Hello, Mooonlings thank you for joining me for another list this week. June tends to be quite listy(yes it’s a word) because it’s half-way through the year. So it feels right to review music, books and other sundry items. You may have guessed by now my love of music and my appreciation for multiple genres.
I have listened to so many new albums this year so far that I had to split the post into two parts for clarity. Part one is today where I discuss albums I choose myself either from a love of the artist or curiosity. Part two involves suggestions from fellow writing friends on twitter. I wanted them to have a separate post so I could include their Twitter bio and link if you were feeling like you wanted to go follow them.
Just for practicality reasons, the artists will be listed in alphabetical order as there was no rhyme or reason to the process in which I listened to the albums. I’m going to rate them out of 5 moons ☽ as stars are not close enough to my heart. It’s similar to the system of bananas, so I kind of stole that from The Orang-utan Librarian. Credit where credit is due!
Andreya Triana – Life In Colour – (3.5/5) ☽.☽.☽
This is a Lady I discovered through Bonobos album “Black Sands.” She was featured on a couple of songs and her voice completely entranced me. On this album, She kicks down the door with “Woman,” transitioned into bluegrass with “I Give You My Heart,” and then “How Deep My Love Goes,” is an instant classic.
“Songs in the key of life cures me in the moment.”
“Freedom,” is a total bop and this album, in general, is a lot of fun. Great music, and coming into the summer, it’s just what I needed. This is a sweet ode to love and her lover.
Her closing song “It’s gonna be alright,” is so soothing, and her voice makes me believe her.
Avril Lavinge – Head Above Water – (4/5) ☽.☽.☽.☽
Look I love Avril Lavinge. We are around the same age, and when I was an awkward teenager her music made me feel cooler than I ever really was.
For me, this album proved she’s still got that magic she had when she was 15 singing “Let Go.” There are songs on this album that evoke the same feelings within me.
“Head Above Water,” is one of those opening tracks that I can’t stop singing. Thinking about it makes me want to put the album on. She screams her lungs out on “Birdie,” then she soothes us with “Crush.”
“Fly away little bird.”
“Tell Me It’s Over,” is Avril’s old-timey ballad and I’m here for it. “Dumb Blonde” screams like her infamous track “Girlfriend.” Guys let’s just enjoy this collab with Nicki Minaj.
“It was in me” feels like an ode to Alanis Morissette’s “Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie,” and “Souvenir,” to me feels like it was written about her ex-husband, Chad Kroger. Don’t agree? Comment below!
Beyoncé – Homecoming: The Live Album – (5/5) ☽.☽.☽.☽.☽
Many people tell me Beyoncé is overrated and I guess some people have to be wrong, so us stans can be right.
While I am joking, and you have the right to think whatever you want, you can’t deny Beyoncé’s star power. I’ve watched the live film on Netflix, the performance brought me to tears many times. I’ve also been listening to “Homecoming” on repeat. It floors me every time.
Biosphere – The Senja Recordings – (2/5) ☽.☽.☽
Although I am a huge fan of Biosphere and one of my favourite ambient albums of all time is “Substrata,” I cannot recommend this one this to you. If you want ambient noise please feel free to listen, but his last musical album for me was “Departed Glories.” I still enjoyed this album as I did with “The Hilvarenbeek Recordings” but as far as music goes I cannot recommend this to you.
Chaka Khan – Hello Happiness – (5/5) ☽.☽.☽.☽.☽
This Queen is one of Le’Boo’s favourites and man, she is still hot as hell at 66 years of age! I’ve seen her live before and her voice is even bigger in person. Every track on this album is unbelievable.
“Take me back to the dance floor so I can dance away my blues.“
“Like a lady,” is about Le’Boo for sure, and what a track it is. Do you want to feel happy? Listen to this album, wiggle your hips, and give yourself to the music.
Dido – Still On My Mind – (5/5) ☽.☽.☽.☽
I’ve loved Dido from the beginning, and this album did not disappoint me. I adore “You don’t need a god,” “Chances,” and “Have to Stay.” The title track “Still on my mind,” is simply mesmerising.
There is some modern dance mixed in with her soulful voice, the lyrics are as blunt as ever, and we get an insight into Dido the mother, not just Dido the lover.
“I found a way to let you go, it’s gonna rip your heart out.”
Although she’s probably been chasing “Life for Rent,” since 2003, you cannot deny her voice and songwriting. I think if people weren’t comparing her to 2003 Dido they would just let themselves enjoy “Still On My Mind.”
Flying Lotus – Flamagra – (4/5) ☽.☽.☽.☽
Just kidding Le’Boo I really love this album.
Flying Lotus creates the kind of music you don’t think too much about. Don’t over-analyse. Put it on when you’re walking/doing yoga/cooking food and watch yourself flow.
Stand out tracks for me are “Burning Down The House,” “All Spies,” (makes me feel like I’m in a 90s video game) and “Yellow Belly.”
“Are you a spy mister?”
“Say Something” is sweetly melancholy leading into “Debbie is Depressed.” “The Climb” featuring Thundercat is an excellent blend of both artists and of course “Land of Honey” featuring Solange Knowles.
Hozier – Wasteland Baby! – (3.5/5) ☽.☽.☽
Not an album I keep coming back to sadly. “Nina Cried Power,” is a banger though.
Madonna – Madam X – (4.5/5) ☽.☽.☽.☽
Infused with Portuguese traditional fado music (which coincidently means long ago in Irish) Madonna continues her musical evolution. Tracks which interested me are”God Control,” “Batuka,” “Killers Who Are Paying,” and “Faz Gostoso” where she makes a great effort of speaking Portuguese and Spanish.
She once again hasn’t shied away from her jabs at the Catholic church (and other religions), or even her country of birth. This is a political album and for me, it is long overdue.
She has always been a mixed bag to me with her albums, some are ok, and then some are excellent. I’ve always loved “Ray Of Light,” and “Bedtime Stories,” and I think she’s on form here with this album. My favourite track is “Batuka” which blends traditional with trends, while still holding onto the emotion traditional music provides us.
Another 60-year-old Queen, and I still love her, and so I would say, do people who bought her first album “Madonna” brand new back in 1983. Thanks, Madonna!
