Staff Picks: Music

Featuring Norah Jones

I have always been a big Norah Jones fan.  She is one of the few artists to have passed a tough test in my household:  I can play Come away with me in my alarm clock every morning to wake me up and I still enjoy the CD.  There are not many CDs that stand up to this test.  So you can understand my pleasure when I discovered a Norah Jones CD that I hadn't heard before in the KPL collection.  It's called Featuring and is a CD of duets and collaborations between Jones and a wide variety of singers and musical groups.  And when I say "variety", I mean it!  This CD is so neat in that it showcases how versatile Jones is with her distinctive and soulful voice pairing her with artists and groups such as Willie Nelson, Ray Charles, the Foo Fighters, and Ryan Adams.

The CD starts strong with a track from The Little Willies.  Jones and friends formed The Little Willies in 2003 and came out with their second album For the Good Times in 2012.  (You can also find them on another excellent CD in the library's collection:  Putumayo presents Americana.  It's bound to put you in a good mood!)  I was unfamiliar with Sasha Dobson prior to this CD, but her duet, Bull Rider, is fantastic!  I have requested her CD through MeLCat and look forward to become more acquainted with her music.  Halfway through the CD, Jones and friends adopt a totally different style in Take Off Your Cool with Outkast, Life is Better with Q-Tip, and Soon the New Day with Talib Kweli.  A few songs later, there is a duet with Ray Charles…need I say more?  Who doesn't like Ray Charles??  But then, in my humble opinion, the CD reaches its pinnacle with track 15:  Creepin' In with Dolly Parton.  I love Dolly.  Always have and always will.  This song makes me want to dance and sing over and over again as I play it on repeat.

Basically, what I hope this blog conveys, is that this compilation of songs is wonderful.  Each and every song is as delightful as it is different.  I highly recommend this CD for your listening pleasure.

Music

Featuring
10451402
Elysha Cloyd

Frank's Ocean - Care for a Swim?

It’s not even summer anymore (far from it, actually) and yet I’m still listening to this album on a relatively consistent basis. It’s just a good album. For all the controversy that surrounded Frank Ocean’s personal life in the mainstream pop scene, it’s a shame that certain critics disregarded the music and assumed it was all merely a PR gimmick to sell albums.

Truth is: even if Frank Ocean’s “coming outwas an expertly timed plan to garner popularity, he didn’t need it. The music stands brilliantly enough on its own legs. Quite FRANKly (harharhar), this is just what modern R&B should sound like.

I can respect the fun aspect of a well-produced Usher, Chris Brown, or Rihanna song as much as the next person from my generation. They’re fun in a party/club setting. But Channel Orange is just on a completely different level. The lyrics are far more diverse and compelling, and the music is actually unique and complex. There are moods and ideas represented on the album besides the standard “Hey, let’s party.” and “You’re a person I’m attracted to. Isn’t that wonderful?!” It all has a unified feel and tone, like there was a real attempt to make an album, as opposed to just a collection of singles. And even the songs that have more of a “good-time, fun-loving” feel to them still retain an organic edge that sets them apart from their contemporaries.

It’s intimate but vulnerable stuff. It feels real. It feels more like art than industry. That’s a big deal for music within any modern or contemporary category. And hey, I'm still listening to the album 6 months after its release. So, hats off to Frank!

Music

Channel Orange
10730854
JohnL

45 at 45: Respect

Otis Redding wrote it, but Aretha Franklin owned it – “Respect”, one of the biggest radio and jukebox sensations of 1967, topped both Billboard Hot 100 and Hot R’n’B charts mid-year, reigning supreme on the latter for almost two months. The track cemented the Detroit native’s standing as the “Queen of Soul”, proving its potency as both a civil rights anthem and a dance floor phenomenon.

The Big O’s original Stax version, framed simply as a lover’s question, is a classic in its own right. Pleading being one of Redding’s strongest suits as a vocalist, it’s only natural that his request for “respect when I come home” is less demanding than begging, a “need” that he’s “gotta, gotta have”, never sounding sure that he’s going to get satisfaction as the track fades.

