Tori Amos – Reindeer King (2017).
There is something always so familiar about Tori Amos that keep me coming back to her over the years and that is her unwavering spirit.
As a surprisingly candid singer songwriter that writes often from personal experience, we feel her strength and vulnerability as a woman through an amazing back catalogue beginning with Little Earthquakes released in 1991. Her controversial lead single Me and a Gun about her harrowing sexual assault when she was 21, set in motion an artistic awakening seldomly rivalled by her contemporaries. Then came arguably her greatest triumph Cornflake Girl that had critics spellbound and fans singing along with its anthemic chorus, despite its vague references to sexual oppression, female adolescence and betrayal.
She takes inspiration yet again from personal upheaval and almost everything that is wrong with our modern world from politics to nature, on incredibly her 15th album called Native Invader. From it Reindeer King with its driving piano sets the tone for what is a stunningly stirring album. How Amos’ voice never fails is beyond me! It is as always breathtaking, as is her choice of arrangements across the album – electric and acoustic guitars, electronic beats and her unfailing grand piano, especially on Reindeer King.
Angus & Julia Stone – Nothing Else (2017).
I have a bit of a soft spot for Angus & Julia Stone. I won’t go on and on about it, expect to say that this brother-sister duo are exactly what a casual listener sometimes just needs to relax and unwind. Off their latest album Snow (released October last year) comes a song called Nothing Else, which is completely in the spirit of their dreamy indie rock style. It has already amassed a little over four and half five million streams, an indication of the appeal of the song. Equally mesmerising is the newly released video for Nothing Else, which features the intoxicating Julia Stone playing two versions of herself: the buttoned up, responsible businesswoman and the free-spirited, creative artist.
Julia recently explained the premise of the song and video where she said, “It’s about self acceptance and self love. I wanted to make a video that shows an aspect of the relationship we have with ourselves. The parts we love, the parts that we find irritating or unlovable. The relationship in the video begins with judgment and frustration. By the end of the video, there is an acceptance from both versions…an ease with the different elements, the contradictions of who we are.”
Neil Young – Hitchhiker (2010 version).
I was first introduced to Neil Young, when he teamed up with Pearl Jam, to perform Rockin’ in the Free World in 1993. But it would be another two years before my admiration and exposure to Neil Young truly took off, when he teamed up again with Pearl Jam, but this time to record together on Young’s Mirror Ball album. Interestingly, at the tail end of that collaboration, Young and PJ would lay down tracks for Merkin Ball (not to be confused with Young’s Mirror Ball), a two-song single (The Long Road & I Got ID) that would be released under PJ’s Epic label, which today I believe stand as two of PJ’s finest songs ever.
It’s safe to say after buying both releases, I became obsessed with Neil Young, to the point where I completely immerse myself with his entire back catalogue. I was blown away by his array of deeply heartfelt lyrics and even more so by his ever changing musical style. In short, I just love how comfortable he seemed, whether he was playing an acoustic set, or cranking it up with his signature distorted electric guitar.
When it comes to ‘maximum fuzz’, there is arguably no better album for me than Young’s Le Noise. One of my favourite songs on it is called Hitchhiker, which interestingly was an unreleased song recorded way back in 1976, and which last year resurfaced on his intimate acoustic archival album called Hitchhiker (2017). You can hear the song HERE. That said, there is a lot to like about both versions of this song but it is the gutsy messy distorted reverb-heavy version from his Le Noise album that when push comes to shove that I really love the most.