I-I Follow

February 15, 2011

The Grammies (and the BRITs) have been passed out, and I’m paying more careful attention to The Black Keys, La Roux, Switchfoot’s Hello Hurricane, and Patty Griffin’s gospel album, while rediscovering Sade’s recent album, Soldier of Love. Obviously happy (ecstatic, really) for Arcade Fire and Danger Mouse (of Broken Bells, etc.), Laura Marling, Mumford & Sons, Pete Seeger, Big Star, Train, and Muse, as well as Jay-Z and Alicia Keys. And planning on checking out Miranda Lambert (and may-be, but only maybe, Lady Antebellum) eventually, especially since Lori McKenna tweeted so excitedly about her win.

But really, I’m riding the crest of Valentine’s Day “weekend” (there needs to be an equivalent term for a combination of weekdays and weekend days falling at the beginning of a work week!) by falling madly in love with Lykke Li, day after day after day. Each day in the past week, I’ve delved into a whole ‘nother layer of my love for “I Follow Rivers,” and now I’m spreading out my affection to her entire ouevre, mostly the songs (and remixes of the songs) from her first album, Youth Novels. I am half-desperate for the next half-month to pass so that I can get my hands on Wounded Rhymes, which is being referred to, logically, as her sophomore album.

So, whether or not you’re feeling blue and lovesick or manic and love-crazed, I bet you’ll benefit from checking out what I’m calling, “Attack of the Swedes!” :

First there was Ane Brun, summoned from within some vague locale in the Internet itself to make my acquaintance. Her voice is mature, with a maternal quality reminiscent of some folk or country singers. She sounds self-sure, plaintive, and sweet, all at the same time.  After listening to some of her songs, you’ll be surprised that the voice you’re listening to isn’t a Brit’s but rather that of a Norwegian who has been living and working for a decade in Sweden. This fact is more evident in her cover of “True Colors” (which I had no idea was first recorded by Cyndi Lauper!). As for what I mean about her “maternal quality,” I sometimes notice something in her sound that, in my mind, makes a perfect match to moments in the recordings of Malvina Reynolds, who I’ve also been obsessing over in the past month. This most likely means one of two things: either our voices don’t change that much over time, or Brun is ahead of her time in multiple ways. Her voice just somehow doesn’t match with her gorgeous, youthful, movie starlet looks. And that’s a good thing! Nothing like the elements of surprise and incongruity to make us pay more attention to beautiful music. Even better, her voice in “Humming One of Your Songs” has some lovely parallels to that of Beth Gibbons of Portishead on “Glory Box.”

Then, through the amazing powers and magic of Last.fm, there was Anna Ternheim. Ternheim has an exquisite voice with a Laura Marling quality you wouldn’t necessarily expect from a native Swedish speaker (I’m referring both to her basic vocals and her British-ish accent here). Notice  a theme here? Anyway, Ternheim shares with Brun a knack for songwriting that mines insight, heartbreak, and everyday, hum-drum life experience and turns it into gold. They’ve both been recognized for this closer to home. It’s time the rest of the world learned to pay more attention!

“You’re my river running high  – run deep, run wild. I, I follow…I follow you, deep sea, baby. I, I follow…I follow you. Dark doom, honey.”

And somehow, somewhere in there, through some dazzling coincidence, Lykke Li appeared from on high and blasted her rays of discoteque-boosted glory through the wires of the Hype Machine. Youth Novels is packed with songs of the heart, as I suppose is understandable if we really concentrate on the meaning of the album’s title and the typical, iconic qualities of youth novels. Lykke had a tempestuous childhood molded by her parents’ jet-setting lifestyle, the effects of which weren’t entirely positive in crafting her world-wise persona. There’s this terrific article from SPIN (cover story, actually), highlighting the fact that she’s poised to become the next international pop superstar, which artfully details Lykke Li’s tempered take on her childhood, her young career, and her talent. I’m just waiting for the day when, several months from the official release of Wounded Rhymes, “I Follow Rivers” becomes a mega-hit, and I’m lounging around, feasting on the high of my “I told you so’s”! ;-)

(Then again, for some mysterious reason, North America has yet to wake up to Bat for Lashes. At least she’s getting recognized on her home turf! Third time’s a charm, Natasha Khan. Just get us that next album, stat!)

El Perro del Mar fits right in with this echelon of strong stars. I know I’m failing at painting these gorgeous, golden-voiced women in all their uniqueness, but, to my credit, it’s past midnight as I blather on and on. But really, El Perro del Mar in all her dreamy, jewel-studded dream-pop glow, has that crazy combination of strange British-influenced accent, tender voice, and model looks as Ane, Anna, and Lykke.  “Inner Island’ wields the timeless quality of its imagery with a calming force, making it reminiscent of Tori Amos’s “Cool on Your Island” from her Y Kant Tori Read days (which I only finally delved into this week — Reactions? “Oh, wow — the eighties!”).

In review, here’s a playlist of songs to check out, for starters (of the love-struck variety):

Little Bit – Lykke Li

Rubber & Soul – Ane Brun

Summer Rain – Anna Ternheim

Humming One of Your Songs – Ane Brun

Inner Island – El Perro del Mar

What Have I Done? (El Perro Del Mar Mix) – Anna Ternheim

I Follow Rivers – Lykke Li

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