thrice as nice at the same price! The first song in this trio of musical delight? A tune in French called…

“Comme des enfants” by Coeur de Pirate!

Coeur de Pirate is the stage name for young French-Canadian singer/songwriter Béatrice Martin. (“Coeur de Pirate is French for “pirate heart.”) I first heard another song of hers on our Pandora station at work, and I had been meaning to check her music out further, but before I did, I saw her name pop up again, this time while perusing Musicnotes, one of my favorite sheet music sites. This song was on the front page, so I took a listen to the audio sample of the sheet music, was intrigued, listened to the 90-second clip on iTunes…and boy, was I hooked. Such a beautiful song, and the kind that’s appealing and lovely regardless what language you speak. (I’m personally not the best at French, and I’m much less familiar with it than I am with, say, Spanish, though I do kind of admire it from afar. And we’re singing a song in French, from the opera “Carmen,” for the East Valley Mormon Choral Organization’s upcoming concert. It’ll be very fun.) Light and airy, yet haunting and riveting, this song is, as English-speaking people say in a clichéd fashion, thinking they’re all French…très magnifique.

Next, take a gander (with your…ears?) at…

“Death by Perfection” by Maia Sharp!

I actually don’t have a way to embed the studio version here. But you can listen to it rather easily thanks to NPR, by clicking on this link. The link also features a little story about the song (funnily enough, it was actually their Song of the Day…connections!), which is really insightful. Anyways, before I talk about that a tiny bit, Maia is an unbelievably talented songwriter and performer who has helped write songs for the likes of the Dixie Chicks, Bonnie Raitt, and according to the little NPR article, even Cher. The Dixie Chicks song, “A Home,” was co-written with her dad Randy Sharp, and was one of the standouts (for me, at least) from the Chicks’ stunning album “Home.” One of the songs she contributed to Bonnie Raitt’s last album, “Souls Alike,” is one of my all-time favorites…a stark, heartbreaking tune called “The Bed I Made.” She’s a gifted composer, but also a vibrant and dynamic performer. David Browne of NPR (who penned the article I linked to) states the essence of this song’s appeal best, I think: “A subtly ingratiating song, it makes its point with grace and nuance — in other words, a protest song for adults.” I just love the lyrics…Maia is skilled at putting things in unique ways, yet making them intensely relatable, and she’s also terrific at creating just the right musical setting for her lyrics. Plus, this song features a fine guest appearance by none other than Bonnie Raitt herself.

The last song in today’s trio? A breathtaking song that I have a favorite artist of mine to thank for introducing me to (more on that in a moment)…

“Reset” by Lucie Silvas!

Lucie Silvas is, from what I understand, a British singer-songwriter. This is the only song of hers I’ve heard. (I’ll soon have to remedy that.) I found about it via Jamie Cullum, one of my musical idols, and one who’s been previously featured on this blog. His brother, Ben Cullum, is a songwriter who’s co-written for Jamie and for other artists, and he made the following tweet about a song his brother had worked on:

I saw it by chance while checking out his website for possible news about his upcoming new album (JAMIE JUST GIVE IT TO US PLEASE), and I went to listen to the song…sweet mama, is it good. It’s sweeping, and emotional, yet beautifully confessional and honest. (It also increases my desire/dream to someday co-write with Ben Cullum. He is terrific.) You’ll be hitting the play button quite often on this one.

There you have it! Harmony Avenue’s first Song Sampler of the Day. I have no idea how often I’ll be utilizing this combo format for Song of the Day posts, but it was worth an initial try at any rate. Thanks for reading, and I’ll be sure to make this final month of posting an exciting one!

Song of the Day: “Little Lovin’”

A new Song of the Day (back to its old spot in the late evening…guess some things never change?), coming right up. Via the a’ight remake of “Footloose,” it’s the captivating tune…

“Little Lovin’” by Lissie!

So I didn’t think much of the “Footloose” remake (then again, years ago when I watched bits and pieces of the original with my dad, I didn’t think much of that either), which I didn’t technically sit down to watch, but was in the room while it was being viewed by the rest of my family, so I basically saw the whole thing anyhow. Anyways, what caught my attention the most was this gorgeous song by folk rock singer Lissie, someone who I had heard of a bit before now, but whose music hadn’t reached my ears until I heard it in the movie. Lissie (whose real name is Elizabeth Maurus) delivers a fearless, haunting vocal, and the song is full of both relentless energy and chilling depth. It’s a song I can’t get enough of right now, pretty much.

