So, about all that good music…
Please give all of these a listen. You can’t judge any of them by what the others sound like. And don’t judge the videos. Many of them don’t have official videos. Some may be fan made, or not exist at all. And some may just be plain bad. I’m also linking to the artists’ official sites when I can. I was going to only do one song per artist, but I found myself “having” to include two for many of these, so I just decided to increase the default number of songs to include.
AfroCelt Sound System
First up is “Lagan” by the AfroCelt Sound System, from their album Volume 3: Further in Time. ACSS began as a project at a Recording Week at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios. These Recording Weeks took advantage of the large population of musicians from all over the world around the time of the annual WOMAD festival, and led to some very interesting musical pairings. ACSS is a fine example, as Simon Emmerson had the idea of merging traditional music from the British Isles with that of western Africa. This first song is followed by “Riding the Waves,” which is from the same album, but showcases an entirely different feel.
[Be sure to continue reading after the break below the videos!]
Known as A3 here in the states, Alabama 3 is best known for their song, “Woke Up This Morning,” which was used as the theme song for the HBO series, The Sopranos. As good as that song is, though, I’d rank it at about middle quality for this band. Seamlessly blending techno, blues, gospel, rock, acid house, country and just about any other genre of music, this group has become one of the top live acts in England. “Up Above My Head” is probably my favorite song by them, though by no means is it typical. I really couldn’t tell you what a typical Alabama 3 song is.
As an example of the multiple personality disorder of this band, here’s another picking. With more hip-hop and techno influence, “Monday Don’t Mean Anything” could be from a totally different band (except for Larry Love’s distinctive voice).
Discovered by Peter Gabriel, Joseph Arthur is one soul-wrenching songwriter. He’s got an amazing knack for melody and harmony, and his songs are always so layered with brilliance. He’s consistently been one of the most critically acclaimed artists of the past 15 years or so since his first album, though he has yet to gain mainstream recognition. He’s also a notable artist of a more visual sort. He’s designed most of the cover art on his albums and his EP Vacancy even won a Grammy for packaging. Here’s his song, “She Paints Me Gold,” set to photos of him doing some of his work.
I don’t want to post multiple videos for every artist I talk about here, but there’s another very notable thing about Joseph Arthur. He plays a number of shows as a solo act. In his case, this literally means he’s on the stage by himself. He’s developed a very interesting way of filling out his sound, though. On stage, in front of the audience, using foot pedals and effects boxes, he’ll record a little bit of the song… a riff here, a drum beat there, then he loops it and records another bit. I can’t find a great example of it, but this recording of “Can’t Let You Stay” will suffice. He’s already recorded himself smacking the strings on his guitar to get a kind of drum beat when this video starts, but you get to see him add the equivalent of a bass drum and then continue to build.
I direct people who say they don’t like techno or electronica to Assemblage 23. Any music can be repetitive and overbearing, which are two of the most common complaints about music programmed on synthesizers and computers. All it takes is someone who understands the craft of music to create something that doesn’t fall into those pitfalls. Song craft is the key, not the tools you use. Tom Shear, the guy who is Assemblage 23, gets it. One of his strong suits, like with many of the artists here, is the strong lyrics. Here’s one of my favorites, the first song by A23 I ever heard, “Opened.” And yes, there’s a second one after it. I wanted to show you something fairly typical of him for the first song, but “Lullaby” is such a beautiful song that I couldn’t skip it here.
Stay tuned for part 2!