Miley Cyrus – She is Coming (EP) (2.5/5) ☽.☽.
She’s been spamming us with “Mother’s Daughter,” and in fairness, itsa bop. I’m a Miley fan, and I feel like she really worked hard to find herself. “Unholy” is also quite a good song.
She’s very white, and I’m not sure she knows it. I know my limits and I think she is cringy when she raps on “Cattitude” but I really enjoyed RuPaul.
So I would give her half. 50%. A failing grade in America, but it depends on the system you’re working in… Not particularly to my taste, and I really liked her album “Younger Now.” Sorry Miley, it’s “The Climb” after all. She has nothing new to say on the other tracks that she hasn’t said before.
Norah Jones – Begin Again (2.5/5) ☽.☽
As with most white females, I have copies of “Come Away With Me,” and “Feels Like Home.” Norah Jones’ voice is consoling.
So to my surprise, she astounded me with the first track which was great, and then it got progressively more boring. Too similar to her early work without the beauty. I’m not saying this because she’s older, I just feel her heart isn’t in it anymore.
The only tracks I really liked where “My Heart Is Full,” and “Uh Oh.”
P!nk – Hurts to be Human – (5/5) ☽.☽.☽.☽.☽
I adore P!nk and all she does. I would give her 5 outta five on all her albums, hairstyles, the babies she makes with Cary Hart and her gymnastic skills.
Santana – Africa Speaks – (5/5) ☽.☽.☽.☽.☽
I’m actually blown away by this one. I had never heard of Buika before Santana collaborated with her, but man. This is absolutely everything I love. Jazz, African soul, guitars, fabulous vocals and just in time for the summer.
“Yo me lo merezco” (I deserve it) I’m sending all my love to the “Blue Skies,” and “Luna Hechicera” (in Spanish this is Sorceress moon), and the beautiful “Bembele” (in Swahili it means hide?).
Classically excellent music isn’t dead. It’s in the fingers of Carlos Santana and the vocals of Buika.
Solange – When I get home – (3/5) ☽.☽.☽
“A Seat At The Table,” was an absolute tour de force (yes I did just use that phrase), how disappointed was I when Solange released “When I Get Home,” and I just couldn’t get myself to fall in love with it.
The Chemical Brothers – No Geography – (5/5) ☽.☽.☽.☽
Just seen The Chemical Brothers for the first time this year and they were excellent. This album is more of the same excellent, with their modern twist. I give it 5/5 because I love The Chemical Brothers, but I stand by it.
Zaska – It Takes A Village – (4/5) ☽.☽.☽.☽
Aptly named, “It Takes A Village,” was Crowdfunded, locally produced, and packed full of Irish names. Maybe it’s my bias but I really do love this album, because of the local Irish stars and accents.
Treat yourself to “My Body,” Featuring Barq, “It’s Ridiculous,” Featuring Louise Gaffney, and “Wear,” featuring Wyvern Lingo. There are Irish themes and issues throughout, but this is genuinely just a good album.
Well Moonling’s it’s finally here. Marie Keane has released her inaugural album ‘Russian Doll,’ and it is all kinds of exquisite. The lovely Lady herself has given me permission to review the album, so naturally, I had to share my thoughts with you. I will link all her
details below. However, if you are so ready to purchase the album already you can get that here. You know how much I love music and supporting artists, especially Irish artists are a big deal for me.
If you remember I interviewed Marie last November and that interview can be found here. She gave us some insight into what it’s like being an Irish musician, the music scene in her city and of course the creative process behind the making of ‘Russian Doll,‘ the album. I was so excited and couldn’t wait for it to come out. She has already released a music video for the song ‘Cranes,’ which is embedded below.
Album, ‘Russian Doll.’
So talk about the album already Jaycee! Alright, so it’s 13 tracks of genre-hopping goodness. It kicks off with “Tree of doors,” which for me sounds like Marie is trying to connect not only with nature but the wisdom of the past.
“Where worship danced around its face, now lifeless towers takes its place.” – Tree Of Doors
Have we forgotten our ancestor’s reverence to nature? Her deep melodies are transfigured with modern sounds mixed with a Celtic essence. She continues to use her love of music to her advantage when it comes to writing love songs, or even lover scorned songs. She deals out her thoughts about love and attraction in, “Limerance,” and “In the firing line.” Looking around I remind myself that I’m not in fact in a blues café on Frenchmen Street.
“The force between us could pen a thousand tales, draw tears from many lovers.” – The Firing Line
Then taking on the story of forfeited faith which is commonplace in modern Ireland, a stand out track for me was the stunning, “Stained glass windows.” We are treated to an example of her voice within its classical range. The song is a mix of classical piano and Celticism in a gothic church. She visits this theme in “Faith,” while, “We all can change,” incorporates both her style and a gospel motif. “Faith,” for me could easily be the next Bond theme.
“I found my way, but I lost my faith… I grieve my removal… No longer do I carry the sins… I bare all my worship to open ground.” – Stained Glass Windows
The social rock/pop commentary of “Theatre of the mind,” and “Addiction,” mixed with the ethereal sounds of “The Homecoming,” makes this album a success for me. I implore you to investigate. Listen to the video below. Visit her website. Tell her I sent you, she’s lovely. I’m heading to the launch party on Sunday, and I’ll do my best to get some exclusive footage. Until then, thanks for reading.
Music is so wonderful. There are albums that I’m obsessed with and I’ve been listening to for over 10+ years. However, I indulge in new music every now and again. For fellow music lovers, I’ve ranked my top 10 albums of 2018.
Before we begin, let me know about your favourite albums/bops from this year in the comments. Also is there any new music coming in 2019 that you’re so excited for? I want to know, please!
10. Biosphere – “The Hilvarenbeek Recordings.”
One of my most beloved ambient electronica albums is by ‘Biosphere’. He is a Norwegian artist called Geir Jenssen. He creates incredulously atmospheric, chilling albums through sampling and loops. His album ‘Substrata‘ will always be my favourite of his, but he really delivered with his 2018 album, “The Hilvarenbeek Recordings.” It quickly became an anthem for my writing and studying this year.
