Staff Picks: Music

Summer Anthems

It's still summer out there so keep the warm weather tunes playing loud and proud.

The Motels: Suddenly Last Summer

Bananarama: Cruel Summer

The Sundays: Summertime
Seals and Croft: Summer Breeze
Marianne Faithfull: Summer Nights
Pavement: Summer Babe
Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood: Summer Wine
The Raveonettes: Summer Moon
 

Music

Raven in the grave

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Jenny Lewis

I’ve been streaming the new Jenny Lewis album Voyager through the library’s KPL music/movie/television/audiobook service Hoopla. The compact disc version isn't here yet but if you want to get a taste for this album, check it out via Hoopla. It's very easy. It’s one of my favorite albums of the year with its smart and accessible brand of pop. Her band before setting out as a solo performer was Rilo Kiley, a very popular indie pop group from Los Angeles that put out several strong, catchy albums.

Music

Under the black lights
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Most Messed Up in the Best Possible Way

“We’ve been doing this thing longer than you’ve been alive, propelled by some mysterious drive,” is the first couple lines of “Longer Than You’ve Been Alive” the first track from the Old 97’s newest record Most Messed Up. Celebrating their 20th year as a band, the Old 97’s have released one of the best records of 2014. Fans of Americana, punk (Tommy Stinson from The Replacements plays on a few tracks), and alt-country will be happy to discover that the boys from Texas have messed those genre up into a pure raucous ride. Songs like “Let’s Get Drunk & Get It On” and “Wasted” are anthems to the hard life of a band strumming hard through two decades of music. “Guadalajara” and “The Ex of All You See” tell the torrid tales of love and loss on the road. After the final song has ended you will have felt like you have listened to a musical biography of a most messed up, but amazing band. In fact, the chorus of the lead track sums the entire record nicely, “Rock and Roll’s been very very good to me, the open road’s the only place I wanna be.”

Music

Most Messed Up
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Classics from the 60's, 70's and 90's

75 classic soul tracks from the vaults of Motown! That's right, 75 classics! Motown-produced music is my go-to, annual soundtrack to Michigan summers. This compilation brings forth the great music from the era's titans (Mary Wells, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, The Miracles, The Supremes, etc.) but it also includes a few lesser known names like The Downbeats, The Valadiers, Paul Gayten, Lamont Dozier, and Barrett Strong.

Marc Bolan (aka T-Rex) was the man behind the boogie-woogie glam rock that came to define the sound of early 70's British music. Mixing campy looks with big guitar hooks, T-Rex banged out several pop anthems including 20th Century Boy, Telegram Sam, Bang a Gong, and I Love to Boogie. 

This year marked the 20th anniversary of the death of Kurt Cobain and the subsequent dissolution of his band Nirvana. After being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year, Nirvana continue to be the band most associated with the rise of alternative music into the mainstream during the 1990's.

 

Music

Soul of Detroit
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Liked That, Try This No. 2

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. Don't forget, you can access music from KPL through compact discs, free MP3 downloads (Freegal) and internet streamed albums via Hoopla.  

• Liked Beach House, try Wye Oak
• Liked Steve Earle, try David Allan Cole
• Liked Pavement, try Parquet Courts
• Liked Solange, try Kelis
• Liked Bruno Mars, try Fitz and the Tantrums
• Liked early Pink Floyd, try Tame Impala
• Liked Lorde, try Sharon Van Etten

Music

Shriek
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Unrepentant Geraldines

“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.

 

Music

Unrepentant Geraldines
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Some Autumn for Your Summer Listening

Fans of the band Wilco may already be aware of Chicago’s The Autumn Defense given two of its members are Wilco’s bassist (John Stirratt) and keyboardist (Pat Sansone). But those who love laid back, radio-friendly songwriting that echoes the early and mid-1970’s work of tunesmiths like Bread, Emitt Rhodes, Big Star, ELO, The Carpenters should check them out. Their newest album, Fifth came out this week and it’s full of sweetly polished folk-pop that’s perfect for a summer breeze.

Music

Fifth
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Nikki Lane: Now on Hoopla

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.

Music

All or Nothin'
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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.


friends-logo-50.jpg

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/

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
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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
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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
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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
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Because She's Awesome, Duh

C’mon, who doesn’t love Neko Case? There are just so many reasons for why you should. If for some unfathomable reason, you’ve been able to live this long having never heard of her and the wonderfully rich music that she makes, pick up everything we have, especially her newest album, the absurdly, long winded titled The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You.

Music

The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You
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The Influence of Lou Reed

Brian Eno once said that there are two kinds of artists; those who influence the general public, and artists who influence other artists. It’s hard to imagine what the landscape of popular music would look like today without the influence of Lou Reed. Lou’s roots with the Velvet Underground helped pave the way for a multitude of others, and his career as a solo artist pushed the boundaries further still.

But even if you’re not a fan of Lou’s work, chances are that one of your favorite artists is. Imagine... had there been no Lou Reed or Velvet Underground, there would likely be no Patti Smith or David Bowie or Iggy Pop. There would have been no Talking Heads, no R.E.M., no Joy Division, no Sex Pistols, or no Television. No Roxy Music or Cars or Dream Syndicate or [insert most any other contemporary artist here]. From the dark streetwise tales of Heroin and Sweet Jane to the stratospheric drone of Metal Machine Music to the full-scale crunch of his collaboration with Metallica (at the age of sixty nine, no less), Lou never failed to push the limits, and the respect he earned among his contemporaries (and fans) is nothing short of astounding.

Thanks to Lou, our world is a much more interesting place. He will be deeply missed.

Book

Lou Reed
I-geek-art-160
http://kzpl.ent.sirsi.net/client/KPL/search/results?qu=Lou+Reed&te=&lm=ALLLIBS

Folksy Fall

If you like your music with a bit of country dust on top, that leaves a folksy aftertaste shot through with a rootsy twang and a side of acoustic lyricism and sweet melody, check out these acclaimed musicians and their new and upcoming releases.

Dream River, Bill Callahan
Magpie and Dandelions, The Avett Brothers
Gone Away Backward, Robbie Fulks
The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You, Neko Case
About Farewell, Alela Diane
Honky Tonk, Son Volt
Wilderness, Handsome Family  

Music

Dream River
11015183

Porcelain Raft

The first time I heard a Porcelain Raft (the project of Mauro Remiddi) song was their contribution to the film Celeste and Jesse Forever; an infectious, electro-pop tune called Drifting In and Out. It's a great song that epitomizes their sound: a mixture of melodic, mid-tempo numbers that are filled with lyricism and sorrow. The singing is rock solid and recalls the anguished melancholy of Jeremy Enigk's work with the band Sunny Day Real Estate. Both albums really hit the spot as the gloomier, Midwestern skies turn gray and leaden. Give it a try.

Music

Permanent Signal
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The Sound of Summer and Magic Light

Washed Out's last album Within and Without was a breezy collection of melodic and tuneful songs bathed in a heavy coat of synthesizers, subtle jabs of electronica and the ocassional sample. Their newest record doesn't deviate much from that template so if you enjoy music that is unpreteniously simple in form, that is beautifully overgrown, whisper-soft and sensual, and that sounds like "daytime psychedelia", this is your band and album.

Music

Paracosm
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Best of 2013 So Far

Every year on January 1st, I start to think about my “Best of…” list that I will be compiling throughout the year. This year is heavily tilted towards music and movies. I’m sure my recommended reading list will grow as the weather grows colder. Here is my ever-expanding list of favorite albums and a few singles that have been released this year.

Albums

  • Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City
  • Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Self Titled
  • Rhye, Woman
  • Caitlin Rose, The Stand-In
  • Jake Bugg, Jake Bugg
  • My Bloody Valentine, mbv
  • Smith Westerns, Soft Will
  • Eleanore Friedberger, Personal Record
  • Washed Out, Paracosm
  • Porcelain Raft, Permanent Signal

Singles

  • Relapse by Chvrches
  • Where Are We Now by David Bowie
  • Just Make It Stop by Low
  • Man by Neko Case
  • Life Is Hard by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

Music

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
10994842

 


Soft Will

The third album from the Chicago indie rock band Smith Westerns is a decent collection of very catchy, wistful rock and roll that accentuates their obvious taste for British groups like The Beatles, T-Rex, The Smiths, and Pink Floyd. There is no shortage of big, meaty hooks and gorgeous, synthed out melodies to go around on their newest long player, Soft Will.

Music

Soft will
10948678

An 80's Gem

The 1980’s produced a plethora of really, terrible music and yet as much musical detritus as should rightly ring the rim of the dustbin of history, there were groups that were visionary and prescient and whose work continues to sound fresh, new and vital today. One such album that if you knew nothing of it, would never guess that it was released in 1987 is the third Love and Rockets’ long player Earth, Sun, Moon. This was not the sound of Milli Vanilli or Huey Lewis and the News. Forming out of the ashes of Post-Punk/Goth pioneers Bauhaus, Love and Rockets’ hard to categorize album flows effortlessly through 13 wonderful songs that range from noisy rockers to lyrical folk songs and everything in between. Of course, the haircuts haven't held up as well as the tunes.

Music

Earth, Sun, Moon
10154821

 


Big Stars...but years later

Big Star, like many cult bands, only emerged from obscurity to be heralded as power pop innovators years after they had broken up. On the eve of a new documentary that chronicles their short but influential career, find out what the hype is all about by checking out their beautiful mixture of soul, pop, and rock.

Music

Keep and eye on the sky
10356154

The Vampires Have Won Me Over

I wasn’t a huge fan of Vampire Weekend before the release of their third album but I have to admit, I think they’ve hit on something special with their newest, Modern Vampires of the City. Their music is still as erudite and as catchy as ever, but where their early output came across as precious and affected, the new tunes exhibit an abundance of creative skill, lyrical depth and narrative complexity. One of the best albums of 2013, get your ears on it.

Music

Modern Vampires of the city
10810860

No Sophmore Slump Here

Yep, she's done it again. Eleanor Friedberger, formerly of the brother/sister duo The Fiery Furnaces has released her sophmore album Personal Record and it's as great as her 2011 debut Last Summer. Friedberger composes quirky, idiosynchratic lyrics that blend seemlessly with her equally unique and recognizable voice. The music is smart, immaculately recorded pop-rock that is both innovative and endlessly catchy. Pick it up and crank it loud.

Music

Personal Record
10882727

Iron and Wine Gets Funky

To me, listening to an Iron and Wine album has always felt a little like being alone on a back porch with Sam Beam while he tells you secrets. How do you make that sound better? Just add horns. Ghost on Ghost, his fifth studio album, has not lost that intimate quality, but it has gained interesting musical complexity. The depth is still mainly in the vocals, but there is more to enjoy in the spaces in between. If you are a little bit folk, a little bit funk, and dig a good jazz solo, then you are likely to really enjoy this release.

Music

Ghost on Ghost
10780750

 


Happy Birthday iTunes Store!

In 2001 the way the world listens to music changed when Apple introduced the iPod. Two years later, the iTunes Store opened for business offering owners of iPods a virtual place to purchase music. Over the past ten years billions of songs have been downloaded to the many Apple iOS devices. Some would argue that iTunes has destroyed the idea of a “traditional” album, but others claim that more people listen to different music because it is easier to access music. No matter how you feel, it is hard to deny that iTunes is the “King of all Media Delivery Systems.”

I was curious to find out what the most played song was in the iTunes libraries of the staff at KPL. The answers not only provided me with insight on the listening habits of staff, but also inspired me to seek out the stuff in the library.

The most played song in my iTunes library is Matthew Sweet’s “I’ve Been Waiting” from his 1991 album, Girlfriend. When I think about why this particular song is on top of the list, I recall the summer when both my daughters requested to listen to it multiple times. They liked to roll down the windows and sing along to infectious tune. My guess is the top tracks from other staff have a similar story.

“Too Late” by Shoes, Karl Knack, Audio Visual
“Fluorescent Adolescent” by Arctic Monkeys, Anne Herrington, Law Library
“Plasticities” by Andrew Bird, Susan Lindemann, Facilities Management
“Teenage Riot” by Sonic Youth, Michael Cockrell, Adult Services
“Feels Like Home” by Edwina Hayes, Jill Lansky, Teen Services
“Gobbledigook” by Sigur Ros, Rick Hale, Patron Services
“Baby Girl” by Sugarland, Andrea Vernola, Youth Services
“Dirty Little Secret” by All-American Rejects, Wendy Hand, IT
“Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” by Michael Jackson, Angela Fortin, Oshtemo
“Myth” by Beach House, Ryan Gage, Audio Visual

Music

Girlfriend
10137992

Guards

Fans of The Raveonettes, The Smith Westerns, Night Moves, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Suede, and Arcade Fire will find something in the cliché-bloated anthem rock of the band The Guards and their newest long player, In Guards We Trust. There’s nothing particular inspiring about this record given it treads over familiar ground with its thick use of dense, multi-track vocals and heavy coats of reverb that does well to cover the rather innocuous nature of the songwriting, but then again, if you’re only looking for a couple of good songs to bob your head to while heading to the beach this summer, give it a try.

Music

In Guards We Trust
10023234

Two Young Guns of Folk and Country Rock

Two of today’s best musical young guns that have delivered strong albums this year are Jake Bugg and Caitlin Rose. They don’t shy away from their influences but they don’t let those who paved the musical highway for them subsume their individual voices either. Gritty and fashionable enough for the with-it crowd and accessible enough for those who have an Oasis or Taylor Swift album in their collection, these two will hopefully be in it for the long haul. Bugg has been compared to Dylan (who hasn’t?) but his brand of neo-folk has as many roots in Brit Pop. Sure, he evokes both Dylan and Donovan from time to time but he makes it work because of his lyrical earnestness and the sheer catchiness of the tunes. Rose also wrote the album that Swift only can dream that she had created. These are confidently written songs sung by a fresh voice who no doubt has listened to a few Jayhawks albums over the years. Check them both out!

