How Sweet the Sound
You're walking on shaky ground when you compare a new artist to Kate Bush; her fans consider her body of work to be without parallel. Every once in a while though a singer influenced by La Bush comes along that will fully pass muster with Kate's fans, and Jennie Abrahamson is one such artist. Jennie's voice is similar to Kate's and so is her phrasing, her choice in arrangements and her penchant for somewhat oblique lyrics. Abrahamson has also found a friend in Kate's pal Peter Gabriel, who she has toured with, and many of the songs on Gemini Gemini utilize world beat rhythms in the way Gabriel does. The reason to give this record a try isn't the Kate-love though; it's because Gemini Gemini is an excellent effort from a very talented performer.
Wink at July
Garlin's folky pop tunes are full of literary and cultural references, such as invoking poet Gwendolyn Brooks in "Gwendolyn Said," singing the praises of artist Keith Haring in "Hey Keith Haring" and name-dropping Caravaggio, the Renaissance-era "antichrist of painting" in "Up on a Ladder in Boots." Don't let the occasional highbrow line fool you though; Garlin's songs are sunny and sing-along-y and all of the above mentioned tunes are as much fun as the freewheeling "Colorado Rain" where Rachel has not a care in the world other than enjoying being out in nature.
My Fairy Tales
Nneka (pronounced "NAY-kuh") is a singer from Nigeria and her homage to Afrobeat on the psychedelic funk of "Believe System" and "Babylon" recalls the work of her late countryman Fela Kuti. The reggae of "My Love, My Love" is so bouncy and fun that Nneka immediately reprises the song with the short and sublime "My Love, My Love (Reprise)" before moving into the reggae/hip-hop jam "Local Champion," with the remainder of the album leaning more toward Jamaica than West Africa. With the voice of a '60s soul queen, Nneka sounds good on it all.
Where the Pavement Grows
(Release date June 16)
Rogers was right in the middle of things back in the '80s, hanging with the Venice Beach crowd and touring with the likes of Warren Zevon, John Doe (X) and Squeeze. Illness, the death of a sibling, record label upheavals and even an earthquake spun her career into a funk but she's back on track here, again living in SoCal after a stint in the Northwest. You can't go through that much living without it informing your music, and on "Twenty-Three" Rogers repeatedly sings "I'm better, I'm better!" Blessed with a big yet sometimes child-like voice, Rogers will please fans of singers like Melissa Etheridge on tunes like "Eventually" and "Change." It truly is Rogers' memorable voice that's the star here but she receives stellar backing from Julian Coryell (son of jazzman Larry Coryell) who plays most of the other instruments throughout.
Shah's first album was critically acclaimed but she said that it took so long to make that by the time it was released it no longer represented where she was musically. Sophomore effort Fast Food will undoubtedly rack up even more accolades as Shah, with a voice that lands somewhere between Diamanda Galas and Marianne Faithful, presents a solid set of Velvet Underground-leaning songs like "Matador," "Stealing Cars" and "Living."