Friday, June 30, 2006

Long Time No See (Or Hear)

Sorry for the long hiatus. I’ve been swamped with work and also finishing up a documentary film project. So, I haven’t had much time to scratch up any fun new tunes for you to enjoy. But finally new songs have arrived for your listening pleasure.

Hafdis Huld – Tomoko
It may be hard to hang out with Tomoko, but it is a lot of fun to listen to Tomoko. Hafdís Huld Hákonardóttir sang with the Icelandic band GusGus for nine years from the age of 15 until they unceremoniously dumped her from the band. Hafdis’ album is full of quirky pop songs that have the familiar Icelandic sensibility. There’s nothing you can do, but enjoy Hafdis Huld.
Other Hafdis Huld Songs to Check Out: Who Loves The Sun, Fucked Up Mind, Sumri Hallar

Texas Lightning – No No Never
My love for this song keeps burning like an eternal flame. I’m never ever going to forget it. Who couldn’t love this fun alternative country song by Texas Lightning, a GERMAN country band!? I mean a GERMAN band that plays AMERICAN Country & Western music, folks. Get real! Good stuff. Texas Lightning was quite a sensation at the recent Eurovision Song Contest, but were overshadowed by the insane, Satanic rockers who won the competition. I’m not actually a big fan of country music, but this is country-lite. Alternative country. AND you also need to hear their covers of Madonna’s “Like A Virgin,” ABBA's "Dancing Queen" or Prince’s “Kiss” among others. It’s funky good times. Check it out.

Other Texas Lightning Songs to Check Out: Dancing Queen, Over The Mountains, Kiss, Like A Virgin

Helene Bøksle – Isimo
Okay, so here’s the weekly Norwegian roundup of what’s hot in Norway. Helene Bøksle is the flavor of the moment. You know I’m going to have something Norwegian to post on a regular basis, right?? ;) Helene has been performing since the age of 4, even in some high profile places, like the opening of the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony at age 11. With a background in theatre, she brings a lush musical sound to her pop music. Most of the Norwegian pop music posted on this site is sung in English, but here’s a song in Norwegian with a great beat and magical sound which transcends language.
Other Helene Bøksle Songs to Check Out: Natta vi har, Måneskinnsmøyane, Blomen fell

Friday, April 14, 2006

Bucky Done Gone

Well, they went and did it. Bucky was booted off American Idol this week. He wasn't my favorite on the show, but far from the worst still left. TAYLOR needs to go! Anyway, in honor of Bucky, this week's Musica Obscura is dedicated to him. But that doesn't mean we're featuring Country music. It's music from another country, featuring music influenced by Sri Lanka, Trinidad and Kenya. In fact, Bucky probably wouldn't like the music this week, but that's his problem. ;)

M.I.A. – Bucky Done Gun
M.I.A. is London born, Sri Lanka-raised Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam, the daughter of a Tamil activist and paramilitary guerilla. No wonder M.I.A.’s music is rapid fire, aggressive, urban, tribal electro world music. Maya studied fine art, film and video at college in London where she created artwork based on the Tamil rebellion back in Sri Lanka. When she seemed destined to a career in art, Elastica commissioned her to design the artwork for the band’s second album. This led to Maya videoing them on tour and eventually being introduced to the musical artform. “Bucky Done Gun” is the finished result of this art extravaganza.

Other M.I.A. Songs to Check Out: Galang, Hombre, Banana Skit, Pull Up The People

Maya Angelou – Since Me Man Done Gone And Went
Maya Angelou is well known as an author, poet, lecturer and even actress, but few know of her early career as a dancer and calypso singer. Angelou’s grandfather was from Trinidad, which is how she learned the calypso music. During the early 1950s, she sang and danced calypso in San Francisco nightspots. While touring Europe in the late ‘50s with a production of Porgy & Bess, she was among the first to perform calypso music in Paris nightclubs. She returned to the USA at the height of the calypso craze and recorded an album titled “Miss Calypso” in 1957 and appeared in the Hollywood film “Calypso Heat Wave” the same year.

