Following the release of her latest single, ‘Some Kind Of Alchemy‘, and its Film Noir inspired video, Emberhoney has playlisted 10 of the darkest, most enchanting songs.
“As a singer-songwriter myself, it’s all about the song and its power to enchant. The art of songwriting and the delivery of that song by a singer are separate elements but when they are combined, they produce a powerful experience for the listener. The more universal and timeless a song is, the more likely it is to have a bittersweet quality as well. My favourite kind of enchantment is the dark kind so this list contains songs that I find, well…darkly enchanting!”
1. Lana Del Rey – ‘Born To Die’
“I find the lyrics of this song viscerally poignant, with their powerful, well-observed ‘love in the time of nihilism’ theme. I also adore the dramatic use of strings set against the very contemporary drum sounds. And somehow she delivers with equal skill and conviction both youthful enthusiasm and resigned nihilism… a testimony to her stunningly versatile voice.”
2. Fiona Apple – ‘Sally’s Song’
“Classic orchestration neatly juxtaposed with a sexy, syncopated groove gives this Danny Elfman cover a dark and elegant charm. Fiona’s understated, almost deadpan vocal delivery, ironically magnifies the pathos in this song to a fever pitch.”
3. Melody Gardot – ‘If I Ever I Recall Your Face’
“The word masterpiece is not often applied to music these days but this song has all the hallmarks. The arresting depth and timbre of her voice, the lyrics, the minimal piano and the incredible string arrangements. It has old-school class, like listening to an arrangement from the 1950’s by Nelson Riddle (who worked with Sinatra and Nat King Cole, among others).
4. Gillian Welch – ‘Time (The Revelator)’
“Gillian and her partner David Rawlings are masters of arrangement using only their acoustic guitars and voices. The fact that this song is so engaging is an indicator of her skill as a songwriter and the depth she communicates with her very laid back and honest vocal style.”
5. Judy Garland – ‘The Man That Got Away’
“Judy Garland was the archetypal star and tragic heroine, dying a few years after this TV show was recorded in abject poverty, despite being the greatest star of her era. She had that rare gift for embodying the meaning of a song like an actress. And she delivers this one with the consummate skill and conviction that made it her signature tune.”
6. Agnes Obel – ‘Fuel To The Fire’
“I love the haunting atmosphere of this song, built on dreamy arpeggios. The strings sound so visceral and her voice is both angelic and mysterious. The sound is immaculate and produced by Agnes herself. I saw her perform live last year and the whole show was mesmerizing.”
7. Nat King Cole – ‘Autumn Leaves’
“Nat was not only an extraordinary pianist but also one of the greatest crooners of all time. He was also known for his grace and charm, despite working in an industry that at the time was obviously racist. Something of his character as a person seems to add a blinding light to his work.”
8. Roy Orbison – ‘In Dreams’
“From the originality of the song structure itself to the peerless falsetto timbre of his voice at the end, this song is a totally intoxicating masterpiece. He had an astonishing range and even Elvis credited Roy Orbison as the greatest singer in the world.”
9. Liza Minelli – ‘Rent’
“Liza’s vocal delivery is breathtaking, with her old-school polish serving as a perfect counterpoint to the tragic ‘cold light of day’ sentiment in the lyrics. Originally written by The Pet Shop Boys, their song was great but this version with strings arranged by Anne Dudley takes it to another level.
10. David Bowie – ‘Black Star’
“Bowie was pushing the boundaries with composition and arrangement right up until the very end. The vocal melody and harmonies are disturbing, otherworldly and evocative of death but the song leaves me fascinated by his courage and skill in channelling the mysterious. I’m left thinking ‘How on earth did he do that?’”
‘Some Kind Of Alchemy‘ is out now.