Music

The Stand-In
10079844

3 Good Albums

Fans of his band the New Pornographers will find much to like when listening to A.C. Newman’s newest solo album Shut Down the Streets. Newman is one of power pops most prolific and talented stewards and yet while there are plenty of energetic, signature anthems to chant to this summer while headed to the beach, his newest batch of songs takes a more personal and introspective turn.

Several years ago, the band Vampire Weekend were notable for successfully bringing to the ears of listeners of indie rock an Afro Pop sensibility to their catchy, pop songs. The Florida band Surfer Blood also weaves together a variety pack of genres including surf rock (Dick Dale, The Ventures), fuzzy power pop (Weezer, Waaves, The Shins) and subtle hints of Afro Pop rhythms that never sound out of place or gratuitous. Their 2010 album Astro Coast perfectly captures much of how today’s best indie rock groups are concerned with writing catchy, dance-friendly tunes, but doing so with the kitchen sink of instrumentation and influence at their disposal.

One of the best albums of 2013 is Youth Lagoon’s Wonderous Bughouse. This band knows how to bug out with effortlessly, rolling psych-pop that will get inside your brain, pitch a tent and remain there for hours afterward. Fans of The Flaming Lips, Beach House, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, MGMT and Sparklehorse will find much to like about this sonic flood of colorful melodies and low-end production.

Music

Wondrous Bughouse
10079870

Museum of Flight

A friend from Seattle turned me on to the music of Damien Jurado a couple of years ago so I was excited to stumble on a new cd of his, Maraqopa, as I browsed the KPL new music section.  Now I can't stop listening to this mixture of what Larry Fitzmaurice at Pitchfork calls, "soft-psych freak-outs, rainy folk, haunted 1960's pop, and slow-burning oddball sparseness." I googled Jurado and found out I'm a Johnny-come-lately to his music as he has been around since the mid 90's, releasing albums with Sub Pop Records and now with a label based in Indiana called Secretly Canadian.  If you like Neil Young and the Fleet Foxes give Jurado a try or come and browse our music section and see what you discover.

Music

Maraqopa
10665360

Kevin Ayers & Peter Banks (R.I.P.)

Last week, I wrote about the passing of Alvin Lee, arguably one of the world’s great guitarists. They always say these things happen in threes.

Just a few weeks beforehand, February 18 to be exact, we lost Kevin Ayers. Ayers was a key player in Britain’s Canterbury scene during the late 1960s. He was a founding member of the band Soft Machine, and an active solo artist. Ayers’ list of early collaborators reads like a Who’s Who of influential artists; from Brian Eno, Nico and  John Cale (June 1, 1974), to Floydian madman Syd Barrett, Elton John, Robert Wyatt, Mike Oldfield, and others. His first solo album, Joy of a Toy, was released on EMI’s new Harvest label in 1969, right beside early (now classic) releases by Deep Purple and Pink Floyd. His sixteenth and last studio album, The Unfairground, was released in 2007 to much acclaim. Ayers was 68.

This week, one more member of “British Rock Royalty” joined his departed contemporaries. Peter Banks was a founding member and the original guitarist in the prog band Yes. He was featured on the band’s first two recordings, Yes and Time and a Word, before being replaced by Steve Howe in 1970. He achieved a certain degree of success with the UK band Flash during the mid-1970s. An occasional series of solo albums followed during the 1990s. Banks passed away in London on March 8 at the age of 65.

Some great early footage of Yes with Peter Banks (and later with Steve Howe) follows...

  

Music

The Unfairground by Kevin Ayers
10200141
http://kzpl.ent.sirsi.net/client/KPL/search/results?qu=The+unfairground&qf=AUTHOR%09Author%09Ayers%2C+Kevin.%09Ayers%2C+Kevin.&lm=ALLLIBS&rt=TITLE%7C%7C%7CTitle%7C%7C%7Cfalse

Alvin Lee has Gone Home

The music world bid farewell to another guitar great on Wednesday with the passing of Alvin Lee. During the late 1960s and 1970s, the British born Lee fronted the band Ten Years After, and set the world on fire at the Woodstock Festival in August 1969 with “I’m Going Home.” Lee was known for his lightning fast guitar work and sensitive interpretations of blues standards and his own compositions. Lee recorded nearly 30 studio and live albums during his career—to this day, Ten Years After Recorded Live remains one of my own “desert island” selections… most notably for its incendiary cover of Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Help Me.” His latest album, Still on the Road to Freedom, was released last year. Lee was 68.

Book

Alvin Lee
alvin-lee-160
http://alvinlee.com/

A Late Musical Valentine

One of the best alt-country CDs of 2012 was Rhett Miller’s, The Dreamer. Miller, the longtime front man of the Old 97’s, has once again proven that he is one of the best songwriters in music. What I love best about Miller’s solo material is that he is not afraid to dabble in many different music styles, like power pop and folk. The Dreamer is pure alt-country and closer to a new Old 97’s record than his previous releases.

The first track “Lost Without You” starts slow then picks up with a twangy edge that mixes perfectly with Miller’s voice. The song “Out of Love” blends aspects of power pop with the unmistakable instrumentation of bluegrass. “As Close As I Came to Being Right,” a duet with the great Rosanne Cash, is as close as you can get to a perfect alt-country love song. Miller is an underrated talent that deserves more accolades for his contributions.

After listening to The Dreamer you will realize that at its core, Miller has crafted a letter to the idea of love in all its forms. Check it out and treat yourself to a late Valentine.

Book

Rhett Miller - The Dreamer
rhett-miller-dreamer-cover
http://kzpl.ent.sirsi.net/client/KPL/search/results?qu=rhett+miller&te=&lm=ALLLIBS&rt=AUTHOR%7C%7C%7CAuthor%7C%7C%7Cfalse

Roxy Music Meets 1920s Jazz

I’m usually not a fan of musicians rearranging and rerecording their own music from an earlier period. Songs or albums tend to speak to a certain time or place in an artist’s life and in our cultural milieu (even the songs and albums that are timeless), and revisiting songs years later—in a studio, not in a live setting—can come off as tired and hackneyed.  Yet when I heard that Bryan Ferry reinterpreted a handful of Roxy Music classics as instrumental jazz songs, I was first intrigued and then surprisingly delighted.  The songs on the Brian Ferry Orchestra’s The Jazz Age sound like authentic 1920s compositions, made by musicians who clearly admire and understand the jazz music of that time period.  The songs sound so radically different, I had to listen to the album a few times before I recognized some of my beloved Roxy Music favorites.  The album is fun and enthusiastic, and although it doesn’t replace the original Roxy Music songs, it’s a pleasure to hear.

While we don’t have The Jazz Age in our CD collection, it is available through Freegal.  Freegal is a downloadable music service that allows resident borrowers to download three songs a week with their library card.  Check out The Jazz Age and then see what else Freegal has to offer!

For comparison, here's a video of Roxy Music performing "Do the Strand" on the BBC in 1973:

And here is a one-minute snippet of the same song from The Jazz Age:

Book

The Jazz Age by the Bryan Ferry Orchestra
ferry-orchestra-jazz-age-cover-160
/music/freegal/

Bargains from the Basement: Dead Bees on a Cake

“If you go out searching for jewels and treasures elsewhere, you're liable to miss the acres of riches that lie beneath your feet.”—Bryan Cohen

Today’s buried treasure from the Friends Bookstore is a tasty musical offering by David Sylvian, Dead Bees on a Cake, released in 1999. If you’re not already familiar with Sylvian’s work, give his material a listen. Who to compare him to? His voice draws an obvious similarity to Bryan Ferry, but musically, Sylvian is more muted and much more diverse; closer say to a Peter Gabriel or a Daniel Lanois—dark, mysterious at times, but rich and deeply moving.

Sylvian is an excellent songwriter who typically surrounds himself with contemporary musical heavyweights. Bees, however, follows a series of more upbeat “prog-ish” collaborations with Robert Fripp, so a musical departure seems somewhat inevitable. Bees has a slightly more jazzy, worldbeat feel than its predecessors—very much in the same vein as the later period recordings by Talk Talk. Guest musicians, though few this time, include jazz guitarist Bill Frisell, composer and pianist Ryuichi Sakamoto, and a brief appearance by Steve Tibbetts. Sylvian’s discography calls this release “openly celebratory in nature… documenting an eventful and transformative period in his life.”

Thanks once again, Friends – a good find, indeed!


friends-logo-50.jpg

Consider this little series my own version of “Flea Market Finds,” an ongoing report of the latest bargains 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 a great cause, too. So shop often; you never know what you’ll find. And stay tuned… I’ll let you know what I find!

Book

Dead Bees on a Cake by David Sylvian
dead-bees-on-a-cake-160
/friends/bookstore/

Shoegazers Celebrate

Well, well, My Bloody Valentine has finally emerged from their twenty-plus year hiatus to release the much anticipated and discussed new album mbv. Until we can obtain the new long player for the library’s music collection, you’ll just have to find out what all of the hype is about by listening to their beloved 90's classic Loveless.

Music

Loveless
10132326

Night Moves

The Minneapolis band Night Moves are difficult to categorize but their debut album should be on everyone’s iPod. They draw from an array of rock and roll influences, stitching their lyrical elements together to form a solid sound of catchy tunes born of fuzzed out, alt-country mixed with glam-rock grooves. Standout songs include Horses, Country Queen and Headlights.

Music

Colored Emotions
10008202

Featuring Norah Jones

I have always been a big Norah Jones fan.  She is one of the few artists to have passed a tough test in my household:  I can play Come away with me in my alarm clock every morning to wake me up and I still enjoy the CD.  There are not many CDs that stand up to this test.  So you can understand my pleasure when I discovered a Norah Jones CD that I hadn't heard before in the KPL collection.  It's called Featuring and is a CD of duets and collaborations between Jones and a wide variety of singers and musical groups.  And when I say "variety", I mean it!  This CD is so neat in that it showcases how versatile Jones is with her distinctive and soulful voice pairing her with artists and groups such as Willie Nelson, Ray Charles, the Foo Fighters, and Ryan Adams.

The CD starts strong with a track from The Little Willies.  Jones and friends formed The Little Willies in 2003 and came out with their second album For the Good Times in 2012.  (You can also find them on another excellent CD in the library's collection:  Putumayo presents Americana.  It's bound to put you in a good mood!)  I was unfamiliar with Sasha Dobson prior to this CD, but her duet, Bull Rider, is fantastic!  I have requested her CD through MeLCat and look forward to become more acquainted with her music.  Halfway through the CD, Jones and friends adopt a totally different style in Take Off Your Cool with Outkast, Life is Better with Q-Tip, and Soon the New Day with Talib Kweli.  A few songs later, there is a duet with Ray Charles…need I say more?  Who doesn't like Ray Charles??  But then, in my humble opinion, the CD reaches its pinnacle with track 15:  Creepin' In with Dolly Parton.  I love Dolly.  Always have and always will.  This song makes me want to dance and sing over and over again as I play it on repeat.

Basically, what I hope this blog conveys, is that this compilation of songs is wonderful.  Each and every song is as delightful as it is different.  I highly recommend this CD for your listening pleasure.

Music

Featuring
10451402

When? Where? WHO?

I never really was much of a Who fan. I was familiar with a fair amount of their popular hits, and had dabbled in listening to some of their albums throughout my fairly brief existence on this planet, but never really felt much connection or excitement with the music. However, a friend of mine recently introduced me to some of their live material; that’s when I realized just how ignorant I was all along.

Most people are actually quite familiar with The Who’s crazy live repertoire (my ignorance was in the minority) but I still feel the urge to point out the obvious: Keith Moon’s drumming is frantic and insane; John Entwistle has the coolest bass style of probably anyone to have ever played rock music; Pete Townshend conjures tones from his Hiwatt stacks that sound like demons riding a chainsaw; and Roger Daltrey supplies the perfect vocals to carry the band powerfully from song to song.

It’s good stuff. I wish more modern bands could compete with the raw, on-stage energy that The Who dish out consistently from track to track. It’s a total domination of the stage and audience, and it’s totally awesome even 40+ years later.

Music

Live at Leeds
UMM261825C

A 21st Century Crooner

Richard Hawley is one of those singer songwriters that after hearing a couple of his songs, you wonder why he’s not a bigger name in the music world (he’s British, so that may explain it). After a brief stint playing guitar for Britpop hit makers Pulp in the late nineties, he set off on a solo career, culminating in seven excellent albums of wistful pop ballads soaked in lyrical reflection and reverb. Hawley’s voice is his greatest asset. He croons a bit like a throwback torch singer, sad and road weary, almost a kind of British Sinatra but with less swagger and more working class grit. His old school, rockabilly look is also suggestive of the influence of Elvis. His newest album, a bit of a sonic departure from previous albums, is less intimate and feels as though his ambient songs of forlorn pining have given way to a louder, more rock and roll Hawley.

Music

Truelove's Gutter
EMM694172C

Cat Power: Sun

If you haven’t given this a spin because somebody mentioned a synthesizer, you are missing out. Sun is the ninth studio album from Cat Power, and for fans it has been a long six years since The Greatest, her last album of original work. Sun is definitely unique musically, but it is still every bit Cat Power. In many ways it feels lighter, but doesn’t lack any of the depth fans have come to expect. More than anything it is one of those albums that will sneak up on you, so you have to give it the chance.

Book

Cat Power “Sun”
cat-power-sun-cover
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Bargains from the Basement: Margaritaville

The cover of Jimmy Buffett’s Meet Me in Margaritaville says it’s “the ultimate collection.” I’m not sure if that’s true or not (he’s already had a “greatest hits” collection, a boxed set, and a slew of live albums), but it’s a decent representation of his work nonetheless, including nearly a full disc’s worth of new (2003) recordings – what he calls “a new coat of paint on some old favorites.” It’s cold and snowing outside (I’m pretending it’s not). Still, the Friends Bookstore was packed to the rafters with happy (and thrifty) “Black Friday” shoppers who were wisely taking advantage of the annual gift book sale. So I guess that makes Meet Me... a worthwhile collection for days just like this, when a good book and a trip to Margaritaville is in order. Thanks, Friends.


friends-logo-50.jpg

Consider this little series my own version of “Flea Market Finds,” an ongoing report of the latest bargains 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 a great cause, too. So shop often; you never know what you’ll find. And stay tuned… I’ll let you know what I find!

