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Staff Picks: Music

Father John Misty

Josh Tillman, aka Father John Misty, is a guy who knows how to balance the irony/earnestness ratio so as not to fall into one trap or the other. Lyrically, he tackles the ways in which relationships, both personal and artistic, rest upon the tenuous foundation of artifice and paradox. Out of such skepticism regarding moral truths and romantic absolutes, we find a thoughtful singer songwriter negotiating his way through his multidimensional self as a once angry son, a man of contradictions, an imperfect but well-meaning husband, an ideological hypocrite, a winking trickster of mockery, and various other protean characters. The likeable songs echo the breezy folk pop of early 70’s music while the scathing observations evoke the work of Randy Newman and Loudon Wainwright III. His newest album, I Love You, Honeybear is a more pop-friendly work than his 2012 album Fear Fun even though they’re both tied together with strong vocals and his knack for mixing the new with the old. Grumpy old cynics will likely bristle at his approach at heavy handed satire but frankly, you can never have too many Father John’s when the platitudes industry produces so much insipidly manufactured music. While we wait for the compact disc to arrive, stream the new record using your KPL account at hoopladigital.com.


L-O-V-E, No Cities to Love

Although never a hardcore fan, I have always appreciated Sleater-Kinney and their importance in regards to females in rock music. I would never skip a song, but I never found myself listening to an entire record in one sitting. The release of No Cities to Love, the band’s first new record in ten years, has totally changed my perception of the one of the original riot grill bands. The first single “Bury Our Friends” is a blistering head bouncing track filled with poetic lyrics, (It is the current most requested song by my daughters). The song “No Cities to Love” highlights Carrie Brownstein’s very underrated guitar skills and the video continues some A-List Sleater-Kinney fans!  Corin Tucker proves that she still can belt out some powerful vocals and drummer, Janet Weiss provides the punk-rock rhythms. No Cities to Love is easily, so far, my most favorite record of the year.


Nighttime Cool

Bryan Ferry's music, whether it be with Roxy Music or his solo work, has always possessed a kind of suave, sexy, nocturnal moodiness to it that bounces back and forth between established genres and forms. His newest album Avonmore has many of the sort of stylistic characteristics that you would have found on Roxy Music's classic album Avalon (1982). Working with other amazing musicians like The Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr certainly helped to flesh out some very catchy songs that harness Ferry's strength as a sensual, nighttime troubadour for the urbane set. Ferry's sophisticated blending of new wave, pop, funk, and soul continues with these newest batch of songs.


Two Johns

Two of the hardest working contemporary composers are named John Luther. There’s the Pulitzer Prize winning John Coolidge Luther whose saxophone concerto City Noir has found its way on many year-end lists. You can check out much of his previous work, often characterized as part of the minimalist tradition, through Hoopla’s streaming platform or from one of our compact discs. Become Ocean (winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for music) is the stunning new piece from John Luther Adams. Hauntingly beautiful, it’s the kind of music that envelops the attentive listener with its gentle but powerful lyricism.


Black Messiah

R&B lovers rejoice! Last month D'Angelo released his first album in nearly fifteen years to widespread critical acclaim. You can download Black Messiah through Freegal, the library's free downloadable music collection.


Bargains in the Basement: Live and Local

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This week’s #1 find was from KPL’s extensive music collection; a copy of the Ken Morgan Jazz Unit (Ken Morgan, saxophones, flute; Gail Baker, vocals; Matt Jackson, piano; Paul Erhard, bass; Mike Roush, drums), recorded Live at Chaps on Main (remember Chaps?) on a very cool Saturday evening in February, 1979. I have a copy of this on vinyl from long ago, but I must admit that I haven’t played it in quite some time. After listening to the CD, I found it rather remarkable how well the music holds up some three-and-a-half decades later. The sound is clean, bright, and immediate, and the band is on fire. Do yourself a favor and give this one a spin (again), it’s worth the effort.

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My other pre-holiday treat was a somewhat more recent (and also local) Friends Find, a 2007 10-track compilation from the WMU Jazz Studies Program called Jazz Tracks (and since this copy comes from the Friends Bookstore, I get to keep it!). Jazz Tracks features the usual WMU musical heavyweights; Western Jazz Quartet (Trent Kynaston, Tom Knific, Steve Zegree, Tim Fronek), University Jazz Orchestra, the Justin Avery Band, and others. The CD also comes with a couple of video clips buried deep inside, including Gold Company performing a Duke Ellington tune on stage with none other than Bobby McFerrin. How cool is that?! And here’s a holiday hint… there is a small box of other assorted local (WMU, KSO, etc.) CDs sitting on the shelf in the Friends Bookstore, right next to the local books. Just right for budget priced stocking stuffing!


Bargains in the Basement is an occasional series highlighting noteworthy items unearthed in the lower level of Central Library. What a treasure we have (quite literally) in the Friends Bookstore. When you can grab high quality books, music, and movies for little more than pocket change, life is good. And all the proceeds go to help support the library. So shop often; you never know what you’ll find. And stay tuned… I’ll let you know what I find!


Best Music of 2014

Catch up on the best music made in 2014 by checking out some of these end of year lists.

NPR's Music Critics

Pitchfork

Rolling Stone

Country Music

AV Club

Metacritic's Debut Albums

Hip Hop Albums


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.


TV on the Radio

TV on the Radio is a difficult band to describe given how their sonic palette draws from multiple sources including, post-punk, soul, doo wop, and electronic music. The band's strength is in synthesizing these stylistic threads into cohesive and accessible songs that can both rock out and register emotionally. The new album is called Seeds but definitely check out some of the Brooklyn group's older material as well.


Slow Club

The new British male/female duo Slow Club effectively weave together expressive crooning with catchy melodies and dance-friendly grooves with their third album Complete Surrender. From beautiful ballads to romping Motown-rooted soul, fans of bands like Beach House, Wye Oak, The Supremes, Low, Amy Winehouse, and Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings will find something to like in this album.