Seeking music recommendations!
March 29, 2014 8:37 AM   Subscribe

I tend to love specific songs rather than whole albums. My taste isn't hugely eclectic— I guess I lean towards melodic music, mostly folksy, some classical. I'm partial to hamonies, to the violin, to women's voices, and perhaps to melancholy music! I'm looking for new music and it's been a while since I found anything new I loved. Help me with recommendations—more details inside. I'd be absolutely thrilled with recommendations of specific songs from unexplored genres that I might enjoy. I'd also love any insights on the sort of music I seem to enjoy.

1. Contemporary folksy/alternative stuff: I'm very picky but would love recommendations. I love Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova (a lot of their songs, including Falling Slowly, Lies, The Swell Season). Dan Mangan (The only song I've loved so far is The Indie Queens are Waiting, with its harmonies. I don't especially like Robots, for example.). I've recently been listening to Lily & Madeleine and enjoying them. After I found and absolutely loved this version of Johnny Flynn and Laura Marling's The Water, I tried Laura Marling and Johnny Flynn independently but so far haven't especially loved any of their songs.

2. Brit folk: Almost all instrumental traditional or trad-style music, especially stuff on the fiddle—Natalie MacMaster, Lunasa, De Dannan, John McCusker, Eliza Carthy. A LOT of Kate Rusby, June Tabor, Mary Black, Dolores Keane, the Corries, Susan McKeown, Niamh Parsons, etc. Some Sandy Denny, Maddy Prior, Karine Polwart (Daisy and Follow the heron, but not King of Birds). I don't much like the Dubliners, Altan, the Bothy Band, Cara Dillon. Only some Loreena McKennit (i.e The Lady of Shallott but not Mummer's Dance). Very little Sinead O'Connor.

3. Indian: A lot of Rabindra sangeet (Tagore's music, which is often melancholy and always very melodic), some Kumar Gandharva and Kishori Amonkar, a bit of Baul and other folk music. (But there's a lot of stuff especially on the ubiqitous 'Sufi' compilation that I don't like at all). I don't usually enjoy Indian-jazz-fusion-y stuff.

4. Argentine tango music: Ada Falcon singing most anything; In general, Canaro (ooh Poema) / Di Sarli / Donato / Fresedo / Carabelli rather than D'Arienzo / Biagi / Pugliese (except for valses, which I love no matter which orquestra).

5. Elsewhere in the world: I love most folk dance music. (eg. The Bartok Album, some Israeli folk dance music) Ygdrassil, Lais, some Ali Farka Toure (Debe but not Goye kur).

6. Western classical: I haven't been analytical enough in my listening to be able to clearly describe what I like and don't like. But I think in general the sweeter, rhythmically more predictable pieces. I love Canon in D (but who doesn't?) and waltzes and other dance music.

8. Popular music: Some Beatles songs (Hey Jude, Michelle, When I'm 64, Hello Goodbye), most Simon and Garfunkel. Otherwise, random rongs: Way Back into Love (Music & Lyrics OST), Isobel / White flag / Thank You (Dido), Yesterday once more / Top of the world (Carpenters), Hey There Delilah (Plain White T's — sort of, except for the affectation)

9. Where do these fit in? The Amelie soundtrack. When you taught me how to dance (from Miss Potter). Some Norah Jones.

So, fire away! :)
posted by miaow to Media & Arts (36 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Unwoman, maybe?

Definitely Lisa Gerrard. Classical, folk, imagined folk, soaring modern music and a really brilliant voice.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:44 AM on March 29, 2014

I'm not familiar with most of the artists you mention, but based on your initial description I think you may like a lot of the stuff on Allison Krauss and Robert Plant's Raising Sand album.
posted by lovableiago at 8:47 AM on March 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Andrew Bird's Hands of Glory EP sounds like what you're describing. Close alt-country- folk harmonies with very tasty violin.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:57 AM on March 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

You might like The Civil Wars. Falling and lots of other songs from their Barton Hollow album share a corner of the universe with Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova. Beautiful harmonies, a little dark and melancholy.