Book

Meet Me in Margaritaville
jimmy-buffett-margaritaville-cover-160
/friends/bookstore/

The Pumpkins Aren’t Just for Smashing Anymore

When a friend recently told me that he had some free tickets to see The Smashing Pumpkins at the Palace of Auburn Hills and asked if I wanted to go, my first response was "meh."  I love going to concerts, don't get me wrong, but I'm not a big fan of arena shows.  I'm more of a small-to-midsized venue kind of guy; I frequent the Orbit Room and the Intersection in Grand Rapids, for example.  Frankly, there aren't a lot of artists for whom I'm willing to make the long hike to Detroit or Chicago.  And while the Pumpkins were a band I enjoyed during my high school and college years, they haven't exactly done anything that I've cared about for a long, long time.  But my wife convinced me that it would be a fun night, so I acquiesced, and we went with my buddy to see the show.

Now, I'm the kind of guy who has more fun at concerts if I know the music, so I checked out their recent set lists online and discovered that they were starting their recent shows by playing their new album, Oceania, in its entirety from start to finish, followed by selections from the rest of their canon.  I hadn't heard anything off the new album apart from first single "The Celestials."  But not wanting to sit through an hour-and-a-half of music that I wasn't familiar with, I checked out Oceania from this very institution, and set about listening to it repeatedly over the next two days leading up to the concert.

I went in with low expectations; Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness were quintessential 90s masterpieces, but I never got much out of 1998's Adore or 2000's Machina/The Machines of God.  And following those releases, years of clashing egos, infighting, rotating membership, and the overall decline of sales ended up tearing the band apart.  And had that been the end of the chapter, the Pumpkins would have probably been remembered fondly as a band that burned bright and hot and quickly-one that left its mark on music history.  But front man (and driving creative force) Billy Corgan, a notoriously temperamental and grandiose personality, spent the next decade making it hard to love the Pumpkins.  He'd swear off the band and then reform with different members; he'd verbally attack old band mates in the press; he be dismissive of his audience in interviews; he even swore off making albums ever again, having declared it a "dead" format (he claims Oceania is merely a chunk of a planned 44-song cycle that is to be released as individual singles over a span of many years).  It became hard for a fan to separate the Pumpkins name with the megalomania of Corgan.  Much of this could have been forgiven if, say, any of the music that had trickled out over the years had been engrossing.

So it was to my surprise that, after a few listens, Oceania grew on me (the album is pronounced "oh-see-AN-ee-ya, not "o-SHUN-ee-ya" or how "ya'll pronounce it up here" as Corgan scolded at the show; I'm not entirely certain what Corgan meant by "up here," considering Detroit is not that much farther north latitudinally than his hometown of Chicago).  There are several standout songs, my favorites being "Panopticon," "My Love Is Winter," "Pinwheels," and "Glissandra."  The song titles and lyrics may be pretentious, but the music is energetic and, at times, ethereal.  It's easily the Pumpkins' most cohesive and satisfying effort since the late 90s.  And while Corgan seems to remain as frustrating and self-indulgent as ever, if he keeps creating music like he's done with Oceania, perhaps he can also make The Smashing Pumpkins relevant again.

Music

Oceania
10723246

Bargains from the Basement: Week 4

This week’s Friends Find was yet another tasty pair of audio CDs… this time from Little Feat. One of my biggest regrets (a nicer way of saying screw-up) was that I never saw Little Feat while Lowell George was alive. I had my chance when they played in Grand Rapids in 1978, but (for whatever reason) I missed that opportunity. Sad. Nonetheless, Feat have amassed an impressive body of recorded work—both with Lowell during the 1970s and during the band’s current “era” beginning in the 1990s—so there’s plenty of good listening available to help make up for my awful misfortune (feel sorry for me yet? …didn’t think so… ah, but such is life).

Anyway, the first find is Ripe Tomatos, a two disc compilation culled from rare live recordings made at both ends of Feat’s journey. Recently unearthed recordings from way back in ’71 and ’72, sweet acoustic performances two decades later, and more— two-and-a-half hours of ripe tomato-y bliss. The second set, Chinese Work Songs, was Feat’s first studio recording of the new millennium—thirty years after the first Little Feat record. (The liner notes tell us, “…it wasn’t made in china, it was recorded at a few places, but china ain’t one of them…”) Compositions penned by Robbie Robertson (The Band), Billy Payne, Paul Barrère, Trey Anastasio (Phish), Bob Dylan, and others are given the treatment as only this band can. Both sets are worthy and welcome additions to the li'l ol’ collection. Feats (and Friends) don’t fail me now.


friends-logo-50.jpg

Consider this little series my own version of “Flea Market Finds,” an ongoing report of the latest bargains 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 a great cause, too. So shop often; you never know what you’ll find. And stay tuned… I’ll let you know what I find!

Book

Little Feat
little-feat-covers-160
/friends/bookstore/

Grizzly Bear's Shields

The Brooklyn-based band Grizzly Bear began as a throwaway creative project for singer/guitarist Ed Droste who simply wanted to provide a name to his home recordings and musical tinkering. By 2004, a full fledge touring band had emerged, garnering positive reviews and fans alike. Combining electronic ambience with catchy and melodic folk pop that echoes a wide net of influences and sounds, their newest album Shields, is their most mature and complicated work to date. Songs are reverb-filled with everything but the kitchen sink layering of synthesizers, piano, banjo, acoustic/electric guitar, distorted drums and coupled with dreamy, hypnotic vocals. Arty noise as filtered through infectious pop songs would be an apt description of Grizzly Bear’s sonic vision. Stand out tracks include Sleeping Ute, Half Gate and Yet Again.

Music

Shields
10004055

 


The Comeback Album of 2012

Even the most diehard music aficionados probably couldn’t tell you who Bill Fay was up until a month ago (I certainly couldn’t), before he and his music began to pop up in places like Mojo Magazine and NPR. Fay is a British singer-songwriter who comes from a long and storied list of forgotten or historically marginalized musicians whose little known work grew out of the legitimating influence of the artist appreciation network. This is how it works: the cult legend finds a famous rock-star like Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy (Tweedy has covered Fay’s songs in the past) to provide you a song of his own that you can cover (Jesus Etc.) and duet with him on your long awaited, comeback album. Your street cred will blow up and your Youtube hits will soar because of everyone wanting to go back in time (or at least to the internet) to listen to all of those great songs that you wrote that everyone had originally forsaken at the time of their release.

Fay’s early 70’s albums sound eerily like a melodic fusion of Dylan (if he played piano) and Wilco’s more plaintive tunes. They tend to be somewhat downbeat and often echo the sound of a lost but brilliant soul trying to stay true to his art while the music industry closes its door on his vision. Fay’s new album Life is People is worth a listen and has a much more upbeat vibe to it than his brooding material from long ago. Here is Fay's heartbreaking rendition of the Wilco song.

Book

Life is people
bill-fay-cover
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Bargains from the Basement: Week 3

Some recording artists are perfectly at home in the studio, while others are best known for their work on the concert stage. The Dave Matthews Band it seems is both. This week’s fortunate Friends Find is another sweet pair… two double live sets from the Dave Matthews Band, both recorded during the band’s 2010 summer tour. Live in New York City finds the band at Citi Field in Flushing, NY, on July 17th, while the other documents the final show of the tour two months later on September 18th at Chicago’s historic Wrigley Field. Both are superbly recorded and the performances are exceptional. 5 hours of great music for six bucks… how could I go wrong? It’s good to have Friends!


friends-logo-50.jpg

Consider this little series my own version of “Flea Market Finds,” an ongoing report of the latest bargains 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 a great cause, too. So shop often; you never know what you’ll find. And stay tuned… I’ll let you know what I find!

Book

Dave Matthews Band
dmb-live-160
/friends/bookstore/

Bargains from the Basement: Week 1

Richie Furay’s 2006 release, The Heartbeat of Love, was this week’s worthwhile find at the Friends Bookstore. Ten tunes written by Richie and Scott Sellen, plus two old Poco standbys, performed with help from a bunch of familiar friends; Timothy B. Schmidt, Neil Young, Kenny Loggins, Paul Cotton, Sam Bush, Stephen Stills, and others. No new musical territory here; just a worthwhile batch of nicely executed Southern California country rock tunes. If you ever spin the likes of Poco, Buffalo Springfield, Eagles, or Loggins & Messina, this would fit right in. And it even came packaged in a nifty hardbound mini-book – definitely a worthwhile find!


friends-logo-50.jpg

Consider this little series the KPL equivalent of “Flea Market Finds,” an ongoing report of the latest bargains 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 a great cause, too. So shop often; you never know what you’ll find. And stay tuned… I’ll let you know what I find!

Book

Heartbeat of Love
heartbeat-of-love-cover-160
http://www.richiefuray.com/album/heartbeat-of-love/

Dive Into Oshin

If you love a good, bright melody like I do, check out the band Diiv’s new album titled Oshin. The vocals and lyrics are intentionally opaque and buried below the shimmering mix of reverb-doused guitar. This allows for the blossoming of these glistening, dream pop songs to unfold and unfold they do with hypnotic success. Oshin will be on my end of year list of the best music of 2012. Sounds Like: Real Estate, The Cure, War on Drugs, and Tristeza.

Music

Oshin
10735982

Add These Albums to Your Best of 2012 List

Father John Misty is the musical moniker of Josh Tillman, the former drummer of Seattle band Fleet Foxes. Like his former band of bearded Pacific Northwest naturalists, Father John knows how to construct moody melodies and textured folk rock that may sound akin to his former band’s harmony-rich folk pop but listen with a more attentive ear and the tracks on Fear Fun tend to stir up a playful tone that sounds lived in, messy and altogether more quarrelsome with its darker vision than the earnestness that permeates the music of Fleet Foxes. Check him out on a recent appearance on the Letterman Show. 

Cat Power’s newest release Sun (release date of September 4th) feels much more produced than her previous work. There is a synth-heavy reliance on arrangements that compliment her fantastic voice and minimalist approach to songwriting. Fans of her album Moon Pix will appreciate the several songs that reflect that album’s economical approach to melody and rhythm.

Music

Fear Fun
10724680

 


Back to the Future of Music

Many consider music today completely derivative of the past. Artists are not creating anything that is truly unique. I totally disagree. Check out these artists who have produced unique spins on classic styles. All of the CDS are debut efforts and do not require a Flux Capacitor.

Boys & Girls by Alabama Shakes – Lead singer Brittany Howard’s voice is packed with the perfect combination of soul and rock that will immediately knock you out of your chair. She is backed by an amazing band and together they are reintroducing new listeners to the unique power of good old fashion rock straight from the southern swamps. Best tracks: Hold On, I Found You, Hang Loose, I Ain’t the Same, Heavy Chevy

My Head is an Animal by Of Monsters and Men – This six-piece band from Iceland formed just to enter a national battle of the bands competition in 2010. The band’s sound is huge and monstrous – lush harmonies, surging guitars and one big horn all come together attack your senses. It is folk-rock that comes at you full on. Best tracks: Little Talks, Dirty Paws, Mountain Sound, Slow and Steady

Signs & Signifiers by JD McPherson – Does this guy own a time machine? I have been looking for days at old Rock n’ Roll photos from the 50’s to see if I could find him in the background. McPherson is a former punk rocker turned rockabilly is bopping out music similar to Buddy Holly, Little Richard and Chuck Berry. He used vintage equipment and microphones on his debut to take you on a trip to the past. Best tracks: North Side Gal, Fire Bug, B.G.M.O.S.R.N.R., Scandalous

Book

Signs & Signifiers
jd-mcpherson-cover-160
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Dymaxion Mothership has Landed

This is an ambitious aural excursion that you really owe it to yourself to experience. But be warned, this isn’t your typical singer-songwriter verse-chorus-verse stuff. Bill Caskey’s Dymaxion Mothership takes the listener on a complex journey across a lush audio landscape that ranges from contemplative voice and piano to full-on multi-instrumental madness. Some parts are complex and challenging, while other bits are… well… as Buddy Guy once put it, “so funky you can smell it.” Tempo changes are around every corner and the production is superb. Bill’s lyrics are chock full of quirky wit and introspective wordsmanship, creatively weaving imaginative tales of love and life; dreams, a small town in the summertime, and dogs chasing dragonflies. The overall result is a carefully crafted musical journey that’s anything but ordinary.

“My doggie like to chase dem dinosaurs
She plays for sport even though she never scores
Barn swallows hunting bugs in the springtime
She jumps up and tries to utilize her hang time
Barn swallows slip and glide
Doggie tongue hangin’ out the side…”

Musical similarities? Sure, some of the obvious influences creep in here and there… “Hey Alligator” has an undeniable Steeler’s Wheel feel about it (remember those guys?), “Biggest Heart” could have been on Wally De Backer’s (Gotye) last album, and echoes of old school Steely Dan linger throughout… but the final outcome is all of these things… and yet none of them actually. Dymaxion Mothership is an intensely rich and remarkably satisfying original musical experience. Climb aboard the Mothership… it’s an outing you don’t want to miss.

In case you didn’t know (shame on you!), The Relations (including Bill Caskey) put on a July concert at Central Library featuring material from Dymaxion Mothership. The concert is now up in its entirety on KPL’s YouTube channel and our Concert Archives page.

Book

Dymaxion Mothership
dymaxion-mothership-160

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The Jersey Sound

Frankie Valli and the Four (4) Seasons made their mark on the popular music charts in the early 1960’s, combining heavily orchestrated melodies with doo-wop vocal harmonies. With his broad vocal range and unmistakable pipes, Valli helped the group score hit after hit, including such pop standards (aka “oldies”) as Big Girls Don’t Cry, Sherry, Walk Like a Man, Dawn (Go Away), Ronnie, The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore, and Working My Way Back To You. Recent interest in the group has come about recently due to the success of the Broadway production of Jersey Boys. Check out Frankie Valli and the 4 Seasons: The Definitive Pop Collection for an introduction to their timeless hits.

