Lately I've been listening to a lot of music. Well, I should clarify that; I've been listening to a lot of the same music. The same few albums on repeat, bringing some comfort and familiarity to these times. Since I have fairly eclectic tastes I don't get to discuss my favourite albums/songs to many people so decided why not blog about it? That's what this platform is for right? Weird opinions shouted out into the void (or is that Twitter?). Anyway, hopefully you can find some new music or a genre that you haven't tried before.
I've always loved jazz and swing music, this year has seen me double down on that by adding a love of Lindy Hop and Balboa to it. If I'm listening to anything there is a high chance that it's something that I can dance to.
I came across this wonderful band because they covered a song from the movie Swing Fever (Undecided) which I love. Since then this album, and their subsequent album Battle Axe, have been getting a good workout on my Spotify account. A small 8 piece band that manages to sound fuller than they should, pumping out some great swing beats. Their vocalist, Laura Windley, has that sound that I just love in a swing band and I love all her work with other bands (highly recommend Well Read Baby from Keenan McKenzie). She also has a vintage swing clothing blog.
I can't remember how I came across Avalon Jazz Band, but I've been listening to their wonderful French jazz for the past few months. This is quintessential, modern 'jazz manouche' with beautiful acoustic guitars, backed by accordions, and strings. That sweet swing beat sits under it all and makes me want to dance. Some of it is quite fast (for me) so it's good Balboa music. Tatiana Eva-Marie's vocals are beautiful, light, and so French. Stand out songs for me are: the title track Je Suis Swing; and their delightful play on Darling Je Vous Aime Beaucoup. Their follow up album Paris also gets a lot of play time.
Ok so last swing/jazz band for this post, but I do have the complete playlist of The Schwings Band on high rotation. I just put it on random, let it play, and soak up the good vibes. Described as vintage swing and New Orleans style jazz, this band has some solid grooves. Vocalist Migloko again has that deep, almost gravely sound that I just can't get enough of. The first song of theirs I listened to was the cover of Is This Love, and I was instantly hooked.
Ok this is where things start getting a little different. I love music from all over the world and Japan has some of my favourite bands.
Capacity - Polkadot Stingray (ポルカドットスティングレイ)
Again a band that I stumbled upon and loved from the first listen. Thanks to My Analog Journal I've been on a bit of a Japanese Jazz, and City Pop binge of late which may have lead me to Polkadot Stingray. Back when I was watching FLCL I got really into The Pillows and PS have a very similar feel, that solid pop-rock sensibility that Japan does so well. My favourite song is I Don't Remember At All, I have no idea what they are saying but I love the spoken word bits.
Shin Seinen - Ningen Isu (人間椅子)
Japanese heavy metal. It's the thing you didn't know was missing in your life. Back when I was a impressionable teen I was in the socially awkward, heavy metal, nerd kids group so my early musical influences were Black Sabbath, Metallica, and the like (I'm still a nerd and socially awkward so not much has changed). Ningen Isu have strong influences in those wonderful 70s/80s metal bands and their technical skill is unbelievable. If they don't make you want to air guitar then nothing will. Shin Seinen is one of their latest albums and their back catalogue is very impressive. Well worth a listen.
The next two bands are an interesting mix in genre. SKÁLD are French and sing in old Norse, and Myrkur started out as a Danish/Norse metal band but their latest album is more 'folk noir'.
I was researching music for my Hel Is A Four Letter Word playlist (more on that later), and came across SKÁLD. They only had one album at the time and since then their new album Vikings Memories dropped and both of them get played regularly. I even got my anchor partner interested in them (and Myrkur) so I will often come home to SKÁLD blasting from the speakers. Which isn't a bad thing tbh. Deep haunting vocal chants are backed by full drums and traditional instruments in this strong nod to Norse folk music. Give both albums a full listen and let them wash over you.
Folkesange - Myrkur
As I mentioned, Myrkur started out as a metal band which was pretty good in its own right. Their latest album, Folkesange, however was a slight departure and leaned in heavily to the folk noir vibes. My favourite song from the album would be their version of House Carpenter, a haunting folk tale about a demon and a house wife.
The Gereg (Delux Edition) - The HU
I'm going to put The HU under the banner of Folk Noir because I'm lazy, but they are more folk-metal. The HU are a Mongolian folk-metal band who use traditional instruments with throat signing and it sounds amazing. All their songs are excellent but I enjoy Shoog Shoog the best.
Not many people know this but I absolutely LOVE a good sea shanty. They are excellent for singing loudly to yourself when stuck in traffic or if you need to distract your anxiety filled mind.
The Longest Johns are quickly becoming my favourite shanty band (yes I have more than one). Their latest offering is one of their best in my opinion and I was lucky enough to get a copy on vinyl. It's hard to pick a favourite from this album let alone their back catalogue so I wont, but I will link to some classics: Oak & Ash & Thorn; Moby Duck; Bonny Ship The Diamond; Joli Rouge; We All Lift Together. That'll keep you busy.
So these are all just a tiny look into my current musical tastes. This doesn't cover the numerous playists I have with one or two songs from artists (look those playlists get WERID ok, like whiplash from the genre changes). That said, I'm trying to do more self promotion and would be remiss not to promote two tie-in playlists I made for my novels.
My Greek pantheon inspired neo-noir story House of Discordia required a soundtrack that mixed classic 20s smooth jazz with Hellenic Black Metal. Plus I threw in a bunch of songs that mention Greek gods for good measure.
Some of the music in this playlist will be familiar to you after reading this post. The second James Carol novel, Hel is a Four Letter Word, sees our hero getting involved with the Norse gods and of course some folk-noir inspired ballads were needed.
That's it for now. Let me know some of your favourite albums/bands that you think I might enjoy (I'm always looking for new music). Hit me up on all the things: Twitter; Instagram; or Mastodon, if you liked this and remember to subscribe to the RSS feed for new Hel is a Four Letter Word chapters, out every second Monday!