If you like violin, how about cello? I love Zoë Keating. Start with "Escape Artist" from her Into The Trees album (there's a sampler, top left). No vocals, all wonderful.
posted by mochapickle at 9:07 AM on March 29, 2014

Prepare for obscurity. The Shakers were a Nashville based band in the late 80's and early 90's. They did lots of melancholy folk rooted in ethereal topics. The Healing Hymn is a song from their album Living in the Shadow of a Spirit, which was based on the story of the Bell Witch.
posted by kimdog at 9:08 AM on March 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

You might like Clare Burson: Where You Are.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:09 AM on March 29, 2014

Try the Ninth Wave side of Kate Bush's Hounds of Love, if you haven't already. It's got folk dance references, strings, and Kate's voice. Watching You Without Me, Dream of Sheep & Hello Earth are quite melancholy, but lovely.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:22 AM on March 29, 2014

Some other possibilities:
Meghan Tonjes- The End
Yael Naim- Toxic (yes, that Toxic)
HEM- Half Acre
posted by kimdog at 9:25 AM on March 29, 2014

This is what I do: I listen to the following Songza playlists, and anything that tickles my fancy so to speak I write down the names of the artist and the album:

- Indie with strings
- Daughters of folk
posted by redwaterman at 9:30 AM on March 29, 2014

Something from the 60's - Richard and Mimi Farina
Also - Dar Williams.
Sarah McLachlan - Ben's song (sorry horrible sound quality).
posted by belau at 9:58 AM on March 29, 2014

Here are a couple recently released songs that your question reminded me of, in terms of them being melodic/melancholy/delicate folk-sounding with women singing:

Marissa Nadler - Drive
Snowbird - Porcelain

and something a little different from that this question reminded me of:

Jun Miyake - The Here and After. If you like this, watch the movie Pina as you'll probably like a lot of the songs used there.
posted by wondermouse at 10:11 AM on March 29, 2014

The aldermaniacs and jenny dragon might fit your list. Disclaimer: a friend of mine is in both bands.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 10:15 AM on March 29, 2014

A few favorites in the contemporary folksy female arena:

* Sarah MacDougall's album The Greatest Ones Alive
* Sarah Jaffe, especially her song Clementine
* Bearfoot - Single Girl
* The fairly twangy but very pretty, Turn Your Radio On by Nell Robinson
* Birdie Busch - Joey
posted by diamondsky at 10:16 AM on March 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you like Glen Hansard, you should check out his earlier work with The Frames. A lot of their songs are more rock-y, but check out "Star Star" for an example of a more Swell Season-y song.

Glen has toured with Lisa Hannigan, and I think you'd really, really like her. Try "Safe Travels."

I have somewhat similar taste to you and for the past...six months I've been listening to Radical Face in a kind of obsessive way. I've had "Severus and Stone" on repeat this morning.
posted by punchtothehead at 10:23 AM on March 29, 2014

Maybe not new to you, but Judee Sill ticks the female, classical-folk, melancholia boxes.
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:26 AM on March 29, 2014

And for more of a non-electronic dance vibe with female vocals, have you heard Island Blues by Koop?

For some reason I think you probably already know this piece, but for something completely different from the other things I recommended, here is a beautiful rendition of Villa Lobos' Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5, as performed by Kathleen Battle & Christopher Parkening.
posted by wondermouse at 10:29 AM on March 29, 2014

Maybe Belle and Sebastian? Their older albums are especially lovely

Also, The Decemberists?
posted by mamabear at 10:30 AM on March 29, 2014

Listened to much Bulgarian folk? Now with added Kate Bush!
posted by flabdablet at 10:37 AM on March 29, 2014

Not Argentine tango, but Nouvelle Vague's shtick is bossa nova covers of (mostly) 80's pop songs. The first album is the strongest in my opinion. Their versions of Marian and A Forest stick out for me, but generally, the albums hit both melancholy and sweet, while bringing in the sort of musicianship I think fits with your list.
posted by crush-onastick at 10:44 AM on March 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

I really like the band Colors: Jals, One & Nothin'
posted by clarkstonian at 11:07 AM on March 29, 2014

I'll throw in the possibly two greatest violin solo pieces ever:

Biber's Passagalia, the final piece of his Mystery Sonatas.

Bach's Chaccone, the final movement of his Partita No. 2 in D minor.
posted by General Malaise at 11:53 AM on March 29, 2014

Gardenia by Landon Pigg and featuring Mae Whitman is sweet and folksy with harmony and a ukulele.
posted by kbar1 at 12:52 PM on March 29, 2014

Angel Olsen.