Music

Frankie Valli and the 4 seasons
WEM411022C

45 at 45: Respect

Otis Redding wrote it, but Aretha Franklin owned it – “Respect”, one of the biggest radio and jukebox sensations of 1967, topped both Billboard Hot 100 and Hot R’n’B charts mid-year, reigning supreme on the latter for almost two months. The track cemented the Detroit native’s standing as the “Queen of Soul”, proving its potency as both a civil rights anthem and a dance floor phenomenon.

The Big O’s original Stax version, framed simply as a lover’s question, is a classic in its own right. Pleading being one of Redding’s strongest suits as a vocalist, it’s only natural that his request for “respect when I come home” is less demanding than begging, a “need” that he’s “gotta, gotta have”, never sounding sure that he’s going to get satisfaction as the track fades.

Aretha’s having none of that in her updated NYC arrangement, featuring infectious girl-group vocal support from her sisters Carolyn and Erma, as well as a sweet King Curtis sax break. Standing the nature of the lyric on its head, her assertion that “what you want, baby, I got it” is shouted out with absolute confidence. Adding a lyric not found in Redding’s version, Franklin drives the point home by spelling out “R-E-S-P-E-C-T”, in case it wasn’t clear, adding “find out what it means to me” as an emphatic imperative. The lover’s question has become a statement of purpose, writ large enough to put not just one person on notice, but any and every person within earshot.

"Respect”’s cultural resonance was immediate and lasting. The song’s refrains of “sock it to me” and “TCB” became all-American catch phrases overnight. In addition to earning numerous awards and consistently high rankings on critics’ “greatest songs” lists, it was among the first 25 recordings to be included in the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry in 2002. A signature song of the civil rights movement, the feminist movement, and Aretha’s storied career, “Respect” deserves all its accolades, truly getting what it’s after play after play.

Music

I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You
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Master of My Make-Believe

Santigold's music straddles genres--punk, hip-hop, pop, new wave--it's all there.  Her influences range from Devo to Nigerian musician Fela Kuti to James Brown.  She's collaborated with Kanye West and Lykke Li, the Beastie Boys, and Mark Ronson among others.  Her style is hard to define, but she's just so darn cool.  After waiting four years since her last album, 2008's Santogold, which I listened to nearly nonstop for months, I'm pleased to finally hear her second album Master of My Make-Believe Like her first album, Master of my Make-Believe is a genre-blending, layered work of art that you can dance to.  My favorite tracks include the single "Disparate Youth" and the first track "Go," a collaboration with the Yeah Yeah Yeah's Karen O that will make you bob your head.  Listen to it at least twice--the more you hear it, the more you'll discover.   

Music

Master of My Make-Believe
10718426

 


Songs of Summer

Do you have a list of songs that simply remind you of summer or that you dust off from their Winter hibernation to crank out on your car stereo or I-pod? I like to have a couple of compact disc mixes in my car that feature some of my go-to tracks as I trek to the lake or head to the backyard cookout. What are your favorite summertime anthems?

Pavement's Cut Your Hair

The Faces' Ooh La La

The Chi-lites' Oh Girl

Michael Jackson's I Wanna Be Where You Are

The Descendents' Silly Girl

Big Star's Thirteen

Stevie Wonder's My Cherie Amor

Seals and Croft's Summer Breeze

Wilco's She's a Jar

Best Coast's Our Deal

Neil Young's Out on the Weekend

Crowded House's Don't Dream It's Over

Hall and Oates' Kiss on My List

Santo and Johnny's Blue Moon, Teardrop and Sleepwalking

Music

Summerteeth
10174692

   


No 45 at 45: The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper

In the spring of 1967, rock and roll’s primary medium was the 45 RPM single. On the first of June, the Beatles changed all that with the highly anticipated release of their Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band LP. Though no contemporary single releases were culled from the album, its songs were given heavy AM radio airplay, at a time when FM stations were few, far between, and “underground”. Through the airwaves, those songs – including “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds”, “When I’m Sixty-four”, and “With a Little Help From my Friends” - burrowed their way into the collective memories of all who recall those heady first days of the “summer of love”.

Touted as rock’s first “concept” LP (though I’d give that nod to the Flamingos’ 1959 magnum opus, Flamingo Serenade), the record is presented as a concert program, featuring the imaginary band for which the album’s named. The program encompasses all varieties of music – take in the symphonic grandeur of “She’s Leaving Home”, the loopy circus march of “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite”, and the Indian classicism of “Within You Without You”, among them. The band begins and ends the program with its own theme, leaving the audience with the mind-altering encore that is “A Day in the Life”. The broad stylistic brush with which the Beatles (and producer George Martin) crafted the LP may be the reason it received near-unanimous praise from “serious” music critics who’d previously disdained rock and roll’s perceived juvenilia. This critical success ensured the band even greater listenership, and ushered in the era when “rock and roll” morphed into “rock”.

Even without a 45 release (or due to the lack of one?), the LP sold strongly, placing it at number one on the Billboard 200 LP chart for 15 weeks in a row. The album it knocked out of the top slot - the Monkees' Headquarters – also contained no 45 sides. Though the “Prefab Four”’s third LP was recorded without the benefit of backing tracks crafted by session men - in partial response to charges against the band's phoniness - its intimate construct was no match for the epic studio production ascribed to the Beatles’ alter-egos.

Sgt. Pepper regularly tops “best albums of the ‘60’s” or “best albums of all-time” lists, if not always ranking at the top of Beatles’ fans' LP lists. (My own fave is Revolver.) Peter Blake’s legendary LP cover has inspired homage and parody countless times. Celebrations of (and attacks on) the LP can be found in numerous books, articles, and blog posts. What really counts is the music included. If you haven’t yet discovered Sgt. Pepper for yourself, check it out… it may become the soundtrack to your own “new summer of love”.

Music

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
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Flannel Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

My friend Chad is as fanatical about music as I am, and he and I recently began a tradition where every time we meet, we bring an album from our own collection that we think the other person should give a listen.  Then the next time we're together we talk about what we heard, how we felt about it, and exchange a new CD.  [EDITOR'S NOTE: If you were born in the last decade or so, a "CD" or "compact disc" is something on which old people bought music before the Internet made purchasing tangible objects uncool.]  Swapping music allows us to introduce each other to certain artists or albums that might be of interest to the other, and sometimes it offers insight into our own personal experiences.  Often it sparks great discussions about particular eras of music, as it did recently when we each began trying to assemble a list of the best albums of the 1990s.  [EDITOR'S NOTE:  If you recently learned what a "compact disc" is, then you'll probably need to know that the "1990s" was a decade that happened a reeeeally long time ago.  Just Google "Hammer pants."]

The 90s was a big decade for Chad and I - it's when we "came of age."  [EDITOR'S NOTE:  "Coming of age" means the period of time during which a person matures from being a child into young adult.  Often this involves going off into the woods with your childhood friends to find a dead body and poke it with a stick.]  It was the halcyon days of Gen-X, witness to the birth of grunge, and it introduced to the world to the term "alternative" as a genre (which very quickly became a misnomer).   Music is a crucial part of both our lives, and while I don't have a completed list to show - I'm still working on it - I thought I'd reveal some of the albums that will be making my list.  Perhaps if any of them are ones with which you're not familiar, you could check them out, give 'em a few spins, and let me know what you think.

To start, you can't talk about the 90s without mentioning the highly influential artists who shaped the grunge and alternative scenes.  Of course the poster boys for grunge were Nirvana; Nevermind will definitely hold a high spot on my list, and In Utero will probably be on there somewhere as well.  Pearl Jam were also alt-rock trailblazers; Ten will likely rank higher than its name and Vs. will probably crack the top twenty.  Smashing Pumpkins' Siamese Dream will be highly ranked; Chad's also fond of Mellon Collie & the Infinite Sadness.  Live's Throwing Copper is a classic, as is Stone Temple Pilots' Purple.  I have a hard time choosing whether I like Alice in Chains' Facelift or Dirt more.

Other popular rock albums that are likely to make my best-of list are Radiohead's OK Computer, Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill, Blues Traveler's Four, U2's Achtung Baby, Collective Soul's Dosage, and the Indigo Girls' Rites of PassageJeff Buckley's Grace blows my mind every time I hear it.  On the heavier side, there's Metallica's self-titled "black" album, Megadeth's Rust in Peace, Queensryche's Empire, and Monster Magnet's Powertrip.

Some of my favorite artists had their best albums in the 90s.  Tori Amos gave us Little Earthquakes and Under the Pink; Our Lady Peace put out Naveed and Clumsy; Toad the Wet Sprocket had Fear and Dulcinea.  Let's not forget the Counting Crows, who had the one-two punch of August and Everything After and Recovering the Satellites.  I can't even begin to figure out how to rank the Dave Matthews Band's Under the Table and Dreaming, Crash, and Before These Crowded Streets.  And, of course, giving them all competition for a top slot is the genius that is Nine Inch Nails' The Downward Spiral.

There are plenty more I haven't mentioned, but if you're not familiar with any of them, I suggest checking them out.  They will be a good starting point for either a trip down memory lane or a music history lesson-depending on whether or not you're from the generation that was born attached to a smartphone.  [EDITOR'S NOTE:  If you don't know what a "smartphone" is, chances are you've wandered away from the home and the nurses are worried sick because you're overdue for your medicine.  How on Earth did you figure out how to use this computer?]  Meanwhile, please use the comments section below to share some of your favorite albums from the 90s.  Chad and I are always looking for exciting music to discuss.

 

Music

Nevermind
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Licensed to Celebrate

When Adam “MCA” Yauch of the Beastie Boys died of cancer at the age of 47 on May 4, I immediately remembered when I first heard the band’s breakthrough release Licensed to Ill. I was working at a small town record store in a commuter town just outside of Detroit and it was standard practice for record companies to send music for in store promotion. When I unboxed that week’s offerings, I was immediately drawn not only to the iconic image of an airplane, but also the band’s name. Immediately I tore off the shrink wrap and dropped the needle on the vinyl. Until that moment I had no interest in rap or hip-hop, but the Beastie Boys’ rhymes instantly stole away my 15 year-old disdain for this style of music. MCA’s gruff atypical rap style on the record specifically drew me into Licensed to Ill. When he raps “That hypocrite smokes two packs a day…” on “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party),” MCA was letting me know that he sympathized with the mixed messages adults often dispense. There is really not a weak track on this record and for years the cassette was a constant companion as I traversed the hell that was adolescence. “Paul Revere,” “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” and “Girls” were all played at high volumes that year. After hearing of Yauch’s death I celebrated his contribution to both music and my teen years by driving down Westnedge Ave., “Brass Monkey” blasting from my car.

Book

Beastie Boys
adam-yauch-4672-160
http://www.catalog.kpl.gov/uhtbin/cgisirsi/x/0/0/5?searchdata1=beastie+boys&library=BRANCHES&language=ANY&format=ANY&item_type=ANY&location=ANY&match_on=KEYWORD&item_1cat=ANY&item_2cat=ANY&sort_by=-PBYR

The Blooming of Beach House

The two-piece band from Baltimore, Beach House, just gets better and better with each new album. Their newest release (May), the hypnotic Bloom, possesses a poise and astuteness that builds upon their previous work but that now also exhibits a fully realized sound of their own without any trace of trepidation or pandering. The songs on Bloom are sweetly coated with a luster of shimmering reverb, beautiful melodies and thoughtfully crafted lyrics that shift from the abstract image to the wistful. Beach House’s sonic pallet mixes the indulgence of despair and sadness with heartening melodies that allow for songs to flower from a place of murky, melancholic stasis to an enchanted dreamland of  unique splendor. Fans of the Cocteau Twins, The Cure, and My Bloody Valentine will appreciate Bloom’s woozy exquisiteness. Check out the entire album for a limited time at NPR.org or reserve it now through the KPL catalog. Author Search: Beach House.

Music

Bloom
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Bright Lights

I stumbled upon Gary Clark Jr., and his new EP Bright Lights, by chance one night, in the midst of viewing clips from one of the recent Crossroads guitar festivals (hosted by Eric Clapton). In all honesty, I’m not easily impressed by most young blues and blues-rock guitarists. They have a nasty habit of sounding very rehashed and generic to me, lacking authenticity and individuality in their sound. Gary, however, blew me over immediately with all the right vibes.

The sound is something like a swirl of R&B meets Hendrix, with even a little bit of Hip-Hop flair thrown in occasionally for good measure. The riffs also aren’t afraid to dance into the territory of Midwest rock bands like The White Stripes and The Black Keys. The man and his music have some serious “swag”; there’s no denying that. It’s the kind of sound that just oozes with credibility and legitimacy.

Gary’s clearly not trying to be anyone other than himself, and it shows. As a result, I’ve come to realize that Gary is now one of my favorite electric guitarists in the “young-gun”, 40 and under age bracket (one of my bandmates being my other main favorite, but I’m going to just say he doesn’t count…for now).

In short: Gary's definitely worth checking out if you're into something unique, soulful, and all types of awesome!

Book

The bright lights EP
gary-clark-ep-160
http://www.catalog.kpl.gov/uhtbin/cgisirsi/x/0/0/5?searchdata1=gary+clark{AU}+AND+bright+lights{TI}&library=BRANCHES&language=ANY&format=ANY&item_type=ANY&location=ANY&match_on=KEYWORD&item_1cat=ANY&item_2cat=ANY&sort_by=-PBYR

Sleigh Bells

The Sleigh Bells have a very simplistic, musical formula: borrow heavily from the metal school of big, catchy guitar riffs (see: Slayer), loop in some heavy, pre-recorded beats and synthesizers for a rhythmic foundation, and finish things off with a not-as-good-as-Karen O vocalist, who goes back in forth between cooing and singing and you have their first two albums (Treats and Reign of Terror). I suspect that a third record of similar songs constructed with this formula will likely lose its short-term, hipster fizz but for now, if you’re looking for catchy, vacuous, Summertime anthems that meet today's zeitgeist requirements, then check out this buzzed about two-piece from Brooklyn. Best song—End of the Line.