If you’re looking for music to work to, I recommend any of his stuff. Other great albums include “Departed Glories,” “Patashnik,” “Substrata,” and, “Man With A Movie Camera.”
9. Scotty Sire – “Ruin Your Party.”
Viner turned YouTuber turned musician Scotty Sire surprised me this year. While there have been many attempts by YouTubers to transition to music I think Sire really pulled it off. Genuinely I was a fan of his self-deprecating humour, as the sad man in David Dobrik’s vlogs. Somehow he translated this very well to music.
Not only can he sing and rap, but he also’s a pretty decent songwriter. The best parts of his personality shine through. This is not novelty music, it harkens of real modern pop. Notable tracks that really caught my attention were:
“American Love.” – Elijah Blake & Myles Parrish.
“Take Me Away.”
“Get Better.” – The Weekend Riot.
8. Louis Cole – “Time.”
While Louis Cole is better known for his work with ‘Knower’, (and silly music videos), you can’t deny his solo musical chops. This recommendation from Le’Boo quickly became one of my favourite albums to listen to while reading or chilling out.
His groovy style and high voice is soothing in an unexpected way.
If you’re into music videos you should check out some of Cole’s they’re pretty strange, albeit attractive. Like a train wreck, you can’t look away. Notable tracks:
“When You’re Ugly.” With – Genevieve Artadi
7. Vulpeck – “Hill Climber.”
Look if you haven’t heard of Vulpeck yet… haha you thought I was going to go full hipster, didn’t you? Acting.
No seriously though yet another recommendation from my musician “I went to jazz school,” Le’Boo. I couldn’t pretend to dislike them if I tried. Their inexplicable rhythms, lyrics, and grooves actually vibrate into your organs. The resulting dancing is a side effect of their brilliance.
I’ve seen them in Dublin twice and both times came out exhausted yet elated from singing and dancing. Stand out tracks you ask? All of them. If I had to choose a couple I suppose:
“Half of the way”
“It Gets Funkier.” With – (That’s right) Louis Cole.
Also if you are a Christmas music fan, they have one of the best Christmas songs out there.
6. Fall Out Boy – “Mania.”
I’m a huge Fall Out Boy stan (that’s what the kids are saying right?). Ever since I picked up a copy of “From Under The Cork Tree,” in 2005 I’ve followed their evolution as better pop punk than Blink 182, superior lyrics to Greenday and musical chops The Ramones might raise their eyebrows at.
This is just another fantastic album, like their last and the one before that. It spawned 5 singles and all those songs were great. They appeal to my inner ansty teenager that still refuses to give up hope of becoming a rock star.
“I lived so much life I think God’s gonna have to kill me twice.”
5. Christina Aguilera – “Liberation.”
There was Britney Spears, and there was Christina Aguilera. People took sides, it was a whole big thing. In fact, some people like to compare it to the Blur / Oasis fiasco of the 1990s. It wasn’t like that. One of them had a message, the other just wanted to be a pop star.
Aguilera comes back swinging with singles like “Fall In Line” featuring Demi Lovato, soothing tunes such as “Twice,” and mooning love songs like “Unless It’s With You.”
This was a great album, arguably better than Ariana Grande’s “Sweetner” (yes I did listen to it for fairness) even though the latter did better commercially. If you want to hear some fresh Aguilera give this album a chance.
4. MGMT – “Little Dark Age.”
In 2007 I listened to “Oracular Spectacular” over and over again. I then promptly forgot all about MGMT until their album “Little Dark Age” appeared on the lists of 2018’s best albums. Right between “EVERYTHING IS LOVE”by The Carters, and “Scorpion,” by Drake I almost missed it. Thinking to myself what harm could it do, and how charming the cover was I gave it a spin.
(Well no I didn’t I don’t have a record player sadly, I just went to Spotify).
The album blew me away. The soothing tones of the ’80s incorporated with the unique vocals both harkened back to their 2007 album, yet detached from it too. A difficult task to say the least. I danced around the kitchen to “One Thing Left To Try,” like a maniac.
“Me and Michael.”
“One thing Left To Try.”
3. The Crystal Method – “The Trip Home.”
Whatever happens, do not drive while listening to this album. It will cause speeding and possible death. Electronic music is one of my fever highs and The Crystal Method have been sweet sweet providers of that for a long time.
I can’t pick out standouts. This album has a coherence that demands you listen, and you will have no choice. They have a way of grabbing you by the proverbial cojones and bringing you along on their crazy ride with them.
When the album is over, you’ll feel a mixture of fatigue, euphoria, and a little hungover.
2. A Perfect Circle – “Eat The Elephant.”
This was a gift this year I’d been waiting for since “Emotive” in 2004. Yes, that long of a hiatus. Then they came back with this gem. There was divisiveness with this album among fans, yet I loved every drop of it.
The musical side of the album has a distinctive eerieness to it (like the original Doom 3D game) coupled with precision production. It very nearly took my number one spot.
While the whole album was, in my opinion, one great song after another, “Get The Lead Out,” will be one of my favourite’s for the rest of time. I implore you to listen to that song, if not the whole album.
1. Janelle Monáe – “Dirty Computer.”
I mentioned this album earlier this year in a post about female musicians I adore which you can read here. Regarding our girl Monáe I said the following:
I stand by what I said, except listen to “American” because that song really draws the album to an almighty crashing close.
We are forever grateful for your contribution to music
If you know me personally or if you’ve read my blog recently you’ll know I’m a hugely into music. My parent’s influenced me a lot in my formative years, then as a teenager, my taste diverged.
One band that stuck with me from my parents, however, was the Eagles. Now I could rank the top 10 singles and we could argue for years over that. Or what I thought would be more fun is to discuss the top 10 Eagles songs (in my humble opinion) that weren’t singles.
Although I had some hard choices in ranking, some were obvious winners.
10. ‘The Disco Strangler’ – The Long Run (1979)
Writer(s): Don Henley. Glenn Frey. Don Felder.
Although this was released in 1979 I call ‘The Long Run’ their 80’s album. You cannot escape the groove of this track. Henley is my favourite vocalist in Eagles (actually he’s my favourite Eagle).
