Thursday, February 25, 2010

Soundtrack Thursday - Mixing the Old and the New

Today our columnist, Annie West, talks about the joys of combining the old and the new in her summer listening.

Yes, I know a lot of you are shivering in winter temperatures in the northern hemisphere. But here in Australia it's the end of a long, hot summer. A summer just right for listening to music. Usually that's a treat I have to save for after work as I find music, however terrific, interrupts the flow of words and the sound of my characters' voices. But lately I've had a little time between books. Time when I've been busy around the home trying to catch up on chores I really don't want to do in the heat, or in the car, running errands. It's been perfect for listening. And what a treat!

First up I've been sampling my new Christmas acquisition: Ella and Louis the Ultimate Duets. It's a terrific 2 CD compilation guaranteed to soothe the kinks out of tense shoulders, get feet tapping, and ease the pain of long-neglected paperwork. My old recording of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong is long past its use by date after years of use and this is a terrific replacement. I love the easy relationship that's so evident when these two get together, as well as the great sound.

The flow is relaxed and fun with lots of old favourites including 'I Won't Dance', 'Let's Call the Whole Thing Off' and 'Dream a Little Dream of Me'. These are vintage recordings from the 50s so it's a real blast from the past. I missed Ella and Louis the first time round (they were a little too early for me) but a friend introduced me to them years and years ago and I've been enjoying their music ever since. The lush, rich tones of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong's outrageously gravelly voice just work so well together. Perfect if you're in the mood for some gentle relaxation.

My other summer treat this year has been a lot newer and came courtesy of my teenagers. A year or more ago I heard music coming from my daughter's room and just had to ask about it. Violins, harpsichord and pop? Vampire Weekend, came the reply. A US band that brought out its first (self titled) album early in 2008, they were unlike anything I'd heard. Helpful information about them being a baroque indie pop band with African influences didn't help. What mattered was that the music appealed. Pop with a unique twist and, I soon discovered, great to listen to.

So this summer, as I've found more time to listen, I've revisited 'Vampire Weekend' and their second album 'Contra' and have found them both upbeat, a little different and fun. I still prefer the first album with its slightly baroque flavour, but it's been a summer of enjoyable listening.

And there are so many other new sounds to discover. Having teenagers with eclectic music tastes is a wonderful education, believe me! I never know what I'm going to hear next, but it's rarely boring. And right now, before I'm looking down the barrel of my next deadline, I have the opportunity to sneak a couple of albums on the CD player myself. Wonderful!

Where do you get your musical discoveries from? Listening to the radio? From family, friends or the net? Or do you prefer staying with old favourites?

Annie's got a mix of old and new this month herself. THE BILLIONAIRE'S BOUGHT MISTRESS is out in the UK in hardback this month. It was previously released in a centenary anthology. And in Australia and New Zealand, FORGOTTEN MISTRESS, SECRET LOVE-CHILD is on the shelves. She can't pick a favourite between them. If you want to find out more about them, or enter her latest contest to win books, visit Annie's website. To buy them, visit UK Amazon or Mills and Boon Australia.


  1. I do freelance music reviewing, so I always get new music in my mailbox. I discovered a wonderful jazz artist Audrey Silver that way and a wonderful quirky singer songwriter, Deni Bonet, who is just the nicest person. There's so much out there. Right now I'm listening to Elizabeth & the Catapult.

  2. Wow, what a fantastic way to learn about new music. Being a reviewer would be a wonderful way of keeping up to day. And isn't 'Elizabeth and the Catapult' a great name? I think I'll have to check that out. I was on a long road trip recently and heard some great new pieces - wish I'd scrawled down the names but I was on the freeway at the time. I'll have to do some searches till I get the artists right.

  3. Hiya Annie! Actually I remember you mentioning the Vampire band and me thinking they sounded intriguing. I'll have to check them out. As you know, I have classical music on most of the time when I'm writing, partly because I really like it and partly because I find words of songs get in the way of the voices in my head. And doesn't that sound like a diagnosis of insanity in the making? I do, however, hear bands when I'm watching TV because when the ads are on, I swap over to Max. Two discoveries for me recently are Muse who are kind of like a harder version of Snow Patrol (who I also really like) and a rather eccentric band called Mumford and Sons who are like Irish folk music on speed. And that's given a lot of Irish folk music already sounds like it's on speed!

  4. Hi Annie, it's our neighbour who has been responsible for some of our newest musical discoveries. She introduced us to Amy Winehouse (love that amazing voice!) and also to Imelda May (gets your toes tapping!)

    I was trawling on the net doing some, er, research, and I found a clip on the Adam Lambert website. Might have to investigate further! And I checked out your Vampire Weekend - they have a music clip on their website which is a bit of fun!

    It's great finding a sound that really speaks to you, isn't it!

    Anna's Irish folk music on speed sounds intriguing too - I'm off the check them out now!