Seconding Dar Williams.

Natacha Atlas.
posted by perryfugue at 1:14 PM on March 29, 2014

For the most part, these go along with your #1 above.

* The Lone Bellow Folk with a gospel influence. Lots of harmonies and includes a female vocalist.
* Feist - Great song, folky with a female vocalist.
* Daugher - A little more rock-oriented, female vocalist, really melancholy.
* Of Monsters and Men - Folky with make and female vocalists.
* Mother Falcon - Classical, folk, footstomp mashup.
* Edward Sharpe - May not be exactly what you're looking for - this is a very Johnny Cash influenced song.
* Tom Brosseau - Much more traditional, folk and a very deadpan, but funny performer.
posted by cnc at 1:55 PM on March 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Give Garnet Rogers' "Night Drive" a try.
posted by jamjam at 2:22 PM on March 29, 2014

I also thought of Feist but I was going to suggest Mushaboom.

Iron and Wine are definitely something to try, I'd start with the album Our Endless Numbered Days and specifically Naked as We Came as an individual song starting point.

I've loved the Amélie soundtrack for a while and when I branched out into more Yann Tiersen my favorite was the soundtrack to Goodbye Lenin.

Regina Spektor? Eet comes to mind.

Specifically on the Decemberists, maybe try Grace Cathedral Hill.

Bruises by Chairlift kinda pushes some of the same buttons as Hey There Delilah, for me.

Do you like country music? I would have said NO (and I think our tastes overlap a good bit here) but thanks to this thread on the blue I discovered some songs I really like. Try the Lindi Ortega and Kasey Musgraves songs linked in the post.

Maaaaybe the Magnetic Fields?

On the relatively-current pop side, I thought of Fun, Adele, and Lorde as possibly sharing some traits with some of the stuff you mentioned.
posted by ootandaboot at 5:40 PM on March 29, 2014

Oh I forgot to mention Joshua Radin, specifically Someone Else's Life.
posted by ootandaboot at 5:43 PM on March 29, 2014

Not to oversell her, but Neko Case is, imo, the finest female vocalist alive and an amazing, kind of skewed songwriter. I Wish I Was the Moon is from her earlier Americana stuff. Local Girl is from her newer, kinda genre-defying stuff. It has chill-inducing harmonies with the also fabulous Kelly Hogan. (Bonus: here's Kelly covering the heck out of Magnetic Fields on Papa Was a Rodeo.) singer/songwriter Amanda Shires might work. She's melodic, folksy, and a lovely violin player. Try When You Need a Train It Never Comes. The lyrics on that one are fantastic, too.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:58 PM on March 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

And just because it fits tonally with some of the stuff you linked: I'll Be on the Water by Akron/Family.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:10 PM on March 29, 2014

I'm going to start my suggestions over toward the classical side and then start skidding all over the genre road before crashing into a tree called "past my bedtime":

Rachel Barton Pine has an album of lullabies she performs on violin. She found some interesting and lovely music outside the mainstream, and some of them are haunting. There's one on there by Alan Hovhaness that is melancholy and beautiful. Of course the Brahms is on there, but a lot of less well-known pieces as well.

If you want some classical that's a little less euro-sounding, I recommend Hovhaness's "Mt. St. Helens" symphony (Symphony No. 50). It's stunning. I'd advise not listening to it on headphones the first time - there's some loud percussion that comes up suddenly. Also his "Mountains and Rivers Without End" is gorgeous, and has the distinction of using a sliding slide trombone in a non-circus setting.

The second movement from Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 1 in e minor is astonishingly pretty and sweet.

There's a Bulgarian hymn called Tebe Poem by Dobri Hristov that has wonderful harmonies and is melancholy. I can't find the version I have online (I found it on a home-burned CD in my dad's things after he passed away) - the one I have has that characteristic Bulgarian women's choir stridency to to the vocal tone which I really like especially in this tune. The version I linked to is a more intimate recording with more clarity than some of the reverb-heavy recordings I found.

Another melancholy song with nice harmonies in women's voices is "Balance-toi, berceau" from the album "Chopin: Spirit of the lowlands" by Zespol polski.

