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Staff Picks: Music

Best New Music Always Available on Hoopla

If you have access to the internet and a Kalamazoo Public Library card, you have instant access to tons of great music through the library’s streaming media service Hoopla.

You can borrow 15 titles per month, including music, movies, and audiobooks. Titles are available for instant streaming, with no holds list and no late fees. You can listen or watch on your computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Here’s a small sampling of some of the best new music available on Hoopla:

Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp a Butterfly

THEESatisfaction - EarthEE

Sleater-Kinney - No Cities to Love

Father John Misty - I Love You, Honeybear

Drake - If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late

 


Summertime Pop of Tennis

Denver-based pop duo Tennis fell onto the pop culture radar screen several years ago with their first release Cape Dory, a catchy throwback to 60’s pop that showcased their spry melodies and better than passable singing. Their third full length album Ritual in Repeat certainly shows growth, but overall, they seem to know their sonic strengths and rarely wander too far from them. A very summertime-toned album, serve up some Tennis on the way to the beach.


Wilco - 20 Years On and Still Rockin’

Wilco may not be releasing anything new this year but if you’re a fan or are interested in learning more about one of the best studio and live acts on the planet, you may want to get your ears on two recent additions to the KPL music collection. Having been around for some twenty years now, the obligatory greatest hits album features a very thorough and thoughtful list of some of their best tunes. Most fans will own these selections but the group should be praised for nailing down most of their strongest tracks. Also recently added, a new album of rarities titled Alpha Mike Foxtrot: Rare Tracks 1994-2014. This collection like the greatest hit album, could have been alternately called Wilco: the brilliant evolutionary growth of a great band. Both albums can be streamed at Hoopladigital.com.

 


Father John Misty

Josh Tillman, aka Father John Misty, is a guy who knows how to balance the irony/earnestness ratio so as not to fall into one trap or the other. Lyrically, he tackles the ways in which relationships, both personal and artistic, rest upon the tenuous foundation of artifice and paradox. Out of such skepticism regarding moral truths and romantic absolutes, we find a thoughtful singer songwriter negotiating his way through his multidimensional self as a once angry son, a man of contradictions, an imperfect but well-meaning husband, an ideological hypocrite, a winking trickster of mockery, and various other protean characters. The likeable songs echo the breezy folk pop of early 70’s music while the scathing observations evoke the work of Randy Newman and Loudon Wainwright III. His newest album, I Love You, Honeybear is a more pop-friendly work than his 2012 album Fear Fun even though they’re both tied together with strong vocals and his knack for mixing the new with the old. Grumpy old cynics will likely bristle at his approach at heavy handed satire but frankly, you can never have too many Father John’s when the platitudes industry produces so much insipidly manufactured music. While we wait for the compact disc to arrive, stream the new record using your KPL account at hoopladigital.com.


L-O-V-E, No Cities to Love

Although never a hardcore fan, I have always appreciated Sleater-Kinney and their importance in regards to females in rock music. I would never skip a song, but I never found myself listening to an entire record in one sitting. The release of No Cities to Love, the band’s first new record in ten years, has totally changed my perception of the one of the original riot grill bands. The first single “Bury Our Friends” is a blistering head bouncing track filled with poetic lyrics, (It is the current most requested song by my daughters). The song “No Cities to Love” highlights Carrie Brownstein’s very underrated guitar skills and the video continues some A-List Sleater-Kinney fans!  Corin Tucker proves that she still can belt out some powerful vocals and drummer, Janet Weiss provides the punk-rock rhythms. No Cities to Love is easily, so far, my most favorite record of the year.


Nighttime Cool

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


Two Johns

Two of the hardest working contemporary composers are named John Luther. There’s the Pulitzer Prize winning John Coolidge Luther whose saxophone concerto City Noir has found its way on many year-end lists. You can check out much of his previous work, often characterized as part of the minimalist tradition, through Hoopla’s streaming platform or from one of our compact discs. Become Ocean (winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for music) is the stunning new piece from John Luther Adams. Hauntingly beautiful, it’s the kind of music that envelops the attentive listener with its gentle but powerful lyricism.


Black Messiah

R&B lovers rejoice! Last month D'Angelo released his first album in nearly fifteen years to widespread critical acclaim. You can download Black Messiah through Freegal, the library's free downloadable music collection.


Bargains in the Basement - Live and Local

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This week’s #1 find was from KPL’s extensive music collection; a copy of the Ken Morgan Jazz Unit (Ken Morgan, saxophones, flute; Gail Baker, vocals; Matt Jackson, piano; Paul Erhard, bass; Mike Roush, drums), recorded Live at Chaps on Main (remember Chaps?) on a very cool Saturday evening in February, 1979. I have a copy of this on vinyl from long ago, but I must admit that I haven’t played it in quite some time. After listening to the CD, I found it rather remarkable how well the music holds up some three-and-a-half decades later. The sound is clean, bright, and immediate, and the band is on fire. Do yourself a favor and give this one a spin (again), it’s worth the effort.

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My other pre-holiday treat was a somewhat more recent (and also local) Friends Find, a 2007 10-track compilation from the WMU Jazz Studies Program called Jazz Tracks (and since this copy comes from the Friends Bookstore, I get to keep it!). Jazz Tracks features the usual WMU musical heavyweights; Western Jazz Quartet (Trent Kynaston, Tom Knific, Steve Zegree, Tim Fronek), University Jazz Orchestra, the Justin Avery Band, and others. The CD also comes with a couple of video clips buried deep inside, including Gold Company performing a Duke Ellington tune on stage with none other than Bobby McFerrin. How cool is that?! And here’s a holiday hint… there is a small box of other assorted local (WMU, KSO, etc.) CDs sitting on the shelf in the Friends Bookstore, right next to the local books. Just right for budget priced stocking stuffing!


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!


Best Music of 2014

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

NPR's Music Critics

Pitchfork

Rolling Stone

Country Music

AV Club

Metacritic's Debut Albums

Hip Hop Albums