More exciting posts are to come. Thanks for reading and listening!

Cover Stories: Bob Dylan

It’s time to revive a feature I haven’t done in a while…in fact, besides the Christmas-themed edition a few months ago, there’s only been one Cover Stories post in this blog’s history (on a few terrific covers of Bonnie Raitt’s heartbreaking classic “I Can’t Make You Love Me”). This post is a little different from that one (and may indicate a shift in direction regarding this feature in general, but we’ll see), in that it focuses on an artist, rather than a song. Which artist? Oh, just a little-known singer/songwriter. You probably haven’t heard of him. His name is Bob Dylan.

Despite Dylan being probably one of the most legendary musicians of all time, I have to admit I’ve never quite taken to his music…or at least, his original versions…at first listen. However, thanks to the numerous times his songs have been covered, I’ve really come to appreciate his songcraft…the man is an absolutely brilliant songwriter. And through those covers, I’ve been able to appreciate Bob Dylan a lot more. For all those who decry covers, they can really do wonders in helping build a bridge from the old to the new. I’m sure I would have come to my senses sooner or later regarding Dylan’s incredible body of work (which I know I’ve only scratched the surface of) regardless, but hearing other artists’ stellar takes on his songs certainly helped speed up the process.

Two of the first Dylan covers I ended up falling in love with were songs that on initial listen, I wasn’t aware were covers in the first place: Adele’s passionate “Make You Feel My Love,” and Madeleine Peyroux’s gorgeous, nuanced reading of “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go.” I discovered pretty quickly that these two recordings weren’t Adele or Madeleine originals but rather tributes to Bob Dylan, but when I first came across them, I wasn’t aware of their origin, being the young, less experienced music listener I was then. Both these covers do a beautiful job of honoring the source material while putting their own stamp on the song…Adele imbues “Make You Feel My Love” with her now-trademark raw vocal power, but keeps the proceedings bracingly intimate, backed by little more than a piano and a string ensemble. It’s a beautifully emotional performance. You’ve likely heard Adele’s studio recording of the song by now (and if you haven’t, you’ve possibly been living under the largest of rocks, and should remedy that immediately), so here’s the music video of the song, a departure from traditional song video clips in that it consists of Adele actually singing the song live, rather than lip-syncing to the recording. (The effect is quite powerful.)

Meanwhile, Madeleine Peyroux (a fine jazz-fueled vocalist whose work has taken a very nice singer/songwriter-oriented turn as of late) brings things down even more with her version of “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go.” Her phrasing is captivating here, and the result is a song that rides the balance between heartbreak and acceptance wonderfully. It’s a bit slower than Dylan’s original, but that brings out some of the nuances in the song in the best ways.

Another Bob Dylan cover I heard around that time was a version of “Lay Lady Lay” by Norwegian musician Magnet and Irish singer/songwriter Gemma Hayes, that ended up appearing on the soundtrack to “Mr. and Mrs. Smith.” I hadn’t heard this cover in a few years, before I listened to it once again just now prior to embedding it in this post, but I still really enjoy it. The vocals are very fragile and almost nonchalant in a way, but the track as a whole creates an intoxicating atmosphere that really plays to the song’s strengths, I think.

Jazz vocalist Kate McGarry, an innovative and engaging interpreter, covered “The Times They Are A-Changin’” on her 2008 album “If Less Is More…Then Nothing Is Everything.” (I finally got around to putting the song in my iTunes library a day or two ago. No idea why it took that long, to be honest.) Her percussive, almost frenzied take on the song brings out its urgency (and for me, highlights just how applicable it can be to today’s cultural climate, despite the fact that Bob Dylan wrote it for another era of change altogether) wonderfully. I couldn’t find a way to embed the studio version, but here’s a stellar live performance of the song by Kate and her trio. It’s first up in a 3-song set here:

Finally, there’s a recent charity project that has added many fine Dylan covers to the musical landscape: Amnesty International’s 50th anniversary compilation, “Chimes of Freedom,” featuring a large host of artists singing songs from Bob Dylan’s sizable catalog, and in many cases paying tribute to an undeniable influence. Much like Amnesty International’s last high-profile tribute collection, “Instant Karma” (which took on the songs of John Lennon), there’s quite a few unexpected gems to be found here…particularly in the case of two much-maligned pop-artists.

