Electro-pop singer Maggie Rogers shot to viral fame when her song “Alaska” stunned r&b/hip-hop artist Pharrell Williams in an NYU Masterclass (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0u7lXy7pDg). Her EP “Now that the light is fading” seems to combine r&b and singer-songwriter/folk elements with dancey poptronica arrangements in a way that is highly pleasing to the ear.
Hot on the heels of 2015’s “Monsanto Years,” and June’s live follow-up “Earth,” (recorded with Promise of the Real), “Peace Trail” is Neil Young’s 37th studio album. Recorded in four days, Neil opted to move on from the brief collaboration with Promise of the Real and work solo with studio musicians. Largely acoustic-driven, featuring some occasional odd touches of autotune, and spanning topics from Standing Rock to immigration and workers rights, it’s another peacenik protest offering from the old codger, but it’s not exactly a barn-stormer of a rock album.
Julee Cruise had collaborated with David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti on the soundtracks for Lynch’s film “Blue Velvet” prior to working on the Twin Peaks soundtrack, but is probably best known for the “Falling” Twin Peaks theme song.
Her 1989 album “Floating into the Night” features several tracks that also appear on the official Twin Peaks soundtrack album (“Falling”; “Rockin’ Back Inside My Heart”; “The Nightingale”; “Into the Night”).
As might be expected, this album is airy and dreamy and beautiful.
Who can forget the haunting soundtrack to Twin Peaks, the shimmering guitar, the deep bass, the synth, the soap-operaesque crescendos, the overtones of some alternative universe where pining nostalgia-50s rockabilly and jazz lived side by side with the modern age in the schizoid world of Twin Peaks where the nuclear family hid shocking and dark secrets.
David Lynch’s lyrics, Angelo Badalamenti’s arrangements and unmistakable synth lines, together with Julee Cruise’s soft floating ethereal vocals formed the inseparable and fundamental backdrop to the TV series.
The soundtrack album is a great standalone collection, and it’s all here: the theme music “Falling” (which I never tire of hearing) – with and without Julee Cruise’s vocals; the borderline saccharine “Laura Palmer’s Theme”; the sleazy “Audrey’s Dance”; the crazy reverb-mirror-pool “Nightingale” with it’s “Ooo”s and “wah-wah”s like something from a 50s high-school/diner-love-affair song; the mysterious dream-song “Into the Night”; and the “Dance of the Dream Man.”
April 2017’s Mojo magazine featured a free CD entitled “Desert Songs” and emblazoned with a sunset silhouette photo of joshua trees and desert. A U2 band shot from the “Joshua Tree” album was the magazine cover photo, so I assumed this collection might be an interest listen in the context of that seminal U2 album which is turning 30 this year and being celebrated with a commemorative tour. The CD cover informs us that we may expect to hear “15 tracks of cosmic roots music,” and the brief liner notes feature a Bono quote about U2’s interest not so much in “America the land mass or the body politic, but America the mythic idea.”
I’m not sure if the 15 track collection spanning the 80s through today really captures any sense of the Mojave or the barren wind-swept and sun-baked mystery of the American desert, or in fact of any American mythology that may have informed U2’s “Joshua Tree.”
Two thirds of the collection is a jumble of passable tracks from Meat Puppets, Howe Gelb, Cass McCombs, Rainer Ptacek, Devon Sproule, Victoria Williams, Mark Eitzel, Alejandro Escovedo, Michael Chapman, Lift to Experience, with a handful of standouts:
Julie Byrne’s “All The Land Glimmered Beneath,” reminiscent of early Leonard Cohen; The Long Ryder’s “Ivory Tower,” with its early REM / Americana feel; a more haunting take on the Americana tone in the Johnny Cash-ish “Mother of Earth” by The Gun Club; Harvey Mandel’s psychedelic Pink Floyd-meets-Santana “Nightingail”; and the capstone of the collection: Jack Rose’s instrumental guitar piece that continues the legacy of fingerpicking American greats like John Fahey and Leo Kottke.
Preceding the “Amelia” 7” by two or three months, this “Porcelain / Wolf” 7” from Scandinavian singer-songwriter Skott also features more of that striking cover artwork a-la Alphonse Mucha. Less of that slight Chelsea Wolfe feeling here, and almost a fleeting sense of Lana Del Rey territory – more so in the production and arrangements than specifically in the vocals or melodies. The vocals are sublime and soaring. I’ve read what little can be found online about her and apparently Lorde is a big fan, as is, ack, Katy Perry. Her music has been described using phrases like “left field pop” and “folktronic atmospherics.” I’d like to see a full album.
This SKOTT 7” is mainly only rewarding for the A side and the vinyl cover artwork that looks like something by early 1900s Art Nouveau artist Alphonse Mucha.
With a voice reminiscent of Kerli, the A side’s high-fretted acoustic / nylon string guitar and slightly dark bass electro backing track has a touch of Chelsea Wolfe to it. The B side is a little too airy and Cardigans-esque.