This song is an interesting take on the late 70’s dance club scene. Girls without a care possibly falling into the arms of the ‘Disco Strangler’. It might be a cautionary tale, or it might just be the music itself. Only the writers know.
9. ‘No More Walks In The Wood’ – The Long Road Out Of Eden (2007)
Writer(s): Don Henley. Steuart Smith. John Hollander.
Did you forget about their most recent album? Don’t worry it’s often overlooked but there are some really beautiful tracks on there. Especially as they branched out with their collaborations.
You need to appreciate the vocal capabilities of the Eagles. You have Henley, Frey, Walsh and Schmit. Absolute gold.
This song is an ode to nature while chastising humankind. It’s telling that the cover of the album is a desert. Layers upon layers of meaning are reflected in strata of harmonies that delight.
8. ‘Journey Of The Sorcerer’ – One of These Nights (1975)
Writer(s): Bernie Leadon.
Do you recognise this tune despite not being an Eagles lover? Well, you’re right. This beautiful instrumental written and performed by Bernie Leadon was the theme music for ‘The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy’ BBC radio show in 1978 & 1979.
The driving melody coupled with Leadon’s banjo is inescapably ethereal. As the only song on this list without vocals, I believe it holds it own. Leadon’s role feels underplayed in the band overall.
It’s very much of the time. The Eagles deliver this song as cohesively as any harmonised track of theirs. I miss the banjo. It needs its triumphant return.
7. ‘Take The Devil’ – Eagles (1972)
Writer(s): Randy Meisner.
Written by Meisner, sung by Meisner. This song was the reason Glyn John agreed to produce the album, as previously he thought the band was too rock for him. So in truth, Meisner saved this album.
I also had to give you a Meisner song. Although his favourite in our family is ‘Take it to the Limit,‘ if you give ‘Take the Devil’ a chance you’re sure to be surprised.
6. ‘On The Border’ – On The Border (1974)
Writer(s): Don Henley. Bernie Leadon. Glenn Frey.
Beautiful mixture of Henley vocals and harmonies from the rest.
Of course, the boys of the Eagles were always trying to stick it to the man, and they were not a fan of the nanny state. Pretty sure we have a red band if they cared about affiliations.
Plenty of metaphors mixed with outright statements. The slick guitar licks in the middle of the song remind me of the men in suits who want your hard earned cash.
“I thought this was a private line…I’m trying to change this water to wine.”
Their grandiosity never ends.
5. ‘Pretty Maids All In A Row’ – Hotel California (1976)
Writer(s): Joe Walsh. Joe Vitale.
Look every song on Hotel California is a masterpiece, but unlike Gods creatures, not all songs were created equal. This song, in particular, has stuck with me and often pops into my head. A welcomed earworm for sure.
‘Why do we give up our hearts to the past? And why must we grow up so fast?’
We also have to give Joe Walsh his due, for this one. The album is bursting with Henley / Frey goodness yet Walsh manages to match their bravado with this storybook and soaring vocals.
4. ‘Wasted Time’ – Hotel California (1976)
Writer(s): Don Henley. Glenn Frey.
Pure Henley and Frey magic. In my opinion, this song is the only challenger to Desperado in soulful honesty. Hotel California was one of my favourite albums growing up. How the songs made me feel evolved over time.
This song hurt me for quite a while after a bad breakup. All I could do was thank Henley’s voice for soothing me through it. There aren’t enough Eagles songs that featured piano as effectively as this one.
“You didn’t love the boy too much, no no you just, loved the boy too well.”
Ouch! Take a little time to enjoy what the base is doing if the lyrics are too painful.
3. ‘Midnight Flyer’ – On The Border (1974)
Writer(s): Paul Craft.
(This song is a cover but hear me out)
Not written by any of the Eagles but WOOOOOOEEEEEEEEEE what a fucking tune! Pardon my French.
It’s quick, it’s country, and it’s infectious. It was a perfect addition to the surly atmosphere of ‘On The Border’. Leadon’s banjo coupled with train whistle vocals is enough to turn anyone into a country fan.
Drive that beat home boys!
2. ‘Doolin’ Dalton’ – Desperado (1973)
Writer(s): Don Henley. Glenn Frey. J.D Souther. Jackson Browne.
Jackson Browne’s involvement with the Eagles is underrated. Fight me on this.
The boys wrote the album ‘Desperado’ while jamming with Browne. He had recently read a book about gunfighters. This is how ‘Doolin-Dalton‘ was born.
Although it appears as though they are glorifying anti-heroes, the underlying message was the harshness of life in the West.
‘Red-eyed whiskey for the pain.’
I’m with you there boys.
1. Those Shoes – The Long Run (1979)
Writer(s): Don Henley. Glenn Frey. Don Felder.
This was an easy number 1 for me. Pretty much any song with Henley’s vocals are a winner.
Henley’s vocals coupled with dirty strings. This song is just plain filthy and I love it. You can actually smell the clubs in this song. Everyone imagines their own version of ‘those shoes’ with the ankle straps.
‘But you’re so smooth and the world’s so rough.’
‘They give you tablets of love.’
When you’re young and desperate for attention, ‘those shoes’ will get it for you.
The ringing guitars and the frightful drums are oppressive. The song ends so suddenly you might want to hold onto something lest you fall.
Hope you enjoyed this list. Tell me about your favourite Eagles song in the comments below
Marie Keane is an Irish musician self-styled as a mix of folk, blues, and rock. Her debut album ‘Russian Doll’ is due to drop this November. In anticipation, my brain formulated some questions about the album and the creative process.
Who is your dream collaboration?
Radiohead/ David Byrne/ Kate Bush / Joan as Policewoman/ Portishead/Breadyman ….(ie. in an actual dream)
Who was your earliest musical inspiration as a child?
Zig & Zag, Micheal Jackson, Whitney Houston & Natalie Cole won those titles
What has the music taught you during the creative process of ‘Russian Doll’?
