This week, the artists in the “Single Play” line up are a rather atmospheric lot. Some familiar names, and some you may not know — well, at least for now, anyway.
Bjork is a musical artist who has gone from being in an alternative rock band (The Sugarcubes), to kind of clubby dance solo act, to that of experimental musician. The transformation has made her the butt of many jokes, but there’s no denying that she can create very original music that, for some, is an acquired taste, while others are open to whatever musical landscapes she wishes to explore. I’m squarely in the latter camp. So when her album “Vulnicura” was recently released, it was a pleasant surprise to see how much she stripped down her sound to make the songs more confidential. With “Stonemilker,” it’s a song that didn’t immediately grab me, but once it did, it went into “high rotation” on my personal playlist. The “Rated M for Mature” video was directed by Neil Curtis and features a guy who looks like the Engineer in that mess of a film, “Prometheus.” There’s no mess of song with “Stonemilker,” however. It’s probably the most intimate song from Bjork that she’s recorded in her long career.
Vienna Ditto, “Hammer and a Nail”
In one of the more unusual word combinations, this song is given the tag “Cosmic Gospel” on SoundCloud. What does that mean? I’ll leave it to you to decide on this rather pleasing and trippy track from the London-based duo, Vienna Ditto. Hatty Taylor and Nigel Firth are the two oddball musicians who have created this melding of styles that spans a range from electronica to a kind of TV Western vibe. The song’s verse/chorus/bridge/verse/chorus is fairly conventional, but all the eclectic flourishes and Taylor’s voice make the song less-than-conventional — and chock-full of surprises.
The Church, “Vanishing Man”
I was introduced to The Church when, on a whim, I bought the album “Remote Luxury” in 1984 and was transfixed by the album opener, “Constant in Opal.” Then I was really surprised by the radio-friendly “Under the Milky Way” that came out a few years later. At the time I thought someone had hijacked the band’s name to churn out alt rock hits for the growing number of radio stations dedicated to the genre. Flash-forward to 2015, and The Church are still very much a band (albeit a reconfigured one) and recording new music. Like their ’80s colleagues, Simple Minds, The Church have ditched a sound that pigeonholed them at their peak of popularity and gone for a more dreamy vibe. “Vanishing Man” isn’t going to supplant “Under the Milky Way,” but it does harken back to their hypnotic sound that I found so appealing back in the mid-’80s.
Sirena, “Lunar Lights”
The Swedes are coming! The Swedes are coming! I’m not trying to be a kind of Paul Revere heralding an unwelcome invasion. Rather, I’m happily pointing out that more and more Swedish artists whose devotion to pop music is making its way to North America. Case in point is 22-year-old singer/songwriter, Sirena, whose latest tune, “Lunar Lights” is instantly appealing. It has all the right hooks in all the right places, but the song is hardly a formula piece. Instead Sirena mixes in sing-along hooks with a more ethereal musical landscape that never veers too far afield from her pop roots.