Staff Picks: Music
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
Master musician and composer Ravi Shankar died yesterday at the age of 92. The iconic sitar player achieved worldwide fame during his long musical career, but remained a humble and dedicated student of music throughout his long life. Remember the life and music of Ravi Shankar through these KPL titles:
Ravi Shankar in portrait – DVD
The Very Best of Ravi Shankar – CD
Rare and Glorious – CD
Chants of India - CD
Raga @ fast track - CD
My Music, My Life by Ravi Shankar
Rare and glorious
If you do one thing this Wednesday night, that thing should be coming to see The Relations play the KPL Concert Series at 7 p.m. at the Central Library. But if by chance to have the ability to split yourself in two and be in two places at once, be aware that the Rave City Place 14 Theater will be one of the select theaters nationwide to screen Shut Up And Play The Hits a documentary and concert film about LCD Soundsystem's final show at Madison Square Garden.
The scenes in the film that show the end of the final show in which members of the audience and band are standing around in a wierd kind of dispair absolutely reek of first world problems to me (see minute 1:50 in the trailer), but I did love LCD Soundsystemand will want to see the film when it comes to the library's collection after it is released on DVD. So come see local live music at KPL from The Relations on Wednesday night...the movie theater would probably be freezing cold anyway, and those seats are not THAT comfortable, and popcorn costs so much...
Sound of Silver
When the summer comes around and the weather turns hot, it just feels right to listen to music from a sultry part of the world. For me the music of Cuba just sounds perfect on a hot and humid summer day, and I can be instantly transported to Havana where the sweltering heat is perfectly normal; but really, I just love it any time of year and KPL has a great selection of Cuban music to choose from. If you are new to the music of Cuba or a fan wishing to expand your knowledge, KPL is sure to have something that will interest you. A great place to start is with The Rough Guide to the Music of Cuba which offers a good sampling of the various flavors of Cuban music. For many, myself included, their first real exposure to the rich history of Cuban music came in 1997 from Ry Cooder and the Buena Vista Social Club and it remains one of my favorites and a fantastic collection of musicians and tunes. Check out the group live at Carnegie Hall! A Buena Vista Social Club member and one of the giants of Cuban music is Ibrahim Ferrer and KPL has a good selection of his recordings that any fan of Cuban music should check out. Another standout of the KPL collection is the album Afrocubism that highlights the African influences on the music. Explore Cuban music even further with Cuban Counterpoint: history of the son montuno or Machito & his Afro Cuban Orchestra and discover even more with a music search for word or phrase = Cuba.
Buena Vista Social Club at Carnegie Hall
Stripping away all of the electric guitar distortion and big rock sound that has defined the majority of his substantial body of creative work, J. Masic’s new solo album Several Shades of Why showcases the immense talent that is cloaked within one of rock musics ultimate slacker personas. I’ve always considered Mascis (best known as lead singer of the mighty alt rock band Dinosaur Jr.) stylistically to be a sort of Neil Young of Generation X. And like Young’s singing, you either enjoy J.’s twangy rasp or it grates on your nerves after a matter of seconds. I happen to be in the first camp, so I was pleased to hear his vocals front and center on this his first solo effort. Mainly acoustic guitar driven and stripped to a bare minimum of added instruments, Several Shades of Why is beautiful in its simplicity and allows the quality of the songs and the talent of the performers to really shine.
Several Shades of Why
I am certain that friends, colleagues, and assuredly my own family have grown tired of my consistent response when the conversation turns to music and the inevitable “what are you listening to” question pops up. My answer, since its early May release, has been that I can’t get enough of the latest by the Akron, Ohio blues rock duo The Black Keys. In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I am a real fan of the band and I have loved and continue to listen to everything that they have put out, but their latest record Brothers is just so good that I have found myself listening to it almost daily. The Black Keys music continues to be a perfect mix of the elemental power of traditional guitar blues with cool indie rock sensibilities and, on Brothers, bits of soul thrown in for good measure. From my perspective the band, six albums in, has matured in all the right ways, adding a bit more production and instrumentation on its last two records, Brothers and 2008’s Danger Mouse produced Attack & Release, and singer Dan Auerbach tests out a falsetto on a couple tracks on Brothers, including the great Everlasting Light - great live version posted below, that I never saw coming and weirdly comes close to sounding Antony and the Johnsons like, but the band never takes this experimentation too far, always keeping the song structure tight and holding firm to what makes them such a great band in the first place.
