Following up on the Musicophilia six-volume collection of 1960s and 1970s singer-songwriter mixes, here is ‘Their Hearts Had Six Strings’ Volume 7, featuring some of our favorite singer-songwriter music from the 1990s-2010s. Singer-Songwriter music often seems to be unfairly maligned among record nerd types (with exceptions made for Leonard Cohen and maybe ‘Blue’), dismissed as either too pretty, too safe, and/or (I often suspect) as too feminine. “Pretty” is just a way of dismissing beauty, and while beauty isn’t an absolute necessity in music I love, I embrace it whole-heartedly and unironically–and so does the ‘Their Hearts’ series. However, the best singer-songwriter music is anything but safe, even when it may be deeply comforting. It’s often musically inventive and sophisticated in its continual reinterpretation of traditional songwriting modes–but it can also be far from safe in its emotional honesty and impact.
Sure, the “singer-songwriter” has been applied to plenty of bland milquetoast trifle that has as much emotional impact as the Starbucks it’s piped into. But at its best, singer-songwriter music can be as musically and emotionally vivid as any music ever made. The women and men in the 60s who embraced folk music and pushed its forms set things in motion, but unlike plenty of genres that have flourished and faded and been periodically revived, singer-songwriter music seems to be reborn perennially. For some, this is evidence of musical stasis. For me it suggests that novelty is not always key to renewal and relevance. So yes, this music from 1996-2016 fits in pretty well with the first six volumes sounds from 1962-1977. But for my money, that’s a testament to its timelessness-and its strength.
For the most part, this music is not obscure or unknown, and I hope you’ll point me to lesser-known highlights of contemporary singer-songwriter music. For me, this is the singer-songwriter music that has stood the test of time during the two decades that my listening has traveled far and wide. At age 19 as I was having my mind expanded by Can and Miles Davis, I also loved Ida, Will Oldham, and Songs Ohia. As I dove deep into post-punk at 22, I also continued to love Sam Phillips, Mark Kozelek, and the Innocence Mission. Wherever my ears took me over the years, there were always new singer-songwriters who could mesmerize. So set aside preconceptions and the dross of far too many boring Spotify playlists with the word “acoustic” in the title, and let yourself in.
This mix features Songs Ohia, Mirah, Rebecca Gates, Jeremy Enigk, Radiohead, Ida, Feist, Karen Peris, Bill Callahan, Joanna Newsom, Cat Power, Mark Kozelek, Archer Prewitt, Stina Nordenstam, Will Oldham, Dana Falconberry & Medicine Bow, Beck, Sam Phillips, and Low. Most of these artists are still active, so even more than normal, I implore you to buy the records, go to their shows, and help keep the beautiful music flowing. Thanks for listening, and pass it on. You can download or stream below, and I hope to hear from you.
Various – ‘Their Hearts Had Six Strings” Vol. 7
01 [00:00] Songs Ohia – “Hold On Magnolia” (The Magnolia Electric Co., 2003)
02 [08:07] Mirah – “Generosity” ((A)spera, 2009
03 [11:37] Rebecca Gates – “The Seldom Scene” (Ruby Series, 2001)
04 [15:23] Jeremy Enigk – “Call Me Steam” (Return of the Frog Queen, 1996)
05 [18:14] Radiohead – “Glass Eyes” (A Moon Shaped Pool, 2016)
06 [21:08] Ida – “Maybelle” (Will You Find Me, 2000)
07 [27:32] Feist – “The Water” (The Reminder, 2007)
08 [32:25] Karen Peris – “Pascal’s Evening Song” (Violet, 2012)
09 [34:06] Bill Callahan – “Jim Cain” (Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle, 2009)
10 [38:46] Joanna Newsom – “Divers” (Divers, 2015)
11 [45:47] Cat Power – “Wild Is the Wind” (The Covers Record, 2000)
12 [49:55] Mark Kozelek – “Around and Around” (Rock ‘N’ Roll Singer, 2000)
13 [52:12] Archer Prewitt – “Another Peace Of Mind” (Gerroa Songs, 2000)
14 [57:33] Stina Nordenstam – “I’m Staring Out The World” (The World Is Saved, 2004)
15 [61:15] Bonnie “Prince” Billy – “Love Comes To Me” (The Letting Go, 2006)
16 [65:22] Dana Falconberry & Medicine Bow – “Oxheart” (From The Forest Came the Fire, 2016)
17 [69:35] Beck – “The Golden Age” (Sea Change, 2002)
18 [74:20] Sam Phillips – “So Glad You’re Here” (Cameras In the Sky, 2011)
19 [77:37] Low – “Will The Night” (Secret Name, 1999)
[Total Time: 1:20:00]