It’s been a while since I got some new music, but now I’ve discovered a sublime album from an Australian country singer-songwriter; one of the greatest female pop vocalists of all time; and a Greatest Hits collection from some Austrian guy.
I first heard Fanny Lumsden on Double J (a.k.a. Triple J for middle-aged people), and instantly assumed that she must be American, but as a matter of fact she’s born and bred in rural New South Wales. Fallow is her third album, a lovely collection of salt-of-the-earth country/folk songs that evoke wide open spaces and mountains covered with mist. Some songs are lush and ethereal, some are tinged with bittersweet melancholy, all tied together with Fanny’s warm and clear vocals. The standout Fierce is a heartfelt salute to the women who raised me, the women who saved me, the women who pulled me into line.
I’m probably not the only person who first heard of this 1970s hit-making brother-sister duo while watching Juno back in 2007, in the scene where Jason Bateman’s character plays a cover of Superstar by Sonic Youth. Years later I randomly got onto Carpenters thanks to the mystery of YouTube algorithm, and it quickly dawned on me that I’ve been missing out on what has to be one of the most beautiful voices in popular music. Karen Carpenter invites all the superlatives you could possibly want to throw at a genuinely great singer: a voice like smooth warm rich chocolate, impeccable and seemingly effortless vocal control, emotion and vulnerability, intimate and conversational style. She’s the kind of perfect singer whose perfection never becomes dull; I could listen to her insanely gorgeous low register all day.
Of course that’s not to downplay the contributions of her brother Richard, who produced and orchestrated most of their songs and surrounded Karen’s voice with lush and romantic arrangements (the cover of Ticket to Ride by The Beatles was a totally unexpected but nice surprise). Admittedly they may come off as rather corny to the modern ear, but I find it impossible to listen to these songs without the melancholy filter of Karen’s tragic early death at the age of 32.
The Singles: 66 Classic Tracks
I rewatched Amadeus not so long ago, so when I came across The Singles at JB Hi-Fi I thought it would be great to have a compilation of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s best-known compositions. This collection is fancifully arranged into three sections; Mozart in the Morning, Mozart for Motivation and Mozart for Meditation, which basically amounts to two discs dedicated to the more energetic and upbeat pieces, and one dedicated to the sombre and contemplative ones. All the usual suspects are here: Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, that aria from The Magic Flute, Lacrimosa from Requiem, etc. etc.
It’s hardly a startlingly original observation to make, but when listened to in its entirety, it’s impossible not to be blown away by the sheer amount of timeless, beautiful and uniquely memorable melodies that continue to live in the popular culture centuries later. Including one that had soundtracked my childhood back in Russia via a popular children’s TV program, without me ever knowing that it was one of Mozart’s tunes!