Music

Reign of terror
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Night of The Hunter

It was the Library & Information Sciences that set me on the path to becoming a massive fan of the progressive metal band Mastodon.  While I was getting my graduate degree, I did an audiovisual purchasing project that involved selecting and budgeting for materials that would be desirable to add to a library’s collection based on such factors as expected demographical popularity, cultural significance, and critical acclaim.  This involved a lot of research and reading of reviews for recent movies and music, and one of the items that kept popping up on my radar was an album called Crack the Skye by the aforementioned sludge rockers.  Feedback for the release was phenomenal, and it was carrying an impressively high average score at critical aggregator site Metacritic.  So when I saw the CD at Target for ten bucks, I snapped it up, figuring my metal-loving ears would investigate the buzz for themselves.

And love it I did.  Skye is a concept album with seven songs, a couple of which run over ten minutes, and its story has something to do with astral projection, wormholes, Tsarist Russia, and a paraplegic who ends up in the body of Rasputin—exactly the kind of bizarrely ridiculous plot that makes prog rock so wonderfully enjoyable.  I was hooked from the very first opening track, “Oblivion,” through the last note of the last song called “The Last Baron.”  I had heard one or two songs of Mastodon’s before—I think an older single called “Colony of Birchmen” was on Rock Band—but from what I could tell, Skye represented a leap forward in maturity, accessibility, and ambition.  The songwriting was intricate, the guitar work masterful, and each song was a uniquely memorable piece of the overall puzzle.

Mastodon followed up Skye with last year’s The Hunter, an album that I listed as one of the best albums of 2011 right here on KPL’s website.  I’ve been listening to it consistently since it came out, and the more time I spend with it, the more I’m convinced it’s one of the best metal albums in a decade.  The sound is more stripped down than on previous releases and the songwriting is more nuanced.  There’s not a moment of filler on the album, as each track has a distinct ferocity, powerful lyrics, and a rich hook.  My wife and I had the pleasure of seeing Mastodon perform at the Intersection in Grand Rapids this past Saturday night where they played all but one track off the album.  They blew the roof off the place and I was a happy, happy headbanger.

So if you’re a metal fan (or like your alternative rock on the heavy side), check out The Hunter and Crack the Skye.  I’m starting to work my way through their older material now—and loving every minute of it!

Music

The Hunter
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45 at 45: A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You

The Monkees’ first chart hit featuring Davy Jones as lead singer, “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You”, was also the last of its kind. Featuring no musical input from any of the band members other than its vocalist’s, the single’s pre-fabricated nature was at odds with the group’s growing interest in having more creative input, as writers and musicians, on their own recordings.

Assembled in 1966 to star in a TV series about the fictional exploits of a struggling rock combo, the Monkees were considered actors first and foremost, despite their musical credentials. Music biz veteran Don Kirshner provided the music for the first season’s episodes and related record releases. Working under his supervision, Brill Building tunesmiths crafted pop confections honed to perfection in the recording studio by a who’s who of ace session musicians. With few exceptions, the Monkees’ only contributions to these tracks – distinctly appealing as they are – were their vocal tracks.

The formula proved so successful, demand for live appearances by the band grew, and the fictional band found themselves becoming an active performing unit by the start of the new year. Prepared to record their songs as their own instrumental accompanists, the band was surprised to discover that Kirshner had released his production of the Neil Diamond-penned “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” as a 45 without their permission. This move led to Kirshner’s dismissal as musical supervisor of the Monkees project, and paved the way for the band’s first recordings on their own.

This behind-the-scenes drama went unnoticed at the time, and Monkees fans sent the single up the charts by mid-spring of 1967. While the band’s next recordings didn’t abandon the sunshine pop sounds that helped establish them, a wider range of styles and experimentation would begin to appear on their records, especially once their TV series ended after its second season. Pre-fab or homegrown, the consistency of the band’s recordings defines a true “Monkees sound”, and “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” is one of its best examples.

Music

I'm a Believer and Other Hits
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This is not a Music review.

I was thrilled to finally check out the newest CD from electronic music legend Thomas Dolby, A Map of the Floating City, but not because I wanted to hear his new music. The reason was the album cover because it was designed by local artist and award-winning comic creator, Paul Sizer. Dolby could not have selected a better designer than Sizer to create a cover that conveyed his feeling of a “dystopian vision of the 1940s that might have existed had WWII turned out a lot differently.” Sizer has a strong history of crafting books like Little White Mouse and Moped Army, with bleak futures that contain strong characters not only struggling for survival, but also fighting for what is right. His “steampunk” style of art works extremely well with Dolby’s theme for the CD. It will remind you classic pulp fiction that Sizer has expertly updated for today’s fan. Paul can now add awesome album cover designer to his resume. I will now go listen to the CD.

Book

A Map of the Floating City
a-map-of-the-floating-city-160
http://www.catalog.kpl.gov/uhtbin/cgisirsi/x/0/0/5?searchdata1=a+map+of+the+floating+city+AND+thomas+dolby{AU}&library=BRANCHES&language=ANY&format=ANY&item_type=ANY&location=ANY&match_on=KEYWORD&item_1cat=ANY&item_2cat=ANY&sort_by=-PBYR 

The Paris Sisters

The Paris Sisters were the first girl group that Phil Spector produced (1961-62) prior to his working with more well known groups like The Ronettes. This collection is a real treat for those who love Spector-produced albums and those strings-heavy, pop songs about boyfriends, heartache and falling in love for the first time. The album culls together for the first time, all of the A and B-side singles from this influential group that with the help of  the eccentric Spector and his talent for production, kick started the Wall of Sound style that became Spector’s trademark during the early 1960’s.

Music

The Paris Sisters: Complete Phil Spector Sessions
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A Mix, Circa 2003

Last month one of my closest friends and I met up in Chicago. She drove down from Minneapolis, bringing with her a mix cd I’d made during our first year of college. We’ve been friends since third grade and hadn’t spent much time apart before heading off for college, so going to schools approximately 1000 miles apart was an adjustment. The mix is a collection of our favorite songs from junior high and high school. After listening to the mix while driving around Chicago, I wish I’d included some of our favorite songs from elementary school, which probably would’ve been mostly Boyz II Men and show tunes. We were pretty big fans of Bette Midler.

Here is a selection of songs from that mix:

April Fools” – Rufus Wainwright

Anthems for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl” – Broken Social Scene

Stay Where You Are” – Sleater-Kinney

2:45AM” – Elliott Smith

Electioneering” – Radiohead

Midnight A Go-Go” – Beat Happening

Never is a Promise” – Fiona Apple

Teen Age Riot” – Sonic Youth

Legal Man” – Belle and Sebastian

Finale” – Bikini Kill

Music

Elliott Smith Either Or
REY026925C


Old Ideas

Fans of Canadian singer-songwriter and poet Leonard Cohen are anxiously awaiting the release of Leonard’s new release, Old Ideas, his 12th studio album and his first since 2004. With a career that spans more than four decades and fresh from almost three years of relentless touring, Cohen (now 77) presents a new body of work that is as introspective and intensely sweet as anything he’s done to date. Somewhat reminiscent of recordings by the late John Campbell, the album’s dark bluesy feel and Cohen’s deep-throated growl puts this release in a class with recent works by Tom Waits and Bob Dylan—dark, sure, but reassuringly soothing and warm.

Old Ideas is scheduled for release on January 31st, so reserve your copy now. Can’t wait to hear it? NPR lets you listen to Old Ideas in its entirety right now! Go give it a listen. Sometimes, Old Ideas are some of the best ideas.

Music

Old Ideas
CMJ867123C

Fruit Bats(2)

My first exposure to the music of the Fruit Bats was from watching the movie Our Idiot Brother. Lead singer Eric D. Johnson’s fresh rendition of the hammy Tie A Yellow Ribbon Around the Ole Oak Tree led me to their record Tripper. Textured folk rock melded to catchy, Beatlesesque melodies (see: The Shins) is what the Bats bring to the table. There’s nothing particularly pioneering about Tripper, nothing that will blow your mind, but sometimes you’re not always going to be in the mood for creative complexity and artistic innovation. Sometimes you just want a catchy jam to get stuck in your head. For other groups who aren’t necessarily re-inventing the musical wheel but who continue to make smart, appealing records worthy of your I-Pod, see: The War on Drugs, Real Estate, Dr. Dog, Vetiver, and Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks. Here's one of the best tracks from Tripper and a stylistic nod to 1980's videos.

Music

Tripper
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The Black Keys Are Back!

While The Black Keys have had a committed fan base since the release of their first album in 2002, The Big Come Up, it wasn’t until the success of their 2010 release of Brothers that the band really took off. Three Grammys later, and over 847,000 albums sold, “The Keys” are back to release what is perhaps their most awaited album yet, El Camino.

The album’s hype may be entirely new to the band, but the music found within it is strongly rooted in sounds The Black Keys have been creating since the beginning. El Camino is drenched in the tones of raw, overdriven guitars, and hard-pounding drums. This is a very “earthy” sort of blues-rock.

Yet, the album also remains incredibly soulful. Dan Auerbach’s vocals are routinely backed up with a choir of harmonies on choruses, and no song is ever too far removed from the next great organ accompaniment. It’s the use of these small, subtle sound arrangements that give El Camino its style and keep the listener coming back for repeat plays.

Some fans of early Keys material have complained that the album sounds too slick and overproduced, possibly as a result of working with legendary producer Danger Mouse. However, the core of what makes The Black Keys sound is definitely still intact on El Camino, even if the production has evolved somewhat from their humble beginnings. Think of it as a fresh, new coat of paint on an otherwise old and changeless factory building, sitting somewhere near the rough side of town.

Let’s hope The Black Keys are a structure that will remain standing for a very long time.

Check out “Lonely Boy,” “Gold on the Ceiling,” “Little Black Submarines,” or “Run Right Back” if you’re ready to get the jams started!

Music

El camino [sound recording]
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Favorite Tracks from 2011

Soon, KPL patrons will have the opportunity to examine and critique our staff-produced Best of 2011 lists for movies, books and music. This caused me to think back over the year about great songs that had left their mark. Though, I’m sure there are other musical gems that could easily be considered favorites, here are several quality songs that I've picked from the slew of great rock releases this year.

FFunny Friends by Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Pinky’s Dream by David Lynch, featuring Karen O

County Line by Cass McCombs

Music

Wit's End

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Ready Player One Playlist

I will admit that after reading the description of Ernest Cline’s new book, Ready Player One all of my inner-geek alarms went to Red Alert! Any science fiction novel with video game, movie, TV, role playing game and music references directly from the 1980’s is a book I want to read. Cline did not fail me and has written easily one of the most entertaining books of the year. You can read Teen Librarian, Stewart Fritz’s excellent review of the novel to learn about the story, but I want to talk about the music.

Cline did a magnificence job of mining the rich music of the decade that helped usher in the popularity of hip-hop, indie, new wave, and techno. I could not help but craft a playlist of the great tracks featured in the book.


1. Wild Boys – Duran Duran
2. Beds Are Burning – Midnight Oil
3. Blue Monday – New Order
4. Union of the Snake – Duran Duran
5. Rebel Yell – Billy Idol
6. James Brown Is Dead – L.A. Style
7. Time After Time – Cyndi Lauper
8. Atomic – Blondie
9. A Million Miles Away – The Plimsouls
10. Change – John Waite
11. Rock Me Amadeus – Falco
12. In Your Eyes – Peter Gabriel
13. In My Dreams – Dokken
14. Pac-Man Fever – Buckner & Garcia
15. Tank – Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelts
16. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap – AC/DC
17. Subdivisions - Rush

Book

Ready player one : a novel
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Sometimes It IS Easy Being Green

I am a grown man in his thirties with no children and I can unabashedly say that my most anticipated pop culture event of 2011 is the forthcoming movie The Muppets.  Both my wife and I were raised watching The Muppet Show, which aired from 1976 to 1981, and we developed a deep appreciation for creator  Jim Henson’s sense of humor, which managed to cater to both children and adults while remaining cheekily subversive.  Other Muppets projects like Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, Muppet Babies, The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth were all enduring, but between the original TV show and the first three feature films (The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper and The Muppets Take Manhattan), our hearts belonged to Kermit and the gang.

But after the shocking death of Henson in 1990, quality control of the Muppet brand went downhill.  Suddenly, the Muppets were being plugging into existing stories like A Christmas Carol, Treasure Island and The Wizard of Oz.  These puppet-infused literary adaptations lacked true imagination and creativity—two things the Muppets themselves had long represented.  Ownership of the Muppets changed hands a few times.  During these dark days, it was most certainly not easy being green.

And then, sometime at the end of the 00s, a potential (and unlikely) savior emerged for the Muppets: a comic actor known for his goofy charm and often crude sense of humor named Jason Segel.  The How I Met Your Mother star had just come off the success of the film Forgetting Sarah Marshall.  Wanting to capitalize on his cachet, Hollywood suits approached him and asked what he wanted to do for his next project.  And of all things, he said he wanted to make a Muppet movie.  Turns out, Segel, too, grew up watching the variety show and missed the days when Kermit and Co. had been relevant and irreverent.  Disney, who had purchased the brand, was more than happy to oblige.  That film, loaded with guest stars and smart humor, opens November 23rd and will hopefully re-launch Henson’s greatest creations back into the pop culture zeitgeist.  I, for one, will be there opening day.

