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Staff Picks: Music


By now, you've likely heard the buzz about the new Broadway musical, Hamilton, created by Lin-Manuel Miranda, in collaboration with Stephen Sondheim, Ron Chernow and the Roots. The New York Times called it a "multiethnic hip hop romp about 18th century politics" and it is funny, sad, and full of beautiful lyrics and melodies. I've been listening to it on repeat for weeks now and like all the best musicals, the songs are making me laugh and cry. And multiple times, I've been inspired to look up some historical facts. With the cast members performing at the White House earlier this month and a national tour just announced, we're sure to keep hearing more and more about Hamilton for years to come. So check out the cd or download the album on the library's Hoopla digital service.  Get yourself ready for that glorious day when Hamilton finally comes to the Midwest and we can see this work of art for ourselves!

Bye Bye Birdie

In a few weeks, Loy Norrix High School will be performing the Broadway (and film) musical Bye Bye Birdie so be sure to acquaint yourself with the original soundtrack available to stream at Freegal.

Fun Home: A New Broadway Musical

I first learned there was a musical based on Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, when a co-worker went to see the show on Broadway. I was instantly intrigued (and envious.) Soon after, Fun Home (the musical) received five Tony awards, including Best Musical.

I’ve long been a fan of Bechdel, since first discovering her Dykes to Watch out for series decades ago. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic chronicled her early family life and explored especially her relationship with her father. Bechdel, an out lesbian immersed in an artistic profession, drew many comparisons and contrasts between herself and her father, a closeted gay man, whose primary artistic expression was renovating the family home. She titled it Fun Home after the family’s nickname for their house, which also served as the local funeral home. It’s an insightful and mostly somber story.

Fun Home, the musical, adapts the story for Broadway. While it incorporates the key events and insights portrayed in the graphic novel, there’s more humor and lightness woven in. Songs like “Ring of Keys” and “Changing my Major” are both funny and poignant. They capture younger Alison’s growing sense and acceptance, of herself first as a butch girl and later as a lesbian. “Welcome to our House on Maple Avenue” indicates how much the family revolves around their father’s autocratic personality. The CD includes a lot of spoken lines, making it fairly easy to follow the story line, even if you haven’t read the book.

There’s a local note to this blog, too. The book and lyrics were written by Lisa Kron, a K-College graduate, who has returned to Kalamazoo periodically to share her dramatic talent. Kron was awarded two Tony awards for Fun Home.

The Revenant

Though I haven’t seen the recently released film The Revenant, the haunting, atmospheric soundtrack is now available to stream at Hoopla. Written and performed by Ryuichi Sakamoto, Alva Noto, and Bryce Dessner, the music’s somber timbres and minimalist approach provide an eerie soundscape to the film’s powerful imagery.

Albums of the Year--Rolling Stone Magazine

Rolling Stone Magazine's newest issue is their end of year review of the top rock, pop and r&b albums of the year. What was hot in 2015? Well, here you go...

  1. Kendrick Lamar--To Pimp a Butterfly
  2. Adele--25
  3. Drake--If You're Reading This It's Too Late
  4. D'Angelo and the Vanguard--Black Messiah
  5. The Weekend--Beauty Behind the Madness
  6. Courtney Barnett--Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
  7. Jason Isbell--Something More Than Free
  8. Various Artists--Hamilton: Original Broadway Case Recording
  9. The Arcs--Yours, Dreamily
  10. Blur--The Magic Whip
  11. Sleater-Kinney--No Cities to Love
  12. Lana Del Rey--Honeymoon
  13. Tame Impala--Currents
  14. Wilco--Star Wars
  15. Father John Misty--I Love You, Honeybear


One of my favorite things is a good musical and when I was a kid, I was obsessed with Disney's, movie musical, Newsies. I mean, I knew every. single. word. This past weekend, I finally saw the broadway version and it was lovely, despite some totally improbable plot twists. Of course, I came right back to the library and borrowed the cd from our collection.  Now I can relive the entire experience through my headphones. I love our musical and soundtrack collections at KPL! Between our cd's and digital options like Freegal and Hoopla, we have so much great music to enjoy! 

The Voice of Christmas

Bing Crosby's famous rendition of White Christmas may well be the most beloved and well known holiday song. It's a song that every December becomes an ubiquitous element of everyday life, almost inescapable as it leaks into existence from mall speakers, headphones and television sets. A new biographical portrait of Crosby's personal and professional life as well as his pop cultural significance will be featured on the PBS television program American Masters this Tuesday (December 2nd). Interested in more than just his holiday songs, check out more here.

I like to mix it up!

I’m not a fan of the Sex and the City series or even the movies, but I have really enjoyed their soundtrack. What I have found with soundtracks is that you get a variety of music and since my taste in music is all over the place, I usually find something I like. This soundtrack stars Alicia Keys, Dido, Cee Lo Green, Ricki-Lee and Erykah Badu. Even Liza Minelli has a couple of cuts on this CD. It’s the same ole Liza, except, even though it may be hard to imagine it, her voice is even raspier.

Sex and the City 2 is a collection of eclectic vibes which turned me on to Natacha Atlas. She is a Middle Eastern singer who has a striking song called Kidda on Sex and the City 2. I was always singing along in my head, which is pretty difficult since I have no idea what she’s saying, but it led me to look her and other Arabic music up. KPL has one of Natacha’s CDs titled Mounqaliba in their collection. On Mounqaliba she has a rendition of Nick Drake’s Riverman that I really enjoy. It’s kind of jazzy or maybe bluesy. Well, anyway….KPL also has a CD called The rough guide to Arabic Lounge, which is a mix of Arab music that includes something from Natacha. If you like to try different kinds of music give Sex and the City 2 a shot. If nothing else maybe you’ll like the men’s choir that’s singing in it.

Sounds from Twin Peaks

I’ve been re-watching Twin Peaks, one of my favorite television shows, and along with watching it, I’ve been listening to the soundtrack. Twin Peaks is an odd, otherworldly show that gains its distinct character in part due to the atmospheric music. The songs are repeated through the series, so if you’ve seen an episode, you’ll recognize the songs. If you’ve watched the whole series, you’ll be intimately familiar with the music. Composer Angelo Badalamente, known for a number of classic television and movie scores, somehow managed to capture David Lynch’s weird, melodramatic vision in sonic form. So grab a cup of coffee and a piece of cherry pie, and have a listen.

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:



Piano Works Satie