Every once in a while I come across a musician or an album that makes me stop and really listen. Valerie June is just one of those musicians and her album Pushin’ Against the Stone is just one of those albums. Her music is bluesy and folky, with soul and funk, and her voice is the perfect conduit to blend all those styles together. She’s also a great storyteller, and I find listening to her music evokes a similar atmosphere to many of my favorite southern gothic writers (think Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor or Toni Morrison). This was love at first listen for me.
You can find a copy of Pushin’ Against the Stone both in our CD collection and on our streaming music service Hoopla
“I can remember where I come from.”
That line is from a 1992 Tori Amos song entitled “Mother,” a beautiful piano ballad about leaving home, or maybe leaving what you know. It’s really more of a plea than an assertion—a fear about forgetting what makes us who we are. The song, one of my personal favorites, is off her first album, Little Earthquakes, and now—22 years and 13 albums later—Tori brings that idea full circle with her latest LP, Unrepentant Geraldines. In the song “Oysters,” she sings, “I’m working my way back to me again.” Exploring the self or being self-aware is a common thread throughout all of her albums, but it resonates particularly strongly with Geraldines, in part because the album seems to be a return to form for her—that is, it’s more piano-based, simple storytelling/songwriting than some of her recent high-concept albums. I could easily hear a song like “Weatherman” nestled between the songs on 1994’s Under the Pink or “Selkie” sitting alongside the best of her early B-sides. Don’t get me wrong—this isn’t Tori trying to relive past glories; the songs are much fresher than if she were trying to replicate what she’s already done. Unrepentant Geraldines comes from a different place than any of her early work, from a maturity that only comes with time—whether that means writing about aging (“16 Shades of Blue”), being a mother (“Rose Dover” and “Promise”), or corporate greed/religious oppression (“Unrepentant Geraldines”). Her early work will always be my favorite, but I’m happy to have an album like Geraldines that, over 20 years after I first started listening to her, speaks to me.
If you’ve liked any of her previous work, I’d give this album a try. In addition to the CDs we have in our collection, you can find almost every Tori Amos album, including Unrepentant Geraldines, on Hoopla. What isn’t on Hoopla—Scarlet’s Walk, The Beekeeper, and American Doll Posse—is available on Freegal.
If you dig the music of The Black Keys, Caitlin Rose, The Ronettes, Wanda Jackson, and She and Him, head on over to our free streaming service called Hoopla and borrow the newest album from Nikki Lane, a new singer from Nashville whose songs strike a nice balance between vintage country and girl group pop. Produced by Dan Auerbach (guitarist from The Black Keys) All or Nothin’ will be here in compact disc format soon but if you can’t wait, stream it from Hoopla now for free.
All or Nothin'
St. Vincent’s (aka Annie Clark) newest, self-titled album is an idiosyncratic mess, a beautiful and infectious tangle of weirdness that comes at you like a curveball with a sensibility that knowingly preserves accessibility while challenging it. Cobbled together from too many genres, styles and sources to adequately summarize here, her fourth album is her most adventurous yet. She confidently pushes her sonic palate in new and colorful ways that exhibits her varied musical interests and how effectively she is at mixing and matching tones and textures. It’s a contemporary sounding mulligan stew of digital beeps and bounces, spacey synthesizers, cheesy guitar riffs, funky rhythms, and gorgeous melodies. In other words, wait for the next track and you’ll hear something you weren’t expecting. It took me a couple of listens for this to sink in and make sense. There’s no doubt that some will be turned off by the cornier stuff, but overall, it’s a strong album that at times, conjures the kind of boundless vision and openness to challenge found in David Bowie’s albums.
Raphael Saadiq has been around for quite a while. He came as a surprise to me because his vintage sounds. He seems extremely talented and is well packaged. He initially played with Tony! Toni! Tone! Over the years he has worked behind the scenes as a producer for some top names like, John Legend, Joss Stone, Stevie Wonder, Mary J Blige and the list goes on to some surprising other great artists.
What I really like about him is that he is very versatile. Raphael Saadiq is a singer, songwriter, guitarist and a record producer. I’ve read that his heroes are Chuck Berry, Stevie Wonder, Sly Stone and Little Walter. He says he wants to be a throwback with a futuristic twist. That certainly comes through on his latest CD Stone Rollin. That CD took me back to the 50s and 60s. It also had me reminiscing about Sam Cook. There are many great sounds and it is a great show of talent. It’s definitely R&B at its finest and it had me rolling.
Last month Caitlin and Ryan recommended some summertime movies for those of us needing a diversion from this bleak winter weather. Weeks later our prospects haven't improved, so here's a playlist of summery pop songs to help you fight those winter doldrums.
A Summer Song - Chad & Jeremy
Ask - The Smiths
Summer in the City - The Lovin' Spoonful
King of the Beach - Wavves
Remember (Walking in the Sand) - The Shangri-Las
Summer Babe (Winter Version) - Pavement
All Summer Long - The Beach Boys
The Swimming Song - Loudon Wainwright
Down at the Sea - Beat Happening
Summer Mood - Best Coast
Bonus track: Rockaway Beach - The Ramones
Crazy for You
Looking for artists similar to those you already know about and enjoy? Well, we’ll try to make suggestions that expand your musical listening experience by connecting like-sounding artists together.
• Liked Jackson Browne, try Dawes
• Liked The Avett Brothers, try The Felice Brothers
• Liked Neko Case, try Laura Marling
• Liked Miles Davis, try Chet Baker
• Liked MGMT, try The Flaming Lips
• Liked The Cocteau Twins, try Beach House
• Liked New Order, try The Knife
• Liked Bob Marley, try Peter Tosh
• Liked Billie Holiday, try Diane Krall
• Liked The White Stripes, try Wanda Jackson
• Liked Wilco, try Fleet Foxes
• Liked Pink, try Robyn
• Liked Bon Iver, try Elliott Smith
• Liked Mumford and Sons, try The Head and the Heart
• Liked Frank Sinatra, try Kurt Elling
the head and the heart