Over the past couple of years, three women from the Seattle area have really gotten their music stuck in my head. There are a lot of good artists here that do that. Wayne Horvitz, Bill Frisell, Laura Love (who has a new book out), and Skerik all have that tendency. In fact, I still listen to all of them a lot. However, it seems that the last couple of years, I've reached for CDs by these other artists more often than the ones above - especially this year.
Aiko Shimada is a Japanese American songwriter. Her work borrows elements from both cultures and mixes folk, jazz, and experimental music into the fray. She has an amazing voice. Her songs tend to remind me of the gray skies and rain we see a lot of around here. I don't find that depressing in the least. Rather, it is a mood that the music evokes - calming, peaceful, dreamy - like a Japanese watercolor. Her work is mostly self released with one album available on John Zorn's Tzadik label. The albums are available through CD Baby. Links to that site as well as some samples can be found on the site linked above.
Laura Veirs, whom I had the pleasure of seeing perform with Aiko Shimada last January, is a song writer of great interest who is beginning her first complete US tour this month. I first saw her perform in a coffee shop in West Seattle. Her stage presence, voice, and gift with lyrics made me seek out her recordings and more live performances. After self releasing a couple of albums, her latest CD, Carbon Glacier, was picked up by the Nonesuch label in America (home to Frissell, Laurie Anderson, Caetano Velosos, Emmylou Harris, et al). The music she writes features elements of folk, jazz, rock, pop, more experimental sounds, and alt-country. Veirs is an excellent live performer. She has played/recorded with Tucker Martine, Bill Frisell, and Eyvind Kang, et al. As with Aiko Shimada, the link above features samples as well as links to buy her albums.
Finally, and most certainly NOT least, is Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter. Jesse and the band mix an slt-country/rock sound the evokes images of small, smoke filled, back room bars covered in dense blue light. Her breathy voice is subdued, subtle and altogether mesmerizing. The lastest CD, Oh My Girl, is not necessarily an album that jumps out and grabs you, but it rewards in spades upon repeated listenings. As the songs get under your skin, you will find yourself humming perhaps the title track totally unaware that you are doing it. Once that happens, you know you're hooked. Comparisons to Neko Case are fair, but they ultimately have different sounds. This band has a great future ahead of it and they deserve a lot more recognition (as does everyone else listed here).