Quite a few artists we've not heard enough from in the past ten years are popping back into view and onto your radar this spring with new releases which showcase some of their better work. Time out of the spotlight can do an artist good.
Ben Watt ( the other half of Everything But the Girl ) takes the wheel from his wife/bandmate as she takes a break and he goes back to work. She's had a very fruitful solo career with some of her best material over the course of three albums. Now Ben's back with Hendra, a departure from his peak era house material and back in line with his beginnings in new folk, thought it sounds like a new direction and not a return to form. If you're a fan of Neil Young or California pop you'll find much to bond over, and there's even some much needed backing love by his wife on the sunny track, "Spring."
Luka Bloom probably isn't a name many of us remember, and if we do it's from his '90s cover of LL Cool J's "I Need Love." Since then, Bloom's consistently put out gorgeous, delicate Irish-tinged folk music and lullabies. Now he's back with Head and Heart, a slightly uneven covers disc with a few too many obvious cuts like "Danny Boy" and "I Love You So," but with enough pretty nuggets to at least take you to iTunes to gather up and pick your faves.
Morten Harket disbanded a-ha a few years back with a comprehensive collection, a big world tour and one of their best singles ever, "Butterfly." Post a-ha, Harket released his first truly decent solo album, the electronic Out of My Hands, capitalizing on the success of the last few and first two a-ha albums, when they were at their peak. His past solo releases had tried to differentiate themselves from the band, but this showed he could do the sound right alone. Well, that's shot to hell. His newest CD, Brother, puts him right back at square one, trying to sound way to much like a bad Robbie Williams disc with too much guitar, not enough pop slickness, terrible writing, and poop production. There are moments, like the '90s-esque "Do You Remember Me," but not worth buying the entire disc for. Go back and get the previous album or any of a-ha's brilliant final three releases for a real treat.
Ilya, or San Ilya as they were known in the US at their peak, has a huge hit in the Chill-Out era with "Bellissimo" ( go YouTube it ) and their major label debut, They Died for Beauty. TD4B was a masterpiece with Jo Swan's trembling vocals awash with strings and horns creating a modern Italian cinema epic on record. Post TD4B, they went independent with the pleasant but more uneven Somerset and Fathom's Deep. Now Ilya seems back full force, using elements of jazz, classical strings, world rhythms and even theremin to bring you what could be described as Dusty Springfield plus Burt Bacharach put through an acid dream. Just what their fans have been wanting over the past ten years. Bravissimo, Bellissimo.
…And welcome back to you all.
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