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Staff Picks: Music

2016 Grammy Nominations

Here are some of the prominent albums and performers from 2015 that have been nominated for a Grammy Award:

Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly

The Weekend's Beauty Behind the Madness

Alabama Shakes' Sound & Color

Little Big Town's Pain Killer

Tame Impala's Currents

Chris Stapleton's The Traveller

Taylor Swift's 1989

Barry Manilow's My Dream Duets

Muse's Drones

 

 


So Familiar

Lately, I’ve been enjoying So Familiar, this great collaborative effort—their second, after Love Has Come For You (2013)—from Steve Martin and Edie Brickell. Talk about easy-listening! Brickell’s smooth voice accompanied by instrumental arrangements featuring Martin on banjo, produces a sound that is both relaxing and upbeat. 

One of my favorites is the tender “I Have You,” where Martin trades in his banjo for some vocals. Too sweet.


The Soundtrack to My Youth

I wouldn’t exactly characterize my parents as having a particularly “cool” record collection during my childhood years but one of the first albums that I can recall having an affinity for was the holiday classic Gene Autry Sings Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Every December, this album along with the equally resonant A Charlie Brown Christmas sticks out as the soundtrack to my childhood memories of the holiday season. Both titles are Hoopla-available for those looking to stream some festive cheer.


Leon Bridges

If you enjoy the retro sounds of 1960’s soul and rhythm and blues that artists like Alabama Shakes, Raphael Saadiq, Amy Winehouse, and Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings have kept alive and fresh, check out the debut album by the young singer Leon Bridges, a guy that you can bet has listened to a few Motown and Sam Cooke records over the years.


Stream or Download via Freegal

Freegal is your access to free downloaded music from the Sony Music catalog. A streaming option has now been added to their catalog. Download 5 of your favorite songs each week or listen to a full album by streaming (5 hours/week). Visit our Download page on the KPL site for more information and helpful links to our other digital services.

One of the most buzzed about jazz albums of the year is Miles Davis at Newport: 1955-1975, the Bootleg Series Volume 4. Our compact disc copy will be here soon but if you don't want to wait, stream this extraordinary portrait of one of jazz's most important innovators which includes performances with legendary collaborators John Coltrane, Paul Chambers, Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk and Julien "Cannonball" Adderley. 


Updating the Classics

For those who like pop music of the 1960’s but who may have grown weary of the original version of their favorite songs may want to give the newest She & Him album a try. Simply and aptly named Classics, M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel tackle mostly A-side covers of well-worn pop and jazz tunes with the same level of sweetness and whimsy of their previous work. For those who are familiar with the duo’s love of all things twee and vintage, you won’t be surprised that their engagement with standards like Unchained Melody, Time After Time, Stay Awhile and This Girl’s In Love with You is freshly updated yet still rooted to the song’s era and personality. For some, this will be an exercise in pointless recycling but for others, an entertaining tribute.


Terrible, Beautiful Things

After being a fan for over a decade, I finally got to see The Decemberists in concert just a couple of days ago. They are touring in support of their seventh studio album, What a Beautiful World, What a Terrible World. If you’re not familiar with the indie folk-rock stalwarts, I strongly recommend checking them out. They specialize in both accessible radio-friendly anthems as well as epic narrative ballads laden with historical or literary references. Beautiful/Terrible eschews some of the more grandiose storytelling for which the band is known, but makes up for it by being one of their most emotionally resonant albums to date. To give you the best of both their worlds, I’ll leave two videos below: “Make You Better,” the lead single off their new record; and “The Mariner’s Revenge Song,” a delightfully macabre sea shanty that exemplifies their knack for narrative.


Nighttime Cool

Bryan Ferry’s music, whether it be with Roxy Music or his solo work, has always possessed a kind of suave, sexy, nocturnal moodiness to it that bounces back and forth between established genres and forms. His newest album Avonmore has many of the sort of stylistic characteristics that you would have found on Roxy Music’s classic album Avalon (1982). Working with other amazing musicians like The Smiths’ guitarist Johnny Marr certainly helped to flesh out some very catchy songs that harness Ferry's strength as a sensual, nighttime troubadour for the urbane set. Ferry’s sophisticated blending of new wave, pop, funk, and soul continues with these newest batch of songs.


Best Music of 2014

Catch up on the best music made in 2014 by checking out some of these end of year lists.

NPR's Music Critics

Pitchfork

Rolling Stone

Country Music

AV Club

Metacritic's Debut Albums

Hip Hop Albums


The Voice of Christmas

Bing Crosby's famous rendition of White Christmas may well be the most beloved and well known holiday song. It's a song that every December becomes an ubiquitous element of everyday life, almost inescapable as it leaks into existence from mall speakers, headphones and television sets. A new biographical portrait of Crosby's personal and professional life as well as his pop cultural significance will be featured on the PBS television program American Masters this Tuesday (December 2nd). Interested in more than just his holiday songs, check out more here.