The Host Country
After sampling thousands of this year’s new releases, I formally announce the 2014 Fringe Toast Crispy Award winners. This cluster of rarely heard, endorphin-stimulating songs features mostly new talents but also seldom-heard music from established artists.
• “Am I Wrong,” by Nico & Vinz (Norway, via Ivory Coast and Ghana). Fabulous vocals and production sounding like early-era Sting.
• “Hard Time,” by Seinabo Sey (Sweden). Classic soul-singer rendition delivered with solid bass and drum support and touches of electronica.
• “James Brown,” by Sinéad O’Connor (Ireland) with Seun Kuti (Nigeria). Upbeat percussive-driven reflection on “going downtown” in style.
• “My Silver Lining,” by First Aid Kit (Sweden). Sister duo sparkles with beautiful harmonies that sweep the listener away.
• “What We Do,” by Shook Twins (Portland via Idaho). Another sister vocal team laced with upright bass, banjo, fiddle, and awesome vocals.
• “Bad Things,” by Meiko (LA via Atlanta). Beguiling musical explanation why good girls sometimes do bad things: “because they get by with it.”
• “Laying on of Hands/Stoic 2,” by Suzanne Vega (New York). Legendary songwriter continues to create songs with hooks—this one about the language of touch.
• “Someone You Love,” by Tina Dico (Denmark). Former lead singer of Zero 7 reflects on the puzzle of relationships.
• “Old Fitzroy,” by Missy Higgins (Australia). Fascinating delivery of Dan Sultan’s song about trying to adjust to life after prison.
• “A Lot of Things Are Said,” by the Host Country (Iowa). Featuring Beatlesque track with splendid vocals from former Fairfield resident Diana Garles.
• “Change It,” by Mr. Nasti (a.k.a., Nicholas Naioti) raises the flag with lyrics that encourage a singer to step into glory. Maybe he looks into the mirror?
• “Irene,” by the Clarks (Pennsylvania). The rise and fall of a singer tempted by fame who said goodbye to the world at age 33. The chorus is a killer.
• “The Mighty Storm,” by Peter Bradley Adams (Alabama). Gospel flavored song about heading to higher ground and not fighting the will of the Lord.
• “Sunday Neurosis,” by Rodrigo y Gabriela (Mexico). Discovered on the streets of Dublin, this brother-sister duo rips acoustic guitar like none other.
• “Tangled Heart,” by Luluc (Australia). The Aussie duo featuring Zoe Randall ruminates on how to disentangle from a failed relationship.
• “Say Goodbye,” by Beck (California). New songwriting directions from his epic Morning Phase CD.
• “Walking on Mars,” by Robert Reeder. A songwriter and performer for more than 40 years, Reeder released his first CD in 2014. Magical, lyrical hooks.
• “Toumast Tincha,” by Tinariwen (Mali). Saharan Desert tribal music in pentatonic scales with electric guitars.
• “Red, Blue and Green (Dub Copy),” by Zero 7 (UK). Electronica instrumental with a touch of the blues.
• “Where I’m From,” by Eels (California). Catching up on old times with three ghosts from the past.
• “Clean,” by Tiaan (Australia). Sensuous, hypnotic, Sade-like R&B spell-weaving.
• “Rezonate,” by Elemental (Canada). Ontario-based Nick Rennie creates a seductive electronica experience that will haunt you in pleasing ways.
• “In My Direction,” by Astronauts (UK). Dan Carney’s new project circles around ethereally with breathy vocals.
• “Going Home,” by Ásgeir (Iceland). New singer-songwriter showers us with his vocal and lyrical talents.
• “The Gospel of John Hurt,” by Aalt-j (UK). Quirky English band composes oddly beautiful sonic experiences.
• “Good for Me,” by Above and Beyond (UK). Zoe Johnston’s acoustic version of the electronic music classic.
• “Caress,” by James Dean Claitor (Fairfield/Louisiana). Soft jazz-blues track from the prolific Bayou composer.
Clip this playlist to enhance your music collection.