Staff Picks: Music

A Beautiful and Well Organized Mess of an Album

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.

Music

St. Vincent
11051842

 

RyanG

Raphael Saadiq

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.

Music

Stone Rollin
10482966
JudiR

A New Twist on 80's Rock

Catchy dream pop that echoes its 1980’s influences while securely fixed to the contemporary is at the core of a new, brilliantly assured album from The War on Drugs. Littered with unhurried rhythms and languorous melodies that unfold like a sunny day at the beach, these are perfectly realized songs that effectively reconfigure 80’s rock anthems into a collection of hazy ballads delivered with a lament filled sneer. The group’s previous album, Slave Ambient, was a collection of songs that were a spacey blend of Spiritualized, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan. With their newly released album Lost in a Dream, the group takes this approach to an even more airy and casual place, breathing even more grooves around the swirl of reimagined 80's rock and dreamy synthesizers. This will be one of the best rock albums of the year. Check it out.

Music

Lost in a dream
11054852
RyanG

Beatles Offspring

In recognition of the 50th anniversary of The Beatles conquering the U.S. market and billboard charts, here are a list of groups in our collection that may well have never existed had it not been for the transformative power of the Fab Four and their contribution to the evolution of music. These groups and individuals vary greatly but all of them share a link to the magical source that were the lads from Liverpool.

Elliott Smith
The Apples in Stereo
Oasis
The Byrds
Badfinger
The Autumn Defense
Elton John
Harry Nilsson
The Smith Westerns
ELO
The Shins
Tame Impala
Dr. Dog
She and Him
Matthew Sweet
Jeff Lynn
David Bowie

Music

Let it be
10329056
RyanG

Roy Harper: Man & Myth

I was so very pleased to find a copy of Roy Harper’s latest, Man & Myth, among the new releases in the library’s Music collection. Roy has been a favorite of mine since the 1970s and his work is always full of heartfelt imagination and creative surprise.

Who is Roy Harper? I saw a review once that described him as “the consummate stoned folk poet,” but that was a long time ago. More accurately, Roy is an introspective English singer songwriter, who for decades has lurked in the midst of the British music scene (sort of an Irish Neil Young in a way), swapping licks with his friends (many of whom just happen to be among the biggest names in the business), while himself seemingly happy to remain a folk hero in the shadows of relative obscurity, especially on this side of “the pond.”

So about these friends… Roy has worked for years with his good friend Jimmy Page (who gave “Hats Off” to Roy on the third Led Zeppelin album), and countless others who have assisted him along the way (and vice versa); his longtime friend David Gilmour (Pink Floyd’s “Have a Cigar” was sung by Roy), Pete Townshend (who plays on Man & Myth), the late Ronnie Lane and Keith Moon (both of whom appeared with Roy at a special Valentine’s Day concert, gosh, 40 years ago today), and others.

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Roy’s music is not easy listening by any stretch of the imagination. His songs often require work; they make you think, which at times perhaps makes him another candidate for that “artists’ artist” category. Still, the vast majority of Harper’s work is quite approachable and indeed very beautiful. In 2013, Roy received a prestigious BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Lifetime Achievement Award for having made “an enormous and lasting contribution to folk music over a sustained number of years.”

And about the album… Man & Myth, Roy’s 22nd studio album and his first in 13 years (not taking into account a dozen or so live recordings and several compilations), finds him in familiar territory, reflecting on life, love, loss and living (Roy is 72 now). “I thought I had retired...,” he stated in a press interview, “...I was inspired to write again around 2009, by many of the younger generation finding me and asking, who are you?” Uncut called the songs on Man & Myth “poignant contemplations on time and its passing, friendship, love, betrayal, memory.” Another reviewer wrote, “...this isn’t a ‘return to form’. It’s business as brilliant [as] usual.”

Man & Myth has been included on several “Best Of 2013” lists, including MOJO and UNCUT (and my own, of course), and the album has earned several top reviews by the European music press. Four tracks on the album were recorded (interestingly enough) in Laurel Canyon near Los Angeles (Roy seldom appears stateside), and the others were done back on home turf in County Cork, Ireland. The latter tracks are among my favorites, especially “Heaven Is Here” > “Exile,” a 23 minute epic exploration based in Greek mythology.

“January Man”

Here’s a sample from Man & Myth...

 

New to Roy? If you like acoustic stuff, I highly recommend that you track down a copy of Stormcock, his 1971 acoustic opus with Jimmy Page (billed as “S. Flavius Mercurius”), which is still viewed as one of his best efforts. Or if a full band is more to your liking, try The Unknown Soldier (1980)—perhaps Roy’s most “commercial” effort to date, and Once (1990), both of which feature David Gilmour and Kate Bush.