The creative process seems to span from the conception of a song which may or may not end up as part of the final cut. You’re recounting a segment of your personal journey at that time. Writing the songs is the lovely, secluded part of the creative process. It’s like a dirty secret that you have to vanquish and deliver to a potentially innocuous or facetious listener. However, performing & recording the album is like the ultimate mindfulness exercise where you have to balance alertness with ease and trust in the process and the people around you, but ultimately within yourself, which is the difficult part. You have to let go of any preconceptions of who you are and investigate like an eager child. I also learned that although I wrote most of these songs between 2004 and 2013, it was a complete rebirth in revisiting them, realigning their arrangements and protecting their integrity as an older version of the person who wrote them. The joy was that not only did I not hate them, allowing others to influence their evolution is what has made them grow even more. I know I picked the right people so at least my instincts are still sharp even if my sanity is not.
Were you influenced by any musicians/albums while writing Russian Doll’?
Lauryn Hill (miseducation album), Joan as police woman (real life), Schubert, sessions I was a part of growing up and with my mates hammering out songs til eight in the morning on trips in the west of Ireland, Roberta Flack, Marlena Shaw, Radiohead (the bends, OK computer), Jeff Buckley, Gorillaz, Bonnie Raitt, Queen, Muse, Beethoven.
What are your main motivations to write music?
Anything that moves me sideways or that gives me a bubble in my chest that makes me get up in the morning, anything I notice that captures my gra or that gets into my cra.
How would you describe the music scene in your city and how important was it in terms of writing ‘Russian Doll’?
It’s currently at boiling point in a tremendously important way, in fact at least three of the songs were written specifically about Dublin, but most themes that permeate the songs on the album are somehow related to growing up in Ireland.
Is there a particular song or musical passage that never fails to move you emotionally?
Roberta Flacks’ live version of Simon & Garfunkels ‘the sound of silence’.
What’s the best compliment you’ve received regarding your music?
When I was talking with my friend recently about the album, although we’ve only reconnected in the last two years following a five year gap, she asked me whether one of the songs she remembers from 12 years ago was going to be on the album and it was so lovely to tell her it was and that she remembered the song, which is one of my favourites on the album.
Will we get any music videos from ’Russian Doll’’?
We will indeed. I’m heading into Camden recording studios on Nov 10th to do about four tracks so hopefully they’ll all be edited and ready before Christmas.
10 What song of yours is your favourite and why?
It’s the final track on the album and it’s a piano instrumental, so it’s probably why I like it so much, I don’t have to sing it and it was a tune that I was able to write in about twenty minute. When they come that quickly and easily to you that it feels like it’s a natural thing to play. Although I also love the third track ‘Cranes’ so I suppose it depends on the day I perform them.
There is something about music that stirs me primally. It disturbs me how it can cascade through my mind. Only when I listen to music, do I tap into parts of myself which are reserved for the divine. This is uncontrollable. I compare it to drinking a glass of good whiskey.
Normally I go look for the science of it all, try and understand parts of my brain that causes this. Not today.
Today I admit music’s true power. It’s human magic and cannot be explained purely by science. Our language doesn’t have a chance against this allurement and the feelings conjured.
Although I know I am someone who feels deeply, and could simply be overly sensitive to most human experiences, I cannot deny the truth in it. Music is a balm.
Like a drug, it’s effect is heady. A simple lyric, drum beat, or refrain can cause my heart to beat faster, my head to feel light, and my hands to tingle.
We are listening to other’s love, sorrow, pain, anger. Our bodies are trained to hear this for better or for worse.
It is a chasm I grateful leap into at every possible chance, my sweet prince.
Remember, I don’t even need to name individual songs/albums/artists, because you’re already thinking of the one.
Inspired by: My Sweet Prince – Placebo (1998 – Without You I’m Nothing)
If music is passion, then colour me happily spent. Throughout my life, music has been partner to my creativity and emotions. As I write this I listen to music. My constant need for it was amplified in jobs when I couldn’t spend my work day enjoying it. Voices, instruments, and choruses have soothed my soul from as far back as I can remember.
As it is my 28th birthday today I decided the challenge myself by writing a blog about 28 female artists that inspired me and an album of theirs. These artists moved me not just because of their music, but due to their strength, feminist undertones (or overtones), and talent. So without further ado.
1983: Cyndi Lauper – ‘She’s So Unusual.’
She really is so unusual, and still is. Lauper not only has had a magnificent musical career, she’s been an activist for LGBTQ+ rights for decades. Her debut album is particularly special with a song from Prince, a cover of ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun,’ and one I listened to on repeat, ‘She Bop.’ What a she bop it is! The album art was by none other than Annie Leibowitz. The album is Grammy winning and if you’ve never listened to this album, treat yourself! It’s pure fun.
1986: Kate Bush – ‘The Whole Story.’
Kate Bush’s voice is big. Her song writing is exceptional, and her best loved song is the opening for this album, ‘Wuthering Heights.’ This album was played throughout my childhood by my Mother who is a huge fan of Kate Bush. Listening to it now, it’s marching rhythms, quiet whispers, and misty landscapes transport me. My favorite track is ‘Running Up That Hill,’ and I find myself singing it long after the album end.
1993: Martina McBride – ‘Who I Am.’
My family are a big fans of the American country and western genre, and my Father especially loves it. Martina McBride has a huge voice for such a little frame. This was one of the albums I knew off by heart as a child. Every word, every lyric, and every note. My favorite track, “Where I used To Have A Heart,” was so dear to me, that I sang it in a competition. This album reminds me of singing to my granny Patricia as I practiced, and her admiration gave me the confidence to do it. The track, ‘My Baby Loves Me The Way I Am,’ has never meant more to me than it does now. (Winks at Boo).
1993: Björk – ‘Post.’
Ughhhhhh this album is phenomenal. Björk never fails to entertain me. She is crazy, she is beautiful and she is concentrated talent. I’ve been to Iceland and her landscape informed her musical style. This album is a dynamic and energetic adventure. She bursts onto the scene with ‘Army Of Me,’ and throughout the album we are treated to a mixture of styles and stories. The popular ‘Oh So Quiet,’ would give no indication what the rest of the album would be like, and she confounds expectations with tracks like ‘Possibly Maybe,’ and ‘Cover Me.’ I love you Björk, your energy is addictive.
1994: Madonna – ‘Bedtime Stories.’