  5. Hi Anna,

    Yes I sometimes think of you with your classical music playing while I write in silence. I find even the orchestral music interferes with the voices in my head - now that IS sad! So summer listening in between books is fantastic fun. Yes, Mumford and Sons have featured here too and we've also turned the clock back a little for a bit of a Franz Ferdinand retro. Lovely!

    Hope you've got something good on to listen to now.

  6. Hi Sharon,

    Neighbours are a great source of new info, aren't they? Adam Lambert is a new name to me. Must go and investigate. Actually, I should make a list, shouldn't I? There are a couple of names mentioned here that I need to explore.

    Thanks for popping by.

  7. Hi, Annie! I hope you're staying cool.

    Vampire Weekend played at the same time as my hubby's band (The Model School, btw!!!) at a venue in Sydney last year. I think it would've been a sin for me to sneak into the VW show!

    I don't have a radio, but my hubby and my gym introduce me to a lot of new music. Have to admit, though, that I'd much rather listen to '60s Motown when I'm relaxing around the house. Oh, ahem, and the Model School...

  8. Hi Authorness,

    Yes, I am staying cool, in fact, there's a tiny hint of autumn in the air - I can hardly believe it!

    Smiling about Model School! Of course you couldn't miss them. My son is a big fan and is gradually introducing lots of his mates to the band's music. I'm at the stage of recognising and enjoying their songs too. Loved the film clip on 'Rage' by the way!

    Vampire Weekend are playing here soon with a number of other bands and my son is hoping to go. I tossed up whether to get myself a ticket but spending a whole day outside in the sun surrounded by fans cf. sitting inside with a glass of something cool and listening to the cd... tough choice!

  9. As an utter music junkie, I get new things in several different ways - classical, might be something I've heard on the radio around school run time (or something my guitar teacher has persuaded me to learn and I've liked it enough to go and check out other pieces by the same composer), and non-classical tends to be either old favourites, new albums by old favourites (currently it's Kathryn Williams' "The Quickening", which came out this week and is fantastic - she's my fave singer-songwriter, sort of folky/acoustic but don't be put off by that label: she has a beautuiful voice and her lyrics have lots of layers), or something I've caught on Planet Rock while cooking dinner.

    And then there are the mates who email me YouTube links to things they think I'd like (India Grey, Nina Harrington and Donna Alward have been very inspirational there - India introduced me to Muse a couple of years back, Donna to Melody Gardot and Nina to Silje Nergaard).

    My daughter is deeply into musicals, so we've been experimenting there; and son is currently having an 80s retro thing - that's been fun, reliving memories of my teenage years!

    Music's definitely food for the soul. Thanks for the great post, Annie - and I will go check out VW.

  10. Annie

    Loved your post. Definitely true that I get introduced to most of my new music by my teenage son... am a big fan of Jay-Z and Black Eyed Peas as a result (although he thinks they're a bit old hat now, LOL).

    And my husband's very eclectic in his tastes loving everything from Leonard Bernstein to Amy Winehouse and The Saturdays all of which he plays top volume while he's cooking.


  11. Kate, your world sounds absolutely bursting with music! And you're learning the guitar? How terrific.

    Actually, one of the things I've noticed over summer is that as well as exploring some new music I've also been finding time to go back to some old faves as well. Recently we were at a terrific local Spanish restaurant and the guitarist there had me diggine out my old recordings of classical guitar.

    Like you I get to relieve my teenage years when the kids take a shine to music I enjoyed when I was their age - quite fun! I think they're impressed that I know the lyrics!

    I'll be keeping an eye out for 'The Quickening'!

  12. Hi Heidi,

    What is it about Saturdays? That seems to be when our house is most likely to be filled with music and sometimes from different rooms. Had to laugh recently when within a few hours we had Bach, Iron Maiden, Bowie and some brand new pop. I never know quite what I'm going to hear next. And at a recent teen party here it was fascinating hearing the mix of music they chose to have on random over a few hours. It covered 5 decades and several genres!

    Hope your husband cooks something delicious for you this weekend!

    I'm currently getting

  13. Hm, and do please ignore the random comment at the bottom of that last post!

  14. Hi Annie, I can't bear any music while I am writing, in fact no sound at all--except the purring of a cat on my lap--to intrude on my imaginary world. Even in the car I like quiet to think about my stories.
    But when I'm doing housework, now that's a different matter! Music definitely makes it go faster (can you tell I hate it!)
    I like to keep up with new music--and no better way to do that than via a teenage daughter who has excellent taste in music!
    That said, I got the new Nora Jones for Christmas and angled for the new Sade for my birthday. Very sensual and smooth... Good luck with the start of your new book, I'm sure it will be as brilliant as your others.

  15. Hi Kandy, I'm with you on the music to help housework go by easier. I learned years ago that cleaning bathrooms is much better when I have something fast paced on the cd player!

    Ah, I'm wondering about the new Sade album. I haven't heard anything of hears in ages.

    Thanks for the good wishes on the new book. I'm looking forward to hearing about your next one soon...hint!