Don’t let the radio-baiting pop of “Buy Me” discourage you from giving Barefoot in Your Kitchen a close headphone listen. To ignore this album would be a major error. A stunning alliance of Norah Jones jazz-pop excusions meeting Amy Winehouse retro-cool nostalgia-diving, Bev Lee Harling deserves to be 2012′s next big thing.
Bev Lee Harling – “Barefoot in Your Kitchen” (2012, Wah Wah 45s)
I was ready to dismiss this album unheard when “Buy Me” hit my speakers and I focused on the lyrics of the chorus: “Give me your money / I just want to get onto the radio / I’d be so grateful if you could help me / I’ve been singing too long for free.” The song played as a crass cash-grab masked as mock honesty from a musician hoping to cash in on hipsterism’s love of irony, even if it is masked by a stunningly catchy bass-heavy dose of retro-40s meets 2012-pop gloss.
Thank God I kept listening.
Don’t let the radio-baiting pop of “Buy Me” discourage you from giving Barefoot in Your Kitchen a close headphone listen. To ignore this album would be a major error as the remainder of the album steps up the challenge, hitting a home-run in the process. A stunning alliance of Norah Jones jazz-pop excusions meeting Amy Winehouse retro-cool nostalgia-diving, Bev Lee Harling deserves to be 2012′s next big thing.
This is one of those albums where you can’t listen to the singles on their own and fully follow the songwriter’s aural muse. That’s not to say some of the songs don’t stand well on their own. My favorite being the sultry jazz-pop swing of “Robots and Angels” and her spectacular picked ukelele cover of Sting’s “Everything Little Thing She Does Is Magic,” which showcases Harling’s magnificent vocals — something the single does not remotely accomplish. The key grab, however, of Barefoot in Your Kitchen is that these songs merge as a suite, creating a debut no current American pop songwriters have come close to matching.
What stuns upon repeated listens is how deftly Harling takes her retro inspirations and twists them into modern pop. She does so without sacrificing what makes us nostalgic in the first place, while imprinting the songs with her own sense of original flair. Others who have attempted to merge the past with the present have fallen short of their goal, living in the past rather than probing toward the future. Not here: Barefoot in Your Kitchen is an album which reveals more on each listen, making it a valuable pop contribution in a year which has been devoid of many truly inspiring releases.
This live version of The Glass Child’s “Insanity” only has 48 views as of the time of this posting, but it’s a surprisingly solid version which incorporates the entirety of the twisty complicated arrangement in a setting which quickly proves her immense talent. Sweden native Charlotte Eriksson, who has relocated to London to professionally pursue her music, is ready and willing to get out there and complete musically with the likes of A Fine Frenzy’s Bomb in a Birdcage or Bat For Lashes’ Two Suns. With a voice like this, who could dare refuse to listen?
With two solid EPs under her belt, most recently December’s This Is How Ghosts Are Made (which features “Insanity”), The Glass Child makes a solid case for being the most interesting indie find so far in 2012. This is pop music of the highest order, a song you’ll be hard-pressed to get out of your head once you hear it — which makes this the BEST kind of pop fans can ask for!
There’s something overtly ballsy about covering “Head Over Heels” by Tears For Fears, but Hannah Peel takes it to new levels of indie folk awesomeness by bringing the Pin-Barrel Harp (Sharpsichord) one step closer to mainstream acceptance, creating a haunting, original cover in the process. It’s positively mindblowing that fewer than 2,000 people have to date seen this video on YouTube, because Peel is an artist with theatrical vision and a willingness to push the folk-pop envelope in ways music fans in 2012 would be smart to quickly and vehemently embrace. The cover is a great way to get your feet wet, but her original songs are just as ready for global consumption. Just try “Song For The Sea” on for size and tell me there’s nothing here worth shouting from the rooftops.
I really wanted to hate this song when I saw that the New York Post dubbed Neon Hitch as an A-List female pop queen and that Idolator called her a sexy singer songwriter despite the fact that her hit is produced by the same guy who produces Ke$ha, Britney Spears and Katy Perry. It’s clear the hype machine wants to make sure Neon Hitch is the 2011 answer to Lady Gaga now that Gaga has played out her crazy-as-batshit stage reputation for all its worth, leaving nothing but her new music behind (and look how disappointing that was, my friends).
The problem is, as much issue as I take with this kind of electro-pop music being considered “singer-songwriter” in any sense of the phrase, this is definitely an addictive piece of dance pop, and it’s all but certain to tear up the charts, since it plays to everything top 40 radio adores these days. I”m not sold on the idea that Neon Hitch has anything else up her sleeve but this one potential Britney-aping confection. And the “bad dog, let me punish you” fetishism of the lyrics becomes cloying the more you hear it. But the song’s catchy as hell and once you do hear it you won’t get it out of your head, which is why in a few months you won’t be able to escape singing along with the chorus.
I wanted to hate this song like a vengeance, and by the end of 2011 I probably will. Which is why I’m glad I at least got to hear it before top 40 radio makes it impossible not to despise it. I do hope, however, that there’s something more to Neon Hitch than a great backstory and this one pop track that is here today, gone tomorrow. We’ll find out when she drops her debut album Beg, Borrow and Steal later this year.
Listening to the surreal celtic-folk-inspired sound of London’s Mumford & Sons for any significant period of time, it’s hard not to hear echoes of Canada’s nearest equivalent, Arcade Fire. Even though the two bands don’t share a genre, and Arcade Fire is decidedly more indie-rock friendly, the huge, wild-and-weaving full band arrangements of Marcus Mumford and company have the same balls-to-the-wall intensity of the Canadian band, as though this could be what Arcade Fire would sound like in an alternate dimension in which Win Butler was musically born in Eire rather than Québec.
And though I noted that Mumford & Sons isn’t as indie-pop “friendly” as many of their contemporaries, including London’s Noah and the Whale, they’ve definitely got the balls to make it in the music world, having dared to release the insanely catchy, profanity-laced “Little Lion Man” as Sigh No More’s first single. And that’s helped them find success which, while it may not be truly mainstream, is certainly popular on the fringes, including with David Letterman, who had them play the song on his show back in February.
But the music’s where it’s all made or broken, and there’s not a thing “broken” about this music, even when the songs are about the most broken down of men. The arrangements are all epic and intense, frequently dropping back to quiet acoustics and vocals, only to develop into a wild bar stomp with an intense chorus surrounded by fiddles and frenetic bass, coupled with sounds like an entire pub of drunken patrons handling background vocals. In that regard the album reminds me of one of my favorites from 2009, upstate New York’s Auld Lang Syne, whose album Midnight Folly did the same thing with country that Mumford & Sons is doing with Irish Folk. These songs are meant to be heard in all their full-volumed glory, rising each listener falling and falling with each song’s intensity until they own your soul.
In the end, Sigh No More is one of those albums you have to experience in order to really understand their sound and its power. It’s an album that rewards patience and attention, but when you do fall under its spell you’re destined to be a fan for good, hoping for a wild and racous American tour to tide us over until the band gets back into the studio for another round. It’s already my favorite new album of 2010, hands down.
Reprinted with permission from Stereo Subversion.