Other Maya Angelou Songs to Check Out: Run Joe, Oo-dla-ba-doo,

Lamya – Empires
This is a fun, unique song. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the likes of Björk or Kate Bush. Lamya is a gifted singer, songwriter and producer born in Oman and raised in Kenya, England and Egypt. Before getting into pop music, she was a classically trained opera singer. Before going solo, she sang lead vocals for the band Soul II Soul, toured with Duran Duran, performed with David Bowie and James Brown. The songs on her debut album were created using poems she’d written since she was 11 and you can definitely see that in the lyrics of “Empires.”

Other Lamya Songs to Check Out: East Of Anywhere, Black Mona Lisa, I Get Cravings, Pink Moon

Friday, April 07, 2006

Princess Märtha Louise

I had lunch with Princess Märtha Louise of Norway yesterday. In honor of the event, I am dedicating this week's music selections to her and the musicians featured are all Norwegian. Also, check out my silly T-shirt which I designed to commemorate the event.

Bel Canto – You Rock My World Tonight
Princess Märtha Louise rocks. ;) hehe… Well, she impressed me, anyway. This song rocks, too. You can’t get much better than Anneli Drecker’s voice and Nils’ groovy musical arrangements. This is the second best song ever recorded. The best song ever recorded is “Feels Like I’m Already Flying” also by Bel Canto. Get Your Groove On.

Other Bel Canto Songs to Check Out: Shimmering Warm & Bright, Le Temps Degage, Feels Like I’m Already Flying, Unicorn, Spiderdust, Maaligaabidaa,

Savoy – Fearlist
I first got this song because I heard that Anneli Drecker sings backup vocals on this track. But if she does, I can’t discern her voice on it at all, however, it’s a great song with a gothica kick reminiscent of Depeche Mode. Savoy is primarily made up of Pål Waaktaar-Savoy, guitarist of that other Norwegian band A-Ha, and his wife Lauren Savoy and drummer Frode Unneland. The lyrics on “Fearlist” are quirky and funny, too, which I love: “Did you spill the milk? Did the milk spill?” and alternately dark “It doesn’t matter if it bleeds…”

Other Savoy Songs to Check Out: Velvet, Whalebone

Poor Rich Ones – Mummy
Any song which is called “Mummy” (aka Mom Is Home) has got to be good. Okay, that’s not entirely true, but when a song is good and has fun lyrics that tell an intriguing story, then the result can be quite good. It tells the tale of a latch-key child who has to go home before his mummy gets home from work, but now “Mom Is Home” so it’s okay to open the door… Beautiful, poignant, and great vocals by William Hut. The Poor Rich Ones won a Norwegian grammy for their second album.

Other Poor Rich Ones Songs to Check Out: Hunting High And Low, Milwaukee, My Book Of Friends, English Popsong

Friday, March 31, 2006

Folk Pop

Brasillian folk pop, Norwegian folk pop, and Canadian folk pop. Wherever it's from, I guess they’re calling it alternative country these days, but these songs aren’t THAT country.

Kid Abelha – Eu Tive Um Sonho
Kid Abelha’s “Eu Tive Um Sonho” is a little bit of Brasillian folk pop music from a band that is considered more of a pop/rock band. But then they released a great acoustic album and it made it sound a lot more folksy.

Other Kid Abelha Songs to Check Out: Eu So Penso Em Voce, Fazer Amor de Madrugada, Como Eu Quero

William Hut – Springtime Blues
William Hut has a beautiful, lilting voice and has been compared to the likes of Paul Simon. He was with the band the Poor Rich Ones before they became less rich and more poor and broke up. Now he’s releasing solo albums and doing the occasional collaboration with the likes of Anneli Drecker. "Springtime Blues" is a bit bluesy but not so blue. I guess it could be called alternative country rather than folk pop. It’s a bit folksy and a teeny bit popish and not so country, though. I enjoy this song and I usually don’t enjoy this type of music so much.

Other William Hut Songs to Check Out: Bangalore Homecoming Queen, Scarlett, Too Much, Country Hut

Feist – Mushaboom
Leslie Feist has a rich, buttery voice which melts in your ears. And she’s got such diverse taste. One minute she’s singing BeeGees disco remakes, then a song with a French pop style from the ‘60s. “Mushaboom” starts out with a beat that seems almost like it was created in Rio instead of the frozen tundra of Canada, and then goes on to mix all sorts of styles borrowed from here and there into one song. Very interesting and original. We also love it when she sings in French in the song “Tout Doucement.”