Here are a couple of instrumentals for your delectation:

"Audrey" by Paul Desmond is delicious with a delightful key change going into the last section. Dave Brubeck on piano shows how what you don't play is as important as what you do play, and Desmond's sax playing is really lyrical.

Phillip Glass's "Music Box" is a lovely miniature.

Finally (just because I could keep thinking up additional pieces all night long) take a listen to Autumn Moon and Orin O'Lomi from Keziah Jones's album "Black Orpheus". The whole album is fantastic, but those are two tracks that I think might intersect with some of your stated preferences. For Orin O'Lomi I linked to the album on Amazon because I couldn't find a YouTube video of the album version of the song (it's the last track). In the videos of him performing the song live he plays it faster and more emphatically. The album version is subtler.

Oh, alright, one more. Try any track from "Chants, Hymns and Dances."
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 12:31 AM on March 30, 2014

Folk + classical + strings + female vocals + melancholy = Goat Rodeo.


With vocals, and a stronger folk/bluegrass sound
No One But You
Here and Heaven

Instrumental, with more classical sound
Helping Hand
posted by saladin at 12:15 PM on March 30, 2014

I would strongly suggest checking out Carrie Newcomer. For starters, you can try The Gathering of Spirits or Everything is Everywhere.
posted by neurodoc at 4:37 PM on March 30, 2014

Response by poster: Thank you all for your wonderful recommendations! I'm listening to them all for the second time now, and though they are all marvelous, I'm marking out the ones that clicked with me and that will likely be added to my list of obsessions/favourites.
posted by miaow at 9:01 PM on March 30, 2014

The Roches are folky and have very beautiful harmonies.
Lucy Wainwright Roche is folky and has a fabulous pure voice.
When Eliza Carthy was young she performed with Nancy Kerr: true blue folk with two fiddles and great harmonies. They did an album together called On Reflection and also 'Shape of Scrape'.
Nancy Kerr married James Fagan and they make good records.
Silly Sisters have glorious harmonies!
The Unthanks.
Devon Sproule writes great songs, and harmonises with Paul Curreri, who also writes great songs.
In pop you might like Bon Iver: melodic and melancholyish.
Ron Sexsmith is a masterful songwriter!
posted by little fish at 9:15 PM on March 30, 2014

Response by poster: Impossible to mark best answers! For me, these were the highlights:

I'm absolutely in love with Zoë Keating's music now. I also really like the Civil Wars and Andrew Bird. Thanks for the push towards Glen Hansard's other stuff and yes, I loved the song with Lisa Hannigan and will be looking for more of her. I don't know why I didn't think of branching out into more Yann Tiersen. I LOVED Audrey, perhaps even more because it is Audrey Hepburn inspired? :). The Phillip Glass miniature was very pretty.

Thanks to everyone who put in specific classical pieces. I loved them all. I have a special fondness for lullabies so that album of violin renditions is going to be a fantastic resource. I loved Tebe Poem.

Nancy Kerr with James Fagan / Eliza Carthy is a fantastic new find for me! I've always loved the Silly Sisters (I mentioned June Tabor and Maddy Prior independently up above).

I do know of some of the others recommended (Daughter, Of Monsters and Men, Dar Williams, the Farinas) but only like the occasional song. That (Feist) song from Paris Je T'aime is gorgeous. I liked Mother Falcon's instrumentals, not their vocals, but it was a great way reminder of the NPR Tiny Desk Concerts that my brother mentioned once. I love Yo-yo Ma and hadn't heard of the Goat Rodeo sessions, so yay!

Gardenia, Lucy Wainwright Roche, The Unthanks and some of the others were very lovely and sweet but didn't grab hold of me for some reason.

Gurdjieff's music is also an interesting lead for me to follow. I've a friend heavily into him but I only knew he was this occult-ish spiritual teacher person, had no idea he was a musician.

And I'm sure there'll be more to discover later in this great thread! Thanks thanks thanks!
posted by miaow at 11:47 PM on March 30, 2014

One more suggestion...Some of the most beautiful female folk harmonies I've ever heard are on an album called "Three Women" by Domestic Science Club. This group was made up of Sara Hickman, Robin Macy, and Patty Lege. They only released a few albums, but well worth checking out.

You can hear the title track here, and I never realized until today that this song was actually written by Carrie Newcomer (who I recommended above!).
posted by neurodoc at 8:27 PM on April 1, 2014

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