Funny thing recommending music to people. It’s quite personal – almost revealing – and you never quite know what reaction you’ll get. Sometimes I feel I’m the family dog retrieving your slippers and newspaper, and you’re pleased at the gifts I’ve delivered. Sometimes, however, I sense I’m the family cat, who’s just deposited a freshly-killed lizard at your feet.
Both are offered out of affection, though not necessarily welcomed as such.
But I still rave and recommend and burn disks for people in the optimistic hope that they’ll be as jazzed as I am by Neko Case, Animal Collective, Matthew Sweet, Elbow and all the other cool artists who regularly rock my world.
Yesterday I completed ignored my New Year’s vow to economize and blew a small bundle at HMV on new music. What am I, still in college? Tiger Mother would have my ass! Somehow I don’t think I can get away with feeding my kids instant noodles and hot dogs for the rest of the month. Can I?
I’m still working through my purchases – catching up with late 2010 releases like Rufus Wainwright, Massive Attack and Jonsi – but the best of the bunch so far is the debut album from a British singer-songwriter called Rumer. (You can check out several of her songs at http://www.rumer.co.uk/)
Can I rave here for just a second? Rumer is sublime pop. The songwriting and arrangements are this close to transcendent. Take one part jazz vocalist, throw in some California confessional, a smidgen of seductive chanteuse and a hefty dose of seventies pop and you have Seasons of my Soul.
The Guardian has likened her voice to Karen Carpenter but absolutely do not let that put you off giving her a listen. I first heard Rumer on kcrw.com (where else?) with the song ‘Aretha’ (yes, after the Queen of Soul), and it was just a perfect jazz-pop number. I had to go back and check kcrw’s tracklist – who is this chick? Her voice is warm and familiar, like something you heard coming out of your Mom’s stereo. She’s not over produced or trying too hard, and I’m thinking that’s because she’s British, not American. She’s Diana Krall without the burden of being Diana Krall, you know what I’m saying?
The tracks ‘Come To Me High’ (what an awesome title) and ‘Slow’ groove so slowly and seductively that you’ll be lighting candles, opening a Sauv Blanc and breaking out the negligee. Trust me ladies. Don’t make the mistake I did of listening to this when your hubby has just gone out of town, unless you happen to have something in the battery-operated department stashed away (note to self – update shopping list).
Rumer has been around the music business for a good decade without a recording contract. Because of that, I think, she’s had time to learn songwriting and figure out who she wants to be. The songs are personal, well-crafted and seemingly unaffected by the whims of today’s music. Retro sounds without the irony or Glee gloss.
The only question mark is her cover of Bread’s ‘Goodbye Girl’. Hey, I like a good ‘70s movie song as much as the next guy (that means you Tootsie and Arthur) but this was just a little too cloying and didn’t gel with the rest of her highly intimate tracks.
She’s worked with Burt Bacharach, Elton John and Leon Russell. She’s been nominated for two Brit Awards. She’s currently on tour in the UK (please come to Hong Kong!), so I’m sure you’ll be hearing a lot about her this year. Enjoy!