Other Feist Songs to Check Out: Tout Doucement, Secret Heart, Inside And Out

Friday, March 17, 2006

Power Hour

The power is on.

The Go! Team – The Power Is On
The Go! Team are a Brighton, UK band with no less than two drummers. Big Beats! I always liked songs with a good rhythm. This six-piece band’s sound is a mixture of superhero theme songs, ‘70s funkadelic and cheerleader chants. This isn’t your grandmother’s cheerleading squad, though.

Other Go! Team Songs to check out: Ladyflash, Bottle Rocket, Everyone’s A V.I.P. To Someone, Huddle Formation, Did You Feel It Too?, We Just Won’t Be Defeated

Anneli Drecker – Stop This
Anneli Drecker is one of the most original recording artists out there. She’s the frontwoman for the Norwegian band Bel Canto, but has also recorded with Röyksopp and A-ha, among others. “Stop This” is from Anneli’s new dark ‘80s sounding goth-disco album, "Frolic," featuring William Hut of fellow Norwegian band Poor Rich Ones on “Angel Bossanova” and Depeche Mode’s long-time producer, Gareth Jones, on the track “The Monkey Trap.”

Other Anneli Drecker Songs to Check Out: Sexy Love, My Emily, Trinitron, Until I’m In You, Strange Little Bird, I’ll Strangle You, Becoming More Like God, Morning Glory

Bucks Fizz – Making Your Mind Up
I really enjoy finding old tunes from the ‘30s, or ‘60s or whenever that you’ve probably never heard, yet are little gems. This is another ABBA wannabe band who won Eurovision back in 1981 with this song.

Other Bucks Fizz Songs to Check Out: The Land Of Make Believe, My Camera Never Lies, Are You Ready.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Eurotrash

A few Europop/dance songs to get your groove on.

Bob Sinclair – Love Generation
Bob Sinclair is the suave international playboy alter ego of French DJ/recording artist Chris LeFriant. Love Generation is a Brasillian /African-inspired dance track unlike most of Bob/Chris’ previous releases featuring vocals from Gary Pine of the The Wailers. It’s been played nonstop in Brasil and other European dance clubs over the past 6 months. But few people seem to have heard it in the ol’ USA.

Other Chris LeFriant Songs to check out: Gym Tronic, I Feel For You, Music Sounds Better With You

Blå Øjne – Inderst Inde
Most of you won’t understand a word Julie Rugaard or Al Agami sing on this song in Danish, but it’s still a great dance/hip-hop song. Blå Øjne (aka Blue Ice, aka Julie Rugaard). And it’s always fun to hear someone rapping in Danish. But this is primarily a dance track, despite the rap chorus. Julie also released a single internationally under the name Blue Ice in 2005: You Keep Me Hanging On.
Other Blå Øjne Songs to Check Out: Romeo, You Keep Me Hanging On

Teach-In – Dinge Dong
ABBA anyone? After their Eurovision win in 1974 with Waterloo, many bands copied the ABBA style. The Dutch band Teach-In is one of the more memorable ones with their 1975 Eurovision win for Dinge Dong. Their song was also recently named one of the all-time best songs (along with ABBA’s Waterloo) from the Eurovision Music Contest.
Other Teach-In Songs to Check Out: Your guess is as good as ours.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Pretty Girls

These are more than just pretty girls. They’ll change the world and make it a better place.

Marit Larsen – Don’t Save Me
This is a really, really good song. This is ABBA-esque, but not in the Erasure or Madonna ways. It’s not rehashed, refried ABBA. This is ABBA if they’d continued as a band. Yet it’s got Marit’s own touch and style at the same time. Marit was previously in a band called M2M (yah, totally sounds like some kind of gay chat room), made up of two 16-year-old singer/songwriter girls from Norway who sold a few million records worldwide. Then after two albums their record label decided Marion (the other less talented of the duo) was prettier and they could make more money by recreating her as some pop monster. A couple of years later, Marion’s Frankenstein studio creation has really gone nowhere on the charts and Marit has just released a single from her upcoming album and already its #1 on the Norwegian charts this week. Go Marit!

