We’ve reached the middle of summer blues and hump day tunes. A lot of great records have come out in recent months, but sometimes a lone single or cover can sneak under the radar.
A couple songs come to mind, both temporarily lifting me from the grueling (but also rewarding) week of writing in which I have embarked upon.
First, we have a cover.
The artist, Junelle, is a little known jazz singer from Auckland, New Zealand, the same town where alternative superstar Lorde grew up. Mixing mellow beats, personal lyrics, and silky vocals, Junelle’s sound is distinctive. She classifies her style as ambient pop with meditative qualities.
Backed by the Dalai Lama and citing Sam Cooke and Billie Holiday as inspiration, Junelle has done what most struggle to even contemplate: add something to the ever evolving music industry. Each song on her extended play, Just This Sky, takes jazz and spins it on its head.
The original version, sung by Trixie and written by Daniel Lanois exudes power with sparse instrumental accompaniments. Many facets of Trixie’s voice cannot be duplicated. With incredible range and a mixture of soft tones and belted notes, Trixie lets the desperation soak out every word of the five and a half minute track.
Junelle takes a different approach with it, highlighting her rn&b/jazz infused vocals. With guitar, drums, subtle meditation sounds, and static reverberation, Junelle masterfully encompasses the narrative of the lyrics, arguably better than the original artist. While both clock in at the same length, Junelle’s version feels slower, with more emphasis placed on the words themselves.
Junelle on why she chose to cover this track:
“The lyrics are so profound. I love it when you know that someone’s sat down and had a song pour out all at once. I feel that was the case with Daniel Lanois and this track, where it’s pretty much all conceived all at once and in the moment of that situation. There’s an absolute honesty with that type of conception of a song. Then of course Trixie, she identifies so profoundly with the song, you would believe she wrote it herself. It’s also one of my favourite tracks to play live, there’s a shift in gears when we do this song. I love being able to feel it melodically and lyrically, to identify with it so much that it feels as honest as playing one of my own songs. So to do a version of it, pay tribute to it, felt appropriate. My boyfriend produced it and it’s been us playing it live together since we first came across it.”
Both versions are worth a listen. A mashup of the two could add even more layers to the voices of these two talented ladies.
The other song of the week, freshly recorded is American by Skylar Grey. Grey is a singer/songwriter who has collaborated with artists such as Eminem, Dr. Dre, and Diddy. She was the songstress behind the mega hits Love The Way You Lie and Coming Home. She released her debut album, Don’t Look Down last July. Skylar spent over two years perfecting the album. She also has music out under her real name, Holly Brook.
Skylar’s voice is unexplainable and she is one of the most talented artists of my generation. This is evident in her latest song, American. Recorded on an iPhone with just a piano and raw vocals, Grey wavers from note to note, emotion to emotion effortlessly. Playing on her balcony, the wind and sound of children playing below her give the track a scenic feel.
Skylar on the new song:
“I kinda like how there is zero production value in these videos I’m posting… welcome to my little world… a world where an iPhone a piano and some scenery is all I need to pass the time enjoyably. This isn’t a patriotic song even though its called “American.” Whether you’re republican or democrat or other, if you were born in America, you should be able to relate. We don’t have a choice where we are born and raised, and we can’t help the fact that some things are just engrained in us from a young age, just like all of the other cultures of the world have their own unique characteristics.”
A lyrical mastermind, Skylar is on top of her game:
There’s no place like home
I slaughter every man I know
And then I listen to Johnny Cash
On the way to the big game
Cause I was born an American
Listen to the full version here:
Skylar, Junelle, and Black Dub are all artists worth giving a look.
The three manipulate words and sounds in such interesting ways, bringing something new to music every time.
Annabelle Edwards is a young writer and photographer living in New York. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming at Mixtape Methodology, Eunoia Review, and Crack The Spine. You can find her here: mysteriouswritergirl.tumblr.com