This Month's Music
I finally got my new Emm CD "Songs of Love and Death" (link currently at right) out of the mail and into my iTunes. She doesn't disappoint. There is a kind of sameness to the songs that belies the wonderful diversity of "Asianblue" but, to use a cliche - it's all good. She brings back the cello that she used so well in "Science Fair." If you don't see how a cello works in popular (not "pop") music, listen to the first track "Forget Georgia." Strangely, the cello is not credited in the liner notes. I'd like to see some other artists work with some of the deeper strings in their music - Beth Orton, Josh Joplin to name a couple. Could be interesting.
"Songs..." is another disc of covers as "Girl Versions" was. Even when Emm does something again, she doesn't do the same thing twice. "Girl Versions" turned big rock songs (e.g. "Crazy Train") into big piano ballads. Blur's "Song 2" never sounded better, though you'd hard pressed to recognize it as the same song. I'm not familiar with the source material for the new disc so I have no basis for comparison. In fact, if I didn't know otherwise, I'd say that this was Emm's music with some Celtic frills such as the fiddle and flute on "Deckchairs and Cigarettes." But these are all songs from contemporary Irish artists with a closer of a traditional song "Moor Langh Shore." I'll be listening to this a lot in the next couple of weeks to see how the music sits with me. Right now I'm going to say that this is not Emm's best. Which is a damn high standard but coming after "Asianblue" which is accessible and just rocks - hook laden, sweet melodies and more complex production, this disc suffers by comparison.
Of course I'd be willing to bet that a lot of bands would kill to be judged against themselves like I judge Emm against herself. She is sui generis.
Carbon Leaf's "Indian Summer" has a similar problem for me. The only other CL disc I have is "Echo, Echo" which is one of those 'perfect' discs: not a missed step in the lot. "Summer's" single "Life Less Ordinary" is great - wonderful, rocking, lyrically clever and just a damn good song. But the rest of the disc is more pedestrian. Which is not to say bad. Carbon Leaf is too talented for that. I'd take mediocre Carbon Leaf over probably 70 percent of the music I hear on the radio today. But "Echo, Echo" is great and "Indian Summer" is good. Well worth buying but only after you've acquired "Echo."
I feel lucky to the extent that I am able to buy music to suit my taste. Since I only buy two CDs a month, it's pretty unlikely that I'm going to get something I don't like. But my greatest joy is getting a disc on which I know only a song or so (Mary Chapin Carpenter's "Between Here and Gone" was a must buy for the song "Elysium" and then the rest was wonderfully up to the best of her oeuvre) and finding a trove of wonderful songs along with the know quantities. These are good discs and I'm delighted to have them both. But neither had any revelations for me.