Staff Picks: Music
“I can remember where I come from.”
That line is from a 1992 Tori Amos song entitled “Mother,” a beautiful piano ballad about leaving home, or maybe leaving what you know. It’s really more of a plea than an assertion—a fear about forgetting what makes us who we are. The song, one of my personal favorites, is off her first album, Little Earthquakes, and now—22 years and 13 albums later—Tori brings that idea full circle with her latest LP, Unrepentant Geraldines. In the song “Oysters,” she sings, “I’m working my way back to me again.” Exploring the self or being self-aware is a common thread throughout all of her albums, but it resonates particularly strongly with Geraldines, in part because the album seems to be a return to form for her—that is, it’s more piano-based, simple storytelling/songwriting than some of her recent high-concept albums. I could easily hear a song like “Weatherman” nestled between the songs on 1994’s Under the Pink or “Selkie” sitting alongside the best of her early B-sides. Don’t get me wrong—this isn’t Tori trying to relive past glories; the songs are much fresher than if she were trying to replicate what she’s already done. Unrepentant Geraldines comes from a different place than any of her early work, from a maturity that only comes with time—whether that means writing about aging (“16 Shades of Blue”), being a mother (“Rose Dover” and “Promise”), or corporate greed/religious oppression (“Unrepentant Geraldines”). Her early work will always be my favorite, but I’m happy to have an album like Geraldines that, over 20 years after I first started listening to her, speaks to me.
If you’ve liked any of her previous work, I’d give this album a try. In addition to the CDs we have in our collection, you can find almost every Tori Amos album, including Unrepentant Geraldines, on Hoopla. What isn’t on Hoopla—Scarlet’s Walk, The Beekeeper, and American Doll Posse—is available on Freegal.
If you dig the music of The Black Keys, Caitlin Rose, The Ronettes, Wanda Jackson, and She and Him, head on over to our free streaming service called Hoopla and borrow the newest album from Nikki Lane, a new singer from Nashville whose songs strike a nice balance between vintage country and girl group pop. Produced by Dan Auerbach (guitarist from The Black Keys) All or Nothin’ will be here in compact disc format soon but if you can’t wait, stream it from Hoopla now for free.
All or Nothin'
St. Vincent’s (aka Annie Clark) newest, self-titled album is an idiosyncratic mess, a beautiful and infectious tangle of weirdness that comes at you like a curveball with a sensibility that knowingly preserves accessibility while challenging it. Cobbled together from too many genres, styles and sources to adequately summarize here, her fourth album is her most adventurous yet. She confidently pushes her sonic palate in new and colorful ways that exhibits her varied musical interests and how effectively she is at mixing and matching tones and textures. It’s a contemporary sounding mulligan stew of digital beeps and bounces, spacey synthesizers, cheesy guitar riffs, funky rhythms, and gorgeous melodies. In other words, wait for the next track and you’ll hear something you weren’t expecting. It took me a couple of listens for this to sink in and make sense. There’s no doubt that some will be turned off by the cornier stuff, but overall, it’s a strong album that at times, conjures the kind of boundless vision and openness to challenge found in David Bowie’s albums.
Raphael Saadiq has been around for quite a while. He came as a surprise to me because his vintage sounds. He seems extremely talented and is well packaged. He initially played with Tony! Toni! Tone! Over the years he has worked behind the scenes as a producer for some top names like, John Legend, Joss Stone, Stevie Wonder, Mary J Blige and the list goes on to some surprising other great artists.
What I really like about him is that he is very versatile. Raphael Saadiq is a singer, songwriter, guitarist and a record producer. I’ve read that his heroes are Chuck Berry, Stevie Wonder, Sly Stone and Little Walter. He says he wants to be a throwback with a futuristic twist. That certainly comes through on his latest CD Stone Rollin. That CD took me back to the 50s and 60s. It also had me reminiscing about Sam Cook. There are many great sounds and it is a great show of talent. It’s definitely R&B at its finest and it had me rolling.
Last month Caitlin and Ryan recommended some summertime movies for those of us needing a diversion from this bleak winter weather. Weeks later our prospects haven't improved, so here's a playlist of summery pop songs to help you fight those winter doldrums.
A Summer Song - Chad & Jeremy
Ask - The Smiths
Summer in the City - The Lovin' Spoonful
King of the Beach - Wavves
Remember (Walking in the Sand) - The Shangri-Las
Summer Babe (Winter Version) - Pavement
All Summer Long - The Beach Boys
The Swimming Song - Loudon Wainwright
Down at the Sea - Beat Happening
Summer Mood - Best Coast
Bonus track: Rockaway Beach - The Ramones
Crazy for You
Looking for artists similar to those you already know about and enjoy? Well, we’ll try to make suggestions that expand your musical listening experience by connecting like-sounding artists together.
• Liked Jackson Browne, try Dawes
• Liked The Avett Brothers, try The Felice Brothers
• Liked Neko Case, try Laura Marling
• Liked Miles Davis, try Chet Baker
• Liked MGMT, try The Flaming Lips
• Liked The Cocteau Twins, try Beach House
• Liked New Order, try The Knife
• Liked Bob Marley, try Peter Tosh
• Liked Billie Holiday, try Diane Krall
• Liked The White Stripes, try Wanda Jackson
• Liked Wilco, try Fleet Foxes
• Liked Pink, try Robyn
• Liked Bon Iver, try Elliott Smith
• Liked Mumford and Sons, try The Head and the Heart
• Liked Frank Sinatra, try Kurt Elling
the head and the heart
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.
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.
Modern Vampires of the city
I have a new favorite little song ditty. The original is called Call Me Maybe and is recorded by a Canadian singer Carly Rae Jepsen. I have never heard of this singer, my daughter told me about her. The song I heard and really really liked and have played several times is a spoof of this song. Toledo Lucas County Public Library did a spoof music rendition of this song and posted it on YouTube. They called it Read it Maybe and it is posted by JL Jones. In this rendition The Toledo Lucas County Public Library wants you to try a book and read it (maybe). They let you know the staff can suggest a book, and that if you have a hard time getting to the library physically that they have e-books. They show a print copy of a book and then the Nook version. They use a ton of children in the video. I found it a refreshing and a pleasing way to hear about what they have to offer. It applies to all libraries so give it a listen and then try Kalamazoo Public Library.
BTW one way I think we are better than Toledo Lucas is that they say scan the barcode and we have RFID so all you have to do is wave the book over the pad, you don’t have to try and line up the red line with the barcode. If you are checking out tens of books, and we encourage you to do so, our investment in RFID will save you time on check out and on returns. If you return a book to the central library you could slide it through our computerized book drop and it will automatically and instantaneously check in your book by reading the RFID tag as it slides down the chute. But Toledo Lucas Library has an aquarium and that is cool too.
Read It Maybe
The robots from Daft Punk are back after an eight year break with a new record released today and all of the new tracks are available NOW, for KPL patrons to download for free through our Freegal service. Random Access Memories is unmistakably a Daft Punk record, with the familiar vocoder and synth aesthetic, but breaks new territory with some live instrumentation thrown into the mix. The robots have collaborated with a bevy of their human musical heroes on the record and the results are often sublime, especially on THE summer jam of 2013 imo 'Get Lucky' featuring Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers. If this track doesn’t entice you to check out Freegal and all of the great free music available with your KPL card, and get you dancing at the same time, nothing will.
Random Access Memories