Other Marit Larsen Songs to check out: This Time Tomorrow, October Month, Walls, Recent Illusion

Regina Spektor – Poor Little Rich Boy
Regina Spektor is one of those amazingly original artists who, although you can hear some traces of influence from the likes of the Beatles, Nirvana, Dylan and Tori Amos, is really unique. She was born and raised in the Soviet Union until she was around 11 years old. So, that combination of living in Moscow and then being a teenager in New York City certainly had an amazing impact on her. I especially like her unique percussions, syncopation and phrasing.

Other Regina Spektor Songs to Check Out: Chemo Limo, The Ghost of Corporate Future, The Flowers, Sailor Song, Love Affair, Braille, Sunshine

Carmen Rasmusen – Be With You
For folks who’ve seen American Idol, you may think you know this singer and her voice, but Carmen really got short-shrifted on that show. I always felt she was a much better singer than people gave her credit for. This song and her 4-song EP which she released last year prove that. “Be With You” is from the soundtrack of a hilarious, modern romantic comedy retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. You should check out the movie, too. Carmen has a couple of cameo appearances in the film as well.

Other Carmen Rasmusen Songs to Check Out: Photograph, Crazy In Love, I’ve Just Seen A Face, The One After 9:09

Ding Dong – Nellie McKay
I’m not really sure if Nellie McKay is a comedian or a singer. If she wasn’t such a good singer and her lyrics weren’t so witty, I’d think she was more of a comedian who also sings, like Sarah Silverman, but Nellie is better than that. But Nellie is definitely a funny and sarcastic performer.

Other Nellie McKay Songs to Check Out: Change The World, David

Neko Case – Pretty Girls
Patsy Clines meets Cowboy Junkies and the result is Neko Case. Neko has a stellar, soulful voice not unlike Patsy Cline, but the moody, atmospheric soundscape of her songs is more like Cowboy Junkies, modern arrangements and sensibilities that didn’t exist in Patsy’s day. This confident, poetic music is some of the best in alternative country today.

Other Neko Case Songs to Check Out: Deep Red Bells, I Wish I Was The Moon, Ghost Writing

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Kofi Annan’s Neighbor

It’s that time again for more obscure music. Only one of the songs is in English this week (if you can call what they’re singing English), but all the songs are great, even if you have no idea what they’re saying.

Abel - Onderweg
I was searching once years ago on the original Napster for some music by Morten Abel of Norway, but accidentally downloaded this song by a Dutch boy band named Abel. It has a really beautiful, intricate musical arrangement, not unlike Morten Abel’s music, so I thought maybe it was a song by him in Norwegian or something, but I listened to it and I thought to myself, that guy’s not singing in Norwegian. So, I did some investigating and found out who the band Abel is.
Other Abel Songs to check out: Neem Me Mee, Verleden Tijd, Zonder Een Woord, Als Ik Je Zie

Carmen Miranda – Mama Eu Quero
This has long been a favorite of mine. I was watching the Olympics the other night and one of the couples did their ice dancing routine to this song, although it was sung by a different person and not sung as well as by the Brasillian Bombshell Carmen Miranda.

Other Carmen Miranda Songs to Check Out: Yi Yi Yi Yi (I Like You Very Much), Chica Chica Boom Chic, When I Love I Love, Dona Balbina

Cecilia Vennersten – Det Vackraste
“Det Vackraste” which means “the most beautiful” is one of the most beautiful songs I know. When I lived in New York, I used to love going to the Virgin Megastore in Times Square and poking around in the International section. I’ve never been very much into the mainstream US music, preferring rather music from every corner of the globe. That’s where I first discovered the Swedish Cecilia Vennersten on a compilation disk called “Sisters of Garbo.” Hers was about the only good song on that album, though.
Other Cecilia Vennersten Songs to Check Out: Kapten Nemo, Innerst i själen, Lämnad i mörkret, Du är min religion