In the meantime, however, Disney has taken a step towards promoting the film by gathering together a group of alternative artists and producing Muppets: The Green Album.  This collection puts a modern spin on some of the Muppets most beloved songs.  Weezer and Paramore’s Hayley Williams perform “The Rainbow Connection,” alt-rock group The Fray pulls off the catchy “Mahna Mahna,” and My Morning Jacket covers “Our World.”  Other artists featured are Andrew Bird (“Bein’ Green”), Matt Nathanson (“I Hope that Something Better Comes Along”) and The Airborne Toxic Event (“Wishing Song”).  But the albums best songs belong to Alkaline Trio’s fast-paced road song “Movin’ Right Along,” Sondre Lerche’s groovy “Mr. Bassman” and the ever-inventive OK Go’s cover of the “Muppet Show theme song.”  (Check out their video below.) 

Green is great for nostalgic fans as well as being a fantastic introduction for a new generation of Muppet enthusiasts.  I can only hope that Segel has succeeded in making the Fuzzy Ones witty and inventive again.  Even though I still have over a month of anticipation before the movie comes out, this album is helping to get me through the wait.

 

Music

Muppets: The Green Album
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One of the Year's Best Rock Records

The sound of San Francisco band Girls is one both familiar and refreshingly new. It’s one of those records that harkens back to older influences (Pink Floyd, Elvis Costello, Spiritualized, British Invasion era Pop) while retaining a bright and contemporary energy that comes through these well written songs. There are plenty of beautiful ballads full of melodic tunefulness sutured together with a variety of instrumentation (flutes, acoustic guitar, keyboards, back up singers), not to mention the occasional, soaring guitar solo. But there are also a few up-tempo, catchy pop songs to contrast with the more contemplative numbers. This record will definitely be on my best of the year list.

Music

Father, son, holy ghost
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Night of Hunters

For her latest album, Night of HuntersTori Amos delved into the world of classical music to find inspiration.  There are no guitars or drums here and no radio-friendly singles; the piano is paired with strings and woodwinds to create a whole-album experience where one song flows into the next.  It is to me, in a word, beautiful.   Night of Hunters is highly conceptualized; it uses the story of a dissolving relationship to discuss themes of creation and destruction, the hunter and the hunted, within everyone.  The lyrics are full of natural imagery and references to Celtic mythology, both of which fit very well with the classically-inspired music.  It may not be for the casual listener, but for anyone interested in spending some time with Night of Hunters, I believe there is a lot to find here.  

I’m completely biased when it comes to Tori Amos.  I’ve been a fan of hers since I was twelve, and I’ve continued to be a fan even though her last few albums have felt bloated and a bit self-indulgent to me.  But Night of Hunters showcases some of her best piano compositions and vocal work in years, and I recommend it to anyone willing to give it a try.

Music

Night of Hunters
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The Rise of the Duo

Have you noticed the trend toward two-person bands? From the White Stripes on, there appears to be an increased number of groups that have stripped down the traditional rock and roll model, forsaking interest in drummers and bassists. Here are several recently formed duos that don’t seem to be limited by a lack of group membership.

Tennis
The Fiery Furnaces
Sleigh Bells
She and Him
The Raveonettes
The Kills
The Civil Wars
The Cults
The Black Keys
MGMT

Music

White Stripes
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Noise Rocker Goes Quiet

Long-time fans of the noisy, art/rock band Sonic Youth will not be surprised to find out that singer/guitarist Thurston Moore has a sensitive and melodic side to his writing. Many SY songs possess these qualities of intricate melodies and emotionally compelling elements but are often buried under feedback or a whirling dervish of sonic fury. Demolished Thoughts is a beautiful record, stripped down and spare, mostly featuring acoustic guitar, harp, violin, synthesizers and the occasional wail of a strangely tuned electric guitar. Fans of Beck’s equally downcast yet beautiful record Sea Changes will likely pick up on the similarities in recording methods and overall sonic tone (Beck produced Demolished Thoughts). Moore’s lyrics are poetically abstract but always fitting of the songs’ brooding mood. If you like this record, try the work of British singer-songwriter Nick Drake.

Music

Demolished Thoughts
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The Dead of Summer

“Once in a while you get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right.” —Robert Hunter, ca. 1974 

Advertisements in Rolling Stone for the double live “Steal Your Face” album proclaimed, “There is nothing like a Grateful Dead concert.” I also remember reading an article in one of the hi-fi magazines at the time about the Grateful Dead’s famous “wall of sound” state-of-the-art concert sound system. While I might have been a bit too young to have seen the Grateful Dead during the hippie heyday of the late 1960s, I made it a goal to attend at least one of their shows during my lifetime. That goal was realized a few years later in 1979.

In the years that followed, I was fortunate enough to see the original band four times, a somewhat modest record when compared to some, I realize. (I know people who saw them play hundreds of times!) Indeed, there was always something special about seeing the Grateful Dead play live, especially out-of-doors during the summer. The sets were leisurely, and unlike most typical rock concerts, each event carried with it a unique “festival” atmosphere.

Sadly, those days are gone. Since Jerry Garcia’s passing in 1995, remaining band members have made several respectable attempts to carry on in various incarnations. While these projects are fresh and interesting, the era of the original band has clearly passed.

Yet, there are times when the music of the Grateful Dead is still the perfect complement to a warm summer afternoon with a cold beverage, and thankfully the legacy of those spectacular live shows lives on through an impressive collection of recordings. Even though the band only released a dozen studio albums during the course of its thirty year career, listeners are blessed with a plethora of live recordings—nine “traditional” live albums, more than a dozen concert films and videos, plus more than a hundred official archive releases (not to mention the many thousands of amateur recordings from the famous band-approved taper’s sections.)

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KPL provides a generous cross section of the Grateful Dead story; in print, on film, and on record. Several books in the collection document the life and times of the band and its various members. Of particular note are Searching for the Sound : My Life with the Grateful Dead by bassist Phil Lesh, A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead by Dennis McNally, and Jerilyn Lee Brandelius’ Grateful Dead Family Album. Films include The Grateful Dead Movie (a film version of 1974 “Steal Your Face” tour), and a pair of View from the Vault releases, documenting the band’s 1990 appearances at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh and Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California. For listeners, the collection includes decent retrospectives like Flashback with the Grateful DeadThe Very Best of the Grateful Dead, and Skeletons from the Closet.  You’ll even find an archival release of a concert at the famous Fillmore East in 1969. “What a long strange trip it’s been.”

Book

The Grateful Dead
grateful-dead-1980-007-160
http://www.catalog.kpl.gov/uhtbin/cgisirsi/x/0/0/5?searchdata1=grateful+dead&library=BRANCHES&language=ANY&format=ANY&item_type=ANY&location=ANY&match_on=KEYWORD&item_1cat=ANY&item_2cat=ANY&sort_by=-PBYR

45s at 45: Summer of '66

It's not uncommon to feel a nostalgia for music of another time and place that may cast today's sounds in a less favorable light, even if the evidence doesn't justify the position. However, fans of '60's pop radio can point to any of the following 45s from the summer of 1966 - listed in no particuar order - to make a very strong case for the excellence of that era:

The Beatles: “Paperback Writer” – before the late-summer stateside furor caused by John Lennon’s “more popular than Jesus” interview remarks, the Fab Four ruled US airwaves with this dose of proto-psychedelia, cut during the sessions for their landmark Revolver LP. Dig the “Frere Jacques” backing harmonies in the third and fourth verses.

The Rolling Stones: “Paint It, Black” – moving further away from their R’n’B roots with this brooding Middle Eastern-flavored recording from their Aftermath sessions, the Stones released the first rock single to feature the sitar. Keith Richards remains non-plussed by the US record company’s random insertion of the comma in the song’s title.

The Supremes: “You Can’t Hurry Love” – Motown’s biggest act charted their 7th number one smash (after a couple of singles that “only” made the top 10) with this infectious Holland-Dozier-Holland production that, for many, defines the Sound of Young America today. Despite the lyrics’ recommendation for patience, the song’s insistent rhythms (laid down by the legendary Funk Brothers) guarantee body movements by anyone within earshot.

The Lovin’ Spoonful: “Summer in the City” – it’s hard to detect the Greenwich Village quartet’s jug band roots on this driving ode to urban summertime heat, the misery it causes in the minor-key verses countered by the fun it promises in the major-key choruses. This is the first rock single to feature a jackhammer.

The Beach Boys: “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” – the third single from the Hawthorne, CA quintet’s timeless Pet Sounds LP had such a great flipside – “God Only Knows” – that both sides made the top 40 charts. In the UK, the single sides were flipped, gaining even greater chart success.

Dusty Springfield: “Goin’ Back” – Dusty’s soulful reading of this wistful Goffin-King composition was an international smash everywhere but in the US, where, for whatever reason, Springfield’s record company declined to release the song (which eventually became a minor hit in a version by the Byrds released the following year). The yearning nostalgia of the song’s lyrics is in sharp contrast to the youthfulness of the song’s performer and composers.

Bob Dylan: “I Want You” - the third of four singles from Dylan’s epochal Blonde on Blonde double-LP charted just weeks before the artist’s extended disappearance from the public arena after a mysterious motorcycle accident. The remarkably simple chorus lyrics are quite atypical of the increasingly complex wordsmithing Dylan fans came to expect, but that seems to be the point (driven home by the singer’s repeated, excited pleas of the title) of what’s essentially a simple love (or, more accurately, lust) song.

The Troggs: “Wild Thing” – one of the most covered (to this day) hits of the ‘60’s was a make-it-or-break-it follow-up to a failed debut single by the UK act almost named the Grotty Troggs. Though the track and its performers have a reputation for being “primitive”, few cover bands could pull off the ocarina solo featured in the song’s instrumental break.

The Velvelettes: “These Things Will Keep Me Loving You”the final ‘60’s 45 release from Kalamazoo’s very own stars of Motown, this modest R’n’B hit – loaded with classic Hitsville touches, from a finger-snappin’ intro to catchy vocal harmonies in support of an arresting lead - should have found wider airplay, but with so much competition on the airwaves in the summer of ’66, it’s no wonder that it became a buried treasure waiting for discovery, along with so many other worthy single sides from this period, by music lovers today… and forever.

Music

1962-1966
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Spotlight on a Sister

For a music fan, having the opportunity to sample a record prior to purchasing it, is a great way to avoid having to sift your way through the array of online and print review sources and getting straight to the tunes. NPR now allows its listeners to listen to full album recordings prior to it’s official release. Eleanor Friedberger is one half of the brother/sister band The Fiery Furnaces, a band that better than most, bridges pop music with less than conventional experimentation to form an original sound that is truly their own (imagine if The Carpenters were a lot more weird).

This summer, Eleanor releases a solo album and it really hits the mark with strong lyrics, singing and songwriting. The record is titled Last Summer (soon to be at your KPL!) and stand out tracks include the sugary, sweet Heaven, the psych pop of Inn of the Seventh Ray and the driving opener My Mistakes, which feels like a summer anthem.

Music

I'm Going Away
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A First Six Months Playlist

I love to make music mixes for my friends. When I can get the response, “Wow I never would have listened to that song if it wasn’t on the mix you made me,” I feel like I have done my part to push good music out into the world. My seven year old daughter considers a good mix one in which you can roll down the windows and turn up the volume. Below is a playlist that consists of what I feel are the best tracks of the first six months of 2011. Mix it up and roll down your windows.


1. Weekend by Smith Westerns (Dye It Blonde)
2. Take Me Over by Cut Copy (Zonoscope)
3. Rolling In The Deep by Adele (21)
4. Sad Song by The Cars (Move Like This)
5. Discoverer by R.E.M. (Collapse Into Now)
6. Me, Me, Me by Middle Brother (Middle Brother)
7. Make Some Noise by The Beastie Boys (Hot Sauce Committee Part Two)
8. Dig A Little Deeper by Peter Bjorn and John (Gimme Some)
9. Don’t Carry It All by The Decemberists (The King Is Dead)
10. Barton Hollow by The Civil Wars (Barton Hollow)
11. Sim Sala Bim by Fleet Foxes (Helplessness Blues)
12. Shadow of Love by Sloan (The Double Cross)
13. Helena Beat by Foster the People (Foster the People)
14. If I Wanted Someone by Dawes (Nothing Is Wrong)
15. Future Starts Now by The Kills (Blood Pressures)
16. Till I Get There by Lupe Fiasco (Lasers)
17. Damn These Vampires by The Mountain Goats (All Eternals Deck)

Music

Gimme Some
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J. Mascis unplugs

Stripping away all of the electric guitar distortion and big rock sound that has defined the majority of his substantial body of creative work, J. Masic’s new solo album Several Shades of Why showcases the immense talent that is cloaked within one of rock musics ultimate slacker personas. I’ve always considered Mascis (best known as lead singer of the mighty alt rock band Dinosaur Jr.) stylistically to be a sort of Neil Young of Generation X. And like Young’s singing, you either enjoy J.’s twangy rasp or it grates on your nerves after a matter of seconds. I happen to be in the first camp, so I was pleased to hear his vocals front and center on this his first solo effort. Mainly acoustic guitar driven and stripped to a bare minimum of added instruments, Several Shades of Why is beautiful in its simplicity and allows the quality of the songs and the talent of the performers to really shine. 

Music

Several Shades of Why

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Stadia Arcadia

Kalamazoo's Arcadia Creek Festival Place has been a summer concert hot spot for many years now, hosting music artists storied for filling stadiums full of fans, now playing more frequently to modest-sized audiences. This summer, bands such as Great White, 38 Special, and Gin Blossoms take the Arcadia stage, adding (or returning) their names to the growing list of the venue's veteran performers.

While most fans will be cheering loudest for the big radio hits, in some cases they'll be getting earfuls of new sounds. Gin Blossoms, for example, released No Chocolate Cake late last year. None of its tracks are dominating the airwaves as their mid-'90's string of power-pop classics had, but some of its cuts will fit nicely alongside the more familiar songs in the band's setlist. Listeners need to be patient, as the disc is front-loaded with generic tracks that don't highlight the group's strengths (Byrdsy guitar lines, wistful lyrics, memorable vocal hooks). Those guilty pleasures make their appearance a few cuts in, with a couple of curveballs in the mix (check out the horn section on "Dead or Alive on the 405") that let you know the combo's not interested in settling for nostalgia-act status.