Ke$ha is one of my least favorite artists by a long shot, and she’s the last person I would expect to do well with a Bob Dylan cover…and that’s why her version of “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” shocked me so much. It’s heartstoppingly raw, and hearing the usually AutoTuned-to-death Ke$ha in such a naked, stark setting certainly catches you off-guard. (Reportedly, the vocal was recorded on Ke$ha’s laptop without any professional recording equipment, in a demo-type setting, and rather than re-recording it, they ended up using that first take, feeling it was more powerful that way. You can even hear her crying in some parts.) Singing a cappella for a good chunk of the song, and accompanied only by soft, almost ominous strings for the balance of it, Ke$ha has quite honestly never sounded better. In this cover, she relies on the undertone of sadness and heartbreak inherent in the song (something that Dylan’s original only touched on), and the result is almost spine-tingling. It’s a cover that certainly has the potential to be polarizing, but I for one was thoroughly impressed. The imperfections, the flaws, the unpolished nature of it only make the song better, I think, rather than worse. If only Ke$ha would stick to this kind of music. (Unfortunately, with how well she’s doing currently, I doubt she will…it’s sad what it takes to be a successful female pop artist nowadays.)

The other cover that surprised me? Another take on “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go,” by none other than Miley Cyrus. Her vocals have never struck me as particularly strong in the past, but as demonstrated on this song, she really shines in an acoustic setting. The studio recording is very nice, but really caught my ear was her performance of the song on “Ellen,” accompanied by only a guitar. I’ve never seen her actually dig deep into the meaning of a song as much as she does here, and it’s a wonderfully refreshing change of pace. She acquits herself exceptionally well, and much like Ke$ha, it would be much better for her artistically to stay in this setting (and also much like Ke$ha, she likely won’t).

Three other standouts from the album? Ximena Sariñana’s subtly haunting but beautifully uplifting version of “I Want You” (I love how she really brings out the longing in the song), Diana Krall’s spare, piano-driven take on “Simple Twist of Fate,” and Oren Lavie’s deliciously atmospheric reading of “4th Time Around.” I hadn’t heard of any of these songs before these 3 fine artists took them on, but now I’m quite curious to hear Dylan’s originals. (See how covers do good?) Hear them all for yourself here, then be sure to check out the rest of the compilation on your favorite musical outlet, and support Amnesty International while you’re doing so…it’s a great organization. (Note: I could only find a truncated version of Oren’s cover to embed. However, it’s a great way to get acquainted with his cover, and if you want the whole thing, then you can go buy it…a course of action which I highly recommend.)

Whew, that’s a lot of Bob Dylan covers (and that’s not even the smallest part of the tip of the iceberg). I’m sure there’s quite a few more great ones out there. If you have any recommendations, feel free to share in the comments. Thanks for reading and listening!

Song of the Day: “Black Gold”

Tomorrow, February draws to a close, so there’s no better time than the present for a new Song of the Day (the first since Arizona’s birthday/that one day where there’s a bunch of love and happiness and stuff). I have about 2 months left to post here, so I’ll be sure to make much more frequent visits to Harmony Avenue from now on. (Cross my heart. Which reminds me of “Up”: “Cross your heart?…CROSS IT! Cross your heart!” :) ) Here’s a terrific new single from last year’s Best New Artist Grammy winner, who recently appeared on Sunday’s Oscars broadcast, with a theme particularly appropriate for this month, though applicable throughout the year…

“Black Gold” by Esperanza Spalding (feat. Algebra Blessett)!

Esperanza’s new album, “Radio Music Society,” comes out next month, and from what I’ve heard so far, it looks to be a beautifully innovative fusion of jazz, R&B, pop, and lots of great bits of pieces of other genres. This lead-off single, featuring stellar R&B vocalist Algebra Blessett, is a great demonstration of that dazzling sense of musical experimentation. As stated on Esperanza’s website (and as displayed in the heartfelt music video), this song is a message to African American boys, and is meant to give them hope and a sense of inner strength. However, the song isn’t limited to just one group of people…it features a positive, uplifting message that anyone, of any walk of life, can identify with. It’s a beautiful, joyous piece of music with lots of wonderful moments (I love in particular when a children’s choir comes in during the latter half), and if the rest of Esperanza’s new record is as terrific as this, it’s going to be one wonderful album.