Aretha’s having none of that in her updated NYC arrangement, featuring infectious girl-group vocal support from her sisters Carolyn and Erma, as well as a sweet King Curtis sax break. Standing the nature of the lyric on its head, her assertion that “what you want, baby, I got it” is shouted out with absolute confidence. Adding a lyric not found in Redding’s version, Franklin drives the point home by spelling out “R-E-S-P-E-C-T”, in case it wasn’t clear, adding “find out what it means to me” as an emphatic imperative. The lover’s question has become a statement of purpose, writ large enough to put not just one person on notice, but any and every person within earshot.

"Respect”’s cultural resonance was immediate and lasting. The song’s refrains of “sock it to me” and “TCB” became all-American catch phrases overnight. In addition to earning numerous awards and consistently high rankings on critics’ “greatest songs” lists, it was among the first 25 recordings to be included in the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry in 2002. A signature song of the civil rights movement, the feminist movement, and Aretha’s storied career, “Respect” deserves all its accolades, truly getting what it’s after play after play.

Music

I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You
WEM193423C
KarlK_1

Master of My Make-Believe

Santigold's music straddles genres--punk, hip-hop, pop, new wave--it's all there.  Her influences range from Devo to Nigerian musician Fela Kuti to James Brown.  She's collaborated with Kanye West and Lykke Li, the Beastie Boys, and Mark Ronson among others.  Her style is hard to define, but she's just so darn cool.  After waiting four years since her last album, 2008's Santogold, which I listened to nearly nonstop for months, I'm pleased to finally hear her second album Master of My Make-Believe Like her first album, Master of my Make-Believe is a genre-blending, layered work of art that you can dance to.  My favorite tracks include the single "Disparate Youth" and the first track "Go," a collaboration with the Yeah Yeah Yeah'sKaren O that will make you bob your head.  Listen to it at least twice--the more you hear it, the more you'll discover.   

Music

Master of My Make-Believe
10718426

 

CaitlinH

Songs of Summer

Do you have a list of songs that simply remind you of summer or that you dust off from their Winter hibernation to crank out on your car stereo or I-pod? I like to have a couple of compact disc mixes in my car that feature some of my go-to tracks as I trek to the lake or head to the backyard cookout. What are your favorite summertime anthems?

Pavement's Cut Your Hair

The Faces' Ooh La La

The Chi-lites' Oh Girl

Michael Jackson's I Wanna Be Where You Are

The Descendents' Silly Girl

Big Star's Thirteen

Stevie Wonder's My Cherie Amor

Seals and Croft's Summer Breeze

Wilco's She's a Jar

Best Coast's Our Deal

Neil Young's Out on the Weekend

Crowded House's Don't Dream It's Over

Hall and Oates' Kiss on My List

Santo and Johnny's Blue Moon, Teardrop and Sleepwalking

Music

Summerteeth
10174692

   

RyanG

Licensed to Celebrate

When Adam “MCA” Yauch of the Beastie Boys died of cancer at the age of 47 on May 4, I immediately remembered when I first heard the band’s breakthrough release Licensed to Ill. I was working at a small town record store in a commuter town just outside of Detroit and it was standard practice for record companies to send music for in store promotion. When I unboxed that week’s offerings, I was immediately drawn not only to the iconic image of an airplane, but also the band’s name. Immediately I tore off the shrink wrap and dropped the needle on the vinyl. Until that moment I had no interest in rap or hip-hop, but the Beastie Boys’ rhymes instantly stole away my 15 year-old disdain for this style of music. MCA’s gruff atypical rap style on the record specifically drew me into Licensed to Ill. When he raps “That hypocrite smokes two packs a day…” on “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party),” MCA was letting me know that he sympathized with the mixed messages adults often dispense. There is really not a weak track on this record and for years the cassette was a constant companion as I traversed the hell that was adolescence. “Paul Revere,” “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” and “Girls” were all played at high volumes that year. After hearing of Yauch’s death I celebrated his contribution to both music and my teen years by driving down Westnedge Ave., “Brass Monkey” blasting from my car.

