Laura Marling ‘Semper Femina’ – musings about muses

The muse is an interesting concept in (mainly Greek) mythology. Originally goddesses, the muses turned into beautiful women that gave the spark of inspiration to mainly male artists. Even though one could see the role of the muse from a feminist standpoint – after all, the male artist is and can create nothing without the female input – it still stings as soon as you think of all the creative and scientific achievements of men that were created on women’s backs or even stolen from women.

In her newest album, Laura Marling thinks about these fickle creatures aka women (if you translate “semper femina”, you get this meaning) and those women that inspired her on her way. Laura Marling is not only a great artist. She is also conceptual in a way that goes beyond music. In the least few years she released a charming podcast called “Reversing the Muse” which covers interviews with women in music and especially women behind the music, e.g. sound engineers, producers, etc. Inspired by these women, she dealt with the topic of the muse on her album, finally reverting the male-female-story of the muse and recreating the muse as an equally artistic woman who inspires other artists.

Together with the podcast and the album, we also get a visual in form of three music videos directed by Laura Marling herself. Since I really loved Jesca Hoop’s lovely miniature thriller-drama (thrama, thrima?) for “Memories are now”, I immediately compared the music videos and eventually the albums as well.

Just as with her music, Jesca Hoop draws you in immediately with a powerful story (and her incredibly alluring melodies). It doesn’t take more than 5 seconds to fall in love with Jesca Hoop’s album. It took me a little longer, however, to really dive into the often subtle and highly symbolic nature of Laura Marling’s music. Her music videos are equally mystifying at times and work more with a hard to describe feeling and very strong color-schemes than a storyline or real characters. Laura Marling feels a little more sensual, tender, whereas Jesca Hoop has strong ideas that immediately grip you. And guess what: there’s no need to pit them against each other. For me, the comparison is interesting not to find out “who wore it better” but how different styles and ways and inspirations can still have a strong emotional impact and result in such strong pieces of art.

Btw, this is also the main reason why I don’t do “places” on my best of lists. If I like an album, I like it, I don’t need to make it fight with another album to prove its worth.

Jay Som ‘Everybody works’ – this retro 90s singer songwriting debut is so chill!

Initially, Jay Som thought how much it sucks to have so little money just to keep on making music, hence the title “everybody works”. As all the glorious music hit stories of today, she didn’t have to wait till forever (like some wannabe-authors, *cough cough*) to make it big. With her incredible debut, Jay Som – originally Melina Duterte – encapsulates the Zeitgeist of creating nostalgic sounds that she never really experienced. If that sounded snarky, it’s not. Let me explain but first…the Bus song.

While talking about “Everybody Works” on my radio show I came to an epiphany: the time for detached irony is over. This generation (is it still millenials?) finally got over the “oh, this is so shit/tacky/gross/awful, I love it” and discovered that old, vintage things can actually have an emotional impact and be amazing completely without irony. Even more so, it’s finally cool to watch lovely, touching tv shows like “Steven Universe” or “Adventure Time” without blushing in front of your friends who only watch “Venture Bros” and “Archer” and love to snigger at heartfelt truths and feelings.

I might be totally off with this (I am quite sure I am) but young artists like Jay Som beat the constant irony of the Britwave of ca. 2008 and the irk of neon coloured shirts singing about cool things without ever getting close to what they really thought about when they went off stage and into the sweat-smelly tour bus to drive for hours to the next location.

This is an album that is honest, modest even, and rings true.

The whole thing sounds like it comes from a band but Melina-Superstar did everything on her own in her bed room. For comparison: I do puzzles on long weekends.

The result reminds me at times of the lighter Modest Mouse (with this chill guitar sound) and at times of the fuzzy 90s alternative that in hindsight seemed to be a real rebellion against the grungy moping of too many bands of the time (I re-watched early “Buffy”-seasons in the past weeks and boy, so many drab bands with really bad grunge music AND lyrics).

Jay Som, however, creates light, lovely and fresh songs with fantastic guitar-gniedelei and lyrics that are – quite frankly – humbling the selfish arrogant person that I was at Melina’s age. She talks about how everyone has their burden to bare and how sometimes you have to give up some things to help out others. And all that sounds a lot less like motivational posters when she writes and sings about it:

I know you know

If I leave you alone

When you don’t feel right

I know we’ll sink for sure

I’ll play your game once more

If you don’t feel right

(Baybee)

Jesca Hoop album ‘Memories are now’ – the here and the now and the break

Jesca Hoop’s new album is out since roughly a month now and don’t think that I didn’t listen to that record already a hundred times. I did. But listening and writing are always so different, because one involves manual labor and the other doesn’t. Continue reading

Favorite Song: Lauren Ruth Ward ‘Make love to myself’ – get your creep on

I love the timeless feel of Lauren Ruth Wards country with a 70s Fleetwood Mac-feel. I guess it’s my age (or Spotify’s creepily great recommendation algorithm) but suddenly there’s a lot of country music (or country inspired music) that I like and Lauren’s pop with an edge is weirdly mesmerizing. After the lovely and stripped intro, the song soon turns into the kind of bluesrock-ish sound that might make Jack White ear’s tingle (if I were him, I would call Lauren soon to ask for a collaboration).