Even so, more than a few Arcadia concert-goers will be singing along to the songs they know best this summer. Mark those calendars and start getting those voices in shape!

Music

No Chocolate Cake
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NCIS: The Official TV Soundtrack

I've discovered some of my favorite music and artists from watching television.  When songs play in the background or at the start or end of a show, I often search for the lyrics online to find the name of the song and the performing artist.  This has served me well.  House and Fringe (as well as various commercials) have provided insight  to artists and performers such as Massive Attack, Damien Rice, Editors, Langhorne Slim, and Ryan Adams.

When watching a recent episode of NCIS, Cote de Pablo's character, Ziva David, was singing  Temptation--a Tom Waits creation.  So, in true form, I went online to search for it to see where I could find a version of her singing it (beautiful rendition!).  And, that is when I found that NCIS has two soundtracks available.  I was able to easily check these two CDs out through our MeL interlibrary loan system. 

While I recognized artists such as Jakob Dylan, Otis Redding, Bob Dylan, Keaton Simmons, Sheryl Crow and Norah Jones, I was able to add artists such as Oasis, Blue October, and Sharon Little to my list of new folks to investigate.

Music

NCIS: The Official TV Soundtrack
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http://elibrary.mel.org/record=b17320063~S15

Country Rock's Fallen Angel

I’ve been listening to the music of Gram Parsons lately since I watched the documentary film Gram Parsons: Fallen Angel. Parsons musical gifts and passion for country and roots music was a major factor in his influencing of such legendary bands as The Rolling Stones and The Byrds. He is cited as the one who helped to usher in the genre of country rock during the late sixties when he worked with The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers. He later introduced to the musical world a young singer songwriter named Emmylou Harris. Parsons lived fast and died young but he left behind two very strong records, GP and Grievous Angel. If you’re interested in musical documentaries, you may enjoy:

Kurt Cobain: About a Son
The Velvet Underground: Vanishing Point
No Direction Home: Bob Dylan
Jimi Hendrix
Dig!
Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould
The Devil and Daniel Johnston
The Heart is a Drum Machine: A Documentary Film About Music

Here is a video clip from the documentary.

Music

GP [sound recording] ; Grievous angel
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Bob Dylan In Concert: Brandeis University 1963

As a collector and (ahem) connoisseur of “underground” Bob Dylan recordings since the 1970s, I was of course thrilled with the official (and thankfully ongoing) release of The Bootleg Series. Now nine volumes and counting, these releases represent the hidden side of Dylan’s work – especially during the early years. Akin to browsing through an artist’s sketchbook, these recordings give us a fresh glimpse at Dylan’s writing and recording process and a chance to hear otherwise lost performances.

As an addendum to this historic series, Columbia has just released the stand-alone version of Bob Dylan In Concert - Brandeis University 1963, a previously unreleased and seemingly un-bootlegged early live set.

On May 10, 1963 – 48 years ago today – Bob Dylan performed at the Brandeis First Annual Folk Festival in Waltham, Massachusetts, just two weeks before the release of his second album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. A seven inch reel-to-reel tape recording of Dylan’s performance that day sat tucked away on a shelf in Rolling Stone magazine co-founder Ralph J. Gleason’s home for more than four decades.

Recently discovered, these recordings represent a glimpse of how Dylan sounded while he was still touring the small clubs and coffee houses on the brink of fame. Michael Gray, author of The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia, calls this “the last live performance we have of Bob Dylan before he becomes a star... way back when Kennedy was President and the Beatles hadn’t yet reached America.”

So how does it sound? In a word… amazing. Bob… his guitar… his harmonica… and seven audible slices of 1963. The version of “Masters of War” is alone worth the effort.

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Book

Bob Dylan in Concert
dylan-brandeis-university-1963
http://www.catalog.kpl.gov/uhtbin/cgisirsi/x/0/0/5?searchdata1=Brandeis+University+1963+AND+Dylan{AU}&library=BRANCHES&language=ANY&format=MUSIC&item_type=ANY&location=ANY&match_on=KEYWORD&item_1cat=ANY&item_2cat=ANY&sort_by=-PBYR

The King is Dead, Long Live The Decemberists

At best I would say that the new music released so far in 2011 has been so-so. The best CD by far has to be The King is Dead, the newest from the Portland based band The Decemberists. Lead singer Colin Meloy has never hidden his love for extremely smart lyrics that make listeners feel that they are in a college level Literature course. The new CD not only has songs with beautiful language and obscure subject matter, but also a musical sound that pays homage to the alternative sound of the 80’s. The extremely talented musicians in the band are able to sound like The Smiths and R.E.M. without losing their unique style or falling into the trap of sounding derivative. Meloy has been hinting that the band is going to take a hiatus, which is unfortunate because this Billboard #1 CD is their best effort since The Crane Wife.

Music

The King is Dead
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Phoebe Snow 1952-2011

It’s amazing how some artists are able to reveal their true selves on stage, while others simply go through the motions.

Back about 1978 or so, Phoebe Snow performed at WMU’s East Ballroom (today’s Bernhard Center) in what appeared to be another case of a big time star giving an obligatory concert in a smallish market. She was singing, but that was about it. It was clear that she just wasn’t feeling it.

Phoebe’s career was still riding high at that point... she had a HUGE hit with Poetry Man in 1974 and a cover story in Rolling Stone magazine a year later. I assumed that she could probably care less about Kalamazoo… get in, get through it, and get back to the real world on the East Coast.

After plodding through a couple of songs, Phoebe stopped and apologized to the audience for her lack of enthusiasm. It seems her best friend was in the hospital back East at that very moment having a baby. Phoebe admitted that her body was on stage in Kalamazoo but her mind was clearly with her friend far away. Well, at least she was being honest. The show continued.

During the middle of the very next song, a stage hand came out and whispered something in her ear. Phoebe stopped the song immediately and jumped and screamed, “It’s a girl!”

With that, the veil was lifted and a very different Ms. Snow took the stage. Expressive, exuberant, entertaining; the mundane became magnificent! I had yet to see (and have seldom since seen) a performer so genuinely reveal her true “self” to an audience.

I will always remember that show… and appreciate how Phoebe allowed a small audience in Kalamazoo to be part of a very special moment in her life. And that, I guess, created a very special moment in ours.

Phoebe Snow passed away Tuesday in Edison, New Jersey, due to complications caused by a brain hemorrhage she suffered a year ago. She was 60.

Book

Phoebe Snow
phoebe-snow-160
http://www.phoebesnow.com/

Spring and Summer Spotlight on New Releases

I’d like to throw the spotlight on some recent and upcoming releases from the world of non-radio-friendly musicians that I’m excited to be ordering for the rock and folk/country collections. For the touchy feely folkies and pastoral Americanaists out there, you’ll want to get your hands on Fleet Foxes’ Helplessness Blues (garnering big buzz and positive reviews), Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit’s Here We Rest, Bill Callahan’s Apocalypse, Steve Earle’s I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive, Okkervil River’s I Am Very Far, and Emmylou Harris’ Hard Bargain. For those who prefer blips, sugary melodies, fuzzed guitars, and a louder volume on their wax platter, keep your eyes peeled for the newest long players from Panda Bear, The Raveonettes, TV on the Radio, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Yuck, Telekinesis, Foo Fighters, PJ Harvey, Radiohead, and Bright Eyes.

Music

The People's Key
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Seventeen Years Later

Today marks the 17th anniversary of the death of singer/guitarist Kurt Cobain. Cobain led the early nineties Seattle band Nirvana from college rock radio obscurity to radio-friendly, mainstream fame. Their most successful album, Nevermind, has sold close to 30 million copies worldwide. Nevermind featured their hit single, Smells Like Teen Spirit, a song that became a generational anthem of sorts, embodying Generation X’s ennui and collective angst. Of local interest, the famous photograph of Cobain that appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine after his death was taken in Kalamazoo.

Music

Nevermind
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Come Sail Away With Tennis

Crazy for You by the California band Best Coast blared from my car speakers all of last summer. This year it will be the band Tennis and their debut record Cape Dory; a thematic homage to summer sailing and an inspired musical nod to The Ronettes and early nineteen sixties, girl groups. Hardly breaking new, creative ground here, Cape Dory will still have you humming along with catchy tunes like Marathon, Take Me Somewhere, Cape Dory and Pigeon while you look cool in your tortoise shell wayfarers.

Music

Cape Dory
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Artist on the Rise

Music lovers first heard John Grant’s amazing voice when he fronted the Denver-based band The Czars. The Czars were signed to the Bella Union label and released several critically acclaimed records throughout the late nineties and early 2000’s. Grant has now gone solo and released The Queen of Denmark, an album which received Mojo Magazine’s album of 2010 award. Fans of The Red House Painters, early Elton John, and 1970’s soft rock will enjoy Grant’s bathetic musings and one of a kind baritone.

Music

Queen of Denmark
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Adele

I cannot get the first track of Adele’s new album 21 out of my head.  “Rolling in the Deep” is soulful and catchy, and one of those songs you want to sing along to while driving in the car.  Adele is a British singer, who at age 22 has already made huge waves in the pop charts—it’s no wonder, her voice is amazing.  The album as a whole is a little uneven; it starts out strong but loses energy in the middle due to a few slow, uninspired ballads right in a row.  The end of the album picks up a bit with a unique take on the Cure’s “Lovesong.”  All in all, it’s definitely worth a listen.

Music

21
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Dye It Great!

The Smith Westerns are a very young band from Chicago, having only released two albums, the first record coming when the members were in high school. Their sophomore effort Dye It Blonde is a catchy tour de force of power pop that has elicited comparisons to some historical heavy weights like George Harrison and T. Rex. I also hear a little bit of Oasis and Suede echoing from these well-crafted songs. There are plenty of hooks and infectious melodies to keep you humming the entire way through this album, full of hand claps, jangly guitar riffs and complimentary synthesizers. Stand out tracks include: Weekend, Still New, All Die Young, and Only One.

Music

Dye it Blonde
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A Little Swedish Schmaltz Please

Swedish songsmith Jens Lekman writes with an oddball flare yet pens some of contemporary music’s most bubbly and accessible songs. Lekman’s English delivery springs from a rich baritone that echoes the work of Stephin Merritt and Jonathan Richman, both of whom, Lekman borrows from liberally when constructing his use of deadpan phrasing and droll tales about life’s follies and love’s pitfalls. The songs draw their influence from a wide range of sources including early 70’s soul, strings-laden baroque pop, and Mexican folk music while tossing in the occasional sample. His 2007 release Night Falls Over Kortedala is truly an internationally inspired work fused together in such a way as to be seamlessly perfect. Fans of Magnetic Fields, Belle and Sebastian, 70’s Motown and The Modern Lovers will enjoy Lekman’s sunny gems.

Music

Night Falls Over Kortedala
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Listen to the Sounds of Summer Now

Having a difficult time in getting through the doldrums of a long winter? Tired of the salt on your car and the perpetually gray skies? Well, kick yourself out of your gloomy ennui with some music that will evoke the summertime sun and lakeside vistas waiting just around the corner. Here are some great albums known for taking your mind to a warmer, mental climate.

Sunflower/Surfs Up by The Beach Boys

Crazy for You by Best Coast

Exodus by Bob Marley

Creedence Clearwater Revival by CCR

#1 Record/Radio City by Big Star

King of the Beach by Wavves

Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain by Pavement

Siamese Dream by The Smashing Pumpkins

Car Wheels on a Gravel Road by Lucinda Williams

The Original by The Ventures

Rainy Day Music by The Jayhawks

Music

Sun Flower; Surf's Up
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Rediscovering an Old Favorite

I just read Patti Smith’s memoir Just Kids and wrote about it on our book blog.

Not surprisingly, I then listened to Horses and realized it had been many years since I had played what had once been one of my favorites. I have renewed appreciation of what a great album this is, now that I more fully understand her earlier work first as a poet, then as a performance artist, then a musician, and now an author. What a talented woman!

I rediscovered an old favorite and won’t wait so many years to listen to this again.

Music

“Horses” by Patti Smith
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http://www.catalog.kpl.gov/uhtbin/cgisirsi/x/0/0/5?searchdata1=horses{TI}+AND+patti+smith{AU}&library=BRANCHES&language=ANY&format=MUSIC&item_type=ANY&location=ANY&match_on=KEYWORD&item_1cat=ANY&item_2cat=ANY&sort_by=-PBYR

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s New Class of 2011

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame recently chose to induct the following musicians: Tom Waits, Neil Diamond, Alice Cooper Band, Dr. John, Leon Russell, Art Rupe, Jack Holzman, and Darlene Love.

Music

Blue Valentine
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End of Year Remembrance

The music world lost some of its most talented and accomplished musicians this year. Here is a short list of several artists whose works can be found and enjoyed here at the library.

Alex Chilton (Big Star

Solomon Burke

Mark Linkous (Sparklehorse

Ari Up (The Slits) 

Lena Horne

Gregory Isaacs

Pete Quaife (The Kinks

Doug Fieger (The Knack) 

Teddy Pendergrass

Guru (Gangstarr)

Teena Marie

Captain Beefheart

Music

Keep an eye on the sky
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Best Songs of 2010

Now that we are firmly grounded within the download era, many music lovers choose to bypass the purchasing of a full length album and elect instead to add individual songs or hit singles to their digital libraries. Here are a few songs released during 2010 that struck a chord with my ears. How about you? Let us know which tracks resonated with you throughout the year.

Zebra by Beach House

Revenge by Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse

Slow by Twin Shadow

Dark Fantasy by Kanye West

Heaven and Earth by Blittzen Trapper

Does Not Suffice by Joanna Newsom

Sex Karma by Of Montreal

Blue as Your Blood by The Walkmen

Carolina by Girls

Heart in Your Heartbreak by The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

Our Deal by Best Coast

Animal by Jenny and Johnny

Music

Have One On Me
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The Next Top Ten

I was not terribly impressed with the musical output from 2009, but after compiling my Top Ten CDs from 2010 I discovered a bunch more that were better than most of last year’s list.