Tajci – Hajde da ludujemo
I was watching a rather ho hum “Eurovision Song Contest” on TV in Norway once, pretty much bored by some bad songs when all of a sudden a woman came out dressed as Marilyn Monroe in a hot pink dress and sang this rockin' song in Croatian. Wow! I only knew one word that Tajci sang “shokolade” (chocolate), but I loved the song. Later I learned part of what she was singing was: “Let's go crazy tonight, fall in love with my eyes, your lips are like chocolate, I like that.”
Other Tajci Songs to Check Out: Bube u glavi, Djecko ajde oladi, Dvije Zvijezdice, Moj mali je opasan

Stereo Total – I Love You Ono
This song by the Berlin band Stereo Total is one of those wacky, clever songs that you fall in love with instantly within the first few seconds of the song. It reminds me of a similarly eclectic song from the Sixteen Candles soundtrack. It has a great beat, and a catchy chorus. Even though Brezel & Francoise live in Berlin, Francoise brings the French pop sound to their music, as she is French.

Other Stereo Total Songs to Check Out: Supergirl, Cosmonaute, Push It, Moviestar, Dilindam, Moustique, Nouvelle Vague

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Down On The Farm

Musica Obscura is back with more fun obscure tunes for you to enjoy. We are a day late posting new songs as we were otherwise occupied yesterday on Valentine’s Day. Don’t Hate. Please Forgive. And add a link to Musica Obscura from your site! How do you like the new blog redesign? Give me your feedback in comments.

Morten Abel - Tulipz
I keep getting more requests for music by this charming chap. And I’ve had people link to his previous music on here more than any other artist, so here’s another super song from the Norwegian phenom Morten Abel. I hope you enjoy. "Tulipz" is a funny tune, which I don't quite know what to make of it, other than that I like it a lot. But it's definitely weird. But then I like weird.

Other Morten Abel Songs to check out: Birmingham Ho, You Are The One La La La, Not Emotional, Inparticular, Be My Lover, Dad's Girl, Later Maybe, All Or Nothing

Josephine Baker – Don’t Touch My Tomatoes
Sensual, sexy Josephine Baker exhorts some mister not to touch her tomatoes. Did all those artists she inspired (Calder, Roualt, et al) try and touch her tomatoes? Josephine was a great crusader for racial equality, refusing to entertain in any club or theater that was not integrated, and thereby breaking the color bar at many establishments. In 1963, she spoke at the March on Washington at the side of Martin Luther King, jr.

Other Josephine Baker Songs to Check Out: J’attendrai, Je Voudrais, Sonny Boy, Paris Mes Amours, J'ai deux amours

Headless Chickens – Cruise Control
Headless Chickens is a New Zealand band with lyrically witty songs which blur the lines between rock and dance. “Cruise Control” is pop fluff, but it has a bright sound which makes it enjoyable. They had a hit song in New Zealand back in the day with "George," but it's not as good as their lighter stuff.

Other Headless Chickens Songs to Check Out: George, Juice, Gaskrankinstation, Expecting To Fly, Chicken Little

Mosquitos – Avocado
Hmmm…mixing Brasillian Bossa Nova with emo indie pop. Interesting combination. Mosquitos are hit and miss with their concept, but “Avocado" has a disarmingly, simply happy beat with Juju Stulbach’s whispery Brasillian-wannabe vocals adding a perfect dose of pleasurable sunshine. No wonder their album is called “Sunshine Barato” – a mix of English and Portuguese which means “Cheap Sunshine.”

Other Mosquitos Songs to Check Out: Blue Heart, No Fim Do Pais, Free As Love

The Dresden Dolls – The Jeep Song
The Dresden Dolls are sorta similar to some other artists like Tori Amos and Regina Spektor, and yet completely unique at the same time. They’re a little bit of everything. “The Jeep Song” sounds a bit like a mixture of Tori Amos and one of those Motown tunes from the ‘50s, with the tambourines, backup singers and the groovy beat. This song is not quite as weird as “Coin Operated Boy,” which is one of my favorite DD songs.

Other Dresden Dolls Songs to Check Out: Coin Operated Boy, Missed Me, Half Jack, Bad Habit, Girl Anachronism, Gravity

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Dame Sissel Kyrkjebø

My close friends, knowing that I'm the biggest Sissel fan in the world, can't believe I haven't featured any Sissel songs on Musica Obscura, yet. A few days ago, Sissel was officially honored with a knighthood from the king of Norway. So, in honor of the newly-minted Dame Sissel Kyrkjebø, and her upcoming album "Into Paradise," which will be released in the USA and UK in a few days, we'll feature five Sissel songs this week.