Only recently a Madonna convert, I understand why she seems to be so divisive. She does everything a male artist of her age might do, and because she’s a woman that’s not ok. Female voices have been shamed for centuries. “Opps, I Didn’t know I couldn’t talk about sex.” She has shown no signs of slowing down although she turns 60 in August of this year, and what do I have to say about that? Slay. Queen. There are no rules, you are hurting no one, in fact your music has healed many for decades. You are the master of reinvention, of female empowerment, and pop. This album in particular is a favorite of mine, and I have a special love for, ‘Human Nature,’ and ‘Bedtime Stories.’ The latter of which was written by Madonna and Björk.
1994: Sarah McLachlan – “Fumbling Towards Ecstasy.”
Although she is well known for her hit ‘Angel,’ the Sarah McLachlan I fell in love with was featured in Buffy The Vampire Slaye. I was drawn in by the beautifully melancholy of ‘Full Of Grace,’ off her album Surfacing. It was her album ‘Fumbling Towards Ecstasy,’ however, that hooked me. While this came out in 1994 I didn’t get my copy until well into the 2000’s. I actually ended up buying it twice when I thought I lost it (this was when CDs were still a thing). This album is ethereal, large, and gothic. McLachlan lyrics expose an alternate view into female sexuality, which for a young teenage girl is important. When then mass media provides a very bleak offering of the female sometimes you need a Sarah McLachlan to show differing female sexualities. You just have to look at the art work on the album and you’ll understand what I’m talking about. Highlights for me from the album are ‘Fear,’ and the cover of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue.’
1995: Alanis Morrissette – ‘Jagged Little Pill.’
In fairness young Jenni should probably not have been listening to this, but I just adored it. I remember as a 10 or 11 year old playing it for my then 14 or 15 year old cousin. “This is one of my favourite albums it’s amazing!” To which she giggled at the lyrics, “And every time I scratch my nails down someone else’s back I hope you feel it. Well, can you feel it?”
“Jenni,” She offered, “This is very grown up, should you be listening to this…?”
Regardless of whether I should have been or not, Morrissette got me through my teenage angsty years. While this isn’t my favourite album of hers, it was certainly impactful on young Jenni. Maybe she’s why I was so precocious?
1997: Celine Dion – ‘Let’s Talk About Love.’
No one will tell me that listening to Celine Dion is lame. This Lady is an unbelievable artist, her voice is a fairy-tale and I fell in love. The year this album came out, a gift from my parents, I listened to it over and over. Listening to it now in 2018 it’s still as persuasive and beautiful all these years later. As if Celine’s own voice wasn’t enough we get the gift of a duet between her and Barbara Streisand, ‘Tell Him.’ I learned this on keyboard so I could sing it to my grandmother as she adored both these ladies. I think I was bought this album because ‘My Heart Will Go On,’ is on it, however there is nuance to the rest of the album because of the collaborations. Just look at the list of writers and you’ll understand. I love Celine Dion, and she loves us back.
2001: Alicia Keys – ‘Songs In The Key Of A Minor.’
I only recently discovered this album. I’ve always been a fan of Alicia Keys, especially when she recently got fed up of make-up and stopped using it. Since then she looks as beautiful as she always has. Make-up is great, it’s a way to express yourself, and it’s no longer just for females, there are plenty of males posting make-up tutorials. It should be a choice, not a necessity, so thank you Alicia. This girl has chops and it’s an extraordinary debut. Her ability on the piano alone earns her praise. Her voice creeps down your back. The reimaging of Prince’s ‘How Come You Don’t Call Me?” is a gift. Her lead single ‘Fallin,’ is still perfect. This neo soul, RnB, and at times jazzy offering is ambitious for a young woman vying for chart success. In the end, she triumphs.
2001: Destiny’s Child – ‘Survivor.’
I like to joke that Solange was my favourite member of Destiny’s Child, (She would fill in if any of the girls were sick). Still all the same, I love Kelly, Michelle, and Beyoncé. The single ‘Bootylicious’ uses a sample of Stevie Nick’s ‘Edge of Seventeenth.’ So as tribute, Nick’s is in the video, which I just love. This album delivers female empowerment. Between the singles ‘Bootylicious,’ and ‘Survivor,’ another track ‘Independent Woman Part I,’ was featured on the soundtrack of 2000 film Charlie’s Angels. (Which I also have). Destiny’s Child is a girl band I go back to over and over again. This is a multiple platinum selling album for a reason. Now go watch the ‘Survivor’ music video on YouTube, I know you want to!
2001: P!nk – ‘Mizzundastood.’
P!nk is weird, like really weird. It was such a godsend for awkward teen Jenni who was also extremely weird, and hadn’t yet realised that this is actually, well, normal. ‘Don’t Let Me Get Me,’ made me cry with joy as she sang:
“I’m my own worst enemy
It’s bad when you annoy yourself
Don’t wanna be my friend no more
I wanna be somebody else”
I was always trying to escape my own head, I was so cruel to myself, I never had compassion. I wish I could hug myself, all I can do is look back and feel glad of the learning curve. I appreciate the album more and more as I get older, and own every record P!nk has released. The music business needed someone edgy like P!nk to balance out the Christinas and Britneys. One of my favourite tracks is ‘Misery,’ a duet with Steven Tyler. I couldn’t pick one as an absolute favorite, because the whole album has such a special place in my history.
2002: Christina Aguilera – ‘Stripped.’
“So, what am I not ‘supposed to have an opinion?
Should I be quiet just because I’m a woman?
Call me a bitch because I speak what’s on my mind
Guess it’s easy for you to swallow if I say and smiled.”
Gurl, you got it. Another female artist that played as the background soundtrack to my formative years. Whether or not it had an effect on me can be argued, but no one can deny I am not one for being forced into a box. Or being told how to act because of my sexual organs. My clothes are a mixture of male and female, my ideals are neutral and reasoned, and I am not hysterical when I am passionate. My behaviour has been shaped by a society that told me, ‘girls should be seen, and never heard,’ to which I responded. “Fuck that, you know how loud I am, and my friend told me it was charming.”
