On My Playlist

On my playlist

A couple of months ago, I posted about some of the music on my playlist. Spotify has led me to encounter so many new artists I probably wouldn’t have found otherwise, and I’ve been listening to a lot of Spanish and Latin American music. Here are a few of my favourite tracks. Even if you don’t speak Spanish, you can still enjoy the music!

La Santa Cecilia

La Santa Cecilia are a Mexican-American band based in Los Angeles. They’ve won a Grammy for Best Latin Rock Album, and their music incorporates many different traditional Mexican and Latin American styles. I’d love to see them play live — it would be so much fun. Continue reading

What’s on My Playlist

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The Alhambra, Spain. Photo credit: Victoriano Izquierdo at Unsplash

Since I signed up to Spotify and discovered that it suggests new music for you based on the artists you like, I’ve been branching out in my musical tastes. Logging onto Spotify and having a mosey about is like going down a veritable rabbit hole: you don’t know what you’re going to find, and you can end up somewhere that’s very different to where you started. Continue reading

When hobbies fall to the wayside

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By kkmarais (Flickr: Streicher 1869 Grand Piano) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons 

Until I was in my mid-teens, I had regular piano lessons. I practiced almost daily, running through scales and arpeggios and my favourite pieces of music. But one day, I started drifting away from the piano, probably in part because I was busy with exams and focusing on getting the grades I needed for university.

Continue reading

Joy Williams — Venus

The journey that led to the release of Joy Williams’s new album, Venus, was an eventful one, marked by the separation of The Civil Wars. The four-time Grammy award-winning duo, comprised of Joy Williams and John Paul White, split in 2012 after citing “irreconcilable differences”.

In recent interviews about the experiences which gave rise to the songs that we hear on Venus, Joy talks candidly about the personal challenges and sadnesses in her life over the past few years, from losing her father to Stage 4 cancer to coping with troubles in her marriage and adjusting to becoming a new mother. In this detailed song-by-song look at the album, Joy discusses the inspiration and the writing process behind each song.

When I heard the first single, Woman (Oh Mama), from Joy’s new album, it wasn’t what I expected. As a Civil Wars fan, I thought that their Americana country/folk influence would feed into Venus. However, Joy is venturing into new territory with her solo album: The Guardian describes it as “grownup pop”.

As a listener, you sense that Joy has done a lot of work, personally and professionally, to move into a different space. This has made her music stronger and although Venus has been described as “pop”, the eleven tracks on the newly released album are not mindless pop tunes: they are songs with lyrics about pain, letting go and having the courage to work through change.

Joy’s voice has extraordinary strength and beauty and Venus encompasses a range of genres, from the upbeat tribal sound of Woman (Oh Mama) to the quieter piano melody of What a Good Woman Does. “Hear me/I haven’t lost my voice without you near me,” Joy sings in the latter track, which clearly refers to The Civil Wars parting ways.

Joy certainly hasn’t lost her voice! Venus is an exciting new musical direction for her, with powerful and inspirational lyrics sung by a stunning voice.

Venus is out now. You can find it at Amazon and other music sellers.

Amazon US: VENUS

Amazon UK: Venus

Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase on Amazon via one of the links above, a small percentage will go toward my graduate school fund. This doesn’t cost you anything.

A heads-up for the Austin 100

Concert (public domain image source).

Concert (public domain image source).

Thanks to the team at NPR Music, from now until April 3 you can download 100 free songs (that’s 6 hours of music!) by artists who appeared at this year’s South By Southwest festival in Austin. Enjoy!

NPR Music – “The Austin 100: A SXSW 2014 Mix”

From This Valley

I drive an average of forty-five miles a day, much less at weekends when I like to stay home and unwind after a busy week! I don’t like driving in silence; listening to the radio or to a good CD makes the time pass much quicker. The CD which has been in my car stereo on repeat for the past few months is the self-titled second album by The Civil Wars, the singer-songwriter duo of Joy Williams and John Paul White. I have mentioned them before on Cultural Life because I absolutely adore their music. They have a wonderful creative chemistry. When I first heard about them and saw videos of their live performances on YouTube, I assumed they were a couple (they’re not) because the atmosphere between them when they performed was so powerful.

The unique blend of different influences – country, alt/indie, Americana – combined with wonderful song lyrics and talented harmonies is a compelling mix. Unfortunately for me and many other fans of their work, they split up in 2012, citing “internal discord and irreconcilable differences of ambition”. I hope they will one day, perhaps, find a way to reconcile the issues which caused the break-up. I would love to see them release a third album.

Here they are performing the Grammy award-winning song, From This Valley, live in New Orleans. I love listening to this positive, upbeat song!

Do you like The Civil Wars? Can you recommend me some similar bands/singers which I would also enjoy?

New music from The Civil Wars

The Nashville duo, The Civil Wars, released their second album this week. I first found out about The Civil Wars thanks to a song on The Hunger Games soundtrack which I heard in December 2011. I bought their début album, Barton Hollow, and for most of last spring I played it on repeat on my iPod. The music, sung by Joy Williams and John Paul White, is haunting and melodic. Joy Williams’s voice is astoundingly beautiful combined with the raw simplicity of acoustic guitar. From melancholy ballads to foot-tapping melodies, each song tells a story, combining rootsy Americana, bluegrass and country in a captivating blend.

I would love to see them play live but unfortunately last year they cancelled tour dates on their European tour, giving “irreconcilable differences” as the reason. I hope they don’t stop producing music together. It is unclear whether they will tour again or release another album. It is a real shame as they are definitely one of the most talented Americana/country duos around at the moment. Let’s hope they manage to resolve the problems.

This song from their latest album left me with goosebumps. Go have a listen!

(Video linked from The Civil Wars Youtube channel. No copyright infringement is intended. All rights belong to their respective owners)

If you enjoyed hearing this, I also recommend “20 Years” and “Barton Hollow” from their first album.

For more about The Civil Wars with music videos and other info, you can visit their official website: The Civil Wars and follow them on Twitter @thecivilwars

What do you think of The Civil Wars’ music? If you have any recommendations for other Americana and country artists, let me know by leaving a comment on this post. I would love to hear them!

What I’m listening to this weekend

I just ordered the latest album by The Black Keys, ‘El Camino’. The song, Lonely Boy, is the first single from it and if you haven’t seen the music video for it, you should. It puts a smile on my face every time: that guy’s dance moves are great!

Video linked from YouTube.

What’s on your music playlist this weekend?