Since I could only offer ten selections for the official KPL Top Ten page, I present ten more great CDs from the past twelve months.

11. Lady Killer by Cee Lo Green
12. Body Talk Pts. 1 & 2 by Robyn
13. Adrift by The Red Sea Pedestrians
14. Majesty Shredding by Superchunk
15. Of The Blue Colour of the Sky by OK Go
16. The Guitar Song by Jamey Johnson
17. Transference by Spoon
18. I Learned the Hard Way by Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings
19. Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows: Songs of John Prine by Various
20. Maya by M.I.A.

Music

Lady Killer
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Florence + the Machine

When it comes to music my heart is with the ladies, particularly indie/rock ladies who write their own songs and aren’t afraid to experiment with sound.  My penchant for women in rock began in middle school with the discovery of my perennial favorites Tori Amos and PJ Harvey.  In college came my serendipitous discovery of Kate Bush, whose album The Dreaming (available via MeLCat) perfectly epitomizes the weird, experimental sound I like so much.  More recent favorites of mine include Regina SpektorNeko Case, and The Fiery Furnaces (though Matthew Friedberger in this brother/sister group writes the music, I love lead-singer Eleanor Friedberger’s vocals).  I am especially fond of Bat for Lashes; her melodic voice and storytelling tendencies remind me very much of both Tori Amos and Kate Bush.

My latest discovery is Florence + the Machine.  Florence Welch’s voice is soulful, while her lyrics range from catty to literary to contemplative.  Lungs, Florence + the Machine’s debut album, topped the charts in the UK for weeks in 2009, and although it didn’t make a dent on the US charts, I’ve heard a number of their songs pop up in movies and television shows.  If you’re fond of any of the musicians that I’ve mentioned, I recommend giving Florence + the Machine a listen.

Music

Lungs
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A Last Light Before the Darkness

The album Dark Night of the Soul  will certainly be in my top ten of best of the year. Sadly, Mark Linkous, the primary writer of this brilliant piece of moody, pop music textured with hints of electronica and whimsical folk, took his life in March of this year prior to the album’s release. Linkous is at his songwriting best here and by forming collaborations with other guest artists (The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne, Director David Lynch, The Strokes’ front man Julian Casablanca, Vic Chesnutt, Suzanne Vega, and The Shins’ James Mercer, Nina Persson), including the music industry’s most in-demand producer--Danger Mouse, each song’s singer provides a fresh meditation on Linkous’ grim lyrics and buoyant songs.

Fans of this album should look into Linkous’ previous musical project Sparklehorse in addition to the work of those he collaborated with over the years including Daniel Johnston, PJ Harvey, Tom Waits, and Fennesz.

Music

Dark Night of the Soul
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Free The New Pornographers!

I have attended many concerts but there are still a few bands that are on my “must see before I die” list. When the Canadian power pob collective, The New Pornographers announced they were going to play at Calvin College in Grand Rapids on October 15, I was thrilled. It seems that some indivduals were not as happy as I was because the show was canceled because “to some, (the band's name) is mistakenly associated with pornography. Consequently, Calvin, to some, was mistakenly associated with pornography. Neither the college nor the band endorses pornography.”

By rescinding the invitation to the band, Calvin earned a storm of negative media attention (Pitchfork, The Huffington Post, Christianity Today, and Chronicle of Higher Education) with many criticizing the college for not understanding the irony behind the band's name. Luckily, the band was able to find a new location for their show and I will be able to cross them of of my list.

In the meantime join me in “freeing” The New Pornographers from the shackles of shackles of censorship and close-mindedness by checking out one of their most excellent CDs from KPL. Their newest Together is filled with great hooks, melodies, and lyrics that you come to expect from this great band.

Music

Together
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Gabriella Cilmi

A friend recently introduced me to the music of a singer-songwriter she repeatedly heard on the radio during a trip to Italy a couple of years ago.  Turns out the performer is not Italian at all, but rather Australian.  Her name is Gabriella Cilmi (chil-mee) and her first album, Lessons to be Learned was released in the UK in 2008. A second, "Ten," came out in March of this year, also in the UK. "Lessons to be Learned" includes both acoustic and more plugged-in arrangements, all of which suit her smoky voice well. The first time I heard her, she reminded me of Amy Winehouse.  Apparently, I'm not alone; that comparison is often made.  Other female singers who might come to mind when listening to Cilmi include Sara Bareilles and Colbie Caillat .

Music

Lessons to be Learned
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Something for everybody on the Plastic Beach

I have to say that at first listen Plastic Beach went in too many different directions for me.   However, by the end I more than appreciated the analogy between the album’s title and its musical landscape.   Now, I spend a little time each day soaking up the sounds of this album.  Gorillaz had already established itself as an institution where pretty much anything goes, but with Plastic Beach the “band” blends about as many musical styles as it does songs on the album (16 tracks with a running time of just over 56 minutes).  Not to say that each track sticks to any kind of formula whatsoever, it absolutely does not in the most refreshing ways.  Damon Albarn, the Gorillaz’ driving force, is able to convince the listener to blindly accept the transition within and between each song.  You almost wonder if this capacity for persuasion was necessary to convince the eclectic group of artists that make the Plastic Beach what it is.  Bobby Womack, Mos Def, Mick Jones and Paul Simonon of The Clash, Lou Reed, Snoop Dogg, De La Soul, Sinfonia Viva, Mark e Smith, and the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble all join the regular cast of mysterious cartoon Gorillaz to create an album that will spend a lot of time on my playlist.  Take a walk along the Plastic Beach and you will pick something out of the sand that’s worth your while.

Music

Plastic Beach
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Some Fuzz Under the Sun

The Raveonettes are a Danish rock duo who compose infectious, fuzzed out pop songs that pay homage to the early sixties girl groups like The Ronettes as well as a reverential nod toward the reverb drenched tunes of eighties shoe gazers, The Jesus and Mary Chain. Their album Lust Lust Lust is a fantastic introduction to their sound, one that clearly draws its inspiration from earlier rock and roll pioneers but that does not come off as derivative or self consciously retro. You’ll be humming these catchy tunes all summer long as you trek west for some fun under the sun.

Music

Lust Lust Lust
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This is a blog about The Black Keys

 I am certain that friends, colleagues, and assuredly my own family have grown tired of my consistent response when the conversation turns to music and the inevitable “what are you listening to” question pops up. My answer, since its early May release, has been that I can’t get enough of the latest by the Akron, Ohio blues rock duo The Black Keys. In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I am a real fan of the band and I have loved and continue to listen to everything that they have put out, but their latest record Brothers is just so good that I have found myself listening to it almost daily. The Black Keys music continues to be a perfect mix of the elemental power of traditional guitar blues with cool indie rock sensibilities and, on Brothers, bits of soul thrown in for good measure. From my perspective the band, six albums in, has matured in all the right ways, adding a bit more production and instrumentation on its last two records, Brothers and 2008’s Danger Mouse produced Attack & Release, and singer Dan Auerbach tests out a falsetto on a couple tracks on Brothers, including the great Everlasting Light - great live version posted below, that I never saw coming and weirdly comes close to sounding Antony and the Johnsons like, but the band never takes this experimentation too far, always keeping the song structure tight and holding firm to what makes them such a great band in the first place.

Music

Brothers
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Horses, Legacy Edition

Patti Smith has been one of my faves since a roommate back in the 70s once forced me (kicking and screaming) to listen to Radio Ethiopia, for which I’m now eternally grateful. Raw, immediate, surreal… yet truly real. Soon after, I discovered her first album – Horses – and I was hooked.

Patti actually created much of the groundwork for New York’s CBGB’s scene of the 70s, inspiring bands like Television, The Ramones, and Talking Heads. “Like her hero Jim Morrison she wrote absurd verses more fit for a diary than a rock ‘n’ roll record, but could also follow them with lines that genuinely terrified.” (Chris Dahlen, Pitchfork) Lovingly dubbed “Poet Laureate of Punk” by NPR, Patti layered her cutting poetry with a killer band to create a blend that continues to inspire fans and artists alike.

As I was rummaging through the library’s collection the other day, I was happy to find a copy of the Legacy Edition of Horses, the 2005 reissue of her seminal 1975 album that was named by Rolling Stone as one of the top 50 rock albums of all time. Expanded to two full discs, the 30th anniversary edition includes the original album as produced by John Cale, that’s been newly remastered by Greg Calbi with amazing results. The set includes a bonus track, Patti’s gutsy remake of My Generation (originally released as a B-side) and… a bonus live performance of Horses, recorded in its entirety at London’s Meltdown Festival in 2005. “These things, these relics, are alive in the fists of memory. We search for them in close-up as we search for our own hands in a dream.” (Patti Smith)

Just for fun, here’s an amazingly clean video from 1976 – the title track from Horses, leading into another classic remake, a cover of Hendrix’ Hey Joe from the BBC’s Old Grey Whistle Test. As the commercial says… “priceless.” Enjoy.

Movie

Patti Smith “Horses”
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http://www.catalog.kpl.gov/uhtbin/cgisirsi/x/0/0/5?searchdata1=horses{TI}+AND+patti+smith{AU}&library=BRANCHES&language=ANY&format=MUSIC&item_type=ANY&location=ANY&match_on=KEYWORD&item_1cat=ANY&item_2cat=ANY&sort_by=-PBYR

Fruit Bats

It took two tries, but I’m hooked on the music of the Fruit Bats on their cd The Ruminant Band. I hear touches of Neil Young and country rock “Waiting on a Friend” era Rolling Stones accompanied by a prog rock-voiced lead singer.

I was thinking that I should mention something about what the songs are about, but I realize I have no idea. I mostly listen to music while I’m doing something else so it’s the music that affects me more than the words.

Check it out, maybe twice. It grows on you.

CD

Fruit Bats “The Ruminant Band”
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http://www.catalog.kpl.gov/uhtbin/cgisirsi/x/0/0/5?searchdata1=fruit+bats&library=BRANCHES&language=ANY&format=MUSIC&item_type=ANY&location=ANY&match_on=KEYWORD&item_1cat=ANY&item_2cat=ANY&sort_by=-PBYR

Alex Chilton, R.I.P. (1950-2010)

One of the founding fathers of power pop, Alex Chilton died on March 17 of a heart attack in New Orleans. Chilton has been cited by many as one of the most influential musicians of the 20th Century.

He began his career as the 16-year-old lead singer of the Box Tops, a late 60’s “boy band” who first hit the charts with the song “The Letter” (1967). Chilton had felt the music industry exploited the Box Tops and eventually the band broke up in 1970. Soon he found his way to Memphis and hooked up with Chris Bell, Jody Stephens, and Andy Hummel to form Big Star. Although Big Star never achieved much commercial success, their sound which combined equal parts Memphis soul and British Invasion pop sparked a power pop movement that inspired musicians such as R.E.M., The Replacements, The Posies, Matthew Sweet, Teenage Fanclub, Cheap Trick and The Bangles.

Chilton was immortalized in the song “Alex Chilton” by The Replacements on their 1987 album Pleased to Meet Me. After recording three albums (1971-1974) Big Star disbanded and Alex Chilton went on to record many solo records. He briefly reunited with both the Box Tops (1989) and Big Star (1993). Chilton will live on as a talent who helped define a musical genre that continues to inspire.

Book

Alex Chilton
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alex_Chilton

On the way to work...

When people ask how long my morning drive to work is, I often say "about three songs." This got me thinking about what others might hear when they commute to work each morning. So I asked a few friends to begin posting on Twitter the first three songs they hear every morning on shuffle. If you are someone who uses Twitter and loves music, post your what you hear using the #1st3shuffle hash tag.

The second track this morning on my iPod was "Seaweed Song" by Passion Pit. This Boston electronic band’s debut release, “Manners” was one of my top ten from last year. Passion Pit was originally a solo project of Michael Angelakos while a student at Emerson College. He wanted to create a musical Valentine for his girlfriend and produced an EP on his laptop. The effort led to the formation of a band and one of the best dance CDs of the year. Listening to the infectious beats of Passion Pit combined with a few cups of coffee always seems to get me ready for work.

Music

Manners
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Don't Let Their Name Fool You

The San Francisco-based two-piece Girls (comprised of two men) came out of nowhere last year, landing on several end of the year lists for best album. Their debut, unimaginatively titled Album, is a tender yet bratty collection of catchy pop psychedelia coupled to a restrained self consciousness that never comes off as posturing or derivative. An apt description might be that their songs sound like Beach Boys hymns filtered through the bombastic noise of My Bloody Valentine and sung with a nasally baritone who summons comparisons to Elvis Costello. This was one of the few contemporary bands that stayed on my radar last year.

Music

Album [sound recording]
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The King of Gangsta Folk is coming to KPL!

As a senior in high school I heard a cover of Madonna ’s “Like A Prayer” by the singer John Wesley Harding  and was immediately hooked by his version of folk, or as he sometimes calls it “gangsta folk.” I immediately dived into Harding’s catalog and discovered a plethora of brilliant songs that were intelligent, witty, tender, historical and sardonic. In college, I was fortunate to see him live and experienced not just a concert, but what felt like a dialogue between Harding and me. I scraped up the money to purchase a concert shirt (I still have it) and that summer my future wife approached me while I was wearing it because she was also a fan.

Throughout the years I have traced the path of who I consider one of the most underrated musicians of the past 20 years. I have read the two fabulous novels  he has written under his real name, Wesley Stace, and purchased every new CD. Imagine my surprise when he agreed to participate in our long running concert series and speak about his books the following night. 

I encourage you to come to hear Wes speak about his music and books on February 17  and 18 . You will discover an extremely talented musician who has shared the stage with such greats as Bruce Springsteen and has been praised by literary critics for his writing. Space is limited at both FREE events, so come early.

Music

Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead
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