Critics argued against it’s unwillingness to settle on a genre, I think this is one of it’s biggest strengths. You go from RnB on ‘Can’t Keep Us Down,’ to gospel on, ‘Cruz,’ Rock on, ‘Fighter,’ and pop on ‘Beautiful.’ Alicia Keys is featured on the track, ‘Impossible’ and Lil Kym on ‘Can’t Keep Us Down.’ The production launches it’s promotion with her talk track ‘Stripped Intro,’ and keeps up the theme until the final track, ‘Keep On Singin’ My Song.’ This album has aged well.
2003: Dido – ‘Life For Rent.’
Dido, where have you gone? I have her first 3 albums, and only realised recently that she released another album in 2013. ‘Life For Rent’ was written mostly between herself and her brother Rollo. This multi-platinum selling album was a gift from my godmother. It was all I wanted that Christmas. I loved her so much, from her debut album to her new release. Although I thought I was so grown up at 13 when I got this album, most of it went over my head. When I revisited it as a 28 year old, I noticed how much I’d missed of its subtle nuances. Dido’s voice is not strong like Christina’s, or celestial like Björk’s but it was whispered in my ear like a pray. Highlight track for me is, ‘Mary’s In India.’
2004: Norah Jones – ‘Feels Like Home.’
I think most people have Norah Jones’s 2002 album, ‘Come Away With Me,’ but somehow ‘Feels Like Home,’ made it’s way into my possession first. Any album that features Dolly Parton is a win in my opinion, and ‘Creepin In,’ was a duet with her. It seems Jones had more creative control on this album and spoiler alert, that usually makes an album better! For me, this album gave me peace when I needed it, Jones’ voice was one among many that year but hers captured me, and gave me sanctuary.
2004: Sam Philips – ‘A Boot & A Shoe.’
Have you ever watched the Gilmore Girls? What a show that was, and still is. One of the best things about the show is the accompanying soundtrack, which was mostly composed by none other than Sam Philips. I discovered this album through Gilmore Girls, and fell deeply in love with the sardonic lyrics sang in such as soft voice, that you are surprised by the undertones. The song that was featured in the final episode of the latest Gilmore Girls offering is Philip’s, ‘Reflecting Light.’ This song needs more attention. I think the album, heck Sam Philips, needs more attention overall.
2005: Kelly Clarkson – ‘Breakaway.’
Clarkson’s ‘Breakaway’ was featured in the 2004 film ‘Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement.’ Although the film was a let down for me, (as a huge fan of the books by Meg Cabot), it led me to the album by Kelly Clarkson, which is a plus. I’ve seen Clarkson live, and yes, she doesn’t need a studio to hit those notes from ‘Behind These Hazel Eyes,’ and ‘Since You’ve Been Gone.’ It’s even more spine tingling in person, when it’s just her, in her jeans, wandering around stage. There are a lot of over produced singers out there, and trust me, Clarkson is not one of them. ‘Where is your heart,’ and ‘Beautiful Disaster,’ are excellent examples of her versatility on this album. The success of this album, and of Clarkson herself, comes not from the exceptional voice she was given, but the way she uses it.
2006: Nelly Furtado – ‘Loose.’
I had started college, in 2007, and I was 17. I was struggling (you can read about it here: https://thinkingaheadblog.wordpress.com/2018/04/27/my-anxiety-my-magic/). Losing myself in music was a good way to cope. At the time Nelly Furtado was dominating the charts with singles, ‘Maneater,’ ‘Promiscuous,’ & ‘Say It Right.’ These swam around my head until one day, when I was feeling particularly low, I wandered into a music shop in Maynooth. I bought this album, and it ended up on my playlist for over a year. The production on the track, ‘Say It Right,’ reverberated through my bones. Furtado is another female artist that broke out of her record company’s mould. Something nearly all the female artists on this list have struggled with. To be in control of your own music, image and power is something women still struggle with. Give us choice and fuck off.
2007: Imelda May – ‘Love Tattoo.’
“Johnny got a boom boom, Johnny got a bam, he got a!”
Singer-songwriter Imelda May is my hero. She worked incredibly hard to get where she is. She wrote, recorded, and performed until Ireland listened, and then the world. She’s one hell of a woman, and she is unapologetically herself. This is her second album, and although I love all her offerings, this one has a special place in my heart.
2010: Rihanna – ‘Loud.’
Now here is a lady who gives no fucks. She does not apologise for her sexually contentious attitude, her drug use, or flexing. She dresses how she wants and she stopped taking herself or the industry seriously a long time ago (proven by her swigging from a hip flask at an awards ceremony in which she was front row). Her album was LOUD and it screamed. Featured is the collaboration with Eminem where she owned and highlighted domestic abuse. Nearly all the tracks on this album are hit singles, and she is so blasé about her success. Her line of Fenty Cosmetics offer 40 different foundation, to cover all skin types and types. She is now in the process of releasing a line of lingerie for woman of all sizes and shapes, so they can find something to make themselves feel good. I’ve listened to this album many times, and cannot help myself, I love, ‘Cheers (Drink To That).’ When she sings, ‘Let the Jameson sink in,’ I smile, nod, and lift my glass.
2011: Adele – ’21.’
Of course Adele is on this list. This breakup album came out when I was going through a breakup. Coincidence? Yes. These things just happen. When I needed to mope, Adele was there for me. When I needed to feel legitimized in my feelings, I blasted, ‘Set Fire To The Rain,’ when I needed to cry, I listened to ‘Someone Like You,’ and when I needed to feel acrimony, ‘Rumor Has It,’ had my back. Adele is another hero of mine. When she accepted her Grammy Award for ’25’ she used her speech time to air her grievance about Beyoncé’s failure to win. I applauded, not because I thought Adele didn’t deserve the Grammy, but because she isn’t afraid to say what everyone else is thinking. This is probably a reason why her music is so compelling.
2013: Beyoncé – ‘Beyoncé.’
When Beyoncé drops an album, you sit down and listen to it. Now I loved ‘Lemonade’, but ‘Beyoncé’ had so much more to say about femininity, feminism and the struggle of the female. I rank it higher than ‘Lemonade.’ You only have to listen to the first track, ‘Pretty Hurts,’ to understand where the album is going. Beyoncé voiced a concern for many females who fear they are compromising their feminism because they love their man, and still want to be a feminist. Beyoncé became a mainstream example of feminism. There isn’t a format for feminism, and this is the theme throughout this album. The track, ‘Flawless,’ featuring Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is spectacular. It’s a hit song, but it also offers a side to Beyoncé I’m glad she finally let out. This is my favorite Yoncé album.
