College is back in session after an extended break due to the pandemic. Live music is a huge part of the college experience; even in a small town like Binghamton where you often have to travel to places like Ithaca, Albany, or even Scranton for the biggest acts.
Spotify has been in the news a lot and not for great reasons; it is the most popular streaming platform for college kids and how most of us discover new music. I might have access to my parent’s TIDAL account but I use Spotify 99% of the time while walking to class and late at night when I’m studying or painting.
German singer/songwriter, Clara Schein, popped into my Spotify list this week and I’m grateful that it did. You can clearly hear multiple influences in her music; classical, pop, and even some 1970s rock. There are a few Joni Mitchell moments on “Fly” but she has far greater range and she’s also a wonderful violinist.
She only has a limited number of tracks but I suggest giving her a listen.
Christina Aguilera: La Fuerza
(Sony Music Latin, Qobuz, 24-bit/44.1kHz)
I was born in New Jersey but I’m part-Staten Island and I have a lot of love for Christina Aguilera. She gets dumped on because she’s wasted far too much time judging singing talent on “The Voice” but there’s no question that she can really sing.
La Fuerza is completely in Spanish and the 6 tracks feel very much like Aguilera went back to her roots with this release. I really like “Pa Mis Muchachas” which features Becky G, Nicki Nicole, and Nathy Peluso giving the track a really nice groove.
Walker Hayes: Country Stuff The Album
(Monument Records, 24-bit/48kHz)
I’ve never been a big country fan; some of it just feels too hokey and I’ve never really gravitated to the more serious stuff like Jason Isbell or Tom Russell. Hayes took the long road in the country music business and didn’t have a hit until 2017 after being a songwriter for many years. He blends contemporary country with R&B, pop, and even some hip-hop; one of the reasons why I find this new release so different.
(City Slang, Qobuz, 16-bit/44.1kHz)
This Algerian Tuareg desert rock quintet from Tamanrasset, Algeria, has been playing together since 2006 on the German label and it’s a really interesting mix of guitar, percussion, and their desert blues. The Sahara isn’t in great shape right now and bands like Imarhan are a bit of a departure from the traditional music of their homeland; modern influences have shaped a new generation of musicians who are more defiant.
If you’re familiar with the music of Ali Farka Touré, who has been called the “John Lee Hooker” of West African music, you’ll immediately understand the appeal of Imarhan. It’s not as accessible as Talking Timbuktu (with Ry Cooder), but there are moments where the music definitely overlaps and you feel like you are in familiar territory.
Amber Mark: Three Dimensions Deep
(EMI, Qobuz, 24-bit/96kHz)
I was immediately intrigued because we share the same last name and because I love R&B. Mark’s style invites comparisons to Sinead Harnett and Celeste with her fusion of R&B, grunge, and even some bossa nova. She’s managed to turn a lot of personal tragedy into a form of inspiration and the production is very polished.
Milky Chance and Paulina Eisenberg: “Unknown Song”
Sticking with a German theme on this one. Milky Chance used YouTube as a launchpad for their hit “Stolen Dance” back in 2013 and these two very unique musicians have been extremely busy ever since.
This song is a release of dopamine. It’s one of those songs, that no matter your mood will lift your day just a bit. The mix between the raspy voice of Clemens Rhebin and the soft voice of Paulina Eisenberg is a combination that gives me chills.