Music from around the world!
March 6, 2020
Björk, an Icelandic art-pop singer, has become synonymous with musical innovation. Since her debut album, it was clear that she was unique in not just her Icelandic throat technique used while singing, but also her sensibility, creating passionate, quirky and eclectic ballads from a very young age. My recommendation is not Björk’s solo material—though I also recommend it—but her work with the band The Sugarcubes and the album Life’s Too Good, in which she, and her bandmates, have found the perfect mix between the mature post-punk influences and the vulnerability and passion behind Björk’s vocals.
Recommended track: “Birthday”
The Blind Street Musicians of Cusco were my introduction to Andean folk that comes from the Andes region in South America. Admittedly there is limited information about my recommended album Peruvian Harp & Mandolin and the musicians that created it, aside from the fact that they are local blind street musicians. Though there is enough charm in this album to simply put it on and ponder how it came to be on Spotify of all places.
Recommended track: “Marinera Cusqueña”
Turkey has, unknowingly to many, created some of the best pop and folk music ever. Selda Bağcan, a famous folk singer, has been described by Florence and the Machine as the “Turkish Kate Bush.” Her debut album Selda is particularly interesting because of its psychedelic rock undertones—do not let the album cover mislead you; this is not just a girl strumming a guitar. Selda cannot be found on Spotify, but her two compilation albums, Türkülerimiz 1 and 2 can, the latter of which becomes more electronic.
Recommended track: “Dost Uyan”
This one is for the fans of Joy Division and the like. Alle Tiders Duster is a Norweigian post-punk and new wave band—though it would be reductive to label them as Norway’s Joy Division. Alle Tiders Duster are able to effortly jump between an eerie or funky sound—this is an undoubtedly weird albeit rewarding band to listen to. Like many post-punk artists, regardless of the country, they dropped one album (Rødt Lys, 1982) and then dipped.
Recommended track: “Kom ikke nærmere”
Street soul, as described by a user on the Soul Music Forum, is “low budget, bass driven, poorly distributed, UK black music from the urban areas of the early 90s.” Street soul is hard to find on physical media and streaming platforms but thankfully, Youtube has some of my favourite street soul tracks that I have heard thus far.
Recommended tracks: Aretha Day “No More [Making Love]”, Elaine Vassell “Never Give Up”, Mary Pearce “Love Away”, Miss Hailey “You Bring Me Joy”
Milton Nascimento and Lô Borges with their album Clube da Esquina created melancholic, lush, and melodic music that has no parallel. As a double album, it amazes me with its consistency; each track can stand on its own but they ultimately come together in the warm and tropic embrace that is this entire album.
Recommended track: “Clube da Esquina No. 2”
Wassoulou is a genre of West African music and is traditionally sung by women. Lyrically, women’s issues such as fertility and childbearing are addressed. Nâ Hawa Doumbia at a very young age already had a powerful voice, which was noticed by various contests and radio stations. I am recommending one album, La grande cantatrice malienne, vol. 3, because I think it serves as a good introduction to her work but one should note that her style developed throughout the years from her first few records to her later work that used electric guitars and synths.
Recommended track: “Dan Té Dinyé La”
The Finnish indie scene struck gold with Litku Klemetti. She caught my attention with her most recent release titled Ding ding dong. It’s hypnagogic pop (so for lovers of John Maus and Ariel Pink) but has psychedelic notes on some tracks. Play close attention to her in the coming years, because she keeps getting better with every release.
Recommended track: “Kaikki peittyy kyyneliin”
For the lovers of Cocteau Twins—one of the greatest bands of all time—Faye Wong or 王菲 are just as ethereal and melodic on their album 浮躁 (Fúzào). Track 8 掃興 or Disappointed is where Faye Wong’s vocals shine their brightest—there is a strong feeling of longing amongst the playful nature of this album. Required listening for all dream pop fans.
Recommended track: “掃興 (Disappointed)”
Księżyc released their self-titled album back in 1996. Unfortunately, you can’t find Księżyc’s music on Spotify, but a quick Youtube search will lead you to this album that I will call a masterpiece. It would be mistealding to reduce Księżyc to a folk album, and to attempt to confine it in a genre would be a disservice. I have listened to this album for more than a year multiple times per month, though it remains a great mystery to me. Breaking through the medieval influences and ominous vocals lies a feeling of great comfort I cannot explain. Księżyc, with its unique sonic pallet, creates not a portrait but rather a sketch of a nocturnal and abandoned church, somewhere in Poland.
Recommended tracks: The whole thing.