The song itself is a power-song about creepy dudes not getting the hint that they should leave and be creepy elsewhere. In the video, Lauren plays the creep and turns it into something even more sinister. It’s cheeky and adds to the song in an interesting way.

I don’t consider myself someone who knows a lot about the country scene but from my point of view I get the feeling that there’s a new batch of interesting mainly female artists who take the genre and make it their own by throwing out the clichés (especially lyric-wise) and modernizing it. I also appreciate a country music video without any dudes but with amazing hairstyles.

Favourite Song: Priests ‘JJ’ – there’s a Rockabilly in your Garage Punk

I feel like Priests secretly hide a poster of early 90s Glenn Danzig in their bedroom and yes, I do imagine that they all share one bedroom because that’s what bands do, right?

The debut album “Nothing feels natural” has spunk, a tinge of many a fun sub-genres and a charming bratty vocalist who could win a Danzig-coversong contest and I will say this over and over again because this kind of singing is a dying art but it is so catchy and mixes incredibly well with breathless rhythms. And even though “JJ” is fun as hell, Priests also get a little darker and weirder and less Danzig on their debut which is my kind of album and one of the reasons why Garage Punk mixed with other genres always gets bonus points in my little book of favourites (which is this blog, there’s no real book because I am a digital lemming who doesn’t even know what “books” are). You’ll get your too cool for school 80s punk, a surf rock inspired ditty and even one of those weird guitar-heavy spoken-word songs you can do the robot to. Everyone wins.

I also enjoy this music video very much.

Favourite Song: Jesca Hoop ‘Memories are now’ is on loop

This year, Jesca Hoop finally releases a new solo album. Last year she did a beautiful folk album with Sam Beam from Iron & Wine and although it’s a lovely album with lovely songs and a warmth that might be quite needed these days, I felt Jesca’s intense talent regarding strong and catching melodies take the backseat. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still there but just not as much in the front as her solo songs are.

Case in point: her two new singles from her soon to be released album. Whereas Jesca’s and Sam’s “Love Letter for Fire” is all about sweet love songs, her solos singles “The Lost Sky” and “Memories are now” both are about breakups and painful ones at that.

Both songs have a clarity when it comes to the melodies. The melody is up front and everything else comes together through it and doesn’t overshadow or cover it. No wallowing, no meandering and Jesca’s voice is seeping through your skin into your veins, giving you goosebumps. “Memories are now” starts with a low beat and her sighing in the background before her vocals really set in. Jesca is her own choir in this and it’s such a beautiful effect.

Her song is a strong breakup song, the song of a woman who lost someone because he disappointed her and she is no longer taking it, “I have only now to bare the load”. Thinking back on Laura Mvula’s breakup song “Make me lovely” this feels like a different heartbreak. Whereas Laura’s breakup is still full of love that ran out for the other person, Jesca is simply done and wants to move on, to leave nothing but memories.

Favourite Song: Yola Carter ‘Fly Away’ – in case, you like Country music

Have I ever confessed to watching “Nashville”? “Nashville” is one of those weird shows that combine kind of good acting, great soundtracks and bonkers Daily Soap-storylines and therefore are a guilty pleasure but with more production quality. Well, due to Nashville and some love for earthy country artists, I have realized in the last 5-10 years that there is country out there that is actually pretty good. And Yola Carter’s EP “Orphan Offering” is the best kind of country you can and should listen to. “Fly Away” has this lovely Rock’n’Roll twist that bands like Aerosmith and even Led Zep (with their unplugged set) incorporated in the 80s. Carter’s voice is insane and she has this deep rooted “Banjo duel”-vibe in her songs that I can’t help but get slightly wistful about, staring out of my window in my Berlin tower block apartment and wondering whether I should work on a farm in the midwest. Of course, I shouldn’t. I weigh about 90 pounds, I don’t even lift and I love to sleep in but for these few minutes, I want to fly away and breathe that fresh country air. Lovely.