More great music is to come in the next month or two. Stay tuned, and thanks for reading! :)

Song of the Day: “Love Is You”

What’s today? Well, first off, it’s Arizona’s centennial birthday…my home state is 100 years young today! OK, and it’s also a little-known holiday a few people celebrate or something…Valentines’ Day, I think they call it? There’s a link to a lovely Arizona video at the bottom of this post (unfortunately, embedding is disabled), but for today’s Song of the Day (for once, it’s actually posted before the evening! sort of), I’ll focus on Valentines’ Day and post a beautiful song for the occasion…

“Love Is You” by Chrisette Michele!

I first came across this song about 3 or 4 years ago (another song by Chrisette, “Your Joy,” was a free single on iTunes), and it’s become one of my absolute favorites. With just a piano and some elegant strings, Chrisette delivers a heartfelt, tender message that’s perfect not just for Valentines’ Day, but really any day. It’s absolutely gorgeous.

And as promised, here’s a tribute to the beauty of Arizona (the song is a bit cheesy, but it’s heartfelt, and the pictures are stunning)…happy birthday, my beloved Grand Canyon State! (Just click on the link.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7xedmvJTzk

Thanks for reading, and have a great Valentines’ Day/centennial!

Artist Spotlight: Sia

Hello again. It’s been a bit, hasn’t it? (As usual.) Looking over my past posts, I didn’t realize that I hadn’t done an Artist Spotlight for a while…in fact, the last spotlight post I made was back in October, during Anniversary Week, with the candlestick…ahem, I mean, about the astoundingly talented Laura Marling. The time is ripe for the first Artist Spotlight in 2012, so here it is, by way of Australia…

Sia!

Sia (whose full name is Sia Furler) is definitely a special kind of artist. She started off her career doing mostly singer-songwriter-oriented music, but has since dipped her toes in pop and dance music as well. And her voice…wow. It’s such an expressive, unique, singular instrument. I know it’s a bit of a cliche to say “you’ve never heard anything like it,” but really, with Sia it just might be true.

I first came in contact with her music in 2008, around the time her third studio album, “Some People Have Real Problems,” came out. I’m not sure exactly how I discovered that particular album, but I took a few listens to it and now here we are. I also have a few cuts from her previous studio album, “Colour The Small One,” on my iPod. The first, “Breathe Me,” may sound familiar, as it was used in the series finale of “Six Feet Under,” and has also popped up in commercials here and there. The second, “Don’t Bring Me Down,” is a hauntingly fragile song backed by lush strings. (I can’t find a way to embed the album version here on the blog, but you can check it out here.) Notice how Sia’s voice sounds in these songs…it’s a bit of a different vocal approach than the one she would use in her later music.

Of course, it was her next album that started it all for me, as I mentioned above. She really lets her voice free in these songs, it seems like, and the songs themselves are beautifully written. Take a listen to three standouts, the heartbreaking “You Have Been Loved,” clever kiss-off “The Girl You Lost To Cocaine,” and tender “Day Too Soon” (which is a song I’d either love to sing or have played at my wedding someday…the lyrics are perfect):

And here’s one more track from that album (I had to keep myself from sharing more…), complete with music video. It was free on iTunes one week, and I of course jumped on that offer. It was a song I hadn’t heard before I watched the video…and I was blown away, both musically and visually. It’s terrific:

Her latest album, “We Are Born,” came out in 2010, and it was an interesting shift in direction for Sia. It’s a collection of, essentially, dance pop…but done brilliantly as only Sia can. If I had my way, I’d share the whole album, but as usual I’ll keep myself to a few of my favorites…firecracker album opener “The Fight,” the disco-themed “You’ve Changed,” the peppy “Bring Night,” and the stark, beautiful “I’m In Here,” which harks back to Sia’s earlier work:

OK, so I may have embedded enough media here to paper my wall (if walls could be papered by streaming med…y’know, I’m just going to quit while I’m behind), but I have a few more songs to share with you before we go. (It’s really hard choosing my favorites with Sia, as is the case with pretty much any of my favorite artists. Just be glad I’m not dumping a bunch of clips on you and calling it a day. Anyways, Sia’s music isn’t just limited to her albums…her voice has also cropped up over the years on various soundtracks and cover projects. Notably, she contributed a gorgeous number to the “Eclipse” soundtrack (yep, she sang in a “Twilight” movie…), called “My Love.” She also did a terrific cover of Radiohead’s classic “Paranoid Android” on a Radiohead tribute album. And, oh, she’s collaborated with two people you just might have heard of lately…French producer David Guetta and rapper Flo Rida (yes, that fool behind “Low” and “Right Round”), on “Titanium” and “Wild Ones” respectively. To say she elevates both tracks to new heights would be a huge understatement. Hear all of those great Sia appearances here (like I wouldn’t embed them after all that):

And now I shall escape before I end up embedding any more songs. At least you have a lot of music to dive into. I’ll be back in a bit with a new Song of the Day, and later on with some more posts. (Famous last words? :)) Thanks, as always, for reading and listening!

Front Row Seat: Janelle & Ellie At The Nobel Peace Prize Concert

Hey, remember that new feature I teased about in my last post? The one involving live performances? ‘Tis here. (And I even came up with a cheesy name for it! It wouldn’t be a Harmony Avenue post without one…) Normally I plan to make this about one particular live performance, but for a few reasons, this post won’t highlight just one video…but five. They’re all from the same night…the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Concert, which took place back on December 11 in Norway. Two of my favorite artists took the stage, and delivered absolutely outstanding performances: Janelle Monáe and Ellie Goulding. Rather than narrow their songs down to just one or two, I’m going to share them all. Happy New Year. :)

First off, Ellie did a lovely job with her cover of Elton John’s “Your Song,” enhanced beautifully by the on-stage orchestra. She also gave the best live version of her amazing song “Starry Eyes” that I’ve seen yet…the size of the orchestra and the unique setting really seem to energize her, and she’s absolutely in top form. Here are both of those songs:

Not that I like to compare artists too often, but I think Janelle Monáe did even better with her fiery 3-song set. First, she took on the Jackson 5′s infectious classic, “I Want You Back,” and handled it with aplomb:

Then (or perhaps before…I’m not exactly sure how the program order went, seeing as I, y’know, wasn’t there), she sang a two-song medley featuring a pair of my favorites of hers, “Cold War” and “Tightrope.” To say she brought down the house would be an understatement. I’m pretty sure even some dignitaries in the audience are dancing by the end…

And well, that’s pretty much it. I might tinker with this feature a bit next time it pops up, but for now I’ll just keep it plain and simple. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words (which makes 5 YouTube videos worth…quite a lot of words?). Thanks for reading. :)

Song of the Day: “The Daily Mail”

It’s the first post of 2012! And after a barrage of list-based posts at the end of last year, I’m returning to one of this blog’s classic features…the Song of the Day. (As usual, it’s posted at night. I really need to get to doing these in the morning…then they’ll actually be a true Song of the Day for once.) Today, take a listen to…

“The Daily Mail” by Radiohead!

This song, a B-side released by the band last month, is more of a side of Radiohead that we don’t often get to see, and it’s something they should try more often, I think. It kind of harks back to their earlier stuff (in fact, it’s a bit reminiscent of “OK Computer,” before they went in a completely different, experimental direction after that), starting with just a stark, arresting piano line and then having Thom Yorke’s haunting vocals enter in. (He’s rarely delivered a more effective, heartrending vocal in recent years than he does here.) Eventually the full sound kicks in towards the song’s second half, but it’s a controlled explosion, with a deeply melodic quality that you don’t always get in Radiohead’s work. The guitars, the horns, the lyrics…everything combines to make a truly terrific musical experience.

A small preview of what’s coming soon:

  • A new theme! I’ve grown quite fond of the one I’m using now, but it’s always fun to shake things up, and I think I’ve found a new blog theme that will work quite nicely. Look for it in the coming days (though knowing me, it will probably be much sooner than that…)
  • The first new Artist Spotlight of 2012. I’m still brainstorming who it will be (I’ve got a long list in mind, but I haven’t done this feature for a while), but it will be a good one.
  • A potential new feature…there’s one highlighting live performances that I think I want to try out.

As always, thanks for reading. 2012 is going to be a great year, and I hope to make the next few months on Harmony Avenue as jam-packed with good music as I can. :)

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