2014: Warpaint – ‘Warpaint.’
I can’t remember how I found Warpaint, but I remember what got me enthralled. It was their music video for, ‘Disco//Very – Keep It Healthy.’ These LA girls, in their messy clothes, with a devil may care attitude, crawled under my skin and I couldn’t stop listening. Part of me loved the fact it was an all-girl band, the other part of me loved the musical style, the mixed voices, and the grim atmosphere. These ladies have been a staple of my music collection since then and I cannot recommend them enough. They are the modern skater, punk, indie rock girl band we’ve been waiting for. Our patience has been rewarded and we deserve this.
2016: Lady Gaga – ‘Joanne.’
I’ve had a wonderful and outlandish journey with Lady Gaga. She burst onto the scene when I was in my first year of college, and my college gang fell in love with her. Now she’s gotten this far, she’s given us this gem of an album, ‘Joanne.’ Named for her dead Aunt, this finally allows an insight into her musical influences which before seemed nothing but superficial, (and according to Madonna, “Reductive… Look it up.”). This spectacular offering has the hit singles, ‘Perfect Illusion,’ ‘Million Reasons,’ and, ‘John Wayne,’ and these are songs to be reckoned with. However, what is vastly superior are the themes she deals with on the album tracks. These include her sexual assault in, ‘Diamond Heart,’ self-pleasure in, ‘Dancin’ In Circles,’ and the healing power of your female friends in ‘Grigio Girls.’ I recently watched her documentary “Five Foot Two,” and it just showed me how powerful a person she is. She is our generation’s Madonna.
2016: Laura Mvula – ‘The Dreaming Room.’
You’ll remember Laura Mvula from her 2013 hit single ‘Green Garden.’ I was a fan then, and I’m a fan now. Her most recent album, ‘The Dreaming Room,’ is packed full of gorgeous lyrically pertinent songs, and a collaboration with Nile Rogers, on ‘Overcome.’ My favorite track is ‘Phenomenal Woman.’ Her song writing suits her voice, her messages are graceful, and her rhythm is intelligent. You will thoroughly enjoy every inch of this album it is a tasty snack.
2016: Sia – ‘This Is Acting.’
If you know me you know I love Sia. Sia Furler was the singer on several Zero 7 albums which is a band I’m particularly fond of. Between this and her own solo career Sia has written music for Rihanna (‘Diamonds),’ Beyoncé (‘Pretty Hurts,’) Kylie Minogue (‘Kiss Me Once,’) Britney Spears (‘Perfume,’) Celine Dion (‘Loved Me Back To Life,’) Katy Perry (‘Chained To The Rhythm,’)…and so forth.
Furler’s ‘This Is Acting,’ is a combination of new songs and those that had been rejected by other musicians. Her raspy soulful voice invigorates me every time. The album offers an anthem for everyone. From “Cheap Trills,” which reminds me of those good old days in the pubs, was produced by God’s mouthpiece himself, Kayne West. (I know he’s a complete twat, but damn the man can produce). She proves her dance tune skills with, ‘Move Your Body,’ which is impossible to sit still to. Her song “Alive,” is very Adele-esque. That’s because it’s co-written by the megastar Adele herself. Her voice makes each second of every song feel epic, and props to the lady because she’s got more writing credits than I could list here. Her first number one was ‘Cheap Trills,’ and she was the oldest female to get her first number one single at the age of 40. Much respect for this.
2016: Solange Knowledge – ‘A Seat At The Table.’
This album should have won the “Best Urban Contemporary,” Grammy instead of Beyoncé ‘Lemonade.’ It did win for her single, ‘Cranes In the Sky’ at Least so that’s something. It is a much more coherent album than ‘Lemonade.’ There are interludes where her Mother and Father speak about their experiences of being African American. She sings about her hair, she sings about being mad, she sings about being mistreated:
“I ran my credit card up
Thought a new dress make it better
I tried to work it away
But that just made me even sadder
I tried to keep myself busy
I ran around circles
Think I made myself dizzy
I slept it away, I sexed it away
I read it away.”
It’s controversial but I’ve always felt Solange is the superior Knowles, but there is enough room in the music world for both. Although ‘A Seat At The Table,’ was realeased the same year as ‘Lemonade,’ it didn’t get the attention it deserved. From start to finish the story of this album sold through Solange’s earthy tones speaks to her audience. Her persuasion lies not in aggression but elegance.
2017: Miley Cyrus – ‘Younger Now.’
Miley Cyrus has got a lot of attention lately hasn’t she? Her transition from child star to woman was viewed as tentative and people are quick to say she did it wrong. Poor Miley, she’s pawn for her father used her to make money. What about, you have done a phenomenal job well done. Although I may not have been a big fan of the ‘Bangerz,’ and ‘Miley And All Her Dead Petz,’ era, her combination of all her musical past in ‘Younger Now,’ gave me pause. She talks about her bisexuality, her growth and regrets. The influences are country, rock, pop and electronic. Her song, ‘Love Someone,’ screams Fleetwood Mac (Stevie Nicks / Fleetwood Mac). Also there is a duet with her Godmother Dolly Parton. I’ve always said an album with a duet with Dolly Parton is a good album.
Also she just collaborated with Converse All Stars. I got myself an early birthday present:
Everyone, put down what you’re doing, right now, and listen to this album. It is unbelievable, it’s fun, it’s inclusive, it’s reaching everyone, it’s… just go listen!
Watch Tessa Thompson strut around with Janelle in the videos for ‘Make Me Feel,’ and ‘Pynk.’ Understand that the LGBTQ+ community are in mainstream media to stay, and expressions of sexuality is not controversial, it’s prevailing. Monáe questions beauty standards, uncontrolled jingoism, and terrible fear. Monáe pushes back at a society that tried to block her light out. She came from an impoverished background economically, but her rich inner life results in a cerebral masterpiece.
We are not worthy, but she went ahead and gave it to us anyways. Thank you Janelle. xxx