Time for the summer song list! Each week I listen to approximately 200 tracks of contemporary music from around the world to assemble the play lists for my weekly radio show, Fringe Toast. My song selections favor some unusually delightful elements such as provocative lyrics, nuanced vocals, exotic improvisations, or curious combinations of voice and instruments. This summer’s list of 14 songs consists of current year releases.
• “Laying On of Hands/Stoic 2,” by Suzanne Vega. The legendary singer- songwriter from New York launches a new album. Pick up the vibe of Vega’s healing touch with flavors of “After Midnight.”
• “The Worst is Yet to Come,” by Keb’ Mo’. The living Mississippi Delta blues legend kicks it up with banjo, hand clapping, and a cheerful attitude about what is coming next.
• “Old Time Religion,” by Parker Millsap. This 20-year-old Oklahoma native brought up in the Pentecostal Church provides an intriguing turn to the old gospel classics.
• “Where I Am From,” by Eels. This California alternative band headed by Mark Oliver Everett reflects on life’s roots in an upbeat melody punctuated by acoustic guitar and soft percussion.
• “I’ll Let You In,” by Will Phalen. Bold strokes of ambient ethereal bliss come from this Midwest songwriter, now with his new band and optimistic view.
• “Airwaves,” by Ray LaMontagne. Never has Ray sounded so good, with teasing touches of Van Morrison and pedal steel and acoustic guitars. “Coming wicha….”
• “What We Do,” by Shook Twins. The Oregon-based twin sisters offer a peppy tune with beautiful harmonies and marvelous instrumentation: fiddle, bouncy bass, and acoustic guitar.
• “Sunday Neurosis,” by Rodrigo y Gabriela. The Mexican brother-sister classical guitar virtuosos were discovered playing on the streets of Dublin, Ireland. This tune has just enough flamenco and rumba to keep it rolling, while spoken word illumines the song title.
• “Shyer,” by London Grammar. The young trio from England is led by classically trained vocalist Hannah Reid. They played to sold-out audiences in small venues across the U.S. this spring.
• “Blue Moon,” by Beck. Maybe it’s not too fringe, but it’s so different from Beck’s past work. The Morning Phase album is likely to be a strong contender for Grammy Album of the Year.
• “Love is Not Enough,” by Above & Beyond. English trance band goes Acoustic on their new album with beautiful female vocals on several tracks, such as this one featuring Zoe Johnston.
• “Black Beehive,” by Big Head Todd and the Monsters. Polished singing by Todd Mohr and smooth instrumental backup distinguish this song from the Colorado band that has been putting it out for nearly 30 years.
• “The Mighty Storm,” by Peter Bradley Adams. The folk Americana singer from Alabama helps us find higher ground ahead of the dark weather coming our way. Listen for gospel, country, blues, and female harmonies on the chorus.
• “Elemental,” by Rezonate. It’s the ultimate chill-zone swoon from young Toronto electronic-music composer Nick Rennie. Absolutely beautiful!