Current obsessions – Vanessa Carlton, Asa, Imelda May

I’ve been gone for a while. (Keen readers—or keen prospective readers, as the case may be—may have noticed this.) I haven’t really had much time to sit down and write over the last month and a bit. But what can you do? Unexpected family emergencies will do that to you. But things are beginning to look up again, so be patient with me while I try to get caught up. And is there ever a lot of catching up to do?! So, here, let’s get started with a few of my recent obsessions, which just so happen to be from some well-established artists (“established” relative to the other artists who typically show up here, that is).

Vanessa CarltonRabbits On the Run. Yes, you read that right. I said Vanessa Carlton. Stylistically, your typical Indie Handbook fare is about a thousand miles from—well—“A Thousand Miles”, but that doesn’t change the fact that, when I was 18, I loved Vanessa Carlton. I was in love with Vanessa Carlton, but we parted ways before she even managed to release a second album. So imagine my surprise (and delight) when I first heard “Dear California” jangling overhead at a local coffee shop. I honestly thought for a moment that I had missed a new Camera Obscura album. Sure, the album sports a handful of piano pop tracks in the vein of vintage VC, but far more interesting are tracks like “I Don’t Want to Be a Bride”, “Hear the Bells”, “The Marching Line”, and “In the End”. Rabbits On the Run is, by far, Carlton’s most mature work to date, and, for that reason, it is one of the most exciting albums I’ve heard all year. If she keeps this up, the next album is definitely going to be something to look forward to. It may even be safe for me to fall in love again.

AsaBeautiful Imperfection. I love soul music. Now, I know that doesn’t always come across. But seriously, nothing makes me melt faster than the idea of Sam Cooke singing just about anything. I guess, in general, I agree with my dad on the issue of contemporary soul music. They just don’t make ’em like that anymore. But here’s the thing, apparently, they do. First with Aloe Blacc’s irresistible “I Need a Dollar” and now Nigerian soul-pop siren Asa’s sophomore release Beautiful Imperfection (Naïve), it’s perfectly clear that the old school sound is still alive and well. Go ahead and try to watch the video for “Be My Man” without immediately pressing the replay button at the end. Highlights: “Be My Man”, “Why Can’t We”, “Bimpé”

Imelda MayMayhem. UK readers, no doubt, know this is old news. But Universal has been dragging their feet on this one and only managed an American release back in mid-July. Anyway, I’ve been on a serious rockabilly kick lately (I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve listened to that Blue Angel record this week) and rockabilly just doesn’t get any sexier than Imelda (not even that frenetic 27-year-old Cyndi Lauper can compare). Really, the whole album is brilliant, but I honestly never thought I would come across a version of “Tainted Love” that put’s Soft Cell to shame the way Imelda’s does.