Q-Music: Wonder women

  • by Gregg Shapiro
  • Tuesday July 5, 2022
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Q-Music: Wonder women

Many people, gay and straight, would agree that among the multiple tragedies that occurred in 2021, the passing of Stephen Sondheim was especially devastating. The loss of a creative genius of Sondheim's magnitude is a reminder of how rare that kind of exceptional talent is in a world of lightweights.

Eleri Ward, who recorded her stunning album "A Perfect Little Death" (Ghostlight) —newly available on vinyl — during lockdown months before Sondheim's passing is someone who's well aware of the acclaimed songwriter's impact.

What makes her album so special is that it isn't the typical set of cabaret-styled renditions we've come to expect over the years. Instead, Ward takes an "indie-folk" (vocals, guitar, piano) approach to 13 Sondheim compositions. The result is that it's like hearing these familiar songs including "Every Day A Little Death," "Being Alive," "Johanna (Reprise)," "Losing My Mind," "Children Will Listen," "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd," and "Sunday," for the very first time.


Sharon Van Etten's bold and unforgettable 2019 album "Remind Me Tomorrow" firmly cemented her reputation as one of the great female singer-songwriters of the era, alongside Mitski and Lana Del Rey, and queer women including Phoebe Bridgers and Angel Olsen. As one of the few straight women from this scene, Van Etten has established herself with queer listeners from her work with Hercules & Love Affair, Xiu Xiu, and others.

While it doesn't have the same immediate bearing as its predecessor, her gorgeous new album "We've Been Going About This All Wrong" (Jagjaguwar) is nevertheless a worthy follow-up.

Described as a "pandemic record," the 10 songs are alternately intimate and grand, beginning with "Darkness Fades" which begins just above a whisper before blooming into an emotional yowl. "Anything" about being "up the whole night," during this time of "peace and war," is extraordinary, "Headspace" buzzes with feeling, while "Come Back" is an invitation worth accepting. "I'll Try" and "Mistakes" come closest to the spirit of "Remind Me Tomorrow."


You can hear the influence of the previously mentioned Lana Del Rey on "I Can't Let Go" (Sub Pop) the debut album by actress turned singer-songwriter Suki Waterhouse (current paramour of Robert Pattinson). That's not necessarily a bad thing, and Waterhouse does an admirable job of balancing inspiration and originality, especially on "Devil I Know," "Melrose Meltdown," "Bullshit on the Internet," "Moves," "On Your Thumb," and "Wild Side."


Listening to Chelsea Jade's "Soft Spot" (Carpark), it's obvious that she has a soft spot for variety and experimentation. Sonically surfing from the slinky soul of "Optimist" to the quirky pop of "Superfan" and the funky club beats of "Best Behaviour" and "Big Spill," as well as the eighties retro of "Tantrum in Duet," she invites listeners to keep up with her on her aural journey. Accept the invitation, you won't be disappointed.


The 2018 sudden death of Dolores O'Riordan, lead vocalist of The Cranberries, took many people by surprise. As the immediately recognizable voice and face of the band, O'Riordan made a lasting impression on music lovers, especially those who came of age during the peak years of the alternative music scene.

Because of O'Riordan's unique vocal style and phrasing, The Cranberries achieved considerable success, including a handful of hit songs. The 20-track compilation "Stars: The Best of 1992-2002" (Island), newly reissued on 180-gram vinyl as a double LP set, reminds us of how sweet and tart The Cranberries were.

Early chart-topping singles such as "Dreams" and "Linger" honored The Cranberries' Irish-pop roots. But by the time 1994's "Zombie" and 1996's "Salvation" were released, you could hear the influence of the era's grunge sound on the band. Still, The Cranberries managed to maintain its own personality as you can hear throughout this collection.


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