Welcome to another year of TuneSmithery, with our own aural expert Rob Wood to navigate the new releases, sort the neat from the naff, and dust off a few classics to see us through the months ahead. To kick off 2012, he’s picked out a promising young warbler and a treasure chest of world music, perfect for the seasoned globetrotter…
ALBUM OF THE MONTH
Birdy by Birdy
At just 15 years old, this bird may be yet to fly the nest, but Jasmine van den Bogaerde’s spinetingling voice has her marked out as a future star. Best known for her stunning cover of Bon Iver’s ‘Skinny Love’, she’s followed it up with a debut album of cool cover versions that takes in the XX, Phoenix, the National, Fleet Foxes, and James Taylor’s ‘Fire & Rain’. With ‘Without A Word’, however, she demonstrates her own songwriting talent (apparently put to one side while she finished her GCSEs). Although the album may on occasion swerve dangerously close to the middle of the road, but her huge voice and simple piano/guitar arrangements keep it haunting and memorable throughout. If Birdy can hold her nerve and keep away from diving into over-sweetened commercial waters, she may just fledge into an artist who really soars high.
THE SMITH CLASSIC
World Routes: On the Road by Various Artists
Jumping at the chance to record musicians inside a volcano isn’t a normal career move for most people, but BBC Radio 3’s Lucy Duran goes that extra one or two thousand miles to capture the magic of some of the world’s best music-makers. As the presenter of the World Routes show, she has recorded music in canoes, snowdrifts, Turkish baths, yurts and jungles, from Mali to Madagascar, China to Venezuela, and back again. Celebrating 10 years of broadcasting, this truly wonderful compilation captures the highlights of her musical adventures. Sounding anything but academic, this is a rich and absorbing trek across the planet taking in music from Cape Verde, South India, Georgia, Uganda and elsewhere. Well-known names such as Toumani Diabaté are to be found next to incredibly rare and evocative local music styles. This compilation is a treasure chest of sounds, but what’s more it proves that culture and musical innovation can survive when threatened by the reality of war – or just the commercial onslaught of MTV.
TuneSmith Rob Wood is the creative director and founder of Music Concierge, an award-winning music consultancy service for boutique and luxury hotels.