Book

Beastie Boys
adam-yauch-4672-160
http://www.catalog.kpl.gov/uhtbin/cgisirsi/x/0/0/5?searchdata1=beastie+boys&library=BRANCHES&language=ANY&format=ANY&item_type=ANY&location=ANY&match_on=KEYWORD&item_1cat=ANY&item_2cat=ANY&sort_by=-PBYR
Kevin King

Bright Lights

I stumbled upon Gary Clark Jr., and his new EP Bright Lights, by chance one night, in the midst of viewing clips from one of the recent Crossroads guitar festivals (hosted by Eric Clapton). In all honesty, I’m not easily impressed by most young blues and blues-rock guitarists. They have a nasty habit of sounding very rehashed and generic to me, lacking authenticity and individuality in their sound. Gary, however, blew me over immediately with all the right vibes.

The sound is something like a swirl of R&B meets Hendrix, with even a little bit of Hip-Hop flair thrown in occasionally for good measure. The riffs also aren’t afraid to dance into the territory of Midwest rock bands like The White Stripes and The Black Keys. The man and his music have some serious “swag”; there’s no denying that. It’s the kind of sound that just oozes with credibility and legitimacy.

Gary’s clearly not trying to be anyone other than himself, and it shows. As a result, I’ve come to realize that Gary is now one of my favorite electric guitarists in the “young-gun”, 40 and under age bracket (one of my bandmates being my other main favorite, but I’m going to just say he doesn’t count…for now).

In short: Gary's definitely worth checking out if you're into something unique, soulful, and all types of awesome!

Book

The bright lights EP
gary-clark-ep-160
http://www.catalog.kpl.gov/uhtbin/cgisirsi/x/0/0/5?searchdata1=gary+clark{AU}+AND+bright+lights{TI}&library=BRANCHES&language=ANY&format=ANY&item_type=ANY&location=ANY&match_on=KEYWORD&item_1cat=ANY&item_2cat=ANY&sort_by=-PBYR
JohnL

45s at 45: Summer of '66

It's not uncommon to feel a nostalgia for music of another time and place that may cast today's sounds in a less favorable light, even if the evidence doesn't justify the position. However, fans of '60's pop radio can point to any of the following 45s from the summer of 1966 - listed in no particuar order - to make a very strong case for the excellence of that era:

The Beatles: “Paperback Writer” – before the late-summer stateside furor caused by John Lennon’s “more popular than Jesus” interview remarks, the Fab Four ruled US airwaves with this dose of proto-psychedelia, cut during the sessions for their landmark Revolver LP. Dig the “Frere Jacques” backing harmonies in the third and fourth verses.

The Rolling Stones: “Paint It, Black” – moving further away from their R’n’B roots with this brooding Middle Eastern-flavored recording from their Aftermath sessions, the Stones released the first rock single to feature the sitar. Keith Richards remains non-plussed by the US record company’s random insertion of the comma in the song’s title.

The Supremes: “You Can’t Hurry Love” – Motown’s biggest act charted their 7th number one smash (after a couple of singles that “only” made the top 10) with this infectious Holland-Dozier-Holland production that, for many, defines the Sound of Young America today. Despite the lyrics’ recommendation for patience, the song’s insistent rhythms (laid down by the legendary Funk Brothers) guarantee body movements by anyone within earshot.

The Lovin’ Spoonful: “Summer in the City” – it’s hard to detect the Greenwich Village quartet’s jug band roots on this driving ode to urban summertime heat, the misery it causes in the minor-key verses countered by the fun it promises in the major-key choruses. This is the first rock single to feature a jackhammer.

The Beach Boys: “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” – the third single from the Hawthorne, CA quintet’s timeless Pet Sounds LP had such a great flipside – “God Only Knows” – that both sides made the top 40 charts. In the UK, the single sides were flipped, gaining even greater chart success.

Dusty Springfield: “Goin’ Back” – Dusty’s soulful reading of this wistful Goffin-King composition was an international smash everywhere but in the US, where, for whatever reason, Springfield’s record company declined to release the song (which eventually became a minor hit in a version by the Byrds released the following year). The yearning nostalgia of the song’s lyrics is in sharp contrast to the youthfulness of the song’s performer and composers.

