Instant Replay: 037
For the merry, merry month of May, listen to folk songs, Dutch piano masters, prog metal, and more!
Roderick Williams, William Vann — Ralph Vaughan Williams: 15 Folk Songs from Newfoundland: The Bonny Banks of Virgie-O
My favorite early 20th Century composer is Ralph Vaughan Williams. I love equally his big symphonies and his arrangements of old English folk tunes, 81 in all. I've been thoroughly enjoying more of those folk songs on this 4th and final collection put out by Albion. Volume 4 includes a set of "15 Folks Songs from Newfoundland." "The Morning Dew," "Sweet William's Ghost," and "The Bonny Banks of Virgie-O" (that one I can't get out of my head). Headphones on... quick trip back in time, to a simpler, pastoral place.
Emiliano Gonzalez Toro, Zachary Wilder, Ensemble I Gemelli — Vincenzo Calestani: Damigella tutta bella
This has got to be one of the catchiest tunes ever! The exuberance of this reminds me of the effervescent chemistry of some of the best performances at the Boston Early Music Festival, where Zachary Wilder has been one of the outstanding voices. Here he teams up with the Swiss tenor Emiliano Gonzalez Toro and the Ensemble I Gemelli for a piece by the obscure 16th century composer Vincenzo Calestani, “Damigella tutta bella” (All-beautiful bridesmaid).
Watchhouse — Old Ties and Companions
I am heading into summer in a folky mood, and I recently returned to the albums of one of my favorite bands: Mandolin Orange. Actually, they recently rebranded to become ‘Watchhouse,’ but the duo has changed nothing about their music-making, staying true to their mellow, roots-style songwriting and playing. This whole album is fantastic — take a listen!
MEAU — Dat heb jij gedaan
MEAU’s hit was ubiquitous on Dutch radio over the winter, and earwormed itself into my brain in the process. “You did that” is a blistering litany of scars and slights, but it’s mostly delivered with sadness, not anger. Is the line “I would murder to forget your words” a bit over the top? Of course it is! But what’s a good pop song without melodrama?
Opeth — Lovelorn Crime
Today, I’m welcoming you into the wonderful world of progressive metal, but don’t worry, this one’s not what you’d expect. The Swedish metal band Opeth took a surprising turn with their 2019 album — their preceding discography was anthemic in a particular gothic, nocturnal poetry between the living and the dead, more commensurate with what one might expect a “metal” sound to be. But in this album, we see more ‘70s rock and classical music influences. This track in particular is inundated with classical influence, particularly its chord progressions. If you told me Schumann or Debussy had written its intro, I fully would’ve believed it. Though neither composer, I wager, would have written in a guitar solo.
Khruangbin — Cómo Me Quieres
I’m guilty of creating a playlist and listening to it all the time, and rarely adding new music to it. So recently, to get out of my rut, I made myself a playlist for when I’m biking around town called “all the Khruangbin albums” (creative name, I know). Jazzy, funky, bass-forward, and vibey. I’ve really been enjoying the feeling of wind on my hands (it’s not gloves season anymore!), the smell of the trees budding along the Southwest Corridor, and a constant stream of Khruangbin coming out of the little speaker clipped to my backpack. To get a sense of what they’re about, listen to “Como me quieres.”
Agnes Obel — The Curse
I was introduced to Agnes Obel by a student who was using a song of hers in a circus show. Her music is magical and could be a soundtrack to a Grimm fairy tale given how ethereal (and sometimes dark) it can get. The violinist and cellist use loop pedals, and their backup vocals to her piano make you sway along to every note.
Lucas and Arthur Jussen — Leo Smit: Divertimento: I. Allegro ma non troppo
The Jussen brothers, a piano duo who will perform with the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood in July, just released a recording of music by Dutch composers. Leo Smit wrote his Divertimento in 1940, just a few years before he died in a concentration camp. With the feel of a springtime jaunt down the sidewalk of a European city, smiling at friends having coffee, breathing in fresh air, and enjoying life, this track is also a poignant reminder of what’s lost in war.
The Linda Lindas — Growing Up
I've been hearing about the Linda Lindas, the punk band whose members are all amazingly talented teen and preteen girls, for a year or so, but this month I finally listened to their music, and it rocks. Their song "Growing Up" became an instant favorite. It's the kind of song, and the kind of band, I wish I'd had when I was a young teen trying to navigate life. The rest of this album is also great, and I hope they keep making music for a long, long time.
Listen to this month's playlist: