Staff Picks: Music
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
The 8-disc compilation The 100 Best Jazz Tunes of the 1950’s is an absolutely fantastic introduction to the music of jazz for both the well-versed aficionado as well as the eager novice seeking to expand their listening library (see: My co-worker Kevin King's previous post). This was a great decade for jazz development, ushering in various stylistic trends including Bop, Post-Bop, Cool and the first signals of what one might refer to as Free Jazz. It’s a who’s who of legendary musicians from Jazz's heyday, many of whom are featured playing their signature tunes. Included are Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Sarah Vaughan, Django Reinhardt, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers, Charles Mingus, and many more. If you just wanted to add a little bit of Jazz to your iTunes library, this is the one title to start with.
The 100 Best Jazz Tunes of the 1950's
One of my personal goals for 2014 was to try and find a way into jazz music. It has always been a genre of music I’ve had difficulty understanding, so I wanted to discover if I could learn to appreciate it. Another reason is that my 13 year old daughter, Abigail, is a HUGE fan of Miles Davis so I wanted to share something with her on the car rides to her various extra-curricular activities. On a whim, I checked outTime Out by The Dave Brubeck Quartet which has become the first course in my jazz education. My instructor was Abigail who pointed out how the timing of each song was different. We continued to discuss the unique blend of cool and West Coast jazz that Brubeck made popular. I then had to research the story behind Time Out and discovered that the time signatures Brubeck used were very unusual and groundbreaking at the time. He was inspired by Turkish street musicians while touring Eurasia for the US State Department. I was amazed at the story behind the origins of the record as well as how my daughter was able to pick up on the innovative style of The Dave Brubeck Quartet. I am truly excited to enter 2014 looking forward to learning from a 13 year old jazz head. Maybe she will teach her old punk rock dad how to love the music that truly symbolizes the American spirit. If not I cannot find my way past Brubeck and Davis, I at least get to spend some time with my daughter. Whatever the result, I win.
If you like the sound of old school soul music, be sure to get your ears on the work of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. A recent bout of cancer hasn't diminished her expressive, lived in voice and while it may impact her future touring, her newest album Give the People What They Want reflects both her personal strength and her top notch, musical chops.
Give the people what they want
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.