Staff Picks: Music

A Rainy Day Playlist

Oh rainy day, what should I play? If you’re anything like me and you appreciate the ocassional dark skies and leisurely fall of rain, your playlist is probably a reflective collection of moody and somewhat somber tunes. On days like today, Classical, Film Scores and Jazz reign (pun intended).

How about a little music from the film Magnolia’s soundtrack:



Keeping with film scores, nobody does gloomy and melodic better than Philip Glass:

 

Often lumped in with the French Impressionism of Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy, Erik Satie's hauntingly simple music evokes nostalgia and memory:

 

In her heyday, Billie Holiday's singular style was unmatched in expressing the depth of human emotion:

Two titans of modern music, Aaron Copland and Benny Goodman:

And lastly, the beauty and simplicity of The Beatitudes as performed by The Kronos Quartet and featured in the film The Great Beauty:

 

Music

Piano Works Satie
10127208

A Good Place to Start is with Beginners

I just love the sedate, retro vibe of the soundtrack to the oddball film Beginners; the Mike Mills directed roman a clef about his relationship with his widowed father. Old blues and jazz from the 1920’s (Jelly Roll Morton, Bessie Smith, Hoagy Carmichael, and Josephine Baker) are prominently featured as well as a French horn driven suite by J.S. Bach. Interfiled between the throwback gems are several touching, original scores by Dave Palmer and Roger Niell. The back and forth tone of the film, from light hearted to melancholic, are sensibly reflected in this quirky collection. Oh, and by the way, check out the movie. It appears on our Best of 2011 list.

Movie

Beginners [sound recording] : the original motion picture soundtrack
WEM002331C

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
UMD149185C

The Music Behind the Movies

One of the overlooked treasures in our music collection is our movie and television soundtracks. We have an excellent collection that represents some of the legendary composers (Philip Glass, John Barry, John Williams, Itzhak Perlman, Quincey Jones, Thomas NewmanEnnio Morricone) from the past, those who have been working for some time and the inventive scores being produced from contemporary musicians that straddle both the world of film scoring and their own personal works (Jonny Greenwood, Jon Brion, Danny Elfman, Yann Tiersen, Randy Newman). Here are some of my favorite albums from the collection.

Good Bye Lenin by Yann Tiersen

Midnight Cowboy by John Barry

Schindler’s List by Itzhak Perlman and John Williams

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind by Jon Brion

The Hours by Philip Glass

Out of Africa by John Barry

Twin Peaks by Angelo Badalamenti 

Music

Good bye lenin
EMM160924C