Fisher's latest album, "Water"
There are lots of big-time artists releasing albums this holiday season and the huge media blitz that accompanies these releases is no doubt competing for your attention and dollars. But are those CDs ultimately worth your hard-earned dollars? They usually are limited in scope (i.e., holiday music only), which is fine--if that is all you are looking for. However, if you are searching for more--perhaps a few great singers that you haven't heard of that will deliver satisfying music that will touch your heart and make you think--then look no further.
Herein, a list of terrific, critically acclaimed female singer/songwriters with beautiful voices, thoughtful lyrics, and music that's so catchy and listenable, you'll be asking yourself "How did I not know about these ladies before--and who can I share them with?"
- Fisher: so great. If you've heard the song "Beautiful Life" (from their 2005 album The Lovely Years) on that TLC Jon & Kate show, then you actually already know this duo, Kath Fisher and Ron Wasserman. She sings lead vocals and writes or co-writes all the music and lyrics with Wasserman. Known for being the "commercial" go-to band, Fisher found some success early on, penning ethereal, beautiful songs that were used in commercials for Toyota, Nike, Hyundai, and Hallmark. They've released several gorgeous albums, most recently Water, another fabulous effort ("Breathe," "Water," and "Victim of the Sky" are hauntingly beautiful) is plaintive and heartbreaking. Her voice is throaty and full, while still a pretty soprano. (One, True North, and Uppers & Downers ,all great albums.) Check them out on their Myspace page, ilike, itunes, or amazon.com.
- Jonatha Brooke: another great, great singer/songwriter, Brooke writes and produces all her own music on her own label, Bad Dog Records. She tours extensively, has a cult following here and in Europe, puts on a heck of a live show, and records incredible albums--each one better than the last. She's not a power singer per se, but her voice is pitch-perfect and beautiful. She's a true musical technician (she was a music major at Amherst College) and writes gorgeous music with intelligent lyrics that tell great stories. Check out her first album 10 cent Wings for gentle, yet deeply, pretty songs ("Secrets & Lies," "Crumbs," and "Blood From a Stone" are great); Steady Pull for still "pretty" but with a more rock, bluesy flavor (standouts tracks on this album are her gorgeous duet with Crowded House's Neil Finn on "New Dress;" plus "Your House," "Walking," and "Room in My Heart"). Purchase CDs directly from www.jonathabrooke.com; she also gives you all her lyrics and explains her motivations/inspirations behind each song. Really cool. Also, see my full review at www.blogcritics.com for a track by track breakdown.
- Poe: ahhhh, the goddess that is Poe. You have to be prepared to listen to Poe with an open mind and the knowledge that you will become addicted. You have no doubt heard music by this alternative artist: her "Hey Pretty" ("...don't you want to take a ride with me--through my world") is the music in the Ford Flex commercial--just one great track from her Haunted album. Released back in 2000, this "concept" album was a spectacular work that was critically acclaimed by both critics and fans alike (though it received little support from the marketing execs at her own record company).
Inspired by some audiotapes she found of her father after her his death, Annie "Poe" Danielewski composed the album on her Macbook over a two-year period. The result includes some amazing songs: "Hey Pretty," "Control," "Haunted," "Walk the Walk (heard on the Food Network)," "5 & 1/2 Minute Hallway," "Amazed" (my personal favorite)..the list goes on. The songs are haunting, rocking, melancholy, beautiful--all are memorable and written with wicked hooks. You will be hooked and will likely become a member of the cult of Poe, a.k.a., an Angry Psycho, as her legions of patient, obsessive fans are known. (Patient because the enigmatic Poe has yet to put out another album due to contractual difficulties with her previous label. She is rumored to be apparently starting her own label, rePOEzessed, and will be putting out something new, hopefully soon. Check out her Myspace page and see my own review on www.blogcritics.com for a full track review.
Unlike the other two singers, Poe is harder-edged, sexier. You will want to turn her up. While there are a few quieter numbers, and her voice is pretty and quiet on those, this album has a darker feel to it. She's mad, she's happy, she's moody, she's sad--that's the "concept" and as women, we get it. (No doubt those marketing execs were men.)
So, there are a few options for you. Great music to listen to for yourself, to share with your (older) daughters, mothers, and friends.
(P.S. Guys really like Poe.)
Jonatha Brooke's album "Steady Pull"
Fisher's "The Lovely Years"