Sissel has one of the most widely heard voices in the world, and yet she's one of the most obscure artists. She sang all the wordless, ethereal vocals on the best-selling Titanic soundtrack, yet few people know hers is the other-worldly voice heard on all those emotional moments throughout the film.

Sissel sings an incredibly wide variety of musical styles from folk, pop, classical, jazz, has sung a rock ballad duet with Danish goth rockers Sort Sol and has even had a #1 hit in Europe with Warren G on the rap song "Prince Igor." Yet few people know who she is.

Weightless
When I introduce new friends to Sissel's music, this is the song I usually play first. It's not entirely representative of Sissel's wide repertoire, but it's one of the most accessible songs. It comes from her 2000 Norwegian album "All Good Things." Unfortunately, when her record label decided to finally release an album of her music in the USA, instead of re-releasing "All Good Things," they re-recorded most of the songs from that album with far inferior karaoke-sounding musical arrangements. So, this is the original version of the song "Weightless."

Other Songs from "All Good Things" to check out: Lær meg å kjenne, Carrier Of A Secret, Better Off Alone, All Good Things, Where The Lost Ones Go, Keep Falling Down

Eg veit i himmerik ei borg
Anytime you listen to Sissel, you need to check out some of her original Norwegian recordings, not just the newer stuff in English. According to Sissel, "Eg veit" was the song James Horner first heard which made him choose her to be the "soul of Titanic" on the Titanic soundtrack. This is a dark, 400-year-old Norwegian hymn, with such stark and gothic tones that you almost think she's singing an incantation to the dark side, not singing a hymn to God. This song is from Sissel's all-time best album "Innerst i sjelen," wherein she sings in 8 different languages (most of them Nordic).

Other Songs from "Innerst i sjelen" to Check Out: Alma Redemtoris, Tidin Rennur, Innerst i sjelen, I skovens dybe stille ro, Bred dina vida vingar, Fire In Your Heart (duet with Placido Domingo)

O Mio Babbino Caro
Sissel recorded her first album clear back in 1986 at the ripe young age of 17. It set sales records in Norway, which she broke when she released her first Christmas album a year later—selling nearly 1 million copies of that album to date (mostly in a country with only 4 million people). No one else has yet broken her sales records in Norway. But by 2001, after 15 years releasing albums, she decided it was time to release a sort of greatest hits album. But she didn't want to just compile all the old songs and put them out. Sissel re-recorded them LIVE in concert with new arrangements and a symphony orchestra. The result was the album "Sissel in Symphony." Some of the songs she released on that album, she had never actually recorded on any previous album, but had sung live throughout her career. One of these previously unrecorded songs, which makes me melt every time I hear it, is Puccini's "O Mio Babbino Caro."

Other Songs from "Sissel in Symphony" to Check Out: Vestland Vestland, Vitæ Lux, Shenandoah, Eg ser, Kjærlighet, Ave Marie

Can't Go Back (Acoustic)
"Can't Go Back" is a live, acoustic version of a song which appeared on Sissel's USA-debut album, aptly, but not very originally titled "Sissel." When Sissel was in America promoting her album, she appeared on a PBS program called MhZ and this version of the song is from her appearance on that show. "Can't Go Back" was originally titled "Better Off Alone" on her original "All Good Things" album, but that title conflicted with a popular techno dance song of the same name.

Other Songs from "Sissel" Check Out: All Good Things, Shenandoah, Carrier Of A Secret, Molde Canticle

Where The Lost Ones Go
This is an amazingly beautiful duet with fellow Norwegian popstar Espen Lind—also written by Lind. Many predicted this song would vault Sissel to international stardom and help revive Lind's international career. Probably due to poor marketing by their record label, this never happened. It did, however, win the inaugural Online Song Contest, a sort of online version of the Eurovision Song Contest held every year across Europe.

Other Songs written by Espen Lind and Sung by Sissel to Check Out: Walkin' Thru Fire