“Girl from the North Country”

Here’s Roy Harper performing a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Girl from the North Country” recorded by BBC4 on September 26th, 2005, at the “Talkin’ Bob Dylan Blues: A Bob Dylan Tribute Concert” in London.

 

And if you’re still with me, here’s a treat… some recently discovered footage of Roy performing live in the studio about 1969 or 1970…. (there are five tracks in all). Enjoy!

 

Music

Roy Harper: Man & Myth
11032118
Keith_1

Bargains in the Basement: Sonic Alchemy

The very first sentence in this book… “For everyone who ever picked up the back of an album cover, spied a producer’s name, and wondered what the hell he did, this book is for you.” …was alone enough to capture my attention and cement its purchase. In his 2004 book, Sonic Alchemy, author and publisher David N. Howard (no relation that I know of) takes his readers on a tour of the most influential and pioneering record producers and sound recording engineers of our time.

Subtitled Visionary Music Producers and their Maverick Recordings, Howard explores the styles and techniques of such legendary producers as George Martin (The Beatles), Phil Spector (60s “Wall of Sound”), and Brian Wilson (Beach Boys), and then moves on to the many others who helped shape the sound of the world we live in.

He examines the influence of reggae and dub legends like Lee “Scratch” Perry (Bob Marley, The Clash) and King Tubby (Dennis Brown, Augustus Pablo), the ambient wizardry of Brian Eno (Talking Heads, David Bowie), the “classic rock” sound of Jimmy Miller (Rolling Stones, Traffic) and Glyn Johns (Eric Clapton, Eagles, The Who), the postpunk Manchesterian vision of Martin Hannet (Durutti Column, Joy Division), and he documents the pioneering techniques employed by Flood (Nine Inch Nails, U2), Chris Thomas (Pink Floyd, The Pretenders, Sex Pistols), Dr. Dre (Eminem, Public Enemy), Arthur Baker (New Order), and well over a dozen others.

For a sound geek like me, this was a terrific find. Thank you, Friends.


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Bargains in the Basement is an occasional series highlighting noteworthy items unearthed in the lower level of Central Library. What a treasure we have (quite literally) in the Friends Bookstore. When you can grab high quality books, music, and movies for little more than pocket change, life is good. And all the proceeds go to help support the library. So shop often; you never know what you’ll find. And stay tuned… I’ll let you know what I find!

Book

Sonic Alchemy
0634055607
/friends/bookstore/
Keith_2

Liked That, Try This (No. 1)

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

Music

the head and the heart
10478449
RyanG

A Soul Survivor

If you like the sound of old school soul music, be sure to get your ears on the work of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. A recent bout of cancer hasn't diminished her expressive, lived in voice and while it may impact her future touring, her newest album Give the People What They Want reflects both her personal strength and her top notch, musical chops.

Music

Give the people what they want
11001674
RyanG

Bugg'n Out

Jake Bugg, teenage sensation and dedicated follower of vintage leanings, is back with his sophomore album Shangri La. His first, a full-fledged mixture of Dylanesque folk and heartfelt ballads akin to a blending of Donovan, Travis and Oasis came out of nowhere last year to critical acclaim and commercial success and so with his follow-up, Bugg revs up the tempo with some harder edged tunes. He throws in a few twists and turns with instrumentation and stylistic touches absent from the first record but the bold freshness of a year ago feels a smidgeon stale. While the record isn’t much of a leap in creative development, neither does it suggest signs of regression or creative inertia. Fans of the first album will want to give it a listen.

Music

Shangri La
11032766
RyanG

I Hate Missing Great Music

It happens every year. Right after I send in my “Best of 2013” list for the KPL website, I discover a great movie, book or CD. This time it was a CD that I had listened to once, but never got into it at the time – I Hate Music by Superchunk. If you are a fan of this great indie quartet from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, then you already know that they deliver an infectious, high energy sound that is loud and short in the tradition of old school punk rock. The newest album delivers the classic Superchunk sound (one critic has coined a phrase to describe their sound – “Superchunky.”) with songwriting that has definitely matured since their early days. Lead singer, Mac McCaughan, sings about death, love and mortality while the rest of the band walks a fine line between punk and power pop. The best track of the album wins the award for being the best song under two minutes, “Me & You & Jackie Mittoo,” a track about the power of music in our lives. The song  is about how music can’t bring anyone back from the dead, but it doesn’t mean it cannot make a difference in people’s lives. The video is uplifting and totally worth two minutes of your life. So consider I Hate Music by Superchunk, an addition to my “Best of 2013” list.

Music

I Hate Music
11007352
Kevin King