Staff Picks: Music
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.
Someone once asked me what kind of music I like. I didn’t really know how to answer but I guess if I had to pin it down it would be World Music. I like different sounds, voices and instruments. I am very fond of Celtic and African sounds, light Jazz and Blues and a little Alternative. Recently I read something about this weird guy Gaudi, not the famous architect, but the musician. He was recently nominated for 3 world music awards. On just one of his CDs In Between Times he has many different sounds its hard to peg them. Wow, I see why they call it world music! But, as different as it is I like it!
In Between Times
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.
I Hate Music
Fans of the violin will want to get their ears on Daniel Hope's newest album Spheres. This is a wonderfully ecclectic array of compositions that highlight his rich and "big" violin sound. Hope has selected pieces that represent a wide range of styles (Baroque, minimalism, chill-out and cinema) and time periods (17th Century through to the present). Overall, it's a beautiful collection that really brings forth a sense of both musical and emotional continuity. Some of the composers featured are Johann Sebastian Bach, Arvo Part, Philip Glass, Karl Jenkins, Michael Nyman, Alex Baranowski, and Gabriel Faure.
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.
The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You
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.
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
Butler is a native of Cape Town, South Africa. He started singing on the streets of Athlone for food and began touring when he was 7 years old. It’s hard to peg him because he has so many great sounds. He’s a singer, song writer and guitar player and he’s been described as a rhythm and blues, jazz and worship performer. He would probably approve of those tags because he does all of them well but I think his heart is in his gospel music. He's good! His cool jazz blends well into a gospel. And as far as rhythm and blues is concerned, I had to look the definition up and make sure I knew what rhythm and blues was. Under R&B, I saw words like urban, soul, gospel and others that would classify Butler as a contemporary R&B artist. Well, one thing is for sure, he's definitely got rhythm and he knows his blues. Still, I think Jonathan Butler would like to be best known for his uplifting, spiritual sound, which he is highly respected for.
KPL has several of his CDs. Some of his titles are Jonathan Butler, Surrender, The Source, Do you love me? He’s on a jazz CD called Summer Horns with Dave Koz and friends. Watch for his new CD Grace and Mercy. I'm sure it, too, will have a great sound.
Harold Budd has been making minimalist, ambient music for a long time. Gentle and expressive, Budd’s compositions are full of open space and long pauses with instrumentation woven in between the silences. The melodic substance of a piece takes a bit of time to unfold but patient, attentive music lovers looking for an alternative to traditional, classical music genres will appreciate the Zen-like economic elegance of Budd’s work.
In the Mist
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.