I am always surprised when I “discover” a new, at least to me, musical artist whose talent is so great and whose music is so amazing that they beg to have the word genius attached to their work, yet I have been completely unaware of their music until that point. I suppose it should not be so shocking given the time I have available to devote to searching out great music and the vast number of artists out there in the world working in a wide range of genre’s that I have interest in. But with very little effort, I consistently find new and shockingly great artists to check out. I believe this to be a very positive result of the increasing interconnectedness of the world. I also believe that these discoveries have been helped along and often facilitated by the KPL music collection's fantastic breadth and depth. Listening to Michigan Radio on Sunday evening I had such an experience when I first heard the music of Japanese jazz composer and pianist Hiromi Uehara. Not only a virtuosic technical player, Hiromi’s passionate and genre bending style is truly unique as witnessed in the video below.
The Malian duo Amadou & Mariam have been in nearly constant rotation on my ipod and home stereo since I became aware of their music with the 2005 release of Dimanche a Bamako. I knew little of the couple’s inspiring story then, but responded immediately to the music they create. Singer Mariam Doumbia and guitarist/vocalist Amadou Bagayokothan, who are both blind, met at the Institute for Young Blind People in Bamako, the capital of Mali, 30 years ago and have been making amazing and infectious music ever since. Already huge stars in West Africa and Europe; in recent years Amadou & Mariam have gained a large following in the indie rock world where they have become a show stealing staple at large festivals, which has helped spread their popularity across the glode. The duo’s latest title, Welcome to Mali, has received almost universal, and I would say very well deserved, critical acclaim and I can't stop listening to it. Even without the faintest clue as to what the lyrics of the songs are saying (the couple sings primarily in French), it is easy to hear why the global spread of Amadou & Mariam's hypnotic sound cannot be stopped.
Welcome to Mali
The sad news came yesterday that Ron Asheton, founding member of the seminal proto-punk rock band The Stooges and Michigan native, had been found dead in his Ann Arbor home. Asheton, along with his brother Scott and enigmatic singer Iggy Pop, formed The Stooges in the late 1960's as an aggressive reaction to the flowery psychedelic rock that was popular at the time. Their sound was brash and raw and would help pave the way for the entire punk rock movement to happen later in the 1970's. The Stooges would break up in 1973-74 after recording the seminal album Raw Power, but thrilled fans when they reunited in 2003. Sadly, with Asheton's death, that reunion has now come to an end.
Even though I didn’t really get to listen to it until the first day of 2009 and although our taste in music usually aligns pretty well, I have to respectfully disagree with my colleague’s assessment and say that the record that tops my “best of 2008” list is Dear Science, by the amazing TV on the Radio. Dear Science, is catchier and more accessible on first listen but similar to the bands previous Return to Cookie Mountain, in that TVOTR hide their vast array of influences (I hear some Fela Kuti on “Red Dress”, I hear a slight Off The Wall era Michael Jackson influence on “Golden Age”, there is an early Elvis Costello thing happening on yet another track, it goes on and on) under rich textures and an inventiveness that reveals more with each subsequent listen.
TV on the Radio
After reading an article about the new Breeders record in Spin magazine, I gave Mountain Battles a listen and was not surprised that I really like it. It sounds like a Breeders record, familiar yet diverse, but still sounds current. Or as one reviewer put it – “Like their three previous records, Mountain Battles is a record to return to again and again, like an old and dear friend who can still somehow surprise you”. The Spin article talked about how Kim Deal, who has always struck me as that really cool Aunt I always wished I had, moved back to Dayton, Ohio and used a bit of her Pixie’s money to purchase a nice ranch house in order to live near and care for her aging parents. That is about the coolest and most real thing I have ever heard a bona fide alt. rock legend admit to, how cool. Mountain Battles offers a great collection of songs all of which Steve Albini, another alt. rock legend, gives a muddy, low-fi production that works perfectly.