Bob Dylan: “I Want You” - the third of four singles from Dylan’s epochal Blonde on Blonde double-LP charted just weeks before the artist’s extended disappearance from the public arena after a mysterious motorcycle accident. The remarkably simple chorus lyrics are quite atypical of the increasingly complex wordsmithing Dylan fans came to expect, but that seems to be the point (driven home by the singer’s repeated, excited pleas of the title) of what’s essentially a simple love (or, more accurately, lust) song.

The Troggs: “Wild Thing” – one of the most covered (to this day) hits of the ‘60’s was a make-it-or-break-it follow-up to a failed debut single by the UK act almost named the Grotty Troggs. Though the track and its performers have a reputation for being “primitive”, few cover bands could pull off the ocarina solo featured in the song’s instrumental break.

The Velvelettes: “These Things Will Keep Me Loving You”the final ‘60’s 45 release from Kalamazoo’s very own stars of Motown, this modest R’n’B hit – loaded with classic Hitsville touches, from a finger-snappin’ intro to catchy vocal harmonies in support of an arresting lead - should have found wider airplay, but with so much competition on the airwaves in the summer of ’66, it’s no wonder that it became a buried treasure waiting for discovery, along with so many other worthy single sides from this period, by music lovers today… and forever.

Music

1962-1966
EMM675225C
KarlK_1

A First Six Months Playlist

I love to make music mixes for my friends. When I can get the response, “Wow I never would have listened to that song if it wasn’t on the mix you made me,” I feel like I have done my part to push good music out into the world. My seven year old daughter considers a good mix one in which you can roll down the windows and turn up the volume. Below is a playlist that consists of what I feel are the best tracks of the first six months of 2011. Mix it up and roll down your windows.


1. Weekend by Smith Westerns (Dye It Blonde)
2. Take Me Over by Cut Copy (Zonoscope)
3. Rolling In The Deep by Adele (21)
4. Sad Song by The Cars (Move Like This)
5. Discoverer by R.E.M. (Collapse Into Now)
6. Me, Me, Me by Middle Brother (Middle Brother)
7. Make Some Noise by The Beastie Boys (Hot Sauce Committee Part Two)
8. Dig A Little Deeper by Peter Bjorn and John (Gimme Some)
9. Don’t Carry It All by The Decemberists (The King Is Dead)
10. Barton Hollow by The Civil Wars (Barton Hollow)
11. Sim Sala Bim by Fleet Foxes (Helplessness Blues)
12. Shadow of Love by Sloan (The Double Cross)
13. Helena Beat by Foster the People (Foster the People)
14. If I Wanted Someone by Dawes (Nothing Is Wrong)
15. Future Starts Now by The Kills (Blood Pressures)
16. Till I Get There by Lupe Fiasco (Lasers)
17. Damn These Vampires by The Mountain Goats (All Eternals Deck)

Music

Gimme Some
RMM826123C
Kevin King

NCIS: The Official TV Soundtrack

I've discovered some of my favorite music and artists from watching television.  When songs play in the background or at the start or end of a show, I often search for the lyrics online to find the name of the song and the performing artist.  This has served me well.  House and Fringe (as well as various commercials) have provided insight  to artists and performers such as Massive Attack, Damien Rice, Editors, Langhorne Slim, and Ryan Adams.

When watching a recent episode of NCIS, Cote de Pablo's character, Ziva David, was singing  Temptation--a Tom Waits creation.  So, in true form, I went online to search for it to see where I could find a version of her singing it (beautiful rendition!).  And, that is when I found that NCIS has two soundtracks available.  I was able to easily check these two CDs out through our MeL interlibrary loan system. 

While I recognized artists such as Jakob Dylan, Otis Redding, Bob Dylan, Keaton Simmons, Sheryl Crow and Norah Jones, I was able to add artists such as Oasis, Blue October, and Sharon Little to my list of new folks to investigate.

Music

NCIS: The Official TV Soundtrack
RMM155474C
http://elibrary.mel.org/record=b17320063~S15
JenniferC