Summer music round up

Road trips are always a good excuse to pick up some new CDs, and with all the traveling I did this summer I was sure to find a few good ones. Two are worth writing up here. Both of them, coincidentally, come from England. If my taste in music means anything to you (and I can’t really give you any reason why it should), keep reading.

The first is Katie Melua’s debut album Call off the Search. I picked this up on a lark after seeing her compared to Norah Jones. I haven’t heard much about her here, but the album is already quadruple platinum in the UK. Happily, she doesn’t disappoint.

The comparison to Norah Jones is understandable, in that they’re both young and jazzy. Melua’s voice is more girlish, yet expressive, beautiful, sometimes sultry, and always demanding of attention. I find myself listening to her more closely and more often than I ever have to Jones.

Only two of the songs are her own, but the selection showcases a variety of styles. “Mockingbird Song” surprised me the most. It’s a sexy re-write of the old lullaby, complete with a more lilting rhythm and new, mature lyrics (think “And when my man’s no longer hot/I’m gonna bring him a vodka shot” in place of “If that billy goat won’t pull/ Momma’s gonna buy you a cart and bull.”) “Crawling Up a Hill,” “Closest Thing to Crazy,” and “Belfast” are a few of my other favorites. Amazon has the sound samples, but their tinny sound definitely doesn’t do justice to Melua’s voice. Highly recommended if you enjoy slower, jazzy music with smart lyrics and a focus on the vocals.

The second album is much more pop: The Corrs’ Borrowed Heaven. I was eagerly awaiting this since it’s been almost four years since their last studio album (In Blue), but also somewhat dreading it since their last was such a disappointment. In Blue had its moments, but it was overproduced and lost the distinctive Celtic feel of their previous work. Its main purpose seemed to be to get the band airplay in the U. S. It succeeded at that level, but was otherwise forgettable (though some of the songs actually sound pretty good live).

Borrowed Heaven opens with the radio-friendly single “Summer Sunshine.” It’s catchy, and I like it, but it did make the album remind me of their last. After giving the whole CD a few listens, however, I changed my mind. While it still has a pop feel to it, the lyrics are much smarter than on In Blue and Sharon Corr’s violin is once again given a more prominent place in the scores (though still not prominent enough – judging by the crowd’s reactions at their concert a few weeks ago, she’s definitely their strongest asset). The final track is almost purely instrumental and lives up their previous standards.

The album is, undeniably, commercial pop, but it’s a big step above the vast majority of what’s out there. The Corrs have real talent that shines through and they’re great fun to listen to. Borrowed Heaven has become one of my favorites for driving. Recommended, though not as highly as 2002’s Live in Dublin.